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Tassajara Whole Wheat Bread

May 4, 2011

Jonathan and I both have English roots. Well, mine are adopted, but I’ll claim them if I can get away with it! I recently noticed how English, yet very American our most common breakfast is. Toast and tea to make our mums proud. But, toast slathered in peanut butter and plain tea. No milk. No sugar. Our fathers smile.

Before I started culinary school, I made a personal goal to bake my first loaf of sandwich bread on my own. After baking babkas, galettes and all kinds of sweet breads and cookies, I figured it was time to bake something completely wholesome and practical. Receiving a homemade loaf of bread as a going-away present pushed my goal into gear! And I figured I wouldn’t be without an expert baker as a teacher, hence The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown.

I first learned about Brown and the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center last year, after watching a section of the documentary, How to Cook Your Life. Immediately I noticed the bread book being featured in some of my favorite craft/food blogs, in articles and references from other books. One glance into it and it’s evident that it’s a true master bread guide. The recipe featured here for the Tassajara Yeasted Bread is quite condensed and includes some of my insight. While a very basic recipe is included in the book, there is a thorough step-by-step pre-chapter that includes detailed drawings. I highly recommend it to bread-baking amateurs like myself. It’s not just a bread book though, it contains many dessert recipes, including the secret to making delectable cinnamon buns!

The recipe is quite time-consuming, but foul-proof foolproof and definitely worth it. The recipe makes a hearty, yet surprisingly (for being whole wheat) chewy bread that doesn’t easily crumble and makes perfect toast…for peanut butter breakfasts. We’ve gone through four loaves already and planning to do more baking this weekend!

Tassajara Yeasted Bread
recipe from Tassajara Bread Book, by: Edward Espe Brown
Makes 2 standard loaves

3 c. lukewarm water (85°-105°F)
1 1/2 Tbsp (or 4 1/2 tsp) dry yeast
1/4 c. sweetening (I used brown sugar)
Optional: 1 c. dry milk
4 c. whole wheat flour
4 tsp salt
1/3 c. oil or butter
3 c. additional whole wheat flour
1 c. whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour for kneading

1: In a medium or large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in sweetening and dry milk until dissolved. Slowly add flour and stir until batter is thick. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated. The book notes to “beat well with a spoon (for) 100 strokes.” This is my favorite part of the recipe and the most simple to follow, so I recommend it. 100 stokes! Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes. A cool or cold area will cause the dough to take longer to rise.
2: Fold in salt and oil. Slowly add the additional whole wheat flour. Dough should be very thick. Flour a clean surface with 1/4-1/3 of remaining 1 cup flour (for kneading). Knead dough on the floured surface until dough is elastic and smooth. Add more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to the surface and hands. Form into a ball.
3: Lightly oil a medium or large bowl. (I use the same bowl without issues, but you may want a new, clean bowl.) Place dough in the oiled bowl, then flip dough over to make sure all sides are lightly oiled. Cover with a damp towel, place in a warm area and allow dough to rise for 50-60 minutes. Dough should double in size.
4: Simply punch down dough to about 2/3 the size. Cover again and allow dough to rise again for 40-50 minutes, or until it doubles in size again.
5: Shape dough into loaves, then place into loaf pans. (I used 9 x 5-inch pans) Allow dough to rise 20-25 minutes.
6: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut one or two slits, 1/2-inch deep into the top of each loaf, to allow steam to escape. Bake 50-60 minutes, until golden brown. Allow loaves to cool before slicing.

Storing: The Tassajara Bread Book recommends sealing the bread in an plastic bag and storing loaves in the refrigerator or freezer. Freezing the bread will affect its flavor. Jonathan and I usually go through a loaf of bread in three days or fewer, so I seal and store one loaf in the refrigerator and one on the counter. This bread contains no preservatives, so it is prone to spoiling on the counter sooner than store-bought.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    May 5, 2011 1:47 pm

    A “foul-proof” recipe sounds intriguing! Hope it didn’t taste “foul”! 🙂

    You also must read “The 52 Loaves” – he has many tips which I have incorporated with great results, even after having been baking bread for almost 30 years.

    I love the direction Sweet Inspire is taking. Keep up the good work.
    Love you bunches,

  2. May 5, 2011 5:06 pm

    I’ve checked the local library, but no luck with “The 52 Loaves.” I do very much want to read it though.
    Thank you for the feedback. It helps so much.


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