chewy amaretti lentil chicken soup giveaway: guess the yuki shroomaki (japanese mushroom roll)


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archive for bread

crank it up

Monday, October 1st, 2018

Recipe: cranberry walnut pepita sourdough boule

Autumn feels good. We are starting to see frost patterns on our deck and I don’t have to take my jacket off when we go hiking because it remains nice and cool. Denver Erin and I spotted a majestic bull elk and a handful of elk cows and young bulls on our way to a trailhead one morning. Hiking through dark pine forests dotted with brilliant sunlit golden aspens on a chilly morning and hearing the not-so-distant piercing call of bull elk bugling from every direction is pretty freaking awesome. There are fewer people on the trails now and the woods carry that slightly fermented odor of decomposing leaves. Most leaf peepers stay in their cars or wander no more than 100 feet past the trailhead and I’m fine with that. Yuki is putting in her hiking miles and earning her Colorado mountain dog status.


on our way to some alpine lakes

pausing for a view over the valley

yuki and neva love their hikes

some nice orange aspens to match neva’s harness



It’s finally bread season around here. I haven’t lived with air conditioning since I left for college almost 30 years ago. As someone who is particularly mindful of the heat (I hate it), I’m quite dialed in to the moods of the weather. The oven and my sourdough starter have been more or less neglected since June until this week. As I type, I have a batch of sourdough autolysing in the kitchen to make sourdough baguettes and a bâtard! I’ve also been looking forward to making this cranberry walnut pepita sourdough bread again. It all begins with some sourdough starter. For those who are new to the sourdough game, ripe sourdough starter means your starter has been fed and allowed time (for me, it’s 8 hours on the counter) to produce some lovely gas bubbles. Use this starter to make the levain. My typical schedule is to mix the levain the night before and let it sit overnight, then start on the dough the next morning. The levain should be bubbly.

the levain: water, bread flour, whole wheat flour, ripe sourdough starter

mix it all together so there is no dry flour

the levain the next morning



In the original recipe, Maurizio used a little rye flour in the dough. I did, too. I think in the future, I’ll probably stick to a combination of just bread flour and whole wheat flour, but it’s in the recipe below with the option of substituting whole wheat for the rye (it’s a small amount). I also halved the recipe to make one 1-pound loaf instead of two loaves and added pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

levain, water, pepitas, dried cranberries, walnuts, whole wheat flour, bread flour, rye flour, salt



Stir the levain into most of the water (some has to be reserved for dissolving the salt later). If the levain is nice and bubbly, it should float (because bubbles). Once the levain has mostly dissolved, mix in the flours. You can use a sturdy mixing spatula, spoon, or the handy dandy dough whisk, but be sure that you don’t have any dry pockets of flour. Cover your dough vessel with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. I use plastic wrap because our humidity is quite low. Let that autolyse (absorb the liquid) for 40 minutes.

dissolve the levain in the water

stir in the flours

mix well then autolyse



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just in time for summer

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Recipe: sourdough pizza

The pine pollen apocalypse ended last week, giving way to smoke from distant wildfires burning in and around our beautiful state. We swept and vacuumed and air-purified the house to keep the allergens at bay, cautiously taking advantage of short windows of clear air (still smelled smokey) to get outside. It was a chance to let Neva get some leash training on her hike and to stretch her swimming legs once again after a long crappy (i.e. low snow) winter. My parents arrived in Boulder for the summer, too, which meant shuttling about on the flats and getting them settled in. Over the weekend, remnants from Hurricane Bud in the west pushed through Colorado and brought us our hoped-for rainy relief.


the colorado high country: our happy place

the parental units at happy hour

on the road to crested butte: neva is getting better about car rides



As the weather heats up, I tend to avoid baking. That means my sourdough starter, Wheatley, gets fed once a week and chills out in the refrigerator for long stretches of time. But I woke Wheatley from his slumber last week to bake an épi de blé sourdough baguette for my parents. And then I thought – why not keep the starter out so I can make some pizza? We grill our pizzas on a stone, so it’s not going to heat up the house. Pizza is perfect food for any weather, any season. I used to make pizza dough using this wonderful recipe, but since acquiring a sourdough starter from my professional pizzaiola friend (Dawn), I knew the switch to sourdough pizza was inevitable. I started in the spring with great results.

it snowed, we grilled pizza, neva was impressed



This pizza dough is flour, water, and salt. The commercial yeast pizza dough recipe I used to use also had olive oil in it, but after discussion with Dawn and my own testing, this sourdough pizza dough doesn’t really need it. The levain is sourdough starter, and if you are the kind of person who keeps your starter going on the counter and makes large amounts, then it’s no big deal to scoop what you need out of the starter to make your pizza dough. I’m not that kind of person, so I calculate the amount of levain I need and measure out how much to feed my starter. Just take care that you remember to reserve some starter that isn’t going into the pizza dough or else you, Sad Panda, won’t have any more sourdough starter. As for the flours, you can use all-purpose flour, bread flour, or a combination of the two (which I did here).

levain, bread flour, all-purpose flour, water, sea salt

weigh the levain

dissolve the levain in water

roughly stir in the salt and flours



**Jump for more butter**

alas, the baguette

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Recipe: sourdough baguettes

After spending the last two months trying different recipes and employing a variety of techniques, I think I’ve finally found the right sourdough baguette recipe! By “right”, I mean it has all of the qualities I seek in a sourdough baguette. I have not traveled the world in search of the finest baguettes, but I do know what I like. My desire to document how to make a sourdough baguette is mostly for my own convenience as my notes are currently scattered between several messy and cryptic pages in my recipe notebook.

So what makes a good baguette in my book? I love the slightly floral and mildly sour notes that come from using sourdough starter as opposed to added yeast. The interior should have an airy and delicate structure without being mostly holes. I want to sink my teeth into bread, not air. It should have a well-browned crust with shine and blisters. That crust ought to crackle and shatter when cut. And my biggest motivation for making my own baguette: the base should not be caked in flour (ahem, Boulder Whole Foods). If someone made the perfect baguette, I would gladly buy it. Now I don’t need to.

Making the baguettes spans 3 days for me. The first day is mere minutes in the evening when you make the levain. The second day is the bulk of the time commitment. The autolyse step (letting the flour(s) absorb the water) can be as short as 30 minutes up to 4 hours. I tend to mix the dough early in the morning and give myself a 4 hour window to work, get a workout, run errands, etc. Then I spend the next 2.5 hours near the dough, but it only requires a minute of my time every 30 minutes to turn the dough (four sets of folds at 90 degree rotations). After the last turn, the dough can rest 30 minutes to an hour. I always choose the longer period of time which may or may not be a good thing. Once shaped, I put my dough in the refrigerator for a 12-24 hour cold proof. This means you need to make space for something like baguettes which require a lot of area, but not much height. I don’t proof at room temperature because I find shaping and handling cold dough to be far easier. The next day, I bake the bread which takes about 35-40 minutes per baguette. Planning when to fit this into your schedule is probably the hardest part.

The unicorn was the baguette. The rainbow unicorn was the épi de blé or sheaf of wheat.


my épi de blé

testing whole wheat percentages



My baguette expedition rambled through a few recipes before I circled back to the dough used for my favorite sourdough bread, which is based on the recipe from Tartine in San Francisco. All the steps are the same up to the shaping, but I decided to swap some whole wheat flour for a little of the bread flour, gram for gram. [Using a kitchen scale rather than cups is going to see you to greater consistency and success when baking breads.] I made and we taste tested 0%, 2.5%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, and 30% whole wheat flour baguettes. They all tasted GREAT. If entertaining, I would make a 0% (all bread flour) or 10% (10% whole wheat flour and 90% bread flour) baguette. The 0% is classic, but the 10% has a subtle nuttiness that I really love without feeling any heavier than the 0% baguette. The baguette does start to taste a little less floral and less sweet at 25% and 30% whole wheat flour.

This sourdough baguette recipe doesn’t use any additional yeast, it relies on the sourdough starter for leavening. If my starter is in the refrigerator, I’ll bring it to room temperature and feed it daily for a couple of days before making the levain on the evening of day 1 (sometimes I call it day 0).


the starter should be fed, happy, and bubbling

weigh out the starter

the levain: starter, bread flour, water

stir together

leave no dry pockets of flour

the levain is bubbly and ready after 8-12 hours



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