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Did you know that tamales, enchiladas, and hot dogs are mentioned together in the 1953 science fiction movie classic "War of the Worlds"?
Speaking of movies, 3 U.S. made films with "tortilla" in the title are "Tortilla Heaven" (2007), "Tortilla Soup" (2001), and "Tortilla Flat" (1942).

St. Honorius of Amiens, whose feast day is May 16th, is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. Centeotl was the god of corn for the Aztecs while Chicomecoatl was the goddess of corn and fertility. Is there a patron saint of tortilla makers?

Thank you for visiting!

Mesquite flour sourdough bread w/figs and pecans

April 7, 2014



This sourdough bread was inspired my  5 foot tall,  4 year old fig tree which showed it’s first signs of green last week.  Central Texas had a more than usual number of sub-freezing temperature days this past winter.  I had resigned myself to expecting the tree had suffered severe damage.   It had already sprouted a few buds when another cold spell hit and froze them. I was very relieved to see new buds begin to open a week ago.  Fig trees do thrive well here in Austin,  but the unusual weather had me worried for this young one.   I can now look forward to grackles,  mockingbirds,  sparrows,  cardinals, and other fine-feathered visitors helping themselves to the figs.   They always get to the fruit before it’s fully ripened,  and then they will almost always leave half-eaten figs on the tree.  Last year I was able to salvage one glorious fig.


Fig and walnut sourdough bread seems to be one of the popular kinds to make in the fruit and nut repertoire.  Locally abundant pecans sub for walnuts while mesquite flour, which I still have from my mesquite flour muffin making last summer add a wonderful distinct flavor.  Go to my recipe to see more about the muffins which came out very well.  The aroma of the flour reminds me a little of toasted coconut,  caramel,  or even chocolate.  It is made by drying and grinding the pods of the tree.  In this recipe I only put in 15% of the total flour so that it doesn’t dominate the overall flavor of the bread.  If you can’t find it in your specialty or organic supermarket,  a quick Amazon check will give you some options.  Two brands I’ve used can be found at  and .

A couple of notes: I used dried mission figs, which are still fairly soft and plump. If you use drier figs, you may want to lightly reconstitute them in water or maybe even a liquor.

My dough is very wet and sticky. I prefer it that way so that bread can turn out much lighter and airier.  If you’d rather not manage a wet and sticky dough,  start with 500 grams water and add more according to your desire.



For 2 large or 3 medium loaves.

The levain:

3/4 tablespoon sourdough starter refreshed about 8 hours before

100 grams water (78 degrees F.)

50 grams bread flour

50 grams whole wheat flour

The final dough:

all the levain

700 grams water at 80 degrees F.

550 grams bread flour

300 grams whole wheat flour

150 grams mesquite flour

20 grams salt plus 50 grams water

1 1/2 heaping cups sliced dried figs

3/4 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans


The night before baking the bread make the levain.  In a small bowl dissolve the starter in the water.  Add the bread flour and whole wheat flour and mix until it is all moistened.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight to ferment.  In a 75 degree F. ambient temperature it will take about 9 hours.  Check the next morning by dropping a spoonful in a small bowl of water. The levain is ready if it floats.

Toast the chopped pecans by roasting them in a 325 degree F. oven for a few minutes.  They will become slightly aromatic.  Let them cool.

To make the dough begin by dissolving the levain with the 700 grams water in a large bowl that will fit the rest of the ingredients.  Add the bread flour, whole wheat flour and mesquite flour. Mix well until there it is all moistened.  Cover with plastic and let it autolyse for about one hour.  Autolyse is the process where the flour begins to form gluten.   Because salt hinders the process it is left out at this point.  The dough will become easier to manage more quickly.

Dissolve the salt in the 50 grams of water as best you can and then add it to the dough by squeezing it in.  Put the dough in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix for about 5 minutes.  It will become smooth but still be quite sticky.  Remove it from the bowl and place it in a very lightly oiled bowl or container.  Lightly oil the top of the dough then cover the bowl with plastic.  After 30 minutes, uncover and give it a “turn”.  This is done by reaching and grabbing the bottom of the dough,  pulling it up,  and stretching it over the top part.  Do this one more time.  “Turn” the dough at 30 minute intervals for a total of 3 times.  After 1 1/2 hours you should have turned the dough 3 times.  Now let the dough ferment for about 1 1/2 to 2 more hours.  It will seem airier,  a little less sticky,  and increased in volume by about 20-25%.  The amount of time it ferments will depend on the temperature of your kitchen.  At 72-75 degrees F. ambient temperature,  my dough takes about 4 hours from the beginning of the turning phase to the beginning of the final shaping.

When the dough is ready for shaping, take it out of the container or bowl and put it on your work surface.  I find that a marble board works best.  Since this is a sticky dough, you can use all the help you can get.  Divide it into 2 large or 3 medium portions.  One by one,  form the portions into a nice round shape.  Use a pastry scraper for this,  as the sticky dough will be very hard to manage.  Try to create surface tension by tucking in the dough.  The surface tension you create will help in the oven spring while the dough is baking.  Lightly dust with flour and cover with plastic.  Let them rest about 20 minutes.

You are now ready to do the final shaping.  Take one of the portions and turn it upside down.  Grab the right third of dough and stretch it a bit to your right, then fold it over the middle third.  Next grab the left side, stretch it to your left and fold it over the middle.  Now take the third closest to you, stretch it toward you and fold it over the middle. Finally, do the same with the third farthest from you and fold it over the middle.  Turn the dough over once again so that the top section with the folds is now the bottom in contact with the work surface.  Repeat with the other portion(s).

If you made a dough that is fairly stiff and tacky you can place each of the portions on a piece of parchment paper.  They will hold their shape for their final proof.  If however your dough is very sticky you’ll need to set them in small bowls or baskets to help hold their shape.   Bannetons are the specially made proofing baskets used for breads.  If you are using them or makeshift baskets,  line them with a clean kitchen cloth,  then dust with flour.  Place the dough portions upside down in the banneton.  Lightly flour the top with flour and place plastic wrap on top.  Fold the overhanging kitchen cloth over the top.  Repeat with the other portions.  The final proofing should last about 4-5 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  The dough should increase in volume by about 20-30% and feel airy to the touch.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. about 45 minutes before you plan to bake.  Use a baking stone if you have one.

If you are not using bannetons,  place the dough in the oven by sliding them in with a peel.  The parchment paper really helps.  Lower the oven temperature to 425.  Spritz the oven with water carefully with a plant mister.  Bake until  the internal temperature of the bread reads 200 degrees.  Set the loaves on a wire rack to completely cool down.  If using bannetons,  uncover the dough, removing the plastic.  Place a piece of parchment paper a little wider than the size of the banneton.  Place your peel on top and flip it over carefully.  Remove the banneton and gently remove the cloth you used to line with.  Prepare all the portions of dough in that manner and then slide them into your oven.  Continue as described above,  lowering the oven and spritzing.  Bake until they read 200 degrees.

I’m taking this bread to The Novice Gardener’s weekly Fiesta Friday.  You can always find many inspiring chefs,  storytellers,  and photographers there.


I enjoyed this bread as toast with ganache and cajeta.  I’ll try to update with photos soon.



The first fig of the season?






Jalapeno and cheddar cheese sourdough bread

March 23, 2014


If there was such a thing as a classic southwestern style sourdough this would probably be it.  Jalapenos and cheese are what first come to mind for ingredients when wanting to give bread a easy spicy flair.   A sourdough starter,  long fermentation times,  along with the jalapenos and cheese make this flavorful and hearty bread almost a meal in itself.  Some whole wheat flour and a small amount of rye flour give some additional flavor.

A sharp cheddar is recommended so that the cheese flavor comes through.   I make sure to keep this vegetarian by using a cheese made with vegetable rennet. Tillamook sharp cheddar is one recommendation.  Vegans are good to go by leaving out the cheese altogether.

For 2 large or 3 medium loaves

The levain:

1 tablespoon sourdough starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)

100 grams water at 78 degrees F.

50 grams bread flour

50 grams whole wheat flour

The final dough:

All of the levain

675 grams water at 80 degrees F.

600 grams bread flour

300 grams whole wheat flour

100 grams rye flour

20 grams salt plus 50 grams water

2 jalapenos roasted, peeled and most of seeds removed (about 45-50 grams)

1 3/4 cups cubed cheddar cheese (about 250 grams)


To make the levain put the sourdough starter in a small bowl and add the 100 grams water to dissolve.   Add the flours and mix until it is all moistened.  Cover with  plastic and let it ferment overnight.  It will take about 8 to 10 hours depending on the temperature of your work area. To determine if the levain is ready, drop a spoonful into a small bowl of water. It is ready when it floats.  I time the levain preparation so that I can begin making the final dough around 7 to 9 in the morning.  The bread making process will take most of the day.

Roast the jalapenos in a 325 degree oven for 15 or so minutes until they soften.  Remove all or most of the seeds and dice the pepper.

Make the final dough the next day:  Put the 675 grams of water in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients.  Add the levain and dissolve.  Add all the flours and mix well until there is no dry flour.  Cover with plastic and let the mixture sit for 30 to 40 minutes.   Dissolve the salt in the 50 grams water and add to dough.  This can be done by squeezing it into the dough.  Put the dough into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low for about 5 to 6 minutes. It should be smooth,  elastic,  and sticky.  Add the diced jalapeno during the last couple of minutes of mixing.  There is a high amount of hydration in this dough. If you prefer a drier dough,  add more flour.  I recommend however that the dough still slightly sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove the dough from the bowl and put it on your workstation.  If you kept the dough wet,  a marble pastry board helps in managing the stickiness.   Use a pastry cutter and wet hands to manipulate the dough to add the cheese.  It will seem like a lot of cheese but trust me,  it will all incorporate into the dough.  Place it in a lightly oiled bowl or container to ferment.  Cover with plastic.  At 30 minute intervals,  “turn” the dough.  This is done by grabbing the bottom of the dough and stretching and pulling  it over the top portion.  Do this motion twice.  Give a total of 4 turns at 30 minute intervals over the next 2 hours.  After the 2 hour “turning” stage,  let it ferment for at least 1 to 2 hours.  It will all depend on the temperature of your environment.  At 7o to 75 degrees you may need to let the dough develop for 3 or 4 hours.  When ready,  it will seem less sticky,  more airy,  and increase about 20% in volume.

Remove the dough from the container and place it on your workstation.  Lightly flour the dough and divide into 2 or 3 portions.  Flip the portions so that the floured side is on the bottom.   Use a pastry cutter and your free hand to gently form the portions into rounds.  Try to create surface tension by gently tucking in the dough to make the rounds taut. Lightly flour the rounds with flour,  cover with plastic, and let them rest for 30 minutes.  If you left the dough wet,  the portions will flatten out somewhat.  If they have spread out too much,  reshape and let rest again.  If you made the dough with a tacky or slightly sticky consistency,  you will not have a problem with it spreading out.

For final shaping,  lightly flour the tops of the rounds and gently flip them upside down with your pastry scraper.   For final shaping,  grab 1/3 of the dough closest to you.  Stretch it toward you and pull it over the center of the dough.  Take the right 1/3 of the dough, stretch it to the right and fold it over the center. Do the same with the left side of the dough by stretching it to the left and folding over the center.  Do the same with 1/3 portion farthest away from you.  Flip the dough over again so that you now have a smooth top.  Repeat with the other portions.  Because my dough had a high level of hydration,  I use bannetons for the final proofing.  It helps hold the shape of the dough during the 3 or more hours it needs for proper proofing.   Line your bannetons (if using) with a nice smooth kitchen cloth and dust with flour.  Place the dough upside down into the cloth-lined banneton.  I then lightly flour the top with flour and cover with plastic. You can also lightly spray with oil before covering with plastic to prevent sticking.  Repeat with all portions.  If not using bannetons,  just shape them as described and place them on parchment paper, covering as suggested. Let them proof for 3 to 4 hours.  They will have risen slightly in volume and become airier.

About 45 minutes before baking, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F.  Use a baking stone if you have one.

You are now ready to prepare for baking.   If you are using bannetons, remove the plastic wrap, pull back the cloth to fully expose the dough,  and cover with parchment paper.  Invert the banneton with the dough onto your peel.  To do this,  put your peel on top of the banneton and flip it over.   You will now have the dough-filled banneton  sitting on the parchment paper and peel.  Carefully remove the banneton and cloth from the dough.  Score as desired and repeat with the other rounds.  If not using bannetons, just carefully remove the plastic and score when the dough has finished proofing.  Place in the oven and lower the temperature to 425 degrees F.  During the first 10 minutes I carefully spritz the oven 3 separate times with water to simulate a steam injected oven.  This helps with the rise of the crumb and carmelization of the crust.  The loaves are ready when they reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.  You can also check by thumping the bottom of the loaves.  If they sound hollow,  they are done.

I’m taking this bread to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday.  She will be hosting a party of fun company with their contributions of tasty and interesting fare.


Sesame seed and chile bread (Pan de ajonjoli y chile)

March 3, 2014


This bread is a good living (before the yeast is sacrificed in the oven!) example of my approach to baking from a Mexican/American viewpoint.  Which is why I’m bringing it to Fiesta Friday, The Novice Gardener’s weekly invitation to blogger friends to join and mingle with recipes,  stories, and more.  Her blog is always fresh, interesting, very expressive,  and funny. It’s been an eye-opener to see her site grow and greatly expand.  Give this very talented chef and blogger a visit!

Taking this bread to a party, I would be interested in how people react and ask them what flavors they can discern and what aromas they detect. I’d ask them where they think it originates from.   If you were curious I’d tell you it took me several trials and errors to get it to where it is now.  I tried different types and amounts of dried chile, sometimes I used olive oil, sometimes a bit of sweetener. I used different ratios of flours.  It was all very good tasting but this was my favorite version.  One difference between baking and other types of cooking is that once you put that dough in the oven, the ingredients are set.  If you are making a sauce for example, most of the time you can adjust it during the cooking by tasting and observing as it goes along.  If I’m lucky, I’m ok with a bread baking experiment after one run.  But a recipe like this takes me back to the drawing board  because of the nature of the ingredients and also due to curiosity which can take the better of me.  I’m always tempted to do the impossible task of trying all kinds of variations.

Using ingredients, flavors, and techniques that I grew up with is the basis of recipes of this blog.   I’ll also incorporate  Mexican or southwestern flavors that have become available through the years.  For example,  two different types of chipotle chiles are now much more common here than they were 15 or 20 years ago.  Amaranth is another example of a Mexican “grain”  now more easily found in some specialty grocery stores.  In general, my recipes are “Tex-Mex”,  Mexican or “southwestern” in style.  I also try to use ingredients native to the Americas.  My last recipe for example included pecans, common in Texas,  and wild rice, native to some parts of the northern U.S.  Some are authentic recipes while some are my take on a classic.   Most of these recipes involve ingredients and techniques that are not usually found together.  In some respects,  it is like a gradual geographical opening up of the horizon from my  south and central Texas food experience. Fusion cooking is not really the goal here though I love the idea and so it will inevitably happen along the way.  I think fusion cooking is exciting and is especially beautiful when it happens within a family that is of mixed backgrounds.  But I don’t wake up in the morning and say, well let’s see…,  what happens when I try to combine  Vietnamese and Mexican flavors in a Banh Mi(a great sandwich that has relatively recently gained great popularity).  That sounds like a great fun challenge I would enjoy working on a little later down the road to perhaps introduce at my work place or include as a post.   What I would tackle first though is a Mexican flavored stir fry.  Stir fries have been a staple in Chinese restaurants forever and is dish I make regularly at home because it is easy to put together if I have the basic ingredients ready.   Because the ingredients are handy, it’s been an easy step for me to make Mexican flavored versions.  I may include one here soon.

So don’t get me wrong,  if I had more time, I’d love to devote a blog just on fusion cuisine.  Cultures find themselves as neighbors for different reasons.   Some cuisines may have an affinity to one another no matter how close or far apart they are historically or geographically. It would be interesting for me to try combining Mexican,  American  and Caribbean techniques and ingredients.  Mexico has the indigenous people and European influences while  the Caribbean has the indigenous,  African,  European and other flavors from throughout the world.   Maybe I’m going about a fusion path slowly because there is already a lot in my “neighborhood” to explore.  Another reason may be because I’m a little cautious about instant globalization of cultures,  although as long as the traditions are kept alive it’s nice to experiment.

Back to today’s recipe—Sesame seeds give a nice nutty flavor to the bread.  They are often used in the famed mole sauces of Mexico and are a key ingredient in some pipian  sauces.  They are also a garnish in “cemita” rolls, a bread used for a popular sandwich from Puebla.   Sesame seeds are also used for Mexican candies.   I could be mistaken, but whole wheat flour is not  traditionally used in Mexican baking.  Maybe it has caught on as a healthier alternative,  but I don’t think it has become a common ingredient.   However,  it has always been available here so I use it to give a little more depth in wheat flavor to the bread.  The hardest part was deciding on a spice mix.  Which dried chile flavors would come through best in a bread?  After some tries and misses I decided on a mix of several different dried chiles plus other herbs and spices to round out the flavor.  The spice blend I use is my personal recipe though you can use your blend or a favorite brand of chile powder.  Just keep in mind that they can differ dramatically in heat and flavor.

I use a pre-ferment as I do in most of my recipes because it improves the flavor and texture of the crumb.  The chew is more pleasantly substantial than that of  bread made from start to finish in 4 hours or less.  It seems that pre-ferments are common in Mexico.


The use of chile powder and sesame seeds give this bread a bit of Tex-Mex and a little of Mexico.  My chile powder blend includes dried chipotle chiles, which are originally associated more with Mexico than the southwest U.S. The chiles above from left to right are pasilla,  chipotle meco,  ancho,  and chipotle morita.  The chipotle morita was the fierest of all and smokier than the chipotle meco.  They can all vary in quality,  so just beware.


This recipe is good for 2 medium size loaves.

Pate fermente:

2 cups bread flour

5/8 teaspoon instant yeast (you can make your best approximation if you don’t have the measurement for it)

3/4 teaspoons salt

about 3/4 cup water at room temperature

In a small bowl stir together the flour,  yeast,  and salt.   Add most of the water to form a shaggy ball.  Put it in the bowl of your mixer and begin mixing.  Add more water as needed to get a smooth elastic dough.  It should be a little tacky but not dry or sticky.  Place it in a medium size bowl that has been lightly oiled. Roll the dough around to oil all around.  Let it ferment until it is about 11/2 times the volume.  You can use it now,  but you can keep it overnight in the refrigerator for further development.

The final dough:

All the pate fermente

1 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons table salt

1 generous tablespoon chile powder (add more as desired, this amount gives a mild flavor) (use the recipe below or use store bought)

a heaping 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds

about 1/2 cup water at room temperature.

If using an overnight pate fermente, remove from the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan to make the dough to take the chill off.   When ready cut it into 10 or 12 pieces with a knife or pastry cutter. Put it in your mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients except the water.  Mix it all together well with a spatula.  Add most of the water and mix to form a loose shaggy dough.  Begin to mix with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.  Adjust with more water or flour if necessary to form a smooth elastic, slightly tacky dough.  Remove the dough and place it on your cutting board or work station.  Gently knead in the sesame seeds.  It will seem like too many seeds to incorporate, but trust me,  they will mix in.  I usually like to knead in nuts and seeds at the very end of kneading because I think they can cut the gluten strands you’ve  created during the mixing of the dough.

Form the  dough into a nice round shape and place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl.  Roll it around as you did with the pate fermente to make sure all sides get oiled. This will prevent it from forming a crust as it ferments.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rice to double in volume.  This is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the dough is ready ,  remove from the bowl,  lightly degass it, and divide into 2 or 3 portions.  Shape as desired and place them on parchment paper,  and cover with plastic.  Let them proof until they have about doubled in volume.

Slash and garnish the dough as desired.  Place the them on your baking stone that has been preheating if your are using one.  The parchment paper makes it easy to transfer. I find I can reuse the parchment paper a couple more times.  If not,  place them on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.  Many say the bread is ready when the it makes a hollow thud when tapped on the bottom.  Let the loaves cool on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying.  These make great sandwich bread. I’ve been enjoying them just slathered with butter.  How about making some molletes with them?  I bet they would make great croutons for soup or salad.  Too bad I don’t enough time this weekend to photograph some examples.



This mix came about because I happened to have all these ingredients on hand.  I wanted to come up with something that tasted distinct from the store bought kind.  You don’t really need all those ingredients to make a nice tasting chile powder.  A blend of ancho pepper powder,  ground oregano, ground cumin, and garlic powder will do just fine.  Experiment with it.  Ancho and pasilla peppers are somewhat fruitier and much milder than the chipotles.  If I had to pick one pepper for a blend, it would be the ancho.

The chile powder:

4 teaspoons ancho chile powder

4 teaspoons pasilla pepper powder

2 teaspoons chipotle pepper powder

1 teaspoon ground dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 good pinch granulated garlic

1 good pinch onion powder

To make the individual chile powders,  place several of each of the pasilla,  ancho, and chipotle peppers on a baking tray and toast in a 325 degree oven for a couple of minutes or until you begin to smell the aroma.  They will begin to puff up.  Don’t let them overcook.  I make it a point to stay in the kitchen because it will go  very quickly.  I would toast each type of pepper separately so that you insure they are properly done.  When the peppers are cool,  open them to remove the seeds.  You can include some of the seeds if you want a little more heat. Grind the chiles (and seeds if using) in a spice grinder to fine powder.   Be very careful not to inhale the dust while grinding the chiles. I again recommend keeping them separate during the process.  You will likely have more powders that you need for the recipe but it’s nice to have them available for other uses.

If you don’t have ground oregano, you can also grind it in your spice grinder.  You may choose to toast whole comino in a frying pan and also grind it yourself.

Mix all the ingrediants together.  Store them in an airtight container.  I don’t use any kind of anti-caking agent, so the blend will eventually begin to clump up.  No big deal in my opinion.  I make it in small amounts.


Wild rice and pecan bread

February 2, 2014


Two ingredients here give a nutty, nutritious flavor to an nearly 5o% whole wheat bread.  Pecans are ready to pick here in Texas from mid fall through early winter.  Pecan trees are very common in neighborhoods or parks though squirrels will very likely beat you to your personal home grown harvest.   So that’s the time when family and friends may go on “foraging expeditions”.  As youngsters, we would visit aunts and uncles and help gather pecans.  That’s when we’d hear the latest “news” or about past glory days.  Recently pecans have seemed smaller than usual.  I wonder if the very hot and dry summers we’ve had lately are the cause.  A nutcracker has been especially useful since the smaller  pecans are much harder to crack by hand.  You know that old time footage of early attempts of flying by intrepid inventors and their willing assistants.  I’d be interested to see a museum of history exhibit of nutcrackers.  There would be the successful inventions and designs,  the less successful ones,  and even the failed attempts.  Can you imagine what some of the early tries may have been like?  The very practical original spring jointed metal nutcracker with pick we are all familiar with was invented in 1878 by inventor Henry Quackenbush.   If you are wondering, Groucho Marx’s character in “A Day at the Races”  was Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush.

Wild rice of course has been an important food source to many native North American Indians tribes.  Three kinds of wild rice are indigenous to the U.S. while one is found in China.  In case you didn’t know,  wild rice is actually a grass not related to rice.  It also refers to the grain that is harvested from it.  While a simple pecan bread makes a nice tasting loaf,  the wild rice adds a little more depth to the flavor.  You have to taste for it since it’s not very noticeable at first.  I think rosemary is good option to substitute for sage  though I’d be careful on the quantity.



This recipe will make 2 medium size loaves.

The poolish:

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 cups water at room temperature

The final dough:

The poolish

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey

2 1/4 teaspoons table salt

about 3/4 cups buttermilk at room temperature

1 cup cooked wild rice

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (optional)


To make the poolish:

In a medium size mixing bowl stir together the flour and yeast. Add the water and mix until all the flour is moistened and the mixture looks like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic and let it sit out until it becomes bubbly.  It will take 3 or 4 hours depending on the temperature of the kitchen.   Even though it is ready to use,  I like to put it the refrigerator overnight for further development.


Cook raw wild rice by bringing to boil at least 1 1/2 cups water in a medium size pot.  Add 1/2 cup raw wild rice and bring to a simmer.  Make sure to cook the rice until the grains have opened.  This is important because rice that didn’t soften may give some hard brittleness to the finished bread.  Add more water if necessary during cooking .  Strain and let cool. This may be done the night before.  It’ll make more than you need for the recipe,  so enjoy the extra wild rice on it’s own.

Toast the pecans in a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Let them cool down.


To make the dough:

If you have an overnight poolish, take it out of the refrigerator an hour or 2 before you plan to make the dough.

Put the poolish,  the whole wheat flour,  yeast,   salt,  and sage ( if using) in your mixing bowl.  Stir together thoroughly.  Add most of the room temperature buttermilk and stir to form a shaggy dough.  Add more buttermilk if it appears that the dough is too dry.  With the hook attachment,  mix the dough until you have a smooth ever so slightly sticky dough that clears the sides of the bowl. Adjust with more flour or buttermilk if necessary.  Mixing will take about 5 to 7 minutes.  Take the dough out of the mixer onto a cutting board or work surface.  Gradually and gently knead in the wild rice and pecans.  Form the dough into a round and place in a bowl or container.  Cover with plastic and let ferment until double in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 portions. Form  them into boules or batards as desired.  Put each of them on parchment paper and cover with plastic.  Sometimes I lightly spray the dough with oil so that the plastic doesn’t adhere.  It depends on how wet the dough is.  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Use your baking stone if you have one.  The parchment paper makes it easy to slide the loaves onto the stone.  Let the loaves proof until double in size.

When ready remove the plastic,  and slash the loaves as desired.  I sprinked them with some cornmeal before scoring them.  Slide them onto the stone and immediately lower the temperature to 375 degrees.  The oven is at a lower than usual temperature because the buttermilk will cause  the crust to brown more rapidly.  The bread is ready in about 20 minutes. Be sure to check from time to time.  Use foil to cover if they are browning too soon.  The bread is ready when the internal temperature is 200 degrees F.


Sunflower seed sourdough bread

January 16, 2014


Just one in an infinite

Take the idea of a bread flavored with sunflower seeds.  When I started to teach myself how to make bread about 6 years ago,  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Sunflower seed bread back then was only  a faraway idea I would eventually get to.  Now when I decide to tackle it,  I’m almost overwhelmed with the choices to make.   What flour or combination of flours  should I use to compliment the flavor.  Should I use other ingredients like additional grains or oil to enhance the flavor?   What pre-ferment technique do I use?   How will the bread be used.  How much time do I want to take from beginning to end?  I also try to keep it all in the framework of the concept of my blog.  I’d describe my bread recipes as experiments in progress.  I usually make at least two different versions of a bread to compare and contrast to choose which I think is better.  Many times they are equally good,  just different.   Sometimes I don’t like the results at all and let the idea go for awhile to try again later.   Whatever choices I ultimately make,  the end result is just one from an infinite number of possibilities that can be imagined and created by all the bread makers of the world.  Each individual uses different ingredients,  bakes in a unique environment,  and imbues a personal “touch” and motive.

The birth of a recipe

The featured ingredient for this bread is the sunflower seed.  The sunflower is native to all of the Americas.  According to the “New World Encyclopedia” the earliest known domestication occurred around 2300 B.C.E. in what is now Tennessee while evidence in Mexico dates domestication  to around 2100 B.C.E.  I associate it very much with the southwest.  It is considered a sacred plant to many native Americans.   For this bread I also wanted to make use of a combination of white whole wheat and regular whole wheat flour as I had did in my last bread.   I decided to make it a sourdough because I enjoy the taste of naturally leavened bread,   the experience of the process will help improve my baking,   and I could afford the time this weekend.  In the end I chose to make it simple with no other flavors than the whole wheat flours and the sunflower seeds.  At least I have a basic recipe to expand on later.  That’s what I mean when I mentioned that my recipes are experiments in progress.  However, it doesn’t mean this prototype or basic recipe isn’t worth making again.  It is packed with flavor,  texture,  and a slight tang.



The Levain:

1 tablespoon sourdough starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)

200 grams water at 78 degrees F.

50 grams bread flour

50 grams whole wheat flour


The dough:

The levain

650  grams water (80 degree F.)

500 grams bread flour

250 grams whole wheat flour

250 grams white whole wheat flour

20 grams salt plus 100 grams water

1 1/4 cup unsalted hulled raw sunflower seeds


To make the levain:

The night before you make the bread disperse the sourdough starter in the water.  Add the flours and mix until it is all moistened.  Cover with plastic and leave out overnight.  Depending on the temperature in your kitchen,  count on about 12 to 14 hours for the levain to properly ferment.   Mix at the appropriate time for you.  I usually do so around 8 or 9 pm.  That way it will be ready between 6 and 8  the next morning.  One way to check is to take a small spoonful of the levain and put it in a small bowl of water.  If it floats, it is ready to use.  Otherwise, let it go longer.

Roast the sunflowers on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan to insure even roasting.  Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Let them cool. You can roast them the day before or on the day  you plan to make the dough.


To make the dough:

When the levain is ready put it in a large mixing bowl.  Add the 650 grams of water and disperse the levain.  Add the flours and mix with your hands until it is all moistened. Cover with plastic and let it sit for 30 to 40 minutes.   Dissolve the salt in the 100 grams of water and add to the dough.  Squeeze it in as best you can.  Now put the dough in your stand mixer and mix for about 3 to 4 minutes.  You can also do the kneading by hand.  Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic.  After 30 minutes “turn” the dough by pulling the bottom portion up and over the top.  I’ll do this manipulation twice.  You may need to wet your hand so that the dough doesn’t stick to you. Turning aids in the development of the dough.  After 30 minutes,  take the dough out of the container,  and manually knead in the sunflower seeds.  A marble pastry board works well.  You may need to lightly flour your work surface whether using marble or other type of board.  It depends on how wet your dough is.  Return the dough to your bowl or container and cover with plastic.  Give 2 more turns at 30 minute intervals then let the dough continue to ferment for about 3 hours.  The dough will have increased in volume by about 20 to 25%. It will lose some of its stickiness and feel softer. It  will have developed a more airy feel.  I always use a clear container that allows me to see the air bubbles that develop during the fermentation.

When the dough is ready,  carefully remove it from the container and divide it in to 2 portions for large loaves, or 3 for medium size.  With the help of a pastry cutter,  shape the portions into nice tight rounds.  At this stage you want to begin to develop tension in a smooth outer surface.   Cover with plastic and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  Depending on how wet the dough is, it will flatten and spread out a bit.  If it has spread out too much,  reshape into rounds and let it rest some more.

For the final shaping, lightly flour the top of one of the rounds,  and flip it over so that the top is now the bottom.  Grab the third of the dough nearest to you and stretch it over the center.  Grab the right side of the dough and stretch it over the middle.  Take the left side of the dough and stretch it over the middle. Finally grab the third farthest from you and pull it over the middle.  Flip the dough so that the bottom is once again the top.  Repeat with the other portions.   Line  baskets or bowls with a clean kitchen towel. These will hold your dough while they proof and eventually increase about 1/4 to 1/3 in volume.  Using appropriate size bowls or baskets will make it easier to remove the proofed dough.  Dust the towels with flour so that the dough will not stick,  then gently place the shaped portions upside down in the towel lined container.   I lightly oil the exposed side of the dough with baking spray then cover with plastic.  I then overlap the remaining part of the towel to cover.  I suppose if you sufficiently flour the towel, the plastic is not necessary.   Proof the dough for 3 to 4 hours.  The longer it is proofed, the tangier it will be.  These particular loaves went for 4 hours.  I could have chosen to let them go overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 5oo degrees at least 30 minutes before you bake  Use your baking stone if you have one.   Remove the plastic and towel  from the dough then carefully flip the basket onto parchment paper.   Remove the basket and the towel from the top of the dough. .  Score the loaves as desired.   You can choose to lightly spray the dough with water and sprinkle sunflower seeds.  I gently push the seeds down a little so that they will adhere.  Using a peel,  slide the loaves onto your very hot baking stone and immediately lower the oven to 425 degrees.  If not using a stone, you can place the dough onto a sheet pan.  “Steam” the oven 3 times in the first 10 minutes with a plant mister to simulate the steam injection of professional ovens.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  The bread will be golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees when done.  Put the loaves on a wire rack to cool down completely.




The dough makes very good pizza crust.  I used a mild salsa ranchera,  requeson (similar to riccota),  jalapenos, and fresh oregano.



Light whole wheat bread

January 6, 2014


This one might do the trick for you if you’re in the mood for a bread that has a little more flavor than one made with all bread flour.   I like this bread so much I’ve made it 3 weekends in a row  with pretty much the same recipe.  Only the fermentation times have differed.  Using some white whole wheat flour makes a difference.  It gives a lighter flavor and doesn’t impart the bitterness that regular whole wheat flour can.  You can change the recipe and use all white whole wheat or all regular whole wheat in addition to the bread flour.  Or you can change the ratio of the whole wheat flours.  I really enjoy the flavor from this particular combination of the two.  Ok, it’s not as good for you as 100% whole wheat bread,  but it’s over a third of the way there.  I’m curious now what a sourdough version would taste like.

This one makes use of a poolish.   For this recipe I use Peter Reinhart’s poolish formula.  This pre-ferment gives more flavor and structure to the bread.  The crumb is tender and soft and yet does not disintegrate like commercially made sandwich loaves.  I think it also contributed to the nice size holes.  Each of the poolishes  had different fermentation times  only because the days dictated my schedule.  The beauty of pre-ferments is that you can delay your bread making for a few days if needed.  I held one 4 days in the refrigerator with satisfactory results.   The crumb as well as the crust has a full fantastic flavor.



This will make 2 medium size loaves or 3 to 4 small baguettes


2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/2 cups water

Final dough:

All the poolish

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)

3 to 4 tablespoons water


To make the poolish:

Stir together the bread flour and instant yeast in a medium size mixing bowl.  Add the water and mix until all the flour is wet.  It should look like thick pancake batter.  Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it becomes bubbly,  about 4 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.   Put in the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.  The poolish can remain refrigerated for 3 days.  It will continue to develop flavor.

To make the dough: 

Take the poolish out of the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you plan to make the bread to take the chill off.

Put the poolish, 1 cup white whole wheat flour,  1/2 cup whole wheat flour,  1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast,  honey (or sugar),  and salt  in your mixing bowl.  Mix everything well with a spatula or large spoon until it becomes a shaggy dough.  With the hook attachment in place,  mix on the recommended speed of your mixer, usually low or slightly higher.  You will probably need to add some or all of the water to make a smooth and tacky or very slightly sticky dough.   Whether you use honey or sugar will have a slight effect.  Adjust with either water or flour as needed.  It will take about 6 to 7 minutes of mixing. The dough will probably not stick to either the sides or bottom of the bowl.  It should also have good gluten development.

Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a smooth round ball.  Put it in a lightly oiled bowl and making sure all sides of the dough are very lightly oiled.  Cover with plastic and let it rise to double in volume.

When ready,  remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Gently degass it,  and divide it into 2 with a pastry cutter or knife.  Shape them as desired. Place them on parchment paper,  cover with plastic,  and let rise to double.  I find it useful to lightly spray the dough with oil or baking spray, especially if it’s a little sticky.  The plastic tends to stick to the dough, and at times becomes difficult to remove without disturbing the risen dough.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

When the dough is ready,  remove the plastic and score as desired.  Put the dough (which has been placed on parchment paper) on your baking stone if using one.  If not,  they could be placed on baking sheets.  Immediately  lower the temperature to 425 degrees.  Mist the oven with water 3 times within the first 10 minutes.  I use a plant mister.

The bread will be done in about 20 minutes.  Keep an eye to see if you need to rotate the bread for even baking.  The loaves will be a golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees when done.


A closed face mollete?  These two sandwiches are made of refried beans,  cheddar cheese,  cherry tomato,  and jalapenos on the light whole wheat bread.   The left is made Panini style, the other was broiled in the oven.  Home-made tortilla chips flavored with chili powder round out the plate.

Blackberry empanadas (Empanadas de zarzamora)

December 30, 2013

DSC_0911 The plan was to make apple empanadas today, but finding blackberries offered at a very low price at the supermarket made me switch gears and make a type of empanada I don’t recall coming across.  I’m sure they are popular somewhere in Latin America or maybe Spain.  I’m also sure every possible type of fruit has been made into a filling…   After I started to cook down the berries with sugar, I saw how much liquid was released and realized this was going to be  very different from the pumpkin empanadas I made several weeks ago.  Cost and a more problematic cooking process might be why they are not as common around here.  Unwittingly I was venturing into the territory of conserves and jams and thus preparing for a few rounds of trial and error.  I didn’t want to just follow a recipe for blackberry jam.  I learned about pectin and how to tell when a jam was “set”.  I considered going out to look for some.  Then I read that apples, oranges and lemon have natural pectin.  Some recipes for conserves use just fruit, sugar, and lemon.  Cornstarch to thicken was out of the question for me.  I know how cornstarch can change the natural character of foods. Ultimately I wanted to keep it simple since empanadas are labor intensive.  So I decided to add lemon zest and some lemon juice for flavor  Maybe it would help in thickening the blackberry “jam”.  I made five different batches and settled on the one I thought was best.  Only because the berries were so cheap could I get away with that.  The benefit I got was that I also ended up with a good supply of blackberry conserve.   I think what made it work was reducing the juices until it thickened enough to congeal.  For the dough I used Fany Gerson’s recipe from “My Sweet Mexico” again,  the same one I used for pumpkin empanadas.  Those empanadas I must say got raves from family and friends during Thanksgiving.



For about 20 empanadas:


2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes

1/2 cup crema or heavy cream plus a little for topping


4 heaping cups of fresh blackberries

1 1/4 cups sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon plus the zest of one whole lemon

Egg wash

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon heavy cream



For the dough

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  I have always kept the butter as cold as possible for this recipe.  Add the cream and mix until it’s just combined. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  The dough will hold for 3 days in the refrigerator.

For the filling

Put the blueberries,  sugar,  juice of 1/2 a lemon, and the zest of a lemon in a heavy sauce pot.  Use a non-stick pot if possible. Over medium heat,  slowly bring to a boil.  Stir to help dissolve the sugar.  Lower the heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes to cook and soften the berries.   Strain the berries saving the liquid and put aside.  I had about 1 1/4 cups liquid.  Return the liquid to the pot and put on a slow simmer.  Stir from time to time to avoid possible scorching.  Reduce by at least 1/2.  This batch reduced to between 3/4 and 1/2 cups liquid.  The juice should be thick enough to set when cooled.  I also tested by dropping a teaspoon or so on a cold plate.  If it thickened, it was ready.  Those of you with fruit preserve experience can probably know by checking the temperature or by another method.  I’m a complete newcomer to making jams and conserves.   Remove the liquid from the heat and add the berries.   I then put it in the refrigerator to speed up the setting.

To make the empanadas

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make an egg wash of 2 yolks and about 1 tablespoon heavy cream Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out 4 1/2 to 5 inch circles with a cookie cutter or other mold.  Place about 1 tablespoon of the blackberry filling slightly off center.  Use the egg wash to help seal the empanada and use a fork to press together.  Place the empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or one that has been well oiled. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired.  If you plan to glaze the empanadas you may not need to sugar them. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown.  Rotate the pan if they are not browning evenly.  Set them on a wire rack to cool.

Tips:  It is a good idea to keep the dough cool when working with it.  If your kitchen is warm the dough will soften to a degree that makes it hard to keep nice shaped circles. Also keep the blackberry filling cold as you begin filling the empanadas.  It will more likely keep from getting too runny as it heats up in the oven.



I used ganache that was leftover from my Yule log  to glaze some of the empanadas.  I also dusted some with confectioner’s sugar.   Semi-sweet chocolate chips were added along with the blackberry filling to a few.


I had a little fun with my camera today.   Mostly however, it’s frustrating.


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