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Pumpkin seed sourdough bread

March 15, 2013

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I am not aware of a present day sourdough bread tradition in Mexico or from the descendants of Mexicans in the United States.  It’s not something our family grew up with.  The only kind of non-sweet  bread we ate was the store bought white sandwich bread or raisin bread, with the occasional “whole wheat” variety. Commercially made yeast has only been around since the 1800’s,  a very short while compared to the approximately 6000 years that bread in some form or other has been made.  The Spaniards introduced bread making centuries ago to Mexico so natural yeast leavened bread has been around for awhile.  Maybe it couldn’t compete with the practicality of the corn tortilla.   Wild yeast has a way of bringing out more depth of flavor and qualities from flour. Commercial yeast is much more convenient but also more appropriate for most types of bread. To be sure,  the different kinds of yeast bring their own set of qualities with them.

I recall as a child eating toasted and salted squash or pumpkin seeds in Mexico.  They were sold in small paper or plastic bags with no descriptive  brand name.  It is sold more like a street food snack from vendors.  Pumpkin seeds are also an ingredient in pipian sauces for chicken or pork dishes.  I love the nuttiness it brings to bread.  The flavor and crunch blends in well with the complex flavors of  a sourdough bread.

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This recipe is adapted from Chad Robertson’s “Basic Country Bread” in his “Tartine Bread”,  a very highly recommended  book with beautiful photos and personal anecdotes.   For a much more elaborately explained procedure,  get his book.  There are many photos to guide the way through and the why’s behind the techniques are clearly explained.  I am merely paraphrasing his instructions for the essential steps. Whether you are new to sourdough baking, or want to learn  another method or technique, “Tartine Bread” is a must have.  I add pumpkin seeds as a variation to his basic recipe.  I also used a little less water than he calls for.  Having made it several times, I decided on making that minor change since the loaves tended to bake a little flatter than I wanted.  As I get more used to the hydration level,  I’ll increase the amount of water. If you notice in the top photo, there is a slight tear and bulge in the top loaf.   When I took the dough out of the bannetons, they began to flatten. They both continued to flatten as they sat on the baking stone and bumped into each other,  resulting in one sticking to some of the parchment paper.



1 1/2 teaspoons starter that has been refreshed about 8 hours before

100 grams water at 78 degrees

50 grams bread flour

50 grams whole wheat flour


Final dough:

630 grams water at 80 degrees

All the leaven

900 grams bread flour

100 grams whole wheat flour

20 grams salt

50 grams warm water

1 1/4 cups toasted pumpkin seeds


1. Make the leaven the night before baking.  Mix the starter into the water,  then add the flours to blend very well.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let ferment in a 65 degree room overnight. Fermenting in warmer areas will hurry the process, but careful it doesn’t ferment too fast.  Chad Robertson instructs that the leaven is ready when a spoonful of leaven floats in a bowl of moderate temperature water.

2. Put the 630 grams of water in a large mixing bowl.  Add the leaven and stir well so that it disperses.  Add the flours and mix well until it is all moistened.  Let the mass of dough rest for from 25 to 40 minutes.

3. After the rest, add the salt and 50 grams of warm water to the dough and incorporate  by squeezing the dough with your fingers.  Fold the dough over itself several times and put it in a clear plastic container.  The transparent container is suggested so that you can see the development of the dough as it ferments.  The author ferments the dough between 78 and 82 degrees.  The dough will develop according to the temperature in your kitchen.

4. Dough development is done by giving it “turns”.  This is done by  dipping your hand in water (to prevent the dough from sticking to you), grabbing the underside of the dough, stretching it up, and folding it back over the rest of the dough.  Repeat this 2 or 3 times so that it is evenly developed.  This action is considered one turn.  For the first 2 hours, give the dough a turn every half hour.  The dough begins to get soft and aerated. During the 2nd turn, add the toasted pumpkin seeds. I removed the dough to a work station and carefully incorporated them in.  During the third hour, continue to give turns every half hour but be careful not to press the gas out of the dough.  At the end of the third hour, it will be more cohesive, will release from the sides of the container more easily, and will have increased by 20 to 30 per cent in volume.  Air bubbles are starting to form along the sides. If the dough hasn’t reached this stage,  continue developing.

5. Using a rounded pastry scraper, carefully remove the dough from the container onto an unfloured work surface.  Lightly flour the surface of the dough and then cut into 2 pieces.   Flip the 2 pieces so that the floured surface is now on the bottom in contact with the work surface.  Fold the cut part of the dough onto itself so that the flour on the surface is sealed on the outside of the loaf.  This helps prevent flour from working into the dough.  Form the two pieces into rounds.  I did this much as I would form a roll except I used the pastry cutter to help with rolling. I was also careful not to tear them because the idea is to form tension on the surface. Lightly flour them and cover with plastic or kitchen towel. Let them rest for about 20-30 minutes.  If the doughs begin to flatten out,  give them another round shaping.

6. For final shaping, lightly flour the rounds and very carefully flip them over with your pastry scraper.  The floured side is now on the work surface.  Each of the doughs will go through a series of folds as follows. Fold the third of the dough closest to you and fold it over the middle third of the dough.  Stretch out the dough horizontally to your right and fold that third  over the center. Do the same with the left third, folding over the previous folds.  Now stretch the third farthest from you and fold it over all folds.  Finally grab the part of the dough nearest you, wrapping  it up and over, while gently turning it over away from you to so that the smooth underside is now on top.  Once again create tension , this time by cupping the ball of dough with your hands and working it against the work surface.

7. I used 2 bannetons to hold the dough for proofing. I generously dusted them and placed the doughs in them with the seam side up.  You might notice one of my loaves is oblong in shape.  Because I only have 1 round banneton I shaped one of them into a batard.  You can also use an appropriately sized bowl to do the proofing. Line them each with a kitchen towel and  lightly dust them with flour. This helps dough from sticking to the towels. This dough proofed for 4 hours in a 72 degree area. They grew to almost twice in volume.

8. If you are using a baking stone, place it  in the oven and preheat  to 500 degrees.  Chad Robertson uses a Dutch oven to bake his loaves.  This technique duplicates the effect of a professional steam injected oven. I opt for using a garden water spritzer to provide “steam”.  When the dough is ready, very gently remove each of them to parchment paper and then on to your baking sheet if not using a baking stone.  I then lightly misted them with water and sprinkled raw pumpkin seeds on them. Finally I scored them with a razor and put them in the oven.  Lower the oven to 420.  The dough  immediately began to flatten out when being transferred from banneton to parchment paper.  Be sure the size of your baking stone or baking sheet will accommodate this.

9.  The bread should be ready in about 20-25 minutes.  I make sure by temping it to 200 degrees.

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Even though the 2 raw loaves lost their round form and flattened out when I prepared to bake them,  the oven spring was dramatic and brought them back to shape. The flavor and texture of  this hearty, delicious bread makes for great sandwiches.

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