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National Homemade Bread Day (November 17th)

14 Nov

Readers, you know #thesmugcouple LOVES homemade bread. We’ve done chewy bagels, crusty hearth loafs, sourdoughs, and savoury prosciutto rings. Your day is always better with fresh homemade bread.

November 17th is National Homemade Bread Day and Enoteca Sociale (1288 Dundas St. W) wants our readers to try their hand at homemade bread with their very special 5-ingredient focaccia recipe by Head Chef Kris Schlotzhauer. We can’t think of anything better to do on a crisp Saturday afternoon.

The end result!

The end result!


Enoteca Sociale’s Famed 5-recipe Focaccia  


640g all purpose flour
25g salt
6g yeast
450g water
50g olive oil
1 sprig of rosemary


Mix dry ingredients together, then slowly add wet ingredients until fully incorporated.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes and then rest for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough for 1 minute and then rest again for 30 minutes.

Place the dough into an oil pan then cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour.

Bake at 425F for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 205F. Cool on rack.

The result: Great crispy crust and tender interior. I’m surprised how simple the recipe was to execute.



  • This is a simple recipe no overnight biga(starter) needed!
  • Based on our past experience, we would suggest incorporating the flour and yeast together BEFORE adding salt. Mixing salt with yeast prematurely (because the former kills the latter) might mean that your focaccia won’t proof (rise) properly.
  • This should also be quite a wet dough. Don’t over-knead the bread because this can inhibit gluten development. Eschew your stand mixer and just gently fold your dough on itself with a silicone spatula.
  • Dock (pierce the dough with a fork) the bread right before you put it in the oven.
  • I topped my focaccia with some sea-salt and more fresh rosemary.

The first proof.



Ready to be baked!

For bread enthusiasts who just want to indulge in Enoteca Sociale’s expertly baked goods, they’ve been offering a “Backdoor Bakery” since Spring of 2014. Starting at noon every Saturday (and until they sell out), carb-fans can try their Red Fife Sourdough or Rosemary Focaccia for $5. Grab one for yourself and more for your friends! Inside scoop: Holger Schoorl, their bread and pasta master, likes to experiment from time to time so expect some exciting changes to their Backdoor Bakery menu. 

Holger Schoorl, Bread Master

Holger Schoorl, Bread Master

Thanks to Natasha at ButterPR for sharing this recipe with our readers! YUM.


REVIEW – Optimal YOU, Christine Gingerich

24 Aug

IMG_20140815_203054_hdrWe love food festivals at YYZ because it’s an opportunity to meet all sorts of food producers and experts in drink in one place. Sometimes, you don’t even get to meet them in-person because there are too many great vendors, as was the case with the #WFDS, but they come and find you anyway!

Christine Gingerich is the enthusiastic (you can literally feel her energy radiate off your web browser when your read her emails) creator of Optimal YOU. She emailed us after the show and wanted to share her self-published cookbook. A Stratford native, she now makes her home in New Hamburg, ON, which is located just outside of Waterloo. She’s a teacher, life coach and health enthusiast. Like many people who re-invent their approach to food and eating, Christine’s health-concious recipes were born out of necessity.

We love cooking at YYZ and we’re trying to be healthier so we were eager to read her book.

Organization: This book is more than recipes – Christine teaches you a whole new strategy in the kitchen. Optimal YOU has tips for essential appliances, how to stock your pantry, and create meal plans. Christine does a mini lesson on healthy ingredients for those who don’t know the difference between your Kamut and Spelt flours. Fun fact: Christine uses her own blend of “healthy flour” (Rye/Oat/Barley) and a local mill is now producing the special blend for sale in-stores. How convenient! We also like the “tips” throughout the book designed to save you time and teach you facts about the foods and dishes you’re preparing.

Tested Recipes:



Happy Hallelujah Hummus (p.60)- pretty simple, We didn’t have the dried parsley called for in the recipe so substituted with fresh. Pretty flavourful. Will add less salt* and more lemon juice next time. *Christine recommends using salted canned chickpeas and not adding any salt.

Pesto Perfection (p.61) – Christine offers an alternative to exorbitantly priced pine-nuts: hemp seeds. It tasted like regular pesto! Slathered over tomatoes, it made a delectable and satisfying lunch.

Fresh Living Salsa (p. 68) – Salsa isn’t something that needs improving necessarily. The addition of grated apples was an interesting concept but not to our taste. We do agree, however, that making your own is preferable (in terms of health and taste) to store-bought.


Frijoles Refritos

Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans) (p. 119) – We’ve always wanted to make re-fried beans. The recipe was simple and her suggestion of using pickled hot peppers added a delightful kick. We would make this again for burritos. There’s not much left in the picture … because we ate all of it before we took a photo.

We loved her flavour combinations for the salads – great way to jazz up regular ol’ greens. Her tip for using a frozen bananas in smoothies was also a winner because it gives it a milkshake like consistency.

We wholly endorse her liberal application of beans in her recipes. Beans are underrated in terms of health and flavour. Everyone could use more beans in their diet.

We would have loved to see even more veggies/ superfoods like kale, beets and chard, which are now readily available at your local market. We can’t wait to try out the roasted butternut squash soup when they’re ready to harvest!

Conclusions: While we can’t comment on the health claims made in Optimal YOU, we do think her emphasis on using fresh produce and incorporating lots of veggies in your diet is a great idea. The variety of recipes also shows that one does not have to sacrifice flavourful and interesting food just because you’re watching what you eat.

The book is visually appealing. One of the things we look for in cookbooks is pictures – something for us to shoot for. Nearly every recipe in this book is accompanied by a vivid photo that looks good enough to eat. This book is a testament to individual enterprise! We love seeing foodies who love food share that passion with the world.

Toronto readers – take note, Optimal YOU is available at Noah’s Natural Foods (Bloor St.) and Book City (384 Danforth Ave). Go and check it out for yourself this weekend.

REVIEW – Michael Smith, Family Meals (Penguin Canada, 2014)

17 Aug


Full disclosure: the Gourmandes at YYZ don’t have kids so we don’t know what it’s like to have to navigate the different preferences in tastes, dietary restrictions, or how to include everyone in the cooking process. We bet it would be challenging.

We last reviewed Michael Smith Back to Basics in December. It was clear that he had special insight into working efficiently in the kitchen. He also knows how best to keep things running smoothly in his home kitchen. Some recipes, for example, like the “Weekend Pancakes” (p.12) have the tasks broken up for each individual kid in the family. Result: no fighting. I bet these tips would help you put your friends to work for a weekend brunch or dinner party. Eh, Cherry? He also offers organization and planning strategies that will make it easy to incorporate  healthy food options into any hectic work week.

The book is divided in “breakfast”, “lunch”, and dinner-type meals with a substantial section on “meatless” options. There’s a great section on slow/ pressure-cooked meals, which features classics like lasagna and “Rosemary Apple Braised Chicken” (p.144).  The lunch section was especially intriguing. Kids (or big kids like us) would LOVE the idea of a “tuna chip seaweed sandwich” or “lettuce wraps” in our lunch box.

Tested Recipes

Barley Kale Tabouleh

The Barley Kale Tabbouleh (excerpt here) salad is simple, elegant and so fresh tasting! It’s the perfect side dish to brighten up your favourite protein. I’m a fan of tabbouleh with a conventional smoother texture than in this salad but the use of kale and barley (as Michael says, you have “whole grain responsibilities” as a family chef) is so on trend.

Weekend Pancakes These are fluffy and healthy as 2/3s of the recipe consist of whole wheat/ whole grains. I also enjoyed using honey as a sweetner. The best part of this recipe: strategies on how to minimize the amount of dishes so that you don’t dirty every bowl and whisk in the kitchen … which is how *I* tend to make pancakes.

The recipes in Michael Smith’s Family Meals are mostly quick (except for the slow cook chapter), delicious, and satisfying meals. As I leafed through this book, I couldn’t imagine any tiny people revolting against their parental units over this food! There’s no sneaking in greens here or dressing up food to make it “friendly for kids.”  Kids, like people, respond to good food prepared with some precision and love. FYI: this is how you start raising your own gourmandes.

Thanks to Penguin Canada for making this review possible!

EXCERPT – Michael Smith, Family Meals (Penguin Canada, 2014)

17 Aug

Barley Kale Tabbouleh (Michael Smith, Family Meals, 2014)

This Barley Kale Tabbouleh recipe is simple and perfect for picnics, litterless lunches, and just a relaxing Saturday afternoon on the patio with a glass of wine. Enjoy! Make sure you check out the full review for more!

Barely Kale Tabbouleh (p.75)

Serves 4 to 6, with leftovers

For the salad

4 large kale leaves, tough center stems trimmed away

1 cup (250mL) of any barley

1 teaspoon (5mL) of salt

A handful of finely chopped parsley

Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 pint (500mL) of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 large dill pickle, minced

For the dressing

The zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons (30mL) of olive oil

1 tablespoon (15mL) of honey

1 tablespoon (15mL) of your favorite mustard

½ teaspoon (2mL) of salt

½ teaspoon (2mL) of your favorite hot sauce

  • Stack the kale leaves, then roll them up tightly. Slice them as thinly as possible, forming fine threads. Cram into a small saucepan and add ¼ cup (60mL) of water. Cover and cook over high heat until the kale softens, just 2 or 3 minutes. Drain and spread out on a plate to cool.
  • Measure the barley into the same saucepan and add 3 cups (750mL) of water and the salt. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Cover tightly and continue cooking until the grains swell, absorbing the water and tenderizing, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. Throw in the tender barley, the kale, parsley, mint, green onions, tomatoes and pickle. Toss the works together, evenly mixing the flavors, textures and colours. Serve and share!

Thanks to Penguin Canada for providing the excerpt!


Return To Sudbury: How Gourmands Camp

1 Aug

Last year some friends and I were spoiled rotten with a bountiful harvest of wild blueberries foraged from the Sudbury area.  We planned the same camping trip for this summer and you can bet for weeks leading up to it, we talked a big game.  C even bought four new 4-L tupperware containers, and worried that they’d overflow. Let’s just say, this year, our trip was not fruitful (sorry, sorry…).  We each left with a sad sandwich bag worth of tiny blue berries.  We think we missed the first harvest by a week, and were too early for the second round.  Woe!


It was still a fun time camping near Onaping High Falls, a gorgeous natural wonder made famous by Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson’s painting, Spring on the Onaping River.  (There, your art fact of the day!  Cherry would be proud.)  And of course, we ate like gluttons.

The difference between camping when I was a teenager versus camping as an adult  who makes more than minimum wage: we used to pack the cooler with frozen hot dogs (and cheap beer) and lived off that.  Now, we take the time to make sure that the benefit of living outdoors doesn’t cost us our enjoyment of a really good meal.  Camping is really about spending quality time with some good friends in beautiful scenery while breathing fresh air and that is all made better with a bountiful feast on a picnic table.

One of my favourite camping meals?  Breakfast (well, it’s a three-way tie, really….)

Open Faced Fancy Breakfast Sandwich


  • smoked bacon from a butcher on Roncesvalles
  • one of de la Terre’s amazing organic artisan breads
  • free-range organic eggs
  • pre-washed and pre-chopped red onion and cilantro (pre-washing and pre-chopping is KEY to camping gourmand)
  • Black River Cheese Company‘s 6 year old cheddar (strong flavour means you use less, pack less!)
  • homemade preserved cherry tomatoes (no Heinz for us!)
  • homemade sriracha (go ahead, close down that California plant…we’ll survive)


The first step: cook up that bacon!  And yes, it’s so that you can use the bacon grease to cook up the rest of your breakfast (nobody said we’re cardiologists). This way you don’t have to pack cooking oil and everything tastes like delicious bacon.


Next, brown those pre-chopped onions in that bacon grease.  Yup, pre-washing and pre-chopping some of the vegetables will make things a whole lot easier while camping.


Once those onions caramelize, crack some eggs into the pan and soak up the remaining bacon grease.


Bring out the jars of preserved cherry tomatoes and homemade sriracha from the cooler so that they can come up to room temperature (forest temperature…?).  Preserves are a great way to add flavour, and don’t even necessarily need to stay in the cooler if you plan to finish a smaller jar rather quickly.  It also reduces prep as you really just need to spoon out a cherry tomato instead of washing and chopping.


Once everything is finished, take a piece of incredibly dense de la Terre’s artisan bread, put some of that 6 year old cheddar on it, then top with the warm eggs so that the cheese melts a bit.  Then a dollop of preserved cherry tomatoes, a smidge of homemade sriracha, and a sprinkle of pre-washed, pre-chopped cilantro. Eat this masterpiece while throwing the bacon-grease-soaked paper towels into the fire for a little show.

Ontario Gas BBQ Challenge with Charmian Christie (The Messy Baker)

21 Jul

Charmian Christie (The Messy Baker, 2014)

There’s no better way to celebrate the summer than to throw a couple of steaks on the grill and relax on the patio with friends! Five Toronto Food bloggers from the GTA have been selected to participate in a recipe challenge. They will be flexing their skills using Ontario Gas BBQ (OBG) tools and creating delicious original recipes from July 1 – 31, 2014. The victor of the #OGBChallenge will be chosen by popular vote.

We had the chance to speak to one of the contestants: food writer, recipe developer, and soon-to-be cookbook author, Charmian Christie (The Messy Baker: More than 75 Recipes from a Real Kitchen, 2014) who graciously shared with us her thoughts on BBQ.

Clementine (YYZGourmand): Why do you love to BBQ?

Charmian Christie (CC): The practical part of me loves that no matter how hot the BBQ gets, it doesn’t heat up my kitchen. We have a small stone house with no air conditioning, so once it heats up, it stays hot. I dread turning the oven on in the summer and the grill provides the perfect solution. The cook in me loves the flavours provided by the smoke and charring.

YYZ: What is your favourite item to BBQ?

CC: It’s hard to pick a favourite since the BBQ makes almost everything taste better — even broccoli. That said, rotisserie chicken is likely the winner . Although it’s not complicated, it draws raves every time I make it. No one ever tires of it. And that alone is worth a bonus point or ten. Check out Charmian’s recipe for Spicy Grilled Broccolini here and Herbed Rotisserie Chicken here.

(Source: The Messy Baker, 2014)

YYZ: You’re a baker by trade – what delicious baked goods have you created on a blistering hot BBQ? What would you like to bake on a BBQ?

CC: I’ve done pizzas and really loved the charred crust the hot grill creates. It’s perfect for flatbreads and anything baked quickly on high heat. Beyond that, I don’t really bake much on the grill since most of my recipes require a precise heat. However, it’s great for grilling fruit to top oven-baked goods like scones, or smoking sugar to use in desserts. My husband’s still talking about the smoked sugar ice cream.

Smoked Sugar Ice Cream (Source: The Messy Baker, 2014)

Smoked Sugar Ice Cream (Source: The Messy Baker, 2014)

YYZ: Your Italian turkey meatballs sound flavourful and light – what is your secret to keeping them moist off the grill?

CC: Don’t overcook them! Between the Thermopop meat thermometer and the grilling basket it’s easy to achieve moist, properly cooked meatballs. Also, turning them every few minutes helps. It’s hard to do damage if they’re flipped frequently.

Charmian’s delectable Italian Turkey Meatballs (Source: The Messy Baker, 2014)

YYZ: What’s your drink of choice on the patio when BBQ with friends?

CC: Depending on what we’re eating, it’s a bottle of chilled pinot grigio or icy cold dry apple cider — both from Ontario if possible.

A baker who knows her way around the grill! I’m smitten. We wish Charmian the best of luck against some formidable competitors. You, dear reader, can help Charmian (and win prizes yourself) all month long by visiting #OGBChallenge and voting like mad!.


*This post was brought to you by Branding & Buzzing and the Ontario Gas BBQ Challenge!

REVIEW – Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen, Unveiling the Rituals, Traditions and Food of the Hutterite Culture, Mary-Ann Kirkby

16 Apr
Penguin Canada (April 2014)

Penguin Canada (April 2014)

Our book review this month takes us away from pristinely decorated kitchens, rustically styled food, and perfectly coiffed home chefs. Mary-Ann Kirkby has followed up her 2007 bestselling I Am a Hutterite with an exploration of Hutterite traditions and communities through their food with Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen (2014, Penguin Canada) I know, not exactly an obvious choice for a food blog about the hip, happenin’ food scene in Toronto BUT I promise you it will all make sense in the end.

Our interest in this book stemmed from all the cooking we’ve been doing at home. We’ve come across cookbooks that are complicated, comprehensive, simple and quick, as well as labour intensive. Some recipes are written for a home cook and some just lend you insight into how a genius works (*ahem* Thomas Keller). We were eager to read about the enduring traditions of food preparation in an ordinarily closed community.

Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen reveals that while traditions persist, the community has adapted and incorporated modern/ mainstream tastes. The Davenport community uses an industrial sized oven (a $55,000 Rational also used in the White House) and commercial deep fryers. There is not, however, a dishwasher because it’s an opportunity for the women in the kitchen to chat. They often serve popcorn salad and Chinese stir fry for the crowds. The kitchen is the domain of women and they take pride in feeding the entire colony well.

The Davenport Hutterite community bakes fresh bread every week, they make preserves, and hand-make fresh noodles. On a visit to the Misty Acres Hutterite Colony (Saskatchewan), the head gardener playfully remarks to Kirkby, ” Who knows what kinds of tronk (slop) you eat in your English life… You’re probably full of fillers from all da store-bought food…” Does any of this sound familiar? It’s ultra fashionable at the moment to offer artisan baked goods, to grow your own organic vegetables, feature snout-to-tail menus. This traditional approach to food, however, is how Hutterite communities eat every day! Hipsters the world over are now writhing in jealousy.

Kirkby has also collected a bunch of Hutterite recipes in her book, which is special because these are normally passed down through the oral tradition. While we normally test recipes in cookbook reviews, these were written for VERY large crowds. The Katufel Totschelen (Potato Pancakes with Cream Sauce, p.193), for example, called for 18-cups of ground potatoes and 16 eggs. We’d be eating potato pancakes for a month! These recipes do, however, lend insight into the flavours of Hutterite cooking and we’d love to experiment for smaller portions. As well, good food (that feeds hundreds and generations) doesn’t have to be overly complicated or require back-breaking work.

A fascinating read. We think it’d make a great gift for those who have read and loved Miriam Toews’ Complicated Kindness (note: the characters in Toews’ book are Mennonite) or anyone who loves learning about food culture and traditions.

Thank you to Penguin Canada for making this review possible!

Kneading for Naught: The Prosciutto Ring

11 Mar

Bread making and baking is a notoriously labourious process. Clementine made bagels last week that took a day to ferment and rise and a morning to bake. You have to plan ahead. After that and the exertions of our Hearth Bread, we were in search of something a bit simpler but not lacking in texture or taste. We turned to the (ok, OUR) goddess of home bread making: Rose Levy Berenbaum (RLB).

RLB’s recipes are the definition of finicky. She does nothing but bake all day. Her fridge, she confesses, is filled with starters and doughs at various stages of progress. She recommends specific brands of flour … only available to Americans. She includes weights for all ingredients … alongside volume measurements. Re: weight v. volume in recipes is actually something we like and live by now. The scale is a permanent fixture on my counter. It’s the difference between flirting with baking and baking for real. She offers methods for food processors, hand mixing and stand mixers. Each recipe is more than three pages. She is nothing if not thorough.

This recipe … and we looked to see if we were missing steps or if pages were stuck together … did not require a starter or 4+ hours of rising and multiple rounds of shaping. Perhaps she included it as her idea of a breather for home cooks brave enough to take her bread making master class.

All of the ingredients were incorporated and kneaded, by hand, for 10 minutes. The ingredients included 3/4 cup of chopped (or hand torn) prosciutto and a tsp of pepper speckled throughout the dough.


After a rest of 20 minutes (a blink of an eye in RLB’s world), the boule was shaped into a ring and left for a 1 hour rise. Just enough time to head out for a snowshoe and/ or to get dinner started.

What type of dinner would suit this savoury loaf? HoM thought Brussels’ sprouts and French onion soup. We also think this bread would go great with a salad and an enormous bottle of Chianti.


This bread is brushed with melted butter (or bacon fat) before baking and after. This softens the crust but doesn’t destroy the chew. The second brushing is the key to it’s rich flavour.


The bread is baked for a mere 35 minutes on a baking stone in a pre-heated oven at 450 to start and lowered to 400 part way through. It emerges from the inferno a deep amber. We incorporated our pieces of prosciutto within the bread so there were salty little packages of cured meats in each bite. You can see parts where the meat broke through the surface of the crust and became crispy.


This bread should not be cut/ sliced. One should tear into the bread like a monster to preserve its rustic texture. These were RLB’s orders and we dare not deviate from her perfect methods.


Because of the simplicity of this recipe and the stellar results, we will be making this again.

RLB’s Bread Bible has proven itself an indispensable kitchen companion for us. She is serious about her bread making. Her methods are comprehensive. But, if you want to make good bread, discipline and patience are required. If you can make it through some of her more complex recipes, then a bread like this is just something you can throw together on whim.

(PREVIEW) A Girl Called Jack – Jack Monroe (Writer, Cook, Activist)

28 Feb
Jack Monroe (Penguin UK, 2014)

Jack Monroe (Penguin UK, 2014)

Here at YYZ, we celebrate food and indulgences in life. We are admittedly privileged in our experiences. Without sounding trite, not everyone gets to run around the city noshing at the most fabulous restaurants or cook with organic produce. Some people can’t even afford to stock their fridges. In Ontario, 375,000 people use their local food banks.

I’ve been reading a lot about Jack Monroe lately in the UK papers. She’s a writer/ blogger, mother, activist for Oxfam and poverty, and a cook. Jack isn’t the newest celebrity chef. She was featured in a Sainsbury ad recently (a UK supermarket) for their budget range and she donated her fee to Oxfam. Her work is much more relatable and important.

Her writing and cooking were borne out of necessity. She was unemployed and found herself using local social services like benefits and the food bank. Already ashamed of her situation, she felt doubly crushed by how the current Tory government and Daily Mail-type media vilified those (in her case single moms) who found themselves needing state assistance. She attended local council meetings and started writing a blog (“A Girl Called Jack“). Her post, “Hunger Hurts,” (July 2012) described clearly what it was like (struggle, humiliation, depression) to have to slowly sell off possessions to make rent or to go to bed hungry because there was only enough food for her son.

She started documenting her efforts to feed herself and her son on reduced benefits. How much money did she spend on food? £10 a week. Using current conversion rates, that’s $18.32 CAD a week! I just spent $17 on cocoa powder, 6 boxes of jello, 2 cartons of broth … How did she do it? Shopping from value ranges in supermarkets and making her own food rather than relying on frozen/ pre-made processed meals. Her message: delicious and nutritious food is absolutely necessary and can be achieved ON A BUDGET with creativity and planning. She became a phenomenon.

We’re looking forward to Jack’s book, available in Canada as an e-book, Feb 27th and in paperback April 1, 2014. Until then, Penguin UK has graciously allowed us to provide our readers with an excerpt. We thought these turkey meatballs sounded delish!

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe (Penguin UK, 2014)

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe (Penguin UK, 2014)

At first glance, the book has great potential: great photos accompanying each recipe, a clear list of ingredients and directions, not too much text, and a tip on how to serve leftovers!

Jack Monroe’s concept is great. It reminds me of how women and families ate on rations during wartime in the early twentieth century. It’s also striking to me how dire the situation is for those who need benefits in Britain. Really, £10 a week?! 

Her experiences with food also sheds light on two issues with which Canadians and North Americans can relate. First, obesity rates are sky rocketing in this country and much of it is linked to poverty. It’s cheaper and less time consuming to feed a family on fast food than to cook a meal. But, Jack (and to a certain extent, Jamie Oliver has done this too with his specials on school dinners) shows us that we need a change in mentality to correct this type of thinking. It’s cheaper and healthier to make your own food. There’s also the matter of being a conscientious consumer. This isn’t about a fancy all-organic diet, which as we know can be expensive. When HoM and I cook, we eat seasonally and, as much as we can, from local food producers.

I’m not saying we get poverty like that experienced by Jack Monroe. We’re lucky in Canada that the recession didn’t hit us too hard. BUT, I think she brings a much needed reality check to our habits in eating/ consuming.

Thanks to Katya Shipster from Penguin UK for the excerpt from Jack Monroe’s book.

Kneading for Naught: Hearth Bread

20 Feb

For Valentines Dy this year, the #smugcouple embarked on a cooking extravaganza. This meal had everything: artichoke crostini (or “Arthur-choke” as HoM is fond of saying), a grapefruit granita (to cleanse the palate), frissé salad (with lardons and a poached egg), Boeuf Bourguignon, and a homemade loaf of artisan bread. Timing and organization were key if the #smugcouple were to complete this daunting slate.

The first thing we tackled was the bread. The recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Bread Bible was sprawled out over 4 pages. It called for 1-4 hours of fermentation for the starter AND nearly 4 hours of rising altogether before baking.

We approached this bread with extreme caution. We measured everything with a kitchen scale. The recipe calls for a tiny bit of whole wheat flour for flavour and a lovely speckle throughout the loaf. We used whole wheat flour from the Arva Historic Mill.

Our first mistake was throwing the salt into the starter. Salt, in direct contact, kills yeast. Luckily, because the recipe called for the wet ingredients to be covered by the dry with no mixing, the flour buffered our mistake. We left it for 3 hours while we prepared the “mise” for dinner. Anthony Bourdain who has described mise en place (aka the proper arrangement and organization of ingredients prior to cooking) as a chef’s religion, would have been proud.

Once ready, the dough required a precise course of kneading in a stand mixer for 1 and then 7 minutes. Because of the tight timing of the meal prep, we went with the stand mixer method though the book does provide a hand kneading method. The major difference is time and the end result is probably less chewy by hand though our bagels were kneaded by hand and they had a delightful, chewy texture.

The initial knead

The initial knead

After the kneading, the dough (which looks like alien sludge) is left to rise at room temperature. We had never worked with artisan bread but we’d read that it is wet and difficult to manage. Do not be tempted to add flour because it will detract from the end result: a chewy stretchy loaf.


Rose Levy Berenbaum then called for an envelope fold. We had to look this up online. The texture of the dough at this stage is light, stretchy and a bit tacky. It doesn’t stick to your hands and make a mess. You don’t want to destroy all of the air and gluten development so don’t over-handle!

The envelope fold

The envelope fold

We don’t have images of actually shaping the loaf because we were pressed for time and, at one point, there was only one of us in the kitchen as the other had to take the dog (yyzPercy) for a walk. We remember dreading the bread would be flat and dense because our boule just lay there … growing sideways on the baking sheet.

The final product (pictured below) is the result of a hot oven (475F) pre-heated for an hour, a cup of ice cubes (which mimics moisture injection ovens the pros use), and a baking stone. In the first ten minutes, the bread was at least 8 inches taller than it had been in dough-form.


The lovely crust was the result of leaving the bread in the oven (turned off and door ajar) on the stone for 5-10 minutes. The loaf has a thin crust but incredible chew. The crumb is even with evidence of the simple chemistry that took place over 6 hours.



Lessons from this venture:

  • Making artisan loaves is time consuming but not a lot of work. Next time, we could get up at 5am to make the starter and return to bed before kneading and rising.
  • This is not a bread you make for breakfast or lunch. The time required means it’s a brunch/ dinner thing
  • Reading through the recipe carefully before beginning is key. This recipe was considerably more complex than our bagel recipe. Adding the salt too early nearly spelled disaster for our Valentines feast! Thankfully it didn’t.  Consider it a warning shot fired across our bow. We will be more attentive in the future.
  • The little bit of whole wheat flour made a big difference. It gave a more rustic, satisfying taste and texture than just white flour.