Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Well Done

This month the Bread Baking Babes celebrate another anniversary...the 8th. Our Kitchen of the Month, Tanna of My Kitchen in HalfCups, challenged us with a bread that requires some time, some buckwheat flour, and some delicious caramelized onions!

 It comes from the book Bien Cuit, which is French for well done. They are referring to the nice dark brown baked edges of the slashes made into the bread, but I also think that Tanna deserves a resounding "Well done!" for not only choosing a wonderful recipe, but for shepherding our group through ups and downs in membership these past 8 years. She makes us feel welcome when we are new, keeps the creativity and curiosity going by her example, and makes sure that the back bench is there when needed, well stocked. Although we are pretty much a group without rules, Tanna provides the gentle nudge this way or that, but only when needed. She also shows us that you can spend a lot of time visiting around the country and world and still find time to bake bread! Although I didn't start out with the original Babes, I think I've baked over 60 breads with the Babes, learning a lot about breads and shaping breads and what not to do while making breads along the way. Tanna has been there all along the way with encouragement, information and friendship!

At first I thought that I would be able to follow this recipe to the letter, and had every intention of doing so, but tripped up right at the start when I discovered that I didn't have white rye flour for the starter. Not to be discouraged from starting, I used plain unbleached bread flour, which worked fine.

After reading through the recipe I also decided to mix the starter in a large bowl then continue on with the recipe in that same bowl. I mixed up the flour and buckwheat flour, then removed about a sixth to a small bowl, then added in the yeast and salt to the larger amount of flour. This larger amount was stirred in, a half cup at a time (in honor of Tanna's blog's name, but also because it's a good amount to stir in at one time) after I had stirred the water into the starter in the bowl. No honey was used - I forgot to add it.

I ended up doing a sort of roll and tuck with a plastic scraper that had a long handle. My dough was still pretty wet, so this was better than using my hands. While I was doing this I added much of the reserved flour mixture, but not all of it. This is the reason that I put the yeast and salt into the flour that I knew would be added. I no longer had to worry that part of the yeast or salt would stay in the reserved bowl. Have been there and done that and had to add a bit more salt later in the process, which never works out as well.

I put a shower cap over the bowl and did the first 45 minute wait. For the stretch and folding I kept the dough in the bowl and used that spatula again. It still allowed me to stretch the dough and I did so going all around the bowl. Back on with the shower cap and another 45 minute wait.

I repeated this twice more before finally using the remaining flour mix in the small bowl to dust my kneading board. Guess I used it all anyway.

I degassed the dough, pushed it into a rectangle of sorts, then spread half the onions in a thin layer over it, then rolled it up and folded in the ends. Turned the dough over, pushed it into a rectangle of sorts, spread the other half of the onions (and I used twice as much as called for) over the dough and rolled it up again, folding in the ends. Then I kneaded the dough for about 10 turns to work the onions in more evenly.

At this point I formed the dough into a ball, pulling the dough to the back again and again to form a sort of skin. I laid it on the lightly floured board, skin side up, and put an overturned large bowl over it, then let it sit for 20 minutes.

This was when I decided I wanted to bake the bread and not wait until the next day. I placed the ball of dough on a piece of parchment only slightly wider in diameter than the ball. Although the original recipe called for two loaves, I decided to make one large one. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees F and put in a covered enameled cast iron casserole large enough to hold the dough, with room to expand. When the oven was hot enough, I put the parchment/dough ball on a bread peel, dusted it liberally with flour, scored the loaf deeply with a small chef's knife, removed the casserole carefully from the oven, removed the lid, slid the parchment and dough into the casserole and put the lid on again. The casserole went into the hot oven. I baked it for 25 minutes, then removed the lid. I slid the loaf out of the casserole and checked for doneness by tapping the bottom. It sounded hollow and the edges of the scores were a nice dark brown! I let it cool, but Sweetie wasn't about to wait 8 hours, so it was cut while still warm. He liked it that way. I enjoyed it more the next morning when it had cooled.

This bread is wonderful! The onions do make it world class, so try to make it with the onions. If you have more patience than I do you can follow the recipe as written on Tanna's page and you might get a better bread and you are sure to get the bakers cred for doing the full on recipe. We are going easy on bread eating around here, so I gave 1/4 of the loaf to Grandma L and another quarter to some neighbors and cut up a quarter to freeze. Since I only made one loaf, it was a big boule, so sharing was easy.

Don't forget to visit the other Babe's sites to see their versions. In web view of this blog there is a sidebar with links to their blogs. Consider making it yourself by Feb. 28th to become a Buddy. Just send Tanna a photo and description of your baking experience and she'll send you a Buddy Badge. Be sure to thank Tanna for choosing this marvelous artisan bread!


Recipe a variation of one by: Bien Cuit
Yield: 1 large boule


125 grams (3/4 c + 21/2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
0.3 gram (generous pinch) instant yeast
125 grams (1/2 c + 1 tsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)
425 grams (3 c + 21/2 tsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough
75 grams (1/2 c + 11/2 tsp) buckwheat flour
15 grams (21/2 tsp) fine sea salt
1 gram (generous 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
350 grams (11/4 c + 31/2 tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)

50 grams (1/4 c) Caramelized Onions (1 medium onion, chopped, cooked slowly with 2 tablespoons olive oil until caramelized)

1. Put the flour in a extra-large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed. Cover the bowl (I used a shower cap) and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 12 hours.

Stir together the white and buckwheat flours in a medium bowl. Remove 1/6th of it to a small bowl. Add 
 salt, and yeast to the medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set both aside.

Pour about one-third of the water around the edges of the starter in the extra-large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to break up the starter. Add the remaining water and stir. 

Add the flour mixture from the medium bowl, one half cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix some of the flour from the small bowl until incorporated. At this point the dough will be sticky to the touch.

Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Use a stiff spatula or a wooden spoon and lift and fold the dough, lifting and folding all around the diameter of the bowl, adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue lifting and folding until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further lifting. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. If dough is still somewhat wet it will not be a clean ball. Cover the bowl with a shower cap or tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

3.Repeat the lift and fold in the bowl twice more. Cover bowl and let rest 45 minutes after each session.

4. Now lightly dust a clean work surface or board with flour and take the dough out of the bowl and put it on the board. Degas by pushing down all over the ball. Then push the dough into a rectangular shape and spread half the caramelized onions in a thin layer over the dough. Roll up like a jelly roll, then bring up the ends. Turn the dough over and push it out into a rectangle again. You may have to let it sit for 10 minutes if it resists being pushed out. Spread the remaining onions thinly over the dough, roll up like a jelly roll, then bring up the ends. Turn dough over and knead about 10 times to distribute the onion throughout the dough.

5. Shape the dough into a large ball, pulling the dough to the back of the ball over and over until a thin skin forms. Place the dough, skin side up, on a floured board and cover with an overturned large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and place a large, enameled cast iron casserole or Dutch oven into the oven, including the cover. Make sure that the cover has a handle that can go into the oven.

7. When the oven is hot enough, cut a piece of parchment into a circle the size of the bottom of the casserole. Place it on a baking peel and place the dough ball onto the parchment. Dust heavily with flour and score deeply the loaf with a lame or small chef's knife.

8. Working quickly but carefully, take the casserole from the oven, remove the lid, slide the loaf into the hot casserole, return the lid to the pot, put the casserole back in the oven and bake abput 25 minutes. When done the loaf will sound hollow when the back is tapped and the edges of the scores will be dark brown (bien cuit).

9. To test, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the lid and tip the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack. Turn over and tap.  If bread doesn't sound hollow, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer.

Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.


  1. Such a beautiful loaf, and how great to be able to share it!

  2. Smart girl you! When I read that you baked in cast iron I immediately recognized the crust! I wonder what baking in a Dutch oven did for the crumb though? It sure looks great

  3. We were supposed to mix the starter in a different bowl from the big mixing bowl?? Oh dear, I see that I missed even more than I initially thought.

    Your bread looks wonderful, Elle! I love the colour. And how brilliant of you to bake it in a casserole dish. I wish I'd thought of doing that! (Next time, thanks to you.)

  4. Yes Elizabeth, I though of you when I used the same bowl and didn't transfer the dough to a clean bowl either...I took great liberties with the recipe instructions! No matter, it was a delicious loaf :)

  5. Such a sweet commentary about Tanna and a tribute to the 8 year anniversary. So happy to "know" you. Your bread looks fantastic!

  6. As Elizabeth says: Bread just wants to be bread. Wait a day or bake ... oh just bake it. I can't see how it could have been any better.

    Thank you for so many very kind words my friend.

  7. Your loaf looks great! I took great liberties with the instructions as well. I agree, no matter, it is delicious!

  8. Great way to handle the big boule! It looks delicious, but I would have to give / freeze it too (or eat it all myself lol)

  9. I think we are all glad bread is so forgiving, we all misread or tweaked a lot. Love those almost orange specks in the crumb of your loaf, delicious.