Tuesday, October 13, 2009

tassajara whole wheat bread

This bread is made from a classic Zen monastery recipe. 

The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel Valley, California, is the oldest Japanese Buddhist Soto Zen monastery in the US. The Tassajara bread book was published by the monastery personnel in 1970 and it is credited for bringing back artisan bread baking to America. After this book was published, everyone realized that they could make bread at home, so a huge movement for eating home-made, not store-bought bread started, and it continues today.

The recipes in the Tassajara Bread Book are quire liberal, and they don't specify exactly what amounts or ingredients you need. It's more of a "you could add something sweet if you wanted, but you don't have to, and you should do just want you want to do with your loved loaf" kind of idea. In any case, I ended up coming up with this recipe with ideas from the book. It makes some amazing bread!


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white bread flour
1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
3/8 cup brown sugar (or molasses)
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup crushed oats
1 1/2 cups water (at room temperature)
1 egg


Whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar, milk, and oats. Add the water, egg, and a little bit of warm milk if you want to have creamy bread.
Mix the ingredients until you get a dough that comes off the sides of the bowl.
Take out and knead for 10 minutes.
Let rest for 20 minutes.
Knead again for 5 minutes.
Let rise for 1 hour in a warm place (in a bowl covered by plastic). The dough should have doubled in volume.
Take out, cut in half and form. You can either make a loaf (left in the picture) or a boule (right in the picture). 
To make a loaf, take one of the halves and flatten it into a rectangle. Do a business-letter fold and turn 90 degrees. Start rolling from the side farther away from you, and as you roll in, press down with your fingers to seal the dough and to stretch it a little on the roll. When it's ready, put it on a heavily-floured towel and put some plastic wrap on top of it so it doesn't dry out.
To make a boule, take one of the halves and shape it into a ball. Seal the bottom and put it in a bowl covered with a heavily-floured towel seam-side down. Put some plastic wrap on top of the bowl so it doesn't dry out.
Let proof for one hour. At this time start preheating the oven. Preheat the oven with the baking stone inside at 450 F at least an hour before baking. If using a baking sheet, don't preheat the sheet.
Uncover the dough, rub some flour on it, and slice/score it however you want (I made two almost vertical lines side-by-side on the loaf, and I made a square on the boule).
Put proofed dough in the oven and toss some water in before closing the door to create steam. Let bake until the crust is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.

Recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book.

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