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Kneaded Bread Recipes

Thank you, Tassajara Bread Book, for forty wonderful years!

My first bread book was the Tassajara Bread Book, first published in 1970 by an American living in a Zen Monastery. (He still does). Forty years ago! Can it be so? I put contact paper on the cover long ago, which kept the covers together but not on the book, and the pages are brown and stained, and there's a place or two where the book came under attack by roaches living with me in an apartment in Atlanta. It remains my bread bible.

Basic Bread Dough from Tassajara Bread book: Whole Wheat, White, or Mixed

Bread loaves, Pita bread, Pizza, soft pretzels, Pain du Chocolat: Bread dough is versatile and it does NOT have to involve a lot of uncertainty. Just follow these five simple rules:

  1. Use the right flour! At the health food store, the right whole wheat flour will be labeled "Hard Red Winter Wheat"; at the grocery store, the right white flour will be labeled "Bread Flour." No kidding! These flours have extra gluten in them, important to getting the rise and texture you are expecting. Feel free to mix whole wheat and white; I usually make my sponge with whole wheat and then finish off with white.
  2. Go Slow when adding flour in any stage. Add a little and stir, add a little and knead. It will actually take you longer to get where you want to go if you dump a lot of flour in at one time.
  3. Let the sponge rise TWICE before you stir in the salt and oil. Salt and oil inhibit yeast. Let the sponge work without them.
  4. "Double in bulk" means just that: not 3 times original size. In this case, more is not better: let it rise more than twice its original size and you will end up with a bitter, worn-out dough.
  5. You will need about 3 times as much flour as water.
  6. One package of active dry yeast = 2.25 t (scant 1T) active dry yeast.
  7. One t of active dry yeast per cup of flour is a conventional standard.

Prepare your sponge:

Into a warm 8-quart bowl or cast-iron pot place:
  • Three c warm water
  • 1/2 c cup sugar
  • Scant 2 T active dry yeast.
Stir a bit. Then add, cupful by cupful, enough flour to make a flexible and stretchy mud, beating well between each addition.

That rubber-band texture you feel forming in the mud is GLUTEN, the key to a fine, high rising loaf of bread! Most people develop gluten by kneading... we do it the easier way.

  1. When you have added sufficient flour, beat that mud 100 times!
  2. Cover the bowl/ pot and put in a warm, NOT HOT, location away from drafts.
  3. Let sponge double in bulk (about 30 minutes), and then beat it down.
  4. Let sponge double in bulk again.

Finish and proof your dough:

  • Pour 1/8 c oil on top.
  • Sprinkle scant 2T salt on top of dough;
  • Using a strong wooden spoon, slowly mix in flour until the sponge stiffens and starts pulling away from the walls of the container.

Now you have to do a little manual labor: knead this sponge into a real bread dough. The sponge should already be well developed (very springy) from the two risings; your task at this time is to fine-tune the dough, making sure that it has a seamless, non sticky resiliency.

At this point I will lay a small damp dish towel on the counter or table and lay a large cutting board on top of it. (The damp dish towel keeps the board from moving around.) You can knead on any surface you choose: table, counter, inside the pot (although that is awkward).

Flour the board and turn your sponge out onto it. Scrape the bowl and add the scrapings.

Now, knead a little, add a little flour. If your fingers start collecting dough, flour your fingers and rub the dough off. Do not try to add the flour all at once; this dough firms up a lot slower than a cake mix and you have to go slow in order to develop the gluten and to find out when to stop adding flour. This step takes me about ten minutes.

Then grease the original 8-quart pot/bowl again, place the dough in it, turn the dough over so the greasy side is up, cover it, and let it rise until double in bulk (about thirty minutes).

Shape and cook your bread:

Always remember to maintain the integrity of the dough: lightly knead every unit (loaf, pita, pretzel) a time or two before shaping so that it will acquire its own identity: it should not look ragged and torn off.

If you want to save the dough (it will keep for up to a week if kept punched down), place dough in plastic storage container with lid and put in refrigerator. Keep an eye on it over the next few hours; it will continue to rise until it is fully chilled. Punch down when necessary. Check dough every day and punch down when necessary. Allow to come to room temperature before attempting to use it.

Then choose your bread shape from below and cook it as advised.

  • The best way to grease a bread pan is with the oil sprays, like PAM, but a thin coat of oil will do just fine...That's how we got along for thousands of years before aerosol spray cans.
  • How will you know it is done? You will hear a hollow sound and the inside doesn't seem to be collapsing when you thump on the bread. And LET IT STAND for 5 or ten minutes before turning it out of the pan... and another 15 minutes if you intend to slice it.

Cleaning Up:

Uh oh! Do NOT use any other than the smooth side of a sponge or cloth to clean up. Flour and gluten LOVE to get caught in the tangled and rough sides of sponges, scrubbies and etc. Remember that damp towel I put between the counter and the kneading board? It is microfiber and a real champ at cleaning up without needed crazy amounts of chemicals!

Variations on the Bread Theme


  1. Cut off enough dough to half fill bread pan;
  2. knead into shape;
  3. place into greased pan.
  4. Let rise until double (about thirty minutes).
If whole wheat, cook for 50 minutes at 350 degrees; if white, cook for 30; if mixed, try 45 minutes.


Monkey bread with class.

Adjust the ingredient quantities to:

  • 2 c lukewarm water
  • 1T baking yeast
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • Rounded 1 T salt
  • Scant 1/4 c oil

Proceed to knead and proof as above. When the dough is ready to be shaped and baked:

  1. Pour a little olive oil into a shallow dish.
  2. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan;
  3. Divide the dough into pieces somewhat larger than golf-ball size (16 or so pieces is perfect), roll them into prolate spheroids (long footballs), flatten them, roll them in the olive oil and stack them NEXT to each other (not on top of each other) in the bundt pan.
  4. They will squeeze together and then up as they rise and bake.

Let rise for the last time and then bake at 350 degrees F until cooked.

Let cooked bread rest for ten minutes and then turn it out of the pan. You will now have a beautifully shaped loaf that separates very easily into individual "slices" of bread.

Very tasty alone or dipped into olive oil and herbs or used as sandwich bread.


Pita breads are made from 2" diameter balls of dough, well kneaded and rolled out to 1/3"- 1/2" thick. Allow to rise until double: cook in pre-heated 475 degree oven or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes, until puffed and brown.


Make pizza by rolling a piece of dough 1/4"-1/3" thick. Place on greased pan. Cover with sauce, top with shredded, whole-milk mozzarella cheese. Cook in pre-heated 450 degree oven 10-15 minutes.

Another suggestion, using a pizza stone and peel:

  • Make your bread dough. Keep it moist.
    • 1.75 c warm water;
    • 2 t active dry yeast;
    • 1 t sugar
    • Let it work for a few minutes, then add:
    • 3 c bread flour
    • 1 c cake flour
    • 2 T non-fat dry milk
    • 1 T margarine
  • Knead the dough with warm (rub together) floured hands on a floured board. Keep it rolling; if it starts to stick again, rub hands vigorously with a bit of flour to warm them up.
  • Knead for two minutes. Coat with oil and cover with warm damp cloth.
  • Let it rise for FOUR hours.
  • While it rises, prepare a sauce that includes garlic, pesto, and chopped tomatoes. Chill the sauce so that it is cold when you use it, or it will make the pizza soggy.
  • Preheat oven to 550 degrees.
  • Dice mozzarella and grate parmesan.
  • Cut dough in half. Roll each half out to about 18 inches circumference.
  • He puts it on a peel (no semalina) and slip it on to the preheated stone.
  • Cook for three minutes.
  • Pull it out and put your toppings on.
  • Cook for another 8 minutes.
  • Melt 1 t butter and some powered garlic and oregano in microwave.
  • Pull out the pizza and baste pizza edges with butter.

Two French cooks who have become very fond of pizza suggest spreading pizza dough on parchment paper on top of a cooking sheet, pricking it with a fork to aerate it, and cooking it at 550 F for 8 - 10 minutes.


Pretzels will not have the authentic texture and taste you want unless you boil them briefly in a bath of water and baking soda.

  1. Roll and squeeze dough into 2' long by 1/2" pieces.
  2. Shape the pieces into pretzel shape and let rise until double in thickness.
  3. Pour 5 cups water into a shallow pan (SS, enamel, or iron: NOT aluminum) and bring to a boil.
  4. Into boiling water pour 1/3 cup baking soda.
  5. Place each pretzel into boiling water mixture for 30 seconds.
  6. Remove and place on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle w/course salt.
  7. Cook in pre-heated 450 degree oven or toaster oven 8-10 minutes.

From an article on Pretzel making from NPR:

"If you want to make real Bavarian pretzels, here's my mom's recipe. It has the original Metric system measurements, so grab a kitchen scale for this one."

Nina Goebel's Bavarian Pretzels

500 grams flour
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
200-250 milliliters hot water (almost boiling)
60 grams baking soda
1 liter of water
Coarse kosher salt (for sprinkling just before baking)

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C)

In a food processor with dough-blade attachment, mix yeast, hot water, salt and flour. Place into a bowl and cover with a moist kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for about two hours.

Form dough into pretzels, rolls or whatever shape you prefer. (Note: The actual pretzel shape is really difficult to get right; rolls are far easier)

Mix baking soda into water and bring to a boil. Dip pretzels for 30 seconds to a minute, turn and leave in the solution for another 30 seconds. Take them out carefully with a slotted spoon and dry off, patting with a paper towel. Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for about 14-20 minutes, until "nice and brown."

Important: Avoid touching the dough after dipping it into the baking soda mixture, and keep it off of aluminum surfaces. It's not lye, but it's still corrosive.


Pain du chocolat is a roll with bittersweet chocolate in the center.

  1. Form rolls from 1.5" diameter balls of dough.
  2. Make a slit in dough with very sharp knife.
  3. Insert square of chocolate and reshape ball.
  4. Let rise until double.
  5. Cook on greased sheet at 350 degrees until brown.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2012 - 2014 by Maura Enright
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