All posts by Wendy Kwas

Mother, wife, web designer, dancer, painter, Jill of all trades. I like to do German dancing with my husband and dance group. I enjoy painting flowers on various objects and read voraciously. Love traveling...been all over the US, as well as Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Costa Rica, Colombia and places yet to be discovered!

It’s been a while….

since I’ve posted to this blog.  Winter was spent hibernating and knitting….a bunch of Christmas Stockings, 3 Icelandic Sweaters and a couple others.  I will update this blog with a page dedicated to my knitting…someday…until then you can visit my Ravelry Page.

And…its been a fairly busy Spring getting ready for our guests from Germany.  A new bathroom!!! Finally.   See my page with pictures and commentary soon to come.

1-2-3 Sourdough in a Nutshell

Although I do make other breads, Challah being another favorite of ours…especially for weekend breakfasts of French Toast with real maple syrup from our friend Ron in Hebron, the hubby prefers a good rye and this is his favorite…my 1-2-3 Sourdough.

Lately I’ve been making it with beer as the liquid…Guiness being the beer of choice.  One can is enough for a two decent sized loaves.

If you’ve been reading this bread blog from the beginning, you know that it was Knitting Club that started me on this journey when we all took a bread baking class one evening.  This post is dedicated to my very good friends that I love at Knitting Club!

The basic formula behind 1-2-3 sourdough was developed by a French woman, Flo Makanai that I found on the The Fresh Loaf.  And ever since, 1-2-3 Sourdough has been my go-to bread recipe for the past year.

My basic recipe for two loaves:

200 grams Starter; 400 grams liquid; 600 grams flour; 20 grams salt; 5 grams yeast   These are not hard and fast amounts so don’t stress if you go a little over and under.

The One
200 grams of fed starter…a good way to tell if your starter is ready…drop a little in a glass of water and if it floats its good.

The Two
1 can Guiness Stout (this weights about 384 grams).  Feel free to use just water if beer doesn’t appeal to you.

The Three
600 grams Flour:  200 grams of whole rye and the balance is King Arthur bread flour.  You can mix this up anyway you like but keeping the whole grain flours to no more than 1/4 to 1/3 the total mix.

Mix the starter and the beer together, add the flours and mix.  I have a Danish Whisk which I absolutely love and highly recommend, not just for bread but any hand mixing you do.

Autolyse:  let this mixture sit for anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours.  This allows the starches and gluten to start beginning their bread making journey.

Salt:  20-22 grams of salt

Yeast:  5 grams since I am impatient.  I add yeast to my bread otherwise I’ll be sitting around waiting for many more hours.  If you really want to be adventurous and have loads of time, you can omit this and wait…and wait!

Once the yeast and salt are mixed in, I turn out the dough onto the counter and with wet hands knead it.. if its firm enough, or use my favorite method (but messy) slap and fold.  Pick up the blob of dough and slap it down onto the counter while simultaneously spreading it with your hands.  Gather it it up, lift it up and slap it down again and again till you see it starting to being to stretch a little.

Stretching and folding....the fold
Stretching and folding….the fold
Stretching and folding....the stretch
Stretching and folding….the stretch

Take the dough, put it in your proofing container and set it aside for the bulk ferment phase.

I don’t have an oven with a proofing option so I  prepare my microwave as a proofing box.  I boil water in a measuring cup which makes the microwave warm and steamy and a nice 80-90 degrees.

This stretch, slap and fold/knead process is done 3-4 times during the first hour of the bulk ferment phase.  Each time I remove the dough to knead it, I reboil the water to keep the environment warm and steamy…DO NOT microwave your dough!!!

After the first hour and series of stretch/slap and fold/kneading, let the dough bulk ferment phase until it is about 3/4  of double…but it could go the full double in size. 

After sprinkling flour on the counter, I turn the dough out, move it around a little bit with the bench knife, split it and let it bench rest 20 mins or so lightly covered with a towel or plastic.  IMG_0673I’m also not afraid to use a little more flour if necessary but being careful not to fold the flour inside the bread or you will end up with some white lines inside.

After the bench rest, shape the dough using the bench knife, pushing it around on the surface gently to make it into round boules and with a taut skin but careful not to split that skin.  You do not have to seal the splits on the bottom of the boules but place them split side down in the bannetons.  This assures that when you turn them out for baking the splits are on top.

IMG_0627Place the dough into your prepared bannetons.  I use brown rice flour.  Well prepared with rice flour will prevent the dough from sticking.  Lightly flour the top of the dough and place the bannetons into plastic bags…ones from the vegetable section of the grocery store work well or large bread or ziploc bags.  The dough should be allowed to rise to about 3/4 of double…no more or you run the risk of overproofing.  I usually just let it sit long enough for my oven to heat which is about 20-30 minutes.  You can also use the Ken Forkish finger dent test.

If you haven’t done so yet, heat your oven to 500 degrees with your dutch oven or baking stone inside.

Turn the loaves out of the bannetons onto parchment paper (this makes it easy to put in your oven) and score the tops with a Lame or very sharp knife (a Bayerische Brotmesser works great!).

These loaves bake up with incredible crispy crusts when done in a dutch oven but you can also bake them on a stone or baking sheet covered with parchment, using the hot water in a pan / spray the inside of the oven  method.  But do yourself a favor a get at least one dutch oven!  You could also cover the boule on the stone with a metal bowl large enough for expansion.

After placing the loaves in the oven, turn the temperature down to 450.  Bake the loaves covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190-200 degrees.



P.S.  If you see any discrepancies, let me know and I’ll correct them.  This was a quick mind dump!


My Latest Obsession

Chain Mail Jewelry!

After having seen a necklace on a popular television show that really appealed to me, I started looking for sometime similar to buy.  Expensive!  Ugh!  Wait….why can’t I make one myself….afterall I do have a little artistic talent.

Enter Google…YouTube and Rio Grande and low and behold, I have a new obsession.  I started out buying inexpensive rings at Michaels and soon realized they were kind of crappy but I did learn some weaves and the results weren’t too bad.


Then I went back to my favorite jewelry supplier, Rio Grande, and order sterling silver rings.  Expensive, yes, but certainly not as much as buying the finished product from a jewelry store.

IMG_1519OMG!  I can’t stop….I love making this stuff.  I recently decided that keep my hobby I had to start working with less expensive materials and supplied myself with shiny aluminum rings.  They look as beautiful as the sterling silver and don’t tarnish but they are very lightweight and inexpensive.  I can offer pretty, shiny jewelry for a fraction of the price of silver and gold.

Please check out my Etsy Store.  I can customize anything for you!

Rodney Rye Can’t Contain Himself

I gave Rodney a feeding last night and within two hours he had doubled and bubbled.  It was already 10 p.m. so I stirred him down and fed him some more.  He was raring to go this morning.IMG_0949

I mixed up a batch of dough using Hamelman’s Deli Rye as a guide.  I did substitute a little KA Sir Lancelot for the whole wheat I usually use because 1) I was out of whole wheat and 2) I wanted to see what Sir would add to the mix.

The recipe:

675 grams KA Bread Flour
125 grams KA Sir Lancelot
200 grams Hodgsons Rye
600 grams water
300 grams Rodney
20 grams salt
7 grams SAF Yeast

Put together in the usual method.  Added all the ingredients except for the salt and yeast.  Let autolyse for 30 minutes and then added the salt and yeast.  The addition of the yeast really reduced the rise/proof time which is just fine with me these days.

Bulk ferment was two hours with a few stretch and folds spaced out.  Then it was bench rest, shape and into the bannetons.  I could tell things were lively as I had to pat down quite a few bubbles on the skin.

30 minutes of proof time and then baked in the dutch ovens.

Orange Cranberry 50% Spelt Loaves

Today’s adventure in baking involved the rest of the spelt flour, some orange juice, buttermilk, cranberries and honey.   The 50% spelt loaf came out nicely so instead of leaving well enough alone and making another one, I decided to branch out.  I also wanted to use up the buttermilk and orange juice.

The recipe:

220 grams Spelt flour
220 grams KA Bread flour
200 grams levain
100 grams orange juice
100 grams buttermilk
100 grams dried cranberries
10 grams salt
6 grams SAF yeast

Soak the cranberries in the orange juice for 20 minutes and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Measure the spelt and bread flours, add the slightly warmed buttermilk, honey and prepared levain and mix well.  Allow to autolyse for 30 minutes.

Add the cranberries and juice, salt and yeast.  Mix well using your preferred method.  I used 5 minutes of slaps and folds.

I allowed the dough to rise in my warm microwave for 30 minutes…it was almost double…and then gently pressed it down and stretched and folded one more time before putting it into another 30 minute rise.

I then split the dough and allowed it to rest for 10 minutes before I stretched it and sprinkled some brown sugar on it and folded and rolled it up before placing it in parchment lined baking tins. Proofed to about 85% and then baked for 40 minutes at 375 dF after sprinkling a little more brown sugar on the top.

I also neglected to take any pictures of the preparation but the final result and crumb are pictured below.

And while not as pretty as other loaves I’ve taken from the oven, these really are tasty.  A hint of sour from the levain and buttermilk, a little sweetness from the honey and brown sugar and tartness from the cranberries.

IMG_0953 IMG_0955

Spelt….Part Deux…New World Style

After the disastrous adventure into spelt baking, I went back to the drawing board and decided that we didn’t especially like a whole spelt loaf.  Nick liked it because it was crunchy.  It does have a nice flavor though, just not for us.

This time I decided to make a 50% spelt bread and turned to Hamelman’s Bread for inspiration.  He has a honey spelt recipe that I Wendy-ized.

250 grams Whole Spelt Flour
250 grams KA Bread Flour
100 grams Wheat Starter
300 grams water
40 grams honey
10 grams salt
7 grams SAF yeast

Hamelman mixes his in a mixer but I did mine by hand, again following my usual sourdough method.

Mixing the starter, flours, water and honey, I let the dough autolyse for 30 minutes.  After adding the yeast and salt, I did six minutes of slap and folds on the counter….and no jokes about the shape!

The dough was feeling pretty good and shaped into a nice dome.  It was elastic and supple although wet hands did help with the handling.

Into the proofing bucket for a two hour bulk fermentation.  At the one hour stage the dough had almost doubled in bulk so I took it out…per the recipe….and did a few stretch and folds.  After gently degassing and pressing down, it went back into the proofing container for only another 30 minutes this using the yeast really speeds up the fermentation.

Lots of bubbles on the dough when I dumped it on the counter for shaping.  After a 10 minute rest I pushed it around a bit till it formed a nice dome and taut skin. IMG_0872Then into the oat lined banneton that I was inspired by a post on the forum to do.  IMG_0875

The final proof in the banneton only took as long as heating the oven….and the resulting loaf was not beautiful but extremely delicious with a slight sweetness from the honey.  A much more successful bake!



Spelt….Ancient Flavor Meets New World – Part 1

Branching out and trying new things, I’d been hearing about spelt flour on the forums quite a bit.  It was time to give it a try.

It was originally grown in Iran around 5000 to 6000 B.C. , and grown in Europe for over 300 years, and now in North America for just over 100 years it has recently gained popularity in baking circles.

So off to Wholepaycheck Foods to buy a bag which turned out to be a very precious commodity, costing about three times the price of a bag of wheat or rye flour.

Following a recipe found on The Fresh Loaf, I made 100% spelt dough.  It was nice to work with, supple and stretchy but a bit on the wet side.  As a back up, I also put together a dough for our regular bread which is just a 1.2.3 sourdough mix of bread and rye flour which has become a house favorite.

I followed my usual methods of mixing and bulk fermentation but ran into trouble when I baked.  Apparently the spelt seems to like a lower temperature oven because the bottom burned and all that we were able to salvage was a crunchy top.


You can see from the photo below that the 1.2.3 loaf came out perfect.



I guess I did something right because the crumb did look pretty good and the loaf was very tasty….at least what could be salvaged from it.



Back to the drawing board as they say…..

Erdinger Weissbier Bread

2015-05-05_12-26-22Having seen a few beer breads being bandied about on forum and web, I decided it was time to try my hand.  And, being that I’m married to a German, it seems appropriate that I stick with beer that adheres to the German purity law as well as being the household favorite.

The levain was built as follows:

100 grams Rodney rye sour
150 grams KA Pumpernickel
250 grams Erdinger Weissbier with hefe aka yeast

After fermenting for 18 hours or so the starter was bloated and floating… was time to put together the final dough.

Needed two good size loaves for dance practice tomorrow night….who else to enjoy this bread with….I added:

600 grams Erdinger
800 grams KA bread flour

I let it autolyze for 25 minutes and then added 20 grams of salt.  After slapping and folding it for five minutes and performing two stretch and folds 15 minutes apart, I left it to bulk ferment for about 8 hours.

IMG_0790I divided and conquered and set the dough for its cold, overnight slumber.  Another thing I’m trying when the dough is very wet is to sprinkle a little flour around the edge of the dough to try and keep it from sticking.

The dough came out of the fridge, was scored and plopped into the hot dutch ovens.    What came out was pretty nice and pretty tasty.



It also had a very nice crumb and was thoroughly enjoyed at dance practice that night slathered in lots of Kerry Gold butter.


Another Sourdough Heavy on the Pumpernickel

Today in addition to the Hamelman Challah, our rye starter was floating so we needed to put together bread.

Inspired by Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough with increased whole grains today’s dough is really a 1.2.3 with an emphasis on pumpernickel…simply because I didn’t feel like working at it.

384 grams of floating starter, 768 grams of water and @1100 grams of flour split:  200 Whole Wheat, 300 Pumpernickel and 600.  I actually dropped the bread flour a little because of the increased whole grain IMG_0764pumpernickel.

Did the usual, 20 minute autolyse, added my salt and because of the added whole grains I was tempted to put in a pinch of yeast..oh the horror!  But in the end I didn’t!

Love the slap and folds….they really work the dough into a workable mass although I tend to find pieces of dough in the weirdest places…stuck to the wall, the underneath of the cabinets  I then did some stretch & folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours with a total bulk ferment of 3.5 hours because we needed to leave the house for an event.  Into the bannetons for their overnight slumber “in zee külher.

TIMG_0767his morning I heated the oven, upended the bannetons onto parchment and scored.  I was a little worried about one of the loaves…
IMG_0770it looked like it flattened out and although the scoring was sufficiently deep, halfway through baking when the covers were removed, it looked like the weren’t going to split.  I helped it along and reopened those wounds…probably not the best technique but what the heck….this is all one big experiment anyway.

IMG_0777IMG_0771The loaves that came out looked pretty good.  The crumb really nice….But the flavor!

OMG…Ron is in heaven so much so he called Wolfie in  Germany to brag.  He says it smells like the air outside the brewery in his home town of Eschwege!  There are random yummy sounds coming from the family room.


Challah….No need to hit the Gym!

My go-to recipe for Challah has been the Ciril Hitz recipe we were given in our October bread baking class.  I even used it for the Easter bread basket.  Since I bought Hamelman’s Bread, I decided to use his recipe.

This recipe calls for high gluten flour which I actuallyhad on hand….if not I would have replaced it with bread flour.  Sir Lancelot was called to duty along with the bread flour, eggs and yolks, canola oil, sugar and an additional couple tablespoons of honey.  In actuality I should have replaced a couple of the sugar tablespoons with honey but I just added more…hey…food for the yeast and a slightly sweeter bread.

Hamelman’s recipe doesn’t require a sponge like Hitz so I piled all of the ingredients into the mixer bowl.  After the first three minutes on low I could smell the mixer bogging down.  I knew there was no way I was going to complete another five minutes on second speed.

I dumped out the bowl onto the counter and started working the dough.  There were still dried bits of flour and it was like trying to knead a deflated soccer ball and was very dry.

Inflexible dough...looks like a chicken doesn't it?
Inflexible dough…looks like a chicken doesn’t it?

I added another quarter cup of water to the dough and worked it….and worked it….and worked it….no need to go to the gym today!  What a work out.

I kneaded and pushed and pulled and slapped and whacked and beat the crap out of that piece of dough.  IMG_0748Eventually it started looking like what I was used to seeing and was stretching pretty good when slapped down.  This took about 10-15 minutes.

IMG_0749Into the proofing box….my microwave with a cup of boiled water.  After an hour I punched down gently per the instructions and left it for another hour.IMG_0751

At the end of the second hour, the dough was beg-ging to be let out.

IMG_0753 It was beautifully flexible, stretchy, golden and worth the work out!

The turned out extremely extensible.  After an initial rolling and then a rest, it stretched very well.

In Hamelman’s book he has a number braiding examples.   IMG_0757This one is called the Windsor but I decided to leave it flat. IMG_0758This used 6 strands and I took the other three, braided them and curled those into a ball.



Back into the proofing box for the requisite time while I run to the grocery store because I used up all the eggs!

Baked for 30 minutes at 380 turning and swapping the trays half way and we have some nice looking loaves.