The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Xenophon's blog

Xenophon's picture

I'm living in India, hail from Belgium and my paternal grandmother was German.  This (especially the latter part) might explain my love for Laugenbrezel (pretzels made with lye).  Whenever I'm in Germany I just HAVE to sample at least one. I've always wanted to try and produce these and a recently recurring bout of insomnia provided me with the time to do some nighttime baking.

But first a confession that explains the 'coward' bit in the title:  I didn't use the traditional 3-4% sodium hydroxide solution to boil the pretzel dough in.  I know it's the way it's supposed to be done, I was trained (previous lifetime) to handle hazardous chemicals but I've also seen what hot lye can do to human tissue when (not if) things go wrong and for me it's not worth taking the risk.  So I opted instead for a 5% baking soda solution.

The recipe I followed is a slightly modified version of the one described by Jeffrey Hamelman in 'Bread', check pages 269-272 for detailed instructions.  I diverged somewhat from his recipe so I guess it's ok to describe how I went about making them.



- 25 gr. of white sourdough starter at 100% hydration

- 175 gr. of white bread flour

- 110 gr. water, room temperature

I mixed up the above and let stand in my kitchen, which was 18 centigrade.  Presumably the sourdough wild yeast and bacteria had to adapt to the relatively dry environment because it took a full 24 hours to reach maturity.

Final dough:

- All of the preferment

- 400 gr. White bread flour

- 20 gr. butter, softened

- 8 gr. salt

- 2 gr. bread machine yeast

- 15 gr. of demerara sugar

- 225 gr. water, room temperature


(As mentioned, developing the preferment took a VERY long time.  In the book ordinary yeast is used and hydration is somewhat different + fermentation temperature a bit higher, leading to a drastically reduced fermentation time.)

- Place flour in a bowl, add the preferment, butter, bread machine yeast, salt and water.

- Mix at slow speed until a rough dough is formed.  Autolyse for 30 minutes.

- Mix at speed 2 for 3 minutes, followed by 5 minutes at speed 3, dough temp should be between 21 and 24 centigrade.  I ended up with a very supple but relatively slack dough, despite an overall hydration of just 58-60%, possibly due to the fat and sugar present.  It's sticky, this is normal.

- Bulk fermentation in a lidded bowl at 25 centigrade for 2 hours, one fold on a floured surface after 1.5 hours.

- Meanwhile, put on a big pot of water to which you add 5% baking soda.  Caution:  add baking soda when starting, if you wait until boiling it'll foam up.

- After bulk fermentation, place the dough on a floured silpad and give one more fold, flatten a bit and divide.  I aimed for 70 gr. chunks but was not overly precise.  This turned out not to matter a lot.  Shape these into rolls (mini boules let's say) and place them on a floured surface.

- Proof for 40 minutes, if your dough was at 25 centigrade, ambient temperature doesn't really matter.  Do not cover the proofing dough, for once you actually want the surface to dry out a bit.

- Take a slotted spoon and (one by one unless you have a pot far bigger than what I had), using a slotted spoon, immerse the rolls into the boiling solution.  They will immediately release from the spoon and float to the surface while the dough expands a bit and at the same time darkens a little and develops a leathery skin.  Push them under gently and keep them in the solution for about 5 seconds.  Remove, allow most of the water to drip off and place on a floured silpad which you've arranged on a baking tray.  Don't worry, they won't fall apart.  Oh, yeah, by this time, your oven should be at 220-230 centigrade, else you might have a problem.

- Then, quickly score the rolls.  I forgot this step.

- Insert into oven, keep temperature at 220-230 centigrade and switch to convection mode, you want good air flow and high temperature.

- After 2 minutes, briefly open the oven door to let the hot steam escape (no steaming required, btw).

- Total baking time was 13 minutes, remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.


Surprisingly, there was quite bit of oven spring in the dough, I hadn't expected this.  The tops were nicely browned due to the bicarbonate solution dip, initially they felt quite crusty (not a good thing in pretzels) but they quickly softened up and obtained the typical pretzel texture, between soft and hard with a leathery bite feel (apologies for the description but this is the best I can do).  The crumb was nice and chewy, taste more developed due to the preferment and very close to the original as far as taste goes.  The crumb was a bit more open than what you might expect from a German pretzel but still close enough, dense and chewy.  Texture wise I'd guess I got to about 85-90% of the original.  Most importantly:  when tasting and despite the use of soda instead of lye solution, you still got this 'tingling/astringent' feeling on the tongue that's typical for a pretzel.

In summary I was happy with the result, despite having forgotten about the scoring.  I believe using soda is a viable alternative to using lye solution.  Should you wish to use lye, be sure to know EXACTLY what the risks and way of handling are and whatever you do, safely discard the used solution.  Don't bottle it up for subsequent use and keep the lye crystals away from kids/pets.  A moment of inattention can carry a lifetime of consequences.


Apologies for the picture quality; as always it was snapped with my phone under less than ideal conditions.

Xenophon's picture

This bread is inspired by the 'Golspie loaf' recipe by Dan Leppard in 'The handmade loaf'.  I always wanted to do a 100% whole wheat bread but they have a pronounced taste and I thought my main customer -wife- wouldn't be a big fan.  Imagine my surprise when I asked her to pick any type of bread she'd like to have and she settled on this recipe.  I modified it somewhat so I guess it's ok to post the full recipe which I followed:



- 50 gr. Sourdough rye starter at 100% hydration

- 100 gr. whole wheat bread flour

- 100 gr water at 21 centigrade

Combine, mix with a spoon and let ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours (I gave mine 14 hours at about 20 centigrade)

Final dough:

- All of the preferment

- 400 gr. wholewheat flour (I used a mix of 300 gr. fine flour and 100 gr. coarsely ground)

- 8 gr salt*

- 240 gr water, room temperature

- 50 gr (3 heaped table spoons) of cracked wheat berries, not soaked**

- 10 gr neutral oil for the baking tin


* Adjust salt to taste

** The broken wheat provides some crunch/extra texture.  Pre-soaking is not required as it won't be integrated in the dough anyway, it just covers the surface.  Make sure the fragments are quite small, though.


- Combine preferment, wheat flour and water in a bowl.  Mix until fluid is absorbed.

- Autolyse for 30 minutes

- Add salt

- Mix at speed 1 for 5 minutes, then 5 minutes at speed 3, the goal is to give the dough an energetic kneading.  The end result will be a soft dough that remains a bit sticky.

- Bulk fermentation 2 hours at 24 centigrade or until doubled, times will vary depending on the strength of your preferment.

- Take a cake form or a cake tin (diameter about 20-25 cm) , oil well, sprinkle in half of the cracked wheat and make sure the bottom and sides are well covered.  You don't need a fancy tin, mine is just el cheapo aluminium.

- After bulk fermentation, give the dough a gentle fold, pat down and shape into a round form.  Place into the tin and press down so it fits well and is of equal height.  You may have to wait 15 minutes for the gluten to relax while doing this.

- Spray water on top, sprinkle over the remaining broken wheat

- Proof for about 1.5 hours or until doubled, if you use a 20 cm diameter round cake form the dough should come to about half when just placed in it and after proofing it'll be about level with the top.

- After proofing, take a sharp knife and divide the dough, cutting all the way to the bottom.  These cuts will allow you to cleanly break off chunks after baking.

- Bake in a 215 centigrade oven for about 40-45 minutes (with steam for the first 20 minutes) or until top is well browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped (obviously only tapping the top is possible here).

- Remove from oven, unmould immediately (it should drop right out) and place on a rack.  Allow to cool and rest for at least 4 hours, better overnight.

The taste will be that of a full whole wheat bread:  a bit earthy/herbal/sweet.  No bitterness at all and the sourdough comes through but in a subtle way.  The crumb will be a bit denser than with a regular flour loaf, soft and quite moist.  If you cut it the right way before baking it's easy to break of a chunk, slice that one open and slap on some cheese/vegetables/cured meat or fish, makes for a quick and very tasty sandwich.  Despite the lack of any fat or sugar it retains moisture well and is ideal for carrying to work etc.  First remark of my wife:  'This is good!  Write down what you did right now (I often bake stuff that she likes but improvise with the recipe and can't recall exactly what I did a couple of weeks later) because I want this to return regularly.'

If you don't want to make a sourdough version or use a straight dough method I thin you can just drop the preferment and  use regular yeast, adjusting hydration.  Hydration should be about 68-70%


Shot of the crumb, taken with my phone:


Xenophon's picture

Being an insomniac I got up at 4 AM this morning with the firm intention of cleaning out my baking gear...of course after 10 minutes of diligent work a number of small metal moulds caught my eye, I had once purchased those thinking they'd be perfect for small cakes but didn't use them yet.  Looking at them I thought 'pity they're not true madeleine moulds' (should be really shell-shaped, mine have only a slightly convex bottom).

The night before I had been reading Proust and his immortal ode to the classic French madeleine cake in 'A la recherche du temps perdu' came to mind:

"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea."

(Note:  you can't tell from the English translation but in French it can be interpreted slightly differently...suffice it to say that Madeleine is also a girls' name)

Anyway, I decided to bake some.  You can find recipes all over the net, most are based on a simple 4/4 butter cake recipe but imo that's a bit too heavy.  Here's the version my grandmother handed down to me.  It's lighter in texture yet still soft and moist.  These keep well for 2-3 days in a hermetically sealed tin.  For the flavouring I used lime zest but obviously lemon or orange are also very nice.  It's imperative to use a really fine rasp though.


- 110 gr. of pastry flour (sometimes the flour type does' matter but here it does, trust me, it has to be pastry flour)

- 50 gr. unsalted butter, just melted

- 85 grams fine sugar

- 2 medium sized eggs

- Finely grated zest from one small lime

- 4 gr baking powder

- bit of vanilla extract

- pinch of salt



- Sift flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl

- In another bowl, melt the butter until it's just melted, do not heat it, add the sugar and mix with a whisk, add the loosely beaten eggs, vanilla, lime zest.

- Add the liquids to the flour and whisk lightly until you obtain a smooth batter, do not overmix.

- Let rest 20-30 minutes, meanwhile....

- Preheat your oven to 220 centigrade, convection

- Apply a slight coating of butter to your madeleine moulds

- Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill to 3/4, do not overfill

- Put on a preheated* oven rack/baking tray and insert in hot oven

- Bake for 8 minutes or until cooked, watch that they don't burn.

- Remove from oven, unmold after 3 minutes, place on wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before eating or storage.



* It's very important that the tray on which you place the moulds be hot, you want to give the batter a 'heat kick' as fast as possible. Whatever you do, do not place them on a cold silpad, that's the worst possible option.  Obviously it's also possible to use other shapes, provided they're small and relatively shallow such as for financiers for instance.  Metal works a lot better than silicone though.

 Yield: Approx 11 pieces.


Xenophon's picture

This is my take on the 5 grain loaf as described in "The handmade loaf:  Contemporary recipes for the home baker" by Dan Leopard.  

A book which I certainly recommend, if only for the sheer variety of the recipes and the accessibility for the average amateur baker.  I usually 'roll my own' but when following recipes and preparation descriptions  they invariably turned out well.  Plus, they're beautifully illustrated.

I'm not sure about copyright restrictions so won't post the detailed recipe here but in general terms, preparing it involves:

1. A day before, preparing 100 gr. of white leaven (at 100% hydration)

2. Preparing a boiled whole grains soaker; many options are available but what I did was boiling a mixture of quinoa, whole millet, wheat berries, lentils (I used black 'urad dal' for their earthly flavour but any whole lentil will work).  Be sure to pre-soak the quinoa and to rinse well before boiling as else you'll get some very unpleasantly tasting saponins in your loaf.

The boiled grains soaker























3. Preparing the flour mix, consisting out of about equal parts strong white bread flour, strong brown wholewheat flour and rye flour.  I added one extra part of millet flour, salt and 3 grams of bread machine yeast.


Let cool the cooked grain soaker and set apart 200 gr.  To that are added 50 grams of sunflower oil, 25 grams molasses, the leaven,  water required for baking and 50 grams of honey.  I selected French chestnut blossom honey for its pronounced taste.  Mix it all well, you'll end up with a not very appetising looking brew.

Add this to the dry flours and mix  until incorporation, I gave it a 25 minute rest afterward.

In the book an elaborate manual kneading/folding technique is described.  I just mixed mechanically for 5 minutes at low speed, followed by 5 minutes at high speed in order to maximally develop gluten structure.  This is very important as 50% of my flours do not have any gluten to speak of (rye and millet).

You will end up with a very sticky dough.  I gave it a 1 hour bulk rise at 25 centigrade, by that time it had doubled thanks to the leaven, added yeast and the sugars present, folded, let rest for 15 minutes, then folded again and shaped.

Shaped 5 grain



















Finally,I proofed it for another 1.5 hours at 25 centigrade until it had doubled.  Due to the quite high hydration, low gluten presence and oil it will have a tendency to spread somewhat so tight initial shaping is very important or you could proof it in a banneton or bread tin.  I just went with a free shape and let it proof, covered in oiled cling film on the baking tray.

After proofing, spray with water, dust with rye flour or with rolled oats and score.  This is a loaf that benefits from a long bake; give it an initial 30 minutes in a 215 centigrade oven with steam, then reduce temperature to 190 centigrade and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it's well browned and sounds hollow when tapped.

Impressions after cooling, slicing and tasting:

Very nice, soft yet chewy crumb, contrary to what you might deduce from the picture is was quite open but not as pronounced, due to lower gluten presence in the mix.

It tastes very nice and the grains present an interesting contrast, I especially appreciate the lentils for the earthy note they bring.  Not so sure about quinoa, it becomes almost completely resorbed and taste-wise it is quite neutral.  The chestnut honey provided a pronounced aroma, if you like a more neutral taste or bring the grains more forward then I feel it would be better to select a more neutral tasting honey.  The bread pairs very nicely with both young cheese and cheeses that have a really pronounced taste.

All things considered this was fun to prepare and a lot less work than one might imagine!  Enjoy!

Xenophon's picture

Before I start out:  Credit has to given where it's due and the following post by David inspired me to give this a try.  His description works perfectly and is all you need, really, I'm just going to write out my version of it.

In Belgium we have a certain reputation where waffles are concerned:  from the crisp on the outside yet light as a feather and moist on the inside Brussels waffle over soft breakfast waffles to the filling and sweet variety baked in Liège which will make your waistline expand quicker than the US Federal government debt.  Batters prepared with yeast, baking powder, using fizzy water to lighten things up ands served in a million ways.  You name it, they bake it.

Yet, I rarely bake them.  Mainly because most of the traditional recipes are heavy on butter and eggs and well, if I can choose between a light pancake batter and a heavy waffle, usually we'll have pancakes for breakfast.  If you want to find out exactly how heavy they can be:  one of Escoffier's recipes for waffle batter calls for 1 pound of flour, 9 eggs, 4 oz sugar, half a pint of cream and some butter for good measure.

The link I posted above inspired me:  how about using what is basically a matured 100% sourdough preferment as a base, adding some egg, flavouring and a little bit of butter?  The idea of using sourdough in stead of traditional yeast was already appealing so here's what I set out yesterday morning:


- 200 gr. white all purpose flour

- 30 gr. 100% hydrated sourdough rye starter

- 200 gr. water at room temperature

Method:  Simplicity itself, mix it all up in a lidded bowl and leave standing until the preferment is fully matured.  My kitchen was cool at 18 centigrade and I didn't add a lot of starter (didn't fancy rye waffles and wanted to keep the acidity in check) so the process took 14 hours.

This morning I took the above and added:

- Skimmed milk: 100 gr.

- Vanilla extract 5 gr.

- Fine cognac: 15 gr (1 TBS)

- Brown sugar: 20 gr.

- Salt:  3 gr.

- 2 egg yolks.

- 3 gr. baking powder (insurance policy but in retrospect probably not required)

- Molten butter: 20 gr. (please use butter and no shortening, the taste is better, trust me).

- 2 egg whites, beaten to medium peaks 

Mix it all in the preferment, after mixing, fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon.  For those not using alcohol:  the cognac only serves to provide some extra aroma, you can omit it of course (alcohol bakes off anyway).

The end result will be a medium consistency batter, let it stand for 15 minutes while the waffle iron heats up and ladle it on.  Yield:  12 waffles.


Serve piping hot, add your favourite topping and enjoy.

The end result resembled (to me) to a large extent Brussels waffles in texture (though the recipe is vastly different), very crisp exterior, fluffy interior, not heavy at all and relatively light on calories.  

The preferment made for a nice taste; not acidic at all yet better developed and with more flavour.  For the purists:  I'm aware Brussels waffles need to be baked in a 4x5 waffle iron but I didn't have that shape handy.

This is a great way to dispose of surplus preferment.




Xenophon's picture

I have about 2 kg of maize (corn) flour lying around.  Of Indian origin but as it has no gluten anyway I didn’t risk running into the typical complications associated with Indian flour (high nominal protein content but very low quality gluten due to bad milling).


Anyway, I wanted to combine this with my faithful wild yeast rye starter as leavening agent.  Contrary to what’s described in most recipes, I built a preferment (100% hydration poolish) using 50 gr. Starter and 100 gr. Maize flour, not bread flour.  Was amazed to see that this actually ferments easier than wheat flour (shorter inertia period and, other factors being equal, quicker fermentation).




- 50 gr. 100% hydration rye sourdough starter

- 100 gr. Maize flour

- 100 gr. Water at 20 centigrade.


Final dough:

- All of the pre-ferment.

- 250 gr. Strong bread flour

- 50 gr. Coarsely ground whole wheat flour

- 50 gr. Toasted sunflower seeds

- 6 gr. Lo-salt*

- 175 gr. Water at 21 centigrade



- Mix starter, water and cornflour, allow to ferment in a loosely lidded bowl at room temperature (21 centigrade) for 12-15 hours (I did it in 12 hours)

- Add other ingredients except salt, mix at speed 1 until combined, autolyse for 20 minutes

- Add salt, knead at speed 2 for 5 minutes, followed by 5 minutes at speed 3.  The dough will come together but be somewhat slack/sticky.

- Bulk ferment in a lightly oiled bowl for 1 hour at 25 centigrade or until doubled

-  Fold, shape, place in a well-floured banneton or baking tin.  Free shaping might not be optimal because the dough is a bit slack.  Let rise for another hour or until doubled at 24 centigrade.

- Deposit on baking mat, spray with water, apply poppy seeds if desired.  Slash

- Bake for 10 minutes with steam in a 220 centigrade oven, then reduce temperature to 190 and bake for another 35-40 minutes until browned and hollow sounding.**

- Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


*:  Lo-salt contains about 66% potassium instead of sodium but conventional salt works equally well, adjust quantity to taste, 6 gr. Looks like an acceptable minimum.

**: Maize flour appears to retain water to a larger extent than traditional wheat flour, a full bake but at slightly lower temps is essential I think.

The bread turned out well, good oven spring and well developed crumb structure.  Slightly more moist that when using 100% wheat flour I’d say, hence the importance of a full bake.  Colour is creamy yellow, good, well developed taste with the corn bringing some sweetness but without overwhelming the whole.

As always, humble apologies for the low quality picture :-)



Xenophon's picture

This is a 3-stage bread, I started out with a small quantity of 100% rye wild yeast starter, built a white flour biga and finally integrated this with some wholewheat flour, white bread flour, toasted sunflower seeds and broken whole wheat to arrive at a 70% hydration dough that was shaped as a boule and baked it.  It was just an experiment but turned out well so without further ado:


40 grams of 100% hydration wild yeast sourdough rye starter

200 grams white all purpose  flour

123 grams water



200 gr. of wholewheat flour

300 gr. strong white bread flour

300 gr. preferment 

8 gr. lo-salt*

2 gr. bread machine yeast**

40 gr. broken whole wheat kernels (2 mm fragments)

50 gr. toasted sunflower seeds

370 gr. water***

Black sesame seeds and flour for dusting.




Combine sourdough culture, water and white bread flour, allow to ferment (covered with a loose fitting lid) at room temperature (18-21 centigrade) for about 14 hours.

Retard overnight in a 4 centigrade fridge


Toast sunflower seeds until slightly browned, reserve and let cool.

Combine water, preferment (biga), bread machine yeast and flours, mix at speed 1 for 2 minutes or until everything is incorporated.

Autolyse for 25 minutes

Add salt, broken wheat (no soaking required but make sure the fragments are small (about 2 mm)) and toasted sunflower seeds.

Mix at speed 1 for 3 minutes, followed by 5 minutes at speed 2, the dough will be quite soft and somewhat sticky.

Bulk ferment at about 25 centigrade for 1.5 hours or until doubled, giving one fold after 45 minutes but be gently and don't expel all gas

Divide if desired, stretch and fold gently, shape into a boule and place into a floured  banneton.

Final proof of 45 minutes or until doubled, gently place on a silpad covered baking sheet, the dough will be sticky and flatten out a bit but no worries.  Spray with water, apply poppy seeds.

Score and place into a preheated oven at 230 centigrade in which you generate some steam (I toss a cup of boiling water in a stainless steel baking tray sitting on the bottom).

After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 195 centigrade.  Bake for another 40-45 minutes until the crust is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 25 minutes after insertion into oven, carefully open the door and quickly remove the tray with water.  

The resulting loaf should have a nice brown crust, airy crumb structure and present a slight sourdough flavour (certainly not excessive) and good complexity of taste.  Nothing extraordinary, just a plain, tasty and honest all-purpose loaf.

* Adjust salt as desired, I don't use much but that's the way I prefer my bread.

** The extra bread machine yeast is not really required, if omitted bulk fermentation will just take a little longer.

*** Depends on the flours used, the idea is to end up with a soft, slightly sticky dough, 370 gr. is what I used and should be used as an indication.

Apologies for the crappy picture, this was taken inside under artificial lighting with my cellphone.


Bon appétit!






Xenophon's picture

Chestnut flour ‘speculoos’ breakfast bread


Chestnut flour speculoos bread

In northern France some artisan bakers sell a non-sweet bread with ‘speculoos’ flavor.  Speculoos is a spice mix that distantly resembles cinnamon but has a more robust and and complex flavor.  It’s a powdered mix of  cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, you can purchase it pre-ground or get the ingredients and mix your own. Traditionally it’s been used in mainly biscuits for centuries in Belgium/France/Germany.  I’m currently on holiday in Belgium, about 100 miles from where the region in France where this bread is sold and where I live a local baker sometimes has it but alas, he’s on holiday.  A visiting relative would have liked to try it and I decided to make my own version, using what ingredients I had laying around as this is not my primary residence.


The bread in question is a 33% chestnut flour (for the slightly sweet, nutty flavour), 70% white bread flour  mix with a bit of sugar, speculoos spice mix, a bit of butter and one egg added.  Didn’t have any sourdough culture on hand and as the incliation to make it struck at 7:30 pm I was not in the mood for an extended fermentation either so I used a quick bread approach with bread machine yeast.  Hydration was 65% and I recommend not to go higher than that, chestnut flour has no gluten and absorbs liquid in a strange way, if you go higher than 65% you’ll end up with a lump of extremely sticky goo that’s all but impossible to knead, will require long, slow fermentation and baking in a bread tin.   Just saying…


-        Finely ground chestnut flour 85 grams (33%)

-        White bread flour, 165 grams (66%)

-        Speculoos spice mix 5 grams  (2%)

-        Sugar 10 grams (4%)

-        Butter, softened and unsalted, 10 grams (4%)

-        Egg, loosely beaten: 45 grams (1 small egg) (18%)

-        Water, room temperature, 120 gram (48%)

-        Salt, 5 gram (2%)

-        Instant active yeast: 5 grams (2%)


Total: 450 grams ( small loaf), 180%




Put all solids in a bowl, add water, egg and butter, mix and let stand for 15 minutes (crucial for fluid absorbtion).  Knead vigorously by hand for 10 minutes, the end result should be a silky smooth ball of dough that doesn’t stick.  Put in a lightly greased bowl and allow to ferment for 25 minutes at 30 centigrade (I used an oven with a special function that allows me to just punch in the temp to be maintained anywhere between 25 and 300 centigrade).  Stretch and fold, taking care not to expell all gas.  Place back for another 20 minutes, then shape in a boule/batard or make small rolls.  I then placed it in a banneton for its final rise, another 30 minutes at 30 centigrade (told you I was in a hurry but it’s a quick riser) and it had doubled.

Carefully place it on a baking mat (the structure is very delicate due to low gluten).  It will deflate somewhat but that doesn’t matter. I didn’t score it.  Bake for 45 minutes in a 190 centigrade oven using steam for the first half of the bake.  Oven spring will be good.  Watch the crust (chestnut flour tends to brown quickly) but be sure to give it a full bake.


The end result came out at 396 grams, crumb was well developed and it has a very soft structure, solid, hard crust.  Delicious taste of chestnut flour so sligtly sweet but not overwhelmingly so, incredible speculoos fragrance/flavour.  Goes very well with sautéed apples with herbs as well as with delicately flavoured cheeses and spreads.  If you don’t want a pronounced speculoos flavour, bring down the speculoos herb mix to 3 grams.  Optionally you could add raisins, chunks of dried apple or pearl sugar, even chocolate which pairs very well with the speculoos flavour.


Nutrition:  257 kCal/100 grams, 46/100 grams from egg,sugar and butter.


Mixing your own speculoos powder:


-        6 parts cinnamon powder

-        1 part mace powder

-        1 part powdered cloves

-        2 parts ginger powder

Watch the dosage because this is very strong!

 This bread pairs very well with cheeses, fruit or chocolate spread.

Xenophon's picture


Cramique (Fr) or Kramiek (Dutch) is the name given to a type of rich, sweet breakfast bread with raisins such as sold in traditional bakeries in Belgium.  The following is the traditional recipe such as it’s been used for the past 100 years or so.  Some variants exist and I’ll briefly mention those at the end of the recipe. 

Typically this is eaten freshly baked on Sunday mornings while having a leisurely breakfast with the family.  It’s tasty to eat ‘as it is’ with some butter but favourite toppings include high quality chocolate paste, or with speculoos(paste), served with coffee or strong chocolate milk.  It’s also delicious when toasted and paired with onion confit and pate or pan-seared foie gras, accompanied by a glass of well developed, aromatic sweet white Bordeaux wine such as a Sauternes or (cheaper) Montbazillac. 


Formula (yields one large loaf) 


- White bread flour, 430 grams (strong bread flour is ok but a 50-50 mix with all purpose flour also works well)  

- Milk, room temperature, 220 grams 

- Butter, unsalted, 85 grams  

- 1 egg, loosely beaten,(about) 55 grams 

- Fine granulated white sugar, 45 grams 

- Salt, 5 grams 

- Raisins, 250 grams 

- Fresh yeast, 25 grams or bread machine yeast, 9 grams 

- Small quantity of egg/milk mixture, for glazing the loaf 




- You can use white bread flour or a 50-50 mix of strong bread flour and all purpose flour.  In bakeries 100% white bread flour is typically used because it results in a stronger, chewier crumb that's easier to cut and transport.  If you like a more delicate texture that's perfect for immediate consumption, go with the 50-50 mix (which is what I'd recommend ). 

- Some bakers add a small quantity of natural vanilla extract (NOT essence) to the liquids 

- In stead of fresh yeast you can use bread machine yeast, reducing to 8 grams and adding this to the solids 

- The butter needs to be tender for easy incorporation so take it out of the fridge 15 minutes beforehand.  Do not melt it and do not substitute it with shortening or oil, the taste and mouth feel are not the same. 

- Raisins can be sultanas or any seedless raisin variety but typically not currants, which tend to be drier.  They can be incorporated as such or first soaked for at least  ½ hour, then patted dry with kitchen tissue paper and dusted with flour to dry the surface.  If you soaked them and to avoid making an unsightly mess, roll out your dough into a rough rectangle, spread out raisins over the top 2/3rd, then fold bottom third toward the middle and top third down.  Manipulate the dough gently so as to achieve a good distribution.  Don’t skimp on the quantity. 




- Add yeast to milk and dissolve, add loosely beaten egg and sugar 

- Put the solids (flour, salt, butter) in a bowl 

- Add the liquids and mix well, let stand for 10 minutes 

- Knead well for 10 minutes by hand or about 6 minutes with a processor and hook 

- Cover with oiled cling film and let ferment in bulk for 30 minutes (31 centigrade) or until almost doubled 

- Toward the end of the bulk fermentation, add raisins and incorporate so as to distribute them evenly. It’s important not to add them earlier and to knead gently or they’ll turn to mush, certainly when soaked 

- Flatten, fold and shape (boule for freestyle loaf), place on silicone baking mat or in a greased baking tin 

- Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes in a warm (30 centigrade) room or until almost doubled 

- Apply egg wash or milk 

- Bake for about 40 minutes in the middle of a 190 centigrade oven, using conventional heat 

- Remove when top crust is dark brown and it sounds hollow when tapped, it should effortlessly drop out of the tin  

- Place on a wire rack and allow to cool 




- Together with the raisins, 100 grams of pearl (P4) sugar can be added, it’s no traditional cramique anymore but some people like this, personally I feel it’s a bit over the top 

- Raisins can be soaked in water or in rum to which 2 grams of speculoos spices or powdered cinnamon have been added, then patted dry, lightly floured and incorporated 

- In the city of Liege, pearl sugar is added and the dough is placed in a round pie baking tin that has been lined with sweet pie dough. 




The recipe as stated above will yield a dough mass of approximately 1150 grams.   

After baking and cooling this will result in a loaf of approximately 930 grams, containing 3322 kCal or 357 kCal/100 grams approximately.  One portion size would be 3 slices or approximately 100 grams.  This represents about 18% of the average male's daily calorie needs.  Of the calories, 25% are from fat. 

Needless to say, this is not a lean bread but if you limit yourself to a normal portion on a Sunday morning  it shouldn't be an issue. 




Below are some pictures.  Note that I only baked half a quantity due to insufficient raisins on hand.  Also, I did not let the dough bulk ferment until doubled; this has to do with local conditions (kitchen temperature of minimum 33 centigrade over which I don't have control).  These same conditions make it necessary to reduce the yeast quantity.  If you're baking under normal temperature conditions, do as  I say in the recipe, not as I do in practice ;-)  The pictures were shot using my phone under cold TL-lighting, in reality the colour of the finished product is more yellowish. 

The dough immediately after mixing

 After  a 30 minute bulk fermentation


Incorporating the raisins

Placed in baking tin






Cut and ready to eat


Xenophon's picture

Last week I was getting ready for a short easter break when I realized I still had some kalamata olives, fresh rosemary and an opened pack with assorted italian cold cuts (salami, cured ham...) lying around in my fridge.  It was all a bit too much to eat in one go so I decided to try my hand at a foccaccia-inspired bread that would incorporate all these ingredients.

The result was surprisingly tasty; I didn't have high hopes -especially because I wasn't working from a recipe- but it turned out really well and very tasty.

Preparation and recipe:

a) Spread the fresh rosemary in a baking pan and put in a cool oven (I used 60 centigrade) with air circulation on for a couple of hours.  The rosemary has to be dry but keep temperatures low or you'll lose some of the flavourful organic compounds.

b) Place the cold cuts into an oven dish and put it under the grill until they start getting crispy/crumbly when cooled.  Use tissue paper to blot up the fat that comes out (optional).  Allow to cool and chop/crumble into pieces.  Roughly chop the kalamata olives.  Reserve.


- 500 grams white bread flour.

- 300 grams water, room temperature (which in my case was 31 centigrade)

- 7 grams bread machine yeast

- 15 ml (1 TBSP) of fine quality olive oil

- 100 grams roughly chopped kalamata olives

- 100 grams pumpkin seeds

- 50 grams dried and crumbled/cut cold cuts

- 7 grams (1.5 tsp) of rosemary, ground to powder

- Couple of sprigs of dried rosemary to decorate the crust

* No salt was added as the olives and dried cured meats are already salty but this is a matter of individual taste.

Straightdough method.

Combine flour, yeast, water, olive oil and mix well until absorbtion.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes after initial mixing, then knead vigorously for another 10 minutes.

Bulk fermentation until the volume has doubled (in my case, with the generous quantity of yeast and the high ambient temperature this took 25 minutes)

Punch down/fold the dough and roll it out into a rectangle that's about 1.5 cm thick.  Spread the meat, powdered rosemary, pumpkin seeds and chopped olives on the dough, fold closed and give a short kneading to mix in everything.  The objective is to obtain an even distribution but don't knead too long or the olives will turn to mush. 

Shape into a batard /oval shape, roll through some dried rosemary leaves and place in a well-oiled pullman pan (2 liter). Brush on a slight coat of olive oil.  Preheat oven to 210 centigrade.

Bench rest until doubled in volume (in my case once again after a mere 20 minutes), put the lid on the pullman and insert into oven.  Total baking time was 45 minutes, after 25 minutes I removed the lid from the pan so the top crust could brown.  Remove from oven/pan and let cool on a rack.

The result:

The crust was delicate but very crunchy and the taste and aroma delicious so while it was a hastily improvised experiment I'm quite pleased with it.  Did I mention it tasted fine also ;-)  Of course the quick rise times and absence of pre-ferment precludes any real taste development in the dough itself but in this case that's not an issue as taste was mainly a matter of the rosemary, olives and the meat.



Subscribe to RSS - Xenophon's blog