The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Catharsis Through Bread

JennyLeah's picture

Catharsis Through Bread

I've taken a bit of a break from baking, recently. Sourdough starter has been sitting in the fridge untouched for almost a month now, and it hasn't been fed in quite a while. I'm not worried about it. It's a resilient starter - in the past, I've abused it far worse than this, and it's come back for me after a week or so of careful attention.

I have 3 hobbies. I bake, I knit, and I'm a theater person. The last one is more identity than hobby, but suffice to say that I sing, I act, and I dance. In that order. (My life goal, for as long as I can remember, has been to work on Broadway. Not there yet, but I'm not giving up on it either.) Baking and knitting I am equally passionate about. This break from baking has been one of necessity more than anything else. I have a couple of impacted wisdom teeth that are coming out tomorrow afternoon that have been causing a great deal of pain and sickness recently, and although a nice, crusty loaf of sourdough is the perfect compliment to any soup, the crust does me in every time.

In spite of that, when the proverbial poop hit the fan the last two weekends, tired of my knitting and unable to find any privacy to rehearse in, I ran to the kitchen. Wishing I had pictures to post along with this, but first weekend I decided to jazz up a favorite sandwich loaf, substituting beer for the milk, with a swirl of horseradish mustard, dill, and sharp cheddar cheese. I wish I had a recipe or even percentages, but this is a dough I always go by feel on. If I'm relying on my memory here, I used about 1/2 cup of dark beer (we had guinness, so that's what I used), melted 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter into it, and a couple of large eggs. I used plain, old bread flour and rye flour - about 75% bread flour to 25% rye. Maybe a teaspoon and a half of salt. Less than a tablespoon of yeast, but more than I would typically use, because I was more interested in handling the dough that day than allowing the flavors to develop. I probably used a tablespoon of sugar too, to get the yeasty-beasties excited. (Probably overdid it in that regard.) It's not an incredibly moist dough, but it's not too dry either. If I had to guess, I'd say the hydration was around 70% when all was said and done. Let it rise with a few stretch and folds, and then carefully flattened it out to fill and roll.

For the filling, I used dijon mustard, mixed together with a little bit of tobasco sauce and horseradish, and some chopped fresh dill. I grated a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese mixed with a little bit of dry mustard and paprika. After letting the loaves benchproof, I slashed them and threw the leftover cheese on top. Baked at 350F for about 35 minutes. Got a ton of oven spring. It was a bit insane. It was great, but next time, I may use more cheese. The flavor was all mustard, which wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

This weekend, I stuck with a sweeter profile. I used a basic challah dough (this recipe has been my go-to for the last year:, substituting maple syrup for the honey. And filled it with lemon curd and blueberries, doing a strudel braid to keep it all together. So not good for the waistline, but tasty enough that I don't care.