The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

the Tassajara Bread Book

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

the Tassajara Bread Book

Edward Espe Brown, author of "the Tassajara Bread Book", described his recipe of Tibetan Barley Bread (p.72) as "the only bread you need to know how to make.......".  I made it miserably numerous times, yet kept trying because the distinctive taste was too memorable not to try again.  Each heavy, dense loaf with its thick, cracked crust was no better than the one before.  If ANYONE out there in this exceptional community of break bakers is familiar with this recipe, knows how to "tweak" the recipe, or can offer a suggestion of what I can do to improve the results, I would be greatly appreciative. 

Tibetan Barley Bread recipe:

Tibetan Barley Bread
  1. 2 cup Tsampa, tibetan roast barley Flour.
  2. 4 cups whole wheat Flour.
  3. 1/2 cup Millet or roasted Sunflower Seeds or roasted Sesame Seeds.
  4. 1/2 teaspoons Salt.
  5. 2 tablespoons sesame Oil.
  6. 2 tablespoons vegetable Oil.
  7. 3 1/2 cups boiling Water.

Method

Pan roast barley flour in 1 tablespoon sesame oil till darkened. Mix flour with salt. Add oil, rubbing flour between hands until oily. Add boiling water, using spoon to mix till dough begins to form then mixing with hands keeping hands cool by dipping in bowl of cold water. Mix till ear lobe consistency. Knead till smooth. Place in oiled pans. Cut tops lengthwise. Leave at least 2 hours. Bake at 500 deg. for 20 minutes on middle shelf., 450 deg. - 40 minutes on top shelf. Should have tough crust and tender inside.

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

Not only is there no gluten in barley flour but roasting flour negates any gluten , if there was any to start with. There is no leavening at all in the bread so there is nothing to lighten it. The 2 hr soak is just that an " autolyse" if you will of the grains and flour. There is nothing you could do to this recipe to make it palatable. I have the Tassajara bread book and have been making all my bread since the early 70's. I got " Diet for a Small Planet" when it was new :) Most of the recipes in it are at best edible and at worst a waste of food. 

If you want a successful and amazingly edible bread then start with the current links for " 1-2-3" sourdough and begin adding small amounts of seeds and nuts and other grains as you gain facility with the workings of sourdough. Your health and tastebuds will thank you !!  Good Luck !  c

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Well, there are few reasons why this recipe would result in something resembling yeasted bread, as it has neither yeast nor gluten.

Peter Reinhart has recipes for sprouted grain pulp breads, based on Essene bread and Brother Juniper's bread. The basic one has a multi-grain and seed soaker, and then a sprouted grain pulp (grain that has been soaked and sprouted, then ground into pulp while still wet rather than drying and milling into flour). This recipe has quite a bit of yeast, as well as vital wheat gluten (though you can also use xanthan gum or ground psyllium husk). These recipes are in his book "Bread Revolution"; perhaps you can find a copy at the library or a recipe online, and try this instead? Or at least add some gluten flour (or either of the other things mentioned) and some yeast. With the amount of whole wheat flour you might even be able to get away with no added gluten, but you do need yeast or you will get a brick every time.

Yippee's picture
Yippee

This person "Apolloguide", who should be 72 years old now, claimed in the comment section that the original barley bread recipe had used leaven in the 1st edition of the book . May be you can contact him/her to find out more?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrNCUh_Uwzo

Yippee

 

 

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

Thank you so much, as you have lifted my spirits with the knowledge that the results aren't so much my failing as it is the ingredients called for.  I'll try something different and hope it'll will be worth sharing. 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

omg, this is the first mention of Tassajara and EE Brown I can remember reading on TFL.  Not surprising.  I got my start in baking bread with that book, circa 1972 and all I can remember was brick after brick.  In fact, I helped some friends open a short-lived "hippie" bakery on the CT shore in '73 that was based on those recipes.  Just plain awful, by 2018 standards.  Shortly after that I spent some time in Nepal and got to know tsampa in its native habitat, where it bakes up and complements yak butter tea very well.  But I would leave it be, outside of the Khumbu basin or points north.

At the CT bakery, we used to joke about EE Brown's bio on the back (or inside cover?) of the Tassajara Bread Book:  He says something like, "...but now I build walls".  Our response: "He had to find something to do with all those bricks".

Find another book to support your bread baking ambitions.  There are plenty that will provide more satisfying results.

Tom

charbono's picture
charbono

 

I have the 1986 revision of TTBB, where the recipe is on page 66. It states that the bread is “dense and thick-crusted”. You must have done a good job.

 

 

 

You might improve the recipe by soaking the millet or seeds, tripling or quadupling the salt, using yeast, and using only 2.75-3.0 cup room-temp water.

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels that way about Tassahara. I am heartened to hear the comments about the Tassajara book because  earlier in my bread making journey, I asked for and received that book as a gift, remembering the days (60's-70's)it was thought of as part of the new, whole wheat bread movement- the "Bible" of breadmaking.. I tried making some of the recipes (2000's) and was THOROUGHLY disappointed. It really shook my newly acquired,shaky confidence in my bread-making skills. I shelved it and haven't looked at it in years. But it was part of the movement that got people thinking and moving in the right direction.

Here is a LINK of a youtube video of a lady making this same Tivetan Barley bread and displaying the Tassajara book. I can see that this lady "bought it" and believes this to be a hale and hearty and healthy loaf. The loaves look bricklike-even without cutting into them to display the crumb. Just proves-bread is many things to many people.

I have dabbled in many types of bread, even in keto and GF- and all can be made to taste delicious but it usually takes a few bricks to understand how the ingredients behave.  I would say that this particular bread is very early in the development phase and needs some work before being delicious. There are unleavened, non-flour breads that can be delicious but this isn't it-yet. Something got lost in the translation-so to speak. It must be like eating a chunk of baked cereal-moist and doughy.

So develop away and have fun. I must say that toasted flour with sesame oil sounds like a delicious idea. The boiling water addition also sounds like a tangzhou variation. Perhaps doing an actual tangzhou with part of the flour and water, toasting the barley flour but then adding some yeast (1-2 tsp instant) will do it. It may be worth 1 more try.

Have delicious fun!

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

There is a comment about the recipe missing yeast and that there is a mistake in the book. I see from the recipe above that yeast is also missing.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

At least I didn't find any "errata" for any edition of Tassajara. Of itself, that is a bit unusual so I googled "Tibetan Barley bread" and found several variations both with and without yeast. Many of the google hits were the exact recipe (probably copied/pasted from Tassajara)  and I did find other barley breads- just none with the toasted flour and boiling water technique mentioned. For this post, though, I didn't drill down.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

100% barley bread the yeast would be optional. TBH the gluten is so poor in barley it really doesn't make too much difference. I suppose just making it as nice a texture possible with other ingredients would end up with much the same crumb.

However since this one does have some wheat in it the yeast can make a difference.

My conclusion comes only from my experience with barley and not because I'm familiar with Tibetan Barley bread.

Something to definitely look into though as barley bread is delicious even if the crumb is poor.

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

Yes, barley bread is delicious.  Remember Yule Gibbons on TV asking, "Ever eat a pine cone?"  He was advertising Grape Nuts cereal---laden with barley and a favorite of mine.  I'll strive to improve this distinctive tasting barley bread.

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

In all fairness, the Tassajara Bread Book was very much a product of its times, the late 1960's and early 1970's.  It and Ed Brown were artifacts of the culture they shared and helped create, along with George Ohsawa, Baba Ram Dass, Jack Kerouac, Hermann Hesse et al. (Ken Kesey would have preferred donuts).  There was no Tartine or Bread Builders yet and airy european loaves were relatively unknown at the time and place (northern CA).  "Exotic" breads were heavy german ryes and classic french baguettes, of which San Francisco sourdoughs were bitterly flavored (to europeans) cousins.  So Ed Brown was indeed a pioneer, operating in a culinary environment in which "healthy" often implied blandness that represents a noble expression of self-sacrifice for the personal and spiritual common good.  If, as the Buddha said, the cause of all suffering is desire, then the desire for flavorful and indulgent breads that we now all seek and relish was probably considered a sell-out and compromise of principle.

So, apologies to you Ed Brown.  You did good (and continue to) and we are grateful.

-/-/-/-/-

Quotes from Ed Brown added in proof (from Wikipedia): "every dough is different, just as every day is different" and "... baking and living both come down to the same thing: developing attention and awareness".

Words to bake and live by.

-/-/-/-/-

Tom

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

Thanks, Tom, for giving EE Brown his due credit. The book mattered to me at that time as well and I will keep it to remind me of its link in the MOVEMENT.

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

Clazar123, I thoroughly enjoyed your post, which broadened my smile considerably.  The woman in the link you shared dared not expose that crumb.  I will experiment a bit and give it one more "tweaked" try because I do like its distinctive taste using toasted sesame oil even though, unlike some,  I never enjoyed eating dough.  Ha. I was fresh out of college during that 70s movement but couldn't claim "Hippie" status because you couldn't be anti-establishment and have a job.  Even worse, I was a teacher!  Thanks again for the up-lifting post.  Happy just knowing that even after all these years I'm not the only one either. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

made "The Bread'  100% whole wheat.  No matter where you ran into them, they all made the same bread.   WW and milk  made my first SD starter in SF in 1973 and WW bread was the first bread I made with it.  In SF you could get SFSD too, but not in Boulder CO!  You baked good, earthy, bread not white bread - it was that simple. Still is!  Well at least some of the time:-)

Put some SDor yeast or both in that recipe and cut back on the water, do some slap and folds and the  arkey bread will be fin, easy to munch and tasty!

BetterBoules's picture
BetterBoules

I was in SF often from '69-73 and missed Harvey Milk but not the Wharf SD.  Thanks for the post.  I'll try your suggestion and hope for the best.

littlelisa's picture
littlelisa

Like others here, I embarked on early explorations in breadmaking with the Tassajara Bread Book. I had a battered old secondhand copy, bought in the earliest days of Amazon, back in the 90s (when amazon was just books!) after a friend recommended it. True, EEB's breads are in no way the high-hydration or high-information-and-understanding loaves that we've been privileged to bake in the last ten years or so. But back then, this information was just ... not available. That book was so inspirational to me, not so much for the recipes (I also battled with most of them) but for the spirit in which he baked. A kind of holistic, zen-spirited approach to baking, as an offering of spirit and effort... that is something I hadn't encountered before. I think Tassajara is to breadbaking much what Moosewood Cookbook was to vegetarian. It's quite dated now, and utterly clunky next to the pantheon of what has come since. But at the time, it broke new ground.
(EEB's foccacia was the perhaps the first bread managed to get anything reasonably stretchy and holey out of... I wouldn't use that recipe now, but the book still occupies a fond place on my shelf.)