Breaking bread

I have a new project in the kitchen. I always find that winter is a good time to experiment with my cooking and expand my skills.

I am not as busy with work, and the colder days lend themselves to all kinds of food. Something soulful like stew is hard to digest in the summer heat.

The bread to go with it, or with a cheese platter and my glass of red wine, is also a more regular part of our winter diet. This winter I decided to practise my bread-making skills.   

I made a sourdough starter about a month ago, and I’ve been baking sourdough breads ever since. I used some of the last fruit harvested from our plum tree along with the original starter, and it has developed a delicious flavour profile: tangy, then sweet and just a wee bit fruity — like me.

Incorporating a living thing into my project has furthered my education as well as the flavours in my loaves. A sourdough starter has to be fed daily, and just like us, it has more active and less active days.

Getting to know my starter has been as tricky as improving my kneading skills; some days the results are rewarding and other days they are just chalked up to experience.

By this point, you probably get the impression that bread making is not an instant skill. I would have to agree that mastering the art takes time. Fear not, though, Dear Reader, you can make lovely bread without having to take a course or read a Julia Child book.

With all the leftovers from holiday meals, and the extra time we have with days off, we can all manage one loaf of bread, don’t you think?

I posted this recipe on my blog a while ago (before I got the hang of this bread thing) and it has turned out beautiful every time I’ve made it. It’s not a sourdough, so you needn’t worry about it being finicky. It has some added flavours that work well with winter meals but you can change those or omit them if you wish.

Here is the recipe below. Take an afternoon and impress your family and friends, maybe even yourself. Have fun after all the pressure of Christmas is over, and make a mess on the kitchen counter.

Feel soulful, breaking your very own homemade bread at your table. Or, if you are an armchair foodie, maybe you know someone who will invite you to share their effort after you pass along this recipe to them.

Any way you slice it, a bit of time in the kitchen is a nice way to enjoy the holiday season. Merry Christmas to you all.


This recipe is one that comes from Mark Miller’s Indian Market Cookbook, an old favourite of mine from the ’90s. It is wonderfully fragrant and beautiful on the table. It’s delicious served with savoury items, and it makes a mean grilled cheese “envelope”.

The recipe makes two loaves, so you can freeze one or give it away.

5 cups / 1130 g unbleached flour
1 tbsp / 15 g active dry yeast 
2 tbsp / 30 g sugar
2 cups / 475 mL warm water (about 100F /38C)
1 cup / 250 g pecans, chopped
3/4 cup / 170 g whole wheat flour
2 tbsp / 30 g vegetable oil 
2 tsp / 10 g salt
2 tbsp / 30 g finely chopped fresh rosemary (don’t use dried)
2-3 tbsp / 30-45 g cornmeal, to keep the loaves from sticking while baking

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the unbleached flour, yeast, sugar and water. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and allow this fermenting “sponge” to rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size. 

Meanwhile, place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes, until browned. Turn off the oven. (You can do this in a toaster oven if you have one, to save energy.)

Stir down the sponge with a long-handled wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and add the pecans, wholewheat flour, oil, salt and rosemary, stirring until smooth. (It might be a bit tough to get all the bits incorporated; if so, just pour it all out on the counter and knead it in.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic (it will “bounce back” when you knead it). Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat thoroughly. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has doubled again. 

Punch down the dough (literally, take your fist and punch into the middle of the dough ball!) Divide it in 2 equal pieces, shaping them into round loaves by tucking under the bottom as you rotate it with your other hand. Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal. Allow the loaves to rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled. 

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C. Sprinkle the loaves with a little flour and slash the tops with a sharp knife or a razor blade, making cuts about 3 inches / 7.5 cm long and 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm deep. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven and turn out on a wire rack to cool (if you don’t remove them from the baking sheet, the bottoms will get soggy.)

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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