Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category


Posted on: May 31, 2009

My quest towards becoming a bread baking wonder continues with this ciabatta bread. I found the recipe on a fave Swiss blog of mine called Rosa’s Yum Yums. I’ll admit to having been a little scared to start at first–the idea of preparing a sponge the night before being a completely new experience for me. At the end of the day though, the results make it all worth it. 

The dough is a finicky one, but once you’ve got the technique down, all will be swell! As doughs go, it’s a very wet one. Just be patient with it and don’t expect anything near “smooth and elastic” from this dough. It’s sticky and will cling to everything–so flour generously (don’t go too crazy though) and don’t mess with it all too much. Also key here is proof time. You will need the full amount–the longer you wait, the lighter the bread.

As for the end result, this bread is absolutely lovely. It’s light, has those beautiful air bubbles and is so crispy–it makes me think of being back in Italy! I’ve made it on several occasions, including for a few dinner parties. I always bake it right before guests start arriving, so that it’ll be warm for and ready for munching during cocktails and appetizers.


Makes 2 loaves.



1/8 tsp dry yeast

2 tbsp warm water (110-115F)

1/3 cup water at room-temperature

1 cup bread flour

Bread Mix

1/2 tsp dry yeast

2 tbsp warm milk (110-115F)

2 cups bread flour

2/3 cup water at room-temperature

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp table salt


1. The night before, begin your sponge. First, mix together yeast and warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine bread flour yeast-water mixture and room-temperature water. Stir well for 4 minutes.

3. Cover sponge with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

4. For the Bread: Combine the yeast and warm milk, stirring well. Let stand for 5 minutes or until creamy.

5. In a stand mixer (using dough hook), combine bread flour, sponge, room-temperature water and olive oil. Mix on medium-speed for 4 minutes.

6. Add salt and continue mixing for another 4 minutes.

7. With a spatula, spoon dough into a large well-greased glass bowl. (It will be quite wet). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to double in size (1-1 1/2 hours) at room temp.

8. Prepare your baking tray: Line the tray with parchment paper, dusting generously with flour.

9. With a spatula, spoon dough onto parchment and divide into half. Form into two oval shapes. Dust again generously with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double at room temp. (1-1 1/2 hours).

10. 45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven and oven tray to 250 C.

11. Remove plastic wrap from dough. (It will stick a bit, despite flour dusting; just remove it slowly and gently.) Place tray into preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, first on the bottom half and with bottom heat, for 10-15 minutes. A good indication that it is ready to be moved is if the bottom is golden and crisp when tapped with a knife.

12. During the last 5-10 minutes of baking, switch heat to the top. Allow loaf to turn a nice golden color. 

13. Remove bread from oven and place on a rack and allow to cool a bit before serving.



In Switzerland, there’s bread and then there’s Zuepfe. I lived in the country for 4 years; I even married a Swiss man–and yet, I still don’t understand the distinction. It’s a really dense, milky butter yeast bread that is great eaten slathered with buttered and layered on with ripe Gruyere or is tasty just on its own, still slightly warm from the oven. Thinking about it, I suppose it really is more than just bread. It’s hearty, it’s rich, and is a staple for every Sunday breakfast or brunch.

Confusion aside, Bernese Zuepfe is the ultimate in yeast breads. Not being Swiss myself, Zuepfe making and baking did not come naturally. It took quite a few tries (i.e. failures) and taste tests to get it just right. I knew I had finally arrived when I served it for the in-laws. Crisp and golden on the outside, good tearing consistency on the inside, and a buttery, yeasty flavor–the entire loaf was devoured!

The key to this bread is proofing–well-risen dough will produce a light and airy loaf. Adding a little egg yolk to the dough supposedly makes it even lighter; however, this also makes the loaf go stale faster. I’m also convinced that using really good butter and fresh yeast yields a better product.

Bernese Sunday Loaf (Berner Zuepfe) (Recipe from TipTopf)


500 g plain flour (I use bread flour)

1 1/2 coffee-spoonfuls salt

1 coffee-spoonful sugar

60 g unsalted butter, at room temp.

15 g fresh yeast or 2 tsp active dry

300 ml lukewarm milk

1 egg lightly whisked, plus 1/2 an egg yolk


1. Warm the milk for 20 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 15 minutes or until slightly frothy.

2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix flour salt and sugar.

3. Cut in the butter. Use your fingertips to work the butter and flour in together, creating a uniform mixture.

4. Add a little egg into your yeast and milk mixture. Mix.

5. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the liquids. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or in stand mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic.

6. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

7. Once dough has risen, place it onto a clean surface and cut in half. Roll the dough back and forth with your hands until you end up with two  equal-lengthed 18 inch snake-like strands. The middle of the strands should be thicker and the ends, thinner.

8. Braid the dough. Place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate and let rise for 15 minutes. (This last proof is optional.)

9. Then with remaining egg, brush two layers of egg onto the dough.

10. Place braid in cold oven, set oven to 220 C and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

11. Remove the bread, knocking on the bottom for doneness. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool and then slice and serve!



One thing D. and I really miss since moving from Switzerland to Singapore is Swiss bread. It doesn’t matter where you bought it or what kind it was, it was always good – the right texture, lightness and flavor. As an American, I never knew plain bread could have so much flavor by itself until I moved to Switzerland. 

The recipe is from TipTopf, a cookbook that every Swiss person seems to own. (I can understand why–it never disappoints.) This bread is excellent – way better than anything you can buy here in Singapore. Crunchy on the outside, thick, airy and aromatic on the inside. Its great plain or slathered with butter and your favorite jam or honey. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Bread


400 g whole wheat flour

100 g plain flour

2 tsp dry active yeast

350 ml lukewarm water

1 1/2 tsp table salt

1 tbsp olive oil

50-100 g walnuts, roughly chopped


1. Mix together yeast and water. Allow to stand 15 minutes or until yeast froths.

2. Measure out flours and salt. Combine and mix thoroughly.

3. In a stand mixer, pour in dry ingredients. Create a well with your hand.

4. Into the well, pour in liquids (oil, yeast and water). Mix for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. If you want to add nuts, do so about a minute into the mixing process.

5. Put dough in a floured bowl and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough onto the sheet and place into the bottom half of a COLD oven. Bake at 220 deg. C for 40 to 50 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.


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