They say that as we age we get “set in our ways.” I’ve never paid much attention to that because I don’t know who “they” is and I’ve never thought of myself as getting old. But as I was brushing flour off my hands at dawn this morning, it popped into my head that “they” are right. I’m getting set in my ways!
It was sixty degrees out yesterday and I got to run in a tank top! I love to run! I was running and singing at the top of my lungs, celebrating the warm wind on my arms. I know, global warming…but I decided not to think about that. The older I get, the more precious it is that my body still allows me this enormous pleasure.
I love making pots. And cooking. And taking pictures of pots and food. I have the most fun when I have the luxury of time to spend in the kitchen and the studio.
Perhaps the most delicious of all is baking, especially baking bread. If you think about it, baking bread is very similar to making pots. Dough shares a lot of qualities with clay-it’s moist, earthy, malleable, finicky, and heavy; both clay and bread dough are transformed by heat. To me, there is not much that is more fun than shaping something, popping it in an oven, and pulling it out in a different state of being!
So, developing this recipe was incredibly fun for me. And I can’t wait for you to try it. Even if you’re not experienced with clay or bread dough, it’s not that difficult.
This is a savory pull-apart bread. It is chewy and crusty and fun to eat. If you use plenty of salt, it tastes a bit like a pretzel. I sort of want to make one every day.
Before we get to the recipe, I want to share a bit of good news. If you’ve been following DebsPotsBlog, you know that my friend, Martin, has been batting leukemia since June. The treatment has been intense and difficult for him and his family. He is done with chemotherapy!!! His oncologist has said that she does not need to see him until April! It is time for him to build his strength in the hope that he will be able to return to work in February. So thank you for all your prayers and well wishes! And of course, a holiday donation to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society would be greatly appreciated!
I am giving you a recipe for the dough, enough to make two stars. But if you only want to make one big star, you may use this recipe for the dough. Or use your favorite bread dough and make whatever size(s) you like. I like sourdough, so I decreased the water and yeast and added ½ cup of sourdough starter. You could even buy bread or pizza dough and have fun playing with the shaping.
This is vegan if you skip the cheese.
Makes two stars, one big and one smaller, or one simple round bread.**
You will need a small round cookie cutter or a cup or bowl, parchment paper, and a mister for spraying water.
2 cups bread flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup rye flour
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tbs cane sugar (optional)
1 tsp fine salt
1-1 ¼ cups room temp water (filtered if your tap water isn’t great)
1 tbs. oil
¼ cup sesame seeds (I used black)
½ cup grated parmesan (optional)
2 tbs. coarse salt (I used Hawaiian red)
Either by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flours, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and mix until it comes together to make a pliable dough, adding more water as needed. Mix for 5 minutes or knead by hand until the dough is elastic, smooth and springy. Oil a big bowl, smoosh the dough around in the oil until coated, place the dough in the oiled bowl and cover with a towel; let rise at room temp for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place a pizza stone or unrimmed baking sheet into the oven. Prepare two 12 x 12 inch pieces of parchment. Cut off 1/3 of the dough for the small star.
From here out I’m going to give you instructions to make one star; I recommend making the big one first and then moving on to the small one while the first begins to proof.
Cut the ball of dough into 4 equal pieces, forming each quarter into a ball and then flattening the ball to make a pancake. The dough will be resistant to stretching because you’ve been activating the gluten, so at this point, it’s a good idea to let the pancakes rest for 5-10 minutes. After the rest, begin stretching the pieces, alternating among the four, until you have rounds roughly 8 inches in diameter for the big star, 5 inches for the small.
Place the first round on the parchment, spray lightly with water, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, salt, and parm, if using. Repeat this process twice and then top with the fourth round of dough.
Now place your cookie cutter or cup in the center of the stack. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, make sixteen even cuts through the stack, so you have what looks like the spokes of a wheel (check out the pictures). This will give you an 8 point star. If you want to make a 6 point star, make 12 cuts.
Now, take a pair of spokes, and twist outward, away from each other, twice. Bring the two ends together and pinch to seal. Continue around the circle repeating this process until you have formed the star. Sprinkle with additional seeds, salt and parm if you like. Now let the star proof at room temp for ½ hour or so.
Place the star (still on the parchment) on a pizza peel, unrimmed baking sheet, or the back of a rimmed baking sheet and spray the top with water. Use the peel or baking sheet to slide the parchment onto the stone or baking sheet in the oven. Spray 2-3 times with water during the first few minutes of baking.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and puffy. Repeat with the second star. Let the stars cool for at least 20 minutes before you start tearing them apart and noshing. If you have any leftovers, reheat them in the oven or toaster oven before you eat them.
**To make a simple, round bread, follow the first paragraph of instructions, including 1/2 cup of fed or unfed sourdough starter. Fold the dough a few times, and let rise for another hour. Then form a round on a piece of parchment on a peel or unrimmed baking sheet while you preheat the oven to 450°. When the dough is doubled in size, spray with water, sprinkle on the toppings, and slash it several times with a sharp serrated knife. Slide into the oven on the parchment and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350° and bake for 35 minutes more. Cool for at least 2 hours before serving.