Recipe, Tips

for beaming, bewitching breads

For months now, my obsession with bread making has snowballed, leaving me eager buy a bread-specific cookbook to further fill our apartment, and my idle hours, with kneaded deliciousness. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m extraordinarily conservative about the cookbooks I buy. On one hand, it’s a space issue — isn’t it always? — but considering that this hasn’t kept me from buying a pasta-cranker, too many baking pans and, most insanely, six varieties of flours, it’s hard argue that an stuffed apartment is truly a deterrent. More accurately, I find it impossible to make decisions. Berebaum’s Bread Bible? Silverton’s La Brea Bakery? Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice? I always thought I wanted this book, but how can one ever know for sure? Thus, I delay and delay, as if owning two bread cookbooks would be a crime against humanity. (Please, speak up if there is a bread book that makes you swoon.)

But it doesn’t mean I’m twiddling my thumbs until new inspiration brings itself home. In fact, I’ve been discovering gems of bread recipes tucked right inside cookbooks I already have. What a concept! Beer breads and cheese breads and oaty fruity rolls and… well, I can’t tell you everything, can I? What suspense is there in that?

dill bread

Still, as I work my way through recipe after recipe, I can’t help but cringe at the well-intentioned but often lacking directions. While I know wordiness can be off-putting, so can “punching” down a bowl of dough? What’s with the white-knuckling? I can assure you, this is entirely unnecessary.

Months ago, I bundled some haphazard bread making advice for you over two posts from notes scribbled in the margins of recipes from my ICE bread-baking class. But we’re dozens of loaves beyond of that now, so I tried today to whittle down to a simpler list and hopefully more usable list:

Eight Tips for Less Intimidating Bread

1. You don’t “need” a food processor or KitchenAid to make bread dough. You might find it a little easier for a machine to do the mixing for you, but at least personally, it makes my life easier to save dishes. I mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon, getting it as combined as possible, and dump it out onto a floured counter for kneading. Kneading does a great job of making sure everything is nicely mixed. In a further act of dish-saving, I then rinse, dry and oil (Pam or other cooking sprays work great here) and use it for the first rise.

kneaded dough, ready to rise

2. When kneading your dough, there are a zillion different approaches, but as long as you are folding, pushing out on and turning your dough, you’ll be just fine, and even if you have no idea what you are doing. Kneading assures that the inside, outside and all parts of the dough come together smoothly. You’re done when you have a nice “sproingy” round, something that seems cohesive, pliable and elastic. Even if you hate getting your hands or the counter very gunky, resist the urge to over-flour a loaf; all that extra flour will just toughen up the end-product. If there is a bit stuck to the counter when you are kneading, use a bench scraper to pick it up and shove it right back into the loaf.

lightly floured fingersbuddha belly, poked

3. Can’t tell if your dough is “doubled” yet? Put away the ruler. Dip two fingers lightly in flour, brushing off any extra, and press them right down into the dough’s Buddha belly. If the hole stays indented and does not spring back, you’re good. Turn the dough exactly as it is onto a floured surface. It will make a satisfying thwunk.

press, don't punch

4. I can’t think of a single good reason to “punch” down, and knuckle up, your dough. Such brutality! Once it’s on the floured counter, gently deflate it by sprinkling the top with flour, and pressing your hands flat onto it, like you were tamping down a too-fluffy pillow (could there be such a thing?). As you press it all over with your flattened palms, try to push it into a rectangular or square shape. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just a suggestion of the form. No need to overwork the dough here, you’re doing just fine. Pat yourself on the back, even, leaving others to ponder who gave you that floury hand print.

easy-peasy loaf form

5. If you are forming a round loaf, fold this square/rectangle into fourths, tuck the corners underneath, and gently rotate it with lightly floured hands, stretching the top over the round and tucking, tucking, tucking under the base. With some practice, a nice stretchy, tense top should form. Move this loaf to whatever cornmeal-sprinkled surface you will use for your final rising. If you are forming a loaf to fit in a traditional loaf pan, figure out which side of your parallelogram more closely approximates the width of the pan, and with that as your sides, fold one third of your dough up from the bottom, into the center, and one third of the dough down from the top, over the center. Turn the loaf over so it is seam side down, tuck the sides under slightly if necessary to make it fit, and drop the loaf in your prepared pan.

formed loaf, ready for second rise

6. You don’t “need” a pizza peel to slide your free-form breads onto a stone in the oven. Place your formed loaves (or even pizza) on a cornmeal-sprinkled piece of parchment paper on the back of a baking sheet. When it’s time, open up the oven, pull out the rack with the stone on it, and slide the loaf, parchment paper and all, right onto the stone. Not only does the bread bake just fine on the parchment paper, you’ve kept your stone pretty clean. Don’t have a pizza stone? Bake it right on that upside-down baking sheet, as is.

second rising, complete

7. I recently made a pumpernickel bread that told me to take the bread out after an approximate range of time, or when it was “nicely browned.” Hrmph. Although I try to keep things simple, minimizing the number of gadgets and tools I recommend, this is one place that an instant-read thermometer can save you much anxiety. When you’re pretty sure the loaf is done, with a pot holder and a towel, flip the loaf upside down (or onto the towel in your hand, and out of its pan) and take the bread baby’s temperature from the bottom. 220 degrees is oven considered the magic number, but I find it rare that anything but a plain, flour/water/yeast/salt loaf to get up that high, and sometimes not even those. Aim for 210 to 220, and if you have onions, seeds, egg, butter or oils in your bread, aim for 200 to 210. If it reads 180 degrees but looks good, put it back anyway; it’s almost guaranteed to be gummy in the middle. If you come back five minutes later and it’s but 190 and ten minutes after that, still at 190 and so on, take it out. Sometimes breads get “stuck” at a temperature that is lower than it “should” be and as terrifically confusing this step sounds when I promised you I would try to make bread-making easier, just bear with me on this part. I promise, it works.

180 is not hot enough

8. Two things I really can’t live without: Flour in a little shaker container: I borrowed this idea from Michael Chiarello on the Food Network. I keep this in the fridge, and grab it whenever I am making cookies, a tart dough or bread. It coats so evenly, I really don’t know what I did before. Bread enhancer/gluten additive: I use Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, but I know that other brands exist. Though each variety is different, most have an amount you can add to each cup of flour (in this case, one tablespoon) to make your bread more wonderful. Soft, springy, flavorful. Though I have six flours in the pantry, I almost never keep bread flour, using a combination of this and white flour instead. This is especially helpful when working with lower-gluten flours such as whole grains and whole wheat.

flour shaker godsend thing

Finally, I want to thank the Joy of Cooking’s Dill Bread for being such an excellent model today, and for filling our apartment with the best aroma. Alex was totally wrong when he called your combination of fresh herbs, onion, honey and cottage cheese “ew,” as you are truly delicious.

Dill Bread
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Makes one 9×5-inch loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water
3 cups bread flour (I replaced 1/2 cup of this flour with whole wheat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill or dill seeds
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon wheat germ, toasted
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg

Optional, for top of bread:
1 egg, lightly beaten, or 1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or a few dill seeds

Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about five minutes.

Combine flour, onions, dill, sugar or honey, wheat germ and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the yeast along with the cottage cheese and egg. Mix by hand or on low speed until the dough comes together, addition additional flour or warm water if needed. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Grease a 9×5-inch (8-cup) loaf pan. Punch Gently press the dough down, form into a loaf and place seam side down in the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. If desired, brush the top of loaf with the egg or melted butter, and then sprinkle with the additional salt or dill seeds. (I highly recommend the butter/salt combination.)

Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 40 minutes. (My bread read just about 200°F on a thermometer when I took it out.) Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

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136 comments on for beaming, bewitching breads

  1. Hi Deb! I just started reading your blog and love it– the photos, writing, everything. Thanks so much for this post– I’ve entered very slowly and cautiously into the baking bread world and love the way you’ve demystified some of my biggest concerns. Now I can go forth and be creative without fearing the consequence!

    By the way I made your banana bread last week and it was DELICIOUS!

  2. Deb,
    Thanks for doing the one thing that Joy of Cooking doesnt- show pictures of how delectible the recipes are. I was salivating just looking at the pictures and I could almost smell the herbs as I made my way through the post. I will be pulling my (extremely well-worn) copy out over the long weekend… Thanks for the inspiration!


  3. thanks for all the tips! i can make almost everything, but my breads are always lacking… i’m going to read over your post again next time i get set to make some more bread. which will hopefully be soon! thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Alright, we’ve had this conversation before – bread scares me! I think I’ve come up with the area of difficulty that I face, the kneading. Even the word makes me cringe. It needs to be kneaded. But, for how long? Can you over do it? I feel so imbecilic when it comes to bread. This what man has been living on forever and I have only mastered pizza dough.

    Also, I love the tip on the flour. I have an empty jar that will be perfect for that task. :)

  5. Sara

    Hi Deb, I lurk on your blog frequently (love it!) and thought I’d weigh in on the bread book. I love Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, especially his recipe for the best ever raisin walnut bread, but if I had to pick just one, I’d choose Beranbaum’s. If you’d like more info on RLB’s book, check out my friend’s blog– She baked all 82 of the breads from the Bread Bible last year!

    I’ve never checked out Joy of Cooking for bread, but this dill bread looks fantastic!

  6. deb

    Liz — Looks great but Amazon doesn’t have it. I’ll keep my eye out, though. Thank you.

    Deborah — I will put the recipe up later, but it is wonderful. A total winner.

    Connie — Oh no! What goes wrong? Maybe (maybe) I can help?

    Holly — Bread Bible, got it. I suspected that it would be a lot of people’s choices but tell me, she’s so exacting sometimes. It’s not too fussy, is it? Also, can you use packaged yeast, or would you need a started (I know she gets into this at some point…). Thank you.

    Sara — Another for Beranbaum! And one for Reinhart. Thank you. And that blog link — fantastic. Thank you thank you. P.S. You’ve seen Beranbaum’s blog? (I have a link up on the side.) She’s so wonderfully responsive to her readers. I’m constantly impressed.

    Jenifer — If you made pizza, you know what you’re doing. It’s impossible to over-knead bread by hand, as my professor said, “unless you’re He-Man or something.” It is possible, however, in a machine. Another good reason to mix by hand.

    Chellie — I just made a bread from that Hensperger book (more on that soon, I hope) and it was wonderful. I mean, the best bread I’ve ever made. A ton of whole grains and no… dry or heaviness. I’m glad to hear others love it. And I counted your Beranbaum vote, too. Thank you.

  7. I make bread all the time…half the time by hand, half the time using the dough cycle of my abm. I love making bread by hand. It is therapeutic. I also have friends who are so intimidated by baking bread. I think I’ll forward this post of yours on to them so they can see how non-intimidating it can be.

  8. I learned how to make bread from James Beard’s Beard on Bread. It’s not too radical, and you have to cut his salt at least in half, but it was a good user-friendly demystifying introduction. I have The Bread Bible but haven’t baked out of it yet… I keep saying I’m going to bake bread this winter but so far have been really lame on that count.

    I did, however, grab an idea from your wayback machine and made the heart-shaped Cherry-Chocolate Scones for Valentine’s Day — did just what the recipe suggested and whipped them up the night before, cut them out, and refrigerated them, and then baked them off in the morning while I was still squinting at my coffee. Super-easy and SUPER-good — and my Love Object was completely delighted to have warm baked goods first thing in the morning. As was I. As were my coworkers. As would anyone.

  9. Camilla

    OK, so I’m totally not a cookbook-obsessed blog-stalker in any way, I swear! But I do have an easily-accessed professional connection to get you a copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible! Happy to send it along once I get it from my contact at Norton, though it might take a couple of weeks to mail as I’m on vacation, yay!

  10. I’ve always wanted to make my own bread, but it has always looked so intimidating. Thanks to your post, i think i am ready to take the plunge into the world of breads. Thank you! Wish me luck!

  11. That bread looks wonderful! I bake bread quite a lot, yet still found your instructions helpful. I’ve never tried the instant thermometer thing to test for doneness. But I flip the bread around and ‘knock-knock’ at the base of my bread. If is echoes back and ‘sounds done’, then it’s done (I know, incredibly vague, but that’s what my grandmother told me to do. Works for me)

  12. Oh now that’s an inspiring post! I was just thinking of trying to bake bread and there you are with such fantastic instructions! I am bookmarking this page for reference. Thank you!

  13. Deb – your breads are always stunning! Such an inspiration!

    I have “Dough” and I love that book (and the DVD that comes with it). After I made Bertinet’s pizza recipe, my husband won’t let me try another one!

  14. LyB

    Oh, Deb, the pictures! That bread looks soooooo good! Red onions, mmmmm! I’m still obsessed with the No-Knead bread, trying different combinations of add-ins during the 2 hour resting period, but this Dill Bread I will definitely try. Thanks for the recipe and the tips!

  15. Very comprehensive and wonderful photos to boot.

    We love good homemade bread but I am still somewhat leery of the process, although I cannot say why. I recently just made a loaf of kamut bread (all by hand) for the F&W 100, and it was wonderful. Somebody slap me and get me over that hump!

  16. Thanks for such a wonderful description of the bread-baking process. I, too, am a believer in kneading by hand. To me that is the entire joy of making bread. I love feeling the dough develop, and it’s wonderful when you can feel yourself getting in the rhythm of kneading. I’ve made this dill bread, too — a wonderful recipe!

  17. I have that Dough book. It is GLORIOUS and comes with a bonus dvd of a hot Frenchman demonstrating some of the very fun hand-kneading techniques. Highly recommended!

  18. Susanne

    Thanks for the tip about how to take the temp of the bread baby. Re: flour King Arthur also produces great flour for breads.

    My mom gave me her recipe for English muffins that I’ll have to share with you. There’s somewhat labor intensive since you cook them on a skillet, but people are always impressed by them. “I didn’t know you make English muffins from scratch.” Like they only come from Thomas’!

  19. Beautiful bread!

    Save me the trouble of looking back: what pasta cranky thing did you buy? I need one.

    Also, I burnt out another hand mixer. Suggestion on which new one to get?

  20. I have both the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and the KA Food Processor – but I still prefer to make bread by hand – something about the feel of it & I think it is always better when hand made.

    I also have a really bad habit of getting a lot of my cookbook fixes from the local library.

  21. Rose Marie

    Yummy looking. Since getting my bread machine I haven’t made bread the “ole fashioned way.” So my question is, can I adapt this recipe for my bread machine? OK it was a 2 part question, if so then how do I adapt it?
    I don’t know if I have said this before but I love this site. The recipes and pictures are great. I collect cookbooks and recipes myself and since moving I know what limited space is all about.
    Keep on doing what you are doing.

  22. 2 must have bread books: Beard on Bread-James Beard’s bread book, might be out of print but easy to find. Crust & Crumb: Master Formulas For Serious Bakers: Books: Peter Reinhart is a must have.

  23. Marian

    A World of Breads by Dolores Casella 1966 is worth looking for. It has all every type of bake goods you would want and simply done.

  24. You lost me at parallelogram…and is it just me, or am I the only guy who comments?

    When you’re famous, at least I can say “Deb? Oh, yeah, I know her from way back.”

  25. This is such a helpful post -thank you!!! All of these tips are demystifying this whole process. I’m gunna make bread this weekend, I swear. Now I definitely don’t have any excuse!!

  26. leigh

    I have most of the bread books mentioned (and love and use them all) but my latest form of entertainment is Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads (ISBN-13- 978-0-7432-3472-6 currently available from Amazon). This was recommended by a friend of mine who ran her own small bakery/catering shop for years and I can vouch for the recipes and also for the ease/lack of intimidation of this book. It’s the one I reach for when I just want to make wonderful bread for dinner rather than engaging in a science project. I do use the KitchenAid MIxer my son got me for Xmas (bless him it’s better than a sports car as far as I’m concerned) or the food processor to mix/partially knead my dough but in the end I have to get my hands dirty and finish it on the board. That said I’m signing off to go try your Dill Bread :-)

  27. After tossing one absolutely stunning sourdough loaf into the trash because it was, uhm, goop, on the inside, I’m thrilled to get the temperature trick…I shall have to invest!

    And THANK you for the trick on how to check for doubling. I always just eyeball it, but your idea is much more fun. :)

  28. Eclecticaesthetics

    I always go back to Real Bread by Baylis & Castle. It was a book club choice twenty some years ago and it’s been invaluable ever since. I haven’t tried every recipe yet, but every one I have made is wonderful.
    When in doubt about using my book budget, I order the contenders to my library and inspect every page.

  29. Wow — thanks so much! Bread is one of those “easy as pie” kind of things that people assume everyone knows the shortcuts/tricks/tips for, but that is still intimidating to me (especially since there are so many off-putting instructions out there — e.g. punching down the loaf.) I wish I’d had enough foresight to ask my dear Grandma how she made her heavenly loaves — she must have made thousands in her lifetime, even grinding her own flour well into her 80s. But enough about her…Thanks for sharing your secrets!

  30. me7c7v

    I highy recommend The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. It’s really amazing. Not only does it have recipes, it also explains thoroughly the reasoning behind the recipes, so you can mess with them, or use them to mess with other recipes, as you feel the need to. Or even invent your own!!! But that’s a bit scary for me, yet.

  31. Tim

    Cook book – well bread book really – as a recommendation is by Dean Bretschneider and is called The New Zealand Baker. He is a commercial bread baker turned writer. The book is great because it explains a lot of the technical bits behind why a recipe works or does not. Really an interesting read if you are a bread freek!

  32. This is the first time I’ve seen a recipe for dill bread like this one. I have one my grandmother used to make, that I now make around the holidays, which is somewhat similar to this one – no onions, though, but lots of butter and kosher salt sprinkled over it when it comes out. I will have to try this one, though, just to compare! Both contain the cottage cheese, too. Crazy!

  33. My favorite bread book is the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I think I’ve used it more than any other recipe book I own. I even read it cover to cover, like a novel. Definitely check this book out.

  34. I have the books by Reinhart, Beranbaum, and Silverton, as well as Clayton’s. Of these, I would heartily recommend Beranbaum (she’s a great teacher, and the book reflects that), and Reinart next (again, great teacher, but the book isn’t as good as Rose’s). I would hold off Silverton until you’re much further along in your bread journey. Her stuff tends to be rather wasteful with ingredients and geared towards larger volumes of baked goods.

    Clayton, I wouldn’t recommend so much. Killer cornbread recipe, but it’s just not a good book. Recipes are not always clear, and are way more complicated than they have to be.

    Mark Bittman has some amazing bread recipes in his cookbook (except for the french baguettes).

  35. Hello,
    Its my first time on ur blog and i must say that bread looks delicious.I must confess that baking bread is something i’ve dreaded …not knowing how it will turn out but i love the way you have shown the procedure step by step.I will definately give this a go .Great pictures too.

  36. Jim


    I swear by King Arthur Flour’s 200th Anniversary Cookbook. Lot’s of explanations for the why and how of everything, including making English Muffins, and Croissants from scratch (real 128 layer croissants). Easy to start for beginners. Pancake’s anyone?

  37. Jezzie

    My goodness, your world has exploded while I was in college full time. 50 posts! If you see this post I just popped in to say… your hands have become that most beautiful of things, a cooks hands :)
    All that practice with your bread baby means those hands are prepped to cradle an oh so fragrant small head in the (when u are ready) future :)
    Not to mention other chunky, warm bundles’ temperature you take from the bottom.
    You know I am kidding. But your hands, Deb, they remind of my mothers, and mine. Look at your mothers hands, you’ll see what I mean. They have a capability, and a gentle strength.

  38. DianeF

    Just stumbled onto this site and frankly can’t wait to spend time going through back articles/posts, Deb!

    I love bread…making it and more importantly eat it. (have been on South Beach, though for the last year…because I guess I like it too much. :-) ) But a book that I got turned onto and had to hunt down on Amazon is “Amy’s Breads” (have you ever been there Deb? I’m just dying to go next trip into NYC) by Amy Scherber & Toy Kim Dupree. The Maple Walnut & Fig Bread (it’s a dense loaf but OMG I just love it!) and the Fresh Rosemary Bread with Olive Oil…and the Rustic Rounds of Black Olive and Sweet Red Pepper…todiefor!

    I used sell handcrafted soap at a farmer’s market in Lynbrook on Sundays and there was a baker from Jersey who used to sell the most outrageous Garlic and Mozzarella bread…after they were set up I’d buy a couple of loaves to take home to my ever appreciative family (soooo good sliced and toasted!)…my goodness were those warm loaves exquisite with their swirl of garlicky mozzarella throughout…

    Yes…I guess I need to stay on SBD for my own good… ;-)

  39. Matt

    Give this a shot with chives and thyme in place of dill! Excellent, either way.

    Oh, yeah, nice site. I practically live here, although this is my first post.

  40. I tried making bread (Irish Soda Bread) for the first time last week and it turned out better than expected. I am now addicted to baking bread and think this recipe looks fabulous (not to mention probably smells amazing while baking). And of course another great pic.

  41. Tracy

    I am a VERY belated guest of your site, but have now found a way too fill hours of my time each week. I swoon over your every post, yet feel compelled to respond to this old one.

    If you do not own the Bread Bible yet, track down a copy. The Raisin Pecan bread will reaffirm any waivering religious beliefs of those who are lucky enough to consume it.

  42. Amy

    I just made this today on my day off (yay!) with fresh sage instead of dill (I only like dill with pickles) and shallots instead of onions (I ran out of onions, somehow!) … It was divine and the house smelled GREAT! I love to make bread but I haven’t had too many great results, but this definitely was one. Mmmm… Thanks for the awesome recipe and tips!

  43. that’s an amazing post. thank you for all that information. and the bread looks lovely – i really do need to buy myself a thermometer. and the flour in a shaker is a great idea!!

  44. HansGustav

    Am enjoying your blog. On the bread issue, every loaf of bread I’ve baked, although pretty delicious, still seems to be lacking. I visit bakeries and see these wonderful loaves of bread that are smooth and soft, and the interior of the bread is silky smooth. It always makes me want to throw rocks at mine, which invariably turns out a bit coarse and crumbly, so crumbly, in fact, that a sandwich made from it will crumble and fall apart in your hands. What do I need to do? More time rising? More kneading? I’m at a bit of a loss. Sign me, “Bummed in Bangkok”.

  45. Starla

    This was way helpful. I made roll dough for the first time the other day and it rose initially, then after I divided it up to make rolls- it didn’t rise again. I was sad. I think I had too much flour in it. Do you have any tips for adjusting recipes for different types of flour? My recipe called for white flour and I used wheat. How does this affect it?

  46. Michael the new baker

    As a novice cook (and therefor baker) I have tried and (failed) at challah, sourdough, Jewish rye, white mountain and whole wheat breads, using various recipes.

    I hope that the tips I got here will make me a better baker.

    I started baking bread for the therapeutic connection to my diet. As a diabetic, it may not have been the best choice but I give away about half of what I make.

    I have been considering an ABM or at least a good mixer but I get a real connection to the bread when it’s in my hands.

  47. Kate

    Bread, by Richard Bertinet, was my first bread-specific cookbook, and TOTALLY worth every penny. I have had great success with the recipes in this book. I also love Berebaum’s Bread Bible, but nothing makes me swoon like Bertinet’s beautifully illustrated book. I liked it so much that i went out and and bought his other book, Crust, two weeks later. (Also definitely worth it)

  48. Ted

    Great post on an incredibly delicious bread. Did anyone else find the final product to be a bit too salty? I was surprised to find that 1 cup of the cottage cheese I used had nearly 40 percent of the RDA for sodium.

  49. Marco

    Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman is the best bread book. Period.

    I learned how to make bread using Peter Rinehart’s books and, I must say, they are excellent and inspiring books. But to perfect your bread-making, especially if you’re an advanced baker, get this one.

  50. Krissy

    Quick question – Does the cottage cheese in this recipe give a slight cheesy taste to the recipe? Or is it primarily to help moisten the bread? I’m curious, because I think some shredded cheddar cheese might be a nice addition, if the bread doesn’t already have a cheese flavor (even if it’s subtle). Thanks!

    1. deb

      Hi Krissy — I wouldn’t say the flavor is very cheesy, because cottage cheese (to me) doesn’t have a very cheesy taste. I am sure cheddar could be great it in. They’re not swaps, though, they act very differently in recipes. (You probably already knew that, but just in case.)

  51. jayne

    I stumbled on your website some time ago and think it is great. I make the chocolate Guinness cupcakes all the time, but, with a caramel swiss buttercream frosting. Just want to chime in on cook books for bread which I love to make. I found Bernard Clayton’s “New Complete Book of breadfs”. With directions for hand, stand and processor mixing, it has become my breadmaking bible.

  52. Kelsey

    Hi Deb,

    I love your site and have tried a number of your recipes; they’re fantastic! Thanks for demystifying kneading for me. Last week I made the dill bread, and yesterday I made the buttermilk potato bread on the same page as the dill in JoC. Yum!

    Here’s my problem (I know you’re not in the kitchen with me, so you can’t say for sure, but I’m hoping you can help me out a bit here); when I make bread it always ends up really flat ( roughly 2 inches high)–delicious, but flat. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I don’t mix it in a food processor. Any ideas? I’ve also had this problem with the no knead style bread I’ve made.

    Thanks again for the great site!

    1. deb

      Hi Kelsey — Thanks. It will help me to know what recipes are flattening out on you. (I can only vouch for my own, of course, since I’ve tried them.) In general, the obvious issues could be your yeast (maybe it’s no good, even if the date says it should be), letting the bread rise too (this can happen in a warmer kitchen/apartment much faster, as I am learning in my own!) or altitude. Are at a high one?

  53. Kelsey

    Hi Deb.

    Thanks for your quick response!

    Both the JoC Dill Bread, and the Buttermilk Potato Bread were flat. I have Red Star yeast in jar, which I keep in the freezer (per suggestion on Michael Ruhlman’s blog). Perhaps it shouldn’t be in the freezer?

    Altitude shouldn’t be a problem since I’m in Chicago.

    Letting the bread rise too much? I don’t think my apartment is very warm at all, so for the dill bread I actually put the bowl containing the dough in a pan of warm water to simulate a warmer place. The potato bread I let rise in the fridge overnight (it did well), and then again during the day while I was at work for the second rise. It seemed flat when I got home, so I took it out and let it rise more on the counter. It rose more, but neither of these breads ever rose above the rim of the loaf pan. It’s an aluminum loaf pan; I don’t know if that’s an issue.

    Thanks for your suggestions; I appreciate any help I can get :)

    1. deb

      Red Star makes both active and instant yeast, right? (Just making sure you’re using the right stuff for the right recipe. And forgive the dumb questions, just trying to rule out obvious mistakes.) Freezer is a great place to keep yeast (I use the fridge… but now I might switch)… which means I’m stumped. Now, I don’t think think that the potato bread is the, say, tallest bread but I definitely got a good rise out of this one, as you can see. I’ll chime back in if I can think of something else — otherwise, I hope another bread-savvy reader will chime in!

  54. Hey Deb, what does it mean when your breads taste/smell yeasty? Bakery bread never seems to be yeasty but sometimes (often) it happens with homemade stuff. Is it just too much yeast, or a bad type of yeast (ie. the little packages – though I’ve never used an entire package at once)?
    Thanks, O bread goddess!

  55. Kim

    Deb, I love your site and have made quite a few things from it (we loved them all). I have made some no knead bread recently and want to make the move to “real” bread, but am a bit afraid. I know it is unreasonable to be afraid of flour and water, but I am. Do you have a suggestion for a book for bread baking? I will do fine with good instruction. I had hoped to take a class but there just aren’t any in my town and I can’t drive the 11/2 hours to Denver. Any suggestions for a great bread book (suitable for a new bread baker) would be great! Thanks

  56. Edan

    Hi Deb, I bake a lot of bread, and I like to make two loaves at once, but I hate feeling like I have to rush through them before they start to go stale. I would like to freeze half my dough, but I’m not sure at what point to freeze it.
    I was thinking I could freeze it after the first rise, then defrost on the counter, form into a loaf, let rise a second time, and then bake? Would that be the way to go, do you think?

  57. deb

    I know you can refrigerate doughs at almost any point in the process; you take it out, bring it back to r/t and pick up where you left off. In theory, the same should system would work in the freezer, it would just take longer for it to cool and longer for it to defrost.

    I actually freeze bread after I bake it; it’s almost the only thing I don’t mind eaten after it’s been frozen. I think it keeps the moisture/texture best in there, and I don’t feel rushed.

  58. Devon

    Hi Deb:

    I made the Peter Reinhold bagels this morning and while delicious, mine were kind of flat. About half as tall as I think they should be. I use Red Star in the jar and keep it in fridge. I did get a nice sponge, so I think the yeast is ok. So I am wondering if it is my gluten content. I used all-purpose flour and added Bob’s RM gluten but only used 1 tsp per cup. Then read here that you use 1 Tbls per cup. So for the 7.75 cups for the bagels, you would add 7.75 tbls of gluten? And are you substituting gluten for flour or adding to the flour? Any ideas or thoughts would be very much appreciated.

    Your bagels are so beautiful and tall, like I like them. I have been pining for these for months. If you have an extra 1000 hits or so on that recipe, it’s just me. First it was, “Now, how do I make these again”? Now, “What did I do wrong? What, what, what!”

  59. Devon

    Thanks Deb! They didn’t look like they had risen enough but I thought maybe they would puff more when boiling. I will have to get right back in the saddle and try them again this week.

    About adding gluten to your flour, you add a tbls/cup flour with out removing any volume from the flour? In other words, adding, not subbing?

    Thanks again for the advise! This world of yeast is new to me.

  60. The loaf of bread just came out of my oven fresh. It’s my first time making bread and making this bread. It’s 12:40am and I am ready for a late night snack ;)

  61. Heather McPherson

    Ate two slices of this bread while still warm – wonderful! It deserves a listing in your index as there is no way to look up “Dill Bread”

  62. i have a question on freezing bread dough… i am going to a potluck at a friend’s house and want to bring soft pretzels – yum! but, i am working until 4:30 pm, and it starts at 6. no time to mix, rise, boil, and bake…. can i freeze the formed dough after the baking soda bath? then leave them out at room temp from lunch break til after work to thaw, and bake them when i get home? or should i freeze before the bath – i’d have time to boil and bake after work, and i think being a few minutes late would be tolerated if i had fresh pretzels in tow!

    thanks so much!

  63. Hillary

    Ah, Deb, ever so helpful! Great pointers with the upside-down cookie sheetl, and the flour shaker is brilliant! I’m new to the world of bread baking, and have just been picking up pointers from friends (and my friend the internet).
    The only bread I’ve attempted successfully is the Pan de Muerto – the bread for Dia de los Muertos, somewhat sweet with anise and orange (and I only went through 8 cups of flour!…but it was so worth it).
    I have heard that adding sugar to the yeast/water mixture helps because it gives the yeast something to “eat.” I don’t know bread science well enough to understand that, so I’m wondering what it means/if it’s true? I see it in some recipes and not in others. Sometimes I see salt in there too (a la James Beard).
    Also, if you have a cold, Philadelphia apartment (not speaking from personal experience here) and can’t seem to find a warm enough place for the dough to rise, will it rise with extended time, or does it NEED that warmth? If so, how warm is too warm (I’m thinking on top of the heater here).
    If you could help I’d be muuuch obliged!!! As always, I truly love your site!

  64. Hillary

    Thanks Deb! I made your bread, along with your great tips, and it was delicious! I had to adapt the recipe (didn’t have cottage cheese so I subbed Greek Yogurt – I was concerned but it bore no adverse effects), and I made it with onions, rosemary, and sesame seeds. I was beaming when I took it out of the oven – thank you, a million times thank you!

  65. Deb – Today’s Sally Lunn bread post has me sleuthing through all your other bread recipes and I have a question about loaf pans. Most recipes seem to call for 9x5x3″ pans. But mine are 8.5×4.5×2.5″ I’ve had some intermittent trouble with loaves not cooking through, and am unsure as to whether to blame the pan or the recipe. Will I be better off with 9x5x3″ pans in the long run?

  66. Hi, I’ve been reading up on some of your blog. My husband got me started on your maple oat scones. they turned out great.

    I’m really interested in this Dill bread and my husband went to get fresh dill. No easy to get where I’m from. Anyway, is there anything i can use instead of wheat germ (another hard to fine and expensive) or can I sub with wholewheat flour. And cottage cheese…can I use yogurt or cheddar? I would really like to try this bread. Hope you can help. Thanks.

  67. Liz

    Hi, I love your website and I followed a link here from your famous Challah recipe. I have been baking bread for many years and generally use all whole wheat and grind my own flour. To learn to make fluffy, perfect, soft 100% whole wheat bread without gluten flour, follow the directions in Laurel’s Kitchen. Their loaf of learning will change your bread making forever. No one can believe my bread does not use white flour and it is all in the technique. Gluten flour is a great shortcut, but for truly fabulous bread, Laurel’s Kitchen in the best. I also have their bread book, but honestly their naturally leavened breads are too much work for my lifestyle.

    I used to knead by hand, but feeding teenagers and baking my own bread makes it impractical. The best machine for bread is the Bosch Mixer. I cannot do better by hand.

  68. Liz

    One more thing, The Joy of Cooking is my favorite cookbook ever. I prefer the old editions with information on things like how to skin a squirrel. Also all the rest you mentioned, I second. I do not own a peel, a stone or any fancy bread things. My breads are locally famous. Also thanks to you I do a double egg wash now and it is much better.

  69. Liz

    I remembered something else. The reason to punch down dough is so the littlest children can get involved. My mom would let us take turns punching to dough and the feeling it made will be with me forever. Without children there is no need, but it is such a great feeling when the tiny fist feels the dough sigh and collapse all around it.

  70. Michelle

    When I was taught to bake bread as a child, I was told to keep adding flour as I kneaded until it was no longer sticky. I’ve started to suspect that this is too much, and I’m trying to mend my ways and “resist the urge to over-flour the loaf,” as you say. But now I’m second-guessing myself when the dough sticks all over my hands and table. How do I know when I’ve added enough flour, and how sticky is too sticky?

    1. deb

      There’s almost no such thing as too sticky! There’s only too sticky for it to be easy for you to move it around on a counter. Sticky breads have less flour in them relative to their liquids; they come out more tender.

  71. Lisa R

    I am an avid fan from Canada. I’ve never posted before, but I thought I’d share a tip. If you’re struggling to find a place 75-80 drgrees to rise your dough and you don’t want to wait for a longer rise you can set your oven to 400 degrees for 60 seconds, no longer. Then turn the oven off and the temp in the oven should be spot on to rise the dough. :) No drafts in there either. haha I read this in a cookbook years ago and it works well for me. I just want to say I love your site. Terrific recipes and beautiful pictures. Thanks!

  72. Lauren

    Excellent photography, AMAZING writing that made me feel like my own mother or grandmother was teaching me the recipe and being funny in the process! :) I shall have to bookmark this site and raid it frequently.

  73. Hi, I know I’m late to the party on this post, but sometimes I like your “Surprise Me” feature. A lot of recipes that require dough rising read to cover with plastic wrap. In the spirit of minimizing new fangled things, couldn’t a damp dish towel work instead? Or a dry dish towel? Thank you!

    1. deb

      Hi Dianna — Most people use a dry dishtowel but I prefer plastic wrap because I want to reduce the risk that the dough will dry/crust on top. But any of the methods you mention would work.

  74. Julie

    Thanks for all this! I’m a long-time reader who just got on the sourdough bandwagon – my starter (just flour and water, 100% hydration) is now ten-days-old, and to my great surprise and delight producing already boules, baguettes and muffins. I was wondering whether you were interested in going down that (addictive) road – it could be a source of wonderful recipes!

  75. Lara

    Hello – it’s me again. This may sound incredibly stupid, but when your recipes dont call for activating the yeast in water, is that stage still neccesary? First time i tried making bread i didn’t activate the yeast, just incorporated into the dough, and the bread didn’t work! Thanks, your favorite London 14 year old
    PS – do you know my godfather David Rakoff?

  76. deb

    The first step here calls for activating.

    Activating is a way to make sure that your active dry yeast works before risking making an entire loaf that doesn’t rise. But it’s not entirely necessary to mix it with warm ingredients separately to get the active dry yeast working. In my Really Simple Pizza, for example, I just throw it in all together. But, of course, if you had bum yeast, you wouldn’t find out until later.

    Instant yeast a.k.a. bread machine or rapid-rise yeast doesn’t require activation. (That’s how it gets its quick name; not, in fact, due to how fast it rises. In fact, I find this kind of yeast to work much more slowly. It’s likely because it was developed at first for bread machines, where ease of assembly — i.e. no separate activation steps, etc. — was paramount to speed — i.e. most people throw the ingredients in the machine and let it work its wonders overnight or a long period of time; it’s not rushed.)

    See how I blather on when asked a simple question? Re, David Rakoff — No? But he sounds pretty awesome.

  77. Meggie

    Thanks for clarifying (in comment 99) about the “too sticky” thing– I’m a good cook, but baking seems like black magic to me, and I’m always worried that sticky dough will be a problem. I make challah almost every week, but no two batches are ever the same, and I feel like I’m always adding more flour to get rid of the stickiness; it’s good to know that a sticky dough isn’t a bad thing.

  78. Elisa B

    Bourke Street Bakery’s book makes me swoon. It has pastries as well as bread recipes. My dad has a copy (not that he has made anything from it yet) and I am immensely envious.

  79. Rachael

    i’ve made your challah bread a few times, and it’s fabulous. i’ve referred several friends who are afraid of making bread to this post, it helped me get over my fear as well. i’m getting ready to tackle the dill bread, but without wheat germ… here’s hoping it comes out okay! thanks for your awesome food :)

  80. Johanna

    This is, obviously, years late.
    I got Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook recently. It is my favorite cookbook. No lie, I sit up at night after the baby goes to bed and read this thing. It’s huge and beautiful with wonderful pictures. There are very clear directions for all the recipes and tiny histories of recipes. So much bread. So many pastries. Everything from baguettes to financiers to tarts to caramel corn.
    Flours? This weekend I bought my sixth. When I walked in from the store I put it on the counter and said to my husband, “I don’t want to talk about it.” But I do. I want to talk about all of them. I’ve been bitten by the bread bug.
    This weekend I’ll be adding onions. Thanks for another great recipe.

  81. Hi. Just found your site. New to computers. I was looking for a Cottage Cheese Dill Bread like my mom used to make. Yours looks good! Love the pictures!! I would like to know if the cheese is creamed or dry please? Thank You.

  82. I’ve had terrible luck with baking here in Mongolia, be it with bread or sweets, and I’m hoping you can give me some tips on how to adapt my recipes. I’m guessing there are two factors mucking with my baking: the altitude (4200 feet) and the fact that I’m baking in a dinky little toaster oven. Having the bread so close to the heating elements seems always to result in burned crust and undercooked crumb. Any suggestions on how to counter that?

  83. Irina

    Deb, you just have to trust me on this: Chad Robertson, “Tartine Bread”. It is NOT a cookbook. But if you are passionate about bread baking – get the book. You would NOT be disappointed. You will wonder, how you lived without it before. I have nothing more to say. Just do it.

  84. deb

    This a standard loaf pan so it’s the same number you’d get from any other loaf this size/shape, depending on how thick you slice it. I think 16 is a frequent estimate.

  85. jo

    Loved ur recipe. I bake couple of simple breads and am always looking for some variations in bread. My family loves dill. So this recipe is a must try. Just one doubt – what can i use instead of cottage cheese? or if i skip that will the bread be too dry?

  86. Lara

    Hi, Deb!
    I was always wary of working with yeast, but after making your Better Chocolate Babka, I have decided there was nothing to it! So I bravely ventured into breads and just finished making Martha Stewart’s Basic White Bread recipe. While it turned out OK overall, the crust is a bit too hard for my taste. Do you think it is because of the initial temperature? The recipe called for 425 F for 15 min, and then 375 F for 45 min. The inside was 205 F, but I could barely punch my thermometer through the crust! :)
    Any advice?

    Thank you!

  87. Mark

    My mother taught me to make bread (with plenty of unbaked yeasty dough rewards), and I was lucky enough to live in university housing full of back-to-the-earth hippies where we made a dozen loaves every evening for the next day’s breakfasts and lunches (1/3 were gone in the first 10 minutes out of the oven). That is to say, hands-on bread-making has been going on mostly every week for well over 40 years in my house. Kneading bread is my spiritual practice. The smell of yeast, my incense.

    The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is the bread book I turn to when I want to really understand what’s going on, to up my game. But 52 Loaves was eye-opening (and a great story), spurring me to develop my own levain from apples grown on our plot of land—with our own very local yeast haze.

    The way I see it, bread-making is a lifelong pursuit. There’s the science, the art, and the craft—I’ll never master it all, but if I use the same recipe week after week, I figure I’m working on perfecting the craft (and understanding the science). And when I get bored with those, it’s time for the art.

    I add a mashed potato or two to every batch—it gives the loaves better shelf-life (I also don’t refrigerate, nor freeze, our bread) and keeps them moist. Adding milk (or milk powder) also boosts the protein.

    One recent learning is about ovenspring, which happens when I don’t let the loaves rise too long before sliding them into the oven. That is, I make sure the yeast isn’t “tired out” and still has plenty of pop when it hits the (steam) heat of the oven. (Basically, I put more dough in the pans, nearly up to the rim, and let ’em rise to the same point you describe.) The loaves expand fantastically in the first 10 minutes, especially along any artful scores sliced in the tops of the crusts. The loaves just look (and taste) more vital.

  88. Leah

    Deb, my garden is FULL of dill. (Love living in south Texas!) This bread will be made. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. Yours is the prompt I need. Yes, so retro.

  89. Adrien

    I swear by the Tassajara Bread Book. My mom bought it from some hippy commune in Bug Sur back in the seventies and has been baking from it ever since. At some stage she picked up an updated version of the book which she donated to my bread baking education. The hand illustrated guide to the proces alone is worth buying the book for (if you can still find it). It’s a classic.

  90. JenK

    My husband has been making sourdough rye and sourdough with rosemary 3x per week since the NYT No Knead Bread recipe came out in November of 2006. Crusty and wonderful, without kneading. The “secret” is a very wet dough and 18 hours before baking, but it takes so little work, it’s hard to believe the results. Can’t wait to try yours though!

  91. Melissa

    If anyone is curious this makes three 7 3/8x 3 5/8 x 2 1/4″ pans. (Weird measurements but that’s what my pans are…). My grandmother also made this in a casserole, but I forget the size.

    This is my grandmother’s dill bread, and seeing it here (who knows where she got it) with the simple instructions prompted me to make it. It had been too long!
    I set mine to rise on the dryer while I was doing laundry.

  92. Cara

    My bread baked up huge!!! But it’s delicious :)I would absolutely make it again and maybe vary it a little into a round herb bread. I’ve got veggie curry in the crockpot and I’m going to really enjoy my dinner with this bread. My oven is very accurate and i baked it the full 40 mInutes. Deb you are awesome!

  93. Sara U

    I made this yesterday, in an effort to eat this # of dill from our farm share and it is delightful! I used 2c whole wheat, 1 c AP, and one Tbs of gluten, since I didn’t have bread flour and milk because I didn’t have cottage cheese. Anyways it turned out great and I’m wondering what bread book you ultimately recommend because I want one too but also find the vast options intimidating. I am a baker who prefers lots of photos which is why I love your site, and I want a book that just goes over the basic breads, no gimmicks. My best bread I’ve ever made is your fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah…. Thanks for all the inspiration! :-)

  94. Deborah

    Deb, you have inspired me to start cooking again! I found your website when I subscribed to FEEDLY, and have enjoyed every minute spent reading your recipes. I am surprised that you omitted Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads, though. I am a self-taught bread Baker, since the 1970s, and his book did what no other book (at that time) could do: it helped me make a bowl of dough that actually DOUBLED in size. Up to that point, my husband (now EX) suggested that we use my loaves as bricks for the new outdoor fireplace… Happy Holidays! And Thanks for sharing…your cookbooks are on my MUST-HAVE list!

  95. nrstrife

    I’m strolling through your Instagram and happened on this post. I got as far as your request for favorite bread titles, and, without even looking at the comments, just had to add mine, Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. I’ve had it for 30 years and it has never let me down. It’s not the only book I use, but it’s the most comprehensive. No pictures, just recipes that never fail. My copy is falling apart, but you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. It’s OOP, but on Amazon here:

  96. Mary Inchauste

    Just adding some history. Dilly Casserole Bread was a Pillsbury Bake-off winner in 1960, by Leona Schnuelle, Crab Orchard, Nebraska. My mother is from Nebraska, and she frequently made bake-off winner recipes. Even more trivia, my grandmother was runner up winner for Nebraska one year with a chocolate chip mint cake. Our family made this bread on regular basis for years. The back off recipe had instant minced onion and dill seed. has the recipe.

  97. Olympia

    The dill onion bread recipe is brilliant. The suggestion to “gently press the dough” instead of punch it down is right on point. I’ll use the bread for smoked salmon and cream cheese mini sandwiches and more. Thank you.

  98. Nell Lancaster

    It’s probably an indication of how young the blog’s readers are that no one recognizes this recipe for what it is: an improved Dilly Bread, winner of the 1960 Pillsbury Bake-Off and one of the all-time favorites among the many winners since. Dilly Bread is made in a 1.5-2 qt casserole (though of course works fine in a loaf pan), uses small-curd cottage cheese, and calls for instant (dried) minced onion and only 2-2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour; otherwise pretty much the same. I’ve never been much of a bread-maker, but have baked dilly bread more than any other yeast bread in a long life of cooking, helped by starting at age 10. I wonder if the Joy of Cooking authors credit the source…