For the first time in – I can’t even remember – years? I got up this morning and felt like making bread. I used to make bread a lot – around the time Lily was a wee baby. I can distinctly remember patting a very tiny Lil to sleep in her cot one night in a sleep-deprived daze only to realise after a few minutes that I was gently kneading her like a loaf of bread. But life gets busier and bread, while it takes little effort, does require you to be around the house for a chunk of hours so that you can return to your dough after each rising to whup it into shape some more. But today was wet and cold and we had absolutely *nothing* on the agenda – no playdates, no expected guests (so no cleaning), no shopping, no anything by popular demand… so time I had.

The girls were completely absorbed in a complicated make-believe game of teachers and babies and school photos and what-not so I cracked open my copy of the Tassajara Bread book which I bought late last year after reading Amanda’s recommendation.


Here is the Tassajara Bread Book, sitting victoriously on top of The River Cottage Cookbook, whose bread recipe I usually use. I have a soft spot for the Tassajara cookbooks because one of my first cooky books in my collection was this one:


My Mum’s old hippy copy of  Tassajara Cooking which contains awesome line drawings of vegetables


and this fabulous picture of author Edward Espe Brown (and unnamed woman and child), who still teaches zen baking at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Centre (have you seen How to Cook Your Life which Amanda also recommended some time ago? A much older and hairier Edward Brown is the subject of the doco.)


So I made the “sponge” and it was crazy and sticky and I am sorry to say that I had very little faith in all of this at this point because it just seemed way too wet, but I left it to rise, and when I peeked under my damp tea towel after about thirty minutes it looked like an enourmous frothy milk shake. When you see yeast work so thoroughly, you get pretty enthused. And the rest of it worked like a charm.

It certainly isn’t a quick loaf, but boy is it a good one. Light and tasty and all gone in the blink of an eye. We devoured an entire loaf with butter for afternoon tea after returning from the library. (I borrowed Stephen King’s “On Writing” – thanks for the many recommendations!)

I made the “basic” recipe today and I am keen to try more of the numerous variations and then move on to the pastry chapter. Mmm.

You may also like...

14 Responses

  1. amanda says:

    Oh, fun!! I know those loaves are a bit of time, but the results are so delicious, aren’t they? And I’ve really fallen in love with the process. It’s amazing how the steps in the baking set a rhythm to the day sometimes. And I LOVE your mom’s old copy – way cool! 😉

  2. Abigail says:

    Ooh, that sounds so delicious!It’s a small world too; Edward Brown is my brother-in-law’s uncle 🙂

  3. Jane says:

    I have read your blog regularly these last few years. I had my first child around when you had Lily, and remember the funny hands accessory you posted before you took a break from blogging (the one that soothes the little baby by resting like a lead weight on them). Bread sounds yummy. Have you ever made the no-knead bread that has been so popular via Pim and The Minimalist? I hear it is good too, and less effort. Thanks for your blog, I enjoy your thoughts.

  4. Anthony says:

    I have the Tassajara cook book and have been to the Zen centre in San Fransisco. The Tassajra centre is a hard place to get to both geographically and experientially.

  5. I bought this book during my university days, second hand. I never really made much from it because the recipes are too huge for one person. Eventually I married and had kids of my own . During the maternity leave of my second child, it was winter, I decided to learn how too make bread. I used the Laurels Kitchen Bread Book that I still use to day . However your post has inspired me to give the Tassajara Bread Book another look .

  6. Frogdancer says:

    ‘On Writing’ is without doubt the most useful of all of the ‘how to write ‘ books I’ve read. You’ll love it.

  7. If you’re feeling very lazy or pressed for time you might want to try this recipe: mix the ingredients together, bung it in the fridge over night then the next day bring it back to room temperature before chucking it in a cold oven set to 220c for 50 minutes. I’ve started putting the dough into a loaf tin and it works just fine:

  8. Jo says:

    must be this wintery melbourne weather?!? i’ve been ‘baking’ bread all week, I did give up on making bread from scratch though, and instead have been playing with all manner of recipes and then chucking them in the bread machine 😀 it’s not really the same, is it?… the end results have been lovely though (especially with hubby cooked pumpkin soup).thanks for your thoughts on the bread book, i’ve been thinking of buying it and that may be the push that I needed. Jo x

  9. Pip Lincolne says:

    Oh look at your lovely bread! So golden-good, Claire! How ace – you must want to bake all day long again today!!! It’s certainly the weather for soup and bread, methinks. And nothing beats the comforting fragrance of home-baked bread.I love these sloppy, spongy recipes. Bread really shouldn’t be hard work – and a nice wet sponge makes bread bubbly and light and of good crumb. I don’t have this book – I might have to get it now and study up on the tassajara ways, i think!

    Well done you!!!


  10. Kirsty says:

    It looks amazing. I stay away from anything requiring yeast…not sure why. Your bread baking experience almost makes me want to spend the day baking bread tomorrow.

  11. lisa says:

    Yum. Also…take a look at “No Knead Bread” article that appeared in the New York Times in 2006. (Also available via UTube…u get to see wise guy new yorkers talking about and making up this amazing bread). This recipe took the internet by storm. The bread is amazing…and very easy to make up. You do need a camp oven (try your local Disposal or Camping Shop…one of those black cast iron numbers you can use when camping). The end result is an amazing rustic round with open crumb and “cracky”crust. No longer need to splurge on a Phillapa’s rustic bread. I ocassionally throw in half a cup of good wholemeal flour with the 2.5 cups of good high protein white. Enjoy.

  12. whitney says:

    This is so funny. I’m actually going to Tassajara later this month and I had no idea there were cookbooks. I just added them to my wish list!

  13. Stacey says:

    Oh that bread looks yum! I swear I can smell it through my screen.

  14. Simeon says:


    Those cookbooks are just thrilling. Especially the Tassajara book. My dad was was very alternative. He passed away sadly but left me all his books on Indian philosophy, zen and some great vegetarian cookbooks.

    The drawings are amazing there. I tried to find the illustrator. Let’s write to his kids. I’ll try again to contact the publishers. I think he deserves some credit. They are as you say as good as the food.

Leave a Reply