03 August 2012

Bake Your Own Bread - Vienna Bread and Ramblings

Here's where I ended up, but first ...

The weather was just so beautiful this morning! The air has changed and the crickets and katydids know it. Did they get a special message from Mother Nature as soon as the calendar page turned to August ? They've set to their late summer chirping with an energy that is amazing! There's a thrumming sound out in the yard that is hypnotic and urgent, all at the same time. Maybe the cool breeze has energized them as much as it has me!

SB must be listening to the urgency within the message, as he has started harvesting his vegetable bed with a gusto that is truly alarming. I scuffed into the kitchen this morning to find a pile of zucchini, another of tomatoes, another of cucumbers, and another of green beans ... counter space is getting to be an issue! Time to get cracking at making a good big pot of minestrone soup, some zucchini bread for freezing, and pizza sauce!

First things first, though! A minestrone soup for this soft, cool day and some bread to go with it! I haven't baked bread or made soup for a while, as it has been too darn hot. Today, though, there's a wonderful breeze that's fluffing up the curtains and some fair weather clouds that break the heat and glare of the sun ... yes, soup and bread for supper with cold glasses of wine will be perfect!

I decided on Vienna Bread - a recipe from Beth Hensperger's tome, The Bread Bible. She's a girl I can trust when it comes to bread recipes. Vienna bread will have a nice crisp crust, a soft loaf, and will be perfect for dunking in our soup ... or herbed olive oil! The recipe makes three smallish loaves, so I can freeze one and use one for a tapas post later in the week. Perhaps the urgency of the crickets and katydids is making me into a bit of a planner too!

This bread takes a while to make, as it starts with a sponge that requires an hour to 'poof up', a two hour first rise, and a one hour second rise ... then there's the bake time. It was the pertfect bread for today. I was puttering in the kitchen all day, chopping and dicing all that veg for a classic Minestrone Soup (a Marcella Hazan recipe!) and whizzing zucchini to make zucchini bread for the freezer. Tending the bread dough was like tending a sleeping baby ... check every once in a while, flip it around abit, and let it go back to resting.

Pretty loaves made the kitchen smell fantastic and had Eric (The Lodger) drooling when he came through the back door from work.  The soup was ready and we chose a loaf for the table, chopped some rosemary and sprinkled some black pepper and Kosher salt in some olive oil, and sat down to soup for supper! What a day!

As I was browsing my blog reading list, I found Heather's monthly bread share over at girlichef ... well, hey now! Talk about some good bread being baked! Check out her blog post on this month's Bake Your Own Bread  . In the meantime, here's that recipe for Vienna Bread from good old Beth Hensperger! Get busy, folks!

Vienna Bread
a recipe from The Bread Bible- beth hensperger
Sponge Ingredients:
1 c. warm water (109° F)
1 c. warm whole milk (109° F)
1 ½ tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
2 c. bread flour

Whisk the sugar, milk, and water together in a deep bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and whisk to dissolve. Add the flour and beat everything together briskly until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Cover loosely and let sit at room temperature for one hour.
Dough Ingredients:
a scant tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
3 ½ to 4 c. unbleached flour or bread flour

Before Baking:
1 egg beaten with a bit of milk
Sesame seeds for topping

Add the salt, butter, and 1 cup of the flour to the Sponge and stir in well. Thereafter, add ½ c. flour at a time and stir in well. When there remains the last half cup of flour, turn the dough to a floured surface and mix in the dough by kneading and tossing on 1 tbsp. flour at a time. Knead the dough to a soft, pliant, dough that holds its shape when it is balled up and resting – this should take no more than 4 to 5 minutes.

Clean out and grease the deep bowl. Turn the dough ball into the bowl and flip it to coat it with the grease.

Cover loosely and let it rise for 2 hours or until the dough is between two and three times its original size.

Push the dough down gently, turn it onto a floured surface and divide it into three equal pieces. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dough balls into oblong ovals with slightly pointed ends. Place seamside down on the parchment paper, cover loosely and let rise 1 hour.

Half hour before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450° F. Place baking stones on the lowest rack and the middle rack. Just before baking the bread, slash each loaf three times diagonally with a sharp knife or razor blade ( ¼ inch deep slashes), gently brush the loaves with the egg glaze and sprinkle on a generous amount of sesame seeds.

Place the baking sheet on the baking stones in the middle of the oven, immediately turn the oven temperature down to 425° and bake the bread for 10 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 375° F and continue baking for another 25 to 30 minutes – until the  loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the cookie sheets to a rack and cool before slicing.


  1. Still no reprieve from the heat, but that does not keep me from dreaming of home baked bread and a comforting soup.

  2. The nuns where I went to school when I was younger made the most amazing Vienna. I will tuck this one away for a cool fall weekend. Once I go back to school in September I just don't have time to bake a good bread like this during the week. I posted on your delicious green bean salad. We loved it!

  3. Sprout Sara3/8/12 8:30 AM

    I'm here and reading bright and early (as ALWAYS!) Where's the soup though?! I want to see all those fresh veggies!

    I've always adored that swirly olive/oil holder you got in Germany. I've searched for one around here and have never been able to find one. Perhaps online...

    No bread for me. It goes stale before I can eat it all, and I know what you'll say - make bread crumbs! If I did that every time I had a loaf, I'd be able to leave a trail from here to Seattle!

  4. Ummmm. Makes me look forward to the change in weather, whenever it comes. I love that first soup pot after it's been so hot for months! And the bread, well just the aroma alone is worth the effort.

  5. Susan, your description of this bread would make any bakery envious! Bread making is not something I do often, but I may just give this a try - when I finish all my canning projects over the next few days!

    Have a wonderful day!


  6. Now that sounds like the perfect day to me! I seriously feel SO oppressed by the unbearable heat and humidity lately...and when the cool air and a gentle breeze rolls in, it is so revitalizing! I can just imagine the smell of this fantastic bread baking against the glory of the day. Aaaahhhh. Gorgeous loaves, so happy you've brought them to #BakeYourOwnBread this month, Susan! =)

  7. What an inspiration! We are going to do this. Someday!

  8. Your loaves are so beautiful and the final picture with the swirl of seasoned olive oil is amazing. Although my babies only slept this idyllically in my memories your post is lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this with BYOB!

  9. I have just taken 2 loaves out of the oven so reading this post is like having smell-o-vision... yours look incredible... I must try some new bread recipes... lovely x

  10. These loaves look absolutely fantastic!

  11. Hi I am dropping by via BYOB. Your loaves are simply gorgeous, they have such a beautiful colour and I am sure they are absolutely delicious.

  12. I enjoyed baking bread when I did twice in my life. I enjoyed watching the first rise of the dough and the second. Of course the best part is eating the freshly made bread.
    Your photos and narrative make me wish I can taste your Vienna bread and soup.It will make my day.

  13. It makes me feel quite happy that it's not actually as hard as you'd think to make bread that delicious! Fantastic tutorial.

  14. can i get this recipe in ounces or grams? since i weigh all my ingredients to get a more accurate amount of each ingredient. thank you,frank romeo

    1. Hi Frank, Beth Hensperger's book didn't give metric. I'm sorry !


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