Zak’s Cardamom Boule

Cardamom boule with a platter of pear and apple slices, havarti, gouda and good roast beef. In the background is the banneton Zak used for the final rise of the bread.

I have been promising to post the recipe for this bread once Zak was happy with consistent results and felt that it was perfect. It is based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Basic Hearth Bread recipe in The Bread Bible, which has been his primer as he learns the art of bread baking. In her book, she gives measurements by weight in ounces and in grams, and by volume. Zak measures by weight for all ingredients except the spices, honey and yeast, so that is how I am giving the measurements in this recipe.

If you really like bread baking and are really obsessed, I mean precise, then you should probably pick up a copy of this book, or at least check it out from the library. It is a very, very good textbook on how to learn to make bakery quality breads at home one loaf at a time.

His next project is to learn how to make olive bread. When he gets around to it, that is; right now he is fighting off a flu bug and so is not into playing with dough.

As for me, I have a variant on the Harvest Fruit Bread I made last week in the fridge for an overnight rise. After I bake it tomorrow, I will let you know how it turns out. This one uses less of the grain mix in deference to Zak’s preferences, with more wheat germ to make up the difference, and instead of apples and cranberries, I am using dried blueberries. We’ll see how it turns out.

Until then, here is the recipe:

Cardamom Boule

Ingredients for the Sponge:

5.5 ounces bread flour
1.25 ounces kamut
3/8 teaspoon instant yeast (We use SAF Red yeast)
1 1/4 teaspoons honey
11.2 ounces water (by weight, not volume)


In workbowl of a stand mixer, or just a large bowl, place all the ingredients for the sponge. Whisk until very smooth in order to incorporate air, for two minutes. You can do this by hand or use the whisk that comes with your Kitchenaid. Guess which venue we of the carpal tunnel wrists choose? You got it in one: the mixer. If you do it with a mixer, though, you only need to do it for one minute. It will be a nice thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap while you put together your flour mixture.

Ingredients for Flour Mixture:

10.3 ounces bread flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Whisk all ingredients but the salt together by hand to get it all nice and combined happily together. Scoop it into the bowl with the sponge, covering the sponge completely. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight. (Here is where he differs with Rose’s method–she says to do it for 1-4 hours. We like 8-10 instead.)

While it is fermenting, the sponge will come bubbling up through the flour here and there. That is normal, right and proper; do not be afraid. Leave it alone, it is doing its thing.

When you get up in the morning, mix the dough with the dough hook on your mixer. (Or, if you are a masochist, do it by hand, which is what I liked to do before I destroyed my wrists being a writer.) Mix on low speed (2 on a Kitchenaid) for about a minute, or until the flour forms a rough dough. Scrape down the bowl, cover and allow to rest twenty minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and knead on medium speed (4 on the Kitchenaid) for about seven minutes. The dough should be elastic and smooth, but still sticky.

Scrape the dough into an oiled two-quart rising container or bowl. Oil the top of the bread (Zak and Rose both agree that spray oil stuff is great here; I have to agree with them) and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise (ideally in a warm environment–about 74-80 degrees), until double. If the rising area is warm, this will take about an hour. If it is cooler, it will take as long as it takes.

After it has risen, scrape your dough with an oiled spatula or scraper onto a floured counter and press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Fold it up from the bottom into a third (like a business letter), then fold down the top, then round the edges. Oil the surface again, and put it back into the bowl, cover it and let it rise until double again–it will be puffier and will fill the container fuller than it did the first time because of the addition of air and more carbon dioxide. This will take about forty five minutes to an hour.

Now, you need to flour your banneton; use a lot of flour and coat the inside thickly. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it down to flatten it slightly. Use as little flour as possible in shaping it. Round the dough into a ball, and set it into the banneton, putting the smoother side down. Seal any seams on the bottom carefully. Cover with a large bowl or oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled, which should take anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. You know it is ready when you press gently on the dough and the depression from your fingertip fills in very slowly.

Preheat your oven tp 475 degrees an hour before baking. Have an oven shelf in the lowest part of the oven, with a baking stone on it.

Now, you have to get the bread dough from the banneton to the baking sheet. This takes finesse and practice. Zak usually sets the sheet on the banneton, then carefully flips over the banneton and the sheet together, then lifts the basket away. It works, if you are quick and careful.

Then, slash the dough–this takes a very sharp knife (Zak uses a box cutter we bought especially for the job at Lowes–it is sharper than the lame we bought from Sur la Table, and it isn’t curved–the lame was meant to be used on baguettes) and you must be quick and decisive. Oil your knife blade and move quickly, and slash the bread in one or two or four quick slashes in a pattern. Zak does a “Z” on his; I suppose I could have then called this bread “Zorro Bread,” but I don’t think he would appreciate that.

Then, finally, you put it in the oven, and bake for ten minutes. Turn the heat down to 425 and keep baking for twenty to thirty minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 2oo degrees (put it in from the side of the round loaf so you don’t mess up your pretty design on the top.)

Cool on a wire rack.

Completely cool it before eating it. I know, I know. You want to eat it hot. But believe me, Zak and I have learned that Rose isn’t lying when she says that it tastes better if you let it cool all the way. In fact, it tastes better if you can wait until the next morning to eat it. I know, you can’t, certainly not for the first loaf. Well, try it on the second one. Really. Would I lie to you?


Use all purpose flour instead of bread flour, or instead of kamut, use whole wheat flour or wheat germ.

You can use all purpose flour intead of bread flour for this bread; however, the texture becomes finer and more soft with the all purpose flour, as with this loaf. Zak prefers that texture–I like bread flour better, with its chewier texture and more uneven, larger holes.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. whoohoo!! Thank you very much indeed for posting this, Barbara. I’m looking forward to trying it – even though I’m QUITE nervous about the banneton part. I don’t have a real banneton but I do have a largish basket with a mouth that is about the same size as our peel and plenty of good cotton teatowels that I can line the basket with.

    Ooooh, I’m so excited!! Thanks again!


    Comment by ejm — May 2, 2005 #

  2. No problem–good luck with the recipe. I hope it works out–report back here so we know!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — May 2, 2005 #

  3. One question: What is the diameter at the top of Zak’s banneton?

    Comment by ejm — May 3, 2005 #

  4. Ten inches in diameter.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — May 3, 2005 #

  5. I had a feeling… my is more like 15. I’ll look around and see if I can find something more suitable. Of course, I’m sure I could probably just proof it on the peel right side up?


    Comment by ejm — May 3, 2005 #

  6. I’m pretty excited… the oven is preheating and it’s almost time for me to flip the bread out of the basket and onto the peel to transfer it into the oven. Really silky dough!!


    Comment by ejm — May 17, 2005 #

  7. Many thanks again for posting the recipe! It was very good with last night’s soup.

    Do you really put only 1/2 tsp cardamom in? And you can taste the cardamom?

    Yikes! I think my tastebuds must be dulled by too many chillies. I couldn’t taste cardamom at all. (Very good bread though!)


    Comment by ejm — May 19, 2005 #

  8. I guess it would depend on how strong your cardamom was as to how much to put in. When we use ground cardamom, we use Penzey’s, and there is a big difference between that and what you buy in the grocery store. It is -very- strong. The best way to ensure using really strong cardamom is to buy it whole, shuck it out of the pod, and grind it yourself–that way, if you don’t use as much ground cardamom as we do, you can always have it fresh and strong.

    Glad you liked the bread!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — May 22, 2005 #

  9. Our pre-ground cardamom is pretty strong. We get it in IndiaTown from a shop that has a high turn over of spices. And the turnover here at home is pretty high too…. Very strange.

    Next time I make the bread though, I will probably do as you recommend and grind cardamom seeds. (I think I’ll also use a little more – it really is just 1/2 tsp rather than 1/2 Tbsp?)


    Comment by ejm — May 23, 2005 #

  10. […] he did teach himself how to bake great bread, and he baked it for a while before finally wandering away from it. And his scrambled eggs are […]

    Pingback by Tigers & Strawberries » Zak Cooks Dinner: Bistecca alla Fiorentina — May 12, 2011 #

  11. […] he did learn himself how to bake great bread, and he baked it for a while before finally erratic divided from it. And his scrambled eggs are […]

    Pingback by dinner » Blog Archive » Tigers & Strawberries » Zak Cooks Dinner: Bistecca alla Fiorentina — May 12, 2011 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress. Graphics by Zak Kramer.
Design update by Daniel Trout.
Entries and comments feeds.