Tassajara Bread

Tassajara Bread

Brandon and I grew up in very different worlds – he in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, me in urban San Francisco – but we are close in age, so had some overlap in experiences. Both of our parents dabbled in many things hippie. My adult boundaries don’t want to know many of the details of those days – from either my parents or my in-laws – but one leftover from that time is this bread. Both of our parents had this bread cookbook – The Tassajara Bread Book – written at a Zen monastery in 1970.


Brandon has hippie-food horror stories, like being tricked into eating carob (which he describes as removing all the moisture out of his mouth, and all the joy out of his body). While my culinary experiences in the 70s weren’t quite as traumatic, both of our parents hung on to their copies of “The Tassajara Bread Book” and Brandon’s folks still occasionally bake the bread.


I first had it many years ago, and was surprised at how much I like it – hearty and filling, it’s just slightly sweet, and has the perfect balance of being healthy without tasting too healthy (you know what I mean)? The cookbook has a basic recipe of this bread, with lots of suggestions for adaptations.


The actual recipe I use came from somewhere (either my folks or Brandon’s, I can’t remember), and I made a few other alterations to make it even more simple (no need for powdered milk!). The resulting bread is quite easy to make – albeit with a few ingredients that you may not have immediately on hand – and most of the time it takes is hands-off. Oh, and the original recipe makes 4 loaves, I whittled it down to one loaf, the perfect amount for one weeks’ worth of sandwiches.



Recipe is below, and here’s a few photos of the dough doing its thing.


Here’s what the sponge looks like once it’s risen:



After the flours are added, kneaded, in a ball, and ready for it’s second rise:

before the second rise


After the second rise:


second rise


And after the final rise:


after the final rise


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Tassajara Bread

  • Author: from the Tassajara Bread Book, with alterations


  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1/4 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup lukewarm milk (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • poppy or sesame seeds


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, millet, honey, molasses, yeast, and milk. Mix together on low speed for about 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary, until all the ingredients are well combined.


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise for one hour.


Once the batter has puffed up nicely, add the oil, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and salt. Using the dough hook, stir together on the lowest setting until a dough forms, scraping the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed slightly, and knead dough for 6-8 minutes, until it’s springy and only slightly tacky to the touch. Remove from bowl, knead a few times by hand and shape in to a ball.


Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil (I just use cooking spray). Place the dough in the bowl, give it a spritz of cooking spray to coat the top, cover, and set aside to rise for another 45 minutes. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.


Once the dough had doubled in size, remove from bowl. Briefly and gently knead the dough (it’ll deflate quite a bit), and form in to a loaf shape. Place in to prepared loaf pan (it won’t fill the pan, but that’s okay, because it’ll puff up again during the 3rdrise). Cut some slashes in the top, give it another quick spritz of cooking spray, cover, and set aside to rise for a final 30 minutes.


In the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Once the dough has risen and fills the pan, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, then place in pre-heated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread has an internal temperature of 190-200 degrees. Let cool slightly before turning on to a cooling rack, then cool just a bit longer before serving.


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