Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seven Stars Bakery's Pumpkin Seed Bread

Sometimes I dream we are back in Providence, RI, and we go and have lunch at one of Seven Stars Bakery's three locations... In the two days we were there in November (I was attending a BBGA class with Richard Miscovich at Johnson's & Wales beautiful campus), we managed to hit all three. I can't say I have a favorite. We liked them all. All three feature the same seductive breads, pastries and cookies (everything is made in a nearby central location that Jim Williams, the owner, was kind enough to take us visit) and in all three, the atmosphere was relaxed and appealing: friends of all ages chatting over coffee or tea, dads reading books to toddlers before heading home from grocery shopping, students crouched over laptop screens or texting without a pause in their conversations, tourists - like us- rejoicing in the variety and quality of the offerings.
Everybody - friends, dads, students, tourists - had a tempting treat on the table in front of them and we had a (very) hard time limiting ourselves to what the two of us could reasonably sample. And that's coming from a woman who really doesn't like sweet things but who can resist Seven Stars' chocolate almond croissant? Not me... Although, true to form, I enjoyed the vegetarian sandwich even more.
In the evening, Jim and Lynn Williams were the gracious hosts for BBGA's Guildhall Gathering, which gave us the opportunity to taste even more breads and that's how I "discovered" and fell in love with their Pumpkin Seed Bread.
Seven Stars Bakery's Pumpkin Bread as sold at the bakery
I asked Jim if he wouldn't mind sharing the formula and, generous to a tee as are most bakers I know, he said he'd send it to me. So here we go... But before we proceed, you may want to take a closer look at the bakery's website, and more specifically at its baking process page which you'll find a most informative description of the work going on in a serious artisan bakery.
Back to the pumpkin bread. I had meant to bake it for Thanksgiving but we got back shortly before the holiday and it took an inordinate amount of time for me to rekindle my levain's enthusiasm for baking. Then we hit a cold spell and it was just freezing in the house (at least it felt like it) and when I did get to the bread, canned pumpkin had disappeared from the stores. Apparently it is a seasonal product in Washington State. Once Thanksgiving is over, it is as if it never existed. That's new to me as one of the rare things I could be sure to find year-round where I come from in the Northeast is canned pumpkin. But never mind that, we did manage to find a can after hitting a number of grocery stores and I just now baked the bread for our Christmas brunch (hence the wreath shape).
I love the flavor (nutty with a faint sweet note to which the tang of the rye levain offers a delicate counterpoint), the texture (mellow and chewy/crunchy at the same time) and the golden color. It takes its own sweet time to rise but you can make it over two days: I mixed the dough in the morning of the first day around 10, gave it three folds and let it rise slowly for about 4 hours. Then I put it in the garage (where the temperature was about 44°F/7°C) and I let it rest until morning. In the morning (around 8:00 AM), I set it to warm up at 77°F/25°C. It took a while: when I shaped the dough around 1:00 PM, its internal temperature was 66°F/19°C. But by then the room was really warm and the shaped loaves proofed happily in the baskets. I might have gotten a more open crumb if I had waited a little more but I had to go out, so by 2:00 PM, they went into the oven. Jim does it a bit differently: his final dough get a 2-hour bulk fermentation, then it proofs for 4 hours and gets baked. He warned me that at home, the process would be somewhat longer and he was right.
All in all, I am happy with the result. The crumb isn't as holey as Seven Stars' but the taste is right, the texture very appealing and I love the color. Thank you for sharing, Jim! Of course I can only encourage those of you who live in New England or have a chance to go visit to check out the bakery and have a taste for yourself. Maybe you'll even meet my friend Lumi who is now a baking instructor at Johnson &Wales and a huge fan of Seven Stars!

Ingredients (for one wreath and one oval loaf):

  • 700 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 106 g whole wheat (I used Fairhaven's white whole wheat berries which I milled for the recipe)
  • 42 g cornmeal
  • 665 g water (I used 645 g but then it depends on how thirsty your flour is), at required temperature to ultimately get a dough temperature of about 76°F/24°C
  • 170 g canned pumpkin
  • 102 g sesame seeds, toasted
  • 170 g pumpkin seeds, toasted (I actually used 50 g pumpkin and 120 g sunflower seeds as it was all I had)
  • 85 g mature wheat levain (at 65% hydration) (mine was my regular levain which calls for 33% whole-grains including wheat, spelt and rye)
  • 51 g mature rye levain (at 100% hydration)
  • 20 g salt

Method: (I mixed the dough by hand)
  1. Mix the two levains and set aside, covered, at warm room temperature
  2. Mix the flours and the polenta and most of the water until well incorporated. Cover and let autolyse for about 30 minutes, at warm room temperature
  3. Incorporate the levains, then the pumpkin (at same warm room temperature), then add the salt
  4. Add the rest of the water as necessary (I was left with about 20g of the original water amount)
  5. Mix in the seeds until well distributed in the dough
  6. Dough temperature was 75° when set to proof at warm room temperature in an oil-sprayed covered container.
  7. Give it three folds 30 minutes apart and let it rise afterwards for about 4 hours (the length of time necessary to almost double).
  8. Set it in the fridge (or in a cold spot like a garage) until the next morning
  9. The day after, set it to warm up at room temperature and shape it in two loaves (scaled at 1000g)
  10. Bake in prey-heated 470°F/243°C oven (with steam the first few minutes) for 10 minutes, then another 10 minutes (without opening the door) at 450°F/232°C, then turn the loaves around and bake another 15 minutes (for a total baking time of 35 minutes).
  11. Turn the oven off and let the loaves rest inside with oven door ajar for another 5 minutes
  12. Set to cool on a rack.
  13. When completely cool, slice a loaf open, top a piece with some extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, set a glass of hard cider at your elbow, close your eyes, take a bite and find yourself magically transported to a crisp fall day in Providence, RI. Enjoy!

    Printable recipe
Seven Stars Bakery's Pumpkin Seed Bread will be going to Susan for Yeastspotting, her weekly roundup of breads and other baked goodies.


  1. Speechless..... this is yet another masterpiece of a bread!

    absolutely amazing, what a way to wrap up 2011!

    Happy Holidays for you, and keep those breads rising next year!

  2. Oh my, what a wonderful recipe!
    Thank you very much for this!
    Esther in Ottawa

  3. Missed adding that I really appreciate the information and conversation you put in your posts!
    Esther in Ottawa

  4. hah! Thanks for all your kind words, MC. The bread looks great!

    Jim from seven Stars

  5. Hello MC,
    What a gorgeous wreath, so pretty with the 'wrapping'...and I really like Step 13 in the Method!
    Happy holidays to you, and thank you for writing about this lovely bread, and bakery.
    :^) from breadsong

  6. Hi MC,

    Thank you again for great writing about the bakery (I tried their breads before and I knew how you feel about picking an item to try in limited time)and I really love your bread crumb. I also love how you decorated your breads. I will give them a try maybe in few weeks because I love seeded breads. I wish you have a great Christmas.


  7. Hi, Kim! Have a wonderful holidays. I am sure you have been baking up a storm. I want to hear all about it!

  8. Hello, Jim!
    Thank you. Not as nice as yours but very much appreciated on this coast as well!

  9. Hello Sally, my best wishes to you and yours for a great holiday season. I know you are in the Great Canyon area and I can't wait to read all about it on your blog. Thank you for your very kind comments!

  10. Hello Esther, thank you for stopping by! I am glad you like the bread and the write-up. How's the baking going in Ottawa?

  11. Hello, breadsong! Thank you for your kind words. Another address for your bakery tour next time you come back East, right? How's everything in BC? Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year!

  12. Hello, MC! Yes, I will definitely keep this bakery in mind for future travels.
    Things are really good here (my local farmer just gave me some more of his flour!). Thank you for asking, and I hope things are just as well for you. Thanks for your New Year wishes and I wish you the very best for 2012!
    :^) from breadsong

  13. Thank you, breadsong! What luck for a baker to live near a farm which actually grows wheat... I envy you.

  14. Any chance I could pre-order a recipe book from this bakery? Their menu looks so good!
    It took me a while to make the bread. After Christmas, we went south to celebrate my Mom's 80th birthday. Then I had to revive my starter and the bread process took awhile. But it was worth the wait!
    Thanks again for the recipe! I intend to make it again.
    Esther in Ottawa

  15. Hi, Esther, you are more than welcome. I am so glad you liked the bread. I don't know that there is a cookbook in the making but I'll ask...

  16. @Esther, no cookbook planned yet! But who knows, maybe your request cast a seed... I'll keep you posted if things change.



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