The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts
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The Bread Stone Ovens Company's picture

Pain Au Levain !

May 13, 2015 - 10:08am -- The Bread Stone...

Hello all! If we have not yet met online yet, I am a former chef & hand craft true brick ovens in Dallas.
As I grew up in France, my family has owned and operated a wood-fired oven for well over a century. As a matter of fact, my family still uses the original village wood-fired oven today. We used it for much bread baking, and over the years I have had joy in baking many types of breads which have given me quite a bit experience with levain and I would love to share my tips & tricks! 

Here is a new blog I wrote on my business website about levain ! 

Cher504's picture

Can I blend white rye and whole rye to get medium rye?

May 13, 2015 - 9:26am -- Cher504

Seems so obvious, right? I can buy both white and whole rye locally, but I have to send away for the medium rye. Would it be a close approximation to do a 50/50 blend? Or some other percentage?

And what about First Clear? Is there any way to mimic that flour's properties? Do any of you rye bakers out there have a strong opinion about whether hi-gluten flour works as well or tastes as good as the first clear? My palate tells me the first clear tastes more "authentic" - but my family and other tasters say they detect no I imagining it?

WendySusan's picture


May 13, 2015 - 5:40am -- WendySusan

I broke down and ordered a Walnut lame from Amazon.  I'd been using the razor blade and chopstick but I still wasn't getting the scoring I desired.

Today's bake of the 123 sourdough using the new Lame showed much improved scoring of the loaves.  I'll reserve total approval after a few more bakes but todays results please me.

The ancient Aztec Sun God symbol (at least as describe by my husband)

The signature W otherwise known as T-Rex slash!


victoriamc's picture

I am happy to be back to baking!!  having spent 2 weeks in front of my computer overhauling my website it feels great to get back to what I like the best, baking!  

These cranberry range brioche rolls are super easy ad super tasty, made with oilve oil instead of butter and eggs, they are lighter and healthier than traditional french brioche rolls.  The tart cranberries are perfect in this type of dough.   Check out for full details.  crumb shot cranberry orange brioche rolls

dmsnyder's picture

I just returned home from my second bake in a wood fired oven. My first bake, about 3 weeks ago, is described in My first WFO bake: Lessons in time, temperature and humility. That experience demonstrated the wisdom of the advice I had received, especially the advice I disregarded.  

Last week, I got a phone call from my friend, L. , inviting me to a potluck dinner at J.'s where members of the Italian social group that meets weekly at J.'s store would be eager to sample my bread, baked in J.'s WFO. Yikes! A "command performance!" So, I called J. and told her I needed another "practice session" before baking for 20 hungry Italians. 

I re-read all the TFL responses to my request for WFO words of wisdom and, from them, distilled a protocol that I shared with J. She translated it into a concrete schedule, and we agreed on a date and time for the practice session, which was today.

I added one item to the list of suggestions: Because of the incredible oven spring with burst loaves I had from the first WFO bake, it seemed to me that I should more fully proof the loaves to reduce the oven spring to a more "normal," controlled level.

J. Fired her oven at 4 am. I arrived at her house at 2 pm. In retrospect, she had built too big a fire. The oven floor was over 750 dF, and the coals were still burning. We shoveled out the coals, and in about an hour the oven was cool enough (around 500 dF) to try baking bread. We decided to do one of the 3 loaves first, just in case ... I choose a 1 Kg boule of my San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour. We had a large cast iron skill filled with water in the back of the oven. We mopped the floor with a damp cloth. I loaded the boule, shut the door for 20 minutes. Then I peaked and rotated the loaf. It baked for 25 minutes.

After baking the other loaves - two 900g bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat -, we sliced the SFSD and tasted it with some fantastic local olive oil which I am going to have to buy next time I'm at J.'s store.

The bâtards had a slightly cooler oven. They baked in about 26 minutes and were less darkly colored.

As you can see, these loaves have a somewhat dull crust. This is because the oven could not be adequately humidified. It's big and really needed to be baking 15, 20 or more loaves at once to function optimally. However, the tasting is the critical test.

The SFSD with increase whole wheat was simply the best tasting bread I have ever baked. The crust was very crunchy. The crumb was well-aerated, very tender and light. The crust had a dark, nutty, mildly bitter flavor which was offset by the very sweet, milky flavor of the crumb. There was a subtle, late-appearing but lingering acetic acid tang, but the lactic acid flavor was much more prominent. After tasting a slice, with and without olive oil and declaring it delicious, J. said, "You know, growing up, I never liked sourdough bread, but this is wonderful." 

Before I left for home, we set a schedule for preparing the oven and baking the breads for the potluck. I'm ready to party!

I couldn't have learned what I have learned in just two bakes without the wonderful, generous wisdom shared by  TFL members mrvegemite,  yozzause, Sjadad, Arlo, etheil, BobSponge, embth, and Josh. Thanks, guys! You make me (even more) proud to be a member of this community.


leslieruf's picture

Can I use this Enamelled roasting dish at high temperature

May 12, 2015 - 6:12pm -- leslieruf

Rescued my old enamelled (steel) roasting dish from hubby's workshop where it has languished for a few years and gave it a good clean up.  I don't want to go to the expense of a dutch oven. so wonder if I can use this instead.  There are a few scratches and chips (see below) but mostly it is still good. I want to be certain it is ok to use this at up to  say 260degrees celcius.  Any thoughts anyone?  I usually make batards so the oval shape will be perfect. 

a_warming_trend's picture

I haven't made a post in awhile, but I have been practicing, practicing, practicing. I hit one year of baking last weekend, and six months since I fell in love with sourdough. I actually haven't baked with commercial yeast since I baked that first fateful SD loaf on November 4, 2014. 

Over these last weeks, I've been experimenting with a range of ways to bake sourdough in the midst of a busy work week. This is the quest of a home baker who can't seem to limit herself to weekend baking, despite a pretty demanding full-time job. 

I've been working with a range of ways to extend fermentation: long autolyse, long cold bulk, long cold proof, BOTH long bulk and long proof, young levain, super-long-fermented levain, stiff levain, high-hydration levain, 5% levain, 30% levain, and dozens of variations in between. 

Many more specific discussions of methods and results to come in the coming weeks!


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