The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Anyone who has been around TFL long enough and is suspiciously odd (or bored) enough knows that my baguette journey began with my baking the Anis Bouabsa baguette.  For the uninitiated, M. Bouabsa is a bread baker in Paris who won the quite prestigious annual city-wide competition in 2008 for the Best Baguette in Paris, and with about 30 competitors it was no small feat.  His rewards included accolades, bragging rights and a meeting with the French President.  Oh, and supplying the presidential palace with baguettes for a year.

My wife's cousin celebrated her 90th birthday with a party last weekend.  Just about a lifelong resident of Paris she invited local relatives and friends as well as her American family, my in-laws included. As our favorite travel partners and nonogenarians themselves, the in-laws asked us to chaperone them to Paris for the event.  Our main goal was to ensure their safety every step of the way.  Literally.  So when folks gush at our vacationing in Paris I have to stop them right there.  It was not a vacation.  Although we had a good time with family there.  And no matter what, we were in Paris, for-cryin' out loud.

We had our free time in the mornings as their day often doesn't begin until 11 or so.  This past Monday, the only rainy day of the trip, we clambered down the Paris Metro steps and headed up to M. Bouabsa's boulangerie.

When he came out to see who was asking for him, I showed him a still from the video I posted a few years ago on the making of his baguettes.  To our utter surprise he said that he recognized me and "knew who I was".  He invited me in to see his workshop and I asked if my wife and cousins could come in also.  Yes.

And then we talked shop.  I don't know more than a few words of French and he doesn't understand English.  But he spoke in French, I spoke in Spanish and we seemed to be on the same page.  I guess shop talk and some hand gestures make a conversation a little more universal.  Unbeknownst to me Cousin Paul videoed about a minute of the encounter. Also unbeknownst to my wife, as she hogged the picture frame during part of the encounter!

The boys talking business


Baguettes after their long cold retard

A huge Pain de Campagne on the loader just after coming out of the oven.

T65 flour waiting to become baguettes

The Tzara Tradicion baguette.  M. Bouabsa's boulangerie is on Rue Tristan Tzara.

A peek into the workshop from the storefront.

We picked up cups of expresso and cafe creme, croissants, a pistachio & chocolate chip "stick" and an incredibly flaky custard filled "cup".  And of course a pain de campaigne batard and a pair of baguettes.  What a delightful experience.

Here's old Morris and me strolling down Rue St. Severin

And the lunch for the American contingent.  That's BD girl Dolly sandwiched between my in-laws, themselves book-ended by my wife and me.

And the same dopey rabbit seems to still get his hand caught in the Metro train doors, just as he did the first time I rode the Metro back in '89.


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An old friend, Field Blend #2.  But with a new twist.  I recently returned to Mr. Hamelman's all AP 125% hydration levain (from my all rye version of it) and had a hankering to combine this with Mr. Forkish's FB#2 formula.  A Hamelkish or Forkelman Frankenstein.

Aside from using the all AP levain, I dropped the overall hydration down from 78% to a more Hamelman-like top-of-range of about 73%.  All other percentages and flour mixes were adhered to, including the pre-fermented flour percentage.  Due to the addition of the levain at "autolyse" time, I shortened the bulk rise by that same half hour as the autolyse.  Then my standard bulk retard and ...  

A very recent change to my pre-shaping and final shaping is a work-in-progress.  Trying to be ever more gentle, I'm still working on getting a consistent shaping.  Not complaining, you understand, just explaining a thing or two.


375g x 4 baguettes / long batards

And why do I call these long batards as well?  I'm so glad you asked.  Last year I was made aware of a page from Msr. Calvel's book which portrays differing bread shapes, weights, sizes and scores.  And so I changed my tune and adapted to both.

And as long as open crumb was mentioned, here are slices of the two breads I've made using this softer, gentler approach to shaping.

The two on the left are from a deli rye and the two on the right are from this FrankenBread (FB#2).  Both are at 73% hydration.



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Another batch of Vermont SD, ho-hum.  However this time I decided to score these differently as well as some pre-shaping changes and a more gentle final shaping.  Which I'll attribute to the shorter and slightly stubbier look of these 

In the spirit of Abel's Ziggy scoring, which I've done  few times now - I decided to try a cross cut, "x's" all down the length of the dough.  And wound up with two distinct looks.

On the first two baguettes, I used a ceramic blade but didn't like the drag.  So I switched to my regular curved lame razor blade for the final two.  And I like the results much better.  

Playing with my food is fun!

In both of these pictures, the two on the left were with the ceramic blade and the two on the right with the razor blade.

380g x 4 baguettes/long batards.


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For high hydration levains, I've exclusivly used a 125% hydration rye levain for more than a year now, but wanted to return to from whence it came.  This is another Vermont SD, retuning to Mr. Hamelman's 125% hydration AP flour levain formula.  It is just a lovely Pain au Levain bread.  Thin crisp crust and open sweet and "sparkling" crumb.

I usually avoid reposting past breads except when something has changed.  I've been mostly quiet here for a while now, and when I bake I generally stick to the tried and true.  But I thought I'd post these just for the heck of it.

3 x 360g, 1 x 410g baguettes/long batards


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Hamelman Golden Raisin Bread, alfanso style.  With no evidence posted of this being made as baguettes, well, that opened the door for me with a welcome mat.

At 69% hydration these are way too dry to French Fold.  The oatmeal flakes and WW work in tandem to ensure that.  By adding a few teaspoons of water over the course of kneading, the dough became (barely) more manageable and I probably raised the hydration to about 71%.  Rye was used instead of the designated white flour for the 125% levain, and I gave the mix a 10 minute hydrating rest period before adding salt and moving on to the hand mixing.

The IDY was cut from 0.37% to 0.27% as these were destined to be retarded overnight instead of the prescribed straight linear bulk rise-divide & shape-proof-bake cycle.  And I probably could have eliminated the IDY totally.

The bulk rise was cut down from 2 hours to 1.5 hours with two folds instead of the published one.  I added the fruit at the first letter fold.

These took just about no flour on the couche, shed a fair amount of water, but released from the couche with delightful ease.

Quite a dense crumb on the baguette despite the oven spring and modest grigne.  However, the taste was completely ordinary, and other than to boast that I made a bread with oatmeal, I really don't see returning to these again anytime soon.  In fairness, there is nothing wrong with them and they make a fine toast.  There just doesn't seem to be quite enough right with them.

My second opportunity to make a Ziggy style batard (Ziggy is our own Abel Sierra's designation for this scoring), and I find it so easy using a straight ceramic blade and a lot of fun seeing it open.  comparison of the first and second Ziggy...


425g x 2 baguettes / long batards

725g x 1 Ziggy.

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With my brother and sister-in-law in town I baked a few semolina-fennel seed-golden raisin-toasted pine nut baguettes (that's a mouthful - in more ways than one) and then followed that up with a batch of Vermont SDs.

On our way down to Miami for a fantastic dinner at Jamon Iberico Pata Negra restaurant, we stopped at the equally fantastic Laurenzo's Italian Supermarket, which I've mentioned here a few times.  Brother and wife had heard me talk Laurenzo's up and had to see it.  I packed up one of each of the baguettes to give to David, the owner.  I try to drop off a bread or 3 every time I stop in - this is the place where I get my buckets of semola rimacinata.

Against my sincere protestations, David insists on me not walking away with my hands empty.  He has recently been getting his bread wholesale from the < year old Miami outpost of the Sullivan Street Bakery.

The lineup here, parts of which have already been shorn off or disappeared completely are (from top to bottom):  Filone, Pugliese, Stirato, Ciabatta, and then my two (the semolina is already missing its right half).  The filone was gargantuan and the stirato was as long as a policeman's night stick before they were attacked in the name of peeling off some to add to what we gave to our dining out companions - my cousins.

This is a little over the top...


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Another in Abel's ongoing postings of embarrassingly wonderful bakes:  His Ziggy stoneground loaf from mid-January caught my fancy, and I was sure that when the time was appropriate, I'd try my hand at his scoring technique here.  Well, the time is appropriate.  With neighbors coming over for some wine, bread and cheese this afternoon, I figured, why not now?

This is my version of the Hamelman 125% liquid levain hydration semolina loaf.  I use a rye levain instead and apply a boatload of sesame seeds in the way that I learned from David Snyder's post from oh, so long ago.  Baguettes were scored with my curved razor lame.  Ziggy was scored with my ceramic knife - another new tool for my baking toolbox, and another new scoring technique for my baking pleasure.

25% Bread Flour, 60% Durum, and 15% Rye (all in the levain).  At an overall hydration of 67%, this bread is a little hard to French Fold after a 20 minute "autolyse" with the levain included, fighting me along the way.  

Once the bulk rise begins, it become very manageable and extensible.  Two hours with folds at 40, 80 & 100 minutes in my warmer than most kitchen.  Then the standard routine, overnight nap in the refrigerator, divide and shape in the morning, couched and then shoved back in to retard for a few hours more.  Probably in the vicinity of about 15 hours total retard. I dunno, didn't pay too much attention to that small detail.

460dF oven for 13 minutes with mega steam, and then rotate and 13 minutes more with 2 minutes of venting.

I likely scored Ziggy a little deep, but really can't complain about the eye-candy effect of it at all.

1x700g batard, 2x400g long batards/baguettes


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Earlier this month, Joze (joc1954) posted his Barley-Rye Bread, a lovely dense nutty boule.  Having a bag of barley on hand but never using it before, I decided to give it a go.  But, as with my usual linear uncircular bread self, as baguettes.

According to Joze's write-up the dough takes no autolyse, has a long bench rise for a warm kitchen (3 1/2 hours) and a long retard (20 hours).  At 75% hydration this dough is quite dense and was difficult to French Fold without the flours soaking in an autolyse for at least 30-60 minutes or more.  Letter Folds every 45 minutes.  The dough remained stiff and fought being stretched and eventually shaped at every moment of its existence.  Neither extensible nor elastic, it just was...

Halfway through the bulk retard I shaped and placed it on a couche, still dense and stiff, but workable and required only the slightest amount of flour on the bench and couche.  Back into retard and baked about 21 hours after it first entered he refrigerator.  Scoring was simple.  450dF, 13 minutes with steam, and another 13 minutes after rotating, with a final 2 minutes venting.

And like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, I didn't know what I'd get, how the bake would turn out, how much grigne or how open the crumb would be.  Oven spring was somewhat minimal but with a fine grigne and the crumb remained particularly dense.  I'll say that was due to having to be manipulated with heavy hands in order to pre-shape and shape the dough - a lot more so rather than to simply ball the dough up for a boule.  A lot denser than Joze's boule. 

A very "wheaty" taste, a bit addictive in fact.  40% bread flour, 30% rye, 30% barley.  75% hydration with 10% pre-fermented rye flour in 100% hydration levain.  I would have preferred a darker bake, but for a first foray in the barley-rye playpen, I remained on the cautious side of the playground.

4x300g baguettes/long batards

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Above: chocolate babka filling and cinnamon swirl

At the start of this month, Abel posted his version of a Pain Viennois, a bread I'd not ever heard of before, but it is a pretty darn good looking loaf.  At least the way he does it!  Much more appealing than the "traditional" version which looks more like a baguette in shape and adorned with as many as 20 or so scores diagonally down its length.  

So it bubbled up to the top of my to-do list.  I've now gone two iterations with this bread and have my report to turn in to teacher.  Some steps forward, but falling quite short of where Abel is.  For the first time through, I probably made too many cuts in the dough surface, corrected on the second try.

One major difference is the coloration and char on the 2nd bake vs. the brighter luster of the 1st.  Baked at the same temperature for the same amount of time, the only difference is that I used steam for the 1st bake.  I had this notion that enriched breads were less "needy" when it came to steam, but apparently that is not the case.

And then there is the significant difference between Abel's bread opening up from oven spring vs. mine.  So here are some of the gory details.  

  • These are the both the same dough, treated in a similar fashion, and following Abel's ingredient write-up.  The major difference is the internal filling of the 2nd bake.
  • Bulk rise for 90 minutes, until doubled in volume.
  • Shaped to fit 8"x4" tins.
  • Proof for 1 hour, until dough just peeked out from the top edge of the tin.
  • Brushed with melted butter just before and just after the bake.
  • Bake at 410dF for 22-25 minutes, until internal temp is ~190dF-195-dF.
  • Rotated at the 10 minute mark.  the second bake was already showing signs of scorching at the halfway point.

There was hardly any oven spring and the loaf came out being fairly square.  So, where am I missing the mark?  I want to keep this bread in rotation, but there are some significant gaps between where the bread is now and where it should be.  Looking for some guidance here.

***With feedback and help from a few of the TFL farmhands, I'll be applying some changes the next go-round.

This dough is quite stiff when being mixed, and my Kitchen Aid mixer's dough hook treats the dough as not much more than a horse-tail treats a fly.  It just spends its time swatting away the dough.  

  • Mixing by hand is the real option.  Too stiff for French Folds, but my pasta hand kneading technique sure comes in handy every so often.  My notes have me kneading the dough for 4-5 min. but I'll add an extra two minutes onto that to attempt o get a better gluten structure.  A problem is that the butter is part of the mix and it acts as a gluten inhibitor by coating the strands in its oily self.
  • I'll bump the hydration up a few percent in an attempt to soften the dough during mixing.  There will be a balance to be reckoned with on this one, as the dough is designed to be scored before placed into the tins.  The extra few grams of water may create a small problem if the dough slackens up enough on its way into the tin. 
  • I will give the final proofing more time to push the dough further than just past the "peeking out" above the rim I had followed.
  • Steam!  
  • Deeper scoring.  My curved lame is not appropriate for such a deep cut, but I have a few of those absurdly sharp ceramic knives that I'll rely on for this task.  


At the outset of the proof.

Out of the oven and not looking too swift.

Comparison to the crust from the 1st bake, but again, no oven spring.

As this is a "plain sandwich" bread,  beyond a mild "pleasant" taste, there really isn't much to it.  Makes a fine toast, and I'm sure that it would also make for some dandy French Toast too.   So for bake #2, I added the chocolate filling that I use for a babka on one and a cinnamon swirl (cinnamon and sugar mixed together).  Just for fun.  And really to try and bump up the flavor of this bread.

Abel describes his learning this bread from a fellow baker at Granier Bakery.  Located in Sunny Isles Beach,  just north of Miami Beach.  Sunny Isles has so many towering residential skyscrapers lining the beach side of the road that it has somewhere along the lines been dubbed "Shady Isles Beach".  We took a drive down there the other day...



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Abel Sierra posted another in his series of fascinating outside-of-the-box things that one can do with just Flour Water and Salt two weeks ago.  And I am indeed fascinated at the breadth of what one can do creatively with just these three ingredients.   And that also meant another that I would warehouse until the time came.  Which was now!

The character of the baked bread is really wonderful.  It has a thin and crisp snap to the crust while the crumb is tender and sweet.  A really nice bread in every measure.

This is a 100% hydration liquid levain, 75% overall hydration mix that uses a full 50% of the flour in the levain pre-ferment.  Which is somewhat off the charts considering the "normal" range is in the 5%-20% vicinity.  But that is what caught my eye.  Although this is an all white flour affair, a very small number of grams of WW and rye snuck in due to my base starter having these two rogue elements.

The dough is incredibly slack and stayed that way throughout the entire process.  Because of this I had a fair amount of trouble wrangling the dough to form baguettes, with them becoming somewhat inconsistent and misshapen, but managed to get a decent enough shape and subsequent bake.  The batard was a cinch to shape.  

Where I differed from Abel in the process was to shorten the bulk rise with two S&Fs to his one, and to retard until the next day rather than execute the entire process in a single calendar day as Abel stated he did.

My follow-up attempt will be to change two things and see whether that will yield some improvements in the shaping as well as to provide a more robust flavor - without sacrificing any of the clean AP taste.  The plan is to do an 85% AP / 15% Rye flour mix with all of the rye incorporated into the levain.  As for shaping, instead of my standard pre-shape logs, the next time will have me pre-shape as small boules, and I think that this will facilitate with the rolling of the baguettes.

Thanks Abel.


500g x 1 batard

350g x 2 baguettes/long batards


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