The Fresh Loaf

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Long time, no see, TFL.

In summary I've been away, coping with a hefty workload and tending to personal matters. Of course, I continued baking---a tendency I doubt will be curbed or abandoned. Why's that? Because baking is my stress-reliever. (I'm sure many homebakers can relate.)

Without further ado, I present to you my latest experiment: Cumin Walnut Cheese Rye Sourdough Bread.


Believe it or not, this loaf (it's not a muffin, I assure you) was supposed to be Franko's 68% Rye Bread with Pumpkin Seeds.

*Lowers head in shame.*

Out of necessity and/or experimentation, I substituted the high-gluten flour with all-purpose flour, the pumpkin seeds with toasted walnuts, the caraway seeds with ground cumin, ommitted the non-diastatic malt powder, and incorporated smoked scamorza (i.e., an Italian cheese) into the dough.


In addition to the substitutions, I prepared an overnight soaker by combining the all-purpose flour and a portion of the iced water. (Anybody familiar with Txfarmer's 36+ hours sourdough baguettes?) According to my hypothesis, the hydrated soaker will develop its gluten matrix, amplify its sweetness, and strengthen the final dough.


What resulted was a soupy dough, forcing me to abandon my original recipe and producing another on spot. While panicking, I processed several scenarios in my mind until a light bulb popped over my head:

"I'll pour the batter into tins!"


After pouring the batter-like dough into four separate tins, another idea sprung into my head. I liberally sprinkled ground walnuts atop---so much that a good sum didn't adhere to the dough.

Oh, what a waste...


I'm so, so glad it worked out---much better than I anticipated. Now, before I describe the flavours, let me bestow to you the reasonings behind the selected ingredients.

Walnuts pair well with rye. Caraway also pairs well with rye, but I felt cumin would better complement the walnuts. (Compared to caraway, cumin is more citrusy and pungent in flavour.) I've witnessed others on TFL add dried fruits to their walnut breads but I sought a savoury loaf. Thus, I specifically chose smoked scamorza, a semi-soft Italian cheese, for its milky, faintly sweet, and assertive smoky flavours, as well as its suberb melting quality.

Summarized flavour profile: 

Harbouring the distinct aroma of cumin, the unusually soft crumb tasted slightly sweet and mildly savoury (i.e., buttery and nutty), punctuated by a faint but pleasant tang. Further, such flavours were accompanied by a creamy and cool mouthfeel. My overall rating: Pretty darn good for a batter bread.


For those who are interested, you may find the recipe below:

Rye Sourdough Starter

  • Medium rye flour [407 g]
  • Mineral water [407 g]
  • Rye sourdough starter, 100% hydration [27 g]


  • All-purpose flour, Unbleached, Enriched [262 g]
  • Mineral water, Iced [ 205 g]

Final Dough

  • Rye sourdough starter [740 g]
  • Soaker [413 g]
  • Medium rye flour [123 g]
  • Whole walnuts, Toasted [104 g]
  • Smoked scamorza, Grated [93 g]
  • Sea salt [15 g]
  • Whole cumin, Ground [6 g]


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • Whole walnuts, Untoasted, Ground

Total Baker's Percentages

  • Flour [100%]
    • Medium rye flour [68%]
    • All-purpose flour [32%]
  • Mineral water [76%]
  • Whole walnuts, Toasted [14.4%]
  • Sea salt [2%]
  • Cumin, Ground [0.8%]
  • Smoked scamorza, Grated [13%]


  1. Mix starter ingredients; rest at room temp. for approx. 12 hours
  2. Mix soaker ingredients; chill for approx. 12 hours
  3. Mix starter, soaker, and medium rye flour; hand-knead for 5 minutes
  4. Add salt to dough; hand-knead for 5 minutes
  5. Add ground cumin and toasted walnuts to dough; hand-knead for 3 minutes
  6. Add grated scamorza to dough; hand-knead for 2 minutes
  7. Apply olive oil to bowl; pour dough into oiled bowl
  8. Bulk ferment for 30 - 45 minutes
  9. Butter tins
  10. Pour dough into buttered tins
  11. Proof for 30 - 45 minutes
  12. Sprinkle ground walnuts atop
  13. Bake at 230C / 446F (convection off) for 10 minutes, with steam
  14. Bake at 210C / 410F (convection on) for 30 - 40 minutes, without steam (rotate loaves every 10 minutes)
  15. Cool at minimum for 1 hour


Want to know what I've been baking the past few weeks? Well, thankfully, you can scroll down to find out (sorry, only crumbshots).

Ontbijtkoek (Dutch-Belgian Breakfast Cake)

Cocoa Chocolate Coffee Sourdough Bread


Palm Sugar Financiers (French Almond Cakes)


Whole Wheat Multi-Seed Sourdough Batard


As always, critiques and suggestions are welcomed.

Farewell for now everybody. Wish you all the best and have a happy baking. :)


bakingbadly's picture

Pound, pound, pound 'til the wheat berries were ground. Bounded by a creed to heed to the flavours of the grain, I pained and maimed my fingers, arms, and shoulders.

After nearly an hour of mortar-ing and pestle-ing, the seeds bled a fine sand of flour, blotched with bits and grits of bran and germ. And what did my efforts amount to? Just twenty-eight grams (or one ounce) of freshly ground flour.

And that's why grain mills exist.


Based on Peter Reinhart's "Transitional Country Hearth Bread" recipe from his book Whole Grain Breads, the above loaf contained a set of firsts

  • My first time shaping a dough into a batard
  • My first time incorporating freshly ground flour into dough (albeit only 3% of total flour weight)
  • My first time converting my former rye starter to a white starter
  • My first time boldly baking a loaf until lightly charred

Look at those blisters, like bubbles in boiling water. Some of you may find this mesmerising. Others may think my loaf had succumbed to an illness---bread pox maybe?


Hoping that two parallel ears would form, I scored two cuts along the length of the dough. As you can see, it didn't turn out as expected. Perhaps my incisions weren't deep enough. Or perhaps my slashes weren't properly angled. Or perhaps both. 


Well, that ain't right...

I was aiming for a slightly open crumb but what I got, it seems, was a tunneling effect. Was this the result of poor shaping or gluten degradation? I don't know, really. Moreover, the bottom crust was thin and pale brown. Evidentally, my baking stones (i.e., unglazed clay tiles) weren't hot enough.

The flavour profile:

After being cooled for more than twelve hours, the loaf had permeated my room with a deep, complex, and wheaty aroma. After sinking my teeth into the flesh of the bread---pleasantly chewy and slightly moist---I became grossly bewildered; my taste buds registered subtle sweetness and mild nuttiness. How was this possible, I pondered. This bread wasn't contaminated with sugar or nuts. Was it the freshly ground flour? Yes, it had to be!

As I chewed, savoury toastiness and a tinge of bitterness progressively unveiled itself, likely caused by the scorched crust. But wait, where was the tang? Reflecting on my past actions, I faulted my overfed starter and one hour bulk fermentation for the lack of piquancy.

All in all, it was a good loaf. Just a lil' more practice and I can perk up the flavours a notch or two.

:) Thanks for reading my post. Have a happy baking and wish you all the best,


P.S. Please feel free to input your tips and suggestions. It'd be much appreciated. Thank you in advance! 


bakingbadly's picture

My nostrils flared, vacuuming the air with rapid snorts. 

"What's that smell?" I thought.

Convincing myself that my mind was playing tricks, I turned the knob of my kitchen sink and continued rinsing the dishes.


Fifteen minutes had elapsed and my countertop oven had finished steaming. Wary of the hazards of hot water vapour, I slipped my arms into my long-sleeved oven mitts and removed the baking tray from the oven.

"Ahh dammit, I burnt the towel!"


This loaf was an adaptation of Hamelman's 40% rye bread with caraway seeds. If you're interested, the original recipe can be found here on Steve's blog called Bread Cetera. (Very awesome, by the way.)

In my version of Hamelman's 40% rye bread, I slightly decreased the starter and water amount, and ommitted the instant yeast and caraway seeds, sort of. The night prior to the bake, I soaked the caraway seeds in water, rested it overnight, strained it, and used the caraway-flavoured water to hydrate the dough. (This wasn't done out of preference but out of experimentation.)

Further, with tips and suggestions from DA (dabrownman), I implemented Sylvia's steaming method. Yeah yeah, I know, it was poorly executed but it worked---like a mini-sauna, it was!



I panicked and needed a solution---fast. While steaming, the top of my loaf throttled itself towards the upper burners of my oven, attributed by the large oven spring. The loaf was, in other words, at risk of being scorched. 

Subsequently, I re-positioned the middle rack lined with clay tiles, where the dough laid upon, into the lower slot of my oven.


You know what else was new for me? Slashing a spiral into dough. With a razor blade clamped between my thumb and index finger, I paused amidst scoring and thought, "What the heck am I doing?"

Seriously, how do you score a perfect spiral into a large ball of dough?


After being cooled for more than twelve hours, the crust of the loaf was somewhat firm, yielding slightly to the pressure of my fingers. Wafting a light aroma of caraway, the crumb was modestly soft, cool, and faintly moist to the touch. As for the taste? The flesh of the bread was subtly sweet and nutty, accompanied by a gentle but pleasant tang.

Next time, if I were to re-make this loaf, I'll aim for a bolder bake and incorporate grounded caraway seeds into the dough. Not surprisingly, I missed that faintly bitter, licorice taste imparted by caraway.

:) Take care and have a happy baking, all. 


bakingbadly's picture

Yeast water + Water wheel + Buns = Yeast water wheel buns (I hope my math checks out)

Incubated for over two weeks, the yellow hued liquid bubbled and frothed, wafting a mild but sweet aroma. It was time, I thought. Time to test my very first yeast water---a culture of microbes created and substained by only three ingredients: mineral water, honey, and loose tea leaves.


Based on Akiko's Japanese sandwich loaf recipe (from her highly informative blog on yeast water, I might add), I divided the dough into twelve portions, 100 to 104 grams each, and baked them in the shape resembling water wheels. What I did was, I rounded the portioned dough during the shaping phase, compressed them with modest pressure, slit five cuts along the rim of each flattened ball of dough, then applied an egg wash consisting purely of yolk for that glossy sheen.


Not only was shaping the dough into water wheels was new to me, but the way I shaped the dough into balls was new as well. As demonstrated by Mark in this video, in a smooth, circular fashion I rolled the portioned dough between the counter and the palm of my hand. Initally, however, I fumbled---quite badly---and relinquished all thought but one:

"How the heck did he do that?!" 

Undefeated, I re-attempted the ball-shaping technique with steady effort and a tongue peeking from the corner of my lips.

Ever seen a bread baker with a stupefied grin while shaping dough? Well, you would have if you were observing me that day. Never in my life had I felt this peculiar but pleasant sensation: a small ball of dough tightening beneath my palm.


As experimental as I am, I wanted to test and observe the effects of cinnamon on dough and yeast. Of course, that's what I did.

Prior to hand kneading, the dough was divided into halves (631 grams each), where one would contain less than a gram of ground cinnamon. To reduce any confusion, I sprinkled poppy seeds onto the portioned cinnamon dough to indicate that they were spiced. In contrast, the portioned but non-spiced dough was topped with white sesame seeds.

My results?... 


Both baked simultaneously on the same baking tray, the crumb on the left does not contain cinnamon, whereas the crumb on the right was spiced with cinnamon.

In general, the buns containing ground cinnamon were more porous, with slightly larger holes. However, I'm not totally convinced that this was caused by the addition of cinnamon.

During the shaping phase, did I apply less pressure onto the portioned cinnamon dough compared to its non-cinnamon counterpart? Well, it's a possibility.

Nevertheless, this particular experiment was fraught with valuable lessons. Boule shaping. Single-hand ball shaping. The cold oven method. The slow metabolism of yeast water. The effects of yeast water on dough. The possible effects of cinnamon on yeast. The differences between French type 65 flour and American all-purpose flour. And oh, so many more.

:) Thanks for dropping by. Keep well and happy baking.


bakingbadly's picture

How long ago was it?...

Oh, yes, I remember. I remember it well. Three months ago I happened upon Khalid's (mebake) multigrain struan on TFL---a bread loaf heavily enriched with grains and seeds, topped with a luscious field of poppy seeds. Tantalized by the thought of crafting such a fine loaf myself, I dove ahead, not knowing that I'd fail despite using the best ingredients that I could afford, despite my patience and greatest effort.

The crust, pale and feeble. The crumb, dense and damp. And the flavour, vile rancidity.

Deeply disheartened by my failed attempt, self-doubt plundered my body of motivation throughout the course of a week, bringing me to the brink of cease and desist. In other words, I wanted to quit baking. 


So, why didn't I quit baking? Well, on that bleak day, my heart became enlivened, resuscitated by a bolt of insight. My failed loaf incited so much distraught because of one reason: I was passionate about bread.

During the subsequent months, I progressively honed my bread baking skills by experimenting with sourdough starters, higher hydration dough, kneading, folding and shaping techniques, as well as steaming and baking methods---all learnt to one day confront and slay the recipe that nearly slaughtered my baking spirit.

With great honour, I now present to you my second attempt at Peter Reinhart's whole wheat multigrain struan. 


My second attempt deviated from the first attempt in many ways. Most notably, I substituted the biga with a whole wheat sourdough starter, retarded the bulk fermentation via refrigeration, and implemented the "Dutch oven method". Technically speaking, it was thick metal pot, not a Dutch oven.


In equal parts, this particular struan was packed---really packed---with pearl barley, buckwheat, quinoa, flax seeds, white sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. 



See? I wasn't kidding---it's packed! I admit, this wasn't intentional. In all likelihood, my darn-ol'-wonky mechanical kitchen scale displayed false readings. But hey, no harm done. As they say: more grain, less plain. (Okay, I just made up that phrase on spot.) 

The flavour: Cooled for nearly twenty hours, the tender yet firm crumb bursted with nuttiness in my mouth, followed by subtle notes of butteriness and bitterness (likely caused by the uncooked quinoa and buckwheat), finishing with a progressively sharp but mild tang. Approximately nine hours later, just after work, the flavours of the struan coalesced into a smooth symphony of taste notes. It was truly wonderful, minus my immediate craving for butter. 

Final comments:

Thank you Khalid for inspiring me to bake whole wheat / whole grain breads. Thank you Karin for helping me troubleshoot my failed struan. Thank you Mini Oven for your posts on how to create and maintain a sourdough starter. And lastly, thank you to the members of TFL who've taken their time to share their knowledge, wisdom, and passion with us. It is immensly appreciated.

:) Have a happy baking,


P.S. Please feel free to critique my loaf. It will only lead to improvement---and who doesn't want that?

bakingbadly's picture

Several days ago I happened upon a disconcerting video about wheat. The audio-based video consisted of a one-hour interview with Dr. William Davis, author of the book Wheat Belly and a renown cardiologist who claims that the habitual consumption of wheat-based products is unhealthy.

In the video, Dr. William asserts that the consumption of breads can drastically increase blood sugar levels and claims that gliadin, a protein in (genetically modified) wheat flour, is an opiate that stimulates appetite, which may lead to undesirable weight gain. In addition to that, he makes statements with implications that symptoms of asthma and fatigue can be triggered or caused by bread consumption.

Other topics broached by Dr. William includes ancient grains such as emmer and spelt, gluten-free products, and sprouted grains. However, unless I'm mistaken, he doesn't mention sourdough or its effects on human health.

You can view and listen to the described video here:

Community of TFL, what are your thoughts and opinions on this topic? As a passionate baker, I may be biased (evidenced by my conflicting feelings on the subject) but wish to learn about any potential health hazards associated with grains, flours or breads.


bakingbadly's picture

Inspired by Karin's (hanseata) pan de muerto, I took her recipe, adapted it, and transformed it into a disaster---well, not entirely. I was content with the shape, the crust, and the crumb, but the flavour was... Bleh! Ick! Eww! And other interjections denoting disgust.



I was captivated... lured... by the traditional figure of the "Bread of the Dead", a boule grasped by a single hand, with segmented but bulbous fingers, topped by a spherical tear drop. Even more so, I was enamoured by the connotations and imageries associated with the pan de muerto. It's simply beautiful.

... But I had to deviate.

In no way do I mean to disrespect the customs or culture of Mexico, but my experimental thoughts were spurred and it had to come into fruition. I wanted a dead cactus.


Behold, the product of my perhaps twisted imagination: Pan de Muerto Cactus (Bread of the Dead Cactus).

Similar to the traditional pan de muerto, the bones remained but the tear drop was replaced by a withered (and burnt) flower. Moreover, the boule was sheathed by rows of thorns, made by tediously cutting the dough with scissors.


Keep this prickly monstrosity away from small children and pets. For a loaf of bread, it's rather hazardous. Heck, if you're desperate enough, it could be used as a non-threatening weapon.



Adapting Karin's recipe, I added rye flour and spices (i.e., ground anise, cloves and cinnamon), threw in a morsel of orange zest,  substituted the sugar with palm sugar, and replaced the orange flower water with brandy...

BIG mistake! 

The brandy overpowered the subtle taste notes of the cactus bread and proclaimed itself as its dominant flavour. Do you know that feeling after imbibing a shot of hard liquor---like hot fumes thrusting itself from the pits of your stomach, through your throat and onto the back of your eyeballs? To a much, much lesser degree, that's what I felt after ingesting a piece of the Dead Cactus.


Perhaps contributed by the addition of a "water roux" or "tangzhong", the crumb was rather soft and springy---just what I was aiming for.

I'm not disappointed with my results. No, not completely. I've several reasons to be content, actually: For the first time I bulk retarded a dough; I discovered the smooth and well rounded caramel taste of palm sugar; I properly cooked a water roux; and I learned that prolonged proofing and convection baking helps retain the intricate shape of a bread loaf.

Thanks for dropping by and reading my post. I wish you a better bake than I. :)


bakingbadly's picture

Based on a recipe by Steve from Bread Cetera, I recently prepared and baked 4 loaves of ciabatta. My version of Steve's ciabatta contains fresh mozzarella (made from Buffalo milk), dry herbs such as oregano and rosemary, a bit of medium rye flour and extra water, bumping the dough to approx. 80% hydration.


The dough of this ciabatta had the highest hydration that I've handled so far. I admit, it was not very easy for me to manipulate, despite frequently wetting my hands and baking utensils to prevent sticking.


My biggest problem was transferring the dough from my homemade couche (a linen tablecloth dusted with rice flour) to the sheet pan. I did my best but ended up with slightly warped loaves rather than rectangular loaves that I was aiming for. 

Also, I'm not sure where I got this idea but I decided to lay a sprig or two of Thai basil across each of my loaves. I was hoping it'd leave a nice, clean imprint...



In the photo above, the top is my first ciabatta, proofed for only 30 to 40 minutes. On the bottom is my forth and final ciabatta, proofed for nearly two hours. (The other two were given away.) This was not done for purposes of experimentation. Simply put, I miscalculated the amount of dough I was preparing, realized that I had an extreme excess, and couldn't proof any of my dough in the refrigerator. My fridge was completely full.

Although, I'm glad I committed that major error. I observed and learned how the proofing times can affect the crumb.


How to describe the flavour? Well, it tasted slightly nutty and mildly savoury (presumably from the mozzarella), accompanied by a faint aroma of herbs. Moreover, the crumb was much softer than I expected. It'd make a nice sandwich bread, me thinks.

Unfortunately, the dough was dusted with too much flour (both type 00 Italian flour and rice flour), which resulted in a very dry mouthfeel, at least initially. To compound that effect, the mozzarella was deyhydrated, which took on a nearly powdery form. Another concern was the bottom crust... It didn't brown at all--too soft and compliant. Perhaps my oven was not preheated long enough? 

Anyway, I now have a better understanding on how to handle higher hydration doughs. My goal now is to produce a palatable sourdough ciabatta with holes as large as craters of the Earth's moon.

Yeah, you're right. That's too large. 

Happy baking all! :) 

bakingbadly's picture

Note: I had posted this on TFL's forum (Photos & Photography). However, I'm posting it again as a blog entry in case there are those of you who might be interested but missed my post.

A brief introduction: I'm a Canadian-born citizen now living in a small town called Siem Reap, Cambodia (Southeast Asia). I've been living in Cambodia for nearly 3 years and, believe it or not, I'm still adapting to Cambodia's culture despite that my parents are Cambodian. 

A week ago I had moved into a new apartment, but was forced to abandon my baking equipment, most notably my convection microwave oven. Reason being, the oven did not belong to me. I bake every Sunday, or at least I try to, but having no fridge, no stove, and no oven (not to mention no Internet and no TV), I couldn't possibly bake anything unless I built a clay oven from scratch (oh, how I wish that was so...)

So, to fill that unquenchable baking void, I decided to visit a number of bakeries and document my visits by taking a series of photographs. (I apologize in advance for my amateurish photography skills.)

I hope you enjoy! 


P.S. I will upload a few of my photos into this post to give you a sneak preview. :)

bakingbadly's picture

I'm a novice weekend baker who's been, of course, baking for about two (frustrating) months... Having said that, prior to my not-so-successful challah, I had never handled whole wheat flour, used a soaker or preferment (and thus the "delayed fermentation method"), or even braided dough strands. So, it was reasonable to expect that I'd encounter a few problems during the bread making process...


Pictured above is the semi-soft crumb of the whole wheat challah. Yes, I know, I know, challah isn't traditionally made with whole wheat flour, but I had both the flour and Peter Reinhart's book (Whole Grain Breads) on hand. I simply couldn't resist!

Truth be told, I was shocked that my challah was packed full of flavour! Well, not to the extent that I anticipated. Wafting a strong wheaty aroma, the crumb had a mild and pleasant tang, which complemented the faint buttery taste. Although, I may be confusing egginess with butteriness.

You see, until recently I had not ingested and indulged in any whole wheat breads that weren't mass produced and commercially packaged. Never will I purchase such an inferior loaf again!


I was too ambitious, perhaps too foolish as well. I wanted to transform my dough strands into a six-braided challah. But as soon as I arrived to the braiding, my mind had succumbed to a deep void, which quickly filled with a combination of confusion and self-pity.

So, I did what I had to do. I developed and implemented my own braiding technique on spot, as depicted above. 


Now how did this happen? Well, I'll tell you how... utter cluelessness. I had forgotton to factor in the dough's expansion into my calculations and, well... the consequences are quite clear, haha. 

Reluctantly, I crammed my poor innocent loaf into the sheet pan. If you're curious or wondering, I bake with a microwave convection oven, which by the way won't fit in any pans larger than 9 x 11.5 in.


After being baked at 150C / 302F for a total duration of 55 minutes, what emerged from the oven was a slightly arched, matte brown challah.

I tell ya', my emotions fluctuated between joyful and upset, like a roller coaster ride, throughout this baking incident.

If you're interested in further details about my challah (doesn't contain baker's percentages, unfortunately), please visit my blog: There, I document nearly all of my baking "experiments", many of which are considered failures--personally speaking. Also, I'd appreciate any feedback about my blog, whether negative or positive. (Is the font too small? Color scheme too attrocious? Photography too dim? Any comments will help, really.) Thank you kindly in advance!

On a further note, critiques pertinent to my baking techniques and methods are also welcomed. I've had individuals tell me that I'm not a good baker, plus other nasty comments, so I'm well adapted to harsh criticism.

Anyway, thank you all for taking the time to read about my... baking misfortunes, haha.

:) Stay well and happy baking! 



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