The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Brokeback Cowboy


237g/  95% White Bread Flour, unbleached

13g/   05% Whole Wheat Flour

250g/ 100% Water (12C)

100g/  20% Mother

  1. Dissolve 100g of Mother in 250g water at 12 degrees celcius. 
  2. Add liquid to flour and mix until a slack mass forms
  3. Refrigerate dough for 6 hours
  4. Remove Levain from fridge and let rise at room temperature (18C ideally) for a further 18 hours
  5. Allow 24 hours of maturation before using


Final Dough

1000g/  80% White Bread Flour, unbleached

250g/    20% Whole Wheat Flour

30g/      2.5% Sea Salt

500g/    40% Levain

875g/    70% Water (16C)

125g/    10% Raisins

125g/    10% Walnuts, toasted

  1. Dissolve 500g Levain in 875g water at 16C
  2. Add liquid to 1000g White Flour and 250g Whole Wheat Flour, mix until just combined
  3. Cover, and autolyse for 30 minutes
  4. Using either a mixer, or hand, add 30g of Sea Salt to dough and mix for about 5 minutes
  5. When the dough no longer sticks to the bowl, it's ready to fold.
  6. On lightly floured table, press out dough into a rough rectangle
  7. Cover rectangle with 125g Raisins and 125g Walnuts
  8. To fold, pull in the far left corner of the mass out, and then in upon itself. Do this in a circular fashion until you've completed 4 pulls/folds.
  9. Oil container and place dough seam down inside.
  10. Rest 50 minutes at room temperature (18C ideally)
  11. After 50 minutes, fold as per step #10, cover and rest a further 50 minutes
  12. After your 2nd 50 minute rest, fold as per step #10, cover and rest a final 50 minutes

Cutting and Forming

  1. On lightly floured table, unmould dough and fold as per step #10
  2. Bench rest 5 minutes before cutting
  3. Cut 3, 800 g loaves and round tightly
  4. Cover rounded loaves and bench rest for 30 minutes
  5. While dough is resting, flour 3 bannetons (for boules or batardes)
  6. After 30 minutes of resting, shape dough in to desired form
  7. Securely cover bannetons with a clear plastic garbage bag and let rise 50 minutes


  1. Pre-heat oven to 275C with a large tray rectangular tray, or pizza stone inside *Alternatively you could simply bake these loaves, free form, on a baking tray, but will lose oven spring as a result*
  2. Lightly flour pizza peel and unmoud bannetons
  3. With a sharp knife or lame, cut a long slash from end to end, at a 20-30 degree angle
  4. Open oven door and slide loaves on to the hot pan or pizza stone
  5. Using a spray bottle, saturate oven with steam
  6. Turn oven down to 230C and bake for 50 minutes
  7. At 50 minutes, crack oven slightly to allow moisture to dissipate and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until desired color is achieved
  8. Remove loaves from ovens and cool


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Brokeback Cowboy

As the winter season is still in full swing up north I thought it'd be appropriate to post an old school pain d' epice or as it's better known gingerbread. This recipe was inspired by Pierre Herme's Alsatian specialty and is quite similar to his creation in format as well as yield. I've adapted some of the proportions and ingredients to better suit a North American product. I would also like to note that spices in the recipe are variable to the baker's taste and should absolutely be adjusted if you see fit. All in all it's a very interesting little cake best suited for warm port, brandy, cognac or a simple cup of black tea.

Best of luck in your baking and may the odds be forever in your favor.


Prep Time 20 minutes
 Bake Time 40-80 minutes
Product Type Tea Cake
Glaze Apricot Jelly


70g    Unbleached Pastry Flour

50g    Corn Flour

260g   Light Rye Flour

24g    Baking Powder

30g    Ground Spices ( 5g Allspice, 5g Clove, 5g Green Cardamom, 5g Star Anise, 10g Cinnamon)

30g    Freshly Grated Ginger

150g  Butter

50g    Brown Sugar

60g    Corn Syrup

380g  Wild Flower Honey

380g  Orange Marmalade

4g      Sea Salt

200g  Eggs

Total Weight/ Volume 1688g or 1700ml


1. Pre- heat oven to 360F.  Butter and flour cake moulds or line loaf pans depending on your desired form. Sift dry ingredients together.

2. In kitchen aid, paddle spices, butter, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, marmalade and sea salt on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. The mixture should be much paler in color.

3. Incorporate eggs gradually and continue beating for another 10 minutes

4. Gently fold in dry ingredients. Fill cake moulds or loaf tins 60% of the way full ( a rough estimate is fine).

5. Bake. If using small cake moulds bake at 360F for 40 minutes, turning pan at half way point. If using loaf tins bake at 360F for 40 minutes, turn pans, reduce the oven heat to 320F and  bake for a further 40 minutes. To check doneness insert a toothpick in to the center and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked through.

6. Un-mould cakes from pans and glaze while hot. For this particular cake it's best to glaze with apricot jelly warmed through to a fluid consistency. A 50/50 sugar to water glaze heated to a boil would also work adequately well.


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Brokeback Cowboy

I've applied here instructions for a classic Brioche Nanterre. This specific brioche is baked in a loaf pan with 8 individual portions which are brilliant for setting at a tea service to be easily pulled apart. This loaf does break from convention in that it is egg washed twice. Once before rising and the second before going into the oven. This creates a richer and more luxurious color as well as shine. I also break up the ingredients list in to three sections consisting of;

Pre-Ferment (Poolish)

Main Dough

Egg Wash

This is to clarify the repetition of ingredients. Best of luck in your baking and may the odds be forever in your favor.

Yield 4- 800g Loaves
Prep Time 15 Minutes
Baking Time 40 Minutes
Steam Optional

300 g   Whole milk (Poolish)

65 g     Fresh Yeast (Poolish)

300 g   Bread Flour (Poolish)


750 g   Eggs (Main Dough)

1200 g Bread Flour (Main Dough)

60 g     Sugar (Main Dough)

19 g     Sea Salt (Main Dough)

750 g   Unsalted butter (Main Dough)


50 g     Eggs (Egg Wash)

5 g       Whole milk (Egg Wash)

1 ds     Salt (Egg Wash)


 Pre- Ferment (Poolish)

1. Combine 300g Whole Milk, 65g Fresh Yeast and 300g Bread Flour. Mix until a batter forms and allow to rise at room temperature until the center falls in upon itself.

Main Dough

1. In a stand mixer combine 1200g Bread Flour, 60g Sugar, 19g Salt and 750g Eggs.

2. Begin mixing on low speed gradually incorporating the poolish until a mass forms.

3. Once the ingredients are combined raise mixing speed to medium-high (5 or 6 on Kitchenaid) and let mix for 5 minutes.

4. Gradually incorporate 750g of cubed room temperature butter in to the mass, mixing at a high speed until the dough releases it's self from the bowl.

5. Check temperature of dough which should ideally be 22-23C. Any higher and the butter will separate from the mass and create a greasy end product.

6. Remove dough from mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in 4C refrigerator overnight.

7. The next day, remove dough from bowl and cut in to 4- 800g balls. From this point shaping is up to you, however for the Nanterre shape one must cut each ball in to a further 8-100g pieces.

8. Gently round the balls and place in a lightly buttered loaf pan. Each loaf should consist of 8-100g balls arranged symmetrically in the pan.

9. For the egg wash; beat together 50g Eggs, 5g Whole Milk and a dash of salt.

10. Egg wash formed loaves

11. Cover in a plastic bag and allow to proof until risen roughly 1/2 inch above loaf tin tops. This will take about 1.5 - 2 hours.

12. Pre-heat oven to 380F.

13. Remove proofed loaves from bag and egg wash a second time making sure to evenly apply the glaze. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 37-40 minutes. The loaves should be a rich mahogany color. To check the doneness of the loaf stick a small pairing knife in to the center and pull it out after a few seconds. If the knife is clean of batter it's done. Alternately you can check the internal temperature with a thermometer which will read over 205F.

14. Pull loaves from oven and unmould immediately. At this point you can glaze the loaf if you wish with any topping of your choosing. Some options are;

Melted jam, marmalade or jelly diluted with water to a point that it can be applied freely.

Sugar syrup, equal parts water and sugar.

Apricot glaze, diluted if necessary.

Warmed wild honey, diluted in water

Once glazed many chefs may take the liberty to add a further garnish and this of course up to the creator's inclination.

Some options that would also work fashionably are;

Streusel, equal parts flour, sugar and butter.

Pearl Sugar or another coarse sugar.

Cocoa Nibs, Shaved Chocolate.

Candied Fruit.

Fresh Berries, arranged and dusted with icing sugar.

Candied or Fresh Flower Petals, such as violet or rose.

Additional Notes

 For the poolish a rule that applies to sweet bread baking is the 54 law.

The 54 law means that the liquid temperature, the room temperature and the flour temperature should all add up to 54C.

For example,

Your room temperature is 25C

The flour temperature is 15C

The liquid temperature would be x+(25+15)=54     x=54-30 so the liquid temperature would be 15C

This rule is completely unnecessary in a home kitchen however I thought I would include it for the more astute bakers.

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Brokeback Cowboy

Being a pastry chef by trade, hazelnut is a fundamental ingredient in my repertoire. Yet it seems a bridesmaid to Walnuts in conventional bread making. While devising a baking menu for an upcoming job I decided to feature a hazelnut bread as my nut based loaf. The difficulty in using hazelnuts is that their flavor is semi subtle and must be exaggerated through other ingredients which in pastry is most commonly done with brown butter, caramel or an earthy chocolate. Both excellent choices, however I did not want a dessert/sweet bread in this case, as my true intent was to find nuttiness in the wheat itself. 

Upon reading through some TFL posts the other day(I'm particular fond of Dmsnyder & Janedo's writings,) I found myself going through the comments section on a Pain A l' Ancienne where Jane and David were having a discussion on the delusion of hazelnut flavor in long autolysed dough(You're not crazy Jane. It's there.) To me, this represented the perfect vessel to develop a hazelnut flavored bread which relies on inherent nuttiness in wheat.Once formulations were made, and the recipe followed through I was more than happy with the results. 

The recipe relies on a stiff levain (Local Breads P.111) as well as a little fresh yeast for leavening. The finished quantity of dough was enough for 2 batardes, feel free to extend the quantities using baker's percentages to your requirements (With the exception of baguettes which mostly go to friends and family, I rarely make more then one or two loaves at a time.) Another note about the recipe. I used red fife flour as it's my go-to WW however another local WW flour would be adequate in it.


12-14 hours before mixing final dough.

Refresh Stiff Levain

50g Levaiin 50% Hydration

50g Water 20-25dC

95g White Bread Flour

5g Red Fife Flour

Combine levain and water, stirring to a frothy consistency. Incorporate flour and knead into a rough dough. Be sure to absorb all flour. Let mature for at least 12 hours. The excess levain can be stored in fridge for up to a week. I typically refresh mine every 3 days.


450g White Bread Flour

50g Red Fife Flour

400g Ice Cold Water

Combine flour and water, stirring until distributed evenly. Wrap in cling film and rest in fridge for 12 hours.

Final Dough

900g Autolyse Dough(Pre-Dough)

50g Stiff Levain

5g Fresh Yeast

10g Sea Salt

160g Hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

Totals (represented as %)

White Flour 90%

Red Fife Flour 10%

Water 80%

Stiff Levain 10%

Fresh Yeast 2.5%

Sea Salt 5%

Hazelnuts 32%

Remove autolyse flour/water mixture from fridge. Combine with stiff levain, fresh yeast. Using a kitchen aid mixer or equivalent, mix at speed 2-3 for 5 minutes. Add sea salt to dough and continue mixing for a further 7-10 minutes. Check proper dough development using a gluten test. Add toasted hazelnuts to well developed dough and mix until combined.  Rest dough in appropriate vessel for at least 20 minutes.

Bulk Ferment dough for 4-6 hours (in my kitchen the temperature currently ranges from 14-18dC which took the dough about 30 minutes longer than the expected fermentation times, however I'm quite aware that the environment I ferment in is an exception...brrr!) Within the first 2 hours of fermentation perform 4 stretch and folds. To achieve this wet hands liberally and grab one corner of the dough and fold it into the middle. Do a 1/4 turn of the dough and proceed folding until all 4 edges are in the middle. Gently flip dough and tuck excess edges (love handles?) underneath the mass. 

After bulk fermentation, remove dough from container and gently release some of the internal gases. Divide dough in half and form in to batardes. Place in WELL FLOURED couche or banneton. This is a slack dough and needs to be handle with dexterity.

Proof batardes for 1-1 1/2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 480dF. If using a baking stone, place it in the oven now.

Insert steaming vessel in to hot oven and add 1/2 cup of ice cubes. Transfer batardes to a peel and score with a straight 90 degree cut on the long axis. Place in oven.

Bake at 480dF for 15 minutes. Remove steaming vessel and turn down heat to 450dF. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, depending on your desired color.

Check doneness of  98dC. Turn off oven and leave door ajar with loaf resting on baking stone for 5-10 minutes.

Bon Appetite

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Brokeback Cowboy

As stated by Jan Hedh in his book Swedish Breads and Pastries ‘The advantages of scalding include better kneading abilities, a strong aroma and flavor…making the bread more durable.’

I was curious to learn more about scaled bread as it’s something we ate regularly during my time in Sweden. As opposed to the one I just baked, the scalded breads of memory were more a wading type loaf that was incredibly dense. This recipe however is adapted from a professional Swedish baker (Not Jan Hedh, though I used his book throughout as a reference point) in turn it’s much lighter and made for a modern palate.

My lasting experience with this particular dough was the incredible aroma it gave while developing, ranging from cider in the early stages to a peculiar baked custard in the later. For that reason I recommend you all to try this and share how your particular bread developed. I’m imagining the possibilities that reduced yeast and longer resting times with at least the proofing done at a low temperature would have on flavor development.

I have not used red fife flour often in my baking career apart from petit epi’s in a particular bread basket, and because of this experience will absolutely be introducing it as a regular in my pantry. The bread flour listed above is regional wheat grown about 40 km away and is only available in a few local health food stores as well as the farm itself. This will slightly effect water retention so be conscious of this in other attempts as the hydration percentages are relatively high to begin with.

 Another note to the will be baker, do not fear long kneading. Granted the machine is gently working the dough at a low speed your bread will not suffer the ill effects of slow/fast cycle, particularly over oxidation. The high hydration requires longer kneading and will be a very thick crepe batter otherwise.

Please enjoy this recipe and be sure to share your experience. Happy baking. 

Recipe Follows:



125g                Water

63g                  Red Fife Flour

12g  Salt

Boil water and pour over flour/salt. Stir into a paste and cover at room temperature and rest at room temp 12-24 hrs.

Final Dough

200g Scalding

270g White bread flour

180g Red Fife Flour

350g Water, 70 to 78

20g Fresh Yeast

Combine in kitchen aid mixer on speed 2 for around 15 minutes. Do gluten test. Let rise for 2 to 4 hours stretching and folding at 3 to 4 times. 20 minute intervals worked fine for me. Once the dough reaches about 2.5 times its size, punch it down and let rest for several minutes. Gently form your loaves to whatever you want, with a batard being most traditional option. Allow loaves to proof until a finger dent test shows an indent that gradually recedes. Preheat oven and baking tray for at least 45 minutes to 500F. Once proofed score loaves. I simply scored my bouleo n the axis with two small parallel slits to fill out the remainder. The Swedes appreciate symmetry, so here’s to you. Transfer scored loaves to the baking sheet and adequately steam oven either using a prepared pan or a spray bottle. Bake at full temperature for 5 minutes , reducing the heat down to 420 for the remaining baking time. After 15 minutes of baking open door to release steam for a few seconds. At the 25 minute mark, repeat the previous step. Bake loaf until thoroughly baked. I highly recommend a darker bake than mine, as the crust left a little to be desired, especially in a wheaty bread such as this. Jan takes his very dark, shy of burning. Before cutting in, rest loaves for a minimum of an hour.   The interior crumb of my bread was honeycomb and surprisingly delicate and spongy with a slight bitterness, complimenting sweet overtones.

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Brokeback Cowboy

I'd like to start a discussion on the direction that the baking industry is going in. Why is something so fundamentally essential to qualities of human life, trending towards inhumanity. Frankly, the logistics are this; It's a difficult industry to make a living at, the personal costs are innumerably higher than most professions and the overall quality, including of staff as well is decreasing dramatically each year. As in everything, income plays into it, not enough pie to pass around (Pardon the pun), but I'm curious if this is rooted much deeper, perhaps even in the overall outlook on food. This topic has been of interest to me in the last few years as the delusions of grandeur so subtly put out there by the celebrity cooks and 'Food" network has begun to dim. I'm interested in what happened to our industry? Where did it go astray? For how long has it been in decline? Are we seeing an end to professional kitchens and bakeries, and a furthering of assembly line production plants? It's disappointing to see such a progressive movement towards professional cooking/baking in younger people, especially those in their teens, whom actively pursue a respectable career and positively impact the public, end up wasting away at some minimum wage 'Rat's Nest' with no development into their 20's. 

I'm incredibly happy to be a member of freshloaf, as it is a community of people committed to good cooking. This is a far cry from the shite we're served on a general basis. Yet it seems, from personal interaction, that a majority of the population does have some interest in good food. Otherwise this would all be for not. I've been in hospitality for a number of years, including a kitchen apprenticeship leading me into Pastry/ Baking. A trade, I came to love. That was then however, this is now. And watching standards get lower, cost competition get higher, and wages stagnant, is overwhelming demoralizing to myself and more importantly my family, whom suffer the burden equally with me. I've trained countless apprentices in those years and it breaks my heart that they're not leaving my hands a competent baker. (Now before you attack me and say, it's an obligation to better them, I agree with you, but it is not so. I am not an owner and would quickly find myself unemployed with dependents at home.) Back on topic; These students of baking are not introduced, to pre-ferments, hybrid levains, sourdough, scalding, traditional designations, or seasonality. Direct dough is the industry norm. Shaped and in the store in several hours. What legacy is being left on the trade? Why glamorize something which is at it's essence filthy? Is it like this across the board?

So here are a few questions, for whomever wishes to read this. I'm looking forward to discussing ideas and opinions concerning extremely unsettling trends and realities plaguing a function so vitality close to our humanity.


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