The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cheesie Keys's blog

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Cheesie Keys

Was it beginner's luck?

In my previous and first post on The Fresh Loaf, I described my experience of baking the introductory loaf from Floyd's handbook.  This was my first attempt at Artisan Bread, and I liked it!

Well, that was yesterday, and today I had another go to see if I had gotten lucky first time around - to my surprise it seems to have turned out even better!  As mentioned in that post I wanted to make a couple of changes, and also thanks to the comments from that post I realised that the sticky consistency the dough starts off as is to be expected.  If this is a 80% hydration recipe, then I'm glad I didn't know that at the time - ignorance is bliss!

I still followed Floyd's recipe closely, but this time I used 335g of Strong White Bread Flour (35g more than previously) with 240ml of warm water.  Whilst it was still very sticky to start with, I didn't panic so much and only added a tablespoon of extra flour to the work surface twice to keep it manageable.  In fact, by about 6 - 7 minutes of kneading I needed to add some water to my fingers to loosen things up a bit.  The dough definitely was more silky and stretchy this time around and in general more manageable - plenty of practice still needed but I'm encouraged

It proved again for 2 hours, and then after shaping another rise of 1 hour.  I kept the oven temperatures the same as yesterday (220C for the first 5 minutes, and then 200 for the remaining time), but added an additional 5 minutes, so a total of 25 minutes.  I did the steam technique again, but this time I didn't not use boiling water, and I didn't really get a big release of steam, so I think next time I will always go with boiling.

Size does matter

At the suggestion of Simon3030 I left the loaf in the oven with it off for an additional 5 minutes to crisp up a bit.  The crust certainly was more of a golden brown colour this time, and I must have done something right with the kneading as it grew much larger in the oven.

Here is my first and second attempt again showing the difference in size of the loaf.  Amazing what some additional kneading can do!  The second loaf crust is darker although the pictures don't really show that.

Tasty Loaf

We were good and let it cool completely this time before eating it tonight (helped by my wife having baked some Apple and Raisin Muffins!).  The most important thing was it tasted great - less doughy than yesterday, so well cooked.  We also toasted some of it and it made pretty good toast too!  There is even a little left over for breakfast tomorrow so I'll see how it keeps overnight.

Here is a picture of the crumb texture before it headed off to the toaster - a few holes, not sure where they came from?!

Where to Next?

I obviously need to keep practising the basics on this recipe - it seems to be quite forgiving.  But sadly the weekend is over, so that will have to wait until next weekend.  I think I'm going to look at three variations on this unless the experts on here suggest otherwise:

  1. Combining regular plain flour with Strong Bread flour - what differences would that make?
  2. Going wholemeal (The Rustic Loaf from TFL) 
  3. Using a Poolish - simply because its a great word to say out loud!, and its the next recipe in Floyd's book

I'm also on the look out for a good (but simple) sandwich loaf (nice and soft) that my one year old can eat instead of the supermarket sliced he currently has.  Any suggestions?

Thanks again for the encouragement, comments always welcome!

- Cheers for now, Barry


Cheesie Keys's picture
Cheesie Keys


I've been wanting to get into baking bread for a while, and coming across the Fresh Loaf site gave me the final push to have a go and get my hands dirty (doughy)!  So here is my first report in baking "artisan" bread from the point of view of a complete novice.

After looking around numerous sites for good beginner loaf recipes, I finally bought Floyd's handbook from the Amazon Kindle Store.  Its a great little book, and I think I will be doing quite a number of the recipes he features in it - but first I went for the introductory loaf - French-style bread.

As you can see from the picture above, it didn't turn out too bad for a first attempt - I'm pretty proud of my efforts! 

Baking Floyd's French Loaf

Living in the UK, I don't have measuring cups, so after some research I went with a 120g flour to 1 cup raito - See my comments later on what I'll do next time.

I used 300g Strong White Bread Flour (Waitrose Leckford Estate), and 240ml of warm water, with the salt and sugar as stated in the original recipe.  I currently have some instant fast-yeast sachets (Allinsons), and so used half a packet.

Once all mixed together the dough was pretty wet, and a lot of it started sticking to my fingers (slightly stress inducing).  I found sprinkling flour on the work surface (granite) and directly onto the dough helped (as Floyd states) for a short time, but as I kept kneading, the dough would quickly become over-sticky again.  I'm wondering whether the granite work surface has anything to do with this?  Things became easier after repeating the sprinking of the work surface about 4 times (using a tablespoon of flour each time).  I also tried a small amount of oil of the work surface, and again it helped for a short period of time, but the dough soon became quite sticky again.

On reflection, I think my hydration percentages might have been a bit high? (see, I've been reading lots of books about the subject!).  However, I did end up with quite a nice light silky dough which looked like this after "rising" for 2 hours - I smaller bowl is needed for a more impressive rise I think!

Dough after first rise

I didn't find shaping the loaf as difficult as I thought it would be - again Floyd's instructions are really easy to follow.  I left the shaped dough to rise for another hour, although to me it didn't really look any different between the first shaping and leaving it for an hour.

I have a fan assisted oven, and pre-heated it to 220C.  A bread knife worked well to score the loaf, although I think I could cut it a little deeper next time.  I also added a cup of hot water to a roasting pan as a put the loaf into the oven on the middle shelf.  After 5 minutes I turned the temperature down to 200C and then after another 5 minutes I rotated the baking sheet.  The oven-spring was impressive, the loaf really ballooned up nicely.  

The loaf was then left in the oven for another 10 minutes (total time 20 minutes).  We couldn't wait for it to cool very much before trying it out, and it tasted pretty good!

Crumb structure

Changes for Loaf #2 

The loaf turned out much better than I could have hoped for, and its given me the inspiration to keep on practicising - I think I'm hooked!  For loaf #2 I think I'm going to make a few tweaks:

  • Increase the total baking time by an extra 5 minutes - the bread was a little doughy in the centre
  • Increase the amount of flour to something like 330g (133g per cup) to try and reduce the wetness of the dough
  • Really make sure I use no more than 240ml water
  • Use a chopping board, rather than granite for the kneading surface - would this be easier or not?
  • Knead the bread for longer (I need the practice) - I assume more kneading can make a "lighter" loaf?
  • Score the bread a little deeper

Loaf #2 will be baked tomorrow so hopefully I'll continue reporting my adventures in "proper" breadmaking then.  

Comments and suggestions always welcome!  Cheers for now! 


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