The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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David Esq.

I was on vacation for a week and used my starter for nothing but pancakes (which, because they were watered down, came out more like crepes) and when we came home on Saturday, I knew that my usual tartine bake was not going to fit in with my weekend schedule. 

Fortunately, I had yet to bake from Flour, Water, Salt & Yeast and I decided to give it a go with a <gasp!> 100% All Purpose Flour loaf, using <gasp!> commercial yeast!

Of course, I could not start with a straight dough after eating so many country loaves and whole wheat variants of same, so I opted for the 80% Poolish variety of white bread, figuring that this would keep me from finding the bake overly bland.

This also provided me an opportunity to use my nifty Cambro buckets.

The top bucket has some bizarre i-Phone flash reflection going on. In person, the bucket looks just like the bottom one, only smaller.  The top bucket contains my poolish recently mixed. The bottom photo contains the remaining flour, salt and in the baby food container, the yeast for the final dough.  I was not sure if it was safe to mix the yeast with the flour and salt and let it sit overnight but figured it can be left in a glass jar unrefrigerated and be just fine.

The next morning, my poolish was over-ripe.  The book says it should be rounded on top, and tripled in volume.  Instead, it looked like it had collapsed some because the surface was a bit concave rather than domed.

I dispersed the yeast the following morning and added the poolish into the larger bucket.

I did not remember to photograph the bucket before it was time to shape the dough.  Nor did I photograph the dough in the baskets.  The dough was a lot more pillow-like than my tartine doughs. It was very soft. It was also a bit more difficult to handle because it seemed like it was ready to deflate at any moment. Either that or it was just looser dough.

The finished loaves (a bit blurry) looked pretty good, though I overcooked the bottoms (need to raise the oven rack back up a notch).  They did not burst and I wonder if that is the result of my poolish/biga being overly developed prior to dough mixing.

The truth is, I could hardly tell if I was proofing seam side up or seam side down. But these photos make me think I did it seam-side down since I did no scoring.

And, finally, another crumb shot:

Let me say that the bread was delicious. Even though the bottom was burned a bit, it just added to the flavor. It is a very soft bread, a bit more difficult to cut, but oh so delicious with butter.  It made a delicious grilled cheese sandwich too.

And the following day (today) it made a fantastic peanut butter sandwich.  My wife says I should only make white breads like this, but I did remind her that we've had some delicious wheat and rye breads too and she agreed.  Plus, of course, I have a very expensive grain mill and can't possibly shelve it.

Next time I make this bread, I will mix the poolish a little later in the evening so that it is ready to go closer to 12 hours later.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I pulled the trigger on a pullman 13x4x4 loaf pan recently, and have been itching to bake a sandwich bread.  I was unable to do it last weekend due to travel plans, so I was trying to figure out a way to get the loaf done after work. Unfortunately, I can't begin to bake anything until 7:30 pm at the earliest, and I usually go to bed by 10. 

Then I had an inspiration -- instead of making the oat/white bread recipe from KA Flour's website, I would make the "master loaf" from Whole Grain Breads. I thought that I could mix the "soaker" and "biga" one evening and make and bake the dough the next.

What I forgot, however, was that the formula calls for two rises. For some reason I had thought there was only a single rise, in the pan.  However, by the time I figured it out, I was in for a penny, in for a pound, I sucked it up and realized I'd be up for at least an hour longer than I hoped.

I rushed things along by putting the dough in a warm oven and letting it rise for only 45 minutes or so, during the bulk fermentation and then for the proofing in the pan.

I also forgot how to bake the darned loaf. He uses the "epoxy" method where you make the biga and soaker the day before, and then mix in the final ingredients with the two components.  While the "final ingredients", being a bit of flour, honey, butter and a lot of yeast are to be added to the other components, I decided mix them first....resulting in what looked like wet brown sugar.

Let me just say that it is not easy incorporating that sticky granular mess into the rest of the dough.  However, after a while, it blended in seamlessly.

I still don't think I am getting a proper window pane and do not understand how it is possible to give instructions suggesting a total of 3 minutes hand kneading.  Maybe store-bought whole wheat flour would behave differently.

I get it to a shaggy mass, let it rest, and then kneed for several minutes, including slaps and folds, with wet fingers. It gets super sticky, I let it rest for another five minutes, and repeat.  May have done this 3 times.  It is still pretty darned sticky when I break off a piece for the window pane and it is still very weak.  Next time I am going to break out the kitchen aid and see if I get better development.

The dough rose nicely, and I shaped it into a log by first patting it into a long rectangle and then folding it up to the middle, from the bottom, and down from the top to the middle, and then in half again.  I have absolutely no idea why I did it this way instead of just rolling it up all the way.

I think the dough filled about 1/2 the pan, maybe a little less.  It rose to within 1 inch of the top, rather rapidly. In fact, i think it was probably closer to 3/4 of an inch. I worried it would pop the top but it did not even make it to the top.  Next time I may use more dough or perhaps with better glutton development I will get a better rise.

The loaf it self came out okay, but not fantastic.  I did not run a stick of butter along the top but will probably do that next time around.

It made great toast. It was relatively easy to slice. But it is definitely not the best bread I've made. I've got work to do on the whole grain breads.  This one, like my last one, contains  a bit of rye.  I made myself PB&J for lunch with it, and look forward to seeing how it does. However, the next loaf I make in this pan is going to be the honey oat white bread from KA Flour's site. I want a soft decadent loaf that my son will like. I don't want to try giving him the whole wheat before I get him hooked.

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David Esq.

I decided to try the rye bread from the Tartine Bread book.  This is the fourth formula I have more or less followed from the Book.  I've made the Basic Country Loaf numerous times, the Walnut Country Loaf once (my favorite bread so far), the Whole Wheat country loaf, and now the rye.

I only had 500 gram so AP flour in the house, so I made up the rest with home-milled hard red winter wheat berries. And the rye flour called for in the formula was also home milled.

For this bread, I reverted to a levain that was made 50% with AP and 50% with milled whole wheat flour.  I did this because I was advised that my 100% milled whole wheat levain looked past its peak and I figured I could slow things down a bit if I used less whole wheat flour in the Levain.  Plus, that is the formula he suggests in the book.

The dough was very sticky before the autolyse.  And, after the autolyse it was also very sticky.  I was a bit worried about this, so I wound up taking the dough out of the container and doing some slap and folds after the autolyse and then again, after the first 30 minutes.  I really did see the dough develop from doing this, and while it remained sticky, it was much less so.

I have since learned that rye flour makes a very sticky starter (reading Flour Water Salt and Yeast by Ken Forkish now), and I assume that this played a role in the sticky dough even though the Tartine formula does not call for a high percentage of rye flour. 

I believe the dough's starting temperature was 79 degrees. It moved up to 80-81 over the first 2-3 hours while it fermented in the oven with the light on. For the last hour I took it out and left it at room temperature.

The dough came out of the container okay, but it was sticky. I used a generous amount of flour on the top of the dough, flipped it, pre-shaped and let it rest, followed by the shaping.  The dough was fine for the most part, with only a little tackiness in a couple of spots.  I used extra rye flour and sifted it over the boules, together with some rice flour, scooped them up and put them in my baskets, which were generously floured with the rye flour I milled earlier in the day.

I proofed the loaves in the fridge for about 8 hours and then baked. They came out of the baskets quite easily, and I took a pastry brush to remove some of the excess flour before scoring and baking.

Two hours later, the bread was still soft and warm and oh so delicious.  The following morning, the bread was still quite moist and made delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

And, two days after baking, it made another delicious Peanutbutter sandwich.  The crumb is a perfect blend of chew and moistness.

One of the loaves bloomed a bit better than the other, but both are quite good.

There was no real sour flavor, something I attribute to skipping the overnight proofing. I skipped the overnight proofing because I was worried that the dough would overproof and become sticky whereas I could tell that the loaves would release after rising adequately over about 8 hours.

The bread also has no distinct rye flavor that I could discern.  Perhaps that was because I wound up using more whole wheat flour than rye.  Or perhaps I don't really know what rye bread is supposed to taste like. Either way, I will make this loaf again, perhaps with added rye.  I doubt I will reduce the whole wheat though.

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David Esq.

This weekend was a busy one, but I still managed to bake my loaves in the dual combo cooker.

Because we were having a BBQ birthday celebration on Saturday, I had too many things to do and not enough room to do them, until the house cleared out.  Saturday night, I took my tablespoon full of starter and mixed it with 200 grams of freshly milled hard red winter wheat, and 200 grams of water.  The product started out looking like this:

By Sunday morning, it looked like this:

Which, from the bottom of the bowl, looks like this:

When my levain looks like this, I don't bother with the float test. I just take my scraper, cut it in half, add the water and mix the dough.

This time around, rather than using rice flour and white flour, I used coarsely ground wheat berries to sprinkle my baskets (still, I used a sifter to cover the basket) together with some rice flour.

Because I was leaving the house for the day and because my fridge was still full from the BBQ, I put the baskets in a large ice cooler (with yesterday's ice in it) and when I came back from my day out of the house, the dough had risen considerably. Perhaps it was over-proofed, I don't know.

One of the loaves bloomed nicely. The larger one did not...I think I may have deflated it a bit when I transferred it to the dutch oven since it wound up going over the side a bit.

In any case, here is the crumb of the smaller loaf which bloomed a bit higher than the larger loaf.  The bread came out awesome. I waited nearly two hours to cut it, and it was fantastic both with and without a buttery spread.

The following morning, I sliced it for a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, which was delicious.  The bread is wonderfully moist and full of flavor.  Alas, now it is in a ziplog bag. I don't know if it will ever be as delicious, but I remain willing to find out.

Next weekend, I plan to follow the Tartine Bread, Rye formula and see how that comes out.  Though, I intend to use fresh milled flour instead of AP flour.

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David Esq.

I bought a large bucket of  Organic Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries from Honeyville, through Costco when they were on sale the other day. Since shipping was included, as well as the bucket and gamma seal lid, it came out to be a good buy.

I did not quite realize how large a bucket this was going to be, though I had a good idea that 40 pounds was going to give me a LOT of berries.

Last night, I made the best strawberry pancakes for dinner. Pancakes are very easy to make, but having just paid $4.95 for pancakes that were tough to cut and rather flavorless, I have to say that though easy to make, they are not always made well.

I have not tried making pancakes with flour milled from wheat berries, and the convenience of the blender makes it somewhat less likely that I will ever try to make pancakes from home-milled flour.

I previously posted about my "pioneer pancakes", based on the recipe found in my Blendtec recipe book, using wheat berries, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder and salt. They came out super tender and delicious.

This time around, I made the pancakes as follows:

1 cup of wheat berries.}
1/4 cup or so of oats2 TBSP hemp seeds
Some chia seeds (less than a tsp, I think)
1.5 cups of whole milk

Turn blender on and cycle up to "9" and let it go for 50 seconds (until the cycle ends)

At this point you have a very thin batter.

Drop in:

2 eggs
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Honey
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Hit pulse 5-7 times.

Heat the griddle with some coconut oil and and slice up some large strawberries and throw the berries in the blender. Do not blend.
When griddle is sizzling hot, use a large ladle to scoop out the batter and some berries (or just batter and drop the berries into the ladle separately) and get cooking.  The pancakes bubble up great, meaning the surface gets filled with bubbles indicating they are ready to be flipped.

All I can tell you is that these pancakes were awesome. And super easy to make. HIGHLY recommend.


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David Esq.

I baked my fourth and fifth Tartine Basic (Whole Wheat) Country loaves this week, using freshly milled flour.  I used 100% whole wheat for the leaven and 70% Whole Wheat for the dough (which came to a 73% whole wheat for the total dough).

The flour that comes out of my Komo mill, was measuring at 105 degrees toward the end of the 700 gram grind, and the wheat berries were in the fridge for about 8 hours before grinding. 

The loaves came out nicely. I gave away the more distinctly patterned loaf to a family member and brought the other one with me for our weekend away, largely because I had a similar loaf in the freezer and wanted to see what this tasted like when it was fresh.

The bread was delicious and the crumb was very soft, moist and chewy.

I am starting to get more comfortable holding back some of the water because I have found that Robertson's formula and my flour (regardless of whether it is King Arthur or David Esq. brand), yields a dough that is too wet.  By "too wet" I simply mean a dough that seems "pasty" at the beginning and stays wet and sticky all the way through final proofing, and never really feels like "dough" at any point in the process.

Here is the heel of the bread:

Here is the crumb, though the white balance seems off in the first shot:

And here it is a few days later on my sandwich for today's lunch:

Overall, I am very pleased with the bread and think that I will try upping the grains for my next bake.  Ideally I want to see if I can get a 100% home-milled loaf that satisfies my wife and me -- not so much because I am bothered by having white flour in my bread, but because the fewer ingredients I need to make a delicious loaf of bread, the happier I am. Plus, there is a large degree of satisfaction involved in making everything from scratch, including the flour.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

My Tartine loaves made with 70% home-milled flour came out excellent.  I have one in the freezer to bring to the in-laws next weekend, and brought one to my parents for dinner last night.  My dad re-heated it in the toaster oven and it was a little difficult to cut -- the bread tore a bit and I don't know if that was the knife's fault (a very sharp "bow" knife) or if the crumb was just too soft.  I don't think it would have worked for a sandwich bread, but maybe once it cools off it will be easier to slice.

The taste was excellent. The crust was of the shattering variety and just so pleasing to bite into.  With or without butter, this bread was a hit.

The levain was "old" because I had made it on Wednesday, used half on Thursday, and then used the remaining half on Saturday.  I believe the levain was made with 100% ground wheat, but I don't recall for certain.

I added 700 grams of wheat berries to the mill, put a large wooden salad bowl underneath, and ground away.  While it was grinding, I added warm water to my levain and dispersed.  Once the flour was done being milled, I poured the water/levain mixture into the bowl and mixed it up. Autolyzed for an hour, added the salt and rather than adding the 50 grams of water as I usually do, I just dipped my fingers in the the 50 grams and kneaded the salt into the dough, and kept dipping my fingers to avoid sticking.

In the end, the dough was less "pasty" then it has been in the past, due to the fact that I used to just dump the 50 grams of water in, and that was too much.

I also used a shallow rectangular piece of Tupperware rather than the taller, smaller piece of snapware I had been using for the bulk rise.  This made it easier to get a good stretch for each of the stretch and folds, and I wonder if that helped the dough develop better than previous attempts.  Being able to slip two hands under the dough and lift it, definitely works more of the dough than putting one hand under and lifting.  Plus with more room to work I can make a longer fold.

I did not take a picture of the crumb. But, as I indicated, it was soft. It was also moist.  It had a wonderful chew. But, I did not get much in the way of holes, at least not that I remember.  I will ask my folks to snap a photo and send. That shouldn't make me sound too crazy.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I put my new grain mill to work this weekend. The first thing I did was bake the teaching loaf in Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book.  Note, the master formula is not error free. Under ingredients and method he states to use all of the soaker, and then states use all of the soaker (or biga) when he should have said starter (or biga).  See, I read these things, Peter!

More substantively, the master formula states to chop the soaker and the starter or biga into 12 pieces each and to "sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-doughs to keep the pieces from sticking back to each other."

What am I missing, here? Why would you flour the pieces to prevent them from sticking if the goal is to mix the 24 pieces and combine them into a uniform mass?  Seems that flouring the pieces is counterproductive.

Anyway, back to the story.

The mill:

The just-combined dough:

The bulk rise:

In the pan -- you can see the pan was a bit too small to contain the dough:

The bakes loaf:

The crumb (this is my PB&J sandwich. It is a little wet with jelly to the right of middle:

Overall, I am not thrilled with the bread I baked. It tastes fine and is not heavy. But it is also a bit too crumbly. It is difficult to slice thin and when sliced sandwich thickness, it does not hold up very well.

That said, I assume that this is the fault of the baker and not the formula.  Although, if those who make this loaf regularly tell me that the bread is always easily torn and this is the best you can hope for from whole-grain goodness, my expectations can be adjusted.

After baking the sandwich loaf, I went back to Tartine and looked at his whole wheat recipe.  That formula and instruction set is fundamentally flawed and I can't even figure out what is supposed to be done with it, because while he says the whole wheat requires extra hydration, he does not give a formula for 100% whole wheat, leaving me wondering how much extra hydration is needed if I decide to go 100% whole wheat.

It is flawed for a second reason also -- whereas the basic country loaf discusses 750 grams (50 grams reserved to add with the salt) of water, the whole wheat description mentions 800 grams of water, mentions nothing about a reserve, and tells you mix the dough and says nothing about when to add the salt (if I recall, it actually refers back to the basic country loaf, but has you starting after the salt has been added).

Anyway, I figured if 800 grams was used with 800 grams of whole wheat, then I should add more than 800 for 100% whole wheat.  However, using 845 grams produced a dough that was rather wet.

I autholyzed overnight at room temperature, added the leaven and let it bulk ferment for 4 hours at 70 degrees.  The dough was bubbling at the surface. But it was very wet. I did not know whether I should shape it or let it sit longer.  So I shaped it.  Unfortunately, it was too loose and so I followed his directions after seeing a too runny bench rest and did another pre-shape.  This time it held together much better, so I finished the shaping and added it to my basket.

After proofing for 3 hours, it rose considerably but it had the consistency of Jell-O and did not look like it would make it out of the basket.

To my surprise, I successfully predicted that the dough would not come out of the basket. No way, no how. It was stuck good what I was able to tear out, was a big gloppy mess.

I baked it anyway. I am afraid to cut it.

It came out like a dense rock. I didn't bother scoring it because the "it" was not really a loaf.

I am ashamed to have wasted so much flour.  I don't know if my 86% hydrated dough was the problem or if I should have let it sit overnight in the fridge to let it dry out.  Unfortunately, I am not yet "there" with knowing whether dough is overproofed and I was a little concerned that leaving it for too long in its whole wheat state, would result in overproofed dough -- especially when I was seeing bubbles at the surface after only a few hours.

I also made whole wheat pizza with the other half of the dough (with 1/2 of that, still in the fridge).  The pizza was chewy and not bad, but not nearly as good as the tartine basic country loaf with white flour.  In part, it was not a fair test because I did not cook it on a preheated pan, but it was just too wet and stretchy to bake it that way and instead I dropped the goopy dough into the rectangular pan, stretched it out a bit and baked it in a hot oven.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

As any of my loyal dear readers and followers know, I have been in a wonderful rut of baking the Tartine Basic Country Loaf.  The vast majority of my loaves have been, dare I say, excellent.

If you have not baked this loaf because you are intimidated by it, fear not.  I had nearly zero baking experience when I purchased the book and baked my first boule.  I would, however, urge you to get that sourdough starter going before you invest money in the book.  I say this because I have seen many people having trouble creating a starter, and it would be annoying to have purchased the book if you never were able to get a starter off the ground.

But, I digress. Saturday marked the arrival of my Komo grain mill. Unfortunately, I had three country loaves in various states of rising at the time, so I was not in a position to make much use of the mill.  I did, however, grind 3 cups of Quinoa on a course setting to clean up the grinding chamber. I was disappointed that there was a virtual "cloud" of quinoa.  I really expected a cleaner grind.  Ironically, to me, it seemed less "cloudy" when I used a finer setting. I probably will not grind Quinoa on a course setting again to know if this was a grain-related incident or a "first time grinding" incident.

My next important project was to grind a cup of organic hard red winter wheat berries, which I used to feed some starter.  I am still maintaining my white flour starter because I want to be sure I don't mess up my refrigerated starter by feeding it the good stuff.

There was no cloud of dust grinding the wheat.  I actually ground most of it right into my bowl that had 200 grams of water and 20 grams of dispersed starter, and mixed it into a whole wheat leaven while it poured out of the spout.

After 10-12 hours, the whole wheat leaven stopped looking so lump and began to aerate nicely. I popped it in the fridge and this morning it looked like it was ready to bake some bread!

Of course, I have a job to get to so I won't be baking with this leaven. Instead, I will likely make pancakes or waffles with it tonight or tomorrow.  But it was fun to see the flour pouring out and I really couldn't wait for the next weekend to try it out.

I did follow Komo's suggestion and stuffed a tea bag in the spout.  The thought of moth larvae laying eggs in my mill was enough to make me okay with a string hanging out of the flour spout.

I was pleased that the noise level of the grinder was much less than I feared it would be.  Obviously it is not quiet, but at least it did not hurt my ears. Then again, my three-year old was not home so I don't know whether he will come running into the kitchen with his ears covered, yelling, "what's that noise"  like he does when the blender is in use.

This weekend I will turn to baking a whole wheat loaf, alla Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book.  I should still have a backup Tartine Loaf available should things not come out right....


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David Esq.

So, one of the nice things about Tartine Bread is Chad Robertson's recipes for use of the day old bread.  Sometimes one has a half loaf in the bread box and a fresh loaf just out of the oven.  It is difficult to eat that "day old bread" when there is a fresh loaf sitting out calling my name.

His french toast recipe calls for a 1.5 inch thick slice of bread. That is a lot of bread.  But, fortunately, I had enough old bread to make two slices.

He says to soak the bread for an hour. He says nothing about turning it over. So I put the egg mixture into a square baking pan, positioned the bread, and then poured the mixture on top of both slices and eventually filled up the bottom of the pan.  I let the toast soak for 30 minutes in the fridge, and then turned the pieces for the second 30 minutes.

He suggests using 2 Tbsp of butter to grease the pan.  I did not see why so much butter was needed. I took remainder of the butter out of the pan once the pan was well greased.

Here is the soaked bread, just placed in the pan:

The photo up top is of the "bottom", caramelized side, which he suggests be served facing up. You basically fry the bread on medium-low heat for a few minutes and then transfer the pan to the 350F oven for 15-20 minutes.

I found that the french toast was not quite ready enough for me on the top side, and it did not appear like it was going to get ready any time soon after baking for 20 minutes at 350F. So I turned the broiler on low for a few minutes to cook it up some since I am not a fan of wet french toast.  It may very well be that the "custard" is supposed to be wet on top, but I was afraid to try it that way and his directions weren't all that clear.

He says not to turn the toast, but even after putting the broiler on, I wanted the "tops" to be cooked more, so i did wind up flipping them and letting them sit for a minute or so in the hot cast iron pan. Here is the second slice after I cut into it:

I believe that I served it to myself upside down as the darker side is probably on the bottom.

So how did it taste?  I really enjoyed it.  I had it with Grade B maple syrup. It was a lot of bread, delicious and very filling.  Plus, it gave this vegetarian an opportunity to break out the steak knife. 


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