The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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...after two months test-baking rye breads, some of whose recipe addled my brain, to just bake my familiar weekly sourdough.

This is essentially Vermont sourdough from Hamelman's Bread with 11 percent less levain, and 15 hours retard at 55°F.

David G

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Scalded Rye Bread

It's been a worthwhile experience. I feel I've learned a lot of the basics for handling rye flours. Four of eighteen I'll add to my modest repertoire: Rye Sticks, Milwaukee Rye, Zeltan (Tyrolean Fruit Bread) and Rye Squares; I'll likely tweak them all to better match the flavors I want.

I'm still searching for a high percentage rye bread, dense, flavorful and sour. There are a few candidates among the ones we (Gang B) baked but I'm far from chosing yet.

Of the last two (shown above) Ginger-Prune Bread, and Scalded Rye Bread, one is is in the running, the other--for reasons other than flavor--isn't. Both have distinct, excellent flavors.

David G

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I'm a believer biscotti lends itself as well to savory versions as it does sweet versions. Unfortunately, there are few savory recipes to be found.  I've been making a romano and black-pepper biscotti for a couple of years.  It's my adaptation of a parmigiano and black-pepper recipe I found online. I've been thinking of other savory combinations since, but haven't acted on them: until today.

This is a bacon-chedder combination baked today. The recipe is mine.

Bacon-Chedder Biscotti

250g AP flour, unsifted

2 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black-pepper

115g (one stick) Unsalted butter, cut into segments

60g bacon, friend crisp and crumbled and cooled

60g shredded or grated sharp chedder cheese

6 Tbls Buttermilk

1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, black-pepper and butter segments in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two table knives or your fingers work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like course corn meal--a few pea-sized pieces of butter is fine.

2. Add the cheese and bacon crumble and toss with your fingers insuring the cheese and bacon are well distributed.

3. Make a crater in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Gently combine the wet and dry until a ball begins to form. Pat the mix into a smooth ball, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

4.The dough will be tacky. Divide the dough into two masses and, on a lightly floured surface, form two logs approximately 2 inches wide and 12 to 13 inches long. Transfer the logs to a silicon-paper (or non-stick fiberglass pad) lined half-sheet pan. Gently flatten the logs to approximately 1 inch thick.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the logs for approximately 18 minutes. Test that the loaves are firm, but not crisp. (Light browning around the edges is a good indicator the loaves are ready for slicing) Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.  Allow the loaves to cool in the pan for 10 mins.

6. Transfer a cooled loaf to a cutting board. With a sharp serrated blade, cutting on a diagonal, cut the loaf into approximately 15, 1/2 to 3/4 wide wafers. Arrange the cut wafers cut side down on the paper-lined pan. Do the same with the second loaf.

7. Bake the wafers 20 minutes @ 300°F. Test for firmness. The wafers should be firm, but needn't be crisp at this point. Being careful not to burn your fingers on the edge of the pan turn each wafer over exposing the previously down side. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 18 minutes. Test. The wafers should be crisp to the touch without any spring. Remove the pan and transfer the wafer to a cooling rack. Cool until they are at least not a threat to burn your tongue.


David G 

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Zelten di Natale, or just Zelten; a popular fruit bread in South Tyrol, an alpine region in northern Italy. 

That's not surface topping, the loaves are loaded with fruit and spices fore and aft, and top to bottom. Yes, there's a little bit of rye dough too.

I'm saving these to serve at our annual holiday dinner, but I've nibbled a little. These are definitely not the dreaded annual Fruit Cake from aunt Jane!

David G


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Easy dough to work with, very good flavor, tender crumb and crust. I'm going to try Reuben sandwiches with it.

David G

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Never having baked, tasted or even seen these skinny loaves before now their shape is my best guess based on Stan's instructions.

I may not have got the shape right, but I'm sure I got the recipe right. They are loaded with flavors! We're planning a small get together with friends to eat these; each guest will bring a dip or spread they think appropriate for rye. I'm making a roasted beet, yogurt, bleu cheese and bacon dip.


David G

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I've posted other examples of my 72% hydrated Foccacia.

This time I incorporated 3/4 cup of diced sun-dried tomatoes. These tomatoes, imported from Italy, are sold by BJ's. They are preserved in olive oil, and infused with capers, peppers, wine vinegar and other spices.

I incorporate a third of the tomatoes in each of three S&F before bulk fermenting overnight at 54°F in my wine cooler.

Super tasty! Great eaten alone, or as sandwich bread with raw onion and fresh tomatoes, salmon patties, or grilled portobella mushrooms with red pepper aioli.

David G


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Tonight's dinner was a white sauce pizza. Mornay sauce made with Peccorino Romano, fresh Mozzerella, Baby Spinach sauteed in garlic-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar, fresh asparagus tossed with garlic-infused olive oil and tarragon, and Feta cheese.

Our pizza dough is a simple 50/50 mix of semolina and AP flours, water, olive oil and salt. We make enough for three pies, divide and freeze two rounds, using the remaining round immediately for that evening's pie. This crust was the thawed third round of the last batch made a couple of weeks past.

Baked at 500°F for nine minutes.


David G


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Five years ago (April 25) I discovered The Fresh Loaf, and started this journey. Prior to then I’d frequently baked yeasted breads, and a modest spectrum of other baked goods. I’d bought a bread-maker—A Zo—and soon after quit, for the most part, buying supermarket bread. I continued to purchase loaves from local bakers, Deli Rye most frequently; and, while still working, loaded up with airport sourdough every time I passed through San Francisco.

I was content—well, almost content.

Over a couple of decades I’d tried half-a-dozen times to make sourdough bread at home. Every time mediocre, early successes were followed by dismal failures, and a neglected, smelly culture—sometimes rainbow colored with molds—long lurking in the depths of the refrigerator.

Mentored by TFL experts—you know who you are—to whom I will be forever grateful, during the first two years, I read a lot, experimented a lot, and had more successes than failures. And all the failures were edible.

In July of 2011 I could no longer deny a major failure was eminent.

My sourdough starter was slowly going belly-up. I tried to save it, but gave up after a time, and turned to TFL’er, Debra Wink, for help. With day-by-day guidance she led me back to having a robust, viable starter. She also suggested an alternate maintenance plan (for a refrigerated seed starter). I followed her advice, and now, nearly three years later, I am still enjoying the same culture’s robustness and dependability.

The experience got me thinking in broader chunks about my bread making. I’d started with a vague goal: I wanted to make “better bread”. I defined “better” with three parameters: good flavor, appropriate crumb, and pleasing eye-appeal. They are listed in priority order. Somewhere along the way a meta-parameter had unconsciously crept in: Consistency.

My conscious goal became make “better” bread consistently.

I can happily say I’ve reached a point in time when I can, with reasonable safety, say I’ve met my goal.  

Insanity is often defined as “doing the same thing over, and over again, and expecting a different outcome.  I assume the opposite is also true: “doing the same things consistently, and expecting the same outcome is sane.”

My TFL blog is, in the recent past three years, peppered with arguments for developing a personal, disciplined process(es) for baking breads. Discipline, in my opinion, begins with consistency: in ingredients, in procedures, in time and temperature, and also attitude.

This morning, while building a small amount of levain, not for baking but to merely replace my refrigerated seed starter—no baking this week, the freezer is full—I thought it worth a blog entry to focus on starter maintenance, and levain building (manipulation).

With the back-story complete, here’s what I do with my seed starter—consistently.

• 24 hours before dough making: Build 1; 40g seed starter @ 100% hydration, 20g each Flour (KA Bread Flour) and filtered well water. (2:1:1) Ferment at room temperature (72°F – 76°F)

• 16 hours before dough making: Build 2: All of Build 1, 40g flour and 40g H2O. Ferment at room temperature.

• 8 hours before dough making: Build 3: All of Build 2, 80g flour and 80g H20. Ferment at 82°F.

I make three sourdoughs routinely: a 10%:45%:45% (Rye: AP: Bread flours mix) @ 67% hydration, a Mostly White (only 5% Rye) at 67% to 72% hydration, and a 50% Whole Wheat:Bread flours version @ 68% hydration. All use 250g of ripe 100% hydrated levain. Which leaves 70g of ripe levain from the three Build process

10/45/45 Sourdough


Mostly White Sourdough


50%Whole Wheat Sourdough

I feed 50g of the remaining levain 1:1:1 with Bread flour and water, and completely replace the previous week’s seed starter. (Divided equally into two jars. I’ve always been a belt-and-suspenders, risk-avoiding guy.)  I refrigerate this mix immediately. Total replacement was Debra Wink’s suggestion. Previously, I’d been feeding a measured amount of the residual seed starter. This may have contributed to (caused?) the earlier failure.

This discipline, along with 15 hours of retardation at 54°F, yields consistent performance regardless of the flour mix, or hydration. I divide and warm the chilled, retarded dough for one hour at 82°F, shape the final loaves, and return them to the proofing box (82°F). Proofing invariably takes 2 hours and 15 to 20 minutes. I bake at 450°F, with steam for 15 minutes, and without steam until internal temperature reaches 208°F to 212°F—typically 8 to 10 more minutes for 1 lb. loaves and 12 to 15 more minutes for 1.5 lb loaves regardless of dough type or hydration percentage.

Variations on the theme:

• I’ve built a Rye Sour beginning with the same seed starter, but now replaced every week to ten days; otherwise same process: surplus Rye Sour for baking is fed at 1:1:1 with Whole Rye and stored in the refrigerator.

However, I build Rye levain at 60% hydration for the first 16 hours (Two progressive builds @ Room Temp.) and 100% Hydration at 82°F for Build 3.

• My wife is not a sour, sourdough fan. Consequently, I focus sourdough builds on yeast, not bacteria development. (82°F is the sweet spot for yeast development).

• When I want more tang, I let builds 1 and 2 go 12 to 16 hours fermentation. If I want even more I push build 3’s temperature to 90°F.

I thought this blog might stimulate other TFL’ers to share their personalized processes leading to their successes.  The emphasis is on how we achieve succeed.

Happy Baking,

David G







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Let's face it: you can look at a Google's worth of Baking Powder Biscuit recipes, and with the exception of small variations in flour, shortening, and liquid ratios they are pretty much carbon copies of each other.

Here's the one I've finally settled on after baking a few hundred buttermilk biscuits with small tweaks in the flour: shortening ratio.



Buttermilk Biscuits


480g             All-purpose flour (4 cups)

4 tsp            Baking Powder

½ tsp             Baking Soda

2 tsp            salt (10g)

85g            Unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

85g            Lard*, chilled and cubed

1-½ cup Buttermilk (368g)


Preheat oven to 425°F/218°C.

Combine dry ingredients and wisk to distribute evenly.

Using a pastry cutter, or two table-knives cut in chilled butter and lard until shortening is reduced to pea size and smaller.

Add buttermilk and combine just until dough forms a rough ball. Let dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes to hydrate the flour.

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Fold dough, gently, 4 or 5 times and  roll dough ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits, without twisting cutter. Place dough rounds on a parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Reshape dough scraps as necessary to complete.

Bake** for 18 – 20 minutes until tops are golden brown.

Makes 12 to 14, 2-5/8 inch diameter, dough rounds.

* Leaf lard is preferred, but natural lard can be substituted. Commercial hydrogenated lard can also be used, but substituting with all butter shortening may be a preferred choice.

**Some convection ovens dry out baked goods unevenly (baguette loaves, and rolls especially).  If you’ve experienced uneven oven spring when baking multiple, lengthy, or distributed rolls baking in “Convection” mode, consider using conventional “Bake” mode alternately.


My primary purpose for writing this post is to defend a much maligned fat: Lard. The 50/50 mix of butter and lard yields bicuits with a balanced buttery, wheaty flavor and surface crispness that survived freezing. I've recently acquired 2 kg of leaf lard. I generally reserve this extraordinary shortening for pastry doughs and shortbread cookies only, but this time relinquished 85g for our "go to" baking powder biscuits. The difference, compared to a batch made with butter only, is incredible. Leaf lard is pricey, and difficult to find but worth the search and cost if your passionate about flaky pie crusts, and pastries--and, of course, biscuits.


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