The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

davidg618's blog

davidg618's picture

Focaccia is one of our favorite breads for sandwiches. We've found tuna fish salad, Italian sausage with carmalized onions and peppers, and grilled portabella mushrooms with red pepper aoili are especially good. The freezer is well stocked with lean sourdough loaves, and baguettes so for this week's sourdough bake I made focaccia. This 72% hydrated loaf is 100% KA Bread flour (17% prefermented in the levain) 4.2% extra-virgin olive oil, and 2% salt. The dough was retarded 15 hours overnight, and baked at 400°F  in a convection oven. We cut it into 4" squares, and freeze it thawing only what we need for a meal.

David G

davidg618's picture

Got this idea while watching Pizza Cuz on the Cooking channel. The two cousins visited a shop that sells only focaccia with toppings. It seemed to be a better rendition of Sicilian Pizza, distributed locally--Scranton, PA--and sold in Mom & Pop grocery stores when I was a kid. It was delivered in baking-sheet pans, and, as I recall, a 5-inch square sold for 5-cents. The crumb was like white bread, but chewy. The tomato sauce tasted like...tomatoes, with nothing but salt for seasoning.

I used sourdough focaccia dough (all Bread flour 72% hydration, 30% liquid levain), and made a tomato sauce with a 14 oz. can of diced tomatos, a 6 oz can of tomato paste, 4 oz of V8 juice seasoned with 4 minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper, basil and marjoram. I retarded the dough overnight at 54°F. I sprinkled a few fresh Globe Basil leaves on top immediately after baking.

My go-to pizza dough is a 50/50 mix of semolina and AP flours at 60% hydration, retarded overnight also. I roll it thin; we generally prefer thin-crust pizza. This is a nice change. The dough is particularly light, open and soft, and the bottom crust is crispy.

I made two. One is today's lunch, the second will be frozen. I will warm it up in a 375°F oven for a few minutes hoping to regain the bottom crust's crispiness.

David G

davidg618's picture

Despite the unseasonably cool weather we've been enjoying, finally this morning I was reminded its springtime by the blooming sage in our herb garden.

Comfort food: Toasted Cheese sandwich

A slice each of Sharp Cheddar, Pepper Jack and a teaspoon of catsup smoothed between on...

Yesterday's bake: Mostly White Sourdough.

Spring is here!

David G

davidg618's picture

Last night's dinner was a favorite: White Pizza.

The white sauce is simply a cup of Bechemel sauce with a 1/2 cup of Peccorina Romano, and minced garlic added. The toppings are Mozzerella, Feta, fresh basil leaves, and 8 oz. of wrung-out thawed spinich with a splash of Balsamic vinegar. The dough is 50/50 Semolina and KA All Purpose with appropriate salt, water and a couple of tablespoons of EVOO for flavor and softness.

Baked 8 mins @ 500°F, convection mode.

It lasted all of 30 minutes.;-).

David G


davidg618's picture

A couple of days ago I made an attempt at Eric's Rye using this formula

substituting Bread Flour in the Final Dough since I had no access to First Clear Flour


I built a Rye starter with three progressive builds over 24 hours, 2:1:1 with the following results

Build 1: 20g seed starter, 10g Whole Rye, 10g Water; the seed starter all white Bread flour, 100% Hydration

Build 2: 40g (build 1), 20g Whole Rye, 20g Water

Build 3: 80g (build 2), 40g White Rye, 40g Water

From this I used 100g of the Rye Starter + 275g White Rye + 275g Water for the sponge. I put the sponge in the proofing box (82°F) for three hours, then placed it in the wine coller (54°F) over night for 12 hours.

The next day I mixed the final dough in accordance with Eric's instructions, using Bread flour instead of First Clear flour as mentioned earlier.

I bulk fermented the dough for three hours at 82°F. It double in volume.

I shaped 1 Boule, and one Batard. The boule was 100g lighter than the batard.

I baked them at 400°F for 35 mins. Internal temperature was 198°F when I removed them. I didn't use steam, but I sprayed the loaves with water every minute, for the first 10 mins. I glazed them with the cornstarch glaze prescribed. I gave them two coats of the glaze.

Here is a photo of the crust and crumb

This dough behaved unlike any rye dough I've ever baked before, although I'm not an accomplished rye bread baker. In fact, I started with Eric's Deli rye because I'm on a quest to improve my rye dough handling/baking skills.


This bread doesn't have a rye flavor! I put ten percent Whole Rye in my "go-to" sourdough bread. This bread has 2% Whole Rye and 27% White Rye, yet it has no more Rye flavor.

The crumb appears fully developed. The crumb appears more open than other examples of Eric's rye pictured on TFL, but didn't surprise me: the dough is 73% Hydrated, and contains 71% bread flour. The crust is lighter than I expected even though it baked at a temperture higher than Eric's specified 370°F but at the mid-point (35 mins of his 30 to 40 min. estimate.)

The glaze was absorbed by the crust--both coats. This really surprised me because I've used cornstarch glaze before (Secret's of a Jewish Baker deli Rye) with high gloss results.

I attribute the lack of flavor to the high percentage of white rye, and the low percentage of Whole Rye, but maybe its also dulled by the high hydration.  Another alternative is I need a more agressive, mature starter--like Varda' description of J. Hamelman's rye starter she experience in her recent rye class.

The light crust color I attribute to not being steamed continuously in the early time baking.

I've no idea why the glaze didn't behave as I expected.

And, I'm very uncertain my analyses are correct. Please, offer opinions what went wrong, and suggestions what to do next: changes to make, or alternative deli Rye formulae to try. My goal is to bake a deli Rye loaf, consistently, to match the rye breads I ate in NYC when I was a kid eating in the Silver Dollar on Broadway with my Dad (I think it was there) before grabbing the subway to Yankee stadium.

David G

davidg618's picture

In this thread:

Two or three posters asked me to provide a review after I'd used the stove  a couple of months. It's been a little over two months since my first bake, and I feel my opinions won't change much, if at all, in the future.

The Big Picture: I'm delighted with my choice. If, however, you want a stove with bells and whistles like push-button electronics for timers, temperature controls, or mode selection this is not the stove for you. It doesn't even have a clock: eight knobs, one each per burner, oven mode and oven temperature, that's it.

Why I'm delighted: It's high quality.

1. I bought an oven thermometer, and have used it since day one. Once I began paying strict attention to where I was setting the "old school" oven temperature dials, the oven is, overall, within +/- 5°F of where I want it.

2. It's got "oomph" (That's a technical term I learned in grad school). What I mean by "oomph' is both the stove top burners, and the oven is transfering enough energy instanty to quickly restore the desired temperature after opening the door, loading loaves, adding the pasta to the boiling water, etc. I'm particularly pleased that, contrary to the way my old stove performed, I now realize al dente pasta in exactly the time specified on the dried pasta package.

3. It's reliable.  When I was still working part of my job, for a few years, included managing quality control. I learned that for some electronics, and mechanical systems if they are going to fail, the vast majority of failures will be early on (Infant Mortality is/was the insensitive term used to describe the phenomena.) I've subjected the ovens controls steam, and its highest temperature (550°F) for tens of hours. We've had no infant failures, and we are well beyond a period of time such that, from here on, a failure would be just that: a failure.



1. The aforementioned oven temperature setting tolerance.

2. Six burners may seem an overkill for a home stove, but I've used five of them at once for Christmas dinner. More, importantly I've got a range of energy output unlike anything I've had before. With 14,400 BTU (15,000 if you us natural gas.)I can boil 5 gals of wort for my one or two annual beers, and heat it to boiling in roughly twenty minutes vis-a-vis the 45 mins it took to bring 3 gals of concentrated wort to a boil with my old stove. Other home brewers will quickly note that dosing concentrated wort with hops (bitterness) gets tricky when the wort's Specific Gravity is much higher than the targeted finished wort's Specific Gravity (You have to add water after the boil is finished.).

On the other end of the spectrum, I can keep finished foods warm, without burning or sticking to the bottom with two burners that crank down to less than 500 BTU.And, with gas burners I've got continuim  of energy output settings between these extremes, including four other burners designed for in-between energy ratings.

3. One of the coolest design features: Three of the four oven shelves are mounted on full-extension, roller-bearing guides. You can pull or push any of them with your pinky.

4. The temperature distribution in non-convecton mode within the oven is the best I've ever encountered. There is some, especially near the bottom element (which is not exposed, it's beneath the oven floor), but it's tolerable. In convection mode its tighter, but still measurable.

Cons: And, I hasten to add, these things--neither collectively nor individually--would change my choice buying this stove. Nonetheless, I'll list them.

1. It's noisy. Convection baking or roasting (two choices) are the noisiest, but so is Bake, so noisy, for some enough to be a show-stopper: me and my wife, we can live with it.

2. I wish there were a finer graduation on the oven temperature setting knob. Only the 100° markings are numbers, and only the in-between 50° mid-points are marked with a black square that is, at least, 10° wide. I really have to pay close attention to get the oven temperature set where I want it. (On the other hand, my wife is convinced I have a mild case of OCD)

3. Recall the roller-bearing shelves I praised? Unfortunately, they are in three fixed positions. A fourth non-bearing supported shelf is provided, which can be placed in a generous 9 vertically distributed spaces between the fixed shelves, but, of course, you have to fight typical metal-to-metal friction pulling it out or pushing it in.

4. And, unfortunately, I have to add it's pricy. One can buy an all electric or an all gas for about 2/3rd's the price.

Nonetheless, It's my Christmas present--for the next decade. I'm pleased with it.

David G





davidg618's picture


Natural Levain loaves

"Old Dough" leavened loaves.

As promised on this thread:

I baked four small loaves (1 lb each) of the formula I bake weekly. Two I made in the usual manner leavened with fresh natural levain I'd built over the previous 24 hours. I made enough extra dough to reserve 140g for "Old dough". The next day I made two more loaves of the same formula leavened with the "Old Dough". Since the reserved dough was at 68% hydration, and the natural levain at 100% hydration I adjusted the two levain's weights such that the same amount of flour was pre-fermented in all four loaves. Otherwise the ingredients were identical.

I suspected the "Old Dough" had a smaller yeast population. Consequently, The mixed dough remained at room temperature for the first two hours of fermantation. The dough mixed with natural levain was mixed with ice water, and chilled immediately. The "Old Dough" mix was subsequently retarded at chiller temperature for 13 hours; the natural levain dough was retarded also for 15 hours.

The "Old Dough" dough's volume increase was approximately one-third less than the natural levain's volume increase, so I rested the "Old Dough"s" bulk at 82° for one hour before dividing and preshaping. Subsequently both dough's were handled, shaped and proofed identically.  The natural levain loaves proofed in 2.25 hours. The "Old Dough" loaves proofed in 2.75 hours.

Baking and cooling were identical.

Natural Levain Crumb

Old Dough Crumb

Visually, the four loaves appear the same. Flavor-wise, the "Old Dough" loaf seems to have a distinct acidic tang, muted in the Natural Levain loaf, all other flavors are indestinguishable between the loaves--I tasted two slices of each loaf, one each with butter. Wouldn't turn either of these loaves down:-)

The only surprise was the mouthfeel. I cut into both loaves immediately after they cooled. The crumb in the Natural Levain loaf exhibited its expected softness, which changes to a firmer chewiness overnight. The crumb in the "Old Dough" loaf was instantly chewy, more mature yet no less moist. It's beyond me what accounts for the difference.

Since I only bake Sourdough once a week, and then only two to four loaves, I'll continue to just use fresh natural levain. Building it only takes a few minutes of active work, and twenty-four hours of waiting. However, if I find myself baking twenty or more loaves in one week--a rare but not impossible happening--I think I'll try the "Old Dough" approach. It would be easier than keeping a levain fed counter top.


davidg618's picture

Saturday evening's dessert: Peach Upside Down Cake. (I had my piece sprinkled with a few drops of Amaretto.)

and Sunday morning's bagels. (Ciril Hitz Baking Artisan Bread, CHEWY Bagel formula converted to natural levain.)

David G

davidg618's picture

Another go at baguettes. Made this weekend. 70:20:10 (AP:Bread:Whole Rye); 68% Hydration, Overnight retardation at 50°F. Excellent wheaty flavor, with an edge (probably the Rye). All the Bread flour was prefermented feeding the levain builds. This dough is essentially the same as that I mix for sourdough batards; only difference being 45;45;10 (AP:Bread: Whole Rye) flour ratios.

David G

davidg618's picture

When I first began baking sourdough I followed the experts formulae to the letter. Most prescribed 2% salt. Frankly, I was disappointed with most of the mostly (or entirely) White Flour formulae, especially those that included up to 10% Whole Wheat flour in the mix. They were too bland for our palettes. Along the way I discovered overnight hydration, at cool temperatures, developed both flavor and the desired crumb.

Ultimately, as I continued exploring, my "go to" sourdough is a 10% Whole Rye flour (preferably Hodgson's Mill), 90% White (a 50/50 mix of KA Bread and AP flours), 2% salt, 68% hydration, DT 54°F and 15 hours retarded at 54°F. A typical loaf's flavor is neither Rye nor Wheat but an amalgam, perhaps enhanced by the levain acidity.

Along the same journey, we've come to enjoy the distinct wheatiness, and nutty flavors of overnight retarded baguettes leavened by commercial IDY.

Today I baked two loaves wherein everything was identical to our routine sourdough bakes, except the flour mix was 5% Whole Wheat, and 95% the usual White flour mix. I also upped the salt content to 2.25%. My intent was to achieve a wheaty flavored SD.

The flavor is, as hoped, wheaty; not the in-your-face wheatiness of baguettes but certainly the high note, modulated, softened, by the levain's acidity. All the flavors seem crisper which I attribute to the increased salt.

Coincidentally, I also finished simmering a 5-day-brined corned beef.  I think today's dinner has come together.

David G




Subscribe to RSS - davidg618's blog