The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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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

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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


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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

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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





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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.


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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

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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

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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



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I know this is off topic, but we're so pleased with the results, just had to post it.

The old stove never failed to deliver, but it was time to go

typical between-times mess

Finished. The stove is a dual-fuel Electrolux Icon

Just in time for the holidays!

1/3/2013 Update

A spice drawer still needed installing when I first posted. Here it is. Yeah, it's rather unassuming...

...until you open it.

I've forever wanted to have those spices I use most frequently immediately at hand. Now I do.

David G

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In a recent post I suggested this combination. With All Hallow's Eve only two weeks away, while originally planned for Thanksgiving, I decided to give it a try now.


Here's the recipes: Pumpkin/Pecan Biscotti and Candied Pumpkin (an ingredient)

Pumpkin/Pecan Biscotti


2-1/4 c (282g) all purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 tsp salt--reduce to 0 to 1/4 tsp if you substitute salted butter

¼ tsp Freshly grated Nutmeg

1/2 c (114g) unsalted butter

2/3 c (134g) granulated sugar

1 large egg (50g)

1/3 cup cooked, pumpkin puree (~80g)

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup roasted pecans

½ cup diced (3/16”) candied pumpkin.  Note: Cook on medium-low heat only until just tender, not mushy; about 5 minutes.


Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Do not use a baking stone, nor leave one in the oven. The oven needs to cool quickly for the second baking. The heat stored in some baking stones will prevent that.

Combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt; whisk to distribute evenly.

Cream the butter and sugar until homogeneous. Add egg, pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat together.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet, and either by hand or on lowest mixer setting fold or beat them until they are just combined.

By hand, using a rubber spatula, fold in nuts and diced pumpkin gently until evenly distributed.

The dough should be stiff, but will still be sticky.

On half-sheet pan or cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper or a fiberglass pad, form two trapezoids.

Bake until top center of the loaves spring back to a light touch, or a toothpick come out cleanly. (usually 16 to 22 mins.)

Remove from oven, let cool on pan for 10 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

When cooled, carefully remove one loaf to a cutting board--I use an eight-inch wide cake-transfer spatula. There is a danger of the loaves breaking in half from their own weight unless you support both ends.

Using a serrated blade cut 3/4" inch thick slices, on a bias and return them to the baking pan, one cut side down. Do the same with the second loaf.

Bake for 20 minutes at 300°F, test for crispness--the up side should be very firm, a slight spring is ok. Remove the pan from the oven, and flip each cookie exposing the original down side. Bake another 20 minutes or until the up side is crisp (no spring) and dry. Remove and cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Candied Pumpkin


  1. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 3 cups diced (1/2 inch) sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
  3. 1/3 cup sugar
  4. 3/4 cup maple syrup
  5. 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  6. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Add the pumpkin and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the maple syrup, ginger and cinnamon and remove from the heat. Let cool and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Recipe compliments of


I only had one small Pumpkin Pie pumpkin (about 3 lb.) so I only candied 1 cup of diced pumpkin. The biscotti recipe is simply my usual biscotti recipe with a couple of tweaks. I reduced the sugar slightly (3/4 c to 2/3 c) to account for the sugars in the candied bits. In actuality, I don't think it made much difference, if at all. I also eliminated 1 egg, relying on the water in the pumpkin puree to replace the egg's moisture contribution. I also added 1/4 c of AP flour, expecting the puree to be wetter than one egg. It was, the additional flour was needed.

For a first try, I'm pleased. Their flavor isn't "in your face", but neither is it subtle.  I found myself liking the taste better with each nibble: a nice way to experience any flavor.

The first baked loaves were more fragile than usually experienced. I think in my next effort--there will be one--I'll restore the second egg, and wring some of the water out of the pumpkin puree. The second egg should improve the dough's cohesiveness, and contribute to a richer flavor.

I was concerned that perhaps I'd over-cooked the diced bits of pumkin, and that they would turn to mush when folded into the dough with the pecan. To guard against this I spread the bits on a plate, and froze them. Frozen solid, they mixed in beautifully.

My wife wants me to add more candied bits. I will.

Happy Hollowe'en

David G





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