The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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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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My wife loves focaccia. One of her favorite snacks is a naked piece of focaccia topped only with its pre-bake sprinkling of coarse sea salt.  We've been making focaccia for about a decade, using a bread machine recipe, and our Zo on dough cycle. Once fermented, I'd stretch the dough onto a half-sheet pan, and bake it in the oven. Here's a link to a focaccia bake I posted in the first month after I'd joined TFL.

Shortly, following I became obsessed with sourdough, baguettes and, to a lesser degree, challah. That trinity has kept me busy for the past three years, and although we didn't abandon our bread machine dough making, we only use it routinely for tried-and-true sandwich bread dough, and on occasion the reliable, but uninspiring focaccia which we also like for sandwich making.

Now, reasonably certain I can produce a satisfactory loaf of any of the trinity, my curiosity has turned to reexploring other bread styles.  My thoughts had settled on either ciabatta, or focaccia when my wife settled the matter, asking for focaccia. When questioned, she allowed she wanted it mostly for sandwiches. At that momemt I decided I'd bake focaccia buns, in lieu of the usual single flat rectangle.

I first considered making the well-known, and safe, bread machine recipe and incorporating an overnight retarded bulk fermentation, striving for additional flavor. However, searching further I found Maggie Glezer's formula for Acme Bakery Herb Slabs: a styleized focaccia in her Artisan Baking book. She had adapted Acme's four-hour poolish to an overnight twelve-hour poolish, finishing with a making the dough and subjecting it to an approximately six-hour bulk fermentation, with early S&Fs, at room temperature.

I've become an advocate for overnight retarding at low temperature (54°F) so I planned an eight-hour poolish, followed by mixing the dough (DDT 54°F) and invoking a fifteen-hour retarded bulk fermentation, with early S&F.  I followed Ms. Glezer's ingredient ratios to the letter, with two very small variations: 1.) I used Instant Dry Yeast, mixed directly into the poolish flour (1/8th tsp) and the final dough flour ( 1/4 tsp), and 2.) I made the poolish hydration exactly 100%. Ms. Glezer specifies a main water ingredient amount that yields a hydration of 98%, and some manipulation of the yeast in  1 cup of water--only a quarter of a cup of the yeasted water is used--resulting in 1/16th tsp of yeast, and additional grams of water, which leads to 118% poolish hydration. This percentage is annotated parenthetically after the main water ingredient as "(eventually 118%)". Frankly, I didn't understand all this unusual baker's math at the time I was mixing the poolish. Using the K.I.S.S. principle I simply made it 100%. Only, now writing this blog, did I piece together her instructions. Oops! 3.) I also left out the herbs--intentionally.

When I retrieved the dough in the morning, after 15 hour bulk fermentation, it had tripled in volume. I turned it out, degassed it, and pre-measured 4, 180g; 2, 120g; and 1, 270g dough pieces. These corresponded to 4 large oval baking dishes, 2 small oval custard dishes, and 1, 8"x 8", square baking pan. I preshaped the dough into balls, and let them warm in the proofing box (82°F) for 1 hour. After panning I brushed the tops with a generous coating of olive oil. After proofing I poked finger-holes in the top and sprinkled two large ones, the two small ones and the square with coarse sea salt, the remaining two large ones with black pepper and grated parmesan.  I baked them at 425°F for twenty-two minutes (Convection mode). I didn't use steam, thinking the loaves, coated with olive oil wouldn't benefit. I've also found salt begins to dissociate in steam.

This dough was wonderful to work with (although slightly sticky), however, my not understanding the directions resulted in a dough that was 62% hydrated. Had I followed directions correctly the the dough's hydration would have been 75%, and I would have had a crumb very different than what I got (and a much sticker dough). Nevertheless, not all mistakes lead to bad results. This crumb is more than acceptable, for us, in a sandwich bun, and the flavor is excellent.

I'll make these again. I will likely increase the dough hydration, but probably only to 68%, the same hydration I now typically use for baguettes. This dough, with the exception of 6% olive oil, is essentially the same as the baguette dough I make in both ingredients and handling. I achieve a very open crumb in baguettes, not a crumb I especially like in a sandwich bun. Subsequently, I'll raise or lower the hydration as it fits our tastes. I also will experiment with using the baking dishes and custard dishes as bannetons, and bake the unpanned loafs on the baking stone. I had to use two racks for this bake, which gave me a two differing browning depths and patterns.

David G

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or Too Many Changes Addle the Brain

Recently, I made some sourdough levained baguettes, Sourdough in Baguette's clothing and was delighted to find their flavor included a distinct acidic tang (sourness) that I especially like, but my wife usually doesn't. However, with this bake, I caught her returning more than once for another slice of the cut loaf. When I confronted her, she allowed the flavor was "interesting"--and took another bite.

 The baguette dough was similar to the dough I bake weekly in batards: our daily bread. The differences are:

                         Original Formula                                          Baguette Formula

Flour ratio:     45%AP/45%Bread/10%Whole Rye          66%AP/24%Bread/10%Whole Rye

Preferment:    28% (100% Hyd., all Bread Flour)            49% (100% Hyd., all Bread Flour)

Additionally, I routinely build levain from refrigerated seed starter in three progressive steps, feeding 2:1:1 at eight hour intervals. For the baguettes I allowed the third feeding to ferment for 12 hours.

Salt and Hydration was the same for both: 2% and 68% percent respectively, and, except for the loaves' final shape, all the dough handling, fermentation times, fermentation temperatures, and baking temperatures were the same. Batards are generally proofed at 82°F, baguettes at 76°F (RT) because they won't fit into my proofing box.

Over the last two days I built levain, made dough and shaped three batards. The intention was to duplicate the dough I used to make the sourdough baguettes, and experience the same flavor.

However, I have a very strong Imp of the Perverse in my flawed character. I couldn't resist making more changes. Specifically, I built the levain in three progressive stages reducing the hydration of each build by one-third the difference between the seed starter hydration (100%) and the final dough hydration (68%). I let the final build, at 68% Hyd., ferment for 12 hours. Seduced by the sourdough lore that stiffer levain favors bacterial acid production, I reasoned "Hey, it can't hurt!".

Furthermore, I returned to the original flour ratio 45%AP/45%Bread/10% Whole Rye. And, to exacerbate my sins, I put three teaspoons of diastatic malt powder in the final dough. I wanted a darker crust.

I cannot detect any flavor difference in the finished loaves compared to our weekly sourdough bake. The distinct tang has vanished. Of course, with all the changes I've nary a clue why.

But I did get a darker crust.

David G

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Yesterday I made Orange Marmalade with Single Malt Scotch. It's bursting with flavors: rabid orange with a slightly bitter tang, and subtle smokey undertones of peat smoked whiskey. No ordinary baguette's wheatiness could stand up to this flavor.

Concurrently, I was making sourdough levain for my refrigerated seed starter's refreshment; I simply made 300g extra.

I made 1050g of 68% hydrated sourdough, with 66/24/10 ratio of All-purpose/Bread/Whole Rye flours. The levain was fed only with Bread flour, and I also let the levain ferment for 12 hours to develop its sourness a bit more. This is a slight variant of my usual sourdough 45/45/10 flour ratio; only 250g of levain is used in 1500g of final dough, and the levain ferments for only 8 hours. The dough was retarded for 15 hours @ 55°F. I shaped three 350g loaves into baguettes.

This combination of tweaks yielded yielded a bread with a baguette-like crumb, softer than my usual chewier sourdough, and a distincitve acidic tang that stands side-by-side with the bursts of orange rind, the scotch-smokiness, and the marmalade's bitter low note.

Whether, or not, these loaves are deserving of being called "baguettes of a different color" or are pretenders merely dressed up like baguettes, they certainly are keepers.

David G


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Mid-February I wrote a blog entry that included using  grill humidifying containers to generate steam. I've been using these for a couple months now, and can report I'm delighted with them.

These are sold by Amazon: Charcoal Companion CC4071 Moistly Grilled Grill Humidifier.

Although the manufacturer claims they are pre-conditioned, I've conditioned them further, and make certain I dry them immediately after removing them. They tend to rust slightly if not cared for. 

I place them on a rack in the top-most position in the oven. I  experimented with placing them on a bottom-most rack, but found it difficult--and less safe--removing them. The small rolled towel fragments at each end keep them from sloshing as all long and thin containers do, again a minor safety adjustment.

I fill them with preheated water, and place them on each side of the top-most rack about 10 minutes before loading loaves.  I've found they take a bit longer to produce steam, than a pan with more surface area. Nonetheless, once boiling they produce steam abundantly. I use them without their perforated covers. When the initial steamed baking time is completed I remove them, using oven gloves, immediately, and uncover the oven vent.  Then I place the oven into convection mode to finish the bake; the convection fan quickly vents the oven.

Prior, I created steam by putting a half-sheet pan, lined with wet towels, on the top-most rack. I got plenty of steam, but the pan blocked the radiant heat from the top heating coil. Consequently, I wasn't getting all the oven spring and bloom available. This method is the safest I've found to date, and as effective, or better, than any other method I've used previously.

David G

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After practicing daily with my six-string braiding crutch

Today I built and baked a six-strand challah

Nailed the braiding, but I hadn't expected (hadn't thought it through) how big this loaf would turn out: it's resting on a 17" drying rack.

The formula is from Ciril Hitz Baking Artisan Bread. Total dough weight was 1172 grams (about 2.5 lb). I use grams to measure ingredients, and calculate bakers' percentage for its accuracy and ease, but, being American, casually, I think and "sense" in pounds and ounces, except this time.  And Master Baker Hitz' directions state "Makes 2 3-strand loaves, or 1 5-strand loaf"; surely 6-strand would be even smaller? With only two of us, both wedded to doughs leaner than challah--I prefer sourdoughs, my wife baguettes--this giant will be rock-hard stale before we eat a fifth.

No problem. We love challah as the base for French toast. We have a recipe for "Baked French Toast". We're going to let this loaf sit uncovered for two days, cube it and make it the prime ingredient. Done, breakfast-for-two sized portions will be frozen.

David G

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Because of competing, food related commitments I chose to merely replace my refrigerated starter this weekend, in lieu of both replacing and baking. However, returning home from the home brewing club meeting last night, and having replaced my saved starter, I had some good looking ripe levain left over. Reluctant to throw it out, I refreshed it, and went to bed with no clear plan what to bake today, but a head-full of ideas, and yet another competing food chore too. I've planned to smoke some baby-back ribs, turkey legs, and pastrami Monday--the meat cure finished yesterday-- which makes Sunday "get-ready" day. First things first, I put the rub on the ribs, began brining the turkey legs, exposed the pastrami cure to air---the smoke adhere better--and prepared its coriander/black pepper rub.

While doing these chores, I decided to bake: A Big Loaf.

I had 500g of 100% hydrated ripe levain, so I made 1750g of 70% hydrated dough, with a mixture of 60% whole wheat flour, 30% bread flour (25% in the levain), and 10% whole rye flour; I baked it all as one Big Loaf.  I don't know if the result qualifies as a miche, but it sure looks like one; and since "miche" translates to simply "loaf", I guess it does.  Sorry, no crumb shot. I'll freeze this behemoth and refresh it for our next neighborhood pot-luck.

David G


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I bake challah rarely, once every two or three months, usually two loaves. One I pan bake; it gets sliced and frozen for French toast, two or four slices thawed each time; it lasts a good while. The second loaf I braid, only because I like the way the shiny, chocolate-colored, bulging braid looks: eye candy. However, each time I bake challah I have to relearn six-strand braiding--my favorite. I baked challah two days ago, and the braiding was especially frustrating, in part because I'd tried a new recipe--it turned out delicious, but I'd made the dough softer than usual--as well as having to, once again, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, answer the phone, try to figure out where I was...well, you know the rest. I finally got it to look half-way decent; proofing, oven spring and browning aided considerably.

Yesterday, I recalled how, when I was about ten years old, I'd learned to braid four strands of flat, plastic lacing--called "Gimp"--into an attractive round braid. With a metal snaphook on its beginning end,  a yard of it, doubled back on itself and the loop closed with a square-braided slide finished in a Turks-head knot it made a handsome lanyard. I got so good at making lanyards I supplemented my meager weekly allowance by making them for other, less-talented Boys' Club campers, and kids in my neighborhood. I recall I also made a few dog leashes too.

With that memory recalled...

I made my self a practice string which I carry with me in my shirt pocket.  Now, at most free moments, I take it out; my latest mantra is, 6 over 1, 2 over 6, 1 over 3, 5 over 1, 6 over 4,...etc., etc., etc.

David G

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Over the past three or four weeks I've been experimenting with small adjustments, one at a time, to my process. Three of them appear to be adding positive nuances to my loaves. They are:

• longer autolyse, prior to adding yeast (or levain) and salt.

• using  new steam-generating containers.

• warming retarded, pre-shaped dough, and final proofing at elevated temperature: 82°F

With both baguettes and sourdough loaves I've been hydrating the flours for five hours before adding yeast, levain or salt. With the sourdough I've cut the hydrated flour-water ball into cubes, with a bench knife, before adding the liquid levain. With baguettes I simply sprinkle the yeast and salt on the dough ball (on alternate sides) before resting it in the refrigerator for five hours--a trick I adapted from the USA baking team's baguette formula published by the BBGA in Bread Lines.

Recently, a TFLer posted a backyard grill "moisturizer" (?) as a potential steam-generating vessal for bread baking. I tried to find his/her post again using the search function, but couldn't find the magic words, so I can't give credit. Nonetheless, when I read it it seemed like a possible alternative for me. In response to an earlier posting I'd made Mebake commented I should be getting better bloom from my baguette scoring, and attributed the lack thereof to my using a towel-lined sheet pan, on the top shelf, to generate steam; i.e., the pan was seriously preventing radiant heat from reaching the tops of my baggettes.  I took that comment to heart, and have since been searching for long, narrow pans--two of them--to replace the sheet pan to place one on each side. Until I read the aforementioned post I'd had no success. Subsequently, I found the pair pictured on Amazon--they are longer and narrower than ones in the post. I found, loaded with hot water, they sloshed badly so I added the small towel fragment rolls on either end, and I've been using them without their lids. I'm certainly satisfied with the bloom I'm getting on sourdough loaves. Next weekend I'm baking baguettes for the first time since purchasing them. I'll also be revisiting steaming from the bottom of the oven with these new containers in another future bake.

I retard both sourdoughs and baguette dough at 54°F for 15 hours. Heretofore, I've been preshaping the loaves immediately after removing the dough from the chiller, and resting them for an hour at room temperature, which varies between 68°F and 76°F depending on the seasons. Subsequently, I'd final proof in my homemade proofing box at 76°F, or in the kitchen when the air-conditioner was controlling the temperature, also 76°F. For the past three weekly bakes I've pre-warmed the proof-box, and rested the pre-shaped dough in it at 82°F, and final proofed at the same temperature. Doing so has consistently cut 1/2 hour off of the final proof time. More importantly, I'm perceiving I'm also consistently getting a modestly more open crumb.

....and today's results.

David G



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