The Fresh Loaf

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Back home from my trip to the Grand Canyon. First bake since return (sourdough, of course) is preshaped and resting, coming to room temperature. I promised photos; here is one of the four-hundred I took. At best, a photograph, no matter how good, only triggers the sense memory of awe I felt when I first looked at the Canyon from Mather's Point.

David G

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Tomorrow morning, at the ungodly hour of 4AM, I'm heading off to catch an airplane, the first leg of a trip to Sedona,  the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, and Bryce and Zion National Parks. My wife, who suffers from acrophobia, is staying home. My friend of 48 years--we met as Ensigns on a USN destroyer in 1963--is joining me in Phoenix. Two years ago, sharing our Bucket Lists, we discovered neither of us have seen Grand Canyon. We'll be away nine days.

Before leaving, I needed to refresh/replace my seed starter. Following Ms. D. Wink's recommendation, I now maintain a starter by making extra levain each time I bake, and replace my refrigerated seed starter with refreshed ripe levain.  I baked last Sunday, and didn't want to let my starter languish for more than two weeks untouched. I hadn't intended to bake again this week, so yesterday I started to build just enough ripe levain to handle my starter needs. Watching levain builds ripen is in the "watching grass-growing, or paint-drying" fun category, so in the moment I decided to make enough to also bake one loaf.

Back to the trip: Although it's an organized tour, we'll have most hours free to roam as we wish, especially in Sedona and Grand Canyon Village. If any TFLer has favorite sites, sights, diners, drive-ins, dives, brew-pubs or bakeries in those areas to recommend, please do.


David G



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I haven't made an olive loaf in more than a year; I'd forgotten how delicious olive sourdough is. I checked in both Bread, randMaggie Glezer's Artisan Baking, but found the dough formulae nearly identical to what I bake routinely, so this is just my usual sourdough: 10% Rye and 90% White flours at 68% hydration, with Kalamata olives, halved and pitted. Some of them were as big as walnuts.

David G

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Currently, I'm only baking three bread formulae (our daily breads), baguettes, and two sourdoughs: 50% each WW and Bread flours , and a mostly-white flour (equal amounts AP and Bread flours and 10% Whole Rye). I alternate the sourdough bakes week-to-week; and, for the two most recent bakes, I've retarded the fermenting dough for 17 hours @ 54°F. I'm doing this to extract maximum flavors.

This is the first mostly-white version with my new starter.(67% Hydration)

The flavor is all I could hope for--in both the crust and crumb. The Rye is indistinguishable by itself, yet without it the taste would be less. I've been baking this formula for at least a year; its predecessors were a less than inspiring all-white version, and a only slightly better flavored 10% Whole Wheat version. The retardation hasn't changed the formula's flavor, but deepened its intensity.

Volume increase from dough to finished bread isn't talked about much on TFL, rather oven-spring is the more common measure. These loaves, exhibited the greatest volume change I've experienced to date. To give some sense of it here is a photograph--minus the "taster slices". The container holding the loaves is that used to ferment the dough. The mixed dough occupied slightly more than 1 liter, approximately 1100 ml (the bottom of the photograph). 

David G

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My wife and I have differing opinions about sourdough--I like it tangy, she likes it mild; sandwich bread--I like its crumb chewy, she likes it soft and fluffy; and biscotti--I prefer parmesan cheese, and black pepper, she craves ameretto-almond. But when it comes to baguettes we are 100% in accord: wheaty flavor, lightly chewy, open crumb, crackling crust. And in that order.

I've spent nearly two years working on a formula, and a process that yields what we want. I've learned quite a few things about baking in general, and baguettes in particular. I've also relearned a few lessons about myself. In this moment, I think I've reached the semi-experienced novice level--somewhat akin to the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Please, this is just my offering of what I've found works for me. 

Here's what I've learned about a formula: use quality ingredients; don't obsess over the quality.

Flours:I've lusted over descriptions of French milled flours, King Arthur's French-style, and Guisto's artisan flours: lusts never realized. It's simply a cost decision. I use King Arthur's super-market accessible, all-purpose flour. I've made a couple of excursions into other brands, with consistent disappointment. One brand's flavor was really nasty.

Salt: I use sea salt, purchased in bulk from a local organic food store. It's ridiculously inexpensive. My children, knowing my Foodie obsessions have gifted me, more than once, with Sal de Very Expensive. I've used it. I can't discern a difference; neither can my wife.

Water: Our well. (Suwannee River aquifer)

Yeast: SAF: as little as possible.

Flour (one kind), salt, water, yeast: it doesn't get any simpler than that.

Process: Herein, I've learned  the biggest lessons. K.I.S.S.--Keep it Simple, Stupid! (I learned this, the first time, from a Navy Chief Petty Officer, when I was a bottom-of-the-ladder Seaman)--outpaces them all.

A few general lessons: These support K.I.S.S.

Be consistent: Use the same ingredients. Same brand, same type, same weight ratios, same temperatures, etc.. Which of course you won't so...

Make small changes (only one at a time if you have the discipline; I'm not yet that disciplined, but I am at the point that I never make more than two.)

Be consistent: Do the same steps, with the same tools, in the same order, for the same duration, at the same temperatures , etc.. Which of course you won't so...

Keep notes: what you used, what you did, what you changed, what you forgot, what resulted, what you're going to do next. Also, at the beginning of a follow-on bake review your previous notes, and write down what you're going to do. Underline the change(s).

Baguette specific lessons:

These are the things that work for me, with K.I.S.S. always in mind. I marvel at the time and effort other TFL'ers put into baking baguettes. I'm certain their results make my baguettes reminiscent of dog biscuits. Nonetheless, we (my wife and I) are happy with our results, so far, and the neighbors make complementary noises with their mouths full.

Flavor develops during fermentation: Yes, you've got to use ingredients you trust. They have to be capable of giving good flavor, but it's fermentation that exploits those qualities. Up to a point, retarded (chilled) fermentation develops flavor proportionate with the fermentation duration. I don't know what that point is. I've learned I get desirable flavor between 15 hours and 21 hours of retarding at 54°F. Furthermore, the desired flavors are more present after 21 hours compared to 15. hours. I'm fortunate to have a wine closet wherein the temperature is maintained at 54°F. I've not attempted retarding in a refrigerator--most home fridges are 38°F-40°F--but from reading TFL other bakers are having great successes.

Hydration differences don't seem to change the flavor profile significantly, or, at least, not as significantly as retardation time. I've investigated from 65% hydration to 72% hydration. Arguably, the more flour, slightly more flavor in that Hydration range, whereas, 15 hour retardation yields an excellent flavor, 21 hours a bigger excellent flavor.

Substituting sourdough levain for commercial yeast, makes a different bread. It's sourdough in a baguette shape. Delicious, sometimes, but not an accurate rendition of the modern baguette. Furthermore, sourdough levain masks the delightfully "wheaty" flavors a baguette can (and should) have.  White flour, salt, water, and yeast: it doesn't get any simpler than that. (I'm looking forward to the hiding I'll get for this comment.)

Open crumb structure improves with retarded fermentation. I'm fairly sure this is accurate, however, mishandling can massacre the gain.

Don't ignore DDT. It gives one a finer control over results from retardation. Don't think of DDT as just small adjustments to room temperature water to hit the "magic" 76°F or 80°F. Pre-chill the formula's flour and use ice water in the dough's prep, to bring the mix to the planned chill temperature immediately. Chill the dough during autolyse, and return it to the chiller immediately after each manipulation, e.g., S&F.

Process, i.e., techniques: their flow and finesse, account for more than 50% of a baking success, especially with baguettes. (I actuallly think its considerably greater than 50%, but, then again, 85% of all people make up their own statistics.)

Here's a series of photos I took today of a 65% Hydration, 21 hour retarded baguette bake.

I've documented my earliest attempts to make baguettes here  . It gives the 72% hydration formula I started with. Most of my subsequent many tweaks involved exploring hydration, and retarding effects.

This is my post-retardation setup: I preshape the baguettes immediately and leave them to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

After 1 hour rest, I shape and proof the baguettes (seam side up). Proofing time today was 1 hour.

Here is the second loaf, slashed, and ready for loading into the oven. After many attempts, with various commercial peels, to load baguette loaves either serially, or in multiples I've settled on loading them serially with a home-made peel--it's really just a scrap piece of birch plywood, cut 2" narrower than my oven. I also load sourdough loaves (2) side-by-side serially using the board held along the narrow side. It works better than any of the commercial peels I've purchased--including the Superpeel.

I load the peel by simply flipping the loaf onto the rice flour dusted board, and slashing it. Then right into the oven, one at a time.

The oven, loaded to its meager capacity: 3 baguettes. You can see the only down-side to serially loading I've experienced. Oven-spring is already well underway in the first two loaves.

On the top shelf you can see the way I generate steam: two wetted towels. SylviaH convinced me to try this approach, and after the first try I stuck to it, but I made it simpler than her method (involves heating towels in the microwave). I wet the towel with 2-3 cups of the hottest tap water. I put the wet-towel tray on the top shelf, and switch the oven control from "Convection Bake" to "Broil" at 550°F. I do this about 6 to 10 minutes before loading the first loaf. I can watch the wetted towels begin to bubble. I switch the oven to "Bake" (conventional, shutting off the convection fan) at 500°F. Finally, after all loaves are loaded, I decrease the oven to "Bake" 450°F. After 10 minutes I remove the steam pan, restore "Convection Bake", and finish the baking. Early in my trials I discovered the rear-mounted convection fan dried out the surface of the most rearward loaf, and inhibited oven-spring. That's why I do all the oven mode switching.


and the crumb.

Recall, this is a 65% hydrated dough. It's consistent open crumb like this that supports my arguement retarded fermentation supports open crumb development.

So far, I've not lost sight of K.I.S.S. I bake baguettes once each week, so if you see where I can make it simpler, please comment.

David G

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Four months ago I began trying to bake my "personal-best achievable" loaf of 50/50: Bread Flour/Whole Wheat Flour Sourdough. The measures of success, for me, are: FLAVOR, an al dente, moderately open crumb, and eye-appeal. Nearly all my mostly white flour sourdoughs are made at 68% hydration, and I preferment 28% of the flour building the doughs' levains. Consequently, when I started my quest for the PBA half-WW loaf I set the formula with 68% hydration, and I prefermented 56% of the Whole Wheat Flour (28% of the total flour) building the levain. Immediately, I was delighted with the bread's flavor, and al dente crumb, but the dough had been very slack, and the loaves, while not exactly "flat as...", did their best to emulate pancakes.

In subsequent loaves, continuing with the same ingredients and ratios the flavor got even better through overnight retardation, but the dough seemed to get slacker, and IHOP began to worry they had a new competitor.

Three month ago I began to worry my starter's levaining power was weakening. It sometimes took twice as long to proof.

Not only were my 50% WW loaves belly-flopping from slack doughs, but the oven spring I'd been experiencing in all my other Sourdough loaves was lessening.

I gave up trying to create the PBA WW loaf, and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong in my heretofore bomb-proof sourdoughs.

I've got a new starter. It's agonizing birth--all its problems due to my ignorance--is documented elsewhere, the life-saving mid-wife: Debra Wink.

The new starter has provided very satisfying successes with my "go-to" mostly white-flour sourdoughs, the past three weeks.

It was time to try again for the hitherto elusive BPA 50% WW sourdough loaf.

First try: Same ratios as prior, same ingredients, all Bread Flour in the levain, machine kneaded after autolyse (Kitchenaid mixer)   3 mins. speed 1, no retardation, DDT 76°F

The flavor is good, but, subjectively, not as good as remembered from the earlier retarded loaves. The crumb is delightfully al dente, and moderately open. The dough was slack; not as slack as during the abandoned quest, nevertheless, most of the oven-spring went sideways, but still better than any previous loaf.

Second try: same ingredients

Differences: 14% of the total flour prefermented in the levain build, all Whole Wheat flour (1/2 as much as the previous bake); Dough Hydration reduced to 65%; ice water and chilled dough used in the mix (DDT 54°F); machine kneaded (Kitchenaid mixer) 2 mins. speed 1, 7 mins. speed 2. (I also performed three S&F at one hour intervals, the same was done in the previous bake); dough retarded (54°F) for 17 hours.

The flavor is excellent: multi-layered, with a distinctive sour end note. The crumb is camparable to the first try: delightfully al dente. The oven spring was considerably more vertical.  Subjectively, despite the lower hydration, the crumb is more open than the first bake.

I feel I'm back in the grove. Next try I'll increase the dough's hydration to 67% keeping all else, ingredients and procedures, the same.

David G



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These are #'s 4 and 5. I've made three earlier loaves, all successful, with similar oven spring. I've been experimenting with retarding sourdoughs. I'm so pleased with my Overnight Baguette's flavor and crumb--straight dough, retarded 15 hours @ 54°F--that I've reasoned retarding sourdough loaves should add sparkle to already good flavor. Using my old starter, the results were mixed. I realized excellent flavors, but the doughs were slack, and their oven spring weak.

With Debra Wink's help, we've saved my new starter--I thought it was a goner--and, encouraged by #'s 2 and 3, also retarded, I baked these today. The dough was retarded 10 hours, at 54°F, before shaping.

As you see, I've got excellent oven spring. I'm going to post a forum Help! re the ragged slashing. I've not been able to eliminate it. If you have any good advice please post it either here or on the forum thread; I'll title it Ragged Slashing. Sorry, no crumb shots, these are going into the freezer.

Here's a crumb shot of #2, which is almost gone. It's been a great compliment to some home cured and smoked pastrami.

David G

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Some of you will remember the tale of the miner who froze to death in the Yukon, with the last BTU in his body, curled about Maude,  he saved her. Maude was his sourdough starter, named after a favorite memory. I never told you his name. It's Hurcules; friends called him Herk. As his legend grew, he became known as Sourdough Herk, Maude's savior.

With Sourdough Debra's help--oops, that's Ms. Debra Wink I mean--It appears my new starter is saved.  I'm diligently feeding it ever eight hours. I have eight days to go before, by Ms. Wink's estimate, it will be officially ready. Meanwhile, I'm biting my fingernails--a habit picked up post-puberty when I started worrying more than I'd done pre-pube--waiting to test it out.

One of the side-effects of feeding a starter every eight hour, regardless of how small a quantity you're feeding, is Discard. Discard, if you save it, piles up. I'd forgotten that over the last couple of years, before I trashed my old starter. My old starter was a Refrigerator Queen, pampered, yes, but only once a week (or so). Discard had been forgotten.

I rarely throw away anything. That's why my kitchen, home office, and wood shop are cluttered. Now don't think the TV show "Hoarders". I've enough of a mild case of OCD that I keep things orderly...well, mostly. So it was natural, when it came time to discard my first Discard, I thought of Herk. It goes without saying, Herk never discarded a gram of Maude! Why, why that would be like...well, it doesn't matter; no need to talk about kittens here.

So I started saving Discard.

It's now Day 6 or 7--I lost track, so being cautious I'm assuming its Day 6--eight days to go.

I've already got a lot of Discard.

Early days, I'd visions of sourdough pancakes, sourdough biscuits, sourdough batter fried 'round fish, or, maybe, green tomatoes.

Discard just kept growing--on it own, as well as my additions--every eight hours.

Now my fledgling starter seems to be doing wonderfully. With Marine drill precision timing it peaks every 7 hours, and with equal discipline I feed it. And I collect Discard. I've named its collection container Slop Bucket.

I'm also getting impatient--another post-puberty habit--I want, very much, to see the final results from my new starter: Bread!

So I reasoned, it's not cheating if I make bread with Discard. After all, if it wasn't for my deep respect for Herk, I'd have thrown Discard away, and, besides, if baking with Discard is even slightly successful, it will be a precursor of what's to come. Right?

I did it. Today.

I know, I know. It's not the real thing. That's eight days away. Not to worry, in eight days this wannabe will be history. Herk would understand.

David G


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Bake bread.

Debra Wink, God bless her, is helping me recover from the loss of my seed starter. In the meantime, because we're out of sourdough loaves--the freezer, at this moment, only holds two baguettes, and some hamburger size soft baps--I've baked my favorite sourdough 10/45/45 Rye/Bread Flour/AP Flour, 68% Hydration converted to a 12 hour sponge, with commercial yeast prefermenting 20% of the formula's flour. I'm not giving up on sourdough, but I have to say, "This bread is tasty!"

One's ready for the freezer.

David G

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I have a friend who owns an orchard of chestnut trees. Each year she harvests them, aided by her donkey, Carlos, who pulls the harvest wagon tree-to-tree. It's hard work, a lot of bending, and the outer husk of a chestnut pod is armored with thorns. In past years, rising at 4:00 AM, she sold her crop, pound by pound, at a nearby Farmers' Market. A recently retired ICU nurse, the proceeds add to her modest pension.  Two years ago, chestnut farmers in the area formed a Co-op.  Now she sells her entire crop to the Co-op. Her life got easier; Carlos didn't benefit.

A couple of months ago she gave me a small bag of chestnut flour; the Co-op is experimenting with selling chestnut derivatives. She asked me if I would create (bake) something using the flour. I agreed, but at the time had no ideas what I might do with it. Chestnuts, in my opinion, have a pleasent, but understated flavor. They taste like...well, chestnuts. That is to say, their flavor, to my palette is unique; In my limited taste experiences I've nothing to compare them to, and little idea how to exploit or enhance their subtle flavor. I've eaten them roasted, and made Creme Brulee, and Chestnut Soup with boiled chestnut puree. That's all. Liked them both--one sweet, one savory--but not much to draw from for baking.

Another long-time friend and I are working down our Bucket Lists. He, I and my wife just returned from a Rhine river boat tour. Beginning in Strasburg, and more southerly towns on the French side of the river (Alsace region) we encountered Kugelhopf.  Not unlike Brioche, Kugelhopf is high in fat and eggs; it's only moderately sweet--until it's glazed. We didn't sample any. Being always too full of Wurst-and-sauerkraut and bier, or onion-and-bacon tarts and bier, or Foie gras and wine we never had room for dessert. Nonetheless, I brought home a Kugelhopf mold, and baked my first ever earlier this week.

Eureka! Eating my first piece of my Kugelhopf I flashed on Chestnut flour.

Yesterday, with eight free hours between levain builds for tomorrow's bake--It's now that tomorrow. I'm writing this between retarded baguette dough's Stretch & Folds--I made a Kugelhopf with 40% Chestnut Flour.

I'm usually not quite this organized but this time I wanted to ensure I got it right.

The original recipe I used -- -- had delightful flavor,  however it had a very wet dough, even after reducing 4 eggs to 3, and made too much dough for my slightly smaller mold. Furthermore, Judy, the chestnut grower and Carlos' driver, had only given me 250 grams of chestnut flour; I wanted to keep half in case the Chestnut Kugelhopf was a bust.

I scaled the original recipe to make 500 grams of dough, adjusted the flour and liquids to an estimated 65% hydration, and added rum-soaked currants and coursely chopped roasted chestnuts. Here is the recipe.

Chestnut Flour Kugelhopf  

Dough weight: 500g (not including fruit & nuts); ~65% hydration


178g High protein flour (e.g. King Arthur Sir Lancelot)

118g Chestnut Flour

5g Osmotolerent  IDY (1 ½ tsp.)

35g granulated sugar

2 large eggs (estimated 50g/egg; estimated 75g water contributed to dough hydration)

103g Whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract (alternately, and/or the zest of 1 lemon)

6g Salt

120g unsalted Butter, well softened

Optional: ¼ cup rehydrated dried fruit, coarsely chopped nuts, or candied fruit

To Prepared the baking pan or bowl (Kugelhopf mold, bundt pan, etc)

Mix together:

2 Tbls. Brown sugar

2 Tbls. Well-softened unsalted butter

With a pastry brush liberally coat the entire inside of the baking vessel with the mixture.

For post-bake sugar glaze:

            100g water

            120g sugar

            2 or 3 lemon peel strips


In mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar and yeast; whisk to combine.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla.  On low speed (KAid speed 1) combine until well incorporated; increase speed (KAid speed 2) for 2-3 minutes. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.

Add salt and continue kneading (speed 2) for seven minutes. Scrap bowl occasionally.

Add butter in thirds, combining each third on low speed until butter disappears.

Increase to moderate speed (KAid speed 4) and knead, scraping bowl occasionally, until dough just begins to clean the bowl’s sides (about 15 mins.).

Fold in fruit and nuts, if used, by hand. If you use the mixer use lowest speed, and only long enough to distribute evenly.

The dough will be sticky, but satiny. Collect into a coherent mass in the mixer bowl, cover and rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Stretch and fold in bowl, degassing vigorously.

Cover. At room temperature let rise until it doubles in bulk.

Prepare the baking pan or bowl

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix the glaze sugar, water and lemon peel in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes. Set aside to cool

When doubled, degas the dough gently but firmly, and transfer dough to bowl or pan, filling to slightly more than half. Cover, and allow cake to rise until slightly below the pan’s top edge.

Bake on lowest shelf until top (the cake’s bottom) is deep brown, and internal temperature reaches 195°F to 200°F

Remove from oven, and let cool in the pan for about five minutes; then remove from pan. Let cake cool completely.

Brush the cooled cake liberally with the sugar glaze; sprinkle immediately with granulated sugar, or just before serving sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar.


I think I've got it! The cakes flavor is distinctive. It tastes like...well, baked chestnut flour. At least I think it does. The crumb is only slightly open, and a bit on the dry-side. (I'd tasted the dough; it tasted "dusty". I think the chestnut flour I have is very dry.).  Served with vanilla ice cream, the cake benefited from the pairing.

I've enough chestnut flour to bake one more Kugelhopf. When I do, I'll increase the hydration to 67-68%, and omit the chopped roasted chestnut bits. I don't think they add much flavor, or variety to the mouthfeel to warrant including them.

David G








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