The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Inspired by LisaL's question  Baguettes by noon? I baked a sourdough version of my overnight baguette formula for the first time.

Beginning with 25g of 100% hydration seed starter I built 310g of liqud levain over a twenty four hour period, feeding 75g each of AP flour and water at the start, and the same again after twelve hours. I scheduled the build to be ready yesterday at 10am. I wanted to bulk ferment for 24 hours, at 55°F. I had an appointment this morning, otherwise I would have preshaped, this morning at 7 AM, to demonstrate I could have finished baguettes before noon: LisaL's goal.

I mixed the dough (1050 g, 68% hydration, 100% AP flour) at 10:00 yesterday using ice water to immediately chill the dough, autolysed for 1 hour, and did four S&F's at 30 minute intervals. The dough was placed in the retarder--my wine closet--at 55°F immediately after mixing, and returned after each S&F.

I removed the retarded dough at 10:15 AM this morning. It had quadrupled in volume! (Note 1 to myself: Don't ferment for so long, or reduce the levain by half.)

I preshaped 3, 350 g baguettes and let them rest 1 hour at room temperature (We've been having a cold spell here, the room temperature was about 67*). After restiing i shaped them, and placed them in a linen couche. I checked the dough temperature after shaping. It was a chilly 61°F.

The loaves proofed for two hours, I baked them in a preheated oven (500°F), on a baking stone, reducing the oven temperature to 450°F immediately after loading with steam for the first 10 minutes. I finished the bake in another 10 minutes at 450°F with the steam source removed.

I finished at 1:38 PM (including taking the first picture) . Three hours, and 23 minutes. Had I started at 7 AM I would have finished about 10:30 AM. The yeasted version of this dough usually proofs in 1 to 1-1/4 hour.

and the crumb

It's doable, Lisa.

David G

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This year I sent all my children and their families, and a couple of dear friends a loaf of sourdough, and a sampling of cookies: Welsh Cakes, Date-Nut Pinwheels--reminiscent of their great-grandmother--and biscotti, a recent discovery and new favorite of mine.

After a week of marathon baking:

10 loaves sourdough--our oven can only bake two at a time,

19 dozen Welsh Cakes,

14 dozen Date-Nut Pinwheels,

14 dozen Biscotti (Parmesan-Blackpepper, Cherry Pecan, Hazlenut-Citron, and Amaretto-Almond)

 3 Sandwich loaves: 40% Whole-wheat, for ourselves,

and 16 mini-loaves: cranberry-orange, for the neighbors.

Today we took a one day break.

Tomorrow I'm doing a mincemeat pie, and Yvonne is baking a pumpkin pie. We're having eight of the neighbors for Christmas dinner.

Life is good.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

David G


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I mentioned in a post about a week ago I'd been laid up for seven weeks, unable to walk more than ten steps, let alone bake bread. The last four days I've been baking sourdough--two variations of the base 45%/45%/10%:Bread Flour/AP Flour/Whole Rye Flour; 68% Hyd., and 28% prefermented Bread Flour in the sourdough starter--nothing fancy, nothing new but just being able to bake leaves me humble and grateful once again I can.

My starters had gone neglected for the same seven weeks, but last week i resusitated them (2) with a couple days of feeding every 12 hours at room temperature. They responded like long-lost friends. Friday and Sunday I built formula-ready starters, and baked two loaves on both Saturday and today.

It's good to be back!

Here's today's bake

and a crumb shot of Saturday's bake

David G

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I've been immobile for the past two months with sciatica. With steroid treatment and physical therapy, it's nearly completely diminished. Fortunately, the freezer was well stocked with baguettes, sourdough loaves, and a couple of Jewish Ryes at the onset--now nearly depleted. 

Yesterday afternoon, after a two month hiatus, I celebrated my new-gotten mobility by mixing dough for my Overnight Baguettes formula; shaped and baked them this morning.


Nice to know, I haven't gotten too rusty. Sorry, no crumb shot; these are restocking the freezer.

David G

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There are, at least, two threads running currently whose subjects deal with "the past'":


I am especially taken with the latter, more so with the author, than with any particular book, he wrote.  Apparently, Mr. Fredrick T. Vine, was a popular and successful author, and baker at the turn of the 19th to 20th century.  A superficial web search finds at least five bread and baking books, writings by Mr. Vine, sufficently treasured that reproductions are still sold today.

Browsing through one of his,

Practical bread-making: a useful guide for all in the trade (1900)

 By Frederick T. Vine,

here is one excerpt I found particulary chuckle-inducing, considering the "hole-i-er than thou"  point-of-view many of us share.


IF there is one thing more annoying than another to the baker, it is to cut a handsome-looking loaf and to find it full of large, unsightly holes, especially when, as is generally the case, you desire it to cut extra nice.

This is no new thing, but has been with us to plague the bakers' life for many years, and very many schemes have been tried to banish it, but all to no purpose; it is still unfortuuately with us, and I am not sanguine enough to predict its banishment from reading this chapter. However, I will endeavour to reason it out to you, and give my own theories upon it, together with the many remedies I have tried and suggested for its cure."

Frederick T. Vine's writings, and hundreds of other culinary books are available at:

David G

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Yesterday I baked two sourdough boules; it's become a weekly chore. Sourdough has all but replaced our pre-starter days' bread machine whole wheat or white sandwich loaf dough. Two loaves, with a baguette or two, and occasionally Jewish Rye keeps the two of us well stocked for a week to ten days.

Nice looking loaves, yes?


And now, another point of view.

Late pre-heating the oven, worried I was nearing over-proofing the two boules, and although the oven's status display showed it hadn't reached pre-heat temperature yet, I opened the oven door, and was greeted by a waft of very warm air. "Hey, it's close," I told myself. I started steaming, turned out and slashed the boules, and popped them in the oven.  When I reduced the oven temperature, after loading the loaves, the heating element shut off immediately. "Good," I told myself, thinking that proof that the oven had been near pre-heat temperature.

They seemed to be a little sluggish spring, but otherwise, all looked normal. I removed the steam pan after 15 minutes. Ten minutes later I pulled out one loaf to check for doneness; the bottom of the loaf was dough-colored, hardly a hint of browning. I dug out my thermometer, and checked internal temperature: 203°F. Yep, the oven had nearly reached pre-heat temperature; the baking stone had obviously lagged, far, far behind :-(

Fortunately, it only cost a valuable ego deflate. The bread has it's usual tastiness, and chewy crumb. I try the ignore the bottom crusts softness, and locally bland flavor. Of course, I haven't looked at it since I'd taken its picture.

David G.

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David G

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Yesterday, I transferred six gallon of new Sauvignon Blanc wine from its primary fermenter (food-grade plastic bucket), into a secondary fermenter (glass carboy), leaving behind billions of yeast cells that had done their job beautifully.  I was diluting the slurry of yeast collected on the bucket's bottom, to make it easier to pour out when I thought, "I wonder if it could bake bread?".

I scooped out 60g of the much diluted slurry--looked like slightly muddy water--and added 60g of first clear flour, and one-eighth tsp. of diastatic malt powder. Well stirred, I put it in the microwave, with the door propped ajar to keep the light on. (76°F). I chose first clear flour for its ash content, and added the malt powder for a little bit more sugar boost. Champagne yeast is expecting a very sugary environment. Six hour later it peaked, I fed it twice more (no additional malt powder), at approximately six hour intervals; the last six hour spent at 55°F in the wine closet while I got some sleep. I baked a single batard this morning with 300g of this 100% hydration "poolish?", 45g whole Rye, 138g each of AP and Bread Flour, and 9g of salt--this is essentially my weekly sourdough formula with about 4% more leavain than usual. I fermented and S&F'd the dough as always. Bulk fermentation was one-half hour longer than with my usual levain, and the final proof took two hours, again about one-half hour longer than usual. Baked: Pre-heat 550°F, reduced to 450°F immediately following loading, steam for 15 minutes, finished at 430°F an additional 15 minutes.

The wine yeast, Lalvin EC1118, is an old friend. As I understand, it was first isolated to make champagne. It is very alcohol tolerent (18%) and ferments cleanly and completely, In addition to fermenting white wines, I've used it over the years for finishing high alcohol beers like Imperial Stout or Barley Wine, and restarting stuck fermentations. I've characterized it to fellow brewers, "If there's sugar in old tennis shoes, this yeast will ferment them."

Here's the loaf

I guess, at the end of the day yeast is yeast. The taste of this bread, obviously, lacks the slight tanginess we experience in its sourdough form, but the wheat flavors, and rye base note come through cleanly.  I'm curious what beer yeast might do. Beer yeasts are especially noted for contributing flavor to beers. There is a beer yeast especially isolated to ferment wheat beers, that contributes a banana-like flavor to the finished beer. I wonder what it would do in bread dough: yet another thing to put on the list to try; it keeps getting longer.

David G

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This is Challah formula from Ciril Hitz's, Baking Artisan Bread. It's tonight's dessert with cream cheese and jam, and tomorrow morning's French Toast.

David G

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I recently baked, for the third time, two sourdough boules, which besides the primary purpose: Eating, tested the effects of slashing, and steaming methods, and the behavior of a new starter. The latter is posted elswhere (Purchased Dried Starter Reactivation Survey).

These loaves were slashed identically, placed in the oven simultaneously, and swapped position after 15 minutes of steaming. The ovenspring realized is shown here,

and from this placement the loaves look acceptably identical. But...

...this is the position they were initially placed in the oven. (Note the asymmetric ovenspring outside-to-center of both loaves. 

I normally create steam with a towel-lined half-sheet pan, wetted with boiling water, and placed below the baking stone. This time, thinking I could direct the steam more toward the edges of the stone and, therefore, better direct the maximum volume of the steam upward toward the loaves, I rolled two small towels and placed them on the extreme ends of the half-sheet pan. 

Two of our regular problem analysts, David and Eric, have argued steam condensing on the bottom of a baking stone causes the stone's surface to cool, and effects ovenspring. I've been a bit skeptical, but I am no longer. It is evident that the rolled towels did focus the steam's rise. but the seventeen-inch pan, below a twenty-inch baking stone created an asymmetric cooled surface on the stone, as is evidenced by the lesser ovenspring on the left and right sides of the left and right loaf respectively. 

Subsequently, I tried placing the pan above the loaves (I've tried it before), rather than below the stone (and the loaves), but I'm still disappointed with the results. I've returned to steaming from below, using a half-sheet pan fully-lined with wetted towels. The ovenspring is again uniform across the loaves, but I suspect reduced from what it could be, due cooling from condensing steam across the entire bottom of the baking stone.

I'm once again rethinking my steaming process. I like the control the wetted towel vs. lava rocks gives me--I can remove the pan safely when steaming time is completed, but I don't want the stone cooling effect. I'm thinking of fabricating and placing two narrow aluminum troughs in the spaces between the stone and the oven's wall, and filling them with wetted towels five or six minutes before loading the loaves. This, of course, will interrupt the heat convection paths on the sides of the stone, but I'm not certain, nor can I guess, how that will effect the baking.

Stay tuned;-)

David G.


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