The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I had a hard time choosing a title for this blog entry. I thought about "SMSJSD," which you would eventually discover stands for "Senior Moment San Joaquin Sourdough." I thought about "Invulnerable Bread." I mostly thought about not posting anything about this bake. There is nothing new ... except that these loaves turned out so well in spite of my forgetting to ... Okay. Here's what happened.

On Tuesday, I mixed the dough for my "Italian" version of San Joaquin Sourdough following the formula and procedures I described in Sourdough Italian Baguettes. But I also had a few other projects in process at the same time. As I usually do, I set an alarm to go off when I needed to do something with the dough, but I must have ignored the last one. Instead of retarding the dough when it was ready, I kept working on other stuff. By time I left home for my 6:30pm Italian class, I had forgotten completely that there was dough fermenting. I didn't remember it until I got back home at 8:15pm and went to the kitchen to make a late dinner for me and my wife, and there was the dough, expanded to 4 times its original volume and ready to overflow the bowl! Yikes!

I thought about tossing it and starting over the next day but decided to refrigerate the dough and decide what to do the next morning. Well, the next morning I dumped the dough on my board, and, you know, it felt okay. So, I pre-shaped it and continued with my normal procedure. I considered the possibility I should shorten the proofing because of the prolonged bulk fermentation, but the dough didn't act over-proofed. And you know what, it turned out no differently than usual, except the crumb was less yellow than usual. 

I thought that the really long fermentation would result in a more sour flavor, but the flavor was no different than usual for this bread. It was really good!  I can't account for why my drastic over-fermentation didn't ruin the bread, but I'm certainly not complaining.

We had a nice sunset, too.

Happy baking!


dmsnyder's picture

Nothing new this week, but two of our current favorites, baked yesterday and today.

San Joaquin Sourdough Baguettes. The left-most as an Epi.

We had finished off the last batch of these for dinner the night before - Sandwiches of Smoked Chicken/Apple Sausages with spicy brown mustard. Last night, we had some of the Epi, still warm, with a beet, fennel and blue cheese salad and cold roast chicken.

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour from Hamelman's Bread

If I could have only one bread to eat the rest of my days, this one would certainly make the final four. Tonight, fresh out of the oven, it was particularly delicious with a thin spread of very fresh Point Reyes Blue Cheese. Yum!

Happy baking!


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Multi-grain Levain – August 14, 2015

Today's bake is based on the “75% Whole Wheat Levain Bread” formula in Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. I have made this bread a couple of times before, most recently in November, 2014. I modified the formula today by adding 180g of "Harvest Grains Blend" produced by King Arthur Flour, which I soaked in warm water for a few hours and then mixed it into the autolyse at the time I added the salt and levain. The blend has about 8 different seeds and grains. This started out a very nutritious bread. The added whole oats, flax seeds and other goodies in the multi-grain blend just "kicked it up a notch" in both flavor and health benefits.

This made a very wet dough that did develop some strength with the stretches and folds and, especially, with rather tight pre-shaping and shaping. Still, with the high percentage of whole wheat flour and the additional seeds and flaked grains, loaf volume was less than most of the FWSY levains.



I tasted the bread after it had cooled for a couple hours. The crust was crunchy-chewy. The crumb was very moist and somewhat chewy. The aroma of whole wheat predominated. The flavor was similar to previous bakes of this bread with a prominent whole wheat flavor and moderate sourdough tang. The seeds added a bit of a crunch. The only specific ingredient I could taste was the sunflower seeds, but the flavor of the basic bread dominated. We'll see how the flavors evolve. Forkish says this bread's flavor develops and improves over two to three days.


I had some of this bread with dinner. It was delicious both with a thin spread of sweet butter and with a thin slice of aged Gouda cheese. It is so moist, I expect it to be fresh-tasting without toasting for several days.

Happy Baking!


dmsnyder's picture

July is the hottest month of the year in Fresno. For the past couple years, since I retired from practice, we have tried to get to cooler areas for as much of the month as possible. Being away from home more than usual, I do less baking than usual in July.

My baking for the first half of July has had an Italian theme. 

 First, here is a sandwich roll version of my Sourdough Italian Bread (Sourdough Italian Baguettes) which is an Italian version of my San Joaquin Sourdough. The dough was mixed and fermented as described previously. Then 4.25 oz pieces were made into balls, rested for an hour, then re-shaped, seeded and proofed for 30 minutes. They were baked on a sheet pan at 480dF for about 15 minutes.


Rolls proofing

Rolls Cooling

My favorite pizza dough is still Forkish’s “Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain” made with 00 flour (Pizza Bliss). I made a full batch and used two 350g balls for pizzas one night and one 350g and one 700g ball for focacce.



The smaller, round focaccia has olive oil, slivered garlic, chopped fresh rosemary and thinly sliced zucchini. I learned (from this experience) that zucchini has a lot of water in it, and the top of the dough will be gummy, if the zucchini are applied too densely. The rectangular focaccia has olive oil, rosemary and a very sparse spread of the tomato sauce I made for pizzas. Very yummy. I froze most of the second focaccia, and I will try using it for grilled panini, maybe in a week or two.


And last but not least, a couple loaves of San Joaquin Sourdough (San Joaquin Sourdough: Update) just came out of the oven.

I hope all of you (in the Northern Hemisphere) are keeping cool, and Happy baking!


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Back in April, Khaled let me know he had enrolled in the Sourdough Bread workshop at the San Francisco Baking Institute. I volunteered to meet him there and, after he had a night to recover a bit from the 15 hour flight from Dubai, take him on a tour of San Francisco bakeries and show him some of the city sights. I also volunteered brother Glenn, who lives in San Francisco, to act as native guide. 

So, Khaled and his friend and business associate, Jamal, arrived last Friday. My wife and I picked them up at their hotel Saturday morning and drove to downtown. We parked in the Mission Street Garage, because we expected to leave the car most of the day, and I thought Khaled and Jamal would enjoy the walk to the Ferry Building, where Glenn joined us. I had warned Khaled that July can be chilly in San Francisco. Even though, it turned out to be unseasonably warm (68 dF), coming from the UAE, the visitors said it seemed quite chilly to them.

There is a fabulous Farmer's Market at the San Francisco Ferry Building on Saturday mornings. In addition to wonderful produce and other foods, there are three bakeries that come: Acme (Acme Bread Company - Ferry Building Marketplace), which has a permanent stall inside the Ferry Building, Della Fattoria (Della Fattoria Homepage), from Petaluma and Downtown Bakery (Downtown Bakery & Creamery | Home - Healdsburg), from Healdsburg. We tasted samples and bought various pastries and breads at each.

Glenn's office is on the 22nd floor of one of the Embarcadero Center towers, a couple hundred yards from the Ferry Building, so he took us up for a panoramic view of the Bay. By then, it was time for lunch. We walked over to California Street and up to Tadich Grill (Tadich Grill | San Francisco, CA), which, for those of you who don't know, is the oldest restaurant in the City (founded during the Gold Rush era) and still one of the best, especially for fish.  Hmmmm ... If you take into account the delicious, very much old-style San Francisco Sourdough that Boudin custom bakes for Tadich Grill, we actually "visited" 7 (seven) bakeries.

We then hopped on the Muni and headed down Market to the Castro. We got off the trolly close to Thorough Bread Bakery (Thorough Bread and Pastry), one of my favorites, but Khaled was very focused on visiting Tartine (Tartine Bakery), so we walked there first. He said he just needed to see it. As usual, the line was half a block long. I stood in line, "just in case," while Susan and Khaled squeezed past the line, into the bakery/cafe, so Khaled could see their offerings. He came back to the end of the line with this really intense, serious look and announced he "had to get something," no matter how long we had to wait. So, another of those really tough sacrifices one makes for a friend, we had coffee and (too many) pastries at Tartine. Everything was amazingly wonderful.

So, we walked back to Thorough Bread Bakery. Their breads and Pastries looked wonderful as they always do, but we were already suffering from a mixture of butter intoxication and hyper-caffeination, so we just looked. Then we took the Muni back downtown to retrieve our cars and met again at B Patisserie (b. patisserie) on California and Divisadero. 

Now, it occurs to me that you might get the idea this was some sort of self-indulgent carbohydrate orgy. I want you to understand, Khaled and Jamal are serious businessmen, in San Francisco for professional training. They have very high standards and are both clearly committed to producing an authentic product of the highest quality to their clientele. They have an exceptional challenge: They aim to introduce French-style, artisanal pains au levain in several varieties to a country that has no prior exposure to these foods. Moreover, neither man has personally traveled in France, Italy or other countries where the breads they will be baking are "native." They know what they have read about and seen photos of here on TFL and in their cookbooks and what they have baked themselves. One of their goals for this trip was to taste as many of the types of breads they anticipate baking as possible at as many excellent bakeries as possible. I do think that the bakeries they visited would be hard to beat, setting a standard of quality for which to strive for any baker.


Jamal and Khaled performing intensive product assessment at b. patisserie

Susan, Glenn and I had great fun facilitating Khaled and Jamal's investigations. 



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I've made focaccia just a few times, usually as an afterthought when I had some dough left over from another bake. Frankly, it's never been very good. Today, I made a focaccia that was really good. Really, really good! 

This past weekend, I made a couple loaves of Ken Forkish's "Overnight Country Blonde." Since I was mixing the levain anyway, I made a bit extra for Pizzas. Now, the formula in FWYS makes enough dough for 5 pizzas. I usually make 2 pizzas for the two of us. This time, I made enough dough to have 340g left, with the thought I would make focaccia, and that's what I did. 

340g of dough is enough to make a 9" round focaccia in a cast iron skillet, according to Forkish. I made mine in an 8" cake pan. My procedure was as follows:

1. Make Pizza dough according to the Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain. (There was no overnight fermentation for me. The bulk fermentation was complete in about 6 hours.) Divide the dough into 340g pieces. Roll into balls and put in Ziploc sandwich bags with a Tbs of olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

2. 2 hours before baking, take one ball out of the refrigerator. Let it proof at room temperature until increased in volume by about 50%. It should be very puffy.

3. Transfer the dough to a floured board. Gently degas it, turning it over to flour both sides. 

4. Stretch the dough as for a pizza into a 8" round.

5. Lightly oil a non-stick 8" cake pan. Transfer the dough to it, and, if needed, stretch it to the pan walls. Cover with a damp towel and let proof for 30-60 minutes, depending on room temperature. The dough should increase in volume by maybe 30%.

6. Pre-heat oven to 500dF (convection-bake, if you have it).

7. Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil on the dough. Spread it around with your fingers while dimpling the dough deeply all over with your finger tips. With your clean hand, sprinkle the dough surface with finely chopped fresh rosemary, coarse salt and any other toppings. ( I pressed pitted, halved Kalamata olives into half of the focaccia.)

8. Bake for 12 minutes. The top should be lightly browned.

9. When ready to serve, cut into rectangular pieces. Can be cut for panini or used for dipping.

Focaccia in pan, ready to bake

Just out of the oven

Ready to slice



This dough had been refrigerated for 3 days. The flavor of the focaccia was complex with moderate sourdough tang. We ate it at room temperature. The crust was thin and soft. The crumb was delightfully chewy but not at all tough. I ate some dipped in hummus and more accompanying roast wild king salmon, corn on the cob and a tomato salad for dinner.

I will definitely make this again! I'm looking forward to using it for Panini and un-grilled sandwiches as well.

Here are some photos of the other weekend baking:

Overnight Country Blonde from FWSY

Overnight Country Blonde crumb

And a slice of Pizza Margherita

Happy baking!




dmsnyder's picture

I allowed myself to completely run out of San Joaquin Sourdough Baguettes. This is not acceptable, but it is remediable.

And in the mood for some whole wheaty bread. PiPs is in the queue, but today I made Hamelman's Whole Wheat Levain. It's pretty delicious fresh baked or toasted with almond butter.

Gotta get dressed for a concert now.

Happy baking!


dmsnyder's picture

Pain au Levain with mixed sourdough starters

Last week, I baked Hamelman's "66 Percent Sourdough Rye." Searching my TFL blog, I found I hadn't made this bread since 2008! This bread is leavened with a rye sour fed with Medium rye. It is interesting to make in that the dough handles like a high-percentage rye (very sticky with not much gluten development) yet the rye flavor is not dominent. It does have the advantage, shared with other high-rye-percentage breads, of brief bulk fermentation and proofing, which makes it a quick bread to make, assuming you have elaborated the sour the preceding day. This is a mellow, tasty, "all-purpose" bread, to my taste. Good fresh and toasted. It's a great bread for sandwiches. 

Well, I had made way too much rye sour for that bread and had a lot left over which provided a perfect excuse to make Hamelman's "Pain au Levain with mixed sourdough starters." This is also a bread I had made before, but not for some time - not since 2011. As the name implies, this bread uses both a wheat flour fed liquid levain and a rye sour. But it is basically a white bread with 84% bread flour, 8% rye (all in the sour) and 8% whole wheat. This formula is also remarkable for using only 16% pre-fermented flour. Yet, with that mix of levains, the bulk fermentation is very vigorous and takes no longer than Hamelman's usual 2.5 hours for his Pains au Levain, and that is without any commercial yeast.

I chose to cold retard the formed loaves overnight (about 16 hours, actually). They had about 45 minutes of proofing before refrigeration and about 2 hours at room temperature before baking.

The crumb was typical for a 68% hydration large loaf. On tasting a slice after the loaves had completely cooled, the crust was crunchy. The crumb was moderately chewy. The crust flavor is sweet and nutty - very flavorful as anticipated with a bold bake. The crumb flavor was quite complex. The flavors have not yet melded, and the rye and whole wheat flavor tones are identifiable. There is a late-appearing sourdough tang that is quite prominent. All in all, this bread is delicious with many discernible flavors which I expect will have mellowed by tomorrow morning. 

Anyone who enjoys any of Hamelman's Pains au Levain should be sure to give this one a try. I like them all, and I hope I remember to keep this one in my "rotation."

Happy baking!


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Today was the party for which I have been "practicing" - featuring my WFO-baked breads. Well, that was kind of the excuse, but it was a potluck with friends from the Italian community, so, needless to say, there was no lack of many other delicious foods.

I got to J.'s about 10:30am. She had fired her oven at about 6 am but had been afraid it wouldn't be hot enough by 10am, so she had added another log of walnut. In fact, the floor of the oven was near 800 dF and the roof was near 900 dF. So, although my breads were ready to bake, I thought it prudent to wait until the floor temp fell to 500-550dF. I shoveled out the coals and left the door open for a while.

I then swept the ashes out and mopped the floor. I had brought along a garden sprayer and tested it. Water sprayed towards the roof turned to steam instantly. I put up the oven door for 10 minutes or so while I moved my peel, the proofing loaves, my lame, some semolina, etc. to where I could load the 4 loaves as quickly as possible, once I was ready to do so.

My preceding WFO bake included a 1kg loaf of my SF-style SD with increased WW. That turned out to be really delicious, so I decided to make that bread for the party. My defense against a too-hot fire was to make smaller loaves that would bake with a shorter exposure to the heat. So, I made 2 kg of dough, the same formula except I added 25g of toasted wheat germ, just for fun.

When the oven floor temperature fell below 600dF, i decided to bake the loaves. The wait for the oven to cool this far meant the loaves were a bit over-proofed, but not so much there was any collapse when they were scored.

I sprayed the oven roof for 5 seconds or so, then loaded the loaves one at a time but as quickly as possible. I closed the door for only about 10 minutes, then opened it and rotated the loaves to bake evenly. After 20 minutes, I took one out to test. It sounded hollow when thumped, and the internal temperature was about 207dF.

There was good oven spring but only modest bloom. A couple of the loaves had some bursting. I think the over-proofing resulted in less oven spring but more fragile loaves which probably had some damage to the gluten sheath when they were dumped on the peel.

The crust was a little crunchy, but not as thick or crunchy as the previous WFO bakes. The taste of the bread was wonderful. 

Today's WFO-baked breads plus some SD Italian breads and a Fig-Hazelnut WW Soudough baked at home

Various people brought wonderful antipasti, lasagne, salads and meat. J. had told me she wasn't going to need the WFO after I finished but evidently changed her mind by today, because she baked a pork roast in the WFO which was sweet tasting and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I drank quite enough of a delicious red wine that came from somewhere. It might have been a Syrah or some sort of Rhône blend. Hmmm ... It could have been a Amarone too. It was big enough.

The best desert was the flourless dark chocolate, ground almond mini-cupcakes my wife baked. 

The breads were appreciated by all. The bread I baked in the WFO is one I have baked at home many times. It tastes different and remarkably better baked in the WFO. There is nothing "smokey" about the flavor. It is just more complex and mellow. I have no idea why, but it has been true every time.

It was a good party. Great food. Great wine. Delightful conversations. Everyone thought it needs repeating.


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I just returned home from my second bake in a wood fired oven. My first bake, about 3 weeks ago, is described in My first WFO bake: Lessons in time, temperature and humility. That experience demonstrated the wisdom of the advice I had received, especially the advice I disregarded.  

Last week, I got a phone call from my friend, L. , inviting me to a potluck dinner at J.'s where members of the Italian social group that meets weekly at J.'s store would be eager to sample my bread, baked in J.'s WFO. Yikes! A "command performance!" So, I called J. and told her I needed another "practice session" before baking for 20 hungry Italians. 

I re-read all the TFL responses to my request for WFO words of wisdom and, from them, distilled a protocol that I shared with J. She translated it into a concrete schedule, and we agreed on a date and time for the practice session, which was today.

I added one item to the list of suggestions: Because of the incredible oven spring with burst loaves I had from the first WFO bake, it seemed to me that I should more fully proof the loaves to reduce the oven spring to a more "normal," controlled level.

J. Fired her oven at 4 am. I arrived at her house at 2 pm. In retrospect, she had built too big a fire. The oven floor was over 750 dF, and the coals were still burning. We shoveled out the coals, and in about an hour the oven was cool enough (around 500 dF) to try baking bread. We decided to do one of the 3 loaves first, just in case ... I choose a 1 Kg boule of my San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour. We had a large cast iron skill filled with water in the back of the oven. We mopped the floor with a damp cloth. I loaded the boule, shut the door for 20 minutes. Then I peaked and rotated the loaf. It baked for 25 minutes.

After baking the other loaves - two 900g bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat -, we sliced the SFSD and tasted it with some fantastic local olive oil which I am going to have to buy next time I'm at J.'s store.

The bâtards had a slightly cooler oven. They baked in about 26 minutes and were less darkly colored.

As you can see, these loaves have a somewhat dull crust. This is because the oven could not be adequately humidified. It's big and really needed to be baking 15, 20 or more loaves at once to function optimally. However, the tasting is the critical test.

The SFSD with increase whole wheat was simply the best tasting bread I have ever baked. The crust was very crunchy. The crumb was well-aerated, very tender and light. The crust had a dark, nutty, mildly bitter flavor which was offset by the very sweet, milky flavor of the crumb. There was a subtle, late-appearing but lingering acetic acid tang, but the lactic acid flavor was much more prominent. After tasting a slice, with and without olive oil and declaring it delicious, J. said, "You know, growing up, I never liked sourdough bread, but this is wonderful." 

Before I left for home, we set a schedule for preparing the oven and baking the breads for the potluck. I'm ready to party!

I couldn't have learned what I have learned in just two bakes without the wonderful, generous wisdom shared by  TFL members mrvegemite,  yozzause, Sjadad, Arlo, etheil, BobSponge, embth, and Josh. Thanks, guys! You make me (even more) proud to be a member of this community.



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