The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Today I decided it was time for a serious try at baguette and epi.

Baguette and EpiBaguette and Epi

I made a straightforward french dough (68% hydration) and did not knead, but used the stretch and fold approach, both to develop the dough, and part way through bulk fermentation. I made two demi-baguettes and one epi. Unlike all my previous baking, today I used the convection mode which gave a very even browning of the bread (also used baking stone and steam of course). The crust was crackling, which was also a first for me. Way cool to hear that. It all resulted in a very thin but crispy crust and a very tender inside with nice crumb and decent holes.

Baguette and Epi crumbBaguette and Epi crumb 



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My wife loves pumpkin and so I'd been having this idea of making some kind of pumpkin bread, but I wasn't sure what recipe. Yesterday I happened to pick up Maggie Glezer's "A Blessing of Bread" and found, on page 178 the recipe for "Pan de Calabaza", a sephardic pumpkin bread. Looked good so I decided to make that. After thinking for a while what shape I would make it (3-braid, 4-braid, loaf etc.) I decided to try something different.

Double Pumpkin BreadDouble Pumpkin Bread

I call it "Double" pumpkin bread because it contains pumpkin, and looks like one.

Recipe (as computed from the original using my spreadsheet:

  • Bread Flour: 100%, 3 1/8 C, 506 g
  • Water: 28%, 5/8 C, 142 g
  • Salt: 1.6%, 1 3.4 t, 8.1 g
  • Instant Dry Yeast: 1.17%, 1 3/4 t, 5.9 g
  • Pumpkin Puree: 23%, 6 1/2 T. 110 g
  • Cardamom, ground: 0.19%, 1/2 t, 912 mg
  • Ginger, ground: 0.18%, 1/2 t, 859 mg
  • Sugar, granulated: 14%, 5 1/4 T, 52.8 g
  • Vegetable Oil: 11%, 3 3/4 T, 47.4 g
  • Egg: 9.88%, 1 large, 47.4 g

This makes 2 pounds of a 44.45% hydration dough, although I found myself adding just a teeny bit of water. Makes a large loaf, two small to medium loaves, or 1 loaf and a few rolls.

  1. Mix ingredients until incorporated (if using mixer, use the paddle).
  2. Knead or use dough hook on mixer until good development. Dough will "just" clear the bowl, and should be smooth, silky and pass window pane test.
  3. Transfer to oiled container and let rise until almost tripled in size. You can do this in a fairly warm place as the flavor of the bread is determined by the ingredients, and not much by fermentation, so no need for slow fermentation.
  4. Degas gently and shape into a ball. Give it a 15 minute bench rest before proceeding.
  5. Shape as desired. Challah type braid is traditional but it is up to you (see above!)
  6. Let rise until, again at least doubled and the dough does not come back when you push a finger into it.
  7. Brush with glaze of one egg and a pinch of salt.
  8. Bake, in a preheated 350F oven for approximately 35 minutes. Internal temperature 197-202F. If it is getting to dark, tent with aluminum foil.

The taste was delicious, with the spices noticeable, but subtle. Fine textured crumb, soft crust and very moist inside. Worked well with pumpkin soup and everybody at our Halloween party loved it (and the three pizza's I made!) In case you are wondering: I kept the teeth light by covering them with an aluminum foil cutout after about 10 minutes of baking.



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I have completed a first version of my dough calculator spreadsheet that I think is in decent enough shape to share. I have described this spreadsheet (in previous incarnations) and previous posts. This version is quite different in that it is much more automated and supports a "normal" style of using baker's percentages with preferments. I've found it invaluable in reverse engineering formulas (when no percentages are given), scaling, and overall analysis (hydration for example). Please check it out and give me feedback.

Recipe Worksheeet

The above is just a screenshot of a tiny piece. You will find the documentation here: The sidebar on the left contains a link to download the actual spreadsheet. Unfortunately, right now this spreadsheet is only supported on Windows, see the documentation. Macintosh users can use Parallels Desktop of VMWare Fusion, or Apple's Bootcamp (now part of Leopard) to run windows. In fact, the spreadsheet was developed under Windows XP running on Parallels on a 17" MacBook Pro.

Here is a (partial) list of functionality:

  • Compute weights and volumes from formula with percentages and total dough weight
  • Scale formulas to any desired dough size
  • Support unlimited number of preferments in dough
  • Compute slightly larger preferment sizes to compensate for evaporation and container loss
  • Compute final loaf weight based on estimated baking loss (evaporation)
  • Convert volumes of ingredients to weights
  • Reverse engineering. You enter ingredients and weights or volume in practically any units, and it computes the baker's percentages for you
  • Conversion between regular milk and dried milk
  • Conversion between sugar/honey/Splenda
  • General conversion between volume and weight for specific ingredient
  • Conversion between Fresh/Active Dry/Instant Dry yeast
  • Compute hydration contribution of each ingredient in formula
  • Compute adjustments to formulas when substituting different hydration level starters for others, or for yeast
  • Compute necessary water temperature for formula based on desired dough temperature, room temperature, ingredient temperature and mixer friction. Also computes amount of ice needed as substitute for water to reach the right temperature
  • Analysis of formula and overall dough for hydration, and cost

I am sure that there may be rough edges as, so far, I have been the only user. Please report back any problems in comments on this blog.



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My first attempt failed, but this second one was much better.

Thom Leonard's Country FrenchThom Leonard's Country French

The first time I was baking six loaves (3 different recipes, 2 loaves each) on one day, and I wasn't quite with it (tired). I did not take care of the dough well enough, I suppose. It took way to long to ferment and rise, and as a result was over proofed. When I slashed it, it collapsed, and never quite recovered in the oven. It was still quite edible with some soup though! 


So, back to the drawing board. Second time around I made sure I had a good gluten window. This time around I also did a longer autolyse, and waited to add the salt until much later. I did three folds along the way during the bulk ferment. Finally, I made sure I shaped a good really tight boule. The effort paid off. I had a minor collapse during slashing, but probably more due to me trying to slash "assertively". It came back just fine in the oven!

Thom Leonard's Country French CrumbThom Leonard's Country French Crumb

The crumb was nice, and the crust incredible. The taste was very complex and very sweet. Only a hint of sour. I baked this as an almost 3 pound loaf, so I did use only about 55 minutes of baking time, rather than the 70 minutes suggested for the 4 pound version. Internal temperature was 210F. I did not have high-extraction flour. Last time I did an approximation by sifting coarse whole wheat flour, but the bread came out a lot darker than it should. This time I used a fine whole wheat mixed with regular bread flour (Giusto's Ultra Performance). To keep the color down I used 50% whole wheat and 50% white whole wheat (both KA). 



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Entertaining my little boy again tonight, so time for another easy baking project he could help with. He loves pineapple and we had some a couple of days old, so time to do something with it. Recipe from The Joy of Cooking (I've always had good luck with the basics from there). Took about 20 minutes to prep and get in the oven, bake at 350F for a little over 35 minutes.Pineapple upside down cakePineapple upside down cake 

This was made with fresh pineapple bought in chunks so no "disks" or circles (from the can) with cherry's in it.



  • Drain and place one paper towel in 1 layer to absorb excess juice: 7 slices canned unsweetened pineapple (or equivalent fresh)
  • Melt in a 9x2" circular cake pan: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Tilt to coat sides with butter.
  • Sprinkle evenly over bottom of the pan: 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar 
  • Place 1 pineapple ring in the center, and arrange 6 more around it, and place in the centers of the rings, and in between, 19 maraschino cherries, or pecan halves (or just fill with chunks, like I did)
  • Whisk together in bowl: 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons buttermilk (I did not have any so I used just under 2 T of regular milk and a little lemon juice because some acidity is needed for the baking poweder to work), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Mix together in a mixing bowl: 1 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Add to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until everything is just moistened: 6 tablespoons of unsalted, softened butter, 6 tablespoons of buttermilk (I again used regular milk, and this time some pineapple juice).
  • Increase speed to high and mix for 1.5 minutes.
  • In three steps, add 1/3 of the egg mixture, mix high speed for 20 seconds, and repeat until all incorporated.
  • Scrape batter on top of pineapple, spread evenly and smoothen out. 
  • Bake in 350F preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and tilt to all sides to loosen cake from sides of pan. Let cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Place serving plate on top of cake pan, upside down, and using oven mitts hold the combination and flip over and remove cake pan.
  • Let cool a little more and serve! 



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The Jewish members of my family and friends, have been fasting for the last (almost) 24 hours, as is traditional for Yom Kippur. I have been making their life difficult by baking and making the house smell very tempting. The good thing is that those "fasters" will be allowed to enjoy the results in a couple of hours.Break-fast bake IBreak-fast bake I

Inspired by Mariana, I produced Challah and "rolls" today. Half the rolls are filled with sugar, the other half or so with the poppy-seed paste. The recipe I used, like Mariana, is Rose Levy Beranbaum's "New Traditional Challah".

Break-fast bake IIBreak-fast bake II



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Today it was time for my first try at Essential's Columbia from Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking".

Essential's ColumbiaEssential's Columbia

I hadn't gone there before, so first a trip to the store to get non-diastatic malt syrup and toasted wheat germ. I mixed the levain midnight the night before using my Glazer French style firm starter. It was plenty ready the this morning at 8AM, but my schedule included a meeting with a client from 1-2:30 so I waited until 10AM to put the final dough together. Kitchen was at 72F, doubled by 3PM, folded and put it back one more hour. Then pre-shaped, 15 minute bench rest, and shaped and placed into wooden banneton. Completed its proof by 7:30PM at which point I slashed and baked as per instructions.


I had just a little trouble releasing one of the loaves from the banneton (see the "stray" slash on the left loaf) and did not slash quite deep enough (I think). The crust was not as dark red/brown as in the book, but it came out pretty well, and tastes great, with a nice moist, slightly chewy crumb. I am pleased.

Columbia CrumbColumbia Crumb 


Dough for Challah (Rose Levy Beranbaum's New Traditional Challah) just went into the fridge for finishing tomorrow. First time for that one too. If I like it, I'll make it again for break-fast on Saturday evening, along with the cool Challah rolls that mariana showed us. If I don't like it, I have my own "old" Challah recipe as a backup. This will be a busy baking weekend!



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Today, besides Challah I produced two loaves of Reinhart's multi-grain Struan from his new book. For the "grains" part I used about 1/3 cooked brown rice, and the reset rolled oats. For the liquid is used yoghurt.

Reinhart's WGB multi-grain StruanReinhart's WGB multi-grain Struan 


Took quite a while longer to bake than I thought it would, but tastes great. I did score a little too deep, and combined with oven spring, made the loaves spill over the side of the loaf pan just a little. Taste, luckily is not affected!

 Multi-grain Struan crumbReinhart WGB: Multi-grain Struan crumb

It looks like the left side is not cooked, but it was. This was a side effect of my camera using a large lens opening, and thus having a very shallow depth of field. 



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Today I baked a traditional (i.e. round) Challah for the new year's celebration.

Round Holiday ChallahRound Holiday Challah

Certainly not my best ever, but it'll do!


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I got the book last week, so today, my regular baking day, I wanted to make some. As luck would have it, after having started baking in April, I had finally decided to create a sourdough starter, but had to delay until recently due to my vacation. Last week I started creating Maggie Glezer's firm french style starter (as well as a whole wheat and rye version). The composition of that starter is identical to Leader's stiff levain (although the feeding formula is slightly different), so I used this in the recipe.

Leader's Pain au levainLeader's Pain au levain

Leader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancettaLeader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancetta 

I refreshed the starter shortly before midnight last night and it was good and ready this morning at 8:30. Both recipes use the same stiff levain, and use the exact same formula to create the levain starter (with some whole wheat added), so I made this as a single batch. I used KA AP flour (I discovered that my local Whole Foods sells Guisto's type 55 in bulk, but have not gotten it yet). I mixed the dough for the baguette about an hour later than that for the levain (scheduling reasons). I pretty much followed the rest of the instructions. Did one fold after 1 hour. Bulk fermentation took about 3.5-4 hours. I did insert a 10 minute bench rest before shaping. Proof took about one hour and 45 minutes. I did use a linnen couche so there was some additional work and care needed to transfer to the peel.


One thing I noticed is that in this book I finally found the correspondence between mixing settings describe as low/medium and the corresponding numeric setting on the KA mixer I have. That, combined with the 8-9 minutes mixing time seemed to make a far better dough than I've had before (I never mixed that fast, or that long). Could also be the starter though. I'll find out next time I make a non-sourdough.


The Pain au levain was scored in two different ways: one long slash, and several smaller and diagonal slashes. The dough took the slashes quite well. Steamed in cast iron pan with hot water and ice, and used a 3/4 in baking stone preheated for 1 hour. Oven spring was unbelievable! The crust did not quite turn out as nice and brown as I expected from pictures, but cutting and testing proofed this to be a non-issue. The crust was crackling during cooling and was superb when I finally ate the bread.

 crumbLeader's Pain au levain: crumb

The baquettes were pretty much a similar story, except that I used pancetta instead of bacon, and I did not retard the shaped loaves overnight. They just had their almost 2 hour proof. I made them just too long for my oven, causing the tips to be squashed against back of the oven and door. Slashes worked out ok, but no ears. Crust and texture on the baguettes was fabulous. The pancetta is not as strong as bacon, and there was no overnight retardation to absorb flavors, so this was mild, but still very good!

 crumbLeader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancetta: crumb 


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