The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

emkay's blog

  • Pin It
emkay's picture

The no knead bread has been all the rage since Bittman wrote about Lahey's method in the NY Times. I've always wanted to try it out, but just never got around to it. I had about 50 grams of sourdough starter leftover after feeding. It had only been about 15 hours since it had been fed (at 1:3:3), so instead of discarding it I used it to experiment with a naturally leavened no knead bread.

I used only all-purpose flour and no whole grain flours because my all-purpose is less costly than my whole grains. If the resulting bread turned out poorly then I would be less sad about tossing it out. I knew I needed something fairly wet so the following are the baker's percentages I decided to use: 100% flour, 80% water, 2% salt, 10% levain. The overall hydration including the 100% hydration levain was 80.9%.

Naturally Leavened No Knead Bread

500 grams AP flour

400 grams water

10 grams salt

50 grams levain (aka my leftover starter)

Final dough: 960 grams

  • I put all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed it into a shaggy mess. No kneading, no stretching, no folding, and no slapping.


  • I covered the bowl and let it ferment undisturbed at room temperature (about 71F) for 9 hours, and then I put in the refrigerator (about 38F) for 72 hours. 
  • I took the cold dough from the refrigerator and shaped it into a loose boule.
  • I proofed the boule at room temperature (about 71F) for 3 hours. 
  • I did not slash nor did I score it.
  • I baked it seam side up in a cast iron pot at 450F for 40 minutes (20 minutes with the lid on and 20 min without the lid). 


The crust was thin and crisp and covered in blisters.


The crumb was really moist and almost custardy. There was a nice pleasant chew to it too.



In hindsight the 72 hours in the refrigerator could have been disastrous, but luckily my dough was not overfermented. I think the 72 hours in the refrigerator really made a positive impact in the flavor department. The bread was tangy and sour like the SF sourdough that I remember eating as a child and it was nothing like the one-dimensional vinegary flavors that plague today's Boudin bread. Overall I think it was a very sucessful experiment and one that I will be repeating again and again.

:) Mary

emkay's picture

The Chinese like soft and fluffy white breads. The whiter, the better. It might explain why something called Hong Kong flour exists. The HK flour is bleached and low in protein so that the resulting bread is super white and super soft. I don't really mind if my Chinese breads turn out white or not. So I just use what I have on hand which is Central Milling's Artisan Bakers Craft, a 10.5% protein, organic, malted, unbleached flour. The results are definitely more off-white than white. Soft and fluffy is easy. Enrichments such as butter, egg and milk will do the trick. Using a tangzhong aka water roux helps with the softness and keeping quality.


This bun is a purely Asian creation. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with Mexico although buns with a cookie-like topping are reminiscent of conchas. I don't know who invented it first and I have no idea why the Chinese like topping breads with a cookie batter, but it's pure genius. The cookie melds with the bread dough and creates a thin, crispy, cookie-ish layer. Depending on the ingredient ratios in the cookie batter, the layer can be fused with the bread and cannot be peeled off. Or if the cookie batter is stiffer, the baked layer can be peeled or flaked off the bread and eaten separately which is the way I did it as a child when eating boh loh bao aka pineapple buns (which have no pineapple in it at all).

I used instant espresso powder in my cookie topping, but instant coffee powder can be used instead. You can leave out the coffee and have a plain vanilla topping. I used a tangzhong milk loaf for my buns. They turned out super soft, fluffy and shreddable. The topping was crisp on day one, but softened considerably by day two.




I left a few without topping. The topping weighs down the bun a bit so the topped ones spread out instead of up.


The bottom of the bun.


The crumb.



Bakers' percentages for the bun dough

100% flour*, 75% whole milk*, 10% sugar, 12.5% egg, 1% instant dry yeast, 1.5% salt, 10% butter

[* 5% of the total flour was used in the tangzhong. TZ ratio was 1:5 flour to milk.]

Bun dough recipe

To make the tangzhong: In a saucepan whisk 20 g AP flour into 100 g whole milk until it's pretty smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 149F/65C. It should be pudding like. Allow the tangzhong to cool before using it in the dough.

380 g AP flour

200 g whole milk, 85-90F

40 sugar

50 g egg

4 g instant dry yeast (SAF red)

6 g salt

40 g unsalted butter, softened

all of the tangzhong

  1. In a KA stand mixer, mix everything except the butter on speed 1 for 3 minutes.

  2. Add the butter and mix on speed 2 until all the butter is incorporated, about 2 -3 minutes.

  3. Bulk ferment at room temp until doubled, about 1 hour.

  4. Scale each bun at 55 grams. (I got 15 buns.)

  5. Proof on sheet pans at room temp for 30-45 minutes.

  6. Pipe cookie topping onto each proofed bun.

  7. Bake buns at 375F for about 15 mins or until golden brown. Best served warm.   

Coffee cookie topping

50g unsalted butter, softened

50g granulated sugar

50g egg, lightly beaten

70g AP flour

1 tsp instant espresso powder

1 tsp water

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

  1. Dissolve the espresso powder in the warm water and mix in vanilla extract. Set aside.

  2. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  3. Beat in the egg until well combined.

  4. Beat in the espresso mixture.

  5. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated.

  6. Transfer topping to a pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip.

  7. Store in the refrigerator until needed. (Can be made 2 day in advance.)

  8. Allow the topping to soften a bit at room temp for about 5 or 10 minutes before piping it onto the proofed buns.

 :) Mary

emkay's picture

I've been craving a whole wheat loaf lately. After consulting Tartine Bread (aka book #2), I chose to make Chad's whole wheat complet which is 70% whole wheat flour. I increased the final dough's hydration from 80% to 85%. I used a not-so-young levain because I like it sour. Just for kicks I added some lightly toasted walnuts and walnut oil too. Mine didn't turn out as open and hole-y as the non-walnut WW one pictured in the book, but it sure tasted great. It was moist and hearty and filled with tons of walnut goodness.


Tartine's 70% Whole Wheat with Walnuts

Grams (Baker's Pct)

350 (70%) Whole wheat flour (Whole Foods Organic)

150 (30%) All-purpose flour (Central Milling ABC)

425 (85%) Water

10 (2%) Salt

100 (20%) Levain (100% hydration)

150 (30%) Walnuts (lightly toasted)

10 (2%) Walnut oil

Final dough: 1195 grams

Overall hydration: 86.3%

Prefermented flour: 9.1%

My levain (10 g starter + 50 g water + 50 g flour) was fermented for 12 hours at 70F. Autolysed the flours and water at 70F for 1 hour, then mixed in the levain and salt. After the levain and salt were well incorporated, I mixed in the walnuts and walnut oil. Bulk fermented at 75F for 3.5 hours with stretches and folds every 30 min during the first 2 hours.



Scaled 850 g for my oval brotform and the rest of the dough for a 3x5-inch loaf pan. Shaped and proofed at 75F. 3 hours for the brotform and 2 hours for the mini loaf pan. Baked the oval at 450F for 40 minutes (with steam during the first 20 minutes).



Baked the mini loaf at 450F for 25 minutes.



I always seem to have egg whites stashed away in my freezer. I think it's because I use the eggs yolks to make pasta carbonara (which is quite often). All those egg whites give me a perfect excuse to make macarons. Nothing too fancy this time. Plain and simple with a vanilla bean Swiss buttercream.




:) Mary

PS: Submitted to Susan's Yeastspotting.

emkay's picture

Fennel has a very distinct, licorice-like flavor. Fennel, and its relative anise, tend to be polarizing. People seem to love or hate it. I am definitely on the side of loving it. My favorite way to eat raw fennel bulbs is thinly shaved and tossed with citrus segments and a citrus vinaigrette. I use the fennel fronds like any other fresh herb. A couple nights ago I combined fennel fronds, fresh rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and crushed fennel seeds to rub onto a pork shoulder for slow-roasting. I even make a sweet 'n savory shortbread cookie that has fennel seeds, parmesan cheese and Maldon sea salt. It sounds strange, but it's an absolutely delicious cookie.

I bought a 2-pound bag of dried organic black mission figs from Costco a couple weeks ago and have been looking for an excuse to use it. Dabrownman posted his fig and fennel bread and I knew what I would bake.


The starting point for my fig and fennel bread formula was the Tartine basic country bread. I used 20% whole wheat flour and a levain that has fermented for 12-15 hours as opposed to Chad's 4-6 hour levain. The levain was built from my rye starter. I soaked my dried figs for 30 minutes in warm water and then drained them. I saved the fig soaking water to use in my dough. I would say my water was half fig soaking water and half from the tap.

I mixed everything except the salt and figs, let the dough rest in the bowl for 30 minutes, and then squeezed in the salt. I bulk fermented at 73F for 3.5 hours with stretches and folds. The figs were added during the second S&F. Shaped and retarded at 40F for 14 hours. Baked at 450F for 35 minutes with steam during the first 15 minutes.

Fig and Fennel Bread Grams (Bakers' Pct)

AP flour (Central Milling ABC) 480 (80%)

Whole wheat flour 120 (20%)

Water 450 (75%)

Salt 12 (2%)

Levain (100% hydration) 120 (20%)

Dried figs (soaked, drained & quartered) 200 (33%)

Fennel seeds (half ground, half crushed) 9 (1.5%)


Final Dough 1391 grams

Overall hydration: 77.2%

Prefermented flour: 9.1%


The bread was lovely. I thought that 33% figs would've been enough, but in hindsight I think I could have gone up to 50%. The crumb was not as open and hole-y as I wanted, but I guess if it was too open then the figs would fall out. The fennel seed flavor was quite assertive since I ground half the seeds into a powder before adding it to the dough. I left the other half crushed. The flavor was well distributed throughout the bread and I could taste it in every bite. Fennel and figs really work well together.


The other fennel bread I baked is a semolina, golden raisin and double fennel bread. I stole the flavor combination from Amy's Bread in NY. The dough is based on the semolina sesame bread (pane siciliano) that I learned at the San Francisco Baking Institute. There's a tiny bit of instant dry yeast in this dough. The instructor at the SFBI said it's a bit of insurance since a naturally leavened semolina dough can be a bit tricky.

I used some fennel bulb as well as fennel seeds. I sliced the bulb, blanched it for 2 minutes, drained and chopped it. I ground all the fennel seeds into a powder. I soaked the golden raisins for about 15 minutes in warm water and then drained them.

I combined everything except the raisins and chopped fennel and mixed for 2 minutes on speed 1 of my KitchenAid stand mixer. I added the raisins and fennel and mixed for 1 minute. I transferred the dough to a lightly oiled container and bulk fermented at 70F for 3 hours with a set of stretches and folds at 60 and 120 min. I divided the dough into two halves. I shaped six 100-gram rolls with one half and a boule with the other. The boule was proofed for 2 hours and the rolls for 1.5 hours (room temp ~70F). The boule was baked at 450F for 35 minutes with steam during the first 15 minutes. The rolls were baked at 425F for 20 minutes.



Semolina, Raisin, and Fennel Grams (Bakers' Pct)

AP flour (Central Milling ABC) 250 (50%)

Semolina flour 250 (50%)

Water 340 (68%)

Olive oil 25 (5%)

Salt 12 (2.4%)

Instant dry yeast (SAF red) 0.5 (0.1%)

Levain (100% hydration) 125 (25%)

Golden raisins (soaked & drained) 115 (23%)

Fennel seeds (ground) 5 (1%)

Fennel bulb (sliced, blanched & chopped) 115 (23%)


Final Dough 1237.5 grams

Overall hydration: 71.6%

Prefermented flour: 11.1%


My boule stuck to the brotform and deflated quite a bit as I worked it out of the form. The ovenspring was not enough to overcome the deflation. The rolls came out perfectly.


I loved the sweet golden raisins with the flavor of the semolina. The fennel seed was detectable, but not assertive. It was the perfect amount. The fennel bulb wasn't worth the effort. It was hardly noticeable and I would probably leave it out the next time I make this bread.

:) Mary

emkay's picture

Every June I eagerly await the arrival of John Driver's CandyCot apricots at the farmers' market. The apricots that he grows are unlike any other apricot I have ever eaten including the Blenheim. They are sweet and complex with a very concentrated flavor. According to their website, they measure between 26 and 32 on the Brix (sweetness) scale, while most supermarket varieties of apricots register in the low teens.

The growing season for these amazing apricots is short, and even shorter with this year's drought in California, so they're available for only 3 or 4 weeks. On their final market day, I got a great price on 25 pounds of "cosmetically challenged" apricots which are perfect for making pie, jam and ice cream. Here's a glimpse of what I did with all those lovely apricots.


Fresh apricot pie (with an all butter crust).



Refrigerator apricot jam (no pectin, no canning).


Macaron (filled with apricot Swiss buttercream and a dab of apricot jam).


Apricot sorbet.


Make ahead pie filling. Quartered apricots tossed with lemon juice, flour and a tiny bit of sugar and then frozen in the shape of a pie tin. Peel off the plastic bag and the frozen filling is ready to be dropped into the rolled out pie crust.




Of course I had to use some of them in a bread too. I bought some pressed barley (oshimugi) at the Asian supermarket earlier in the week, so I baked a barley porridge bread with fresh apricots.


Flours, water and levain were mixed into a shaggy mess. I let it rest for 40 minutes and then squeezed in the salt. Bulk fermentation was at room temperature (68F) for 4 hours with stretches and folds during the first 3 hours and undisturbed during the last hour. The barley porridge was added to the dough during the second S&F. The apricots were added during the third S&F.



Final proof of the batard was done at room temperature for 3 hours. Sadly, the dough stuck to the brotform so I had to pry it out. The top of the loaf was a bit wonky and wavy, but I tried to hide the damage with some creative snipping and scoring.



I shape retarded my boule in the refrigerator for 15 hours and the dough came out of the brotform easily. No crumb shot of the boule since I gave the loaf away.



There were nuggets of barley and apricot throughout the bread, but I think the dough could have handled even more barley. The apricots paired well with the earthiness of the barley.



The apricots chunks were soft, but not mushy, and bursting with flavor. It was almost like having dried apricots in the bread, but the fresh were super moist and without the chewiness or hardness of dried. I probably wouldn't use supermarket varieties of apricots in this bread as they tend to be a bit too watery, bland, and fibrous. But if you have some excellent apricots, then I highly recommend adding fresh apricots to your dough.




emkay's picture

Baking naturally leavened bread requires a bit more planning on my part now since I've been storing my starter in the refrigerator. My cold starter likes to wake up by being fed at least twice over 24 hours before being used to build a levain. Sometimes I will feed it only once, then do a three stage levain build (using dabrownman's build ratios and schedule). Either way, I have to plan to refresh my starter, build the levain, and make the dough. Even though there is very little active hands-on time, it still takes a minimum of 36 hours from cold starter to hot bread.

So what's a gal to do when there's no more homemade bread in the freezer and she wants fresh bread fast? The answer is commercial bakers' yeast which, in my case, is instant dry yeast. I am not a fan of lean breads made with bakers' yeast. Even the long cold retarded ones lack the flavor, texture and character of those naturally leavened. But I do like enriched breads made with bakers' yeast. So I usually go with enriched when I want bread fast. [Since we're talking about homemade bread, fast is a relative term.]

I made the softest and fluffiest enriched bread a couple nights ago using Floyd's Hokkaido milk bread with tangzhong recipe found here. The only change I made was to decrease the sugar. I won't go into detail about the tangzhong method (aka water roux) since it's well documented on TFL, but I will say that it makes a difference in the bread's keeping quality. Today is day 3 and the bread is still soft and moist. I'm sure the butter, milk, sugar and eggs helped too, but I want to believe that tangzhong is magic.





One last thing...

This loaf is the opposite of what a German knight in the 1500s would have. Even if he did have something like this, it's so soft and fluffy that he would crush it with his iron hand.

:) Mary

emkay's picture

David's (dmsnyder's) San Joaquin sourdough is my new go-to bread. I've made it on four separate occasions over the past 2 weeks. I love the convenience of the method that David developed based on Anis Bouabsa's baguettes. My only change is to use more rye. I use about 15% whole rye in the final dough and in my levain. My hydration is usually around 76-77%.

I mix my levain in the morning (or the night before) and the dough in the evening. I stretch and fold the dough to develop the gluten over a 3 hour period and then bulk retard in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours. The next evening, I do a quick preshape of the cold dough and a 60 minute bench rest. The final proof is about 45 minutes. Hot and fresh sourdough for dinner!

The GOOD...

Glorious simplicity.



With a tiny bit of kalamata and castelvetrano olives.




The BAD...

Here's the same batch of olive dough but underproofed. I circled the blown out portion that is typical of an underproofed loaf.




And the UGLY...

Failed attempt at shaping a blunt baguette. Looks ugly, but the taste and texture were amazing. It made the best sandwich roll.



A big shout out to David for sharing his wonderful Central-Valley-meets-Paris sourdough. Thanks!!!!!


emkay's picture

I've been in a porridge bread mood lately. The thing to note with porridge breads is that the water in the porridge can lead to a very wet and slack dough that can be hard to handle. Two months ago I tried to make an oat porridge bread. The dough was so wet that I wasn't able to shape it. After struggling with it I finally just scooped the dough into the brotform. After cold proofing, the dough stuck and I had to scrape it out of the form. The resulting baked loaf was very flat and very sad.


Since the failure of my oat porridge bread, I've learned a lot and I've practiced a lot too. I've learned to not rush the dough and to make sure the gluten is developed and properly fermented. Regardless of the hydration level, if the gluten isn't developed properly, I won't be able to shape the dough. I've learned to handle high(er) hydration doughs without adding too much flour. But I've also learned that if the dough feels too wet, it might be just that. Too wet. And it's okay to add more flour. It's okay to do another set of stretches and folds. It's okay let the bulk fermentation go another 30, 60 or 90 minutes. With each loaf I bake and with each week that passes, I feel my bread baking confidence grow.

I baked a couple breads with corn polenta porridge recently. I started with a lower hydration dough (70%) and added a small amount of porridge (17%). I was able to handle that dough so for the next bake I increased the hydration to 77% and the amount of porridge to 25%. The hydration including the porridge was around 89%. That bake seemed to go pretty well too and I had no issues handling that dough.

So it was time for me to tackle the oat porridge bread again. I used the Tartine basic country bread as my base recipe. I used 20% whole wheat and added 50% (baker's pct) oat porridge.


The oat porridge consisted of a 1:4 ratio of rolled oats to water which I cooked over medium heat until it was porridge-like. I let it cool while I mixed the dough. After some gluten was developed, I mixed the oat porridge into the dough. Bulk fermentation was done at room temperature (about 74F) with stretches and folds.


If my math was correct, the hydration was 102% including the oat porridge. The dough was pretty slack when I was preshaping, but I managed to loosely shape it for the bench rest.


I shape retarded in the refrigerator for 15 hours. I went a little overboard with the oatmeal flakes because I wanted to make sure the dough came out of the brotform without sticking. It did stick a little bit, but I got them both out without too much damage.


I baked them in enameled cast iron pots. 450F for 20 minutes with the lids on and 25 minutes without lids. The batard was a bit pale compared to the boule since the high sides of the oval pot seems to shield the loaf from the heat. So I left the batard in for 5 more minutes with the oven turned off.



The crumb was very moist and it wasn't dense at all. But I think it was on the verge of gummy, but toasting the bread before eating removed all trace of that. You wouldn't know that there were oats in the loaf. They seemed to have disintegrated.



I never thought that I would be able to handle a 102% hydration dough. I think I've come a long way.


:) Mary

emkay's picture

I was pretty happy with my first attempt at a polenta sourdough ( The hydration in that first loaf was 70% without taking into account the water in the polenta porridge. But I wanted a loaf with higher hydration, a more open crumb and more polenta. I decided to go with the tried and true Tartine basic country bread.

"Tartine Bread" has a recipe for a polenta bread from which I took inspiration. But I left out the corn oil and herbs and used lightly toasted sunflower seeds instead of pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I cooked my polenta into porridge instead of doing a soaker.




So here's my polenta sourdough version 2.0 which is just the Tartine basic country with 25% cooked polenta and 12% sunflower seeds added into the dough.

 Baker's Pct

90% AP flour

10% Whole wheat flour

75% Water

2% Salt

20% Levain

25% Cooked polenta*

12% Sunflower seeds

[*I added 60 g Bob's Red Mill polenta (corn grits) to 240 g boiling water and cooked it over low heat until the water was just absorbed. I let the porridge cool overnight in the refrigerator. Then I scaled out what I needed (25% = 250 grams for 1000 grams flour). ]

Overall hydration is 77% including the levain. I didn't include the cooked polenta in the hydration level calculation since I'm treating it like an add-in. The oven spring I normally get with the Tartine basic country bread is pretty good. My 1 kg boule ends up about 4.5-inches tall. This polenta boule was about 3.75 inches tall.




emkay's picture

I've seen a few posts showcasing polenta sourdough breads lately, so here's my take on it.

I cooked more porridge than I needed for the dough because it's hard to cook less using my smallest pot. I added 30 g Bob's Red Mill polenta (corn grits) to 120 g boiling water and cooked it over low heat until the water was just absorbed. I let the porridge cool overnight in the refrigerator.


My polenta sourdough formula is loosely based on Hamelman's Vermont sourdough. Overall hydration was 70%. I included the levain in the calculation, but didn't include the cooked polenta.

Polenta Sourdough

Grams (Baker's Pct)

AP Flour 410g (88.17%)

Whole rye flour 55g (11.83%)

Water 305g (65.59%)

Salt 10g (2.15%)

Cooked polenta 80g (17.2%)

Levain 168g (36.13%)

Total 1018g

I made one batard and one boule. Final proof on the batard was 2.5 hrs at room temperature. Here's the batard's crumb:


The shaped boule was retarded in the refrigerator for 19 hours. Here's the boule's crumb:


The batard's crumb was definitely better than the boule's crumb. The boule was most likely overproofed, but it still tasted great. Live and learn!



Subscribe to RSS - emkay's blog