The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Floydm

I killed another spammer's account this afternoon. While cleaning up the mess he made I noticed an inefficiency that I think has been the main issue behind some of the slow page loads here. My first attempt to fix it briefly locked up the site, but my second attempt appears to have gone smoothly.

I've eliminated a database query that was happening on every page load. I don't see it causing any problems, but if you experience any weirdness please let me know.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

July was a very busy month. I had family in town, the Open Source Conference to attend, many things to take care of at work and many summer activities to participate in. I have been baking, I just haven't had the time to post about what I've baked.

In the past couple of weeks I've baked:


  • my standard white sourdough

  • a light rye and a dark rye from Daniel Leader's new book, served with roast pork

  • my baked potato bread, served with a grilled steak

  • blueberry muffins and blueberry coffeecake and blueberry pancakes and blueberry waffles. Guess what is in season here?

Today I baked an Italian white loaf with biga from Leader's book and Hamelman's sourdough semolina bread:

italian breads

I didn't do a good job shaping the semolina bread so I got the lazy baker cavities, but they tasted great. Wonderful with manicotti, a bottle of Barbera Montferrato, and spinach raspberry salads.

I know I said I was going to post a full review of Daniel Leaders's Local Breads, but I don't know when I'm going to have a chance to. Let me just say for now that it is a very nice book: authentic formulas from European bakers (France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic) that includes helpful shortcuts for the home baker. I can't think of another book that does a better job of providing useful instructions for both amateur and advanced bakers: if you want to execute a recipe authentically this book tells you how, but for every complex step or difficult-to-find ingredient Leader provides a shortcut. It has helpful FAQs, beautiful photos, nice layout and typography, and is probably the most professionally executed bread book I've read. As I mentioned before, it reminds me of the now out-of-print Village Baker, but coming 15 years later in the artisan bread revolution than The Village Baker (and after the Internet became mainstream) it is much more mature. I know the last thing many of us need is another baking book and most of recipes are traditional European recipes that can be found elsewhere, but it is worth checking out the next time you are in a bookstore. If nothing else, it'd be a good one to give a friend for the holidays rather than trying to track down a battered old copy of Village Baker.

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Floydm

I'm wiped out tonight. Had a great weekend taking the kids camping for the first time, rafting down the Sandy River, and generally enjoying summertime.

Nevertheless, I baked. Well? No, not at all. I made a mess of most everything I touched, but they still tasted quite good.

(Perhaps that could be a a new motto for the site: "Artisan Baking: Because even your mistakes are tasty!")

I tried a bunch of recipes from Daniel Leader's soon-to-be-released book Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers. As I said, I screwed them all up, but that isn't the books fault, that was me thinking "Oh, I can make it down the river in time to not overproof the loaves." I was wrong. I also mixed up my whole wheat starter and my rye starter, so my final rye and whole wheat breads ended up tasting quite a bit like one another.

Picture time.

french breadsSimple French Bread Loaves

rye breadsPolish Rye Bread

rye bread insideInside the Rye (with Caraway)

I'll write up a real review in the next few days, but I definitely think the Daniel Leader book is a winner. Solid recipes, nice design and typography, very accessible. Definitely a good one, and going to give Peter Reinhart's new book a run for bakers interested in whole grain baking's money this fall.

I also baked an Orange Honey Prune bread from Beth Hensberger's The Bread Bible. Convenient since, as zainaba22 pointed out, the theme of this month's bread baking day is bread with fruit.

prune bread

Very good stuff. I'll post the recipe in the next couple of days.

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Floydm

I'm having a good, relaxing weekend here. I hope y'all are doing well too.

Inspired by LilDice's quick rustic pizza, I made pizza last night. I didn't follow the rustic pizza recipe exactly, but I did use a dough with around 90% hydration. I made it around noon and folded at 2 and 4, then baked it around 6.

The results were really good. I did one pesto pie:

green pizza

And one with tomatoes, cheese, basil, olive oil, and garlic. Lildice: how can you forget the garlic?!? ;^)

red pizza

a whole pizza pie

basil

crust

Real nice open crust. Much more sturdy that the neo-Neopolitan dough I usually use and which required the nose to be folded up, NY pizza style. I'm not sure I prefer one over the other, they are just different kinds of pies.

Blueberries are here. I made blueberry muffins this morning. And a batch of banana nut muffins too, while I was at it.

muffins

I've still got another day to bake. Methinks my sourdough starter is feeling left out, so I'll have to do something to entertain it.

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Floydm

Sunday I finally got a real baking day in. It was the first time in... 2 months? 3 months? A very long time.

I started with the Sourdough English Muffin recipe that Kjknits posted a month or so ago.

They were *amazing*. There wasn't a terribly interesting smell or anything, but when I bit into one it was just one of those "Oh, wow" moments. I will definitely be baking them again.

Pretty nice crumb inside.

I don't have cutter or tins, I just used a mason jar lid. The ones I was happiest with I left about 1/3 inch tall when cutting and then squashed a bit wider and thinner before cooking.

I also make something like a cross between my standard pain sur poolish and the famous no knead bread.

The hydration on this was quite high, probably in the 70-75% range. It spread a little more than I would have liked, but the crumb was very nice (though slightly underbaked). Particularly nice since I'd run out of bread flour and was just baking with store brand AP flour.

I also made three sourdough loaves...

...and experimented a little with the scoring.

I thought it looked like a yin-yang, but my wife says it looks more like the Safeway Logo.

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Floydm

Sourdough pancakes with fresh local strawberries, Red Beans and Rice with corn bread muffins and honey butter, pita bread with hummus and tabouli, and cinnamon rolls and a pot of hot coffee on a cloudy afternoon. Yup, we ate well this weekend. Nothing new or experimental, just good ol' home cookin'.

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Floydm

Oregon strawberries are in season, so this morning I whipped up a batch of fresh strawberry freezer jam and a couple loaves of whole wheat bread.

Hard to beat.

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Floydm

I walk out the door and all hell breaks out here, eh? Thank you JMonkey for doing your best to stay on top of it. I owe you a bottle of wine.

The people spammer has been banned and I've deleted all of the old people spams.

SD Guy has been banned. His ISP has been banned. Every IP he has ever used has been banned. I'm sure he'll figure out a way to sneak around it, but he is banned for good this time. As soon as I figure out it is him, I will kill the account again.

This is the fourth time he has been banned.

I have bent over backwards to try to accomodate him. He is the only person I've had to ban (except for plain old spammers). I don't even think I've had to ask anyone else to mellow out but once or twice. Every drama on this site that has happened in the past year has involved him. The rating feature, which took me a weekend to program, was one attempt to try to accomodate him. So was redoing the front page and the comments list to allow multiple conversations to occur simultaneously. It isn't worth it. I won't allow that kind of vemon on this site even if the baker wins the James Beard Award. That does not mean I hate him or have it out for him, but that won't go here.

I know he has at many times (most even) been helpful. People who still want to ask him questions can find him on rec.food.sourdough. I don't think it will take you long to figure out which user he is.

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Floydm

On Mother's Day I found myself without a prepped starter or poolish. There were some leftover mashed potatos in the fridge, so I hit the cookbooks and found a recipe that fit the bill in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads.

This made wonderfully soft, sweet rolls. They weren't as rich as brioche, but they certainly tasted much richer than what I normally bake. The crumb was even and very soft, soft enough that my 2 year old was petting it.

Soft! "Purr purr"

Sister Jennie's Potato Bread Makes 1 dozen rolls 1 cup mashed potatoes 2 eggs 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup warm water 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter 2 teaspoons instant yeast 4 - 5 cups all-purpose flour

I combined everything and then let it rise until it had approximately doubled in size (90 minutes).

I scaled the rolls to between 4 and 5 ounces, which was on the large size (almost hamburger bun sized). There is enough sugar in them that they need to baked at a fairly low temperature and on a higher shelf than usual unless you want burned bottoms. I believe I baked them for around 20 minutes at 375.

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Floydm

I was looking at The Fresh Loaf traffic stats in the newest version of Google Analytics today and, I gotta say, I've never seen charts like these. For example, here is a visitor report for a typical website:

Weekend traffic is lower. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday have the highest traffic because most people are in the office those days and most web surfing, even if it is for pleasure, happens while people are at the office.

There is a similar curve throughout the day, with the highest traffic on most sites being between 10-2 PM Pacific Time, when people on both the east and west coasts of the US are in the office. Traffic from Europe and Asia can, obviously, impact how much off hours traffic you have, but I've never seen a US-based website whose traffic that didn't peak in the middle of the business day here.

Here is my chart for the past month.

The spike at the end is when StumbleUpon featured The Fresh Loaf. I think the dip on the 7th was when my server was acting up. Otherwise, it is almost a straight line. Traffic is higher around the holidays, but overall my traffic is extremely constant, with about 65% of traffic coming from new users and 35% from returning visitors.

What is really unusual is the visitor loyalty report:

When people return to The Fresh Loaf, they return. A lot. That almost 20 percent of my traffic has been to the site more than 9 times in the last month and that almost 5 percent has been here over 200 times is unheard of. I've never seen stats like that. This just reinforces my sense that you guys are crazy that we have a very enthusiastic community here. People come here and either decide this isn't what they were looking for and go away, or they decide this is exactly what they were looking for, so they come back again and again and again...

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