The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Floydm

I didn't bake this weekend. I made waffles and pancakes, but that isn't really baking, is it?

I baked last weekend, both a sourdough and a poolish bread, but I've been swamped. Work is busy and I'm doing some freelancing on the side, I'm taking a Spanish class, and I've really gotten sucked in to rereading The Iliad. Twisted, eh?

Probably the most bread-like thing I did this weekend was watch The Tick vs. The Breadmaster. If you have broadband and twenty minutes to kill, it is an amusing cartoon.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a used copy of Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf from a bookseller in Ipswich. I'm hoping it'll get here soon and that it'll kick me into the baking mood again.

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Floydm

It feels like I took the weekend off, because I didn't make pain sur poolish or any sourdough loaves. But I did make pancakes for breakfast yesterday, chicken mole with homemade tortillas last night, bagels for breakfast today, and pizza for dinner tonight, so I guess I really didn't take a break. Felt like it though.

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Floydm

So today I am pretending to camp in our living room with my three (almost four) year old son. At one point, while he is pretending to be a daddy, he turns to me and says "Now, I have to bake some bread and make some pizzas. You stay here and play with mommy and your sister for a few minutes" and marches off to the kitchen.

Doh!

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Floydm

I baked my butt off today.

everything

Starting at the top, going clockwise:


  • Sourdough rustic bread - I haven't tasted this one yet. They turned out a little pale and spotty. I think I was too gentle while shaping them, so they didn't have enough surface tension and were a bit "over the hill," developmentally. They look edible though.

  • Hybrid sourdough - I can't bear how much flour I have to throw out to keep my starter going. Today I took the starter I was going to dump and added it to a basic French bread dough with 1 teaspoon of instant yeast in it. It was interesting: it rose like a yeasted bread, but it baked like a naturally yeasted bread, with it springing in the oven for a good 10 minutes. The taste is mildly sourdough like, though not as good as a pure sourdough.

  • In front, pain sur poolish. Dstroy's favorite.
  • Banana bread with chocolate chips.

  • Finally, in the back, chocolate chip cookies. I have to admit I cheated on this one though: these were from a tube of dough that was premade that we picked up on sale at the grocery store.

On top of that I made 2 quiches and a goulash, so dinner for the week is prepared. It was a rainy day today, so we were around the house anyway. Why not bake?

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Floydm

Sourdough photos:

sourdough

sourdough

sourdough

Yum.

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Floydm

I had an unmitigated success with my sourdough starter today. Two round loaves of something resembling my rustic bread but with my starter instead of yeast.

I pulled the starter out and started feeding it every 12 hours beginning Thursday evening. During that time I kept it in my oven with the light on so that it was in a 80 to 90 degree environment. It seems to require that: without it, I don't even get a doubling in 24 hours. With it I get nearly a tripling in size in about 8 hours. We must keep our house too cold.

I made my final dough Saturday night and placed it in "the cold room," a poorly insulated room in our house that stays between 45 and 50 degrees this time of year. In the morning I gave it a fold and put it in the oven with the light on again to take the chill off. Gave it two hours, folded, two hours more, then shaped them. After a three and a half hour final rise I baked them. Amazing how much pop sourdough loaves get in the oven. They came out great.

Thanks for all of the advice and encouragement everyone, particularly Sourdolady. The continued effort paid off.

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Floydm

With the site turning one year old, I decided it was time to finally put together an article on French Bread. Regular readers probably have noticed that while I bake some kind of French Bread (rustic bread, pan sur poolish, etc.) almost every week, I've yet to do an article on it. It isn't because I haven't wanted to, I just haven't thought I was good enough at it to offer any advice.

Well, I'm still not great, but after a year of baking and chatting with folks here I have gotten better, good enough that I feel like it isn't presumptuous to offer some advice to newbies, particularly if they are offered in the grain of "Don't make the same mistakes I did. Because, believe me, I've made some doozies."

Initially I thought it'd be a short piece, but as I started writing I realized it is going to be longer. I was going to write them all and then drop them here with a big "tah dah!," but then I thought it'd make more sense to open them up for scrutiny to other community members. After all, probably a majority of the tricks I've learned I've learned from folks here.

So here is what I've got so far. The other tips will follow as I write them up the next few days. Please, add comments to offer advice, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, whatever tickles your fancy.

Once all of the tips have been written up and your suggestions and corrections have been incorporated into the text, I'll publish this article to the front page of the site. I think it'll be a good one, and I'm looking forward to hearing people's comments. I'd love to see this one be more of a collaborative effort.

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Floydm

I've been meaning to mention that this site is one year old now. Check out the first post.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed and participated in the discussions.

May your bread always rise!

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Floydm

This weekend:


  • Banana bread: good, as always. I haven't baked it since the holidays began. Nice to have again.

  • Sourdough batch #1: refrigerated overnight. Great flavor, but too dense. About like a bagel. I still ate two-thirds of the loaf.

  • French bread: Awesome. Perfect with the pot of soup I made on a cold, damp day. Pictures and more info to come.

  • Sourdough batch #2: I thought I did everything right, but instead of springing in the oven it just sat there. Came out with the consistency of mochi, so I just tossed it. I'm not sure if I used too much starter or too little. Shrug. I'm still getting the hang of it.

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Floydm

As I mentioned in my previous post, last night I placed my new sourdough starter in the oven with just the light on to see if staying 80 degrees overnight would give it some pep. It did, having slightly over doubled in size by this morning.

I also started a poolish last night so I could do a standard French bread if my starter wasn't looking lively. It too was ready to go this morning.

"Hey," I thought, "Since I have both, why don't I try making a yeasted and a sourdough version of the same recipe and compare how they come out? That's a good idea, innit?"

It is if you can remember which is which, but I, alas, could not.

My head was just not together this morning and I mixed up the two. What I knew was that I had two batches of my simple rustic bread: 14 oz. bread flour, 1 oz. rye flour, 1 oz. whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon salt, 12 ounces water. One of the two had a teaspoon of instant yeast and a cup or so of poolish in it, the other had half a cup of sourdough starter.

For the life of me, I could tell them apart: I was certain the one that was rising fast was the sourdough. It smelled like sourdough. Or maybe that was just the rye flour?

In the end I figured out which was which, but by then I botched the shaping of one of the sourdough loaves. Against all odds, the other one came out well.

The poolish bread:
poolish batards

The sourdough round:
sourdough round

The two side-by-side (sourdough on left):
crumb

A close up of the sourdough:
sourdough crumb

The poolish bread was much lighter and had a much more evenly open crumb. The sourdough was somewhat dense and should have been allowed to rise another half hour or hour (and would have, if I'd remembered which one it was), but it still developed a beautifully irregular crumb and tasted marvelous. That it came out not only edible but excellent proves my assertion that even a dunderhead can bake a naturally leavened bread if they are willing to keep trying.

Next weekend I bake ONLY sourdoughs, or a sourdough and something that I couldn't possibly confuse it with, like a brioche or a challah.

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