The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

GabrielLeung1's blog

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For about two years previous I had been making bread for groups of college students as a part of the college student outreach at my church. Every Sunday morning I would bring pounds of retarded yeast fermented dough to the church kitchen, prep it on site, and bake it off for our college lunch. I was pretty proud of the formula I used for it, mostly this was because it was mine. I chose the hydration, the fermentation technique, and the shaping and baking of it. And it always came out beautifully every time. Later on, i even started fermenting it with my sourdough starter. 

Fast forward five months. In addition to baking off a spiked sourdough boule, we would be making pane francese, a rustic dough that we would be forming into baguettes. It was made with a high proportion of biga, and a high hydration, around 70.5%. We ended up putting 6 folds into it as it dribbled around on the bench, then it would be shaped, proofed, and baked. It was supposed to be an exceptionally beautiful bread with a wide, open crumb. And it was.

Sometime after Chef showed us how to shape the loaves, and before his loaves went into the oven I recognized something interesting about the loaves. That shaping technique was the exact same one I used for my church batards. I thought this was intriguing and dismissed it. Curiosity bit me a few seconds later as I decided to check the exact hydration...70.5%. Another interesting thing. And to top it all off you use biga to give it great flavor and texture.

And then it was that I realized that for the past two years I had been making pane francese. Its amazing that by thinking about how I would make good bread, and implementing those factors, you can come up with a bread is very very old. 

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November 10, 2009 was an auspicious day. It was the second baguette day, and a day I thought would be as interesting and full of questions as I could be hoping for as early in the program as we were. I had my concerns of course, as the product we were finishing and baking was the direct baguette.

A stiff dough with no prefermentation or autolyse mixed in to make it more interesting, all the direct baguette had going for it was a long, cool, overnight proof, and all the hope I could knead into it. Since becoming a bread baker I had always used pre-fermentation and retarded yeast fermentation. More recently my whimsical bread baking techniques have wandered into such techniques as autolyse, flour scalding, and wild yeast fermentation, but today I was returning to my bread baking childhood and would be making an artisan bread without any tricks or mind bending biochemistry.

The crust was a golden yellow color! To say nothing of the crumb, a tight, cottony consistency. Nothing like what I was used to seeing in my own formulas, baguette or otherwise. Which is not to say that they weren't beautiful, there is no higher category of judgement then the grigne of the scores, yet upon seeing the crumb, I just had to shake my head.

But I think this was the definition of the intensive mix method, the dough was at 57% hydration, we used stand mixers to mix up the dough to a perfect window pane, fermented it, punched it down, shaped the baguettes, then let them proof overnight. Retarding the dough had promise, but I think in order to get that nice crumb structure the retarding must occur in the bulk fermentation, rather then afterwards. What the retarding did do was produce a mild, subtle flavor to the baguettes, which I appreciated. 

I look at my loaves, and I see potential. 

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With the completion of the laminated dough final, the next section begins. And it was a section that I had been anticipating for a very long time. It was the artisan bread section! Finally I would receive formal instruction on something I've been self-teaching myself (with many wonderful resources like TFL of course) for years. 

We made baguette dough, poolish, and a 40% whole wheat dough in the course of 5 hours. The baguette dough would undergo retarded yeast fermentation in the refrigerator for 2 days, but the whole wheat dough we ended up baking off.

It was definitely a great experience to work on bread. I had finally gotten used to working in a professional kitchen, I had just gotten used to working well with the other student bakers, and with bread, everything all came together. We formed a round loaf and round, knotted, and braided rolls. 

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I suppose I was too worried about the section final that I had today. Despite many problems that happened when it came to forming my croissants and danishes, everything came together in the end!

It was an extremely interesting experience, fourteen bakers all trying to use a single proof box and two ovens in mostly the same space of time. Perhaps this is similar to what working in industry is like? 

It was extremely necessary to get organized, and organized fast in how our products went into the proof box and in and out of the oven. It was interesting, we spontaneously organized ourselves with people in charge of the proof box and the ovens both in an official capacity (we announced we would) and in a casual one (we happened to be passing by and announced that things needed to go into the oven, come out of the oven). 

But overall, everything got done, and it was a gratifying experience that was tiring but rewarding, and made me hungry for more of the same.

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I end a period of inactivity with a picture of croissants!


I've been trying to perfect my scaling and shaping of croissants this weekend, its very important, as i have an exam that tests my ability to do that in three days. Enrolled in culinary school for the past month, I've decided to post up a collection of photographs (that will be growing over the next six months) that I am calling my baking and pastry arts portfolio. 

Please critique what you see, and advise me about the life in industry I will be embarking on soon!

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I sold my first sandwich loaf recently! I think it turned out quite nice. I also made some sweet white batards, and experimented a bit on sourdough. 

The sandwich loaf came out quite nicely, it was made using KA Bread Flour and SAF RED instant yeast at 70% hydration with autolyse and french folds. The batards were identical to these, but were made at 65% hydration with 25% AP flour and 75% bread flour. 

The truly interesting experiment was the sourdough. I have begun experimenting with commercial yeast spiked sourdoughs, and I have to say that I'm disappointed. What I have understood is that commercial bakeries spike their sourdoughs with instant yeast to gain a normal production schedule from an otherwise unreliable source of leavening. But if one were to do this, there would be very little time to develop the sour flavor. So I troubled building a very sour starter over the course of three days, and spiked the final dough 0.6% yeast in addition to 33% starter. I fermented the dough, degassed, shaped, proofed, and baked it right away. Sadly the flavor was lacking. I'll have to go back to the drawing board for my sourdough. 

I'm currently looking into JMonkey's tips on squeezing out more sour from sourdough. 

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I really just wanted to put the dough into a bread pan and see what happened. This is pretty much the same thing as my CaP 2. The difference here was that I introduced two folds during the fermentation and I baked the loaf at 400 F, brushed with egg wash. This is in comparison to baking at 500 F with steam.

Overall, I thought that the flavor was lackluster, while the texture was good, like high quality store bought sandwich loaves, even. The crumb was fluffy, if not full of large bubbles, I believe this is the "cottony" texture described by DiMuzio. But it may also be that this is how bread springs in a bread pan, and that all sandwich loaves result in this texture.

For the next round of baking, I will cut the yeast to a quarter of what I used here. It should take much 4 times longer to rise, resulting in a 3 hour bulk fermentation rather then a 45 minute one. Perhaps this extended period of bulk fermentation will give me the flavor I am looking for.

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Further improvements on my white bread included three changes.

1.) Salt-less autolyse period

2.) Decreased amount of preferment

3.) Decreased hydration

Because an autolyse is meant to increase extensibility, salt would be a bad addition, this would counter the decrease in extensibility of a drier dough. However, I should be able to score these loaves because they are drier.


Purpose: To improve on a sandwich loaf with good crumb and flavor.



 100%   Bread Flour        (13.5 oz)

 66%     Water               (9.0 oz)

 0.8%    Instant Yeast     (0.11 oz)

 1.33%  Salt                   (0.18 oz)



Day 1-preferment

 6.750 oz Bread Flour

 9.000 oz Water

 0.055 oz Instant Yeast

All the water is combined with half the flour and half the yeast and fermented for an hour, then retarded overnight in a refrigerator.


Day 2-main dough

 6.7500 oz Bread Flour

 0.0550 oz Instant Yeast

 0.1800 oz Salt

 15.805 oz Preferment

Autolyse- Combined the preferment with the flour and autolyse for 20 minutes.

Knead in the yeast and salt, and developed

Bulk Fermentation- 45 minutes at room temperature

Folded the dough

Secondary Fermentation- 45 minutes at room temperature

Divided the dough into two pieces, shaped them into batards.

Final Proof- 60 minutes

- Preheated oven to 450F after 30 minutes

- Scored loavves, filled slashes with sesame oil before the loaves went into the oven.



- The fermentation was too quick. I can easily cut the yeast to stretch out the fermentation.

- If I quarter the amount of yeast, the fermentation should take 3 hours, a more reasonable time.

- It wasn't as difficult to knead in ingredients after the gluten was developed as I had thought.

- It was possible to score the loaves, 66% hydration is a good number, but it can still go higher I feel.

- Sesame oil is a good addition in terms of fragrance and flavor. It isn't too powerful.

- I need to work on the volume.


- I must shape the loaves to maximize surface tension

- Slashing the sides may improve volume

- less yeast, or several folds to slow down the yeast

- experiment with increased hydration, return to 70%.



GabrielLeung1's picture

A good white bread was made yesterday. This was my attempt to bring together all the techniques I've been learning about from books and this site.



 100%  Bread Flour

 70%    Water

 1.33% Salt

 0.8%   Instant Yeast



Day 1-preferment

 9.0000 oz Bread Flour

 9.5000 oz Water

 0.0275 oz Instant Yeast

All the water was combined with an equal weight of the flour and a quarter of the yeast to be used here. This mixture was fermented for one hour, then retarded overnight in a refrigerator.


Day 2-primary dough

 4.50000 oz Bread Flour

 0.18000 oz Salt

 0.08250 oz Yeast

 18.5275 oz Preferment

The preferment was warmed up at room temperature for 90 minutes. The flour, salt, and yeast were then added and kneaded in.

Autolysed for 20 minutes.

Fermented for two hours, the fermenting dough was folded half way through. 

Shaped into a round boule, and proofed for 60 minutes.

Baked at 450 F with steam until it reached 200 F within, and was golden brown on top (probably around 25 minutes).





Here I combined the preferment, autolyse, secondary fermentation, folds, and final proof to maximize gluten formation and flavor. The autolyse and folds should have enhanced the gluten development, while the preferment and secondary fermentation should have enhanced flavor. The final proof was 60 minutes long to achieve maximum volume.


Next Time-

*I can probably still push the maximum flavor by scalding the flour in addition to retarding a preferment overnight.

*I can also increase the openness of the crumb by increasing hydration.

Oddities- scoring loaves is essential to maximum opening of the crumb, yet its difficult with high hydration doughs.

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I just recently succeeded in completing a mother starter and so I've started to use it to make some sourdough. The first set of loaves came out rather dull looking but tasted quite good.

The second use of the loaves were exceedingly different.

The starter was 14 days old, I expect it will get even better as it matures


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