The Fresh Loaf

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My second bake of the Swiss Farmhouse Bread. This time I was able to source organic raisins and make the raisin yeast water successfully.  My first attempt at yeast water failed due to impurities on the raisins, so I resorted to making the yeast water using kumquats and honey.

This time I made the raisin yeast water using organic raisins and was successful. I also changed the container setup using an airlock lid and a cling film layer in contact with the water. I observed the development daily and on the sixth day, the bubbles were very active.

Setup day 1

Day 6 - ready for build 1

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Swiss Farmhouse Bread – “Bread. A baker’s book of techniques and recipes, 2nd Edition” by Jeffrey Hamelman.

My experiment into the world of yeast water bread was inspired by an organised community bake on the Fresh Loaf bread site. The members have such a wealth of experience and expertise.  When things do not go to plan, experts jump in with great advice. I learned a lot by participating and through others experience.

This bread contains walnuts and raisins and uses raisin yeast water for leavening. The first step is to make the yeast water and takes 5 to 6 days.

My proofer is set at 25°C.

Yeast Water – My first attempt with raisins failed due to non-organic raisins coated with oil. I was told that I could produce yeast water using any organic fruit.  I have a kumquat tree in our yard, so thought to experiment (it’s winter here and my options are limited). My second attempt was successful using kumquats and honey. The yeast water was ready for the first build on day five.

The first build took 8 hours to mature. I left the second build overnight for 14 hours which was slightly over; 12 hours would have been good.

I recalculated the ingredients for a 680-gram dough. After mixing, the dough felt quite wet but had reasonable development. Mixed in walnuts and raisins by hand. Desired dough temperature within range (24.5°C).

Bulk fermentation for 3 hours with a letter fold halfway.

Pre-shape, bench rest and shape. Final proof for 2 hours. I chose a boule banneton on this occasion.

I scored the boule with scissors just before loading into the oven and bake the loaf in a pre-steamed oven for 36 minutes; 232°C for first fifteen minutes then lower to 221°C to avoid excess darkening due to the raisins.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this experiment as I was able to meet all the timeframes in Hamelman’s recipe. Temperature control is important for success and schedule. I was sceptical about yeast water, but now I am convinced it has its place in my arsenal and was easier than first thought. No waste!

Taste – complete absence of sour, highlights of the walnuts and raisins blended well with the crumb. Not overly sweet.

Crumb – Not dense and enjoyable.

Flour – Unbleached bread flour 11.5% protein (90%) plus freshly milled whole-wheat (10%).

Further experimentation: change nuts and fruit, leave them out, increase whole wheat.

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This Rustic loaf is my regular weekly loaf and never misses if I am true to the process. I use instant yeast to make only one loaf at a time. That's what I like about Hamelman's book; you get the bakers per cent and I can rescale one 750 g loaf to suit my banneton. 

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I now get week by week repeated success with Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough which is our regular bread I bake each weekend.  My take-home message to all sourdough newbies is to persist and pay attention to detail.  It's tempting to skip and make do with estimates and a "she'll be right" attitude, but if I want consisency week after week with sourdough, I have to do all the below:

  • Always have a fully active starter to build a fully active levain.
  • Use baker's percentage and scale all ingredients-
  • Take the time to measure the temperatures of the room, flour and levain and work out the desired water temperature so you can achieve a final dough temperature after mixing of 24 to 25C. (Believe me this doesn't take long and is not difficult).
  • Fold during bulk fermentation. (I do two at 50 minute intervals and shape after a further 50 minutes).
  • Final ferment for 2 hours; (or retard in the fridge until the next day works great for additional flavour, but not essential).
  • Bake in a hot oven 235C for 40 to 45 minutes (I find lower temperatures will not get the oven spring).  Use steam.

This never misses.



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I usually only have time to make our favourite sourdough each weekend, but this weekend we have had rain and cold winds which cancelled some plans.  So I decided to make a recipe I hadn't tried before -Golden Raisin Bread - from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread".  This took me out of my comfort zone somewhat but I enjoyed the challenge and will try to take on a new recipe regularly.  I think I've grown in confidence thanks to this site.

I was very pleased with the result.  I experimented with the scoring pattern between the two loaves and also made them in a pan rather than free form batards.  The taste was very nice and sweeter than I expected.  The crumb is denser than my usual Vermont Sourdough, but I guess it's the type of loaf.  Couldn't wait until it was completely cool before I tucked in....

Edit - I forgot to add that this was made using my new two week old starter (Debra Wink version).

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I wanted to share my experience of building a backyard brick oven. I researched (and talked with mates) on and off for quite a few years before getting to work on this project. There is a lot of detail on the internet and books with lots of design, construction and material options (confusing!). I finally settled on a simple design that was a mixture of ideas from various sources. Simple approach as I'm not a trades-person, so I went with a dome-shaped oven out in the open to eliminate the need of a chimney. The dome is made from red clay bricks and has an inner diameter is 1.1 meters. The oven is insulated with four layers of perlite-cement mixture and a final outer layer of builder's render. I included two K-type thermocouples during the build so I can measure the floor and dome brick temperatures.

My oven was built mostly from second-hand materials and scrap for about $500 AUD and was constructed in my spare time between Oct and Dec 2005. I use the oven for pizza days with friends, roasts and veggies on special occasions, and of course, bread baking when a few mates also prepare dough to make the firing of the oven worthwhile.

I have placed a photo set of the construction approach at:

I hope this encourages other novices that may be thinking of a similar project. It wasn't as hard as I had envisaged and has given a tremendous amount of satisfaction and good times.

Edited to fix broken link to flickr.



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