The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

gavinc's blog

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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.



gavinc's picture

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).

gavinc's picture


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.


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