The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Every summer we're faced with the pleasant task of trying to figure out how to use all the fruit from our trees.  Most of the fruit gets ripe at the same time and it's not possible to eat it all fresh.  Right now the apricots, apriums (cross between apricot and plum), plums, and sour cherries are almost all ripe.  The fig tree, which usually has 2-3 crops per year, is also beginning to have some ripe fruit.  Carol doesn't like jams or jellies so that rules out one method of preserving them.  I like jam but I rarely eat toast, so I don't go through the jam very fast.  Besides, my brother keeps sending us his homemade blackberry jam that's better than anything I ever make.  The obvious solution then, is to make lots of pastry with fresh fruit.  Yesterday it was puff pastry tarts, today it's apricot and plum danish.  And they're just in time for lunch.

The Danish dough is the Danish with Biga from ABAP.  I left the fully laminated dough in the refrigerator an extra day because I was too busy to use it yesterday.  In addition to the fruit, they are filled with pastry cream (also from ABAP) flavored with li-hing powder (1/2 teaspoon of li-hing powder to 2 pounds of pastry cream).  This dough had a mind of its own.  They were supposed to be shaped like the one in the left front in the photo but most of them unfolded themselves while proofing.




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This just came out of the oven a few minutes ago and I thought it looked too good not to take a picture.  It's Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Mixed Sourdough Starters.  It has two levains: a wheat and a rye.  It's not cool yet so no crumbshot.  It didn't feel over-proofed but after slashing and sliding it into the oven it seemed to get awfully flat.  It certainly sprang back though.  I made a loaf of volkornbrot that came out about 15 minutes earlier and because of the strong, sweet rye smell I didn't expect the smell of this bread to be very noticeable but its smell filled the kitchen.






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These pastries are made of croissant dough and filled with a fig filling.  Apparently lunettes are, among other things, eyeglasses in French.  You could use any croissant dough you liked, but the dough I used for these was whole wheat with a sponge from ABAP, by Suas.  2 lbs. of detrempe (dough before adding the roll-in butter) made 12 lunettes.  I rolled out the dough to about 18" x 12".  After spreading the filling on the whole surface I rolled the dough up from each end lengthwise.  The resulting roll was 12" long and I cut it into 12 1" slices with a serrated knife.  It was necessary to clean off the knife after every two cuts because the fig filling stuck to it.


This amount of filling is plenty (or maybe too much) for a dozen lunettes.  Suas warns against using too much filling because it will make the makeup difficult.  I used about 1/2 to 2/3 of the filling described below.  The taste of the filling is subtle--next time I will try using a bit more.  I used the almond meal from Trader Joe's which comes in 1 pound bags.  It is made from unblanched almonds (peel and all) so it's not good for things that need a light colored almond paste.

The fig filling formula in ABAP called for almond paste which I took to mean marzipan so I approximated it with the following.

Fig filling
Part 1 - Almond paste
Mix together the following:
6 oz. Ground almonds or almond flour (don't need to be blanched because the filling will be dark anyway due to the figs)
6.5 oz. Powdered sugar
1 egg white
¼ t. vanilla extract
½ t. almond extract
½ t. lemon or lime juice

Part 2 - Fig filling (somewhat based on ABAP)
5.5 oz. Dried figs that were chopped very fine in a food processor
¼ t. orange extract (or equivalent amount of orange zest)
2 egg whites
2 t. brandy
Combine these ingredients with the almond paste and after several hours, when dried figs have had time to hydrate, add enough water to make the filling spreadable. It should be like fairly thick jam, but without chunks of fruit. The amount of water needed depends on how dry the figs are--the amount of water needed depends on how dry the figs are.

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About a year ago my wife, Carol, and I went to my favorite coffee store, Barefoot Coffee in Santa Clara (California). Carol doesn't like coffee so she picked out a pastry from the pastry display. It was something I'd never heard of before called a Kouign Aman. It was crispy, crunchy, sweet and buttery. It was so good that we started making trips to Barefoot just to get the pastry. We eventually found out they're made at Satura Cakes in Los Altos. Now, whenever we're in the mood for a really good pastry we go get a kouign aman.

It seemed like it was a mystery pastry because it was hard to find any information on them and what we could find often seemed contradictory. I don't know if it's true but someone told us the name means "butter cake" in the Breton language.

Today I tried making them for the first time. It is a laminated pastry, like croissants but with a couple of twists. I made a basic croissant dough and laminated it with butter as usual, except the roll-in butter was SALTED butter and weighed 50% of the detrempe weight rather than the usual 25%. The other unusual thing was that on the 2nd and 3rd turns I laminated caster sugar into it. The roll-in sugar weighed 40% of the detrempe (dough w/o roll-in butter & sugar) weight. There seem to be a lot of different, acceptable ways to shape them. I just cut the dough into 6 inch squares.  For each square I folded the 4 corners to the center forming a smaller square. Then I folded the 4 corners of the smaller square to the center. After placing them on parchment I brushed them with softened butter and sprinkled them with more sugar. The kouign aman that Satura Cakes makes look like they're rolled up like sticky buns and I think they are baked in a baking dish that has butter and sugar in the bottom.

It was kind of difficult to laminate the sugar. After spreading sugar on the dough it didn't roll out as easily as croissant dough does. The dough tended to bunch up as I rolled it, maybe because sugar is rough and doesn't spread out like butter does. The other weird thing was that a lot of the roll-in sugar liquified. I think this was due to the long resting time between turns that were needed because I was rolling by hand. With a dough sheeter you could have a much shorter rest between turns and the sugar probably wouldn't have enough time to absorb so much water from the dough. I found that when laminating dough by hand I need a 2 hour rest between the 1st and 2nd turns, a 4 hour rest between the 2nd and 3rd turns, and an overnight rest between the 3rd turn and final shaping. The first hour of each rest is in the freezer, then it gets moved to the coldest part of the fridge. The final 15-30 minutes (depending on the temperature in the room) of each resting period in on the kitchen counter. I adapted the advice I got from hansjoakim and DonD on this forum and from Mark Sinclair while working as an intern at the Back Home Bakery to come up with this resting schedule. Normally for croissants I bulk ferment 1 hour at room temp. and another hour in the fridge (35-40 F). For the kouign aman I bulk fermented 1 hour in the fridge.

They're kind of rustic looking and very, very tasty.  The crusty ledges around the edges are caramelized butter/sugar that leaked out, baked, and hardened.



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Doesn't it drive you crazy when you scale a formula down to a size you can make at home and you end up needing .011 oz. of yeast? You can do this if you have a scale that will measure in grains or fractions of grams.  A grain is a unit of weight that is 1/7000 of a pound or about 1/438 of an oz.  When I'm making poolish for my home-size batch of croissants and find that I need .005 oz. of yeast it's an easy matter to weigh out 2 grains of yeast.  It's not that I need extreme precision (if I did then I'd weigh out 2.2 grains of yeast) but when I see what a tiny amount of yeast 2 grains is, I know that if I had to estimate it by volume I could easily use two or three times too much.

Fortunately, you don't have to buy an expensive lab-quality scale to weigh things in grains, or tenths of grains.  Reloading scales are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.  There are both digital ones and beam balances.  The benefit of having a digital is that they have a tare button so you can avoid doing arithmetic.  Any sporting goods store that sells reloading equipment will probably sell these for an affordable price.  Midway USA has one for as low as $35:***731*** and Cabela's has some at

I have these from my days of competitive rifle shooting.  I only use the digital scale now and almost always use it for yeast, salt, malt powder, and anything else I need tiny amounts of.  The digital reads out in either tenths of a grain or hundredths of a gram.  It can be precisely calibrated with the weights and although that is a good idea when weighing out gunpowder, I don't do it all that often for baking.


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Trying to figure out what to do with starter discards is a common topic. But, what about pastry dough? I always end up with odd bits of tart dough or puff pastry that are left over from something I made. About a week ago my twelve-year-old niece, Carli, was visiting from Texas and, in addition to numerous loaves of bread, we made several tarts with pate sucree and puff pastry. After she left, the leftover dough pieces sat around in the fridge all week and needed to be used, frozen, or thrown away. This morning I cut out some puff pastry rounds with a cookie cutter and made some little turnovers filled with goat cheese and chives.  As you can see in the pictures they look more like blow-outs than turnovers.  They appear to be laughing at me...Oh well, I'll get even when I eat them.


I had a big set of tiny tart molds in various shapes but I gave those to Carli before she went back home to Texas because she had really gotten into making tarts, especially tiny ones. So, what do you do with small pieces of tart dough when your little molds are gone. Well a brioche mold looks a lot like a tart mold.  Also, a tiny tart needs pretty small fruit so I threw some frozen blueberries onto the almond and pastry cream filling and there you have it.

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I have a niece who is interested in baking and I was going to buy her the King Arthur videos on Artisan Bread and Blitz Puff Pastry.  When I went to their web site I was sad to see that the DVD on Artisan Breads was unavailable.  I don't know if they will make some more and sell them again or if that's the end of it.  I sure hope they continue selling them because it was a really helpful video for me when I was starting the make hearth breads with wet dough.

One of the things I had a hard time with at first was being comfortable with gobs of sticky dough all over my hands.  I'm not such a neatnik (or so I thought), but having goo covered hands just didn't seem right.  Hearing that it was okay to make a sticky mess was one thing, but actually seeing Michael Jubinsky knead the sticky mess by slapping it around on the table and getting everything gummed up really helped me at least partially overcome wetdoughphobia.  He uses a poolish and makes baguettes and boules.  He demonstrates folding, shaping, slashing, and steaming.  This is a really good beginnig video for anyone who wants to start baking artisan-style hearthbread.  I still watch it from time to time when I want to enjoy watching someone else bake for a change.

The other King Arthur video that I have stars Jeffrey Hamelman and he shows how to make blitz puff pastry.  If you haven't tried this, you really should.  It is surprisingly good and it's also amazingly quick and easy to make.  We've tried it out and used it to make tarts similar to those shown in the video.  I'm not such a pastry expert that I can critique the fine points of this dough versus long-process laminated puff pastry, but as Hamelman says, it makes it possible to get up in the morning and say, "I think I'd like to have a puff pastry based desert for lunch or dinner."  I watch this one repeatedly, always makes me hungry.

Here are the tarts my wife and I made after our first viewing:

Plums, almond cream, and blitz puff pastry.


Apricots, almond cream, and blitz puff pastry.


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 I was getting tired of covering my mixing bowl with plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out while it fermented.  For me, unrolling, tearing, stretching plastic wrap has always been like wrestling an octopus.  Besides, I hate throwing it away after using it for a few hours.  I wanted to find a dough fermentation bin that had a top that would keep in the moisture but wasn't airtight.  I was buying half sheet pans at my local Smart-n-Final and noticed what looked like the perfect containers. They were plenty big enough for folding the dough in the container.  They had smooth bottoms that would allow the use of a plastic dough scraper and make cleaning easy.  They had tops with little vent thingies that could be opened or closed.  Most amazing of all they were cheap.  They came three in a package for about $20.  The only problem was that I had to get three of them which I didn't think I needed.  I decided to wait until I had scouted around to see if I could find something comparable that I could buy just one of.   Some bins had convoluted bottoms that would make it impossible to scrape out the dough.  They had fancy lids that sealed so well that no gas could escape and complicated seals that would make them hard to clean.  The better ones cost almost three times as much so I finally got the set of three.

Here are some pictures.  The familiar book is in the picture to give an idea of how big they are.  The brand is Reynolds.  The largest batch of dough I've used it for so far was 6 lbs. 

Here's a close-up of the vent.  The almost readable word on it is "Casuals."

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I've been reading the forum for awhile and posted a few replies but I thought I should introduce myself.  My name is Greg and I live in Mountain View, CA.  I was a math geek in college and most of my life after that I've been a software engineer/project manager.  I recently graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary.  It's not clear what I'll do next for a living, but I'm currently doing part-time software contract work and handyman/small construction jobs.  My hobbies & interests have included wood-working, metal-working, photography, scuba diving, ocean cruising, sailboat racing, flying planes, backpacking, hunting, competitive shooting, archery, probably other things I've forgotten about, and of course baking bread and pastry. 

I've been baking several years and it's turning into an addiction.  It's a constant battle between wanting to bake more and not wanting to eat so much that I turn into the Goodyear blimp.  I live on a cul de sac and am constantly giving away bread and pastries to my neighbors.  My wife takes the excess to work and shares it with the folks in her office.  I've always baked bread off and on but success was random and besides I never thought bread was all that exciting to eat.  A friend gave us the book Baking Illustrated (from Cook's Illustrated magazine) several years ago and I learned to consistently make acceptable white sandwich bread.  The book showed me that it was possible to turn out consistent bread.  Later I tried their rosemary-olive bread and rustic Italian, etc.  I was completely hooked.  Peter Reinhart's BBA was next.  I took the Artisan Bread I & II classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute in South San Francisco and am signed up for the German bread class in September.  My wife's best friend can't eat any wheat so I'm trying to learn to bake a 100% rye bread that's really good.  So far I'm not too happy with the results and I have high hopes that the Germans really know how to do it.

My kitchen is miniscule and the oven is even minisculer.  I keep telling myself it's cheaper that way.  Besides what can I do?  If I put in a bigger oven there would be any room for the refrigerator.  Since I can only bake two batards at a time or one medium size boule, I've gotten pretty good at retarding several batches of proofing loaves so they can bake one after another.  Maybe a backyard wood-fired oven is the answer but it turms out my backyard is pretty miniscule too.  At least with a wood-fired oven I could get rid of all the hardwood scraps in the workshop that I can't bear to throw away.

My wife, Carol, must have a dream of being a farmer because over the years we've lived here she has planted a LOT of fruit trees.  Last summer I started making apricot, pear, plum, and apple tarts...Fig bars, and cherry pies, too.  She took the Viennoiserie class at SFBI, and since then we've been trying to duplicate the amazing croissants she made in the class in our poor little oven at home.

Anyway, enough about me.  I'm glad to be here and thankful for all the truly friendly and helpful people who kindly share their experience and knowledge on this forum.

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