The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

mdunham21's blog

mdunham21's picture

I haven't been baking nearly as much as I would like, but I'm making an attempt to bake on Sundays this winter.  I feel like any skill I have obtained since I started making bread has been lost, and gaining my skill set back might prove frustrating.  My girlfriend loves bread and I don't mind lavishing her with fresh treats.  A favorite bread of mine is ciabatta, but I've never made an attempt to add any cheese or mushrooms to the base bread.  I decided to use dried shiitake mushrooms reconstituted in water and baby bella mushrooms.  The night before I made a poolish and let it rest in the refrigerator until Sunday.  I made the main dough and let it ferment while stretching and folding every 30 minutes for 2 hours.  After the initial mixing, I added a bit of olive oil to a pan along with garlic and the mushrooms, sauteing them until they were tender.  I let the mushroom mix cool and added it to the bread during the next stretch, folding them into the dough.  I poured the dough out on the butcher block for a final shaping and proof.

I'm not working with a couche or a peel, which can make it difficult at times.  I did not have a thick enough bed of flour on the butcher block to inhibit sticking, which led to degassing one of the loaves. However, the other two turned out well, and the bread was delicious with a gorgonzola cheese spread.  I'm back in the baking game and I've won impressive points with the girlfriend, win win for the weekend!!  Next weekend will be my 29th birthday and might be a bye week for baking.  I'll see you on the flip side.



mdunham21's picture

I have undertaken the BBA challenge for 2011 but I am not one to follow directions.  I am making the recipes in the order that they appeal to me or what I have a desire to bake.  This does however mean that I will be on my own during the challenge without a number of supporters.  My family decided they wanted some cinnamon rolls, so i pulled out the bba and went to work 

The recipe called for whole milk, powdered milk, or buttermilk, so I made my own buttermilk by adding about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to 1 and 1/4 cup 2% milk.  I creamed the sugar, salt and butter together, mixed the egg, lemon extract and added the flour, yeast, and warmed buttermilk.  I didn't have any almond extract so I just left it out.  The dough was a little wet so i worked in some extra flour and the dough became pliable and tacky. The dough was allowed to rise for a couple hours and then rolled out.  I coated dough with brown sugar and cinnamon then cut up a stick of butter and distributed it evenly throughout.  I rolled the dough and cut them about 1 and 3/4 inches apart.  The dough went for a final proof and then baked, I roughly time my baked goods and use color and temperature as my cues.  While the rolls baked I made a frosting out of powdered sugar, vanilla extract and warm milk.  


The rolls tasted even better than they look and I'm officially off my eating plan.



mdunham21's picture

In my quest to make better bread I have gathered information from almost any resource.  Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice has become a go-to book when I want to bake.  One day I was perusing random websites and I happened upon a blog called "Pinch My Salt".  This blog included a number of amateur bakers making each recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice in order.  I thought this might be a cheaper alternative to making beer considering I do not currently have the funds.

Yesterday afternoon I mixed together the cornmeal and water and let it sit out overnight.  The bowl on the bottom of the picture is about 2 cups of flour, the cornmeal mixture, and yeast.  The other two bowls are pizza dough and a poolish.

I let the soaker/sponge sit out for a couple hours until it was gurgling CO2 at me.  I mixed the sponge with the remaining 2.5 cups flour, 1.5 tsp salt, 1oz shortening and 4oz of molasses .  When I stirred everything together it still seemed too wet, so I mixed in some more flour during the kneading.  the dough was lightly oiled in a bowl and set to ferment for a few hours.  I removed the dough, knocked it down, and formed a couple boules.

I didn't want to make sandwich loaves because I really like free form loaves and the shape of boules.  The final proofing lasted for about an hour before taking them to be scored and baked.  The loaves scored nicely but I lack a peel, as a result I accidently deflated some of the loaf during transfer to the oven.  Thankfully I had a decent amount of oven spring.  

The loaves turned out fine, I can only imagine how they would have looked if I hadn't deflated them, I guess it's time to look into making a peel.  I look forward to the next stage in the BBA challenge and as always look for improvement.


Cheers and Happy Baking



mdunham21's picture

This weekend has been a smorgasbord of baked goods.  Friday afternoon i mixed together a poolish with the intentions of making poolish baguettes the following day.  I let the poolish sit out until it was nice and bubbling then retired it to the refrigerator for the next day.  I removed the poolish from the refrigerator and brought it to room temp while I prepared the main dough. 

I was working off of Peter Reinhart's poolish baguette recipe from BBA.  I sifted the wheat flour to remove the bran, i'm not sure if my sieve was fine enough to remove all the bran but it removed a large proportion of it.  I'm going to be a bit lazy in my blogging tonight and just post a few pictures, which will not include crumb shots because the crumb turned out piss poor.

I had to find something to do with the left over bran i sifted from the wheat flour.  I decided to make bran muffins, which I have never made before but thought i would try.  The recipe was a crap shoot a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I used a small portion of wheat flour to AP added some sugar some molasses, yeast, and buttermilk and an egg.  I topped the muffins with oats and baked them in a 350 degree oven until a toothpick came out clean.  I can't say I've ever had a bran muffin so I have nothing to compare them to, they seem to taste fine.  

I caught an episode of Diners Drive in's and Dives earlier this week, Guy Fieri happened upon a restaurant that featured cranberry and wild rice french toast.  The two ingredients seem like such an odd combination to me and I had to try it.  I pieced together a recipe and made a large sandwich loaf with a smaller free form loaf to go with it.  Needless to say, I can't wait for breakfast in the morning, I just wish I had some fresh maple syrup to go with it.  

As if this wasn't enough for one day, I decided to make sandwich loaves for the upcoming week.  The loaves are basic white loaves from The Bread Bible.  I don't eat a lot of white bread but this will have to do this week until I can make some whole grain loaves.  

Nope, not done yet.  The poolish baguette recipe calls for 7 ounces of poolish, which leaves a substantial amount for another application.  I am tossing around the idea of making a poolish pizza crust tomorrow, although I am still uncertain about a recipe at this point.  I have also decided to start the bread baker's apprentice challenge tomorrow.  I have already made quite a few of the recipes in the book but I will chalk that up to practice.  At any rate, I have the soaker for Anadama bread sitting on the counter top now, another post to follow.


Happy Baking,


White Sandwich loaf before pre-shape

Sandwich loaves final proofing

White sandwich loaves final proof

Finished sandwich loaves

Crumb Shot


Mixture of the day's bake

Crumb shot of cranberry wild rice bread

mdunham21's picture

As promised, I am keeping you up to date with my recent baking adventures.  I have a love for baguettes but nothing has given me more grief than this elusive bread.  I have baked these loaves a number of times but have failed to develop the nice open airy crumb that beckons me to bake them as often as I do.  


            Today’s bake started as a result of needing bread for dinner.  I had a hunger for chicken seasoned with garlic, oregano, thyme, and s&p with a piece of provolone cheese melted on top, sandwiched between a baguette slathered with garlic basil mayo, tomato, and lettuce.  This was all in my head however; I still didn’t have any bread.


            So I removed the pate fermentee from the refrigerator and cut it into small bits to remove the chill.  I mixed together the flour, pate fermentee, salt, and yeast.  The water was added and I mixed everything into a coarse ball, and then poured the contents out onto the counter.  I worked the dough until it was smooth and silky tacky not sticky.  I wanted to experiment with higher hydration this go around, so I added an additional tablespoon or two of water to the dough.  In the future I will use warmer water because I have not been able to increase the internal temperature of the dough to around 80 degrees through kneading.


            The dough was put into a lightly oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap.  My house is a chilly 62 degrees so I have to be creative with finding a warm place to let the dough rise.  I place the bowl on top of an electric heating pad set to low, turn on overhead heating lights, and plug in a space heater.  The thermometer in the room reads around 78 degrees with all of this extra heat.  I let the dough rise until doubled while stretching and folding every 30 minutes for the first hour and a half. 


            When I was satisfied with the dough 2.5 hours later, I removed the dough and scaled it down on the counter top.  Each scaled piece of dough weighed approx. 390 grams.  I let each scaled piece of dough rest for about 20 minutes and then formed each portion into a baguette utilizing the counter to create surface tension.  The baguettes were allowed to rise for about 45 minutes, then were scored, and baked.  The oven temp was 500 degrees for the first 2 minutes with steaming every 30 seconds of that period.  The temperature was lowered to 450 and the loaves were allowed to bake until golden brown and the internal temperature was 205ish. 


            The loaves were Fantastic for dinner tonight and I have decided to look into a job baking with a local bread company; I might as well considering I love making bread anyway.


The recipe for the main dough is as follows:


5oz unbleached AP

5oz bread flour

16oz pate fermentee

1½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoons active yeast

¾ cup water warm to touch plus a few tablespoons extra


That ever elusive crumb continues to fight me but i will not waiver I will not lose hope, I will continue baking baguettes.





mdunham21's picture

   I’ve been baking bread ever since I stumbled upon my grandfather’s recipe for buttermilk bread.  His bread was a basic loaf but it sparked my love for all things fermentable.  My love grew into brewing my own beer and baking bread was put on hold.  I graduated college in 2010 and finances have become tighter since leaving school.  It is more financially responsible to spend the money on baking bread than brewing suds.  Although I desperately miss the smells that come with brewing a batch of homebrew, the smell of freshly baked bread has been a welcome substitute. 


    Last weekend I made a pate fermentee with the intention of baking baguettes.  I made sure to take a portion of the dough and wrapped it tight for storage in the freezer.  Thursday of this week I was struck with the urge to bake once again and withdrew the pre-ferment from the freezer to the refrigerator.  I mixed up the dough on Friday and went through the motions of fermentation.  The dough was shaped and then prepared to spend the night in the refrigerator.  I wanted to develop a nice flavor profile so I retarded the dough over night and baked them today. 


I will be sure to keep this blog current with my baking adventures; will soon be moving into sourdough. 


Happy baking,




mdunham21's picture

I am rather new at making homemade bread but it is something I am growing to love.  I come from a family of cooks and bakers, mostly from my mom's side of the family.  Her father was an excellent cook and baker; I recently stumbled upon one of his bread recipes for buttermilk loaf bread.  I have been making this loaf on the weekends for the past year or so.  However, he kept the majority of his recipes in his head and didn't write many of them down.  This has forced me to branch out on my own.  This weekend I prepared a biga pre-ferment for a pugliese from "The Bread Bible"

This recipe does not use Durum flour which is fine because I was unable to locate any at my local grocery.  The biga was prepared with a mixture of all purpose flour and coarse rye flour, a small amount of commercial yeast and water.  This mixture was allowed to ferment for about 18 hours at a cool temperature.  

I was pleased with the way the bread turned out, however I was hoping for a large sized boule compared to the one i was able to develop.  

The crust was soft and the crumb was chewy with a medium distribution of holes.

Overall I was satisfied with the results.  I currently have a sourdough starter in the making and cannot wait to make my first loaf in time for thanksgiving stuffing.

I look forward to any comments and suggestions



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