The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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This month Mini Oven challenged us fellow Fresh Loafers to create a special bread to commemorate the upcoming total eclipse of the sun. Spurred by astronomic ambitions I began to ponder how to go about this.

Just a new bread? Where was the connection to the total eclipse?

A two-toned dough? Once I baked a marbled rye bread and found its taste rather underwhelming.

Squid ink as a black dye? Not my cup of tea!

So it had to be a two-toned decoration. Black and white sesame seeds are in my pantry. Only a suitable recipe was missing. It couldn't be a loaf whose oven-spring would tear and destroy any decorative topping.

The answer was a flat bread that would spread more than rise.

I found a good starting point in Austrian baker Dietmar Kappl's Fladenbrot, tweaking it to suit my needs: with a long, cold bulk fermentation and the introduction of a little whole grain flour (I tried it with rye and emmer - both tasted great).

To emulate the eclipse I needed a ring-shaped utensil to press the outline of the moon into the dough. A large yogurt tub had just the right diameter (11.5 cm/4.5 inches).

We were so happy with my crusty, nutty flat bread that I baked it again, two days later, for my customers at the natural food store that sells my breads.

To see the recipe and pictures of the process, please visit my blog "Brot & Bread".

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When I heard about breads made with spent grains - leftovers from beer brewing - I was fascinated.

How interesting! But, where on earth, could you come by those mashed grains, unless you worked at a brewery? We have two micro-breweries in Bar Harbor, so I left a message, asking whether I could purchase a small amount of their spent grains.

The sobering answer: the mash goes to the (dogs) hogs. All sold to pig farms - sorry!

Spents grains, though cooked, retain some of their sweetness

So I gave up on the idea. Then, two years ago, I found a Groupon in my emails with a real bargain on a small brewing kit. A beer drinker, and always curious, I ordered it  - but then the bulky package ended up in the basement, with other rarely used kitchen equipment, like the lobster pot.

The best of all husbands needs some quality solitude now and then, playing his guitar and recording his music.

Left to my devices, I unearthed beer kit and lobster pot (just the right size for the mash!), and went around in the house with a thermometer.

Our guestroom closet proved to be the ideal environment for beer fermentation: cool, but not cold. And dark. 

Looking at the packages with malted barley, I realized: here was not only the base for my first (hopefully successful) stab at brewing, but, also, finally, the source for spent grain.

I visualized us drinking my very own Pale Ale, while enjoying a loaf made with the leftovers.

It's alive - my nascent beer is bubbling away in the guestroom closet

Whether the beer will be drinkable or not, I don't know, yet. Its precursor is foaming, happily bubbling away, next to our winter boots in the closet.

Many of my bread concoctions are based on porridge breads à la Tartine, tweaked to meet my needs (a bit tangier) and accommodating all kinds of grain/nut/seed combinations, like the squirrel-channeling Acorn Levain.

The bread I came up with contains a good measure of spent grains along with whole wheat. It turned out to be a very pleasing, hearty loaf - this newbie brewer was delighted! Definitely a keeper.

Freshly baked Brewer's Bread

And I still have a bag of barley mash stored in the freezer, for my next recycling adventures.

To see the recipe and procedure, including a downloadable BreadStorm formula, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".

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During my childhood, we kids used to gather acorns and chestnuts (not the edible kind) to make funny little gnomes from them. Nice and shiny as they looked, I knew that only pigs and squirrels could eat them, they were much too bitter for human consumption.

When I read a facebook post ("Bread History & Practice") about the possibility to use acorns in bread baking, I was intrigued - the huge European oaks in our neighborhood had produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.

To remove the bitter tannins from the acorns they have to be leached. This process, described in "Acorns: The Inside Story", takes a bit of time, but is pretty easy. Repeated soaking of the ground acorns in cold water (instead of boiling the kernels) works best for bread making, since this gentler method preserves the binding qualities of the acorn meal.

My resident bread tester (aka husband), helped me to gather a bag full of acorns, and I left them to dry for several weeks on our porch - the kernels shrink a bit, and are then easier to remove from the shells.

Cracking acorns is no more difficult than cracking hazelnuts

With a nutcracker, the acorns could be cracked like hazelnuts, and I ended up with about half a pound of kernels.

First the acorns have to be ground with water in the food processor (water prevents them from turning into greasy nut butter). The meal has to be rinsed in a fine-mesh strainer, before transferring it to a bowl, and soaking it in a lot of cold water. I rinsed, drained and soaked the acorn meal three times a day.

Grinding the acorns with water in the food processor

After two days I started testing the meal for bitterness, and finally, after three days of leaching, the tannins had been washed out, and the meal tasted similar to walnuts, but a bit milder.

The wet acorn meal had to be dried, either spread out on a baking sheet in the oven at very low heat, or, if you own one, in a dehydrator (lowest setting).

Now I had my acorn meal, ready to use. But what kind of bread could I bake with it? A simple, skillet bread wouldn't do it for me, I wanted a real loaf with a nice rise. My usual to-go bread (if I'm not trying out a specific recipe) is based on Tartine breads, and this is what I ended up with:

Acorn Levain à la Tartine


To continue reading (and see the recipe), please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread"


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Just in time for World Bread Day 2016, I received my copy of Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker in the mail.

I met Stanley several years ago at the The Fresh Loaf, when he looked for test bakers for his first book, "Inside the Jewish Bakery". Though, at that stage, some recipes still were a bit rough around the edges (my husband complained about feeling like a guinea pig!), the book was well worth it, and his Onion Rolls are still a great favorite with my customers.

Last year, I was happy to help with the translation of some German recipes Stanley considered for his newest book, devoted entirely to rye breads.

Leafing through the The Rye Baker, a cluster of spiral shaped savory rolls caught my eye. Not only because the "Swabian Rye Flower" looked so attractive - it was made with a laminated rye dough!

I had never even heard that such a thing existed.

Laminating the dough was not for the faint hearted. The recipe requires vegetable shortening for the fat layer. I had made croissants before, and if butter and dough are sufficiently chilled, the fat stays put during the rolling and folding process.

Soft shortening is more difficult to contain.

On this day neither my hands, nor the rolling pin or work bench needed any lubrication - Crisco took care of it! Fortunately, most of the shortening behaved, staying within the dough, and the fat leakage during baking was not more than to be expected.

We loved the hearty rolls! The laminated rye layers came apart and had a satisfying crunch, and the filling was delicious. The pretty flower shape, though, prevented the crisping in those places where the rolls touched. Being a sucker for crispiness, I would sacrifice form for function next time, and bake the spirals separate from each other.

But I will definitely make the Swabian Rye Rolls again!

To learn more, see the formula, the procedure (published with Stanley Ginsberg's permission!) and my take on it, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".

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I'm a curious person and love trying out new things. When "Cook's Illustrated", one of my favorite food magazines, published a gluten free cookbook, I bought it, out of curiosity, even though I have no problems with gluten.

I was especially interested in how the culinary geeks from "America's Test Kitchen" got to their good looking results. My own trials, though taste-wise acceptable, left a lot to be desired regarding their consistency, and looked rather unappetizing.

My first gluten free sourdough bread tasted okay, but looked rather unappetizing!

When my lovely Brazilian hairstylist asked me whether she could order some gluten free rolls for her Christmas menu, I jumped at the opportunity to try a recipe for dinner rolls from "The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook".

The rolls get their necessary structural support from psyllium husk, a fiber supplement from the natural food aisle, more known for its beneficial effect on all kinds of digestive maladies.

The additional baking powder and lemon juice help with softening the crumb, making it less dense. The flours should be finely ground - I used Bob's Red Mill brand.

Consistency a bit like English biscuits

My first trial resulted in nice fluffy rolls with a consistency like English Biscuits - better than anything I had seen so far in gluten free breads.

But I was less enthusiastic, when I sampled the dinner rolls. They tasted bland and a bit doughy. With jam on top this was less noticeable, and, when toasted, they were okay.

Fluffy crumb - but too bland and doughy for my taste

Danielle assured me, that she liked the gluten free rolls - but I couldn't stop thinking about them. I don't like selling something I'm not 100% satisfied with.

There was nothing to criticize about the structure of the dinner rolls - the test cooks with their scientific approach had really given their best.

But how could I achieve a better taste for my rolls without risking their fragile, gluten-less structure? Exchange a part of the rice flour, potato and tapioca starch for a gluten free flour with a more assertive taste?

Would I be really able to beat Bobby Flay the geeks of America's Test Kitchen? To satisfy your curiosity, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread"!


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After a rather underwhelming bread experience in an - otherwise nice - hotel last year, I challenged my co-bloggers, facebook friends and hobby bakers from The Fresh Loaf to help fill a basket with "Bread for Götz von Berlichingen", to provide Schlosshotel Götzenburg with a better breakfast choice.

I was so happy with the interesting contributions that I promised myself to bake as many of the 30 breads as possible, and, also, to showcase some of them on my blog - like  Khalid's Götzenburg Bread from Dubai, und Britta's Double Potato Loaf for Götz from the Lower Rhine.

Just in time for Zorra's World Bread Day 2015 I was happy to present Fresh Loaf blogger Dabrownman and his Swabian Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist.

My version of DBM's hearty Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist - my new favorite!

Dabrownman - "everybody calls me Brownman" (or DBM for short) - resides with his wife, college age daughter, and dachshund Lucy in Arizona.

An architect by schooling, he designed and supervised worldwide the construction, and ran the operation of distribution centers for the food industry. "Food and Facilities is what I did the last 23 years".

Dabrownman with his "apprentice" Lucy and one his fabulous bread creations

Meanwhile retired, he threw himself wholeheartedly into bread baking. With 429 posts since 2012, he is one of the most productive hobby bakers and bloggers that I know.

If you'd like to read more about our friend DBM and his (and Lucy's!) approach to baking, and, also, my version of his Swabian Potato Bread, follow me, please, to my blog:

 Brot & Bread.

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In 2007, after baking my way through all my old German bread baking books and Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", I checked for more bread formulas in the internet.

In German foodie magazine Essen & Trinken, one reader's recipe, featuring beer - always a plus! - caught my eye and piqued my interest. The beer was not only used to hydrate and flavor the dough, but, also, cooked into a mash, to feed the starter!

At that time I had the opportunity to chat with Peter Reinhart in an online bread baking Q & A, hosted by "Fine Cooking", and asked him about the boozy, mash-fed starter. He had never heard of such a thing, either.


Ale cooked into a mash is later used to feed the starter


Not only that - there was another oddity: the recipe described stretching and folding the dough into a neat package, at 1-hour intervals. What an entirely weird concept! I was puzzled and very intrigued.

Later I found out that S & F was first mentioned in The Fresh Loaf in 2006. Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Every Day", introducing a larger audience to S & F, was published in 2009. 

A bit skeptical how this could work, I went ahead with the Englisches Kartoffelbrot mit Ale (English Potato Bread with Ale), stretching and folding the dough as per instruction, and was a bit surprised when I saw how the dough became smoother, more elastic, and really showed little gas bubbles, when I cut it to check the development.

To learn more about this tasty bread, my tweaks, and find the recipe (including a downloadable BreadStorm formula), please, follow me to my blog Brot & Bread.


 Moist and tasty - my bread loves beer (same as the baker :)

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When I - driven from a real "Breaking Bad Bread" experience - challenged my baking buddies from The Fresh Loaf, Facebook and several congenial blogs to create a "Bread for the Knight with the Iron Hand", I promised myself to try all 30 loaves over time.

One of those congenial blogs is Britta's Brot vom Niederrhein - Bread from the Lower Rhine.

Britta, 35-year old process engineer and mother of two, named her blog after the lower Rhine region of North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany, where she lives and works.

Britta: "Others knit to relax - I bake!"

"It is pretty here, prettier than many believe. Industrial culture has its charm, the view from a heap to the blast furnaces, chimneys, and the Rhine with its many green meadows and sheep is really pretty."

She finds baking and process engineering have a lot in common: a technical process turns the raw materials into products - only her cakes and breads rise much faster than the industrial plants she is building.

The Lower Rhine with its industrial culture has its own charm - coal mine Zollern in Dortmund 


Niederrhein Landschaft Natur Schafe 100330-029.jpg
Idyllic contrast to heaps and chimneys: sheep grazing on the Rhine meadows

With fond childhood memories of baking cakes with her grandmother, Britta wanted her kids to have the same experience.

Soon she progressed from simple everyday cakes to more elaborate ones, like the Pirate Ship Cake for her son's 7th birthday.

Birthday cake for little pirates!

And she finally ventured into the realm of home-baked breads. But not without side effects on her married life! "My husband got used to a fridge and kitchen counter full of (on average) seven pre-doughs on weekends".

He also has to live with the fact that she can't leave the house, because her doughs are just ready for the oven. "Or, alternatively, listen to detailed instructions, so that HE can put the breads into the oven, at the right moment, the right temperature, with or without steam!".

Britta started blogging to save her own recipes and show some of her breads and cakes to other enthusiasts. She also wants to help people with diverse food intolerances (like herself) to make delicious pastry, since that is "less easy to find in stores than bread".

The bread is made with cooked and raw potatoes

Britta's Kartoffel-Weizen-Roggen-Brot intrigued me - she didn't only use cooked potatoes, but added raw potatoes, too.

It is made with two preferments:  a salted sourdough (Monheimer Salzsauer, 2% salt) and pâte fermentée, so that very little additional yeast is needed, and the aroma has time to develop overnight.

Moist and flavorful, with a hint of earthiness

We liked the Double Potato Loaf a lot, it was very moist and flavorful, with a subtle hint of earthiness from the raw potatoes.

To see the recipe (in English) for Britta's tasty Double Potato Bread - including a downloadable BreadStorm formula - please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".

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When I - driven from a real "Breaking Bad Bread" experience - challenged my baking buddies from The Fresh Loaf, Facebook and several congenial blogs to create a "Bread for the Knight with the Iron Hand", I promised myself to try all 30 loaves over time.

Well, let's say, almost all of them: the original 1914 German Army Kriegsbrot I'll better keep in reserve when times get tough.

Preparing Khalid's Götzenburg-Brot, I was struck by the idea to not only present his bread on my blog, but, also, finally satisfy my curiosity, asking my Fresh Loaf friend (username: Mebake) how on earth he came to bake whole grain breads in Dubai (a hint: flat bread are not much fun!)

If you want to take a look "behind the scenes", and learn more about the "Golden Wheat Bakery" and whole grain baking in Dubai. please follow me here to my blog Brot & Bread.

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The day arrives for every serious hobby bread baker when he or she - no longer satisfied with being limited to store-bought yeast - craves for the star among starters - the homemade sourdough!

The usual pathway to your own starter is stirring some flour into water, hoping that, over time, this mixture will attract wild yeasts and lactid acid bacteria to devour and digest the free all-you-can-eat menu. These microorganisms are either clinging to the grains or parachute down from the air.

But there are some surprising shortcuts, especially for those people who, like us, stuff their fridge with so many baking ingredients and condiments that they lose the overview.

Check the back of your fridge, you might find something like THIS!

Or you just visit your local grocery, or supermarket, and look for living cultures in the dairy aisle (no, I don't mean a call for the health inspector!)

You can turn plain old supermarket kefir into a very lively starter!

To learn more about improv starters, and see the great breads you can make with them, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread". 

The title image, by the way, shows a Tartine Porridge Bread, made with the power of kefir!



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