The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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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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Dear baking friends who joined in my challenge to create a Bread for the Knight with the Iron Hand:


You thought about breads that were worthy of a famous knight from the middle ages, and, also, could please the palates of today's guests of Schlosshotel Götzenburg.

Not only your enthusiasm and creativity is amazing - your comments about medieval knights in general, and Götz von Berlichingen in particular, are highly entertaining.

Some of you even tried to figure out what practical considerations might influence a pastry chef's decision on what kind of bread to choose - like using leftovers from the restaurant kitchen and easy availability of ingredients.

I translated all German recipes into English and vice versa. So, if you don't want to be at the mercy of Google-Translate (rather pathetic with bread formulas, but always good for a laugh!), please contact me and I will send you the recipe.

Please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread" to see the whole bread basket for the Knight with the Iron Hand.

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Before I present you with the amazing bread collection you submitted for my Knight with the Iron Hand challenge, I owe you my own creation!

These goals I had in mind when I thought about the formula. I wanted to create a bread with grains and seeds used in German breads, preferably growing in the Baden-Württemberg region.

Though worthy of Schloss Jagsthausen's long tradition and its noble, iron-fisted ancestor, my bread should meet modern baking standards, not authentic medieval bread tradition (weevil-count over 100/kg!)

I also aimed for a bread that was not too fussy, and could be prepared either by the pastry chef of Schlosshotel Götzenburg's fabulous restaurant or outsourced to a local bakery. Therefore no holey loaf à la Tartine, and no overly complicated procedure.

Introducing a porridge to power up the hydration without making a whole grain dough too wet - this idea I happily took from Chad Robertson's "Tartine No. 3". It would work its magic in my less holey bread, too.

BreadStorm did the math for me, and this is the result (re-directing you to my Blog "Brot & Bread")


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I sometimes mention my little home based bakery. Since - as my husband always says - inquiring minds want to know - I will open the door to my Bar Harbor kitchen.

Since 5 years I am licensed to sell breads (and cupcakes) from my home. My kitchen was officially inspected, and I'm paying every year 20 bucks for the renewal of my Home Processor's License.

I am therefore legally:


I bake European breads for A&B Naturals, our our local natural food store - in summer twice, in winter once a week.

To show you more, please follow me to my blog Brot & Bread  - for some reason TFL doesn't let me upload any other photo today.


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Fellow bakers, many of you rose to my last year's challenge, re-creating a Vollkornbrot for Schlosshotel Cecilienhof in Potsdam ("When Taste Meets Tradition").

I fully trust you to come up with another loaf with a historical connection - a bread worthy of Götz von Berlichingen, the Knight With the Iron Hand.

This is what it is all about:

My husband and I are romantic souls. We like to visit fortresses and castles, and whenever we travel in an area where those are plentiful, we check for hotels with turrets and moats, commanding views and a rich history.

On our recent trip to Germany we stayed two nights at Schlosshotel Götzenburg in Jagsthausen. The medieval Castle Jagsthausen is the birth place of Götz von Berlichingen.

Götz von Berlichingen (1480 - 1562)

This notorious knight spent his life as mercenary, engaged in the never ending feuds between Emperor, nobility, church, wealthy cities and farmers, losing his arm, being incarcerated, outlawed and re-installed in the process (amazingly, he nevertheless lived to a ripe old age!)

He would have been probably long forgotten, if not immortalized by Goethe in his drama "Götz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand", who turned the belligerent knight into a pillar of integrity against a deceitful and decadent society - in other words: a German Robin Hood.

Goethe turned Götz into a German hero

 When besieged by the Imperial Army and asked by its captain to surrender, Goethe had Götz say the famous (and, in the last part, often quoted) words of defiance:

"Me, surrender! At mercy! Whom do you speak with? Am I a robber! Tell your captain that for His Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But he, tell him that, he can lick me in the arse!"

My husband quotes Götz von Berlichingen

 Schlosshotel Götzenburg doesn't only offer an lovingly restored medieval environment, beautiful views, and fine dining - its courtyard also serves as stage for the annual theater festival Burgfestspiele Jagsthausen.

One of its highlights, is, of course, the drama about the outspoken knight with the iron hand.

Scene from this year's theater production "Götz von Berlichingen"

The (comparatively moderate) price for our hotel room included breakfast (thankfully, something you still can expect in most German hotels!)

The ambiance - dark paneled dining hall, solemn ancestors looking down from the walls, body armor and tapestry - couldn't have been more appropriate. The dinner the night before had been fabulous, so we had high expectations for the breakfast.

Everything was fine - except for one thing that really matters for this bread loving baker: the rustic looking loaf on the table was sadly lacking - in crustiness as well as in taste!

Breads at the breakfast buffet - a mass produced disappointment

When I asked about it, I learned that it was not baked in a local bakery, but supplied by a whole grocer: hence its blandness and rubbery crust. Not at all worthy of the legacy of a fierce old knight! (He might have fed it to his dogs.)

Grumbling at the breakfast table, I pondered what to do. Whine about it to the manager? Or smite this nice hotel with a nasty comment at TripAdvisor? I had a better idea.


So, please join me, dear friends, in creating a special loaf, worthy of the noble Götz and his beautiful castle (which is, by the way, still owned by the Berlichingen family!)

Even though this loaf is meant for a medieval castle hotel - please, refrain from submitting an "Authentic Bread" à la Don Sadowsky. The tough old fighter might have had his share of those, while embattled, but he surely would not have served them to guests of his castle.

I won't give you a deadline, most of you are hard working people with little spare time, and if you want to participate, you will bake your bread as soon as you can, anyway.

Every contribution will be posted and linked to your blog (if you have one).

I will present our results to Schlosshotel Götzenburg, and, hopefully, when any of us visits there next time (it is well worth it!) you'll find a bread that (like Cecilienhof Vollkornbrot) marries taste with tradition.

Schloss Götzenburg


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After reading Don Sadowsky's guest post "The Hole Truth" on Barbara's wonderful blog "Bread & Companatico", I knew I had met a kindred spirit.

Beginning with his nouvel interpretation of Munch's famous painting - how lame seemed my 12th grade essay on the same subject in comparison! - he mused on the holeyness of bread, going back to the caveman's gritty gruel and ending his discourse with St. Chad's holey grail at Tartine.

Eager to further this hole discussion I invited Don to share more of his eye-opening insights with a guest post on my humble blog. He graciously accepted, so I'm happy to present to you:


 I have a huge amount of respect for people like Daniel Leader. He treks all the way from the U.S. to Europe and dodges rolling boulders, booby traps and angry natives to find THE guy who makes the best kringenschmaltzenblinkenbrot in the world.

Daniel Leader's French Walnut Bread - not authentic?

Then he spends a decade cleaning out the stables so that the master will teach him the secrets to put in a cookbook for the likes of you and me. I’ve made some of his breads, and they’re fantastic. Authentic breads, people say.

You know another group I have great respect for? Bakers who take difficult ingredients that have been used since the dawn of time to make bricks, and manage to turn them into gorgeous, airy and perfectly shaped loaves better than anything I could make with the finest wheat flour and Peter Reinhart looking over my shoulder making helpful suggestions.

They’ll use 100% einkorn or barley to create a boule that’s better supported than a suspension bridge (and tastier too!).

100% Einkorn Bread - solution to our crumbling infrastructure?

Well crafted, impressive breads? Certainly. Authentic bread like what folks ate in the old days? Not so much. Do you really think that most people dined upon lovingly baked loaves made with golden wheat from tall fronds waving in a gentle breeze and harvested on a sunny afternoon by a smiling Tuscan ragazza in colorful garb?

To find out what authentic breads were all about, including a downloadable BreadStorm formula, please follow me to my Brot & Bread blog here!

:) :) :)

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Looking for a seasonal specialty for my customers at A&B Naturals, I came upon an Italian Christmas bread, Pinza, that, after crossing the border to Austria, switched holidays - and turned into Easter bread, Pinze.

After a solemn blessing in the church, this lovely Styrian Easter bread (often adorned by a red egg, and cut three times, to symbolize the Holy Trinity) is served with the meat on Easter Sunday.

Styria - Steiermark, home of this lovely Easter bread

There are several versions for Pinze, and it is either seasoned with vanilla or anise. The anise can be steeped in wine or cooked in milk to extract its flavor. All recipes include lots of eggs and egg yolks, so keep the Lipitor at hand, but I'm sure it is good for you, since it comes with a blessing.

I tried a Pinze version with anise, soaked in wine. Though the bread turned out quite nice, I couldn't detect much anise aroma. Therefore I decided on Petra's Easter Pinza (from her Chili und Ciabatta blog), substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat.

The bread, made in 3 steps with 2 pre-ferments, was wonderful. The only problem: its time consuming schedule would not work for my little bakery, unless I pulled off an all-nighter. So I turned to my favorite method: stretch & fold plus overnight stay in the fridge.

All egg-y goodness!

That way I could work the dough all at once, and let the folding and cold fermentation do the rest. No pre-doughs needed, very little hands-on time, and no standing around, waiting for pre-ferments and dough to rise.

In other words, the baker could hug her pillow, while the yeasties did their job!

My overnight version was just as good as the original, more involved one!

My Easter Basket

The Easter Pinze is a soft bread with a wonderful flavor. Though slightly sweet, it can be served with Easter Ham, like in Austria. Or, as we did, enjoyed simply with some good butter, or jam.

You find the recipe (plus a download for BreadStorm users) in my blog Brot & Bread.

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Plötzblog is one of Germany's best bread baking blogs. When Lutz Geißler (author of "Brot backen") invited us to his blog event blog-experiment: "Wir bauen uns ein Brot" (Let's build a bread), I was intrigued.

Of course I wanted to attend the very first "Bread Olympics"


Each participant has to bake a loaf, roll or small bread with these ingredients and these amounts:

  • 450 g (90%) wheat flour Typ 550 (or bread flour)
  • 50 g (10%) whole rye flour
  • 10 g (2%) salt
  • sourdough and/or yeast
  • water

And that's it: nothing else should be added.

But there are no restrictions on how to make your bread - method, level of hydration and leaven are entirely up to you.

This challenge was hard to resist, especially since the best of all husbands was still traveling all over Vietnam, and, after sanding and re-oiling all my kitchen counter tops, I could do with some entertainment.


My husband indulging in imperial dreams - at Dalat Summer Palace


I knew at once what kind of loaf I wanted to create - a French bread, made with Forkish's minimalistic method, and baked in a Dutch oven. I'm really enthusiastic about how you can bake a fabulous bread that is "pinched instead of kneaded."

So I opened my BreadStorm program, entered the ingredients, and started to play around with hydration levels and percentages of pre-fermented flour.


I also had to take into account the amounts of flour in my refreshed levain - 5 g bread flour and 2 g whole rye flour - and deduct them from the total.


Whether my Pain au Levain de Seigle will win at the Plötziade, or not - it definitely was a winner for me. I enjoyed its aromatic taste, crackling crust and open crumb so much that it went straight into Karin's Bread Hall of Fame!

You'll find the recipe for Pain au Levain de Seigle on my blog "Brot & Bread" here.

Or, if you are a BreadStorm-User (including the free version), you can download the formula here


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A while ago I needed to add another book from my Amazon wish list to qualify for free shipping. More or less randomly, I picked Ken Forkish's: "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast" - the price was right!

When I started leafing through the book, I was intrigued by his approach to kneading - or, better, not kneading the dough. From Dan Lepard's Pumpkin Whey Bread I knew that very brief kneading (30 seconds), followed by some folds, can be sufficient to process some doughs - but pinching?

Usually I don't mix my doughs by hand (my skin is very dry) so I used a large wooden spoon for stirring flour and water together. But Forkish is right, using your hands is much faster, and you have less cleanup afterwards.

My first take on Forkish's breads: Walnut Levain

During the pinching and folding process, the dough behaved exactly as it should: rising, then leveling out after each fold, calling for the next round. And getting more elastic and smoother after each turn!

Forkish's descriptions are precise, and detailed, but, nevertheless, there were stumbling blocks on the way, and it took more than one trial to finally master the whole process.

Why the waste? You are supposed to build a huge amount of levain, only to use a small percentage of it for your final dough - the rest goes in the trash. Sure, flour and water don't cost much, but this is definitely not my idea of frugality and environmental consciousness!

The rationale behind this waste? Beats me. The breads taste great, even when made without all this splurging. Does a loaf, made with just as much levain as needed, taste any different from one where the starter came out of a big bucket? Hard to believe!

Sticky wicket: if you don't flour the rising basket really, really well (whether lined, or not), this can happen:

Oh, nooooo!

Don't think you can ease the proofed bread with your usual gentle coaxing from the basket. Forget your good manners - your dough needs slapping! After the sticky wicket of breads that stubbornly clung, and then deflated in the extraction process, I finally checked YouTube.

Bread turned flounder (Overnight Brownie)

And there it was: I saw master baker Forkish slamming the banneton with gusto on the counter - brutal force did the trick! After this eye-opener I was less timid, and the breads finally let go.

Soft skin vs. hot pot. Not afraid of third degree burns, Ken Forkish places the bread smoothly into the Dutch oven. Others, with less experience, might not be so lucky. But there is an easy way out: the paper sling!

Use parchment paper for a painless transfer (Overnight White)

This worked well for other DO  breads I baked, like Aroma Bread. Therefore, save your skin - use parchment for a painless transfer.

Once these snafus were overcome, every bread I made from "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast", plus my "à la Forkish" variations, turned out great. "Bold baked" crust, holey crumb, and extraordinary taste - my random pick to fill my shopping cart at Amazon became one of my favorite baking books!

A&B Naturals, my favorite food store (they sell my breads!) just started carrying Einkorn flour, and I love hazelnuts.

Combining both in a loaf à la Forkish, this is the bread I came up with: EINKORN HAZELNUT LEVAIN: Here you can find my formula and description to make this tasty bread - pinching instead of kneading!

Einkorn Hazelnut Levain - pinched instead of kneaded!

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Americans and Germans have a lot in common. One is their love for cheese cake. Though both pastries taste great, Käsekuchen is distinctly different from its US cousin.

Cheesecake crust is made with cookie crumbs, very practical, and a good recycling of even stale cookies. German Käsekuchen has a short crust, more fuss, but buttery decadence.

The real difference, though, is the filling. American filling, made of mild, more neutral cream cheese, can be varied with many different flavors (like Limoncello-Cheesecake). Käsekuchen is made with quark, a fresh cow milk cheese that is less creamy, more acidic, and contains more water.

Quark (curd cheese), the base for many different types of European pastries and desserts is unfortunately hard to find in the US, or outrageously expensive - and it doesn't taste the same.

German Käsekuchen with sour cherries - my husband's favorite

Though in desserts quark will be often paired with fruits, German cheese cake bakers tend to purism, the filling might have raisins, and sometimes other fruits, like sour cherries or apples.

Another important difference: German Käsekuchen is notably less heavy and dense than its somewhat massive American counterpart (in spite of the short crust!).

Though I do like American cheese cake with its seemingly endless variations, I love my German Käsekuchen. But how to re-create it in this sadly quark-less country?

Here is how I did it - and you can, too!

No quark needed to make this Käsekuchen, lighter and less dense than it's US cousin



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