The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

amberartisan's blog

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          Even before I was making "good" pizza dough, and perhaps even before I was born, we have had a family tradition of making Pizza on Sunday nights during the winter. The oven's heat is a welcome addition to the kitchen, and laughter and voices fill the kitchen as pies are loaded and removed from the oven. The quality of the pizza has improved a lot since I started making the crust though, all modesty aside!

          Right now, snow is trickling gently down outside and my pizza dough is fermenting while an autolyse that will become Levains a-la-Gerard is staying warm on top of the preheating oven. Music wafts into the kitchen from the stero and my mother is sitting on our brown chair with our cat on her lap, while my dad is roasting coffee and cupping. It is all very pleasant, not least for the pizza dough, which is zooming along a little too quickly! 

          Today's pizza dough is 70% wholewheat and is leavened with a mixture of young levain and yeast. I mixed it using the slap-and-fold method and then a bassinage (addition of Salt and water at the end of the mix). It felt a little slack, but over time it sucked up water and developed nicely and now I'm worried about my ability to stretch it without tearing! Next time, I will do an autolyse first to gauge hydration better. Also up for today are some breads made with Rubaud's flour blend and levain (I used salt in the levain, too, just like Gerard. The flours aren't freshly milled, though, so he would probably take umbrage at any connection to his bread!). I will mix those soon. And as a bonus, some pics of the crumbs from some of my recent bakes (country, oat/spelt levain, 100% wholewheat and 80% rye with rye chops).

Country (l) and Oat-Spelt (r)

Country Levain and Oat Levain

100% Wholewheat 

100% Wholewheat

80% Rye with Rye Chops

Happy Baking,



amberartisan's picture

Yesterday I made three doughs, one based on Bien Cuit's buckwheat fougasse recipe, one tartine-style country bread, and one naturally leavened baguette. All were delicious, but need a little work. 



This was made with 15% Wholewheat Flour, 18% Liquid Levain (79F/100% Refresh rate/2.5 hours), 82% Water, 2% overall salt. I lost my lame, so I was unable to get a super-clean score (I used a paintbrush as a mount for the razor). Oh well, still looks pretty good, albiet rustic. Crumb picture to follow, I'm not slicing it until supper.

Next is a bread made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (6%), Slivered Toasted Almonds (12%), Oil Cured Olives (6%), and buckwheat poolish. The total buckwheat in this dough is about 18%. The buckwheat really changes dough handling; I found it difficult to gauge hydration and overhydrated the dough. Next time, an autolyse will help me to properly assess the water capacity. I think the water was about 78%, but 74-75% probably works better. I used an improved mix (slap-and-fold) to develop this dough. The buckwheat dominated the aroma but was well-balanced with the olive oil and wheat in the crumb flavor. The crust was too thick but the crumb had a nice silky quality to it, probably from the oil. I will definitely work more on this bread, as it was delicious!

And finally, naturally leavened baguette. This was made with the same starter that leavened the country bread, but at a rate of 27% by flour weight. I bulked for 3 hours, rested 20 minutes, and proofed about an hour. They were clearly underproofed, as evidenced by seam splitting, but were still excellent. The flavor is phenomenal, not a hint of sourness and nicely sweet but more complex than a standard baguette. Crust was a little thick though. The chase goes on!

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I'm going to follow in @joshfoxbreadco (Golgi70's) footsteps with my own Farmer's Market blog! I own Amber Artisan Bread, a cottage food operation located in Prosser, Washington.

After waiting an agonizing 4 months to get through the layers of beurocracy, I finally have my permit and am selling!

This week, I sold $100 worth of bread in 2 hours at my 8,000 head town's farmer's market.

Since I can only take individually approved items, I decided on only a few items: Country Levain, Wholewheat Levain, and Baguettes. Next week I'm going to do 100% Rye as well.

I took 18 baguettes, 4 Country Levain, and 7 Wholehweat Levain. Originally I made 10 levain, but 5 got lost because I thought my oven was on but it was not! Won't do that again. A lot of the difficulty was making my bread fit into my high school day schedule. So I used my lunch break to autolyze doughs and feed starters, then when I came home at 3:00 PM I basically baked straight until 11:00 PM. Next morning, it was get up at 5:00 AM and bake off the retarded Country Levain loaves.

My levain and wholewheat do draw heavily off the Tartine method, but it uses a firm starter rather than a liquid.


50% AP Flour, 11.2-11.7% Protein (I used Shepherd's Grain Low Gluten)

50% Central Milling Type 85 Flour

86% Water

2.2% Salt

17% Levain (Firm - 60% Hydration, 50% AP/ 50% WW, 50% Starter. 3.5 hours @81F)

3 hour Autolyze. Short Mix, DDT 81-83F. 3.5 hour bulk with 5 folds. Preshape Round. Shape Oblong. Proof 30 minutes. Retard 10-11 hours @45F. Bake at 480 with Towel Steam for 20 minutes, then vent for 30-40 minutes, rotating as needed.



30% AP Flour, 11.2-11.7% Protein (I used Shepherd's Grain Low Gluten)

70% Whole-Wheat Flour (Split 50-50 between Hard Red Wheat and Hard White Wheat)

95% Water

2.25% Salt

15% Levain (Firm - 70% Hydration, 100% WW, 40% Starter. 3.5 hours @81F )

3 hour Autolyze. Short Mix, DDT 81-83F. 3.5 hour bulk with 5 folds. Preshape Round. Shape Oblong by "Stitching" Method. Proof 30 minutes. Retard 10-11 hours @45F. Bake at 480 with Towel Steam for 20 minutes, then vent for 30-40 minutes, rotating as needed.



95% AP Flour (Shep Grain LG - 11.2-11.7% Protein)

5% Wheat Germ

75% Water

1.8% Salt

.16% IDY

Autolyze 30 minutes. DDT 65F. Mix. Bulk 1 hour with 3 folds. Retard for 21 hours @42-43F. Divide, Preshape Oblong. Rest 45 minutes. Shape in 2 stages, depending on tenacity. Proof 30-45 minutes. Bake with steam 18 minutes, then vented as needed until browned to a reddish tinge.


AND... PICUTRES!!! Which can be found on my instagram feed, @amberartisan.

Left: Preshaped dough. Levain on the right side, wholewheat on the left. 36 pounds of dough! Yahoo!

Right: Baguetes rising in their couche. Shaping still needs work, obviously!


Left: Wholewheat Cooling on Racks. Nice ears for such high hydration, if I do say so myself.

Right: Baguettes in the market transport tub.

Left: Levain cooling on the cooling rack.

Right: Wholewheat Crumbshot.

Left: Baguette Crumbshot.

Right: Levain Crumbshot.

Left: Giant gluten bubble!

Right: Dough covered hands, the photo button was pressed using my toe, so it is still a selfie!

amberartisan's picture

I am continuing my journey into mastering this one loaf - and this marks 4 in a row that have been nearly perfect. Still 20% WW, 19% Very Active Firm Starter (VAFS).

Like @pipsbread, I am using mostly instagram now to chroncile my Baking journey. 

Check me out at @amberartisan.

ALSO: After saving 2 grad from summer jobs, I am intending to purchase a Rofco B-40 oven at christmas time and tremendously expand my prodcution level to include 2 or 3 farmer's markets in the summer! I'll keep you posted on Instagram.

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I was impressed when I cut into the loaf!

Like it when my crumb matches that of my "heroes" (chad or phil (PiPs)).





amberartisan's picture

Today I baked my standard country levain using my typical formula:

  • 85% AP
  • 15% WW
  • 82.5% Water
  • 19% 50%WW-50%AP-60%Water-50%Fresh Inoculant Levain - 4 hours @27C. 
  • 2.25% Salt (Amounts to 2% after figuring in the starter - may try reducing eventually along with .5-1% water)

Autolyze 1 hour. Add Levain (cut up) and Salt, Mix until the levain no longer feels chunky. DDT 27C.

Bulk ferment for 3.5 hours, with 5 folds every 30 minutes. Your time may vary, its been as low as 3 hours and as high as 4.25. 

Preshape round. Bench 30 minutes. The small loaves were scaled to 500g, the large ones to 850g. 

Shape oblong or round. I used the SFBI's method shown in the Type 70 Formula for Oblongs, Chad's book method for rounds.

Retard 12 hours @45F. Bake with steam @480F, until a rich brown color.

Large LevainsLarge levains- Scaled to 850g. Crosshatch Scored Boules and Bâtard with Single Score.

Small LevainsSmall Levains - Scaled to 500g. Scored several different patterns.

Submitted to YeastSpotting.


PS I am getting a Washington State Cottage Foods Permit! You can check out my website at .

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Today I baked a wholewheat Miche. The formula was as follows:

50% hand-bolted hard white whole-wheat flour, 

25% Hard Red Whole Wheat

15% Soft White Whole-Wheat (next time I will use 15% Hard Red and 25% Soft White)

10% AP Flour (I got lazy because I didn't want to mill more flour on my mill!)

105% Water 

16% Fresh Firm Levain (WW with 60% hydration, 50% inoculant) - DDT 27C

2.25% salt

Autolyze 1.5 hour, holding back 5% water.

DDT 24C. Ferment for one hour at room temperature. Retard dough in bulk @7-8C for, in my case, 12 hours. It could have gone to 15 maybe. 17 if I drop the levain to 13 or 14%.

Divide. Preshape 2 hours. Ferment the final dough at 25-26C for 2 to 3 hours (I retarded again for 5 hours.)

Score. Bake at 450F with steam first 20 minutes, then vented at 420 for another 40 minutes. This bread requires a full bake.


I am pleased with the results, although not totally. Crumb could have been a bit more open, and flavor a bit sweeter and more robust. Next time I will autolyze for about 4 hours and use more soft wheat. All flour except the hard red will be hand bolted. Wish my wholewheats were like PiPs! Maybe his softer wheats help him out some?



PS This bread convinced me that wholewheat bread could be quite enjoyable! I could probably do a good job with fully unsifted WW, too. Or use the bran to make "toadies" and add those in after 1 hour of bulk as a soaker!


amberartisan's picture

Lately I've been having inconsistencies with the Levain I bake. Sometimes the cell structure is too tight and the taste too acidic, sometimes I get a tight crumb with no acidity whatsoever, indicating a lack of micro-organism activity, and sometimes, I get a beautiful open crumb and just a hint of acidity, which is my ideal pain au levain. This week, I baked my levain (which is always 80% AP, 10% WW, and 10% Rye), with 12% Prefermented flour and using a stiff levain 84-16 (AP:WW) instead of a liquid 50-50 to generate the fermentation. 

Total Formula: AP 400g, WW 50g, Whole Rye 50g, Water 395g (79%), Salt 10g.

  1. Levain: 50g AP, 34g Water, 12g Seed (Liquid), 1g Salt. Mine ripened in 16 hours @ 72F or so.
  2. Autolyze: Mixed remaining flour and water less 25g. DDT 78F, mine read 77 after mixing. Let stand 1 hour.
  3. Mixing: Add remaining water and salt. Pinch together, then do slap and fold until tighter.
  4. Bulk: Mine was 4.5 hours, with 4 folds or so every 30 minutes.
  5. Preshaping; Shaping: I used Chad Robertson's shaping techniques to get a batard shape (see:
  6. Proofing: Mine was about 2.5-3 hours @ 76F or so.
  7. Baking: 480F with Sylvia's Steam first 15 minutes or so, then another 30 minutes to finish.

The bread's flavor was very close to my ideal: Sweet, with a hint of acidity, mostly lactic, and a memorable aftertaste. The cell strucutre was open on most of the batard, though not as amazing as what, say, PiPs does. The bread was probably a little underproofed, judging by a couple of minor blowouts that occured on the loaf's size.

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I baked Ciabatta yesterday. Turned out quite well, the crumb is very yellow. It looks like the one in Ken's Artisan Bakery except more yellow. It is feather-light, with a very open cell structure. Flavor is AMAZING! Last time I tried Hamelman's 73% Hydration Ciabatta with a hand mix and it came short. So I tried (this bake) 80% Hydration, and got the results I wanted. The flour was Shepherd's Grain Low Gluten (11.2% Protein)

BIGA (30% Prefermented Flour) - 150g flour; 90g water, 0.1g instant yeast (I salted mine w/0.8g because of summer temps). Let stand 12-16 hours @ 70F.

AUTOLYZE: Mix 350g flour, 310g water. Let stand 20-30 minutes. I can't remember if I held back any of that water or not. Sometimes when I hold back I have a hard time incorporating the remaining water. 

MIX: Add 1.5g instant yeast and 10g salt (I salted my Biga, so I added only 9.2g salt). Either way, the total salt should be 2%. DDT 76F.

BULK: 3-4 hours. My kitchen was 72F, and took about 4 hours. I did S & F in container 3-4 times during this period, plus some air kneading.

PROOF: Divided into some rectangles and some panini shapes. Shaping is up to you, just don't handle the dough, or gas will be lost. I proofed in the fridge for 3 hours (Oh yeah- and a skin formed, but it was fine!), because I had to go to work (part-time job @ accountant's office. Saving up for college!). I gave 1 hour floor time while my levain baked, then loaded into a steamy (Sylvia's Steam) 500F oven. Crust looked shabby because I fogot to heavily flour the loaves pre-loading, which contributes to the rustic look of Ciabatta. Will do next time!


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I was going to make Pain au Levain in the tartine style, 12% Prefermented flour, warm water in the levain, fermented for 8 hours, 1 hour autolyze. My target hydration was 81%. I poured the (warm) water for the autolyze and realized it felt... runny, not just wet (I routinely do bread in the 80-85% hydration range, but really wet. I looked at my paper where I had made the scaling calculations to make 3 boules and I found, upon double checking, that my dough was 100 percent hydration! 

That was never going to work. I added enough flour to bring the hydration down to 86%, the may I thought was workable (add too much and the levain is too dilute...), and I added salt as well. I fermented it, giving me a super-loose dough, almost as loose as the same dough with 83% hydration and 25% einkorn flour. I decided to make 1 large almost miche-size loaf to compensate for the extra flour and I baked it long and bold. Lo an behold, though, the crumb! That got me thinking, what hydration does Chad really use in his bakes?? I also baked the Barley-Flaxseed bread from his book, using 12% Prefermented flour instead of his 7%. I tasted phenomenal. The poor scoring may be responsible for the slightly dense crumb. Also, Chad's hydrations seem off with the Porridges, I do 80% in the total dough (keeping his %s in the proodige itself).



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