The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

lumos's blog

lumos's picture

In my previous entry, I blogged about the latest attempt in my years-long desperate journey of trying to make baguettes, as closest as possible to the real thing, only using a mixture of various flours easily available in UK (without having to buy real Type 55/65 in bulk to save P & P and risk of all the bags get infested by flour bugs, again).

The result was not too satisfactory; the crumb was nice and light but too soft-ish and fluffy to my liking and not enough random large holes, though it had a lovely crisp crust and quite agreeable flavour. We had one of them (less of a looker) for dinner on that day and I froze the other one. This frozen one had much better grigne and more volume, so I was hoping the inside would be better than her ugly sister.

Today, I defrosted and sliced it horizontally to make sandwiches for lunch. The inside had slightly more open texture and a bit more large holes than the other one......

(…nor the holes evenly spread through the crumb. Blame my handling not the flour…)




……but not that much more as to send me to the baguetty-heaven. No. However, the crust remained very crisp even after it’s defrosted (@ room temperature for 1 1/2 hrs), much crispier than my regular baguettes would be when defrosted. This was a happy surprise…..No.1.

Today’s filling was Parma ham and watercress with generous dollops of French mayonnaise by Maille, with a hint of Dijon mustard, naturally. Then came the second happy surprise. I'd really want my baguettes to have lots of large, random holes all over, but the problem with this kind of ‘superior’ baguette is it’s not really a good disign as a recipient of spread when you make a sandwich with it. Butter, mayonnaise, mustard or whatever you spread on it tends to disappear into those huge abyss and, as the result, you end up eating too much spread which often overwhelms the filling. But, because this one didn’t have so many large holes at all, spreading the mayonnaise was a piece of ca…….bread. 


But those two happy surprises was nothing to compared to what I discovered next. The softish airy crumb and its subtle sweetness, which I’m usually not keen on to find in baguettes, was actually very good vehicle for sandwiches, complimenting the fillings very well, without that unmistakable self-assertiveness a very good baguette tends to have (“Eat me! I’m here! I am GOOD!!”). ……I think I might find a new raison d'etre for this flour in my kitchen. Not quite Cinderella, but still it’s a nice discovery that even a humble pumpkin can be a reliable carriage.



So… long journey in search for a formula of perfect home-made baguettes will still continue….


lumos's picture


As I’ve mentioned in a few posts , until I can find a magic and perfect solution for preventing a large stock of flours infested with flour bugs, I’ve got to make do with whatever flour I can find in local shops/supermarkets to make baguettes and other French breads instead of using proper Type 55 or Type 65 flour. So I’ve been experimenting on combinations of various flours for a while now since I experienced  the invasion and empire building by flour bugs some years ago and stopped ordering lovely flour from Shipton Mill which I still miss.  For larger loaves, like pain de campagne-type breads, I think I’ve more or less found out a reasonably good, reliable combinations of flours to achieve what I want to achieve, but for baguettes I’m still in the thick of experiments; eternal state of purgatory, between many illusions of possible heaven in sight and crashing down to hell. (Yes, I's only just flours, but my handling skill as well.....)

A couple of weeks ago, my regular Typo 00 flour for pasta making (Organic. Imported from Italy. Can’t remember the name…) was out of stock at my local Waitrose, so in desperation I bought Dove’s Farm  Organic Pasta Flour from another supermarket. The pasta I made with it wasn’t very successful. It produced much softer dough with not much ‘bite’ to speak of, compared to my regular one.  So I was left with a half-empty bag of pasta flour with which I don’t want to use for making my pasta again….. I used a part of remaining flour for focaccia one day and it turned out quite alright, got a feel of how it’d behave as ‘bread flour.’ Still really soft, but it had a nice flavour and quite appealing delicate shade of creamy colour to the crumb.  So a few days later, I mixed it with strong flour to make my regular Petit Pain Rustique with Poolish (based on Hamelman’s formula with a bit of twist…or two), replacing my usual plain flour. It worked alright; more airy and lighter than plain+strong combination, though the crumb structure was a bit too uniform to my liking; more even small holes than random large holes. But it was acceptable enough, and more importantly, it tasted good.

So yesterday I decided I’d try this on my regular baguettes recipe and see how it’d work. And this is how I made it...


Poolish Baguettes - Spiked with Pasta Flour

(makes 2 x 40cm mini-baguettes)


117g  Waitrose Organic Strong flour

8g  Becheldre Stoneground Rye flour

125g  water

0.1g  Instant yeast 

- Mix all the ingredients, cover and leave at room temperature overnight (12-16 hrs, or maybe shorter or longer, depending upon your room temperature)


Final Dough

All of above poolish. at its peak

75g  Waitrose Organic Strong flour

60g  Dove’s Farm Pasta flour

Scant 1 tbls  wheat germ

Instant yeast  0.7g

5g  good quality sea salt (Sal de Gris, if I have. If not Maldon’s)

60g  water 

  1. Mix both flours with wheat germ, yeast and salt (ground fine if coarse) in a large bowl and add water and active poolish.
  2. Mix into a shaggy mess and rest for 30 minutes.
  3. 3 sets of S & F every 20 minutes.
  4. Cover and cold retard in a fridge for 6-7 hours.
  5. Take it out from the fridge and leave for 30 minutes –1 hr until the dough almost returns to room temperature. (It’s easier to work with if it’s slightly colder and less risk of over-fermentation this way)
  6. Pre-shape and shape into baguette shape, as you’d normally do to make baguettes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven at the highest setting, with a tray of pebbles for steam and a baking stone in it.
  8. When the baguettes are properly proofed (It usually takes around 40-50 minutes or so at this time of year….inEngland. Finger-poke test is essential!), spray inside the oven very generously to make it moist before it receives the dough. (or you can place a dish of water when you start pre-heating, but I always forget to do so….)
  9. (Now, you’ve got to do these very smoothly and quickly!) Score the baguettes, spray the surface with water, load the bagettes into the oven (I usually place the dough on re-usable oven sheet and slide it onto the baking stone), pour half a cup of boiling water (yes, you’ve got to put the kettle on when your bagettes are ready to be baked) onto the pebbles, shut the door immediately, turn the oven temperature down to 240 C….and relax for 10 minutes.
  10.  After 10 minutes, remove the tray of pebble stones and, if you think the baguettes are getting too dark too quickly, turn the temperature down to 220 C and bake for another 12-15 minutes or so.


 (Hope you're all kind enough not to notice the ragged scoring on the baguette in the back ...)


A vertical shot….


From slightly different angle....



.....and lastly and more importantly....this is how the crumb looked like. 

 Hmmmmm……well, it’s not as randomly-holey-airy as I would like, and the crumb was a bit too fluffy and soft to my liking (I like my baguette moderately chewy with a slight bite), but the crust was very crisp and lovely and the taste of both crumb and crust were quite agreeable.  This is the crumb shot for the uglier looking one (wanted it to disappear from the surface of Earth quicker). I froze the other one, so I'm hoping I'll find slightly more open crumb when I slice into it in a few days time,  because it gained more in volume during baking. But there's no guarantee..... 

 I think I can explore more possibilities in using this pasta flour for bread making, but I’m pretty sure my desperate journey of the quest for a baguette with improvised flours will still continue for some time….



lumos's picture

As I said in my first blog entry, I made a new WW sourdough for the friend, this time with CORRECT amount of salt. And this is how it came out.

 …..with a better ear…..


I also baked two other breads; cocoa flavoured sourdough with cranberry and walnuts (top right) and my friend’s favourite sourdough (top left).


Today, I’d like to share the recipe for the cocoa sourdough with you.


Cocoa Flavoured Sourdough with Cranberry and Walnut

(For 2 loaves)

Very active S/D (75% hydration)  120g

Strong Flour  300g*(See 'Note1' below)

Plain Flour  150g*(see 'Note1' below)

WW Flour  50g

Instant active dried yeast  1/4tsp

Skimmed Milk Powder  2tbls

Cocoa powder  25-30g

Salt 9g

Clear honey  1tbls (or more if you like it sweeter)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil  1 1/2 tbls

Water (Filtered or bottled)  370 - 380g

Filling … Dried cranberry and walnuts *(See 'Note2' below)  total 120 – 150g 

  1. Feed S/D twice during 8-12hrs period before you plan to use it.
  2. Mix flours, skimmed milk, cocoa, dried yeast and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Put S/D, water, honey and olive oil in a separate bowl and mix to loosen S/D.
  4. Pour S/D water mix onto the bowl of flours and mix until no dried bits is left. (Cocoa powder seems to have a tendency to stiffen the dough, so you may want to add a little more water)  Cover and rest for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Stretch and Fold in a bowl for 3 times at 45 minutes intervals.
  6. Bulk ferment overnight (or 10-16 hrs) in a fridge.
  7. Take the dough out of the fridge and leave for 30 minute-1 hr to bring it back to room temperature.
  8. Take the dough out onto a worktop and spread into a large rectangle.
  9. Sprinkle 2/3 of cranberries and walnuts (broken into small pieces) onto 2/3 of the surface of the dough. Letter-fold the dough, the part without the filling first. Sprinkle the rest of the filling onto 2/3 of the folded surface of the dough, again, the part without the filling first. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.
  10. Divide the dough into two and pre-shape. Rest for 15-20minutes.
  11. Shape and put in banettons. Final proof.
  12. Bake in a pre-heated pot/pyrex casserole with a lid at 240℃ for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 210℃ and bake for another 20-25 minutes.

Note 1 :  I think US TFLers can use  450g AP flour instead of the combination of strong & plain flours like me.

Note 2 : I usually dry-roast walnuts in a frying pan before I use it to improve the flavour, but it’s optional.


Here’s a close-up pic of the bread.

 I sprinkle quite a generous amount of rice flour into a banetton, as you can guess from this picture. It’s partly to prevent cranberries from staining the banetton and partly to prevent the surface from becoming too dark and sometimes too bitter during baking because of high fat content of cocoa powder.

 This loaf was for the friend so obviously I don’t have the crumb shot, but I made another loaf for ourselves a couple of days ago (of which I forgot to take picture, of course…) and I miraculously remembered this morning to take some pictures of the very last few slices (phew….).


(Excume me for the blurred picture. It was very early in the morning...)

This bread has a really lovely deep flavour thanks to cocoa powder and, of course, you can enjoy many variations by changing the fillings;  another friend's children love chocolate chips (milk chocolate for them) in it while their mum likes only with walnuts.  White chocolate works very well to contrast the not-sweet-cocoa-flavoured crumb, and a combination of dark chocolate chips and almond is rather good, too.  In other words, the world is your oyster, you mix-in whatever filling you fancy! :)


Will post the recipe for the other bread (the friend's favourite sourdough) in a few days time.

Happy Baking!....with correct amount of ingredients.:p



lumos's picture

So here’s my first blog entry here at TFL. After lurking and secretly stealing and borrowing brilliant recipes and ideas from wonderful TFLers for a few years, only contributing very occasionally to the community with odd comments here and there, I decided (nudged by my fellow Essex TFLer, maxwellion) it’s ‘bout time I should pay back my long-overdue debt with some humble offerings of my recipes and  what I’ve learned from not-always-perfect bread making experiences.

Yesterday, I baked my regular WW sourdough loaves, one for my friend and the other for ourselves. This is a favourite of another friend of mine who’s kind enough to buy my breads every week, so I’ve baked this many, many times before and it always turns out quite nice. Very reliable recipe…..except for yesterday. I contemplated for a long time whether this should be my first blog entry or should I wait until I get more satisfactory (=less embarrassing) result. But, heck, if I start from a bottom, the only way is UP!

(Excuse my English. It’s not my first language….Been using this excuse for about a million years now….)


Here’s the basic recipe and method for this bread.


Ingredients (for one loaf )

200g  Wholemeal flour 

90g  White strong flour 

10g Rye flour 

1 tbls  toasted wheat germ

125g  active sourdough (75% hydration) *see the note below

210-220g Water 

1/8 tsp or less instant dried yeast (optional)

6g  Sea salt

2 tsp-1 tbls good quality olive oil  (optional, for slightly improved keeping quality) 

*Note - Apologies for unusual hydration level. Most of my bread I make are 70-75% hydration, so this is how I’ve been keeping the hydration of my sourdough to make adaptation of new recipes easy for me. I believe Shiao-ping used to keep hers at this level, too.  I always feed SD twice before I use it to make sure it’s active.



Feed the sourdough twice in 10-14 hrs before you use it.

Mix all the flour and instant dried yeast (if using) in a large bowl.

In a separate small bowl, put water and sourdough (cut in to small pieces) and mix a little to loosen the sourdough.

Pour the sourdough water mix into the bowl with flour and yeast, mix into shaggy mess until there’s no dry flour.  Autolyse for 40 minutes.

After autolyse, sprinkle sea salt and S&F in a bowl (8-10 strokes, turning the bowl gradually as you S&F).  Cover and rest for 40-45 minutes.

Do another 2-3 sets of S&F every 40-45 minutes, adding olive oil before the second S&F, if using.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cold retard in a fridge for 12-16 hrs.

When cold retard is done (I’ve been using a few, large air-bubbles on the surface of dough as the sign when it’s done), leave it at room temperature for 30 minute-1hr and pre-shape and  shape into whatever shape you desire, put it in a banneton and final-proof at room temperature for how-long-it-may-need-to-take.

Pre-heat oven to 240C with a lidded pot (Dutch oven/cast iron pot/Pyrex casserole/whatever you have) in it.

When the dough is ready (finger-poke test!), turn it out to a sheet of baking parchment (cut to a slightly larger size than your baking pot), slash the top and transfer it to the heated pot with the parchment.

Bake 20 minutes, covered, remove the lid/cover, lower the temperature to 210-220C and bake another 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat but leaving the bread inside the oven for 10 minutes with a door open ajar.


Easy enough. It works fine everytime without any drama.....except for this time.  I noticed the dough was fermenting a bit quicker than usual while the S&F sessions, the dough feeling weirdly softer and more extensible. It almost felt as if I were playing with a ball made out of old and weak elastic bands, only stickier.  I attributed it to slightly warmer and murkier weather last few days (though it wasn’t that warm yesterday) and completed S&F sessions quicker than usual and put the dough in the fridge as soon as it's done. But…..when I checked the dough in the morning, there’re so many huge bubbles on the surface of dough, much more than usual and could see the top of the dough was starting to sag in the middle a bit. Sure sign of over-fermentaion! (usually I can leave it in a fridge until around mid-day with no problem)  I quickly pre-shaped and shaped without waiting for the dough to come to room temperature, let it finish the final proof in a shoter time than usual while warming up the oven + my trusted Pyrex casserole, slashed and baked as usual.  While I was pre-shaping and shaping, I noticed the dough was much, much stickier (even more than previous evening)  than usual (hence the overly-white surfaces on the finished breads from tons of rice flour I sprinkled in the bannetons) , felt much weaker and it was very difficult (almost impossible) to achieve good enough surface tension.  So I feared for the worst, half expecting the dough would collapse while baking, but fortunately it had good enough oven spring, got reasonable ears and volume, smelled alright. I was really relieved that I din’t have to make another (better) one for the friend, froze one of them to keep until I see this friend on Friday. (Have to make 3 more loaves of different variety for her, so making a loaf or two at a time. Not enough space in my fridge to cold ferment 4 loaves!)

This is how it came out…(Sorry I just realized how bad I’m at taking  close-up photos)


A reasonably respectable ear….


An obligatory crumb shot, of course…

(the white streaks are the trace of tons of flour I had to use during pre-shaping and final shaping because of extreme stickyness of the dough)

This morning I sliced the other one to have it at breakfast and….. understood the reason for  all those weird and unusual behaviour by the dough. I forgot to double the amount of salt though I was baking two loaves…… Nothing to do with ‘slightly warmer' (which was not) weather after all. Just my usual carelessness.


I’ve just fed my sourdough to make another loaf for my friend tomorrow.…


Subscribe to RSS - lumos's blog