The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

nadira2100's blog

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Ok ok, so maybe it's not *technically* Fall yet. But down here in New Orleans we don't get seasons and lately we've been experiencing cool(er) weather than normal. Having lived in the Chicago suburbs all my life I always told myself that I would move someplace warm. Some place where it didn't get cold and it didn't snow. But now that I have the warmer weather.....I miss the changing seasons dreadfully! I miss the leaves changing color. I miss the crisp autumn air. I even miss snow on the ground around Christmas time and bundling up in winter coats and knit hats.

But my absolute favorite part of fall (and part of winter) I can have just about anywhere thankfully. I am obsessed with pumpkin. And I mean to the point where my husband tells me I have a problem. For me, Fall means feeding this addiction with Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Cheesecake brownies, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin get the idea. I *may have* even hoarded a bunch of cans of pumpkin puree last fall so I could enjoy it throughout the year. The other day I opened up my last can to make my own pumpkin coffee but I ended up adding too much spice to the mixture. I must say my little concotion was horrible and I was very disappointed. 

I had only used 1/2 the can leaving about 1 cup left. I had a firm sourdough starter happily fermenting in the fridge that I needed to use. So, this is how my pumpkin coffee sourdough came into existence. I had both in the fridge. So they both went into the basic sourdough recipe I've been using from Peter Reinharts The Bread Bakers Apprentice. 

This dough was pretty wet. My first time working with a really wet dough was.....interesting. But I have acheived the most open crumb yet to be seen in my kitchen, complete with shininess and excellent texture. The taste....I wasn't sure what to expect. But the pumpkin comes through beautifully and the coffee gives an earthy flavor that is different than what I'm used to being paired with pumpkin, probably because everything with pumpkin in it that I eat has loads of sugar in it. It's not bad by any means, and it gives the bread different dimensions that I wasn't aware even existed. I think it would go well with some apple butter, plain butter, or be good as an egg and cheese sandwich. I enjoyed a slice all by itself but then again I can do that with pretty much any bread. I think next time I'll add in some cranberries or apples to offset the savoriness of the bread, give it that sweet/tart little burst of something to go along with the squashiness of the pumpkin. 

Is the picture too small to see the shininess of the crumb? I had to use the flash in order to get it "shine" :)

Firm Starter

  • 2/3 c sourdough starter (mine is 100% hydration)
  • 4.5 oz. bread flour
  • 1/4 c water

Mix these together and let ferment at room temperature for 4 hrs. Refridgerate overnight. (I actually left mine in the fridge for a few days).

Pumpkin Coffee Sourdough

  • Firm Starter
  • 20.5 oz bread flour
  • 1 3/4 c coffee
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Let the firm starter rest at room temperature for 1 hr to take off the chill. Cut the starter into 12 pieces. 
  2. Mix together the starter with the bread flour, coffee, salt and pumpkin until a shaggy dough ball forms. 
  3. Let rest for 20min before turning out on a well floured surface. 
  4. Perform 4-5 stretch and folds, then place in a well oiled bowl for 15min. 
  5. Stretch and fold 3 times. The rest for 15 min. Repeat 2 more times, then let the dough rest at room temperature for 3 hrs. I left the house at this point to meet a friend for margaritas. 3 hrs later it had tripled in volume. 
  6. Divide the dough in half and pre-shape into boules. Let rest for 20 min before the final shaping. I made a spiral boule out of 1 and proofed the other in a banneton. After shaping, I stuck these in the fridge overnight. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 500 and take out the dough 1 hr before baking.
  8. Score and bake with steam for 2 min. Then drop the temp to 450 and continue baking for another 8 min. Rotate the bread, and bake for another 10-15min or until golden brown. 


nadira2100's picture

Every other weekend we have friends come over to our house for a little socialization and we take turns providing food. Last week was our turn and I wanted to get away from ordering take-out like we have been doing lately. I wanted to put some effort into the meal instead of being lazy so we decided on burgers and BBQ chicken. I took this opportunity to make the rolls for burgers. This is the second time making the Kaiser rolls from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and I was hoping these would turn out better than my first attempt. Turns out I was right!


The crumb was also nice and uniform with no obvious dense spots. They were soft and chewy and went wonderfully with the burgers!


Here’s a close up of the crumb….


And for the second roll, I had a serious craving for some cinnamon rolls. On Wednesday night I was looking forward to making the dough, cooking dinner, and then finishing the night with a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven right before bed. But I ran into a serious roadblock! My oven wouldn’t turn on! I have an electric oven, one where you push a button labeled “Bake” and then you set the temperature and it preheats. But every time I pressed this button it wouldn’t do anything. Nothing, no light, no preheat….nothing. My husband came downstairs to see me begging the oven to turn on….for 45 minutes straight. I don’t know how, but I finally managed to get it to turn on. I may have had to wait until 11pm to enjoy a roll, but I at least got to satisfy my craving.

Fresh out of the oven!


The next morning I had to have one for breakfast. These are seriously, dangerously good! And the thing is, every time I make these, I never make them the same way and each time they never disappoint. In my haste the night before to make a glaze you can tell I was unconcerned with the occasional lumps of powdered sugar. I just couldn’t wait to take a bite!


I had made the dough wetter than usual so it was a little messy to work with but the texture was still light and tender!

nadira2100's picture

After my sorry attempt at shaping my Pain de Campagne loaves I was itching to try again. After a suggestion from a fellow bread baker, I watched Jeffrey Hamelman and Ciril Hitz in video tutorials on how to make basic shapes. This helped more than looking at a series of pictures in a book! So this time, instead of tackling 3 different shapes, I just stuck to 1....the Batard. 

I also stuck with the same recipe for Pain de Campagne but I made my own version by adding some roasted garlic and cheddar to the dough....for something a bit different (and because I had these items in the house and wanted to use them up!). 

The day before baking, I made a preferment as follows: 



  • 5 oz AP flour
  • 5 oz unbleached bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c water


I mixed and kneaded for about 4 minutes and then let it rest on the counter for 1 hr. Before...


I then punched it down, gave it a quick knead and put it in the fridge overnight. 

The next day I took out the preferment 1 hr before mixing the final dough. 

During this time I roasted 2 small heads of garlic at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

I must say the aroma in my kitchen was phenomenal! Until recently I had never roasted garlic before, just sauteed it and I have to tell gives garlic a whole other dimension that is best described through the smell of it than words alone! So seriously...try it sometime...or maybe you have and I've just fallen way behind. 

Anyway....back to my lovely bread. I let the garlic cool on the counter, then mashed it up and set it aside.

I then put together the final dough as follows:

Final Dough


  • all of the preferment (about 16oz)
  • 8 oz unbleached bread flour
  • 1.5 oz rye flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 c water
  • all of the mashed garlic
  • about 1/3 to 1/2 c shredded cheddar (about a handful)
  1. Cut the preferment into 12 pieces.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flours, preferment, water, yeast, garlic and salt until a rough dough ball forms. Let rest for 15min.
  3. Knead or stretch and fold for about 10 minutes. Towards the end of kneading, add in the cheddar until it's all uniformly incorporated.Let rest in an oiled bowl for 30 minutes.
  4. Perform 2 stretch and folds and return it to the bowl and let it rise for about 30min to 1 hr or until it's doubled in size.
  5. Preshape the loaves by cutting in half and then forming these halves into 2 boules. Let rest for 20 minutes before the final shaping.
  6. Shape into batards and let proof seam side up for 1 hr.
  7. Flip onto a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal, score, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake at 500 degrees for 2 min with a steam pan at the bottom of the oven.
  8. Reduce the temperature to 450 and continute baking for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool completely before devouring!


Truely, this is garlic bread at it's best without all the butter. The flavor also matures over time so it was heavenly the next day! I was pleased with both my shaping and flavor profile of the bread....the garlic was there but not overpowering and the cheddar paired beautifully with it....although it may have used a bit more for color throughout the loaves, but you could at least still taste it. And the crumb.....well, light and creamy and OH! so delicious! 

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In an effort to practice my shaping techniques I decided to make Pain de Campagne from Peter Reinharts The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I think I've got shaping loaves down (as in shape and stick in a pan where the pan does most of the work), and I'm on my way to perfecting boules but I haven't really tried any other shapes. This recipe seemed pretty straight forward since it's basically just salt, flour yeast and water. I made a preferment 3 days before mixing the final dough, and used 1.5oz Rye instead of whole wheat. The book says the recipe makes 3 loaves or multiple rolls. I didn't realize this meant 3 little loaves.....

Anyway, it was late at night and I flaked a bit when it came to taking pictures during my shaping process but here are the final results. I tried the epi, the couronne, and the fendu. I was most pleased with the "wheat stalk"....even though I made the cuts before proofing rather than after (whoops). The crown and the split loaf definitely need a ton more work. Especially since my split loaf wasn't really split...

But...practice makes perfect right? Guess I'll just have to make more dough to practice with (darn!). 

And since this is my first time making this type of bread, I wasn't hopeful that my crumb would turn out like it should....but I was pleasantly surprised that the crust was REALLY crusty and the crumb was soft, moist and creamy. So what do you think? Did I get the crumb right at least?


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Feeling very frustrated that I haven't been completely satisfied with any loaf I've made within the last few weeks, I decided to make a multigrain sandwich loaf. One that doesn't require a starter. And yes this frustration includes the Portuguese Sweet Bread because, even though it was soft and the crumb was almost perfect and the color was spot on, it wasn't perfect which doesn't sit well with a perfectionist. I also made this bread because I haven't been able to make a sandwich bread that is soft and spongy like so many good sandwich loaves are. Mine turn out dense. 

With this loaf I tried a few things that I haven't done in the past with sandwich loaves. The first being I used filtered bottled water. Again, I think this was part of my problem before and I don't think I'll ever go back to using the tap. The second, most important thing I changed was the kneading method. I've been obsessed with trying to pick up any tips and tricks I could find that will improve my loaves and the Stretch and Fold method really caught my attention. 

Now let me tell you, I had my doubts. But I tried it and I think I'll be applying it in the kitchen more often.  

This particular recipe is from Peter Reinharts The Bread Baker's Apprentice.... Multigrain Extraordinaire. Loved it. I actually can't wait to make it again. The loaf lasted 2 days and that's only because we wanted to save some to make BBQed pork sandwiches from a pork roast I made on Saturday. Here is what I did with a few modifications to the recipe...


3 tbsp Quinoa

3 tbsp course ground Corn meal

2 tbsp Flax meal

1/4 c water

Mix all of this together and let it sit overnight, covered at room temperature


13.5 oz unbleached bread flour

3 tbsp white sugar

1/4 oz instant yeast (or 1 full packet)

1 1/2 tsp salt

all of the soaker

1 1/2 tbsp honey

1/2 c milk

3/4 c water

Combine all dry ingredients and whisk together. Then add the soaker and remaining wet ingredients. Mix until the dough starts to form a ball and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until everything is fully incorporated. This dough was wetter and softer than I anticipated so I had to keep my area and hands floured pretty often. Once everything seems uniformly incorporated (about 3 min), place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 min.

Remove the dough from the bowl and do the first stretch and fold. Place the dough back into the bowl to rest for 30 min. My dough tried to blow another bubble!

Repeat the stretch and fold and put the dough back into the bowl for another 30 min rest. (2 total stretch and folds, 1.5 hrs total of resting).

Shape the loaf and place into a lightly oiled loaf pan and proof until the dough has crested the pan. Mine took an hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until the internal temp registers 195 degrees. This makes 1 - 2lb loaf.

I was amazed to see how much the dough rose during the second and third resting periods and how easy it was to handle. I was also amazed at how fast it rose, and how soft and delicately delicious the flavor and crumb turned out.

I've never made a softer sandwich loaf before. I also loved the textures of the grains that I used. All I have to say is...BEST loaf I've ever made. Now I believe that I am capable of truly extraordinary bread. 

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I decided to attempt Pain au Levain again, but this time with a few changes. 

1.) I added Flax meal, Corn meal, and Rye to make my own "Country" Pain au Levain. 

2.) I baked it as 1 huge boule instead of 2 smaller ones. 

3.) I proofed for 4 hrs BEFORE retarding in the fridge this time. 

4.) I had to significantly increase the baking time due to the size of the boule.

5.) I used the starter I had stored in the freezer because I managed to screw up the one I had going in the fridge. I refreshed it 2 times before using in this recipe. 

Ok, so now that I've stated the changes, let me say that this is the first time I've ever experimented with a loaf....and by that I mean alter the flour composition and types of flours used. I think this turned out better than my first loaves in that it's definitely prettier....but I'm not overly pleased with the crumb yet. The crust is also significantly better than my first attempt. 

The day before I mixed the dough, I cut my starter into 6 equal pieces (weighing a total of about 7oz). I kneaded in 1/3 c water with 4.5oz unbleached bread flour and let that develop for 4 hrs before refrigerating it overnight. 

The next day I made the final dough by cutting the starter into 6 equal pieces (about 11.5 - 12oz) with the flours, water and salt. Here are the percentages I used....

100% UnBleached Bread Flour (18 oz)

89% Water (16oz)

64% Starter (11.5 oz)

11% Rye (2oz)

11% Flax Meal (2oz)

11% Corn Meal (2oz)

1.7% Salt (0.3oz)

I hope I did my calculations right...please tell me if I didn't. The decimal demon still gives me problems every once in awhile. Ok...maybe all the time. 

I kneaded the dough and let it rise in a lightly oiled bowl for 3 hrs. It seemed to swell a little but I couldn't tell if it was a "flattening out" compared to a swelling. Before....


But either way I continued on to shaping. Before I made my boule, though, I did do a few stretch and folds to help with structure because the dough was soft and a little wetter than my first attempt. I was nervous and decided it wouldn't hurt. So then I made my boule and put it back in my clean glass bowl to proof. I let this go for 4 hrs....I had made this at night so when I went to bed at 10pm I set my alarm for 2am to stick it in the fridge. 

The next night, I turned my loaf onto a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal and scored it, topped it with a little Flax meal and popped it in the oven.

I baked it at 475 degrees with a pan of hot water for 2 min., spritzed the oven and loaf with water and then lowered the temp to 450 for 30 min. At this point I could already tell I was a step closer to getting the loaf I want because of the oven spring (even if it wasn't as much as I would have liked to see it was still there). I kept increasing the baking time by 10 min. until the loaf registered 195 degrees. This took about 1hr 35 min.

I left it to cool until the next morning.

The crust was "crustier" and more crackly than last time (MUCH BETTER!) and the taste was great....I was able to get the mild flavor of sourdough with the nutty flax.

However, this bread is still pretty dense and I noticed it was more moist than the first loaves I made. A little more than I'd like. I'm guessing I should cut back on the hydration? As far as getting a softer/lighter crumb....should I let it proof longer? Add some instant yeast for added boost? Knead it longer? Make a better/more active starter even though when I was refreshing it, it tripled in volume within 8 hrs each time? I'm not sure what to do or what to try next so any suggestions would be very helpful!

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I've caught the bread bug! After making the sourdough (and not being completely satisfied with the results) I had the urge to make some more bread. However, I was having issues with my starter and being the impatient person I am, decided to make something that wouldn't require days upon days of refreshments and monitoring. Since my first attempt at Portuguese Sweet Bread was a disaster I thought I'd revisit this recipe and see if I could correct my mistakes. I don't have a picture of my last attempt because it was THAT bad. Yes, yes it was I'm embarrassed to say. Dense, tough, mottled crust.....not my better baking moments. This time, however, I think I got it right. Or at least I'm stepping in the right direction for the perfect loaf. 

After mixing the sponge I only had to wait about 30min before it became so bubbly that I deemed it ready to use.

So I mixed up the final dough and began kneading....and kneading....and kneading. I followed the recipe in Peter Reinharts book The Bread Baker's Apprentice and he suggests adding up to 6 tablespoons of water if needed for the dough. He also has 1/4c (I think...I don't have the book in front of me right now) powdered milk in the recipe. Both the powdered milk and the water were never added to my dough and I'm not sure they were even needed or would have made a huge difference in the final loaf. 

With the first loaf, I was pretty sure I didn't knead the dough long enough because it never did rise, and it was dense and tough and bumpy. THIS loaf I knew after the first rise that I kneaded it enough because during shaping, one loaf had a little balloon of gas poking out...almost like my loaf was trying to blow a bubble.

After shaping the boules (which I definitely need practice), I popped them in the fridge overnight. 

The next day, I took them out to proof on the counter before work and when I got home they were ready to bake. Another hint that I was on the right track.....they went from this....

to this....

So I threw some eggwash over them (I need to be more thorough in the application I think), and baked them for 30min. However, my loaves reached above 190 degrees after 35 minutes so I'm pretty sure they were done at 30min. They definitely would have been ruined had I baked them at the recommended 50-60min.

After resting and cooling I couldn't wait until morning to cut into and try a slice.

Significantly better than my first attempt and so far this is the lightest crumb I've ever achieved. The loaves are soft like they should be, the cumb is moist and light and the taste delicious! I think part of my success is the use of filtered, bottled water instead of tap. I've used tap water for as long as I can remember and New Orleans water is pretty rough. I don't know why it didn't dawn on me that the tap water could be preventing my little yeasties to do their thing. I'm not sure if that's what helped this time or not but I'm going with it!

To anyone who has made Portuguese Sweet Bread did I do? Be honest please!

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