The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

nmygarden's blog

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A KAF recipe, I've long wanted to make Pane Bianco, and today was the day. I followed the published recipe, except for substituting about 25% WW and the remainder AP for the BF that is called for. The dough was lovely and easily manageable, fillings included minced garlic, sundried tomato, fresh basil, and cheeses, mozzarella and parmesan. The top of the rolled loaf is to be cut along the axis, then the loaf curved into a tight "S". I shaped first and cut second, so am not sure if the layers may have been more crisp and spread better by the original recipe. Either way, it smells great.

I hope you all are enjoying and baking!


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Stopped in to share the Focaccia we'll have with tonight's dinner, and send some home with our son and his wife. Hope you all have enjoyed a fine Spring weekend!


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After a couple of months with little baking and lots of working, I was determined to bake this weekend - to just fit it in however I could. And this is the product of that effort, Barley Walnut Cranberry Loaf.

I started out on Wednesday by refreshing and re-envigorating my starter with a couple of feedings on the counter. Friday night, I intended an overnight autolyse and soak with the dry ingredients I had chosen, my flours, barley flakes and polenta, but soon realized I had added the starter (a senior moment or simply Friday night fatigue?), so in went the salt, as well, for an overnight bulk ferment in a chilly kitchen. Up early Saturday for a couple of belated stretch and folds, and incorporated dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, shaped, popped into a basket, bagged and into the refrigerator, then I was off to the office again.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning (yep, close to 24 hours in the refrigerator - I checked it Saturday night and was glad it seemed content to continue proofing), brought the bagged basket out to the counter while the oven, stone and cloche cover heated. Sprinkled the dough with cornmeal and turned out onto parchment on a peel, then into the oven (450 F) for 20 minutes covered and another 20 minutes uncovered.

I'm happy with the result - given the level of neglect, it turned out tasty and soft, with a crisp crust, and is now sliced and frozen for easy serving. The slice I ate was plain, but it would be easy to top it with cream cheese or use it for turkey sandwiches. I'm loving reading about all the ideas, recent bakes and especially all the new members who have joined our ranks. Welcome to the party!


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The No Oven Challenge has enticed us to be creative with ingredients, methods and equipment. Members have shared breads cooked by frying, stove-top and charcoal grilling, make-shift wood fire, and steam. Lessons to be learned all around, but success, none the less!

My entry is a steamed brown bread, similar to those served in Boston and the eastern seaboard. It's whole grain - graham flour and cornmeal, leavened by baking soda, moistened with tangy yogurt, sweetened and deeply colored by molasses and a little brown sugar. Add-ins included dates and fresh cranberries.

I opted to use my slow-cooker for counter-top steaming - it rarely gets used, and would require less watching than would a pot on the stove-top. I added water to the cooker and turned it on 'high', dropped in a few mason jar rings to allow water to circulate evenly, and allowed it to heat as I was assembling ingredients. The batter came together easily and was spooned into a greased 1-qt casserole (pretested to fit into the cooker's crock), covered tightly with aluminum foil, tied with string and set into the hot crock.

The water level was adjusted to between half and 2/3 the height of the casserole. I left it to steam for nearly 4 hours. Once out and still sealed,I left it to cool for 10 minutes before removing the foil and turning it out onto a rack to cool. It had filled the casserole to the brim, but was cooked through. It was a deep caramel brown with fruit peeking through to the surface.

Sliced for serving revealed a coarse, yet moist, cake-like texture, dotted generously with fruit. We enjoyed a few slices for dessert, warmed and spread with butter. Not overly sweet, brown bread's charm is in its texture and a wholesome comforting quality. The dates provided a sweet touch that was brightly offset by the cranberries. I'm looking forward to toasting some for breakfast.

The recipe I used was fudged from one I found online from Yankee Magazine's December 27, 2015 issue, "Granny's Homemade Brown Bread". I adapted it to use ingredients I had on hand and reduced the quantities to fill my 1 qt. casserole, rather than the specified 2 qt. mold:

Original Ingredients (my substitution):

1 c graham flour (3/4 c)

1 c rye flour (omitted)

1 c yellow cornmeal (3/4 c)

1-1/2 tsp baking soda (3/4 tsp)

1 tsp salt (1/2 tsp)

3/4 c molasses (3/8 c)

(1/4 c brown sugar)

2 c sour cream (1 c nonfat yogurt)

1 c sultanas or raisins (1 c chopped dates and whole fresh cranberries)

unsalted butter ( to grease the mold)

I felt the bread may need to be sweetened to blend with the dates and offset the sharpness of the cranberries. I would do that again. I would also add nuts - pecans - but then it begins to take on a fruitcake connotation, which wouldn't bother me one bit. I would use the sour cream or full fat yogurt. The bread was moist, but it could be richer with a bit of fat. Of course, when covered in butter, it probably matters little.


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The original post for this bread credits Varda for requesting a recipe for it. The poster (whom I neglected to record - sigh), found and adapted a recipe, and it was that formula I chose to prepare. It contains whole wheat, spelt, rye and BF, along with a scald of cornmeal. It employs a 4-hour levain and an overnight bulk ferment on the counter.

There were several steps, so I had read the recipe carefully, assembled ingredients, and (thought) I followed the directions. All went fine with the levain and with the scald, but once I brought everything together for the final dough... I had soup. No way was the flour going to accommodate all that liquid. I still can't figure where I misstepped, but reviewing the formula, it was clearly my mistake.

So, Tillie (my erstwhile apprentice and harshest critic) and I conferred - it was either: toss the mess and start over or attempt a repair. Plan B it was! In went more flour, and more, and more (plus salt), nearly 400 g. How could I have mismeasured by that much?! But it came together and I left it on the wet side (% wasn't possible at this point) to allow for hydration. So into an oiled bowl for the night on the counter, and woke to this...

It looked disastrous, but all was recovered, a few stretch and folds later, it was a lovely, resilient dough that I divided into 6, rather than the intended 4 small loaves. Wow. Two hours later, it went into the oven, baked on parchment at 450F for 20 minutes with steam and at 400F for 25 minutes without. They sprang nicely, but didn't brown beyond a sunny, corny gold.

I'd like to make this one again - correctly next time - but I'm not displeased with it. The crumb is a bit closer than I would have wished, but soft and pliant, the corn flavor comes through and there's a noticeable, but not overpowering sour. There's no denying that it's homemade bread, but that's exactly what I wanted it to be.

Looking forward to seeing all the posts! Happy Homemade Bread Day!


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Time to gather your notes and ingredients for our posted challenge: Details and rules (not) are found in Dabrownman's original post, here:

Looking forward to it!


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So, I spent yesterday at the office, and left Tillie to decide what, if anything, we would bake up to celebrate the remainder of the weekend. Well, I'm thinking she spent much of her time basking in the sun and not researching, checking inventory or thinking much at all, and what was her choice? Cinnamon rolls... she decided we needed a decadent, soft, sweet and buttery treat.

I was lazy and didn't sift the powdered sugar. My brother said it's just proof they're handmade. Works for me, as long as they aren't for company.

Mmm, oh, yum... thanks, Till!!! Best baking to you all!


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Hi Everyone and Happy 4th!

Finally, a little time to relax, spend time at home with my kitties, Daisy and Tillie (shown here)

and to bake, a break from too many long weeks of long hours. The freezer was nearly devoid of breads, so a good chance to play with my hands and my imagination and restock. All told, baked goods this weekend included granola, WW English Muffins, Ciabbata and this lovely Polenta Pine Nut loaf. I've made this one before, and used notes I'd left in the margins to take it a step further - more polenta, more whole wheat and whole rye flours, a long cold retardation. And I'm happy with how it turned out, with a crisp, light crust, soft, crumb littered with toasted pine nuts and plenty of soft, golden polenta bits.

The formula included a levain:

70 g SD Starter (~100% hydration)

50 g WW flour

50 g water

The dough combined and autolysed for 1 hour

340 g water

400 g AP flour

50 g Whole Rye flour

50 g WW flour

Then added and mixed until the dough was well developed:

the Levain

11 g Salt

Then added to combine:

150 g Polenta, cooked and cooled (30 g in 120 g water)

Bulk fermented for 3 hours, with stretch and folds at the hour (just 2 this time), adding:

60 g Pine Nuts, toasted and cooled

with the first S&F. Shaped and placed in a rice flour-dusted cotton towel-lined banneton, bagged and into the refrigerator for the night.

The next day, brought it out onto the counter while the oven heated with a stone and cloche lid. Dusted the bottom with cornmeal and turned it onto parchment, scored the top and into the oven it went (450 F, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncovered another 20 minutes).

It has now been cooled, sliced, securely bagged and stashed into the freezer to enjoy in the days and weeks to come. Yea! No more empty-ish freezer. I had hoped the crumb would be a bit more open, and had added water as I mixed, aware of the extra thirsty whole grain flours that were included. Maybe a bit more water next time... 

 Thanks for reviewing with me. I look forward to seeing all the new posts.


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Three days off in a row... a luxury after months of none or one at a time, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to them. We are just two at home, so bread gets baked, cooled, sliced and frozen, then used as needed. I looked in the freezer a week ago only to find it was nearly empty of bread. Good news for these hands!

So, after some consideration, a review of ingredients on-hand, and a bit of planning, I began the process to restock, first a few basics that are preferred and consumed by my now retired husband, burger buns (with some WW snuck into the mix - he won't notice) and a Cinnamon Swirl loaf. Then it was my time to play. The artisan-type breads are my faves, so I'm free to experiment. This time, I went with a SD Multigrain Polenta Black Pepper Pine Nut bread. Loosely inspired by a polenta porridge bread posted on TFL by Emkay last May, I started with dry ingredients - too lazy to make the porridge, though I know it makes great bread. Ingredients included:

Mix and Autolyse for an hour:

30 g Coarse Polenta (dry)

50 g Wheat Germ

100 g Whole Rye flour

400 g AP flour

380 g Water


120 g SD starter (unfed from the refrigerator)

12 g Salt

Stretch and folds every 30 minutes for 2 hours, adding these with the first S&F:

1/2 c Pine Nuts, toasted

2 tsp Black Pepper, coarsely ground

Our kitchen is cool this time of year, mid-60's, so bulk fermented for 4 hours on the counter, then shaped and into a basket, bagged and overnighted in the refrigerator.

Brought it out to the counter for a couple of hours to proof and while the oven, stone and cloche heated to 500 F. Turned the loaf onto parchment, slashed it T-Rex style, spritzed it with water and loaded it into the oven for 20 minutes to steam. Uncovered it, removed the parchment and turned the temp down to 425 F, and baked for another 25 minutes, then shut off the oven and cracked open the door to crisp the crust for another 5 minutes.

I was happy to see the oven spring, a bit of blistering and toasty ears, too! Pine nuts litter the surface and the crumb, and if you look closely, you'll see pepper grinds, too. It's definitely savory, the pine nuts and black pepper come through and compliment each other and the polenta lends a homey, warm quality in the background. And I'm finding, as others have, that using AP, rather than BF, makes the crumb a bit softer. We had some last evening with a light supper of turkey meatball vegetable soup. Mmm, yum.

It will be back to the grind tomorrow, but having enjoyed a relaxing weekend. Happy New Year to each of you and here's to sharing lots more baking stories in 2016!




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This will necessarily be brief, but I wanted to post yesterday's loaf, Spelt Sprouted Wheat Date Walnut. I've been in the office more than home lately, so this one got only the attention I could provide when I could provide it, but turned out well despite the inattention. Ingredients included:

Sprouted wheat grains - about 2/3 c.

250 g Whole Spelt

350 g BF

60 g Wheat Germ

500 g Water

150 g Starter (@100%)

12 g Salt

2 Tbsp Walnut Oil

Walnut pieces, toasted - 2 handfuls

Dates, chopped - 2 handfuls

The procedure was abbreviated - soaked the wheat grains and allowed them to sprout for 24 hours (not quite long enough for this particular wheat, an organic I got through my CSA). Autolysed the flours, wheat germ and water for a couple of hours, added the salt and starter and left it at cool room temp overnight. Next morning, I did about 4-5 stretch and folds at irregular intervals over about 4 hours, incorporating the grains, oil, nuts and dates. Preshaped, then shaped and into a basket for a final rise of 2 hours. Turned out onto parchment, slashed and baked on a stone at 450 F under my cloche for 15 minutes, then about 25 minutes more at 425 F and 5 minutes with the oven off and the door open to crisp the crust.

The house smelled rich with toasted walnuts - it was so hard to leave it to cool, but I did get a piece later once it was sliced and ready to freeze. The walnut comes through, the whole grain flavors, too and a sweet surprise when you bite into a date. This one was worthy of making again and demonstrates that even when neglected, SD can make good bread that is good for us.

Happy Week and Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!



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