The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I made my first attempt at Hammelman's Olive Levain yesterday and am pleased with the result.  The formula calls for mixing in the olives on the low speed in your mixer once you are done kneading but that didn't work for me.  I dumped the whole mess out on the counter and worked in the olives by hand kneading.  I retarted the formed loaves for about 5 hours while out for an afternoon hike then baked it up  as the centerpiece for dinner.  The flavor is fantastic and the olives have infused their taste througout the loaf.  I think I'll be making this one again.

The loaves:



The crumb:


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Wow, it's been a bit over a year since my last post.  Time to rectify that!  I baked my first loaf in 2012 a few days ago.  I meant to bake Susan's Simple Sourdough but after going by memory and adding too much water I had to improvise a bit to keep the overall hydration in the ballpark of what it should be.  Anyhow, the loaf turned out great, with a crackly crust and a fairly open crumb.  Best to all your baking efforts in 2012.

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I needed something to accompany Christmas dinner.  I went with something that doesn't take a ton of effort and produces a fairly reliable tasty loaf.  I found one of David's recent postings on his masterpiece formula: San Joaquin Sourdough Updated (thanks David) and went forth.  I followed the formula fairly close except that being away from home I'm lacking a few standard tools and supplies.  I substituted the rye flour with whole wheat.  I also did not have a stone to bake on so I went with my fall back method - no preheat.  The ready to bake loaf is placed in a cold oven with a pan of water on the lower rack.  The oven is turned on and the prolonged time the burner is on creates plenty of steam and enough intense heat to cause some good oven spring.  And boy did I get oven spring.  This is one of the most impressive looking loaves I have produced.  You can carry this loaf by the ear.  The taste was great, as usual, and I even got some cracking of the crust.  I hope you all had a great Christmas.  On to the pics....

The loaf


Happy Holidays TFL'rs!!

Happy Holidays TFL'rs!

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After reading several posts about Hammelman's Vermont sourdough with increased whole grain I decided to give it a try.  I've been impressed with my results from the basic Vermont Sourdough and this version didn't let me down either.  I found the errata sheet on the web here: ( ) and used those amounts to put the formula together.  I proofed one loaf in the kitchen (~67 degrees) and the other in the garage (~50 degrees) to account for the extra time the second loaf would be proofing while the first one baked.  I baked the loaf from the kitchen first followed about an hour later by the one from the garage.  I baked both using the 'magic bowl' steaming method.  There was quite a difference in the loafs. The kitchen loaf didn't have much oven spring, while the one from the cooler garage had great oven spring and is one of the best looking loafs I have ever baked.  The crumb is similar in both loaves.  The taste is great, although I can't say there is much of a taste difference between the two loaves. I will definitely be making this formula again.  Here is a pic of the loaf with the great oven spring:

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I've been attempting to improve my baguette making skills over the past few weeks.  This weekend I came up with my own formula based on a few of the things I learned from my last effort's with Pat's (proth5's) baguette formula.  Most notably I wanted to come up with a relatively low hydration formula using AP flour.  I also wanted to get a bit of whole wheat flour in the mix as well, and come up with enough dough to make two decent sized baguettes .  With that in mind I came up with the following formula which I calculate to be at 66% total hydration:

  • 100 g starter (60% hydration)
  • 280 g AP flour
  • 30 g ww flour
  • 210 g water
  • 12 g salt

I followed the steps below:

  • Refresh starter the night before
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl to a shaggy mass, allow to autolyse 30 minutes
  • Fold in bowl, about 20 strokes two times at 30 minute intervals
  • Remove from bowl, stretch and fold then place in container and bulk ferment approximately 3 hours
  • Divide dough and shape two baguettes, allow to rise approximately 2 hours
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 475

All went well, including shaping, which I always struggle with when making baguettes.  At this hydration scoring goes better for me than if I am working with a higher hydration dough.  Here is a visual of what I came up with:

I was pretty pleased with crust and crumb and went to the taste test and that is where the disappointment set in.  This was the flattest tasting, most flavorless bread I can recall tasting.  I sat and thought "What went wrong?"  The solution didn't come to me right away, but later in the afternoon I remembered I didn't ever add the salt!  I've forgotten the salt before but I've always remembered at some point and have been able to get it worked in before baking.  Well, I guess it's another lesson learned.  I finished up the first loaf with the help of lots of honey and jam.  I took the second loaf and did with it what I have been doing with a lot of my leftover baguettes:  sliced, added butter and garlic salt, wrapped it in foil and placed it in a ziplock in the freezer.  I come home from work and throw the foil wrapped frozen loaf in the oven for about 30 minutes at 325 and you have great tasting garlic bread to accompany your dinner.   Hopefully using it as garlic bread will help the flat taste!

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It's been a long while since I posted.  Summer came and bread baking was put on the back burner.  With fall comes colder temps and more time around the house, so back to bread baking I go.  I've actually baked quite a few loaves in the past weeks but have not posted them.  Anyway, I won't attempt to catch up but will post today's bake at least!


The last couple weekends I've been making a batch of sourdough baguettes.  After running across David's post on PRoth's baguettes I decided to give them a try.  This is a fairly low hydration dough that results in a open crumb and actually uses AP flour.  I was pleased with the results.



It's always good to have a little homemade soup  with your fresh bread!

Link to David's post:  Pat's (proth5) Baguettes

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Today I made Ciabatta Rolls from the formula found in "Local Breads".  This is of course a very wet dough but since there isn't really shaping involved it's pretty fun to work with.  Instead of loaves I stretched the dough out and used a pizza cutter to make rolls. 


I placed these on parchment and let rise for about 30 minutes, until they start to get 'pillowy' - yes a very technical state of dough.


Pop them in the oven and in a few minutes you have great rolls.


Sorry, no crumb shots, these are for a potluck tomorrow.  They are really light though so I'm pretty sure the crumb is as you would expect, open and chewy.


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Recently I baked Oatmeal Cinnamon Rasin bread form Hammelman's "Bread".   There are a few good write ups on this bread on this site, just do a search... I adapted the formula somewhat so I'll give you the details.  First of all, the home version makes 3 loaves and that was too much for me so I resized everything to make two 1.5 pound loaves, and while converting I converted everything to grams as I find using grams is more precise.  Also, instead of using just rasins I had a mix of dried canberries, currants, cherries and pomegranates that I substituted for half of the rasins.  Here is what I came up with for a formula:


  • 456 grams bread flour
  • 152 grams whole wheat flour
  • 100 grams rolled oats
  • 380 grams water
  • 66 grams milk
  • 45 grams honey
  • 45 grams oil
  • 13 grams salt
  • 7 grams yeast
  • 10 grams cinnamon
  • 100 grams rasins
  • 100 grams dried cranberry blend


Soak oats in the warm water used for the formula for 20-30 minutes

Soak rasin mix in enough water to cover (this is advised to avoid burning the rasins while cooking)

Mix all ingredients except the rasins together and mix for 3-4 minutes once ingredients come together 

Drain rasin mix and add to dough, mixing an additional minute.  I did not pat the rasin mix dry and the consistency of the dough went from being very stiff to one that was sticky and loose.


Dough after mixing


Bulk ferment:

I placed in a covered container and let rise for a total of approximately 2.5 hours.  During that time I performed 2 stretch and folds since the dough was feeling rather sticky and I wanted to build up the strength.  Hammelman says that this dough can be bulk fermented overnight, which may be a good option for those looking for a warm breakfast loaf. 

Shaping and final ferment:

I divided into two loaves and shaped as you would a sandwich loaf, rolled the top of the loaves on a wet towel and then pressing them in some dry rolled oats for decoration then placed them in a standard 1.5 pound loaf pan.  I covered and let rise until the dough started to top the pan, 1.5 to 2 hours (I wasn't really watching the clock).


I baked at 450 F for the first 15 minutes and then lowered the heat to 425 until the internal temperature reached about 200 F.  I did not steam the oven.  Total bake time was about 40 minutes...sorry I'm not much of a clock watcher.




This bread has a great well balanced flavor, it is not overpoweringly sweet nor does it have a really strong cinnamon taste, the flavor of the wheat is still there.  For me what probably made this bread one that I would make again is the mix of dried fruits I substituted for half of the rasins.  I've never been a huge fan of rasin breads but the varying flavors of all the other fruits really give this bread a unique flavor.  I imagine you could substitute many different variations of dried fruits, I just happened to look in the cupboard and added these on a whim.  This bread is great toasted, give it a try if you are looking for a good breakfast bread.



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A few days ago I made Lavash Crackers from Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice.

Anyone that owns this book has likely paged past the photos of these great crackers and has felt compelled to make them.  I've made them a few times before and always enjoy them as they make a great snack or tool for dipping into a variety of items.  Common toppings I use are sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chili powder and caraway.  I've tried both breaking these into pieces and cutting them before cooking as I did this time around.  I've typically brushed these with an egg wash before applying the toppings though this time I followed Reinharts direction and brushed with water.  I decided I prefer the egg wash as it provides a better looking deep golden finished look.  You can make these easily in an evening and try a lot of different toppings.  Consider giving them a try if you haven't yet!


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Inspired by Susan's post on her sesame sourdough I recently made my own attempt. I admit it isn't as pretty as hers but the taste is great and the crumb is also to my liking. Follow the above link to Susan's blog for details if you are interested in the formula.  I followed her formula pretty closely.  My ferment was approximately 20 hours.  The only other thing is that I am in so much of a habit of creating steam by adding ice to the cast iron lid on my lower oven rack I completely forgot I was going to try the 'magic bowl' method until I took the loaf out of the oven and noticed the bowl sitting on the counter, ready to be used.  So much for mise en place! Here are a couple pics of my version:

From bread

From bread


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