The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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On July 2, 2011, I drove from Sacramento down to the San Francisco Bay area and (among other things) visited two rather famous bakeries, Acme Bread Company and Tartine Bakery.

Acme's store in Berkeley was first stop.  It was a very small place and there was a line of customers out the door.  I snapped a couple photos of their sign and the profusion of breads visible through the window.  When I got inside I was a bit flummoxed and felt I had to decide what to buy quickly so as not to hold up the line.  I hastily chose loaves of whole wheat walnut sourdough, olive bread, and braided challah covered with sesame seeds.

^Acme's sign

^Acme's Window

^Loaves from Acme ( top to bottom: Olive, Challah, and Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough)

^Acme Olive loaf crumb

^Acme Challah crumb

^Acme Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough crumb


After leaving Berkeley my wife and I drove across  the Bay to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  Acme was busy, but Tartine was a total zoo, line out the door no place to park for blocks around, and us arriving too early to buy the bread that only goes on sale at 5PM.  We found a place a couple miles away where we could actually park and get some coffee and wait until Tartine was ready to sell bread, but it wasn't easy.  We went back to Tartine at the appointed hour and my wife circled the block while I braved the line and finally scored three loaves of their country bread and a cookbook.  By the time we left my wife was having panic-like shivering fits from the crowded city, narrow streets, and outrageous traffic.  Tartine was not a convenient place to shop and San Francisco is not a nice place to visit in a car, especially on a holiday weekend.  The bread from Tartine was nice but I never ever want to go there again - way too stressful for me!  Once I worked in San Francisco years ago, but these days I'm too old and gimpy to ride the bus and hike up and down hills in a town not designed for people in cars.

I was too dazed by the mob scene at Tartine to snap photos of the place.  The Tartine loaves I bought looked exactly like the photos on the website and the cover of  the "Tartine Bread" cookbook.

Here's a crumb shot:

^Tartine Crumb shot.

It was all great bread.  I gave some to friends and ate at least half a loaf of everything I bought over the next few days (my wife, being on a perpetual low-carb diet, was not competing with me).  The olive bread was great for snacking on while on the road.  The Challah was soft and nice.  The Tartine bread was great although I never want to face that mob scene again.  The Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough from Acme was really great, so good I had a whack at trying to duplicate it, but that's a story for another day.




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I have a houseguest visiting from New Mexico.  His theory is that "healthy" bread is bread with lots of seeds in it.  We went over to the "Grateful Bread" store in Sacramento and he picked up a loaf of something they call "Woodstock" bread, a whole wheat loaf with lots of seeds in it.  My friend thinks it's named after the little yellow bird in the Peanuts comic strip who would no doubt consider birdseed a gourmet addition to bread. 

It was pretty good, so I had a hand at trying to duplicate it.

Initially I baked a 100% whole wheat loaf, 67% hydration, with a tablespoon each of sesame, poppy, and sunflower seeds and pine nuts.  The dough was a bit dry so I added a bit of extra water.  The resulting loaf didn't rise as much as I might have wanted, was a  bit dense, and didn't really have as many seeds as the loaf from the "Grateful Bread" store.  I'm not sure if the dryness and density of  this first effort was due to absorption of water by the seeds or a peculiarity of whole wheat flour (which I usually don't use).

I tried a second loaf, throwing in three times as many of the same seeds plus an equal portion of flax seed.  In that loaf I added the juice of an orange to the water on a whim and added 10% white bread flour, plus some brown sugar to give the yeast a bump.  The result had about the right seeed content but the orange juice made it too tart for my taste.

I baked a third loaf using straight water with no orange juice.  It came out pretty good, lots of seeds, nutty flavor, not too dense.  I'm pretty happy with the formulation, and it comes pretty close to the loaf we bought at "Grateful Bread". 



450g Whole Wheat Flour

50g Unbleached (white) Bread Flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1/2 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

3 Tablespoons poppy seeds

3 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

3 Tablespoons flax seeds

3 Tablespoons pine nuts

400g water



Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a stand mixer.

Bake at 450F for 25 minutes.



A nice loaf with lots and lots of seeds.  The pine nuts seem to add a nutty sort of flavor.

^Loaf Photo

^Crumb Photo



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I'm behind on my blogging.   Hopefully I'll find time soon to document the following:

1.  Trip to Tartine Bakery and Acme Bread back on July 2.

2.  Efforts to reproduce Acme's whole wheat walnut sourdough bread.

3.  Experiments with wholewheat bread with LOTS of seeds in it.

For now this post will work for me as a place holder to remind me what I've neglected so far in my recent chaos of houseguest infestation, highschool reunion, GREAT roadtrip vacation up the northern California coast in a brand new Smart Car, etc.  My sourdough starters have been a bit neglected but seem to be salvageable, and I still bake when I run out of bread.

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I discovered the other day I had 3 almost-full bottles of fennel seed, presumably due to repeated cravings for fennel, a bad memory, and a very cluttered spice cabinet.  There's only one thing to do when that happens, of course: make bread with fennel seeds in it.

I whomped up some dough as follows:

450g unbleached bread flour, 50g whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast, 1 tablespoon fennel seed, 1.5 teaspoons salt, 0.5 teaspoons diastatic malt powder, 333g very warm water. 

I turned the dough out into my 9x4x4 pullman pan and it filled the pan in under an hour (you could almost hear the dough rising it was so fast).  I baked it at 450F for 25 minutes.  Result was a nice soft chewy loaf with a mild fennel flavor, good with butter on it.  Fennel tastes sort of like licorice (which I like).

This loaf rose amazingly fast, which is good when you're hungry for some nice warm bread.

At this point I still have a LOT of fennel to use up.  Also, some dry lemon peel (I wonder what that would taste like with fennel?).

I was looking at "pain de mie" recipes the other day and they frequently call for a 350F baking temperature instead of 450F, I guess to get a tender crust.

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I recently "discovered" an absolutely marvelous eatery fairly near me here in Sacramento called Ravenous Cafe.  We first tried it a couple weeks ago and had a delightful meal, but as a bread freak I was astounded at the really great bread they served, unlike nothing else I remembered.  I called them a few days later to learn more about that surprising bread and had the chance to talk to the chef, Mark Helms, who described it as basically a "Country Bread" inspired by Chad Robertson's book Tartine Bread.  He offered to give me a bit of his starter which I gratefully accepted (consuming another great meal at Ravenous Cafe on the way).

I tried the starter out this past weekend using a version of the recipe from Martha Stewart's website (link) .  The dough is basically a moist sourdough (75% hydration) made with a 90/10 blend of unbleached bread flour and whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur brand).  The recipe calls for a 100%-hydration starter made with a 50/50 blend of unbleached bread flour and whole wheat flour.

I'm not used to working with dough that moist but I muddled through as best I could - shaping the loaf was problematic for me.  The starter I mooched from Mark Helms performed beautiifully, and I wound up with a moist tasty bread with a very open crumb.


I didn't have a cover big enough to put over the loaves and they wound up toasty on the top and barely done on the underside, but it's pretty good for a first attempt.  Never made bread like this before, it's a real eye opener for me!

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I made another loaf of my orange-raisin bread and refined my working recipe a bit, adding weights and some specifics on the marmalade step.

My working recipe is now as follows:


Orange Raisin Bread


about 200g of Home-made marmalade, made (see procedure below) from

about 200g = 1 smallish seedless navel orange and

100g = 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

~8g = 1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

~9g = 1.5 teaspoon salt

100g of raisins

450g unbleached bread flour

300g very warm water

Quarter the orange and cut each quarter into 1/4-inch thick slices.  In small saucepan stir orange pieces up with the sugar to draw juice from pulp.  Heat mixture to boiling and stir while boiling until juice/sugar syrup does not drain from peel when pushed to one side of pan.  Cut peels up  as desired with table knife.

Put marmalade and all dry ingredients in mixing bowl, add the very warm water, and mix thoroughly.  Dough will be very soft and sticky, too much so to knead by hand.  If necessary it can be spoon-kneaded in the mixing bowl to make the fruit distribution roughly uniform.

Transfer dough to a pan with a scraper and let rise.  This dough will rise to fill a 9"x4"x4"-inch pullman pan in less than hour.

Bake at 450F for 25 minutes.  Result is a moist, sweet, chewy bread with ample fruit.


Illustrative photos are as follows:

Orange quartered and sliced

Orange quartered and sliced^

Marmalade, hot, before reduction (note syrupy free-flowing juice)^

Marmalade after reduction (no free-flowing syrupy juice, peel has been cut a bit with knife)^

Dough unrisen in pan^

Dough after 55 minutes rise time^

Loaf and pan after baking^








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I made a loaf of SF Sourdough for an Easter brunch, following Peter Reinhart's recipe in his book Artisan Bread Every Day.  In the past I've had extremely good luck with Reinhart's SF  Sourdough recipe in his other book Crust and Crumb but my supply of "mother starter" was a bit low and the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day only calls for two ounces while the one in Crust and Crumb asks for .  Besides, I've been wanting to try the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day anyway.

I mixed up the intermediate"wild yeast starter" Friday, the dough Saturday, and baked the loaf Sunday morning (keeping the starter and dough each overnight in the fridge between times). When I mixed up the dough it seemed too wet (perhaps I messed up the weights, I was working under pressure); the recipe says adjust consistency as needed so I added more flour until it seemed about right.  I fridged the dough up in a stainless bowl with a tight plastic lid.  I was a bit worried it might rise too much and pop the lid off but fridge space was limited.  In the morning the lid was, indeed, bulging a bit but it hadn't popped off.

I chose to just use all the dough to make a single big "miche" loaf because I didn't want to risk degassing the dough too much by dividing it.  It was probably the biggest loaf I've ever baked.

Here are photos of the result:



The loaf looks pretty good, and my wife and our guests seemed to like it quite a bit, but I found the taste and texture less satisfactory, less "yummy", than loaves I baked back in January using the recipe from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.


Here's a photo from back in January:

Loaves and crumb from January 2011^

The more varied and irregular holes in the crumb of the January loaves is fairly obvious.  Not visible is a difference in taste and mouth-feel.  The January loaves as I recall were a bit moister, more tender perhaps, and had better taste.

I'm a bit bemused by the difference and curious about the cause.  The recipes are very similar, and the "mother culture" is the same.  One thing different is that in January I used King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour while in the current loaf I used a less expensive generic unbleached bread flour I got at the local Food Maxx market - both have the same labeled protein content.  The loaves in January included a bit of brown sugar in the dough per the Crust and Crumb recipe while the current loaf did not.  The January loaves were made exactly by weight according to the recipe while the latest included additional flour which I "eyeballed".  I'm not sure but I think there was a tad more salt in the January loaves.  Finally, the January loaves were retarded overnight "uncontrained" under plastic wrap while the current dough was retarded in a bowl with a tight fitting lid which restrained it's expansion.

Anyway, the two sourdough bakes tasted quite different to me, although others say they found the current effort highly satisfactory.  Go figure!

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For some reason I've been daydreaming of raisin bread recently. In years gone by I've tinkered with various orange-raisin-oatmeal formulas but they always seemed too heavy, probably because I was including too much oatmeal.  My objective is to develop a bread formula that has not only the tartness of the juice but also the tang of the peel, rather like a marmalade, but also like raisin bread.


This is my account of my latest experiment, which I consider rather successful over all (although I did slip up a bit on the proofing time).


about 210g of Home-made marmalade of a sort, made (see procedure below) from

1 smallish seedless navel orange and

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

100g of raisins

1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

1.5 teaspoon salt

450g unbleached bread flour

300g very warm water



I started out by making some marmalade; in the past I've tried just throwing an orange in a blender peel and all, but I wanted some obvious peel in this loaf.  First I halved the orange (which was about 3 inches diameter or so, a rather thick-skinned specimen) and sliced up the halves.  I put the slices in a small sauce pan and scraped as much as possible of the juice left on the cutting board into the pan too.  I added a half cup of granulated sugar to the pan, stirred it up a bit to draw out some of the juice, and heated the mixture to boiling.  I boiled it on fairly high heat until the sugar was well disolved, turned the heat off for maybe 10 minutes, then concluded it was more like orange peel soup than marmalade.  I brought it back to a boil and boiled it rather vigorously until enough moisture evaaporated that it was more like marmalade (no free-flowing liquid syrup) than soup; I stirred it while it boiled.  Understand, I've never made marmalade before although I eat it regularly on toast, crackers, etc.  I was winging it, and I didn't take careful notes, although I've glanced at various recipes for marmalade and candied orange peel over the years.

Anyway, once the marmalade was made I left it to cool uncovered in the pan and my wife and I went shopping.  When we got back and had put all the groceries away I did some other stuff and around 9PM made up some dough, putting all the ingredients listed above into the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer and mixing it up thoroughly with the dough hook.  The resulting dough was very loose and sticky, presumably because of the sugar and remaining moisture in the home-made marmalade.  It was nothing I wanted to try to knead, so I just scraped it into the pullman pan (which I sprayed with oil first, anticipating possible problems getting the sugary dough out after baking) and spread it out more or less evenly in the pan with a spoon.  I put the lid on the pullman pan and put a folded kitchen towel on top to keep the heat in as I did in my earlier first loaf with this new pan.

Then I left the loaf to proof while my wife and I watched a video (The King's Speech, which runs 118 minutes, almost two hours).

When the movie was over I checked the pan and discovered that the dough had filled the pan and begun to sneak through the cracks past the lid in a mad bid for escape.  Two hours was too long to proof this formula!  I wiped off the escaping dough as best I could but did not pull back the lid for fear of what might happen.  I preheated the oven to 450F, popped the pan in, set the timer for 25 minutes, and had some coffee.  When the timer went off I pulled the loaf out of the oven, managed to slide the lid off despite some "escapist" dough that got quite crispy in the cracks between pan and lid, and managed to pop the loaf out of the pan.  One bit of crust stayed stuck in the pan, perhaps on a spot I did not oil well enough.  The loaf had a thin ridge of dark, crispy  "escapist" dough around the top which I broke off and discarded.


It appears from the uneven browning (see photos below) that although the dough escaped through the cracks it did not fully contact the pan lid.  The crumb is very moist and chewy with a very nice flavor, sweet with a tartness of orange and a distinct tang of orange peel - my wife says it's delicious, and I am inclined to agree.    The crust is rather thinner and softer than I'm used to - a slightly longer bake in future trials might be appropiate.  Overall, this is a formula I'm definitely going to save carefully and use again (but next time with a shorter proofing time)!

Here are some photos.

Loaf and pan^


Crumb shot^


I'm very very happy with this loaf!




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I recently bought a 9"x4"x4" pullman pan and a pound of SAF instant yeast from Amazon.  Other stuff kept me busy for a few days and I didn't get a chance to try em out, but then I (shudder) ran out of bread. Only one thing to do do when that happens!

I washed out the new pan, lubed the lid a bit with a spritz of olive oil (after which it was much less inclined to stick), and whomped up some dough as follows:

400g unbleached bread flour

100g dark rye flour

1 Tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

1 Tablespon brown sugar

1.5 teaspoon salt

1.5 teaspoon dill seed

1.5 teaspoon caraway seed

333g very warm water

I put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of the Kitchenaid mixer, added the water, and mixed it up.  I let it sit a minute or so to hydrate, mixed it a bit more, then made a nice warm log out of it, plopped it in the pan, put the lid on and a towel folded up on top of that to keep the heat in, and left while I watched an hour of television with my wife.

I checked the pan after the tv program and was surprised to discover the dough had risen to fill the pan!  Admittedly I doubled up on the yeast to get a fast rise, but I was mucho impressed - the active dry yeast I've been using previously just doesn't rise like that no matter how much I goose it.

Anyway, I quick preheated the oven to 450F, popped the pan in, and set the timer for 25 minutes.  When the timer went off I pulled the pan out, took the lid off and popped the loaf out of the pan with no problem (even though I only oiled the lid, not the rest of the pan).


loaf and pan^

crumb shot^

For a first try at a pullman loaf I'm happy as a clam with the way it looks!  Tastes good too!



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I went on a shopping trip today here in Sacramento, visiting some bakeries I've never been to before and fetching esoteric flours I can't get at my neighborhood grocery.

Here's what I bought where, and what I thought of it:

1.  A baguette from Freeport Bakery on Freeport Blvd (Tasted like day old bread made with cake flour, weightless squishy stuff, didn't care for it at all!)

2.  A loaf of Deli Rye with caraway seeds from The Bread Store on J Street (A beautiful nearly spherical loaf, chewy and delicious, loved it!)

3.  A loaf of Vollkornbrot 100% rye with sunflower seeds from Grateful Bread Co. on Fair Oaks Blvd (A nice, very dense rectangular loaf, very chewy and delicious, loved it!)

4.  Dark Rye Flour from the bulk foods section of Winco Foods on Sheldon Road (I use this because it's the cheapest rye flour I've found in Sacramento where rye flour isn't found in most grocery stores.  The only problem is Winco's plastic bags tend to leak.)

5. Golden Temple brand Durum Atta Flour from the import section back in the "vegetables" aisle of Food Maxx on Florin Road (Haven't used it yet, 10 bucks for a 20-lb sack is a great price and it smells delicious!)

I also stopped at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op on Alhambra Blvd at S Street.  The only rye flour they had was dark rye and their price was a tad higher than Winco's.

I'll try to post pictures of the loaves I bought tomorrow.


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