The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Michigan's deer season opens this coming Sunday, November 15.  My brother-in-law and some of his cousins will set up camp on Friday and Saturday, continuing a tradition begun by my late father-in-law.  Accommodations are rather Spartan, in the form of a converted school bus.  I've volunteered to bring bread as my contribution to the groceries for our stay. 

Knowing that one of the cousins is very fond of pumpernickel, I baked a loaf of Westphalian Pumpernickel from Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker.  It is an extremely dense bread, since the only leavening is from the steam that the bread produces during its 24-hour bake.  The ingredient list is very short: coarse rye meal, water, salt.  That's it.  The bulk of the rye meal is incorporated with boiling water in a scald.  After sitting for a few hours, the remainder of the rye meal and the salt are mixed in.  This is one of the rare breads for which I use my KitchenAid mixer and it's a really good thing that I have a 7-quart model.  The rye paste receives a 20-minute mix, which is way more than I would want to attempt by hand.  Then it's into the pan and into the oven.  It turns out that this oven has a safety feature that switches the oven off after 12 hours, so I had to restart it before going to bed.  The resulting bread looks very much like the picture in the book.  That's it in the foreground, 9 inches long and 4 pounds:

I'm not sure whether the pumpernickel lover is acquainted with this style of pumpernickel, or is more accustomed to the light rye colored with caramel that is often labeled pumpenickel.  We'll see.  Either way, I suspect he'll like it just because it is really good bread.  I find myself picking it up now and then just to marvel at how much bread can be packed into such a small volume.  There are no colorants in the bread.  That deep, dark shade is entirely due to the long, low-temperature (220F) bake.

The other bread in the photo is a Borodinsky Rye, also from The Rye Baker.  In the following photo, the Bododinsky is on the left and the pumpernickel is on the right:

I made the Borodinsky simply because I enjoy it so much.  It's also been ages since I made it previously.  The scald, the sponge, the sponge/scald combination, the rye malt, and the coriander produce a palette of flavors that is unmatched by any other bread.  This is another bread that benefits from using a mixer, rather than mixing by hand.  Since I didn't have fermented red rye malt available, I toasted regular rye malt until it was quite dark, though not so dark as a crystal malt.  When ground, it was similar in color to cocoa powder; sort of a red-brown shade.  Although the bake time for the Borodinsky is far less than for the pumpernickel, there's almost as much elapsed time from start to finish, given the timing for the different stages.  The fragrance that permeates the house while this bakes is heavenly.  I'm very pleased with how the bread turned out, at least in appearance.  It rose well with no signs of shrinkage or collapse after baking.  The real proof will be in the eating.

I plan to slice both of these breads either Friday or Saturday before going to camp and will try to remember to get crumb shots then.

The third bread that I made is a simple potato bread from Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.  There might be somebody at camp who isn't into hearty rye breads, so I figured a soft white bread might be a good thing to throw in.  As with the others, I'm pleased with the bread's appearance:

That's this week's baking.  Though there have been other recent bakes, like the stollen that are ripening for Christmas, I wasn't so diligent about getting the camera out to record them.

Since the refrigerator and freezer that we ordered in February still haven't been delivered, my hunt this year will be conducted with a camera instead of a rifle.  The current delivery forecast for the appliances is sometime in January.  Maybe.  If I get some good pictures, I'll share them.


Updated for crumb photos.  



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We knew that 2020 would be a momentous year, long before we ever heard of COVID-19.  We had no idea just how much the virus would affect our plans. 

Fortunately for us, we have not had to endure any illness.  Nor have we lost any family members or friends to the disease.  We recognize that as a true blessing and are grateful.

I turned 65 this year.  Our intent was to retire in May and move from Kansas to where we grew up in Michigan.  Because of the virus, we postponed both the retirement and the move date by a month.  That let us mitigate some of the effects of the shutdowns in both states.  And it gave me some time to recover from some severe back pain and sciatica that had initially manifested in March.

Our house sold surprisingly quickly.  Twice, as a matter of fact, since the first buyer backed out less than 24 hours after we accepted their offer.  We had another, better, offer within another 24 hours.  We got a mover lined up, did all of our own packing, and were on the road to Michigan on June 24.  Our goods arrived a few days after we did and were unloaded into the garage of our new home that was still under construction.  We had done well to eliminate as much stuff as we could before the move, because it just barely fit in the garage.

We initially rented a cabin on the Manistee River from a high school classmate for our first 10 days in Michigan, observing a soft quarantine of sorts.  Then we bunked at my wife's brother's house for the next nine weeks. 

I won't bore you with just much COVID screwed up the construction process.  Some of it was real, some of it exposed and exacerbated existing flaws in supply chains, and some of it was a convenient excuse

We finally moved into our new home on Labor Day weekend.  That left us with another two weeks of carpenters finishing the interior doors and trim, the screen porch, and trim on the front porch; plus painters finishing their work.  Wherever we could without getting in the way of construction, we started unpacking.  Family members have helped with lugging in the really big and heavy items and with some of the furniture reassembly.  I've been astonished at the amount of weight that I've toted in without aggravating my back.  And I've assembled enough book cases and other items that I now loathe Allen wrenches. 

The house now looks and feels like a house, rather than a construction site.  One of our two vehicles is in the garage.  I need to organize the garage stuff to make room for the other vehicle.  Our lawn was hydroseeded in August and has come in nicely.  Yesterday I dug 50+ holes in the ground and planted Shasta daisies, Brown-eyed Susans, boxwoods, hydrangeas, barberries, lilacs, roses, a magnolia, a red twig dogwood, and a pair of apple trees. 

I've had several queries about how I'm enjoying retirement.  So far, it's been like another project assignment and I've had to work harder than I did in my previous job.  But, as the intensive moving-in work winds down, I'm beginning to see some possibilities...

There have been a few bakes so far.  The only quirk I've noticed with the new oven is that the convection fan cycles on and off during the conventional bake.  That's apparently a design feature, according to the users manual.  Otherwise, temperature settings appear to be pretty reliable.  I haven't played with the so-called steam bake capability, yet.  There's a smallish steam tray that clips onto the rack but precious little guidance about how to use the steam bake cycle. 

TLDR: We've retired, moved, and built a house.  Lots of stessors but we're putting down new roots.


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While I have Ken Forkish's Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, I don’t often bake from it. I'll admit to being put off by some of his notions but that doesn’t mean I should deprive myself of good bread.  So, I decided to have another look when I needed to bake a couple of weekends ago. 

After poring through the recipes, I settled on the Overnight Country Brown.  It was appetizing and I had the time to devote to it.  But, before launching, I had a very thorough read to see what Mr. Forkish says about temperatures.  After seeing repeated mentions of room temperature, I found his definition buried deep in a discussion about desired dough temperature.  According to Mr. Forkish, room temperature is 71F.  That explains why there are so many frustrated FWSY bakers, most of whom probably expect room temperature to be in the mid-70s.  

Since my kitchen temperature during Kansas winters is typically in the 67-69F range, I felt I had a decent shot at using the formula's timings without over-fermenting the dough.  

My first departure from the formula was to make 250g of levain, not the full kilogram that Ken calls for.  The final dough only requires 218g.  Remember me mentioning that some of his notions are rather off-putting?  Making and discarding massively excessive quantities of levain is one of those.  

The levain was eventually ready a little after 5:00, so that was when I assembled the final dough; almost exactly as instructed.  The deviations were an additional 50g each of freshly milled barley and rye flour, along with 50g of flax meal; hence the “+” in the title of the post.  I backed down the amount of bread flour by an equivalent amount to keep the hydration in balance.  

After mixing in the salt, the dough was treated to four or five minutes of slap and folds until I could see that the gluten was moderately developed.  It was rested for 30 minutes and then given a round of stretch and folds in the bowl.  After three additional rounds of stretch and folds, each at 30-minute intervals, the dough had plenty of body even though it was still quite sticky.    

The dough was left to ferment for 15 hours.  At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough was absolutely beautiful.  It was 2.5 to 3 times its original volume, silky, and still sticky.  

I elected to divide the dough into two loaves.  Each was shaped into a tight boule and deposited, seam side down, into bannetons that were liberally coated with rice flour.  

While the loaves fermented (slowly), I prepped the oven for baking by placing a baking stone on the center shelf and a steam pan on the lower shelf.  While I salute those who use Dutch ovens, I am more comfortable working without them.  Based on what came out of the oven, my final deviation from Mr. Forkish's instructions was quite successful.  

The seams opened up to allow plenty of oven spring.  There was some fissuring along the sides of the loaves but not enough to cause problems.  

While the loaves felt light for their size, the crumb was only moderately open and fairly even in texture.  This might be the result of the slap and folds after the initial mix.  In any event, the crumb was perfect for the bread's intended purpose: sandwiches.  It also worked well as toast.  


The bread's flavor was outstanding.  Lots of roasted nuts and caramel notes from the crust, with the crumb contributing a creamy blend of grains and mild acidity.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  

This is definitely worth a repeat, although it may be more of a challenge when things move faster in warmer temperatures.  


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Some things are worth repeating.  Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread is solidly in that camp. 

We had arranged dinner with friends who will move away soon. During that conversation, I offered to make a bread for them as a going away gift.  Since they enjoy dark, hearty breads, I knew a rye bread was in order.  It took a while to peruse various recipes in several books but Bandel's pumpernickel kept drawing me back.  

This is a bread with a lot of moving parts.  Rye berries are soaked overnight and then boiled.  There’s an old bread soaker.  Rye meal forms the basis for a rye levain.  And if that isn't enough rye, there's also cracked rye in the final dough. 

Before making the bread, I dug back through the TFL archives.  One of the most important finds was Andy's (ananda's) advice that the final dough should be about 85% hydration.  Hamelman is uncharacteristically vague about the water content of this bread, so that was a helpful data point.  

The other iffy part of the instructions for this bread is the baking profile.  Hamelman baked this bread in the dying heat of a commercial oven in his bakery.  There really isn’t a way to replicate those conditions in a home oven.  More about that later. 

This past Friday evening, I began by milling the rye meal and the cracked rye with my Komo Fidibus grain mill.  My starter was already primed for action after two refreshments, so it was mixed with the rye meal and water and left to work overnight.  The altus was combined with warm water to form a soaker.  Finally, the rye berries were covered with water.

On Saturday morning, the rye berries were boiled for an hour, then drained and cooled.  I also wrung as much water as possible from the altus soaker.  After that, it was time to put everything together.  There was just one small concern: the retained water in the rye berries and the altus pushed the overall dough hydration to 97%. 

Since I was making two loaves (hey, I like it too!), I used my 7-quart KitchenAid mixer.  While it had enough power to handle the load, the extra water in the dough made it very sticky and caused it to cling to the sides of the bowl.  In effect, it received more of a massage than mixing.  I found it necessary to use a spatula repeatedly to shift the dough back toward the center of the bowl where the dough hook could grab it.  Even so, I found some dry flour in the bottom of the bowl at the end of mixing and had to work that in manually.  

After the short bulk fermentation, the loaves were shaped and placed in Pullman pans.  When the top of the loaves were nearing the top of the pans, lids were put in place and the pans deposited in the preheated oven.  Because the dough was wetter than recommended, I chose to not seal the pan lids with foil.  I wanted that extra water to bake off.  

The baking profile I adopted was an educated guess.  The first hour was spent at 375F, per Hamelman's recommendation.  The second hour was at 325F, the third hour at 275F, and the next five hours at 225F.  Then the oven was switched off at about 10:00 p.m., with the bread remaining in the oven for the rest of the night. 

The pans were still slightly warm when I took them from the oven at about 7:30 Sunday morning.  Upon opening the pans, I found that the loaves had pulled away from the pan walls, slightly.  There was quite a bit of condensation on the inside of the lids and the pan walls.  Since I wanted to drive off some of the water, that was a welcome sight.  The crust was quite firm but not rock hard as happened with one of my earlier bakes.  I placed the loaves in plastic bags immediately after removing them from the pans.  The risk was that too much moisture would be retained.  The reward was that the crusts would soften.  

It was Wednesday before I cut into one of the loaves.  It is very moist and gums up the knife blade but fully baked.  

The flavor and fragrance are marvelous.  That long slow bake converts some of the starches to sugars and then caramelizes those sugars.  In the process, the grayish dough turns a deep mahogany brown; not quite black but close enough.  The crumb is barely aerated and packed with chewy, plump rye berries.  This is seriously good bread. 

Our friends were delighted with their loaf.  And I am delighted with mine. 


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The lead photo is Auvergne Dark Rye from Leader's Local Breads.  While I won’t know until tomorrow how it looks inside, I really like the way the crust turned out.  I expect it will be worlds better than my disastrous first attempt with this bread a few years ago.  

The big difference is hydration.  Leader describes the dough as “soupy” but the water quantities (50g in the levain and 350g in the final dough) only work out to 53% hydration.  Something is obviously amiss.  My prior experience taught me that a soupy dough doesn’t work.  Some googling this morning brought recommendations for 475g to 550g of water in the final dough.  After considering it for a few minutes, I opted to use 500g of water.  The dough was definitely soft but nowhere near soupy.  

Leader doesn’t say anything about using bannetons for the final proof of this bread, which seems peculiar.  The dough is supposed to be very soft, so why not give it some support for the brief (20-30 minute) final proof?  Since I was already straying from his non-instructions, I figured I’d proof the boules seam-side down and let them fissure naturally, instead of scoring them.  Ah, yes, boules.  Plural.  Leader recommends a single large boule.  From my previous experience, I thought the smaller boules might bake out better than one great big boule, especially at the 500F oven temperature he recommends. Like I said, the appearance is encouraging.  Now to see if the crumb is as good as the crust.  

Since I was in the book, I also made Leader's Classic French Sourdough, including the seeded soaker.  For the soaker, I chose millet, steel cut oats, rolled barley, and cornmeal.  Given that combo, I also chose to use boiling water instead of room temperature water.  The thought of cracking a tooth on a millet seed or an oat fragment that hadn’t fully softened before baking even harder just didn’t appeal to me.  Other than adding a quarter teaspoon of ADY to the final dough, the rest of the process went as per instructions. 

The batards also turned out well, at least on the outside.  We might get into one of those with our dinner this evening.  

After some recent bakes that ranged from disappointing to frustrating, it feels really good to have two good ones in the same day.  


Auvergne Dark Rye crumb:

As good as hoped for.

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Mr. Forkish designed this formula as a hybrid, using a levain and baker's yeast for leavening.  I elected to use only the levain because it was one of two things that I wanted to test with this bake. 

Some context is probably in order. 

The recent community bake of Maurizio’s oat porridge bread had left me questioning my flour, my starter, and my own capabilities.  The first attempt, which was chronicled in the CB thread, was an unmitigated disaster and a lot of that was due to one key decision that I made.  The second attempt (and no, you did not see an account of that) stayed closer to Maurizio's guidelines.  The results, while not disastrous, weren’t satisfactory, either.  Let's just say that I have a good supply of altus on hand now.  

Coming out of that debacle, I wanted to know whether my starter and my flour are performing as they should.  My curiosity about the flour stems from recently starting to mill whole wheat flour from a 5-gallon bucket of nominally hard red wheat that was gifted to me a few months ago.  This bread would give each component, starter and flour, the chance to display their functions without being swamped by other influences. 

Since I wanted to observe the dough as it fermented, I made the levain on Friday evening before retiring.  On Saturday morning, it had expanded to at least twice its original volume and was full of bubbles.  The formula calls for 360g even though Forkish tells you to make 1000g. I made 400g and called it good.  

I stayed pretty close to Forkish' process for the autolyse and the dough, although I did employ some slap and folds to ensure that the ingredients were thoroughly combined in the final dough.  One change that I did make was to withhold 60g of water from the autolyse, reasoning that some would be added to help disperse the salt and more would be absorbed during the stretch and folds when woorking with wet hands and a wet counter.  It seemed to have been a good choice.  

Bulk ferment ran from about 9:15 am to 3:30 pm.  Kitchen temperatures were 68F to 70F.  After shaping, the final fermentation, also at room temperature, ran to about 7:30 pm. The bread was baked on a stone with steam at 475F for 50 minutes.  At this point, their internal temperature registered as 210F so they were removed from the oven and cooled on a rack.  

They looked like this

Based on the oven spring, I could have extended the final fermentation.  Still, I’m pretty happy with the results.  When I cut into the loaf, the crumb looks like this:

Could it be more open? Sure, but this will be used primarily for sandwiches so it fits that need very nicely. The crumb is moist and chewy.  The fragrance is tangy and the flavor is about as sour as I care to have.  That seems to be a characteristic of breads with a high proportion of whole wheat flour.  

The upshot of all of this, aside from having usable bread, is that the starter has proven that it can still leaven effectively. And the wheat does, indeed, appear to be a hard wheat instead of a softer variety that I had begun to suspect.  I can go on with my baking knowing that those two elements aren’t causing problems for me.  

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A whole wheat four strand braided Challah from today's class.  The flour is a 50/50 mix of white whole wheat and AP.


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One of my Christmas gifts this year was several pounds of barley and of oats to feed my home milling habit.  After noodling around here on TFL and the web, I cobbled together a formula to use some barley flour.  


400g whole wheat flour, freshly milled

400g whole barley flour, freshly milled

400g all purpose flour 

5g malted grain (I used malted barley)

900g water

60g honey

24g salt

10g active dry yeast


Autolyse the flours, malt, water, and honey for 30 minutes.  Mix the salt into the dough.  Mix the yeast into the dough. Do three sets of stretch and folds at 20-30 minute intervals.  When the dough has doubled from its original volume, divide into two pieces.  Shape the loaves and place them in prepared bread pans. (I used 8x4 pans but this amount of dough will be more at home in two 9x5 pans.)  Ferment the loaves until they have nearly doubled, then bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 50-60 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 195F.  


Overall, I’m pleased with this bread, considering it was very much a seat of the pants experiment with a flour that I don’t know well.  It rose well, is moist, and has a lovely flavor that is milder than a whole wheat bread.  The honey isn’t enough to make the bread sweet but it does play up the other flavors.  The texture is firm.  Although the bread is somewhat more prone to crumbling than an all-wheat bread, it holds together fairly well.  

The crumb is more open than I had expected, perhaps because of the stretch and folds instead of a more vigorous kneading.  The compression visible around the edges is due to excess dough for the pan size, rather than over proofing. Judging from the oven spring, it may actually have been mildly under proofed.  

I will play with this again.  I'm curious to see how molasses would combine with the other flavors, for instance.  At 33.3% barley flour, it probably isn’t worth pushing for higher percentages. It is a hefty bread as is and the crumb openness would suffer with an increased barley content.  I also wonder if I might nudge the diastatic malt content slightly higher.  That might improve the crust browning.  

If anyone has pointers, I’m open for suggestions.


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Our oven has been rather busy lately, especially with the Christmas cookies that my wife likes to make at this time of year.  In spite of all of that going on, I still managed to work in three different breads yesterday.  

First up was the Tyrolean Christmas Zelten from The Rye Baker:

These gems are essentially fruit and nut loaves lightly glued together with the smallest possible amount of dough.  Raisins, golden raisins, chopped figs, pine nuts, and any of hazelnuts/almond/walnuts spend the night in a rum soaker.  (I used almonds.)  Right alongside those, candied lemon and orange peel have their own beauty bath in white wine.  The next day, rye flour, all purpose flour, fennel, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, egg, and water after blended into a dough.  After the dough has risen, both soakers are combined with the dough.  The soakers contribute enough liquid that the dough becomes more of a batter but you soldier on and shape three loaves on parchment or a pan liner.  After baking and cooling, the loaves are wrapped or bagged and allowed to ripen for a couple weeks.  These should be ready when the kids come to town for New Year.  

The second bread was Bagguettes with Poolish from Hamelman's Bread, Vol. 2. 

The baguette choir was singing as these cooled.  Since my wife wanted these as the base for crostini, the less than stellar slashing isn’t particularly worrisome and the somewhat bready texture will actually accommodate the toppings better than a wide-open crumb.  “It's not a bug; it's a feature!”  Or something like that.  I used the metric quantities, divided by 10.  Per Hamelman, that should yield four 22-inch bagguettes.  Knowing that mine would be 15-16 inches in length, I opted to make six instead of four from the same batch.  

The third bread was a perennial favorite here on TFL, Cream Cheese Braids:

There was a batch of unused blueberry filling lurking in the refrigerator from a recent class, so that was the primary motive for baking these.  Were I making them specifically for a holiday gathering, I might have chosen the cranberry filling, instead.  Since no one has ever turned these down previously, I don’t expect to hear any grumbling about them this evening.  

Sometime in the next week or two, I need to make a rye bread, too.  If anyone has a suggestion for one that would be a good analog for the miniature cocktail rye breads that sometimes show up at the deli, I’m all ears...


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  • Two blueberry and two peach.  We'll make these in tomorrow's Festive Braids class. 



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