The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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This past weekend was double fun, actually.  First, I had Friday off.  Second, I had been asked to provide some bread for a fundraiser bake sale, so I spent Friday and Saturday baking.  It was a very welcome break from a long baking hiatus while working down the backlog of breads in the freezer.  I don't believe I have had the opportunity to produce this quantity or variety of breads at home previously.  

First up was a pair of gluten-free loaves from a recipe of my own.  This particular iteration featured buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, quinoa flour, potato starch and tapioca starch.  Psyllium husk was used as the binder, rather than gums.  It seems to have offer better keeping qualities than gums since the bread stays flexible and moist for upwards of a week instead of going all crumbly and dry in a day or two.  Here it is, crummy lighting and all:

The next bread on Friday's bake schedule was Sweet Vanilla Challah from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible.  As written, the recipe says it yields two loaves.  Knowing how large those loaves are, I decided to divide the dough into three loaves instead.  And I made a double batch so that I could shape three as turbans and three as 4-strand braids.  As expected, the loaves were eye-catching for both the shaping and the coloring.  The headline photo for this post shows all six bagged and ready to go.  Here are some close-ups:

Later in the day, after running some errands, I also baked the Whole Wheat Multigrain from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread.  I doubled this recipe and divided it into 6 loaves, instead of the stated 4 loaves.  This bread includes a hot soaker with the baker's choice of grains; I used Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain Cereal and millet seeds.  It also utilizes a liquid levain and bakers yeast for leavening.  I managed to get a good oven spring and a bold bake.  The photo looks lighter than the bread did to the naked eye.

Before going to bed Friday evening, I built the biga for Portugese Sweet Bread, working from Mark Sinclair's (mcs) recipe.

Saturday morning I mixed the ripe biga with the rest of the final dough ingredients.  For the PSB, I chose to shape it as rolls, instead of as loaves.  I scaled them at about 65g each, which yielded 4 dozen rolls.  Once baked and cooled, I packaged them in half-dozen blocks per bag.  A friend who bought a package told me that the taste was what he remembered from his childhood growing up in Connecticut.

The last bread was a focaccia, which is another recipe of mine.  I scaled it up to fill two half-sheet pans.  This bread features herb-infused olive oil.  In this case, I used garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper in the oil.  One pan was also studded with some kalamata olives, just for variety.  Each focaccia was quartered and the quarters were individually bagged for the sale.

All told, I loaded two medium-size boxes with the bread to take to the sale.  Since I didn't know how familiar people might be with some of the breads, I also typed up labels with the names and ingredients for each bread, thinking that might help answer some questions.  Later in the morning, I happened past the tables where the baked goods were displayed and noticed that pale and sweet was moving a lot faster than dark and hearty.  The people running the sale were pleased to have the bread and, as far as I've heard, so were the buyers.

I suspect, though, that I was happier than any of them since I was the one who got to make it all.


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First, a shout-out to JoeCox2 for alerting TFLers to KitchenAid having made their NSF-rated KSM7990 mixer (refurbished) available for less than $400, with free shipping at that.  I had been on the fence for some time about a replacement for my KitchenAid K5SS mixer, which makes all kinds of unpleasant noises even when running with no load.  While lusting for something like a Haussler spiral mixer, I was put off by the notion of shelling out more than $2000 for a single-purpose machine even though it performs that single purpose superbly.  Then there was the Ankarsrum Verona which is a multi-purpose mixer with a starting price tag of $800.  Elegant, yes.  Built like a tank, yes.  I was almost ready to pull the trigger on that but Joe came along with another option at half the price.  After some consideration, I took the plunge and ordered the KSM7990 or, in my case, the RKSM7990WH.  R for refurbished and WH for white.  

Some of you are probably thinking "Sheesh!  What a cheapskate!"  On the other hand, my Scots ancestors would probably chide me for not trying to negotiate something even more favorable.  When you consider that my parents were themselves youngsters during the Great Depression, it's a wonder I bought it at all but, hey, a deal's a deal.  And I think that this has the potential for being my last mixer purchase.

So, what did I get for all of my calculating and comparing?  Well, it looks like this:

It's definitely larger than the K5SS, with a 7-quart bowl instead of a 5-quart bowl.  The whisk, the paddle beater, and the spiral dough hook are all stainless steel and very stout.  The motor is advertised as producing 1.3hp and able to wrangle up to 8 pounds of dough.  That all looks good and sounds good but how does it actually perform?  To answer that question, I put it through two tests yesterday.

The first test was a simple one and more to acquaint myself with the machine's operation than to put it through its paces.  Since I planned to make bagels using the recipe from ITJB later and I realized that I had not yet explored the sweeter side of the book, I chose to make Aunt Lillian's Apple Cake.  (Note to self: be sure to make that again!)  The mixer hummed quietly through the various steps and never bogged down at any stage.  I appreciate the Soft Start feature that cuts way down on liquids splashing or flour flying.  This is still a KitchenAid, so getting things into the bowl and scraping the sides of the bowl are still the same as with the smaller models.  All things considered, no big surprises, good or bad.  

The one thing that I found that I would like to change, and it may be unique to my machine instead of to the model, is to get the beaters about 1/4-inch closer to the bottom of the bowl.  With 4 eggs in the bowl, the whisk was only contacting the upper 1/3 of the egg mass.  When I tried making the adjustment, I found that it was already as far in that direction as it would go, so I may need to jury-rig another type of adjustment.

The second stage of testing occurred last evening.  I decided that a double batch of New York water bagels, which was considerably less than the advertised 8 pound capacity, would give me a good indication of how it handled a stiff (pun intended) challenge.  The dough is only 52% hydration.  I picked up some King Arthur bread flour, which is about as close as I can get to a high-gluten flour in nearby supermarkets.  The procedure calls for blending the flour and salt with the paddle attachment; no difficulty here.  Then one adds the water/malt/yeast blend (since I was using ADY) and mixes to combine, still using the paddle beater.  Here is where things began to unravel.  First, the mixer stalled when a mass of dough was trapped between the beater and the bowl wall with about 20% of the flour still loose in the bottom of the bowl.  I switched it off, extracted the beater from the dough, and manually worked the remaining flour into the dough.  That was a difficult task with a dough that stiff.  I returned the dough mass to the bowl, attached the spiral dough hook, and switched it back on to speed 2 for what was supposed to be 10 minutes of kneading.  After a minute or two of more stalling or nearly stalling, I switched it off and pulled about half of the dough out.  When I turned it back on with the remaining dough, it ran but very unevenly.  Every second or third rotation brought a thick mass of dough between the hook and the bowl wall, nearly inducing another stall.  There was enough power that the hook sheared through the dough eventually but it was not a pretty process.  The spiral hook performed fairly well.  There were only one or two instances of the dough getting balled up on it enough that no kneading was being performed.  Meanwhile, I was kneading the other half of the dough, sort of, manually.  This was an extremely stiff dough!  When the first half was done, I removed it and dropped the second half back in for another 3 minutes or so of machine kneading.  The first half was warm when I removed it from the mixer.  Although I did not measure the temperature, I would estimate it at perhaps 95F-100F.  At the end of the process, the hook and the transmission were quite warm to the touch, perhaps 110F to 115F.  The motor area was just barely warm.  

Some may say that the above experience counts as an indictment against the mixer.  I'm not so sure.  True, I won't use it for making bagels in the future.  That doesn't necessarily equate as a failure, though.  To repeat myself, this was an extremely stiff dough.  I can't say how an Ankarsrum or Bosch or Haussler would have handled things, since I don't possess any of those machines.  You can take that at face value, or as a hint/challenge.  I do know that the dough was very difficult to handle with manual kneading, so it does not surprise me that the machine struggled with it.  I was pleasantly surprised that it did not try to walk away from its initial position; instead, it stayed put in spite of the eccentric mixing loads.

What this has made clear to me is that the machine is ruggedly built and quite powerful.  There's nothing else that I bake on a regular basis which would give it any problems.  The grain mill attachment will have to be trotted out and used in the not too distant future but I do not expect any difficulties with it.  Given it's versatility for handling other things besides bread, it appears to me that the KSM7990 is everything that I need (and about 98% of what I want) in a mixer for household use.  And I acknowledge that, like many TFLers, I'm something of an outlier when talking about "household use".  So, thank you Joe, for bringing this particular mixer deal to my attention.

Since bagel dough has been very much in the middle of this discussion, some of you probably want to know how the bagels turned out.  After their overnight slumber in the refrigerator, followed by this morning's boiling and baking, they looked like this:

Six were left plain, six were topped with poppy seeds, six were topped with sesame seeds, and six were topped with wheat germ.  Fortunately, the less than stellar shaping did not damage their taste in any way.  The malt syrup in the boiling water gave them a nice sheen when baked.  The crust was thin and crisp, the interior was moist and firm, with just the right amount of chewiness.  Slathered with cream cheese, or honey butter, or white chocolate cinnamon peanut butter (I received a sample in a Hatchery tasting box), they were a delight.  My neighbors were pretty tickled to receive some still-warm bagels for their Saturday breakfasts, too.

Back around the first of March, I had a batch of a sourdough light wheat dough that languished in the refrigerator for a week after it was made during a class.  Not wanting to throw it away (there's that thriftiness thing, again) but not fully trusting that it was in the best condition, I opted to add more flour equal to the weight of the old dough plus enough water and salt to maintain the original formula's proportions.  So, pate fermentee used as the leavening agent, if you will.  Or one whopping big levain, if you won't.  Despite the large proportion of prefermented flour, the bulk and final fermentations were, um, leisurely.  The kitchen temperature was only in the 67F-69F range, so that was part of it.  I think the rest is that the yeast counts in the old dough were, as feared, rather low after the long wait in the refrigerator.  In any event, the finished bread had a lovely, mild sourdough tang and fragrance.  As is visible below, the final fermentation ought to have been allowed more time but I misjudged the readiness:

The crumb, which never did get photographed, had a fairly even distribution of small and medium-size alveoli.  That's fine by me, since most of it has been used for sandwiches.  It's moistness balanced nicely with the initially crisp, later chewy, crust.

Other than that, I haven't baked much since I'm working through a backlog of breads in the freezer.  Now I'll have to be patient and use up some more of the bread in the freezer before using my new toy again.


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One of my Christmas presents last year was Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.  While I've wanted to get beyond just reading the book and starting to bake from it, life has kept me well supplied with other things to do.  There was the completion of the rye bread test bakes for Stan Ginsberg's upcoming book, a vacation to San Diego, a freezer well-stocked with bread that needed to be eaten before more was baked, test bakes of hot cross buns and Easter bread and salt sticks for some upcoming classes, and, well, you get the picture.

This weekend, stuffed head and hacking cough notwithstanding, I determined to try one of the breads.  The Field Blend #2 sounded most appealing, given its complement of whole grain flours.  Because of the aforementioned cold, my preference was for something closer to a straight dough approach, leading to the decision to ferment one loaf at room temperature (about 69F) and the other in my B&T proofer at 75F.  The rationale was that the loaf in the proofer would ferment faster, allowing me to bake the first loaf (I have a single Dutch Oven) while the second loaf proofed more slowly at room temperature.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.  

As is often the case, real life did not conform well to my theory about real life.  For reasons beyond my ken, the room temperature loaf was ready to bake at the point the proofer loaf was about 3/4 ready.  So, it went into the oven first.  It sprang beautifully, as I saw when removing the the lid 30 minutes later.  And it colored up nicely after being exposed to the direct heat of the oven, too.

The crust was thin and shatteringly crisp.  After being in a plastic bag overnight, that has changed to a rather chewy texture.  The crumb is very moist and rather more even in texture than I anticipated.  That is in no way a complaint, since much of this bread will be consumed in the form of sandwiches.

The one major disappointment is that the bottom of the loaf charred rather badly.  That was a complete surprise, since the DO was at the same level in the oven as I typically use for the baking stone, which has never produced any charring effect.  There may be enough head space to move the rack up one position in the oven but then I would be concerned about having adequate air movement around the DO after removing the lid.

After taking out the first loaf and assessing the results, I chose to drop the temperature from the recommended 475F to 460F for the second loaf.  That produced better results for the bottom of the loaf.

The bad news is that the second loaf was past its optimal proof.  While it regained much of the volume lost in its initial sag after being removed from the banneton, it didn't show any additional spring.  It's still a reasonably good looking loaf but it could definitely be better.

Baking foibles aside, this is a very good bread.  I enjoy the graininess that the whole wheat and whole rye flour flours bring to the table, along with the mild acidity.  The crumb is very moist even though thoroughly baked and feels cool and creamy in the mouth.  The unscorched crust provides a range of flavor notes from the caramelization and Maillard reactions.  It is good stuff, all around.  And, mind you, without whatever additional flavors would have developed during a longer, cold, retarded fermentation.

That cold fermentation would also have given me a wider window for baking the two loaves in series, had I used it.

At this stage, I'd have to say that I'm not a devotee of of DO baking.  The additional risks and challenges that it imposes are, in my personal estimation, not worth the rather ephemeral benefits (primarily the thinness and crispness of the crust) it provides.  It may be that if I had a gas oven and struggled to keep steam in it, my assessment would be different.  As it is, I know that I can get equally good, if not identical, results by baking on a stone while keeping steam in the oven.

The whole scorching thing has me scratching my head.  That has never been a problem for me with my usual setup in the same oven, even when baking at temperatures above 500F.  My next bake from the book will utilize my normal stone and steam approach, rather than a DO.  



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I'm back from a week's vacation in the San Diego area with my wife, her brother, and his wife.  We did a lot of the touristy things, including the zoo, the Midway aircraft carrier tour, watching sunsets from the beach, whale watching, Balboa Park, museums, eating some fabulous Mexican food and seafood, horseback rides, and a vineyard tour/tasting.  Each of us came away with our own set of highlights from the trip but one of the best for me was spending a good chunk of this past Wednesday visiting and baking with Stan Ginsberg at his home.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I had contacted Stan about the possibility of meeting while we in San Diego, thinking that it would be pretty cool just to stop by his warehouse to say hello and chat a bit.  Stan proposed a better option in his reply: how would you like to spend some time baking together? I was happy to accept and, after he addressed his wife Sylvia's concerns about letting someone they'd never met in person into their home (she is a sensible lady), we agreed that I would drop in at 10-ish Wednesday morning for some baking.  And so I did.

Stan and Sylvia are both outgoing people and we were soon at ease with each other.  Stan had a couple of sponges bubbling for some rye breads that hadn't been in the test bakes for the new book he is writing.  I need to digress at this point to mention that the slate of 90 recipes that went out to the test bakers is not an exhaustive sampling of the rye bread world.  Stan continues find more breads from a broad range of sources.  It doesn't hurt that he is fluent in German and able to translate some of what he finds.  He also has a network of friends and acquaintances who can help translate bread formulae from other languages.  So, the three breads we baked Wednesday were possibilities that Stan is considering for inclusion in the book.  One, a filled roll made from a laminated dough, absolutely deserves a place in the book.  And I'd say that the other two are also worthy.  As a matter of fact, I'm still savoring the flavor of the grilled turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich that I had for lunch today made with one of the breads.

As we measured and mixed and shaped and baked, we talked.  We talked a lot; about everything from craft beers (another of Stan's passions), to how a decline in basic kitchen competence has made a generation of American home cooks fearful of failure, to Chinese cuisine.  We talked about NY Bakers and the trends that Stan is seeing in that business.  We talked about Norm Berg and his influence on ITJB.  We talked about the new book and finding a thematic thread to connect such varied breads made from the same grain.  We talked about the influence of climate and soil on culture and the influence of culture on history.  We talked about how breads, some ancient and some quite recent, spring from the continuing swirl of people moving to different places on the globe.  Stan made sure that we didn't dehydrate during the working and the visiting, sharing some of his favorite liquid bread from local craft breweries.  (Hint: if you find some Lost Abbey brews in your area, give them a try.)  

Somewhere around 2:00 in the afternoon, with most of the work done and bread cooling or about to come out of the oven, we cleared away the bread-making paraphernalia and Stan set up a lunch consisting of various cheeses and breads and crackers.  It was just the thing to cap a delightful visit and bake session.  The rest of my group came back for me around 3:00 and I regretfully said my goodbyes, leaving with bread in my hand, happy memories in my head, and a smile on my face.

And who wouldn't smile, after such gracious treatment by such an affable host?  That's Stan on the left and some of each of the breads we baked on the tray:


Many thanks, Stan, for such a pleasant visit.  


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I received a new My Weigh KD-8000 scale to replace the Oxo scale that developed some form of digital psychosis recently.  More capacity and an even easier to read display make it a pleasure to use.  It's already received quite a workout just since Christmas.

There are also two new books that are competing for my attention.  One is Ken Forkish's Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast which has been much discussed here.  The other is Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter.  It's sort of but not exactly a lighter version of Shirley Corriher's CookWise, aimed at a younger, techier crowd.  Perhaps I've been acting more engineer-ish than usual lately?  I've gotten about a third of the way into it and am enjoying the author's observations at least as much as the technical information.

The best gift of all is a houseful of kids and grandkids, which is why this post is a short one.  


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A couple of weekends ago, I was doing some test bakes to finalize recipes for a class that I will teach in December.

First up, Julekake, glossy with egg wash:

And the Julekake crumb:

And it tastes even better than it looks, what with the fruit and cardamom flavors.

And some Sweet Vanilla Challah, which I've posted about previously.  While not specifically a holiday bread, its turban shape and vanilla flavor make it a natural for any festive meal:



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My second bake from last weekend had more to do with some fresh figs that I had found than it did with bread.  Although I grew up on a farm and had plenty of first hand experience with many kinds of fruit, figs weren't part of the local scene.  I don't recall seeing a fig outside of a Fig Newton cookie any time prior to my high school graduation.  When I did eventually encounter figs in their whole form, they were dried instead of fresh.  The farm, by the way, is located in northern lower Michigan, which explains the dearth of figs.  At a guess, I must have been in my 40s before I ever laid eyes, or hand, on a fresh fig.

Imagine my surprise and delight on finding a tray of fresh figs at a store recently!  (They aren't that common here in NE Kansas, either.)  They followed me home and we considered all sorts of options before settling on this Fig and Rosemary Chicken from the Foodie Fresh blog.  How do I love it?  Let me count the ways.  1) Figs.  2) Fig and balsamic reduction (that's the 'sauce' for the pizza).  3) Fresh rosemary.  4) Goat cheese.  5) Grilled chicken.  6) Caramelized onions  7) All of that in one place at the same time!  8) Pizza!

Oh.  My.

All I did was throw together a simple dough, maybe 70% hydration plus a drizzle of olive oil.  My wife did the rest of the work.  And when she got done, boy, did it all work together!

Here's a ready-for-the-oven pic:

Isn't that a thing of beauty?

But wait, there's more:

That's right, fresh from the oven and ready to eat!  This, people, is some seriously good food.  There were no leftovers.

Energized by the fabulous pizza, I managed to put together some kolaches for the third bake of the weekend, using dough from the previous weekend's class.  Those turned out pretty well, too.  Sorry, no pictures of those.  Having sized them at 80g each, I think I'll try shrinking them to 50 or 60g each the next time that I make them.  That will allow for a higher ratio of filling to bread.

That's more baking than I tend to do most days but I'm happy with all three outcomes.  (The first was Hamelman's Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread, covered in an earlier post.)


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Consistency has much to recommend it but a person needs some variety in life, too.  Hence the first bake from this past weekend - Hamelman's Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread.  Mostly.  It seems as though I've had more than my share of white breads in recent weeks.  It wasn't the result of any grand plan, just happenstance.  And they were good breads, too.  They just left me wanting something browner and grainier.  

In thumbing through Hamelman's Bread - 2nd Edition, I came across his Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread.  It sounded like just the thing to break the white bread streak.  The formula is pretty straightforward:

Bread Flour  50%

Whole Rye Flour 25%

Whole Wheat Flour 25%

Water 68%

Mature sourdough culture  5%

Salt  1.8%

Yeast, fresh  1.25%  

In spite of the yeast in the formula, this is a sourdough bread.

I did take some liberties with both ingredients and process.  First, I left out the yeast.  That allowed for a fuller sourdough flavor and a slower rise, which fit better with the day's other activities.  The recipe calls for 6 minutes of mixing in a spiral mixer.  Wanting a close-textured crumb for sandwiches, I opted for approximately 18 minutes of hand kneading.  Finally, I mixed together the levain, the water for the final dough, and the whole wheat flour, allowing the mixture to sit for about an hour.  This gave the bran in the wheat flour an opportunity to absorb liquid and soften somewhat before I mixed in the bread flour and salt.

So, other than changing nearly half of the variables, it's exactly as Mr. Hamelman intended.

Since my starter had been refreshed the previous weekend and put back in cold storage, I simply used the called-for amount straight from storage to build the levain.  The mixed levain was covered and allowed to ferment overnight.  By the next morning, it had grown appreciably and was bubbly throughout.

As noted above, the final dough water and whole wheat flour were combined with the starter and the bowl covered.  After an hour or so, the salt and most of the bread flour were mixed in to make a rough dough.  The dough was then treated to an extended session of hand kneading.  Kneading was a bit of an effort.  Twenty-five percent rye flour, pre-fermented, equals sticky dough.  I had held back perhaps 20 or 30 grams of the bread flour in anticipation of needing it for bench flour.  That turned out to be a good call, as the dough wanted repeated flourings to stay manageable.  By not adding more flour or water than the formula called for, the dough was at the intended hydration level when kneading was complete.

Finally, it was covered and allowed to ferment for until approximately doubled, which only took slightly more than three hours.  The loaves were pre-shaped, rested, then shaped into batards, placed on parchment sheets, covered with plastic wrap and allowed to ferment without any side support.  Happily, there was a limited amount of spreading during the loaves fermentation.  With the warmer temperatures this time of year, the loaves were ready to bake in less than three hours.

The loaves were slashed, then baked with steam at 460F for 15 minutes.  After that, the temperature was turned down to 440F for another 20 minutes of baking.  At that point, the loaves had reached 208F internal temperature, so they were removed from the oven.

Oven spring was good, with slightly more than a doubling in height from the unbaked loaf.  The slashes opened up very cleanly, with no tearing.  As always, I need more practice to get uniform cuts.

I'm becoming a fan of Hamelman's penchant for bold bakes.  While I won't push as far as he does, getting a dark crust and browning of the grigne is as pleasing to my tongue as it is to my eyes.

The resulting crumb was very much what I wanted, well aerated but able to retain condiments:

This bread is more to my liking than the Vermont Sourdough and its variants from the same book.  It has a significantly higher wholegrain flour content, for one.  The blend of rye and wheat seems tastier than either one alone, too.  Even at 68% hydration and 50% wholegrain flour content, the crumb is pleasantly moist.  It's close to a week now since I baked the bread and it shows no sign of staling.  My wife sliced some today and made a bruschetta of sorts with a balsamic-fig reduction spread on the bread and scattered bits of goat cheese.  That was toasted in the the toaster oven and, oh, my, was it good!

The good news is that this is a bread worthy of being in the regular baking rotation.  The bad news is that there are so many other good breads in Bread that I don't know when I might get back to it.


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Two weekends ago, I brought some Portugese Sweet Bread dough home from a class I had taught about sandwich breads.  One weekend ago, I baked the bread.  This weekend, finally, I have an opportunity to post about it.

The class itself was about sandwich breads.  We made ciabatta into ciabattini, or ciabatta rolls, and made the Portugese Sweet Bread into, um, rolls for hamburgers and hotdogs. The length of the class was long enough to allow us to bake the ciabattini on site but the Portugese Sweet Bread dough was taken by the participants to bake at home.  Since my work schedule has been unusually busy of late, it was the following weekend before I had the opportunity to fish the dough out of the refrigerator and bake it.  I opted to shape it in two loaves, rather than rolls.

I am often asked by students whether dough can be held in the refrigerator for baking at a later time.  That question gets a confident "Yes".  The follow-up question is usually "How long can it be held?"  The answer to that question is a less-confident "It depends."  Generally, it is safe to say that a 2-3 day hold won't hurt anything.  Beyond that, it becomes a question of how quickly the dough was chilled, how long it took to get from classroom to home, and how cold each participant's refrigerator is.  In this case, in a cold refrigerator with temperatures in the 34-37F range, I got away with a full week's delay and no appreciable degradation in the quality of the finished bread.

During it's long stay in cold storage, the dough had approximately doubled in volume so I started to shape it immediately after removing it from the refrigerator.  That didn't go so well.  The dough was so stiff that it balked at my attempts.  So, I covered it back up with plastic and let it sit out at room temperature long enough to regain some flexibility.  Once it had, it was shaped into two boules and placed in rice-floured bannetons to rise, with plastic wrap draped over the exposed surface of the dough to prevent drying.

The dough took nearly two hours to double in the bannetons; most likely because it was still warming during that time.  Given the long hold in the refrigerator and the lengthy final fermentation, I was concerned that most of the free sugars in the flour might have been consumed by the yeasts.  As a result, I applied an egg wash to the loaves before slashing them and then baking them in a dry oven.

I needn't have worried.  As you can see in the photos, the slashed areas that are free of any egg wash are nearly as dark as the crust which has the egg wash.  Oven spring was good but not explosive.  The crumb, which I did not photograph, is very typical of this bread: fine textured with even distribution of small alveoli and slightly golden in color.

One thing you should know about me: if it were possible to rank artistic capabilities on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd score somewhere around a -2.  Nevertheless, I played with some decorative scoring on these loaves (the results support my previous statement) and I am pleased beyond any reasonable expectation with the way that they look.  Foolish, I know, but whoever said pride was reasonable?

One unanticipated result of this of scoring pattern, bi-lateral symmetry on two axes, is that it turns a round loaf into nearly a square loaf.  Look, Ma, no pans!  Yes, I'm aware that scoring affects loaf shape, but this was an outcome that I hadn't observed in previous bakes.  Maybe it is because the others didn't have the secondary slashing between the primary axes.  Or sunspots were especially active that day.  Or...


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Between wanting a break from my GF experiments and my starter requiring a refresh, it was time to bake something different, something with sourdough.  For reasons not entirely clear to me, I keep going back to Leader's Local Breads in spite of its known defects.  It probably has something to do with the fact that the breads, when they work, are just so good.

A case in point would be the Polish Cottage Rye.  It's the very last formula in the book and it has no errors.  Moreover, it is a very pretty and tasty bread.  At 1215g, unbaked, it is also a hefty loaf but not in any way a brick.  I'm getting ahead of myself...

Since I had Friday off, one of my morning tasks was to pull the starter out of the refrigerator and give it a good feeding.  Thinking that rye flour might be a good pick-me-up for the starter, I used the whole rye flour that I had on hand.  At that point, there was no plan for a specific bread, just getting the starter back in fighting trim was the primary goal.  Even though the kitchen temperature is in the 75-78F range these days, the starter was a bit sluggish from it's 2-3 week stay in the refrigerator.  It was midafternoon before the starter showed real evidence of activity and late in the evening before it was ready to launch a levain.  By then, it had more than doubled (with rye flour, remember) and was eager for more food.

Since there was only finely milled whole rye flour on hand instead of the white rye that Leader calls for, that was what went into the levain build.  After a thorough mixing of the starter, water, and rye flour, the levain was covered and left to its own devices through the night.

It was about 7:45 Saturday morning when I walked into the kitchen and found a levain that was ready for bread.  All that was left was to combine the levain, water, bread flour, and salt into the final dough and give it a good knead.  About 15-18 minutes of kneading, according to Leader.  So I set to with vigor, using the slap and fold method because of the dough's relative softness.  There were a couple of intervals where I used the traditional push-turn-fold method of kneading but I found myself adding more flour than I wished to because of the dough's stickiness, so then it was back to the slap and fold method.

Per Leader's directions, the dough was set to ferment until it had expanded about 1.5 times its original volume.  I suspect mine was somewhat closer to doubled but without any adverse effects.  The dough was then shaped into a single round and placed in a floured banneton for the final fermentation.  While the loaf was fermenting, the oven was set up with a baking stone and a steam pan.

When the loaf was nearly doubled, the oven was switched on.  After it had preheated to 450F, boiling water was poured into the steam pan.  The loaf was immediately tipped out onto parchment paper, slashed, and slid onto the baking stone.  The loaf looked well proofed before going into the oven.  Once there, though, it experienced even more expansion; perhaps less than doubling but certainly a 1.5 expansion from the pre-bake size.

The fragrance while baking was wonderful.  Lots of roasty/toasty notes with sourdough highlights.

We had to leave as soon as the bread came out of the oven, so I simply plopped it on a cooling rack with a towel over it.  When we returned home, we found that it had been singing during our time away:

Quite a bit, actually.

That second picture also gives a sense of the amount of oven spring.  You can see how there was some tearing at the intersection of two slashes on the right-hand side. It's also evident when looking at the top of the loaf:

The deep chestnut tone of the crust is just as appealing to the tongue as it is to the eye; lots and lots of malty and nutty flavors.

Given the length of the kneading, it's no surprise that the crumb is very regular and rather finely textured:

Some of the crumb texture may also be attributable to the use of whole rye, rather than white rye, flour.  Since I made no adjustments in the formula's hydration, the perceived hydration may be lower than it would otherwise be.  

This is a very satisfying medium rye, at least in this incarnation with whole rye flour.  With white rye flour, it would no doubt be an equally satisfying light rye bread.  The flavor is a delightful combination of rye and wheat, with the additional richness of the sourdough flavors.  Neither seeds nor bread spice are needed in this bread; it is complete as is.  

If you have, or can obtain, a copy of Local Breads, I heartily commend this bread to you.



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