The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ronnie g's blog

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ronnie g

My hubby can't get enough of these babies.  If I ask him 'What bread should I make?' his reply is ALWAYS 'Baguettes!'  I just use Chad Robertson's baguette recipe, but substitute 150g organic wholemeal stoneground flour for part of the all purpose flour in the final mix and add 65g extra water.

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ronnie g

Well, the other day when I wrote about the Queensland floods, I didn't actually get on to write about that, but that's what came out.  Thank you to those who offered encouragement and hope through your replies.

On Wednesday, after the floods, I baked my bread as I had started it the day before and it needed to be finished.  There was a lot of damage to roads and other infrastructure.  As well, lots of rescue people, emergency services, and local council doing repairs here and we were all advised to stay home if we could, so that they could do their jobs.  So baking bread it was for me.

I had decided on the Max Poilane style miche, however I struck a problem.  As we had been advised to stay home I realised that I didn't have all the ingredients for my loaf.  I didn't have enough wholewheat flour, only about a quarter of what I needed.  I had some wholewheat self-raising flour and some other unbleached bread flour.  I took the risk and used the self-raising flour in the mix, wondering if it would kill my yeast or blow my bread up too much.  Strangely it didn't seem to affect it at all.  My bread turned out so tasty, in fact I think it was the tastiest bread I've ever made to date!  Gorgeously flavoursome with a subtle, sweet wheatyness and chewy texture. 

Max Poilane style miche

It's a very big loaf!

A nice crackly crust.

With a nice crackly crust.

Crumb from Max Poilane style miche

This is a nice wheaty, chewy bread with an open(ish) crumb.  And I'm not sure if using the small amount of self-raising flour made it a little more open.  I'd love to taste the real thing!

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ronnie g

Well you may be interested to hear from the flooded area of Queensland.  I live in Toowoomba where this week we have had terrible scenes of raging floods and loss of life, as well as destruction and immense devastation.  One of the two major creeks that overflowed and became a raging torrent is just 50 meters from my back gate.  In my lifetime I have never seen this amount of rainfall over so wide-spread an area.  I'm not sure that anyone has ever seen it in this country.  Toowoomba is atop the Great Dividing Range.  We have been in drought for the most part of the last ten years, however during the last couple of months we have been under the influence of the La Nina, a weather pattern which is a reversal of what we have been experiencing.  It is also a very strong La Nina and so we are having tremendous amounts of rain.  

On Monday at about 1pm an incredible cell storm broke over Toowoomba and delivered up to 150mm of rain in the space of a couple of hours.  On already rain soaked land the water ran straight off and into the creeks which are normally sedate and picturesque.  They suddenly became raging and deadly torrents, picking up everything it their paths and causing destruction and flooding without warning.  People were trapped in their cars, trapped in our main shopping centre, trapped at work.  Cars were picked up like toys and whisked down the stream and smashed into bridges, piling up on top of each other.  Within minutes, swift water rescue teams had their hands full as unsuspecting shoppers and workers were caught amidst the wild and deadly waters. 

The waters quickly raged through our city streets and into businesses which were inundated with up to two meters of water.  Everything was destroyed.  Many bridges, shops, roads, cars, lives.

Then the water began it's hurried and dangerous decent down the range on unsuspecting small townships 600 meters below.  I heard one warning on the TV for the community of Grantham (the hardest hit with lives lost and many more still missing) to evacuate as a 7 meter wall of water was heading their way.  The estimated time they had to escape was in minutes.  Another small hamlet called Murphy's Creek was also hard hit with major destruction and loss of life.  In both these communities houses were shifted from their stumps and smashed by walls of water as no-one has ever seen.  People were washed from their homes, the water moved with such power and speed.  I heard that night that twenty-three helicopter rescues took place that afternoon, rescuing people from rooftops before bad weather prevented any more such rescues.  It was heartbreaking to hear of all this unfolding in the valley below us after such devastation in our own town only hours before.

It's only Wednesday today.  So much has happened.  Our major roads have been cut.  Our supermarkets were soon out of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and bread.  We take all this for granted.  And yet the wall of water moved on, slowing, widening, but not stopping.  It has caused major flooding and havoc, inundating whole cities and causing mass evacuations, including our capital city of Brisbane.  They are at present waiting for a flood peak which will hit at 4 AM in the morning.  My son lives and works in the area which is presently flooding, helping his workplace shift valuables and perishables to higher ground.  His friend lives in a six story apartment, where, because the power has been cut the lifts were out of action.  They were coming down the stairwell when they heard faint cries for help.  It was an old lady who had fallen, broken her arm and split her head while trying to negotiate the stairs on her own.  These two young men called for assistance and didn't leave her till an ambulance arrived.  I am sure there are many more stories like this to be told.  

I have only left my house once since this disaster as the authorities are asking people not to go out unless absolutely necessary.  I suppose I need to talk about what is happening here even though I haven't been hurt in any way or suffered any loss.  My whole community has been hurt, that's what I'm feeling and that's why I need to talk.  Please pray for all those who have been hurt and have suffered loss.  Thanks

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ronnie g

Christmas Stollen

 Before I'd come to TFL or read PR's BBA, I'd never heard of Stollen, but it looked appealing to me and something different to go with fresh coffee on Christmas morning.  I probably didn't get the blanketing fold absolutely correct, but it tasted beautiful and was a big success in my household.  I'm not sure if I'll make it again next year, but seeing as there are more seasonal breads to try, it might feature sometime in the future.

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ronnie g


My conversion of Peter Reinhart’s Pate Fermentee and French Bread

To begin, this is just the process I used to work up to 455 grams (just a frac over 16 ounces) of 65% hydration Pate Fermentee.

Build up 100 grams of 100% hydration starter to 455 grams at 65% by adding 129 grams water and 113 grams each AP unbleached flour and unbleached bread flour (total flour added 226grams). 

I delayed adding the salt for 30 minutes.  (Who knows why!  I just thought that if I added the salt straight away it might inhibit the production of the yeast.)

Okay, then knead for 6 minutes until tacky but not sticky.  Well mine was a bit sticky so I incorporated a little more flour before setting aside in an oiled container for the night.  I’m thinking by morning, it’ll be right to go.  We’ll see.  I had a feeling 3:00 AM would be the mark.

No.. I didn’t stay awake all night, but I thought the pate fermentee would be risen and by 3 AM it had, so a one minute knead and into the fridge.  Not too hard to manage.


I didn’t realise that PR’s final dough contains commercial yeast!!!  I thought I was going to convert this bread to a fully wild-yeasted dough.  Oh well, I don’t have time to figure all that out now and I’m sure if I had just left this dough without the yeast it would have been perfectly alright.  It just would have taken a few more hours to develop and I don’t want it too sour.  So commercial (only ½ tspn) it is.  Ten minutes kneading it by hand took it to a nice ‘window pane’ test.   So at 8:30 AM the dough is set aside to prove.  It may take longer than 2 hours to double because of my addition of natural starter to the pate fermentee, I don’t know.   Once again, we’ll see.

I went out for a couple of hours and home by about 10:30 AM.  Oven on for a good pre-heat, then slash loaves (oooh I hope I do it right!)  Here is the result.

As usual the crumb shot is missing.  That's because it is still not that impressive.  No nice big holes!  At lease my French bread looks nice this time.  My first attempt (using a different recipe) turned out like mini bommy-knockers!  These tasted so good we ate two of them for afternoon tea with friends.  They were a big hit!


My Peter Reinhart semi-conversion??

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ronnie g

It rained all day here yesterday which is good as I decided to bake all day.  I had chosen to make dmsnyder's San Joaquin adaptation and have another go at the 1,2,3 formula which has only been successful for me once.  I am sorry that I didn't stick to the recipes and got my timing all out of whack!  With the 1,2,3 recipe I added about 15% rye and maybe 20% wholemeal instead of all white.  I didn't get the rise out of it that I was hoping for, but was saved by some oven spring.  The San Joaquin loaves came out a little crusty, but okay and amazingly light which I thought was a good sign.  I could barely contain myself to wait until the loaves were cool to slice open and see what was inside.  The 1,2,3 crumb was very ordinary looking, although I am more looking forward to the taste than anything.  The San Joaquin was very open and we tasted straight away.  I'm no bread connoisseur, but it was very yummy (in layman's terms, lol). I finally got my Bread Baker's Apprentice in the mail and was highly amused by Peter Reinhart's description of what should happen when tasting bread.  It's kind of like When Harry Met Sally!  Anyway, here's my bake.

1,2,3 boules and San Joaquin batards.

The open crumb of the batard

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ronnie g

I think I'm getting it!

Well I followed GSnyde's recipe for the San Francisco Country Sourdough (I don't have any books yet, still waiting on the mail...) and I'm so happy with the result.  I made two boules; I won't show you the first one as I forgot to turn down the oven as instructed and it's a bit dark and dismal.  But this one I paid much closer attention to and although it's not as pretty and round as the original, I'm pretty happy with it.  I like the dusted flour look as opposed to a shiny crust, very earthy, and I AM an earth girl.  : )  Thanks to all who have answered my questions and given advice so far.  If I haven't responded to you individually, it's because there has been such a torrent of good advice that I am overwhelmed.  So instead of wasting time on the computer, I've been putting all good advice to use in the kitchen.  

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ronnie g

I suppose it is rather funny to be making homemade sourdough bread and never having eaten any of it before.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be comparing it to.  I was in the San Francisco airport this time last year and saw everyone advertising their sourdough bread and wondered what was so special about it.  I didn't buy any!  What a dummy!

Anyway, my friend knows I'm in full sourdough production at the moment, so today she bought lunch over.  (Oh, she didn't come to bake, we paint together.) She bought a little sourdough bun from a local bakery that is just starting to sell sourdough bread.  I won't buy it because it's nearly $7 a loaf!  I was excited now to be trying what I thought was real sourdough.

Well, I found it to be quite flavourless and stodgy apart from the lovely olives in it.  It had a bit of a tang to it and a little bit of a crunchy crust, but it made rather a hard task to eat it! I was surprised by the density and heaviness of the bought bun.  

In fact, even though my sourdough is far from perfect in these early stages of learning, I far prefer what I'm making which seems moist, slightly chewy, less dense, nuttyish, slightly sourish, with a crust to die for.  And I'm a beginner!!! 

Soooooooooooo everyone, what should good sourdough taste like?  And is it supposed to be a bit heavier and dense than regular bread?

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ronnie g

Fifth attempt

I am such an excited little bread maker right now!  Look.... Sourdough!!!  Thanks for all advice from TFL members.  I will add to this blog later this evening, but for now I have to go finish a painting.

Okay, now that I'm feeding my poor little starter the right amount, I'm sure it's happier, but I don't know if that's the reason for this sudden improvement.  I've tried several new things with these loaves.  

1.  A well fed starter.

2. Still used the 1,2,3 recipe.  This time I used half unbleached white bread flour, and half multi-grain bread mix (no added yeast).  Autolyse for 30, then add salt.

3.  The dough was still way too wet for my liking, but I followed Richard Bertinet's 'thwapping' method of kneading.  I did this for at least 15 to 20 minutes with great improvement in the smoothness of the dough, but still way too sticky!  I added just enough flour to end the sticking and then let it sit in the fridge overnight.

4.  I let it rise all by itself, instead of trying to speed it up with steam baths etc.  It was covered in a nice sunny spot though.  Would you believe it was 16 degrees C (that's about 61 degrees F) where I am even though it's supposed to be spring!  That took a long time, about 5-6 hours.

5.  I heated the oven as hot as it would go AND I put a terracotta tray in as well.  (I don't own a pizza stone).  I also had a tray in the bottom of the oven to which I added a cup of water.

6.  The boules probably weren't fully doubled before I put them in (kudos to a TFL member for that tip) and hoped like crazy to see some oven spring!

7.  I spritzed at 10 min intervals after the first 20 mins.  (I've done for all previous loaves.)

I sit in front of the oven with a torch (my oven light doesn't work! ha) and watch for oven spring.  I gave up after about 7 minutes cos nothing happened, sat down to play with my iphone while waiting.  Next time I look, wow!  I actually have bread rising in there!  Et voila!


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ronnie g

Not there yet!

I realise (sheepish grin) that I haven't been feeding my starter properly.  I said somewhere else on this sight that I've been mixing a lot of information together (not good) and totally confusing myself.  Can't wait for my "Bread Baker's Apprentice" to arrive!  Anyway I realised that I haven't been feeding my starter very well.  I was only feeding it one-half-half.  So I did some experiments and made two loaves using the 1,2,3 (fool-proof recipe - ha!).  I fed one starter as I've been feeding it and used it at it's peak, then fed one correctly by weight (1.1.1) and used it at it's peak in the other loaf.  Both loaves failed to hold their shape. I shape into nice tight boules, but they just sag and flatten out to a not too attractive shape.  I'm also being impatient, or my dough is just not rising to double for the second proofing.  I'm using an Austalian unbleached breadmaking flour (it's not specifically for sourdough though, maybe that's my problem.  I think my second attempt was actually better than these....  My next thought is that maybe my starter is just not mature enough even though it's doubling nicely in 2 - 4 hours.  It's about three weeks old now I think; only a baby huh.


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