The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

SulaBlue's blog

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Having built up a starter to bake a double batch of rosemary sourdough loaves, I had quite a bit still left over. Not that this wasn't planned - only the use for it changed. Having gotten up late on Sunday and everyone having different plans, the idea of sourdough pancakes went out the window and I was left to ponder what to do. I opened Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" and it instantly flopped to the picture of a pretzel being made. I instantly knew what I was going to make.

I forgot the 2 teaspoons of salt in the dough itself, but I like the way it turned out, so I'm going to omit it here. Silverton also called for barley malt syrup, which I don't have and replaced with agave nectar. Silverton has instructions to cut the dough into 18 3-ounce portions, but this seems to be incorrect. I only got 12, which is mathematically correct as 20+9+6=35/3=11.6.

These turned out so nicely that I'll be submitting them to Wild Yeast's Yeastspotting

Sourdough Hard Pretzels

2 day Recipe

Adapted from Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery"

Makes 12 crisp pretzels

Day 1

6 oz cool water, ~70F

9 oz white starter, 100% hydration

20 oz unbleached white bread flour

1 T agave nectar


  1. Place liquid ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix just to combine so that flour is easier to incorporate and then add flour. Once flour is incorporated knead until dough is smooth and firm, about 8 minutes. This is a VERY firm dough, and may be rough on your mixer - keep a close eye on it and STOP if you hear or smell signs of distress.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 oz sections and tuck them into rough balls. Lay on a parchment-covered sheet pan and allow to rest, lightly covered, for 45 mins.
  3. Remove one ball of dough from the covered pan and, using your hands, roll it into an 18-20 inch snake, keeping the dough as even as possible. (Silverton likes hers with thick and thin portions, but I prefer evenness.) Use the method of your choice to form into a the traditional pretzel shape. As you work the dough you will notice it is very dry and forms a skin. It may actually be hard to roll due to wanting to slide from lack of tackiness. Air bubbles inside the dough snake are normal and probably won't roll out. The thinner you get your rope, the crunchier your pretzels will be.
  4. Place formed pretzels back onto the parchment covered baking sheet, slide the baking sheet into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Day 2 1/4C Egg Beaters Kosher Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. When oven is hot remove first tray from refrigerator. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg substitute (Or beaten egg) and then sprinkle with kosher salt.
  3. Bake IMMEDIATELY so that salt does not have time to dissolve - about 20-25 minutes. Pretzels will puff and turn golden brown and crispy.
  4. Move pretzels to a cooling rack and then bake the second pan. 
If you have a big enough oven, or one that is more reliable than mine, you can probably bake both pans at once. They bake so quickly I just didn't see the problem with baking in two batches. You should probably go ahead and have your mustard on hand - you'll barely be able to wait until these are cool enough to eat.


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Today was just one of those days. That kind of day when any little thing that could go wrong does. But at the end of it, somehow, despite everything, I got some of the most gorgeous loaves I've ever gotten.

It started with the dog. Usually she wakes us up around 6:30 am. I told my husband to take my preferment out of the refrigerator when he took her out, and then I would wake up later and bake. Well, for once, the dog decided to sleep in and didn't get him up until almost 8 - which is when I planned to be up to bake! This put me behind from the very beginning. Add to that the stress that these were loaves being made for people who had requested them, and even offered money for them, and I was feeling a bit out of sorts.

You know, I should take that back. It started with the starter. Yesterday I had my starter out and it was going at a roiling bubble. After its second feed of the day it shoved the loosely-settled lid of its container off and proceeded to ooze out of the container and onto the counter. My mother, who is visiting, scooped everything up and put it in a bigger container. I was worried about possible contamination as, with guests in the house, a husband and a dog you just never know how perfectly sterile your countertop is. Ah well! It's for reasons just such as this that I keep a small portion of my starter back in the fridge and feed up to what I need on the counter when baking!

So, rather than doing the two loaves the recipe called for I'd decided to do a double batch. I put my cut-up preferment into the bowl of my new KitchenAid Pro 600 and then, for some inexplicable reason, added the flour before the water. I have always mixed my starter with water, then added flour as it is easier to get everything incorporated. I made sure to double everything - except the water! I almost forgot the salt, but then looked over and saw the salt in my mis en place and noticed the bowl, so in it went. At first things were OK, and then the KitchenAid began to protest. The bowl bucked and the mixer became sluggish. Uh-oh! I tried to reset, but it just wasn't working, so I turned it all out and started to knead by hand. After only a few moments of this I realized what I had done.

Let me tell you, there's just nothing like trying to add that much water into a dough at that late stage, by hand! I stretched the dough out as far as I could, sort of like a pizza with a lip, then added a bit of water and rolled it up. Lather, rinse, repeat. The dough became slick and a huge mess, but eventually I got it to a consistency where I was able to toss it back into the KitchenAid to finish up the kneading. As if this wasn't enough I had the pour guard on and bumped it when I was putting in my rosemary and knocked it into the bowl while the dough hook was going. There was a pop as the hook hit it, but thankfully nothing broke.

Thankfully I got a new dough bucket yesterday and I was able to mark where my dough was and easily saw when it had doubled. It doubled in closer to 2 hours than 3 or 4! I suppose in part due to the warmer temperature in the house, but the dough probably got warm with all that nonsense, and the starter was insanely active. Dough was removed and divided up into 4 slightly larger than 1-pound loaves and set to proof on parchment-paper lined pans. I'd like to say that from here on out it was smooth going - but that'd be a bald-faced lie!

Despite spraying my dough with spray oil the saran wrap stuck to the dough. Thankfully I was able to get it free without deflating my dough, though it was very dicy for a bit. Into the oven it went where, after about 8 minutes, I was reminded why I no longer use Reynold's parchment paper. I opened my oven to rotate my loaves - cue the fire alarm! Ugh. The parchment wasn't even that brown! Despite having to run around to the living room while flapping a towel like a maniac, I couldn't help but be giddy with glee as I could already tell that my loaves were springing like mad. I believe I can say that, without a doubt, these Little Loaves That Could are some of the most gorgeous sourdough loaves I've made. I even scored them, because hey, what could have went wrong THERE, right? I was worried that they might be tough and chewy despite looking so perfectly gorgeous, but the crumb is soft and feathery with just that perfect hint of chew! I even got HOLES!


SulaBlue's picture

Modified from Toxo Bread's Ale and Cheddar Bread which I found via Wild Yeast. As made they have a very faint beer flavor and a mild tang of sourdough. The cheese offers up surprise bites of salty goodness. I think if I were to make this again I'd replace some of the water in the final dough with beer for a stronger beer flavor, and possibly add more cheese, possibly sprinkled over the top half-way through baking as well. I've got all sorts of variations I'd like to try with this, including upping the whole grain content if I can do so without sacrificing the crumb. That might involve incorporating an overnight soaker as well.



280g 100% Hydration starter

125g Guinness 

50g Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour

75g Bread Flour


Final Dough

- All of Pre-Dough

-660g Bread Flour

-360g Water, Lukewarm

-12g salt

-About 80g Sharp Cheddar



1. Mix starter and luke warm Guinness, add in flours. Allow to sit at room temperature until the starter becomes very bubbly and foamy - about 3-4 hours.

2. Add water to Pre-Dough, then flours. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible, until dough becomes silky. Let rest 5 mins then knead in salt and cheese.

3. Allow dough to nearly double in size. Divide dough in half and shape into desired shape. Allow dough to proof until it has almost doubled again.

4. Preheat oven to 475F and when oven is hot, bake for 5 minutes at 475, then lower temperature to 450F and bake until internal temperature reaches 200-205F, about 20 minutes.




The crumb isn't quite as dense as it looks here. My cheese was very finely grated so didn't leave very many big holes due to that. It's hard to describe - it's very close, but not heavy or dense. Instead it has a plethora of tiny little air bubbles that have left it with a light mouth-feel to it.

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After many recent flops with my baking, it was SO rewarding to have a huge hit this morning! The house smells wonderful and we almost couldn't wait for them to cool to get the icing on. I may never eat a canned cinnamon roll again. I attempted to make these very slightly more healthy with some of the substitutions below as well as using considerably less raw sugar in spice mix and icing. With the melange of flavors it wasn't missed at all.

SulaBlue's Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Buns

(Modified from Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon Buns and Sticky Buns, Bread Baker's Apprentice, pg 143)





3.25 oz granulated sugar

.25 oz salt

2.75oz butter or shortening (I used Smart Balance 50/50 blend)

1.65oz 1 large egg (I used Egg Beaters)

2-3 drops orange oil

16 oz unbleached bread or all-purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)

.22 oz instant yeast

9-10 oz whole milk or buttermilk, at room temp (I used 2%)

OR 1oz powdered milk + 8oz water



2.5 oz granulated sugar

1T ground cinnamon

Contents of 2 caradmom pods, ground

Dash of ground cloves

2 oz dried cranberries

2 oz pecan pieces



2 oz confectioner's sugar

2T or so 2% Milk

A few drops of orange oil



1. Cream together sugar, salt, and butter. Reinhart says if you are using powdered milk to put the milk powder in now, but add the water with the flour and yeast.


2. Mix in the egg and orange oil until lump-free, then add flour, yeast and milk. Add water now if you used milk powder.


3. Flour a pastry cloth and rub the flour in well. Turn dough out and sprinkle a minimum dusting of flour on top. Flour hands lightly and knead by hand for 10-15 mins until it passes the 'windowpane test.' Dough will become very slightly tacky and have a good spring-back to it.


4. Proof at room temp until doubled, about 2 hours.


5. Turn dough out onto pastry cloth and roll dough into a 12"x14" inch rectangle that is approximately 1/2" thick (Reinhart recommends 2/3rds, but that just seemed overly doughy to me. Add as little flour as possible during rolling. I use a rolling pin cover to avoid adding extra flour to keep it from sticking.


6. Shake on sugar-spice mixture, then sprinkle on cranberries and nuts.


7. Take the long end and begin to roll-and-tuck. Roll the dough forward, then without releasing pull back slightly to form a tighter roll. Complete the roll-and-tuck until you reach the end.


8. Trim ends of dough if they are tapered/irregular. You can either discard this or smoosh it together for that 'baker's dozen' one that you'll just -have- to eat right out of the oven. Cut the remaining dough into 12 equal pieces about 1" thick. Place the rounds on a sheet pan about 1/2" apart. Sprinkle any remaining spice mix on top of buns, careful not to dust it onto your pan where it may burn.


9. Proof at room temp for 75-90 minutes until the pieces have almost doubled and have grown into another. Reinhart says you can retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, and pull the pan out of the fridge 3-4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.


10. Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at the middle.


11. Bake for 20-30 minutes at NO HIGHER than 350F. Caramelization happens at 350F. A higher temperature may result in the sugar burning. If you have pans that are prone to giving your baked goods dark bottoms you may want to double-pan


12. When rolls are done, remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan to cool for at least 5-10 minutes to cool. Eat the funny-shaped end piece to tide you over and to hide the evidence ;) While they are cooling mix the ingredients for the icing in a small bowl using a fork. Add just enough milk to make the icing pourable without being runny. Use the fork to drizzle icing over the rolls.


This is something I'm finally proud enough to submit to Wild Yeast's Yeast Spotting. This week's Yeast Spotting is being hosted by Zorra.

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