The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

SydneyGirl's blog

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I did it: finally found a way of resolving a couple of oven problems and made a nice loaf of whole wheat bread from Leader's book. 

I have been so frustrated with the unpredictability of the gas oven that I'm stuck with: it burns everything, while leaving bottoms of cakes and other dishes uncooked and there is no way to steam because that fan is just supercharged and vents everything immediately. I've not been successful in getting any sort of oven spring and although my breads turn out OK, it is disappointing that after hours of preparation the final result is brought down by these technical difficulties. 

I've decided to forgo hearth baking and stick to loaf tins. I've also devised a way of solving both the burning and steaming issues: I now construct a loose cover, domed quite high over the bread tin out of aluminium foil. I scrunch the foil over three of the four sides of the tin (leaving one long side open - a bit like those shell stages they use for summer concerts in the park).  When I'm ready to put the bread in the oven, I spray liberal amounts of water into my shell, and the top of the bread. I then place the bread in the oven (with the open side facing the oven door) and do some more spraying aimed at the top of the oven before closing the oven door. (I did also have a pan of water under the shelf, but I don't think it would have contributed much in the way of steam, as it never has before). 

I've tried this twice now, and it's worked really well. 

I made DanD's version of the Erick Kayser Pain aux Cereales last week and this week tried Daniel Leader's Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche from Local Breads for the first time. I used freshly milled biodynamic whole wheat and a little plain flour. The recipe uses only levain - no yeast. I'm very happy with the result - both the taste and the look.  The crumb is moist and chewy, not at all dry. 

Attached are pics of the WW Sourdough - I actually followed the recipe very closely, for once. Except for the fermentation time: he suggests 1 hour final fermentation while I fermented 1 hour on the bench and then overnight. The final result is very tasty (though I think it could have done with just a touch more salt). The seeds on top of the bread were left-overs from last week's Pain aux Cereales, but there are no seeds inside the bread. 

Leader's WW MicheLeader's WW Miche - Sliced


For comparison, have a look at the Hazelnut & Prune Bread (fromHamelman) I made a few weeks ago - no oven spring and I managed to burn the top in the last 10 minutes of baking. The bread was still nice.  

I love Prunes. From memory, I did stick to the recipe but doubled the amount of fruit and nuts as there wasn't enough in it for my taste. I also thought that the hazelnuts didn't work as well as I thought they might. As hazelnuts aren't widely grown in Australia, they're not always as fresh as they would be if I bought them in Germany, for example - that may have affected the taste. I thought this is one bread I would try with walnuts and prunes next time. 


JuHamelman's Hazelnut & Prune BreadHamelman's Hazelnut Prune Bread slice

SydneyGirl's picture

Last night I made Reinhart's whole grain multi-grain struan, with home milled wheat flour and a mix of uncooked seeds.

It went OK, but I'm wondering whether the texture is right or whether it was affected by the fact that I replaced about 75-100g of the wheat flour with rye but added a bit of vital wheat gluten. The bread is lovely and soft, but just a little on the cakey side.  Probably not enough kneading - also I should have kneaded by hand rather than machine, given all the gluten-cutting seeds. While I let it rise for a little bit after kneading, i then left it in the fridge for another day, because it was too late to bake. 

As I was making the final dough, I was a bit alarmed at the amount of sweetener, in my case honey, which the recipe requires. I reduced it a little (to about 40g from 56 g) but, for my taste, the bread is still too sweet. Also, I do miss the sourdough taste in this bread. 

I baked it in an oven with a pan just on top, as the oven gets very very hot on top, which left it rather pale on top. So removed the pan for last 10 minutes and unfortunately left the kitchen during that time, so burned the top. Now it looks burnt, but the taste is actually fine: nice and crisp crust, very soft inside. I think it might just convince a non-wholemeal eater. 

Multi-grain struan

SydneyGirl's picture

Recently posted the translation of the Austrian bread roll recipe I found here: on the  German Broetchen Experiment forum topic:


I've made these before, but last Sunday had another try, this time pre-fermenting about half the flour overnight. It did no harm to the recipe at all. They look great, they taste great but the lack of oven spring means that they're too dense. However, the taste really is lovely, even after 3 days when they're stale. I really like the shine on them from the starch water. 

I will definitely keep making these till I work out how to do them perfectly in my oven. 

Don't write to me about steam (which, clearly, is what's required here) - unless you have a solution for a gas oven that vents all steam instantly and is so unevenly hot that a pan at the bottom of the oven doesn't get hot enough to evaporate water, while at the top everything turns to charcoal. 


Austrian Bread Rolls



SydneyGirl's picture

Yesterday was the big premiere: first wholemeal loaf made with home-milled flour, and also the first try at baking a loaf from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: the Rye Sandwich Meteil. Of course, I can't help but tinker, thus replaced about a quarter of the rye meal with a multigrain mix. 

So I started this a day ahead, did the whole mother starter thing (why he can't just call it sourdough, I don't know), I soaked, and mixed, I rested overnight, and after work yesterday I mixed, I rested etc etc. 

It rose very nicely, I put it in the oven just before midnight (thanks to all the resting), in a loaf pan and dutifully turned it after 20 minutes. Then, while I was browsing through bread books, I must have closed my eyes, just for a minute. Unfortunately, when I opened them again it was 2:30 am and the flat smelled decidedly toasty. 

The bread was a black brick. I took it out, and cooled it. Then I spent half an hour trying to get to sleep while berating myself for my stupidity.

This morning I cut into it to assess the damage: a 1 inch crust, mostly inedible. However, the inside, once you cut off all of the coal, is still really delicious. It looks pretty much like his picture in the book: crumb nice dense but not too dense, no pastiness.  It has a nice sweet flavour (though next time I would slightly reduce the amount of cane syrup in his recipe) and has no hint of that wholemeal aftertaste of most commercial wholemeal breads. It's delicious but cutting off all the charred crust breaks my heart, just a little. 

Lesson learned: get more sleep the day before you bake & set the bloody alarm.

SydneyGirl's picture

So, on a mad impulse I bought a bread mill, the Schnitzer Pico, and it arrived at the same time as Hamelman's "Bread", Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" and Leader's "Local Breads" (I think I might have overdone it on the books). Sourdough is fermenting, a mother starter is in the making and I ate my a whole lot more soaked bran in my first home-ground muesli concoction (oats, wheat bran sifted from the flour that fed the sourdough and amaranth/quinoa) this morning (delicious- no more horrible bitter whole wheat aftertaste). 

I've made bread before but really became obsessed over the last month, particularly since joining this site. Now I'm wondering whether I'm cut out for serious bread baking. How daunting. 

In the past couple of weeks I've made a nice Jewish Rye (per Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe), a no-recipe cobbled together malty dark rye and white Austrian rolls which all tasted lovely, even though the oven let me down most terribly. Did I really need all those book? Yet, I find the science behind the baking fascinating, and learning why stuff works is always great. 

I do feel a little daunted by Reinhart. It's not the recipes or my ability to follow them but scheduling. It would have been nice if he had mapped out a more specific timetable for each bread, one that allows for me to be away from home for 10-14 hours at a stretch while I earn the money to buy more bread books and grain! Will all my weekends be taken up with squeezing in dinners, movies & theatre, shopping, etc etc in between bread making steps?

Will I have to start kneading at 8pm and then get up periodically through the night to stretch dough at intervals? Exhausting just thinking about it. How do other people manage a regular bread making schedule? 

It just dawned on me that I've never thought about the fact that my mother, who bakes a load of sourdough loaves every week, generally doesn't get out much on Saturdays. Hm, how could I have missed that? 


SydneyGirl's picture

I recently re-discovered bread baking and was so exicted to find this website.

Moved to Australia from Germany almost 30 years ago. After first discovering with shock that there was NO BREAD to buy in 1980's Sydney, my father quickly built a wood fired oven and my mother picked up with bread baking right where she left off when we moved from Transylvania to Germany 11 years earlier. Since then she has made 6-7 loaves per week of sourdough bread (with potatoes) almost every week. She still does it, even though it's now much easier to find "acceptable bread" (for a German) than it was. While I've made bread quite a few times in the past (like before she had the commercial mixer and her back ache prevented her from kneading a big trough of dough), there really wasn't any need for me to bake!

However, I really love home made bread and love to tinker. I had bought Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible a while ago. With too much going on, it just languished in a bookshelf till I picked it up in a reading lull recently. Even then I was reading, not making. The real catalyst was going to Ikea and picking up a packet of bread mix (no, I'm not kidding). And that set me off on more reading, browsing and joining fora, like this one. I bet you not many of the members here can say they came this site by way of Ikea! I can't wait to try out everything... 

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