The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts's blog's picture

Buongiorno everyone.  It's been a while.

Perhaps it's our old world village roots, but my wife and I are happy to have more or less the same bread day in and day out.  As long as it's very good bread.  Sure enough, we've been enjoying bakes of this delicious bread just about every week for the past year.  It is appropriately versatile for our vegetarian table, supplying lunchtime sandwiches and the evening table's basket.  The formula and process have proven robust enough to survive our recent relocation across 2500 miles, two time zones, +2000' in elevation and a decidedly less capable oven than that in which the bake was initially developed.  Perhaps that warrants a TFL post.

An attractive feature of the formula, besides its 60% fresh milled flour, is the ca. 30% supplement of (usually oat, but at times barley or spelt) porridge, sprouted or otherwise fully hydrated grain.  A recently adopted and salutary upgrade has been to lightly toast the rolled grain before cooking it up as porridge.  This practice echoes yesteryear's Miche Maillard, infusing not only the crust but, somewhat less so, the crumb, with a toasty maillardesse.  Importantly, a >100% hydrated supplement such as porridge continuously hydrates a fermenting, predominantly wholegrain, dough, enhancing final crumb structure.  I don't recall mention of this benefit in T3.




We have settled on the above ratio of white to red wheat.  More white is too bland and more red can be too intense.  Variation in the cooked or sprouted supplement provides plenty of opportunity for subtle week-to-week diversity.

Happy New Year, Happy New Administration and Happy Baking.



[Notes added in "proof" :-) :

1. Error in Process above:  On First morning, "Weight out rolled oats equal to 15% weight of formula's total flour" (not 30%).  Sorry about that.

2. We quarter these miches when cooled, double ziploc bag each quarter and freeze two.  They keep and thaw well until the next bake.]'s picture

Last week's 10% Einkorn, 40% Hard White Wheat was deliciously encouraging.  Egged on by Josh, I wanted to explore this mix more by "pushing" both the Einkorn and the overall wholegrain level this week.  I also wanted to add a sharper accent with some red wheat.  Easy as 1-2-3:  10% Hard Red Wheat, 20% Einkorn and 30% Hard White Wheat.  I also upped the overall hydration to 84% (again, taking a page from Josh's nice post), to accommodate the increased wholegrain proportion.  But maybe too much: Einkorn doesn't absorb water the way more branny wheat does (as noted by Mini this week) and this bread benefited from a day in the basket swaddled in Bee's Wrap.

The einkorn flavor comes through rather more assertively here than at 10% last week, despite the presence of some Hard Red Wheat in this formula.  This makes for a very pleasing balance of these grains, certainly no unpleasant bitterness from the einkorn.  I may try 20%-20%-20% next time, as that was in the running for this bake -- to give the mild einkorn and white wheat more of a run for their money by increasing the hard red, and dropping the hydration down a tick or two.

Process is exactly the same as last week's 10%/40%, with formula modifications as noted above.

Happy baking,

Tom's picture

Long time, no post.  Busy.  But baking.  This is a simple, mild-flavored yet satisfying table bread with open crumb and assertive crust:  50% whole grain:  40% hard white wheat (Central Milling organic) + 10% einkorn (Heartland organic), all fresh-milled.  Departures from our habitual (Acer) process are retarding not in bulk but in banneton, followed by a short, warm proof:  1 hour at 95˚F.

Formula  (2x700 gr loaves)

Process (48h)

First night:  Refresh levain.  Ours is grown @ 75-80˚F @ 80% hydration; rests on countertop between daily feedings of a hi-fiber Gerard Rubaud ration.  If you feed intermittently, refresh at least once immediately prior to this one.

Next morning:  Mill grains.  Prepare levain and incubate @ 75-80˚F all day or until domed.

That evening:  Combine final flours + water (hold back 50 ml) and autolyse ~1 hour @ room temp.  Then fold, squeeze and pince in levain, water and salt.  French fold to uniformity and beginning of gluten development.  Bulk ferment @ 85˚F for 2 hours with letter folds every 10-20 min for first 1-1.5 hours.  Divide, rest, shape, tuck into floured bannetons, bag and refrigerate.  Nitey nite.

Baking (next) day afternoon (in time for cooled loaves at dinner):  Preheat oven @ 500˚F.  Proof loaves 1 h @ 95˚F.  Dough should rise noticeably, but far from final volume (almost top of bannetons).  Score and bake 20 min @ 500˚F with steam, then 5 min @ 435˚F with convection and ~10 min @ 435˚F without convection.  Interior should be just over 200˚F.

Happy Baking!

Tom's picture

I bake 100% whole wheat pan loaves every week for my wife's lunchtime sandwiches.  The initial formula and process came from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  But the good Br. Juniper's cumbersome "epoxy" method and profligate CY habit begs for simplification.  My current alternative is soft, tasty, simple and seasonally robust enough to share with fellow Loafers.  My wife loves it.

The principal departure from PR's process is the use of a single preferment that doubles as both levain and soaker.  The entire formula's [One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat] flour is 55# sieved.  Then all of and only the retained fraction goes into a day-long RYW levain.  A pinch of CY is added to the evening's final dough.  The pass-through fraction of the sieved flour is not prefermented.  Sieving only takes a few minutes.

The active preferment may soften the crumb more than a salted soaker does. Addition of a tsp/loaf of diastatic malt darkens and enhances the flavor of the crust.  We prefer White Gold Honey from WFM or Teavana -- highly recommended if you find most honeys too strong.  RYW improves keeping quality as well.  Minimal gluten development in the branny levain makes dispersing it into the final dough's milk a snap.  Achtung: this loaf's extravagant bloom necessitates scoring, which was never needed with PR's original formula.

I now use this 55# retentate levain method for our 40% fresh-milled sourdough as well.  Nihil sub sole novum and indeed, a certain Arizona Sorcerer has been known to ferment his branny sieved fractions.  Not surprisingly, a middling/branny fraction is a very active fermentation substrate, especially when sourced from freshly milled flour.

Formula (5" x 9" pan) (click for working Google xls.):


1. ~24h before dough mix (night before), combine equal parts RYW and WW flour to build starter.  Incubate overnight @ ~27˚C (80˚F).                        
2. ~12h before dough mix (morning of) : 55# sieve all flour and use all retentate for levain.  Storebought WW flours yield 20-30+% retained 55# sieve fractions.  ODO Sprouted Wheat consistently yields 31%, hence the formula above.  Adjust accordingly for your WW flour.
3. Incubate levain @ ~27˚C (80˚F) all day.                        
4. Disperse levain into final (25˚C/77˚F) milk, then mix in oil and honey.  
5. Distribute yeast through pass-through flour (optional: add 1 tsp diastatic malt).  
6. Mix flour, salt and remaining water into levain-milk mixture.  Pince, squeeze, knead, slap and fold until gluten development begins.
7. Bulk ferment ~60 min @ ~25˚C (77˚F) with a letter fold at 30 minutes.  Should see some expansion (25-50%) by end.
8. Shape and pan (margarine-coat to prevent sticking).  
9. Proof 40-60 min @ 25˚C (77˚F) until ~3/4" above pan edge.                        
10. Score and bake 20 min with steam @ 190˚C (375˚F), then ~30 min without steam at 175˚C (350˚F) until internal temp = 90˚C (195˚F).

Happy Baking.

Tom       's picture

I hope everyone has had a good summer, baking and otherwise.  Judging from TFL blogposts, it's been a great one for many.  My only indoor project has been the following formula and process.  I recommend it to anyone with a mill, a fine tamis and willingness to go to a little extra trouble for a nice flavor.

First, the name.  Acer is the genus name for maples.  No, there are no milled maple samaras in the flour.  Early on I found the products of this Quest's formula & process variations to be as similar to one another as cultivars within a species and decided to name them after Japanese Maple cultivars and species I know and like (e.g., Acer Crimson Queen, Acer shirasawanum, etc.).  The final formula and process posted here is now just "Acer Levain".

The overall goal was to extract maximum flavor from just flour/water/salt/levain containing 40% freshly milled whole grains, 3/4 of which is fixed at hard red spring wheat (cultivar unknown).  The remaining 1/4 of the milled grains (10% of total flour) is the sandbox: lots of variations (maple cultivars) explored here including einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, farro and rye.  I keep coming back to 4:1 einkorn:rye as satisfyingly complex, vaguely exotic but not too assertively "ancient grain".  I like the fluffy yellow flour einkorn yields (although I don't mill the different grains separately).  That sandbox has infinite potential for flavor exploration with minimal cost to crumb structure.  Another constraint of the Quest was that all steps in the process be carried out in successive mornings and evenings (no "baking days") - it had to be a Workingman's Bread.

About the milling.  This is a fitting use for the KitchenAid KGM (unhacked) given its notoriously limited capacity and coarse output.  Milling 100% of the flour for a reasonably sized bake with a KGM takes too long (for me), esp. with all the passes (see following).  But 40% is do-able and, per Ken Forkish, a pleasing percentage of whole grain for a daily table bread such as this.  Grain is first cracked at the KGM's 50% setting.  Output falls directly onto a 55# tamis (sieve) resting in a bowl, both of which are then shaken together, saving the pass-through and returning only the retained branny fraction for the next pass through the mill.  The second through fifth millings, each time of only the previous pass's 55# retained fraction, are performed on the KGM's finest setting.  These five passes-with-fractionation consistently yield what I operationally call 55% "extraction":  55% pass-through flour and 45% retained "bran fraction", all of the latter going into a 2% salted, 100% hydration soaker.  The lovely pass-through fraction goes into the levain and final dough.

The process also employs Ian Lowe's "Enzymatic Preferment" ("ePreferment") for the formula's 60% bulk-bin white flour portion (a 60:40 mix of Heartland Organic AP and bread flour to achieve 11.5% protein).  I liked this in my Spring Levain*, from which Acer Levain is evolutionarily derived.  Omitting the eP and simply adding all the white flour at the final dough stage substantially tempers the product's magic.  Caveat: The eP develops considerable gluten sitting all day, rendering it grudgingly miscible with the soaker and levain.  Effective hand mixing of the three preferments benefits from earnest pincing and squeezing, followed by a judicious rest and a brief bout of French folding.

FORMULA (click on table for PDF or here for Google sheet)

The two mini tables, below and linked to the main formula table, are for milling and levain.  There are always losses in milling so I mill more than I need, entering the percentage excess at the top of the mini table.  Total amount of retained brany fraction is entered in the main table after milling.  The separate levain mini table is necessary because I no longer keep a separate stock of levain.  The final build of a formula is just another refreshment of my stock so I build more than the formula calls for, to have some left over for future bakes.  fwiw, I stopped keeping my levain in the fridge back in June.  All room (or storm cellar) temp now.


First Evening
    Weigh out grain for milling & flour for ePreferment. 
    Mise en place mill, tamis, bowls. 
    Refresh starter.                                    
First Morning
    Mill grains (1x coarse, 4x finest), keeping 55# pass & retained separate.                                     
    Mix levain.  Incubate @ 25˚C (77˚F).  Refrigerate unused 55# pass fraction.                                    
    Mix Soaker & ePreferment.  Incubate at room temp.
Second Evening
    Combine levain + remaining water.  Mix in soaker.  Add ePreferment and remaining flour.  Pince & squeeze to mix well.
    Rest dough 10-20 min (not really an autolyse but allows dough to come together).                                      
    Fold in salt.  FF to complete mixing and attain moderate gluten development.                                    
    Bulk ferment at 4˚C (refrigerator) for 18-20h with 2 folds early.                                    
Third Evening
    Divide, pre-shape & rest dough 20 min.                                       
    Shape and proof @ 25˚C (77˚F) incompletely,  ~1.5h (watch dough).                                    
    Pre-heat oven to 260˚C (500˚F)                                    
    Refrigerate dough ~1/2h before fully proofed (stabilizes summer doughs and facilitates scoring).
    Score and bake 20 min @ 230˚C (450˚F) w/steam, then 10-20' (depending on loaf size) @ 215˚C (420˚F) on Convection Cook.

As expected, prefermenting ~90% of the flour followed by a 18-20 hour bulk incurs a gluten cost, sacrificing crumb air (Thanks go to Phil for the idea of a long 4˚C bulk.  Great for hot summer kitchens).  A baker wielding skills to which I aspire could achieve a more fashionable balance of flavor and distribution of crumb alveoli diameter.  Still, the crumb of these breads is anything but dense, being consistently and indulgently soft and spongy-cakey, collapsing under the bread knife before the crust yields.  It is dangerously snackable unaccompanied, especially given the flavor.  And hey, bigger holes would make our current seasonal favorite Brandywine tomato/Genovese pesto/mozzarella sandwiches messy :-).  Crumb airiness has varied among the bakes, probably owing to my catching the final proof better in some than others.  Still learning.

About the flavor.  Experimentation has suggested that this bread's special flavor comes from both the fresh milling and fermentations.  The day-long soaker and eP likely generate abundant and diverse substrates upon which the levain bugs indulge in an orgy of chemical transformation for 18 hours in the fridge.  English is so adjective-challenged when it comes to the nuances of flavor that it's easier to describe what this bread's flavor isn't than what it is.   It is never sour in the acetic sourdough sense.  It is markedly less "wheaty" than naturally leavened breads tend to become as the whole grain percentage rises.  The flavor has a moderately rich Maillard character that intensifies and peaks at 24-48 hours out of the oven.  Eight percent einkorn produces a subtle note of ancient grain and 2% rye is more detectable to the bugs in my starter than to my palate.  Indeed, it's there for them, not me.  When boldly baked, the crust is as intense and more-ish as any junk food.

Most of these Acer bakes have been one or two 750 gr loaves.  1750 gr Acer Miches are special for crumb texture, mostly because the crumb of larger loaves seems to retain more moisture, resulting in a more indulgent mouthfeel and better keeping quality.  Big miches have spiritual quality for me.  But that's for another thread.

Happy baking - and milling - everyone.




*Apologies here to Phil for unconsciously plagiarizing the name "Spring Levain".  I knew it sounded nice and poetic at the time.  Sure enough, I've subsequently realized that was because Phil had named one of his (down under) spring bakes the same.'s picture

Springtime is outdoor time.  Meaning less baking time :-(.  So I'm pleased to have worked up this 36h labor-lite levain.  It has very satisfyingly complex flavor, surprisingly light crumb and an irresistible crust when baked boldly.  Prep is facilitated by using the same flours (a modified Rubaud mix) for both levain and dough.  Many thanks to Ian(ArsP) via PiPs for novel (to me) process pointers.

Click the table below to go to a working Google spreadsheet

First Morning    
1.  Mix final levain build in 25˚C (77˚F) water.  Incubate @ 25˚C (77˚F). If possible (not essential), aerate levain and let rise 1-2X before using.                    
2. Mix final dough's flours in RT water.  "Enzymatically preferment" at 20-22˚C (68-72˚F).

First Evening
3.  Mix salt and levain into autolysed flour with pincer & FF until dough comes together.                     
4.  Bulk ferment ~2h @ 25˚C (77˚F) w/2-4 folds early.  Rest, shape & refrigerate.

Second Evening    
5. Proof 1-2h @ 20-25˚C (68-77˚F).                    
6. Bake 20' @ 230˚C (450˚F) w/steam, then 12' @ 215˚C (420˚F) with convection  (watch it), longer for loaves > 750 gr.

The "Rubaud*" flour mix is a slight modification of Gerard Rubaud's formula.  My "*" version is

35% AP
25% Bread Flour
30% Whole Wheat
7% Spelt
3% Rye

The process exploits Ian(ArsP)'s "enzymatic preferment" during Day 1.  In theory, this saltless soaker is intended to release free amino acids by proteolysis from seed storage proteins, enhancing Maillard activity in the oven.  It also performs as much conventional autolyse as any dough could ask for.  Aerating the levain (stirring it down) releases more free amino acids in the levain, and it's interesting to see it grow back up, in the couple of bakes (weekends) where I actually had a chance to do that.

As Ian(ArsP) points out in his blog, it's convenient to start the levain build and enzymatic preferment at the same time.  Easily done before leaving for work in the morning.  Mixing, folding and bulk are performed that evening, with the dough rested, shaped and refrigerated before bed.  The dough moves slowly during the 24h fridge retard, but comes back to life when retrieved to warm up while the oven is doing the same, or a bit longer. 

Earlier bakes (below) with this process were at 78% hydration.  Cutting back to 75% unflattened the profile nicely.

This one's a keeper.  I'm anxious to apply this process to formulae I've previously come to know and love.

Happy Baking and Happy Spring!

Tom's picture

My Britalian wife cannot abide Easter without Hot Cross Buns.  She declared a batch we sourced locally from a national franchise bakery to be crimes against humanity.  Rather than hauling them up before the World Court, we thought our energy better spent baking some "our"selves.  So King Arthur's recipe was thrust before me, with orders to substitue 1 c AP with whole wheat.  Yes m'lady.  Also included were mixed peel from KA and rum-soaked currants (finally putting to use two mini-bar sized Appleton Rum samples we brought back from the Jamaican estate of the same name ~15 years ago -- probably a lesson there somewhere.).  When the buns were cool enough to pipe on the icing, they looked too good and we were too anxious to sample them and therefore elected to leave them non-denominational.

Before I devour this one with my Easter Monday lunch today, I thought I'd record it for posterity.  KA's recipe is highly recommended, even w/~25%WW.  Even non-denominational.

Happy Holidays and no April foolin'.

Tom's picture

Baking from his book this winter, I've come to appreciate Ken Forkish's practice of growing higher volume levain refreshments and builds than had previously been my habit.  I like to feel the warmth generated by, and smell the sweetness of, fermentation in these larger levains, raising them in plastic vessels chosen to minimize the culture's surface-to-volume ratio when it enters log phase.  I'm a believer in The Mass Effect and the proof is in the baking: The loaves raised with these levains have been unfailingly delicious.

But like many, I don't relish composting so much 'spent fuel'.  This week I  tested a alternative I'd been anxious to try:  Building a dough using all the leftover levain from a bake's refreshments and final build, plus some fresh flour, water and salt.  The result was surprisingly satisfying -- a thoroughly delectable loaf that rivaled in flavor and texture that of the 'main bake' from which its levain was merely the remains of the day.

I try to refresh my 80% starter twice before the final build -- something I learned from David Snyder.  Makes it sweet and active.  Each of these refreshments' volume is 200 gr, with the final levain build being 400 gr for my standard weekly 2kg bake.   So no, I only bought into Ken F's levain volume excess hook and line -- but not sinker -- sensibly short of his one kg levain builds when only ~240 gr are needed.   These three successive cultures, grown over the 36 hr prior to mixing the final dough, leave 180, 160 and 160 gr behind, respectively, a total of 500 gr of 'spent fuel' destined for compost.  However, retaining 20 gr from the final build to seed next week's bake's first refreshment, I am left with 480 gr of recently matured levain to rescue and raise a Spent Fuel Boule.   

For the Spent Fuel Boule, I designed an 800 gr bake based on that prodigous amount of leftover levain, 480 gr.  I chose only 55#-sieved durum semolina as the fresh flour, for a few reasons.  This organic product, enjoying a recent return engagement in my local food coop's bulk bins, yields a nice flour through the sieve (and the retained fraction, a good peel lubricant), and I've wanted to support the co-op's move by purchasing some.  But more importantly, I hoped the durum's sweetness might balance the expected tang of a loaf raised with such a high proportion of cold-stored starter. From zolablue's seminal Sourdough Semolina formula, I went with 70% hydration (click on formula below for functional GoogleDoc spreadsheet).

One convenience of this exercise was how quick and simple it was.  Using such a high proportion of preferment is like time-traveling forward in a normal bake, leap-toading in after bench rest.  The Spent Fuel Boule could barely be expected to sustain even the short fermentation time of a commercial yeast bake: an hour plus of both bulk and proof, give or take.  The resulting loaf was a surprising joy -- the mildest of tangs, a nice soft, if durum-predictably close but light crumb.  I do all my levain building with Gerard Rubaud's flour mix (thank you, MC), so from that, this loaf had some whole wheat, spelt and a dash of rye from the levain.

I look forward to making this or something very much like it part of my routine for all future weekly bakes. My compost will have to satisfy its carb lust elsewhere.

Happy Baking!

Tom's picture

Santa gave me Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.  I had studied it in a bookstore, having been alerted by Breadsong's nice post about his overnight 75% WW.  On my Christmas list it went.  No regrets: I've very much enjoyed learning Mr. Forkish's story and approach and watching his laid-back online videos.  He lands somewhere at the intersection of Chad Robertson and Jim Lahey:  Liquid(y) levains with a fairly low percentage of total flour and long full fermentations.  I strongly recommend the book (over Tartine) to any novice eager to learn to make true artisan-style breads.  Narrower in scope than JH's BREAD, but decidedly for the home baker only.  Very nice photography by Alan Weiner: Every bread pictured in the book looks delicious

I made his Overnight Country Brown as a 1.8 kg miche over the weekend (above) and it is spectacular in every respect.  Fabulous flavor.  30% WW flour, 78% hydration, 80% starter (12% of total flour) and a total of 18 hours of 70˚F fermentation (13 overnight bulk + 5 morning proof).  I wouldn't have thought a dough would have a nanogram of spring left after such a workout (before [left] and after [right] bulk, below),

but was so pleased with the outcome and workflow that this (or something close, with this approach) is likely to bump JH's Pain au Levain as the basis for our table breads.  What a deliciously crave-able loaf of bread.  Perfect with stew from (freshly pick-axe dug!) carrots and parsnips last night.

Mr. Forkish's pitch is his personal mix of "fundamental" (the book's subtitle) and "professional", at least equipment-wise.  He suggests the home baker buy small (for levain) and large (for doughs) Cambro buckets -- hardly mass market consumer products (only restaurant suppliers sell them).  Then somewhat disappointingly (at least for novices, imho) he writes all the processes to climax with baking in 5+ qt DOs.  With so many perfectly effective ways to steam the home oven, and the dangers and loaf limitations of baking in DOs, I was sorry to see this.  The one non-DO bake he describes involves soaking a second pizza stone in water and putting it into a hot oven, under the baking stone, to steam the oven.  In my all too personal experience, that's a very good way to break the stone.

But the book's positives far outweigh those negatives.  Mr. Forkish describes all the familiar essentials to this style of baking, plus some nice detail regarding acetic versus lactic flavors and how to achieve/avoid, as well as other informative sidebars.  The baking timelines are long, often including overnight room temperature fermentation and/or cold retardation.  But he stresses flexibility and experimentation, giving attractive sample timelines for each bake.  I can't wait to try some more, especially those with levain + CY -- an approach I've not explored as much as I've wanted to.  Finally, I'm pleased to say that Mr. Forkish succeeded where others have not, in convincing this stingy toad to maintain levain in a volume large enough to start a bake directly from the refreshed stock and not from a separate, to-the-formula measured volume seeded by a separate (jelly-jar) 'mother' living on the fridge door.  Volume matters.

Great book.  Happy Baking!

Tom's picture

According to Floyd's clock, it has been exactly a year since I emerged from lurkdom @ TFL.  So it's a good day to thank our gracious and attentive host for his hospitality at The Loafers' Inn, and as well to thank Floyd's far-flung guests who have enlivened and enriched my bread journey so generously over the past twelve months.

We are pilgrims on separate paths to our uniquely personal leavened Canterburys, all intersecting at Floyd's Inn.  Some arrived long ago yet linger, lurk or share, while others have wandered away leaving rich legacies on the TFL server.  For many, the journey continues, stopping over to trade millers', bolters' and bakers' tales of crust and crumb, lending support in the passing of fellow travelers or their kin, through work changes, retirements, medical challenges, sundry personal crises or merely a distressingly dense crumb or moribund starter.   To paraphrase a poet: You can get almost anything you want at Floyd's TFL Inn.

To my fellow and former travelers on this unexpected but rewarding pilgrimage, from Brisbane to British Columbia, Fresno to Ft Bragg, Arizona to Seattle, Dubai to Newcastle, Massachusetts to Montana, and all points in between....

Thank you all,
     Happy New Year
               Happy Baking in 2013
                              and don't forget the salt.



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