The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I’ve been making this bread every  weekend since mid-April with the goal of entering it in the county fair, which has a sourdough division this year. The theme of the fair this year is “Over the Moon”, hence the stencil. 

I made 3 batches of 2 loaves each so I’d have plenty to choose from, this one looked the nicest.

The bake was really darker than what the lead photo shows, and the crust was nicely blistered. I was surprised that the judges only cut a small triangle from each entry, it seems hard to judge the crumb from that.

I suspect the crumb of the loaf I submitted wasn’t nearly as open as I hoped, of course I don’t know because I couldn’t cut that one, but this loaf is from my first of the 3 batches:

I wish I was able to get that crumb regularly. Unfortunately I’m still quite uneven,  I don’t know whether it’s variables in my shaping or proofing. I’ll keep experimenting and hopefully next year try it again.

Here’s my recipe for Multigrain Sourdough with Cracked Rye and Barley:

Soaker (night before):

100 g. freshly cracked rye 

100 g. freshly cracked barley 

4 g. salt

400 g. boiling water. Leave on counter overnight.

for the dough:

700 g. Artisan Baker’s Plus (Central Milling)

149 g. freshly ground Red Fife wheat, #40 sifted

26 g. freshly ground rye, #40 sifted

465 g. Water

250 g. levain, 3-stage build from NMNF starter, partly bran fed, 100% hydration. Many thanks to dabrownman for the NMNF scheme!

20 g. salt

I’ve been finding it easiest to mix the soaker with the water first because the soaker is so firm and lumpy, then add the flours and mix until shaggy, then autolyse for 90 minutes before adding salt and levain and mixing for 6 minutes (Ankarsrum) , rest 15, mix 3 more , rest 15, another 3 minutes and then transfer to my bulk container where I did 5 sets of stretch-and-folds on 30 minute intervals. I judged the dough was ready to divide after about 3and a half hours total bulk ferment at 82df. Preshape, rest 30 minutes, and shape (stitching). The loaf that went to the fair got 20 minutes proofing at 82df, then 15 hours in the fridge and into a hot Dutch oven with only enough delay to score and stencil.

 The loaf with the nice crumb got 1 hour warm proof and 30 minutes in the fridge while the oven warmed up to 500.

I’m very happy with the texture and flavor of this recipe but after a couple of months with it I think I’ll make some white bread next. ;-)



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This week I decided to wing it somewhat, a departure for me. I made a dough I’ve made often before - 30% whole wheat, 79% hydration, 12% levain - and added a soaker of a small handful each of sesame, flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. I didn’t weigh the seeds or water in the soaker because I knew it would be a much higher percentage of the dough weight than much I was taught to use. My bad! I’ll have to experiment to recreate it to get the wonderful aroma and flavor. The dry seeds were probably around 30% or more of the dough weight.

When I make seeded breads I always have trouble with the scoring because the seeds prevent a clean cut. These loaves opened nicely on one of the 4 cuts, and verged into blowout territory in spots, while the other cuts nearly disappeared!

Pretty happy with the crumb for so many seeds, and as it turns out a good warmup for next week and the community bake.




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Yesterday I did my big bake of ten loaves to take to the neighbors for the holidays. After lots of head scratching I decided to work in two batches, the second following 2.5 hours after the first. For once I had plenty of refrigerator space available but only 6 bannetons and 2 Dutch ovens (actually I have more but the oven will only hold 2).

I built my levain the day before, using leftover sifted whole wheat and bran sightings, about equal amounts, and put it in the fridge overnight. I started early and mixed the first batch in my Ankarsrum with dough hook and scraper and left it to autolyse for 1:30, then added salt and levainand mixed with roller and scraper for 2 minutes,and transferred to my bulk container, freeing up the mixer for the second batch. I was able to raise the temperature of 3.6 kg of dough from 65dF to my target 84 in ten minutes with a heat gun blowing on the outside of the rotating bowl.

Bulk ferment took about 4 hours with 5 sets of stretch and folds, adding walnuts and cranberries after the second set. It was hard to find enough warm places for the dough to rise, especially in final proof. I ended up rotating 2 bannetons at a time through my proofer and a cooler with a microwaved rice bag for warmth, and guessing when to chill them to await their turn in the oven. I guessed wrong on a couple loaves, underproofed but not too badly.

 The main dough was 70% CM ABD+, 30% sifted Red Fife, 2% salt, and 80% hydration. The levain was 12%, and the add ins were 11% of the dough weight (30% cranberries and 70% walnuts).

 The trouble with all that bread is that I also needed to make some for us to eat in the next week, so I built another mostly-bran levain in the midst of this, and today, because my poor little pea brain was tired, I did a simple 1-2-3-bread with white flour 

Crumb of this one:

So that was a busy weekend!


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I decided to do a test run of my planned bake for next week. For the last couple of years I’ve taken loaves around to our neighbors, this year it will be more than ever, 10 loaves. I still have to work out how to manage that, 2 at a time in my oven.  I’ll be studying Danni’s posts for ideas!

When I’ve used cranberries before I thought it was too much, so this time I scaled back the cranberries to 30% of the add-ins and upped the walnuts to 70%. Total add-ins 11% of the dough weight.

I mixed 592 g of CM ABC+ and 254 g of sifted, freshly ground Red Fife with 657g of water and left it for a 90 minute autolyse with 18 g of salt sprinkled on top to dissolve. Then I added 108 g of 100% hydration levain (3-stage bran-fed from NMNF, retarded overnight) and mixed for 6 minutes, rest 15, mix 3 minutes, rest 15, and mix 3 more minutes before putting it into my bulk fermenting container and into the proofer. Overall hydration 79%.

I’ve been experimenting for several weeks with a novel method to get my dough temperature up where I want it for bulk ferment. Especially this time of year, the house is rarely over 66 degrees F and as I usually have to get done in one day due to limited refrigerator space, I want the dough to ferment at 82 to 84 dF.  Because I use an Ankarsrum mixer, I’ve taken to using a heat gun on low power on the outside of the rotating bowl while mixing, keeping track of the dough temp with an infrared thermometer as I go. This works great, I can easily and gently warm the dough 20 degrees in under 10 minutes without getting any of it too warm. Then my cobbled-together proofer-cum-storage box can just barely keep the dough warm for a few hours, it was never able to warm it effectively.

I did 5 sets of stretch and folds on 30 minute intervals, adding 127 g of coarsely chopped walnuts and 53 g of chopped, dried cranberries after the second set. After 3:45 I judged that it was ready so I divided the dough in two, did a pretty tight preshape (the dough was pretty stiff, I’ll increase the hydration next time from 79 to perhaps 81%) and let it rest for half an hour before shaping 2 boules and proofing at 84 dF. My shaping was a bit uneven, I think because the dough was stiffer than what I’m used to. 

I didn’t get the oven hot in time so it was still heating up when I thought the dough was ready after 1:30 and I had to wait another 15 minutes. The dough spread quite a bit when I turned it out and slashed it so I was worried the loaves would be pretty flat as I loaded them into the preheated Dutch ovens. Baked at 475 for 5 minutes, 450 for 15 minutes, then uncovered the Dutch ovens and baked another 17 minutes at 425.

Turns out I got decent if not spectacular oven spring and some small ears. In the morning I was anxious to see how the crumb turned out and was pleasantly surprised. The loaves were less than perfectly round to put it charitably, I guess I could say they have a rustic look. ;-)


Well that’s ok after all. I Won’t. Change. A. Thing. for next week. I’m very happy with the flavor of this bread, the walnut flavor is forward and the cranberries are more subdued but definitely there. Really good toasted with butter.


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I’ve been playing with freshly ground heritage varieties lately, this is my latest foray into freshly ground wheat.

I bought 2 pounds of locally grown Frassinetto wheat berries at the farmers market last week. Since my wife has given up on trying to be gluten free, I’m now allowed to use our old Nutrimill. Yay!

 I built my levain from DABrownman’s NMNF starter, many thanks for that scheme! I used last week’s leftover RedFife flour and bran for the feedings.

For the dough I used 70% Central Milling’s ABC+; 30% freshly ground and sifted Frassinetto; 2% salt;12% levain; overall hydration of 79%, which I’ll increase 1% at a time over the coming weeks until the dough exceeds my shaping abilities.

As is my habit, I used the dough hook of my Ankarsrum mixer to bring the flour and water to a shaggy mass and removed the hook for a 2-hour autolyse. After adding the salt and levain I put in the roller and mixed with external heat applied for 8 minutes, 15 minutes rest, and 4 minutes more. My desired dough temperature is 83dF, it’s challenging to get the dough warm enough to get the yeasts and bacteria moving. 

After about 3:45 in bulk ferment with 5 sets of stretch and folds I divided the dough at 815g, preshaped and rested for 30 minutes before shaping two boules by stitching and putting them into rice floured, cloth lined bannetons. After a few minutes they went into the 38 degree fridge for 16 hours.

In the morning After preheating the oven to 500 degrees with my Dutch ovens inside I took them out of the fridge, slashed, and got them into the Dutch ovens as quickly as possible. Reduced the temperature to 450 after 5 minutes, removed the lids after 20 minutes and reduced the temperature to 425 for another 17 minutes.

 I’m pleased with the rise and oven spring, and the crust is nicely blistered.

After about 6 hours I couldn’t resist cutting one open although I haven’t quite finished the last loaf. Taste Will have to wait until tomorrow.

 I still have some work to do to get the elusive open crumb but I’m happy with this for now.


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I repeated last week’s bake of 36+hour Baguettes, overall hydration at 74% this time. The shaping went much better and although I thought the scoring was easier the cuts didn’t open up as well as I hoped.

Type 70 flour, proofed en couch and transferred to the stone by flipboard. 4 Demi-baguettes, 15” long, 250 grams dough weight each. Baked with hot water on lava rocks for steam in the first half of the bake. It’s a good challenge and there’s always a reason to do it again! I need to shuffle the loaves around on the stone next time to get the sides to brown more evenly 

The crumb is pretty good with nice glossy cell walls and the darn things keep disappearing along with the chèvre.


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I haven’t made Baguettes in over a year and I’m pretty rusty although I’ve never been as consistent or practiced as the master. I used the “36 hour + Baguettes” recipe by txfarmer, but I reduced the hydration to 72% which was too dry in retrospect, but easier to handle when out of practice. I used Central Milling Type 70 malted flour which gives excellent flavor.













Wow do I need practice scoring!













Not a bad crumb though. And the other problem is that they seem to disappear pretty fast!

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I’ve been making Trevor’s Champlain sourdough a lot recently and have made progress but the open crumb still eludes me. This is last weekend’s bake and I’m pretty happy with it.  I increased the hydration by 2% and that helped. But I’m nowhere near “volcanic crumb”. Very pleased with the oven spring and blisters!





































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I've been playing every weekend with add-ins, this is my latest effort. Also the highest ratio of whole wheat to white I've challenged so far.

450 g. AP flour

550 g. whole wheat flour

160 g. type 110 starter, 100% hydration

19g. salt

741 , water

80 g. hemp seeds

50 g. toasted sesame seeds

80 g. bulghur wheat

150 g. dried currants

I soaked the bulghur and currants overnight, they took up a lot more water than I expected. Unfortunately I didn't keep track of the amount of water in the soaker, something to remember for next time.

After a 2 hour autolyse I mixed everything else and then bulk fermented for just under 5 hours at 82-84 df, with 6 sets of stretch & folds at 30 minute intervals, then left alone. I had a busy weekend so instead of retarding as I usually do I went ahead and preshaped, rested, shaped 2 boules and proofed for about an hour. Shaping was a challenge, as the dough was much wetter than I anticipated for 76% hydration. My assistant Photon was no help at all, his job is normally to walk across the floured board and if possible step on the resting dough.

I preheated my dutch ovens to 450 df, baked at 425 covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for 20 more. As usual, my glazed dutch oven gave considerably better spring than my combo cooker, I've come to expect that.

I think I should have proofed the loaves longer, but I was timid with the dough so wet. The flavor is wonderful, nutty and chewy and only mildly sour.




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For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, North bay especially, Celine Underwood of Brickmaiden Breads is putting on three sourdough workshops this fall. I took the beginning workshop last October and loved it, and I'll be attending the advanced one in December this year. The info is at, check it out!




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