The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Lately I've been a lurker on TFL and not even a very good one.   But the urge to post is too strong.   I must post.   After a disappointing several weeks at the Winchester Market - some good weeks and some bad weeks, but not really a nice place, or a very well run market, I finally participated in a really great market in Cambridge Massachusetts.   A few days before the market, I called a baker who had been there before me, and asked how much he sold.   He told me close to a hundred loaves.   I gulped as that's around 4 times as much as I've ever baked for one day.    So I got to work and cranked out 35 loaves, plus bagels, baguettes and challah rolls.  On the day of the market, my daughter met me there to help me set up, as I had injured my knee (something to do with a dog and a squirrel.)   And then the shoppers started coming in.   At one point, I decided I should sit down for a bit to rest my knee.   An hour later, I realized that I hadn't had a chance.   The market wasn't that large, or that crowded, but it seems that everyone there had come to shop, shop, shop.

They showed up with their canvas bags, and shop they did.  

A pretty classy place - even the flautist was good.

Even the little kids got in the act.   This guy is either reading my price list, or trying to snag a bagel while I'm busy with his dad.   One father got down to eye level with his three year old, and let the kid pick the bread - a flaxseed rye.    I bit my tongue - no need to say, huh? what? do you think he'll like that?

After a couple hectic hours - in which not a single person told me they were "gluten free" or joked for the 35th time that they too had a bread obsession and then scurried away without buying - I had two bagels left on my table, and an hour and a half left of the market.   Must bake more.   Eek!

This week I started baking yesterday.   Hope to make it to over 50 loaves before Saturday plus my trusty bagels, baguettes and rolls.  



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It has been awhile since I've been on Fresh Loaf.   I have been bread busy and so too bread exhausted for posting lately. For the last few weeks I've been selling on Saturday mornings at a winter market, held in the greenhouse of a large nursery.  

The weather has not cooperated, and traffic has been sluggish, with sales following along.    This week, not wanting to be left with a load of bread (as happened when we got hit two weeks ago with a surprise snow storm) I followed the forecast carefully, and somehow got the reassurance to make a good load of bread.   I was not disappointed.   The temperature went up, the sun came out, and the shoppers reappeared at the market.   I sold almost all my bread, with quite a few return shoppers from past weeks.   Phew!

Fig Anise loaves

Tzitzel Deli Rye, Baguettes, and Bagels

Delicious marshmallow treats from the next table.

Guacamole made up fresh on the other side.

In other bread news, I finally got my wholesale license.   This was neither cheap, nor easy, nor pleasant, but the deed is done.   I have been visiting restaurants in my spare time with rolls and brochures trying to scare up some business. It turns out that there are some big bakeries who have managed to corner the market with low costs and high volume. Not so easy for a tiny little operator to get in there.   Will have to figure out how to do this.   

On the bright side, I recently rediscovered a treat from my youth that I'd entirely forgotten about - salt bagels.

Unbelievably good with a bit of cream cheese. 

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I love spelt but not too much of it.  My high percentage spelt loaves have turned out fine, but somehow don't get eaten up, even by me.  Today I made a Pain au Levain with added Spelt and kept the spelt to 21%.   To my taste at least, this is ideal.   The resulting loaf has that special nutty fresh taste that spelt in small enough quantities provides.  

Using Janet's Cadco techniques plus my  new steel plate, I got some good ovenspring.  Perhaps too good.

I also wanted to come back to the fig anise bread.   I baked the La Brea formula several times, and it was a big hit, but I felt vaguely uneasy, as it is very sweet and incredibly figgy.    I decided to take it down a notch by leaving out the fig puree, reducing the sugar, adding some whole grains, and upping the hydration.   The resulting loaf seems just as figgy even without the puree, still quite sweet, and somewhat more interesting with the added whole wheat.   I accidentally added more water than I had intended, by a lot.   Despite being somewhat perplexed by how wet and slippery the dough was, it still handled reasonably well, and behaved properly.   If anything I would reduce the figs and sugar even more, and perhaps up the whole wheat.   In any case, this version was more satisfying to me than the original.   It almost seems that when you get a lot of figs in there it hardly matters what the underlying bread is made of as the figs conquer all.   

Some time ago, my husband and I ate out at a Portuguese restaurant in East Cambridge.    The bread was amazingly good.   The dinner not so much.   As this hardly ever happens (usually a good dinner is accompanied by just so-so bread) I needed to find out more.   The owner told me that the bread was Broa - Portuguese cornbread.    More questions didn't lead to more answers, as it turns out they don't bake it themselves.

I searched around, and didn't find much on Broa.   Clayton had a quite unsatisfying version in his book.   Then a comment on TFL led me back to my own bookshelf.  Greenstein has a recipe in his Secrets of a Jewish Baker, not really the place I expected to find it.   Greenstein uses volume measurements and it has been so long since I've baked using them that I felt all at sea.   I weighed everything and took notes so I would be able to figure out what I had done.   The dough was incredibly dry - almost like putty, and very salty - perhaps I misunderstood.   To make matters worse I used Masa Harina, and that was just a mistake, as the bread ended up tasting like tortillas.   When I went back and calculated percentages, not surprisingly the hydration was around 50%, and the salt was 2.6%!   Furthermore, the method used was very fast - not even a bulk ferment - and so I thought the flavor was pretty dull excepting the lime treatment of the corn flour which was not a plus. 

I went back to it, and decided to do things a bit differently.   I used starter instead of a boatload of yeast, upped the hydration somewhat, used remilled cornmeal for the corn flour (Greenstein's suggestion) and started over.   This was definitely an improvement, but I don't think I've come close to the delicious bread I had in that restaurant.   Anyone know how to make this authentically?

Happy New Year everyone.

Pain au Levain with Spelt   
Spelt140 14021%
Salt12.2 12.21.8%
Starter210  19%
Total Flour670   
Total Dough1147   
Mix all and bulk ferment 3.5 hours in cold house
Cut and shape   
Proof 1 hour until soft  
Preheat oven to 500 - 45 minutes 
Steam 1 minute   
Slash, spray, and load   
Steam 1 minute   
Oven off 6 minutes   
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes  
400 for 10 minutes   


Fig Anise     
Less sugar, no fig puree, higher hydration 
WW85 8529%
Cornmeal12 124%
Hot water142 14249%
Figs115 11540%
Sugar25 259%
Salt5.3 5.31.8%
Anise seed0.9 0.90.3%
145% Starter153   
Total Flour289   
Total Dough727   
Pour boiling water over whole wheat flour 
Stir and cover   
Rest for 1/2 hour   
Mix all but figs until strong  
Cut dried figs in quarter and mix in 
Refrigerate for 24 hours  
Remove and shape   
Proof  for 1.5 hour until soft  
Preheat hot oven to 500  
Steam 1 minute   
Slash and load   
Steam 1 minute   
Oven off 8 minutes   
Bake at 410 for 20 minutes   
Cornstarch mixture  
Cold Water40  
Boiled Water126  
Final Dough   
Corn flour15021% 
 Cornstarch mix   
Total Flour700  
Total Water45064% 
Dissolve cornstarch in cold water 
Mix in to boiling water  
Bring back to boiling  
then remove from heat and cool 
Mix all    
Bulk Ferment 2 hours  
Shape into boule and sprinkle with flour
Proof for 1 hour  
until flour on top cracks  
Preheat 500   
Steam for 1 minute  
Load and steam for 1 minute 
Turn off for 5 minutes  
Bake at 440 around 30 minutes 



varda's picture

I've been baking a lot lately, as I try to master my Cadco oven.   Some breads come out better than in my conventional gas home oven, others not so  much.   The other day I made challah, and it came out better than ever.   Unfortunately I didn't take good notes, so I'm not quite sure how I baked it.   I did one six strand loaf and the other seven.   The seven was strangely flat and boring.   I guess I need a fancier braiding regime. 

Awhile ago, I tried another La Brea bread - currant buns with a liquid rye sour and a fairly low hydration.   While they were tasty, I wasn't quite happy with them.   So I tried it my way with my drier rye sour and a higher hydration.

I made both loaves and buns.   Using Janet's regime (turn off the oven for a few minutes after preheat and a couple minutes of steaming then on again)   my loaves open consistently but I've only got a really good ear once and of course didn't take a picture. 

I made the buns by rolling into a thick log and then curling them up.   The spiral is largely lost in the bake but you can see it a bit.

These are really tasty, but need a few more currants to push them over the top:


I got a steel sheet that fits on a full shelf in the oven.   This can be baked on directly like a stone, but today I baked on a baking sheet on top of it.  


Currant Rye   
Hi Gluten627 62780%
Rye 15315320%
Currants85 8511%
Salt14 141.8%
Rye sour (80%)275   
Mix all    
Very wet but strong   
Put in refrig at 5 pm until 10:30 next morning
Shape into loaves and buns  
Proof 40 minutes   
Preheat oven to 500 for 40 minutes 
Steam without opening for 2 minutes 
Slash, spray and load bread  
Steam at 500 for 1 minute (actually around 450 as
heat lost when door opened)  
Turn off oven for 7 minutes.  
Turn on again at 425.   
Remove rolls after 12 minutes  
Reduce heat to 350 and bake loaves 10 more minutes
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I have been meaning to make pulla for awhile, ever since various intriguing posts on the subject.   I followed a combination of jarkkolaine (formula) and Julie J.  I only had cardamon pods, so sort of stripped them and crushed them in my coffee grinder.   Not so easy.   The cardamon makes this incredibly tasty.    I am guessing that adding either a poolish or making these sourdough would make these even better, but that could be gilding the lily.     

I tried this with infusion and sourdough today.   They look pretty similar to the above, but definitely prefer the sourdough version.   These were alarmingly delicious.   This is a simple change to Jarkko's formula and uses Julie's finishing instructions.

Cardamon buns     
Milk125 12550% 
Water 333313% 
Butter45 4518% 
Sugar38 3815% 
Eggs13 135% 
Crushed Cardamon2 20.8% 
Salt2.5 2.51.0% 
67% White Starter83    
Butter dabs     
Egg wash     
Powdered Sugar     
Heat milk (microwave 1 minute)   
Add crushed cardamon and let sit around 20 minutes
Mix all ingredients but butter until strong  
then add chopped room temperature butter  
bit by bit until incorporated    
(I used Bosch compact for all mixing)   
Bulk Ferment around 2 hours with 1 S&F  
Shape into 6 balls     
and proof on tray with parchment around 30 minutes
Press thumb down in middle of each bun  
Put a dab of butter in the indentation   
Eggwash and then sprinkle with white sugar  
Bake for 14 minutes oven preheated to 360  
then reduced to 325    
with convection on     


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I love Jewish Rye, but haven't quite got the angle on getting people who didn't grow up with it to love it.   My latest attempt - replace caraway seeds with charnushka.   At least it makes a dramatic presentation.   For good measure I also made a durum levain with black instead of white sesame.  

I'm still struggling with score openings in my convection oven.   Haven't quite got the right combination of temperature, time, and humidity.  The rye bread seems to shrug it off, but not the more tender whites (and yellows.)

Thanksgiving leftovers. Bread.   It may take awhile to cut into the rye.  More to follow.

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Quick update on my Cadco oven.  It took an electrician doubling as an oven mover helper, an amateur plumber, and a fan, but it's now up and running, and I am starting to learn to use it.    No surprise but it requires lower temperature AND shorter baking time.   This fig anise bread took 30 minutes total, at first 400F, then 350F, then 300F as I kept lowering it to keep the crust from getting too dark before the inside could bake.   It looks a bit lonely in there doesn't it, but no way am I going to bake a big load of bread before I get to know its ways.    The fan on top is the amateur climate control specialist's solution to fluid condensing on the wall behind the oven.   Works like a charm.   No need for the $1000 condenser.

Onward and upward.

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Recently a customer asked me to bake a fig anise bread.   She had bought a loaf from Standard Baking in Portland Maine, and loved it, but doesn't get up there often.   At first I was a little reluctant to go down this road, as I thought figs?   anise?   really?   but then decided to see what I could come up with.   A search on TFL revealed that there was just such a bread in Nancy Silverton's La Brea book.    As this has been on my list forever, I bought a copy, procured some dried black mission figs and anise seed, and put it together.   This morning I baked the loaf, cooled it and then dug in.   I have to say this bread is incredibly delicious.   The anise helps instead of hurts as I had worried.  The figs are absolutely decadent.   Sometimes it is good to listen to people (not always of course.)  

The crust of this bread comes out almost black.   Fortunately Nancy Silverton warns of this, or I would have thought I was burning the bread after only 30 minutes.   The only bread I've seen darker than this is Syd's squid ink bread.   But I didn't use any of that.

I must have read this somewhere on TFL as I'm hardly a gourmand, but this bread is just made to go with goat cheese.   What a treat.  

So two questions.   Has anyone been to Standard Baking?   (Karin?)    Any chance that this is the same bread as they sell there?    What is your favorite bread from  Silverton's book?   I can't wait to try something else.

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What could be more simple, or more difficult than a baguette?   It's safe to say that in the few months since I decided it was time to learn to make baguettes, I have tried around 20 different approaches.   Many of these failed, and many were pretty good.   Many followed along with strategies outlined by TFLers.    And yet a tweak here, a chainsaw there, and pretty soon I was off on my own.  

So many decisions when it comes to the humble baguette:

1. Hydration - Is it really ciabatta when you head north of 72% or is that the place to be?

2. Flour -  If you add whole grains is it still a baguette?

3. Commercial yeast and/or starter?

4. Bulk and/or shaped retard?

5. Are you allowed to use baguette trays?

Ok probably more but that's it for now. 

So here are my answers, and I have to say this is what I've arrived at, and certainly not where I started:

1.  I don't care if it "should" be lower.   The best tasting baguettes I can make are 77% hydration.   Lower the hydration and the baguettes look nicer, but the taste isn't quite as wonderful.

2.  I love whole grains, but none shall sully my baguettes.

3.  I can't believe this is the answer but commercial yeast is the way to go.

4.  Bulk retard for both flavor and schedule.   Shaped retard?   No, at least not with my approach.

5.  Hooray for baguette trays - a pox on flipping shaped baguettes around.  

Just to be clear, I worked very hard to create an approach that gave me a very short preparation time in the morning without shaping the baguettes the night before.    This was entirely a function of wanting to sleep until 5 am on farmer's market days and still arrive by 7:30 with fresh baguettes.   Also I wanted a baguette that I could make with minimal fussing, as they would be made at the same time as many other breads, so my fussing time was limited.

So to make one 16 inch (short) 300 gram baguette:

Bread flour (KAAP)  167g

Water 129g

Salt 3g

Active dry yeast .5g

Pour water into bowl and sprinkle yeast on top and wet thoroughly.   Add flour and salt.   Mix all in mixer to incorporate and then for 2 minutes more to develop.  This time is for Verona Assistent speed 1 which does a lot in a short time.  Development is moderate.   Use spatula to consolidate dough in center of bowl.   Cover and refrigerate immediately (around 33deg F) for 17 hours.   Remove, cut and preshape into logs very very gently.   Rest around 5 minutes.   Shape as gently as humanly possible.   Do not seal bottom seam with your finger - just use the pressure of the rolling out and the stickiness of the dough to close things up.   Flour bottom liberally and place in baguette tray.   Proof 40 minutes.   Score and bake at 480 with steam = pour around a cup of water into a perforated pizza pan on floor of preheated oven (preheated for 40 minutes) at beginning and then another round at 8 minutes.   Total bake is around 30 minutes.

Scoring these things is brutal - sort of like scoring jello.   At that point in the process the shaped dough is just kind of lying there flat and dead.   It's almost impossible to believe that the scores are having any effect whatsoever.   And then magically (as Larry has described) they start to puff up.  Every now and then I even get some bloom.

These are a tender little treat.

Is this my last word on the subject?   I doubt it.

Inspired and reminded by breadsong,  I put together a sesame semolina batard.   I had forgotten that you can make breads with durum without going up to 50+% durum flour, and I had forgotten what a great combo sesame and durum make.  

This is 20% durum flour, 80% bread flour, 67% hydration, 20% prefermented flour from 67% white starter.   Now all I have to do is learn how to braid it. 

Finally,  a friend of mine who is excited about my bread hosted a bread tasting for me at her home.   I baked six different breads for it, a lot of people came, and it went very well.   We put together a bread centerpiece that had all the breads in it but the Borodinsky, which surprised me by being the hit of the evening.


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In addition to my recent foray into selling at the farmers market, I have also been doing a small bake to order business out of my house.   I post a few choices for one day a week, and people order a couple days in advance.   Then stop by and pick up.   This is very constrained as zoning regs say that only 6 people per day can come to the house to purchase.   It would take a neighbor complaint to make enforcement kick in, but obviously it could only grow so much.  

I started with a few friends, and then a few people who became friends, plus a few friends of friends.   A couple people order almost every week and have done so for months, and then several more people order regularly but less frequently.  

A woman I know who gets things done decided to hold a bread tasting for me - in other words she hosts and invites her friends, and I bake.    That's next week, so we'll see what comes of that.  

Picture above was taken just after the last bagel came out of the oven, but unfortunately after the first customer came and walked off with a few bagels and a baguette. 


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