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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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Lately I've been so focused on baking what I know consistently and well that I haven't tried new things.   Fortunately I am still a regular browser (if less frequent commenter) on TFL and there is a lot of new out there.   Josh (golgi170) has been posting one interesting bread after another, and I haven't had a chance to start let alone catch up.   Yesterday I decided to try his Sprouted Wheat Levain, that of the beautiful ear.    When I first saw this, I wanted to make it, but lacked the flours he used:   sprouted wheat and barley.   As these things happen, first one and then the other made its way into my cupboard.   No excuses.   Time to bake.  

Not only the flours were new.   Just about every bit of Josh's methods were new.   I resisted the urge to revert to Hamelman methodology and just kept doing the new things even though I was mystified.   More on this shortly.

But first the taste.  Short story:  very good, very interesting, very sour.

Now a bit longer story.   This is a loaf with a kick to it.   If that were all, I wouldn't have been happy.   In addition to the sour, there are subtle undertones.   Furthermore, the crumb has a moist texture that is very pleasant and the crust is light and crisp.   Delicious.  Unfortunately we cut into the loaf so soon that the cut is a bit ragged in the picture above.   Hope you get the idea anyhow.  

Now back to the methodology, formula, etc.   First difference for me at least, is that one of the interesting new flours went into the starter instead of final dough.   I usually let my starter be what it is (that is 67% hydration all white) and then make modifications elsewhere.   Here the starter is built with sprouted wheat flour which then is not introduced into the final dough.  

Final dough calls for malted bread flour.   I haven't been able to lay my hand on that.   Instead I used my usual KAAP.   The ingredients include malted barley.    Does that count?  

Second, a complex mixing protocol.   Long autolyse, then mix in starter, then salt, then after development add in some withheld water and mix again.  

Next two French slap periods.   Ok.   I'll admit it.   Here is where I bailed.   No way was I going to slap that wet dough around.   Instead I put it back into the mixer for a few seconds, at half hour interval, twice.  Half hour later, did stretch and fold in bowl.   Half hour later, stretch and fold on counter.   I think I got decent dough development, so hopefully that wasn't such a big deviation.    

Next long counter ferment - 4 hours.   Why so long?   Won't it over-ferment?   No I guess not.   And yet, my urge was to cut it short to 2.5 hours given the long retard ahead.   But I didn't.  

Josh says 8-12 hour retard.   Here my schedule got away from me, so I did 15 hours.   Perhaps less sour if I'd been able to get to it sooner? 

Then bake at very high temperature, for 50% shorter than usual.    Eeek.   Why so hot?   Why so short?  But really lovely crust came out of that.  

So with all that, different, delicious bread.   Can't argue with that.  

And did I get Josh's beautiful ear?   No such luck.   A tame, even open.   Maybe next time.  


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One of the great things about TFL is that when I see an ingredient at the store, even though I've never used it before I know it will be good because of all the posts I've read.   So it was the other day while shopping at Costco, when a bag of Deglet Noor dates jumped into my basket and came home with me.   I've only eaten dates a few times, and don't like them so much as I find them too sweet and sticky.   Nonetheless, there they were and so had to be used.    The next day, I built up my rye sour way too much getting ready for market day and was on the verge of tossing the extra as I already had enough baking to do.   But then I remembered the dates.   So I pulled them out, cut them in half, and computing madly, made up a bread around them.    I made two loaves, a pan loaf and a hearth loaf.   The hearth loaf was so pretty I decided to sell it at the market the next day, but we ate the other one.    When my husband tasted it, he announced that if I only wanted to make breads like that, it would be fine with him.    And really it was delicious.  

I may not like dates in general, but apparently I like dates in bread. 

Then my real baking for market day got going.   I made crown challahs, cherry almond whole wheat loaves, baguettes, Hamelman's Pain au Levain with mixed starters, and rolls made out of the same dough.  

The market was as slow as can be, but I still sold almost everything.   I traded two of the leftover loaves - one for corn, and the other for quiche.   Then had one baguette left to take home.   

I've learned a lot about baking larger quantities since I last posted using a lot of the great advice I got here.   Friday-Saturday I made 26 loaves and 10 rolls.   It is a lot of work, but easier as time goes on.   My last bake before running off to the market was a load of baguettes (8) and the rolls.   For some reason, my oven was just not hot enough and I couldn't get either the baguettes or the rolls properly browned before I had to go.   But they sold anyhow, and no one seems to mind a paler loaf or roll except for me.  


Date Bread   
      Final      Starter        Total          BP
KAAP400 40046%
WW300 30035%
Rye 16216219%
Salt16 161.9%
Dates146 14617%
Rye Sour295  19%
Mix all intensely in mixer - dough is very wet
Bulk Retard at 10pm   
Remove after 10 hours  
Bake at 450 for 45 minutes with steam 



Cherry Almond Whole Wheat  
KAAP 434314%
Rye 414114%
WW218 21872%
Salt6 62%
Broken almonds35 3512%
Dried cherries50 5017%
Yeast2 21%
total flour302   
total dough611   
Preferment %28%   
Autolyse flour and water 1 hour   
Mix all until  relatively strong 15 minutes 
BF 2 hours   
Retard 8 hours   
Bake at 450 with steam for 45 minutes 





Date Bread   
KAAP400 40046%
WW300 30035%
Rye 16216219%
Salt16 161.9%
Dates146 14617%
Rye Sour295  19%
Mix all intensely in mixer - dough is very wet
Bulk Retard at 10pm   
Remove after 10 hours  
Bake at 450 for 45 minutes with steam 
varda's picture

Today, I attended my first farmer's market as a vendor.   Yesterday I baked around three times more bread at one time than I had ever done before.   Miraculously it all came out fine with no kitchen disasters.  This morning I finished up the baking and drove a couple towns over to Carlisle.   I had never been to the Carlisle market before.   I had two reasons for picking it.   One, I figured, given that Carlisle is pretty sparsely populated, that the market might be small enough for me to be able to manage.   The second is that unlike Lexington, they were willing to let me start in the middle of the season.   Sure enough, it was a fairly small and low key market.   The neighboring booth was a lemonade stand staffed by a seven year old and his parents.

So I relaxed and got ready to sell bread armored with my hastily purchased $6 sign from Staples.

There were plenty of baked goods, but only a couple other loaves about, and nothing like mine.   The market officially opened at 8 am, but there were only a trickle of customers and few of those interested in bread.    I figured I was going to be bringing a lot of loaves home, or engaging in some pretty furious barter for corn and squash at the end of the market.   

And yet, slowly but surely over the course of the morning my loaves walked away one by one, and in the opposite order that I expected.  

First to disappear were the flaxseed ryes.

Then went the Cherry Almond Whole Wheats.

The baguettes took longer to go, perhaps because they were a bit pale due to my needing the oven for the Challah rolls.   Finally a woman who would have preferred a Cherry Almond decided to take the last baguette home.  

When it was all over, I had only four challah rolls left out of my starting 18 loaves and 19 rolls.

The crowd seemed to divide into two parts (in my mind of course.)   The people who glanced at the bread, and then walked on as if they hadn't seen anything.    The second group would be almost past, when suddenly their eyes would lock on the bread, and they would circle slowly back, and only after a moment or two remembering to look up and say hello.   Of course, I liked those people better.  

One woman bought a roll, took a bite, and informed me it was dry.   I noticed that as she walked away she was still eating it.    Ten minutes later, she came back and said that after a bite or two she realized how good it was.   She just had to reorient herself from puffy.   

I experienced the limits of my kitchen all in one night.    I reached capacity on my scale (5 K) my Assistent Mixer which started chucking up bits of rye dough all over the place as they got too close to the top of the bowl.   My counter space and oven, and so forth.   But I survived, and sold my bread, and I'm ready to do it all over again next week.  Now I just have to figure out what to make.    

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I have been making a lot of baguettes lately.    I had a particularly promising one the other day - took a bite, left the room, came back to find the dog eating it.   That's what happens when you make a lot of baguettes, I suppose.   

My husband asked me if I was driving myself crazy with making all these baguettes.   The answer?   No, I'm just trying to learn how to do it.   And you have to make a lot to learn.   So there it is.    And fortunately unlike some of my rye-ier efforts, he actually likes to eat the endless series of practice rounds.  

Today's entry?   A lower hydration overnight retarded sourdough version.   It rolled out a lot longer than I expected - 20 inches - as I did a long rest after the preshape.   It surprised me that the shaping was much easier with this long rest and it didn't seem to get overproofed.    As my baguette trays are 16 inches long instead of proofing on the tray, I placed it diagonally on a 16 inch sheet seam side down, covered with couche, and supported the sides.  

It sang like crazy coming out of the oven and looked ok if a bit mottled - I'm not sure why.

I was thrilled with the taste.   My best yet without question.   This had exactly the smooth creamy crumb texture that I have been striving for with an absolutely crisp and brittle crust.   The sourdough gives it a deep flavor, with not a hint of sour.  

Since I rolled it out so thin it had a bit higher ratio of crust to crumb for every bite, than I might have hoped.   So at least a shade thicker and shorter next time.  

      Final   Starter   Total Baker's %
Salt3 31.6%
Starter70  22%
Mix all by hand - a couple minutes 
Bulk Ferment 1 hour  
Stretch and Fold in bowl  
Seal container and refrigerate for 13 hours
Remove and preshape  
Place upside down in couche  
Rest 1.5 hours   
Shape and place diagonally on 16 inch sheet
Cover with couche and support on both sides
Proof for 1.5 hours   
Slash and bake at 450 for 30 minutes 
steam at beginning   
Rotate at 25 minutes  

If you ask am I likely to be posting any more on baguettes, I will have to quote Winston Churchill.  

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

After all, I still haven't fully explored hydration or yeast vs starter or retardation time or starter plus biga or...

And just in case you are wondering if my dog story is a bit too shaggy...

Does this look like a shaggy dog?



varda's picture

Recently I decided it was time to try to learn to make baguettes.    My strategy has been to make baguettes every day, both to get practice and to try different approaches.    Since I am making them so frequently and often tucked in the middle of other bakes, I don't always have good records.  That hasn't been much of an issue, as these are practice baguettes and haven't been that terrific.    The other day, though, amidst baking other bread, I made the tastiest baguettes ever.    Unfortunately my records were incomplete, and I wasn't entirely sure what I had done.  

The ones pictured here are all white, 80% hydration, 20% prefermented flour, refrigerated in bulk for 20 hours.  

As part of this learning process I have been reading a lot on TFL from all (actually some, there are a lot) of the great baguette makers including Janedo's great post on the Bouabsa method, and David S's amplifications and Mark Sinclair's amplications on those amplifications, and of course txfarmer.    This makes learning so much easier.    Thank you all.  

Here are the difficulties I am having.   First and foremost shaping.    I know this is entirely a function of the high hydration I have chosen.    And yet, based on my experience so far, they seem to get tastier at higher hydrations (and perhaps prettier at lower.)    So I would like to make it work.   I have been proofing on parchment paper seam side down on a baking sheet, using the parchment as a couche for support.   This way I don't have to attempt to move them when time to load into the oven other than to flatten out the parchment.   Scoring is even worse than shaping.   My lame just gets lost in the soft dough.   I can't get a clean cut.   So suggestions extremely welcome. 

And now on to recreating that unrecorded baguette.  

Update:   I have tried a few more times and got quite different results.   A bit mystified but here is the latest:

Somewhat dramatic difference in shaping and slashing no?

So what changed:


Instead of 80% hydration, 75% hydration

Instead of 20% prefermented flour from starter, 25% prefermented flour from starter


Instead of 20 hour retard, 24 hour retard

Instead of 30 minute rest and 1 hour proof, 25 minute rest and 50 minute proof


Instead of baking on sheet on stone, proofed and baked on baguette tray.


I'll just say it is a tasty morsel, and a fine resting point for now.   No need to get obsessive after all.

Formula and Method:

         Final     Starter       Total         BP
Salt4 41.7%
Starter100  25%
Total dough424   
Mix all 3 minutes speed 1  
Rest 1 hour    
Mix around30 sec speed 1  
Refrigerate at 10 am   
Remove at 11 am    
Cut and preshape   
Rest 25 minutes   
Shape (300g baguette, 100g roll)  
Proof 50 minutes   
Bake at 480 for 30 minutes  
Steam at beginning   




varda's picture

Lately I've been baking a lot, as I decided my family's appetites did not quite coincide with either the type or amount of bread that I wanted to bake.   This has led to a conundrum, as I have occasionally made a great many loaves and then ended the day with no bread in the house.   Suddenly my barely tolerated bread has become a must have, so I have to make up the difference with a few more loaves after the big bake is over.   Yesterday I made these loaves which all went to good homes by the end of the day.  

Today, to make up for the lack of bread in the house,  I made a couple more durum loaves, and then a somewhat of a mystery boule.   The mystery wasn't what was in it, but how much, as my scale bit the dust before I could weigh the ingredients.   So basically some white starter, rye sour, KAAP, water and salt.   The water must have been quite a bit, as the dough turned out to be quite wet.  

These durum loaves were the first I've made with King Midas Extra Fancy Durum.   I was pleased to taste them and find that I couldn't tell any difference between that and King Arthur, and as you can see below, the crumb color didn't suffer.  

The mystery boule dwarfs the durum one. 

It has a nice light sourdough texture and flavor.   Of course I will never be able to recreate it.   I suppose the point is just to eat it.  

Durum Levain


































Total flour



Total dough



Mix mostly at speed 2 - 2 minutes at speed 3

Intense enough for some cohesion


BF 1 hour 30 minutes


Shape and proof in basket


Bake at 450 with steam, 40 minutes




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