The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


beanfromex's picture

I am thinking of coming up with a sure fire recipe for this loaf.

But of course, before I do that I have to master my new "progressive" glasses, the yahoo beta format, uploading pics into this site while I continue to try and produce french bread in a location where the flour and humidity and yeast are all unstable...But, it may just be me...

 I have baked french bread twice this week, putting all my new found knowledge and lists and tips into play...all to no avail. The first batch I had to pry off the couche...the second batch came out firmer, pale and without a crust despite feeling crusty in the oven when I first took them out...

I just know at any minute my dear husband will walk through the door asking where "todays batch"is and I am sure that will send me into a homicidal rage...I have accomplished nothing other than whinging to the site owner for the mentally incompetant set of directions for uploading pics , and putting 9 measly pics into photobucket.

I dont know if my inability to read the screen text is flour smudges, the progressive lenses, or general eye fatigue due to reading for the past week on french bread..which didn't help me out anyway did it??

So, tomorrow, I will take another stab at uploading pics, and perhaps bake my old standby loaf, which should soothe me, if not, there is always margaritas made with fresh lime juice...

 Bye for now..

JMonkey's picture

For my birthday, my mother bought me the brand-new King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking book. It's well timed. Their first book turned me on to bread baking, but after a few months, I moved toward whole grain breads almost exclusively, and the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion is about 95% white flour recipes. I learned a lot from it, but I wasn't baking much from it. So, suffice to day, I was itching to knead something up out of this book as soon as possible.

 I've made a few of the quickbreads. The Sailor Jack muffins, in particular -- an incredible cake-like concoction with raisins steeped in spices, molasses and brown sugar, along with whole wheat flour and oats, topped with a lemon sugar glaze -- are very, very tasty indeed. But I'd not tried a yeast bread until this weekend.  The first recipe to catch my eye was Ciabatta Integrale, a ciabatta made with half whole wheat flour, olive oil and a bit of powdered milk. I love ciabatta -- nothing is better for a sandwich or simply a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar. But whole grains just don't do ciabatta. Those holes? Forget it. Or so I thought. This recipe isn't 100% whole grains, but it's half, and I'll take it, given the results.  Here's one loaf all sliced up for sandwiches.
   And here's the other loaf, which served as dinner bread with some stuffed acorn squash (stuffed with quinoa, maple syrup, raisins, almonds and cinnamon), fresh corn and a green salad composed of our morning trip to the farmers' market. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are in the gravy boat, natch. 
  I was really impressed with the results, especially since the recipe said it's impossible to mix completely without a stand mixer. I don't own a stand mixer, so here's how I did it, thanks to a little help from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Ingredients  Pre-ferment  1 cup or 4 oz. whole wheat flour 1/2 cup or 4 oz cool water Pinch of instant yeast  Dough  All of the pre-ferment 1 1/4 cups or 5 oz. whole wheat flour 2 1/4 cups or 9.5 oz white bread flour 1 1/4 cups or 10 oz. cool water 1/4 cup or 1.75 oz olive oil 1/4 cup or 1 oz. nonfat dry milk 1.5 tsp salt 1/4 tsp instant yeast  Yes, you read that right. This recipe makes two loaves of ciabatta with less than 3/8 tsp yeast.  The night before mix together the pre-ferment. The next morning dump all the ingredients (including the pre-ferment, which should be spongy and full of bubbles) EXCEPT for the salt and additional yeast into a bowl, and mix it together with a large spoon or a dough whisk until it seems mostly hydrated. Cover and let it stand for 45 minutes to an hour.      

After the autolyse (that's what you're doing when you soak), add the salt and yeast.


                  Get a small bowl of cool water, and dip your hands in it. Shake off most of the water (important, otherwise you'll end up overhydrating the dough and you'll have soup) and then, using your hand like a dough hook, impale the dough with all five fingers. Turn your wrist clockwise while you turn the bowl with your other hand counter clockwise. Continue to do this, occassionally changing direction and wetting your hands if the dough starts to stick, for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, but it will stick to the bottom. Adjust the flour or water as necessary. Put the dough in a pre-greased bowl and cover it.  Every hour or so, copiously flour your work surface, remove the dough, copiously flour the dough and give it a good stretch and fold, brushing off as much of the flour as you can before folding. By stretch-and-fold, I mean gently pat out the gas, stretch the dough to twice its length and then fold it in thirds like a letter. Give the dough a one-quarter turn, and then stretch-and-fold once more. Place it back in the bowl and re-cover it. Here's a good lesson on the technique.  After about 3 hours and 2 or 3 folds (depending on how much strength the dough needs), remove the dough, and divide it into two. Gently stretch and pat each loaf into a 12 x 4 inch rectangle, and place them in a baker's couche (essentially, well-floured linen that you bunch up around the loaves so that they rise up instead of spreading out) or on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Cover with greased plastic.  It took mine about 4 hours for the final proof, but then my house is a chilly 62-64 degrees F. If your house is around 70-75 degrees, you may only have to wait two hours or so. In any case, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put the loaves in the oven either on a preheated baking stone or a cold baking sheet when they're good and puffy. Steam the oven (I keep a cast iron skilet in the bottom of mine and usually toss about 1 cup of boiling water in it) and turn the oven down to 425. The loaves should take 20-25 minutes to cook and should register 205 degrees when done. With all that oil, the crust is not as crisp as I usually like ciabatta, but I find I do like the flavor it adds.  Enjoy!
Floydm's picture

This morning was the first morning that it was cold enough here that the furnace kicked on. Unfortunately, we discovered that the ignitor has failed, so we got a fan running but no heat. So I've done what any good home baker would do: put together enough batches of bread to keep the oven on all day. It has kept the house warm and smelling wonderful.

Floydm's picture

I made a simple French Bread yesterday. I didn't use a pre-ferment or anything: I actually wanted to experiment with long knead times and see just how much of a difference in taste and volume it made. Something just didn't see right with my dough. It felt tight and, although moist, kind of puckered up.


After I tasted it it was obvious what was wrong: I added much too much salt.  Almost double.  The crumb still wasn't too bad:


I saved about 8 ounces of the dough in the fridge to throw into today's batch.  I wanted to try the old dough method.  Indeed, I did end up with a much tastier loaf today (I reduced the salt in today's batch accordingly).


I thought this loaf came out particularly pretty.




Floydm's picture

I baked a couple loaves of French Bread and a Whole Wheat Loaf today: 

three loaves

The French Bread turned out very good.  I used a poolish and autolyse, then when I went out for a hike this morning I popped the dough in the fridge so it had an extra slow, long rise. It always seems to help.

I've started reading the copy of Good Bread is Back I got a month or so ago.   I'm finding it more interesting that I expected to.  I was afraid it was going to be too scholarly and dry, but, although the author is an academic, he clearly has a passion for bread that shines through in his writing.  I still have quite a way to go, but so far I am enjoying it.


pmccool's picture

We're leaving town today to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law for their birthdays.  One of the requests was "Could Dad bring some bread?"  So Dad got busy and baked some sourdough bread from the King Arthur cookbook.  I tweaked the recipe by substituting 2 cups of rye for some of the AP flour.  I also made a batch of sourdough english muffins as well.  Picture below:

Sourdough bread and muffins

Luckily, the TSA is allowing foods in carry-on luggage, so we don't have to worry things getting smashed or stolen in the checked luggage.


lakshmi's picture

i went through a lot of recepies,

i find some words like sponge, poolish and sourdough being repeated quite often will some one enlighten me on the meaning  of these words and the purpose it serves,


lakshmi's picture


im from indiaand this is a fabulous site.

i had given up on baking bread after a lot of unsuccessful attempts

but this is the first time i could actually do it and tasted good.

the crust was a bit too brown.. i guess i kept it in the oven for  a bit too long.

how do i know that the bread is done from inside and also is not too hard/ brown onthe outside.

also i need to know what the measurements of a standard loaf tin are.

i have a small one 22 cm* 7* 7 cms.

so if i make the doughwith 3 cups of flour, and put half of it in the loaf tin and let it rise.

can i put the other half in hte freezer and use later after 2 days?

if yes then how long do i thaw it  and after what time can it go in to the oven?

let me know.



Flourgirl's picture

Well, here goes:

I have had a love of baking for quite a while now.  I really didn't get a chance to actually do much baking because of my lifestyle.  So, I changed all that.  I went from driving an 18 wheeler over-the-road, to driving a bus locally, to working in a small bakery.  I am also going to school for a Certificate in Baking.  it's just a small community college, so all my training is in the form of an apprenticeship in a local bakery/restaurant.  It's not a Artisan bakery, but I am learning about small scale production baking, which is more then I knew before. 

I'm doing my on-the-job-training apprenticeship at the bakery three to four days a week, from around 4 a.m. till about 9 a.m.  This gives me time to attend my on campus classes in the afternoon.  On a weekday, I usually make three batches of bread, Swedish Limpa, Oatmeal and White.  Then I make four batches of Cardoman dough to be used the following day for forming cinnamon rolls and braids.  While the bread is in the proofer, I bake braids and rolls formed the previous day and take dough from the previous day and form rolls and braids for the next day.  Then, in between breaths, I squeak out a pie or two, some pie shells and some rice or bread pudding. 

So, when it's all over, this is my day:

I will usually have about baked about thirty loaves of bread from scratch.

Baked ten to fifteen rolls and ten to fifteen braids formed the previous day. 

I will have prepped for the next day by making four batches of Cardoman dough to partially rise in the cooler.

Formed ten to fifteen each of cinnamon rolls and braids from the previous days dough.

Blind baked four or five pies shells from scratch.

Made one or two pies from previously baked shells.

Made a pan of pudding from scratch.

After all that, I go home and take a nap, if I am lucky, before I go to my classes.  It makes for a busy day.  The weekends are even more intense, as the bread production is doubled.

But, this kind of production baking isn't my big dream.  While it's a good learning experience, it basically has taught me what I don't want to do with my life.  There is no room for experimentation or a desire to do so by the bakery's management.  So, I trudge along at my apprenticeship, knowing that I can take what I learn to a place that better suites me.  In the evenings, I go home and leaf through pages of books and websites, looking for that special something that will breath some life back into me. 

Then, on some evenings, I bake that special little something for myself to fill that artistic desire.

And hope it turns out...

pmccool's picture

In case you are thinking that there is no way that particular sequence of dots can be connected, stay with me. You may want to send for the nice men in the white coats when I'm done explaining, but until then, think of it as a case study in aberrant psychology.

It began, innocently enough, with Floyd's suggestion (challenge?) to submit some ideas for harvest breads. Some of the things that I have long associated with Autumn are the late-season vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and parsnips. Squash can add moisture and texture to breads, as well as a low-key sweetness. Combine that with something savory, like sage, and you have the flavor foundation for a knock-out loaf of bread. Ah, you begin to see where this is going . . .

As I was rummaging around on the internet to see if there was a recipe that I could adapt or just plain steal, I came across a couple of interesting possibilities. Here is one of them: And here is another:

The thing that really grabbed my eye, though, was this recipe: I hadn't been aware of the site previously, but I'll definitely be back to browse some more. Sorry, sidetracked again. Anyway, I had a new recipe to try, a fresh-from-the-farmers-market butternut squash on the counter, and a note with the recipe that suggested serving the carbonara with ciabatta. Hmm, ciabatta. That's been on my list of things to try for a while now. There was a stiff starter in the refrigerator that would serve well as the biga for the ciabatta recipe in BBA . . . (Are you paying attention to the dots?)

Saturday dawned, rife with possibilities. My wife was away all day, conducting a seminar. The grass was in need of mowing and there were bare patches to reseed, now that the weather has cooled. And bread to bake. Actually, there was enough starter, after doing 3 builds, to do two batches of bread. First things first: run to the lawn and garden center for 5 pounds of grass seed. Get home, prep the squash and put it in the oven to roast. Mix the ciabatta, set it to bulk ferment. It's definitely a sticky dough, but not nearly as wet as I expected from others' descriptions. First time to follow a recipe by weights instead of volumes.

Back outside to mow the yard. Pop back in to check on progress of ciabatta and do first stretch and fold. (Yes, I washed my hands first!) Took squash out of oven. Decided to make just a plain sourdough bread from BBA. After further looking, decided that one loaf would include walnuts and blue cheese, since my wife loves blue cheese. Mixed mixed and kneaded the dough for that and set it to ferment.

Back outdoors to rake and seed the front yard patches. Headed back in for second stretch and fold with ciabatta. Sourdough rising slowly but steadily. Decided to break for lunch. After lunch, devised couche from heavily floured dish towel and shaped ciabatta loaves per Reinhart's pictures in BBA. Wound up looking like this:

Before heading back out, I put the stone and a steam pan in the oven to preheat. Oh, and separated the squash flesh from the skin and innards now that it was cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for later.

Then I went back outdoors to rake and seed the patches in the back yard. Afterwards, back in to check on breads. Oven was ready, so gave the ciabatta a final stretch, per BBA instructions and popped them onto the stone, riding on some parchment paper. Filled the steam pan and winced to see some of the spatters landing on the oven window. Somehow escaped causing any damage. Shaped sourdough loaves and placed them in the now-vacant couche.

Went back outside to make sure the seed was properly covered and then started the sprinkler. Next, started putting up new hangers for tools in the garage (that's a follow-up from last weekend's project. Checked the ciabatta when it was close to time. Internal temp read at 202F, so whisked them out of the oven. Sourdough loaves were still rising, so shut off the oven.

My wife got home about this time, so after chatting about our respective days, I ran to the store for carbonara ingredients that weren't on hand at home. (Pancetta isn't part of my standard batterie de cuisine.)

On returning home, after reading the carbonara recipe again, decided that it might take a while to pull everything together, so started working on that. A couple of notes from that process: 1. The recipe calls for 2/3 of the herbs at one point, 2/3 of the herbs at second point, and the reserved herbs in yet a third step. I suspect that the amounts should have been 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3, respectively. 2. The recipe directs you to "sizzle" some of the sage leaves in butter and olive oil as a garnish. I managed to scorch them (literally too many things in the fire at that point), but wound up not missing them in the finished dish. They are a garnish, not an integral part of ingredients, so if you want to simplify by skipping this step, go for it. Fortunately, everything else came to gether successfully. 3. Although the recipe specifically calls for butternut squash, I don't see why other winter squash (buttercup, Hubbard, acorn, etc.) or pumpkin or even sweet potatoes couldn't be substituted.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed that the sourdough was about ready for the oven, so I started the preheat. Since it hadn't cooled completely yet, it got up to temperature fairly quickly. Eventually, the carbonara came together and the bread baked as it should.

The carbonara was fantastic and, yes, pinot grigio is a very good accompaniment. This recipe is definitely in the "keeper" category. It will probably also be a once or twice a year event, because of its complexity.

The ciabatta, however, is going to require some further practice. I don't know if it was the use of the stiff starter for the biga, a too-low hydration, my inexperience with and/or mishandling of this bread, or some combination of those elements, but it wasn't a thing of beauty. Like most sub-par bread experiences, it was, at least, delicious. The crumb was, well, bready. I was looking for an open and big-eyed crumb and wound up with a relatively close-textured, soft crumb. And the shape--well, I'll keep trying.

Here's a photo:


The two ciabatta are on the right. You might be able to make out part of the crumb of the nearer loaf. Sorry that the view isn't clearer. The front loaf on the left is the plain sourdough; the rear loaf on the left is walnut/blue cheese sourdough. I was braced for a strong cheese flavor in the walnut/blue cheese loaf, since I'm not especially fond of blue cheese, but was pleasantly surprised that the cheese flavor was subtly blended with the other flavors. I haven't cut into the plain loaf yet.

A long day, lots of work done, good bread and a fantastic dinner to wrap it up. Not bad at all. And, needless to say, Sunday was a quiet day. Thanks, Floyd, for triggering my pinball progression.



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