The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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magic big fang's picture
magic big fang

I am a Chinese ,and I just arrived in America last month to accompany my husband who studys further in NY.Before I went abroad,I have been interested in bakery and tried to do some cakes and breads. In Shanghai ,I was busy finishing my study so that there weren't much time for me to realize my hobby.Meanwhile,some ingredients are unavailable in shanghai. I'm glad that I have a better condition for bakery now.

In my country, a number of people like bakery as well.They recommended the book <The Bread Baker's Apprentice>.The recipes from Pierre herme are popular,too.So,i wonder what is the most popular baking book for amateur.I am a new hand ,and I have desire to improve my baking skill. Could anyone give me some advice?Thx a lot!




dmsnyder's picture

The Sourdough Seed Bread was one of the first formulas I baked after buying Hamelman's Bread, and I thought it was one of the best tasting breads I had every had. I believe it's been  more than two years since I have baked it, and I wondered why I hadn't made it more often after tasting a slice last night. It is really good.

I made a bit over 2 kg of dough and divided it into 3 equal pieces. In order to bake all three at once on my baking stone, I shaped two bâtards and one boule and placed them with the bâtards kind of in an L configuration and the boule between the two arms. It worked well. 

This bread always has really great oven spring and bloom for me.

The crust is very crunchy.The crumb was quite tender and pretty open. The aroma and flavor of the flaxseeds is very present in this bread. I happen to like that a lot.  The bread is delicious plain or toasted. I had a slice last night with a thin spread of sweet butter and had a couple more slices toasted for breakfast with almond butter and apricot preserves. It's also very good with cheese. Just good bread.


Floydm's picture

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on a Polish Rye recipe.  I baked it again this weekend and this time took notes.


  • 180g AP flour
  • 120g water
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of instant yeast

Final dough

  • All of the preferment
  • 120g rye flour
  • 460g AP flour
  • 40g potato flour
  • 12g sea salt
  • 30g barley malt syrup
  • 3g yeast
  • ~360g warm water

The colour comes more from the malt syrup than the rye flour.  Still not perfect, but we really like it.

 * * * 

Unrelated, but I also realized this weekend that TFL is 10 years old as of yesterday.  The first post is here.  Kinda neat... I certainly did not foresee that it'd end up growing to be such a rich community of bakers from all around the globe. 


zillfat26's picture

a sea of info. think i am more confused now . will have to wade through it.

 thanx again zillfat

proth5's picture

It has been my great good fortune to have interacted with a number of extraordinary individuals – some of whom have become my teachers (some in the area of baking). It has also been my great good fortune to have been able to bake in various kitchens and bakeries throughout my baking life to date.

(I feel compelled to say here that one of these extraordinary teachers – in an area far removed from baking – would remind me that it was not so much good fortune, but that I sought out these opportunities, managed priorities in my life, and was willing to work hard so that I should be able to pursue them. However, I do feel fortunate and am grateful that both chance and will have allowed me the experiences I have had.)

So last week I headed to the great northeast – where driving seems to be some kind of competitive sport – to bake.

Of course, as the blog title suggests, everything was different: the work surface, the doughs, the mixers, and the shaping methods. No friendly wooden surface with its unique combination of being non-stick yet slightly “grippy”, rather stone with its qualities of cold and absolute smoothness. Every shape (and pre shape for that matter) was made in a way that I had never done it and although the mixers were familiar to me, most of the work would have been faster and easier in my beloved spiral. Although I will often say my oven has no “soul”, the wind tunnel of an oven we baked in was never meant for hearth breads and each batch pulled from that heartless thing is a triumph of skill and persistence over the machine.

In short, everything I knew was wrong, but for me this was far from the first time this has happened (and while I will not tell the story, it recently happened in a particularly spectacular way) and I have learned in such situations that it is best to be humble, empty oneself, and learn as though for the first time. 

What I have found is that when the vessel is emptied, not only does it make room for the new, but actually grows in capacity. Certainty is replaced with curiosity and for the curious, the days fill with wonder.

This may be applicable to many things, but when making breads to another person’s specifications (for I was there to learn more than to teach and we all should control the bread that comes from our own kitchen), it is essential. And although Varda did some amount of fussing at many of my loaves, I did my best to use her methods and most loaves came out looking pretty much like hers.


My braiding (and I’ll contend that the braid she was using is supposed to come out like that – but it was her bread, not mine) was naturally much more linear than hers, I contented myself with dividing and pre shaping. I could have learned her twist on the method, but there was no sense in my slowing down the process.

Varda puts a special finish on the ends of her baguettes which I could do, but, as it turns out, in my own specific style. It wasn’t enough of a difference to make the baguettes not acceptable, but it was a difference caused by my hands and how I approach rolling dough on the bench and was enough to identify my loaves.

It was the baguette shaping that caused me to think of the nature of this craft (for it is a craft) of bread baking.

Once I heard one of my extraordinary teachers discuss why he had chosen the equipment he had for his well-equipped (and well-funded) bakery. He had purchased a large, state of the art hydraulic divider (much better than the old mechanical dividers) but had declined to purchase machines to do shaping and pre shaping even though these fast and effective machines might produce more consistent loaves. His rationale was that dividing was a solitary and mechanical process (although skill comes into play in cutting the dough into nearly the correct weight before putting it on the scale) no matter how it is done. But he looked at the bakers who were pre shaping and shaping and they were clustered around the bench talking and laughing. Shaping equipment would reduce this group to solitary individuals feeding machines. His first consideration was to create a good life for the bakers in his employ. Most hobby bakers bake alone (and I am certainly one of them most of the time), but as Varda and I stood in the same kitchen chatting about various things we were doing, I began to regain a better sense of the community of bakers, and not in that somewhat over sharing and yet impersonal realm of the on-line community, but in the world where a hand can reach over and feel the dough, correct the mistake right away, or laugh together when, once again, one of the bakers (well, me..) talks to the bread.

The second consideration was that in his bakery, although consistency was important, retaining the subtle differences in loaves made with hands and skill was just as important. Baking is a hand craft, and consistency is not uniformity. While the risk is always that with hands there can be bad days, with machines there can never be exceptional ones. Bread is being made, but it is the baker, the baker, who is always central.

There are those who contend that our understanding of symbols (for what are words but symbols - pale representations of vibrant realities) may never change but I am not in their number. So as my understanding of the word “artisan” develops, I will say that while I washed what seemed to be an endless stream of the bowls and containers created by the baking process I found myself thinking about being both central and humble.

I did teach Varda a way more efficient pre shape, but will I be changing my methods? Not in my kitchen, not for my breads. No. I am very fast with my shaping, my breads carry my signature, and I am content with that. But I have been changed, and we can all hope for the better, by the experience of doing things someone else’s way yet again.  I am even more convinced (after closer reading of the Colorado Cottage Laws has informed me that I can sell  - with many restrictions – foods made at home) that baking hearth breads in a greater volume is more work (and investment) than I want to take on, although other baked goods and confections seem distinctly possible. I will be happy to return to a wooden work surface, but will miss the good company.

And I have adopted a new motto: “Bake wonderful brioche or the terrorists win!”

CAphyl's picture

I have never made beer bread before, so I had to do it, inspired by dabrownman's 16 grain and some other wonderful beer breads I have seen on this site.  My husband is a real beer guy, so the first order of business was not to use a beer he wanted to drink.  Someone got him some porter, and it is not his favorite, so I had my start. I should point out that I do not like beer, which is strange for a girl originally from Milwaukee. 

I did a three stage levain build (per dabrownman's recipe) and prepared the soaker.  I wanted to have lots of seeds and grains in the bread, so I kind of morphed dabrowman's recipe and my adapted five grain into one recipe.  Both the levain build and the soaker smelled great, but that hot porter and the seeds really had a wonderful aroma.  Loved it.

It was a very fast bake and browned beautifully.  The crumb was incredibly moist....perhaps I could have used less porter. I think the beauty of this bread is that you can use so many different combinations of flours and seeds.  I wanted to use some of the many different flours I had on hand, and that is why I used kamut and oat flours.  I actually had many more flours around, but just decided to stop with a couple of different ones that I don't use as often as I should.  I also think I was a bit loose on some of the measurements, as I tried to write them down as I went along and I wasn't sure I remembered them quite correctly!

We had some much-needed rain this weekend in southern California, and as the clouds started to clear last night we had a another stunning winter sunset.

I enjoyed the sunset with a glass of Pinot Noir (not beer!), celebrating the big Green Bay Packers win.  My husband drank his beer out of my Green Bay Packers shareholder glass. Yes, you can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but once a cheesehead, always a cheesehead.  I was on pins and needles the whole game.  I had to get the bread going after the game to calm down!  I had an elaborate dinner planned, but my husband requested pizza, so that is what we had--an appropriate dinner on a big football Sunday.  Tonight, I am making a new recipe:  risotto with wild mushrooms and peas.  Wish me luck.  Best,  Phyllis

Multi-Grain Sourdough with Porter

Inspired by dabrownman’s 16 Grain and my adapted Five Grain Levain recipes

Sourdough Levain Build

Build 1

12 g rye/wheat/AP starter

15 g water (meant to do 12g!)

12 g KAF white wholewheat

39g total

Build 2

22g water

22g dark rye

44 g total

Build 3

24 g water

24g KAF white whole wheat

48g total

131g Total Levain Build


50g rolled oats

50g sunflower seeds

10g sesame seeds

5g poppy seeds

45g flax seeds

20g kamut seeds

30g millet seed

30g bulgur

30g pumpkin seeds

30g cous cous

400 grams hot Wachusett Black Shack Porter

5 grams salt

675g Total Soaker

Final Dough Flour

50g kamut flour

20g oat flour

85g KAF white whole wheat

20g dark rye

225 KAF bread flour

8g Salt

100g Wachusett Black Shack Porter (I kept 200 on hand, but did not need more than the 100g.  The soaker was still quite wet, so it will depend on how dry the soaker is to determine the final amount of porter).

Total 508g Final Dough

  1. Prepare the Levain:  Build levain over hours/days.  I eyeballed it to see when it was ready to be built again. It depends on the temperature in your kitchen and other factors, but it has to be at least 6 hours or so.
  2. Build the Soaker:  I heated up the porter before adding it to the seed mix.  (I actually wasn’t watching close enough, and it almost boiled over!)  Stir the porter into the seed mix very well and seal your container tightly.  It really smells great. Leave on the counter for hours or overnight until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Final Dough Autolyze: Mix together the levain, soaker and all final ingredients except the salt. Let the mix utilize for 20-60 minutes.
  4. Mix Final Dough: Add the salt and use your stand mixer and mix for 3-5 minutes on medium speed.
  5. Bulk Ferment:  Bulk ferment at room temperature for 2-3 hours, turning every 45 minutes.
  6. Shaping:  Divide into two loaves and shape into rounds. Let rest 30 minutes.  Final shape into batards or rounds.
  7. Final Fermentation:  Place into brown rice coated bannetons, and put in plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Baking:  With normal steam, 235C (450F) or 40-45 mins, turn the loaves half way through the bake. (I retarded the dough and took it out in the morning. I then let it rest at room temperature for about an hour. It popped up nicely. In the meantime, I preheated the oven for about an hour to heat up the baking stone.) (For this particular bake, I used my covered baker, preheated at 500 degrees, baking with lid on for 30 minutes; lid off at 435 convention for 10 minutes). If you make smaller loaves, watch carefully as this dough was a fast bake.
  9. Cool: On wire rack at least 30 minutes before slicing.
lsume's picture

The A&D 1200i is a great scale for the kitchen.  It is a legal for trade scale accurate to plus or minus 0.1 gram and can weigh up to 1200 grams.  At 453.59237 grams per pound you can weigh over 2 pounds.  I bought the calibration weights and it is very easy to calibrate.  The 4 legs are adjustable so that you can get it level quickly by watching the bubble and adjusting the legs as neccesary.  It plugs in to any normal U.S receptacle.  It costs around $300 with the weights and does not come with the very expensive battery.  I bought a converter which clamps to a car battery and delivers more that enough power for the scale.  The converter was about $80 but you can buy less expensive converters and then you just need a cheap car battery.  I already owned a nice car battery charger so if you want to use it somewhere removed from an electrical receptacle that's the way to go.  I think the battery option the manufacturer offers must be done at the factory and is around $180.00.  I bought the scale to measure certified organic spices to sell.  It has an automatic tare function for your packaging and many unit selections.  From percent to grams to count to ounces it's very handy in the kitchen.

a_warming_trend's picture

I have to begin with a disclaimer: I do not yet own the original Tartine book. I am slow and deliberate with all of my bread-related purchases, from implements and vessels to texts. I do plan to own it by the end of this month! My other disclaimer is that I have only been baking sourdough since November 1, 2014. I know this because the camera on my phone records dates (man, was I was excited about that first loaf...).

I can't actually remember where or when I first heard about the Tartine bakery, or the books. I think I basically slowly realized that every blog I was perusing was referencing this one text--or this one person (sometimes referred to  by his first name!). The miracle of the internet has allowed me to explore the magic and mystique surrounding the simple Tartine country loaf. I've read blog posts and articles, watched videos, and looked at beautiful pictures. It's downright fascinating for me, as a complete bread newbie/outsider with an anthropology background, to follow the way this recipe has affected the world of yeast baking. With a phenomenon this far-reaching, the waves of adoration and fatigue seem inevitable. I'm so late to the game, but I'm having a lot of fun observing it. 

I actually put my finger on one of the most interesting aspects of the Tartine loaf while reading Forkish's FWSY, in which he references Robertson's method: That small amount of whole wheat flour lends the crumb an amazing creamy color, and allows the crust to reach a deep mahogany that really wouldn't be possible with an all white loaf. The idea that this sort of mimics the flour that would have been used in the bakeries dotting the 18th century French countryside...well. I love that notion so much that I kind of don't even care if it's true or not. 

I look forward to reading the 33-page recipe. I have read enough condensed versions of it to get the general idea. What I wanted to do here was create a Tartine-inspired single-loaf formula that I could work into a relatively hectic work week. I could absolutely wait until the weekend. But I've found that my baking itch is way too strong right now to wait that long in between bakes. I have to try to make sourdough baking work, even during a busy week. 

To fit it in my work schedule, I knew that I would need to increase the levain percentage enough to speed up the bulk fermentation (I go to bed kind of early!)--but not so much that the dough would over-ferment during an overnight refrigerated proof. I also knew that I wanted to be able to get through at least two hours of stretch-and-fold without the dough increasing too much in size. I've had problems with overnight proofs with anything approaching 20% levain, so I settled on what amounts to about 17% levain. The hydration is technically 78% (with levain), but I tend to add more during S & F, so it might be closer to 80%. The whole wheat flour makes that much more doable. 

This is the formula and process I settled on, after four attempts. The main changes have been allowing for room temperature proofing before retarding, and allowing for time at room temperature in the morning before baking. For me, this makes the 24-hour process work. 

Day 1

Levain (mixed at 7:00 AM)

-50 g 100% hydration rye starter

-50 g AP flour

-50 g water

Final Dough (mixing begins at 6:00 PM)

-All of the levain

-100 g whole wheat flour

-325 g AP flour

-315 g water 

-5 g malt

-11 g salt


6:00-Mix flour and water together and autolyse for 30 minutes

6:30-Incorporate levain, salt, and malt (or sugar, when I didn't have malt) and mix for 2 minutes, then slap and fold for 3 minutes

-Stretch and fold at 20 minute intervals for the next 2 hours 

8:30-Allow dough to rest on the counter for 30 minutes

9:00-then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes 

9:30-shape, place in banneton/basket, and proof for 1 hour at room temperature 

10:30-place in refrigerator

Day 2

6:00 AM - Remove from refrigerator 

7:00 AM - Score and bake at 450 for 30 minutes with steam, 20-25 minutes without (I'm getting bolder and bolder with my baking!)

The crust is blistered and shattery--thinner than I might have expected, but in a nice way! Very crisp. Crumb is custardy and quite open (I don't actually have the photo of my best crumb of the bunch. Frustrating!)

What would I change on a weekend, with more time? After ACTUALLY reading the recipe, I think I'll try a lot of things. Less levain. Longer autolyse. Longer refrigeration; different amounts of time proofing at room temperature before and after retarding. 

For now, I'm okay with this little week day tribute to Tartine. 


STUinlouisa's picture

Experimenting this weekend. Had a delicious outcome. The bread is a combination of white whole wheat, rye, spelt, quinoa, amaranth, golden flax seed, chia seed and sunflower seed. It has both natural leaven and commercial yeast as well as olive oil and sorghum syrup. Turned out both lighter and softer than expected.

First I milled 165 g each of rye and spelt berries sifted out the bran and got 295 g flour and 28 g bran. Then hard white spring wheat was ground and sifted.

Added together 160 g milk 100 g filtered water the rye/spelt bran, 20 g wheat bran,20 g quinoa and 12 g flax brought to a boil and then let cool. Put the cooled mixture in a bowl and  added 12 g amaranth, 12 g chia, 8 g sunflower, 150 g wheat flour, 145 g rye/spelt flour,6 g salt and 130 g water, mixed, formed a ball and put in covered container overnight for a soaker. 

Mixed together 200 g just fed and doubled 100% hydration starter, 150 g wheat flour, 150 g rye/spelt flour and 225 g 90 degree F water. Let that sit for three hours, formed a ball and put in covered container in the fridge overnight. This will be the leaven.

Next morning took the leaven and let warm up in the oven with the light on for 1 hour then combined with the soaker, 40 g olive oil, 40 g sorghum syrup 6 g salt and 6 g instant yeast dissolved in a little water. Mixed well and put in covered bowl back in oven with light on. Did three stretch and folds 20 minutes apart. Dough was very loose an sticky so decided to do pan loaves. Formed the loaves put in 4.5 x 8.5 inch pans, sprayed with oil covered with plastic wrap and put back in oven with light on. 

Once the dough had risen about 1 inch above the rim of  the pans took them out of the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees F. Decided the dough was too fragile to score so just put them into the oven. Baked for 30 minutes, rotated the pans, turned the oven down to 325,  baked 20 more minutes, checked the temp of a loaf (195) and pulled them out of  the oven and the pans onto a cooling rack. Brushed with melted butter while still hot to get  softer crust. Tasted great when cooled.












Backwoods Bakery's picture
Backwoods Bakery

So here is a little background. I LOVE BREAD. So much so I decided to make that my career. I have been a professional baker for about five years now. I am self taught and have a real knack for bread making. It has taken me to some cool places. In the last two years I have been the bread baker for Chef Michael Smiths Village Feast in Souris PEI. I also worked with a CSA to make bread for 450 families in a local weekly produce pick up. All of this has led me to now. I am currently planning on opening my own baker this year. I want to create a place where I can make bread using methods that have been used for a long time. I love the high hydration, long fermentation, and wood fired oven techniques. My plan is to use a Le Panyol wood fired oven and local milled grains from Speerville Flour Mill. As of right now there isn't a bakery around that does anything like this. I just want to make beautiful artisan bread that my community can love. Hopefully you can watch as i start this journey and see every step on the way.


Artisan Baker of Backwoods Bakery


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