The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Anconas's picture

Last week it was so cold I spent a lot of time making kefir cheeses and web surfing.  Found a site that used kefir as a sourdough starter so I decided to give it a try.  Followed the starter directions and looked for a recipe online to make a loaf.  Found a blog site that had pictures so I followed it.  I produced two loaves - boules - that had some flavor but the texture was extremely lacking.  I decided to pursue an actual sourdough starter and basic sourdough bread so I hit the library.  I have a culture in progress and needed something to do while it matures.

I thought a great idea would be to actually learn how to make a basic bread :)

In all of my internet research to find information and book suggestions, The Fresh Loaf came up repeatedly.  I camped for a while and started reading.  Baguette type breads are my favorites and I found the Straight Method Beginner Baguettes.


This is my experience with this method, my limitations, and my lack of any actual baking experience beyond cookies and muffins.  The potential of creating an edible baguette loaf had me determined to try!  And I even met with a decent level of success, according to my tastebuds :)


Objective Notes:


Original goal - Sourdough

Interim goal - baguette basics


Process Notes:

These are for practice and do not include sourdough.

They include a great deal of information on dough mixing and handling techniques - excellent reference source.


Description and video of stretch and fold technique


Video link showing baguette shaping -


Technique Link for Bread Scoring and why


Discussion with photos on Covering vs. Steaming the whole oven when baking

I have a baking sheet and a lasagna pan that I can turn over to use as a cover


Some information on baguette sizes


Additional Baguette recipe that includes suggestions for measuring very small amounts of yeast - very important!

This one uses a preferment and sunflower seeds for a deeper flavor.  It also doesn't give details so refer to the recipe in the first link on this page for the times and techniques - "straight method baguette good starter baguette practice" until I get more experience.



Things I thought I was doing very well -

  1. Handling the very sticky dough - I actually enjoyed it - using a very light touch and watching all the bubbles building in the dough and not popping all of them.  I didn't use any extra flour/oil/water - just used the stickiness of the dough and my homemade dough scraper to lift and stretch, then fold, like in the video above. 
  2. Only flouring the work surface for the final baguette shaping.  In my observation this allowed my dough to become very cohesive to itself after each manipulation and not slide apart due to over flouring which I was concerned with due to lack of experience.


Things I knew were seeming off prior to baking

  1. I halved the recipe and had a very difficult time getting my scale to cooperate for a single gram of yeast.
    1. Need to find a volume equivalent
    2. Scale may need new batteries
  1. My dough after folding and resting had much more pronounced surface bubbles than in the tutorial
    1. May have been over proofing due to miscalculated yeast weight
    2. May have been working dough too lightly and not getting the appropriate gluten structure in dough surface
  1. Scoring such a thin and airy loaf is much more difficult than a denser boule
    1. Practice :)
  1. My dough was not split precise in half
    1. Weigh it next time
  1. Size limitations for final baguette shaping
    1. Limited by size of pans for laying on - aluminum air bake sheet and lasagna pan cover
      1. Adjust shape by making shorter, fatter baguettes
      2. Keep eye out for options to make adjustments - not sure on next step here
  1. Temperature limitation to 450 instead of 460 degrees
    1. Parchment paper is rated to 450 only
    2. Research higher rated parchment paper
  1. No baking stone
    1. After the initial 10 minute covered steam bake I removed both pans and baked on parchment paper on the rack so the bottom crust would not be soggy


After Baking -

  1. I removed the smaller loaf at the end of the baking time and did not leave it in for the additional 5 minutes with the oven door cracked open
    1. The crust was delicious and wonderfully crispy
  1. I removed the larger loaf after the 5 minutes with the oven door cracked open was over
    1. It sang!!  I actually heard it




Taste Test

WOW!  An incredibly edible loaf and the crispy crunch and caramely goodness of the crust was fantastic.  Interior was not ideal but airy and light, not gummy at all.  Paired wonderfully butter, then with herbed evoo and a feta style kefir cheese with a side of olives.  Dinner was definitely worth the 46 cents of ingredients to try this method and recipe.

Now I just need to figure out how to save the last half for tomorrows breakfast.......and then try it again :)


Thanks so much for such a wonderful site full of inspiration and helpful information for even a fledgling baker.


quirkey's picture

First post!

I've mainly been working on my high hydration country loaf (based on Tartine, but with tweaks for our cold kitchen + weather) but this week my wife bought a loaf of Raisin/sunflower seed bread from the co-op and then asked if I could make something like it. A Challenge! I found a recipe for a sunflower/flaxseed loaf in Tartine 3 and thought since I don't have sunflower seeds, but did have raisins, I could soak both and add to the same base dough.
The dough was mostly whole wheat, and unfortunately I cant find high extraction flour (anyone have any tips or good sources in NY?), so I tried the trick of sifting whole wheat through a fine sieve.

The mix ended up being:
200G Levain
500G Sifted KAF Whole Wheat
300G KAF Bread Flour
200G KAF Whole Wheat
70G Wheat Germ
25G Salt
850G Water (100*)

After the first 2 folds I added
110G Flaxseed
140G Raisins
Soaked over night in 220G Warm water (they absorbed all the water).

After mixing in the seeds


Bulk rise for 4.5 hours total, then proofed at warm room temperature for 4 hours before baking in dutch ovens.


I let them cool over night before cracking into them.

End result: Flavor is great and makes for a really good breakfast bread. Lots of whole wheat flavor and the seeds add a nice textural element. Slight sour flavor, but happy that its actually very mild. The crumb is actually really interesting. The bread is very soft and the crust is great, but the crumb is much less open then I was hoping for - consistent small pockets, but no big openings. A couple ideas:

- I think I didn't score deeply enough, so I'm guessing that that caused not a lot of steam to escape in the dutch oven, which reduced the oven spring (but not sure how much this resulted in the tighter crumb).
- Even though the dough was 85% hydration, I think that was actual low for the amount of whole wheat in the dough. If I do something like this next time, going to try using white whole wheat instead or really seek out the high extraction OR just use a greater ratio of white flour.

Next up, I'm going to go back to working on the basic country loaf. I also finally found some Einkorn flour at a local health food store, so going to try experimenting with that.

dabrownman's picture

We tried to bake a 100% whole grain spelt SD with spelt sprouts at 100% hydration in September 2012.  The bread was a success on the inside for flavor and crumb but the outside was a disaster.... a flattish boule, commonly known as a Rustic Frisbee to be kind.  The half good, half bad bake from 2012 can be found here: 100% Whole Spelt Sourdough at 100% Hydration


The finished baked scald after 3 hours at 140 F in the mini oven

Lucy, even back then, thought her supposed master was a bit of a baking twerk before twerking became fashionable and commonplace just about everywhere.  She just reminded me that she thought I was a barking t, not a baking twerk, but now thinks that baking twerk is closer to the truth now a days.  I think it is great to be hip at my age if you ask me.


The autolyse with the dough flour. dough liquid and the baked scald.

To try to bring this old sprout recipe forward, in both time and to be more in step with Lucy’s current, totally faddish, modern formulations and to get the bread to look better on the outside - while not killing off the old inside we liked so much, Lucy made the following changes for better or worse.


Spelt starter hits the mix.

First she lowered the hydration down to a more sane 83 % overall.  This doesn't sound too bad until you feel the dough and find it to be a sloppy mess compared to whole wheat and check to find out that many 100% whole grain, spelt bread recipes tend to be in the 67% to 72% hydration range - if you want them to not look like a brick of Rustic Frisbee.


Lucy also included a baked scald, at 140 F consisting of: spelt flour, spelt sprouts, as well as white and red malts.  This should pump up the flavor of the bread substantially and put it on a spelt plateau not seen since rye was discovered growing as a grass in the far north hinterlands.   She also increased the scald bake time another 30 minutes to 3 hours hoping for more browning.


Unlike last time when one 20 minute set of slap and folds were done before the stretch and folds, we went to our standard 8, 1 and 1 minute sets before the stretch and folds began.  We also used our now standard 3 stage levain build using a bit of 5 week retarded rye starter to begin the levain and we used the hard bits sifted from the non sprouted and sprouted, whole spelt to feed the levain.


Stainless Steel Mega Steam for Gabe

The sprouted spelt flour this time equaled half the flour in the mix when the previous 100% whole spelt bake only had whole sprouted spelt berries mixed in.  With all of these changes Lucy didn't leave much alone if you ask me but I just make the bread and leave the figuring of the formula and process to her small but powerful brain.


That way I can’t get blamed for anything going wrong, even if I was the problem,.  I can also take all the credit for it later if it works out well, a win – win for one of is.   Plus, by not having to put in the time and mental effort to figure out this stuff gives me way more time to watch the recorded 1st year of Naked Ancient Alien Swamp Zombies Behaving Badly. 


The one thing Lucy does worry about with wet, high percent, spelt mixes is that it can get away from you very quickly during ferment and proof.  Next thing yow know, you have given birth to a Naked Alien Swamp Zombie that thinks you are its undead Mommy who needs to be real dead.real quick instead.  For one thing the dough sure felt better than the last time due to the hydration being better suited for bread than pancakes.


So to keep the mix from evolving into a scientific oddity, Lucy cut back on the wet, upped the levain to a bit less than 15% and cut the bulk ferment to zero.  She did keep the shaped retarded proof to 12 hours though.   I told her it probably wouldn't work since spelt has a mind of its own and 12 hours was too long but she gave me that undead look of hers and I felt the need to cut the discussion shorter than usual.


Lucy decide t ocome up with a new shape she calls a long, thin, non knobby end batard using a seldom used basket lined with a rice floured towel and covered with the bottom  of the MagnaLite WagnerWare Turkey Roaster while baking for steam.  It’s the perfect cloche cover for short non knobby ended batard baking.  Sadly, the batard was too long after proofing for the turkey roaster so ......we resorted to 2 pans of Mega Steam. 


We let the shaped skinny batard warm up on the counter for 90 minutes before firing up Big Old Bob at the set 500 F preheat.  We un-molded the bread and sliced it 4 times to teach it a lesson and make sure it doesn't just bust out wherever it wants to.  We steamed for 12 minutes at 450 F.


Once the steam came out we baked it for another 15 minutes on the bottom stone until the middle read 205 F on the inside.  The oven was turned off as the bread was left on the stone with the door close until it hit 208 F, a higher temperature for sprouted grain breads which took another 5 minutes.  Total time in the oven  32 minutes with 5 minutes off.


The bread sprang well, bloomed, blistered a small sized bit and looked like it had some promise crumb wise.    No flat rustic boule this time!  It finally browned up to that mahogany color we love so much.  We will have to wait and see what the crumb looks like after lunch once it is cool enough to cut.  The crumb came out soft, glossy and fairly open for 100% whole grain bread with spouts as add ins.  It tastes uniquely different and the sprouted flour really comes through.  If you want to try a whole grain bread, other than wheat, then this one, emmer  or Kamut is one to consider. It is delicious! 



SD Levain Build

Build 1

Build 2

 Build 3



5 Week Retarded Rye Sour Starter






18% Extraction Whole Spelt






18% Extraction Whole Sprouted Spelt
























Levain Totals






18% Extraction Whole Spelt












Levain Hydration






Levain % of Total Flour












Dough Flour






18% Extraction Sprouted Spelt






82% Extraction Sprouted and Whole Spelt






Total Dough Flour






























Dough Hydration






Total Flour w/ Starter


















Hydration with Starter






Total Weight






% Whole and Sprouted Spelt






% Whole Sprouted Spelt












Scald / Bake is 25g whole spelt as flour and 5 g each





plus 5 g each red and white malt plus 25 g of Sprouted





spelt berries and 52 g of water  - total weight 112 g











Hydration with baked scald is 83.11%







 And Lucy reminds us to not forget the salad.

a_warming_trend's picture

It's been a weird few weeks in central North Carolina. We're not used to seeing this much snow here -- especially not this close to March!

This week in particular has been particularly rough. Long story short, I had planned a few different bakes for mid-week, only to be hit with two consecutive snow storms, the second of which led to an extended power outage. 

Now, I'm pretty tough. Normally losing my refrigerator for a few days wouldn't bother me that much. Problem is...this time I had two massive tubs of dough going, both of them experiments with 80% hydration, 20% whole wheat loaves leavened purely with pate fermentee equal to 30% of the total weight of the loaves.

To his credit, my husband only teased me twice as I insisted on carrying the two large dough tubs to place in the car for the duration of the outage. They were both already slightly over-fermented, but I am a firm believer in dough-adaptability, so I was determined to salvage them! 

We finally gained power this morning, and I baked off one batch of pate fermentee batards. The crumb was not quite as custardy and open as that which I'm used to at 80% hydration, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly because of that over-long cold bulk in the back of my Ford Fiesta. The taste was still really excellent -- simultaneously malty and tangy. 

It's always good to remember that with the possibilities presented by long-retarding (even in the back seat of a car), flatbreads, pizza, and pate fermentee...we really almost never need to waste a dough! 




greenbriel's picture

Sorry, these endless, near identical baguette posts are probably becoming terribly dull, but I get such great feedback and advice from you guys.

So, as I want to get more practice with baguettes, I decided to start doing some less time-intensive recipes than txfarmer's 36hr and dmsnyder's SJSD recipes (both of which are amazing). I recently found txfarmer's straight dough practice baguette recipe and gave it a try in order to work on shaping, scoring, and especially to try out Sylvia's Mega Steam method as recommended to me by alfanso, dmsnyser, and dabrownman. 

I think this was probably my best shaping and scoring effort so far, but by far the best things to come out of this were:

  1. seeing how great Mega Steam is, and 
  2. proving David's comment that too much steam (i.e. steam for too long) can work against ear formation by allowing the crust to collapse on itself.

We don't have a microwave so I rolled up six bar towels and tied them into bundles, soaked them in boiling water and used a lobster steaming pot to preheat. I considered using a pressure cooker to superheat them as a microwave would, but you have to draw the line somewhere :) I had a large cast iron pan on the floor of the oven and a heavy duty baking sheet above the baking stone during preheating.

I put four towels on the sheet and two in the CI pan, loaded the baking stone, poured boiling water on both and closed the door. Huge plumes of steam ensued!

I was keeping an eye on the bake through the door for the first several minutes, and watched as the loaves bloomed like crazy, and produced fantastic ears. Success! Then I made the oft-repeated mistake of starting to watch the clock instead of using my head. Steamed for 12 minutes total (added water to the skillet about 8 minutes in) and then removed the pan and skillet. By the time the bake was finished The ears had been completely subsumed back into the loaves, and the loaves overall had flattened visibly. 

I'm looking forward to next time and will remove the steam when everything looks to be at its peak in terms of rise and ears. I also wonder if I overdid it the steam and it lowered the oven temp. I didn't get the darkness of crust I would have expected for the amount of time time the loaves were in.

Verdict on the bread: the recipe produces good loaves for the low effort. Certainly nothing like the complexity of taste present in either of the two recipes mentioned above, but easily as good as, or better than, the baguettes available in local (non-"artisan") bakeries. Nice thin, crisp crust, and good open crumb. 

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy post, but all-in-all a very valuable learning experience, one I'll be repeating, and hopefully next time will be better. Thanks for all the help!



Gertrude McFuzz's picture
Gertrude McFuzz

Hello Everyone,

I have been baking sourdough bread weekly for at least 5 years now, but this is my first blog entry, and my first time posting a picture on Fresh Loaf!  I participated in Stan Ginsberg's Rye Test this winter, and really loved learning so much and trying out such a variety of recipes, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to post pictures to share.  To be honest, I am still figuring it out, as I can't figure out how to add another picture to this post. I really miss having new recipes to work on every week, and I am hoping that blogging my own bread adventures will push me in new and different directions.  This is such a great and positive community, and I have learned so much just by reading various posts here!  I am excited (and a little intimidated) to share my bread with all of you:-)

Lately I have been trying out a variety of seeded sourdoughs.  I really enjoyed the Two Castle Rye recipe in Advanced Bread and Pastry as well as the 5 grain sourdough rye from Hammelman's Bread, and this week I decided to try out the Seeded Wheat from Della Fattoria's new cookbook. I am really pleased with the intense flavor in this 70 % whole wheat bread! This may in part be due to the (unintended) delayed fermentation it underwent, but it also comes from the mixture of toasted sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds (as well as untoasted flax and polenta).  Despite the intensity of the seeds in the flavor profile, my husband, who does not like seeds in his bread, really enjoyed it.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I did use a slightly sifted whole wheat flour.  I purchased a bunch of Great River's organic Wheat bread flour (self-described as "lightly sifted of bran") in the hopes that it could be a stand in for high-extract flour, but it is in fact very low-extract and I now use it as a wheat flour.  I loved the way the seeds are added into the very wet dough, instead of soaked in advance, as it makes the bread baking process one step quicker, but I do think the dough could have used an increase in hydration, and I will up the water content a little next time I bake it.  The formula uses a small portion of firm sourdough (13%), and the recipe is for one 3 lb. loaf.  Since our ambient room temperature in the winter hovers in the low 60's, the bread rose much more slowly than the recipe described.  I mixed the dough at 2 pm, saw very little rise by 6, but shaped it anyway and let it rise (slightly) until 9, then popped it in the fridge until morning (6 am ) when I brought out the heat lamp and let it rise until 1:30 p.m.  Despite the long fermentation, the bread is only slightly sour, while the whole wheat seems to contribute a very sweet earthiness which complements the seeds.  Next time I plan to mix the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight (when our heat can drop as low as 55), just like my adaptation of Forkish's Overnight Brown, which is the familie's favorite and our normal weekly bake.

I am excited by this recipe, and plan to try out Della Fattoria's meyer lemon and rosemary bread today!

AbeNW11's picture

Well after close to 20 hours of travelling and a good night's sleep I'm ready to explore this great city and of course sample its food and bread most famous for. So I find myself in Tartine Bakery cafe for breakfast. One has to order bread a long time in advance. Honestly, I'll be on my way back before I could by one. But have just had a wonderful croissant and latte big enough to swim in. 


EmmaFeng's picture

Hi there,

I'm Emma from Chongqing China, I love baking especially making sourdough bread, I had built my own sourdough starter on Oct 2014 and I named it Dodo.

I learnt a lot from The Fresh Loaf and thank you all for sharing.

Here are some sourdough bread I made recently. Happy baking.

Overnight country blonde from FWYS 

Overnight country brown from FWYS


Walnut sourdough bread


75% whole wheat levain bread from FWYS


Thanks again. 


Sjadad's picture


I just returned from a week in Rome. I'll limit myself to commenting only on the bread and pizza or this entry would go on way too long!

I was gratified that some of the standard breads served at most evey trattoria and restaurant looked, smelled, and tasted almost identical to Tartine's country loaf or Vermont Sourdough. We didn't have one crumb of bad bread the whole week.

One of the more famous bread bakeries in Rome is in the Campo de' Fiori.  It is Forno Campo de' Fiori and it's known for having the best Pizza Bianca in the city. If you don't know this product, Pizza Bianca is sort of a cross between thin crust pizza and focaccia, topped only with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. They bake it as six-foot long rectangular pizzas and sell it by weight. You indicate how big a piece you want and the baker cuts you the appropriate sized rectangle, folds it in half so the bottom crust is on the outside, wraps it in a piece of wax paper and hands it to you.  You eat it as you walk. This pizza deserves all of its fame and praise. 

Deaniel Leader has a recipe for this very Pizza Bianca in his book Local Breads. I made it today. The flavor is very similar to what I ate in Rome, and the crunch when you cut and bite into it is spot on. However my version, while not thick like focaccia still came out twice as thick as the genuine article. In addition, after a couple of minutes in the oven huge bubbles baked up, which I pierced with the point of a sharp knife to deflate them. I'm certain they don't do this at Forno Campo de' Fiori. 

Have any of you baked Leaders' version?  If so, what was your experience?  If anyone has advice or ideas for how to avoid these bubbles, please share. As for the thickness, I know the common advice would be to stretch the dough thinner on the peel, but I strectched it as thin as I could without tearing. 


greenbriel's picture

Had another go at David Snyder's fantastic San Joaquin Sourdough Baguettes today. I've still a ways to go, but I saw some improvement from the last batch, so I'm happy. 

This time I added a 3 hour warm up on the bench after the long, cold ferment. I do suspect it's the coldness of my fridge that makes that step necessary for me. Definitely seemed to make a big improvement in the crumb, it was a lot more open. If one thing gets better each try, all is good :)

After this batch I think David's comment on my last attempt that I need to examine my steam is spot on. I scored these fairly well, I think (using ElPanadero's suggestion of less scores, though I ended up with four rather than three - just felt right), but no ears. It's entirely possible that I was focussed so much on other aspects of the cuts that I let the lateral angle get too vertical, but I think I do need more steam in the first 10 minutes. I suspect it's drying out early in there. I probably need to work on a tighter cloak during shaping, too.

Taste was fantastic, just like last time. Crust maybe slightly thicker and crunchier. Had leftover roast chicken sandwiches with homemade mayo for dinner tonight. Definitely a keeper! 




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