The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


dmsnyder's picture

This week, I baked another dried fruit and toasted nut sourdough bread. I really like the combination of eathiness from the nuts and the sweet tanginess of the pieces of dried fruit. The nut flavors seem to permeate the crumb while the fruit yields surprising little explosions of tartness when you bite into a bit.

I have baked cherry-pecan sourdoughs several times, but this is the first time I based one on Hamelman's "Fig-Hazelnut Levain." It is very good and was a big hit at a pot luck to which I took it. I think it could be improved though with a bit more hydration and the addition of some rye and more whole wheat. 

Here are some photos:

Happy baking!


isand66's picture

I love porridge breads.  They are so moist and flavorful I never tire of making or eating them.

I tried something a little different for this one by using Greek yogurt in place of part of the water in making the porridge.  I think it just added an extra layer of flavor and was worth trying.

I also used beer as part of the liquid in the main dough.  This one was extra hydrated and was a little challenging to shape the next day.  Next time I would shape it right out of the refrigerator instead of letting it sit out for an hour.

The final bread tasted and smelled fantastic.  It was extra moist and good enough to eat without anything on it.  The beer didn't come through as much as I would have hoped since I didn't use enough of it due to only having 1 left to use.  Next time I will use all beer instead of water.

I've included a bunch of photos from my garden which is in full bloom right now.  Hope you give this one a try and enjoy the flowers.

Download the BreadStorm file here.


Levain Directions

Mix all the levain ingredients together  for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.  I used my proofer set at 83 degrees and it took about 4 hours.  You can use it immediately in the final dough or let it sit in your refrigerator overnight.

Porridge Directions

Add about 3/4's of the milk called for in the porridge to the dry ingredients in a small pot set to low and stir constantly until all the milk is absorbed.  Add the remainder of the milk and keep stirring until you have a nice creamy and soft porridge.    Remove from the heat and let it come to room temperature before adding to the dough.  I put mine in the refrigerator and let it cool quicker.

 Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flours, and the water for about 1 minute.  Let the rough dough sit for about 20 minutes to an hour.  Next add the levain, cooled porridge, and salt and mix on low for 5 minutes. Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.  (Since I used my proofer I only let the dough sit out for 1.5 hours before refrigerating).

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.

The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature and will only rise about 1/3 it's size at most.  Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.

After 5 minute lower the temperature to 450 degrees.  Bake for 35-50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 205 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.


Love to bake bread! looking for tips to market my product.

maojn's picture

I made two videos for the cherry blossom cake roll. Hope they are helpful.

maojn's picture

I made these three videos in great details. Hope they are helpful.

joc1954's picture

While staying at Island of Hvar in middle Dalmatia I got inspired by big fields of lavender to give a try to a lavender bread. Right now there is a crop of lavender going on and when you pass such field the smell of lavender is simply amazing. Island of Hvar is known to be the island with most sunny days in whole Dalmatia what provides a very good natural conditions for growing lavender, wine and olive trees. As the landscape is very rough with a lot of rocks and small patches of soil the lavender fields are surrounded by stone walls made from rocks which were manually removed centuries ago in order to prepare small micro fields where people could plan olive trees and lavender. The lavender crop is performed completely manually old fashioned way with sickle. I took some shots of this process while passing people harvesting lavender by bike.

Typical lavender field at Island of Hvar with love trees in the background.

 Lavender from backyard where we stay on holidays.

I started lavender yeast water with one tablespoon of honey, some lavender flowers and water. I will use it to make another batch of lavender bread later on this week.


As this was the first time I was making lavender bread I searched through TFL posts and found this interesting post and comment by hanseata (here) with the idea that one should used melted butter to infuse lavender taste into the food. For my bread which was made out of 600g of bread flour I used lavender flowers from 8 stems.

Using butter to capture the lavender flovour.

I prepared the mixture of 70g of butter and lavender flowers (from 8 stems) at the time when I prepared my levain, so about 6 hours before mixing the dough.

The rest of the process was similar to my standard procedure. I used 600g of strong bread flour (type 850), initially 70% of water with additional 5%  added after first 30 minutes. The butter was warmed up and strained before initial mixing which included all flour, water, 100g of starter and all butter. Bulk fermentation was bout 3 hours and then immediate cold retard for about 11 hours. Baked in iron-cast skillet.

The result: I was extremely pleased with result. Whoever tasted the bread agreed that the flavor of lavender was maybe a little bit too strong when you tasted the bread without anything on top of it like butter with jam. So for next time I will use lavender flowers only from 5-6 stems.

This bread perfectly pairs with butter, creme fraiche and any kind of jam, but also fits perfectly together with the Parma ham.




Happy baking, Joze


LydiaPage's picture

Country Bread - yeast activated at 72F, 100F, and 130F (left to right) - July 8, 2017

This lesson took me through an emotional rollercoaster: I was excited, apprehensive, disappointed, frustrated, overjoyed, exhausted and famished.  I came through it all (monopolizing The Bread Whisperer over text for several hours), and the main thing I learned?  Next time, a big glass of wine while working will probably relax both me and the dough.

The task was to make three mini loaves of bread.  Sounds simple enough...  but wait, thinking that way is what got me here - and my mentor is ensuring I understand every step involved in creating bakery worthy bread... so where do we start?  Well first I had to use bakers math to scale the recipe down to make 450g of dough per loaf - I am glad to say this was much more successful and went way quicker this time since I actually understand it now.  Step 1 - check!

Step 2 - make the first dough.  It is 8 p.m. My six-month-old is babbling away at her Daddy after a long day of house renovations.  If I don't start now another day will pass me by, and honestly I want to eat bread, I want to smell bread, I want to spend time in my kitchen making something that makes people smile and salivate... I pull out my KitchenAid mixer and my scale.  It is go time!

The frustration didn't take long to set in. 

The ingredients measured carefully and the room temperature water reading 72F.  I ran the mixer with the 'C' hook performing the window-pane test after 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 minutes.  It shouldn't take so long - the mixer is crying, the small batch barely being picked up by machine as it jostled about.  I turned it off, grabbed it out and used my initial aggravation at it not being "easy" to knead it in to submission myself.  Nine minutes later it was beautifully soft, and the window-pane test not too shabby (if I do say so myself)!

I put it in a bowl, set a timer, and took a measurement before I set it aside to proof under a cloth.  It was 1.5" high and ready to go. 

After a break (read as: putting Addie to bed, twice.  Poor teething babe!)  I repeated the process for the second dough with 100F water and the third with 130F water.  I did switch to a paddle which worked much, much better than the hook.  Less than 7 minutes in the mixer for each dough and minimal hand-kneading needed.  Two more timers, and proofing was underway for all three.

The timing of my break worked out pretty well since the first dough took so much longer to proof - two hours and it was doubled, puffy and pillowy.  I pressed a finger in the top and it didn't bounce back - time to get it in the loaf pan... but how?  I remember talking about using a tiny amount of Crisco to grease the pan, and giving it a few good kneads to get the gas out before letting it rise again, but do I just kind of cram it in the pan?  Well - I tried that, and send TBW a panicked photo and question, he replied with a King Arthur Flour video lesson on shaping (why didn't I think of that?!), it was a game changer.  I watched it a few times and had a much more pleasant looking loaf.  Back under the towel - the next one was ready - repeat with the third.  Fast forward (by the miracle of the internet) 45 mins later and they are ready to go - and looking hopeful!

I set the oven to convection bake at 450F and put them in - when they started getting brown I jabbed the thermometer in and got a reading of 180F, turned the oven off and 5 mins later they read 208F (all being guided by TBW and trying to fight the urge to cut one open and see if it worked or failed).  I took them out, almost hyperventilating, and then it hit me - the sweet, happy smell of freshly baked bread.  Even if it was not perfect, it smelled like heaven and it WOULD be good because it is fresh, homemade bread!  I took a quick measurement, some pictures, and (since it was 12:15 a.m.) I left them on a rack to cool and went to bed (or perhaps was told to leave them alone and go to bed... thankyouverymuchteacher).


The next morning (after resisting the urge to leave Addie and the dogs with my husband and run downstairs like a kid at Christmas) I sliced and taste tested with Tim.  You have to love bread for breakfast! 

The first one (72F) had me literally squeal with joy (freaking out the dogs, who went crazy and then startled the baby - good start to the day), it looked like REAL bread!  It tasted fantastic, the texture was nice and springy - soft, fluffy clouds of white bread with a crisp crust and a delightfully subtle tangy nutty flavor - two thumbs up from us both!

The second (100F) looked fantastic too, it was a little denser and had more flavor than the first - we agreed it was better, but both would happily be eaten down to the last crumb.

The third (130F) was even more dense, and the flavor for us was overwhelming.  It just had a bit too much of an after taste, and was a bit too heavy.  Toasted with butter and other deliciousness it will still not be wasted!

So what have I taken from this lesson? 

  • The paddle is better than the 'C' hook (at least for this small of a batch and this type of dough).  
  • Yeast is definitely much more active with increased temperature - producing more flavor and faster results.  
  • The proofing time does make a difference with the density and size you end up with (I could have been a little more patient with the second and third batch so the end product may have been a bit more uniform (the loaves as you can see are visibly different sizes after baking).  It also is painfully long if you don't use warm water!
  • Shaping a loaf is an art form, I need lots of practice for when I make them without a loaf pan.
  • I need to start before 8pm as my household does not sleep in!
 Lesson five, I am ready for you!
Danni3ll3's picture

The inspiration for this one came from Lechem's loaf. I did very minimal changes to it. Basically, I only changed the amount of levain to accommodate my 80% levain.


1. Toast 40 g pecans.

2. Soak 50 g cranberries in 30 g water.

3. Autolyse all above with 335 g unbleached flour, 80 g fresh milled Selkirk wheat, 262 g water, and 18 g orange blossom water.

4. Mix in 10 g seal salt and 117 g of 80% levain.

5. Do four sets of folds a half hour apart and let rise until just over double. 

6. Pre-shape, let rest a few minutes and do a final shape before placing in banneton.

7. Proof in fridge overnight.

8. The next day, bake right out of the fridge on a preheated to 475F pizza stone.

I used some water in the bottom for steam and threw in a couple of wet washcloths on the pizza stone next to the loaf. I couldn't find anything suitable to cover the loaf so I improvised. I did drop the temperature to 450F but I have no idea how long I baked it; probably 40 minutes or so. I watched the crust and took the internal temp. Once it hit 205F, I took it out of the oven. It had stuck to the pizza stone but with an egg turner and a bit of time, it released just fine. It smell wonderful. We will see how it tastes once we cut into it. 

Danni3ll3's picture

I took my inspiration for this loaf here. I changed it slightly and used my usual way of making bread but I was not aware that cinnamon impeded the yeast action! My bulk rise took 9 hours at cool room temperature! I never did get the dough to double but it rose to about half again the original volume. After shaping and putting it in bannetons, I let the loaves rise for an hour on the counter before putting them in the fridge for the night. The next day, I let them rise more on the counter for another couple of hours. The loaves are a bit flat but boy, are they delicious. Next time, I will greatly increase the amount of preferment flour and see if that makes a difference. I will also put the dough in the oven with the light on instead of using the counter. Hubby was making ribs so the oven was not available for my usual proofing box.

Here is the recipe:

1. Soak 250 g of dried cranberries, 150 g of raisins, 60 g of butter in 240 g of hot water. Let cool.

2. Autolyse all of the above with 500 g water, 650 g unbleached flour, 302 g fresh milled Selkirk wheat, 8 g cinnamon, and 200 g of pecan halves.

3. Mix in 16 salt, 266 g of 80% levain and 50 g water.

4. Do four sets of folds a half hour apart and let bulk ferment. I like it let it go till it is doubled but 9 hours later, the best I got was 1.5 the original volume.

5. Preshape, let rest a few minutes and do final shape. Put into baskets and let rise on the counter for an hour before retarding them in the fridge overnight. The  next morning, let rise for another couple of hours on the counter before baking in preheated dutch ovens. I like to bake them till fairly dark and an internal temperature of at least 205 F.

I will redo these and hopefully, I get a better oven spring next time.

joc1954's picture

After many months being so busy finally the time of holidays/vacations arrived. Again this year we (my wife, our dog and me) are having great time on Island of Hvar in middle Dalmatia in the Adriatic Sea.


The bread they typically bake here is a white puffy bread which is good to eat while being still warm, after several hours it is already very dry and next day it is not eatable any more. Like last year I took with me the scale, bannetons, linens, iron-cast skillet and my favorite dough vessel and of course my starter.

Inspired by the environment vegetation which is mostly olive trees and vine trees I decided to make a "thematic" bread from the olives and Mediterranean spices. The recipe is simple: add chopped black olives one hour into fermentation together with few grams of local spices which contribute a lot to the specific taste and pair well with the taste of olives. The rest of the recipe is my standard one, 20% wholegrain wheat, 80% strong bread flour (type 850), hydration ~78%.

One loaf was without olives and spices for my wife. She likes a lot the cranberry jam with creme fraiche for breakfast. 

The oven in the apartment where we stay is working perfect with evenly distribution of heat. Due to hot environment I must switch on the kitchen ventilation and air conditioning.

To cool down the bread I used the wired mash from the stove supported by 4 cups to achieve good ventilation.

Because of lack of suitable working surface I shaped both loaves just by stretch&folds in the vessels and then dumped them directly to bannetons.

The bread was great and the I almost forgot to take the shot of the crumb of the olive bread before it vanished. We invited our neighbors for bread tasting with the Prosciutto, olives, cheese and a lot of wine.

Happy baking!


P.S. Right now I am making a lavender bread - will prepare another post about it.

Our Gaia enjoying on the sofa.



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