The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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WendySusan's picture

We usually have some Challah in the freezer and we like to make weekend french toast with...but we were all out.

My go-to recipe for Challah has been the Ciril Hitz recipe we were given in our October bread baking class.  I even used it for the Easter bread basket.  Since I bought Hamelman's Bread, I decided to use his recipe.

This recipe calls for high gluten flour which I actually had on hand....if not I would have replaced it with bread flour.  Sir Lancelot was called to duty along with the bread flour, eggs and yolks, canola oil, sugar and an additional couple tablespoons of honey.  In actuality I should have replaced a couple of the sugar tablespoons with honey but I just added for the yeast and a slightly sweeter bread.

Hamelman's recipe doesn't require a sponge like Hitz so I piled all of the ingredients into the mixer bowl.  After the first three minutes on low I could smell the mixer bogging down.  I knew there was no way I was going to complete another five minutes on second speed.

I dumped out the bowl onto the counter and started working the dough.  There were still dried bits of flour and it was like trying to knead a deflated soccer ball and was very dry.

Inflexible dough...looks like a chicken doesn't it?
Inflexible dough...looks like a chicken doesn't it?


I added another quarter cup of water to the dough and worked it....and worked it....and worked need to go to the gym today!  What a work out.

I kneaded and pushed and pulled and slapped and whacked and beat the crap out of that piece of dough.


Eventually it started looking like what I was used to seeing and was stretching pretty good when slapped down.  This took about 10-15 minutes.


Into the proofing microwave with a cup of boiled water.  After an hour I punched down gently per the instructions and left it for another hour.


At the end of the second hour, the dough was begging to be let out.


It was beautifully flexible, stretchy, golden and worth the work out!  The turned out extremely extensible.  After an initial rolling and then a rest, it stretched very well.

In Hamelman's book he has a number braiding examples.   


This one is called the Winston but I decided to leave it flat.


This used 6 strands and I took the other three, braided them and curled those into a ball.



Back into the proofing box for the requisite time while I run to the grocery store because I used up all the eggs!

Baked for 30 minutes at 380 turning and swapping the trays half way and we have some nice looking loaves.  And it was delicious!  The small round one will be eaten now and the long large one cut in half and frozen.

Also on the agenda today is a variation of Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough with Whole Grains....done the 1.2.3 way...its bulk fermenting now but in a couple hours will be put into its cold overnight slumber so we have fresh bread tomorrow morning!

Happy Baking.



STUinlouisa's picture

Last week we visited the friendly folks at Breadtopia,  it's only 60 miles away, to look at and eventually purchase a KoMo Fidibus 21 grain mill. Happy birthday to me finally got to replace the old noisy, heat producing, and hard to clean one. While there also got an oval brotform, Durum wheat berries ( pasta machine is on the way ), and some Kamut wheat berries. 

The bread is a combination of trying several things. It consists of equal parts fresh ground Kamut, fresh ground white wheat, and KA AP at around 73% hydration as well as wild yeast starter and salt. The dough proofed in the oval brotform and baked in an oval DO.  There is a sweetness to it that I think comes from the Kamut. 

On another note, I noticed that there is a farmer growing organic wheat, milling and selling flour in Iowa under the brand name Early Morning Harvest.This is the closest to local, only 200 miles away, that I've found. Has anyone tried his products?


WendySusan's picture

and I think I'm getting the hang of this sourdough thingy.  This week I baked twice, once was a 1.2.3 with a lean toward Rye and today was Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough which is fast becoming a favorite.

I love the 1.2.3 method because I don't have to really think about anything.  I just apply my math and voila....bread.  Guess I didn't score deep enough although the circular design is there.

Signature W...

Today's Vermont Sourdough also came out very nice and all that's left is half a loaf...out of two loaves.  I added a few sunflower seeds to the top of one of the loaves before placing in the oven for a nice change.

My technique is definitely improving and working very well for me is to proof them in the fridge overnight and take them out when I preheat the oven.  This then finds me putting dough together late at night, slapping, stretching and folding.  They are definitely easier to score....and as you can see, I'm getting better every time!  

My husband just loves having fresh bread all the time and if there is any "old" bread left when the new gets baked, the wildlife get a treat.  I've thrown out a few loaves into the yard and they disappear within a day or two so everyone benefits.

What's up next?  Probably a Forkish Field Blend which competes with the Vermont Sourdough for favorite bread.  

dabrownman's picture

Hey look Mom!  No sprouts in this bread…….We had planned on making a Dark Pumpernickel based on the IJTB formula that greedybread made a few weeks ago.  But this recipe calls for making a rye starter from scratch that calls for a discard at the end of 48 hours.


Well, you know how much I hat to discard any food, so I took the discard from the 2nd feeding at the 48 hour mark here and feed it again to make this basic 1:2:3 sourdough bread.  We were out of white bread anyway and this one came out 15% whole rye which is white bread around here.


This starter had risen 50% in the first 24 hours and had doubled after the 2nd feeding at the 48 hour mark.  The amazing part was that it doubled 4 times, stirring it down each time after the 3rd feeding and by the end of 72 hours.  Wow! That is when we knew it was ready to raise a loaf of white bread if not the heavy pumpernickel it would raise tomorrow


We originally made the dough at what we thought was the standard 71%  or this recipe but forgot the levain was not 100% hydration like the recipe calls for but only 73% hydration.  So we added enough water to get it up to an overall 71% hydration.


After trying to slap this dough around we knew it was still too dry since the rest of the flour was bread flour from Winco’s bins.  We added another 50 g of water to get the dough to where it felt like a 71% hydration dough that you could do 2 slaps to 1 fold with. 


After 3 sets of slap and folds on 20 minute intervals and 3 sets of stretch and folds from the compass points on 30 minute intervals we did 90 minutes of bulk ferment on the 88 F counter. Before pre-shaping and after a 10 minute wait for the final shaping, the dough was placed seam side down in a rice floured basket.


It was bagged and left on the counter for a 90 minute shaped proof and then placed in the fridge for 1 hour shaped retard.  Once the dough came out of the fridge to warm up we firs up BO Betsy to a 500 F preheat with the combo cooker on the bottom stone


Once BOB said she was ready we un-molded the dough onto parchment on a peel and then slashed it in a triangle and slid it into the combo cooker for 18 minutes of covered steam while turning the oven down to 450 F when the bread went in.


Once the lid came off we turned the oven down to 425 F and continued baking for 5 minutes when we took the bread off the bottom of the combo cooker so it could finish baking on the bottom stone.  After 7 more minutes when the bread thumped done on the bottom, we then turned of the oven and left the bread  on the stone for 5 more minutes with oven door ajar to really crisp the skin,


The bread sprang bloomed and browed very well for a 3 day old starter.  It even got some blisters on the skin too.  Can’t wait to cit into it for dinner and see hoe the crumb fared – so far so good.  Can’t wait to make the dark pumpernickel tomorrow with this same starter the old school way.  

Lucy reminds us to not forget that great salad to go with the Ahi Tuna Tacos


brickowski's picture

Hi Everyone, 

So this is my first post.  I live in Austin, Texas.  I've been reading for some years, learning a lot.  What a wonderful community here!  Thanks to all of you who contribute and now I guess I'm gonna try to do the same.  About a baker's dozen years ago I actually worked at a small bakery in San Antonio, baking the daily bread.  Simpler times, great memories...I didn't know how good I had it!  Thus, I've got some fundamentals down, but it's been a while.  I'm trying to regain my feel for the dough and timing.  As a hobby, I've been researching and reading a lot of the well-known authors (Reinhart, Forkish, Leader), trying the different techniques and supplying my little family of three's bread this past year.  Tasting good, looking hit and miss, and nutritious.  But the challenge is always trying to fit the bakes around my work schedule and weekend obligations.  

Anyway, I picked up Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread at half-price books about a month ago and have been loving it.  Really the best resource I've found.  I decided the first formula I'd try is the Vermont Sourdough after seeing people here mentioning it a lot.  I didn't do it 100% perfectly, I was in a hurry every step of the I am happy enough with the result.  Looks to be a forgiving recipe and I can't wait to try it again. 

The first thing I had to do was convert my sourdough starter to be more of a liquid starter. So I did that, I don't know if it was really 125% or not, because I'm not sure what percentage I would call my starter which was kinda stiff but not very.  I basically added as much flour as water and it was much more liquid and rose well, then mixed the levain buildup per the recipe.  Here's what that it looked like, the morning before work.

I mixed it in my Kitchenaid classic 4.5qt spiral mixer early that evening after work, with only a 20 minute autolyse.  Then I almost forgot the salt, so I added that halfway into the mixing and that's not ideal. :)

I probably should've given it a stretch and fold as it started the bulk fermentation.  I gave it one stretch and fold after 1.5 hours, thinking that I would be giving it one more but the recipe only calls for 2-3 hour bulk fermentation so I just let it be.  This is what it looked like after about 3 hours.


Wasn't looking too buoyant but it was maybe doubled.  I cut the dough in half and pre-shaped...I should've scaled the pieces because one turned out bigger.  As it was late, I floured two bannetons, shaped boules and put them in the refrigerator to retard for baking the next day.  I decided they could wait until the afternoon and I got home from work around 4 and preheated the oven after about 15 hour.  

Now I had trouble getting the bigger boule out of its banneton and kinda had to work it out with my fingers, which was frustrating and surely deflated it.  So that one turned out a little flatter.

Using a tip I learned about here at Fresh Loaf, I slid the boules on parchment paper onto a heated baking stone and covered them with big stainless steel bowls.  Love that trick!  

Baked them at 460ish for about 50 minutes...took the bowls off halfway thru...the bigger one had a little more time than the little boule.  

Like I say, first time doing this formula and I was clumsy in some technique, so I was surprised it turned out pretty well. Credit to Hamelman for such great instructions to follow for a great sourdough.  Tastes quite good, very mellow, chewy crust and nice overall.

PMcCool's picture

This past weekend was double fun, actually.  First, I had Friday off.  Second, I had been asked to provide some bread for a fundraiser bake sale, so I spent Friday and Saturday baking.  It was a very welcome break from a long baking hiatus while working down the backlog of breads in the freezer.  I don't believe I have had the opportunity to produce this quantity or variety of breads at home previously.  

First up was a pair of gluten-free loaves from a recipe of my own.  This particular iteration featured buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, quinoa flour, potato starch and tapioca starch.  Psyllium husk was used as the binder, rather than gums.  It seems to have offer better keeping qualities than gums since the bread stays flexible and moist for upwards of a week instead of going all crumbly and dry in a day or two.  Here it is, crummy lighting and all:

The next bread on Friday's bake schedule was Sweet Vanilla Challah from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible.  As written, the recipe says it yields two loaves.  Knowing how large those loaves are, I decided to divide the dough into three loaves instead.  And I made a double batch so that I could shape three as turbans and three as 4-strand braids.  As expected, the loaves were eye-catching for both the shaping and the coloring.  The headline photo for this post shows all six bagged and ready to go.  Here are some close-ups:

Later in the day, after running some errands, I also baked the Whole Wheat Multigrain from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread.  I doubled this recipe and divided it into 6 loaves, instead of the stated 4 loaves.  This bread includes a hot soaker with the baker's choice of grains; I used Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain Cereal and millet seeds.  It also utilizes a liquid levain and bakers yeast for leavening.  I managed to get a good oven spring and a bold bake.  The photo looks lighter than the bread did to the naked eye.

Before going to bed Friday evening, I built the biga for Portugese Sweet Bread, working from Mark Sinclair's (mcs) recipe.

Saturday morning I mixed the ripe biga with the rest of the final dough ingredients.  For the PSB, I chose to shape it as rolls, instead of as loaves.  I scaled them at about 65g each, which yielded 4 dozen rolls.  Once baked and cooled, I packaged them in half-dozen blocks per bag.  A friend who bought a package told me that the taste was what he remembered from his childhood growing up in Connecticut.

The last bread was a focaccia, which is another recipe of mine.  I scaled it up to fill two half-sheet pans.  This bread features herb-infused olive oil.  In this case, I used garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper in the oil.  One pan was also studded with some kalamata olives, just for variety.  Each focaccia was quartered and the quarters were individually bagged for the sale.

All told, I loaded two medium-size boxes with the bread to take to the sale.  Since I didn't know how familiar people might be with some of the breads, I also typed up labels with the names and ingredients for each bread, thinking that might help answer some questions.  Later in the morning, I happened past the tables where the baked goods were displayed and noticed that pale and sweet was moving a lot faster than dark and hearty.  The people running the sale were pleased to have the bread and, as far as I've heard, so were the buyers.

I suspect, though, that I was happier than any of them since I was the one who got to make it all.


alfanso's picture

In this edition of what the heck can I do with a tub of dough (hmm, redundant,no?), I decided to tackle Ken’s other batard, which he calls Ken’s Artisan Country Brown.  Just for clarity’s sake, something I neglected to do in my write up about the Country Blonde breads last week, these are also not based on anything printed in the FWSY book.

Usually it takes at least one, if not a few iterations to tinker with and get it “right”, but this time it seems as if I got it “right” on the first try.  Either I’m getting a little lucky or getting a little better, I’ll take it either way!

A 1500g mix yielded two ~500g batards and two ~250g baguettes, too much for my oven peel to handle in one bake, so it was split up in two, with an oven recovery time of about 20 minutes between the baguettes coming out and the batards going in.

When I made my big batch last time, also 1500g of the Country Blonde dough, the one batard weighed in at just over 750g, and while that may be fine for a commercial enterprise, for just little old me and my home oven, I thought that it was too big, hence the two 500g batards this time.

As is my too often cry, I wish that I had left the baguettes in for another half shade of color, but I think that I hit the nail on the head with the batards.  As is also my too often cry, I don’t yet have the heart to saw off a hunk of the batard and inspect its innards.
As with the prior Blonde batch, a 12 hour couched retard of the already shaped dough, and then directly into the oven for a bake.  For these smaller baguettes, 9 minutes of steam and baked for 20-22 minutes total.  All the while the still refrigerated batards remained comfortably swathed in their couche until it was their turn to bake.  Which naturally took longer, somewhere in the 26-29 minute range at 470dF.

Once more, here is a picture of Ken's Country Brown batards, from his FWSY book

 The batards:

The blisters:

The grigne:

The baguettes:

Apple Betty's picture
Apple Betty

It's been awhile since I've posted... although I have been baking but not as much as I'd like.  Sometimes that's life.  Anyway, I have numerous breads on my "To Bake" list, thanks to the many TFLoafers that have posted some wonderful breads.  I wanted a sort of everyday bread and the Polish Rye from Floyd seemed like it would fit the bill.  This is the second time I've baked it and both times they came out great IMHO.

I followed his formula except with the following changes.  First, I used an additional 30 grams of water.  The initial 360 grams of water the dough was a little too dry.  I preheated the oven with a pizza stone at 400 dF, baked the bread for 10 mins with steam, then turned oven down to 375 dF and continued baking for 35 min.  the internal temp was 205 dF.  I also chose not to eggwash it and roll in seeds.  This was moist and a soft bread, which I like.

Here's the crumb shot.

Until next time.... Happy baking

MommaMantis3's picture

Hi.  I'm in desperate need of a little help.  At the beginning of this year I went a little bread baking crazy and decided to finally try my hand at sourdough.  I chose the procedure in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day and had success for about 2 months.  Beautiful plump loaves(tho not so much in the sour flavor).  I really love the cold fermentation process and the 3 days he outlines to produce the bread fit in perfectly with my schedule.  After 2 months, tho, life got hectic as it can and I was not baking but still refreshing my mother starter every week for about 3 weeks, then boom, my mother starter quit, just lay there not rising.  Not knowing any better I threw her away and began again.  Everything went great including the first batch of bread(which had a sour tang. YIPPEE), but when I refreshed it the first time, I accidentally threw in KA bread flour instead of the WW that I had been using.  I've been having issues since.

My mother starter didn't rise after the bread flour and I was on the verge of tossing it and starting over AGAIN when I decided to do a little research and discovered I could revive her on the counter with twice daily feedings.  Worked beautifully.  Converted  it back to a mother starter. Success.  Went to make the dough starter and....nothing.  No rise.  Forged on faithfully and the bread stayed flat.  Tossed it.  Tried again.  Got about a 25% rise out of the second dough starter after 12 hours and about a 25% rise out of the bread.

Has anyone encountered this problem?  I don't want to have to start over again especially when my mother starter is doing what it's supposed to.  I'd really appreciate any wisdom that might help.  

Thank You!!!

Maine18's picture

Hi all --I'm headed to Paris for work tonight, very last minute, and after finishing some business, should have a free day (or half day) to explore Paris a bit.  It's been almost a decade since I've last visited, and I'd love to make a few stops at a few of the beautiful bakeries in town.  A bit out of the blue, I know, but are there any recommendations from this crew I could bring with me? Anis Bouabsa's bakery, Duc de la Chapelle, made my list from a few posts I read on this site a while back...

Thanks so much!


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