The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


PalwithnoovenP's picture

I think I've just made my favorite cake! My first bake for 2020!

This was inspired by my torta, a modern cake on a cake traditionally made with lard, and a Spanish magdalena. I've been wanting to bake a magdalena ever since I saw it but it's only this time that I had the courage to try it, knowing how expensive olive oil can be and how I do not like it when I first tried it. The use of olive oil in it was so intriguing and interesting.

Knowing that most of the flavor will come from the olive oil, I made sure to use a high quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil. An arbequina was the choice for most magdalenas because of its sweet, fruity, and delicate flavor. I used something stronger so the flavor will shine through the cakes.

I used an olive oil made from a blend of picual (bitter and spicy) and hojiblanca (grassy and bitter). I tasted the oil straight up and it has a fruity smell reminiscent of banana.  It enters the palate smooth and sweet, followed by peppery notes, then a slight bitterness on the sides of the tongue and a spicy finish at the back of the throat.

In addition to flour, milk, eggs, salt, sugar, and olive oil, I flavored it with a local orange. What pairing is more classic than olive oil and citrus, most magdalenas are flavored with lemon zest. Our local orange has an intense unique fragrance not even close to lime, lemon, or classic orange. Compared to orange, the aroma is more mabagsik (sorry, I can't think of direct translation, intense? fierce?); I once candied it and the peels were still extremely bitter after three times of blanching. Even just the green rind, without the pit, it is already bitter. The skin was also very thin that it is difficult to get only the green zest without the bitter white pith. With its intensity, I only needed a small amount to perfume the cake, just a quarter teaspoon.

I never thought that sourdough would make a cake like this. I had a couple of more torta experiments (that I still have second thoughts of posting) before this and this is by far the best in terms of texture and flavor. This cake was purely raised by sourdough, no chemical or mechanical leavening. In my honest opinion, it was lighter, fluffier and more delicate that a traditional pound cake (that is, the one that is raised purely by air trapped in the batter during creaming).

Sorry for the weird angle! I just love how smooth and fine the sides of the cake are.

The cake had a very lovely flavor. The olive oil added an interesting savory note, if I did not know that there was olive oil, or if I were not familiar with it; I will be hard pressed to pinpoint were that flavor comes from. It tastes buttery despite the cake being made  solely with olive oil. It has nutty note too that if I also didn't know, I would think that there were almonds in it, probably due to the hojiblanca.

Like a classic olive oil cake, it has a thin crispy shell at the top and an interior so moist  almost to the point of being custardy. After a day, the crust turned shiny and soft and the crumb became moister and the flavor also developed to becoming more balanced and harmonious. This is a cake that really benefits with age.

If there is one word this cake is all about, it is subtlety. Subtly tangy, subtly sweet, subtly savory, subtly buttery, subtly nutty, subtly citrusy. This would go great with tea rather than coffee due to the delicate flavors.Earl grey if you want a tie of flavors; black tea for a classic palate cleanse between bites; or if you want something herby, tarragon tea will be nice.

I just love those sunlit photos! They have a more organic and mysterious feel. It feels as if I was really in the Mediterranean!


You can see in this photo the delicate and crispy top crust.

In a made-up history, during Spanish times it was a celebrated dish found only on the tables of the wealthy as only the upper class can afford excellent olive oil from the Mediterranean.

I became a litttle bit generous with the olive oil in the two molds and the oil floated on top of the batter. What a lovely pattern it created! Looks like a sunflower enhanced by the sunlight.

 I have never tasted a cake as sophisticated as this! 

I hope you enjoyed this olive oil cake. Until next time, thanks!

agres's picture

I bought white bread flour for the Thanksgiving party and it is time to use it up.

This is about a 2-pound sourdough loaf baked from Graincraft’s Morbread. It is a flour that I like for white bread.

I measured out 400 gr water, 600 grams of flour, and 12 gram of salt.

A couple of ounces of my starter was mixed with a similar volume of the water, and enough flour mixed in to make a very soft dough, which was left to sit (covered) on the counter for a few hours until it had more than doubled in volume and looked foamy.  

I added about 150 gr of water (leaving about 200 grams of water), and enough flour to make a very soft mix. The soft mix is easy to stir, so it can be easily stirred well. Then, it sat covered on the kitchen counter for a few hours.  Thus, most of the flour will be fully hydrated and have developed gluten, before the final dough mix.

I tossed in the salt, the rest of the water, and mixed. Then, I gradually mixed in the rest of the flour to form a dough about the consistency of baguette dough. This is an easy knead!  And, let it ferment for a couple of hours.  Later in the evening, I rounded it up, bench rest, shaped, and put it in a banneton and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning it finished rising on the counter, and after 1.5 hours, it went onto a bake stone an electric oven preheated to 400F. I put a piece of parchment paper on the peel and turned the proofed loaf onto the parchment paper. The parchment paper makes it easy to use a peel to lay the loaf in the baking stone. After 20 minutes the temp was dropped to 375F, the parchment paper retrieved,  and the loaf was baked to an internal temp of 208F. Total time from measuring the ingredients to finishing baking was ~ 18 hours, half on the counter in a cool room, half in the refrigerator, with 40 minutes in the oven. 

It has a nice crisp crust, a slightly chewy crumb that is barely dense enough not to leak sandwich fillings (when cut thick), and definite, but very mild, sourdough and bread flavors. It is well suited to a wide variety of menus. By any standard, it is an excellent bread.

Sorry guys, I like a golden-brown crust, (sometimes with the rustic flour coating that makes it look pale).  I like the ease of just using my peel to slip loaves in and out of the oven.  I like the ease of mixing flour into water. I think mixing water and flour into levain makes a better dough.

The really nice thing about the white flour is that its hydration is predictable, so one can use a precise baker’s percentage.

ewspears's picture


This is my first Post and I'm hoping I can find some help here.

I have been making no-knead breads using bread flower have also used bread flower with 25% whole wheat & 10% Rye. I have used quick acting, instant, & sourdough on different loaves. I have used the 1/4 to 1/2 tsp yeast with cool water & 8-24hr, 72deg 1st proofing as well as the 1 1/4 to 2 tsp yeast with warm water & 1 to 3 hr, 85deg 1st proofing. Everything through this step seems OK, My dough has lots of bubbles and has more than doubled in volume

I degas, fold, & stretch the dough and place in a parchment lined container of appropriate size and shape for my 5qt dutch oven or my superstone bread baker. I give it a second proofing hoping it will double in size again; but it never does! All I ever get with the 2nd proofing is a 10 to 60% increase in volume. I have varied time and temperature to no avail. The better ones  are good and edible but not as light and airy as I would like.

Have wondered about mixing some beer or vinegar with the water. Also wonder about adding baking powder.

Would really appreciate any help! Thank You for any Response!

Crusty Loafer's picture
Crusty Loafer

Made a few adjustments.  Last bake was good,  but the crumb was waxy and still a little moist. Flavor was still very good though.  I lowered my hydration from 70 to 65 %. Plus I added the salt with the flour and blended all dry ingredients before adding my water and leaving. After mixing i let autolyse for 45 minutes and did 30 minutes of stretches and folds.  After that,  into the fridge for 7 hours.  In the morning I removed from fridge and placed in oven with the light on.  After supper I shaped and proofed in a banaton basket for 1 hour.  Then preheated my Dutch oven for 45 minutes at 500. Baked at 500 for 30 minutes with ther lid on.  Then I removed the lid and baked an additional 15 minutes.  

Crust looks good.  Cooling now will cut tomorrow. 

alfanso's picture

I felt that I could take the Pan de Cristal a further step if I kept at it.  And so I did.  Further micro improvements from last time.

The first that I went with but abandoned after two attempts was to combine a biga with a levain.  While the results were okay, they were not all that much better than with just a straight levain mix. The downside is that it has an additional few steps to accomplish without the payback.  So I abandoned that process and returned to a single preferment - the 100% hydration strong white flour levain.

Other breakthroughs, beyond those reported last time, included:

  • Discovering that I could indeed retard the dough overnight, rendering a bit more flavor but principally to get the 95% hydration goop to firm up a little more.  And this worked.
  • Changing out from a quite well-floured workbench for the dough to be dumped onto for dividing.  Instead saturate the workbench with water sufficiently.  The dough is easier to manipulate, and with a pair of wet hands was slightly malleable and easier to transfer to the oven peel with minimal deformation.
  • Learning that the shorter the time the dough rested on the peel before being loaded into the oven the less propensity it has for spreading out.

There’s no getting around that this dough is still a trick to wrangle with, but I think that I finally unlocked the door to producing a quality Pan de Cristal.

Here's a partial stack from previous runs these past few days.

When loaded into the oven, these plump up quite impressively, only to settle back down some after a while.

The finished product.  These cannot be scaled, so eyeing the size of each baton is necessary.

A bird's eye view of the runt of the lot that was not up for giveaway.

And a snail's eye view.

Looking in from the outside.  You can see how open the crumb is, and how thin the crust is on these breads.  A structural marvel.  The crust just shatters as it is bitten into, while the crumb stays moist and delicate.


The formula for these is on the earlier entry.

4 x ~300g batons 

Jeff P's picture
Jeff P

My wife was craving cinnamon rolls Sunday morning, so I figured I'd give them a shot. I used the recipe in The Baker's Apprentice, with the exception that I omitted the lemon zest.

Overall, I liked working with this enriched dough. The addition of the egg and sugar made it a bit different than my usual bread dough, but it ended up with a very nice consistency. 

One thing I noticed as I was working, though, is that there seems to be limited rise during the first ferment. I think this was due to the fact that we keep our home very cool (about 68° F). I've noticed this with other breads I've made, and resolved the issue by placing the dough on one of our floor heating vents. That way, it gets a blast of warm air every so often. With these, I kept them off to the side of the vent, so they didn't get as much direct heat.

The end result was a large oven spring, and a chewy, more dense roll than I've had before. The filling was good, and I did not make any icing for them. 

Questions that came up during this bake:

- With such a low room temperature during mixing, should I be trying to find/create a warmer space to ferment the dough?

- I omitted lemon zest from the recipe, and am wondering how that may have altered things. Is this purely a flavor thing, or does the zest somehow alter the dough consistency?

- I used Lactaid 2% for the milk in this recipe, which lacks lactose. This is the milk we generally use at home, but I'm wondering if the lack of lactose may have an impact on the result? Not that it was bad, but the consistency was different from "traditional" cinnamon rolls.



Sorry for the poor picture quality, had to use a different phone for this.

Peter.granger4's picture

I am new to bread baking (about 9 months) and am glad to find a community of bakers, amateur and professional, that truly enjoy sharing their stories. I love the discussions about successful and not so successful baking adventures. I’ve quickly learned that there is no such thing as a bad loaf of bread if it has some of the baker’s heart and soul in it. 

I started baking after being encouraged by my wife to try something new. I’m a retired US Army infantry officer and about 10 years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD after three combat deployments.Years of therapy has helped me cope with day-to-day life and heal parts of myself. Yet I was yearning for more.

Then, I found bread. I received a copy of Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread from my wife and started to read. Long before I started my sourdough starter (which I am still using) I found myself drawn to the stories. What I quickly discovered, as you all know, is that bread is a living thing. There is a connection between the baker and the bread. This connection extends to those who get to enjoy in the fruits of the baker’s efforts. 

Baking has become more than way to fill the dinner table with healthy food. Ok, the lunch and breakfast and snack tables get filled too. Baking is a way to connect to myself and others. It is not the only, or even the primary, tool in my therapy plan. But it is a really nice addition to it.

I have added sprouted Einkorn, semolina and buckwheat to my basic country white sourdough repertoire over the last few months. The sourdough is still my go-to bread, while the others are for fun and experimentation. I recently bought a Komo Fidbus 21and started experimenting with home milled flours (with mixed results, but I’m keeping notes in my log). 

I want to thank everyone for sharing their stories and tips. I’ve picked up a few pointers from here already and I hope I can share my adventures to help others along the way. Cheers.

Danni3ll3's picture

It was time to redo this recipe with a few tweaks. I toasted the buckwheat groats prior to milling into flour. And a few things were changed on the fly. I decided to use a set amount of water to soak the groats rather than soak them in an undetermined amount of water and drain them. I was very conservative with the water as my notes from the last time said that my dough was way too wet. Well that swung things in the other direction. I decided to add some honey as the main dough was quite stiff. Then the dough was still very firm after putting in the add-ins, so I thought I’d try my hand at a bit of bassinage. This seemed to work very nicely and I had a gorgeous feeling dough to shape. 




Makes 3 loaves



150 g Buckwheat Groats

200 g hot water

50 g Yogurt

55 g honey



700 g strong bakers unbleached flour

300 g freshly milled durum flour (or durum berries)

50 g buckwheat groats, milled into flour

50 g freshly ground flax

720 g water + 10 g + 10 g +10 g

25 g pink Himalayan salt

250 g levain (procedure in recipe)

Extra wholegrain and AP flour to feed the Levain. 


Two mornings before:

  1. Take 2 g of refrigerated starter and feed it 4 g of filtered water and 4 g of wholegrain flour. Let sit at cool room temperature for the day. 


The two nights before:

  1. Feed the levain 20 g of water and 20 g of wholegrain flour. Let that rise at cool room temperature for the night. 


The morning before:

  1. Feed the levain 100 g of filtered water and 25 g of wholegrain flour as well as 75 g of strong baker’s flour. Let rise until doubled (about 6 hours). 
  2. Place into fridge until the next morning. 


Mid afternoon or the night the day before:

  1. Toast 200 g of buckwheat groats in a dry frying pan or the oven
  2. Weigh out 50 g of the toasted groats and mill that into flour. Place the buckwheat flour in a tub.
  3. Reserve the remainder of the toasted buckwheat groats for the next day.
  4. Mill the durum berries (if using berries) and place the necessary amount of this flour in the tub. 
  5. Add the unbleached flour to it as well as the freshly ground flax. Cover and set aside. 


Dough making day:

  1. Early in the morning, take out the levain to warm up. I usually give it a good stir at this time.
  2. Using a stand mixer, mix the water with the flour, and mix on speed 1 until all the flour has been hydrated. Let this autolyse for a couple of hours. 
  3. At the same time, soak the toasted groats in the hot water for a half hour.  After the time is up, mix in the yogurt. Cover and set aside.
  4. After the autolyse, add the salt and the levain to the bowl. Mix on the lowest speed for a minute to integrate everything, then mix on the next speed up for 8 minutes. 
  5. Add the buckwheat groat mixture and honey, and mix another minute or two until incorporated.
  6. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place in a lightly oiled covered tub. Add the first 10 g water on top. Let rest 30 minutes in a warm spot (oven with light on). 
  7. Do 2 sets of stretches and folds (adding an extra 10 g water each time) at 30 minute intervals and then 2 sets of sleepy ferret folds (coil folds) at 45 minute intervals, and then let the dough rise to about 40%. It should have irregular bubbles visible through the sides of the container and bubbles on top as well. Things were moving along nicely so it only took another 30 minutes. 
  8. Tip the dough out on a bare counter, sprinkle the top with flour and divide into portions of ~850 g. Round out the portions into rounds with a dough scraper and let rest 30 minutes on the counter. 
  9. Do a final shape by flipping the rounds over on a lightly floured counter. Gently stretch the dough out into a circle. Pull and fold the third of the dough closest to you over the middle. Pull the right side and fold over the middle and do the same to the left. Fold the top end to the center patting out any cavities. Finally stretch the two top corners and cross over each other in the middle. Roll the bottom of the dough away from you until the seam is underneath the dough. Cup your hands around the dough and pull towards you, doing this on all sides of the dough to round it off. Finally spin the dough to make a nice tight boule.
  10. Sprinkle a  mix of rice flour and all purpose flour in the bannetons. Place the dough seam side down in the bannetons. Let rest for a few minutes on the counter and then put to bed in a cold (38F) fridge overnight. 


Baking Day

  1. The next morning, heat the oven to 475F with the Dutch ovens inside for an hour. Turn out the dough seam side up onto a cornmeal sprinkled counter. Place rounds of parchment paper in the bottom of the pots, and carefully but quickly place the dough seam side up inside. 
  2. Cover the pots and bake the loaves at 450 F for 25 minutes, remove the lids, and bake for another 22 minutes at 425 F. Internal temperature should be 205 F or more.

These had great oven spring and smell amazing. Can’t wait to cut into one. 

tortie-tabby's picture

Followed some recommendations from Maurizio's recipe, adjusted the rest to suit my schedule/comfort zone. Feedback always welcome, I've only come so far with help from this community.

50g quick oats soaked in water overnight then drained (used drained water for dough)
12g flax seeds, soaked with oats (4 tsp)

Whole Foods 365 Organic AP flour 450g (70%)
KAF whole wheat flour 150g (23%)
Water 438g (use water from oats, 75%, including water absorbed by oats closer to 80%)
Starter 100g (2:1 AP to whole wheat, hydrated at 100%) (17%)
Salt 10g (1.5%)

Things I learned
1. Yes, definitely cover your loaf with an inverted pot if you don’t have a dutch oven to trap steam
2. It’s not too damaging to divide your loaf and reshape again if you do it early
3. Yes, I should’ve been doing a longer bulk ferment. My previous BFs were 1-2 hrs, this time it was 6 hours
4. Starter really does make your dough more slack, I’m still trying to figure out how to work with it, not really sure I should have added it during the autolyse as Maurizio did. At least I managed to resist adding more water
5. Measure everything! Even when I’m sneakily adding more water I should at least measure what I added so I can keep track and make appropriate changes next time.

1. (7:45am) 1-hour autolyse with starter at 77-79F, add starter and 408g water first and mix, hold out 30g of water
2. (8:15am) Add 10g salt and added all hold out water
3. Bulk fermentation for 5 hours, fold oats into dough after first 30 minutes, stretch and fold every 30 minutes (forgot to weigh the soaked oats to find out how much water I was adding, calculated based on the final dough weight of 1.3kg that I probably added 40g max of water from oats)
4. (1:15am) Cold ferment in fridge 7 hours
5. (8:15) Preshaped then divided into two then pre-shaped again
6. Pre-shape, circling dough tightly, then let rest for 20 minutes
7. Preheat oven for an hour with oven-proof pot inside and cast iron pan under the baking stone
8. Shape and proof, fold dough up into package and roll on surface to create a tight skin, roll boule over oats before final proof, seam side down on couche for 40 minutes at 74F. Dough was pretty wet and a little difficult to handle.
9. Score and slide loaf in, spray generously with water
10. Cover loaf with pot with overhang so steam can get in, pour water into cast iron, place ice onto baking stone
11. Bake at 500 for 15 minutes then at 450F uncovered with convection for an additional 18 mins


Soaked oats and flax, very wet even after draining for over an hour

Soaked oats and flax

Had trouble incorporating it into the dough at first, didn't fold it into the layers as uniformly as I would've liked

Combining into dough

Dough came together well after first s&f

After first s&f

Baking covered vs uncovered

Covered loaf clearly had better oven spring.

Pretty good crumb, any feedback? Maybe a little underbaked. This is a cross-section of the uncovered loaf, I haven't cut into the other one yet but I might post updates. It's got a weird distribution of hole sizes, many really big ones, and the rest are tiny, not many in-between. Why is that?

Cross section of the covered loaf. So yummy. It's a bread I highly recommend, anyone interested should probably check out the original recipe.


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