The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


LydiaPage's picture

Foccacia di Recco - 58%, 62% and 65% hydration (front to back) - June 26, 2017

I actually thought about calling this knead, knead, knead, cry - but since it was an experiment in hydration I tried to make the title more appropriate (but my arms are still killing me!).  My assignment was to make the Foccacia di Recco in the three hydration levels while keeping the flour, oil, salt (and cheese stuffing) the same.  The assignment was also to aggressively hand-knead each dough for 10 minutes... I should not have made all three doughs back-to-back, especially as a novice, but hey I earned my eats!


The three doughs looked and felt very, very different - and the end results were also completely distinct in texture. 


58% hydration

Obviously the driest dough - it took the most muscle to knead, and roll.  It never felt as smooth as the others, and weighed 2 grams less than the next dough.  Even rolling it in to a ball to cut in half you could see the creases and it just was the ugly duckling of the lot.


When done it was slightly more pale than the others, had a more crumbly texture, and just tasted dry.  The dogs sniffed it and walked away - no, just kidding, they would have run away with it in a second given a chance!  The non-student me would have eaten the whole thing and said "yum" but never made it again.  The student me said "I can do better" and went on to...


62% hydration

This was pretty fabulous (read as: there is not a crumb left), it was a lovely dough to knead if there is such a thing!  It was smooth, soft, and pliable.  It didn't stick to my hands, didn't take too long to incorporate all the flour in to, and was a shiny round ball of dough that cried to be baked.


It had a perfect tiny crunch to the top, while not falling apart in your hands, the filling was just right, and it made me want to knead a triple batch and eat myself into a Foccacia coma.  Buttery flaky crust, around gooey flavorful cheese - I'm in!


65% hydration


It was easy to knead for the last few minutes, but initially was sticking to my fingers, the counter, the bowl, everything around it (I actually had to make this one twice, the first time it got ahold of my shirt, picked off the dog hairs from it and disaster ensued, so I started over).  It was shiny and pretty and I had high hopes for this being the best of them.

In my opinion it still looked the best, golden and bubbly, like a perfectly toasted marshmallow - but although good, it didn't beat the second one!  I was surprised!  It had a slightly denser tone to it which made the cheese almost hard to distinguish from the center dough, and gave it more of one texture than a crust with a filling (don't get me wrong, we still ate this one!), so it just got edged out.  Good, but not good enough. 

Hopefully that will not be my feedback from TBW as I march onward to Lesson Three!

LydiaPage's picture

Where it all started - Lesson One


My attempt at Artisan Rosemary Bread June 18, 2017


Pre-mentor I bumbled through a typical Pinterest recipe, being promised the world and ending up with an unsightly but edible loaf.  A 30 minute hands-on-time promised, a three hour hands-on-time ended up being more accurate.  Why was it so difficult?  It proofed beautifully, but as soon as I went to form the loaves I realized I had a pile of sticky bubbling goo that did not resemble dough in the slightest.  After two hours of rising I was determined to bake it, so I added cup after cup of flour, until I almost had a round "loaf."  I placed poured it in to my trusty pre-heated cast iron pot and hoped for the best.  Well it worked.. sort of.  We munched on it happily, but for a whole day of work it certainly was no baguette from Pain d'Epis, and while I did not expect it to be award-winning, I would have settled for worthy of the mouth-watering that the smells emerging from the oven elicited. 

I started researching some books to get a better idea of the fundamentals, and Tim (my dear husband) sent the ones I showed him off to "the bread whisperer" to get an opinion.  Before I knew it I had my first homework assignment - figure out what went wrong by converting my recipe to grams and reading up on bakers math.  With my hate-hate relationship with math I knew this was going to be fabulous fun, so I dove in.  A couple of frustrating attempts later this is what I came up with:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water = 791g
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1-1/2 packets) = 13g
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt = 18g
  • 6-1/2 cups all-purpose white flour = 845g
  • 2 tablespoons sugar = 25g
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary = 25g

so based on what I read - the water probably should have been at about .70 of the flour?  If that's the case - the water should've been about 591g - which explains why I had a soggy mess on my hands and had to add a ton of flour when attempting to knead and shape?!  According to this I was at about 94% hydration?!

If my original recipe was in bakers math

  •     Flour: 100% 845g
  •     Water: 94% 791g
  •     Salt: 21% 17g
  •     Instant yeast: 15% 13g
  •     Total: 230%

A more useable recipe would be something like this?

  •     Flour: 100% 845g
  •     Water: 70% 591g
  •     Salt: 2% 2g
  •     Instant yeast: 2% 2g
  •     Total: 174% 

And I was close!  TBW (the bread whisperer) suggested 66% would probably make a better result, but ultimately yes - 94% hydration is why I had a sticky situation on my hands.  

Well lesson one - a flooded flour - I got a nod, I passed, so now for lesson two!

LydiaPage's picture

…as the room fills with the acrid smell of smoke billowing from my oven.

Okay this may actually be a little dramatic, and perhaps not the entire truth... but the few attempts I've had to date at making bread have not produced anything I'm super excited to repeat.  

So here begins my journey: a bread guru, whisperer of dough, and wizard of the baking realm - has offered to take me under his wing and guide me through everything from how to prepare my oven, to finding the ideal hydration ratio to make a perfect loaf.  Everything will be documented here, the good, the bad, and (hopefully) the edible - wish me luck!

dabrownman's picture

It has been over 117 F 3 days in row and today was the first break from the usual Late June heat in Phoenix -  only 113 F today.  So …..we took the mini oven outside for today’s bake to keep the kitchen from going over 90 F.


Nothing puts blisters on white bread like the mini oven and this one had some beauties.  The small space and ability to really crank up the steam is why we love the mini oven and look forward to summer patio baking even though it is so hot.

We have baked every kind of bread in the MO and have had success with all of them and this one was no exception.  We did a simple white SD bread that had exactly 6 g of whole grain rye in the NMNF starter and that was the entire amount of whole grains in this bread making it come in at 98.7% white flour.

Half the white flour was Lafama AP and other half was Albertson’s bread flour.  The levain was an 8 hour single stage affair that used 9% pre-fermented bread flour at 100% hydration. We autolyse the dough flour and water for 1 hour with the salt sprinkled on top and the overall hydration was 75%.

We love grilled tuna almost as much as ribs and sausage on the smoker

We did 4 sets of slap and folds on 50, 10, 6 and 4 slaps all on 30 minute intervals and then let the dough bulk ferment for 45 minutes before shaping and placing the dough in a rice floured basket seam side up. We then placed the basket in a plastic grocery bag and then into the fridge for a 12 hour retard.

E let the dough warm up on the counter for 2 hours before firing up the MO to 500 F regular bake.  We unmolded the dough onto parchment on a peel and slashed it T-Rex style before loading it into the MO, covering it with the SS bowl and tossing cup of water into the broiler pan underneath.


No dinner is complete without a salad according to Lucy

We immediately turned the oven down to 450 F and, after 18 minutes of steam, we took the SS bowl off and removed the broiler bottom pan leaving the vented top part for the bread to finish baking on.  We turned the oven down to 425 convection and baked it in the dry heat for 18 more minutes.

Lucy has a breakfast shot featuring the Ranier Cherries my Daughter brought back fro Seattle last Wednesday that went well with the other fruits, berries and toast with cream cheese

The bread was boldly baked and 210 F when we removed it from the oven to cool on a rack.  We will have to wait on the crumb but since it spread rather than spring it may nit be the most open white bread one could wish for........but we won't get to see it as it was given away in a weak moment to an admiring fan of SD bread.


9% pre-fermented bread flour 8 hour, 100% hydration, single stage levain using 10 g of NMNF Rye starter.


50% Lafama AP

41 % Albertson’s bread flour

2% Pink Himalayan sea salt

Enough water to make 75% hydration overall.

This bread cost 80 cents to make including the electricity!  What a bargain! 


Dsr303's picture

just recieved my copy of TARTINE. What a wonderful book. I love the story behind it, the pictures, art work and instruction are superb.

Cant wait to bake

breadforfun's picture

It is becoming a theme of mine when I travel, I like to seek out excellent breads in the new location, something shared, no doubt, with many other TFLers. It also has become something of an obsession that when I find a special loaf I try to reproduce it. Such is the case with this bread.

Let me step back just a bit. We had been planning a trip to Prague for several months. A couple of months before we left, my wife and I dined at a favorite restaurant, and in the course of the meal we learned that our server was newly arrived from (wait for it) Praha, the Czech name for Prague. Being in the food business, she gave us a list of several restaurants that she thought we might like. As I read about these restaurants before we left, I discovered that one of them was quite well known for their house-made bread. Obviously, that sealed the deal.


      A couple of views of the Charles Bridge in Prague


Eska is a very modern restaurant barely 18 months old when we went there the beginning of June. They are part of a large restaurant group, apparently with enough money to seed the place with a very large space, modern appliances (including a wood-fired oven, but I’ll get to that in a moment), and open architecture where diners can see everything that goes on in the kitchen. They served us as much bread as we wanted with our meal, and it was really tasty and moist.


      Eska's 33 bread, crust & crumb (somewhat blurry, apologies)



They were extremely friendly, especially Niki, who speaks excellent English. We talked for a long time, and she let me watch the bakers as they prepared the loaves and loaded them into the oven.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the oven, but it was an Italian-made deck oven with 3 individual 30-inch or so wide doors for loading. The wood is loaded into the back corner, and steam is injected manually with a sprayer. They are rightfully very proud of what they make there. Niki then offered to give me a sample of their starter, which I was glad to have. We arranged to go back the day before we left to minimize the time the starter would not be fed. The liquid starter survived the trip back in the checked bags (without leaking I’m happy to report). She also gave me a few details about the two different breads they make so I was able to reproduce a decent loaf without much problem. It even tasted nearly as good as the original.

      Three loaves from my second attempt with only 27% rye flour


About the bread: Eska makes only two types, 33 and 66, named for the percentage of rye flour in the formula. Niki told me that they also use 10% boiled, grated potatoes to keep the crumb moist. The liquid starter they gave me was quite liquid, I am guessing 150% hydration all rye. I don’t know if that is how they maintain the starter or if they use it at that hydration. Clearly some caraway seed was visible in the crumb, as was the potato.  And I tasted some malt as well.

      Crumb of my attempt. If you look closely you can see some yellow potato bits incorporated.


For my loaf I chose to cut back on the levain hydration to 125% and most of the rye flour is in the levain. I also kept the overall hydration of the dough fairly high at 82% since their final product was quite flat. I observed that at Eska, they proofed the loaves in large wooden boxes, possibly as large as 12” x 16”. The 66% rye loaves were baked whole while the 33% rye loaves were cut in half before baking. Here is the formula that I used:


If you ever make it to Prague, I recommend Eska without hesitation. Besides the bread, the food dishes were novel and innovative, ingredients very fresh. It is in the Karlin district so it was a short subway ride to get there, but well worth it. And who knows, you may get to take home some starter, too.



swissbake's picture

Baker's Yeast has an influential role in the baking process. If the right amount of yeast is not included in the recipe, it will lead to an undesirable taste and improper texture in your bread. SwissBake brings before you some interesting facts about baker's yeast and its importance in bread making.

Baker's Yeast is a natural biological leavening agent that possesses basic attributes of all living things, which are respiration and reproduction. It is a unicellular microorganism found on and around the human body. Baker's yeast is a fermenting agent that belongs to the Saccharomyces cerevisiae species and is actually a member of the mushroom family.

Yeast plays the most important role in bread making. Yeast loves to be able to eat their favorite sugar in a warm, moist environment where they will multiply in numbers. As the yeast munch away on their sugar, a process called anaerobic fermentation begins to take place. The by-products of this process are alcohol and carbon dioxide. In other words, one molecule of glucose sugar yields two of alcohol and two of carbon dioxide gas.

C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2 CO2

During this time, the carbon dioxide is trapped by a series of strands of gluten in the rising bread. This is what causes the bread dough to rise, or expand on the surface, leaving behind a series of air pockets in the dough. The yeast eventually dies off, from the heat when baking, and any remaining alcohol evaporates. The air pockets left behind are what give baked bread its crunchy goodness.

Traditionally, yeast was known as "fresh yeast" which was a firm and homogeneous paste-like product with a creamy or ivory tint. With almost 70% of the water content in the fresh yeast, leading it has a limited shelf life which was 10 to 15 days at 15ºC (59ºF), or 30 days at 0º C (32ºF). It was advisable to use ASAP, If stored at 20ºC (68ºF).

Further, Two types of dry yeast were obtained from Fresh Yeast by subjecting it to low-temperature drying processes. If compared to fresh yeast, dry yeast has a longer shelf life and can be stored in a refrigerator and used whenever necessary.

The older of these two types are available in the form of small granules containing only 7% humidity. These yeast cells are in the latent state which must be reactivated in advance, in order to use it, as an active leavening agent. This is done by rehydrating the yeast in five times its weight at a temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF), along with little sugar. After 15 to 20 minutes of rest, the reconstituted yeast can be actively used for baking.

The second dry yeast type is the most recently developed, known as "Instant" yeast which is available in the form of small rod-shaped pieces, similar to vermicelli in shape. This type of yeast is more subtle than fresh yeast, as far as taste is concerned and even more subtle than the granulated dry yeast. The Instant yeast seems to accord more importance to the influence of the taste of wheat flour, to alcoholic fermentation and to the effects of baking, which is beneficial to the taste to the bread.

Baker's Yeast provides the perfect puff and rise in your bread with proper texture and desirable taste which will leave us wanting for more.

The usage of Baker's Yeast in the preparation of bread differs from variety to variety of the bread. For more information regarding usage of baker's yeast with your recipe of baking bread, kindly mail us at and we will get back to you with the exact proportion of baker's yeast required to get a perfect rise and texture for your baking bread.

swissbake's picture

For a layman who is trying to bake bread, the processes of mixing the dough are only mixing all the ingredients together and get a dough. But mixing dough has more scientific importance in bread making which is directly responsible for the quality of bread produced, i.e the final output. So the process of mixing the dough in breadmaking has its own importance, which cannot be overlooked at since it will definitely affect the final output as bread.

Purposes Of Mixing Dough Are:

  • To distribute the yeast cell throughout the dough
  • Distribute food for the yeast which will further lead to the fermentation process.
  • To form and develop Gluten.
  • Hydrate the flour and other dry ingredients 

Bread dough mixing requires a method where all the ingredients are homogeneously mixed and hydrated which will result in a well-developed gluten network. Basically, Gluten is formed when water is mixed with the wheat flour. Gluten is a water-insoluble protein and has a great importance in bread making process. During mixing, a continuous network of proteins forms giving the dough its strength and elasticity. By holding gas produced during fermentation, the protein network allows bread to rise.

Traditionally mixing was done in slow speed only, due to lack of knowledge and technology. But slow mixing results into a low level of physical dough development leading to a longer fermentation process. This style of mixing yield excellent flavours, but resulting the loaves denser.

Three Basic Methods For Mixing Dough:

1. Straight Dough Method.

The straight dough mixing method is the simplest mixing method of all. It consists of only one step. You don't have to think much about this method, combine all ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix. While using this method, there is a possibility that the yeast doesn't get evenly distributed in the dough. Therefore It is safer to mix yeast separately with a little water.

  • Soften the yeast in a little of the water. Ideal temperature is 43.33ºC (110ºF)
  • Combine the remaining ingredients, including the rest of the water, in the mixing bowl. Add the dissolved yeast, taking care not to let it come in contact with the salt. 
  • Mix to a smooth, developed dough.

2. Modified Straight Dough Method or Modified Mixing.

The modified mixing method is basically for rich sweet dough. This is basically the modification of the straight dough method to ensure that the fact and sugar are evenly distributed in the dough.

  • Soften the yeast in part of the liquid, using a separate container. 
  • Combine the fat, sugar, salt and flavourings and mix until well combined, but do not whip until light. 
  • Add the eggs gradually, as fast as they are absorbed. 
  • Add the liquid and mix briefly. 
  • Add the flour and yeast. Mix to a smooth dough.

3. Sponge Method

Many Bakers feel this method of mixing is very effective to achieve a better texture, rise and even the taste for the rich yeast dough recipes. Sponge method allows the yeast to speedily and fully ferment and activate with part of the flour and water in the recipe and later incorporated with the remainder of the ingredients. This method is successfully prepared by following two stages which help the yeast action to get a head start.

  • Combine the liquid, the yeast, and part of the flour (and sometimes part of the sugar). Mix into a thick batter or soft dough. Let ferment until double in bulk. 
  • Punch down and add the rest of the flour and the remaining ingredients. Mix to a uniform, smooth dough.

Importance of Dough Mixing

Mixing of Dough is the most important stage in the entire process of baking. During this process, both the development of dough and temperature of the dough are established. If either of them or both of them are not spot on the processing than the product quality will suffer. If you do it wrong, there is no second chance to correct it later in further processes. Hence, mixing has a great importance and must be performed with proper discipline.

The secret behind the good quality of the baked product is mixing of the dough. If you are not disciplined at it, you will struggle to get the ideal product quality for your Bread.

We hope the information in this blog has been valuable to you. Do share your comments, queries or concerns regarding this blog with us.

Have a topic in mind, you want us to write on? We are open to hearing from you. Kindly write to us on Thank You for reading.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I did another bake of FWSY Overnight White again today, with a couple of differences. One was caused by scheduling difficulties, the other by absent-mindedness! But at least they show that I feel I now have enough experience as a baker to make changes and still feel confident of the results!

I really love this recipe - just flour, water, salt and a tiny bit of yeast. I mixed the flour and water yesterday afternoon, but I had to go into town for a meeting so it autolysed for close to five hours instead of 30 minutes. When I got home I added the salt and yeast (just 1/8 tsp. per 750 gram loaf) and mixed it well in the big mixer (I was doing seven loaves). I didn't like the way it looked, and thought maybe I had made a mistake measuring the flour, so I dumped in some more until the dough was how I wanted it. The original recipe is 78% hydration, I think. This version is probably closer to 75%. It was quite lovely, and after two stretch and folds it was perfect - strong, silky and forming a beautiful big ball. I covered it and left it overnight in the cool basement.

This morning it was well-risen with a nice dome. It was a bit sticky so I had to flour the bench and my hands, but it was very soft and stretchy too. Pre-shape was a double letter fold, and then the loaves rounded into beautiful tight balls. Into floured baskets for about a one hour proof, then into preheated cast iron pots to bake.

Because I had dumped in the extra flour I ended up with a piece of dough about 350 grams, so I baked a little mini-loaf. I'd only pre-heated seven pots in the big oven so I improvised to bake the little guy. I put my little cast iron frying pan into the toaster oven with a steel bowl over the top to preheat, then put the little loaf on parchment into the pan - perfect! It baked at 450F for about 30 minutes.

I removed the bowl lid 15 minutes into the bake - looks good!

The crumb on this bread is fantastic. This is one of those breads that I could eat the whole loaf at one sitting! Moist and surprisingly flavourful for the simple ingredients.

A few big holes, but I wasn't careful about popping all the bubbles when shaping. So yummy!


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