The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


alfanso's picture

No, that isn't my batard.

During our recent visit to my brother and wife in Albuquerque, their home baker friend, having seen my postings on TFL asked if I could give him a baking lesson.  Just in case, I also packed up everything to make a few batches of SJSD batards.  Everything except the kitchen sink and my baking deck, that is.

The prior day Sandra, also my "student", and I worked on getting a batch ready to have Marty bake as soon as he walked in, because that is the only way that he'd be able to see the full cycle from levain build through bake in a single afternoon.

Working backwards with Marty, we

  1. baked, then did
  2. a mix, bulk ferment, divide and shape finally ending with couched batards for the next bake.  And we finished up by
  3. doing a levain build.  

An entire cycle in one day, albeit out of order.  I'd done this scheme once before and it worked out really well, so I already had the template in place.

The day after Sandra did that dough's bake, and then a week later, just before we returned home, she wanted to lock in the process so we did another cycle - in logical order this time.

Three weeks ago Marty sent me a really nice email with his own SJSD picture.  He wrote "I made my first bread with your instructions and it’s probably the best bread I’ve made."  I also showed Marty that we can use plain old Pillsbury types of flour to get superior results - no need for the fancy stuff.

Here is Sandra's own follow-up SJSD.

And the lead picture is Sandra's SJSD with caraway seeds inside.  She baked this one just the other day, and I think the results are so incredible!  She is a gifted painter, ceramist and cook.  It won't be long before we add bread baker to the list.

As for us?  Headed out to an acquaintance's house full of folks for Christmas Day celebration, I baked these in my new-found variations on a theme - fat baguettes: more semolina sesame and SFBI Pain au Levain.  Four for them, two for our aunt & uncle and two for us.  Baked a shade lighter than I typically would as not everyone is a fan of my favored dark crust.  I think that I'm having a little problem with self-control...

My wife made this Mexican chocolate roll for her share of the baking. 


Skibum's picture

Well a very Merry Christmas to my freshloaf friends who celebrate it! this loaf made my neighbours little girl very happy just now!  The look on her face seeing a whole loaf of pulla made my day.

Happy baking! Ski

Zubaidah's picture

I recently when to baking school to learn baguettes. My family just love baguettes such that I must have every morning. I don't think I have problem with obtaining window frame. My main problem is proofing. I do baguettes again today. I do the finger poking test but still the final result of the baguettes is still not round. I am not sure if the baguettes is underproof. Like I says I do the finger poking. The dough stick to my fingers when I do the poking. I proof for abt 1.5 hours. When I was about to bake just now, the dough Bounce back slowly. If the dough did not bounce back, I guess it's over proof. I try so hard on this. Can anybody help pls. I am trying very hard to do baguettes for breakfast. This is my 4th try. Can somebody help me pls. 



dabrownman's picture

People might rightly think ……Who would be making sprouted brioche buns for Christmas when they haven’t made Christmas cookies, fruit cake, panettone or even puff paste rugelach for Hanukkah?  I know it sounds weird but these are special buns for a special Christmas feast that folks from Kansas City don’t know as well as they should.

Yes, it is the almost famous, nearly wonderful Smoked Meat Christmakkah held in Gilbert Arizona for the first time ever this year.  It will be 3-4 kinds of smoked sausage, brined and smoked chicken thighs, baby back ribs and the smoked meat requiring the buns – 13 hour smoked, pulled, pork butt.

There is so much smoked meat happening that it takes 2 days just to get it all smoked up because our smoker is only a 3 level, 30 incher.  Low and slow is the only way to do right by all this great meat and it is the Holiday Season that required the very best.  So the buns have to be good.

Lucy started out by using Floyd’s Lazy Man’s Brioche recipe as the base to start from and then gussied it up to make it every bit as decadent as it is lazy.  First, she converted it to sourdough.  We sprouted our usual 9 grain mix of whole grains, dried them and then ground them so that we could sift the flour to get out the bran to make our pretty much standard bran levain.

We used 6 grams each of wheat and rye NMNF starter that have been retarded in the fridge for weeks and weeks.  We built the 12 hour, 100% hydration 3 stage levain on a heating pad to make sure we were at 78 - 80 F most of the time.  It came in at 14% pre-fermented flour overall.  The levain was not retarded.  Then it was time to get out the KA mixer. 

We haven’t use the mixer in about forever for anything so this was a treat.   The only time we use it is for enriched dough like this one.   We didn’t do an autolyse and mixed the 50% nonfat milk with the levain, 2.5% barley malt syrup, 2% salt, the remaining high extraction sprouted flour and 37% each high gluten and LaFama AP dough flour.  After mixing on 2 with the paddle for 1 minute we let the fermenting dough rest for an hour.

We then switched to the dough hook and added the 10% sugar in a slow stream on speed 2, 30% eggs and the 25% butter in small chunks and Ian’s favorite, 6% Neuchâtel cream cheese.  before cranking the mixer up to 4 for 8 minutes and then back down to 3 for 2 minutes.  After a total of 10 minutes the wet dough was pulling away from the sides of bowl and had made a fine windowpane.  All together the hydration was 80%.

It's a seasoned pork butt right before it went into the smoker for 13 hours this morning.

This recipe ended up being much wetter than Floyd’s recipe and richer as well with the added BMS and crème cheese, having more butter and eggs.  I like bun dough to be more on the wet side even if harder to handle.  We did 2 sets of 8 stretch and folds on 1 hour intervals before dividing the dough into 12 buns and shaping them.


6 of the buns were larger than the others.  The larger ones were going into Pyrex baking dish instead of being shaped individually.  After they proofed for 3 hours on the counter, we egg washed them and they went into a 385 F oven for 10 minutes of Mega Steam with lava rocks and then 10 minutes of convection dry heat at 365 F.

The individual rolls were done at that time but it took another 5 minutes to get the Pyrex buns done.  They came out very soft, browned nicely and smelled great.  As soon as they were cool we wrapped them in plastic and froze them at the peak of freshness.  The buns came out soft, moist, glossy and very tasty.  Best buns we have managed to date.  The crumb was beautiful and the crust soft as could be.  Would make a nice a nice cinnamon roll dough for sure!  We like tham a lot!.

Got the chocolate rugelach baked off


14% pre-fermented flour sprouted 9 grain, 100% hydration, 3stage bran levain


50% nonfat milk

 12% high extraction 9 grain sprouted flour

37% each LaFama AP and Smart and Final high gluten flour

25% unsalted butter

30% eggs

10% sugar

6% Neuchâtel cream cheese

2.5% barley malt syrup

2% salt

 No this isn't an AZ sunset - it is an AZ sunrise instead:-)  You see these things whenyou have to get up early and get the smoker going!  It took 15 hours to get the pork shoulder to 199 F

Cuisine Fiend's picture
Cuisine Fiend

My last minute (and a first ever) attempt at pandoro: where are the raisins? :-) And of course baked in a totally unorthodox fashion in a panettone tin - didn't get hold of the star shaped one in time.

Good: no orange peel, dough doesn't ever want to collapse, divine toasted and buttered.

Bad: where are the raisins?

Happy Christmas to all the bakers!


chapstick's picture

I've been experimenting with using chia seeds in my regular "low hydration" sourdough. I tried incorporating them in three ways.

1. Pre-soak 2 tablespoons of chia in 8 tablespoons of water. "Dimple" into the pre-dough along with the levain/starter.
This was quite messy and difficult to work with. There was a lot of wet chia gel to try and mix into a fairly firm dough. I tried to take a light-handed approach to this and not worry too much. The end result was great! The texture of the crumb was almost silky. My guess is that this is because I managed a higher hydration than I usually would.

Chia loaf v1

chia loaf v1 crumb

2. Add 2 tablespoons of chia to the usual pre-dough, with no extra water.
This produced a very stiff dough that was almost hard to handle for that reason. The texture of the bread itself was fine but nothing especially interesting. The taste was good - a bit nuttier, maybe, than a loaf without chia.

Chia loaf v2

3. Add 2 tablespoons of chia to the usual pre-dough, plus 4 tablespoons of extra water.
This has been the most succesful method. I tried using an extra 6 tablespoons of water but find 4 tablespoons more manageable. I love the texture of the loaves made this way. The crumb is somehow shiny and smooth. I've been getting a good crust and rise too. As with the first method though, I'm not sure how much of this is attributable to the chia seeds, and how much is due to the (slightly) higher hydration than what I'm used to.

Chia loaf v3

Chia loaf v3 sliced

leslieruf's picture




decided to make 3 batches of dough - and really pay attention to my gluten development and shaping.  Each batch was enough for 2 small loaves. I made Ru's butternut squash recipe again, my favourite multigrain and NW sourdoughs potato water SD.  I have made the multigrain recipe countless times but I reworked the recipe using the BBG spreadsheet. 

I started with the butternut squash.  As I had some squash frozen I defrosted it and used that.  It had a lot of moisture and I drained off what I could.  the dough was very very soft but seemed to come together ok with the 4 S&F at 30 minute intervals before bulk fermenting for a couple of hours.

once this was underway I started the multigrain. I added about an extra 20 g water to my soaker by accident and when I came to doing the autolyse my dough needed more water so I added water until it came together.  after autolyse I added the levain and soaker and it took a lot of hand mixing to combine.  The S&f were then matched to the butternut dough so I did one dough followed by the next.  the dough was very soft.

ok, onto the last one.  potato water SD.  this recipe uses the double hydration technique. I mixed the low hydration dough, added the levain then left to rest for 2 hours with s&f after 1 hour. final step is to added 2nd part of water with the salt gradually over 3-4 hours with gentle s&f.

Finally, as each dough finished bulk ferment I preshaped, rested and shaped dough.  It was quite a challenge with the butternut squash dough. It was really soft and very extensible and I struggled to get it to hold its shape. the multigrain gave me similar shaping problems but I hoped i had done enough. finally the potato water dough was just a beeze, no issues at all.

so into the fridge they went for overnight proof. set the oven to heatup automatically and started my baking.

here is the butternut squash.

Really spread during bake and I was very disappointed. next to be baked the multigrain.


Spread quite a bit too, but was a bit better. I hade made a slightly bigger batch so the 2 loaves were 800 and 600 gms

finally the potato water dough went into the oven.  i made 1 boule (photo at top of post) and the batard I baked in a oblong china dish with tented foil over it. normally i bake in DO but wanted to try this.  I slashed the top. I had used parchment during proofing so I could allow dish to warm up befoe putting in the oven. anyway, put loaf in oven and after 15 minutes removed lid of DO and foil from dish. it was way less baked than the boule so l left it another 5 minutes then removed it from the dish so it would brown.

this also needed longer to finish.  all loaves baked to 208°f internal temp.yy

later in the day, i sliced and packaged.  the grain and butternut loaves are very moist, never had that before.


the crumb shot cheered me up a bit, but I was disappointed given the extra care i had taken to try and do things better.

proof will be in the eating over Christmas.


Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Finally, I took some time off from baking for customers (at least cut down my baking days) so I have time to do a few more things, like getting ready for Christmas. I figured this was a good time to try the no oven challenge.

It made sense to use the wood stove in the basement. We use this as a significant source of heat for the house in the winter and, as there is a fire going all day, it didn't take much effort to use it for bread baking. I thought I'd use one of my cast iron pots which hopefully would survive the experience without being destroyed for use in the regular oven later.

A simple 123 sourdough seemed just the thing - this one with about 50 grams of stone-ground Kamut added to the bread flour.

It turned out quite nice, and I even managed to score it (you can see the straight razor I use for this).

The stove was hot and I moved the coals to the back and sides to make room for the pot right on the fire brick.

The pot itself had been pre-heating on top of the stove for a while...

The dough got plopped into the pot (with the parchment paper), on with the lid and into the stove.

And then I made the big mistake - I thought "That will take a little while, so I'm going to pop out to the garden to dig some potatoes". Yes, on the first day of winter in Canada I was out in a tee-shirt and cropped trousers, digging potatoes. Then I got a couple of parsnips and a bunch of carrots, cleaned the mud off my tools and tidied up. Oh, and took out the recycling.

Time to check the bread...

Oops! I actually burned the oven mitts on the pot handles! The parchment paper was a little bit of glowing red ash on the side of the little cinder that was my loaf of bread. I had to disable the smoke alarm in the basement and open the window.

I haven't stopped laughing yet. And I hope no one needs a crumb shot! :)

rushyama's picture

I've been thinking of making a fig and walnut loaf for awhile and finally got around to trying it this week. It turned out very well and it's a formula I'd like to tinker with again.



  • I build a little extra levain as a bit gets stuck to the side of my container. I end up adding as much as I can scrape out easily.
  • I held back about 75 grams of water to help with the addition of the levain and salt. In the end I probably left out about 15-20 grams, though a little got added with the turns when I wet my hands. The dough probably could have handled the full amount, but I wasn't sure how the figs would play into the mix so I decided to be conservative.
  • This made two loaves (the batard shown here and a boule not pictured -- being gifted.

The result:


This is probably one of my favorite loaves to date, hearty and flavorful. I really like the purple color walnuts bring to the game, and there's just enough figs to bring a touch of sweetness. If anything I'll add a touch more figs next time. The crust is crackly and thin, just how I like it. The loaves did color quickly, so I ended up dropping the oven temp to 425F for the last 10 minutes or so.

Hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season!


ruthhiller's picture

I have been working at using a higher hydration dough and went back to the basic country loaf recipe from Tartine Bread. The other day I was preparing to bake and made a leaven and left overnight. I did the drop test when I was ready to start making the dough and was disappointed that the leaven dropped a bit in the water. I decided to go ahead anyway to see what would happen. I let the flour and water plus leaven autolyse for approximately 4 hours, did a slightly longer bulk fermentation with 4 sets of folds every 30 minutes and 2 sets of folds every hour. After shaping, bench rest, and then folding and placing in banneton I let it do a slow proofing in the refrigerator and left overnight. I then baked the next morning and it turned out to be one of the best loaves I've made!


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