The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


suzyr's picture

Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins

1 tab of dry yeast

2 1/2 cups of water, tepid

1/3 cup of honey

4 cups of whole wheat flour

2 cups of bread flour

3/4 tab of salt

1 cup of raisins

2 tab of cornmeal


Dissolve the yeast in the water with the honey, let it proof 10 minutes. Then in standing mixer add flours and salt, then add in raisins.  Knead well til stickiness goes away. I like to hand knead, not in mixer.  Then I can feel what is going on with the dough.  Place in oiled bowl and put a new white trash bag around the bowl and set in a draft free area.  Let this rise 2 hours.  The trash bag acts as a humid warm tent.  Punch down and shape into a round loaf and place on baking mat or parchment.  Sprinkle with cornmeal and cover again for another 1 1/2 hours. Make beauty cuts in the top and place in a preheated 425 oven.  Bake for 25 minutes then reduce to 400 and bake another 25.


PiPs's picture

Saturdays are my day of play in the kitchen. I rise early in our quiet house to bake bread for the week. A boiled kettle, a cup of tea, then I start mixing and planning my day just as the sun pokes through the kitchen window. After mixing, we enjoy a lazy breakfast while I watch the dough and wait. By midday the baking is done, enticing me to cut a slice (or two) for lunch.

Last weeks Dark Rye disappointment also fuelled a rye test bake, but I will save that for another post in the next few days as I am waiting for the crumb to set.

With the rye bake keeping me busy both mentally and physically in the kitchen, I decided to be kind on myself and bake a simple adaptation of the country bread with two starters by using a proportion of wholemeal spelt in the final dough. I think I have found a winner both with flavour and texture.

Milling and Sifting

While last weeks light rye was certainly delicious and moist (with the soaked cracked rye) I found the sharp flavour of using only the rye starter too assertive. The overnight rise in the fridge compounded this further and the sourness became quite pronounced a few days after baking. Using a combination of the two starters and a room temperature proof seems to restore a balance that I felt was lacking in last weeks bread.

I prepared the flour the night before. The wheat was milled and sifted. The caught material was remilled and sifted again before being used in the final flour with the caught bran set aside. The spelt was milled and then added to the final flour mix without sifting while the rye grains were milled coarsely and fed to a hungry rye starter for use in the morning. My usually wholewheat starter was fed sifted wholewheat and 30% wholemeal spelt before being mixed to a 50% hydration and placed in a cool spot overnight.


3 grain country bread with two starters





Total flour



Total water



Total salt



Prefermented flour



Desired dough temperature 23°-24°C






Final dough



Rye starter @110% hydration



Sifted wholewheat starter @ 50% hydration



Sifted wholewheat flour



Wholemeal spelt flour









Last fold, shape and proof


  1. Autolyse flour and water for one hour.
  2. Incorporate starters by squeezing into dough with wet hands until smooth and feel no lumps then knead for 5 mins (I used a gentle slap and fold because of the amount of spelt). Rest dough for five mins. Incorporate salt and knead for a further five mins.
  3. Bulk ferment three hours with three stretch and folds 30min apart in the first 1.5hrs.
  4. Preshape. Bench rest 20 mins. Shape.
  5. Final proof was roughly two hours at room temperature (23°).
  6. Bake in preheated dutch oven for 10 mins at 250°C then a further 10 mins at 200°C. I then removed it from dutch oven and baked for a further 25 mins directly on stone for even browning.

 This is such pleasant dough to work with. Spelt and rye bran are flecked throughout. The kneading and folding gives strength so the shaped loaves hold themselves proudly before being placed in bannetons.

I had massive oven spring considering the amount of freshly milled wholemeal flours … the “Pip” was very pleased.

I played again with the scoring this week. My partner’s nickname is “Rat” so in her ratty honour I scored one of the loaves with a giant “R” … the “Rat” was very pleased.

The flavour for me is a balance between the tang in the rye and subtleness of a wheat starter. This not a boring bread, but it does not dominate the senses either.

… and after a busy day in the kitchen I prepared a simple lunch before we headed outside to continue the rest of our day in the spring sunshine.

Cheers, Phil (and the Rat)




Lumpynose's picture

I've been thinking about leavening and fermenting with bread making. The books I've been reading are Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, Peter Reinhart's Whole grain breads and Artisan breads every day, and Chad Robertson's Tartine bread.

Both Peter Reinhart and Chad Robertson state that the sour flavor for a sourdough comes from the Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis bacteria, not from the yeast. The Lactobacillus produce lactic acid which makes the bread taste sour. This is what I call fermenting.

In a sourdough starter the wild yeast produces gas, and this is what I call leavening. Likewise, commercial yeasts provide leavening, except that they're faster than wild yeast and predictable.

When reading about bread making and pizza making, people use the word fermenting to describe part of the bread making process when I think what they really mean is a combination of both leavening and fermenting. It seems to me that fermenting is a catch-all word for a long rest period for the dough; for example, "bulk fermentation." Coming from the fermented vegetables background (for example, sour kraut, kimchi, and fermented pickles, where the vegetables are put in a brine solution for several weeks) I think of fermenting as the souring process from the Lactobacillus bacteria.

As an example of the terminology problem, in Hammelman's Bread, starting on page 13 he describes bulk fermentation but he mixes together the actions of leavening from the yeast producing gas, and fermentation saying that fermentation produces the superior flavors. He talks about the "production of organic acids during fermentation" without explaining how they're produced. He goes on to say that organic acids develop slowly and take hours before there are enough to benefit the bread's flavor. Nothing incorrect there, but things could be more carefully delineated and explained.

The same is also true for The Yeast Treatise at; fermentation and leavening are being conflated.

When describing bulk fermentation and the role of the temperature of the dough, one of the interesting things Hammelman says is that "the flavor components in the dough prefer temperatures lower than that required for maximum gas production." By "flavor components" I'm assuming he's talking about the Lactobacillus bacteria's activity. This no doubt explains how these no knead recipes work where you put the dough in the refrigerator for several days; the yeast activity is greatly slowed down while the Lactobacillus activity is slowed down to a lesser degree.

Back to the leavening side, if you're using a no-knead recipe where the bread sits for several hours and you do a stretch and fold periodically, you should do the stretch and fold gently, so that you don't squeeze out the gas that's in the dough from the yeast. This shows that leavening is occurring during the inaptly named bulk fermentation step.

For some people this may be hair splitting terminology. Before I retired I was a computer programmer and systems administrator and in that field it is crucial to always use the correct words (and not mash things together) when describing things. So I think this hair splitting is helpful for understanding the different things that are going on in the bread dough.

One new thing that I learned from Robertson's book is that for him a starter isn't just a starter; there are desirable starters and undesirable starters. An undesirable starter is one that's excessively sour. A desirable starter is one where the wild yeast is very active and the Lactobacillus is just getting up to speed, although he doesn't explain it that way and instead uses visual and olfactory clues (very bubbly and doesn't smell a lot).

Because the Lactobacillus are doing the fermenting and improving the bread's flavor and not the wild yeast, I think this is why bakers (for example, Peter Reinhart) get good results by using commercial yeast in addition to a sourdough starter. The starter is mainly seeding the dough with Lactobacillus bacteria for the fermentation and the commercial yeast provides the leavening. The starter may or may not have a good population of wild yeast, but in any event the commercial yeast produces a quicker and more predictable rise.

After thinking about this, one idea that I've had is that it should be possible to redesign the starter so that its recipe favors the Lactobacillus bacteria; the only yeast it needs is whatever is necessary to keep the Lactobacillus happy. Then, in the bread recipe, use commercial yeast for the leavening and use the starter for seeding the dough with Lactobacillus. I'm speculating that with the correct amounts of starter, yeast, and fermentation time that a good bread can be made. And probably without the long three day period that's currently necessary.

Rising times with commercial yeasts are undoubtedly well known and documented; for example, a percentage of yeast (using baker's percentages), a hydration range, and a temperature range will yield an appropriate rise in so many hours and minutes. Then, all that's needed is knowing how long of a fermentation period is needed for the Lactobacillus, how much Lactobacillus, at what temperature, etc. Matching the correct amount of yeast with the correct amount of Lactobacillus for a particular temperature, hydration, and period should yield a good loaf of bread.

All that's needed is for some enterprising food scientist to culture and dry Lactobacillus so that in addition to buying instant dry yeast we can also buy instant dry fermentation.

arlo's picture

I am in my Columbus, Ohio suite waiting patiently till I can leave to go to the culinary institute to take my American culinary federation pastry test. I have been working on this for pretty much the whole year, maybe starting around Febuary.

I believe I will be testing with six other candidates today, some doing pastries, some doing artistry.

Nervous, slight headache, and a father who has smoked more cigarettes than I could remember, telling me to take it easy.

If I don't succeed today, just gotta save up the money, practice more, and try it again.

From my phone, so bear with me:)

brent123's picture

hey there can some1 help me out i am lookin to make a loaf of bread but not to sure what to make not a boring white bread

may be a rye or grain bread but not a sourdough

Mebake's picture

I've always admired Andy's (ananda)recipes, and earlier printed and baked one of his. The blog can be found HERE. He describes the bread as being one of the tastiest imaginable.

I, however, regretfully, did not remain true to the recipe, and deviated, mostly out of necessity and scheduling. Firstly, i didn't have any pumpkin seeds, so i used only sunflower seeds. Secondly i reserved no seeds for the garnish (blame it on my forgetful mind!). Thirdly, i prepared and used 20% more rye levain than called for in Andy's recipe, as i wanted a faster ferment and consequently baking the same day i mix. Fourthly, and most importantly, i ended up retarding in bulk the dough, as even the additional Levain took a while, and i couldn't afford to stay up late for baking. The last factor, did increase the tanginess/ sourness of this bread, although within tolerable limits ( in a nice way).

Baked in a deep Pullman look alike.

Soft, and Very, Very aromatic!

Speckeled with sunflower seeds.

I'am not in a position, therefore, to be able to verify the claim Andy made to the flavor of this bread, but judging from the flavor of my version, Andy's un-retarded version should be more subtle in sourness, and would allow the seeds to show presence better. The sunflower liquor has some solid presence as it permeates throughout the loaf. Pumpkin seeds were all that was missing from the combination.

Thank you andy for the wonderful recipe!


Szanter5339's picture









loydb's picture

Mini-loaf madness continues! This is Reinhart's basic sourdough, made from San Francisco culture that's been fed only with KA bread flour. With the addition of 5 oz of chopped dried figs and 4 oz of walnuts, the bread is excellent, but has no real sour. I'm not sure I'm continuing with this particular starter...



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