The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Lillibread's picture

About a year ago I began baking french bread - I've primarily been using Ciril Hitz recipie from "Baking Artisan Bread".  I'm not getting the air pockets that I'd like in the crumb structure.  I'm wondering if someone might have advice for me.  The recipe calls for a poolish - I've been careful re: time/temperature in that regard.  Same w/ the dough.  I've got a Kitchen Aid mixure - I've try to be uber concious about not over working the bread in the mixing process.  Most of the time I use fleischmann's yeast.  I've stayed w/ the recipe is well re: amount of salt.  I've as well been careful not to de-gas the bread as I'm shaping the loaves.  On a couple of ocassions I've even over-proofed the dough just to see if that might make a difference.  It hasn't.  Anybody got any idea on how to get some air (hot air or otherwise) into this bread.  Appreciate your help.

turosdolci's picture

I said that I would post this recipe. They are delicious but although the pastry is satisfactory it isn't as fine as machine made. I would love to hear from anyone who attempts to make it.







Yippee's picture

As an old Chinese saying goes, 'If a craftman wishes to do a fine job, he must first sharpen his tools' (工欲善其事,必先利其器),  proper gear and setup, in addition to the right techniques, are essential in making good breads.

I'd noticed a 'deficiency' of my otherwise well functioned oven when I was making the sourdough bagels.  The browning was somewhat uneven and by the time the bagels were browned, my kids' favorite onion toppings were already burned.  To correct this deficiency, I opted for better quality pizza stones.  After a long wait of almost three weeks, the stones had finally arrived.  I chose the thickest stones (1") that, as represented by the manufacturer of the stones, the BTU of a home oven would support.  I've retained the same setup as before, with one stone on top and the other on the bottom.  However, this time the stones were cut in a way that there is a one inch clearance around them.

In addition, I bought a wine thermostat and turned one of the refrigerators into my official retarder.  This setup was brought to my attention by DonD.  I must tell you; it is another lifesaver after SteveB's proofer.  A big 'thank you' to both gentlemen again.

With good stones, it's natural to think pizza.  I'm curious if the temperature of the bottom stone can really be jacked up to over 550F (without rigging the oven) to make restaurant quality pizza, as one proud home baker boasted.  So I got an infra-red thermometer, which I forgot to use since I was busy watching my bread.

The bread I made this time as an experiment was almost identical to this formula, except for the levains.  The starter used in this bake was actually the final dough made from the same formula but ended up sitting in the fridge. I used this old dough as-is and did not refresh it before baking. The weights of ingredients were adjusted so that the % of prefermented flours and final dough hydration remained the same.

The controlled retardation was the highlight of this experiment and it was very playful to me.  The fermentation schedule was as follows:

Bulk Ferment

  • 2 hours @ 76F

Final Prove:

  • 10 hrs - @54F

  • 8 hrs - @65F

  • 12 hrs - @58F

I was a bit hesitant when deciding the oven temperature with the new stones in place as I had no prior reference. Therefore, I used a more conservative 485F to preheat and immediately lowered to 465F after loading.  The crackly part of the crust did not turn out as dark as last time.  I have to avoid the darker crusts because they seem to irritate my kids' throat.  It probably will take me a few more experiments before I find out the optimum timing and temperatures of my retarder and oven.  With the assistance of my new tools, I'm looking forward to a more enjoyable baking experience.

Here are some pictures:









lief's picture

Wow, I just just realized I've been on a bit of a roll kick lately :-) As the result of being busy, and being lazy about blogging when I actually do have the time, I am a bit behind. I would like to give more details on each of these bakes, but at this point I know that if I try to put in too much information I'll never get around to writing anything at all!

My daughter came for a visit, and she brought friends along, so I actually baked quite a bit. First up was a sourdough version of floydm's potato rosemary roll recipe. This is the second time I've made this recipe, both times with a levain rather than commercial yeast and the rolls are delicious. The first time I made them, I thought they would be good as hamburger buns. So that's what I used them for this time!

Unfortunately, I baked my first batch a little too long (28 minutes) and the crust was a little tough for a burger bun. The second batch, I cut down to 23 minutes, and it was better but still a tad tough.


Next I made some cheese rolls. Anyone familiar with the Cheeseboard in Berkeley, CA knows about these! Absolutely delicious! I used spelt flour instead of whole wheat and spread out the fermentation, shaping, and proofing of these rolls over 3 days due to a busy schedule and not wanting to bake at midnight. It was too much for the spelt. As you can see from the picture, the rolls collapsed and didn't really get any oven spring.


I also made a pizza using the Pizza Napoletana recipe from BBA for the crust. The BBA Pizza Napoletana recipe uses the same cold fermentation technique as the Pain a l'Ancienne recipe, so needless to say, it is fantastic. I've actually tried using a dough from the Pain a l'Ancienne recipe as a pizza dough, but the higher hydration makes it too difficult for me to shape into a pizza crust. This pizza had carmelized onions, figs, goat cheese, basil, and a balsalmic vinegar based sauce. Sorry, no pictures... everyone was hungry and the pizza was devoured in short order.

Last, but certainly not least, I baked up a batch of Trumer Rolls to bring to a friends house for dinner. This is my own recipe and something I bake on a regular basis. I'm sure I'll post the recipe at some point, but at a glance, the recipe is a sourdough (of course) with 40% spelt flour and the final dough is hydrated with Trumer Pils beer. Thus the name. Mmmmmmm... I wish I were eating one now as I write this ;-)

SylviaH's picture

Very delicious and fairly simple to make, these appealing cookies make a very nice accessory cookie to an elegant dessert or just simply to snack on alone.

With 'Mis en Place' I made these while preparing dinner, placed them in the oven to slow bake.  The recipe is HERE updated..this link should work, scroll down to the recipe.







ejm's picture

This wonderful bread made with sugar pears, unbleached all-purpose, whole wheat and rye flours, is based on Sandra Avital's (Le Pétrin) recipe for "Pain Rustique aux Poires".

pear bread - July 2010
pear bread - July 2010pear bread - July 2010

This makes GREAT toast.

More detailed description and recipe here: Pear Bread (


(Yes, I made this by hand. Yes, the dough is exceedingly sloppy....)

Sandra Avital's (Le Pétrin) recipe is here: Pain Rustique aux Poires ( - recette en français

SylviaH's picture

I used Daniel T. DiMuzio's formula from his book 'bread baking An Artisan's Perspective' for making his Double Raisin and Toasted Walnut loaves, changing it to go with a combination I have been wanting to taste.  I substituted the double raisins and walnuts with, half the amount of dried natural, chopped Blenheim apricots, a very big favorite of mine is the Blenheim apricots from CA. especially fresh.  I also added 1/2 cup of Millet seeds for a little soft crunch.  The combination is delicious with the apricots not being overly sweet like raisins can sometimes taste.  The little soft crunch and mild flavor of the millet seed was an added plus, all went delicious toasted this morning with a smear of cream cheese.  I was very pleased with the combination of the apricots and millet seed and plan on trying it in some other recipes.

These loaves were baked yesterday with the Greek bread I posted earlier.  I baked both the apricot and millet seed loaves together and wanted to steam them with my steaming lid, I have not used in a very long time.  The two loaves would not fit under the steaming lid, I did not want to stay up any later and bake them individually, so they were not properly steamed which I think contributed towards the paler crust on the second loaf.






SylviaH's picture

This is my version of the recipe from HERE 'Im having trouble getting this to go directly to the recipe, in search type Crusty Greek Country Bread'. I have never made a bread containing goats milk, I thought this a good choice instead of the water called for in the recipe, and I have to say what a very pleasant surprise.  It turned out just as I hoped it would.  The flavor with levain and goats milk was delicious and I've never tasted anything like it before.  It had a sweet creamy taste from the goats milk and duram flour with the added nutty flavor from the sesame seeds.  The crumb was just as I wanted just open enough, I coated the egg wash on extra heavy and all the way down the sides to hold an extra heavy sprinkling of the sesame seeds.  This bread will be outstanding toasted or for sandwiches, whatever way you choose to enjoy it.

Sponge: set aside to rise for 2 hours.

208 gm liquid levain - 100% hydration

84 gms scalded and cooled goats milk - 

62 gms Bread flour



671 gms Bread Flour

240 gms Duram Flour - You have your choice of flour combinations - Duram is one of my favorites 

420 gms Scalded Goats Milk - cooled

2 Tbsp. Honey

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Sea Salt

Adding the sponge, I used mechanical and hands with my KA and a combination of Stretch and folds. 

Glaze: One whole egg with 2 tsp water and wisked till foamy - 1/2 cup sesame seeds -

 two round linen lined baskets were used for proofing and then turned onto parchment paper on paddles and slid onto hot oven stone.


Preheat oven and stone 450F convection setting for one hour

Because the loaves were heavily coated with glaze I only spritzed my oven after putting in my steaming device was used.

Baked for 45 minutes adjusting my oven temperature from 450 convection off 10mins. reducing down to 425 and 375F.











mulholland224's picture


I recently had a loaf of Whole Foods Seeduction bread - it was fantastic.  Has anyone tried to make this loaf?  It seems simple enough looking at the package ingredients. 

wally's picture

This past weekend I decided to revisit a favorite bread of mine - Polish Country Bread. Although I don't have Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" I've scrounged together a recipe from web searches that seems quite similar so far as I can tell. It's a 15% rye, where the entirety of the rye is in the starter. The hydration is 71% which I believe may be slightly lower than Leader's.

You can find my formula and thoughts on this variation of Leader's bread here on my website.

Lately, however, I've discovered the virtues of hot rye soakers in terms of the added sweetness they bring to rye breads, so I decided to attempt a variation-on-a-variation of his classic that still keeps all the rye within the starter - and the added soaker.

This necessitates a mixed levain bread since some of the rye is being removed from the levain to the soaker.

To make things easy (for me) I rearranged the formula so that the final dough would be essentially the same mix, with the single difference that the water weight would be reduced to offset the water used in the soaker.

2 x 1.5# loaves

Overall formula:                  Bakers Percent
Bread flour             733 g              85%
Rye flour                128 g               15%
Water                     610 g               71%
Salt                           16 g             1.90%

Mixed levains:    Flour         Water         Levain

White levain            56 g            56 g          21 g
Rye levain               56 g             56 g          11 g


Rye flour                  67 g
Water                      132 g

Final mix:
Sir Galahad/AP      733 g
Water                      356 g
Salt                            16 g
Levains                    256 g
Soaker                     199 g

The levains should be mixed 12 - 14 hours prior to use (depending on temperature, time may be decreased or increased. In DC just now, my levains are 'cooking' by 10 hours).

For the soaker, which should be made up at the same time as the levains, boil water and pour over rye, mixing until well incorporated. (Note: My last hot rye soaker used equal amounts of water and rye and almost immediately turned into a hard, dense, mass. Doubling the water helped noticeably, and next time I may triple the water as a percentage of flour.)

The next day I mixed together the water, levains and soaker, and then added flour and salt. Once I had a shaggy mass I covered the dough and allowed to sit for 30 minutes. (This is not a standard autolyse in that the levains and salt were added immediately. But I wanted to make certain that both levains and the soaker were well-dispersed from the get-go, so I decided to break with tradition and do an autolyse after all the ingredients were incorporated.)

After the rest, I mixed on speed 1 for 3 minutes, then on speed 2 for 2 minutes, and finally on speed 3 for 2 minutes. I've added speed 3 because this dough wants to climb up my hook and I've found that by increasing the speed it stays lower in the bowl and more quickly shows gluten development (slapping against the sides of the bowl).

Bulk fermentation is 2 hours, with two folds at 40 minute intervals. After preshaping and resting briefly, form into boules or batârds. Couche or proof in bannetons/brotforms for 2 - 2 ½ hours. Preheat oven to 460°F, presteam, and load loaves, steaming immediately and again after 2 minutes.

Bake at 460° for 15 minutes, and then reduce heat to 440° for another 30 - 35 minutes.

I'm still struggling to get my cuts to stay open in my (steam) leaky gas oven, as evidenced by the finished loaves. And my chevron slashing technique is in need of a lot more practice.



However, the crumb is nice and open and moist, and I really love the flavor of this bread. The hot soaker definitely brings additional sweetness. And this is absolutely sandwich bread. It recalls to my mind Jimmy Breslin's old Piels Beer commercials where he admonished us: "It's a good drinking beer!"

Well, this is a good eating bread!

EDIT (Jan. 23, 2011): My thanks to RonRay who pointed out in a message that my Overall Formula is incorrect in terms of Bread Flour weight and thus, overall hydration.  He correctly surmised that I had forgotten to factor my white levain into the overall bread flour weight. 

Actual figures for Overall Formula should be:

Bread flour: 799 g

Rye flour: 130 g

Water: 616 g

Salt: 16 g

This yields a dough with a hydration of 66%, NOT 71%.  My inclination would be to increase the hydration to at least 68%, which would entail increasing the water in the Final Mix from 356 g to 372 g.

Thanks again RonRay for an eagle eye!


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