The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Victory is mine!  If you haven't been following my occasional series of posts, six months ago I set out to improve my baguette skills by making a batch Hamelman's "Baguettes with Poolish" every Saturday and blogging about it here.  I haven't been entirely rigorous about the blogging, but I've kept up the baking, skipping only one weekend in all that time.  Here's what I said I wanted to achieve in week 1:

My objective: produce a reliable, tasty and beautiful baguette through practice, trial and error. I don't really imagine that I will truly master the baguette--better home bakers than I have tried in vain, I know. But I'm hoping to turn what is usually a hit-or-miss process into something I can do over and over again well, if not perfectly.

I submit to you that I have achieved this objective.

Exhibit A: Last week's bake (week 26 if you're counting)

What is notable about this batch is not how well they turned out, per se (though they aren't bad, eh?), but the fact that I did several things wrong, and they still came out quite well.  The plastic wrap stuck to the baguette in the middle, making it hard to score, I forgot to turn the oven down from the pre-heat temperature for the first 6 minutes of the bake, and I purposely omitted the "leave in the oven with the door cracked" step because I needed the oven.  And still they were good.  Crust was a bit chewy, but it was thin, the crumb was nice and the flavor was great.

Exhibit B: Todays bake




 The scores didn't come out quite perfectly--the baguettes took longer than usual to proof, and may have stil been a little under-proofed.  But everything else was spot on.  Crust was thin and crisp, crumb open and creamy, flavor sweet and nutty.  If every baguette I ever make again is like this, I'll be happy.

More to the point, if every baguette I make again is a random draw from the last 4-5 weeks of baguettes, I'll be more than happy.  There is still room for improvement, but at this point I think the benefit of making my baguettes a little bit better is less than the benefit of making a wider variety of breads (or even a wider variety of baguette recipes), and much less than the benefit starting a new quest (I have a couple in mind, but that's for another post).

Thanks to everyone who has followed along with my occasionally long-winded adventure, and thanks especially to those (Larry in particular) who helped point me in the right direction early in the process.  It has been a wild ride the last 6 months (not least due to the birth of my daughter in week 6).  Sometime soon I'll write up a post specifically reflecting on the lessons I've learned from Saturday Baguettes.

Happy baking, everyone,



Barstow Lechef's picture
Barstow Lechef

What is the best humidity for proofing bread in a home made prooferr

Floydm's picture

In March I travelled.  A lot.  My best guess is about 10,000 miles.  And, of course, when I travel I search for good bread.

Vancouver from Granville Island

First up was a trip to Vancouver for a Canucks game.  I did not get a change to go to all of the bakeries that folks here recommended, but at least I did get a chance to try Siegal's Montreal-style Bagels.


I don't know for certain that these are authentic Montreal-style bagels but fresh out of the oven they were delicious.  I will definitely be hitting Siegal's again the next time I'm up there... Perhaps for a playoff game in a couple of weeks!

Next up, a trip to Chicago for Drupalcon.


The conference was two blocks away from Fox & Obel, an upscale grocery store with a very good bakery in it.  The bakery was recently named one of the ten best bakeries in the US by Bon Appetit magazine.   I did not get a chance to take a photo of any of their breads, but their Olive Ciabatta rolls fueled much of my visit.  And of course I had to try a Chicago style pizza while I was there.  I had a veggie one from Bella Balcino's that was quite good... not a total gut bomb, which I could not handle a few hours before hopping on the plane home.

A quick trip home and back east to Washington DC.

Washington Monument

Incredible weather, decent food, and the Presidential motorcade went past us twice close enough to see Obama's face.  Needless to say, my kids were thrilled.

After DC we went through Providence, RI.  I walked around the Johnson & Wales campus a bit and tried to go to a pizza joint that Peter Reinhart had recommended, but alas it it was closed on the night of the week we were there.

Final destination: Boston.

Mike's Pastry in the North End is famous for their cookies and cannoli.  The Cannoli were excellent but it was the pignoli cookies that really blew my mind.  I definitely intend to find a recipe for something like them soon.

And now we are back.  My starter survived just fine and made some lovely baguettes yesterday.



jschoell's picture

For some reason I wanted to make a loaf with a purple swirl... probably because purple is not a standard bread color, and I am not a standard bread man. 
I tried this recipe and it turned out good. Just divide the recipe in half, and make two seperate doughs. For one of the doughs, replace the water with an equal amount of liquid from boiled red cabbage. I took a head of red cabbage, shredded it, then cooked it with 2 cups of water in a large pot for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid out, let it cool, and use it to make the purple half of the dough. 

Ingredients: (total for both doughs)

  • 4 cups bread flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 1/4 cups water

Instructions: (remember you are making TWO doughs)

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt) in the large bowl and stir with spoon for about 15 seconds.

  2. White No-Knead Bread Dough mixedAdd water to the bowl and stir for about 1 or 2 minutes (it won’t look that good but that doesn’t matter).

  3. Cover the top of the bowl loosely with plastic wrap.

  4. Let sit on counter top for about 12 to 16 hours (I ussually do this for about 13 hours), the dough will look all bubbly on the top when done rising.

  5. Generously sprinkle flour the top of your clean counter top or a cutting board (don’t worry about using too much flour, it won’t hurt it).

  6. Slowly pour the dough from the bowl on to the floured surface, using the silicone spatula to help it peal off the sides of the bowl.

  7. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and rub your hands together with flour.

  8. With you hands, gently stretch each dough out to a rectangle shape.

  9. Lay the purple dough on top of the white dough.

  10. Roll up the dough from one end to the other.

  11. Place the dough into a lightly greased bread pan (seam side down).

  12. Let dough rise till it is a bit above the top of the bread pan (about double in size or 1 to 1.5 hours).

  13. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

  14. Place bread in the oven for 30 minutes.

  15. Remove from oven, dump bread out on a cooling rack or your counter top and allow it to cool.

No detectable flavor from the cabbage, but the color just begs, "eat me!"


hanseata's picture


With St. Patrick's Day approaching I was asked whether I could bake some Irish Soda Breads for A & B Naturals, the store that sells my breads. Never having successfully baked one before - my first trial at King Arthur's "Whole Grain Soda Bread" ending in a brittle brick - I said, of course: "YES!"
"Yes" usually means that I know where to find a recipe, and, indeed, I remembered having seen one in "Cook's Illustrated". I studied the write-up for Irish Soda Bread to find out what had gone wrong with my prior misbegotten trial.
Mixing Irish Soda Bread has nothing in common with making regular breads. Apart from the right kind of flour - Irish white flour is quite low in protein, it has less gluten than American all-purpose flour - it doesn't require yeast but is leavened with baking soda.
Clueless about the true nature of this Irish tradition, I had given my King Arthur bread the usual treatment, kneading the heck out of it, adding more and more flour because it seemed too wet, and then cursing helplessly because, in spite of all my efforts, it strongly resisted being folded and shaped. What finally came out of the oven was a grainy, unappetizing brick that would have surely gone to the dogs if Buffy had already been with us.
Fortunately America's Test Kitchen never fails to take the scary out of cooking. Reading their introduction I understood that, with my uncouth handling, I had debilitated my hapless first trial bread. To achieve Soda Bread perfection the dough had to be mixed like muffin batter, barely allowing the ingredients to come together, before turning it out onto the counter and gently patting it into a round.
Enthusiastically I started preparing my first Classic Soda Bread, following the instruction. Everything went well until I emptied the bowl over the counter. The dough fell apart in larger and smaller lumps, and, also, shed quite a bit of loose flour. When I gingerly started turning it over, trying to capture the loose flour, a band of unruly crumbs broke free, rolling all over the counter.
When I finally managed coaxing all loose flour to stick, and herding back the crumbs that had gone AWOL, the sweat I broke was not only due to the oven heat.
While my bread was baking I looked through all those other Irish Soda Bread recipes I had gathered, and, also, consulted with Youtube. Did anybody know a way to make this procedure less of a crumbly challenge, more streamlined? For baking several loaves at one time? Even using a mixer?
What I read and saw was all hands-on only, even Jeffrey Hamelman described his experiences in Dublin as being "literally up to the elbows " in dough. The idea of handling a large batch of soda dough more likely to resist centripetal forces than submitting to them seemed rather daunting. Moreover, handling it with the gentlest touch!
My Irish Soda Bread turned out very nice, it was well worth the effort. And finally, I found at least a way to make it a little easier to bring the dough together without overworking it

joshuacronemeyer's picture

sourdough calculator

I made a simple Hydration Calculator.  I've tried to use a few other online hydration calculators and there are so many textboxes that I don't know what to do with them all!  This one has NO text fields.  Instead, each colored box represents one or more variables: flour, water, starter.  Just drag the box bigger or smaller to change the quantity and everything is calculated on the fly.  I love to make sourdough and I'm always playing with my recipes, or finding myself with too little or much of one ingredient or another.  I think this calculator makes it easy to play with a recipe and tailor it to your own needs.  I'm no professional baker so it might not seem suitable for the pros, but I've checked it against a handful of my favorite recipes and found it gives accurate results.  It is open source as well so if you are inclined to dabble in that sort of thing you can click the 'fork me on github' banner to get your own copy of the source code.

R.cubebaker's picture

I found a great pretzel recipe here by Floydm The crumb was crunchy and the real bread was chewy. Again, This is a great pretzel recipe and I recommend every one to try it. Thank you Floydm.

I also converted the measurements to grams. Find the conversions below.

      1 tsp Active dry yeast ( 3g)  The yeast ran out, it was actually less 1 tsp.

      1 tbsp malt powder (12 g)

      2-3 cups of King Arthur bread flour (351g = 2cups+25 grams).

      1 tsp salt ( 6g)

      1 cup of warm milk ( one minute in microwave) (240g)


Cold baking soda method :

         Happy baking,       


diverpro94's picture

I love making tarts! It's my new obsession! I've tried a couple recipes, but this French Date and Almond Tart is my absolute favorite... Well after some recipe testing and revisions. In fact, I love it so much that I'm officially naming it my signature pastry.


The first time I made it was for a get well dinner for a friend. She just had major surgery and was under some pretty hefty prescription drugs when I delivered her a lasagna, a fresh loaf of pain de champagne, and a tart. She opened the box with the tart and replied, "Oh! Isn't this what they serve to the queen?" I quickly nodded my head and walked her to her chair. Too funny.


French Date and Almond





txfarmer's picture


This recipe is from "Advanced Bread and Pastry". Using white and whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and cracked wheat (aka. bulgur, my new favorite bread ingredient), the bread is super fragrant and packful of flavors. I wanted to convert the formula to use sourdough, but was busy preparing for and running a half marathon last weekend, so stuck to the poolish version in the book.


In my last post, I tried some interesting shapes for baguette, this time, I tried another shaping method from the same site, you can find the video here.


Pain Meunier (adapted from "AB&P")

note: makes 2 lb loaves

-- poolish

bread flour, 241g

water, 156g

salt, 3.5g

yeast, 1/4tsp

1. mix and leave at room temp for one hour, put in fridge overnight

-- soaker

cracked wheat (bulgur), 57g

water, 57g

2. soak for at least 2 hours, I did overnight

-- final dough

bread flour, 202g

ww flour,21g

wheat germ, 11g

water, 153g

salt, 3.5g

all poolish

all soaker

3. mix together everything but soaker, autolyse for 30min, mix at low speed for 1 min, midium speed for 3min. Add soaker, mix at low speed until blended in.

4. bulk rise for 1.5hours (25C) until double, S&F at 40min.

5. divide into two parts, preshape into oval, rest for 20min, shape according to instruction here

6. proof seam down on parchment paper for 50min (25C)

7. flip the bread so it's seam side up, and bake @ 450F for 40min, with steam for the first 15min.


Really like how the shape turned out


Thought all the rolling and twisting would affect the crumb, but what a pleasant surprise, full of holes and very open for a 66% hydration dough (not counting water in the soaker).


Flavor is out of this world, I REALLY like the combo of ww and cracked wheat. For my sandwich loaf, I soaked crack wheat in hot water(about 2 hours), this time in cold water (overnight), I can't really tell the difference. Both method soften the grain without turning them into mush.


Plan to make this one again very soon, probably a sourdough version. Oh yeah, the half marathon went well too. I finished in 1:45, crossing the finish line with my running partner, very good race.


Submitting to Yeastspotting.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

From the last bake, all dressed up and ready to be consumed:


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