The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


MadAboutB8's picture

I'm still having some home-grown apples that I wanted to use and I was thinking about apple bread. Originally, I thought about making apple and oats bread from Bourke Street Bakery cook book. However, I bought quite a few new bread-making books that I should use. So turning to Dan Lepard's books, I saw a promising apple bread recipe.

It was my first time using Dan Lepard's recipe, from Exceptional Bread. The book doesn't have baker's percentage. So, I had to compute my own. Making bread without baker's percentage to me is like flying-blind. At least, I love to know the hydration percentage and flour mix percentage in the formula.

Lepard's recipe use quite an unusual sourdough starter, cultured with mixed bread and rye flour, yogurt and apple juice. I never came across this before. Instead, I use the bread and rye starter with water and include apple juice and yogurt elsewhere in the final dough. However, I am curious what the flavour profile of the culture fed with apple juice and yogurt would be like. I'll have to try it some other times.

The recipe has a very low hydration, only 45% (water + apple juice). If I counted yogurt into hydration (which shouldn't be the case as yogurt might only contain 50% water and 50% fat or???), it would make 55% hydration, which is still relatively low.  I prefer to work with dough with over 60% hydration as it is more pleasant to work with, smooth, soft and satiny texture for hand kneading.

Plus, the recipe also contains 35% combined rye and whole wheat flour (they absorb more water). It would mean 55% hydration, in fact, is around 50% percent. I'm not sure if this is a typo or bread recipes from UK is generally low in hydration.

I followed the recipe anyway and adjusted the water as I went along. Turned out, I had to add approximately 10% more water (which bring the hydration to 60 - 65% percent).

The bread didn't gain much volume out of it and the crumb was somewhat tighter than usual. This could be due to few reasons, heavy dough (with 30% chunks of apples in it), low hydration, high percentage of rye and whole wheat flour. The original recipe included commercial yeast, which I omitted as I retarded the dough overnight. I wonder if the crumbs would be lighter if commercial yeast is used.


All in all, the bread tasted lovely. I didn't think about it much the first day, but the flavour developed at the later days. Second day the bread taste better, and the third day it tasted fabulous. The bread had a complex flavour, with apple juice, yogurt, chunks of apples and mixes of wheat, whole wheat and rye flour. It made a great toast for breakfast.

Full post and more photos can be found here.  


nate9289's picture

As I promised on my last entry, I took pictures of my bakery during work this morning.  I'll explain some of the methods and processes that we employ as well, since each boulangerie does things its own way.  We are an artisan bakery and use no pre-fabricated frozen dough or chemical additives.  The levain for most of the breads (excluding the standard baguettes) is all natural, made with apple juice we press ourselves.

I work with a small staff of two bread bakers and one pastry chef - the patron or boss makes the specialty cakes.  The bakers work from 3am/5am until 9am/11am every day, and the pastry chef from 5am until afternoon.  Breads not baked in the morning are baked by the boss in the wood-fired oven two or three times during the day, but all the work is done before 10am except for the specialty cakes.  The short hours and small staff keep costs way down while managing to put out between 800 to 1100 loaves daily in about 30-40 different varieties.  While some credit should be given to the equipment, most belongs to the two bakers themselves who are incredible to see in action.  I'm thankful to be learning from them!  So, the pictures:


We use an 8-deck hearth oven at 310 deg. C, or 590 deg. Fahrenheit.  Loaves are taken out of the retarder in the morning and let proof before going in the oven.  The first baker arrives at 3am and takes them out, mixing other doughs to let bulk ferment during the early morning hours.  Around 5am the other baker arrives and the oven gets going.  One baker forms baguettes to be retarded that afternoon and night while the other bakes the breads from the day before.  At 9am everything for the day has been baked and we weigh all the specialty doughs, which have been fermenting, and fashion all the loaves, and then they go in the retarder until the next morning.  This is the process for 90% of the breads.



The specialty doughs go in the spiral mixer and the normal white dough goes in the large oblique mixer.



Baguettes during pre-shaping:


Here are some loaves about to go in the oven.  The dark ones are baguettes aux céréales and the one with the ring is bread made with hazelnut flour.  The second picture show baguettes nouvelles, explained below.


For the baguettes nouvelles (new baguettes), the dough undergoes a 72 hour bulk fermentation in the refrigerator and then is formed with a hydraulic machine to not deflate the gas.  Notice the machine and the metal grill below:


Here are some loaves fresh from the oven: round miches, large pain paysan, regular baguettes on the oven loader, dusted baguettes de tradition, and baguettes nouvelles in the case.





My favorite bread we bake each Saturday is the grand pain paysan, a slab of dough weighing 5kg, or 11lbs!  It's sold by the kilo.


I don't do much with pastries - one absolute master pastry chef makes them all.  Fresh strawberries are all the rage right now, and we're doing a buy 3 strawberry pastries, get 1 free deal.  The picture with the almonds and raisins shows mini-kugelhopfs, the special pastry of my neighbor region Alsace.




Finally, some pictures from inside the store.  Most boulangeries suffer from either an overly-elaborate or overly-dull store space, often too small.  Not the case here!  From the enormous wood-fired oven imported from Mexico - producing an unbelievably tasty bread - to the lime green walls, it's a great place to find whatever suits your palate.






At home after a long morning of work, enjoying a baguette nouvelle.  Hope you've enjoyed the pictures!



dmsnyder's picture

These are a couple of 755 gm bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain I baked today. I think they illustrate the points made recently in discussions of scoring, ears and bloom, for example in Varda's topic To ear or not to ear.

To quote Michel Suas from Advanced Bread and Pastry again,

If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development. (Suas, pg. 116.)

These loaves were scored with a razor blade mounted on a metal lame. The blade was held at a 30º angle. The cuts were about 1/2 inch deep. I think the coloration of the bloom attests to the slow spread to which Suas refers.

I think you can clearly see three distinct colors in the bloomed crust, progressively lighter in color from right to left, with the lightest color being that under the ear. As the cut opens up during the bake, it does so slowly over a prolonged period. The darkness of the bloom demonstrates the length of time each area was directly exposed to the oven's heat. The ear keeps the area under it sheltered from the heat so it doesn't form a crust, but, as the bloom widens, the previously sheltered area becomes uncovered by the ear, and it begins to brown.

Scoring with the blade perpendicular to the loaf surface thus results in less bloom, and the blooming is terminated sooner in the bake. The coloration of the bloom is more uniform. An example - a Vermont Sourdough I also baked today:

I hope this helps clarify the point of the ear - how you get it and why you might want to.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

jschoell's picture

I was eating a bowl of Cream of Wheat for the first time in ten years. That is the only inspiration for this loaf. I think a souerdough starter would work well with this recipe. 

Whip up a 75% hydration Biga with 2 c bread flour, let it chill in the fridge 24 hrs. For the final dough, combine 1.5 c bread flour, 1.5 c ap flour, .75 c farina, 2 tbps kosher salt, 1.5 tsp instant yeast, the biga torn up, and about 1.5 c water. Mix with paddle until combined, switch to hook and knead for 5 min. Let dough rest 2 min, then knead another 3 min. Transfer to large oiled bowl. Stretch and fold every 20 min for an hour. Shape into loaves and refrigerate for 12-24 hrs. Bake at 450F for 15 min then 400F for 20 min.

This makes a killer mozzarella and tomato sandwich!



honeymustard's picture

My partner's father and sister are here to visit. They each occupy one of the downstairs rooms that I meticulously cleaned before they arrived, so much so that I drove myself into hand-wringing worry over each minute detail in their rooms. Then the cobwebs in the other corners of the house laugh at me.

Bread calms me down, I think. There's something about nurturing it into life (and--in the oven--subsequently killing it, I suppose, but I don't think about that) that I find calming. I rekindled this years-long love of bread-making while sitting in a cramped hostel room in Taipei right before Christmas.

There was literally no floor space save for a two-by-three foot area where the door swung open in on our tiny apartment. We'd just had our Christmas Day supper. We'd found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the owner spoke just enough English and we spoke one or two food words in Mandarin to get across that we'd like chicken soup. He brought us two different kinds. He gave Dave his bowl and said, "Good for man." A minute later, he brought me mine, and said, "Good for woman." He smiled, waited for our reactions. Dave loved his while I didn't like his, and I loved mine while Dave wouldn't touch mine. What a wise man that had served us. He offered us zong: spiced rice with pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The spices were just reminiscent enough of Christmas that I didn't miss the overwhelming bright lights, electronified versions of Christmas carols, or ads delivering guilt trips about not giving your loved ones enough presents. But let's be serious, I didn't miss it anyway.

Chicken Soup & Zong

Besides, I had already gotten all my relatives and friends presents, and now it was my turn. To be there when I first arrived back in Nova Scotia, I ordered the Tassajara Bread book. It seemed only fair that as an amateur bread baker, I have a cookbook focused on bread alone.

I feel selfish, because with that bread book, I gave myself more than I had anyone else on my Christmas list. Breads were springier and lighter, tastier and more beautiful. I felt in control of the bread for once, and I fell in love.

I set about to Google many times thereafter, finding more recipes, wanting to find more people who wrote books like Edward Espe Brown, those who seemed to understand the art much more than Betty Crocker. Eventually I found many sites, and it's almost overwhelming. I'm learning how to make bread all over again.

Poolish Baguettes

So for my first trick, I made poolish baguettes. From this recipe. Schmiechel is not amused because she cannot eat it.

Unamused Schmiechel

But my visitors can eat bread. And they will eat all of it.

MadAboutB8's picture


Easter is almost here and it means the long weekend is not far away. Easter is the longest holiday in Australia and it is even longer this year. The Easter Monday falls on our national public holiday, Anzac Day. So, we end up with 5-day long weekend. I'm so looking forwards to the short break and mini getaway.

These poor buns have been through lots of trauma. I didn't know that my convection oven was broken until after I put the buns in the oven (it actually heated to 70c, enough to kill the yeast grrrr). So, I pulled the buns out after few or five minutes and retarded them overnight, hoping that I could sort out the oven issue and bake them the next day.

Well, the oven (convection mode) was still broken...and I had to bake the bread using grill mode (well, grilling bread won't work, breads will be burnt before it's cooked!), then cover them tin with the foil after 5 minutes, then turn the tin upside-down to bake the bottom of the bun. Yes, they've been through a lot. Lest not forget, they were retarded after they had been in the 70C oven for few minutes. So, I am glad that these bun are still edible.

In fact, they tasted lovely regardless. I love Hot Cross Bun and can have them all-year round, Easter or not. I love the spices in the bun, fruits and peels. It's gorgeous.

I used Hamelman's recipe from Bread cookbook and changed it somewhat. I included sourdough starter (15% of total weight), replaced 10% of bread flour with whole wheat flour, using raisin instead of currants, using mixed candied peels instead of chopped citrus zest. I also changed the paste recipe somewhat (omit egg and reduce the amount of butter, and reduce the total amount of the paste suggested by Hamelman by 50%). I also used my homemade apricot jam mixed with water as a glaze instead of simple sugar syrup.

This is a very good recipe producing flavoursome Hot Cross Buns. I will have to redeem myself and give these buns what they deserve (proper dough handling and baking mode),  I will have to make these again before Easter.

Full post and recipe is here.

Sue's picture

I have been making bread from Tartine Bread, basically a naturally leavened bread.  The flavors have been outstanding, as well as the crumb.  I have experiemented with various hydration percentages (75% and 80%).  The 75% seemed to spring a bit better than the 80%.  The 80% was raised at a bit higher ambient temperature and probably for a bit too long; the dough seemed too puffy and sloppy.

Anyway, I am not pleased with my oven spring.  Does anyone have secrets they are willing to share?  I place the dough in a cast iron oven and close it off to provide steaming for the first 20 mins.  I tranferred the dough in two different ways:  (1) inverting the proofing basket into my hands (this seems a bit sloppy); (2) inverting the proofing basket directly onto the hot cast iron stove lid (not so precise if you miss, may practice will make it work better); and (3) using a paper sling (also seemed sloppy, but with pactice maybe it gets better).

I think with better oven spring my scoring patterns will come out better.  But, for the time being my scoring does not appear to provide the type of visual affect I would like.  Again, I believe this to be due to poor oven spring.  BTW, it's not zero, just not as good as I would like.

Suggestions are appreciated.

txfarmer's picture


Ron's post about these crackers is as thorough as they come, so please get the recipe there if you are interested. I added 20% of cheddar cheese to the dough, turned out perfect, so much better than store bought. And easy to make too!



What a great way to use those "discard starters", I am sure I will make them often, with all kinds of flavors. Thanks Ron!


Submitting to Yeastspotting.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hi everybody,

Sorry haven't been around posting much.  I have been baking, but on a much smaller and less often scale these days, and blogging much less...  I'm pretty much swamped at work these days...  Yesterday evening though, I did find some time to bake a little something...



Shiao-Ping's picture

This post is about sourdough made of whole-milled grains which are grown locally. 

Just before I scaled back my bread blogging last July, a project that I was looking into was home milling my own flour.  I thought that was one way that I could take my sourdough to the next level - go to the freshest and purest ingredients possible.  I had even decided on a home mill brand.  But before I could execute that idea, I lost my drive.  Even the publication of Chad Robertson's book, which I so waited for, couldn't save me from my doldrums because, at that stage, I had basically worked out for myself what I wanted to find out.  I did bake a couple of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough last October:



    baked in a covered cast iron camp pot, without steam, at the end of our last Australian winter 




                                        baked on a stone, with steam, at the start of our spring 



Summer came and went; it is now autumn.  Preparing our beautiful lawn for winter, my husband works in the yard to give his brain a rest, as he always does.  My daughter is now second year in Uni and my son, last year in high school.  Polly, our dog, is getting older, but still behaves like a child.  (Do you think dogs dream in sleep like humans?  I can tell you they do.)

Dropping my son in school one morning I went to my favorite coffee shop for some reading.  I read an article in Bread Lines (page 24, Volume 19, March 2011), quarterly magazine of The Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA), by Joe Ortiz, the author of The Village Baker.  The title is "Local Grain, Whole Grain Milling."  He talks about how a restaurateur (Bob Klein of Oliveto Restaurant), a baker (Craig Ponsford, Board Chairman of BBGA until end 2010) and a miller (Joseph Vanderliet of Certified Foods) got together in California on a community grains project.  Why?  To find more flavors in whole grain breads! 

Eco-consciousness is not normally my first and foremost concern when I bake and consume.  My efforts are geared toward achieving the most flavors for my bread using only the simplest ingredients.  But, what is with this community grains project and "local grain economy" whereby locally grown grains are whole-milled between tones (not re-constituted as in many modern industrial roller mills-produced flour)?  The answer: more vibrant flavors.

Aa an artisan baker, wouldn't you just love to use flour that is "more alive and brimming with its natural nutrients and structure!"? 

Imagine combining such flour with an artisan baker's hands: reduced mixing (gentle or no kneading), some type of preferments, long fermentation....

Let's get started.  But before we do, I have a confession to make.  FOUR times I tried making Mr. Ponsford's Integral Bread (formula in Bread Lines, Volume 19, BBGA), each time a 2kg loaf, without success.  I almost used up my 5 kg bag of organic WW flour.   After that, I went on my own, doing my own formulas, for another FOUR loaves of 1kg each (can you imagine anyone else more brave and no brain?).  The bread still came out quite dense.  I finally rang up the miller for some data, and you know what I was told, "Oh, we don't work with bread bakeries."  Sweet!  Was I shooting the moon with a wrong spear?  Was that pastry flour that I used for my sourdough?

I gave up.

The bread below uses only 50% of whole wheat flour.  That is the only way that I could make it work.  This wholemeal flour is produced by stone-milling the whole wheat grain and the wheat is grown in Darling Downs, Queensland, 170 km south-west to where I live.

FORMULA for my Pane Integrale with Garlic and Olive Oil

  • 200 g liquid starter (50/50 in white and whole wheat flour)

  • 300 g organic stoneground wholemeal plain flour (Kialla Pure Foods)

  • 300 g bread flour (Laucke's unbleached bakers flour)

  • 446 g water

  • 14 g salt

  • garlic olive oil mixture for brushing the crust: two cloves of garlic + about 1 - 2 tbsp. of olive oil + a pinch of salt.

Final dough weighs 1.25 kg at 78% overall hydration.





My Procedure

  • Adjust water temperature. (Aim for a final water/flour temperature of 25C/77F.)

  • Start by adding water a little bit at a time into the starter to dilute it.

  • Once the starter is diluted, measure flours and salt into it.

  • Mix the flours and water to just combined. (I used a blunt dinner knife and stirred for one minute.) Cover.


  • First fermentation (from time-off mixing to the time I placed my shaped dough into the refrigerator) was 5 + 1/2 hours. During this time, I did four stretch-and-folds in the bowl at 30 minutes intervals: 1st time - 12 strokes, 2nd time - 12 strokes, 3rd time - 6 strokes, and 4th time - 6 strokes. At about 3 + 1/2 hour mark, I shaped my dough. There was enough strength in the dough and I didn't need to pre-shape it. The shaped dough was left out on the kitchen bench for about another 2 hours. For the whole time of this leg of fermentation, my ambient temperature was 25C/77F and so I was able to keep the dough temperature constant. Your may not need this long. My dough rose about 60 - 70% before the next leg of fermentation.

  • Second fermentation was done in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

  • The night before sleep I set my oven on timer to bake the next morning. The oven was to pre-heat to its max. temperature with my cast iron pot inside.

  • On the morning, I scored and baked the dough cold straight out from the refrigerator at 230C/446F for 25 minutes; then with the pot cover open, it was baked for a further 15 minutes at 220C/430F.

  • While the bread was being baked, I made the garlic olive oil mixture. (I used a garlic press for this. If you don't have a garlic press, use a mortar and pestle; if you don't have a mortar and pestle, chop garlic finely, then use the back of your knife and press the garlic into a paste.) You will only need half of this mixture. With the rest, I made it into a garlic butter.


  • After 40 minutes of baking, take the bread out, and very quickly, brush the crust with the garlic olive oil mixture, and bake for a further 5 minutes. (After that, check if your bread is done, if not, leave the bread in with the oven turned-off for another 5 minutes. Be careful for the garlic on the crust may burn.)

  • I couldn't wait. I sliced my bread after 45 minutes rest and here it is:




With this post, I encourage you to seek out your local grains and whole-milled flour and see for yourself how much more you like your bread.   




If you are like me who doesn't like the taste of 100% wholemeal, try substitute up to 50% bread flour or other type of flours.   The garlic and olive oil mixture has done its trick and the bread is delicious.



                                with garlic butter                                                     eggs benedict the next morning


If ever you find yourself in Beijing, visit Green-T House.  It is a tea house, a restaurant, a spa, and on top of all that, a modern-day Chinese design icon.  The owner, chef, designer and musician, Jin-Jie Zhang (known as JinR) is the very first modern-day Chinese female chef.  I'd like to go and visit myself but I can't at this very moment.  So, dream on, I tell myself; buried in my books and closed my eyes, I "shern-yo" (神遊) ... soar in my imagination....






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