The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.

For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.

A modest goal, I hope.  We'll see how it goes!

I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas.  If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it.  If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one.  Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.

Let the adventure begin!  For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta.  Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense).  I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc.  In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].



  • 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)

  • 380g water (76%)

  • 15g Olive Oil (3%)

  • 10g Salt (2%)

  • .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon,  .14%)


  • 190g Flour

  • 190g Water

  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour, divided

  • 190g water, divided

  • 15g Olive Oil

  • 1/8 tsp inseant yeast

  • 10g salt


  1. The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours

  2. On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.  

  3. Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.

  4. Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast.  Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.

  5. Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.

  6. Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3 [2] and mix 10 minutes.

  7. With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more.  Mix a total of 10 more minutes.

  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours

  9. [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]

  10. Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.

  11. Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]

  12. An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees

  13. Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment. 

  14. Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven.  Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.

  15. Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

And the results:




Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor.  Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.

I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc.  Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping).  But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.

Food for thought (and for dinner!).

Happy baking everyone,


breadsong's picture

This bread is from Mr. Clayton's book, New Complete Book of Breads. Wanting to try something new for Easter,
this recipe sounded wonderful, with the fruit, nuts, rye and cardamom.
(Sue posted recently about her beautiful and cardamom-spiced hot cross buns; then Andy baked up some yummy-sounding scones, with fruit, nuts and rye; I wanted to taste cardamom again and was curious about the effect of rye in a sweet dough; this Pääsiäisleipä recipe seemed to be just the right thing to try!
With thanks to Mr. Clayton, Sue and Andy for continuing inspiration for flavored bread!

Mr. Clayton writes, "The Finnish call this festive loaf that celebrates Easter and the arrival of spring, Pääsiäisleipä, a cylindrical bread that is traditionally baked in milking pails to celebrate the arrival of new calves".
The instructions are (for the quantities listed in his recipe) to bake one large loaf in a 4-quart pail.
I wanted to make a bunch of gift-sized breads, so baked in deep muffin pans (pictured here) (the muffin wells in the pans are 'pail-shaped' - perfect!).   

I tried to find out more about this bread but couldn't find a whole lot, but did come across an old article on the New York Times about Easter Baking; Pääsiäisleipä is mentioned. 

Here are the pictures; the dough was divided in to 200g pieces (I was guessing for size but it worked out ok; the muffin wells measure 3-1/4" deep, and 3-1/2" across at the top, 2-1/4" across at the bottom):

Here's how the breads rose in the pans:

I pretty much held to the ingredients identified in the recipe, but changed the mixing method. I mixed by hand and this was a really sticky business. If I was making a smaller quantity, I might have tried mixing in my stand mixer. I was happy with how the dough came together in the end...but there was some effort, to get there! Here are the ingredients, and the mixing process.

Pääsiäisleipä (Finnish Easter Bread), adapted from Mr. Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads




Bread flour




Medium rye flour




Cream (half & half)








Milk (20g milk powder + 206g water)




Egg yolks (3 large egg yolks + a bit of egg white, to make 65g)




Yeast, osmotolerant








Sugar, divided (62g+120g)












Ground cardamom




Grated lemon peel (from 2 large lemons)




Candied orange peel, finely diced




Golden raisins




Chopped almonds















1. Measure cream into small saucepan; scald by heating cream to 180F. Remove pan from heat. Pour cream into a bowl, add water, and cool to 100-105F.

2. Meanwhile, combine flours and osmotolerant yeast in a large bowl.

3. When the liquid has cooled down to 100-105F, add liquid to dry mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are hydrated.

4. Cover bowl, or transfer sponge to a covered container, and ferment at 80-82F, until doubled and just starting to collapse back on itself. This took 3 hours, although I was expecting the sponge to be ready in an hour (trying the 'flying sponge' method).


Final Dough:

1. While sponge is fermenting, prepare ingredients: finely chop candied orange peel, chop almonds, soak raisins in some hot water; set all aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine flours, milk powder, salt, cardamom and 62g sugar. Grate lemons directly over the flour mixture, then stir grated lemon peel around so it's evenly distributed in the flour.

3. Measure remaining sugar (120g) into a separate bowl.

4. Separate three large eggs. I added a bit of egg white to the yolks to make 65g (reserve remaining egg white for another use). Add egg yolks to the 120g of sugar, and whisk to combine.

5. Measure butter and soften to 70F.

6. When sponge is ready, place in large bowl and combine with 95F water; I used a dough whisk to do this.

7. Add flour mixture and mix with dough whisk; turn out onto counter and knead to finish hydrating the flour and the dough comes together. Continue kneading and working the dough until the gluten is moderately developed (improved mix).

8. Place the dough back in the bowl, and add in half of the egg/sugar mixture. Work the egg/sugar mixture in by hand, using the 'stretch and fold in the bowl' technique.

9. Turn dough out onto counter and continue kneading and working the dough to keep developing the gluten.

10. When the dough feels stronger, place it back in the bowl, and add the remaining egg/sugar mixture. Work the egg/sugar mixture in by hand, using the 'stretch and fold in the bowl' technique.

11. Turn dough out onto counter and continue kneading and working the dough to keep developing the gluten, until the dough feels strong and windowpanes.

12. Gradually knead in the butter, a bit at a time, waiting until butter is incorporated before adding more.

13. Drain the raisins.

14. Spread the dough out on the counter, and sprinkle over half of the raisins, orange peel and almonds. Fold the dough like a letter, and knead for a bit to distribute the fruit and nuts. Spread the dough out again, sprinkle over the remaining fruit and nuts. Fold the dough like a letter, and knead again, continuing until all of the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed in the dough.

15. Bulk ferment for 2 hours at 80F, with a stretch and fold after one hour. If desired, make a some simple syrup to brush on breads after baking. Set aside to cool.

16. Divide into 200g pieces. Preshape tightly, as boules. Shape and place in greased tin. Cover with plastic, proof at 80F until risen 1" above pan.

17. Preheat oven to 375F.

18. Remove plastic wrap, and place pans in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until done.

19. Remove from oven, remove breads from pans, and while hot, brush tops with simple syrup; sprinkle on coarse sugar if desired, for decoration. Let cool.



Happy Easter everyone! from breadsong



RonRay's picture

Originally, this was a comment in the thread:Levain as Desert

However, I now find that I cannot find such "comments" very easily, and I just spent a too much time finding this, and another "comment", both of which should have been done as a blog, if for no other reason than to be able to reference them, when needed.

=== The original follows with no chages for the previous  entry. ===110423

On a daily basis, I have my levain discard as a Desert, and love it. As for how I made it originally, that is well explained in the Banana Saga: Link

But, since then I have discovered it is very simple to make, and maintain, Banana Levain - assuming that you have a Cuisinart SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender, and if you do not then any blender could serve, but it will mean a bit more mess and work for you to do so.
Let us start from scratch: buy at lease 5 or 6 bananas. The best ones are those you would choose to eat, the poorest are those you would put in a banana quick bread. Take a one quart plastic  round container that has a lid, and then peel and slice the bananas crosswise, making round pieces, about 3 to 4 mm thick slices. Place the slices in the container, place the lid on it, and put the container with its sliced contents in the freezer or ice compartment until frozen solid - I do it for 24 hours. Next, remove the container from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw, where they can remain until you want them. I usually let them have a couple of days, or longer to thaw slowly. They can remain thus for an extended period until you need to use them for refreshing an existing levain, or creating a new one. Freezing them does nothing to the flavor, but it weakens, or destroys most of the cell walls and fibrous parts of the banana. When I need a fresh batch to use for refreshing the levain, I first need to puree the once frozen slices. I use the Cuisinart SmartStick to puree the thawed banana slices directly in their plastic container in less than a minutes.

That puree is a great treat all by itself. If the bananas were still frozen, it makes an ice cream of pure banana, as well. Of course, I prefer it as a levain with a snappy bite to it.

To start a pure banana levain, simply take a small amount - I use 25g - of the puree and add a 1/4 tsp of ANY yeast water, or liquid sourdough starter. I have a yogurt maker that came with 7, 5oz. glasses with individual plastic caps. I use one of these, and blend the "seed" into the puree using a small battery powered hand whisk.

The powered whisk came with two tips - a normal whisk and a small tip called a drink foam-maker, or "foamer". The end of the foam-maker came with a spring coiled on its loop. The spring can be removed. If left in place it catches small fibrous parts and can be a pain to clean. I prefer it without the coiled spring.

I use this battery powered hand mixer to blend the seed with the puree banana refresh for the levain to get a more uniform rise from the levain.

Once a smooth mix is obtained, I smack the bottom of the glass once or twice to more or less level the surface. Then I add a rubber band as a visual indicator of the starting level of the levain. Then snap the lid on the glass.

From time to time I check back to see the growth progress.

I was using 5g seed and 25g refreshment, but the banana levain can become feisty, and on one occasion, it rose over 5 fold and blew the lid off - ejecting banana levain in a mild mess. So, after that, I have limited the total amount to 25g (5g seed and 20g refreshment).

Currently, with an ambient temperature around 70ºF/21ºC, I find it has tripled (or better) overnight, and once again before I am ready to retire. So, when I check and find the glass rather full, I remove the cap and place a clean glass on the digital scale. Then I transfer a 5g seed from the finish batch into the new start of the next feeding.

Of course, once the 5g seed has been "planted" for the next cycle, the remaining 20g is now discarded into my oral compactor. (+^_^+).

And thus, I have come full cycle. I go to the fridge and get the container of banana puree and feed 20g of the puree as the refresh to the levain and another snack starts to grow.


ph_kosel's picture

For some reason I've been daydreaming of raisin bread recently. In years gone by I've tinkered with various orange-raisin-oatmeal formulas but they always seemed too heavy, probably because I was including too much oatmeal.  My objective is to develop a bread formula that has not only the tartness of the juice but also the tang of the peel, rather like a marmalade, but also like raisin bread.


This is my account of my latest experiment, which I consider rather successful over all (although I did slip up a bit on the proofing time).


about 210g of Home-made marmalade of a sort, made (see procedure below) from

1 smallish seedless navel orange and

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

100g of raisins

1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

1.5 teaspoon salt

450g unbleached bread flour

300g very warm water



I started out by making some marmalade; in the past I've tried just throwing an orange in a blender peel and all, but I wanted some obvious peel in this loaf.  First I halved the orange (which was about 3 inches diameter or so, a rather thick-skinned specimen) and sliced up the halves.  I put the slices in a small sauce pan and scraped as much as possible of the juice left on the cutting board into the pan too.  I added a half cup of granulated sugar to the pan, stirred it up a bit to draw out some of the juice, and heated the mixture to boiling.  I boiled it on fairly high heat until the sugar was well disolved, turned the heat off for maybe 10 minutes, then concluded it was more like orange peel soup than marmalade.  I brought it back to a boil and boiled it rather vigorously until enough moisture evaaporated that it was more like marmalade (no free-flowing liquid syrup) than soup; I stirred it while it boiled.  Understand, I've never made marmalade before although I eat it regularly on toast, crackers, etc.  I was winging it, and I didn't take careful notes, although I've glanced at various recipes for marmalade and candied orange peel over the years.

Anyway, once the marmalade was made I left it to cool uncovered in the pan and my wife and I went shopping.  When we got back and had put all the groceries away I did some other stuff and around 9PM made up some dough, putting all the ingredients listed above into the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer and mixing it up thoroughly with the dough hook.  The resulting dough was very loose and sticky, presumably because of the sugar and remaining moisture in the home-made marmalade.  It was nothing I wanted to try to knead, so I just scraped it into the pullman pan (which I sprayed with oil first, anticipating possible problems getting the sugary dough out after baking) and spread it out more or less evenly in the pan with a spoon.  I put the lid on the pullman pan and put a folded kitchen towel on top to keep the heat in as I did in my earlier first loaf with this new pan.

Then I left the loaf to proof while my wife and I watched a video (The King's Speech, which runs 118 minutes, almost two hours).

When the movie was over I checked the pan and discovered that the dough had filled the pan and begun to sneak through the cracks past the lid in a mad bid for escape.  Two hours was too long to proof this formula!  I wiped off the escaping dough as best I could but did not pull back the lid for fear of what might happen.  I preheated the oven to 450F, popped the pan in, set the timer for 25 minutes, and had some coffee.  When the timer went off I pulled the loaf out of the oven, managed to slide the lid off despite some "escapist" dough that got quite crispy in the cracks between pan and lid, and managed to pop the loaf out of the pan.  One bit of crust stayed stuck in the pan, perhaps on a spot I did not oil well enough.  The loaf had a thin ridge of dark, crispy  "escapist" dough around the top which I broke off and discarded.


It appears from the uneven browning (see photos below) that although the dough escaped through the cracks it did not fully contact the pan lid.  The crumb is very moist and chewy with a very nice flavor, sweet with a tartness of orange and a distinct tang of orange peel - my wife says it's delicious, and I am inclined to agree.    The crust is rather thinner and softer than I'm used to - a slightly longer bake in future trials might be appropiate.  Overall, this is a formula I'm definitely going to save carefully and use again (but next time with a shorter proofing time)!

Here are some photos.

Loaf and pan^


Crumb shot^


I'm very very happy with this loaf!




jennyloh's picture


Here's my version of Hot Cross Buns, adapted from Ananda's Hot Cross Buns recipe ,  changed it to a chocolate version.  made with white and dark chocolates.

This was an interesting bake,  as I read the recipe wrongly and had to correct it,  at least it turned out to something edible and actually a soft bun that rose really nicely.

Here's my write up in my blog:


SylviaH's picture

Buttermilk Hot Cross Buns        


If you would like the recipe I used it is referred to on my blog HERE.   I add extra homemade candied orange and lemon peel.  I also use golden raisins a little extra spice of nutmeg and cinnamon.  I like to up the hydration too, by adding a little extra buttermilk.  I glazed the buns with beaten egg yolk with about a TBspoon of milk.  I also towel steamed my buns for the first 12 minutes.  I made a Royal Icing for the baked on crosses, I've tried them before and I don't care for the flavor or texture of the baked crosses, IMHO, the baked on crosses are for the benefit of commercial baking and selling of the HCB, so the crosses don't melt or disfigure...IMHO!  I think the added little sweetness of the lemon flavored icing crosses goes great with the buns.



                                        These are very large buns.  





                                                   Very tender crumb, pulled apart still warm.



                                             These were frosted still a little warm....the Lemon Royal Icing will harden nicely and not melt away on the buns when covered for

                                    later eating.








honeymustard's picture

I have had a lot of difficulty lately with hot cross buns. What an insane notion. A simple sweet bread, which I never normally have issues with, was driving me insane. I don't have a solution as to how or why. The yeast I'm using is completely fine in other recipes, and I'm quite a meticulous and careful baker most of time. And now it is Good Friday, and if there's any time in which I should make them properly, it's now.

The success was in the timing.

Hot Cross Buns

I chose an orange glaze instead of the traditional powdered sugar icing. The tops aren't as nicely browned as I'd like, but still browned. The rise was exactly as I'd like it to be. And wouldn't you know? It was from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Sometimes the easiest recipes are the best ones.

Next time I'd do it by hand instead of the stand mixer. The recipe calls for using the stand mixer, and since I've failed with hot cross buns twice this spring, I didn't dare stray from the recipe for fear of a third time. But as much as I love my KA, it pulls and tears the dough in a way I don't like, especially for forming rolls later. Maybe this upcoming Easter sunday would be a good time. And also, I'll be using currants instead.

But for now, I'm just glad they (finally) turned out.

freerk's picture

I think my Easter Doves came out a bit...... nazi germany eagle :-/


What do you think;


Would putting a green twig in their beak bring it back to the coming festivities?


Thanks txfarmer for the insightful pics!


recipe and shaping pics by txfarmer can be found here


I haven't been on TFL for some time, but HAVE been baking. Take a look at my "baking gallery"


warm greetings from Amsterdam





MadAboutB8's picture

Now that I finally found (the elusive) durum flour (after been making semolina bread with fine semolina all along), I wanted to find out what differences between fine semolina and durum flour would produce in a finished product. I wanted to try this with the bread that I made using fine semolina before, Semolina Bread from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread cookbook.

Taste-wise I couldn’t tell or feel the differences. They both have lovely flavour and nice chewy texture (though the bread I made with fine semolina was a distant memory).

The differences were more in the dough structure. I found durum flour absorb the water better and easier to work with. Fine semolina hardly absorbed any water and the dough was really wet and slack from my memory.

Bread made with durum flour also got better crumb structure, it was more open and rise well during the bake. The one made with semolina were rather flat, the crumb was relatively open and all but it just didn’t rise and dome nicely.

This bread has 60% durum flour and 67% hydration. I was surprised that the crumb wasn’t creamy and yellow as I would expect from durum flour. It was only a tad creamier than an all-wheat bread.

This bread is one of my favourite. I love the aroma and texture of sesame seeds in bread (or in anything really) and the durum flour also add sweet creamy flavour to the bread, and tender crumb. I used black sesame seeds instead of white as I find the black sesame seeds are more flavourful. I love its smoky flavour.

Full post and recipe can be found here.



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