The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


hanseata's picture

What did I do during the holidays? Baking, of course! (We were invited for Christmas dinner, so no family cooking). I love my newest addition to my evergrowing collection of baking books, Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads & Pastry". Though I do not follow his technique in every step (I prefer steaming with a steam pan and a cup of boiling water), and, also found the baking times for some recipes way longer than the bread needed in my oven, I think it's a great book.

After my first trials with apple yeast leavened Pain au Levain, I tried my hand with Miche Bread with Sourdough. Jan Hedh suggests rising the shaped loaves on a couche. I own one, but I rarely use it, preferring a perforated baguette pan for my Pains a l"Ancienne, bannetons or simply a parchment lined baking sheet for boules and bâtards. Though I dusted the loaves with flour, and covered them with a towel, after 2 hours (without extra plastic wrap protection) the breads had developed a skin (except for the bottoms). When I tested them with my finger, it felt like poking a rubber ball - the skin didn't allow a small indentation, but folded in somewhat, and then bounced back.

No scoring was required, and I placed my rubber balls in the oven, hoping that their soft belly would let them spring, even if the skin didn't. Fortunately I was forewarned, by my earlier experience with Hedh's bread, not to trust the baking time in the recipe. Indeed, the bread reached the desired 208 F/98 C internal temperature already after 28 minutes, instead of 45! And though they didn't have much oven spring, the crumb was good, my rubber balls had been filled with all the air they needed during the rise. The bottom, as to be expected - not having a "skin" - was less brown, and the crust thinner.

Miche with rye sourdough

Miche crumb shot shows the difference between top (drier skin) and bottom (no skin).

My next bread was, again, an example of The Power of The Apple Yeast. Fed with juice drops from cutting oranges for our cereal, the apple yeast water was peacefully fomenting in the fridge, waiting to become leaven for the next dough. I started building a 3-steps-levain, with my lamp-on-only oven as perfect environment. WhileRising the breads - two large loaves - I had another surprise. With the same temperature in the kitchen, these breads rose much faster than the time given in the recipe, whereas proofing the sourdough miche had taken nearly twice the time. Well, I've heard somewhere that "the dough is always right, not the clock".... This time I let the boules rest on a parchment lined baking sheet, they rose mightily, no skin development - and no bouncing rubber balls.

Because of my earlier experiences with shorter baking times, I checked the breads for done-ness after 30 minutes, but, surprise, this time they needed the full 50 minutes, as stated in the recipe.

Pain de Campagne with apple yeast - spiral scoring inspired by txfarmer.

Pain de Campagne crumb

Both breads had an excellent taste, and kept for 3 days in a brown bag. The large Pain de Campagne loaf (ca. 1200 g) I cut in halves and froze the other half.

After all that serious bread baking - the stollen and lebkuchen being eaten - I needed some peanut butter relief, while a Nor'easter howled around the house and a blizzard promised a great workout with the shovel. Several opened glasses with peanut butter (our daughters tend to dump their kitchen leftovers at our house) provide a never ending supply, creamy or crunchy, organic or less healthful.

Peanut Butter Muffins from "The Muffin Bible".

These muffins are wonderful, moist and, with an additional dose of toasted peanuts , even more peanutty.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

I'm still at it.  We were at my parents' place on Saturday (Christmas day), and while I did end up baking a batch of Italian bread for Christmas dinner, there were no baguettes.  But we got home Saturday night, and I actually felt in the mood for baguettes.  I made up the poolish, increasing the yeast slightly from last week so it would ripen before late afternoon, and sunday I made yet another batch of the Hamelman Baguettes with Poolish.

While mixing, I realized that last week, and at least one previous week, I'd been adding too much yeast to the final dough--Hamelman says to use .13 oz of instant yeast for a full batch, and last week I definitely used .13 oz in my half batch.  Heaven knows what that's been doing to my baking.  Last week I think it turned out okay (well, better than okay) in part because the poolish was so sluggish.  Anyway, this week I used the correct 0.067 oz yeast (yay for having a scale accurate to the 0.001 oz eh?).

Besides the yeast adjustments, no changes from last week.  I used Cyril Hitz's rolling method for shaping again, but was better at it.





Needless to say, I'm very pleased with these baguettes.  Great caramelization of the crust, decent ears and placement of the scores.  Crust was pleasantly crisp, although not as perfect as last week.  Nice open crumb, with a nice nutty flavor.  Only downsides: a bit flat (and with tight crumb) in between scores, and the bottoms got over-dark (and tasted a little burnt).

I think perhaps I under-proofed as well--there's a little bursting in between the scores on one baguette, and I seem to recall having the bread "bulge" at the scores is another indication of under-proofing. I still have yet to master the "poke" test, it seems.

freerk's picture

Glezer versus Reinhart

After getting Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice" for X-mas this year (thank you sis!) I baked my first bread "from the heart" and I loved it!!! So far I've been a "follower" of the Maggie Glezer-way of going about business:


I've been meticulously studying formulas and weighing ingredients to the milligram, producing very nice loafs as a result. But after baking with my head so much, it is time to start baking with my heart!


Reading Reinhart made me take a leap of faith; or to be more exact; it awakened my faith in myself! Look at the dough, feel the dough, work it the way you feel it's right! I love this whole approach, and I guess I was ready for it, knowing about the basics of bread by now (thank you Maggie!)


So, when I was looking around for a good formula using the chestnut flour I brought back from Rome two weeks ago, I decided to just go ahead and DO IT! Based on the general knowledge about the chestnut flour I concocted my own little dough and produced a batch of wonderful rolls, fragrant with the smell and taste of chestnut, with a nice crust and an okay crumb (I guess this would be the moment where, if Glezer were to read this post, she would comment: If you would do it my way, your crumb would have been more than okay as well...)


Very tasty! If you want to see my "year in baking" slideshow, you can find that here


I really hope you all enjoyed a wonderful X-mas. Check my blog in the coming days if any of you TFL'ers in the good old USA are interested in some traditional Dutch New Year's eve baking. I will show you how to make  "oliebollen", the precursor to what you guys have turned into.... donuts! I will also be baking the traditional "knieperties", a New year's treat that stems from the region in the north that i grew up in, and that I love because there is a wonderful simplistic symbolism attached to them. More to follow! Have a good week!



JoeVa's picture

Ecco il mio primo tentativo con una nuova formula per un micone di grano integrale. Su suggerimento del mugnaio Marino ho miscelato la Macina Integrale con la Buratto. La formula complessiva impiega 50% Macina + 38% Buratto + 12% Manitoba, quest'ultima usata per la costruzione del lievito naturale liquido. Le caratteristiche di assorbimento della farina integrale hanno portato ad un'idratazione finale del 78% circa, consistenza impasto medio/morbito+.

Here my first attempt to a new formula for a whole wheat miche. As suggested by the miller Marino I mixed the (very) whole wheat (Macina) with type 1 flour (Buratto). The overall formula uses 50% Macina + 38% Buratto + 12% bread flour, the last one used to build the liquid levain. The absorption characteristics of the whole wheat flour led to about 78% final hydration, medium/soft+ consistency.


Il risultato è buono, un'integrale di tutto rispetto. La pagnotta ha leggerezza tra le mani e pienezza nel gusto. La prossima volta proverò a migliorare la formula introducendo una piccola percentuale di segale integrale.

The result is good, a respectable whole miche. The loaf has lightness in the hand and wholeness in the taste. Next time I'll try to improve the formula with the addition of a small percentage of whole rye.


Ed ecco la mollica. Questa metà l'ho regalata a Stefano, un nuovo amico panificatore.

Here the crumb. I got this half loaf to Stefano, a new home baker friend.


breadinquito's picture

Morning everyone, indeed i need a digital scale and in the mall (almost) in front of us I found 3 or 4 models of camry scales for sale...furthermore i haven't found any Christmas gift under the tree...if someone owns it, please get in i'm planning another batch of always happy baking. Paolo

dmsnyder's picture


Almost all the breads I bake are hearth loaves, but I've been tempted for some time to make one of the German-style ryes that Hamelman says should be baked in a pullman pan (AKA pain de mie pan).

Pullman or pain de mie pan

I purchased a pullman pan from KAF's Baker's Catalogue. It is from the new line of bakeware they are carrying, and it is a beautiful piece of metal. But this is not a review of baking pans, so back to bread …

Today, I baked the “70 Percent Rye with a Rye Soaker and Whole Wheat Flour” from Hamelman's Bread. It is made with medium rye, all pre-fermented. The rye soaker is in the form of rye chops – an equal weight to that of the medium rye. The remaining 30% of the flour weight consists of whole wheat flour. The dough is 78% hydration and has 2% salt and ¼ tsp of instant yeast.

Not having rye chops at hand, I hand-chopped the 390 g of rye berries needed for making 2 kg of dough, which is what is needed to fill my 13” pullman pan. (Did I tell you how beautiful it is?) Now, I believe that Andy (or was it MiniO?) claims the proper way to make rye chops by hand is to slice each berry into 3 equal pieces. I didn't do that. After trying to chop the berries on a cutting board with a chef's knife, which sent berries – whole and in fragments of varying sizes and shapes – flying everywhere, I turned to the chopping method I learned at my mother's knee. She never chopped rye berries, I'm sure, but she sure chopped a lot of fish for gefilte fish in the years before the coming of the Cuisinart. I still have her chopping bowl and hackmesser. (I believe that's what she called it.) 

Well, I made a lot of little pieces of rye, but I figure I ended up with a mix of coarse rye flour, cracked rye, rye chops and whole (and very smug) rye berries. So, I poured boiling water over the whole mess and ordered a grain mill.

This morning my rye sour was ripe and smelling wonderfully sour and fruity. My soaker was soaked. I mixed the dough.

Now this is a 70% rye, since the cracked rye is included as a flour in calculating baker's percentages. But, really, if you look at the flour, it's about 50% rye and 50% whole wheat. I've made several other 70 and 80% ryes before, and this was different. There was much less gluten development with mixing. I've not yet made a 100% rye, but I imagine it's not much different from this dough. Maybe it was the whole wheat flour, whereas the other ryes I'd made used high-protein white flours. This dough was completely like sticky clay. But not insurmountable.

I mixed the dough in my KitchenAid – about 2 minutes at Speed 1 and 6 minutes at Speed 2. Then, the dough was fermented for 60 minutes. (Hamelman says ferment for 30 minutes, but my kitchen was only about 67ºF today.) I formed the dough into a log and placed it in the pullman pan which had been lightly oiled and dusted with pumpernickel flour. After 60 minutes proofing with only a little expansion of the dough, the loaf was baked with steam for 15 minutes at 480ºF, then for another 60 minutes in a dry oven at 415ºF. The last 15 minutes of the bake was with the loaf out of the pan, on a baking sheet, to dry the sides of the loaf. There was really nice oven spring. The loaf crested well above the top of the pan. (Sorry, I neglected to photograph the baked loaf still in the pan.) In hindsight, I probably should have proofed more fully. There was some bursting of the loaf on one side, at the point it expanded over the top of the pan. 

Rye dough in pan, sprinkled with pumpernickel flour and ready to proof

Rye bread cooling

After cooling, I wrapped the loaf in baker's linen, as instructed. 

Rye wrapped in linen

The loaf was wrapped in baker's linen for 24 hours before slicing ... and tasting.

Pre-slicing (Big bread, isn't it?)

Coronal section with crumb

Crumb, close-up

Another close-up

Delicious plain. More delicious with smoked salmon!

The crust was firm but not hard. The crumb was soft and moist but slightly crumbly and less dense than I expected. The aroma is powerful with rye, yet the flavor is relatively mild. It is rye with no distinctive whole wheat tones, yet the whole wheat must have mellowed the rye flavor. There is a sweet note to the aftertaste. The rye "chops" are very chewy, which I like.

This bread has lots of character, and I enjoyed it unadorned. I had another slice with a thin schmear of cream cheese and a thin slice of Scottish smoked salmon, with some capers and drops of lemon juice. Fantastic! 



louie brown's picture
louie brown

I've been making this bread since the book was published. It's a straight sourdough, made with a 100% starter at about 65% hydration, with a pretty thorough mechanical mix, a four hour bulk fermentation at about 78 degrees, and proofed overnight in the fridge. This results in a loaf with a fairly even, but discernible, crumb, which I like because it holds the olives in place. I use twice as many olives as called for, and I still don't think that's enough. I use Kalamata, oil cured and large Sicilian green olives. The oil cured olives stain the crumb around themselves purple. There is also some wheat germ. 

These were combo cooked (550 degrees for 15 minutes, then about 25 minutes uncovered at 460 convection) with some interesting results. First, I seem to get most of my spring after uncovering, unlike, for example, baking under a stainless bowl, or baking with the towel setup. Still, the spring was considerable. Second, the crust is quite thin and crispy, which is not a bad thing, but it is worth knowing to expect this result. 

The scoring, my own contribution, is meant to evoke olive leaves.

This bread has a moist crumb because of the olives. I was in a rush to see the interior and taste it, so the crumb is a little raggy on the first slices. The 2 pound loaves are almost exactly 4 inches high.

moldyclint's picture

So, as I started proofing today's batch of 50% whole wheat sourdough, the wife asked whether I was going to bake in the solar cooker that the boys and I made up a couple weeks ago.  Hmmm... So, had to go with it.  Maximum temperatures I have seen with it so far are 150C, and as it starts out at ambient temperature and takes about 1/2 hour or so to get up to cooking temperature, did some quite guesstimating as to how long I should allow the dough to proof.  Decided that about 1/2 hour was probably plenty, as my primary ferment was a few hours longer than initially planned, and taking into account the increased final rates of fermentation before the dough temperature was high enough to kill the yeast.  Dough was my 'standard' ~70% or so hydration, flour, ~2% salt and ~25% starter, all approximate.

solar cooker

This is the setup I used.  About 44% more surface area than that described at: I used two pyrex bowls with a seal for my greenhouse, and a simple enameled black pot as my heater.

Today's max cooking temperature.  I had temperatures ranging between 120C and 150C, and baked for almost 3 hours, with final bread internal temperature of about 85C.

I was initially going to make 2 loaves, and ended up putting them together to fit into my solar cooker pot. Forgot to slash them before baking.

And my crumb shot.  This loaf has been my sourest yet, since moving to Taiwan, probably due to the longer primary ferment, as well as not needing to keep the dough in the fridge during said ferment, seeing as it finally has cooled down a bit for the 'winter'.  The long, slow bake has made quite a soft loaf, which my kids like, though my younger son has complained that it is still not sour enough for his tastes.  Oh well, at least the intra-family variation in preferred bread flavours ensures that someone will like the bread no matter how it turns out!  The flavour is quite unique, but my vocabulary is limited enough in this regards that I am not sure how to describe it.  Am also trying out some new organic whole  wheat flour which works differently from anything I've tried before, so too many variables have changed with this for me to know what is causing what effects in the flavour.  Definitely will try this again, though probably a batch of buns that will cook faster! 

If anyone out there has experimented with slower, cooler bakes such as this, please let me know!



jowilchek's picture

What is the dirrerence between Focaccia and Ciabatta? I am not French or Italian so please forgive my lack of knowledge, but I was not raised in a big city with a lot of ethnic or artisian bakeries.  I just baked my first Focaccia (onion) and it was a big hit. Then today I see a Ciabatta formula and wonder whats the difference they both seem to be a yeast flat bread. Thanks in advance for any help and information.

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

Christmas Stollen

 Before I'd come to TFL or read PR's BBA, I'd never heard of Stollen, but it looked appealing to me and something different to go with fresh coffee on Christmas morning.  I probably didn't get the blanketing fold absolutely correct, but it tasted beautiful and was a big success in my household.  I'm not sure if I'll make it again next year, but seeing as there are more seasonal breads to try, it might feature sometime in the future.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs