The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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PMcCool's picture

This past weekend, I was looking for a sourdough formula that sounded interesting and just couldn't find one that tickled my fancy.  So, I decided to free-lance a formula of my own.  I had about 320 grams of well-fed levain that I pulled out of the refrigerator before leaving for church on Sunday.  On returning home, I found it to be warmed up and at peak expansion.  

Since I wanted to be able to use the bread for sandwiches, I determined to make a pair of batards and guesstimated that a pre-bake dough weight of about 750 grams each should work nicely.  Having had a run of whole grain breads recently, I was ready for a change of pace but still wanted something flavorful.  After consideration, I built a 70% hydration dough with 5% rye, 10% whole wheat and 85% bread flour.  At the last minute, I chucked in 30 grams of flaxseed meal because, well, because it was there and it seemed like a good idea.  

The water, levain, flours, and meal were treated to a 30 minute autolyse.  Then I did a double round of stretch and fold, after which the dough went back into the bowl to ferment.  I did 3 more stretch and folds at 40 minute intervals, only remembering after the second one that I hadn't added any salt.  (That should have been a clue.)  I slurried a tablespoon each of water and sea salt and worked that into the dough.  After the dough was nearly doubled, I turned it out on the counter, divided it in two approximately equal pieces, pre-shaped it and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  After the rest, I finished shaping the loaves into fat batards and set them to rise in a parchment paper couche.

When the batards were still a little short of doubling, I preheated the oven to 450 dF with a baking stone and a steam pan in place.  When the oven reached temperature, I poured boiling water in the steam pan, slashed the loaves (still need more practice with that) and loaded them onto the stone.  After turning the oven temperature down to 400 dF, I set the timer for 25 minutes.  A few minutes later, I came back to see how the oven spring was working (very nicely, thank you) and it hit me that I was seeing all of my levain/starter baking.  I had not remembered to reserve a piece for storage!  I've avoided making that bone-head move for almost 4 years, but it finally caught up with me.  At that point, there was nothing to do but swallow hard and let the bread finish baking.  When the timer sounded, I checked the internal temperature of the bread and the thermometer went to 210 dF very quickly, indicating that the bread was fully baked.

The bread, thankfully, turned out very well.  No single flavor stands out, but the levain, the rye, the wheat, and the flaxseed meal all meld for a very satisfying taste.  Here's how it looks:

On this particular loaf, the slash at each end of the loaf opened beautifully, allowing the crumb to expand fully.  The center slash, however, must not have been deep enough, because it didn't open very much.  As a result, the loaf has sort of a Bactrian camel appearance with humps at either end and a dip in the middle.  

All I have to do to duplicate this is get a new starter going and try again in 4 years ...



GabrielLeung1's picture

I sold my first sandwich loaf recently! I think it turned out quite nice. I also made some sweet white batards, and experimented a bit on sourdough. 

The sandwich loaf came out quite nicely, it was made using KA Bread Flour and SAF RED instant yeast at 70% hydration with autolyse and french folds. The batards were identical to these, but were made at 65% hydration with 25% AP flour and 75% bread flour. 

The truly interesting experiment was the sourdough. I have begun experimenting with commercial yeast spiked sourdoughs, and I have to say that I'm disappointed. What I have understood is that commercial bakeries spike their sourdoughs with instant yeast to gain a normal production schedule from an otherwise unreliable source of leavening. But if one were to do this, there would be very little time to develop the sour flavor. So I troubled building a very sour starter over the course of three days, and spiked the final dough 0.6% yeast in addition to 33% starter. I fermented the dough, degassed, shaped, proofed, and baked it right away. Sadly the flavor was lacking. I'll have to go back to the drawing board for my sourdough. 

I'm currently looking into JMonkey's tips on squeezing out more sour from sourdough. 

chouette22's picture

Finally I am finding (or rather taking) the time to post about my recent baking activities. And since I am still on vacation, but the semester starts next week, I'd better not rely on having more leisure then...

I have baked quite a bit with my sourdough starter (which is now about 4 months old, but has already spent five weeks straight in the fridge when I was in Switzerland - seems to have survived it well) and we all love the resulting breads. Here are some examples:

The classic Vermont Sourdough (Hamelman):

Susan from San Diego's "Original Sourdough":

Sourdough Walnut and Sultana Bread (recipe by Shiao-Ping):

This bread was absolutely delightful. I put all kinds of dried fruit (the big black spots you see are prunes). The only change I will make next time is to include a tiny amount of sweetness, a spoon or two of honey probably.

Pain de Provence (Floyd's recipe; herb bread, no sourdough):

Delicious! I made it with all sorts of fresh herbs from the garden, chopped very finely.

King Arthur's Monkey Bread (no sourdough):

By the time I got the camera, the kids with the visiting neighbour kids had already torn into it ...

And for good measure, two desserts.

Blueberry Pie with fresh Michigan berries:

And finally, Eclairs filled with Vanilla Pudding and fresh strawberries. They certainly didn't last long!


As I said in my introduction, I LOVE a certain Swiss bread and have been trying to recreate some kind of copy of the patented original. I'll do a separate post on how that is coming along.



Salome's picture

I liked the Buttermilk-Whole-Wheat-Bread which I baked just a couple days ago so much that I decided to continue with 100% whole wheat. The Buttermilk-Whole-Wheat-Bread was very soft and light, I have never seen a whole-wheat bread like this.

I adapted the recipe I used the last time. It was, for my taste, somewhat to sweet and it lacked a real crust. And I decided to substitute the buttermilk by a yoghurt-water-blend, because that's what I always got on hand here. (Whereas plain buttermilk is often hard to get.) And I increased the hydration by a lot. And I used this time a preferment, with sourdough - In order to get a deeper, less sweet flavor.

A lot of changes, you see. I wasn't to worried that anything could go wrong, because I think the reason why this bread came out so light is, first of all, proper kneading, and secondly, some acidic dairy products.


20 g mature culture
175 ml water
250 g whole-wheat flour (I always use home-ground flour)

Final dough
580 g whole-wheat flour
25 g vital wheat gluten
17 g salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
20 g honey
30 g butter
150 g yoghurt (I used 3% fat yoghurt)
320 + 100 ml water


  1. I mixed the ingredients of the preferment and kept it over night in a warm place (I put it into the microwave, with the door a little bit open - this way, the light stays on and I get a temperature of ~81° F)

  2. The next morning, I let the remaining flour autolyse for an hour. (I mixed the flour with the gluten first, then with all of the yoghurt and 320 ml water.)

  3. Then I mixed the preferment and the flour-water-dough with the remaining ingredients (not the last 100 ml water though) and I kneaded it by hand using the Bertinet method for 15 minutes. While kneading, I incorporated another 100 ml of water. The gluten was perfectly developed, even better than the last time.

  4. first fermentation: until doubled, it took me about two hours. Then I degassed the dough very well and shaped it into a boule again.

  5. second fermentation: until doubled, it took me about 1.5 hours.

  6. I divided the dough into two pieces, preshaped them and let them rest for a couple minutes. then shaped them into sandwich loaves, rolled them in rice flour (I use whatever I've got on hand . . . coarse wheat, bran, oats . . .) and put them into bread pans.

  7. final fermentation: until the loaves reached well over the edges of the pans, about one hour.

  8. I slashed the loaves and put them in the 220° C hot oven and steamed well. After 20 minutes of baking, I took them out of the pans and baked them until done on a baking sheet. (another 20 minutes.) I covered the loaves with aluminium foil for the last ten minutes.

I think the bread had about as much volume as the last time, I'm very pleased with that. It has quite a sour flavor. It's definitely a good flavor, but for my taste it's somewhat to sour for being a sandwich bread. I will change something about that. The bread did well with the higher heat and I think that I'll bake this kind of recipe in these settings in the future. It still didn't have a crunchy crust, but that's not what I'm looking for in a sandwich bread either. I will reduce the amount of water somewhat, because it simply was harder to shape with a hydration of 86 % and the result wasn't significantly better. Maybe something around 75-80% the next time? I'm happy with the reduction of sugar though!

I think, the next time I'll bake this bread with a yeast preferment and simply add a little of sourdough to the final dough. Or should I include some whole rye for a deeper flavour? I'd like to experiment with some further additions to the dough, like soaked wheat chops or some seeds (incorporated in the dough when the gluten is developed). I'll do some more experiments, I promise!


JeremyCherfas's picture

I thought I would introduce myself here, having been lurking, occasionally commenting and learning more than I thought was possible. (Most notably, sourdough pancakes. Wow!)

I've been baking bread almost since I can remember -- my mother used to make an amazingly sloppy wholemeal loaf that received no kneading and generally ended up brick like; I forget what it was called. Most of my baking was based on Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery and Bernard Clayton Jr's The Complete Book of Breads (with a hatred for volume measures every time I used it).

Sourdough called to me about 20 years ago, maybe less, when the food writer of the Independent newspaper, Jeremy Round, published a sourdough recipe that contained a mistake. Several people wrote to complain and the paper published a correction. I thought, if it is that important, I ought to try it. And I did. Round, who is tragically under-represented on the internet, died in 1991, and he was still alive when I made my sourdough, so it is at least 19 years old. The same one. We've been through some ups and downs, my sourdough and me, including a relocation from Somerset, England to Rome in Italy.

Round's approach was very simple. You made a starter, made some bread with it (as I recall 18 oz flour to 12 oz water) removing 8 oz of the dough after the first rise and kept it in the fridge to use as next time's starter. No feeding in between. And that suited me fine until this past summer, when my dough became horribly, horribly sticky.

That's when I came here first, and discovered that the problem was almost certainly a combination of too high a temperature, too weak a flour and too long a fermentation.

Since then I've gradually worked on each of the variables, feeding the starter, working with percentages, and am now once again making reasonable bread.

A recent sourdough loaf

But the dough is still impossibly sticky, even at 60%. I've read about stretch and fold, and French folds, and watched the videos, but I still cannot handle the dough without it sticking to my hands, the steel work surface, everything. I've got a batch rising now, but I really think this is going to be the last time I try to do without kneading, and enough flour to stop things sticking. I cannot believe that people go out to 65% and 70% dough. Mine wouold be a sticky, structureless, freeform mess.

Is there any way I can manage this sticky dough?

At the moment I stretch it and fold it with the help of a scraper, but it is impossible to shape and I end up just plopping it into tins to prove. I shudder what to think would happen if I tried a loaf in a banneton.

I already have a blog, where my I chronicle my baking;, and I see no point in duplicating all that here. So my second question is:

Is it acceptable to just post links here to my personal blog?

Thanks for listening.


97grad's picture


All credit for these go to DedeMed and her inspirational YouTube video

For the dough I've used about 2/3 cup warm water, 3/4 cup of SD starter left over from refreshments, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup wholemeal flour, 2tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, 1tbsp active dry yeast, 1tsp salt.

I mixed all ingredients with wooden spoon, did slab and stretch for a few minutes, proofed in an oiled bowl for 1hour or till doubled.

Divided dough into 8 balls, rested for 10 minutes, rolled out each ball on floured surface, stuffed as per video. Dough was so tender and very easy to work with.

For the stuffing, I didn't have enough spinach as per original recipe so I added chopped sun-dried tomatoes and black olives. Great recipe, very easy to put together and very versatile, my family enjoyed this and I think I'll be making it again with different fillings.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I made these last night.

Here's my blog post, plus the recipe.

In all honesty, the entire brownie baking night came about because I was bored and wanted something chocolate. The ranting about grocery store brownies was actually me being pissed at myself because I broke down and, instead of baking my much better tasting ones, bought some frosted ones at the store a few nights ago in a pregnancy-craving-induced spending spree.

Pablo's picture

I've been messing with Hamelman's 40% rye with caraway.  I like to stick to wild yeast and the bread calls for a bit of commercial yeast.  He does suggest that you can just leave it out and ferment it longer, but I wanted to experiment with a long bulk fermentation of the wheat along with the 15 hour preparation of the rye sour.  I wanted to bring out more flavour in the wheat as a background against the caraway.  It worked out well with my starter refreshment schedule; I have 30g of 100% rye starter discard, I used 17g with the 363g of rye flour and 300g of water.  And 13g with the 544g of wheat flour and 318g of water.  I didn't want the wheat to get into a proteolytic state, but I did want lots of time for flavour to develop.  I mixed both sourdoughs and put them in a 70F water bath for 15 hours.

I put them in the bath at 6pm last night so they'd be ready at 9am today to turn into dough.

Actually I'm still working on my ideal temperature for the wheat sour fermentation.  I've tried keeping it next to the bed so that I can see it every time I get up to pee and once there's definite movement I put it in the 'fridge.  With only the 10g of starter in there it does take awhile to get going.  I don't really like the wheat being cold and the rye not, so I'm not too keen on that method.  Tonight is cooler so I'm going to put it outside on the deck and then in the morning I'll put it in the water bath with the rye.  I'm making a couple of loaves to send to my brother.  Starting around 11 tonight means I'll be mixing the dough around 2pm tomorrow.  I should put the wheat in the water bath with the rye around 9am.

That's a little more rise than I wanted with the wheat.  I have been shooting for a little less than double.  Interestingly the rye sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies when I opened it.  Very noisy.

I've played with a few ways to combine the two sours and this is what's working best for me.  I spread the wheat out on the counter and smear the rye around on top of it.  I sprinkle in some salt and caraway along the way.  (17g of each total)

Then enfold the rye with the wheat.  I sprinkle more salt and caraway seeds in along the way.

It's pretty messy at first, but it quickly comes together into a nice dough.  I knead it 5 minutes maximum to be sure to not overdo the rye but still get everything homogenous.  The gluten is already nicely developed in the wheat.  A few slap and folds at the end and it's really looking good:

It's a beautiful dough very quickly.  I let it bulk ferment a bit more.  It's already pretty developed from the last 15 hours.  Today it just moved a little after 45 minutes.  Sometimes it's more active than that.  I want to get some gas structure, I have been waiting for it to about half again in bulk, but today it just wasn't moving too quickly and I just moved on to shaping and proofing.  The dough does feel a bit putty-like compared to all wheat dough.

I think dough in a couche is beautiful.  Two loaves, each about 780g of dough.

I let them proof an hour, seam side up.  I rolled the tops in caraway seeds prior to proofing.  I misted before scoring.  I baked at 460 10 minutes with steam and baked another 20 minutes at 430F.

voila!  I like the oven spring.

et voila!  Kinda weird lighting, sorry about that.  The crumb is plenty open, it's moist but not the least bit gummy and I think the taste is more tangy and complex.  I've made this a few times now and it's seeming to be something that I can count on.  Hopefully those aren't famous last words.  It has been very satisfying to apply some of the things that I've learned here to managing the long wheat sour ferment especially (low inoculation, cool temp, low hydration, long ferment).

By the way, this rye starter is about 3 - 4 weeks old.  His name might be Sparky.



cake diva's picture
cake diva

One of the consequences of being unemployed is that you have all this free time to do whatever your heart wants to do, and my heart wants to cook and bake and spend my waking moments in the kitchen (if I'm not in front of the computer trying to look for long-lost high school classmates).  This makes my college-age daughter, home for the summer, happy as a clam for about 3-4 days, then she starts to plead with me to stop else she tips the scale more than she wants to.

So I thought today I might try to back off a bit by making a brown wheat bread (it's got to be healthful, right?) that's also delightful to eat.  The following is a recipe that a fellow TFL'er pointed me to when I inquired about a honey wheat bread similar to the one The Cheesecake Factory used to make.  The recipe is called Outback Steakhouse Honey Wheat Bushman Bread from


  • 1 1/2 cup water, warmed

  • 2 tbsp. butter, softened

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 2 cups bread flour

  • 2 cups wheat flour

  • 1 tbsp. cocoa

  • 1 tbsp. sugar

  • 2 tsp. instant coffee

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 2 1/4 tsp. yeast

  • 1 tsp. caramel color (optional;  I used raw buckwheat honey instead)


  1. Place all the ingredients in the bread machine and process on dough setting.  The dough will be a litte on the wet side and sticky.

hw in bread machine

     2.  Let rise for one hour.

before bulk ferment

    After one hour bulk fermentation....

post bulk ferment

    3.  Punch down and divide into 2 large or 4 medium or 8 small portions.  Shape into logs.

shaping hw

    4. Cover and let rise for one hour.


Oh wait!  While I was in the kitchen, my husband had sneaked into the car dealer's in the guise of taking advantage of the Cash for Clunkers Program, and brought home this beauty to test drive. Hearing my shriek, my next door neighbor gave a thumbs up and said it would totally look good on me!  So off we went!

    5. About an hour later, after dough has doubled, place logs in parchment, slash, mist, then bake in hot stone at 350F for 20-25 minutes. 

final rise

      6. Serve warm with butter!


The requisite crumb shot.  Don't be fooled- crumb may look tight, but this is one soft bread, slightly sweet from the honey, and just delightful for snacking even unadorned.  I'd try doing a preferment next time to inject some flavor complexity to the finished bread if I weren't the impulsive, down-to-the-last-minute type of baker.


hansjoakim's picture

My trusted sourdough starter is a firm white one, that I've had for just under a year now. We got off to a shaky start, but it's become amazingly reliable and flexible. It seems to respond very quickly to feedings and has a great leavening capacity. My only minor complaint would be that it's very mild in flavour, and imparts only a slight tanginess to the loaves. So, as an experiment, I decided to start a new rye starter from scratch, and see if this would result in more sour breads. I had lots of rye flour on hand, and rye starters are said to be among the easiest to get going (in addition to e.g. spelt starters or rice starters). I used the recipe in "Bread": Equal weights of whole rye flour and water, mix and let sit 24 hrs. I went with 50 gr. each of flour and water:

New rye starter

After 24 hrs., keep 50 gr. of the original mix, and add 50 gr. each of flour and water. Let sit another 24 hrs., and then continue this regimen, but with 12 hr. intervals instead of 24.

Nothing much happened the first 24 hours, but on the second day I got hit pretty badly with leuconostoc. The mix had tripled in volume, looked dark brown with hints of green, it was very runny and smelled rather pungent. *yuck* Well, soldier on, I say. The activity dropped markedly during day 3, and the odour became a lot milder, and smelled more of yogurt than of the leuconostoc madness. Nothing much happened in volume until the end of day 4, when the mix all of a sudden started tripling again! Phew! The culture started to smell healthy, looked greyish in colour (as I expected it should), and had a fragile, but not runny consistency when ripe and ready for new feeding. Below is a photo taken sometime during day 5. You can see some small patches of rye flour on the top - I usually sprinkle rye flour over the mix after each feeding, so that it's easy to gauge the level of activity:

New rye starter

I followed Hamelman's directions, and kept feeding out day 6, and then two more days to ensure that things are stabilized and healthy.

Today I decided to try it out, and devised a simple multigrain loaf for it. This one's approx. 33% whole rye, the rest bread flour, with a soaker of oat bran, flax, sunflower seeds and rye chops. I used equal amounts water and yogurt in the final dough, and added a tiny spoon of honey for good measure. I didn't use any commerical yeast, but prefermented 25% of the flour (new rye starter). I went with a 2 hr. bulk ferment (fold after 1 hr.) and retarded in fridge for 8 hrs. It could probably have gone a bit further in the fridge for the final proof, but I got scared with a third rye in there. It kept up well, and rose remarkably during baking:

Sourdough multigrain new starter

It was a lovely loaf, and I must admit, slightly tangier in taste than what I get with my firm white starter. A bit more sour, not overwhelmingly so, but pleasantly tangy. I think I'll keep both for the time being, and see how the new born develops in flavour as the weeks go on. In the meantime I need to come up with a name for it... I'm thinking about Aladdin, but it's far from settled yet.

To celebrate the new starter and nice tasting multigrain, I decided to have a go at a caramel cake from Friberg's second pastry book. It's a delicious concoction of a thin shortdough bottom, and two sponge cake layers sandwiching a rich caramel cream. Here I'm folding caramel sauce into the cream:

Caramel cream

And below is the cake before icing. It looks pretty cool if you ask me: You make one almond sponge and one cocoa almond sponge. After they've cooled, you use a cookie cutter to cut out the middle of each sponge, and interchange the middle cut outs. You only use half of each sponge in this assembly, so the remaining sponge layers can be frozen. Lovely thick caramel cream in the middle:

Assembling caramel cake

The caramel cream is set with some gelatin, so after a few hours in the fridge, you're set to ice it. Cut the protruding shortdough bottom, then ice with whipped cream. Decorate with some chocolate shavings on top:

Caramel cake

And here's the first slice:

Caramel cake slice

The taste is absolute caramel heaven! I really like the unusual look given by the two sponges, and the shortdough bottom gives a nice constrasting crunch to the creamy rest of the cake.


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