The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Mebake's picture

I have not made any bread blogs for a while now, as i was moving to a another apartment.

Yesterday, i saw a bag of sifted wholewheat flour (truns out to be a high extraction, as i was unable to get rid of tiny bran and germ particles through my sifter), and decided to bake PR's wholewheat sandwich loaf from it (Found in Whole grain breads book).

I prepared a BIGA, and a SOAKERin the morning 8:30 am, and headed for work. I used tiny amounts of yeast in the BIGA inorder for it to ferment slowly until i return home 8 hours later. The BIGA was fermenting faster than i had anticipated, and asked my wife to put it in the fridge, and take it out 2 hours before i return (Wives do come in Handy afterall! :P)

I have yet to try SF (subfuscpersona)'s suggestion on freezing the BIGA and then slowly defrosting it in the fridge 24 hours prior to the baking day. I'll try this method soon.

When i returned, i waited for the BIGA to Ripen, and Mixed all ingredients. I intensively mixed the dough by hand (ala bertinet) until i had a smooth silky elastic dough. moderate Window pane was possible with this dough. I devided the dough into 1.5Kg (for the Pullman look alike pan), and 1.3 Kg for the other pan (IKEA's) red pan.

I baked on a 40 minute 500F preaheated stone. For steaming, i used the wet towel method of Sylvia's. (My now reliable steaming method, thanks sylvia!).

The Pullman Loaf Crumb

The Regular Pan (IKEA's) loaf crumb

After having baked thrice with my two pans, I have come to a conclusion that The material used in my IKEA pan conducts and retains heat more than the silver deep pan (pullman lookalike).

The flavor is outstanding, thanks to the formulation of peter reinhart, and the freshly milled wheat flour. I also mixed in some extra bran wholewheat flour. The crumb is soft and rich, yet light. It toasts beautifully too. The aroma of the finished loaves is heavenly.






GSnyde's picture


Cat and I don’t throw dinner parties very often, but when we do we are reminded that we are pretty dang good at it.  And now that I have become a semi-competent baker, the parties are even better.

There were several reasons for last night’s event: (1) a business associate (and friend) of Cat’s is visiting from New Zealand, (2) he’s also a good friend of Cat’s boss, whom we had never hosted in our home, (3) he’s also a good friend of Cat’s brother and brother-in-law, who are also friends of Cat’s boss and always entertaining, and (4) we had so much bread in the freezer that Cat and I would have been eating Panzanella for a month to whittle it down.  Oh, yeah, and (5) we like feeding and fermenting friends into a frenzy of frivolity.

I should mention that “having the boss and his wife over for dinner” may sound like a tense occasion (ala how many old movies).  But in Cat’s case, her boss recruited her years ago, already knowing her intelligence, skill and good nature, and his opinion of her has only grown higher over the years.  I suppose we could have messed up her work life by poisoning the boss, but I didn’t even think about that scary prospect until now.  I am conscious of the reversal of classic roles here: the wife, a manager in a big corporation, invites the boss and his wife over for a dinner prepared by the husband (whom she likes to keep in the kitchen). 

The menu included baguettes and cheeses and toasted Curry-Onion-Bacon-Cheese Bread (–-one-sweet-and-one-savory) to start, with a main course of charcoal-grilled butterflied leg of lamb (Julia Child marinade), bulgur pilaf, and Panzanella with heirloom tomatoes and herb fried Tartine BCB (  Dessert was vanilla ice cream, awesome strawberries and Chewy Chocolate Cherry Cookies. 

Cat’s boss is a widely recognized gourmand and his wife was (before kids) a talented professional chef.   So I chose to prepare proven recipes (except the cookies, of which more below).  Having a Kiwi visitor was an opportunity to prove the superiority of California Lamb over the New Zealish variety (I don’t really mean that—the lamb in New Zealand is spectacular, much better than what they export to the U.S.).

Anyway, enough background.  I should say something about baking since this is still, to a large degree, a bread-oriented web site, pastrami and pickles to the contrary notwithstanding.

I have been experimenting with different baguette formulas lately, but the most reliable for me, and the one I like best, is proth5’s formula now known as “bear-guettes” (recipe below).   The dough is a dream to work with, and the result is crispy-crackly crust and tender creamy crumb…perfect as a cheese conveyance.  The formula makes 6 mini-baguettes.  I divided the dough after an hour of bulk fermentation and put half in the refrigerator for 90 minutes, so I could bake in two batches, the second after leaving enough time for the steaming skillet to get back up to temperature.  The results were quite satisfactory, with many oohs and ahs (attributable in part, I’m sure, to the creamy goat cheese the baguettes conveyed).

The main course was also very good.  Grilled lamb and bulgur pilaf are nicely enhanced by a puddle of tart vinaigrette from the salad.  Cat’s boss’s wife—the chef—commented appreciatively on how perfect the bread in the Panzanella was; she thought I’d gotten the bread from Tartine Bakery, and seemed impressed when she learned I’d baked it myself from the Tartine recipe.  As much as I treasure my wife’s favorable reaction to my bread, there’s nothing like unbiased third-party expert validation.  The feast was washed down with a pretty fair duo of 2001 pinot noirs, one from the Russian River Valley (Dehlinger) and one from Burgandy (a Gevrey-Chambertin).  

Then, the dessert.  I’ve toyed with chewy chocolate cookie recipes for years, my favorite being a Mocha cookie with bitter-sweet chocolate, fresh ground dark roast coffee and (I hate to admit) instant coffee crystals.  Somewhere recently I saw a formula for a chocolate bread with sour cherries and nuts, and thought that chocolate-cherry cookies would be pretty good.  So I modified my Mocha cookie recipe to replace the coffee with more chocolate and added dried tart cherries.  Awesome!  Very soft and chocolaty, with the extra chew and tartness of dried fruit. 

After some coffee and music, our guests waddled off into the late night and I’m confident Cat’s job is safe.

Here’re the recipes:

Proth5’s Bear-guettes

(adapted from dmsnyder’s report on proth5’s formula. See further notes at






Wt (oz)

AP flour




Instant yeast

“generous pinch”





Wt (oz)

AP flour




Ripe sourdough



Final dough



Wt (oz)

AP flour




Instant yeast









Total dough




Wt (oz)

Baker's %

AP flour






Instant yeast













                  Mix the poolish and the levain and let them ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

                  Mix all the ingredients except the salt to a shaggy mass. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

                  Add the salt and hand mix in a large bowl.

                  Bulk ferment for 4 hours with a stretch and fold at 2 hours. (I cold retarded half after the S&F for 90 minutes).

                  Divide into 10.5 oz pieces and pre-shape as logs. Rest the pieces, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

                  Shape as baguettes.

                  Proof en couche for 1.5 hours.

                  Pre-heat oven to 500ºF with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

                  Transfer loaves to peel. Score them and transfer them to the oven.

                  Reduce oven temperature top 460 F and bake with steam for 10 minutes, and bake dry for another 9-11 minutes.

                  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool thoroughly before eating.


                                    CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHERRY COOKIES





2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder    (Scharffenberger)

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

4 oz. Scharffenberger bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped or shaved

2 cups dried cherries





Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.



Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder; set aside.


In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chopped baking chocolate and cherries by hand using a wooden spoon.


Refrigerate dough at least one hour.


Drop cookie dough (about ¾ of a 1/4 cup measure per piece) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be at least 1 ½  inches apart.  Flatten each cookie a bit.



Bake for 12-13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


davidg618's picture

These are #'s 4 and 5. I've made three earlier loaves, all successful, with similar oven spring. I've been experimenting with retarding sourdoughs. I'm so pleased with my Overnight Baguette's flavor and crumb--straight dough, retarded 15 hours @ 54°F--that I've reasoned retarding sourdough loaves should add sparkle to already good flavor. Using my old starter, the results were mixed. I realized excellent flavors, but the doughs were slack, and their oven spring weak.

With Debra Wink's help, we've saved my new starter--I thought it was a goner--and, encouraged by #'s 2 and 3, also retarded, I baked these today. The dough was retarded 10 hours, at 54°F, before shaping.

As you see, I've got excellent oven spring. I'm going to post a forum Help! re the ragged slashing. I've not been able to eliminate it. If you have any good advice please post it either here or on the forum thread; I'll title it Ragged Slashing. Sorry, no crumb shots, these are going into the freezer.

Here's a crumb shot of #2, which is almost gone. It's been a great compliment to some home cured and smoked pastrami.

David G

HokeyPokey's picture

I've made this recipe mid-week and only just got around to taking a photo to go with the blog. Just in time too, cause there is only about a third of loaf left - a very popular little bread that ia.

The idea for a banana bread came from  Shiao-Ping's blog (which does look amazing by the way), but I wanted something a little bit ligher and more brioche-like. I had three super ripe bananas left in a fruit bowl and a jar of peanut butter with my name on it, just begging to be spread on toast and munched up.

Here we are, a light, fluffy banana bread that is just so perfect with a bit of butter, topped with lots of peanut butter - super crunchy type too - yumm.....

Full recipe and more photos on my blog here

HokeyPokey's picture

London is going through a heat wave, its hot, properly hot, which means my starter is going super mental and I have to think of new ways of using it and new bread recipes.

This post inspiration came from a glass of orange juice and a bit of nagging from my husband. Result - two loaves of bread, a whiskey orange bread and a seeded bread, one for my breakfast (I am into sweet toast at the moment) and one for my dear husband to satisfy his seeded, crunchy bread craving.

More photos and full recipes on my blog here


stephy711's picture

For more cooking adventures, check out Garlic Knots


  • 3 cups (480 grams) bread flour
  • 1 pack active yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp melted salted butter
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped italian parsley



  1. Mix sugar, yeast and ¼ cup warm water to let yeast proof for 10 minutes
  2. Combined flour, yeast mixture, salt, olive oil, milk and remaining water in a large bowl, stirring until it comes together.
  3. Knead for 8 minutes on floured work surface until dough passes the window pane test.
  4. Form dough into a lose round and let proof in a greased, covered bowl for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  5. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into knots. Roll dough into a long rope like you would a pretzel. Tie a knot in the center.
  6. Fold the rope underlying the knot over the top, and fold the rope overlying underneath, securing in the center.
  7. Let rise another 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  8. While dough is rising, melt butter and combine it with garlic, oregano and parsley
  9. Brush butter over knots just before baking. Bake around 15-20 minutes until golden
tssaweber's picture

I spent another 10 days at [Professor] Mark's The Back Home Bakery. Other then working hard I had a great time up in the Rockies and enjoyed my time with Mark and his wife Sharon very much. It was great to see how he was able to organize his process to multiply his output and meet the demand of his divers clientele. I was not surprised that we sold out at all three Farmer's Market I participated. 

I leave it up to you to decide if I learned something!!


Thanks Sharon and Mark for you hospitality!


Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

Yay! Thank you! After much research and tips and narrowing down the problem (via videos from King Arthur flour and seeing their dough in each step), I figured out that I wasn't kneading it correctly in the bulk fermentation step. I was doing the push-down and quarter turn method. No folding or stretching, because I wasn't even aware of that at all! Interesting how even the end result in bread can point to a problem much earlier in the process. With just folding and stretching, the dough became dramatically different, and the bread held its nicely curved lofty shape during baking! yay!!!!!!!

Now on to invest in a thermometer...

txfarmer's picture

Sending this to Yeastspotting.

Click here for my blog index.

Chocolate croissants, we all love them. When I saw in a Japanese baking book where they put cocoa in the dough as well, I knew I must make it. These are the bread equivalence of "a dark and mysterious stranger".

At first I thought it would be straightforward to adapt my previous croissant recipe: just add some cocoa powder and wrape in a chocolate baton right? Wrong. Nothing in croissant making has been straightforward for me. Before diving into the gory details of my 3 months struggle, you might want to check out the following two earlier entries for some tips and guildlines:

Lesson re-learned #1: Natural cocoa powder is acidic. I knew that before from caking making - you add baking soda to react with acidic cocoa powder to raise cakes, however, I didn't know it was THAT acidic. After adding cocoa powder, the dough was too weak to rise properly, they ended up like sad chocolate pancakes. I changed natural cocoa powder to dutch processed cocoa, immediately saw a difference. For the batch I am showing I used Herseys Special Dark Cocoa (hence the very dark color), which is a blend of dutch processed and natural cocoa, I imagin the volume would even be better if a pure dutch processed cocoa is used.

Lesson re-learned #2: Firm levain gives dough more strength then liquid starter/levain. Knew that one before as well, but the effect is really obvious here. I made a firm levain rather than adding 100% starter directly into the dough, the volume of croissants was further improved.

Lesson re-learned #3: Croissant dough needs to be cold. In my last croissant post, I wrote about how to make croissants in TX summer by rolling quickly and putting dough in fridge frequently. Well, since then, temperature has climed to 110F. Even at night/early morning, my kitchen (especially the counter top by the window) doesn't drop below 85. That's simply too hot, butter is melting into the dough as soon as it hits the counter top. To solve that, this is the setup I am using (a shoutout to my hubby who thought of and implemented the whole thing): frozen ice packs under a big baking tray, and a metal rolling pin which is filled with water then frozen.

The rolling pin and ice packs need to be put back into the freezer between rolling, which is a bit troublesome, but did I mention it's 110F outside?

Lesson re-learned #4: Dark chocolate can lower blood pressure. Knew that one before too, but not until my mother, who usually has high blood pressure, had two croisssants and started getting dizzy - her blood pressure was too low! We then tested with just the valrhona dark chocolate batons used for these croissants, apparently, just one was enough to lower her blood pressure to normal, any more would be too low! This is more effective (and yummier) then medicine!

Double Chocolate Croissant with Natural Starter

Note: makes 12 croissants


100% starter, 35g

water, 59g

bread flour, 105g

1. mix and let mature for 12 hours.

-Final Dough

bread flour (KAF), 422g

dutch processed cocoa, 20g

water, 85g

milk, 128g

sugar, 73g

salt, 10g

osmotolerant instant yeast (SAF gold), 4g, 1tsp+1/4tsp

butter, 21g, softened

levain, all

roll-in butter, 287g

1. Mix everything but the roll-in butter, knead until gluten starts to form. In my KA mixer, 3min at first speed, 5 min at 3rd speed.

Then following the procedure illustrated here. Do remebmer to enclose a chocolate baton while shaping, just place it at the bottom of the triangle piece, and roll up as usual.

 Very very very delicious, it takes so much work to make, be sure to use the best chocolate to ge the maximum impact!

For this earlier batch, I rolled the dough out thinner, did more turns while shaping, to create more layers. Well, more layers alright, but I don't think it's airy enough.

Anyway, I am happy my 3 month chocolate croissant battle is near the end, still not perfect, but I think they are quite sexy!


lumos's picture

In my previous entry, I blogged about the latest attempt in my years-long desperate journey of trying to make baguettes, as closest as possible to the real thing, only using a mixture of various flours easily available in UK (without having to buy real Type 55/65 in bulk to save P & P and risk of all the bags get infested by flour bugs, again).

The result was not too satisfactory; the crumb was nice and light but too soft-ish and fluffy to my liking and not enough random large holes, though it had a lovely crisp crust and quite agreeable flavour. We had one of them (less of a looker) for dinner on that day and I froze the other one. This frozen one had much better grigne and more volume, so I was hoping the inside would be better than her ugly sister.

Today, I defrosted and sliced it horizontally to make sandwiches for lunch. The inside had slightly more open texture and a bit more large holes than the other one......

(…nor the holes evenly spread through the crumb. Blame my handling not the flour…)




……but not that much more as to send me to the baguetty-heaven. No. However, the crust remained very crisp even after it’s defrosted (@ room temperature for 1 1/2 hrs), much crispier than my regular baguettes would be when defrosted. This was a happy surprise…..No.1.

Today’s filling was Parma ham and watercress with generous dollops of French mayonnaise by Maille, with a hint of Dijon mustard, naturally. Then came the second happy surprise. I'd really want my baguettes to have lots of large, random holes all over, but the problem with this kind of ‘superior’ baguette is it’s not really a good disign as a recipient of spread when you make a sandwich with it. Butter, mayonnaise, mustard or whatever you spread on it tends to disappear into those huge abyss and, as the result, you end up eating too much spread which often overwhelms the filling. But, because this one didn’t have so many large holes at all, spreading the mayonnaise was a piece of ca…….bread. 


But those two happy surprises was nothing to compared to what I discovered next. The softish airy crumb and its subtle sweetness, which I’m usually not keen on to find in baguettes, was actually very good vehicle for sandwiches, complimenting the fillings very well, without that unmistakable self-assertiveness a very good baguette tends to have (“Eat me! I’m here! I am GOOD!!”). ……I think I might find a new raison d'etre for this flour in my kitchen. Not quite Cinderella, but still it’s a nice discovery that even a humble pumpkin can be a reliable carriage.



So… long journey in search for a formula of perfect home-made baguettes will still continue….



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