The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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proth5's picture

As some of you know I have been working on Okinawa and not been home since early February.  Well, I ended up staying longer than I had planned and the pace of worked picked up.  Not being able to bake, I thought I would at least start a new starter.

I haven't had to start a starter for a long time, but quickly read up on the process and it did seem familiar.  The question was that of flour. 

With some grumbling that if I were just at home I could grind up some fresh whole wheat and maybe spike it with a little fresh rye, I resolved that I would need to purchase flour - so to market I went.

I can now go so far as to reveal that my work has been among folks who pretty much only speak English and that by working with these folks I have access to stores where you can buy American brands (if you know what I mean).  Being short of time and Japanese language skills (lessons put on hold so that I might work long days) I found, not my good old KA, but an American name brand "organic" white flour and a name brand whole wheat.  The only  other "all purpose" flour that I could find was bleached - which didn't seem like a good idea. Rye flour alas was nowhere to be found.

Mixed equal amounts (by weight, bien sur!) of whole wheat flour and water - fed it a bit each day - and on day three had a bubbling crude.  Having read Debra Wink's work I knew that this was mostly bacterial action and that the solution had to become acidic enough before yeast would take hold.  I contemplated "The Pineapple Juice Solution" but strangely for an island that produces pineapples, their juice was nowhere to be found.  Not having the confidence or equipment (I flew here with only my carry on and live in a hotel)to undergo a pineapple juicing operation, I also read her advice that given enough time the starter would become acidic enough - and I had time to wait.  (oh, so much time  - the theme song for "Gilligan's Island" kept playing in my head)

With approximately twice daily feedings of whole wheat (during this period I did not always get to eat, and I worked as many as 20 hours a day - but my starter was fed)  living in the cool environment of my air-conditioned room,  it took about a week for my starter to double (just barely) reliably.  As I discarded parts of it, it seemed like a normal, healthy, although immature starter to me.

Then I started feeding it the white flour.  Almost immediately it began to show signs of starvation - the alcohol smell, a little hooch developing , a dead listless quality and no rise.  I was feeding it well - about twice a day.  What was going on?  Early one morning, coming home from work, I read the bag of flour.  It contained no malt.  Now, unmalted flour could very well have a low enough Falling Number to assure sufficient alpha amylase action - but then again, it might not.  Hard to know with the information provided on your typical bag of flour.  And I don't know of it indeed was the problem.

I do know that going back to whole wheat cleared up the problem.

But my OKI starter needed OKI flour (or so I told myself in my sleep deprived state).  After work tapered off a bit I was able to get to a Japanese grocery store. Still unable to read Japanese (or speak much of it) I allowed instinct alone to get me to the flour aisle and using the time honored method of looking carefully at the pictures on the package (or the big English words "For Bread" on an otherwise inscrutable bag of what I assume was flour) I chose bags of white and whole wheat flour that had pictures that seemed to be of bread like products.  Again, there was the question of flour characteristics, but now I was running completely blind.

So, nothing to do but experiment.  The whole wheat flour (which was really very lovely, very finely ground flour with no big flakes of bran) seemed to be a favorite of the "beasties", but was relatively expensive.  Additionally, I prefer to keep a white flour starter.  So I switched to white.

This was not entirely successful.  While not displaying signs of hunger, and just barely doubling in 4-6 hours, it didn't seem "right."  It had a sticky, silly puttyesque quality that did not seem in any way familiar.  Again, I don't know if this was the flour, or just a misbehaving adolescent starter, but it was a quality that I did not enjoy. Inspiration welcome.

So I must take a mental detour and consider how much we value our "old" starters.  "My teacher" once told me that keeping a starter alive and vibrant for many years was "the baker's pride."  There is a lot to be said for that.  To invest the time and care to keep a starter vibrant for 10, 20, 30 years or more is something in which one can take pride.  More than that, although our starters undergo minor changes, I know my starter.  I have had it for 10 years.  While not investing it with complex emotions or personality, it is a stable colony of living organisms and has predictable reactions to things like temperature, feeding schedule and flour quality.   I can read the state of its health pretty easily.  This new starter, not so much.  I will add that with this new starter, I was totally adrift. Not one factor- being at sea level, a humid climate, sporadic air conditioning, flour, or water- is something that I experience on my home turf.  I do remember that my own treasured starter produced some bad bakes when it was young and over time, without me doing much of anything, those bad bakes went away.

So back to the day to day, I decided on a feeding regimen of ¼- 1/3 parts of whole wheat flour and the remainder white flour. With this combination the beasties seem happy and I am "less unhappy" with the general texture of the starter itself.  I have been feeding at an eyeballed ratio of 1:1:1 and that starter doubles (but not much more).  The discard (about how one manages that in a Japanese hotel - don't ask , don't tell)  seemed lively enough for a day or so.  I was pretty sure I had some yeast working in there, but wasn't confident on its strength.  Inspiration welcome.

I was never really happy with my Okinawa starter and just didn't know where to place the blame.

Knowing that I would finally be leaving Okinawa, I decided to dry some of the starter and take it home.  I considered making a firm starter out of it but with the rigors of international air travel these days and the significant duration of the flight, thought better of it (advice from world travelers who travel with starter welcome!).

Once home, I dissolved the dried flakes in water and used that water to make a 100% hydration starter.  Of course, I also resumed baking and feeding my old starter which had been well cared for by my faithful house sitter.  I wondered if my good old KA flour would do my OKI starter some good.

Day 1 and 2 saw a pretty moribund container of glop.  On Day 3, like magic, the starter more than doubled.  While not looking exactly like my US starter, it was definitely looking like a very active starter.  It has been improving steadily day over day.

So what was it?  I'm asking - I don't know.  If it is the yeast in the local flour that finally took hold, this would tell us that the origin of the seed doesn't matter - the local yeasts will come on like gangbusters - but three days seemed too little for local yeasts to become so active.

I considered that it had become "contaminated" with my US starter, but I had been careful not to use the same utensils, not have the two containers open at the same time and to wash my hands before working with it.  It still has an aroma that is quite distinct from my US starter, so I would not call the two the same. 

Was it the flour itself giving the boost to the yeast that was formerly struggling to reproduce?  Was the OKI flour just not up to the task? Inspiration welcome.

Okinawa, by the way, has more of a wheat based cuisine than I would have thought.  Okinawa soba is not buckwheat - it is regular wheat - so they are a people that know the properties of wheat (and know what to do with a pig, but I digress...).  The texture of the Okinawan flours was very fine and silky and my tiny mind wanders to the impact of milling processes on flour behavior, but that's a topic for another time.

I will probably dry the starter again, save some of the dry starter to revive in the US and transport some to revive in Okinawa.  It's one thing to have a house sitter feed one 10 year old starter, I'm not going to tip over the edge to have him feed two.

I've worked most of the angles that are practical for finding an oven on Okinawa.  Obviously I am working with people who do not put a priority on home baking (and I am glad their priorities are where they are) and ovens are rare in Okinawa housing, so I don't think I will get to bake during my next hitch - which absolutely won't be as long as my last one.

What I will be doing is shipping some Japanese flours home to see how they act on the edge  of American hard red wheat country. I may even send a sample or two off to the lab to see what is going on with them.  That would be interesting. 

But it's going to be awhile...

Oh - and even though I thought I would forget - I can still bake (and still can't do photography)

Bagutte and Shisa

My recently acquired shisas - the guardian spirits of Okinawa - guard the same old baguette (levain, 65% hydration) that I always bake.

The male shisa has an open mouth to keep away the evil spirits and the female shisa has a closed mouth to keep in the happiness. 

The crumb shot.


ilan's picture

Wife and daughter went to visit family, leaving me pondering which bread to do today.

I went back to basics; I wanted something tasty but simple. No preferment and other techniques that surely improve the final outcome but take a lot of time.

I made something very similar to the post but added sugar, salt yeast and switched butter with vegetable oil.

The recipe goes like this:

-       3 cups flour

-       1/2 cups of water

-       1 cup milk

-       1/4 cup oil

-       1/4 cup sugar

-       3 teaspoons yeast

-       1 ½ teaspoon salt

-       1/2 egg

Mix flour, water, milk, oil egg, sugar and yeast and let rest for 20 minutes

Add the yeast and knead for 10 minutes.

The dough should be very elastic but not too sticky.

Cover with plastic/wet towel and let the dough rise for ~70 minutes (a lot of sugar, no need to wait too long).

Forming the loaf – We want to make a braided bread here. So, divide the dough to 3 equal parts, form long strands out of each part. The edges should be thinner the center. Connect the 3 strands in the edge and start braiding them together.

Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 250c. I have a baking stone on which I place a pot full with boiling water for lots of steam

Before baking, I brushed the bread with a mixture of egg and melted butter for nice color.

Bake in 250c & steam for about 15 minutes then remove the water and reduce the heat to 180c and bake for another 30-40 minutes. To make sure the bread is ready see if the bread produces a hollow sound when knocking on its bottom with your finger.

Beside fish, this bread goes well with almost anything from a full meal to chocolate spread (kids will love it)

Top image is from today, the lower one is a bit older but shows the exterior of the bread more nicely.

This is what my family gets for leaving me home alone :).

Its fun to enter a house when a bread is baking, the smell is beyond comparison so I don't think she objects

Until the next post


turosdolci's picture

 Zeppole were first made in Naples by a baker who sold from a street stand.Today they can be found in bakeries and in stalls. They are usually eaten with sweet wine or dunked in warm honey.



sortachef's picture

Small fires over time make all the difference


Most woodfired oven owners only use their oven once a week or so to bake pizza or bread at fairly high temperatures. There's another level of cooking available, at lower and constant temperatures, which requires pulsing the oven with small fires. This is useful knowing about both to protect the oven from unnecessary cracking from cold firing and also to expand your cooking repertoire.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when many home ovens were fueled with either wood or coal. These ovens were used every day, and never lost their warmth. My father remembers his mother stoking the fire at the crack of dawn to bake the daily bread. Even today, I hear through this website of people in Greek villages and Eastern European towns using wood or coal as their main source of cooking fuel.

In order to replicate this method of everyday cooking, you have to commit some time. In order to roast a chicken today, I had to find three different times yesterday - in amongst a busy schedule - to light and maintain fires. If you can find the time, however, the benefits are astounding. When I was ready to roast the chicken (see Woodfired Roast Chicken), my oven maintained a stable temperature in the 350º range for 2½ hours with no active flame throughout the cooking time. With this ability, all kinds of baked goods (including dinner rolls and pastries), casseroles, roasted meats and fish become possible.


Pulsing your oven: The trick is to 'pulse' your oven with small fires over time, in order to slowly heat all of the masonry components - the walls, the floor and the bed of sand beneath the floor. The operative word here is 'slowly'. After a cold spell in which your oven has lain dormant, this will prevent the components from cracking. For more normal cooking or baking operations, this will raise the temperature of your oven into the range of a conventional oven, with very little charring or direct smoke.

Here's what to do:

  • Use a piece of newspaper, a handful of kindling, 2 or 3 pieces of hardwood the thickness of your thumb and 2 thicker pieces of hardwood that weigh about 1 ½ pounds each (2 ½ inches thick) to build successive fires in the center of your oven. Maintain the fire for an hour, relighting and adding a bit more kindling if necessary.

  • After the hour of active fire, put the door in place as tightly as possible. You may have to put a wood wedge under the handle, as I do. Let the oven rest for 3 hours. This rest time can be variable in length.

  • Light another fire using the same amount of wood as above, and maintain for an hour. Let rest again.

  • With each subsequent fire, there will be more unburnt wood from the previous fire. Leave this in the oven and continue to add to it, building your fires on top.

  • Light a third fire in the early evening, maintain for an hour and let rest. During this rest period, you can move the coals to one side in order to cook beans or a casserole, if desired.

  • Close up the oven and let rest overnight.

  • On day 2, start a fire with the same amount of wood, maintain for an hour and let rest. By this time the parts of your oven are hot enough to maintain a temperature of about 350º. From here, you can safely and quickly take your oven much hotter (for pizza, say), or you can build another small fire to maintain low to moderate heat for roasting or baking.


Here are the temperatures I measured in my oven. As atmospheric conditions and your oven will likely be different, you will probably have different results, particularly during the first few fires.

Starting temperature: 52º, which was approximately the overnight low air temperature in Seattle (measured with an accurate thermometer).

After the first fire: 150º (measured with oven thermometer, as are all others)

After the second fire: 225º

After the third fire: 350º (I baked a pot of pinto beans for 2 ½ hours when fire was almost finished)

Starting temperature, 2nd day: 160º

After the fourth fire: 375º (I baked dinner rolls after this fire)

After the fifth fire: 425º (I let the oven cool to 350º and roasted a chicken. After 2 ½ hours, the oven temperature was 325º and the chicken was perfectly cooked.)


Final note: I just checked (10 a.m. on the third day) and, with no active fire since yesterday's noontime fire, the temperature of the oven is 160º. Hmm. I could just keep this whole thing going. Flame on!

varda's picture

Sometimes baking bread seems to be about the challenge and developing the skills and trying new things and so forth.   And sometimes it is all about making what you want to eat.   When I started bread-making in earnest in January, I suddenly lost my taste for the supermarket bagels I'd been eating happily for several years.   Since there is no good bagel place in my immediate area, I simply stopped eating bagels.  But then many of you just kept posting and posting and posting your various bagel bakes, and I couldn't stand it anymore.   So I decided to try Hamelman's approach, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was it relatively simple, but geez, it tastes like the bagels that I used to eat way back in the day, when a New York baker moved to St. Louis, got in a taxi cab and told the driver to take him to the Jewish section of town.   This was back in the sixties, and such a thing had not been seen in St. Louis before.   My father used to come home with dozens and dozens of bagels, and somehow we managed to eat them all.   Usually when I make something, it doesn't come out just how I like it, and I fiddle and fiddle or switch approaches a half dozen or so times, and possibly make something better over time, and possibly not.   But unless someone has a compelling argument that their bagel formula is better than Hamelman's I'm just going to stick with it, and focus on learning how to shape better.   Thanks for all the inspiration to you bagel bakers out there.   Now I have what I want to eat.   -Varda

And all ready for creamcheese.

Sedlmaierin's picture

This is one of those breads I have been very eager to make, and it is finally done. I am posting about this now, even though the 24 hour rest is not done with yet,because the little man is asleep and I am also trying not to forget any aspects of the procedure.

-my SD starter with the rye meal fermented in the oven with pilot light on for about 12 hours and then I stuck it into the fridge for convenience

-I soaked the berries for about  18 hours, then boiled for about 1.5 hours

-I had some frozen old bread and poured hot water over it to soak...I let it stand for around 12 hours, too(can you tell I had intended to bake this earlier than I eventually did?)

-I used hard red whole wheat flour for the high gluten flour

- the day of the bake I mixed together all the ingredients for the final dough but did not add any water. I didn't really do a very good job at pressing out the water from the old bread soaker, either. I was slightly concerned that the unsoaked rye chops would eventually absorb too much water, so I was very generous with my water allowance and decided to err on the wetter side. Meaning,after mixing the dough with my hand held mixer for-let's say 8 minutes- I decided I wasn't going to add any flour, even though I would consider the dough to have been more batter like. NO WAY of actually "shaping" it into a log as it says in the instructions; or I could have shaped it into a log but there would have been no way for me to transfer the log shape to the pan.

-since I still seem to have the darndest time in planning out my baking day, the bread bulk proofed for about 20 minutes, then got stuck in the fridge for about 2.5 hours, then gently scraped the dough into the oiled/floured pans, for a final fermentation time of about 45 minutes. I just went by how high the dough rose in relationship to the pan rims.

-I had read on how pumpernickel in commercial settings is baked in forced steam ovens, which mirrored the sentiment expressed by ehanner( I believe) to bake the pumpernickel like a X-mas pudding in a water bath. So, I stuck the foil wrapped pans into a turkey roaster, on a grill insert, with some boiling water in the bottom.The bake started at about 325 fahrenheit for maybe 1.5 hours, the turned down(to what I thought was 250-turns out it was closer to 275) overnight(about 8 hours) , turned it further down in the morning to about 225, and then for the last 2.5-3 hours I just left the oven on its warm setting (about 140).

I did such a good job about sealing my roaster that hardly any aroma escaped and I was quite worried for a while, but sticking my nose in the oven I could smell the most divine, earthy and very malty pumpernickel smell.

When I took the breads out the top was a deep, dark brown..the sides were lighter in color, but have now darkened since they have been resting. The bread smells phenomenal, seems very juicy(even though the sticking-toothpick-in-the-middle-test came out clean) and I hope the crumb will be as perfect as the outside of the bread seems to be.

So, here are some pictures, crumb shot will follow tomorrow........and I assume that I can keep this bread in the fridge, in a plastic bag, yes?I don't remember anybody at home ever freezing this type of was just kept in plastic in the fridge. If that's a no-no please tell me!

this is the SD after fermentation

my very wet, finished dough, prior to bulk fermentation

the bread's home for the next 16 hours all nicely wrapped and cozy

one of the just unwrapped loaves...can't wait to try it!


P.S.: I forgot to mention that I had to split the dough into two pans, since I do not own one pan large enough to hold that amount of dough.

ananda's picture


Slight Variations on Two More Formulae from Hamelman's "Bread"


I made these last weekend.

75% Sourdough Rye with a Rye Flour Soaker

This was pretty faithful to the original recipe, except that the rye flour had to be cut back to 75%, as I ran out of dark rye flour.   Also, it is leavened only by the sourdough; no added yeast.  Detail is shown below.


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Sourdough



Dark Rye Flour






Sour from stock






[35 returned to stock]

  • 2. Soaker



Dark Rye Flour



Boiling Water






  • 3. Final Dough



Sourdough [from above]

Flour: 35; Water 29

1280 [flour 700, water 580]

Soaker [from above]

Flour 20; Water 20

800 [flour 400, water 400]

Dark Rye Flour



Strong White Flour












Pre-fermented flour is 35%.   Overall hydration is 78%


  • I followed the book, except that I didn't use yeast, at all. To deal with this I gave 1 hour bulk, and final fermentation time was around 2 hours.
  • I made these as extremely large tinned loaves; one in a Pullman Pan at 2kg, the other just over 1.5kg. See photos. Bake time was a long 1 hour 30mins for the Pullman, and 1 hour 10 mins for the other tin. Baking temperature was 195-200*C. I misted the top of the open tinned loaf, and used just a little steam when the loaves went in.
  • Cooled on wires, then wrapped in baker's linen for 24 hours before cutting.

See photographs of process and finished products below


Miche, Pointe-à-Callière


I made a few adjustments to this formula, as I don't have a ready access to the high extraction flour in the formula.   I used a sifted wholemeal flour at 50%, and strong white flour at 50%.   I increased the pre-fermented flour from 20 to 25%.   The hydration I reduced to 72%.   This  reflects the greater white flour element, and my personal preference not to go too wet for this type of loaf.


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Leaven First Build



Leaven [from stock]



Strong White Flour









  • 2. Leaven Final Build



Leaven [from above]



Strong White Flour









[110 returned to stock]

  • 3. Final Dough



Leaven [from 2. above]

Flour 25; Water 15

800 [flour 500, water 300]

Sifted Strong Wholemeal



Strong White Flour












Pre-fermented flour is 25%.   Overall hydration 72%



  • 2 levain builds with 12 hour fermentation periods at 20°C.
  • Autolyse 40 minutes
  • Mix by hand, 15 minutes; DDT 21°C
  • Bulk time 3½ hours, 3 S&F
  • Scale for 2 large and 1 medium sized Boules, mould and place upside down in bannetons.
  • Final proof around 3 hours
  • Bake; use full steam and set at 240°C for 15 minutes. Reduce to 200°C for further 20 minutes, then 180°C for a final 10 minutes, or just over, for the larger loaves.
  • Cool on wires


See all photographs below for process and finished products.



Best wishes


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

Just wanted to share with you my bake from last night.  Ciabatta blobs.  I was planning to bake something else, but switched plans last minute...  I'm happy with them.  They have the most open crumb that I have gotten in a long time...  Enjoy!

Recipe is below.



1000g Bread Flour

200g Firm Sourdough Starter (60% hydration)

800g Water

24g Kosher Salt

6g Active Dry Yeast (approx 2 tsp)

2030g Total Dough Yield



7:00pm – Weigh out all ingredients.  Place firm SD starter along with water in large mixing bowl.  Then, add all dry ingredients on top, mix well with wooden spoon and plastic scraper.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

7:30pm – In bowl, turn dough using wet hands and French fold method until dough is smooth.  4-8 strokes.  Cover and let rest.

8:00pm – Turn dough using French fold or letter fold method in bowl using wet hands, cover and let rest.

8:30pm – Turn dough using wet hands, cover and let rest.

9:00pm – Turn dough using wet hands, cover and let rest.

9:30pm – Turn dough using wet hands, cover and let rest.

9:45pm – Turn dough using wet hands, place on well floured linen couche on a sheet pan in 1 piece seam side down.  Flour top, cover, place in large plastic bag, proof for 1 hr.  Arrange 2 baking stones and a steam pan in oven, preheat to 550F with convection.

10:50pm – Using a bench scraper, cut dough blob into 4 roughly equal pieces, stretch them out lightly, place onto floured peel and place in oven directly on baking stone.  When all the loaves are in, pour 1 cup of water into steam pan, close oven door, turn down oven to 450F, no convection, bake for 40 minutes, rotating them between the stones halfway through the bake.  Cool completely before cutting.


breadinquito's picture

Hi All, just wanted to tell you about that a new blog about bread was born, it's from Iban, who already created and's in spanish but any online translator would be helpful....happy baking from quito.

wdlolies's picture

Hi Everyone,

I'm happy to have joined this site. For many years I have been a hobby cook and have been a member (still am) of the German site  About five years ago, I became a fan of sourdough and was very successful with my own starter and creations.  I have posted about that on  However, my live has changed a lot over the years.  My kids have grown up, my wife and I have split after nearly 25 years and my interests have moved to new territories.  I'm still as interested in sourdough, but my occupation as a National Tour Guide for the Island of Ireland doesn't presently allow me to start a new starter, as I wouldn't be here at this time of year to look after it during its early days.  I've therefore switched to bread baking with yeast.  Even here i love baking with yeast ferment, which is very close to sourdough.  

I've joined this community to share my baking experiences and I'm looking forward to "meeting" people here who share their experiences with the wider community.  The Tour Guiding Season is about to start and I won't be baking as much as I would like to until September/October, but I'm still interested and I will still visit and peak :-).  However, there will always be some time to bake in between tours and these experiences I will share with you.

All the best.  I'm looking forward to "meeting" you guys.

Wolfgang (presently in County Wicklow, Ireland)


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