The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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shansen10's picture

Today I baked 10 loaves in my simple gas oven, 4 at a time, and I am not displeased with the results.  They are for donation at our church tomorrow; we provide food for those in need once a month.  My motives in baking were also selfish in that the more I bake, the better baker i  become.  6 loaves are from the formula for "White Bread Plus" in Joy of Cooking, and 4 are Sourdough Bread from Sourdough Cookery by Rita Davenport.

They are far from perfect, but the more I bake, the better feel I get for the dough, the better sense I have of when the dough has been kneaded enough, risen enough to go in the oven, etc.  I use a stone and an internal oven thermometer.  I was able to time these so that I started baking 2 loaves, then 4, then 4 more.  No crumb shots, as they are to be donated tomorrow.  Smell is heavenly!  I tried to upload a photo, but it failed; don't know why.

Next November I plan to attend a baking class at John C Campbell Folk School in North Carolina - hope to learn a lot.  They say they will have an outdoor wood-fired hearth built by then, which fascinates me.


mlucas's picture

With our second child, my wife was desperate to have the baby by the due date. Her parents were leaving for England for three weeks and they really wanted to meet the baby before they left!

It happened at that time we needed a bunch of topsoil to fill a big brick flowerbed I'd made. When the order came and we had a huge mound of topsoil on our driveway, I joked that due to Murhpy's Law the baby would come now, since we had all this work to do shoveling it. Sure enough my wife went into labour that night and had our daughter Maya the next morning. (I remember shoveling dirt like mad while she was in the early stages of labour!)

That was 2006. Fast forward to May 2010 and expecting our fourth child any day. I didn't realize what I was doing when late on the Friday night (May 21) I made up the dough for Shiao-Ping's Banana Pain-au-Levain, plus made up the soaker and elaborated a whole bunch of starter for Hamelman's Five-Grain sourdough recipe. I didn't get to bed until 1:30am!

Of course that night Kristen's water broke (around 5am) and we were at the hospital a few hours later. I was operating on less than 4 hours sleep, and calling my mother-in-law from the hospital asking her to put the soaker & starter in the fridge.

Our daughter Aria was born the Saturday night, just before midnight. I baked the banana bread Monday morning, just before heading back to the hospital to bring Kristen and Aria home. Finally on Monday afternoon I mixed up the Five-Grain sourdough (after the starter had been sitting 'active' in fridge for 2.5 days).

Banana Pain-Au-Levain

To my surprise, both batches turned out fantastic! Neither were overly sour. The banana bread had a lovely moist crumb with the characteristic flavour that Shiao-Ping described. And the Five-Grain rose well, which surprised me after the starter had been in the fridge so long, I didn't think it would still be so active. Thanks to the soaker, the seeds in the Five-Grain were deliciously soft, in fact the sunflower seeds cut easily along with each slice.

five grain levainFive-Grain Sourdough from Hamelman's 'Bread'

I'll always remember that I baked two batches of bread the day we brought Aria home. And I learned that it really is okay to let your active starter "hold on" in the fridge for a while until you're ready to mix the dough. (I'll still try to stick to max 24 hours holding time, but knowing even 2.5 days worked fine, I won't worry about it so much!)

Happy baking,

sharonk's picture

 When people think of sourdough starter lineages they often think of the famous San Francisco or Alaska starters originally brought over from Europe. I imagine the people who brought starters along with them were courageous people looking for a better life. I imagine they dehydrated their starters in the old country and carried small amounts of it in pouches or tiny clay pots carefully tucked into whatever belongings they could carry with them in the boats. When they got to the land of opportunity it is said their bread starters took on a new flavor, the flavor of their new locale. Hence the famousness of the San Francisco or Alaska sourdough flavors.


I first learned to make sourdough using an old-fashioned 7-day rye bread recipe. It was a goopy, no-knead recipe that produced a rich, malty, dense loaf. The starter was built over seven days, yielding a giant bowl of sponge-like starter. When it was time to assemble the breads rye flour, water and salt were incorporated into the starter. This “goop” was then spooned into the loaf pans as this bread did not stand up by itself, it needed “walls” to hold it up. It was so sticky that the less handling involved, the better the finished product.


When I began to work with gluten-free starter possibilities I used this spongy, goopy technique as a guide and after a year of many failures, had great success while incorporating a few important changes through trial and error:


  • extra daily feedings to prevent spoilage

  • boosting and preserving it with a bit of an old fashioned fermented drink, water kefir.


I found the starters to be rather delicate and did not regularly store well. I found that I could easily begin a new starter so using it up was never a problem. In fact, I found the fresh starters resulted in breads having a consistently fresh taste while the stored refrigerated starters often carried some “off tastes” I associated with over-fermentation. The over-fermentation also seemed to result in less than satisfactory leavening.


This sponge-goop technique is very different than wheat sourdough techniques that benefit from extensive kneading and shaping. Unlike their rye counterparts traditional wheat breads also stand up, rise and bake without the support of the walls of a loaf pan.


Some seasoned wheat sourdough bakers have had poor success with my technique when they apply their years of experience with wheat sourdough to my rice starter. They expect to take a small amount of starter and knead large amounts of flour into it, shape it, let it rise and bake it. My technique, however, is the opposite. I grow a large amount of high-moisture starter by feeding it at least twice a day. I then stir in a small amount of flour and pour or spoon it into a loaf pan or muffin tin.  From there I let it rise and then bake it.


I think the main reason the wheat technique doesn’t work for my recipes is that my technique was originally derived from the 7-day sourdough rye sponge-goop technique which is really quite different than the wheat technique.


One definition of lineage is “the descendants of one individual”. The descendants of the San Francisco and Alaska sourdough starters are available for sale and supposedly retain some of that “genetic” material referring to the local bacteria and yeasts that grow in the starter. When one purchases those starters they know the lineage of their starter.


I don’t sell starters, I sell a technique. I think about my technique as a “technical” lineage, much like a technique or practice handed down from teacher to student, or master to apprentice. My “technical lineage” is a descendent of the 7-Day Sourdough Rye Technique.


I am deeply grateful for the people willing to try my technique because in addition to feeding ourselves we are also keeping alive a technique that could easily be forgotten in these modern times. We keep it alive by learning it, practicing it, feeding our families with it and teaching it to others.


We successfully unite the past with the future when we reclaim an old-fashioned technique like 7-day rye sourdough and successfully and palatably use it to address the modern dietary challenges of gluten intolerance.


hmcinorganic's picture

I again followed the 1-2-3 sourdough recipe but this time, I used 9 oz starter, 18 oz water, and 9 oz whole wheat flour, 9 oz bread flour and 9 oz all purpose flour (I ran out of bread flour).  I mixed until moist and let rest 1-2 hours.  did 3 stretch and folds over several hours and then put it in the fridge for an overnight retard (that ended up being almost 24 hours;  I punched it down after 12).  I shaped it, let it rise covered on the counter for 2 and a half hours or so.  Baked on a stone with steam, 500 °F for 2 minutes and then 450 for 38 more.  Looks good.  Tastes good, but still not what I would call "sour."  Very complex flavor.  Still not getting the big gaping artisan holes, but this loaf gets an A in my book.

txfarmer's picture

Both are from the book "Advanced Bread and Pastry". I have been baking from it a lot lately as you can tell from my blog entries, my feeling about the book is mostly positive, with some caveats. It''s a textbook for SFBI students, and stays true to that premise. I like the fact that it not only has interesting recipes, but also solid theories. Some material doesn't apply to home bakers (flour enhancement etc.) and instructions mostly assume a professional baking environment with all the neat tools, but I don't mind, I like seeing the behind the scene theories and operations, with the principals explained, it's entirely possible to adapt the instructions to my own kitchen. The bread part is only 1/4 (if that) of the book, but it's a lot of material since the whole book is huge and dense - dense in both abstract and physical sense, I am getting an arm workout just holding it! However, textbooks often require in class instructions to make them complete, and this book is no exception. There are blanks in the book I can't fill by just reading it: various starter hydration ratios are not specified, formulas just say "stiff starter", "rye starter" etc.; some breads have interesting shaping procedures, but they are NOT outlined at all in the book, this Pain de Beaucaire is a well known example, the pear buckwheat bread is another; as I found out recently, some formulas have mistakes, the two castle rye I blogged last was a good example, there's also no picture of the bread, so I can't even guess from the crumb/crust. Unlike reliable cover-all books like BBA or "Bread", this book often leaves me feeling like a student who has skipped one too many classes (a scenario I am familiar with :P). However, these flaws can be easily overcome with the help of internet. I found shaping instructions (with step by step pictues) for both the pear bread and this pain de beauaire from wildyeast's wonderful blog; got the formula error figured out after noonesperfect emailed SFBI for me; other minor details like starter hydration can be approximated with educated guess. All in all I am glad I bought this book, and I will keep baking a lot of breads and other items from it (all those beautiful cakes!) - with the help of knowledgable resources from TFL and blogs of ex-SFBI students.


Now the breads:

1. Baked SF Sourdough a few weeks back. Recipe can be found here. Probabaly not a good idea to make the Auvergnat shape, then proof it upside down in the brotform overnight. Part of the "hat" got stuck, and it became crooked during baking, kinda a funny look huh?

Nice open crumb, not nearly as sour as I expected, probably due to my "not very sour" starter. However it IS more sour than my usual sourdough which uses a liquid levain with an overnight proof.

2. Baked the Pain de Beaucaire last weekend, what an interesting shaping procedure! Without Wildyeast's instruction, I would've never guessed how it's done.

The big holes in the middle are created by pockets of wheat bran and water/flour paste (as you can still see some wheat bran on the wall of the hole), sort of a "cheater's way" of getting holes in the crumb. :P However the rest of the crumb is pretty open too.

It's a bread with both levain and commercial yeast, so pretty quick to make. The taste is clean, crumb is nice, cool, and chewy, crust is thicker than a baguette.


Still amazed that a 60% hydration dough can lead to a bread this light and open.

yozzause's picture


The first night in CUE and a good sleep ensued, i was awoken by the unmistakeable sound of rain falling on the caravan roof lightly at first but then a little heavier, bad news for prospecting in the flat red dirt but ordinarily a most welcomed sound out here. The clouds had been chasing us all the way from Perth some 640 kilometres behind us.

Dawn was breaking to a cloudy start and the wonderful Yorkshire term "Damping" not really raining but gets you wet anyway. As the rest of the crew mustered it was decided that we would wait a further day before setting off for our fortune.

CUE boasted a population of 10,000 around 1890 I cannot imagine the hardship faced in just getting there, no airconditioned  turbocharged auto 4wd then. 

No one knows who discovered gold at Cue but it is likely that the first find was made by Michael John Fitzgerald who, after an Aborigine named Governor had found a 10 oz nugget nearby, decided to prospect in the area. It is claimed that Governor presented the nugget to Fitzgerald remarking 'This fellow slug no good, plenty bit fellow slug over there'. It took Fitzgerald and his friend Edward Heffernan one week to find 260 ozs of gold near what is now the main street of Cue. They then told Tom Cue who travelled to Nannine to register their claim. Ironically it was Cue who gave his name to the town.


So Monday sees us hit the road north in perfect sunshine, it hadn't been a good night on the road for the kangaroos with lots of fresh road kill in evidence, Road trains are not able to stop or swerve to avoid the errant roos when they venture onto the bitumen at night. Unfortunately the two animals that are on our coat of arms are both pretty stupid when it comes to colliding with vehicles whereas goats which are beside the road in the thousands rarely become victims.

The road kill smorgasbord is manna from heaven for lots of other animals none more majestic than the wedge tail eagle, but beware the wedgie that has had a big breakfast and is reluctant to move off the carcase they are slow to get airbourne and invariably need to take off into the wind and can become a casualty themselves.

So after a while we get to Tukinara homestead and turn off the bitumen onto the dirt over the cattle grid and travel for nearly another hour, these dirt roads are quite good as they were well built and maintained as haul roads for the mines and station access roads. The previous sprinkle of rain was keeping the dust down which was good if you were in the 3rd vehicle. We passed by a huge opencut pit and its associated piles of waste or processed ore  at a location known as REEDYS which was operating up to 1986

Soon after we turned off onto a lease owned by ATW a Canadian company that was due to be sold that next weekend so we had permission to fossick for a week at least.

We soon set up our camp and even had time to go for a bit of a bip, we had  2way radios and a box of matches just in case you got lost, it was amazing how you didn't need to get far away and you couldn't see the vehicles or the camp .   

Made my first sour dough and put it in the cold camp oven over night to prove as it gets chilly at night, got up at first light and put the camp oven in the remains of the previous nights fire, scraping all the ash away at the base and placing on top of the lid,

as it turned out still a bit to hot on the base and could have been hotter on the top.

It was wonderfull with soup at lunch time. After a few hours bliping




Final episode and some nice pictures of gold to come in part 3

 regards Yozza




jsk's picture

I have been been experimenting with rye during my past few bakes and this week I made Hamleman's rye bread with flasxseeds (wich I first saw in hansjoakim's post here). The recipe is from the site Modern Baking and you can find a reduced recipe in David's post about it. I have also made the bread as a 1 kg boule, like david did.

The bread is 40% rye and it has a soaker of bothe flax seeds and old bread (altus)- something that I realy enjoy in pumpernickel and I thought could be great in other rye breads. The hydration was a little low for me so I've added abou 2% more water until the dough felt right. I've also reduced the amont of yeast to 0.4% (2 gr), so the fermentation and proofing went a little longer.

I didn't proofed it seam side down like I saw many here did with this recipe and other rye recipes, just because I was afraid that there wouldn't be a big spring from the seams, as my boule shaping technique is not very promising. I've slashed it like a regular loaf in the "diamonds" pattern. The loaf was much smaller than I expected for a 1 kg loaf, but it didn't matter as the flavor was great.

Flaxseeds Rye


As I said earlier, the results were great. I've waited about 16 hours before cutting into it (about that- how do you keep your rye breads before slicing them without them losing all its great crust texture?). The taste was quite tangy and delicious. The flax gave it a nice nuttiness and some bite. I heartly reccomend this bread!

Hapy Baking!


jennyloh's picture

My attempt of the Vermont Sourdough.  2 loaves,  proofed at the same time,  but one was overproofed,  the other not.  Why?  The details are in my blog.



The one on the bottom left is probably over proofed.  Difficult to score,  and it just didn't look good after baking.


I'm still wondering why the difference?  One is on wicker basket,  the other in plastic basket.  Could that be the cause?


petecandzeph's picture

This is my first post in quite some time.  I have been experimenting with the no knead breads.  I have so very little time to devote to making breads.   Being a bachelor with a full time job, a house, pets, and a garden andyard to tend to keeps me plenty busy. I am satisfied and enjoy trying new flavors from my herb garden. My breads have a wonderful crunchy crust and chewy crumb.

ejm's picture

We were reading Nigel Slater's "Eating for England",

You are faced with a plate of scones, a pat of butter, a dish of jam and a pot of clotted cream. [...] You have either butter or cream, never both. At least not when everyone is looking. It is generally accepted that the jam goes on first, followed by a teaspoonful of cream. Others insist it is the other way round.

-Nigel Slater, "Eating for England"

And we suddenly neeeeeeded to have scones. Luckily for us, not everyone was looking: we had all three condiments on our scones. Butter first, next cream - maybe more than a tablespoon, THEN jam. Mmmmmm!!! Scones with butter, "cream" (made with yoghurt and goat's cheese) and black currant jam. What could be finer?

scones © ejm June 2010

The scones want to split in half; the crumb is very tender. The hint of nutmeg and addition of currants differentiates scones from our baking powder biscuits.

Recipes here:

  • scones

  • "cream", a reasonable facsimile for clotted cream made with yoghurt and goat's cheese




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