The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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turosdolci's picture

It is natural to consider that Ricotta and almonds would be married together into a delicious soft biscotti flavored with almond oil. Almond ricotta biscotti are delicate cookies but with an intense aroma. We always include it on a “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze” because they are so perfect for a biscotti wedding cake.  It is the almond oil that gives these cookies that lovely warm almond flavor.

Ziege's picture

I returned to the US a few weeks ago from a year living abroad in France as an exchange student, and it is interesting to be back. I am full of memories of the Mediterranean landscape and mes pensées often drift to the days that I spent biking up the Mont Ventoux and eating dinner with my host family, who thought that I was crazy for baking my own bread ("You call that bread?! That looks more like a moist brick to me!" my host dad would call out) and for biking 12 miles to get to school every day. I could ramble about my past year's experience for hours, but instead I'll spare you tales of coed bathrooms (that was a first day of high school in France when I discovered that young men and women share les toilettes) and my first encounter with modern dance and write about something a little more related to this blog: the plight of my sourdough starter in France, and its revival aux Etats-Unis.

August 2009, my starter embarked for its first voyage out of the US. Packed in a tupperware container, and sheathed in multiple plastic bags labeled "sourdough starter for making bread" (I feared that the airport officials would confiscate my suspicious-looking container full of ooze), it boarded the flight at San Francisco. And many, many hours later, we arrived together in Montpellier, France. That would be the end of our amicable friendship. As the months went by, I would feed my starter with French (T 150) flour just as I had in America, however it seemed to become less and less responsive. On its fiestiest of days, bubbles the size of strawberry seeds would form; otherwise, the starter was about as active as my neighbor, who sat in front of the TV all day and complained that the day was too long. 24 heures- c'est trop longue! At least he had an excuse. He was in his eighties, whereas my starter was less than a year old. So, needless to say, my bread that i produced from the starter was quite dense and multiple times I had to make a loaf or two of yeast bread to raise my confidence in my bread-making abilities. Not that there's anything wrong with yeast-risen bread, but I had been trying for months to make good bread with my sourdough starter.



Here's what a typical slice of my 100% whole wheat bread that I made in France looked like:


(in the background you can see my sprouting avocado plant)


Needless to say, France was not too impressed by my bread baking skills. Oh, I exagerate. A few good loaves came out of that starter that had journeyed so far- in particular, one walnut loaf that I assume was tasty as I left it on the counter at a friend's house and when I went looking for it a few hours later, the loaf was gone and in its place was a dusting of crumbs.


July 2010- as I packed up my bags (the night before my flight), I wrapped up my starter, still in that same tupperware container, and this time labeled the bag with, "levain pour faire du pain/sourdough starter". This label was partially for airport security, and served in addition for the starter itself, who I think had forgotten that it was supposed to be a leavening agent and was considering itself instead as some sort of sauce bechamel gone rancid. Anyway, a few connecting flights and plane meals later, I arrived home. Home! After a year of struggling to remain a vegetarian in le pays du foie gras and a year of daily adventure, I was home. It was sad and nice at the same time. I immediately rummaged through my suitcase to verify that the levain hadn't been confiscated- and sure enough- it was still there! I fed it with some Stone Buhr flour (which my local supermarket doesn't carry anymore...darn!), and went off to visit my friends whom I hadn't seen for nearly a year. When i got back the next morning, I was blown away by the activity of my starter. It had actually doubled in size! And there were bubbles not the size of blackheads, but the size of popcorn kernels! Wow! I've been making bread since my return, and I have been more than satisfied with the results.


Here's a walnut loaf:



and here's a plain loaf:



that are both 100% whole wheat (of course).


I am puzzled by the inactivity of my starter in France- the only possible hypothesis is that my starter simply didn't pick up the French language like I did, and so the American yeasts were unable to communicate with the French yeasts. Sacre bleu! In any case, my starter is thriving and well back on top of the microwave at home, and the bread is much lighter and tastier. And thanks to Minioven- who instructed me to "clean the cage" when it comes to feeding a starter. I had posted a blog back when I was in France complaining about the sluggishness of my starter, and she emphasized the importance of dumping out half of the starter at each feeding, and increasing the amount of flour that I was nourishing my starter with. I think that these two pieces of advice have helped a lot.

benjamin's picture

This week I tried my hand at the 'sourdough seed bread' from Bread by Hamelman. This is the first time I have attempted this loaf, however I am yet to be displeased  with a single recipe from 'Bread', and so fully expected to be satisfied with the outcome… I was not disappointed.
The dough was a little tricky to work with and tried its best to make a mess of my Kitchen Aid mixer… I take no pleasure in reporting that it accomplished this task with vigor! The mischievous ball of flour, water and seeds insisted on climbing its way up the dough hook, all the way up to the moving parts… Needless to say, much time was spent by myself and my very patient girl friend to undo my mess.
Attempted destruction of a kitchen aid aside, the endeavor paid off. The loaves baked up beautifully with a thick crunchy crust. The toasted seeds add a wholesome deep flavor to the bread which can be enhanced even further by toasting your slice first! The crumb was relatively open and even, however I feel this is the one area that I may be able to improve on a second attempt… possibly increasing the hydration slightly to achieve a more open structure.



Happy Baking,


ericb's picture

It's been a long time since I've posted on The Fresh Loaf. The last several years have seen many changes in our lives, the primary one being that we chose to go "car free" back in December. Doing this is challenging, but not impossible in our hometown of Louisville, KY. While friends and family suggested that we just move on to more "bike friendly" cities (perhaps they're just trying to get rid of us and they figure Portland is as far from Kentucky as one can get), we decided to stick it out in Derby City.

It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Relying solely on bike and bus (and the occasional ride from a friend) has forced us to become more efficient with our time and cut out unnecessary activities, but it has also led us to meet some amazing people. Who knew that there is an entire "car free" community in our city? Who knew we would have become passionately involved in our upcoming mayoral election? We find ourselves to be constantly advocating, even if only passively, for a city where owning a car will be seen as a burden, where traveling across town will be seen as a well-earned luxury instead of a necessity, and where everyone has the option to travel safely and freely (though not "for free.")

One thing that has had to change is my baking schedule. It is no longer reasonable for me to meander five hours coddling loaves of bread. Instead, I have adopted (and adapted) the five-minute method. It's not perfect, but it has allowed us to continue eating and sharing delicious homemade bread.

Lately, though, I've been getting the itch. A few weeks ago, I decided to make a new starter. Following the recipe in the back of Hamelman's book, I had a vibrant starter within a week. Still not able to carve out half a day for baking, I decided to take a chance oncombining sourdough leavening with the typically yeast-intensive five-minute method.

The results were surprising. In a thousand words...

Vermont Sourdough

As I mentioned before, the method I used was a hybrid. For the most part, I followed Hamelman's directions, although I didn't fuss over temperatures due to the warm weather, and I used a little more water (maybe 1/2 cup) to make the dough easier to work with. The dough rested in a covered bowl for about 1.5 hours. I folded in the bowl one time halfway through, and put it in the refrigerator for the night. 

The next morning, I pulled out the dough, immediately shaped it into small boules (around 1/2 pound each), arranged them on parchment paper, dusted with flour, and covered. After an hour, I turned on the oven. Within 1.5 hours of shaping, the dough was in the oven. 30 minutes at 450, steam for 15 minutes.

The primary way this differs from Hamelman's recipe is that I shaped the loaves *after* refrigerating, not before. Since the gluten develops overnight, less folding was needed, so I was able to reduce bulk fermentation time, too. This saved about 1-2 hours the night before.

Another advantage to waiting to shape the dough is that it is *much* easier to work with cold dough. Following the "five minute" method, I cut chunks of dough, quickly formed them into tight boules (using wet hands), and plopped them seam-side-down on parchment. No proofing in baker's linen, no preshaping, reshaping, no messing with flour all over the kitchen. After an hour of resting and warming up, the dough was ready for the oven.

I realize that this is not a "new" method, and that many others have advocated an overnight cold fermentation. Still, if you're pressed for time, but still want to make naturally leavened bread, you should give this a try at least once.

Happy baking!

wally's picture

We are in high fruit season in the Washington, DC area, with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and especially peaches waiting to be picked and devoured.

I found myself with an abundance of strawberries and blueberries this past weekend, and wanted to find a summery, dessert use to which they could be put.  After looking through a number of recipes, I cobbled together bits and pieces and came up with this one for a cool, refreshing summer dessert full of these fruits - a tart using a faux marscapone and a glaze made from a small amount of jam I made with extra strawberries and blueberries.

It's a delight - and easy to boot!

This makes a single 10" tart.  Total fruit used was 1 lb of strawberries and 1 lb of blueberries.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons ice water

In food processor mix flour, salt and sugar.  Add butter cut into 1/4" pieces and blend just enough to achieve a course mixture.  Whisk together the egg, water and almond extract and drizzle into mixture while pulsing.  Once the dough forms a ball, stop and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Faux Marscapone:

Of course, if you have the real deal at hand, ignore this.  But my local supermarket doesn't carry it, so I used this recipe which produces a credible substitute:

8 ounces of softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons of sour cream
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Mix together all ingredients and refrigerate

Quick Jam:

½ lb strawberries
½ lb blueberries
2 cups sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice

Cut strawberries in roughly halves and reserve the pointed tops for the final fruit layer.  Place strawberries and blueberries in food processor and chop - but don't puree.  Place the fruit, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until the sugar is melted.  Bring to a roiling boil and maintain for about 10 minutes or until mixture reaches 220°F.  Remove from heat and cool.  Strain through a sieve enough of the mixture to yield about 1/4 cup of liquid which is reserved for the glaze.  The remainder can be refrigerated and used on those wonderful breads you're baking for breakfast toast!

Final Preparation:

Roll the chilled dough out on a floured counter to a diameter of about 11".  Spray tart dish with Pam or a substitute, dock dough with a fork and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned.  Allow to cool and remove from tart dish.

Spoon the chilled faux marscapone mixture into the tart.  Arrange remaining 1/2 lb strawberries and 1/2 lb blueberries in the mixture.  Heat the 1/4 cup of jam glaze and brush over the tart.

Chill and serve!  Easy and a great way to celebrate some of summer's fruitful delights.


SylviaH's picture



Kingudaroad's picture

   I have recently become a big fan of the high hydration doughs with an overnight cold fermentation. The morning I took this dough out of the fridge, I cut it with my bench knife and flipped the smooth side down on my well floured couche. The knife left a scar on the edges of the bread which left an opening for the bread to bloom without the need for scoring. This may have been my best crust yet. It carmelized very dark and crackly and the taste was fabulous.



I baked four loaves, two at a time, and the only one I cut was the worst one. The two that got baked second had a much bigger bloom, and probably a bit more of an open crumb. Those were given away. I think I needed to either let the dough warm up before shaping. or just proofed a while longer than the one shown below. I did have fun with these and look forward to more experimentation.



RugBoy's picture

Congratulations on your purchase!  I have been using my DLX for about a year now, and I must say I love it. 

Even though it is quite powerful, it's super slow lower speeds work for me quite well. 

Lately I've been experimenting with Semolina flours in my sandwich bread.  This flour is easily over worked, and sereral sources recommend hand mixing.  Even here though, with careful attention, my DLX performs quite nicely.  It makes mixing day almost as much fun as baking days. 

ahhsugar's picture

Let me begin by saying that I'm a newbie when it comes to baking bread.  My experience consists of baking 4 loaves of baguettes every week for the past year or so, and the occasional trial of something different ... such as croissants, raisin/walnut bread, etc ...

I wanted to try a recipe for bagels that I have, but one of the ingredients (barley malt syrup) is causing me great dismay.  I can't find it anywhere.  So, this morning I "googled" it and one of the sites that came up was "thefreshloaf" (it was a subject of a blog).

Oh my goodness.  What a gorgeous site!  I feel like I'm in "bread heaven".  I began browsing through here and a big smile came on my face when I realized that this place is meant for people just like me .... people who love bread!!!  I not only LOVE eating bread, but I LOVE baking it.  I enjoy the entire process of creating something so lovely from such simple ingredients.

I am really looking forward to checking out the recipes here and learning from all of you.  I will probably have a gazillion questions, but perhaps one day in the future, I may be able to help someone else who is just starting out.   :)


bubba3113's picture

I continue to get loaves that are flat on the top or "spill" over the sides of my loaf pans...what am I doing wrong?



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