The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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mcs's picture

...and rounding up this year's interns at the Back Home Bakery was Brendan visiting from Washington, DC.  He came prepared with two-handed-roll-making-skills and a willingness to work his hardest at everything.  Thanks a lot Brendan for all of the help;  hope to see you running your own bakery some day.


shaping rye, stretch and fold on 15# Rustic White, ready to sell on a chilly Saturday morning

Elagins's picture

I recently got a message from someone here whom I respect a great deal, both as a person and as a baker. However, one part of his message stung me: the part where he says, "I don't remember seeing any original recipes or methods from you." That got me thinking about what I bake, how I bake, and most importantly, why I and others bake, and whether "original recipes or methods" are or ought to be a measure of bona fides as a baker.

Obviously, there are as many reasons people choose bread baking as a hobby or occupation as there are bread bakers, but I think we all fall into a few broad groups, which naturally overlap.

- The first consists of knowledge- and mastery-seekers - bakers who strive to extract maximum flavor from wheat berries, using traditional methods and minimum ingredients, augmented by modern knowledge and the evolution of sustainable technologies. They are the people who are committed to unlocking the secrets of flavor and the magical interplay of flour, water, yeast and salt.

- The second group is made up of people who want to go back to an earlier time, to recreate breads and other foods that may be personally or culturally meaningful to them, or who want to experience another culture through this most basic of foods.

- The third group finds its motivation in the intimacy and personal engagement that's implicit in breadmaking, which is not only about nourishing the people one cares about, but also the simple fact of getting one's hands covered with dough, experimenting with new flavors, and personalizing the process of transforming an assortment of disparate ingredients into a single exquisite experience.

None of us, I think, is exclusively in one or the other; all of us fall to some degree into each of those groups, and all of those motivations are present in each of us. It is, perhaps, a matter of relative emphasis and where we go first to reap our satisfactions.

I'm the first to admit that I fall squarely into the second group - those who look backwards and use baking to recreate and recapture the experiences of those who came before me. My interest in, and satisfactions from, baking bread are largely about refining what's already out there and rediscovering what may have been forgotten or lost, like those onion rolls everyone's crazy about. I didn't come up with the recipe, Norm did. But I was the one who remembered them asked him for it. My satisfaction came from reliving an experience I hadn't had since my childhood in 1950s Brooklyn and making it part of my life today.

When I bake 100% rye black bread, I do so both for the pleasures and challenges of working with rye, which I love, but also as a means of experiencing for myself what my ancestors subsisted on for centuries in the villages of Russia and Poland, and in so doing, understand at least this tiny piece of their lives. Is that about "original recipes or methods?" Absolutely not. The methods and recipes are centuries-old. Does that make me any less a baker than others here or elsewhere? I think not. I hope not.

I think the one thing we all have in common is our search for authenticity in an increasingly commoditized and alienated world. All of us respect process, respect our ingredients, and, one hopes, respect each other's sincerity and commitment to whatever motivates us to bake bread. Life is tough enough in the world of Wonder Bread without carrying the battle back home.


tssaweber's picture

Lady (most of the time) Oreo and I

are back home from our hunting trip. Looking in the freezer my return was needed (and hopefully appreciated) because that thing was empty, not a single piece of bread to be seen. Luckily I brought a frozen loaf of my simple cabin bread with me, so the next morning sandwiches for my older son and my wife for their lunches were possible. As I will be busy the next couple of days I decided to simulate a small bakery day and try to process 9kg or 20lb dough at once. On the plan I put Cabin Bread, Zopf or Swiss Sunday Bread, Farmers Bread (Ruchbrot) and Multi Grain Rolls (Vollkorn Brötli). I started in that order as my calculation indicated that this would work with available space, bulk fermentation, proof and oven times. This morning I finished the Multi Grain Rolls as I retarded fermentation of the dough in the fridge, this retardation ads to the tremendous flavor of this rolls.

These rolls are the favorite of my wife and developing the formula took some time. I'm very happy with the result and I have to make sure there is always a batch in the freezer for Sylvia's lunch sandwich. I also believe that the rye sourdough starter (St.Clair) I got from Mark Sinclair at the Back Home Bakery in Montana gave the rolls the additional flavor and that "something special".



To print or download the formula go here and you can also listening to their "singing" when they come out of the oven:

inlovewbread's picture

This is Biga Ciabatta following the formula in Reinhart's BBA (incidentally the only bread book I have right now). Turned out pretty well considering this was my first time making ciabatta and I messed up on the biga. I did not knead the biga at all and put it into the fridge after mixing and left it. Still came out great! Always a nice suprise. I also had to bake these on parchment on a sheet pan as I did not have a stone. I just got my stone yesterday so I'm eager to try it out!

AnnieT's picture

I took this loaf to supper with the family and their house has much better natural light than mine which helped the picture. The first slices were really holey but the center of the loaf had a tighter crumb. The flavor was excellent and the crust crisp and it did sing, very slightly. Next time I am going to use my more liquid starter for comparison and of course there is always a next time... A.


inlovewbread's picture

I made Anadama Bread from Reinhart's BBA. It turned out great! I will definately be making this bread again.

AnnieT's picture

Here is a picture of my grandaughter Lily with a slice of my first effort, showing off the holey crumb. I used KA bread flour and KA white whole wheat and my newly converted firm starter, and we all liked the flavor. The second try had better oven spring and I imagine the starter is getting stronger, A.


Mel_J's picture

After reading a lot about French flours vs American flours from TFL, I decided to try White Lily's Bread Flour. When I lived in Tennessee, I used to make biscuits with White Lily Self Rising Flour. Its the best (in my opinion) flour to make biscuits. If I'm not mistaken, their flours are made from soft winter wheat, the self rising flour, at least. Since White Lily can only be found in the South, the only way I could get it is by purchasing online. I bought two 5lbs bags of flour, one bread and one self rising (for biscuits). It took a week for it to get here but when I got it, I had to immediately make some biscuits and bread. The biscuits were light and fluffly, the way I like it. As for the bread, I had some issues with my oven, so my first batch of baguette came out very light (crust) but the crumb is wonderful! I decided to try making the baguette again but this time, I bought an oven thermometer to monitor the oven temperature. The crust came out darker than I'd like but the crumb was good. I was soo excited that I had to take a picture of it with my cellphone camera. Its quite blurry, but I hope the picture of the crumb is still somewhat viewable.



I'm not that good of a baker, so hopefully, this will give me motivation to do better.

AnnieT's picture

This is the second version of the challenge loaf, and my recently converted firm starter appears to be getting stronger. The dough had filled the little basket after a night in the fridge and the oven spring was great. I have more pictures of the first effort but can't figure how to post more than one at a time, A.


boathook1's picture

When putting sourdough into the fridge to become more sour SHOULD IT BE RISEN OR DEFLATED ?

Please tell me what happens between the time it comes out of the fridge till it gets baked...

Thanks in advance


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