The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


occidental's picture

I made my first attempt at Hammelman's Olive Levain yesterday and am pleased with the result.  The formula calls for mixing in the olives on the low speed in your mixer once you are done kneading but that didn't work for me.  I dumped the whole mess out on the counter and worked in the olives by hand kneading.  I retarted the formed loaves for about 5 hours while out for an afternoon hike then baked it up  as the centerpiece for dinner.  The flavor is fantastic and the olives have infused their taste througout the loaf.  I think I'll be making this one again.

The loaves:



The crumb:


GSnyde's picture

My wife likes her sourdough sour.  And a happy wife is better than the alternative.  Not that I dislike sour sourdough.  Indeed, for some purposes (along side a salad, or as toast, or as an appetizer with cheese, or….), I like my sourdough sour, too.

I hadn’t changed anything up in my usual sourdough bread (which I call San Francisco Country Sourdough) for a while.  I’d been meaning to try it with some toasted wheat germ added, a variation taken from the SFBI Miche formula many of us have played with.  Also, the talk recently about the Larraburu Brothers bread, and means of achieving sournness, had me thinking I should go for the sour.

So I followed my usual formula, but I added 2% toasted wheat germ (18 grams) and an additional 20 grams of water.  To encourage sourness, I let my liquid levain ripen longer than usual (14 hours), retarded the loaf for 16 hours after a three-hour primary ferment, and baked the loaves four and a half hours after the dough came out of the fridge (90 minute warm up, 60 minutes between pre-shaping and shaping, and a two hour proof).

The bread is nicely sour.  The crust is crispy as usual.  The crumb is moist and toothsome but not tough.  The crumb is more regular (less full of irregular holes) than usual; this might be attributable to the wheat germ cutting gluten fibers.  All in all, a good variation.

My sour-loving wife liked it, and noticed the extra wheaty flavor.

Here’s the formula:

San Francisco Country Sourdough—With Wheat Germ (version 12-8-12)

Yield: Two 770g Loaves; or Three Mini-Baguettes (245g each) and one 800g Loaf; or One 1000g loaf and two 270g baguettes; 0r Three 513 gram loaves; or…   



100 grams   AP flour

24 grams  Whole Wheat flour

12 grams  Whole rye flour

170 grams   Water, cool (60 F or so)

28     Mature culture (75% hydration)

FINAL DOUGH (67% hydration, including levain)

640 grams   All-Purpose flour (83%)*

85 grams  Whole wheat flour (11%)**

45 grams   Whole rye flour (6%)

18 grams toasted Wheat Germ (2%)

455 grams   Warm water (80 F or so) (58%)

17 grams   Salt (2%)

306     Liquid levain  (48%)   


1. LIQUID LEVAIN:  Make the final build 12 to 15 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 70°F

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary.  Cover the bowl and let stand for an autolyse phase of 30 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, and finish mixing 5 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. 

3. BULK FERMENTATION WITH S&F:  3 hours. Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl twice 20-strokes at 45-minute intervals.  Place dough ball in lightly oiled bowl, and stretch and fold on lightly floured board at 45 minutes.  If the dough has not increased in size by 75% or so, let it go a bit longer.

4. RETARDED BULK FERMENTATION (optional):  After second S&F on board, form dough into ball and then place again in lightly oiled bowl.  Refrigerate 8-20 hours, depending on sourness desired and scheduling convenience.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: [Note: if bulk retarded, let dough come to room temperature for 30-90 minutes before pre-shaping.]  Divide the dough into pieces and pre-shape.  Let sit on board for 30-45 minutes, and then shape into boules or batards or baguettes.

6. PROOFING: Approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours at 72° F. Ready when poke test dictates.  Pre-heat oven to 500 with steam apparatus in place.

7. BAKING: Slash loaves.  Bake with steam, on stone.  Turn oven to 450 °F after it hits 500F after loading loaves.  Remove steaming apparatus after 12 minutes (10 for baguettes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes total (for 750g loaves; less for smaller loaves).   Rotate loaves for evenness as necessary.  When done (205 F internal temp), leave loaves on stone with oven door ajar 10 minutes.


loydb's picture

I'm almost caught up! It's week 5 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week was Honey Cake.  

This called for white rye flour. To make it, I milled whole rye and then sifted to 80% extraction. I think the walnuts were a little heavy, the centers never really rose even after 3 hours of cooking. Almonds may have been a better choice.

In spite of it being a really runny, gummy, goopy batter, it baked up incredibly light, and not nearly as sweet as I would have anticipated from the pound of honey in it. There is no gumminess at all.

pmccool's picture

With few exceptions, most of my baking in the past weeks has been, well, pedestrian.  One of the exceptions would be Bernard Clayton's Pain Allemande Aux Fruits.  There's no way a bread like that can be pedestrian, even if the baker's efforts aren't stellar.  There was also the treat of introducing a young South African friend to the simple joys of a Southern-style breakfast featuring buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy and fried apples.  We initiated him into the Kansas City fellowship of barbecue with lunch at Jack's Stack on another day.  He is also now a fan of key lime pie.  But I digress.

A little more bluntly, I've been baking but haven't invested much of myself in the effort.  And it has showed in some rather medocre, if still serviceable, breads.  So I tried to do something about that this weekend and I'm pleased with the outcome.

Back in April 2009, I blogged about the Whole Wheat Genzano Country Loaf from Leader's Local Breads.  I said that it was so good that I would make it again.  Now, almost three years later, I have.  Almost.

The almost refers to three departures from the formula and process presented in the book.  The formula calls for 250g of whole wheat flour in the final dough.  There were only 140g left in my whole wheat flour container.  How did that happen?!  Faced with a hurried trip to the store or improvising, I improvised by subbing in 60g of whole rye flour and another 50g of bread flour to make up the difference.  So, technically, this is no longer Leader's Whole Wheat Country Loaf.  Rather, it is Paul's Now What Do I Do? Loaf.  The second variation is in the mixing regime.  As with my previous bake, I just don't see the purpose or value of the extended high-speed mix that Leader recommends.  After 10 minutes at speed 6 on my Kitchen Aide mixer (note that he recommends 8-10 minutes at "medium speed" which he defines as speed 8, followed by an additional 10 minutes at speed 10), the dough was already clearing the sides and bottom of the bowl and I was able to pull a windowpane.  That, of course, was after switching off the machine which I had been forcibly holding down on the countertop so that it didn't launch itself.  The third and final variation is that I preheated the oven at 500F and then turned it down to 450F after steaming and loading the bread.

In terms of being more purposeful with this bake, I made sure to pull my starter from the refrigerator and refresh it in ample time for it to be fully active.  The biga naturale was prepared and allowed to fully ripen.  I maintained the prescribed fermentation temperatures.  With the exceptions noted previously, I hewed to the formula and process, only deviating where necessity dictated or experience suggested.  Most importantly, I paid attention to what I was doing.  When it came time to shape the loaves, which is an exercise in minimalism, I was very careful to be gentle.  As a result, most of the gas in the dough was retained in spite of this being a sticky dough that wants to latch onto whatever it touches.  I even did a mini-hearsal of what movements I would need to take to get the shaped loaves onto the stone in the oven, which led to my reorienting their position on the peel.  Based on the loaves' development in the oven, I chose to pull the steam pan at about the 9-minute mark.  That seems to have been a good call, based on their coloring.

Given all of that, was the outcome perfect?  Of course not.  But I'm pretty happy with the bread.  Here's why:

The color on these loaves is much closer to what Leader describes in the book than what I achieved with my previous bake, so my decision to preheat to a higher temperature paid off.  Although the loaves sang softly while cooling, the crust retained its integrity instead of crackling.  Here's a closer look:

The higher preheat temperature had a couple of other effects.  One was to boost the amount of oven spring.  The loaves are probably almost twice as tall as they were when they first hit the baking stone.  The second effect is that the crust is thicker and chewier this time around.  I'll take that, given the richness of the flavor that comes with the bolder bake.

The crumb from one angle:

And face on:

One loaf exhibited slight tearing along the bottom, which suggests that I could have let the proofing run another 10-15 minutes.  However, the dough was so gassy that I was concerned more about overproofing.  

This is a good bread.  The rye doesn't stand out distinctly but it definitely adds another layer to the flavors.  The crumb, a day after baking, is moist, cool and firm.  The crust requires a definite bite and some deliberate chewing.  It went very well with today's dinner of brined pork loin. This week's sandwiches should be good.

My advice (mostly to myself) is to pay attention to the details because every detail matters and good bread is worth the extra effort.


Szanter5339's picture

and only a few words!
I dream, I'm fried and satisfied.
Today kiéltem of creativity and of course, the devotion of praise!

Truth Serum's picture
Truth Serum

This was my first attempt at actually calculating the sodium in the salt, milk, poppy seeds and bakers caramel and then dividing by the number of rolls.


FoodFascist's picture

Poppy seed cake



This cake is my own creation, made with layers of lightly moist sponge (this is effectively the same sponge as in Black Prince, with minor alterations), a sweet poppy seed filling, and a basic Tiramisu cream filling. I recommend using cream cheese rather than mascarpone because cream cheese has that bit of sour flavour to it, creating a fresh contrast against the sweetness of the sponge and poppy.

Ingredients (makes a 1.1 kg cake or thereabouts)

For the sponge

  • 2 medium eggs
  • 140 g sugar
  • 120 g sour cream
  • 80 g plain flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50 g poppy seed, rinsed

 For the poppy seed filling

  • 150 g poppy seed, rinsed (or 200 g if you aim for a thicker layer)
  • Approx. 120-150 ml milk
  • 3-4 tablespoons double cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey

 For the cream filling

  • 200 g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia light)
  • 250 ml double cream
  • 1 heaped tablespoon caster or icing sugar
  • (Optional) 2-3 teaspoons brandy, cream liqueur or strong sweet wine
  • (Optional) seeds of 1/3 vanilla bean, or equivalent amount of vanilla paste, or extract (I used 1/3 teaspoon vanilla paste)




Beat eggs and sugar together to a pale and smooth mass. Switch your mixer to a low speed and add the sour cream in 3-4 increments (or more). Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the flour, fold into the egg and sour cream mix. Lastly, fold in the poppy seeds. (NB I put poppy seeds in the sponge for structure rather than flavour, it’s a bit like adding more flour but without making the sponge too dense.)

Transfer the batter into a greased cake tin. Ideally, use a small diameter springform tin (because you’ll be layering the cake in the same tin afterwards). It’s important that the diameter is no more than 15 cm because we want a tall cake. Don’t worry, the batter is too runny to bake to a volcano shape. Mine usually comes out with a perfectly flat top.

I’ve only got one springform tin and it was in use, so this time I baked my cake in a 1 lb bread tin.

Bake at 180 C/350 F for approx. 30-40 min, or until a wooden stick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Poppy seed filling

Poppy seeds sometimes come with bonus sand in it. So it’s best to give them a rinse, in case. Put the rinsed seeds in a dish and pour over some boiling water. Cover and allow to infuse for 30 min.

Drain in a sieve and transfer to a small pan. Level with the back of a spoon. Pour over enough milk to cover the poppy seeds, plus another couple of tablespoons (should make about 10-12 tablespoons altogether). Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons cream. Cover and heat to a simmering point, then lower the heat and continue to simmer until soft. This takes approx. 30 min. Stir every few minutes and add milk by the tablespoon as required. When it’s ready, stir in another tablespoon or two of cream. Allow to cool and stir in some honey, to taste. You can of course stir in the honey while the poppy filling is still hot, but honey will lose any health properties if heated.

Cream Filling

Beat the cream until soft peaks form.

It’s important not to over-beat at this stage as you want to leave some room for mixing the other ingredients into it. Add everything else, beat together until well combined (only a few seconds!).


Slice the sponge horizontally to make 3-4 equal size layers.

If not using a springform tin, lay a sheet of parchment paper into the tin so you can later lift the cake out by pulling at the ends. Use one sheet for a rectangular tin, or two sheets, placed crosswise, for a square or round tin.

Lay the first piece of sponge into the tin. Spread some poppy seed filing over it. Press down slightly.

Next, spoon some of the filling over the poppy seeds, covering the whole thing. Use a teaspoon and take care not to leave large gaps, because spreading the filling over seeds is quite tricky. Level out the filling. Some seeds will inevitably end up in the cream filling at this stage, that’s fine.

Repeat layers, finishing with cream filling on the top. Reserve a couple tablespoons for later.

Refrigerate overnight.

Take out, carefully lift out of the tin onto a serving plate. Spread the remaining cream filling over the sides.

Decorate as you wish, I used some butter icing (creamed butter, icing sugar, red colouring for the red icing, cocoa powder for the brown).

If you like the idea, one other version you could try is a berry cake. Just replace the poppy seed filling with some seasonal fresh berries; or if using frozen berries, defrost thoroughly and drain excess juice – you can then use it to soak the sponge if you wish. Sprinkle some icing sugar over the berries, or make the cream filling a little sweeter. You could also replace the poppy seed in the sponge with 50g ground nuts, or leave out altogether.


FoodFascist's picture

Black Prince Cake 


Known in Russia as Black Prince, this is a cake made with lightly moist chocolate sponge layered with sauce that tastes a bit like toffee, and finely chopped or ground nuts. My version also includes sour cherries which makes it similar to Black Forest cake. Black Prince in the Wood if you like J


For the sponge

  • 3 medium or 2 large eggs
  • 180 g sugar
  • 180 g sour cream
  • 120 g plain flour
  • 2 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 50-70 g dark or bitter chocolate, grated; or, 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder; or, a mixture of both
  • 50 g ground or finely chopped almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts

 For the sauce

  • 400 g tin sweetened condensed milk, boiled (see below for instructions)
  • 150 g butter
  • 100 g ground or finely chopped nuts
  • (Optional) 2-3 teaspoons brandy, cream liqueur or strong sweet wine


  • 1-2 handfuls sour cherries, fresh or frozen, stoned

For decoration

  • Some more ground/chopped nuts, and/or nut flakes
  • A few cherries, if desired
  • Butter-cream icing, if desired




Beat eggs and sugar together until pale and smooth. Switch your mixer to a low speed and add the sour cream in 3-4 increments (or more). Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the flour, fold into the egg mix. Add chocolate/cocoa. Lastly, fold in the nuts.

(NB Most common versions of the recipe don’t include nuts at this stage, but I find that they improve the structure. Made as is, with just 120 g flour, this cake had collapsed on me a couple of times. Adding a little nuts makes sure the cake keeps its shape, yet does not make the sponge denser in the way an equivalent amount of flour would.)

Transfer the batter into a greased cake tin. A springform tin is best, because you’ll be layering the cake in it afterwards. It’s important that the tin is no larger than 18 cm diameter because we want a tall cake. Don’t worry, the batter is too runny to bake to a volcano shape! Mine usually comes out with a perfectly flat top.

Bake at 180 C/350 F for approx. 30-40 min, or until a wooden stick inserted into the middle comes out dry.


Boil the condensed milk. This will need to be done in advance.

Peel any labels off the tin and place it in a saucepan, on its side. Do not open or pierce the tin. Pour in enough water to cover the whole tin + an inch or so. Cover, put on a hob and heat until the water begins to boil. Then turn the heat right down and cook for 1 hr 30 min. Check that the water is bubbling slightly. Don’t worry the tin will not burst AS LONG AS you make sure the water doesn’t boil away.

Allow to cool completely before opening. When ready, boiled condensed milk has a dark caramel colour and a taste very similar to toffee.

Leave butter on the counter until it is room temperature. If you wish to speed up the process, cut into small chunks or slice. Cream the butter with a spoon or mixer on low speed. Add the cooled “toffee” and nuts and beat together until well combined.


Slice the sponge horizontally to make 3 equal size layers. If not using a springform tin, lay two sheets of parchment paper, crosswise, into the tin so you can later lift the cake out by pulling at the ends.

Lay the first piece of sponge into the tin. Place half of the cherries onto the sponge, holes down, so that the juices moisten the sponge rather than make puddles in the sauce. There’s no need to defrost frozen cherries, but if you have, pour the drained juice over the sponge. Spoon the sauce in between and over the cherries. Place the next layer of sponge on the top, then cherries and sauce. Finish with sponge and a layer of sauce, but reserve a couple tablespoons for later.

Refrigerate overnight.

Take out, carefully lift out of the tin onto a serving plate. Spread the remaining sauce over the sides.

Decorate as you wish, the easiest way to do it is to dust the top and sides with ground nuts. I used some cherries, almond flakes and butter-cream icing (creamed butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder), and dusted the sides with almond powder.

(Please be lenient on my decorating ability, this was only my third ever go with the icing bag!)

I also like this cake with pieces of prune instead of cherries.



occidental's picture

Wow, it's been a bit over a year since my last post.  Time to rectify that!  I baked my first loaf in 2012 a few days ago.  I meant to bake Susan's Simple Sourdough but after going by memory and adding too much water I had to improvise a bit to keep the overall hydration in the ballpark of what it should be.  Anyhow, the loaf turned out great, with a crackly crust and a fairly open crumb.  Best to all your baking efforts in 2012.

PiPs's picture

My stocks have been running low. Grains, flour, salt and even the bread in the freezer have all taken a beating over a busy Christmas period.

With suppliers back on board after holidays I was more than a little relieved when a new shipment of biodynamic wheat and spelt grains finally arraived.

Along with the grain, I was also in need of white flour. The idea of leaving a gentler footprint to me means that if I have to use processed white flour then it should be from a local and organic producer. So for this reason I have switched to organic plain white flour from the Kialla Pure Foods mill only 150 km away. (90 miles) Kialla’s plain flour with a protein level of 12.5% is stronger than the bakers flour I been currently using but has a slightly creamier colour and chewier mouth feel. For this weekends bake though, I wanted wholegrains and organic. I hadn’t planned on baking any rye until a friend suggested she would like to try a lighter rye sourdough. Nat and I have a strong appreciation for caraway seeds with rye so this was suggested as well.

Organic 40% Rye Sourdough with caraway





Total dough weight



Total flour



Total water



Total salt



Prefermented flour



Desired dough temperature 26-27°C






Rye sour build – 12-14 hrs 22-24°C



Starter (not included in final dough)



Freshly milled rye flour









Final dough



Rye sour



Organic plain flour








1.8% of total flour

Caraway seeds




  1. Mix rye sour and leave overnight to ferment
  2. Next day disperse rye sour in remaining water and add flour.
  3. Knead for 5 mins (this is sticky and uncomfortable)
  4. Add salt and knead for a further 10 mins until dough starts to show signs of smoothness.
  5. Gently mix in caraway seeds until combined.
  6. Bulk ferment one hour
  7. Gently preshape. Bench rest 20 mins. Gently shape into batards.
  8. Final proof was one hour at room temperature (27°C).
  9. Load into oven with steam at 230°C for 10 mins then reduce temperature to 200°C and bake a further 30 mins. 

The rye sour had developed nicely and apart from the seemingly unending stickiness of kneading, the dough eventually bulk fermented into a smooth dough that shaped quite easily.

The final proof kept me only my toes as I was mowing the backyard and ducking inside every 15 minutes to check on it’s progress, as it has been quite hot and humid recently.

I am particularly fond of the crumb colour with the caraway seeds hidden amongst the rye bran. The flavour is a really nice balance of a subtle rye tang with a puff of caraway scent on some bites.



I also baked a pair of simple organic wholegrain sourdoughs - the first breads for our household this year. The levain contains a proportion of Kialla plain flour so approximately 90% of the flour is freshly milled wholegrains.

I tried a few new procedures with this bake. I milled the wheat grains in two passes. The first pass cracked the grains before passing them through the mill again at a finer setting. This didn’t produce much heat in the flour and I ended up with softer feeling flour than in the past.

The other change was the fold in the bulk ferment. I recently read a comment by proth5 on the timing of a stretch-and-fold in a two hour bulk ferment. (sorry Pat I can’t remember where you posted it) If the dough is already well developed before the bulk ferment, perhaps a stretch-and-fold could occur earlier in the bulk ferment allowing some larger gas pockets to develop in the 2nd half of the bulk ferment.

Organic Wholegrain Sourdough





Total dough weight



Total flour



Total water



Total salt



Prefermented flour






Levain build – 4-5 hrs 26-27°C



Starter (60g not included in final dough)



Flour (I use a flour mix of 70% Organic plain flour, 18% fresh milled wheat, 9% fresh milled spelt and 3% fresh milled rye)









Final dough






Freshly milled organic wheat flour



Freshly milled organic rye flour











  1. Mix levain and leave to ferment for 4-5 hours
  2. Mill flours and allow them to cool before mixing with cold water from fridge (hold back 50 grams of water) and autolyse four hours.
  3. Add levain to autolyse then knead (French fold) 5 mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 50 grams of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together smoothly) then knead a further 10 mins.
  4. Bulk ferment two hours with one stretch-and-fold after 30 mins.
  5. Preshape. Bench rest 20 mins. Shape.
  6. Load into oven with steam at 230°C for 10 mins then reduce temperature to 200°C and bake a further 30 mins.


This has become familiar dough for me to mix. At 85% hydration doubts can creep into my thinking as the initial mix feels sticky and loose. Press on, add the salt and feel relief as the dough tightens up and releases cleanly from the bench.

The dough felt strong even after shifting the stretch-and-fold forward 30 mins so I left it untouched for the remaining time and was rewarded with light bubbly dough ready for preshaping. I am quite pleased with the proofing on both of the loaves and find I am becoming braver at judging their readiness for the oven. They sprang beautifully on a hot stone.

Some rye bran is visible scattered throughout the moist crumb which contains no hint of sour. The change in bulk ferment procedure has possibly led to a slightly more irregular crumb, but this will need to be experimented with and expanded.


Another busy day in the kitchen which was balanced by an equally busy day doing yard work.  The sun is finally shining here after a day of humid grey skys. We plan to make the most of it.




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