The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Doeyo's picture

Hi all.   Cruising around the various forums and recipes and I see an ingredient ' 1 bottle of soft butter'.    I live in northern Illinois USA and here we have butter in sticks, tubs and by the pound.   What is bottled butter and how much butter is in the bottle?   And where does one find this item?  And can melted & cooled butter be used in place of 'bottled butter'?  I'm 'fused here...   Thanks in advance to one and all!    Joey the Doeyo 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I have learned a lot about my oven this fall.  One of the most important things I learned, though, I just confirmed this weekend with this bake.  I have feared since I finished the insulation layer that my oven was too thin-walled to hold enough heat for multiple bakes.  I also suspected that perhaps I just was not "charging the heat battery" fully enough to make it last.  This weekend was a test of this theory.

This weekend I extended the high-fire burn from 1 3/4 hours to 2 1/2 hours.  I did not burn it any harder than I have before, but I burned it that hard for longer.  The finished temperature of the oven was not that much different from previous bakes.  I could tell by other external observations, like steam coming from the insulation layer, that I had the heat deeper into the oven than before.  The temperature drop during my soaking and equalization period was also quite a bit less.  I figured that was a good thing.   It did throw off my proofing schedule though!  Just one of the joys of learning a WFO.

The plan was to again try to bake two loads in the oven, back to back.  I've tried it before and ended up with undercooked second batches both times.  For this test I prepared a first load of 30% Whole Wheat sourdough boulles (6 loaves @ 770 grams each) that I knew with confidence I could bake off.  The second load was a lighter test of two loaves of "Old School" Deli Rye from the Inside the Jewish Bakery book.  At only two loaves I could bake them in the kitchen if the wfo proved not up to it.  In the end, the wfo proved up to the task.

It was a challenge trying to bring all the timings together, and I only pulled it off, sort of.  I underestimated the soaking and equalization time I needed after the longer high-fire burn.    While waiting for the oven to cool I over-proofed the sourdough, and ended up forcing the oven floor temperature down with repeated damp scuffling.  It worked out though, and the sourdough baked off beautifully.  Next time I will try loading just a few degrees hotter.  Here they are, just ready to come out of the oven.

These finished at 208F after 28 minutes.  The bottom crust was not as pronounced as I feared.  I must have gotten the floor cool enough after all.  As soon as I got these loaves out I loaded the rye loaves, even though the oven temperature was a bit higher than the recipe specified.  Nonetheless, they baked off in roughly 30 minutes as well.  Here is the whole bunch on the rack cooling.

I was very pleased with the crusts on these loaves. They all have that great thin, crisp crust that I think is characteristic of the WFO finish.  Following are the crumb shots.  The sourdough first:

Though quite acceptable and very tasty, there is obviously some tightness in the crumb from over proofing.  As I learn to manage the oven timing better that will improve.

Here is the rye bread:

I was very pleased with this result.  I have a short list of improvements to shoot for next time, but the patti-melt sandwiches yesterday were great!  I also gave one of the sourdough loaves, still warm from the oven, to my neighbor and assistant oven builder.  As it happened his newlywed daughter and her husband were visiting, so they enjoyed the loaf for dinner.  Next day my friend said "Don't send that bread over when the kids are here!  Now they're looking for a house in the neighborhood!".  Too much fun!

What did I learn about my oven?  It can bake two loads back to back with no trouble.  I just have to charge it up accordingly.  I need to allow more time in my timeline for oven soaking and equalization though.  I have a big note in my oven management log to "Make the oven wait for the bread, not the reverse!  Start the fire early!" 

I also know that I must finish my oven door.  I have been getting by with just a piece of 3/8" plywood held in place by a brick for an oven door, and it does not fit all that well.  I know, therefore, where my heat is going!  I have a 3" thick solid oak door in progress, but I still need to get the stainless steel heat shield made for it, and get my thermometer.  I also have a little millwork to do to finish the woodwork up before I can do those things.  With that door, though, my heat retention will improve a lot.  As it was, the oven was at 545F (roughly) when I loaded the sourdough, and roughly 435F when I loaded the rye.  It was still over 400 when the rye finished.  I assume the temperature drop was less for the rye bake because it was only two loaves.  Next time I'll prepare more loaves for the second load!

Thanks for stopping by!

Szanter5339's picture


tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

I don't usually call it anything other than sourdough, but when I'm trying to be clever I call it SoF (State of Franklin) Sourdough. 


95% BF, 5% Whole Rye, 72% Hydration. 1/3 total flour(including all of the Rye) in 100% hydration levain.



The crust is softer than I'd like, but I'm hoping a new oven will fix that. 

HokeyPokey's picture

Just a quick post - a basic wholemeal bread, lovely texture and mild sourdough flavour - that one is a keeper


As always, more photos and recipe on my blog here

freerk's picture

Rudolph's antlers; Pepernoten versus kruidnoten

Each year, here up North,
a man comes forth from Spain.
Train nor plane he uses;
a boat is what he chooses,
as well as a white horse,
and (to make matters worse)
travels together with guys
(I tell you no lies)
who paint their faces…

The Dutch embrace it all
and make their way to the mall
to shop till they drop
and return home with many a gift,
that plenty a spirit will lift.

Does this tradition ring a bell?
Well, maybe if you hear his name
your X-masses will never be the same;

Sinterklaas is what he's called...

Please don't be too appalled
Dear Santa and elves
When you see yourselves
reflected in this feast
that is politically incorrect to say the least.

For Sinterklaas - indeed- is the reason why
A guy who goes "ho ho" stops by
on your shores; his boat is now a sled,
the horse became reindeer with noses red.
All devoid of that annoyed
"black Pete", made obsolete by elves
who can show themselves
without any accidental tourist dropping jaws
'cause they see their Santa Claus
fretting in such an anachronistic setting.

Here in the old world, tradition reigns
and black Pete, alas, remains...
However racist it may seem;
rest assured the theme
at the root of all of this, is equal
and Santa is just a better sequel
to a storm of giving and sharing,
so let that be your bearing!
Give and share, share and give,
and live a full life void of strife!

Rudolph's antlers

There are many traditional baking goods associated with Sinterklaas. Butter fondant, chocolate letters, chocolate fondant frogs and mice (nobody seems to know where they came from) and pepernoten. There are three varieties of them floating around, going from rather chewy and lebkuchen-like, to crunchy and easy to eat. The traditional pepernoot is right in the middle and made with harshorn salt (yes, we use Rudolf's antlers to make cookies). This is the king of all rising agents when it comes to strength.

Since baking with hartshorn salt involves a chemical reaction to cause your kitchen to smell like ammonia for about a minute during the bake, many people are a bit wary to use it. Rest assured that there is no harm done; open your kitchen window to get rid of this volatile gas even faster. No traces of it will be left in the pepernoten. For those interested in trying it; King Arthur sells Hartshorn salt as "baker's ammonia" on their site.

Here's the video recipe.

Traditional Pepernoten (big batch)

1 kg. all purpose flour
500 gr. honey
300 gr. sugar
3 eggs
15 gr. hartshorn salt
1½ ts cinnamon
¾ ts cloves
1 ts white pepper
pinch of:
all spice
100 gr. confectioners sugar
a little water.


Warm the honey on a low heat together with the sugar, the eggs, hartshorn salt and all the spices, untill the sugar has melted. Mix well. Sift through the flour in parts and mix well until the stiff dough comes together (be careful not to wreck your KitchenAid on this dough!).

Preheat the oven to 190° C and grease two sheet pans. Form 2 cm balls out of the dough, place them on the sheet pan, keeping enough space between them (at least 1 cm). Bake the pepernoten for about 15- 20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until golden brown.

Right after baking let them cool on a rack. Bring some confectioners sugar diluted in a little water to the boil, mix until smooth and brush the pepernoten with it to give them a nice finish.

Please endorse my BreadLab initiative on Facebook and help me raise funds just by clicking the like button!

wassisname's picture

I didn’t have time to get creative this week so I flipped through Hamelman’s Bread and settled on the 40% rye with caraway seeds.  The only significant change I made was to leave out the yeast.  The rye sour (all of the rye flour is prefermented) raised the bread just fine on its own, it just took longer.

What a nice bread this is!  The flavor of all that prefermented rye is nicely complimented by the caraway seeds.  This is going to make great sandwiches all week.  (And, don’t be put off by the yellowish color, that’s just me not getting the white balance quite right on the camera.)


Szanter5339's picture


Leavened white bread.
12-hour leaven baked bread. Beautiful exterior and delicate interior.
I changed so much leaven, that I spelled it with a spoon of flour.
Very nice baked in an earthen vessel.

700 ml of water
6 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoons vinegar (20%)
6 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1600 gram flour
40 grams of yeast
In yeast +

Preparation of yeast, 1-2 days before cooking.

140 ml of water
150 grams of flour
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon salt
20 grams of yeast

Earl's picture

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

made with homegrown starter

1 cup starter at 100%

1 cup water

1 egg


1 cup Prairie Gold White Whole Wheat

2 cups AP unbleached flour

1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder

1 T. dough enhancer

1 T. whey powder

2 T. non fat dry milk

1/4 cup potato flakes

Mix everything in the breadmachine on the dough cycle

takes about 1 and 1/2 hours, let rest in pan for 20 minutes

after dough cycle finishes.


With care dump dough onto an oiled surface. Spray dough with oil.

Gently shape dough to fit in clay baker. Cover and retard over night.

Next day preheat oven to around 170 degrees. Take clay baker from fridge

and put straight into oven.  Let rise a couple hours.  Remove from oven.

Preheat oven to 450F and bake covered for 15 mintues.

Remove top from clay pot, drop temp to 350F and bake for 20 more minutes.






ananda's picture

Stormy Saturday: “Wholemeal” Pain au Levain.

Alison and I are going to stay over with some friends in County Durham this evening.   We go back many years to when we were students in the early 1980s, and have kept in touch ever since, although I was away from the North East for several years from the mid 1990s.

Anyway, I was asked to take bread, and we needed a loaf for the house too.   It’s really stormy outside, I only had a limited quantity of flour to bake with, so I’m not lighting the wood-fired oven.

I’ve made these 2 loaves with a stiff white levain which I built with 3 refreshments from Thursday evening.   I made the dough yesterday evening and retarded overnight in the fridge.   I pulled the dough out early for bulk proof, and stoked up the fire in our living room.   It’s now toasty warm here as I type, and the first of the 2 loaves is midway through baking.

Here’s the formula:

Note that the figures don’t quite balance.   I’ve bought a new calculator as my old one drowned.   This one gives the answers to the calculations as a fraction.   There is a function button which allows you then to see the answer using decimals, but I think this is what throws the formula slightly out.   I’d better just go back to using the calculator on my pc!


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

1a. Wheat Levain



Carrs Special CC Flour












1b. Ambient Soaker



Allinson’s Strong Wholemeal















2. Final Dough



Wheat Levain [from 1a]



Soaker [from 1b]



Carrs Special CC Flour









% pre-fermented flour



% overall hydration



% wholegrain flour








  • Build the levain as above.   At the same time as refreshing the leaven for the final time, make the soaker as follows.   Weigh the water into the mixing bowl.   Weigh the salt and dissolve into the water.   Add the wholemeal.   Attach a paddle beater and mix for 3 minutes on first speed until cleared.   Cover and leave until final mix.
  • For the final mixing, add the levain and remaining flour to the soaker.   Attach a dough hook and mix for 2 minutes on first speed and 7 minutes on second speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
  • Put the mixed dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and store overnight in the chiller.
  • Bulk ferment for 3 hours to allow the dough to warm.   Stretch and fold just once, after 2½ hours.
  • Scale and divide; one piece @ 950g, the other being the remaining dough, just over 1350g.   Mould both round, and rest, covered for 20 minutes.   Re-mould and set into prepared bannetons.
  • Final proof just over 2 hours.
  • Bake in a pre-heated electric oven [250°C] on a baking stone with steam.   Bake without convection for 10 minutes, then switch over to convection and drop heat to 235°C.   After 30 minutes drop the heat to 210°C and bake out each loaf.
  • Cool on wires.


Earlier this week I made 5 Pain de Campagne in the wood-fired oven.   My business adviser came out to take me to look at some industrial units just a few miles up the road.   Lots of potential here, but I’m moving more towards the idea of scaling up further in the late Summer, once my dissertation is complete.   I gave one loaf to Neil, and then sold the others to some friends who had staked a claim the last time we saw them.   Only later did I realise we had no fresh bread in our bread bin, so I had to go digging in the freezer!

Happy Baking Everyone!



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