The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


varda's picture

Recently I've been trying to bake a 100% Whole Durum loaf loosely following Franko's Altamura project.    After a couple of attempts, I backed off and baked 40%, 60% and 80% durum loaves, trying to get a feel for working with a high percentage of durum flour.   For the 40, 60. and 80% versions, I used my regular wheat starter so that at least I didn't have to worry about a whole grain starter on top of everything else.   I was reasonably happy with the 40% and 60% versions and felt that I could bake them happily at any time.   The 80% came out too dense - the really hard part is developing the dough without breaking the fragile gluten of the durum. 

Yesterday I decided to give it another shot at 100%.   I took my semolina seed starter and fed it up - then added durum in three more feedings - the third last night.   There was no way I was going to leave it on the counter overnight - anything could happen while I was asleep, so I popped it in the refrigerator right after feeding, and then took it out in the morning.   It only took 3.5 hours to ripen even cold from the refrigerator.    So I mixed everything up by hand and proceeded with trying to develop the dough.   Every half hour I rotated the bowl while using the fingers of my hand like a scoop to turn the edges into the middle, then pressed down with my palm.   This seemed to me  to be the happy medium between being gentle and yet still developing the dough.   After two hours and the 4th scoop and press I felt there was a sudden softening of the dough which up to that time had been fairly puffy.   I pressed it out into a thick disk and folded one edge on top of the other just past the middle and placed on a floured cloth, sprinkled the top with flour and covered with the end of the cloth.   Then proofed for a little over an hour.   Then baked as usual at 450F for 20 minutes with steam and 20 without, then 10 in the oven with the door cracked open and heat off.    It got more oven spring than I expected, and while not as light as the 40 or 60% versions, nor as light as Franko's (made with more baker skill and extra fancy durum rather than whole durum) I thought it was reasonably respectable.   Actually we had it for dinner with fish and sauted vegetables and it was definitely people food rather than fit for the coyotes.  


Semolina Starter






on 8/9/2011









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This has several deviations from proper Altamura:

1.   Higher percent prefermented flour because I'm just more comfortable with that

2.  Whole Atta durum - that's what I have

3.  No attempt to simulate WFO - I had enough balls in the air as it was

4.  Higher hydration - the 80% with  62% hydration was just dry, dry, dry - it did go out for the coyotes.

Emelye's picture

At our 4th of July family picnic, my spouse's cousin told me the hotel he worked for was looking for a baker.  They needed someone quickly and he thought I'd be able to get in.  He arranged for an interview the next day!  All I had on hand was some lavender rolls that I had just made so I brought two of those along with me.

The interview went OK although it was over way too quickly.  I figured they didn't like me.  I was very up front about not having any professional experience and I guessed that this was my disqualification.  Nevertheless, I called them about a week later and left a message, asking them about the position.  An hour later their executive chef called back and invited me in for a second interview.  I hade some sourdough loaves (Nancy Silverton's white sourdough formula) on hand and I brought the best looking one with me.  Once again I made it very plain that I had no professional experience as a baker.  The exec chef told me that didn't matter and asked me when I could start!

I started the day after the next.  It was a rocky start, to say the least.  I was told to come in at 1:00am.  When I arrived, no one was there!  Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim!  They had a 60qt and 20qt Hobart along with a 5 qt Kitchenaid there.  I had no experience with a planetary mixer - I have an Electrolux N28 at home.  The oven was an old natural gas Vulcan 3 deck oven with no steam and a lower deck that didn't work properly.  I barely knew where anything was, never used a mixer of that type and they were asking for a few hundred dinner rolls, half as many sandwich rolls, a dozen and a half pan loaves - each using 3 different types of dough (white, whole wheat & a savory dough)!  Needless to say I didn't get much done the first day.

The work was very physically demanding but I was slowly getting the hang of things.  Between the warm weather and the high friction factors I learned to use ice water and buttermilk/eggs, etc. right from the fridge to keep my final dough temps below 80ºF.  I figured out how to control the proofer so it wouldn't overheat my dough and race through the primary ferment stage.  I got the hang of mixing 25 to 30 pounds of dough in the 60 qt mixer, splitting the batch and putting half in the cooler to retard the ferment so it wouldn't go too far before I was finished rolling the dinner/sandwich rolls with the other half.  I was making 50 to 60 pounds of dough a day and turning it into white (BBA Buttermilk white bread) and whole wheat (Hamelman's Oatmeal bread) dinner and sandwich rolls along with garlic and rosemary focaccias.  I made a couple dozen pan loaves of brioche too, on occasion.  I was exhausted by the time I got home but I was really enjoying things, learning every day a little more about how to control my dough and my outcomes.

Unfortunately, my aging knees betrayed me and last week I had to resign.  The pain was too great to bear and I was hobbling around with a cane for three days before it receded.  I am grateful that I was able to get the opportunity to have a taste of being a professional baker, even if the conditions weren't exactly ideal, and I'll always look back at those few weeks as a highlight.

codruta's picture

Hi from Timisoara! This bread is adapted from Hamelman's book, page 172. A couple of weeks ago while making this bread, I posted a question on forum, link here. The dough felt very stiff, even though I increased the hydration a little over 74%. I omited the yeast from the recipe, and I adapted the fermentation time.

Overall formula was 348 g bread flour, 87 g whole wheat flour, 325 g water, 9 g salt, 44 g old fashioned rolled oats, 110 g raisins. (The prefermented flour was 15% from the total amount of flour, and the levain was liquid, at 125% hydration). First fermentation was two hours, with 2 S-F (it was a very hot day, that day), second fermentation was 8 hours in the fridge (overnight) and 1:30...2 hours at room temperature (in the morning)

This is how the bread turned out. I was surprised to see how light and open is the crumb, with all the raisins and rolled oats, and whole wheat in the dough. I think it was a good bread, we (me and my boyfriend) enjoyed eating it with butter and coffee, or cheese. The boule was a present for a dear friend blonde lady, so I don't have photos of the crumb.

I don't know why, but this bread makes me think of summer, hot sun, and laziness.

Complete recipe and more photos can be found on my romanian blog, with translation available, Apa.Faina.Sare., link here.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I spent some time in the kitchen this weekend. I was baking bread and establishing a separate starter that wouldn't see the inside of the refrigerator until the last loaves were done. There was also a fair amount of cleanup after the flour flew. The first loaf was out of the oven on Friday morning was another attempt at an Anadama Bread that turned out well, just not too open in the crumb.

This is a link to my blog article where I chatter about that loaf.

The new starter was just an elaboration of my regular starter that I wanted to keep on the counter as an experiment for the four loaves i had in mind. My expectations were that it would be more vigorous and possibly more flavorful. The vigorous quality was met but it was not quite predictable. I should have foreseen that. The flavor is better but only to a  subtle degree, not earthshaking. It needs more counter time.

The next loaf  was an interpretation of the pan de Horiadaki that David first blogged about recently. I didn't follow his formula too closely because I had been asked to add some whole wheat to the loaf. I substituted about 1/3 of the flour weight with Golden Buffalo. As you can see, I did use an 8" cake pan which I think worked out well. The loaf went to an acquaintance of Mrs PG so there's no crumb shot.

There is a crumb shot of my next loaf which was another psomi, using 25% Golden Buffalo this time. It was an attempt to use sesame seeds to see if I could find a more noticeable presentation. I really like this recipe. The crumb is open and the flavor is great.

I liked the flavor of the psomi so much that I baked one for one of my entries in the Leavenworth County Fair. The other entry is a sourdough, a category that I won last year. That may have just been beginner's luck so this year's entries aren't quite perfect in appearance but the taste is better thanks to the information that is given out so kindly here on TFL.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

SylviaH's picture

I baked Sicilian Semolina Bread from D T. DiMuzio's book 'breadbaking' tweaking the formula and fermentation of the biga to adjust to my time schdule for wfo baking.  I also made a fresh peach and blueberry Breakfast Tart with a Pate A Foncer crust and Almond Cream from M. Suas AB&P book with some tweaks again with ingredients and for wfo baking.  The pizza's where Margherita pizza and a fresh homemade pesto sauce and shrimp pizza.  I baked the pizza's in a very hot oven.  When baking pizza fast apx. 2min. pizza you need to have the fire just right along with right floor temperature of the oven.  If the pizza is charing to much on the bottom before the top is done.  You need to make the fire larger and hotter, you would think the opposite.  The pizza needs a larger flame and more heat coming from the top of the oven so the bottom and the top will bake evenly.  Building a larger fire speeds the top baking up to create an evenly baked top and bottom of a pizza pie.  This fire is rolling over creating a convection flow of heat.  That is why the fire is placed to the side of the oven dome.  You don't want the heat to come out your door or up your chimney flue.

I started with a very hot oven and still had plenty of hot coals to shovel out and set the oven for stabilizing the heat for baking.  I started later in the day.  So I would be making my pizza's when it was a cooler outside.  Building the fire goes quick for me now and I only have to add a log about every 15 to 25 minutes until I'm ready to bake.


                              Shrimp Pizza with homemade pesto


                                           Pizza Margherita for neighbors favorite and mine


                                            Prebaked tart shell... a little to browned..I was busy shaping bread 'lol'


                                                    Next bread went in while I prepared the tart with fillings



                                             Great oven spring



                                  I had my nightly friend visit while I was baking!



                                  More to come... my husband is rushing me out the door for an appt. we have.  Sylvia


   ADDED:                                               Oven floor temperature at the red lazer dot, between pizza and fire.

                            Never add logs while food is in the oven, unless you want a little ash on top of your food.


                                I didn't expect the oven spring I got and it blew out my scroll shape.  Photos were taken in todays morning light.



                                I was happy with the bottom crust color.  Photo taken under night kitchen lights so things look a little yellow.



                                        The Crumb Shot            -  I hope for a more open crumb my next go at this wfo baking!



 I was very pleased with the way tart baked up in the oven as it cooled down somewhat from the bread baking.  The floor of the oven should be somewhere about 500F for the breads.  All coals removed and oven heat stablized..takes about a hour maybe a little longer, depending on how hot and long the oven is fired.  I had plenty of good hot coals spread all over the floor and then removed for stablizing time.

                                   Now the Tart is baking.. forgot about using a flash...but the lazer lit up


                                   I was very pleased with the Tart and it was absolutely delicious for a morning Breakfast Tart!  I added a little sprinkled on turbinado sugar and it was just right for this 'not to sweet' tart with it's fresh sweet fruit.  It can be garnished many ways.  Tonight it will be served with homemade ice cream!



                                  Out of the tart pan.  I was happy the crust wasn't to overly prebaked.





                                        This mornings breakfast, sorry about the big bite out, couldn't help myself.  It really was a delicious tart.  I prepared all the  ingredients the evening before to make things a lot easier bake day.  I think making a natural sourdough bread that is shaped and has a final proof in the my frig overnight is a lot easier than making a bread with a commerical yeast the day of firing up the oven and least there is a lot less work and timing involved for me IMHO.








txfarmer's picture

Sending this to Yeastspotting.

Click here for my blog index.


Made these when I was fighting the crazy "double chocolate croissant" battle. Luckily these are not nearly as difficult, the procedure was similar to other sourdough soft sandwich breads I have posted about. Didn't even have to get dutch processed cocoa for it, the natural cocoa worked perfect, even though it did take extra time to knead the dough to full development. I bet dutch processed cocoa would work here too, if not better.

Another thing I noticed was that it proofed much faster than other similar loaves, I am guessing it's another side effect of natural cocoa powder too. Do keep an eye on it during proofing.

Sourdough Double Chocolate Soft Sandwich Loaf

Note: 19% of the flour is in levain

Note: total flour is 250g, fit my Chinese small-ish pullman pan. For 8X4 US loaf tin, I suggest to use about 270g of total flour. For KAF 13X4X4 pullman pan, I would suggest using about 430g of total flour.

- levain

starter (100%), 13g

water, 22g

bread flour, 41g

1. Mix and let fermentation at room temp (73F) for 12 hours.

- final dough

bread flour, 203g (I used half KAF bread flour and half KAF AP flour for a balance of chewiness and volume)

sugar, 38g

butter, 18g, softened

water, 137g

salt, 2g

egg, 24g

cocoa powder, 10g (natural or dutch processed)

chocolate pieces or chips, 20g


1. Mix everything but chocoate pieces/chips until stage 3 of windowpane (-30sec), see this post for details. Add in chocolate pieces, mix in using low speed or by hand.

2. Rise at room temp for 2 hours, punch down, put in fridge overnight.

3. Takeout, divide, round, rest for 1 hour. shape as instructed here for sandwich loaf.

4. rise at room temp for about 4 hours. For my pullman pan, it should be about 80% full; for US 8x4inch pan, it should be about one inch above the edge. The dough would have tripled by then, if it can't, your kneading is not enough or over.

5. for sandwich loaf, bake at 400F for 45min, brush with butter when warm. 


Soft and shreddy. The amount of chocolate chips/chunks was rather light, which is an effort to keep this still a "bread", rather than "dessert". You can certainly add more to satisfy your sweet tooth or chocolate craving.



Made another one using a different mini sandwich tin (also bought from China), which took 6X55g of dough, came out equally well


stephy711's picture

Find more recipes on my blog Dessert Before Dinner


Everyone in the family loved this recipe. It was great with butter and trout roe when it was fresh out of the oven, and this morning it was perfect with cream cheese and smoked salmon. The crumb is tender and the crust was firm, creating a wonderful contrast. It's great right now, but this bread will be even better with soup or smoked fish in the winter. Like all brown breads, this is a hearty, winter weather bread. It has a very complex flavor and it is even better a day or two later.

Russian Black Bread 

  • 2 packs active yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¼ oz (1 cup) wheat bran
  • 13 oz (3 cups) bread flour
  • 11.25 oz (3 cups) rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp ground dark roast coffee
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

    1. Heat 2 cups water, butter, chocolate, molasses, coffee grounds and vinegar on stove until butter and chocolate are melted. Set in refrigerator to cool. Too hot liquids will damage the yeast.Proof yeast with ½ cup water and pinch of sugar
    2. Sift together flours and bran.
    3. In separate bowl, add fennel, shallots, caraway and 2 cups of the mixed flours. Add chocolate mixture and yeast to the flour. Continue adding flour half a cup at a time until the mixture pulls away from the mixing bowl.
    4. Knead until mixture is springy yet dense. Place in oiled bowl and let proof until doubled in size (about a hour and a half).
    5. Remove dough from bowl and divide into two pieces. Shape pieces into boules and dust tops with cornmeal, flour and caraway mixture. Let rest for 45 minutes
    6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, slash tops of loaves. Bake for 45 minutes or until dark.
dmsnyder's picture

This weekend, I made two of the pains au levain from Hamelman's Bread - The Pain au Levain, which Hamelman says is typically French, and the Pain Au Levain with Mixed Starters, which is made with both a white liquid starter and a rye starter. This bread also contains some whole wheat flour in the final dough.

Pain au Levain

Pain au Levain crumb

Pain au Levain with Mixed Starters

Pain au Levain with Mixed Starters crumb

Both of these are delicious breads. The Pain au Levain is mildly sour. The Pain au Levain is more sour, due to both the increased rye and an overnight cold retardation. It has a delicious, complex flavor.

Both these breads are highly recommended.


asfolks's picture

Loosely based on the formula for Le pavé d’autrefois
(Old fashioned slab) in the book,  Le Pain, l’envers du décor (Bread, behind the scenes) by Frédéric Lalos.

His version used commercial yeast and a poolish.



100% hydration fed with KA Bread flour – 300g


Water – 564g

KA Whole Wheat flour – 107g

Bay State Medium Rye – 71g

Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour – 71g

KA Bread flour – 315g

Final Dough:

KA AP flour – 286g

Sea Salt – 20g


Fed active starter 8 hours prior to mix and fermented at 70°F

Flour soaker established 3 hours to
mix and held at 70°F

Mixed Levain, Soaker and Final 286g of
AP flour by hand and rest for 30 minutes.

Add salt.

Stretch and Fold at 00:15, 00:30,
00:45, 01:15, 02:15 for a total bulk ferment of 4 hours.

Turn out dough onto heavily floured
surface and fold over on itself. Rest 1 hour covered.

Spread out dough by dimpling with fingertips.
Rest 1 hour covered.

Cut into slabs of desired size and
bake on stone in preheated oven at 460°F for 35-45 minutes, depending on size.

This was a fragrant and tasty bread , somewhat like a rustic lower hydration ciabatta.

HokeyPokey's picture

I have been thinking about making challah for a while now. I do like proper Jewish challah, with its lovely soft and buttery texture, seeing the actual folds and strands in each slice. I have tried making challah twice before with mixed results – this time I’ve decided to make up my own recipe, roughly based on my previous attempts, pure sourdough, with saffron and vanilla.

I’ve decided that I like the flavour of brioche better than challah, to me brioche has a stronger flavour (much MUCH more butter in brioche recipe) , however, challah does look pretty and saffron makes things a bit more interesting.




Full recipe and more photos on my blog here


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