The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


GSnyde's picture

For the first anniversary of my bread baking and for my upcoming birthday, my darling got me a Bosch Universal Plus (how did she know!?).  I should have tried it out with a recipe I know well so I could start to evaluate mixing times and speeds intelligently based on experience.  But that would be too sensible.  I’d already decided it was time to try making Danish pastry dough, and that was the first thing my new BUP got to do.

Danish pastry dough is very much like croissant dough, but with egg (one whole egg and one egg yolk per three and a half cups of flour or so).   For a whole bunch of great lessons (mostly applicable to this dough), see Txfarmer’s post about her croissant quest (  The recipe for the dough and the pastries are from the Love To Bake Pastry Cookbook, by Ernest Weill, the founder of Fantasia Confections, a famous San Francisco palace of sweets that made happiness from the 1950s through the early ‘90s.  The cookbook, which Brother David has mentioned before, can be obtained in pdf format over the web for a $25 contribution (

This was my first time using that cookbook, my first time making Danish pastry dough and my first time using the BUP.  Surprisingly, there were no disasters (if no huge successes) and I learned a thing or two.

This cookbook uses volume measures, and sometimes shows weights, but I’m not sure they’re accurately translated.  (I’d promise to work on this dough and report back with a reliable formula, but I can’t eat this much sugar and butter again right away).  The dough formula in the cookbook called for too little flour (by weight) and too little mixing time.  I added both, but I’m not sure if I got it right.  I also departed from the procedures in the book somewhat.

Here’s where I ended up:

Danish Pastry Dough (yields 4 pastry rings or 32-48 pastries depending on size)


1 ¼ cups milk (120 F)

1 ¾ tsp instant yeast

heaping ¼ cup sugar

3 ½ cups AP flour (about 18 ½ ounces)

½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon zest

2 tsp vanilla

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

½ cube sweet butter, melted


Mix all ingredients except the flour on low speed for one minute.  Add 3 cups of flour and mix on low speed for four minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  Add the remaining ½ cup of flour slowly, then mix on low speed another 3-5 minutes (again, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary) until the dough forms a good ball.


Once I had a workable dough (moderately strong if still somewhat loose), the lamination process begins (as for croissant dough).  Scrape the dough onto a very well floured board and shape into a rectangle.  While the dough rests, pound/roll 2 ½ cubes of cold sweet butter into a 9” by 8” sheet and then refrigerate it while you roll out the dough.  With a well-floured pin, roll the dough out to 10” by 15”.  Plop the butter sheet on top of one side of the dough sheet, fold the unbuttered part of the dough over the butter sheet (it’ll half cover it), then fold the opposite (buttered) side over into a tri-fold (there are good illustrations—worth a thousand words--in the cookbook).  Seal the seams.  Then, roll the dough block out to 16” by 8”, wrap well in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Put the dough again on a well-floured board and let it rest 10 minutes covered, then roll it out to 18” by 12”.  Then do a tri-fold as for croissants.  Then roll it to 16” by 8” and refrigerate 30 minutes again.  Repeat this process of rolling, folding, rolling and refrigerating two more times.  Then the dough (in a 16’ by 8” block) goes in the fridge overnight.

Pecan Rolls

The memory of Fantasia’s pecan rolls is what led Brother David on a search for the recipe, resulting in his discovery of the cookbook download.  I only vaguely remember them.  What I remember best are Fantasia’s opera cakes, Napoleans and eclairs.  These pecan rolls are a high-butter, high-sugar version of typical cinnamon-pecan rolls.  Half way between candy and bread.

Prepare a 12-cavity muffin tin with non-stick baking spray.  Then coat the bottom and sides of the cavities with glaze (see recipe below) and 1 ½ cups of pecan pieces. Take ¼ of the dough recipe above.  Roll out to 6” by 16”.  Slather on melted butter (about 2 Tbsp).  Then cover with 3 Tbsp of cinnamon-sugar and ½ cup of fairly finely ground pecans.  Press the filling into the dough and roll it up into a 16” log, jelly roll style.  Cut into 12 pieces and put one in each muffin cavity.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (about 2 hours).  Then bake at 375 F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool 10 minutes, then invert onto a baking sheet (and scrape the nuts and caramel goo left behind in the muffin tin onto the rolls).

Glaze:  Mix ¾ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup honey and 3 Tbsp of soft sweet butter until well blended.

The cookbook calls for almost twice that amount of glaze, and the result was way too sweet.  Otherwise, the pecan rolls are delectable: excellent melt-in-the-mouth pastry dough, and the ground pecan-cinnamon filling is outstanding.

  Start of proofing

  Out of the oven

Ready to eat 

Crumb shot


I guess I should freeze some for Brother David’s visit next week, though he’ll think they’re too sweet too. 

Bear Claws

I’ve always loved bear claws.  I wish my first attempt had been closer to my ideal.   These had way too much marzipan filling (I’m beginning to see a trend with this cookbook).  Next time I’ll cut it in half.  The following recipe cuts the marzipan to what I think would be a more proper proportion.

Take ½ of the above dough recipe and roll it out on a well-floured board to 10” by 15” (about 1/8” thick).  Cut the dough into two halves of 5” by 15”.  For each of these pieces, spread a narrow strip of filling (see recipe below) in the middle along the long axis.  Fold the dough in half over the filling and press the seam to seal.  Cut ½” slits along the seam every ½ inch.  Pull the ends of the log to spread it to 16-17 inches.  Cut each log into four pieces and bend each into an arc to spread the “fingers”.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sliced almonds and proof until doubled (about two hours).  Then bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes, then at 375 F. for another 10-15 minutes or so, until top and bottom are golden brown.

Filling:  Put ½ log of almond paste (3 ½ ounces) in food processer.  Pulse with metal blade until soft and smooth.  Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup powdered sugar and ½ an egg white to the processer, and pulse until just mixed and not lumpy.  Keep covered until used.

As mentioned, the recipe had much too much filling, and was way too sweet.  The excess filling also expanded hugely and kinda tore some of the poor bear claws apart.  Once they cooled, their swelling subsided. And it turns out they were a bit underdone inside (probably due to the excess of filling).  I will try this recipe again some day, but even if all the proportions were right, I think the pecan rolls are the real winners.

Too much filling

Start of proofing

  Out of the oven

  Crumb shot

I have ¼ of the dough left over.  Maybe I’ll make something else tomorrow.

So that was my first try at Danish pastries.  It was a pretty good learning experience, and I have a lot more to learn.  I wish I could experiment on these regularly, but I’d have to take up running, and that would have to involve someone chasing me.


inkedbaker's picture

anyone have a good recipe I can try my new sourdough starter on, that doesn't use any unbleached flours? want it to be 100% whole wheat!

wassisname's picture

Baking for the county fair.  Or, what if they gave a bread competition and nobody came?  Well, I would win lots of ribbons, that's what!  I'm exaggerating a little, there were a few other breads but none were in the categories I entered (fortunately for me).  Makes the blue ribbons a bit less impressive but I still had fun doing it.

It is always a good learning experience as well.  Things I learned (or was keenly reminded of): 

Baking three batches of bread makes for a much longer day than baking one batch. 
Baking a loaf for a random, judgemental stranger is much more stressful than baking a loaf for myself. 
Baking an olive bread next to a plain bread makes the plain bread taste really funky. 
Pitting a whole jar of lucques olives by hand is a pain in the neck (and the hands).
Sourdough always seems to proof faster when the oven is occupied.
Taking photos of my own bread at the fair may give people (non-bread enthusiasts, anyway) the impression that I am a narcissistic weirdo.
Giving away a loaf of bread feels really good.
I sincerely hope that at least one person walks by my breads and says, "Heck, I can make better bread than that!" and brings it to the fair next year.

The breads:  a basic sourdough with 10% whole wheat, the same sourdough with olives, a 30% rye sourdough, and the same rye with walnuts and raisins The group photo has a couple of extra loaves because I doubled-up on two of them. 



This is the extra olive bread I kept for my own enjoyment:



arlo's picture

At work I make a 'Pain de campagne' style loaf that features a whole wheat preferment. The outcome is a delicious dough with a flubbery like feeling when it comes off the mixer. It is an all around good loaf of bread for toast, sandwichs, dipping and so on. I have come to enjoy the flavors offered by prefermenting whole grains which is why I decieded to formulate this new recipe featuring a whole grain preferment, but better yet, a whole-rye sour also removing any commercial yeast from the loaf!

Now, I live in the heart of the capital of Michigan...hardly the country. So I felt it wasn't right in calling this loaf a 'country bread'. So I suppose it is my Pain de Urban if you will. The formula for the loaf follows;

Rye Sour -

The night before or depending on how active your rye starter is;

3.4 oz whole rye flour - 24.3%

3.4 oz water (68 degree water for me at the time, my apartment was very hot with the 90+ degree weather outside before I went to bed) - 24.3%

1 tspn of starter

Combine to form a paste lightly sprinkle the top with rye flour. Let ferment until the starter is ready for use. The flour on top should form little islands.

Dough -

All of rye starter

10.57 oz all purpose flour (used KAF) - 75.8%

.25 oz salt (used grey salt) 1.7%

5.1 oz water (once again I used a bit cooler water since even at 4 a.m. my apartment was rather hot) - 36.5%


Combine all the ingredients in your mixer, holding back a little bit of the water. Mix till a shaggy mass forms, at this point turn off the mixer, reach inside and squeeze the shaggy mass. If the center feels a bit dry, add the water and continue mixing for another thirty seconds or so. Turn off the mixer if needed and check again. A bit more water may be needed at this point, but if you take a look at the doughs percentages, this isn't really a 'rustic' loaf, its around 60% hydration. Complete the mix till it cleans the bowl and forms a very low degree of window pane.

At this point though, the loaf should be fairly smooth, but not fully developed. The developing will come later with a stretch and fold on the bench.

This was my dough after mixing, I'd say very presentable!

Allow the dough to ferment for one hour, apply a stretch and fold and return to your proofing bowl/basket/bucket/ect. After two and a half hours, my dough became nicely fermented and was ready for shaping!

Numerous bubbles of all sizes all over the dough and easily doubled in size. The dough felt supple as I removed it gently from the container to begin with shaping.

I shaped the loaf into a boule and placed on linen and covered. An hour before you think the loaf is ready, pre-heat your oven to 450 and prepare whatever new wild steaming method you find to be helpful. For me today, since I was baking one loaf, I used the good old dutch oven.

The final proof lasted around two and a half hours. I then scored the loaf gently and placed under the dutch oven for twenty minutes covered. After twenty minutes, I uncovered the loaf and let it bake for another twenty minutes, then a final five minutes with the oven off.

Crisp, crackley crust, and a nice rye flavor to it.

It went well as a vessle for Dubliner cheese grilled and pressed sandwiches served with a side of some fancy french mustard as my friend and I brewed some more beer this weekend. Our ritual is now becoming beer brewing, discussion of new tattoos, and delicious sandwichs when all is said and done. I am ok with that.

inkedbaker's picture

just baked my first loaf in La Cloche that I made yesterday from items purchased at my local hardware store......I am a true believer in La Cloche....what a beautiful crispy chewy crust..

lumos's picture


Today’s blog is the report on the bread baking class I took last Wednesday at Lighthouse Bakery School in East Sussex, UK.

Ever since I read US-based TFLers’ blogs/posts about the wonderful courses they had at SFBI, I really wished one day I’d be able to attend a course like that. I spent hours and hours in front of PC, trying to find a short course or one-day class, and Lighthouse Bakery School’s courses were the ones that ticked most boxes for me.

 The school is owned and run by Rachel Duffield and Elizabeth Weisberg, the artisan bakers and ex-owners of a very famous artisan bakery of the same name in Battersea, south London.  After several years of successful retail business there,  picking up a few awards along the way,  they decided to close the shop (before I got there!!!) and moved to the beautiful countryside in the midst of East Sussex a few years ago,  starting the wholesale business with the bakery school on the same premises.

  From what I'd read and heard about their old shop  in London and their breads,  I knew Rachel and Elizabeth really  cared about how bread should be made and taste, but I wanted to know if they were the good teachers, too, before I jumped in.  Luckily, our fellow UK-TFLer, Juergen had attended one of their courses a while ago and he assured me he learned a lot from the experience, so I booked a place in French Baking class which took place last Wednesday.



Before the course started, we all sat around the big table, set in one corner of the workshop,  introducing each other and having a friendly chat over tea & coffee with lovely croissants, pain au chocolat and freshly picked local apples. (Still regreting I didn't pick one up and eat it or take home....)

(The bookshelf in the corner were full of bread and other baking books, many of them very familiar to TFlers and looked like they'd been used a LOT.......And the clock on the wall shows how too early I arrived.)

 The course started with Elizabeth’s short lecture about the history of French bread making and origin of some famous French breads,  basic terminology of breadmaking and the explanation about the breads we were going to learn to make during the course; Flutes (short baguettes) + epi, Pain de Campagne,  Brioche,  Croissants + Pain au Chocolat,  Pain de Meteil.  Yeah, quite a lot to be baked only in 6-7 hrs! :p   So,  after donning a new apron with the school’s logo and a brief tour of the workshop.....,

....... learning about the equipments we’re going to use and going through the obligatory ‘Health & Safety’ instructions, we eagerly got on with what we came for; making breads!


Each of us was also given our own personalized folder in which the timetable of the day, ‘Class Notes’ on ‘French Baking,’ ‘Equipments,’ and the list of basic infomarion/terminology for bread making were neatly held together along with the formulae of the breads we’re baking on the day.


This is a copy of the timetable.

09:30   Welcome tea and coffee

10:00   Introduction

10:30   Weigh Down and Mix Flutes

11:00   Weigh Down and Mix Pain de Campagne

             Weigh Down and Mix Brioche

11:30    Divide, Scale and mould Flutes

12:00   Laminate Croissants → rest

12:15   Weigh Down and Mix Pain de Meteil

12:30   Fold Croissants → Rest

             Bake Flutes

13:00  Fold Croissants → rest

            Take Pain de Campagne

13 :15  Take Pain de Meteil

            Make up Pissaladiere (for our lunch !)

13:45   LUNCH

14:15   Bake Pain de Campagne

            Make up Croissants

14:45   Bake Pain de Meteil

            Divide, Scale and Mould the Brioche

15:00   Bake the Croissants

15:15    Bake the Brioche

16:00   Finish Baking


 The whole day proceeded more or less as planned…..I think…...  I mean, there were so many things to do and all the schedule was in Elizabeth’s head (and on a white board behind us :p),  we were just following her instructions throughout the day as to what needed to be done, when to do and how to do it.


In spite of quite tight and full scheduling, the class was run in very convivial and relaxed atmosphere, thanks to very nice and friendly fellow students and very thoughtful and intelligent teaching and conducting skill of our fantastic instructor, Elizabeth, through the day, with equally enlightening Rachel taking over for the Croissants-making sessions. Each of us got to play with use a special rolling-machine professionals use to roll laminated dough, too!


Half the croissant dough was made into pain au chocolat, learning how to place two thin bars of chocolate on dough-rectangular and fold it to make it look just like the ones you buy in a shop.

(Shaped croissants getting egg-wash before going into the proofer. Mine’s are the centre and right ones in the third row from the top. Two top left ones are by Rachel.)


(Pain au chocolat being egg-washed by one of the students)



 (Flute shaping practice. Mine is the finished one in the foreground)


(A part of Flute dough was made into mini-epis. Mine’s the second from left)



(Pain de Meteil in proofing baskets)


(Dough proofing, with a reflection of me taking the picture. :p)


(Proofed Pain de Campagne being turned out to be scored and baked)


(A fellow student  snipping the top of brioche loaf before loading into the oven)


  All the breads were made with  Shipton’s flours and were fresh yeast based, including Pain de Campagne which used poolish (made with a mix of white and rye) instead of more commonly-used levain. (They have a separate course, “Advanced Baking,’ to teach about different kinds of pre-ferments and sourdough)  Flutes and Pain de Meteil were also poolish-based (former made with all white flour, latter 100% rye = the first time for me),  all the poolish already prepared in advance for the course.  Their formula for croissants used overnight-dough, so we ‘practiced’ how to weigh the ingredients and mix, but the actual dough we used for laminating+shaping+baking was prepared in advance to cold ferment overnight.

 The class was slightly overrun and it was almost 5:30 when we finally finished, all the breads, almost cooled, packed and ready to be taken home.

(Some of the finished breads cooling on the racks, each designated to each student)


 So, unlike the courses at SFBI,  Lighthouse's  courses  are more geared towards home bakers with some basic knowledge and experience in bread making.  But still,  I quite liked how it was run, especially how  very accommodating  both Elizabeth and Rachel were about everyone's need (including a certain bread-obsessive with geeky questions and requests. :p), no matter what degree of breadmaking experience or knowledge you had or had not under your belt.  The class size was small enough (7 of us on the day. I think maximum number is around 10) for them to keep a watchful eye on us, so that they would notice straightaway if anyone needed any help or advice.

 The things I enjoyed most were the hands-on experiences with real-time guidance from the pro-bakers ,  especially on window-pane tests and finger-poke tests, and also being able to experience how the dough should feel like when it's kneaded, bulk-fermented and proofed; the things you can’t really learn sufficiently just by  reading books or watching videos. These were the main reasons why I’d wanted to attend a breadmaking class for a long time,  and I’m really glad I was able to take home these valuable experiences with me.

   A  few of the down sides were  1) all the kneading was done in the machine and no teaching on how to hand-knead the dough, which would’ve been very useful for home bakers,  2) the deck ovens  didn’t have steam-injection system,  3) except for the overnight-dough used for croissants, all the breads were bulk-fermented/proofed in a proofer with the temperature set at 30 C, not allowing the dough to develop the flavour well enough.    I understand they use long-fermentation for the bread they make for wholesale , so the reasons for 1) and 3) were probably due to the scheduling issue more than anything,  and  some formulae in prints we were given  recommend cold retard to improve flavour as an option.   But with 5 different kinds of breads needed to be made in 6-7 hours, something had to give, I suppose. 

As if to prove the breads we made at the class were not of their usual standard for wholesale, pissaladiere we had for lunch (the dough had been already prepared in advance for us to add toppings before baking) and croissants and pain au chocolat (see above) were very, very good.

(Breads for a wholesale order cooling on a rack; rye breads on the top with Pain au Levain below)

 I can see it’d be very difficult to make up a class that can appeal and accommodate  both beginners and more experienced bakers.  Personally, I’d have preferred if the class were concentrated on a fewer kinds of breads, so that we could’ve had spent more time on each bread with more ‘hands-on’ experiences, especially kneading, shaping and learning how to check the gluten development and fermentation properly.  But  that sort of appoach might be too boring or tedious or even intimidating to more general (as opposed to geeky :p)  home bakers, while the present format may be a good starting point for many,  giving them a good glimpse of many aspects a certain  category of breads (in our case, French breads)  in a limited time and helping them to broaden the bready-horizon, making breadmaking inviting enough for them to start exploring deeper, gradually, if they wished.

Elizabeth told me they were thinking of starting a two-day course some time in a near future. Don’t know what level of students they have in mind for the new course, but, whether it’s one-day or two-day, hopefully they’ll have some courses that’d cater for intermediate – advanced home bakers one day with even more hands-on time and teaching about finer elements of breadmaking process.  But for them to be able to do that in a way it makes sense business-wise,  probably we need more bread-geeks in UK!  :p


The display of the bounty brought back home, half the brioche, half the Pain de Meteil, half the Pain de Campagne, croissants, pain au chocolat and a Flute (with single, long scoring). The other halves and one pain au chocolat had already been given away to our neighbour with three boys - didn’t know I’d bring back so many breads and our freezer was too full to store all of them - and epi already consumed by the time I took my camera out.   (Sorry for the weird colour.  Wrong setting on the camera.......)



hanseata's picture

A while ago, Andy (ananda) - always good for some pretty amazing loaves - posted about the entries of two of his baking students for the "Young Baker of the Year Contest" in Newcastle, England. Much as I love the goodness of a simple crusty white bread, my heart belongs to the complexity of mixed grains and nutty add-ins, therefore I copied those two right away into my recipe program.

Finalist Faye's entry, the Nettle Bread, I already baked - it is as unusual as tasty, and made it straight into my team of "Most Valuable Breads":

Katie's, the other student's, bread, with it's content of stout beer and flaxseeds, appeared equally tempting, and was in the top ten of my to-do bread list. As a good German, I love beer (the real stuff, not the dish wash water labelled Bud Light), and flaxseed add a nice extra bit of crunch. And, who wouldn't agree - it's healthy, to0.

I always found truth in the old adage: "Guinness is good for you", and apply that piece of sage advice to it's American brethren, like our local Cadillac Mountain Stout, or one of the other great New England stout beers.

First I made the Stout and Linseed Bread, almost exactly following Katie's formula, and Andy's description of the procedure:

I only made some minor changes: fresh yeast is not easily available here, so I used instant yeast instead, and regular flaxseed instead of prettier looking (but the same tasting) golden flaxseed. And, of course, I couldn't lay hands on Allendale Stout, but I had Cadillac Mountain Stout as a worthy stand-in. I also scaled the recipe amounts down to a sixth: for one loaf.

At this first trial, my dough appeared to be very wet, therefore I decided to bake the bread in a Dutch oven, like RonRay's Apple Yeast Bread, not as a free standing loaf (at 450 F, reducing the temperature after 20 minutes to 425 F). Though it had a good oven spring, it didn't rise as high, but spread quite a bit. The crust was very nice, though, and the taste as good as expected.

Stout Flaxseed Bread - 1. Bake

I was wondering whether the somewhat complicated procedure couldn't be a bit streamlined, instead of 15 minutes long, slow kneading, using Peter Reinhart's shorter knead and S & F technique. I also wanted to adapt the process to my preferred overnight cold bulk fermentation, in order to bake the bread earlier in the morning.

So I mixed soaker and stout barm in the morning, placing the barm in the refrigerator to ferment - I don't really see the necessity of keeping the flaxseed soaker, too, in a cool place - I always leave my soakers at room temperature on the countertop for one day: without any ill effect. In the evening I prepared the final dough: 2 minutes slow mixing, until all came together - 5 minutes rest - 6 minutes kneading at medium-low speed, then 4 times S & F, with 10 minute intervals, on the counter.

This time, without changing the hydration, the dough felt more manageable, very nice and supple. It rose well overnight in the refrigerator, shaping was no problem, and I baked it as free standing hearth bread.

Stout Flaxseed 2. Bake

This time no sideways escape, the bread behaved, and rose upward. The taste was the same - simply great! Another winner for my "Bread Hall of Fame".


HokeyPokey's picture

Last weekend was a bit of a baking adventure for me – instead of trialling out a well established recipe somehow I ended up experimenting with two new recipes :

Malty Seeded Loaf and Vodka Cranberry Loaf. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I must say I am really pleased with both of them. Especially the vodka one – a week later, and I can still smell the vanilla in the air. Oh, that’s making me hungry again.


Full recipes and photos on my blog

For Malty Seeded one


For Vodka Cranberry one

davidg618's picture

My wife and I have differing opinions about sourdough--I like it tangy, she likes it mild; sandwich bread--I like its crumb chewy, she likes it soft and fluffy; and biscotti--I prefer parmesan cheese, and black pepper, she craves ameretto-almond. But when it comes to baguettes we are 100% in accord: wheaty flavor, lightly chewy, open crumb, crackling crust. And in that order.

I've spent nearly two years working on a formula, and a process that yields what we want. I've learned quite a few things about baking in general, and baguettes in particular. I've also relearned a few lessons about myself. In this moment, I think I've reached the semi-experienced novice level--somewhat akin to the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Please, this is just my offering of what I've found works for me. 

Here's what I've learned about a formula: use quality ingredients; don't obsess over the quality.

Flours:I've lusted over descriptions of French milled flours, King Arthur's French-style, and Guisto's artisan flours: lusts never realized. It's simply a cost decision. I use King Arthur's super-market accessible, all-purpose flour. I've made a couple of excursions into other brands, with consistent disappointment. One brand's flavor was really nasty.

Salt: I use sea salt, purchased in bulk from a local organic food store. It's ridiculously inexpensive. My children, knowing my Foodie obsessions have gifted me, more than once, with Sal de Very Expensive. I've used it. I can't discern a difference; neither can my wife.

Water: Our well. (Suwannee River aquifer)

Yeast: SAF: as little as possible.

Flour (one kind), salt, water, yeast: it doesn't get any simpler than that.

Process: Herein, I've learned  the biggest lessons. K.I.S.S.--Keep it Simple, Stupid! (I learned this, the first time, from a Navy Chief Petty Officer, when I was a bottom-of-the-ladder Seaman)--outpaces them all.

A few general lessons: These support K.I.S.S.

Be consistent: Use the same ingredients. Same brand, same type, same weight ratios, same temperatures, etc.. Which of course you won't so...

Make small changes (only one at a time if you have the discipline; I'm not yet that disciplined, but I am at the point that I never make more than two.)

Be consistent: Do the same steps, with the same tools, in the same order, for the same duration, at the same temperatures , etc.. Which of course you won't so...

Keep notes: what you used, what you did, what you changed, what you forgot, what resulted, what you're going to do next. Also, at the beginning of a follow-on bake review your previous notes, and write down what you're going to do. Underline the change(s).

Baguette specific lessons:

These are the things that work for me, with K.I.S.S. always in mind. I marvel at the time and effort other TFL'ers put into baking baguettes. I'm certain their results make my baguettes reminiscent of dog biscuits. Nonetheless, we (my wife and I) are happy with our results, so far, and the neighbors make complementary noises with their mouths full.

Flavor develops during fermentation: Yes, you've got to use ingredients you trust. They have to be capable of giving good flavor, but it's fermentation that exploits those qualities. Up to a point, retarded (chilled) fermentation develops flavor proportionate with the fermentation duration. I don't know what that point is. I've learned I get desirable flavor between 15 hours and 21 hours of retarding at 54°F. Furthermore, the desired flavors are more present after 21 hours compared to 15. hours. I'm fortunate to have a wine closet wherein the temperature is maintained at 54°F. I've not attempted retarding in a refrigerator--most home fridges are 38°F-40°F--but from reading TFL other bakers are having great successes.

Hydration differences don't seem to change the flavor profile significantly, or, at least, not as significantly as retardation time. I've investigated from 65% hydration to 72% hydration. Arguably, the more flour, slightly more flavor in that Hydration range, whereas, 15 hour retardation yields an excellent flavor, 21 hours a bigger excellent flavor.

Substituting sourdough levain for commercial yeast, makes a different bread. It's sourdough in a baguette shape. Delicious, sometimes, but not an accurate rendition of the modern baguette. Furthermore, sourdough levain masks the delightfully "wheaty" flavors a baguette can (and should) have.  White flour, salt, water, and yeast: it doesn't get any simpler than that. (I'm looking forward to the hiding I'll get for this comment.)

Open crumb structure improves with retarded fermentation. I'm fairly sure this is accurate, however, mishandling can massacre the gain.

Don't ignore DDT. It gives one a finer control over results from retardation. Don't think of DDT as just small adjustments to room temperature water to hit the "magic" 76°F or 80°F. Pre-chill the formula's flour and use ice water in the dough's prep, to bring the mix to the planned chill temperature immediately. Chill the dough during autolyse, and return it to the chiller immediately after each manipulation, e.g., S&F.

Process, i.e., techniques: their flow and finesse, account for more than 50% of a baking success, especially with baguettes. (I actuallly think its considerably greater than 50%, but, then again, 85% of all people make up their own statistics.)

Here's a series of photos I took today of a 65% Hydration, 21 hour retarded baguette bake.

I've documented my earliest attempts to make baguettes here  . It gives the 72% hydration formula I started with. Most of my subsequent many tweaks involved exploring hydration, and retarding effects.

This is my post-retardation setup: I preshape the baguettes immediately and leave them to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

After 1 hour rest, I shape and proof the baguettes (seam side up). Proofing time today was 1 hour.

Here is the second loaf, slashed, and ready for loading into the oven. After many attempts, with various commercial peels, to load baguette loaves either serially, or in multiples I've settled on loading them serially with a home-made peel--it's really just a scrap piece of birch plywood, cut 2" narrower than my oven. I also load sourdough loaves (2) side-by-side serially using the board held along the narrow side. It works better than any of the commercial peels I've purchased--including the Superpeel.

I load the peel by simply flipping the loaf onto the rice flour dusted board, and slashing it. Then right into the oven, one at a time.

The oven, loaded to its meager capacity: 3 baguettes. You can see the only down-side to serially loading I've experienced. Oven-spring is already well underway in the first two loaves.

On the top shelf you can see the way I generate steam: two wetted towels. SylviaH convinced me to try this approach, and after the first try I stuck to it, but I made it simpler than her method (involves heating towels in the microwave). I wet the towel with 2-3 cups of the hottest tap water. I put the wet-towel tray on the top shelf, and switch the oven control from "Convection Bake" to "Broil" at 550°F. I do this about 6 to 10 minutes before loading the first loaf. I can watch the wetted towels begin to bubble. I switch the oven to "Bake" (conventional, shutting off the convection fan) at 500°F. Finally, after all loaves are loaded, I decrease the oven to "Bake" 450°F. After 10 minutes I remove the steam pan, restore "Convection Bake", and finish the baking. Early in my trials I discovered the rear-mounted convection fan dried out the surface of the most rearward loaf, and inhibited oven-spring. That's why I do all the oven mode switching.


and the crumb.

Recall, this is a 65% hydrated dough. It's consistent open crumb like this that supports my arguement retarded fermentation supports open crumb development.

So far, I've not lost sight of K.I.S.S. I bake baguettes once each week, so if you see where I can make it simpler, please comment.

David G

nzsourdoughman's picture

Ok i have had the internet down for the past week or so... but i'm still baking!

My starter is now about 5weeks old and is still feed twice daily. Bloody kneady!

Here are some of my loaves... i have awnsered lots of questions through trial and error. But i have a few that i'm lining up for you robyn :)

I love the norwich sourdough recipe... its great, bombproof!

Susans fig and fennel atempt one... dough was too stiff. Long story... my falt

fig and fennel take two... higher hydration... much better crumb



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