The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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donk12's picture

I've tried 3 or 4 different recipes for ciabatta and all have basically the same ingredients, but for some reason I come up with the same result. Soft crust and a dense center. Everything goes fine during the mixing process, which I come out with this sticky dough, but my final product just doesn't come out right. Where am I going wrong? What do I have to do to get that crispy, rustic crust and center full of limitless air pockets.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

Today was a good day. Strangely. It started horribly. Nothing was going my way. I thought my chicken had gone rancid on me. I was dropping things constantly. I thought my bread overproofed.

Nope. All went just fine.

Today's bake was something of a hurried thing. I knew that sometime this week I wanted to make burgers. We tend to like ground pork instead of beef for our burgers and thus I decided that there's nothing better with pork than more pork: burgers with bacon, sharp vermont cheddar, and caramelized red onion for tomorrow's dinner. I pulled the meat out of the fridge to thaw and then set out to make the buns.

I know that this is a forum of bread bakers, but have you looked at how many supermarket breads recently have high fructose corn syrup in them? Since my daughter is now getting to the age where she's going to start eating real food (as opposed to her babyfood purees), I'm trying to cut it out of our diet as much as possible. So I look to see if I can find some buns without some because she will undoubtedly want a bite of the bun...and I come up with *nothing*. There wasn't one bread on the shelf that didn't have HFCS in it. So homemade buns it is.

Now comes the tricky part. I'd never made buns before. I've picked up sandwich bread fairly quickly and can get a good loaf of that, and what I really wanted was sandwich bread in a smaller form. A slightly crisp crust with a very moist but still hearty inside. Immediately I go toward Bob's Red Mill graham flour. So I start my dough with 2 cups of whole wheat graham flour and 1 cup of distilled water. Into this I also put 2 (!) tablespoons of vital wheat gluten. Mixed until I got a cohesive dough, and then let it sit on the counter for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. I wanted the wheat to fully soak up the water.

2 hours later, I mix a few more things into the dough. 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 4 tablepoons butter, 4 teaspoons yeast, and 2-3 tablespoons of honey. To this I add enough Harvest King bread flour to make a very wet, sticky dough. I'd say about 2.5 cups or so. I knead this together, put it in the bowl, and walk away for 20 minutes. After that 20 minutes I flatten the dough a bit, sprinkle on 2 teaspoons of salt or thereabouts, and knead it in for about 7 more minutes. Then I walk away for another 20. One final knead for about 5 minutes, and on to the real bulk rise. Takes about an hour. Then I shape the rolls (and one very short but tasty loaf) and put them in the pan to rise. I shaped 6 large rolls since they're going to be burger buns tomorrow, but for the next occasion they'll probably be smaller. Let them proof for 45 minutes and into the oven.

The only issue that I have with them is that they aren't brown on the top by any means. I'm going to brush with egg yolk next time to get more color. The taste, however, is killer, and they'll work well with the burgers.

whole wheat buns, background, and crumb, foreground (blurred a bit, darn my camera phone)

I'm learning, and I'm loving every second of it. Without this site I'm sure learning would have been possible, but I couldn't pick a better group of people to share the experience with. You're all so helpful and very understanding. I'm glad I have some like-minded people to share both my successes and failures with. :)

apprentice's picture

I love this bread! I love it for a lot of reasons, not least of which that it's easy and delicious. I also feel as if I'm reclaiming a bit of our bread heritage, when I make this loaf. Barley has a long and wonderful history. Now it is almost exclusively used in brewing – understandable on account of its very low gluten content. But a pity from the nutritional point of view!

I've made it three times, and I'm not quite there yet. But I'm well within sight of the changes that will make it work for me. So here's the story to date:

#1 Bake: The dough, silky soft and extensible. Not much elasticity:













Bulk ferment was good, but not much oomph left for the proof.

Shaped as pain-fesses, about as ready as it would ever get.













Beautiful crumb, lovely taste:













But short!!!!

















Got a little more height after experimenting. That's Bake #2 on the right:













The trick seems to be substituting some bread flour for a portion of the whole wheat. I also threw in a pinch of gluten. Am happy to share the percentages of barley, ww and bread flour that seem to work best for me. But it will have to wait until I return from a short holiday.

Meanwhile, if anyone else wants to play with this, go check out the thread on Mini O's Oat & Barley Loaf. PMcCool posted Jaine's recipe there about half-way down. It's dated Aug. 23/06. (Sorry, the taxi's due, or I'd go get the link to post it here for you.)

Happy Baking!


ehanner's picture

Early (really early)this morning I mixed up a big batch of Susan's SD. I planned to bake this 3 pound batch as a single boule under cover with steam which is what I do when I know Susan will be grading how I did on her recipe.

This turned out wonderfully IMHO. The oven spring is about all I could expect and the color is perfect for my tastes. It took 33 minutes at 450F (I lowered the heat to 400F at 28 minutes). At the end I followed my friend David's advice and left the bread in the oven with the oven off and the door cracked, to crisp up the crust. And, I added 1% diastatic malt (8g) to the final dough in hopes of enhancing the color just a bit.

The crumb isn't as open as Davids but then I didn't give it any retarded ferment time. The flavor is a mild sour and a great wholesome flavor. I wouldn't say that I can taste the malt but this is the best sourdough I have made-ever. That's saying something considering the many varieties I have tried. We like a mild sour and I like it a little more so but some people cringe when you get a full sour that turns your toes up. I have no doubt this would be really sour with an overnight retarded ferment .

I get the sense that there is something going on with the total mass of the loaf. This might not make any logical sense but all of the aspects of tastes I look at and can judge seem better in a larger loaf. It is just dawning on me that maybe this is a SD Miche. Any thoughts on that?


Susans Giant Boule
Susan's Giant Boule

Giant Boule-Crumb
Giant Boule-Crumb

chahira daoud's picture
chahira daoud

Hello everybody,

It was my first attempt to use pumpkin in baking ,i was totally amazed from the result, the bread was light , veeeery delicious, my kids could not wait even to fill its slice with any filling, so i will put the recipe and try it, you will not stop making it.

I got the recipe from a french book" i think that the original version was in english because the author is australian, i do not know exactly, her name is Ann wilson , the book name is " Pains et petits pains".

I love the book because 99% of the ingredients used are familiar in Egypt,except " Rye flour"< we do not have, can you send me some pleaaaaaaase, hahahaha,There is a pumpernickel recipe,and i can not do it ,do not you feel petty for me????

Anyway , i will show you the pumpkin kind that i used in the recipe,

That is the only kind we have in Egypt, and we use pumpkin rarely, that is a shame !!! we have very good pumpkin harvest.So i tried to use and create a lot of recipes " in which pumpkin is a main ingredient".O.K, i will start now, here is the recipe:-

7g. yeast" i used fresh yeast , about 1 tbls"

1/4 cup of pumpkin boiling water " in the recipe they boiled the pumpkin, i did not , i cooked it in the oven, i made it puree, and i left it in a strainer to get rid from its juice, and i used this juice to prepare the dough"

4-41/2 cups bread flour.

1 tspn salt

1 cup of pumpkin puree " about 300 g. raw pumpkin", it was different with me because this kind of pumpkin is veeery juicy, i got a lot of liquid from it"

1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin water.

1 beaten egg.

2 tspn water

pumpkin seeds for decoration.

instead of explaining i will let you with the pics, and feel free to ask about everythink , that you think it is not clear.

First the pumpkin from inside:


Here is my lovely yeast" i am in love with yeast"

I gave it to eat " some sugar " i made for her some massage , then i cover her to take a nap,she became now very good and happy,

I started to prepare the ingredients, then making the dough.

I kneaded it for 10 mn,it turned soft and smooth like a baby skin.

I put 2 drops of olive oil on it to prevent it from sticking . then i covered it with a clean towel " of course"

shshshshsh, i warned all my family members, not to disturb my baby" i am fool , am not i???"

it is ready now , let us start the game,i re knead it for 2 mn.

I took 1/4 the dough,

then the remaining dough, i made with it a ball, and i put it in a sponge cake pan after oiling it and

sprinkle it with flour" i used corn flour"

I glazed it with the beaten egg, then i decorated it with the rubbon.

I glazed it again, i let it to rise.

My oven was too busy this day, so i let it more than an hour" it became like a monster" oh!lalala!!! 


I forgot to tell you about the pumpkin seeds.

I baked it on 210c.

here it is:


I forgot to take a pic for it after removing it from the pan.

So on my second attempt, with another shape , i did, voila,

And the Crumb??????

I will let  to you the judgment!!!!!????

Sorry for taking too much time, but i think the details will be so helpfull for beginners.

Thank you , and for all the yeast & bread making fans, a big hug from me to you.

Chahira DAoud , Alexandria , Egypt.

P.S: wait for my " pate morte" lantern & our feast cookies & biscuits.

Kuret's picture

This weekend I decided to make some Swedish style breads reminded of a conversation Ive had in an arlier thread about the ultimate book on baking ryes. So instead of rushing out to get the "holy grail" of rye books I decided to make some from a Swedish baking book that I own.

The rye bread Is actually one of the best ryes I have ever made although the method seemed strange to me. First of you make a sourdough preferment with an hydration of roughly 60-65% wich is really dry for a whole rye dough. This is left to ferment for at least 12 hours after wich the final dough is made with a small kicker of commercial yeast, the recipe calls for fresh yeast wich is availble all over Sweden so that is what I used. The dough then ferments 60 minutes and is punched down once during fermentation after wich it is shaped and left to ferment for 45-60 minutes more before going into the oven for 50 minutes. Really great bread, can´t stress that enough!

The barley flatbread was a big faliure, It was far too salty and that resulted in to slow fermentation and though salty crumb. I then re read the recipe and realised that there must be a mistake, the authour specifies 2.3% syrup and 3.3% salt (roughly) which I think is a mix up the salt seems much more resonable at that level. Will probably try them again some day as I love the taste of them with some hot bean stew.

EDIT: Ho hum! Here is a pic! The loaf on the right has been man handled a and that is the reason for the flour being a bit splotched over the top of the loaf but the other is as beautiful as a newborn baby, whitch it is in some regard...

gmask1's picture

I figured that I'd make myself a blog rather than posting back into the forums all the time. No point cluttering up a perfectly good forum with my one-track-minded baking experiences! 

Last weekend I took another shot at the 100% Sourdough Rye recipe kindly passed on to me by a good work colleague. My previous attempt had been a fair to middling success, and I was confident that this would turn out even better than the first. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the loaves turned out, given my total inexperience in making bread. 

Here's how they turned out: 


and the interior:


What I'm most happy about is that the resulting loaves - apart from tasting great - have my mind working to figure out ways to improve them. The scoring didn't take, so I'll need to think about different ways to work the scoring out. Plus the surface tension is probably not right, so I'll need to work on my folding.

Lastly - for my own benefit as much as anyone else's - this is the recipe I've been using successfully (all credit to OliverN from my work. I've made a couple of small annotations over time). Any suggestions or variations are absolutely appreciated!

Stage 1:

Mix together

4 x cups rye flour.

3 x cups luke warm water

2 x cups starter.

Leave for 16-24 hrs, until the mix has a domed top.


Stage 2

Mix into previous mixture

3 teaspoons sea salt

4 x cups rye flour.

Leave for 12 hours.


Split mixture into two bread pans and leave for a couple of hours (I never do that though). For rye flour you do not need to kneed it. I just flatten the mixture and roll into a log.

Bake in 180 preheated oven for an hour. 

cmagerssmith's picture

I purchased the new Bosch Universal Mixer so I could make bread using my wheat grinder.  I purchased locally from Whole Foods their Organic Hard Red Winter Wheat.  I've tried a couple of times to make bread using it and each time it is "sticky" and never even reaches the kneading stage.  Just threw away yet another big batch of sticky dough.  Truly frustrating!!  I'd like to utilize the grain that I can purchase locally and really do like to grind my own grain for nutritional benefits.  In case the problem with not enough protein in the grain, I added dough enhancer (perhaps not enough though)

I've troubleshooted each and every facet - or so I thought I did.  I just threw away my second big batch of sticky dough.  Does anyone have a straightforward delicious recipe using Organic Hard Red Winter Wheat.....or have any suggestions for me.  Thanks so much,  Cindy  (located in Florida)

dmsnyder's picture

Susan from San Diego Sourdough

Susan from San Diego Sourdough

Susan's Sourdough Crumb

Susan's Sourdough Crumb

It was time to get back to basics. My wife and I love sourdough bread. I have been having lots of fun exploring other breads, especially rye breads and baguettes of late, but I was missing "plain old" sourdough bread.

 The formula that Susan from San Diego developed has been made by many on TFL, and, if there is anyone who has not loved it, they have kept it to themselves. So, Susan's sourdough has been on my "to bake" list for quite some time. Here is how I made it:

450 gms Giusto's Ultimate Performer (High Gluten Flour)

50 gms Giusto's (Whole) Rye Flour

340 gms Water

50 gms Active Starter

10 gms Sea Salt


Mix the water and flour in a large bowl until they form a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and allow to rest (autolyse) for 15-60 minutes.

Add the starter to the autolyse and mix it in. Then add the salt and mix it in.

On a lightly floured bench, do 4 or 5 French folds. Cover the dough for 30 minutes. Repeat the folds and resting for 30 minutes. Then, do the folds a third time. (At this point, I had moderate gluten development.)

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly. Allow to rise until doubled. (I used my favorite Anchor Glass 8 cup/2 liter glass pitcher with a tight-fitting plastic cover. My dough doubled in 6 hours.)

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape as rounds. Cover and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes.

Shape as boules and place in floured bannetons. (I used French linen-lined wicker ones.) Spray lightly with oil and place in food-grade plastic bags or cover with plastic wrap.

Proof for 1 hour, then place in the refrigerator over night (8-12 hours).

Take the loaves out of the refrigerator at least 4 hours before you plan to bake them. Allow them to warm up and rise to 1-1/2 times their original size.

45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 450F with a baking stone on the middle shelf and a cast iron skillet and metal loaf pan on the bottom shelf.

When the loaves are ready to bake, bring a cup of water to a boil and place a handful (4-6) ice cubes in the loaf pan. Shut the oven door.

Sprinkle semolina on a wooden peel. Transfer a loaf to the peel. Score it, and load it on the baking stone. Do the same with the second loaf. Then pour the boiling water into the skillet, being careful not to scald youself, and shut the oven door.

After 10 minutes, remove the two water recepticles from the oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until the loaves are nicely colored, the bottoms have a hollow sound when thumped and the internal temperature of the loaves is at least 205F. When they are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves on the baking stone with the oven door held open 1-2 inches for another 5-10 minutes to dry the crust.

Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them thoroughly on a rack before slicing. (2 hours, if you can stand it.) You are allowed to smell the loaves and listen to them sing while they are cooling.

1. My sourdough starter is "1:3:4" (starter:water:flour). If your starter is more liquid or more firm, you should adjust the amount of water you use in the dough accordingly.
2. The 2-pan oven humidification and steaming method is from Hamelman's "Bread." Susan bakes her loaves under a stainless steel bowl for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the time. I would have done this, if I had made a single large boule. But Hamelman's method gives me the second best oven spring and bloom.
3. With overnight cold retardation, this bread was moderately sour when first cool. The crust was thin but crunchy. The bread had a firm chewiness but was in no way "tough." It was, in short, what I regard as a "classic San Francisco-style Sourdough." Since this is precisely what I wanted, I am delighted with this bread. I am moving it from my "to bake" list to my "bake often" list.


holds99's picture

This bread was made from the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread recipe in George Greenstein's book Secrets of a Jewish Baker.  It's a really good bread, which has a very nice flavor and somewhat reminds me of a Scandanavian bread in texture; fairly open but substantial.  The recipe call for a sponge but this bread isn't difficult to make and is baked in a loaf pan.  As Mr. Greenstein says in the short intro: "The bread is best when baked in a loaf pan and sliced for sandwiches or toasted'  Oatmeal adds a distinct rough texture and nutty flavor and keeps the bread moist."  Like Mr. Greenstein said, it's excellent sliced and eaten with butter and marmalade or toasted.  My wife, who critiques the breads I bake really likes this bread.  I like to try different recipes and this one, for my taste, is a winner.

Greenstein's Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread


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