The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


louie brown's picture
louie brown

I am glad to be able to add this bake to the experience of others with our new toys, the cast iron combo cookers. I love cast iron so it didn't take much to have me clicking away on Amazon for one of these. It's a terrific piece of cookware that I expect to use for other things as well.

I thought readers might be interested in these results. I began with Hamelman's formula, but, as usual, I went astray, adding at least twice as many seeds and grains as called for. In particular, my wife especially likes toasted sesame seeds and steel cut oats in there. I actually lost track of how much I put into the dough. I was a bit concerned when I saw the volume of the soaker this morning. Nevertheless, I pressed on. I had hydrated about half the flour overnight with all the water, so this morning it only remained to add the rest, along with the liquid levain and the soaker. 

Long story short, I baked the batard naked, using my new favorite steam method, two towels and a brick in a roasting pan, over which boiling water is poured. This gives steady steam for as long as you like. The spring was quite strong, opening even the grigne to another layer, as shown. I may have scored the ear a little too deeply. Some people like it that way.

The loaf on the left was the first in the cooker, cold. The slashes were a bit shallow. The loaf filled out and began to tear from the bottom.

The loaf on the right went into the hot cooker. It was interesting, as they say, getting it in there, but all went well. I had scored this one considerably deeper and it gave a nicer form. 

I put some cornmeal on the bottom of the cooker.

Given the weight and density of these loaves, the spring for all of them was excellent. You can get an idea of this from the crumb shot. They are very nearly 4 inches tall, with a nice profile. I've shown the bottoms of all three for your interest as well.

The batard, baked in the open, was done in about 30 minutes, 15 minutes with steam and 15 without. The boules got the same 15 minutes covered and then 30 minutes uncovered. All three started at 500 degrees and were reduced to 450 convection after uncovering. The crust on the first boule is much softer than that on the second. As to taste, many of you know this bread. Of its kind, it really cant be beat.


JoeVa's picture

Un aggiornamento sull'ultimo mese. Dopo il fantastico paesano che potete vedere nel precedente post "Working for Favaglie Bread Baking" ho avuto un paio di settimane senza pane, o meglio di pane ne ho fatto ma è andato direttamente alle galline!

Last month update. After the great country bread you can see in the previous post "Working for Favaglie Bread Baking" I had a couple of weeks without bread, I mean I baked but the bread went directly to the hens!

Il processo è stato totalmente fuori controllo per ben due fine settimana, pane di gomma, veramente pessimo, ma alla fine ho capito cosa non andava ed è ritornato il mio pane, addirittura migliore di prima!

The process was totally out of control for two weekends, gummy bread, so bad, but I finally figured out what was wrong and my lovely bread is still here, even better than before!

Il freddo ed il nuovo lotto di farina sono arrivati in contemporanea ed hanno creato non pochi problemi. E' incredibile quanto la prima lievitazione sia sensibile alla temperatura, anche solo pochi gradi possono fare la differenza.

The cold weather and the new batch of flour arrived at the same time and they got me many problems. It's amazing how the bulk rise is temperature sensitive, even a few degrees can make the difference.

Ho dato la colpa a tutto, dal mugnaio (scusa Fulvio) al lievito ... ma la colpa era soltanto mia, mia e basta!

I blamed everything and everyone from the miller (sorry Fulvio) to the levain ... but the fault was mine!

Ieri ho riproposto il paesano con alcune variazioni, giusto per vedere cosa sarebbe cambiato. Ho provato ad esaltare al massimo l'aroma del frumento. Per fare ciò ho usato un solo lievito naturale liquido su farina bianca (perché più neutro e meno invadente), niente segale, ed ho sostituito un pò dell'ottima base di Buratto (tipo 1) con della Macina (tipo integrale).

Yesterday, I proposed again my country bread with some variations. I tried to bring out the best flavor of the wheat. To do this I used a single liquid levain feed on white bread flour (because it is more neutral and less intrusive), no rye, and I replaced some of the excellent base of Buratto (type 1, T80) with some Macina (whole).

La farina "Macina" (Mulino Marino) è il massimo per chi adora il frumento, è potente ed intensa, niente a che vedere con le altre farine integrali. E' un'integrale scura, non chiara, credo per la presenza nella miscela di grani di varietà caratterizzati da cariosside ambrata scura o rossa.

Macina flour (Mulino Marino) is the best for those who like wheat, it's powerful and intense, nothing to share with the other whole wheat flours. It's a dark whole flour, not clear or whitish, I think because of the presence in the mixture of grains characterized by a variety of caryopsis with dark amber or red color.


In sintesi:

  • 15% Manitoba (usata nel lievito liquido) + 25% Macina + 60% Buratto
  • Idratazione 77% (un paio di punti più alta, per compensare il W del nuovo lotto di farina)
  • Temperatura impasto e prima lievitazione 27-28°C
  • Autolisi di 50 minuti (per compensare il P/L un pò più alto del nuovo lotto di farina)
  • Impasto molto breve
Main points:
  • 15% white brea flour (used to feed the liquid levain) + 25% Macina + 60% Buratto
  • 77% hydration (a couple of point upper, to adjust the W of the new batch of flour)
  • Desired Dough and bulk temperature 27-28°C
  • Autolyse 50 minutes (to adjust the higher P/L of the new batch)
  • Very short mix

Inoltre ho migliorato decisamente tutto il processo di lavorazione, la filosofia vincente: fare meno è fare di più.Ho ulteriormente ridotto i tempi di impastamento e migliorato la tecnica di piegatura, nonchè di formatura. Praticamente faccio tutto in ciotola, compresa la formatura, non sporco niente ed il pane è fantastico.

Moreover I improved the overall baking process, the winner philosophy is: less is more. I have further reduced the mixing time and improved the technique of folding, as well as shaping. Basically I do everything in the bowl, even the shaping, all is clean and the bread is fantastic.


Non trovo le parole per descrivere quanto sia soffice, leggera, liscia, setosa ed umida la mollica di questi pani. Quando metti la pagnotta in verticale sul tavolo ed il coltello la taglia per metà, rompe il primo strato di crosta e poi affonda nella morbidissima parte centrale tagliandone la mollica. Senza presunzione, ma non ho mai trovato un prodotto di questa tipologia nei panifici qui in Italia, neanche dai migliori amici panettieri il cui pane è certamente buono ma nettamente diverso.

I cannot find the words to describe how soft, light, smooth, silky and moist is the crumb of these breads. When you put the loaf vertically on the table and the knife cuts to the middle, breaks the first layer of crust and then sinks into the soft middle part cutting the crumb. Without being presumptuous I never found this type of product in the Italian bakeries, not even from the best professional bakers friends whose bread is certainly good but clearly different.


E questa volta una foto del fondo, dopo che il pane si è raffreddato cantando.

And this time I have a shot of the bottom, after the bread cool down singing.


Inoltre, in questi giorni ho avuto modo di leggere "Tartine Bread" di Chad Robertson. Davvero una bella storia! Inoltre ho trovato veramente incredibili quanti punti in comune ci sono tra la mia lavorazione e quella di Chad, dalla scelta delle farina al "lievito giovane", dall'impastamento breve alle caratteristiche desiderate nel prodotto finito. Davvero un bel libro.

Moreover, these days I red "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson. Truly a wonderful story! I also found it really amazing how many similarities there are between my work and that of Chad, the choice of flour to the usage of what he define a "young levain", from the short mixing to the desired characteristics in the finished product. A really nice book.

turosdolci's picture

Leftover Panettone makes a flavorful bread pudding.  A warm dessert for Christmas or New Years Eve.

LindyD's picture

For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to generate a healthy dose of steam in my extremely well vented gas oven. Steam that would be present in good volume for at least the first 15 minutes.  My experimentation had mixed results.  The bread tastes great, but I want the appearance be as good as the taste.

I’ve tried water in a preheated pan, ice cubes in a preheated pan, a cup of water over preheated lava rocks in a pan, spraying the bread, covering the bread, plus the great tips offered by Giovanni and SylviaH using hot wet towels.  While these techniques sure did humidify my house, open cuts and a nice grigne just didn’t materialize. 

One method that did work with some success was SteveB’s.  Alas, my thrift-store aluminum roaster cover is a tad wider than my stone, so I don’t have a good seal between the lid and the stone.  

David Snyder had written about the steaming technique recommended for home bakers by SFBI 

It looked interesting, but I didn’t want to buy yet another gizmo.  So I made my own version by  poking holes through a foil loaf pan (three for a buck at the local dollar store) and setting it on top a layer of lava rocks in the bottom of a metal loaf pan.   The holes were large in the first version.

I experimented with both steaming versions over Thanksgiving weekend using Hamelman’s sourdough formula.    

The loaf in the background was baked covered, using SteveB’s technique. Oven and stone preheated to 500F, loaf loaded and covered (the cover was not preheated).  Two shots of steam were directed through the hole in the cover, plus one cup of water was poured into a wide broiler pan containing lava stones (done because of the cover overlap).  I forgot to turn down the heat until I removed the cover, 15 minutes later. Bake finished at 460F.

The loaf in the foreground was baked uncovered.  After loading the bread into the preheated 500F oven (and stone), one tray of ice cubes was placed in the foil tray resting over the lava rocks on the left side of the oven and about 1.5 cups of water poured into the broiler pan containing lava rocks on the right side of the oven.  Temp reduced to 460F.  After 15 minutes the broiler pan was dry and emitted no steam so it was left in the oven.  The foil-trayed loaf pan was removed.  Although I screwed up the scoring on the bread in the foreground, the results looked promising.

I didn’t think the sufficient steam had been generated, so I made much smaller  holes in another foil pan and replaced the original version. 

I mixed the same dough the following weekend.  Oven and stone again preheated to 500F.  A  batard was scored and loaded.  This time TWO trays of ice cubes were dumped into the foil tray and 2.5 cups of water poured into the broiler pan w/lava rocks.  About 16 minutes later I removed the loaf pan; I could see the steam still coming off the lava rocks.  I left the broiler pan in, as that water had evaporated.  Here’s the result.   

To make sure this was no fluke, I followed the same procedure with the second batard.  It worked again!  

I am overjoyed to finally have figured out how to generate an abundance of steam in my oven for those crucial first minutes.

Finally, my bread looks as great as it tastes! Thank you SteveB, David, and all the other fine bakers who have been so inspiring.

gene wild's picture
gene wild

Not sure I did this right it is my first time at trying to upload a picture.

Today was also my first go at a Challah. I used the BBA formula. While not perfect I think it came out ok.




In the preview I don't see the picture but will send this anyway as a test if nothing else.



txfarmer's picture


I am gearing up for the holiday baking season, stollen, panettone, coffee cakes, cookies are flowing out of my oven. This particular coffee cake came from two sources: the dough recipe is by Maggie Glezer (can be found here), it has sour cream and mashed potato, in addition to quite a bit of butter, which means the dough is incredibly soft and delicate, perfect for a sweet bread. Furthurmore, it can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days, convenient for busy holiday season.


The shape and filling came from Carole Walter's "Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More", what I like the most is that the chocolate sauce is not overly sweet, and it looks very unique and pretty. A crowd pleaser.

Scalloped chocolate pecan strip("Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More")

water, 60g

sugar, 20g

espresso powder, 2g

bittersweet chocolate, 71g, chopped

lemon juice, 1/4tsp

vanilla, 1/4tsp

butter, 14g, softened

pecan, 60g, chapped coarsely

sweet dough, 1lb (either from above or any other dough you prefer)

1.Mix together water, sugar, espresso powder, chocolate, lemon juice, vanilla, heat with low heat, until chcolate melts, and big bubbles start to form. Takeoff from stovetop, stir in butter. Cool completely until thickened, it would be like thin fudge.

2.After fully fermentated, roll out the dough into 14X9inch square, with 14inch side facing you. Spread choclate mixture on the dough, leaving borders empty, spread pecans on top, press down slightly.

3. Roll up from the long side, seal well, put on a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Press down lightly to flatten. Use scissors to make cuts on one side of the dough log, 1inch apart, 3/4 of the way deep. Do the same on the other side, but space the cuts so they interweave with the cuts on the first side. Turn the cut parts upward to expose filling.

4. Proof until double, about 1 hour, brush with egg wash, decoreate with pearl sugar, bake at 350F for 30min until golden.


The original formula also include a sugar glaze on top, I didn't think it was necessary, but if you like it sweeter, certainly use one.

Submitting to Yeastspotting.

jeric's picture

I have never made bread before with out using the pre made frozen dough you can buy at the grocery store.  However I do make pizza dough all of the time!  And it turns out fantastic.  I did that by hand.  So now I have finally gotten a kitchen aid stand mixer which I have wanted for I don't know how long, and I am trying to make bread.  It seems like my dough is coming out drier then my pizza dough did.  The only thing that I can really think of being different is that I put 2 tsp of olive oil in the mix.  Any one got any suggestions.  I really love making the pizza dough, and I thought I would try my hand at bread.  I just love the whole process of creating great food!



louie brown's picture
louie brown


Anyplace you find a substantial Italian-American community, chances are you will find a bakery, and chances are that the bakery will offer something called "prosciutto bread" or "meat bread." It usually has nuggets of prosciutto, or pancetta, or even just cubed cold cuts. Sometimes, cheese is in there too, usually provolone. There might be semolina flour mixed in. Zito's in New York is an example of an Italian bakery with a good reputation for their prosciutto bread. There are others.


Let's be honest. If you mix some prosciutto or some pancetta or some mortadella into bread dough, the bread is going to taste good. Bacon on Wonder Bread tastes good. But the way in which the antecedent came into being back in the old country is at once more homely and more true.


The pig was slaughtered. Every last bit of it was put to use. When it came to the fatback, it was beaten with a stick to break it down. Then it was rendered, resulting in lard and cracklings. The lard was used in all sorts of cooking, including baking. The cracklings were thrown into the dough, along with some cracked black pepper. It was usually baked in the traditional ring shape.


It's somewhat dispiriting, how easy it is to flavor something with pig, especially smoked or cured, and sit back and wait for the praise. I am here to tell you that I have never had a "prosciutto bread" that was good bread. It has always just been hammy tasting bread.


So, some friends got to telling me how their mother made it for their father, in Lazio, north of Rome. Rendered pork fat, not smoked or cured; cracklings in tiny pieces; cracked black pepper. Rolled into a log, twisted, shaped as a ring.


I forgot to twist. Otherwise, this is it. 100% sourdough. The lard gives the crumb a smoothness and makes the crust crispy. I think it could use more cracklings and a rougher crack to the pepper. Readers here may be interested to know that I used a stainless bowl for a cover for ten minutes. I have been switching to convection after the covered portion of the bake, but I forgot this time. Nevertheless, you can see that there is a nice relatively thin crust. It is pretty flaky, almost like pastry. All I'm missing is the wood fired oven to get some smoke and char. 







LeeYong's picture

Hello all bakers!

I have a question in regards to making streusel topping in Cakes,muffins and so forth... Why some would prefer melting the butter vs. cold butter when incorporating the dry ingredients before baking...

Thank you!


ehanner's picture

The only way for me to make any relivent decisions about how best to use my new combo cooker is to bake the same basic formula repetedly, making procedural changes and noting the change in outcomes. So, this bake is another in a series of the Basic Country Bread from Tartine. I did make one small change in the formula to suit my personal prefrence in flavor. I really like the flavor of a French style bread with around 5% rye in an otherwise white bread flour mix. When you get the ferment right there is a great nutty after taste that is IMHO the essence of that great full flavor French bread.

My levain was made from 50g of AP and 50g of whole rye mixed with 100g of warm water. Left to ferment at 78F for 12 hours, it had a fruity fragrance and had just peaked I believe.

The dough was made with 950g of bread flour, 50g of whole rye, 700+50g of warm (80f) water and 22g of salt. The salt number is a reflection of taking into account the 100g of flour in the levain which Robertson forgot about.

I have been adding the salt to the last 50g of warm water but honestly, I find it hard to get it all out of the cup when I dump the water in as it isn't completely dissolved. I think I'm going to go back to adding the salt dry and pouring the water in over it.

The stretching and folding has become more relaxed as I get more comfortable with this process. I mix the dough well with my fingers cutting the last 50g of water and salt in. It looks and feels like I'm damaging the strands as the dough becomes a disorganized and chopped up mess. But 30-40 minutes when I do the first stretch, the dough has become connected and cohesive as a mass. I have been trying to stretch and fold in the container every 30-40 minutes with the exception that at 4 hours of fermenting when the dough is well aerated, I pour it out on a lightly oiled counter and do a standard tri fold both directions. I think the letter fold is less damaging to the structure and it gives me a chance to give it a good stretch and feel the development. Then after another 30 minutes or so, I divide and shape using a linen lined dusted basket.

The suggestion of the author is to pre heat the cast iron cooker at 500F. The oven is set at 450F after loading the dough. While it may be easier to load the dough in a cold cooker, I have found I like the crust and spring better using Robertsons suggestion of preheating. The change I made to the suggested procedure this time was to shorten the amount of time the top is on and baking covered. Robertson says 20 minutes covered and 20-25 minutes open baking at 450. My bakes have produced thin crusts using those times. This time I removed the cover at 15 minutes and for the second loaf, 12 minutes and open for 25 and 28 minutes respectively. At the end of the bake I opened the door a crack to help dry out the crust some.

My conclusion is that the 20 minutes of covered baking is to long for this high hydration dough. The crust is so thin and soft after the bread has cooled, slicing is difficult. You can see in my image taken when I removed the cover at 12 minutes, the dough is just starting to take on color and has started forming a crust after expanding. The crust then is more substantial having been exposed to dry heat for a longer time, making a crust that is still crisp in the morning after baking.

The oven spring was so great that the dough crested in the top of the cooker. You can see the flour marks in the cover where the top of the loaf kissed the iron top. Remarkable spring if I do say so.

My next effort will be to make a similar sized loaf but at a lower hydration.


Uncovered after 12 minutes. The spring hit the cover!

This is what it's all about. Just perfect!


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