The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Wimmera Health Grain's picture
Wimmera Health Grain

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breadbakingbassplayer's picture

This is a crazy looking bread from the town of Matera in Southern Italy made with durum flour and a natural sourdough starter…  I had tried making this bread before with the durum flour, but made the dough too wet so it wasn't very easy to shape.  This most recent attempt was reasonably successful.  What makes this bread interesting is that it is shaped after the final proof and dumped into the oven.  Please see the links below about this bread and how to make it...

Links about this bread in Italian:

My attempt is using my sourdough starter to make a biga naturale and AP flour.  I have also taken liberties in the processing of the dough, so the taste is probably not that "authentic"...

Total Recipe:
1250g AP
825g Water
125g Sourdough Starter @ 100% Hydration
30g Kosher Salt
6g Instant Yeast
2232g Total Dough Yield

Biga Naturale
250g AP
126g Sourdough Starter
144g Water
520g Total

Final Dough
1000g AP
682g Water
520g Biga Naturale
30g Kosher Salt
6g Instant Yeast
2232g Total

6:45pm - Mix biga natural and let sit covered for 3-4 hours.
7:15pm - Mix flour and water from the final dough.  Mix until combined well (2-3 minutes) and place in lightly oiled large plastic tub, cover and let rest.  This is basically a long autolyse.
9:45pm - Sprinkle the kosher salt and yeast over the flour and water dough.  Cut up biga natural and distribute over the dough.  Knead for a few minutes until well combined and the yeast and salt are dissolved in the dough.  About 5 minutes.  Do not add flour.  If the dough sticks, just wet your hands and continue.  Cover and let rest.
10:30pm - Turn dough (stretch and fold method), cover and let rest.
11:00pm - Divide dough into 2 equal pieces, preshape into boules, place each in it's own plastic bowl that is 2x it's size, seam side down.  Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
12:00am - Place baking stone in oven, preheat with convection to 500F.
12:50am - With a plastic scraper, gently scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, shape (Watch the video.  It's tough to explain this one…), slash, place on lightly floured peel and place into oven directly on the stone.  When last loaf is in, bake for 15 minutes at 450F with convection.  Then, turn off the convection, bake for another 15 minutes at 425F, then 30 minutes at 400F.  Turn off oven, and leave in for another 15 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.

I made these for some friends of mine, who I hope will give me a crumbshot as I don't have a loaf for myself…  I saw one of them today, and it looked very good…


SylviaH's picture

I have been wanting to try this method for sometime and have just been putting it off until today.  Of coarse I had to pick today, my kitchen still in some construction mode after remodeling my shower, it had leaked through on the kitchen ceiling, an appointment with a glass and mirror installer...and today is Mike's birthday, so everything is in a bit of a rush.  I baked a couple of mulitigrain loaves, and upon doing this I decided to try a new method of creating steam in my oven.  I'm convinced the only way I'm going to get steam that's not continually 'vented' out of my oven is by using this method.  This is so much easier for me..a lot less effort to create constant steam.  Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Preheated the loaf pans in my oven one or two 5 1/2" X 9 1/2" dark non-stick loaf pans...I used 2 loaf pans with 2 tightly rolled towels in each pan.

Placed 2 water soaked towels into a 6X10 Pyrex glass dish.  Microwaved them for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Until good and hot.

I removed a pre-heated loaf pan from the oven.  Turned my pre-heating oven onto the Bake mode.

Using Tongs I placed the hot towels into the loaf pan. Placed the pan and hot towels back into the oven

Repeated for the other loaf pan and towels.

Using a 8oz. pyrex cup, I microwaved a 1/2 cup of water until it boiled.  Poured the hot water over the two hot rolled towels in one of the loaf pans.

I then repeated for the other loaf pan.  I covered my glass door with a towel and left the pans in the oven while pouring the hot water over the towels.

More or less water can be added.  I had my towels very wet with a little water on the bottom of the pans.

The oven was pre steamed and steamed.  There was constant steam coming from the towels..  Up to 10 minutes after the pans were removed from the oven, there was still steam present, lots of it.  Photos of this steam.  It's not easy to get photos of steam but I did manage if you look closely at the photo.

This is the first time I have tried this method.  It is so much easier for me and creates that constant steam I have been after, without losing it to my venting oven...there's always steam present until the pans are removed.  I think one pan would work nicely too. 

My bread is still cooling.  Mike and I are off to enjoy the evening out.


            Tongs should have been included in this photo.  A couple of  large multigrain loaves was todays's baking.


                  Microwave heating the wet towels in a the pyrex dish



                                                           Steaming the oven



                                                        Steam coming from towels, apx. 10 minutes after being removed from the oven



          ADDED: A little better photo.  Steam coming from the towels several minutes after being removed from the oven.

                                  As I said in the post to Larry, there is some scientific reason

why the steam vapors are not as visable in a hot oven..something I think to do with the air being hotter and so the vapors do not show like they do in cooler air...something like that!  But the steam is in the oven, even though you can't notice it as much as you do outside the oven.  I think I will try a little less steam in my next bake.








Shutzie27's picture

After 27 hours it was finally time to feed my starter....1 cup of regular, all-purpose flour seemed almost anti-climatic after the long day of anticipation and worry. Maybe it was the dry milk, but it just didn't look like it had obtained the yogurt consistency I needed. Before unwrapping the plastic, I couldn't help but worry: was there really yeast fermenting in there? I was only barely decent at creating the magic that was bread using store-bought insta-active-dry yeast; was I over-reaching by trying to create my own....? Neer one to dwell on potential failure, I embraced my "Go down fighting" attitude and took the plastic movement...gentle shake of the glass bowl...JIGGLE!!!! It was thick!!! It was gloopy!!! It was not the thin, watery concotion I had mixed yesterday! I had successfully completed step one!!! 

Bolstered by this victory, I carefully measured out the cup of flour. 

I didn't have a plastic spoon, so I used my red, can-withstand-the-fires-of-hell Kitchenaid set icing spatula. The recipe said to "blend" it in until it was smooth, but I was so worried that mushing everything around would separate the milk from the water from the yeast (if there was any even in there yet) I more or less gently folded some in....and quickly found it was getting sticky....suddenly, with far more than half a cup to go, I was doing more scraping than stirring. Out of blind faith, or perhaps just to avoid losing my nerve, I steadily folded in the rest of the flour. 


Here's what I was left with, after getting out as many lumps as I could: 

Sourdough starter after flour is mixed in


It's not the greatest picture, but it's almost a dough in and of itself. Now I'm waiting for it to get bubbly. I hope I know when to use it...two to four days...I know I'll be checking every day.


******UPDATE*****: Complete and utter failure. :-( I came home on Day 3 and found that I grown about four to six different types of mold. It was not fun to clean up, either. So, for now, active dry yeast in a jar it is. 

alabubba's picture

My daughter wanted me to bake something for Halloween. Here we go!

gothicgirl's picture

Originally posted on 10-16-2010 at Evil Shenanigans

Pizza is one of those things that is either done very well or done very badly. I don't waste my time on bad pizza. Honestly, there is no excuse for gummy crust, plastic cheese, and manufactured toppings when fresh, wholesome ingredients are available. With that in mind I went on a little shopping spree for toppings, and I'm ashamed to admit I went a little overboard - about $50 overboard! - on toppings and exotic cheeses, but trust me when I say it was totally worth it!

For me this pizza has the perfect balance of smokey, spicy, sweet, and savory all on a crisp and chewy crust. The secret of this pizza is not loading it down with toppings and cheese. Each topping packs a lot of flavor so a little goes a long way. My rule of thumb is to add enough so each slice gets a little of the love! This is also a good place to break out some good cheeses, none of that ready-shredded business. Last, and by no means least, is the crust. My crust is made with a Texas beer, Shiner Bock. A lot of pizza recipes have you proof your crust for a day or two in the fridge to develop flavor. Using eer rather than water gives you that long proofed flavor with out the actual long proof.

Sweet, Smoky, and Spicy Pizza on a Bock Beer Crust Yield 4 medium or 2 large pizzas

For the Bock Beer Crust:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons instant yeast)
1 1/2 cups Shiner Bock, or any bock, beer
1/4 cup water
Olive oil for brushing

For the herb sprinkle:
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dry thyme

For the cheese blend:
2 - 6 ounce Fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced thin
1 cup smoked young cacioavallo, or smoked provolone, grated
1 cup fontina fontal, grated
1/2 cup grana padano stravecchio, or Parmesan

For the toppings:her
2 cups Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe here)
1/2 cup caramelized onions
4 strips Candied Bacon, cut into 1″ pieces (recipe here)
3 ounces hard Spanish chorizo, sliced thin
1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced and browned
4 - 1/2″ slices of fresh pineapple, grilled and cut into 1″ pieces
Fresh basil for garnish

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the hook attachment, combine the flour, semolina flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl proof the yeast, if using active dry, in 1/2 cup of beer. Once foamy, about ten minutes, add it to the dry mixture along with the remaining cup of beer and the olive oil.

Mix on low speed for three minutes. The dough should be fairly sticky but form a smooth ball. If the dough seems dry add the water one tablespoon at a time until no dry flour remains. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and form it into a smooth ball. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 500 F with a pizza stone on the lowest rack of the oven for thirty minutes before you are ready to bake.

Once fermented turn the dough out on a lightly floured cutting board. Gently press the dough to degas then divide into four equal pieces. Round the pieces and let rest, covered, for ten minutes. (You can place any dough you don't need in a freezer bag and freeze for up to two months at this time.)

Once rested form the pizza crust to your desired size and thickness by picking up the dough and gently stretching in a circle. Transfer the dough round on a semolina dusted square of parchment on a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the herb mixture.

Bake for two minutes, then remove the crust from the oven, discard the parchment.

Spread 1/4 to 1/2 cup of tomato sauce evenly over the pizza, then spread 2 tablespoons of the caramelized onions over the sauce. Add 4 or 5 slices of the fresh mozzarella, 1/4 cup each browned mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grilled pineapple chunks. Next add 1/4 cup each of the smoked young cacioavallo and fontina fontal. Add 5 or 6 pieces each of the chorizo and candied bacon. Finish with freshly grated grana padano stravecchio.

Bake the pizza for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is crust is brown. Garnish with fresh torn basil, if desired.



txfarmer's picture

I am so glad that some of you tried and liked the 36 hour sourdough baguette formula. I am still making it every week - it's our Friday "treat". Of course, I just can't help messing with a good thing, so I modify the original formula a little bit each time, some turned out really well, the following 3 are my recent favorites:

1) Pumpkin baguette - a.k.a. I don't care it's still nearly 90F out, it's FALL!

The idea came from this blog post, but I used pumpkin instead of butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, and my basic 36 hour sourdough baguette formula.

AP Flour, 425g

pumpkin puree (I used canned), 165g

ice water, 223g

salt, 10g

starter (100%) 150g

pumpkin seeds, 50g, toasted and crushed a little

-Mix flour, pumpkin puree, ice water and autolyse for 12 hours.

-Mix in salt, starter, and seeds, then follow the basic 36 hour sourdough baguette formula here.


I find pumpkin puree generally makes bread moist but "sticky", which does make the crumb of these baguettes less open than the basic formula, but I think the brilliant golden color makes up for it, how very autumn-like.

Pumpkin seeds are bigger than sunflower seeds, so I crushed them a little before adding into the dough, they still "blocked" some holes, but the crunch and flavor they add to the bread was great.

I counted 50% of the pumpkin puree weight is water, which turned out to be a good assumption. The dough felt similar to my usual 75% baguette dough, and I think I am getting better at scoring this wet baby.

2) Wheatgerm baguette

This is inspired by a formula we did at the SFBI baguette workshop. I love baking with wheatgerm, even my hands smell nice after touch the dough.I noticed at the workshop that wheatgerm tends to absorb extra water and make the dough a little dry, so I added extra water to compensate. The hydration ended up being 78%.

AP Flour, 425g

ice water, 315g

salt, 10g,

starter (100%), 150g

toasted wheat germ, 11g

- Mix water, flour and wheat germ, autolyse for 12 hours. Then follow the basic 36 hour sourdough baguette formula here.


The increased hydration worked, I got very open crumb AND fragrant wheat germ flavor.


If you really look, you can see the wheat germ grains on the wall of those big holes

After making, and photographing so many baguettes, I was excited to find a new way to present it - in a paper bag!

I was in love with the flavor, and thought it ahs become my favorite variation, until I made the next one...

3) Rye starter baguette - MY FAVORITE SO FAR!

I have been wanting to add rye or other whole grain flour in the 36 hour baguette for a while now. In order to keep the open crumb, and the classic baguette mouth feel, I know I can't add too much. However, I do want to add enough to really taste the whole grain taste I love. This past weekend, I had a thought: instead of adding rye in the main dough, why don't I "add" it in the starter? Why not just use my rye starter instead of the white one? Since the formula has 30% of starter, which means the dough would have 15% of rye. The result is fantanstic, rye starter reallly adds noticable flavor even though rye ratio is low, at the same time, the crumb remains open, and crust is still thin and crisp.It's now my official favorite variation of 36 sourdough baguette, I am very happy that this experiment turned out so well!

Note that I did increase the hydration to 80%, mostly because I have been making breads from Tartine Bread Book, and its ww and semolina dough are both 80%+ hydration. Only that I forgot baguettes are a lot more tricky to shape than boules, oh, don't forget the minor details of scoring. I can now tell you first hand that scoring 80% wet baguettes is punishingly challenging. Crazy. Both I and the damn dough!:P


AP flour, 425g

ice water, 325g

rye starter (100%), 150g

salt, 10g

- follow the basic 36 hour sourdough baguette formula here.

Such open crumb

One can get lost in these holes. Can't you just see the rye? YOu can taste it too! From the wall of the holes, yu can really see how moist the crumb is.

But the scoring left much to be desired, no matter, I know I will have plenty of opportunities to practice!

We usually eat these baguette as is, or simply with some butter or cheese, but I actually "loosely" followed a recipe from Tartine Bread Book and made a sandwich out of these rye baguettes. Tuna confit, roasted sweet pepper, fresh spinach, Yum!

Submitting to Yeastspotting.

hansjoakim's picture

I recently dusted off my old John Coltrane records, and I've been listening to them pretty much non-stop this weekend. Coltrane's one of those artists that I listen to intensely for weeks on end, before I need to pause, put the records down, and breathe a sigh of relief. For me, the intensity of the music itself seems to induce this kind of listening. Even though I'm generally partial to the fire and cinder of his late Impulse! records, "Giant Steps" is probably the record that's closest to my heart. Not only was it the first Trane record I bought, but it also opened my eyes to so much timeless music. It was also the soundtrack to a great, great summer...

After a rough week, I decided to indulge in baking some of "my favourite things". The first was a pain au levain, a bread that I never tire of. It's also one of those formulas that easily fit into my weekday routine. Here's my formula.

I mixed the dough Friday afternoon, and pulled the baked bread from the oven Saturday morning:

Pain au levain

I really like the simplicity of the bread and formula. A crisp crust and a chewy crumb - it's a bread that's flavourful enough to be enjoyed on its own, with some butter, or a slice of Brie de Meaux.

Pain au levain crumb


I've mentioned it before, and it's probably not something I'm the only one to think, but as the autumn and winter approach us, my preference swings towards wholesome breads. July's crusty baguette is replaced by a dense, filling rye come late October. Yesterday I baked a dense rye loaf based on Hamelman's "80% rye sourdough with rye flour soaker". I made some small changes to the formula, and you can find my adaption described here.

This is a dense, 80% whole rye bread, where a third of the flour comes from a ripe rye sourdough, and a fifth of the flour is scalded with boiling water. The scalding process increases water absorption, provides the bread with just a hint of sweetness, and lends the crumb a soft and moist mouthfeel. Here's the baked bread:

80% rye with rye flour soaker

... and a "24 hour later crumb shot":

80% rye with rye flour soaker crumb

Just what I'm looking for this time of year.

As the title of the blog post warns: There are no apple tarts this week. I hope all's not lost, and that there's still room for Sunday dinner... Another favourite of mine is quiche. I'm not sure if what I made yesterday qualifies as a quiche - according to Robuchon, there's no onion nor grated Gruyère in a proper quiche lorraine. Adding grated Gruyère is supposedly something the posh Parisians did - and the onion? Well, if you put onion in there, it's an onion tart. It's a minefield, I know, so I'll call this my favourite Sunday bacon-and-onion tart. Below's the mise en place: Prebaked tart shell, a custard (in the white bowl, center-top), cooked onion and bacon, and Gruyère. I like a crisp tart crust, and due to the rather liquid filling, I try to give the tart shell a full 20 mins. prebake before filling it.

Quiche mise en place

Voila! Here's the tart after 35 mins in the oven:


Bon appetit!


GSnyde's picture

Sports fans are notoriously superstitious.  Whatever they do on the day of a big win somehow becomes the cause of that win, and must be repeated in order to assure the next win.  So, I guess I have to bake Babka again today, Tuesday and Wednesday or the Giants are bound to face defeat.  Well...if they don't make it to the World Series, I'll take the blame cuz one Babka bake is enough for now. Yesterday, my first attempt at Babka (Chocolate-Cinnamon-Pecan) led to a thrilling one-run win in the Giants first NLCS game against the Phils.

Babka preparation is quite a big deal.  As Emperor Joseph II might have said to Mozart if he were a baker, there are just too many ingredients.  (No, I'm not comparing myself to Mozart; when he was my age, he'd been dead for 20 years).  Flour, yeast, salt, milk, butter, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, grated baker's chocolate, sugar, butter, pecans, flour, sugar, butter....and butter and sugar. There are also lots of steps.  But the results are worth the effort.




Now that I've mashed together themes from Baseball and Classical Music, here's the recipe, an adaptation from Glezer, as told by Stan Ginsburg:

Cinnamon-Chocolate-Pecan Babka (Adapted from Glezer via Stan Ginsburg)

Makes 3 loaves.

Dough Ingredients (measured in ounces)

BreadFlour 36  

WholeMilk 17.25

Unsalted butter 6.75 

Egg Yolks, large 2.5 - approximately 4 yolks

Sugar 9.75  

Instant Yeast 1.0 

Salt 0.25 

Vanilla Extract 0.65 

Ground Cinnamon  .30

Filling Ingredients 

Sugar 11.5  (1 ½ cup)

Unsweetened baker’s chocolate, grated 4.50 (1 ½ cup)

Toasted and chopped Pecans,   8.0 (2 cup)

Unsalted butter, melted (also for greasing pans)   6.00 (1 ½  stick)

Streusel Ingredients

Bread Flour 3.0

Sugar 1.50 

Unsalted butter, room temp 1.50 


  1.   Warm the milk to 105-110 degrees F.  Stir instant yeast into milk. Meanwhile, melt the butter for dough and allow to cool.

  2.  Add half (18 oz) of the flour to milk and yeast and mix until smooth. Allow to ferment about 30 min, until very foamy and volume triples.

  3.  Add remaining ingredients and blend using hands. Knead in the bowl until gluten forms and dough comes away from sides of bowl. This is a very rich, slack dough and it will take time for the gluten to form, but it will happen, so be patient.

  4.  Allow to ferment 45-60 min, until more than doubled in bulk and very gassy. Grease three loaf pans with butter. Turn dough out onto a generously floured board and pat firmly  to degas. Divide the dough into six pieces (two for each loaf).

  5.  Roll the first piece of dough into a very thin sheet, preferably less than 1/4". Using a silicon mat helps. Otherwise, make sure you have enough flour on hand to prevent sticking. When you finish rolling the first sheet, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle it evenly with one sixth of the sugar,  chocolate and pecans. Roll it into a spiral, jelly-roll style. Repeat for other five pieces of dough.

  6.  Preheat your oven to 325 and set rack in lower third of oven. Twist two rolls of dough together to form a double helix, a/k/a a spiral, and arrange in the pan.  Repeat for other two loaves.  Allow to proof for 30-45 minutes, until the dough extends above the rim of the pan.

  7.  Brush top of babka with melted butter. Blend flour, sugar and softened butter into a coarse mixture and sprinkle generously on top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until loaf is a rich, dark brown and it sounds hollow when tapped with a finger. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before tapping it out onto a rack to finish cooling for an hour.

  8. After cooled, enjoy Babka during final innings of Giants' victory.

These Babkas are a delicious moist coffee cake, not too sweet.  The only change I'd make is to add cinnamon to the filling as well as the dough.

Go Giants!  Go Nuts!


Submitted to YeastSpotting (

Neo-Homesteading's picture




Recently my family visited quiet valley living historical farm in stroudsburg, pa. Although we went there for the "craft festival" it was the oven that really captured my attention. I talked with the ladies running the oven briefly and had a brief conversation about how I'm in the process of building my own oven. Well actually its been a few years in progress now. I was amazed at how well their oven looked and how well maintained it is. It really motivated me to want to finish my own.

So far, We dug a 4x4 foot hole, filled it back up, made the foundation with cinder blocks... filled the center with sand, purchased fire brick and now its still sitting there. I based everything off of what I read in kiko denzers book but something I really had an issue with was all of the rocks and trying to find the perfect soil to build with. While talking to the ladies at the historical farm I almost got the impression that rocks are ok? It was just a brief conversation however now I'm somewhat baffled. Dont rocks explode when they are heated? Living in the pocono mountains finding the perfect clay to use for my oven just seems impossible. Has anyone else done this in a similar environment? I'm really hoping to finish my bread oven soon, hopefully before the snow hits this season. I'm wondering if a masonry oven might be a better way to go however I did have my heart set on a cob style earth oven. Any helpful advice appreciated! For more on the historical farm please see my blog post. 


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