The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


  • Pin It
sortachef's picture

 I left the East Coast 30 years ago and, except for sporadic family visits, I've hardly been back. One of the things I still long for, after all that time, is a good soft pretzel.

 The trick to making pretzels is to slow fermentation at about 65º and utilize a short boiling time, so that the crust of the pretzel has a chance to form without too much heat transfer that will kill the yeast. The result is a plump pretzel, crusty and smooth on the outside and dense and chewy on the inside. Perfect!

woodfired pretzel

Woodfired or Conventional Soft Pretzels 

Makes 2 large 8 ounce pretzels

2 cups Bread Flour

3 Tablespoons spelt

1 teaspoon brown sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon yeast

¾ cup water at room temperature

3 quarts water for boiling water bath

Sheet pan and rack for applying topping

1 egg + 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

1 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or large-grained sea salt)

Parchment paper for rising and baking

Make the dough: In a large bread bowl, mix bread flour, spelt, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and dry yeast together. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Mix with the handle of a wooden spoon to incorporate. Scrape down the sides and knead for a few minutes to smooth out the lumps.

Put the dough onto a sprinkling of flour on a counter, invert the bowl to cover the dough and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

Knead and proof the dough: Knead the dough for 5 minutes and, when soft and supple, stretch it to form a fat snake. Curl the dough snake in on itself, put it back on the counter, cover with the bowl and let sit for an hour or two. It is important at this time to think about stretching your dough to improve the strands of gluten. The longer the better.

Fold your dough snake in thirds and knead for a minute or two to get the air out. (A dough this stiff doesn't so much rise as plumps up.) Stretch it back into a fat snake, cover and let rest for another hour.

Heat the woodfired oven: Your fire should be 2 hours old, with enough heat to sustain for an hour's baking, but not so much heat that it will scorch the pretzels. Keep the fire to either the left or right of center, in order to heat the oven deck. Every 20 minutes for the last hour or so, move your fire side to side to evenly heat the floor tiles. A half hour before the pretzels are ready, put two thin sticks of dry wood on and 2 wrist-thick pieces and bring to a flame. A few minutes before putting in the pretzels, push the mature coals to the back center of the oven, near the wall, and brush the ashes off of the floor.  There should be 6 to 8 fist-sized chunks of glowing hardwood coal and a good bed of embers, but no flame when the pretzels go in. 

Heat the conventional oven (alternate): Heat quarry tiles on the center rack of your oven at 400º for at least 30 minutes. For more on this, see 'Baking bread on quarry tiles' on my site (

Form the pretzels: Roll your dough snake out until it is about 3 feet long, and cut it into 2 equal pieces. Roll each piece out until it is 27 inches long. You may have to let your dough rest a few times to accomplish this without tearing the gluten.

Cut two pieces of parchment 7" x 10" for woodfired, or to fit a sheet pan for conventional baking. Hold the ends of one dough rope and let the middle sag down to sit on the parchment two inches in from the edge. Let the rope of dough make most of a circle on the pan and then twist the ends once around to form a loose knot a few inches from the ends. Bring the tips toward you to overlap the curve of the dough, dividing the area of the circle roughly into thirds.

Repeat with the other piece. Let the pretzels rise for 45 minutes, covered with a cloth. Stretch each pretzel out slightly halfway through to improve its shape.

Make an assembly line: Boil 3 quarts of water. Have a 12-14 inch sauté or frying pan ready on the stove. Put a rack to one side with a pan under it to catch the excess egg and salt. Mix the egg and water until frothy in a ramekin and have a brush handy. When the pretzels have risen for 45 minutes, put the water into the sauté pan and keep at a boil.

For woodfired baking, have two wooden peels ready to one side, and move the fire around as noted above.

Boil and coat the pretzels: Put a pretzel face down into the boiling water, for 40 seconds only. After 40 seconds (no more!), gently flip the pretzel with the backs of two spoons and boil on the other side for a further 30 seconds. Remove to the rack.

Brush the pretzels with the egg wash twice to ensure a good coating. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt onto each pretzel. Carefully move the pretzels back to the parchment and arrange the final shape.

Bake the pretzels in a woodfired oven: Slide the pretzels on their parchment mats to within 8" of the coals. Close the door completely. Bake for 7 minutes, by which time the pretzels will have miraculously sprung up to twice their former height. Carefully turn the parchment, using a metal peel and a gloved hand, and bake for a further 7 or 8 minutes, again with the door closed.

When they are brown and lovely, remove the pretzels from the oven, place them on a rack and allow them to cool for about an hour (if you can wait that long!)

Bake in a conventional oven: Bake in sheet pan on quarry tiles for 10 minutes at 375º,  turn pan around and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the pretzels are brown and lovely. Let cool for an hour, and then devour!

For whole blog and other similar recipes, visit Flame On!

SylviaH's picture

I made some Irish Soda Farls this morning for a quick fix me upper for breakfast.  My favorite way is to bake soda farls is on my electric grill..but being in the hurry to have these ready..I chose my iron skillet..which bakes them up great.  You do have to watch the pan doesn't get to hot..pre-heated and set about med-low works good.  I bake them for about 10 mins. on each a dry extra grease and if your pan is pre-seasoned good with some crisco..wipe it dry..otherwise the farls tend to brown mine did!  Well they must have been good.  Sliced warm I enjoyed mine and my husband's response was.. ' I have to be careful..I can hurt myself on those.'   Last year I posted a recipe for my mom's soda bread on my blog..I always use the same recipe posted here with some photos to show how to mix.







                                                                            Goes great with hot cup o tea
















Sedlmaierin's picture

This is kind of exciting-my first blog post EVER!

Tuesday to Wednesday were my serious baking days this week. I tried out a new recipe from my German bread book(which I "wisely" altered on the first go around-even though I don't think any of the troubles I ended up having had to do with my changes-apart from the pyrex bowl) and I undertook the Rubaud Miche again, since the first one was a bust and turned into a pyramid shaped, dense thing.

First to the Holzhackerbrot:the original recipe called for 80g of fresh yeast disolved in a half cup of water with 1 teaspoon of sugar.I omitted the yeast and used just a wee bit extra sourdough instead.It also said that the loaf should be free formed-well, I decided to put it in a pyrex form(maybe not such a good idea)

Here's the recipe, without the yeast:

700g rye flour 1740 (I know this is closer to a pumpernickel flour, but I only had teh Arrowhead Mills Organic Rye flour on hand)

300g wheat flour 1050 ( according to KA that is closest to first clear flour- I used white whole wheat)

350g firm sourdough starter

250 g old fashioned oat meal

about 750 ml  water at 30celcius

3 tbls salt

I hand mixed/kneaded the dough (with wet hands) until it was silky, velvety with just a nice touch of resistance to it. The dough proofed in my oven(with pilot light on) for about 4.5 hours-kneaded it for a wee bit and stuck it in my greased pyrex form, to rest again for about an hour. By the time I found it ready to go into the oven it seemed nice a plump,it had risen again by a very generous quarter. Docked it and off it went into the pre-heated oven(lowest shelf). The recipe says that it needs to be baked with steam for the first 15 minutes, then let the steam come out and bake without steam for the remainder of the time.The crust formation is very important on this loaf, since it contributes greatly to the flavor of the bread.Well, it is meant to be in a 260celcius oven for 75-80 minutes-which mine was.

Here is what I discoverd, though, upon retrieving the bread at the end of the time-it was very very dark on top(which was great) but the bottom of it was almost burnt. AND it wasn't even done yet.So that was my problem-to be solved on the next go around- with this loaf. I turned the heat down after 80 minutes, and left it in there for a bit longer(maybe ten more) and then let it sit in the turned off oven. Of course, it was a hassle to try and get the bread out of the form-since it was still slightly underdone.

So, if anybody reading this has any suggestions regarding the bake time,temp that would be great. I don't know if you still use the term of a "caramelized crust" in a predominantly rye loaf, but it does seem to require something like that.I am pretty sure that the loaf will just have to be in the oven longer and therefore at a lower temp, I just don't know if I need to try to bake it first at a higher temp and then turn down the oven for the rest of the time, or vice versa, in order to have the best crust development.I will also free form it next time and I will probably let it retard overnight-I just have a feeling it could have proofed a wee bit longer. Let me tell, ya, though, the bread is DELICIOUS!!! (if you like dense breads) Wow, the flavor is great, it has kind of a honey, malty taste and the crust is super crunchy(yay!!!).

Pictures of this loaf are here:


And then there was the Miche! So, what did I do differently? I still did the 5 S&Fs as per Shiao-Pings post, but it proofed for closer to 4 hours in my oven instead of about 3 hours. Then I shaped it, wrapped it in a floured towel and stuck it in a plastic bag for overnight retarding. Then next day, shaped it again and let it rise once more for about 3 hours in my oven-scored it. Pre-heated the oven to about 525 fahrenheit, had a steam pan in there during pre-heat, plus dumped ice cube in there when I slid the bread in.Baked it for 50 minutes at about 425-450 fahrenheit.

Well, it turned out way better than the first attempt-I don't know if the more proofing times need to be tweaked-there are some slightly larger holes at the top of the loaf than throughout the rest of the crumb-overproofed/underproofed? I wish I could comment on the taste, but we are all under the weather here and it is way more subtle tasting than my german loaf- I don't trust my taste buds to be very discerning with a plugged up nose. It has really great texture- I think next time I will let it cool off in the  turned off oven for about 15 minutes, since I think I read that will allow the crust to stay even crunchier.

I could have never done this without Mini's help-thanks so much!

I also just ordered Bread-by Hammelman....can't wait! My first artisan bread book-I read the review on here and was wavering between the BBA and this one, but one of the things that I have been enjoying so much about TFL is learning so much about the science behind this art. It seemed like the Hammelman book will make my inner nerd very happy.

Ok, Miche pictures




Boboshempy's picture

Here is one of many loafs I have made following Peter Reinhart's instructions for the Poilâine-Style Miche in his book Bread Baker's Apprentice. I really just wanted to make this blog entry to share some of my pictures of this loaf. I have been making a Poilâine loaf every weekend for the past couple of months and I continue to tweak everything, especially the flour types/brands, blends, and siftings. Depending on these factors, especially the flour, the hydration also gets tweaked. I love making these loafs and I have never made one that wasn't delicious and eaten within a week but I continue to chase Poilâine nirvana. As we all know, as for the real Poilâne loaf, the key is in the proprietary French T80 flour he uses. This odd gray flour, most likely, can't be replicated BUT it is possible to make a loaf at home that is as good, if not better than his loaf!



In this loaf's rendition I used 100% Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour which I double sifted to remove some of the bran. This flour is stone ground from hard red U.S. dark northern spring wheat and has all of the bran and germ still intact. This flour is an over the counter flour in my area and the grind is somewhat finer than the local organic, freshly ground, whole wheat flour that I have been recently using...that is a whole other blog entry. So, it is not as easy to remove this finer bran. If I used this flour again I would sift it some more to try to remove a little more of the bran.

I love how this loaf came out. The loaf sang like a woodpecker when it came out of the oven creating a beautiful crackly crust as it cooled. The aroma was amazing, a rich caramelized wheaty aroma that reminded me of a bowl of hot grape-nuts cereal...I know, I'm crazy. The crumb was tight, yet light, moist, and springy. I was pleasantly surprised by the awesome flavor, the crumb had a distinctive wheaty and lightly sour taste and the crust had a deep caramel flavor with a fantastically sour bite. After I cut into it I kept it in a brown paper bag and it stayed fresh, except for the drying of the exposed cutting areas, and totally edible for an entire week.

I currently have daily access to actual Poilâine loafs here in New York City from Agata & Valentina so I am aware of what it looks and tastse like and this loaf is quite different, haha.



Enjoy the pictures,


Baking_Bear's picture

I briefly introduced myself this morning in the forums, but here is my longer introduction.

I have been baking pretty much my whole life, but never regularly until a couple years ago. As a girl growing up it was the standard Wonder bread for sandwiches. If we wanted something special for Sunday dinners one of my sisters or I would mix up a batch of rolls or maybe a loaf of fresh bread, but that was it. My passion for baking began a few years back when I stumbled upon this site (really, I've been lurking for about three years). I was looking for a pretzel recipe, but I found a whole lot more. What really intrigued me were the discussions here about sourdough and starters.

About a year ago I decided I was finally brave enough to tackle the great hurdle that is natural yeast; and following the directions in BBA I started my very own starter. The first few sourdough breads I made were... unpleasant... at best. I had come that far though, and wasn't about to give up. Using the knowledge I picked up here, from Bread Baker's Apprentice, and Bread I have improved greatly. In the last year I have gone from sandwiches on the baked wheat paste (really un-extraordinary bread) that the local megamart sells to this:

(Ham, sharp cheddar, and tomato on Vermont sourdough, if you were wondering)

I have also developed a passion for all baked goods and the science behind them (that's the engineer in me coming out, I suppose). I also bake cookies, brownies, croissants, pizzas, you name it. Unfortunately my schedule and current situation keep me from baking as much as I would like. I am a senior in college, civil engineering major, and only really have time to bake on weekends, but there is now way that I can give it up now. Every time I go home I am expected to make bread or rolls or some sort of pastry for my family. I love being able to share what I bake with my family. Sharing something you made with people you love is one of the greatest parts of baking.

Anyway, thank you to everybody who has posted their experiments, tips, recipes, and knowledge over the last few years. It has helped get me to the level I am at today. I hope to be a contributing member of the community over the next few years while I continue to improve.

trailrunner's picture

We are taking a day off . YEAH. This is the first one so far.

day 7--- rode 45 mi avg speed 11 mph. we spent the night in Chipley after stopping in Marianna FL. This is a funny story...we asked in Marianna how far to a motel and the lady in a store said " oh it is just on the other side of that bridge...about a mile". Well it was on the other side of the bridge but....let's say her idea of a mile and ours are different LOL. This is a good lesson to learn when you are on a bike and asking directions. What seems like a "little piece up the road" in a car is usually a LOT further when you are on a bike. Pete had a flat today. A great use for tweezers...pulling out the tiny metal strips from steel belted radial tires...they are cyclists nightmare. The day was sunny and not much wind , very pretty. Another funny..we stopped in Careyville. I sang my "worm song" for everyone in the little store. Noone had ever heard it know the one...Nobody loves me everybody hates me , I'm gonna eat some worms...So we get back on our bikes and the VERY next town has the distinction of being Westville FL...the worm fiddlin' capital of the world ! How auspicious. We all had a good laugh...should have gotten a pic. Look it up if you don't know what it means :)We are on our way to DeFUNiak Springs FL. Again we stopped ( usually every hour to hour and a half). I asked a lady in the little gas station "where is the FUN in DeFUNiak?" she said" oh darlin it is at the VFW on Karioke night ! AH....well maybe NOT ! Stayed the night in DeFuniak , very pretty town ! Took pics of the lake and baby ducks.

Day9--- rode 59 mile avg 11 mph. to Milton FL. Went to a bike shop. He stayed open for us , usually closes at 4 PM. Believe it or not I have done this many days w/o padded bike shorts OH NO! Got a pair as my A&* is sore. Had bike tunes and A&* too ! Sent home another 3 1/2 #. Boy do I feel lighter :) I have lost about 5 # body weight so far too. Stayed in Milton.

Day10--40 miles today avg 11.5 perhr. Rode to the far side of Pensacola. This is one guys last night. He had planned to ride with us and then he is going to Cheaha in AL and hike with friends. He is selling me his great is a tarp tent, single wall 2 person and only weighs 1 1/2 # !!! Look into it if you want a great light tent. Another remember Laugh In the old TV show. Do you remember the little fellow on his tricycle pedaling very very fast and then falling over ? Well I was going up a huge long hill on Escambia River Bridge and started thinking of this...I began to laugh as I was the perfect image of this guy....very low granny gear...I DIDN'T fallover though. We ate lunch at Hopjacks in Pensacola. Great place. We met up with the new woman who is joining us. She is AMAZING. Two time breast cancer survivor, 45 yrs old and a powerhouse of inner and outer strength. We stayed the night at the Black Warrior River campground. Attacked by Killer Raccoons...(that is my story and I'm stickin to it ! ) The got a pbj bagel and made a mess of our campsite.

Day 11 ( Monday) - you will note that I put the number of the ay and the name and the date...and still Pete and I were laughing that we can't keep them straight. The usual comment is " are you SURE that was yesterday?". It all becomes a blurr. Due to the new shorts I bought and Butt Butter, which is EXACTLY what you would think it is, my riding is perfect. 62 miles avg 12 MPH !! WOW. Took the ferry from Pensacola to Dauphin Island. A pretty ride. $5 w/ bike. Got pics. We stopped at Smokey's for a $1 bbq slider...boy are they great. Smokey also has a cool way to keep all insects and bugs away. Take gallon press and seal plastic bags. Draw wavy lines on them with Magic Marker. Fill them half full with water. Hang them where the sun will shine on the moving water...all insects including mosquitoes hate it. What a terrific and safe way to help your environment. Rode the Intercoastal Bridge...remember the image...pedal pedal faster faster ! Saw a flyswatter on the bridge...why is it here haha ? Staying the night in Bayou la Batre LA.Got a great pic of an oysterman coming in with his haul....don't want to start here about the failure of the U.S. to support the efforts of the coastal people to save the marshes etc. It hurts too much to see the loss of approx 25 acres a DAY from coastal LA. Did laundry in a laundromat owned by a very funny Vietnamese man...had Mexican food as the BEST seafood restaurant was " a little way up the road over the bridge" uh...nope not going to fall for THAT again. sigh.

Day12----what a day. 63 miles 11 mph. We left Bayou la Batre ( it is pronounced battry) and headed for a campground in Vancleve MS. All was well till we got the 50 miles to the campground...what a pit...filthy and nasty and I got got dog doo all over my bike shoes. So we asked where the nearest place was with a motel. We were watching the sky get heavier and heavier...we were in for a "po'down" as we say in AL. Several folks pointed us to Seaman road and said head to the coast...well we booked it on down to Ocean Springs MS exit 50 off of I10. Whew a horrible scary and unsafe ride if ever there was one. Narrow 2 lane, dark and rainy and the close was that truck? He was so close I could have reached through the passenger window and taken the cigarette out of his mouth ! So here we are. We are doing laundry and catching up on rest.

************ We have ridden approx 620 miles so far and no day off. I am amazed. I am not beat up at all. Huge difference from the trailrunning and road running. After a 50 mile trail race I was ready for a week off and my feet would be worn out. As we say in the South...I would be stove up ! Not the case with cycling. My trailer is perfect, my load is light and as the little man in a store in Gretna FL said " you people on bicycles, I see you all the time....riding just leave all you cares behind..." well sorta. If it were not for my sweet Robert holding down the fort and loving me every day like it was the first after 39 years I would not be here...on the journey of my life. Thank you Robert for were right...we were always meant to be. c


davidg618's picture

These two loaves were treated identically through bulk proofing. They were divided into exactly equally portions (737g)  both Preshaped, within 30 secs, rested 15 minutes, shaped, proofed, slashed, and loaded into the oven within one minute of each other.  They were Baked, rotating the loaves positons in the oven--after steaming--and removed within a few seconds of each other.

As you can see in the photographs there is a significant difference in the oven spring realized in each loaf. Three things may have effected the difference.

1. I may have tightened the surface skin on one tighter than the other.

2. I turn off the convection mode during steaming; consequently one side of the oven may be hotter than the opposite side.

3. The different slashing patterns restrain or encourage the oven spring upward.

I'm going to repeat this event, as best I can. (This is our weekly, go-to sourdough bread). I will repeat the different slashings, and reverse the loaves' positions in the oven. Otherwise, I will keep all things identical as best I can.

I've had a recent experience with crust bursting on another bread (entirely different, Jewish Rye); it sensitized me to the effects of slashing, although I've wondered about it in past baking, but I've never experienced such a side-by-side difference.

I'll post the results when I do it again.

David G

Doughtagnan's picture

We had a recipe for Pumpkin and Feta pie on a shortcrust pastry base and thought it would work well on a pizza base (though purists will deem it an abomination!) The topping was a mix of oven roasted butternut squash & whole garlic cloves (squeezed out after roasting) mixed with fried red onions & balsamic vinegar plus feta cheese & chopped rosemary.... all on a hand stretched pizza base.... i'm thinking it would work very well as a starter sized pizzette with some rocket on the side........  it made a very nice change.  Steve

Mebake's picture

Great thing about baking is that you learn something new with every bake.

This was a 100% Wholewheat boule milled from Red hard spring (I think) Wheat. The wheat was milled too fast too fine, and i found the hard way, that finest stone milling causes starch damage. The results were as this:

This is the Wheat i milled (Hard Red Winter?).Very hard, like durum. I suspect that this wheat is a damaged crop. Frost maybe?

This is the pathetic Boule i spent 2 days preparing (No rise whatsoever), and baked under stainless steel bowl on a stone:

 The so called crumb:

 On another account, i have baked a successful (40% White WW, 30% Spelt, 30% AP)

(The Dough stuck a bit to the brotform because i pressed it in when i first put it):

After scoring:

Baked under a stainless steel Bowl on a stone for 15 min. uncovered for 25 min:

The crumb:

All I can say, it tasted Wonderfull, with soft creamy yet chewy crumb. I made a biga and a soaker for this. Then 24 hrs later, i combined both and did the (slap and fold french folding technique..hehe),followed by the fold in the bowl method i learned here. The overall dough hydration was 73%, and after the folding it was silky and smooth, with good gluten body.

ritav's picture

I recently purchased a 25 lb. bag of all trumps flour.  With all this flour on hand, I  wanted to see how it worked for bread.  So I made a loaf of raisin fennel bread.  The texture is lighter; however, the cells look good.  It was worth the try.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs