The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


txfarmer's picture

I'm still tackling that big bag of Costco carrots. This formula is inspired from this blog post, which in turn is adapted from 《Brot backen: Mit Rezepten & Ernährungstipps vom Bio-Bäcker》(No, I have no idea what it means, until Google Translate came to help). It is supposed to be "vitalbrot", a bread that's often seen in Austria. The trouble is that I know little about Austrain bread, even less about this particular kind. After making some "slight" modifications to the original formula, I really have no idea how authentic this is comparing to the original version. However, I do know that it's fragrant, moist, delicious with layers of deep flavors. My adaption involves: 

- halved the recipe

- used sourdough only, no commerical yeast

- retarded overnight after shaping

- no oil in the dough


Even without the oil, the dough is plenty wet at 79% hydration. I think shredded carrots released water, while seeds absorbed extra, they kinda balanced out. Two significant things I noticed about this dough:

1. It's needs a lot of S&F to develope enough strength. I mixed with my hands after autolyse for a while, then S&F every half an hour during teh 3 hour fermentation. Wet carrots, seeds, and rye all may have contributed to the lack of gluten of the dough, but at the end of bulk rise, all is well, the dough expanded for about 50%, and gained enough strength. Still a wet and sticky glob, but a strong glob.

2. It fermentate so very fast. It might just be my rye stater, which has a history of rising dough with lightening speed. The bulk rise took barely 3 hours, and the house was on the cool side (70F, cool for Texas, or at least this Texas girl!). After retarding, the dough was ready to be baked straight from the fridge! Doughs with similar hydration usually would require some further proofing at room temp, but not this one. After sending them into the oven, I was second guessing myself and worried about underproofing, but in the end, the breads showed that I caught it at the right time. Any more proofing, they will be flat.


Nice open crumb studded with carrots and seeds, deliciously fragrant, and very moist

Made two loaves, each about 1 lb. I think with such wet and relatively weak dough, it's better to bake smaller loaves, that way they don't spread as much on the stone. Happy with their volume this time around.

Baked them long enough to ensure a crisp singing crust

My formula (adapted from 《Brot backen: Mit Rezepten & Ernährungstipps vom Bio-Bäcker》)

Note: makes 2 loaves, each 1 lb

- Soaker

Flaxseeds, 40g

pumpkin seeds, 40g

hot water, 75g

1. Mix and put aside for overnight


- Final Dough

Bread Flour, 325g

water, 165g

salt, 8g

carrots, 100g, shredded

rye starter (100%), 150g

all of the soaker

2. Mix everything but salt, autolyse for 30min, mix with hand until dough comes together, a few minuts.

3. Bulk rise at 70F for 3 hours, S&F every 30min.

4. Divide into 2 parts, preshape, rest, shape into loaves.Put in brotforms smooth side down, cover wiht pastic, and put in fridge (40F) overnight.

5. If needed proof more at room temp the 2nd morning (I didn't need that), bake on stone at 450F for 35min, the first 12min with steam.


Delicious flavor, great texture for both crumb and crust. Yes, it's also healthy, but even if it's not, I would devour it in a heartbeat. Now, only if someone can tell me whether it's anywhere close to the real Austrian Vitalbrot?


Sending this to Yeastspotting.

MadAboutB8's picture

I haven't made the fruit loaves for a while. Not that I don't like them, I do love fruit toast (a lot actually), but I've been obsessed about making grains, seeds, whole wheat breads recently and kind of overlooking my old-time favourite, sourdough fruit toast. 

Sometimes, one needs a reminder or a nag. My boyfriend just mentioned the other day what a great fruit toast from the Dench Baker (artisan bakery and café in Fitzroy, Melbourne) he had. It sorted of giving me a signal that maybe I should be baking other breads apart from grain and seed breads. 

I picked Golden Raisin Sourdough recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread cookbook. It's one of my favourite recipes from the book. The bread has 20% whole wheat flour, 10% rolled oats and 25% golden raisins.


Hamelman's recipe is 69% hydration which I found the dough to be very stiff. I adjusted the hydration to 72% (the dough still feel stiff with 72%). I guess that the hydration can even go higher to 75% as the oats, raisins and whole wheat flour absorb more water.


The bread is very moist and sweet due to substantial amount of raisins in it. The oats seems totally blend-in with the dough and disappear altogether. The bread is great toasted with butter. It makes a fantastic breakfast.


More details, photos and recipes can be found here :> 



Yippee's picture


I haven't really been taking full advantage of Mr. Hamelman's book. The 90% rye made at the beginning of this year was the one and only formula from his book I've attempted.  For the most part of the year, I've been taking my time to upgrade my equipment, getting to know their properties, and playing with a simple formula.  Now it seems that I've gotten a hang of the very basic aspects of bread baking, I'm ready for more 'adventures'.

This time I picked the five-grain sourdough with rye starter.  This is a pretty straight-forward formula.  Despite the high % of whole grains in the dough, the high gluten flour used has made up for decent gluten development.  Due to the relatively high hydration, the dough was very loose in my mixer at the beginning. I briefly mixed all the ingredients and let them sit for a while and ran the mixer again. I considered this the 'S&F' by my mixer. By repeating this a few times, the gluten had developed to the extent I preferred and the dough had formed within the first hour.  The handling of dough was not a problem at all.

To prepare for this and other future bakes of Mr. Hamelman's formulae, I stocked up with 50 lbs of cracked rye. Considering how frequently I bake, it should probably last through next decade! Just kidding!  I've found other uses of cracked rye, thanks to the delay of my bake.  Each morning in the week following the original bake that was cancelled, I ate some of the refrigerated soaker with my oatmeal. At the end of that week, all the old soaker was consumed.  I prepared a new batch of soaker for this bake. 

I was hoping this bake would serve as a test for temperature and timing required for fermentation of dough leavened by an active, systematically refreshed starter.  Inevitably, the original bake was put off and I was, again, working with a weeks-old, unrefreshed starter. When I prepared this starter for the original bake, I did not follow the instruction in the book.  Instead, I used up most of my 100% rye starter on hand and built it into an 83% levain. 

When my dough is in final proof, I usually check on its progress before I go to work in the morning and adjust the thermostat accordingly, so that it would be ready for baking when I return.  There was an episode this time which almost gave me a heart attack.   Instead of seeing the 54F I had set for the overnight proof, the bright red, heart-stopping 64F on the digital display made my eyes pop!  I had forgotten to turn on the refrigerator!  I said to myself:  'I'm dead, it's over!' (今次死梗, 衰硬!)  Thank goodness, the dough was a little shy of ready; my sluggish starter had saved the day!  I froze the dough immediately for an hour and moved it to a 33F refrigerator.  When I got home that night, it had reached the perfect stage for baking.  Whew! ( 險過剃頭!)

The following is a summary of my interpretation of the formula:



This is one of the loaves I'm going to bring home to my parents during Thanksgiving.  In order to come up with a variety of breads, I have to complete a few more bakes within the next few days. Time is running out. Yikes!  The pressure is on!     

Here are some pictures:

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I've been slowly brewing away with some thoughts over the years....  Starters and their differences.  Why is it that sometimes a weak rising sourdough starter culture will bounce back quickly (too quickly) and suddenly "stabilize" after chilling or a near death experience?

I have a timing theory thinking the yeasts might have syncronized their life cycles through temperature control and also the idea that perhaps getting the desired yeasts to spore (hibernate) and then wake up the correct yeast using the same selected bacteria group to do the job.  I have always (still do hopefully) kept my ears and eyes open for explanations. 

I was pointed to a podcast on research extending life spans recently and the mention that yeasts were also affected perked up my ears.  Why not?  I began to think about it more and more and it made sense.  Maybe this was one explanation for what I was observing.  Longevity of yeast perhaps.  That the yeast were living longer budding more and producing more gas in their life spans before dying letting the next generations take over.  The peaks that stay peaked for longer periods of time after feeding the neglected starter.   Hmmm.  Puts the expression "never starve a starter" into question.

There is also lots of other information in the interview like a quick mention that 2% sugar intake shortened life span by 20% which also could be applied to yeasts.  I wonder what the details are there?  The BBC Podcast features Prof. Cynthia Kenyon, director for the Hillblom Center for Aging, Univ of Calif. San Fran.   Topic: Latent capability to extend lifespan.

Toward the end of the interview, I was struck by our own TFL member diversity and how contributions from so many have enriched the site.   Listen and enjoy!

"Lay back and bake at TFL!"

GSnyde's picture

Before I started bread-baking 10 weeks ago, we used to always have excellent hearth bread in the house from one or the other of the wonderful artisan bakeries in the area.  But lately, we've been eating my bread, except for the occasional bakery challah or bagels.  When I get great bread in a restaurant, I take it as a challenge: someday soon I can do it just like this.

But yesterday at the grocery, I bought some smoked turkey for dinner, and realized my weekend bread is stale.  So I bought a loaf of an old standby, Acme's Pain au Levain.  It makes me realize how far I have to go before I can bake great bread.  It is humbling.  Gorgeous to look at.  Perfect crust and crumb.  And deliciously sour and complex.

After that experience, I needed to bake something sweet to give me courage and determination, and avert a lapse into hopelessness.  

Floyd's cream cheese blueberry braid did the trick (  I used apples instead of berries, and topped it with cinnamon sugar.  It is wonderful.



With the other half of the rich dough, I made improvised chocolate-cinnamon-pecan rolls.  They were nothing to look at (in fact, I think I'll add them to OWS's "Ugly Loaf" thread), but boy were they delicious.  I rolled the dough out and filled it with cinnamon-sugar, chunks of Scharffenberger semi-sweet chocolate and toasted pecans. The dough was too sticky to roll up properly and I overfilled them.  I also should have baked at a slighlty lower temperature.  But I'd gladly eat ugly pastry with my eyes closed.


Now I am reinvigorated to keep at the quest for great homemade hearth bread.



Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Last Saturday I made my sixth consecutive attempt at baking Hamelman's Baguettes With Poolish.  My report on it is very late, and my procedure had a couple of forced errors (for a very good reason I'll get to in a moment), but I got some very good results nonetheless.

The key factor affecting both the late report and the minor errors in production is that when I measured my poolish at 10:30pm on Friday night, my wife at that time was exactly 40 weeks pregnant.  Her water broke a little before 7am on Saturday.  We were off to the hospital and I was more than ready to write the poolish off as a loss, but the midwife sent us home to wait for labor to begin in earnest, and so when we got home at 10am, I set about making my baguettes to pass the time.

So I had a poolish that was slightly overfermented (if you haven't been following this series of  blog posts, I've found that I need to start the final dough after 10-ish hours for best results).  I went ahead anyway, prepared to toss the whole thing if we had to run to the hospital.  As it happened, I got the baguettes made and out of the oven while my wife was still having sporadic contractions.  As with last week, I tried extending the final proof to 75 minutes (up from 60 in previous bakes), although I may have been off by a few minutes, since my wife and I went for a long walk during the proof in order to get contractions going, and I didn't pay close enough attention to the time (I'd set the timer for 60 minutes, and it had gone off when we got back, but that was all I knew).

We headed out to the hospital for real just before dinner time, but I ended up cutting into one of the baguettes and scarfing it down while my wife was on the phone with the midwife.

The Results: Exterior

The Results: Crumb

The baguettes were a little pale, and the crust a little chewier than last week--both results of the poolish over-fermenting, I'm pretty sure.  The cuts are much improved, though I still need to put a little more angle on them so they don't merge so much.  The crumb on the baguette I cut was great in some places, but a little tight in others.  However, the texture of the crumb was just lovely--finally creamy rather than at all fluffy.  The flavor was up a couple notches from previous weeks as well.   I think if I do everything the same, but get the poolish right next week, I should be well on my way (though it will take much more practice to get the cuts and crumb reliable, I'm sure).

So I'm fairly proud of these baguettes.  That said, I am infinitely prouder of the other "bun" pulled out of the oven last weekend, my beautiful daughter Miriam Bell Sandler, born at 12:18 pm on November 7th.

Lisa Mary's picture
Lisa Mary

I have started to work part-time in a bakery. Not a commercial chain bakery, but one which has an old 1939 brick oven, once fired by coal.

ehanner's picture

I have had my copy of Chad Robertson's "Tartine Bread" book for some time now and have read the posts here from those who have baked his breads. As has been pointed out by other posters, 100 pages are dedicated to recipes that use bread in them which is nice but isn't normally part of a "Bread Book". It is a beautiful book and the images take up many of the pages. The book was delayed in publishing for what seemed like forever. Several critics gave it rave reviews so I was hopeful.

The text is written like it is aimed primarily at new bakers or those who have heard about the bakery in California and want to learn to bake the Tartine breads. The author talks about how anyone can pick up this book and make good bread using just the chapter on the Basic Country Loaf. Robertson details his basic formula and attempts to de-mystify bakers math so you learn to "think like a baker". The working formula for building the leavan calls for double the amount needed in the dough build. Then his representation of the recipe or formula is in my opinion very non standard and confusing. Additionally the discussion of bakers percents and the listed percents do not add up correctly with the amounts in the formula. The total hydration of his basic country bread is off by the amount of the leavan. The total amount of flour is also off by the amount of the flour in the leavan. I wonder if he really understands bakers percent math. Small mistakes are one thing but any professional baker would be or should be embarrassed by this interpretation of bakers percent math. A new baker will gain nothing useful by the confusion created on pages 47) para 1. and page 48. In addition the percent for salt is shown to be 2%, which is a common ratio for that ingredient but then since the flour in the leavan isn't included in the total flour, the amount shown in under the salt column is off by 10%. That mistake won't ruin the bread but, the instructor/author should stay true to the universally accepted use of Bakers Math.

The concept of baking in a cast iron combo cooker is in my opinion, an accident waiting to happen. While covered baking has been demonstrated to be an effective way to avoid the venting issues in a gas oven, the weight of a dutch oven at scorching 450F heat being held upside down is very difficult to manage. Yes, it can be done but the results are attainable using any one of many far safer methods. Remember the book is aimed at folks who have never baked bread. Even the famed "No Knead" breads only have you removing a lid on a dutch oven.

The one redeeming component of the book is the discussion of managing fermentation to manipulate the outcome. The idea of using the leavan prior to it's maximum activity is interesting. I made the basic country bread yesterday and found it to be demanding. The fermentation time for my room temperature was 5 hours, during which I had to stretch and fold every 30 minutes to build the gluten strength. The proof time ended up being 4 hours before I finally called an end to the wait and baked it in 2 sessions under a clay le choche bell cooker. I left the second loaf in  the oven unmolested for the full 20 minutes after removing the cover and got a darker color. The first loaf, I checked a few times and rotated the loaf which looses a lot of energy.

I like the bread. A good crust and a moist crumb with mild sour flavor the first night. It's hard to say for sure but I'm not sure the starter feeding schedule lowered the sour notes. It's about the same as usual for my regular Pain au Leavan. I might do some further experiments with controlling fermentation and using the starter before it is at its maximum ripeness. This is the only area of the book where the method put forth is new and unique to me. This is an advanced technique in my opinion. It's difficult to determine how far along the activity has progressed by using your sense of smell. Waiting for it to begin to fall is at least a stage most people can understand, and knowing your starter will double or triple in a given length of time is quantifiable.

I don't want to be taken as a mean spirit here. But. I feel  a responsibility to speak the truth where it conflicts with normal conventions. I appreciate that it is hard to get a book published and off to market. In my opinion this book is not for a new baker and maybe not for anyone who is just learning to bake with sourdough. You have to be experienced enough to know on your own that the formulas are all wrong. At the least you have to know that every other bread author in the world uses bakers math in a different way to arrive at a final dough. The in depth description of all of the phases of baking are well written and helpful but the basic concept of using bakers math is flawed. There are many good books on the market to help aspiring bakers learn the basics. Reinhart's "Bread Bakers Apprentice" is one, and Hamelman's "Bread" is another to name the first that come to mind. Daniel DeMuzio's "Bread Baking" or Dan Lepard's offerings are some others who are well known and follow standard conventions. In conclusion, my advice would be to pass this book over. Its basis is factually sloppy and the method is unnecessarily difficult.I don't mean to be harsh but, it is what it is. Lots of good books out there to choose from.



rossnroller's picture

Like many here, I imagine, I like to try lots of different breads in amongst my rolling repertoire of regulars. I've been doing more new ones than regulars lately, but had a sudden urge to revisit one of my old favourites: Gérard Rubaud's bread, which Shiao-Ping brought to the attention of TFLers some time ago in a spectacular bake that was essentially her homage to GR: see here. Shiao-Ping referenced Farine's blog on Gerard Rubaud as the source of her inspiration. I acknowledge and thank Farine and Shiao-Ping for alerting me to this wonderful baker and his bread.

For those of you who have not tried making Gérard's bread, I'd strongly recommend you give it a go. It's not an easy one due to the 80% hydration of the dough. Whenever I make it, I wonder whether I'll find it easier than the last time. I use it as something of a gauge as to whether I've improved!

I'm still a bit hit and miss with the shaping. The dough can get very sticky and hard to handle. These days, I use GR's batard shaping method, which I prefer to Hamelman's or Reinhart's, but you need to be liberal in sprinkling flour over your working surface to avoid the unholy mess that can result if the dough sticks (to surface or hands, or both!). I also sprinkle some over the dough itself to make it a bit easier to manage.

Scoring can be a challenge with a wet dough like this one. I managed it quite well this time, but in my haste to finish the slashing and get the thing into the oven before it slumped flat on the peel, I scored it unevenly (see pic). Still, the rise ended up not too bad, especially considering that some ciabattas are less highly hydrated than this baby!

I basically stuck to Shiao-Ping's recipe directions, but halved her quantities, making a large single batard instead of a boule. I also altered the baking times as follows:

  • Oven on max (250C), load dough, drop to 225C. Bake with steam 15 minutes (I still use ice in a tray in the bottom of the oven and manual misting at the beginning of the bake...better results would surely result from using better steaming methods, such as those recently written up by David Snyder and Sylvia...must try them).
  • Rotate loaf, then bake @ 215C for another 15 mins.
  • Lower temp to 200C, bake 7 minutes, then out.
  • Cool for 2 hours before attacking.

The favours of this bread really are special IMO. I'd forgotten how damned good this is. Also, there's an intriguing quality about this crumb that I can only describe as a sensation of coldness when you bite into it. I've experienced that before with other breads, but not often. Tantalising stuff.

Anyway, enough of my blah. Here are a couple of pics:



Best of baking folks!


ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

I suppose it is rather funny to be making homemade sourdough bread and never having eaten any of it before.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be comparing it to.  I was in the San Francisco airport this time last year and saw everyone advertising their sourdough bread and wondered what was so special about it.  I didn't buy any!  What a dummy!

Anyway, my friend knows I'm in full sourdough production at the moment, so today she bought lunch over.  (Oh, she didn't come to bake, we paint together.) She bought a little sourdough bun from a local bakery that is just starting to sell sourdough bread.  I won't buy it because it's nearly $7 a loaf!  I was excited now to be trying what I thought was real sourdough.

Well, I found it to be quite flavourless and stodgy apart from the lovely olives in it.  It had a bit of a tang to it and a little bit of a crunchy crust, but it made rather a hard task to eat it! I was surprised by the density and heaviness of the bought bun.  

In fact, even though my sourdough is far from perfect in these early stages of learning, I far prefer what I'm making which seems moist, slightly chewy, less dense, nuttyish, slightly sourish, with a crust to die for.  And I'm a beginner!!! 

Soooooooooooo everyone, what should good sourdough taste like?  And is it supposed to be a bit heavier and dense than regular bread?


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