The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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mcs's picture

At the end of August, Diane came from Vancouver Island, BC for a week long internship at the Back Home Bakery.  During her stay we made everything from puff pastry dough to baguettes with everything in between.  Although both she and Sharon (aka 'the wife') are a bit camera shy, I did manage to snap a couple of photos of the elusive two during the course of the week.
Thanks a bunch Diane for helping out with the farmers' markets, daily deliveries, wholesale accounts and even dinner too.  Hope to see you again next time around.


Sharon and Diane working on some pain au chocolat


Diane putting them together


This is us pretending to have a good time

wally's picture


It's occured to me more than once that in the competition between pizza dough and sauce, I've always favored (or at least rooted for) a decent dough. I figured that if you got the dough right, it was easy enough to flavor it subtly to make a good thing great.  I'm frankly tired of the indignations national pizza chains visit on their doughs (like, let's bake a bunch of cheese into the dough to add to the overabundance of cheese we've already put on top of the dough).  Enough already!

So, when stumbling upon Jeffrey Hamelman's recipe for fougasse in his Bread, I was hooked by the challenge to make a flavored dough that still stood up on its own.

My initial experiments with a flavored Provence-bread called fougasse can be found here:

Recently, however, I decided to move to something that offered both more crumb and crust - and that meant focaccia.  I've had great results in my bakings to date.  This is a product that can be varied at will in terms of toppings - from a pizza-like bread to one that accentuates only a few flavors.

Whatever your choice, it will not disappoint!

The following recipe is a composite of Hamelman's recipe in "Bread" (which uses ciabatta dough made with biga), Reinhart's recipe in "BBA" (using his herb-infused olive oil) and my own additions - primarily the addition of roasted garlic to the dough). 

I scaled this for a 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan. (The total weight is just a little over 22oz. and yields a focaccia between 1" - 1-1/4")


TWF = 366g (I'm using KAF's Sir Galahad)

Water = 267g

Salt = 6g

Yeast = 1/2 tsp

Starter = 25g

Garlic = 1 tsp roasted garlic

Herb-infused olive oil = 1/4 c (I warm 1/4 c olive oil and add herbs de provence, sea salt and dried hot pepper flakes to taste and allow to marinade overnight)

Grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesian) cheese = 2 tbls.


Firm culture (60%) = 25g

Flour = 74g

Water = 43g

The biga should ferment at about 70° for between 12 -16 hrs until domed with a slight recess in the center.  I've used 25g of my firm starter (approximately 18% of the biga); if using instant dry yeast, you want to add just specks of yeast.

Final dough:  (Desired dough temperature is 75°)

Flour = 292g

Water = 224g

Salt = 6g

Biga = 117g (N.B. That is, 142g of the biga minus the original 25g starter)

Yeast = 1/2 tsp (instant dry yeast)

Roasted garlic = 1 tsp

Grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesian) cheese = 2 tbls.


Approximately 3.5 hours before the bake mix final dough on speed #1 for 3 - 4 minutes.  As it comes together, cut biga into it.  Mix another 3 - 4 minutes on speed #2 and add in 1 tsp of mashed, roasted garlic in increments. Dough will be slack, but should exhibit extensibility - you should be able to grab and stretch it without it tearing easily.

Allow a bulk fermentation of 2 hours, with folds at 45 minutes and 90 minutes.

Put 2 tbls olive oil into 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan and coat thoroughly.

Scrape dough onto heavily floured work surface and stretch.  If necessary, allow bench rest to get necessary extensibilty.  Place in pan, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with plastic wrap and bench rest for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, pour 1/4 c. of herb-infused olive oil onto dough, and incorporate by dimpling dough with your fingertips (at this point you do not want to degas the dough, so only use fingertips!).

Allow to rise for about another hour, until nearly doubled in size.

Place into pre-heated oven at 450° and bake for about 20 minutes.  The sides as well as bottom of the focaccia should be browned, and the top should be nicely browned witht a crust that still yields when pressed.

Cool 30 minutes and enjoy!  I think a marinara sauce would be a good accompanyment, but so far haven't been able to keep the final product around people long enough to test.

I think the secret to this is Hamelman's advice to not go wild with toppings. Too much will not only inhibit the ability of the dough's final fermentation, but inevitably is going to overwhelm the flavors in the dough itself.

A great treat, and a nice vacation from pizza!


JeremyCherfas's picture

Much of the bread you can buy in shops in Italy remains remarkably good. Some things, though, aren't available, at least not nearby. One of those is rye bread. So I resolved to make some this weekend, using a recipe for Heidelberg Rye from the 1973 edition of Bernard Clayton Jr's The Complete Book of Breads.

Conclusion: A fine loaf, but I do need to internalise that stuff about watching the loaf not the clock. If I can do it while the bread is in the oven, why not while it is rising?

More pictures here.

The first task was to convert Clayton's volume measurements to weights. Time consuming but worthwhile. My strong (Manitoba) flour averages 140 gm a (8 oz.) cup, the rye a little lighter, but I decided to use the same conversion factor. So here's the list of ingredients with my conversions.

  1. 420 gm All-purpose or bread flour (3 cups) I actually used 345 gm, allowing for the flour in the starter.

  2. 420 gm rye flour (3 cups) I used 100% rye, stoneground, biological, Demeter brand.

  3. 2 packages dried yeast. I used 150 gm of my sourdough starter, freshly fed at 100% hydration, based on an approximation of 10% starter.

  4. 20 gm cocoa (1/4 cup)

  5. 1 tablespoon each salt and sugar (Didn't weigh. Used 15 ml measure, demerara sugar and fine table salt).

  6. 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. (Small Italian dictionaries give comino for both cumin and caraway. The real thing is carvi.)

  7. 480 ml hot tap water (2 cups). Bizarrely, my 1 cup measure is marked 250 ml, but contains 240 gm of water. I actually used 405 gm, allowing 75 gm from the 150 gm of starter.

  8. 100 gm molasses (1/3 cup)

  9. 2 tablespoons shortening. I used peanut oil.

Clayton says to mix half the flour with all the other ingredients for about 3 minutes "until the dough is a soft mass and is no longer wet and sticky". Got there using a wooden spoon, but it is a stiff dough even with only half the flour, and a pretty exhausting three minutes it was. Then adding the flours, white and rye, in 70 gm lots, trying to stir them in. After about 210 gm I switched to the spatula to cut the flour into the dough, and when I had about 70 gm of rye left I turned the dough out onto a wooden board to knead.

Slowly I worked the rest of the rye into the dough, kneading all the while, for about 8 minutes. Clayton says "finally it will become a soft velvety dough, a delight to work". That's possibly stretching it a bit (haha) but it did become soft, not sticky and OK to work, but it didn't have the elasticity of a pure wheat dough. Maybe that's because I used whole rye.

Now here's where things went off track. Clayton says to cover the dough and let it rest on the work surface for 20 minutes before shaping the loaves. I did, but it changed not one whit. He doesn't give any indication of doubling or anything in this recipe, not at this stage nor for the shaped loaves, and so I thought it best to leave the dough resting until it had at least risen somewhat. In the end, even after 3 hours at 29℃, it was very hard to see any movement at all, but my timetable required me to shape the loaves -- one round and one long one that I put in a parchment-paper loaf tin. Then into the fridge they went, brushed with olive oil and loosely covered with a plastic bag.

This morning I did as Clayton suggests, heating the oven to 400 ℉ (Gas Mark 6 on my oven) and bringing the loaves out of the fridge 10 minutes before they were to go in. Slashed them with a wet ceramic knife, and in they went.

I resisted the temptation to peek for the full 30 minutes, as advised, and when I did I was very pleasantly surprised by how well they had sprung. Too much, in fact, clear evidence of under-development, I think. Clayton says check after 30 minutes for that elusive "hard and hollow sound". I prefer a thermometer, and mine barely reached 150 ℉. I gave it another 10 minutes, then another, then a third, which was perhaps five minutes too long as the internal temperature had somehow climbed to just above 200 ℉. Out of the oven, onto the rack, and ready for their close-up.

Three hours later, lunchtime, and time to cut. Great smell of caraway, good fine crumb, moist, a hint of chocolate (which gives the lie to Clayton's claim that "the chocolate's contribution to taste is so slight as to go unnoticed) and a very definite molasses sweetness. All in all, a great success. A tad too sweet for my normal taste, although I think the molasses flavour is really good. I wonder, might it be a good idea to get rid of the tablespoon of sugar -- I mean what is it going to offer to the dough that 100 gm of molasses doesn't? The cocoa? I like the rich dark colour, but if it can barely be tasted, what's the point? And finally, it might be better if the dough sat in an oiled bowl, rather than on the counter, until it had doubled, or at least risen noticeably?

All good thoughts, which I may try when I repeat the recipe. I'll also be looking for a good caraway-rich light Jewish rye.

Elagins's picture

it seems to me that one of the biggest hurdles beginning bakers face is the idea that because something shows up in a book, that's necessarily the way things have to be.

take sourdough culture, as in this thread. Peter Reinhart says, "..." and therefore that's how it has to be. Nothing against Peter Reinhart: he's an extraordinarily great baker and and extraordinarily talented teacher. the problem is simply that a lot of beginners, in their eagerness to "get it right," don't trust themselves.

fact is, we're dealing with a complex set of interrelated physical and biological processes here, and to insist that all sorts of unfamiliar (to those starting out) living organisms *must* conform with one person's observation or experience is, to me, a reversal of reality. we should be paying more attention to what actually goes on and then adjust our expectations.

so consider a starter. so much depends on the original source of the yeast (plum/grape skins? rye? capture from the air? yogurt?). yeast and lacto-/acetobacteria are everywhere and are location specific. then again, what about the flour? rye? wheat? organic? treated? high or low gluten? or the hydration ... acetobacter likes it dry; lactobacter likes it wet. ambient temperature will affect the rate of yeast and bacterial action. cold slows yeast and lactobacteria, but acetobacteria thrive in cooler temps.

reducing all this stuff, not to mention all the other random factors that may come into play, to a timetable is laudable and useful -- in fact, i've done it myself in a baking book i'm writing -- but one person's experience of the interactions among a complex set of factors and events shouldn't ever constitute a sole and immutable truth.

baking, like so many other things in life, is experience-based, and no book -- no matter how experienced the author nor how careful the research -- should ever become a substitute for observable reality.

when i use organic dark rye flour to start a culture, i usually get activity within 24 hours. like the spark from a flint, that germ of a culture needs to be nourished and nurtured over a couple of weeks of regular feedings before you can consider it a finished sourdough starter ... so what matter if the yeasts go active in 12 hours or 72? all that matters is that we capture the spark and nurture it into a flame.

baking formulas are great because they organize information and they convey an experience or set of experiences that generally work within a relatively broad set of limits. but within those limits are infinite variations of time, temperature and the interplay of ingredients ... and controlling those is the art of baking, as opposed to the science.

dmsnyder's picture

This bread is a rye with 66 percent rye flour and the remainder high-gluten flour. A rye sour is elaborated using whole rye. The sour is 80% hydration, which ends up being a very thick paste, due to how much water the whole rye absorbs. This is fermented for 14-16 hours and is then mixed with Medium rye flour, high-gluten flour, more water, salt and instant yeast.

The resulting dough is very loose. Hamelman says to mix it (in a professional spiral mixer) for only 3 minutes at first speed and 2 minutes on second speed. He says you should have "a bit of gluten strength, but ... not much." I aimed for "a bit" of gluten development but had to mix for 16 minutes in my KitchenAid. The dough was extremely sticky and still rough and pasty. It had enough elasticity after fermenting to form into loaves, using more flour dusting on the bench and my hands than is necessary with lower-percentage rye doughs.

Fermentation was only 45 minutes and proofing was 50 minutes. Proofing is tricky with this type of rye. Under-proofing contributes to excessive oven spring and blow-outs. Over-proofing leads to the loaf collapsing when it is scored or when it is loaded into the oven. I think I hit it about right. <whew!>

I wasn't sure about scoring a bread like this. I considered not scoring at all or making rounds and docking them. In the end, I decided to make oval loaves and score one in the "sausage" cut and the other in the "chevron" cut.

Hamelman prescribes a 24 hour rest after baking before slicing. I wrapped the loaves in linen and left them on the counter overnight.

When sliced, this rye has a fairly thick, chewy (but not hard) crust. The crumb is fairly dense and quite moist. It is tender to chew. The aroma is assertively rye, as is the flavor with a mild sourdough tang.

The taste is good when eaten plain. It is strong enough to come through when eaten with a slice of aged gruyère cheese. Just as a light rye seems to call for corned beef, this rye calls for stronger cheeses and fatty fish such as herring or salmon. I wish I could get some smoked sable. 


dmsnyder's picture


I made a couple of sourdough boules today. I'm quite happy with them. I used a slightly different formula, but the exciting thing to me was the effect of a modification of my oven steaming method I've been meaning to try for some time.




Baker's percentage

High-gluten flour

450 gms


Whole rye flour

50 gms



362 gms



10 gms


Levain (1:3:4 - S:W:F)

100 gms



972 gms


I used KAF Sir Lancelot flour and Bob's Red Mill “Dark Rye” flour.


  1. Mix the flours and water to a shaggy mass. Cover and let rest for 20-60 minutes.

  2. Add the salt and levain and mix to moderate gluten development.

  3. Transfer to the bench and do a couple of folds, then transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover it. Note the volume the dough will achieve when doubled.

  4. After 45 minutes, do another stretch and fold, then allow the dough to double in volume.

  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape into rounds. Let the pieces rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes.

  6. Shape each piece into a boule and transfer to well-floured bannetons, seam side up. Place each in a food-grade plastic bag, seal the openings.

  7. Allow to proof for 30-60 minutes (less in a warmer environment), then refrigerate for 8-14 hours.

  8. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator 2-4 hours before baking (depending on how risen they are and how warm the room is). Allow to warm up and expand to 1.5 times the loaves original volume.

  9. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the middle shelf and a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks on the bottom shelf. (I suggest moving the stone ove to within one inch of the oven wall on your non-dominant side. Place the skillet next to the wall on your dominant side.)

  10. When the loaves are ready to bake, pour 1/3 cup of boiling water over the lava rocks and close the oven door fast. (Strongly suggest holding the kettle wearing an oven mitt!)

  11. Transfer the loaves to a peel or to parchment paper on a peel, and load them onto your baking stone.

  12. Immediately pour ½ cup of boiling water over the lava stones and quickly close the oven door.

  13. Turn the oven temperature down to 460F and set a timer for 10 minutes.

  14. After 10 minutes, remove the skillet. Reset the timer for 20 minutes.

  15. The loaves are done when nicely colored, thumping their bottoms gives a “hollow” sound and their internal temperature is at least 205F.

  16. When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves in the oven with the door ajar for 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  17. Cool thoroughly (2 hours) before slicing and serving.

The crust was remarkably shiny when it came out of the oven. This effect, due to starch that is gelatinized early in the bake, I have only achieved before with breads baked under a stainless steel bowl for the first half of the bake. I also got quite satisfactory oven spring and bloom in these loaves which I had feared were a bit over-proofed.

It is evident that using the skillet with lava rocks for both pre- and post-loading steaming is superior to either a) pre-steaming by throwing ice cubes in a hot metal loaf pan or b) compensating for insufficient pre-loading steam by over-steaming post-loading. Some methods of steaming, when used to excess, actually interfere with the cuts opening and produce pale-colored loaves.

The bread I tasted has a delightfully crunchy crust and a chewy crumb with what I would regard as medium-strong sourness – just how I like it best.

As far as I'm concerned, this experiment was a success.


Submitted to Yeast Spotting


SylviaH's picture

Banana-Nut Bread!  Fast, easy and didn't heat up the kitchen to much and I just happen to have 5  extra-large perfectly overipe  black speckled bananas and fresh Pecans from our local Bates Nut Farm!

This is a lovely tasting recipe 'not to dry not to moist' and slices beautifully from Williams-Sonoma Bread.   I doubled the recipe and it works out just right for two nice large 9X5 loafs.





Salome's picture

Isn't one of the best things to sit down with friends for a simple dinner? Last night we had two kinds of bread, butter, lots of cheese and a swiss style müsli, the Birchermüsli. I was so satisfied. And the others seemed to enjoy it as well. It always makes me so happy and proud when other people enjoy my baking and I think I'm very lucky that I've got such friends and family members who are willing to try new things. Howwould I be able to bake otherwise?!

After the Buckwheat Apple Sourdough I felt that autumn had come. Even though I'm very much a summer person, I decided to make the best out of it and bake some more seasonal breads. I made an old favorite again, the Potato-Nut Bread from Southern Tyrol and created a formula for a Pumpkin-amaranth bread. I shared the recipe for the Potato-Nut Bread a few monts ago on here and David has baked the Potato-Nut Bread a couple weeks ago and had very nice results.

The Potato-Nut-Bread is a very rustic loaf. The crust looks every time very wild and I always get a nice crunch when baking this bread. It has a good keeping quality due to the potatoes, which also make the inside very soft and tender. (If there weren't any crunchy nuts ;) .) This time, I even achieved somewhat of an oven spring, which I've found hard to achieve in the past. But probably I was just not doing it right, this is one of the recipes I started my sourdough baking with. From all the times that I've baked this bread, this time it was the most successful time! Yeyy! I might could have let it proof somewhat longer after the shaping though.  Don't be shy with the coriander - I think, two teaspoons is the perfect amount. (In the original recipe it's even two tablespoons, but then it's very overpowering.)

The pumpkin-Amaranth bread . . . is yellow! Sadly, I couldn't notice any pumpkin flavor. But the color is great, I think I'll bake with pumpkin again. maybe I won't blend it completely and leave some chunks the next time. The toasted amaranth provided a very tasty note! I was frustrated though because I forgot to roll the shaped batard in amaranth. Imagine how nice this crust would have been! Why am I so oblivious. . . I wasn't 100 %satisfied with the crust, it softened during the cooling. The bread was very light and pillowy.

Potato-Nut Bread from Southern Tyrol


Liquid levain

  • 80 g whole rye flour

  • 100 g water

  • 20 g mature starter

Final dough

  • All of the liquid levain

  • 400 g potatoes, peeled

  • 500 g bread flour

  • 250 ml water

  • 11 g salt

  • 2 tsp ground coriander

  • 100 g walnuts

  • 100 g hazelnuts

  1. Prepare the liquid levain the night before you bake.

  2. On the next day, cook the potatoes with just a little bit of water. Drain the excess water and let the potatoes cool somewhat. Mash the potatoes.

  3. chopp the walnuts and the hazelnuts roughly and toast the nuts until fragrant but not burned. Rub the peels of the hazelnuts off.

  4. Mix the liquid levain with the water, the potato mash and the flour to a shaggy mass. Let it autolyse for about 30 minutes.

  5. Add the coriander and salt and mix them into the dough. Knead in your mixer for at least 10 minutes. The dough is very sticky, don’t add any additional flour though! It does not clean off the sides completely.

  6. Transfer the dough to a floured board and, with well-floured hands, stretch it into a 14 inch square. Distribute the nuts over the dough, roll it up and knead for a couple minutes to get the nuts evenly distributed in the dough.

  7. Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl.

  8. Ferment the dough until it has doubled and is puffy, with stretch and folds every 40 minutes. I folded the dough three times, it fermented somewhat longer than two hours.

  9. Transfer the dough to a well-floured bench. Divide it into two till three equal pieces. Pre-shape into logs. Dust with flour and cover with plasti-crap. Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes.

  10. Form the pieces into bâtards and place them on lightly floured parchment paper. Dust again with flour and cover with plasti-crap.

  11. Proof the loaves until they are about 1.5 times their original size.

  12. 45-60 minutes before baking, place a baking stone in the oven and make preparations for your oven steaming method of choice. Pre-heat the oven to 430F.

  13. Bake with steam for 10 minutes, then in a dry oven for another 20 minutes. If the loaves seem to be getting dark too fast turn the oven down 10-20 degrees.

  14. Bake until the internal temperature is 205F. Remove the loaves to a cooling rack.

  15. Cool completely before slicing.

@ David, I copied and adapted your write down of this formula. Is that okay? I made some things differently than you. For instance I used a whole rye sourdough and I cut down on the hazelnuts. In my opinion, a total of 200 g is enough. The bread is still very rich on nuts.

The second bread, the Pumpkin-Amaranth Bread, I made up myself. I found a bag of organic Amaranth the other day in a shop and couldn't resist. On the same day, I prepared a roasted pumpkin salad and thought, that I could use pumpkin in an other way than just always seeds. I cooked some pumpkin pieces with a tiny amount of water and purreed it and stored it in the fridge until today.

Pumpkin-Amaranth Bread



  • 100 g bread flour

  • 1/10 tsp instant yeast

  • 57 ml water


  • 70 g amaranth, toasted until fragrant

  • 80 g hot water

Final dough

  • All of the preferment, in chunks

  • soaker

  • 240 g pumpkin, cooked and pureed, cooled

  • 250 g bread flour

  • 65 g water

  • 50 g amaranth flour

  • 4 g instant yeast

  • 9 g salt

  • optional: amaranth for a crust coating

  1. Mix the ingredients for the preferment the night before you bake.

  2. At the same time, toast the amaranth grains until they are fragrant.

  3. The next day, pour 80 ml hot water over the amaranth, let it cool of somewhat.

  4. Mix all of the preferment, the pumpkin puree, the bread flour and the water and let this shaggy mass autolyse for 30 minutes.

  5. Add the salt and the instant yeast and knead in a machine until the gluten is developed. Then incorporate the soaked amaranth (some hand work is probably needed).

  6. Let the dough ferment until doubled in size, with two folds every half hour

  7. Divide the batch into two equal pieces and preshape. Let them rest for about 10 minutes, then shape into batards. you might want to roll the loaves in amaranth grains to achieve an interesting crust.

  8. Let them proof for about an hour, until they seem to be ready to go into the oven.

  9. Slash and bake in the preheated oven (430°) on a baking stone with steam for about 30- 40 minutes

Salome (Happy not just because of her breads, but also because she passed the acceptance test for her school's Proficiency English course (aiming at the Cambridge Proficiency Certificate). Probably as well because I get to use my English here all the time. Thank you folks and keep correcting me!)

alliezk's picture

Baking hiatus until my situation is more solid at my new home - glorious Princeton University.


I hope to be back soon!

Til then - Happy Baking!



jleung's picture

Back in July, a "Swiss sourdough youngster" introduced herself and was kind enough to share her recipes for some fantastic breads. I was particularly excited about the zopf because I had never made it before, and it was just the kind of bread I was craving. Salome explains that this is her mother's version of the traditional Swiss Sunday bread; it is not sweetened so will pair well with many things. I had it plain, and with blackberry jam (my first batch of freezer jam!), and honey, and butter, and cheese... not all at the same time :) but all of these variations were delicious.

Original post here:

My notes:

- I used 100g KA whole wheat flour and 900g KA all-purpose flour
- I couldn't find Quark and substituted it with homemade whole milk yogurt
- The recipe calls for 40g fresh yeast; I used 20g of active dry based on a conversion factor of 0.5. It didn't taste "yeasty" to me but I think I will reduce the amount of yeast and let it ferment for longer next time.
- I used honey instead of glucose.
- My oven and half sheet pan are small and I was concerned the two large loaves would burn at the edges if I baked them at 400F, so I baked them at 350F for slightly longer (40-45min.) instead.

Here are the loaves!

Thanks, Salome, for sharing this recipe with us. I enjoyed making it very much!


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