The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


  • Pin It
Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

I decided (for some strange reason which eludes me now) to formulate a list of tools in order of utility.  This is what I came up with:


1. Scale, Measuring Spoons, and Mixing Bowls

         Absolute necessity.  You cannot make bread without them.  A scale because while 6 oz is always 6 oz, a cup of flour may vary considerably in weight.  Spoons because most home digital scales are not accurate at tiny amounts.  Bowls for the obvious reason.

2. Plastic Bowl Scraper

         An absolute must.  Helpful for manipulating dough and unbeatable for bowl cleanup.

3. Bench Knife

         Tops for dividing dough and work surface cleanup.

4. Peel (Lg and/or Small) and/or Baking sheets

         Very handy for putting loaves in the oven (either) and for removing them (peel).  You want half sheets unless you have a commercial oven.

5. Parchment Paper (flat)

         Great for hearth loaves.  Reuseable if not scorched. I avoid the rolls sold in stores as they want to curl up in use.  Go online for half sheet size - they're worth it.

6. Baking Stone and Steam Pan

         Terrific for hearth baking.  I use a cast iron chicken fryer (deep skillet) containing lava rocks for more surface area as a steam pan, located just below the stone.

7. Storage containers

         The major enemy if most ingredients is air.

8. Access to refrigerator and freezer

         for retardation, starter storage, and long term storage.

9. Workbench

         OK, you can do without one, but I wouldn't want to.


         I have a nice Kitchen Aid, but find that its need is overrated unless you are into very stiff (or very loose) doughs or are doing volume production.  Likewise, the light I an electric oven is all the proofer you really need.  Any bowl with a towel and flour can serve as a banneton.


While not everyone will agree (maybe no one), this might serve as a start for a dialog on tool utility.


alabubba's picture

I love Baguettes!

Lately it seams like I cant keep these in the house. I no sooner get them out of the oven and there gone.

I baked 4, here are 2 with some pieces on the side

(Obligatory crumb shot)

less then 1 hour after baking, 1 left.

Served with Pesto, Olive Tapenade, and Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke spread.

CaptainBatard's picture

When my sister-in-law invited me up to NY for Thanksgiving diner for family and friends...I thought to myself...oh S--- I am going to get stuck in traffic for hours...and then she said and bring one of your breads. first thought was to make the very festive two tier Celebration Loaf with nuts and cranberries. It would make a nice centerpiece for the table and be very festive. When I thought it out....I needed a bread I could retard overnight and throw in the oven first thing in the morning so I could leave before noon on Wednesday to run the gauntlet to the city. Since I had only one chance to get it right... the bread had to be reliable, stay fresh for a few days and make a good a sandwich. The choice was a real no brainer..... Hamelman's Sourdough Seed Bread....the tastiest, most reliable bread you ever want to make. If you have never made this bread must try will become your favorite too...

This is being sent to Susan at  Wild Yeast for  Yeastspotting

koloatree's picture

so far, this is my best baguette to date. thanks to Jeffrey and James from King Arthur institute (really cool folks!). I have to remember to use a lot less flour and increase the steam. i think lack of steam turned my previous sourdough bake a darker color as suppose to a nice golden brown...i also was suprised by how well the baguettes turned out baking on the baguette pan. i was expecting less volume increase compared to direct hearth baking.







Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I baked three loaves for a Thanksgiving day dinner at my sister-in-law's house in Omaha, Nebraska.It was a case of I'd either be the smart son-in-law or the brother-in-law from Hell depending on how they turned out. I baked my rye Wednesday with the Bauernbrot recipe that Salome posted recently and despite my shortcomings on shaping the loaf, it came out very tasty. It didn't hurt that my mother-in-law got one of the first samples.

The sourdough sandwich loaf that I thought would be the most popular turned out to be the least noticed, I suspect that was because it wasn't the most visually interesting and people do eat with their eyes first. My grandmother's Polish egg bread with raisins turned out well, not like my memories of it from my childhood, but I got compliments for its soft crumb and the sweet flavor. The egg bread was a straight dough in an effort to come as close to the method that Babci used when she baked for her large family. I admit, I don't have the resource of a wood burning stove that she used well into her 50s. I retarded both of these loaves overnight so my wife and I could smell the cooling loaves on the three hour drive north to Omaha. I enjoyed the ride but I suspect my wife felt like I was tormenting her.

Despite coming down with a nasty cold during the day, I've survived and expect to be volunteered to do the baking next year.

koloatree's picture

hi everyone.

i baked 2 1.5lb sourdough loaves. i was a bit off on my proofing scedule by a few hrs! btw, does anyone know how to achieve caremelization color? my bread comes out with a dark brown as suppose to golden brown. could it be an access of flour i used to dust the loave and peel? could it be from not using enough steam? my cast iron sizzles intensly for about a minute before it goes to a really slow simmer. for the bread, due to my unknowing scedule, i did a long first proof that lasted 18hrs @ ~45 degrees. in that time the bread almost tripled in volume. afterwards i shaped and then baked after the bread increased volume by 60%. i took some dough and placed it in a little tube shaped container; marked the levels, and waited for the dough to reach ~60-80% of its size. i did so to help with guessing when to bake. is my theory correct? i also did no fold and shaping.


this is a photo of the same bread recipe we baked at KA institute. it has a nice golden tan; a look i am trying to replicate.


below is a pic of the BBA poor mans brioche baked in a pop over pan. i was pretty happy with the results compared to my 1st attempt paper weights i baked last week.*is the outer layer suppose to be somewhat crisp? the insides were nice and fluffy.

the left is JH dinner roll and the right is the poor mans brioche shaped to be a hamburger roll.


SumisuYoshi's picture

Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

When I was finishing off the last of the challah I made the week before I made this one, I was trying to figure out what to do with some leftover cranberry sauce and leftover pumpkin from other things I'd made, then the idea came to me, what about a challah made with two doughs? One with pumpkin puree providing much of the hydration, and one with cranberry sauce providing much of the hydration. I thought the colors and flavors would make a really interesting combination. And, while I was at it, why not make it with my levain? Having only made challah twice before, this may have been a bit ambitious, but why not! I decided to use the challah recipe in Bread Baker's Apprentice as a starting point, as I liked the loaf I'd made the week beforehand. I took a look at the hydration in the recipe and calculated out how much flour and hydration I wanted in the preferment, I had to estimate here as I didn't know what percentage of the pumpkin puree and cranberry sauce was water. The cranberry sauce definitely had a lower water content, and it also seemed to have somewhat of an inhibiting effect on the levain. I'm not sure why, but I have some ideas. It may have been the sugar and/or acidity levels of the sauce, or the lower availability of water because there was less water in the sauce. The more mundane reason, it could just be that I forgot to get the cranberry sauce to room temperature first (not to mention our house is colder than room temperature) so the cold starter and cold cranberry sauce may have just stayed cold much longer, as the cranberry dough did rise at the same speed as the pumpkin on the final rise.

Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

Pumpkin Cranberry Challah Recipe

Makes: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves

Time: 2 days. First day: Pumpkin and Cranberry starter. Second day: mix final dough, ferment, degas, shape, final rise, bake.

Ingredients: (baker's % are at the bottom of the post, or will be in a day or two for now they are here)


  Cranberry Dough  
  Flour 4.5 oz
  Cranberry Sauce 3.5 oz
  Water 1.250 oz
  66% Levain .5 oz
Final Dough    
  Starter 9.75 oz
  Flour 6.5 oz
  Sugar .5 oz
  Salt .125 oz
  Vegetable Oil .5 oz
  Eggs 1 Large Egg
  Egg Yolks 1 Large Egg Yolk
  Water 1 oz.


  Pumpkin Dough  
  Flour 4.5 oz
  Pumpkin Puree 3.5 oz
  Water 1 oz
  66% Levain .5 oz
Final Dough    
  Starter 9.5 oz
  Flour 6.5 oz
  Sugar .5 oz
  Salt .125 oz
  Vegetable Oil .5 oz
  Eggs 1 Large Egg
  Egg Yolks 1 Large Egg Yolk
  Water 1 oz.
  Ground Cinnamon 1/2 tsp
  Ground Nutmeg 1/8 tsp
  Ground Cloves 1/8 tsp
  Ground Allspice 1/8 tsp












  1. Mix the starters: ‘Cream’ the levain with the water and cranberry sauce, and water and pumpkin puree. Then mix in the flour until the dough forms a loose ball. Let rest 5 minutes, and then knead for 3 minutes to ensure adequate mixing. Place each starter in a lightly oiled container or bowl.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

  2. Leave the starters to ferment: Leave the starters in a room temperature place to rise until nearly doubled, degas the starters and refrigerate unless you will be finishing the dough then. If refrigerating, remove from the fridge at least an hour before you start the final dough.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

  3. Pre-mix ingredients: Stir together the flour, sugar and salt (and spices for the pumpkin dough), and mix the starter with the oil, water, egg and egg yolk (making it wetter so it will more easily mix with the dry ingredients).
  4. Mix everything into a dough: For both doughs: pour the liquid ingredients with starter into the dry ingredients and with a large spoon, dough whisk, or a stand mixer, mix until a ball forms, adding additional water or flour as needed.
  5. Knead to develop gluten: Knead for about 5-8 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test. Once again, do this for both doughs. Once kneaded, place each dough in a lightly oiled container or bowl with a cover.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

  6. Degas both doughs after they have nearly doubled: Gently remove them from their bowl or container, turn them out onto a lightly floured surface, and degas. After degassing, divide each dough piece in half, (or any other even numbered amount, or any other division you want, however you need equally sized pieces unless making a double braid) form into a rough boule and let sit a few minutes to relax.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

  7. Shape boules into strands: Roll the boules out into strands, spend a little bit on each one then move to the next so the first has a chance to relax, until you end up with strands an appropriate length for the braid you plan on doing.
  8. Braid loaf as desired: I’m horrible at braiding so I’m not going to try to give advice on it! After braiding, place the loaf on parchment paper on a baking sheet and brush loaf with 1 egg white whipped until frothy, saving the remainder for after proofing.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah

  9. Proof loaf: Place loaf on sheet in a food safe plastic bag, or spray some plastic wrap lightly with oil and cover the loaf with the wrap. Leave the loaf to proof at room temperature until about 1 and a half to twice its original size, about 1-2 hours depending on room temperature and your starter.
  10. Preheat oven to 350°F: Just before placing the loaf in the oven, brush again with the egg wash and top with any seeds or other garnishes you like. Place the loaf in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes before rotating the loaf 180°, continue baking for 20-40 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and measures about 190°F in the center. When done, remove from the oven to a cooling rack, and let cool for 1-2 hours before slicing.

    Sourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry ChallahSourdough Pumpkin Cranberry Challah


This challah was really awesome, great flavors, and great colors! You may want to increase the amount of the spices some, it was just barely enough in my opinion. But you don't want it to overpower the other flavors. I made some french toast with this bread, while we normally only use cinnamon, I added ground cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger to the mix this time. It was like pumpkin pie french toast, but with a bit of fruity overtone from the cranberry. Definitely a good bread for the fall holidays.

Note: As with my last bread, this one can be made as a straight dough, rather than sourdough. Just mix everything in one step, add about 2/3 tsp yeast and add .3 oz. flour and .2 oz. water to compensate for the lack of levain.

And my second recipe submission YeastSpotting . I really enjoyed this one and hope other people enjoy it, or are inspired to their own creation!


LeadDog's picture


This is an adaptation of my Sourdough Sticks formula.  We have an employee at our family store who's Birthday is today.  The other day as she was eating the Sourdough Sticks she said that is what she wanted for her Birthday.  For some reason I had already came up with this crazy idea of making Twisters.  These ideas just seem to come out of thin air so I don't know where I get them from.  This is another really easy fun bread to make and it was a smashing hit with everyone here at our store.  This is so good I'm making it for Thanksgiving.

Right as the twister come out of the oven I brushed them with melted butter.  Then I sprinkled them with a sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Eat them while they are warm.  The sugar cinnamon mixture was 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.  The twisters are slightly sweet with a thin crisp crust and a crumb that is light and airy.  You can read about the rest of it on my site here.

Shiao-Ping's picture

Squeaky wheels get the oil? Or, whinny kids get the lollies, as Chinese put it?

I bought a tray of mangos for my daughter to take to her schoolie’s holiday week. She left half a dozen of mangos at home for her brother. I didn’t realize it at the time of purchase but these weren’t very good quality – they have nice smells but have already started having black skins, a sure sign of over-ripening. After the second one went into my son’s breakfast cereal, I had a feeling that the rest won’t get consumed. I cut them up, mashed the pieces with a fork, and added a couple of teaspoons each of hot curry powder and coriander powder.  I made them into dinner rolls.  These were enjoyed with King Snapper, grilled with lemon, last night.








A slice with morning coffee?  Why not?





Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there in America!





bakerking's picture

We are headed 300 miles tomorrow to visit our daughters so I had to bake last weeekend. The loaves in the back are Susan's Sourdough with kalamata olives and rosemary. The darker loaves are toasted pecan with blue cheese inspired by PR. The rolls are Floyd's sweet potato. It has been a great 9months of learning to bake. Thanks for the recipes and inspiration, this is a great site for learning if you take it one bite at a time.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs