The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


RobertS's picture

Still working on making a seed culture, using dark rye flour, so I can create my first barm, so I can make my first sourdough loaf. To make a long story short, conflicting information I had read caused two misfires with my first two starters. Both misfires hinged on the problem of knowing for certain when a seed culture has been successfully created. In one source, it said wait for bubbling and doubling. In another source, it said wait for yeasty smell AND doubling. In another source, it said if there is a yeasty smell, it means the yeast are dead!   OK, so I plunged ahead.  Well, on my first starter, I got the doubling and proceeded to next stage, i.e., mixing up a sponge. Nothing whatsoever happened, not even bubbling, for 5 days (not the 4-6 hours I was hoping for!!). On next attempt, I got bubbling and doubling, but understood that was just bacteria action. For 6 days now, nothing further has happened, despite my following instructions faithfully.

Then I whipped up another batch as per BBA seed culture instructions, but ordered in some food pH test strips. Day 3, which is today, I got doubling, and followed Reinhard's instruction to toss 1/2 and feed again, nevertheless. But where, really, really, is this concoction at, anyway, I asked myself? Gas or yeast expansion?  The smell is --- i don't know--- definitely not yeasty, but it is not unpleasant. My nose hasn't told me anything, really. So I dipped in my handy-dandy pH strip and discovered the culture is at 5. And a couple of bubbles are just starting to make their appearance.

Now I KNOW where my culture is at. (Thank you, Debra Wink.) I look forward to tomorrow, when I probably will be ready to make my barm, and definitely will not be tempted to think that maybe any future doubling is bacteria-caused. And yes, I will take another pH reading just to make sure.

I don't know if anyne has used pH strips in their baking, but as for me, I believe they are a great and really cheap tool which I intend to use from now on.




hansjoakim's picture

A very happy (belated) 4th of July to all American TFL'ers!

Weather's been good lately and I've tried to spend as much time outdoors as possible, so I'm sorry for this late post. To make up for it, I had a go at an all-American favourite this sunday: Yes, you guessed it. And what better way to enjoy a juicy burger than with home-made buns? Here's a link to my recipe.

Hamburger buns


My Norwegian take on the American classic:



For breakfast, I was inspired by Karin's post on the quintessential Danish tebirkes (click here for the post on those). It's been years since I last enjoyed that particular breakfast pastry, so her blog post was all the push that I needed to make some of my own. On my last trip to Denmark, I distinctly recall a "whole-grain" version of the tebirkes. The pastry itself was laminated, and it was sprinkled with sesame seeds (instead of the poppy seeds (or "birkes") used to cover tebirkes). I know there's a version of these pastries called grovbirkes, which is essentially "whole-grain birkes", so that could be the proper name for these things... except there's no poppy seeds ("birkes") on them. If someone knows the name of what I'm trying to describe, please chime in!

Anyways... For my version of these mouthwatering breakfast pastries, I used the whole-wheat croissant dough formula from Suas' ABAP. This dough has 25% whole-wheat flour, which gives the pastries an interesting flavour note compared to an ordinary all-white dough. I wouldn't go as far as saying these guys are healthy, but they're awfully tasty. And you probably don't have them every morning either, so I say go for it.

I shaped them as you would ordinary pain au chocolats (leaving out the chocolate, of course), and sprinkled them with linseeds and sesame seeds. A 1kg dough (not counting the 250gr butter used for lamination) gave me eight well-sized pastries. Baked in two batches:



Utterly delicious!! (I apologise for the lack of crumb shot - I brought all along to work for co-workers to enjoy...)


zoltan szabo's picture
zoltan szabo

Hello to everybody,

I never had the opportunity to post anyhing a while now, but I try to keep up myself with the development on this website.

Many of you guys are baking really really nice looking loafs so I would like to promote every1 not to give up the good work! I also spotted that many of yous building wood fired ovens wivh is very inspiring and this time I wish I wouldnt stay in a flat. Anyway.....

Please find below a few pictures from some of my recent bakes, the first picture is a hazelnut loaf, very nice, charactheristic flavour, I roasted the hazelnuts until they where almost really dark brown so the fragrant flavour was quite intense. Also I added a touch of hazelnut oil to it.

The next is my first retarded loaf. I used my usual recipe, posted on the website earlier.



So...... I would like to ask for  some advice and comments about retarding. I made my dough then i left it to proove for 2hrs. Folding after 40min. Then i placed into the fridge until next day morning. I gently removed from the oiled bowl and put into the heavily floured banneton. I let it rest for about 3hrs, then I removed from the prooving basket onto a hot tray and then baked it on 210C.  I noticed that the large air boubles stayed on the top of the loaf. I would like to ask you guys to give me some feedback on my method as well as some advice on how can i move those air pockets so there are everywhere and not just on the top.

Looking forward for the comments!

Thanks and happy baking!



lief's picture

When I came across breadnik's Russian Coriander-Rye recipe, I knew I had to make it! However, I don't do much baking with commercial yeast these days, so I converted the recipe to one that uses a levain. Given my lack of experience with breads that use a large percentage of rye flour and the fact that that I didn't even attempt to make the recipe as stated first seemed a little risky, but I can be fairly adventurous when it comes to baking and cooking :-)

                                                                    The finished product, yum!


I made a few minor modifications to use the ingredients that I had on hand, but the overall amounts of flour and water are very similar to breadnik's recipe.  I should also note that the mother starter I used is a white bread flour starter, since I do not currently maintain a rye starter.

Starter build 1: (fermented for ~11.5 hours)
mother starter (bread flour based @55% hydration) 14g
dark rye flour 22g
water 12g

Starter build 2: (fermented for ~5 hours)
starter 1 (from first build) 48g
dark rye flour 50g
water 28g

Final dough: (fermented ~10.5 hours)
starter 2 (from second build) 126g
dark rye flour 194g
white bread flour 80g
spelt flour 80g
vital wheat gluten 80g
sea salt 12g
ground coriander seeds 4g
honey 60g
molasses 60g
canola oil 30g
water 234g

1) Bring the starter to maturity in 2 builds. Due to the lack of gluten in the rye flour, the starter doesn't really expand like I'm used to so it is difficult for me to gauge the starter maturity. The fermentation times I used were fairly similar to what I might use for a non-rye flour dough.

2) For the final dough, mix all the dry ingredients together with a whisk to ensure a good distribution. I was feeling too lazy to grind up coriander seeds, so I just used pre-ground coriander from the spice rack. Add the levain then the wet ingredients, with the water last, as specified in breadnik's original recipe.

3) Mix the dough until ingredients are combined and all flour is hydrated. Autolyse for 20 minutes. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure this step can be called an autolyse, because the levain and salt are both in the dough. However, it still helps to develop the gluten.

4) Knead the dough for 20 minutes. It will NOT pass the window pane test. Perhaps this is a useless test for high percentage rye breads? The dough should be a little tacky. It is also quite stiff and difficult to knead.

5) Let the dough ferment! I let the dough ferment for almost 10 hours after kneading. This seems on the long side to me, but as I mentioned earlier, it is difficult for me to tell when this dough has reached maturity. Any comments on good maturity indicators for high percentage rye breads?

6) Shape the dough into two small batards and immediately refrigerate. I refrigerated for almost 8 hours.

7) Remove the batards from the refrigerator to let them warm and proof. In this case, I let it go for five hours! Again this seemed long to me, but I was able to apply the "poke test" to this dough and it didn't seem unreasonable from that perspective.

8) Spritz the batards with water and sprinkle them with slightly crushed coriander seeds. Then put them in the oven, preheated to 410-415F (my oven is not that accurate). I used a baking stone and steam, but the steam may not be necessary since the batards were spritzed with water. After 10 minutes, remove the steaming device and turn the oven down to 380F. Rotate the batards after another 10 minutes.

9) After 37 minutes of total bake time, remove the batards from the oven and allow them to cool (somewhat) before devouring ;-) This bake time may have been a little high as some parts of the bread seemed a bit darker and crustier than it should be.

Despite all of the uncertainty I had around the timing of this bread, it turned out great. The taste is complex, somewhat sweet, and all delicious. Not much oven spring. The crumb is fairly dense (sorry, no photo), but not as dense as most rye breads I have had. This is the second time I've made this bread and I'm fairly certain it will be popping out of my oven very now and then for a long time to come.


The original recipe that breadnik posted can be found here:

jombay's picture

Here are my sourdough croissants from Daniel Leader's Local Breads. It's the nicest croissant dough I have worked with thus far.




Baker's Percentage

Whole Milk

Liquid Levain

Instant Yeast

300 gms

100 gms

15 gms




Unbleached AP flour

500 gms


Unsalted Butter (for dough)

60 gms


Granulated Sugar

15 gms



Unsalted Butter (for roll in)

10 gms

200 gms





wally's picture

With a new baking job I've been overwhelmed to the point of hardly having time to enjoy posts on TFL let alone contribute.  But as the 4th has approached I found a day off to recharge my batteries, revisit some breads I love to bake, and try an experiment in dinner rolls involving ciabatta dough.

First, revisiting old friends - in this case Hamelman's mixed starter pain au levain, and, fougasse. 

Over time I've found that the subtle flavors that are imparted by a mixed starter of my everyday levain and rye levain, combined with a small introduction of whole wheat flour to the final dough, make this pain au levain my go-to bread of choice.  There is noticeable sourness in the baked loaf, yet not so overwhelming that it obscures the other flavors imparted by the mixture of grains and starters.


(A little crackly crust for David S here)


Plus, I have to admit, it's just plain fun to be able to use both starters simultaneously in constructing one dough.  Usually I find myself grabbing one or the other starters out of the fridge (now that it's unbearable summer here in D.C.) and staring somewhat ruefully at the one which goes unused.  So Hamelman's mixed starter sourdough not only satisfies my taste buds, but assuages any sense of guilt over favoring one levain over the other.

The fougasse I haven't baked in some time, but I had promised compatriots at my favorite pub that on Saturday I would appear with snacks in hand.  And what better way to share than with a niçoise olive and sea salt fougasse! 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The beautiful leaf shape was shortly admired and much more rapidly dismantled by my fellow pub mates!  I've tried these with a variety of additions - roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and traditional anchovies.  In any incarnation, I find them quickly devoured.  And let's face it, they are a 'fun' bread because of their distinctive shape.

My third bake on Saturday was with a traditional ciabatta dough of 72% hydration.  But instead of creating the usual 1 lb. loaves I decided to cut the dough into 1.5 oz increments and bake dinner rolls with them - ciabattinis as I like to call them. 

The dough makes for a quick and easy dinner roll that can be bagged and frozen once cooled, ready to be pulled out and thawed as needed.  Most of my dinner rolls contain healthy doses of butter, so I find this very simple roll - just flour, water, salt and yeast - to be a nice change and a wonderful sop for any dish that contains oils or juices.


The other eventful recent occurrence was a delightful 2-day workshop at King Arthur Flour in mid-June on wood-fired oven baking, taught by Dan Wing who, with Alan Scott, wrote the 'bible' on wfo's - The Bread Builders.  It was an eye-opener for me in that my conceptions of wfo's as mainly pizza makers were thrown out the window as we not only baked wonderful breads, but cooked equally wonderful meals on them. Those who are interested in reading more about my second 'excellent adventure at KAF' can find my recounting here.

Happy baking and Happy 4th of July to all!


jennyloh's picture

I was in for a pleasant surprise when I made the beer bread from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread book.  It was sweet and tasty.  I had my fun turning this into rolls.  

I've adapted the recipe a little,  reducing whole wheat,  and using the diastatic malt powder as I just couldn't find barley that I could sprout.  

I'm beginning to appreciate the stretch and fold method,  as I do see the impact on the crust.  I'm also learning how to steam my oven such that I get the thin crispy crust.  

Check out my full blog here.  



varda's picture

I just finished making my first edible bread in my cob oven.   In May I had no kitchen so wasn't able to bake at all.   Then in June, I got my kitchen back, but I started the process of building an outdoor oven.   Since I am not a handy person this was very challenging.  I read Kiko Denzer's book from cover to cover, did soil testing on the dirt around my house, bought some materials, scrounged some materials and made some materials, and got some great advice on the forum here.   I heard a lot of things about how you could make this sort of thing in an afternoon.   Maybe if you have a team of oxen or a lot of friends who want to help.   Suffice it to say it took me a lot longer than that.   I have tried for the last few days to bake in it.   The first day it wasn't quite dried out - I left some wood in it - so half of the bread got smoked and the other half didn't cook.   It all got dirty.   The second day, I cleaned it out properly before baking, but I didn't quite get just how long or how hot the fire had to burn.   So the loaf was as mushy as it went in an hour later.   Today, I stoked the fire for three hours to make sure it was hot enough, did a thorough cleaning, and then cooked away.  40 minutes later I had this:

and this

and finally the oven ad hoc and unlovely as it may be


txfarmer's picture

This is a bread from "A handmade loaf" by Dan Lepard. Good thing I googled before making it, the formula has a mistake, the levain amount should be 75g, not 150g. You can see the thread about this issue, as well as the whole formula here.


This is a bread went beyond my expectations. Lemon was a prefect match for barley, bringing out its slightly sweet flavor. Crumb is soft and chewy. It's not delicate and sweet like normal lemond dessert breads, it's hearty with a nice summery undertone.


I did adjust the levain/water amount to accomodate for my 100% starter, also cut the yeast amount by half (in volume) since I used instant and the book used fresh. The dough still proofed a little faster than what the book suggests


Hey, it kinda looks like a lemon huh?

darren1126's picture



I'm going to try a recipe I found on this site for Kaiser Rolls. I have a couple of questions and know that someone out there would know the answers.

What is the importance of the Malt Powder and is there a difference between this and the Malt powder you would put in Malt (ice cream)?

The recipes calls for 1 tablespoon malt powder. I'm wondering if this is a significant step in the process and what would happen if I left it out..

I asked my wife to pick up malt powder at the store and she came back with the powder that's used to make malts. I've looked at a couple of stores myself and cannot find it.




Subscribe to RSS - blogs