The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


janij's picture

I have been gone from baking and TFL for a LONG while.

In January we got to move into the little farmhouse we bought in East Texas.  It is an old farmhouse and it needed MAJOR repairs.  This is not the cause of my bread baking hiatus though.  My oven was the issue.  The previous owners took the electric oven with them.  I saw this a a wonderful thing since I HATE electric cooktops.  As in I burn everything on them.  Now electric ovens I don't mind, but I am also a cheap soul by nature.  So I lucked out and got a new, but very generic propane stove.  I was so excited.  I brought my quarry tiles, all my bread making supplies and dove in.  The dough would be perfect and the oven would not cook hot enough for me to get decent results.  That is frustrating.  To say the least.  I brought my sourdough starter from Houston and it worked so much better here.  But still the oven would not get hot enough to cook right.  I gave some of my starter to a friend who had never baked and he got wonderful results.  Now I have had MAJOR issues with sourdough.  It would turn to chewing gum basically.  I think it got too acidic in Houston.  Or like me it just thought the place sucked, pardon my language.  Now that I had a lovely starter and a not really working stove I got occupied painting, gardening, canning, making beer and wine, and buying and raising chickens, donekys and cows.  But I kept wanting to bake.

So I went back to square one on the oven.  I knew that the whole thing just didn't get hot enough, burners and all.  So I went back to Lowes, talked with a plumber, etc.  Then finally I started to get low on propane and called the prpane man out.  He is in his 70's at least.  I told him my problem and he said he would look at it.  Come to find out, the conversion kit for the lp to propane had not been done right by my husband.  I wanted to kiss that man.  As a matter of fact I have $50 for him in my drawer the next time he comes out.

So now I have a working propane ove.  And propane gets hot!  Plus I have an awesome starter.  And I finally, I mean FINALLY bake true sourdough bread with out having to spike it with yeast.  I have made a sanwich type loaf and Vermont Sourdough from Bread.  Or I should call it Berryville Sourdough.

So thanks to everyone here.  I kept checking in, and drooling over everyone's breads.  And it would make me sad.  But i am so happy to have figured out the problem and also to have a working sourdough!!!

I can't get the pictures resized so I am attaching a Flickr link.

As alwys this is a fabulous forum and I am blessed to be a part of it!


doctormarje's picture


Marje's Sourdough Pretzels (Bavarian style) (20 pretzels)


  • 1-1/2 cups sourdough starter (that's a whole separate recipe)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup beer
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1-1/2 cups white flour (King Arthur brand)

In a large glass bowl, stir together well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight on the counter.


Put sponge in heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Working with ½ cup at a time, incorporate 2 cups flour into dough. It should be quite firm but flexible; if you slap your hand against the dough, it should not stick to your hand. When you shape this, you shouldn't have to use any extra flour.

Turn into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 3 hours.

To prepare for baking:

Put 2 quarts water into a ceramic bowl; wearing powder-free latex gloves and eye protection, add 2 Tablespoons food grade lye, and let it dissolve. Set aside. Rinse the gloves off with water, dry them on a kitchen towel, and remove them. It doesn't matter if they turn wrong side out; you can reverse them easily by starting to turn them, then blowing into them like a balloon.

Working without gloves, reach into the dough and pull off a piece the size of a jumbo egg. Re-cover the bowl. Roll the dough between the palms of your hands, working wherever it is thickest, until you have a fairly even strand about 18 inches long. Now, working over a cutting board or counter top, lay the strand out flat. Pick up one end in each hand, lift up the strand and flip around, so it twists once. Flop it down on the counter, and bring the ends and twisted section towards you, pulling the twist into the circle of dough. Lay the ends down across the circle at the 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions, and press lightly. Lay on a metal cookie sheet that has non-stick spray on it. Repeat with remaining dough (9 to a sheet). Let them rest for 20 or 30 minutes.

Decide how many you'll bake; these do not keep well, and are best fresh. Put whatever you'll save for later into the freezer. Put what you will bake now into the refrigerator and chill for half an hour; this makes them easy to handle without distorting the shape.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and put one rack into the top position. In your sink, arrange a draining rack to hold the dipped pretzels for a couple of minutes. Take the pretzels out of the refrigerator and remove them to a plate. Put your gloves and glasses on, pick up a pretzel and gently lay it in the lye bath. When you have 3 or 4 in the lye, start timing for 90 seconds, turning them over midway through. Pick them up one at a time and lay them on the draining rack. Put the next batch in the lye, then move the drained pretzels to the cookie sheet. When the sheet is full, salt them liberally with Kosher salt. Bake for 14 minutes, eat while they're warm. Oh, wow, are these incredible. Treat the frozen pretzels the same way; you don't need to thaw them.

Don't use coated bakeware; it will peel; don't use cast iron, it will peel; don't use glass, the pretzels don't brown evenly, and the crust gets too thick. When you're done with the lye mixture, run cold water and pour it into the sink. After all, it IS drain cleaner!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and here's what I've come up with:

Sourdough: A device made from flour and water used for cultivating natural yeast.

Bread: A balloon like device made from usually wheat flour and water used for capturing "yeast farts". 

So based on this definition, bread is a "Yeast Fart Balloon".


Mebake's picture

This is a late bake of Hamelman's "BREAD" under levain breads. It is 90% White flour vs. 10% Wholwheat with 230g of Pitted olives.

The loaves were fermented for 2.5 hours bulk, and immedietly retarded for 8 hours overnight at 50F (10c). I suspect the crumb will be tighter than i wish, because i believe the loaves needed an additional 1 hour fermentation prior to retarding.

Any ways, today i'll cut into them and find out!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hi All,

So I was up really late waiting for some Pain au Levain to rise...  Maybe a little too late, which is why I don't feel so hot right now and should be getting to bed early...  Way, way before 2:00am like this morning...  Anyway, just wanted to share with you some Pain au Levain in a pan that I baked very late last night...  They turned out really well, but I should have used smaller loaf pans...  Enjoy!  Recipe and method will follow the pics and the obligatory crumbshot...  Also, this recipe was inspired by one of the Pain au Levain recipes in Le Pain, l'envers du decor by Frédéric Lalos.



Final Dough:

1110g AP (KA)

555g Stiff Levain (63% hydration)

700g Water

38g Kosher salt

2400g Total Dough Yield (approx)


Stiff Levain

304g AP

192g Water

60g Sourdough Starter (I used a stiff one)

556g Total Stiff Levain Yield


Method to the Madness


3:50pm - Mix stiff levain, place in covered container, let rest on counter.

430pm - Place stiff levain in refrigerator.


6:50pm - Mix final dough in large bowl using a large rubber spatula, plastic scraper, wet hands.  Knead for 5-10 minutes.  Cover bowl, or place in plastic bag and let rest.

7:30pm - Knead dough for 2-3 minutes in bowl with wet hands.  Do not add any extra flour.  Cover and let rest.

7:45pm - Turn dough, cover and let rest.

8:45pm - Line loaf pans with parchment paper, or grease them if you like.  Divide into 3x800g pieces, and shape into loaves, place into pans, place pans into plastic bag, proof for 4 hours.


12:00am - Place baking stone and steam pan in oven, preheat to 500F with convection.

1:00am - Turn convection off.  Lightly dust loaves and slash as desired, place into oven on stone.  When all pans are in oven, pour 1 cup of water into the steam pan, close door.  Turn oven down to 450F and bake for 45 minutes.  Halfway through bake, remove loaves from pans and return to oven and place directly onto stone.  Turn oven down to 425F for remainder of bake.  At end of baking, check internal temp and weight loss.  Should reach 210F and lose approx 15% weight.  Turn oven off and put loaves back in for another 10 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting and eating...  Also, get some sleep...

Franko's picture

This past Sunday I was in the book store browsing...where else.. but through the cooking section. One of the books that interested me the most was Richard Bertinet's 'Crust', in particular for some of the unique recipes in it. It also included a DVD of Bertinet demonstrating his techniques for hand mixing and kneading brioche and levain. The book has some very good photography as well and the price was reasonable so I went for it. Mr. Bertinet has been mentioned a fair bit lately on TFL so I was curious to see what I could learn from him. While the book is not particularly technical, primarily being meant for an advanced home baker I think, his methods are that of an expert baker who has a clear and easy style of explaining a formula or procedure.

When I mentioned in a thread on Sunday that I'd picked up the book a couple of members replied mentioning that they had it as well and thought it was a good one to have, although they both thought the hydration for his Ciabatta formula was too low. I looked at it and didn't think it seemed out of range but decided to try it for myself and see. Now normally I'm not a real stickler for being exact when it comes to scaling water, but going more for the feel of the dough as described by the author or any included photos. This time though I weighed out all the ingredients right to the specified gram and followed his times and oven temps fairly close as well. Of the half dozen or so ciabattas I've made over the last eight months I think this is one of the better ones. It may be partially due to having used a lower protein flour (10%) for this one than I have in the past or maybe because I spent more time developing it by hand than I normally do, but whatever the reason it made a good loaf. The crust is fairly thin and splintery and the crumb while being a bit more open than I prefer, has a good chew to it for an all white bread. The flavour is just what I expect a ciabatta to taste like, wheaty, toasty, with a bit of richness from the extra virgin olive oil coming through. Very tasty!



txfarmer's picture

Another very tasty bread from Dan Lepard's "A Handmade Loaf", I mostly followed the formula, but left out the instant yeast, using rye starter only, which means the bulk rise was 3 to 4 hours at room temp, then shaped and retarded the loaves in the fridge overnight. The next morning, took out, warmed up for 1 hour, then baked.


Made "twisted fendu" rolls (each around 210g), inspired by wildyeast's post here. Came out pretty good.


Since currants soak up different amount of liquid and they are added at the end of kneading, it's hard to know how much extra water to use. The first time I added extra 30g, the dough was still on the dry side, the 2nd time I used the same amount, yet the dough was unbelieablely wet and sticky. The wet dough did lead to a more open crumb - even though it had 50% of ww flour and rye flour, as well as a lot of currants.


Something new I learned while researching about this bread, "dried currants" are made from a kind of small grapes, not fresh black currants; while cassis is a liquor that's indeed made from black currants, so Cassis and currants in the bread are in fact not "related" as I had imagined. Doesn't matter though, they complement each other perfectly, resulting a very rich tasting bread.


My old cheap point and shoot camera died during the Africa trip, so I bought a new DSLR, this is my first batch of bread photos with the new camra/lense. A lot of learn and get used to, the pictures are definitely a working progress.



highmtnpam's picture

Hello from highmtnpam. We live at 9200' above sea level with the Continental Divide on three sides of our small town. I love the site because it keeps me in touch with other "breadies" (if you can be a foodie why can't you be a breadie)  I am just learning to post and include pictures but look forward to the challenge.  I consider my self a good baker, but have already learned so much, I feel that I may be on my way to a "very" good baker.   Hello again,  Pam

Raz's picture

A bit about me i am 27 and have been working in bakerys for 6 yrs and have gone from a packer all the way to managing my own department in a supermarket.

Just thought i would let people know i will be attempting my first harvest loaf 2morro and am feeling a bit nervous.

I have been asked to do the loaf to try and get more cutomers interersted in the bakery. I also see this as a way to challange myself as a skilled baker and have therfore been researching the loaf in the utmost of details to try and produce the best loaf i possibly can.

I will take some photos and post them on the website.

Here`s hoping it all goes well.

updates to follow.


Raz xx


hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

Here's a brief report on this weekend's baking. Yesterday (Sunday), I mixed dough for a fruit and nut levain and did the lamination for a straight croissant dough. Both the levain and the croissants were retarded overnight after final shaping, so I could bake them off this morning. I got an early start so everything was baked before I headed for work.

For the fruit and nut levain, I used chopped dates, raisins and walnuts, and let them macerate in Grand Marnier a few hours before mixing the final dough. Absolutely not necessary, but the soaking provides the fruit with delicate flavour and makes the chopped walnuts softer and lends them a buttery quality. Rum would be awesome as well! There's 40% whole grain flour in the formula, so the sweetness provided by the fruit and liquor is just right (at least for me). Here's a link to my formula.

The baked goods:

Fruit and nut levain and croissants

...and the crumb of the levain:

Fruit and nut levain crumb

Have a nice week everyone!


Subscribe to RSS - blogs