The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

A quick question for those of you using lava rocks to create steam...

I have been creating steam using a stainless steel pan filled with lava rocks on the floor of my oven...  I washed the lava rocks and sterilized them by boiling them in water for about 30 minutes, and then placing them in my oven to dry.  Also, the bottom of my steam pan is slightly rusted.  Not sure if this is a problem...

The results have been great, however, I have had this mineral taste in my mouth for the past week...  Has anyone noticed this when using lava rocks?  Could this be caused the the rust in the bottom of the pan?  None of my friends who have had the breads have noticed...  Also, my diet is the same, and have not eaten anything that I usually don't eat...

Anybody else have this experience?  Please let me know.  Thanks.


Mebake's picture

Yesterday I baked this Boule... With 33% Rye this time. Success!

I have had the best oven spring because of using an improvised cloche. A ceramic clay oven pot i bought off a store, and replaced the cover (which was vented) with a stanless steel bowl on top, and preheated both to 250 C.

Now i know how baking accomplishment feels.

Hats off to Susan't magic bowl idea, and that.



rossnroller's picture

In response to a request on another thread, here is my sourdough pizza recipe.

My pizza story goes some way back now. Masochists can access the details in the following posts on my regular blog:

Pizza - A Tale of Evolution

Making Your Own Great Pizzas At Home (I've been meaning to amend the title of this post for some time...this was written pre my sourdough revelation).

I 'graduated' from dry yeast pizzas after coming across Jeff Varasano's amazing site of obsession and instruction - see here. Until applying Jeff's sage advice, I thought I'd tweaked my dry yeast pizzas to close to optimum for a domestic oven, but have found that SD brings the flavours to a whole new level. Of course, there is simply no substitute for a wood-fired oven (or, second-best, an electric pro oven) because unless tampered with, domestic ovens cannot reach the temperatures required to bring the very best out of pizzas (around 450C, 800F).

That said, the pizzas I am turning out with this recipe are pretty damned goood - far better than those I've had from most commercial venues, and immeasurably superior to the crappy things franchises like Dominos, Pizza Hut, etc sell by the millions (how's that for lowering the bar?). Not as good as the incredible thin-crust ones I had from an old woodfired oven pizzeria near the Trevi Fountain in Rome, but not far off, either. I say this not out of boast, but as a pizza tragic (although not on Jeff's level!) who is eternally on a quest for superb pizza, and in a spirit of spreading the lurve.

I have to acknowledge that Jeff Varasano's dough mix and methods are the inspiration for this pizza. I do not have a mixer as he does, so adjusted the method to suit hand-mixing. Also, I was not prepared to mess with my oven to force it up to ideal pizza temperatures as Jeff recommends. Instead, I experimented and made some little tweaks along the way, which have improved both the convenience of the method and the final result. If you try this recipe, hope you find the same. Enough rambling...

Dough for 1 pizza - multiply ingredient weights by however many you want to make (or use bakers' % to re-scale):
Filtered water                 110g (65.5%)
Pizza flour                     168g (100%)
Salt                               6g or less (2-3.5%, according to taste)
Sourdough starter*        15g (9.0%)
Instant dry yeast            0.5g (0.25%...I just use 1 or 2 pinches, or 3 for 2 pizzas)
Olive oil                         1 tblespoon approx
*I use a 100% hydration white starter, or rye/white flour starter. With this small amount, hydration % is not crucial.

Dough Method (as stated, I do all mixing by hand):

  1. Mix all ingredients except salt, cover and rest for 20-40 mins (autolyse).

  2. Add salt, and do 20 or 30 stretch-and-folds in bowl.

  3. Pour about 1 tbls olive oil on to bench surface, scrape dough on to bench and knead/squelch between fingers/stretch until oil begins to be absorbed (2-3 minutes). Change kneading method to "air kneading" (slapping dough repeatedly on bench). 

  4. If sticking too much during air kneading, add more oil to bench surface and repeat 3. 

  5. Repeat 4 until gluten is well-developed and dough is smooth and stretchy (but it will still be quite a wet dough). This should take about 5 minutes in total, but always go by dough feel. Return dough to lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover, and rest 20 mins or so.

  6. Divide dough into however many pizzas you're making, using a scale to ensure each piece is equal in weight.

  7. Roll into balls and transfer each into its own small oiled plastic container, roll around to cover evenly with oil, and put on lid.

  8. After short rest, transfer to fridge. Retard fermentation in fridge 2 - 3 days (I prefer 3).

Making pizza:

  1. Take dough out of fridge about 1 hour before baking (pre-heat oven and pizza stone on max during this time).

  2. Empty one dough ball out on to floured surface. Gently and gradually stretch it out evenly from centre with your fingers, leaving a small rim at edges. Be firm but not rough - the dough should be very manageable and stretchy, but be careful not to stretch it so thin it tears. When at the size and thickness you want, transfer to semolina-sprinkled peel (or back of cookie sheet). This transfer process can be a bit tricky. I get my partner to lift one side of dough while I lift the other. It will distort in shape in transit, so re-shape when on peel (easy - but who cares if it ends up 'rustic' in shape, anyway?). Keep giving peel a shake to make sure the dough is not sticking. If it does stick, work a little more semolina under the sticking part. It is vital to keep checking with a little shake that it is not sticking as you put the toppings on that it is not sticking. I have made the mistake of thinking a tiny bit of sticking shouldn't matter, that the weight of the pizza would unstick it and send it sliding cleanly off the peel and on to the pizza stone - I was spectacularly wrong! IF IT STICKS AT ALL, SPRINKLE SOME SEMOLINA UNDER THE STICKING PART SO IT DOES NOT STICK ANY LONGER!!

  3. Quickly assemble your preferred toppings. KEEP TOPPINGS LIGHT! Then transfer to pizza stone in maxed-out pre-heated oven. Bake about 8 mins (note: the thicker the dough and spread of toppings, the longer it will take to bake; I like thin crust pizzas lightly topped, so mine only take 8 mins @ 250C).

  4. I like to serve mine with freshly ground black pepper, some torn basil leaves, with some chopped fresh chillies in quality extra virgin olive oil spooned over.

I don't take great pics - too impatient to start eating! These don't do justice to these pizzas, but will give some idea of the way they turn out (NB: I don't even try to char mine - that's best done in high-temp WF or pro ovens).

cacciatore sausage, zucchini, red onion, mozzarella and ricotta SD pizza


mushroom, tomato, red onion and mozzarella SD pizza


anchovies, olives, onion and mozzarella SD pizza


Cheers all

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

More blogging ketchup...

Here's a sourdough from 1/5/10...  Enjoy.


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

I'm just going to start catching up on my freshloaf blogging...  Here are some French bread loaves from 1/4/2010...  Enjoy!



ltews's picture

I'm looking for a inexpensive site to purchase bread stones.  I just picked one up today off of the King Arthur site and it was nearly $40.00.

sergio83's picture

I'm still tying to make baguettes and having a lot of fun doing it.  I thought I'd try Anis Bouabsa's recipe as described by David (dmsnyder) here on Jane's (janedo) blog/page/thread(?): After converting grams to ounces to cups, or something along those lines-- I describe my "process" there-- I ended up using 1-3/4 cups of ap flour, and 6 oz of water, plus the yeast and the salt.  The ghetto comes into play because I used the everyday Pillsbury AP flour instead of the fancy stuff (I spent all my money on KA bread and white whole wheat flour), add to that that I measure by volume (I looked at scales the other day, I'm working on it) and that I spent more than 21 hours-- actually, I'm not sure how long it spent in the fridge, just that it was a little more than the 21 hours, but not much more than a few hours more, if that.

I ran into some familiar problems.

I've been proofing, shaping into baguettes on the pan that I put into the oven, letting them rise and then baking them without moving them.  My "shaping" skills leave a lot to be desired, I think my problem has to do mostly with how I'm not good at putting flour on the countertop-- so far, i put too much on and instead of rolling it just slides aroung and i end up pulling out the ends-- next time, i just won't put flour on the countertop.

This time, I tried to "pre-shape" (or something like that) the loaves so I did the push-fold-turn-push-fold seal thingy I've seen on youtube-- actually, if I'm stubborn about making mistakes, I hold this to blame: and then I rolled it-- so basically I shaped the baguette.  Then after an hour I shaped it again-- well, first I stretched it of of the parchment paper which is stuck to (I'm thinking it might be a bad idea to let it rise in a steamy oven, which I would do so that I wouldn't have to put anything over it which would then stick, but since it's sticking and messing up anyway...)  So I tried to reshape it again and roll it out on a lot of flour but I more slid it around instead.  It was also very stretchy, so I had to cut it in half and made two "baguettes" instead of one.

I also tried putting a cookie sheet in the oven to warm up before putting the loaves on it. Not surprisingly I made a mess of that and when I tried to slide the loaves onto the hot cookie sheet they slid into each other so they have a soft spot on one side-- actually though, I got what I think was some oven spring out of it... Or that may just have been because I forgot to score the loaves :S.

Anyway, here are the results of my little comedy of errors:

I couldn't find my camera last night so by the time i did we'd finished off half of one loaf.

I'm pretty happy about the crumb, though it seems to be somewhat irregularly irregular.

I'd have been ever so happy if the whole thing had come out like the right half of the above cross section... actually it might have (I forgot to mention that when i went to slide it I noticed that the tip was off the end of the parchment sheet so I tucked it in so maybe that's why the bubbles are so little.

As far as taste goes, it's not terribly fantastic.  It might have to do with the flour's brand, that the flour wasn't terribly fresh, or that I'm still trying to figure out how to balance out the salt and on this occasion I tried to guess on the miserly side.

I used more than the cup of flour I'm fond of, so for my next trick, I'll try it with 1 cup of flour and i'll figure out the rest of the ratios.  I think I'll also buy some KA brand ap flour.  I'll do the 21 hour cold rise... as far as shaping goes, I could take it out of the fridge and shape on the parchment paper i'll bake it on... but I think i'll take it out of the fridge and let it rest as a ball since I don't know what "pre-shaping" is.  I will not, however, put it in a steamy oven-- I'll cover it with oiled cling wrap instead and then a damp cloth... uy, i think it's gonna stick-- anyway, let me look some stuff up before I try...


moxiemolly's picture

I have been having so much success with my new Peter Reinhart book, Artisan Breads Every Day. I have made the lean bread and the results are wonderful! Chewy and crusty and FULL of holes. Today I tried the baguettes and after watching many you tube videos figured out how to shape them. Here they are:




They are still hot but I hope they taste as good as they look! I will update with some crumb...


jombay's picture

I really enjoyed the loaves I made last time so I made a few more this weekend. These ones had a bulk fermentation time of about 40 hours. I'm really enjoying this new whole wheat starter. Has great flavour, crazy active and only a couple weeks old.

Shape, no grigne but still very good looking loaves.


Francine's picture

Has anyone on this forum used this scale?  The "My Weigh KD-8000 "Baker's Math" Scale"? I found this scale at the following web site   and thought to myself, "well how cool is that for those of us that are mathematically challenged."  Before I order it I wanted to check here first to see if any one has used one of these scales and if you have any problems with it?  Is there a better scale out there within the same price range?  Thank you for your input.





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