The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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SylviaH's picture

Irish American Heritage Month

This is the way my Irish Mother 'Sylvia' taught me to make Irish Soda Bread.  I was born in Belfast, Ireland and raised in the USA.  All my family...My Children and Grandchildren 'My Brother his Irish wife and her family '10 brothers and sisters' their four children and now Great Grandkids,Aunts, Uncle's, name it are close by here in the USA and a few Aunt's and Uncle's cousins in Australia!  We all love Irish Soda Bread!  This Soda Bread is very Basic and yet this recipe can be made using some wheat flour, even the Irish Wheaten flour, add raisins, currants or sultans and make "Spotted Dog" or "Spotted Dick", shape into Farls or Round Bread and cut a cross on top.  I didn't use my currants today...but you get the idea!  I baked my Farls in my Iron skillet...heated until a little flour sprinkled on the bottom turns brown..a med. low heat!  Farls also bake up very nicely on Aunt used to cover hers with a towel to help them bake a little warmer.  I bake a Farl about 10min. on each side..till they are nice and lightly browned and then turn them over once and finish.  The oven baked soda bread is baked in a preheated oven 350F for apx. 35 min.

I hope this might help some who are making Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick's Day...It's simple fast and delicious warm or cold!

This Recipe Makes One Round Loaf "or" 4 Farls.

2  Full Cups of All Purpose Flour or 1 1/2 Cups AP and 1/2 Whole Wheat> my Mum always said the Irish cup measures are larger so we filled them!!

1 tsp. Salt

1  Slightly Heaped tsp. Cream of Tartar "This is a Family Secret sort of : )"  you can take it out if you insist on using only Baking Soda!! 

1 Heaped tsp. Baking Soda> I use the one from the health food store

1 Full Cup of Buttermilk

Mix all dry ingredients well.  Make a well in the flour and pour in buttermilk.  Toss with fork until all flour sticks together.  Handling is  fast, gentle and not over mixed...Iron fist velvet glove!!  Drop out onto a very well floured surface and push into a ball and give 2 or 3 gentle kneads it can be sticky so use extra flour.  Form gently into a ball.  Place into pie pan. Flatten a little, cut a cross on top with a floured knife.  For Farls.  Flatten cut into fourths and bake in a skillet or on a griddle.

Bake 350F Oven 35min. till sounds hollow when bottom is tapped and nicely browned -Farls are>    Med-Low Skillet/Griddle  Nicely browned not to dark


Mixing Dry Ingredients

Your gonna love these measurments...Full Cup of Buttermilk...same with Flour measurements...flour is heaped in this cup!!  Hey this is the old fashioned Irish Way!!

Pour Buttermilk into a well of Flour

Form into a sticky mass Gently!

Gently knead 2 or 3 times into a ball adding extra flour to keep from sticking.

Cut a cross on top or flatten a little more and cut all the way through with a floured knife and flour sliced areas and make  Soda Farls.

Place in 350F preheated oven

Apx. 35 min till done

Sliced Warm Crumb

Soda Farls in the Iron Pan

Turned Over after about 10mins.

Place in towel to keep soft.

Slice like this...

Farl Crumb

Oh I'll just have an 1/8th...and another and another before I go on my bike ride!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos...I let the battery run down in my new camera and still not sure how to use this older one! 

May The Luck of The Irish Be With You!  If you try this recipe : ))













Jw's picture

In absence of my camera (the display is broken), I uploaded a few old pictures. When our kids were younger, we once took them to the Bakkery Museum. They were really exited about the figures the bakers demonstrated. If it is not the content of a bread, it will be the form that decides whether they like it are not!

We made some of these breads during several birthday partys, even the 'never eat bread' kids would eat that own bread this time.

I am progressing with the sourdough, more on the art part then on the science part. Baking full week around is also working out so far. Pictures will follow! Groeten, Jw.

A baker at the museum. I remember they put on a real good show, they made everything look so simple.

Some of the figures:

And a picture from a birthday party. The kids added a bit of sugar powder on top... the pictures are from 2002.


blackbird's picture


New here, thought I'd try a little blog to see what happens, learning wonderfully, hearty thanks to generous people, and I hope I can be as helpful.   

 This is a small rye in the "cocktail" size.  A cube of butter is shown next to it.   There must be a better name?  It slices very thin.  The crumb is a bit dense and moist due, I suppose, to so much rye flour in the dough.  I think I started baking with rye in 1975 but I'm quite primitive with rye.  Eventually this rye became my easy little rye.  It has little resemblance to the more complicated ryes I'm reading about nowadays, especially the sour ryes.

It makes tidy tiny sandwiches, eh?  Hahahaha.  Anyway, I have enjoyed a slice of red radish and a tiny bit of lettuce leaf for one example but no need to limit the imagination.

I usually do not dust with flour nor do I score the top crust.  But I did to see what would happen.  This one was baked in a metal baguette form although little mini-loaf bread pans work very well especially if I cover them with aluminium foil while baking.

The dusted rye is the object now.

Seeds of your choice if you want them.  The one shown has fennel and anise.  Choose your seeds to suit you as to type and quanity.  I suggest you soak seeds in water for some time and use the water for the dough.  I don't like hard seeds in bread.

The baking was at 400F and about 40 minutes with a water pan for steam although that isn't so much for crust as to help keep the loaf moist.  Using mini-loaf pans will change the time depending on how many mini-pans you are baking.  Internal temperature reached 200F.  Covering with aluminium foil firmly helps to keep moisture in the loaf.

A little salt, a little instant yeast, seeds and the water plus flour, a little oil if you want it.  A basic measurement is 2 cups rye flour, 1 cup white bread flour, 9 or 10 ounces of the water for a start.  Add a little water if needed.  Mix and rest, let ferment for quite a while --- in the fridge covered in the bowl overnight if you like but several hours at room temperature is my usual method.  Long fermentation changes the texture and taste of the crumb.

The dough can be a bit wet but a little white bread flour will do when kneading which is basically a stretch and fold but there is no need to knead the daylights out of it. 

I set the dough in the form, a bread mini pan or a baguette pan, for the final rise and finally into the oven.  It doesn't rise greatly so it is more like a rest.

While this is a guide and not a recipe of precise amounts it can be changed easily to suit anyone's prefered precision or adding other ingredients such as molasses, orange, nuts, etc.  I don't add much but will see about orange.  Others may add the works if they like.

The point, if I'm making one, is that it is a simple, small rye.  For me, it is easy and dependable.  Your conditions will vary.  This type of rye isn't complex. 

Peter Reinhart in Whole Grain Breads on pages 219 to 223 writes about Vollkornbrot also known as a schwartzbrot ---"black bread" ---and my little simple rye may be an example somewhat distantly similiar but without the complex magnifance of a proper Vollkornbrot.   I can't recall how I found a recipe for a rye nor how this managed to evolve. 

I shall try to make a more precise recipe and technique comment in the near future.


foolishpoolish's picture


ehanner's picture

Digital Photography, Tips and Methods for the Baker

One of the wonderful things about the digital cameras we all have today is that we can share the look of the wonderful things we bake. It’s one thing to write a recipe and describe how things should be but as someone once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

The scope of this blog will be limited to product photography and how to achieve the best results from commonly available equipment. I will try to avoid complex explanations that are better suited for advanced or professional photographers. The beginning baker need not take a magazine quality image to show for the purpose of asking for help. However, all of us want to show our work in the best possible light. We all are proud of our achievements and progress in this hobby of bread making and I am sure all of us want our pictures to reflect the beauty of our success.

NOTE: If you want to stay apprised to the updates to this blog you can subscribe below. Please feel free to post questions and I will try to be as helpful as possible.

The camera:
The myth that you need a 10.2 mega pixel camera to take good pictures has become accepted by the public as put forward by the camera makers. The simple truth is that an inexpensive camera with a good lens from 10 years ago will do just fine. Our computer monitors display images at a resolution of 72 or 96 dots per inch. All digital cameras record images at the size or resolution set in the camera settings. That means that the image saved by your camera is a whopping 3872x2592 pixels if you are using a 10 megapixel camera set on Large. That is a 10 Mb file that will display as 42X27 inches on your monitor. Displayed full size, you would only see a small portion on your screen.  The file size of an image saved at any resolution is way way larger than you need for uploading to the forum or emailing. As a general rule if you can re size your image to 4X6 inches at 72 dpi or there about, the file size will be small enough you can email it quickly and it will be uploaded easily to the image editor at the forum.
If you are thinking about buying a new camera, my advice is to purchase the best quality lens you can afford in your budget. Nikon has some very nice SLR’s in the range of $400 with wonderful optics that are  good general use lenses. Canon I am sure also has a competitive line with similar pricing. Remember that your image first has to pass through the optics on the camera. Everything that follows the lens is electronics. Mass production of plastic lenses has gotten um better, but a good glass lens will deliver sharp images on the collector plate. Yes, there are good quality smallish size cameras with plastic lenses. If size isn’t a consideration, an SLR that allows you to change lenses is my choice.

Basic Camera Operation:
First, learn how to control the on camera flash. This is important for every image you take from the kids standing on the beach to the loaf of bread just out of the oven. Even if you use the Auto setting on your point and shoot camera you can improve your results dramatically by understanding how to manipulate the flash. In outdoor settings in direct sunlight, the Sun casts a harsh shadow on the dark side all objects. The moon is the best example. When we see a crescent shaped moon, it is the shadow of the Sunlight that creates the contrast that looks like the moon has changed shape. In fact the moon is still there as always, just not illuminated so we can see the details. The same thing happens to a lesser degree when we take a photo in direct sunlight of a person wearing a hat. The camera will adjust for the overall amount of light on this bright sunny day and the face of the individual will be in shadow. If you force the camera to always fire the flash, especially on sunny days, you can eliminate the face being in shadow. The opposite is also true. If you prevent the flash from firing when in indoors but still decent light, your images will not suffer from being driven by over flash and the bounce back that occurs from camera mounted flash. Using daylight streaming in from outside gives the most natural colors for faces or bakery products. If you can use Sun light to illuminate your food products, there won’t be any need to adjust color tones later. Also, your lighting won’t be coming from the direction of the camera so there will be more interesting shadow detail in view.
Natural lighting usually results in lower light levels which increases the need for a steady hand or a tripod. Squeeze don't punch the shutter for a still camera and sharp image.

The most true colors and most natural looking images will always be the result of using the Sun to illuminate your images.  Having said that.

Flash photography is a reality that we all have to deal with. Most of my breads seem to come out of the oven at night or on gray cloudy days. I end up taking snap shots of the  breads I want to upload on a pan on the stove top with a florescent light fixture above. I put daylight tubes in the fixture and that helps reduce the green shade that florescent tubes usually cast. The on camera flash provides the majority of light and the result is a well exposed and color balanced image. The closer you are with the camera, the more prominent the light from the flash is. This is especially true with less expensive point and shoot cameras that don’t automatically adjust the flash down to prevent over exposure or burnout. In general you will get better results if you position the camera in the mid range of the flash. For example if your flash has an effective range of 12 feet, don’t get closer than 5 or 6 feet.

Setting the ISO:
The ISO setting allows you the ability to make the image plate more sensitive to lower light ranges. This is an area where I could easily get side tracked in a discussion of capabilities that while interesting, would be better saved for an advanced user discussion. I suggest using an ISO setting between 600 and 800. Image quality will remain high and at 800 the range of available light is wide enough to capture all of the details we need. Use higher numbers for lower light levels.

Natural Light Photography:
Our eye sees things as they are normally lit, with a combination of light sources and shadows. Flash lighting from a camera mounted strobe is harsh and unflattering in most cases. It’s OK for a quick snap shot but if you really want an image to show your work, a little thought about the lighting will dramatically improve your results.
Try to think about light as a liquid. It flows around sharp corners and bounces off of shapes it encounters, changing quality and color as it travels. Like the stream from a garden hose, it is most harsh and powerful closest to the source, falling in intensity as it travels away.
The most dramatic images have a wide range of depth of color and intensity. Some very dark places and some very light or white places . The focus point is sharp and well focused. The lighting establishes the mood. Long soft shadows from rear lighting with filling light on the sides make this image of a soft pretzel very interesting. Shadows creeping in from the side bring depth to any image.  The images Mark Sinclair and his wife are using of his bakery products are a good example of thoughtful natural lighting. Take a look at how they have sculpted the breads with perfect control of the light. No trickery here, just thoughtful lighting you can do at home.

All of the images above are good examples of natural off camera lighting. Thanks to Mark, Susan, and Pamela and also Stephmo for the Pretzels shot.

This will be a work in progress and added to as I get time. If you have questions, fire away and I'll do the best I can. This is a big subject that could get very specialized.


guan.xiu's picture

 hi,大家好,I'm Chinese. I'm from Nanjing




rhag's picture

Today i put together a decorative plaque, baguettes, ciabatta, and the beer and barley bread. I'm entering a baking competition this weekend and have been practicing for the last little while. On Sunday I'll be doing the decorative plaque, baguettes, ciabatta, beer bread, multi buns, challah, palmiers, croissants, and danish dough for my display. Thoughts and comments are always welcome. If people are at all interested in a tutorial for the plaque just let me know! (I'm from Manitoba, Canada and our province has heritage with the bison and farming hence the wheat and bison on the display) I've redone the plaque already to clean up the seams and braid and this was my first.








glora's picture

Where are all of the artisan bakeries in LA?

Marni's picture

Well here it goes, trying to post pictures on my blog - today I baked a traditional Jewish holiday treat called Hamantashen.  They are popular for the holiday of Purim which is next Tuesday.  I made about 110, a mix of prune, cherry and blueberry.  I'm not the most careful cookie shaper, but these are disappearing too fast for that to really matter.

I also tried the round braid that Trailrunner made recently.  That was so much fun!  I make challah almost every week and have never tried this before.  I just used a basic challah recipe that looked good. 

Here it is  just after shaping:

And just out of the oven:

Lately I've been brushing my challahs with a mix of egg yolk and dash of vanilla.  The taste is great and the smell even better.  The line is from rolling the strands , it was a technique I haven't used before and was much easier than my usual method, but I'll have to watch for those seams.

We haven't tasted this loaf yet - tomorrow night.

Whew - I admire those of you who post pictures regularly, it takes a while to do!  I love seeing everyone's pictures, so thank you for taking the time to show your work.  I loved doing this.

LindyD's picture

Inspired by Hansjoakmin's five-grain rye sourdough, I decided to try a sourdough rye. I chose Hamelman's Flaxseed bread, which is a 60 percent rye, because I've never tasted such a rye (let alone baked one). Plus, flaxseed is good for you.

Given my inexperience, I went by the book and followed Hamelman's instructions precisely, starting with building a rye sourdough from scratch.  That began on February 16, using Arrowhead Mills organic rye flour, and feeding it twice a day from the third day on.  

On February 28 the rye sourdough culture looked and tasted ready, so I built the sourdough that evening (rye flour 100%, water 80%, mature sourdough culture, 5%). The flaxseed soaker was also made and left overnight.  

The overall formula is:

Medium rye flour 60% (No medium rye available, so I used Arrowhead Mills organic rye)

High gluten flour, 40% (didn't have HG flour - used KA bread flour)

Flaxeeds, 10%

Water, 75%

Salt, 1.8%

Yeast, 1.5%

The mix the next day was short and gentle, per Hamelman's counsel, in my KitchenAid mixer.  Desired dough temperature is 80F.  Mine was 81F and while doing the calculation before the mix, I wondered why the soaker temperature isn't included in the calculation.  My soaker temp was 74F but I had to ignore that number.  I don't know the answer but have sent off a post to KAF asking why it isn't included.

While I had expected a really sticky and tacky dough (Leader advises to embrace stickiness when working with rye)  it wasn't really difficult to handle nor did it stick to my counter when shaping into boules.  

Bulk fermentation is 30 to 45 minutes and final fermentation 50 to 60 minutes at 80F.  Just about everything I've baked over the past six months has been retarded overnight, so I have to consider the flaxseed bread as a  "quick" bread!

I sprayed the top of each boule with water, dipped them in a bowl of sesame seeds, and baked at 460F for 15 minutes (steamed once), then at 440F for an additional 35 minutes.  Twenty-four hours later, on Tuesday, I tasted the bread.   It has a nice light texture and a very pleasant tang.  The sesame seeds in the crust add a nice, light nutty flavor.  Last night I made a grilled sandwich using the rye, Boars Head lean corned beef, and Swiss cheese.  Very tasty in spite of forgetting the sauerkraut.

If you haven't tried a high percentage rye bread, this Flaxseed recipe is an good introduction to working with rye - which is very different from wheat.  It was a good education for me.  Maybe someday I'll have the courage to try the Detmolder method.


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