The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

A couple weeks ago, I got the urge to bake some biscuits to go with the big pot of vegetable-beef stew I had simmering on the stove. I rarely make biscuits because we don't eat refined carbs most days. But once in a while, I just get a craving for old-fashioned comfort food. And, light biscuits are still on my list of things to master before I die. Both the fluffy kind, and the flaky kind. So now, I probably have you thinking this post is about biscuits, and it really isn't. I found this recipe for Flaky Buttermilk Buscuits in Cook's Illustrated (Jan/Feb 2006), and decided to give it a whirl. Not too bad, huh?

The biscuits were higher and flakier than I ever thought possible, but I screwed up a couple steps, and they were not quite as great as they could have been. I forgot to heed the warning to not open the oven door, which I did to rotate the pan halfway through baking. The biscuits immediately fell about half an inch--if you can believe it, they were actually taller than this! Then I didn't pull them out of the oven soon enough, and they turned out a bit too overdone. But what potential these have, so hopefully there will be another post about them in the future. When I've mastered them...

What today's entry's about, is the technique utilized in this recipe for flouring the counter. It worked so well for me, I thought I should share. Ordinarily, I just sprinkle or dust the flour over the surface, as evenly as I can, but sometimes I get a few "drops" that need smoothing out. And sweeping your hand over the top, really just wipes the flour away and it ends up too thin to keep wet or soft dough from sticking. The author, Sean Lawler has you first spray the counter lightly with non-stick spray, and spread the oil evenly with a cloth or paper towel. It really gives the flour something to adhere to, but the dough releases easily. It worked really well for laminating this sticky biscuit dough, and I think it would be great for rolling out pie pastry too. Try it.


hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

It's been a while since I posted something here, so I thought I should put up some photos I've taken of stuff I've hauled from the oven over the last month or so. I've been occupied with the bread and pastry books by Friberg and Suas, so all of these recipes are taken from those sources.


I've baked most of the sourdough breads from ABAP, and I've found the sourdough rye and sourdough multigrain to be excellent breads. I've made a variation on the rye twice - first as a boule:

Sourdough rye

... then as a batard:

Sourdough rye


Here's the crumb of the batard version:

Sourdough rye

This is a very nice, well balanced base recipe for a filling everyday rye. The versions above are approx. 55% ryes, mostly whole rye. Curiously, this rye is made with a stiff white starter, so the flavour is very mildly sour. In the above loaves, there is about 0.3% fresh yeast, so the loaves are bulk fermented a good 2 hours, and given a final proof of just under 90 minutes. There is a delicious rye flavour to these loaves! As I said, I find the recipe to be a great "base" recipe for adding in other things as well - I added caraway and anise seeds to the batard above, and I'll be making this again with other seeds and some whole grain soakers in the future.

Below is a photo of the sourdough multigrain from ABAP - also a terrific formula. Here enjoyed with herring, a fresh salad and sour cream.

Sourdough multigrain



My freezer's been out of croissants for months on end, so a couple of weeks ago I decided to get my act together and haul out that butter block from the fridge! I used the simplest croissant recipe from ABAP (i.e. no preferments or sourdough), but gave the dough an overnight retardation in the fridge during bulk fermentation. The dough came out relaxed and easy to work with.

I'm using three single turns during lamination of croissant doughs, and this time I formed ordinary croissants (since I'm making these so rarely, I wanted to practice shaping a bit). After a few minutes in the oven, and the melted butter scent is filling the apartment, it's time to crank out that victory beer I've been saving:

Croissants in the oven


I was very happy with how these turned out - as full and rich in taste as any croissants I've made before with a preferment in the dough, but this time with a much lighter interior. I couldn't get a decent photo of the interior cross section, but it was incredibly light and fragile, almost like a spiderweb by the look of it!


Layer upon layer upon layer upon... yum...




Easter time is the season for oranges where I come from, so I candied some peel from oranges I had and put them in cream scones together with dark raisins. A real treat!


I like my scones very cake-like (I hate those hard, chewy bricks I sometime get at the store... never again!), so I just blend everything together in a bowl (by hand or using a rubber spatula), before gently pressing the sticky mess into a springform. Slice, wash and bake! I cream washed these before putting them into the oven, so they came out a bit paler than cream scones with a proper egg wash.


Still good for breakfast, though.


After pulling those croissants off, I wanted to take things two turns further, and opted for a go at the puff pastry dough from Friberg's book. I've only done croissants three times before and never any puff, so this was definitely an eye opening experience. A massive chunk of butter where gently incorporated into a shaggy dough, and given five single turns. After the final turn, I rolled the dough gently into a rectangle 2-3 cm thick. In the photo underneath is about 2/3 of the dough (the other third was in the prepping stages of some puff pastry diamonds - more on those below) wrapped in cling film. (By the way, if anyone has made the puff dough from Friberg's book, and you don't mind, would you send me a message? There are some things in preparing the butterblock that I'd like to clear up!)

Puff pastry dough


As I said, this was my first experiment with puff dough, so I had no idea about the powerful punch this stuff packs when it gets into a steaming hot oven. Check out the oven spring:

Puff pastry diamonds

If there only could be a way to put 243 layers of butter into that rye dough... I used 1/3 of the puff dough to make some puff pastry diamonds with chunky apple filling and some with pastry cream (not shown here).

Puff pastry diamonds


Finally, for something a bit different - I'm not much of a cake baker, but I'd really love to learn how to do it properly. I've only made one layered cake before (a simple lemon curd cake), so I picked one of the simplest layered cakes in ABAP, an Opera cake. The Opera is typically made from a biscuit viennoise or a joconde sponge base, which is cut and stacked alternately with coffee buttercream and a chocolate ganache. A strong coffee soaker adds to the caffeine rush of this cake. Do not eat it on empty stomach. Or if you are pregnant. Or if you have a heart condition.

I used the recipe for the joconde sponge from Friberg's book (finished sponge, messy bowls and working notes below), and took the rest from ABAP.

Joconde sponge

I can mix a decent buttercream and form an edible chocolate ganache, but for me, the challenge is always in putting the many components together in something that you'd like to serve other people...!

Although my cake is a far cry from this sexy slab of Opera, I was still quite happy with how it turned out:

Opera cake

The layer breakdown:

Opera cake

koloatree's picture

greetings all

here is another attempt at susan's sourdough bread. i incorporated some tips i learned from the thread discussion i started about creating a more pronounced slash mark. it seems i am almost there! hopefully soon i can acheieve a nice crusty appearance with the slash area exploding outward. for this cook, i sprayed the bread top with a little oil right before slashing. i then placed the bread on the stone and then sprayed with a little water. the bread baked ~2 minutes longer under the alluminum tray at 500 degrees. for the next half, i dropped the temp down to 475. it seems i could of maybe slashed a little deeper? any suggestions?


thanks all!






bakerwendy's picture

I haven't posted in a while but I have been baking. This weekend I made Hamelman's Five-grain levain. The only changes I made was to use whole rye berries as opposed to rye chops and also pumpkin seeds in place of the sunflower seeds. I didn't realize I was out until it was to late. I baked one of the loaves on the day the mixed the dough and put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator overnight. I wanted to compare the flavor and texture the cold fermentation had on the dough. I also had to try the Meteils au Bleu after reading Pamela's "The Saga of the Little Meteils au Bleu." They turned out great. I was proud of the sourdough because the loaves had great oven spring. I also was able to find the bleu d'Auvergne. The blue cheese that was recommended for this bread. Oh MY! This is some funky cheese. Not just a few little strips of mold in this cheese but globs of furry gooey mold! The bread turned out delicious. I have also been working on baguettes. I will try to post my results soon. Here are a few pictures of the spoils.

5 Grain Whole Bread 4/11/09

5 Grain Levain baked day of mixing dough


Crumb of 5 Grain Levain baked day of mixing


5 Grain Levain after cold retardation


Crumb of boule 

Meteils au Bleu 4/12/909

Meteils au Bleu


Insides. Soooo good

ques2008's picture

Hi Folks,

You guys have seen this many times over and I was hesitant to post it, but I really wanted to acknowledge the generous spirit of TRAILRUNNER and MARNI who were kind enough to give me the link on how to make a woven round challah.  This was like a month ago and I finally got around to doing it last Good Friday.  I was quite nervous at first, and the instructions given on the site were rather confusing but I managed to get it right on the second try.  I'll have to do it soon again lest I forget the technique.

I followed the technique posted by Tamar Ansh on chabad dot org, but I took the recipe from triple w sugarlaws dot com for her braided bread recipe.  I find that her recipe seems to have the right proportions because the dough just comes together beautifully.  I've come across recipes where I had to over-knead or underknead but hers was the ideal mix.

So trailrunner (Caroline) and Marni, you did ask for photos, so here it is!

round woven challah


chi's picture

My favorite buns.

Cut the top with scissors and put butter and sugar.  Yummy!  I used Swedish Pearl Sugar that I bought at IKEA.  It's crunchy and sweet!


SulaBlue's picture

After many recent flops with my baking, it was SO rewarding to have a huge hit this morning! The house smells wonderful and we almost couldn't wait for them to cool to get the icing on. I may never eat a canned cinnamon roll again. I attempted to make these very slightly more healthy with some of the substitutions below as well as using considerably less raw sugar in spice mix and icing. With the melange of flavors it wasn't missed at all.

SulaBlue's Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Buns

(Modified from Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon Buns and Sticky Buns, Bread Baker's Apprentice, pg 143)





3.25 oz granulated sugar

.25 oz salt

2.75oz butter or shortening (I used Smart Balance 50/50 blend)

1.65oz 1 large egg (I used Egg Beaters)

2-3 drops orange oil

16 oz unbleached bread or all-purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)

.22 oz instant yeast

9-10 oz whole milk or buttermilk, at room temp (I used 2%)

OR 1oz powdered milk + 8oz water



2.5 oz granulated sugar

1T ground cinnamon

Contents of 2 caradmom pods, ground

Dash of ground cloves

2 oz dried cranberries

2 oz pecan pieces



2 oz confectioner's sugar

2T or so 2% Milk

A few drops of orange oil



1. Cream together sugar, salt, and butter. Reinhart says if you are using powdered milk to put the milk powder in now, but add the water with the flour and yeast.


2. Mix in the egg and orange oil until lump-free, then add flour, yeast and milk. Add water now if you used milk powder.


3. Flour a pastry cloth and rub the flour in well. Turn dough out and sprinkle a minimum dusting of flour on top. Flour hands lightly and knead by hand for 10-15 mins until it passes the 'windowpane test.' Dough will become very slightly tacky and have a good spring-back to it.


4. Proof at room temp until doubled, about 2 hours.


5. Turn dough out onto pastry cloth and roll dough into a 12"x14" inch rectangle that is approximately 1/2" thick (Reinhart recommends 2/3rds, but that just seemed overly doughy to me. Add as little flour as possible during rolling. I use a rolling pin cover to avoid adding extra flour to keep it from sticking.


6. Shake on sugar-spice mixture, then sprinkle on cranberries and nuts.


7. Take the long end and begin to roll-and-tuck. Roll the dough forward, then without releasing pull back slightly to form a tighter roll. Complete the roll-and-tuck until you reach the end.


8. Trim ends of dough if they are tapered/irregular. You can either discard this or smoosh it together for that 'baker's dozen' one that you'll just -have- to eat right out of the oven. Cut the remaining dough into 12 equal pieces about 1" thick. Place the rounds on a sheet pan about 1/2" apart. Sprinkle any remaining spice mix on top of buns, careful not to dust it onto your pan where it may burn.


9. Proof at room temp for 75-90 minutes until the pieces have almost doubled and have grown into another. Reinhart says you can retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, and pull the pan out of the fridge 3-4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.


10. Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at the middle.


11. Bake for 20-30 minutes at NO HIGHER than 350F. Caramelization happens at 350F. A higher temperature may result in the sugar burning. If you have pans that are prone to giving your baked goods dark bottoms you may want to double-pan


12. When rolls are done, remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan to cool for at least 5-10 minutes to cool. Eat the funny-shaped end piece to tide you over and to hide the evidence ;) While they are cooling mix the ingredients for the icing in a small bowl using a fork. Add just enough milk to make the icing pourable without being runny. Use the fork to drizzle icing over the rolls.


This is something I'm finally proud enough to submit to Wild Yeast's Yeast Spotting. This week's Yeast Spotting is being hosted by Zorra.

SylviaH's picture

Peach Daisy Ring for Easter.

This is our Easter Sweet Bread.  Glazed with homemade peach jam, almond icing dotted with slivers of fresh almonds.


dmsnyder's picture

I have continued to play with my formula for what I call "San Joaquin Soudough." This continuing series of experiments started with my curiosity as to whether the baguette formula of Anis Bouabsa could be applied to other types of bread than baguettes. The short answer is, of course, "yes."

The basic approach I have been using is described in detail in the following blog entry: 

The present variation used 10% KAF White Whole Wheat flour, 90% KAF Bread flour and a slightly higher hydration - 76%. The techniques for mixing, fermentation, etc. were as I have described before. So, the ingredients were:

Ripe 65% hydration sourdough starter....100 gms

Water........................................................380 gms

KAF Bread Flour.........................................450 gms

KAF White Whole Wheat Flour...................50 gms

Sea Salt.........................................................10 gms

Instant Yeast................................................1/4 tsp

The combined effect of the different flours and the higher hydration was to yield a dramatically different bread with a much more open crumb structure - really ciabatta-like.

Now, I did bake these loaves under an aluminum foil roasting pan for the first 12 minutes and then for another 18 minutes uncovered. The oven spring was massive. My scoring was obliterated. Examination of the crust coloration of the bloom revealed that the bloom occurred very early in the bake and very rapidly. (The coloration was even and not different from the rest of the crust. See my Scoring Tutorial in the TFL Handbook for further explanation.)

With the higher hydration and covered baking, the crust softened quickly during cooling. The crumb was like a good ciabatta - very tender yet still chewy. The taste is very mildly sour, even on the day after baking. It made a delicious sandwich with Toscano salami, Beaver Brand Sweet Hot mustard and lettuce. (Sorry, Mini. It definitely would drip mayonnaise in your lap.)

This bread presented me with a number of surprises, but I'm far from disappointed. I'm happy to have a "new" bread in my repertoire. 


absolutelyeve's picture

I have tried to recreate a delicious roll made at the Smith and Wollensky restaurant in Washington, D.C.  The rolls are served piping hot with melted butter and sprinkled with coarse salt and rosemary on the tops.  Delicious! When I did the same, my rolls appeared cloudy, kind of messy on the tops.  The salt was OK: It didn't melt.  Is it the butter?  I can't figure out what's wrong.  I've got a batch rising right now and I'd like to use the salt and butter but I don't want the messy look.  Any suggestions? Eve


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