The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Yumarama's picture

I'm starting this blog to track the events in the life of little Audrey 2, a reluctant starter that began as a rather wet batter form and, as recommended by Mini, was transformed into a ball of stiff starter. In a forum thread I started in order to get help figuring out why my then 13 day old starter was doing nothing, Mini's thought was that possibly I was underfeeding the starter in the wetter form (basically I was doing 50% starter, 25% each water and flour for each feed) which may have been the reason it went all hoochy rather fast: not enough flour to feed the yeasties and the acid bacteria was overtaking - or that was my thought on it anyway.

I'm also doing this as a blog so the forum thread isn't taken over by too many images and so it's easier to follow along, should anyone care to.

Since this starter, third time trying over a three month period btw, was pretty much destined for the recycling bin anyway in favour of starting yet again with a recipe Mike has on his site (Professor Calvel's Starter) as a likely successful candidate for starter if the previous verion failed. Since this was try #3 and I was already on day 13 with no real success, I was game.

So while I was/am waiting to locate a source for just 5g - about a tablespoon - of malt extract (it seems to come in 600g sizes or bigger running at nearly $10 a pop) to follow the Clavel reicpe, I got going with the stiff starter. So here's the saga.

As per Mini's sugegstion, I took 30g of the "going nowhere" batter starter, added 50g of water and "enough flour to make a stiff ball". Out came the flour and off we went.

Here's our first image, Audrey 2 after being mixed up. In all, I added about 88g of flour to get to this.

I now think that 88g of flour was too much but that's where we were then, so on we go. I had followed Mini's suggestion to drop the ball into the flour and coat it so that any developing cracks would be obvious which is why, even though it's a ball of wet rye, it looks very pale.

Three hours later:

At this point, there's either a shrinkage of the surface or it's expanding a little. Since the surface was still moist-ish to the touch, I'll say we had expansion.

At the six hour mark:

More activity although the ball is showing no signs of softening and flattening out as Mini suggested it would. I'm starting to think I went too far with the added flour.

At the 10 hour mark:

Definitely some activity and expansion has occured but now I'm sure the ball was made TOO stiff. Yes, the critters have lots of flour to munch on, but nothing to drink. Because I wasn't staying up much longer, I decided to do feed #2 at this point so it was time to cut up our ball and see what was going on inside.

Even manhandled like this, the ball is stiff enough to stay in shape. Slicing it open, thetexture inside is realtively smooth, if there are any bubbles, they're hard to see and distinguish from the texture of the rye flour. There's little sour aroma to this, mostly it smells like wet rye.

Time for feed #2...

shakleford's picture

A few weeks ago, I finally got a copy of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  While I've read the book (most of it several times), I hadn't actually tried any of his recipes until this weekend.  Yesterday and today, I made the Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (his basic formula) for sandwiches next week and a modified version of his German-Style Transitional Many Seed Bread to have with dinner.  Both came out great, but since the many seed bread was the more interesting to me, that's what I decided to write about.

In his book, Reinhart uses the term "transitional" to refer to breads that contain some white flour along with the whole wheat flour.  All of his transitional recipes have a 100% whole wheat counterpart except for the many seed bread.  As a general rule, I try to follow recipes as written once before I begin tweaking, but decided against that approach this time.  Instead, I decided to replace the white flour in the biga with whole wheat flour and the whole wheat flour in the soaker with millet flour.  Why?

  • I'm not opposed to using white flour, but prefer the taste of whole wheat in most circumstances.
  • I was craving a dense bread, and using a gluten-free flour is certainly one way to achieve that.
  • I thought that the mild, nutty flavor of millet flour would complement the seeds nicely.
  • I had a need to use up some millet flour (hey, at least I'm honest).
  • My (admittedly weak) understanding is that the highest-gluten flour should be in the biga, so I put the millet flour in the soaker instead.
Under the original formula, this bread contains 44.4% white flour, 44.4% whole wheat flour, and 11.1% rye flour.  Under my version, the percentages were 33.3% millet flour, 55.6% whole wheat, and 11.1% rye.  The recipe as written was also a bit large for me, so I reduced all amounts to 2/3 of what is in the book.

On Friday, I mixed the biga and soaker following the instructions in the book.  The soaker ended up a bit wetter than I wanted (I didn't realize how little water the millet flour would absorb), but other than that, things went smoothly.  On Saturday, I combined these items with the remaining ingredients.  Below you can see a photo of the final dough ingredients before mixing.  In addition to a small amount of flax seeds in the soaker, the final dough contains pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds.  Summed up, these are 33.3% of the weight of the flour -- definitely "many seed".

I followed Reinhart's instructions for mixing and kneading.  Although the large amount of millet flour meant that the final dough did not pass the windowpane test, I was pleased that the normally coarse texture of the millet flour was greatly lessened as a result of the soaker.  As instructed, I let the final dough rise for around 50 minutes, then formed a batard and allowed it to proof for around 50 minutes.  The rises were somewhat lackluster, but much higher than I expected with such a high percentage of millet flour.  I baked with steam (something I'm still fairly new at) using Reinhart's instructions, but had no oven spring to speak of (probably as a result of overproofing yet again).  Since I set out to make a dense loaf however, this didn't bother me too much.  Crust and crumb photos are below:

The bread was certainly packed with seeds, but I found it to be delicious and very satisfying.  The millet flour contributed just the flavor I was hoping.  I tried toasting a few pieces, and the bread was even better this way; the toasting really brought out the flavor of the seeds.  However, one mistake became apparent with the first bite:  it was probably a bad idea to use whole pumpkin seeds.  I always eat them this way, so I tend to forget that there's an alternative, but the hulls definitely made thorough chewing important (and also a bit of a workout).  Sure enough, in looking at the photos of this bread in the book, it's pretty clear that hulled pumpkin seeds were used.

Overall, I'm still happy with this bread, and will definitely make it again.  This may also be the best use of millet flour I've found so far (though admittedly, those looking for a lighter loaf would probably want to use no more than 10%).  The pumpkin seed oversight is a bit of a disappointment, but still far better than the time I accidentally used whole sunflower seeds in a bread!

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Despite the slowing economy and despite my recent price increases due to the cost of flour, business is going so well I bought a used Hobart 30 qt today!  And paid it in full with money I earned this month and have enough left over to pay a service tech to give it a good once-over! 


proth5's picture

Oh, the flour that is...As promised, I have let my home milled high extraction flour age for the 2 months as recommended by a number of texts.Once again, I made this loaf "by the numbers" - dough temperature, strokes, folds, ferment times and temperatures, etc.This time, I did feel a need to adjust - the dough seemed to "come together" a bit faster than my earlier home milled trials - but I soldiered on with the test method.

Once baked, this was the result:

It really did seem a bit more open in the crumb than earlier attempts which is consistent with the theories that aging is required for the best gluten development. Although the loaf was pretty tasty and showed no signs of the flour having become rancid with the long storage, it did lack that “fresh from the berry” taste of truly fresh milled flour.

So, what to do?  Two months of flour is quite an inventory for flour storage if you are baking on a regular basis.  Although the results of this loaf (in terms of lightness of crumb) were better – the freshly ground wasn’t bad.  So, as usual, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  But as earlier experiments seem to show – if you are going to age the flour, it should be quite a long aging – a few days or a couple weeks does not suffice.

Happy Baking!

Bushturkey's picture

I'll let you be the judge(s) about the success of this attempt! I live nowhere near Pointe-à-Callière, so I can't really call the bread by that name. Miche Source Alice (?Alice Springs  in French).

1. I should've read the instructions!

I started by elaborating a starter. I used a 100% culture and 100% wholemeal (100% extraction - it's what I had at home). I ended up with 970g starter! Hamelman's recipe had the culture as 20%(D'oh!).

I didn't have enough wholemeal, so I used my remaining wholegrain spelt (again, 100% extraction). I made up the rest with whitebread flour (I ran out of spelt). The recipe called for 85-90% wholemeal (100% extraction) and the rest white bread flour. I ended up with 42.4% wholemeal wheat, 24.2% wholemeal spelt and 33.4% white bread flours. Hydration was 82% and I had a total of 6 Kg of elastic dough! It was beautiful to feel, but impossible to control. The recipe said that miche is a heavy loaf 2.25 Kg or 5 lb each, so I made 3 loaves.

My drama continued after shaping. I've invented the 13th and 14th steps to bread. The sticking to the couche and the scraping off the couche when it's time to bake. Very crucial steps!

The bread tastes good and the crumb is nice and the crust crispy and thin.

My dough tub.

My dough tub.

The first of three brothers!

The first of three brothers!

The crumb view

The crumb view

The 13th and 14th steps (in between proving and baking).

The 13th and 14th steps (in between proving and baking).

The CD in the second picture is of "Africa"- © Putumayo World Music 1999.

The loaves were bigger than what my oven could handle and I had to pick up the dough and push it back onto the tile.

The loaves just spread out on the couche. I'll get bannetons or baskets next time, I think!


Miche sandwiches

Miche sandwiches

One week later, the bread is alittle drier, but no sign of mold. Still tasty!

AnnieT's picture

Today I baked a sourdough bread from another book from the library, Prairie Home Breads. It was published in 2001 and has some intersting recipes. The one I chose is called Hit-the-trail sourdough and begins with an overnight sponge. By this morning it was well risen and I added the rest of the flour and the salt. 2 hours later it was ready to shape and instead of 2 boules I used half to make breadsticks. My question is about the suggested baking temperature which was 375*. I did increase it to 400* and I used the stone and stainless steel bowl method. The loaf rose beautifully but is a pale golden color (with freckles) and it did sing when it tested at 204*. As I was daring enough to bake it "my way" does anyone have an opinion on starting at 500* as I usually do? Was the lower temp. an older method? I can't see that the ingredients are different from many of the other breads I have tried. I'm anxious to cut it to see how the crumb looks. Judging by the taste of the breadsticks it could use more salt - I use kosher salt and didn't increase it sufficiently. Next time... A.

dmsnyder's picture

100% Whole Wheat boules

100% Whole Wheat boules

100% Whole Wheat boules Crumb

100% Whole Wheat boules Crumb


I had made the whole wheat bread from Reinhart's BBA a couple of time. i liked it a lot. It was, for me, the perfect bread for a tuna fish sandwich or a BLT.


I bought Reinhart's newer book, "Whole Grain Breads" a few months ago and read, with interest, the introductory chapters right away. Following his "journey" and the evolution of his thinking has been really interesting. But I had not baked anything from the new book until today. I decided to start with his "foundational loaf," the "100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. As you can see, I decided to form 2 boules of around 1 pound each rather than making one sandwich loaf. 

 It's interesting that Reinhart's instruction have you hand knead this bread, even after a 2-3 minute machine kneading. This is a relatively dry dough. I hand kneaded it as instructed, maybe with an extra minute or two, and actually achieved window paning. That was a kick! 

 This bread is not really that different from the BBA version. The new formula uses milk (I used buttermilk.) in the soaker. The BBA whole wheat uses water. The BBA bread has an egg in it which the WGB bread does not. The end result is actually quite similar. I suspect that baking boules rather than pan loaves made as much difference as the different ingredients.


The crust felt a little soft, even after an extra 10 minutes left in the oven, but it crunched nicely when I bit into it. The bread has a pronounced whole wheat flavor but with many layers of flavor including sweetness that are lovely.


I bet this will make delicious toast for breakfast, even with competition from the banana bread from Crust & Crumb that I also baked today. 




BoiseBob's picture

I have been having a lot of fun with this recipe. I think I'll keep it; It's that good.

Cold Fermented Italian Bread

3¼ c  warm Water (110° F) 
1 t  Sugar 
2 T  Active Dry Yeast 
1¼ T  Malt syrup 
2 T  Basil, dried (Optional) 
2 med  Garlic cloves, crushed (Optional) 
½ T  Sea salt 
7 c  Bread flour 
See the Notes below.
1Pre-heat oven to 350°F
2Add the sugar, malt syrup and yeast to the warm water and let proof.
3Stir in 4 cups of flour, basil and garlic and beat until smooth. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
4Beat in the salt and then add enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Knead until as soft and smooth as a bambino's behind. Turn in a greased bowl, cover, and let double in size.
5Once doubled, punch down and divide into half. Place back in separate bowls, cover, and let rise.
6Once doubled again, punch down and form into two pudgy long loaves. Grease heavy cookie sheets and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the loaves on the sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise.
7Once risen, mist with water and place in a preheated 350° F oven. Mist loaves with water and turn occasionally while they bake. Bread is done when golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30-40 minutes. Optimum loaf temperature is 190°F.

Some notes: Try this: Using a standard mix - no herbs added to the dough - I am making 1 batch, 2 loaves, through the initial mixing stage. I am then dividing the dough in half, placing in a plastic covered plastic bowl and refrigerating the dough until needed, minimum of 16 hours. Use 1 batch at a time.

Here is a link to a printable copy of the recipe:

Noodlelady's picture

In March I demonstrated 19th century Pennsylvania German Open Hearth Cooking at a historic site near me. I mixed up a batch of my favorite sourdough the night before and brought it along to rise near the fire in my rye straw baskets. My sourdough is now over a year old and very reliable. It's always amazing to me how well the loaves come out. (Sorry no photos this time.) The site does not have oven, so I baked a loaf at a time in a pie dish inside my cast iron dutch oven. I also baked a batch of sticky buns with a sweet dough. Visitors were amazed that the baked goods came out of the dutch oven. While I was waiting for things to proof and bake, I boiled up some chicken bot boi (pot pie), fried up scrapple, and boiled eggs in water and onion skins to color them (it was an Easter event). Being able to bring history alive by baking and cooking as historically accurate as I know, gives me great satisfaction. More events to come this spring and summer. Fun!

At home I've been hungry for cinnamon raisin bread, rye bread, and oatmeal bread. So those were baked in the last few weeks. I also baked a fennel seed bread. Wow, you really have to like the anise flavor! Interesting though!

umbreadman's picture

So, in my last post many weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to make this bread. It's finally happened in this second to last weekend of school. This is it, sort of put together myself with a few checks against Hamelman and Leder's olive bread formulas to check proportions.


I used 8ozs of a spicy olive mix from Whole Foods that had both green and black olives of different shapes and sizes; I also crumbled up a fair amount of blue cheese into it in the final folding before shaping, though I forget what kinds I used. It was really good in the end, and the cheese was bubbling up pretty intensely towards the end. Good work food.


PS: My girlfriend thinks olives and blue cheeses are gross, so I guess it's good that I waited until after she went to study abroad to make this! She might have had something to say to me if I actually asked her to eat it.....she might be reading this right now.....hi honey.....its not so bad if you can't smell it right? ....right?


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