The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Shutzie27's picture

The following is my bread manifesto:

I do not ever ever bake bread for money, unless I am seriously and quite literally faced with homelessness. I'm far too selfish to turn this corner of reprieve in my life into a job.

I will never put myself in a position for anyone to turn baking bread into work or labor for me.

I will always make sure every loaf, roll or breadstick that comes from my hands is made with love and the excitement that comes from sharing something good and showing love in a tangible way. The ability to bake bread from scratch by hand is, after all, to some degree a gift and one that should be shared. (Granted, whether or not I have this gift is still debateable).

Someday I will make a baguette. I don't have a pan for it, and probably not the oven, either. I have been reading and re-reading the recipie and studying it like it was a final exam in the class of Life. I don't believe I am ready yet...perhaps when I've finished this semester of law school. But someday, I will make a baguette.  

After that, and only after that, I will attempt to make a challah bread.

I must also make another sourdough again, though I'm not entirely sure where that fits in and it might depend on how law school goes.

And finally, before I die, to celebrate a personal and deep victory of my own, I will make a croissant. Well, probably six or a dozen, because that's usually what the recipe calls for. I shall be exceedingly careful as to who I chose to share the croissants with, as well. The ones that turn out, anyway. It's not the kind of patience, care, precision, and effort one puts in for just anyone, after all.

Shutzie27's picture

There is something almost primal about home-baked bread.

For millennia, mostly women (but I'm sure some men too) across every single continent have engaged in a fairly painstaking process of patiently grinding wheat or corn into flour, finding and adding just the right amount of water, and kneading, kneading, kneading until, finally, on a flat rock in the sun or atop an enclosed fire somewhere the cornerstone of the human diet was finished. How could they have known how much water to add, or that one must knead and not beat or grind the dough? Perhaps bread was born within us and simply came out.

Maybe it emerged in the form of a baguette, or a tortilla, a loaf, a pita, a crust or a stick, but it was bread and it was being made every day by somebody somewhere.

Humans engaged in this long process, over and over again, for their children, their mates, their communities or themselves. To celebrate, to mourn, to barter or to heal. In honor of their religion and sometimes, even, bread was made to renounce religion. Bread was at once precious and yet universal. It was for the rich to enjoy, the poor to need and the destitute to yearn for.

Environment, time and later wealth would play their defining roles, of course.

In France the nobles feasted on croissants, a rich bread because it required eggs for browning and a scandalous amount of butter.

Meanwhile, in Tuscany, the bread had to last and was often stale. Not to be denied any pleasure, the Tuscans soaked the leftover slices of the long, narrow loaves in olive oil and topped with basil and tomatoes and re-warmed the bread over the fire. Today, you can pay up to $25.00 for a plate of that--only we call it bruschetta and the bread isn't usually stale (though it may have been deliberately left out overnight to harden for authenticity).

French toast, or as I grew up calling it, arme ritter (poor knight) was fed as a dessert dish to knights. It contained key ingredients wealthier noblemen were likely to have, such as milk and eggs. As such, it was considered a bit of a luxurious dish and by serving it the noblemen were paying the knights proper respect...that being said, it was also appealing because it was a dish that was still relatively cheap to provide. In fact, French toast is sometimes called "The Poor Knights of Windsor."

Rich, poor, warring or at peace....everyone ate or at least needed bread. Of all the foods in the world, it is bread that became synonymous with currency the world over (lettuce is a distinctly American term).

All of which is well and good, of course, and lends to a deep sense of comfort when baking bread, but doesn't have a whole lot to do with why I bake it.

No, I think it would be far more accurate to say that I love dough more than I love baking bread.

I love the dough.

I love the way yeast proofs in warm water, as though the water, at just the right temperature, was holding some eternal secret of life and by adding the yeast and waiting I discovered it. Dough is love, and love is the essence of life.

I love how it transforms from a sticky, gooey sludge into a smooth, warm and elastic dough with just a bit of patient coaxing from my fingers. That my small, weak and unskilled hands could produce such an strong but elastic substance amazes me just a little bit each and every time.

I especially associate yeast dough with love. Like love, yeast dough is pliable but strong, but also requires just the right amount of attention to become something life-sustaining. Given too much kneading or water or flour, it can be ruined in an instant and become stiff, dry or cracked. Sometimes, just sometimes, like particularly strong love, if the dough has become too watery and is getting away from the baker, it can be fixed by slowly and carefully adding flour.

Both yeast dough and love can be coaxed, cajoled, rolled, folded and rocked into shape, but never, ever forced.

You have to truly feel the dough to understand it, and if you are only going through the motions you may end up with bread that is edible, but not bread that is also joyous. Yeast dough, like love, will give back whatever you put into it, and if you don't pay attention you will end up with nothing but a useless, heavy mass and a lot of wasted time you can never get back.

Yeast dough is warm from the inside out and, without even touching it, yeast dough can grow and grow until it doubles or triples in volume and can seem unstoppable. Anyone who has ever secretely loved another can surely relate.

The warmth of yeast dough doesn't come from an oven or a grill, but emanates gently from within it. Cover the bowl, come back in an hour or even just twenty minutes and--magic!--twice as much dough as there was before.

And like love, even punching it down a bit and reshaping it won't stop the way it will grow from within.

Some breads, just like some loves, need a bit more attention even when they're in the oven.

A baguette, for example, has to be perfectly misted while baking.

A challah bread (and is there any bread that celebrates life, family, love and tradition more? And no, I'm not Jewish, but it really is one of the richest breads in so many ways) won't settle for being shaped but must be braided.

The quietly demanding sourdough requires no less than at least three days of your time for the starter and, even then, can be a bit fickle.

And the croissant is a downright diva, demanding days of preparation and folding process akin the welding and hammering that goes into a genuine Samurai sword (only slightly less than 100 layers). It is a deceptively innocent-looking bread that requires a remarkable amount of skill.

Yes, some breads require the attention of a lover, others are as demanding as children, still other are as low-maintenance and accepting as an old friend, and still other breads ultimately require the patience, work and understanding that love for family and in-laws are exceedingly likely to require.

But all of them, if done properly, are unquestionably worth every second.

Naturally, after taking a golden-brown or spice-speckled or rich dark bread out of the oven, I'll treat myself to just a bit of it.

I'll allow myself that first moment of basking in the rich, comforting warmth of the oven, still lazily lingering within the welcoming center of the loaf. And I'll revel in the barely-there hint of sugar or natural sweetness that is woven tightly amidst the magical sponge of flour and yeast.

When the mood strikes me, sometimes that gentle, warm center is hugged by a protective crust with just enough crunch to turn that very first bite into an experience of its own, a sharp but simple contrast of texture that elevates the flavor exponentially.

But after that, really, the bread becomes almost a thing of the past. Baked, the loaf is now something that I take pride in having made and while I genuinely look forward to sharing with others, something is gone. I am forced to confront the fact that the towel-wrapped testimony to my secret baking obsession is not why I ever began making it in the first place.

wally's picture

Now that we've had a brief respite from oppressive heat here in the Washington, DC area I've turned my oven on again to take advantage of this fleeting opportunity.  It's been awhile since I've baked some ryes, so this seemed a good time to get my hands sticky again.

I decided on Hamelman's 80% Rye with a rye soaker; but my curiosity got me to wondering what that recipe might be like if I reduced the percentage of rye to 60%, but held the other ingredients constant.  So began an experiment in rye profiles.

Hamelman's 80% rye with soaker has a hydration of 78%, and the rye levain is 37% of the overall dough weight, while the soaker constitutes 22% of dough weight.  His soaker is equal parts rye and boiling water, so you immediately find yourself struggling to mix a thick, thick, paste.

In addition to the levain, he calls for 1.5% yeast.

I mixed both the levain and soaker about 10 hours before I did my final dough mix, because respite or not, my kitchen tends to stay around 76° - 78°F in the summer, so things happen sooner rather than later.

The next morning my rye sour was definitely ready - you could hear noises below the rye-floured surface as it worked.  The soaker had the wonderful aroma of a rye mash, which is one of the attractions of this bread - its wonderful sweetness.

The mix was for about 10 minutes total, all on speed one of my Hamilton Beach.  It resembled mud and was even stickier, as per usual.  The bulk fermentation is only 30 minutes, followed by air-shaping and a final proof of a little over 50 minutes.  (On my last pas de deux with this rye I went for a longer fermentation and was rewarded with a collapsed loaf that had an air pocket beween the crust and crumb that miners could crawl through.  Chastened I decided underproofed was a better bet.)

I air-shaped one loaf as a batârd and the other as a boule.  I heavily rice floured both my couche and banneton, and followed that with a heavy dusting of rye flour.  Despite my efforts, the boule found a minor sanctuary in a part of the banneton's cloth.  While I slashed the batârd I decided to go au naturel with the boule and bake it seam side up.

Both were baked with steam (such as my gas stove will retain) at 460° F for 15 minutes, after which I reduced the temperature to 425° F for another 30 minutes.

I left both loaves to cool and wrapped them in linen overnight. 

The boule showed its cracks from the dough's seams, along with it's bald spot from becoming too attached to the banneton.  Oh well.   I don't have a shot of the uncut batârd because I seem to have attacked it prematurely.  In any event, the crumb seems to me to have the profile typical of my bakes of 80% ryes. 

Definitely a cocktail bread and one I particularly enjoy with a good goat's cheese.

The next day, I decided to replicate the previous bake, but this time decreasing the percentage of rye to 60%.  The other departure was my decision to step down the hydration slightly, to 75% from 78%.  In all other repects the procedure was the same - both the levain and soaker were identical.  The only difference was in the final mix where the percentage of bread flour was higher, that of rye correspondingly lower, and the hydration stepped down just a bit.  The mix time was about 9 minutes, 5 on speed 1 and 4 on speed 2.  There was evidence of gluten formation at the end of the mix.

The bulk fermentation in this case was extended to 45 minutes.  Shaping took place on my counter, and while the dough coming out of my mixer felt as sticky as the previous day's dough, it was much easier to shape after its fermentation.  I again created one boule and one batârd  and let them do a final proof of 60 minutes.  Bake temperatures and times were the same.

Here's a shot of them out of the oven.

And one of the crumb.

Ok, so to the profiles, which not surprisingly, would seem to reflect the differences in the overall proportions of rye - 80% vs. 60%.

Here are a couple shots of the boules side-by-side, along with slices taken from the respective batârds.


Both, for my taste, are cocktail type rye breads.  I think even the 60% is a bit heavy as a sandwich bread except for a dyed in the wool rye bread aficionado.  And I find myself favoring the 60% in terms of tenderness of the crumb.  With both, however, the sweetness imparted by the soaker makes them truly flavorful breads.


yozzause's picture

the other evening i took home some of the sour dough culture that was excess to requirement and decided to use it in a fruit dough.

The sour doughculture itself was made from feeding the lees from a cider brew that i had recently made  and was now a very active culture, i measured up 600g of flour and used 200g of culture to this i added 300g water 6g salt 18g dry yeast 48g butter 90g raw sugar 10g molassess.

this ended up being a bit to wet so i had to add a further 100g flour.

With the fruit i ended up with currants raisins dates and a fruit and nut mix that ended up being just over 300g

bulk ferment was for 2 hours and after tinning up was left for another 2 hours. i nearly went to bed and forgot that it was to go in the oven, in fact even put 1 foot in the bed and then remembered!

The bread turned out really good, great taste, nice and moist and loved by all my tasters. i am looking to make a larger batch next week at work.

hanseata's picture

There are happy testing days and there are less happy ones. This was definitely one of the latter! I decided to use the mandolin my husband bought a while ago. I never trusted that thing and usually take the box grater. But having to grate a lot of potatoes I didn't listen to my better instincts, put the mandolin together and started with the first potato. When the potato was two thirds grated the tool to hold it wouldn't let me chop off any more. I didn't want to end up with one third of the potatoes ungrated - and the other two thirds not enough for the recipe.

So I took the potato in my hand and - nearly chopped off the tip of my finger. Hands, as most valuable human tools, are well supplied with blood, and my index finger was living proof of it. I yelled for my husband and sucked my poor finger to keep it from dripping all over the place while he was looking for the Band-Aid (fortunately we have an emergency supply in a kitchen drawer).

When I was bandaged, my husband took over with some friendly comments about clumsy people who don't know how to work with something as simple as a mandolin. OUCH - there was another victim of the nasty thing, this time with a neatly delivered double cut. Our kitchen sink looked like a butcher's bowl when I finished wrapping Band-Aids around my husband's thumb.

Mixing the potato shreds that had nearly cost the lives of two innocent people with the other ingredients I started wondering whether there was something wrong with the recipe. How should a mixture rise with so little flour and so much vegetable mass in it? And, of course, it didn't. It sat there, in its baking pan, and did nothing but slowly oozing more onion and potato juice, so that it got wetter and wetter.

With deep misgivings I put it into the oven (what good is steaming something so wet, anyway?). It came out looking just like a gratin, nice, crisp and brown on top. But the mass under the crust was a disappointment, cooked potatoes without any special taste but a lot of salt.

The sacrifice of two healthy fingertips on the altar of culinary experiment had been in vain....



berryblondeboys's picture

Sorry Everyone - didn't realize that I was being inconsiderate. I didn't realize that I was hogging up the blog entries. Now I know and I thank the person who told me! I won't do a daily blog entry here.



txfarmer's picture

This is the bread that's haunting me lately. My first two attempts at 100% sourdough rye failed miserably - and asked for help here. I am glad that I asked, TFL has so many knowledgable and helpful people willing to help out. Specifically Andy directed me to his recipe here, and provided me with many tips. Mini, whose post and pictures on her favorite rye has been studied to death by me, also provided encouragement and some helpful hints.


My rye starter is very active, so I reduced the pre-fermented flour ratio in Andy's formula to about 29%, the final rise was still <2hours at 30C, next time I might reduce even more. A lot of people responded to my question thread mentioned that it's important to use the right tin, so I used two mini pullman pan, narrow and long, each took about 370g of dough. Filled to 60% full, when I put them in the oven, they were 90% full. Baked at 460F for 10min, then 410F for 15min.


Still no great ovenspring, but at least the top is domed. Maybe I am still overproofing it?


Looking at the crumb, I see it's "heavy" in the bottom, is that also a sign of overproofing? Or maybe when I put the dough in the pan, I pushed the dough down a bit too much?


This size of bread is perfect for cocktail rye, I in fact used some for a party, with honey/mango, and cheese/avacado, very well received


It stayed moist and flavorful for days after, very yummy. BUT, it got moldy after staying in the plastic bag for 5 days, how do I prevent that? Andy's formula is very good, I will definitely make it again and again, hopefully timing the proofing better. Will also experiment with soaking some rye flour with boiling water.

berryblondeboys's picture

While I'm not baking these days, I'm thumbing through all my baking books. I have a few as it is a passion of mine. As I mentioned in another post, I have "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book". I love this book as it's a lot of whole grain goodness, easy to follow directions and healthy. One of my kid's favorites from it is a blueberry muffin recipe which I have converted into a mini chocolate chip muffin recipe. It's like a healthy cookie - each one is made with zero fat (except what's in the chocolate and egg), wheat germ and whole wheat and it's delicious (also is good as the blueberry muffin recipe too). From that book I also make my whole wheat Christmas stollen which everyone loves. There are also some great recipes for yeasted breads, but here is where it gets tricky. They specialize in making a desem - a type of wild yeast starter.

I remember reading through the book when I got it 16 years ago and feeling like, "Whoa, you can do that?" and "How and why?"

Later I added some other baking books which are quite good, King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, some cake books, Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, a few coffee table bread books which look pretty, but are mainly fluff, and then recently checking out from the library Amy's Breads. I have a list of others I want to check out too.

The more you get into breads and the more you read REAL baking books, the more you realize, you need a starter for those bakery tasting breads, but every time I read about them, I get confused and intimidated. They go by all different sorts of names and I'm sure some are the same while others are different - soakers, bigas, Poolish, desem. From what I gather (could be wrong) starters and desems are captured wild yeasts (instead of using commercial yeast) and soakers, bigas and a Poolish are different forms of prefermented starters using commercial yeast. Have I lost you yet?

Anyway, I have now read about 5 different ways to make a starter, I've looked at pictures online, I've read blogs on their development, yet I am completely intimidated. All this talk about hydration, different bacteria taking over at different times, etc. ACK!!! Brain overload. Yet... I'm itching to start one. I really want to be able to say, "I can create my own starter from scratch and make artisan tasting breads!" and how cool is it to say, "This mother starter is 10 years old (or more)."

Of course, I need to decide which one to do. I could go with Peter Reinhart's way of doing it, but there's something conceited about him that turns me off (Plus he borrowed the pineapple starter idea). Add to that, in the book I have, it's quite obvious the book deal came first and then he was scrambling to get his recipe right while working on the book... doesn't inspire confidence. In the book I'm reading right now, Amy's Bread, the make a simple flour and water starter, but I've heard those can get moldy quite easily. And then a bread forum favorite starter is the Debra Wink starter which started out from trying to figure out why so many people were having the same problems with Peter Reinhart's starter recipe in "The Baker's Apprentice". She is/was a perfect person to figure this all out - she's an avid baker AND a microbiologist - BINGO! I like her! (What's with me and smart people?)

If you like to know WHY things happen, you simple must read these articles. I've linted to article one, but at the bottom of that page it links to part two which also includes her formula.

So, that's the formula I'm going to follow. She designed the formula after figuring out what's happening at all stages of the fermentation at the microscopic level - totally cool!

Mebake's picture

This is a high extraction Batard from hamelman's "Miche point a callier"

I did not sift the wholewheat flour, i just mixed 90% wholewheat with 10% all purpose.

I deviated somewhat from BREAD. i folded in the bowl for 20 strokes for 4 times at 1/2 hour intervals.

Under sunlight

Taste: Well, since i haven't used a high extraction flour, nor artisan T90 or T85 flours, i would not really call this Point a calier, but nevertheless, it tasted like a superior quality 90% wholewheat loaf at 82% hydration. It has a subtle , yet well defined acidic tang, with creamy roasted-nut-like aftertaste. The crumb was soft, moist and firm enough to accomodate all kinds of spreads. I love it, and i will surely stick to the stiff levain with such a high hydration doughs.



hanseata's picture

In this hot summer I find myself less eager to crank up the heat in our oven - thereby turning our kitchen into a sauna - my mind is more on something cool, tangy and refreshing. North German and Danish traditional cuisine has a treat just for this season: Rote Gruetze or Roede Groede (it's Danish name). Literally translated the name means "red gruel". That may not sound very enticing, but it's an old fashioned dish with an old fashioned name and soooo good!!!

My recipe is a modern version, using vanilla pudding powder instead of starch or tapioca, it's fast and easy to prepare. Enjoy it with cream, vanilla sauce or, even better, vanilla ice cream.


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