The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


  • Pin It
Floydm's picture

I baked an olive levain today.

Olive Levain

Olive Levain

This was basically like Hamelman's Olive Levain: 10% whole wheat, no yeast, just starter. I loved it:

Olive Levain inside

olive levain inside

Delicious, but not cheap (well, at least by bread baking standards). The olives alone cost as much as... what... thirty pounds of flour and a pound of salt. I can bake an awful lot of regular sourdough bread for that much money. Yes, ok, to put it in perspective it is still cheaper than a drinkable bottle of wine, but still... baking bread, one gets spoiled by how inexpensive a hobby it is.

breadnerd's picture

Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!


A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.


I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.



All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 

sylvstr540's picture

We made your pita recipe tonight, but they didn't puff in the oven. Any ideas?? We had some pockets but not a full puff!  They were still very tasty though!


dasein668's picture

Whipped up a few loaves of bread for our annual Christmas Eve open house. These included my second sourdough loaf which was much improved over my first attempt. Of note, based on some hints from this site, I had moved my starter toward a much drier starter, then mixed the dough in the evening and popped the dough into the fridge for about 14 hours for the primary. I pulled it out and let it warm up, then gently folded a few times and proofed for about 4 hours at room temp before baking. Results were a nice chewy crumb with a gentle sourness that was quite lovely and not at all overpowering—perfect!

Here are the breads, left to right Potato Rosemary Bread from BBA, Pain a l'Anncienne from BBA, and a simple 65% hydration lean dough using my sourdough starter.

And sliced in a bowl.

rusty's picture

I been making this braid seen finding this wonderful site.I made this braid with 1/4 cup of sugar and one package of equal.Trying to cut down on the sugar.We were very please with the sweet taste of the braid.I also with the creamcheese spread,use instead ricotta whole milk.Which I mix one egg in the ricotta.It was a true flavor of back east NY/NJ bakerys.My neighbors just love me when I ring there door bell.Southeast Alaska doesn't offer good breads and pasties like back east.Love the site Thanks Rusty

Floydm's picture

I baked some whole wheat rolls for our Christmas dinner and a couple of sourdough loaves for the next few days. They were quite good.

As I Christmas gift, I got the latest version of the Joy of Cooking. Perusing the bread chapter, I was blown away to see it now includes information on using a sponge starter and ceramic tiles as baking stones. There are recipes for rustic French bread, sourdough rye bread, focaccia, even brioche. True, the Joy of Cooking isn't the greatest book for a serious bread baker, but it interesting to see how artisan bread recipes and techniques have entered the mainstream.

mountaindog's picture

After making a decent BBA Pain Polaine the other day, I next made two breads from Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking" book that use a very firm starter. I've made Thom Leonard's Country French bread before (p. 133) and that came out very good, but I was really blown away by how good the Essential's Columbia bread (p. 82) came out! After tasting this Columbia bread, it was disappointing going back to taste the Poilane, I liked the Columbia much better, although granted they are somewhat different styles of bread:


This Columbia is by far the best bread I've ever made, no contest, in fact my French husband and I agree this is the best bread we've tasted outside of France. The taste and texture are wonderful: crispy, chewy, with a very complex sourdough flavor, really not much sour but a lot of flavor! I wonder if it is all the combination of different flours in the recipe, plus the wheat germ and malt syrup...all I can say is this will be my new standard bread to make weekly, as well as to give away as gifts. Next time I make it I may try using oblong bannetons to give the loaves more of a football shape rather than the batards I made here. By the way, that crust is not burnt, the malt syrup makes it carmelize very darkly. I followed the recipe in the book exactly except I retarded the final dough overnight in my cold mudroom for the first ferment. Check out Columbia's excellent crumb and crust:

mountaindog's picture

I made this last night from BBA. My slashing is improving but I don't seem to get them deep enough to get "ears". Here it is right out of the oven:


Anyhow, this poilane miche from BBA tastes very good, crust is very chewy and flavorful, crumb is even and slightly chewy - not dense, and softer than I thought it would be but since this bread is meant to last a week it needs to be to keep from getting too hard too fast. Since this uses a lot of whole wheat flour, I suppose the holes are big enough, I am pretty happy with the rise since this is only my second sourdough attempt at all. Here is the crust and crumb shot:


mountaindog's picture

After getting some good advice from this site following a failed first attempt at wild yeast sourdough, I continued to feed my starters every morning and moved them out of my 60F kitchen and into a 70F location. I finally saw what an active sourdough starter should REALLY look like (notice the rise above original fill lines in marker):


I have two active starters going now, the bottom is rye and the top is 75% white/25% whole-wheat.

So now I was able to make my first successful sourdough pain au levain. It came out pretty ugly as I need to practice my slashing on these wetter doughs more, but the crust came out really crispy and chewy. I could have gotten larger holes and a better rise in the crumb, but I had let it go too long proofing and it almost overflowed the basket, so I had to fold the dough a third time and let it proof again, but I was running out of time so baked it when it was not as risen as it could have been. Still, the taste was absolutely wonderful and texture nice and chewy without being dense! Really nice flavor, some slight sour bite but not at all overpowering, other flavors hard to describe.


I was on a roll, so I also whipped up some BBA Pain A L'Ancienne again, very easy recipe, chewy, crusty, very tasty:


And finally, I was able to make some saffron buns for Christmas breakfast from the recipe on this site, but with no dairy, by substituting soy creamer for the milk and a vegan soy spread for the butter. I am allergic to dairy. They came out great, my dairy-loving family and friends loved them! This particular soy spread is meant to be used for cooking as well as a spread, and in my opinion, tastes much like unsalted butter. The buns tended to spread out more than rise very high, and I am not sure if that is due to my dough being very hydrated, or if using real milk and butter would give a slightly better rise. I intend to try the BBA cinnamon rolls next with the same substitutions. I'll be doing more sourdough baking this week as I am on vacation and have guests coming for a big New Year's Eve dinner. Happy Holidays to all!


Thegreenbaker's picture

At the moment I am lingering between the recipes from lessons 1 and 2. Slowly improving my skill in kneading and learning my observing the dough as it rises and with little things I do differently.

I made a double batch of lesson one basic bread dough two days ago. One loaf was for us, the second for Xmas day at the brothers house.

I left the second rise an extra hour (or thereabouts) and the breads lookd as though they might collapse. They were light and a bit wobbly and the air holes in the top were visable. So I quickly put them into the preheated oven and came out with the best breead I have made in all my trying. They were so tasty, and the texture was wonderful. They were full of small holes. some bigger and were nice surprises :)

I am sooooo happy. All night my partner heard about nothing else.

I will attenmpt lesson three soon (after we come back from a few days away)

I also was given The Bread Bakers Apprentice yesterday :) So I am so excited about trying out Peter Reinhearts recipes :)

yay for good bread!


Subscribe to RSS - blogs