The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


varda's picture

One of my goals in learning how to make bread was to be able to recreate a bread I ate as a child called tzitzel.   As I understand it, tzitzel mean caraway in Yiddish, and tzitzel is a rye bread with caraway and covered with cornmeal.   So far, despite many attempts and many different formulas, I have not come very close to recreating this memory bread.   Perhaps one can never recreate memory bread.    In any cases, my searches on this site, with its many rye bakers, led me to Greenstein's Secret of a Jewish Baker.   I have tried making his Jewish Rye (p. 136) a couple of times, and not very successfully given beginner's errors.   I have also made Jewish Corn Bread (p. 155) actually a rye bread with caraway wrapped in cornmeal, several times,  and despite many  beginner's errors, this bread is delicious enough to make me (almost) forget about some elusive memory of tzitzel.   The problem with Jewish Corn Bread, at least as I make it, is that while I can get it to taste good, I can't for the life of me get it to look good.   The instructions call for the following:  "[after kneading] Transfer the dough to a prepared clean wet bowl...pat the dough down and cover with a film of water....Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes."   This is the only rise for this bread.   And within minutes after it's done rising it goes straight into the oven.   I suspect that this treatment is what causes it to taste so great, and what makes it so addictive (to me anyhow).   However, it's a bloody mess when it comes out of the water, practically unshapeable, soggy in parts and so on.   And to make matters worse, I'm not 100% sure that his instructions mean to immerse it in water - although that's how I've read it.    Does he mean immerse the dough, or does he just mean spill water over it until it's thoroughly wet.    Also Greenstein gives all his measurements by volume, some approximately, and I just cook it that way, but my results have been pretty consistent, and pretty consistently ugly. 

I'll wait until tomorrow to post crumb photos.   I've learned on this site, that one must wait, wait, wait to cut into rye!

And the crumb...

kdwnnc's picture

Several days ago I made the Savory Bread from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.  It is practically just a white loaf of bread (similar to a less-rich brioche) that before the final rise is rolled into a rectangle, spread with a seasoned butter, and rolled back up and placed in a loaf pan.  The butter ingredients include thyme, garlic, hot sauce, pepper, etc., so can imagine how good that would taste in a bread (now that I think about it, I could have added some red pepper flakes that I had sitting in the spice cabinet).  Anyway, it tasted very, very good.  The only downside to it was that because of the butter, the layers separated during rising, so the bread had a rather large layer of air inside, but the taste was enough to make up for it.

Then, yesterday, I made the Southern White Bread from the same book.  The only thing I did differently from the recipe was substituting some WW flour for some of the white.  We did not cut into it until today, but it was already rather dry for a bread that had butter and milk powder in it, and I thought it tasted too much like WW bread from the store, which I do not like.  So far, aside from the oatmeal muffins (which by the way are very good), these are the only breads I have tried from this book.  So hopefully I will have better luck next time!

overnight baker's picture
overnight baker

I decided to start a blog to keep a log of my baking and hopefully get some feedback on my efforts. Rather than start by driveling on about how long I've been baking for etc. (plenty of time for that).  I think I'll get straight on to posting this mornings efforts.

Sourdough Pagnotta 310310


It's a sourdough Pagnotta from 'BAKER & SPICE: exceptional breads' by Dan Lepard & Richard Whittington. I changed three things from the original recipe: more water; the 800g total flour to 325ml total water seemed to dry to me so I upped the water to 400ml, proved overnight at cold room temp and I proved and baked it in the same oiled silicon loaf mould. I think the texture of this loaf is superb, hard crispy crust but with a light and soft crumb. The flavour is mild enough for me AND sourdoughphobic housemates to enjoy. The only thing I didn't like was the crust was a little oily on the sides in contact with the loaf mould and without a proving basket I'm strungling to think of another way to help keep the batons shape over the long slow prove. Any ideas?

This is my first blog entry (on TFL or any site for that matter) so critisicm, feedback or praise both of the blog and the bread is very welcome.




manicbovine's picture

I am happy to have found a bread that my wife and I agree upon. I prefer hearty flavors (that stand up to obscene amounts of toppings and sauce), whereas she prefers tender white breads. It's important to find this balance given that the bread I bake is the bread we're both stuck with until I bake a new batch.

I picked up a copy of Local Breads from the Library. I recently came back from living in Europe and have been profoundly disappointed with the quality of breads in my part of the US. I grabbed this book in hopes of finding something (anything!) resembling the breads I enjoyed while living abroad. I'm still a novice baker, so I found the first chapter of this book to be pretty informative. Leader directly contradicts a few of the things I've read from equally respectable bread-makers, but I unfortunately cannot remember specific points.


The first bread my wife wanted was Pain au Levain. Obtaining this book coincided with receiving a shipment of Graham and Pumpernickel flours from Hodgson Mills. I was happy to try these flours by substituting them for the whole wheat and rye flours called for by Leader.

The dough seemed to take an extraordinarily long time to knead. This may have stemmed from my instinct to knead out the bits of coarse flour, or perhaps it is because my sourdough starter seems to produce ridiculously sticky dough (I have no idea if this is normal). The dough was still sticky after 20 minutes of rigorous dough slapping (and two resting periods!). It eventually developed a grand gluten structure, stretching easily into an almost-clear windowpane. The "sticky sourdough" issue lasted until baking time; the dough even stuck to my finger when I poked it to see how it was coming along. I should note that I had this issue with my last batch of sourdough. It made the dough very difficult to shape and score. I blame the flatness of my batards on my inability to get a very good surface tension.


The flavor of this bread is fantastic. The graham flour gave it a nice sweet/nutty flavor. This flavor, however, is perhaps a little too pronounced in the crust. The coarse flours give it a nice, pleasant texture and an appealing look.


The problem with this bread is the crust. I am not one to shy away from good hearty chewing. I like to know that I'm eating. I'd like to say I have a jaw that could chew through tin cans, but luckily I haven't tried. This crust, however, is beyond me. I baked the bread a little too long, but I don't think it was so long as to produce such a thick crust. I'm wondering if the problem stems from my sticky sourdough issues. The other problem with this bread is that the graham flour is too pronounced in the crust. I have a random feeling that this might actually be due to over-baking. 


At any rate, this is the result of following Leader's formula (including the cast iron skillet and ice cubes, which I won't do again), but substituting whole wheat flour for graham flour and pumpernickel for rye flour.


Leader Pain au Levain Crumb


Is it common for sourdough to be sticky? It seems to be the norm with my starter. Would the sticky dough contribute to a thick crust, or did I simply bake this bread too long? I have a poor oven with a whopping 75F error in temperature (it changes each day). This makes it nearly impossible to predict baking times.


rick.c's picture


OK, so I have made this recipe several times and, well, I have not been wholly impressed.  The flavor is delicious, but the dough is in general difficult to work.  I don't and up with anything that resembles David's las post, nor a dough that resembles Mark's in his baguette shaping video,

Not that I would consider myself in a league with Dmsnyder or MCS, I just end up with a dough that sticks to everything, is nearly impossible to form, and slashing it is kind of useless.  I have tried ranges of KA AP & bread flours with no apparent change in the loaves. 

My question is, should I just hold back on some of the water, or is there something I am doing to not develop the gluten enough?

The recipe I used this time is...

300g KA Bread flour
100g KA AP flour
300g Water
8g salt
1/4 tsp yeast

Procedure was

  1. Mix to combine, rest for 20m, kept in fridge from this point on
  2. "knead" I do this by using a fist to spread the dough as far up the sides of the bowl and the folding back in, probably 6-7 times
  3. stretch and fold after 20m, I do this in the air-kinda like stretching a pizza, then folding it back onto itself
  4. retard 20ish hours, remove from fridge and S&F again
  5. let come to temp, usually ~ 2 hrs
  6. pre-shape, rest 20 m, then shape
  7. Let rise about an hour, bake under steam for 10m then dry for 15m

Note:  I don't use any flour for kneading or stretch and fold, or pre-shaping.  These pissed me off some so I rolled them in flour for the final shaping.

This made these 3 loaves


You can see the scores have nothing but color difference going for them, I knew they were going to be this way in such a slack dough, so I went a little overboard.  Also, a crumb shot for david, since I have asked for his input

Sliced too soon, but I was hungry.  It is interesting that the crumb was most open where I couldn't 'tuck' the dough because it was too sticky.  The left side of the front loaf in top picture is what is shown split above.  There was sporadic flour on the counter when I was shaping them and this end didn't get any.


Anyway,  Thanks in advance,  Rick


txfarmer's picture

Over the past 2 weeks, I made several easter breads to share with family and friends, here they are...


- Tsoureki - Greek Easter Breads. No, I am not greek, and I didn't know of this bread until this year, but some of my running friends are, and I made this for our recent gathering.


The recipe is from the book "Celebration Breads", an old fashioned but very interesting book I got from the library. There are many similar recipes online, it's just a pretty rich (19% butter, and some eggs and sugar) firm dough braided with eggs in it. The shaping was quite interesting:

Nice crumb, very flavorful, very well received by my friends.

- Hot cross buns, using Dan Lepard's recipe here:

The interesting thing about this recipe is that it mixes the dough, retard it for 12 hours, THEN knead and shape them. Make the process pretty easy.

I tried two methods for the cross on top: equal parts of water and flour mixed together and piped on before baking, and icing poured on after baked and cooled. Most people liked the icing one, I thought it was too sweet, especially because there were so much dried fruits in the buns already. Both are tasty though.


- Colomba di Pasqua , Italian Easter Bread. Again from the "Celebration Breads". I know there are authentic sourdough version of this bread that takes days to make like Pandoro, but I was making this for a work gathering and had no time to babysit sweet starters. It's a simple straight dough method with almond paste, about 9% butter, sugar, etc in the dough. The dough was very wet, but it made a high risen, fluffy bread in the end. You can find the recipe online here:

Shaping was not as complicated as you might've thought. The whole recipe makes two birds, for each bird, divide the dough in two equal parts, and shape as following:

Twist and get get the head and tail, pinch a bit to get the beak, and cut to get feathers:

At the end of the proofing, brush the dough with egg white mixed with water, and stick almond slices on as feathers. Dont' forget to put a bit of almond as the eye.

I think I actually prefer this to using the mold.

Very fluffy and soft crumb:


Happy Easter Everyone!

sortachef's picture

Sortachef's Greek Easter Bread

 Greek Easter Bread


Makes one 2 ½ pound loaf


4 Tablespoons butter

2 heaping dessertspoons of honey

2 eggs

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1½ teaspoons salt (2 if using unsalted butter)

1 teaspoon anise extract

20 ounces (about 4 cups) unbleached white flour

1 1/3 cup water at room temperature

¾ cup additional flour for bench work

A 14" pizza pan fitted with parchment paper


4 red hardboiled eggs (see Dyeing Red Eggs @ )

1 eggyolk+1 teaspoon water for wash

4 teaspoons of raw hulled sesame seeds


Note: A flexible bowl scraper (or a Tupperware lid cut in half) comes in handy for working this dough.


Make the dough: In a mixer fitted with a flat beater, cream together the butter, honey, eggs, yeast, salt, anise extract and 1 cup of the flour. Beat well for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water and ½ cup flour, beat for a minute; another 1/3 cup water and ½ cup and beat, etc., until you have used up all the water and all but a cup of the 20 ounces of flour. Beat for a further 2 minutes.

Scrape off the flat beater, scrape down the bowl, and put in the other cup of flour. Switch to the dough hook; run mixer 10 minutes on low (mark 2 for Kitchenaid). Scrape down bowl if necessary. The dough is not stiff enough for the hook to pick it up, but this mixing will improve its structure.

Knead the dough: Sprinkle half of the benchwork flour onto a counter or board, scrape the dough onto it and, using the scraper, quickly fold the edges in to the middle. Put a bit of flour onto the dough and let it rest for a few minutes while you clean out the bowl.

Knead for 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary until you have used up the ¾ cup of extra flour.

First rise: Put the dough into the bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature for 3½ hours.

Second rise: Use the bowl scraper to pull the dough in from the edges, releasing the air, and then let rise 1½ hours at room temperature.

Make the braid: Turn the dough out onto a barely floured counter. Cut a 5-ounce piece of dough off and put it to one side, covered. Now, make bulk of the dough into a snake about 2 feet long, rolling it on the counter under your hands to stretch it out. Let it rest for a few minutes. For the next step you will want a clean section of counter 3' wide, with no flour on it or the dough will slip instead of roll.

Roll the dough snake out to 3' long, and cut into three equal pieces of about 12 ounces by weight. Roll each of the three pieces out to nearly 3' long. Your dough ropes should be 5/8" in diameter and roughly uniform.

Put 3 ends together, cross two ropes and throw the third across the Y. Braid until the ropes are used up, keeping the dough slack to keep the braids loose and thick.

Make the loaf: Lift one end of the braid off the counter and slip the parchment lined pan under it, and then lift the other end around to form a circle. Overlap the two ends of the braid by an inch, and push your thumb down in at that point. The first egg will go into that depression.

Adjust the braided ring on the parchment to make it as round as you can, and push your thumb down to make depressions at the other 3 quadrants. Carefully put in the eggs.

Roll the leftover piece of dough into a snake the thickness of a pencil. Around the eggs, snip 4 places with scissors to receive the ends of the dough that crosses over them. Cut pieces of dough to make the crosses.

Final rise: Cover lightly with a cloth and let rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º. If you're using a pizza stone or quarry tiles (recommended), let them heat up for at least 30 minutes.

Glaze and bake: Mix the egg yolk and the water in a ramekin, and brush the egg wash over the dough, being careful not to cover the eggs. For best coverage, brush a second time. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400º. Turn oven down to 350º and bake for another 25 minutes, turning the bread around at halfway.

Let cool for at least an hour before sharing with your Greek friends.

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breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

Just wanted to share with you some spelt sourdough batards that I baked last night.  I'll post the recipe a little later.  Enjoy!


Total Recipe
500g Organic Spelt Berries (500%)
350g BF (35%)
150g AP (15%)
588g Water (58.8%)
20g Kosher Salt (2%) (I will probably do 1.8% salt next time)
60g Firm Sourdough Starter (60% Hydr) (6% of total flour, or 20% of levain flour)
1668g Total Dough
Makes 2 batards at approx 690g after bake

Spelt Levain (preferment 30% of total flour at 58% hydration)
150g Organic Spelt Berries (freshly ground)
150g AP
174g Water
60g Firm Sourdough Starter (60% Hydr)
534g Total

Final Dough
350g Organic Spelt Berries (freshly ground)
350g BF
414g Water
20g Kosher Salt
534g Spelt Levain
1668g Total

Evening before baking: Grind spelt berries for levain, cover and refrigerate.  This is just for convenience so I didn't have to grind in the morning.

Bake day:
8:30am - Mix spelt levain, cover and let rest on counter for 8-12 hours, go to work.
6:30pm - Measure out final dough ingredients, grind spelt berries.
7:00pm - Mix all ingredients for final dough in large mixing bowl by hand with wooden spoon until combined, then knead by hand in bown for 3 minutes.  Do not add any extra flour.  If dough sticks to your hand, scrape off with plastic scraper, dip hands into water and continue kneading.  Cover, let rest for 30 minutes.
7:30pm - Knead for 1 minute, cover and let rest.
8:05pm - Turn dough, cover and let rest.
10:00pm - Dough is ready when it has expanded, and when you poke it with a wet finger, the impression remains.  Divide into 2 equal pieces, shape into batards, proof seam side up on very lightly floured couche, cover with plastic bag so they don't dry out.
10:45pm - Arrange baking stone, stones in oven along with steam pan.  Preheat to 550F with convection.
11:30pm - Turn batards onto peel, slash as desired, place into oven directly on stone.  When they are all loaded, place 1 cup of water into steam pan, close oven door, turn down to 450F no convection.  Bake for 45 minutes, rotating half way through bake.  Cool completely before cutting.

Notes: I am using a hand crank grain mill.  This tends to grind the bran a little coarse.  Also, make sure that your grain mill is well lubicated with a food safe lubricant.  I am just using mineral oil, the kind you use to oil wooden cutting boards.
Mixing: My technique is a follows.  In a large mixing bowl, put the water in first, cut up the stiff levain in pieces, place that in next, then add the flours, and salt.  Mix with wooden spoon until combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and spoon, then knead by hand using wet hands.  Do not add any extra flour.
Autolyse: Just place the entire bowl in a large plastic bag.
Turning: I turn in the same bowl so I don't have to add any extra flour.  You can either stretch and fold, or just knead a few strokes and turn the dough ball seam side down.

Submitted to Yeastspotting

Mebake's picture

Though it may sound weird, but it is a mega Batard, more like Batard a la Miche.


200g Whole Rye Flour

600g Whole Wheat Flour (Half of which is bread flour)

200g White Bread Flour

200g All Purp

2 tablespoons fine Sea salt

2 Tablespoons Thym

100g starter (85% hydr) 

1/2 teaspoon inst. yeast (in the final dough)

All in all, it is 75% hydration dough, with wholewheat flours as Soaker, and White flours as Biga.

However, baking was done under a new cover this time, a Poultry roaster, large enough to accomodate this large oblong shaped banetton dough.


Bottom line, i learned that Baking a successful WHolewheat Loaf has all to do with :

Proper Soaking, Proper Mixing, Proper Fermentation, skillful shaping, and tried Oven baking.

Practice is the keyword here, no magic.


ryeaskrye's picture

I recently acquired a new toy...a camera remote that also has timer features. Playing around, I shot a time lapse video of dueling starters. Here are 9 hours condensed into 12 seconds.

On the left is my San Fran and on the right is a Swedish Rye recently received from Northwest Sourdough. Both began with 80g of starter and were fed 80g of flour and 100g of water. 

The San Fran has 2 complete rises, 2 dramatic collapses and is starting a 3rd rise when the clip ends. 

The Rye peaked at 3h09m and again at 5h27m.

The San Fran peaked at 5h03m and again at 7h59m.

This was shot on a day when a storm front was moving through and the changing cloud cover caused the lighting to jump around a bit.



[ETA: I didn't like how PhotoBucket jumped 3 seconds into the video before starting, so I added a 3" header and changed out the video link]


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