The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


overnight baker's picture
overnight baker

I intended to start a blog and leave a post every week with updates of a new loaf or new idea as a way to help me keep on experimenting and learning. So far, alas I have fallen at the first hurdle, after an impromptu trip to Paris I failed to update my blog the first week and haven't done so since.

It's not all bad though as Paris has been a real eye opener. I got into making bread seriously because of a lack of good local bakeries. When I moved to a new flat in a new area last year I discovered my high street had 2 greengrocers, a really good butchers and a plethora of small local independent stores, but alas no bakery! Even a trip to the nearby city centre left me empty handed but for a handful of instore supermarket bakeries and the omnipresent Greggs (a UK bakery chain that provides cheap, cheerful but ultimately soul destroying baked products). A short ferry/train trip across the channel however and it's a completely different story. Around every corner of every street in every arrondissemont the fresh smell of bread could be smelled wafting from a small boulangerie. The whole country must be teeming with bakers to be able to fill all those stores with such a variety of doughy delights. Don't get me wrong it's not as if the UK has worse bread, when you find it some of the stuff is delicious. It's just that good bread is comparitively so hard to find. And it's not as if we don't desire good bread, I recentely read Britons make far more bread at home than our french counterparts (and it's not hard to imagine why). Maybe the lack of good bakeries is a blessing, how else would I have discovered the joys of seeing the first bubbles arrive in a mixture of rye, water and nothing else (still amazes me), would I have ever even come across the words miche, banneton, lame etc. if I had not had to turn to home baking. Somehow however I still think I would prefer it if I had a friendly local bakery to buy at least the occasional loaf from.A small bakery on every street

As this blog has such a geographically diverse readership I wonder what others have to say about the provision of good bakeries in their area, and why some countries seemed to be able to have enough demand to keep a bakery in business on every street whereas others can have a whole town centre with nothing.

turosdolci's picture

Artichokes have a delicate flavor and just using fresh tomatoes a little wine results in a flavorful sauce that compliments the pasta. If you are willing to make fresh pasta, you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish you will prepare again and again.

idiotbaker's picture

Hey, hey.  So, it's midnight great time to fire up the mixer right?  Trying this Scottish sponge bread from Laurel's Bread Book.  Have made it a bunch in the KA. So will try it in the big mixer. Capacity prob. The 15 cups of flour total will hardly make the mixer work. Oh well, gotta start somewhere. I like to learn the hard way.  Well, may not like to learn that way so much as it sticks with me.

I've been reading Reinharts "whole grain breads".  I'm eager to see how it goes. Need to get a scale to move over from volume to weight.  General questions that I have not come across the answers yet; water volume seems much less when using whole wheat. why?  with whole wheat, i get good rise but not at proofing- yeast, temp? all the above?  

Got some wheat in today and rye. I really want some homemade rye!  Lastly, this pinot, Bouchaine, from Costco is not bad.  Will let you know how it goes when the sun is up.   Thanks for your comments/support on the last post.

jennyloh's picture

With the starter that I made a week ago, I finally got to try a recipe using Dan Lepard - The Handmade Loaf.  White Leaven Bread Pg 28.

I halved the ingredient as I was not sure how it'll turn out.  With the freshly made starter,  I just did 1 refrehment.  Made a little too much,  and the rest went to making muffins and pancakes.

Ayway,  it was quite an experience.  I wanted a good well developed gluten,  and I wanted to nice holes in the crumbs.  I decided to do more rest,  stretch and fold and add my salt last.  

Thursday night:  Prepare Leaven.

Friday night:  Prepare dough - did a few 1/2 hour stretch and fold.  I almost forgot the salt,  added in after my 2nd or 3rd stretch and fold.   Shape - was really really careful not to burst those bubbles that were forming,  retard in fridge - wasn't sure about this step as I didn't want to over proof the dough.  But I needed my sleep.

Saturday morning:  Final baking - Heated my oven with cast iron skillet (since I had difficulty finding a baking stone,  this is a good alternative). I score the dough,  should have scored deeper.  I was not sure whether to steam the oven,  as the book only described to spray water on the dough.  I went ahead to steam the oven as well, every 10 minutes, squirt on the iron cast skillet.  I had difficulty sliding the dough from my pizza peel onto the skillet,  one of the ends drooped down,  tried to push it but was too late,  that portion would not budge.  Well,  I went ahead anyway.  Turning every 10 minutes as my oven couldn't turn with the skillet sitting on top of the turntable.  

I was really really pleased with the outcome.  The dough had a great oven spring, browned nicely,  and there were open crumbs,  and you can see the stretching of the gluten.

Even my father was happy about the outcome (he had been staying with me for the past month), and not exactly giving me compliments on my other breads so far. I think I can add a little more salt...The bread was not sour at all,  but has a nice fragrant to the taste.  





More details - click here.


sharonk's picture


Growing starter in the refrigerator is said to minimize the sour taste of sourdough. It also enables us to reduce the feedings from 3 times a day to twice. I find my starters ferment very quickly these days making me wonder if I have enormous invisible colonies of yeast and bacteria in my kitchen. I also ferment water kefir, milk kefir, and kombucha so I assume there is quite a bit of activity going on.


A friend of mine, Peggy, likes to tinker in the kitchen. She experiments with many recipes and techniques and documents them in great detail. She tried growing a starter in the refrigerator, something I haven’t had time to see all the way through.


Here are her notes:


“I decided to go with a simple loaf of bread using quinoa and sorghum flours.

I had a small amount of rice-sorghum-teff starter left over from making multigrain bread and fed it for four days with alternating and equal amounts of quinoa flour and sorghum flour. I chose to use these because they were what I had on hand. I also was going for a lighter colored bread.


I gave it a little boost with 1 tablespoon of water kefir to perk it up on the second day.


After 24 hours of feedings I put it in the fridge because it was very bubbly and soupy! I didn’t want a strong sourdough flavor this time as I just baked two batches that were strongly fermented.


I continued to feed it 3 times a day continuing to keep it in the fridge.


36 hours later, I removed it from the fridge because it looked flat and dead But four hours later, when I next looked at it, it was furiously bubbling away!!! I had been deceived by the chilled mixture. I fed it and returned it to the fridge.

8 hours later when I took it out to feed it, it was actively bubbling even though it was so cold. I think it liked the fact that I had taken it out that first time for a few hours.”


She said that the finished bread had just enough sour taste to let you know you were eating sourdough. Not overpowering at all!


txfarmer's picture

I changed the formula to use my 100% sourdough, the rest is as the same as the formula in the book. It's a straightforward bread, autolyse, knead a bit, add olives(I may just have used a tiny bit more than what the book suggested), gently incorporate, bulk rise for 4 hours (two folds), shape, cold retarding for 12 hours, pull out of the fridge and continue to proof for 100min, bake at 460F for 45min.

Semi happy with my scoring. The top one opened up beautifully, the bottom one was "deformed" by an olive in the way. Haha.



And it sings!


Open crumb studed by olives (I used two different kinds). In "Bread", Hamelman suggests to keep olive percentage somewhat low to keep the cost down, being a home baker, I don't have such restrictions, so I added a bit more olives than what's in the formula. How lucky. :)

This bread may be basic and straightfoward, but it's so delicious. "Bread" is  my favorite baking book for a reason: its formulas are dependable and accurate, and of course its explanation of techniques are sound and informative.

Yippee's picture

This was a simple white bread with small amount of whole rye flour.  The first time I made a similar loaf was coincidently around the same period last year.  Since then, I’ve acquired many new skills and made some progress in making artisan breads.  I felt that I’ve grown in the past year, as a learner, from an infant to a toddler, who is now on her feet confidently and curiously exploring in a giant Breads-R-Us. Thank you again to those of you who have helped me up and walking along this wonderful journey.


I don’t bake very often.  Therefore, I like to take advantage of every opportunity in each bake to experiment with new things. Some of the things I try are new techniques I’ve learned; and some of the things simply come out due to the situation.  Like this time, I wanted to get rid of some of the previously built starters that were not used due to cancelled bakes. They must have been sitting in the fridge unattended for months.  I decided to use them as is and complemented them with a trace amount of instant yeast and a longer fermentation.  Luckily, since I’ve had my proofer, I’ve been able to manipulate the fermentation process at will. Mixing of the dough was done exclusively by machine as usual. Gluten was fully developed and oven spring was superb as I sealed all the vents during steaming. I used the method David (dmsnyder) had shared with me to flour the brotform.  I rubbed rice flour into it and I got the Sbeautiful patterns I’ve always wanted on my loaf. I also found Mr. Lepard’s oil-your-work surface technique a very practical alternative to dusting the counter with flour as it eliminates the clean up of mess afterwards.    


The crust turned out very crackly but was a bit too dark.  I think I need to lower the oven temperature sooner next time.  The crumb was light, springy and fluffy and had a very, very mild, almost undetectable tanginess, which my family enjoys.     


A summary of the formula and procedures is as follows:




 Here are some pictures:



wally's picture

There is rye, and then there is rye.  The chief difference is this: with one you bake with and the other you distill. The ingredients (not surprisingly) are remarkably similar, as is the process in many respects.  And both finished products are equally capable of eliciting hurrahs!

This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to straddle both worlds.

My friends Scott and Becky decided a little over a year ago to pursue a dream - to open the first licensed (aka legal) distillery in Loudoun County, Virginia since Prohibition.  The joint decision was reached after Becky, who is a chemical engineer, finally got fed up with Scott's verbalized longings and said in so many words, "ok, show me a business plan and we'll talk."  Thus began a grand adventure for them that led, first to a custom built still from Germany. (Is that not just flat out beautiful!)

And that was followed this past Friday,with a Grand Opening of the Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. 

It was a wonderful affair, full of bagpipes (Scott and Becky both claim Scottish heritage, including a fondness for Robert Burns that culminates yearly in a dinner in his honor accompanied with much fine Scotch and haggis - I myself draw the line at scrapple). And there were friends and governmental officieries to boot!

Now, what is interesting for us bakers, is that they are producing both rye and gin from organic rye flour courtesy of Heartland Mill in Kansas (are you there proth5?).  Each batch of mash is made using 700 lbs. of rye flour (that's 14 bags of 50# flour) which is brought up to the mouth of the cooker using a forklift.  In addition to water, various enzymes are added - amalyze being prominent - and then yeast which goes completely wild.  The resulting 'porridge' after 12 hours is sweet and very reminiscent of gingerbread.  From there the liquid is pumped into the still, while the leftover solids are given to local farmers who use it to produce 'happy' cows and 'happy' pigs.

Well, it was obvious to me that the only fitting present for the Grand Opening was a loaf of, what else, rye?  So I baked flaxseed rye from Hamelman's Bread. I made two loaves and scored one with a straight cut and the other with a sausage cut. 

As you can see, cutting isn't just decorative, but really impacts the shape and crumb of the finished loaf. (Scott and Becky got the straight cut loaf, so I can't include a crumb shot.  However, here's what the sausage cut loaf yielded.)

The next day, Saturday, a bunch of us volunteers returned to bottle 360 bottles of Roundstone Rye in a little over 2 hours.  For those of you interested in seeing how a micro-distillery works, you can watch this.

In an unabashed plug I'll note that Scott and Becky just a little over a week ago were awarded a bronze medal in a competition sponsored by the American Distilling Institute for their un-casked Mosby's Spirit Rye.

Rye and rye, bread and whiskey.  Is it any wonder we celebrate these gifts of nature!




jj1109's picture

Now, posting this on TFL might be a bit like teaching your Nanna to suck eggs. or blow eggs. or whatever the phrase is, I forget.

But too bad, I'm posting it anyway :p

A few points first. Get a good knife, and know your loaf. I have two knives I use for my sandwich loaves - one is quite harsh on the bread and is no use in a soft bread, as it rips it apart. The other is great on the soft loaves, but just doesn't work well in the firmer styles. Practice makes perfect - you come to know what your knife will cut, and what thickness you can slice with it.

It's interesting though - I find if I stand straight in front of the loaf, square, I can never slice even slices, I always stand a little side on to the bench, and it works. It's probably different for you though!

grab that loaf, and put it on your favourite cutting board. Don't tell me you don't have a favourite... I guess that's just me then.

When making the first slice, you have to remember that most loaf tins aren't square at the end, but slope out a fraction. So your first slice will be thick at the top, and thin at the bottom. Use your finger to mark where you're going to slice...

then slice! once the knife has just bitten through the crust, slide your fingers over to hold the slice steady whilst you cut the whole way down. If you choose not to do this, it's a lot more likely to get slices that are thick at one end and then at the other.

Keep an eye on the knife the whole way down, it takes concentration to cut it straight. I prefer not to correct if it's going astray, but that's just me.

When you reach the end of the loaf, it gets a little trickier. Here's how I do it:

however you could also lie it down on the board and cut horizontally (very carefully!)

and you're done. sit back and admire your hand carved, beautifully even loaf.

Monkeyphish32081's picture

After reading Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers apprentice and Whole wheat breads countless times, doing my best to get what I can from them, I caught my first sourdough using the pineapple juice sollution.  I was rather excited when I noticed it very active and kept feeding it.  I found a recipe on this site and thought it would be easy enough to try and to get more familiar working with a wetter dough.  I noticed that the bread lacked body and strength but baked with it anyways.  I was afraid that the temp would be too hot for too long but I wouldnt know unless I try.  I was pleasantly surprised when the dough was perfectly baked (maybe slightly dark but anyways) and the flavor was pleasant.  Next time I plan on working out the issue with the strength by mixing it for a longer period of time of adding vital wheat glutin and not baking it quite so long.  I feel wonderful and eager to try countless other recipes (and develop some of my own)!!


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