The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


  • Pin It
mbecktel's picture

My history with bread seems to hold steady. The focaccia did not turn out as planned. I milled the flour, mixed it and let it rise. It was a beautiful rise. \The instructions then said to punch down and pat out onto an oiled baking sheet. Did this, and dimpled the top, sprinked on parmesean cheese and a bit of sea salt. Nice looking out of the oven, but TOUGH!

Bob gamely ate some with olive oil and herbs with me. The cement in the gut feeling came back. Not for him. He loves bread in any way shape and form.

Okay, I apparently have trouble with massive amounts of insoluable fiber. As said earlier, I have found whole grain bread to be dry and bitter, so oatmeal was the fiber of choice. No probls with that, but this whole grain stuff...whew

the reason I chose the Nutrigrain mill was that it had a fine setting. Well, fine is still pretty gritty. And tho I did drink lots of water that day, that is not the answer to the problem. I guess I need to work up to it, so for now, I will bake with unbleached white flour, and add some e fresh ground wheat, eventually working up to substantial amounts.

To be honest, I really want to master the yeast thing first. I can give a rip about the jjello thing (gosh my 'puter won't even let me type the word!) but I am so frustrated about the bread baking thing. At least I am in the right place, eh?

Oh, and the dogs love the focaccia.

susanfnp's picture

If you love to bake rye sourdough, or, like me, are intimidated by it and need a kick in the pants to help you overcome that, you should enter BreadBaking Day #3. Come on, you know you want to...

I made this rye-ww sourdough, and it was actually fun.


Rye Whole Wheat Sourdough



beenjamming's picture

So for the second time this summer, I moved this past weekend. I decided to given my oven a test run just to get a feel for it. First, I baked a bunch of 75% hydration rustic loaves with ~20% whole wheat. The dough was built on a 12 hr poolish. I usually don't use such a high percent of whole wheat flour and as a result the bread tasted a bit earthier than mine usual pain sur poolish. Oven performed well; it only got up to 450F, which was just enough.


I also baked a potato pizza,inspired by the Sullivan St potato pizza in Artisan baking, with some friends tonight. On top are some red creamer tots(salted, drained) sauteed with red onions in rosemary olive oil, roasted garlic and some montasio cheese. I got the crust exactly how I wanted it, but the topping combination could use a little work. I think I need to add either more potatoes or something creamy; with a hard cheese it tasted a bit too dry. It was still tasty enough for me to eat!

and the underside:


This weekend is looking pretty exciting as well. I have gotten some folks together here at Cornell to create an artisan baking club: Better Bread, Better World. A few of us know how to bake decently well, and a few are new to the game, but I'm very excited to get things off the ground.This weekend everyone is in town and we're going to get together and bake, eat and talk about our plan for this year. Hopefully by the spring we will have a stand at the Ithaca Farmer's Market to sell bread and donate the profits some where in Thompkins county. Have any of you taught others how to bake? I've shown a few curious friends how to make bread, and I like to start with challah because it can be made pretty easy and looks and tastes great, then start with a basic hearth loaf and move on. As kind of the leader of this club I think it's going to mostly on my shoulders to come up with things to do and if any ideas come to mind, please do share them!

mbecktel's picture

Okay, the say confession is good for the soul. I confess there are two foods that for some reason confound me. One is Jello. For love or money I can't make Jello. It's either unset, runny, hard as a rock, separating, or won't come out of the mold. Mom soon learned not to ask me ever to make it.

The other is yeast bread. Boy am I embarassed to write that on a forum like this. I have truly tried, at my mother's elbow, to learn. She made the best Slovak egg bread and nut rolls at the drop of the hat. And when I was working with her, I could too, but on my own, watch out! Hard as a rock, layered, collapsed, or ovepuffed and empty in the middle, you name it and I've produced it.

Of course I am letting myself in for a big project, trying to learn the right way to do it, with the additional variable of freshly milled flour. Me, who thinks most whole wheat bread I have ever tasted is bitter and dry. Well, ya gotta jump into the middle, I say. I got my new Nutrimill

 My new Nutrimill

                                  My Nutrimill

It was an adventure researching and buying it. However, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there on baking with it. One site says to allow extra time after mixing to let the bran absorb the liquid, but my main source doesn't. Also many recipes seem to be for a "Zo" breadmaking machine, whici is out of the budget right now. I did inherit a bread machine which my mother never used that can do 100% whole wheat bread, so I tried that.

I used the recipe in the machine book for 100% whole wheat and put it through its paces. this is my first loaf:

My first loaf

                                                       My first loaf

It came out pretty well. Nice even crumb, was fairly moist and didn't taste bitter. On the other hand, it was pretty dense, and much browner than i anticipated. My husband thought it was okay, and he is the bread muncher of the family. The half piece I had sat on my gut like a piece of cement. Am I not drinking enough water? Do I have to give in to conventional wisdom and use half unbleached white flour to lighten it up? We'll have to experiment.

Right now I mixed up a batch of focaccia dough in the machine and am letting it rise. This was an interesting recipe as it had a lot of flavorings in the dough. Will provide a picture of it if it turns out well in the next post.

Today, got an interesing post in the Mercola newsletter ( He pulls in all kinds of health (mainly anti-mainstream) articles then comments on them. I am not ready to buy everything he says, but there are some things you can find that are worth exploring. The one article I found striking was on Genetically Modified Food. It seems that when fed GM food, test animals are developing reproductive and digestive problems. It is a long URL so follow this tiny one: He also provides a link to the Institute of Responsible Technology. That is an interesting site to look around: (

Well, gotta go play with my focaccia. Will let you all know how things turn out!


Jamila's picture

Spinach & Veggie Stuffed Snail


Spinach Snail #2Spinach Stuffed Snail



Green Stuffed Olives & Cream Cheese

Olive & Cream Cheese SnailOlive & Cream Cheese Snail

Jamila's picture

Sourdough Blueberry PancakesSourdough Blueberry Pancakes #2Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes #3

Thanks for all the help at The Fresh Loaf! Now I can make my favorite pancakes anytime I like. :-) 

mbecktel's picture

Well, I finally did it. For a long while now, I have been growing highly suspect of the foods around us. It just seemed like there was too much convenience, and many of us just didn't seem to be getting any healthier. Then I saw the movie The Future of Food (it's on Netflix) and that got me going on frankenfoods, you know, genetically modified foods that hold farmers ransom and put genes of different things where they are not supposed to be. My mother just died of ischemic bowels, which means the arteries to her digestive system were totally blocked. It is the same as a heart attack, but kills your intestines (painfully - like angina of the gut). She had been eating healthy by conventional standards since she beat lymphoma 20 some years ago. My dad died of prostate cancer, even though he never passed up a plate of spaghetti or tomato sauce on anything. So much for the lycopene connection. And my younger sister died of cancer three years ago at age 49, and it started in her lung, spread to her brain, then suddenly after being biopsied, found it spread everywhere, even though the original cancer was supposed to be slow spreading. Yes, she did smoke, but never had a smoker's cough (I sure did when I smoked) and could run up two flights of stairs and not be winded. She ate healthy foods all the time.

With a background like this, I started to delve into the not-so-mainstream literature for all those hints I had been picking up on what is and is not healthy according to conventional wisdom powered by the agribusiness and pharmasutical factions, and what science was unearthing. This is a fascinating journey. My bible is Real Food by Nina Planck (

White bread and refined sugar are the antichrist, and refined salt is no saint either. Seems that industry likes to reduce everything to its base elements, take the parts and sell them at a premium, then replace some of the things lost by artificial means and tout them as good for you. And when it is not, and despite your best efforts you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anemia, and fat, there are PILLS for that. (don't say much of anything about the side effects tho...)

On the other side of the coin, there are those who say to go back to the natural. I have already witnessed the miracles that homeopathics can do (but there's no money in them so it appears the FDA is being paid to find ways to supress them and other natural cures and healthy things). I have learned a lot, and so I am embarking on a journey back to REAL FOOD.

I have purchased a Nutrimill and grains from a place called BreadBeckers ( They also have a co-op that periodically delivers nearby. I am going to make my own bread becasue I hate commercial whole wheat bread - it tastes dry and bitter to me. I am hoping that this forum will help me develop the talent to make interesting and delicious breads that are healthy for us.

I also have discovered they have started a CSA farm nearby (that's Community Sustainable Agriculture). (for more info see The way is works is you buy a share of the farm for a season. And you live and die with the fate of the farm. They are successful? You get loads of fresh healthily grown veggies and eggs every week. Bad weather? Growing problems? You also share the hardships. And then we found out our farm was going to divide grass fed cattle. The bottom line is that we can get totally naturally raised beef, high in omega three and other goodies, for about $2.50/lb. Can't beat it! And our farmer made a connections so we only have to invest in half a half, so we can realistically store it (and afford it).

Raw milk is another pursuit. ( We have some leads on some, tho it is sold only for animal consumption in Florida (sort of a wink,wink, nudge,nudge, knowhwatImean affair). We may have to settle for vat pasturized, but non-homogenized.

And coconut oil. ( I am amazed how nice virgin coconut oil tastes. Am sampling several sources.

Sounds like I am going back to my hippie days (no I never lived on a commune or even went vegetarian), but I intend to see if I can make healthy choices according to this new/old wisdom, and then see if I really do feel better, lose weight, and overall become a better person. We'll keep you posted

Floydm's picture

Weighing in at 2 pounds 8 ounces, is the mega semonlina loaf.

semolina bread

semolina bread

This was a sourdough w/ a half a teaspoon of instant yeast thrown in. About... 65% hydration with about 40% of the flour semolina. It turned out pretty good.

I've been meaning to mention that I have been using the Steam Maker Bread Kit when I bake something like this. In fact it is part of the reason I baked such a monster loaf: the small sized kit I have makes it very difficult to steam two small rounds or baguettes longer than about 12 inches long, but one large round fits quite well. I find the size extremely frustrating and would not recommend purchasing the kit in that size, but I have to admit that when I do make loaves that fit into it the resulting crust I get is very, very good. Very thin and crackly. I stand by my opinion that the larger stone and kit are a worthwhile investment if you are a crust junky and you don't have a steaming solution that you are satisfied with yet.

Previous discussions of the Steam Maker kit is here and here.

AnnieT's picture

I have been wanting to make the White thyme bread from Dan Lepard's "The art of handmade bread", and today was the day. I bought some fresh thyme last week at the farmer's market but didn't buy olives until this last Friday. Naturally the store didn't have the picholine olives this week, so I bought kalamatas because all of the others had "stuff" in them. DL calls for fresh yeast which I have never seen here and although he gives a way to replace it I decided to use my instant yeast along with the starter and it worked just fine. I learned it isn't easy to do the French fold with a dough full of olives so I tried his oiled counter method. Thumbs down. Ended up with a dusting of flour and the dough was much easier to manage. Several stretch and folds later I had a nice soft dough to dimple on an oiled baking sheet. Cornmeal on the sheet and on top of the loaf so the crust was crisp. I will definitely make it again and hopefully with the picholine olives as the kalamatas hid the flavor of the thyme. Some friends went home with a chunk of the loaf - I figured they could snack on it if the ferry line was too awful, A

cabbagehead's picture

Well I made the most amazing  4 loaves of whole wheat bread today. It was quite hot out and I was expecting company so I decided to turn on the air conditioning. I then realized it would be better for the bread if I had a warmer and more humid environment so I placed the rising dough out on the patio under the umbrella and covered with a damp towel.  That must have been a perfect scenario for the bread because it rose like crazy. I also think it had something to do with the actual recipe. For the first time I used my Five Roses cookbook which called for a lot more yeast than I was used to (16 grams for 4 loaves). I also prepared a mixture of the yeast, some sugar, some scalded milk and water before hand then mixed eveything together. I've never seen yeast froth up so much! The result was 4 wonderful large loaves of delicious bread that had soft crusts (coated with melted butter just before oven time). The flavour is quite intense and perfect for sandwiches a well as toast (with jam or honey). Tonight my supper consisted of fresh bread, ancient cheddar cheese, red wine and great music. Life is pretty good.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs