The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Floydm's picture

This was the best I could come up with:

sourdough pan loaf

A loaf of sourdough sandwich bread, slightly gummy and poorly shaped but edible.

I am humbled. Baking on foreign soil is very difficult.

Back to my home kitchen this weekend.

kevroy's picture

...who do we see about becoming professionals?

It took a frantic amount of organization, physical labor and nagging, lots and lots of firm, polite, incessant nagging to get everything done. There was wiring and plumbing and drywall, there were floors that needed reinfoncing, a foundation that needed shoring up. Floor plans had to be drawn up for Labor and Industry codes that needed addressing and inspecting, not to mention health codes with their ensuing inspections. There were work benches and walls and shelving to be built, painting, paperhanging and restoration of the beautiful but crumbling mullioned windows that made the shop what it was.

Equipment was purchased and installed, most of it used, most of it needing some special attention. We spent the final week doing basic prep work and overseeing the removal of several dead and dying trees.

In fewer than ninety days from the time we closed in the real estate and business loan we removed the "coming soon" sign, turned the lights on and clicked the key in the lock to open the door of our bake shop.

Nothing happened.

Floydm's picture

Hmmm... yes, well... baking on the road seemed like a good idea.

My starter made it fine, but I guess I didn't really think about how many little things I take for granted in my home kitchen. Yes, I knew I was going to be without a baking stone or my lame, but those were the least of my problems. Not being able to find a warm enough spot in the house for the loaves to rise enough set me back a bit. Not being able to find semolina flour or regular corn meal (only course ground) didn't help either, and I was unwilling to damage someone else's iron skillet to make the necessary steam, so the crust was going to suffer. But it was the oven that set me back the most. Well, that and the smoke detector, which screamed like a banshee as soon as I opened the door to put the bread in the oven (I guess they don't turn their oven up to the max as often as I do). In the end, the bread got tossed out. The bread may have been salvageable, but after airing out the house for 20 minutes to get the smoke detector to stop I wasn't in the mood.

I'm chastened. If I try to bake again this week I'll bake something simpler in a loaf pan.

mountaindog's picture

This weekend I made the Thom Leonard boule again (actually 2 smaller boules), but this time made a darker loaf where 30% of the total flour was whole wheat and a little rye. I imagine this combo of flour is more in line with what a Poilane loaf is like. My husband called me from Paris the other day to report on the Poilane loaf he tasted while there, saying it was not really a dark whole wheat bread, rather the crumb was a medium to light color, with even, small to medium holes, not huge holes. He of course diplomatically told me that he likes my bread better, and does not see what the Poilane fuss is about :-)

This week's batch of 30% whole wheat Leonard boules came out very flavorful and the crumb was very light with a nice amount of more even-sized holes, the crust was nice and crispy and chewy. I used my white 100% hydration starter rather than the rye I usually use. The best experiment with this batch is that I used white rice flour to dust my bannetons with, as Merrybaker suggested a while back - what a difference! The proofed loaves slid right out using very little flour, so my crusts were nice and brown - thanks Merrybaker for the tip!

I also made the Pane Siciliano from BBA but using my white 100% hydration sourdough starter rather than yeast, which demegrad inspired me to do. I was worried it would not rise well because I actually used very little starter to make the pate fermente, only about 30 g or so - that was all I had on hand after making the levain for the Leonard loaves. I was suprised to see the pate fermente rise very quickly, so I guess it liked all the extra food. For the final dough, I made it very wet and slack, and I used demegrad's shaping instructions which worked well. They came out very good - great crispy crust, nice semolina flavor, and not at all sour but you can taste something there from the starter. This one will definitley go on my rotation of favorite bread recipes.

The flavors of these two breads are a nice contrast to each other. The two Leonard boules are on the left/back - note the lack of excess flour this time on the crust thanks to the rice flour. In front are two of the Pane Siciliano. My Siciliano crust, although nicely blistered and crisp, is not as shiny as others who made this. I think because my dough was so wet, I had flour on the counter to shape it, and some remained on the crust, dulling it a little despite spraying lightly with olive oil before proofing. No matter, it tastes great and still looks nice - makes a great gift.

Here is a shot of the crumb for Pane Siciliano.


Also, I had mentioned awhile back about my neat bluestone oven setup that I really like, here is a shot (yes, my oven really is that frightfully dirty, guess it's time to clean it). These stones cost me $6 each at my local stoneyard that sells native Catskill bluestone, and they live in the oven, since they work well in evening out the heat for anything I may be cooking in there. I notice my breads are all browning much more evenly all around than before I had these in place, but this may not be worth the effort or make much difference for other bakers, depending on what their ovens are like.

All in all a good weekend of baking...practice makes each batch come out better.

Floydm's picture

We're housesitting for my parents up on Puget Sound for the next few days. Before leaving, I fed the pets, watered the plants, and, of course, fed the starter. While doing so it dawned on me that I could take a pinch along and try baking something up here; homemade sourdough would go great with the fresh seafood (like the clams we picked up on the way up). I figure if the pioneers could keep a starter culture alive for weeks on a wagon train, I could keep one alive for four hours on the interstate, eh?

It'll be interesting to bake in another kitchen. No baking stone, no scale, an unfamiliar oven. I'll definitely blog the results.

kevroy's picture

I tried a new ciabatta roll today using a liquid levain starter in my sponge. I flavored it with a little fresh lemon peel, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped parsley. The idea was to keep it from interfering with other foods but still stand on it's own. Mission accomplished as far as that went, but the inside didn't have a nice open cell structure. The crust was nice and crunchy without being hard, though.

Earlier in the week I made a Kalamata olive sourdough with fresh rosemary, thyme and sage. The secret to this bread, I found, is that less is more. Previous attempts at this bread were so odiferously pungent my poor wife got dizzy from the smell! I cut the olives an herbs in half and ended up with a nicely flavored loaf that only gave my wife a headache.

Abigail's picture

Yesterday I made Rose Beranbaum's Cracked Wheat Bread, everything went well until I slashed the risen loaf, which promptly subsided to half the size. I baked it and now I have another paving brick. What can I do to prevent this happening again.

Srishti's picture

Hi all,

I think it was about time I shared some pictures of some of my disasters (which are increasingly getting better.)

12/02/2006: Whole Wheat. These breads are kinda sourdoughs... I starter only sat for 3 days, I do remember there were some bubbles, but I doubt it was a fully functional starter. Despite of that loaves rose a lot when proofed overnight and had a tremendous oven-spring! (At that time I didn't know what the terms proofing and oven-spring meant ;) The crust was a bit dry but the loaves were good and kept a long time if I remember right. You can see the "tunnel where the baker (that would be me) sleeps" as Peter Rinehart would say. Ha.....

 01/11/2007: Whole Wheat. My first NYT No-knead bread. Yeasted and whole wheat. Beautiful and crisp crust. No-holes in the crumb though :-(  Though I think that is the best looking bread I have ever made. I like baking in the covered lay pot which you can see in the background.

 01/14/2007: Whole wheat. Yeasted. with flax and sunflower seeds and rye flakes. I think the dough didn't develop enough gluten maybe because it wasn't wet enough, and oh, I tried doing Jim's slap and fold (French fold) on this one, which was not so good on this wet, crumbly textured, seeded dough. It wasn't so bad, No holes though. You can see I am complaining about No-Holes.... But I know whole wheat is infamous for that.

 01/19/2007: Whole Rye + Whole Wheat + a cup of white bread flour. Ok, I started making an all rye starter but with the ever increasing volume, and me hating to dump half of it every time, On the 3rd or 4th day of starter I threw everything (2-3 cups) really wet rye levain in the bowl with 3 cups of whole wheat and started kneading it... It was sooooooooo sticky, and I was afraid it wasn't going to rise, I mixed 1/2 tsp of yeast with white and kneaded that in. and baked the whole thing after a few hours.... Well it was so strongly rye.... It was quite good! No holes, of course.

 01/22/2007: All white ha ha Well, now I really wanted to make something from BBA. So here are some French baguettes and epi's. All white and yeasted....made with pate fermente overnight. And guess what, No holes again. It didn't taste like much either.... So I don't think I'd doing any white baking anymore.... except for cakes, cookied etc. I feel better on the real stuff.

01/26/2007: Sourdough Whole Wheat NYT No-knead I finally made a real starter from SourDoLady's Orange Juice starter and so I named him OJ. So here is the first creation from OJ. A no-knead whole wheat, sourdough bread baked in my favorite pot :) which I baked today. It was nice and sour and really moist and flavourful. I put in 2 cups of wet whole wheat starter with 2 cups whole wheat flour and a cup of water + flax seeds + freshly tamari roasted sunflower seeds, mixed it up and let it rise for 16 hours, folded it and benched it a couple more hours. It turned out really well, and even had traces of holes in it... Yoo Hoooo.

So that's all the pics I have so far... I'll keep posting them here and keep youall updated.

Thanks again to all Floyd, SourdoLady, Jim..... amd so many others


PMcCool's picture

Since we had a big Italian dinner lined up with friends last weekend, I volunteered to bring bread.  One, it gave me a chance to try the Italian Bread formula from BBA; two, I decided to take another crack at ciabatta, also from BBA; and three, these people love homemade bread.

The Italian bread was pretty straightforward--and delicious.  Here's a photo:

The crumb was fairly close-textured and chewy, but not tough.  Great flavor, too, from the biga's overnight ferment in the refrigerator.  Gotta work on the slashing, though.  The loaf on the right came out pretty well, but the one on the left was definitely off the mark.

Bouyed by that success, I launched a poolish for the ciabatta.  That went well enough, but the final dough was more of a struggle.  Everything I read about ciabatta dough mentions how wet the dough is (the words "soupy" and "pour" seem to feature prominently).  This is the second time that I've used the BBA formula, carefully weighing all of the ingredients.  And, for the second time, I wound up with a very dry dough.  Even after working in another ounce of water, it was still able to stand up unsupported, although it could at least be stretched and folded.  I used bread flour, as listed in the formula.  The flour was from a newly opened bag that had been purchased less than a week previously.  I suppose it's possible that the flour was drier than usual because of the low humidity, but I can't fathom that there would be that radical a difference.  Anyway, I soldiered on with the bulk ferment, shaping the loaves and letting them rise.  When they were ready, I slid them onto the stone in the preheated oven, put water in the steam pan and this is how they looked when they came out:


The oven spring was fantastic.  At about 8 or 9 minutes into the bake, they had tripled in height.  These turned out far better than my first, sorry, attempt.  When we cut into them at dinner, I was surprised to find that the crumb was quite moist, almost cake-like.  Not at all what I had expected from the apparent dryness of the dough.  The texture was a combination of smaller and larger holes, not nearly the wide-open crumb that I was looking for (sorry, none survived long enough for pictures of the crumb).  It was thoroughly baked, since the instant-read thermometer indicated an internal temperature of 205F.  There are a couple of potential contributors to the moistness of the crumb. I probably turned the oven temp down a few minutes sooner than necessary and maybe I should have pulled the steam pan out at about the 10-minute mark.  Ah, well, better next time.  They tasted wonderful, especially with a drizzle of a fruity olive oil.

grepstar's picture

After a full 3x feeding of Francesca Fiore (my hydrated sourdough starter) for a day of baking last weekend, I found myself with an extra blob of her that I didn't want to just throw out. Flipping through Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery, I saw the English Muffins recipe and was reminded of Sunday mornings when I was kid, waking up early with my Dad and munching on Thomas' English Muffins slathered with butter and strawberry jam. I decided to give them a shot.

I'll start with her recipe:

18 oz White Starter
2 cups milk
8 oz unbleached white bread flour
3.5 oz dark rye flour

10 oz warm water (85 degrees)
0.9 oz fresh yeast
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup rye chops
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
8 oz unbleached white bread flour
1/4 cup barley malt syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbs sea salt
Rice flour for dusting
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
Semolina flour for dusting

Here are the ingredients that I used based on what I had on hand.

18 oz White Starter
2 cups plain soy milk
8 oz unbleached white bread flour (high extraction - 14% protein)
3.5 oz dark rye flour

10 oz warm water (85 degrees)
0.3 oz of SAF instant yeast
1/4 cup oat bran
3 tbs wheat gluten
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup coarse rye flour
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
8 oz unbleached white bread flour (high extraction - 14% protein)
1/4 cup (minus a smidge) agave nectar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 tbs kosher salt
Cake flour for dusting
Semolina flour for dusting

I made the sponge on a Sunday, but did not have the time to actually make them that night so I put it immediately into the fridge to ferment overnight. The next day, I removed it and it was nice and bubbly with a good odor.

I assembled the dough, let it ferment at room temperature for about an hour before I realized I wouldn't have time to bake that evening either. Into the fridge it went and the next day I set out to bake it. I let it come back to room temperature and then put in on a cutting board dusted with cake flour to rest, dusting the top with semolina flour for good measure.


At this point, the recipe calls for 15 muffin rings to be buttered and placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, muffin rings are not in my baking arsenal (butter is). Instead of emptying out cans of tuna on both ends and washing them (as Silverton suggests), I opt for the less fishy route and construct my own rings out of parchment paper.

Paper rings

I thought this was pretty smart, since I didn't have to waste the butter to coat them. Once the muffins were done, I could just peel off the paper and enjoy the deliciousness of fresh English muffins. I placed the rings on baking sheets dusted generously with semolina flour and then filled with the dough. Here's where my paper rings idea started to collapse--literally.

Collapsing rings

Although they were having trouble containing the dough, they did a good job of maintaining the basic muffin shape and I was happy with that.

I wish I had captured the moment when one of my cats jumped on the pan of resting muffins landing a foot in at least two of them and then proceeding to track dough across the entire kitchen. Luckily, I caught him before he hit the rugs.

After an hour of rest, I dusted the muffins with semolina flour and put them into a preheated 400 degree oven and baked for 20 minutes. I then removed the pans, rotating them and flipping the muffins over. I was a bit discouraged at the look of the muffins after the first 20 minutes; they were turning out like giant biscuits. But sally forth, home baker!

After another 20 minutes of baking, I pulled them out of the oven set them out to cool. They were definitely looking more like English muffins and less like biscuits. About an hour later, I removed the parchment paper rings and laid them out for a photo shoot.

Time to pull apart and taste!

I'm a bit ashamed here. I couldn't even wait to take the picture before biting into one. They were/are pretty tasty little devils, but almost nothing like a Thomas' muffin. To my palate, much better tasting. The texture of the crumb was a little gummy, however, and I'm guessing it was because I used a bit too much rye flour in the dough and perhaps because of the extra time I gave the dough to ferment. If I had known I wasn't going to bake them the day I made the dough, I would have left out most if not all of the instant yeast. My substitution of the wheat gluten for the wheat bran was a mistake as well. In hindsight, I should have used some oats or millet. The agave nectar imparts an interesting sweetness to the muffins, but I could have cut it down to 2.5 tbs for a better flavor. The texture with the seeds is great. I'm definitely going to try these again with some small changes.


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