The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan Breads

CountryBoy's picture

RL Beranbaum vs. Julia Childs

February 1, 2007 - 10:04am -- CountryBoy

Question #1: Please clarify for me what is meant when Julia Childs in her baking video says that it is necessary to feed the yeast with salt and sugar at the very beginning of the process.  However, Rose Beranbaum in her Bread Bible on pg. 45 says that "salt can kill the yeast if it comes in direct contact with it."  Question #2: Why is it that when after the first proofing I go to knead the dough and rather than being elastic it bounces back and won't allow me to knead it?  It is hard for me to keep my kitchen above 70 degree

breadnerd's picture


January 29, 2007 - 1:22pm -- breadnerd

Just thought I'd share this since we often only talk about our successes.  I baked this bread last week, and froze the extra loaves. Last night we defrosted this loaf for dinner--I was admiring the nice crumb, and then a few slices in:



Whoops! I guess I slacked off a little on the shaping. Still tastes good though.....

crumb bum's picture

No Knead to Preheat???

January 27, 2007 - 4:29pm -- crumb bum

Hello Bakers

While most of the bread world has been going "no knead" I have been going no preheat.  I read about this method a year or so ago.  As part of my newyears resoulution to try new methods I have been using it.  The method consists of placing 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water on the oven floor. Put bread on a sheet pan and slash as usual.  I place it in the oven in the middle rack, shut the door and turn oven on to 525.  The oven window will be covered with steam for the first 10 min or so.  After 15 min I lower the heat to 440 or so for the rest of the baking time.  The baking time is just slightly longer.  I have noticed no great difference in my breads baked on a preheated stone or on a sheet pan minus the stone and preheat.  I will say that sometimes the bottom gets a little darker than when on the stone.  What I like most about this is you can wait until the very last minute and throw in your bread and not have to have to guess when to turn on the oven to preheat.  It also saves on electricity and to some degree heat in the kitchen.  Give this a whirl, I think you will be pleasantly suprised.

caryn's picture

Moving risen batards to parchment paper--HelP!!

January 27, 2007 - 2:44pm -- caryn

Since this is only the second time that I have added something to this site, I may not be adding this note to the right place.  If not, hopefully I will find a better place next time.  First I love this website.  I am an artisan bread hobbiest, have been playing around with sourdoughs for quite a while, and find the information here both interesting and helpful.

Willard Onellion's picture

Steam Maker Bread Baker Company

January 27, 2007 - 9:15am -- Willard Onellion

I don't remember where I first heard of the Steam Baker.

I bought one and am delighted!

It consists of a large 3/4" baking stone, a stainless steel cover, and a steam generator.

It replaces the need for the spritzing and spraying I have been doing since I began baking artisan breads.

To use it, you preheat the stone to 400 F. Place the bread on the stone, place the cover over the loaf/loaves, then spray steam thru a small hole in the cover for 10-15 seconds. Remove the lid after 10 minutes and continue the baking process.

I found it at

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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