The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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AW's picture

Baking Schools

May 20, 2009 - 10:02pm -- AW
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Hi all,


I recently lost my job and am doing a lot of soul-searching for what i might next do. I've been a writing in the healthcare advertising industry since 1988 and love my job, though am also passionate about baking and am wondering if it's time to switch gears. I understand the life to be difficult and not particularly high-paying.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

Baked Potato Bread Photo


There'll be a better write-up on my blog,
mentalexperimental.org, but I wanted to thank Floyd for a good starter recipe. I'm still working on modifying this one. I think that I have the general consistency of the bread down that I want, but I want a bit more tang. I think that there may have to be a sourdough component to really get it where I want it to be. But that's a completely new bread.


This is Floyd's recipe with a few modifications. The first is adding a bit more sour cream. The second was adding cheddar cheese instead of chives. The third is the addition of half & half in the dough and the mashed potatoes.


I think that getting a stand mixer will help me with this type of bread the most. I mixed for 8 or so minutes on speed 2 and then folded twice during the bulk fermentation, giving it an hour at the end to come to full bulk. The crumb is light, fluffy, and very tender.


I'm writing the recipe on the blog now. I wanted to share the photo because I'm so proud of how this one turned out. :)

Random 83's picture

Selecting a new range

March 24, 2009 - 1:12pm -- Random 83

We need to replace our 10 year old, 30 inch LP gas range.  In may ways it has been a disappointing choice but in particular we have never been able to get as good results with baking muffins and some cakes as we get with a gas range we have in the basement and use principally for cooking overload at holiday times.  It is 55 years old and is the first range we ever bought and is reliable.  We would appreciate suggestions for a good performing range in the hopes that we can avoid another disappointing purchase.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I'm wanting to start working with whole grains more.  I'm going to be working up to the lovely 5 grain that gaaarp posted.


The bread I baked today was thrown together out of need for a sandwich bread for the week that would go well with ham, our choice of lunch meat.  It needed to be relatively soft with a soft crust, as that's my boyfriend's preference, and needed to be slightly sweet to complement the salty ham.  The other thing I wanted was some sort of higher fiber whole grain flour thrown in.


Last night I had to feed my hungry beasties at around 10:30.  I pulled out my discard, fed my 100% starter as normal, and added 1/8 cup water and a little under 1/2 cup flour to the starter.  This produced a very nice, very firm starter, which measured about 166 grams.  I let that sit overnight.  I also measured out 125 grams of my 7 grain flour blend and mixed it with 100 grams of water in the bowl that I was going to make the bread in the next day. I covered that and let it sit overnight as well.


The next morning I was greeted by the sight of a very active firm starter (it had almost grown out of the bowl) and a very nice soaker.  I had set the stages for a very good bread.


We eat a lot of sandwiches so I needed a larger amount of bread.  I added to the starter and the soaker 265g of milk, 355g of flour, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of honey.  This made a total of slightly over 1000g total dough.  I kneaded it all together and let it sit for about 45 minutes, at which point I realized I forgot the salt and kneaded in about 2 1/4 teaspoons.  Then I stretched and folded once an hour for...3 hours or so?  The dough was pretty wet and sticky.


I proofed for an hour before putting it in the oven in a makeshift brotform: a wicker basket lined with a floured tea towel.  I put it on my stone in a slightly warm (but not fully preheated) oven for 45-50 minutes.  400 for the first 30, then down to 375 for about 10 minutes.  I left it in the oven after turning it off for about 10 minutes as well.


I pulled this out.


7 Grain Sourdough


7 Grain Sourdough Crumb


I'm very happy with how things went.  I'm really getting some good results with my sourdough.


Thanks again, gaaarp!

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

So my sourdough starter isn't ready yet. I've decided I'm going to baby it a little longer with three stirrings a day and lots of love. That being the case, I still needed to bake. This came about because I had oatmeal for lunch today. Strange lunch, I know, but sometimes you just have those cravings that must be heeded. I envisioned this as a soft-crusted bread with a dense but moist crumb and a decently caramelized crust. I wanted a little maple flavor, as well as the flavor of the brown sugar. I almost got it, but I think that this is still a work in progress. Not using instant oatmeal may be a start. It also needs a tad more salt than the teaspoon I put in. The only thing I'm lacking to make it completely from scratch is the maple syrup, which I'll get on friday, and I'll bake it again this weekend from old fashioned oats, brown sugar, and maple syrup. For anyone who still wants the recipe, it is below. I think I'm starting to get the scoring thing. These didn't blow out on the bottom. They were also better proofed than my last loaf. I let them sit for about an hour before baking. The real test of any bread making, for me anyway, is the appearance of the crumb. This is, by far, my best for a more dense loaf. I'm really loving what I'm learning here. I'm having a lot of fun baking (sometimes more than my boyfriend, our daughter, and I can eat, but it's proving to be very educational. Recipe: Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Bread - Take One Prepare the oatmeal: 1 packet instant maple & brown sugar oatmeal 1/2 cup water Mix and heat for 1 minute. It will be almost done, but not quite. Allow to cool to just warm. Assemble the rest of your ingredients: 3 1/3 cups flour 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 2 tablespoons of butter 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar (very lightly) 1 egg, lightly beaten 2/3 cup milk (lukewarm) 1 1/2 tsp salt Disolve the yeast in the milk. In your large bowl you use for mixing the final dough, mix together the oatmeal, sugar, and egg. Once incorporated, mix in the milk. Once all this is well mixed, add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix until you get a thick paste. Add the rest of the flour in 1/3 cup increments until it's almost all in. If your cups are the same as my cups, it should take all but the littlest bit of the flour. If not, you want the dough to feel very sticky and barely hand-kneadable. Once mixed together so that there's barely any flour left in the bowl, rest for 10 minutes. After the resting period, turn the dough out onto your kneading surface and "knead", as well as you can, for a few minutes. 5 or so. Bulk ferment should be about 60-80 minutes. Mine was on the longer side because of the temperature of my kitchen. I stretched and folded the dough three times during this time. Got very good gluten development. Preshape and allow to sit for 5 or so minutes. Shape loaves, then proof for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. Score and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn down to 350 and bake until a thermometer reads 200 degrees or so.

mcs's picture

Baking Times and Temperatures

December 6, 2008 - 12:27pm -- mcs
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Hey there,
These are some of my observations regarding baking times and temperatures as related to different products.  Please feel free to add your own observations as these are based on my own equipment, ingredients, and techniques.



These are convection oven temperatures, so in a standard oven, I would add 25 degrees to each.  I'll be referencing the photo below and referring to both tables above.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I'm a simple girl.  My only requirement of my kitchen appliances and untensils is that they work, and work well, for the application I intend to use them.  This, among other things, is why I replaced the oven that came with this house as soon as financially possible.

I'm a gas person.  Always have been and always will be.  I can't cook very well on an electric stove.  When we went looking for houses before our baby was born, I looked at the range in every house and said no to almost every house that had an electric one.  We didn't really have the money to get a new one right away at the time.  Almost every house...except this one.

There were other very nice things about this house, though.  4 bedrooms.  1.5 bathrooms.  Big dining area that could, someday, turn into a very dreamy kitchen for yours truly.  Big patch of rhubarb on one side of the garage.  Big patch of blackberry bushes on the other side.  A peach tree in the backyard.  Plenty of room for a garden, and a patch that was partitioned off with beams of wood that could easily be turned into some sort of melon or strawberry patch without the rest of the garden being overgrown.

The not-so-nice things were many as well.  Electric range.  Carpet upstairs that didn't look as though it had been changed since the 70's.  A kitchen floor with linoleum so old that it had little bits of dirt permanently ground into it.  Very little counter space.

We got it anyway due to the aforementioned very nice things.  I've always wanted a space for a garden.

Fast forward a few months.  I'm about 5 months pregnant and the annual friends and family sale is going on through Electrolux.  My boyfriend works at the plant here in town, and his sister works at the Beam plant.  So we get the list of things and start perusing, not really thinking of getting anything.  Lo and behold, on the last page, sits my dream: a 5 burner gas range with 5 cubic ft. convection oven.  Big enough to do 4 9" cakes in.  Big enough to bake even the biggest batch of bread that I felt I could handle.  If we'd gone to Lowe's to pick up the same oven, we would've paid close to $1200. In the sale, it was less than $600.

My grandparents wanted to get us a housewarming gift anyway, and so we asked both sets to chip in and then we paid the rest.  I *cried* the day I used it for the first time.  Cookies come out perfect.  Bread bakes up so beautifully.  I thought the crying thing was just because I was pregnant, but sometimes I still get a little teary-eyed when I think about how great it is to have a range that won't burn things on the bottom and leave them raw on top.

So I wanted to say thank you to my oven.  I feed it good dough and it gives me good bread.  Such a harmonious relationship.

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