The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Chausiubao's picture

The last time I made a lean dough, the results were dissatisfying. A small opening, poor flavor, and a lusterless crust having none of the virtues of oven venting. Truly, it was my own fault. I neglected the mantras of pre-ferments and long fermentation cycles. And it is very likely I under-proofed it as well. Taking the time I've been given, I've decided to try and rectify those oversights. I went about making my preferment, calculating the proper water temperature. But it was all for nothing! I overlooked the need for cold pre-ferment and cold water, and as a result, lost control of the fermentation process. But in the end I achieved one of my goals of getting a more open crumb.

If it isn't too vain of me, I really want to make attractive bread. Then again no matter how beautiful your bread, that first bite solidifies that love that sets in when you see a particularly pretty loaf, so you need both. But if structure is function, a beautiful baguette is a well made baguette. Part of the reason I mixed this formula was to get a little experience making bread with a more open crumb. As a home baker, that goal has been elusive; but I also want to make tasty bread!

The pre-ferment had to go through the night without over-proofing so I mixed it dry at 60% hydration with one third of the formula's yeast, bringing the pre-ferment to 0.5% yeast. It was mixed just enough, then allowed to bulk ferment overnight. The mix itself was a straight mix, and was developed to just shy of an improved window, three periods of 45 minute bulk fermentation followed, each period was punctuated with double letter folds. Ultimately two, one-kilogram rounds sprang from the dough and were shaped into batards. Baked at 450 F until done, they were vented around eight minutes.

My, my that was boring. But it got the job done. I made a number of mistakes this time, on top of the mistakes that I made the last time. But luckily, those mistakes I didn't make again, except for the possibility of over-proofing, rather then under-proofing. But these things happen. I probably should have put the pre-ferment away after it got some momentum, better results would have come from letting it go long and slow in the cold. I also should have put my water pitcher in the refrigerator so I'd have the option of cold water for mixing. Since I did neither of those two, I couldn't control my dough temperature. With all my temperatures in the low 80s, 15 F is the water I needed. The best I could do was 78 F water. Ultimately the dough came out at 82 F, a bit higher then the 75 F sweet spot. All manner of other troubles befell my bread, I'll list them for you; lack of tension in my finished shape, perpendicular scores of varying lengths, and skinned over shapes.

The flavor was definitely less robust then I'd like, I'm certain this is a result of the fast fermentation the dough went through. 0.6% yeast and it was probably doubled in size within 60 minutes. The water was too hot, something I could have avoided. And that is the easiest error to fix. If I had but remembered to put away the pre-ferment or put away my water pitcher. No bigger problems lie in the smaller mistakes. I must shape tighter, score more consistently, and wrap my mind around some type of proofer. I cannot have my shapes skinning over! And I don't have a couche, and even if I did, the air is so dry here in Colorado. I'll have to figure something out to fix that. It is by far, the largest of my problems. I will put it beside my mind until my next day off; farewell!


Chausiubao's picture



With respect to hydration, I think I've decided to tell myself, “You know what hydration you want, go get it.” Having set out to make challah, I dutifully followed a formula, as the ingredients rumbled about in the bowl, ploddingly worked by the dough hook (which I may say is doing a mighty fine job at mixing bread doughs, it is quite a surprise I must say. I'll have to put away the elitism of hand mixing for the present.), it was nothing but a pie dough without the liquid. Quite surprised I certainly was. After a few revolutions I decided to add some water, and if I were called to account, I'd probably say I brought the water up to around 50-55%. Not even having taken into account the oil and eggs that go into the mix!

I also discovered I am in desperate need of a spray bottle. That is, if I intend to practice my braiding and gain the practiced hands to do some decorative pieces for work. That was the intention for all this after all! But I'll say no more about that. All these braided doughs require a rather stiff consistency, which means dry, which means unfavorable conditions that are certainly accentuated by the climate I've found myself in. The air is a good deal drier here at 6000 ft above sea level. What was I talking about? Probably something unnecessary.

I've found without milk powder, or buttermilk powder or whatever I can find really, the white bread formula I did last week just didn't cut it. It wasn't toothsome like I like; like Chinese bread is. Not that I have any legitimate Chinese bread recipes, but that is why I have to feel them out until they're passable. So I go from one extreme to the other, from the soft white bread of American wonder bread companies to the not so American, super strandy challah, which I know is a good toothsome bread.

I just poured myself some Santa Cruz brand limeade. And as I was doing so, I was thinking to myself, “Well hasn't this been a little digression! We should get back to talking about challah.” But as it turns out, the few sentences I put down before said glass of limeade happened to be about challah! Fancy that.

Well the challah is in the oven now. It has got a whopping 3% of yeast! That is substantial, considering the aforementioned white bread formula, so called, “pain de mie” has only 1.6%, so challah is about twice as well yeasted as that loaf ever was. But one can't simply scan over numbers and make blind comparisons. There is something to be said for understanding, conceptual especially; when we take into account pain de mie is at 50% hydration, while comparatively, this particular mix of challah is at 50% or so. Hydration facilitates fermentation; while yeast is more abundant in this challah formula, the rates of fermentation might very well be equivalent! There is proportionally more fat and sugar in challah as well, so the slight differences in the yeast percentages after taking hydration into account are probably hand wavingly explained away by that. Actually scratch that, those are all lies. They're both at about 50% hydration, although there is more fat and eggs in pain de mie, so it might could be true, but the percentages are actually quite similar. So it appears that this particular challah formula is just well yeasted.

If I might drift back into a nostalgic haze, you know I actually can't remember why I was going to do that. But I was going to glow a little about how I egg washed the challah. I did it three times! The first time because I wanted to keep the dough from drying, the second time because it did, and the third time because I wanted it to dry before the loaves went into the oven. And thats very important! You should have seen how glossy the dried egg wash was on the unbaked loaves. It was positively the most spectacularly shiny dough I've ever seen.

Well I've probably rambled enough. My this limeade is delicious. Perhaps you've gleaned something of value from my meandering through the afternoon whilst mixing, shaping, and baking up a storm. At the least, you've seen a glimpse of, well of something.

 My my, it looks like the challah got overbaked. Well you can see it anyways, but next time I'll have to amend the baking time, I'm going to say its closer to 15 minutes rather then 20 minutes.

Schrödinger's Other Cat's picture
Schrödinger's O...


Very long time baker, long time reader, first post.




Made this bread for  15 year or more, no written recipe. Use organic flour from Drabæks Mølle A/S  the Danish miller (3/4 all-purpose, 1/4 whole wheat), sea salt, L'Hirondelle yeast. High hydration, long ferment (18 hour), minimal knead. Bake in lidded Pyrex, 25 minute @ 500F, remove lid 20 minute @ 450F.

Next project learn how to score bread as many here are so successful and learn to bake Indian naan.

Best wishes,



BKSinAZ's picture

Problem: Bread slices falling apart easily.

August 20, 2011 - 10:37am -- BKSinAZ

Only when I substitute any whole wheat into my sandwich bread recipes, the slices of bread fall apart very easily; almost crumble to the touch.

My 100% white flour breads do not have this issue.

I used this KA recipe

I used KA white flour and in the recipe you will notice that it calls for 3 cups. I only substituted 1/2 cup (one half cup) of freshly grounded whole wheat berries (Red)

stephy711's picture

Find more recipes on my blog Dessert Before Dinner


Everyone in the family loved this recipe. It was great with butter and trout roe when it was fresh out of the oven, and this morning it was perfect with cream cheese and smoked salmon. The crumb is tender and the crust was firm, creating a wonderful contrast. It's great right now, but this bread will be even better with soup or smoked fish in the winter. Like all brown breads, this is a hearty, winter weather bread. It has a very complex flavor and it is even better a day or two later.

Russian Black Bread 

  • 2 packs active yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¼ oz (1 cup) wheat bran
  • 13 oz (3 cups) bread flour
  • 11.25 oz (3 cups) rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp ground dark roast coffee
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

    1. Heat 2 cups water, butter, chocolate, molasses, coffee grounds and vinegar on stove until butter and chocolate are melted. Set in refrigerator to cool. Too hot liquids will damage the yeast.Proof yeast with ½ cup water and pinch of sugar
    2. Sift together flours and bran.
    3. In separate bowl, add fennel, shallots, caraway and 2 cups of the mixed flours. Add chocolate mixture and yeast to the flour. Continue adding flour half a cup at a time until the mixture pulls away from the mixing bowl.
    4. Knead until mixture is springy yet dense. Place in oiled bowl and let proof until doubled in size (about a hour and a half).
    5. Remove dough from bowl and divide into two pieces. Shape pieces into boules and dust tops with cornmeal, flour and caraway mixture. Let rest for 45 minutes
    6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, slash tops of loaves. Bake for 45 minutes or until dark.
dolcebaker's picture

semolina flour

August 6, 2011 - 11:35am -- dolcebaker

I have added durum semolina flour to breads in the past, and have a recipe for a bread mostly made from this, I noticed that it seems to make the bread moister.  What is it about the semolina that causes this?  Can I add it to other 'dry' products to add moisture?  I am thinking that it just retains more water vs a high gluten flour (bread), and expect that whole wheat flour may do the same thing becuse of the bran?  Does semolina which I thought was just a different kind of wheat (harder) act the same way bran does?  (thinking as I type :o)



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