The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Red Fife

chris_smeaton's picture

Ref Fife

October 13, 2012 - 9:29pm -- chris_smeaton

I just picked up some Red Fife Flour from an old grist mill in Delta Ontario. The mill is over 100 years old and is a national historic site.


Any suggestions for a complimentary loaf to bake with this type of flour?

New to the site, hope I have placed this in the correct part of the forum.




Franko's picture


Pane de Campagne with Red Fife 75% sifted and Rye Bread with Barley 

The bread I've been making most often over the last month or so is a Country style bread similar to Robertson's Tartine CB that I've adjusted to suit my preference for a more sour flavour than his formula results in. The percentage of leaven is 15% greater than Robertson's 20%, and instead of using just white and whole wheat flours, it has a mix of AP, Red Fife 75% sifted, and Dark Rye flours, all of them organic. The combination of these three flours in the respective percentages of 75%, 15% and 10% seems to be the sweet spot for my tastes and makes for a well rounded flavour profile that I enjoy eating on a daily basis. Mostly it gets used in sandwiches but I like it for toast and preserves as well, making it a versatile bread for my everyday use. The dough has a 2 1/2 hour bulk ferment in the Brod & Taylor proofer at 76F/24C, with a stretch & fold at 60 and 120 minutes. After it's rested for a 1/2 hour it goes into the refrigerator covered until I get home from work the next afternoon, about 20 hours later. I have previously made this bread in only one day but the flavour result is nowhere near as deep or complex as when it's left for the long haul. That this long cold fermentation also accommodates my work schedule is a huge bonus for me since I don't always have time to bake on my days off. Other than that the procedure is much the same as for Tartine Country Bread, though I don't necessarily use a Dutch Oven when baking it off, simply because I don't always want a boule shaped loaf. The batard shaped loaves won't develop the nice dark caramelization that they would in a DO environment, but sometimes a batard shape is preferable for sandwich making. I guess I'll have to wait until I can build or buy a WFO to have it both ways. Until then, baking directly on the stone delivers a well flavoured crust, that if I've taken it at the right point (slightly less than full proof), will send shards of crust flying as soon as the knife bites into it. So far my brother, step-son, and his father-in-law have all tried it and loved it, but that's sort of like preaching to the converted since they like their bread on the sour side anyway. The Red Fife sifted used in this formula I realize has limited availability to most folks, but I think that a high extraction flour or a sifted whole wheat would work just fine. Having enough of the bran in small particles gives this formula a good deal of it's flavour, but doesn't create a coarse texture and mouth-feel, which I feel gives the bread a broader range of appeal...if you like your bread tangy to begin with.

 Procedure for Pain de Campagne with Red Fife 75% sifted 

  • Mix all ingredients for levain and ripen for 14-18 hours @ 70F

  • Final dough:

  • Autolyse the flours and water for 1 hour.

    Mix all ingredients except the salt on 1st speed for 3-4 minutes until dough is cohesive. Add the salt and continue mixing for 7-8 minutes on 2nd speed until the dough is uniform and well developed.

  • Bulk ferment at 76F for 2 hours giving 2 stretch and folds in the first 2 hours. Place dough in refrigerator over night, or for up to 18 hours. Remove from fridge and bring allow the dough to sit at room temp for 90 minutes.

  • Round lightly and rest for 20 minutes.

  • Shape as desired.

  • Final rise of 2-3 hours @ 78F or until slightly less than fully proofed.

  • Place on a floured or parchment covered peel, score as desired, and bake in a preheated 500F oven with stone or Dutch Oven. Use preferred steaming method if baking on a stone.

  • Reduce oven heat to 460 and bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the loaf for even colouring ( remove the lid if using a DO) and bake for 25-35 minutes longer. * Note* heavier loaves of 1600 grams or more will require longer baking times as will higher hydration loaves.

  • Turn the oven off, prop the door open slightly and leave the loaf in the oven for 20 minutes to cool gradually.

  • Wrap the loaf in linen and place on a wire rack for 12 hours or longer before slicing.

    The formula spreadsheet can be found through the link below.

 This next loaf is one of my bread experiments gone uncharacteristically right on a first try for a pleasant change. Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery' is a book I've been reading off and on over the Fall, which I think had a lot to do with finally deciding to make a bread that uses barley as part of the grist. I've consumed a fair bit of barley over the years but mostly in liquid form, so shortly before the week of Christmas I picked up some whole barley grain at the local organic store to see if I could come up with a way to use it in a sour bread of some kind. The 'barley project' needed to be put on hold till after Christmas, as other more Seasonal matters took precedence, giving me some time to think about how to use the barley. Taking inspiration from some of Andy's/ananda  posts where he utilizes a “boil-up” as he calls it, for softening various grains before adding into his bread mixes, I thought this would be a good place to start. At this point I hadn't formalized a recipe, nor did I have an entirely clear concept of what I wanted or how to go about it, other than the boil -up. It's funny how sometimes it takes forever to come up with a formula concept, while at other times it can just come to you while watching a pot of water come to a boil. While I was watching the water and barley simmering away, softening and opening, I thought to myself that this eventual mash would be an excellent medium to grow wild yeast for beer perhaps? One of those light bulb moments for someone who doesn't brew beer. Once the grains were soft enough to mash with a fork and had cooled to room temp, mature rye starter, along with a scant amount of salt was added to the mash. The plan was to let the mash ferment slowly over the course of a few days to build flavour, the addition of salt would help keep it in check and hopefully prevent a runaway fermentation. After 4 days at 70F in the B&T proofer, the mash had developed a distinctly (or stinky according to my wife) sour nose to it. Rather than push it any further and run the risk of contamination the mash was transferred to the fridge for safe keeping until I was ready to use it in the final mix. Including an altus in the mix came to me just the day before I'd planned to make the bread when I ran across a heel of Horst Bandel Pumpernickel in our freezer. I remembered having saved it for this very purpose and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to use it up. The mix itself went as it would for a typical high ratio rye bread, with little gluten development and a sticky paste to work with. With some minor adjustments for hydration it formed a slightly wet paste, but came together without too much effort. Bulk ferment was around 80 minutes at 81F/27C, then shaped, using the wet hands/scraper method to form it into a log shape then deposited into a 4 1/2”x 9 1/2” Pullman tin, sprinkled with barley flakes, lid on, and set in the B&T proofer for a final rise of 2 1/2 hours at 81F/27C.

Full formula and procedure below.

After 20 minutes in the oven the bread was giving off a noticeably beery aroma that gradually changed to a rich, roasted fragrance of grain and malt over the remaining course of the bake. At first taste the bread is just inside my sour tolerance level, but the flavour is fantastic! Malty, sweet & sour, with a moist, chewy bite to it, it's the sort of bread that delivers on all levels. I expect it will pair well with other foods once it's mellowed over the next few days and the initial sharpness has come in to balance with the other ingredients, but my guess is I'll be eating most of it just for it's flavour alone.


Wishing everyone the very best for the New Year!






Combine the water and whole barley in a heavy bottom pot and bring to a slow boil, cooking and stirring till the grains become soft. Add the rye meal and salt, stir and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mix the rye and barley mash 4-5 days in advance of the final mix and allow to ripen at room temperature 70F/21C for the first 48 hrs, then keep in the fridge or at a temperature of 50F/10C max until ready to make final mix. Allow the mash to come to room temperature before including in the final mix, or gently warm on low in the microwave. The mash should have a strong sour smell when ready to use and longer ripening times may be necessary.



Mix the mature sour with all of the water and 50% of the rye flour and ripen for 14-18 hr at 70F/21C with the second feeding of rye flour at the midway point of the ripening period.



Soak the old rye bread in hot water and leave overnight. Squeeze as much water as possible from the bread, reserving the water for the final mix. The old bread should be of a high percentage rye bread, the darker the better.


Final Mix DDT-81-84F/27-28C

Combine all the ingredients except the sour and mix till thoroughly combined. Add the sour and continue mixing till the paste is smooth and uniform. Using wet hands and a scraper, work the paste on the bench by scraping and folding it over itself for several minutes, adjusting hydration as needed to achieve a medium consistency. The dough should be slightly on the wet and sticky side. Place the paste in a bowl and begin the bulk ferment.


Bulk Ferment

Ferment the paste for 60-90 minutes. Times will vary according to individual conditions, but the paste should show a small increase in volume during this period.


Shaping and Final Rise

Form the paste into a log shape and deposit in a 4 1/2” x 9 1/2” paper lined or well glazed Pullman pan. Smooth the paste evenly into the corners and along the sides creating a slight peak from the sides to the center of the surface. Sprinkle the top evenly with barley flakes, brushing with water if needed to make them stick. Begin the final rise at a temperature of 82F/27-28C with some humidity present. Allow the paste to rise to within 3/4”-1/2” of the top of the pan before sliding the cover of the Pullman over top. The final rise may take upwards of 2 1/2 hours and should be monitored every 30 minutes to avoid over-proofing.



Place the closed pan on a baking stone in a well preheated 500F/260C oven and bake for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature to 460F/238C. Continue to bake for 45-50 minutes then lower the heat to 375 for an additional 15-20 minutes. Check the loaf to see if it has pulled away from the sides of the pan. If not continue baking till it has. Remove the lid from the pan, turn the heat off and leave the loaf in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan before de-panning to a wire rack. Wrap in linen and cool for 12-24 hours before slicing.

The formula spreadsheet can be found through the link below.


inkedbaker's picture

playing with my new favorite flour, very nutty tasting flour, makes fantastic bread loaves.

autopi's picture

red fife

August 20, 2011 - 6:14pm -- autopi

We just moved to Toront from the US, and have been noticing the use of Red Fife flour at a number of bakeries around town, and saw some milled red fife flour for sale at a farmer's market. I asked around and got some inconsistent answers as to its gluten content, and how to use it in bread baking. I am used to using KAF AP and bread flours for my breads. Should I treat red fife as like whole wheat, or can I substitute it 100% for AP and/or bread flour, e.g. in a baguette or pizza or pain au levain recipe?

Franko's picture


Earlier this month I decided it was time to start over and build a brand new rye starter for myself since my old one had become adulterated with various types of wheat flour over the last few months and I wanted a pure rye sour to use in some upcoming projects I have in mind. I'd hoped it would be ready by this weekend but it's seems the pH went out of balance over the last few days making it not quite ready for prime time. The cupboard was bare for bread and I needed something for the next days sandwiches so I thought I'd just make something using a poolish that I could leave overnight and mix up for a dough the next morning. My first thought was to make a baguette dough with the poolish, inspired by Larry's recent post of what he called his “odds and ends” as well as LindyD's terrific post of the Hamelman series of videos that took us through the entire process of baguette production.

The problem with that kind of dough for me is that while I love the flavour of baguettes, I'm not keen on having a wide open cell structure if I'm making a bread to be used for sandwiches, nor did I want a long skinny loaf. What I ended up doing was using more or less the same ingredients and percentages for a baguette dough but reducing the hydration and adding some of my dormant rye sour to the final mix for a bit of extra flavour. Honestly I'm not sure what to call this bread other than rustic or hearth style, which is fine with me since the name is less important to me than the end result. I'd intended to make two large loaves from the dough but when it came time to divide it I decided to make some baguette shapes after all, just for fun and to get some shaping practice in at the same time. In the end I wound up making 2x 250gram and 1x500 gram baguette shapes and the remaining dough as a simple hearth style loaf. The two small baguette shaped loaves turned out OK, but the scoring and final proof on the larger one left a lot to be desired. The hearth loaf had a good jump and formed a nice crunchy crust with Sylvia's steam system providing plenty of steam during the initial bake. The bread has a nice balance of flavour, with the malt and rye sour doing a kind of sweet and sour thing that works well with the nutty wheat flavour of the Red Fife poolish. The crumb is what I hoping for, with no large holes and fairly uniform, so while it's not close to being a baguette type of crumb, it did make for a good sandwich bread which is what I was after from the beginning.



Hearth Style Bread with Red Fife Poolish










Red Fife 75% sifted flour















Final Dough



All Purpose flour






Rye sour-inactive









Malt syrup-diastatic









Total Hydration










Mix the poolish and ripen for 12-16 hrs @ 65F


Mixing by machine:

Add all ingredients to mixing bowl and mix on 1st for 3 minutes then 2nd for 3-4 ½ minutes. DDT-76F

Mixing by hand:

Add all ingredients to mixing bowl and mix by hand for 10 minutes until you have a soft, slightly loose dough. DDT-76F Note: a slightly higher water temp should be used to make up for lack of friction heat from hand mixing v machine mixing.


Bulk Ferment-2 hrs. Fold once after 1 hr, repeat if needed for proper development.

Divide in 250 grm pieces for small baguette shapes or 500 grm for large baguette shapes, the remaining dough for batards. Preshape in rounds and rest for 15 minutes.

Shape accordingly and proof for 1-1 ½ hrs. Score as desired.

Bake at 480F with constant steam for 10 minutes. Remove steam apparatus and lower oven to 440 and continue baking for 10-15 longer for baguettes , 20-25 minutes for batard. Cool thoroughly before slicing.




Franko's picture

For the bread I wanted to bake this week I didn't have to look too far to find the recipe I was after. Right next to the Whole Wheat Levain in Hamelman's Bread that I baked last week is his Whole Wheat Multigrain which also uses a levain. Over the last six months I've accumulated a lot of various grains and thought I'd try to use some of them up since I'm running out of room in my storage bin. As well, I wanted a recipe that I could use the Red Fife whole wheat flour in, so this seemed like the perfect fit. The only changes I made to the formula were to increase the amount of grains by 18% and the overall hydration by about 4% , putting it into the high 70's. The grains used were millet, oatmeal, cracked wheat, rye chops, and the last of some seven grain mix I've had since last February. The millet made up 40% of the hot soaker, and the remaining grains were divided in roughly equal proportions. Since the formula includes 1% of bakers yeast in addition to the levain, this is by far the quickest rising levain style bread I've made so far, taking just a little over 5hrs and an easy one day 'mix to oven' levain bread. The loaves were baked using the dutch oven method, the boule baked totally in the lid/pot combo and the batard on the stone covered with the pot. So far I've had better results using the pot/stone combo for even bottom colour, as the lid/pot method tends to darken it more than I'd like. Earlier this week in a reply to Mini on another post I described it as scorching, but it's not even that, it's just uneven colouring since there's no 'burnt' taste to the loaf. The DO we have is heavy aluminum rather than iron so that may be where the problem lies, I'm not sure. I'm considering having a piece of baking stone cut to size to fit inside the lid and see if that doesn't correct the problem, or I may just go for a genuine Lodge CC. At any rate, both loaves turned out well I thought, with a crunchy crust and a nice chewy, even textured crumb. This is a good everyday bread for sandwiches or toast, and although it uses a levain it's very mild in acidity but with lots of deep wheaty flavour that bread lovers will enjoy. If there was any downside to this bake it's that I've just enough Red Fife flour left for one more mix, meaning my trip down Island to Cowichan Bay for more will have to be sooner than I'd thought. The RF flour is so nice to work with and makes such tasty bread I really don't mind having to literally go the extra mile/s to get some more.

All the Best,




Franko's picture

Pain au Levain with Red Fife Whole Wheat Flour

Every year in November Marie and I make a point of attending one of our local Christmas craft fairs in hopes of finding some unique items for gift giving as well as for ourselves. This year the fair had more vendors than I've seen in previous years, with lots of newcomers from various locales in BC as well as Washington state. One of the newcomers was a fellow by the name of Bruce Stewart who owns and operates a craft bakery called True Grain Bread in Cowichan Bay here on Vancouver Island .

When I met Bruce he was handing out samples of his Christmas fruit cake to a group of folks and quickly offered some to Marie and I. Now I'm not usually a big fan of fruit cake but this was exceptional, and superior to any I've had in the past. Bruce is a very genial guy and clearly has a lot of enthusiasm and passion for his craft and product, so the two of us easily fell into a conversation when I mentioned that I was a professional baker as well. At his bakery Bruce mills most of the flour he uses on site, to make a wide variety of breads, including rye, spelt, kamut, emmer, and most interesting to me, Red Fife wheat . Red Fife is one of Canada's premier grains and listed on the Slow Food Organization's 'ark of taste' as Canada's first presidium. For more background on this click the link below.

If you look on the left of the page in the link above you'll find another link to the 'Ark of Taste' which lists all the various foods of countries that the Slow Food Org considers worthy of cataloguing and preserving for future generations. Our TFL members from the USA might find it interesting to note that they have 139 listings for various food groups, more I believe than any of the other nations listed.

While I was chatting with Bruce I noticed he had some bags of flour for sale and asked if he had any Red Fife that I could buy, as I've yet to run across it for sale at any of my usual sources for flour. Bruce smiled and asked me if I wanted the sifted or the whole grain and how many bags. I went with a bag of whole grain Red Fife and a bag of his unbleached organic white , which is one that he doesn't mill himself. I'm kicking myself now for not getting the Red Fife sifted, but it gives me an excuse to take a drive down Island and pick some up at his bakery and maybe get a tour of his shop as well.

Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour was the formula I decided to use the Red Fife in since his formulas are so reliable and familiar to me. First I needed to convert some left over liquid whole wheat starter to a stiff starter using the Red Fife, and then to a levain for the final mix. This took a few days of feedings before it was good and active, and ready for use. I mixed the levain one night before going to bed , intending to use it the next day when I got home from work. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. We've been having some record cold temperatures here on Vancouver Island this last week, making my 70k commute to work in the wee hours of the morning somewhat treacherous. While I was at work my wife called to tell me that another front was moving in and another dump of snow was expected to happen overnight. I decided to stay in town that night rather than try and do the drive back up Island the next morning in even worse road conditions than we already had. Realizing I'd probably have to start over again with the levain was slightly disappointing but preferable to finding myself off the road in a ditch... or worse. The next afternoon I managed to get home without any problems thankfully, and immediately tested the levain to see if it had any life left. Lo and behold it did, popping to the surface of a bowl of warm water I'd placed a few grams in. The rest of the mix went according to Hamelman's directions, but mixed by hand. I'd scaled the mix so that I'd have two 900 gram dough pieces for baking, which I then molded after a 3hr bulk ferment as a batard and a boule, covered with linen, and put overnight on a shelf in our very cold garage to finish a slow rise.

The next morning I checked the loaves and was surprised to find that they'd risen quite a bit more than I'd expected due to an overnight warming of the outside ambient temperature. I could tell the batard was over proofed, but not so far gone it wasn't worth baking off, and the boule looked to be fine in it's banneton. The batard was baked first, on the stone with a foil roasting pan covering it for the first 20 minutes, and the boule was baked using the Dutch oven method. The batard turned out as expected, with low volume and spring, but the boule baked off quite well I thought, with lots of expansion, a good jump, and no wild splits.

To my taste the Red Fife has a certain sweetness to it that I don't find in other whole wheat flours, and which helps to bring out it's rich wheat flavour. Combined with the white and medium rye flours called for in Hamelman's recipe it works nicely to boost the overall flavour of his very good formula. This bread will go perfectly with tomorrow nights meal of red wine braised short ribs and a white bean and tomato gratin that I'm making for our family dinner.

It looks like things are warming up a bit now and the roads are getting back to normal, so with any luck I'll be able to make the drive down to Cowichan Bay to pay Bruce and his bakery a visit sometime in early 2011.

Best Wishes,



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