The Fresh Loaf

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rainbowbrown's picture

Some notes on bagel making.

Sourdough Bagels



I made some sourdough bagels this morning. I used Bwraith's post, which was based on Susanfnp's post, as a guide: Sourdough Bagels Revisited. These were based on Silverton's recipe from _Breads from the La Brea Bakery_. After going back and forth reading Silverton's recipe and the modified ones, I decided to go with Bwraith's post exactly, well as exactly as I could. I made some slip-ups, which really affected my bagels. They taste great, but they are pretty open and bready and they puffed a little too much. I know precisely what my mistakes were and I thought I'd post them for others who might do some bagel making. All that I did wrong were small errors on my part, things like not taking notice of details in the write up and such. Anyhoo, here gos:

The write up called for 90% hydration starter. In my tendency to over look random details I refreshed my starter at 100%. I believe this is why they were bready. The idea of the dough having a slightly higher hydration was already blamed for breadiness in the discussions between Bwraith and Susanfnp and Bwraith discussed it throughout the comments, but it still went right out the other ear, since it was a difference in the starter.

I shaped some of them using the rope method used in the post and I shaped some of them using a method discussed in BBA where you make a roll and then poke a hole in it and twirl it around your finger. I think I like the rope method better, they were more consistently smooth. My mistake here though was I didn't make the center hole big enough and many of them closed up. Again, something discussed in the post, but I wasn't careful to take notice of it. They should have been about 2.5 inches and mine were only about 1.5 inches.

I believe I worked pretty quickly in getting them into the fridge after shaping and in going through the whole boiling baking process, but they still puffed too much. I think I'll blame this on the fact that my kitchen was 68 degrees and steamy. In fact my whole tiny apartment was steamy because of the big pot of boiling water. Next time I'll open the double doors next to my kitchen and let the chilly morning air in. I'm pretty sure the warm stuffiness of my kitchen gave them a good proofing environment for the four minutes that they sat out between the fridge and the oven.

I think that small slip-ups like these can be so easy to come across and I hope that discussing them will help them sink in more, making them easier to avoid in the future.

Now on to the good things:

I used 5% Giusto light rye flour, 15% Giusto whole wheat flour and 80% KA High Gluten flour, which all worked out great. They really taste quite awesome.

I used poppy seeds on some, ground flax seeds on some and kosher salt on some.

I refrigerated my parchment papered sheet pans before I did the shaping so that as I shaped I was putting the bagels on cold pans. I think this may have been a good idea, not quite sure though.

The only other time I have ever made bagels was about six years ago and was before I really began learning about baking. I just picked a recipe and followed it, not having any sort of understanding of what or why I was doing any of it. They turned out bad, real bad. So these bagels are pretty thrilling for me, and now that I know what I'm doing more in baking, I know what I need to do next time to fix it.

One more note is that I began kneading these in my Kitchen Aid and after three minutes the motor began to burn out, so I did the rest by hand. And this was with the hydration a bit too high.


Thank you Bwraith for your massively helpful write-up on your sourdough bagels. Reading it is actually what inspired me to try my hand at bagels again.

I also have a question about the KA high gluten flour. I don't have the Sir Lance A Lot, but the KA organic. The thing is it smelled a little odd to me. And I'm a little hesitant to admit that I know what it smelled like, but I smelled like Jiffy boxed blueberry muffin mix. Anyone know why? The flour was malted and I don't know if I've ever used malted flour before, so I think it could have been that. I don't know...just curious.

And one more question.  As I was shaping, I found that most, but not all of the ropes were a little, I don't know, hollow-ish as I rolled them which made it a little difficult.  Anyone have any insight on this?  

fladad's picture

Flours and measurements

New here and to baking bread.  I've been using all purpose unbleached flour are there any adjustments I should be making when a recipe calls for bread flour or all purpose flour?  Aslo is there any conversion charts on this site, I've noticed some recipes are given in pounds instead of cups, how many cups in a pound, grams in a tablspoon, etc?  Thanks in advance

qahtan's picture

Should it or shouldn't it

 Although I have been making bread etc more years than I care to remember I have a question.

 I always like my loaves baked in pans to have that deep expansion place just under the crust like this of James beard  bread pictured from here in T F L.  Should it look like this or should it be how can I say 'closed'.  qahtan

sour cream bread

MaryinHammondsport's picture

A Quick Way to Convert Volume to Weight in Grams

I just had one of those "duh!" moments, and wanted to share.

If you have become enamoured of converting recipes to grams, as I have, you probably have noticed that there are no conversions tables that cover everything an adventurous baker might want to use. I've been relying on actually weighing out things and keeping notes. Then it hit me -- a resource I have used for other food calculations is available right on the Web and it covers everything you can possibly think of -- or almost.

Go to

and you have easy access to the USDA tables of food data.

At the upper right on the Nutrition Data home page are two boxes where you can enter the food you are looking for. Suppose you want to convert 1/4 of pistachio nut meats to grams. Type in pistachio and pick the category Nuts and Seed Products in the drop down list, then hit Search. you will come up with 3 listings for pistachio nuts. Click on the one you want, and you will be taken to a page with all sorts of information, much of which is not relevant to bakers, but right near the top you will learn that 1 cup of pistachio nutmeats weights 123 grams. If your recipe calls for 1/4 cup, divide by 4 and you are there -- 31 grams.

i checked on what types of flours were listed; there are several dozens. From experience I know that must common ingredients are covered. I've used this resource for purposes other than baking for years, and there is very little that is not listed. I find the organization here much easier to deal with than the USDA site.

I'm just embarrassed that it took me so long to realize I could use it this way.

Mary in Hammondsport where sunshine is finally melting the half inch of ice that fell yesterday.

mse1152's picture

James Beard's Sour Cream Bread

We subscribe to a local CSA group (community supported agriculture), so we get a box of veggies, fruit, and herbs every two weeks. We got some dill last time, so I thought of dill bread...something with cream cheese or sour cream, or even cottage cheese in it. I wanted a break from making lean artisan(al) breads. Gotta go back to the roots every now and then. I modified James Beard's Sour Cream Bread from Beard on Bread, and it came out beautifully. This smelled so good, it was hard to keep from cutting it while it was hot.
















Sour Cream Bread (with my mods and comments in italics)


1 pkg. active dry yeast

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup warm water (100F-115F)

2 cups sour cream, at room temperature

~ 1/3 cup minced onion

~ 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill

1 tablespoon salt (too much. Try a scant 2 t.)

1/4 tsp. baking soda

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted whole wheat for one of the cups)


Combine yeast, water, and sugar. Let sit till foamy. Put sour cream, salt, and soda in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture, onion, and dill. Gradually mix in 4 cups of flour to make a wet, sticky dough. Dump the dough onto a moderately floured surface and continue mixing/kneading (use a dough scraper) for at least 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, to make a workable, less sticky dough. (My hands ended up pretty coated with dough. I used about 2/3 cup above the initial 4 cups). Shape into a ball, and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot till doubled. (I set it at room temperature for one hour, then used my proofing cycle at 85F for another hour).

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 loaves. (I rounded each piece and let them rest about 15 minutes before shaping). Shape into loaves and put into greased loaf pans. (The book calls for 9x5 pans; mine were 8.5x4.5, which may account the the tops exploding.) Cover and let rise again. (I used the proofing cycle for about one hour, at which time the dough crested over the edges of the pans).

Heat oven to 375F. Bake for 30-35 minutes. (I rotated the pans after 15 minutes, and baked for another 15. The internal temp. was at least 200F.) Remove from pans immediately to cool on racks.
















Yum! The bread is soft and flavorful, but just a bit salty. I found that to be true of most of the recipes in this book, but I just forgot to adjust this time. I also think I'd replace more of the AP flour with whole wheat, just to firm up the loaf a bit.

This dough would make great rolls too.


CountryBoy's picture

Sourdough Starter Barely Starting

I am 15 days into a Hodgson Mills Rye flour starter and I have bubbles but only a 50% expansion of the starter.  The ambiant temp is about 66 degrees.

I am using 1:2:2 (starter. flour, water) but it is looking pretty weak.

Do I try

  1. 1:3:3 or more...
  2. Pineapple juice..a dash
  3. A bit of yeast..a dash
  4. More patience..a lot


mike721's picture

5 pound Sourdough Miches

This is a picture of some really big ( for me at least) 5  pound miches that I baked for my Boy Scout troop's dinner, these were 10%
whole wheat, 90% bread flour,made with 'Mikey's NJ' starter, and a big hit at the dinner.

Not the best photography, but you can see how pretty these were
5 pound sourdough boule

I like using part whole wheat ( or rye) in my sourdough, it makes a bread that is definitely not made with plain white flour, but it is white enough  to use as an everyday bread, rather than being a whole grain type of specialty bread. I have been making these loaves with both my own starter  and with one from Carl's friends, both work well, the 'Carl's Oregon Trail'  starter rises a little faster and makes a less sour bread with a rather pale  but tasty crust, the 'Mikey's NJ ' starter rises slower but makes a more  sour loaf, with a richer golden brown crust that I love.

My procedure is to refresh the culture the day before, then after 14 hours  make the dough. About a 4 or 5 hour bulk fermentation with 2 foldings during  it, then the boules are shaped, risen for an hour, and then retarded  overnight. The next morning I take them out of the fridge ( or  the winter I retard there), give them 3 or 4 hours to warm up and finish  proofing, then into the oven at 550 with steam, reduced to 450 after 5 minutes. These big ones I baked for an hour, then lowered the heat since they were getting dark, and left them at 400F for another 20 minutes to make sure they were done. Internal temp was 205 when I took them out of the oven, the crust was crackly and delicious and actually stayed that way, instead of softening as it cooled. I guess that extra baking time helped.

 Mikey in New Jersey


krusty's picture

Yeast-risen cornmeal bread (no-knead)

For those familiar with the no-knead method, here's a recipe that I formulated and tried last week.  The result surpassed my expectations. 

For one loaf:

250 grams unbleached white flour

100 grams fine-ground cornmeal

2 tsps (10 grams) vital wheat gluten

275 grams water

1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp sea salt 

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Let the dough rise until doubled, or refigerate overnight, and leave it to come to room temperature and rise.  Either way, it will take about four hours.  Shape the dough and let it rest for an hour, lightly covered with plastic wrap.  It will rise some more. 

Bake covered at 500 for 30 minutes, then uncovered at 450 for ten minutes.

nbicomputers's picture


        I have heard from the board owner that a few members have had a few unkind things to say about some of the postings that I have placed here.  Thinking about this I kind of thought that those that people deserve an explanation.

I      don’t normally talk about this but it is nothing that I am ashamed of its just personal but here goesI was forced to leave the baking industry due a really serous illnessA few years back I was diagnosed with colon rectal cancer. This was not a polyp but full blown stage 3 cancer.

       Well I was not about to let this stop me being a tough old some bitch I fought this with all I had The result is I’m still here my even though the last blood tests were not great.Well the drugs that I took to fight the cancer 4 years ago were relatively new on the market and there side effects were known but did not really have any long term studies done yet.

     The drug combined with the borderline diabetes I also have cause a neurologic condition which make my feet feel like their in cement buckets making being on my feet for any length of time impossible.  It also has the same effect on my hands which are num most of the time.  If you notice most of the typos are a missed the key I am trying to press and hit the key ether next or underneath. I also had a small stroke during the chemo-rad treatments

     Sympathy  I don’t want like I said I’m a tough old some bitch and 4 years after the diagnoses I’m still here with the five year survival point just around the corner. I since all this happened I have been trying to pass all that have learned to others that, like myself love to bake.

   I have already done this with my 20 something year old son who is presently employed at Peter Kelly’s latest 4 star restaurant in Yonkers as the pastry chef.

     With all this extra time on my hands I needed to something to keep myself from going crazy. I started a small consulting company setting up and designing of computer systems for bakeries.  I expanded that to other markets and a small retail computer service business, also consulting on some new projects for product development that because on contracts a cannot talk about

      Without a professional kitchen at my command and thinking about my early days when baking I started doing research on ways the home baker could get the same results from a home kitchen using professional formulas that have been reduced to amounts that can be handled in a home kitchen.     And modified methods and equipment that can be found or made  with easily located materials ( all though some things specific to recipe or two that you just can’t do without  (like making chicken soup without chicken you just can’t do it)    A book is in the works but I don’t know if I have to time to finish it.

    So that’s it,  If i offend it is not my intention to do so,  if I talk as though time is short it’s because it is.  If I post something that you don’t understand, ill explain it  all can call me on Skype or email or phone.

    I offer My experience here to expand the already large base of information from all the other bakers here   And if you do not want my help feel free to ignore me I don’t offend easily.   

      With so few young people going into the baking industry  (they all want jobs behind a desk with nice clean hands)  soon the only way you will ever get to taste something other than wonder bread and ho ho’s will be to make it yourself. 

   How would you even know about it if you never saw, smelled or touched it  (children born today will never see touch or listen to a 33 rpm record)  and while there are many good books there. Most of them (that I have read) seem to hold back a little something or not explain with adequate detail so the home baker never really has a chance to make something as good as the author can. 

    So that’s all folks I just want to help and pass on what I have so it does not get lost and the generations to come don’t end off living off of wonder bread.

Ps:  if any one reading this does not know where the expression “that’s all folks” came from ask your parents better still if you’re lucky enough your grandparents to explain it to you am sure they will happy to!

PPs: this was copied and  paste from microsoft word and it would seem that all the formating was lost. i formated it.

ohc5e's picture

Sourdough Pizza

On Thursday of last week, I made pizza dough using my 100% hydration sourdough starter. I let it ferment at room temperature for a few hours before putting it in the fridge for 3 days to ferment.  After the long wait, I am happy to say the pizza turned out great.  I found a great site on the web for pizza dough run by a serious home pizza-maker.  Its got a lot of great information about Neapolitan style pizza, not all of which I followed. (i.e. I ignored the advice to cut off the door lock of my oven so that I could use the self-clean function to bake my pizzas at 700 degrees--I guess I just don't have enough commitment to the home-pizza making cause!).  I heated my pizza stone for an hour at 550 and used my broiler on high to cook the pizzas, which were cooked in roughly three and half minutes.  The crust was chewy and soft in the middle with a crispy, lightly charred outer crust.  The sauce was made from imported San Marzano tomatoes that I pureed with an immersion blender, two gloves of smashed, raw garlic, and a handful of torn fresh basil.  I used mozzarella that I bought today at a great Italian specialty store in Brooklyn (Caputo Fine Foods) that makes the mozzarella fresh every morning and salts it in a brine right in front of you--amazing.  I'm sure the pizza would have been almost the same using some good, fresh mozzarella from the grocery store but this was especially good .  I added a couple of tablespoons of fresh grated parmigiano cheese and when the pies came out, a healthy dose of olive oil.  I'm stuffed and can definitely say the pizza was worth the wait.  The link to Jeff Varasano's pizza site is  He gives very detailed instructions on kneading, etc that makes for an interesting read...

The dough was really wet compared to most pizza doughs I've made before which resulted in a failed first effort at stretching the dough.  But I did much better on my next try and by the third and fourth, I had the process down.  I just had to turn the dough much faster than I'm used to. I used a mixture of KA bread flour and imported Molino Caputo Tipo 00 pizza flour from Italy.  I used roughly three-quarters "00" and one-quarter KA bread flour, if I remember correctly.  The finely milled flour has a gluten percentage of about 11.5%.  I'm interested to try it in a ciabatta recipe.  You can buy it from  Shipping was pretty reasonable considering.  I bought 5, 2.2lb bags for about $30, including shipping.  

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