The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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stgermain's picture

Southern Style Yeast Rolls

My Grandmother's Yeast Rolls

Hi - I am new here but after reading so many comments from knowledgable bakers, I thought I would ask for your thoughts/opinions.  I remember my grandmother baking yeast rolls (with cake yeast) that were approximately 4" high, moist, and with an almost silky texture - not at all crumbly.  Does anyone know of a recipe and techniques that might help me replicate her rolls?  Any comments would be appreicated.

Stephmo's picture

Soft Pretzels - Alton Brown Style

I love soft pretzels - who doesn't?  I just never seem to get them outside of fair settings.

And then the other week, Alton Brown did a show on homemade pretzels - it was a sign! So I went to the food network's site and I grabbed the recipe. (

The Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (note, I simply used Kosher salt)

ALTON: Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

So Alton's all into proofing the yeast - and I must say that I only do this because the instructions say so.  At some point I'll stop since I'm really only convinced this is a leftover from poor production methods of old - but look, it bubbles:

ALTON: Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Now it's all about letting the KitchenAid do the work. I add the melted butter and the flour. You may notice Alton's recipe does specify flour by weight. I actually do have a scale where I can zero out my mixing bowl with ingredients, so I'm able to pour 22 ounces of flour exactly. From here, I let the mixer do it's thing for 5 minutes until the dough is nice and ready:

ALTON: Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Rising time. Recipe calls for an hour, but this is fast-acting - in 30 minutes, I'm more than doubled:

ALTON: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I tear my into 8 pieces and lightly oil my counter so I can roll these into ropes and form them into pretzel shapes. I'll admit that it's not as supple as I'm expecting it to be, but that's okay. While I do this, I have water boiling on the stove and the oven preheating:

Hint from me to you - do put in the baking soda before the water is boiling - if you think you see white crusty stuff on the sides of the pot, you do. I added the baking soda while the water was boiling and got a mini-science experiment. Luckily no spillover, but I laughed. I basically boiled each pretzel for 30 seconds and scooped it out with a wire scoop (this gives the pretzel texture):

At this point, I give the pretzels an egg wash and bake them for 13 minutes. Look what I get:

If you're wondering - but is it a chewy, doughy piece of pretzel goodness? Well - take a look at this crumb:

Yes, this is good stuff - I will be making this again!


Poolish Baguettes


I don’t make white breads often, but there’s nothing quite like a few homemade baguettes to accompany an elegant meal. This recipe was adapted from “Bread” by Jeffrey Hammelman.

Overall formula:

    * White flour: 100%
    * Water: 66%
    * Salt: 2%
    * Instant yeast: 0.36%
    * 33% of the flour is pre-fermented as a poolish at 100% hydration with .07% yeast

    * White flour: 160 grams or 1.25 cups
    * Water: 160 grams or ½ cup + 3 Tbs
    * Instant yeast: Just an eeny-weeny pinch (about 1/32 of a tsp)

Final dough:
    * All of the poolish
    * White flour: 320 grams oz or 2.5 cups
    * Water: 160 gram or ½ cup + 3 Tbs
    * Salt: 9 grams or 1.25 tsp
    * Instant yeast: 1 to 2 grams or 1/2 + 1/8 tsp

The night before: Preferment
The night before, dissolve the yeast into the water for the poolish, and then mix in the flour. Cover and let it ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours. Once the poolish has bubbles breaking on top and has started to wrinkle, it's ready. It'll also smell really nice - sweet and nutty. Mmmm.

Mixing and dough development
For the final dough, measure out the water and pour it into the poolish to loosen it up. Then pour the entire mixture into a bowl. Mix together the salt, yeast and flour, and then add it to the bowl as well. Mix it all up with a spoon and, once everything is hydrated, knead it the traditional way, until it passes the windowpane test. Cover and let it ferment for two hours, giving it a stretch-and-fold at the one hour mark.

If you’re making baguettes, divide the dough into three pieces, and preshape into rounds. Cover and let them rest about 20 minutes. Then shape into baguettes about 12 inches longg and cover, letting them rise for about 1 hour to 90 minutes.

Score and bake on a preheated stone in a 460 degree oven with steam for about 25 minutes.

If you want to make a round or a batard, you’ll need to bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.

zolablue's picture

Sourdough Challah (photos & recipe)

I baked my first challah last Thursday and wanted to share.

I was unsure what to expect but it was so much fun. I’d been meaning for some time to bake a recipe from Maggie Glezer’s book, A Blessing of Bread, which is a wonderful compilation of traditional Jewish recipes from around the world. Floyd has written a very nice review of the book here.

I decided to start with Glezer’s own personal recipe for sourdough challah. I love making sourdough and was interested to see what the texture of this bread would be compared to a yeasted challah which I have eaten only a couple times.

The recipe seemed easy to me despite the fact Glezer calls it expert. I’m not sure why but, again, I’m new to challah. The dough was so easy to mix together and then, as Glezer puts it, the time involved is mostly waiting after that.

She says to bake it to a dark brown which I did. I’m not sure if it is considered too dark or not but it was really a beautiful color and I do typically bake my bread darker as she instructs in Artisan Baking.

The crumb was amazing to me. It was very creamy and soft and almost reminded me of an angel food cake. It has remained moist to this day (5 days later) as there are only two of us to eat and can’t quite get rid of all the bread I bake. I am going to cut very thick slices of what is remaining to freeze and later use to make French toast.

I decided for my maiden voyage into challah bread I would make an elaborate braid. I used the six-strand braid version and got a lot of help from the video Glezer did showing how to do it. Gosh, the internet is awesome! Just as she said it makes a beautiful, very high loaf.

Braiding ChallahFine Cooking Video, Maggie Glezer

I’m posting the recipe so those of you who are new to challah as I am can have a chance to make it and perhaps will be inspired to buy this lovely book. For those who have made challah for years I’d love it if you tried the recipe and let me know your thoughts on it compared the some of your favorite traditional recipes.

More of my photos can be seen here:

Thank you to each and every one of you on this site that have been such inspirations in baking such as Floyd, Bill Wraith, Susanfnp, Mountaindog, JMonkey, Browndog, Bluezebra, Eric, SDBaker, Mini Oven, Dolf, Qahtan, Zainab and so many others. All you wonderful bakers have helped me incredibly along the way over the past few months that I have been baking so many thanks to all.

My Sourdough Challah - Maggie Glezer's personal recipe from her book, A Blessing of Bread

Sweet sourdough breads are delicious and well worth the time (which is mainly waiting time) if you are a sourdough baker. The sourdough adds a subtle tang to my challah, and the crumb has a moister, creamier texture that keeps even longer than the yeasted version. While it’s true that challah or, for that matter, all bread was at one time sourdough (the Hebrew word for leaven, chametz, means “sour”), challahs have definitely gotten sweeter and richer since the introduction of commercial yeast. To convert such recipes back to 100 percent sourdough, the sugar has to be cut back in order for the dough to rise in a reasonable length of time (sugar that is more than 12 percent of the flour weight inhibits fermentation), so this version will taste slightly less sweet than the yeasted one, a deficit completely overridden by the rich complexity of the sourdough. I have also changed the all-purpose flour to bread flour, which has more gluten, to counteract the starter’s propensity to loosen the gluten (the acids in the starter change the proteins, a natural part of sourdough baking).

Skill Level: Expert

Time: About 20 hours (about 8 1/2 hours on baking day)

Makes: Two 1-pound (450-gram) challahs, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) challah plus three rolls, or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) rolls

Recipe synopsis: Make the sourdough starter and let if ferment overnight for 12 hours. The next day, mix the dough and let it ferment for 2 hours. Shape the dough and let it proof for 5 hours. Bake the breads for 15 to 40 minutes, depending on their size.

For the starter:

2 tablespoons (35 grams/1.2 ounces) very active, fully fermented firm sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier

1/3 cup (80 grams/2.8 ounces) warm water

About 1 cup (135 grams/4.8 ounces) bread flour

For final dough:

1/4 cup (60 grams/2 ounces) warm water

3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing

1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams/0.3 ounce) table salt

1/4 cup (55 grams/1.9 ounces) vegetable oil

3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.3 ounces) mild honey or a scant 1/3 cup (60 grams/2.1 ounces) granulated sugar

About 3 cups (400 grams/14 ounces) bread flour

Fully fermented sourdough starter

Evening before baking - mixing the sourdough starter: Knead starter into water until it is partially dissolved, then stir in the flour. Knead this firm dough until it is smooth. Remove 1 cup (200grams/7 ounces) of the starter to use in the final dough and place it in a sealed container at least four times its volume. (Place the remaining starter in a sealed container and refrigerate to use in the next bake.) Let the starter ferment until it has tripled in volume and is just starting to deflate, 8 to 12 hours.

Baking day - Mixing the dough:

In a large bowl, beat together the water, the 3 eggs, salt, oil, and honey (measure the oil first, then use the same cup for measuring the honey — the oil will coat the cup and let the honey just slip right out) or sugar until the salt has dissolved and the mixture is fairly well combined. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix in the bread flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface, add the starter, and knead until the dough is smooth, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now to clean and warm it for fermenting the dough.) This dough is very firm and should feel almost like modeling clay. If the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons flour.

The dough should feel smooth and very firm but be easy to knead.

Fermenting the dough:

Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for about 2 hours. It will probably not rise much, if at all.

Shaping and proofing the dough:

Line one or two large baking sheets, with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound (450-gram) portions for loaves, one 1 1/2 pound (680-gram) portion for a large loaf and three small pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this without a scale is to divide the dough into quarters and use one quarter for the rolls and the rest for the large loaf), or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) portions for rolls. Braid or shape them as desired, position them on the prepared sheet(s), and cover them well with plastic wrap. Let proof until tripled in size, about 5 hours.

Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the lower and upper third positions if using two baking sheets or arrange one rack in the upper third position if using one sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). If desired, preheat one or two baking sheets to double with the baking sheet(s) the loaves are on. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the breads.

Baking the loaves:

When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, the 1-pound (450-gram) loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) loaf for 35 to 45 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the loaves from front to back so that they brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Quantum's picture

Sourdough Bagels (recipe!)


For my first blog post (on what my girlfriend refers to as "the bread facebook"), I'd like to share my recipe for sourdough bagels. I started with Hamelman's bagel recipe from Bread (a fantastic technical book, as I'm sure many of you know!), adapted for sourdough starter in lieu of commercial yeast. The end result is lightly sour and wonderfully chewy, and pairs exceptionally well with savory spreads. This recipe makes a dozen ~~120g bagels.

A note on ingredients: I used King Arthur brand Bread Flour (blue and white bag), and my sourdough starter is fed exclusively with King Arthur Whole Wheat (red and brown bag). Hamelman's recipe calls for a high gluten flour (e.g. KA Sir Lancelot), which I do not have ready access to--- I've instead added a small amount of vital wheat gluten to the recipe in order to bring the protein level of the bread flour up to that of Sir Lancelot. If you have access to high gluten flour, I'd imagine you can substitute the vital wheat gluten for an equivalent weight of high gluten flour.

I've tried to include as many photos as possible, but I'm limited to using my cell phone's camera so I apologize for any quality issues/the aspect ratio!



84g bread flour

84g water

171g 100% hydration sourdough starter


Bulk dough:

753g bread flour

20g vital wheat gluten

19g salt

1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder

377g water


The recipe also requires 4oz of malt syrup (or honey) per gallon of water used to boil the bagels prior to baking.

Mix the preferment ingredients in a plastic covered bowl, and allow to ferment at room temperature for 10-12 hours. After this period of fermentation, the preferment should be very bubbly--- you should see bubbles on the surface and gently knocking the bowl on a countertop should liberate more bubbles.

Dissolve the preferment in the bulk dough water in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the bulk dough ingredients and stir together to form a shaggy mass.

Knead for 20 to 25 minutes if kneading by hand--- when I first developed this recipe, I didn't have a stand mixer and kneaded this dough by hand exclusively. It's a stiff, strong dough, and is a heck of an upper body workout. I gifted myself a Kitchenaid model 7581 mixer, and used it to knead this batch of bagels (I've included some thoughts on its performance at the end of this post). Using a stand mixer, knead for 15-17 minutes on speed 1. The gluten should be very well developed, and the dough should feel strong and heavy.

Let rest a few minutes and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour (it was a chilly day in the SF bay, and my kitchen was quite cold, so this particular batch of dough rested for an hour and a half). These two pictures show before and after--- note that the dough has not really visibly risen:

Scale and divide the dough into approximately 120g portions. When I scale the bagels, the portions I cut using a bench knife usually come off in a "log" shape--- the next step in shaping this log will determine the size of the hole at the center of the bagel. Option 1: roll the log out as is to a length of 10" to 12". Option 2: fold the log back onto itself (like a horseshoe) and then roll out to a length of 10" to 12". Option 2 stretches the gluten in the dough more than option 1, and will result in a bagel with a smaller hole (and a rounder bagel overall) since the gluten will snap back after forming the bagel, while the relaxed gluten in option 1 will yield a bagel with a larger hole. Note: shaping bagels requires a decent amount of work space--- I often just work directly on my (well cleaned) countertop.

Take the rolled out log and wrap it around your palm like so:

Now roll the ring of dough (palm down) on your work surface to seal the two ends of the bagel together:

Place each formed bagel on a sheet of parchment paper sprayed with Pam:

Note: the bagel in the right column and second row was formed as per option 1 above, while the bagel right below it was formed as per option 2.

Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (since my kitchen was cold, I again lengthened the rest to 90 minutes). Note the bagels have risen visibly, but just barely:

I've only ever tried this once, but at this point the bagels should pass the "float test"--- they should float in a bowl of cold water.

Place the sheet of bagels in the refrigerator and allow to cold ferment for 12-24 hours (the longer the ferment the better the flavor!).

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and move a rack to the middle position. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and stir in your malt syrup/honey (4oz of syrup/honey per gallon of water, I generally use 7-8 quarts of water).

Boil the bagels four at a time for 1-2 minutes (the longer the boil, the chewier the crust of the bagel--- I generally boil mine for the full 2 minutes). The bagels tend to sink at first, and can stick to the bottom of the pot if you're not careful. Stir them around at first to keep them from settling onto the bottom. The bagels should float by the end of the boil. Remove the boiled bagels to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet to drain.

While the next set of bagels is boiling, press the drained bagels into a plate of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc. My personal favorite topping is a sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground telicherry peppercorns. Place the topped bagels topping side down on a sheet pan.

Once all the bagels have been topped and placed on the baking sheet, put the sheet in the oven and bake (topping side down) at 500F for 10 minutes. Flip the bagels (topping side up now), and bake for another 6-8 minutes (or until bagels are golden brown.

Note the untopped bagels on the bottom row have browned quite a bit--- I like the color, but if the bagels brown too deeply for your taste, bake with a second baking sheet underneath the first.

The crumb looks great--- plenty of nooks and crannies for cream cheese! My favorite spread is a little butter mixed with marmite.

The bagels toast extremely well, and will keep fresh for a few days in a breadbox. They keep well in the freezer--- wrap in a paper sack and place in a plastic freezer bag. Thaw, toast and enjoy!

A special thanks to dmsnyder, whose San Joaquin Sourdough inspired me to experiment in naturally leavened breads.

A note re: my Kitchenaid Mixer's performance:

I know that KA mixers are somewhat... contentious... 'round these parts, but sadly a Hobart mixer is beyond the means of my PhD student teaching stipend. I ordered a refurbished Kitchenaid model 7851 7 quart stand mixer for just over 300 USD, and hoped that it would hold up to stiff low hydration dough. The mixer performed impeccably in this respect--- it was able to handle a full batch of bagel dough on speed 1 with no difficulties whatsoever, and the top of the mixer was not even perceptibly warm after 15 minutes of kneading. The mixer head itself was warm to the touch, but I would not call it "hot". I did try to knead the dough on speed 2 for a few minutes (the mixer manual warns not to knead dough at speeds higher than 2), but at points the mixer seemed to strain slightly, probably not enough to damage the motor in any way unless kneading for hours at a time. I should say as well that I have used my mother's 6 quart KA mixer to make this same recipe, and while it was capable of kneading the dough, the top of the mixer was quite warm afterwards and it seemed to strain even at speed 1. The more powerful motor in the 7 quart series mixers seems to make the difference. In short, the 7 quart series of KA mixers can easily handle a batch of a dozen bagels. 

GSnyde's picture

SF Country Sourdough – My Best Ever…Not Sure Why

They say everything happens for a reason, and I believe them.  But I can’t always identify the reasons some things happen.  Why was this bake of the San Francisco Country Sourdough (my version of pain de campagne) the best ever?   This was probably the 7th or 8th time I’ve baked it, but this one had that je-ne-sais-what like my best bakes of Tartine BCB and last week’s bake of Hamelman’s pain au levain.  Beautifully caramelized, golden brown, crispy crust; moist, airy-but-substantial crumb, with nicely gelatinized membranes; complex wheaty flavor with a hint of rye.

I guess I should compare this to other bakes of the same formula.

Here’s what was the same:

  • The ingredients and the basic technique (described below).

Here’s what might have been different:

  • My starter was very active (after last week’s near-death experience).
  • Both the primary ferment (3 ¼ hours) and the proof (2 ¼ hours) were on the long side.
  • My handling/shaping skills are improving, and I got a nice taut sheath.
  • I made a recipe-and-a-half so I could cold retard one loaf’s worth to bake tomorrow for some friends.

Whatever factor(s) made the difference, I hope I can do it again.

And excellent with some early Autumn barbecue.

San Francisco Country Sourdough (Sourdough Pain de Campagne) version 10-8-11

Yield: Two 750g Loaves; or Three Mini-Baguettes (235g each) and one 800g Loaf; or One 1000g loaf and two 250g baguettes; 0r Three 500 gram loaves; or…   



100 grams   AP flour

24 grams  Whole Wheat flour

12 grams  Whole rye flour

170 grams   Water, cool (60 F or so)

28     Mature culture (75% hydration)

FINAL DOUGH (67% hydration, including levain)

640 grams   All-Purpose flour (83%)*

85 grams  Whole wheat flour (11%)**

45 grams   Whole rye flour (6%)

435 grams   Warm water (80 F or so) (56%)

17 grams   Salt (2%)

306     Liquid levain  (48%)   

* used CM Artisan Baker’s Craft (malted)

** used CM Organic Hi-protein fine whole wheat


1. LIQUID LEVAIN:  Make the final build 12 to 15 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 70°F

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary.  Cover the bowl and let stand for an autolyse phase of 30 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, and finish mixing 5 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. 

3. BULK FERMENTATION WITH S&F:  3 hours. Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl twice 20-strokes at 45-minute intervals.  Place dough ball in lightly oiled bowl, and stretch and fold on lightly floured board at 45 minutes.  If the dough has not increased in size by 75% or so, let it go a bit longer.

4. RETARDED BULK FERMENTATION (optional):  After second S&F on board, form dough into ball and then place again in lightly oiled bowl.  Refrigerate 8-20 hours, depending on sourness desired and scheduling convenience.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: [Note: if bulk retarded, let dough come to room temperature for 30-90 minutes before pre-shaping.]  Divide the dough into pieces and pre-shape.  Let sit on board for 30-45 minutes, and then shape into boules or batards or baguettes.

6. PROOFING: Approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours at 72° F. Ready when poke test dictates.  Pre-heat oven to 500 with steam apparatus in place.

7. BAKING: Slash loaves.  Bake with steam, on stone.  Turn oven to 450 °F after it hits 500F after loading loaves.  Remove steaming apparatus after 12 minutes (10 for baguettes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes total (for 750g loaves; less for smaller loaves).   Rotate loaves for evenness as necessary.  When done (205 F internal temp), leave loaves on stone with oven door ajar 10 minutes.

Happy baking!


Submitted to


RonRay's picture

Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Crackers

Previous blog:

I know that most of us, that culture wild yeast, seldom actually "discard" the discards of our sourdough. Of course, it is not unusual to hear someone new to keeping a sourdough culture remarking that they hate to have to through out the discards. And again, of course, a dozen replies of "No! Make pancakes..." or "Oh, no! Make waffles... ". Well, from now on, I will be crying "No! Make sourdough crackers.. The older the discards, the better the crackers!"

Naturally, that does assume you like sour sourdough, but the crackers are great even with "un-sour" sourdough discards, Rye Sour, etc. or even non-discarded levain as the leavening ingredient.

I came across a year old post by Sarah Wood on using your discard for whole wheat crackers. The link is:
It certainly looked simple enough, so I tried it. I am certainly glad I did, although, a batch never last very long and another few hundred calories have been ingested.

So, here is a step by step, complete with photos, Baker's percentages, some suggestions, and pointers on the ingredients and process. Even if you are not of an experimental curiosity by nature, I suspect you will have some ideas for variations you would like to try.

A small amount Sesame Oil, or Olive Oil to brush the top of the crackers and Kosher salt to sprinkle over the oiled surface will also be needed.

Substitutions of butter or lard can be made for the coconut oil, but I prefer the coconut oil, either the Extra Virgin, or the Expeller types.

Notice that I chose the ingredient amounts to exactly match the Baker's percentages. This batch size works very well for one sheet of crackers per Silpat baking sheet and a 100 grams of discards is an equally reasonable size. If you wish, make multiples of this amount and store in the fridge until you want more crackers.

I do want to mention some considerations to keep in mind when using coconut oil. Using the Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is my first choice, Expeller Coconut Oil is my second and neither one requires special consideration in a warmer kitchen, but if the kitchen temperature, or the dough temperature, is below about 78ºF ( 25.5º C) then you should either use methods to maintain the temperature of all ingredients about 78ºF ( 25.5º C) during the mixing phase, or use softened butter. Coconut oil is liquid from about the 75ºF ( 23.9º C) and above. Adding it in a mix of cold, fresh out of the fridge, levain may very well cause lumpy, difficult dough conditions. Once the full mixing is complete, this is no longer of any potential problem.

Let your finished crackers cool before placing (if any are uneaten) in an airtight container to preserve their crispness.

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   Next Blog:



bwraith's picture

Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread Loaves

This bread is an attempt to improve on the results from a previous blog entry. This one also has a spelt levain, but it was designed to rise overnight with only a small quantity of 90% hydration white flour starter added. The levain was added to the dough when it was not very ripe, before it had peaked and dipped. The percentage of fermented flour is about 32%, but the less ripe starter results in flavor and dough handling more like what you would expect if you used a lower percentage of fermented flour. The whole spelt flour contributes a characteristic nutty, slightly sweet flavor to the bread. I was very happy with the flavor resulting from this combination of flours and plan to use it more often for this bread and for my favorite mixed grain miche recipe. The hydration is about 83%, which for a whole grain bread is not enough to make it very wet or difficult to handle. However, it is a slightly slack and sticky dough. It should spread out only a little bit after sitting on the counter, not like a very wet ciabatta dough that might spread out more quickly and more or less pour out of the bowl until it has been folded more.

Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread Crumb

I have posted some photos, videos of my version of doing a "French Fold" and of periodic "Folding" during bulk fermentation, and also a spreadsheet with some further information such as baker's percentages, fermented flour percentages, and hydration.


Firm Levain:

  • 90% hydration storage starter 11g (0.4 oz) (use any healthy active sourdough starter here, ideally contributing the same amount of fermented flour, e.g. use more like 9 grams of 60% hydration firm starter)
  • whole spelt flour 298g (10.5 oz)
  • water 184g (6.5 oz)

Overnight Soak Ingredients:

  • malt syrup 40g (1.4 oz)
  • diastatic malt powder 5g (.16 oz)
  • whole red wheat flour 397g (14 oz)
  • whole white wheat flour 170g (6 oz)
  • KA rye blend 57g (2 oz)
  • water 581g (20.5 oz)

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • overnight soak from above
  • firm levain from above
  • salt 17g (.6 oz)
  • olive oil 28g (1 oz)


Mix levain ingredients the night before you plan to bake. The levain is designed to rise by about double in 10 hours at a temperature of 75F. Adjust accordingly if you have different temperatures. It is not a problem if the levain rises by more than double or peaks and dips. However, if it is allowed to ripen too much, you may experience a sluggish rise or other symptoms similar to overproofing sourdough, since the amount of fermented flour contributed by this recipe is fairly high. I added this levain when it had a little more than doubled, but it was clearly not at its peak yet.

Overnight Soak

Mix all the flour and other dry ingredients for the overnight soak together well, so they are fully integrated and uniformly distributed. Mix the malt syrup and water so that the malt syrup is fully dissolved and well distributed in the water. Pour the water into the bowl and use a dough scraper to work around the bowl and mix the flour and water well enough to fully and uniformly hydrate the flour. This should be very easy and take only a couple of minutes of mixing. You can also use a mixer, but use very slow settings and do not overdo it. The idea is to just mix the ingredients. Cover and put in the refrigerator.

Mix Final Dough (next morning)

Chop up the levain into small pieces about the size of marshmallows. Wet your hands and rub the counter with water. Pour the dough from the overnight soak out onto the counter and spread it out like a pizza. Distribute the pieces of levain evenly across the dough. Press them in with the heel of you hand. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other. Allow it to rest for a few minutes. Again wet your hands and the counter if it needs it. Spread out the dough again like a pizza. Evenly spread the salt and the oil over the surface of the dough and press it into the dough again with the heel of your hand. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other. Let it rest a few minutes. Spread it out one more time like a pizza. Work across the dough pressing the heels of your hands deep into the dough to integrate any oil and salt that may not have already been well integrated into the dough. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other.

Let rest for 15 minutes.

Do two or three "French Folds", as shown in the video. Note that this is a good technique for developing the gluten in a wet dough that may not respond well to conventional kneading. Also, note, when I say two or three, I mean literally about 10 seconds, like two repetitions of the motion, as shown in the video. That is all the "kneading" that was done to make this bread. Place the dough in a covered bucket or bowl to rise.

Bulk Fermentation and Periodic Folding

The dough should rise by double in about 4 hours at 75F, but the folding will degas the dough somewhat, so lean toward less than double, depending on how much you are degassing the dough while folding. Also, adjust accordingly if your temperature is different or your starter is faster or slower. Try not to let this dough ferment too long. The high percentage of fermented flour in the dough and the spelt flour will conspire against you if you allow the dough to rise for too long. If in doubt, stop the bulk fermentation and go on to shaping, even if the dough doesn't rise by double.

Fold the dough about three times approximately on the hour, as shown in the "Folding" video. If the dough appears to be wet enough to relax significantly before one hour, then fold sooner. If the dough appears to be fairly stiff and holding its shape or is hard to stretch when you fold it, then fold less often or fewer times.


Create sandwich loaves using a typical batard technique or whatever method you prefer. Place loaves in typical loaf pans that are about 9 inches long by 4.5 inches wide. I sprayed the pans lightly with oil beforehand to avoid any sticking.

Final Proof

Allow loaves to rise by roughly double in about 2.5 hours at 75F. Again, adjust your proofing time as necessary for different temperatures or different starter. Once again, avoid overproofing, which is easier to do inadvertently with less tolerant spelt flour and the higher percentage of fermented flour in this recipe.


I slashed the loaves and baked them from a cold start for 1 hour and 5 minutes at 400F after proofing for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Although the dough is not as wet as some, it still should be thoroughly baked. Otherwise the crumb will be overly moist and the crust will become soggy.


When the loaves are done, remove them from the pans and allow them to cool on a rack. Do not cut into them, if you can resist, at least until they are no longer warm to the touch.


I was very pleased with the flavor of this bread. The sourdough flavor from the spelt starter is delicious, there is no bitter flavor of whole wheat that I can detect, and the spelt adds a unique and mild flavor. The bread toasts very well and carries any type of topping, since the crumb is open and light but not so irregular that honey or other wet ingredients fall right through it.

Lesson Five: Ten Tips for Better French Bread

I've been baking something along the lines of what Americans call French Bread (a simple bread containing flour, salt, yeast, and water baked directly on a hearth or baking stone) almost every weekend for over a year now. Sometimes I bake more than one batch a weekend.

Over these 50 or 60 batches of bread there has been consistent improvement in the quality of my breads. Certainly there have been failures but, without question, I've gotten a lot better. Compare the tightness of the crumb of the breads I baked in my early lessons with the openness of my recent loaves. Much closer to what French Bread is supposed to be.

Through trial-and-error, by reading a lot of good baking books, and through numerous discussions with folks on this site I've learned a number of things worth passing on to other folks who want to try making artisan bread at home. Most of these rules hold true whether you are trying to bake pain sur poolish, pain de campagne, Ciabatta, or a rustic bread by any other name. Keep these tips in mind and bake regularly and you'll be making top notch artisan breads (whatever you want to call them) in no time.

Without further ado, the list:

Ten Tips For Better French Bread

10. Use Good Ingredients

9. Use a Preferment

8. Autolyse

7. The Wetter, The Better

6. Folding & Shaping

5. Slow Rise

4. Scoring

3. Bake with High Heat

2. Use a Baking Stone

1. Steam the Oven

0. Practice!

On to Number 10: Use Good Ingredients.

Floydm's picture

Crepes of Wrath

crepe muncher

We've been reading a ton of Petzi books to our son. All of the drawings of Petzi eating crepes forced me to make crepes this weekend (yes, forced me... my life is so tough).

These were good in the morning, but the best part has been having extras in the fridge. I pull one out, spread on some Nutella, and zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds and they are as good as new.

I've used a few different recipes in the past, but I really like this one from Beth Hensberger's Bread Bible. It is extremely simple.


Makes 15 to 20 crepes

3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup water or light beer
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons melted butter (add a dash of salt if you are using unsalted butter)

Mix everything together with a blender, hand mixer, or whisk until it is smooth and the consistency of cream. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.

Lightly grease a skillet or crepe pan and heat over medium heat. Pour a scoop of batter onto the pan and tilt the pan to spread the batter around (or use a plastic scraper to do so). After a minute or so flip the crepe over and bake until the other side is slightly browned, 30 seconds or so.

Serve with whatever filling you like. We did Nutella and black current jam. Both were excellent.

As I mentioned, leftover crepes can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for a good long while. We actually didn't have any left over, but I made a second batch the next morning because we enjoyed them so much. It is almost time for me to make a third batch!