The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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cinnamonshops's picture

Arva flour problems - pale crust

Hey all,

Not sure how many Canadians frequent this site (though I know there are some!), but this might be a more general question anyway. I recently bought a bag of Arva Unbleached White Hard Wheat Flour to use for bread, and it seems as though it's resulting in loaves that barely brown at all. Is there anything else that could be causing this? I used it in two or three different recipes, one sourdough and the others not, and all resulted in pale, pale breads. They weren't terrible aside from that, but it's definitely not right.

To put things in some perspective, I just previously made a sourdough loaf (Nancy Silverton's standard white sourdough) in which, as I recall, I used half of the Arva flour and half of what seems like a really nice red fife flour, and the crust was the most beautiful (deep red-brown) I've yet achieved.

Aside from the fact that I've been using different recipes, the other variables are the same (same crappy oven, etc). I've also been experimenting in all cases with a new homemade flowerpot cloche.



Laura T.'s picture
Laura T.

The purpose of stretch-and-fold

Hi all. JUst a quick one and I'm sure many of you will be able to give me the answer to this, but what exactly is the purpose of s&f? I'm wondering if it is just to stretch the gluten, etc or if it serves another purpose? The reason being, I am curious as to whether s&f would add anything to my gluten-free baking.

Cob's picture

Terrible London (UK) bakeries...

....are all over my parts.

I've not had much luck with those recommended by the Real Bread campaign. Some of the bread I've bought have really shocked/peeved me off equally.

£3-4 for a sourdough that's worse than mine (my SD is not actually bad!)? Just because it's organic and real. Do not know what's up with that.

Most days I love to bake bread. Some days I like to buy bread and take a day off.

Now I've heard of many good bakeries, such as the E5 Bakehouse and Old Post Office bakery. I don't mean chains such as Gails, Paul's or le pain quotidienne.

What are your favourite loaves worth paying for at which bakeries? I never hear of small, local bakeries.

yamum360's picture

second batch

so I've just baked by second batch, took some pictures and I'm hoping for some feedback.

the method i used involved a refrigerated starter, I removed it from the fridge, added half of my mother starter (as it was time for a feeding anyway) mixed it and left for a few hours to reach room temperature, scooped out 200g, and added 100g of feed and 100g of water, then left it to double, this i divided evenly into two bowls, in one bowl i threw 8 cups of wholemeal, the other, 8 cups of rye and hefty amount of seeds (flax, poppy, chia), to each I added a tablespoon of salt, then added water until I got a dough I was happy with, kneaded for 10/15 minutes, then divided each in half and shaped into loaves. I let these proof overnight, covered with a wet cloth (about 12 hours). First thing this morning I preheated my oven to 200C and baked one of the wholemeal, one of the rye (on a pizza stone) and didn't get nearly as much oven spring as I expected, in fact I barely got any. will post more pictures of these once they've cooled enough to cut into.

so I knocked back the other two, gave them a quick knead, reshaped and currently have them rising again, uncovered. is there something I should be doing differently? I'm quite an experienced baker with commercial bakers yeast, but am still very new to sourdough, I thought that maybe I should just go back to baking with white and work from there, but I'd rather not.

erranbaker's picture

sourdough substitution

I want to convert a dry yeast formula to sourdough. How do I do this? For Brioche or sweet dough for buns?

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

Recommendations for Dutch Oven needed/appreciated

I usually bake in loaf pans, but I occasionally have tried the Dutch Oven method. I have used Pyrex for small loaves and cast iron for larger loaves. Both have worked, but they have their limitations.

I'd like to devote more time to Dutch Oven baking and have some good equipment. Recommendations of size and brand would be appreciated.

Joe McPlumber's picture
Joe McPlumber

Good Starter, Bad Bread


I have very vigorous wild culture i captured here in the California foothills. "SpongeBob" is an organic whole wheat starter who i try to keep at 100%. I'm new to this so i'm not sure what 100% is supposed to look like but SpongeBob is a spongy(!) mass when risen and about the consistency of a stiff cookie dough when newly fed.

My only unconventional caretaking practice is, i can't bring myself to throw any away and so feedings are generally added to whatever amount of starter is in the bowl. That amount fluctuates depending on how much i use and i know that throws off the hydration so i just try to adjust the flour until i have the same approximate consistency as i do when doing it the right way.


Despite many attempts with many recipes i have yet to produce a good loaf. They are usually dense and heavy, although my wife says that they are very tasty.

I began with a no-knead recipe from Instructables .(, however that recipe is short on details for handling the dough after the first rise. I think that my dough collapsed at the point where he says to "turn" it, and i didn't get a second rise.

Since then, because it seemed it should be fool-proof, i've been using the 1-2-3 mixture for my dough and various strategies for proofing and baking. It's almost always the same story. Dough collapses, doesn't double again, and doesn't spring in the oven.

Here's the thing... i'm told that the way to get tasty bread is with longer proofing times. So usually what i've done is mix up the dough at night (and stretch and fold it in some cases), then deal with it in the morning. At that point it is usually something more than doubled and full of tiny bubbles. Thus, it collapses when handled. I can't get it formed suitable to a loaf pan, much less the more advanced shaping. It's too spongy, sticky and wet, and anything i do from that point on is slapstick comedy as i try to unstick the dough from here only to stick it to there. Then i can't get a second rise and i don't know if it's because the dough is exhausted or because it got handled too roughly.

I also tried making my dough in the daytime and keeping something of an eye on it so it didn't get over-proofed. The result, it was under-proofed and tasted like dirt.

Sorry for being so wordy but i am confused and frustrated and even in all this verbosity i probably omitted critical details. I will try to remember them if someone will try to coax the right ones out of me. I'm wondering, e.g., if my starter is way too hungry and consumes the dough before it is sufficiently proofed? I mean, does that happen? What might i possibly be doing wrong and how does a newbie go about making subtle adjustments to established recipes and procedures? I should just like to get *one* decent loaf so i can duplicate the procedure.


- joe

AlamedaSteve's picture

Sour Baguette

Pretty convinced that a decent sour baguette was beyond reach, I decided to give it a try anyway;.........and, I think I got lucky right out of the chute.

I know a lot of bakers have been quite frustrated, so I will attempt to describe the process I used, in the hopes it may help others in their quest.

Okay, I wanted a shiny, crispy/crunchy crust with not a lot of bread volume, so I knew I was going to need a pretty wet, somewhat difficult-to-handle mix.  Here's what I used:

1100g Sir Lancelot

500g wet starter

100g cracked wheat

750g water

40g salt

Rough mix all but the salt, autolyze 30mins, rough mix in salt.  3 s&f's at 45min intervals, then proof for 90mins.  Carefully divide into nine 10oz pieces (fits my stone and oven), let rest 15mins, shape, couche on linen lined cookie sheet, slip into garbage bag, then into fridge for 10 to 15hrs.

Next day - bring oven to 500deg.  Remove cookie sheet from fridge and carefully flip one loaf onto semolina'ed piece of hvy foil, score, SEAL FOIL completely around loaf, leaving room for spring, then into oven, reduce to 450deg.

Bake for 7.5mins, remove packet from oven using peel, cut open the packet to allow all the steam to escape, and return to oven.  After another 7.5 mins, remove from oven, peel foil away from loaf, return to oven, turn up oven to 500deg, turn on convection fan if you have one - this last step is to brown crust to desired finish.  It takes about 10mins more, turning after 5mins for even doneness.

Loaves come out 14" x 2" x 1".

I think what most people have the most difficulty with is the crust.  Using any of the spritzing, boiling water pans, etc I don't think my oven is capable of achieving what I want, but by packaging the loaf, there is more than enough moisture in the mix to do the job - in fact, if you leave the package sealed for longer than 7.5mins, you will have a hard time cracking through the crust.

I hope this is of some help to those who are embarking on the search themselves.

Here are photos that I hope will show the process I used to help makes things a little clearer.


The baguette second from the left, I forgot to score before packaging, so I slit after steaming. 

Good luck.




lmirage's picture

Large bread pans

Where can I find large commercial bread pans?  I want to make the big loaf like commercial breads.  The biggest loaf pan I can find is 9X5X5.  It doesn't really make a satisfying sandwich with a tiny slice.

golgi70's picture

Farmers Market Week 9 (Cracked Wheat Sour)

So local grain has slowly started to make its way back into the market and I chose to use a local Red Winter Wheat grown in Honeydew, Ca about an hour and a half from here.  I splurged and bought 7 lbs to make a 60% Whole Wheat Sour w/ Cracked Wheat.  

I've opted to push the envelope with whole grain with this project and my setup requires retarding of formed loaves so I can get through the multiple bakes.  I have just devised an alternate route in which if final retarding won't work I can shape and preheat my oven (takes 2 hours plus) so that its ready as the bread is.  But I will retard loaves when they are about 75% proofed just to slow them enough to get through the bake.  I will experiment with this maybe next week.  Then instead I can bulk retard the whole dough if desired. 

Back to this loaf.  So I made two builds of wheat on a touch of my white starter.  The first was more to change it to wheat and the second the levain.  The first build was 12 hours and looked really happy and healthy when I fed it again.  I expected a 5-6 rise but it was doubled in 2 hours.  Since I couldn't mix for a few hours I retarded it at this stage.  I autolysed the final dough flour for 6 hours.  I soaked the cracked wheat with hot water 6 hours as well.  The first loaves I baked I pulled from retarder an hour before baking.  Not liking the spring or results so much i followed baking straight from the retarder with much better results   I'm not sure where to place the blame on the spotting of color.  I think I coulda have shortened the bulk ferment and I probably should have added some malt.

Finally on my steaming progress.  I went to the beach and collected a bunch of rocks instead of paying for lava rocks.  This works nicely and you can hear the steam continue for longer.  I need another beach run for more and I think I'll have a good thing going.  


Build 1 (12 hours) Makes 1 - 1 kg loaf

30 g freshly milled red winter wheat (actually a few weeks old)

27 g H20

3 g  white starter (100%)


Build 2 (2 hours for me and then retarded until needed but watch yours)

49  Wheat Starter (90% hydration)

98  Fresh milled red winter wheat

85.75  H20


Soaker: Soaked for 6 hours

50  cracked Wheat

37.5  Hot H20



167 Fresh Milled Hard Red Winter Wheat

200 Bread Flour (11.5 % protein)

323.3 H20 (hold out 10 percent)

11  Salt


Autolyse Dough at least 30 minutes before finish mix.  

(I went for 5 1/2 hrs)

Add levain and mix on speed 1 to incorporate.  (5 mijnutes)

Add salt and continue mixing on speed 1 for until mixed in.

Mix on speed 2 (low medium on my 4 speed machine)

Mix until medium development.  Add grain soaker and additional h20 and mix in on speed 1( This took about 5 minutes).  Finish on speed 2 for a minute.

Bulk Ferment 4 hours with 5 S+F at 30 minutes. 

*this is what I did and I think I would shorten the bulk ferment by at least 30 minutes if not an hour.  Also I'd do the s + f's at 15-20 minute intervals.  

Shape, proof at room temp for 1 hour and retard for 8 hours.  Bake cold with steam.  

Pictures to come after market



First loaves here.  The ones I pulled from retarder for an hour pre bake. Not great spring very little blooming and no grigne.

Now for the remainder I baked straight from retarder and got great spring.  Good Bloom and some serious grigne

This is the crumb from the first set that didn't pop as much.  I sliced a nicer loaf later and forgot to take a picture but it was even better.

So we got some plums (2 types), local honey, salad mix, breakfast sausage, walla walla onions, brocolli, fennel, kale, zukes, fresh cantelope, and a loaf of 25% wholegrain flax seed cranberry ciabatta.  

Happy Baking