The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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pjgoyea's picture

sweet sourdough starter??


Has anyone heard of the Herman cake? It calls for a sweet sourdough starter. The directions for the starter calls for a lot more sugar than I used in making my starter. My question is can I just use regular sourdough starter to make the Herman? and if not can I use a cup of my starter to make a sweeter starter to use for the Herman. Thanks for any help.

Simon280586's picture

Does steam affect the oven thermostat? I'm losing heat.

I've been having trouble keeping my oven at the desired temperature when baking bread.

We've moved house recently and I'm still trying to adapt to the new oven. It has coils at the top and bottom, as well as a fan. I've got two baking stones in there (above and below the bread), as well as a cast iron pan at the bottom for steam. I tend to give the oven a good preheat with the fan running, about an hour, until it gets to about 260c. Then switch the fan off, load the bread and pour boiling water in the pan. I use both top and bottom coils ('conventional heat') as the bottom coil alone never seems to get the oven hot enough. I have an oven thermometer inside the oven which seems to be accurate (it matches the preheating temperature).

However, from the moment I close the oven door, the temperature steadily drops down to about 200c within the first 10 minutes or so. The oven's 'heating' light doesn't cycle on during this time, unless I raise the dial higher than the temperature I want.

So I was wondering whether steaming the oven has the potential to affect the oven thermostat, or whether the problem lies elsewhere? Any thoughts appreciated.

JOHN01473's picture

request for a "RYE" recipe / formula

Dear all,

i have acquired some superb beef that has been brined and now i am missing a RYE loaf to make sandwiches with, so this is a plea for a recipe to make a rye loaf that is suitable to have with my corned beef and mustard. a recipe using either sourdough starter or yeast would be good.

i know you will not let me down.

john the baking bear.

P.S. seasons greetings to all.

chris319's picture

I Think I Messed Up My Starter

Lately my loaves have been lacking that distinctive L. SanFran flavor unique to S.F. sourdough. They're kind of bland and not as tangy as previously. I'm not doing anything differently. The only thing I can think of is that I messed up my starter.

I have some cake flour (don't ask) that I've been wanting to use up. It does not contain malted barley flour (diastatic malt) and I've been using it to replenish my starter after baking, adding 1/2 tsp (just guessing at the measurement) of diastatic malt to make up for it.The starter smells yeasty and the loaves rise OK but I'm starting to wonder if this is the reason my sourdough isn't as tangy as it used to be. I'm not worried though. I'm now replenishing it with some first clear flour I had on hand which does contain diastatic malt, so I'm hoping this will bring the tanginess back. I'll make biscuits with the cake flour.

More to come.

cindybakes's picture

Question about a bread I ate this weekend

I was at a Farmers Market this past weekend, and purchased a loaf of "Sunflower Bread".  I had the pleasure of discovering this bread last year at the same place, so when I had to chance to return and get another loaf, I did.  The bread was insanely good; warm just out of the oven, a bit sweet, very soft, and full of tasty sunflower seed morsels. 

I have been trying to find a recipe that would produce a similar loaf.  Most of the pictures show breads with a tight crumb, and a texture that just is not right for this bread.  But tonight I found this picture and I swear it looks exactly like the bread that I bought.  So I am curious....what makes a bread look like this?  I am referring to the "loose" crumb, the very soft texture.  You can see what I am talking about by checking out this link.

I would love to be able to make a bread similar to what I was so incredibly good.  I think it's my favorite bread EVER.  And that is saying something! :-)

jennifer217412's picture

Budin Ingles (Italian Fruit Cake)

i call this italian fruit cake. its a sweet bread and it came out really good, but what i didn't like is after an hour of being put for consumption the sweet bread got hard and dry. how could i make this bread more moist and not get hard? Do i add more milk? an extra egg? Thank you.

BreadBro's picture

Holiday Baking

So, it's Christmas time again, bringing with it big family meetups, dinners, brunches, breakfasts - plenty of excuses for us bakers to practice our craft! So, do any of you have any special baking plans for the holiday time? Any special loaves to impress your friends and relatives?

Personally, I intend on making a traditional Stollen for Christmas along with some Bricoche for our family's annual celebration. I've also been recuited into making several French baguettes for a friend's wine and cheese party on New Year's Eve. If I have the time, I might squeeze in a few sourdough loaves just for the fun of it.

If I didn't love baking so much I would feel overwhelmed. As it is, I can't wait!

Gingi's picture

My Journey with Sourdough, Tartine and Dutch Oven - FOLLOW UP

Hi there forum members and good souls...

As you probably know (or not) I shared with you some of my frustrations and skepticism about the functionality of a Dutch Oven in the baking process of highly hydrated dough. You can find more about my "story" here and here .

Well, good news! I purchased a Dutch Oven and what can I say - it really impressed me and the results are quite impressive. Also, I would like to thank all of you who wrote, sent PMs, supported, exchanged emails, and didn't give up on me- thank you.

Long story short - I have not done any Tartine bread just yet; however, I baked two Vermont Sourdough loafs. Attached below are some pictures. I'm trying to think to myself - what's next now? well, I would like to create bigger loafs, so if someone out there has the percentages of Helaman's Vermont Sourdough - it'll be helpful. Also, as you can see - I have big holes which are not consistent throughout the loaf - how do I overcome that?

Any general suggestions as for how to make my loafs better will be more than welcome.

Again - I could not have done that without you guys - so - thank you everyone, and if you can add a suggestion as for how to make them better, it will be appreciated.


clair's picture


Hi I am a small cake shop in the UK and currently use a wide oven with 2 shelves for my cupcake and cookie making. The oven can bake 60 cupcakes at one time. 

We have started to get really busy and for some events we bake as much as 1000 cupcakes and as you can imagine this take a long time in my little oven so I need to upgrade!!

I wouldnt want to replace my oven as it is only a few years old and is great for celebration cakes but we are looking to buy another oven to work along side it. We bake and decorate in the shop and only have a small space so would need a oven with a capacity to bake atleast 100 cupcakes at a time but doesnt take up lots of space.

Which oven is best for cupcakes and cookies?

Any help will be appreciated as I am not a trained baker and have no clue on different types of ovens!!


Thanks in advance! 



dabrownman's picture

Not So Stollen – Christmas 2013

This Not So Stollen version is once againis based on a modification to a real Dresden Christmas Stollen recipe that was posted by nellapower here:  Refer to it for most of the method with a few exceptions below.

 Last year’s stollen can be found here:

 Not So Stollen


Lucy figured out last year, if you replaced the commercial yeast with SD it would be SD Stollen and if you replaced some of the white flour with other whole grains..... it would be a SD Multi-grain Stollen that tasted better? And if you used YW for part of the levain then you would be as nuts as my apprentice.    But others might not think so.


I'd be surprised there isn't a SD YW, multi-grain stollen out there somewhere but I can’t find it easy enough – except for the one we did last year.   Just about everything in the bread world has already been done by some baker like nellapower already but this stollen has landed far, far from Dresden and it might be called something else like Sourdough YW Multi-grain Dried Fruit Bread with 5 Different Hooch’s and one Pooch..


Of course, Lucy being Lucy, that is not all my apprentice did to this once fine recipe either. She is determinately diabolical with her changes and modifications to just about any bread - and can’t be stopped when she gets rolling, plus this one has more opportunity for her to get he paws wet.


She still wasn’t at all sure SD alone could lift this even more hefty lump of multi-grain stollen goodness properly LL by itself so, once again, instead of commercial yeast, we threw in some YW for the liquid in the SD levain to give it an uplifting boost.


We didn’t use a 24 hour 1% starter, counter top levian build with all of the whole grains in the levain like last year.  We are older and didn’t think we could last another 24 hour 1% build and wiser since sour will never come though in this bread.   So we put the whole grains in the levains but also added the normal amount of YW and SD to speed things along with our non standard standard 2 stage build.  We will do a 3 stage separate build for YW and SD next year.


We used home ground spelt, rye, farro, kamut and some ww for fun.   Lucy tossed in some AP into the levain this year because she felt like having some ‘Fun with Flour’.  She really loves the tiny Krup’s coffee grinder we used to make the whole berries less chunky and more suitable for stollen.  We made our own citrus peels again this year by taking off the skin only with a XOX peeler and boiled them 3 times before dying them and coating them in home made vanilla sugar.


 Lucy upped the alcohol again this year, even over last years sodden fruit fest, by adding some bourbon to the home made limoncello and arancello that were there last year to enhance the orange and lemon peel.  We also used the traditional dark rum and amaretto too - in total about 60% more proportionally than Nellapower’s originl.   No water was required in the fruit soak again this year-- as the fruits had an even harder time trying to soak up this year’s spirit mix.


Lucy once again decided to cut back some of the dried fruits a little but not as much as last year and once again added walnuts and pistachios for a little crunch – now she thinks the crunch is traditional.  She found the YW frozen fruit in the freezer door again this year not knowing that it was saved for this bake. Once again it was apple and cherry pieces. 


To cut some of the fat, not that it reduces it much with all the butter in this recipe, we replaced all of the cream with Lite Mexican Media Creama.   Who knew they would come out with a half the fat Mexican table cream in a can – way to go Nestles.   We also chucked in 25 g of butter flavored Crisco this year, on top of the butter just to mix the fatty things up more than usual plus…. Lucy though the ingredient list was a little short.


Like last year, we decided to replace some of the white sugar with dark brown sugar hoping it would pair better with the dark rum that is made from molasses if you buy the good stuff, but once again, this years dark rum was probably not that good and probably made from HFCS.


We added some nutmeg to the spice list again thinking a little more spice would go well with the extra hooch just like it did last year.  Once again we forgot to add the ground almonds to the fruit to sop of some of its wetness.  Lucy put the ground almonds in the dough flour by mistake, again and is now a new tradition it seems.


 We added 60 g or bench flour when we added the fruits to keep the overall hydration closer to the original.  We added 75 g more hooch than we should have used to begin with…. so the flour would have come in even more handy……. if Lucy had hands


Usually we would put a sunset in here but, the moon rise last night was stupendous - the clouds and orange tree made it special.

We basically cut last year’s recipe for 2 loaves in half so the kneading was a breeze this year.  Once again we changed the method slightly by cutting in all the fat into the flour before adding the media crema which were supposed to be part of the levain but we used YW and water there instead.


For some reason a volunteer jalapeno pepper plant sprung up in total shade under the orange tree this year.  Never had one ther before.

This made the kneading easy since we could do 10 minutes of slap and folds before adding in the fruits and nuts and the 60 g of bench flour.  The dough was very manageable this year and the dough tightened itself back up as we folded the add ins into the dough.  This method is much closer to short crust pasty and stollen is much closer to short crust pasty than it is to bread anyway.

The minneola tree looks like it did well thsi year but it is the worst year in so many.... 

This year we bulk fermented the dough in a bowl on the counter for 6 hours before we shaped it and put it in the fridge for a 15 hours retard.  The dough set up into a hard lump in the fridge with all that butter and it did not proof one iota in the cold.  So we left it on the counter on a heating pad for 6 hours until it did look ready for the oven which it never really did.


Made Italian sausage sliders out of the last of Mark Sinclair's rolls - just as good as the hamburgers.

Italian sausage slider with home made dijon, butternut squash soup with Parmesan, pickled Serranos and red pepper for the slider, steamed Italian summer squash, salad from the pot garden, brie, sweet and white potato baked wedge fries with BBQ sauce - Yummy!

Oddly the dough cracked through the bottom at about the 4 hour mark of the final on the counter but, since it hadn’t really rose much.  I ignored it and let it go another 2 hours.  It still didn’t look like much proofing had gone on in the 12 hours total it spent on the counter before and after the retard.  I pinched the bottom closed before we un-molded it on parchment paper and a peel and slid it in the oven on the bottom stone,


Sliders were served with a nice salad from the pot garden.

My apprentice still thinks she might be related to Rin Tin Tin.  Why she thinks this might be a possibility is strange indeed with her being so short legged and stupid – a polar opposite of Rin Tin Tin if there ever was one.


This year’s Not So Stollen version actually looks like a stollen instead of the flat pancakes of last year – yea!.  It will not be wrapped in cotton cloth and placed for 6 weeks in a beautiful blue holiday tin with silver snowflakes like last year though.   With 8 days till Christmas, this stollen will be lucky not to be completely gone by then – if it isn’t stolen first.


We baked it for 20 minutes at 375 F with steam and for 70 minutes at 350 F convection.  The oven was turned off when the stolen hit 203 F.  Even a year later we still don’t know what temperature it was supposed to be in the inside when done so we went with last year’s temperature of 205 F before removing it to a cooling rack.


 We did not have to cover it with foil either like we did at the at the 50 minute mark last year so it wouldn’t get too brown.  For some reason, this one did not spread too much either but you can’t say it sprang much, but it did crack like it was trying to do something on the puffy side.


This Not SO Stollen - 2013 looks and smells terrific and, as Karin says, there is no reason to wait 6 weeks to eat it - so we won’t and if we want another one later we will make another one,


Once again, we are getting pretty far away from the nellapower’s original recipe for this Modified Dresden Christmas Stollen - Version 2 even though they are still quite similar in concept except for all those pesky minor changes :-)  Not So Stollen is still the perfect name for this unusual attempt to make an alien stollen of the 3rd kind.


We buttered it as it came out of the oven and later covered it in a lemon drizzle per the GMA’s and then a thicker dusting of powdered sugar was applied.  I see French toast on the Christmas breakfast horizon for some reason.


Thanks to nellapower for posting her original recipe and her help in our making something close to it conceptually and to the GMA’s for the lemon drizzle idea that they put on their fine stollen. 


Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


ComboSD YW Starter

Build 1

Build 2

 Build 3



SD Multigrain






Dark Rye
























Whole Wheat
























Starter Totals






Hydration - 72 G YW






Levain % of Total












Dough Flour












Dough Flour












Media Creama 225






Dough Hydration












Total Flour






Total Water, Creama, Cream






T. Dough Hydration






Whole Grain %












Hydration w/ Adds






Total Weight












Add - Ins






Lemon Peel






Orange Peel






























Ground Almonds






Sugar 12, D. Brown Sugar 25






Red Malt






White Malt






YW Apple and Cherries










































1/4  tsp Cinnamon






1/4 tsp Cardamom






1/4 tsp Nutmeg






1/4 tsp Mace






Dark Rum - 25 g






Amaretto - 25 g






Limoncello - 25 g






Arancello - 25 g






Bourbon - 25 g






Bench AP Flour -60 g

Butter Crisco – 25 g






( B. Flour included in Total Flour and for Hydration Total)