The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Song Of A Baker - Why I Am Who I Am

I find myself on a rare occasion of being bored, having no work to do and no bread to bake or post.  Perhaps a good opportunity to share a little about my journey to bread baking.


Little did I know at the time, but the 'knead' to make bread was deeply rooted within my creative core long ago...

From the time I was in my early teens (good god, about 23 years ago!  I've always dreaded math), I had a creative drive within me that was itching to get out.  Luckily for me, my parents were willing and able to put me through music lessons.  I started out with piano and keyboards then moved onto the organ.  At this time, I was discovering the magic of classic rock and roll.  Listening to such bands as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Doors, to name a few.  I spent hours upon hours in my room, rewinding and listening and learning all those organ solos on my Hammond organ and Leslie speaker combo.  To this day I can still play the entire organ solo to Light My Fire by the Doors, even though I only touch a keyboard maybe once every 2-3 years.  A few good friends and school mates started a band.  I took the lead singer role and keyboards.  By the time we were 15, we played our first gig at a local club in downtown Vancouver.  Quite an experience to have at 15.  Even though we were so young, the bar tender offered us a few drinks each (parents approved of course),  All 4 of us hard rock and rollers ordered peach coolers.  Not beer.  Peach coolers.  Very rock and roll *ahem*.  Soon after, we recorded our first cassette tape of about 5 or 6 songs.  By the time junior high ended we disbanded and I took up a new instrument.  The guitar. 

In high school, when we were about 17, we started another band that would turn out to be a major part of my life for the next 7 years.  We had a good following, released an album that received some good reviews, appeared on a local TV show which aired quite a bit across Canada.  We were selling out shows and headlining in the most popular night clubs on weekends.  At one show, The Bare Naked Ladies gave us a standing ovation and wanted to meet us backstage.  This was too surreal at our age.  I was going to college and working by day, and playing shows at night.  I was having the time of my life.  My creative juices were flowing and were being spread out to family, friends and strangers to experience and enjoy.

In 1997, a few members decided to call it quits and it was the end of my music life, at least to that degree.  Over the years, I continued to pick up the guitar every once in a while, or go to a local music shop and play a piano for a few minutes.  It just wasn't the same.  By this time, I had a business degree behind me so I started working full time in management positions I was not happy with.  I did this for the next 6 years or so.  About 7 years ago I was given the opportunity to come aboard my father's painting contracting business, so I took it.  The position in the company proved to be stressful, challenging and more time consuming than I could ever imagine.  Here I am.  A manager in a high volume construction industry contracting company.  Nothing remotely close to an avenue that would allow ANY creativity to flow out of me.  It has been a very difficult last 7 years mentally and emotionally.

Last summer, I was at a cross roads.  Take over the business from my retiring father the next year, or move on and do...well, I still don't know what.  Due to the frightening unknown, I chose the former.  At that exact time, there was a major project contract I had bid on.  The bidding process was extremely gruelling and took a lot out of me mentally and physically.  I landed in the emergency room with exhaustion.  We needed this project.  Badly.  Not knowing if we landed the project or not, I had to get away for a week and try to recoup.  It was then, on that trip that I walked by a bakery cafe and was drawn to the artisan made breads stacked in the window.  I always loved and appreciated bread.  The comforting texture and flavour and look.  This feeling and urge was new to me though.  I suddenly wanted to be part of the creation of this magnificent display in the window.  The bakers in the shop were rock stars in my eyes.  I wanted to ask them questions and talk to them about the process of baking bread.  All these crazy urges, all within 5 minutes of seeing those beautiful boules, baguettes and batards.  I did not talk to the bakers, and I did not get their autographs.  Nor did I buy any bread.  I did however, come home from that trip learning that we did in fact get awarded the contract that we so much needed for the business.  But I still did not feel what I felt walking past that bakery.

That weekend I spent hours reading articles about bread and searching web pages dedicated to home bread baking.  Is it possible for one to learn how to make breads at home such as the ones I saw in the window of that bakery?  Don't you need years and years of schooling?  What about all the equipment?  Surely one would need to spend $10,000 + on an oven, no?  I stumbled on The Fresh Loaf and started reading blogs and forums as a non-member.  My questions were quickly answered that yes, it is possible that I could learn how to make bread at home.  Having never touched my hands on bread dough before in my life, I began to bake bread.  I felt that passion rise up again.  I was feeling something I had only felt when I picked up my guitar and wrote music those years ago.  This is what I needed so badly in my life.  An outlet for all that stress I deal with at my work.  Something to once again create and share with those important to me.

Yes, I decided to take over the family business.  Of course there is always the satisfaction of feeling proud in keeping my parent's hard work and determination all those years alive going into the future.  But other than that and possible financial opportunity, there is nothing more that this career will ever give me in what I truly need to flourish.  Baking bread however, has given me a creative outlet that I craved all those years after the music stopped.  A creative process where I can once again be part of from start to finish.  To make, to feel, to share.  To enjoy.  Music it is not, but it is a song of the baker.


Here is a link to one of the bands that influenced our music, The Posies.  This is a great rendition of 'Song Of A Baker,' a song by classic rock's Small Faces.  I found it quite fitting to use a tag name inspired by a song that I loved long before I ever imagined I would be baking bread.  For all you rock and roll aficionados, turn up your speakers and enjoy:

Lyrics below:

There's wheat in the field
And water in the stream
And salt in the mine
And an aching in me.

I can longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger.

So I'll jug some water, bake some flour,
Store some salt and wait the hour.

When thinking of love,
Love is thinking for me
And the baker will come
And the baker I'll be

I'm depending on my labour,
The texture and the flavour


I can no longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger

So I'll jug some water, bake some flour.
Store some salt and wait the hour.


dabrownman's picture

Multigrain Combo Levain with Seeds & Sprouts

We are down to baking bread on Friday’s only now and outside in the mini oven at that until the amount of bread in the freezer disappears and the temperature gets below 90 F - sometime in late September.  We went with a more simple multigrain formula this time with 6 of them in the levain only.


We ended up at 40% whole grains if you discount the whole grain sprouts and the effect the toadies would have it they weren’t separated out of whole grains for a separate toast.  Including the toadies and sprouts we would be at 60% whole grains – 50% just with the sprouts.


We used 2 dough flours AP and semolina – the left over from Golden Temple Durum Atta where we had previously sifted out the atta (bran) to make toadies.  We went with 5 of the levain whole grains to make the larger amount of sprouts for this smaller sized loaf.


We limited the add ins to Toadies, red and white malts and some toasted and ground golden and brown flax seeds and white, brown and black sesame seeds.  Then for some seed chew we added 50 g of sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the dough and reserved 40 g to do some kind of seed art on the outside of the chacon.


After seeing Ian’s fine chacon example this week we wanted to get back to an earlier bake where seeds really spiffed up the outside of a chacon.  My apprentice thought with some actual design for a change the bread wouldn’t suffer any.


There were two levains for this bake.  A yeast water levain that was two builds of 3 hours each using 50 g of YW and 124 g total.   There is also a SD levain 3 stage one that was built separately.  It totaled 156 g and was initiated with equal parts totaling 12 g of our rye sour and WW starters.  Both the SD and the YW levains were refrigerated for 24 hours at the 6 hour build mark right after the 3rd feeding of the SD.


When removed from the fridge at noon the next day, the SD levain was allowed to do its final double while the YW levain just sat on the counter warming up while going for a ride with its SD buddy.


We autolysed the dough flours, ground seeds, salt, malts and toadies with the dough water while the 2 levains did their thing in the afternoon…about 2 ½ hours.  Once the autolyse met the levains, we did 10 minutes of Slap and folds until the dough was silky smooth and the gluten well developed. 


Breakfast on bake day.  This bread found here

We did 3 sets of S&F’s and incorporated the sprouts on the first set and the pumpkin and sunflower seeds on the 2nd one. By the 3rd set all the seeds and sprouts were well distributed.  After a 25 minute rest we started the chacon artwork. 


First, a 100g Franz Joseph roll went into the bottom of the basket and part of the reserved seeds were laid next to it so they should be on the outside of the 150 g (2) rope braid that covered the seeds while surrounding the central roll.   Then we made (10) 1” balls and placed them next to the rope braid climbing the inside of the basket in one layer.  Then the rest of the seeds were placed next to the balls.


Then a reverse bialy was made where the edges were much thinner than the middle - in an oval shape so that the dough would match the basket and to make the dough be the same thickness throughout the finished loaf.  After forming, we immediately put the basket in a used trash can liner and placed it in the fridge for a 15 hour retard.


It proofed up nicely while in the fridge so when it came out of the fridge all it really had to do is warm up.  When ready we un-molded it onto the parchment covering the vented top of the broiler pan of the mini oven after warming up 2 of Sylvia’s steaming cups in the microwave.


We decided to go without the bottom of the broiler pan that would usually have extra water in it.  We tossed 1/2 C of water into the bottom of the oven as we shut the door on the 500 F preheated mini oven.  2 minutes later we turned the oven sown to 450 F and continued to steam for 13 minutes.


What a great lunch for a hot Friday.  Sweet potato, tomato, home grown salad greens, hot pepper jack chunks, sliced carrots, cukes, red and  black raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe. red pepper, avocado, home made Southwest hummus on a few lime tortilla chips.  The sammy is a grilled chicken, brie, tomato and lettuce.

At the 15 minute mark the steam came out of the oven and we turned the oven down to 425 F, convection this time.  We turned the bread 180 degrees every 5 minutes and it registered 205 F 25 minutes after the steam came out – 40 minutes total baking time.


The crust browned up very nicely and the design was unusual with the seeds showing up where they were supposed to poke out.  It stayed crunchy too.  The crumb turned out light, moist and fairly open for a bread with a high amount of whole grains and lots of tasty tuff in it   Best of all it is a terrific toasting bread, so earthy,chew and complex.  Could eat it all day but.... my daughter is taking it to her boyfriend in Tuscon tonight after dinner as he loves my seeded breads like this one.

How did that apple crisp get in there?  Maybe Lucy had something to do with it?  She looks guilty if you ask me.

Breakfast at Brownman's. 1 slice of maple cured bacon, hashbrowns, an egg,  cantaloupe, straw and blue berries, toast with homemade strawberry jam.


YW SD Starter Build

Build 1

Build 2

 Build 3



Rye, Spelt & WW SD Starter


















Dark Rye






Whole Wheat


















Yeast Water
























Combo Starter Totals


















Starter Hydration






Levain % of Total












Dough Flour


















Total Dough Flour


















Dough Water






Dough Hydration












Multigrain Sprouts
























Whole Wheat












Total Scald & Soak












Add - Ins






Red Malt






White Malt












Sunflower & Pumpkin Seed






Ground Flax & Sesame


















Total Flour w/ Starter






Total Water w/ Starter












Tot. Hydration  w/ Starter






Hydration w/ Starter & Adds






Total Weight






% Whole Grain-  NI Scald






% Whole Grain - with Scald












50 G of Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are in the dough.

ITakeRandomPhotos's picture

Dinner Rolls with Cheese?

Ive recently been to a diner near my home that serves dinner rolls with an almost sweet cheese filling inside? I want to try to reproduce them, but I'm not sure where to look for the recipe, since I don't know what they are. Someone said it might be made with cream cheese,or similar to a Cheese Danish filling, but im not so sure, since it doesnt taste at all like it. 


Any help at all would be appreciated.

bruneski's picture


Hi, this is my first post here. I'm a novice, amateur bread maker. So far, I've worked only with a vertical pan bread machine. I usually make one loaf of bread a week.

Results have been, this far, surprisingly good (imo, of course)! I've made a few french bread loafs, a 7-grain bread, a honey wheat bread, a pumpernickel bread and a few Swedish rye loafs. The pumpernickel and the Swedish rye were very, very good (again, imo, of course)!!!

These results encouraged me to try to make a loaf of Schwarzbrot. I got hold of what looked like an interesting recipe and tweaked it a bit to try and use it with the bread machine. Of course, I'm well aware it is not a recipe for a r-e-a-l, a-u-t-h-e-n-t-i-c Schwarzbrot!

First, since the recipe seemed to yield too much dough for the size of my bread machine, I chose to half the whole recipe (across the board). Besides, since it was, flourwise, about 83% rye, I decided to tweak the proportion of rye flour and white flour to make it about 67% rye, lest I break my so far beloved bread machine. Because of the high proportion of rye, I gave it an extra 30-minute final rising time (as mentioned in the adjusted recipe). In order to get the right consistency for its crust, I gave it an extra 20-minute oven time (also mentioned in the adjusted recipe).

The result was excellent: a delicious, rich, very fragrant loaf of dark rye bread (also imo).

There is only one thing that certainly deserves some improvement: after two days, it began to show a tendency to (slightly) crumble when I sliced it. It seems it has a weaker "structure" than it should.

What could be done to the recipe to improve this characteristic? Substituting some whole wheat flour for the same amount of white flour would work? A little cornstarch could give it a better structure?

By the way, it's my impression that the chocolate, the coffee (instead of plain water) and even the molasses are basically 'darkening agents' in this recipe. Is this correct? Could (or should) any of these ingredients be replaced or outright ommited from the recipe?

I certainly realize that the dark molasses also have a sweetening effect. In this respect, I'm inclined to half the amount of this ingredient (from 4 to 2 tbsp) next time I make this bread.

The adapted recipe I've been talking about is presented below. In the list of ingredients, at the end of each line, I included the quantity mentioned in the original recipe.

I'll deeply appreciate any advice I can get from you! Even if it concerns things I've not mentioned above!

Please, keep in mind that I'm an almost complete neophyte bread maker, even though I'm a very interested learner!

Finally, if someone has a well-tested, for-bread-machine recipe of Schwarzbrot and is willing to share it, I'll be delighted to use it!!! :-)

Thanks a lot. Take care. Bruneski.

SCHWARZBROT (adapted for BM)

4 tbsp dark molasses (was 8)
3 tbsp vinegar (was 6)
3 tbsp butter (was 6)
20-30 g unsweetened dark chocolate square (was 2)
1 cup lukewarm strong black coffee (was 2)
1 tsp salt (was 2)
1 tbsp active dry yeast (was 2)
2 cup rye flour (was 2½; was 5) (66,7% rye; originally, 83,3% rye)
1 cup unbleached white flour (was ½; was 1)
2 tbsp caraway seeds (was 4)
½ tsp fennel seeds (was 1)
In a saucepan combine the molasses and vinegar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and chocolate. Stir until they melt. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Place this mixture in the bread machine pan. Add the lukewarm coffee and the salt. Mix well. Add the rye flour and the white flour. Add the yeast. Set cycle to Whole Wheat, bread size to 600 g and color to Dark. Start the machine. During the first mixing phase, gradually add the fennel seeds. When it beeps, after the first rising phase, gradually add the caraway seeds. After 2 minutes into the Baking cycle, turn the machine off and let the dough rise for an extra 30 minutes. Turn the machine back on and start its Baking cycle again. After the machine is done, check if the bread is crusty. If not, give it some more oven time at 200 oC (preheated). Yield: 700-g loaf.

greedybread's picture

Kuchen Anyone???

Ja danke!!Apricot, Almond and Apple Kuchen

Today in case you haven’t guessed we are off to Germany. Not a country I have been to apart from a short stay at Munich airport and Frankfurt Airport in the dead of night and early early morning!!

So without further ado….  What are we aiming for today?

I was a DUH and forgot that Kuchen means cake in German so I have used my kuchen ring piccies as no other piccies gave a good indication of what I wanted to portray prior to showing what I baked.

Apricot, Raisin and Apple Kuchen

This recipe was adapted from the stunning recipe by Ruth Joseph in her Delightful and beautiful book “Warm Bagels & Apple Strudel” . I will be working on and testing a few more of these wonderful recipes. I understand the Hairy Bikers tested this and gave it the thumbs up!!

Shabbat Apricot, Apple and Raisin Kuchen.


  • 200 mls of warmed milk
  • 3 tsp dried yeast
  • 4 cups of strong bread flour
  • dash of salt
  • 100g butter (or dairy free margarine)
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4 tbsp orange/ lemon zest
  • Extra egg and 2 tsp milk for egg wash

Fruit all ready to go

  • Filling :
  • 1 can (440g) of Apple slices or pieces (not cubes though)
  • 1 can of drained apricot pieces
  • 1 cup raisins
  • lemon/orange zest to taste
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 cup of icing sugar
  • lemon juice to mix
METHOD: I used quite a bit of zest as i love it, you may like to use less .
  • Add 3 tsp of the sugar to the milk , mix well until slightly dissolved 
  • Add yeast and leave in a warm place until creamy and frothy. Usually 10-20 minutes.

While yeast is feeding:

  • Put all dry ingredients into a bowl , Flour and salt.
  • Rub in the butter to the Flour mix
  • Stir in sugar and zest
  • Remove yeast from warm place. 
  • Add beaten eggs to the yeasty mix and beat well
  • Pour into the dry butter mix and combine until a smooth dough
  • Turn out on floured area and knead well for 6 minutes.
  • Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours or doubled in size. 


    Rolling up the Kuchen

When Dough is almost ready:
  • Mix apple, walnuts, apricots, raisins and zest together
  • Tip dough out on floured area and roll out into a rectangle.
  • I think mine was 40cm by 20cm.
  • Spread the apple filling over the dough and fold the edges all around the dough in slightly  and then roll up like you would cinnamon buns,Chelsea buns or a Chocolate log.
  • Place on Baking tray
  • Slash a few slits along the top of the Kuchen.
  • Cover and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.
  • Pre heat oven to 200 Celsius.

Rolled up and ready for egg wash and baking!!
oops and slashing:)

  • Brush beaten egg wash over the kuchen and place in the oven.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes (dependant on your oven)

ready to ice


  • Remove from oven and cool on the tray.

Very delicious

  • When cool, make up Icing by combining 1 cup of icing sugar and enough lemon juice to make a paste
  • Drizzle over the kuchen when cold.
  • As soon as icing is set, cut a HUGE slice, pour a large cuppa and enjoy!!

theprudenttart's picture

no-knead almond bread

I adapted Jim Lahey's no-knead walnut bread. While the crumb is a little dense, the bread itself tastes amazingly light. 

Recipe, step-by-step instructions, and photos found here


BreadBro's picture

Rye Starter in a Regular Sourdough Recipe?

I've been thinking about ways of kicking up the flavor in my usual sourdough recipe. I use Peter Reinhart's recipe from Artisan Breads Every Day with a slightly higher hydration at ~ 75%. I was thinking about substituting the regular sourdough starter with a rye starter, which would add about 56g of rye flour into a total of 794g of bread flour.

I've done regular soughdough rye and I've done pain au levain, so I wonder if this would be somewhere in the middle.

Thoughts on this? Is this too little rye to notice any difference? If I add more, by how much do you figure I should alter the amount of water?


DavidEF's picture

How do I get a softer crust?

I am trying to bake a soft sandwich loaf from sourdough, using this recipe: but I don't have any powdered milk, so I leave that out. Also, I usually am scaling the recipe to make more than it calls for, and using a slightly higher hydration. The recipe makes about a 64% hydration dough, and I usually keep mine at about 70% hydration (counting only the flour and water, because I don't know how to calculate the other ingredients for hydration). It almost always turns out wonderful bread, but the crust is thick, and when I store it, it turns tough. I was wondering if there is a way to get a lighter (as in thinner) crust on my bread, or at least a crust that is not tough. Is that little bit of milk powder the magic ingredient that does that? I know I've read that milk does make the bread softer, because it inhibits some of the gluten formation. Help me out here, please! Susan, if you happen to be around, tell me what I'm doing wrong with your recipe!

One thing I have already tried is baking at a lower temp for a longer time. I've also tried baking with and without steam.

isand66's picture

7 Grain Double Starter Soaker Bread

Well since the last few bakes have been very white I started to feel the Force draining and I was being pulled towards the Dark Side!  This bread is a 70% whole grain power-house made with a soaker which I scalded to make sure it was nice and soft.  I used 5 different whole grains in the scald and 3 whole grain flours plus some French style flour in the double starters and main dough.

I also wanted to try something a little fancy for the shaping and placed a small ball of dough along with a double braid in the bottom of my basket before placing the rest of the dough on top of both of them.  This formed a nice hat on top of the bread.

The soaker was brought up to a boil and scalded for about 10 minutes until all the grains were nice and soft and then put in a bowl and covered for 5-6 hours until the levains were ready to use.

The end result of this bake was a nice wholesome tasty bread. The crust was excellent and the crumb was soft and chewy chock full of grainy goodness.




Levain Directions

Starter 1

Mix all the levain ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.  I usually do this the night before.

Starter 2

Mix all the ingredients listed with the levain from the first build and let it set at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled or before it starts collapsing on itself.  Either use right away in the main dough or refrigerate for 1 day.

 Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flours and the water except for around 75 grams, together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces), honey, and soaked grains and mix on low for a minute.  Add the rest of the water  unless the dough is way too wet.   Mix on low-speed for another 4 minutes.  Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  (I used my new proofer this time and it only took about 1 hour at 80 degrees).

Remove the dough and shape as desired.   Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature.  (Again, I used my proofer set at 80 degrees and let it rise for about 1.5 hours).

Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.


Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.


After 1 minute lower the temperature to 450 degrees.  I baked for about 10 minutes at 450 and then lowered the oven to 435 since this is such a large loaf.  Bake for around 50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 205 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.





Wingnut's picture

New Flat

New Flat first bake. Going take a little to familiarize myself with the new oven, but not a real bother.

30% Whole Wheat Flax Seed Sourdough

Close up

The next two are without Flax Seeds