The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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ActiveSparkles's picture

Milk in bread making

Hi guys. I am looking to start using milk in bread making, just as an alternative.

Just wondering about the benefits (if any) and drawbacks (if any)

Also do you replace all the water with milk, or parts of both?
Know it would vary from recipe to recipe, but for basic bread is what I am looking at using it in.



PMcCool's picture

Rehydrating dried starter after traveling

This was going to be a blow-by-blow account of reviving a starter that had been dried for travel.  Yeah, my eyes are starting to glaze already, too.  So this will get more of a Readers Digest treatment.  And I'll try to stay awake until the end.  What you do is up to you.

Here's the back story: Man lives in Pretoria, South Africa.  Man has sourdough starter.  Man will repatriate to his home in Kansas City.  Man does not wish to lose his starter or begin a new one after his return.

Still with me?  Good.

Having read two different methods right here on TFL for preparing a starter for travel, I chose to do (drumroll, please) both!  And knowing that some or all of my luggage would be subjected to the tender mercies of either the TSA or U.S. Customs, I wanted to make sure that I had enough with me that at least one packet got through.  Or so I hoped.

Technique #1 involves adding enough flour (if your starter is runny) or enough water (if your starter is more like a dough) to some of said starter to achieve a thick batter consistency that is still smearable.  I don't know if smearable is a word but it is the key.  The traveler (your faithful reporter in this instance) needs to smear a thin layer of the suitably hydrated starter on a sheet of parchment paper and wait a day or two for the smear to dry to until it is roughly as crisp as potato chips.  Or potato crisps, for those of you who are still in South Africa.  The dried smears / chips / crisps can be broken into smaller pieces and placed in plastic bags for eventual placement in your baggage or on your person.  Note that thinner smears = shorter drying times.

Technique #2 involves adding flour to your starter until it is so dry that it is reduced to crumbs.  Some mechanical intervention will be necessary; perhaps the edge of a spoon or maybe a pastry blender or even a food processor.  I can say that a mezzalune is effective.  The more flour you try to force into the dough, the less cooperative it becomes; hence the need for mechanical assistance to cut it into ever smaller bits while force-feeding it yet more flour.  As with the flakes, the crumbs can be bagged for travel.

I strongly recommend that you clearly label each bag so that there is no leeway for interpretation by the various uniformed officials who may have their hands in your luggage at some point.  We all know what happens when we assume, right?

Thus prepared, your faithful reporter placed a baggie of dried starter in every piece of luggage.  And, for reasons yet unclear, every bag and every baggie made it all the way to the proper destination.  On the same day.  

Being somewhat surprised to find myself the proud possessor of a surfeit of dried starter, I did what any American male worth his salt would do: I set up a competition.  Keeping one baggie in reserve as insurance, I combined 10g of flaked starter and 25g of water in one container and 10g of crumbed starter and 25g of water in another container.  Here's how they looked at the start of the competition, flakes to the left and granules to the right:

Pretty exciting, huh?  Other than some fogging of the inside of each jar, they looked about the same 24 hours later so I added 15g of flour of each.  At the end of the second 24-hour period, they were still pretty flat.  There was a whiff of...something...from the granules jar but the flakes jar smelled mostly of wet flour.  By the end of Day 3, there was evidence of bubbles in the granules jar and a hint of expansion.  The flakes jar was still pretty quiet; just a stray bubble or two.

Yep, that's right, the excitement continues to build!

At the end of Day 3, I discarded half of each sample and added water and flour in a 1:2:3 ratio.  I also moved them to some smaller plastic containers.  Here's how they looked after dinner and settling into their new digs:

Just to keep you on your toes, I've switched the granules container to the left and the flakes container to the right.

Some 12 hours later, there was some genuine growth going on:

And from a different perspective:

The crumbs sample has expanded noticeably and is riddled with bubbles.  The flakes sample has expanded just slightly and has fewer bubbles.

And that's pretty much how it went for the next few days.  The crumbs sample consistently out-performed the flakes sample.  Even on a 12-hour feeding schedule, the crumbs sample smelled consistently of acetone which suggests that it was burning through its food between feedings.  The flakes sample never developed a notable yeasty / fruity / sour odor in the week's time that I ran the comparison, although it did get past the wet flour odor.

If your eyes are still open at this point, you can hang on for the wrap-up.

For short-term storage, such as for travel, I would choose the granules approach to drying starter over the flaked approach.  I've done the flakes technique twice now and it required a full week to get back to a sluggish level of activity in both cases.  For longer storage, I'd use the flakes.  Why?  Because it seems to be a more stable form that is less susceptible environmental upsets.

I have some notions about the difference in behavior of the two.  First, the granules weren't as dry as the flakes.  That seems to have allowed the yeasts and bacteria of the starter to get back to work faster, possibly because they were less stressed and did not shut down entirely.  Second, although the organisms were tightly bound in a relatively dry environment, they were also surrounded by food even if they could not exploit it easily.  The down side for the granules is that their higher moisture content would make them more susceptible to attack by molds and other organisms, which militates against using them as a long-term storage option.

The good news is that there are options for the traveler, as well as for disaster recovery.  The easiest way to travel with a starter, of course, is to tuck a small blob in a plastic bag or other container.  That's probably the easiest way to lose it to a zealous inspector, too.

And the reward for any of you who have stayed awake through this entire dissertation?  Pictures of the pain au levain baked with the reconstituted starter, which now smells the way a healthy and happy starter should.  Note that the bread was made at about Day 7 or Day 8; not because of the starter's readiness but because of the baker's schedule.  The starter could probably have been used on Day 4 or Day 5.  First, the loaf:

And then the crumb:

Happy travels!


Urchina's picture

Join the "Inside the Jewish Bakery" cookbook challenge -- starting December 1st!

Hi, everyone!

(Note to Floyd: This is a cross-post from the Books forum, since not everyone who might be interested in a new challenge hangs out there. Please feel free to move this post if it is more appropriate elsewhere. Thanks!)

Those of us hopelessly smitten with Stan and Norm's wonderful new cookbook "Inside the Jewish Bakery" are going to begin a challenge on December 1st of this year. For those of you who have not participated in a challenge before, it's  a group of people who bake recipes from a single book at the same time, and then share their results (both positive and negative). It's a tremendously fun way to explore new recipes in a supportive environment, and a great way to try things you might not otherwise have chosen. 

I'll host the challenge here on the TFL, on a blog, and will set the calendar soon. The challenge will begin December 1st, and because there are so many recipes in "Inside the Jewish Bakery" we'll do it in parts (semesters, for my school-addled brain). The first semester will go through March 2012. December's baking will focus on the simpler (and festive, when possible) recipes, since it's a busy month for many of us. 

If you'd like to join in, the first step is to acquire a copy of "Inside the Jewish Bakery" by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg. The second step is to let me know here that you'd like to join in, and I'll let you know when I've posted the calendar. 

Who's in?




Jay3fer's picture

Why? Why bake sourdough?

I'm a sourdough lover, sometime bread blogger and freelance writer, and I have somehow convinced an editor that I'll write an article about sourdough.  I'd like to talk about reasons for choosing sourdough over tossing in a spoonful of commercial yeast.  I mean, it's not a crime or even a cheap shortcut to use yeast, and sometimes, my sourdough breads don't even taste noticeably different.

So... what are your reasons for choosing sourdough?  Here are some I've thought of, in no particular order:

  • connection to heritage (ie old-fashioned ways)
  • friendship - passing on a starter to a friend or maintaining one from a friend
  • superior flavour (sometimes), both from wild yeast strains and longer fermentation
  • possible digestive benefits, as longer fermentation "digests" some gluten
  • independence from commercial yeast manufacturers?
  • "Slow Food" mentality vs "Quick Rise" yeast

What am I missing?  These don't sound like much, honestly...

rolls's picture

a few questions plz :)

hi, i started my starter a few months ago following the birk st method in the book. at first i would follow the exact feeding amounts of water and flour.  but with time,  i got lazy and now i just keep it in he fridge and from time to time, refresh it, but i don't measure the flour and water.

i don't know much at all really about sourdough, but despite my neglect, it seems to bounce back nicely and looks bubbly.

i have no idea what im doing, and not sure how i can tell if its ready to go solo or not. i usually jus use a small amount with my regular yeast breads.

i'd love any insight whatsoever. is it wrong to not measure when feeding? am i stuffing up the chemistry somehow?


thanks heaps :)

BKSinAZ's picture

Storing Wheat Berries in Vacuum Sealed Food Saver Bags?

The family here has a Food Saver Machine and we were wondering if we can put wheat berries in these vacuum sealed bags for LONG term storage?

If so, do they need to be refrigerated, freezed, or can they just sit on a shelf in the pantry without going bad?

I was going to portion them out per recipe size. For example: if a particular recipe called for 3 cups of flour, I wanted to make something like 50, 3 cup bags of wheat berries.

jamesjr54's picture

Today's Completely Made-Up Bread

Knowing I'd work at home today (Wednesday) I made a preferment Tuesday morning: 

100 G KA Bread flour

100 G 100% hydration starter

60 g water

Tuesday night I made the dough:

All of the preferment

400 g KA all purpose

35 g rye

35 g oat flour

15 g salt

44o g water

30 min autolyse

Was really wet, so added flour until I could get some development. (Think I need to learn how to calculate the starter into the final %s. Was aiming for 68-70% hydration)

15 minutes kneading

1.5 hour proof, with S&F at 30 and 60

Pre-shape, rest and shape, and into the fridge overnight.

1.5 hours at room temp this morning

Baked w/preheat at 475 for 15 with steam, 30 without (for the badly-shaped batard) and in the combo cooker for the boule.

Pretty standard, delicious sourdough. My shaping skills have plateaued at a very low level, so need to work on those. 

Szanter5339's picture

Fun-shaped rolls

Dawn Nagymama blogjában találtam ezeket a zsemléket. Nagy sikere lett nálunk is!

ehanner's picture

Focaccia 3 ways with Poolish-controlled ferment

I got the bug to make Hamelmans Focaccia with Poolish a few days ago. It started with watching Frankie G's video on the subject and seeing him use 1/4 sheet pans. I liked the size and all the toppings got me drooling. So I ordered the 1/4 sheet pans from Frankie G which came with a cool trivet counter saver (thanks FG). I like the Poolish version of the Ciabatta dough which is Hamelmans dough for his Focaccia. The additional 10% fermented flour helps the flavor develop during the Poolish build up, overnight.

Every year about this time is when my baking starts to get weird. Just when I was thinking I could predict yeast activity in my preferment's, the season starts to change and everything takes longer. This year would be better I said. I no longer care that it's going to be 36F outside and a chilly 63F in the kitchen. My preferment's are happy working away in my new Folding Proofer. I set the temperature at 73F after mixing equal parts of flour and water and went to bed. I try to be mindful of Hamelmans suggestion for watching the dome of the expanding mix and waiting for it to start to fall in the center before mixing the final dough. I want the most effect from the preferment possible.

It's so nice to not to have to open the container holding the fermenting dough to check it. Peeking through the clear plastic viewing window is so easy. I'm watching for the first indication that my preferment is done. Right at 16 hours as JH said, it was done. The starter finishing  temperature was at 75F, just as it was upon mixing. That's professional style temperature control which will show up later.

I fermented the dough also at 75F for 1-1/2 hours and divided into 3 globs, shaped and transferred into my new pans. I had stewed 2 large onions for the topping on one pan. Another was going to get rosemary treated olive oil, some fresh rosemary and an assortment of seeds and garlic/onions. This one would get a final application of Mozzarella after baking, under the broiler. The third pan was a sweet offering with red grapes and sugar.

We sent a big slice of each of these to the neighbors. They turned out great. The flavor of the bread is full and complex. This is the best Ciabatta/Focaccia I have ever made. It HAS to be the watchful eye on the fermentation.  I had not made the grapes and sugar before. Next time I will use more sugar especially over each grape. This was really good. The onions were so sweet from being stewed that one was my favorite. Oh well maybe the savory pan was my favorite. Ummmm good.


Ready to bake.

The grapes found a pocket to hold the juice.

Onion and Rosemary

Great crumb on all 3 but this onion with rosemary was heavenly.

Savory just out of the oven.

Savory with melted Mozz Cheese

ejm's picture

Fougasse IS different from Focaccia

There really is a difference. And right now we’re loving fougasse. So much that we have entirely rejected the idea of making focaccia.

When I first read about fougasse, I thought it must be virtually the same as focaccia. I dismissed making fougasse because I’d made focaccia. They were the same, after all.... 

Our fougasse craze started after reading about Chad Robertson’s fougasse in “Tartine Bread”. (It’s a GREAT book!!) But because of still being certain – what with my terrific retention skills when reading – that fougasse was simply French focaccia, I used the ingredients for our focaccia recipe along with Robertson’s shaping and baking method to make our first fougasse.

Amazingly, not only is the fougasse quite different from focaccia (even using the same dough), but both of us have decreed that fougasse is superior to focaccia. At least that’s what we think right now.

Because fougasse is baked on a stone instead of on an oiled pan, there are more crispy bits. Not too crispy though… it’s juuuuust right! Of course, it can be cut with a knife but we think that fougasse tastes better torn apart.

After the first couple of times making fougasse, I noticed that in his book, Chad Robertson suggests using baguette dough for making fougasse. ie: no oil in the dough itself.

So we tried that too. And it was good. Really good.

We’re not sure if it was better than fougasse made with focaccia dough. Just different. It’s the shaping, slashing and baking that will produce the characteristic (I think) fougasse texture and flavour.

Yes. We love fougasse so much that we can’t stop making it! I’m thinking that once you start making it, you won’t be able to stop either.

I am very pleased to be the host of October 2011's Bread Baking Babes’ task. Here is what I wrote to the BBBabes:

So far I’ve made fougasse using focaccia dough or baguette dough; plain with oil drizzled on before; plain with no oil drizzled on until just after baking; with poppy seeds added to the dough; with black olives; plain drizzled afterwards with oil infused mushrooms.

All were a little different but all were equally delicious. Of course, I’m hoping that you too neeeeeeed to make fougasse and will now bake along with us.

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake fougasse in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it) before the 29 October 2011.

Please read here (this is a link) for details on how to participate.


(This is a partial mirror of a post about fougasse on blog from OUR kitchen)