The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Wild-Yeast's picture

Pain au levain a la Poilâne

An interesting journey shown below. Five years for the levain to teach the baker what the flour wanted..., 

'Que sais-je?'


 ~ 1 kg loaves...,

pyg's picture

Reinhart's formulas are just so wrong

After having had access to Hamelmans Bread book for 5+ years and having learned bakers math from it, Reinharts formulas make absolutely no sense to me.  I recently acquired The Bread Bakers Apprentice and Crust and Crumb based in part from recomendations on this site and forno bravo.  While I really like Reinharts enthusiasm compared to Hamelmans rather dry style, I do not understand why Reinhart even bothered to include formulas as his books are pitched at the more casual baker and the formulas themselves seem to be super complicated to use.

With Hamelmans overall formulas where total flour = 100% noting the hydration and flours involved I can immediately get a sense of the handling characteristics.  I can also infer a fair amount from the percentage of preferment or levain and with very simple math adjust these formulas based on what I know about my flour, humidity, etc.  But what I absolutely depend on is with slightly more complicated math I can make a batch of dough that makes exactly a given number of loaves of a given size.  For example assuming I have a bread formula that overall comes to 177.5 percent.  My oven is pretty small so my batch size is 12 loaves.  I know from experience that if I scale my dough at 550g (I vastly prefer working in metric) a loaf it will bake to a final weight of between 1 pound and 1 pound 1 ounce.  I also know that I need to add ~10g per loaf for scaling error so 560 * 12 = 6720g final dough weight.  I divide that by 1.775 and I get 3786g for my total flour weight.  Total flour weight is the magic number and once I have that all other weights including preferments are generated.  How the **** do you do this with a Reinhart formula.

 Ranting ever onward, I decided to compare Reinharts The Bread Bakers Apprentice Poilane style Miche (pg 242)  with Hamelmans James MacGuire/Pointe-a-Calliere style Miche (pg 164) by working backwards from Reinharts formula to generate a Hamelman type formula.  Here we go:

Assuming that the Barm included in the Firm Starter is 100% hydration which is implied on pg 232, the Firm Starter would be 138.9% flour and 82.9% water.  Converting this to a ratio where flour equals 100% gives us a Firm Starter with a hydration of 60% (with rounding) exactly the same as Hamelman so far.  OK, after splitting Firm Starter into the Final Dough I get 137.5% flour and 87.5% hydration which converts to 63.6% hydration at 100% flour with 27.3% of flour used in the starter, or:

Overall Formula: 

100%  Whole Wheat Flour

2.5%  Salt

63.6%  Water

166.1% Total


Pre-Fermented Flour 27.3%  (Firm Starter):

100%  Whole Wheat Flour

60%  Water

of the above preferment 28% is comprised of 100% hydration Barm (not calculating exact build because I'm lazy)


So now I have this in a readable format I don't have to even try this formula to have serious questions.  63% hydration for what should be a high hydration sourdough?  Really?  Hamelmans formula is at 82% hydration.  Based on experience, a high extraction flour or whole wheat would be practically unworkable with this level low a level of hydration.  The description of handling the dough in Reinharts text implies a much higher level of hydration than 63%.  Alternately I've done something wrong in the math, please check my work if you can.  Showing me I'm wrong about any of my above assumptions would help me learn.

Sure wish Hamelman would write more books.

PaulZ's picture


Hi all,

I know this topic has cropped up ad infinitum on this site and posted to the point of tearful yawn-inducing boredom but I am really REALLY trying to find an answer. Nothing seems to work.

PROBLEM: My baguette's crust is too hard. Would knock an intruder out cold with one blow! The crumb inside is beautifully soft, flavoursome and the mix of holes (high hydration) is ideal - I think. Yet, I've read on TFL that steam (within the 1st 5min) helps develop a crisp crust. However, I have ALSO read on previous postings here that to induce a softer crust one needs loads and loads of steam before the firming and caramelisation eventually takes over. A contradiction of intentions? Neither seems to work. To create steam in my 6ft single deck oven, I use a plastic cannnister pressure pump hose (the one used to spray chemicals in the garden - not the same one! - a similar one you understand!!!) I place the baguettes directly onto the pre-heated metal deck / floor of the oven at a temp of 280C (530F), spray for 10-15secs and immed. reduce to 250C (500F). I spray again (10-15secs) after 3 mins and I give a final 15secs spray after 6 mins. The temp is then reduced to 220C (425F) and the baked baguettes are pulled at 22mins. Should I be using more steam? This means a greater heat loss while I insert the nozzle of the spray hose. Less steam, perhaps?

The baguettes have a beautiful colour, lovely crumb but the crust ? oh-so hard!

Good crumb but very-very tough crust!

The watchman's "night stick" baton!!!!

Baked in a deck oven (the convection oven has to perch above - sorry, no space in the kitchen!)

And here is the formula (if that would help solve anything)

1,000g White Bread Flour

800g Water

18g salt

22g Fresh Bakers Yeast.


Thanks all.


afrika's picture



dwfender's picture


I'm interested in learning more about enzymes and how they affect the dough. People seem to talk about them frequently and I have a general understanding of what they do but I'm really looking to expand my knowledge a little more. 

madisonbaker26's picture

Madison Sourdough Shaping Video

I was lucky to snag a spot in one of Madison Sourdough's bread classes recently and I thought I'd share a video that the co-owner/head baker put together.  Unlike a lot of videos I've seen on the internet, his batard shaping technique seems to be a little different and there are also a couple unusual shapes he demonstrates (such as the fendu and the tabatiere).


davidg618's picture

Challah braiding crutch

I bake challah rarely, once every two or three months, usually two loaves. One I pan bake; it gets sliced and frozen for French toast, two or four slices thawed each time; it lasts a good while. The second loaf I braid, only because I like the way the shiny, chocolate-colored, bulging braid looks: eye candy. However, each time I bake challah I have to relearn six-strand braiding--my favorite. I baked challah two days ago, and the braiding was especially frustrating, in part because I'd tried a new recipe--it turned out delicious, but I'd made the dough softer than usual--as well as having to, once again, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, answer the phone, try to figure out where I was...well, you know the rest. I finally got it to look half-way decent; proofing, oven spring and browning aided considerably.

Yesterday, I recalled how, when I was about ten years old, I'd learned to braid four strands of flat, plastic lacing--called "Gimp"--into an attractive round braid. With a metal snaphook on its beginning end,  a yard of it, doubled back on itself and the loop closed with a square-braided slide finished in a Turks-head knot it made a handsome lanyard. I got so good at making lanyards I supplemented my meager weekly allowance by making them for other, less-talented Boys' Club campers, and kids in my neighborhood. I recall I also made a few dog leashes too.

With that memory recalled...

I made my self a practice string which I carry with me in my shirt pocket.  Now, at most free moments, I take it out; my latest mantra is, 6 over 1, 2 over 6, 1 over 3, 5 over 1, 6 over 4,...etc., etc., etc.

David G

bryoria's picture

Rustic Sourdough & Sourdough English Muffins

Today's bread was a rustic sourdough using my wild yeast starter:

I was out of aged whole wheat, so used all white flour instead (the recipe usually calls for 13% whole wheat).

  • 300 grams starter (100% hydration)
  • 725 grams white flour
  • 495 grams water
  • 1 tsp malt powder
  • 17 grams salt

Mixed all together with a 30 minute autolyse before adding the salt, then let it sit for 4 hours with one stretch and fold halfway.  Made fairly freeform loaves, being careful not to de-gas the dough, and let them proof at room temperature (on parchment on the back of a cookie sheet) for 45 minutes while the oven preheated.  I cover them with a smooth kitchen towel tucked around the well-floured loaves and put a paper towel roll between the loaves to keep them from spreading into each other.  Very high tech!

After proofing I slashed them and baked them at 425F for 45 minutes, putting a cup of hot water into a hot cookie sheet in the oven at the same time to make steam.  I think the slashes should have maybe been deeper.  When the loaves sprung (?) up the oven they just sort of flattened.   But other than that, I have no complaints. 

I've made the rustic sourdough a few times since I developed the starter last fall and I am always amazed and thrilled when the loaves rise so beautifully in the oven, with no added commercial yeast.  It's very magical.  Also extremely chewy, sour and delicious!

It was dark by the time we sliced it for supper, but I managed to get an okay photo of the crumb:

And as a bonus, while the bread dough was sitting for most of the day in between stretch and folds, I used the rest of my starter to make sourdough english muffins using the recipe from Wild Yeast blog.  This was my first time making english muffins, and I was really pleased. 

My only modification was to use all white flour due the aforementioned whole wheat flour shortage in the house.  The dough was very, very sticky and stayed that way, so I did add a little more flour as I mixed.  I cut them out with a 3" crumpet ring, and proofed them on the back of a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap.  I baked them on my Oster griddle set to 275F, 8 minutes per side. The griddle is known to stay pretty cool, so I can't guarantee that the 275 setting is really 275, but whatever it was, it worked well.

They ended up looking pretty close to the storebought Costco ones my kids devour when they go to their grandparents, but taste so much better!  And I recognize all the ingredients!  I'll be doing this recipe again, with the whole wheat flour next time.


dabrownman's picture

I've been working on a new home made Gas Regeneration BBQ /Smoker

that I hope to eventually use to make pizza.  It's like a mini wood fired oven.  It's built out of huge hominy can and a 40-56 oz can of beans. It's the best BBQ and smoker I have ever owned and it was nearly free! I'm pretty sure I could get a small 12" stone for it and turn it into a pizza oven fairly easily. It works on a small pile of 1/4" twigs and 4 charcoal briquettes. Amazing heat from that beast.  Throw some wood chips on top you have a smoker that makes the best meat you have ever had.  I can see a Pizza oven too .......

MAde a very nice apple smoked chicken breast for dinner.  Just yummy, especially with the YW orange turmeric bread!

TastefulLee's picture

No Knead Jalapeno & Cheddar Sourdough ala Lahey

I am loving all the great ideas and helpful advice on this website. I have been using a 1 – 2 – 3 sourdough recipe that involves no kneading, from another valuable and wonderful post on this site, but decided to try the famous No Knead bread for the first time. I mixed up the dough last night, subbing 1/4 c. each whole wheat and rye for the bread flour. 11 hours later I flattened the dough into a rectangle and topped with 2 seeded, chopped jalapeno peppers, which I folded in. I gently flattened the folded dough and added 5 oz. of extra sharp cheddar cheese and folded the dough again. I then allowed the dough a 15 minute bench rest before proofing in a bowl lined with parchment for about an hour. I transferred the bread on the parchment to my preheated cast iron dutch oven and baked according to the original recipe. All I can say is O.M.G. The bread is gorgeously browned, caramelized beautifully. It sang loudly when removed from the oven and I can hardly wait for it to cool. Thanks to the two posters who did this before me for giving me the courage to try it. I have to say that I was getting very nervous when I was folding in the peppers and cheese and the dough kept ripping…but it didn’t seem to matter in the end. Just had to share! I will be adding some photos later but since my son needs the internet and our upload speed is pathetic I'll have to wait a bit. 

I only started baking with my sourdough starter last week and the results have been wonderful thanks to so many experienced bakers who are willing to share their expertise with a newbie like me. Many thanks for all your support  :)