The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Bakingmadtoo's picture

To discard or not?

A question that came up the other day. I try not to discard any starter. I keep just small amounts in the fridge. I bake a couple of times a week. I build the small amount I keep into enough for my recipe plus a small amount to go back in the fridge.

Another friend who bakes was showing a friend who works as a chef in a Michelin starred restaurant her starter, he sniffed it and asked her if she ever discarded any, telling her she should discard some regularly.

If I am feeding my starter the same ratio of fresh ingredients to starter, what difference does it make whether I discard some or not?  Should I be discarding some each time I feed it?

sfp1's picture

Best focaccia?


Does anyone have a really good recipe for focaccia? Thanks.


dsadowsk's picture

Timing of bulk fermentation, shaping and final proofing

Your standard recipe calls for shaping when the dough has risen to approx. twice its size during bulk fermentation (more or less depending on the recipe) and then perhaps an hour of final proof, usually ended according to the poke test.

If you were to look at this as a single extended fermentation, interrupted somewhere along the line by shaping, it raises the question why shaping is placed where it is. Could shaping be done earlier, with a longer final proof, or later, with a shorter proof? What are the tradeoffs made either way? Is it the redistribution of food for the yeasties that dictates when shaping is done? Are there recipes that manipulate when shaping is done in order to achieve a particular result?

If I happen to shape a particular dough too early or too late, I generally figure that I can make up for it on the other side by shortening or lengthening the final proof, so long as I don't underproof or overproof the dough. I simply proof until the poke test tells me to stop. Am I living in a doughy dreamland, risking dire consequences for my loaves if I don't shape when the dough is exactly doubled?

I'd be interested in the perspectives of all you knowledgeable folks.

MTK's picture

Tartine Country Bread 2.0

Recently, I'm reading Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread before sleep. His concept and method in bread baking are unique. I tried the Tartine Country loaf before reading his book, while I decide to try it again sticking to his procedure. 

Here's the recipe(I can't get good whole wheat flour here, so I replace it with whole rye flour).

1.Make the leaven. I fed my starter(4g) with 25g bread flour, 25g whole rye flour, 50g water. At 26C, it takes about five hours to pass the floating test.

2.Mix the dough. Mix all the ingredient except salt and 25g water. It's shaggy. Don't worry. Gluten will develop in later procedures.  Autolyse for 30 minute. Incorporate salt and the rest of water with the dough by hand. Transfer the dough into a plastic container.

3. Bulk fermentation. At 26C, it takes about four hour and the dough increases 20~30% in volume. Do stretch and fold every half an hour. I did 5 S&Fs. The dough is no longer shaggy but cohesive, which means good gluten development.

4. Shaping. Dough cutter is an useful tool in shaping this kind of wet dough. There's an useful shaping video  on youtube, which inspired me a lot.

Initial shaping:In this procedure, we want to incorporated as little flour as possible into the dough. Fold the side of dough onto itself so that the flour one the surface of the dough is sealed on the outside of the dough.The outer surface of the dough will be the crust, so we can use more flour to avoid sticking.

Bench rest: 30min.

Final shaping: Flip the dough so that the floured side is resting on the surface. Shape the dough like folding the envelope. Round the dough on the surface to achieve surface tension. The dough is soft and jiggling, so every movement needs to be gentle. Transfer it to the proofing basket.

5.Final proof. At 26C, it takes about 3~4 hours. At the end of this stage, I was too sleepy, so I popped it into the oven after only 3 hours. However, I think 4 hours might be better.

6.Baking. Preheat the dutch oven  40min before baking. It proves that dutch oven is the perfect device in baking this bread. It can restore heat and trap the moisture, and it's like a auto steam generator. Transfer the dough into the dutch oven and score the dough.(My scoring turns out to be awful.) Remember to wear oven mitts, otherwise it can burn your fingers. Pop it into the oven. Bake with the lid on for the first 15 minute. Take the lid out for the rest 25 minute.

There's a hugh oven spring inside the oven. And the cracking sound is the loudest I've ever heard, which owes to the dutch oven. This time, my loaf is no longer a flat bread. The volume increased a lot, comparing my last trial. The crumb is open, but still has room for improvement. I'm going to make them into some delicious sandwiches for my New Year's brunch.

dmsnyder's picture

San Francisco-style Sourdough and dishes made with it

As the weather has turned cooler, my sourdough breads have become less tasty. They have  had a less complex flavor and have been less tangy than those baked last Summer. My kitchen is in the mid-60's of late, while it was in the high-70's (or low-80's)  in the heat of summer. So, in the interest of science and other noble causes, I set out to return my SFSD to its rightful tastiness.

The truth is that I changed a number things at once, which is poor scientific methodology. But  I think I know what made the biggest difference, and the important thing is that I made some really good bread.

The basic formula and methods for my San Francisco-style Sourdough with increased whole wheat can be found here: San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour And here is what I did differently:

1. I fed my levain with some firm starter that had been refrigerated for about 3 days, rather than freshly refreshed starter.

2. I fermented the levain for 9 hours at 76 dF, rather than overnight at room temperature. I then refrigerated it for about 12 hours.

3. I mixed the autolyse with water warmed to 90 dF rather than cool water.

4. After a 1 hour autolyse, I mixed the dough and fermented it in bulk at 76 dF for 4 hours.

5. I then divided the dough and shaped boules and refrigerated for 24 hours.

6. I baked at 475 dF for 12 minutes, then convection baked at 445 dF for 14 minutes more.

Here is the result:

The crust is a little darker than usual. I prefer it this way. And the crumb ...

Mixed at the same hydration level as usual, this dough was noticeably  more slack from the time I mixed the autolyse. I guess that must be because my flour had more water content with the cooler whether. I think that is why I got the much more open crumb. It is also possible that increased enzyme activity played a role.

In any event, this bake produced bread with a crunchy crust, chewy but tender crumb and a delicious flavor that was both more complex and more tangy than my previous few bakes of this bread. I think I have a new procedure, at least until hot weather returns.


We often have bread that is a few days old and starting to get a bit dry, even for breakfast toast.  I hate throwing out bread, and I seldom do. Many of my favorite dishes made with bread of advancing age are made with croutons - slices of bread that I dry in the oven before using.

Except when drying bread for salad croutons or breadcrumbs, I slice it thinly and put it on a baking sheet or pizza pan. If I want it to remain pale, I convection bake the slices at 250 dF for 15 minutes on each side. If I want the slices browned, I convection bake at 350 dF for 15 minutes on one side, then turn them over, brush them with EVOO and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then, depending on how I am going to use them, I may rub the warm, dried slices with a clove of garlic. That's what I did for these ...

These croutons served to support heaps of grated gruyere cheese, floating in onion soup and run under the broiler for 90 seconds before serving. 

Croutons made in this way are also delicious put in the bottom of a soup bowl before filling it with ribollita or another hearty soup.

The slices of SFSD can also be toasted in a toaster and then left in the toaster for a few minutes to dry out further. That method makes a nice base for crostini. These are topped by a chicken giblet dice sautéed in olive oil with shallots, herbs and madera wine.

The giblets came surrounded by a whole chicken! We roasted it while eating the crostini and discussing how we really should have just made the crostini our dinner. 

Happy baking!


NicholasStacey's picture

December 15th

I have recently become somewhat interested in making sourdough at home (OK, maybe slightly more than interested...). I've always loved bread but never made it seriously until recently. Last year I enrolled in Stratford Chefs School where I got my hands doughy again in pastry class, and I'm now in second year. I've made a few different kinds of breads (Baguettes, Sours, Sourdough Ryes, Pain Rustique, Potato bread, so on) but have not had any real repetitional experience, often just make the bread once or twice.  


It being Christmas Vacation and all, I decided I would try to tighten up my technique a bit, as well as stock the freezer for the looming second semester of school. I've been focusing on sourdough because its what I enjoy most at the moment, and my house mates and I go through a few loaves a week. 


Here is my bake from december 15th, it was my first time making bread in this house, and making this sourdough recipe solo. I want to improve the crumb, and have it open up more, but am still happy with the results considering the quality of oven I'm using. I bake in an electric still oven, using aluminum pots or cast iron dutch ovens, sometimes hotel pans (AKA 1/3 inserts). 


Stratford Sourdough - makes 2 x 700 gram loaves


AP Flour   104 g

Rye Flour  7.5 g

Water        69 g

Culture      22.5 g


Final Mix:

AP Flour   712.5 g

Rye Flour  35 g

Water        500 g

Salt           16.5 g

Build          all 

Did an Autolyse for roughly 20 minutes, mixed by hand, and folded in 30 minute increments about 7 times. 20 minute bench rest. Shaped into baneton and Roughly a 2 hour final fermentation. Baked for 25 minutes (covered) in a hotel pan and dutch oven, and an additional 4-7 minutes (uncovered). I like them somewhat dark. 

Any advice to increase the opening of the crumb would be welcome!



2013-12-15 14.18.48-1

2013-12-15 14.22.37-1

2013-12-15 14.47.02-1

2013-12-15 16.41.08-1

2013-12-15 17.27.55-2

2013-12-18 10.17.48-1


isand66's picture

Kamut-Fresh Milled Flour Sourdough

  I received a Nutrimill for a present from my wife last week....another new toy to play with!  I've ground fresh flour in small batches in my coffee grinder, but it is no comparison to using the Nutrimill.  I have yet to purchase any drum sieves to sift the flour and I definitely want to buy some bulk grains as soon as I can find a good source.

For my first attempt I used whatever I had on-hand which was Kamut, Hard Red Whole Wheat and Hard White Whole Wheat.  I used the Kamut to make the levain and also made a scald with some of the white whole wheat.

I added the scald ingredients to the hydration calculations but I think I did something wrong as I'm coming up with a crazy number for the hydration with add-ins.  The potatoes were calculated at 81% water content which as something to do with it.  In any regards, the dough is a bit on the wet side but the fresh grains really soak up the water, so it's not that hard to handle.

I added the potatoes which I had left-over from making potato pierogies over the holidays and it had cream cheese, butter and milk in them.  This was probably the best tasting pierogies filling I've made to date.

I also used some honey to try to cut some of the bitterness from the whole wheat and made the scald for the same reason.

All in all, for the first loaf made with my milled flour it was very good.  The loaf is very tasty with a moderately open crumb and a nice crust.  I sent one of these off to Arizona as a belated present to Max's friend Lucy and DA.  I hope they enjoy it along with the Orange Shandy Durum Semolina bread.





Levain Directions

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.

Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

Scald Directions

Boil the water in a small sauce pan and add the flour.  Mix until you end up with a paste.  This should take only a minute or two and then you can remove from the heat and let it cool down before using in the main dough.


 Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flours, and water 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 20-30 minutes.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces), potatoes, and honey and mix on low for 3 minutes.  Mix on medium for another 3 minutes and then 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.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.  I made 1 large boule shape.   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.  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 550 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 500 degrees and after another 3 minutes lower it to 450 degrees.  Bake for 35-50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 210 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.



MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

How is malt powder made?

Does anyone know how malt powder is made? Thank!

MANNA's picture

Christmas presents

This year I got some new books for Christmas again. One is out of print but my wife found it online.Im still trying to bake my way through Bouchon I got last year. My new years resolution will have to be no more books intill I bake all the recipes from the ones I have now. I have read some of the Flo Braker book. Its the one out of print. I want to try some of her cakes and see the results. My cakes have gotten better but I feel still lack that "WOW" factor. Im pretty sure that my mixing technique is not optimum. The French Baker is nice. Good mix of bread, pastry and food. The pics and stories are wonderful in themselves. Sometimes when I need to check-out of reality I grab it and dream Im baking in a little shop somewhere in the French country side. Baking by hand doesnt give alot of technique for handling stuff. The recipes do look wonderful and simple. I like the savory tarts. I want to make those first. From the wood fired oven has given me some new insights on design improvements from Alan Scotts original oven design. I will have that oven built in five years. First thing to do is sip burbon by the drying fires under the stars.

hanseata's picture

German Cheese Cake - Käsekuchen for Ex-Pat's

Americans and Germans have a lot in common. One is their love for cheese cake. Though both pastries taste great, Käsekuchen is distinctly different from its US cousin.

Cheesecake crust is made with cookie crumbs, very practical, and a good recycling of even stale cookies. German Käsekuchen has a short crust, more fuss, but buttery decadence.

The real difference, though, is the filling. American filling, made of mild, more neutral cream cheese, can be varied with many different flavors (like Limoncello-Cheesecake). Käsekuchen is made with quark, a fresh cow milk cheese that is less creamy, more acidic, and contains more water.

Quark (curd cheese), the base for many different types of European pastries and desserts is unfortunately hard to find in the US, or outrageously expensive - and it doesn't taste the same.

German Käsekuchen with sour cherries - my husband's favorite

Though in desserts quark will be often paired with fruits, German cheese cake bakers tend to purism, the filling might have raisins, and sometimes other fruits, like sour cherries or apples.

Another important difference: German Käsekuchen is notably less heavy and dense than its somewhat massive American counterpart (in spite of the short crust!).

Though I do like American cheese cake with its seemingly endless variations, I love my German Käsekuchen. But how to re-create it in this sadly quark-less country?

Here is how I did it - and you can, too!

No quark needed to make this Käsekuchen, lighter and less dense than it's US cousin