The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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christinepi's picture

how can I tell the starter is at its peak?

I've made my first starter as of two days ago. Right now it's sitting out at ca 68, and I feed it twice a day. It's nice and bubbly. After I fed it at 9am today, it doubled within 3-4 hours. I decided to watch what will develop, since I'm totally new to this. It's been sitting there, motionless, since 1pm. It's still motionless, at 5:22pm. If I understand this correctly, there will be a point when it peaks in vigor, and then slowly lose power; so one wants to catch that point in time when it's at its strongest. How exactly do I know this?? Clearly there are a good few hours wiggle room, but roughly? Does the smell change? Right now it smells to die for good, but not sour (I take it it will take a week or more to develop its fullest sour potential. I intend to keep it sitting out for now because it's so much fun to watch.

Any tips on when the time has come for the starter to lose its power?

jaywillie's picture

Central Milling organic AP flour in stock now at Costco in Portland, Ore.!

After badgering my local Costco with a number of suggestion cards about carrying something other than bleached and bromated flours, I'm happy to say that the Clackamas Costco now has Central Milling's organic AP flour in stock. That is exactly what I was hoping for, and I have to thank the numerous TFL posters who have mentioned being able to get this flour at their Costco stores in California, Colorado and other states. It's two 10# packages of flour, with a cost per pound of 62.5¢. That is a real bargain for a great flour.

I'm pretty confident in saying the flour is the same as Central Milling Beehive organic, which has a protein content of 10.5% and has gotten rave reviews from many bakers, especially for artisan loaves.

I don't know if other Portland or Oregon Costco locations are stocking the flour. And I'm probably hoping against hope that my store will restock it when the pallet is empty. So if you live and bake in Portland -- and are also a Costco member -- get out there and buy some of this flour.

baker815's picture

Pretzel Making - Saving Dough - Help Needed!


I started a small pretzel company and it's quickly getting larger and larger. I'm trying to figure out a way to save dough so that I don't have to make multiple batches since this is a bread dough and can easily over rise and go bad.

I just purchased a very large mixer that can hold up to 200 pounds of dough. However, I only have four employees for now and they can only handle 50 pounds of dough at a time. I would love to be able to make a 200 pound batch, let 50 pounds of it rise and then somehow save the other 150 pounds of dough for use later in the day. I know I can put it in the refrigerator but what is the best way to do this? I was thinking ...


1. Make 200 pounds of dough

2. Take 50 pounds, let it rise and then twist into pretzels.

3. Take other 150 pounds and chunk it into 3, 50 pound batches. Before it rises (?) immediately out of the mixer, portion it into 50 pound batches and put in the refrigerator.

4. Every 30 minutes take out a new batch of 50 pound dough and let rise for 1 1/2.

Does this make sense? I would love any input on this. I have been having so much difficulty with scaling and making this in large batches!


Thank you!!!!

dabrownman's picture

What is the Best Thing You Can Put On Pumpernickel?

I’m not sure exactly but Pate Maison has to be one of them.  The great thing about Pate Maison is that it is true to its name.  As master of your house, you can put what ever you want in it so it is like your favorite loaf of bread you invented and like the best.


I only make this rich dish once a year, right before Thanksgiving, and it is a large one made in Lucy’s largest soufflé.  Before baking it weighs over 4 pounds, just in various sausages, bacon, ham, beef and chicken livers alone.


The other ingredients are a caramelized mix of 1 large onion, 8 oz of crimini mushrooms, 1/4 of a bell pepper, 1 small carrot and rib of celery all cut into cut into sticks.  The greens are a mix of parsley, 2 green onions and a little bit of arugula and chopped Swiss chard.


 A half a stick of butter is used to sauté 3/4ths of the 1 pound 4 oz of chicken livers in (3minutes only) with some thyme and 2 tsp of pepper and 1 garlic clove.  Cut; 8 oz of your favorite ham  into sticks and 2 hard boiled eggs cut in half.  The sausages were 8 oz each of fresh; Mexican chorizo, hot Italian, beef boudin, andouille and pork country breakfast all home made.


You hold back 1/4 of the ham sticks, 4 chicken livers that are uncooked and chopped in half and the eggs so that you can decorate middle of the pate so when sliced it is a stunner visually.  The remaining bulk of chicken livers are liquefied in a food processor.


To assemble you mix, the caramelized onion  and mushrooms, red bell carrot and celery sticks, green onion, arugula parsley, Swiss chard,  3/4 ths of the ham sticks and the liquefied sautéed chicken livers in with the sausages with a large heavy spoon along with 2 T of brandy and 1 T of dry sherry. 


Line the soufflé with the 12 oz of smoked bacon slices making sure they are long enough to cover the top when the soufflé is full of pate.  Put half the mix in the bottom and then decorate the middle with the reserved egg, ham sticks and raw chicken livers and then cover with the rest of mix and fold over the bacon to cover the top.


Make sure to place the covered soufflé (I have a lid but you can use foil) in a jelly roll pan to catch the copious amounts of fat that will be rendered as it bakes at 350 F for 2 1/2 hours.  Take the lid or foil off with an hour to go to brown the bacon on top.


As it cools put a plate on top and turn the soufflé over squeezing out as much fat as you can. Then leave the pate on top and weigh down with something heavy, I used large enchilada sauce cans.  When cool, keep the weight on and refrigerate overnight.


Un-mold after 12 hours in fridge and cut the huge pate into 8 wedges and freeze them to be ready anytime during the Holidays!  Now if Ski was like me he would take half to the smoker for an hour of smoke just to put the cap in the bottle and have a different pate to choose from!


 My favorite topping for my favorite bread - it must be close to the holiday season for sure!  Happy Holiday Baking!

 And yes.....You can have it for breakfast if no one is looking!  The innocent looking lunch has a sandwich what I am sure is even illegal in Canada - A Pate, Pastrami, Pumpernickel, Paddy Melt with Brie.  It might be the most delicious sandwich Lucy has dreamt up lately - certainly the most decadent.

christinepi's picture

Starter shrunk

When I created my first starter a few days ago, it was nice and bubbly. I put it in the fridge, where it promptly lost some of its volume (maybe15%). Is that normal? Will it come back up once at room temperature? Anything I should do?

Mells's picture

How to knead a very sticky dough

Hi everyone. I'm new to this site and as well as making bread too. 

Okay. Previously, I've baked using cup measurement and the dough is pretty smooth and elastic. But I've heard people saying that cup measurement is not that accurate and the dough is suppose to be sticky, so that the bread is soft and fluffy. 

And then I tried again using the weighing scale to measure my bread flour. And this time, the dough is so so so sticky! I couldn't knead at all, it sticks on my hand, the bowl and the counter too. 

I tried putting flour on the dough but it still sticks so I add again and again. But it's still so sticky so I did not knead much. I do not want to add too much flour but I just couldn't help it. So, in the end, the bread came out so dense. I don't know how to knead in such a sticky situation.  

Your reply is appreciated. Thanks.  

flourgirl51's picture

La Cloche or Bread Dome?

I am thinking of getting a stoneware baker and am undecided between the LaCloche and the Bread Dome, both made by Sassafrass. 

Has anyone compared the two as far as size and functionality?

chris319's picture

How Much Barley Malt?

Does anyone know how much malted barley flour/diastatic malt is typically added by millers to white wheat flour, say on a percentage weight basis?

Thank you.

GlenisB's picture

Puzzled by dough tests

I've been baking bread for almost a year now and after a few early disasters I'm now confident with a variety of loaves: White, Wholemeal, Pizza base, Baguettes, Ciabatta, Sourdough etc.

They usually turn out well with good crumbs, nice crust and most importantly, the family love them and we haven't bought a shop-baked loaf for a long time.

Now what puzzles me is the dough tests often mentioned here and in various books. The window-pane test is the most confusing in that I've never achieved it. I've kneaded by hand using the French slap or push and fold methods. I've let dough rest during kneading, I've used a stand mixer. I've extended the kneading times to as long as 30 minutes - until I'm exhausted - none of these give the window-pane effect.
And yet I always get good oven spring, good crust

Let's take a basic recipe for white bread:

500g strong white bread flour (Alinson's)
10g salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
40ml olive oil
320ml water

Tray of water in bottom of oven
Spray inside of oven with a mister at start
Bake at 210C for 25 minutes (Fan oven)
Lower temperature to 190C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.

This seems to produce a decent loaf every time so:

Where am going wrong by failing to produce the elusive window-pane effect with the above?

Would the bread be better if I could produce the window-pane effect?

Should I just stop being nerdy & continue as I am?

Your thoughts please.

christinepi's picture

about to try my first sourdough bread, but confused...

I'm a total sourdough beginner. I just made my starter according to gaaarp's directions ( and it turned out beautifully. I stuck it in the fridge this morning. (It actually lost  a bit of volume since--is that normal? It was huge and bubbly) I would like to use it (today is Tuesday) on Thursday evening to start a no knead sourdough with KA AP and WWW (ratio undetermined).

Sooo... what do I do? Could somebody kindly walk me through the steps? I tried to figure this out online but there's too much info out there and I can't find answers to all the questions I have.

--I assume I need to feed it before then? It currently weighs 276 grams. When between today and Thursday evening and how much flour/water do I feed it? 

--Let's say I take it out Wednesday to feed it. I assume I'd take out, say, 50% because I won't need all that starter once it's doubled. So I'll take out 50% (138g), and then add flour and water in equal amounts. Then I let it sit out at room temperature, and let's say it doubled by Thursday morning--do I stick it ALL back in the fridge, or stir it and take out my required amount of starter, leave IT on the counter, and stick the rest in the fridge? Or do I put the measured out amount back in the fridge, too, because it would expand too much until I'm ready to use it? And do I then take it out closer to baking time to have it come back to room temperature? That's where I really need help.

--I've noticed the 1:1:1 ratio rule. Doesn't that mean instead of doubling the amount I triple it? I'm sure there's something I'm not getting.

--Let's say the recipe (I don't have one right now) asks for 1/4 cup starter. Do I stir the starter until it's been de-bubbled and then fill a 1/4 cup?

--Should the starter always be at room temperature when ready to mix the dough?

--Or, to make this simple for now, maybe the starter is plenty ready to go for Thursday and I should just leave it be? Let's say I intend to make the dough at 7pm Thursday evening. How long before should I let the required amount of starter sit out to get to room temperature?

It would be great if someone had a basic sourdough recipe for me to tackle. I'm so excited!!