The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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mebusybaker's picture

Question about using refractory cement for the oven floor

I am new to this page, however, have cooked in a brick oven many times before.  Now I am building one.  I am attempting to do this as green as possible.  I have had the city dump sidewalk in my yard for the base and am now researching the use of cement vs fire brick for the oven floor.  I have left over red brick from years ago I plan to use as the dome.  The idea is to recycle as much material as possible and keep the build cost to a minimum.  I am wondering whether I could replace fire brick ($$) with cement for the floor.  To eleminate, or rather, decrease the possibility of natural expansion and contraction I have thought of pouring in sawdust or shavings in with the cement as an additional ingredient; technique is very similar to a cob oven.  Any advice out there would be helpful.  Thanks


Srvchef's picture

obtaining the pefect crust

in order to obtain the perfect crust,which if any ingredient on the surface of the bread will perfect the crust?



Srvchef's picture



I introduced myself earlier today and kind of forewarned that I would be literally bombarding you guys with questions......please forgive if they are so basic but it's where I'm at and really want to make amazing bread.....

When is the best time to slash bread?

Is it the quicker the cooking the latest the slashing and you slash earlier with breads that cook longer?




Barbarainnc's picture

ISO: Homemade Doughnut Glaze

Looking for a homemade doughnut glaze that works. I like the clear glaze the best, but would also like a chocolate version. I have tried the water/ powdered sugar version and the milk /powdered sugar version. It didn't glaze the doughnut like I thought it would. I know I can buy doughnut glaze in a bucket, but I don't need 2-5 gallons. If you have a glaze that works, please share. :) :) :) Looking for a glaze that will set up on the doughnut. The glazes I tried weren't heated and the doughnuts were soft and gooey the next day. If you've ever had a Krispy Kreme Doughnut, that what I want. :) :)

jwilder's picture

Doyon vs American Baking Systems

I'm lucky enough to be moving into a new, larger bakery space and am able to custom-design my new kitchen. Right now I'm a start-up bakery that outgrew my home kitchen, so I rented a space that has 3 home-use ovens - no commercial stuff. With  my new space I want commercial ovens, and I'm stumped. I've no idea where to begin. I've heard that standard convection ovens are really hard on breads and pastries (90% of what I produce), so I'm wary of convection. What I know I need is a deck oven unit to handle multiple items at a time - pastry, bread, muffins, etc, with steam inject in at least one, and separate controls on all decks. 

I've heard Doyon has some kind of air flow system that's supposed to gentler? And I've also heard Doyon is notorious for problems and very unhelpful in the customer service department. Any truth to either of these claims? Has anyone ever used a Doyon oven? How does it compare to more common brands?

I'm also looking into American Baking Systems. They're much more reasonably priced than Doyon, but again, I've never baked on any of their equipment. How does it compare to Doyon? Better, worse, average? 

Are there any other brands I should consider? Any particular details I should be looking for? 

Also, on home-use ranges there's a marked difference between gas and electric ovens. Is that the case with commercial ovens as well? Is gas preferred? I have the option to have the builder run gas, or not if I don't need it, however it's a significant expense. 

Thanks so much for all the advice!

Grenage's picture

Hydration % Calculation

Hi there,

I'm wondering whether people include levain flour and water into their calculations, when working out hydration levels.  Assuming my levain is a mass of 100% just-fed starter; if I bake a loaf with 100g levain, 200g water, and 300g flour - do I have:

a) 66.6%  (200/300) x 100
b) 71.4% (250/350) x 100

I assume that I would have 'b', but assumptions have gotten me into trouble before now...

GSnyde's picture

After an Adventure in Nature, Back to the Kitchen – Country-er Sourdough

Cat and I spent the week of 3/3 through 3/10 on an expedition on the waters and islands around Southern Baja California.  It was a glorious trip, with great up-close encounters with marine mammals and other local fauna.

My camera was busy trying to capture some sense of the wonderful natural world we experienced.

[That's a Grey Whale calf our friend Julie is about to pet]

On our return to civilization, once I got my work life under control, I found time to bake this weekend.  I’m very glad my camera has had some stop-action exercise.  My bread photos are much improved by a faster shutter (it looks like the loaves are lying absolutely still).

I tried a bit of an experiment in sourness.   I took my tried-and-true San Francisco Country Sourdough formula and made it “country-er”.  A bit more rustic and a bit sourer.  I added more whole wheat and more rye (15% of each), used pumpernickel rye in the main dough, increased the hydration to 70% to compensate for the thirstier flour, and lengthened the fermentation time for the levain.

I made three loaves of about 525 grams each, two batards and one boule.  The boule proofed in the basement (about 55 F) so I could bake it in a second batch in my small oven. 

The result was a noticeably sourer, but still only medium-sour, bread, with a bit less open crumb (due to the coarser flour).    This bread, like ones made with the basic SFCSD recipe, has a wonderful light, moist crumb and a moderately chewy crust.  Very delicious.

I will definitely make this bread again.  Maybe even take it up to 25% pumpernickel.

Here’s the new formula and procedure:

San Francisco Country-er Sourdough (Sourdough Pain de Campagne with more rye and whole wheat) version 3-17-12

Yield: 1570 grams: Two 785g Loaves; or Three 523 gram loaves; or…   



88 grams   AP flour

24 grams  Whole Wheat flour

24 grams  light rye flour

170 grams   Water, cold (45 F or so)

28     Mature culture (60% hydration)

FINAL DOUGH (70% hydration, including levain)

540 grams   All-Purpose flour (70%)*

115 grams  Whole wheat flour (15%)**

115 grams   Whole rye flour (15%)***

470 grams   Warm water (80 F or so) (61%)

17 grams   Salt (2%)

312 grams   Liquid levain  (40.5%)   

 3-17 used CM Artisan Baker’s Craft (malted)

** 3-17 used CM Organic Hi-protein fine whole wheat

*** 3-17 used CM Pumpernickel rye



1. LIQUID LEVAIN:  Make the final build 15 or so hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 70°F

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary.  Cover the bowl and let stand for an autolyse phase of 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, plus a few drops of water to moisten the surface, and finish mixing 5 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. 

3. BULK FERMENTATION WITH S&F:  3 hours. Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl twice 20-strokes at 60-minute intervals.  If the dough has not increased in size by 75% or so, let it go a bit longer.

4. RETARDED BULK FERMENTATION (optional):  After second S&F on board, form dough into ball and then place again in lightly oiled bowl.  Refrigerate 8-20 hours, depending on sourness desired and scheduling convenience.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: [Note: if bulk retarded, let dough come to room temperature for 30-90 minutes before pre-shaping.]  Divide the dough into pieces and pre-shape.  Let sit on board for 30 minutes, and then shape into boules or batards or baguettes.

6. PROOFING: Approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours at 72° F. Ready when poke test dictates.  Pre-heat oven to 500 with steam apparatus in place.

7. BAKING: Slash loaves.  Bake with steam, on stone.  Turn oven to 450 °F after it hits 500F after loading loaves.  Remove steaming apparatus after 12 minutes (10 for baguettes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes total (for 750g loaves; 27 minutes for 500 gram loaves; less for smaller loaves).   Rotate loaves for evenness as necessary.  When done (205 F internal temp), leave loaves on stone with oven door ajar 10 minutes.


bdatxmama's picture

New owner of Verona Assistent

HELP!!!! Just purchased the Assistent last wk of course everything I read about their manual is true. The DVD is just as bad. Bread Beckers has been a great help w the roller/scraper but they don't have any videos using the new cookie/cake beaters which came with mine. If anybody has used these, could you tell me if you have used it for chocolate chip cookie dough or any other cookie or cake recipes. I would appreciate detailed instructions for speed for
creaming and then mixing all other ingred in. Thanks.

Skibum's picture

JMonkey's Poolish Baguette

I have been baking steadily now for 2 months and thanks to this great site my results have improved a great deal.  Today was my best bake ever! The biggest difference was finally having a baking stone in the oven.  Today’s oven spring surpassed even results I have had baking in cast iron.  Really nice tasting loaf, with great crust, nice soft crumb and great flavour.  This is my first content post, so I hope the photos come out:

 I have been working on the recipe posted my JMonkey under recipes in the handbook:

I have had to make a few changes.  First of all, my home is 4,420 feet above sea level and it is very dry with the humidity rarely venturing above 50% in winter and I am likely using different flour.  Perhaps JM’s water is wetter!  I certainly need to use less yeast. 

My first crack at this recipe measured by weight, resulted in a very dry dough and I ended up adding an additional 3 Tbs of water just to get it to go together, but the dough was still too dry and the loaves average.

My second try at this recipe I started by using an additional 6 Tbs of water and added a bit more salt using 11/2 tsp.  I also switched from Robin Hood AP unbleached AP flour to Robin Hood Best for Bread, White bread flour.  (yup, I’m in Canada).  To get better spring, this batch was baked in a cast iron dutch oven at 450 covered for 20 minutes, then finished uncovered for 20 minutes more.  The loaves were very good and the trend in the right direction.

My third recipe was outstanding and once again, I upped the salt another ¼ tsp for taste.  Though I started this recipe project using weights, this is the volume measure for the bread I have been making:


1 1/3 Cup Bread flour

1 1/3 cup water – OOPS recipe deviation . . .

1/8 tsp yeast

At around 5:00 pm Friday I started the yeast in warm water and then mix and see you in the morning!

Final Mix

21/2 Cups Bread Flour

1/2 Cup warm water

13/4 tsp salt

½ tsp yeast

Mix warm water with yeast then add to polish, stirring to break it up a bit.  Add polish to flour & salt mix and mix/knead for 10 minutes.  Placed dough in an olive oiled bowl for a bulk ferment with 3 stretch and folds every 30 minutes, followed by a 1 hour bulk rise.

Okay, I deviated from the recipe once again by doing the stretch and folds at 30 minutes rather than 1 stretch and fold after 1 hour, but hey, I am a skibum and I get things confused.  I confused the bulk ferment prep between the polish baguette and ciabatta recipes, but I guess with my additional water my mix is

I then divided the dough in 2 and pre-shaped 2 dough balls.  One dough got covered and will get baked today.  The other went pack into the bowl and into the fridge for later use.

After 25 minutes rest, I shaped a boule as Mr. Hammelman shows on his excellent video:

I placed the shaped loaf onto bakers parchment dusted with flour and cornmeal  and covered with a floured towel and plastic bag to proof.  After 1 hour I turned the oven on to 450F and placed an empty broiler pan try on the bottom rack, the stone on the 2nd rack.  After 11 minutes the oven was up to heat and I gave it another 19 minutes to let the stone heat up, for a total proofing time of 30 minutes.

I then dusted the loaf with flour, scored it and placed the loaf and parchment onto the baking stone and adding ¾ cup boiling water to the broiler pan.  The total baking time was 30minutes.

YAHOO, great loaf, great bake!


Anomalous's picture

Pumpernickel: should it shrink overnight?

My first attempt at Pumpernickel came out of the oven somewhat shunken, so I'm wondering whether that's what should have happened or whether I've done something wrong. I used a German-style recipe, summarised below, from  Daniel Stevens's River Cottage Bread Handbook, with the quantities proportionally reduced by half to a manageable quantity.

On removing them from the oven the next day they had shrunk significantly, almost back to their pre-proving volume, even shrinking away from the sides of the tin. Is this normal or have I goofed up? I won't be cutting into the loaf until tomorrow, so I don't know how taste and texture are working out.

Pumpernickel recipe (Westphalian style)

Soaker: I baked 100g of old wholemeal bread slices until they were very dark brown right the way through, then soaked them with 100g whole rye grains in about 500ml of water overnight.

Sponge: I mixed 150g wholemeal rye flour with 150g water and a good dollop of my wholemeal rye sourdough starter and left it overnight.

Dough: Next morning, I strained and squeezed the soaker in a sieve and retained the liquor, then I mixed the squeezed soaker and the sponge with 125g wholemeal rye flour, 125g rye flakes, 10g salt, 25g blackstrap molasses and 150ml water from the soaker.

Baking: I mixed it all up good and proper, then transferred the dough into two 2lb baking tins so that each was about half full, covered them with clingfilm then let them raise for about 4 hours until nearly doubled in size then I covered the tins tightly with two layers of foil and baked for an hour at 200C then 30 mins at 190C, 30 mins at 180C, 30 mins at 170C then 3 hours at 150C, then switched off the oven and left them in overnight while it cooled. This morning I wrapped the loaves in greaseproof parchment to mature until tomorrow.