The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Bread winer's picture
Bread winer

Hole in the Middle

Hi all,

I need some advice.  Lately, I've been getting a 3/4 to 1 inch hole in the middle of my baked loaf.  

My mainstay loaf is a poolish starter french loaf consisting of 33% spelt and 67% bread flour (Gold Medal Better Bread).  My only change in practice in the last couple years is that I have begun using a yeast thermometer.  So, I'm getting my water to 120 F and adding my yeast and a 1/2 tsp of sugar.  My yeast foams like never before.  Also, I'm proofing at 80 - 90 degrees in my oven.  I don't over punch the first rise, but I do fold and pinch the loaves (like always) into the cast iron pans.  I usually do a five cup mix - 1 and 2/3 cups water total, including poolish (2/3 water 1 cup flours scant 1/2 tsp yeast).  Both pans are cast - one a loaf pan, one an oval.  Second rise is great.  My crust is perfect.  My crumb is awesome.  The oval loaf has no inner divot, but the loaf pan does.  Flavor?  Nothing like a spelt blend folks.  Amazon Great River Organic Milling (Fountain City, WI).  

So, to all you better scientists out there - what gives?

Any thoughts will be gratefully appreciated. 

Gentle One's picture
Gentle One

Retarding salt-free bread dough question, please

Beloved bakers,

One of my co-workers is on a sodium restricted (very low sodium) diet.  I've been making her a salt-free bread, based on a recipe from the KA 200th anniversary book.  Without salt, the bread rises very quickly; she likes the flavor, but I'd love to add to the flavor by retarding the dough by refrigerating (or maybe making a salt-free preferment?) without changing the contents (well, less yeast is certainly ok).


The recipe is in volume measurements, being (total) 6 cups (USA) flour, 2+ teaspoons yeast (not instant), 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup EVOO, and water 1.25-1.75 cups (depends on how the dough is while kneading in a Kitchen Aid).


It is surprisingly fairly good for bread with no salt, but I'd like to improve the flavor even more.  I'll have to check with her about adding some whole wheat, though advice about what I can do barring adding whole wheat would be lovely.


This is, I think, my first post; I've been so enchanted with finding answers and ideas for quite some time that I've not come up with a question that hasn't already been answered.  If this one has, and my search has simply not found it, please point me in the correct direction.


Thank you, all, ever so much.

Xenophon's picture

The golspie loaf - 100% whole wheat sourdough

This bread is inspired by the 'Golspie loaf' recipe by Dan Leppard in 'The handmade loaf'.  I always wanted to do a 100% whole wheat bread but they have a pronounced taste and I thought my main customer -wife- wouldn't be a big fan.  Imagine my surprise when I asked her to pick any type of bread she'd like to have and she settled on this recipe.  I modified it somewhat so I guess it's ok to post the full recipe which I followed:



- 50 gr. Sourdough rye starter at 100% hydration

- 100 gr. whole wheat bread flour

- 100 gr water at 21 centigrade

Combine, mix with a spoon and let ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours (I gave mine 14 hours at about 20 centigrade)

Final dough:

- All of the preferment

- 400 gr. wholewheat flour (I used a mix of 300 gr. fine flour and 100 gr. coarsely ground)

- 8 gr salt*

- 240 gr water, room temperature

- 50 gr (3 heaped table spoons) of cracked wheat berries, not soaked**

- 10 gr neutral oil for the baking tin


* Adjust salt to taste

** The broken wheat provides some crunch/extra texture.  Pre-soaking is not required as it won't be integrated in the dough anyway, it just covers the surface.  Make sure the fragments are quite small, though.


- Combine preferment, wheat flour and water in a bowl.  Mix until fluid is absorbed.

- Autolyse for 30 minutes

- Add salt

- Mix at speed 1 for 5 minutes, then 5 minutes at speed 3, the goal is to give the dough an energetic kneading.  The end result will be a soft dough that remains a bit sticky.

- Bulk fermentation 2 hours at 24 centigrade or until doubled, times will vary depending on the strength of your preferment.

- Take a cake form or a cake tin (diameter about 20-25 cm) , oil well, sprinkle in half of the cracked wheat and make sure the bottom and sides are well covered.  You don't need a fancy tin, mine is just el cheapo aluminium.

- After bulk fermentation, give the dough a gentle fold, pat down and shape into a round form.  Place into the tin and press down so it fits well and is of equal height.  You may have to wait 15 minutes for the gluten to relax while doing this.

- Spray water on top, sprinkle over the remaining broken wheat

- Proof for about 1.5 hours or until doubled, if you use a 20 cm diameter round cake form the dough should come to about half when just placed in it and after proofing it'll be about level with the top.

- After proofing, take a sharp knife and divide the dough, cutting all the way to the bottom.  These cuts will allow you to cleanly break off chunks after baking.

- Bake in a 215 centigrade oven for about 40-45 minutes (with steam for the first 20 minutes) or until top is well browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped (obviously only tapping the top is possible here).

- Remove from oven, unmould immediately (it should drop right out) and place on a rack.  Allow to cool and rest for at least 4 hours, better overnight.

The taste will be that of a full whole wheat bread:  a bit earthy/herbal/sweet.  No bitterness at all and the sourdough comes through but in a subtle way.  The crumb will be a bit denser than with a regular flour loaf, soft and quite moist.  If you cut it the right way before baking it's easy to break of a chunk, slice that one open and slap on some cheese/vegetables/cured meat or fish, makes for a quick and very tasty sandwich.  Despite the lack of any fat or sugar it retains moisture well and is ideal for carrying to work etc.  First remark of my wife:  'This is good!  Write down what you did right now (I often bake stuff that she likes but improvise with the recipe and can't recall exactly what I did a couple of weeks later) because I want this to return regularly.'

If you don't want to make a sourdough version or use a straight dough method I thin you can just drop the preferment and  use regular yeast, adjusting hydration.  Hydration should be about 68-70%


Shot of the crumb, taken with my phone:


Mike Jordan's picture
Mike Jordan

To Artisan or Not To Artisan

I've been making and baking what everyone calls Artisan bread, with it's over night or multiple night retarding the yeast in the refrigerator and cooking in a dutch oven and all this other stuff for several months now. I'm on my 2nd jar of yeast and have gotten tot he point I've bought flour at Costco in the double 10 pound bag packs.  It's looking good, with decent crumb and the taste isn't bad (the dogs go nuts for any bread I make and I almost never get to finish a slice myself) although I'm not getting the rise that the books say I should and others are getting (although I think I figured that out but I have to test my theory out)... but, it's missing something.  I'm not sure what though. 

So this morning I google through the internet for a French bread recipe (I really prefer Italian but it seams what's Italian is really French or it's pizza dough or I've been led astray most of my life on what I think is Italian bread) to try that isn't a overnight or biga or poolish like all of my books have.  So I find one that takes about 3 hours from start to finish. It has the same increments, flour, water, salt and yeast and one more, vinegar.  I thought, "Vinegar?" and passed it by, but then I went back and looked at it again and did a search on what vinegar brings to the bread. I found that it's used as a booster for the yeast and not for taste. So after printing off 3 likely recipes I decided to give this on a try. I mixed it up per the instructions (I've already gotten spoiled using weight measurements and this recipe didn't list by weight :D) let it rest about an hour, formed it into 2 long French shaped loaves, let it rest for 30 minutes and then baked it for 35. It did say to put a half inch of water in a baking pan for steam while the oven was cold, which I did, which was a lot easier than pouring it into a pre-heated oven and have it splatter, hiss and spit all over the place and I had more steam this way also.  I should have given it 5 less minutes as the top was starting to get really dark and the internal temp was a bit over 200 when I took it out. The crumb was smaller than the other breads I've been making but had a much better texture and I feel had better flavor than most of the bread that the dough sat in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The only one I did that I would say was equal to in flavor or maybe a tiny bit better was the one that sat in the fridge for 5 days. But it was definitely better than the others I've done.

So maybe mom had it right... you mix it, kneed it, proof it, kneed it, form it, proof it and bake it.  More work yes and it sure takes more than 5 minutes a day, but it still comes out as really good bread. Or maybe it's because I'm Scottish and Cherokee and don't have any European roots like so many do. After all, what kind of taste buds could someone have who's ancestors liked haggis. :D




LevaiNation's picture

Dutch Oven alternatives?

Hello bakers,

I'm currently abroad dealing with family health issues. I want to bake some quality boule's for my mom but have miserably failed at finding a dutch oven. I know I can try some moist towels, or ice cubes in a pan or another of those techniques to introduce moisture to the oven, but I was curios about using a cast iron pan and building like a tin foil tent to capture the dough moisture and recreate D.O. results.

Any thoughts of ideas?


MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Sweet Potato question

Sweet potato and moisture question: I am wondering how one measures the moisture content of sweet potato. can I consider the sweet potato 25% liquid and 75% solid ingredient? Less of more?? Just tying to figure out how much to reduce the water content in my recipe to compensate for the high moisture content of sweet potato. 

timmytwo's picture

Malt powder and syrup

I am new to bread making and see recipes with malt powder or syrup.  I went to local brewing supply store to see what they have.  There were many choices I left empty handed.  If you follow the link below to their web site you will see why. Are the extracts here the same as the powder/flower I see in recipes?  Which ones? I asked about the shelf life of the syrups and was told it is only about a week after opening so I prefer to stick with dry item..

timmytwo's picture

beginner question why cover the rising dough, volume baffles me, and whats up with my temp?


The Minnesota winter has me trapped and I can only bake so many pies. I also miss the old NY Italian delis of my childhood

I am now waiting my my fourth ever batch of dough to rise.  i have it in nice mixing bowl and covered in plastic wrap.  i want to keep lifting up the wrap in silly eagerness but i am afraid i might mess something up. Why do i need to cover it? does it need to be airtight?


Any tips on knowing how much volume has increased. Apart from a clear graduated bowl...


leaving dough to rise at room temp seems to be slow for me. What really is room temp?  In my old house our kitchen tends to top out at about 67degrees unless i have the oven on.  We have stone counters, which i suspect also run cool.  Should i be setting my dough elsewhere.













CeciC's picture

Double Fermented Oat Porridge Bread

Inspired by Tartine no.3, I used his double ferment method in preparing this bread. Using Kefir Whey to soak quick cooking oats overnight in 3:1 ratio (375:125). As it has significantly soften so I didnt boil it down, rather I only added the drained oats into the dough. Oatie flavor is apparent and complement well with almonds, however the crumb was a bit disappointing. It taste like a sandwich bread more than a boldly baked bread, it has moist n soft crumb, but its not open enough. 

Oat Porridge Bread       
Total Weight2225      
Weight per Serving741.66667      
Total Flour 1100     
Total Water 850     
Total Hydration 77.27%     
Multi-grain % 40.91%     
 Build 1Build 2Build 3SoakerFinal DoughAdd-InTotal
White Starter (100%)100     100
Wholewheat Starter100     100
Rye Starter      0
Yeast Water Levain (100%)      0
Extra-High Protein Flour (>14%)      0
Bread Flour    600 600
AP Flour      0
Wholemeal Flour       
Wholewheat Flour    250 250
Rye Flour    100 100
Corn Flour    50 50
Water    750 750
Milk      0
Raisin Soaker Water      0
Yeast Water      0
Others      0
Yeast      0
Salt    25 25
Oat Porridge     300300
ADD-IN      0
Almond     150150
Autolyse all ingridient (except Salt & Yeast)40 Min      
Add Salt, Mixed with Pincer Method       
S&F 6 Times @ 30min interval3 Hours      
Total Bulk Fermentation (21C)6 Hours      
Retard 6 Hours      
Bake - Steam15      
Bake -Uncover25      
 Internal Temp 210F      

I am not sure if this is due to not enough first fermentation or im not gentle enough with the dough. One thing can be certain is that surface tension wasnt enough for the batard, which is why it spread a bit. 

Heres the crumb shot


sandys1's picture

artisan bread with 200 degrees centigrade oven ?

hi guys,

caveat: I'm a first time baker

I'm based out of India (to give you an idea of weather), predominantly use all purpose flour or atta/wholegrain wheat flour and dry yeast.

My oven (which is a Samsung microwave + convection oven ) goes upto 200 degrees centigrade measured by a cheap oven thermometer.

My question is - do I have a hope of baking golden, thick, crusty breads ? I tried my hand at the no-knead bread - but I seem to be ending up with flat, white, hard dough. I dont seem to be getting too much baking going on.

Maybe I'm not preheating enough or not using a terracotta tile or something, but I cant seem to get bread baking going on. Should I get a different oven (which is kind of hard right now given finances) or is there a way to achieve that using things like a Dutch Oven (I just bought a stainless steel one) or a baking stone ?


</very frustrated>