The Fresh Loaf

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ananda's picture

Summer 2013 at Bread and Roses

Summer 2013 at Bread and Roses


It’s been busy here in Powburn, but there has been time for holidays too.   Bakery projects remain live, with much continued interest in the portfolio of artisan breads.   It is just a matter of continuing to believe, and to drive it all forward as best as I can possibly manage.

After Franko’s visit in June there were the following baking events.   In the last week of June I baked for the Alnwick Farmers’ Market.   Moving into early July, I had a reasonably small bread order to fill for Nigel who was up in the region doing a catering job for a group of walkers on St. Cuthbert’s Way.   After a few days of business meetings, and hard work to complete the year-end accounts and bring all the bookwork up-to-date, I then had a hectic week of baking prior to going away for a week’s holiday.

Hexham Farmers’ Market was on 13th June, and I had 2 one-day bread courses on 15th and 18th June.   In between the two, on Tuesday 16th July, Nigel came up and we put in a full day of hard graft to upgrade the brick oven on my patio.   We rebuilt the chimney with proper old firebricks, and sturdier mortar, including refractory cement for the lowest portion of the chimney which gets all the heat.   We also built the shell of the oven up a further 3 courses of bricks and added considerably more insulation to improve retention of top heat.   After that we added a very quaint slate roof.   It now looks like this:



Overall, this project has already proved to be a major success and I anticipate it saving a lot of money in fuel costs as the oven has already proved it will now hold a lot more heat than before.

I am working on the business with a very old friend who I actually shared a house with back in the late 1980s when still a student, and then setting up the Red Herring business.   He lives very close by now, and has numerous areas of business expertise to share, as well as belief in the products made by Bread and Roses.   We had an appointment at Cragside House on the Friday to discuss taking a stall to sell bread during a Cheese Week which is being promoted there later in September.   My favourite artisan cheese from the North of England is made by Doddingtons, just a few miles north of where we live.   Unpasteurised Organic milk, produced on the family dairy farm, is used to make a range of the most amazing cheese.   I am so looking forward to being at this event alongside such a producer whom I actually have real respect for.   There aren’t too many of these, alas.

Well, after that it was holiday time.   Alison’s sister, Mandy, plus her husband Andy, and their boy Lewis, are over from New Zealand at the moment on holiday.   Long in the planning, 9 of us rented the Old Free Church Manse on the island of Raasay for a week; a short ferry trip over from the most fabulous Isle of Skye.   Alison’s son Daniel, plus her other sister Beverley, her partner Malcolm, and their daughter Eve, made up the remaining numbers in the group.

The weather was fantastic, as it usually seems to be when Alison and I trundle up to the Highlands of Scotland.   It was a bit humid on occasions, so the midges were in evidence, but it was sunny, and we all had a great week, with plenty of activities, and enjoying sharing lovely food mainly prepared on a huge Aga cooker.   Yes, I did bake bread; some lovely and large Gilchesters’ Miches.



In the week following the return from Raasay, I ran another bread course from home, again in beautiful sunshine.   Some photographs here from that day:

office edits5

office edits2

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office edits14

 Gilchesters' Miche, above

Saturday 3rd August was the annual Powburn Show.   This is my 3rd appearance at the Show.   I spent some time deciding how to produce for this year’s event.   I settled on using Nigel’s oven which he kindly offered me use of.   However, Nigel was away on holiday, and his house is close to 80km away from Powburn, so the logistics were tricky.   I went down to Nigel’s on the Wednesday afternoon and fired up his oven.   I stayed over both Wednesday and Thursday nights.   This gave me 2 days of solid production, and I was assisted by an ex-student and sometime baking colleague on both days.   Thank you to for your very hard work; very much appreciated.

We made lots of rye breads on the first day: Moscow Rye; Black Pumpernickel and Borodinsky are all established Bread and Roses’ favourites, and are all 100% rye loaves.   I added in a couple of alternatives using Hamelman’s Three-Stage Detmolder process to produce a 90% Rye and a 70% Rye.

The following day we baked a lot of wheat leaven based bread.   Output consisted of 21kg Gilchesters’ Farmhouse miche dough; 10kg white levain; 8.4kg each of Dinkel [Spelt], Five Grain and Seeded Sourdough, together with 5kg of Toasted Brazil Nut & Prune [now featuring as a leaven bread, rather than using the Biga].   We made some Ciabattas and Focaccia slices, and some Croissants and Pains au Chocolat.   Photographs of products shown below:







The day of the Show started with a threatening shower or two, and a wind blew up too.   However, the sun then came out and lots of people came to visit.   By 15:30 just a handful of the 100 plus loaves remained.   I ran the stall alone largely this year.   Alison had been asked to act as a roving reporter at the event as she was contributing an article to our local magazine Cheviot Views, offering her account of the day’s events.   She still managed to drop by and give me some cover from time to time so I could grab a bite to eat and take a couple of essential breaks.   There are a few photographs below of the Bread and Roses stall this year:





 You can see more photographs on flickr here:

So we both need another holiday.   Alison is desperate to grab some Mediterranean heat before she has to go back to work in a few week’s time.   We fly to Malaga early tomorrow morning.   I have 5 night’s away, and Alison has the full week.   Given my baking commitments, I am surprised I could get away at all, but am all too aware how much I will appreciate the break.   We are staying in the hills just to the North East of Malaga, near the walled town of Comares.   This is quite a good representation from Google images:

I want to read, lounge in the sun and chill out; nothing more.   Maybe a meal out in the evening some time, and relaxing with a drink as the sun goes down.   Just some fine quality time with my wife!

When I get back, I have to bake for the Whittingham Show on 18th August.   This will be a smaller version of the Powburn Show, and is 2 villages away, just a few km.   The next Hexham Farmers’ Market is on the following Saturday, and Alnwick Farmers’ Market is the Friday after that.

September is already shaping up to be very busy.   I have an enriched bread course on Saturday 8th September.   The following Saturday, Nigel is trading at Hexham and I am at Ingram Show [again a village just a few km from Powburn].   This means double production at Nigel’s house on Friday 13th September.   After that there is Alnwick Food Festival.   I will be giving a demonstration again, working alongside my colleague Ann, from   That means 3 days of trading in addition to the demonstration.   Cragside Cheese Week falls in the week after Alnwick Food Festival, and Hexham Farmers’ Market completes the month of baking.   We have applied for a spot at Newcastle Farmers’ Market again.   If we are successful then these begin early October, and take place monthly thereafter!

So, it’s all go here.   More than ever, I need a bakery!   Vision board and business activity focus on this as priority Uno.

Take care all; happy baking!


yozzause's picture

Irish frozen dough being sold in Australia as fresh baked today

Here is a link to a story in Australia  where the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is looking into the practice. It has already alienated many of Coles customers  that feel like they are being hoodwinked.

Regards Yozza

breadsong's picture

Gilchester's Farmhouse Brown Flour - a generous gift from the UK

Hello everyone,

Andy (ananda) very kindly sent some Gilchester’s Farmhouse Brown flour home with Franko, after Franko’s recent trip to the UK and Czech Republic
Many thanks to both of these generous bakers – Andy for sharing this lovely flour, and Franko, who carefully packed the flour all the way home from the UK, then shipped some of the precious lot to me :^)   

(Isn't it cool how TFL enables us to make friends with people from all parts of the world?)

delighted to see this arrive in the mail: gorgeous, soft, golden, fluffy flour...


I used the flour for two separate bakes of Andy’s Gilchester’s Miche - this formula another fantastic contribution by Andy, but not the best handling of it, on my part...

The first bake (two boules) was under-proofed - to my dismay!, attempting a pretty stencilled pattern, inspired by the Gilchester's website design...
(the leading photo for this post was the "good" side)

before baking, then...                     under-proofing resulting in oven spring

               first boule...can still sort of see the "g" for gilchester's; and the other fared even worse!

Oh, dear.

Looks gave way to flavor and aroma, though: after the baking these loaves had a toasty, almost caramel-like aroma; the crust was crisp, but the crumb soft in texture.
The taste!: tangy, wheaty, even a bit peppery – with a lingering acidity, quite delicious.


Andy encouraged me for the second bake, saying it was better to be on the under-proofed side than
over-proofed, with this flour - given high extraction, fine milling, and lots of enzymes.

Not heeding Andy's advice, the second bake (a mini-miche with the remaining flour), I managed to 
over-proof (proofed for 2.5 hours instead of 2 hours as for the first bake):

baked, with very little movement in the oven          ...and the crumb

crumb might look a little better close up?
...this bread was just as fragrant and flavorful as the first :^)

Thanks again, Andy and Franko - your thoughtfulness resulted in bread with amazing flavor!
I'm thinking this flour must have been recently milled, given its 'fresh' taste - quite fabulous;
causing me to start thinking about home-milling again so I can try to recreate this flavor.

I am very grateful for the chance to bake with this flour - a lovely opportunity!

Happy baking everyone,
:^) breadsong




MonkeyDaddy's picture

New member with question

Greetings All!

     Mike here.  ER nurse by profession, scientist by training, and baker by avocation.  I have been enjoying this site for a few months now and finally had a question-generating experience that I felt could be addressed here.


I live in Denver, the Mile High City, and have been dealing with the complexities of baking at high altitude for years (began hobby baking about 20 years ago, but have really gotten my teeth into it over the last 5 or so).  I asked for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day as a Christmas present because my wife complained about 2- and 3-day builds for making sourdough - a process which fascinated me, but annoyed her to no end.  I have had a lot of fun with the recipes in the book, and the speed factor makes my wife much happier.  The very first loaf came out of my oven here in Denver beautifully - shiny caramelized crust that "sang" as it cooled, nice ears, open crumb, and tasted excellent.  My oven is 1 a year old Kenmore electric, I have a 12" Lodge cast iron skillet on the bottom rack for my steam pan, and I have to admit I "cheat" and use an upside-down cookie sheet as a baking surface.  I cracked my prized pizza stone a couple years ago by preheating it and putting a cold pizza on it, so I'm still looking for the perfect baking stone.  This equipment list is the prompting for part II of my question below. 

Part I stems from a trip I just got back from.  We did a vacation home rental for a week in Seattle (sea level) and I was excited to do some low-altitude baking.  I decided on using the same recipe mentioned above because I had already memorized the recipe and techniques.  When we got to the rental, the equipment I found there was lackluster, to say the least.  I wrapped aluminum foil around a rusty cookie sheet for a cooking surface (a mistake, I discovered, since rising and baking dough sticks to foil like glue), and the best steam pan I could find was a heavy stainless skillet with a clad bottom.  The first loaf I made was a 3-cup-of-flour batard and while it smelled and tasted great, it just wasn't pretty.  The crust had a grainy, matte appearance, kind of like the look a loaf takes on if you brush it with oil or butter when it first comes out of the oven.  Also, my docking was totally ineffective - the cuts didn't expand at all and the loaf split out the side near the bottom.  The crumb was a little dense, but I know what happened there - I fooled around with it too long during the shaping and probably deflated it a little.  My cast iron skillet back home is like a volcano until all the water is gone, but the stainless skillet in Seattle steamed ferociously for a few seconds then tapered off quickly to a slow simmer.  The second batch, I divided my 3 cups in half and made two 1.5 cup ciabatta loaves which had a superior crumb but still the suboptimal crust.  So my question is this: Anybody baking at low altitude have any trouble getting a good crust?  Does the atmospheric pressure affect the steam density in the oven and therefore alter starch gelatinization and mess with the oven-spring?  Or was it more likely that the oven was not reliable and the temperature was off?  I know the majority of the populated areas of this planet are at low altitude, and most bakers do just fine.  So I suspect that it was just a crappy oven, but I'd love some feedback on this issue.

Part II has to do with the equipment.  As I mentioned, the steel skillet did not steam nearly as profusely as my trusty cast iron.  However, I had actually been keeping an eye out for a steel skillet to use at home because of rust.  The oxidation that occurs during evaporation at high temperatures has long-since eroded the factory seasoning on the skillet, and the subsequent rust sprays upward onto the bottom of my cookie sheet while the steam is erupting.  I'd hate to think that I'm getting rust on my bread too, but I suppose it is a possibility.  I had thought that a clad steel skillet would be a good rust-free alternative, but after the performance in Seattle I'm having doubts.  Does anybody have any insights on a good rust-free vessel to use as a steam pan?  My other equipment question is about stones.  I love cooking on stoneware - great crusts on everything from cookies to pizza to bread.  But I don't want another cracked stone.  I've seen a couple stones in catalogs, but I'm leery of buying a pig in a poke.  So I'm wondering what stones people have had good luck with.  I'd like one about an inch thick and almost as big as the rack in a standard home oven, and can handle cold dough after being preheated.

I know... wordy for a first post.  But I love reading the posts here that have a little background rather than just firing off questions, so I felt I should reciprocate. 

Happy baking!

GregS's picture

Sticky and Flat

These embarrassing loaves are Hamelman's Country Bread recipe. 68% hydration and 50% pre-fermented dough. I measured carefully by weight, but even at the mixing stage the dough was very sticky. I added a quarter cup of flour, which helped the dough pull away from the bowl a bit. It still seemed incredibly sticky to me, but I forged on.

I've baked with some moderate success before, but even lifting carefully with the scraper and flouring the board a bit, the dough stuck like an octopus. The bulk fermentation seemed OK. I used Bertinet's slap and fold to try and get some gluten strength, but even with three folding sessions I wasn't able to get the dough to completely let go of the board (or my hands).

When I dumped the dough out to shape it, it flattened out right away. I unstuck it from the board, scraped it together, tried to tighten the skin (hah!) and plopped it into bannetons. It rose moderately in the banneton, but when I emptied the banneton on a peel, the loaf took the shape seen in the photo. No oven spring that I could detect.

So, help please, fellow bakers. What might have contributed to this fiasco? I'd like to manage high hydration breads as my skills increase, but if they work out like this I'm already discouraged.

Thank you very much.




grind's picture

spontaneously fermented rye bread

This recipe is from a friend's Lithuanian grandmother.  This is how it is written:

1) pour boiling water over 1/3 weight rye flour and stir for thirty minutes until the mixture sweetens

2) cover to cool

3) add 2/3 of rye flour and knead

4) keep warm for 1 to 3 days until it rises


Never tried it myself.  Think I'd get the jitters waiting around for the right moment to bake it.

Jonathan.D.Waits's picture

Define pink...Starter Coloration

So I have been looking at some trouble shooting things, and folks seem to say that pink is bad. I have a starter I have been working on for about a week now using only rye flour. It has a vinegary smell, almost like baked beans. before I add flour and water to it, the top has a greyish tint. when I stir it, everything underneath has a pinkish tint to it, but its only pink in relation to that top layer, just by itself I would say its very light brown or almost sandy colored. Is it bad?

alonedawg's picture

freshness of flour

my first post ever to any blog!  i have been baking on and off for many years, this period about six or seven pretty much continuously.


my question is: i am beginning to grind my own flour with a stone mill and wonder if it is possible for flour to be TOO fresh.


BTW, how to make the text larger so i can read it.



adam_dolcebakery's picture

Pretzel Buns sticking.. driving me nuts!

Hello all.. we are finally getting around to baking wholesale numbers of pretzel hamburger buns (pretzel brioche actually!) yet we are still dealing with the problem of the pretzel buns sticking to the cooling racks we bake them on. Why do we bake on cooling racks? I'll explain..

We are making pretzel brioche and the dough is very, very delicate. We have to proof them on the racks because once they have double in size, we then apply the lye bath to them. The cooling racks allow the lye to drip down into a lexan so we can reuse the lye. We can't at any point touch the buns with a tool or our hands and dip them by hand because the dough is so delicate. If we do, the dough will squash. So we have to leave them on the rack for the proofing process and basting with the lye.

I am going to try a teflon cooling rack but I am unsure if the lye with eat through it or become toxic. We sprayed pan release all over the chrome rack we currently use but we still had sticking. It's driving us nuts and we have people clamoring for these pretzel brioche buns.. any help or advice would be much appreciated. Thank you! :)

david earls's picture
david earls

Preferment ingredient amounts - in or out of formulas?

When I took up baking a few years back, i did it with a bread machine. After a couple of months, I converted all my recipes to formulas and optimized the formulas for the size of the bread machine pan. Since the pan size is a constant, when I began using preferments, I split the baking process into two steps. Step 1 is to have the machine mix the preferment. Step 2 is to add the remaining ingredients to the machine and use the timer to set the finish time - 12 or 13 hours from when the preferment was mixed and the remaining ingredients added. This method produces excellent bread.

Lately I've been making most of my bread by hand, but I've continued "subtracting" the preferment flour and water from my final dough calculations. Baking at my house is all about loaf size - the loaf has to be a size my wife and I can eat at a single meal, and everything has to "fit" my baking equipment. So, for example, if I'm making a ciabatta with 200g of total flour, my poolish formula is 100g each of flour and water, and the dough is the remaining 100g of flour, any remaining water, etc.

I noticed that Ciril Hitz does not include the flour and water in preferments in his formula calculations. This caused me some very salty loaves - I was calculating salt as a percentage of total flour, he was calculating as percentage of dough flour. If you do it the Hitz way, how do you figure out how much preferment to add to a dough?

BTW, I keep a lot of notes when I bake, so my adapted process works very well for me. Just curious how others do it. Something tells me I'm doing it "wrong."