The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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gringogigante's picture

How do you "dry" a starter?

If I have a great starter and want to dry a small amount of it and freeze it for insurance, how do I "dry" it?

Zeb's picture

Cider - another of those pesky words that means something different in the UK to the States

I've been talking to DrFugawe who has recently been baking a Nancy Silverton apple bread and this month I am going to bake the Hamelman Normandy Apple Bread.

I have come to realise, and it's probably been discussed here before, that cider in America is not the same thing as cider in England.

The confusion lies particularly with the term 'sweet cider'. To an English person, that means an alcoholic fermented and usually carbonated drink made from pressed apples which happens to be sweet. We have dry, sweet, semi-sweet, sparkling ciders, all alcoholic, and then there's scrumpy too, if you live in my part of the world. 

To an American, it means apple juice pure and simple. Now I know.  It's like corn flour and cornflour, again two different things, or american pumpernickel and Westphalian pumpernickel,  or American cheddar and English Cheddar. Same names, but a world of difference. 

So if anyone else from this side of the Atlantic (England)  is baking from 'Bread', be aware that JH doesn't intend for you to use your local organic cider, he just wants you to use some nice freshly pressed organic apple juice along with your home dried apple pieces.

Having said that is there any reason for not using some good English cider?  I was thinking that if I treated the cider in a similar way to the way Dan Lepard makes barm bread, that would be a good jumping off point for an excellent sourdough. Has anyone here tried doing that?


Happy Baking



Yippee's picture

20101215 / 20110124 Mr. Hamelman's Poolish Baguette Formula


Happy New Year of the Rabbit!  I wish you all a year of good health and many delightful surprises in your baking adventures.  I kicked off my baking in the (calendar) New Year with Mr. Hamelman's poolish baguette formula.  This was also the formula that concluded my baking last year.   Both bakes were full of uncertainties.  As usual, I had to figure out a fermentation process that would fit my schedule for this type of commercial yeast/poolish leavened dough, which I had rarely dealt with in the past years.   I managed to get it to work, but a few more experiments will probably provide further assurance that everything's under control.  


In these two bakes, I tried a different hold of the lame when scoring the baguettes; and employed my favorite 'exit strategy' to shape this baguette dough into a boule when I was desperately out of time.  The new way of scoring was awkward and did not work as well on the baguettes as the old one.   On the other hand, the boule turned out okay.  I got a better idea of what my future cold fermentation schedule for yeasted dough should be. Good news did not just stop there.  The most exciting moment came when I finally produced pictures that didn't seem to come from the underworld.  For the first time, I got pictures of bread that were hubby-approved.   I love looking at them now!   From now on, no more eyesores, I promise.


And here they are:

The eyesores

and the NOT


Some of you have asked about my setup and procedure, which are quite simple, as you'll see below:







Will be submitted to Susan's Yeastspotting!

ben zipperer's picture
ben zipperer

tartine's "scoring" of bottom of loaf

Hi folks -

For the final proofing, Tartine/Chad Robertson apparently "score" the bottom of the loaf with a single lengthwise indentation, using a bench knife. You can see this clearly in the Tartine Bread book on p. 64. Also see p. 115 for oval loaves proofing with the same indentation. Unless I missed it, the indentation isn't explained in the text. Any thoughts on why they cut into the bottom of the loaf for the final proof?

In the video breads are being proofed with the indentation at 00:37, 00:59, and 01:15. At 05:52 you can see some awesome shaping. As far as I can tell, it seems that the Tartine folks shape the bread for an oval/batard, but then roll the almost-shaped dough over into a ball. Then they "score" the bottom of the loaf and place the indented round in baskets for a final fermentation. Perhaps the indentation helps to allow the tight round to expand in the directions of an oval.

Wondering if any of you have some ideas about the purpose of this technique. If this has been discussed elsewhere in the forums, please point me in the right direction.



saltandserenity's picture

Apple Fritters

Because it's February it's okay to deep fry now.

Gunnersbury's picture

Challah without braiding?

I like to make challah, but really hate the braiding part.  Is it possible to simply put dough in a loaf pan and attain decent results?

ClimbHi's picture

Oven Door

This forum has been a bit slow lately, and since I've been meaning to post this for a while now, here's something for the cause. While I was firing for this week's batch (a small batch of basic baguettes and some roasted poblano peppers this week), I took a few pics of my oven door. The question of how to make a door comes up pretty often, and this is how I solved it for my own oven.

I made this door from white pine from a tree that was cut down in my yard. I milled a bunch of the wood up to use for furniture, etc, but I used one piece for this door. It's two layers of 1-1/2" pine, layed up in alternating directions -- the outer boards run vertical, the inner ones run horizontal. The two layers are held together with some cut nails, just 'cause I like the way they look -- kinda rustic. The handles are cut from 5/4" white oak and screwed on with 3" stainless steel deck screws. Note that the bottoms of the handles rest on the deck for added stability. These also do double duty -- they just fit in the ash dump, allowing me to prop the door open at an angle like a kitchen oven door. (I'd like to say I planned that, but it was purely fortuitous.) In the center, I countersunk a Big Green Egg accessory thermometer -- it registers from 200 -1,000 degrees. It's probe is about 6" long, so it extends well into the oven on the back side of the door. It's about 3 years old now, and not showing any signs of heat damage.

Here's how it looks when it's tilted. I sometimes use this "feature" when I want to allow some extra air into the oven when I have a smoking fire going. You can see here how the bottoms of the handles fit into the ash dump slot to hold the door at this angle.

Here's a shot of the business side of the door. The oven side is clad with galvanized steel left over from some HVAC work, bent to fit the door snugly and fastened along all sides with copper nails (roofing job leftovers). After using it this way a few times, I noticed that the wood was still getting too hot, so I added another layer of galvanized sheet, just exactly the same size as the inner door opening. (The door itself overlaps the masonry by about 3/4" at each side, and about 2" at the top, for a pretty tight seal.) With this cladding and shielding, I don't have to worry about keeping the wood wet like some do. I can use the door even when there's a small fire working off to one side, but not a big one (tho' I don't know why I'd want to use the door with a big fire anyway.) I often keep a bit of a fire going with the door on, cracked open just a bit, when I want to smoke a chicken, turkey or pork butt.

 The inner heat sheild is held away from the door about 3/4" by some short lengths of 1/2" copper pipe (more leftovers) and is held on by more stainess steel deck screws driven through the heat shield, through the center of the pipe standoffs, through the door cladding and into the wood. I used stainless because it's a relatively poor conductor of heat and it helps keep the hot screws from scorching the wood where they enter it. You can also see the thermometer probe where it penetrates throught the door, the cladding and heat shield.

I don't use the thermometer much for bread baking -- I use masonry temps for that. But it does come in handy for other roasting and baking. Helps a bit with gauging timing of things that take a while to bake (e.g., turkeys) since the oven temps are continually falling if the fire's out. It also helps making sure the temps aren't rising too much if there's a smokinig fire going.

I'm planning some day to see if I can't add a gasket from a wood stove door to the perimeter just to improve the seal a bit.

Pittsburgh, PA

Sunshinemom's picture

Mini Pitas, Man'oushe bi za'tar

Man'oushe Za'atar and dips

I am a vegan from India and I enjoy making breads from all over the world.  A couple of years ago Middle Eastern Cuisine caught up in India and led to the opening of many restaurants serving bread topped with zaatar.  Since the first time we had it at "The Arabic Bistro" zaatar topped manoushe breads have become my favourite.  We love it just as it is topped with zaatar or with tahini and hummus on the side.

The good thing about this recipe is that the dough works great for pita breads as well.  I made a few of those too.  Instead of making large pitas I chose to make mini pitas, measuring an inch in diameter.  They make tasty appetizers when served with Italian Tomato Sauce or Hummus.

Dish:Yield: Two 5" pizza base, and about 15 to 20 mini pitas - breads. A small bowl of hummus bi tahini and a very small bowl of tahiniyeh

For the Man'oushe dough (I used half of this recipe):
All Purpose Flour - 6 cups
Salt - 1 tsp.
Sugar - 1 tbsp.
Mahlab - 1/3 tsp. (I omitted this)

Dry yeast - 2 tbsp.
Water - 2 cups
Milk (I used soy milk) - 0.75 cup

Zaatar spice mixed with some olive oil

Place flour, salt and sugar together. Stir to mix. I dry blended in a mixer.

Mix the yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and set aside till frothy.

Add the yeast mixture, milk and rest of the water in a well in the center of the dough mixture and bring together. Knead to form a sticky dough. The original recipe says the dough will be sticky but mine was just right to touch.

Cover and rest till doubled, about an hour, depending on the room temperature.

Divide into 8 balls and dust with flour. Rest for 30minutes.

Roll into mini pizzas about half inch thick. Place two breads side by side in a baking tray and sit for 15 minutes.

Pre heat oven to 150C. Spread zaatar paste on the breads and bake till puffed very lightly brown, about 15 - 20 minutes for the first batch. The rest take slightly less time. Keep an eye on the breads the first time as the time taken may vary for different ovens. Don't let it go toasty brown or it will also turn hard. The bottoms should sound hollow when tapped and turn a nice brown. Serve hot with hummus and tahiniyeh or with any other dip.

Mini pitas

Mini pitas with hummus and tahini

I baked two pizzas and rolled the rest of the balls into thin circles about 8" in diameter.

Cut several one inch pitas using a cookie cutter. Pop in after the pizzas are baked keeping the temperature at 150C. After one minute invert all the pitas and bake. Within a minute they will all blow up into neat puffs. Remove and serve hot with the dips.

These make easy and quick appetizers for parties. You can make the dough in advance and refrigerate after wrapping in cling film.

hansjoakim's picture

Totally not bread: Confit de canard

I admit there's not a speck of either lactobacilli or saccharomyces cerevisiae on the ingredient list this time, but that doesn't mean it's no good... I've been busy in the kitchen (breadwise and otherwise) the last few weeks, but my blog's been sadly neglected. This weekend's dinner is something that really looks after itself once you've popped it into the oven, so I thought I could use the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Ever since I bought Ruhlman and Polcyn's book on charcuterie, I've wanted to try the confit method of cooking and preserving meat. Back in the day, after harvesting foie gras, French farmers of Gascony and the Dordogne had great quantities of duck meat and duck fat, but no easy way to conserve the meat, save for the confit technique. Today, with refrigeration, the main reason for using confit is the unique tenderness, texture and flavour of confited meat that make the technique worthwhile.

In brief, the meat is first dry cured with salt (add pepper, coarsely ground cloves and a clove of garlic if you like) for 24 hours. Rinse off all excess salt under cold, running water and place the meat in an ovenproof pot or casserole. Pour over rendered fat (or oil) so that all the meat is covered and place in a low oven for 8 - 12 hours, until the meat is beautifully tender and settled on the bottom of the baking vessel. Keep the meat submerged in the fat and cool to room temperature before covering the vessel with foil and refrigerating it. Both Ruhlman/Polcyn and Robuchon have great recipes for duck confit, that, if followed accurately, produce confits that can be kept for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. As the fat turns solid, and prevents air to reach the meat, the confit technique is a way of hermetically sealing meat.

I had problems obtaining duck fat, so I used a cheap olive oil as the poaching medium instead. The olive oil doesn't turn solid in the refrigerator, so this will not make a fully conserved duck confit. According to Ruhlman, it can still be kept for up to a month in the fridge, but mine won't last that long. Promise.

So... Rub your duck legs with generous amounts of coarse sea salt, a few ground cloves, pepper corns and a crushed clove of garlic. Place in the fridge for 24 hours, then rinse and place in a tight cooking vessel. The tighter you can place the meat in the vessel, the less fat/oil you need to use to cover the meat:

Duck confit

Fill it up all the way so that all meat is covered in rendered fat/oil:

Duck confit

Now, a good idea is to first warm the pot over medium-high heat until the oil is close to the simmering temperature of water. This will give the legs a good thermal kick in the beginning (otherwise you might have to extend the baking time in the oven by several hours). Then place in a low (approx 80 - 85 dC) oven, uncovered, until the meat is absolutely tender. One way to check whether it's finished, is to gently pierce the meat with a skewer. If the fat that runs out is a thin, liquid stream, it's done. My four legs were done in roughly 8 hours. Remove from oven and let the vessel come to room temperature before you cover it with foil and refrigerate it.

A simple but tasteful dish of confited duck legs can be made by cooking the legs at 220dC for 15 mins (the last few minutes with the broiler on to make a ridiculously crisp and delicious skin) and serving them with a ragu of lentils (I used green du Berry lentils), carrots, shallots, garlic, asparagus beans and a potato purée. Shredded duck confit is amazing in salads as well. Oh, and did I mention that this is great with bread too? A tasty duck rillette on freshly baked pain au levain... sacrebleu. Bon appétit!

Duck confit


tordoc's picture

Long Autolyse vs Long Cold fermentation - Best Flavor

I'm interested to see what the group thinks...


Which is better for flavor development?

For example if we made 3 batches of baguettes with the same formula but:


The first batch we combine flour and most of the water, do a cold AUTOLYSE for 24 hours, then mix in the yeast, salt, and remaining water, then bulk ferment at room temperature, divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (Gosselin)



The second batch we combine flour all,of the water, the yeast, salt, then bulk ferment at room temperature, the COLD FERMENT in the fridge for 24 hours, then divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (common - Van Over, AB5, etc.)


The third batch we combine flour all,of the water ICE COLD, the yeast, salt, then  COLD FERMENT in the fridge for 24 hours, then divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (Pain a l'Ancienne - Reinhart)

How would these loaves differ?  

Does the third method allow ongoing autolysis  since the yeast is still somewhat dormant?

DonD's method stacks techniques 1 and 2 over 3 days.  The best of both worlds.  But which is the more important step for flavor development?

The dough smells so nice after 24 hours autolysing with just water.  How long can flour stay mixed with water before adding the rest of the ingredients?  Is there a point for autolysis beyond which additional flavor development is minimal?