The Fresh Loaf

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Franko's picture

Baking with Andy/Ananda

This past June I had the pleasure of paying long time TFL member Ananda/Andy a visit for a few days at his home in Powburn,Northumberland , UK. Any of you who have read his most recent blog post Fresh Loaf Visitor will know this already. I floated the idea past Andy back in the Fall of 2012 after I'd learned my wife Marie would be attending a four week professional development course in Prague CR. We'd decided to take our summer vacation together in the Czech Republic after her course was finished so I thought that as long as I'm hopping the pond anyway why not take a slight detour to the UK and have a visit with Andy. Andy's immediate response was something like Yes, absolutely, come on over and we'll do some baking together! Over the next few months we confirmed dates and arrival times etc and chatted about what we might bake. As it so happened the first Saturday of my vacation time coincided with The Hexham Farmer's Market that Andy and his partner Nigel bake for on a regular basis using Nigel's large wood fired oven. I'd been hoping to have a chance to see this massive WFO that Nigel built, since seeing it featured in one of Andy's blogs a year or so ago. Now I'd have the opportunity to actually see it in action. If timing is everything it seems that I nailed it! 

Getting there

The journey from Vancouver Island to Powburn was epic, taking 3 planes, 1 train and 1 automobile. One short hop from the Island to Vancouver Airport, then an 8 hour layover before the 9 hour flight to Amsterdam with an hour + there. Then a 1.5 hour flight to Glasgow, followed by a 2 hour train trip to Almouth Station. Bleary eyed and somewhat worse for wear and tear I stumbled off the train to be warmly greeted by Andy. We tossed my luggage in the back of his car and drove on to his home in Powburn. A long journey but worth every minute of it! 

After a delicious meal (and a few fine British brews) with Andy and his charming wife Alison, I was fading fast. We had a full day of baking ahead of us the next day and I was desperately in need of a good nights sleep, so said my good-nights and hit the sack for an unheard of 11 hours! 

Baking with Andy

By the time I joined Andy the next morning he was already hard at work mixing dough, and prepping the work area for production.

After a chat over coffee we got right to it, making a variety of loaves, some of which were made using flours I'd brought over for Andy to try.

See the first photo HERE

and the paragraph below it for a complete description of all the breads we made.


One of the things I was most interested to see was how Andy makes his rye paste for his spectacular 100% rye breads, specifically the consistency or viscosity of the paste. In my own mixes of 100% rye paste I've had some good results but have also had an awful lot of poor ones as well. My hope was to learn first hand what sort of feel Ishould be looking for in a 100% rye paste. Hydration percentages are all well and good to put you in the ballpark for mixing a dough or paste, but no substitute for being able to actually feel what a properly hydrated and mixed one is like. I believe I have a much better idea now and hopefully I'll be able to achieve better, more consistent results in my own high ratio rye breads thanks to Andy's expert guidance.


We had Andy's WFO loaded up somewhere around noon as I recall but I was still quite jet lagged so I can't say for sure.

Andy had some calls to make so I headed down the street to the pub for a pint and to write some emails. When I returned we pulled some of the loaves from the oven and Andy slid in a pan full of various vegetables he'd chopped up and drizzled with olive oil to roast for our dinner that night. Top baker and a great cook as well! Later on, after we'd cleaned up the kitchen and all the loaves were out of the oven and cooled, we took them outside on the sunny patio and had a photo op of our days work.

We were both pretty happy with how things had gone and felt we'd made a good start on the production for the Hexham Farmer's Market. On top of that we'd enjoyed working alongside each other, almost as if we'd been doing it for years instead of hours. Andy is a very easy and amiable fellow to be around. Thoughtful, and with strong opinions on a variety of issues, we had some interesting conversations, bread related and otherwise, that day and throughout my visit. 

Production Day at Nigel's

Early the next morning we were back at it getting things ready to take to Nigel's. There were a couple of problems we had to sort out first involving a levain that was past prime, and an uncooperative spelt dough, but we had those fixed soon enough and began loading up the car with the doughs, soakers and various bannetons, tins, etc that we'd need for that day, then set off for Nigel's.

Meeting people for the first time one can never be certain how they'll be received, but if I had any doubts they vanished within the first few minutes of meeting Nigel. Nigel is one of those people you meet and feel comfortable with right away. Friendly, great sense of humour and bit of a raconteur, I enjoyed working and chatting with him a great deal. He and Andy had a brief conference on the production plan for the day while I got the car unloaded and ran some items down to the oven enclosure. Basically the day went like this; Nigel and I divided, scaled, and rounded/shaped all the doughs, getting them into bannetons and tins while Andy was back up in the kitchen mixing. When the various doughs were ready for baking I took a position just inside the door so that Nigel had plenty of room to swing the peel when he needed to and then watched as the other two bakers loaded the oven. To watch these two fellows work together is like seeing a well oiled machine in operation. Perfectly synchronized, with no wasted movement and effortless speed, I'm kicking myself now for not taking a video of it to show here. Nigel would lay the peel on the outer hearth, sprinkle it with semolina, immediately followed by Andy tipping a loaf on to the peel and giving it 3 quick slashes. As Nigel was placing the dough onto the hearth floor Andy was reaching for the next basket to tip on to the peel, having it ready by the time the peel was on the outer hearth again and then the sequence would repeat itself. My best estimate for their loading cycle is10 seconds or less.

Very enjoyable to watch this process done so quickly and efficiently and quite clear to me that the two of them have made and baked a lot of bread together over the last few years. One hundred and thirty loaves later, followed by a shop cleanup, Andy announced we'd finished in record time, so I was quite pleased to have made a small contribution to that, and to the product we turned out that day. The oven is impressive, not only for it's size but how well it does what it's supposed to do. Since I was the designated un-loader, I was able to see every loaf as it came off the hearth, marvelling at the consistently even colour of all the loaves. No scorching or mottling to speak of no matter what area of the hearth I pulled them from. Nigel told me he'd spent 2+ years building this beast to have it the way he wanted it. Apparently all his hard work has paid off in spades, the end result being one helluva nice piece of baking equipment.



We packed up and left Nigel's for a drive through the countryside before picking Alison up from work, then picked up some fish and chips for our dinner that evening. I guess Chef needed a break from the oven for some reason or another. No complaints from this diner though, the fish and chips were delicious! 

Market Day

On Saturday morning we packed up the car again, this time with the breads we'd made on day 3 along with baskets for displaying the breads and the pieces for setting up the stand once we arrived at the market square in Hexham. Nigel arrived with the breads we'd baked the previous day and stayed for a few minutes to chat, then was off on another errand after wishing me a happy vacation and safe travels.

The weather was iffy, with some dark clouds lurking around but some sun coming through as well. We set up the stand and put out the breads for display but the first hour sales were slow, just 3-4 loaves as I recall. However once the sun began to show a bit more so did the crowds and things got busy pretty quickly.

It was interesting to see people approaching the market, looking around, then zeroing in on Andy's stall as if to confirm that yes, he was open for business and once again they could purchase his bread, or perhaps seeing his booth for the first time and being drawn to the variety of gorgeous hand crafted breads he had on display. Whatever their reason was, I can tell you that his breads are extremely popular with the market clientele, a good number of people buying 2 or 3 loaves at a time, some saying they freeze the loaves to tide them over till the next Market day. The pitch for anyone on the fence about buying was “The loaves are made from all organic grains and flours (local when possible), natural leavens, hand crafted and baked in a wood fired oven”. Some folks would have specific questions of course, usually regarding sugar and fat content, but for the most part the breads sold themselves. Not sure, but I think we sold the bulk of the stock in a little over an hour, with people coming in waves every 15 minutes. I haven't done any one on one selling like that since my bar-tending days back in the eighties and it took a while to get back in the groove but I managed to get by alright. The toughest part for me was making change with an unfamiliar currency, having to look at every coin to make sure I was giving correct change. I'd smile, tell them I was visiting from Canada, they'd smile back, often welcoming me to the UK and then wait patiently while I put their change together for them. Luck for me Andy has very polite clientele.

Well eventually we sold all but one loaf, a miche, which Andy traded with the artisan cheese maker nearby for a round of goat cheese. I bought some amazing Italian dried sausage, Coppa, from the artisan charcutier immediately behind us, and the two of us chatted at length about making air dried and fermented sausages, something I intend to start making for myself in the next year. Since we sold out before anyone else we were the first to pack up and leave the market, driving straight back to Powburn.


After 3 days of making and selling bread it was time to kick back and enjoy some down time. We had a little lunch of bread, goat cheese and ale on Andy's terrace with the sun beaming down, talking of the days sales and of his plans for his proposed bake shop location, just a five minute walk away from where we were sitting. I fully expect that by the time I'm able to return for another visit in a few years time his shop will be a well established presence in the community and surrounding area.

That evening Andy, Alison and I drove to the shore for a walk along the beach, a long and splendid beach, the ruins of a castle perched on a bluff jutting out in the distance. A magnificent photo op if only I'd remembered to bring my Iphone. Fortunately Alison had her phone and got a couple of good shots that she forwarded to me. We wandered off the beach in to a nearby pub for what was one of the best meals of my entire two week vacation. The pub brews their own very good ales and the dinner menu focuses on local products from the fields, farms and the sea. We did have some excellent meals while in the Czech Republic, but this meal stands out as being the freshest and most flavourful one I had the pleasure of eating while away.


On to Prague

The next afternoon after saying goodbye to Alison, Andy drove me to the airport in Newcastle where I would catch my flight to Prague and join Marie after 5 weeks of being away from each other. Time to move on, but in the knowledge that the last 3 days had been an experience of a lifetime which I'd long remember. It had been everything I'd hoped for, fun, interesting, productive and a tremendous learning experience being able to work alongside Andy, and then both he and Nigel, and of course the wood fired ovens. The commitment to build my own WFO has never been stronger than it is now but unfortunately it will have to wait till next year due to some unforeseen expenses cropping up. I've put it off so many times already, one more year isn't going to make a difference one way or the other. 

Below is a bread I made recently using some of the Gilchester's Farmhouse Wheat that Andy was kind enough to share with me before I left. My first notion was to use it in his formula for Gilchester's Miche, but decided to try and stretch it out and to make the flour last longer. The amount I was able to bring back was limited, and as it was I just squeezed under the baggage weight allowed by the airline.


Instead of using 75% Gilchester's that Andy's formula calls for, I reduced it to 50% overall and added 38% AP and 11% Red Fife whole. A slight change, but enough to allow me to make a couple of more loaves using the Gilchester's than would have been the case at 75%. The bread turned out well and has excellent flavour from the Gilchester's-Red Fife combination. When I run out of the Gilchester's I may try sifting some RF to use in it's place. Although I know the flavour won't be quite the same, it'll have to do until I can get back to Northumberland. 

Formula below.



Gilchester's Farmhouse Sour %Kilos/Grams
Organic AP Flour100.00%65
Whole Wheat Flour-Red Fife100.00%65
Mature Rye Starter8.00%5
Total weight408.00%266
ripen for 11-14 hours  
Final Dough 1000
Organic AP Flour35.0%155
Gilchester's Farmhouse Wheat65.0%288
Sea Salt2.6%12
Total weight225.6%1000.00
DDT-76-78F BF for 3-4 hours at 78F  
S&F as needed to develop a springy dough.  
Overall Formula Kilos/Grams
Total Flour100.00%576
Organic AP Flour38.24%220
Whole Wheat Flour-Red Fife11.31%65
Whole Rye Flour0.45%3
Gilchester's Farmhouse Wheat50.00%288
Sea Salt2.00%12
Total weight/yield173.54%1000
Total Pre-fermented Flour23.08%133










Netvet007's picture

Bread dough riser

I inherited this 18" bread dough riser from my grandmother who made huge batches of bread, rolls and cinnamon rolls.  Is it tin?  Seems like that was a common material used for these.  I only make small amounts of dough and this would be overkill I think.  Does anyone use these anymore?  I would like to put it to use as it brings back many good memories.  

Simon280586's picture

Dense crumb only in the middle of the loaf

I've been baking a few round loaves recently, following the formula in Tartine Bread for the country loaf. They turn out pretty good, but one oddity I've noticed is that the crumb is very open for the first few slices, but gets progressively more dense as I get closer to the centre (the widest part of the loaf). It's cooked properly, but is comprised of smaller, more regular air pockets, almost like a standard loaf of white bread.


So I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced similar issues. The pictures in the book suggest that the open crumb should persist throughout the loaf.


One thought I had is that the heat is not penetrating the centre of these large loaves before the outer portions have solidified, preventing proper expansion. Is that possible? And if so, what can i do about it? I'm cooking in a Dutch oven and at the suggested temperatures, which seem to produce the correct crust colouring.


Maybe it's something else entirely. Any suggestions welcome :)   



golgi70's picture

Farmers Market Week 8: Flaxseed Walnut Rye

So 9 weeks later and I'm still with it.  In fact I look forward to this more than most things right now.  It's fun, refreshing, and educational.  I've been wanting to do a Rye and so here we go.  As I've mentioned previously I need to have retarded loaves so i can bake the quanitity without overproofing.  And this quanitty may go up starting next week.  Next trouble is I'll need a larger fridge.  I'm gonna have to get coolers and ice to move our food too for the night and make room for more loaves in the fridge.  

As for the Rye.  I feared even a 40% with the overnight retard but I went with it assuming at worst I fail.  I wanted to add some character and good health in there without overwhelming the loaf.  So i added a small quantity 5% broken toasted walnuts along with 3%flaxseed.  If we're gonna do some wholegrain why not add even more flavor and nutrition.  With the hit and miss of those who care for caraway I steered clear of bread spice and went nuts and seeds instead.   I did 2 builds to get all of the Rye in the levain.  I started the first build off a bit of my white starter.  

 Last weeks attempt at using a handheld steam cleaner was lackluster.  It didn't retain any more steam than towels and ice can provide, In fact it may have been losing some of that precious steam trying to fill the oven with it.  I gave up with that early on last week and stuck to what works.  I've added some small, cleaned river rocks to my cast iron to maybe help generate a bit more steam from that side.  If I can figure out how to seal the vents on my oven I think I may get the steam retention I seek. 

Half way through the bake and things seem promising so far.  Scoring Rye is certainly a different technique and I don't do enough of it these days.  So another goal here with this project is to lose the desire to use a professional oven and really create a love with my home oven setup.  

well i've written too much:

Flaxseed/Walnut Rye (40%)

Build 1 (18 hours)

16 g       Mature White Starter

160 g    H20

160 g    Coarsely Gournd Whole Rye (100%)


Build 2 (hours) (37%)

336 g    First Build

1334 g  H20 

1834 g  Coarsely Gournd Whole Rye (Bit stiff, I'll add moe of the finish dough  water next time) (40%)


Final Dough:

Rye Sour (all)

2347 g      H20 (77% overall but figured seperately at 85% rye and 72 % white)

3000 g      Strong Flour (60%)

115 g        Salt (2.29%)

275 g        Walnuts toasted (5.5%)

150 g        Flaxseeds, toasted (3%) 


1)  Autolyse HP and H20 for 30 minutes (hold back 10% of H20 to soften Rye Sour)

2)  Add remaining water to rye sour and break up a bit.  Add to Autolyse and mix on speed 1 (5 minutes scraping bowl)

3)  Add salt and continue on speed 1 for a few minutes.  Turn to speed 2 (medium low on my machine) and continue for 5 minutes scarping bottom of bowl often to release the dough.  

4)  Add nuts and seeds.  mix on speed 1 to incorporate 

5)  Bulk Ferment (3 1/2 hours)  4 gentle S + F's at 30 minute intervals. 

6)  Divide and Shape (These would have been nicer proofed on a couche dusted with corn meal)

7)  Proof 1 hour at room temp and retard ( I was scared and maybe should have extended this a touch)

8)  Bake 480 with steam for 15 and then 460 without for 23-35 more. 


Notes:  Pull loaves from retarder 1 hour before loading to soften skin and allow better rise.  First set went straight from retarder and the spring showed.  The following I all pulled 1 hour before going in.  Essentially as I loaded I pulled the following from the fridge to get rid of the chill.  

Happy Baking



Photos Coming Soon



 Some weren't quite so pretty from the scoring side but its quite tasty with a great crunchy crust.  I'll keep pushin the envelope with retarding high % ryes/wheats until I notice problems but this worked more than well.  In fact I coulda proofed these longer at room temp before retarding.  



Green Beans, Zuke, cauliflauer, brocooli, heriloom tomatoes (first of season), walla walla onions, garlic, local cevre, fennel, a box of peaches (so good), and some braising greens


Happy Baking All



NewToBakingBread's picture


Hi, I'm fairly new to baking bread I've made about five loaves and they are getting better every time. There is one thing I would like to ask, that is, is it possible to keep a piece of your dough with the live yeast in it before you shape and proof, store it somewhere where the yeast will continue to grow and add that to a new batch of dough or a pre-ferment without adding extra yeast? Will the yeast multiply if you add sugar and flour and water to 'feed it'? I like the idea of this, like being able to make your own yoghurt from milk and a small portion of your previous batch and letting the cultures grow and multiply. But will it work and is it worh the effort?

Thank you.

david earls's picture
david earls

Pane rustica

This is the result of about a month's work. Started as ciabatta, but ciabatta means "slipper" in Italian, and I'm nowhere near on the shape and not going to get there. So I'm calling it pane rustica.

Started this loaf with a poolish (100g ea of flour and water), with an additional 100g of flour in the dough and 78% total hydration. Just enough bread to hold the holes together.

Baked in a Sharp Carousel, a countertop combo microwave/convection oven. Doubt I'll get to heaven on the crust color, but I'm there on the holes. Crust is thin and crunchy; crumb is what good rustic breads are all about: chewy.

The pleasure of bread comes from the chew - 


for the poolish
flour 50%
water 50%
yeast, a trace

for the dough:
all the poolish
flour 50%
water 28%
salt 2.5%
yeast, a trace

This one likes long slow proofing. I use KA Sir Lancelot (14% gluten) and three stretch-and-folds (last before shaping). Minimal handling. Baking on pre-heated firebrick.

This is repeatable.

dwarfwarri's picture

What is wrong with my croissants?

I baked them using hammelman's recipe and method...proofed for 2 hours at 23C and I baked it at 195C for 6mins then 165C for 9 mins...maybe I underbaked them? I took them out and let it cool down and i cut open this croissant and it was all wet and mushy inside. However, the smaller croissants that I tiny ones expanded and weren't wet and mushy inside.

What is wrong with my croissants? (I'm a newbie and this is my third time baking croissants)



mcs's picture

Making Flour Adjustments

One of the hurdles that all bakers will have to deal with at one time or another is adjusting his/her recipe for a new flour.  Sometimes your favorite flour is discontinued, the price skyrockets, you move to a new location, or maybe the recipe that you're using 'couldn't possibly be right' with the amount of flour that is called for.

Over the last 5 years of the bakery, I've had to adjust to 6 different rye flours, as a result of all of the above reasons (and a few more reasons, to boot).  First it was Bob's Red Mill, then it was Montana Milling, then Giusto's, then Arrowhead Mills, then ConAgra Dark, and now Montana Flour and Grain.  Of course when you're selling rye bread commercially, not only do you have to make the product's appearance consistent, you also have to keep your customers happy without creating a drastic change in flavor or texture. 

As you may or may not know, Montana is known for some of the best flour in the world.  Much of it is grown and milled north of here in an area known as 'the golden triangle'.  Having recently moved to the Bozeman area, I decided to try Montana Flour and Grain's organic rye flour, which happens to be reasonably priced at $.50 per pound when bought in a 50 pound bag. 

As you can see, it has a nice speckled color, is medium coarse (my opinion), and has a slightly sweet smell.  Of the previously mentioned flours, I would compare it to both Montana Milling's and Bob's Red Mill.

The first step in switching from one flour to a new one is matching the consistency.  With the ConAgra Dark Rye flour (which is what I was switching from) I kept a 125% hydration starter.  At this hydration, the starter was best described as 'very stiff'.  To give you an idea how stiff, I would use a plastic scraper to remove it from the mixing bowl, as opposed to a rubber spatula, and I could 'lift' the dough out in one 3 kilo glob, when I needed to.

Since the new flour appeared to have a much finer texture right out of the bag, I decided I would do my first sponge (using a portion of the old starter) at 100% hydration, then I would check the consistency as it mixed.  If it was thicker than the previous ConAgra starter, I would add water, if it was thinner, I would add flour, recording the results regardless.

sponge original:
471g rye flour
540g water
45g rye starter

new sponge experiment:
540g rye flour
540g water
45g rye starter

As you can see, I made a 'drier' sponge by adding more rye flour to create the 100% hydration, as opposed to reducing the water.  This was for two reasons:  I wanted to have enough dough for the amount of loaves I needed to make and I felt a slightly stronger rye was better than a slightly weaker rye.

Anyway, the sponge ended up being very close in texture; a little bit 'wetter', although I felt it was within a workable margin. 

For the final dough which I mixed the following day, I decided to reduce the water, the same amount in weight as the rye flour I had added the day before.  This means I reduced the final dough water by 70g, or, keeping all of the other ingredients the same as before, I was left with the same final dough total weight.

As it was mixing, I observed how quickly it 'came together' and how it moved in the bowl.  Pressing my finger into the dough part way through the mix, it felt identical to 'how it should be'.  By the time it was finished mixing, it was identical to ryes I had made in the past.  If it hadn't been, then I would adjust during the mix by adding water or flour, and recording my results in a notebook.

With this adjustment and increase in rye flour and reduction in water, the rye loaf changed from being a 37% rye to a 42% rye.

Below are the results.  The texture and flavor a very close, although the color of the crumb and crust of the bread on the right is lighter.




37% rye made with ConAgra Dark Rye flour (left) and 42% rye made with Montana Flour & Grain Organic Rye

dschal's picture

Finally time to uncloak

Hello from Western Massachusetts.  I am finally joining the forum after lurking for months and benefitting from the vast wealth of information from, and experience of, the members here.  Thank you so much for making this such a useful site!

I've been baking bread since last December.  It all started innocently enough.  I just wanted to bake something better than the breads that are available locally.  Then the obsession gripped me....  I kept stopping at KA Flour in Norwich on my frequent trips to New Hampshire.  My wife gave me an DLX/Assistent mixer for my birthday.  You know the rest.

I've settled on several of the breads in Hamelman"s book, especially the Vt. Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain, as our daily breads.  I have worked these out quite well at this point.  But of course, it can't stop there.  So I am venturing into the deeper waters of higher hydration doughs.  Today I baked my first successful Miche, from dmsnyder's formula "Miche from SFBI Artisn II -2kg."  It just came out of the oven, and I am going to wait 24 hours to slice it, but it looks pretty good to me.  It's one big honking loaf.

Thanks again for providing this wonderful community!


Nharres's picture

Beer yeast/wort starter

I'm venturing into unknown territory here. I have spent days on the internet researching but am not really finding a lot of specific information out there. My background - I have a plain old sourdough starter that I have been keeping for a couple of years now. It originally came from a local bakery so I never had to start one on my own. I have kept it both in the fridge and on the counter and have kept it going with no problems.

My husband is a home brewer and my bread making got us on the topic of using beer yeast for baking. I've tried this, and it ended out ok - but took a lot longer to rise than regular old baker's yeast. It did have a slightly different flavor, but nothing really out of the ordinary.

In order to get better/optimal flavoring, I was wondering if anyone has had any expereince making and keeping a sourdough starter using brewers yeast (I'm thinking of using a couple Tbsp. of husband's yeast starter) and possibly some of the wort for flavoring (technically I guess this would be a barm, but I'm thinking of keeping it indefinitely just like a sourdough). I would eventually have to replish with water/flour only as we only have wort on hand once a month or so and I know my husband won't let me keep dipping into his wort because he'll end out with less beer - possibly just using the wort for the initial liquid in the starter along with the yeast slurry.

Would the brewer's yeast eventually be replaced by the natural yeasts of the flour? Anyone have experience or thoughts on this whole process and whether or not it would work or even be worth it beyond a loaf or two of barm bread?