The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Vogel's picture

The next level


Usually I am not too much involved in the blogging world, or the blogosphere, as it seems to be called. There is a fine line between writing just for serving your own ego and writing as part of a social endeavour, the desire to contribute to the wide array of knowledge and media which is the source for all the people, including myself, in the need for advice. I always feared going too much for the former.

When I started baking a few months ago, I learned that this is a craft which is less about pure facts and information but more about feeling, instincts, checking out boundaries, trial & error. All the things involved in social relationships. Thus it seems to discuss and reflect on the craft of baking in the environment of a social community is the natural way to do it. Often I learn the most from just reading about what other people have done, about their individual success and mistakes, originating from their individual circumstances. It makes me feel getting a better sense of the thousands of individual factors you have to take into account when baking.

As I am still quite new to baking, I am far away from being experienced. Therefore I won't be able to post fancy regional recipes yet. I definitely hope to get to that point in the future, in order to give something back to the community. At this point of time, this blog will be more of a personal baking diary, which serves as tool for myself to keep track of my own progress and mistakes, but maybe there are still some people left who are less experienced than me an might take some useful information out of my posts. That would be exciting!


General progress: sharpening my senses

Although I have produced some decent loafs of bread in the past, the results are generally varying a lot. Sometimes when taking the goods out of the oven I think "Wow, I should open my own bakery!". And then the next day something more along the lines of "Ehm, I should wrap this loaf in paper so that no one ever can see it" comes to my mind. Being well aware of having not quite figured out how long I have to knead, proper shape without every second loaf becoming flat again, at which point the final proof is finished and such things, I finally decided to buy a few books as advised here. I ordered Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Jeffrey Hamelmanns "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes", and "Bread Science" by Emily Buehler. The latter has arrived yesterday, so I haven't read the whole book yet (but I have a feeling that this will be my favorite and the most enlightening one), but I've already absorbed the other two.

Reading those books literally took me to a new level of bread making. When I made bread after having read them, it was the first time I really opened my eyes and tried to use my senses. It was the first time I actually started to get a feel of what I am actually doing. I learnt a lot of new concepts, like thinking about the dough having an axis, with two poles, the smooth side and the seam side, and that you should try keeping them on the positions. It feels like having progressed from step 3 of 100 to step 7 of 100 or so. Thus I am still far away to produce really good and constant results, but I have become yet again really motivated to finally get to this point.


Most recent baking experiments


dough pieces / oven spring / crust /

Ciabatta doughCiabatta ovenCiabatta crust

Ciabatta crumb

The Ciabatta is made from an 80 percent hydration wheat dough with a biga (30% pre-fermented flour). Since I don't have a stand mixer, I used the Richard Bertinet kneading technique ( Unfortunetaly, I didn't knead long enough so the gluten wasn't developed enough, which I realized while doing the stretch & fold during bulk fermentation. That's probably why the dough flattened a little during the final proof, but that's okay. I am really happy with the crumb. It has an open and glassy texture, just as I expect it from Ciabatta bread. The flavour was good, too.
Still I have a problem which I still haven't figured out, which is the following: My Ciabatta loafs tend to have rather hard crusts. I believe I know why it comes out like this. When pouring the dough onto the counter, I need a lot of flour to prevent the dough from sticking. The dough has a really wet surface (probably partly because I do the stretch & fold directly in the bowl and with wet hands) which hydrates the flour and creates sort of an outer layer of fresh and unfermented dough. As I use more flour because it is absorbed into the dough over time, this layer thickens. In the oven it creates a hard crust and prevents the loaf from properly browning. Another problem arises when I turn the dough upside down on the baking stone after its final proof. On the bottom side of the dough the flour from the counter builds thick lumps (especially when you stretch or scrape the dough a little) which are often incorparated into the dough when handling it. These lumps harden in the oven as well. I'm still searching for the perfect solution to use as little flour as possible and create a nice crust. Not turning the dough upside down when going to bake helps (see this photo:, but then all the flour sticks to the bottom of the bread and I almost have to cut it away because it is too hard.
Well, I'll keep trying.

Norwich Sourdough

proofed dough pieces / right after loading into the oven /
3 minutes of baking / 8 minutes of baking / crumb /

Norwich Sourdough proofed loafsNorwich Sourdough oven 1

Norwich Sourdough oven 2Norwich Sourdough oven 3Norwich Sourdough crumb

Norwich Sourdough crust

This is a Norwich Sourdough ( I basically used Susan's recipe, but I used medium dark rye flour (Type 1150) because that was the one I had here. I used a little more sourdough (16,7% instead of 15% pre-fermented flour). I am really happy with this one. I would say, these are the best loafs I have produced so far. I've learned a lot from reading the above books and finally found out that my shaped loafs need much more than the advised 2 1/2 hours (which produced this underproofed and very dense crumb: I let them proof about 4 hours and the dough still felt very elastic (springing back when poked). This time I used the "put some dough in a glass, mark it and wait until it doubled"-test ( ; I let it triple) which helped a lot.
Especially considering that you cannot really find high protein or malted wheat flour in German supermarkets (the usual one used for breads has 9,8% protein relative to the whole flour weight [including natural moisture], that's why most white breads that are sold in Germany have additional pure gluten in the dough) I am quite happy to have finally produced a rather "big" loaf that is holding it's shape. Maybe I will try to find some malt to produce a more reddish crust, but if I will be able to reproduce my current results I am perfectly happy for now.


News from the local baking scene

"Aldi", the most popular discounter in Germany (a supermarket that offers a limited range of products but to the cheapest prices), slowly wants to set up vending machines for baked goods. You can imagine it like this: You press some buttons on the machine and order some rolls. Then the order is sent to some people in the store who finish half-baked rolls which come from big factories (and may contain a lot of chemical additives) in their ovens. Traditional bakeries are now protesting against it by trying to make a case out of it to bring to court. The bakeries charge Aldi of falsy using the term "freshly baked" where in fact the goods aren't really freshly baked but just warmed up industrial food, kicking the traditional craft of baking with their feet and just trying to make money. One of the bakeries is "Bäckerei Huth" (, which is home near the town I was born and therefore well-known by me (they have my favourite lye bretzels!). I'm eagerly waiting for which direction this whole case will be taken and keep you updated.

odinraider's picture

Something new

I took the trip to the Amish store, and I brought back two types of bread flour, some high gluten flour, wheat gluten, whet germ, oat bran, and spelt. I wanted to try the spelt to make something hearty, something chewy and rich and full of old world flavor. The first thing I made was pasta. Talk about good! We usually use bread flour because I don't have any semolina to buy nearby. It is always good, but the spelt I put in changed it from good to ridiculously amazing.

Enough about that. The next thing I wanted to do is make a country style sourdough loaf akin to Dan Leader's pain de campagne, but my very own. Talk about success. This is what I came up with. Don't adjust your monitors; the loaf really is that dark. My wife thought it was burnt, even though it did not have a whiff of burnt odor. I was excited, because that is exactly what I wanted. I have the recipe below if you want to try it for yourself.



50 grams ripe, recently fed 100% hydration starter.

150 grams water.

50 grams whole wheat flour.

50 grams bread flour.

50 grams rye flour.

50 grams spelt.

Mix well and let develope, between 7 to 12 hours.

Bread dough:

350 grams starter (50 grams left over for next starter).

13 grams salt.

250 grams water.

50 grams rye flour.

50 grams whole wheat flour.

150 grams spelt.

250 grams bread flour.

Mix well, do your normal dough mixing operation. I let it go about 10 minutes in my mixer on medium, then one minute on high. The dough should be soft, loose, and tacky.

Let it ferment for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, the heat the oven to 450 degrees. Shape the dough however you want, I think a boule would work best. I like an oblong, because it is easier to slice. Proof it for 1 and 1/2 hours. I proof it either on parchment or on linen, only because I have no banneton. That would work best. Anyway, bake it for 50 - 55 minutes, until it is nice and dark. Let it cool completely before slicing. Oh, and guess what - this is baked without steam!

Pablo's picture

Stalking the wild bear claw

OK, I have my laminated Danish pastry dough.  I'm good to go.  But I'm wondering what to stuff my bear claws with.  Nothing fancy, I'm a man of the people.  I have almond meal and sliced almonds.  I have maple syrup and almond extract.  Does anyone want to share the bear claw filling of my dreams?  Any tips whatsoever gratefully accepted.  The dough will be ready to play with starting tomorrow morning.  I'm hoping to create what is to my mind the classic bear claw of my youth, but I have no idea what the filling consisted of or even, really, whether this pastry dough will be the right stuff.  But I'm excited and optimistic.  Anybody feel like hopping on the bear claw wagon and throwing some thoughts my way, I'm all ears.  Thanks.


BerniePiel's picture

Eggplant recipe

I'm looking for a superb eggplant recipe for these three beauties which I harvested from my garden about an hour ago.  If you have a favorite and perhaps out of the ordinary recipe, I'd love to try it.  Many thanks.  Bernie Piel

eat.bread's picture

baking multiple loaves



I'm new to bread baking (feel like ill need to add this statement to every post).


If I am baking up a few loaves at one time do I need to change the oven temp at all to account for adding that much dough to the oven?  I know that it might take longer but is there anything else I should be aware of?




SallyBR's picture

Polenta-Crust Tomato Loaf, another Lepard tasty bread

Very nice and easy bread to bake, wonderful crumb color and intensely flavored.    

Plus, it worked well in my electric oven, which is a plus nowadays... :-)


The link to my blog entry is here, where you can find the whole recipe (from The Guardian website)


but I also include a photo for those who don't want to go to the blog

homemadeisalwayshealthy's picture

In Search of WHOLE GRAIN Durum/Semolina Flour

I was wondering if anyone knows of a place/website that sells WHOLE GRAIN durum of semolina flour. All of the flour I find in shops has been sifted, and while I understand excellent gluten development is the whole point of durum and semolina flours, I would still like to get a whole grain source of this type of flour.

All responses are appreciated. 

ananda's picture

Home baking in late July, and September 2010


The lecturing schedule kicks off in earnest tomorrow, following Induction sessions this past 2 weeks to enable our students to find their way and settle in at the College.

I noted the freezer stock of bread at home, piled high before we went to Crete, was virtually empty, so set up to do some baking over this weekend.

I borrowed "Advanced Bread and Pastry" by Michel Suas from the College Library as essential reading for the Summer, in order to plan to run a Level 3 ["A" Level] course this year.   It seems to be a ready-made textbook, especially given that Cengage [publishers] offer excellent online support for both instructor and student.

The breads I made just before our holiday utilised the Mountain Bread recipe, moreorless straight from the book.   I really enjoy making a couronne shape; these were lovely, with a formula very similar to the Pain de Siègle recipe I use in class with students, but omitting the fresh yeast in the final dough.



I also made some of the "Wonderful White", which I posted on at the back end of last year, when I first happened upon TFL.   You can read about that here:

Yesterday [Saturday] I mixed 2kg of paste to make Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel in a Pullman Pan.   These are the links to the formulae: and

Except that I used strong white flour in the final paste this time, so the formula is as Hamelman recommends, with the additional controls on water I added as constant.   This was then baked very slowly overnight in my regular electric [fan] oven, at 100°C, with a small tray of water for a steady steam supply.   I did share this earlier with Nico to ascertain a bake profile.   I still like to steam these loaves, and intend to revert to this method in the ovens at College [Pumpernickel now on the student syllabus!].   The end result was very acceptable, with Alison asking for more at lunchtime, when I really should have been insisting on waiting a couple more days before slicing.   We just love rye in this house!   Photos:





And I made 3 x 1200+g loaves of Pain de Campagne.   The leaven had one feed from stock beforehand as refreshment and to re-invigorate activity.

New journey for me this time round: overnight retarding!   I've done this before commercially and whilst running bread courses, but not at home.   It worked well, I did 3 variations, and think the last loaf gave the best results.   Loaf 1 had only 1½ hours final proof [too tight in the baking]; loaf 2, radically, I did not re-mould [good, but a bit flat and rustic] and loaf 3 instructions given below, with photographs attached.

Great finished bread taste and texture too!

This is the formula:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Leaven




Flour: 12.4. Water: 7.5. TOTAL 19.9

Flour: 280. Water: 168. TOTAL 448

Strong White Flour












  • 2. Rye Sour [from stock]



Dark Rye Flour












  • 3. Final Dough



Leaven [from above]



Rye Sour [from above]



Strong White Flour



Dark Rye Flour












Total Pre-fermented flour



Total Hydration



Bake Profile: Steam, pre-heated oven [250°C], baking on hot bricks, drop heat to 200°C after 20 minutes.   Total Bake Time of 40 - 45 minutes


  • Autolyse flours, water and rye sour for 1 hour.
  • Add leaven to form a dough and mix by hand for 5 minutes.
  • Add salt and mix a further 5 minutes. Rest briefly
  • Complete mixing cycle, using "slapping" techniques.
  • Bulk ferment for 2½ hours; S&F every 45 minutes.
  • Scale and divide into 3 equal pieces, and mould each round.
  • Line plastic bowls with a little olive oil and use these to store dough pieces overnight, covered, in the fridge [mine was running <4°C].
  • Take each dough piece out as required and re-mould.
  • Drop upside down into a prepared banneton and set to prove for 2 hours, covered with heavy plastic
  • Turn out the dough piece onto a pre-heated metal sheet, cut as desired and bake to the profile shown above.






Best wishes to you all


foodslut's picture

Northern Ontario Rye

Living in the nordic climate of northern Ontario, I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when a local flour mill started operation.  Brule Creek Farms takes locally-grown grain and stone grinding it.  I've enjoyed using the whole wheat, partially sifted and other BCF products, but I was VERY happy to see rye flour join the range of products being sold.  I like making rye, so I thought I'd try out an "all local flour" rye recipe.

My general approach:  60-40 split of regular (in this case, partially sifted instead of all-purpose) to dark rye flour, starting with a poolish to get some pre-ferment flavour, and long, slow proofing in the fridge (to allow me to bake in the evening during the work week).   Here's the final formula for a 750g/24 oz. loaf (PDF).

I prepared the poolish and let it grow for 12 hours at room temperature, then slowed down in the fridge for another 8.  Next, I mixed the poolish with the other ingredients, autolysed for ~25 minutes, then kneaded and let the dough ferment in the fridge for 12 hours.  Finally, shaped the loaves and let them proof for about 90 minutes before baking them in a 425F oven for 45 minutes (internal temperature to 200F).  I do the longer bake in a medium oven because I like my rye with a softer crust and a somewhat finer crumb.

The results (yeah, I blew it by proofing the loaves too close to each other):

Here's the "crumb shots":

Softish rye, with a very hearty taste.  Loved it!

I'm working on a liquid levain using the dark rye, so maybe the next version will be a TOTALLY local (including the yeasts) rye.

breadsong's picture

Ciabatta ... an attempt


I've seen so many beautiful loaves here on TFL, with beautiful open crumb. When making dough by hand I know I'm adding too much flour to overcome stickiness when kneading. Guess what? No holes. I have shied away from the really wet doughs not really knowing how to handle them.

I recently saw a video by Richard Bertinet where he demonstrates his method for working sticky dough:

I found this video very encouraging, and now want to give a wet Ciabatta dough another try.  I read through various formulae and methods, to see how they meet the following criteria (what produces big holes in the crumb, as written by Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Bread Bible):

a) acid dough (use of a dough starter and a long cool rising)
b) underdeveloped gluten (from less mixing time)
c) high water percentage, to create a very wet dough
d) a slow rise
e) gentle shaping
f) an overnight rise of the shaped dough in the refrigerator (not applicable to Ciabatta?)

I decided to try Eric Kastel's Ciabatta formula as I've liked some of his others, and because there are similarities to Hamelman's formula, which gives me comfort (any Hamelman formula I've tried, so far, has produced really good results for me).
Kastel also writes about a double-hydration mixing technique that sounded interesting (discussed below).
Instead of 100% bread flour as Mr. Kastel's recipe indicates, I substituted 50% bread flour and 50% Type 00 Italian flour, to mimic 'ciabatta' flour, as shown in Mr. Bertinet's Ciabatta formula.

I saw different methods in different books, and tried to take bits and pieces from a few, to try to address the conditions needed to create big holes in the crumb:

a) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a poolish that ferments for 12-14 hours prior to mixing the dough.

b), c) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a double-hydration mixing method, using only 80% of the final dough's water for the initial mix (in the bowl, by hand for 4 minutes), then adding the remaining 20% of the water in thirds, continuing to mix by hand until each addition of water is absorbed before adding the next. Kastel writes the purpose of this is to allow some gluten to develop, while the dough is firmer and before the dough is completely hydrated. (Water is ultimately 81% of flour weight in Kastel's formula). 
Kastel advises that Ciabatta is a delicate dough and shouldn't be worked too much; Bertinet instructs to work the dough until it is supple and elastic; Hamelman says after mixing there should be some 'muscle' to the dough. I decide to go with Bertinet's more vigorous working method, partly because I want to see if it works, partly because I'm using some lower-protein flour, and not 100% bread flour, and because I trust Hamelman and his mixing recommendation. I turned the very wet, soupy dough onto the counter from the bowl and tried to do as Mr. Bertinet instructs. I mucked around (literally) for 10 minutes or so and got the dough to a stage where, while still very soft and sticky, had a bit of spring to it and would leave the counter in a cohesive mass when I picked it up. I am hoping that stretch and fold will make up for any deficiencies in my mixing or working of the dough.

d) Hamelman's bulk fermentation, at 3 hours, is longer than Kastel's instruction. I decide to wait it out for the 3 hours. When preparing for mixing, I made some formula adjustments as I was planning to let the dough bulk ferment for longer -  I wanted to slow down the rising - so used 1/3 less yeast (why 1/3? Only a guess). I also adjusted the salt to be equivalent to the percentage used by Hamelman as I really like how Hamelman's breads taste (I think they're nicely salted, and Kastel's recipe had a higher salt percentage).

Both Hamelman and Kastel indicate 2 stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. Peter Reinhart's stretch and fold video on Amazon instructs 4 stretch and folds for Ciabatta:
I will split the difference and go with 3 stretch and folds, at 45-minute intervals.  For the stretch and fold, Kastel says to flour the counter, Reinhart says to oil it. I'm going with Reinhart on this one, as I really want to preserve wetness in the dough.
I can feel the dough responding to each stretch and fold, and see air bubbles, which is exciting!

e) All the authors recommend using lots of flour and being really gentle with the dough when shaping.
I sifted a heavy coating of flour on the counter, gently turned the dough out of its rising container, and sifted more flour on top. I cut the dough into three strips. Shaping one dough strip at a time, I pushed the sides together as Rose instructs (to create the wrinkled look on top of the loaf), then inverted bottom side up. Then I gently picked the loaf up and stretched to lengthen it slightly while placing on parchment paper.

f) Kastel's final proof was for 20-30 minutes, and Hamelman's was for 1-1/2 hours. I chose the longer timeframe for proofing.

I followed Hamelman's baking instructions, 460F then 440F, and baked on a baking stone with steam.
I found the loaves were really browning so reduced the oven to 400F after about 18 minutes in the oven.

Here's how they turned out:

When I sliced the bread, the crust sort of splintered.  It's a very crisp crust. I am eating a piece of the bread right now as I finish this post...and the bread is good!
I am not sure if the crumb is as open as it could or should be, but it's more open than anything I've made yet, so for that I'm grateful!

Regards, breadsong