The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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joyfulbaker's picture

Levain with 2 starters redux

Just baked my "regular" sourdough yesterday and decided it truly is the best bread ever.  It's Hamelman's 'Levain with 2 starters,"on pp. 162, 163 of Bread.  It makes keeping that second, rye starter worth every minute it takes (not very many at that).  We just cut into it last night after it had cooled about 3 hours, and hubby and I (just two bread-loving retired folks) went through at least a third of a loaf that weighed 2 pounds!  I shaped it as a chubby batard.  I didn't photograph the second loaf (which was a little under 1 1/2 lbs., more of a baguette-like shape but a little chunkier) because it went into the freezer right after it cooled.  I slashed both loaves with a single center cut.


I hesitate to reproduce the recipe because of copyright restrictions.  (If anyone has knowledge of getting around that, let me know and I'll see if I can comply.)  I pretty much bake it as Hamelman directs (there are no errata listed for this recipe).  My only tweak is the sprinkling of seeds on top, which I often do.  I combine sunflower, sesame (black and white), fennel, flax and poppy, along with freshly ground sea salt (not too much), which I keep in a small plastic container in the fridge.  I use that as a bagel topping as well. 

This is our regular table bread, and I often retard it overnight (up to 18 hours at 42 deg. F., Hamelman advises), which makes it a 3-day affair, with the starters being mixed the night before mixing the dough.  We had visiting relatives from Israel in October who said this is the best bread they ever ate (my sentiments exactly)!  This time I felt like baking it the same day as mixing, and it was at its best!  So delicious!  I think it may be because the flour was very fresh (K.A. bread flour and B.R.M. whole rye, both just opened yesterday).  My autolyse time was short (15 minute), as I had a dr. appt.  in the middle of it all.  I did two S & F's (somewhat sticky dough, manageable with wet dough scraper and wet hands), and I baked it on a stone (preheated in 500 deg. oven 45 minutes before loading) with the usual steam (pan of steaming hot water beneath and spritzing 4 or 5 times the first 10 minutes).  After 15 minutes, I turned the oven to convection (my K/A electric oven automatically converts Hamelman's 460 F. to 435 F.) after removing the steaming pan--carefully.  I actually lowered the oven 10 degrees for the final 10 minutes, as it sometimes gets a little too dark.  Total baking time is 40-45 minutes.  So, if you have Hamelman's book (or a copy from the library) and if you're willing to whip up two starters (he has directions in the book for both white and rye starters), it's worth it!  The flavor is unbelievably delicious, and it keeps in a paper bread bag for the better part of a week (I bought 500 of them from a local supplier recommended by a local bakery) and then makes great croutons.  I'm saving the second loaf for a dinner party hosted by a member of my book group (an amazing cook and former caterer).



alabubba's picture

Structural Gingerbread for Gingerbread House

I am looking for a structual gingerbread recipe that tastes good. It will only set for a day or too. Plan on having the grandbabies decorate it on christmas eve, then eat it on christmas day. I have a good recipe for structual gingerbread but its not anything you would want to eat. 

Anyone have a delicouse and sturdy gingerbread recipe they would like to share.



Szanter5339's picture

Cottage cakes.


foodslut's picture

Beer instead of water for poolish?

Here's my formula for a beer bread I make from time to time:

Question:  I typically use the beer to make the poolish instead of the water to jack up the flavour of the pre-ferment.  The results have always been good (which I guess is the ultimate guide), but could it be better if I used the water instead?


hanseata's picture

Geoffrey Chaucer's Onion Tart

Before I grab my cooke's knyfe I just have to share this. Enjoy!

Onion Tart

à la Geoffrey Chaucer

225g plain shortcrust pastry

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

25g butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 onions, finely sliced

Salt and black pepper

2 teaspoons caster sugar

A quarter teaspoon each of grated nutmeg and ground ginger

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

425ml double cream

Large pinch of saffron strands


On a floured board roll pastry that it be thinne,

Caste thereto with thyme and line a deep tinne.

Trimme the edges neat with a cooke's knyfe,

Then bake it blinde at gasse mark fyve.

Melt the butter and oyle in an heavie panne,

Covered wiv a lidde, as knoweth every man.

Then adde onyons in slices fine ywrought,

And caste thereto sugar and salte.

Cover the panne and turn the heat down low,

Stirre every while, else the onyons stick to.

Remove the lidde and seethe for ten minutes mo,

That the sauce reducteth and darke growe.

Strewe thereto nutmeg grated, tho keep some by,

And grounde gyngere, and return to the fyre.

Lightly beat the eggs and zolkes together,

And season wiv both salt and black pepper.

Heat the crème till just warme with saffron rich,

Then adde the eggs for to mix.

Spoon the onyon sauce into the pastry case,

Then pour egg and crème custard into the base.

Bake in the oven for minutes xxv,

Til golden brown our tarte be.


You can find this and, also Virginia Woolfs "Clafoutis Grandmere" and Raymond Chandler's "Lamb with Dill Sauce" here:

HokeyPokey's picture

Orange WholeMeal

Just a quick post - a basic wholemeal bread, lovely texture and mild sourdough flavour - that one is a keeper


As always, more photos and recipe on my blog here

booch221's picture

I stopped using a poolish and still get great flavor

I've always used a poolish for my no knead bread recipe. It called for one cup of APF and 6 oz of water and 1/8 teaspoon of  instant yeast. I would let it ferment over night and then mix it with 7 oz of bread flour, 2 oz semolina flour, 1-1/4 teaspoons of salt, 4 oz water, and another 1/8 teaspoon of yeast. I would let this triple in size (5-6 hours) and then refrigerate it overnight before baking. 

This takes a long time but makes a great smelling and tasty loaf of bread.

One day I decided to just mix all the dry ingredients and add 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast and 10 oz of water. It takes about eight hours to rise, and still benefited from a night in the fridge, but it came out tasting the same as the bread made with the poolish. In a blind taste test, I don't think I could tell which was which. Others felt the same way.

This new method saves time and labor.

I suppose you could say, I was still making a poolish,  except I was using all the ingredients in the recipe, instead of just a portion.

Any thoughts on this? 

I've modified my no knead bread recipe on The Fresh Loaf.

More pictures of the entire process are here.


beetsuits's picture

Sourdough starter age


Does the age of a sourdough starter really matter, after it is fully developed?

Boudin claims to use a mother dough that dates back to 1849. How long will the starter continue to improve? Will Boudin's starter make a bread that is sixteen times as delicious as another bakery's ten-year old starter?

A baker in my shop complained when his experimental whole wheat starter was discarded (accidentally) after a couple of months. If he restarts it, will it not be back up to speed after a week or so?

On another, sort-of-related topic, if I bring my San Francisco area starter to say, St Louis, won't it eventually become St Louis area starter unless kept under fairly strict quarantine conditions?

I have searched around for a while on this forum but cannot find an answer to this specific question.




Szanter5339's picture

The best bread!

The best bread!
My favorite white bread, 24-hour leaven.
Beautiful foreign and domestic, and very tasty too!

ssg's picture

Retarding shaped loaves - container and equipment concerns

Does anyone have any experience retarding shaped loaves in a temperature-controlled fridge? I have a theory that an second-hand fridge, maintained at 10-12C, will allow me to retard 36 loaves. I've been considering deep plastic pizza dough boxes to hold the brotforms, but I'm concerned that these may not allow sufficiently rapid cooling of the dough. Does anyone have any experience? Educated guesses? Better suggestions?

I'm moving up from a few years of regular home bread baking to very small production (to sell to friends, etc.). I've always preferred the taste and crumb of dough retarded during secondary fermentation (and the schedule control it allows). My best results have been acheived by using an old freezer, hooked up to an eBay temperature controller set to 10-12C for an overnight fermentation (directly after shaping), with the brotforms sealed in ziplocs to prevent excessive drying. My loaves are generally whole grain or 50:50 whole grain:white, scaled to 750g.

I'm considering buying 6 stackable deep pizza dough boxes, which should hold 6 brotforms each, more or less filling a standard fridge. I'm assuming the fridge will be better than the old freezer as there is much more airflow in a fridge. I'm concerned, however, that the dough boxes, which are designed to seal to one another, will insulate the dough too much and prevent sufficient cooling. Pizza dough boxes have the additional benefit for me that they can be used to transport shaped loaves, as I need to move dough to a rented oven until I can build my own WFO (this would be much more difficult if the brotforms were stacked on sheet pans or boards, which I have also considered).

Obviously, in the long term, some sort of retarder that can accept racks would be ideal, but I don't want to spend too much capital on that right now. If someone has a brilliant idea to build a retarder on the cheap in my basement, I'd love to hear about it.