The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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davidg618's picture

A Marvelous Site and Resource

There are, at least, two threads running currently whose subjects deal with "the past'":


I am especially taken with the latter, more so with the author, than with any particular book, he wrote.  Apparently, Mr. Fredrick T. Vine, was a popular and successful author, and baker at the turn of the 19th to 20th century.  A superficial web search finds at least five bread and baking books, writings by Mr. Vine, sufficently treasured that reproductions are still sold today.

Browsing through one of his,

Practical bread-making: a useful guide for all in the trade (1900)

 By Frederick T. Vine,

here is one excerpt I found particulary chuckle-inducing, considering the "hole-i-er than thou"  point-of-view many of us share.


IF there is one thing more annoying than another to the baker, it is to cut a handsome-looking loaf and to find it full of large, unsightly holes, especially when, as is generally the case, you desire it to cut extra nice.

This is no new thing, but has been with us to plague the bakers' life for many years, and very many schemes have been tried to banish it, but all to no purpose; it is still unfortuuately with us, and I am not sanguine enough to predict its banishment from reading this chapter. However, I will endeavour to reason it out to you, and give my own theories upon it, together with the many remedies I have tried and suggested for its cure."

Frederick T. Vine's writings, and hundreds of other culinary books are available at:

David G

txfarmer's picture

German Style Lye Pretzel - this is more like it!

I posted a few days ago asking why my lye pretzels are not dark enough, after much reading and some experimenting, I think I figured out why. After I mixed up the lye solution, I didn't let it sit and completely dissolve, so the solution was too weak. The first time, I mixed and dipped the dough right away. This time, I mixed up a 3.5% lye solution (between 3% and 4% is good, the higher the darker, but don't go beyond 4%) with room temperature water, let the solution sit at a safe place for 15 minutes, slowly stir for the first few minutes. The solution heated up at first, then started to become clear and cooled down. After that, dip the dough for 30sec each, bingo, this time I got the color and shine I want. The devil is in the details huh?!


Also made some other shapes, I think they look cute with wide open scoring marks.

The recipe is from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, I did make one change: after reading a suggestion on the web, I used milk instead of water in the formula, I do think it tastes more authentic that way. I loved how the pretzels tasted and looked when I stayed at Germany a few years ago, crispy and hard shell, soft and chewy crumb, and a special "lye pretzel" taste. It's decidely different from American style soft pretzels boiled in baking soda solution (which I also like), good to split open and make a sandwich with. I do need to work on my shaping techniques to get rid of the unsightly holes in the crumb.

I have a whole lot of lye left, will be practicing making pretzels for a while!

chetc's picture

CInnamon rolls question

I have a recipe to make cinnamon rolls, I mix all the ingredients in my bread machine and let the dough rise then roll it out and put on the sugar cinnamon ect. roll it up cut them put them in a pan & let rise for an hour & bake,  we were invited to a picnic at a friends house, there will be 35 people there, the question I have is, can I make the dough the night before and refrigerate it right after I take it out of the bread machine, and let it come to room temp the next day and bake them to help save some time, am I taking the right approach.


Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

Bread flour

I hope this isn't too basic of a question to post. I've been baking and using the recipes from all over the web and from several books. That said I wonder why some breads call for "bread flour" and other "AP". A couple of weeks ago I bought my fist 50# sack of flour. It was a bread flour "Power Flour" from Pendleton Flour Mills. I brought the cost of my bread down a bit as it was $.55 a pound that way. This is the cheapest I've been able to buy BF. (got to remember this is Hawaii!) The only other inexpensive way to buy flour is to give up on trying to find 50# sacks of unbleached AP flour. Everywhere I ask, they only carry bleached flour. Shipping here is out of the question. So the thrust of the question I have is this... Can I use BF exclusively for all my bread baking? What are the drawbacks? Why even use AP for bread?

I know, lots of questions! Hope someone can shed some light on this for me!



jonswifelori's picture

La Brea Bakery Sourdough Starter

I finally decided to start the grape sourdough starter from the book "Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery.  My mother-in-law also wants to start it, so I have included pics of the first 40 hours of fermentation.  I did exactly what was stated in the recipe...One pound of red or black grapes (I did dark red-purple grapes), 2 pounds lukewarm water (78 degrees F), and one pound three ounces or unbleached white bread flour (I used King Arthur).  The recipe called for organic-pesticide free grapes...but my store didn't have them.  I got normal grapes, and just rinsed them under cool water.  I put them in a double layer of cheese cloth picked up from the local hardware store.  This is the pic from just 2 hours after all the ingredients were mixed.


P.S....I have also wrapped my little baby with a towel all over.  I peek in on it about every 2 hours.

seki's picture

Revived my neglected starter!

Due to various reasons, one of which is a bit of laziness, my 100% SD starter lived for ~5 months in the fridge, un-touched. Now that I have the time to start baking again, I pulled it out fearing the worst. There was hooch, a bit of mold, and all of it that I could see had turned a bizzare gray color. Not a good sign! I assumed it was a bit beyond help, but decided to try and revive it just for kicks. Several days later, and it's happy and healthy once again! I thought my experience might be a little help to other neglectful SD parents, so here's a little recap of how things went:


Day 0:

First things first, I poured off the hooch, and scraped the horribly gray-colored starter off the top, leaving about 15g behind. It smelled horribly, and I didn't dare venture a taste. First feeding: 1:2:2. I decided to do a larger feeding since I had reduced the starter so much. I figured I would know within the first day or two whether or not I would be starting a new starter from scratch.


Day 1:

Bubbles! 24 hours later and the starter had quite a few tiny bubbles, though it definitely still smelled a bit off. It has risen to about 1.5x and had a reasonable amount of bubbles. I gave it another 1:2:2 feeding, hoping to dilute the last of the nasty beasties while the yeast took over.


Day 2:

I again waited 24 hours checked on the starter. This time, it looked like a reasonable healthy starter and had actually doubled. It hadn't quite peaked, but was starting to have a little off smell, so I decided to feed again. In the past, when I wanted to strengthen the yeasty portion of the starter, I had used smaller feedings on a more frequent schedule. Since it was still a bit sluggish, and still a little "off", I started a 1:1:1 12 hour regimen.


Day 3-4:

After 4 1:1:1 feedings 12 hours apart, the starter had begun peaking and falling before the 12 hours had elapsed. The "off" smell was now gone. Time to try a bigger feeding. I switched back to 1:2:2, but kept the 12 hour schedule.


Day 5:

The starter was now peaking at about 8 hours with a 1:2:2 feeding, smelled and looked great. Time to make some bread! I made a batch of white SD with a little (10%) whole rye. The dough flattened out a bit more than I was used to, but the crumb was nice and light. Taste was spot on. I would have included pics, but it had been awhile since I had some home-made SD. Needless to say, it didn't last long.


I'm now feeding at 1:3:3, and it is already peaking before 12h. Back in business! I'm not saying my results are normal, but just thought I'd alleviate some fears people have about missing a feeding or two on their refrigerated starters. And for those of you who are neglectful enough to let your starter get in as shameful condition as mine was, hope is not all lost! In retrospect, the smaller feedings helped much more than the first, larger feedings, so you may opt for going that route from the get-go.

MichaelH's picture

Crust at Last...........

Having struggled with my oven, my stone, steam and burned bottoms for some time, I finally got everything to come together today. The recipe is Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. The only change I made was to add 2 Tbs. raw wheat germ, a practice I adopted from Nancy Silverton. The bread was retarded overnight, having undergone a 1 hour final proof the day before in bannetons. I let them warm up for two hours in the morning, which was a little too much, as they deflated some when scored. Next time I will settle for one hour.


Having determined that my oven temp is about 20 degrees high (F) and that it will always burn the bottoms on conventional bake, I preheated to 420 (F) on convection before misting and slashing the loaves. I have found that I get cleaner scoring without drag if I mist the loaves about a minute before slashing with a very sharp German serrated paring knife reserved for this purpose. 


Steam was provided by my new Steam Maker Bread Baker which I learned about from Steve at Bread Cetera. I applied steam for 12 seconds and baked at 420 convection for 15 minutes. When I removed the cover I found the loaves had recovered some of their collapse and the crust was translucent. I changed the oven setting to 420 Roast, which applies top and bottom heat simultaneously, without convection, which I feared would dry the crusts prematurely (thanks to David Snyder for this tip). This cured the burned bottom problem I had experienced with conventional bake. After 25 minutes more I turned off the oven and propped the door open for 6 minutes.


The crust is very crisp and I achieved rich carmelization (with its wonderful flavor) for the first time. I am quite pleased with the Steam Maker Bread Baker and the oven settings that brought everything together. I am satisfied with the crumb for a 65% hydration loaf, but will work on a more open crumb in future bakes.


I finally took the advice of so many authors and posters and picked a relatively straight forward recipe and baked it over and over, changing one thing at a time until I got it right. Now onward to seek a more open crumb and a decent batard.








EvaB's picture

Welsh cookies and other things

Ok shall try this again, I spent the past weekend without power for most of it. We had a freak snowstorm which took down all the trees the hydro company hasn't been taking off right of ways etc. We spent from about 8 am on the 22nd to 5:40pm on the 23rd without power. Fortunately I have a gas stove which while I couldn't use the oven (one of those electric start things) I could light the burners and cook.

Its deadly boring without power and reading only worked for so long, so I wound up searching for something to bake on the top of the stove, and came up with Welsh Cookies. I collect recipes so having seen this lately could find the printed off recipe without too much trouble.

This is the downed trees that took out my clothes line, and squashed my hawthorn beneath its top.


Same trees a day later, after some saw work, still woking on that after spending yesterday with help.

The cookies, recipe as follows 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp soda (this is because of the currants and if you don't use currants or raisins is likely not needed) 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsps nutmeg,  1 cup shortening (I used butter because I don't like anything else) 1 cup currants (which I plumped with hot water but isn't necessary) 2 eggs beaten into 6 tablespoons of milk (didn't have milk so half and half had to do) sift all the dry ingredients togehter, cut in shortening, until crubmly, add wet mix, and mix to dough. Chill 1-2 hours (not havign a fridge working I simply covered the bowl and set out into the snow on my deck) You have to mix this well as I had some unmixed in dry stuff in the bowl and thought I had mixed it quite well. Divide into small enough portions to fit well on your cutting board, and roll out about 1/4 inch thick, with about a 2 inch cutter, maybe its a three, its not my regular biscuit cutter though. Heat the griddle till water sprinkled on will dance same as for baking pancakes, and bake the cookies until golden and turn. As you can see they got a bit more than golden, but they still taste good. The recipe says 4 doz, but I got 65. You turn them just like pancakes when they get sort of shiny and puffy on top, and bake the other side, greasing the griddle often.Variations could be additions of chopped nuts and flavouring, pecans and vanilla for instance, lemon zest and flavouring, or almonds and almond flavouring.

Whatever the flavour I will be making these again as my non cookie eating daughter loved them, she said they weren't too sweet. She doesn't like raisins because they are too sweet. Go figure!

this is the griddle I baked them on, its reputed to be over 100 years old being my great grandmother's, I'm not sure of that, but its still at least 75 if not older.

This a bit of my bread baking I've been doing, these are Bread in Five minute doughs, the left is a whole wheat with some rye and buckwheat flour added, the braided loaf is brioche filled with fruits and cream cheese, and the twists in back are brioche rolled into strips and rolled in chopped pecans, and cinnamon sugar and then folded over and twisted together. I'm told all were wonderful, I tried the twists and they wern't bad, but I'm not a big bread eater and baked this for my husband who was living out on his job.

these were supposed to be hamberger and hot dog buns, from a recipe gotten here, but the water was left out, and these were way too wet, and as a result spread out all over the place, good but not exactly what I wanted.

And just so you have an idea of me, this is a picture the camera snapped as I replaced it on its power charging dock. First time I've ever had that happen!

plasticookies's picture

Help With Gluten Formation


I've tried many times to make a simple loaf using just flour yeast and water. After trying many different methods and recipes without any success, I think the problem lies in a lack of gluten formation. No matter how long I knead the dough by hand (I've tried up to 20-25 min), the dough just does not become elasticy. If I try to stretch the dough, it just tears. It also does not become "smooth like a baby's bottom". I think my kneading technique is half-decent and I allow for the dough to auto-lyse, so the only reason I can thnk of is that the flour just doesnt have enough gluten. I'm  using Robin Hood Bread Flour bought in Toronto. Maybe I just got a bad batch of flour?

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Smita's picture

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

A couple weekends worth of sourdough sandwich breads. Heres what we do:

1. Friday night (or morning, depending on room temperature) - feed starter with 2 oz each of water and AP flour. I use 8-hour two builds if possible, to get 8 oz of 100% hydration starter.

2. Saturday am - When the starter is ripe (bubble with fruity smell), add 12 oz flour and 8 oz water. Including 4 oz each of flour and water in the starter, this amounts to 16 oz flour and 12 oz water (75% hydration dough). We're flexible with the 12 oz of flour. Of the two loaves below, the top loaf was made with 5, 4 and 3 oz of whole wheat, white whole wheat and AP flour. The bottom loaf was made with 7 and 5 of whole wheat and white whole wheat flour respectively.

Notes: I store our flours in the freezer. I use the formula for desired dough temperature (DDT) to calculate water temperature.

3. Mix flour, water, 2 teaspoons gluten and starter - autolyse 30 minutes.

Note: I also added 1 tablespoon flax seeds to the bottom loaf.

4. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, till windowpane.

5. Rest, add salt and knead gently.

6. First rise for about 3 hours or till dough doubles. We did three stretch and folds for the top loaf. Went and got brunch while the bottom loaf was rising!

7. Deflate and roll real tight (such a lovely americanism) tp shape into sandwich loaf. Place in a greased 9 x 5 pan.A slightly smaller pan will give you a higher loaf. I don't worry too much about this.

8. Final proof for 3 hours or until it crests above the loaf pan. Note: We've also done overnight retards with good results.

9. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Internal temperature should read around 200 degrees F when done, the loaf should sound hollow.

Cool for an hour and slice. 



Taste and appearance: We have grown quite fond of this formula. The loaves have no butter / oil at all, and made for a perfect morning toast / sandwich bread. Sometimes, I will add a half cup of mashed potato or buttermilk, which tenderizes the loaf. These loaves showcase whole wheat - so if you enjoy whole wheat, this is a good recipe to try. IMHO, the critical steps were: 1) Working out 16:12 flour to water is a good size loaf for us, that resulted in the right crumb texture, 2) Knead till windowpane to coax gluten development in whole wheat, 3) I have to be flexible about rise times. Gotta run one's day by the dough's schedule and not vice-versa. If I add a teaspoon or less of yeast, I can cut down rising time to about 90-120 minutes. The best loaves we've made usually take 3-5 hours. I'm sure this will change as we apprach warmer weather.

Feel free to share your thoughts! All feedback welcome!