The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
ananda's picture

ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]


ANOTOLIKA [The Beach House]

9 nights of our Summer Holiday in August 2010


We drove a short distance along the South Coast of Crete from Chora Sfakion to Plakias, in our hire car; a VW Polo which we nicknamed "the Hot Box", on account of the air conditioning system being wholly inadequate to cope with temperatures hitting 40°C.   A further few km on, around a hilly area, and we thought we were nearly there....think again!   We hit one of those dreadful tracks which used to pass for a road, now considered so rough that the road signs have all been blanked out.   Unfortunately, we had no choice but to take it anyway.   Nearly an hour later, having travelled all of 6km, we had finished bouncing along the dusty road, avoiding potholes and rocks; we found our little idyll, and home for the next 9 nights.

The garden was shaded with palm, fig and orange trees.   There was a pergola in the middle of the garden with table and chairs, and a hammock beneath.   4 sun beds were laid out for us to manoeuvre around to maximum effect.   On the side of the house was a "cooking station", consisting of charcoal barbeque, and...wood-fired oven!   On the front of the house was a sheltered terrace with space to enjoy an evening meal, and a couple of laid-back ginger tabby cats, happy to sleep throughout the day, sandwiched around the 2 meals we were able to offer, as the owner had left goodly cat food supplies!




Inside the house was fine, although the mattress on the bed was rock solid compared to the usual comfort we enjoy.   We had temporary supplies to keep us in food for a couple of days, including a bag of flour, and a levain in need of a feeding frenzy.   It was Sunday afternoon, and I planned to bake Monday late morning.   We had a brief evening stroll to get our bearings, and gathered a load of wood ready to fire the oven.

I awoke early, so got up and made dough using the leaven I had brought with me from the UK, and fed 3 times the day before.   Kicking, but cool from a few hours in a lovely cold refrigerator!   What to make??

Well, the flour was carefully chosen, as Alison can read Greek ok.   The text on the bag revealed the flour to be of Cretan origin, although I figured it was a mainstream flour, rather than specialist.   A protein content of 11.2% [see label], made me confident I could make reasonably good bread with it, although the example recipe given on the bag suggested water should be added at 57%, which I thought was a trifle low for what I wanted to make.   But, I had no scale!   Given the detailed formula I usually prepare for baking, the guesswork I was about to indulge in seemed a little daunting.   My estimate for total hydration used in the formula would be just over 70% [total guess]. 


The dough was pretty wet, but I knew it would work up well.   Sure enough, after 15 minutes "air-kneading" [© Andrew Whitley], the dough was soft, but silky and wonderfully extensible.   I placed it on a kitchen surface brushed with olive oil, and covered it over.   So, better get that oven fired whilst giving the dough a sequence of "stretch and fold", and preparing garlic for a Roasted Garlic Foccacia.




I also decided to make a Ciabatta loaf, and a loaf with a swirl of Black Olive Paste through the middle.   The dough proved relatively rapidly compared to what I am used to in the UK.   Still, the wood I had gathered was tinder dry, so burnt straightaway...and HOT!   The main problem proved to be getting the oven to drop and settle ready to bake on.   The "Olive Swirl" bread was now in need of baking.   A quick scuffle of the oven, and I set the loaf in the oven, resting on the aluminium foil strip used for proving.   I covered the loaf with a large roasting pan lid, put the door in place on the oven, and left for 10 minutes to prepare to bake the other 2 loaves.   I then finished the first loaf without the lid, and it took colour beautifully.   Baking the other 2 loaves was very simple, and testament to good dough quality, guaranteed through careful product choice to match up to assumed flour characteristics.   This worked well, and we had a few days' supply of lovely breads for our lunches under the pergola.



On Tuesday we went off in the "Hot Box" to the nearest town, Spilli, some 25km over the mountains.   We came back with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and other supplies, including Ouzo, and another bag of the very same flour!   Over the entire time we spent at Anotlika, we didn't eat out once.   Yet we really did feast on fine food...which I cooked without wasting anything.   We lived quite simply, in many ways, and yet it seemed to cost so much money.   The £ to € conversion seemed always to work against us, and clearly the struggling Greek economy has hit food prices badly.   Still, we were on holiday, and loving every minute of it.


Back at the Beach House, we went swimming in a sea which became increasingly rough.   The weather stayed very hot throughout, so an afternoon swim became an essential feature of my day.   The beach was literally the other side of the road running past our house, so the trip into the sea was all of 25 metres.


The next bake was scheduled for Thursday 5th August.  I made a large boule, and also made a sweet dough which I flavoured with honey and cinnamon, and used both egg and olive oil to improve and condition the dough.   Last year during our stay at Finnix, we had been given bread at the local hotels and restaurants, which had been made to celebrate the Orthodox Festival "Metamorphosis".   The bread was made in the style of large boules, but it was sweet.   This year, the Priests had been much in evidence at the Old Phoenix Hotel where we stayed, but the actual festival fell on the 5th August.   So, my take on this bread did coincide with the festival itself; just for fun, neither of us have connections to the Orthodox religion.



Alison pronounced the breads to be as good as any of my breads she had eaten.   Of course, the context is of great importance too; being able to eat fresh bread just cooled, but straight from a wood-fired oven.   The cracks in the crust of the boule betray exactly how lovely the crust was on this bread.   Alison usually enjoys the heavy crumb texture of high rye doughs; feasting on this type of crusty bread at its peak was a novel experience, and she fully appreciated how special it was too!



After that I set 2 pans of vegetables to roast.   The pictures say it all.   I sun dried aubergines, peppers and courgettes before roasting them slowly in the falling oven for 3 hours.   Wow, these vegetables sustained several meals during the rest of the holiday!



We were shaken awake early on Sunday morning [8th August], by an earthquake out to sea, but very nearby at Gavdos.   The tremor was way below sea level but measuring 4.8, so we felt an obvious tremor beneath the house, which led to us rising from our bed somewhat earlier than originally planned.   See:

The holiday passed as we wanted it to.   Nothing had been planned in a way which interrupted our simple daily routines.   That had been the original purpose for going to this place.   Both of us had worked ourselves close to the limit by late July, and a break of this sort was essential for us to effect battery re-charge.

I did set about reading Stephen Kaplan's book on the renaissance of good bread in France.   It's a weighty tome, and I found I needed to take down a lot of notes as I read.   However, it's enjoyable to read, and the man's clearly passionate in a way I feel echoes my own approach to teaching.   There are some great references in the book too; I wish my French was better than it is!

Well, we really did not want to come home...of course.   The reality check kicked in on the last day, when we had to drive back to Heraklion and submit to the horrors of passing through a wholly inadequate airport as a holidaymaker amongst many, many others.   Three flights back to the UK, all within half an hour of each other, all checking in the same desk....hell on earth.   The flight arrived back in Newcastle at 10pm, and less than 12 hours later, I was back at work, excitedly putting in place the fabric which will become a Level 3 ["A" Level equivalent] Bakery course to sit alongside the other programmes I already run.   Quite a coup, but I'd have liked a longer holiday, of course!

With regard to Greek bread, I had only limited opportunity to explore the local offerings.   We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel in Heraklion on the first night.   The breakfast offer the next morning seemed outrageously extravagant to Alison and me!   We enjoyed muesli and lovely stewed prunes with yoghurt and honey, then had scrambled eggs with some rye bread we could slice off.   Everybody else seemed to be tucking into the fluffy white enriched breads and rolls to support vast amounts of bacon and sausage.   This frequently ran to seconds, before a final return to gather up indulgent Greek pastries.   The rye breads were ok, but I'm sure they were made from a "pre-mix", straight out of a bag with a Bakels, or IREKS name attached; just add water and yeast.   The bread at the Old Phoenix Hotel is always good; it comes from nearby Chora Sfakion, and is made as large white boules of clearly beautifully fermented bread.   We had a visit to Rethimnon on the way back but had no time to investigate the one bakery recommended in the Rough Guides for its rye breads.   The restaurant where we enjoyed a gorgeous lunch did put out very simple, but tasty homemade white and wholemeal slices of bread with a tapenade, and a beetroot and yoghurt dip...everything clearly homemade: yummy!

Best wishes to all


sweetiepea's picture

Potato sourdough starter

Hello, all. This is my first time here at this site. I've had a starter made from potato flakes, sugar and water for years and have used the recipe my husband's aunt gave me to go along with it.  I wanted to find other recipes I could use, but I've noticed that most starters are flour based instead of potato.  Can I use my type of starter with any sourdough recipe?  Thanks for the advice!

Armin's picture

Looking for a supplier of Fresh Yeast

I have been baking bread for many years, first with a bread machine, then with the machine used to do the kneading, and now I knead the dough from scratch.  However I am unable to find a supply of fresh, the type that comes in a block like tofu does.  I have seen it used in England recently, but am unable to find a supplier in or near Toronto in Canada.  Anybody can give me tips on finding a supplier of Fresh Yeast, if it is organic it would be even better.  Armin

dahoops's picture


We took a final trip to South Haven, MI to the DeGrandchamps Farms for another 20 lbs of fresh blueberries yesterday.  I've been baking muffins, pies and generally eating a pound at a time of their delicious blueberries. 

I may be related to Dr Frankenstein since I decided to make a no-knead with some of the fresh blueberries (I know - weird).  But, the loaves turned out surprisingly moist and tasty.  Not a very open crumb, but certainly worthy of some butter and/or cream cheese if toasted.  I used about 1.5 cups of fresh blueberries, 3/4 cup of slivered almonds and a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon in each 2 lb loaf.  What do you think?  ; )

Mebake's picture

Whole Wheat and Whole Rye Bread

This Whole Wheat and Whole Rye, was baked from Jeffrey Hamelman's BREAD under Soudough Rye section. It involves yeast in the final dough, with Rye sour as the flavour.

This bread has a mild rye flavor with a mild acidic tang. i liked it!


agordo's picture

Help on Pound Cake

A non-bread question.  I don't bake cakes, but while in Italy recently we stayed for a few days on a farm and made simple breads and baked an incredible ricotta pound cake.   The best I've ever eaten.  Maybe the best cake I've ever had. The shepard's wife had her husband walk up from the sheep barn and deliver a bowl of fresh cheese he had just made.  We never got the complete recipe from her.  I wrote down the following ingredients, but not the quantities:

  • Farina 00

  • Durum

  • Ricotta-frish

  • Butter

  • Salt

  • baking soda

  • 3 eggs

  • A little chocolate

We mixed it by hand and baked it for what seemed like an hour to an hour and a half.  It rose to about 3 inches in what I recall was a deep 9x12 pan.  It was rich, witht not too dense a crumb.  I suppose I could bake it like a traditional English pound cake, reduce the amount butter and substitue the same weight of ricotta. Can anyone suggest quantities or a recipe?

benjamin's picture

an appeal for help!

Hi everyone,

this is a last ditch appeal for help! My girlfriend and I are staying with her parents for the weekend, and we are supposed to bring a cheesecake to a dinner party on Sunday. I wanted to make the cheesecake from Suas advanced bread and pastry, however I forgot to pack the book before leaving home! I was wondering if anyone out there with the textbook would be willing to take the time to write out the formula and proceedure for me an send me in a message. I realize this is not a fun task, but it would be hugely appreciated!

thanks in advance,


p.s. if someone does message me the recipe, I will post that fact so that others dont waste their time.

Daisy_A's picture

Pierre Nury's Rye as Stick and Boule


I decided to attempt this bread, which Daniel Leader records in Local Breads, after seeing the beautiful pictures on Zolablue's blog.

After working so hard to shape and steam the barm bread I also wanted to relax about shaping and concentrate on opening up the crumb of the next loaf I made. Made with white flour the barm bread can be open, but I had chosen to make it with quite a high amount of rye for a denser crumb and that much-loved rye flavour. Nury's rye with its rustic shape and lower rye content seemed an ideal bread to make next.

Maybe it's true that we can learn as much from what goes wrong as well as what goes right, even if it's not always so enjoyable? Certainly with my first two sourdough breads there were a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to get good loaves out of the oven!  Looking back, the story of making these breads reads a little like this - baker attempts sourdough bread, baker seems to be losing bread, baker rescues bread - eventual happy ending (phew). Can any other novice bakers relate to this? In comparison baking Pierre Nury's rye was much more straightforward.

The only adaptation I made to the formula was to use dark rye in place of light rye. Since starting to bake sourdough in May I've had to get up to speed fast with the different flours and grains used in artisan baking but wasn't yet aware of the range of rye flours. According to historian E.J.T. Collins, prior to 1800 rye bread was eaten widely in Britain and only 4% of bread was made of white wheat only. However breads made with rye flour are not so common now. Pumpernickel is available in some shops but is generally imported.

So, unused to a range of ryes, I have to admit to my chagrin that my first thought was that 'light rye' meant 'light on the rye', as in 'light on the mustard' or 'hold the mayo'.  Even when I realized that light rye was a type of rye flour I couldn't find any locally, not even at our local whole food cooperative, which carries a very good range of flours. I now realize I will have to look online. In the meantime, having scheduled time for baking, I pressed on with the darker rye. Zolablue notes on her blog that a stick made with darker rye is a different loaf from the original Pierre Nury's Light Rye. I have to agree but it was still delicious and I have baked with the darker rye a second time and again loved the flavour, although  I suspect the loaf may not rise as much. The flours used were from the Dove's Farm organic range; Strong White Bread Flour, Wholemeal and Wholemeal Rye.

I have to attribute success with this bread to Nury's beautiful formula. Although wet the dough handled well. The resulting loaf had a wonderful crunchy walnut crust and an open crumb. The flavour was fantastic! Tardis-like it seemed to have more rye flavour on the inside than might be guessed from a quick glance at the formula. Several bakers have posted on this being part of the attraction of the bread. I'm currently experimenting with different sourdough recipes but when the experimentation calms down I'm sure we could go for this as our weekly or even daily bread. Put it this way I baked two of these sticks in the evening and by the early next morning both were gone...

This was also one of only two sourdough formulae that I have been able to get through a long retardation without the dough losing elasticity. The other is a sourdough adaptation of Jan Hedh's lemon bread.  With a high concentration of sourdough in the initial mix my starters can get going like kittens in the wool box and reduce a nice tight ball to a much looser scattering of chewed gluten strands in a relatively short time. However in the case of both formulae mentioned here the amount of sourdough in the preferment is relatively low.

I haven't included the formula and method as it is given in full on Zolablue's blog and I followed that more or less to the letter. Thanks Zola.

I have just one main reflection on method. Several people on TFL have pondered how to hand mix a dough that calls for 12-14 minutes of initial development by machine until smooth and very stretchy. I obtained a well-developed dough with 20 minutes of continuous S&F on the bench, 10 minutes rest then another 10 minutes S&F, although this can be achieved in a variety of ways as other TFL bakers show.

I have since adapted Nury's formula to make a boule. I read Janedo's inspiring blog on her development of a boule from this formula and was encouraged by that. However I chose to start with a lower hydration dough. Following welcome advice from Andy/Ananda I  kept the hydration percentage in the 60s so I could work on my shaping skills with a lower hydration dough. Nevertheless, writing up the formula for the chart I think it could have gone up as far as 69%. I was also working with re-strengthened starters, which had previously been too acidic and were rendering wetter doughs too elastic to be shaped easily. In fact they were turning some boules into Dalí-like clock faces! This was another reason for trying a less wet dough. Obviously more experienced bakers who prefer to work with higher hydration dough can adjust the formula accordingly but it may suit those wishing to start with lower hydrations. I will also continue to experiment with this formula.

The final crumb was less open than in the unshaped sticks but it was even and still moist. I found I could shape and slash the bread more effectively with a lower hydration dough yet the crust was still well-coloured and crisp. The flours used were Marriage's Organic Strong White Bread Flour and Organic Whole Wheat with Dove's Farm Organic Wholemeal Rye. The Marriage's flour performed particularly well, yielding a nicely-developed, well-flavoured bread.

The process of mixing used was as for the sticks, following the information for initial autloyse, mixing and S&F from Leader as described by Zolablue, with the substitution of hand mixing for machine mixing.

The bread was baked on a stone with steam in the first 10 minutes of baking. I had been using an iron pan which I wet with half a cup of water before baking. However my domestic oven was struggling to get both this and the stone up to temperature. Since I replaced this with two much smaller fajita pans, one on each side of the oven, the steaming has been great.

The rye formed a slightly lower percentage of the overall flour in this formula and the rye taste was less prevalent than in the original sticks. However the mellower taste suited the boule and the bread was still extremely flavoursome.

Crust and Crumb


The formula below is for a 845g boule at approximately 69%  hydration once flour and water from the levain are accounted for. (I hope this is correct. As said below, any maths corrections accepted gladly. I have left in some of the 'working out' in the last column'. I've been enjoying doing the maths but it's testing me!)

Total Formula



Marriages organic white strong bread flour


 (397 + 7 + 45)
Marriages 0rganic wholemeal flour


Dove's Farm organic wholemeal rye flour


 (7 + 3)


 (310 + 8 + 24)





I estimate the hydration at 342/496 = 69% once the levain is factored in




Original stiff levain 34g (approx. 11 water, 12 white flour, 11 wheat flour)
23g (7, 8, 7 in final 94g)
Marriages organic strong white bread flour


Marriages 0rganic wholemeal flour







Final Dough



Marriages organic strong white bread flour


Dove's Farm wholemeal rye flour










saltandserenity's picture

Cheese Biscuits

Just made these buttery, crunchy and a little bit spicy cheddar biscuits.  Just the thing to serve with frozen peach bellinis in this summer heat.  Here are some photos and the recipes.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Bread Bottoms - looking at the underside

Bread Bottoms   What do they tell us?  Lots of information there yet we tend not to show them.  Yet we flip over a loaf as soon as we have it in our hands, many times before it lands on the cooling rack.   Some bottoms we don't see, others we do.  Dark, they speak of a hot oven; pale, a cooler one.   The hallmark of an English muffin > two bottoms.  They also leave clues as to what surface the loaf was baked.

In a discussion on evidence of the use of baking parchment, the subject of wrinkles came up.

Parchment Wrinkles.  I'm guessing the wrinkles come from moisture from the bread going into the parchment and deforming it where the dough lies, the outside edges being dry.  In the oven, the paper dries out shrinking & releasing steam which escapes in channels forming wrinkles where the still impressional  dough is touching it.  It marks the bottom like a fingerprint.  No two bottoms are alike.  :)  It's great when the bread doesn't stick and clean up is made easy.

Paper wrinkles like paper does.  With wall paper, one wets the paper with watery glue and lets it "size" until the paper has stabilized before hanging it or risk wrinkles as it dries.  I have not yet bothered to wet the parchment first, let it "size", and stretch it flat to park my dough on it to rise.  There might be a difference, less wrinkles or more.   Hasn't  bothered me enough to test it... yet.  Someone who is about to bake two loaves with parchment, might want to try it and report back.

Playing with those thoughts, it also might be interesting to create a pattern in the parchment that would show up in the baked dough, the bottom of the loaf becomming the top or loaves with signature bottoms.  We've lightly touched the subject before on TFL.  Orgami cranes pops into my head set under the wet dough... or folded rows for a rilled effect.  Cut paper?  Pizza with patterned bottoms?  What could I do with a cool iron and parchment?  So, I started this new thread...  "Bread Bottoms"  What do they tell us?

Dreaming of baking on the surface of relief tiles?  Does your wfo oven leave brick marks on the bottoms of loaves?    What does the bottom of a grilled loaf look like?  What does a bottom look like baked on Iron?  Bamboo?  Perforated pans?  Or baked on seeds?

Show us your bottoms!