The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Shutzie27's picture

Bread Manifesto

The following is my bread manifesto:

I do not ever ever bake bread for money, unless I am seriously and quite literally faced with homelessness. I'm far too selfish to turn this corner of reprieve in my life into a job.

I will never put myself in a position for anyone to turn baking bread into work or labor for me.

I will always make sure every loaf, roll or breadstick that comes from my hands is made with love and the excitement that comes from sharing something good and showing love in a tangible way. The ability to bake bread from scratch by hand is, after all, to some degree a gift and one that should be shared. (Granted, whether or not I have this gift is still debateable).

Someday I will make a baguette. I don't have a pan for it, and probably not the oven, either. I have been reading and re-reading the recipie and studying it like it was a final exam in the class of Life. I don't believe I am ready yet...perhaps when I've finished this semester of law school. But someday, I will make a baguette.  

After that, and only after that, I will attempt to make a challah bread.

I must also make another sourdough again, though I'm not entirely sure where that fits in and it might depend on how law school goes.

And finally, before I die, to celebrate a personal and deep victory of my own, I will make a croissant. Well, probably six or a dozen, because that's usually what the recipe calls for. I shall be exceedingly careful as to who I chose to share the croissants with, as well. The ones that turn out, anyway. It's not the kind of patience, care, precision, and effort one puts in for just anyone, after all.

Shutzie27's picture

For the love of dough

There is something almost primal about home-baked bread.

For millennia, mostly women (but I'm sure some men too) across every single continent have engaged in a fairly painstaking process of patiently grinding wheat or corn into flour, finding and adding just the right amount of water, and kneading, kneading, kneading until, finally, on a flat rock in the sun or atop an enclosed fire somewhere the cornerstone of the human diet was finished. How could they have known how much water to add, or that one must knead and not beat or grind the dough? Perhaps bread was born within us and simply came out.

Maybe it emerged in the form of a baguette, or a tortilla, a loaf, a pita, a crust or a stick, but it was bread and it was being made every day by somebody somewhere.

Humans engaged in this long process, over and over again, for their children, their mates, their communities or themselves. To celebrate, to mourn, to barter or to heal. In honor of their religion and sometimes, even, bread was made to renounce religion. Bread was at once precious and yet universal. It was for the rich to enjoy, the poor to need and the destitute to yearn for.

Environment, time and later wealth would play their defining roles, of course.

In France the nobles feasted on croissants, a rich bread because it required eggs for browning and a scandalous amount of butter.

Meanwhile, in Tuscany, the bread had to last and was often stale. Not to be denied any pleasure, the Tuscans soaked the leftover slices of the long, narrow loaves in olive oil and topped with basil and tomatoes and re-warmed the bread over the fire. Today, you can pay up to $25.00 for a plate of that--only we call it bruschetta and the bread isn't usually stale (though it may have been deliberately left out overnight to harden for authenticity).

French toast, or as I grew up calling it, arme ritter (poor knight) was fed as a dessert dish to knights. It contained key ingredients wealthier noblemen were likely to have, such as milk and eggs. As such, it was considered a bit of a luxurious dish and by serving it the noblemen were paying the knights proper respect...that being said, it was also appealing because it was a dish that was still relatively cheap to provide. In fact, French toast is sometimes called "The Poor Knights of Windsor."

Rich, poor, warring or at peace....everyone ate or at least needed bread. Of all the foods in the world, it is bread that became synonymous with currency the world over (lettuce is a distinctly American term).

All of which is well and good, of course, and lends to a deep sense of comfort when baking bread, but doesn't have a whole lot to do with why I bake it.

No, I think it would be far more accurate to say that I love dough more than I love baking bread.

I love the dough.

I love the way yeast proofs in warm water, as though the water, at just the right temperature, was holding some eternal secret of life and by adding the yeast and waiting I discovered it. Dough is love, and love is the essence of life.

I love how it transforms from a sticky, gooey sludge into a smooth, warm and elastic dough with just a bit of patient coaxing from my fingers. That my small, weak and unskilled hands could produce such an strong but elastic substance amazes me just a little bit each and every time.

I especially associate yeast dough with love. Like love, yeast dough is pliable but strong, but also requires just the right amount of attention to become something life-sustaining. Given too much kneading or water or flour, it can be ruined in an instant and become stiff, dry or cracked. Sometimes, just sometimes, like particularly strong love, if the dough has become too watery and is getting away from the baker, it can be fixed by slowly and carefully adding flour.

Both yeast dough and love can be coaxed, cajoled, rolled, folded and rocked into shape, but never, ever forced.

You have to truly feel the dough to understand it, and if you are only going through the motions you may end up with bread that is edible, but not bread that is also joyous. Yeast dough, like love, will give back whatever you put into it, and if you don't pay attention you will end up with nothing but a useless, heavy mass and a lot of wasted time you can never get back.

Yeast dough is warm from the inside out and, without even touching it, yeast dough can grow and grow until it doubles or triples in volume and can seem unstoppable. Anyone who has ever secretely loved another can surely relate.

The warmth of yeast dough doesn't come from an oven or a grill, but emanates gently from within it. Cover the bowl, come back in an hour or even just twenty minutes and--magic!--twice as much dough as there was before.

And like love, even punching it down a bit and reshaping it won't stop the way it will grow from within.

Some breads, just like some loves, need a bit more attention even when they're in the oven.

A baguette, for example, has to be perfectly misted while baking.

A challah bread (and is there any bread that celebrates life, family, love and tradition more? And no, I'm not Jewish, but it really is one of the richest breads in so many ways) won't settle for being shaped but must be braided.

The quietly demanding sourdough requires no less than at least three days of your time for the starter and, even then, can be a bit fickle.

And the croissant is a downright diva, demanding days of preparation and folding process akin the welding and hammering that goes into a genuine Samurai sword (only slightly less than 100 layers). It is a deceptively innocent-looking bread that requires a remarkable amount of skill.

Yes, some breads require the attention of a lover, others are as demanding as children, still other are as low-maintenance and accepting as an old friend, and still other breads ultimately require the patience, work and understanding that love for family and in-laws are exceedingly likely to require.

But all of them, if done properly, are unquestionably worth every second.

Naturally, after taking a golden-brown or spice-speckled or rich dark bread out of the oven, I'll treat myself to just a bit of it.

I'll allow myself that first moment of basking in the rich, comforting warmth of the oven, still lazily lingering within the welcoming center of the loaf. And I'll revel in the barely-there hint of sugar or natural sweetness that is woven tightly amidst the magical sponge of flour and yeast.

When the mood strikes me, sometimes that gentle, warm center is hugged by a protective crust with just enough crunch to turn that very first bite into an experience of its own, a sharp but simple contrast of texture that elevates the flavor exponentially.

But after that, really, the bread becomes almost a thing of the past. Baked, the loaf is now something that I take pride in having made and while I genuinely look forward to sharing with others, something is gone. I am forced to confront the fact that the towel-wrapped testimony to my secret baking obsession is not why I ever began making it in the first place.

JoPi's picture

Bakeries of 1946

I came across this video located in the Library of Congress.  It features  a bakery in 1946 along with bread baking know-how of that time. Enjoy!

Franko's picture

A Raspberry Tart

About two weeks ago I made up a 2.9 kg batch of puff paste to be used for making tarts , turnovers , napoleons, etc. It's a great thing to have on hand this time of year when all the berries and fruits are ready for picking. One of the things I really wanted to make was a raspberry tart, but our usually prolific raspberry cane is late this year because of the cool weather we had in May and June here on Vancouver Island. At least that's the theory my wife and I are going on. Luckily our local organic farmers aren't having the same problem so I bought a couple of baskets of gorgeous raspberries from a nearby farm. After a few days of making various items with the pastry, some successful some not , I'd acquired enough scrap dough to use for a 9 1/2 in. tart shell. Using scrap dough for tart shells is recommended because it doesn't have the 'lift' of an unworked piece of puff and because it's baked blind isn't necessary. I also made a little raspberry glaze and some pastry cream to finish the tart with. Once I'd formed the tart in the pan I lined the inside with a round of parchment and filled it with dried beans to keep the bottom from lifting as it baked. The shell was baked off at 410F for 20 min. and although the shell came out a bit darker than I would have liked , I wanted to make sure it was fully baked. Some of those unsuccessful items I referred to were the result of underbaking. While the shell was still hot I brushed some of the glaze over the bottom inside to seal it and then let it cool completely. My preference is not to use a lot of pastry cream in a fresh fruit tart, just enough to compliment the fruit rather than be a major component. Finally the raspberries went on, placing them around the edge and working to the center. I cut out a small round of parchment and placed it over the center then dusted the outside with confectioners sugar, removed the paper and glazed the berries in the center. All in all I think it turned out quite well. Because it's an all butter puff the flavor of the shell is rich and goes perfectly with fresh berries, the vanilla of the pastry working to bring both of them together.

Included is the recipe for the puff paste I used and a few photos.













Bread Flour







Pastry Flour















Cream of Tartar


























































Puff Paste/ Feuilletage


Mix the first 4 ingredients with the paddle on low to a fine crumb. Mix the water and the cr. of tartar and add to flour mix just until the dough comes together in small pea size lumps. Turn dough on to the bench and fraiser till smooth. Rest the dough in cooler for 30 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 42* F

While the dough is resting mix the butter and flour together using the paddle. The butter should be soft enough to allow the flour to incorporate easily. Form the mix in to a square or rectangle and bring the temperature to 60*F before rolling in to the dough.  When the dough is rested and cool and the butter block is at 60*F it can be applied to the dough, either by cutting the block in small even size pieces or in one single piece. Once the butter has been applied give the dough a 3 fold, making sure that the edges of the dough are evenly aligned. Rest the dough for 30-40 min., roll out and then give the dough another 3 fold, followed by 2 more 3 folds  and one four fold, resting the dough 30-40 minutes between each set of folds. This will give you 973 layers. After the last rest the dough can now be frozen whole or cut into smaller sizes.  Thirty minutes before it’s time to use the dough give it one more ½ fold and rest for 30 min. then roll out for whatever shape is desired.




cara1983's picture

My kitchen Aid mixer leaves unmixed ingredients at bottom.

So I was hoping that some of you might be able to help me out with this problem.  I have the Pro 600 6quart mixer.  The bottom of the bowl has that little hump in it and it never fails that at the end of mixing, there is still dry ingredients left unmixed.  If this is normal then okay but if I can fix it then I want to know how.

yozzause's picture

fruit loaf

the other evening i took home some of the sour dough culture that was excess to requirement and decided to use it in a fruit dough.

The sour doughculture itself was made from feeding the lees from a cider brew that i had recently made  and was now a very active culture, i measured up 600g of flour and used 200g of culture to this i added 300g water 6g salt 18g dry yeast 48g butter 90g raw sugar 10g molassess.

this ended up being a bit to wet so i had to add a further 100g flour.

With the fruit i ended up with currants raisins dates and a fruit and nut mix that ended up being just over 300g

bulk ferment was for 2 hours and after tinning up was left for another 2 hours. i nearly went to bed and forgot that it was to go in the oven, in fact even put 1 foot in the bed and then remembered!

The bread turned out really good, great taste, nice and moist and loved by all my tasters. i am looking to make a larger batch next week at work.

LLM777's picture

KAF Crunchy crackers

For those that have made the KAF Crunchy Crackers... How long did you bake them? I followed the recipe and baked at shorter intervals each time. They were extremely hard, edible, but really hard.  Any suggested bake times for them? Thank you.

berryblondeboys's picture

Wheat free and dairy free for autism

Wah! Lost my entire post by forgetting to hit save below!

Anyway, there is an article I just read that had piqued my interest:

It's one study, not replicated, but it can't 'hurt' to try to do a wheat and dairy free diet to see if we see any improvements in the austic behaviors.

My son is on the spectrum. He's an odd ball case though fo showing many of the symptoms, but not all the key ones - mainly, he's social and interacts with people, but he ilanguage skills are that of a 2-3 year old (he's 5), he doesn't play with toys in imaginary play, and he has some gross and fine motor skills issues and the biggee - food aversions. He has only tried a handful of foods ad dismisses food on visual inspection only. Most of his diet consists of dairy and Wheat.

He is, however, smart as a whip. - beginner reader, does simple addition, subtraction, and can count forever including by tens, fives, and twos.


So, how can I try this wheat and dairy free when he refuses to try most foods? Is there ANY way to get a light sandwich bread anything like a commercial potato bread? or wheat free cereals that look like cheerios?


Much thanks!


kylelindstrom's picture

Folding serated knife

Awhile back I saw a TV show with an expert on French bread at a Paris bakery and he pulled out a folding serated knife from his pocket to use on the fresh baguettes and I'm desperate to have a knife like that for trollinig through bakeries, but I haven't been able to find one.  Has anyone seen or heard of such a knife and where it might be acquired?  Thanks

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

First step to my WFO

OK.  A journey of any type always starts with the first step.  Well yesterday I took the first step to my WFO and poured the hearth.  I skipped a step or two but that was hanging me up from getting things started.  I don't have a location for this WFO picked out so I have not dug the footers poured the footers or built the base.  My hearth is set on a trailer, it was handy because I put the form on the trailer and when we pored concrete for a job I just filled the form at the job site.  It was better then having a truck come out just for 3/4 yard of concrete.  I did leave a place in the form for the forks of my fork lift to go so in a way I should be able to move it around as I please and put it on the trailer if I want to take it somewhere.

Also I'm having a difficult time choosing a thermocouple.  I looked at but you don't get specifications or a picture of their meter. I also went to and got over whelmed with specifications and price.  I know I want 4 to 6 thermocouples so what are you using and what would you recommend.

Thanks Faith