The Fresh Loaf

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PMcCool's picture

Testing... testing...

After several not-so-happy outcomes, and one pleasing outcome, it was obvious that I needed to get better acquainted with the South African flours that I have.  Previous bakes seemed to indicate that the flours' absorbency was different than I was anticipating, based on my previous experience with U.S.-produced flours.  The only way to find out what was going on with any certainty was to do side-by-side bakes of identical breads, adjusting only one variable (hydration, in this case) at a time so that I could compare the outcomes.

For this bake, I decided to use a 50/50 mix of brown bread flour (protein content in the 12%-12.5% range) and bread flour (protein content in the 11.5%-12% range).  Although the label isn't altogether clear, I think that the brown bread flour is either whole wheat, or possibly de-germed wheat.  It contains large particles of bran.  Note that the same miller also produces a "Nutty Wheat" flour that they describe as white flour with the bran mixed back in.  I used 2% salt and 1.6% yeast (IDY).  Hydration levels ranged from 55% to 80%, in 5% increments.  Each dough contained 100g flour, to make the math easy.  (It also makes a pretty decent size roll for sandwiches.)  The dry ingredients for all of the doughs were premixed in one batch, then weighed out for individual mixing with the selected quantity of water.  These are straight, lean doughs; no preferments or enrichments were used.  This was to eliminate the potential for other ingredients masking the effects of differing levels of hydration.  Autolyse was not used for any of the doughs.  All mixing was by hand.  No bench flour or water was used.  Room temperature was 75ºF-77ºF.  The temperatures of the ingredients and the finished doughs were not measured but are assumed to be within 3ºF-5ºF of room temperature. The water came straight from the tap, compliments of the City of Pretoria.  All doughs were fermented on a lightly oiled granite countertop and covered with oiled plastic wrap.  Each was preshaped after the bulk ferment, then given 15-20 minutes to rest before final shaping.  Breads were baked for 25 minutes on a sheet pan in a 400ºF oven, with light steam.  

Observations are as follows:

55% hydration - this dough was very stiff and did not want to come together in the bowl.  The dough was dumped out on the countertop to finish mixing/kneading.  All flour was incorporated and after several minutes of kneading, the dough smoothed out and became pliable with almost no tackiness.  This dough was the slowest to rise.  Due to an interruption in the process, this dough had approximately 2 hours of bulk fermentation and barely doubled in that time.  The finished bread was the smallest of any in this test bake, having risen less after shaping even though it had the longest final fermentation duration.  The crust was thick, hard, and tough; the crumb very tight and dense and slightly gummy, even though the bread was thoroughly cooled before slicing.

60% hydration -  This dough was also somewhat stiff, although it was fully mixed in the bowl, unlike the 55% dough.  Pliability was better than the 55% dough and the dough was just slightly tacky at the conclusion of kneading.  The bulk ferment was slightly less than 2 hours and the dough was a bit more than doubled in that time.  The finished bread was only slightly larger than the 55% hydration bread, exhibiting a similarly hard/tough crust and dense crumb.  However, the crumb was not gummy in the finished bread.  

65% hydration - Early in the mix, this dough was sticky, although that improved to being moderately tacky by the end of kneading.  The dough cleaned the bowl with all flour being absorbed.  The bulk ferment was approximately 1:20 and the dough inflated to about 2.5 times its original volume in that period.  The finished bread still has a tight crumb, but the crust is thinner and less resistant to cutting.  Size is slightly larger than the two preceding breads.

70% hydration - This dough was noticeably stickier during mixing and kneading than the previous doughs.  It did clean the bowl during mixing.  I wound up using a combination of standard kneading and stretch and fold to manage this dough (not easy with such a small sample).  I don't think it would have come together without the stretch and fold technique.  At the end of kneading, it was still more sticky than tacky, with some sticking to my fingers.  It had about a 1 hour bulk ferment, during which time it nearly trebled in volume.  This bread also rose more after shaping, and was significantly larger in volume than the preceding breads (and, consequently, felt "lighter" because of the reduced density).  The crumb was the most open of any the breads made to this point.

Intermission - a co-worker stopped by to drop off some things just as I was finishing kneading the 70% hydration dough.  That inserted about an hour's delay between the 70% dough and starting the 75% dough.  All of the first four doughs were baked on the same sheet pan at the same time.  The last two doughs were baked on a separate sheet pan.

75% hydration - This dough never stopped being sticky.  It did not entirely clean the mixing bowl.  Standard kneading techniques were not working, so I switched to using the French Fold.  Kind of a challenge with such a small quantity of dough.  This bulk proofed about 45-50 minutes, easily doubling in that time.  Slashing before baking was problematic because of the dough's stickiness.  The finished bread was larger than its predecessors, felt "lighter" still, had a thinner crust and a more open crumb.  

80% hydration - This was an extremely sticky dough.  It had to be scraped out of the bowl after mixing and repeatedly scraped from the bench while kneading.  The only kneading technique that worked was the French Fold method.  Even that took several minutes (not several cycles) before the dough started to exhibit some structure.  This dough expanded the fastest during the bulk ferment and grew the largest after shaping, even though it had the shortest times in both ferments.  The knife dragged a trench in the dough, but did not actually slash it.  The finished bread had the thinnest crust and most open crumb of any of the breads in this test bake.

Follow-up thoughts:

1. One of the notions going into this test was that the city water might be a culprit in some of the former bakes.  Based on the results of this test bake, I think I can get good bread using city water, without going to the effort of running a similar test using bottled water.

2. For this blend of these particular flours, a hydration of approximately 70% seems to offer the best dough handling traits and a pleasing finished bread.

3. None of the doughs experienced much oven-spring.  I would attribute that to handling during shaping that was not gentle enough (too much degassing) and to baking on a cold sheet instead of on a hot stone.

4. It appears that the jury is still out on my starter.  Most (not all) of the previous bakes that experienced problems were sourdoughs, rather than yeasted breads.  This starter may be too acidic or too enzymatically active, either of which might be leading to gluten attack.  I'll see how it behaves after a few days of rye feedings.

5. I'm still not sure how much effect, if any, altitude is having on the results (I'm at approximately 4200 feet elevation in Pretoria, compared to having been at about 800 feet elevation in Kansas City).  I can't control for that, so I'll use the results of this test as an indicator of what to do with future bakes.

6. Weather today was mostly sunny, with outdoor temperatures nearing 80ºF while I was running this test.  I didn't think to check the relative humidity while running the test.  It's now 47% at 75ºF, about 7 hours after starting the test.

7. Since this is a whole wheat blend, I'll be interested to see whether I can get better results at either the 65% or 70% hydration levels by utilizing an autolyse step in the process.

Front row: right, 55%; center 60%; left 65%.  Back row: right 70%, center 75%, left 80%.  The 75% and 80% doughs have just been mixed and kneaded.  The others have been on the bench anywhere from nearly 2 hours (55%) to just over an hour (70%).  It's a good illustration of how hydration affects the fermentation rate.

Right to left, finished breads, lowest (55%) to highest (80%) hydration.  Note that these were initially shaped to be the same size.  Growth occurred during final proof and baking.

Crumb of, right to left, lowest (55%) to highest (80%) hydration.  I think the crumb of the three higher hydration breads (70%, 75% and 80%) ought to have been more open than this.  That they aren't is probably an indication that I was too forceful during shaping and degassed the breads too much.  An autolyse step might also help.

That's today's effort.  It's one datum, not a trend, but I can use it as a benchmark for future bakes for gauging how much hydration is required and to make some educated guesses about the effects of added fats or sweeteners for enriched doughs.  Now I suppose I should do something similar for panned breads...




fishers's picture

The Fresh Loaf Handbook

I'm fairly new to this site and have enjoyed gleaning information from the daily postings.  I also like to "google around" and have just discovered that The Fresh Loaf has compiled a wonderful handbook!  For others who are newbies (or not), take a look at the following:

I have bookmarked this page on my computer and there's also the option to print a hard copy.  True in general to the The Fresh Loaf site, you will not be disappointed.


JoeVa's picture

Pane a Lievito Naturale con Segale Integrale

Yesterday, I was reading about Ezio Marinato. He is a famous italian baker and teacher, one of the most representative member of the italian team at the "Couple du Monde the Boulangerie - Paris" (along with Piergiorgio Giorilli) and gold medal at the "Mondial du Pain, Goût et Nutrition - Lyon 2007".

He is also a baking consultant and I already knew him because of his work with Molino Quaglia and Farina Petra.

So, I was reading about his bread/courses/work ... and I stopped on this bread: "Pane a Lievito Naturale con Segale Integrale", that is "Sourdough Bread with Whole Rye". As I am in a "focus on process" period, or "... learn the subtle art of fermentation ..." (Shiao-Ping reminds me Hamelman's statement in the post "body and mind"), I thought this bread could be really close to the basic Pain Au Levain I'm working on.

After a receipt translation to bakers % I saw again that schema! It's a while I see that schema, maybe with some little differences in the process, and when you see the same bread made with almost the same schema by a lot of professional/inspired bakers you focus on the subtle art of fermentation.

My first thought was: this is J.Hamelman Vermont Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain but:

  • not increased prefermented flour: 15% vs 20%

  • not liquid levain: stiff 50% hydration vs liquid 125% hydration

  • more "intensive mix" vs "improved mix"

Now that I have a better knowledge of mixing techniques and requirements (thanks to Dan DiMuzio book) I understand the main timing difference in the process: 01:00 bulk + 03:00 proof @26°C vs 02:30 bulk + 02:30 proof @25°C.

Here the original receipt, I let you play with all the math!

Ingredients: 4000g bread flour (W280), 1000g whole rye flour, 1500g stiff levain, 25g malt, 50g toasted malt, 100g salt, 3500g water.

Dough temperature: 26/28 °C

Mixing: 5 minutes speed 1 + 10 minutes speed 2

Directions: autolyze the flour with 2750g water, mix 5/6 minutes in speed 1; wait 30 minutes, then add all the ingredients and the remaining water, mix 10 minutes speed 2. Bulk fermentation about 70/80 minutes at 27°C. Division (suggested piece 500g to 1000g) and preshaping with 15 minutes bench rest, then proof at 28°C for about 3 hours. Bake.

Here my attempt at the bread. I adjusted timing and ingredients according to my environment (for example I raised the final hydration from 66% to about 68%). Next try a would go for a short mix that is higher hydration (70%) longer bulk fermentation (3 hours) with 4/5 set of stretch and fold.

     [The stiff starter before and after 8/10 hours @20/22°C, inoculation 25%]

                 [Malted Barley Flour + toasted and dough before autolyse]

                  [The bread]

                  [The crumb]

This bread was prepared in my mom's kitchen and baked 3 Km far in my "new working on house" where my oven is now placed. When I will finish to build my kitchen this oven will be dismissed so this is the last opportunities to show it to you.


Here the "technical specifications": very cheap electric static oven, 20 years old, crazy temperature controller, hot in the back cool in the front, no light bulb (exploded), no door handle (broken, I use a screwdriver to open the door).

JoeV's picture

Bite sized cinnamon rolls

I posted this in another part of the forum, but thought it might also be appropriate for the Phhotograpy section. I apologize if this is inappropriate.

I made an experimental batch of cinnamon rolls that address the problem of portion size. My wife just likes "a bite or two" of sweets, and there are times when you want to present bite sized portions of cinnamon rolls. Here's what I did. I rolled out the dough to about 16 x 27, then cut the dough with my bench scraper in half so I have (2) 8 x 27 pieces. Leaving the dough on the worksurface, I butter the section closest to me and put the filling on, then roll it up and cut that roll in half so it's about 13-1/2" long. Close the open ends by pinching off and rolling the log as best you can, then put the logs on a parchment paper lined pan. I use 2/3 sized sheet pans because they fit in my 30" gas oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough and place those logs in the pan, leaving some room for them to proof over the next hour or so.

When the logs are ready for the oven, I take my kitchen shears and cut the logs Epi style, then pop them in the oven for 25 minutes at 350, and ice them with cream cheese icing. They come out very moist and very delicious.

My recipe is the most common recipe on the Internet, and is always a big hit. Enjoy!

occidental's picture

San Joaquin Sourdough, my take

I've been reading David's many posts on his blog about San Joaquin Sourdough, a formula he developed that was inspired by a long bulk ferment Janedo wrote about after a visit with Anis Bouabsa.  David had tried enough variations of this formula I had to do some reading before I settled on the approach I was going to take for my first attempt. 


From bread

I started with a 65% hydration starter that I refereshed and let mature for approximately 6 hours.  It had definitely started to grow but had not reached the peak of it's activity when i proceeded to the next step.  I then incoorporated 100 grams of the 65% levain with:

  • 370 g water
  • 450 g bread flour
  • 10 g dark rye flour
  • 40 g whole wheat flour

I mixed and let autolyze for approximately 30 minutes.  I then added:

  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 10 g sea salt

I proceeded to fold this mixture 3 times in the bowl, for approximately 15 folds each time, spaced about 20 minutes apart.  I intended on 20 folds but the dough seemed to have enough, or maybe too much strength after 15 turns so I stopped when the dough told me to.



From bread

After mixing and kneading (folding) I placed the dough in the fridge overnight.  Instead of keeping the dough in the fridge until just prior to shaping as David suggests I removed it and placed in a cool room (~55 degrees F) to encourage a little more growth.  I have found that placing the dough my fridge may retard it a bit too much and I desired a little growth before dividing and shaping.  The time in the fridge was about 15 hours, followed by about 5 hours in the cooler (50 degree) room.  I then divided the dough into 2 pieces and pre-shaped, and let sit for approximately 1 hour.  I then did the final shape and let sit again for approximately 45 minutes.  During the time in between shapings there is not much growth to the dough, you are expecting most of your rise once the loaf hits the oven.  I pre-heated my oven to 500 degrees F, about 1 hour prior to baking.  I scored the loaves I added some steam once I added the loaves.  About ten minutes into the bake I was pleased to look into the oven and see that the loaves were getting a nice oven spring and my score was going to result in a nice 'ear', which was pretty exciting since this doesn't happen just every day for I had to get a pic:


From bread

I baked the loaves about 40 minutes, reducing the temp from 500 to 460 once the loaves were in the oven.


From bread

As for the crumb, it is very open, has great flecks of whole wheat and rye, although that is not very evident from these photos, and flavor is out of this world!


From bread

As David has done, I envision experimenting around more with these methods and the ingredients, learning from them and creating my own favorite formula....


From bread

By the way, this bread was a great compliment to the strawberry jalapeno glazed ribs that came off the grill not long after this bread cooled....

From bread
KansasGirlStuckInMaryland's picture

Looking for suggestions

I got a Barnes and Noble giftcard for Christmas and I am thinking about using it to get a new bread book.  I am looking for suggestions on books.

I already have Bread Baker's Apprentice and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible.

To give you an idea of my style - from TFL I have made and added to my repetoire:

  • Norm's Onion Rolls

  • Wild Rice and Onion Bread

  • Sweet Potato Rolls

  • Sourdoughlady's Sourdough Bread 

  • Soft Pretzels

  • Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid

  • Buttermilk Cluster

  • Pita bread

  • Zola Blue's cinnamon rolls

Yup, I am kind of all over the place.  I don't have much specialized equipment, though I do have a great baking stone, a nice peel and firmly believe in parchment paper.

So what is your MUST have book that you turn to time and time again?

ArieArie's picture

It has been a few months now..



Its now a few months since I discovered and started reading this forum. I must say I learned a lot from the very experienced members here.


However I find it hard to contribute as I am not formally trained nor did I have such resources as the Internet or popular books when I started baking bread, 35 years ago.


I do things a bit different than the common wisdom, so my not much of my experience actually apply. Not to mention that I did not have the professional terminology to describe what I'm doing (but I'm learning).


I developed my bread making over the years by trial and error (lots of errors) and here is how I make sourdough bread. 


My starter I'm using now is probably over 15 years old. I made it myself by mixing flour and water and natural fermentation. I dry a sample of the starter every year, and now my freezer has many many ziplock bags with dry starter..  


I always have a small plastic jar in the fridge that is 3/4 full of starter. When I decide to make bread (at least once a week) I put the WHOLE jar of starter in the mixer bowl and add all the water I would use for the bread and half the flour I would use for the bread.



I mix well until homogeneous, and let ferment for 8 to 10 hours (temp dependent).

once it is nice and bubbly I return  some of the fermented mixture to my starter jar (same amount, 3/4 of the jar), and that is my starter for next time.


Now I add to the mixing bowl all the other dry and liquid ingredients and make the bread. From now on the process is pretty conventional. 


I almost never "feed" the starter as I use it and renew it once or twice a week. When on occasion I can not make bread, and the starter gets too hoochy, I discard 3/4 of it and add fresh flour and water in ratio of, what now I know is called, 100% hydration (I guess that is "feeding")..


there are some things which I learned about making the bread, which I believe, are specific to my starter: the starter is very lively, but can not go through more then 2 full cycles of fermentation. The third rising is too slow and low.    If I ferment the mixture for over 12 hours it damages the structure of the dough (gluten I presume) and all loaves become focaccia.. :)  


for the many years I am baking bread I was using volume (cups) to measure flour and liquids, and for the most part the breads were consistent. But as friends and family started baking my bread I needed to figure out what the stuff weighs, and now I use weight to measure quantities. I also learned which flour work best for me, and now I use Beehive Patent Flour, unbleached, from Honeyville Grains, or King Arthur unbleached bread flour, or in a pinch, Gold Medal - better for bread - unbleached unbromated ...


I have posted my recipe on line:  and click on "Bread"



atlanticsunrise's picture

"Panera" type bagels at home?

I'm looking for a bagel recipe that yields bagels like you would get from Panera Bread or somewhere like that - I have made several different recipes and none of them have turned out. I made some sourdough ones yesterday and even retarded them overnight hoping for the blistery surface, etc. and they are smooth surfaced and although they are chewy and taste ok, they are more like a supermarket bagel. The recipe I used called for a lot of starter (as opposed to the 2T. used in most of my recipes)... I don't know where to start for a recipe. Any suggestions would be welcome. TIA.

yozzause's picture

50% rye sour dough


i recently aquired a couple of kilos of rye meal from the local bakery that belongs to a friend of mine he had been dabbling in making a ryebread he gave me some to play with.

So the other day when i was refreshing my sour dough starter i decided it was time to have my go at this BREAD

I USED 200g  rye flour, 200g white flour, 200g starter, 10g salt, 2 bantams eggs, 1 teaspoon full of black strap molasis,

435g water ( from memory)

i mixed the dough @.6.00 am and took it to work with me. i allowed a straight forward ferementation till 12.00 noon knocked back and following recovery shaped into a boule and placed it back in the bowl lined with a floured teatowel upside down by the time i got home it was pretty well full proofed and as my daughter had just cooked a chicken the oven was hot and ready to go.

The loaf went in at just over 200 degrees for 40 minutes. The result was quite good and i dropped off a sample to the bakery this morning and my colleagues here thought it was super.

i shall make this one again and do the retard for 12 hours for comparison      


logdrum's picture

Anyone "go rogue" with a spiral dough hook?

Has anyone tried using a KA spiral dough hook on a model not specifically listed as intended for its use? I have a 20 y/o KSM5 (5 qt.) that is driving me nuts w/ the dough climbing up the "c" hook. Otherwise, it's a great machine that hasn't given me one second of trouble in 20 years of use.