The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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varda's picture

how to choose fire clay for a bread oven dome

Last year I made a dome for my kiko denzer style bread oven using earth I dug up out of new garden areas.   I was able to bake all summer but ultimately there wasn't enough clay content and the dome slowly but surely crumbled.   This year, I would just like to bite the bullet and buy clay.   I found a local clay supplier but they sell dozens of varieties of clay and 7 that are labeled fire clay.   Before I call and start asking them questions, I would like to know what I should be looking for in a fire clay.   The supplier is called Portland Pottery.   Their fire clays are named Goldart, Hawthorne 40 mesh,  Hawthorne 50 mesh, Lincoln fire clay, Pyrax, Pyrotrol, XX Sagger.   Also, in their pictures, it looks like they are selling clay in big sacks, which makes it look like the clays are dry.   That seems good to me, since I will need to mix it up with sand and water and starting with dry clay seems like it would be easier.   Is anyone familiar with these clays and/or have any experience building a dome starting with dry clay?   Thanks so much.  -Varda

longhorn's picture

A Trip to Genzano and Forno a Legna da Sergio

Having made Pane Genzano and having found it to be a very interesting bread, I really wanted to experience the real thing on my recent trip to Italy with my wife. We had our hotel arrange a driver for us and rode went about twenty miles south from Rome to the town of Genzano. Since Pane Genzano pops up occasionally on this forum, it seemed appropriate to share my experiences.

We planned our destination to be Forno a Legna da Sergio, one of the bakeries featured in Dan Leader's book "Local Breads" in the section on Pane Genzano. For those not familiar with Pane Genzano, it is a huge, eight-pound sourdough loaf made from very wet (about 74% hydration) dough, coated with bran to solve sticking and baked very dark that has been made the same way in a wood burning ovens for many years. It is the only bread in Italy to have IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status. There are about a dozen bakeries in Genzano that make Pane Genzano and each has a devoted following. More on that later.

Here I am in my red Forno Bravo T-shirt and Sergio (the silver haired gentleman across the counter) in his shop.

Here is the bread rack with the Pane Genzano in the upper right.

A close up of the loaf and the label.

And a close up of our light dinner to show the crumb!

After visiting the bakery took our driver to lunch at Trattoria dei Cacciatore ( The food was outstanding - some of the best we had in Italy - and the house wine was excellent. A great deal! The bread served was clearly not Sergio's but in absence of good communcation ability I asked "Es Pane Genzano, No?" and the owner said "Si, es Pane Genzano!" So then I said, "Pane de Sergio?" and he said, "NO, NO, NO! Es impossible! No, Sergio! Must be Antichi!" This was, of course, accompanied by a generous acccompniment of arm waving and gesturing. And was what I had sort of expected! After lunch we wandered down the street to the Antichi bakery but alas, it was closed for lunch!

All in all we had a great adventure and a great day. Be warned, drivers are expensive. Ours cost about $200 and his English was pretty marginal. The end result was easily the most expensive bread I have ever bought.  And I was able to verify that my Pane Genzano - based on Leader's recipe - is a good representation of the original!  If you haven't tried Pane Genzano from Leader's book I highly recommend it! (It makes only about a 3 1/2 pound loaf instead of 8!)

One last aside! Genzano loaves are famous for their keeping abilities. We bought the loaf on a Monday morning and were to begin a week long cooking school on Saturday. We kept the loaf whole for three days. (Like many large loaves, the flavor is thought to improve for at least two days so this was planned.) Then we cut of just a bit for our light dinner and saved the rest for our cooking school companions as I was confident no one (even the instructor) would have had Pane Genzano before. Well, the bread made great bruschetta on Saturday and Sunday. And panzanella on Monday. And when the bag of bread got left behind on Wednesday, we used it for crostini. And finished it off as bread crumbs in stuffing ravioli. The giant loaf was extremely useful! And delicious!

Mebake's picture

Hamelman's Baguettes with Poolish

This is my second try at baguettes, my first was unworthy of a blog, it was overmixed, shaping was lousy, and crust and color were lacking. Now that iam getting the hang of it, i really love Poolish baguettes. The nutty fragrance of a poolish is indeed intoxicating.

I adhered to Hamelman's book instructions, including very moderate mixing times,  but my final proofing was 50 minutes instead of 1-1.5 hours (my kitchen was warm). I did bake boldly, and the baguettes came out crusty and cracked loudly out of the oven, but i admit.. i have left the baguettes for longer than called for 35 minutes without steam, and vented steam from the oven throughout the bake, which caused the crust to thicken, and the baguettes  crust to be extra thick and crumb to be drier than desired. This, however, was a good bake, a far cry from my first baguettes.

EDIT: I did infact stray from hamlman's folding regime. I folded once after 1 hour but found the dough truely undeveloped as the mixing was very brief. I folded the dough again after 20 minutes and then after 10 final minutes.



jefekefe's picture

Tartine To Cover or Not To Cover


I'm new to TFL.  What a great site!  Also, I'm trying my hand at Tartine bread for the first time.  After a long day following Chad's recipe to the T, I didn't see anything about covering the dough in its different stages, namely the bulk rise and the final rise.  One dough was left overnight for the bulk rise and had a slightly tough skin on it in the morning, and the others were placed in the frig for the final rise/retard until I bake this morning and came out with a tough skin.  Does anyone have any insight as to if the skin will affect the bread and if I was supposed to cover the dough in the different stages?  Thank you.

Also, if anyone else has a wood-fired oven, could you tell me if the Tartine recipe works in the oven.  I have built one in my backyard and have loved it for pizza and bread making, but am tinkering with the idea of working more on the bread side of things.  Again, thanks for any help!!!

plevee's picture

? protease in starterh

I normally use my starter weeky but  bought bread for the past 2 weeks. When I got the stater out of the fridge it hadn't risen at all & smelled more acidic than usual. I fed it twice and got no rise and also noted a change in texture; slimey and gelatinous -kind of the way chewing gum goes if you have some food in your mouth.

The last time this happened, the bread I used it in got stickier the more I kneaded it. I was told by the kind people at KAF that I probably had a protease problem. I made another starter which has performed very well till now.

I've now refreshed  tiny amounts of the starter 4 times with no change.

Diagnosis? Advice?


Floydm's picture

Now Available: The Fresh Loaf Pocket Book of Bread Baking

The Fresh Loaf Pocket Book of Bread Baking e-book is now available for Kindle on for $4.99.

A Nook edition is available on Barnes & Noble's website for the same price.



I'm having a hard time writing much more about it because I really don't enjoy tooting my own horn. I'll just say I'm proud of what we've put together and hope it will a worthy expression of our shared passion for bread baking.

Originally I thought this e-book was just going to be an aggregation of the content and lessons I've already posted here, but in the end Dorota and I put a great deal of work into this.  The community feedback on the first draft was tremendously helpful and many adjustments and additions were made in response.  We also found that once we read through the entire text there were a number of inconsistencies and omissions that are no big deal on a website where you can instantly search, ask a question, and interact with other bakers, but that are a larger problem in a work that is meant to stand on its own.   These past few weeks we've tried hard to remedy those shortcomings and, with the help of friends and family members in publishing, to achieve the level of editorial polish that you would expect from professionally-produced content. In the end, this became a fairly substantial work, one that I hope readers will find an economical yet still high-quality introduction to bread baking.

I would love TFL community members' help kicking this off. A few positive reviews on Amazon and enough sales that non-TFL members notice it when browsing the e-book charts will make a tremendous difference in the ultimate success of this project.

Again, thank you all again for your feedback, words of encouragement, and on-going support.



dmsnyder's picture

Man cannot live by San Joaquin Sourdough alone.

It's much nicer to live with my wife, along with San Joaquin Sourdough, than alone. And if there is any bread that makes her happier than San Joaquin Sourdough, it's the Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Bread from BBA. So I baked some today.

One of these days, I will try Glenn's variation with pecans and dried cranberries. See Another Spice-Fruit-Nut Bread

And, for those who are wondering, Glenn and I did not discuss what we were baking this weekend. It's just one of them synchronicity things.


Maryann279's picture

Whole Grain Breads at SFBI

I just finished a week at SFBI taking their whole grain bread class.  We made about 20 different kinds of bread;  they were all good and many were outstanding.  There were lots of interesting shapes, and we used many add-ins, such as dried pears, nuts, seeds and sprouted wheat berries.  This was the third week-long class I've taken there, and I'm starting to be able to work more efficiently and keep up with the more experienced students.  As usual, there was a mixture of home bakers and professionals.  It was a very productive week and I'm becoming more certain that I want to pursue baking and pastry as a second career.

Floydm's picture

Success Story: Dave's Killer Bread

Dave's logo

"Just say no to bread on drugs!"

So says the label on each loaf of Dave's Killer Bread, a playful tagline that alludes to both the organic nature of the ingredients and the darker side of Dave Dahl's past.

"I was a four-time loser before I realized I was in the wrong game," Dave writes on the back of each loaf of Dave's Killer Bread. Burglary. Drug dealing. Armed robbery. Dave spent close to 15 years in prison in total.


James Dahl, Dave's father, started the Portland, Oregon-based NatureBake bakery in 1955. Dave and his older brother, Glenn, grew up in and around the bakery, learning how to bake from their father. Glenn had an aptitude for business and began helping his father with the business side of the bakery, eventually taking over management of the business in 1988. Dave broke away from his family and the family business for many years, years in which his life when progressively downhill.

James Dahl passed away during Dave's final stint in prison, a period when Glenn's son Shobi joined the family business. Something clicked for Dave: he cleaned up his act and decided he could do something with his life. Dave reached out to his brother, who agreed to give him a chance to start over by helping out in the family business when he got out.

When Dave returned to NatureBake, the bakery, while not struggling, wasn't exactly thriving. Their breads were mostly found in health food stores and hadn't successfully connected with the younger "locavore and farmer's market" crowd. I have to admit that though I'd seen NatureBake breads on the shelves of grocery stores and co-ops in Portland forever I don't think I ever bought one. I had the impression that these were the kinds of breads you ate because eventually your doctor said you had to, not because you wanted to.

They needed something new.

Dave's Killer Bread

Powerseed logo

While helping out around the bakery, Dave started experimenting with some new recipes. The brothers decided to try selling a few of them and to try marketing them in a new way by letting Dave tell his story. Out went the drab packaging touting the health benefits of spelt; along came a cartoon image of Dave with long hair and a guitar, breads with offbeat names like "Blues Bread", "Powerseed", and "Peace Bomb". The breads went from being dull health food fair to hypercharged loaves of awesomeness chock full of seeds, nuts, and organic ingredients. They became killer breads.

Dave's Killer Bread made its premier at a baking festival held by the Portland Farmer's Market, Summer Loaf, in August 2005. That was only a few months after I started The Fresh Loaf and though I didn't know it at the time, I actually got photos of the premier of Dave's Killer Bread there. I took a few more photos of Dave at his booth but, alas, I haven't been able to find any of the others.

Dave's premier
The world premier of Dave's Killer Bread

Dave's Killer Bread quickly became a success, first at the farmer's market, then local co-ops and health food stores, then regional independent grocers. NatureBake's 15,000 square foot bakery wasn't adequate to handle the increased production that would be required to get Dave's Killer Bread onto the shelves of mainstream grocery stores though, so in 2008 the brothers borrowed money to move from the existing facility in Portland to a new 52,000 square foot "bread-quarters" directly across the street from Bob's Red Mill in Milwaukee, Oregon. It was a big gamble, taken at a time when rising commodity prices were threatening to raise the price of ingredients so high that Dave's Killer Bread could not be sold profitably at a price that consumers would be willing to pay.

The gamble paid off. Around the time of the move Glenn optimistically projected that within 5 years they could be selling 100,000 loaves a week. Just two years later, they are selling over 350,000 a week. Dave's Killer Bread is on the shelves in major grocery and warehouse stores like Fred Meyer, Safeway, Winco, and Costco across the Pacific Northwest and is making inroads in California and other states. The 52,000 square foot facility that seemed like such a gamble two years is running near maximum capacity now.

"Making the world a better place, one loaf of bread at a time"

Dave and me
Me and Dave

Dave's story would be inspiring if it were just the tale of one man's redemption, but there is more. About 25% of the 200 employees at the bakery are ex-convicts being given an opportunity to get back on their feet. "I believe in second chances," Dave told me, "but I also believe in holding people responsible for their actions." Dave mentioned that at the bakery they let employes know they may be randomly drug tested and that he himself had taken one the day before. "We're all judged by the same standard," he said.

The Dahl's are major supporters of local charities and community organizations like Loaves & Fishes and Meals on Wheels, have worked hard to develop an environmentally sustainable production line, and are working hard to source locally grown ingredients. Dave travels around the region to share his story with inmates and community groups. Just last week Dave won the Oregon Ethics in Business Award, with good reason.

As you know I bake all the time, but we still have a loaf of Dave's "Good Seed" in the house at all times. My kids' think it is the best bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It sounds cliché, but as parent it makes me happy that my kids beg us to buy a locally-made, organic whole wheat bread rather than balloon bread. Dave's breads are killer, and NatureBake is a killer company I'm happy to support.

Companion post: a photo tour of the NatureBake bakery
Link: Dave's Killer Bread on Facebook

ph_kosel's picture

Fennel Fennel Everywhere!

I discovered the other day I had 3 almost-full bottles of fennel seed, presumably due to repeated cravings for fennel, a bad memory, and a very cluttered spice cabinet.  There's only one thing to do when that happens, of course: make bread with fennel seeds in it.

I whomped up some dough as follows:

450g unbleached bread flour, 50g whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast, 1 tablespoon fennel seed, 1.5 teaspoons salt, 0.5 teaspoons diastatic malt powder, 333g very warm water. 

I turned the dough out into my 9x4x4 pullman pan and it filled the pan in under an hour (you could almost hear the dough rising it was so fast).  I baked it at 450F for 25 minutes.  Result was a nice soft chewy loaf with a mild fennel flavor, good with butter on it.  Fennel tastes sort of like licorice (which I like).

This loaf rose amazingly fast, which is good when you're hungry for some nice warm bread.

At this point I still have a LOT of fennel to use up.  Also, some dry lemon peel (I wonder what that would taste like with fennel?).

I was looking at "pain de mie" recipes the other day and they frequently call for a 350F baking temperature instead of 450F, I guess to get a tender crust.