The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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hanseata's picture

Why E-Cookbooks Really Suck - But Some Breads Are Worth It

Much as I enjoy my Kindle for reading novels - e-cookbooks really suck!

My favorite baking books are full of scribbled exclamations, observations and suggestions. But try to enter notes in an e-book - and then IDENTIFY them again in their separate storage space on the e-reader - nothing is more cumbersome and annoying.

Therefore my only e-cookbook is Nils Schöner’s: “Brot - Bread Notes From a Floury German Kitchen” (written in English). First I got the free online version, but after I realized how much experience and work went into this compilation of recipes, I decided to give Schöner his due, and pay for the Kindle edition - a print version doesn’t exist.

Working with e-recipes is easy as long as you follow the recipe to the t, but if you want to change something, you have to write your notes on a piece of paper, and copy the recipe plus alterations and comments in your recipe program (or write them in a notebook) for later use.

Schöner didn’t make the task of navigating his book any easier by forgetting to add a table of contents to his book - but you can find it at Amazon with the book listing, and print it out.

His recipes are not “Bread Baking for Dummies”, either, and the procedure is often not described in great detail. So I adapted his recipes to my preferred method, introducing a soaker and overnight fermentation. I also found that baking it with slightly different temperatures resulted in a better crust.

KORNTALER - a hearty loaf with flax seeds, millet and, interestingly, dried, toasted soybeans.Link to the recipe:

Conjuay's picture

Baking Stone Too Hot

I put together a propane fired pizza/bread oven from a used Bar-B-Que.  My first attempts indicate that the stone is getting much hotter than the upper half of the oven. Pizzas will get a bit of charring underneath while the cheese on top has hardly bubbled. Baguettes will hardly brown while the bottom is over crisp- bordering on hard.

There is space around all sides of the stone, approx 1.5" to 2", so the heat should be circulating.

The upper 'clamshell' of the BBQ is lined with mortar and fireclay to retain the heat, and I decreased the size of the upper chamber by adding firebrick to the "warming rack" that sits about six inches above the baking stone.

Did I simply go too large with the stone?  Do I need better (more) insulation up top?

Thanks for any advice,





jcking's picture

Altamura Volcano Loaf

100% Durum loaf with balck and white sasame seeds and Sterile Sourdough X.


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

A little bague-xperiment

Last sunday we went over to my mom's for a mother's day brunch with the family.  My mom asked me to "just take a baguette out of the freezer".  You know, since baking a batch of bread in time to leave for a 11am brunch (we live about an hour away) would be tricky.  The problem?  No baguettes in the freezer--we've run through them all since I finished up my baguette quest.  

A challenge!  This presented a great opportunity to experiment with cold retardation with my standard baguette recipe, Hamelman's Baguettes with Poolish, as well as test just how well they keep at room temperature.  Here's what I did:

I mixed a batch of baguette dough around 2 in the afternoon.  I then shapped 3 small baguettes a little after 5pm, and set to proofing on a couche.  However, for one of the 3 I put a small sheet of parchment underneath.  After 40 minutes of proofing, I slid the baguette on parchment off of the couche to finish proofing, while the couche itself with the other 2 baguettes was slid onto a sheet pan and stuck in the refrigerator.  The lone baguette was baked when fully proofed, about 75 minutes total.  Once it was cool, the baguette was placed in a plastic bag that was not fully sealed, and then wrapped in a paper market bag. 

Later, at 10:30, I pulled the couche out of the fridge, flipped one of the baguettes onto parchment on a peel, and baked it immediately, while the other went back into the fridge.  Baguette #2 sat on the cooling rack all night, unwrapped (mainly because it was past 11 by then!)

The next morning, the last baguette was baked at 9:30am and taken straight from the oven into a paper bag as we hurried out the door at little after 10.

The results:

From Left to Right: Not retarded, Retarded 4 hours, Retarded 15 hours. 


The baguette retarded overnight had lots of bubble in the crust, which made it very crisp and crackly.  All three had similar (good) flavor, and seemed plenty moist inside.  The baguette not retarded was crisped in the oven before cutting, but I presume it was crisp when fresh.  The baguette retarded for 4 hours was rather chewy when we got to it (we took that one home and my wife and I ate it for dinner), about 20 hours after baking.  

Crumb shots:

Retarded overnight

Not Retarded


Retarded 4 hours

Longer retarding seemed to be correlated with a lower profile, with the non-retarded baguette being the most round (although the baguettes were sliced on the bias,  and were less flat than the slices indicate).  I don't think this was underproofing, as the grigne looks pretty clean on those baguettes.  The retarded baguettes were much easier to score than the one that had not been retarded. 

Conclusion: Retarding baguettes gives a distinctive bubbly crust (for better or for worse), and makes them easier to score, but results in a lower profile.   Flavor is about the same either way.  As long as the crust is re-crisped, a baguette can sit un-cut at room temperature overnight and be nearly as good as first baked, and as good or better than frozen and thawed. Interesting.

alexandrut03's picture

Soft SD hamburger buns recipe - can't find!

I'm looking for sourdough hamburger buns recipe, very soft hamburger buns. Is here anyone who can help me? Thanks!

Janknitz's picture

William Alexander's Hazy Apple Sourdough Starter

I'm not quite sure why, but I decided to try William Alexander's Hazy Apple Sourdough starter to get a new levain going.  This is leading to some questions:

1)  Am I wasting my time and effort since there are already yeasts present in the flour and I could get a levain going (using Deborah Wink's method) without bothering with the apple?  Or will I get (at least to start with) a different strain of yeast going by using the apple ( just picked a hazy looking one from the organic bin at Whole Foods) or a different character to this levain? 

2)  By day three (today) I'm supposed to be seeing a bit of "foaming".  All I see are some very teeny, tiny little bubbles formed around the edges.  Is that enough, or should I really see some activity?  I did learn my lesson last time I began a starter that my house is too cold,  and I'm keeping this coddled and warm using my microwave oven (turned off, of course) as an "incubator" at about 78 to 80 degrees. 

3)  Does anyone know enough about the chemistry of this "apple water" I'm creating to tell me if it's going to be acidic enough to kill off the bad guys when I add the flour?  Or am I going to have to add in some pineapple juice anyway?  (If so,  IS there a point to using the hazy apple method?).



TedW's picture

Get a new DLX or stick with my Kitchen Aid?

I have a nice Kitchen Aid stand mixer now. Have loved it for years. I've recently started looking at advanced pizza dough recipes, which need a very wet dough, and those in the know suggest looking at a Electrolux DLX. I like to upgrade, but for $600 I need to ask the pros here.

Is this mixer really that much better?

probably34's picture

Retarding Sourdough

I'm looking to find a way to be able to bake sourdough loaves around 9 or 10 in the morning without having to stay up all night working. I was wondering if anyone has any tips. Would it be better to retard the dough during bulk fermentation, or the final proof? The dough would be something along the lines of the Tartine bread. Are there mixing temperature changes that I should consider?

countryloaf's picture

Old family recipe help (Potato rolls)

I have recently aquired an old family recipe for potato rolls that I have tried out a few times with terrible results. However, by all accounts from relatives this recipe was pretty great in its day. I am going to post the recipe and what my steps were and hopefully someone much more experienced than I can tell me what I'm doing wrong, nobody else has been able to help thus far.


Recipe reads:

3 Medium Potatoes, cooked & mashed

1 Cup Potato water

6 teaspoons sugar to water & yeast

1 qt unsifted flour

1/2 cup lard or crisco


Beat 1 egg with potatoes

Add one teaspoon salt

Add to flour and knead well

Let rise 6 or 7 hours (guessing the yeast wasn't as powerful then as it is now? I have tried the long method and letting rise for an hour with similarly bad results)

 425 F


So my general comments are the consistency I'm working with while trying to knead is way too sticky and loose. So I have to end up adding aton of flour and it becomes a mess right off. Then I run into the problem of how to shape them. I don't know how to make them look like your typical potato dinner roll. Apparently the style used back then was to pinch off a ball of dough, flatten it out with your hand, make it into a rough oval and fold it over once on itself. Once again, tried this with terrible results. Wish I had pictures. They never seem to ever rise, even a little.I don't know what I'm doing wrong. The only time I had a glimmer of success was when I used 2 packets of the fast rise yeast (was using 1) and dropped them into muffin tins. Odd, but they finally rose correctly. So any thoughts and tips would be greatly appreciated. I know this is my first post, and I am actually just getting into baking, and love it. Hope to stick around and learn more.





dmsnyder's picture

A Bâtard of a weekend

I think I know at least 6 different ways of shaping bâtards. I often choose how I shape them on impulse. This weekend, I decided to be a bit more reflective and consciously chose 3 variations to try. I think I gained better control over bâtard shaping as a result.

I made two loaves of Hamelman's Pain au Levain from “Bread” and two loaves of my San Joaquin Sourdough.

The first loaf was shaped using one of the methods learned from the San Francisco Baking Institute. I can't recall seeing this method demonstrated elsewhere.

Pain au Levain from Hamelman's "Bread," shaped using Method 1.

Method 1

  1. Pre-shape as a log. Rest 20 minutes, seam side up, covered.

  2. Place the piece on the board with one short side closest to you. De-gas.

  3. Take the far edge and fold it towards you about 1/3 of the length of the piece. Seal the seams.

  4. Fold the left side 1/3 of the way towards the middle and seal the seams. Repeat for the right side.

  5. Starting with the far end, roll the piece towards you, sealing the seam with the edge or heel of your hand at each turn. Seal the final seam well.

  6. Turn the loaf seam side down and roll it to even out the shape and achieve the desired length.

This method is suitable to make a bâtard with a fat middle and little tapering, as pictured.

Pain au Levain from Hamelman's "Bread," shaped using Method 2.

Method 2

  1. Pre-shape as a log. Rest 20 minutes, seam side up, covered.

  2. Place the piece on the board with a wide side closest to you. De-gas.

  3. Fold the far side to the middle. Seal the seam.

  4. Rotate the piece 180º.

  5. Fold the far side 2/3 of the way towards you. Seal the seam.

  6. Grasp the far edge and bring it all the way over the piece, to the board and seal the seam. (Essentially, this is the method traditionally used to shape baguettes.)

  7. Turn the loaf seam side down and roll it to even out the shape and achieve the desired length.

This method makes a longer, thinner loaf with more tapered ends.

The two loaves of Pain au Levain after shaping and scoring - ready to bake. Note that these loaves were of identical weight.

San Joaquin Sourdoughs, both shaped using Method 3.

Method 3

  1. Pre-shape as a ball. Rest 20 minutes, seam side up, covered.

  2. Place the piece on the board. De-gas.

  3. Proceed as in Method 2, steps 3 through 7.

This method results in a loaf similar to that from using Method 2, except a bit thicker in the middle. It solves a problem I have had shaping bâtards with higher-hydration doughs with excessive extensibility. They tend to get too long and thin as I shape them, even before the final rolling out. Starting with a round piece of dough, rather than a log, helps me get the shape I want.  

Thanks for listening.

Happy Baking!