The Fresh Loaf

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Bakingmadtoo's picture

Proofing help needed

Hi all, I am in need of your expert advice once again. Since I have found this forum my baking has improved no end, my problem (self diagnosed), is I believe that I am consistently under proving my loaves.  The best loaves I have made so far were from this lovely recipe. So I know the recipe is good. I did add an extra 5g of salt, which I know slows the yeast down, but I like a bit more salt in my bread. Apart from that I kept exactly to the recipe.

My kitchen is very cold at the minute, between 8 and 10 degrees. So the first time I made this recipe, I used my oven to prove the bread ( with a jug of hot water in), actually I kept the starter, then the bulk rise and the final proof in the cooker. It actually proofed for the final proof rather faster than I was expecting. I thought I had over proofed it, so got it in the cooker as fast as possible. It deflated quickly when I turned it out, so I expected flat dense loaves. To my surprise, these came out, not perfect, but far better than I expected and the first time ever there has been any sign of ears on my bread.

Now, I made the same recipe again yesterday, again I did the starter and bulk rise in the oven, but at 6pm, after a five hour bulk rise, I shaped the loaves and put them in my garage, which is around the same temperature, maybe a degree or two colder then my kitchen. I took them out to bake at 6.15 this morning, they are in the oven now. But yet again they have blown out at the sides. If I have time I will take a photo.

The blowing at the sides happens with every loaf I make, and I have made many now.  So, I think that I am under proofing every time. I have read loads of threads about the poke test, but it is obviously not helping me very much. Is there anything more subtle about the detail of correctly proofed dough? The dent stays down when I bake, so I think it is done.

I have read about taking a small piece of dough and putting that in a marked cup. Will a small piece of dough kept in the same conditions, proof at the same rate as a full loaf or will it proof faster?

I wish I had paid more attention to the dough I thought was over proofed, as it obviously wasn't. 

The only other thing I can think of, is that it is a shaping issue, and I do need to work on that I know. When my bread is cool enough to take a picture, I will show you what has happened to this morning's bake.

Thank you all again. Your help is invaluable. I have learned such a lot.


LarAl's picture

Italian Star/Horn/Bolognese Bread is really a variant of La Coppia Ferrarese

This is a follow-up to the Italian Star Bread thread. That thread has not had any recent response and this is somewhat lengthy, so I thought it warranted a new thread.

I read the above-mentioned thread with much amusement. I first came across it when searching for anything I could find about what my family in Boston called Bolognese bread or 'horn' bread. I once saw the name 'star' bread in a bakery that I believe was in Plymouth, where we spent a few summers. I found very litte on either name but 'horn bread' yielded more useful hits. I found two articles from the Boston Globe that put me on the right track:

Famed for horn bread, cafe hears final trumpet - about a bakery in Plymouth

Interesting facts about 'horn' bread - comment by Marty Balboni of the Balboni bakery mentioned in many of the posts in the original thread

This is something like what it looked like but it was smaller, less 'bloated', the horns were straight, and the scoring was either one score in the middle, or two scores, one along each side, lengthwise, but this shows the general shape:

I contacted a few of the bakeries that I used to frequent in Boston's North End to see if any of them either still made this bread or had made it in the past. I struck out. My grandfather used to bring loaves of Bolognese bread home from his restaurant and would distribute them among his children. When I was older, I was able to buy this bread in the North End but I don't know which bakery sold it.

A funny anecdote--when I was a young boy, someone had left a small 2" pen knife on the kitchen counter that happend to have a fresh loaf of horn bread right next to it. The next morning, to everyone's astonishment, the bread had been completely gutted! It was hollow like a turkey ready for stuffing. My youngest sister had very skillfully pulled every last shred of the soft interior out without leaving any highly visible entry hole. LOL!

So starting from the Globe articles, I did a lot of online research and found what I believe to be the origin of this type of bread. It is a bread called la Coppia Ferrarese, the Ferrarese Couple, and is the exclusive domain of the province of Ferrara, a neighboring province to the province of Bologna, both of which are in the region of Emilia-Romagna. According to what I have been able to find, this bread is found in bakeries throughout the region of Emilia-Romagna, but according to the strict Italian food laws, can only be called 'Coppia Ferrarese' in the province of origin. Italians are very protective, understandably so, of the naming and origin of their regional foods, just like they are of their regional wines.

This is what it looks like:

It has the four horns but is much smaller all around and has no bloat in the middle. It has a smooth, crispy crust and a soft fine-crumbed interior.

This bread is famous throughout Emilia-Romagna and goes back to at least the 13th century when a statute was written on exactly how it must be prepared. This statute was updated in 2001 by the IGP, the governing board that regulates the naming of the bread and its source of origin, the province of Ferrara. Ironically, almost no bakery in Ferrara has met the requirements of this statute and so, can no longer call the bread by its regional name. One well-known bakery was fined € 6000 for selling bread called 'Coppia Ferrarese' that did not comply with their draconian statute. So all the other bakeries in the province immediately changed the name of their bread. How's that for politics?

According to IGP specs, the dough, called la pasta dura, 'hard dough', is an unbelievably low 35% hydration made with il lievito "madre" or lievito naturale, basically a sourdough starter of 45% hydration. The specs even specify exactly how the lievito "madre" is to be produced. I have been struggling (literally) to reproduce this bread by hand and have had some success, though I'm not happy with the results yet. The 'hard dough' is aptly named. It is almost impossible to knead it or incorporate the starter uniformly. I'm sure it would burn out the motor of any home mixer and probably some commercial ones as well. No wonder bakeries can't adhere to the specs. There is a video of an 80+ year old Italian woman, who runs a baking school, beating the dough with a huge long wooden dowel-type rolling pin to knead it. This has to be one of the most unusual, most difficult of breads to make.

Getting back to horn/star bread, the recipe given by italiano in the original thread, Pane comune – ricetta base , is closer in form to this American adaptation of 'la Coppia' but, judging from the photos in another one of the original articles, Pane comune con pasta madre , it is not a low enough hydration, despite dabrownman's incredulity that it could be as low as 52%. The crumb is too coarse and the crust is too rough:

Horn/star bread has a very smooth crispy crust and a fine soft crumb. So I can only conclude that this type of bread is closer in origin to la Coppia Ferrarese with its incredibly low hydration. The bread I have made does have the crispy smooth crust and the fine soft crumb, just a tighter, smaller, more authentic form.

As further evidence of this, Marty Balboni, in the above-linked article, states:

My grandfather, Celeste, and his brother Raffaello founded the bakery when they came over from a little village near Cento (in the province of Ferrara) in 1912 … The shape of the bread has been modified over the years. In Italy, which I visited a few years ago, they still make it the "old" way. The four "horns" are much longer (about eight inches each) and are in a tapered shape curved into an arc. If you hold the loaf sideways, it looks like two sets of horns attached to each other - thus the name "corno" ("horn" in Italian). Over the years, the horns have become more stout due to the packaging problem encountered on store shelves. The horns would easily break off of they were too long.

He can only be describing la Coppia Ferrarese. He goes on to say:

The recipe given in your paper is missing an ingredient and an important processing step - but my lips are sealed!

The recipe is absent from the article but I found it elsewhere--Italian Horn Bread.

Aside from the fact that this is not an authentic recipe, the fairly important ingredient that is missing from this recipe is lard. The IGP specs specify lard, as it increases the shelf life of the bread, which remains crispy on the outside and soft on the inside for days, even when it is broken open. Lard also gives it a great taste and smell. Kind of an old-time doughnut smell.

I have not yet attempted to make horn bread. I'm still trying to perfect my Coppia Ferrarese, though I shouldn't call it that lest the IGP cops get wind of it. ;)

Trotski7's picture

Bread Bowl

Hey all,

I was wondering, is there a particular recipe I should use to make a bread bowl for soup?
I want to surprise my lady with a cream of chicken/potato/veggie soup in a bread bowl next time she comes over for dinner; although I can make bread pretty well I don't know how I'd make a bread bowl. I forsee it being a different recipe as my standard bread and that I would also have to make the crust harder on all sides of the bread so the soup doesn't leak out.

Would it be best to use a sourdough bread recipe? I've never made sourdough, but gosh.. I love me some sourdough and it would probably make a great bread bowl.

isand66's picture

100% Durum Semolina 36 hour Method

I love baking with Durum flour and bake with it all the time, so I figured it was time to finally make a 100% Durum bread.  I have not used the 36 hour method in a while so I incorporated it into this bake and used some KAF Durum flour in the 2 stage starter and in the final dough.  Technically there is a little bit of AP flour in the seed starter but I hope you won't hold that against me.

The technique I used for this bake creates a pretty sticky dough so it's not for the faint of heart but if you are willing to take the plunge you will be rewarded with an open and moist crumb and crispy crust.

I decided to make one large miche and used one of my Good Will finds for the banneton which left a nice pattern on the bread.





Semolina Starter Build 1

Mix ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for around 8 hours.  The starter should almost double when ready to proceed.

Semolina Starter Build 2

Add to Build 1 Starter:

100 grams Durum Flour

100 grams Water at Room Temperature (80-90 degrees F.)

Mix ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for around  4 - 6 hours.  The starter should almost double when ready to proceed.

Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flour and the ice water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Put the dough in a slightly covered oiled bowl and put in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

The next day add your starter and salt to the dough and mix by hand until it is thoroughly mixed and evenly distributed.  Due to the high water content in the 100% hydration starter this dough is very easy to mix by hand and is very silky and smooth.

Bulk rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours until it grows around 1/3 in volume doing stretch and folds every half hour until it has developed the correct amount of strength.

Put the dough back into the refrigerator for around 20-24 hours.  I took it out about 20 hours later.

When you take the dough out of the refrigerator you want it to have almost doubled in volume.  Mine only rose about 1/3 in volume.  Let it rise at room temperature for around 2 hours or until the dough has doubled from the night before.

Next, divide the dough and shape as desired and place them in their respective basket(s).

Cover the dough with a moist towel and let sit at room temperature for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Score the loaves as desired and prepare your oven for baking with steam.


Set your oven for 525 degrees F. at least 45 minutes before ready to bake.  When ready to bake place the loaves into your oven on your oven-stone with steam and let it bake for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature  to 450 degrees.    When the loaf is golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 210 degrees F. you can remove it from the oven.

Let the bread cool down for at least an 3 hours or so before eating as desired.


Max getting in the Thanksgiving spirit with his Bird Hat
Oat Walker's picture
Oat Walker

What is combine run wheat seed?


There are several people selling combine run wheat seed by the bushel on Craigslist. Would that that be appropriate seed for bread?

kensbread01's picture

My starter not starting?

I've been cultivating a starter now for about two weeks according to the steps given in Tartine Bread.  Today I tried the float test after a night of letting the leaven ferment.   It failed the test.   Book says to move to warm environment, which I did in my toaster oven for about an hour.... set to 200, then turned off before placing leaven in oven.  It still failed the float test.  Not one to give up easily, I added some quick rise yeast (about 4 grams) some water (about 1/4 cup @ 90 degrees), and added to the leaven... mixed it up good and let it sit for awhile before adding it to my 500 grams of flour.

I am doing a 1/2 recipe so if I blow it, I'm not wasting a lot of flour and creating more bird food.

My last attempt I used the leaven that failed the float test and my bread did not rise as expected. I believe it ran out of gas so to speak and I ended up with croutons for Thanksgiving.

Questions:  If I am doing everything like the book says... feeding on regular schedule, etc. and my float test continues to fail, should I scrape this way making leaven and try something else?

My bread is currently on the first 1/2 hour of bulk fermentation as I type this.

kensbread01's picture

Caibrating EatSmart scale or replacing with something else

I bought an inexpensive ($25) scale from Amazon 2 years back and now I'm wondering how accurate it is.  It will measure down to grams, but not a tenth of a gram.   I wonder if there is a way to calibrate these scales.  I checked with the company who makes the scale and their web site is pretty ugly, no help there it would seem.

So maybe I should try a better scale?  Not sure what to do.   I am suspicious this scale is off based on a measurement I did of a guitar slide that weighed much less than it should have.  I was told that the weight of this stainless steel slide was very accurate from the manufacturer.    Maybe I am getting too anal about this, but I don't want all my measurements to be 10% off... could cause a problem with baking.


Any suggestions?

kensbread01's picture

Need good serrated knife for cutting bread

The one we have now is probably 8 years old, still very sharp but I'm having trouble getting thru a hard crust.  As many of you know, a dull knife is a dangerous thing to use.  I'm looking to get a better serrated knife wonder if anyone has any recommendations.  



Ken in Illinois

ichadwick's picture

Baker's percentage question

Been working through recipes trying to convert them to percentages, but I have a question I need help with, please...

Salt and yeast percentages: are they calculated against the TOTAL weight (TW) or against the total FLOUR weight (TFW) like water?

For example, based on TFW: Flour 500g, therefore: water 75% (375g), Salt 1.5 (7.5g), yeast 1.5 (5g)

I'm trying to make a simple spreadsheet to help me calculate this stuff, since I can't find an easy one ready made.



kensbread01's picture

Would like to purchase freshly milled flour, Chicago Area

Hi,  I am new to this forum but have been baking bread for many years and have recently been going with the Tartine Bread formula by Chad Robertson.  I've been using store bought flower, some of it has been in the cub board for over a year and I would like to use fresh milled flour to see how much flavor is added.  Without running out an buying a flour mill, I would prefer to buy a few pounds locally but do not know where I can get any milled to order without doing a shipping thing.   Does anyone here know of where I can buy freshly milled flour locally?  I live in Elgin, about 40 miles west of Chicago.