The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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clazar123's picture

Any word on Stan and Norm"s book?

I haven't heard anything for a long time. ANy news?

Kashipan's picture

Please help! First time starter user!

Hello all!

A very kind person from this very site sent me a little bitty of his own sourdough starter, and I followed his directions on how to feed it, but I'm now having trouble, and not sure what I should do!  If anyone can tell me if I'm doing this right, I would be EXTREMELY grateful.

The starter I got was just a little bitty, and was of the consistency of thick glue.  I have no idea whether or not this is what is called "firm" starter...Can anyone please explain the difference, so I know what I'm doing if a recipe calls for firm starter?  I put it into a glass container and added 50gm whole wheat flour, 50gm white bread flour and 100gm water.  This was yesterday afternoon.  As nightfall approached, it hadn't risen too much, but was definitely bubbling.  I decided to let it sit overnight on my kitchen counter.  The temp in this room is in the mid 60s or so.

In the morning, there was not much of a change, and not knowing what to do, I looked up any information I could find to tell me if this was normal or if the starter was dead, or what the status was.  I read where you should feed your starter once a day, so at around 7am, I stirred up what I had (when I stirred it, it was still very bubbly, and made strings as I was stirring it up - very sticky!  Smells fine but not particularly sour), and gave it another 50gm whole wheat flour, 50gm white bread flour and 100gm more water.  I guess I'm going to let it sit another day.

I am not sure when this starter will be suitable for baking.  At all.  My goal is to make the San Joaquin style sourdough bread recipe I found here on the site, but it calls for "firm" starter...Is that what I'm making here?  I don't know much about working with ratios of dry ingredients to wet ones yet, so it's something I need to feel out as I go, but I'm terrified to kill this starter or do something fatally wrong.  My starter isn't particularly runny, but it's not unmanageable.  If I stir it with a large chopstick, it gives resistance, but it's definitely not hard to stir.

Would anyone be willing to help a super brand newbie just starting with her first little bitty of starter?  I would appreciate your kindness and patience so much!  Meantime, I am searching for recipes and trying to educate myself as best I can, but in the meantime, am I doing the right thing with this starter?  How will I know when it's ready to go into a recipe?  That's my biggest question, along with the "firm starter" issue.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!!!  :)

honeymustard's picture

Spelt & Flax Bread

I have known for a while now that I would have to face my fear of wet doughs. Yes, fear. Absolute fear.

I am very good at breads that are relatively dry, and the only doughs that I've worked with that are wet weren't nearly as wet as the recipe I found here - Floydm's Daily Bread.

To be honest, I had a vague idea - at best - at what I was doing. I made a whole wheat poolish, and the rest of the flour was organic spelt. For good measure and texture, I added 1/4 cup flax seeds. I baked on a stone as directed.

Spelt & Flax Bread

For having so little idea about what I was doing, I feel pretty fantastic about the results. The rise was reasonably good, and the texture was perfect. I would hope for a slightly better crumb next time. But I'm not going to be picky after my first try.

Also, I wanted a harder crust, but I think that has to do with a) my stone and b) a better method of steaming.

clazar123's picture

Any Milwaukee area bakers want some free kefir grains?

I know some bakers use kefir for baking and I'm hoping someone would like some kefir grains. I have way too many. Message me and maybe we can figure out how to intersect.

 I live in Menomonee Falls (northwest of Milwaukee) and work in Waukesha. Given the price of gas, I don't want either of us to drive too far. I would rather do an in-person delivery/pickup-not sure they'd get to anyone in a viable state through the mail.


I will meet anyone interested in free kefir grains at any of the following locations at a mutually arranged time:

McDonalds in Menomonee Falls (Appleton and Pilgrim) on some weekends or after 6PM weekdays,

McDonalds in Waukesha (On Silvernail Road near T)on some weekdays between 5-6PM

Please bring a pint jar with a lid that is  3/4 filled with your choice of milk or buy the milk at the McDonalds (Still need the jar).


rolls's picture


Hi  all, jus wanted to share with you my recent sticky bun baking. I am really addicted to home made sweet rolls and buns, and these couldn't be easier to make as they're made from a no knead dough. happy to post recipe (not that i actually follow one) if anyones interested :)

I baked these while away (i know, obsessed).  i mixed up a batch of no knead in a stock pot as there wasn't a big enough bowl in the holiday house we were staying in, and made two trays of sticky buns, yummm, we had them on the beach with coffee with our friends, everyone loved :D




not sure why the first pic turned out like that, but that was straight out of the oven, before flipping them over :) they disappeared real quick! FYI the corner ones are the yummiest, i love the crispy toffee edges,mmm. :D's picture

left out dough

I made a yeast dough that has sour cream and egg yolk. I forgot about it and left it out over night. I thought I would just double check before I through it out and start over if it is truley garbage now. ?

ph_kosel's picture

Orange Raisin Bread Revisited

I made another loaf of my orange-raisin bread and refined my working recipe a bit, adding weights and some specifics on the marmalade step.

My working recipe is now as follows:


Orange Raisin Bread


about 200g of Home-made marmalade, made (see procedure below) from

about 200g = 1 smallish seedless navel orange and

100g = 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

~8g = 1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

~9g = 1.5 teaspoon salt

100g of raisins

450g unbleached bread flour

300g very warm water

Quarter the orange and cut each quarter into 1/4-inch thick slices.  In small saucepan stir orange pieces up with the sugar to draw juice from pulp.  Heat mixture to boiling and stir while boiling until juice/sugar syrup does not drain from peel when pushed to one side of pan.  Cut peels up  as desired with table knife.

Put marmalade and all dry ingredients in mixing bowl, add the very warm water, and mix thoroughly.  Dough will be very soft and sticky, too much so to knead by hand.  If necessary it can be spoon-kneaded in the mixing bowl to make the fruit distribution roughly uniform.

Transfer dough to a pan with a scraper and let rise.  This dough will rise to fill a 9"x4"x4"-inch pullman pan in less than hour.

Bake at 450F for 25 minutes.  Result is a moist, sweet, chewy bread with ample fruit.


Illustrative photos are as follows:

Orange quartered and sliced

Orange quartered and sliced^

Marmalade, hot, before reduction (note syrupy free-flowing juice)^

Marmalade after reduction (no free-flowing syrupy juice, peel has been cut a bit with knife)^

Dough unrisen in pan^

Dough after 55 minutes rise time^

Loaf and pan after baking^








Janetcook's picture

Intervals between Stretch and Folds

Hope someone can enlighten me here because I haven't been able to figure this one out on my own yet...

When I first used the S&F technique it was with a recipe from The Handmade Loaf.  (He uses the knead in the bowl method.)  For his Basic Leaven Loaf and his Barley Rye Loaf the S&F are timed at 10 min. intervals for the first 3.  Then it goes to 30 minutes and after a couple of those it jumps to an hour.  

I have been baking more of the loaves I have found on this site that also use S&F's.  All seem to have some variation similar to his.

I have surmised that most have a 2-3 hour bulk fermentation time that is broken up with S&Fs before they are either shaped into loaves and then proofed or put into the refrigerator for a longer fermentation time.

Via observation I have concluded that a dough is ready to be S&Fed when it has relaxed somewhat from the previous S&F session.

I am wanting to WATCH MY DOUGH rather that the clock so I would like to know if there is any significance in letting a particular dough go longer before a S&F.

Hence, my question of why is there such a variance amongst certain recipes????

Only real conclusion I have come to on my own is that each person simply has adjusted their S&F schedules to what works best for them based on time and temperature and life schedule (Life schedule = what someone does when not baking bread LOL)

Thanks for any insights!

ph_kosel's picture

A tale of two sourdoughs

I made a loaf of SF Sourdough for an Easter brunch, following Peter Reinhart's recipe in his book Artisan Bread Every Day.  In the past I've had extremely good luck with Reinhart's SF  Sourdough recipe in his other book Crust and Crumb but my supply of "mother starter" was a bit low and the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day only calls for two ounces while the one in Crust and Crumb asks for .  Besides, I've been wanting to try the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day anyway.

I mixed up the intermediate"wild yeast starter" Friday, the dough Saturday, and baked the loaf Sunday morning (keeping the starter and dough each overnight in the fridge between times). When I mixed up the dough it seemed too wet (perhaps I messed up the weights, I was working under pressure); the recipe says adjust consistency as needed so I added more flour until it seemed about right.  I fridged the dough up in a stainless bowl with a tight plastic lid.  I was a bit worried it might rise too much and pop the lid off but fridge space was limited.  In the morning the lid was, indeed, bulging a bit but it hadn't popped off.

I chose to just use all the dough to make a single big "miche" loaf because I didn't want to risk degassing the dough too much by dividing it.  It was probably the biggest loaf I've ever baked.

Here are photos of the result:



The loaf looks pretty good, and my wife and our guests seemed to like it quite a bit, but I found the taste and texture less satisfactory, less "yummy", than loaves I baked back in January using the recipe from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.


Here's a photo from back in January:

Loaves and crumb from January 2011^

The more varied and irregular holes in the crumb of the January loaves is fairly obvious.  Not visible is a difference in taste and mouth-feel.  The January loaves as I recall were a bit moister, more tender perhaps, and had better taste.

I'm a bit bemused by the difference and curious about the cause.  The recipes are very similar, and the "mother culture" is the same.  One thing different is that in January I used King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour while in the current loaf I used a less expensive generic unbleached bread flour I got at the local Food Maxx market - both have the same labeled protein content.  The loaves in January included a bit of brown sugar in the dough per the Crust and Crumb recipe while the current loaf did not.  The January loaves were made exactly by weight according to the recipe while the latest included additional flour which I "eyeballed".  I'm not sure but I think there was a tad more salt in the January loaves.  Finally, the January loaves were retarded overnight "uncontrained" under plastic wrap while the current dough was retarded in a bowl with a tight fitting lid which restrained it's expansion.

Anyway, the two sourdough bakes tasted quite different to me, although others say they found the current effort highly satisfactory.  Go figure!

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Ciabatta Quest, Week 1: Double-Double Trouble

Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.

For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.

A modest goal, I hope.  We'll see how it goes!

I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas.  If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it.  If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one.  Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.

Let the adventure begin!  For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta.  Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense).  I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc.  In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].



  • 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)

  • 380g water (76%)

  • 15g Olive Oil (3%)

  • 10g Salt (2%)

  • .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon,  .14%)


  • 190g Flour

  • 190g Water

  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour, divided

  • 190g water, divided

  • 15g Olive Oil

  • 1/8 tsp inseant yeast

  • 10g salt


  1. The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours

  2. On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.  

  3. Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.

  4. Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast.  Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.

  5. Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.

  6. Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3 [2] and mix 10 minutes.

  7. With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more.  Mix a total of 10 more minutes.

  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours

  9. [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]

  10. Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.

  11. Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]

  12. An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees

  13. Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment. 

  14. Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven.  Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.

  15. Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

And the results:




Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor.  Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.

I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc.  Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping).  But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.

Food for thought (and for dinner!).

Happy baking everyone,