The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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pfilner's picture

Porcelain casserole dish with lid

I recently purchased a porcelain 2 qt casserole dish with lid, $15 at a Target store, and have gotten very nice results with it making a Bittman/Lahey style loaf 1/3 larger than the original recipe (NY times, Nov 8, 2006) by a simplified procedure in which I never touch the unbaked dough, nor transfer it to and from a floured towel.  The breads come out of the casserole dish with a 2 inch wall, a crown 5 inches high, and a symmetrical dome. Loafs made according to the original Bittman/Lahey recipe, especially in larger pots, tend to be no more than 3 inches high, have little or no wall, and are frustratingly small.

I mix the dry ingredients, 4 cups flour, 1.5 tsp salt, slightly heaped 1/4 tsp Fleischman rapid rise yeast in a 3 qt pyrex bowl, add 1.5 cups of warm water, then with a fork mix and form a relatively stiff dough ball, then add 1/4 cup water to loosen the dough ball somewhat for rising. Instead of transferring the dough to a flowered towel a la Bittman, I keep the dough in the pyrex bowl for the 18 hr rising, 15 min rest and 2 hr second rising, reshaping the dough ball after each period, then drop the dough ball into the casserole dish preheated at 450 degrees F., bake for 30 min with lid on, then 15 min with lid off.  The bread smells, looks and tastes great, with a crunchy flavorful crust that shatters when bitten,  and a spongy, bounce-back texture inside the loaf. Thanks to the single transfer from pyrex bowl to casserole dish, no scattered flour or flour-loaded towel to clean up    

RobertS's picture

Breaducation of a Rookie: Quietly Going to Pot

I use three enamelled pots with cast iron cores (each is 3.5 qt. size, one round and two oval) frequently now in my bread baking---all three fit nicely into my oven at the same time--- and am delighted with the perfect crust and crumb this Lahey method delivers unfailingly. And for superior taste, I always employ a 24-48 hr+ initial cold refrigerator ferment,  using ice cold water (77%), instant yeast .7%, table salt 2%, and 100% unbleached Canadian white all-purpose flour. On a stack of Bread Bibles, I solemnly (if immodestly) swear my Lahey Cold Pot Bread has no equal in the land, or in heaven for that matter.

But in my opinion the method Lahey suggests for proofing and "loading" the dough into the pot is fraught with unecessary difficulties. He suggests proofing on a wheat bran-sprinkled tea towel, and then inverting this "package" and plopping it unceremoniously into the hot pot. (In the Bittman video he looks like a farmer dropping a boulder off the top of his barn). The problem is, the very wet dough looks like a wayward handful of jello, and is liable to get out of hand, literally. Furthermore, the odds are good that this very wet dough will stick to the tea towel just as you are about to upend it. The result can be a less than perfect crust and less than perfect crumb structure.

The solution I came up with does not involve using parchment paper. (I hate putting that stuff in my pots).

1. Lightly oil the bowl in which you proof the dough, and then sprinkle  wheat bran into the bottom. Cover with towel and when proofing finished, sprinkle more wheat bran on top of dough.

2. When oven is heated, take pot out and place on stovetop. Close oven door quickly. Remove lid.

3. Using gloved hand, tip pot over toward stovetop. Using other hand, roll dough from bowl into the pot using a quick, decisive wrist turn.

You will find the dough goes into the pot very, very gently, with the top of the proofed dough now on the bottom of the pot, with your carefully-nurtured gluten structure undisturbed.


Lillibread's picture

French Bread

About a year ago I began baking french bread - I've primarily been using Ciril Hitz recipie from "Baking Artisan Bread".  I'm not getting the air pockets that I'd like in the crumb structure.  I'm wondering if someone might have advice for me.  The recipe calls for a poolish - I've been careful re: time/temperature in that regard.  Same w/ the dough.  I've got a Kitchen Aid mixure - I've try to be uber concious about not over working the bread in the mixing process.  Most of the time I use fleischmann's yeast.  I've stayed w/ the recipe is well re: amount of salt.  I've as well been careful not to de-gas the bread as I'm shaping the loaves.  On a couple of ocassions I've even over-proofed the dough just to see if that might make a difference.  It hasn't.  Anybody got any idea on how to get some air (hot air or otherwise) into this bread.  Appreciate your help.

SylviaH's picture

D. Lepard's Choc. Honey Meringues

Very delicious and fairly simple to make, these appealing cookies make a very nice accessory cookie to an elegant dessert or just simply to snack on alone.

With 'Mis en Place' I made these while preparing dinner, placed them in the oven to slow bake.  The recipe is HERE updated..this link should work, scroll down to the recipe.







sharonj1961's picture

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

I am a newbie bread baker and have been working to perfect Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon Swirl Raisin bread.  Although the taste is great, it never fails that after the bread is baked, there is a big air gap inside and at the top of the loaf.  I've tried rolling the dough tighter once I sprinkle on the cinnamon / sugar mixture on and have even rolled the formed loaf back and forth on the floured surface thinking that it would compress the layers together.  Still fairly large gaps.  What am I doing wrong ??

SylviaH's picture

Apricot and Millet loaves

I used Daniel T. DiMuzio's formula from his book 'bread baking An Artisan's Perspective' for making his Double Raisin and Toasted Walnut loaves, changing it to go with a combination I have been wanting to taste.  I substituted the double raisins and walnuts with, half the amount of dried natural, chopped Blenheim apricots, a very big favorite of mine is the Blenheim apricots from CA. especially fresh.  I also added 1/2 cup of Millet seeds for a little soft crunch.  The combination is delicious with the apricots not being overly sweet like raisins can sometimes taste.  The little soft crunch and mild flavor of the millet seed was an added plus, all went delicious toasted this morning with a smear of cream cheese.  I was very pleased with the combination of the apricots and millet seed and plan on trying it in some other recipes.

These loaves were baked yesterday with the Greek bread I posted earlier.  I baked both the apricot and millet seed loaves together and wanted to steam them with my steaming lid, I have not used in a very long time.  The two loaves would not fit under the steaming lid, I did not want to stay up any later and bake them individually, so they were not properly steamed which I think contributed towards the paler crust on the second loaf.






bobh's picture

Problems with pain a l'ancienne baguettes

I've tried the pain a l'ancienne baguette recipe (with cold retardation) from the Bread Baker's Apprentice a number of times and haven't had much luck.  The baguettes come out with a very dense crumb.  I've been following the recipe exactly, varying only the amount of water I put in to try different "stickiness", but the results are all pretty much the same.  But, despite the crumb, they taste great! -which makes me want to perfect this recipe.  While what I've made is far from inedible, it's also far from ideal.

Any ideas on where I've gone wrong?

The recipe calls for instant yeast, and I'm using Fleishmann's RapidRise, which I've read is the same thing.  Is that true?  I've tried with active dry yeast, using around 1.5x the called-for amount, and had pretty much the same result.


Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!





PicardOvens's picture

Proofer under modular deck ovens

I'm interested to see what people think of having a proofer under a deck or modular oven. This is very common in Europe and I'd like to know if its something you'd like too.  Is this something that you'd like?  Please give me feedback and some of your wish lists.  Thanks Kristine

Mira's picture

Day 10 Starter is is what?

It looks like there are a few of us on this post that are wondering how to proceed with their new starters! Mine is a second attempt - the ABCD didn't work, so I switched over to Debra Wink's method of starting out with 2 TB organic rye + 2 TB pineapple juice.

When I switched to AP flour and water on Day 4 (ratio 2:1:1) my starter was stalling for a few days, so I added a little rye in my next feeding on Day 6. My culture started expanding, and for the last few days I've been feeding it on 12 hour schedules: 2 oz original starter + 1 oz AP flour + 1 oz bottled water.

I fed it last night and this morning, it's risen from 4 oz to 8 oz. It's finally bubbling on top.

Now what? Should I feed it now? Even though it's only been 8 hours since last feed? Or should I feed it when 12 hours have passed?

And is it now ready to use? Or can I now put in in the refrigerator and only feed it 3 times a week?

If I wanted to use it today or tomorrow to bake bread, how do I build up enough? My hydration is 100%. It seems that some of the recipes I've read have stiffer starters; for example, one of my recipes for sourdough bread requires 1 cup of mother starter. But it looks as if that mother starter is much stiffer than mine, because it started with 2:1 ration for flour/water. (It's an old book from my MIL, titled "Great Breads" by Martha Rose Shulman. Her levan started with 2 cups AP to 1 cup water. Very different from my start of 2 TB rye/2 TB pineapple juice). So if I wanted to try this recipe, how would I convert my starter to the same ratio?

I'm sorry, I know my questions are all over the map. I'm happy to have a bubbling starter, I just don't want to screw it up, or waste it all on one recipe. I'm reading as much as I can but I've come across different methods and am still trying to lmake sense of the math behind it all.

thank you,

berryblondeboys's picture

How long to knead in a DLX mixer?

I'm getting confused, again. Now that I have more books, I'm seeing inconsistencies.  I also just did a quick search here and see inconsistencies. Things from: "You can't overknead a dough without commercial mixers. You'll burn out your KA mixer before you can overknead" to, "I can get a perfectly kneaded dough in 3 minutes with the DLX". Then there's the whole window pane thing. I don't know if any of my doughs have gotten window pane worthy as I always use whole grains and until the other day, my hydration was too low apparently.

Since getting the DLX, I've kneaded it for around 8 minutes because that's how long it seemed to take to get the dough consistency right. But the Clayton bread book says to hand knead and machine knead for the same amount of time, and has different directions for food processors. So, for the last few loaves I've made, I've kneaded them for 12-16 minutes. Now I'm wondering if that's overkill? The French Fold video I watched does that for 20 minutes and that's a pretty vigorous kneading process.