The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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althetrainer's picture

Yipee, I have a question for ya

My husband and son love the water roux white sandwich toast that I make for them from time to time.  I notice the crust tends to brown very quickly, in less than 10 minutes.  I try to avoid opening the oven door in the first 10 minutes so to reduce chances of shrinking or collapsing. 

We came home from a trip today and we had no bread at home so instead of making my regular sourdough I decided to make the water roux bread.  I waited for 12 minute before putting the tin foil over the loaf but once again the crust was already too brown!  I will try to remember using a lower rack for baking next time. 

Do you know if the bread browns so quickly is a result of higher sugar contents, or the water roux starter?  Do you have the same experience?  I am just curious.

thebreadfairy's picture

Review: Cadco Countertop Convection Oven - XAF-113

I just purchased a new Cadco convection oven and to say I am thrilled would be an understatement. After using a 20-year old Whirlpool oven with a Hearthkit Oven insert while I learned to bake bread during the past six months, and producing very satisfactory results, I have found this new oven to be big step up in ease of use and evenness of baking. Since there are virtually no reviews of this oven on the web, I wanted to share my experiences with this group that has provided me with so much useful information.

DETAILS: After having semi-lusted for this oven since seeing it in operation a few months ago, I used the occasion of a malfunction of my regular oven to to treat myself to the Cadco even though I had never used a convection oven before.
The model I chose, the XAF-113 is the largest countertop convection oven they make that can operate on 120 volt current, so no special electrical hookup is needed. It is an approximately 24" stainless steel cube with a huge glass front window and door which provides a clear bright view of everything going on in the oven. No more peering through a small, darkened window or cracking open the door to see how the bread is doing. It has a capacity of 3 half-sized (16 x 12 inch) sheet pans.

This unit also has a very simple manual as opposed to digital control panel. (Digital, programmable panels are available on more expensive models). There are basically only two control knobs, time and temperature. Temperature range is 175°-500° F. Just recently, Cadco introduced  a manual "steam" button on this model and my unit is equipped with it. It is not a true steam injector but seems to work well anyway. What it is is a built-in small electric pump which draws water thru an inlet hose which has its outside end inserted in a water container. This water is then sprayed on the ventilator fan and heating element and dispersed throughout the baking compartment. Although I could see some water droplets being scattered around the inside, no drops appeared to mark the bread crust, and my final crusts seemed to be as good as I was getting using hot water thrown on lava rocks in a skillet. And, this is so much easier. The skin on my hands and arms has already started celebrating the end of daily steam burns.

I have also equipped my oven with a 1/4" metal plate that Cadco sells as an accessory to use instead of a baking stone. They claim that this heats up much more quickly than a stone yet retains heat as well as a stone. After baking two loaves I am inclined to agree with them. The metal plate has protrusions coming from the bottom surface which seem to markedly increase the exposed surface area and allow it recover quickly.

EXPERIENCE: I have only used it to bake two loaves so far since I just installed it yesterday. What I immediately noticed was that the oven heats up much quicker than my conventional oven and stone. Normally, it takes my oven 1 hour plus to reach 500°. With the Cadco, it took about 25 minutes!

The first loaf I baked was variation of Eric Kayser's Baguette Monge. I have been playing around with this formula a lot recently trying to work out a successful cold retardation process. I have baked probably 20 loaves recently so I am well aware of the whole gamut of final loaf possibilities. I was extremely pleased when the oven turned out the best loaf of this bread that I have so far been able to bake. I adapted the baking temps by reducing the pre-heat temp from 500° to 450°. Normally, the temp on loading is set to 425° and I reduced it to 400°. Usual baking time has been 25 minutes and with the Cadco I used 20 minutes. What I got was great oven rise and grigne, lovely browning and the most open and moist crumb of any loaf so far. In addition, the overall browning of the loaf appeared to be quite uniform. Although I did rotate the loaves out of habit, I never saw any unevenness in the browning of the crust and rotating is probably not necessary. Here are some photos:

The second loaf was Hamelman's Golden Raisin and Walnut bread. I had never made this before and figured this would be a good test of whether just following simple guidelines for conversion to convection would be sufficient to produce a good loaf. Well, I was more than satisfied with the loaf. It had a wonderful crispy, chewy crust and a beautiful, semi-open and very moist crumb. I had no problems with over-browning of the crust with just reducing baking temps by 25-30 degrees.
Here's some more photos:

In trying to be "fair and balanced", these are some of the negatives:

-Pretty noisy although I have gotten used to it.
-No audible signal when oven has reached operating temperature
-Not supposed to be built-in. Need 4-5" clearance on all sides.
-Manual cleaning, not self-cleaning.

SUMMARY: In sum, I am extremely happy with this product. Although my experience with the oven is brief, it appears to be an extremely valuable tool for baking hearth-type breads. And the fact that this may provide a satisfactory solution to the ever-present "steaming" problem is a real plus for me.

As far as price goes, the unit lists for $1850 but I have seen it on the web for $1200-$1300 dollars. If you order one, make sure that it has the new manual "Humidity" button. Both the old and new units have the same model number so that alone is not enough to know what unit you are buying.

I hope that this will help those members who have been leery of convection ovens, just as I was, to consider it as a possibility. I have never used another convection oven, so this review is not meant to say that the Cadco is better than any other brand. I just know that it works, works well, and appears to be very solidly built. YMMV.


Salome's picture

a folded dough: how to check whether it's doubled?

I'm on my quest for the perfect bread with nice holes, as many are here... =)

Therefore I've got a question. I just baked the Vermont Sourdough again yesterday. I wrote here about it, pictures are there as well. I loved the bread, but I would have hoped for bigger holes because I tried so hard. . .However, David reccomended me to make sure that the dough rises 100 % during the first fermentation. I was somehow puzzled because I knew that there was something making this checking difficult, but in this second I didn't remember. Well, now, having another dough rising in the kitchen, I do. Folding the dough makes it very hard for me to judge wheter it's doubled or not. 

Any ideas how to make that easier? Just check by poking it? Is a folded dough supposed to double at all?

Thanks for your time.


Shiao-Ping's picture

Molasses & Light Rye Crusty Sourdough

Back in April, my son asked if I could make hot cross buns for Easter.  I Googled the recipe and a whole new world opened up to me.  Up until then, I hardly used internet recipes (I am one of those Asians who believe in "brand names.")  The first hot cross bun recipe that I came across  was that of Dan Lepard's!  Then, came the following excerpt from Dan's website:

"Good bread comes from an understanding of its nature... a good baker recognises that the doughs he makes are living things with individual identities, that they ultimately create themselves. The baker's skill is to encourage natural developments ...."

These few words touched me so much that I have since moved away from pastry that I love so much to a completely new frontier; I began researching day and night, right after Easter, for a period of perhaps 6 weeks non-stop.  Ever heard of a housewife staying up all night until 2 or 3 am every night studying (and still getting up at 6 to make the family breakfast)?  Before Easter, I had never heard of the word "sourdough." I have been making pastries for years because I have an enormous sweet tooth and I have made yeasted breads using bread machine every now and then, but strangely I had never heard of "sourdough" up until that point. 

I was trying to explain to my sisters back in Taiwan about this curious dough.  And, of course, I had to translate the word into Mandarin to make myself understood; I said it is a "sour - dough," or "suan-mientuan" in Mandarin, although I was not happy with that translation. Soon after that, I started to use "tse-ren-fa-hsiao-mientuan" meaning naturally-leavened dough in Chinese to describe it and I am much happier with that.

Well, I've had leftover molasses mixed in water that I am saving from the last Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel that I made.  I have a special feeling for molasses because, for me, molasses (or treacle) is an old English thing.  The last time I used molasses was in a gorgeous Spelt Christmas Fruit Cake after Easter and it was a Dan Lepard recipe too. (Yes, I know, April is far from Christmas, but that's me. I love sweet things.)  To me, molasses is Dan Lepard!  Isn't it funny to say that.  I am sure somebody is going to protest.  I don't know him at all.  But I know he is also the one who puts all that ale and red wine into sourdough breads!

Now, you probably know where this is going. I've got a molasses starter ready to be put into action, but before I jump into any venture and do a Dan Lepard style of sourdough, I need to satisfy myself that there are indeed at least a few sourdough breads in his books that use this ingredient. First of all, the two books by him that I own turn out to be the same book with different titles (silly me). Secondly, there is but one recipe that uses molasses! There are more formulae in his book that use rye flour and ale (of course). I get the feeling that he is quite a pastry chef as he often uses ingredients (eg ricotta cheese) that are not normally seen in breads.

This cross-disciplinary approach to a century old tradition is what I find interesting. I see many young French boulanger (eg Frederic Lalos, Basile Kamir, and Eric Kayser) are bold in trying new ingredients. And certainly in Japan, as in France, there are a lot of these new age sourdough breads; many of them are a meal on its own.

This Molasses & Light Rye Crusty Sourdough is my tribute to Dan Lepard. I thank him for opening up a brave new world of sourdough to me. If such simple thing can make me happy in life, what more do I ask.



               Molasses & Light Rye Crusty Sourdough


My formula

196 g molasses starter @ 100% hydration (note: I used one part molasses to 9 parts water and 10 parts flour)

160 g rye starter @ 100% hydration

278 g KAF Sir Lancelot high gluten flour

121 g molasses water (again, one part molasses to 9 parts water)

22 g olive oil

9 g salt

(final dough weight 786 g, dough hydration 70%) 

The dough was bulk fermented for 4 hours and during that time it received 3 folds. Shaped, then into the fridge for cold retardation for 10 hours. Proofed at room temp for 2 & 1/2 hours this morning before baking.

I have found something quite useful for new sourdough baker like myself and that is, NOT to over steam the oven. I know many at TFL gave clear instruction to steam the oven with only one cup of water, but I, for one, rarely follow instruction strictly. With too much steam, the scores seal up very quickly in the oven and seldom give nice grigne.  As many at TFL have found, I am learning more is not better.

We had this sourdough for brunch today and it was really lovely. My son said he could smell a pleasant sourness.  He had it with peanut paste (how typical for a growing boy). My daughter had a slice with grilled capsicum medley, like an open sandwich; my husband had it with a thick layer of butter, and I had it as is.  AND, Polly our dog got a slice too.


                                                                               As the loaf is being sliced ...


      Polly awaits anxiously ... to get her share.



photojess's picture

will you help me with some bakers math please?

I don't know why this is giving me so much trouble....I finally understand converting to 67% hydration.....but if I want to convert my 100% white bf starter to 63% hydration, I don't seem to be able to figure out how much flour to add.

I need 71 gms of whole wheat starter, but the book says I can use white, but it should be fairly stiff at about 63%. 

ex:  if I were using 100gms of starter, it's 50 gms each of flour and water.  (at 63%, that would be 63 gms of flour and 37 gms of water)  Please help from mind is confusing itself.  Esp if I only need 71 or 75gms to make it easier.

*****Do I use 37 gms of my 100% starter (because that is equal to the water) and add 27 gms of flour to it to equal the 63?  Then how do I maintain it? 

Shiao-Ping's picture

Pumpkin Sourdough with Coconut & Orange

I love pumpkin, but when my husband came home with three huge pumpkins, I worried.  What am going to do with all these pumpkins, I asked. I got no reply.   He had gone camping with our son and our son's friend at our farm, two hours north west of Brisbane.  The caretaker's wife keeps a small patch of vegetable garden and every now and then she gives me something from her vege garden.  My favorite are cherry tomatoes and silverbeets.   These pumpkins are from her garden too.     

It's school holiday and we were driving west, in-land, to somewhere.   I was bouncing off ideas with my daughter; I said how about Pumpkin Sourdough with Roasted Pumpkin Soup, or how about Grilled Pumpkin & Chinese deep-fried Onion Sourdough.  All of a sudden, my daughter said, how about Triple Pumpkin Sourdough with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, and shredded raw pumpkin; she is catching on.  As we were talking, my husband is mumbling, give me a gun! and my son was unavailable for comment, totally absorbed in the video that he's watching in the back seat.      

My local organic shop which I visited the other day has got  "coconut flour" now, a very fine desiccated coconut.   I bought some without any clue how to use it because I love anything and everything to do with coconut ... hmmm ... Thai green curry with coconut cream ... yumm!   

The French bread books that Flo Makanai ordered for me had arrived last week, one of which is "Le Pain, l'envers du decor," or Bread, Behind the Scenes, by Frederic Lalos who is one of the youngest bakers to have been awarded Meilleur Ouvrier of France, at the age of 26.  (Sorry, my Google translator does not recognise "Meilleur Ouvrier.")  On page 168 is La couronne bordelaise (the Bordeaux Crown), one of the French regional breads that are featured in the book.    I find the shape really interesting, and finally a reason for my experiment on pumpkin! 

 Here we go.    



My formula  

246 g starter @75% hydration

202 g Sir Lancelot flour

60 g white flour

40 g coconut flour (or fine desiccated coconut)

77 g water

232 g cooked pumpkin puree

9 g salt

very fine zest from one medium orange

pumpkin seeds for decorating    

(final dough weight 866 g and approx. dough hydration 70 - 72%) 



    Pumpkin Sourdough with Coconut & Orange


                                                                                               The crust 


                                    The crumb    


The orange and coconut is a combination that I always love.  The fragrance is beautiful.   But I'll probably not do coconut "flour" next time; it seems to have a "punctuating" effect, like grains and seeds, on bread.  I am not sure if I am using that word right, but I suspect it is making gluten network harder to form, or something like that.  Instead, coconut milk (or diluted coconut cream) would be a better choice. 


drfugawe's picture

Biga vs Poolish in Ciabatta


I have been doing a sourdough ciabatta for awhile now, and liking it very much - but I have begun to think about the process, and wondering why it needed a firm biga - it calls for a 50% hydration biga, and I don't like using my stand mixer for something that firm - so I've been doing it by hand, which isn't a breeze!  Then, the next day, you have to slowly incorporate pieces of the biga into your final dough - not difficult, but more time consuming than if you had just used a 100% poolish instead.  What is the benefit of using a firm biga in ciabatta?  Why not just make it easier and use the 100% poolish?

I raise this question so I might better understand the process of breadmaking - and I suspect that there are bakers hereabouts who have this knowledge.

TIA for your response.


Pablo's picture

proofing experiment

I wanted to get a sense of under and over proofing.  I used a 70% hydration SD dough and shaped 6 baguettes.  I baked them proofed at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, and 150 minutes.  Preheat to 550, down to 485 to bake with steam for 10 minutes, then remove the steam pan for an additional 10 minutes then remove the baguette and allow 10 minutes for the oven to regain 550.  They were misted before they were slashed.

This was near to what I expected.  On the left is 0 proofing and on the right is 150.  With less proofing they tend to cinch in around the slashes and as the proofing time extends they don't.  I mishandled the 120 a bit is why it looks worse than the 150, I think.

The 60 minute is the most round, the 120 again got rough treatment, the 150 bucks up better, but it's still not as round.

0 on the left, 150 on the right.  I expected to see dense crumb near the crust on the underproofed loaves, but it surprised me that the 150 is really the only one without denseness near the crust.  I don't know what to make of that.  I wish that I had been more careful with the 120. 

Anyway, for what it's worth, I thought I'd share.



Shiao-Ping's picture

Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel

1983, I was in my mid-20's in Boston doing my final year of post graduate studies under Rotary scholarship.  A memorable year as it was the first time ever in my life that I went overseas.  My host family, Bob, is from Armenia and Maria, Germany; both came to America in their late teens.  One day they drove me to New York to visit the Metropolitan Museum.  We had lunch at a posh side walk cafe; the waiter brought us curious black color bread rolls.  As Maria was eating, she couldn't stop raving about these dense looking bread rolls which had (I subsequently learnt) a faint caraways fragrance.  To this day I still remember how she was telling me that breads are supposed to be dense and flavorful, not like those fluffy, light stuff from supermarkets.   

As I've been baking a lot of sourdough breads lately, I think of Bob and Maria a lot.   It was sort of a fluke that I started reading about the story of Horst Bandel, a local minister who bought breads from Jeffrey Hamelman's bakery in Vermont years and years ago (page 221 of Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Technique and Recipes).  Horst Bandel's family owned a bakery for 150 years in Germany; he was going to take over the bakery but had to flee to America because of the 2nd World War.   He became a minister and had not baked since.... until he and Hamelman got together to bake this black pumpernickel of his youth.  

Horst's family used a wood-fired oven for all their baking; this Black Pumpernickel would go into the oven last of all when they finished baking the day's bread, and baked (in covered pan) overnight in the lingering heat of the oven.  "Next morning, we would pull it from the oven, dark, dense, and fragrant," as he described it to Hamelman.  

Well, I made this Black Pumpernickel in memory of Bob & Maria, and my Boston days.  



    Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel, baked as a normal sourdough bread     



                            Horst Bandel's  Black Pumpernickel, baked in covered casserole pan, in medium low heat as per Halmelman's instruction    


Formula was based on page 221 - 224 of Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.   Total dough weight was 1.8 kg which I separated into two pieces and baked differently as the pictures above show.    





                                       The crumb



Jaxhil's picture

how to get a good window pane with the DLX??

Hi~ I have had my DLX mixer for about  two weeks and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get good gluten development using it, with either the roller/scraper or the  dough hook. I've made my regular sandwich loaves (4 batches) that I've always gotten great results in my Kitchen Aid Pro 600. I bought the DLX in the hopes of making larger batches, and since it gets such glowing reviews I thought I couldn't go wrong. Now I'm not so sure!!

Here's my recipe:

Honey wheat Bread

4 cups warm water

2/3 cup melted butter

2/3 c honey

2/3 cup vital wheat gluten

2 T instant yeast

4 t sea salt

10-12 cups freshly ground white-wheat flour


I mix the liquid ingredients first and whisk in the VWG so it doesn't lump, then add flour (managed to get not quite 10 cups before it was enough), salt and yeast and mix till it came together. I rested it for 20 minutes at this point, then proceeded to try kneading. I managed to get *some* kneading action, I could see the roller indentations on the dough (and good "donutism" as I heard someone call it), but after 12 min of this there was still pretty much NO gluten developement-the dough tore easily and there was no "sproinginess" like I normally get in my Kitchen Aid (2-loaf version) in much shorter times, 6-8 mins . At this point I tried the dough hook. My dough skewered itself on the end of the hook and spun around. Since I have read that newbies tend to think nothing is happening when it is, I decided to  "walk away" and let it do its thing. For 12 more minutes. I did check periodically, poking to see how it was developing, but 12 minutes later, I still wasn't impressed.

While it wasn' terrible, it wasn't springing back like it normally does, and it was not even close to passing a window pane test. I know that may not be the end-all of dough testing, but I could tell just by touching and it not really being springy at all that it wasn't ready. I did a triple rise (2 in the bowl and one in the pans) and it rose well in the bowl, with a so-so rise in the pans. Texture was decent, but a little denser than usual. I can make better dough in my KA or even my bread machine.

Is there something else I could do to increase the kneading action? I have heard others here say they have gotten a good window pane in 7-8 minutes in the DLX~how is that possible? I want to do that too! :o)


Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. I am about ready to send this very expensive workhorse back!