The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Floydm's picture

TFL Fundraiser for Mercy Corps

Last week I posted a message on TFL asking community members to test out the new fundraising software I'd developed for Mercy Corps, my employer, by making a few small donations. The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. We hit our original goal of one thousand dollars, which I feared might be unreasonably high, in less than 72 hours, and several community members expressed a desire that we extend this longer. If you are game, I'm game. Let's see what we can do.

What is Mercy Corps?

Mercy Corps is an international aid agency based in Portland, Oregon. With over 3,500 employees working in more than 40 countries, we work to help people build secure, productive and just communities. We do that by expanding educational opportunities, helping build water and sanitation infrastructure, providing microfinancing to women starting small businesses and running food and nutrition programs to prevent malnutrition.

As I've mentioned, I work there, but I was a supporter and fan of the organization before I began working there. Mercy Corps works in some of the world's toughest places, including many that rarely make the headlines, and is committed to being efficient stewards of their donors' money.

If you are interested in supporting our fundraising effort, you can do so here. Your show of support would mean a great deal to me.

Update 10/25: I am moving the discussion of this from the forums to a blog thread so that folks interested in the fundraising project can still chat about it without interfering with the bread-centricity of the forums. I've also raised the goal to $2,500.

More to come...
LittleTee's picture

Pain a l'ancienne disaster

This is my first blog, so bear with me ....

I'm about 6 weeks in as an amateur bread baker. I started in an effort to save my family some money, and find a new hobby. After my first loaf of pain sur poolish, I was hooked. So far I've made some pretty good breads, and they seem to have gotten a little better each week as I practice my technique.

Having just purchased The Baker's Apprentice, I woke up Friday feeling overly ambitious. I decided this weekend that I would go for the gold: pain a l'ancienne. I read through the instructions: it seemed simple enough. No kneading involved. How hard could it be? No guts, no glory...

First mistake was this: I did not realize that pain a l'ancienne is different from traditional french baguettes. So my expectations were out of whack.

Day one went relatively smoothly. I measured, mixed and put the concoction into the fridge for primary fermentation. I noticed that the dough seemed rather wet, more than I was used to ... it almost poured into the bowl like batter, but held together okay. I figured I'd wait and see.

This morning (day 2), I woke up, ready for baking day. I pulled out my dough... it had barely risen. The instructions said to leave it at room temp for a couple of hours and let it continue to ferment.

Two hours later, and very little progress with the rise. I decided to give it another hour and see, since it was a chilly morning. The extra hour did the trick, and it had risen to twice its size.I could see bubbles, so the gas was there.

Now for the shaping. As per instructions, I "poured" the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily floured surface. No problem there. It seemed to puddle a bit, but it looked like the photos in the book. I floured the top, and began to cut the dough for baguettes.

Here's where I am sure I went wrong. First, I cut them too thin. They seemed like a reasonable width, but by the time I placed them onto the parchment, they had stretched so much and were no more than an inch across in places. I say "in places", because they also did not hold a uniform shape lengthwise. The dough was supposed to make 6 baguettes and I ended up with 9, if that helps explain it!

Second mistake: I neglected to dust my parchment with cornmeal. I am still baking so not sure how this will affect them, but given how sticky the dough was, I'm sure it means paper attached to the baguette.I tried lifting one set of 3 off the parchment and onto another dusted piece, but the shape completely fell apart and all the gas was lost. I did not score, either -- another rookie mistake. Clearly I was too excited to do this properly!

Had some trouble getting the things in the oven the first time (which resulted in my first oven burn). The second time around I modified and it worked okay.

I ended up placing the cookie tray on top of my pizza stone, as the dough stretched longer than the stone and would not fit. It took about 28 mins total to bake. Batch 1 never really achieved that nice golden brown colour I have seen, so I coated Batch 2 and 3 with a little water. Perhaps I did not correctly steam the oven, or the issues with the dough ruined the process. I did get a nice holey crumb, so had they been the correct size, I would have had some winners. Live and learn.

The texture is nice, and it tastes creamy, which I've read is what the aim is. But they are nowhere near as picture-perfect as I would have liked.

Despite the failure, I learned a great deal from this attempt, and I'm not discouraged, surprisingly. The thing I love about bread-making is that even if it's not great, it's still pretty good... and certainly better than the grocery store brands that are now unpalatable to myself and my family.

Fortunately I had the good sense to prepare a poolish the night before as well, so I will be making pain sur poolish later ... enough to hold us for the week, since we will be sans baguettes -- at least in the traditional sense!

Happy baking! :-)

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Switching to white AP flour has put my starter to sleep

Hello, I need some advice on my new starter.  2 weeks ago I started with organic dark rye and bottled spring water.  I was pretty stumped by the "false rise" then nothing for 4 days, until I came accross this forum and Debra Wink's post, so I stuck with it, and in a week the starter was doing very well.  I gradually replaced some of the rye with KA bread flour, and soon it was doubling in 8 hours.  I decided to eliminate the rye altogether, and switched to unbleached AP as I was out of bread flour.  Well, after 2 feedings of the AP flour, the starter barely bubbles, and hardly rises 25% in 24 hours.  Plus it gets thin and watery, with a bit of clear liquid forming at the edge.  Worried, I then added a couple tablespoons of rye to the next feeding, and it seems to have perked up a little.

Did I switch too soon, or did I wait too long?  Wanting a white starter, should I just make the switch and keep feeding it AP, and will it eventually get to the point where it likes it?  With the rye, it was most active at 82 degrees.  It's at 100% hydration and I feed at 2:1:1.  Does the white flour need more or less heat?  Frankly, I don't think a bit of rye in the starter would affect the taste of the bread all that much, but I feel like my starter is not very strong if it needs the rye as a crutch. I'd appreciate any help on where I go next with this.  Thanks so much.


Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker

Wet dough and the windowpane test.


I am looking for some advice from those more traversed in the bread baking world.  I am fairly new to bread baking, and I am unsure as to exactly how wet loaf pan breads are supposed to be.  I have been baking some recipes from Nick Malgieri's "How to Bake."  Although the loaves from the recipes have been turning out pretty well, I have not really been getting a windowpane after kneading with my electric mixer, I believe this is because the dough is fairly moist.  Am I just not kneading sufficiently?  I have followed all instructions for the recipes measuring all ingredients by the spoon and sweep method as recommended.  Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated!



davidg618's picture

Wine pairing with biscotti: A final update

As most, if not all, of you know Italians traditionally dip biscotti into their coffee or wine, i suspect, in part, to soften it a bit before chewing. October, November and December of year, along with holiday baking, we're putting the finishing touches to plans for our annual January open house wherein we serve only our homemade wines, homebrewed beer, and a cornucopia of food, all made from scratch.

This year's theme is Wine and Bread.

Technically, biscotti is not a bread, but it fits so well, we've added it to our list that includes sourdoughs (wheat and ryes), pain de mie, ciabatta, lavash, fougasse, and of course baguettes. I'm also going to try Hamelman's Vollkornbrot; if successful it too will join the list. It should pair well with a pilsner finishing its fermenting as I write.

Today I experimented with a parmesan-black pepper biscotti thinking it will pair well with white wine, especially the sauvignon blanc we're offering this year. My wife and I shared the small corner pieces, and froze the rest. We opened a bottle of sauvignon blanc. It pairs wonderfully.

We're also planning a dried-cherries and pecans biscotti to pair with a Cabernet Franc ice wine (sweet)--a first; always dry wines prior--and a craisins and pastachio biscotti that should pair well with both reds and whites.

David G

turosdolci's picture

Statistics on the baguette consumption in France question

Does anyone know how to get recent statistics about the consumption of baguettes in France over the last 10 years

or so. I have tried contacting the The Association of Bakers in France in both English and French as well as other sources and never get an answer. There has been deep reduction in comsumption of the baguette and it has had a very negative effect on the bakers who prepare it from scratch ("a La Masion") a classification defined by the French government. I have been wanting to write an article "Save The Baguetts" but can only find old figures. 



Patricia Turo

cdiggz's picture





1 3/4 cup flour (2 cups if using frozen berries)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly butter muffin tins or line with muffin cups.


1. Beat egg in small bowl.  Add oil and mix well.


2. Measure milk and add to egg mixture. 


3.  Measure dry ingredients and sift into large bowl. 


4.  Add milk, oil and egg all at once to dry ingredients.  Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.  Batter will be lumpy.


5.  Fill muffin cups ¾ full.


6. Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Yield: 9-12 muffins





Blueberry Muffins


Prepare batter as above.  Gently fold in 1 cup fresh or thawed and well-rinsed blueberries.


Chocolate Chip Muffins


Prepare batter as above.  Gently fold in 1 cup chocolate chips. 


Surprise Muffins


Prepare batter as above.  Fill muffin cups ½ full, drop 1 tsp, jam or jelly in the center of each and add batter to fill cups 3/4 full.


pattycakes's picture

Sourdough Went to Sleep and Won't Wake Up

I was so proud to be baking good sourdough bread here in Italy, having figured out the flour, made a starter from local flour, and gotten the steaming and baking up to snuff. (Well, I had baked three days in a row successfully after 5 days of making my starter.) Then my starter started looking dead. Not grey, just white and lying there like a slug. Asleep. I put it in a warmer place, as it's been very cold here. No luck. I found a Peter Reinhart link that said to add pineapple juice if you had used pineapple to start the starter. I hadn't, but I did it anyway (to half the starter). The other half, I have been stirring a lot, another of his suggestions.

It seems that a rogue bacteria can get in that makes bubbles but suppresses the natural yeasts. I suppose that's what I've got. Can anyone help?



ApplePie's picture

Anyone in the SF bay area interested in whole wheat flour from Central Milling?

Hello Fresh Loafers!  Long time lurker, first time posting.

In my quest for sourcing good whole wheat flour, I called Nicky Giusto at Central Milling ( asking about prices and shipping.  I knew that Central Milling produces Whole Foods 365 Organic Unbleached All Purpose flour, and that Frank Sally at SFBI highly recommended flour from Central Milling so I figured I'd give it a try.  To my surprise he said I could swing by their warehouse in Petaluma and buy flour directly (gotta love that!)

I'm planning a run to their warehouse tomorrow to buy whole wheat flour, specifically Organic Whole Wheat Hi Pro Flour Fine, and anything else that catches my eye.  This is the whole wheat flour they developed for Acme bakery's whole wheat products.

Someone at the warehouse might be able to break down a 50 lb bag into something more manageable.  But if not, is anyone out there interested in splitting a 50 lb bag?  I'm sure it's great flour, but I still prefer to try out a smaller quantity.  If you're in the SF Bay Area (I'm in San Jose) and are interested, let me know.


maggiem's picture

Roasted Garlic

Hi, I am roasting some beautiful cloves of garlic (the house smells wonderful) and I am also in the process of warming up my starter for a couple of loaves. I was thinking of crushing the roasted cloves and adding them to my bread during the last few minutes of kneading. Does this sound like a good plan?

Thanks, Maggie