The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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ananda's picture

Too Much of a Good Thing?



On Tuesday lunchtime we'll be boarding an aeroplane at Newcastle Airport to take us to Crete for a long-awaited, and hugely necessary fortnight together on holiday in the heat.   For much of this time we'll be relaxing in a small seaside villa on the South Coast, away from pretty much everything.   I'm told there's a dusty road with a taverna at the end of it....about 3 miles away.   Otherwise; nothing, except 2 other villas above ours, and a lot of beach and sea.   Oh! I almost forgot to say; there is a barbeque and wood-fired oven on the veranda just to the side of the house, and a pergola nearby, to sit under and drink wine and eat tasty food, staring out to sea.

So, I've been working out how to successfully transport a small portion of my levain to use for baking purposes...afterall, it's going to be mighty tricky getting fresh yeast, and I've yet to source good dry yeast over here which actually works for me.   I know that's silly, but there is little point investing in it without faith.

First call, therefore, was to strengthen my leaven up with prodigious feeding sessions.   Thought I might as well do this for both rye and wheat, even though the wheat specimen is the only one bound for a holiday.   The result is that I end up with over 2kg of wheat leaven and 600+g of rye sour.   "Better do some baking, I think!"   At least we'll come back to a freezer stocked with plenty of bread, and any family coming to stay at our place, in the meantime, for a brief spell in the country can enjoy lovely bread too!

So I devised a formula for mixed leaven bread which I thought would be easy to make, and tolerant to an overnight retard, on account of making the dough in the early evening.   This is the formula:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Wheat Levain



Strong White Flour









  • 2. Rye Sour



Dark Rye Flour









  • 3. Final Dough



Wheat Levain [from above]



Rye Sour [from above]



T65 Farine de Tradition



Strong White Flour



Strong Wholemeal Flour



Dark Rye












Pre-fermented flour: 25%; Overall Hydration: 65.9%

To use up all the rye sour, except for the small amount needed for regeneration, I calculated I should multiply the formula by a factor of 45.   This is what I did, and you may have noticed the rather scary amount of dough I was therefore challenging myself to home, with no mixer, and no bowls anywhere near capable of holding the amounts of flour and water called for here.

So, it's back to the traditional way of mixing dough sufficient to provide bread for the whole household, by piling the flour onto the bench, making a well in the middle, and carefully incorporating the liquid to form the dough.   What I actually did, was to mix the liquid rye sour with the rest of the dough water.   I then piled all the flour needed for the final dough onto the bench and incorporated liquids as described for a short autolyse of half an hour.   From there I added the salt and the wheat levain, working up a reasonably soft, but strong dough.   The leaven was in perfect condition, and it was a treat just to smell the fresh and subtle aroma of this dough.   Good job too, as I reckon it took the best part of an hour's hard graft to actually assemble the fully crafted dough from flour, salt, water and the 2 levains.   I scaled off 2 pieces immediately, and moulded them, depositing them straight into bread pans.   The remaining 5½kg was divided into 2 equal sized pieces and stored in plastic bowls, covered with oiled cling film, overnight in the chiller.   On top of all this, I STILL had an excess of wheat leaven.   So, I made some ciabatta dough too, somewhat disastrously, as it turned out; another story.

It's now nearly 4pm, and I finished baking just after 3pm.   I started about 9 this morning, although I was up at 7 to turn the oven on and get everything else ready.   I've ended up with 7 large loaves; 3 made in bread pans, and 4 fermented in bannetons and baked directly on the bricks in my home oven [ordinary electric fan oven].....and 2 slabs of foccacia.   We had a good few courgettes in, so I sweated them down in olive oil flavoured with garlic, then added a few sun-dried tomatoes.   The neighbours had one slab, plus a loaf, as a "thank you" for painting our shed door at the same time they painted theirs too.   We ate the other one [or most of it, anyway] for lunch.   Foccacia worked just fine, but had a big learning curve today.   Making ciabatta with wheat levain only, and then retarding it overnight produced very tasty dough, but the quality was abysmal.   I had a small amount of dough leftover, and tried to bake it off as ciabatta, by pouring it onto a hot tray to bake off directly on the hot bricks.   Only one place that's going: the bin [trash]!

Still, I now have a stack of lovely tasty bread [6 large loaves], and wheat levain which I can turn into something which will stand the stresses and strains of a few days of intense heat before I can revive it ready for another baking session; this time in our own little paradise, far away from the norms of the everyday, and computers too!

Bye for now


breadsong's picture

Sun-Dried Tomato and Asiago Cheese Sourdough

Hello, This is from Eric Kastel's "Artisan Breads at Home". I baked this bread and froze it, and we tasted it tonight with dinner. YUM. With many thanks to the author!!! I tried slashing the bread in a starburst, as I saw someone else do quite beautifully on this site. I wish I could remember who that was, so I could go back and take a look at their handiwork and pay them a compliment here - I will keep trying until I can make mine look as nice!

For 48 ounces of dough, there were 6.6 ounces drained, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 3.2 ounces cubed asiago cheese, tossed with 1.3 ounces whole wheat flour, kneaded in by hand after the final mix.

I am so pleased with how tasty this loaf is, and how pretty the crumb is, marbled with tomato.

Regards, breadsong

dmsnyder's picture

This weekend's baking ... so far.

I'm getting ready for a sizable family gathering in about 10 days. We are descending on my baby brother, who has a vacation home on the Northern California coast. We expect 15-20 hungry Snyders. I'll be baking while I'm up there, but we'll need something to snack on while the levain is ripening. So, I baked a few things to fend off starvation ... 

A couple Gérard Rubaud sourdough bâtards

Some San Joaquin Sourdough, of course

To go with appetizers, a few San Joaquin Sourdough mini-baguettes with seeds

I'm promised corned beef, if I bring the Corn Rye

And, if there's room, for dessert ...

Sour Cream Spritz Cookies, a New York Baker's test recipe (They go well with tree-ripened peaches.)

Lucky there's another day left to bake this weekend!


BettyR's picture

Why does my meringue weep?

It’s a very small problem but I wish I knew how to make it stop. If anyone knows I would appreciate any help I can get.

HokeyPokey's picture

Peter Reinhart Whole Grain Bread Recipes - too wet and too sweet

I live in the UK, and purchased a copy of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain recipes book as soon as it came out on sale. I was really looking forward to his book, and trying out complex, wholegrain flavour breads.

However, every recipe i have tried so far has came out too sweet, and my biga and poolish always come out too wet, much wetter than the consistency in his pictures.

Has anyone else had a similar problem with Peter's recipes? Am I doing something wrong?



Halperinr's picture


All these breads sound wonderful, but being an amateur bread baker I can't use most of them because of the "technical"

measurements and directions (in grams, "hydration", etc) I would appreciate a conversion tool so as a home baker

I could understand and use normal kitchen measuremts like ounces, cups, Tbs, tsp, etc

dantortorici's picture

Paris, Nice bread stops worth noting?

Headed to France in a couple of weeks with some time in Nice and then Paris.

I'm interested in adding some breadmaker's tour of France flavor to this and have planned, thanks to this site, on a number of bakery visits in Paris.

How about shops where you buy baking equipment? or other related shops?

I have Dellerin (sp?) on my list but what else might i find?

Anything in Nice I should look for?




DonD's picture

Loaves for my Father

I have not done much baking in the last month and a half since my Father suffered a stroke. After a brief stay in the hospital, he was moved to a rehabilitation center for speech, occupational and physical therapy. Subsequently, our days were busy with work, shuttling my mother back and forth from her apartment to the rehab center where she would spend all day with him and preparing dinner for her in the evening since she was too tired to even think about herself. Unfortunately, because the stroke had affected his speech and ability to swallow food, he was progressively getting weaker and complications set in until he was moved back to the hospital where the doctors told us that basically they could not do anything else for him. We moved him to a Hospice Center in the Washington area a week from this past Tuesday, a beautiful and peaceful place.

Since all my siblings and their families were in town to visit my Father and to comfort my Mother, this past Saturday morning, I made two batches of dough for a family dinner. One was a white flour Baguette dough with liquid levain and the other was a high extraction Pain de Campagne dough with liquid levain, both intended for overnight cold retardation and baking on Sunday. The doughs had just gone through partial bulk fermentation and were put in the refrigerator in the early afternoon. We headed to the Hospice Center to spend the afternoon with my Father but upon arrival, learned that he had just slipped away peacefully. He was 91 years-old.

The next 3 days were a blurr with so many things to attend to. The funeral and cremation occurred on Tuesday July 20. It was preceded by a heart-warming Buddhist Ceremony and gathering of many Relatives and Friends.

Yesterday, we finally had a day to wind down when I realized that the doughs after three and a half days were still sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be baked. They had tripled in size and the high extraction dough had rendered some liquid. Since we had planned a Family Dinner yesterday evening, I decided to go ahead and bake them anyway and share them with my Family in memory of my Father.

The doughs had become very extensible to the point of becoming limp. As my head was still preoccupied with so many thoughts, by mistake, I baked the high extraction dough as Baguettes and the white dough as a Batard.

The Baguettes did not have the usual oven spring but the taste was surprisingly sweet and nutty. The crumb was a little bit denser but not overly tangy in spite of the extensive retardation. The Batard had much better oven spring and the crumb was open, slightly chewy and again not overly sour. We enjoyed them with a perfectly ripe Camembert and toasted to the memory of my Dear Father and Mentor, the man who taught me so much about the enjoyment of good food and wines.

Goodbye Dad...



turosdolci's picture

Almond Ricotta Biscotti

It is natural to consider that Ricotta and almonds would be married together into a delicious soft biscotti flavored with almond oil. Almond ricotta biscotti are delicate cookies but with an intense aroma. We always include it on a “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze” because they are so perfect for a biscotti wedding cake.  It is the almond oil that gives these cookies that lovely warm almond flavor.

willchernoff's picture

Making that French Loaf

I've spent the last couple weeks working on a french style loaf.  I think my recipe and technique are getting better, so I figured I'd post my efforts for others to review.


Steps available:



1.  I've used this recipe with 17 oz of flour and 11 oz of water (a change from 62% to 65% water) which seemed to make a lighter/holier loaf (sorry but not pics).  Has anyone noticed this effect?  Also this change results in a softer dough, so I had to be quick about slashing the tops. 



2.  How can one prevent the razor from sticking to the dough when slashed?

3.  My oven doesn't conduct heat correctly when adding water for steam.  How does a spray bottle compare to a cup of water for producing steam?