The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Sven Rubach's picture
Sven Rubach

Cracking on top of Slab Cakes

How can I prevent cracking on the top of my slab cakes?

snapper4you's picture

Hi ... take two

Looks like my intro. post came a cropper. (like my first sough dough attempt.) So trying again.

Hi! I’m Wazza and I live in BrisbaneAustralia. I’ve been home baking bread for most of my adult life but until recently I was never tempted to bake a sourdough. Anyway, very recently a friend gave me a bread book, Classic Sourdough -  A Home Baker’s Handbook so I thought I‘d give it a go. Its starter recipe worked for me on the first try. I ended up with a culture with a bubbling layer of foam about two inches high and set about making my first sourdough. Everything went according to plan giving me a smooth dough that rose to a satisfactory level above the baking tin. However, when I placed it into the oven it failed to give me the bloom that I was expecting. As a result the bread was heavier than ideal, with a tight crumb. Taste was fine, sour but not overly so, but not a loaf I would boast about.  I’ll probably bake a couple more as I have the culture living happily in my refrigerator and maybe use extra of it next time. I used one cup for the first attempt. Possibly I’ll let it rise a little more before baking and see if that helps.

Cheers … Wazza


SylviaH's picture

Poolish Pizza - Ken Forkish FWS for WBDay - Fig cookies yumm

I fired up the WFO oven today.  The lovely weather has put me in the mood to do a little cooking outdoors.

I have been wanting to bake Ken Forkish FWS pizza formula using a poolish ferment.

Friday night I mixed up the poolish for his pizza with the intent of baking them in my wfo oven Sunday.  That's one of the good things about making pizza's 'pizze' :)   You can put it off a day or two and still hopefully have some decent dough to work with.  That's just what happened.  Pizza plans were canceled and we went out Sunday and Monday for the evening.

I followed the formula pretty much to the tee.  

The Poolish was mixed at 9pm and placed in my very cool laundry room with window open.  The nights have been very cool and just in range of the suggested temperature and time for the poolish to ferment.  12 to 14 hours.  10am Saturday the next morning I mixed and bulk fermented until could have went a little longer but 3pm worked good for me.  The balls were divided and shaped and placed into the refrigerator with the intent that they would be baked at about 4:30 Sunday for Monday.

Instead they were baked Tuesday for our early weekday dinner's at 3:30.

This is a highly hydrated pizza dough and one thing I won't do again is proof the dough as was suggested in the book.  Spray oiled, floured and placed into a container.  Big mistake, especially since my dough was going to be kept until tuesday.  

The best thing that works for me with a high hydration pizza dough is to place each dough ball into one of those plastic disposable/reusable bowls w/lids.  Sprayed with oil and NO flour.  Especially with a tender dough like this that you don't want to over handle or degas.  These bowls work better for me rather than oiled plastic bags.  This way I just dump the dough onto the floured counter for shaping into a pizza without over handling the dough. 

Well this dough was rough handled more than I wanted just trying to get it out of the pans.  As far as the spraying and flour dusting well that just makes raw flour clumps stick to the dough.  Not what you want.

Here's my dough in the pans go I will use the oiled lid/plastic container bowls for each pizza.  I had 5 dough balls.  I should have picked some up because I used up the ones I had for other things.  Sometimes I use oiled outdoor plastic bowls and layer them with the sandwich plates that came with them.

I used the full hydration suggested in the formula.  With caputoo 00 flour that makes for a pretty slack dough with the extra day fermenting they were also highly extensible.

Keeping your dough like this I think is fine for same day ferment and use.  But, not any longer.  I usually do this for transporting or when you want guests to make their own pizza's.  Then this way comes in handy...but don't spray oil the balls and then flour them...just flour only.


Ready for the oven.  Very extensible and still very lively dough.  You might like to lower the hydration as suggested in the formula if you are not used to handling a high hydration pizza dough.  I think it's about 80% hydration and I may have pushed that even a little more with the wet hand mixing.


Things were happening pretty fast for me at this point, I did manage to get some pics and eat's baked in about 2-3 minutes in the very hot wfo.

The pizza was delicious.  Mike took one over to a neighbor and photos to take to his Italian ex-baker co-worker.  He said they were 'The Perfect Storm'  our saying around here lately, when things go good : )


Crispy crust, tender creamy crumb, melt in your mouth goodness with that special flavor you only get from a WFO baked pizza.


: )  Good heat on the floor.  The bottom and top cooked and finished together just the way I like it.


Now here's a fun shape.  I said this was a very extensible dough.  

Look what happened when I picked this dough up a bit carelessly.  S t r e t c h...well this is certainly not going to make it into a round pizza.  I made a plank pizza instead.  


Now here's the biggest problem I run into when making a pizza like this.

How do I rotate it around in the oven so both sides get baked.

I found that my long handled poker with the little fork end works perfect not only for rotating this yard long pizza but also has many other uses.  Problem solved : )  


One plank pizza


Here is a wonderful Fig Newton type cookie.  Oh, these are so very delicious and easy to make.  Just make the dough dough up the day before, refrigerate and bake the next day.

These are so delicious.  Mike loves fig cookies and I think he's hooked on these.  

None of that hydrogenated oils and high-frutose corn syrup..yucky stuff in many store bought cookies.

This is a recipe by Alison Needham from a copycat recipe I found on a yahoo shine site. The only thing I've changed is using some of my homemade organic black mission fig preserves for the filling.  

These are delicious.  I'm think next batch I will try a berry preserve for the center and I still have several jars of fig jam.  Get use for figs from my tree.  These will make a nice holiday cookie gift.





Bet you can't eat just one.


I had some delicious  Sweet Apple Cider.  So tasty and it also made a very delicious Sweet Apple Cider Jelly.

So easy in my new jam/jelly making machine : )


Happy World Bread Day...Oct. 16th


ps  I guess you know now what  my favorite bread is

ADDED...what was I thinking... Ken could I have called him Sam...did anyone else notice?  Took me a while but I caught it 'lol'. 







Blacksilk Helen's picture
Blacksilk Helen

Problems with spelt and stiff levain

For several years now I have been baking successfully with a stiff whole wheat levain that I feed twice daily.  Recently though, my doughs have lost strength toward the end of fermentation and become unmanageable.  I have tried different preferment times, temps and percentages but more often than not the doughs always end up weak, slack and soupy.

I have made some excellent slow fermented breads in the past using this same stiff levain and procedures mentioned above.  If anyone can shed light on this issue I'd appreciate it, I'm going crazy!

Additional note, two days ago I started using spelt instead of whole wheat.  The doughs are having the same problems, with one change.  I notice bubbles in the top of the dough at the end of bulk fermentation.  What could this indicate?

Thanks to all.


Franko's picture

Derek's Delicious Stout Loaf

The bread I've been baking lately is one I ran across on Ross/rossnroller's latest blog back in September. The bread, a Wholemeal and Stout loaf enriched with egg and butter is one that Derek/yozza put together using his own home brewed stout and demonstrated to his students during one of his sourdough bread classes at the college where he works.

When I saw the photos of Derek's loaf (above) that he'd baked off at home the next day I was sold. It looked so good to me I knew right away that I had to give it a try. Derek was kind enough to share his formula on Ross' thread and answered a few questions I had via PM as well. My thanks go out to Derek for his inspiration and good advice in the making of this fine bread. 

The first attempt got off to a rocky start when I was scaling out what I thought was whole grain flour for the overnight soaking in stout. After I had the flour soaking and was putting the bag away I realized I'd used whole rye flour instead of whole grain wheat flour... yikes! That's what I get for starting a mix at the end of long day and for not accepting the fact I need to wear my glasses more often than I do. Fortunately I like rye breads, and other than the loaf not being what I'd intended, it turned out reasonably well. By the time I began the final mix 15 hours later, the levain I'd started the night before had over-ripened and I wound up having to add some commercial yeast to the mix in order to kick start it enough to get fermentation going.

This turned out to be a pretty tasty mistake, all things considered, and one I'd like to try again but next time with the intention of using rye flour.

The second attempt was better in terms of looks, but the flavour was lacking due to rushing the bulk fermentation. I needed a loaf for the next day and instead of giving it a long retarded BF, the dough was mixed quite warm with an increased leaven and overall hydration at 58% for a 2 hour BF at 78-80F with the final rise being approximately 3 hours. The loaf had terrific oven spring, producing quite a lofty, high profile bread, due in part to the lower than normal hydration. The soaker used for this mix was made with Cooper's bottle fermented Australian Stout and One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Meal flour. I've wondered since if that may have had some impact on the overall leavening of the loaf, the soaker becoming a secondary levain of sorts. Overnight temperatures were in the low 70F range at that time, and I suppose it's possible but since I didn't do a float test on it I can't say with any degree of certainty.

The price I paid for using this abbreviated procedure of course was flavour. Not that it tasted bad, just rather ordinary. Considering the high quality ingredients that went into the mix it's a bit of a shame, but being that I pushed things along the way I did it didn't come as total surprise. In the end I was happy the ingredients didn't go to waste and that I had a loaf of bread to see me through the coming week.



For the third mix I allowed sufficient time to give the dough the long retarded fermentation that it needed to build flavour and stuck close to the Derek's original procedure but made a small addition to his formula by including 15-16% cracked wheat to the overall mix to give the loaf more body. The cracked wheat was added to the stout and soaked overnight along with the wholemeal flour. If there had been any fermentation going on in the soaker of the second mix I'm quite sure there was little, if any, this time around as overnight temperatures had cooled off considerably in the interval between mixes. Going by how long it took before the loaf could be baked off, I'd say the leaven did the job all on it's own this time. Hydration for this mix was increased to 70% and the leaven went back to 30% from the 40% of the previous loaf. Bulk fermentation was 3 hours with 3 stretch and folds at 45 minute intervals, then an undisturbed 45 minutes before rounding, resting, shaping and placing in the pan for the 24 hour retarded ferment. The final rise took over 5 hours in the B&T proofer at 78F before I thought it had a hope of doing anything worthwhile in the oven and even then it wasn't clear what I'd wind up with. When I checked the loaf after the first 10 minutes, removing the steam system at the same time, I could see it hadn't jumped as much the previous loaf, thank goodness, looking much more like the loaf that Derek had made, which was my goal from the beginning.

Total bake time was 40 minutes, initially at 485F for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes at 465F and the final 10 minutes at 440F, leaving the loaf in a dead oven with the door ajar for 20 minutes.

Third times the charm it seems as this turned out a very nice loaf, just rich enough from the butter and egg to give the crumb a soft and moist texture but not so much that the crumb is dense or cakey.

The sour level is in the medium range, appropriate for this type of bread I feel, with the flavour of the stout coming through slightly stronger, imparting it's malty characteristics to give the overall flavour some deep and delicious notes that make it hard not have just one more slice. For my tastes this is a bread meant for cheese and with that in mind and some leftover stout I decided to make a Welsh Rarebit to have it with. 

Straight from the broiler and piping hot, this may be the ultimate way to enjoy the combination of stout, sharp cheddar and good homemade bread.



Neddy's picture

Newbee asking the same old questions!

Greeting fellow bakers.  

As at retirement project I have constructed a wood oven, brick by brick.  Simultaneously, I've been developing a very tasty artisan bread recipe.  This new found interest led me to this fascinating and informative forum both for education and problem solving.  

I don't mind boasting that my "project" bread's flavor (IMHO) is now nothing short of terrific.   So far, however, i've have not been able to keep proofed loafs from flattening 10-15% as they are transfered from lined wicker baskets to peel.  From readings in the forum, it would seem I needed either modified proofing, improvement of gluten structure, perhaps handle the dough less or all of the above.  I'm not writing of my successes here.

Currently I thoroughly mix/knead a poolish/ dough (@ 80 degrees) in a Magic Mill for 5 minutes then continue kneading for another 14 minutes.  The recipe has been a consistent 87% hydration.  Although, the latest batch was reduced to 77 % as an evolutionary step. The kneaded dough is bulk fermented in a rectangular tub with additional stretching/folded (by 1/4s) 2-3 times in the first hour. Increasing gluten structure?

Once the fermented dough has developed to  2-1/2 times original size (2- 2-1/2 hours @ 78 degrees) it is divided, folded again and shaped into balls using the pull/ rotate /pull method to further increased surface tension.  The shaped dough is proofed @ 78 degrees in lined 10" baskets from SFBI. Each basket is inside an individual non-perforated "tented"plastic bag for an hour or until the "dent" test indicates proofing completion.

The dough has a lovely domed shape until it is carefully transferred to either a peel or parchment paper at which time is spreads and significant height is lost.  Needless to say, scoring with a blade has done nothing positive to improve this condition.

Each batch of dough has received increased #s of folds, or increased kneading time or both.  

Non of the lost volume is reclaimed in the densely heated wood oven usually @550-600.  A solid oak door, pre-soaked in water seals the baking chamber with the steam created providing a great crust.  Unfortunately it  does not appreciably influence oven spring.

And it looks so easy on paper!


I thank you in advance for any consideration to my problem.


Betty Garb's picture
Betty Garb

Active dry yeast beginner - what am I doing wrong??

Hi! I hope someone can help. I've been baking with quick yeast for a good few months now and have fully embraced it and am loving it. It's been mostly fantastic and I decided to move on to active dry yeast to try to achieve a better flavour.

I've followed a basic recipe on the back of the yeast tin, which means putting 15g of yeast into 150g of water after disolving a teaspoon of sugar in it, letting it bubble up (never need to wait the 10-15 mins stated, it grows a foam over 2cm within 5 mins) adding it to 650g of flour, with a teaspoon of salt and a couple tablespoons of olive oil (which is what I used to add for the quick yeast...not sure I should still be doing it?) and as much extra luke-warm water that is needed to turn it into a kneedable dough.......I kneed for well over 10 minutes, stretching and folding and rolling etc until it feels springy and lively.

Both attempts so far have risen quickly on the first prove to beyond double the size within a fairly short time. Then I punch the dough down and shape into a tin and let it  prove again, but not as much the second time... it seems to be rising quicker during the prove than the quick yeast.

 I cook on gas mark 7 for probably only 20 minutes. when the top gets dark (and it's cooked and hollow sounding on top) I take it out of the tin and flip it upside down onto the oven shelf to get a crust all around the loaf (which I used to do with the quick yeast successfuly). B

Well my problem is the texture of these two active yeast loaves I've cooked in this way.... it's very 'spongy' - like a bath sponge I mean... almost plasticy... it has a good springy feel but almost more like a crumpet.... Not unlike a ciabatta in some ways....lots of bubbles inside almost...The crust is better than any I got with the quick yeast, without a doubt.... But the inside is just not working.

This would be a quandry enough for me.... but the MOST frustrating part is this.... Every time when I make a loaf I cut of a small handful (that I've started kneeding for 5 mins or so) for my 2 year old daughter to 'kneed' with me... she plays with it, stretches it, folds it, rolls it, adds way too much extra flour just because it's fun... Today we gave her little 'play bun' two rises also. Punched it down a little later than the main loaf, so didn't have as long to prove the second time...... Then I put it on the second shelf of the oven, under the loaf... When the main loaf was ready to come out I took her bun out too and flipped it in its ramekin.... I noticed it was cooked way less than the loaf - seemed damp underneath at that stage but had 'cooked' (which makes sense as it was lower down).  In 5 mins or so I  took it out and LOW AND BEHOLD, when we cut it open it was the perfect springy pillowy soft close texture that I would have loved to see in the loaf.

I'm going to try to attach a pic of the loaf so you can try to see what I mean... but I have no picture of her perfect little bun as she devoured it within 5 minutes of it being cool enough.

ANY ideas what exactly I could do with the loaf next time? Lower heat? Less proving?! Agh! Any suggestions greatly appreciated :)



chris319's picture

Dough Hook Doesn't Knead

I wanted to automate the process of kneading bread dough so I got a Kitchen Aid K5A and a spiral dough hook. What happens is that after a few minutes of operation, all of the dough has wrapped itself around the hook which is whirling around and around with this glob of dough wrapped around it, but there is no real action on the dough. It is not being stretched or kneaded; it's just spinning around and around, wrapped around the hook as the motor gets warmer and warmer. I swapped in the "C" hook and the mixing paddle and the results are the same. I had to dump the dough  onto the counter where I did a hand knead. So much for labor savings.

What am I doing wrong?

LousPeachy's picture

Sweet Bread or Quick Bread?

I just started baking again after many years of having little free time.  Today I made pumpkin bread in my new bread machine and it turned out yummy.

But, at the center of the finished loaf, a very small section, about a inch wide and a inch and a half deep, the bread was not cooked.  I used the sweet bread setting because the recipe did not say anything specific. Did I use the wrong setting?  I plan on giving loaves of bread as Christmas gifts and I want to be sure I get it right.  Any suggestions about what I did wrong would be appreciated!



Darwin's picture

3rd try at SD

The flavor is nice, but could be more sour.  The crust did not come out real crisp, I had 3+ pounds of dough cooking, maybe that is too much.  Feel free to critique