The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Johnbbq's picture

Wheat Montana four is superior to just Organic Flour

Some serious mis-information has been posted about the products of Wheat Montana and their products.


To have a "Certified Organic" label a product must meet certain minimum standards.   The producers must be inspected and use only natural fertilizers and no chemicals to have this label.  Period!  

The law does not recognize those producers that go beyond that standard, that produce superior products.  This is why What Montana does not advertise that they are certified organic.   Their flour is certified to be chemical free of well over a 100 known chemicals after it is milled in the latest high tech flour mill.  They do not use chemical fertilizers.  In addition they use NO animal manure.  They will not risk the spread of any bacteria into their products at all.   (Remember some of the recent problems with organic products that had salmonella from manure?)   The grain produced by Wheat Montana goes directly to their own flour mill and directly to the consumer.   Few other flour producers can deliver any product this pure!!!

In addition Wheat Montana uses no Genetically Modified grain whatsoever.   Most flour millers try to achieve this but they have no way of really knowing the origin of their grain to grow the wheat.

This information is posted on their web site and on their menus and in their stores.   I quess if you cannot read and walk up and ask if they are organic, you will get a quick answer that they are not.   They are so much more than the minimum standards--Wheat Montana, in my opinion, if the Gold Standard of pure food.

I am a retired guy who loves to cook.  I do not work for What Montana.   I have been in a few hundred food production plants in my life.  The Organic label is a good guide for those that want food that is chemical free.   It is only a minimum guide and there are many marginal products on the shelves today that  survive only for their organic label, not for the quality of the product they sell.  

The food buyer should always be aware of the whole picture.   Many people pay extra for poor quality food that gets turned out under the shield of being organic.   Nothing in the Organic law says anything about the food quality or taste.   Always use common sense.

America is the land of plenty when it comes to food choices.   And there will always be leaders in food production and their will always be some that cut corners.   Witness the recent mess in peanut butter.

Wheat Montana grows, mills, bakes, sells their own product.  It is a marvelously successful family operation.   They only sell a few products.  The Prairie Gold whole wheat (whole grain) flour is a marvelous high protein, high fiber flour.   In a modern hammer mill, the flour is ground differently than most conventional mills.  Most people rave over the taste of this bread and are shocked to learn that it is whole grain.  I use it exclusively in all breads from Banana bread to Rye (I do add some rye flour) bread.   I challenge anyone to show me a better tasting product or healthy product.


Pster's picture

Can someone explain what a "soaker" is?

I've read about people using "soakers" - what exactly is that?

How do I incorporate that into making the bread?  When do I add it?


and also....

*why* would I use a "soaker" or that method?


If you could tell me all about it - I'd appreciate it! 


xaipete's picture

Why should a levain be used at the peak of ripeness?

There has been some discussion lately about how to tell when a levain is ripe, but why is it important that a levain be used when it if ripe? Why not use it when it is half-way ripe or 3/4rds ripe?


MommaT's picture

loving Hamelman's pain au levain with whole wheat!


Having been on the great quest for that perfect daily bread for my family, I think I'm getting closer.

I've been baking Hamelman's Pain au Levain now and again with mixed reviews from the family.  I recently tried the pain au levain with whole wheat and it has been a massive hit!  The flours here are split between 75% bread flour, 20% whole wheat flour and 5% medium rye.     My starter seems to really love the warmer weather of spring and this dough bursts to life.  I wish I had photos to show you!

One day, due to a cat who needed to be rushed to the vet, the dough sat in the fridge over night and was super!  It seems to be a very forgiving recipe.

I would encourage you to try it if you haven't already!



PS:  Hope to send pics next time!

SallyBR's picture

Walnut Levain Bread

Last weekend's bread was my first attempt at a recipe called "Pearl's Walnut Levain", from Artisan Bread Baking, Glezer's book


I highly recommend this recipe - I was a bit weary of the walnut halves, they seemed huge and difficult to knead in, I was afraid it would break the gluten strands and turn the bread into lead. Not at all. The crumb is a bit tighter than the sourdoughs I've been making, but still feels pretty light, especially considering the amount of nuts inside.


the bread still tasted quite fresh and moist after 3 days, which is an added bonus. It was spectacular with some Stilton cheese in it.  But we even enjoyed it to go along with some pasta with chicken parmiggiana, which seemed a bit of a strange combo  :-)


I show  four pictures, dough ready to get the walnuts mixed in, final rise before going in the clay pot, and two of the ready "boule"


driechel's picture

My new spiral mixer

Hello everyone,

yesterday my new spiral mixer arrived. I ordered it in Italy and me living in the Netherlands had to wait for over week for it to arrive. (DHL didn't understand my adress notation!) Anyway my patiences paid of. I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am with this mixer. After years of trying different mixer (all planetary) I hoped that I finally found the right mixer for me. And I can tell you I am pretty sure this is the one!
It is a spiral mixer with moving bowl and central shaft. It can mix from 500 grams up to 3000 grams of flour (so 5 kg of dough depending on amount of water). The engine is only 370 watt but the deep low sound it makes is uncomparable with my old kenwood chef of 800 watt (ok I have to admit that this mixer only has one gear and the kenwood has many more).
It took me 3 years to find out that a spiral mixer with a household size existed, so that is why I like to share it with you all. Maybe I can inspire some others.

For those interested here is a link to a movie I made of the mixer at work:


It comes from this store:
Click on kneading machines. It is the IMC5E model. (the smallest)

jemar's picture

An Apology

I posted a message in the wrong place yesterday because I wasn't familiar with the way things work here! In the past I have only left comments on other users text and this was the first time I had started a thresd of my own. Also, I am not that 'au fait' with this technology being what we call in the UK a Silver Surfer!! I hope I am doing it right this time. What I wanted to do was post some pictures of rolls I made yesterday but I'm not sure I've got my head round that procedure yet, I've looked at FAQ but it says to look for the little tree, there's no tree that I can see. I'll persevere, I'll get there sometime!

RFMonaco's picture

Whole grain breads

Some really great looking and tempting bread shown here:

davidg618's picture

Bread Machines: You’ve come a long way, Baby!

My oldest son bought a bread machine in 1988. A, Rube Goldbergesque device that, after a fashion, produced an oddly shaped loaf of bread reminiscent of a miner’s lunch pail: tall where it should be short, square where it should be round, and round where it should be square.  Its white bread cycle produced a soft-crusted loaf, with a crumb akin to Wonder Bread. I don’t recall if it had any other cycle choices. I promptly lost interest in bread machines, and for the next decade remained a smug, hands-on baker.

Until I went rideabout in a 5th-wheel trailer—for six months.

When I was younger I backpacked; I lived out of a sack for a week or more three or four times a year. A 30-foot 5th-wheel trailer has more room than a hiking sack, but not much. But they come equipped with stoves, with sinks, with refrigerators; and the stoves have ovens. Backpacking, one expects to eat freeze-dried grub, reconstituted with water faintly tasting of iodine, and gnaw on biscuits resembling hockey pucks in shape, size, and texture. That’s the price—along with the occasional blister—for the freedom of the trail. An oven’s presence raises one’s expectations. “I can bake bread!” you think. Ha! Fat chance!

My trailer’s oven has a knob divided seductively into ten-degree divisions beginning  200°F and ending at 450°F.  “It’s just like home,” I thought, comforted. I soon learned differently. At 350°F my oven could melt lead, but the crucible had to be placed in the innermost left hand corner. Placed in the right hand corner, next to the oven door, for an hour-and-a-half a Pop Tart barely warmed. My first (and only) attempt to bake bread resulted a misshapen lump, charcoal at its north end, and drooping to  the south. I went to a local trail outfitter’s store and bought a supply of hockey pucks.

In a few months I learned from other RV owners I was not alone. I met veteran trailer-hounds, full-timers, and disillusioned newbie’s, like me, who used their ovens for storage room, a place to keep the picnic-table grill, baseball gloves, or the cat’s litter box.

And then I thought of bread machines.

Reluctantly, with skepticism rampant in every thought, I bought one, but not until I’d researched carefully. A decade after my son bought his bread machine, many bread machines still clung to the miner’s lunch pail loaf shape. Only a very few had by then acknowledged that the common loaf shape was here to stay, and adapted their designs appropriately. Ironically, this trend seemed to be led by the Japanese. I’m not sure they sell bread in loaf form. In my brief travels to the Far East I’ve only encountered bread rolls, and I’ve never seen a loaf in a samurai movie. 

Nonetheless, there was still something lacking: control--control over time and temperature. I solved the first, control over time; I never did solve the second—in the trailer. Once home for the summer, I had my trusted oven.

Control over time: I like to think I invented the dough cycle, now commonplace in bread machines, and the yet-to-be-realized “retard cycle”. It was very simple: take the dough out of the machine, and turn the darn thing off. It’s done its job; give it a rest. Proof the dough in a bowl; retard it in the refrigerator.

I bet you’re wondering how I got the machine to bake the proofed and/or retarded dough. That was simple too. Good thing, I’m not a rocket scientist. When I was nearly ready to bake I ran the machine empty through its early cycle steps, i.e., “Preheat”, “Knead”, “Rise”, and “Knead”. Silly? Yeah, but it worked. Besides, the cat box was in the oven I’d given up on. Listening to the machine’s unimpeded motor whirl while “Knead”ing was soothing, not as good as hand kneading, but still soothing.

I’d shape the loaf, tuck it back into the bread pan—I’d take out the paddles; that made removing the baked loaf easier, and left only two little round holes in the loaf’s bottom—just before “Bake” started. For the final three months I wintered in the San Antonio—my real mixer and oven were in Connecticut—I ate good bread, not great, but I knew all its ingredients to the gram, and having time control I would nurse all the flavor and texture I could out of each loaf’s flours.

Today we still own a bread machine, and it get’s used every week, sometimes twice in the same week. We mostly use the dough cycle. My wife, Yvonne, makes our everyday bread, mostly white or whole wheat, and she too knows the flavor secrets revealed controlling time. She bakes three loaves each time, the machine does the kneading and the first proof. The rest is in her hands. One loaf goes to the breadbox, one to the freezer, and one to our recently widowed neighbor—home made bread is healing, even bread-machine bread. She also makes sweet breads we take to potluck dinners, or give to friends. For those she fills the machine with ingredients, and forgets it until the machine beeps.

I’m the artisan baker. Oops, that sounds arrogant. Let me rephrase. I’m the free spirit baker. That’s better. Most of my breads—sourdoughs, ciabattas, baguettes, etc.—are hand (and Kitchenaid) wrought, but sometimes I use the machine.

This morning, over coffee, Yvonne said, “ Make some focaccia, with sun-dried tomatoes.” I did.

The basic recipe comes from, “Bread Machine: how to prepare and bake the perfect loaf” by Jeannie Shapter. (Y bought it at a Barnes & Noble book sale, for five bucks.) My take is a variation: sundried tomatoes, capers, and rosemary in both the dough and the topping, in lieu of sage and red onion topping only; all else is the same. I put the bread machine on dough cycle. When its finished the dough gets a few minutes of light hand kneading, twenty minutes rest, and directly to the pan, stretched to the corners. After a final proof, nearly doubling, it goes into a 400°F oven. I don’t use bread flour for this recipe, preferring all-purpose flour. The finished crust and crumb are soft: a great sandwich bread. Tonight’s diner is home-cured-and-smoked ham, with Swiss cheese, panini. I’ll mix up some Dijon mustard and honey, but Yvonne won’t use it. The focaccia’s flavor is enough for her.

Most of my breads take 12, 18, even 24 or more hours, but…Let me put it another way. I love fly-fishing, but I still use worms on occasion, and catch big fish.

Here are some pictures of this morning’s focaccia.

Tuesday (or Wednesday), Grandma’s Welsh cakes recipe.



Ready for the oven


Ready to eat

simplysweetcdn's picture

Cinnamon bun dough

Hi there, I am new to the forums and also new to bread baking.  I have decided that I can not tolerate buy chemical bread for my kids anymore.  Anyway, I have had alot of success making regular loafs of bread using either my bosch machine or my kitchenaid., However, twice I have tried to make cinnamon buns and everytime I role out the dough the dang stuff just keeps shrinking back in on me!! Any Ideas what I could be doing wrong or what I could be doing different.  Thanks a heap