The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

The Great Bagel Experiment

Since making a foray into pretzels and discovering the impact of a strong-ish baking soda solution on the crust of said pretzels, I've been wondering how different qualities of water affect the results on bagels.  I know from around the forums that some do without baking soda, some do a little, some go for malt syrup instead. The Bread Bakers Apprentice recipe (also the one in Floyd's bagel post) calls for 1 tablespoon soda in an unknowable amount of water.  By comparison, the concensus in the pretzel thread was 1 tablespoon soda per cup water, a 1/16 solution.  But would that work for bagels, or make a pretzel-tasting bagel?  I endeavored to find out this morning.

I made up a batch of the BBA bagel dough, shaped and refrigerated last night.  This morning I got two pots of water going with 8 cups of water in each, and did six different dipping combinations, with each bagel boiled 1 minute per side.  In this first one, from right to left, you can see plain water, 1 tbsp baking soda (the amount called for in the recipe, though probably stronger than usual since I typically use more than 8 cups water), and 4 tbsp baking soda (a 1/32 solution, half the amount recommended on the forums for pretzels).

As you can see, the amount of soda makes a big difference! The rightmost pair in the next pan had 8 tbsp of baking soda--pretzel quantity.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but these were much darker than the 1/32 solution pair. After this I switched to the other pot of water, and the last two pairs of bagels were boiled with 1tbsp and 2 tbsp of malt syrup in 8 cups water, respectively.  No, it wasn't the camera's fault, I couldn't really tell them apart either.

Of course, this left my wife and me with six type of bagels to taste, and only two taste testers.  We tried the 1/32 and 1/16 baking sodas, and one of the malt syrup ones (I think the 2 tbsp, but I forget).  The 1/32-solution bagel was quite good, although with a little bit of the alkaline "pretzel" taste in places where a lot of moisture from the pot stuck to the bagel.  The 1/16 solution bagel tasted like a bagel in preztel's clothing--pretzel-y on the outside, yet bagel-y on the inside.  Weird.  The bagel boiled in malt had much the same texture as the 1/32 and 1/128 baking soda bagels, though with a slightly different flavor.  My wife and I decided we like the baking soda flavor a bit better, but I figure that's a matter of taste.  I think for future I'd shoot for something like a 1/64 or 3/128 solution of baking soda (2-3 tbsp in 8 cups water).

The Great Bagel Experiment!

baltochef's picture

Cinnamon Raisin Pulla

First I would like to thank Julie J for posting her mother-in-law's recipe for Finnish Cardamom Buns, ie. Pulla on 02-11-09..Her recipe was my inspiration for modifying her MIL's recipe..I am the only one in my family that likes the smell and taste of cardamom..When I announced that I was thinking of trying out the recipe, all hell broke loose..So, to appease the family I sat down and reworked the recipe in order to substitute cinnamon for the cardamom, substitute some dark brown sugar for part of the granulated sugar, and to add raisins where there had previously been none..

I really like the use of some kind of pre-ferment in my recipes, so I created a sponge stage to get the yeast activated, and to start flavor development..I converted her MIL's volumetric measurements to weight measurements..I also use the bowl of my DLX mixer for the sponge stage, kneading the final dough, and for the first proof of the finished dough after washing out, drying, and oiling the bowl..The recipe follows..

Finnish Cinnamon Raisin Buns---Pulla


22 oz. milk, heated to 100F

3.5 oz. granulated sugar

4 oz. dark brown sugar

20 oz. bread flour

3 tsp. SAF Gold instant yeast

Heat bowl of DLX mixer under hot running water..Heat milk to 100F..Add to bowl of DLX..Add sugars, and mix with whisk until sugars dissolve..Add yeast, and mix to combine..Add flour and stir until all lumps are wet, and flour is well incorporated into wet ingredients..Cover tightly with plastic wrap..Proof for 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume..

Final Dough:

Sponge in DLX's bowl

4 oz. unsalted butter, very soft--(I had to use margarine as my budget is very tight at this time..The extra salt in the margarine did not seem to effect things)

1 large egg, room temperature

20 oz. bread flour, plus 2 oz. to bring dough to a ball stage, and 1 oz. for kneading on bench--total = 23 oz.

1 tbsp. coarsely ground cinnamon--To try and mimic the crushed cardamom in the original recipe I took cassia cinnamon sticks, broke them into 1" pieces, and ground them into a coarse meal in my spice grinder--This worked out very, very well!!..

1 tsp table salt

8 oz. raisins soaked in 4 oz. warm tap water--After soaking for 60 minutes, the raisins were drained and re-weighed--Final weight was 9.95 oz, for all intents and purposes 10 oz..

Bowl was installed on the mixer..Sponge was punched down..Scraper and roller were installed..On low speed the butter and the egg were mixed into the sponge until well incorporated..The flour, cinnamon, and salt were added, brought to a ball stage, and kneaded for 4 minutes..The drained raisins were then added and the dough kneaded for an additional 2 minutes..It was at this time that I added the additional 2 oz. of bread flour..It took some stopping and starting of the mixer, and cutting the dough with the blade of a Cuisinart spatula to keep the now wetter ball of dough from wrapping itself around the roller and spinning uselessly..After realizing that the raisins were not incorporating evenly into the dough, I removed the dough to the top of my wooden kitchen cart, chopped the dough up into about 20 pieces with a bench knife, added 1 oz. of flour, and hand kneaded until the raisins were evenly distributed..This took approximatelt 1 minute..Internal dough temperature was 85F..Yield was 5 lb. 7.6 oz. of kneaded dough..Dough was put back into the washed and oiled DLX bowl, covered tightly with plastic wrap, and proofed until doubled in volume..This took 60 minutes..

The proofed dough was punched down, turned out onto the cart's top, cut into twenty-one 4 oz. portions, and one 3.6 oz. portion..Each portion was rounded tightly up into a ball and placed on parchment lined 1/2 sheet pans..Eight buns on two of the pans, and six buns on the third pan..I used a staggered pattern..The pan with six buns was bagged in a tall kitchen garbage bag, sealed tightly, and retarded in the refrigerator for later baking..The two pans of eight buns each were placed on top of the stove to proof, and covered with clean cotton tea towels..At the 20 minute mark the oven door was closed, the temperature raised to 375F (my oven bakes about 20 degrees hot), and the oven allowed to come to baking temperature..The buns were allowed a third, and final proof of 30 minutes..A depression was made in the center of each bun, a 1/4" x 1/4" cube of margarine placed in the depression, the entire bun brushed with egg / milk wash (leftover French Toast mix), and sprinkled with granulated organic cane sugar..The buns were baked, both pans together at the same time, for 10 minutes..The pans were then rotated 180 degrees, switched shelves, and finished baking for another 6 minutes..Tops were a dark golden brown, and the internal temperature was 200F..The third pan was removed from the refrigerator when the first pans went into the oven..It proofed, covered with the tea towel, for 45 minutes, everything else that was done to the first two pans was repeated; except that with a single pan of six buns in the oven it only took 14 minutes to bake to completion..

Finished yield was 22 buns with an average weight of 3.75 oz..The buns are approximately 3.5" across at the bottom, and 2" thick with a domed shape..They taste FANTASTIC!!!!..I definitely want to try my version of the recipe with the crushed cardamom, as well as the original recipe from Julie J's mother-in-law..I have the cardamom seeds in my pantry that I purchased from Penzeys Spices..

Thanks again to Julie J, and her mother-in-law (whatever her name may be!!)..Please do try her recipe..I am sure that it tastes as good as my version does!!..






lisacohen's picture

Which stand mixer should I buy next? Help me spend my $$$!

Hi there,

Well I just found out about this site and can't believe how much information is here and I can't wait until later tonight after I tuck the kids into bed so I can wander around and check everything out!!!

I'm posting because my KitchenAid stand mixer just died during a double batch of dough that I was making for some recipe testing work that I was doing (on level #2). I've had it for 11 1/2 years (I remember because I got it as a wedding present)... it's been great and I am so sad to see it unusable (I haven't tried to get it fixed.. maybe this is an option - but I'm thinking that there has to have been some advances in the last 12 years that I could take advantage of). I'm not sure my KA stand mixer's time was coming anyway or if it's been the amounts of dough that I've been asking it to handle lately. But either way I'm looking for a new stand mixer.

I was wondering if I should go ahead and get another KitchenAid and if so which one, or if I should go with another brand. I searched on the forums the threads I found were from 2007 so I thought I'd post here just in case some newer models have come out that are highly recommended. I want one mixer than can handle heavy duty double batches of dough, whole wheat doughs, as well as just one batch of dough, and also small amounts like cookies, pancakes, brownies, etc.

I guess I should also not that I already have the pasta attachment for the KA that I love since it rolls out fresh pasta so easily.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions that you may have.


Julie J's picture
Julie J

How do you grind whole cardamom pods into crushed cardamom, not ground cardamom?

I just wanted to ask if anyone can tell me how to grind whole cardamom pods that have the green shell removed into crushed cardamom.  This is cardamom that isn't totally ground, but has the seeds intact when you bake the bread.  My mother inlaw in Finland gave me an amazing family recipe for Finnish pulla (cardamom bread), but you can't find that type of cardamom over here in the U.S.  I have to bring the cardamom back from Finland, and I would love to give everybody here the rceipe because it is REALLY GOOD, especially when you bite into the crushed seeds of the cardamom pod.  I have tried coffee grinders,  hammers, sides of knives, etc., and still can't get it crushed the way I want.  You can get cardamom online that lists:  Cardamom seeds, but it is much larger than what you buy in Finland, and I don't how it gets crushed finer...thanks anybody!!  Everybody loves this recipe when I make it for them...

Julie J

Zenbirder's picture

Loaf size for Farmer's Market

I am gearing up for baking for Farmer's Market and need to expand my number of bread pans for sandwich loaves.  I am questioning the size I should buy.  My normal for home are some old aluminium 5 1/2 X 9 1/2 X 2 3/4 for breads, I have never had any problems baking in them.  I am particularly considering the Norpro 8" and/or Norpro 10" sizes from Amazon.  I am thinking that if I go with the smaller size, my sale price per loaf will not be all that much different, but I will be out less money for ingredients.  On the other hand, a big loaf is impressive and seems more worth the money?  Does anyone have any experience with what customer's want or even notice in a loaf size?  Are there any opinions on the Norpro?

baltochef's picture

Eric's Faviorite Rye Bread Made w/o Sourdough Starter

My mother really likes Jewish / New York seeded rye sandwich bread so I decided to give Eric's recipe a try..Unfortunately, she wears full dentures which she says hurt her mouth when trying to chew through the crusts of artisan breads..So I decided to modify Eric's recipe to see if I could make it work in a Pullman bread pan..I figred that the crust would turn out much more tender when baked in the Pullman pan..Eric's recipe as written gives a total ingredient weight of 1990g..With his recommended additions (for a bread made without the sourdough starter) of an extra 1 teaspoon of instant yeast, 1/4 cup of water, and 2/3 cup of flour I came up with a total ingredient weight of 2035g..I also ended up using an extra 190g of bread flour to make the dough come together into a kneadable form..The recipe is as follows:

Eric's Favorite Rye Bread   (made w/o sourdough starter and baked in Pullman pans)


815g water, 100 degrees Fahrenheit

320g organic whole rye flour

230g Pillsbury bread flour

15g organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons SAF Gold instant yeast


Final Dough:

605g Pillsbury bread flour

22g fine sea salt

25g caraway seeds

needed an additional 190g of flour



1st.---  made sponge in bowl of DLX mixer, covered w/plastic wrap--- proofed 60 minutes

2nd---  kneaded dough 7 minutes in DLX, finished kneading on bench 1.5 minutes---proofed in washed out, oiled, covered in plastic, DLX bowl---proofed 60 minutes

3rd---  punched down, divided into three 745g portions, rounded into tight balls, 1 portion retarded in refrigerator for baking later, 2 portions covered w/ plastic wrap on bench---proofed 25 minutes

4th---  balls deflated, shaped into loaves, pressed into bottoms of oiled Pullman pans, covered w/ plastic wrap---proofed 65 minutes

Lids added to pans at 50 minute mark, proofed an additional 15 minutes, oven raised to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, baked for 30 minutes w/ lids on, lids removed, baked an additional 10 minutes---Loaves temped 205 degrees Fahrenheit in exact centers w/ Thermapen digital thermometer

First loaf of this bread was sliced just as I was finishing this post..The crust is tender, but somewhat chewy..I'll see what it is like tomorrow..The crumb is tight, and well formed..The bread has a distinct rye flavor..Next time I will soak dried onions in the water as Eric suggests in his recipe..I am sure it will improve the falvor even more..All in all, I am pleased with this recipe..Many rye recipes that I have tried, or invented myself, have not tralslated well to being baked in pullman pans..Using a well-developed sourdough starter will vastly improve the flavor, I am sure..


Baker's Percentage Formula


Water                     148.18%

Whole rye flour          58.18%

Bread flour                41.82%

Sugar                         2.73%

Instant yeast               0.91%


Final Dough:

Sponge                    174.21%

Bread flour               100.00%

Sea salt                       1.64%

Caraway seeds              1.86% 



Water weight is 815g divided by 1345g total flour weight = 60.59%..I am wondering if others that regularly make this bread feel if my recipe's hydration percentage fits into the levels where the standard recipe's hydration percentage does??..




jbraas's picture

Diastatic malt = Hombrewers dry malt extract?

Hello everyone. I am new here and new to bread baking. My question is about diastatic malt. I saw a couple posts about this, but did not see this answer and didn't knwo if someone might be able to help. I am also a homebrewer. I have some dry malt extract for brewing. Is this the same / can it be used as diastatic malt?

Thanks for any insight!

wheat's picture

Flour Product coding information

I recently found out how to tell when a bag of Bob's red mill flour was produced, ergo how long has it been sitting on the shelf.

I always buy the whole wheat flour, and there are two sets of 4-digit numbers in the vicinity of the expiration date. Here is how to decode them:


The first set, specifies the date that they got the wheat. First digit is the year, and the next three digits are the day of that year.

For example, 8112 mens that they got the wheat on the 112th day (counting from Jan first) of the year 2008. 


The secod set specifies when they packaged the flour, e.g. 8130 means that this flour was packaged on the 130th day of the year 2008.


The milling date is not specified but it is of course in the bracket of the first and the second date, and the two dates are usually close (two weeks or so), so this will give you a good idea of when it was milled and how long it has been sitting on the supermarket shelf. 


(Minor detail, the dates that they use is based on Julian calendar. Don't ask my why! However it is not a big deal, as

Julian calendar is only a few days apart from the Georgian Calendar, i.e. the usual calendar that we use every day)


Btw, does any one know how to decode the same information for King Arthur flour?


Moriah's picture

Alan Scott, Artisan of the Brick Oven, dies

Alan Scott, 72, Artisan of the Brick Oven, Dies

By DENNIS HEVESI Published: February 5, 2009

Alan Scott, whose blacksmith's skill in using radiant heat led to a revival of the ancient craft of building brick ovens, allowing bakers to turn out bread with luxuriously moist interiors and crisp crusts, died Jan. 26 in Tasmania, Australia. He was 72.

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Alan Scott in 1988; his skill in using radiant heat paid off.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter Lila Scott. Her father had returned to his native Australia several years ago after becoming ill, she said. Ms. Scott and her brother, Nicholas, now operate OvenCrafters, the company their father opened nearly 30 years ago in a large Victorian home in Petaluma, Calif.

Several thousand amateur bread bakers and thin-crust pizza makers now have backyard brick ovens, many with cathedral-like arches, that were built either by Mr. Scott, with Mr. Scott or according to specifications he laid out with his protégé Daniel Wing in their 1999 book, "The Bread Builders" (Chelsea Green Publishing).

More than a how-to manual, the book is also a meticulous treatise on the history of bread making and the physics of baking, with instructions, for example, on how long to let the dough rise. Mr. Scott, who held instructional workshops around the country, played a role in bringing brick ovens to hundreds of bakeries and restaurants as well.

For centuries, beginning before the Middle Ages, home cooking was done mostly on a family's open hearth; villagers would share a single brick-oven bakery.

Mr. Scott "took oven designs that were hundreds of years old and refined them," said Dick Bessey, who teaches oven-building at Kendall College in Chicago and at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Mr. Scott's drawings, he said, "allowed virtually anybody to build an oven that would perform in a way that would equal the old communal ovens."

Though he found his inspiration in the past, he used modern materials: high-grade bricks, high-temperature cements and insulation, ranging from Vermiculite, which is used to insulate walls and attics, to ceramic blankets - "if you want to spend a lot more money," Mr. Bessey said. To build an oven for a homeowner, Mr. Scott would charge $5,000 to $10,000, not including material costs. For even higher fees, he would line an oven with authentic Italian refractory, or heat-resistant, tile and clad it with high-quality cut stone. In most brick ovens, a wood fire is built directly on the hearth floor. When it dies down, the ashes are swept out and food is put in to bake in the radiant heat - far higher than the usual 500 degrees Fahrenheit of a regular oven and sometimes up to 800 degrees. The walls hold the heat for hours, allowing batch after batch of bread to bake.

Brick-oven communities have sprung up on Web sites, with enthusiasts asserting that everything, from fruit galettes to slow-cooked roasts and especially pizza, tastes better when baked in brick scented by wood smoke.

Born in Toorak, Australia, on March 2, 1936, Alan Reid Scott was one of five children of Arthur and Lilian Burbury Scott. Besides his daughter Lila and his son, Nicholas, he is survived by his wife, the former Laura Argyros; another daughter, Samantha Bald; two brothers, Robert and Michael; two sisters, Eleanor Bjorkston and Sylvia Lerch; and a granddaughter.

Mr. Scott graduated from an agricultural college in Australia, then worked for a fertilizer company. "He never wanted to work for anyone else again," Lila Scott said. "He hitchhiked around Australia, Sudan, Ethiopia and then Denmark, where he opened a jewelry shop."

He moved to California in the mid-'60s and opened a blacksmith shop by the beach near Point Reyes, fashioning statuettes, chandeliers and hand-foraged fittings for wooden boats. One day, a friend, Laurel Robertson, the author of the cookbook "Laurel's Kitchen," asked him to make handles for a brick oven she intended to build. He completely redesigned the oven, employing his knowledge of how heat is best retained.

The project opened up far more than a new line of business. For Mr. Scott, brick-oven building became a way to bring a community together. Indeed, for a smaller fee, he would supervise a gathering of neighbors in building a communal oven, drawing on old traditions. "A lot of his ovens were done like Amish barn-raisings," Mr. Bessey said.

Originally published  February 5, 2009 in the New York Times.

tangled's picture

Spelt bread

Hi, I'm a new poster, though have been reading for a few weeks since another forum posted a link. It's certainly a fantastic resource.

I tried a spelt loaf for the first time yesterday, from R. Bertinet's Crust book. The dough was very stiff (only 65% hydration). It turned out ok, but not brilliant, so I doubt I'll be in a rush to do it again.

I'm planning on trying bagels for the first time next, "Crust" has a recipe, but I'm going to have a look at some here before I get stuck in.