The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Yumarama's picture

I think I may have really done it this time

From my new bread blog:

Loaves May 29, 2008

Weeeeeellll doggone. It’s actually possible to get not too bad loaves made after all!

So this time around: double (or full) recipe, still working with Susan's Norfolk Sourdough from the WildYeastBlog since we know it works and don’t want to introduce new variables yet but I decided to make four loaves since I felt rather confident due to the last loaves, that I had the more destructive kinks under control, namely burning oven and poor proofing.

Now I still don’t have an accurate thermometer so I’m still completely in the dark as to what the real oven temp was today. I do know it took a good 7 - 10 minutes longer than the recipe calls for so my guestimate of 420ºF to get about 475 was too low. Next time we do 440.

The proofing was again done in the couche:

Four couched loaves rising

This time, though, the loaves were then put into a big plastic bag so they wouldn’t dry out. Result was perfect, the loaves came off the 50/50 rice/UAP floured canvas without a hitch so no deflating of any sort.

My slashing is still very primitive and I’m still not sure what I’m doing. I decided, as you see in the top pic, to do three diagonal slashes in some loaves. However, this did cause issues. The slashes were too far apart and the tight surface between them was wide enough to hold the bread back from rising to it’s fullest.

This may also have been due to the slashes being too shallow. I’m still reluctant to gouge the bread too much. The slash angle was good this time, not vertical but diagonal. The reluctant slashes show up most on the two loaves at left. The double long slashes definitely could have been done better to allow the neat ‘curves” that supposedly can happen. I may have needed to make them a tad closer together as well.

What would be really cool is to try different types of slashing to see what they’d each do. But I don’t have the time of multiple balls of dough to do such a practice. So I’ll just have to play with it, four loaves max at a time.

Lesson for next time: do slashes and overlap them some, keep them closer. Also a bit deeper.

Last look at these loaves:

The crumb is pretty much spot on, I think. (?) The crust is nice and crispy and a little chewy. I may stick one of these loaves in a plastic bag once it’s cooled so Mark can have his “softer” crust.

So there you go, four loaves, none burnt or flattened and the inside is decent and the taste is… well, we ate the cut chunk pretty much as soon as these were out and cool enough to not squish when slicing even though I know it’s supposed to be left alone for several hours/a day and the flavour is supposed to develop. But it’s still darn tasty even just 15 minutes after coming out of the oven! This was a 2.5 bulk rise and a 2.5 hour loaf proof so it didn’t have a lot of time to get “tangy” I’ll have to try putting it in the fridge for up to 16 hours after a 1.5hr initial loaf proof. See if that kicks the sourdough tang up much.

So… HOORAY!! I think we can call this one the “first” successful loaf!

I am happy.

Marni's picture

Seaweed and Other Cracker Recipes from the Los Angeles Times

I saw these recipes in the LA Times this morning and just don't have the time to try them, but thought I'd pass along the article.  Maybe someone would like to give them a try.  They sure look interesting to me.,0,112729.story


Eli's picture

Scones Question

Has anyone made the cream scones recipe found in Crust and Crumb by PR? I made them for the first time today and had to add more cream. One cup wasn't going to bring any moisture to the flour at all? With one cup I could barely get a shaggy mess started. Just curious as to whether anyone else had had the same problem.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Time to get the substitutes!

There is nothing like the lack of an ingredient to stimulate the creativity in all of us. (Some of us do it all the time! I mean, run out of ingredients.) A flour, oil, shortage or rapid jump in price will also inspire us to look for substitutes. So, here with the ideas for substitution in flavour texture or price!  

All ideas and inspirations welcome!

Rye is disappearing, at least until the next crop is in, so what else can we use? organic grass seeds?  Different Cultures have different substitutes, some of these cross over nicely.

What have you tried? How did it work or not work? Here is the place and time! Don't be shy....


Mini O

Tommy's picture


Hi, love the forum! I have a smallish electric stove that has a heating element at the top of the inside of oven as well as a element at the bottom. Is it ok to use the top element  as well as the bottom one for baking bread?

bakerincanada's picture

herman sourdough

I found a recipe on the King Arthur site for making a herman sourdough from sourdough, milk, flour and sugar.  It is an easier way to make the Amish friendship starter that was popular a few years back.  It makes a great, moist long keeping cake.  There is a book called Best of Sourdough Herman by Dawn Johanson.  It has recipes for cakes, muffins and breads.  Anyone familiar with this book?  Any comments on it? Iam considering adding it to my library.  Anyone have any good recipes using the herman sourdough?  Thanks

lolo's picture

Poolish Focaccia in pictures



This was really fun to make. I decided to try something with a poolish today, and I'm so glad I picked focaccia!  But wow does this recipe make a lot.  Even though it took a while, the results are really worth it.  I've never made focaccia of any kind before, but this was way better than any store-bought stuff I've had in the past.  Here's the crumb:


Focaccia Crumb


I left my poolish out overnight because I was... well.. lazy. BBA says to ferment it for four hours and then refrigerate it overnight, but I was tired and I wanted to go to bed, so I left it outside as a compromise. It wasn't as warm as my house, and it wasn't as cool as the refrigerator. It had the added bonus of not requiring a warm-up period when I felt like baking in the morning.  I figured it wouldn't make a huge difference if I cheated this way, and I was right! It still tasted great in the end. The poolish was a really fun consistency.


Poolish Poolish, consistency


This dough was a lot easier for me to work with than the pain a l'ancienne dough, even though they're both really wet and slack. Folding was a lot easier than the ancienne shaping for some reason. I've never done the stretch and fold before, and I really like the technique. Really easy but produces a nice result. I was surprised at how the dough changed just from three folds, 30 minutes apart.


Dusting Focaccia Dough Folding Focaccia Dough Oiling Focaccia Dough


The shaping was also a lot of fun. Maybe I just like playing with my food?  I did an herb oil with as much fresh basil as I could remove from my plant without killing it, and supplement with some dried italian herbs.  I was out of flaked kosher salt, which was sad, but I had sea salt in a table-salt sized grind.  I'll definitely get the larger salt for the next batch.


Herb Oil on Focaccia Dough Final Shaping, Focaccia Dough


If anything I think I should have degassed it a little more. It puffed WAY up, especially on one side that was particularly bubbly.  I gave half of it away to my best friend, and I'm thinking about making it again for a party this weekend. Seems like an ideal food for a lot of people who want to nibble and drink some wine! 


Anyone know the best way to store it?  Covered?  Plastic wrap?  Uncovered?   



subfuscpersona's picture

What's the right grain for chappati flour?

I home mill my own flour and need to know what is the correct grain to buy to make whole wheat chapati and other breads that are cooked on the stove top using a griddle (or cast iron frying pan).

According to my Indian cook books, chapati flour is called *atta*;  this is generally  defined as  a very fine whole wheat flour milled from the entire wheat berry. My problem - what kind of wheat is used for chapati flour?

When I research it on the 'net, I get articles that say it is hard wheat  or durum wheat. However, my cookbook "The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking" (by Yamuna Devi) says atta is made from *soft* wheat flour and goes on to suggest mixing two parts whole wheat *pastry* flour with 1 part unbleached white flour or *cake* flour if you can't get imported atta flour. This certainly suggests that *soft* wheat, not hard, would be the better grain choice.

I use a Nutrimill grain mill which can produce a finely milled flour. But what grain should I use - hard wheat? soft wheat? durum wheat?

Looking forward to your answers - thanks

shakleford's picture


This weekend I finally made a loaf of vollkornbrot, which I'd been planning to do for some time.  It was a lot of fun, and let me try several things that I had not done before:

  • I used the formula from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which includes preparing a mash on the first day.  A mash is a thin paste of flour or whole grains and water, kept at 150 for several hours.  The goal of this is to produce what I think can best be described as enzyme craziness.
  • I've been on a rye kick lately (rye sourdoughs are currently my favorite type of bread), but had not tried anything more than around 2/3 rye.  While a 2/3 rye dough is a lot different than a wheat dough, the vollkornbrot dough was much different than either of them.
  • I bought a grain mill around a month ago, and while I've been very happy with it, I've been using it almost exclusively to produce finely-ground wheat flour.  I'd been holding off using it for rye, as I still have a fair amount of store-bought rye flour to use up.  However, the vollkornbrot recipe calls for coarsely-ground rye, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to break out the rye berries I bought.  For the mash, I actually produced what I would classify as cracked rye (the recipe calls for rye chops), sifting out the smaller pieces to use as part of the flour for the starter.
Day 1 consisted of preparing the mash mentioned above, along with a starter.  Having never made a mash before, I can't really say if mine turned out correctly, but it was gelatinous and quite pleasant-tasting.  I've been maintaining both a rye and a whole wheat starter for a couple of months now, and have had good success with both, but I used the rye starter in this recipe just to make the end result 100% rye.  Since the expanded starter was made of coarsely-ground rye it did not rise much, but smelled terrific.  The mash and starter are pictured below: 

On Day 2, I combined the above ingredients along with a good deal more rye flour and a few other items (including, somewhat surprisingly to me, sunflower seeds).  On a whim, I used a medium-coarse grind on this additional flour as well.  Reinhart lists molasses and cocoa powder as additional optional ingredients, but I decided to leave them out in this batch.  After mixing the final dough, I let it proof - the rise was pretty limited, as one might expect, but it was noticeable.  Reinhart's instructions have this bread being cooked in an open pan, but based on my reading, I wanted to try it with a lid.  However, I do not have a Pullman pan and have sworn off buying any additional kitchen accessories for at least two months.  Instead, I used the oft-recommended trick of covering the pan with a baking sheet (weighed down with a cast iron skillet) to roughly approximately a lidded pan.

After around two hours of baking (including rotating the loaf after the first hour so that it cooked more evenly), I pulled the below item out of the oven.  I was a little bit disappointed with its appearance, as the flour that I can carefully sprinkled inside the pan and on the top of the loaf had mostly disappeared and there were not as many cracks as I was expecting.

The hardest part of the process was still to come:  waiting until Day 3 to sample the loaf.  Fortunately, that was today.  I'd wrapped the loaf in a towel after it cooled yesterday, and when I took it out this evening, it smelled terrific.  Cutting through that crust was a bit of a challenge (as expected), but once I made it through, the crumb was quite soft with a very unique texture.  Reinhart says that using a mash gives the crumb a creamy texture, and while I didn't really know what that meant before trying this bread, I have to say that "creamy" is probably the word for it.  The taste was very complex - it didn't have much of a rye flavor, but I could detect the sourness from the starter, the sweetness from the mash, a hint of the taste of the sunflower seeds, and many other factors that I can't quite place.  For the first time I can remember, I wish that a loaf I made had more crumb and less crust.  I will also be interested to see how the flavors continue to develop over the next several days.  I've included a photo of the crumb below.

Overall, this was a very satisfying bake for me.  I love trying new ingredients and techniques, and when they actually produce something this tasty, it's even better!  I will definitely be baking more vollkornbrot in the future, although I think I may first try a few of the lighter recipes I've been neglecting.  I also plan to save some of this loaf to provide altus, perhaps for Reinhart's Bavarian Pumpernickel recipe.  In addition, I'm now more interested than ever in trying my mill out on different grains and coarser grinds.  So many breads, so little time...

Tam1024's picture

How to calculate hydration %

How do I figure out what the hydration % is of my starter.  This is what I do.  To 1/4 c. of active starter, I add 1/2 c. of water and 1 c. of bread flour.    If I wanted to have a starter at 100% hydration, how would I adjust my feeding?