The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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MichaelH's picture

Crust at Last...........

Having struggled with my oven, my stone, steam and burned bottoms for some time, I finally got everything to come together today. The recipe is Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. The only change I made was to add 2 Tbs. raw wheat germ, a practice I adopted from Nancy Silverton. The bread was retarded overnight, having undergone a 1 hour final proof the day before in bannetons. I let them warm up for two hours in the morning, which was a little too much, as they deflated some when scored. Next time I will settle for one hour.


Having determined that my oven temp is about 20 degrees high (F) and that it will always burn the bottoms on conventional bake, I preheated to 420 (F) on convection before misting and slashing the loaves. I have found that I get cleaner scoring without drag if I mist the loaves about a minute before slashing with a very sharp German serrated paring knife reserved for this purpose. 


Steam was provided by my new Steam Maker Bread Baker which I learned about from Steve at Bread Cetera. I applied steam for 12 seconds and baked at 420 convection for 15 minutes. When I removed the cover I found the loaves had recovered some of their collapse and the crust was translucent. I changed the oven setting to 420 Roast, which applies top and bottom heat simultaneously, without convection, which I feared would dry the crusts prematurely (thanks to David Snyder for this tip). This cured the burned bottom problem I had experienced with conventional bake. After 25 minutes more I turned off the oven and propped the door open for 6 minutes.


The crust is very crisp and I achieved rich carmelization (with its wonderful flavor) for the first time. I am quite pleased with the Steam Maker Bread Baker and the oven settings that brought everything together. I am satisfied with the crumb for a 65% hydration loaf, but will work on a more open crumb in future bakes.


I finally took the advice of so many authors and posters and picked a relatively straight forward recipe and baked it over and over, changing one thing at a time until I got it right. Now onward to seek a more open crumb and a decent batard.








EvaB's picture

Welsh cookies and other things

Ok shall try this again, I spent the past weekend without power for most of it. We had a freak snowstorm which took down all the trees the hydro company hasn't been taking off right of ways etc. We spent from about 8 am on the 22nd to 5:40pm on the 23rd without power. Fortunately I have a gas stove which while I couldn't use the oven (one of those electric start things) I could light the burners and cook.

Its deadly boring without power and reading only worked for so long, so I wound up searching for something to bake on the top of the stove, and came up with Welsh Cookies. I collect recipes so having seen this lately could find the printed off recipe without too much trouble.

This is the downed trees that took out my clothes line, and squashed my hawthorn beneath its top.


Same trees a day later, after some saw work, still woking on that after spending yesterday with help.

The cookies, recipe as follows 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp soda (this is because of the currants and if you don't use currants or raisins is likely not needed) 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsps nutmeg,  1 cup shortening (I used butter because I don't like anything else) 1 cup currants (which I plumped with hot water but isn't necessary) 2 eggs beaten into 6 tablespoons of milk (didn't have milk so half and half had to do) sift all the dry ingredients togehter, cut in shortening, until crubmly, add wet mix, and mix to dough. Chill 1-2 hours (not havign a fridge working I simply covered the bowl and set out into the snow on my deck) You have to mix this well as I had some unmixed in dry stuff in the bowl and thought I had mixed it quite well. Divide into small enough portions to fit well on your cutting board, and roll out about 1/4 inch thick, with about a 2 inch cutter, maybe its a three, its not my regular biscuit cutter though. Heat the griddle till water sprinkled on will dance same as for baking pancakes, and bake the cookies until golden and turn. As you can see they got a bit more than golden, but they still taste good. The recipe says 4 doz, but I got 65. You turn them just like pancakes when they get sort of shiny and puffy on top, and bake the other side, greasing the griddle often.Variations could be additions of chopped nuts and flavouring, pecans and vanilla for instance, lemon zest and flavouring, or almonds and almond flavouring.

Whatever the flavour I will be making these again as my non cookie eating daughter loved them, she said they weren't too sweet. She doesn't like raisins because they are too sweet. Go figure!

this is the griddle I baked them on, its reputed to be over 100 years old being my great grandmother's, I'm not sure of that, but its still at least 75 if not older.

This a bit of my bread baking I've been doing, these are Bread in Five minute doughs, the left is a whole wheat with some rye and buckwheat flour added, the braided loaf is brioche filled with fruits and cream cheese, and the twists in back are brioche rolled into strips and rolled in chopped pecans, and cinnamon sugar and then folded over and twisted together. I'm told all were wonderful, I tried the twists and they wern't bad, but I'm not a big bread eater and baked this for my husband who was living out on his job.

these were supposed to be hamberger and hot dog buns, from a recipe gotten here, but the water was left out, and these were way too wet, and as a result spread out all over the place, good but not exactly what I wanted.

And just so you have an idea of me, this is a picture the camera snapped as I replaced it on its power charging dock. First time I've ever had that happen!

plasticookies's picture

Help With Gluten Formation


I've tried many times to make a simple loaf using just flour yeast and water. After trying many different methods and recipes without any success, I think the problem lies in a lack of gluten formation. No matter how long I knead the dough by hand (I've tried up to 20-25 min), the dough just does not become elasticy. If I try to stretch the dough, it just tears. It also does not become "smooth like a baby's bottom". I think my kneading technique is half-decent and I allow for the dough to auto-lyse, so the only reason I can thnk of is that the flour just doesnt have enough gluten. I'm  using Robin Hood Bread Flour bought in Toronto. Maybe I just got a bad batch of flour?

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Smita's picture

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

A couple weekends worth of sourdough sandwich breads. Heres what we do:

1. Friday night (or morning, depending on room temperature) - feed starter with 2 oz each of water and AP flour. I use 8-hour two builds if possible, to get 8 oz of 100% hydration starter.

2. Saturday am - When the starter is ripe (bubble with fruity smell), add 12 oz flour and 8 oz water. Including 4 oz each of flour and water in the starter, this amounts to 16 oz flour and 12 oz water (75% hydration dough). We're flexible with the 12 oz of flour. Of the two loaves below, the top loaf was made with 5, 4 and 3 oz of whole wheat, white whole wheat and AP flour. The bottom loaf was made with 7 and 5 of whole wheat and white whole wheat flour respectively.

Notes: I store our flours in the freezer. I use the formula for desired dough temperature (DDT) to calculate water temperature.

3. Mix flour, water, 2 teaspoons gluten and starter - autolyse 30 minutes.

Note: I also added 1 tablespoon flax seeds to the bottom loaf.

4. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, till windowpane.

5. Rest, add salt and knead gently.

6. First rise for about 3 hours or till dough doubles. We did three stretch and folds for the top loaf. Went and got brunch while the bottom loaf was rising!

7. Deflate and roll real tight (such a lovely americanism) tp shape into sandwich loaf. Place in a greased 9 x 5 pan.A slightly smaller pan will give you a higher loaf. I don't worry too much about this.

8. Final proof for 3 hours or until it crests above the loaf pan. Note: We've also done overnight retards with good results.

9. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Internal temperature should read around 200 degrees F when done, the loaf should sound hollow.

Cool for an hour and slice. 



Taste and appearance: We have grown quite fond of this formula. The loaves have no butter / oil at all, and made for a perfect morning toast / sandwich bread. Sometimes, I will add a half cup of mashed potato or buttermilk, which tenderizes the loaf. These loaves showcase whole wheat - so if you enjoy whole wheat, this is a good recipe to try. IMHO, the critical steps were: 1) Working out 16:12 flour to water is a good size loaf for us, that resulted in the right crumb texture, 2) Knead till windowpane to coax gluten development in whole wheat, 3) I have to be flexible about rise times. Gotta run one's day by the dough's schedule and not vice-versa. If I add a teaspoon or less of yeast, I can cut down rising time to about 90-120 minutes. The best loaves we've made usually take 3-5 hours. I'm sure this will change as we apprach warmer weather.

Feel free to share your thoughts! All feedback welcome!



RachelJ's picture

Home-Based Bakery - A Little Advice Please? :)

Hello -
I'm posting here again. :) Although I still check the email notifications I get from here, I don't get to visit the site as often as I'd like. Mainly due to the fact that when I get on the computer, it's to check email and Facebook, my blog and Twitter. My mother's computer crashed and she's been having to use mine. Not to mention we are moved now, to Costa Rica, from the U.S. I am posting here a couple of questions I have about starting a home-based bakery here.

We've been told that you can't find good baked goods here, and that the ones you find taste AWFUL. We've been here about three weeks (nearly) and my father doesn't have a job yet. We are going to be baking and selling our own baked goods (i.e. breads, cakes, cookies, and the like) for an income. We are looking for a house right now, preferably we want it on some land in a more rural setting than the city, where we can garden and maybe have some chickens and a cow for milk and eggs. (Milk is kind of expensive here, as is most dairy things.) This is what we're hoping anyway. We lived on 2-1/2 acres of land in the U.S. and moving to the city has been somewhat of an adjustment for us. Not to mention we have a large family. :)

So... what I would like to know is any tips and ideas you all might have for things we could sell here. I know there are endless things to bake - breads, cookies, cakes, pies, tarts and the like. If anyone on here has started something like a home-based bakery before I would love to know what you did. We are getting a logo for our products, and the needed info for pricing and such. I would appreciate all your help, if you would be so kind as to give it. :)


cw's picture

bread dough enhancer


I have just made a white loaf using a bread dough enhancer (lecithin granules, vit c and ginger) and noticed that the bread was softer, rose higher and had a more tender crust.  However I also noticed that its taste became more bland.  In other words, with the incorporation of these ingredients, the bread seems to have lost some taste.

Does anyone have similar experience? I wonder whether I should add more sugar when I use dough enhancer.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!




Thank you for your responses.  My intent was to create a loaf with bakery-like quality.  Using these ingredients was a way of experimentation.  And no, I was not using a bread machine.  I agree that it is more natural and thus healthier to bake without enhancers, however, I did not anticipate resentment against using the ingredients.  And I apologize if I offended anyone by posing such question.  

The only ingredients used in the mix were lecithin, vit c and ginger.  Vit C is a nutrient, even if in supplementary form.  Ginger seems to be the grounded form of a spice regularly used (by many) in cooking.  So I would imagine that health concern must come from the use of lecithin.  What are the health dangers in using this?

Please note that the posting was only meant to open discussion on past experience with using these ingredients.  It is not an attempt to persuade anyone to use enhancers.  Thanks again.


I'm glad and grateful to see this wealth of information on this topic.  I appreciate everyone's input.  My conclusion is that substances with acetic acid, whether lemon juice, vit c, seem to tenderize the dough, but also reduce its flavour.  Lecithin, also in egg yolks, seem to enhance the performance of yeast, but may be harmful to the body as there seems to be strict health regulation.  The effects are consistent with what I observed from my own experimentation.  Whether the benefits justify the costs is to each his own.  On learning from you; however, I feel much less compelled on conducting further trials.  As my goal was to produce bread with bakery-like quality, I found most insight from a point made that commercial bakeries use high energy dough mixers with powerful kneading functionality that give the dough that special texture and also a super fast processing time.  Perhaps there would be no way for me to replicate such effects at home so maybe I should stop trying.  I should have stated my purpose at the beginning and its good that it was questioned otherwise I would not have gotten such relevant information.  Much thanks to all you bakers for your valuable information.  I'll keep these points in mind in the future.


I appreciate all the additional tidbits and advice, especially more info on ginger.

FYI, the "enhancer" I used in experiment was as follows:

    * 1 cup lecithin granules
    * 1 tablespoon fruit fresh (or vitamin C powder)
    * 1 tablespoon ginger (ground)

Used in the proportion of about 1 Tbsp per 3 cups of flour.


The information on the effects of different ingredients is very interesting.  Regardless of stance on the use of any "enhancers", I think it is useful to know about the effects of their composition. If I had known more about these and where they came from, I could have used natural food products instead for example, replace lecithin with egg yolk, vit c with lemon juice, ginger powder with fresh ginger.  Now, if those ingredients were substituted into the recipe, I wonder if it would still be considered an "enhanced" dough.  Maybe the item and quantity used also play major role in each person's definition of a "dough enhancer" and an acceptable ingredient....some food for thought.




jsk's picture

Anis Bouabsa's Baguettes

Fot quite a while now I was working with whole grain doughs producing flavorful breads with strong aromas from the various flours. A few days ago I decided to bake a proper baguette after seeing the beautiful baguettes you TFL members are showing here.

I have never made a baguette in my life but have read about it quite a bit. So I searched TFL and found dozens of recipes but I rememberd that I wanted to give Bouabsa's baguettes a shot back then so I went for it. It was my first time using the strech and fold in the bowl technique wich I found very easy and effective.

I used 94% AP flour and 6% whole rye as I was stuck without additional AP flour. I increased the hydration accordingly to 78% as I wanted to preserve the texture of the dough. I also added a final fold on the counter after the 3 S&F in the bowl as I felt the gluten was not developed enough.

The dough was retarded for only 16 hours because of my working schedule. Shaping was done by Hamelman instructions in "Bread" and the baguettes were proofed in a couche for an hour.

Anis Bouabsa's Baguettes:




The results were very good. The taste was sweet with a great arome of fermented flour. The baguettes were eated warm with a variety of cheeses. Delicious!

Have a Good Week!


 Submitted to YeastSpotting.

GloriouslyHomemade's picture

Sourdough Conversion - check math please?

Hi there!

I have a few recipes that call for 166% hydration starter and mine is 100%. I've done some math and logic. Could someone please check them both for me?


* 166% hydration starter = 100 units flour + 166 units water = 266 total units.

* Say I need A grams of 166% hydration starter in the recipe.

* A/266=X, with X being the weight per unit

* Since 100% starter has 100 units of flour and 100 of water, I'm short 66 water units. So, I need to add more water to the recipe as follows:

additional water needed = X * 66 units.

 Comments? :-)

purpleronie's picture

Using fridge with dough


I am shortly going to be running a small scale trial of breads and pastries for a visitor centre cafe on the island where I live. I am a home baker, and have tried various recipes, and catered for functions where I have baked repeated batches of dough so they are all ready to go in the oven one after the other. I know you can put dough in the fridge overnight, and then remove it in the morning, and leave for couple of hours before its ready for baking.

What happens if its not left long enough to warm up?

Do I need to let it warm up, then seperate, shape and proof again before baking?

How can I deal with a bigger quantity of dough that needs to be baked at different times? for example, if my oven holds 6 loaves on the top shelf, can I remove the dough from the fridge, let it stand, seperate it and leave some standing at room temperature while the first lot is shaped and baked?

And is it possible to bake bread on both shelves of a domestic electric oven at the same time if you rotate them?

I know my setup is far from ideal, but we have no bakery on the island, only shipped in steam baked sliced sh*te so there is a real need for something. If I can survive the 3 months trial, I will have a better idea of what sells and can use that to try and obtain funding to set up with better equipment. Until then its hand mixing, and domestic ovens all the way!

Any help on this matter would be much appreciated.


copyu's picture

Super Sourdough?

It's just turned 2:00am where I live, but I found this before heading to bed. I am too sleepy to read it all AND check the sources...if any...

Interesting? Any comments?

I hope this isn't wasting anyone's time. I'm going to bookmark this link and go to sleep. Please enjoy the article if you're in another time-zone.