The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Marni's picture

Heartland Appliances and their wood burning range

Is anyone familiar with Heartland appliances?  They have a very old fashioned retro look and are made by AGA.  Any thoughts from an owner or past owner would be appreciated.

Also, they make a wood burning stove.  California doesn't allow them as far as I know, but it sure looks fun!


PMcCool's picture

Updated Kitchen - Photos

What follows is a case study of "Its beautiful!  Let's change it!"

When we moved into our present house in August 2007, one of the things that we especially liked about it was the large, open kitchen with lots of cabinet space and room to maneuver.  No more tripping over each other, as in the cramped kitchen of the previous house; no more trying to find a place to set something down that wasn't already occupied by something else.  It was pretty typical of houses that were built in this area in the mid-1990's; lots of honey-oak cabinetry, formica counter tops, ceramic tile backsplashes, etc. 

We have, over the years, been collecting ideas of things we would like to have in our kitchen.  There was the "If money was no object" list and there was the "Get real!" list.  One of the things that we fell in love with a few years ago was soapstone for counter tops.  I don't recall where or how we first became aware of it, but I do remember that after seeing it used (and still usable) in a Shaker village built in the mid-1800s we figured that durability wasn't going to be a problem.  I'll spare you the rationalization / sales pitch as to why we chose it over other options.  Let's just say we like it.  In looking at the somewhat worn Formica counter tops that were in the house, we decided that this might just be the time and place to take the plunge. 

Once the decision about counter tops was made, several other things followed in rapid progression.  For instance, to take out the existing countertops, the existing backsplash had to be removed.  Besides, white ceramic tile wouldn't have complement the new soapstone counters.  To get all of the backsplash out, the existing microwave oven had to be pulled.  Said microwave not only functioned poorly, it's vent fan recirculated cooking odors back into the house instead of venting outdoors.  Oh, and the dinged up, surface-mounted porcelain sink?  That had to go.  While they're messing with the plumbing anyway, let's get a new disposal, too.  To quote the King of Siam: "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

So, by choosing new counter tops, we got:

- new counter tops (natch)

- new backsplash

- new microwave, vented outdoors

- new undermount sink

- new faucet

- new disposal

- new switches and outlets (to coordinate with new backsplash)

- new pulls for the drawers and cabinets

- new under-cabinet lights

Talk about unforeseen consequences!

The steam-injection oven remains on the "If money were no object" list.  We decided that we could live with the existing white refrigerator, even though all of the other appliances are black.

Here is how things looked at the outset:


Another "before" view:

More before

The first thing to go was the backsplash and counter tops.  Not having a place to set things down for a couple of weeks was an adjustment we never quite got used to:

Tear out

The day after the wrecking crew tore out the backsplash and counters, another individual came to take the final measurements and make the templates that the stone fabricator would need to cut the raw slabs into the finished pieces for the counter tops.

A crew came back to install the wiring for the puck lights underneath the upper cabinets while the stone fabricator was doing his thing.  Under-cabinet lighting wasn't something that had been on either list but after seeing how much darker the slate tiles were going to be, compared to the previous white ceramic tiles, we decided that it would be a good thing to have. 

And then came the day that the new counters arrived:

They're here!

The installer in the above picture is finishing a seam between two sections of counter top.  Note that he has already installed the under-mount sink.

The final step for installing the counter tops was the application of a coat of mineral oil.  When soapstone is oiled, it darkens dramatically.  Since the stone isn't porous, I'm not sure exactly why it works.  The closest approximation I can think of is the difference between dry pavement and wet pavement, particularly when driving at night, in the sense that the oil fills in microscopic irregularities on the stone's surface in much the same way that rain fills in the irregularities of the pavement's surface, making it look much darker.  Or maybe I'm the one that's all wet.  Anyway, oiling is not required.  It does nothing for the stone, other than change its appearance.  My wife thinks that she will probably not oil our counters with any frequency, if at all.  She prefers the "dry" look.  Here's a picture that shows part of the stone oiled and part of it dry:

Oiled vs. dry stone

Over the next couple of days, the slate tile backsplash was installed, grouted and sealed.  You can also see two of the puck lights under the upper cabinets, along with the new faucet at the sink and the new pulls on the cabinets and drawers in this shot:

Slate backsplash

And a couple of more shots showing the finished work:



Additional photos, if you are interested, are located at  The before and after order is scrambled; Photobucket seems to adhere to the LIFO approach for inventorying multiple uploads.  If any of you know how to reshuffle the order of the photos in a Photobucket album, please tell me how.

We had dithered about whether or not we should refinish the cabinets, eventually defaulting to a wait and see approach.  Now that everything is in, we are content to keep them as they are.

We are very satisfied with how things have turned out, even though some of the et ceteras drove the price up higher than my informal initial estimate.  We expect to be using, and liking, this kitchen for a long, long time.

Bottom line?  "It's beautiful!  Don't change a thing!"

gavinc's picture

Hi from Rosebud Australia


My name is Gavin and I've been baking bread for a about 10 years off and on.  Over the last twelve months I've experimented with sourdough and have been rewarded with the best tasking bread I've ever had.

I am interested in a book of sourdough recipes that provide the bakers formulae with each recipe.  I've converted my regular recipes to give the ingredients in bakers formulae, but I want to be sure that I'm not losing the flavour and intent of the authors while trying new ones.

I built a brick oven in the backyard about 3 years ago and mostly use it when friends are around for pizza.  This initially drove my interest in bakers formulae as I need to scale the final dough weights depending on the number of visitors for whom we were catering.  I also used it last Christmas and baked the meats and veggies for 20 people with great success.  I love sourdough in the brick oven as it gives me plenty of time to bring the oven up to temperature and settle in before the bread is ready.  It was rather tricky when I used commercial yeast as the dough was often fully risen before my brick oven up to temperature; whereas the long proofing times of the sourdough gives me plenty of time.

I don't usually join forums, but I like the content and 'feel' that this sites gives, with the genuine interest and value adding that the members provide.  Thanks.



whatever868686's picture


Hi guys,

Does autolyse require salt and the leavening agent. Why? 

The site did not mention adding those two but in some books which I read, it was mentioned they should be added. 

sannimiti's picture

need recipe for homemade bisquick

hi guys, hope you're all fine! would anyone have a trusted recipe for homemade bisquick because the stuff is ridiculously expensive in germany.

thanks a lot in advance, sanni 

hullaf's picture

Banana flax bread

In order to use up some of the sourdough starter leftovers I tweaked a recipe from "Bob's Red Mill Baking Book", called banana flax bread. 

banana flax breadbanana flax bread

The original recipe said it made two loaves but not so. I made one with these ingredients: 

1 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour 

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour 

1/2 or 3/4 cup golden flaxseed meal

1 tsp ground cinnamon  

1 1/2 tsp baking powder 

1/2 tsp baking soda 

1/2 tsp salt 

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped 

2 eggs 

1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 cup honey 

1 tsp vanilla 

1/2 cup leftover sourdough starter   

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used walnut oil) 

3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/2 cups) 


Preheat oven 350 F. Grease 8x4x2 loaf pan, line with parchment paper.

Combine the flours, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sugar and honey, vanilla, sourdough starter, and oil. Add half the dry ingredients, then the mashed bananas, combining well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to moisten. Add walnuts. 

Pour into pan, bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes. If it is browning too much, loosely cover with foil. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then cool on rack. 


My family and friends loved the taste of this. And it was easy to double and easy to use up leftover starter!




holds99's picture

Ciabatta loaves made from Rose Levy Beranbaums Bread Bible and Bread Board

These are ciabatta loaves I made using Rose Levy's Bread Bible recipe.  She doesn't call for "stretch and fold" in her recipe but I did 3 very gentle stretch and folds during proofing, then divided the dough into 4 equal pieces and it seemed to give the loaves better rise and crumb.  The dough is very wet so I very lightly floured the work surface and top of the dough when doing "stretch and fold" (be careful with the amount of flour used to dust the dough or it will leave tell tale lines embedded in the interior of final loaf).  I very lightly dusted with flour before each of the 3 "stretch and fold" procedures (at 30 minute intervals).  Some folks use water on the counter and water on their hands but I found this dough to be so wet that if you use water you destroy some of the air bubbles that is so important for the light airy texture you're trying to achieve.  Anyway, after final proofing I divided and shaped them (her recipe is for 1 loaf, I made 4 loaves) for final proofing on parchment lined baking pans placed, coveded with a large clear rectangular plastic storage bin that accomodates two baking pans containing the 4 loaves.  I think the "stretch and fold" technique helped produce a better, more open crumb in the ciabatta loaves and gave them better oven spring.


Ciabatta Loaves No 1Ciabatta Loaves No 1



Ciabatta Loaves No 2Ciabatta Loaves No 2

I had mentioned previously, in a response to a question re: getting the ciabatta loaves off the work surface and onto a parchment lined pan or baking stone, that I made a bread board using a legal size clip board with the clip hardware removed.  My wife purchased a pair of panty hose for the project and here's a photo of the front side of the bread board with the panty hose stretched over the surface.  It works well with wet dough, as the dough doesn't stick to the nylon.  I moved the loaves from the work surface onto the nylon covered bread board and then onto parchment lined bread pans for final proofing.  This photo below (Bread Board No 1) is the work side of the board, where the loaf is placed on the board.  It is hard to see but the board is covered with the nylon hose.  If you wanted to make a longer bread board (and have an oven that will accomodate longer loaves) you could use thin plywood cut to the size you need and sanded to take of the rough edges after cutting the shape.


Bread Board No 1Bread Board No 1


The photo below is the back side of the bread board, with the nylon hose tightly pulled across the front side of the board and tied on the back side.  You could, if you wish, tape the back side with packing tape.  I didn't bother and it works fine.  I also use the board for baguettes (up to 18 inches long) and batards, when removing them from the couche and placing them onto parchment lined pans.  During the final 10 minutes of baking they can be removed from the parchment line baking pan(s) and placed directly on the baking stone to finish out the baking phase, if one wishes to use the stone as the preferred method.  After use I let the board dry completely at room temperature, dust off the excess flour and store it in a plastic bag for the next use.

Bread Board No 2Bread Board No 2

qahtan's picture

yorkshire puddings

The batter for Yorkshire puddings...

Eggs, flour and water,

The baked Yorkshire puddings,,,, qahtan
obrien1984's picture

Working with rye dough

Last night was my first attempt at a rye loaf. The texture of the dough was completely different than anything I had worked with before (usually I bake 100% whole wheat), and I was wondering if perhaps I did something wrong.

I used the recipe for 65% sourdough rye in Reinhardt's WGB. I used Hodgson Mills All Natural Stone Ground Rye Flour and King Arthur Whole Wheat.

Rather than a soft, slightly sticky, homogenous, dough, the rye dough was more like modeling clay. For example, when I tried to shape it into a ball (by tucking the sides underneath), it just split on the top. Instead of stretching, it just broke apart. I tried adding more water, but it became gooey and sticky. I don't see how it would be possible to shape this in the traditional method of stretching and folding, as it lacked both elasticity and extensibility.

Is this the correct texture?

The resulting 32 oz loaf was quite dense and chewy, but very good. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste, which was much milder than the caraway-laden rye bread I remember from the fried fish sandwiches of my childhood.

 Thanks so much for reading! I look forward to your responses, oh wise Internet!



nytesong's picture

Cracked Oven Glass

Ever since I read the BBA, bread baking finally made sense and it finally clicked for me.  (Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook's bread section--what a waste!)

 I've been been baking bread...a LOT.  As much as I can manage it--which is several times a week.  I'd probably bake more, but my family and the occasional unsuspecting neighbor can only eat so much so fast.

 However--the other day I came across the worst thing ever!  I opened my cold oven to put a cookie sheet in it for storage purposes (smallish kitchen) and noticed that the glass on my oven door (the peep thru window) was cracked!!!  Not one crack but several.

 I'm the ONLY one in my house that uses the oven.  And I never slam it.  EVER.  

What I'm wondering is it possible that it cracked either a)having the oven at 500 on occasion (not normal several months ago) or b) creating steam?   or c) just a fluke?

I confess I've baked a few times since noticing this without a noticeable problem..but how long do I have before I need to replace it?  Can one replace just an oven door?  I've tried looking on the manufacturer's website to no avail.