The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Going back in time with bread - earth oven - lots of pix

I occasionally re-enact Celtic history with my good friends from Ancient Celtic Clans. This weekend we attended the Celebration of Celts event. One of the things we did was to make an earth oven. None of us had ever done anything like it before, so it was a definite learning experience. Here I am putting the finishing touches on the chimney we didn't think to add until it was already roaring hot.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


This was also my first time going without a net - no scales, no measuring cups, no recipes. I put a big pile of flour in a bowl, added some yeast, added some salt, then water until it looked and felt right. I did a quick knead just to incorporate everything, then at 45 minutes did a stretch-and-fold, 45 minutes later either another stretch and fold if it needed it, or forming into a boule. 

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


The first loaf went in and I realized I had forgotten to slash it after the bottom exploded out of it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


The loaves got progressively better as the day went on, until they were looking like this - a beautiful currant loaf:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


One of my other hobbies is woodturning. We churned some fresh butter by putting cream into the wooden box on the left and shaking the heck out of it. The butter went into the little tub on the right. You can see the buttermilk still in the box on the left with the wooden agitators floating in it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


I also juggle :) Hey, I had to shake it up somehow!


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


I was astounded at how well they came out. Even without doing any measuring, I was able to crank out 6 beautiful, delicious loaves from a hole in the ground. Amazing.


And with freshly-made butter to slather all over them, we were in heaven!



pumpkinpapa's picture

A sweet focaccia

I made a delicious sweet focaccia with granny smith apples sprinkled with thyme and sugar. Incredible flavours coming together. It went over very well with family and friends. I think next time I will use a more tart apple.

Thyme scented apple focaccia 

I also made a wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie with a crumb topping. I love rhubarb and mine is coming along nicely in the garden.

Strawberry rhubarb pie 

bwraith's picture

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (1)Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (1)

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (2)Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (2)

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives Recipe

This recipe is a slight variation of Sourdough-guy's blog entry on Pagnotta and Ciabatta. Many thanks to Sourdough-guy for the recipe, which he says is his variation of an Il Fornaio recipe. I've posted pictures of my process and a spreadsheet with the amounts in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.


  • 400 grams fresh 100% hydration starter (my starter was taken out of the refrigerator after having been refreshed 3 days earlier. I probably should have used more recently refreshed and vigorous starter)
  • 650 grams water
  • 700 grams KA Organic AP
  • 50 grams KA rye blend (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 50 grams Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 18 grams salt
  • 300 grams pitted halved olives (I used calamata olives)


Mix ingredients until well integrated and there is some resistance to stirring. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

I think there was slightly too much water for my choice of flours and maybe because of the olives, which made the dough harder to handle. This was very slack dough. I would use a little less water next time, but I'm reporting this as I actually did it.

Fold and Rest, Repeat

Every 30-60 minutes pour the dough out onto the counter, let it spread a little, and fold it up into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest 30-60. Repeat this process every 30-60 minutes 3-4 times.

I may not have repeated this enough, given the very wet dough I ended up with. The dough was still too slack later when I tried to shape the loaves.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in an oiled rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise by double at room temperature.

Actually, I wanted to bake by midnight, so I let it get a little warmer, about 80F, which may have been a little bit of a problem. I think it made the slack dough even a little more slack to also be warm.


Pour the dough out on the table on a bed of flour and cut in two. Work with each loaf separately. Form a ball by carefully and gently pulling the sides toward the center repeatedly to get some surface tension on the smooth side underneath. Do not overhandle.

Here I was a disastrous dough handler. I way overhandled it because it was too slack and would not form a ball. It just kept spreading out quickly. Well, I just decided after way too many times pulling at the sides to stop trying and went for flat bread. So, I can't emphasize enough, don't overhandle. Just make that shape and be done with it.

I am doing a second version, and I think I've discovered how to do this. Use thumbs and fingers of one hand to pinch and hold the gathered sides over the center, holding the gathered edges up a little to help the sides stretch and the shape to become more round and taking a bit of weight off the loaf. Use the other thumb and a couple of fingers to pinch a bit of the side, pull the bit out and up and over to the center, stretching the side as you do. Gather that bit in with the first hand along with others as you work your way around the loaf. Try to make it round by gathering a bit from the place that sticks out the most.

Turn the dough over onto a thick bed of flour with the rough side down.

Final Proof

Allow the loaves to increase in size by double.

For me, this took about 3 hours. I'm still having a hard time figuring out when these higher hydration loaves have finished proofing. As I said there was too much water, and I never got these loaves to stiffen up very much. They mostly spread out on the counter.


Bake at 425F.

This took about 25 minutes, and the internal temperature went quickly to 210F, which I've experienced with these flat high hydration loaves. I didn't get much oven spring. I think the overhandling was a serious problem


Allow the loaf to fully cool.


The flavor was as good as any bread I've made. The crumb was much less open than I had hoped but was soft and flavorful. I think the flatness was because of the overhandling and maybe adding too much water to the dough. Maybe another fold or two would have helped. The gluten never really stiffened up enough. Still, this was a great tasting bread. My bad for the handling, but I'm already trying a second one. I also think the olives made the dough wetter, heavier, and harder to handle. The next try will be without olives.

DL's picture

Converting traditional starter to obtain mild, sweet bread

There are times I want a non-sour sweet sourdough bread.  So, I convert a cup of my traditional sourdough starter (flour/water) to a Herman (flour/water/sugar/potato--two feedings) on the day I want a sweet mild bread.  Is there any other way to obtain the desire results without converting the starter?


Erithid's picture

maple cinna-sugar breakfast bread (needs a better name)

maple1been a while, got behind with trying to graduate, but now thats all over... Here is my return into baking. This came out awesome, It was soft, fluffy, and sweet. My fiance loved it for breakfast.



3 cup flour ( i used ap)

1 cup water

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tsp yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

1tbs butter


Mix the ingediants minus the salt and butter, then add salt and butter, knead till ready ( i had to add about 1/4 cup extra flour to firm up my dough).

first rise: 1 hour

then roll out and sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar mixture created to taste, roll up into a standard loaf pan ( i used silicone).

second rise: 1 hour

bake at 375 for 35 min then check till GBD. Let me know if it works for you!


leemid's picture

How wide is the field?

So here I go again. Slap me if needed.

Watch the connection for this question: pizza, pizza pie, pie crust, pie dough, sweet pie dough, sweet pie dough for tart fillers, tart fillers, rhubarb and pie cherries are tart, rhubarb or cherry pie. Ta-dah!

Is pie crust too far afield for this site, 'cause I'm okay with that if it is? But I do have this fabulous sweet pie dough recipe for tart fillers...


PS, anyone know of a good general baking site, or a specifically pie site?

redivyfarm's picture

Pet treats of all sorts

I've seen a few mentions of baking dog biscuits among the postings here. Does anyone have a recipe or tip to share? I've used variations on recipes driven by something in the freezer that I didn't want to waste but didn't want to eat either.

I have large parrots and dogs and bake specifically for them at times (and accidently for them at times). One thing I do is throw eggs in the blender shell and all when baking for the birds to boost the calcium. I also include as many carrots as the recipe will hold because they like them baked-in but not alone.

The flock will appreciate your creativity.

ehanner's picture

Spring Sunflowers

This is a sourdough loaf that I saw Sourdough-guy do last week. It looked so good I just had to try it. I used my "basic sourdough" formula and folded in the seeds at the end of the 48 hour bulk ferment. From the looks of sourdough-guy's compared I would say I could have put more seeds in although it seemed like a lot at the time. (very scientific approach here). The flavor is incredible and the toasted seeds are bumped up a notch from the baking. 450F for 30 minutes.

Thanks for the inspiration sourdough-guy, in the end I used a similar method of planning and it worked out pretty well.


comn's picture

Sourdough Taste Problem

I made my first sourdough loaf today.  It's not very good.

It's way too sour.  I like my sourdough sweet, but this is barely edible it's so sour.

It rose wonderfully, the bread looks nice, it just doesn't taste good.

Is it possible I've used it too early?  I thought that it was ready to use when it could double in size. 

What would make it taste so sour?

NYamateur's picture

New guy posts pics

just wanted to say hello formally. i love this site. I read it all the time and I have learned a ton from everybody who posts here. Im posting two pics here. the first is a sourdough rye from last week and the second is my lastest bread addiction, whole grain dinner rolls. see you round folks!

sourdough rye