The Fresh Loaf

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RonRay's picture

Levain as Desert [redo]

Originally, this was a comment in the thread:Levain as Desert

However, I now find that I cannot find such "comments" very easily, and I just spent a too much time finding this, and another "comment", both of which should have been done as a blog, if for no other reason than to be able to reference them, when needed.

=== The original follows with no chages for the previous  entry. ===110423

On a daily basis, I have my levain discard as a Desert, and love it. As for how I made it originally, that is well explained in the Banana Saga: Link

But, since then I have discovered it is very simple to make, and maintain, Banana Levain - assuming that you have a Cuisinart SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender, and if you do not then any blender could serve, but it will mean a bit more mess and work for you to do so.
Let us start from scratch: buy at lease 5 or 6 bananas. The best ones are those you would choose to eat, the poorest are those you would put in a banana quick bread. Take a one quart plastic  round container that has a lid, and then peel and slice the bananas crosswise, making round pieces, about 3 to 4 mm thick slices. Place the slices in the container, place the lid on it, and put the container with its sliced contents in the freezer or ice compartment until frozen solid - I do it for 24 hours. Next, remove the container from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw, where they can remain until you want them. I usually let them have a couple of days, or longer to thaw slowly. They can remain thus for an extended period until you need to use them for refreshing an existing levain, or creating a new one. Freezing them does nothing to the flavor, but it weakens, or destroys most of the cell walls and fibrous parts of the banana. When I need a fresh batch to use for refreshing the levain, I first need to puree the once frozen slices. I use the Cuisinart SmartStick to puree the thawed banana slices directly in their plastic container in less than a minutes.

That puree is a great treat all by itself. If the bananas were still frozen, it makes an ice cream of pure banana, as well. Of course, I prefer it as a levain with a snappy bite to it.

To start a pure banana levain, simply take a small amount - I use 25g - of the puree and add a 1/4 tsp of ANY yeast water, or liquid sourdough starter. I have a yogurt maker that came with 7, 5oz. glasses with individual plastic caps. I use one of these, and blend the "seed" into the puree using a small battery powered hand whisk.

The powered whisk came with two tips - a normal whisk and a small tip called a drink foam-maker, or "foamer". The end of the foam-maker came with a spring coiled on its loop. The spring can be removed. If left in place it catches small fibrous parts and can be a pain to clean. I prefer it without the coiled spring.

I use this battery powered hand mixer to blend the seed with the puree banana refresh for the levain to get a more uniform rise from the levain.

Once a smooth mix is obtained, I smack the bottom of the glass once or twice to more or less level the surface. Then I add a rubber band as a visual indicator of the starting level of the levain. Then snap the lid on the glass.

From time to time I check back to see the growth progress.

I was using 5g seed and 25g refreshment, but the banana levain can become feisty, and on one occasion, it rose over 5 fold and blew the lid off - ejecting banana levain in a mild mess. So, after that, I have limited the total amount to 25g (5g seed and 20g refreshment).

Currently, with an ambient temperature around 70ºF/21ºC, I find it has tripled (or better) overnight, and once again before I am ready to retire. So, when I check and find the glass rather full, I remove the cap and place a clean glass on the digital scale. Then I transfer a 5g seed from the finish batch into the new start of the next feeding.

Of course, once the 5g seed has been "planted" for the next cycle, the remaining 20g is now discarded into my oral compactor. (+^_^+).

And thus, I have come full cycle. I go to the fridge and get the container of banana puree and feed 20g of the puree as the refresh to the levain and another snack starts to grow.


ph_kosel's picture

Second Pullman loaf - orange raisin bread experiment

For some reason I've been daydreaming of raisin bread recently. In years gone by I've tinkered with various orange-raisin-oatmeal formulas but they always seemed too heavy, probably because I was including too much oatmeal.  My objective is to develop a bread formula that has not only the tartness of the juice but also the tang of the peel, rather like a marmalade, but also like raisin bread.


This is my account of my latest experiment, which I consider rather successful over all (although I did slip up a bit on the proofing time).


about 210g of Home-made marmalade of a sort, made (see procedure below) from

1 smallish seedless navel orange and

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

100g of raisins

1 tablespoon SAF "red" instant yeast

1.5 teaspoon salt

450g unbleached bread flour

300g very warm water



I started out by making some marmalade; in the past I've tried just throwing an orange in a blender peel and all, but I wanted some obvious peel in this loaf.  First I halved the orange (which was about 3 inches diameter or so, a rather thick-skinned specimen) and sliced up the halves.  I put the slices in a small sauce pan and scraped as much as possible of the juice left on the cutting board into the pan too.  I added a half cup of granulated sugar to the pan, stirred it up a bit to draw out some of the juice, and heated the mixture to boiling.  I boiled it on fairly high heat until the sugar was well disolved, turned the heat off for maybe 10 minutes, then concluded it was more like orange peel soup than marmalade.  I brought it back to a boil and boiled it rather vigorously until enough moisture evaaporated that it was more like marmalade (no free-flowing liquid syrup) than soup; I stirred it while it boiled.  Understand, I've never made marmalade before although I eat it regularly on toast, crackers, etc.  I was winging it, and I didn't take careful notes, although I've glanced at various recipes for marmalade and candied orange peel over the years.

Anyway, once the marmalade was made I left it to cool uncovered in the pan and my wife and I went shopping.  When we got back and had put all the groceries away I did some other stuff and around 9PM made up some dough, putting all the ingredients listed above into the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer and mixing it up thoroughly with the dough hook.  The resulting dough was very loose and sticky, presumably because of the sugar and remaining moisture in the home-made marmalade.  It was nothing I wanted to try to knead, so I just scraped it into the pullman pan (which I sprayed with oil first, anticipating possible problems getting the sugary dough out after baking) and spread it out more or less evenly in the pan with a spoon.  I put the lid on the pullman pan and put a folded kitchen towel on top to keep the heat in as I did in my earlier first loaf with this new pan.

Then I left the loaf to proof while my wife and I watched a video (The King's Speech, which runs 118 minutes, almost two hours).

When the movie was over I checked the pan and discovered that the dough had filled the pan and begun to sneak through the cracks past the lid in a mad bid for escape.  Two hours was too long to proof this formula!  I wiped off the escaping dough as best I could but did not pull back the lid for fear of what might happen.  I preheated the oven to 450F, popped the pan in, set the timer for 25 minutes, and had some coffee.  When the timer went off I pulled the loaf out of the oven, managed to slide the lid off despite some "escapist" dough that got quite crispy in the cracks between pan and lid, and managed to pop the loaf out of the pan.  One bit of crust stayed stuck in the pan, perhaps on a spot I did not oil well enough.  The loaf had a thin ridge of dark, crispy  "escapist" dough around the top which I broke off and discarded.


It appears from the uneven browning (see photos below) that although the dough escaped through the cracks it did not fully contact the pan lid.  The crumb is very moist and chewy with a very nice flavor, sweet with a tartness of orange and a distinct tang of orange peel - my wife says it's delicious, and I am inclined to agree.    The crust is rather thinner and softer than I'm used to - a slightly longer bake in future trials might be appropiate.  Overall, this is a formula I'm definitely going to save carefully and use again (but next time with a shorter proofing time)!

Here are some photos.

Loaf and pan^


Crumb shot^


I'm very very happy with this loaf!




jcking's picture

Altamura Tantrum Loaf

Pane del capriccio; from Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" Made with Durum Flour. Using the Sterile Sourdough X Starter.



It is possible to sterilize flour and water to create a useable starter and bake a loaf. Tasty with a mild sour taste.





SylviaH's picture

Buttermilk Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

Buttermilk Hot Cross Buns        


If you would like the recipe I used it is referred to on my blog HERE.   I add extra homemade candied orange and lemon peel.  I also use golden raisins a little extra spice of nutmeg and cinnamon.  I like to up the hydration too, by adding a little extra buttermilk.  I glazed the buns with beaten egg yolk with about a TBspoon of milk.  I also towel steamed my buns for the first 12 minutes.  I made a Royal Icing for the baked on crosses, I've tried them before and I don't care for the flavor or texture of the baked crosses, IMHO, the baked on crosses are for the benefit of commercial baking and selling of the HCB, so the crosses don't melt or disfigure...IMHO!  I think the added little sweetness of the lemon flavored icing crosses goes great with the buns.



                                        These are very large buns.  





                                                   Very tender crumb, pulled apart still warm.



                                             These were frosted still a little warm....the Lemon Royal Icing will harden nicely and not melt away on the buns when covered for

                                    later eating.








steelchef's picture

Has anyone used or considered wine/beer yeast as a sourdough starter?


I used to make wine in the basement and had great success with natural sourdough starter. It has been six years since moving the wine making to a U-Brew. Now I can't get a natural starter happening.

So, has anyone used a wine or beer yeast to start a poolish?  Any info would be appreciated. I intend to give it a try regardless.


Elagins's picture

Wood-Fired Bagels

I just finished up a really interesting consulting engagement, helping the owner of a new bagel café in Brooklyn perfect their Montreal-style wood-fired bagels. All in all, it was a great experience that I thought I'd share with the TFL community.

First some background: The café, which is located at a great retail intersection in downtown Brooklyn, is in the process of construction and won't open for another month or so. Its centerpiece is a floor-to-ceiling wood-fired oven that the owners had built by folks who specialize in commercial WBOs. The working hearth is 5 feet wide by 6 feet deep, and the fire-bed is about 1½ feet wide and runs along the left side for the full depth of the hearth.

They knew nothing about either bagels or WBOs when I came to work on Tuesday morning. They'd had a partner who apparently knew something about baking, but for some reason left before the café was up and running, so it was my job to bring them up to speed.

To say that first day was challenging is an understatement. Because the café was still under construction, we only had electricity from one outlet. There was no hot water, no gas, no stove, no refrigeration. The ingredients they'd bought were completely wrong - AP flour when they should have had high-gluten, no yeast, no malt, no sugar and five gallons of vegetable oil (a good thing).

Worst of all, that beautiful beast of a used 140-quart Hobart floor mixer they'd bought had the wrong beater: because bagel dough is so stiff, that flat beater would have burned the motor out in no time. During the three days I was there, the owner did manage to order a dough hook and call a mechanic to give it a thorough check-up. Fortunately, they had a brand-new 20-quart mixer that turned out to be a great workhorse for the next few days of practice.

The crew was equally challenged. Their kitchen manager was mainly a cook, with some baking experience and no bagel experience, and their assistant was a 19-year-old kid who'd had some restaurant experience but no baking or cooking background. Fortunately, he turned out to be extraordinarly smart, hard-working and a fast learner, so that by the end of my three days there, he really understood the oven and could make some pretty passable bagels.

Now, the challenge of Montreal bagels is that they have very little bulk ferment time and virtually no proofing time, so the idea is to develop the gluten and strike a balance between the amount of yeast, sugar and malt in the dough so that there would be enough fermentation to develop a crumb, but not so much yeast that you could taste it.

As I said, the ingredients were all wrong, so our first order of business was to go out on a shopping trip to a local wholesale grocery outlet. The good news was that the store carried All Trumps; the bad news was that all the flour they sold was bleached and bromated: not a bag of unbleached to be had anywhere. Okay, suck it up and remember that this was only for practice. Once they're up and running, unbleached All Trumps is what it's going to be. The yeast was a nightmare: no fresh, no instant, only 2-pound bags of Red Star Active Dry. I hate active dry yeast, but again, our choices were limited. Malt, either dry or liquid? Forget it. At least they carried honey and sugar. And oh, yes, a hot plate so that we could set up a 5-gallon stock pot as a boiler (that lovely 35-gallon 200,000 BTU commercial boiler wasn't set up either).

Back to the café to get things started. The oven had been lit the night before and was chugging along at about 570 in the rear corner closest to the heat, tapering off to 450 at the far end of the hearth. The hearth itself was lovely: tightly jointed blocks of cordierite 2" thick by 18" square. Whoever built that oven knew what he was doing.

Our first mix was a challenge, but it was small, since (a) the 20-quart really can't handle more than about 10 lbs of flour at a time and (b) we were mixing just enough so I could show them how to hand-roll bagels. Needless to say, those first efforts were pretty dismal: uneven sizes, poor seals, dense crumb because of the deadly combination of that @#@^#%$ active dry yeast and cold water. Oh, and did I mention the peels were all wrong? Fortunately, the owner immediately ordered a new set of ¼" maple peels that we had the next day.

So that Tuesday was really a day of learning the oven and building some basic skills. We had an electronic thermometer that could give remote readings from a distance, and during that afternoon, Derrick, the assistant, really developed a feel for the oven - when and where to add wood, where the hot spots were and how to manage the heat in general. Iggy, the kitchen manager, showed some real promise and hand rolling and was as frustrated with the yeast as I was. Luckily, he knew a baker not far from where he lived who sold us a pound of fresh yeast the next morning.

Wednesday morning was a bit easier. Still no electricity besides that one outlet, no cooking surface except the hot plate, but the refrigerator was working and we had determined the right mixing time for the dough. Plus, we had that lovely fresh yeast to work with.

We spent the morning baking. First, I had them divide the dough into 3½ oz pieces and hand-roll those so they'd get a feel for the right size of the bagel. Derrick brought the oven up beautifully, and Iggy manned our makeshift boiler. Our first mix was a bit over fermented because I hadn't corrected for the fresh yeast, but that first batch of bagels was just gorgeous.

That morning, we had our first reality-check. The owner's wife had picked up several bagels from a place nearby that brought Montreal bagels in from St Viateur, one of the two major Montreal bagelries, and we sampled ours against theirs. The consensus was that we were pretty close in size, shape, taste, texture and color, but we wanted to do better.

Thursday was our day to shine. We increased our mix size from 5 lb of flour to 10 lb, and added malt, which the owner had picked up the day before. The guys rolled by eye and by feel, and came up with a pretty consistent-sized product. Derrick did magic with the oven. Everything was chugging along on all cylinders. Even the undersized boiler, although it was a bottleneck, really didn't bother us too much.

By the end of the day, we'd produced about 20 dozen really beautiful bagels. When I left that day, I felt as though all of us had become part of one family, and the guys, over the space of three short days, built a foundation of competence that will stand them in good stead once the café opens and business begins to build.

I have to say, it was one of the best experiences of my baking life.

Stan Ginsberg


RuthieG's picture

My Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

One of our favorite sandwich loafs is a Honey Whole Wheat that my friend Annie passed along to me and has become the regular go to bread in this household.  However I am always looking for a new loaf and wanted to try the Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf  mentioned in this thread  and compare it with my regular loaf only because I love trying new recipes and have a goal of trying as many different varities as I can. 


I followed the recipe to the letter.  My belief is that before you start adding and subtracting from a recipe you need to first make it completely as is and then experiment later.  The result was a wonderful light loaf that was an immediate hit.  I usually can resist the urge to slice a hot loaf but I honestly couldn't when my husband walked in and said, "Let's sample it.  We did and it was absolutely delish.......


The rise was so beautiful and honestly when I slashed it for the oven, I knew that I could have left it to rise longer...It was almost like a small explosion.  I ended us with a slash that was probably 1/2 inch deep instead of the 1/4 that I was looking for.  I use a very sharp single edge blade made for straight razors and it was a brand new blade and made a beautiful slash.....It blossomed as I finished the slash and the obvious rise in the oven was amazing.  One loaf, see the crumb picture below, actually ended up with a weird little top puff/crowne.  (Notice loaf on the right in picture below)  The other loaf, though. had a beautiful crown/top.   I was out of real butter and had a butter/oil combination stick that I used to glaze the top.


The recipe was easy to follow, easy to knead, no adjustments at all and came out amazingly good.  It isn't better or worse than my regular Whole Wheat loaf, just different.  I would encourage you to try the recipe. 

The crumb.


I think if you try this recipe, you will not be disappointed....I certainly felt that since I had never made a blog entry, this bread was worthy of my first blog.


pmccool's picture

Clayton "Wake": Pain Seigle

This is the second bread from this weekend's bake that is from the late Bernard Clayton Jr.'s New Complete Book of Breads, as both an expression of gratitude and a memorial of sorts.

Mr. Clayton's Pain Seigle is one that I have not previously made.  It is an interesting bread, from the standpoint that approximately 50% of the flour is in two preferments: a "starter" made with commercial yeast and a sponge.  It also has a high rye content, with 2 cups bread flour to approximately 5 cups of rye flour.  


1 cup rye flour [I used the only rye flour available to me, a finely milled whole rye]

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105º-115º)

Mr. Clayton recommends a fermentation period in a covered bowl running from a minimum of 6 hours up to 36 hours.  I let mine ferment from Friday evening to Saturday evening, about 26 hours.


All of the starter

1-1/4 cups warm water (105º-115º)

1 cup bread or all purpose flour

1-1/2 cups rye flour

Blend the water with the starter, then blend in the flours.  Cover and allow to ferment 8 hours or more.  I let this ferment overnight, then mixed the final dough around 11:30 Sunday morning, a total of 14 hours.  The sponge ballooned, at least quadrupling its original volume.  Plan accordingly.

Final Dough

All of the sponge

1/2 cup hot water (120º-130º)

1 tablespoon salt

2-1/2 cups rye flour, approximately

1 cup bread or all purpose flour

Stir the hot water and salt into the sponge, then add 1 cup of each flour.  Mr. Clayton's instructions say to mix by hand or machine for 15 minutes, adding the remaining rye flour until the dough is a shaggy mass that can be kneaded.  Here's where I took a slightly different path.  Mr. Clayton's descriptions and directions, while acknowledging that the dough will be sticky enough to warrant kneading with a bench knife or bowl scraper, still reflect a wheat-flour-based mindset.  Kneading, if by hand, should be done on a floured surface; "it will gradually lose its stickiness and become soft and elastic."  With all due respect, no.  I found that the white flour in the sponge had developed a very strong gluten network from its overnight hydration.  Adding the last cup of bread flour increased that.  However, the more rye flour that was added, the more this became a rye dough insofar as its handling characteristics went.  Being mindful of rye's fragility, I did about 3 minutes of stretch and folds in the bowl (as opposed to 5 minutes of kneading), then turned the dough out onto a wet countertop so that I could shape it into a rough ball.  That also let me clean and oil the bowl for the next fermentation which, per instructions, was timed at 40 minutes.  No indications were given for the dough's expansion or appearance at the end of this bulk fermentation, so I watched the clock.

Mr. Clayton instructs to "punch down the dough" and "knead for a minute or two to press out the bubbles."  I didn't see a significant change in the dough at the end of 40 minutes, certainly nothing to warrant punching down or kneading.  Clayton recommends forming into 3 boules of about 1 pound each.  I elected to form 2 boules.  This was followed, per instructions, by a 30-minute final ferment on the baking sheet. 


1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon milk

The egg yolk and milk are blended together and brushed on the loaves.  Mr. Clayton recommends glazing before slashing.

The bread is baked in a 400º dry oven for about 45 minutes, until a finger thump on the bottom crust produces a hollow sound.

Here's how it looked:

Clayton's Pain Seigle

And a somewhat closer view:

Clayton's Pain Seigle

It is a handsome bread.  The glaze imparts a lovely sheen.  It is also obviously underproofed.  My kitchen temperature today was in the low 70's, perhaps not as warm as Mr. Clayton's "room temperature."

As noted in a previous post, my cup of flour probably weighs less than Mr. Clayton's cup of flour.  Therefore, it is likely that these are somewhat higher than his in hydration.  Now that I have this bake as a baseline, I would probably extend the bulk ferment and the final ferment to a point that I could see more obvious indications of inflation in the dough.  These may be somewhat dense and tight-grained when I get around to cutting into them.  That won't be until later this week, since they will go into the freezer once they have cooled thoroughly.  They don't feel like bricks, so I will keep my fingers crossed.  I can't remember whether I've made an unseeded rye before, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the rye tastes all on its own.


dmsnyder's picture

Large bâtard made using the formula for the SFBI Miche


This bake was inspired by the very large bâtards Chad Robertson bakes, but the formula is that of the miche we baked in the Artisan II Workshop at the SFBI last December.

I've now baked this bread using the original formula and using all high-extraction flour rather than the mix of “bread flour” and whole wheat. I've made 1.25 kg miches and 2.0 kg miches. I have been curious how the SFBI miche would be as a bâtard, and I wanted to keep the size large, to be better able to compare crumb structure and flavor to the miche/boule shapes I've made with the same dough.

An additional point: This was my first bake using a large, linen-lined oval brotform for proofing.


Total formula




Wt (g)

Baker's %

AP Flour



Whole wheat flour






Wheat germ (toasted)













Wt (g)

Baker's %

AP flour



Whole wheat flour






Liquid starter






  1. Dissolve the starter in the water and mix in the flour. Desired Dough Temperature: 78ºF.

  2. Ferment for 8-12 hours.


Final Dough




Wt (g)

Baker's %

AP flour



Whole wheat flour






Wheat germ (toasted)














  1. In a very large bowl, dissolve the levain in the water. Add the other ingredients, except the salt, and mix thoroughly by hand.

  2. Cover tightly and autolyse for 30-60 minutes.

  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix thoroughly to incorporate.

  4. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

  5. Ferment for 3-4 hours with 4 folds at 50 minute intervals. (I did this by the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique.)

  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board. Pre-shape as a log.

  7. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes to relax the gluten.

  8. Shape as a bâtard and place, seam side up, in a floured banneton.

  9. Cover with plastic and retard overnight in refrigerator.

  10. Remove the loaf from the refrigerator and allow to warm and complete proofing for 1-3 hours. (Watch the dough, not the clock!)

  11. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the over to 500ºF with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  12. When the loaf is proofed, transfer the loaf to a peel. Slash the bâtard as desired, and transfer it to the baking stone. Steam the oven and reduce the temperature to 450ºF.

  13. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove any water remaining in your steaming apparatus.

  14. Continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the loaf is darkly colored, the bottom sounds hollow when thumped and the internal temperature is at least 205ºF. (If you have a convection oven, switch to “Convection Bake” and reduce the oven temperature to 425ºF at this point.)

  15. Remove the bâtard to a cooling rack, and cool thoroughly before slicing.

Bloom and Ear

Crackly Crust

I rested the loaf overnight, wrapped in baker's linen, before slicing and tasting.

Sliced loaf profile

Crumb close-up

The crumb was moderately open. She crust was crunchy, and the crumb was chewy. The flavor was moderately sour with a lovely wheaty flavor but without any harsh grassiness from the whole wheat. This flavor is as close to my notion of a "perfect" sourdough bread flavor as I can imagine. Those who prefer a less assertively tangy bread, might enjoy it more without the cold retardation.


Submitted to YeastSpotting


bread_house's picture

How Do You Use A Nonstick Perforated French Bread Pan

I just purchased a Non Stick Perforated French Bread Pan .... Only thing is I forgot to ask the sales associate how to use it? 

Do you just stick it in the oven to bake the bread?  Or do you have to put it on a baking stone or cookie sheet?

Do you have to preheat the pan?

Any help would be great .... Thanks .....