The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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PMcCool's picture

Bread camp at The Back Home Bakery

I had the pleasure of spending a week working as a baking intern for Mark Sinclair at his The Back Home Bakery in Kalispell, Montana.  Other than the sleep deprivation, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week of measuring ingredients, washing dishes, mixing bigas and doughs, washing dishes, stretching and folding dough, washing dishes, pre-shaping and shaping loaves, washing dishes, making pastries and fillings, washing dishes, scraping the workbench, washing dishes, packaging the finished breads/pastries, building friendships with Mark and Sharon (his wife), and washing dishes.

A typical day would start at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.  We'd begin by pulling bigas from the refrigerator (they had been mixed the previous afternoon or evening) and measuring the ingredients for each bread.  Most of the breads were mixed in a 20-quart mixer, except for the baguettes, which were a larger batch that was mixed in the 60-quart mixer.  The other exception was on Saturday morning, when about half of the breads were mixed in the 60-quart mixer because of the larger batches being prepared for the Kalispell farmers' market later that morning.  Mark also pulled 2 or 3 frozen pastry doughs from the freezer at about the same time so that they could be thawed and ready for sheeting and shaping during a lull in the bread production.

After mixing, the bread doughs were placed in a proofer.  Most were given 3 stretch and folds at 45-minute intervals.  After proofing, the doughs were shaped and placed on sheet pans, then put back in the proofer for their final proof prior to slashing and baking.  The baguettes, again, were an exception to this general practice; they received a pre-shape, then a ferment at room temperature, followed by a final shaping and final room-temperature ferment before slashing and loading into the oven.  Mark uses two convection ovens; one is electric and the other is gas fired.  All of the baking is done on sheet pans, rather than on a deck or stone.  Neither oven is steam-injected, so Mark throws a can of water on a cast-iron griddle sitting in the bottom of the oven when a bread requires steaming.  

What I haven't conveyed well is the overall planning that Mark does in deciding which doughs are mixed first and which are mixed last.  Based on experienced he has gained and on the particular day's product roster (it varies from day to day), Mark sequences the production steps so that he can maintain a steady flow of bread or pastries in and out of the ovens without creating bottlenecks or gaps.  And it's all subject to change, depending on the activity of the doughs.  There are anywhere from 1 to 4 timers in use at any given point and each step of the process for each bread or pastry is noted on a sheet of paper.  If it didn't get written down, it would get lost in the ever-changing flow of the work.  A couple of examples may help to illustrate just how important time management is in a bakery.  One: "If you have time to stand around, you've probably missed something."  Two: Mark muttering "That timer rules my life" as he leaves the dinner table to put the rye starter in the refrigerator for the night.

I encountered several surprises during my week at The Back Home Bakery:

- Mark produces a variety of pastries, using both croissant dough and puff pastry dough.  I had preconceived that he was primarily making breads, but that was a misconception on my part.

- Mark uses Wheat Montana's AP flour, which most other milling companies would label as a high-protein bread flour.  Still, he produces incredibly tender and flaky pastries and robust breads using that same flour.  The man knows what he's doing.

- Aforesaid pastries, still warm from the oven, make a spectacular breakfast.  My wife ran out of adjectives by Thursday.

- Mark is something of a Renaissance man: teacher, coach, log home builder and baker.  And very patient with a well-meaning but sometimes-addled assistant.  I'm sticking with the sleep deprivation defense as long as I can.  

Saturday was the biggest production day of the week because of the Kalispell farmers market, so we were up at 1:00 a.m.  Sharon also pitched in, so there were three of us banging around in the bakery, trying not to trip over each other.  That morning we produced and packaged:

- palmiers

- bear claws

- croissants

- cherry croissants

- blueberry croissants

- cheese danish

- pain au chocolat

- apple strudel

- ham and cheese croissants

- sticky buns

- sour rye bread (based on Eric's Fav Rye)

- rustic white bread

- buckwheat-flax bread

- baguettes

- Sal's rolls (torpedo shaped, made from baguette dough)

- Portuguese sweet bread (shaped as rolls)

- Kalamata jack bread

All of the above was loaded in the van, along with the booth and display fixtures, and ready to roll by 7:30.

Here are a couple of pictures from that morning:

Sharon, wisely, bundled up for the chilly morning.  Mark's concession to the cold was to change from shorts to jeans and put on a cap.

Sharon waiting on early customers.

Mark's commitment to putting out a high-quality product is paying off.  He has loyal customers who come looking for their favorites and who are very disappointed if they arrive too late and find that item has sold out.

I'm very grateful to have had a week working with Mark and getting to know both he and Sharon.  Should you have the opportunity to pursue a future internship, I can highly recommend it.


DonD's picture

Pain Paillasse Revisited


When I first saw the twisted shaped baguettes posted by Shiao-Ping on her blog, I was intrigued. Then I read the posting by Chouette22 on the Pain Paillasse by Aime Pouly and found out that it is an Artisanal Bread made in Switzerland, I was fascinated and wanted to know more about the man and his breads. I purchased Pouly's book 'Le Pain' and studied it thoroughly.

Having spent one year of college in Geneva in the late sixties, I have always had a soft spot for the beautiful country of Switzerland. Although, the Pain Paillasse was not around when I was there, I was determined to try to duplicate it. Problem is the recipe is a closely guarded secret that Aime Pouly only shared with two of his most trusted friends.

From the description and photographs of the basic Pain Paillasse, I understood it to be a Levain and White Flour based Baguette where the high hydration dough is twisted like a wringed towel before proofing and baking without any scoring. Although Pouly refers to his preferment as Levain, his formula for Levain is a mixture of Flour, Water and Yeast at 100% hydration so my guess is that it is really a Poolish instead. However for my first attempt, I decided to use a Poolish preferment made with a mature Liquid Levain instead of the Instant Yeast (similar to the Whole Wheat Levain that Hamelman described in his book). I chose the Liquid Levain to control the sourness from the production of Acetic Acid. To balance the sourness of the Levain, I used the principles of the Gosselin Pain a l'Ancienne formulation first published by David Snyder to extract extra sweetness from the dough.


Flour Mix

300 Gms AP Flour

150 Gms Bread Flour

30 Gms WW Flour

20 Gms Dark Rye Flour

Levain Poolish

125 Gms Flour Mix

125 Gms Water

25 Gms Mature Liquid White Flour Levain (100% Hydration)


375 Gms Flour Mix

200 Gms Ice Cold Water + 50 Gms Water

9 Gms Atlantic Grey Sea Salt

1/8 Tsp Instant Yeast

 Pains Paillasse Proofing

 Pains Paillasse

 Pain Paillasse Crumb


1- Make Levain Poolish and ferment overnight for 8 hrs until tripled in volume.

2- Mix remaining Flour Mix with the Ice Water for 1 min. at low speed w/ flat beater and autolyse overnight for 8 hrs.

3- Mix Levain Poolish, Dough, Salt and Yeast with remaining water using flat beater on low speed for 1 min. Switch to dough hook and knead at low speed for another minute. Let rest for 30 mins.

4- Stretch and fold in the bowl using the James MacGuire method 4 times at 1 hr interval.

5- Dough should have nearly doubled in volume by the 4th fold. Divide dough in 3 and preshape into rounds and let rest 15 mins.

6- Shape into long baguettes, flour generously and twist baguettes before proofing for 45 mins.

7- Bake in preheated oven at 460 degrees with steam for 10 mins.

9- Continue baking without steam for another 12 mins at 430 degrees.

10- Turn off oven and let rest in oven with door ajar for 10 mins.

11- Remove baguettes and cool on rack.


The dough developed nicely during fermantation and was quite extensible but at 75% Hydration was not easy to handle. Generous flouring during shaping helped.

Oven spring was good, the crust had deep golden color and was quite crunchy. The crumb was cream color, fairly open with medium softness and a slight chewiness. The taste had a hint of toastiness and a slight tang balanced with a sweet creamyness (which is the trademark of the Gosselin Pain a l'Ancienne). Overall, I was quite pleased with the results. Next time, I will try using all AP Flour with a touch of Rye and a true Poolish which I think will be closer to Pouly's formulation. I would be curious to hear the detailed description from someone who has tasted the authentic Pain Paillasse.




cbtb's picture

plexiglass proof box top

Hi All,

This is my first post. I have a culinary team building cooking program in NYC and to relax love to bake bread... I also use the breads for my problem is that several years ago I bought a plexiglass proofing box top that fits nicely over a half sheet pan.  I love it. Now that I am a maniac and will bake all weekend long I need more and can't find any. Does anyone know #1 what I am talking about and #2 where to find more?

Many thanks for your help/



tssaweber's picture

Bread of Basel


One of my favorite bread is the "Basler Brot" or bread of Basel. It is a Swiss cantonal bread and as I was born in Basel of course I favor this over other cantonal breads like the bread of St. Gall, or of the Ticino. An exception is the rye bread from the Valais, the Walliser Brot, as I spent the other half of my younger years in this region.

If you belief the history than this bread was the first time mentioned in 1792 in a bread book. And still as of today it is the runner in many bakeries in Switzerland.

The shape is longish oval and it is always baked as two loafs sticking together at the front. For all of you who have difficulties with scoring, this is the bread to go, because it has none. I also like the dark rather thick crust which gives it the wonderful taste.

The oven temperatures from the old days with the wood fired ovens are not attainable in a private household environment, but I was able to get good results with 550˚F during the steam period and finishing the bake with 450˚F.



 TFL Crumb Shot

Unfortunately I was not able to copy paste the adapted recipe as it is in table form and TFL doesn't allow to import published spreadsheets/*.xps files. But for those who are interested I have a printable version and an Excel version on my blog. Due to the higher ash content of European flour I have adapted the recipe to American flour and reduced the hydration to 68% instead of the 80%. The Excel spreadsheet let's you change the final dough amount, default is 1500 grams.


Shiao-Ping's picture

Sourdough 50/50

I came back to Brisbane to the first day of spring (1st September).  I had neglected my back yard garden for over a month.  There had been very good rain going into winter after a prolonged drought and no name flowers are sprouting every where.  Even my one and only lemon tree is loaded with clusters of dainty little pink and white flowers.  Any my wisteria!  It welcomes me back with such vivid purple (or blue):


                                                                  I waited three seasons for this to flower. 

As I was going round the garden pruning and liquid-fertilizing, I marveled at how time could not be rushed, how waiting was paying off, and how often my energy was misused in being inpatient. 


                                     no name flower 1                                                                      no name flower 2


                                                                                 and other no name flowers

Since I came back from my baking classes in San Francisco, I had made 6 less than satisfactory breads; three on my Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer (which has a C hook, not the spiral hook which comes with the Kitchen Aid Pro stand mixer), two on my Panasonic bread machine (dough mixing function only) and one by hand.  I find it hard to adapt the techniques I learned in the baking school to home set-up - our equipment are different, our starters are different, and our dough temperatures are perhaps different too, etc. etc.  Our instructors foresaw these problems, and they emphasized the need for us to learn to "read" the dough rather than mechanically following instructions or formulas.  We were asked constantly during the mixing process to check gluten development by window paning and by simply tugging at the dough to feel its strength.  But all this is easier said than done.

All that I can do is to keep trying.  The idea of this 7th bread came indirectly from Safa, our instructor at the Artisan I course.  It was my last Saturday in San Francisco; I was on my way to Ferry Plaza market and I ran into him on the train; we chatted all the way.  He said he recently made a bread and he called it 30/30, not that there is anything magic about the number 30, but it's just that it is easier to remember since it has 30% soaker and 30% levain (in relation to final dough flours).  So here I experimented with my 50/50 - 50% Poolish and 50% Levain.

The purpose was to see how this would vary sourdough's flavor profile. I have learnt that the acidity you get from poolish as well as levain that is fed more frequently than just once a day is lactic acidity (e.g. yogurt) as opposed to acidic acidity (e.g. pickles).  A classmate at the Artisan course who had done the bakery tour at Boudin bakery museum in San Francisco told me he saw a baker there use the starter straight out of the refrigerator.  Their San Francisco Sourdough is famous for its sourness which is not to my taste.  I imagine if the starter is fed only once a day and is kept in the refrigerator for part of the feeding cycle such that it stays in the anaerobic condition for a long time the acidity can be developed quite strongly.  I am a fan of Chad Robertson's rustic sourdoughs.  I was reading about him in "A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery" in the Bread Builders and Alain Ducasse's Harvesting Excellence; and interestingly it is mentioned that he uses a brief two-hour final stage of levain expansion before he mixes up his doughs.  I imagine this "levain expansion" would be the aerobic stage of levain build-up where the little beasties are in rapid reproduction (rather than fermentation).  I don't know for sure but I imagine too his levain would be fed more than once a day and would most likely sit in room temperature.




Formula for my 50/50

Early morning - prepare Levain and Poolish, allow for 6 to 8 hours to ferment, depending on your room temp


  • 80 g bread flour

  • 24 g medium rye flour

  • 78 g water

  • 52 g starter @75% hydration

(Note: this starter is on a two feeding a day cycle and stays in my room temperature of around 18 - 21C / 65 - 70F)


  • 117 g bread flour

  • 117 g water

  • A very small pinch of dry instant yeast (or 1/4 of a 1/3 tsp)

Late afternoon - prepare the final dough

  • 400 g bread flour (Australia's Laucke Wallaby unbleached bakers' flour, protein 11.9%)

  • 34 g whole wheat flour

  • 34 g rye flour

  • 275 g water

  • 14 g salt

  • 234 g Levain (all from above), which is 50% of final flours

  • 234 g Poolish (all from above), which is 50% of final flours

  • Extra medium rye flour for dusting

Total dough weight 1.2 kg and total dough hydration 68%

  1. I mixed all ingredients in my Kitchen Aid for 4 min at the first speed then another 6 min at the 4th speed, at which point the dough did not feel very strong.  I pulled it out of the mixer any way because I planned to supplement by stretch and folds during bulk fermentation.

  2. I placed the dough in an oiled container and gave it two letter folds. After the first letter fold, the dough was rotated 90 degrees then letter-folded again, and then the dough was turned upside down so that the folds faced downwards (ie, right side was up).

  3. Bulk fermentation was 2 hours with a set of two letter folds (as above) every 30 minutes.  I turned the dough over first (so the right side was down) before I did the letter folds and when I finished the folds, I turned the dough over so that the folds faced downwards (the purpose was so that the dough stayed tight.).

  4. After 2 hours, I pre-shaped the dough into a tight ball, and while it was resting, I dusted a linen-lined basket with medium rye flour.  After a rest of 20 minutes, the dough was shaped into a boule and placed in the basket and covered with a plastic bag.  I placed it into the refrigerator to retard (for 13 hours).

  5. The next morning the dough was baked cold at 220C / 440 F for 50 minutes with steam for the first 10 minutes.






This sourdough has the flavor profile that I like: the lactic acidity from the Poolish and the levain, the sweetness from the bread flour, and the richness from rye and whole wheat.  All round the flavor is complex and the after taste is long lasting.  It is mildly chewy, very pleasant.

I'd like to work on my scoring.  Also I am finding it tough to apply what I learned on the mixer I have at home.  Perhaps I need to mix my dough to stronger gluten development in order to have a bloom.  Or perhaps the blind faith in a perfect mixer is a sign of no faith in one's self.  Whatever it is, for now, this:


with a view of this:


is what I need.


Salome's picture

Autumn the third - Painted Bread

I have to confess that I'm not very busy these days. I've got a lot of free time because university hasn't started yet and in addition to that, I'm very limited in what I do because I've got some weird inflammations in my feet. And my friends are all working or have already started school or . . . I can't go and hike, I can't meet friends, but I still can bake! The more time consuming, the better. I'm keeping myself busy and happy this way. And my family well-fed ;-).

A freshly baked bread and some "colors" - That's what you need for painting a bread. In my case, it's Hamelman's "Rye Sourdough with Walnuts" but without walnuts. It's basically a bread made with sourdough, 50% whole rye flour and 50% high gluten flour. (in my case, normal bread flour with some Vital Wheat Gluten.) I tried a dark color and a white one, but the dark was not visible on the rather dark crust. For the dark one I just over-caramelized sugar until it was very dark and then added some water, let it cool and mixed it with egg yolk. The white is a corn starch - water blend.

I baked the bread as usually and started to paint with a normal brush as soon it was out of the oven. The crust is hot and makes the water of the colors evaporate. Nothing easier than that! After the "art work" was done, I baked it for another few minutes, no more than five. Et voila, a bread that will impress everybody.

The flowers and leaves are all out of our garden. I've been saying for the last couple days that the falls has come and here's now the proof. it is autumn. And it's beautiful.


yozzause's picture

meat cooking

The wood fired oven has worked wonderfully well for both pizza and bread to date with great results, but it is now time  to some serious meat cooking i would be pleased to hear from some of the woodies on their exploits with meats.

Some of the students here at TAFE are interested in cooking  / baking a whole piglet in the near future for their graduation.

I am going to have a bit of a practice day with a number of items chickens, pork legs etc on a friday after the students have finished with the oven for pizzas at lunch time. (cant waste that heat)

 Any suggestions on cooking with some fire in or out meat covered or uncovered as a bit of a giude could save me from re-inventing the wheel

I have added a shot of the oven built from plans from traditionaloven showing the size  

regards yozza

bnb's picture

King arthur old fashioned oatmeal bread

Here's my attempt at KA's old fashioned oatmeal bread. This bread is very adaptable. I've tried it with instant oats, old fashioned oats, with honey/molasses, AP flour/bread flour and it has turned out great every time. I did not use the additives that were optional.  On my first attempt I only used a  teaspoon of yeast and the bread had no oven spring, although I did let it crest well above the pan rim before baking. The second time I used the 2 tsps of yeast and the bread had wonderful oven spring. The recipe can be found here.

This is an incredibly moist bread. Very flavorful. 


chuppy's picture

Best baguette you've ever made...

Hello bread lovers,

I have been baking bread for about 4 yrs and would like to know what your favorite baguette recipe is and if you could post a picture of it. I have been looking for an awesome recipe, but have not been successful in recreating one just yet. Can't wait to see what others have done!


dmsnyder's picture

66% Sourdough Rye from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread"

This bread is a rye with 66 percent rye flour and the remainder high-gluten flour. A rye sour is elaborated using whole rye. The sour is 80% hydration, which ends up being a very thick paste, due to how much water the whole rye absorbs. This is fermented for 14-16 hours and is then mixed with Medium rye flour, high-gluten flour, more water, salt and instant yeast.

The resulting dough is very loose. Hamelman says to mix it (in a professional spiral mixer) for only 3 minutes at first speed and 2 minutes on second speed. He says you should have "a bit of gluten strength, but ... not much." I aimed for "a bit" of gluten development but had to mix for 16 minutes in my KitchenAid. The dough was extremely sticky and still rough and pasty. It had enough elasticity after fermenting to form into loaves, using more flour dusting on the bench and my hands than is necessary with lower-percentage rye doughs.

Fermentation was only 45 minutes and proofing was 50 minutes. Proofing is tricky with this type of rye. Under-proofing contributes to excessive oven spring and blow-outs. Over-proofing leads to the loaf collapsing when it is scored or when it is loaded into the oven. I think I hit it about right. <whew!>

I wasn't sure about scoring a bread like this. I considered not scoring at all or making rounds and docking them. In the end, I decided to make oval loaves and score one in the "sausage" cut and the other in the "chevron" cut.

Hamelman prescribes a 24 hour rest after baking before slicing. I wrapped the loaves in linen and left them on the counter overnight.

When sliced, this rye has a fairly thick, chewy (but not hard) crust. The crumb is fairly dense and quite moist. It is tender to chew. The aroma is assertively rye, as is the flavor with a mild sourdough tang.

The taste is good when eaten plain. It is strong enough to come through when eaten with a slice of aged gruyère cheese. Just as a light rye seems to call for corned beef, this rye calls for stronger cheeses and fatty fish such as herring or salmon. I wish I could get some smoked sable.