The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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nelbel_1's picture

My bread won't rise!

I love this place but am way over my head. I'm just starting to delve into bread baking as a whole. And this site has so much inspiration.

I am having problems with my bread since I moved. I was in central Germany and all of my bread turned out fabulous. Now I am in Central TN and none of my yeast breads turn out. My sourdough is denser than rocks and I'm getting discouraged.

I'm using KA whole wheat all purpose flour. Feischman's yeast warm liquids. The kitchen is warm enough.  I don't think I'm over kneading, but I don't really know.  I'm currently trying a new loaf with the "flop and pull" (that's what I call the stretch and fold) method. I don't have a scale or fancy equipment. I do it by hand, and often right on the countr top.

My starter rises fine, but my dough just will not. All the loafs are super dense, though they taste good.

Any suggestions?



* edited to say: It's not just the sourdough.... it's ALL my yeast breads.  I don't always use my starter for my breads.

LLM777's picture

Improving Bread Machine bread?

Are there any techinques/tips to improve "bread machine bread" and make it more "hand-made"? For me, it's simply convienent and time saving to use the machine but I'm sure there are vast improvements that can be made. Could following a machine recipe and an overnight rise in the frig and then baking it next day be helpful? I have tried to put "bread by hand" recipes in the machine but they are always too soggy/sticky and don't mix well. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.

susanfnp's picture

Another Miche

Here is a miche that uses a large proportion of high-extraction flour. Heartland Mill's Golden Buffalo is great for this. This is probably the heartiest bread I have ever made.

The recipe is here.

High-extraction miche Sliced miche

dolfs's picture

A dessert: Pineapple upside down cake

Entertaining my little boy again tonight, so time for another easy baking project he could help with. He loves pineapple and we had some a couple of days old, so time to do something with it. Recipe from The Joy of Cooking (I've always had good luck with the basics from there). Took about 20 minutes to prep and get in the oven, bake at 350F for a little over 35 minutes.Pineapple upside down cakePineapple upside down cake 

This was made with fresh pineapple bought in chunks so no "disks" or circles (from the can) with cherry's in it.



  • Drain and place one paper towel in 1 layer to absorb excess juice: 7 slices canned unsweetened pineapple (or equivalent fresh)
  • Melt in a 9x2" circular cake pan: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Tilt to coat sides with butter.
  • Sprinkle evenly over bottom of the pan: 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar 
  • Place 1 pineapple ring in the center, and arrange 6 more around it, and place in the centers of the rings, and in between, 19 maraschino cherries, or pecan halves (or just fill with chunks, like I did)
  • Whisk together in bowl: 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons buttermilk (I did not have any so I used just under 2 T of regular milk and a little lemon juice because some acidity is needed for the baking poweder to work), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Mix together in a mixing bowl: 1 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Add to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until everything is just moistened: 6 tablespoons of unsalted, softened butter, 6 tablespoons of buttermilk (I again used regular milk, and this time some pineapple juice).
  • Increase speed to high and mix for 1.5 minutes.
  • In three steps, add 1/3 of the egg mixture, mix high speed for 20 seconds, and repeat until all incorporated.
  • Scrape batter on top of pineapple, spread evenly and smoothen out. 
  • Bake in 350F preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and tilt to all sides to loosen cake from sides of pan. Let cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Place serving plate on top of cake pan, upside down, and using oven mitts hold the combination and flip over and remove cake pan.
  • Let cool a little more and serve! 



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures
dolfs's picture

San Francisco Bay Area Loafers meet?

Susan (susanfnp) and myself briefly discussed it and both would like to see a meeting happen of TFL members in and around the San Francisco bay area. This would be a meeting similar in spirit and execution to the meeting of the "Oregon chapter". Susan lives in Sunnyvale, and I live in Mountain View, so initially I would propose the meeting to occur in a park somewhere around there. We'd all meet up mid/late morning, bring our breads (to be sampled and eaten) and starters (not mandatory, but for sharing), discover the face and person behind the login name, etc.


This message is really to see what other Fresh Loafers live around and would be interested. Based on the interest we'll see if another location is warranted. I'd be nice to have this meeting in early October, as the weather should still be quite nice for an "in the park" meeting. So, respond to this thread if you are interested, and possibly available. Let us know!

breadnerd's picture

Mud oven construction - foundation and first layer

I finally got up the gumption to move my construction photos over to my flickr account. Here they are in the entirety, I tried to make the titles fairly self-explanatory:


Here's a condensed version with some commentary:

First off is the foundation. Our frost line in in theory 48 inches, so we dug down quite a bit. We hit a VERY large rock, which made us decide the hole was big enough, and which we figured would act as a foundation in itself.


Next, we filled the hole with gravel and started building a foundation from rather unattractive landscaping bricks we already had from another project. We added a layer of lava rock for insulation, Kiko’s new edition has a lot of better ideas for this, but this has worked okay for us.


Next sand is added, packed, and leveled, and we laid the oven floor bricks. A string was used to draw a circle as large as we could fit on the floor, as our guide for the sand mold form.


The sand form took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it turned out nice.


Because of this, we didn’t get very far with our first layer before dark, but you can see the width of the walls, and how compact it was. We were probably overly persnickety with this first layer:


We covered it in plastic, and resumed the next day.


Final first layer, wacked with a 2 x 4 and scored for the next layer to stick:



more to come....



edh's picture

Orange Sticky Rolls

I've never tried doing a blog before, but just had to share last weekend's ragingly successful experiment. Sourdough has been going not-so-well lately, so I've returned to commercial yeast for a bit. This is a somewhat altered version of my mother-in-law's recipe.

Orange Sticky Rolls

Sweet Dough:

1 Cup lukewarm milk (for non-dairy, I use 1/3 c each of coconut, soy, and rice milks)

3 Tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

1 tsp instant yeast

1/4 Cup water (the original recipe called for active dry yeast dissolved in water; instant doesn't need dissolving, but the dough needs the liquid)

1 egg

1/4 Cup shortening (coconut oil)

4 cups flour (I used 3 cups KA AP and 1 cup spelt, worked great)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth, let sit for 20 minutes, then do several french folds. It's a fairly sticky dough, but tightens up quickly.

Let rise for 2 1/2 hours, folding three times, every 30 - 45 minutes. The original recipe calls for 2 bulk rises, punching down in between, but folding made it so much lighter.

While the dough rises, make the orange glaze;

Juice and zest of 1 - 2 oranges, and 1 lemon (about 3/4 cup juice)

1 1/4 cups sugar

Cook juice, zest, and sugar together over low heat in a heavy saucepan until thickened, about 15 - 20 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature. I had to stick it in the fridge to cool it down a bit.

When the dough is ready, roll out into a 9"x18" oblong. Spread with about 4 Tbsp of the filling (don't use too much! It's not like cinnamon rolls, any extra will goosh out and make it impossible to seal the roll), then roll tightly along the long edge, and pinch the edges together.

Grease a 9"x13" pan (actually, next time I'm going to use something bigger, or two pans. I think 9"x13" is a little small, the rolls were a little too closely squeezed in there for my taste). Spread the rest of the glaze in the bottom of the pan.

Slice the roll into 1" pieces, then place loosely in the pan. Cover and let rise until not quite doubled (20 - 30 minutes).

Bake 25 - 30 minutes at 375 F. When done, invert pan over cooky sheet.

They're pretty decadent, but make a nice change from decadent cinnamon rolls.



dolfs's picture

Today's Break-fast bake

The Jewish members of my family and friends, have been fasting for the last (almost) 24 hours, as is traditional for Yom Kippur. I have been making their life difficult by baking and making the house smell very tempting. The good thing is that those "fasters" will be allowed to enjoy the results in a couple of hours.Break-fast bake IBreak-fast bake I

Inspired by Mariana, I produced Challah and "rolls" today. Half the rolls are filled with sugar, the other half or so with the poppy-seed paste. The recipe I used, like Mariana, is Rose Levy Beranbaum's "New Traditional Challah".

Break-fast bake IIBreak-fast bake II



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures 

dolfs's picture

Essential's Columbia

Today it was time for my first try at Essential's Columbia from Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking".

Essential's ColumbiaEssential's Columbia

I hadn't gone there before, so first a trip to the store to get non-diastatic malt syrup and toasted wheat germ. I mixed the levain midnight the night before using my Glazer French style firm starter. It was plenty ready the this morning at 8AM, but my schedule included a meeting with a client from 1-2:30 so I waited until 10AM to put the final dough together. Kitchen was at 72F, doubled by 3PM, folded and put it back one more hour. Then pre-shaped, 15 minute bench rest, and shaped and placed into wooden banneton. Completed its proof by 7:30PM at which point I slashed and baked as per instructions.


I had just a little trouble releasing one of the loaves from the banneton (see the "stray" slash on the left loaf) and did not slash quite deep enough (I think). The crust was not as dark red/brown as in the book, but it came out pretty well, and tastes great, with a nice moist, slightly chewy crumb. I am pleased.

Columbia CrumbColumbia Crumb 


Dough for Challah (Rose Levy Beranbaum's New Traditional Challah) just went into the fridge for finishing tomorrow. First time for that one too. If I like it, I'll make it again for break-fast on Saturday evening, along with the cool Challah rolls that mariana showed us. If I don't like it, I have my own "old" Challah recipe as a backup. This will be a busy baking weekend!



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures


Rosalie's picture

Sourdough Starter Designations

Well, I almost thought I knew what they were talking about when they said "liquid levain" or whichever.  Some books differentiate when they specify a levain type.  But now I'm confused again.  Maybe there are standard definitions?

Ed Wood's book, "Classic Sourdoughs," has recipes calling for liquid culture or sponge culture.  It turns out (way at the back of the book) that his liquid culture is about 108% hydration, and the sponge about 54%.  RLB's liquid and firm are 100% and 50%.  Leader's liquid levain is 130%, stiff dough levain 50%.  Reinhart's generic starter seems to be somewhere between 50% and 100% but depends on the specific recipe.

I don't understand why some recipes in a particular book call for one type and others for another.  Does it really make a difference?  Why can't I just use whatever I have and use my senses to adjust water or flour?  I hope for the latter because it can be real tricky to remember or figure out just what that author means by that designation.

Am I making this too complicated?