The Fresh Loaf

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ananda's picture

Wheat Levain and Kamut Boules Baked in the Wood-fired Oven

Wheat Levain and Kamut Boules Baked in the Wood-fired Oven

Last Monday and Tuesday Alison and I were joined by my family who came up to help with a number of projects we have on the go just now.   Many thanks to my Mum and Dad and Brother and Sister-in-Law, for all their help.   The initial project which dragged them up from northern and eastern corners of Yorkshire to the far north of England was to try to make some improvements to the firing efficiency of my wood-fired oven.   My family have watched and supported me from afar in my summer baking antics, and I believe my brother’s offer to try to improve the potential of the oven was an offer of genuine enthusiasm to help me expand my own baking activities in the longer term.

Whilst the rest of us slaved away inside, Dave dismantled the chimney section of the oven, modified the design and then re-built it.   We built a small fire on the second afternoon to verify that things had improved; they had!

After my first 3 day stint in Leeds and a lovely Saturday evening entertaining friends at home with a lovely South Indian Fish Curry, I had some time to fire up the oven properly over 2 days, and bake bread in it.

I fired the oven gently on Sunday, then somewhat harder today in the gales resulting from an always unwanted hurricane emanating from the US and blasting over from the Atlantic.   The chimney seemed none-too-stable, but the fire roared nicely in the end.

My leavens had been a little neglected, so it was a good time to spend re-building their strength too.   I have a number of different speciality flours in the store cupboard at the moment, some in just very small amounts; others I held slightly more of.   These were left over from the TFL baking course at Newcastle College which ran near the end of July, just before my escape.

I decided to make some bread using the half kilo of Kamut flour I had in stock.   Andrew Whitley (2006; pp.87) explains that it is

“Considered to be an ancient relative of durum wheat, Kamut is the registered tradename for a cereal derived from 36 grains mailed by an American airman in Egypt to his father in Montana in the 1950s.   Its production is always organic and is controlled by the Quinn family.   Kamut is generally higher in protein than wheat but with poorer-quality gluten.”

I used a flour mix consisting of 30% Kamut, 20% Gilchesters’ Pizza/Ciabatta flour and 50% Carrs Special CC Bread Flour.   The leaven was made with the bread flour, and the amount of pre-fermented flour was 20%.   I suspect this was a trifle too low.   I began with 50g of stock levain which was built to 530g over 14 hours and 2 refreshments.   Hydration was in excess of 71%.


Here is the formula, recipe and method:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

1. Levain; 2 refreshments




32 [flour 20, water 12]

512 [flour 320, water 192]




2. Final Dough




32 [flour 20, water 12]

512 [flour 320, water 192]

Gilchesters’ Pizza Flour



Carrs Special CC Flour



Doves Farm Organic Kamut Flour






Organic Salted Butter









% pre-fermented flour



% overall hydration








    • Mix the flours for the final dough with the final water required, and autolyse for one hour.
    • Combine the autolyse with the levain, salt and butter and mix gently to a dough.   Develop by hand-mixing a further 10 minutes.
    • Bulk proof the dough covered for 5 hours [leaven portion too low!], with one S&F after 1½ hours and another after 3½ hours.
    • Scale and divide into 2 x 1.04 kg pieces and one piece just over 700g.   Mould round and place upside down in prepared bannetons.
    • Final proof, covered for 3½ hours
    • Tip each loaf gently out of the banneton onto the peel, cut and bake in the wood-fired oven for 50 minutes.
    • Note that I used a wet tea towel to line the oven door as a source of steam; this was primitive, but worked surprisingly well.
    • Cool on wires after taking photographs.   Cut the loaf open far too early under temptation and enjoy a slice splattered with butter well before you really should!

These were very tasty loaves indeed!!   Oven spring was good, although the dough had been a trifle slow to prove all day.   Here are the photographs; not perfect, but the oven is well on the way to being able to perform how I always hoped it would.


So, all in all, a good few steps forward.

Codruta asked me about the “factor” in the table on the last post and I forgot to answer; sorry Codruta!   The factor is the number that is used as a multiplier to move from formula to recipe.   In this case, it is 16; so the total flour is 1600g, from 100%.

Best wishes to all


leenowell's picture

Too dense and crumb problems - please help

Hi All,

I have been making sourdough bread for around a year now and after a variety of "experiements", although the bread forms and tastes good, it is far too dense and the crumb is moist (it is more like an English crumpet than bread). I have been using recipes from "Bread Alone" by Leader and Blahink and adapted slightly through my experiments.  I have detailed my technique below and would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.

thanks very much in advance



- 200g stored in the fridge

- Night before baking, feed starter with 200g strong white bread flour (11.6% protein), 200g filtered water and leave out on the work surface covered over night

- Starter is bubbly and increased to about double in size (may be a little less)


- Recipe

400g starter

100g wholewheat flour

900g strong white flour (as above)

600g water (luke warm and filtered)

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

- Technique

- add starter and water mix well then add salt

- add remaining flour and mix with spoon to bring together

- knead using a dough hook on mixer until dough it springs back "slowly" when pulled (approx 5 mins)

- rise in oiled bowl (approx 3 hours) on work surface

- knock back and form into 2 loaves

- proof in bowls lined with floured cotton for around 1.5 hours again out on the work surface



- preheat oven 250 degrees C

- shape dough gently

- put on preheated baking sheet spraying oven with water to create steam

- reduce oven to 230 degrees C (have also tried 210 and 190 and no difference in crumb - lower temps seemed to make thinner crust)

- bake until internal temp is 98 degrees C (have tried 99 and 97 and no difference)

bpezzell's picture

Top 10 Reasons To Eat Real Sourdough Bread Even If You Are Gluten Intolerant

A friend forwarded this article to me a few days ago. Thought I'd see what the rest of you thought of the piece. It's a quick read.

Schrödinger's Other Cat's picture
Schrödinger's O...

Apple Galette

When I was young fresh fruit was a great treat and not common in Icelandic diet. Today fresh fruit of many sorts is readily available year round allowing one to bake galette year round!


1 cup flour (125-130g)

4 oz. cold butter unsalted (113g) 

pinch salt (or more if you like)

ice water (30-50ml, enough to make pastry workable)

Finely cut cold butter into flour, add salt. Work with spoon or hand until well mixed. Add ice water until pastry can be formed into a ball. Refrigerate for a bit (15 minute). Press pastry into a disk on parchment or Silpat then roll out very thin (thin=flaky). Refrigerate again (cold pastry I find much easier to work) while you make filling of choice.

Apple Filling:

2 or 3 apple peeled and sliced thin

2T sugar, 1T flour, cinnamon to taste mixed.

1T  butter

1T sugar, sprinkle cinnamon

Spread flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture over pastry. Lay apple slices to overlap in circle pattern. Fold edge of pastry over. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apple, chop butter over apple. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

Cook at 204C or 400F for 50-minutes to 1 hour.

Glaze with 1 or 2 T (to taste) apricot, peach preserve.


Make coffee, pour brandy, consume!




gizzy's picture

How much starter do you really need to keep?


I used the Bread Bakers Apprentice to make my seed culture and barm for my sourdough starter... I'm not getting ready to start my sourdough bread and I'm using the recipe for the basic sourdough bread in the same book. When you finish the starter and make the barm, you end up with about 4 cups of it... Thats a lot, at least for me it is as I'm sharing a small fridge with 3 other girls (granted I have the most space, but when you cook everything from scratch and don't eat out all the fruits veggies and other ingredients take up a lot of space) and I dont really have space to store 4 cups of barm in the fridge.

How much do I need to keep if I'm only going to bake bread once, maybe twice a week? Is keeping 1 or 2 cups enough? or is there another way for me to store it so that I dont take up space that I really dont have?

Also, what is the best way of storing the starter? in a bowl with plastic wrap over it? mason jar? ziplock bag?


pezeni's picture

I think my starter may have made me sick.

Guys I really need some advice. I have been maintaing a starter for about 4 months. I usually bake a few consecutive days a week and keep my starter in the fridge the rest of the time. After I am done using the starter I throw about 80% of it out, refresh it and put it in the fridge. Usually 4 or 5 days later, the night before I bake I take my starter out, again throw out about 80% and feed it. Usually when I take my starter out of the fridge there is a very vinegary or paint thinner smell. This time the smell was a little funky and off. I can't really describe it other than it stayed with you. I didn't think much of it and refreshed the starter as usual (the smell remained after the refresh), made the loaves yesterday, retarded them overnight and baked today. I let the finished loaf cool about 5 hours and ate a few slices. About four hours later I was vomitting. After a good bout I now feel better so I think it is something I ate rather than a bug. I did eat other stuff today, but I want to be 110% sure it is not my starter and I will not make anyone else sick by giving them loaves. What can I do to be absolutely sure I kill anything bad that may have developed in my starter? Some other factors that may make a difference, I have been keeping it in the same jar a while, it has been very hot temp wise here, I feed my starter about a mix of mostly white flour, with some wheat and some rye. Any help would really be appreciated I know you guys are experts.

ehanner's picture

Katie's Stout with Flax-Delicious!

It's funny how things come together some times. Katie, one of Andy's students in college developed this recipe that Karin (a German baker transplanted to Maine) baked and posted last week. It was a beautiful loaf. About the same time a new poster from Iceland ( Schrödinger's O...) presented a beautiful bread with a natural expansion instead of slashing. I decided to try my own nut brown ale since it is very flavor rich and semi dark and, available. I also added a small amount of toasted wheat germ to add a little dimension to the chew and flavor.

I first must say to Katie I think your bread is wonderful. It has a full depth of flavor and a great aftertaste. Your hydration and baking times were right on for me. Thank you so much for sharing your creative energy. also a word of thanks must go to Andy, for bringing this talent forward for us to see and enjoy her work. And Karin for her inspiration and conformation the recipe can be baked out of scale. It's always nice to see her work. Then comes -kristjan, who showed us a beautiful boule he has been baking for some time and shared with us only that day. I was so inspired that I tried a shaping and natural expansion I had been wanting to try instead of scoring to see if I could bring some art to the surface of this loaf. So, here is my take on Katie's Stout with Flax Seeds.

txfarmer's picture

Miso Light Rye Sourdough with Seaweed - umami in bread form

Sending this to Yeastspotting.

Index for my blog entries

Lumos' blog post inspired me to make a bread with seaweed. In my miso soup loving mind, seaweed must go with miso paste, must. There are many different kinds of miso paste, you can find details here. The big bucket I stock at home to make miso soup is "soy miso" with dark reddish color. Since miso has a lot of  fermentated soy bean and salt, it's important not to go overboard and add too much. 15% seems to be a good balance for me: enough miso flavor, yet doesn't completely destroy the dough. With that much miso, plus my very fast rye starter, both bulk rise and proof were very fast. I didn't cold retard the proofing, since the fermentated soybean in miso might have negative effect on the dough over such a long period.

I used dried seaweed found at Asian markets, before use, I soak them in water for 5min+, and they expand to this:


Miso Rye with Seaweed
note: Make a 750g bread

- levain
whole rye, 57g
water, 45g
rye starter (100%), 6g

1. Mix and let rise 12-16hours.

- final dough
bread flour, 340g
miso paste, 60g
water, 220g
dried seaweed, 20g, soak for 5min+ then squeeze dry before use
all levain

2. Mix everything except for seaweed, autolyse for 30min, mix @ medium speed for 5min until gluten starts to develop. Add soaked and dried seaweed, mix @ slow speed until evenly distributed.
3. Bulk rise at room temp (~75F) for about 2.5hrs. S&F at 30, 60, 90, 120min.
4. Shape into boule, proof bottom up in basket, until it springs back slowly when pressed, about 60min for me and my TX kitchen.

6. Bake at 450F with steam for the first 15min, lower the temperature to 430F, keep baking for 25-30min.

I must admit all that miso does weaken the dough, but if fermentation and S&F are managed well, there still be decent oven spring.

Nice open crumb, very moist

You really must love miso/seaweed to like this bread, because both flavours have noticeable presence here.

varda's picture

PAL with 8% White Rye

Since I got back from vacation my starter has been on rest and recuperation.   We were lucky to miss the hurricane by being in another state, but it still came through here (downgraded to tropical storm) and killed the power for at least some period of time, which made my already neglected starter even unhappier.   I've been baking a lot since I got back and it's been just edible but improving with each bake.  Today, I had a well fed starter ready to go and looking happy, but I really wanted to bake outside to see if I could get a nice burst on the hot WFO floor to make up for my troubles.   It was close to raining and most of my wood was wet from a downpour last night, so things didn't look very promising, but I decided to do it anyhow.   I mixed up a mostly white dough with a touch of white rye and prayed for no rain, scrounging around for wood that wasn't soaked all the way through.    I just managed to get the oven up to temperature with the dry wood that I had, and got my bread baked before it started raining for real.   I've got to stop living on the edge like this :)

 The crumb opened up and I managed to get at least some opening of the scores by using a steam pan in the WFO for the first time.    

The new look comes from my Indian or whatever basket. 

And following Sylvia's example (if not cooking talent) I threw a pan of potatoes and onions into the oven after the bread baked, so as not to waste the heat.  


White Rye50 508%
Rye 771%
Salt12 121.9%
Starter250  23%



Mix all but salt.   Autolyze for 50 minutes.   Add salt and mix for several minutes.    Bulk Ferment for 2 hours with 1 counter full stretch out until very thin.    Shape into boule and place upside down in basket.   Proof for 2 hours.   Bake in WFO (around 650F floor temperature) for 25 minutes.  Remove and cool. 

glora's picture

Commercial sandwich rolls

Hi all,

Does anyone know if it is necessary to add S500 (dough conditioner) to commercial rolls to make them light and have more volume?  I was told that it makes them last longer and gives them good volume.  I was thinking that if a plain lean dough could be intensively mixed the rolls might end up with somewhat of the same affect.  We all know that the public at least here wants the bread on a sandwich to have certain characteristics, which we need to try and meet.  If anyone has any input please let me know.

Thank you,