The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Firm Starter 5°

I took my cold starters, 20g each and added 40g water and 100g low gluten flour and mixed.  Kneaded the crumbs into balls and put them into containers and parked then into the 5° (41°F) fridge.  My plan is to do a cool rise first to encourage the Lactobacillus and do a warm rise later for the yeast.  Also wish to slow down activity for storage.  That was Thursday, today is Saturday, about 40 hours have passed and I might have to move the SD balls to larger containers!  They leveled out just a little but have almost doubled!  This could be interesting!  Am I on to something? 

redivyfarm's picture

Out-takes Anyone?

Would it be fun to view some miserable failures in this forum?  I've been thinking about this as I admire absolutely beautiful baking on this site. I regret that I have let some very entertaining photo subjects get away. For instance, last summer I choked a trout with a pumpernickle. What say?

I'm going to try to capture the best-of-the-worst baking from this day forward. (Wish I'd snapped a pic of that no knead sticking to the towel!)

JMonkey's picture

Whole wheat sourdough bagels

The best bagels I've ever had were not from New York or New Jersey, or even Philadelphia. They came from a tiny bagel shop in Winston-Salem, NC. I'm not even sure what it's name was; we just called it, "The Bagel Place."

There's no doubt, though, they made the "real thing". Beautifully chewy water bagels with the traditional toppings: plain, poppy seed, garlic, onion, sesame -- and, of course, all the newfangled kinds as well: cinnamon raisin, asiago cheese, chocolate chip, tobacco.

Just kidding about tobacco, of course, though when you live in the hometown of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Corp., the aroma of tobacco tends to permeate the air, especially if a storm is coming in, because the wind changes direction and blows directly over the cigarette factories outside of town.

Tobacco winds or no, the bagels were delicious, and have formed my ideal for what a bagel ought to be. Of course, I may have been a bit biased. I met the baker contra dancing, and he became a good friend: Joe Bagel, we called him. He taught me that bagels should be boiled and then baked good and hot.

I've never had any luck, however, finding a 100% whole wheat bagel that tasted ... good. All the whole wheat bagels I bought had a strong bitter aftertaste, a taste that I now know comes from using whole wheat flour that's less than fresh. And more often than not, they were even more dense than a bagel ought to be.

I've tasted some better whole-wheat bagels recently, but they're not 100% whole wheat. So I decided to see if I could make a decent bagel from fresh whole wheat flour. For inspiration and instruction, I looked to both Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice and Hammelman's Bread. I also thought that sourdough might help - it always seems to do so with everything else. The end result is up above. I'm happy to say tha they were, indeed tasty. In fact, my wife didn't know they were whole wheat until I mentioned it to her after she'd eaten breakfast!

As I'd feared, they were not as chewy as I'd like -- need high-gluten flour for that. I think, perhaps, I'll try adding some vital wheat gluten the next time around to see if I can increase the chew factor. Anyway, here's how I made them:

Overall formula

  • Whole wheat flour: 100%
  • Water: 60%
  • Salt: 2%
  • Diastatic malt powder: 0.9%
  • Pre-fermented flour: 30%

  • Whole wheat starter: 220 grams at 60% hydration
  • Water: 195 grams
  • Whole wheat flour: 320 grams
  • Diastatic malt powder: 4 grams
  • Salt: 9 grams
  • Optional: 1 Tbs baking soda or enough Malt Syrup to turn the Boiling Water the color of tea.

Start the night before you want to bake. Combine the ripe starter with the water and knead them together until the starter is very soft and the water is milky. Add the flour, salt and malt powder. Mix until it turns into a dough. The dough will be dry -- like any dough, if you poke it enough, it'll feel a little tacky, but you don't want any more tackiness than that. It'll be tough to knead, but nonetheless, give it a good 300 strokes. Stiff as it is, a small piece of the dough will form a translucent windowpane when it's fully developed, just make sure you turn the piece of dough in a circle as you stretch it.

Once the dough is developed, form it into a ball, cover it, and let it ferment for about an hour at room temperature. It will not rise much in that time.

Divide the dough into six pieces and shape each piece into bagels. I chose to use the old-style shaping described in Bread. Flatten each into a rough rectangle and then roll them up tightly, after which they need to be rolled out (by hand) into 6 to 8 inch ropes. Wrap the rope around your hand and then seal with your palm.

Once they are shaped, cover them and let them proof at room temperature for another hour. To see if they're ready to proof, use what Reinhart calls "The Float Test": just drop one bagel gently into a bowl of water. If it floats after 3 seconds or so, it's ready! Dry the test bagel off gently and put them all on a cookie sheet that's wither lined with parchment paper or lightly dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour. Cover with plastic and pop them in the fridge.

The next morning, preheat the oven and a stone, if you've got on, to 500 degrees F and put a big pot of water on to boil. Once the water is good and boiling, add the optional ingredients to the water, if desired. The baking soda acts as a sort of low-grade food-safe lye, and gives the bagels a nice shiny sheen. The malt syrup adds color and flavor. You can add both if you wish, but the water will foam as the acid in the syrup and the baking soda react. What's most important is the boil itself.

The bagels will float. Boil them for about 1 minute on either side. When boiled, you may then top them with seeds, salt, garlic, whatever suits your fancy. I like poppy seed, myself. My wife prefers garlic.
Once they've been boiled and topped, they're ready to bake. I baked mine right on my stone for about 18 minutes, and then let them cool for 10. Have cream cheese and lox ready at hand.
PMcCool's picture

Clayton's Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

Since the breads I made most recently were both sourdough ryes, I was looking for something different this time around that would work well for sandwiches. My first inclination was to haul out an old favorite, a honey whole wheat bread. While flipping through Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, I happened across a buttermilk whole wheat recipe that I had not tried previously. Since I had all of the necessary materials on hand, I thought that I would give it a try. The recipe follows [with my notes]. I'll also include additional comments at the end

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

makes 1 9"x5" or 2 8.5"x4.5" loaves


2 packages dry yeast [I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast]

3/4 cup warm water (105-115F)

1-1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1-1/4 cups water and 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder)

1-1/2 cups bread flour, approximately

3 cups whole wheat flour, stone-ground preferred

1/4 cup shortening, room temperature

2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses [I used molasses]

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

Step 1 - In a large mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir briefly to dissolve. Set aside while allowing the buttermilk to reach room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Step 2 - When at room temperature, pour the buttermilk, bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, shortening, brown sugar or molasses, baking powder, and salt into the yeast mixture. Blend with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or at low speed in a mixer until the flour and the dry ingredients are absorbed. With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater stir in the remaining whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and, when it becomes thick, work with the fingers. Allow 4 to 5 minutes for the whole wheat flour to fully absorb the liquid before adding more flour. The dough will be slightly sticky and soft. You may wish to add more bread flour to help control the stickiness.

Step 3 - Sprinkle flour on the work surface and turn out the soft dough. In the early stages of kneading, a metal spatula or dough blade will help turn and fold the dough. It will also scrape up the film of dough from the work surface. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold action, occasionally lifting the dough above the counter and banging it down hard. Knead for 8 minutes, buy hand or with a dough hook.

Step 4 - There is no "first" rising--the dough is put in the pans and set aside to rise. Divide the 2 pieces, if desired, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Shape into balls; press the balls into ovals the length of the pans. Fold in half lengthwise, pinch the seam, and place in the pans with the seam under. Push the dough into the corners of the pans. Cover the pans with with wax paper and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes. (Rising times will be reduced if using instant yeast.)

Step 5 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 6 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 7 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

My variation went like this:

Step 1 - Mix the warm water, the buttermilk, the whole wheat flour, the brown sugar or molasses, and the baking powder. Autolyse 60 minutes. (I actually had to run some errands and it was closer to 90 minutes before I got back to the autolysed dough.)

Step 2 - Stir in the instant yeast.

Step 3 - Stir in the salt.

Step 4 - Stir in the shortening.

Step 5 - Stir in bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time. (I wound up stirring in 1 cup, total. The balance was used for flouring the counter during kneading.)

Step 6 - Since the gluten was so thoroughly developed during the autolyse, I stopped kneading after 5 minutes, which was enough to ensure that everything was completely blended and distributed.

Step 7 - Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Place kneaded dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume.

Step 8 - Degas the dough slightly, shape into loaf or loaves, place in pan(s). Cover the pans loosely with with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes.

Step 9 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 10 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 11 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

The effects of the autolyse were phenomenal. The dough texture looked as though it had been worked for 8-10 minutes, even though it had been stirred just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. After stirring in the bread flour, it was almost the the silky smooth texture that I usually associate with a well-kneaded white bread. The other thing that I should mention was that I was using Wheat Montana's Bronze Chief flour, a finely milled high-protein whole wheat containing 4 grams of protein in a 30-gram sample. For all practical purposes, it's bread flour that still has the bran in it. One of these days I'll have to try a 100% whole wheat bread with this flour.

Overall, I'm very happy with the results of this bread, using this approach and this flour. The loaves were some of the prettiest that I've ever pulled out of the oven, equalling the loftiness of a typical white bread. Here's a picture of the finished loaves:

Buttermilk whole wheat loaves

The crumb was close-textured and even; not at all crumbly or dry. No bricks this time:

Buttermilk whole wheat crumb

Oh, and it tastes really good, too!

And, while I was baking bread, my wife was attending a book signing by Giada De Laurentiis, as evidenced by the photo below:


subfuscpersona's picture

should milk be scalded before using in bread dough?

Many recipes for loaf bread that use milk advise that the milk must first be scalded (brought just to the boil). (Then, of course, you have to wait for the milk to cool.) I remember reading an explanation that something in the milk can inhibit yeast growth and the heat somehow corrects this.

Tell me, gurus, is it really necessary to scald the milk? If yes, why? If no, why not (can it just be a holdover from earlier times that has been mindlessly perpetuated)?

PS - I love long, involved scientific explanations, so please feel free to elaborate

Thanks in advance... 



danmerk's picture

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough - Need help

Can someone help me with formulating a recipe for making a 100% whole wheat sourdough? I do not want to make a bread with white flour, and prefer not to use milk, eggs etc. I made a few loaves using a starter, flour, salt and water. Can I do the same with whole wheat?

I bought a box of vital gluten, should I use that to get better results in my wheats? 

tigressbakes's picture

QUESTION: How to use SD starter in commercial yeast recipes?


OK this is probably a total newbie question but here goes...

It seems like many of you bake mostly or exclusively with sourdough. I am wondering, is there some kind of basic 'general rule' about using wild yeast instead of commercial yeast in non SD recipes? Or if not, I would love to get some experienced opinions on the best way to do this.

I do know that the fermentaton times in commerical yeast are pretty standard - and I am learning, at least with what little experience I've had with my sourdough starter so far that the fermenation times are a lot longer.

I was thinking that a good start would be to replace the 'sponge' or 'poolish' that is called for in a lot of commerical year recipes with the same amount of starter - (and of course omit any yeast that is called for anywhere else in the recipe).

Will this work?


I would love comments, suggestions, thoughts, and any input anyone has on this subject.



Butler's picture

Steam Bun using a sourdough starter

Steam Meat Bun
Steam Meat Bun (Rou Bao)
Over the weekend, I decided to experiment with my sourdough for a steam bun recipe. Having done a little research on "steam bun", there were recipes which use "old dough". So I decide to twist the recipe by incorporating firm sourdough starter. The result was really good. Just remember to use cake flour in the making of the firm sourdough starter and the final dough. And you will obtain the soft texture like those in the Dim Sum restaurant.

Bakery Profile: Pane D'Amore

The last few times I've visited my parents' house, they've served some incredible breads from a local bakery. One time we had a roasted garlic-parmesan loaf that was to die for. This time we had an organic white sourdough with the most beautiful gringe and crust on it. The next morning for breakfast we had an organic cranberry-walnut sourdough that knocked my socks off. After finishing off an entire loaf of cranberry-walnut bread in one sitting, I thought to myself "I gotta go check this place out."

Pane D'Amore is in a teeny little storefront in uptown Port Townsend. Going by mid-day on the day before Easter was probably not the smartest idea of mine because the place was packed, so I didn't get a chance to talk to the bakery owners Frank D'Amore and Linda Yakush. But I was lucky enough to catch one of the bakers there, Ilon Silverman, as he was wrapping up for the day. He gave me a tour of the place and told me about his baking background.

Ilon told me he's been baking for close to 20 years. He got into bread baking, he said, when he first heard about baking sourdough loaves without yeast while in high school. "My initial tries came out like bricks", he told me, but he stuck with it and was eventually able to get the hang of it.


Inside the village bakery

Ilon was able to get his foot in the door as a professional baker at The Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Massachusetts, getting to apprentice under the master baker Richard Bourdon. Later he landed a gig at the renowned Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia.

When I asked what brought him to Washington he told me a funny story. "I was out here checking out the Olympic Peninsula," he said, "when one morning I smelled bread. And not just any old bakery, but, you know, real bread." He went into Pane D'Amore and chatted with the guys for a bit, then asked if could come in and help bake the next day. So for the next two days (on his vacation, I remind you), he got up at 3 in the morning and put in a full (unpaid) shift at Pane D'Amore.

After returning to Colorado, Ilon heard that Pane D'Amore owner and head baker Frank D'Amore had been seriously injured in an accident and that the bakery needed help covering for him. Ilon called up the bakery, saying "Hey, you might have forgotten me, but I'm the guy who came in and baked with you on my vacation." He ended up coming back out to Washington to help cover for Frank while he was out of commission.

Frank D'Amore, who has been baking in Port Townsend for over 25 years, is back baking again and the bakery, which is about four years old, is going strong. The under 900 square foot joint (including the retail space) does about a thousand pounds of bread a day, with anywhere from ten to twenty different types of bread each day. All of the bread is made with organic ingredients, not just the flour but the nuts, seeds, and fruits as well. In the summertime, when the farmers' market is going on out front, the line will be out the door and they'll sell over 400 loaves of bread from the storefont alone. Pane D'Amore's breads are served at a number of local restaurants and has recently been picked up by the Safeway in town, which is the largest bread seller in the area by far.

The breads they make there are killer: aside from the ones I mentioned, they make a Fig-Anise Bread, Ciabatta, Swedish Limpa, a Flax, Oat, and Sunflower Multi-grain Bread, a 7 Grain, Panini, rolls, Ficelle and many others. About half of the breads they bake are sourdoughs, the other half yeasted. They also bake pastries, rolls, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, cookies, focaccia, and pretty much anything else you can bake in a hot oven every day.

Pane D'Amore is located at 617 Tyler St., Port Townsend, Washington and is open 7 days a week.

jaydean2's picture

Bolillos Recipe?

Does anyone have a recipe for Bolillos, a hard roll made in Mexico?  It has a crisp crust and a soft interior.  Thanks...Jay.