The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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hansjoakim's picture

Of steam, flour and cookies

You know, the old "ice-cubes-in-a-hot-skillet" routine is summer, isn't it? ;)

I was sitting in a sauna a couple of weeks ago, pondering nothing in particular, when this large, heavy-breathing guy shuffled down to the hot rocks, threw water on them, and climbed back up to his favourite spot. Watching the sudden burst of steam rising from the hot rocks lead from one thing to another, and I eventually picked up some small rocks on my way back home, thinking I could put them to good use for my next baking session. I put them in an old, disused bread pan, and placed them on the bottom floor of the oven.

Steaming apparatus


I also noticed I was running low on my bread flour (ah! The horror... the horror...), so I ran over to my grocery store, credit card in hand, ready to score more. This being the festive season and all, and many folks busy baking all kinds of butter cookies I guess, they were out of my regular flour. Well, I picked up two bags of flour from another producer and went back home. This flour has an extraction rate of 80% and an ash around .68, so it contains some more minerals than my usual flour (which is extracted at 75% and has an ash .55). This new one is probably not too far off a French T65 style flour. Both flours are pretty similar in protein content: 11.7% vs. 12%. During the first couple of feedings, I noticed a marked increase in starter activity (probably not very surprising, due to the increased mineral content), and where the starter previously ripened in 12 hrs., it now looked fit and perky after merely 8.

Earlier today I had my first test run with the rock-steaming-thing in the oven, and I baked a whole-wheat pain au levain:

Levain new steam


and the 5-grain levain, both from "Bread":

5 grain levain new steam

And the crumb shot:

5 grain levain new steam

I was very happy with the outcome, and I think the new flour also lends even more taste to the breads. I guess I don't have any other option but to make the change permanent! Also, the new method of producing steam generated generous amounts of steam initially, and kept the surface of the breads moist until they were both fully expanded, roughly 15 mins. into the bake. Then I hauled the bread pan out, so the loaves could finish baking in a dry oven.

Finally, something for the coffee! I'm not much of a cookie baker, but it's that time of year, isn't it? Out with the Santa beard and the cookie recipes! Here's this years' bake:

Oat and date chews and cornmeal-raisin cookies
Oat and date chews and cornmeal-raisin cookies


Hazelnut butter cookies and double chocolate biscotti

Hazelnut butter cookies and double chocolate biscotti


Chewy trail cookies and chocolate chip cookies

Chewy trail cookies and chocolate chip cookies

inlovewbread's picture

Mixed Flour SD Boule

I'm calling this "Mixed Flour" because I used a lot of different flours. I wanted to see if I could get the characteristics I wanted in the crumb by adjusting just the flours. It seemed to have worked, so here's what I used:

Again (It's a family/personal favorite :-)), I was following Susan's Simple Sourdough formula. Only hers doesn't call for so many flours!

50g Firm Starter (mine is 50% hydration composed of 10% rye and 90% AP)

205g Water

100g AP Flour (I used Wheat Montana)

100g Bread Flour (KA Bread Flour)

25g Durum Flour (also King Arthur)

25g Hard Red Whole Wheat (home-milled wheat berries)

50g Hard White Whole Wheat (home-milled wheat berries)

6g Salt (I used Hawaiian Sea Salt)

Method: Mix all by hand, rest 30 min. S+F three times at hour intervals. Let rise until double. Pre-shape, rest 15 min, shape. Into brotform and retard overnight. Out of fridge 2 hours, score and bake @450 covered for 20 min., uncovered for 20 more and 5 min in shut-off oven w/ door open.

Whew- that's quite the mishmash of flour, I know, but it tasted really good. I used the whole wheat because I want to start transitioning everything over to 100% whole wheat, but have to do it gradually. I also have tons of wheat berries that I need to use instead of buying more flour from the store! Not to mention the extra nutrition.

The reason I used the Durum is because I like the buttery flavor it lends to the bread and it seems to balance out the whole wheat flavor when added with freshly ground whole wheat. I've tried this in a couple of other things and it seems to neutralize that "earthy" flavor or any "bitter" tones from the hard red I suppose. 

And as for the 50/50 of AP and Bread flour- I like a mix of the really chewy/shiny crumb (from the BF) and a bit of "fluffyness" from the AP. The crumb: creamy/ buttery/ wheaty. 







breadbakingbassplayer's picture

2.2kg Sourdough Miche...

Hi All,

Just wanted to share with you some pics of the 2.2kg miche that I baked on 12/13/09...  It's the biggest bread that I have ever baked, and one of the best tasting...  Enjoy!


flourgirl51's picture

rofco bread oven

Does anyone know if the Rofco bread ovens can be bought in the USA?

clazar123's picture

Any recipes for sourdough biscotti?

I wanted to try making biscotti this holiday season and I was just discarding my sourdough starter in prep for activating it when I was thinking about which recipe to try. Light bulb moment!! Why not use the sourdough starter discard as a start? So I did develop a quick recipe and it is....OK. Definitely needs some tweaking.

So...any biscotti recipes out there already tweaked that use sourdough starter? I didn't find anything through google.

occidental's picture

Buckwheat Batard

I baked the buckwheat batard from Leader's Local Breads yesterday.  This is my third or fourth attempt at this bread, and by far the most sucessful.  The first time I tried this bread I was unaware of the errors in the formula (if you do a search of the site you will find posts on the errors of this book) and ended up experimenting just trying to get a buckwheat starter that I could work with.  The flavor is so unique that I did not give up and have come up with a formula that works for me.  For the buckwheat levain I used 75 grams of my liquid levain that is approximately 100% hydration.  To that I added 35 grams of water and 40 grams of buckwheat flour, which totals 150 grams, close to the 125 grams needed for the dough, with just a little to spare.  I let this sit and ferment overnight.  There was not much visible fermentation as far as rising or bubbles coming to the surface with this levain, however upon stirring it up it was evident from the texture that it was active.  I then followed the rest of the formula as written in the book, except that I made 3 loaves instead of the suggested 4.  I'm not a big butter fan however I really enjoy this bread warmed with a little butter on it, and the buckwheat flavor is very unique.  Now on to the pics... 


From bread

From bread

From bread
txfarmer's picture

Lussekatt - Swedish Santa Lucia Saffron buns

I used this recipe found right here on fresh loaf: Thanks! It worked great. Found saffron at my local super market, $7 for 0.5gram, ouch! Found quark at whole foods, another ouch, these breads ain't cheap! However, they look great and taste great! Other than the classic S shape, I also made a few other classic shapes.

With the quark addition, and plenty of kneading, the crumb is incredibly soft and moist, even after 3 days.

Very happy to have tried this fun new bread!

Floydm's picture


Update December 1, 2011: for a beautiful recent Panetonne post, see MWilson's Francesco Elmi Panettone.

I've always wanted to make Panettone but never had the guts to try it. Last week I happened to be walking by a fancy kitchen gadget shop and see Panettone wrappers near the window, so I picked some up and decided to give it a shot this year.

When I got home I looked at Panettone recipes from bakers like Michael Suas, Peter Reinhart, Ciril Hitz, Bernard Clayton, and a number of others available online. The most authentic recipes called for at least two ingredients I don't have handy: fiori di sicilia, a citrus/vanilla extract traditionally added to Panettone that was discussed here, and osmotolerant yeast like SAF Gold that performs better in sweetened or acidic doughs.

What else characterizes Panetonne? Some recipe call for orange blossom water, others citrusy liqueurs. Most are made with preferments, either sourdough or yeast, and most contain nuts, either almonds or pine nuts. They all contain dried fruits, though the recommendations vary from candied lemon or orange peel to raisins to dried cherries, apricots, or cranberries. And while all the recipes were for enriched, broiche-like doughs, some were as lean as one egg and a half a stick of  butter and others as rich as nine eggs and a cup of butter.

I decided to see if I could come up with a reasonable approximation of Panettone with just the ingredients I had at home or could easily find at any old grocery store.  I also wanted to see if sourdough was necessary or at least noticeably improved the result, so I made two batches in tandem, one with a sourdough preferment, the other instant yeast (regular, not osmotolerant). I wasn't shooting for the best or most authentic recipe, just something that I could give as a holiday gift to my friends and coworkers. Here is what I came up with.

The Recipe

Makes a dozen small, 6 midsized, or 2 large loaves

6 oz (1 cup) all purpose flour
8 oz (1 cup) milk
1/4 t instant yeast OR 1 T starter

Fruit Soaker
2 cups diced dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, apricots, candied orange or lemon peel, or orange or lemon zest)
2 cups golden raisins
1 cup booze, juice, or water (I used 1/2 cup rum and 1/2 cup triple sec)

Final Dough
1 pound (3 cups) all purpose flour (plus 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup more as necessary)
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 oz (1/3 cup) sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 cup almond slices
1 t salt
1 T instant yeast


The night before, mix up the preferment with either instant yeast or ripe sourdough starter. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

The next morning, mix the dried fruits with the booze or juice and let them soak a while (I'm being deliberately vague here... I let it soak for an hour or so, but anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours would be fine).

Make the final dough by combining the all of the ingredients for the final dough except the nuts with the preferment and the liquid from the fruit soaker (withhold the fruit for the initial mix). Mix the dough for 5 to 10 minutes by hand or with a stand mixer until it begins to get silky. Add the nuts and fruit and mix, adding additional flour as necessary to get it to a proper consistency, so that it is slightly sticky but can be handled by hand. I added approximately 1/4 cup to my initial pound of flour to get it to a consistency I was comfortable with.


Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for two to three hours. It will not rise as much as a normal dough does and probably will not double in size. After 2 and 1/2 hours in my cool house mine had risen by about 40%, which was good enough for me.

Split the dough into the necessary number of pieces you need for the loaves you want to make. Shape the dough, place them into the molds (or pans... you don't have to make the loaf in the molds but they do look festive), cover lightly and let them rise for two to three hours again.

When the dough has risen again (again, it will rise slowly and probably not double in size), put them in an oven preheated to 350. Bake until nicely browned and the internal temperature registers 185F. My little loaves took about 25 minutes to bake, my mid-sized loaves closer to 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

The Verdict

Did these loaves taste like authentic Panettone? Mmmm.... probably not.  But luckily none of my coworkers or family members are Panettone experts and they were all impressed and thought it tasted wonderful.  Osmotolerant yeast and fiori di sicilia may be necessary to make the real thing, but they aren't necessary to make something festive and delicious.

And sourdough versus instant yeast? I could tell that the sourdough loaves had a little more depth and a little more bite to them and they probably would have kept longer if they hadn't all gotten eaten in 36 hours, but I suspect most folks wouldn't have noticed. If you have an active starter it is worth using some of it here, but if you haven't gotten into sourdough yet don't let it stop you.  Make use of whatever you've got!


droidman's picture

Sourdough Boule With Goat Milk (REVISED)

NOTE: This post is superseded by

What I really like about Peter Reinhart's books is that he understands the urge to experiment. The following is his Basic Sourdough from the Bread Baker's apprentice, with a couple of minor adjustments. I got the idea from a loaf produced by a Twin Cities grocery store (Byerly's). I've had difficulty making this size of loaf (10.5" banneton) without burning the bottom crust, but moving the stone up a notchseems to have solved this.

The crust was tender yet chewy with a nice crunch, the crumb dense, but looser than my previous experience with the Reinhart recipe. The flavor was rich, almost creamy, but the milk does seem to subdue the sourness. Perhaps an extra 24 hours in the fridge would help this.

This revision includes scalding the goat milk, increasing the proportion of goat milk in the liquid mix, and increasing the percentage of liquid overall (to 75%). 

I've tried this loaf using only water, as well as substituting whole milk or half & half for the goat milk. Nothing works better than goat. Why, I couldn't say. 

Firm Starter

  • 2/3 cup wild yeast starter (75% hydration) [180g]

  • 1 cup bread flour (Dakota Maid) [150g]

  • 1/3 cup water [80g]

Final Dough

  • 4 cups bread flour [600g]

  • 1/2 cup whole white wheat flour [68g]

  • 1 Tbsp sea salt [15g]

  • 1 cup scalded goat milk at room temp [233]

  • 1-1/4 cup + 1/2 tsp water at room temp [298]


  1. Mix up firm starter, mist with spray oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap, let rise for approximately 4 hours until doubled.

  2. Refrigerate overnight (12 – 18 hours).

  3. Remove starter from fridge and set on oil-misted countertop. Cut into multiple small pieces, separate, mist with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to warm to room temperature (a couple hours).

  4. Mix final dough.

  5. Knead 10-15 minutes. Rest 5 minutes. Knead additional 2 minutes. Dough is super sticky, difficult to manage.

  6. Allow to rise for 3-4 hours until doubled.

  7. Gently punch down, cover tightly (I have a covered Rubbermaid container I use for this), and refrigerate overnight.

  8. Remove from refrigerator and allow to warm up a couple hours. 

  9. Gently remove dough from bowl, shape into two boules, place in floured bannetons, lightly mist bottom with spray oil, cover and proof for at least four hours.

  10. Preheat oven containing bread stone and steam pan to 500 degrees at least one hour before proofing is complete.

  11. Sprinkle semolina on bottom of loaf, then flip over onto semolina-dusted peel. Score loaf as desired.

  12. Pour one cup of water into steam pan (I use a small cast iron skillet)

  13. Slide onto baking stone.

  14. Spray sides of oven with water three times in first three minutes (I've quit doing this as it cools the oven too much). 

  15. Bake until internal temp is nearing 205 degrees, 20-25 minutes.

Goat Milk Sourdough

Crumb Shot


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

12/8/09 -Pizza