The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Mike E's picture
Mike E

Thin, crispy crust evades me...

I have been making sourdough for the better part of 6 months now as our only source of bread at my house. My family, for the most part, loves it. It is mildly sour in the crumb, an tastes pretty darned good. Our only complaint (mine and theirs, equally..) is my crust. I usually end up with a pretty dark crust, which some of us mind, but not others.. but mostly, the crust is very thick and very tough, bordering on chewy as well. If you don't re-toast it in the toaster, you're in for a tough time of it.. it can get like beef jerky sorta, being pretty tough to get through, esp. for a five year old. Not long ago, we wet to NYC and experiences Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market.. and I just about died of jealousy. The crust from her bread as so fantastic! It was so light, crispy, and so really fantastically delicious. I know they have fantastic ovens there that beat me hands down with my electric range.. but I do steam my loaves with a spritzer a few times in the beginning few minutes of the bake. I also use a large baking stone in my oven, and I start the bake at just over 500 degrees (high as she'll go..) and a bit later turn it down a few degrees to finish off the bake. My question is, I'm willing to do whatever tests and experiments need to be done at my house to get it right, eventually, but what, generally, do I need to do to thin out my crusts a bit and get them crispier and not so tough? 




Blue Skies's picture
Blue Skies

People asked, so here goes...

I posted over in the Artisan Bread discussion, and people asked that I post photos.  This seems to be the place for that.

These are photos of breads that I've made as well as a couple of photos of the results of a course I took from Carl Shavitz (namely Grissini and Bagels).  Enjoy (I certainly enjoyed eating them)...

3 Challah Buns

3 Challah Buns

Ciabatta in the Sky



Grissini from the Artisan Bread Course


Basket of Sourdough

Sourdough Loaf

Another Sourdough

Challah and Savory Challah Rolls

Challah and Savory Challah Rolls

RobinGross's picture

WILD CULTURE: Mexican Sourdough Chocolate Cherry Donuts & "Love Loaves"

Sourdough chocolate cherry Love Loaves

I baked some sourdough chocolate donuts and heart shaped muffins this weekend.  At last the fresh cherries are flowing so I chopped up a pound of fresh Bing Cherries to fold into the batter (and some chocolate chips too).  

Sourdough Chocolate Cherry Donuts

The wild culture (sourdough starter) that I used in these donuts and "love loaves" was captured in Mexico City last year and is one of my favorite cultures for baking (especially for pairing with chocolate).  The sourdough keeps them moist and tender.  They are disappearing fast!

JoeVa's picture

Nuovo Forno

Two months ago I bought a new oven so I had to learn how it works, I mean what is the best setup for sourdough heart baking. This led me to change my setup: no more covered baking!

Have you ever seen the incredible oven spring, great crust color, beautiful ears you have with a professional steam injected deck oven? Just take a look at these photos from Wally's excellent post "My Excellent Adventures at King Arthur Flour".


                                                      [James scoring Pain au Levain]


                                  [Jeffrey at the oven]


Don't you think this is incredible? How can this "flat dough" spring up so well? It must me the oven+steam system!

Here is one small (470g) test loaf, nothing special, just a white liquid sourdough and stone grounded Italian Tipo1 flour - very close to T80 French flour - a medium/soft+ dough at 66% hydration. I didn't take too much care of the dough because I was focused on my setup, but ...




So, the new setup is simple: free steam in the oven generated with a pre-heated bread loaf pan filled with stones and a wet towel. Preheat the oven at 250°C for about 45 minutes with the stone and the pan inserted (the pan is on the same level with the stone) and put the wet towel in the pan just before inserting the bread in the oven. My oven is very well insulated and it traps all the steam, moreover the top heating element work well and doesn't get fire-hot. When I baked this dough with the lid it was very flat with no ears ...

I think I have finally removed THE variable that gave me somewhat inconsistent baking result.

dmsnyder's picture

Sourdough Bread from Advanced Bread & Pastry


I've been baking the San Francisco Sourdough from Michel Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry frequently over the past few months. It's very good. This weekend, I decided to try a couple of his other sourdough breads.

Right after the formula for “San Francisco Sourdough,” Suas gives two other formulas for Sourdough Bread, differing in the levain used. One uses a 100% hydration levain and the other a 50% stiff levain. Both differ from the San Francisco Sourdough in using a smaller starter inoculation for a levain that ferments for 24 hours. This week, I chose to make the one with the stiff levain, which Suas calls “Sourdough Bread One Feeding.”


Levain Formula

Wt (oz)

Baker's %

Bread flour

3 1/4


Medium rye flour




1 ¾


Starter (stiff)







Final dough

Wt (oz)

Baker's %

Bread flour

14 7/8



10 7/8


Yeast (instant)

1/8 tsp









2 lb


Note: The over-all hydration of this dough is 64%.



  1. Mix levain thoroughly.

  2. Ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.

  3. Mix the dough ingredients to medium gluten development. DDT 75-78ºF.

  4. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover tightly and ferment for 2 hours.

  5. Divide into two equal pieces and pre-shape into balls.

  6. Rest for 20-30 minutes, covered.

  7. Shape as boules or bâtards.

  8. Proof in bannetons or en couche for 90-120 minutes at 80ºF.

  9. Pre-heat oven to 500ºF for 45-60 minutes, with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  10. Pre-steam oven. Transfer loaves to the peel. Score with “chevron” or “sausage” pattern, and transfer to the baking stone.

  11. Steam oven and turn temperature down to 440ºF.

  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until done.

  13. Remove loaves to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.

Note: My oven has a convection mode and a conventional baking mode. My actual baking procedure is to pre-heat the oven on Convection-Bake to 500ºF. After the bread is loaded and the oven steamed, I turn the oven to the recommended temperature using conventional (non-convection) baking. When the bread has started to color and has had full benefit of the steam, I switch to Convection-Bake again and lower the temperature by 20-25ºF. (This assumes I'm not baking with “falling temperatures,” as with some rye breads.)

The loaves were proofed at 80ºF for 2 ½ hours and expanded by 50-75%. I was concerned about the long proofing. One of the boules did deflate slightly with scoring, but I got very nice oven spring and bloom.  

The crust was crunchy and the crumb was soft - not very chewy. (I made this bread with KAF AP flour.) The flavor was sweet and wheaty with the barest hint of sour, and that was of the lactic acid type ... I think. Frankly, I missed the tang and the flavor tones of whole grains, which my preferred breads all have. On the other hand, this may approach the French ideal of a pain au levain, which is not sour in flavor. 

For those who prefer a not-sour-sourdough, I would recommend this bread without hesitation.


Submitted to YeastSpotting


trailrunner's picture

Semolina pasta- ravioli with ricotta/mushroom filling

We have had this ravioli plate for decades. My mother-in-law had it and when she and my father-in-law passed we inherited it. We have never used it. I often thought about tossing it but never did. The other day David mentioned ravioli on my pasta post. Well that started the wheels pun intended :) My DH made his usual pasta dough and then I looked up a few YouTube videos on ravioli and we were off. Three dozen later I can honestly say this is VERY easy. I took photos to show step by step. The filling is 4oz of baby bella mushrooms sauteed with 1/2c chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves till dry. salt and pepper to taste. Cool and add 1 c ricotta and 1/2c grated parmesan and some minced fresh basil. This will fill 3 dozen ravioli. 

filling: Photobucket ravioli plate, dust lightly with flour: Photobucket shape indents with plastic plate: Photobucket fill with 1 tsp filling...don't overfill and brush lightly w/water between and around eachPhotobucket top sheet of pasta: Photobucket roll over HARD with the rolling pin: Photobucket pull off extra and save to reroll: Photobucket turn over plate and drop onto semolina dusted pan: Photobucket 3 dozen : Photobucket Things to do differently. It says everywhere to use the finest setting, which is 6 on our machine. In the future we will use 5 for the first layer that the filling goes into and 6 for the cover. The reason is that I know a couple of these are going to burst. Leading to the next thing I will NOT overfill next time. Other than that it all went beautifully. It helps to have 4 David pointed out he and his DW ( dear wife) do this together. So harness a helper and get started. c

ehanner's picture

GM New Organic AP and Croissants

I was in Walmart last week and noticed a new green bag on the shelf next to the bright yellow Bread Flour from Gold Medal. It could be that this isn't a new offering from GM but it's the first time I have seen the Green package. I thought I would try a bag and see how it like it compared to other AP flours I use. First, the price made me take a second look. It was priced at $4.74 for a 5 pound bag. The Bread flour next to it is $2.65.

I have been wanting to make a batch of croissants so I thought his would be a good recipe to try my new organic AP on. A better test for me will be a French bread since I'm struggling with my laminated dough skills. Next time. Some people use a stronger flour for croissants than AP. I like the tender crumb I get from the AP. I used SteveB's recipe and procedure which I have enjoyed for some time. My croissants don't look any where as good as Steves or Larry's or Andy's and probably everyone else but they are delicious! Every time I make these  I swear I'm going to buy a sheeter even if I have to put it in the garage.

Proofing after 1st egg wash, under the cover. These half sheet covers are just terrific for these.

After 1st egg wash

A little crowded for good browning:>(

A small sample with my name on it :>)

Reasonable crumb and very nice flavor!

jackie9999's picture

Granite countertop

It's time I replaced my old laminate countertops and everywhere I look, granite seems to be the material of choice.

I wanted some comments from people that have granite now..are you happy with it? Would you change to something else if you could? Does it still look 'nice' after a few years use? Is it nice to knead on ... :) Oh, and are the darker brown/black colours difficult to keep clean looking...

Thanks to anyone that responds!

ananda's picture

Whitsuntide Baking and Other Antics


Whitsuntide Baking and Other Antics

Today has been a busy day making a range of breads.   I had refreshed both my rye sourdough and wheat levain, with no definite projects in mind.   Given store cupboard availability at the time, this is what I've ended up with:

•1.    Cheese Bread

Part of the "Hamelman Challenge", I made this Cheese Bread using the white levain, pretty much to the recipe.   I'm afraid I couldn't extend to Parmegiano Regiano, but I did have a half decent Farmhouse Mature Cheddar Cheese to use as substitute.   As with all the breads made at home, this is solely reliant on natural yeasts, so it took a considerably longer time to prove than Hamelman suggests in his book.   I made a small loaf in a banneton which was underproved.   So, I just allowed the loaf in the Pullman Pan to prove for about 3 hours before baking; this was after a 2 hour bulk proof, so I was really pleased with the end result.   It is to formula, found on pp.180-1 of the book, apart from these alterations.

•2.    Roasted Brazil Nut and Prune Bread

Well, it should be hazelnut, but I was quite happy to use brazils instead.   No added yeast, just the white levain.   To formula otherwise.   The loaf shown is just shy of 1.2kg.   I baked it at 180°C for 55 minutes.   It had stuck, ever so slightly in the "banneton", but I was really happy about the lovely moist crumb in the final baked loaf.   Prunes are a new household favourite, and we have sourced dried fruits which have been packed perfectly, and knock the socks off even fresh plums!    See pp. 185-6

•3.    Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel

Given I bought 3kg of Organic Rye Berries and 3kg of Organic Cracked Rye Grain, I want to keep on producing "Pumpernickel-style" breads.   8 hours steaming works so well; keeping qualities are unsurpassed.   We both love this bread...lots and lots!

•4.    Wholegrain Bread leavened with a Rye Sourdough

This one's my own recipe, shown below.   I made it as one BIG loaf in a banneton, using bran as a topping to the bread, which weighed in just short of 1.4kg prior to baking!   The flours are all organic; the formula is as straightforward as can be for this type of loaf.   Bulk ferment time was about 2 hours, with 2 S&F in that time.   Final proof was similarly 2 hours.   I do so love using rye sourdough to leaven any type of bread.   This loaf makes me think of Leader's Pane di Genzano, and yet the 2 formulae have little in common.   Can't wait to try it!   Bake profile utilised steam, loaded at full heat of 250°C, reduced to 220°C after 10 minutes, then 200°C for the last 20 minutes of a 50 minute bake.

Pre-fermented Flour: 13.8%  Overall Hydration: 67.2%


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Rye Sourdough



Organic Dark Rye Flour












  • 2. Final Dough



Rye Sourdough



Organic Strong White Flour



Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour













Photographs shown below:



Student Bread Competition

The end of the student academic year approaches.   Currently we are building 2 College Buildings out of Cake ready for the EAT Food Festival held in Newcastle later in June.

At the end of April we played host to Warburtons to celebrate National Bread Week; the first week of May.   A huge organisation, and massively successful baking company; this was a great opportunity for the students, and they all did the College and themselves proud.   They divided into 3 groups and designed their own loaves to produce and present to a Senior Manager at the local Warburtons Bakery in our city.   Hamelman's Roast Potato and Onion Bread was the inspiration for one group, and it was soo moist; probably my favourite on the day!   Another group was led by a baker from Sicily, and the recipe lent heavily on the Semolina Bread I posted on not long ago.   Both these breads were made using a Biga Naturale, prepared and fostered by the students themselves.   The winners went down the seed route in a big way, and adopted rye sourdough as a means to pack a punch with flavour.   Clearly this impressed the judge!   They actually made Pain Siègle, a Wholegrain Chollah with seed topping, and a "Couronne" of rolls using rye sour dough and topped with seeds.

Some photographs are attached.   Most of these are taken on a mobile phone, so, apologies for lack of quality.


I don't seem to have posted on the blog for a while; hope this keeps up the interest!

Best wishes to you all


breadinquito's picture

100% rye bread?

Hi all, friday a aunt will be visiting us from Italy and bring some rye's my very first experience with rye cause in Ecuador have not found so...what do you suggest: 100% rye or a mix with plain flour? How "strong" is rye bread compared with a "white bread"?

Thanks for any advice and happy baking from quito. Paolo