The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Windischgirl's picture

Hi everyone

Greetings! I just joined the list this AM, but have been a bread baker for a teen, Saturday was my baking day and I worked my way thru "Bread on Bread". After a hiatus of several years (read "grad school" and "career"), I got on the bread machine bandwagon. OK, I admit I still use it for kneading from time to time. But what has really inspired me now were two trips to Switerland--the first by myself in April, and most recently, last month with my family...husband, two teens and a tween. They are all now begging for Swiss bread: the crust and the chew are amazing.

As I was planning what to bake today, I started thinking about my baking great-grand parents owned a bakery in Austria-Hungary, and when my grandfather bought the business, he got both the shop and their eldest daughter ;-) and that was REAL bread, with a real crust, baked in a hearth. So I guess some of my aspirations are hereditary!

I found out about this site thru a series of links as I was trying to find out more info on lames and rising baskets. I appreciated the suggestions on that thread, and I have some ideas of my own to post.

BTW, if anyone has recipes for traditional Swiss breads--other than Zopf, which I have several recipes for already--I'd appreciate you sharing them.

thanks for the welcome!


Paula F

Philadelphia PA 

woefulbaker's picture

Biga/Poolish/Pate Fermentee - why knead?


Reading Reinhart BBA etc. regarding Biga and Pate Fermentee (not so much Poolish) I noticed that the preparation of these preferments involve kneading and proofing much the same as you would for any final dough.

Since I presume neither gluten nor  trapping carbon dioxide, bulk/volume are major concerns for a preferment, why are these stages of kneading, proofing and degassing necessary in a preferment?   Is this something I also need to do with poolish? (I don't think I've ever successfully had a poolish 'double in volume' btw).

Actually perhaps a bigger question: why use a preferment at all? I'm not sure I follow the logic.  How does it improve flavour (if one presumes flavour comes from extracting all we can from the flour),  if the bulk of the flour used in the final dough has yet to be added?





JMonkey's picture

Tasty whole-grain pancake mix

My daughter loves pancakes and I like them, too, so I like to be able to mix up a batch on short notice. This mix, which I've adapted from a recipe in The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, takes about 15 minutes to make, stays fresh in the fridge indefinitely, and is super easy to whip up into fresh pancakes. Plus, if you use whole wheat pastry flour, I guarantee that no one will know that these pancakes are made with 100% whole grains.

Ingredients for the mix:

  • 3.5 cups or 12.25 ounces Rolled Oats
  • 5 cups or 21.25 ounces Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 3 Tbs or 1.5 ounces Sugar
  • 3 Tbs or 1.5 ounces Baking Powder
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • 1 Tbs Baking Soda
  • 1 cup or 7 ounces vegetable oil (I used canola)

In a food processor, blender or coffee grinder, grind up the rolled oats so that they're well chopped but not quite a powder. Mix up all the dry ingredients well, and then add the oil slowly, continuing to mix. To check the consistency, take a clump and squeeze it in your hand. If it's sticks together, it's ready. If it's still very crumbly, add a bit more oil and try again. Put it in a covered container and pop it in the fridge.

When you're ready to make pancakes, take:
  • 1 cup of Mix, packed
  • 1.25 cups Buttermilk
  • 1 Egg
Mix it all up with a spoon, breaking up any clumps you see. Don't worry too much if it's lumpy, but you don't want any dry mix. Cover and let it sit for 20 minutes so that the whole grains can absorb the liquid. It seems like a long time to wait, but while you're waiting, you can brew coffee, fry up bacon, warm some maple syrup or get some scrambed eggs ready to go.

Heat up a pan or griddle so that drops of water will "dance" on the surface. One 3-inch pancake = 2 Tbs batter. They're ready to flip once the sides start to solidify and bubbles stop breaking on the top.

This recipe makes 12 three-inch pancakes. If you have leftovers, freeze them -- they warm up great in the toaster.
Lisalovestobake's picture

Starter novice with a few questions

Hi all, I recently got a good grape starter going, and have baked several loaves succesfully with it.  My question involves the care and feeding of it.

At this time, I currently have about 7 to 8 cups of starter in my refrigerator, and I'd like to bring it down to a more manageable amount.  I know you are supposed to discard some, and add flour and water to the remainder.  However, I'm not sure of the amounts.  If I discard two or three cups of it (well, I'll make pancakes, waflles, onion rings, biscuits etc with the 'discard' lol), replenishing with equal amounts obviously leaves me with 7 to 8 cups again.  Could someone guide me to the proper way of doing this, while keeping my starter at about 4 or 5 cups?

Also, once you take a break from baking, and just want to store the starter in the fridge, I know you should be feeding it about once a week or once every two weeks.  To feed it, must it come to room temp first?  If not, once you feed it, must you let it proof for several hours until it bubbles and doubles, and then store it back in the fridge for another week?  Yesterday, I took it out of the fridge, fed it with 1 cup of bottled water, and 1 cup of flour, gave it a good stir, then put it right back in the fridge.  I take it this is the wrong way?  The last thing I want to do is lose such a great start to a great starter!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)

bakn4joy's picture

Dutch Crust sandwich roll?

Does anyone have a recipe for dutch crust bread?

bwraith's picture

Home Ash Content Measurement

Recently, I've been attempting to grind and sift my own flour. The grinding is straightforward with a Retsel Mil-Rite, an excellent home stone buhr mill or my new Meadows 8-inch stone mill. However, the mysteries of sifting the flour have been less straightforward. A subsequent blog entry will deal with my progress on grinding and sifting my own flour. The sifting project motivates the need for measuring the ash content of my flour.

Ash Content

Ash content in general is the percentage of inorganic matter in a sample of some material. It is used in many different ways to analyze agricultural products, at least, based on some cursory sampling of articles on the internet. says defines ash content as:

The nonvolatile inorganic matter of a compound which remains after subjecting it to a high decomposition temperature.

A traditional method for determining ash content is to place a sample of known weight in a furnace at high temperature (600F or higher) for a number of hours (12 hours, for example) such that all the water, volatile compounds, and organic matter either evaporate or burn. After that, the remaining material is weighed. Ash content is the weight of remaining "ash" expressed as a percentage of the original weight of the sample. The remaning mass will be the inorganic non-volatile compounds that were in the original sample.

Flour ash content in Europe is measured using a dessicated (dried out) sample  of flour, so the original weight of the sample doesn't contain any water. In the US, a moisture content of 14% is assumed (typical for white flour before it is dried out), so US numbers for ash content differ from the same European measure by the amount of water in the original sample.

An Important Characterizing Measure of Wheat Flour

Ash content is widely used in Europe to classify flours. When you see "type 55", for example, the 55 refers to the ash content, which would be 0.55% of dry matter in this flour. In the US, it is often available by searching a manufacturer's or supplier's web site for flour specifications (often hidden somewhere hard to find), or more often, by calling someone in their testing department.

Why Ash Content

The inorganic matter in a wheat berry is heavily concentrated in the outer layers, such as the bran, various seed coatings, and the germ. As you traverse from the outer coatings to the outer endosperm and then to the inner endosperm, the concentration of inorganic matter steadily drops.

During milling, the flour is ground, then sifted, then ground again, and sifted again repeatedly. When the milling process is complete, a large number of bins of product will result from very coarse to very fine, and from very dark to very light flours. The whitest flours will have less ash content, and the darker flours will have more ash content. At this point, various grades of flour may be created by blending the flour from the bins.

Ash content then summarizes how much of the outer layers made it in to the final flour, regardless of how it may have been milled, sifted, and blended.

The importance of measuring ash content was immediately obvious to me as I tried to mill and sift at home on my own. An infinite number of possible permutations of grinding and milling could be imagined. For example, I tried grinding very coarsely, then sifting, then grinding the coarser results of the sifting again, then sifting again. Another version was grinding very finely and sifting into more and finer sizes. I also tried grinding coarsely, then regrinding, then sifting. Of course, the possibilities are endless. In each of these cases, flour resulted that made good bread, seemed light in color, and fine in texture. The difference to the eye and the feel in the hand was not great between one and the other, at least not to me, a first-time home miller.

Measuring ash content of my results would make it possible to know at least approximately how much of the outer layers had made it into each type of flour resulting from the various grinding and sifting processes tried. Also, once a given process is adopted and used consistently, calculating the right blend of the various outputs of the milling process to achieve a desired ash content, depending on the type of flour needed, should also be fairly easy.

The Theory

Distilled water doesn't conduct electricity. However, if some salt is dissolved in distilled water, it will conduct electricity. The ions contributed by the salt are charged particles that will travel through the water in the field created by the voltage difference on the electrodes of the conductivity meter to create a flow of electric current. The higher the concentration of salt, the higher the conductivity of the water and salt solution will be. The diverse mineral content in the inorganic matter that makes up the "ash content" of the flour ionizes the water in the same way described above for salt. If the flour has a larger amount of "ash content" it will also contribute a larger quantity of ionizing compounds to water, increasing the conductivity. 

The Equipment

To measure conductivity you need a conductivity meter. In the field of water quality measurement, "Total Dissolved Solids" is a standard measurement, but it is essentially a measure of the conductivity of the water being tested. So, you can use either a "conductivity meter" or a "TDS Meter". In my case, I had obtained a Hanna 9813 pH meter a number of years ago, and it turns out it also had a conductivity meter function. However, it was easy to discover conductivity meters on the internet, by searching on terms like "Conductivity Meter", "TDS", "Total Dissolved Solids", "Water Quality Meter", and so on. One place I found was Also searching on "Hannah Meter" might work, since that's the brand of meter I have that has both pH and conductivity meters, both useful functions for flour measurement.

You might wonder why a standard digital multi-meter wouldn't work. I tried to use one unsuccessfully. First of all, you would have to carefully mount the probes to maintain the same distance apart and total surface area exposed to the water. However, it gets worse. The DC current used by a digital multi-meter to measure resistance causes the ions to build up on the electrodes, so the measurement just goes higher and higher the longer you leave the electrodes in the water. Conductivity meters made for measuring water impurities use AC current to measure the conductivity so the above problem with an ohm-meter doesn't occur, have probes made of less reactive conductors, and are designed to maintain proper spacing of the electrodes.

The Method

I found a couple of papers on the internet describing methods of measuring ash content with conductivity. One was especially useful for home measurements and was titled, "Electrical Conductivity of Flour Suspensions and Extracts in Relation to Flour Ash." published in 1977 in the Journal of Cereal Chemistry. The method described below was derived from the discussion in this paper.

The method is very simple. Mix 100 grams of distilled water (should be distilled water to get good results) and add 5 grams of the flour to be tested in a container. Stir thoroughly to completely hydrate the flour. Periodically stir for about 12 hours. After the flour has settled to the bottom of the jar, measure the conductivity of the water. For the best measurement, allow the flour to settle on the bottom so there is clear water to measure. The clear water will have a higher conductivity than recently stirred and cloudy water. At first the conductivity rises, as the various compounds that contribute to the conductivity of the water dissolve, but at some point the conductivity will stabilize. In my case it took a long time, maybe 12 hours or so, for the conductivity to stop changing. The conductivity measured can then be calibrated by measuring flours with known ash content and fitting a curve of conductivity to the known ash content. In practice it looked very linear, so even a simple proportional relationship would give reasonable results, based on my admittedly minimal sampling.

         ppmuS/cmash %

The table above shows measured conductivity in ppm, as the meter represents it for TDS or "Total Dissolved Solids" in parts per million salts for a hydroponic solution and also shows conductivity in the more standard measure of milli-Siemens per cm. I don't know the ash content, but based on some flour specification information from Heartland Mill, I filled in rough numbers and then used them to approximate the ash content of my "71% yield, fairly white bread flour" sifted from a couple of passes with my new Meadows 8 inch mill and a couple of siftings with a number 60 sieve in my new SS-100 Econo-Shaker sieve shaker.

The method in the paper heated the samples to boil them for a short period, then cooled and centrifuged the samples to create a clear liquid with the dissolved minerals in it. I didn't want to deal with boiling or somehow obtaining a centrifuge. OK, maybe you could put your jars in bags, tie them to some rope and spin them like Argentine "bolas", but I recommend patience. It was unclear what the effects of boiling were from this paper, but it seemed to affect the measurement in some unexpected way. So, my approach is to keep it simple and just wait for the conductivity and the flour to settle, even if it takes a while.


You can obtain a reasonable estimate of ash content by mixing 5 grams of flour with 100 grams of distilled water, stirring periodically for a few hours and then measuring the stabilized conductivity and comparing to the same measurement for some reference flours of known ash content. I proceeded to make one of my favorite miche recipes and found this flour to give very comparable results to Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo flour, which is of similar ash content. The difference is I can mill my own version of the Golden Buffalo flour and obtain it absolutely fresh when called for. In addition, measuring and recording the ash content of the output from the various passes of grinding and sifting should allow me to blend the outputs in the right proportions to obtain a desired ash content for recipes that may call for more refined or less refined flour.

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

The Bread Builders

Anyone have this book? Comments?


I have so many bread books and not so much "dough" so I would like all my purchases to be valuable to me.


It got some negative reviews with low ratings on amazon, then there were a bunch of 5-star ratings, but all the reviewers giving five stars either had only one review, or in the few cases where they had more than one review, all their reviews were 5-star.  So it was hard for me to get a sense of how the book is. 


So if you've got this book, any advice appreciated!  :)

AbbyL's picture

NYT no-knead formula + stretch & fold?

What would happen if I were to apply the stretch and fold method to the NYT no-knead formula? It kind of defeats the no-knead concept, but I'm wondering if the very simple dough mixture (3 cups flour, 1/4 tsp yeast, 2 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cups, leave it alone for 15 hours) would lend itself to stretching and folding and thus enable that slack dough to be shaped. Feasible or not?

dolfs's picture

Dutch Regale's Almond/Rum Stollen

A late entry. For Christmas I made stollen with a recipe that looked like it would produce something close to what I know from The Netherlands.

Dutch Regale's Almond/Rum StollenDutch Regale's Almond/Rum Stollen

I did look at many recipes, but finally decided on a mix of two recipes. I used mostly the recipe from Glezer's Artisan Baking across America for "Dutch Regale's Almond Stollen," but incorporated a slightly different mix of dark and golden raisins with a small amount of candied cherries, all soaked overnight in rum. Dutch stollen uses something called "sukade," but I haven't found that available here.

I suppose this is not an easy recipe (recipe post here). The first try resulted in something that was delicious, but a little flat and dense. It was almost more like a somewhat moist shortbread. For the second try I did the same recipe but worked more on developing the initial dough. The result was better (see picture, although this is not a picture of the best specimen: it disappeared before I could take a picture) and surely was declared delicious by all that ate it.

The almond paste was made from equal weights (250 g) of almond flour (I'm too lazy to blanch and grind almonds), fine granulated sugar, and an egg. I made three times this recipe about two weeks ahead of time. The texture and taste improves notably by keeping it in the fridge over that time.

The stollen went to us and some close friends where we celebrated Christmas. For many other friends and neighbors I made Panettone. We had a progressive block party on the 29th and my wife signed us (me) up for the bread course. I baked 4 baguettes, 3 epis and 3 loaves of Tom Leonard's Country French. I've pictured all these before, so no new pictures.



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures


audra36274's picture

mold inside on my starter jar, friend or foe?

I know it's cold in my kitchen and my new starter for the Jewish rye bread is just kinda sitting there. But today I noticed mold on the inside of my jar. I took out what I needed to feed and put it in a new container until someone could advise me to keep it or throw it out. Help?!

   I also was reading today on someones old entryabout keeping your new starter in a water bath so you could maintain a better temp. That would have solved my cold kitchen problem. I'll get to rigging up my water bath, so that will at least solve one problem.