The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hamelman's Mixed Flour-The Peel and Stone Incident

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Hamelman's Mixed Flour-The Peel and Stone Incident

I've been looking at this formula for a couple of weeks now. The mix of rye and whole wheat looks so darn inviting! Even the starter is 50/50. Finally, I get the chance to bake it!

This poor loaf was doomed from the start. I was so excited about this formula. To begin with, I had to retard the starter because I needed more than 12 hours (more like 24) between the last build and starting my final dough. So, I did as the book says and added salt, put it in a cool place. (outdoors) Ok, so it was nicely domed and looks good at this point, we're doing fine.

Next, I can't get to the final dough until 5pm rather than first thing in the morning as originally planned. So, it's actually more like 30 some odd hours for the poor starter. But, it's still looking pretty good at this point. I start final dough, look at recipe and count hours. Looks like I'll be baking at 10pm so maybe I'll just put it in the fridge or outside until morning.

Nope, last sentence in the recipe says "this dough does not lend itself to overnight retardation".

This must be the first bread I've ever made that "doesn't lend itself to overnight retardation. Oh well, 11pm is about my bedtime so that's fine. I can still do this. Onward we go. My third fold is 30 minutes late (on an every 40 minute schedule) because I have a 7pm meeting. Dough is looking really nice, goes from unbelievably extensible on 2nd fold to nice and strong but still stretchy on the third fold. Hasn't risen much though, hmmm.

9pm, still hasn't risen much and it should have already been shaped? Hmm, not too sure about this. I go ahead and give it a preshape, make it into a boule. Put upside down in a steel bowl, covered with plastic. 10pm, no rise. I'm not baking it this way! I would be baking a brick! Ok, now what? Stay up until it rises? The phrase "this does not lend itself to overnight rise" keeps going off in my head!!

Finally, at 11pm I take a "drop dead" look to make the final decision. It does not look ready. It's going to have to rise overnight. My life is not revolving around this loaf of bread! I stick it outside the door to the RV on a table. Should be about 45 degrees tonight, it will be totally "retarded" by morning.

Wake up and it looks very nice, ready to bake! Yeah!! Now, bought new pizza stone for the camper oven last week. I've had some problems with it. Burned a couple of loaves of Eric's Fav Rye but I moved the stone up to the next shelf so I think I have that solved. Last nights pizza was "so, so" but I think maybe the oven didn't preheat long enough. Now I'm going to try putting a loaf directly on the stone for the first time ever. I put the corn meal on the peel. Carefully shape my loaf into a nice "torpedo". Slash with the best slashes I've ever made. I even garnish with some poppy seeds. This is looking really good. My fanciest loaf ever. (except my braided Finnish pulla) Getting excited now!

I open oven, put peel in. Loaf sticks. Grab pastry knife. Push loaf. It squishes up. Folds over. Plops onto stone in a squished up mound. I try to unsquish the mound and push farther into the oven but it's stuck to the stone. Oh no!! Well, Maybe best thing is to leave it until it drys out and unsticks?

Mist oven for steam, close door. Open door to check. Bread has stuck to the door. Crap! Peel parts of bread off of door, try to push loaf back a little bit farther by squishing with pastry knife again.

Alright, nothing I can do now but wait and bake. 30 minutes later, I smell burned bread. I check and have a perfectly scorched loaf, insides are 170 degrees. I flip the loaf over and turn the oven off.

After about 50 minutes, bring the loaf out. Cut off the bottom with a bread knife. How sad! But, let me tell you that this bread tastes so good! The best sourdough I've ever made. I'm glad I didn't retard it any longer as it would have been too sour but as it is, perfection! Very chewy crust, dense but big holes. Complex flavor.

This will be my "go to" everday bread from now on. Eric's Fav Rye will be our sandwich bread and Hamelman's Oatmeal Cinnamon bread is the one I will make for my husband's treat. I will use this mixed flour bread to practice, work on technique. What a nice bread!

Now, about that stone. I think it's going to have to go. It's just too big for my little tiny oven. Back to the old cookie sheet solution until we're back in the house. I think I'll try pizzas on the grill this weekend sometime. For now, I'm already building starter for two more of these mixed flour miches to take to my parent's house on Saturday. Scheduling when I will build/bake these will be a challenge as I'm working a 12 hour shift tomorrow. Why does work always have to get in the way of our important hobbies?


Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

I had to laugh when I read your post.  This has happened to me several times.  The schedule written in the recipe dosen't always work out that way and for me my work quite often gets in the way of my obsession.  One good thing and you found this out, the bread always tastes great.

longhorn's picture

Wow, Doc!

What a tale of wonder and woe! I have made most of your errors - but never all at once! I apologize for laughing but it really is FUNNY! (And hits close to home!)

Bake On!


Busche74's picture


Not only are you a committed bread baker(in your RV? ) , but you are a great story teller.  I could visualize all the details way to well.  The crasy thing about sourdough is that if things start going bad toward the end, you've already invested so much time on the project you just hate to you plug ahead.   

Thanks for the laugh this early morn. 

judyinnm's picture

I have this beautiful commercial gas stove (as well as a small electric one), with two stones (it takes two to fill the gas oven), and a skilletful of lava rockes for steam.  So, I just can't understand why my experiences similar to yours occur invariably when I'm expecting a houseful of people for special occasions.  I think the "sticking to the peel" part is the most heartbreaking; when the perfect loaf self-destructs.  But then, when it tastes so good (despite its deformities) it's wonderful to feel vindicated as the "best breadbaker in town" (mine is a small town).

Loved your story, and the narrative.  Thank you.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Somedays my life reminds me of Julie from the Julia/Julie project. I just love reading her down to earth blog. She has so many experiences with self-destructed food dishes. But, often they still taste good.

Someone the other day was talking about how Julia Childs always says "if it doesn't turn out" just say it was supposed to be "watch ya ma call it" giving it a fancy french name and you will be the only one who knows it wasn't supposed to turn out exactly how it is. Everyone will still be impressed by your fabulous home cooked food. Yes, it's wonderful to bake "the best bread in town", even if it's missing it's bottom because you threw it in the trash, burned to a crisp. It's for a fancy, open faced tuna sandwich like Rachel Ray or something, right?