The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Early start

hansjoakim's picture

Early start

Hi all,

Here's a brief report on this weekend's baking. Yesterday (Sunday), I mixed dough for a fruit and nut levain and did the lamination for a straight croissant dough. Both the levain and the croissants were retarded overnight after final shaping, so I could bake them off this morning. I got an early start so everything was baked before I headed for work.

For the fruit and nut levain, I used chopped dates, raisins and walnuts, and let them macerate in Grand Marnier a few hours before mixing the final dough. Absolutely not necessary, but the soaking provides the fruit with delicate flavour and makes the chopped walnuts softer and lends them a buttery quality. Rum would be awesome as well! There's 40% whole grain flour in the formula, so the sweetness provided by the fruit and liquor is just right (at least for me). Here's a link to my formula.

The baked goods:

Fruit and nut levain and croissants

...and the crumb of the levain:

Fruit and nut levain crumb

Have a nice week everyone!


arlo's picture

Everything looks delicious!

*Wishes I had one of those croissants for breakfast right now instead of my smoothie*

ramat123's picture

Is there a recipe for the croissants?

hansjoakim's picture

Thanks arlo and ramat123!

ramat123: You'll find the recipe on Steve's breadcetera blog: Direct link here. Good luck!

ramat123's picture

Hi hansjoakim,

Following your blog entries for some time I wonder if you can recomend a good book for rye breads. I am using mostly Hamelman right now and want to develop my rye artisan baking skills.

Thanks again,


hansjoakim's picture

Hi David,

To tell you the truth, I don't know any books for the home baker that deal with rye breads in any more detail than Hamelman. Unfortunately.

There is a book called "Technologie der Backwarenherstellung" by Claus Schünemann and Günter Treu that has some in-depth information on baking with rye sourdough. A limited preview of the German version is available via Google Books (direct link here). There's also an English language version of the text, but that's far too pricey to justify purchase for a hobby baker. What I've read in the German version is pretty interesting, but mostly aimed at large operations.

My starting point was Hamelman's book, but I've ended up tweaking his formulas to better fit my starter and my flour. The most important tweaks include:

  • Increase hydration to make a rather sticky dough. This will give you a more open crumb, better keeping qualities and more "harmonic" rye breads. Low hydration appears to hamper good fermentation.
  • Reduce amount of rye sourdough. I usually find that my rye breads benefit from less rye sourdough compared to Hamelman's formulas. Clicking here will show you a table that I took from Schünemann and Treu's book, that provides estimates for the amount rye sourdough to be used in 1-step rye sourdough builds. Apart from in 80% - 100% rye breads, I've found that reducing the amount rye sourdough does not significantly alter total fermentation time, but it improves dough handling, resulting in less sticky doughs.
  • Omit commercial yeast. I prefer the flavour of naturally leavened rye breads, so I don't use commercial yeast when I bake rye breads. For lower percentage rye (i.e. < 50%), I've had good results with 2 hr. bulk fermentation followed by overnight proof in the fridge. For higher percentage rye (i.e. >= 50%), I typically end up with roughly 1 hr. bulk fermentation followed by a 1 hr. 30 min. final proof.

If you're just starting out with rye, I think Hamelman will be the best guide. If I recall correctly, the 66% rye sourdough in his book is a terrific bread. Notice the high hydration of this formula compared to virtually all the rest of his rye breads. My best recommendation is to start out with his formulas. Then, if you think there's room for improvement, you might consider tweaking and altering the procedures. The best is to start with something that works, and Hamelman's formulas work. :)


Mebake's picture

Wonderful, as usual, Hans.


SylviaH's picture

It just doesn't get any better!  I love the fantastic crossisants, surely you don't eat all of those...'I would' must stand in line waiting for you to arrive :)


rossnroller's picture

As always!


hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much Mebake, Sylvia and Ross :)

LindyD's picture

Your co-workers were overjoyed upon your return from vacation, as I don't think you left those freshly baked delights at home to stale.


ramat123's picture

Thanks again,


ehanner's picture


Your breads are bold and photo perfect, as usual. What caught my attention are the comments or tips you gave for David. There is a lot of experience in those suggestions. Your perspective based on local flours and conditions is quite interesting.

Good to see you back,


breadsong's picture

Hello, I wish you worked in my office. Wow.
Fruits and nuts soaked in Grand Marnier for bread - what could possibly be wrong with that?!
I took a look at the breads and pastries you've posted on your blog and I am very impressed with your talent.  Just loved your pictures of the 'upside-down' boules and the gorgeous patterns that emerged.
I have been wanting to try making croissant dough - I read through Ciril Hitz's method for laminating dough in his book 'Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads' and it looks like good instruction.  I found a French rolling pin, called a tutove, on Ebay and it's supposed to be a good tool for laminating so I really should give it a try.
I will hope for results like yours but I'm sure it's going to take lots of practise before I get there.
Regards, breadsong

hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much Lindy, Eric and breadsong!

It's good to be back baking one's own bread again.

Eric: Thank you! The cold, wet and windy climate here in Norway limits most farmers to grow barley and/or oat. Not a lot of it is used for human consumption. I know there are pockets, especially in the south-east, where some wheat is grown, and I suspect there might be some rye production as well, but Norwegians don't share the proud rye traditions of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Eastern Europe. I believe most rye flour in stores is imported, but I don't know from where. I know for certain that much of our wheat comes from either the US or from Canada. From descriptions I've read in blogs online, I have the impression that the rye flour I use absorbs more water than what appears to be usual. My experience, at least, is that one should not be afraid to add water to rye doughs :) Thanks again for your kind comments, Eric!

breadsong: Thank you so much! It's great to receive such positive feedback! You should definitely give croissants a go. The process might appear time consuming at first, but you can easily break it up into smaller sequences. Here's what I often do:

  1. Afternoon day 1: Mix the dough. Give it 30 - 45 mins. floor time before retarding in the fridge overnight.
  2. Morning day 2: Laminate dough, 3 single folds, with 1 hr. rest between each fold.
  3. Afternoon day 2: Roll out dough and shape croissants, pain au chocolats etc. Egg wash and place immediately into fridge overnight.
  4. Morning day 3: Egg wash and bake directly.

As with all things, it took me some trial and error to figure out how to make it work. Especially encasing the butter block and sheeting the dough were challenges for me, but once you understand the how's and why's, it's not that difficult. Don't hesitate to ask if you think I can assist you in any way. Best of luck and I hope to read about your croissants in the near future! :)

breadsong's picture

Thanks so much for your suggested schedule, and for your offer of assistance - so kind. Your suggestion for timing is a great help; that timing would fit nicely into my work schedule - with perhaps an early morning or two, but it's doable! I am definitely going to give this a try!   Regards, breadsong

breadsong's picture

Hello hansjoakim, I had some extra time this past weekend and tried my first croissants (Ciril Hitz - Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads). Thanks for your suggested timing. I followed the schedule suggested by Mr. Hitz this time but will try your schedule next time. Your croissants are so perfect and I will strive to make mine more like yours!  Regards, breadsong

benjamin's picture

first class, as always. Great post Hans.