The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Seeds and apples, part II

hansjoakim's picture

Seeds and apples, part II

Autumn is truly here, and every tree is decked out in breathtaking yellow and red colours. This is one of my favourite parts of the year, where afternoons are best spent strolling among the autumn leaves on silent sidewalks and catching every last bit of warmth the sun can muster.

The colder times of the year are also the best to bake in, and this week I've tried my hands at one of my absolute favourite lighter rye breads, Hamelman's flax seed rye from Modern Baking. The formula is very similar to many of his rye sourdough breads from "Bread", but I feel the Modern Baking flax seed rye is even better balanced in terms of overall hydration and amount of soaker. The addition of stale bread to the cold soaker gives this bread a unique, robust rye flavour.

This week, I've enjoyed two flax seed rye loaves based on a formula that is a slight adaption of Hamelman's original. Here's a link to my slightly modified formula. Below is a shot of the loaf at the end of final proof, seconds before I'm sliding it into the hot oven:

Flax seed rye bread

And here it is, fresh out of the oven:

Flax seed rye bread

Here's a shot of the second loaf, which was gently rolled in oat bran before it was proofed in a floured banneton:

Flax seed rye bread

Here's a shot of the crumb, from a little later in the day:

Flax seed rye bread crumb

The crumb doesn't get very open due to the flax seeds, but it's very moist and stays fresh for days. Once you've almost finished it, save some slices to put in your next batch :)


I've also continued my apple tart studies with some pleasantly autumn-tasting Calvados apple custard tarts:

Apple Tart Parisienne


...and the tart "crumb" below. Local apples are stunningly good this time of year, and a tart like this is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. A thin layer of lingonberry jam provides a nice tang to the otherwise vanilla and Calvados infused apples:

Apple Tart Parisienne



dmsnyder's picture


wally's picture

That's a beautiful rye loaf Hans and I love the addition of old bread.  I'm now a convert to that - aside from the economy of not throwing it away, it surely does impart a noticeable depth of flavor.

But, alas, my mouth is watering over the tarts.  Those are superb!  What, if I may ask, goes into the custard mixture?

As alway, beautiful bakes-


hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much!

I absolutely agree - I'm not sure how to describe the flavour imparted from soaked, stale bread, but your "noticeable depth of flavor" is exactly what I'm thinking too.

For the custard:

- Combine 300 gr. half-and-half with one vanilla bean half (scrape out the seeds and put seeds and pod half together with half-and-half in a casserole). Scald. Add 40 gr. Calvados.

- Combine 100 gr. sugar and 40 gr. bread flour. Mix in 3 large eggs to make a smooth paste. Make sure you don't overmix, as that will make the custard puff up during baking.

- Gradually mix the half-and-half into the egg mixture.

Prebake the tart shells, fill them with jam and sautéed apples, pour custard on top, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake approx. 35 mins @ 175dC, until the custard is set. Once cool, sprinkle powdered sugar on top and caramelize with a torch or under a hot broiler.

Bon appetit!

wally's picture

I will definitely make this dessert...and give credit...


SylviaH's picture

You got me at custard, my weakness!  Is there anything it doesn't go with : )


LindyD's picture

It all looks so good, Hans.

Is old bread confined to rye recipes?  Has it ever been used in other bread recipes?  

hansjoakim's picture

Thanks :)

Good question, Lindy. I've only seen it used in rye recipes, and I believe it's something most commonly done in Germany, where rye breads are so popular. Although I haven't tried it, I think it would be an interesting addition to e.g. multigrain breads - I'm thinking formulas similar to Hamelman's five-grain levain or seeded levain.

LindyD's picture

I might give it a try, Hans, since there's a dried out crust of a SD sitting on my counter that I was going to feed to the squirrels.  

What varities of apples are grown in Norway?.  I'm curious because this is our apple harvest in Michigan, where we delight in the superstars of Zestar, Honey Crisp, and the lastest, Sweet Tango (Zestar x Honey Crisp) - which are cripsy, crunchy and sweet delights which need a colder climate to be their best - albeit not in plentiful supply and somewhat pricy (and not really for baking).

Does Norway have its own apple hybridizing program?  We enjoy apples worldwide, but I've never thought about the regionalilty of the fruit before.  Your lovely apple tarts made me think more about that important ingredient.

pmccool's picture

Jonathons, MacIntoshes, Romes and other varieties in Michigan!


hansjoakim's picture

I hope you'll give it a try Lindy! It's a rather straightforward formula, where I feel the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts :)

I'm by no means an authority on apples, but I think the most popular Norwegian grown apples are probably Discovery, Aroma, Idared, Carroll and Gravenstein. And indeed, this time of year is in the middle of most apple harvests also in Norway. I used Aroma apples for the above tarts, and they have a wonderful, vibrant fruit flavour. We also import some varieties, mostly Red and Golden Delicious and Royal Gala, I believe.

There's a page on the most popular apples in Norway (including imported apples) here (via Google translate).


rossnroller's picture

Every time you post, Hans, I feel challenged for superlatives. 'Exquisite', 'wonderful', 'extraordinary', 'mouthwatering'...everything seems such a cliche! So, I'll forget about originality of expression and just say that your baking drops my jaw every time you post. I really do think you have a rare gift. There are many good bakers here, but your stuff is just a notch above as far as I'm concerned. That tart crumb shot has me drooling!

Enough gush from me. But a few questions, if I may. I've used pate fermentee a few times (I enjoy the flavour and tang that generally imparts), and I've read a few times in Mini's rye posts about adding old bread to new dough, but have never actually tried that myself.

I keep meaning to do some bona fide rye breads, but haven't gotten around to it yet (too many others on my ever-lengthening queue...must have baked at least 50 different breads over the past couple of years, and have a few favourites I keep repeating, but there are always new many breads, so little time!).

My questions are:

  1. As a general principle, how do you go about soaking old bread you are intending to add to a new dough? ie: how much water would you use per weight of old bread?
  2. Do you press excess moisture out of the bread once it's been soaking a while before adding it to the dough?
  3. How long do you soak it...just until it's soft and spongy and has absorbed the water?
  4. How much soaked old bread would you add per weight of new dough?

I'm thinking I might try adding some old bread to my next SD pain au levain or pane de campagne to see how it turns out, and rather than just guess, thought it was worth posing the above questions to you initially.


hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much for your reply! Your compliments are both heartwarming and tremendously inspiring! There are so many uniquely talented, skilled homebakers at TFL, and I'm very glad to contribute to such a welcoming, inspiring site. Thankfully, there are no competitions or ranking lists on TFL :)

Thanks again, Ross, your words mean a lot to me :)

I've had my fair share of stale bread over the years (but only recently begun putting it back into new batches), so I'll try to answer your questions regarding old bread soakers:

  1. The simplest way is to take old slices of bread, dice it, and soak it water. If you're feeling fancy, you could also toast it before soaking. The amount of water will depend on how fresh/stale the bread is, and if it's slices of dry pain au levain or slices of a still moist Vollkornbrot. As a rule of thumb, I add water approx. 3 times the weight of stale bread.
  2. No, I don't do that. I guess you could squeeze out excess moisture, but then you'd probably have to add that back in in terms of additional final dough water (to get back to the right final dough consistency). The additional water absorption provided by stale bread is partly why it's used in new batches of dough, i.e. to improve keeping qualities of your next batch of loaves.
  3. If you soak it in cold water: Between 3 and 12 hours. If you soak it in hot water: Between 1 and 3 hours. Just make sure it's fully soaked before incorporating it in the final dough.
  4. I've read that there are regulations for this in Germany... Old bread for doughmaking is often referred to as "Restbrot" ("left-over bread"), and if I'm not mistaken, the regulations say that you can add up to 4% stale bread to dominantly white breads (i.e. more than 50% bread flour), and up to 13% stale bread to dominantly rye breads (i.e. more than 50% rye flour). I'm not entirely sure, but I believe those figures are based on the weight of the final loaf - that is, you can add 32 gr. stale bread to a wheat loaf that weighs 800 gr. after baking (4% of 800 gr = 32 gr) and 104 gr. stale bread to an 800 gr. rye loaf (13% of 800 gr = 104 gr).

As I said to Lindy above, I have never added stale bread to my pain au levains, but I think it could make for interesting experiments. Increased water retention and a deeper, more complex flavour sound good, right?

Thanks again Ross! And do let me know if you decide to try it out :)

rossnroller's picture

Much appreciated, and I will report back when I've tried the old bread addition in one of my own bakes.

As you say, there are no rankings among the bakers on TFL, and few instances of ego clashes considering the large numbers of people posting, and the number of excellent bakers here. That is one of the great things about this forum.

I certainly didn't mean to demean anyone else with my rave about your baking. I'm sure you're a source of inspiration to the many other excellent bakers here. But oh my lawd, you have set the bar high for the rest of us!


Yundah's picture

Thanks for autumn inspiration. As Lindy stated above, it is apple time here in Michigan and I can only make so much applesauce. Do you use any particular pastry for the shell of your tort? You've also inspired me to try to work with the rye four in my cupboard. Something about today calls for baking!

hansjoakim's picture

Hi Yundah,

I'm glad to hear that!

You can use pretty much any pastry dough you'd like for the tart shell, but for tarts such as these, and those I mentioned in my previous blog post, I use a straight pâte sucrée. A basic recipe goes like this:

  • 30 gr. ground almonds
  • 250 gr. flour
  • 100 gr. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 gr. salt (small teaspoon)
  • 140 gr. butter, chunks, slightly softened
  • 1 egg

Combine the dry ingredients well, add butter and rub it in with the flour, until mealy. For tarts as these, where the filling is very liquid, I feel it's better to work the butter well into the flour, avoiding any walnut-sized chunks. Add the egg, and work the dough gently, kneading 5-6 times until it looks rather homogeneous. Wrap in cling film and fridge at least 2 - 3 hours.

To line pans: Roll thin, roughly 3 mm thin, line pans and place them in your fridge at least 30 mins before you bake them (to avoid shrinking). I blind baked these at 200dC for approx. 10 mins with weights, then a further 3-4 mins without the weights (to dry out the bottom of the shells).

For a liquid filling such as a custard, I like to give the shells a thorough prebake, otherwise I often find that the bottom turn soggy once the filling's in and fully baked.

Best of luck on your apple tarts, Yundah!

Yundah's picture

Thanks much!  I'll let you know how it turns out. 


highmtnpam's picture

I love apple tarts.  You have inspired me to try to bake some.  Thanks for the recipe and the great pictures.  Pam

breadsong's picture

Hello hansjoakim, thanks for baking more of those beautiful boules! The pictures are wonderful. The apple tarts look lovely & I bet the lingonberry is a super counterpoint of flavor. Calvados is a fabulous brandy and I like to add a tiny bit to lightly sweetened whipped cream as a garnish for apple desserts. Mmmm!
Happy baking to you from breadsong

nicodvb's picture

HansJoakim, how does the crust of the 40% rye/flax bread turn out? Does it remain crunchy or does it soften? Mine softens as soon as the bread is cool.

I'm beginning to like rye crust and I'd like to preserve it rather than having it just a tougher extension of the crumb :-)

This bread looks fantastic!

hansjoakim's picture

Hi again Nico,

One more thing that I forgot to mention, is the oven temperature. This is something that could be worth looking into if you keep getting soft crusts. If you're baking at a too high temperature, you'll start setting the crust on the bread early in the bake, even while you're steaming. This will limit the oven spring and reduce the moisture loss in the bread as it bakes. Once you pull it from the oven, there's an excess of moisture trapped inside it, and this will migrate out and soften the crust as the bread cools. A way to remedy this, is to lower the temperature to e.g. 220C for the entire length of the bake, and bake the loaf slightly longer. You'll need to tweak this a bit, as the ideal baking temperature depends on your oven, the effect of the heating element, the volume of the chamber compared to your loaf etc. I would expect that a high oven temperature, say 250C (a temperature that would work well for the first half of the bake in a smaller oven), would reduce moisture loss in the loaf if baked in a larger oven (as the net temperature drop due to loading of a loaf and steaming will be less in a large oven compared to a small one). I'd suggest go for a 215C - 220C bake, and extend baking time accordingly. Steam the first 10 - 13 mins, until the oven spring is completed, remove your steaming equipment, and finish the bake with the oven door slightly nudged open. Let me know how you fare, Nico.

hansjoakim's picture

Hi Nico!

Nice to hear from you - it's been a long time!

Funny you should mention the issue with soft crusts: I moved to a new apartment about a year ago, and my new apartment comes with a different electrical oven than I had my previous apartment. Before, I did never experience soft crusts, but now, in a new apartment with a new oven, my crusts are soft and spongy the moment the bread is cooled down. I have only tried a couple of breads in my new oven, but they've all turned soft within hours after baking. I'm just starting to come back to breadbaking again after an extended hiatus, and I'm now desperately searching for the crunchy crusts I so vividly recall...

My loaves still "sing" when I pull them from the oven, but as soon as they've cooled, the crust goes very soft, and this is definitely detracts from the eating qualities of sourdough loaves in my opinion. Just yesterday I had a new look through Hamelman and Suas to troubleshoot the crust, and here's the steaming procedure I'll try out this weekend to see if I can remedy the softening crust:

  1. Pre-steam the oven by slipping a few ice cubes into a loaf pan filled with bits of chain and metal that I use to generate steam inside the oven
  2. Load loaf and pour 1 cup of boiling water into loaf pan - rapidly shut the door and keep on steaming approx. 12 mins
  3. Remove loaf pan after approx. 12 mins baking time, and keep the door slightly ajar (e.g. by using a small metal spoon to keep the door slightly open) the remainder of the bake

So far I have not pre-steamed, and I have not kept the door slightly open after I've finished steaming. This is something that Hamelman suggests: If the oven is not properly ventilated, and particularly bran-rich breads finish baking in a rather humid oven, the loaf is not dried out sufficiently during the bake. Moisture is instead trapped inside the loaf, and this will migrate out towards the crust as the bread cools down, eventually softening the crust and reducing the quality of the loaf. I'm really hoping that the third step in the steamning procedure will help my crust in my new apartment, and I hope it can sort out your own crust as well, Nico! Please keep me informed if you manage to troubleshoot your crust issues, Nico.

And thanks :)