The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking for Jack and Mrs. Sprat

GSnyde's picture

Baking for Jack and Mrs. Sprat

Three bakes this weekend—from the lean to the…not!  All were good to eat, and all contributed to my learning process.

Honey-Oatmeal Sandwich Loaf

In my quest for a good multi-grain sandwich bread, I decided to try Oatmeal-Cinnamon-Raisin bread (Floyd’s recipe from Hamelman posted here:, but without the raisins and cinnamon.  It is a very large recipe—made for three 8.5 x 4.5 pans—from which I made two loaves in 9 x 5 pans.  The oat soaker had very little free water and the dough was too dry to blend with the prescribed quantity of liquid (honey, oil, water and milk), so I added about another half cup of water.  It was still the densest dough I’d made and very hard to mix by hand.  But it came together after about 15 minutes of on-and-off folding and resting.

The large quantity of yeast did the job of loosening up the dough ball in the first ferment, and it pre-shaped and shaped nicely.  The loaves came out very well.  Very much the texture I was looking for, moist but not squishy.  It was great for toast and for BLTs.  This formula would make good hamburger buns, I think.  My one adjustment, besides the added water, would be to increase the salt by 25% if doing this recipe without the raisins and cinnamon.  The recipe is simple and the whole process only takes about four hours from start to sandwich.



This bread passed the PB&J test with flying colors.



Anis Bouabsa Ficelles

After my first try at baguettes—using San Joaquin Sourdough—came out pretty well, I decided to try a higher hydration dough.  Going for the crispy crust and open crumb, I settled on the Anis Bouabsa formula Brother David has posted (”).  What an adventure for a near-novice!  The headline for this story could be “Everything went wrong except the results”.

I mixed the dough easily, a complete texture contrast to the Oatmeal bread.   The dough was very sticky and almost batter-like for the 10 minutes or so of hand-mixing.   With each stretch-and-fold-in-the-bowl, the dough got a bit more cohesive and silky, but was still very loose.  With a bit of flour on the board and my hands, I managed to do the last two stretch-and-folds with the majority of the dough cohering in the dough ball.  Then, into the cold fridge for 18 hours (I didn’t have 21 hours to play with).

The next afternoon the single-handed Three-Stooges-Meet-Molten-Gumby-Snake routine began.  I read that one should use no (or very little) flour on the board in shaping baguettes.  Because the dough was super-gluey, my choices were to flour the board and my hands or to maul the poor defenseless breadlings into indescribably grotesque deformations.  I chose flour.  Even so, each little (180g) dough glob was a handful.  The pre-shaping was fairly simple, with help from a dough knife.  Then I rested them on a rice flour/AP flour mix on the board for an hour.  In final shaping, I tried to use a light touch, but found myself spending most of my effort in keeping the globs together and off my hands.  They eventually got formed into more-or-less cylindrical shapes, about 13” long.  Extremely extensible.  Wrestling the semi-liquid snakes onto my improvised couche (parchment atop a big flour sack towel) was comical.   I had visions of the snake extending to 20 or 30 feet and wrapping my entire kitchen in its gluey grip.  But dusting them all over with the rice flour blend did the trick, and the ficelles did not stick too much to me or the plastic wrap.


Scoring was likewise a mess.  The sharp and wetted lame continually dragged the sheath of the ficelles.  That maneuver will take more practice.  Then, when I tried to load the ficelles, on parchment, from the “couche” to a cookie sheet to the baking stone, the four snakes would not fit nicely on the stone with all the parchement.  So, while the oven temperature dropped, I scissored away some of the parchment, arranged the snakes on the stone, steamed, and slammed shut the oven door.  I was sure the bread would be as far from my ideal as the process was.

Wrong!  Though not much grigne, there was good oven spring.



And the crumb was exactly what I was going for—holey but with some substance to chew.



The texture is wonderful. Very crisp thin crust, with a creamy crumb.  My wife says it is the perfect baguette except she prefers some sourness. So, my next baguette experiment will be a slightly lower hydration dough with levain.

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!

After the pizza discussion on my last blog post, I had to try a totally lean pizza dough, with just flour, water, yeast and salt.  I used the PR Neo-Napalitano recipe but with no honey or oil.   We had guests over and made two pesto and sausage pizzes, one with fresh corn and one with tomato.  The fresh corn and sausage combo is a winner.  Our guests loved the baguette and the pizza.  They think I'm a baker [heh heh].



The pizza's outer handle wasn't as puffy as the enriched recipe, but the texture was excellent.  Next pizza will be with real 00 flour.

So all told, it was a weekend of baking variety.   Some lean, and some not.  If I’d made cinnamon rolls, too, I would have hit for the cycle.




SylviaH's picture

What a great looking variety and treat for your guests.  I knew you would enjoy JH oatmeal bread.  He uses basically the same formula only without the cinnamon and raisins...been a while since I checked, maybe a little less yeast, can't remember off hand.  I have used KA organic white whole wheat and KA powdered milk with water in place of the milk, it works nicely.  It's one my favorite breads, along with a lot of other loafers who have tried it.  The Ficelles look delicious with their lovely gringe and crumb and the pizza looks perfect.


dmsnyder's picture

Nice bakes Glenn. The ficelles' crumb is fabulous!

The Bouabsa ficelles can tease you horribly but are really good inside. You should have gotten along well, having so much in common!

One option with baguette dough this gloppy is to just stretch the divided pieces to the desired length and not try to pre-shape or shape them otherwise. Scoring is optional too.

Of course, since you did the whole macho thing with these, more conventional 65-70% hydration baguettes should be a walk in the park. I do recommend you get a "real" linen couche. Good sources include TMB in South SF and KA Baker's Catalogue. (TMB has the better price by far.)


teketeke's picture


They look fantastic!  I have read your blogs since you joined TFL. I am amazed at your bread baking skill.

Best wishes,


Mebake's picture

I knew you had it all in you, Glenn!

Great Crumbs and bakes!


ehanner's picture

Great post and a nice combination of breads!  Good job on a difficult french dough.The ficelles are perfect.

The one thing I might mention on the Honey Oatmeal Loaf is that the large amount of yeast is intended to compensate for the cinnamon which slows down yeast activity. You can cut the yeast way back if you are baking sans spices. Yours looks good non the less.


GSnyde's picture

"Maybe a little less yeast"

Thanks for the kind words and the advice, Sylvia and Eric.  I did cut the yeast in light of the commentary in Floyd's Oatmeal Bread thread.

"Ficelles can tease you horribly but are really good inside. You should have gotten along well, having so much in common."

Thanks, David.  But as to the goodness of my insides, you obviously haven't consulted with my gut doctor.  

I read the PR recipe for "Old Bread" (I think that's the translation), but decided to cowboy up and shape and slash the snakes.  

I have had TMG couche fabric on order for weeks; they're out, so meanwhile I improvise.

And to all of you, thanks so much for the support.  It's nice to have a cheering section on this site, along with the one at home.  I'm getting the feel for different ingredients, different hydrations, different methods of mixing, fermenting, shaping and baking.  My progress is about half attributable to the hands-on experience, and about half to the guidance from the kind TFL veterans.  So, you too are to be congratulated.  In another ten or 20 bakes, I'll be ready to shed the "Novice" mantle.


EvaB's picture

I can just see the dough gobs fighting back, this is what I go through with everything I try! Glad to see that someone else has problems too!

Otherwise the bakes are wonderful, and wish I could reach in and snag a chunk of each one, the pizza looks wonderful, and the baugettes scrummy!

GSnyde's picture


LindyD's picture

Your ficelles - oops, I meant snakes - look wonderful, Glenn, especially the crumb.

Ditto for your sandwich loaf and pizza.  

A latent baking gene seems to be reactivating.

I'll second David's suggestion to buy a linen couche from TMB.  Magical material.

belfiore's picture

Hah! I think you're a ringer David threw in! None of those bakes looks like novice work...very, very nice Glenn. You are one quick study baker.

One question...did you add any new words to your vocabulary during the snake wrestling exercise? LOL


highmtnpam's picture

Glenn, The crumb looks wonderful and they look so straight, and, well, so straight. My last bake they really looked like snakes! 


breadsong's picture

Hello, All three of your efforts look really good! Perfect crumb for your ficelles!
Regards, breadsong

GSnyde's picture

I appreciate the nice comments.  After my very first bake was not a disaster, David said it was either luck, natural talent or good mentors and probably all three. I guess I have what we in San Francisco call The Luck of the Giants.

And, Toni, I didn't need any new words.  The old ones worked fine.  I did hiss back when the snakes hissed at me.