The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Again with the Lean and the Not

GSnyde's picture

Again with the Lean and the Not

I seem to be developing a pattern for my weekend bakes: one lean bread and one hearty rich something-or-other. Today it was Polish Country Bread with Rye Soaker and Chicken Pot Pie. Both were excellent (yes, I do say so myself) and both owe much to my TFL mentors.

The big excitement this weekend was stopping at Keith Giusto’s Bakery Supply in Petaluma and scoring some wicked flour (


Then, of course, I had to try it.

Polish Country Bread with Rye Soaker


I have baked several breads with a portion of whole Rye flour. In fact most of my favorite sourdoughs have some rye, including Brother David’s much heralded San Joaquin Sourdough and my San Francisco Country Sourdough. I do plan to try a “real” Rye bread at some point soon. Meanwhile, I was intrigued by Wally’s blog post about Polish Country Bread with a Rye soaker ( I mostly followed Larry’s formula, but I increased the Rye to 20% by increasing the soaker to 110 grams of Rye flour and 220 grams of water; accordingly, I reduced the water in the final mix. Also, in place of the Sir Galahad, I had to use the Central Milling Co.’s Artisan Bakers’ Craft flour (with a touch of malted Barley flour in it) that I got yesterday at Keith Giusto’s Bakery Supply. This bread gave me a chance to experience some of the characteristics of Rye flour while baking something in my comfort zone.

The night-before prep of soaker and two levains went fine, but I found the dough very hard to mix by hand this morning. It started out lumpish and stiff. I added a small amount of additional water. Then after 10 minutes of bare hands mixing it became as sticky as anything I’ve worked. Finally, with several minutes of kneading on a floured board, it started to get silky and workable, though still pretty dense. It didn’t really windowpane, but I decided it was ready because I had had enough mixing and needed my cappuccino. The dough became much more cooperative as it got stretched and folded during the bulk ferment. It was still not easily malleable, but it felt like bread dough. This experience helped persuade me that I might need to get a mixer for firm doughs and big batches. I look forward to seeing David’s BUP in action next weekend.

The two loaves, one boule and one batard, rose nicely in their bannetons, and I could tell when I slashed them that they were just ready for some baking. Indeed, they sproinged like crazy in an oven steamed with a combo of Sylvia’s Magic Towels and a cast iron skillet with lava rocks. The crust was crispy and fairly thick, with strong caramelization (not as dark as the photos indicate). And I don’t believe I’ve had such big grignes before. And since I pre-heated the stone for over an hour on convection setting, the bottoms were nice and brown.



The crumb was not as moist as the Pain de Campagne I’ve baked recently, but it was a nice combination of airy and chewy.



Chicken Pot Pie

When I was a boy in the Old Country, we had a unique dining establishment called The Chicken Pie Shop. Its décor featured 1950s old growth naugahyde booths (in a variety of green tones) with pastel sheet metal chicken sculptures on the walls. It served chicken pies and little else. I describe it in the past tense (though the place is still there) because the memories are more real than the present. For much of my short adult life, I have been trying to replicate those pies—flaky crust with big chunks of chicken and a simple thick Chickeny gravy.

A couple years ago, I found a recipe that is pretty dang close ( I have made it several times, using Pillsbury pie crust dough. Having drooled over trailrunner’s Apple Crostada recipe (, I decided I needed to bite the bullet and make pie crust for the first time (I know, I have big gaps in my culinary experience…but at least I’m trying to fill them). My wife knows a lot more about pie making than I do, having lived for part of her youth with her expert-baker granny. So she (wife, not her granny) helped me with the crust. It seemed to be going well, though I think we added too much buttermilk, and overhandled it a bit. It was good tasting but not flaky. Not bad for a first try. It made for a delicious dinner, and a valuable pie crust lesson.

The chicken pie has about one-third of a pound of butter in it, between the crust and the gravy. But, as my spouse says, it has some vegetables, so it's good for us.


Another bunch of lessons learned, and the homework was good enough to eat.



SylviaH's picture

Not being alert yet this morning after a late night B-Day celebration, I thought I was reading and looking at a bake from 'your David', as the Irish would say..the loaves look lovely with the dark carmelized crusts and the crumb is beautiful. 

What is about pies and memories?  Welcome to pie making, you'll never go back..Cherry pie is one of my favorite's...when I was very small and we lived in TX mom baked them on Sunday with fried chicken.  I grew up eating a lot of mom's beef pies and watching her line up her great English apple pies outside on a wooden table.  Moving and growing up in the desert, dad put  an oven outside in a shed for baking her pies.  Pie crusts can be absolutely delicious and flakey...but it does takes practice, it's all in the handling!  I still prefer to make my best crusts using the pie dough cutter, the cuisinart does do a good job with practice, to get the butter and/or crisco pieces just the right size.

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours,


GSnyde's picture

David and I do bear a family resemblance, except he's very very much older than I am (that's what he gets for calling me his baby brother).

If my bread starts to bear a resemblance to his, I would truly consider my baking progress to have been remarkable. Of course, I would not rest on my laurels any more than he does (I have always imagined laurels to be a rather uncomfortable thing to rest on anyway).

As for making pies and tarts, I have mixed feelings. I love them--especially apple, pear, pecan, almond, lemon, berry, chocolate cream, and chicken (note the comma between "chocolate cream" and "and chicken"). But I fear that if I added pies to my current baking obsession, I would balloon beyond my current slightly-plump up to grossly rotund. For now, I pledge to bake pie no more often than monthly, and only when there are enough people around to eat it without too much left over.

I used a pie dough cutter, but next time I will use much less liquid, and some lard.

Thanks for the tips. I suspect I will back for more.


dmsnyder's picture


GSnyde's picture

I'd offer to bring the second loaf to Fresno, but you know what they say about Newcastle.

I'm pleased with how the Polish Country Bread came out. I plan to feed some to your oldest son and his family within an hour.


EvaB's picture

funnily enough chicken pot pie in my family doesn't have a crust, but rather dumplings baked on the top and its all cooked on top of the stove in a pot with a tight lid! And this was my Grammy's recipe and she was born in Missouri! So southern is as southern does! LOL

However the other thing I wanted to say was I make great pie crust a thing that always bothered my brother who made fab bread, needless to say he couldn't make pie crust well, and I can't make bread well although I'm getting better.

The thing with pie crust, is cut the lard in quick not to fine, and use a hand cutter as it heats the dough less, add just enough moisture to bring it together (not sticky) and chill it well before rolling, I have a marble rolling pin which you are supposed to keep in the fridge and it does lovely pie crusts when chilled, they don't stick, and you can roll them thin, I don't like thick white pie crust ever!!!