The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New member and first loaf today

Frank Thomas's picture
Frank Thomas

New member and first loaf today

Hello all. I've been reading this site and anything else I could find about baking bread for the last week or so and I made my first loaves today. A whole wheat (KA WW, a little BF and vital wheat gluten). It was a very enjoyable day with an acceptable outcome.

I tried to combine a couple different techniques with mixed results. The recipe called for a sponge to sit for 45 minutes. Well I've read that poolish overnight can be even better. So last night I made the sponge. Just a little flour, the yeast and water. This morning I was up early and the sponge looked beautiful.

The recipe did not call for any autolyse but hey, I read about that too. So I added most of the remaining flour reserving the salt, honey and vegetable oil. I let the sponge with the flour mixed in, sit for about 30 minutes. Autolyse right? Then I combined the salt, honey and vegetable oil and kneaded it into the dough.About 30 minutes of kneading with a couple rest periods. For me and the dough.

I also read about steam in the oven so I had my pan in the bottom of the oven for a long preheat and added a cup or so of water right after putting the 2 bread pans on the pizza stone. The first rise was a good doubling and the second in the pans was fair. I shaped the loaves, put them in the pan and into the oven. At the end of 45 mins at 350 with the first 3 or 4 minutes at 500, I checked the internal temp of one loaf and it was right at 200 degrees so I took them out. Well, no oven spring. In fact I think they shrunk a little. And they were not the prettiest loaves I've ever seen.

They cooled for 90 minutes and I tried my first slice. It was delicious! I couldn't believe it. A little dense but not really a negative. The crumb was pretty tight but very moist without being doughy at all. The flavor was rich and sweet and nutty and fantastic. The crust was defined and a little crunchy. So, they were not the most attractive loaves and not the highest rising but my goodness, the flavor is fantastic.

I love to cook and regularly take liberties with recipes with usually good results. But baking abviously demands much more knowledge to "take liberties". So tomorrow I am trying the recipe again and I am following it to the T! Cutting the recipe in half though. I have been losing weight and want to contine. Maybe not the best time to take up baking. But I am really enjoying this.

Sorry for the essay here. Just meant to share a little and introduce myself.

Yerffej's picture


While there is something commendable about your full bore attack on bread making, I would suggest finding a (good) recipe and mastering it as written.  The purpose being the education of the baker.  You will find that "winging it" can work really well in cooking and create some real messes in baking.

Happy Baking,  Jeff

hanseata's picture

Yes, the liberties... Let's put it like this: my husband opens the fridge, looks what's in there, throws it together and usually comes up with a pretty good meal. He is the main cook in our family. I most of the time follow a recipe, and if it doesn't turn out quite right, I tweak it in trial and error, until I like the result. I am the baker in this family.

My first loaves were all bricks - yours were most likely overproofed. I would advise you to rather to start out with a proven recipe (you find book recommendations, tutorials and recipes here at TFL), than trying to put every concept you have heard about into making your first loaves.

Autolyse is a great technique to shorten the hands-on time. You tried to do both: autolyse AND long kneading. Your dough might have been overworked. About the first (bulk) rise: most doughs don't have to double in size, 1 1/2 times to 1 3/4 times growth is enough. To eyeball whether the shaped bread is proofed enough can be deceptive - it's best to gently poke it with your finger, and see the dough's reaction (the dough should neither spring fully back, nor the dent stay exactly the same, it should slowly come a little bit back).

But your bread tasted good, and that is a good enough result for a first loave. I'm sure your next bread will perform better if you follow the recipe - and change it only after you know what needs to be tweaked.

Happy baking (and tweeting),


clazar123's picture

I am impressed with all the thought you put into your first loaf-and whole wheat, at that! Here are a couple suggestions for your next bake.

Whole wheat needs a little different handling than white bread. The soaker,autolyse and kneading are all very important for hydrating the bran bits so they don't rob your crumb of moisture after it is baked (and make it crumbly). 30 minutes of kneading is a long knead! You must have arms of steel! I believe you could do less kneading and perhaps do stretch and folds. Use the search box- more reading ahead. The gluten will form just by mixing flour and water. The idea behind kneading is to expose more flour particles to more water particles. Resting can accomplish that also, unless you are using a very coarse flour.

I suspect the laoves shrunk up a bit in the oven is that they were overproofed. That is a big challenge (still is for me) to decide if a loaf is 3/4 proofed,fully proofed or overproofed. Sometimes it is only a matter of 5-10 minutes difference in time. ANother search box activity is called for. Whole wheat is sometimes more difficult to determine due to the presence of all the bran bits.

Since things are pretty new to you, keep a notebook of what you did for each bake and make comments. It speeds up the learning curve. Jeff's suggestion to use 1 recipe and master it is also a good idea. Make it often and then branch out once in a while, if you get bored.

So keep baking and have delicious fun!

Frank Thomas's picture
Frank Thomas

Thank you all for your input and sharing your knowledge. I look forward to this learning process. And you have all contributed to it with your comments and specific recommendations. Thank you.  It sounds as if there is not only a need for knowledge but also discipline in baking. So different from cooking. Most types of cooking anyways.

I am about to start the sponge for the same recipe and I will follow it closely. And maybe some pics along the way to post if I get questions or get lucky!

I like the idea of mastering a single recipe as a learning tool. What we like to eat most often is a good crusty white bread with a chewy open crumb. Would any of you have a specific recipe suggestion?

Thanks again!

Frank Thomas's picture
Frank Thomas

I followed the recipe exactly except for the 20-30 minutes of kneading. Also, no autolyse since the recipe did not call for it but I did very little kneading and did S&F in stead. About 5 minutes of S&F, 10 minute rest, the dough was quite sticky, and then 2 or 3 minutes of S&F.

Then a 90 minute proof followed by light degassing and then rough shaping into the loaf. I used the technique in the video in the handbook here on sandwich loaf shaping. Covered the rough shape for 10 minutes to rest than final shaping and into the pan for a 60 minute rise. It did rise pretty well but unevenly, I may have gone too long on this rise because still no oven spring. But maybe this recipe is not going to give me that.

Bottom line better looking loaf but lopsided but still very tasty. I did notice though that this loaf had a hint of the acidic bite that I think comes from whole wheat. However, yesterdays loaf with the 10 hour sponge (today's was a 1 hour sponge) did not have any of that acidic taste at all. Much mellower. I assume from the longer sponge and maybe the autolyse that I did?

So here are some pics. The learning has just begun.

So here is today's somewat improved loaf..                                           Yesterdays loaf..

And today's crumb...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

also allows the breaking down of starches to sugars in the dough leading to mellowness (sweetness?) 

Great learning curve!