The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Trying to make my 100th 'first loaf'

anthliz's picture

Trying to make my 100th 'first loaf'

Hi All, 

I have been baking bread my whole life, actually, so this is getting to be particularly frustrating for me. As a girl, my Grandma taught me to make simple yeast breads and Swedish sweet breads and rolls. Everyone in my family has their own twist, and we love baking my Grandma's bread roll recipes at the holidays. I am now all grown-up with a son and enough time on my hands to try to make our own perfect loaf of bread or French baguette at home. I want it to be healthy, yes, so I also play with different combinations of flours. 


(I think) My problems are in three related areas, so let me spell out what I did in my most recent adventure last night.

Problem #1: The recipe

Last week, too too much flour and way over kneaded (using my sister's "French bread" recipe) and then cooked at too low of a temperture. So, I turned to my Hodgson Mills Graham/Whole Wheat flour bag recipe and also the recipe for French Baquette in the Betty Crocker cookbook. 

Mixed and proofed the following:

.5c all purpose (King arthur)

1c graham/whole wheat

3 TBLS brown sugar

1.3 TBLS yeast

1 TBLS Vital Wheat Gluten


This all went swimmingly well. *The first time I have ever in my life even purchased the gluten. I thought that's what professional bakers do??? I think I am wrong about that, though.*


Problem #2: How soft should this dough be (does it matter if it is going in a loaf pan versus baquette?)

Then I added the following by hand - I do not have a stand mixer and always did this by hand with Grandma, so... 

1.5-2c All purpose flour

1.5-2c Whole Wheat/Graham flour

1 tsp salt

4 TBLS Olive oil


This made a moist, soft dough. I tried to not add too much flour. I kneaded it for about 5-8 minutes, let it sit in oiled bowl for 1.5 hrs and it more than doubled in size. Perfect! 


I punched it down, divided in two, and proceeded to gently knead (very very little kneading) as I shaped it into two long 'baguette' loaves and put on an oiled cookie sheet. I covered with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. 


Problem #3: Do I ferment it over night in a bowl? In a pan? What if I wanted to make a nice loaf of bread in less than 24 hours time?

It has been in the fridge 12 hours. I was *going* to come home and bake it at 400-425 degrees with a steamy pan of water under it (and slash it diagonally like a french baquette). But, I can see that the loaves have already doubled in size and are all over the cookie sheet like big blobs of dough. 

Given the current unshaped condition of my dough, I am thinking of reshaping one blob into a loaf pan (oiled) and the other blob into a baguette and seeing how they bake. I will reshape them cold, let them sit at room temp for about an hour, and then bake in a steamy oven. 


This batch won't be my last. I would like to have some simple go-to recipes for basic breads. But, like I say, I think I have a number of problems in my recipe, ingredient selection, and process/equipment. Thanks for taking the time to read about my saga -- I appreciate any tips or advice!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It has already been 10 hours since your post.  What did you decide to do?

What happened to the dough on the cookie sheets was very predictable.  If they didn't collapse when you poked them, I would have kept them cold while I heated up the oven as fast as I could.  Then baked the super loaf nice and puffy.  Yes, they could also be reshaped and allowed to rise again but the crumb will be finer.  

If you want dough on standby in the fridge, try letting it bulk rise covered in the fridge and then take out what you want the next day or so and shape (warming with your hands) into long loaves or whatever.  Raise and bake.

Welcome to the fresh loaf!