The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from the SF Bay Area!

gastromonica's picture

Hello from the SF Bay Area!

Hello TFL!

I have been an occasional lurker of these forums for a couple years, but I've just now officially created a login to join the "community". 

I have been playing with bread and baking for a little more than a decade; my gateway bread was a recipe for homemade soft pretzels (baking soda wash); I've since dabbled heavily with donuts, then commercially yeasted breads, croissants, and for the last 6 years I've mostly focused on wild yeasted breads from a starter "captured" in my kitchen. I made a year or two of disappointing loaves, but after buying the Tartine Bread Book, I've been exceedingly happy with the work the little yeast beasts can be coerced into doing. I make variations of the Basic Country Loaf about once a week (usually 30% WW, 90% hydration, 12 hour fridge ferment), but I've grown so fond of that basic recipe that I should probably push myself to try other techniques. 

Projects for 2014: lye-bath pretzels (there's a can of Red Devil already on my shelf), baguettes, bread with home ground flour (Retsel hand grinder in the mail).

Here's to a high-gluten New Year,





Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Here's an interesting technique with baking soda (although I haven't tried it yet):

I recommend not using Red Devil. It is safer to use food-grade lye. 


FlourChild's picture

Great looking loaf of country bread!  Wish I had a slice now :)

I've made and used Harold McGee's baked baking soda (sodium carbonate) and it does indeed create a darker crust than regular baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).  Not as good as lye, but quite enjoyable and for me at least, much more relaxing to work with.

dosco's picture

Take a look at a soapmaking supplier's website (for example, google 'Essential Depot') and purchase some of their food-grade lye.

Most drain cleaners have "other stuff" mixed in to prevent their use in soapmaking, cooking, etc.



gastromonica's picture

Sorry, I realize I left a key word in the name off - Red Hot Devil lye is advertised as "food grade". I don't know if its made by the same company, but don't worry - I'm not eating drain cleaner. :)

I've tried Harold McGee's baked baking soda once but I wasn't happy with the results. The crust turned out hard and dry compared to the baking soda versions I've made, although that is potentially due to another variable. 

In any case, I'm excited to attempt the authentic German lye version, although I may recruit the help of a chemistry teacher to safely prepare the NaOH solution (as a science teacher, I have access to such folks).