The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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victoriamc's picture

I am happy to be back to baking!!  having spent 2 weeks in front of my computer overhauling my website it feels great to get back to what I like the best, baking!  

These cranberry range brioche rolls are super easy ad super tasty, made with oilve oil instead of butter and eggs, they are lighter and healthier than traditional french brioche rolls.  The tart cranberries are perfect in this type of dough.   Check out for full details.  crumb shot cranberry orange brioche rolls

dmsnyder's picture

I just returned home from my second bake in a wood fired oven. My first bake, about 3 weeks ago, is described in My first WFO bake: Lessons in time, temperature and humility. That experience demonstrated the wisdom of the advice I had received, especially the advice I disregarded.  

Last week, I got a phone call from my friend, L. , inviting me to a potluck dinner at J.'s where members of the Italian social group that meets weekly at J.'s store would be eager to sample my bread, baked in J.'s WFO. Yikes! A "command performance!" So, I called J. and told her I needed another "practice session" before baking for 20 hungry Italians. 

I re-read all the TFL responses to my request for WFO words of wisdom and, from them, distilled a protocol that I shared with J. She translated it into a concrete schedule, and we agreed on a date and time for the practice session, which was today.

I added one item to the list of suggestions: Because of the incredible oven spring with burst loaves I had from the first WFO bake, it seemed to me that I should more fully proof the loaves to reduce the oven spring to a more "normal," controlled level.

J. Fired her oven at 4 am. I arrived at her house at 2 pm. In retrospect, she had built too big a fire. The oven floor was over 750 dF, and the coals were still burning. We shoveled out the coals, and in about an hour the oven was cool enough (around 500 dF) to try baking bread. We decided to do one of the 3 loaves first, just in case ... I choose a 1 Kg boule of my San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour. We had a large cast iron skill filled with water in the back of the oven. We mopped the floor with a damp cloth. I loaded the boule, shut the door for 20 minutes. Then I peaked and rotated the loaf. It baked for 25 minutes.

After baking the other loaves - two 900g bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat -, we sliced the SFSD and tasted it with some fantastic local olive oil which I am going to have to buy next time I'm at J.'s store.

The bâtards had a slightly cooler oven. They baked in about 26 minutes and were less darkly colored.

As you can see, these loaves have a somewhat dull crust. This is because the oven could not be adequately humidified. It's big and really needed to be baking 15, 20 or more loaves at once to function optimally. However, the tasting is the critical test.

The SFSD with increase whole wheat was simply the best tasting bread I have ever baked. The crust was very crunchy. The crumb was well-aerated, very tender and light. The crust had a dark, nutty, mildly bitter flavor which was offset by the very sweet, milky flavor of the crumb. There was a subtle, late-appearing but lingering acetic acid tang, but the lactic acid flavor was much more prominent. After tasting a slice, with and without olive oil and declaring it delicious, J. said, "You know, growing up, I never liked sourdough bread, but this is wonderful." 

Before I left for home, we set a schedule for preparing the oven and baking the breads for the potluck. I'm ready to party!

I couldn't have learned what I have learned in just two bakes without the wonderful, generous wisdom shared by  TFL members mrvegemite,  yozzause, Sjadad, Arlo, etheil, BobSponge, embth, and Josh. Thanks, guys! You make me (even more) proud to be a member of this community.


a_warming_trend's picture

I haven't made a post in awhile, but I have been practicing, practicing, practicing. I hit one year of baking last weekend, and six months since I fell in love with sourdough. I actually haven't baked with commercial yeast since I baked that first fateful SD loaf on November 4, 2014. 

Over these last weeks, I've been experimenting with a range of ways to bake sourdough in the midst of a busy work week. This is the quest of a home baker who can't seem to limit herself to weekend baking, despite a pretty demanding full-time job. 

I've been working with a range of ways to extend fermentation: long autolyse, long cold bulk, long cold proof, BOTH long bulk and long proof, young levain, super-long-fermented levain, stiff levain, high-hydration levain, 5% levain, 30% levain, and dozens of variations in between. 

Many more specific discussions of methods and results to come in the coming weeks!

Flour.ish.en's picture

This is the first time I bake any Ken Forkish’s bread. This is the first time I post on the Fresh Loaf blog, although I’ve read and learnt so much from a lot of the active participants here. Rightly or wrongly, I feel I can’t be a complete bread baker, among other things, if I’ve never tried Forkish’s recipes. I started baking a lot of Chad Robertson’s breads after I read his two books, Tartine Bread and Tartine Book No.3, a year ago.

At the same time, I got a new heavy-duty dual-fuel range that is wide enough to bake full size baguettes. Most of these breads were posted on my blog ( Overnight country blonde was the first I baked from Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. I figure the best start is to bake something closest to what I am most familiar with,which is the Tartine basic country bread. I followed the overnight country blonde recipe to a T, except for the part that you are not supposed to score the dough, which I did.

There are a lot of similarities between Forkish and Tartine’s approach, but there are enough differences, e.g. in building the levain, the fermentation process and baking temperature. To keep track of what I was doing and understanding the unique approaches, I put all the steps side by side in a spreadsheet.

Here are the comparisons and my takeaway from having baked the overnight country blonde and many variations of the Tartine country bread.

  • Both Tartine basic country bread (Tartine) and Forkish country blonde (Forkish) are excellent. It'd be akin to hairsplitting if I say that one is better than the other.
  • Tartine and Forkish have similar hydration level of roughly 77-78% using 90% white flour in the total flour amount. 
  • While Tartine uses one tablespoon of starter to build 400g of levain, Forkish uses 100g to build 1000g, which results in a greater amount of levain being discarded. 
  • Salt and small amount of water are added to the Tartine dough (levain and all) after 30 minutes of resting period, at which point the dough is relaxed, cohesive and easy to work with. Meanwhile salt and all of the 216g of levain are incorporated into the autolyse mixture to make the final Forkish dough, which I find much wetter and stickier to handle.
  • Bulk fermentation is 3 to 4-hr at 80°-85°F for Tartine and 12 to 15-hr at 77°-78°F temperature for Forkish. The longer fermentation of Forkish dough necessitates baking the bread the next day, spanning a two-day process from the time you mix the dough.
  • The longer bulk fermentation of the Forkish dough imparts a much sourer note in the finished loaf.
  • The higher oven temperature in baking the Tartine dough often results in a thicker and burnished crust, especially on the bottom.

Now I need to integrate these approaches in order to make better breads in my own kitchen setting. I want to move away from baking from recipes and develop a more intuitive feel for my breads. Any suggestions from someone who has gone down this path before?

alfanso's picture

“My recent straying from baguettes to batards is a mere bagatelle, a minor distraction”, Alfanso said when recently quoted in the World Baking Journal**.
Alfanso was also quoted as stating that he was smitten by shaping of the dough the day prior to the bake, and to let them mature as already couched and shaped batards in the refrigerator overnight.  Hence, a simple bake was all that was seemingly necessary the next morning.  Fire up the oven, let the baking deck come up to temp for an hour, and toss the dough in.  Voila. Bread!  But sometimes all is not what it seems in Carb Land.  A case in point shall ensue...

I’d been wanting, but forgetting, to snap a few “in process” photos.  Until this morning.  These are three ~500g each of my version of Ken’s bakery’s Country Blonde batards.

The Good
The couched batards just out of the refrigerator.  They are camera shy in this photo.  The couche was covered by plastic bags to retain moisture.

The big reveal!  The couche is heavily floured as there is a lot of moisture that these batards contain.

High hydration somewhere north of 78%.  From couche to hand peel.

From hand peel to oven peel.  You can see in these photos the abundance of flour needed to have the batards release from the couche.  If you look closely, you can see the seam.  I set these into the couche seam side down.

The Bad
The three batards scored and ready to be baked.  
As this is new territory for me, I seem to have erred by having removed the batards from the refrigerator a half hour prior to the bake.  Rather than immediately before baking.  In that ensuing half hour, in a warm kitchen and their proximity to the oven, the surface of the batards had softened to the point whereby scoring was particularly difficult.  The blade, even with a light dip into olive oil, dragged mercilessly.

The result.  You can see the inconsistency of the score and the lack of oven spring.

The skin still blistered beautifully.  Blistering was already evident at the 10 minute mark when I opened the oven door to release the steam and rotate these babies.

The Tasty
Do I really need to bore you any more with this section?  We already know how good our breads are!

Next time, I’ll remember to remove the batards from the refrigerator just before bake time.  That is, if I can remember...
Oh well, live and learn.  Umm - live, eat and learn!  

**Sorry, but to my knowledge there is no World Baking Journal.

theresasc's picture

Here is the second loaf from this weekend.  Same formula as the first, only I ran out of time so it had to go into the fridge overnight.  Baked it this morning.  I do not think that I was as aggressive enough at deflating the dough with final shaping - the holes are irregular, some are quite large, and it looks like one of the slashes wanted to blow out.  I am thinking when I get to cutting the loaf through the big slash that there is going to be a large, empty hole.  Still have my shaping training wheels on:-)

This loaf is tangier than than the first - I am guessing that came from the cold retard.  The flavor is good but I am not looking to make real sour bread.  That is one of the reasons I am using the Blue Agave in the dough, hoping that the sweet will balance out the sour from the starter.



nmygarden's picture

A crazy and demanding week over, a bit of a sleep in, and an entire weekend to slow down and relax. Whew! It all starts up again next week, but for now, it's out of my mind. And we were out of 'just good bread', without fruits, nuts, etc.

So, how better to start than a bottle of beer - this time Fat Tire Amber Ale (it's what we had)? So, one bottle, coming up, work the math backward to proportion the rest, and we get 300 g BF, 100 g each Spelt and Rye, autolysed for 2 hours, then add 10 g salt, 125 g SD Starter @ 100% hydration. Slaps and folds for 8, then 2, then 1 minute at 20 minute intervals, then an hour away to pick up Daisy from the vet - getting her splint rewrapped (sigh, 4 more weeks, but she's healing well).

Stretch and folds and incorporating an unmeasured amount of sprouted farro berries (somewhere around 1/2 cup) and a small handful of flaxseed meal. Bulk fermented on the counter for about 3 hours, then into the refrigerator overnight and back out to the counter for another 3-4 hours in the morning before shaping. The dough was soft, elastic, wonderfully alive. Shaped and into the brown rice sprinkled brotform and covered to rise on the counter for about 2 hours plus and hours to heat the oven. 20 minutes at 450 F, covered with my La Cloche dome, then 20 minutes uncovered at 425 F, plus 5 minutes on the stone with the oven off and door ajar.

It sprang, it sang and it browned it's little heart out. The crust is light and crisp, the crumb is soft, 'Ale' brown and studded with wheat berries. For an ordinary loaf, this one is a bit more than ordinary. I think I'll be making this one again.

Happy baking everyone!

Skibum's picture

Wow is it ever grat to have a strong active sweet levain again! I have been feeding daily to help develop character and depth and also baking daily. I built a 1:1:1 levain with bread flour and 95F water as per Forkish and it doubled in three hours. for this bake, I used my sweet levain pulla dough and the chololate filling from ITJB and slivered almonds. YUMMM!!!

I gifted some of this and this morning's boule to my neighbours as a Mother's day treat. I have some happy neighbours!

Happy baking folks! Brian

FrugalBaker's picture

Tried my hands on the 1:2:3 SD last night but it was a flop. It was probably because of a rookie like me who can't handle any high hydration dough yet. It will remain elusive for the moment. (Sorry if I disappointed you, Abe)

I was really running low on bread supply too and have decided to give the Vermont SD recipe a try. It wasn't easy to tackle yet another high hydration dough but I managed....phew! Stuck to the recipe except that....I was mixing the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer for a full 5 minutes at first, so that I will have enough of gluten build up for the dough. After that, I kneaded it for another good 10-13 minutes or so by hand,which I prefer as I could 'feel' the dough. Also, I couldn't eat anything that is just so I added some brown bread flour for that a rebel at heart

I guess the picture is visually satisfying but there was a major let down. My SF technique is far from acceptable as I was really trying hard to handle the dough as little as possible at that time. 

The only consolation would be the bread doesn't look too bad and the crumbs are moist and chewy.....I shall work harder the next time!!!

 And the quest continues.......................


 The moment of truth.....can be devastating.

js03's picture

For this weekend I decided I would try to make some sourdough baguette.  I used the recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I prepared my ingredients on Saturday night and made the decision to wake up at 4am to make bread,  I have some place to be in the morning.  I'm sure my parents thought I was crazy to wake up that early to make bread but truthfully it was kind intereting.  It was a very meditative to be mixing and kneading at a time when the world is still quiet and asleep.  I decided to take naps during the two rising times.  My baguettes were done at around 7:45, which was perfect since my dad woke at that time and was able to try the baguettes fresh.

I was very satisfied withy the finish product.  The crust was perfect and the crumb had lots of holes.  I'm very happy with the crumb since this is the first time that my crumb is so airy. I'll post a crumb shot once I figure out how to post s photo using my iPhone.  

I made some Tablea(filipino cacao) hot chocolate to go with my baguettes.  It was a very good dipping hot baguette into hot chocolate.  Too bad the its summer and not exactly the right time for that combination.  I have to say its still



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