The Fresh Loaf

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Bread Engineer's picture
Bread Engineer

After sever attempts at rustic breads that were consumed in private without anyone allowed to see them (taste was generally good, but the crumb was more appropriate for a sandwich loaf, and some had excessively chewy crusts), my last bake was improved enough to share.

This was based on TXfarmer's recent ciabatta rolls and 100% WW baguettes.

I used the baguette formula (105% final hydration) with the addition of 5% olive oil. Process was adapted for a work-week bake and was functional. I won't repeat my modification unless I have a similar time issue. It definitely didn't make handling the soft dough any easier, and my soft-dough-handling skills are limited at best. I ended up with a non-homogeneous air distribution (over-risen in some areas, which collapsed when I divided, and under-risen in others). These would have benefited from a longer proof, but it was getting late.

Sunday night - mix soaker and refrigerate

Monday night - combine soaker, refrigerated starter, and salt; stretch and fold 4x @ 30 min intervals; put in refrigerator

Tuesday 7:30 pm - remove from refrigerator and put bowl in a larger bowl of hot tap water. 8:45 pm - divide and let proof at room temperature. 9:45 - in the oven (half on a stone and half on a sheet pan)

SylviaH's picture

Today I made Irish Soda Bread to enjoy with our St. Patrick's Day dinner!  I've listed the ingredients and if you would like to see photos of step by step instructions they are on my blog Here.  Making soda bread, takes a little practice.  The list of ingredients are what i used today, I added a little extra flour, while gently mixing the dough and used a heavily floured board to shape the dough.

1. 280 gms All Purpose Flour - low protein         

2. 8 gms baking soda - Always Fresh - I throw out anything over 6 mos. old

3. 4 gms salt

4. 4 gms Cream of Tartar - "      "

5  300 gms Buttermilk








                         Soda Farls     from the same recipe       Med Low Temperature bake apx. 10 minutes on each side in a well seasoned iron pan.  I also make

                         these on my electric griddle.



           Slice warm or cooled and eat with butter and jam or they make a wonderful bacon or corned beef sandwich.






              I also made one replacing 1/4 cup of AP flour with 1/4 cup organic white whole wheat and 1 TBsp. caraway seed....not your traditional soda bread, but delicious with the corned beef.








ehanner's picture

I hope you see this and respond Pat, I read your tip about the butter frame and want to ask a question.

After reading your tip on using a frame to roll butter into a light went off in my head. That sounds like a great idea for building a consistent size and thickness of butter, if I understand what you wrote. So the first thing is to figure out what the cubic volume is in a block of butter. Next decide how thick you want the slab to be and mill some hardwood to that size thickness. I'm thinking that 1/4 to 3/8 inch would be a good thickness as it it twice the thickness of the final roll out and would be the same thickness as the dough roll out the first time. You would tap and roll the butter (encased in parchment or plastic) inside the frame and flatten it. Removing and chilling the butter after for later use.

The hard part of this will be determining What the volume is of the amount of butter in your batch recipe. There would be minor differences in weight/volume ratios between various butter makers depending on water content but these would be so small I think not worth bothering with. I usually use the English method of encasing the butter whereby I form the dough to be 1/3 longer than the size of the butter. So then, I need to make a frame about 8 inches wide on the inside and long enough to equal a pound of butter at say 3/8 inch thick or what ever that thickness turns out to be.

Is that about right Pat?  If this works out, it will resolve my main issue with making croissants, which is forming the butter.


dmsnyder's picture


I made some banana breads tonight. They were delicious – better than ever before with some tweaking the baking temperature. As I was tasting it, I got to thinking about the book from which I got the recipe.

Banana Bread from Crust & Crumb

Banana Bread crumb

Peter Reinhart's Crust & Crumb was one of the first two baking books I acquired when I started baking again after a 25 year lapse. (The other was George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker.) While my baking library now contains some two dozen books, C&C remains one of my favorites, and, as I look at it today, the reasons are clear. First, it contains a couple formulas I return to again and again – the best formula for San Francisco-style sourdough bread I know and the formula for Banana Bread.

This book was my introduction to so many basic concepts, including the orderly steps in bread baking, from mis en place to tasting, and the function of each in achieving “a loaf of bread that is rhapsodically beautiful and exceptionally delicious.” Reinhart's amalgamation of science, art, craft and philosophy, all expressed in beautiful and lucid prose, captured me. He emphasized the rigorous application of knowledge and technique but also the ultimate importance of “feel” for the dough, acquired through disciplined and reflective practice. That is the path he defined to become a “bread revolutionary.”

Crust & Crumb was published in 1998. Reinhart's introductory chapter is titled “The Bread Revolution.” It is of particular interest now, given our recent discussion of that topic. Reinhart's perspective is of special interest because of the role he has played in this phenomenon. He reviews the recent history of bread baking in America and the influences of various people and events and also delves into his personal history, albeit briefly. He concludes the book with a chapter on The Bread Baker's Guild of America and how it nurtured the young bakers who ultimately put the USA on the world bread map through victories in the Coupe du Monde, notably the second place finish in 1996 which included Craig Ponsford's winning first place in the bread division.

I love this book. Many newer books have advanced “the bread revolution” since Crust & Crumb was published, but it continues to have an unique place in my bread baking library, and I think it remains a valuable resource to anyone striving to make great bread.

Happy baking!



Maryann279's picture

I having been baking off and on for a long time, including making bread, but I finally got serious about it last fall.  This blog will chronicle my journey in the world of bread baking.  Warning:  I will be going into baker's percentages and other technical aspects of baking the bread, so this blog may be very boring ;-)

I took two classes at SFBI on artisan bread making and now am trying to re-create the bread we baked in the class as best I can with home equipment.  I finished my last class in February and have been reluctant to start baking again because the class results in the professional deck ovens were so spectacular.  I broke the ice last weekend by baking a challah recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and now am on to various loaves that are made with sourdough, preferments, etc. 

I've been nursing along the sourdough starter from SFBI and haven't killed it (yet).  Post-challah, I've been trying to figure out what to make next.  I'm realizing that most of the recipes (formulas) I like need some planning in advance, which I haven't gotten the hang of yet.  Today, I finally decided to make multigrain sourdough.  This requires a stiff starter, and the one I've been feeding had a higher percentage of water.  So I used the SFBI starter to create a new stiff starter.  After another feeding, it will be ready to use in the multigrain.

Since the stiff starter looked kind of dead initially, and I was concerned about the mother starter being somewhat weak, I made a second starter with more water, using 100% white flour, 50% each rye and KA whole wheat, 100% water and 50% starter.  To achieve optimal fermentation temperature (at least while I am awake) I have the starter in a 80 degree F water bath.  It will get another feeding in 24 hours.

After 3 hours, the stiff starter has lots of bubbles on the bottom.  I think it will be just fine.  Not much action with the wet starter yet.

ericb's picture

My new go-to loaf is Hamelman's light rye. I leave out the caraway seeds (never aquired a taste) and use whole rye. 

This week, my baking schedule was thrown off, so I had to improvise. Hamelman's recipe calls for an 18-hour sourdough starter, a 1-hour bulk fermentation, and a 1-hour proof before baking. Due to time constraints, I had to put the dough in the fridge overnight after shaping.

Additionally, I have recently taken to baking larger (but fewer) loaves. I do this primarily for convenience: since I had doubled the above recipe, I would have had to shape, proof, and bake four loaves. Honestly, it's easier to do just one giant, 6 pound loaf.

I ran into two minor problems. First, I didn't cut back on the yeast, so the dough rose more than I would have liked in the refrigerator. I thought for sure it would collapse, but it held strong in the oven. Second, I didn't account for the size of the dough when baking. After about 40 minutes, the crust was dark, but the inner crumb only registered 130 degrees. I turned the oven down to 350 and let it bake for another 30 minutes (and was almost late for work as a result).

The results are pictured below:


I was a little surprised that this worked out, as everything I have read up to this point suggests that rye bread does not handle cool fermentation very well. In the end, this was an absolutely declicious, well-rounded (ha!) loaf. Now that I know it can survive a night in the fridge, I think I'll bake it more often.

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

Did a 20 loaf batch last month, hand kneaded 10.4 kilograms (23#), lot of fun. Looking for my baker's sheet from that job to post more details.

txfarmer's picture


I have been after a good English Muffin since I started baking breads 2 years ago. I tried the BBA recipe, too bread like, crumb is even and soft, good for a dinner roll, not an English muffin. I tried Alton Brown's recipe. Simple, and gives lots of holes. However the crumb is more like a crumpt. In addition, with a very short rise, AB's EM lacks a little flavor.


Recently I tried Wild Yeast's Sourdough English Muffin (here), jackpot! Not only it gives the "PERFECT" crumb (for me), but also complex whole wheat flavor. On top of that, it was easy to make too! I have read that the nooks and crannies in English Muffin crumb can be achieved by a very wet dough, which is ALMOST overkneaded. Sounds odd, but I do think the rough crumb struture of a EM is indeed similar to a dough whose gluten is on the verge of breaking down. "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" advices to knead a wet dough to pass windownpane, then KEEP KNEADING until it's over kneaded. I trust her results, but dont' want to spend all the effort to "over knead" a dough. I think Wild Yeast formula accompolishes the same goal with a much easier method: creat a sourdough spong, let it fermentate for a long time until the gluten almost breaking down, add a little bit of flour so that it can take shape, proof for a bit, cook and done!


However I did modify the procedure: the original formula wants me to knead well after adding the flour, then pat the dough out flat and cut out rounds of dough. That is hard to do if the dough is very wet - and the dough simply has to be wet for good results. What I did was to skip kneading all together, we are not after gluten formation here anyway. Simply mix with a spoon, then scoop chunks of dough(I use a scale to make sure of their sizes) on a baking sheet, use WELL OILED hands to shape these little puddles of wet dough into flat disks, let proof, then cook them in English Muffin rings. Easy and prefect. Since I don't have to knead/pat/cut, I can affort to up the hydration even more.


Sourdough English Muffing (Adapted from Wild Yeast)


100% starter, 55g

AP flour, 80g

WW flour, 50g

milk, 140g

1. Mix and let rise for 12 hours. (I let it go longer than the original instruction since I want the gluten to almost break)

-Final dough

AP flour, 35g

salt, 1/2tsp

baking soda, 1/2tsp

agave nectar (or honey, but agave nectar tastes so great), 1t

all of sponge


2. Mix with a spong, then scoop chunks of wet dough onto a baking sheet (wiht bakign mat or parchment paper), each chunk is about 73g, 5 chunks in total. The size matters here, if the dough chunks is too large, it won't cook through/rise well. Well oil/water your hands and nudge the dough chunks into rough disks.


3, cover and let rise for 45min (73F), until very light


4 I don't have a griddle, so I cooked them in a cast iron pan. Preheat for 5min on medium low heat, with muffin rings inside. The pan and rings were all lightly oiled. Lift the parchment paper/baking mat, and flip the dough onto your oiled/watered hand, drop into the ring. Don't pick up the dough, do the lift and flip, it's much less sticky this way, and you can preserve most of the air bubbles.

5. Cook on medium low heat for about 5min before flipping, during that time, the dough would rise to the rim, or even over the rim a bit. Flip and keep cooking until done, about 15min in total, flipping every few minutes.


Let's look at the crumb, it'd my idea of a perfect EM


But of course, I only cut one for the picture, the rest I did the proper way: fork split, look at all that nooks and crannies!


Butter and jam has no way to escape!


Perfect for a breakfast sandwich too, with a lot of sauce of course


Sending this to Yeastspotting.

Sam Fromartz's picture
Sam Fromartz

I posted two great videos at my blog, about shaping and scoring a baguette. I was hoping to post them here but can't get the embedded videos from youtube to work, so just go to the link.


MadAboutB8's picture

It's the third time lucky for me making croissant. Well, sort of.

I think my third time yielded decent croissants but they are still far from what I want to achieve. I'm now on the mission to practice making croissants every week until I can make it well. My partner is quite pleased to learn this, as well as our neighbors who are more than happy to be guinea pigs.

There are some issues with this bake. The temperature was too warm to work with butter and dough lamination. So, I ended up chilling the laminated dough overnight, then shape the croissants first thing in the morning when room temp was around 27C. The dough was fully fermented and butter was set, which made it a little difficult to roll. This could contribute to my not-so-flaky croissants.

I used the recipe from Bourke Street Bakery cookbook and halved the recipe. The recipe used pre-ferment and has about 58% hydration. I also made pain au jambon (inspired by the same menu item at Tartine Bakery) using half of the croissants. Pain au jambon tasted very good. Because ham and cheese were rolled inside croissants, it infused the flavours into the pastry and created nice internal moisture, the salty buttery goodness.

Recipes and more pictures can be found here.

 With me-made strawberry jam, perfect for breakfast


 Pain au jambon, inspired by Tartine Bakery

 my croissant and Mr Chad Robinson's



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