The Fresh Loaf

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SylviaH's picture


                                       A nice recipe from Northwest Sourdough for a basic white sourdough, using 100% hydration starter, final dough in recipe is 65% hydration.                                               


                       I baked these loaves on my pre-heated oven stones and used the lava rock/iron pan steaming method and adjusted my oven

                       for baking temperatures and times better suited for my oven.  I made 3 loaves.  These will come in handy!















txfarmer's picture

Another recipe from "A Handmade Loaf", using the beer barm starter. Anyone who knows of traditional English barm cake, or have seen the picture of this bread in the book might object and say: hey, what's in this picture?! It's not a barm cake, it's two sandwich loaves! Well, trust me it's the same recipe, just done differently.


Here I have to digress and talk a bit about Asian syle breads - sometimes in the form of a loaf, more often in the form of a stuffed bun. Very soft crumb with small pores, "shred-able", easier to peel off pieces than cutting it. It's essentially a slightly enriched dough (often with egg, butter, sugar, milk powder, milk, cream in the dough, but in small amounts), and the key to the soft and slightly spongy texture is in the kneading and shaping. The dough is VERY WELL kneaded to complete gluten developement, so that the bread gets maximum volume and a very fine crumb, which translate to a soft texture. During shaping, the dough is roll out thin, then roll up like a jellyroll TWICE before loading into the pan, this is to ensure the finest possible crumb - with the smallest possible pores. While artisan bakers here obsess over big holes in baguette, Asian bakers invest in the same effort and techniques to achieve even crumb with absolutely NO holes. It's sort of like a Pan De Mie bread, but much lighter. For the same pullman pan I bought from KAF (4X4X13inch), KAF Pan De Mie formula asks for 40oz (1100g+) of flour, while my Asian recipe only needs 800g, you can imagine how the bread is much lighter.


This kind of soft breads are what most Chinese people like, and I started out liking and making them 2 years ago. Soon after that, I got into sourdough and other Eureopean style breads, my taste evolved. I still like Asian style breads, but want the flavor to be a bit more layered and complex. As the result I have been trying to make these Asian style soft breads with pure sourdough, which add a tangy aftertaste in addition to the soft and slightly rich flavor. I am still perfecting the process in terms of how long to fermentate, how long to proof etc, but so far so good, I really like how the breads are more flavorful, yet still soft, tall, and spongy, the best of both worlds. (I will post when I am settled on the "best" procedure.) Some may ask why these soft breads are better than supermarket wonder bread, answers are: more flavor, soft but still has body (not squishy), slightly chewy.


When I see this barm cake recipe in the book, I wanted to keep the ingredients the same, but change the techinque to make it into Asian style sandwich loaves - tall and soft, rather than dense and cake-like. Nothing wrong with the latter, just not what we wanted at the time. Only two concerns: 1)the barm stater has been in the fridge for 5 days at that point, was it still strong enough to raise a loaf to 4+ times of it's original size? 2)the butter (15%) and sugar (15%) ratioes are both slightly higher than my normal Asian sandwich formulas. I was especially worried about the sugar, at 15%, it's on the verge of being "too much" for a natural starter. However in the end, it all worked out, the dough rose just fine, and I got two very soft, very tall, very flavorful loaves. Nothing like an English barm cake, more like a light Asian chiffon cake.

fruited barm loaf (adapted from "A handmade loaf")

Note: the following formula is suitable for a standard US 8*4inch loaf pan, but I used a Chinese loaf pan that's narrower and taller. I also had more than 64g of barm starter, so I infact made more dough than specified below, that's why you see a large loaf and a small loaf in the top picture.


beer barm starter, 64g

water, 106g,

bread flour, 212g (I used KAF bread flour)

AP flour, 38g

egg, 47g

brown sugar, 38g

zest from one orange

salt, 5g

butter, 38g, softened

currants, 39g

golden raisin, 39g (I used half dried cherries and dried cranberries instead)


1. mix water, starter, flour, egg, sugar, zest, autolyse for 30min

2. add salt, knead until gluten is well developed, add butter in 3 batches, until you get a very thin and strong windowpane. The stronger the gluten network, the higher the bread, but be careful not to overknead, it's a fine line. this is a VERY wet dough, even before adding the butter. It never did completely cleared the bottom of the mixing bowl, even though it's kneaded until very elastic.

3. bulk rise for 4 hours until well expanded, almost double.

4. for my narrow and long loaf pan, I divide the dough into 3 portions, for a 8*4 loaf pan, divide into two. for each dough round and rest for 30min. then, pat/roll each one out into a long ovel/rectangle, roll up from the narrow end like a jelly roll, keep the surface tension tight, press out all bubbles.Now you have 3(or 2) cyclinder like below:

rest for 15min, rull out each cylinder along the long axis into a flat long oval, smooth side down, press out all air bubbles

roll up from the narrow end again, press the seam tight with each roll, keep surface tension tight, load them seam side down into loaf pan. As you can see they only fill the pan 1/4 to 1/3 full, seems impossible to fill the pan, but don't worry.

5. proof until it's 80 to 90% full, for me , it took 6 hours, pretty normal for this kind of doug. Note that the height of each roll is uneven, this is because the dough was very wet, and I didn't keep the tightness the same for each roll. Ideally they should be all at the same height. 

6. brush with egg wash and bake at 400f for 15min, 350 for 30min, tent with foil for the last 15 so the top doesn't get too dark. unmold immediately after bake, cool on rack. The loaves are so soft I was afraid to touch them, but no fear, they are infact baked through.


This kind of soft bread is great as a snack, or smeared with some PB and J, or just pulled off piece by piece and eaten plain like we did. We often think of sourdough breads as the crusty lean loaves (which I love too), but sourdough is just a method to raise the dough, it can make any type of bread, including enriched ones. This bread is like the sourdough pandoro and sourdough challah I made before, rich and tangy.

Mebake's picture

This time, i used 50% bread flour with (12.9%) protein, and 50% Wholewheat Pastry Flour(11%) Protein. I also included in my soaker (Flax seeds, Whole Rye Berries, Whole BuckWheat, and Whole Sunf. Seeds).

Encouraged by Larry's gas oven steaming, i created steam by pouring hot water into an Aluminum Skillet filled with lava and river rocks. Presteaming might have been crucial , especially in vented gas ovens. I presteamed, steamed, and then steamed again. I even sprayed the top of the loaves beofre loading them in.  Result: Not Bad, though no Artistic Grigne was created, but it is a trade off iam glad to accept, as opposed to the trouble of avoiding Roaster loading, and off-loading, with rack moving.

It came out very nice, held shape better, though as apparent from the crumb shot, the loaf was on the edge of overproofing.

The loaves smelled strongly of Flax seeds. The crust and crumb tasted very pleasant, with the chewy bite to the crumb due to all the soaked grain s and seeds.

Verdict: Improved crumb due to the usage of BREAD flour instead of AP.



Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The Leavenworth County Fair isn't a slick fair. The buildings aren't air conditioned yet (not a good thing in August in Kansas), the midway has lots of greasy, deep fried foods, and the rides have an authentic air of danger surrounding them. When you walk around the livestock sheds, you do have to look where you're walking. There's a certain amount of relief about genetic diversity when you see the different breeds that have been forgotten by industrial farms but are still loved by the farm families that show them every year. It's the real thing with duct tape construction contests, an oldest married couple in the county contest, and a Demolition Derby to close things out on Saturday night.

I wasn't really satisfied when I pulled my sourdough loaf out of the oven on Monday night. I thought it was too big at around 765 grams and my slashing wasn't symmetrical or dramatic enough to be of merit.

My French Country Farmhouse loaf had the same problems.

However, I figured that I had committed myself into entering and thought that I could always make it out as a learning experience. The established guidelines for the judges has been to award the prizes based on merit of taste as well as appearance so I felt I had a chance. I drove down to enter the loaves on time- a $0.25 entry fee per loaf- before 9AM and returned home to wait for the 1PM judging.

The judges weren't finished when I returned so I did the tour of the livestock displays. I admit to having grown up in a Massachusetts factory town but I can appreciate the care that the 4-H kids put into preparing their animals. However, after 45 minutes, I had to go and see the verdicts on my projects.

This first picture is my sourdough and the next is the French Farmhouse loaf.

The judges took out small slices from each loaf. One slice for tasting and another for display. I donated the loaves to the Fair for a sale to benefit the building's AC installation fund. I thought that extremely worthwhile. If you had been there yesterday, you might have chided me for being a cheapskate to not donate a little more to speed up the project.

As nice as it was to win the prizes, admittedly against few competitors, I started planning my entries for next year. Smaller loaves in the bannetons that arrived a day late, some glaze to add individuality to the presentation, and slashing to brag about. The best thing about my experience was the 10 or 11 year old girl that came up to me and told me that she had already bought my sourdough loaf. She said her family is Italian in background and having good bread is expected at her house. That's good enough for me.



trailrunner's picture

I had to get rid of starters and Larry's post the other day was the inspiration I KNOW he meant it to be :) I had enough bubbly weekold starter and I added that to his measurements. I added a couple more splashes of water as my KA mixed since it seemed dry and I wanted it to really slap the bowl. All went perfectly. I used my Grandmother's old blue granite roaster to bake. I have another really large one also. I have not tried this but saw the post by another TFL member and decided to give it a shot. Perfect. HUGE oven spring. I preheated my stone at 500 and then placed the covered pot on the hot stone  for a few minutes . It gets hot quickly. I sprayed the loaf heavily with water and placed it in the pot and covered. Baked at 460...lowered temp ...for 25 min and uncovered for 15. internal temp 208. 

Photobucket We should all have such great accidents. Pics of crumb tomorrow after it cools.c

Here is the "other side of the story" LOL. My scoring failed to take into consideration the huge oven spring I would get. Photobucket Lovely fine even crumb : Photobucket closer: Photobucket

ryebaker's picture

a brief introduction.  just completed a 3 by 4 wood fired oven, similar but unique from an Alan Scott type design.  cure is complete so we are busy experimenting. some charcoal, some great successes this past week and given the oven seems to stay warm for half a day or more, lots to come.  particularly interested in rye breads, but have Clayton's Breads of France, and working through all the breads in there.

dmsnyder's picture

We're back from 5 days in Fort Bragg with family. I took along 7 breads and, because of menu compatibility and dining out, I only baked once while there. I made a couple loaves of Sourdough Italian Bread which went well with baked coho salmon and grilled veggies.

We did breakfast one day at the Fort Bragg Bakery. They make very good bread and pastries, as well as pizza. They do the pizza's in a gas fired oven built with bricks salvaged from the bakery that was on the same site a couple generations ago and eventually torn down.

On the drive home, Susan and I stopped for lunch at the Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg. Along with our bill, the waiter left us a 2 lb sourdough epi to take with us. It was outstanding with a comfort food coming home dinner of scrambled eggs and tomatoes from our garden.

On a non-bread note I just have to share, I found myself taking all but a couple photos with my new iPhone 4. It's pretty amazing, especially the macro capability.

Begonia at the Fort Bragg Botanical Gardens

Fly on Begonia petal

So, we're back home, doing laundry and re-packing for my week at SFBI.


wally's picture


Now that summer is in full blaze in the Washington, DC area, I've banished my rye and white levain starters to my refrigerator, where they seem to mournfully regard me whenever I open the door.  This past weekend as I was gazing on them I realized they hadn't been fed in the better part of a week and were probably getting cranky.  So I temporarily liberated them from their frosty clime and after an hour or so they were both bubbling and ready to be fed.  But as I started to toss a good portion of both it dawned on me I was about to waste a lot of levain for the lack of a plan.

Now, one thing I learned from TFL that has been driven home daily in a commercial environment is that you don't just toss a bit of this and a smidge of that together in creating a loaf of bread.  Everything is planned, everything is weighed, always.  But it was late and I wanted to just feed my starters and be off to bed, so I grabbed an empty container and a tablespoon and proceeded to throw a couple tbls. of both levains together, along with a handful of rye and one of Sir Galahad which I reckoned came to probably half a cup together, and enough water to create what looked like it might be a 100% starter.  And went to bed.

The next morning I found my mixed-starter healthy and looking for a new home, so I decided to create something on the fly.  At this point I did weigh the mixture which came to 240g.  So with that in mind I decided to construct a loaf that would have a hydration of 68% - making it easy to work with - and where the mixed starter comprised 25% of total dough weight.  Again, an easy number to work with.

Some quick computing, and I came up with the following:

Ingredient      Baker's Percent      Weight
Flour                       100%                       565 g
Water                       68%                        384 g
Salt                            2%                           11 g

Total                       170%                    960 g

All of which was especially convenient since total weight was just over 2 lbs - a nice size boule for my banneton.

Since I already had 240 g of levain, I did some 'guesstimating' based on the previous evenings couple-of-this-and-a-handful-of-that and decided that the compositon of the levain was probably in the neighborhood of 50 g starter, 95 g flour and 95 g water.

With those numbers in hand it was then easy to determine my final dough mix, which I decided would incorporate 20% whole wheat flour:

Sir Galahad             80%                355 g
KA WW                   20%                  90 g
Water                      58%                264 g
Salt                           2%                    11 g
Levain                     25%                240 g
Total                                             960 g

Desired dough temp is 76°-78°F.

I employed an autolyse with the flours and water for 30 minutes, and then added the levain and salt and mixed on speed 1 for 3 minutes, on speed 2 for 2 minutes and speed 3 for another 3 minutes. 

[Long aside] If I were utilizing a commercial spiral mixer instead of my poor Hamilton Beach this would be an overmixed bread. But frankly, I'm beginning to doubt that most kitchen stand mixers are even capable of overmixing in the sense of over-oxygenating dough and consequently wiping out its carotenoids.  In fact, I'm finding that I can either do a very extended mix on speed 1 only, or an abbreviated one using speed 3.  On speed 2 the dough just tends to form a ball around the hook and it just goes round and round, which isn't really contributing to gluten development I think.  By contrast, with my mixer, on speed 3 the dough is forced down the hook and gradually begins to slap the sides of the mixer which is an outcome you look for using a commercial mixer, signifying gluten development.

Bulk fermentation was 2 1/2 hours, with two folds at 50 minute intervals.  I pre-shaped a boule, allowed it to rest for 20 minutes, and then did final shaping, placed in a well-floured banneton, and proofed for 1 1/2 hours.  Because it was now early afternoon Saturday and blazing hot, I decided after this shortened proofing period to retard the loaf in my refrigerator for about 4 hours or so, until the afternoon's heat began to dissipate, making it bearable to have the oven on in my kitchen.

After a little more than 4 hours in the refrigerator the dough came out to a preheated oven at 430° F (my oven seems to run hot, so I stepped down the temp from the 460° temperature I'd otherwise bake at.

Pre-steamed, loaded the boule, and then steamed immediately and again after 2 minutes.  Total bake time was 50 minutes.


For an accidental loaf I'm pleased with the outcome.  It developed a nice crackly crust as it sang once out of the oven, and the crumb is moist and open - but not too open (it's easy to forget that not everything is supposed to resemble ciabatta :>)




This makes a nice sandwich bread.  It's moderately sour, which in my case probably reflects the impact of the rye starter more than the white one.  Lesson learned: easy way to avoid just tossing some extra starter down the drain, and an opportunity to make up a formula on the fly.



BLHNYC's picture

Hi Everyone-

Today I made pita bread using the recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice. This is actually the lavash cracker recipe adapted for pita and perhaps because of this the pita-making directions were not totally clear to me.

While the pita tastes good, I have a few questions about making it and had a few problems. Some of the pita inflated and formed a pocket while others did not. I am wondering what I did wrong.

The dough can retard overnight in the refrigerator. The recipe does not say if you need to let the dough rest at room temperature before proceeding with the shaping of it. I left it out for about an hour. Does this seem about right?

It took me a while to shape the dough thinly enough. I let it rest every few minutes and eventually got it where it seemed right. Is it possible to over-roll the dough? It should have been divided into 6oz pieces that are rolled out to 8in diameter. This seemed really large to me so I made 4oz pieces in 6oz diameter (it only made four pitas). Did making them smaller affect the quality of them?

Lastly- the recipe says to bake at 500F until it puffs and forms a pocket but that the dough shouldn't get too golden. Because my dough wasn't puffing well, I took it out after only about 4 minutes because of the color. I also didn't know how long this whole process could take. After tasting it, the cooking time seems to be fine because it was cooked through and had a nice consistency.

Does anyone have any idea why they all didn't puff? Over-working, the size, not enough time resting.... SO many things can go wrong!

Also- any suggestions for making these part whole-wheat would be greatly appreciated!

I look forward to hearing from you!



txfarmer's picture

Harbin(哈尔滨) is a city in Northeast China with a heavy Russian influence. Around 1913 the first generation of Russian immigrants came mostly to work for the Chinese Eastern Railway, since then they left noticable marks on local culture, one of which is : 大列巴(pronounced: Da Le Ba). This is a miche like sourdough bread that' was first introduced to the locals by a Russian baker, and has been sold in Harbin bakeries for over a hundred years. Even its Chinese name was originated from Russian word khleb (bread). The fact that this bread was accepted and welcomed by Chinese people, even became a famous "traditional Harbin food" is very interesting since its sour and chewy taste is decidely different from other traditional Chinese foods. In recent years many bakeries have been opened all over China, but they mostly sell soft and fluffy Asian style breads, very few sourdough breads, nothing at all like 大列巴.


I have been wanting to recreat this flavorful bread for years, but only one local company has the recipe, they have been making it the same way since the beginning, obviously they are not spilling the secret. With the power of internet, I did manage to find some clues:


Firstly, this is how they look (the following two pictures are from a Chinese news article on the web):


- According to the articles: the bread is made from "beer hops liquid natural starter", not commercial yeast, which brings sourness and "beer taste" to the bread. I am assuming the "hops liquid natural starter" is a "barm", either traditional ale beer barm or simply liquid natural starter with hops added in. For my version, I simply used the barm starter I created last time with Dan Lepard's method (see details here).

- Various articles mention that the bread went through a 3 stage fermentation process. To mimic that, I used the miche forumla in "Advanced Bread and Pastry" which also use a 3 stage fermentation. Hoewever, my fermentation timeline is a little different from what they do for 大列巴. Their total fermentation is 16 hours, while mine is 24 hours + an overnight cold proofing in the fridge. It fits my schedule better, and makes the bread more flavorful IMO.

- The ingredient list for 大列巴 reads: flour, salt, water, beer hops, so I am pretty sure it's a lean dough with no sugar or fat, but I am unsure what kind of flour they use. Traditional Russian breads would have a high percentage of rye, but judging from the pictures, and people's comments on flavor, I think there is very little rye flour, if any at all. This is reasonable since rye flour is not easily or cheaply available in China, plus local people would much prefer the taste and color of white flour. I used a little bit of rye in the final dough, and KA Bread Flour for the rest.

- It's baked in a traditional brick oven (which is again very rare in China) with high heat, and the breads come out of the oven with a hard and crackly crust. That one is easy - I simply baked it on my baking stone like a miche.

- Each 大列巴 weights 2KG, about 8 to 10 inches round. I scaled it to about 1KG, 6 inches round. From the pictures above you can see there's a softer/lighter colored portion around the sides of the bread, I think it's because they bake a lot of them in each batch, so breads grow into each other, the areas that touch don't get a hard crust (sort of like a pan of pull apart buns). Even though I like a good crust, to make it look more authentic, I baked the bread in a bottomless mousse ring, to get the light colored softer sides.

Here it is!

When I used the barm starter, it had been in the fridge for 3 days, but it raised the two starter doughs and the final dough like a bat out of cage. When I loaded the final dough into the mousse ring, it's about 60% full, after 10  hours in the fridge, it has went over the rim of the ring. I was afraid I had over-proofed the dough, but it kept rising in the oven, crazy oven sping, that barm starter is STRONG!

Crispy and crackling crust on top, and soft sides, just like the real thing. Since I do like crust, next time I will skip the mousse ring and just bake it free form.

Nice and chewy crumb. Just like the real thing, there's no big holes but thats expected with the lower hydration, and how the dough handled in the process.

It's noticably sour, very flavorful, crumb is chewy and moist, one of the best miche breads I've made!

I've only had the authentic 大列巴 once, many years ago, but I think my version is pretty close in flavor. Next time I will use high extraction flour intead of white flour, and increase the ratio of rye, that will match my current taste preference better.

大列巴 (fermentation procedure adapted from "AB&P")

-first dough

barm starter, 14g(see details here)

bread flour, 39g

water, 39g

salt ,1/8tsp

1. mix and cover, fermentate for 16 hours.


-second dough

first dough

bread flour, 234g

water, 280g

salt, 1/4tsp

2. mix and cover, fermentate for 8 hours. Mine became so very light and bubbly.


-final dough

2nd dough

bread flour, 212g

rye, 54g

water, 25g

salt, 10.5

3. mix and knead until medium gluten developement.

4. bulk rise only for 15 min, lightly preshape into boule, rest for 20 to 30min

5. shape and drop into mousse ring, cover and put in fridge immediately for overnight

6. next morning bake directly from fridge, 440F with steam, 50min.


*This bread is going to YeastSpotting


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