The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Pmccool's picture

For those who are keeping score, I moved from the USA to South Africa in late October to work on a project being managed by my employer.  After spending a week in a hotel and a month in a temporary apartment, my wife and I moved into a leased house on December 1.  We're feeling fairly settled now and can find our way to several different supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants and the like.  It's a different landscape, and I'm not just talking topography.  Still, we're learning to navigate our way around without creating unnecessary hazard to ourselves or others.

Part of the learning process involves getting acquainted with new players in familiar roles.  In the case of bread, this includes different flours, a new starter, a different oven, and a different elevation (approximately 4200 feet above sea level, give or take a kopje).  None of these are especially difficult to cope with, but the collective effect has me slightly off kilter.

Prior to this weekend, I had baked bread three times, with results ranging from dismal to passable.  

This weekend saw some improvement, with plenty of room for additional improvement.  I baked a pain de campagne from Clayton's Complete Book of Breads, a honey oat sandwich loaf and scones from KAF's Whole Grain Baking book, and Mark Sinclair's version of Portugese Sweet Bread (in hamburger bun form).

The pain de campagne calls for a yeasted "starter"; I used my own sourdough starter to build the levain.  I'm beginning to wonder if there is something about the whole wheat flour that I'm using (Snowflake brand Brown Bread Flour at 12.5% protein, if memory serves).  My impression is that it tends to absorb less water than other whole wheat flours that I have used, which produces a stickier dough.  By sticky, I mean almost rye-like stickiness.  The grind is a bit coarser than I have seen in other flours, so it may be that I need to go with extended autolysis to give it enough time to absorb moisture.  And I may need to dial back on water content, too.  The closest thing to AP flour that I've located so far is something labeled cake flour, at 10% protein content.  The initial dough was quite sticky after mixing (did I mention stickiness earlier?), so I gave it a series of stretch and folds during the bulk ferment that lasted about 5 hours.  Temperatures in the house ranged from the low 70'sF in the morning up to about 80F yesterday afternoon.  I shaped the dough into two batards, achieving a good gluten cloak, and set them to rise in a parchment "couche".  When they had expanded about 60-70% in size, I preheated the oven and baking stone, along with the steam pan, then poured in about a cup of boiling water.  I slashed each loaf and jockeyed it as gently as possible onto the stone, using a baking sheet for a peel.  Oven spring was modest, with the slashes opening partially.  The loaves colored up nicely, indicating that the yeast hadn't run through all available food.  I haven't cut into either loaf yet to know how the crumb turned out.

Things went quite well with the honey oat sandwich loaves, but for two glitches.  One was that I had intended to make each with a cinnamon swirl but failed to remember that until I was pulling them out of the oven.  The other is that both loaves were over proofed and partially collapsed during baking, even though they did not come close to reaching the volume ("one and a half inches above the pan rim") recommended in the directions.  Eish!  At least they taste good.

This morning's scones also tasted wonderful, but failed to rise as much as they should have.  Maybe the oven runs a bit cooler than the controls would suggest.  Then again, its geared for Celsius and I'm not.  I think I'll pick up an oven thermometer or two while we are back in the States over the holidays.  Then we can find out if it is a calibration issue, or operator error. 

The Portugese Sweet Bread was everything that I wanted it to be, though.  Texture, color, flavor, rise, everything worked just right.  If only I could figure out why!  My track record so far would suggest that it is more of a fluke than an exercise in skill.  Right now, I'm just happy to have had a bake go the way I wanted.

The experimenting and learning will continue.  I will keep trying various flours and methods until I get to where I can produce consistently good results. 

Oh, and if anyone can tell me where to look for rye flour, I'll be grateful.


occidental's picture

I baked the buckwheat batard from Leader's Local Breads yesterday.  This is my third or fourth attempt at this bread, and by far the most sucessful.  The first time I tried this bread I was unaware of the errors in the formula (if you do a search of the site you will find posts on the errors of this book) and ended up experimenting just trying to get a buckwheat starter that I could work with.  The flavor is so unique that I did not give up and have come up with a formula that works for me.  For the buckwheat levain I used 75 grams of my liquid levain that is approximately 100% hydration.  To that I added 35 grams of water and 40 grams of buckwheat flour, which totals 150 grams, close to the 125 grams needed for the dough, with just a little to spare.  I let this sit and ferment overnight.  There was not much visible fermentation as far as rising or bubbles coming to the surface with this levain, however upon stirring it up it was evident from the texture that it was active.  I then followed the rest of the formula as written in the book, except that I made 3 loaves instead of the suggested 4.  I'm not a big butter fan however I really enjoy this bread warmed with a little butter on it, and the buckwheat flavor is very unique.  Now on to the pics... 


From bread

From bread

From bread
JoeVa's picture

There are a lot of possibilities with a basic sourdough loaf. When you have established an almost consistent basic "Pain au Levain" dough you can enrich it with everything you like.

As I love raisins and walnuts, yesterday I filled my dough with both. I did this even if I have not established my consistent dough yet, I mean I have an almost consistent dough but I think this is not my perfect bread. In my dream I bake a Poilane style miche but now I am sure I cannot get it without that great high extraction bread flour. One month ago I went to my favorite bakery (Princi) and I saw the bag of flour he use for his wonderful miche: farine demi-complète - muline ... he is italian, he bake great organic sourdough bread, he use a french flour, FRENCH, why?! Unfortunately, after two years of baking and tasting bread I define my bread flour a plain filler.

The basic dough:

  • a "good" bread flour with a bit of whole grain (5-15% whole rye or whole wheat)

  • a medium soft dough (60 to 65% hydration)

  • 15-20% prefermented flour at 80% hydration (neither stiff nor liquid) with a bit (5%) of whole rye

Toward the end of mixing just add raisins (25%) and walnuts (25%) and you have a high octane bread.



I think this will be one of my bread for this Christmas baking session.


dstroy's picture

Not a bread post - but I'm going to post my girl's birthday cake here anyway, cause you know...I do it every year.

This year my daughter requested "kittens playing with yarn" on her cake. She's fond of marzipan so I decided to do some sculpting with the sweet almond paste as a cake topper.

The cake was chocolate, with the cream cheese and whipped cream frosting that I discovered when making that delicious Guiness cake I last posted about here, with a little dye to make it pink and turn it into "string"


ehanner's picture

When I saw Shiao-Ping's post of Chocolate Sourdough, I knew I had to try it. Her beautiful images drew me into the project and made me drool for a rich dark decadent desert bread. I thought it might pair with cranberry's well and tried a couple different liquors to soak them for extra flavor. I had some great morning oatmeal for a couple days but in the end I decided to let the cranberry's be cranberry's.

I followed SP's time line nearly exactly except I let the dough proof in plastic bannetons at room temp until they were 50% larger. On bake day, I held my breath and slashed the rather dense dough after dusting and loaded the first 2 in the oven. The cut marks didn't open even a little when I made the slash and I was worried these were going to be black doorstops.

To my delight and surprise after the 10 minute steam timer went off, I checked and found the oven spring was happening.

One interesting thing to report. Just as I was loading on a stone, I saw some chocolate chips on the surface and wondered how much of a mess I would have after baking. To my surprise, the chips don't seem to run out. In fact the ones on the exterior were firm to the touch when I unloaded the oven. I don't know much of anything about chocolate in the kitchen so maybe someone with pastry experience will jump in on this.

As Shiao-Ping said the flavor is Moorish. To me that means I need more for lunch. This is a delicious gift bread that takes a couple days including the SD elaboration and well worth the effort. Thank you Shiao-Ping for your lovely inspiration.

Here is the recipe as posted by Shiao-Ping, goddess of chocolate!


mmmyummy's picture

Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah,

In my first post to this addictively delicious site, may I ask folks out there for recipes for sufganiyot, or yeasted doughnuts, typically served on Channukah?  I would especially appreciate recipes that do not contain dairy products.  If anybody has a sourdough version that you like, I would love to try it.  Come on guys, we have 8 days so let the games begin...


ensalter's picture

Hi there fresh loafers,

I just joined this community yesterday, while anxiously waitin for my first ever yeast bread to ferment and proof! Since hanukkah starts today at sundown, with sabbat, i was excited to try out a challah bread. I didn't get too ambitious with the braiding, and stuck to a 3 piece braid but i was more than thrilled with the results! Since i have an intolerance to modern wheat protein, i used 100% spelt flour (a mix of whole and light unbleached). I took the recipe from "Second Helpings Please!" and adapted slightly - i traded the sugar for honey and the wheat for spelt. This made a very wet, sticky dough so i had to add (what seemed like a lot) of extra flour to make a firmer dough, but with each rise it seemed to form a more workeable dough... now onto the pictures!

it turned out wonderfully- a nice honey sweetness, light flaky texture (which i have never managed to find with storebought spelt which tends to be really dense) and a wonderful nutty flavour from the spelt.


I am an avid kitchen enthusiast, and work at a cafe, dealing with almost 100% organic ingredients and as local as possible (depending on the time of year, obviously here in canada). I look forward to learning more about bread-making and realy getting my hands dirty trying new things!

best to all in this challah-day season!


txfarmer's picture

I used this recipe found right here on fresh loaf: Thanks! It worked great. Found saffron at my local super market, $7 for 0.5gram, ouch! Found quark at whole foods, another ouch, these breads ain't cheap! However, they look great and taste great! Other than the classic S shape, I also made a few other classic shapes.

With the quark addition, and plenty of kneading, the crumb is incredibly soft and moist, even after 3 days.

Very happy to have tried this fun new bread!

droidman's picture

NOTE: This post is superseded by

What I really like about Peter Reinhart's books is that he understands the urge to experiment. The following is his Basic Sourdough from the Bread Baker's apprentice, with a couple of minor adjustments. I got the idea from a loaf produced by a Twin Cities grocery store (Byerly's). I've had difficulty making this size of loaf (10.5" banneton) without burning the bottom crust, but moving the stone up a notchseems to have solved this.

The crust was tender yet chewy with a nice crunch, the crumb dense, but looser than my previous experience with the Reinhart recipe. The flavor was rich, almost creamy, but the milk does seem to subdue the sourness. Perhaps an extra 24 hours in the fridge would help this.

This revision includes scalding the goat milk, increasing the proportion of goat milk in the liquid mix, and increasing the percentage of liquid overall (to 75%). 

I've tried this loaf using only water, as well as substituting whole milk or half & half for the goat milk. Nothing works better than goat. Why, I couldn't say. 

Firm Starter

  • 2/3 cup wild yeast starter (75% hydration) [180g]

  • 1 cup bread flour (Dakota Maid) [150g]

  • 1/3 cup water [80g]

Final Dough

  • 4 cups bread flour [600g]

  • 1/2 cup whole white wheat flour [68g]

  • 1 Tbsp sea salt [15g]

  • 1 cup scalded goat milk at room temp [233]

  • 1-1/4 cup + 1/2 tsp water at room temp [298]


  1. Mix up firm starter, mist with spray oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap, let rise for approximately 4 hours until doubled.

  2. Refrigerate overnight (12 – 18 hours).

  3. Remove starter from fridge and set on oil-misted countertop. Cut into multiple small pieces, separate, mist with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to warm to room temperature (a couple hours).

  4. Mix final dough.

  5. Knead 10-15 minutes. Rest 5 minutes. Knead additional 2 minutes. Dough is super sticky, difficult to manage.

  6. Allow to rise for 3-4 hours until doubled.

  7. Gently punch down, cover tightly (I have a covered Rubbermaid container I use for this), and refrigerate overnight.

  8. Remove from refrigerator and allow to warm up a couple hours. 

  9. Gently remove dough from bowl, shape into two boules, place in floured bannetons, lightly mist bottom with spray oil, cover and proof for at least four hours.

  10. Preheat oven containing bread stone and steam pan to 500 degrees at least one hour before proofing is complete.

  11. Sprinkle semolina on bottom of loaf, then flip over onto semolina-dusted peel. Score loaf as desired.

  12. Pour one cup of water into steam pan (I use a small cast iron skillet)

  13. Slide onto baking stone.

  14. Spray sides of oven with water three times in first three minutes (I've quit doing this as it cools the oven too much). 

  15. Bake until internal temp is nearing 205 degrees, 20-25 minutes.

Goat Milk Sourdough

Crumb Shot



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