The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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turosdolci's picture

A Christmas double chocolate biscotti takes center stage on our Christmas biscotti tray. It is an old family recipe that is made only for holidays and special events. I could not imagine Christmas with out pizzette, it would be a very sad family gathering. The only problem is stopping everyone from eating them before our family dinner of speghetti with anchovy sauce and mixed fried fish.

Pizzetts are a double chocolate biscotti, scented with spices, roasted almonds, orange zest, coffee and chocolate chips. They are one of the biscotti attractions on our cookie trays for Christmas and every special event. You can make these cookies in advance and freeze them for up to 2 months unfrosted.


hansjoakim's picture

The last few weeks have been really busy, as I've been preparing my thesis defense, and as a result, my once spoiled starter has faced long, dreary days in the unforgiving cold of the fridge. After three weeks of neglect, it didn't look too perky to tell you the truth. After completing the hardship, I pulled it out four days ago, and started nursing it with nice, cosy, warm water, fresh AP flour and liberal sprinklings of rye flour. It bounced back and took to its old self within a day, so either its short-term memory is pretty bad, or I'm overtly concerned about its state of health... ;)

Anyway, here are the three first breads I baked with it after pulling it from semi-retirement. There's a sourdough rye with walnuts and hazelnuts in the back, and Hamelman's whole-wheat pain au levain and 5-grain levain in front. I promised to bring these along to my parents later today, so I apologise for the lack of crumb shots!

Breads from "Bread"


Here's another formula that's kept me going: It's partly inspired by a recipe in Jan Hedh's latest bread book, but I've changed it a bit to make it somewhat lighter. This is a raisin & walnut bread, that's made with a poolish with some rye in it, and with some scalded whole wheat and whole rye flours. Below is the mise en place; scalded flour to the upper right, and the lovely fragrant poolish on the bottom. Much as I love the smell of sourdoughs fermenting, I'm still inclined to say that a poolish smells even better...

Raisin and walnuts


Here are the fully proofed, shaped loaves,

Raisin and walnuts

and the crumb. Just my kind of bread.

Raisin and walnuts

And, finally, here's the formula if anyone's interested (just a snapshot from my spreadsheet). Scald flour and allow the poolish to ripen approx. 16 hrs. 2 hrs. bulk fermentation, with fold after 1 hr. Final proof just shy of 1 hr.

Shiao-Ping's picture

I went to my favourite neighbourhood coffee shop a few days ago to enjoy a cup of flat white.  The lady owner there has a bit of an alternative flair about her and I enjoy the free air that she exudes to her place.  She really knows her stuff because the sourdough she serves for snacks is one of the best in town.  She told me her supplier is "Leavain Bakery" in Brisbane.   I thought I might go and visit Leavain Bakery sometime so I Googled it when I got home.  Wow - I had no idea!  Leavain Bakery supplies to some of the best restaurants in Brisbane!  I though, Shiao-Ping, well done!  I am so privileged to have the same sourdough in this little café as those that would be enjoyed by patrons to some of the best restaurants in town.  One of the restaurants is Philip Johnson's E'cco Bistro.   The New Zealand chef in Brisbane, Philip Johnson, has some of the best dessert recipes I've ever seen, something to die for. 

As I was reading up on Leavain Bakery on the net, it was brought to my attention that John Downes, the man behind the Australian sourdough movement in the late 70's has a cook book out.  As I was buying the book on the Australian Sourdough Companion website, an user, Johnny's beautiful crumb shot caught my attention.  His Ciabatta Integrale (a wholemeal ciabatta with multi-grains) involves a procedure which is most unusual to me.  I would like to summarize it below, if I may:

  1. The night of Day 1:  refresh the starter (in 2 feedings over 24 hours)

  2. The night of Day 2:  combine all ingredients (except salt) and autolyse 20 minutes, then add salt, mix by hand for 1 or 2 minutes, then straight into the refrigerator overnight

  3. The morning of Day 3: take dough out and fold once, return to the refrigerator

  4. The night of Day 3:  take the dough out again and over the next 4 - 5 hours stretch & fold the dough once every hour; shape and place the dough in a banneton, proof for one hour, then into the refrigerator again overnight

  5. The morning of Day 4: Bake!

I find Johnny's procedure very "elegant"- the least effort that allows you to arrive at the best possible result.  The essence seems to be in his minimalist approach and its beauty is that it is great for a person who has a busy work life.  I have since found that SourDom, another experienced baker of Sourdough Companion, talked about this flexible schedule at length in his Sourdough Timetables article.  But (and this is a big BUT), I did not understand what made this timetable work for sourdough bread; I mean, what was happening behind the scene; ie, what was happening to the natural yeasts in the refrigerator?

I went to Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Under page 191 of Pain a l'Ancienne, it says:

The unique delayed-fermentation method, which depends on ice-cold water, releases flavors trapped in flour....  The final product has ... character that is distinct from breads made with exactly the same ingredients but fermented by the standard method.... 

The cold mixing and fermentation cycles delay the activation of the yeast until after the amylase enzymes have begun their work of breaking out sugar from the starch.  When the dough is brought to room temperature and the yeast wakes up and begins feasting, it feeds on sugars that weren't there the day before.

Peter Reinhart adds,

... this delayed-fermentation method... evokes the fullness of flavor from the wheat beyond any other fermentation method I've encountered.  As a bonus, and despite all the intimidation science, this is actually one of the easiest doughs ... to make." 

How beautiful is that! 

Without further ado, let me go straight to my bread.  My Pain a l'Ancienne is an adaptation of Peter Reinhart's formula, as well as that of Johnny's Ciabatta Integrale.  Thank you Johnny, and thank you Peter.




My formula for Wholemeal Pain a l'Ancienne

  • 182 g starter @ 75% hydration (5% rye)

  • 475 g Wholemeal flour (13.1% protein)

  • 414 g ice water

  • 11 g salt

Total dough weight 1.08 kg; overall hydration 85% 






My formula for White Pain a l'Ancienne

  • 182 g starter @ 75% hydration (5% rye)

  • 455 g Unbleached bread flour (11.9% protein)

  • 358 g ice water

  • 11 g salt

Total dough weight 1.01 kg; overall hydration 78% 






I recommend anyone to read SourDom's Sourdough Timetables.   While SourDom's intention is to give home bakers flexibility in scheduling, the delayed fermentation achieved means that the home baker has everything to gain in terms of crumb flavor.  Try it and wish you happy baking!



                                  Grilled Pain a l'Ancienne with buffalo ricotta by Australia's Paesanella

                                Cheese Manufacturers, drizzled with honey and garnished with honeycomb



Note 1:  My Google translator tells me Pain a l'Ancienne means "old bread." According to jackal10 of eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters, "A l'Ancienne" is a technique where the dough is mixed cold, and then retarded. The long cold period allows a long period for enzymatic breakdown of the starch into fermentable sugars but because of the cold there is little yeast activity, so that when the dough is later warmed up the yeast has more food available than would otherwise be the case. With slack dough it can give a highly aerated open structure."  

Note 2:  Johnny did not use ice cold water; however, his retardation schedule would mean that he would have achieved the same benefits.  Peter Reinhart's formula calls for one night retardation only.  

mariacuellar's picture

Hi baker friends,

I have a question for you. How do you feel about burnt loaves? I read a quote in Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf said by Johan Sorbergs, a baker in Stockholm, saying that "Today burnt crusts are viewed as deadly at worst... But without the penetrating effect of the browning and charring, the crumb flavor is thin." Is it true that to get a better crumb flavor the crust has to be nearly burnt? Or does the burnt crust ruin the whole bread?

I asked this question in my blog when I tried out one of Jim Lahey's recipes:

Thanks for your sharing your knowledge!


chouette22's picture

When I saw Txfarmer’s post with a sea-star pattern pumpkin challah, I knew I wanted to give it a try (thank you for the inspiration!).

Since I was responsible to bring bread to the Thanksgiving dinner we were invited to, I thought this would be a beautiful addition to the table. I also followed Txfarmer’s lead when it came to the recipe and used Maggie Glezer's "A Blessing of Bread” pumpkin challah one. I have never made challah before, but often bake Zopf and brioches, and the dough consistency is very similar.

The shape comes from Hamelman’s “Bread” (p. 314-316): you have to make several six-strand braids which are then intertwined. It really wasn’t all that hard since the directions and pictures were very clear. However, I definitely needed to concentrate when I did the braiding and consequently had to shoo everyone out of the kitchen. :)

It was a fun project and I really enjoyed it! And on top of everything it tasted really good. The deep yellow color from the pumpkin was also wonderful.

 I hadn’t really paid much attention to chapter 9 in “Bread” before this project. The entire chapter is dedicated to different braiding techniques. I wanted to try a few more so yesterday, with the rest of the pumpkin puree, I made my regular Zopf recipe and substituted some of the liquid with the pumpkin. I just love the color this gives and the taste is really good as well.

For this loaf I followed the Winston Knot technique (p. 306), without bringing the ends together at the end. One basically braids with 12 strands, but in groups of 3. I gave this to my neighbor to thank him for cutting my pizza stone a few days ago. For some reason I had two pizza stones, but of course could fit only one into my oven. I bake all my round loaves on this, but could never fit long baguettes on it (thus they were baked on sheet pans). I hadn’t bought a bigger baking stone, because they are all quite a bit thicker than a regular pizza stone and thus need to be pre-heated much longer. I love that the pizza stone basically provides the same effect, but because of its relative thinness, doesn’t need to be heated up so long.

My ‘can-do-it-all’ neighbor cut my second stone perfectly to complement my first one, using the surface in the oven to the maximum. I LOVE it!

This is the very easy two-strand braid, coiled up into a rosette shape (p. 297).

Mmm, those torn-away strands are so good with butter.

And finally my regular four-strand braid.
I was on the phone when these loaves were in the oven and forgot to cover them with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes (something I usually do), thus they got just a tad too dark.

I don't think I am done with pumpkin in my breads yet...


Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

I decided (for some strange reason which eludes me now) to formulate a list of tools in order of utility.  This is what I came up with:


1. Scale, Measuring Spoons, and Mixing Bowls

         Absolute necessity.  You cannot make bread without them.  A scale because while 6 oz is always 6 oz, a cup of flour may vary considerably in weight.  Spoons because most home digital scales are not accurate at tiny amounts.  Bowls for the obvious reason.

2. Plastic Bowl Scraper

         An absolute must.  Helpful for manipulating dough and unbeatable for bowl cleanup.

3. Bench Knife

         Tops for dividing dough and work surface cleanup.

4. Peel (Lg and/or Small) and/or Baking sheets

         Very handy for putting loaves in the oven (either) and for removing them (peel).  You want half sheets unless you have a commercial oven.

5. Parchment Paper (flat)

         Great for hearth loaves.  Reuseable if not scorched. I avoid the rolls sold in stores as they want to curl up in use.  Go online for half sheet size - they're worth it.

6. Baking Stone and Steam Pan

         Terrific for hearth baking.  I use a cast iron chicken fryer (deep skillet) containing lava rocks for more surface area as a steam pan, located just below the stone.

7. Storage containers

         The major enemy if most ingredients is air.

8. Access to refrigerator and freezer

         for retardation, starter storage, and long term storage.

9. Workbench

         OK, you can do without one, but I wouldn't want to.


         I have a nice Kitchen Aid, but find that its need is overrated unless you are into very stiff (or very loose) doughs or are doing volume production.  Likewise, the light I an electric oven is all the proofer you really need.  Any bowl with a towel and flour can serve as a banneton.


While not everyone will agree (maybe no one), this might serve as a start for a dialog on tool utility.


alabubba's picture

I love Baguettes!

Lately it seams like I cant keep these in the house. I no sooner get them out of the oven and there gone.

I baked 4, here are 2 with some pieces on the side

(Obligatory crumb shot)

less then 1 hour after baking, 1 left.

Served with Pesto, Olive Tapenade, and Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke spread.

CaptainBatard's picture

When my sister-in-law invited me up to NY for Thanksgiving diner for family and friends...I thought to myself...oh S--- I am going to get stuck in traffic for hours...and then she said and bring one of your breads. first thought was to make the very festive two tier Celebration Loaf with nuts and cranberries. It would make a nice centerpiece for the table and be very festive. When I thought it out....I needed a bread I could retard overnight and throw in the oven first thing in the morning so I could leave before noon on Wednesday to run the gauntlet to the city. Since I had only one chance to get it right... the bread had to be reliable, stay fresh for a few days and make a good a sandwich. The choice was a real no brainer..... Hamelman's Sourdough Seed Bread....the tastiest, most reliable bread you ever want to make. If you have never made this bread must try will become your favorite too...

This is being sent to Susan at  Wild Yeast for  Yeastspotting

koloatree's picture

so far, this is my best baguette to date. thanks to Jeffrey and James from King Arthur institute (really cool folks!). I have to remember to use a lot less flour and increase the steam. i think lack of steam turned my previous sourdough bake a darker color as suppose to a nice golden brown...i also was suprised by how well the baguettes turned out baking on the baguette pan. i was expecting less volume increase compared to direct hearth baking.







Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I baked three loaves for a Thanksgiving day dinner at my sister-in-law's house in Omaha, Nebraska.It was a case of I'd either be the smart son-in-law or the brother-in-law from Hell depending on how they turned out. I baked my rye Wednesday with the Bauernbrot recipe that Salome posted recently and despite my shortcomings on shaping the loaf, it came out very tasty. It didn't hurt that my mother-in-law got one of the first samples.

The sourdough sandwich loaf that I thought would be the most popular turned out to be the least noticed, I suspect that was because it wasn't the most visually interesting and people do eat with their eyes first. My grandmother's Polish egg bread with raisins turned out well, not like my memories of it from my childhood, but I got compliments for its soft crumb and the sweet flavor. The egg bread was a straight dough in an effort to come as close to the method that Babci used when she baked for her large family. I admit, I don't have the resource of a wood burning stove that she used well into her 50s. I retarded both of these loaves overnight so my wife and I could smell the cooling loaves on the three hour drive north to Omaha. I enjoyed the ride but I suspect my wife felt like I was tormenting her.

Despite coming down with a nasty cold during the day, I've survived and expect to be volunteered to do the baking next year.


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