The Fresh Loaf

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mlydon8's picture

There is a farm near our house that grows wheat and grinds it into whole wheat flour. What size sieve would I need to sift out some bran and get 85% extraction flour (like Poilane in Paris)? Thanks. Susan

Yippee's picture

A variation of my previous whole wheat sandwich bread.  The lightest and the most aromatic I've ever achieved.

xaipete's picture

I've been experimenting with various method of making San Francisco Sourdough for some time now. Suas' SF Sourdough loaf came out pretty well. I baked it with steam instead of under a cloche and didn't get as much oven spring as I hoped for. This loaf underwent bulk fermentation on the counter and was proofed in the refrigerator. It isn't quite as sour as I would like. I achieve the degree of sourness I'm looking for only when I do both the bulk fermentation and proofing in the refrigerator.

Suas San Francisco Sourdough

                      The crumb of this loaf is medium open and doesn't have a glisteny wet look about it.


2 1/2 oz. bread flour

1/8 oz. rye flour

1 1/4 oz. water

starter (stiff) 2 1/8 oz. (50% hydration)

Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Allow to ferment 12 hours at room temperature (65º - 70º).


Final Dough:

14 7/8 oz. flour (I used bread flour)

10 7/8 oz. water

3/8 oz. salt

6 oz. levain (all of the levain)

My Method: mix water and levain in mixer with paddle to loosen levain (about 1 minute). Add remaining ingredients and mix for an additional minute. Let mixture rest for 5 minutes so flour can hydrate. Resume mixing with dough hook for about 4 - 5 minutes to achieve a medium consistency (gluten structure is developed, but not fully--window pane forms but breaks upon stretching). Put dough into an oiled container with a lid. Let ferment for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Do a stretch and fold. Let ferment for another 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Form into a ball and let rest 20 minutes. Shape into batard, put into a banneton, cover with a plastic bag sprayed with pan-spray and refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours. Turn out onto pan-sprayed parchment and bake on a stone in a 450º preheated oven for about 25 minutes with steam.

Makes a single two pound loaf (weight before baking).

Below is a picture of a loaf I baked several days ago. This loaf underwent overnight bulk fermentation in the refrigerator after the stretch and fold, overnight proofing in the refrigerator, and was baked with a cloche; it got much better oven spring and had better sour flavor. I'm sold that this is the way to go. I don't think it is so much the particular formula as the method. Additionally, in my experience, loaves that undergo this much refrigeration, tend to be pretty wet (slack, extensible, whatever you want to call it), but seem to bake up well in spite of this characteristic. I'm not sure how you go about successfully scoring such a wet loaf, but perhaps that isn't as important as the taste. Yesterday I read in Local Breads that wetter doughs have bigger holes. Based on my experience, I'm a believer.

San Francisco Sourdough

                      The crumb of this loaf is very open and has a glisteny wet look about it.


xaipete's picture

My main motivation in making Pain de Beaucaire was that it could be completed in one day! I refreshed my starter early yesterday morning and made the levain for this bread from the discard. The bread took me only twelve hours to complete.

I broke off a piece of the finished loaf last night so I could taste it warm and was surprised by the prominent burst of sour on my upper palate.

This morning I had a closer inspection of these cooled, rough looking, free-form loaves. They have a someone soft texture and a medium crumb, and I liked the look of the vein of bran running through their middles! I toasted a piece for breakfast and was struck by how similar it tasted and looked to ciabatta--no surprise here really; this area of France is very close to Italy.

I think this bread is best served warm with a regional dish from southeastern France, e.g., coq au vin or a fish stew. I would make it again.

pain de beaucaire

pain de beaucaire

Named after Beaucaire, a region in Southeastern France, the Pain de Beaucaire is one of the first breads to be made "free-form" or not formally shaped. The bread is produced by placing two layers of dough on top of each other and then cutting with Râcle a Beaucaire, strips of dough that are baked side by side, giving this bread the unique appearance. Pain de Beaucaire was very popular until people started to prefer the lighter and crunchier baguette. However, this authentic regional bread is currently enjoying a resurgence as a new generation discovers its many appealing characteristics (Suas, p. 220).

I think a râcle a beaucaire is a type of pastry scraper.


2 3/8 oz. bread flour

1/8 oz. rye flour

2 1/2 oz. water

1 1/2 oz. stiff starter (50% hydration)

Mix all the ingredients until well incorporated (DDT of 70º). Allow to ferment 8 hours at room temperature (65º - 70º).


Final Dough Formula:

1 lb. 1/8 oz. bread flour

9 oz. water

1/8 tsp. instant yeast

1/8 oz. salt

6 1/2 oz. levain (all of the levain)

wheat bran

My method:

Mix water and levain with paddle attachment to soften up levain (about 1 minute). Mix remaining ingredients, except wheat bran, with paddle (1 minute), turn off mixer and let sit (5 minutes). Resume mixing with dough hook at speed 2 until dough has a medium consistency--window pane starts to form but breaks upon stretching (about 4-5 minutes). Put into an oiled, lidded container and bulk ferment at 75º for 1 1/2 hours. Shape into a ball and let rest 20 minutes. Make a paste of 1 tablespoon flour and 5 tablespoons of water. Pat ball out into a rectangular shape about 1 inch thick. Cut rectangle in half both length- and cross-wise. Apply paste to rectangle and sprinkle with bran. Place one length-wise strip on top of the other, bran sides facing inward. Move loaves keeping bran seams horizontal to a couche and let proof 2 hours. Preheat oven with stone to 450º, remove loaves from couche and place on pan-sprayed parchment paper with bran seams vertical (seams will hold because they have been pasted together)--in other words, you bake the loafs sideways. Bake on stone for about 25 minutes.



GabrielLeung1's picture

The shock of retarded yeast fermentation has worn off. Like the afterglow of an especially buttery bread, it had washed over me and left me satisfied and looking to the future. I was filled with excitement and an ever ravenous attitude filled me as I looked for a way to implement what I had learned. From that point a passion for bread making filled me.

This is the secret: lower the metabolism of yeast by  lowering the temperature of their environment, the dough. As the yeast sleep, enzymes from the four (amylases) are allowed to work, breaking complex starches into sipler sugars. With the waking of the yeast comes an explosion of enzymatic action. Sugars are consumed, carbon dioxide is released, and the dough rises. With this preliminary step of retarding yeast metabolism the reservoir of sugars is larger, and the amount of sugars by the end of fermentation is also larger; the bread is more delicious.

I could not have imagined this scheme. It was so amazing! And it made sense. This was life, and science, and human ingenuity. Two years passed, and I learned much about bread making. I'd heard of autolyse, and soakers, but I paid them no attention as I hadn't yet expanded to whole wheat flour and non-wheat grains. But there was a forum post about scalding flour. It led me to information about the utter opposite of retarding yeast. To scald flour is to mix flour with boiling water. In so doing you increase the temperature of the flour paste and super-charge the amylase in the dough. Amylase activity when high digests amylose and other long chain styarches, producing sugars.

The exact same result as retarded yeast fermentation (I think)! I am in shock. People are thinking about this. P:eople like me have a desire to know about ways to improve bread making. There are methods and styles I have never heard of, it is so inspirational to know they are there.

And of course its true that autolyse and soakers and other types of ways to do this aren't particularly new, I am amazed nonetheless. What other hidden bread making secrets exist? And ultimately, what are they and how can I incorporate them into my technique list?

BvN's picture

I've been rumaging arount this site a bit, read reviews of The Village Baker etc. I too, am trying to go back in time - pre Fleishmann's (1860's). Before instant and dry active yeast. I work with my own yeast cultures, but trust me, if something goes wrong, out comes the active dry. It is a wonderful failback.

I make live, cask conditioned, export bitter ales (extra, special, and best). IPA is an export based on either session or ordinary bitter. I grind my own grain, step mash, and dry hop. In this, some of my methods go back to the 18th century (before Louis Pasteure discovered the role of yeast). The same biases show up in my bread making - which is why I try to get all of my baking yeast from poolish. It also means that I fool around with recipies so as to jetison the dependence on modern (the last 150 years) yeast sources.

The really odd thing is, that I avoid a lot of the difficulties I read about on this site. The sponge setting step has a very elastic time scale (6 to 60 hours) - at least the way I go about it. However, once the dough process starts, the assembly line timing takes over until it comes out of the oven. This is very similar to when the strike contacts the grist in the making of beer. The 6 hour process ending with "pitching the yeast" is "in charge" of my life.

A note in passing. I just finished baking a couple of loaves of Italian from yeast culture poolish last night. One loaf has already evaporated (before noon today). I have a very small oven - 1/2 sized convection with stone - 2 loaves max. It would be nice to have a double stack, baker's depth, but then there would be no room for us to live here.

I very much appreciate the efforts made by the members of this forum, both failures and the successes. I really enjoyed "High Altitude Bricks". So many wonderful breads, so little time :-) I hope to try them all.

If anyone has questions about yeast, ask me. If I don't know, I know people who do - and I enjoy the research. Consider me your local zymurgist. Meanwhile, I'll keep plagerizing (the sincerest form of flatery) your recipies and methods.

Illa's picture

I'm having problems with the milk bread recipe from Yippee. I don't know just how to convert the grams, etc. into ounces, pounds or cups. Please help as I have a couple of recipes I would like to try but am not sure of the amount of ingredients.  

hansjoakim's picture

Here are some of my recent loaves: This weekend I had a go at a Pain Meunier ("Miller's bread"), which is a great tasting wheat loaf. Apparently, this kind of bread was invented by boulangers as a way to thank their millers for reliable flour and grains. The whole wheat kernel is used in these recipes; in addition to wheat flours, cracked wheat, wheat germ and wheat bran are often added. The result is a wonderful, nutritious wheat loaf, with an appealing golden colour.

Pain Meunier

I used the overall recipe from Suas' ABAP as my jumping off point, added some more whole wheat flour, increased the hydration slightly, and tweaked it so that I could use my firm, white starter for the loaf. A very nice everyday wheat loaf!

Pain Meunier crumb

I've also had great success with turning this dough into rustic wheat baguettes, but then I've opted for a poolish instead of a firm starter as the preferment. This dough yields baguettes with a crisp crust and a full wheaty flavour. Recommended.


The next loaf is the whole grain loaf from the same book. My first go at this formula, so you can see from the photo below that I was slightly "optimistic" in scoring the loaf... The oven spring wasn't exactly tremendous, so the cuts just barely opened up, but the loaf held its profile very well during the bake. I guess a thorough mix followed by gentle shaping is the way to go with loaves like this.

100% whole grain bread

The formula calls for a whole wheat levain, so the only white flour comes from the stiff starter used to seed the levain. The rest is a mix of whole wheat flour, rye meal, medium rye flour and a soaker of flax, sesame, sunflower seeds and rolled oats. I just had a slice with some chèvre and one with herring, and I found both to be "most agreeable" (i.e. "great"). The dominating taste in this loaf for me, is the soaker combined with a certain spicyness that I'll ascribe to the rye meal.

100% whole grain bread crumb


Yesterday I baked two Gibassiers - a flat bread from the Luberon region of France. The dough is rich, made up of milk, eggs, olive oil, butter, orange blossom water (I couldn't find any, so I used Cointreau instead - perhaps making this the "grown up version" of the Gibassier?), candied orange peel and anise seeds. Mixing this kind of dough is pretty labour intensive, as it should have a good windowpane before mixing is over, and sugar and butter need to be added late in the mixing process to not inhibit gluten formation.


To be perfectly honest, I was slightly disappointed by the resulting loaves. Don't get me wrong: The taste was remarkabe, the crumb was velvety soft and delicate and the kitchen filled up with the most pleasing orange scent. It was just that, at every second bite, I was a bit reminded by my favourite scone recipe... And that's something one pulls from the oven about 30 minutes after mixing has begun - the Gibassier is made with an overnight sponge and needs to see some pretty intense mixing. Of course, a scone can never compete in terms of crumb texture, keeping qualities or the full taste complexity of the Gibassier, but I'm still undecided whether the end result is fully worth it. Well, it certainly is if you want to bake something special for a celebration or a holiday, but perhaps not as a mid-week treat... Let's leave it at that for now. I'll probably change my mind the next time I make them ;)

BvN's picture

I am a retired engineer, a baker of bread, and brewer of beer. This blurb is narrowly focused on what I have learned about the setting of sponge for the baking of bread (updated 6.May.09).

I have a very large supply of Saccharomyces cerevisia, the species of yeast used for baking. It is a by product of my brewing of ales. I cannot match the expertise and baking skills I have observed on this forum; but, I can contribute in this fairly narrow aspect.

The strain of S cerevisia is of little importance in baking. If it did, nobody would use instant or active dry yeast. Many students can attest, beer from these sources is not good. The bread turns out fine.

Stainless has no practical effect on yeast fermentation. Stainless steel is the rule for the construction of fermentation vats by both brewers and vintners. Yeast acidify their environment only slightly.

Oils and iodine (as in most table salt) are poisonous to yeast.. Small amounts MgSO4 (Epsom) & CaSO4 (Gypsum) cause no problems. Adding salts, is generally, a very bad idea.

Flour is a second rate food for yeast, they have to be starved into eating it (aclimate). Malt extract (malt liquor) is the finest yeast food. For baking, I recommend a dry malt extract - less than $5 / lb; almost a lifetime supply and it stores in anything airtight.

My understanding is that sponges differ from starters in that yeast propagation is not done with flour. Starters, quickly, get contaminated with wild yeast, molds, and bacteria - most commonly lactobaccilus which creates the sour dough effect. Maintaining a pure yeast culture is beyond the scope of this writing (at the moment). Good sanitary practices can maintain cultures for well over a year.

--- How I do it.

The objective of the following method is to impart a rich, full, and complex flavor to the dough without making it sweet. This is done by the maltose and dexidrines from the malt extract. It is more subtle than what occurs with sucrose, glucose, and fructose. The timing and measures are incredibly sloppy. Yeast can be very forgiving, if treated right. Minimize mechanical shock, thermal shock, light, and invadeing microorganisms.

I make as much sponge as possible. I put all off the dough's water requirement into my sponge.

Step 1 - Sanitize everything. Bleach water once, rinse twice. 1 capfull of bleach to a gallon of water.

Step 2 - Make lots of healthy, happy, well fed, yeast. Combine the water and at least 1 Tbs of malt extract powder for each 6 oz of water into a gallon jug. Temperature should be 75 ~ 85 F. Shake violently for a minute or so, to release the chlorine and to add oxygen (aerate). Decant into a bowl that holds twice the amount of water. I sort of add about 1 Tbs of yeast culture for each cup of water. It doesn't really matter as this is a propogation step, not a fermentation step. Cover and rest for 15 minutes to a couple of hours. The yeast will begin to reproduce very quickly. This is not fermentation, which is an anerobic process. Don't peek - at least not much. The longer this is left, the less maltose will remain and there will be more yeast to feed. You can add more malt extract at any time. The yeast are not as fussy about malt extract feeding schedules as they are about flour feeding schedules.

If using another source of yeast - split the water and follow the package directions. Add the malt powder, etc to the remainder. The source of the S cerevesia (yeast) is completly unimportant.

Step 3 - Make the sponge In a vessel, at least 4 times the amount of water (note: I use a small 2 gallon stainless steel pot with lid). Combine 1 cup of flour for each 12 oz of water - a very thin batter.

Step 4 - Set the sponge. Cover and keep warm 70 - 75 F for at least 6 hours. It can be kept for a couple of days without problems. If all goes well, the sponge will tripple in volume, and it will not separate. A fully set sponge will look uniformly bubbly and be very sticky.

AnnieT's picture

Last night I went to an event labelled "Artisan Bread" at the local grange, choosing this over an evening with Elizabeth George and a popular gardening writer. Imagine my disappointment when the "Artisan Bread" turned out to be the good old No Knead Bread! Especially when the speaker put her dough into a cold Pyrex casserole and assured us that it would not stick. In fact she had to cut it out of the bowl in chunks. The good news in all of this is that the room was packed and people got really excited at the thought of making bread themselves. I know that reading about and trying the No Knead method is what got me into this obsession and I can only hope that many of the people there will also become addicted, A.


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