The Fresh Loaf

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Stephmo's picture

Tragedy struck last week - I stripped the worm gear in my mixer and while the part's on order, it's out of commission.  So today I was looking for a nice, simple by-hand bread recipe.  You know, because supposedly people do bread all the time without the benefit of mixers.  =)

I turned to Savory Baking from the Mediterranean by Anissa Helou and found a recipe for French Country Bread that had only 3 ingredients - 4 if you count water-based ingredients:

1 ½ teaspoons (2/3rds package) active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping
1 ½ teaspoons fine kosher salt or sea salt
10 to 15 ice cubes

So, I got my ingredients together and got ready to go by hand:

I went with Kosher salt and obviously the ice cubes are hiding out in the freezer since they won't be used for a few hours.

From Savory Baking:

1. Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour. Mix with a spoon to make a very wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 3 hours. This is the poolish.

This was easy stuff.  The only adjustment I had to make was in the rise time.  Since I was using a quick-rise yeast, I cut the rise time down to 1 hour 45 minutes - the pooish was big and bubbly at that point.  The mixing photos:

From Savory Baking:

2. Combine the remaining 1 2/3 cups flour and the salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the poolish to the well and gradually and ½ cup warm water, bringing in the flour as you go along. Knead briefly to make a rough, quite wet ball of dough.

I treated this as if I were folding in egg whites to the flour.  It worked really well up until the end, at which point it could only be done by hand.  It wasn't so much that it was "wet" as it was sticky, but definitely workable:

From Savory Baking:

3. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and sprinkle the dough with more flour. Knead for 3 minutes, sprinkling with more flour if necessary. Invert the bowl over the dough and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead the dough for about 2 to 3 minutes more, until it is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly floured clean bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour. Fold the dough, cover again and let rise for 1 hour more. The dough should have doubled in volume.

The kneading was smooth and as promised:

BUT after the first rise - which I cut down to 30 minutes instead of an hour due to the quick rise - I had already doubled:

At this point, knowing the instructions are calling for yet another rise, I decided to not risk tiring out my yeast.  My dough had huge air bubbles at this point already.  I skipped the 2nd rise from the previous step and I moved onto step 4.

From Savory Baking:

4. Return the dough to the work surface. Shape gently into a tight ball, taking care to deflate as few air balls as possible. Place on a large nonstick baking sheet or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone pastry mat. Cover with a wet but not dripping kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a medium baking dish on the bottom of the oven.

I made quite a few adjustments.  I decided to heat up my pizza stone for baking, so I didn't bother with baking sheets, parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  I used my pizza peel as a resting/rising surface, dusting it like crazy with flour.  I warmed a cake pan in the oven at the same time I was warming my pizza stone.  The construction for my ball was rather quick since I was trying to be careful with the dough.  My rise seemed to go mostly up:

From Savory Baking:

5. Sift a little flour over the bread. With a lame, preferably, or with a razor blade or very sharp knife, carefully cut a square pattern over the top. Immediately before baking, toss the ice cubes into the baking dish onto the oven bottom to create steam. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes more, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, or reheated.

At this point, I'm on point with the instructions.  I actually use a very sharp fish fillet knife to score bread - and for fun and games, find the ones where I did not apply a light enough touch!

Baking goes well and the rise up seems to continue:

Even better, a nice substantial bread without being overly heavy:

The taste?  Suprisingly good for so little!  The poolish gives the bread a little bit more oomph in the flavor department with an extra amount of fermentation.  By mixing in just enough flour, the little bit of kosher salt comes through as a plesant suprise.  The steam from the ice cubes, while no steam-injected oven, still offers up a nice chewey crust.

Sure, this guy's a little time-consuming, but when you realize you'll use 3 cups of flour and a little yeast and salt...and you've got to freeze some water...well, what have you got to loose?

bnb's picture

Had some dough leftover from making pizza using Peter reinhart's recipe. Made a loaf of bread with it. Loaf was baked at 400 F for 25 mins and stayed in after the oven was turned off for 5 more mins. The crumb is airy, light, moist. The crust chewy.



bnb's picture

Made these dinner rolls using the Hokkaido milky loaf recipe I blogged about here. The dough was, of course, made minus the sugar. Rolls were baked for 20 mins at 400F and then brushed with melted garlic butter and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Both crust and crumb are very soft and moist when eaten warm. 



SylviaH's picture

Semolina Sandwich Loaf from DL Local Breads.

I love my sandwich loaves with a bit of semolina flour 'pasta flour' added to I can't say enough how lovely this bread looks, smells and tastes using the Duram fancy semolina flour!  It sure blew it's side off...but  didn't hurt the flavor...I did again as instructions stated'let it rise just until it crowns just above the rim of the pan' instead of following that little voice that said to give it a few more minutes..but I knew I was useing a 100% D.semolina flour and wasn't sure what to expect...I thought even maybe a little larger pan!!  Better safe than sure so I did what it instructed!  This bread is said to have one heck of an oven spring and it does! 


Talk about oven spring!

A Beautiful Golden Color makes it even more appetizing.  This is a keeper for me. 



Susan's picture

Sprouted Wheat SD

Here's an example of another loaf using the same basic recipe as the ones below.  In this case, I used all white flour and added barely sprouted wheat berries which I ran through a mini food processor.  Turns out it won't be a favorite of mine, but that's okay.  I tried it.  (My fav, so far, is white flour with 25g rye or whole wheat and 2-3 Tablespoons of dry steel-cut oats thrown into the mix.)

It doesn't take much to make a decent loaf of bread.  I own a KA mixer but never use it for my bread, I just threw away my baking stone, and I let the bread do its own steaming by covering it with a bowl or roaster lid for the first 18-20 minutes of baking. 

My usual implements are a scale, a cheap round plastic tub with lid, an old bamboo chopstick, a bench knife, a plastic colander with a linen cloth laid inside (sprinkled with flour and a bit of rice flour), parchment (used for more than one loaf), a heavy 14" pizza pan, a large ovenproof bowl, and my oven.  Many of these items came from thrift stores.  I feel fortunate to have a Miele oven, as it really holds the heat.

The first and most important item is your starter.  If it's not fresh and active, then you've begun with a huge handicap.  The rest is practice, practice, practice.  Try not to get frustrated when a certain recipe doesn't work for you. Your temperature, humidity, starter, flour and water are all different from everyone else's, so just relax and go with the flow.  Make the same recipe over and over until you get it just like you want it.  Then try different flours.  I use mostly high-gluten flour because that's what I like.  You might like All Purpose, Bread flour, or Whole Wheat or Rye better.  But each of these will require changes in water and/or handling, so be prepared.

If you've hung around this long, thanks, and I hope my words help you.


Susan's picture


75g firm starter

210g water

25g ww or rye flour

275g high-gluten flour (if using bread flour or AP, adjust the water)

1/2 ounce dried onions (soaked in hot water for a couple of hours, then drained; use the water drained from the onions as part of the water in the dough)

3 tbsp poppy seeds

6g salt

Mix starter and water, add the rest and mix, wait 20 minutes, *fold in the bowl, wait 10 minutes (3 or 4 times from *), cover and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from fridge, flatten on lightly oiled counter, *envelope fold, cover with bowl, wait until dough relaxes, maybe 15 minutes (3 or 4 times from *), let rise until when snipped with scissors you see a holey network (thanks, Dan Lepard, for that hint).  BTW, the last two times the dough is folded, round it up well.  Turn the dough ball to create surface tension, let rest for 5 minutes to seal the bottom, then overturn into a banneton.  Let rise for ~3 hours at room temp.  Turn out onto parchment, slash, spray with water, load into 500F oven, cover, bake for 20 minutes, remove cover, lower heat to 460F and bake for 10 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave for 5 minutes.

If you'll notice, this recipe is basically the same as the Faux Deli Rye, I just twisted things a bit here and there.

SylviaH's picture

My order for K.A. Irish whole meal flour came today.  So I thought I would give it a try using my recipe posted earlier for Sylvia's Irish Soda Bread {I don't know how to do the link} to my blog! ; /  The only thing I did different was use all IWM meal flour and I mixed completely with my 4 straight fingers and pushed it gently into a ball and shaped it.  I was very pleased and my husband also liked it very much...which made me happy!  I also like Bannock very much...which means's not your traditional soda bread because this one has egg, brown sugar, butter and raisins in it...but it is very I made it useing some AP and IWM before I have always made it useing only AP flour husband told me a few times how much he liked it!  The flavor of the IWM was very pleasing, wholesome and tender...not a chewy texture!  More like eating a bran muffin!! The  Irish brown bread went great with the leftover shepard's pie for a quick dinner!  We are eating Irish all week!!

Ingredients the Bannock recipe there was Kerry's Irish butter, egg, raisins, brown sugar AP and IWM flours

.Irish Brown Bread

 Tender Crumb

 Bannock/Spotted Dog


 Simple Supper






gothicgirl's picture

When I was growing up in South Texas we had this neighbor who would, on Saturday afternoons, make her tortillas for the week.  Believe me, I made friends with her children so I could make myself available for tortilla day.  I think she enjoyed my enthusiasm and always had a few extra tortillas for me to take home. 

They were sublime!  My family would fight over them, and no matter how many she sent home with me they were always gone before dinner.  My mom asked for the recipe, yet no matter how my mother pleaded, or bartered with her own secret recipes, she refused to give up her recipe.

Eventually we moved to North Texas and that ended my weekly tortilla gorge.  It seemed I was destined to eat rubbery store-bought substitutes for the rest of my life.  I survived on them until a few years ago when I was reminded, quite by accident at a local Tex-Mex place, of our neighbor and her delicious tortillas.   I watched as the woman behind the counter rolled and cooked beautiful tortillas and I thought, why couldn't I do that too?

I had quite a bit of culinary know-how, and I had the internet which would surely hold the key to delicious tortillas, right?

You would be surprised!

I tested a number of recipes for tortillas with all manner of ingredients.  Some had vegetable oil, others butter, and some had vegetable shortening.  They used a variety of flours from regular all-purpose to bread flour to even cake flour.  Some used milk, others water.  None of them turned out the way I wanted. 

I discovered pretty early that all-purpose was the flour to use.  It developed a moderate amount of gluten so the tortillas were chewy but not tough.  The liquid I had the most success with was milk.  Water works fine, but the cooked tortillas are not as soft as when you use milk.  As for fat, that was more tricky.  Butter burned too easily and the vegetable oil gave the tortillas an odd texture.  Vegetable shortening left the tortillas with an almost fishy smell, which happens when the shortening gets too hot.

I despaired that I would never find what I was looking for when, while looking at the shortening shelf at the grocery store, I remembered one thing from the Saturday's at my neighbors.  Manteca!!  That is lard to be specific.  So, with my tub of lard in hand, I went back to the kitchen and tried one of the more successful recipes with the lard and ... EUREKA!  I had it.

Now, this is the point where I am supposed to be sorry that I like lard, that I know it is supposed to be evil, and gross, and made from animals.  I'm not.  No, I am PROUD to say I cook with lard.  Using lard I can make tortillas that make people beg.   Some have offered me cash to make them a batch.  I'm not kidding.  Lard adds a depth of flavor with out any funky aftertaste.  It has a high smoke point so it does not scorch, and it lasts for a really long time in the pantry.  It is also versatile.   I use it combined with butter in my pie crusts.  But that is an entry for another day.   

Flour Tortillas   Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lard, or vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup warm milk, or water

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add the lard and mix until it is well combined and the mixture looks grainy.

Add the warm milk and mix until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll the pieces into balls. 

Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Once rested, roll the balls of dough into 6″ to 7″ tortillas. 

Cook on a griddle, or in a heavy pan, over medium heat until golden brown and puffy.

Transfer to a plate and cover with a towel while the rest cook.

Enjoy!  Or, allow them to cool and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  They last for five days ... if you can keep from eating them hot off the griddle.

Posted on - 2/18/2009

gothicgirl's picture

For the most part, I have had a lot of luck with bread recipes.  If it does not work out the way I want on the first try I begin the tweaking process.  It is not always fast but I get there in the end.  I say for the most part because I have had one bread nemesis.  One bread that, no matter how I tried, would never work out the way I wanted.  

That bread was the delicious Indian flat bread called naan.

Naan Fixins

Naan is my nemesis no longer.  Now I have a recipe for naan that is tender, chewy, crispy, and soft all at once, and is terrific stuffed with curry.  The recipe is adapted from one found here.  

Along with a good recipe I have a good cooking method.  Naan is made, traditionally, in a tandoor oven which produces an insane amount of heat.  If you want naan that has the right texture, the soft inside with the chewy exterior, you have to find a way to replicate a tandoor at home.  I tried the grill with average results.  I tried the stove, in a similar way that I cooked my tortillas, but it was not hot enough.  

I make pizza at home from time to time and have two very well seasoned pizza stones.  On the internet I had read that some bakers use their pizza stones, in a smoking hot oven, to achieve a tender interior with a crisp exterior.   It sounded promising, so I tried it.  I heated the oven to 500 F with my pizza stone on the lowest rack of the oven.  I let it heat for thirty minutes and then added one rolled out piece of naan.  It was as close as I will ever get to perfect, and it is pretty darn close!

Naan Dough Divided

Another thing I discovered is that you need to have patience.  Don't rush the naan.  Give the dough a two hour ferment, then after they dough is divided give it the full half hour proof on the bench before rolling.  Letting the dough develop will give you the taste and texture you want.


Naan   Yield 12 naan

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 cup milk, heated to 110F
1 tsp sugar
ghee to taste

Activate the yeast in the warm milk with the sugar added.

Combine the flour and salt.  Once the yeast is active, combine the yeast mixture with the flour mixture.  Mix in a stand mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes, or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Allow to rest for two hours, covered with a towel or plastic.

Naan DoughNaan Dough Divided

After the dough has rested turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces and round them into balls.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests heat your oven to 500 F and place a pizza stone, or cast iron skillet, on the bottom rack of the oven.

Naan Rolled Out

Once fully rested roll out the dough until it is about 6″ to 7″ wide.  It should be fairly thin.

Naan on the StoneNaan Baked

Moisten your hands with water, gently pass the dough between your hands to moisten gently, then lay on the hot pizza stone.  Close the oven and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, or until puffed and beginning to get brown spots.

Remove from the oven, brush lightly with ghee (or melted butter) and cover with a cloth.  You may need to press the naan to release the air inside.

Serve warm.

Posted at - 2/27/2009

gothicgirl's picture

 BBQ Pork Steam Bun 

When my husband was little his mother, who is from Taiwan, would take him along on her shopping expeditions to Chinatown in his hometown of Chicago.  As a treat, she would buy him char siu bao, or Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns.  I believe food can create memories, and passing a Chinese bakery one day a few years ago we saw some of these pale buns in the case and he was five again, shopping with his mom and munching on buns.   Of course, we bought some and boy were they good!

BBQ Pork Steam Buns 

Like anything, if I like it I want to make it, and my husband was all for that!  I tried a couple of different recipes for the bun dough and while they were ok, none were as good as what we had at that little bakery.  So, I quit making them because, frankly, who wants to eat sub-par buns?

Well, that changed quite by accident.  Last week I was browsing my favorite food blogs when I found a recipe on the most excellent, and very tasty, She Simmers  for Plain Chinese Steamed Buns.  The pictures Leela posted showed pale, fluffy buns that I could not resist. 

BBQ Pork Steam Buns 

Bright and early Sunday morning I made the dough then packed it up, along with some pork filling, to my in-law's house a couple of hours away.  During the drive the dough rose, and once we got there it sat for another hour, giving it four total hours to ferment.  When I turned it out I was afraid I had over fermented but it was just lovely!  The dough was smooth, supple, and very easy to work with.  The buns were easy to form with the pork filling inside, and after a good proof, they steamed up to fluffy awesomeness!

Char Siu Bao, or Chinese BBQ Pork Steamed Buns    Yield 12

Pork Filling:
1 lb. ground pork
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 cup Char Sui sauce (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

BBQ Pork Filling 

Brown the pork in the vegetable oil until the meat begins to color.  Add the garlic and green onion and cook until the meat is cooked through.

BBQ Pork Filling  

Add the Char Siu sauce and cook for five minutes, or until the sauce has caramelized slightly.

BBQ Pork Filling 

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Steamed Bun Dough    adapted from She Simmers

1/3 cup water, heated to 100F
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lard, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup water, heated to 90F

Mix the ingredients for the sponge in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, with a spatula until uniform.  Cover and allow to ferment until the top of the dough is covered in bubbles that are beginning to break.

Add the all-purpose flour, cake flour, 1 teaspoon of the baking powder, salt, sugar, lard and water.  Mix for 2 minutes on low, then check the hydration.  It should be slightly sticky, but not wet.  If it is too wet add additional all-purpose flour by the tablespoon until the dough is no longer wet.  Mix on medium for 5 minutes.   The dough should form a ball on the dough hook and just cling to the bottom of the mixer. 

If mixing by hand, mix in the water and knead in the bowl until the dough forms a rough ball.  Turn out on a board dusted with flour and knead until the dough is smooth, about ten minutes.  Dust the board with additional four as needed to prevent sticking, but do not add too much.

Steam Bun Dough 

Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and allow to ferment for four hours.   It will rise and smell very yeasty.

Turn the dough out into a flour dusted board and press out the largest air bubbles.  Gently knead in the second teaspoon of baking powder.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and, one at a time, press into a circle.  The dough should be thinner at the edges and plump in the center.

BBQ Pork Steam Bun - Ready to Seal BBQ Pork Steam Bun - Ready to Steam

Spoon one tablespoon of the prepared pork filling into the center of the dough.  Gather up the edges and press to seal.  Place the bun seam side down on a square of wax paper.

Allow buns to proof on the counter, covered, for 1 hour.

Bamboo Steamer 

Prepare a steamer, I use a bamboo steamer set on a wok, with gently boiling water. 

Once the buns have proofed gently place them, at least 1 inch apart, in the basket of your steamer.  Cover and allow to steam for ten minutes.  Do not let the water boil too vigorously. 

BBQ Pork Steam Bun  

After ten minutes carefully remove the lid, making sure not to drip water on the buns, and remove to a plate.  Cover with a towel until ready to eat.  Steam the remaining buns.


Peel the paper off the buns and serve warm.

Poted at - 3/11/2009


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