The Fresh Loaf

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hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

Here's a brief report on this weekend's baking. Yesterday (Sunday), I mixed dough for a fruit and nut levain and did the lamination for a straight croissant dough. Both the levain and the croissants were retarded overnight after final shaping, so I could bake them off this morning. I got an early start so everything was baked before I headed for work.

For the fruit and nut levain, I used chopped dates, raisins and walnuts, and let them macerate in Grand Marnier a few hours before mixing the final dough. Absolutely not necessary, but the soaking provides the fruit with delicate flavour and makes the chopped walnuts softer and lends them a buttery quality. Rum would be awesome as well! There's 40% whole grain flour in the formula, so the sweetness provided by the fruit and liquor is just right (at least for me). Here's a link to my formula.

The baked goods:

Fruit and nut levain and croissants

...and the crumb of the levain:

Fruit and nut levain crumb

Have a nice week everyone!

evth's picture


Ode to pain de mie

Won't wear anyone down with a poem here, but I will extol the virtues of just simple, pure white bread.  True, that this is a distant cry from any of the many handsome, crusty artisanal loaves of TFL.  There's nothing ordinary about this square and honest loaf.  What does it yield? A tender, buttery, soft crumb.  This is serious comfort food.
The mark of a civilized society may be said to have the crusts cut off.  Not here.  As thin as the crusts are, there is no need for trimming in the company I keep.  Great for sandwiches (think grilled cheese) and just as great with a nice spread of butter.
This bread is also known as a pullman loaf and was inspired by where the recipe can be found:
Pip pip or better yet, au revoir,
Next post: the quiche crust that won't quit!


breadsong's picture

Hello, My 20th wedding anniversary is this week so I wanted to bake something special for my husband!

guro baked a Caucasian loaf recently on thefreshloaf which I thought was so beautiful. I tried guro's method for shaping, with Ciril Hitz's Basic Sweet Dough (I added a butter, cinnamon & brown sugar filling).  Ciril Hitz's sweet dough rolled out like a dream - I think my dough rectangle stretched to 30"x20" & was very thin.  After shaping, I nestled the dough into a heart-shaped springform pan which was set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I cut strips of parchment to line the insides of the heart pan too, so the dough wouldn't stick to the sides - this worked quite well and the pan released easily. I think the shaping method is similar to a Russian Braid and it was fun to try.

I've been wanting to try making Jeffrey Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain so I thought this would be a good occasion! Yesterday I started preparing, building the liquid levain and soaking grains. I mixed the dough this morning, shaped it (with thanks! to dmsnyder for his Boule-shaping tutorial, and Floydm for his batard-shaping video), and retarded the dough for about 5 hours prior to the final proof. I wanted to try stenciling the boule prior to baking, and was inspired by farine-mc and her technique she describes well on her blog:

To try and mimic farine-mc's technique, I cut two hearts out of a piece of parchment paper and set this aside. I placed a round plastic lid on top of a boule and sprinkled flour around the edges. I removed the plastic lid, carefully misted the center, and centered the parchment paper with the heart cut outs over the loaf, sprinkled flour to fill in the hearts, then carefully removed the parchment paper, trying not to spill any flour onto the loaf. I tried to slash the loaf like farine-mc did for her Stenciled Miche. Here's how the Five-Grain Levain loaves turned out:

I was really happy with the Five-Grain Levain's oven spring and look forward to making this one again. I don't have crumb shots yet because it's "not quite" our anniversary but will cut into the loaves soon. It's so hard waiting!  With thanks to the authors and breadmakers, whose ideas and knowledge shared are so appreciated!

Regards, breadsong


pmccool's picture


Or to Eureka Mills, if you are more fluent in English than in Afrikaans.

We spent the past week on vacation in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.  Along with spectacular vistas, fynbos, animals we’ve never seen before (who knew that bontebok and blesbok would be so difficult to differentiate?), rolling farmlands, orchards, vineyards, calving whales and two different oceans, we managed to fit in a visit with Nico Steyn, miller and manager of Eureka Mills. 

It was really a happy accident rather than the result of any forethought.  We had stopped at a farm stand, noticed several bags of Eureka Mills flour, and read the address: Heidelberg.   And then it hit us—we were standing in a shop on the outskirts of Heidelberg!   After locating a telephone number, we called and made arrangements to visit that afternoon and see, as Nico put it, “how we make what we think is the best flour in South Africa.”

For those who might be in the vicinity someday, Eureka Mills is located just south of the N2 highway at the Karringmelkrivier (Buttermilk River) exit, west of Heidleberg.  And it is easy to spot: there is an enormous grain elevator visible from the highway which, so far as I know now, has nothing to do with Eureka Mills.  Since it was the biggest and most obvious grain-related structure, I aimed for that and drove right past the mill, only noticing the sign at the last second.  Eureka Mills is a much smaller and bare-bones outfit; as Nico said, a “one-man band operation” that looks like it is one of the buildings of the farm from which it sprang.  All of the buildings were erected by mill staff (including the new expansion that is in progress) and all equipment was installed by mill staff.

Eureka Mills was born in 1998 because two farmers were frustrated by the low prices they were being quoted for their wheat.  They recognized that they could get a much better price for their product if they converted it from raw grain to flour.  As the mill’s output has grown over the years (it currently produces about 100 tonnes/month), additional wheat is now purchased from other growers in the area to supplement the original farms’ production.  Nico joined the mill in 1999.  He had been interested in a career as a chef but, when that didn’t develop, started working at the mill to generate some income.  He has since worked his way up to the miller/manager position.

The wheat used by Eureka Mills is a hard red variety.  Since the area is short of the 35th parallel in latitude and has more of a Mediterranean-style climate, the winter and spring designations used by European and North American growers don’t quite apply.  Nico describes it as a “pre-winter” wheat.  The resulting flour is approximately 11% protein and contains nothing but wheat.  No malt.  No added vitamins.  No bleaches.  Just wheat.  Visitors to the mill (“All foreigners” a bemused Nico remarks) include James McGuire and Jeff Hamelman and they have been astonished to find a flour of this purity.

The milling process has just a few steps.  The incoming wheat is first screened to remove any stray pebbles that might have gotten in.  It is then screened again to remove any other non-wheat materials.  From the screens, it is mixed with water (tempered) and stored for 18 hours to achieve a 15% moisture content.  After tempering is completed, the wheat is sent through a series of 3 roller mills that separate the outer layer of bran from the inner endosperm and germ.  The endosperm and germ are then ground between two granite burrs in a stone mill.  The resulting (unbleached) white flour is packaged as either white bread flour or as cake flour (roughly equivalent to All Purpose flour in the U.S.).   As I’m writing this, I realize I didn’t ask what differentiates the two white flours.  If it all comes from the same wheat, there can’t be much difference except, perhaps, in the fineness of the grind.  Brown bread flour is made by reintroducing a portion of the bran and wholemeal flour is made by recombining all of the bran.  Nico explained that they had learned that running the whole grain through the stone mills resulted in the bran clogging the stones, which costs them about a day of lost production by the time everything is taken apart, cleaned, and reassembled.  Hence, the initial passes through the roller mills to separate the bran before the grain reaches the stone mills.  Lest I leave you with the impression that the milling is easy, here's Nico's take on the process: "The flour is like a woman; what worked with it yesterday may not work today."

Although none of the grains used by the mill are certified as organic, Nico explained that the growers exercise careful soil conservation practices.  Typically, a field will be planted to wheat for two consecutive years.  It will then be planted with canola (seeing hundreds of hectares of the yellow blossoms is dazzling) for a year.  Following that, it will be left fallow for 2 years.  All of the plant material that remains after harvest is worked back into the soil with toothed implements, rather than with plows or discs, to minimize disruption of the soil structure.  As a result, such fields host plentiful earthworms and other beneficial organisms that are not present in a heavy cultivation/heavy chemical use regime.  Soils in this region tend to be very thin and lacking in organic matter, so such practices are essential to long-term productivity.  I remember driving by one field in which the farmer had gathered rocks into large piles and the soil still appeared to have more stones than dirt.

Eureka Mills also produces rye flour, rye meal and crushed rye because of customer demand.  That rye is imported, since the local climate is not conducive to rye cultivation.  If it hadn’t been for my whining in one post about not finding rye flour locally, I might not have known about Eureka Mills.  MiniOven did some research on the Web, found out about Eureka Mills, and got me pointed in the right direction.

Nico works closely with a number of artisanal bakers (mostly from France or Italy, he notes) and with distributors to extend the use of Eureka Mills products.  He is frequently on the telephone with bakers, responding to their questions or requests; something that he values as much as they do.  South Africa is going through a dietary shift that, in many ways, is both parallel and linked to its social shifts.  Brown bread flour was not previously taxed, therefore it was cheaper for institutions (schools, prisons, etc.) and low income persons to use for their baking needs.  It now has a stigma as “poor peoples’ food” and the growing demand is for baked goods made with white flour.  At the same time, as more people have increasing affluence, there is also a nascent willingness to spend more for artisanal breads.  Most of the master bakers producing those artisanal breads are either Europeans or have European training, hence Nico’s comment that visitors to the mill tend to be foreigners.  Those bakers want to have a product they can trust and a person on whom they can rely to address their needs.

If you would like to visit the Eureka Mills website, the address is And, if you are in South Africa and would like to buy some of their flours or goods made with their flours, you can find a list of distributors and bakers on their website.

Future flour (the green fields in the middle distance, not the grasses in the foreground:

Wheat fields


The primary (stones) screen:


Secondary (trash) screens:

Secondary (trash) screens


Roller mills:

Roller mills


Stone mill (foreground) and sifter (background, right):

Stone mill and sifter


Cleaning up at the end of the shift.  Anything that lands on the floor is sold to a local farmer as cattle feed.:

Cleanup at end of shift


Mill expansion in progress:

Mill expansion


Nico Steyn, miller:

Nico Steyn


SaraBClever's picture

I keep my own blog with my sisters at, but as I have a question about this bread I figured I'd repost it here too!  I'm not sure if that's how TFL community works/if others do this as well?  Do people keep parallel blogs around here?  I think my bread stuff is a little technical sometimes for the rest of my blog, though here probably pretty basic stuff ;-)  All in the name of better bread, right? 

Anyway here is the post (link is

This bread, Dark Pumpernickel Bread with Raisins, from Dan Leader's Bread Alone, was a lot of fun to make.  However, it takes a LONG time-two ferments rather than one (that's three rises) and 1 1/2 hours in the oven. 

I halved the recipe (and Lord knows how I would have kneaded all that dough if I hadn't) and as the rye starter I maintain (from Dan Leader's Local Breads) seems to be different from the Bread Alone book in composition (and since my starter is drastically smaller in amount than required for this recipe), I built the necessary proportions using the rye sourdough elaboration from the Local Breads recipe for Whole Rye Berry Loaf.  (I added about 5oz of water rather than the 4 oz called for in the pre-ferment as the Bread Alone sourdough seemed wetter).   I meant to only add 9oz of the final starter but ended up adding the full amount which was nearer to 11 oz.  This turned out not to be a problem, as far as I could tell. 

The recipe gives a wide range of flours, I stayed within the lower end of this range.  This seemed to work out well.  The only problem was that I think my oven got too hot over the long baking period, so as is obvious, the crust was burnt.  The inside is just fine, and I was thrilled by the dramatic oven spring.  Plus it's the first pumpernickel I've made that was truly dark (which is what I think of for pumpernickel).  It was quite sweet from the molasses and raisins, and deliciously moist:  I was happy to eat it plain.  I put half in the freezer as this is one massive loaf (and I only made a half batch!  Unbelievable.  I'll have to keep this in mind when making more out of Bread Alone-Leader is clearly baking for a crowd!)

Final question:  if anyone uses both of these books, do you know if the starters are interchangeable, as they seem to be different formulas to me?  If you use a local bread starter, how do you convert to the Bread Alone starter (not only in the hydration proportions but in the quantities required!?)


chahira daoud's picture
chahira daoud


I just wanted to show you something that i started to make as a treat on parties buffets....It is a soft sandwich bread dough but i baked it in a big "ghee tin" then sliced it and cut each slice in four or even eight portions and started to fill it with whatever sandwich filling.

In the second pic I made two big loaves one is white and the other is brown i made a mix between white flour, whole meal and rye. Then sliced each one and create a new loaf one layer white bread with meat or chicken filling and the brown layer sandwiches filled with smoked salmon or tuna...It is a nice idea to present sandwiches...every one loved it you are the pics



The first pic was for a loaf before slicing it and i decorate its top...and the second one for a ready one made from two loaves and ready to serve.

I do not know if it is a new way or it is an old one but I think that i did not see it on the web before.

Wish you like it.

Chahira Daoud 

smarkley's picture


Pain Météore

I was really inspired by Tim's Meteorite bread.. and decided to try one myself, this weekend.


Here is Tim's blog post, if you have not seen it.

The original inspiration came from Farine..


Tim's bread looks great, I don't think mine came out looking as good... I wanted to make sure that I had a great dark color so modified the recipe *liberally* by adding coffee and molassas.


Once I had the goopy mess out of the fridge and divided it into two... I got a little scared it would spread so much that it would not fit on the baking stone! So I put one of the loaves in a dutchoven. The other loaf was done on the baking stone. Also, I wanted a cratered look to it... so in the spirit of the whole project, we picked a few small rocks from the garden, washed and sterilzed them. Then pushed the rocks(well oiled) down into the dough while it was proofing, and took the rocks out before baking,  since I did not want explosions in the oven. Deciding we wanted a little variation in color, I sprinked a little flour over the surface.


As you can see from the pics, it came out plenty dark.. and has a great semi-sweet old fashioned flavor. I was totally ready for this bread to taste terrible and had a nice surprise. Note: my wife and I were giggling about making this bread the whole time, we worked on it. And since the recipe was modified so much, we  decided to name it -- Pain Météore


Here is the highly modified recipe:


300 grams   King Arthur AP flour

300 grams  Stone-Buhr  WW flour

120 grams  Sour Dough   100% hydration

300 grams  Water

300 grams  Coffee (cold)

1/4 cup - 75grams  Molasses un-sulphered

8 grams Yeast        Active Dry

12 grams Salt        Sea Salt




1. Mix all ingredients

2. Stretch and Fold 4 times over the next 1.5 hours

3. Chill overnight

4. Divide loaves in two

5. Placed rocks in the dough

6. Let proof for an hour 

7. Pull the rocks out

8. Bake.. 500 degrees for 40 minutes.


What a goopy mess!


Putting some rocks in the dough, what was I thinking???


Ready to Bake


The Finished Loaf


The second loaf... baked on a stone


The crumb shot


Have fun, if you decide to try this... and make sure you take the rocks out before baking! 



Oh... and I promised my wife and daughter I would do more serious baking tomorrow!

wassisname's picture


Actually, it's 2 seeds and a nut, but the name is unwieldy enough as it is. 

Digging through my freezer again... I found my mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and crushed walnuts.  I couldn't resist throwing some in the bread, maybe it's the first hint of autumn in the air.

Otherwise, it's a simple overnight soaker/starter sourdough using a 50/50 mix of  WW bread flour and WW Turkey Red.  I let the starter portion of the pre-dough get really ripe, so the first taste had a pronounced tang, but by the next day the seeds/nuts asserted themselves and the sour tang mellowed.  The final balance of flavors was really nice.



And... the quest for fluffiness...

I tried out a multigrain sandwich bread recipe and decided to see just how fluffy a crumb I could get.  Turns out, pretty fluffy. 

It's a straight dough, mostly WW with some rolled oats.  A little honey, but no milk.  I used a tip I read in Laurel's Bread Book and added butter by smearing it on the board as I kneaded.  I think that really made a difference.  I wound up with a little too much dough for one loaf, so I split it in two.  That probably helped lighten the loaf, too.

The result: so fluffy it was hard to slice.  It puts squishy supermarket bread to shame!  OK, so it's not the most versatile bread (I don't think it would even hold a sandwich together) but it was fun to make.  And a breakfast treat, to boot:  a couple slices in a bowl, add raisins, cinnamon, vanilla extract, agave nectar, then pour milk over the whole thing.  Mmmmmm... forget the sandwiches!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hi All,

Just wanted to share with you some rustic baguettes au levain that I made this morning...  I'll work on posting the recipe a little later...  Enjoy!


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

Just wanted to share with you a loaf that I made for my friend Frankie.  Hopefully he will send me some nice crumbshots next week that I can post...  Enjoy!



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