The Fresh Loaf

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davidjm's picture

I was up for a challenge recently, so I decided to try the Poilane-Style Miche from Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice."  It's a 10 cup wheat, 100% wild yeast loaf.  It is also the cover picture of the book.  What a loaf of bread!

I ended up doing a variation on the recipe.  After 6 days of working on it, the final loaf turned out much better than I could have hoped.

As you can see, it rose much more than I expected.  I had made a deep cut in a pound-sign pattern, and the crust still broke at the edges from rising.  I have taken to using the "hearth-baking" steam technique outlined in Reinhart's book.  So the crust was thick and had two discernable layers on the pallate:  The outside was crispy, while the inside part of the crust was chewey (also a feature of sour-dough, as I understand it).

The crumb was somewhat irregular, but didn't have the big holes.  I don't think I could have expected it though given the style of loaf.  It was chewy, cake-like, and moist. 

The taste was really tangy, because I purposefully increased the percentage of starter.  I was concerned about it rising enough.  Although, next time, I think instead of doubling it, I'll only do 1.5 x's as much starter because it was a bit too tangy.  Here is my short version of the variation I followed:

Seed culture:

  1. One cup of rye to make seed culture

  2. next day (or when ready) add another cup of rye (1/2 cup water)

  3. Remove one cup of 2 cup mix and add another cup of rye

  4. Repeat step 3 on the fourth day


  1. Take 2 cups of rye starter and add: 2.5 cups white and 2 cups water.

  2. Refrigerate overnight.  Ready next day.

Firm Starter:

  1. One-half of Barm (which amounts to 2 cups or more) + 2 cups wheat + 1/2 cup water

  2. Set it out and let rise.  Then refrigerate overnight.


  1. Add all of starter + 6 or more cups of wheat + 3 and 1/4 tsp salt + 2 and 3/4 cups - 3 cups of water.  (My final loaf was an 8 cup total mix.  I followed the recipe, but it wasn't enough water for 10 cups.  So I've adjusted this variation to have more water and thus more flour.)

  2. I proofed it in a large mixing bowl with a towel lining.  It worked great.

  3. Two rises at 70 degrees F (it's about winter here) until it doubles.

  4. Punch back very gently.  I just lifted the dough out of the bowl and flipped it upside down to punch back.  Reinhart seems to think with these style loaves, it is best not to completely de-gas it.  It worked for me.

So there you go.  A great tasting loaf with nothing but flour, salt, and water.  Praise God!  Enjoy with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and a steaming bowl of oatmeal.

Eli's picture

I started baking today and thought I would make a couple loaves of babka. Of course I started and didn't realize I did not have everything. I had no almond paste, no milk powder, or corn syrup. I ran to the store, actually 4 of them and not one had almond paste. Well, I decided (this recipe calls for almond paste, which I love!) I would substitue because I have a recipe that calls for pound cake crumbs. Made it home and then realized someone had eaten the rest of the poundcake. Anyway, I had no filling but my dough was rising. I made a filling out of Sugar Cookies crumbled, orange marmalade, oh yea, I was out of apricot preserves too, almonds, butter and cinnamon. It turned out pretty good as I don't like it too sweet anyway. I didn't put much in there to begin with. I made four but two are Orange marmalade and two are chocolate. I will freeze two and eat two.

I had some issues with rolling and even division of the dough so two are catywonkus in size and shape.


Babka Roll

Babka roll

Babka in Pan


Babka Orange Marmalade Filling

This recipe is based on Marcy Goldman's recipe. I made some changes and didn't use as much flour. I could have as this doug is tacky to sticky but once it bulk ferments it is workable. Great to refrigerate overnight.  This isn't a really sweet babka, I guess it could be depending on the filling.


Here is the Chocolate! It is one of my favorites too! This is the one that suffered from less dough.

Choco Babka

Chocolate Babka


davidjm's picture

Since most break-baking professionals tend to emulate French bakers, I thought it might be instructive to post this picture and present some questions I am unable to answer at this time. 

We recently spend three weeks in France (in Northern Brittany and Paris), which really raised the bar of my bread baking aspirations.  Take the following sour-dough rye loaf I purchased in the "inter-marche" (normal grocery store) in Brittany, France.  Notice the shape of the loaf.  It is triangular.  In France, each bakery has characteristic shapes, sizes, and slashing patterns.  This was the only time I ever saw a shape like this.  The crumb was light and hole-y, but still had the "cake-like" texture characteristic of good rye loaves.  There are a few things I would like to know:

1. How did the baker retain the shape of this loaf while still maintaining hydration?

2. There were no slashes, but the crust was also not broken.  How?  Is that a feature of hydration and extensibility?

3. In France, to be considered rye, they have to have a certain percentage of rye flour to white.  This bread had a crumb that I cannot replicate with the 50:50 rye:white mix I use in my siegle au levain.  How did they make a nice dark rye loaf and keep an airy crumb?


Siegle au Levain




loniluna's picture


Ah, the elusive honey wheat braid. Now that I'm 21, engaged, a college graduate with no hope of a job thanks to the financial crisis, I've finally had time to reach this sacred goal.

I freaked out when I first bit into it. I finally got the right amount of sweetness, the right amount of heartiness, the right amount of everything! Finally!

Though, honestly, it could have had more time to proof, but I grew impatient and wanted it done by the time my fiance, Britton, got home for dinner. Maybe I shouldn't have made asian cuisine to go with such a European country bread, but he didn't complain. Both agreed it's the best bread I've made in the past few months.

The recipe is from Taste of Home's The Complete Guide to Country Cooking, a gift from my mother. Totally never expected a winner like this to come out of it, but the bread section is really pretty impressive.

It makes two loaves, though I only make one at a time when I first try them. Britton and I can only eat so much bread in a day. Really wish I had gone with the two loaf recipe for this one!



Wheat Bread Braid

2 packages active dry yeast

2 1/4 c warm milk

3 tbs sugar

1/3 c butter

1/3 c honey

1 tbs salt

4 1/2 c whole wheat flour

2 3/4 - 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour


In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in milk. Add sugar, butter, honey, salt and whole wheat flour; beat until smooth. Add enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto floured surface; knead until elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise for 60 minutes.

Punch dough down. Divide in half and shape into traditional loaves, or divide in fourths and roll each portion into a 15-inch rope. Twist two ropes together, and pinch each end to seal.

Place in greased 9 in x 5 in loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven during last 5 minutes of rising.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks.



It's easier to cut when cool, so try to hold off as long as you can before tearing into this mother of a loaf.

Expect many more posts from me in the future, as the job market grows smaller and smaller...

Anyone happen to be looking for a baking assistant in Milwaukee? :)


Eli's picture

I have been making these yeast rolls for some time now. Usually for the holidays. I thought I would share. They are very good and light.


 Yeast Rolls


494 Grams Flour (bread)

5     Grams yeast (IDY)

65   Grams Sugar

5     Grams Salt

50   Grams of Egg (beaten)

195 Grams Milk

49   Grams Shortening

49   Grams Water

* Optional - I add about 3 tablespoons of day old mashed potatoes.

   Sometimes I add Sesame seeds

Combine all dry ingredients except salt and add water. Mix and set aside 20 minutes. Beat together egg, shortening and salt adding milk and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Dough will be tacky. Place in oiled bowl and set aside covered.

Allow bulk ferment till double.

 Remove and scale and shape into 1.75 to 2 ounce rolls. They will expand a great deal. Place on baking sheet and cover. (I do an overnight refrigeration) Then allow 1 to 2 hours for final proof. You may not get much rise but you will get it in the oven. Keep an eye on them and when you press one with your finger and it doesn't completely return they are ready.

Place in preheated oven 375 degrees and bake approximately 10-12 minutes. Remove and brush with butter.

Allow to cool. What is leftover can be frozen.

Yeast Rolls a1





ejm's picture

Glezer bread

For a recent dinner featuring shrimps in Pernod, there was special request for the bread to be made WITHOUT using my wild yeast. So I fell back on one of our favourites from Maggie Glezer's book Artisan Baking Across America: Acme's Rustic Baguettes. On first reading, the recipe seems a little complicated with its double preferment but it is almost fool proof. And it's NOT sour. Not even remotely.

The bread was so successful and so good and so free of any sour taste that it is the primary reason for the fit of pique when I threw our wild yeast starter down the drain.

I feel so free!

Even though the shape isn't quite right, everything else about the bread was great. Some day I might actually shape the bread in baguettes but boules are SO much easier. The only thing that I haven't managed to get right is to keep the loaves from growing into each other as they rise.

Glezer bread

To learn more about our feast, please read here.

holds99's picture


This is Michel Suas' recipe/formula for "Rotolo Di Natali" from his book "Advance Bread and Pastry".  In the summary at the beginning of the recipe Mr. Suas says: "This ring of dough is usually baked in Italy for Christmas celebrations.  The combination of soft enriched dough and crunchy filling creates an unusual texture, while the appealing presentation makes Rotolo Di Natali a festive centerpiece."

I tried to find the origin and story behind this lovely, deliciously filled sweet bread but was unable to do so.

However, years ago I was enrolled at the Dunwoody Institute's prestigious Professional Baking - Racker Certification Program.  That same year, through the generous endowment of the Lydia R. and Edgar P. Munnerlyn Charitable Trust, our graduating class was provided steerage tickets on the tramp freighter 'Honduran Gal", thus enabling the members of Dunwoody, class of '78, the opportunity to visit authentic artisan bakeries in Italy as part of Dunwoody's "Meet The Bakers" outreach program. 

The Dunwoody "Rackers" had been in Italy for a couple of weeks and our class trip was winding down.  It was my last evening in Italy and I was feeling a bit nostalgic about the time I had spent in this wonderful country.   The evening was balmy and as I was strolling through the downtown piazza I noticed an elderly man sitting alone on a bench reading his newspaper, the light blue smoke from his short black Pierogi cigar encircling his head, then drifting slowly away into the night air.  I decided to approach him, and after we exchanged greetings and made perfunctory small talk, I casually asked him where I could go on my last night in this beautiful city to find the true essence of Italy.  Slowly folding his newspaper, he glanced around, making certain we were not being observed, and that no one was within earshot of our conversation.  I couldn't help but notice the old man's eyes were misting a bit as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an old and tattered, dog-eared color photo of a beautiful, golden crown shaped loaf of bread, the top liberally sprinkled with coarse sugar creating a golden crispy crust.  He proudly held up the photo for me to examine.  Grinning, I nodded approvingly and in my fluent Italian I said: "Momma mia, thatsa nice a loafa you gotta there ina you foto"'

Smiling broadly, the old man lightly kissed the photo and carefully tucked it back into his jacket pocket.  Then, he motioned me a bit closer and as he leaned forward, a faint smile crossed his lips.  The old man spoke very softly, measuring each word, the way Orson Welles had done in Citizen Kane when the camera, in the opening scene focused on his mouth, and his lips spoke the immortal word: "Rosebud".  The old man slowly stood up, placing one hand on my shoulder and leaning a bit closer to my ear, he softly whispered: "Rotolo Di Natali". 

Since that evening I have wondered about the true meaning of these words?  Then recently, after finding Michel Suas' recipe and baking this terrific sweet bread, I understand exactly what the old man meant that night in the piazza. 

OK, confession time.  There really wasn't any old man on the piazza bench that night in Italy.  I made it all up.  But seriously, this bread is a very nice European style holiday treat, filled with a mixture of nuts, sugar, cacao powder, raisins, rum and beaten egg whites. 









belle's picture

Help...I am new to this wonderful community and hope you can help...I am in need of a great recipe for raisin walnut sourdough bread.  I have purchased a wonderful loaf from The Kneaded Bread bakery in Port Chester, NY and have made numerous attempts to make it on my own but nothing compares. 

thanks very much...


dmsnyder's picture

Above are pictured three loaves of San Francisco Sourdough made from the recipe in Peter Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb." They each turned out with subtle differences that are instructive regarding the variables that affect the appearance of our loaves. I thought it might be useful to describe these differences and what produced them.

I'm not going to describe the formula or method, because these were according to the recipe and were identical for all 3 boules. They were proofed in identical coiled reed brotformen. The two loaves on the right were baked together. The one on the left was baked 45 minutes later, and was left in the refrigerator, where all had been cold retarded overnight, 45 minutes longer than the other two. As you can see, they were scored with the same checkerboard pattern. Both bakes started in a 500F oven. The temperature was lowered to 450F when the loaves had been loaded. They baked for 30 minutes then were left in the oven for another 10 minutes with the oven turned off and the door ajar.

What were the differences in my procedures, then?

For the first bake (the two loaves on the right): 5 minutes before loading the first loaf (the one in the middle). a handful of ice cubes were put in a pre-heated metal loaf pan on the lowest shelf. Then, I dumped the boule on a peel, scored it and loaded it. The oven door was closed. I scored the second loaf (the one on the far right) and loaded it. I then poured a cup of boiling water into a pre-heated cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf and closed the door. The loaf pan and the skillet were removed after 10 minutes.

For the second bake, the loaf on the far left was scored and spritzed with water, loaded and then covered with a stainless steel bowl. The bowl was removed after 10 minutes.

What were the differences in outcome?

Comparing the two loaves baked together, the first one loaded had better oven spring and better bloom. I think it got the benefit of a slightly higher initial oven temperature. The second loaf was loaded within 2-3 minutes of the first. I have seen this difference between 2 loaves loaded sequentially in this manner repeatedly. I think the differences are "real."

The third loaf and the first (the one on the far left and the middle one) had about the same oven spring and bloom. If anything, the loaf in the middle had more. They were both, of course, the "first" loaf loaded. However, the one baked under a bowl for 10 minutes had a much shinier crust due, I think, to dissolved and gelatinized starch on the surface.  The difference "in person" was more dramatic than what I see in the photo. This shininess is an effect I've seen only with breads baked covered. The longer the loaf is covered, the stronger the effect.

These differences may be of little significance. All three boules are quite satisfactory. But the differences do elucidate the effects of minor changes in temperature and humidification and might answer questions other have about how to achieve desired improvements in their breads.

FYI, we had part of the loaf on the left with dinner (Onion soup and Dungeness crab cakes with an Anderson Valley Sauvignon Blanc). The bread had a crunchy crust, typical chewy crumb and lovely complex soudough flavor. This is still a fabulous version of SF Sourdough.

Any comments about the observed differences would be welcome.



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