The Fresh Loaf

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berryblondeboys's picture

Since we are having a heat wave, I try to do everything in the mornings or late in the evenings. So, while I was making the English muffins, I had a starter going in the mixer beside me.

One of my favorite breads of all times is the Pain de Campagne which I can get at the farmer's market at Burke or at Whole Foods. It's such a big loaf, that you buy a section of it, not the whole thing and it's always expensive, which means, I rarely buy it. It's something like $6 for a section at Whole Foods.

Finding a recipe (several actually), I decide to give it a whirl. I know that breads with starters or bigas or pools lavains, or desems (so clueless what that all means still) have more flavor, last longer, get better air bubbles, and nicer crusts. Almost all artisan breads starts from one of these aforementioned 'blobs'. This particular starter is just an overnight (or minimum 4 hours) fermentation. Cool! I can try that!

So, beside me on the counter while making English muffins I had this yeast mixture growing (and man did it grow!). Come morning, I started the recipe - to the T. I first tried to convert the volume measurements to weight, but then realized, "Wait a minute, how do I know that MY weight measurements are the correct weights?" and they must not have been, because I was mixing a wet mess. I think I added about 1/2 cup more whole wheat and 1/2 cup more white to get it a still very wet, but more manageable dough.

The recipe then states to let it rise for 3-4 hours - until it doubles. Which is what I did (top photo is after this rise). It need not quite 3 hours.

Then the tricky part - this is a wet dough - wetter than any I've ever worked with, how will I shape this blob of goo (kind of like the consistency of slime, just sticky). I get it out of the bowl and place it on a well floured counter and work it. Surprisingly, the dough with a little flour is quite manageable. I try to do the shaping of a boule technique.

Now it says to let it rise 2-3 hours until it triple is size. Ah, here's where I really worry. Will it rise? Will it stay round? And, like all previous attempts, it spreads out - not up or staying roundish, but spreads outwards.

After two hours, I decide I should bake it. I try to slash one, but, again, as usual, I fail. I had a brand new razor blade, but it got stuck in the dough, didn't really slice it and made it deflate a bit - ARGH! Now it's even more flat! OK, fine, I'll just leave the other loaf as is and hope for the best.

In the oven they go and I watch and wait for a nice oven spring (more growth) and nope... again, as usual, not much happening. it bakes for 40 minutes on 425 degrees, I take it out and have a flattish bread. Let it cool and while it looks 'ok' and tastes good, it's still not quite right.

I go to get help here at The Fresh Loaf  and the consensus is that I overproofed the loaves. Which, leaves me perplexed because how can I know? Which just shows me even more - I have so, so much to learn. Maybe I'll make a sweet quick bread tonight to give the yeast tries a rest. But, I'm also itching to start a try starter!

berryblondeboys's picture

So, I've delved into baking a few times. We got the Laurel's Bread book upon recommendation of our Jane Brody cookbook 16 years ago. I baked a few things, enjoyed it, but didn't have the time to devote to it between school, then kids and career and so on.

Then a few years back I got into baking breads sort of accidentally. My best friend volunteered me to make her wedding cake, so I beefed up my skills and got pretty good for an amateur baker and I do enjoy making specialty cakes for friends and family and occasional paying customers. But, we are pretty healthy eaters and cake, while yummy isn't something you eat or should eat every day. Plus, where we had moved (Northern Virginia and now more recently to Maryland), i could get some amazing bakery breads, but they were so expensive. $8 for a small loaf we could eat in one sitting. We decided I should start making our breads. I dibbled and dabbled, but never got into really with a toddler who refused to sleep.

Then, the move to maryland, becoming a three generation home with my mother in law moving in and we found ourselves wth a new wonderful kitchen AND finally some time to bake. So, a few weeks back, I stopped buying all bread and started making our own. Thus discovering, I have SO MUCH TO LEARN. And, like for many, The Fresh Loaf became my new home for help and inspiration.

This blog will be a trail of my triumphs and errors, which for now really does feel like more errors than triumphs, hence the bumbling in the title.

ananda's picture



On Tuesday lunchtime we'll be boarding an aeroplane at Newcastle Airport to take us to Crete for a long-awaited, and hugely necessary fortnight together on holiday in the heat.   For much of this time we'll be relaxing in a small seaside villa on the South Coast, away from pretty much everything.   I'm told there's a dusty road with a taverna at the end of it....about 3 miles away.   Otherwise; nothing, except 2 other villas above ours, and a lot of beach and sea.   Oh! I almost forgot to say; there is a barbeque and wood-fired oven on the veranda just to the side of the house, and a pergola nearby, to sit under and drink wine and eat tasty food, staring out to sea.

So, I've been working out how to successfully transport a small portion of my levain to use for baking purposes...afterall, it's going to be mighty tricky getting fresh yeast, and I've yet to source good dry yeast over here which actually works for me.   I know that's silly, but there is little point investing in it without faith.

First call, therefore, was to strengthen my leaven up with prodigious feeding sessions.   Thought I might as well do this for both rye and wheat, even though the wheat specimen is the only one bound for a holiday.   The result is that I end up with over 2kg of wheat leaven and 600+g of rye sour.   "Better do some baking, I think!"   At least we'll come back to a freezer stocked with plenty of bread, and any family coming to stay at our place, in the meantime, for a brief spell in the country can enjoy lovely bread too!

So I devised a formula for mixed leaven bread which I thought would be easy to make, and tolerant to an overnight retard, on account of making the dough in the early evening.   This is the formula:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Wheat Levain



Strong White Flour









  • 2. Rye Sour



Dark Rye Flour









  • 3. Final Dough



Wheat Levain [from above]



Rye Sour [from above]



T65 Farine de Tradition



Strong White Flour



Strong Wholemeal Flour



Dark Rye












Pre-fermented flour: 25%; Overall Hydration: 65.9%

To use up all the rye sour, except for the small amount needed for regeneration, I calculated I should multiply the formula by a factor of 45.   This is what I did, and you may have noticed the rather scary amount of dough I was therefore challenging myself to home, with no mixer, and no bowls anywhere near capable of holding the amounts of flour and water called for here.

So, it's back to the traditional way of mixing dough sufficient to provide bread for the whole household, by piling the flour onto the bench, making a well in the middle, and carefully incorporating the liquid to form the dough.   What I actually did, was to mix the liquid rye sour with the rest of the dough water.   I then piled all the flour needed for the final dough onto the bench and incorporated liquids as described for a short autolyse of half an hour.   From there I added the salt and the wheat levain, working up a reasonably soft, but strong dough.   The leaven was in perfect condition, and it was a treat just to smell the fresh and subtle aroma of this dough.   Good job too, as I reckon it took the best part of an hour's hard graft to actually assemble the fully crafted dough from flour, salt, water and the 2 levains.   I scaled off 2 pieces immediately, and moulded them, depositing them straight into bread pans.   The remaining 5½kg was divided into 2 equal sized pieces and stored in plastic bowls, covered with oiled cling film, overnight in the chiller.   On top of all this, I STILL had an excess of wheat leaven.   So, I made some ciabatta dough too, somewhat disastrously, as it turned out; another story.

It's now nearly 4pm, and I finished baking just after 3pm.   I started about 9 this morning, although I was up at 7 to turn the oven on and get everything else ready.   I've ended up with 7 large loaves; 3 made in bread pans, and 4 fermented in bannetons and baked directly on the bricks in my home oven [ordinary electric fan oven].....and 2 slabs of foccacia.   We had a good few courgettes in, so I sweated them down in olive oil flavoured with garlic, then added a few sun-dried tomatoes.   The neighbours had one slab, plus a loaf, as a "thank you" for painting our shed door at the same time they painted theirs too.   We ate the other one [or most of it, anyway] for lunch.   Foccacia worked just fine, but had a big learning curve today.   Making ciabatta with wheat levain only, and then retarding it overnight produced very tasty dough, but the quality was abysmal.   I had a small amount of dough leftover, and tried to bake it off as ciabatta, by pouring it onto a hot tray to bake off directly on the hot bricks.   Only one place that's going: the bin [trash]!

Still, I now have a stack of lovely tasty bread [6 large loaves], and wheat levain which I can turn into something which will stand the stresses and strains of a few days of intense heat before I can revive it ready for another baking session; this time in our own little paradise, far away from the norms of the everyday, and computers too!

Bye for now


breadsong's picture

Hello, This is from Eric Kastel's "Artisan Breads at Home". I baked this bread and froze it, and we tasted it tonight with dinner. YUM. With many thanks to the author!!! I tried slashing the bread in a starburst, as I saw someone else do quite beautifully on this site. I wish I could remember who that was, so I could go back and take a look at their handiwork and pay them a compliment here - I will keep trying until I can make mine look as nice!

For 48 ounces of dough, there were 6.6 ounces drained, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 3.2 ounces cubed asiago cheese, tossed with 1.3 ounces whole wheat flour, kneaded in by hand after the final mix.

I am so pleased with how tasty this loaf is, and how pretty the crumb is, marbled with tomato.

Regards, breadsong

dmsnyder's picture

I'm getting ready for a sizable family gathering in about 10 days. We are descending on my baby brother, who has a vacation home on the Northern California coast. We expect 15-20 hungry Snyders. I'll be baking while I'm up there, but we'll need something to snack on while the levain is ripening. So, I baked a few things to fend off starvation ... 

A couple Gérard Rubaud sourdough bâtards

Some San Joaquin Sourdough, of course

To go with appetizers, a few San Joaquin Sourdough mini-baguettes with seeds

I'm promised corned beef, if I bring the Corn Rye

And, if there's room, for dessert ...

Sour Cream Spritz Cookies, a New York Baker's test recipe (They go well with tree-ripened peaches.)

Lucky there's another day left to bake this weekend!


txfarmer's picture

JT's 85X3 formula can be found here, I made several changes:

1. I don't have type 85 flour, so I followed Farine's advice and mixed 80% bread flour with 20% ww flour

2. I didn't use yeast in the final dough

3. I added a 30min autolyse before mixing, and let it rise for 3 hours at room temp, with 3 folds (one per hour), after that I shaped the dough and put it in fridge overnight for about 10 hours

4. The 2nd day, I took the dough out and left it warm for 20min before baking, judging from the dough, I thought it could be baked directly from the fridge, but my oven was not preheated enough until 20 minutes later


Made a boule and a fendu loaf, scoring opened pretty well, and nice singing crackling crust

Hydration is 76%, even with thirsty ww flour, the dough was wet enough to grant an open crumb

Flavor is nice and complex, it tasted great this morning, and got better by tonight.


Also made fougasse using recipe from "Bread", with following modification:

1. In addition to olives, added cooked bacon and fresh thyme in the dough

2. Brushed dough with olive oil before baking, and sprinkled one with fresh thyme, the other one with grated chedda cheese

3. Tried to score before/after proofing, no difference IMO

Golden and crispy on the outside, with very open crumb, so basically the whole bread is 99% crust, like the way it should be. Can you see the bacon hidden inside?

They went down so quick and easy,  maybe I shouldn't make these too often :P

Jw's picture

Since the heat wave destroyed my 'mild starter' (actually my own fault, since my hours did not match with that of the feeding hours of the starter), I thought I'd try a simple no-knead. I didn't rise as I remember it used to. Half-way a bowl, instead of reach to top of the bowl.

Before I put it in the oven, I flipped part of the dough on top. The result: huge ears on the bread. Bit too much, if you ask me. I should have turned the whole dough over once, forgot about that. Still taste good, this eary bread. Off to something more complicated soon.

benjamin's picture

The weatherman has forecast a brutally hot day in the city... heeding his warning my girlfriend and I went for an early morning bike ride whilst my doughs were rising, and returned to bake them before the heat set in. On the agenda for today was a sourdough rye with walnuts (from "bread") and Larry's English muffins (the original recipe can be found here).

I have always enjoyed english muffins, but have never thought to make them, so I was excited by Larry's recent post. I used an electirc griddle to 'cook' them and was very happy with the results. The muffins were pillowy and light with a delightful hint of sour from the levain.IMG_2859.JPG


What better way to utilize fresh english muffins than eggs benedict?



The sourdough rye with walnuts came out fairly nicely too. The dough was surprisingly wet for 68% hydration, however I kept to the recipe and reisted the urge to add more flour. In terms of presentation I decided to proof the loaves seam side down, and the allow the natural folds in the loaf to open up in the oven, as opposed to scoring them.


happy baking


Halperinr's picture

All these breads sound wonderful, but being an amateur bread baker I can't use most of them because of the "technical"

measurements and directions (in grams, "hydration", etc) I would appreciate a conversion tool so as a home baker

I could understand and use normal kitchen measuremts like ounces, cups, Tbs, tsp, etc


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