The Fresh Loaf

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hamptonbaker's picture


Recently, I purchased plastic bannetons for producing boules. I have tried to spray and then flour them and just flour them. Currently, I am using them to make Pain au levain, using Calvel's formula out of the Taste of Bread. Anyway this dough seems very sticky, I like the bread and don't want to change my method of a secondary fermentation time of three hours; However, I can't get the dough to fall out of the basket. It absorbs all the flour and won't fall out without destroying the shape, is there a trick to this? I really don't want cornmeal on the top of my bread so what to do?

Shiao-Ping's picture

Lang Lang was on the radio this morning (his piano, not his presence).  The English lady, Emma Ayres, hosts a fine, fine classic FM radio show, Teas on Toast, on ABC Radio.  She played Lang Lang's Haydn sonata in Carnegie Hall, 2003.   Lang Lang, 27, is the pride of modern day Mainland Chinese.   His reputation spread so rapidly that a Chinese-language biography appeared before his 17th birthday.  I have no business joining the band wagon in praising him.   But I can feel his sensibility through his fingers (the fastest fingers in the whole of China, his fans will have you believe).   

He comes from Sheng-Yang in the far north of China.  Whenever I think of northern China, I think of the noodles they have and the hot steam buns they have.   They always say that the north has wheat and the men grow tall up there (and ride horses!); and the south has rice.   My father comes from the border line between the north and the south in Mainland China, so we ate both noodles and rice at home when I was growing up.   My father's favourite Sunday lunch was noodles with the best quality soy sauce one could find.   Can you imagine fresh pasta with the best quality olive oil you can find; it is like that.   Plain, with nothing else on, the flavour of flour comes "shining through" (to borrow James MacGuire's words) in freshly boiled noodles.  

We kids didn't appreciate that.   

So, on the way driving home from dropping the kids to school this morning, I thought to myself - Lang Lang, I am going to do a steam bun today, my version.   You watch.   




  1. Roll the dough (formula below) out to about 1/2 to 1 cm thickness.  Sprinkle some olive oil and salt on top (a couple of drops of sesame oil would be GRAND), spreading it evenly, and

  2. Sprinkle the chopped shallots. 

  3. Fold 1/3 of the dough to the center, then the other 1/3 to the center like folding a letter (the dough now has 3 layers).  Slice the dough one inch width apart.  

  4. Place two pieces on top of each other (ie, six layers in total).

  5. With the help of two chopsticks, press the dough down to the bottom to make indentations.  

  6. Slide the chopsticks underneath the dough, lift the dough up, then twist the dough    

I made some smaller ones with just three layers too:  



My formula: this is just any white bread dough; it should pass windowpane test;  let it rest for 3o minutes up to an hour before rolling it out as above.  

  • 300 g white flour

  • 168 g water

  • 24 g olive oil

  • 10 g sugar

  • 6 g salt

  • 3 g instant dry yeast (the reason for this is because this is meant to be a quick rising dough)

  • a big bunch of shallots, chopped up

  • some olive oil (and sesame oil if you wish)

  • some more salt  


                                                               dough resting after shaping  

Let this rest for 3o minutes up to an hour again.   Bring a big pot of water to boil; THEN, place the steamer on top of the boiling water.  The dough will expand rapidly in steaming temperature.  After 5 minutes, turn the heat down to medium.  Boil another 7 minutes.  Total steaming time 12 minutes.   And there we have it:  



                                                       Chinese Shallots Steam Buns  


I can imagine diners in a northern Chinese tea parlour very happily ordering these shallots steam buns for their Sunday brunch, followed by a pot of tea over some gossip.   




p.s.  Lang, the first word of his full name, is his family name, which is not a common one among Chinese.  Lang, the second word of his name, is a completely different Chinese character which pronounces the same as the first character.   His name reads very poetic to a Chinese literary mind.  Many Mainland Chinese names today still retain that poetic-ness about them, whereas the names of Chinese from other parts of the world, especially, those from Taiwan, are as ... oh what should I say...; girls' names denoting beauty, virtue, chastity, etc, and boys' names effecting courage, loyalty, righteousness, and the like, are very common; and for both girls and boys, wealth and fortunes are a forever welcome theme for names.          

Shiao-Ping's picture

Po-Lo is a Chinese antiquity name for pineapple.  It went to Japan and then from there it went to Taiwan.  In 1931, a bakery in Tokyo obtained a patent for the cookie dough on top of a bread dough.  This cookie dough is made of flour, butter, sugar and milk.  Some experts in Japan say it had its origin from Austria ("viennoiserie," rings a bell?)  This is the bun that I had when I was a kid in Taiwan.  Today, you still find them in every bread shop and pastry shop over there.  







It's my son's soccer training this afternoon and it's our team's turn to bring afternoon tea for the boys.  Boys all have a sweet tooth somewhere, don't they.  I thought they would be happy with these soft buns with cookies on top - two treats in one bite.  But guess what?  I should have gone one extra mile.  I asked my boy how he liked these rolls on the way home.  He said, "Mum, some custard (in the center) would be GRAND."   

So, these are not GRAND enough.  How I adore - the economy of his words.  


My formula for the bread dough (for 12)  

  • 350 g white bread flour

  • 60 g almond milk powder (or just milk powder)

  • 244 g soy milk (or just milk)

  • 60 g water

  • 3 g instant dry yeast (or 1 tsp)  

My ingredients are not conventional.  Normally there would be loads of butter and eggs for that rich flavor in this type of soft buns.  I simply cold retarded my dough overnight to try to improve its natural flavor.  

The dough would normally go through intensive kneading to pass windowpane test.  But I did the James MacGuire no-kneading and folding impression on this dough instead.  

My formula for the cookie dough (for 12)  

  • 135 g white bread flour

  • 50 g icing sugar

  • 80 g butter

  • 30 g egg (about 1/2 an egg)  

The trick with this cookie pastry, as with any tart shell, is time.  Once it's mixed, it needs to breath and relax in the refrigerator (overnight, preferably).     


It's baked in 190C (375F) for 15 to 18 min  

A savoury variation with stir-fry noodles and vegitables (without the cookie dough on top) follows:


I once made it with leftover spaghetti mince, and it was a hit with my boy and his friends.  

Other sweet variations:


             with strawberry cookie top                                                 with coffee flavoured cookie top  


My son is ordering a peanut cookie top for his sports day next weekend.    



p.s.  The bun has nothing to do with real pineapple save for the criss-cross indentation on some of them which resembles the pineapple skin. 

DonD's picture

Last week, I received the book "100% Pain" by Eric Kayser that I had ordered. I had always wanted to try the recipe for his famous "Baguette Monge". First, I was surprised to see the note stating that all the recipes in the book have been tested on a bread machine and second that recipes for all his breads call for straight room temperature fermentation. Checking his website, I found a quote saying that his breads all go through a long fermentation, so being the tinkerer that I am, I decided not to follow his recipe verbatim but instead to use the same formulation (more or less) and modify the execution.

I have been experimenting making baguettes using the James MacGuire techniques that Shiao-Ping had introduced to TFL a couple of weeks ago and have found them simple and easy, resulting in a beatifully developed dough. The baguettes were very good but I thought the high hydration made shaping and scoring the baguettes difficult and the crumb, although light was not as open as I would have liked. MacGuire had warned about the same effects of high hydration on baguettes in his article in "The Art of Eating".

I have had good success with the Anis Bouabsa baguette recipe and techniques that David (dmsnyder) had adapted from Janedo. I found that the cold delayed fermentation helps develop a more chewy and open crumb and gives the bread a more complex flavor.

So, this past weekend, I decided to combine these favorite techniques and use them to make my version of Eric Kayser's "Baguette Monge". I will call it the "Kayser Baguette Monge Hybrid". Here is the formulation:

Kayser uses a Type 65 Flour so I chose a flour mix that approximate the original. The resulting protein content is around 12.5%. Note that although the French Flours have lower protein content US Flours, I read that most French bakers add Malted Barley Flour and Vital Wheat Gluten to their dough.

Kayser uses 58% hydration. I upped it to 72%.

- 100 Gms Liquid Levain (100% hydration)

- 300 Gms KAF AP Flour

- 150 Gms KAF Bread Flour

- 50 Gms KAF WWW Flour

- 345 Gms Water

- 1 Gm Instant Yeast

- 9 Gms Sea Salt

Mix the Levain with the Water then add the Flour Mix, Salt and Yeast. Mix by hand for 2 mins and follow the MacGuire stretching and folding in the bowl at 45 mins interval instead of 1 hr.

At the end of the folding, the dough should rise by 25%. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. The dough should double in size.

Divide the dough into third and shape into boules. Rest seam side down for 1 hr.

Shape into baguettes with pointy ends and proof for 45 min. 

Score the loaves and bake in preheated 460 degrees F oven with steam for 10 mins.

Continue baking at 430 degrees F without steam for 12 mins.

Turn of heat and let baguettes rest for 5 mins in oven.

Remove baguettes and let cool on rack.

The baguettes crackled and popped while cooling on the rack and developed nice "shingles".

The grignes opened up nicely and the crust had a beautiful amber color and toasty caramel aroma. 

The oven spring was great and the cross section came out nice and round. The crumb was cream color and very open with different size "alveoles". The gelatinization made it slightly translucent.

The crust was thin and crackly with notes of roasted hazelnut and mocha. The crumb had a nice chewy mouthfeel with a tangy, creamy and sweet toasty wheat finish.

This was definitely the best baguette that I have baked to date , a real keeper.

And the quest for the Ultimate Baguette continues...


ericb's picture

Following closely in the footsteps of Hans, I baked Hamelman's "Whole-Wheat Levain" this morning:

The more I bake from Hamelman's Bread, the more comfortable I feel with every stage of baking. Things that used to evade me and make baking a stressful endeavor now seem to be second nature. Rather than struggling against the dough, I feel like I am able to work with it. I don't think I have any great skill when it comes to baking, but, as Hans says, Hamelman's methods are bulletproof. This gives the baker the confidence to move forward without second-guessing the multitude of decisions required throughout the process.

One thing I love about baking with whole wheat is the smell of the dough. The intensely sweet, wheaty aroma when I turn out the fully fermented dough onto the bench is almost too much to take. I have been tempted to just take a bite. Oddly enough, this sweetness doesn't carry through to the finished loaf in smell or taste. This is probably for the best, because it might be a bit overwhelming. It's a fascinating transformation, though.

Today, I tried a technique that I had long ago abandoned: overnight proofing in the refrigerator. In the past, my dough always stuck to the cloth and ruined the final loaf. I think this was caused by two things. First, I wasn't shaping the dough correctly. Following Hamelman's instructions, I ended up with a much tigher boule than in the past. I think the increased surface tension may have helped prevent sticking. Second, I floured the heck out of the dough (obvious from the picture above). I used to have a "thing" about too much flour on the crust, thinking somehow that it was less "pure." Forget that. Being able to pull the dough from the fridge and toss it into hot oven first thing in the morning was great. I'm a convert.

Thanks to Hans for bringing this recipe to my attention. I don't think I was anywhere close to his final product, but it tastes amazing. I can't wait to share it with my wife and coworkers later today.

Shiao-Ping's picture

There is a bread style in Hamelman's Bread (page 129, A Resting Loaf) that I've been trying to emulate:



This is at least the third time that I've tried to make it but still couldn't get it right.  The piece that is supposed to somehow separate from the main body of bread during baking always get stuck back to it.  Next time I will let the dough proof right side up to see if it makes any difference.  Anyway, for the record, this is my Guinness Multigrain Loaf.    







               With homemade strawberry jam and strawberries pre-soaked in champagne and caster sugar  


My formula  

  • 260 g Guinness soupy starter @328% hydration

  • 120 g multigrain bread flour by Laucke

  • 300 g white bread flour

  • 25 g olive oil

  • 142 g water

  • 1/2 tsp instand dry yeast

  • 9 g salt  

dough hydration 76%  and dough weight 850 g  



hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

This is a brief follow-up to my last post about Hamelman's whole-wheat pain au levain. I was very pleased with the creamy, light crumb of the loaf and wondered how an increase in whole-wheat flour would affect it. To gauge things, I decided to bake the whole-wheat levain from the same book, thereby doubling the whole-grain flour content.

Some initial remarks: The pain au levain with whole-wheat contains 25% whole-grain flour, is made with a stiff white starter, an autolyse and a very brief initial mixing (1 - 2 mins.). Click here for the more complete write-up. The whole-wheat levain contains 50% whole-wheat flour, is made with a liquid whole-wheat starter, and does not call for any autolyse, but slightly longer initial mixing. Despite these differences, I figured that Hamelman probably have "optimized" the procedure for each loaf, so I closed my eyes to the slightly different dough preparations, and went with his formulas as they are in the book.

Considering the pain au levain is well consumed by now, we'll have to settle for a photo comparison. I tried to snap photos of the whole-wheat levain from the same angles as I did for the pain au levain (again, click here for those).

Here's the just baked whole-wheat levain:

Whole-wheat levain

It turned out pretty much identical to the pain au levain, with perhaps slightly darker crust colour and slightly less open grigne. That could be blamed on incompetent and different slashing, though. Again, notice that flourless "rim" along the bottom side of the grigne - once again I experienced a two-stage oven spring, like Steve noticed on the previous pain au levain.

Here's a crumb shot of the whole-wheat levain:

Whole-wheat levain crumb

...and a straight comparison between pain au levain with whole wheat (left) and whole-wheat levain (right) below:

Crumb comparison

The crumb is slightly more open in the pain au levain, as you can see. From the top crust, you can also see how the pain au levain opened up a bit more during oven spring than the whole-wheat levain. Apart from that, they're like pretty identical twins to me ;) The flavour of the whole-wheat levain is a bit more intense, and the mouthfeel of the loaf is not as creamy as for the pain au levain. Given a blind test, it would be difficult to spot the difference!


lindyc's picture

After being fustrasted with my last few loaves I was reading over this site trying to find answers. I've been baking bread for a couple of years now with some really good results and some not so good!

I think basically I haven't been paying enough attention! I love it but maybe i'm just a bit sloppy, or not enough of a perfectionist...I needed to consolodate in my head the effect that ingredients and ratios / techniques had on my loaves. After reading about the benefits of having a good basic loaf recipe - a control recipe - that you are happy with I have decided this is what I need to do, and also to record the results so I can really understand what is going on a bit better.

Thought I'd may as well record it on here - at least that way I can get some feedback from the enourmous collective knowledge that exists in this online community, and maybe help anyone else with similar problems. (providing of course that I actually do help myself!)

So here goes...

My biggest problem I believe (and my husband has been trying to tell me this) is that my doughs aren't wet enough. I'm not exactly sure how those 'hydration' percentages are worked out but I've basically been doing 4 cups flour to 1 1/4 cups water.

So for my first two loaves I changed this to 3 cups to 1 1/4 and another loaf at 3 cups to 1 1/2 cups water.

Loaf 1

2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs oil
1¼ cups water
3 cups flour

Mix the yeast salt sugar and oil with the water, allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour this into a bowl with the flour in it. Mix in kitchenaid for about 5 minutes then knead by hand for a few minutes on floured surface. Put into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in warmed spot till doubled in size.

Kneed by hand for 3-5 minutes

This bread spread an awful lot on the final rise. I had pre-heated the oven and baked at 200 C.

Loaf 2

Second loaf exactly the same except I used 1 ½ cups water instead of 1¼. This was a much wetter dough. I probably used an extra quarter cup of flour when kneading just so it wouldn't stick to the bench!

I had watched the video of the guy doing the 'french fold' so was keen to try this out (it is linked to in this site but definately worth another link! - watch it here) and thought this would be a good dough to try it with. I tried it a bit with loaf 1 but it was a bit too ‘bally' to flop over my hands so I ended up just kneading it the other way (lift up, push down, quarter turn).

Loaf 1 is on the right and Loaf 2 (the wetter one) is on the left. I'm definately a convert to the french fold because as you can see the wetter loaf (which I tried the french fold on) actuall held is shape more with less spread and more oven spring.

It also had larger more irregular holes than the loaf with 1 and 1/4 cup water. Great! Next time i'm going to try some different flour and after that I want to see how I go baking in a sandwhich tin.

I would still like the free form loaves to hold their shape a lot more though. Maybe I haven't got the hang of the french fold well enough. I should also try slashing the bread before I bake it.


foolishpoolish's picture


Shiao-Ping's picture

Have you ever had the experience of searching for some one or something high and low?  We are in the dead of winter, but I am already thinking of spring.  A few years ago we were on our way to the jacaranda capital of Australia, Grafton, in the state of New South Wales, 300 km south of Brisbane.  Every October Grafton is as beautiful as April in Japan with its cherry blossoms.                


                  Spring in Grafton                                                           Spring in Brisbane  

Just before we reached the city I saw a quaint little antique store with a book store attached to it.  We went in and I found a cook book there, "A Chef in Provence" by Edouard Loubet, who, I learnt later on, owns a two Michelin starred restaurant in Lourmarin, south of France, 60 km north of Marseille.    Ever since then I have been searching on regularly to see if there is any new book by him.   Then, recently with my new interest in bread, I've been buying a few books in  Just last week it dawned on me that I should check on instead for Loubet's book.   I couldn't believe my luck.  He published his second book last month! "6 Saisons en Lubéron."  So, after nearly three years of waiting, I've got another book by him.  

Every so often some bloggers at TFL will contribute some ideas to how best to utilise leftover starters or leftover dough.  Now, here is another idea for leftover dough.  It is one that I have used time and again.  I first got this idea from Loubet's A Chef in Provence.  I adapted his "parcel of baby leeks" (page 52) with the addition of prosciutto and gruyere (or bacon and cheddar as in the example below).   Or, instead of spring onions that I used below, asparagus and brococcini will work very well too.     






My version looks like a far cry from Loubet's original.




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