The Fresh Loaf

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JMonkey's picture

I wish now that I'd taken a picture, but I didn't think of it. I was too consumed with the thought that I'd lost Rhonda Rye, my rye starter. I'd been about a month since I'd used or refreshed her and, while she'd gotten pretty hoochy in the past, I'd never had any trouble with an invasion.

Wow. I opened her up yesterday to see a very, very healthy colony of bulbous looking gray mold all over the surface. For a moment, I thought my only recourse would be to throw her out and convert some of my whole wheat starter over to rye. But when I dug around a bit with a knife, there was a tiny patch underneath that seemed untouched.

Carefully, I took about a gram of that little patch, and refreshed it. At first, the stuff smelled like vomit, but overnight, it rose and started smelling like it ought to again. I won't fully believe I'm out of the woods until I make some rye this weekend, but it looks like I've succeeded.

Starter is amazing stuff.

HogieWan's picture

New Stone Experiment


I got a new 15x20' FibraMent stone, but Sunday was my first chance to temper/predry it. After slowly getting it up to 550 over 7 hours, I knew I'd want to bake something on it, so I made three slightly different loaves. I set up a poolish the day before, then split that into three doughs - 1 with no oil, 1 with a tbsp of butter, and 1 with a tbsp of olive oil (in that order in the picture).  I shaped them different so I'll know which is which.

My slashing wasn't quite deep enough, but they all taste great.

HogieWan's picture

Inadvertant Sourdough

In an attempt to slow down fermentation and try the less-work-but-more-time approach, I made a simple sandwich loaf. I baked the bread after it fermented 3 full days (1 day preferment, 1.5 days full dough bulk rise, 1/2 day in the loaf pan) only working with it in the evenings after work except for quick folding in the morning and moving it to the loaf pan the last morning.

After baking it, I found it to have a slight sourness to it that I enjoyed (my wife, however, did not). I didn't set out to make a sourdough, but I guess I have.

Thegreenbaker's picture


I am extatic with how they turned out :) This is the best crumb I have ever had when making rustic breads :)

*does big happy dance*

I am finally getting the hang of shapping bagguettes also. If only my oven shelf and bakers stone were big enough for them! I have 2 "S" shapes loaves as one stuck to the bakingtray as I moved it to the baking stone (bugger!) and one was too long for the stone so I had to shove in the end hanging off! But, all in all, a success, and I think I will be making higher hydration loaves from now on! (Well as high as my little kneading hands can handle ;) )





bwraith's picture

Home Milled and Sifted Sourdough Crumb

Home Milled and Sifted Sourdough Loaf

The home milling and sifting adventure continues. My most recent effort felt like a big step forward in several ways. Tempering, based on some suggestions by proth5 in response to a previous blog entry, was explored. Multiple successively finer passes of the mill were used this time, including re-milling of the sifted results from various steps in the process. Home ash content tests were performed, to understand better the distribution of bran and outer seed coat particles across the various outputs of my milling process. The outputs were then blended to a desired ash content and a sourdough loaf was baked. Photos of the process are posted, as well as a video of the tempering system I rigged up at the last minute (this is more for entertainment, but it may have helped). A process flow chart is posted showing the steps followed to mill and sift this flour, as well as a spreadsheet showing the ash content analysis for the various outputs of the milling process.

Notes on the Bread

The recipe for the sourdough loaf is similar to that for previous blog entries except no whole wheat was used in the levain and the rye was lightly sifted through a #25 sieve to remove the larger bran particles. A levain was prepared with 15% fermented flour as a percentage of total flour in the dough. The rye flour was 5% of the total flour, and the remainder of the flour was the home milled and sifted blend from this adventure. The rye flour went into the levain. The hydration was 79%, which proved to be too high. I realize the water absorption is in between whole wheat and white flour, so I probably would have been happier with a hydration around 74%. The resulting dough was closer to a ciabatta dough than I was intending, but the bread that resulted was wonderful. I was using my brick oven for some braising earlier in the day, which forced me to refire the oven in an attempt to bring up the temperature. I mismanaged the heat a little, which caused the somewhat scorched bottoms of the loaves you see in the photos. The resulting bread had a much lighter crumb than previous attempts, showing that I was much more effective at separating out the dark from light components of the berry.


Based on a great suggestion from proth5, I explored tempering the wheat berries before starting to mill. Proth5 added 2% water to the berries. Some discussion in "Wheat Flour Milling" by Posner and Hibbs suggested 14%-17% moisture content. A Delmhorst G7 Grain Moisture Meter was used on Heartland Mill "Milling Wheat (M2 product)" and found to have a 10.6% moisture content. I decided to split the recommendations of proth5 and the suggestions in "Wheat Flour Milling" and added enough water to the grain to bring the moisture content to 14%. In a later discussion with a representative of Meadows Mills (my mill is a Meadows 8 inch stone mill), 14% was considered a touch too high, and 13% was suggested as a reasonable moisture content for my mill. So, Proth5 suggestions were very good, but by then I had already added the water to the berries.

Concern for very even moisture distribution motivated a couple of strategies for tempering the wheat. First, an atomizer was used to spray the water a few grams at a time onto berries, stirring in between sprayings to initially do a good job spreading the water evenly throughout the grain. I then borrowed the rotisserie from my outdoor grill, and rigged it in my workshop to be able to mount a plastic container of grain on it. In order to rotate the grain for a few hours without putting undue strain on the rotisserie, it was counterbalanced by attaching some small, heavy vices on the counterweight, which was too small on its own. A video of the contraption is available, as it is hard to describe accurately, but easy to understand once you see the video. The rotisserie was used for a few hours until the wheat seemed fairly dry to the touch. It was then allowed to sit for about 30 hours before milling.

Multiple Pass Milling and Sifting

After reading some of the chapter on milling in "Wheat Flour Milling" and browsing through various diagrams of milling processes, I took a wild shot at doing what I could as a complete novice to approximate the processes in a general way with my Meadows 8 Inch Stone Mill, and a series of sieves stacked in a Sieve Shaker. The equipment is described in an earlier blog entry.

The basic idea was to first mill very coarsely to separate the bran gently from the rest of the berry, followed by sifting out the flour from the darker material, followed by re-milling and re-sifting the darker material to obtain more flour. True to the discussions in "Wheat Flour Milling", the whiter flour was extracted from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th passes, not from the first pass. I was surprised to discover this, but the ash content results showed much lower ash content for passes 2-5, particularly for the flour extracted from 3rd and 4th passes.

Passes 1-4 were successive, meaning that the "coarse red material" sifted from the #40 or #60 sieve was re-milled and resifted in series. In pass 5 the coarser results of passes 2 and 4 were mixed, re-milled, and re-sifted. In pass 6 the very coarse, mostly bran output caught in a #40 sieve was re-milled and re-sifted.

A process flow chart is posted that shows the details of the milling and sifting procedure followed.

Ash Content and Blending

Six flours, two coarse red "products", and 1 "bran" were the final results of all the milling and sifting above. Home ash content tests were performed on all of those products, as well as on sample saved from some of the intermediate steps. A spreadsheet is posted showing the results of the ash content measurements.

The results show that the flour through a #60 sieve that looks very much like Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo has a very high ash content. It was the flour from passes 2,3,4, and 5 that went through a #60 sieve that ended up having lower ash content. The flour from pass 1 had an ash content of 1.4%, not that far from whole wheat. In earlier one or two pass attempts, the ash content was probably closer to 1.4%, which explains the almost whole wheat quality of the breads from my first two tries. The ash content of passes 2 and 5 was around 1%, a little lower than Golden Buffalo flour from Heartland Mill. The flour from passes 3 and 4 was lowest, around .7% and much closer to a white flour, which might be something like .55%.

In the spreadsheet I created blends of the various outputs, so that I could get the ash content desired. As it turns out, by combining all the "flours" and leaving out all the coarse red and bran products, an ash content around 1.1%, maybe a little lower but very comparable to Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo would be obtained. So, all the flours were blended to obtain the flour used in the bread pictured above. This bread was clearly lighter than previous attempts. The dough handled much more like white flour, created a satin smooth surface texture, and seemed strong and extensible. The yield was much higher than in previous attempts, 85% of the final products and 81.5% of the weight of the berries before tempering, yet the ash content was lower than flour obtained in previous attempts that only yielded around 65% of the initial weight of the berries.

Nutritional Editorial Comment

Sifting, as done here, does remove some of the bran, outer layers, and germ from the flour. However, since the ash content is around 1.1% and whole wheat is around 1.7%, it can be argued that around 2/3 of the outer layers is making it into this flour. So, although it is not a pure whole grain flour, it still has much of the material from the outer layers. By dusting the loaf with the bran, further fiber is added. As a results, this bread should contain a significant proportion of the nutritional benefits of freshly milled whole grain flour. For me, it's worth doing this to be able to enjoy breads with lighter flavors and textures closer to white flours, without much loss of the nutritional values and freshness of milled-on-demand flour.

A More Practical Approach (Maybe)

Many of you may immediately view this little adventure as very impractical - with good justification, too. However, it at least is an example of creating flour of various grades at home, a drastically scaled down version of what happens in a real mill, doable at home, even if a little too large for the majority of home bakers.

I believe a simple version of this could use one #60 sieve and one #40 sieve and a Retsel Stone Mill or other similar mill that provides good control of the coarseness of the flour output. If set to much coarser settings, multiple passes could be performed on the coarse results caught in the #40 and #60 sieves. The sifting could be done by hand, even in quantities up to around 2Kg, although it is a little tedious and laborious. Maybe only 3-4 passes would be done, to minimize the labor, but the results of running tempered berries through at a coarser setting, and then re-milling more finely the coarse results caught in the sieve and re-sifting should allow the extraction of a reasonable flour similar to Golden Buffalo, just as shown above.

Where From Here

Even with a sieve shaker, the sifting is the most tedious and time consuming part of this process. The milling for all the steps combined for about 2Kg of berries was probably only about 10-15 minutes. The milling goes very quickly. However, the sifting drags on for 20 minutes at a time at first. Later steps are quite fast, and the last couple of passes can be done more quickly by hand, given the reduced amount of product.

I've ordered a Meadows Mill Eccentric Sifter (Goetter, hehe?) to add to the burgeoning list of equipment in the workshop. My hope is that this will make the sifting take only minutes at a time, more comparable and well matched to the milling speeds. Of course, this is all massive overkill for home baking. Yes, massive, massive overkill, no question. However, it is a hobby pursued with passion that may not always make sense in practical terms. It is the beauty of the home engineering, the resourcefulness required, and the delicious freshness of the bread that all contribute to the enjoyment.

Another remaining nagging missing piece of the puzzle is a flour analysis tool that would allow more thorough understanding of all the outputs, such as protein content, moisture content, water absorption, and ash content. Maybe I've figured out the ash content using the conductivity method described previously, but it seems to take a good 12-24 hours to get useful results from it. I'd like to be able to get quick turn-around for these measurements, in order to optimize the milling and sifting strategies.

Update (1/28/07)

Loaves Made With Flour From Meadows Sifter

Loaves Made With Flour From Meadows Sifter - Crust

I received the Meadows Eccentric Sifter (see video) and conducted a milling, sifting, and baking session (see photos), as well as some home ash content tests to check out the results with the new sifter. The Meadows sifter is far faster than my original approach with a sieve shaker and produces 4 separations simultaneously with great ease.

The sieve shaker had some advantages, in retrospect. You could inspect the results easily and fine-tune the sifting strategy very easily and quickly. Also, very little product is lost using the mining sieves, which is valuable for the smaller amounts I tend to do each time. The Meadows Sifter kept a couple of pounds in it, probably in the nooks and crannies of the wooden sieves and some built up on the fabric sleeves used to transport the flour. The Meadows Sifter made it more difficult to inspect or change the sifting process, as the sieves are tightly bolted down with wing nuts on long threaded rods. You can open it up, but it's much more time consuming than it is to detach and separate the mining sieves.

In this milling session, I tempered the wheat to a 13% moisture content. The tempering process was shortened to only 12 hours as a result of impatience to test out the sifter. The first pass through the Meadows 8 Inch Mill was troublesome. The breaker tripped even though I had the mill set to a fairly wide opening of about 1/8 turn on the adjustment screw. After several tries, I was able to complete the first pass with the screw open between 1/4 and 1/8 turn. A while later, I tried running untempered wheat at 10.6% moisture content through the mill, and it also had a tendency to jam the mill. Since I really don't have the slightest idea what the right opening is for the first pass through the mill, I'm not sure what to conclude. On the one hand, the milling went very smoothly with wheat tempered to 14% moisture content for more than 24 hours. On the other hand, the Meadows representative seemed very clear that 13% moisture content or less was preferred for the Meadows Mill. However, when I used less moisture and less tempering, the milling seemed more difficult on the first pass. All subsequent passes were uneventful, even on the finest settings.

After completing the milling session, I ran some home ash content tests. Clearly the yield of lower ash content white flours was much lower. I believe this again had to do with using lower moisture content wheat tempered for a shorter time. The flours seemed more like my earlier attempts with the Retsel mill, where one or two passes with untempered wheat berries resulted in a flour much closer to a whole wheat flour.

The sense that the flours were darker was corroborated by the home ash content tests, which showed the flour coming the the #60 sieve had an ash content almost as high as Heartland Mills WW flour (I'm making my flour with Heartland Mills "Milling Wheat (M2)". Output from subsequent passes had an ash content close to 1%, whereas in my earlier attempt with 14% moisture content 24 hour tempered berries, the flour from passes 3-4 that was the whitest had an ash content of about .75%. I think this explains why my earlier one or two pass attempts made loaves that seemed so much more like whole wheat loaves than my more recent multi-pass attempts with well tempered 14% moisture content wheat.

In order to get a flour something like Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo, I had to accept a lower yield this time. The home ash content tests take at least 24 hours of soaking, so I used color and inspection of the flour, plus the knowledge that the middle passes would be lower in ash content to blend the outputs to get a flour of the same approximate "color" as the Golden Buffalo. My "high touch" method came out to have an ash content almost equal to that of Golden Buffalo, but my yield was only about 65% this time, whereas I had a lower ash content with close to 80% yield in my earlier attempt with berries at 14% moisture content and tempered for more than 24 hours.

The loaves were made without any diastatic barley powder this time, and the crumb had no hint of gumminess. The color of the crust stayed slightly lighter than before. The gluten seemed a little better this time, which makes me wonder if the protein content or quality from this session was slightly better. It's hard to say, because I reduced the hydration based on the previous results, and this dough may have behaved well just because of more optimal hydration. However, maybe the gluten quality is somehow improved due to the different ash content, tempering method, and sifting method.

The loaves that resulted were very good. As noted above, the crumb was a touch darker than the last one, which correlates with the higher ash content measurement. However, the crumb was still much closer to a white bread, similar to the last one, as opposed to earlier attempts that were clearly closer to a whole wheat bread.

AnnieT's picture

I spent a goodly amount of last evening reading all about Bosch and DLX mixers, all the while knowing that I can't afford to buy either unless I win the lottery. Probably would have to buy a ticket to make that happen. However, I do have a nearly new Cusinart food processor which makes the world's best pastry - so why not bread? I searched my notebook of recipes copied from TFL members looking for one with a small enough amount of flour since I know my machine is too small for a multi loaf recipe. The one I chose was the Semolina Sandwich Loaf, many thanks to Zolablue. It took all of the semolina flour I had on hand, and the dough was very slack and I probably should have added some bread flour. The machine made very short work of the kneading and I detected a slight "overheated" smell at the time I decided it was ready. I did a fabulous French fold and have to say the semolina flour is very easy to clean up compared to white flour. The dough was still too soft to do much shaping after it had risen but it rose quite well in the pan. Unfortunately my fear of overproofing led me to bake it too soon and it blew out one side. The recipe didn't call for slashing so I didn't; maybe that would have prevented it? So the loaf isn't pretty, but the crumb is wonderful and the flavor is great. On the whole I think I will wait until I can buy one of the "proper" mixers, but it was fun to experiment. A.

ejm's picture

wild yeast bread

I have really been struggling to get our wild yeast bread to be less sour. This time, I added malt powder to give the dough a little sugar rush. I contemplated adding a bit of baking soda as well to bring the acidity down. But not really knowing the science of it, I decided against it. One experiment at a time....

I also added a tiny bit (1/16 tsp) of active dry yeast to the bread, because I've been getting so much flack about flat bread.

I was so pleased at how it had risen that I even tried slashing one of the loaves (while it was proofing, it had a little bird cookie cutter balanced on top - even before baking, it was impossible to see the bird design!) I just don’t know how you others do it.

I admit it; my slashing technique stinks!

It is less sour tasting. Even though the taste is pretty good, I'd still like to make a completely unsour wild yeast bread - without using even a trace of commercial yeast.

wild yeast bread

Tomorrow when I feed the wild yeast, I plan to try bwraith's method of maintenance to see if that will lessen the sourness.

Even though it has been decreed that this is one of my more successful attempts, I am still feeling defeated and just about ready to pack it in and toss the wild yeast out. It was devastating (well, maybe not "devastating"... perhaps "deflating" would be a better choice of word) to have to buy bread at Christmas time because my bread was so sour.

I have to admit that baking bread with commercial yeast is WAY easier!

bshuval's picture

This weekend I decided to bake a couronne. I used my sourdough for it. I am not entirely happy with the shape, but the crumb and taste were great. I've written about it at length here.

For now, here's a picture of the finished couronne:

And here's a picture of the crumb:

JohnnyX's picture

Hello Everyone,
 This week with much skepticism I decided to try the master boule recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day.
  I mixed the dough 3 days ago in a 6qt. plastic food bucket, and set it out to rise on the counter. Boy, what a high riser! Before the dough started to collapse it had practicly risen to the top of the bucket. I did not punch the dough down and immediatly put it into the fridge.
  Over the next couple of days the dough did not rise at all in the fridge. In fact, it actually condensed down back to about the 2qt line that it was at when I origanally mixed the dough.
   So last night I figured here we go, time to make some bread. I followed the directions exactly. I cut off a 1lbs. piece, shaped it, let it rise for 40 minutes, baked with steam at 450 f for 30 minutes.
  After 30 minutes I checked the bread. It had some decent oven spring, but not a ton. I checked the temp of the loaf and it was only at 
202f so i let it go for another 15 minutes, and it was stiil at the same temp! I baked it for another 10 minutes, still no change. I figured my thermometer had to be broken.
  I let the bread cool completely then grabbed my knife and dove in. I was quite surprised. The loaf had a great flavor and good crumb on the end pieces. The center however was a more tight crumb and a little dense and not quite cooked enough.
    So today I am baking a second loaf. I am going to let it rise alot longer and bake it at 500f until I get to 205f, know matter how long it takes. I hope I will get a more open crumb throughout.
     I think this bread has alot of potential for busy people like me who only have the time to make "proper" artisan bread on the weekends, but would still like  to have some fresh bread on a weeknight.
   Any comments or suggestons? Does anyone else make this and could share there techniques or tips?   =)

zolablue's picture

This is a new recipe I made from Daniel Leader’s book, Local Breads, for a Parisian loaf of Pierre Nury’s who is a recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award, as noted in the book.This is a very rustic light rye considered to be his signature loaf and is compared to Italian ciabatta.

It was very interesting to make and loads of fun although my timeline didn’t quite match Leader’s description of what would take place in the amount of time noted.I have made notes below in the recipe for how this worked for me.

This is delicious bread!I will definitely bake this loaf again.The recipe is so simple I see it as almost a no fail bread.The flavor is very good and I would describe it so far as the most tangy bread I’ve made to date keeping in mind my sourdoughs are very mild.I think it is really an outstanding flavor and toasted it is wonderful with a real depth of flavor.

The crumb is beautiful and very moist and almost spongy.It is very open like a ciabatta which just seemed so odd to me after such a long, overnight rise.

Here is the recipe for those of you who might like to give it a try.

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye – © Daniel Leader, Local Breads

Makes 2 long free-form loaves (18 ounces/518 grams each)Time:

8 – 12 hours to prepare the levain

20 minutes to mix and rest the dough

10 to 12 minutes to knead

3 to 4 hours to ferment

12 to 24 hours to retard

20 to 30 minutes to bake


45 grams - stiff dough levain(45%)

50 grams – water (50%)

95 grams – bread flour, preferably high-gluten (I used KA Sir Lancelot) (95%)

5 grams – stone-ground whole wheat flour (5%)

Prepare levain by kneading and place into a covered container.Let stand at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F) for 8 to 12 hours until it has risen into a dome and has doubled in volume.*

Bread dough:

400 grams – water (80%)

450 grams – bread flour, preferably high-gluten (I used Sir Lancelot) (90%)

50 grams – fine or medium rye flour (I used KA medium) (10%)

125 grams - levain starter**

10 grams – sea salt (I used kosher)


Pour water into bowl of a stand mixer.Add the bread flour and rye flour and stir until it absorbs all of the water and a dough forms.Cover and autolyse for 20 minutes.


Add the levain and salt.By machine, mix on medium speed (4 on a Kitchenaid mixer) until it is glossy, smooth and very stretchy for 12 to 14 minutes.***This dough is very sticky and will not clear the sides of the bowl.Give the dough a windowpane test to judge its readiness by gently stretching a golf-ball sized piece until it is thin enough to see through and not tear.If it tears mix for another 1 to 2 minutes and test again.To get maximum volume in the baked loaf, make sure not to under-knead.


Transfer dough to a lightly oiled container and cover.Leave to rise at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees) for 1 hour.It will inflate only slightly.

Turn: (stretch and fold):

Turn the dough twice at 1-hour intervals.After second turn, cover dough and leave to rise until it expands into a dome twice its original size, 1 to 2 hours more.****It will feel supple, airy, and less sticky.


Place the container in the refrigerator and allow the dough to ferment slowly for 12 to 24 hours.It will develop flavor but not rise significantly.Two to 3 hours before you want to bake, remove from refrigerator and let stand on the counter, covered.It will not rise and will feel cool.

Preheat oven:About 1 hour before baking heat oven (with baking stone) to 450°F.

Shape loaves:

Scrape dough onto floured counter and coat the top of the dough with flour.Press the mound of dough into a rough 10-inch square. Cut dough into 2 equal pieces (18 ounces/518 grams each).With floured hands, lift up one piece from the ends and in one smooth motion, gently stretch it to about 12 inches long and let it fall in whatever shape it may onto parchment paper.Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, spacing the two pieces at least 2 inches apart.(No need to score.)


Steam oven as usual.Immediately after shaping, slide loaves, on the parchment, onto the baking stone.Bake until crust underneath the swirls of flour is walnut-colored, 20 to 30 minutes.


Cool on wire rack for about 1 hour before slicing.Don’t be surprised by the long troughs running through the crumb.This is part of the bread’s character.


Store loaves with cut side covered in plastic at room temp for 3 to 4 days.For longer storage, freeze in resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.


*Leader says to allow the levain only to double in the amount of time noted.My starter more than tripled in less than 6 hours so at that time I mixed the dough.I think this may have slowed my fermentation way down since my starter had not fully risen and collapsed but I find I am always at odds with Leader’s instructions on firm starters.

**The levain recipe calls for ingredients which make up more than is needed for the dough recipe which I find problematic only because it bugs me.I want instructions for making the amount I need for a recipe and not to have any levain as leftover.He does this in some recipes and not in others so to me that is another flaw in their editing.Just make sure you weigh the proper amount for the dough recipe.

***I used a DLX mixer at about medium speed for roughly 10 to 12 minutes.

****My dough did not rise more than about 25% (if that) in the container in more than three hours after fermentation started.Again, I think that was due to using my levain too soon.I chose to place the dough in my pantry overnight to rise instead of the refrigerator since it had not doubled as it was supposed to by that time.My pantry is very cold at 62°F now as it is on an outside wall and this allowed a good spot for the dough to ferment overnight instead. It rose to just over double by the time I was ready to bake it.That fermentation took about 17 hours total.


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