The Fresh Loaf

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BLHNYC's picture

Hi Everyone-

Today I made pita bread using the recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice. This is actually the lavash cracker recipe adapted for pita and perhaps because of this the pita-making directions were not totally clear to me.

While the pita tastes good, I have a few questions about making it and had a few problems. Some of the pita inflated and formed a pocket while others did not. I am wondering what I did wrong.

The dough can retard overnight in the refrigerator. The recipe does not say if you need to let the dough rest at room temperature before proceeding with the shaping of it. I left it out for about an hour. Does this seem about right?

It took me a while to shape the dough thinly enough. I let it rest every few minutes and eventually got it where it seemed right. Is it possible to over-roll the dough? It should have been divided into 6oz pieces that are rolled out to 8in diameter. This seemed really large to me so I made 4oz pieces in 6oz diameter (it only made four pitas). Did making them smaller affect the quality of them?

Lastly- the recipe says to bake at 500F until it puffs and forms a pocket but that the dough shouldn't get too golden. Because my dough wasn't puffing well, I took it out after only about 4 minutes because of the color. I also didn't know how long this whole process could take. After tasting it, the cooking time seems to be fine because it was cooked through and had a nice consistency.

Does anyone have any idea why they all didn't puff? Over-working, the size, not enough time resting.... SO many things can go wrong!

Also- any suggestions for making these part whole-wheat would be greatly appreciated!

I look forward to hearing from you!



txfarmer's picture

Harbin(哈尔滨) is a city in Northeast China with a heavy Russian influence. Around 1913 the first generation of Russian immigrants came mostly to work for the Chinese Eastern Railway, since then they left noticable marks on local culture, one of which is : 大列巴(pronounced: Da Le Ba). This is a miche like sourdough bread that' was first introduced to the locals by a Russian baker, and has been sold in Harbin bakeries for over a hundred years. Even its Chinese name was originated from Russian word khleb (bread). The fact that this bread was accepted and welcomed by Chinese people, even became a famous "traditional Harbin food" is very interesting since its sour and chewy taste is decidely different from other traditional Chinese foods. In recent years many bakeries have been opened all over China, but they mostly sell soft and fluffy Asian style breads, very few sourdough breads, nothing at all like 大列巴.


I have been wanting to recreat this flavorful bread for years, but only one local company has the recipe, they have been making it the same way since the beginning, obviously they are not spilling the secret. With the power of internet, I did manage to find some clues:


Firstly, this is how they look (the following two pictures are from a Chinese news article on the web):


- According to the articles: the bread is made from "beer hops liquid natural starter", not commercial yeast, which brings sourness and "beer taste" to the bread. I am assuming the "hops liquid natural starter" is a "barm", either traditional ale beer barm or simply liquid natural starter with hops added in. For my version, I simply used the barm starter I created last time with Dan Lepard's method (see details here).

- Various articles mention that the bread went through a 3 stage fermentation process. To mimic that, I used the miche forumla in "Advanced Bread and Pastry" which also use a 3 stage fermentation. Hoewever, my fermentation timeline is a little different from what they do for 大列巴. Their total fermentation is 16 hours, while mine is 24 hours + an overnight cold proofing in the fridge. It fits my schedule better, and makes the bread more flavorful IMO.

- The ingredient list for 大列巴 reads: flour, salt, water, beer hops, so I am pretty sure it's a lean dough with no sugar or fat, but I am unsure what kind of flour they use. Traditional Russian breads would have a high percentage of rye, but judging from the pictures, and people's comments on flavor, I think there is very little rye flour, if any at all. This is reasonable since rye flour is not easily or cheaply available in China, plus local people would much prefer the taste and color of white flour. I used a little bit of rye in the final dough, and KA Bread Flour for the rest.

- It's baked in a traditional brick oven (which is again very rare in China) with high heat, and the breads come out of the oven with a hard and crackly crust. That one is easy - I simply baked it on my baking stone like a miche.

- Each 大列巴 weights 2KG, about 8 to 10 inches round. I scaled it to about 1KG, 6 inches round. From the pictures above you can see there's a softer/lighter colored portion around the sides of the bread, I think it's because they bake a lot of them in each batch, so breads grow into each other, the areas that touch don't get a hard crust (sort of like a pan of pull apart buns). Even though I like a good crust, to make it look more authentic, I baked the bread in a bottomless mousse ring, to get the light colored softer sides.

Here it is!

When I used the barm starter, it had been in the fridge for 3 days, but it raised the two starter doughs and the final dough like a bat out of cage. When I loaded the final dough into the mousse ring, it's about 60% full, after 10  hours in the fridge, it has went over the rim of the ring. I was afraid I had over-proofed the dough, but it kept rising in the oven, crazy oven sping, that barm starter is STRONG!

Crispy and crackling crust on top, and soft sides, just like the real thing. Since I do like crust, next time I will skip the mousse ring and just bake it free form.

Nice and chewy crumb. Just like the real thing, there's no big holes but thats expected with the lower hydration, and how the dough handled in the process.

It's noticably sour, very flavorful, crumb is chewy and moist, one of the best miche breads I've made!

I've only had the authentic 大列巴 once, many years ago, but I think my version is pretty close in flavor. Next time I will use high extraction flour intead of white flour, and increase the ratio of rye, that will match my current taste preference better.

大列巴 (fermentation procedure adapted from "AB&P")

-first dough

barm starter, 14g(see details here)

bread flour, 39g

water, 39g

salt ,1/8tsp

1. mix and cover, fermentate for 16 hours.


-second dough

first dough

bread flour, 234g

water, 280g

salt, 1/4tsp

2. mix and cover, fermentate for 8 hours. Mine became so very light and bubbly.


-final dough

2nd dough

bread flour, 212g

rye, 54g

water, 25g

salt, 10.5

3. mix and knead until medium gluten developement.

4. bulk rise only for 15 min, lightly preshape into boule, rest for 20 to 30min

5. shape and drop into mousse ring, cover and put in fridge immediately for overnight

6. next morning bake directly from fridge, 440F with steam, 50min.


*This bread is going to YeastSpotting

Doughty's picture

New Norcia Sourdough Recipe.

Related post in General Discussion forum.

Sourdough starter:
250ml cold potato water, grape juice, lemon juice or
plain water
250 grams stone-ground, wholemeal flour

Sourdough bread:
750 grams baker's flour
15 grams salt
250ml starter
250ml water

Sourdough starter:
1) Mix together to a thin paste in a plastic or ceramic
mixing bowl.
2) Cover with a porous cloth (eg: cheesecloth) and
leave near an open window out of direct sunlight for
three to four days. It should have started to ferment
(i.e. bubble) and have a sweet/sour pleasant aroma.
3) Mix in another 250ml water and 250g flour. If not
using within four hours, refrigerate.
4) The starter needs to be fed daily with 250ml water
and 250g flour. Pour off excess starter before feeding.
5) Two to three hours before using the starter, remove
from refrigerator and feed.


Sourdough Bread

1) Mix together and knead well. Let prove for two to
three hours.
2) Mould into two loaves and let prove for one and a
half to two hours until soft and puffy.
3) Slash and bake at 230 degrees for one to one and
a quarter hours until golden brown and tested hollow.


Przytulanka's picture

Hello Everybody!

My name is Anna and I live with my husband and my two sourdoughs - Rye and Wheat-in NY. I was born in Poland. I started baking 3 years ago. I started from the no-knead breads. In 2009 I made my starters and till today I use them to  bake our daily breads. My baking is experimental, intuitive and personal. Recipes are inspiration for me but I rarely follow them. 11 monthes ago I started posting about my bread baking on my blog BOCHENKOWO (Bochenek means loaf in Polish). I had  posted in Polish but few days I decided to start posting in English.

 Here is my first recipe in English:



219 g whole - wheat flour

200 g  boiling water

53 g golden roasted flax seeds

6 g salt



130 g whole- rye flour

122 g whole-wheat flour

123 g organic spelt  flour (whole grain)

250 g  water

35 g  mature sourdough  starter (wheat)*

45 g mature sourdough  starter (rye)*. 

*My  both sourdough starters are whole grain.

Mix all ingredients for the soaker and sourdough it for 10 hours at room temperature.

Final dough :

424 g whole- rye flour

340 g whole- wheat flour

509 g  organic spelt  flour (whole grain)

900 g of water



24 g of salt

Disperse the soaker and sourdough in the water. Add the flours (without the salt), Knead by hand until it is thoroughly combined and all the flour is hydrated. Let the mixture sit for  30 minutes.

Add the salt and knead the dough until all of the salt is incorporated.Cover the mixing bowl with plastic bag and let  the dough rest for 60 minutes.

Knead again and divide the dough into two equal pieces. Ferment the dough for 3 hours.

Preheat oven (with a baking  stone) to 500 F.

Place the shaped loaves in oiled loaf pans (2-3) and cover with damp cloth. Score the loaves and put them in the oven.

 Bake  for 10 minutes , then  turn down the temperature in the oven to 450 F. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove  loaves from the pans and place them on the stone. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into.



hanseata's picture

Coming home from Portland late yesterday evening I had no time to make any pre-doughs for today's baking. So everything was stretched and folded, except for my usual Pain a l'Ancienne dough. No kitchen octopuses to battle this time, the doughs behaved and didn't try to take over the countertop. This morning I got an early start with my baking and was done just in time to Meet The Press.

Tyrolean Pumpkin Seed Mini Breads


These are real breads, not rolls, and are made with spelt, rye and Italian 00 flour - and, of course, lots of toasted pumpkin seeds.



Pain a l'Ancienne with Oat Flour (sorry, no crumb shot, these were all sold)


And since the oven was still warm, I finally fullfilled my NYB testing duties: Lace Cookies. They look as nice as they tasted.



jkandell's picture


Wholewheat Anise-infused Apple Sour bread


Started as the all-white flour Apple Sour bread from the Cordon Bleu Professionals Baker's guide.

Adapted by fellow Arizonan Stephanie Petersen for whole wheat.

Then tweaked by me.

The "sour" refers to week-old fermented shredded apples, not to the flavor.

The texture is moist, the smell and flavor are woodsy with a light background of anise. The apples are inperceptably in the background.

Ingredients: whole wheat, grated apple, organic apple sauce, anise, water, salt, sugar, honey, yeast.

Note that this bread contains only 1/16t of yeast, most of the rise is by fermented apples.



Mebake's picture

This is my 1st attempt at a multigrain loaf, Hamelman's Wholewheat Multigrain with 50% wholewheat, multigrain soaker, and a liquid levain. It is essentially a partial sourdough, with  1tsp yest added to the final dough.

As i only have white wheat on hand, i used white wheat flour, so the crumb is pale. other 50% is All Purpose.

I've Hot - soaked Cracked white wheat ,cracked Rye berries, and sunflower seeds. The Crust has a sweet caramelized aftertaste (recipe called for honey), and crumb has a faint sourdough tang, with a nice chew of cooked berries and seeds. This is an excellent bread! The texture is light yet close crumbed (75% hydration didn't seem enough, as the soaker and my freshly milled wholewheat were v. thirsty. I raised the hydration to 80% for the dough to be of medium consistency.

I think it should make a superb toast!





odinraider's picture

Experimentation with baguettes never seems to end. Today I decided to try a one day sponge instead of my usual poolish. In addition, I let the rest of the flour and water (that not being occupied fermenting in the sponge) have a one and one half hour autolyse. I then did a double bulk ferment, the first in the fridge for two hours, the second at room temperature for another hour after folding the dough.


Last week I let the dough ferment in the fridge out of necessity (the wife wanted me to take her somewhere, I forget where now), and the bread was great. I decided to try a more structured approach to determine the optimum fermentation. It seems to lack the dark crust I prefer, so next time I will scorch it. I didn't turn the oven on soon enough, and it's always fritzy anyway when it comes to temps. Ah, well, two are gone already, so all in all a definite step forward on the journey to a perfect personal recipe.

Next I made two loaves of white bread for family sandwiches and suchlike. I usually use one of two recipes. The first comes from Julia Child's Baking with Master Chefs. The other is a Jamaican hard do. I chose that for today's bake. I added a little powdered milk and vegetable oil to the basic recipe to give it that little extra oomph.

Finally, my favorite sourdough. Pain de campagne. Made in a Dutch oven. Perfection.

*Edit: As I thought, the picture loading problem was my own weariness. It has been rectified (both the sleepiness and the inability to understand how to load pictures), and I have attached a few photos of the breads.


trailrunner's picture

What an easy wonderful bread. I went to your blog for your "original " version as I didn't have time to do the soaker. I have been impressed by breads but this one is WAY at the top. Sweet and tender and oh the crust sang and sang. 

Changes I made...I am sorry but time was of the essence. I used my starter which is going " great guns" for the whole levain build . I followed everything else to the letter, well almost. I baked it in a 500 degree cast iron  pot for 30 min, with top on and then 15 min top off. Oh is so pretty. I had to cut it...I'm sorry again. My dear husband had his meatballs ready and my sauce was begging for your bread. more pics of crumb to follow tomorrow. I We sat by the pool with a light rain falling...picture the candles and the sound of the rain  drops on the pool  and the fountain...and the scent of this bread. 

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

another crumb pic: Photobucket

TheresaB's picture

I just finished making croissant dough for the very first time with information I could find on the internet. Wow. Making croissant dough is tough, and I'm still I'm not sure I did it correctly. What I just made tastes good, though it's reminiscent of a bread-child between a buttermilk biscuit and a croissant.

I regret leaving them in the refrigerator overnight after folding the dough, I should've let them rise to something larger. Also I think I put too much milk in them and didn't kneed the dough as much as I should have done. They're tasty, surprisingly! I am absolutely shocked they turned out edible and that those 17 hours of creation, refrigeration and proofing didn't go to waste!  

I combined a few recipes posted on these forums to create this Frankenstein deliciousness (Croissants, but with more milk than originally planned):



I put some almond paste in these (Same dough):

I haven't tried the bear claws yet, I'm too excited that I didn't burn them to oblivion, or that they're not hard as rocks that I had to post this and share these creations to the world. Also, I'm sure the almond paste filling resembles a hot lava that would scorch the tongue for at least the next 20 minutes.


Tips? Thoughts?


*Just realized I should post this as a blog.


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