The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

  • Pin It
audra36274's picture

  As the story goes, Emily wanted a topsy turvy cake for her birthday party. If you haven't seen one, please google topsy turvy cakes and there are even cool video's that make it look oh so easy to do. I had called the bakery and they wanted $230.00 for one to feed 20 people. Not this year! So the Wilton pans come out and this is the result. Now I know it is not a $230. quality cake, 1. because I used frosting and  fondant only on the decorations (it taste like crap) and 2. it was a less than perfect job. The front I left flat for writing purposes, but the sides and back are very curvy. If you have ever worked with fondant, it has the exact same texture as Play Dough, so I let Emily and Quaid have a good time and cut out and apply all the dots.

Note to myself: Put the next extremely heavy cake I make on a solid board, NOT a cardboard cake board (they bend and will break the cake) this almost happened

   These are not that hard and I think that after making just 3 or 4 that anyone could make one with professional results. I did use dowels and corrugated cardboard to seperate when the layers changed sizes to help support the weight. And I can't think of anything I would have done differently. If you do one, follow the video, be sure to use a crumb coat and let it dry well. You should be able to smooth any rough spots because this layer gets sort of hard. Then you can frost away and not have to worry about any crumbs sneaking in. If its for kids, let them in on the fun. They will enjoy the cake more if they get to participate, and don't sweat it. It's just cake, if it flops, feed it to the chickens and run to the super market for a replacement and swear you just didn't have time to bake!Emily's cakeEmily's cake /2

xaipete's picture

Yesterday I tried the ciabatta pizza that trailrunner posted about a week ago. I was very impressed with the results.

The pizza formula has a lot of yeast in it and went through bulk fermentation like a rocket (I had to put it in the fridge to slow it down.) When it had tripled (after about 3 hours in fridge--probably faster but I just let it sit there until I was ready), I heavily floured my counter, literally poured the glutenous dough onto the flour, and then sprinkled more flour on the top. I patted the blob into a circle about 1/2 an inch thick. Then the trick was how to get the blob onto the pan-sprayed parchment. I did the best I could but had to reshape it a bit after it landed. Didn't seem to hurt it any. I topped it with tomatoes and basil (topping basil was an obvious mistake at this point because it dried out in the oven--next time I'll put it on as a garnish; sometimes in the heat of the moment I do stupid things).

I baked it on a preheated stone on the bottom rack for 8 minutes. (Trailrunner had warned me that I needed to bake the moisture out of the tomatoes and that was good advice.) After taking it out of the oven with my peel, I removed the parchment paper, topped it with some of TJ's marinated rope-type mozzarella, and slid it back in the oven for another 8 minutes. It rose up real nice in the oven and produced a delicate, soft, thickish pizza crust. The pizza as a whole didn't have as much flavor as I was hoping for but my tomatoes weren't home grown (I used an heirloom supermarket variety), so I'm not surprised as the topping was so plain. Next time I think I'll reduce the yeast to 3 g (I used 7 g by mistake) so it will take longer to go through bulk fermentation and perhaps develop a little more flavor. But all and all I was pretty happy with the results. Thanks trailrunner for posting this great pizza!

Topped with tomatoes and ready to go into the oven.

After 8 minutes

After 15 minutes (TJ's cheese had some oil in it so that's why it browned; regular mozzarella probably wouldn't brown.)

Crumb (or is it slice?)

250 g AP flour

227 g water (I might reduce to 210 g next time)

3 g yeast (I misread the recipe and used 7 g by accident)

7 g salt

tomatoes, thinly sliced or halved cherries, or a combination of both

mozzarella cheese, grated or thinly sliced

fresh basil leaves, for garnish

olive oil

kosher salt

Put the flour, water, salt, and yeast in mixer bowl and mix with paddle to incorporate. Let dough rest for 5 minutes to hydrate. Knead with dough hook on speed 2 for 10 minutes. (My dough never formed a ball like trailrunner's so next time I'm going to use a little less water).

Put dough into a container and let triple.

Place dough onto a heavily floured countertop, sprinkle top of dough with flour, and pat into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer dough to pan-sprayed parchment paper, top with thinly sliced tomatoes, and bake on a stone in a preheated 500º oven for 8 minutes to drive off the moisture from the tomatoes and set the dough. Remove pizza and parchment from oven, discard parchment and top with mozzarella cheese. Return pizza to oven and bake until done, about another 7 to 8 minutes.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and a light sprinkling of kosher salt and olive oil.

Makes one pizza (serves two people).

The original post is from LilDice.

I also found another link to this pizza with pictures and discussion. NB: the reduced amount of IDY.



Shiao-Ping's picture

I've been threatening to collapse my San Francisco starter and call it a day because it performs much slower than my other starters.  At the last minute, David (dmsnyder) brought to my attention James MacGuire's other recipe, Miche, Pointe-a-Calliere in Hamelman's "Bread," as well as Pain Poilane in Daniel Leader's "Local Breads."  The full title of the latter is "Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche inspried by Pain Poilane, pain au levain complet," and according to Daniel Leader, it is "a symbol of artisanal excellence in France and around the world."  David also mentioned Peter Reinhart's Poilane-Style Miche in "The Bread Baker's Apprentice."  

As all three formulae employ a whole wheat starter (to be exact, the flours used for the starters and the final doughs are, respectively, high-extraction whole-wheat flour in Hamelman's book, stone-ground whole wheat flour in Leader's book, and a sifted medium-grind whole wheat flour in Reinhart's book), I thought I'd convert my San Francisco starter into an Australian wholemeal starter first before I decide on an avenue to pursue.  I have been warned that my Australian wholemeal flour is actually white whole wheat flour for North America.  All the better for my endeavour here as the standard whole wheat flour is hard red spring wheat which may not be the most desirable flour for hearth loaves.   

Formula Synopsis Comparison     


Miche, Pointe-a-Calliere


Pain Poilane


Poilane-Style Miche


Starter hydration 




Starter as % of final

dough flour


25% (or 45%)*


Final dough hydration





Mix flour & water, autolyse

20-60 min, then add salt &


Mix flour & water, autolyse

20 min, then add salt &


Mix everything in one go


On 2nd speed for 2 - 2.5 min,

the dough is loose & gluten

only moderately developed

By hand for 12 - 14 min,

the dough should pass

windowpane test

By hand for 12 - 15 min,

the dough should pass

windowpane test

Bulk fermentation

with folding

2.5 hrs with 2 - 3 foldings

@ 40 - 50 min intervals

3 - 4 hrs with one brief

kneading (1 - 2 min)

after one hr

4 hrs or until nearly

doubles in size

(no folding)





Final proofing

2 - 2.5 hrs

2 - 3 hrs

2 - 3 hrs

Dough size for home


1665 g

1010 g (or 1110 g) *

2060 g


440F for 15 min, then

420F for 45 min

470F for 40 - 50 min

Heat oven to 500F, once

dough is loaded, turn it

down to 450F, bake 25 min

then 425F for 30 - 40 min

* There is a discrepancy in figures in Leader's book (page 120); the instruction says leveain of 125 g (25%) is to be used however the table lists a figure of 225 g (45%); hence, the resulting difference in final dough sizes. 

Just by looking at the comparison above, I immediately know that I would like the Hamelman's (ie, James MacGuire's) formula the best.  However, I have a very basic problem here that I cannot reconcile with intellectually.  In Hamelman's book, it specifically says to make the final levain build 12 hours (@ 70F) before the dough mix, and also in Leader's book, it is 8 - 12 hours (@70 - 75F).   My problem is: if final levain build takes 12 hours, why, then, would the dough fermentation (bulk & final proofing all-up) only take half that time?  (Note: in both cases, dough fermenting temperature is recommended roughly the same as the starter temperature.)   There seems to be the pressumption that if your starter is very strong (after 8 - 12 hours' final building), it should be able to leaven dough many times its size with half the time (at roughly the same temperature).   From past experience, I already know what my sourdough would look like if I followed the instruction to the letter.

Anyway, I didn't want to go there.  I decided I wanted to do something bold - no harm, it's only an experiment:

  • 85% dough hydration: my thinking is if white flour can take 80% hydration, wholemeal can take 85%!
  • 12 hours all-up for bulk fermentation and final proofing: my rationale is my San Francisco starter performs very slowly and the Australian mild winter gives me 70 - 75F room temperature, the ideal temp for the fermenting dough.

My Formula

  • 220 g Australian white wholemeal starter @ 75% hydration
  • 414 g Australian white wholemeal flour
  • 365 g water
  • 10 g salt

 You cannot get ingredients more simple than the above list of 4 items!

Main points of my steps are:

  1. 4 & 1/2 hours of bulk fermentation (@ 70 - 75F ) during which 5 sets of 8 - 10 folds were performed, the last set of which also served as pre-shaping as in my Pain de Tradition post.
  2. Then, shaped the dough into a boule and placed it in a basket line with floured towel.
  3. 7 & 1/2 hours of proofing  (@ 70 - 75F).  For the whole time, I checked it every 15 minutes or so to make sure it's not over-proofed. 
  4. When I checked it the last time before I put it into the fridge for the night (for 7 hours) with a floured finger, the dough still sprang back with some "force."
  5. This morning, I brought it out of the fridge, let it sit at room temp for 4 hours! before I baked it. 

And here is this little baby,


    100% Sourdough Pain de Tradition with 85% Hydration (100% Australian wholemeal flour)


                                  the crumb


          and more crumb

Throughout the whole time I was aware that over-fermenting/proofing would mean:

  • no oven spring
  • the dough may collapse
  • the crust may be baked to a ghostly pale color
  • the crumb may taste like glue
  • the taste may be overly sour

In this sourdough,

  • there was a good oven spring
  • the dough held up really well, with no "bread improver" of any sort
  • the crust color was perfect to my liking
  • the crumb tastes mildly chewy and springy
  • there is an assertive sourness, but not excessive.

In fact, the formula and the steps here yielded a complex crumb flavor, far more than the humble ingredients list would have you believed.




Morale (if there is such a thing):  What I learned in this bake is that I have to know my starter to do sourdough well.   As Dan Lepard said,

... a ... baker recognizes that the doughs he makes are living things with individual identities, that they ultimately create themselves.  The baker's skill is to encourage natural developments, and the bread that results from this understanding will always taste better....

If I simply follow recipes without understanding my starter, my dough, and my environment (I mean, the environment the starter and the dough is in), no recipe can guarantee any good sourdough. 

It's near bed time as I was signing off.  My son danced out of his bedroom and asked, "Come on, mum, where is the music?"




D.W. Phillips's picture
D.W. Phillips

I am a woodworking hobbist and I'm looking for a source to be able to purchase bread slicing blades approx. 10 in. long with a hole drilled in each end.  Where can I find such a source to purchase from?

dmsnyder's picture

Shiao-Ping's blog entry on James McGuire's Pain de Tradition  certainly stimulated a lot of interest. I made the sourdough version a couple days ago. Today, I made the straight dough version.

The formula is in Shiao-Ping's posting. I followed it, changing only the flours. I used Giusto's Baker's Choice rather than KAF AP, and I used 10% KAF Organic White Whole Wheat. 

Shiao-Ping, in her excellent write up, mentioned that this dough could be used for baguettes. I was a bit skeptical regarding a 80% hydration dough for baguettes, but I gave it a try. 

The dough developed beautifully with the stretch and fold in the bowl procedure. By the 3 hour point, it had moderate gluten development and was already pulling away from the bowl. In my warm kitchen, it was quite puffy and expanded.

I treated the dough to pre-shaping and shaping as I would any straight dough. I lost some of the openness in the crumb, but it was still pretty nice. I baked at 460F with light steam. I removed the steaming skillet at 10 minutes. The baguette baked for 20 minutes, the bIatard for 30 minutes. The loaves were left in the oven for another 10 minutes with the oven off and the door ajar.

The cuts didn't open up as well as I had wished, but the crust ended up the closest to classic, crackly baguettes as any I've baked. The loaves sang for a long time, and the crust cracked during cooling, which I take as a positive sign of a thin, crisp crust.

As I said, the crumb was nice, but not as open as expected, given the high hydration. This may reflect my firm-handed pre-shaping and shaping. I may have erred on the side of under-steaming, too. I had proofed to 1.75 times the original volume. I feared over-proofing and may have slightly under-proofed. Oven spring was fast and large. 

Baguette Crumb

Bâtard Crumb

The flavor was amazing. It was wheaty and slightly sweet, and it had an almost herbal overtone and complexity of flavor I can't say I've ever tasting in a white wheat, straight dough bread before. Perhaps this was due to the White Whole Wheat. I'm sure the long fermentation played an important role. Whatever. The flavor was there in both breads. It was not there when I first tasted the baguette but developed about 3 hours after baking.

This is a remarkable bread.

I like the results from baking it at the higher temperature, especially on the crust crispness. A longer bake at a slightly  lower temperature is worth a try though. This is my new method to fiddle with on the continuing baguette quest for sure.


Shiao-Ping's picture


       Sourdough Black Tea Bread - using James MacGuire's Pain de Tradition procedure


                                   the crumb

I always remember that very dense Black Tea Sourdough that I made a month ago (it feels like ages ago).  Back then I received a lot of kind remarks and encouragements but really the sourdough was like a stone.  So, I had on my list to try my hands again at some stage.   With the new technique I learned from making James MacGuire's Pain de Tradition, I thought my time was ripe for a second go at it.  Back then, my dough hydration was a shy 64% with a dough size of 685 g.  This time I jacked up the hydration to 80% (total flour 500 g and total liquid 400 g) for a dough size of 910g.   Not only that, I gave the dough an overnight cold retardation in the fridge.

My formula 

210 g wholemeal starter @ 75% hydration

290 g white bread flour

90 g KAF Sir Lancelot high gluten flour

125 g cool black tea (I used 2 English Breakfast tea bags)

151 g water

18 g honey

16 g Tea Liqueur

10 g salt  

2 g instant dry yeast


With only mother and son at home (my husband and daughter are away on the International Young Physicist Tournament in China) I was afraid that I would have a lot left over; but no, my son couldn't have enough of it, and he made me slice up the whole loaf. 


                    more crumb


                                                                                            and the close-up

Tonight my muse is the music from my late teens/early 20s; my whole house is ringing with the music, I think my roof is protesting.  My son walks out of his bedroom, dancing to the music.  He has a smile on his face as, when the daddy is away, the mummy lets him free-range. 

Oh, let me get back to the bread.

The bread is lovely.  It's too easy - with MacGuire's procedure.  The crumb is favourful and the mouthfeel is mildly chewy - totally unlike the cottony/fairy floss like crumb of yeasted breads.  There is "substance" to the crumb.  The addition of sourdough starter and the retardation overnight really do the trick for me. 

One complaint - I might have over-dosed the bread with the instant dry yeast!  Even though I used the prescribed quantity (ie, 2 g), I think less instant yeast so that the dough doesn't rise up too much might be good. 

Isn't that funny - a month ago I couldn't have enough aeration and holes in my sourdough, now I am begging for less!



ed minturn's picture
ed minturn

What about using a bread machine for doing the dough process for some recipes? I did it for making dinner rolls and they came out very good.  ed    

dmsnyder's picture


Even before the recent crop of beautiful breads made with James McGuire's “Pain de Tradition” formula, I had been planning to bake the “Miche, Point-à-Callière” from Hamelman's “Bread” this weekend. Hamelman attributes this bread to McGuire, whose intention was to replicate the type of bread baked by the first French settlers of what ultimately became Montreal. The name of the bread, “Pointe-à-Callière,” was the name of their first settlement.

Miche, Pointe-à-Callière

The other, more well-known, bread meant to approximate French bread of that era is Pain Poilâne. Hamelman's formula is for a 82% hydration Miche (very large boule) made with high-extraction flour. It is a pain au levain with no added yeast. The principal difference between McGuire's and Poilâne's miches is the higher hydration of McGuire's. Actually, I make this bread with 2 oz less water than Hamelman calls for, which makes it a 76% hydration dough.

I have made this bread with first clear flour, Golden Buffalo Flour (a high-extraction flour from Heartland Mills) and with a mix of bread flour and whole wheat. Personally, I prefer the results with first clear flour over the others.


Overall Formula



High-extraction whole-wheat flour

2 lbs



1 lb, 8.2 oz



0.6 oz



3 lb, 8.8 oz



Levain Build



High-extraction whole-wheat flour

6.4 oz



3.8 oz


Mature culture (stiff)

1.3 oz (3 T)



11.5 oz



Final Dough



High-extraction whole-wheat flour

1 lb, 9.6 oz



1 lb, 4.4 oz



0.6 oz



10.2 oz (all less 3 T)


3 lb, 8.8 oz




  1. Make the levain about 12 hours before you want to mix the dough. Dissolve the mature culture in the water, then mix in the flour. Cover tightly and ferment at room temperature. (I let the levain ripen at room temperature for about 10 hours overnight. I then refrigerated it for another 6 hours. This was a matter of my convenience. It probably did increase the sourness of the final dough, which happens to be fine with me.)

  2. To make the dough, mix the flour and water in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one that can handle this much dough. Cover and let stand for an autolyse of 20-60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the dough, add the levain in chunks and mix thoroughly. Hamelman says to mix the dough at second speed for 2 to 2 ½ minutes to get a loose dough with only moderate gluten development. This time would be for a professional spiral mixer, of course. DDT is 76F. (I mixed the dough in a Bosch Universal Plus. It took about 4 ½ minutes to get what I regarded as “moderate gluten development.” I think one could easily use the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique with this bread and achieve equally good results, if not better.)

  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, large bowl, cover tightly and allow to ferment for 2 ½ hours. Fold the dough twice at 50 minute intervals. If the gluten development was less than “moderate” after mixing, a third fold may be needed. If so, do the three folds at 40 minute intervals.

  4. After fermentation, transfer the dough to a floured board and lightly pre-shape into a round. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes, then gently round up the dough and transfer it to a well-floured banneton. Cover with a slightly damp towel or with plasti-crap. (The miche could be proofed on a well-floured linen couche, in principle. I have never attempted to transfer a slack dough loaf of this size from a couche to a peel. I imagine the results would be … amusing.)

  5. While the bread is proofing, pre-heat the oven to 500F and set up your steaming method of choice. (Hamelman calls for heating the oven to 440F.)

  6. After steaming the oven and loading the bread, turn the oven down to 440F. After 15 minutes, remove the steam source and turn down the oven to 420F. Hamelman says the total bake time is “about 60 minutes.” You can leave the miche in the turned off oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes after the bread is done. This will dry out the crust somewhat, but this is a very wet bread, and the crust will soften.

  7. Cool thoroughly on a rack. Hamelman prescribes covering the cooled miche with baker's linen and delaying slicing for at least 12 hours. (I think I actually did forgo slicing it for 12 hours once. It is an excellent idea, but I am weak.)

Miche Crumb

Miche crumb close-up

The flavor of this bread, like Poilâne's Miche, definitely improves over 1 to 3 days. I personally like the flavor best the day after it was baked. Of course, the next day is also pretty terrific, and the next … Hamelman says that the bread gets more sour and the “wheat flavor intensifies” over several days. My experience has been that the sourness does increase. I would describe the change in flavor as “mellowing” rather than intensifying. I think that is the same as what Hamelman describes as “the flavors melding.”

This bread has excellent keeping quality. Kept in a bread bag or bread box, it is very enjoyable for a week. It also freezes well. I usually cut it in quarters to freeze, wrap each quarter in 2 layers of freezer wrap and place them in food-safe plastic freezer bags.



Submitted to YeastSpotting


weavershouse's picture

My third Scali

I'm adding this to my blog. It's also in Sylvia's post for Scali bread.

 I'm very happy with this bread. Yesterday I made a double batch and made 7 rolls and one braid. I didn't take a photo of the braid but the rolls are shown below. They were delicious with that stretchy pull apart crumb that I like in Italian breads. To make yesterdays batch I made the starter as given in the KAF recipe very early in the morning, let it sit 7 hours, mixed the dough, let it rise 90 min., deflated it and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning it was risen about half way, I divided it, let it rest for an hour then shaped, let rise and baked. The flavor was delicious in the rolls and like I said a nice stretchy holey crumb. I didn't taste the braid, it was a gift. I did not make the strips 24" long like the recipe called for. I only made them about 17". The loaf was much higher and I liked it that way.


Last night I made up another starter and today made the recipe as written but made batons instead of the braid and used poppy seeds because I had used up all my sesame seeds. It probably can't be called a Scali anymore :o)  I was surprised with the high rise of todays loaves. They were a good 3 1/2"-3 3/4". Todays bread tastes very good but not as delicious as yesterdays and I'm wondering if it's because today I used the dry milk called for instead of using the whole milk I used yesterday or because the dough for the rolls was retarded overnight. Still very good but not quite up to the other. Todays crumb is not as open either.


Anyway, thanks again for introducing us to this KAF recipe. It's become a favorite. Wish I had some of that cherry jam! A friend gave me 5 lbs of the huge dark sweet cherries. I couldn't get out to her place to get them right away so she froze them for me. Do you think I could still make cherry jam with them?



The rolls shown below were made with the Scali dough

Nomadcruiser53's picture

Well, I watched Bobby Flay take on The Elegant Farmer in Mukwanago, WI. in an apple pie throwdown. The Elegant Farmer did his with a sugar cookie crust done in a brown paper bag. I just had to try it. Eating it all ourselves would have been selfish so we had another couple over for dessert on the deck. I'm not artistic and don't try. Here's the pie. It was great.

The pie steams in the bag at 375 for and hour. Then cut a circle out of the top of the bag and brown for another 15 mins. I was very happy with the outcome. Dave


Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries