The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Mebake's picture

This is the high extraction miche i made from Peter Reinhart's Whole grain breads.

For nearly a 100% wholewheat, it was surprisingly light. It benefited from a 3 days retardation in the dridge, talk about crazy schedule!

I havn't tasted it yet, but iam sure it should taste ok.


SylviaH's picture

After reading in 'Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads Sweet and Savory Baking for Breakfast, Brunch, and Beyond' Ciril Hitz forward by Peter Reinhart>

Gibassier - This little-known breakfast bread hails from the Provence region in France and is, in CH wife's opinion, one of the best breakfast breads ever to have graced our table.  She is not alone, most everyone that has been lucky enough to taste a gibassier falls in love instantly.  Perhaps it is the light, buttery texture of the aroma of orange blossom water mixed with the selicate hint of aniseed.  Whatever it is, this little baked gem has the potential for a cultlike following among bakers everywhere....and it goes on...well I just couldn't wait to give it a try. 


Pre-ferment (Biga)                                                                                Yield - apx. one dozen individual loaves -

1.  Bread Flour - I used King Arthur All-Purpose Flour - 180 gms                  350F convection oven mode - 10 -12 minutes

2.  Whole Milk -  I used 2 % - 110 gms

3. Instant Yeast - Osmotolerant - 0.01 - pinch



1.  Eggs whole 130 grams or 2 Eggs plus one yolk

2.  Olive Oil - 65 gms

3.  Orange blossom water - 38 gms

4.  Water - 25 gms

5.  Bread Flour KAAP used - 400gms

6.  Pre-ferment - All of it

7.  Granulated sugar - I used Bakers fine sugar - 100 gms

8.  Salt - 7gms sea salt used

9.  Instant yeast preferably osmotolerant - 2 teaspoons of osmotolerant used or 10 gms

10.  Unsalted butter - 70gms - Land O Lakes I used

11.  Aniseed - 6 gms - 1 1/2 tsp.

12.  Candied orange peel 1/4 inch cubed - 70 gms - 1/2 cup -  I make my own from organic oranges

13.  Granulated sugar for topping  -  As needed

14.  Clarified butter - 113 gms - 1/2 cup

Night before baking

  • Combine all the pre-ferment ingredients in the bowl of a 5-quart stand mixer and mix at low speed until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Remove from bowl and place in an oiled container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap.  Allow to stand overnight (14 to 16 hours) at room temperature.

Baking Day

  • Bring the Eggs, Olive Oil, Orange blossom water, and water to about 60F. 
  • In the bowl of a 5 - quart stand mixwer, pour in the warmed liquids, add the pre-ferment and then add the bread flour, granulated sugar, salt, and instant yeast.  Using a dough hook, mix together at low speed until the dough comes together (about 4 minutes).
  • Increase the mixing speed to medium and mix for an additional 4 minutes.
  • In the meantime, soften the unsalted butter to a plastic state by hammering it with a rolling pin. 
  • Slowly add the softened butter to the mixing dough in stages.  Be sure that each portion of butter is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next portion.
  • Mix the dough until the dough is fully developed.
  • When the dough is fully developed, reduce the mixing speed to low and add the aniseed and candied orange peel.  Continue until all is evenly distributed.  About 2 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a work surface and lightly shape into a round.  Place in an oil-sprayed container and cover.  Bulk ferment for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. 
  • Using a scale and bench scraper, divide the dough into 90 or 100gm units and work into rounds, then cover and let rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Shape into torpedoes and then press them flat.  They should be shaped like a half circle
  • Place the straighter edge of the dough near to you and use a 2-inch wide putty knife - I used a plastic card - somewhat like a credit card you might like to cut up : )
  • Cut 3 slits starting in the middle and one on each side.  Cut 4 slits about 1/3 the the way down into the outer edge of the dough, splitting the difference in between the major slits.  You'll have 4 cuts along the outer edge.
  • Pick up each unit, open it with a gentel stretch,  place on parchment lined sheet pans.  Let it proof, covered with plastic for about 1 to 1/2 hours.  Mine did not take that long.  My kitchen was pretty warm today.
  • Pre-heat a covection oven to 350F for about 30 minutes. 
  • Pre-pare the clarified butter
  • Proof
  • Bake until golden
  • I made a mixture of one egg about 3 Tbsp. milk for a egg wash prior to putting into the oven..on 2 of my last baked Gibassier and I liked the way they came out much better than the unglazed ones..they rose higher and looked more golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and brush the hot gibassiers with clarified butter.  After the butter has set, toss in a bowl with grandular sugar to coat while still warm.  Then set on wire rack to cool.


                      Candied Orange Peel I made from my neighbors organic orange trees.

                           Candied Orange Peel and Aniseed




















                                Delicious with a delicate flavor of orange and aniseed.  Ciril Hitz wife was right!  What a perfect breakfast or tea pastry to

                                grace a table.


                                                                      Submitted to Yeastspotting

Pop N Fresh's picture
Pop N Fresh

Hi Folks,

This is my first post... Here it goes!

I'll Have better quality images next time!  Sorry

I’ve been following all of your postings for about a month now and loved every bit of what I have read.  I too have the same passion, though I turned my obsession into a career.

My latest yeast born obsession was triggered by Bobby Flay's "Throw Down" with Wafels and Digges of Manhattan, Then I found this:

Never having heard of, nor ever tasted a Liege Wafel (Gaufres de Liege or Belgian Sugar Wafel), I found my self with a new mission in life... I did a little research and found that most of the formulas for Liege Wafels (my version to follow) were about the same.  King Arthur Flour's formula is the one that was the most original.  And to be truly honest, to date I have not as yet made the King Arthur version because I truly love what I've come up with and I can't seem to find it online again! 

The dough is basically a Brioche dough with an attitude (imbedded with pearl sugar).  Here are a few basic guidelines:

  • Start the dough with a soft sponge (rest at room temp for about one hour) or even better with a Poolish!
  • Use a dough whisk or paddle attachment to fully develop the dough before adding the fat
  • *Add room temperature fat (Unsalted Butter is BEST!) in about ten parts being sure to incorporate fat thoroughly before the next addition.

Recipe yields about 5-7 nice wafels:

1/3 cup  warm water

1/4 oz.    Active Dry or the appropriate amount of instant yeast (although I prefer compressed)

1 1/2 Tbs.  Sugar

2 cups     Bread or Patent Flour

1/8 tsp.  Salt

3ea.        Eggs,  room temperature

1 tsp.      Vanilla

**Zest from one lemon

8oz.   *Unsalted Butter, room temperature. 

*In my lab I only use butter, for my daughter who is lactose intolerant I use a lactose free margarine

** Cinnamon can be used in place of the lemon zest. Mmmm!

Make a sponge (or poolish) from the water, yeast, sugar and a little of the flour.  Allow to mature for a minimum of one hour before blending in the remaining flour, eggs, lemon zest, salt  and vanilla.  Be sure to develop dough fully. As for a beurre blanc sauce preparation, the fat should be added in nuggets while agitating vigorously. Be sure to blend-in the fat until you form a smooooooth batter-like consistency!  Allow the batter to rest for an additional hour at room temp.  If desired it can be given one or two folds during this period.

After portioning into the desire size, I find that it easiest to round them on the counter with a Baker's plastic scrapper.  Place them on an oiled tray and lightly oil their tops as to avoid having them stick to the plastic wrap.  Wrap, then refrigerate until firm (about 30-45 min.).  They may be retarded for up to 24 hour.



Portioned Liege Dough



Preheat your Belgian Waffler (non-stick is best and you'll need to fidget around with the temperature setting of your machine to find the best setting.  I suggest somewhere in the mid-range will work best).  With all of the fat in this formula, I do not find it necessary to coat the griddle with anything.

*Note: This wafel does form caramel deposits on your waffler and does require a little extra effort cleaning when done! But well worth it!!

 Pearl SugarLars Own Swedish Pearl Sugar can be purchased from King Arthur Flour, but I find it is less expensive to get it from my local Ikea (in the food court/market place area) for under $4 for a 10oz. package.  It's made from beet sugar and looks a lot like pretzel salt


Lars Own Swedish Pearl SugarGrain of pearl sugar



I find that most recipes for Liege Wafels say to add the sugar into the batter during the mixing process, but I find the sugar does dissolve into the dough after a time.  In my experience it is best to stretch the unit into an oval then press it into the pearl sugar just before grilling.

Liege dough embedded with pearl sugAR


Place the sugared dough onto the preheated waffle iron and cook to the desired degree of caramelization.



Caution!!! Caramel is VERY HOT!


Finished Liege Wafel...Mmmmm   

ENJOY as is or topped with all of your favorites.

Please let me know what you all think.


StephaniePB's picture

It ended up taking me a little longer than intended to get another loaf together, the starter has a life of its own, what can I say, and it absolutely refused to activate two weeks ago. I'm letting it sit a little longer before trying it. So last weekend I went back to the all white flour wild yeast starter, and baked this. All flour was KA bread flour.

I started on Friday night, pulling the starter out of the fridge. I dumped all but 2 or 3 tbls, and fed it with 3/4ths of a cup of flour, same amount of water (my scale broke a few years back and I haven't replaced it, so unfortunately all measurements are by volume).

The next morning it had bubbled and settled down, so I fed it with another 1/4 cup water and flour. 5 hours later it was ready!

The recipe I've been using for my standard sourdough calls for a sponge, so 1 cup of the starter was mixed with 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water. That then sat for another 4 hours. After it doubled, mixed in the rest of the flour (3 cups), and water (1 cup), let sit for 20 minutes (autolyze).

I increased the salt from the basic recipe with this version, upped it to about 1 1/2 teaspoons. I put it all in the bread machine to let it knead for about 10 minutes, and needed to add another 1/4 cup or so of flour to get the right consistency.

I let it sit for another hour or so, then did 3 stretch and folds over the next 3 hours. At this point, it was pretty late, so I shaped it, put it in a brotform, and into the refrigerator until morning.

My fridge and apartment are extremely cold, so I put the dough in the sun the next morning to warm it up - I've found that direct sunlight works much better than my oven, which is electric and doesn't have a light inside to generate any warmth. The dough started rising again pretty quickly, and continued to rise for about 6 hours. It more than doubled in size, I'd guess close to tripled, but when it had only doubled it was still bouncing back pretty well and I felt like it wanted to keep rising.

Baked it for about 45 minutes, starting at 450, ending at 375. I think I should have kept it at a higher heat longer.

I think it came out beautifully, at least, it looks fantastic. It's a little spongier on the inside than it should have been, I'm guessing that's because I dropped the oven temperature too early.



The taste? If you like extra-sourdough bread, this is it. I'm not a real fan, and find that I don't really like eating this bread without something on it to help cut the sourdough flavor.

I'm trying this bread, with this starter, again this weekend. I want to see if there's a way I can get the overnight piece out of this, I wonder if that's what's allowing the starter to develop such a strong flavor? Whatever happens, at least it's fun to play!


ehanner's picture

I have been keeping an eye on an Aussy site for a while and enjoying some of the wonderful ideas they have created in breads.

The bakery is Companion Bakery in Tasmania and they have a still shot live feed of the bakery you can lurk here.

The fellow who runs the bakery I believe is Graham and his son who is also an excellent baker. To say these guys are adventurers would be short changing their spirit. They have a great site and lots of experienced bakers in the area that contribute. I suggest checking out these guys. A great project.

One of the breads they make is a Romano-Celery loaf that just looks great. I decided to try my hand and use the skills I have to make this savory bread. I used the percentages that Hamelman usually suggests for cheese and olives of around 20-25% and made a base SD dough with 15% WW at about 70% hydration. I thought I would use some flax seeds I had soaked prior to getting the bug to try this but I neglected to check the resource and used about 15% flax which I think was  little heavy handed.

So here are a few images and I'll get back with a crumb shot later.

I'm drooling while I wait.---Drooling over!

The first thing I have to say is that the house smelled like Romano cheese for hours. That's a good thing! At the end of 43 minutes, the last 3 of which was oven off and door propped open, The cheese was smoking where it was in contact with the stone. Next time I'll use parchment over the stone.

The crumb is about right considering how I handled it. I rolled with tightening like Mark Sinclair does with no bench flour and a light mist of oil on the counter. Then I rolled the dough in bench flour before placing en couche for proofing of 45 minutes.

The flavor is Romano cheese. The celery is there every now and then but just. I softens up totally and is quite mild. The flax seed I can't appreciate at all. I know it adds nutrition and maybe there is more complexity but it would be asking a lot to identify the nutty flavor from it. I will make this again with less cheese and more celery. Actually I think an all celery loaf might be pretty good. I'm surprised really  but there is a nice flavor. Maybe a touch of a milder cheese.

This is a bold full flavor bread that needs a similar main course. It was a hit around the table and during the afternoon as a snacker. If you want to try my formula here is what you need.

Levain: 250g (50g mother culture added to 80g water and 120g fresh ground WW) Let ripen overnight at room temp.
Soaker: 50g Flax seed and 80g water, covered overnight.

250g Levain added to
500g water
790g Bread Flour
130g soaked flax seeds and the now absorbed water.
Salt: 18g
Romano: 20% bakers percent or 180g
Celery: 22% or 198g

Mix and develop dough moderately. Stretch and fold twice over 3 hours, more if necessary. After second folding, spread dough out on counter and sprinkle cheese and celery over the top. Fold to incorporate ingredients. Place in covered container and let dough ferment until double. For me this was an additional 2 hours.

Divide as desired and pre shape, rest and shape. (I made 2- 1000+ gram batards)

I proofed for 45 minutes at room temp, slashed and loaded on a preheated stone at 460F. Steam as normal. Lower heat to 440F after 10 minutes. Bake for a total of 40-45 minutes. I propped the door open slightly at 40 minutes, turned the oven off and let the bread dry out. The crumb was quite moist so I would suggest a longer drying period.




proth5's picture

As some of you know I have been working on Okinawa and not been home since early February.  Well, I ended up staying longer than I had planned and the pace of worked picked up.  Not being able to bake, I thought I would at least start a new starter.

I haven't had to start a starter for a long time, but quickly read up on the process and it did seem familiar.  The question was that of flour. 

With some grumbling that if I were just at home I could grind up some fresh whole wheat and maybe spike it with a little fresh rye, I resolved that I would need to purchase flour - so to market I went.

I can now go so far as to reveal that my work has been among folks who pretty much only speak English and that by working with these folks I have access to stores where you can buy American brands (if you know what I mean).  Being short of time and Japanese language skills (lessons put on hold so that I might work long days) I found, not my good old KA, but an American name brand "organic" white flour and a name brand whole wheat.  The only  other "all purpose" flour that I could find was bleached - which didn't seem like a good idea. Rye flour alas was nowhere to be found.

Mixed equal amounts (by weight, bien sur!) of whole wheat flour and water - fed it a bit each day - and on day three had a bubbling crude.  Having read Debra Wink's work I knew that this was mostly bacterial action and that the solution had to become acidic enough before yeast would take hold.  I contemplated "The Pineapple Juice Solution" but strangely for an island that produces pineapples, their juice was nowhere to be found.  Not having the confidence or equipment (I flew here with only my carry on and live in a hotel)to undergo a pineapple juicing operation, I also read her advice that given enough time the starter would become acidic enough - and I had time to wait.  (oh, so much time  - the theme song for "Gilligan's Island" kept playing in my head)

With approximately twice daily feedings of whole wheat (during this period I did not always get to eat, and I worked as many as 20 hours a day - but my starter was fed)  living in the cool environment of my air-conditioned room,  it took about a week for my starter to double (just barely) reliably.  As I discarded parts of it, it seemed like a normal, healthy, although immature starter to me.

Then I started feeding it the white flour.  Almost immediately it began to show signs of starvation - the alcohol smell, a little hooch developing , a dead listless quality and no rise.  I was feeding it well - about twice a day.  What was going on?  Early one morning, coming home from work, I read the bag of flour.  It contained no malt.  Now, unmalted flour could very well have a low enough Falling Number to assure sufficient alpha amylase action - but then again, it might not.  Hard to know with the information provided on your typical bag of flour.  And I don't know of it indeed was the problem.

I do know that going back to whole wheat cleared up the problem.

But my OKI starter needed OKI flour (or so I told myself in my sleep deprived state).  After work tapered off a bit I was able to get to a Japanese grocery store. Still unable to read Japanese (or speak much of it) I allowed instinct alone to get me to the flour aisle and using the time honored method of looking carefully at the pictures on the package (or the big English words "For Bread" on an otherwise inscrutable bag of what I assume was flour) I chose bags of white and whole wheat flour that had pictures that seemed to be of bread like products.  Again, there was the question of flour characteristics, but now I was running completely blind.

So, nothing to do but experiment.  The whole wheat flour (which was really very lovely, very finely ground flour with no big flakes of bran) seemed to be a favorite of the "beasties", but was relatively expensive.  Additionally, I prefer to keep a white flour starter.  So I switched to white.

This was not entirely successful.  While not displaying signs of hunger, and just barely doubling in 4-6 hours, it didn't seem "right."  It had a sticky, silly puttyesque quality that did not seem in any way familiar.  Again, I don't know if this was the flour, or just a misbehaving adolescent starter, but it was a quality that I did not enjoy. Inspiration welcome.

So I must take a mental detour and consider how much we value our "old" starters.  "My teacher" once told me that keeping a starter alive and vibrant for many years was "the baker's pride."  There is a lot to be said for that.  To invest the time and care to keep a starter vibrant for 10, 20, 30 years or more is something in which one can take pride.  More than that, although our starters undergo minor changes, I know my starter.  I have had it for 10 years.  While not investing it with complex emotions or personality, it is a stable colony of living organisms and has predictable reactions to things like temperature, feeding schedule and flour quality.   I can read the state of its health pretty easily.  This new starter, not so much.  I will add that with this new starter, I was totally adrift. Not one factor- being at sea level, a humid climate, sporadic air conditioning, flour, or water- is something that I experience on my home turf.  I do remember that my own treasured starter produced some bad bakes when it was young and over time, without me doing much of anything, those bad bakes went away.

So back to the day to day, I decided on a feeding regimen of ¼- 1/3 parts of whole wheat flour and the remainder white flour. With this combination the beasties seem happy and I am "less unhappy" with the general texture of the starter itself.  I have been feeding at an eyeballed ratio of 1:1:1 and that starter doubles (but not much more).  The discard (about how one manages that in a Japanese hotel - don't ask , don't tell)  seemed lively enough for a day or so.  I was pretty sure I had some yeast working in there, but wasn't confident on its strength.  Inspiration welcome.

I was never really happy with my Okinawa starter and just didn't know where to place the blame.

Knowing that I would finally be leaving Okinawa, I decided to dry some of the starter and take it home.  I considered making a firm starter out of it but with the rigors of international air travel these days and the significant duration of the flight, thought better of it (advice from world travelers who travel with starter welcome!).

Once home, I dissolved the dried flakes in water and used that water to make a 100% hydration starter.  Of course, I also resumed baking and feeding my old starter which had been well cared for by my faithful house sitter.  I wondered if my good old KA flour would do my OKI starter some good.

Day 1 and 2 saw a pretty moribund container of glop.  On Day 3, like magic, the starter more than doubled.  While not looking exactly like my US starter, it was definitely looking like a very active starter.  It has been improving steadily day over day.

So what was it?  I'm asking - I don't know.  If it is the yeast in the local flour that finally took hold, this would tell us that the origin of the seed doesn't matter - the local yeasts will come on like gangbusters - but three days seemed too little for local yeasts to become so active.

I considered that it had become "contaminated" with my US starter, but I had been careful not to use the same utensils, not have the two containers open at the same time and to wash my hands before working with it.  It still has an aroma that is quite distinct from my US starter, so I would not call the two the same. 

Was it the flour itself giving the boost to the yeast that was formerly struggling to reproduce?  Was the OKI flour just not up to the task? Inspiration welcome.

Okinawa, by the way, has more of a wheat based cuisine than I would have thought.  Okinawa soba is not buckwheat - it is regular wheat - so they are a people that know the properties of wheat (and know what to do with a pig, but I digress...).  The texture of the Okinawan flours was very fine and silky and my tiny mind wanders to the impact of milling processes on flour behavior, but that's a topic for another time.

I will probably dry the starter again, save some of the dry starter to revive in the US and transport some to revive in Okinawa.  It's one thing to have a house sitter feed one 10 year old starter, I'm not going to tip over the edge to have him feed two.

I've worked most of the angles that are practical for finding an oven on Okinawa.  Obviously I am working with people who do not put a priority on home baking (and I am glad their priorities are where they are) and ovens are rare in Okinawa housing, so I don't think I will get to bake during my next hitch - which absolutely won't be as long as my last one.

What I will be doing is shipping some Japanese flours home to see how they act on the edge  of American hard red wheat country. I may even send a sample or two off to the lab to see what is going on with them.  That would be interesting. 

But it's going to be awhile...

Oh - and even though I thought I would forget - I can still bake (and still can't do photography)

Bagutte and Shisa

My recently acquired shisas - the guardian spirits of Okinawa - guard the same old baguette (levain, 65% hydration) that I always bake.

The male shisa has an open mouth to keep away the evil spirits and the female shisa has a closed mouth to keep in the happiness. 

The crumb shot.


ilan's picture

Wife and daughter went to visit family, leaving me pondering which bread to do today.

I went back to basics; I wanted something tasty but simple. No preferment and other techniques that surely improve the final outcome but take a lot of time.

I made something very similar to the post but added sugar, salt yeast and switched butter with vegetable oil.

The recipe goes like this:

-       3 cups flour

-       1/2 cups of water

-       1 cup milk

-       1/4 cup oil

-       1/4 cup sugar

-       3 teaspoons yeast

-       1 ½ teaspoon salt

-       1/2 egg

Mix flour, water, milk, oil egg, sugar and yeast and let rest for 20 minutes

Add the yeast and knead for 10 minutes.

The dough should be very elastic but not too sticky.

Cover with plastic/wet towel and let the dough rise for ~70 minutes (a lot of sugar, no need to wait too long).

Forming the loaf – We want to make a braided bread here. So, divide the dough to 3 equal parts, form long strands out of each part. The edges should be thinner the center. Connect the 3 strands in the edge and start braiding them together.

Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 250c. I have a baking stone on which I place a pot full with boiling water for lots of steam

Before baking, I brushed the bread with a mixture of egg and melted butter for nice color.

Bake in 250c & steam for about 15 minutes then remove the water and reduce the heat to 180c and bake for another 30-40 minutes. To make sure the bread is ready see if the bread produces a hollow sound when knocking on its bottom with your finger.

Beside fish, this bread goes well with almost anything from a full meal to chocolate spread (kids will love it)

Top image is from today, the lower one is a bit older but shows the exterior of the bread more nicely.

This is what my family gets for leaving me home alone :).

Its fun to enter a house when a bread is baking, the smell is beyond comparison so I don't think she objects

Until the next post


turosdolci's picture

 Zeppole were first made in Naples by a baker who sold from a street stand.Today they can be found in bakeries and in stalls. They are usually eaten with sweet wine or dunked in warm honey.



sortachef's picture

Small fires over time make all the difference


Most woodfired oven owners only use their oven once a week or so to bake pizza or bread at fairly high temperatures. There's another level of cooking available, at lower and constant temperatures, which requires pulsing the oven with small fires. This is useful knowing about both to protect the oven from unnecessary cracking from cold firing and also to expand your cooking repertoire.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when many home ovens were fueled with either wood or coal. These ovens were used every day, and never lost their warmth. My father remembers his mother stoking the fire at the crack of dawn to bake the daily bread. Even today, I hear through this website of people in Greek villages and Eastern European towns using wood or coal as their main source of cooking fuel.

In order to replicate this method of everyday cooking, you have to commit some time. In order to roast a chicken today, I had to find three different times yesterday - in amongst a busy schedule - to light and maintain fires. If you can find the time, however, the benefits are astounding. When I was ready to roast the chicken (see Woodfired Roast Chicken), my oven maintained a stable temperature in the 350º range for 2½ hours with no active flame throughout the cooking time. With this ability, all kinds of baked goods (including dinner rolls and pastries), casseroles, roasted meats and fish become possible.


Pulsing your oven: The trick is to 'pulse' your oven with small fires over time, in order to slowly heat all of the masonry components - the walls, the floor and the bed of sand beneath the floor. The operative word here is 'slowly'. After a cold spell in which your oven has lain dormant, this will prevent the components from cracking. For more normal cooking or baking operations, this will raise the temperature of your oven into the range of a conventional oven, with very little charring or direct smoke.

Here's what to do:

  • Use a piece of newspaper, a handful of kindling, 2 or 3 pieces of hardwood the thickness of your thumb and 2 thicker pieces of hardwood that weigh about 1 ½ pounds each (2 ½ inches thick) to build successive fires in the center of your oven. Maintain the fire for an hour, relighting and adding a bit more kindling if necessary.
  • After the hour of active fire, put the door in place as tightly as possible. You may have to put a wood wedge under the handle, as I do. Let the oven rest for 3 hours. This rest time can be variable in length.
  • Light another fire using the same amount of wood as above, and maintain for an hour. Let rest again.
  • With each subsequent fire, there will be more unburnt wood from the previous fire. Leave this in the oven and continue to add to it, building your fires on top.
  • Light a third fire in the early evening, maintain for an hour and let rest. During this rest period, you can move the coals to one side in order to cook beans or a casserole, if desired.
  • Close up the oven and let rest overnight.
  • On day 2, start a fire with the same amount of wood, maintain for an hour and let rest. By this time the parts of your oven are hot enough to maintain a temperature of about 350º. From here, you can safely and quickly take your oven much hotter (for pizza, say), or you can build another small fire to maintain low to moderate heat for roasting or baking.


Here are the temperatures I measured in my oven. As atmospheric conditions and your oven will likely be different, you will probably have different results, particularly during the first few fires.

Starting temperature: 52º, which was approximately the overnight low air temperature in Seattle (measured with an accurate thermometer).

After the first fire: 150º (measured with oven thermometer, as are all others)

After the second fire: 225º

After the third fire: 350º (I baked a pot of pinto beans for 2 ½ hours when fire was almost finished)

Starting temperature, 2nd day: 160º

After the fourth fire: 375º (I baked dinner rolls after this fire)

After the fifth fire: 425º (I let the oven cool to 350º and roasted a chicken. After 2 ½ hours, the oven temperature was 325º and the chicken was perfectly cooked.)


Final note: I just checked (10 a.m. on the third day) and, with no active fire since yesterday's noontime fire, the temperature of the oven is 160º. Hmm. I could just keep this whole thing going. Flame on!

varda's picture

Sometimes baking bread seems to be about the challenge and developing the skills and trying new things and so forth.   And sometimes it is all about making what you want to eat.   When I started bread-making in earnest in January, I suddenly lost my taste for the supermarket bagels I'd been eating happily for several years.   Since there is no good bagel place in my immediate area, I simply stopped eating bagels.  But then many of you just kept posting and posting and posting your various bagel bakes, and I couldn't stand it anymore.   So I decided to try Hamelman's approach, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was it relatively simple, but geez, it tastes like the bagels that I used to eat way back in the day, when a New York baker moved to St. Louis, got in a taxi cab and told the driver to take him to the Jewish section of town.   This was back in the sixties, and such a thing had not been seen in St. Louis before.   My father used to come home with dozens and dozens of bagels, and somehow we managed to eat them all.   Usually when I make something, it doesn't come out just how I like it, and I fiddle and fiddle or switch approaches a half dozen or so times, and possibly make something better over time, and possibly not.   But unless someone has a compelling argument that their bagel formula is better than Hamelman's I'm just going to stick with it, and focus on learning how to shape better.   Thanks for all the inspiration to you bagel bakers out there.   Now I have what I want to eat.   -Varda

And all ready for creamcheese.


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