The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

  • Pin It
ChrisH's picture

Well, I'm new - if you can't tell. I just found this page and was absolutely impressed at how much it helped me start expanding my cooking abilities into baking - which has always been a favorite of mine. I'm a 20 year old college junior studying historical interpretation - which has nothing to do with cooking - but I've always enjoyed throwing random things in a pan or pot and seeing what happens when put to heat and stirred.


My big thing has always been cookies, though I wanted ot learn how to make brads and such for a long time. So, when i stumbled across this, I was immensley pleased. All i have to say is I more than welcome any advice on...well....everything to do with baking bread! I'm off now to use the lessons here to make my first loaf! Wish me luck!

Shiao-Ping's picture

I came back to Brisbane to the first day of spring (1st September).  I had neglected my back yard garden for over a month.  There had been very good rain going into winter after a prolonged drought and no name flowers are sprouting every where.  Even my one and only lemon tree is loaded with clusters of dainty little pink and white flowers.  Any my wisteria!  It welcomes me back with such vivid purple (or blue):


                                                                  I waited three seasons for this to flower. 

As I was going round the garden pruning and liquid-fertilizing, I marveled at how time could not be rushed, how waiting was paying off, and how often my energy was misused in being inpatient. 


                                     no name flower 1                                                                      no name flower 2


                                                                                 and other no name flowers

Since I came back from my baking classes in San Francisco, I had made 6 less than satisfactory breads; three on my Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer (which has a C hook, not the spiral hook which comes with the Kitchen Aid Pro stand mixer), two on my Panasonic bread machine (dough mixing function only) and one by hand.  I find it hard to adapt the techniques I learned in the baking school to home set-up - our equipment are different, our starters are different, and our dough temperatures are perhaps different too, etc. etc.  Our instructors foresaw these problems, and they emphasized the need for us to learn to "read" the dough rather than mechanically following instructions or formulas.  We were asked constantly during the mixing process to check gluten development by window paning and by simply tugging at the dough to feel its strength.  But all this is easier said than done.

All that I can do is to keep trying.  The idea of this 7th bread came indirectly from Safa, our instructor at the Artisan I course.  It was my last Saturday in San Francisco; I was on my way to Ferry Plaza market and I ran into him on the train; we chatted all the way.  He said he recently made a bread and he called it 30/30, not that there is anything magic about the number 30, but it's just that it is easier to remember since it has 30% soaker and 30% levain (in relation to final dough flours).  So here I experimented with my 50/50 - 50% Poolish and 50% Levain.

The purpose was to see how this would vary sourdough's flavor profile. I have learnt that the acidity you get from poolish as well as levain that is fed more frequently than just once a day is lactic acidity (e.g. yogurt) as opposed to acidic acidity (e.g. pickles).  A classmate at the Artisan course who had done the bakery tour at Boudin bakery museum in San Francisco told me he saw a baker there use the starter straight out of the refrigerator.  Their San Francisco Sourdough is famous for its sourness which is not to my taste.  I imagine if the starter is fed only once a day and is kept in the refrigerator for part of the feeding cycle such that it stays in the anaerobic condition for a long time the acidity can be developed quite strongly.  I am a fan of Chad Robertson's rustic sourdoughs.  I was reading about him in "A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery" in the Bread Builders and Alain Ducasse's Harvesting Excellence; and interestingly it is mentioned that he uses a brief two-hour final stage of levain expansion before he mixes up his doughs.  I imagine this "levain expansion" would be the aerobic stage of levain build-up where the little beasties are in rapid reproduction (rather than fermentation).  I don't know for sure but I imagine too his levain would be fed more than once a day and would most likely sit in room temperature.




Formula for my 50/50

Early morning - prepare Levain and Poolish, allow for 6 to 8 hours to ferment, depending on your room temp


  • 80 g bread flour

  • 24 g medium rye flour

  • 78 g water

  • 52 g starter @75% hydration

(Note: this starter is on a two feeding a day cycle and stays in my room temperature of around 18 - 21C / 65 - 70F)


  • 117 g bread flour

  • 117 g water

  • A very small pinch of dry instant yeast (or 1/4 of a 1/3 tsp)

Late afternoon - prepare the final dough

  • 400 g bread flour (Australia's Laucke Wallaby unbleached bakers' flour, protein 11.9%)

  • 34 g whole wheat flour

  • 34 g rye flour

  • 275 g water

  • 14 g salt

  • 234 g Levain (all from above), which is 50% of final flours

  • 234 g Poolish (all from above), which is 50% of final flours

  • Extra medium rye flour for dusting

Total dough weight 1.2 kg and total dough hydration 68%

  1. I mixed all ingredients in my Kitchen Aid for 4 min at the first speed then another 6 min at the 4th speed, at which point the dough did not feel very strong.  I pulled it out of the mixer any way because I planned to supplement by stretch and folds during bulk fermentation.

  2. I placed the dough in an oiled container and gave it two letter folds. After the first letter fold, the dough was rotated 90 degrees then letter-folded again, and then the dough was turned upside down so that the folds faced downwards (ie, right side was up).

  3. Bulk fermentation was 2 hours with a set of two letter folds (as above) every 30 minutes.  I turned the dough over first (so the right side was down) before I did the letter folds and when I finished the folds, I turned the dough over so that the folds faced downwards (the purpose was so that the dough stayed tight.).

  4. After 2 hours, I pre-shaped the dough into a tight ball, and while it was resting, I dusted a linen-lined basket with medium rye flour.  After a rest of 20 minutes, the dough was shaped into a boule and placed in the basket and covered with a plastic bag.  I placed it into the refrigerator to retard (for 13 hours).

  5. The next morning the dough was baked cold at 220C / 440 F for 50 minutes with steam for the first 10 minutes.






This sourdough has the flavor profile that I like: the lactic acidity from the Poolish and the levain, the sweetness from the bread flour, and the richness from rye and whole wheat.  All round the flavor is complex and the after taste is long lasting.  It is mildly chewy, very pleasant.

I'd like to work on my scoring.  Also I am finding it tough to apply what I learned on the mixer I have at home.  Perhaps I need to mix my dough to stronger gluten development in order to have a bloom.  Or perhaps the blind faith in a perfect mixer is a sign of no faith in one's self.  Whatever it is, for now, this:


with a view of this:


is what I need.


Salome's picture

I have to confess that I'm not very busy these days. I've got a lot of free time because university hasn't started yet and in addition to that, I'm very limited in what I do because I've got some weird inflammations in my feet. And my friends are all working or have already started school or . . . I can't go and hike, I can't meet friends, but I still can bake! The more time consuming, the better. I'm keeping myself busy and happy this way. And my family well-fed ;-).

A freshly baked bread and some "colors" - That's what you need for painting a bread. In my case, it's Hamelman's "Rye Sourdough with Walnuts" but without walnuts. It's basically a bread made with sourdough, 50% whole rye flour and 50% high gluten flour. (in my case, normal bread flour with some Vital Wheat Gluten.) I tried a dark color and a white one, but the dark was not visible on the rather dark crust. For the dark one I just over-caramelized sugar until it was very dark and then added some water, let it cool and mixed it with egg yolk. The white is a corn starch - water blend.

I baked the bread as usually and started to paint with a normal brush as soon it was out of the oven. The crust is hot and makes the water of the colors evaporate. Nothing easier than that! After the "art work" was done, I baked it for another few minutes, no more than five. Et voila, a bread that will impress everybody.

The flowers and leaves are all out of our garden. I've been saying for the last couple days that the falls has come and here's now the proof. it is autumn. And it's beautiful.


bnb's picture

Here's my attempt at KA's old fashioned oatmeal bread. This bread is very adaptable. I've tried it with instant oats, old fashioned oats, with honey/molasses, AP flour/bread flour and it has turned out great every time. I did not use the additives that were optional.  On my first attempt I only used a  teaspoon of yeast and the bread had no oven spring, although I did let it crest well above the pan rim before baking. The second time I used the 2 tsps of yeast and the bread had wonderful oven spring. The recipe can be found here.

This is an incredibly moist bread. Very flavorful. 


mcs's picture

At the end of August, Diane came from Vancouver Island, BC for a week long internship at the Back Home Bakery.  During her stay we made everything from puff pastry dough to baguettes with everything in between.  Although both she and Sharon (aka 'the wife') are a bit camera shy, I did manage to snap a couple of photos of the elusive two during the course of the week.
Thanks a bunch Diane for helping out with the farmers' markets, daily deliveries, wholesale accounts and even dinner too.  Hope to see you again next time around.


Sharon and Diane working on some pain au chocolat


Diane putting them together


This is us pretending to have a good time

wally's picture


It's occured to me more than once that in the competition between pizza dough and sauce, I've always favored (or at least rooted for) a decent dough. I figured that if you got the dough right, it was easy enough to flavor it subtly to make a good thing great.  I'm frankly tired of the indignations national pizza chains visit on their doughs (like, let's bake a bunch of cheese into the dough to add to the overabundance of cheese we've already put on top of the dough).  Enough already!

So, when stumbling upon Jeffrey Hamelman's recipe for fougasse in his Bread, I was hooked by the challenge to make a flavored dough that still stood up on its own.

My initial experiments with a flavored Provence-bread called fougasse can be found here:

Recently, however, I decided to move to something that offered both more crumb and crust - and that meant focaccia.  I've had great results in my bakings to date.  This is a product that can be varied at will in terms of toppings - from a pizza-like bread to one that accentuates only a few flavors.

Whatever your choice, it will not disappoint!

The following recipe is a composite of Hamelman's recipe in "Bread" (which uses ciabatta dough made with biga), Reinhart's recipe in "BBA" (using his herb-infused olive oil) and my own additions - primarily the addition of roasted garlic to the dough). 

I scaled this for a 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan. (The total weight is just a little over 22oz. and yields a focaccia between 1" - 1-1/4")


TWF = 366g (I'm using KAF's Sir Galahad)

Water = 267g

Salt = 6g

Yeast = 1/2 tsp

Starter = 25g

Garlic = 1 tsp roasted garlic

Herb-infused olive oil = 1/4 c (I warm 1/4 c olive oil and add herbs de provence, sea salt and dried hot pepper flakes to taste and allow to marinade overnight)

Grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesian) cheese = 2 tbls.


Firm culture (60%) = 25g

Flour = 74g

Water = 43g

The biga should ferment at about 70° for between 12 -16 hrs until domed with a slight recess in the center.  I've used 25g of my firm starter (approximately 18% of the biga); if using instant dry yeast, you want to add just specks of yeast.

Final dough:  (Desired dough temperature is 75°)

Flour = 292g

Water = 224g

Salt = 6g

Biga = 117g (N.B. That is, 142g of the biga minus the original 25g starter)

Yeast = 1/2 tsp (instant dry yeast)

Roasted garlic = 1 tsp

Grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesian) cheese = 2 tbls.


Approximately 3.5 hours before the bake mix final dough on speed #1 for 3 - 4 minutes.  As it comes together, cut biga into it.  Mix another 3 - 4 minutes on speed #2 and add in 1 tsp of mashed, roasted garlic in increments. Dough will be slack, but should exhibit extensibility - you should be able to grab and stretch it without it tearing easily.

Allow a bulk fermentation of 2 hours, with folds at 45 minutes and 90 minutes.

Put 2 tbls olive oil into 9" x 13" x 2" baking pan and coat thoroughly.

Scrape dough onto heavily floured work surface and stretch.  If necessary, allow bench rest to get necessary extensibilty.  Place in pan, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with plastic wrap and bench rest for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, pour 1/4 c. of herb-infused olive oil onto dough, and incorporate by dimpling dough with your fingertips (at this point you do not want to degas the dough, so only use fingertips!).

Allow to rise for about another hour, until nearly doubled in size.

Place into pre-heated oven at 450° and bake for about 20 minutes.  The sides as well as bottom of the focaccia should be browned, and the top should be nicely browned witht a crust that still yields when pressed.

Cool 30 minutes and enjoy!  I think a marinara sauce would be a good accompanyment, but so far haven't been able to keep the final product around people long enough to test.

I think the secret to this is Hamelman's advice to not go wild with toppings. Too much will not only inhibit the ability of the dough's final fermentation, but inevitably is going to overwhelm the flavors in the dough itself.

A great treat, and a nice vacation from pizza!


JeremyCherfas's picture

Much of the bread you can buy in shops in Italy remains remarkably good. Some things, though, aren't available, at least not nearby. One of those is rye bread. So I resolved to make some this weekend, using a recipe for Heidelberg Rye from the 1973 edition of Bernard Clayton Jr's The Complete Book of Breads.

Conclusion: A fine loaf, but I do need to internalise that stuff about watching the loaf not the clock. If I can do it while the bread is in the oven, why not while it is rising?

More pictures here.

The first task was to convert Clayton's volume measurements to weights. Time consuming but worthwhile. My strong (Manitoba) flour averages 140 gm a (8 oz.) cup, the rye a little lighter, but I decided to use the same conversion factor. So here's the list of ingredients with my conversions.

  1. 420 gm All-purpose or bread flour (3 cups) I actually used 345 gm, allowing for the flour in the starter.

  2. 420 gm rye flour (3 cups) I used 100% rye, stoneground, biological, Demeter brand.

  3. 2 packages dried yeast. I used 150 gm of my sourdough starter, freshly fed at 100% hydration, based on an approximation of 10% starter.

  4. 20 gm cocoa (1/4 cup)

  5. 1 tablespoon each salt and sugar (Didn't weigh. Used 15 ml measure, demerara sugar and fine table salt).

  6. 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. (Small Italian dictionaries give comino for both cumin and caraway. The real thing is carvi.)

  7. 480 ml hot tap water (2 cups). Bizarrely, my 1 cup measure is marked 250 ml, but contains 240 gm of water. I actually used 405 gm, allowing 75 gm from the 150 gm of starter.

  8. 100 gm molasses (1/3 cup)

  9. 2 tablespoons shortening. I used peanut oil.

Clayton says to mix half the flour with all the other ingredients for about 3 minutes "until the dough is a soft mass and is no longer wet and sticky". Got there using a wooden spoon, but it is a stiff dough even with only half the flour, and a pretty exhausting three minutes it was. Then adding the flours, white and rye, in 70 gm lots, trying to stir them in. After about 210 gm I switched to the spatula to cut the flour into the dough, and when I had about 70 gm of rye left I turned the dough out onto a wooden board to knead.

Slowly I worked the rest of the rye into the dough, kneading all the while, for about 8 minutes. Clayton says "finally it will become a soft velvety dough, a delight to work". That's possibly stretching it a bit (haha) but it did become soft, not sticky and OK to work, but it didn't have the elasticity of a pure wheat dough. Maybe that's because I used whole rye.

Now here's where things went off track. Clayton says to cover the dough and let it rest on the work surface for 20 minutes before shaping the loaves. I did, but it changed not one whit. He doesn't give any indication of doubling or anything in this recipe, not at this stage nor for the shaped loaves, and so I thought it best to leave the dough resting until it had at least risen somewhat. In the end, even after 3 hours at 29℃, it was very hard to see any movement at all, but my timetable required me to shape the loaves -- one round and one long one that I put in a parchment-paper loaf tin. Then into the fridge they went, brushed with olive oil and loosely covered with a plastic bag.

This morning I did as Clayton suggests, heating the oven to 400 ℉ (Gas Mark 6 on my oven) and bringing the loaves out of the fridge 10 minutes before they were to go in. Slashed them with a wet ceramic knife, and in they went.

I resisted the temptation to peek for the full 30 minutes, as advised, and when I did I was very pleasantly surprised by how well they had sprung. Too much, in fact, clear evidence of under-development, I think. Clayton says check after 30 minutes for that elusive "hard and hollow sound". I prefer a thermometer, and mine barely reached 150 ℉. I gave it another 10 minutes, then another, then a third, which was perhaps five minutes too long as the internal temperature had somehow climbed to just above 200 ℉. Out of the oven, onto the rack, and ready for their close-up.

Three hours later, lunchtime, and time to cut. Great smell of caraway, good fine crumb, moist, a hint of chocolate (which gives the lie to Clayton's claim that "the chocolate's contribution to taste is so slight as to go unnoticed) and a very definite molasses sweetness. All in all, a great success. A tad too sweet for my normal taste, although I think the molasses flavour is really good. I wonder, might it be a good idea to get rid of the tablespoon of sugar -- I mean what is it going to offer to the dough that 100 gm of molasses doesn't? The cocoa? I like the rich dark colour, but if it can barely be tasted, what's the point? And finally, it might be better if the dough sat in an oiled bowl, rather than on the counter, until it had doubled, or at least risen noticeably?

All good thoughts, which I may try when I repeat the recipe. I'll also be looking for a good caraway-rich light Jewish rye.

Elagins's picture

it seems to me that one of the biggest hurdles beginning bakers face is the idea that because something shows up in a book, that's necessarily the way things have to be.

take sourdough culture, as in this thread. Peter Reinhart says, "..." and therefore that's how it has to be. Nothing against Peter Reinhart: he's an extraordinarily great baker and and extraordinarily talented teacher. the problem is simply that a lot of beginners, in their eagerness to "get it right," don't trust themselves.

fact is, we're dealing with a complex set of interrelated physical and biological processes here, and to insist that all sorts of unfamiliar (to those starting out) living organisms *must* conform with one person's observation or experience is, to me, a reversal of reality. we should be paying more attention to what actually goes on and then adjust our expectations.

so consider a starter. so much depends on the original source of the yeast (plum/grape skins? rye? capture from the air? yogurt?). yeast and lacto-/acetobacteria are everywhere and are location specific. then again, what about the flour? rye? wheat? organic? treated? high or low gluten? or the hydration ... acetobacter likes it dry; lactobacter likes it wet. ambient temperature will affect the rate of yeast and bacterial action. cold slows yeast and lactobacteria, but acetobacteria thrive in cooler temps.

reducing all this stuff, not to mention all the other random factors that may come into play, to a timetable is laudable and useful -- in fact, i've done it myself in a baking book i'm writing -- but one person's experience of the interactions among a complex set of factors and events shouldn't ever constitute a sole and immutable truth.

baking, like so many other things in life, is experience-based, and no book -- no matter how experienced the author nor how careful the research -- should ever become a substitute for observable reality.

when i use organic dark rye flour to start a culture, i usually get activity within 24 hours. like the spark from a flint, that germ of a culture needs to be nourished and nurtured over a couple of weeks of regular feedings before you can consider it a finished sourdough starter ... so what matter if the yeasts go active in 12 hours or 72? all that matters is that we capture the spark and nurture it into a flame.

baking formulas are great because they organize information and they convey an experience or set of experiences that generally work within a relatively broad set of limits. but within those limits are infinite variations of time, temperature and the interplay of ingredients ... and controlling those is the art of baking, as opposed to the science.

dmsnyder's picture

This bread is a rye with 66 percent rye flour and the remainder high-gluten flour. A rye sour is elaborated using whole rye. The sour is 80% hydration, which ends up being a very thick paste, due to how much water the whole rye absorbs. This is fermented for 14-16 hours and is then mixed with Medium rye flour, high-gluten flour, more water, salt and instant yeast.

The resulting dough is very loose. Hamelman says to mix it (in a professional spiral mixer) for only 3 minutes at first speed and 2 minutes on second speed. He says you should have "a bit of gluten strength, but ... not much." I aimed for "a bit" of gluten development but had to mix for 16 minutes in my KitchenAid. The dough was extremely sticky and still rough and pasty. It had enough elasticity after fermenting to form into loaves, using more flour dusting on the bench and my hands than is necessary with lower-percentage rye doughs.

Fermentation was only 45 minutes and proofing was 50 minutes. Proofing is tricky with this type of rye. Under-proofing contributes to excessive oven spring and blow-outs. Over-proofing leads to the loaf collapsing when it is scored or when it is loaded into the oven. I think I hit it about right. <whew!>

I wasn't sure about scoring a bread like this. I considered not scoring at all or making rounds and docking them. In the end, I decided to make oval loaves and score one in the "sausage" cut and the other in the "chevron" cut.

Hamelman prescribes a 24 hour rest after baking before slicing. I wrapped the loaves in linen and left them on the counter overnight.

When sliced, this rye has a fairly thick, chewy (but not hard) crust. The crumb is fairly dense and quite moist. It is tender to chew. The aroma is assertively rye, as is the flavor with a mild sourdough tang.

The taste is good when eaten plain. It is strong enough to come through when eaten with a slice of aged gruyère cheese. Just as a light rye seems to call for corned beef, this rye calls for stronger cheeses and fatty fish such as herring or salmon. I wish I could get some smoked sable. 


dmsnyder's picture


I made a couple of sourdough boules today. I'm quite happy with them. I used a slightly different formula, but the exciting thing to me was the effect of a modification of my oven steaming method I've been meaning to try for some time.




Baker's percentage

High-gluten flour

450 gms


Whole rye flour

50 gms



362 gms



10 gms


Levain (1:3:4 - S:W:F)

100 gms



972 gms


I used KAF Sir Lancelot flour and Bob's Red Mill “Dark Rye” flour.


  1. Mix the flours and water to a shaggy mass. Cover and let rest for 20-60 minutes.

  2. Add the salt and levain and mix to moderate gluten development.

  3. Transfer to the bench and do a couple of folds, then transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover it. Note the volume the dough will achieve when doubled.

  4. After 45 minutes, do another stretch and fold, then allow the dough to double in volume.

  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape into rounds. Let the pieces rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes.

  6. Shape each piece into a boule and transfer to well-floured bannetons, seam side up. Place each in a food-grade plastic bag, seal the openings.

  7. Allow to proof for 30-60 minutes (less in a warmer environment), then refrigerate for 8-14 hours.

  8. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator 2-4 hours before baking (depending on how risen they are and how warm the room is). Allow to warm up and expand to 1.5 times the loaves original volume.

  9. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the middle shelf and a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks on the bottom shelf. (I suggest moving the stone ove to within one inch of the oven wall on your non-dominant side. Place the skillet next to the wall on your dominant side.)

  10. When the loaves are ready to bake, pour 1/3 cup of boiling water over the lava rocks and close the oven door fast. (Strongly suggest holding the kettle wearing an oven mitt!)

  11. Transfer the loaves to a peel or to parchment paper on a peel, and load them onto your baking stone.

  12. Immediately pour ½ cup of boiling water over the lava stones and quickly close the oven door.

  13. Turn the oven temperature down to 460F and set a timer for 10 minutes.

  14. After 10 minutes, remove the skillet. Reset the timer for 20 minutes.

  15. The loaves are done when nicely colored, thumping their bottoms gives a “hollow” sound and their internal temperature is at least 205F.

  16. When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves in the oven with the door ajar for 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  17. Cool thoroughly (2 hours) before slicing and serving.

The crust was remarkably shiny when it came out of the oven. This effect, due to starch that is gelatinized early in the bake, I have only achieved before with breads baked under a stainless steel bowl for the first half of the bake. I also got quite satisfactory oven spring and bloom in these loaves which I had feared were a bit over-proofed.

It is evident that using the skillet with lava rocks for both pre- and post-loading steaming is superior to either a) pre-steaming by throwing ice cubes in a hot metal loaf pan or b) compensating for insufficient pre-loading steam by over-steaming post-loading. Some methods of steaming, when used to excess, actually interfere with the cuts opening and produce pale-colored loaves.

The bread I tasted has a delightfully crunchy crust and a chewy crumb with what I would regard as medium-strong sourness – just how I like it best.

As far as I'm concerned, this experiment was a success.


Submitted to Yeast Spotting



Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries