The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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meadmaker's picture

Yesterday, the bread faeries did not give me their blessings.

While the Challah bread came out looking gorgeous, it also came out way bland! The two possible reasons I could come up with are:

1) Old bread flour; and/or

2) Too much yeast.

I had used a recipe out of Sherry Yards' "Secrets of Baking" (I think that's the name of it, anyway, without going into the other room to verify it.)

INJERA BREAD:  And the Injera dough did rise, but it was VERY dark. There was no way around that. Soooo, what I'm thinking is that, while using 100% Teff flour may be the 'authentic' way they make it in Ethiopia, the yummy Injera bread at the restaurants in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego are made from another recipe. With or without Teff, I don't know; however, from those that I've had at the restaurants were generally much lighter in color which is a dead giveaway that they're using some other flour(s). The best I've been able to make at home has been the buckwheat flour with seltzer water recipe. They held up well during cooking and tasted very acceptable as an accompaniment to Doro'Wat.

occidental's picture

Recently I baked Oatmeal Cinnamon Rasin bread form Hammelman's "Bread".   There are a few good write ups on this bread on this site, just do a search... I adapted the formula somewhat so I'll give you the details.  First of all, the home version makes 3 loaves and that was too much for me so I resized everything to make two 1.5 pound loaves, and while converting I converted everything to grams as I find using grams is more precise.  Also, instead of using just rasins I had a mix of dried canberries, currants, cherries and pomegranates that I substituted for half of the rasins.  Here is what I came up with for a formula:


  • 456 grams bread flour

  • 152 grams whole wheat flour

  • 100 grams rolled oats

  • 380 grams water

  • 66 grams milk

  • 45 grams honey

  • 45 grams oil

  • 13 grams salt

  • 7 grams yeast

  • 10 grams cinnamon

  • 100 grams rasins

  • 100 grams dried cranberry blend


Soak oats in the warm water used for the formula for 20-30 minutes

Soak rasin mix in enough water to cover (this is advised to avoid burning the rasins while cooking)

Mix all ingredients except the rasins together and mix for 3-4 minutes once ingredients come together 

Drain rasin mix and add to dough, mixing an additional minute.  I did not pat the rasin mix dry and the consistency of the dough went from being very stiff to one that was sticky and loose.


Dough after mixing


Bulk ferment:

I placed in a covered container and let rise for a total of approximately 2.5 hours.  During that time I performed 2 stretch and folds since the dough was feeling rather sticky and I wanted to build up the strength.  Hammelman says that this dough can be bulk fermented overnight, which may be a good option for those looking for a warm breakfast loaf. 

Shaping and final ferment:

I divided into two loaves and shaped as you would a sandwich loaf, rolled the top of the loaves on a wet towel and then pressing them in some dry rolled oats for decoration then placed them in a standard 1.5 pound loaf pan.  I covered and let rise until the dough started to top the pan, 1.5 to 2 hours (I wasn't really watching the clock).


I baked at 450 F for the first 15 minutes and then lowered the heat to 425 until the internal temperature reached about 200 F.  I did not steam the oven.  Total bake time was about 40 minutes...sorry I'm not much of a clock watcher.




This bread has a great well balanced flavor, it is not overpoweringly sweet nor does it have a really strong cinnamon taste, the flavor of the wheat is still there.  For me what probably made this bread one that I would make again is the mix of dried fruits I substituted for half of the rasins.  I've never been a huge fan of rasin breads but the varying flavors of all the other fruits really give this bread a unique flavor.  I imagine you could substitute many different variations of dried fruits, I just happened to look in the cupboard and added these on a whim.  This bread is great toasted, give it a try if you are looking for a good breakfast bread.



Chausiubao's picture

For the past five school sessions my class has been working on making wedding cakes. More decorative then edible (literally so, as we make them to put on display, in addition to learning the business of wedding cakes), this project has come to completion. It was quite the event.

First we rolled out the wedding cakes of our predecessors from six months previous, in a ceremony that can only be described as the cake toss. 

As an after thought, that particular cake was quite beautiful with gum paste flowers crowning it; it was also quite durable, as it remained mostly intact after its disposal. 

But at the end of the day we got work done too, each of the us thirteen students completed a wedding cake. Here is mine, as well as several others.

It was a good project. We all worked hard and discovered the rigors of one of the bigger parts of the bakery business. Honestly I think we each overawed each other with our decorative ideas, especially so when they were in tangible form on this last day. At least for me, it was humbling and empowering. We even got to bond a little at the end.

Collectibles from the labor of thirteen cakes, all together!

audsodbaker's picture

I just found this site while looking for a recipe for bagels, 'cause I can't get what I call a "Real Bagel" out here.  They make a basic dough recipe & just bake it in the oven so it "looks like a bagel", but isn't.

The recipe looks good, but b-4 I plunge into the enjoyment, I'm wondering if any of you out there can give me some tips for baking "breads" at high altitude.

I grew up on the East coast, but now I live in Northwest Montana, at about 3100', very dry.  I have tried on several occasions to bake bread.  The 1st rise seems to go OK, but after the 2nd rise & baking it in the oven, it comes out flat & very heavy.

Also, it seems like alot of the recepes call for Instant Yeast, & I am unable to find that out here, so I guess I would need tips on how to use the recipes with what I can get out here "Rapid Rise"

Thanx in advance!

davidg618's picture

We usually consume our breads before they stale, but after our recent "open house" party, we had, collectively, about a loaf and a half of two different sourdoughs, and a 40% rye loaf; far too much for just the two of us to eat before staling. I cubed the leftovers, and spread them on a baking sheet, uncovered, for twenty-four hours. Then I put them into the food-processor, and turned it on until I had about six cups, or so of bread crumbs. Not having anything immediate for them, I froze them.

A couple of nights later Yvonne asked me to make baked cod fillets. I usually use panko crumbs in my recipe for baked cod, but when I looked the cupboard was bare, and I wasn't going to make the sixty-mile round trip to the Asian food market just for a bag of of panko crumbs. Out came the sourdough crumbs.

My baked cod recipe is super simple. I season plain crumbs with salt and pepper; add a Tblsp. of sweet, smoked paprika; and a sprinkle of chipotle chilie powder: just enough that makes my guests ask,"Is there chili powder in this?". I mix in about two Tblsp. of melted butter to one cup of crumbs.  I then take the frozen fillets, brush them quickly with hot, melted butter and roll them in the crumbs, patting them into the solidifying butter as I go. Then twenty-five minutes in a 375°F oven, or until the fish flakes easily.

This time, with the dark sourdough crumbs and a hint of rye flavor, I thought the paprika and chipotle wouldn't work, so I mixed up some Herbs Provence: dried thyme, fennel, and rosemary. Added them to the crumbs, with salt and pepper, to taste. And proceeded as usual.

We've got a new favorite, but won't abandon the old one. I thought we'd miss the super crunch panko supplies, but were pleasantly surprised when we found the sourdough crumbs--somewhat soft to the touch when thawed--crisped in the oven to near panko-like texture. I also made some herbed rice (fresh thyme and tarragon) to side the fish.

I think sourdough bread crumbs have become a staple in our home.

David G

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Here's just a quick list of my favorite bread books:

A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman

Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective by Daniel T. DiMuzio

The Art of Handmade Bread: Contemporary European Recipes for the Home Baker by Dan Lepard

Good Bread Is Back: A Contemporary History of French Bread, the Way It Is Made, and the People Who Make It by Steven LaurenceKaplan and Catherine Porter

Artisan Baking Across America: The Breads, The Bakers, The Best Recipes by Maggie Glezer and Ben Fink

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Just back from a week in Vermont, baking under the tutelage of Jeffrey Hamelman, I was itching to get into my own kitchen and fire up the oven. But, what to make? We were going to have chicken gumbo for dinner the following day, so I chose a simple rustic bread. I had enough time for a preferment... check. I had the right flours... check. Okay, off to a good start!

I only wanted to bake two one-pound loaves, so I got out the calculator to scale everything to 1000 grams of dough---a nice round number (a little more than two pounds, I know, but I always lose some to the mixing bowl). Baker's math? Please. "It's no hill for a climber," as my husband would say. After all, I'd been crunching numbers for a week. I was ready. I mixed the pate fermentee and parked it on the counter to ripen overnight. Even though I had doubts about the calcutaled yeast amount, it matured right in the middle of the 12 to 16-hour window. Things are goin' really well.

Next up was figuring out the right water temperature for the dough to end up at 75ºF. But I don't really know the friction factor for my mixer, because it increases with mixing time. And my mixer doesn't follow the usual so-many-minutes-on-first-speed, second speed and so on, because it's not a KitchenAid or any of the usual mixers. I decided instead to wing it this time with cool room-temperature water, and calculate the factor for next time, from whatever temperature the dough turned out. The dough finished a little warm---81º---so I spread it a bit and let it sit on the granite for a few minutes to bring the temperature down to 75º. Still on track.

The bulk ferment and folds went like clockwork. The dough was nice and pillowy when it came time to divide, and I used my newly-learned Hamelman preshaping and shaping skills. (Jeffrey, you'd be so proud.) The loaves proofed in the time specified, and they looked great turned out of their willow baskets. The scoring even looked decent, so I am feelin' PRIT-ty good about myself ;-)

Into the preheated oven they went, as I systematically worked through my loading and steaming routine like a well choreographed dance---one that took me several sessions to get down... but I did. Right down to remembering to shut off the convection fan after I loaded and steamed my loaves (sometimes I forget), because I've found that the oven and stone heat more evenly with the fan, but the loaves open a little better without. Or so I thought. Turns out that maybe there's a bit of a catch...

I watched as the loaves started to spring, and then left the room for a few minutes. When I came back to check on them, one had bloomed quite nicely, but the other was struggling. They both looked the same going into the oven... I was vexed. Did I not cut deeply enough? The stone had preheated for more than an hour. There was plenty of steam. The crust was coming along beautifully. Maybe the universe just decided that I was getting a little too cocky.


The loaf on the left bloomed, the other not so much.   They sounded like a bowl of rice crispies once out of the oven. Is cracking like this during cooling a desireable thing or a defect? 


From the bread on the left in the oven shot, above.   The one on the right---not quite as open on the inside, either. No surprises there.

There was one thing in particular that puzzled me. This doesn't happen every time, but whenever it does, I've noticed it always seems to be the loaf on the right that doesn't open well. That can't be just a coincidence, can it? Time to put on my investigative hat. What do I have here to examine---two loaves of bread and an oven. The loaves were the same going into the oven, but different coming out. What happened in there?

I picked up each loaf to take a closer look. The crust looked about the same from one to the other... until I turned them over. The bottom on the loaf that failed to bloom was a little lighter than the top, and the bottom of the bigger loaf was a little darker than the top. They looked very different. Interesting. So here's my oven setup. What's wrong with this picture?


The steam pan is on the right side, you say---must have somethin' to do with that. Yes it does. But remember, I preheated for over an hour, with convection, so I know everything was good and evenly hot for all intents and purposes. And since the heat was coming from the back of the oven instead of up from the bottom, the pan couldn't have been blocking the stone. And then the light bulb moment...

I preheated the stone to 450ºF. And what's the temperature of water when it's converted to steam? Less than half of that. And where does steam go when left to its own devices? Up. See where I'm going with this? A good amount of steam rises up under the right side of my stone, sucking the heat out from under the loaf on that side. But not every time. Just when I remember to turn off the convection fan right away. When I forget for a few minutes, the fan diverts it away from the bottom of the stone until the steam stops billowing out of the pan. It all makes perfect sense.... now.

So, I guess my new steaming routine, at least for now, will include a few minutes of convection at the beginning of the bake, just until steam stops rolling out of the pan. I will also start looking for a cast iron loaf pan that will fit my configuration a little better than the skillet, and hopefully eliminate the need to leave the fan on. I think the thing I like most about bread is that you never stop learning and refining. Well that, and it keeps you humble.   -dw

To see my fix, skip to:

proth5's picture

 This entry is dedicated to - well, you know who you are...

I have been thinking a great deal lately about the influences that Chinese and Japanese culture have had in my life.

My long time in cross cultural Penang, Malaysia has cemented certain Chinese rituals in my life and the approach of the Lunar New Year has brought my exposure to Chinese culture to the foreground.  My imminent return to the Ryukyu (Okinawa) and my daily Japanese language lessons (courtesy of Rosetta Stone) remind me of the influence that Japan has had on me throughout my entire life.

As one might guess from my user name, there is no genetic reason for this.  My heritage (complete with blonde hair and lactose tolerance) is purely Northern European. I joke about my "little Japanese grandmother" teaching me things at her knee, but my grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch and although she would have been fascinated with some of the things that I have learned, they could not be farther from the world in which she lived.

I also joke about "becoming invisible" in Okinawa.  Yes, the big, pale woman with the blonde, curly hair can hardly be seen in a crowd. Nice fantasy.  In fact, although adults are much too polite, children stare at me like the out of place creature that I am.

But Japan has been part of my life since childhood.  The same strange winds that caused me to learn French as a small child sent me a good friend whose family was transferred to Japan.  On her return visits we explored Japanese traditional fashion, gardening, paper folding, and, of course, the elegant use of chopsticks with the intensity that only nerdy children can bring.  As a result, the koi that swim in my backyard pond are the realization of a childhood dream, my Christmas tree is decorated with origami, and my obsession with linen is only equaled by my obsession with Japanese indigo (neither one an inexpensive obsession- best to stick with baking.)

So what does any of this have to do with bread?  I have become convinced that it has a lot to do with my approach to bread baking.

In one of my alternate lives I collected the works of a Japanese printmaker - Shigeki Kuroda.  In Japanese fashion this artist has devoted himself to one subject area.  That subject is bicycles and umbrellas in the rain.  He has produced infinite variations on this very narrow theme in an attempt to explore every aspect of it.   Here I recognize my method of endless repetition of what seems to be identical formulas with tiny variations attempting to understand every aspect of a particular type of loaf

One of my luxuries while in Okinawa is breakfast at my hotel.  Every little dish is just as good as it can be - scrambled eggs are perfectly creamy - raw squid is perfectly fresh - the coffee is better than what I have had in Paris.  Why bread is without taste (although beautiful) is a mystery to me and I have come to the conclusion that it must be a cultural preference, not a flaw.

So immediately upon my arrival for a brief visit home (to do those things that are required to keep my life from shredding during my next absence) my instinct was to bake baguettes.  This break from baking represented the longest time in between bakes for me in a number of years. My levain had been cared for by the person who is caring for my pets and was in top shape. As I baked my standard formula yet again, in my never ending attempt to reach absolute perfection (didn't make it, yet) I was relieved to learn that I hadn't forgotten how to bake.

Then one day I mixed up a levain pate fermentée for another purpose and changed my mind.  I decided to make a pate fermentée based levain baguette.  After all, it was time to explore this different aspect of the same bread.

The formula is simplicity in itself.  It is lean dough using King Arthur All Purpose flour.  The pate fermentée was at 63% hydration with 2% salt.  The starter was 25% of the total weight of the pate fermentée.  15% of the flour was prefermented and the overall formula was at 65% hydration with 2% salt.   My total dough weight for two baguettes was 20.6 ounces.  Like the annoying authors of physics textbooks, I will leave the calculation of the exact formula weights as an exercise for the reader.

I used my standard method of mixing by "folding in the bowl."  I added the preferment in small blobs at the beginning of the mix (oh, the horror!) because I wanted to avoid any heavy duty effort in incorporating the preferment into some already partially developed dough.

The dough had a bulk ferment of 5.5 hours with a single stretch and fold at 2.5 hours.  I was frankly unhappy with the dough development after 5.5 hours and had resolved myself to concluding that "sometimes the bear gets you."  I really think that the bulk fermentation was affected by the salt in the preferment and if I were determined to use this method, I might want to increase the percentage of flour prefermented to compensate on the next try. But I was out of time and shaped the loaves in my usual fashion, proofed them for about an hour and slashed and baked as usual.

The results follow.  My sojourn in the Ryukyu, alas, has done nothing for my photography skills (I really don't know why these pictures come out so pale, the flash on my camera apparently can't be disabled...).

The loaves

The crumb

Not bad.  We could play "list the flaws" but the doctors at "the place" have told me that this is not healthy (and if all y'all can't find the major shaping flaw, then I'm not going to tell you.)  The taste was just a bit more sour than usual, but that is not very sour.  The crust was crispy after cooling.

Once again, I will point out that the open crumb did not depend upon having a high hydration (because 65% is hardly a high hydration) or my not deflating the dough (iron hand in velvet glove still applies - but I'm not afraid to smack down a fermentation bubble if it gets in my way) but from a proper fermentation.  This crumb was not as open as my typical crumb, but was far from unacceptable.

So as I prepare for my return to the Ryukyu and a longer break from baking than I can currently imagine (unless I can get a job at the local bakery) I'm content with this foray into an infinitesimally different style of baguette baking.  I look forward to sticky rice, pig ears, bitter melon, raw fish, and seaweed at breakfast and the next adventure.

Happy Baking!

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

1.  It's OK to screw up and start over.

2.  Your 1st fermentation is finished when your dough as approximately doubled, and holds the impression of your finger when you poke it...  If it's not ready, keep waiting...

3.  Full sourdoughs are unpredictable and very dependant on some of the following factors: the strength of your starter, and the temperature of your kitchen...

4.  Sourdoughs can take a long time to rise...

5.  Things change when you change your flour, hydration, amount of yeast, temperature, etc...  Basically things change when you change things...

6.  It's still OK to screw up and start over...

7.  The more mistakes you make, the more you learn...


JoPi's picture

Here is a video on grilled pizza. I've done pizza on my BBQ grill.  This is a bit different.

It looks delicious!


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