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OldWoodenSpoon's picture

This was a busy baking weekend for me.  Thursday night I started the levain for a batch of "my" sourdough bread, which I baked on Friday night.  It turned out quite acceptably in the end, but I was most excited about the maiden use of my new 1 pound oval willow proofing baskets that I picked up on a Christmas week field trip to SFBI/TMB Baking.  I made this dough with a pretty low (64%) hydration because it was my first use of these baskets.  I did not want the dough to stick to them and mess them up before I could get them seasoned and broken in.  Given that, I had little trouble with the dough in handling, but I continue to struggle with proper proofing.  I have adequate conditions, but my "tester" is not yet properly calibrated.  All in all, though, they turned out pretty well.  They were good enough that the loaf we kept for ourselves dissappeared with tonight's lasagna dinner!

Here are the loaves after baking and cooling.

Straight 64% Hydration Sourdough


Here is a shot of the crumb of one of the loaves.

Straight Sourdough Crumb

The crumb came out about as expected at that hydration.  It was tender, and not too chewy, and the flavor was only mildly sour thanks to the pretty short bulk fermentation I allowed.  It's gone though, so I'd best not be too critical!

That was Friday.  On Saturday I was looking through Rose Levy Beranbaum's book "The Bread Bible" over my morning coffee, wondering what I should bake.  When I came across the recipe for "Levy's" Real Jewish Rye I recalled how often my wife has reminded me that she loves good rye bread.  I recently purchased some good rye flour in hopes of trying some pumpernickel bread one of these days and thought:  "Why not?".  So I read the recipe a couple of times through and then gave it a try.  I must say it turned out to be less difficult than I expected.  I had the most difficulty judging the proofing (big surprise eh?) and would have over-proofed it.  I was saved by my own poor planning.

I planned to bake these loaves one at a time in my La Cloche baker.  Because of that I decided to go ahead and start baking early, so we could get on with dinner.  I had the oven and La Cloche preheated, and although I did not think it was quite proofed enough yet, I baked the first loaf.  It turned out to be a good thing I think.  The loaves below were baked sequentially, one after the other.  The La Cloche only had a few minutes between bakes to recover temperature, so it was probably a little cooler when the second loaf went in, compared to the first.  The difference in size between the loaves is more owing to differences in my handling during shaping though I believe.  In any event, the loaves baked up very nicely, and here they are.

RLB - Real Jewish Rye Loaves

And the crumb looks like this.

RLB - Real Jewish Rye Crumb 1


A final crumb shot, with a thank you to Rose Levy Beranbaum for her wonderful book.

RLB - Real Jewish Rye Crumb

I'm pretty sure that big hole in the dough is from my shaping of the loaf.  I was trying hard not to knock all the gas out of it while shaping it, and I think I did not get it well sealed together.  I consider it a petty good first effort though, and look forward to having another go at it.  I know I can get rid of it easily enough.  My wife raves about this RLB recipe almost as much as the Cracked Whole Wheat I bake from the same book.  The more I bake from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book "The Bread Bible", the more excited I get.


proth5's picture

The couple of folks who actually read my posts may have noticed that I seem to be posting at crazy hours.

I've been working in the Ryukyu (or Okinawa) and although beginning to suffer from baking withdrawal have been absolutely blown away by the beautiful breads in the nearby department store.  Unfortunately, to a Western palate, many of these breads are tasteless - but they sure are beautiful.

I finally bribed a colleague who has both a camera and photography skills to take pictures.

 Here is a shot of a "simple" pain de mie that seems to have been laminated and twisted in some way to produce a wide open, fluffy crumb and a parquet style crust.  If anyone out  there knows precisely how this is done - I would love to know.

pain de mie

These pastries reminded me of my days at the Back Home Bakery (Was that even in this same lifetime?). That is if we had put our inner pastry chefs on steroids.


These sweet little pussy cat buns are almost too cute to eat.  You just want to pinch their little cheeks.pussy cat buns

These chocolate breads are an enriched bun only very lightly flavored with chocolate (again, beautiful, but not much flavor.)  The lighter flecks are sweet crispy peanutty things.

chocolate buns

That layer on top that looks like extra chocolately goodness is actually just an egg wash.

 There are many more, but we were becoming an embarrassment by acting like insane tourists.  I really wanted to ask if I could spend a week being free labor in the bakery, but my limited Japanese language skills stood in the way.  I tried my normal means of communication (pointing, smiling, and nodding...) to no avail.

I also had the chance to visit a store with a baking factory in the back.  Even on the street we could catch an unusually delicious buttery aroma.  The factory was dedicated to baking little boat shaped tarts filled with purple sweet potato filling.

This machine took a large chunk of pastry dough and measured it out into the tart molds, then tamped it down.

tamping machine

You can see the finished tart shells exiting the machine in the next picture.

tart shells


This one squirted in the sweet potato filling and it was a hoot to watch it make the little curlicues.


 Then the pastries were baked and a machine delicately lifted them onto a conveyor where gossamer wheels straightened them on the belt in preparation for wrapping.  They are quite delicious and no baker required!


Of course, this isn't all I've done  - but I'm trying to stay "on topic."  I will just say that I haven't had a bad meal since I got here, and as I type I'm watching the tide go out on the East China Sea.

Happy Baking!

tattooedtonka's picture

After leaving the bagels in cold storage for the day, I start prepping for the Boil and Bake portions of my Bagels.

I begin with a 20 quart Aluminum Stock Pot about 3/4 filled with water to which I then add 3 Tablespoons of Baking Soda.

While this is heating up I preheat my oven up to 500'f.

Once water is at a boil I will add in bagels, in batches of 6.  Now following BBA you would boil for 1-2 minutes per side.  I was doing this for 2 minutes per side for a long time.  Recently though I read Mike Avery (whom I have a lot of respect for), mention that anything over 30 seconds per side will end up putting wrinkles on your bagels.  Well I had wrinkles on every batch, so I did this batch for only 30 seconds per side.

While these boiled I prepped a 1/2 sheet pan with parchment paper for the bake. My 3/4 sheet pans are too tight in the oven.

Once boiled I baked them at 500' for 5 minutes, then rotate pan 180' and bake for another 5 minutes.

Again, BBA will say to drop oven temp to 450' after rotating pan.  I do not though because I'm doing multiple batches.  Its just much easier than changing temps back and forth.

After the bake, here is what they look like.

And the bottom..

And the crumb...

LOL, and yes before anyone mentions...I know that without the big center hole these look more like a Bialy than a Bagel, but that is intentional.  I like a more closed up center, its easier for me to load up with cream cheese or to make a sammie out of. 

I also can make them darker, but again, I like the chewy better than crusty.  My regular bagels are a couple shades darker then these SD bagels but still pretty light color overall. 

Im good with it though.....


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

To the relief of many I imagine, I've decided to start maintaining my blog here at TFL rather than post a new thread in a forum every time I bake somethig I want to post about, be it for success or failure. I will not go back and add old pictures here that are already posted elsewhere, so this will not be a complete history of my baking.  That's okay, because some of the earliest should be history, and should be left that way.

Since this is the beginning of my blog, albeit not the beginning of my presence here on The Fresh Loaf, I thought I would start with a very brief introduction.  By upbringing I'm a farm boy from way back, having grown up on the small truck farm of my father and his brother.  The concept of "made fresh at home" is not new to me, as my mother baked, canned, cooked and preserved enthusiastically throughout my earliest years, out of both love and necessity.  Some of my best childhood memories are of wandering out into the peach and cherry orchards around our house to enjoy fresh fruit picked straight from the tree, and of home-baked pies, cakes and cookies from mom's kitchen, made with those same fresh ingredients.

By my teenage years I was baking (mostly cookies) on my own, and after marrying, when the children came along, we bought a Magic Mill and a Bosch mixer and began to bake our own bread for our kids.  We still have and use those same appliances today.  Back "in the day" we split that duty unequally, and my wife did much of the day-to-day bread baking for several years.  Whomever did the baking though always used the machine.  We would mill the flower, add the salt, water, yeast, honey and oil, and beat the daisies out of it.  Then we shaped, proofed and baked it.  It was good, but we really did not know what we were missing. 

Although my wife did a lot of the day-to-day baking during those years, I always did a lot of holiday baking.  Annually around Thanksgiving I started baking gift breads and treats for friends and family, and I still do that to this day.  I have neighbors today who's daughters have almost literally kept annual watch out the front window for my arrival with the Christmas gift loaves!  They are now grown and graduated from college, as are our own children today, but they are home for the holidays.  This year their mom thanked me for getting her daughters to argue on Christmas day!  Seems someone ate the last of the gift bread, and someone else was unhappy about it.  Actually, mom said she ate it herself, but did not tell the girls.  Instead she just sat in the background like the cat that got the canary and got away with it.  She was having too much fun listening to them, since it was all in good natured fun anyway.

Things went on this way for years, with occasional baking for therapy or just to be in the kitchen for a while, which is something I have always loved.  Then, one otherwise usual day, something special happened.  I was selling off some gardening equipment, and a buyer came to the house to pick it up.  We got to talking, and I came to learn that he and his brother were building a wood-fired oven in their shared back yard up in the nearby hills.  We talked for some time about ovens and baking, and then he left.  The baking bug stayed here though, and I was caught up in the idea that I could also have my own wood fired oven for bread, pizza and whatever.  The hunt was on and off I went like a hound after a coon.  I made almost as much noise, I think, as I researched, read and talked about baking, WFO's and bread.

Eventually I discovered Alan Scot and Dan Wing, and bought "The Bread Builders".  From there I found and bought a La Cloche clay baker and started my own wild yeast sourdough starter.  The trials of getting a starter to develop properly led me here to The Fresh Loaf. Here I found the help I needed, offered freely and in good spirit.  Here I found others, both experienced and less so.  Here I found a community, rich in cultures, varied yet similar in interests, and I have remained, to learn and share what I learn.  To participate in a community that has welcomed me, and allowed me to welcome others.  I still harbor plans for a wood-fired oven "one of these days", but for now I have settled for my La Cloche, and an oven full of unglazed quarry tiles, and a frequent cruise through the WFO forum threads to keep up with those that have already attained that dream of mine.  That will hold me for a while, as I truly learn what it is to become a "baker".  It's a great journey, and I hope you check in here from time to time to see how I'm doing.

May your yeast always thrive, and your dough always rise.


Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

 Trial One

First up: the Failure.

They were completely sourdough, but something wasn't quite right. They got a bit too puffed. I'm thinking that the fact that I let the dough come back up to room temperature had something to do with that. I should've boiled straight from the fridge, then baked. It could also be that I didn't get them stretched out quite enough, either.

The taste, though? Perfect. Exactly what I want.

Second: the Success.

This is another basic sourdough rye. No caraway, no sugar...just flour, salt, water, and starter. No complaints. Time to get out the mustard. Or maybe the corned beef...

Just to show that I've been baking. Not neglecting my hobby this week. :)

SylviaH's picture

Freezing bread can be a very good thing!  We loved the P Reinhart's Panettone so much at Christmas, I made another batch for New Years. Knowing we would enjoy this bread anytime, I carefully wrapped one up in foil and plastic wrap.  What a treat. We had it this morning with Mascarpone cheese.  Some breads really are so good it's understandable why they are kept for that special time.  Though still delicious. It was a tad dryer and is best enjoyed freshly baked while still very moist and tender.   




tattooedtonka's picture

Because I always like the books with the pictures, I also like to take lots of pics for instructional purposes.  Its always easier to understand if you can see it for yourself.

This is double batch of SD Bagels....

My recipe is from BBA...

I start with 70oz. of SD starter to which I add 3 teaspoons of Instant Yeast and mix in.

To this add in 34oz. of High Gluten flour ( I use KA Sir Lancelot)

1.4oz. Kosher Salt

1.0oz Honey

I then mix all together to get a rough mass.


I then dump contents out onto counter to begin mixing by hand.

Mix well by hand and then begin kneading and folding.

I will do this until most of the sticky dough has pulled back off of my hands and it all looks like this (about 6 minutes).

Next step- I let dough just sit on counter while I take a 3/4 sheet pan and line in with parchment paper.

I will now go back to dough and begin cutting 5oz. pieces off with a bench knife.

Take the 5oz. pieces and shape them into a ball like making dinner rolls, or any other rounds.  I dont worry about being perfect as long as it is round-ish..

Take the dough ball and place it on the sheet pan.  Let the balls touch each other as you are placing them.

Now take a dish towel, get it soak and wet with warm water.  Ring out excess water and drape over rounds.  This will prevent dough from drying out while you finish.

Once all rounds have been made cover entire thing with towel and let sit for 20 minutes.

I will use this time to now clean my workspace and prepare my pans for the shaped bagels.

On this sheet pan however I spray a thin layer of EVOO.

Now to uncover your bagel rounds once your 20 minutes is up.

Begin shaping the bagels.  To start out I roll a ball into a log shape rolling it on the counter to slowly stretch.

Take this piece and wrap it around your hand and overlap.

Now roll your hand on counter forward and back to seal bagel.

Place these shaped bagels onto your lightly oiled parchment papered pan.

Do this until all your bagels are shaped, then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Now these go right into my cold storage.  I do not rest them on counters or anything else that would delay.  They go right into cold storage.

At this point you can wait until next day to do the boil and bake, or in my case since I made this batch 4 hours ago, I will do the boil and bake stages about 4 hours from now.  See you in 4 hours bagel buddies...



pmccool's picture

Between last weekend's experiments with varying hydration levels, locating rye flour, and tuning up my sourdough starter over the past few days, things took a turn for the better with this weekend's bake.  If I had to rank the importance of those three, it would be a difficult choice.  I'd probably nominate the improved starter as the most important but that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't obtained some rye flour.  Of course, having a notion where things were headed because of the hydration experiments gave me confidence in what to expect, so, I suppose I'm back to where I started...

I'll start with the starter.  It was initially propagated with whole wheat flour and orange juice (didn't find pineapple juice at the store until several days later) and has always had an intense acidity.  It's residents may also have been a little too active in pumping out enzymes because it tended to go gooey after a few hours at room temps (it's summer here in South Africa) in spite of being maintained at approximately 50% hydration.  I took a tablespoon or so of the starter, mixed it with another couple tablespoons of mineral water and enough rye flour to make a soft paste.  I repeated this regimen with morning and evening feedings for two days.  Over the next 3-4 days, I introduced bread flour until the mix was mostly bread flour and a couple of pinches of rye flour, always discarding all but a tablespoonful before the feeding.  By the end of the third day, the starter was much bubblier and the odor and flavor were much less acidic.  The starter now has more of a yeasty/fruity odor.  

With a now lively, less-acidulated starter in hand, I decided that Leader's pain de compagne looked like a good candidate for a trial run.  The hydration level is approximately 67%, which is right in the sweet spot of the previous week's hydration tests.  All of the required ingredients were on hand, so I mixed up the liquid levain on Friday evening before going to bed.  The next morning it was evident that the levain had more than tripled overnight and was already subsiding, so I mixed the dough before breakfast.  Here's where I have a slight quibble with the process.  Leader directs you to mix up the final dough, sans salt and levain, let it autolyze for 20 minutes, then mix in the salt, followed by the liquid levain.  Nothing unorthodox there, except that the final dough without the levain is about 50% hydration.  Try mixing a liquid levain into bagel dough!  By hand!  At least I had the good sense to chop the dough into small pieces before starting to mix in the levain (the directions do not suggest this step).  Still, it was a long, slow, laborious process to mix the dough and the levain into a uniform mass.  Toward the end, I was effectively doing stretch and folds with the dough in the bowl, trying to get everything folded in and combined.  Needless to say, I settled for a few rounds of French folds instead of the recommended 12 minutes of kneading on the bench.  I can attest that the dough was well developed by that point.

Bulk fermention, shaping, final fermentation and baking all proceeded pretty much as advertised in the book.  It was extremely gratifying to see strong oven spring with this bread, after having had a few less-than-stellar bakes.

Here's how the finished bread looked:


I like the coloration of the crust.  Apparently I'm starting to get better acquainted with the oven, too.

The crumb, shown below, has a mix of smaller and larger alveoli.  Not classic pain de compagne texture but it will work well for sandwiches, which is how most of it will be consumed.

The crust, though thin, was more chewy than crunchy.  After sitting overnight in plastic, it has softened considerably.  The flavor is definitely more French than San Francisco: only slightly tangy and thoroughly wheaty.  The crumb is somewhat moist and feels slightly cool upon the tongue.  Very pleasing to the palate.

All in all, a very pleasing outcome.

tattooedtonka's picture

One of the families favorites, pizza..

Pizza is extremely easy to make from scratch, better than delivery, and a great way to impress guests.

Average time of making 3 pizzas from scratch about and hour and a quarter start to finish.

My recipe is simple.

  • 908 grams bread flour (I use KA special)

  • 14 grams instant yeast

  • 29 grams Kosher salt

  • 600 grams spring water (since my tap water is yucko)

I place weighed flour in large bowl, and whisk in yeast.

Once whisked in I then whisk in the salt.

Once done pour in 3/4 of water and mix with bare hand.  When dough in starting to form from mess, add in rest of water and mix by hand until flour is all off of bowl and you have a pretty sticky mess in your hand. 

Dump all onto bare counter (no flour).  Continue mixing with bare hands until you have a good incorperation.  Then start kneading.  I knead until most of the dough has pulled off of my hands leaving my hands fairly clean (about 8 minutes).

I then cut into 3 equal weighing pieces.  I then take pizza proofing pans and spray EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) all around insides of each pan until nice even coating. 

I shape each dough piece into a dough ball and place each in seperate pan and swirl around until evenly coated with the oil.

Then stack pans and let sit about 45 minutes.

At 30 minutes I place my baking stone in oven and preheat to 500'f.

At 45 minutes I will dump out first dough onto floured work surface.

Once dough  is dumped out I flatten into about an 8-10inch round.

At this stage I will start hand tossing pizza dough until large enough to fill a large pizza screen.

Now the easy part, top with your favorite toppings..

Tonight I started with a Turkey Sausage, Mushroom, and Onion.

Top this with hand shredded Mozz. cheese.

Place pizza and screen on stone and bake for 5 minutes, at this time I will open oven and pull out screen from under pizza (I use a pizza peal to aid in this move.  I then continue to bake for another 5 minutes this way it has a nice brown bottom to the pizza.

At ten minutes pizza is done and here you have it.

I do this all over again 2 more times with a pepperoni version, and a plain cheese.


Now everybody has a full tummy, even my side kick Tonka

Though his tummy is filled with mostly Pedigree dry food with some left over turkey sausage, but he seems just as happy...

O.K. So to all my friends out there, I have been watching at times, even when I wasnt posting.  Last year was a great year, I built raised garden beds in my back yard to replace my regular garden, and we had great harvests.  Pic's are on my smugmug site, check it out if you would like.  Its much easier on the back, and there is no weeding to be done, my favorite part.

Thanks for checking out my latest,



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