The Fresh Loaf

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jacobsbrook's picture

As a parent of a 9 year old, I am attempting  to teach him how to be self sufficient.  This is my gift to him.  He has been growing his own vegetable garden for two years now.  Often giving extra vegetables to people camping in our campground.  All soups are made from scratch at home.  Tomorrow he will be learning how to make cheddar brocolli :)   Meanwhile he and I are learning to bake our favorite breads at home.  Last week he sat with me, watching videos about shaping baguettes and decided he was ready to try.  I'm proud of my little guy.  He is perfecting his stretch and fold and seems to be getting the shaping of baguettes down better than Mom.  The short baguettes in this picture he made today to bring to a friends house.  How cool is that!

pmccool's picture

Hallelujah!  I located rye flour today at a store within reasonable driving distance!  And not just simply rye flour: I can get wholemeal rye, medium rye and crushed rye.  Thanks MiniO for one of your tips; I went to the mill's web site, looked at their list of stockists (for the Americans, the equivalent would be retailers), and finally made it to the store today.  For anyone else in the Pretoria (Tshwane) area, it is the SuperSpar store at the Silver Lakes shopping center, just off Hans Strijdom Drive.

I decided to slowly work my way back into baking with rye and limited myself to a bag of medium rye (which I had already wheedled from the baker before rounding the corner of the aisle containing flours - oh me of little faith).

Since I had pulled my starter out of cold storage last evening and given it a feeding, I nipped off a tablespoon or so, stirred in some water and enough rye to make a thick paste.  It's sitting on the counter now.  With any luck, the party for the lacto-, aceto- and yeast-beasties should be revving up.

I noticed that the gluten in the starter was almost completely destroyed, so I took a taste and was surprised by the intense acidity.  I think my starter may be longer on bacteria than on yeast, so I'll try running it closer to 100% hydration for a while (it's normally kept at 50%) to see if that favors yeast development and gets things into a better balance between leavening and flavor critters.

Color me happy!


will slick's picture
will slick

Started this bake last night at 7pm. I was done at Ten A.M. this morning. Mixed Berry braids for the shower and my staff. Chocolate raspberry Braid for the shower. Three loafs of Maltese Bread for my sisters I slashed there first initial on them. All in all I am a Happy baker. My wife was not so happy she had to lug the stuff with her and wait for the chocolate braid to be done.


moxiemolly's picture


Oh man am I happy with these! I loosely used a recipe my mom gave me over the phone years ago. I used less salt and minimal flour. For the first time I felt worthy enough to share with my neighbor/friends! I feel like I'm onto something here :)


Shiao-Ping's picture

This post is to document a technique (or the realization of the lack of it, rather) that became apparent to me while I was making the bread below (the first one).  I subsequently applied it in making the second bread below with good result and would like to share my experience.

It started because I wanted to re-do my last try at Chad Robertson's French-style Country Sourdough back in September.  This was one of my New Year bread Resolutions.  My Imitation of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough had a serious flaw:  sourdough without whole wheat flour and/or rye flour can hardly be called Country Sourdough (Pain de Campagne).  Very soon after I did that post, it was clear to me that the ratios that I used in my formula with regards to ingredients were nowhere near those used by Chad Robertson; for instance, starter as a percentage of final dough flour, starter hydration and overall dough hydration ratios, etc.  My timeline may be quite accurate as it was pieced together from "A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery" in The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott who interviewed Chad.      

I reconstructed my formula as follows:

  • 450 g ripe 75%-hydration starter (after a special 2-hour levain expansion), 100% baker's percentage

  • 70 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (10% of total flour)

  • 140 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (20% of total flour)

  • 240 g organic unbleached plain flour

  • 316 g water

  • 14 g salt

Total dough weight was 1,230 g and the overall hydration was 72%.






The bread looked gorgeous from the outside.  That was only half of the story.  The crumb revealed the other half of the story:



          London cabs?                                             


                                                                                    THAT hole was where my thumb was (see point (2) below)


While the crumb was lovely to taste, springy to bite, and not altogether dense, I did not develop the full potential of the crumb as would otherwise be manifested in the open cell structure.  I knew this because of what I was able to achieve in my last Chad Robertson bread, using similar formula.  I looked back at what I had done differently, and I think the following was what happened: 

(1) That my starter was over-ripe before I did the two-hour expansion and, despite the two-hour expansion, my starter was still "tired."  My starter was not at its most vigorous when I used it to mix the final dough.  And,

(2) That my stretch and folds could have been better executed.  (I used my left hand to hold and stabilize the dough while my right hand folded it.  As the dough was folded onto itself, my left thumb was in the way because I did the S&F's in a very quick motion as if I was in a hurry or racing to get the job done.  The big hole in the crumb shot above was the mark that my left thumb had left behind.)  The point here, however, is not about the hole so big that a mouse could sneak through.  The point here is that I was stretching and folding the dough too fast that the dough was not allowed an optimal chance for proper gluten development while the fermentation was happening concurrently

I came across the following remark in LeadDog's comment in a post, entitled "Exploring Bread" in Sourdough Companion that best exemplifies what I meant.   He said,


When I was reading "Local Bread" Leader attributed the following concept to Max Poilane:

"Max explained how slow, steady kneading gently conditions the gluten to create an extensible and elastic dough.  The modern practice of high-speed mixing while hurrying along the process, oxygenates the dough too much and bleaches it out, causing the bread to lose flavor and character."


In my formula above, there are at least two more elements that are not consistent with a French-style Country Sourdough.  And these are (a) that the levain is normally a stiff levain, and (b) that the levain normally falls within 25 to 35% of baker's percentage.

Based on the foregoing, I gave it one more try at reproducing Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough that I had when I visited his Tartine Bakery last August in San Francisco.


My formula for Bread Inspired by Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough

  • 150 g just ripe stiff levain @60% hydration (30% baker's percentage)

  • 41 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (7% of total flour)

  • 82 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (14% of total flour)

  • 377 g organic unbleached plain flour

  • 384 g water

  • 11 g salt

Total dough weight was 1040 grams and overall hydration was 74%.




Some main points of my procedure

My room temperature was 28C.  Over the three hours of bulk fermentation (from the time mixing was complete to the time I pre-shaped the dough), I did 4 sets of slow and gentle S&F's of 25 strokes each, every 45 minutes or so apart. 

At the end of each set of S&F's, instead of oiling a separate clean bowl to place the dough in, which I find really troublesome, I dab some oil at the edge of the dough where it meets the mixing bowl all round.  This works really well - the oil protects the dough from tearing through the successive S&F's.  I also oil my fingers so the dough doesn't stick to my fingers.  I have a standing plastic container on the side, in which I have oil, ready to be used.

I proved my shaped dough for about an hour and then placed it in the refrigerator for a 12 hours retarding.






I am very happy with the result and will now close my book on Chad Robertson's country sourdough.  If you are interested to try this recipe, the two-hour levain expansion is not necessary, but just make sure that your starter is very vigorous; under ripe, I think, is better than over-ripe; I would use it as soon as it domes. 

The recipe looks simple.  Its success, however, is all in the understanding of and management of the fermentation and gluten development processes simultaneously.  They are independent of each other and yet co-dependent on each other.  

This is the first time that I felt that our dough should be treated with love.  "Slow and gentle S&F's" means love. 

In closing, may I be presumptuous and say that I would like to bring your attention to a most beautifully written "Meet the baker" story by MC.  So much love came out of her description of Gérard Rubaud, the man, the baker, and his way of making his Pain au Levain.  If you can feel the love, your Pain au Levain will have come to a new level.     



Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

This is what I get for trying a new starter.

This was not sour. I'd love to find out why. Write-up is here on my blog.

100g very ripe starter

944g flour

633g water

20g salt

Seriously, best tasting bread ever. At least to me. But it isn't sour. It's complex. Kinda nutty. But no tang at all.

I think my starter is more yeast than bacteria.

Marni's picture

The standard sourdough in my house is one posted a few years ago by Susan in San Diego.  I make it at least once a week. I 've been adding or changing it as my whim dictates. This week's version was 1/5 white whole wheat, olive oil and ground flax seed.

Here's the crumb:


They really had quite a bit of oven spring, although they look flatter here.  I doubled everything, and these were large.

I did not retard them, but left them out in a cool (70-ish) kitchen all day. (about 8-10 hours). They were baked on my cracked basalt stone under cover.

I thought the flax would show more, but it blended in. They have a distinctive, but not overwhelming sourdough taste and smell wonderful! 


txfarmer's picture

Made miche for the first time for the BBA challenge, here's the "cover shot" ;)


I used Golden Buffalo high extraction flour, and followed BBA instruction pretty closely. The only change is kneading method - I don't have the stamina or arm strength to knead 2KG of dough until "passing windowpane", so I just kneaded some and did a couple of french folds during bulk fermentation. Turned out pretty well - dense chewy crumb (as expected with relatively low hydration) and great flavor. I will keep tweaking it though, changing up the hydration level (I usually prefer much wetter dough, but this bread is surprisingly good too) and flour combo.

Went with the siganature "P" scoring mark

Hmmm, "someone" REALLY wants a peice of this bread!

inlovewbread's picture

I've been baking my way through Hamelman's "Bread". Sometimes I don't always go in order- and right now, I'm stuck on the Sourdough Rye section. I decided to go with the "80% Rye with a Rye-Flour Soaker" (page 213) instead of starting with the first (40%) rye of the chapter. I deviated from the formula a bit as I baked a single pullman loaf instead of the 2 free-form loaves specified. I'm not afraid to shape rye- actually, I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like...but I do like the look of a pullman loaf. Same way I'm attracted to Volvo's, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and cubism. Seems strong to me, nice lines, and perfect with a strong flavor like rye. If I bake all my future loaves in the pullman pan though, my posts would get very (or even more)boring.... However, my pullman pan was my Christmas gift and I intend to put it to good use :-)

I think this formula was a good starting point. I was going for experience with this loaf, but also to gain a sort of base-line. I want to eventually get to a high-percentage rye that is sweet (with the sweetness coming from the rye itself), very moist, dense and chewy. I'd also like it to include rye chops, cracked rye or whole rye berries as in Vollkornbrot- but I haven't found a good source for any of these yet. I do have Triticale- which genetically is 1/2 Rye. I was thinking of using this in place of rye berries or chopped rye. Not sure- anyone else tried it?

To confess, I have not had rye before. But the pictures in Hamelman's "Bread" of rye loaves were enough to draw me in.

I was pleased with the flavor and crumb of the bread, but not the crust. It was too hard and had to be cut off. Luckily that was easy because of the square shape! Maybe because I baked in in the pullman- the baking times could have been off, and like I said, this was my first try at rye. Crust aside though- this bread was nice.

Moving forward in the chapter, I'd like to try the 3-Stage Detmolder method- to satisfy my sourdough science nerd side I suppose. Sourdough cultures fascinate me, and I'd like to try this method and see what each stage is like. If you are not familiar with this method- basically it's building up your rye sour 3 times to bring about different aspects of the rye sourdough flavor by favoring each cultures preferred growth conditions. Really fun stuff. 

So here's my first rye loaf, waiting- waiting and waiting- wrapped in linen for the full 24 hours before being cut into:

And here's the loaf:

Not the best picture, I know. The holes are from "docking" the loaf as per a recommendation on another TFL thread about rye. I can't remember which one, I've read most, if not all of them recently. I wanted to avoid a hole in the crumb so I docked it. I don't know if it was necessary or not.

I'm looking for any and all comments on rye here. Any suggestions, favorite ryes, good rye for a pullman pan? Anything anyone has to say on the subject appreciated. 

Happy Baking

freefromjane's picture

So just reporting back from the croissant front, it got all rather messy (really my fault though), as the margarine was too soft. But nothing gets wasted so I added more flour, shaped one part of the dough into rolls and the other into a braided loaf. It turned out well in the end, and I'm going to give the croissants another shot.

So below are the rolls made from spelt four (white), soya drink and margarine, topped with poppy seeds. 

And here we have a loaf form topped with sliced almonds. I also brushed the rolls and loaf with egg and soya drink.


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