The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Shiao-Ping's picture

Recently, I was thinking why there are more famous Master Chefs in the world than there are Master Bakers.  A Michelin-starred restaurant cannot have poor quality bread to be earning a Michelin star.  No way.  But the issue here for me is:  Can bread be a stand-alone meal, complete in all its nutrition, but more importantly, in its artistry and flair, technique, and satisfaction, such that once you have it, your body and mind do not desire other food? 

Recently, also, with my post of the apple and molasses Swedish Rye Bread here at TFL and Sourdough CompanionMaedi of Sourdough Companion and I were exchanging views regarding ying and yang of bread.  In his view, ying and yang is manifested in each loaf we made either at the bread level or at how we enjoy the bread (with a topping on it, or with a meal or soup, etc.).  When it is at the bread level, this could include building unique ingredients into the bread to create interesting flavours and textures.  I said that, however, many experienced sourdough bakers seem to go for the "pure" flavor of flour in bread and, therefore, would play with fermentation potentials in flour rather than with the combination possibilities of non-flour ingredients.  On page 145 of Bread, Master Baker Hamelman notes, "... it is my hope that every baker will learn the subtle art of fermentation - the truest skill of the baker - before exploring bread formulas whose ingredients mask the taste of fermented flour." 

I don't intend to make a bigger discussion here than I am capable of.  I can only say that, purist or not, I find both ideas attractive; ie, the idea of trying to let the true flavour of flour shine and the idea of building interesting ingredients into the bread for extra textures and flavours.  This bread is my attempt on both front (fronts?).   So, thank you, Maedi, for your thoughts and for crystalising my thoughts for me.

I wish my daughter were here to read my draft and help me out with whatever needs to be corrected with my grammar and sentences.  She is only gone for a few days but I am already missing her.  The very loud music of Van Morrison streams out of my tea room as I write.  The music energizes me.  I am in love with it and I can feel my heart throbbing, almost painful.  My daughter would enjoy this music too.  The boys are playing golf today.  When they return, they will bring me fish for dinner tonight, as they always do. 

Here is this bread:    



                                                           Pain au Levain with Herbs and Tomato  






This bread was very satisfying to make.  I was surprised at how much oven spring I got and how open the crumb was, considering that this was a 68% hydration dough.  What has helped me a lot is the understanding of at what stage I should take the starter to mix my dough.  For the pain au levain style of bread that I make, I like to take it as soon as it domes.  If it domes but when I touch it, it "shrinks" and flattens, the starter has gone too mature for me.  No doubt it can still leaven dough, but I don't think it is at its most rigorous.






The crumb was beautiful but the lighting at the time when I took the photos did not allow the creaminess in color to show through.  (It is a constant battle trying to have enough light but not too much at the same time to do justice for the color of the crumb.)   The crumb had a very delicate flavour.  The sour tang, while mild, is there.  If I were to change anything, however, I would perhaps increase the rye and whole wheat flour components of the dough from 3% and 6%, respectively, to 5% and 10%, or even higher, in which case the hydration may need to be adjusted.  


My Formula

for the dough

  • 200 g just ripe 75%-hydration starter (30% baker's percentage)

  • 25 g medium rye flour (3% of total flour)

  • 50 g whole wheat flour (6% of total flour)

  • 590 g organic unbleached plain flour

  • 444 g water (if you wish, you can substitute 3 tbsp of olive oil and 400 g water; the olive oil will make the crumb really tender)

  • 13 g salt

for the herb mixture - or any herbs combination of your choice.  Mince the following except the tomato:

  • A sprig of rosemary (about 15 cm in length, no more than 20 cm)

  • Basil from one stalk

  • One clove of garlic (no more, unless you love garlic)

  • 2 - 3 very, very thinly sliced ginger

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil

  • Rock salt

  • One slice of tomato (sliced horizontally)

Total dough weight was 1320 g and overall dough hydration was 68%.


Main points of my method 

  • (1) Mix your dough as normal.  (My bulk fermentation was 3 hours and my room temperature at the time was 25 - 26 C.  I did 4 sets of stretch and folds of 20 strokes each, no more, over the 3 hours period.  When I do my S&F, with each stroke I try to do it gently and slowly so as not to tear the dough.)

  • (2) Prepare the herb mixture and put it aside.

  • (3) When it is time to divide the dough, section off a piece of dough about 250 grams (or 300 g if you wish) and set it aside.

  • (4) Pre-shape and shape the main dough as you would normally for a boule.

  • (5) Roll out the small piece of dough to a round disc with a rolling pin or with your hands as if you are making a pizza base.



  • (far left) the herb mixture

  • (centre left) rub the herb mixture over the surface of the main dough and place the piece of tomato over the top

  • (centre right) place the small round disc over the dough

  • (far right) turn the dough over, tuck in the edges; turn it over again (right side is now up) and lightly tighten the boule (if you try to tighten it too much, the thin layer of dough may break).  Place it on a dusted couche or tea towel (right side up) as in the picture.


  • (6) Proof for 1/2 hour (no more, because by the time all this pre-shaping and shaping is done, 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour is gone by, and that  all adds to the fermentation time).  My room temperature was 25 - 26 C, so adjust your fermentation time if your temperature is different.

  • (7) Place the boule in the fridge for overnight retarding (from the time I started dividing & shaping to the time my boule was sent to the fridge, it was one hour.  I did 15 hours retarding.  Anywhere between 8 hours and 24 hours is fine.

  • (8) Bake with steam at 230C (no higher as the oil on the inner surface of the dough may burn too quickly if the temperature is too high).  I baked it for 40 minutes.  (For the last 8 - 10 minutes, I had to drop the temperature to 210C as the crust was already getting good color.)


This levain bread was fun to make, satisfying for my mind and body -






As I was finishing the draft for this post, my husband walked into my tea room with a bottle of Mt Pleasant single vineyard Lovedale 1996 Semillon, his favourite.  I decided the fish would have to wait for another night.  For now, all that I can manage is this -





A piece of today's bread with tomato, basil, olive oil, and Margaret River pink rock salt from Western Australia


A satisfying day for my mental and physical indeed.



freefromjane's picture

This is my first blog, so I joined the website a couple weeks ago, already tried a few recipes and I'm joining the chorus of gratitude, thanking everybody for sharing their lovely recipes. My aim is to put up a few recipes myself. Just a little bit about my baking, as I'm on a wheat and dairy free diet, I adjust pretty much every recipe to my own needs, so far it worked. Phew! But I haven't baked much with yeast, my regular bread would be made with baking powder, quite nice.(Will put the recipe up soon). So now I can't wait to try out more of the lovely things that I found on this site. 

I made a lovely basic white spelt bread this morning, Crust was lovely and very tasty with strawberry jam.

For now my next project is to make croissants, already have the butter chilling in the frigde, will report back with further results.

Arbyg's picture

Hello all,

This is my second bread post on TFL and I'm loving this site!

I would like to thank everyone for sharing their breads because it's getting me excited about bread again. I have been out of the bread business for 3 1/2 years and this site has motivated me to make bread again. I am sure it will lead me back to my passion. The starter I used here is 100% hydration made from dark rye that was later replaced with white flour. I learned this starter from Hammelman which I attended his course over 12 years ago. I feed it in small quantities in morning then later before bed. Simple recipe enjoy.

1000g bread flour

35% starter


69% total hydration

Mix for 3min slow speed let rest for 15min mix med speed 3min

Fold after 20 min twice then again 1 hour later, proof until double divide let rest for 30-45 min then shape

I like to retard my dough for 8-10 hours but make and bake makes great bread as well

I bake at 450 10 min then reduce to 410 for about 35 min

I have not experimented with much of the elaborate steaming techniques found on this site, so I just dump two 1/2 cups of ice cubes during first 10 min 

occidental's picture

I recently baked Pain au Levain from Hammelman's book 'Bread..."  This is the second formula I've tried from this book, following two fairly sucessful attempts at Vermont Sourdough.  There are a few differences between the two.  Vermont SD starts with a liquid levain while PaL starts with a stiff levain.  Hammelman calls for whole rye in Vermont SD while calling for medium rye flour in PaL.  Also, a long final ferment is called for with Vermont SD while it is recommended not to go for the long ferment with PaL.  I didn't vary from the formula and had pretty satisfactory results.  I also had good results with a new brotform following a previous episode where the dough stuck and I ruined a couple loaves a week or so ago.  Here are a couple pics of the look of the loaf and the crumb:


From bread

From bread

I've just run across the roasted garlic levain on page 183 and am thinking that is going to have to be one of the next attempts. Have any of you tried this formula?

utahcpalady's picture

My first try at chocolate sourdough was a success!  Chewy, not too sweet, the kids loved it, the crust was perfect!  Oh, the joy! And the calories and the treadmill to come...he, he, he.  Thanks for a great recipe SP!

josephine's picture

I have just made my first successful sourdough loaves and I am excited.

jombay's picture

Also my first blog entry and first post ever. Been lurkin for a while but I decided to post today's bake. I think they turned out pretty well. Crumb is amazing but I still have more work to do on my shaping and scoring. Thanks to everyone who made this recipe happen.



saraugie's picture

I want to purchase Brotforms and/or Bannetons and need some advice.

Lined or unlined, that is the question ? I'd hoped to stop at that one question, since I could use the Shakespeare ending, I will anyway :)

I want to get one round and one oval, what sizes should they be ?

hansjoakim's picture

There were no loaves in my previous blog post, so I guess it's time to make things right again.

I still have some dried fruit and different nuts lying over from various Christmas projects, and with my chronic sweet tooth, I just couldn't resist putting them to good use as soon as possible. I mixed two batches of Hamelman's "Whole-wheat Bread with Hazelnuts and Currants" (p. 124). In the first batch, I replaced the currants with chopped prunes and shaped four mini batards. For the second batch, I used walnuts and chopped dates instead of hazelnuts and currants, and shaped regular batards. Some of the mini batards and a crumb shot of the walnut-date bread is shown below:

Whole-wheat bread with dates and walnuts

An instant classic in my book, especially the walnut-date combination. The dough has a relatively high hydration (73%), so the crumb is open and light. It's made slightly buttery by the walnuts and the dates add a rather sophisticated sweetness to the bread. It's also pretty good when toasted (trust me).

I've also been baking my everyday pain au levain:

Pain au levain with whole-wheat flour


A couple of days ago I came across a book called "Technologie der Backwarenherstellung" by Claus Schünemann and Günter Treu. I don't recall how I got there, it was probably the result of some oddball Google search, but I eventually ended up at Google Books, which has a limited preview of this German title. It appears to be a textbook for the budding German baker, and I found some interesting bits regarding Detmolder sourdoughs. My German is getting increasingly rusty, but I managed to extract some information from the preview at Google Books. I was particularly looking for information regarding the simple Detmolder one-step build, and found a table that will come in handy. The book gives a table with recommended amount of prefermented flour, based on the overall flour combination of the dough. That is listed in the left table below. The column "Rye sourdough" gives the amount of total flour that should be prefermented for the specified rye:wheat combination. The "Prefermented rye" column gives the corresponding amount of rye flour that is put into the sourdough. The book also gives figures for what level of inoculation should be used in a Detmolder one-step build as a function of the average temperature of the sourdough during ripening. That is listed in the right table below.

DEF table

I decided to try out these numbers, and baked my favourite rye (click here for David's complete write-up) based on the above two tables. This loaf is a 70% rye, so I prefermented 28% of the total flour (before: 35%), and inoculated the sourdough with 15% of my ripe, white starter (it's bitingly cold here these days...*brr*... and neither me nor my starter like it).

The bread turned out really good I think! The crumb is not quite as open as before, but the loaf profile is comparatively taller. No distinct differences with regards to taste. The one thing I did notice, was that the mixed dough was a lot less sticky than what I'm used to. Not very surprising probably, since the total amount of prefermented flour is reduced. This is my "other everyday" bread, so there'll be plenty of time to experiment with temperatures, proofing times and formula variables to optimise the loaf.

70 percent rye


Finally, for dessert, a chocolate cake with luscious hazelnut cream (that was the rest of my hazelnuts...):

Chocolate hazelnut cake

La masa's picture
La masa

The Roscón de Reyes is the traditional breakfast in Spain for the Epiphany day. It's also found in many Latin American countries and it's very similar to the Gâteau des Rois from the Provence.

I don't have a mixer, and don't really miss it... except when I make this bread. Kneading this dough is hard work, by far the hardest of all the doughs I make.

Fortunately, it's the traditional breakfast for the Epiphany day, and not the traditional breakfast for Saturdays :-)

For this dough, you need a flour with a pretty high protein content.

Make a preferment with:

  • 50 gr flour

  • 40 gr milk

  • 10 gr fresh yeast

While it's rising mix in a bowl:

  • 200 gr flour

  • 100 gr milk

  • 55 gr sugar

  • 3 gr salt

  • 1 egg

  • Grated lemon zest

  • Grated orange zest

You'll get a very wet and sticky dough, almost a batter:


Now, you'll have to work out some way of kneading this thing. Well, you cannot really knead it. I did a kind of light French fold.

Pour the dough onto the counter, pick it with one hand and stretch it upwards, repeat for ten minutes, wait ten minutes (keep an eye on it, it could fall from your counter!), knead again for ten minutes. At first you'll think that you will never get a workable dough, but eventually things change. You'll still have a very wet dough, but now you can see a good amount of gluten strands and it looks like a dough more than a batter now.

Knead in 50 gr of soft butter, and knead again, and again, and again. The gluten develops more and more, and you'll begin to feel more confident.

Knead in the preferment, wich at this stage should have doubled, and knead again till you have a proper dough. Now you should be able to do a proper French fold.

Shape in a ball (if you can). Cover and let rest in a greased bowl until doubled.

Punch down the dough, make a few stretch and fold and let it double again.

Transfer the dough to a slightly floured surface (I like wood), poke a hole right in the centre with your finger and gently ease the dough outwards (as shown in BBA for the couronne):

In a perfect world, the crown would be the same width all around. But this is not a perfect world.

Let it proof. You'll have to trust your experience now. If in doubt, bake it. If it's overproofed, when you take it out of the oven, it will colapse.

Paint with egg and spread a fair amount of moist sugar over the top:

Preheat the oven to 200C or 400F. Place your dough into the oven and lower the temp to 160C or 320 F. Bake for 35 min.

The smell while it's baking is awesome.

It should be reddish brown, tender, slightly moist in the inside. The crumb is light, soft, fluffy. This size is plenty enough for four persons.

¡Buen provecho!



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