The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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jstreed1476's picture

Maybe some of you saw this recent Onion feature and thought, "I know someone like that . . ."

How about a little test for deciding if your enthusiasm for breadmaking is a cause for alarm:

1. I bake enough bread to _____.

a. Feed myself (1 pt)

b. Feed myself and my family (2 pts)

c. Feed myself, my family, and the family next door (4 pts)

d. Feed myself, my family, the family next door, and all my co-workers (10 pts)

2. I have created ____ spreadsheets to calculate baker's percentages.

a. zero (1 pt)

b. 1 (2 pts)

c. >1 (4 pts)

3. If a forum post fails to include a crumb shot, I _______.

a. notice but refrain from commenting (1 pt)

b. comment on its absence (2 pts)

c. skip the thread entirely (4 pts)

4. King Arthur Flour _______.

a. is kinda pricey (1 pt)

b. is worth the investment (2 pts)

c. doesn't offer the complexity and depth of flavor offered by organic flour ground in my hand-cranked mill (4 pts)

5. Commercial yeast is ______.

a. perfectly acceptable (1 pt)

b. okay for beginners (2 pts)

c. heresy in a jar; when I travel to visit family, I bring my wild yeast starter (4 pts)


5-8 points = you're a practical baker who may even slice a loaf before it has cooled.

9-12 points = people regard your baking as a healthy pastime, but know better than to praise Panera in your presence.

13-16 points = everyday life intrudes on your breadmaking.

17-26 points = the folks at TFL are the only ones who really understand you ;-)

* no, not that kind.

Fefa's picture

I am Portuguese and many years ago (1989/1990) for professional reasons had to move temporarily to the UK.

It was then that I firstly tasted granary bread in Huddersfield

We had a short lunch break and ordered sandwiches in. My favourite were corned beef on granary.

I moved back to Portugal. Since then I have only come across granary bread again in Spain in 1995/1996

There is no such thing as granary bread in Portugal (Algarve). Does anyone know how I could get the right grain mixture and recipe for granary bread? 


Marni's picture

After seeing and reading about Qahtan's  Guinness Chocolate Cake and how delicious it is, I had to try it.  Documenting my try, which was made with Murphy's stout rather than Guinness (it's what I had) are these pics:


It turned out of the pan beautifully, Hooray!


It is a very chocolately cake, not too sweet, with a nice depth to the flavor.  I have since bought the Guinness and may try this and the gingerbread again.

txfarmer's picture

From Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking, you can find recipe here:

What a great country sourdough, crumb is suprisingly open (only 65% hydration, with some whole grain and wheat germs in), crispy crust and nice chewy texture inside. I am experimenting with firm stater, converted my 100% starter to 60% last week, fed it according to Glezer's instruction in the same book. Even though my wet starter has been performing great, raising beautiful breads, but I want to explore what more flavor a firm starter can bring out, hopefully a bit more sourness. 


I am impressed by the firm starter's rising power - 4 to 6 hours of bulk fermentation (I did 5), 3.5 to 4.5 hours of proofing(I retarted the dough after shaping). It rose quite a bit in the fridge, after taking it out, I proofed it for 2 hours, it's longer than any of the doughs I made with my wet starter before, so I got nervous of overproofing, baked the bread even though the dough was still pretty bouncy. Should've listented to the dough, it exploded a bit at the scoring marks, not terrible, but definitely underproofed. Next time I'd do 3 hours after retarding.

The most impressive part is the flavor - definitely a bit more sour than my previous breads made with wet starter, just more noticable, not overpowering at all (we don't like overly sour breads, but do like some subtle sourness to make the flavor of the bread more well rounded). Along with the barley malt syrup, toasted wheat germs, and 4 different kinds of flour, the taste is deliciously complex. I would definitely make it regularly. I might try to make it with my liquid starter (with hydration adjusted) next time just to see how the dough and bread would be different. 

Since the flavor and character of a starter takes time to develope, I am going to keep this firm starter for a while, make a few more breads before deciding which one to keep.

pmccool's picture

While I have been baking in the last several weeks, most of it has been geared to sandwich loaves.  Don't get me wrong; that is some pretty important baking.  While it has been nourishing to the body, it hasn't been anything to stir the soul.  I've had some old favorites: Clayton's Honey Lemon Whole Wheat and plain old honey whole wheat.  I gave Beatrice Ojakangas' Granary Bread a try.  Lovely stuff, but not at all anything that qahtan or others who have had the real thing would recognize as such.  Essentially, it's honey whole wheat (um, I'm beginning to see a theme emerging here) with golden syrup subbed in for the honey.  I'm going to digress for a moment.   For all of you in the U.S. who have been wondering what on earth golden syrup is, here's the inside scoop: it's molasses.  Yes!  Really!  A very light, mildly flavored grade of molasses, but molasses none the less.  There.  Now you know.

I've also been experimenting with some rye breads.  The most noteworthy was a spectacular flop of the Sour Rye, year 1939, which came to my attention via Shiao Ping's blog.  It looked and sounded so lovely in Shiao Ping's post and I'd been wanting to venture further into the rye world, so I thought I would give it a try.  The first bad decision (I won't bore you with the entire list) was to opt for the free-form loaf, rather than the panned loaf.  Being in full "never say die" mode (not readily distinguishable from denial), I soldiered on to the bitter end and was rewarded with something that had the general dimensions and texture of a 1x8 pine board, albeit somewhat darker.  The flavor was worlds better than pine, but the amount of chewing necessary to extract the flavor made the whole enterprise unrewarding.  Hence, my retreat to Ms. Ojakangas' book and the selection of her version of Granary Bread.  A man's gotta eat, after all.

This weekend, still smarting from last week's debacle and still wanting rye bread, I hauled out Mark Sinclair's formula for Sour Rye bread.  This I've made before, and in quantity, so I know how it works and how it is supposed to turn out.  There are some differences between my execution and Mark's.  First, he's a professional baker and I am not.  Second, he uses dark rye and what I had on hand was medium rye.  Third, he has some really big and really cool toys, while I was doing all of my mixing by hand.  Since my use of Mark's formula is by his permission and a consequence of my internship at his Back Home Bakery, I'm not at liberty to share it here.  If you really, really want to make this bread, sign up whenever Mark offers opportunities to intern with him.  If you want something very close to Mark's bread, look up Eric's Fav Rye on this site.  Mark started with that and made some adjustments that suit his selection of ingredients and production scheme.  Both are excellent breads and they are very nearly the same bread.

As noted, I have medium rye flour on hand, so my bread came out somewhat lighter than Marks.  Since I don't have a mixer here, I mixed by hand.  Initially, the mixing was primarily to combine the ingredients uniformly.  Since Mark relies on the mixer for kneading as well as mixing, I continued to work the dough in the bowl in what was essentially a stretch and fold maneuver to develop the dough's gluten network.  As the dough became more cohesive, I dumped it out on the counter for some "slap and fold" or "French fold" kneading, a la Richard Bertinet.  This worked very effectively to finish the dough's development.  The dough was then gathered into a loose boule and placed in a greased bowl for the bulk ferment.  After the dough had approximately doubled, it was divided in three pieces of about 710 grams each and pre-shaped.  After resting a few minutes, the dough was then given its final shape and placed on a Silpat-lined baking sheet for final fermentation, lightly covered with oiled plastic wrap to prevent drying.  As the dough was nearing the end of the final fermentation, I pre-heated the oven.  When the oven was ready, the loaves were uncovered, brushed with egg wash, liberally sprinkled with poppy seeds and slashed.  The baking sheet was put in the oven and hot water was put into the steam pan on the lower rack.  Half-way through the bake, I rotated the loaves so that they would bake evenly, even though I was using the convection setting.  I also pulled them off the baking sheet and let them bake directly on the oven rack so that they would bake and color evenly.  They were a bit closer together on the baking sheet than I thought they should be for optimum results.

And the results?  Well, I'm a happy baker today.  Here's the finished bread:

Sour Rye, Back Home Bakery

I won't have a crumb shot until tomorrow, but the exterior is encouraging.  Slashing can definitely improve and I might have allowed the final proof to go a bit longer, but I'm pretty pleased with how things are looking so far.

Maybe I can get back on that 1939 horse again...


Here is a picture of the crumb:

Back Home Bakery Sour Rye crumb

As I surmised from seeing how the slashes opened during the bake, the bread could have been proofed a while longer.  However, it's rye bread; it is supposed to be hefty rather than fluffy.  The crumb is very moist and surprisingly tender.  The interplay between the earthy rye and the pungent/astringent caraway flavors is balanced so that each complements the other, with neither dominating.  It makes a wicked base for a ham and swiss sandwich.  The lighting for this photo was an overhead fluorescent fixture (sheesh, I almost spelled that as flourescent!), hence the greyer tone of the crumb


ZD's picture

I started three days ago with tempering the hard red spring wheat to 15% moisture. Grinding and sifting last night to get a 86% extraction. Making and baking today. It was very wet. I might have misweighed or miscalculated. I worked in a little flour and it ended up the best tasting bread I have made in a long time. Made with flour, water, salt, and starter. It was sweat, a little sour, and had a wonderful wheat flavor. I got the red color crust I like. The family thought it was good also.

 A 80% home ground HRS wheat and 20% KA AP flour loaf.

This is the pizza I made for my wife this week.


Some of my son Jack's baking this spring break week.

It was a good week.


Greg R

yozzause's picture

Another day with 40 degree C and another opportunity to use the restaurant bakery

Again i used coopers dark ale 1.5 litres , 1.5kg of sour dough starter, 5 kgs bakers flour, 75 grams dry yeast, 100 grams of butter, 12 grams bread improver (dobrim), 100  grams of cooking salt, 1.5 litres water.

i mixed the dark ale sour dough starter and 1 kg of flour into nice sponge batter leaving for an hour, then mix all other ingrediants and allow for bulk fermentation in this case 1 hour and fifteen minutes a good tripling of volume.

35 patrons booked into the restuarant so scale up for 70 dinner rolls @ 50g , 8 pieces @ 500g the rest as 250g.  

  mould the rolls put into proover, mould the bread put into the proover, mould the sticks put in the proover. bring out the rolls wash with boiled cornflour starch paste seed and cut , back in the proover.

same treatment for the rest. bring out the rolls and put into the oven , turn off proover .

last week the oven was set a bit cool so this time moved the dial a bit higher  achieved the desired result more crust colour

put in the sticks and bake off finally the 2 x trays of loaves.

The students had decorated a table in the middle of the restaurant and found room to display some of the DARK ALE WITH SOUR DOUGH STARTER BREAD.

Just got to decide on what we might try next week.

i cant resist posting a few shots of the QUEEN MARY 2 as she entered Fremantle harbour this morning just after 6.00 am

enjoy regards Yozza

CosmicChuck's picture

This is a project I have been working on and haven't fully perfected yet, but I think I am getting there. I am using King Arthur Whole Wheat flour and my four year old Carl Griffith's starter that I have bult into a whole wheat starter. The dough is at 76% hydration and involves a lengthy cold delayed ferment. Still feels a bit heavy for a ciabatta, but I think I may get it in a couple more tries.

And sorry for the bad pictures. I am currently shopping for a better camera.




wally's picture

It's not often that someone can lay claim to producing the best baguettes in a city, but in Washington, DC Sam Fromartz has done so, thanks to a competition sponsored by a local publication - the Washington City Paper

The competition, held in 2009, challenged metro-area bakeries to submit baguettes which were then blind tasted by a panel of experts, including Mark Furstenberg, who introduced artisan bread baking to DC.  What the experts didn't know was that Fromartz, a writer by trade but a bread enthusiast, had submitted his own home-baked baguettes as well.  When the dust settled, the judges had awarded perfect scores to the two loaves baked by Fromartz.

The story is fascinating, and you can read the City Paper article here:

But the baguettes are fascinating as well!  I've baked them on numerous occasions and they produce a delightful flavor and crust.  For those who want Fromartz's recipe from the horse's mouth, it can be found here:

Sam Fromartz's Parisian Baguette Recipe

The following will produce two 16" baguettes weighing in at around 280g apiece.

Ingredient                                              Weight            Bakers %

AP flour (I use KA's Sir Galahad)              295g               95

Whole wheat flour                                          5g                 5

Water                                                           210g                70

Starter (100% hydration)                             45g                15

Salt                                                                6.5g                 2

Instant dry yeast                                           1 tsp                .9 (may be reduced in summer or warmer environment)

The mix - Desired Dough Temp = 76°-78°

Day 1: Begin by adding the starter and water and mixing to break up the starter.  Fromartz adds his yeast as well, but because I use instant dry I instead mix it into the flour.  To the liquid mixture add the flour and salt.  Fromartz mixes by hand and uses the slap-and-fold technique to knead.  I initially followed this method, but my last bake produced great results using my stand mixer and left me with clean hands to boot!  (I mixed 4 minutes on speed 1 and 4 minutes on speed 2, which produces a dough with moderate gluten development).

Place the dough into a lightly oiled container and cover.  It then receives 3 folds at 20 minute intervals.  After the final fold, place again in covered container and retard overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2: Preheat oven to 470°.  Remove dough from the refrigerator. Fromartz immediately divides and pre-shapes, but I allow the dough to sit for about 1 hour before dividing.  After dividing and pre-shaping I let the two pieces of dough bench rest for about 30 minutes before shaping into two 16" baguettes.  I couched them, seam side up, for an hour, before placing them on a parchment-covered peel and scoring them. 

I pre-steamed my gas oven with about 1/4 cup of water, and then immediately after placing the baguettes on my baking stone I carefully added 3/4 cup of water to lava rocks that I have piled up in a cast iron skillet at the bottom of my oven.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.  Because of the overnight retardation, these have a rich crust with almost a reddish coloration.

The flavor of these is truly wonderful.  The small addition of whole wheat flour and sourdough gives them a nuttiness that I've only found in poolish baguettes.

I was pleased with my slashes (despite the problems gas ovens create by venting steam), and the crumb was the most open I've achieved with his recipe.

So - want to enter your own competition with Sam Fromartz - then give his award-winning recipe a shot!


Edit: Oops!  Don't know where my head was when calculating bakers percentage, but AP is 98% and whole wheat is 2%.

JoeVa's picture

After a long break, I'm now able to return to blogging, I hope ...

I don't want to bore you all with my baking problems (although I did with some of you, my "baking friends" ... you know Shiao-Ping!?), but I have to share with you what I think I've learned.

First I'll show you my last (I should say my first) sourdough loaf after a full month of bread thrashing.

[The loaf]


[The crumb - a half]


[The crumb - the other half]


[The crust]


Here my notes:

  • Use a good oven. My oven is really "cooked" (I showed it in THIS post), now even more than ever. Can I say I HATE it? It's crazy, about 50°C hotter in the back. Then, the temperature goes up and down and when it goes up the top heating element is incandescent.

  • Steam. The first half of the baking is crucial. An efficient steaming method must be used. I switched from my pre-heated clay pot to a not pre-heated stainless boule (in my case just a big steel pot). This covered steaming method is the only one I can use and I found really important to use a not pre-heated cover - before it gets hot, it gives the bread the time to free the steam.

  • Use a reasonably good flour.

  • Take care of the levain. Try to use it at the peak or a bit before.

  • Do not be a stupid house wife. First watch the dough than watch the clock.

  • The wetter is NOT always the better. You have to master the process.

  • Check your refrigerator. Find a spot that register the right temperature for cold proofing. It's easy to put the dough in a refrigerator that you think should be around 5°C and then you find that in the night it goes down to 2°C.

... that's the home baker life. Don't you think it's too easy to bake bread in a bakery where you have perfect flour, steamed deck oven, proofing cabinet, mixer ... ?

To do list:
  • Work more on the previous notes.
  • The subtle art of fermentation. One thing I have to better understand is what there's behind leaving, fermentation and dough ripening; and how to control these things. Maybe you think the bread I showed is ok ... absolutely not, I think it's mediocre: a plain, not so complex, full flavored bread.

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain). Short mixing with S&F, 12h retarded at 5°C. I also used the "double flour addition" technique of SteveB (described HERE).

When I was shaping the loaf my sister was around in the kitchen and I asked her to touch the very puffy, smooth just shaped loaf. I loved the word she used - she said: oohh it's sooo (in Italian) bonzo.

And here, just for your fun (but do not joke about me too much!), I want to show you a loaf I thrashed ... I cannot show only good looking bread!




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