The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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JMonkey's picture

Working from home has its disadvantages: it's all too easy to blur work into home-life, you're somewhat isolated from co-workers, and it's tempting to try to do chores when work is slow.

But bread baking poses no problems at all. Most of bread baking, especially when you use the stretch and fold method to develop dough instead of traditional kneading, consists of 2-3 minute bursts of activity separated by long periods of waiting. The trouble, of course, is that the timing of those little bursts of activity is really, really important. Working from home, the kitchen is always just a few steps away from my computer, and doing the work of making bread takes about as much time as going to fetch a fresh cup of coffee.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of sourdough baking, even when the bread itself isn't truly a sourdough bread. For instance, here's my results from baking Peter Reinhart's Mash Bread, from his new (and fabulous) book, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.

The sweetness of the bread was really surprising, and I was astonished by how much oven spring I got. It's easily the best I've ever gotten from a 100% whole grain bread. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and didn't let the sourdough mature fully, so the flavor was less than I'd expected. In short, sweet, but bland. I'm eager to try it again, though, and next time I'll let the sourdough fully ripen, which is especially important, since the sourdough is used almost exclusively for flavoring rather than leavening. If you want to make this bread, I'd suggest heading over to Bill Wraith's excellent write-up.

I had some starter left over, so I made up some sourdough pizza dough -- two of the doughballs went in the freezer, while the others went into the fridge so that I could make them up for dinner the next night. Probably two of the best pizzas I've made. A woman at the Corvallis Farmer's Market was selling wild chantrelle mushrooms, so I got some, sauteed them in a bit of butter, and plopped them on the pizza. They were great, along with some black olives and turkey-chicken sausage:

The crust was nice and holey!

Here's how I made it:


  • Whole wheat flour: 50%
  • AP flour: 50%
  • Water: 80%
  • Salt: 2%
  • Olive oil: 5%
  • 15% of the flour is pre-fermented as starter
Recipe (2 crusts):
  • Whole wheat starter (75% hydration): 100 grams
  • Whole wheat flour: 130 grams
  • AP flour: 180 grams
  • Water: 250 grams
  • Olive oil: 18 grams
  • Salt: 7 grams

Mix the water and the starter, and mush it all up with your fingers until it's a soupy mess. Add the salt and the oil, mix again, and then add the flour. Let it sit, covered, for 1 hour and then give it a stretch and fold. Do two more folds spaced 30 minutes to an hour apart. Let it ferment a total of 4-5 hours at room temperature (about 68-70 degrees F), and then divide into two. Shape each lump of dough into a tight ball, pop them into plastic bags, and put them in the fridge if you plan to use within the next 3 days. Otherwise, put them in the freezer, where they'll keep for at least one month. When you're ready to make the pizza, let the dough sit out for about 2 hours if it was in the fridge, 4 hours if in the freezer. Shape, top and bake on a stone preheated for about an hour in an oven at the highest setting possible. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Last, my standby: whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread.

Always tasty, always reliable.

Next on my agenda: some of those potato-onion-rye rolls from Peter's book!
ejm's picture

wild walnut raisin bread

I do love bread! It really is the staff of life, don't you think?

As far as I'm concerned, every day is bread day. We invariably have buttered toast each morning for breakfast. Sandwiches are not uncommon for lunch. Bread is often the starch we choose to go with dinner. (A crusty French-style loaf is wonderful with stews and soups; cubes of older bread make great stuffing for roast chicken or croutons for salad; corn bread is a must with chilli; one really can't have palak paneer without naan or chapatis!) And if there's no dessert made and someone neeeeds dessert? Cinnamon toast!

Even though we like so many different kinds of bread, when I heard that Zorra (kochtopf) had chosen an open theme for World Bread Day 2007, I didn't have any difficulty deciding what bread to feature. I knew exactly what I wanted to bake: walnut raisin bread with wild yeast.

And how did I come to this decision to bake walnut raisin bread? In September, my sister-in-law sent me some of her bread recipes, including her favourite: "walnut raisin bread" from Beth's Basic Bread Book by Beth Hensperger. I had already had an idea that I was going to have to try making walnut bread after reading about it in Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery but realizing that raisins could be added clinched it. I really liked that it was a multigrain bread as well. This is right up my alley - especially for the fall! There's something about the cooler weather that calls for a stronger bigger tasting bread.

There was only one small hitch. My sister-in-law's recipe calls for commercial yeast. Nancy Silverton's recipe appears to be quite complex, requiring 3 days of preparation! (I do like her book but it really doesn't seem to be aimed at the kind of home baker I am. It's all I can manage to remember to mix the starter one day before baking! Same day bread is really more suited to my scattered temperament....) But again, I really wanted to use my wild yeast that I captured using the recipe in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant.

So I winged it once more for how to make the alteration from commercial yeast to wild yeast. I'm still fighting a bit with how much to allow the bread to rise (I'm pretty sure that I am letting it over-rise) so the resulting bread was a little bit on the flat side. But still I was pretty pleased and I can really understand why it is my sister-in-law's favourite bread. I only wish she lived closer so I could take a loaf over to their house next time I bake this recipe!

wild walnut raisin bread

By itself, the bread has a decided sour aroma - not overpoweringly so but I would like to lessen it. With sweet butter, the sourness disappears completely and the other hidden flavours of the bread stand out beautifully. There is a nuttiness not just from the walnuts and a sweetness not just from the raisins. It really is stellar bread and imagine how good it's going to be when I remember to turn the oven on early enough so it doesn't over-rise!

It is equally wonderful for dessert with cheese. And day-old bread can be sliced thinly, drizzled with olive oil and made into crostini. Slather the toasts with herbed olive-oiled goat's cheese. It's almost so good this way that I have an urge to make a loaf specifically to be kept over for a day just to make crostini!

Here is the Wild Bread with Walnuts and Raisins recipe.

About Baking the Bread: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, turn the oven to 450F.

At the time of baking, spray the top of the risen loaves liberally with water.

Note that I do NOT throw water or spray the hot oven before putting the bread in to bake. This just lowers the temperature of the oven and could possibly damage parts of it. (I've heard of the glass door or the light breaking.)

Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for a total of 40 to 50 minutes or until the internal temperature is between 210F and 220F. (I use a meat thermometer.) Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven.

check internal temperature

Remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside! If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely.

To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.


World Bread Day 2007 (Photo Sharing)

Zorra (Kochtopf) is hosting World Bread Day (WBD) again this year and is inviting food bloggers to join with her in another celebration of bread. Any bread fits the theme: yeasted or not, plain or fancy, homebaked or storebought. The deadline for posting for WBD 2007 is Tuesday, 16th October 2006 (There is short grace period: only until Wednesday, 17 October 2007). For complete information on how to participate, please see:

Also, if you haven't already, do take a look at


World Food Day 2007

On a more serious note, please note that today is also World Food Day. Not too long ago, I talked about hunger. But it cannot be stressed enough that unlike us privileged few, there are many in the world who go hungry. Please remember to do what you can to end world hunger.

See more about World Food Day on Floydm's blog.


(edited to fix formatting... I'm having a devil of a time with "rich-text" -ejm)

zolablue's picture


Fall is in the air and beautiful blue-violet grapes are in the market and I could not resist the cartons of gorgeous, sweet scented concord grapes.  What better to do with them than to bake a grape focaccia.


The only other focaccia I’ve baked so far is Bill W’s wonderful sourdough raisin focaccia which I highly recommend.  I wanted to do a sourdough version of this one but being a bit inexperienced in this area I was unsure of how the sugar and oil may impact the sourdough so for this first grape focaccia I decided to use a small amount of starter and treat it more as an added ingredient for extra flavor.  (Me too chicken…?)  I also wanted to use some spelt flour and turbinado sugar so here is the recipe.

Concord Grape Focaccia


255g Concord grapes, seeded

310g water

76g liquid levain

300g bread flour
150g spelt flour
8g instant yeast
4g salt

1 tablespoon honey
2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon sanding sugar

Add sourdough starter to the water and dissolve.  In a mixing bowl, add the flour, instant yeast, honey, salt, and water (with starter mixed in).   Mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes.  Place in container and let rise until double.

Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and press into a round a little bigger than the oven form you will be using for baking.   I used a 9” x 2" round cake pan.  Pour 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and swirl around to cover the sides.  Dump any excess oil onto the top of the dough in the center and spread to cover.  Pick up the dough quickly and place it over the baking pan allowing some of the dough to overflow the sides.  You will use this to flap over the grapes inside.

Place roughly 2/3 of the grapes into the form and press slightly into the dough.  Gather the edges of dough hanging over the pan and bring them together over the top of the grapes and slightly pinch together pressing down on the dough in the pan to make sure it is against all the sides.


Add the remaining grapes over the top slightly pressing them into the dough.  Drizzle about 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over the top.  Then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar followed by 1 tablespoon of sanding sugar over the top of that. 


Preheat the oven to 400°F while the dough begins to rise again – about a half hour.  The dough had reached the top of the cake pan. 


Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown on top. 


Remove from oven and take focaccia out of pan to cool on rack.  Cut into wedges and serve.


This was as if I’d filled it with grape jelly and it smelled amazing.  The dough was very soft and I suppose that was due to the sourdough starter I added.  I’m not sure if the spelt had anything to do with that as I’ve only baked with spelt a few times adding it to other sourdough loaves.  It was really gooey and delicious.



I am going to make this again later in the week but try and press the dough out flatter and bake on a stone so the bottom gets nice and browned as well.  I also think I’ll add more spelt and reduce the bread flour just to see how that tastes.  This was almost like a cake bread, very spongy and soft and moist.  Not too sweet either even with the sugars sprinkled on top. I think for the size and shape I baked the amount of grapes was perfect although I think if I flatten it into a larger shape I will increase the amount of grapes used just to make sure it covers the dough adequately.  Ugh, they’re so much fun to seed…not.  But it is well worth the effort. 


This was really fun and I don’t know how I can improve on the flavor of it but we’ll see. I think it will be a fun recipe to experiment with.  I’ll post more results here as I tweak and see what works best because the concord grapes won’t be here forever.

Floydm's picture

Amazingly nice weather here today. Supposed to be rainy all week, but today was definitely a day to be outside.

That said, while I was planting bulbs I had a loaf rising.

I did a white poolish bread that turned out excellent.

french bread

I gave this about 10 minutes in the Kitchen Aid and very little yeast. I was very pleased with the crumb.

french bread crumb

I also made an apple sourdough bread. It was about 15% whole wheat flour.

apple bread

While I had the autolyse going I took a look in Dan Lepard's book and saw his recipe with oats and apples. That sounded good, so I quickly soaked some oats in boiling water and threw them in too.

apple bread crumb

It is well baked and not at all gummy since I accidentally left it in the oven an extra 10 or 15 minutes, but the oats and apple kept it moist inside.

Floydm's picture
World Bread Day '07

World Bread Day is Tuesday, October 16th, a day when the bread baking guilds ask you to appreciate the role of bread and bakers in society.

For amateur bakers, Zorra is again organizing a big blog roundup. If you bake something for World Bread Day, by all means, post about it in your blog here and let Zorra know.

October 16th has also been declared by the United Nations as World Food Day, a day to raise awareness about the role that famine and inadequate food security continue to play around the globe. As I have mentioned before, I now I work for a humanitarian agency, so I must admit that this year I am more moved by the latter cause than the former. Though I don't see them as being mutually exclusive: the former is about appreciating the simple things, the health and prosperity in your own life, the latter about trying to make that available to others (speaking of which: if you want to appreciate how well off you are compared to to others, take 15 minutes to read this piece about daily life in the Democratic Republic of Congo that we recently posted on our site. Quite powerful.). Both are worthy causes.

Tuesday will also be my birthday. I'm not sure I'm going to get any baking in then, so I am doing some over the weekend to make up for it. It is a beautiful fall day... I'm thinking an apple sourdough loaf might be in order tomorrow.

JMonkey's picture

This is a recipe that Kenneth, a long-time poster to, has posted a few times in response to requests. I made it this weekend and can safely say it's delicious. Tangy, but not overpoweringly so, with a smooth crumb that, though not full of big holes, is nevertheless a moderately light bread. It sprung well in the oven. In fact, it reminded me of some of the better Desem breads I've made. The hydration of this loaf is 68%, so one could go higher, I'm sure, and the salt is higher than usual at 2.5%, but the bread did not taste overly salty.

On a side note, I'm beginning to think my quest for holey, super hydrated whole wheat is misguided. The breads are no more tasty, in my experience, and though the crumb is more open, the high hydration has made the loaf flatten out considerably in the oven.

Back on topic. Kenneth, I believe, uses an authentic Poilane starter in his bread (I used Carl's) and emulates the high-extraction flour that Poilane uses through a combination of AP flour and freshly ground whole wheat (the loaf is about 40% white flour). He also uses 30% whole spelt flour, based on this page on Poilane's Web site.

How well does it imitate a true loaf from Poilane? I have no idea. The last time I was in France was 17 years ago when I was a not-so-well-heeled student, and today ... well, I'm not willing to part with the kind of cash it would take to have a loaf delivered to me from across the Atlantic.

All I can say is, it makes a nice loaf of bread. Here's my result:

And here's Kenneth's recipe, or at least, the version of it that I used:

Day 1, 9:30pm 474g Water + 120g starter + 236g coarse whole wheat, ferment at 69F.

Day 2, 7:30am add 65g coarse rye, 254g KA AP flour, 170g wholespelt flour, 20g salt.

Knead fully, then refrigerate 24 hours. Then, form boule, ferment at 69F for 5 hours.

Slash, then bake at 490F for 35 minutes, the first 15 minutes with steam...
Of course, I fiddled with the recipe. First, I didn't knead on Day 2. Instead, I mixed it up and then let it ferment for 2.5 hours. I gave it a fold at 1 hour, 45 minutes and then another 45 minutes. Then, I popped it in the fridge. When I baked it, I did use a preheated oven, stone and steam, but I feel certain that a cold start would do fine as well. I baked at 460.

I'll be making this again ....
bwraith's picture

Pane Casareccio e Lariano di Genzano

Daniel Leader's Local Breads has a fascinating story of his visit to Genzano, where he saw them make large, almost charred looking, bran dusted breads raised with a biga naturale, an Italian firm sourdough levain. I enjoyed hearing about his visit with Sergio, while they mixed, raised, and loaded 64 very large loaves into a wood-fired oven. Now that I have a brick oven in my back yard, I thought I'd give a try at making these loaves in the size he says he observed at the bakery he visited. He says they created approximately 8 pound loaves that were loaded eight at a time into an eight foot long by one foot wide by about 4 inches tall box with divisions in it for eight loaves. Thanks to Zolablue for doing this recipe as shown in Leader's book and writing about it in her blog, which provided inspiration as well as lots of information and photos.

I've included some photos of the process and spreadsheets for the high extraction flour loaf in html and xls format and for the white flour loaf in html and xls format.

I only did two loaves of 8 pounds each, which I proofed in a 26 inch by 17 inch by 4 inch roasting pan, and then baked in my brick oven, which is a dome 37 inches in diameter - enough room for two of these loaves. The dough is very wet and is kneaded in a mixer at increasing speed for over 20 minutes or more to fully develop the gluten. The dough is hard to handle, as it is very soft, sticky, and puffy.

There are two styles of this bread, one with a high protein white flour and one with a high extraction flour. I used Heartland Mills Strong Bread Flour for the white flour loaf and Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo for the high extraction flour.  


  • 15g of 90% hydration white flour starter (12g for the high extraction loaf, as it rises a little faster)
  • 392g flour (use the appropriate flour for each loaf, as described above)
  • 273g water

The levain was mixed the night before and allowed to rise overnight at room temperature. The amounts are such that by mixing the white flour levain at about 10PM and the high extraction flour levain at 11:30PM, the white flour levain would be ready at 9:00AM the next day and the high extraction levain would be ready at 10:00PM the next day, allowing me to mix them successively in the morning with my DLX mixer such that both loaves would be ready to bake at the same time later on the next day. The high extraction flour rises more quickly than the white flour, so it is being mixed later to account for that difference.


  • All the levain
  • 1.6 Kg flour (use the appropriate flour for each loaf as described above)
  • 1240 g water with the white flour loaf, 1420g flour with the high extraction flour loaf
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 40 g salt

According to Leader, the dough is mixed for a long time at high speed. I used a DLX mixer, first at a low speed to mix the ingredients for about 10 minutes, then at medium speed for about 8 minutes, then at high speed for another 4 minutes.

The dough is supposed to be very soft and wet. I had to add a little flour to the white flour loaf, as it was so wet, it wouldn't come together, even after 20 minutes of kneading. I had to add some water early in the mixing of the high extraction flour loaf, as it was clearly too stiff to begin with. Eventually, they were both fairly wet and gloppy, but with reasonable gluten development. I ended up folding the white flour dough a couple of times and the high extraction flour once. It seemed necessary to get some additional gluten development later on.

The inoculation for this recipe is 20% fermented flour to total flour weight, which is a little lower than the recipe in Local Breads (30% fermented flour). The idea was to let it rise a little longer to get more sourdough flavor in the dough. I've had better results starting at inoculations below about 25% with my starter in any event. For the same reasons, the amount of instant yeast was reduced to only 5 grams in 2Kg of total flour. My plan was to let the dough rise for about 3.5 hours in bulk fermentation and about another 2.5 hours in final proof. However, it went faster, as I forgot how warm the dough would be and how long it would stay warm due to the long machine kneading and the large volume of the dough. The dough rose almost too quickly, even with the lower inoculation and amount of instant yeast. I would consider reducing the yeast even further in a subsequent attempt, to match the timing I wanted for the sourdough fermentation with less need to punch down the dough.

Bulk Fermentation

Each dough was placed in a rising bucket. The white flour dough was folded twice, at one hour intervals. The high extraction flour dough was folded once two hours after mixing.

Final Proof

The loaves were placed seam side up in a large roasting pan measuring 26x17x4 inches. A piece of wooden board was placed between the loaves and separate couches were placed on each side of the board to facilitate lifting each large piece of dough out onto the peel. The couches were dusted with KA white wheat bran, which worked beautifully as a "teflon" dusting. After about 2 hours and 15 minutes, the loaves seemed ready. To place them on the peel they were lifted in the couche and basically "dumped" onto the parchment lined and bran dusted peel unceremoniously. They spread out beyond the edges of my 16 inch peel, so I had to quickly but gently fold the edges underneath to get the loaves to fit on the peel, which didn't sound completely inconsistent with the description Leader gave of the process followed in the Italian bakery he visited. He said the loaves were very soft and gloppy, were handled minimally, and quickly moved from one spot to another. I'm sure it was far more graceful than what I ended up doing on my first shot, but it did seem to work. The basic advice here is plow ahead, don't look back, don't waste time worrying about the shape or the tightness of it. This is a rustic loaf, after all.


The oven hearth floor was raised to about 525F and then the flame was put out, the oven door sealed, so the temperature inside could equilibrate and drop over the course of the last hour of the final proof. The loaves were dumped on the peel, adjusted minimally in shape as needed, and transferred into the oven in quick succession. The oven and loaves were sprayed with a fine mist to generate steam, and the oven door was sealed with a wooden door covered with damp towels.

The kitchen oven equivalent would be to preheat to about 450F with baking stone, and use a skillet with water or other steaming method, and drop temperature to 400F immediately shortly after putting the loaves in the oven.

The loaves were rotated after about 20 minutes, and the steam was removed from the oven by replacing the towel covered door with a metal door positioned to allow some air flow out the chimney.

The total bake time was 1 hour and 20 minutes, but the oven door was open and the outside air was fairly cold today, so the hearth temperature was only about 400F and the air temperature about 350F for the last 20 minutes. The idea was to make sure the loaf was fully baked inside, since they are large, wet loaves. The internal temperature was about 207F at the end. In retrospect the oven could have been a little hotter, as they didn't get quite as charred as was intended.


The loaves have a nice color but aren't quite as dark as Zolablue's loaves. My sense of the right temperature for different situations with the new brick oven is still developing. The crumb is just what I like for both loaves, moist with irregular hole structure and a mild but distinct sourdough flavor. The white flour loaf, which may have been made a little too wet, had fewer large pockets and less crust separation than expected, given the excess hydration. As a high extraction flour miche, the high extraction flour Genzano loaf may become a standard, although the Thom Leonard Country French made with Golden Buffalo is similar and also a wonderful miche.

cougar93r's picture


AnnieT's picture

I found this recipe in my notebook and assume it is from one of TFL bakers - but I didn't make a note of the name. I have to say it is the prettiest loaf I have ever baked and the crust "sang" to me when it came out of the oven. The recipe starts with 1 cup of starter and 1 cup of water and 1 tspn yeast - I used a little less instant yeast. So if you recognize this recipe, many thanks. Oh how I wish I could post a picture! I haven't cut it yet so hope the crumb is as good as the crust, A.

susanfnp's picture

I found the recipe for these Spanish olive oil wafers in Penelope Casas' La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain.

These are a great way to use up a little bit of extra pizza or bread dough and they are really delicious. Thin and flaky and spiced with anise and sesame seeds. There is sugar on top (which could be omitted for a less sweet wafer); no sugar in the dough.

Click here for the recipe.

Tortas de aceite (olive oil wafers)



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