The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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slothbear's picture

I'm trying no-knead bread for the first time, using the sourdough variation I found at Breadtopia. It sounds so easy (and it is), but I'm one of those bakers who is always wondering if I'm doing it right. My dough has been sitting for about 12 hours now at 70 degrees, and it looks ready to me. Bubbly on top, and nice strand development. Perhaps I should go on to the next step, or perhaps I should follow the 18-hour instructions and ... what ... allow more flavor to develop? more later.


breadnerd's picture

Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread


I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:

In the oven:


And out:



After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.



Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)



Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day. 





Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker's picture
Rocky the Wanna...

Hi.  I think it would be very helpful to have a moisture meter to check the moisture content of my sour dough.  I have never been able to find one.  Can anyone tell me where I might?  Has anyone ever used one?  I tried using my soil moisture meter, but dough is so moist that it reads right off the scale.  The manufacturer has not answered my query about whether I could solder a resistor into it that would put the dough oisture level within the range of the meter.

                                            Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

I don't think that Poilane bred is worth the price.  My kids lived in Paris for several years and we all thought it was good, but very expensive there.  I can't even imagine what it would cost shipped to the US.  And would it be fresh like it should be.  Try the no-knead bread and make with some wheat or rye or both  mixed in.  It is sreally incredible and much cheaper. 

Floydm's picture

I baked an olive levain today.

Olive Levain

Olive Levain

This was basically like Hamelman's Olive Levain: 10% whole wheat, no yeast, just starter. I loved it:

Olive Levain inside

olive levain inside

Delicious, but not cheap (well, at least by bread baking standards). The olives alone cost as much as... what... thirty pounds of flour and a pound of salt. I can bake an awful lot of regular sourdough bread for that much money. Yes, ok, to put it in perspective it is still cheaper than a drinkable bottle of wine, but still... baking bread, one gets spoiled by how inexpensive a hobby it is.

breadnerd's picture

Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!


A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.


I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.



All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 

sylvstr540's picture

We made your pita recipe tonight, but they didn't puff in the oven. Any ideas?? We had some pockets but not a full puff!  They were still very tasty though!


dasein668's picture

Whipped up a few loaves of bread for our annual Christmas Eve open house. These included my second sourdough loaf which was much improved over my first attempt. Of note, based on some hints from this site, I had moved my starter toward a much drier starter, then mixed the dough in the evening and popped the dough into the fridge for about 14 hours for the primary. I pulled it out and let it warm up, then gently folded a few times and proofed for about 4 hours at room temp before baking. Results were a nice chewy crumb with a gentle sourness that was quite lovely and not at all overpowering—perfect!

Here are the breads, left to right Potato Rosemary Bread from BBA, Pain a l'Anncienne from BBA, and a simple 65% hydration lean dough using my sourdough starter.

And sliced in a bowl.

rusty's picture

I been making this braid seen finding this wonderful site.I made this braid with 1/4 cup of sugar and one package of equal.Trying to cut down on the sugar.We were very please with the sweet taste of the braid.I also with the creamcheese spread,use instead ricotta whole milk.Which I mix one egg in the ricotta.It was a true flavor of back east NY/NJ bakerys.My neighbors just love me when I ring there door bell.Southeast Alaska doesn't offer good breads and pasties like back east.Love the site Thanks Rusty

Floydm's picture

I baked some whole wheat rolls for our Christmas dinner and a couple of sourdough loaves for the next few days. They were quite good.

As I Christmas gift, I got the latest version of the Joy of Cooking. Perusing the bread chapter, I was blown away to see it now includes information on using a sponge starter and ceramic tiles as baking stones. There are recipes for rustic French bread, sourdough rye bread, focaccia, even brioche. True, the Joy of Cooking isn't the greatest book for a serious bread baker, but it interesting to see how artisan bread recipes and techniques have entered the mainstream.


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