The Fresh Loaf

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varda's picture

Inspired by the beautiful pictures of Hamelman Pain au Levain 5% Rye posted by Larry, I decided to make it.   I knew that this would be tough, given my experience level, but I figured I might as well give it a try.   I started yesterday with making the levain.   It calls for old levain, which I didn't have, so I decided to use the sourdough starter that I've been tending for the last few months even though it is made with White Whole Wheat, for the two tablespoons of old levain that the formula calls for.   There must be another way to do it, but since Hamelman didn't say what it was, this was all I could think of.    Today, I realized that this bread requires A LOT of attention.   I postponed a number of activities that I had been planning on, so I could give it the proper attention and not screw up the timing.    When it came to pre-shaping and shaping, I read Hamelman's tutorial several times so I wouldn't forget what I was supposed to do in the heat of the moment and start ad-libbing.   I did the final rise with rolled up towels to hold the shape (someone on this list - Dillbert?  - suggested that for those who are coucheless.)  The final rise was listed as 2-2.5 hours, but the fingertip test passed at around 1.5 hours, so I decided that was decisive.   I scored with an exacto knife (which turned out to be a mistake, since it wasn't sharp enough, and I popped the two loaves in the oven apparently (another mistake) too close together given how much they had left to rise.   So here they are - nothing as beautiful as Larry's but I'm just as pleased as I can be.   And maybe after another dozen tries or so, these will look as good as they taste. 

txfarmer's picture


I have made Italian chocolate bread before using the SFBI recipe: , this one is from Nancy Silverton's book "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" (I have the book but you can find the recipe here: . Note that the original starter is 145% hydration, I did adjust starter and water amount to use my 100% stater. The original recipe uses 0.6oz fresh yeast in addition to the starter, I used 2 scant tsp of instant yeast, which made rising time a bit shorter than what's in the book - 1hr and 45min before retarding in the fridge, and only 2 hours of proofing.). Silverton's version also uses commercial yeast (fresh yeast, but I adapted to use instant) in addition to a liquid starter, but it's a lot more decadant. A lot more chocolate pieces and a lot of sour cherries in the dough, which means messy kneading, cutting, and eating, but tastier results IMO. The recipe link author thought the bread was too dry and crumbly, but I didn't think so, the crumb was soft and moist to me.

It got good rise during fermentation and in the oven, but since the chocolate pieces and sour cherries were screaming to get out, the bread looks a little "messy".

Made one boule and one batard. The sour tastes of dried cherry complements chocolate well, I used organic imported chocolates, not a cheap bread to make!

Happy with the taste, I am going to try for a chocolate bread with no commercial yeast. Silverton says in the book commercial yeast is necessary otherwise coca powder would make the bread too dense. I wonder whether more starter would do the trick. I see several people here on TFL already tried, I am going to do some research on those.

davidg618's picture

I recently baked, for the third time, two sourdough boules, which besides the primary purpose: Eating, tested the effects of slashing, and steaming methods, and the behavior of a new starter. The latter is posted elswhere (Purchased Dried Starter Reactivation Survey).

These loaves were slashed identically, placed in the oven simultaneously, and swapped position after 15 minutes of steaming. The ovenspring realized is shown here,

and from this placement the loaves look acceptably identical. But...

...this is the position they were initially placed in the oven. (Note the asymmetric ovenspring outside-to-center of both loaves. 

I normally create steam with a towel-lined half-sheet pan, wetted with boiling water, and placed below the baking stone. This time, thinking I could direct the steam more toward the edges of the stone and, therefore, better direct the maximum volume of the steam upward toward the loaves, I rolled two small towels and placed them on the extreme ends of the half-sheet pan. 

Two of our regular problem analysts, David and Eric, have argued steam condensing on the bottom of a baking stone causes the stone's surface to cool, and effects ovenspring. I've been a bit skeptical, but I am no longer. It is evident that the rolled towels did focus the steam's rise. but the seventeen-inch pan, below a twenty-inch baking stone created an asymmetric cooled surface on the stone, as is evidenced by the lesser ovenspring on the left and right sides of the left and right loaf respectively. 

Subsequently, I tried placing the pan above the loaves (I've tried it before), rather than below the stone (and the loaves), but I'm still disappointed with the results. I've returned to steaming from below, using a half-sheet pan fully-lined with wetted towels. The ovenspring is again uniform across the loaves, but I suspect reduced from what it could be, due cooling from condensing steam across the entire bottom of the baking stone.

I'm once again rethinking my steaming process. I like the control the wetted towel vs. lava rocks gives me--I can remove the pan safely when steaming time is completed, but I don't want the stone cooling effect. I'm thinking of fabricating and placing two narrow aluminum troughs in the spaces between the stone and the oven's wall, and filling them with wetted towels five or six minutes before loading the loaves. This, of course, will interrupt the heat convection paths on the sides of the stone, but I'm not certain, nor can I guess, how that will effect the baking.

Stay tuned;-)

David G.

mcs's picture

Last week my wife and I took a short vacation to a small farm on the outskirts of Victoria, BC.  We stayed with Diane (aka intern#2 last year) and her husband Ed - both gracious hosts, tour guides, and entertainers for our (almost) week long stay.  On one of the days I taught a couple of classes at The French Mint, a culinary school in Victoria run by chef Denise Marchessault.  In the morning I taught a class on croissants, in the evening a class about sourdoughs.  Both went great.

Other than that, I mostly sat around or marginally earned my keep by taking their Yugoslav Shepherd for a walk.  Sharon (my wife) was happily busy cleaning fresh eggs, milking the goats, feeding the newborn goats, and pulling weeds in the greenhouse.  Diane force-fed us fresh bread, brioche, eggs, and everything else under the rainbow, which of course led to more of me sitting around.

Zeva taking me for a walk

Butchart Gardens

Diane baked this much bread everyday

Sharon and an 8 hour old nubian

Ed and some calves

We had a great stay, and to top it off I got to try some Roger's flour (from BC) and came home with some Alberta flour also.  I used the Roger's flour for both of my cooking classes and was very pleased with their unbleached white and rye flour.  Nice texture, flavor, and color. 

Thanks a lot Diane and Ed. 


PS If you'd like to see more pix of the trip I'll be posting them on my Facebook page

dmsnyder's picture

I'd bought some smoked salmon to have with Greenstein's sour rye which I baked last week. My wife's comment was, "It's too bad we don't have bagels." It happens I had a couple bags of Sir Lancelot (KAF's high-gluten flour) in the pantry, as well as all the other necessary ingredients, on hand. I also had a lecture to prepare, and I was running out of excuses to delay finishing it. So, I made bagels.

I used the formula from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." This entailed making a sponge, then a final dough which is mixed and immediately divided, then shaped and retarded overnight before boiling, topping and baking. I'd used this formula before, but never with high-gluten flour.

The dough was a pleasure to work with, and my shaping method "clicked" with this batch. I shaped each piece as I would to make challah, using Glazer's method of flattening the pieces then rolling them up into tubes. I then rolled each tube as if I were making baguettes to about 9 inches, shaped them over my hand with the ends together in my palm. I gave the ends a gentle squeeze and then rolled the sealed ends on an un-floured board to seal them. Then, I gently stretched each resulting ring gently to enlarge the hole and placed each bagel on a sheet with oiled parchment paper for retarding.

The next day, after boiling the bagels in water with baking soda, I topped them with sesame seeds or re-hydrated onion flakes and baked them.

Onion bagel

Sesame bagel

Bagel crumb

Although the crumb was very well aerated and looked "fluffy," the bagels were delightfully chewy. They had a delicious flavor plain, without any topping, and were even better with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Bagel with cream cheese and lox


Submitted to YeastSpotting

SylviaH's picture

I was putting in this blog and we had an after shock from the 6.9 earthquake that just hit Baja, Mexico.  It was said to be felt as 3.2 here.  Really shook the neighbors up too!

I baked guessed it...Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk choc. frosting requested by Mike my husband.  I'm trying the new unbleached cake flour from King Arthur and also their double chocolate coco powder.  I also thawed out a Sourdough Potato bread for..maybe a sandwich snack later on this evening from our Roasted leg of lamb dinner.

Wishing Everyone a Happy Easter!






                                    Double coco chocolately and moist...the frosting pours on warm and firms onto the cake.  Lovely for the movie and cake!





Dorians mom's picture
Dorians mom

I made up a simple dough last night and planned to leave the bowl by the woodstove, which actually went cold a lot sooner than I was hoping for, so the dough tried to rise in a 60* house.  I turned my oven on this am, and let it warm up for a minute before turning it back off and setting the bread bowl inside.  I'm not sure if I can expect my dough to rise any more, and that's fine.  I'll punch it down soon and then get it ready for 2nd rising prior to baking. 

It looks like it's going to be a rather dinky round, and I have no idea what to expect flavor-wise.  The last two days I fed my starter with rye flour and water.  I might use up that flour and switch back to whole-wheat for the feedings, because I'm not so impressed by what I feel is a milder sour scent from the rye.  Then again, it could be because it's been a bit colder in the house the last few days and the starter might just be sluggish.  On the third hand, wait, there is no third hand.

Reading all about percentages and weights and measures is rather flummoxing to me, to be honest.  Back in the days of early sourdough, I think people just put stuff together and baked it!  Like any kind of baking, just doing it on a different day can change the final result, so as a person who pretty much flies by the seat of her pants, I'll evolve slowly but surely.

Happy Easter to one and all.  I'm a heathen, but I can appreciate the beauty of rituals where springtime and the renewing of life and the earth's life forces are concerned.  It's the season of sourdough!  Huzzah!


Zeb's picture

This is the formula for a bread I made last year that gives you a packed bunch of flavours and uses the old bread as a soaker in the dough. I've been reading Mini's post with great interest as I'm keen to try this and this time put the old rye bread in with the starter and see what difference it makes, sounds very exciting.


Anyway I thought I would like to share this one with you

Linseed, Millet, Sunflower, Pumpkin and sesame plus an old bread soaker and whatever else you fancy rye bread based on from Jeffrey Hamelman’s linseed and rye bread in Bread A Baker’s book of Techniques and Recipes and Jeremy’s post on Stir the Pots.  The old bread starter is the magic ingredient.


Cold Soaker: I used what I have in the cupboard..

Old rye bread 50g - this is what you call 'altus'  I guess

25 g linseed -  vary these seeds in the soaker depending on preference, i.e. sunflowers, pumpkins etc etc

25g millet - again use anything that you like to put in your bread!

20 g malted rye grains  or any cracked smallish grain you have that you like
 - these are small pieces of rye that have been malted by the mill (in this case Shipton Mill in England)

165g water


30g mature rye leaven

200g lukewarm or room temperature water

225 g dark rye flour (whole rye flour)

Make both the above at the same time,  12 hours plus before you want to mix the dough, depends how active your starter is and how sour you like your ryebread

For the dough

Both the soaker and the starter as above

I put them into a mixing bowl and mixed with a electric hand mixer on a slow speed just to make sure the old bread now squishy, got broken up and mixed in.

Then added

370 g strong white flour

105 g water

15 - 20 g salt (whatever you normally do, or maybe slightly less as the old bread has salt in it.)

about 150g worth of toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sesame whatever you like,

1/4 teaspoon of easy bake yeast  you can leave this out if you want to be just sourdough,

Makes a quite sticky dough. Leave for 10 to 20 minutes. Do a quick knead and then leave it alone. It becomes less sticky after a while. 

It’s not particularly high in water, I don’t know how to work out the hydration, it might rise a bit more if you use a higher hydration?

If you have the yeast you can do bulk ferment for about an hour and then scale and shape and then the second ferment for an hour, but I did both for double this the second time, because I kept forgetting it and it seemed fine too.

Scaled and shaped.

I put seeds in the bottom of the banneton but you could also roll the dough in seeds too if you want them on the top.

One long slash down the long axis of the bread.

Oven temp 230 degrees for 10 minutes with steam in the oven (little tray in bottom with boiling water in)  turned down to 220 once the loaf has sprung and started to go brown for 20 minutes and then 210 for the last 15/20 minutes.



moreyello's picture

It's tradition in Italian culture to eat this cake over Easter. Very close to the Christmas Panettone, the Colomba is slightly richer.

Last year I was visiting family in Milan and my grandmother ordered one from the local bakery.  I had only ever eaten commericial ones you buy at the grocery store previously.

I will probably never forget how delicious and moist it was, my brother and I had to control ourselves from eating the whole thing. This led me to the quest of finding an autenthic recipe and carry out the challenging task. After scrolling the internet and pickig out a few pointers,  I came across Susan's site The Wild Yeast in which I obtain a credible recipe from the book Cresci.

After a week buillding a very stiff starter that needs to be very active, your looking at 2 days of work thereafter. Well my labour payed off because it might not be as spectacular as the one I ate in Milan, it certainly beat any of the store bought ones. The picture doesn't do it complete justice, it was beautiful, moist and delicate in taste. I refer to it as was, cause this bird never made it to Easter mmmmm.

RobertoColomba di Pasqua

varda's picture

Sometimes the hardest part of baking bread is being there.   Yesterday I meant to get to making a semolina bread (p. 135 of Hamelman's Bread) but I didn't quite get to it until later in the afternoon.   Then when it was finishing up the first rise, my son wanted me to take him out, so I delayed him until I could get the bread shaped, and then we went out to eat.   By the time we got back (only an hour later) the bread was ready to go into the oven,  but the oven wasn't preheated.   I didn't want to let the bread get overproofed, nor did I want to put it into a cold oven, so I did a little of both.   I preheated the oven for 10 minutes, and in it went.   The result - a little bit of oven spring, and an underdone bottom crust.   What would you have done under the circumstances?  And this is not a rhetorical question.


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