The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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rmk129's picture

After a week full of "disaster breads", I am happy to report that I was *finally* able to produce a few loaves that didn't make me laugh when they came out of the oven :) So now I will post some photos as evidence so that when I create my next major flop or paperweight, I can come back and be inspired to try, try again...

***The final results of my baking day:
May 31 042
***One of the secrets to my newfound ability to rise dough again:
May 31 029
Our apartment is very cold right now (no central heating here), but for some reason I thought my bread baking could continue as normal as long as I just let the dough rise for longer periods of time...apparently not. If you enjoy reading about and laughing at baking misadventures, you can see my previous blog entries for descriptive and *gloopy* & *rock-hard*pictoral evidence of my recent streak of jaw-challenging and vertically-challenged loaves :)
My mother-in-law came for a visit yesterday, and when I showed her this photo of my dough rising, she laughed and said she used to rise bread in a similar way...but she actually created a little warm "rising tent" by putting a large piece of fabric over the kitchen table, then putting the heater and the dough under that. Maybe I will try that next time...maybe I will sit under the tent too!!!
I was SO happy to see (and taste) these results again...finally! Bring on the cold!!! :)
***Whole wheat/flax seed/oatmeal dough
May 31 027
*After (it rose!!!)...
May 31 030
***Baguette dough
*It rose too!!! (I didn't put this dough by the heater because I didn't want it to rise too quickly...I just put it on my kitchen counter while I was baking the other loaf so the room was a bit warmer than usual).
May 31 034

That's all for now...this is one *much happier* baker signing off for now :)

JMonkey's picture

I didn't really intend to become a sourdough fanatic, but it seems that's what I make 80% of the time these days. The pound of SAF instant yeast I bought in February is only halfway gone, despite my having baked just about every weekend since then.

Maybe it's because I've had a devil of a time getting my starter to get a decent "sour" and I've been obsessed with getting it right. It wasn't until last month that I finally I cracked it:

1) Stiff (50% hydration) starter,
2) A long, cool bulk rise at about 64-68 degrees (which means, in my cellar), and
3) An overnight retarding in the bottom of my fridge.

I make at least two loaves of the following bread every weekend. One loaf gets wrapped in aluminum foil for the freezer, and the other goes right in the bread box. It's a well-rounded bread with enough flavor to eat on its own, but also a good accompaniment to any sandwich, from peanut butter and banana (a favorite of my Southern roots, though, unlike Elvis, I refrain from frying it in butter), to mustard, turkey pastrami and a sharp cheese.

I also use it as a base for experimentation, adding spices, or fruits, grains or seeds.

It's 100% whole wheat, but to my mind, doesn't taste "whole wheat," at least, not in the usual sense of the word. There's no strong, bitter grassy flavor, though it's a very different flavor than a white flour bread.

Anyway, here's the recipe for my

100% Whole-Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread.


• 19.5 oz whole-wheat flour
• 14.5 oz water (at room temperature)
• 2 Tbs honey
• 2 Tbs Olive Oil
• 2 1/8 tsp salt
• 16.5 oz stiff, whole-wheat sourdough starter (I use a starter at 50 percent hydration)

All the rest Mix everything EXCEPT the salt and the starter together until you get a rough dough. Let it sit for 30-60 minutes so that the whole-wheat flour can absorb the water. This cuts down on the kneading time substantially. Without the "autolyse," you'll have to knead by hand for 30 minutes or more to get it to the right place.

Tear the starter into about 10 pieces. Add the starter and the salt to the rest of the ingredients DON'T FORGET TO ADD THE SALT (like I almost always come close to doing). Tastes awful if you forget it.

Knead the dough until you can stretch a tiny bit of it into a translucent membrane. You'll see plenty of bran blocking the light, but that's ok so long as the surrounding dough is translucent. Oil a bowl or container, put the dough in it and cover.

When it has doubled -- and this may take 3-4 hours depending on the temperature -- fold it and let it rise again. This second rise improves flavor and helps the final loaf rise higher. It should take about half the amount of time the previous rise took.

Once it has risen a second time, remove the dough and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a loaf, and place inside two oiled 8.5 inch by 4.5 inch loaf pans. To shape the loaves, I pat and stretch each portion of the dough into a rough 8"x4" rectangle. I then take one of the 4" ends, and roll it up, pausing every full turn to press down hard on the seam with the edge of my hand. Once the loaf is rolled and sealed, II then stretch it gently so that it's longer than the pan, and fold the edges underneath, again, pressing down hard to seal the seams. I then rock it back and forth quickly while bringing my hands from the middle of the loaf to the edges to stretch it out once again to fit the pan.

Here, you have a choice. You can either cover the pans with food grade plastic and stick it in the fridge overnight, or you can just let it rise and bake immediately. Retarding overnight will accentuate the flavor, and the sourness, of the bread. Depending on how sour your starter is, retarding might overdo the sourness.

Let the loaves rise until they crest about an inch or two in the center of the loaf above the rim of the pan. Try to catch it so that, when you poke the loaf with a damp finger, the indention starts to fill back in slowly. If you've retarded the bread, and it's already at this stage, you can either leave it out (covered) for about an hour to warm up or bake it immediately. I've had more luck getting oven spring if I warm it up.

Otherwise, let it rise until it's nearly fully risen. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slash the loaves artfully. These days, I like a few baguette-style slashes on a slight diagonal along the length of the loaf. But, really, it's up to you. As you can see from the photos, I've taken other approaches in the past.

Put the loaves in to bake and, If you wish, steam the oven by pouring 1-2 cups of boiling water into a pre-heated pan or skillet in the bottom of the oven. If find this results in a darker crust, and slighly larger loaves.

Cook for about 40 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, until the center of each loaf registers 190 to 200 degrees. Remove from pans and cool for 1 hour before slicing.

A couple of variations:

Cinnamon-raisin sourdough: Substitute 2 TBS butter for the olive oil and raise the honey to 4 TBS. Add 2 tsp cinnamon. Near the end of the kneading, add 9 oz raisins and, if you like, 4 oz pecans or walnuts. The extra cinnamon and honey will increase the rising time by about 40%, and you'll need 9"x5" pans. Add 15-20 minutes to the bake.

Multi-grain sourdough Soak 6 oz of your favorite seeds and grains (sunflower seeds, flax seeds, rye chops, wheat berries, oat groats, whatever mix suits your fancy) in 6 oz of water overnight. Reduce the water in the dough to 11.5 oz. Use a 9"x5" pan and add 15-20 minutes to the bake.

JMonkey's picture

My parents were up from Atlanta this weekend, so with five folks in the house, I baked up a storm. We had pizza Friday night, poolish baguettes Saturday night, and on Sunday I baked five loaves:

* Two panned loaves of whole-wheat sourdough.
* Two loaves of potato, rosemary and roasted garlic sourdough (in the "fendu" shape)
* One panned loaf of whole-grain and seed whole-wheat sourdough.

Pictures below:

The two loaves of whole-wheat with the multi-grain loaf in the center. I'd bought a bag of King Arthur Flour's Harvest Grains Blend a couple of months ago, and every time I opened the freezer, it stared back at me, saying, "Bake me." So I did. I soaked about 6 oz of the stuff in boiling water overnight and then added it to my regular weekly bread. It made the dough pretty wet, but not so wet that I added any additional flour. Also added enough bulk so that I had to bake it in a 9x5 pan.

It added about 15-20 minutes to the bake, but the flavor was great. The flax seeds and rye flakes added a strong, earthy flavor to the bread, while the oat groats and sunflower seeds gave a nutty undertone and a nice chewy texture. I'll be making this again. A nice contrast with some peanut butter on it!

Here's the rosemary, potato and roasted garlic sourdough loaves. I pretty much converted Jeffrey Hammelman's recipe from a biga to fit my stiff starter, and the results were nice. When I do it again this weekend, I think I'll reduce the rosemary by half and double the roasted garlic. I used 1% fresh rosemary and 3% roasted garlic (about 1 head), and the garlic was a little too understanded for my preference. Still a delicious loaf, but I'd have prefered less rosemary and more garlic.

I'll be baking quite a bit this coming weekend. Our daughter's day care held a fundraising auction, and I auctioned off four loaves of bread. Can't wait to see what they want.

Floydm's picture

I made a couple of mediocre loaves of my daily bread today. Too little salt? Something wasn't spot on. We ended up using much of it as dunkers for a batch of white trash chili cheese fondue tonight.

Sunday we hit Winco, a warehouse grocery store kind of like Food 4 Less. They had Saf Yeast for 2.50 a pound! I couldn't believe it: I usually pay 4 times that for 4 ounces at the local grocery store. Needless to say, I picked some up.

helend's picture

Realised how time flies when you're having fun when trying to explain to a friend what I had been doing whilst on 8 weeks sick leave. Well I said, I've been soooo busy ... doing what? hard to say. Of course she said, you're one of those ... HOME BAKERS!!! I've never thought that it keeps me busy but I am still surprised that other people don't bake all their family's bread and cakes. Mind you I don't know where the time has gone but I know that going back to work will be difficult to fit in!

So I thought it was about time I did some "housekeeping" and started with the serious en of things - sorting through digital pics (essential for a tidy life!) and came up with some of my recent exploits.

Firstly pita breads - I am so pleased with my efforts as- touch wood - they seem to come up every time now even with wholemeal four. I still love peering through the oven door to watch the pocket rise and get the greatest sense of achievement (and wonder!) at how well it works.
My husband likes them to be quite crusty for eating straight away so I leave the last ones in a little longer and they stay puffed up for ever. The batch in the photo are 50% wholemeal for eating with chilli and rice.

Even quicker are chapatis which are so quick and I find best made with 100% wholemeal - I stll "puff" them over a naked flame but am working on the girdle technique.

Finally I had forgotten this but a happy accident meant I "found" 3 hot cross buns lurking in the bread crock a day too late - so a perfect excuse for a late "Easter" bread and butter pudding.

I am still experimenting with my own rustic bread recipe especially for spelt flour and hope to perfect it yet ... well maybe one day.

So another batch of oat, raisin, cherry and chocolate chip cookies have gone, as has the brack and chocolate loaf cake. Guess I'd better go do "one of those" things in the kitchen again. :)

tomsbread's picture

Hello all,

Greetings from Singapore from another bread fanatic. This is a wonderful website for learning and I have learnt so much from it. Thanks.

I baked some Ciabatta today. The pics are in


Floydm's picture

I upgrade the site to Drupal 4.7.1. Knock on wood, it was mostly painless. Contact me if you notice anything acting too squirrelly here.

Hopefully the UI will be a little less confusing now. There are a few little improvements folks will see, but for the most part the site should look and feel the same.

Not too much baking on my part, of late. I did bake pizza last weekend:


as well as a porridge whole wheat bread that I was pleased with.

Oregon strawberries are finally in season, so we've been having excellent strawberry shortcake lately.

Floydm's picture

I'm trying to upgrade the site to Drupal 4.7 tonight. Wish me luck!

rmk129's picture

This recipe is the result of a mixture of ideas from a few different recipes. A moist and delicious way to use up overripe bananas and excess zucchini :)

May 31 019

Zucchini Banana Bread

A)Combine these ingredients:
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

B)Combine these ingredients and slowly add to first ingredients, mixing well.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

C) Finally add these (optional):
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup raisins (presoaked in hot water)

D) Bake ~45 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean). My gas oven doesn't have a temperature gauge...
I went for what I call "moderately hot". Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out loaves onto cooling rack.

Yummy warm!!!

yaya's picture

Hola! my name is Yaya, i live in Puerto Rico. And today i learned i have been a member for a week and 12 hours. I have seen some pictures and they all look great. Hoping to develop some good friendships.


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