The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

  • Pin It
dolfs's picture

Baking Challah is a weekly thing in my kitchen. I have blogged about it extensively. For the holidays I did something a little "special" inspired by a long ago post by Mariana (I think).

 Rosh Hashanah Challah (yud bet)
Rosh Hashanah Challah (yud bet)

Maggie Glezer in "A Blessing of Bread" describes this as a yud (ten) bet (two), an originally Hasidic bread that represents the twelve tribes. I added double twisted ring on the outside symbolizing the world, unity, or the circle of live (the completion of a year), take your pick. The resulting Challah is thus also round, a traditional shape for the holidays.

A particular challenge came with the fact that no recipe I could find would tell me what size/weight to make each of the twelve balls and how much was needed for the two outside ropes. I started with my own recipe of a 1.7lb Challah that I make each week. Figuring I could do with a larger bread (guests for dinner tonight), but not being sure how much dough I would need, I made 3lb of dough starting last night (overnight ferment in the fridge). I also added raisins.

In the end I decided to make the balls 2.5oz each (30 oz) and use the remainder for the two ropes: 9oz each. Once I shaped the balls and placed them on parchment in two triangles of six (bases touching), I used a tape measure to figure out how long my outside ropes needed to be: 40 inches. Now I was very happy with my new 36" maple countertop (see other posts). I could just roll these out on the diagonal. Without it, on a smaller board, or the tile countertops this would have been a no-go. Stretching/rolling the dough that far requires a little patience and one or two rests before you get there. I was in a hurry because my wife needed the oven and broke one of the two, but with some repair its not too bad. The "break" is on the back left in the picture. So, all this worked out perfectly so you can use these ratios: 60-65% of the dough for the 12 balls, the rest for the ropes.

Taste was delicious, but my formula has now proven itself many times so I was not worried about that. Next challenge will be bread sculpting for Halloween. Don't know yet what will top last year's pumpkin and turkey



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures 

dolfs's picture

Same party with neighbors (see Eliopsomo), different bread. From the book "Savory Baking from the Mediterranean" (Anissa Helou), page 133. This was definitely an interesting a delicious treat. Two loaves did not last very long.

 Tortano Ripieno - Savory Baking from the Mediterranean
Tortano Ripieno - Savory Baking from the Mediterranean

This "torta" "no", or not quite pie, is very interesting. A Tuscan bread, it is filled with several kinds of cheese (some of it seen having oozed out above), salami and, of all things, hard boiled eggs. Savory indeed, and very delicious.

Tortano Ripieno - Inside
Tortano Ripieno - Inside 

I went through a similar recipe transcription process as for the Eliopsomo, but this time things came out too dry. I was suspicious of the 52% hydration that came out of the conversion effort, and added more water to bring it closer to 64%. In the end, I think I could/should have brought it up a little higher even. On the other hand, the low hydration did make the bread have some characteristics of a pie crust. The recipe starts out by thoroughly mixing lard (or butter), with the flour before doing anything else. Again a technique more akin to pie crust than bread dough.

I ended up putting three hard boiled eggs inside each loaf. The recipe calls for cutting them in 6 parts, which I did for one loaf, but for the other loaf I used a slicer and put the slices in. The first method gives nice, recognizable chunks in some bits, the second method distributes the egg better. If you like the egg in it, I'd put in 4 eggs in 6 parts. Concerned about health? This bread is not for you, with 3 or 4 eggs!



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures 

dolfs's picture

A party with neighbors brought some new inspiration to bake something different. From the book "Savory Baking from the Mediterranean" (Anissa Helou) I picked the recipe for Eliopsomo, or Greek olive bread. The book does not specify baker's percentages or weights, but I used my Dough Calculator to compute those. The conversion for spinach, herbs and olives are guesses and probably not exactly what the author intended. Nevertheless, I doubled the recipe and made two loaves.

Eliopsomo - Savory Breads from the Mediterranean
Eliopsomo - Savory Breads from the Mediterranean 

It worked out reasonably OK. I did not like the amount of filling. It appeared too much and the moisture content was too high. If I were to bake this again, I'd squeeze, or somehow dry out, the spinach, and also drain the olives much better/longer than I did. I would also reduce the overall amount of filling to about 60% of the recipe. It is, of course, always possible that I just misinterpreted the instructions and simply made too much, but I doubt it. I also believe that a better technique than described in the book would be in order for final shaping, causing the filling to be more distributed (like a cinnamon roll perhaps).

Filling was so wet, stuff leaked out during proofing in my couche (and ruined it). 

Eliopsomo - Inside
Eliopsomo - Inside 

 The taste was definitely OK, but not wow.



See my My Bread Adventures in pictures
nbicomputers's picture

With Christmas and Thanksgiving right around the corner I thought I would start this blog to let everybody on this site know what an old retired Baker with over 25 years experience in the baking industry does for the holidays.  Well this year I'm going to do pretty much the same thing that I do every year which is come out of retirement.  Even though there are only three people in the house my wife my son and myself my home turns into a small commercial bakery.  I literally produce enough products to feed my entire apartment building.  Being that you can only produce so much product in a home kitchen at one time a production schedule is required and must be kept to.  This is where my experience in professional bakery comes in handy.

While much of the actual baking does not start until the middle of November many things can be prepared in advance and frozen for extended periods of time such as puff pastry pie crust and Danish pastry.  The first step is in obtaining the raw materials. I have planned my  trip to bakery supply house to purchase: 50 pound bags of different flous, fresh yeast, macaroon paste and several other ingredients not available in regular supermarkets.  My shopping list is as follows
one bag king Arthur special patent flour,
one bag all trumps high gluten flour,
one bag pure as snow cake flour,
one to pound block fresh yeast,
one 50 pound cube BBS, [Baker's special shortening],
one cube HiMo Shortening (a special high water and sugar holding shortening that will emulsify rather than curdle)
one 11 pound bar choc coating
and 1 quart egg shade. 
Some of the materials such as macaroon coconut that I need in very small quantities will be ordered by mail order even though it means I need to pay a lot for these few items I just don't have the room to store a 50 pound bag of coconut.  When all is said and done by Christmas Eve I will have produced between 40 and 50 pounds of assorted cookies along with cakes and pastries and Breads.

As I began preparations in my little home bakery I will update this so all that are interested can follow along with the calendar what is made and when


Nov 13 tomorow is starting day

puff pastry dough and pie crust for the frezer and if i have time maybe il do the cheese filling.

scubabbl's picture

It's been a while... I have not written anything for a while, or baked anything for a while. It was a combination of work, and also a certain level of frustration with making bread by hand.

At first, what I made turned out pretty decent. But over time, the dough I made stopped rising, or was too dry, or had some other problem. Combine that with my frustrations with kneading dough, and I had the perfect storm of feeling of not wanting to bake anything... I think that last point, kneading dough, is where I large amount of my frustration was. I simply wasn't good at it. It never worked the way I read it should. I know some people would say, just keep practicing, you'll get it. Call me impatient, but I didn't want to have 100 failures before I had a success.

I think of it similar to body boarding vs. surfing. Yes, when you surf, you have much better control. I can ride a wave much better, you can go faster, in general, you can be a better wave man than a body board. But with a body board, you can get out there and start cracking on waves right away. I mean, after about 2 years of body boarding on and off, I drove up to the north shore (on Oahu), and was ripping on waves that were 10 to 12 feet, while my surfing friend, who has been surfing for a long time, was missing wave after wave... The point to all this is, I went and bought my kitchen body board.

My New Mixer

I made the most wonderful bread I've made ever with this last night. It took a 1/10th of the time and made about a 1/100th of the mess. With all due respect to those who made bread by hand, you have mad skills, but you're crazy. Mixers kick major rear. Also, I love my mixer. Did I mention that? All of a sudden, I'm having fun making bread again! Sweet.... oh maybe I'll make sticky buns next...

ehanner's picture

Suas Baguette
Suas Baguette

I thought I would try the formula and method pointed out by SteveB last week for Michel Suas's Baguette. You can see the original post from Steve here. The images of how to shape a baguette were I thought unusual since it requires degassing, flattening and rolling out for the length. Not the gentle handling I strive for.

The crust was slightly thicker than I usually get and the crumb was less airy than I like. The key elements of this method seem to be developing good flavor by slowing down the ferment with ice water. They tasted OK but it's my first try using this mix. Also I used a Harvest King flour which is higher gluten than the flour he recommends.

It's worth a try and not bad with red sauce!


Eli's picture

I have been busy with everything but  baking. So last night I started refreshing my motherdough from the fridge. It sits there paitienly and I eventually get around to it once every two weeks. I decided to use it insted of my counter-intelligent sourdough starter I keep for weekly baking at 166%.

I tore off about 50 grams of motherdough. I used a simple formula of ( I made a really small amount) Which is a variation from Janedo's Monge recipe which I have come to love. Thanks Jane!!

250 grams Hi Gluten Flour

175 grams of water

50  grams motherdough

5 grams salt

Combined the water and flour and allowed to autlyse 20 minutes. Added motherdough and kneaded about 5-8 minutes. Allowed a 10 minute rest and then added salt till evenly distributed. Allowed to bulk rise for 4 hours. Placed in a couche and off to the fridge. Took it out this morning and gave it about 3 hours to warm up and rise. Slashed and placed in a 500 degree humid oven for 30 minutes.

I normally do not use the motherdough. It is regarded as a back-up and safety net. It smells so sweet as if made with a good wine. Made only of flour and water back in January.

I noticed several things after the bake. The color is much more of a caramel color and seems to be thinner but crispier. The crumb seems to be somewhat more open. The taste still has a sour flavor but more of a caramel taste and then a sour finish. I may switch to this method and practice a little more. I like the results.


Does anyone use primarily a dough for the starter?

Motherdough Batard

Motherdough Closeup

Motherdough Crumb

Susan's picture

I kept losing this recipe, so am placing it here in my blog!

My recipe and methods are most decidedly less than scientific, and are the result of about 1.5 years of fumbling and many bricks. I would welcome any suggestions.


1 T expanded starter, which was saved from the sponge

15 g filtered water (1 T)

25 g flour (2-3 T)

Mix water into starter, then mix in flour. Cover with plastic and leave at room temp until it is puffy and you see bubbles under the surface (for me, 4-6 hours, depending on room temp). Store in fridge and use as is within 3 days. For longer storage, refresh it before using (throw away all but 1 T, then add 1 T water and 2-3 T flour, etc.)


240 g filtered water (1 cup + 1 T)

223 g flour (1.5 cups) (I'm currently using GM Harvest King here)

All starter

Mix water into starter, then add flour, stirring until well mixed; cover with plastic and let sit at room temp overnight. When ready, it will be expanded and bubbly with just a hint of a depression in the middle. (btw, I am using a 1.5L bowl, and the sponge fills up the bowl to within an inch of the top when the sponge is ready.)


60 g water (1/4 cup) This amount is variable (weather, etc.)

14 g (1 T) olive oil

All sponge, except for 1 T saved for the next starter

222 g bread flour (1.5 cups) (currently using GM Better for Bread here)

62 g (1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour (KA)

1.5 t salt

I use my Zojirushi ABM to mix and knead the dough, but have made up a custom program of 6 minutes mix/knead, 20 minutes rest, and another 6 minutes of kneading. Everything goes into the pan but the salt, which is added during the last couple of minutes.

Empty the dough into a straight-sided, lightly oil-sprayed canister to ferment for about 3 hours at room temp (lower 70's F). Stretch and fold 3 times over the first 90 minutes of this fermentation (Many thanks to MountainDog!). When the dough is fully risen, turn it onto a Silpat and cut in half with a bench knife. Gently pull each half into a rounded shape, turn over, cover with plastic and rest for 15-20 minutes.

Gently rotate each round a few times to tighten it, then invert each round into a well-floured cloth laid inside a small bowl (add some seeds in the bottom of the bowl if you like). (The bowls I use are about 7 inches in diameter at the top.) Seal the seam and tightly cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap. Put the bowls in a warm spot, upper 70's F, for 1.5-2 hours. (I use my microwave, OFF of course, and put a mug of hot water in with the bowls.)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove plastic wrap from one round and gently re-seal the seam if necessary. Invert onto a semolina-dusted peel, slash the top, and slide it into the oven. (My oven is a Miele, and it came with several trays, but I would think a large cookie sheet would do the trick. I stopped using a stone, as it didn't seem to make a difference in oven spring.) As soon as the round is in the oven, overturn a 4L heat-proof Pyrex bowl on top of it. The bowl has been quickly rinsed with hot water before putting it in the oven. I assume one could use a SS bowl, but you'd miss seeing the rise, and that's half the fun!

Leave the bowl on top of the bread until it just starts to brown (16-18 minutes), then very carefully remove the bowl by sliding a spatula under the edge (there will be a small release of steam here, so let it happen and stay out of its way) then I slide my other hand, well-covered with an oven mitt, under the edge of the bowl and lift it up and over the bread. Make sure you already have a safe place to set the extremely hot bowl when you take it out of the oven. I would not put it on a cold counter; a couple of hot pads are what I use. Please be careful.

Bake the bread another 6-8 minutes until it is dark brown. The darker it is (without burning, of course) the more taste it will have.

Bake the other loaf. I bake 2 little boules two or three times a week. And one loaf of each baking usually ends up with one grateful neighbor or another...

Well, now you know my sourdough odyssey. Remember that it's just mine; yours may take a different path. If you have any questions, please ask. I now weigh everything (again, thanks to the folks on this site), but have put in measurements for those who do not weigh. The flour was scooped and leveled.

Susan in San Diego (so you'll know I am at sea level!)

Boule Baked Under Bowl

Baked Boule

ejm's picture

In August, I received an email from Hayley Mick asking if I would do a telephone interview about how "rising food prices (particularly when it comes to grains, flour etc) are affecting bakers" and whether "it put a damper on [my] productivity". She said she had found me through The Fresh Loaf. Her email came just at the time that we had ridden our bikes all over Toronto trying to find rye flour and learning that "Five Roses" (now owned by Smucker Foods) has discontinued production of "dark rye" flour due to slow sales.

So I readily agreed to do the interview. Little did I realize that they would want to come and do photos as well! And about a month later, I appeared on the front page of the Life section of Canada's national newspaper "The Globe and Mail".

making wild yeast bread © photo Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic August 2008

And an even larger photo inside as well!!

making wild yeast bread © photo Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic August 2008

Here is the bread I ended up making:

wild yeast bread © ejm August 2008
JMonkey's picture

It's been a while since I posted, mainly due to ramped up work and family obligations, but I've not stopped baking. And, despite the fact that both of these breads are white, the vast majority of my baking is still 100% whole grain.

But, dangit, white bread -- I just can't quit ya.

I was particularly pleased with the poolish demi-baguettes that I made for dinner last night. I had my first acorn squash of the season, and had made a soup with it. For some reason, poolish baguettes seemed just the right accompaniment.

These are, without a doubt, the best looking baguettes I've ever made. Took a lot of less-than-perfect loaves, but I think I now understand how to shape these buggers so they don't look like a string bean with big bulbous ends, how to time them so they still have some room to spring in the oven, and how to slash them so they look like ... well ... a baguette.

The insides were lovely.

Today, they were starting to get stale, so I cut the leftover baguette in half and broiled it with some mozzarella, which we ate with a chopped up tomato from the garden. These were about 12 oz each, with 33 percent of the flour in the pre-ferment and a hydration of 66%. I used about 1/16 tsp of yeast in the poolish (135g of water and flour, each) and then about 2g instant yeast in the final dough (270 flour, 135 water, 8g salt). The poolish ripened for about 12 hours, but it's pretty cold in my house -- mid 60s at bestt.

Earlier in the week, I also made a white sourdough (20% of the flour in a thick starter at 60% hydration -- the starter was 100% whole wheat, and the overall hydration was about 75%) which I let retard overnight outside. It was lovely, but the top seemed as if it wanted to peel away. Was probably a little underproofed.

Again, I was pleased with the crumb.

Hopefully, things have calmed down enough so that I can post a little more frequently. I've missed this community!


Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries