The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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beanfromex's picture

After last weeks failures of french bread...and the previous weeks sourdough fiasco, I have decided to move onto something that is tried and true in the kitchen. The thought was to check the oven's ability to remain at a constant temperature since they moved the gas tank and laid new lines on the roof.

The cookies came out of the oven "as normal". I had moved my only rack into the top position for the french bread attempts, so the first cookie batch came out a little crispier than normal, no photos of those ones!! This was the last of the Nestles pre chocolate chips, I have a single bag of hersheys minis left...But we prefer the Nestles.

I have also noticed that my key board is not spacing correctly...Most electronic appliances seem to deteriorate quicky in this humid enviroment..and I have experienced first hand its wonderful effects on french bread crusts....


ojuice's picture

Well the last batch of starter didn't make it, but I have a new batch of starter which is doing very well.  It's at the point now where I need to feed it twice a day while it sits on my desk.  I don't plan on using it until next week and of course I don't want to waste that much flour keeping it going until then.  So, if I put it in the fridge, how much should I feed it before doing so, and how long should I let it sit out before I put it in?  I assume when I take it out I should feed it as I normally would after it comes up to temperature.


In regards to my feeding questions in my last post, feeding 1/4 cup old starter with 1 cup flour and ~1/2 cup water is working great!

PMcCool's picture

It's been a long week already, and it's only Thursday! I actually did bake last weekend, but am only now getting around to posting about it.

Beatrice Ojakangas' book, Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand, has been languishing on my bookshelf for nearly a year and I finally got around to trying one of her recipes. Ms. Ojakangas hews mainly to straight yeasted breads and does not appear to have an interest in or experience with artisanal breads. That isn't a slam, just an observation, since I didn't happen to see any references to baking on a stone or using steam during baking. If the recipe I tried is any indication, her breads are definitely worth making.

I selected a buttermilk rye with fennel seeds. During a recent trip to the store, I had picked up some buttermilk with no particular recipe in mind, so I had some on hand. My wife does not enjoy caraway, but she does like fennel and it goes well with rye. So, when I happened across that recipe, it was an easy pick. Here are a couple of pictures of the finished loaves:

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

And another of the crumb:

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

As can be seen in the photos, I should probably have given it a little longer to rise, although it was already doubled in size. That may have reduced some of the splitting. It might also have helped to use some steam during the first few minutes. The recipe calls for baking the bread on a baking sheet but I baked it on a preheated stone, which probably contributed to a larger than expected oven spring. Whether in spite of, or because of, my tweaking, the bread is delightful to eat. The crumb, while close-textured, is not dense. The bread is moist and chewy and makes a great base for sandwiches. The fennel contributes a pleasing crunch, in addition to it's fragrance.

I'm looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.


beanfromex's picture

I am thinking of coming up with a sure fire recipe for this loaf.

But of course, before I do that I have to master my new "progressive" glasses, the yahoo beta format, uploading pics into this site while I continue to try and produce french bread in a location where the flour and humidity and yeast are all unstable...But, it may just be me...

 I have baked french bread twice this week, putting all my new found knowledge and lists and tips into play...all to no avail. The first batch I had to pry off the couche...the second batch came out firmer, pale and without a crust despite feeling crusty in the oven when I first took them out...

I just know at any minute my dear husband will walk through the door asking where "todays batch"is and I am sure that will send me into a homicidal rage...I have accomplished nothing other than whinging to the site owner for the mentally incompetant set of directions for uploading pics , and putting 9 measly pics into photobucket.

I dont know if my inability to read the screen text is flour smudges, the progressive lenses, or general eye fatigue due to reading for the past week on french bread..which didn't help me out anyway did it??

So, tomorrow, I will take another stab at uploading pics, and perhaps bake my old standby loaf, which should soothe me, if not, there is always margaritas made with fresh lime juice...

 Bye for now..

JMonkey's picture

For my birthday, my mother bought me the brand-new King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking book. It's well timed. Their first book turned me on to bread baking, but after a few months, I moved toward whole grain breads almost exclusively, and the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion is about 95% white flour recipes. I learned a lot from it, but I wasn't baking much from it. So, suffice to day, I was itching to knead something up out of this book as soon as possible.

 I've made a few of the quickbreads. The Sailor Jack muffins, in particular -- an incredible cake-like concoction with raisins steeped in spices, molasses and brown sugar, along with whole wheat flour and oats, topped with a lemon sugar glaze -- are very, very tasty indeed. But I'd not tried a yeast bread until this weekend.  The first recipe to catch my eye was Ciabatta Integrale, a ciabatta made with half whole wheat flour, olive oil and a bit of powdered milk. I love ciabatta -- nothing is better for a sandwich or simply a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar. But whole grains just don't do ciabatta. Those holes? Forget it. Or so I thought. This recipe isn't 100% whole grains, but it's half, and I'll take it, given the results.  Here's one loaf all sliced up for sandwiches.
   And here's the other loaf, which served as dinner bread with some stuffed acorn squash (stuffed with quinoa, maple syrup, raisins, almonds and cinnamon), fresh corn and a green salad composed of our morning trip to the farmers' market. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are in the gravy boat, natch. 
  I was really impressed with the results, especially since the recipe said it's impossible to mix completely without a stand mixer. I don't own a stand mixer, so here's how I did it, thanks to a little help from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Ingredients  Pre-ferment  1 cup or 4 oz. whole wheat flour 1/2 cup or 4 oz cool water Pinch of instant yeast  Dough  All of the pre-ferment 1 1/4 cups or 5 oz. whole wheat flour 2 1/4 cups or 9.5 oz white bread flour 1 1/4 cups or 10 oz. cool water 1/4 cup or 1.75 oz olive oil 1/4 cup or 1 oz. nonfat dry milk 1.5 tsp salt 1/4 tsp instant yeast  Yes, you read that right. This recipe makes two loaves of ciabatta with less than 3/8 tsp yeast.  The night before mix together the pre-ferment. The next morning dump all the ingredients (including the pre-ferment, which should be spongy and full of bubbles) EXCEPT for the salt and additional yeast into a bowl, and mix it together with a large spoon or a dough whisk until it seems mostly hydrated. Cover and let it stand for 45 minutes to an hour.      

After the autolyse (that's what you're doing when you soak), add the salt and yeast.


                  Get a small bowl of cool water, and dip your hands in it. Shake off most of the water (important, otherwise you'll end up overhydrating the dough and you'll have soup) and then, using your hand like a dough hook, impale the dough with all five fingers. Turn your wrist clockwise while you turn the bowl with your other hand counter clockwise. Continue to do this, occassionally changing direction and wetting your hands if the dough starts to stick, for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, but it will stick to the bottom. Adjust the flour or water as necessary. Put the dough in a pre-greased bowl and cover it.  Every hour or so, copiously flour your work surface, remove the dough, copiously flour the dough and give it a good stretch and fold, brushing off as much of the flour as you can before folding. By stretch-and-fold, I mean gently pat out the gas, stretch the dough to twice its length and then fold it in thirds like a letter. Give the dough a one-quarter turn, and then stretch-and-fold once more. Place it back in the bowl and re-cover it. Here's a good lesson on the technique.  After about 3 hours and 2 or 3 folds (depending on how much strength the dough needs), remove the dough, and divide it into two. Gently stretch and pat each loaf into a 12 x 4 inch rectangle, and place them in a baker's couche (essentially, well-floured linen that you bunch up around the loaves so that they rise up instead of spreading out) or on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Cover with greased plastic.  It took mine about 4 hours for the final proof, but then my house is a chilly 62-64 degrees F. If your house is around 70-75 degrees, you may only have to wait two hours or so. In any case, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put the loaves in the oven either on a preheated baking stone or a cold baking sheet when they're good and puffy. Steam the oven (I keep a cast iron skilet in the bottom of mine and usually toss about 1 cup of boiling water in it) and turn the oven down to 425. The loaves should take 20-25 minutes to cook and should register 205 degrees when done. With all that oil, the crust is not as crisp as I usually like ciabatta, but I find I do like the flavor it adds.  Enjoy!
Floydm's picture

This morning was the first morning that it was cold enough here that the furnace kicked on. Unfortunately, we discovered that the ignitor has failed, so we got a fan running but no heat. So I've done what any good home baker would do: put together enough batches of bread to keep the oven on all day. It has kept the house warm and smelling wonderful.

Floydm's picture

I made a simple French Bread yesterday. I didn't use a pre-ferment or anything: I actually wanted to experiment with long knead times and see just how much of a difference in taste and volume it made. Something just didn't see right with my dough. It felt tight and, although moist, kind of puckered up.


After I tasted it it was obvious what was wrong: I added much too much salt.  Almost double.  The crumb still wasn't too bad:


I saved about 8 ounces of the dough in the fridge to throw into today's batch.  I wanted to try the old dough method.  Indeed, I did end up with a much tastier loaf today (I reduced the salt in today's batch accordingly).


I thought this loaf came out particularly pretty.




ojuice's picture

So I got my sourdough starter going almost a month ago using SourdoLady's wonderful instructions, and things were going well until this past Monday. Suddenly the starter no longer rises after feedings and no longer has a delicious and yeasty smell. Instead it's smelling like pancake batter, and just barely gets a few bubbles. However, this morning when I woke up and checked on it, there was a thin layer of hooch on top. Does anyone know what's going on with it? Do I need to start over?

Floydm's picture

I baked a couple loaves of French Bread and a Whole Wheat Loaf today: 

three loaves

The French Bread turned out very good.  I used a poolish and autolyse, then when I went out for a hike this morning I popped the dough in the fridge so it had an extra slow, long rise. It always seems to help.

I've started reading the copy of Good Bread is Back I got a month or so ago.   I'm finding it more interesting that I expected to.  I was afraid it was going to be too scholarly and dry, but, although the author is an academic, he clearly has a passion for bread that shines through in his writing.  I still have quite a way to go, but so far I am enjoying it.


amethystrosemaiden's picture

I have just recently baked this morning( 30 Sept 2006)  some Sweet Potato Rosemary loaves using a proper 18 hour poolish made out of Vit enriched plain flour that'd I made a day ahead for my very first time. With reference to this post dated 26 Sept'06 I went ahead with it.

Kate, here they are.  I think it's a bit too peppery for my palate as well as my family's too. I think I'll reduce the pepper by a tsp next time round.Unfortunately, the end result turned out nothing like I expected it would. I didn't get that much airy irregular holes Nevertheless, the texture was moist, rather dense with a nice crust. I decided also to experiment on how I should add the mashed sweet potato to see which ones would achieve the best results.

Here are my photos that I'd just posted into the Harvest Gallery  :

I did 2 methods:

i) to mix it into the wet flour mixture

ii) to mix it in during the folding/stretching/resting process.

1) Sweet potatoes mixed into the wet dough:

a) autolyse & 10min rest
b) stretching/fold & 10 mins rest process
c)Knead & 30 min rest
d)Stretch & fold into thirds & 30min rest process
e)Stretch & fold into thirds & 30min rest process
f)Shape & proof for 45 mins

2) Sweet potatoes folded into the wet dough after :

1) autolyse & 10min rest
2) stretching/fold & 10 mins rest process
3)Knead & 30 min rest
4)Stretch & fold into thirds & 30min rest process
5)Stretch, add mashed sweet potatoes & fold into thirds & 10min rest process done 3 times to add to remaining 30mins as stated on Dan's Garlic loaf recipe

6)Shape & proof for 1 hour 25 mins( an additional 45 mins) because my oven is a mini toaster like electric oven & can only fit in one loaf at a time.  It's a good thing there was no unbearable beery odour nor was did it produce any distasteful off sour taste.

Notice the uneven strands of mashed sweet pot colouring the crumb, although not what I'd wanted but it was a nice rustic decor.

I know it can be a bit disheartening when my loaves didn't turn out the way that it should have but I've gotten this far to almost baking some decent different variety of straight dough methods and now I'm in the midst of embarking on a new whole adventure of artisan home bread baking.

I certainly found the posts I've read here & other baking sites encouraging.  I must say this particular post by Floyd has given me & I'm sure many as well the determination to persevere & practice.

As always, I'd appreciate any comments from anyone on what I've missed that resulted in a dense & loss of airy irregular bubbles in my loaves.


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