The Fresh Loaf

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JMonkey's picture

Well, I had mixed success with TomsBread's method. I mixed 450 grams of whole wheat flour with 388 grams of water (85% hydration) and just a pinch of yeast. I put it in the beer-cooler incubator at 85 degrees F for 3 hours, and than popped it in the fridge for about 15 hours. I then pulled it out, let it warm at 85 degrees for an hour, and tried my best to mix in 1 tsp yeast and 9 grams of salt. Wasn't easy, though, because the dough was very well developed by this point.

I then did a stretch and fold every half hour for a total of three, shaped it and let it rise for about 90 minutes. I forgot to slash the loaf, but I baked it in the cloche at 500 degrees for about 45-50 minutes, with 30 of those minutes covered.

The bread tastes great -- wheaty, sweet, a buttery after-taste with very little dry, bitter bran flavor. The texture is weird, though, which probably comes from my not mixing the yeast up well enough. Big holes in places with very dense sections elsewhere. "Fault lines" where the bread easily splits apart, as you can see on the lower left. I imagine thats from a layer of yeast that didn't get mixed. But I did learn that big (or moderately big) holes are possible and that 85% hydration doesn't have to mean flat bread. Next time, I think I'll try a combo of pain a l'ancienne with the NYT / Sullivan St. Bakery method. Mix up the full dough with cold ingredients and just 1/4 tsp of yeast. Pop it in the fridge for 12 hours or so. Then, pull it out, do three stretch and folds once per 45 minutes to an hour, shape and let it rise. Slowly.

Maybe I'll try it this weekend. If I do, I'll post how it went.

zumnoor's picture

i'm very new to you site and found such great inspirations to bake more bread varieities. being a homemaker (at the moment), and mother of a boy aged 13, i seem to have more time to experiment with new recipes and i love baking breads. i tried your recipe "my daily bread" and the result was overwhelming. my son has requested that i try the pretzels and i will in a little while. i am so encouraged to try all the favourite recipes listed. thank you for that wonderful tips as well. i took your tips on pizza making and boy, didn't i have the best dough ever!
tks so much

helend's picture

Haven't had time to draw breath recently let alone sit and browse so being on holiday (finally) today has been a real treat - time to enjoy what everyone has been up to, follow some of the threads and finally update my photobucket and blog.

I decided at the begionning of January to concentrate for a while on slow rise tin breads and focus on crumb when working with "heavy" ingredients eg rye, wholemeal and seeds without resorting to oodles of yeast. So a good trawl through the back comments (and particular thanks to Qathan for a rye bread recipe using a rye and a bread flour starter mixed) which gave lots of ideas on proportions and methods.

Nothing too revolutionary but making a starter with only an eighth of a teaspoon of yeast left for 12-18 hours and then only 7/8 tsp yeast with flour etc to make as wet a dough as I can manage - maybe 70% hydration, no extra flour to knead (wet hands) and a shortish final rise to 60% increase NOT doubled for better oven spring.

Although I have made most of these breads before I am really pleased with how modifiations to my technique have improved the resulting loaf even after only a few experiments.

My photography isn't up to much (despite a lovely christmas gift) but maybe this shows what I mean:



The recipe is basically Floyd's honey wholewheat but the crumb is defineltey lighter and "holey" in the "after" picture - actually more like white bread in comparison to most 100% wholewheat breads. Also it slices thinly REALLY well. THis dough was a liitle too slack hence the odd oven spring (the rye below was a tiny but firmer)

My husband prefers the light rye - about 25% light rye and 65%/10% wholemeal/white spelt as he says the honey wholemeal is too sweet. The oven spring was HUGE - a 2lb loaf in front of a 6 kilo sack of rye flour

No pictures of the crumb there (sorry!) but I will finish with this - a traditionally tasty but "solid" 100% wholemeal seed bread (this one has linseeds, rapeseed oil, sesame and sunflower seeds and currants) that is amazingly light by my usual standards!

I have been told that my fan oven is drying out any steam from a bottom pan of water too quickly and it is the dough's internal water that makes the difference to the crumb and crust. I wonder how wet I can get?!

JMonkey's picture

Laurel Robertson, I owe you an apology. I pulled a loaf of Desem bread out of my oven about an hour ago, and, unable to wait any longer, just cut a slice to eat. Without doubt, it is the most delectable, fully flavored whole wheat loaf I have ever eaten. Why it took me this long to get it right, I don't know. But I'm glad I did. When I'm making dinner bread from now on, I'll be making this.

First of all, folks should know that I didn't use a starter made according to the methods described in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, which requires 10 lbs of freshly ground flour. I'm sure you can make it that way, but there's an easier method. I just took some of my regular whole wheat sourdough starter, created a dough ball at about 60% hydration when I fed it, and left it in my chilly (55 degrees F) basement to ripen. I fed it once a day for three days, building it up each time, until I had about 200 grams or roughly 7 ounces of dough. On the final build, I increased its size by a factor of 3, and let it ripen for about 16 hours at 55 degrees, more out of convenience and necessity than calculation. If you don't have a whole wheat starter, it's simple to convert. Just take some of your regular ripe starter, and feed it in the following weight ratio of 1:4:4 -- starter: water: whole wheat flour. Refresh it two or three times like this, and you'll have your 99.99% whole wheat starter. (I won't tell anyone if you don't that it's not absolutely pure).

I screwed up my math in preparing the dough, so I ended up with about 38% of the flour as starter rather than the 30% I'd hoped for, but I'm not sure it would make that much difference. You do want a fairly large amount of starter, if I'm reading Laurel's recipe right -- somewhere in the range of about 30%. I also went for the customary 2% salt and aimed at a hydration of 75%.

Here's my formula:

  • Whole wheat flour: 100%
  • Water: 75%
  • Salt: 2%
  • 30% of the flour was pre-fermented at 60% hydration.
That worked out to roughly:
  • 220 grams starter
  • 260 grams water
  • 320 grams flour
  • 8 grams salt
I mixed it up and kneaded for about 300-400 strokes, until I could stretch a small piece of it into a translucent film (i.e. the "windowpane" test). As for consistency, I was aiming for dough that felt very tacky, but not exactly sticky. Then I formed it into a ball and let it ferment for four hours at about 64 degrees F (the temperature of my kitchen). It more than doubled in size and when I poked a wet finger into the dough, it didn't readily spring back.

Next, I gave the dough a stretch and fold, let it rest 15 minutes, and then shaped it into a ball. I placed it in a banneton (well-floured) and then used my makeshift proof-box to keep it at roughly 85 degrees for 2.5 hours. At that point, the dough had inreased about 75% in size -- perhaps it even doubled. In any case, I slashed it and put it into my cloche, which had been warming in a preheated, 500 degree F oven for about an hour. I had a slight mishap getting it into the cloche (I was a bit too forceful with the peel, and slammed the loaf into the side of the cloche, turning it over on its side. It mushed it a bit, but nothing serious -- the bake took care of it, mostly. You can see the dent on the bottom right of the loaf above.). I repositioned the bread and covered it. The bake was 30 minutes covered at 500, then 15-17 minutes uncovered at 450. I let it cool for one hour.

As you can see, the crumb does not have the huge holes one expects in white bread (I'm just about convinced that any "whole wheat bread" that has sports huge holes probably consists of at least 50% white flour), but, even so, the bread is not at all heavy or dense. The crumb is light and chewy, with a wonderful crispy crust. The flavor? It's tangy, but not overpoweringly so. There's a buttery undertone, maybe? The flavor lingers long in the mouth after eating. Really, the flavor is tough to describe aside from being complex and delicious.

Like I said, when I have company in the future, this is the bread I'll serve. Utterly delicious.

Well done, Laurel Robertson. And thank you.
Floydm's picture

Nothing terribly interesting baked today. A couple of loaves of my poolish French bread.

And a large sourdough miche-like loaf.

The French bread stales quickly, so we ate it tonight and will finish it tomorrow. I think the miche will be better after a day or two anyway, so we'll crack it open tomorrow evening or the next day.

JMonkey's picture

I've been wanting to make this bread for years, ever since I first had a bite of chocolate cherry bread from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Mich. I've tried making this several times over the past few months, all of them flops. Pancakes, covered in charcoaled chocolate (Yum-o!) were the usual products of my labors. Not this time. I finally got think I nailed it. Here's how I made it (note: These cups are Laurel's Kitchen-style cups. Don't fluff up the flour and spoon it in -- dig deep and let it settle.


  • 120 grams or 1/2 cup active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 340 grams or 2.25 cups bread flour
  • 8 grams or 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 210 grams or 3/4 cup + 3 Tbs Water
  • 150 grams or 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 125 grams or 1 scant cup big chunks of chocolate

    I've found I get more flavor out of my sourdough if I let the starter ripen at above 80 degrees. It's not necessary, though. Just make sure your starter is ripe. The night before, dissolve the starter into the water as best you can. Mix the salt with the flour (You can try using all-purpose -- I think all-purpose has better flavor and texture for sourdough, personally -- but I find that bread flour gives this bread the heft it needs to rise well despite the weight of the goodies). Then dump the flour into the starter slurry and mix it all up together until it's all hydrated. The dough should be very tacky and maybe a little sticky, but not super sticky. We're shooting for the texture of wet French dough, not ciabatta.

    Cover the bowl with plastic or a plate, and let it sit at room temperature (about 70 degrees F, more or less) for about 12 hours (anywhere from 10-14 should be fine). Once it's ready, it should look something like the photo to the left.

    Meanwhile, pour some boiling water over the cherries. If you can't find dried tart cherries (Trader Joe's sells them around Boston), dried cranberries will usually do almost as well. Let the fruit soak for about 15 minutes, drain and then place them on towels or paper towels to dry. You want the interior wet enough so that the fruit won't draw moisture from the dough, but dry enough on the exterior so they won't turn your dough into soup (it can happen -- believe me, I know). When the fruit is ready, mix it up with the chocolate in a bowl, and have it handy.

    Flour a workspace lightly, and then gently turn the dough out onto the board. With wet hands, lightly pat the dough into a rectangle. Stretch the dough to about twice its length, and then spread 1/4 of the chocolate cherry mixure in the center. Fold one-third of the dough on top, and again, spread 1/4 of the mixture on top. Fold the final third of the dough like a letter, and then turn the dough one-quarter. Follow the same procedure, and then cover the dough. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Here's a photo sequence to show you what I'm talking about.

    Stretch and spread.

    Fold and spread.

    Fold again. Then turn the dough one quarter and repeat! Easy-sleazy. (That's the final product above. I skipped a few steps in the photos. It's well-established that stretch and fold only remains exciting and engaging for ... oh ... no more than three photos, I believe..)

    Folding the chocolate and cherries into the bread ensures that the vast majority of the goodies stay protected from the fierce heat to which you're going to subject the dough in order to get that lovely, crunchy crust we all adore. The yummy stuff is not as evenly distributed as it would be were it mixed in from the beginning, but uneven distribution is highly preferable to charcoal. Trust me.

    Now, after letting the dough rest for 15 minutes, gently shape the dough into a boule, and place it in a well-floured banneton. I splurged a while back and bought one of my own, but you can easily construct a makeshift banneton out of a bowl and a well-floured linen napkin.

    I like to let my sourdough proof in the makeshift proof-box you see to your right. I pour a cup or two of boiling water in there and close it up. It'll stay within 3-4 degrees of 85 degrees F for about 90 minutes. I then pour in another cup or two of hot water.

    After 3 hours, my bread looked like this.

    About an hour beforehand, I'd put my cloche in the oven and preheated it to 500 degrees F, but if you don't have a cloche, a dutch oven or oven-safe casserole will do. If you don't have that, just use your baking stone and steam the oven. If you don't have that, just put the bread on a baking sheet. Once the bread was scored, I baked it covered for 30 minutes, and uncovered for about 17-18 minutes, and then let it cool an hour (can you believe it?) until we dug in. I had a minor mishap with a bit of my bread sticking to the peel, thus the odd shape to the left. It didn't disuade us from gobbling it all up with 48 hours though.

  • anawim_farm's picture


    Using Daniel Leader's formula for Pain Au Levain for the last few bakings, making both torpedo and boulet shapes

    Levain                                                  18 ounces

    Sweet Well Water ;)                               18 fluid ounces

    KA unbleached Bread Flour 

    with 20% KA Stone Ground

    Whole Wheat Flour                                24-29 ounces

    Sea Salt                                               3/4 ounce

    On my first attempt at this I used all KA unbleached flour which resulted in a very wet dough that didn't rise very well.  My 2nd and 3rd attempts were better. The 2nd was the torpedo shape followed by the round.

    grepstar's picture

    Last weekend I took another stab at the Sourdough English muffins, going with some of the modifications that I suggested in my previous post. Here is my recipe for this batch with the changed ingredients from Nancy Silverton's original recipe in boldface:


    18 oz White Starter
    2 cups plain soy milk
    7 oz unbleached white bread flour (high extraction - 14% protein) (I used 1 oz less)
    3.5 oz dark rye flour

    10 oz warm water (85 degrees)
    0.3 oz of SAF instant yeast
    1/4 cup oat bran

    1/4 cup wheat germ
    1/4 cup flax seeds
    1/4 cup rye flakes
    2 tbs raw sunflower seeds
    2 tbs raw pepitas
    7 oz unbleached white bread flour
    (high extraction - 14% protein)
    1/4 cup (minus a smidge) honey
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 3/4 tbs kosher salt
    Cake flour for dusting
    Semolina flour for dusting

    This time, I was able to make the muffins over the course of one day as the original recipe calls for. The sponge fermented for about 2 hours before I made the final dough which in turn rose for another hour and a half.


    I decided this time that I needed more strength for the parchment paper rings and so I cut the pieces of parchment twice as tall and then folded in half. While seeming like a good idea, it ended up being more difficult to fill the rings since the dough got caught between the folded layers on a few of the muffins and the strength of the rings was no greater. Besides, I cost me double the amount of parchment paper.

    The use of the cake flour for dusting the board became a real pain since the dough was more hydrated in this version than the last. Most of it clumped up and took some effort to brush off. In the end, using no flour at all and keeping my hands slightly damp to help handle the dough would have worked much better.

    The muffins rose in the rings for about an hour and then I dusted them with semolina and tossed them in the oven.

    I waited until the next day before tearing one open and they were much tastier than the last batch. The sweetness of the honey was much mellower than the agave nectar and the wheat germ and rye flakes added even more heartiness in flavor and texture.

    Split muffin


    My wife and I have been enjoying them as the base for fried egg sandwiches: toased muffin, 1 fried egg, 2 slices of facon (veggie bacon), a think spread of garlic herbed queso fresco from Shepard's Way and a smear of dijon mustard.

    Floydm's picture

    My parents just came back from Paris. Here are a few bread pictures they took for me:





    Wayne's picture

    This was my first shot at making Essential's Columbia bread..................batards slightly deflated when they were scored...probably overproofed a little.  Anyway,  this is a very good bread.  Thanks Mountaindog for your wet starter recipe. 


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