The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

  • Pin It
JMonkey's picture

It's been raining for two weeks, and we're about to get yet another week of rain. Luckily, I'm not in any danger of getting flooded out, but I may end up working from home at the rate they're closing roads. Very wet. And at the rate that sewage and water treatment plants are going offline, I may end up boiling all our water soon.

My oven will be repaired on Friday, but it still works well enough for me to keep a fairly constant 350 degrees -- good enough for the BBA's raisin-walnut (I prefer pecan, being a former Southern boy, myself) bread. Had to have French toast for Mother's Day, and there's no better French toast than cinnamon raisin pecan French toast.

I picked up three 9x5 pans at a garage sale for $1 a couple of weeks ago, so instead of dividing the dough into two loaves for a 8.5 x 4.5 pan (they always seem to come out too small for my taste) I just put the whole shebang into the 9 x 5.

Perfect! We had a big honkin'loaf, most of which went to French toast (we've got a freezer full - yum), and the rest to peanut-butter and bannana sandwiches.

On Thursday night, I'm going to start preparing for a BBA pizaa on Friday night. Living without a high-heat oven has been a sad existance.

Gedunkleberg's picture

I have survived my first baking-centered weekend, and all in all, I consider it a success. I tried Floydm's daily bread recipe on Friday night/Saturday, and it turned out pretty well. Like some other people, I wound up adding extra flour (at least I think it was extra...I don't have a scale yet, so my measurements may not have been entirely accurate). I had trouble getting the poolish and the autolyse to blend thoroughly, so I wound up with some lumps in the dough that seemed to bake into dense little knots in the final product. Perhaps next time I could start with a wetter autolyse, mix it with the poolish, and then add more flour as necessary. Does that sound like it would work? Despite the "knots," I did get a pretty good crumb, and the bread was pretty tasty (especially with the cabbage, potato, and cannellini bean stew that I made last night).

On Sunday, I took a crack at Floydm's honey whole wheat recipe, which was simple to make and turned out quite tasty. I don't have real loaf pans yet (that will be my next purchase), so I wound up using those dinky little foil pans you get at the grocery store. Since the pans I used were so small, I cut some of the dough off of the loaves before shaping them, and I made two rolls that I just baked on a baking sheet. Everything turned out nicely, and I was particularly happy with the color of the crust and the amount of rise I got during secondary fermentation. My boyfriend has already eaten half a loaf since last night, so I guess it's a hit!

Does anyone have any opinions on whether or not it's a good idea to proof shaped loaves directly on the baking sheet that I will bake them on? I don't have a baking stone yet, so I'm baking everything either on a sheet or in a loaf pan.

rmk129's picture

Okay, now I am trying to figure out how to post photos without having them appear in the Gallery :)
I just discovered "Flickr", so I will try to post a link to my site to show my first attempt at Floydm's Pain Sur Poolish". I ended up adding 1 1/2 extra cups of flour, but next time I will try to follow his advice and keep the dough as wet as I can handle :)

Both loaves. I have a tiny oven so I can only bake one loaf at a time.

Crumb of the first loaf. At least I think that is what you call a "crumb", judging from other people's descriptions on this site?

Crumb of the second loaf.

The very pale loaf was the first loaf I baked. I did not use a wash or glaze, although I sprayed the outside of the loaf lightly with warm water before putting it in the oven...I read somewhere that was a good way to create more steam (I also always have a small pan in the bottom of my stove and I throw a cup of water into it to produce steam just as I put the loaf in the preheated oven). Now I am not so sure about the loaf-misting idea because maybe it is responsible for the pock-like marks on the crust of this loaf??? I think I also had issues with the oven heat for this loaf--I have a gas oven with no temperature indicators at all. I baked it for 40 minutes and it was still that pale!!!

The darker loaf was the second loaf. I put it in the fridge while the first loaf was baking, then I used an egg white wash spread on with my fingers...maybe I deflated the loaf a bit too much this way and this is why the shape is like a perfect semi-circle??? I made sure the oven was very hot this time (the flames sounded very loud), and it only took 25 minutes to bake even though I turned it down to "halfway" (whatever temperature that might be) after 15 minutes.

My major trouble is definitely telling when the loaves are done. I did the hollow-sounding test, and they both seemed done, but when I cut them open an hour later they both seemed a little too moist in the center for my liking...or am I being too impatient cutting them open so soon? I should probably invest in an oven thermometer to test the loaf temperatures...

I would be happy to receive *any* suggestions, criticisms, and/or comments about my loaves and/or best methods for posting photos. I am really looking forward to learning from the members on this site!!!

rmk129's picture

As a newbie bread-maker, I was ecstatic to find this site yesterday!!! I have been making bread with the help of a bread-maker for over 5 years. In December my husband and I moved to Argentina, so we gave up everything that would not fit into 2 suitcases more bread-maker!!! Although there are many bakeries here, they almost exclusively feature breads made of white flour and even those breads are nothing like homemade. My husband's mom used to make yummy bread in their outdoor oven here, but nobody measures their ingredients here so it is hard to get accurate recipes unless you have time to watch someone go through the entire baking process...even the local recipe books usually indicate that you should simply add "a sufficient amount of flour" and things like that.

I am a grad student, so I spend a lot of time at home working on my thesis and bread-making is the perfect way to break up my days and make me feel productive even when my thesis is moving along at the pace of a turtle... So over the past few months I have been experimenting with different breads and so far I am fairly happy with my baguettes and basic whole-wheat/flax seed bread. They are definitely not perfect but very yummy!!!

An added challenge for me has definitely been my tiny gas oven that does not have any temperature indicator (therefore directions to set the oven to 350 or 500 mean nothing to me)...I have had to learn to go by the sound of the flames, and it is still hit or miss :) Room temperature here also has a very different meaning, especially now that it is getting colder out. We do not have central heating, so room temperature was close to 35 degrees a few months ago, and now it is closer to 15 degrees and dropping in most of the apartment...except in the hallway where the gas heater blows out :)

I look forward to following these forums and hopefully picking up lots of tips...especially tips that will help me make decent bread without lots of special equipment. I am thinking of investing in a cheap kitchen scale, because it seems to be more important to weigh ingredients rather than measure them??? Today I have already read about how to make homemade cloches out of baskets and linen...great idea!!! I made the poolish for the Daily Bread featured on the home page last night, so I will see how that goes today...and if I figure out how to post photos I would love to participate in that aspect of the site so I can get more help and suggestions!

Until next time...

Gedunkleberg's picture

Hello, Fresh Loaf friends! My name is Rachael, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I very recently discovered my love of bread baking (I baked my first "loaf" about a week ago), though I have always loved eating the stuff. Cooking is a big hobby of mine, so I suppose it was just a matter of time before I made the leap to baking. My first "loaf" was actually a Tuscan flatbread (though it does use yeast) that I made from a recipe I found in Bon Appetit. It was quite tasty, so I made it again yesterday with a few minor adjustments. I think I am going to try making my first real loaf this coming weekend with the basic recipe provided in Lesson One. I am so excited to have discovered this new's cheap, fun, creative, relatively easy, and you wind up with an end product that you can eat and share with your friends. What more could you ask for?

longlivegoku's picture

Well this is my 2nd attempt at Jeffrey Hamelman's whole-wheat bread. The first turned out pretty well so my wife requested more (the best toast ever according to her). I started the pre-ferment the morning before work, mixed up the dough after work and then fermented/proofed. Unfortunately time was my enemy as I was unable to allow a full final proof. As a result I had some out of control oven spring action I think. No matter, tasted better this time than last! (different flour)

Bread image

Floydm's picture

It was a rainy weekend, so today I stayed in and baked. I baked Honey Whole Wheat Bread, which, as I mention, was an attempt to recreate the Good Earth rolls, which I've been fixating on recently. They tasted really good. I've been trying to decide why my whole wheat breads are tasting better, whether it is because I've gotten better at baking techniques, am using better ingredients (King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour instead of Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour), or have just acquired a taste for whole wheat finally.

I also baked a couple of loaves of a white french bread (basically using the daily bread recipe) that weren't bad. I left my poolish out for about 18 hours before making the final dough, I noticed a bit of an off flavor... the bread was less "sweet and nutty" and more "tart and cheesy." No matter, it was still better than anything I could pick up at the local grocery store.

I also set up another website: Ajax Hacking. Setting that up is giving me a chance to play with Drupal 4.7 (this site is running 4.6). I'm liking 4.7 a lot, so I suspect I'll be upgrading this site in the next few weeks. People will enjoy the improvements.

That is all for now.

JMonkey's picture

I had a good bake Saturday morning, but I ruined my oven in the process.

I was making two 1.5 pound loaves of hearth whole-wheat sourdough, and two more of the same, but sandwich bread. I was just ready to put the boules in, so I stuffed two oven mitts wrapped in aluminum foil into the vents to trap the steam. I put the boules onto the stone, poured two cups of boiling water into the steam pan and shut the door.

The steam, alas, found a way out -- right up through the digital readout and computer controls for my gas oven. The display started to blink in and out. I removed the foil and opened the door to let the steam out, but it was too late. It still works, but the dial and the readout don't match. When I've set it for 400, for example, the readout shows 280. And when it finally heats up, I get an F2 error, whatever that is.

So no pizza Saturday night. A fellow from Sears is coming by on Tuesday to fix it. I hope.


Bread tasted good though. Oh well.

JMonkey's picture

I've got folks lined up all the way til June to get some sourdough starter, thanks to my Craig's List ad, and in the past two days, I gave away my first batch. Two baggies of whole-wheat starter and two baggies of white. Since it's a stiff dough, it's easier to give away. Wouldn't want to try bringing the 100% stuff to the office on my bike.

I also finally finished up my sourdough primer document to go along with it. Three recipes, conversion advice for tranforming commercial yeast recipes into sourdough, and standard care and feeding info.

Looks like I might end up getting some free organic greens and herbs out of it, too. A fellow who delivers to Boston every weekend told me he'd gladly share some of his harvest for some starter.

Cool stuff.

luc's picture

I have been on a baking frenzy. :)

I guess that's the beauty of making several batches of poolish and biga acida at the same time. It was either bake or lose the preferments. So bake it was.

In addition to preferment breads I also did two 1.5lb loaves of Lexia Raisin and Macadamia bread from a slightly modified formula. No lexia raisins and no macadamias. Oops.
But I did manage to get a full cup of dried figs in there with a hand full of golden raisins and a cup full of toasted walnuts. I have to say that is a very tasty mixture. The flavors seemt to balance well.

With these two loaves I did them in 9X5X3" pans and they proofed beautifuly after sitting overnight in the fridge. That wasn't part of the original formula but due to the ovens being busy with pizza's I couldn't manage to get them in - so into the fridge they went. The next day when I had time to fit them in the oven I had taken them out of the fridge about an hour and half beforehand - and then they proofed a tad longer - they were huge in the pans when I finally popped them into the oven. But they baked just fine... well except one slight thing I noticed...

The oven was very hot when I popped them in because it was at pizza temp. and so the outside browned very dark - not burnt - but very dark - not like I've ever seen it before. It wasn't carbonized - but it did a shade past where I would normally put a good crust for a 'European' style crust (even though this is a sweet bread).

I am wondering if there wasn't more carmelization of the sugars than I am used to seeing?
Did the figs and the raisins effect it at all?

Hmm - food for thought. At any rate - I went through one complete loaf myself about 30 minutes after they had cooled.
Too tasty that loaf.

One of the other batches that I did was Anadama bread - but again modified - one of the sous chef's misplaced my corn meal soaker and so I had to use the mixed grain soaker that I had started the day before. This one has buckwheat, oats, quinoa and flax seed in it. I have tended to avoid using oats for other than decorative toppings because I find the flavor to be a bit too earthy/chalky... as well in a soaker they tend to almost disentegrate. But as I had no corn meal soaker I had no choice but to use this. Though dough wouldn't wait as I had already retarded it overnight in the fridge - where even then it still rose a bit.

Ok so anyhow - I managed to use a fine cornmeal to top them - and they came out brilliantly. The color and shape are stunning. I wacked them onto some cooling racks and placed them on the table nearest the counter in the restaurant. We had a steady flow of customers all day long and right before 5 o'clock a table of six came in. Two kids etc. - they seem to have come back from hiking as they were dripping with sweat and had walking sticks. The start of the hot and rainy season in Hong Kong. The father I guess it was - too one look at the bread and grabbed a loaf and just mauled it. I mean he tore into it with a vegance. I was SHOCKED!!! I was somewhat horrified! AAAAGGGHHH!!!!!
My babies had been left out on the table and some wild and ravenous hiker had come by and mauled them! Or at least one of them. LOL! :)

I am supposed to be baking these for sale and of course - that means people can eat them any way they choose. But somehow it was heartbreaking to see my wonderful bread torn apart like that. LOL! I think I've been traumatized!

No butter, no olive oil... nothing... just carnage. :)
I jumped up as fast as I could and offered to cut the loaf for him - bread knife in hand. Though I must admit I don't know whether I was going to cut the loaf or defend it to the death! :)

So now I only have one Anadama loaf left in the breadcase. Perhaps he/she too is traumatized. I mean being so close and all to the carnage. Poor thing.

Of course they bought it along with meals for 6 and drinks - so I can't complain really. But from now on I think I'll run a cordon of razor wire around my loaves while they're cooling. :)

I guess that's testament to power of bread - especially freshly baked Anadama bread from the oven.
Never, ever underestimate it.

I added


Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries