The Fresh Loaf

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Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I have a problem. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

So here I am, 7 weeks after giving birth to a wonderful baby boy...and I have 12 loaves of bread in various stages of becoming tasty, crusty goodness.

I am not a professional. I do not have one of those nice ovens that will fit all this bread. I have no couche for the insanely wet rosemary potato bread other than the piece of thin natural linen that I picked up at the fabric store for half off. I have to bake loaves 3 at a time, part of the time on a half sheet pan, so that they all get done at the right times.

The smell wafting through my house, though...heaven. Really. The smell of bread baking makes up for the hours of hard work I've put in over the last 24 hours.

Really, the hardest part was making the dough last night. My husband works second shift, meaning he's gone from about 2:30 until about midnight, so during the time I was mixing up doughs I had both kids to take care of, some laundry to do, dishes to keep up with, and dinner to make for Rinoa and I. Not only did I get everything done, but I figured I'd have time to do not only the baked potato and rosemary potato breads that I planned to take to Christmas as gifts, but also a loaf or two of real gingerbread to have with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

I think I've renewed my confidence in my ability to successfully multitask. I quit baking while I was pregnant because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to spend enough time with my daughter after having the new baby and that she'd be forever scarred by my inability to play with her constantly. I can't believe I thought that now, but pregnancy does strange things to you. I now know that I can do my baking, which is something I do for myself as much as to provide my family with the best food possible, and still not neglect my family.

I have to admit that this crazy baking spree was most likely not the best way to reacquiant myself with my rational mind.

I'll share pictures when I'm done. Just thought I'd share my brain today. :)

ejm's picture


I'm really excited about this crusty loaf that I had formed into a ring. The bread turned out fabulously. I used a relatively new way of shaping that I learned from watching this YouTube video and then left the shaped bread in the fridge overnight and baked it the next morning. The crust is even more caramelized and crispy and the crumb has a wonderful nutty flavour.

We served this bread for a recent festive dinner with an appetizer of Moules Marinière (mussels poached in white wine, butter, onions, garlic and parsley)

We loved the Mussels so much that we think we'll serve them (with more of this bread) for Christmas Eve dinner. And maybe again on New Year's Even dinner too....



Please take a look at my annual Advent calendar (but don’t even THINK about peeking ahead).


(edit: ooops, I forgot to sign my name)


smasty's picture

KAF printed this recipe in a recent catalog (click on "recipe" to get there).  I totally love them!  I bake them a couple times a week.  They are very very crunchy...sort of like thin biscotti.  They are SO easy, and healthy too.  I make them for my chip-loving husband as a much better choice for him.  So I've found that slicing them into long strips (with a pizza cutter after the dough is rolled) makes them easier to eat (roll out the dough on your counter (thin!), it's not sticky, slice into strips, use a dough scraper to lift the strips and move to a 1/2 sheet).  Also I've found (by accident!) that baking them on a sheet on a rack BELOW my stone yields wonderful results (the very next rack down from the stone).  In the last minute of baking they curl up toward the stone giving them a very charming shape (the longer thinner ones curl best).  The first time I made them I followed the recipe exactly, and they were good.  But you can quickly get creative with these.  I've made stevia/cinnamon/raisin crackers that are great.  The batch in this picture are very spicy, made with chile molido puro--the hot version (mexican chile powder).  The dough base is perfect for taking on any flavors you want to try...sweet or savory.  For maximum curl be sure the strips don't touch each other, and be careful removing from the oven, they can curl enough to tangle with the rack above (with the stone on it). 

belle's picture

Can anyone suggest any websites that are offering free shipping this time of year?  I am looking to purchase sourdough starter, bannetons, etc. and would prefer to purchase them without the additional shipping costs.

While I am at it, Merry Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year to all..thanks for your generosity in sharing and exchanging with me.


CaptainBatard's picture

I have been getting my stiff starter ready to make Pandoro and Panettone....and decided to not throw out the extra starter and make  Pain au Levain. I started in the morning with coffee and  got every thing together and realized that I didn't have any heat in the house....burrrr.....threw my coat on...mixed and shaped the dough in record time and put the breads to proof in the warmest place in the oven. Believe it or not i just had a new gas heater installed and this is the second time this week they had to come over work on it...first it was a bad water they put in a new gas regulator....not much else can go wrong! That is what I thought...the heat went on and the repair guy left and I huddled around the radiator to get warm....and with minutes it cut off again....before to long the repair guy was back and the breads (which I thought were way overproofed) were in the oven. The good news is I have heat again...and from the way they look....I think I have a strong starter.

Pain Au Levain  (Hamelman) page 158


hansjoakim's picture

You know, the old "ice-cubes-in-a-hot-skillet" routine is summer, isn't it? ;)

I was sitting in a sauna a couple of weeks ago, pondering nothing in particular, when this large, heavy-breathing guy shuffled down to the hot rocks, threw water on them, and climbed back up to his favourite spot. Watching the sudden burst of steam rising from the hot rocks lead from one thing to another, and I eventually picked up some small rocks on my way back home, thinking I could put them to good use for my next baking session. I put them in an old, disused bread pan, and placed them on the bottom floor of the oven.

Steaming apparatus


I also noticed I was running low on my bread flour (ah! The horror... the horror...), so I ran over to my grocery store, credit card in hand, ready to score more. This being the festive season and all, and many folks busy baking all kinds of butter cookies I guess, they were out of my regular flour. Well, I picked up two bags of flour from another producer and went back home. This flour has an extraction rate of 80% and an ash around .68, so it contains some more minerals than my usual flour (which is extracted at 75% and has an ash .55). This new one is probably not too far off a French T65 style flour. Both flours are pretty similar in protein content: 11.7% vs. 12%. During the first couple of feedings, I noticed a marked increase in starter activity (probably not very surprising, due to the increased mineral content), and where the starter previously ripened in 12 hrs., it now looked fit and perky after merely 8.

Earlier today I had my first test run with the rock-steaming-thing in the oven, and I baked a whole-wheat pain au levain:

Levain new steam


and the 5-grain levain, both from "Bread":

5 grain levain new steam

And the crumb shot:

5 grain levain new steam

I was very happy with the outcome, and I think the new flour also lends even more taste to the breads. I guess I don't have any other option but to make the change permanent! Also, the new method of producing steam generated generous amounts of steam initially, and kept the surface of the breads moist until they were both fully expanded, roughly 15 mins. into the bake. Then I hauled the bread pan out, so the loaves could finish baking in a dry oven.

Finally, something for the coffee! I'm not much of a cookie baker, but it's that time of year, isn't it? Out with the Santa beard and the cookie recipes! Here's this years' bake:

Oat and date chews and cornmeal-raisin cookies
Oat and date chews and cornmeal-raisin cookies


Hazelnut butter cookies and double chocolate biscotti

Hazelnut butter cookies and double chocolate biscotti


Chewy trail cookies and chocolate chip cookies

Chewy trail cookies and chocolate chip cookies

SumisuYoshi's picture

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

After the pear bread worked so well, I got it into my head to try some other fresh fruits in breads. I really like strawberries so they were the fruit that immediately came to mind, even if this isn't the best season for them (ones that are only a bit ripe actually work better for bread due to their crispness). Then when I thought of strawberries, bananas came to mind too, they make such a wonderful pair. So, banana puree providing hydration, and strawberry chunks in the dough. But it could really use a nut in it too, so I chose macadamias, the only nut that really felt to me like it went with the two fruits. I also took that inspiration a step further and added macadamia oil and butter to the dough. This bread is quite moist, and a bit heavy, though not in the stone in the stomach manner!

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

Makes: 2 medium, or 3 small loaves

Time: Day 1: Elaborate starter. Day 2: Mix final dough, fold dough and retard. Day 3: Shape, proof, and bake. If using commercial yeast, you can do this in 2 days. Day 1: Make preferment. Day 2: Mix final dough, fold and ferment, shape and proof, bake.


  Ounces Grams Percent
Bread Flour 8 oz 230 gm 100%
Water 5.25 oz 150 gm 67%
66% Levain 3 oz 85 gm 38%
Final Dough      
Starter 16.25 oz 460 gm 87.8%
Bread Flour 18.5 oz 525 gm 100%
Water 6.5 oz 185 gm 35.1%
Banana Puree 9.5 oz 270 gm 51.4%
Diced Strawberries 7 oz 200 gm 37.8%
Macadamia Nuts 3.5 oz 100 gm 18.9%
Chopped Macadamia Nuts 3.5 oz 100 gm 18.9%
Macadamia Butter 1 oz 28.35 5.4%
Macadamia Oil .5 oz 14 gm 2.7%
Salt .25 oz 7 gm 1.4%
Final Weight      
  66.5 oz 1900 gm 359.5%



  1. Elaborate your starter however you choose, but ending up with the same flour and water weights. (or make a commercial yeast preferment) Allow it to rise overnight.
  2. The next day: Puree the bananas, dice the strawberries, and chop half of your macadamia nuts..
  3. Stir together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cream the starter or preferment with the water, macadamia butter, macadamia oil and banana puree. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and mix until the dough forms a loose ball.
  4. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes, they knead it very briefly to make sure everything is well incorporated. Flatten the dough out and spread as much of the strawberries and macadamia nuts. Fold the dough over itself, give it a few kneading turns then add as much of the remaining strawberries and macadamias as possible, continue you've used all of them up. You will probably need to add a fair amount of flour during this step, the strawberries will be adding a lot of water to the dough.
  5. Form the dough into a ball and put it in a covered and oiled bowl to ferment. Give the dough a stretch and fold at the first and second hour marks, immediately after the second fold make sure the dough is well covered and retard it overnight in the refrigerator.
  6. The next day, gently remove the dough from the bowl and slowly degas it. Seperate the dough into two or three pieces, and shape them into whatever shape you are planning on making, this dough works well as boules.
  7. Place the shaped loaves in a couche, towel lined bowl, or brotforms to proof. The dough is a bit too slack to rise well on just a baking sheet.
  8. When the loaves are proofed, preheat the oven to 500° with a baking stone (and a cloche bell if you plan to use one, or a cast iron pan for steaming) on the middle shelf. Just before the loaves go in the oven, give them a quick scoring.
  9. Place loaves in the oven, reduce to 450, and bake for 15 minutes covered if using a cloche (if not using a cloche, pour 1/2 to 1 cup of almost boiling water into the cast iron pan when you put the loaves in the oven), then rotate the loaves 180° and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes. When the loaves are finished, remove from the oven to cooling rack and cool at least one hour before slicing.

One thing I was surprised about with this bread is the strength of the macadamia flavor. I was hoping for a bit more strawberry and banana flavor, but as it is they provided a nice backdrop for the macadamia flavor that infuses even parts of the bread with no nut pieces in it. So, it wasn't exactly what I set out to create, but it ended up being delicious in an entirely different way. As a note, if you don't have macadamia nut butter, you can probably make your own in a food processor, blender, magic bullet, etc. with nuts and just a little bit of oil. You can also substitute another oil for the macadamia oil, but it won't add quite the same flavor. And this is, of course, my weekly submission to YeastSpotting!

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

Strawberry Banana Macadamia Nut Sourdough

Marni's picture

A few relatives suggested that they would love a loaf of bread as a holiday gift this year.  I took that idea and had a little fun.  When we gathered last Sunday, I brought a basket containing five different types of bread in different sizes and shapes for them to choose from.  It was very fun to share my love of baking and everyone went home with a few loaves.  Here's the basket:


The breads were Susan's Sourdough, Rosemary and Herb Sourdough, Chocolate Porter Bread, Amish Bread, and a loaf I made up of White Whole Wheat, Whole Spelt and Agave.

It's hard to tell from the picture but this is a pretty big basket, over two feet across.

I had a lot of fun planning and baking and hope my family asks again next year!

Mebake's picture

A failed endeavour this time, when i hoplessly tried to braid a wholewheat challah as per Peter Reinhart's Wholegrain book, and ended up fusing the braids into a lump of dough and making a boule instead! I may have to reduce the hydration in the challah next time, and the braids may well hold shape.

Anyway, into the Boules i ventured, and this is how i made it:

(All directions are in accordance with P.R Wholgrain breads)

1- Day (1):

- Warm water 1.25 cups + Yeast 1 tsp (not recom. by P.R)+ fine wholegrain flour 3.1 cups

- Mixed by hand, Autolyzed for 10 min, shaped into a ball and set into an oiled bowl, covered with plas. wrap.(BIGA)

- Same ingredients as above but with salt (1 tablespoon) instead of yeast. (SOAKER), shaped and covered with a plastic wrap.

- First (BIGA) goes to fridge or a really cool place, for at least 4 hours and maximum 3 days.

- Second (SOAKER) goes anywhere you want except v. cold or v. warm. for 24 hrs. More than that it has to go to fridge.


2- Day(2):

- First Dough (BIGA) is to be removed from the fridge 2 hrs prior to mixing into dough 2.

- After 2 hrs, cut BIGA, and cut SOAKER into small pieces flouring them as you do so that they won't stick to each other. Mix pieces into a large bowl interchangeably, then add honey (2 tbl)/ Butter/ oil whatever you may savour, and mix vigorously.

- allow the final dough to rest for 1/2 hour.

- Cover with a plastic bag, and allow to ferment until 1 1/2 - double.

-after 45 min or so, scrap the dough into a floured/ oiled/ watered space, and shape into a boule, degazzing as little as possible.

- put the boule into a basket mold/ banetton/ brotform/ to hold shape while fermenting the final time. Meanwhile preheat your oven.

- When boule has risen in 20 minutes to 1.5 its size, put it in the oven on a stone/ cookie tray.. and pur hot water into a hot skillet to generate steam.

- and you all know the rest.. 

I swear, the taste of this bread is far far superior than the storebought... no comparison, i could it this all day!!

Boule 1 (well a hybrid batard/boule) Just out of the oven:

Boule 2: baked in a thick iron skillet:

and ofcourse, the crumb of boule 1

inlovewbread's picture

I'm calling this "Mixed Flour" because I used a lot of different flours. I wanted to see if I could get the characteristics I wanted in the crumb by adjusting just the flours. It seemed to have worked, so here's what I used:

Again (It's a family/personal favorite :-)), I was following Susan's Simple Sourdough formula. Only hers doesn't call for so many flours!

50g Firm Starter (mine is 50% hydration composed of 10% rye and 90% AP)

205g Water

100g AP Flour (I used Wheat Montana)

100g Bread Flour (KA Bread Flour)

25g Durum Flour (also King Arthur)

25g Hard Red Whole Wheat (home-milled wheat berries)

50g Hard White Whole Wheat (home-milled wheat berries)

6g Salt (I used Hawaiian Sea Salt)

Method: Mix all by hand, rest 30 min. S+F three times at hour intervals. Let rise until double. Pre-shape, rest 15 min, shape. Into brotform and retard overnight. Out of fridge 2 hours, score and bake @450 covered for 20 min., uncovered for 20 more and 5 min in shut-off oven w/ door open.

Whew- that's quite the mishmash of flour, I know, but it tasted really good. I used the whole wheat because I want to start transitioning everything over to 100% whole wheat, but have to do it gradually. I also have tons of wheat berries that I need to use instead of buying more flour from the store! Not to mention the extra nutrition.

The reason I used the Durum is because I like the buttery flavor it lends to the bread and it seems to balance out the whole wheat flavor when added with freshly ground whole wheat. I've tried this in a couple of other things and it seems to neutralize that "earthy" flavor or any "bitter" tones from the hard red I suppose. 

And as for the 50/50 of AP and Bread flour- I like a mix of the really chewy/shiny crumb (from the BF) and a bit of "fluffyness" from the AP. The crumb: creamy/ buttery/ wheaty. 








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