The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Here's just a quick list of my favorite bread books:

A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman

Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective by Daniel T. DiMuzio

The Art of Handmade Bread: Contemporary European Recipes for the Home Baker by Dan Lepard

Good Bread Is Back: A Contemporary History of French Bread, the Way It Is Made, and the People Who Make It by Steven LaurenceKaplan and Catherine Porter

Artisan Baking Across America: The Breads, The Bakers, The Best Recipes by Maggie Glezer and Ben Fink

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Just back from a week in Vermont, baking under the tutelage of Jeffrey Hamelman, I was itching to get into my own kitchen and fire up the oven. But, what to make? We were going to have chicken gumbo for dinner the following day, so I chose a simple rustic bread. I had enough time for a preferment... check. I had the right flours... check. Okay, off to a good start!

I only wanted to bake two one-pound loaves, so I got out the calculator to scale everything to 1000 grams of dough---a nice round number (a little more than two pounds, I know, but I always lose some to the mixing bowl). Baker's math? Please. "It's no hill for a climber," as my husband would say. After all, I'd been crunching numbers for a week. I was ready. I mixed the pate fermentee and parked it on the counter to ripen overnight. Even though I had doubts about the calcutaled yeast amount, it matured right in the middle of the 12 to 16-hour window. Things are goin' really well.

Next up was figuring out the right water temperature for the dough to end up at 75ºF. But I don't really know the friction factor for my mixer, because it increases with mixing time. And my mixer doesn't follow the usual so-many-minutes-on-first-speed, second speed and so on, because it's not a KitchenAid or any of the usual mixers. I decided instead to wing it this time with cool room-temperature water, and calculate the factor for next time, from whatever temperature the dough turned out. The dough finished a little warm---81º---so I spread it a bit and let it sit on the granite for a few minutes to bring the temperature down to 75º. Still on track.

The bulk ferment and folds went like clockwork. The dough was nice and pillowy when it came time to divide, and I used my newly-learned Hamelman preshaping and shaping skills. (Jeffrey, you'd be so proud.) The loaves proofed in the time specified, and they looked great turned out of their willow baskets. The scoring even looked decent, so I am feelin' PRIT-ty good about myself ;-)

Into the preheated oven they went, as I systematically worked through my loading and steaming routine like a well choreographed dance---one that took me several sessions to get down... but I did. Right down to remembering to shut off the convection fan after I loaded and steamed my loaves (sometimes I forget), because I've found that the oven and stone heat more evenly with the fan, but the loaves open a little better without. Or so I thought. Turns out that maybe there's a bit of a catch...

I watched as the loaves started to spring, and then left the room for a few minutes. When I came back to check on them, one had bloomed quite nicely, but the other was struggling. They both looked the same going into the oven... I was vexed. Did I not cut deeply enough? The stone had preheated for more than an hour. There was plenty of steam. The crust was coming along beautifully. Maybe the universe just decided that I was getting a little too cocky.


The loaf on the left bloomed, the other not so much.   They sounded like a bowl of rice crispies once out of the oven. Is cracking like this during cooling a desireable thing or a defect? 


From the bread on the left in the oven shot, above.   The one on the right---not quite as open on the inside, either. No surprises there.

There was one thing in particular that puzzled me. This doesn't happen every time, but whenever it does, I've noticed it always seems to be the loaf on the right that doesn't open well. That can't be just a coincidence, can it? Time to put on my investigative hat. What do I have here to examine---two loaves of bread and an oven. The loaves were the same going into the oven, but different coming out. What happened in there?

I picked up each loaf to take a closer look. The crust looked about the same from one to the other... until I turned them over. The bottom on the loaf that failed to bloom was a little lighter than the top, and the bottom of the bigger loaf was a little darker than the top. They looked very different. Interesting. So here's my oven setup. What's wrong with this picture?


The steam pan is on the right side, you say---must have somethin' to do with that. Yes it does. But remember, I preheated for over an hour, with convection, so I know everything was good and evenly hot for all intents and purposes. And since the heat was coming from the back of the oven instead of up from the bottom, the pan couldn't have been blocking the stone. And then the light bulb moment...

I preheated the stone to 450ºF. And what's the temperature of water when it's converted to steam? Less than half of that. And where does steam go when left to its own devices? Up. See where I'm going with this? A good amount of steam rises up under the right side of my stone, sucking the heat out from under the loaf on that side. But not every time. Just when I remember to turn off the convection fan right away. When I forget for a few minutes, the fan diverts it away from the bottom of the stone until the steam stops billowing out of the pan. It all makes perfect sense.... now.

So, I guess my new steaming routine, at least for now, will include a few minutes of convection at the beginning of the bake, just until steam stops rolling out of the pan. I will also start looking for a cast iron loaf pan that will fit my configuration a little better than the skillet, and hopefully eliminate the need to leave the fan on. I think the thing I like most about bread is that you never stop learning and refining. Well that, and it keeps you humble.   -dw

To see my fix, skip to:

proth5's picture

 This entry is dedicated to - well, you know who you are...

I have been thinking a great deal lately about the influences that Chinese and Japanese culture have had in my life.

My long time in cross cultural Penang, Malaysia has cemented certain Chinese rituals in my life and the approach of the Lunar New Year has brought my exposure to Chinese culture to the foreground.  My imminent return to the Ryukyu (Okinawa) and my daily Japanese language lessons (courtesy of Rosetta Stone) remind me of the influence that Japan has had on me throughout my entire life.

As one might guess from my user name, there is no genetic reason for this.  My heritage (complete with blonde hair and lactose tolerance) is purely Northern European. I joke about my "little Japanese grandmother" teaching me things at her knee, but my grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch and although she would have been fascinated with some of the things that I have learned, they could not be farther from the world in which she lived.

I also joke about "becoming invisible" in Okinawa.  Yes, the big, pale woman with the blonde, curly hair can hardly be seen in a crowd. Nice fantasy.  In fact, although adults are much too polite, children stare at me like the out of place creature that I am.

But Japan has been part of my life since childhood.  The same strange winds that caused me to learn French as a small child sent me a good friend whose family was transferred to Japan.  On her return visits we explored Japanese traditional fashion, gardening, paper folding, and, of course, the elegant use of chopsticks with the intensity that only nerdy children can bring.  As a result, the koi that swim in my backyard pond are the realization of a childhood dream, my Christmas tree is decorated with origami, and my obsession with linen is only equaled by my obsession with Japanese indigo (neither one an inexpensive obsession- best to stick with baking.)

So what does any of this have to do with bread?  I have become convinced that it has a lot to do with my approach to bread baking.

In one of my alternate lives I collected the works of a Japanese printmaker - Shigeki Kuroda.  In Japanese fashion this artist has devoted himself to one subject area.  That subject is bicycles and umbrellas in the rain.  He has produced infinite variations on this very narrow theme in an attempt to explore every aspect of it.   Here I recognize my method of endless repetition of what seems to be identical formulas with tiny variations attempting to understand every aspect of a particular type of loaf

One of my luxuries while in Okinawa is breakfast at my hotel.  Every little dish is just as good as it can be - scrambled eggs are perfectly creamy - raw squid is perfectly fresh - the coffee is better than what I have had in Paris.  Why bread is without taste (although beautiful) is a mystery to me and I have come to the conclusion that it must be a cultural preference, not a flaw.

So immediately upon my arrival for a brief visit home (to do those things that are required to keep my life from shredding during my next absence) my instinct was to bake baguettes.  This break from baking represented the longest time in between bakes for me in a number of years. My levain had been cared for by the person who is caring for my pets and was in top shape. As I baked my standard formula yet again, in my never ending attempt to reach absolute perfection (didn't make it, yet) I was relieved to learn that I hadn't forgotten how to bake.

Then one day I mixed up a levain pate fermentée for another purpose and changed my mind.  I decided to make a pate fermentée based levain baguette.  After all, it was time to explore this different aspect of the same bread.

The formula is simplicity in itself.  It is lean dough using King Arthur All Purpose flour.  The pate fermentée was at 63% hydration with 2% salt.  The starter was 25% of the total weight of the pate fermentée.  15% of the flour was prefermented and the overall formula was at 65% hydration with 2% salt.   My total dough weight for two baguettes was 20.6 ounces.  Like the annoying authors of physics textbooks, I will leave the calculation of the exact formula weights as an exercise for the reader.

I used my standard method of mixing by "folding in the bowl."  I added the preferment in small blobs at the beginning of the mix (oh, the horror!) because I wanted to avoid any heavy duty effort in incorporating the preferment into some already partially developed dough.

The dough had a bulk ferment of 5.5 hours with a single stretch and fold at 2.5 hours.  I was frankly unhappy with the dough development after 5.5 hours and had resolved myself to concluding that "sometimes the bear gets you."  I really think that the bulk fermentation was affected by the salt in the preferment and if I were determined to use this method, I might want to increase the percentage of flour prefermented to compensate on the next try. But I was out of time and shaped the loaves in my usual fashion, proofed them for about an hour and slashed and baked as usual.

The results follow.  My sojourn in the Ryukyu, alas, has done nothing for my photography skills (I really don't know why these pictures come out so pale, the flash on my camera apparently can't be disabled...).

The loaves

The crumb

Not bad.  We could play "list the flaws" but the doctors at "the place" have told me that this is not healthy (and if all y'all can't find the major shaping flaw, then I'm not going to tell you.)  The taste was just a bit more sour than usual, but that is not very sour.  The crust was crispy after cooling.

Once again, I will point out that the open crumb did not depend upon having a high hydration (because 65% is hardly a high hydration) or my not deflating the dough (iron hand in velvet glove still applies - but I'm not afraid to smack down a fermentation bubble if it gets in my way) but from a proper fermentation.  This crumb was not as open as my typical crumb, but was far from unacceptable.

So as I prepare for my return to the Ryukyu and a longer break from baking than I can currently imagine (unless I can get a job at the local bakery) I'm content with this foray into an infinitesimally different style of baguette baking.  I look forward to sticky rice, pig ears, bitter melon, raw fish, and seaweed at breakfast and the next adventure.

Happy Baking!

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

1.  It's OK to screw up and start over.

2.  Your 1st fermentation is finished when your dough as approximately doubled, and holds the impression of your finger when you poke it...  If it's not ready, keep waiting...

3.  Full sourdoughs are unpredictable and very dependant on some of the following factors: the strength of your starter, and the temperature of your kitchen...

4.  Sourdoughs can take a long time to rise...

5.  Things change when you change your flour, hydration, amount of yeast, temperature, etc...  Basically things change when you change things...

6.  It's still OK to screw up and start over...

7.  The more mistakes you make, the more you learn...


JoPi's picture

Here is a video on grilled pizza. I've done pizza on my BBQ grill.  This is a bit different.

It looks delicious!

ehanner's picture

There has been much discussion lately about the rather remarkable Gerard Rubaud as written by MC. Everyone seems to like the flavor of the multi grain levain and dough mix but the method is a trial for home bakers due to the tiny amounts involved in the starter.

To make a long story short, I decided to make one loaf which means the first stage of the levain could be mixed in a large thimble with a tooth pick. Since all of the starter feeds and the dough use the same mix of flours, I added it all up and mixed it all together in one batch as dsnyder suggested in his second try at this. It makes the process far less cumbersome since you only have to measure once all the small amounts.

I also weighed out the salt and divided it into 1/4's and added a little from 1 pile spread out in all 3 levains. I hope that is clear. In practice I just sprinkled a pinch in each build to slow it down a bit as per the author.

I also broke from my usual method of adding the water (for the dough) to the levain and creating a slurry. Rubaud says use the water in an autolyse and THEN add the levain and salt. All small things but in the end I think it makes a difference.

All of us that are baking this bread are after the BEST bread we can make and attention to the smallest detail may make a difference.

I will not duplicate Davids most excellent recipe table it can be found here. Also Shiao-Ping's wonderful front page post is here. And MC's Interview which started this off is here.

I'm quite happy with this second attempt at this bread. It did smell wonderful in the house tonight and I can only imagine how it must be to be in a room of 50 or so right out of the oven. Many breads taste good but in my experience not all of them smell great after baking. The bread is just slightly warm to the touch and there is no sour tang. Just a full flavored translucent and creamy crumb and a thin crispy crust. Very nice.


inlovewbread's picture

This bread is from Maggie Glezer's gem of a book: Artisan Baking. I have been wanting to make this bread for a while because it was named after the Columbia River. As a Washington State native, I had to make it. I'm glad I did as this bread has become my new personal favorite. 


Bread Flour 45%, All-Purpose Flour 45%, Whole Wheat Flour 8%, Whole Rye Flour 2%, Toasted Wheat Germ 3%, Barley malt syrup 3%, Water 67%, Levain 41%*, Salt 2%* (*Glezer's formula specifies 41% but by my calculations it was more like 46%. I used 30g 50% hydration firm white starter to innoculate 150g bread flour at 63% hydration (63g water). *I decreased the salt from 2.4% to 2% overall.

I made a small change to the original recipe in method. Instead of mixing for 10 minutes (!) which I thought was a bit much, I mixed to shaggy mass then let rest (autolyse) for about 50 (instead of 20) minutes before adding the salt and levain. I then did two stretch and folds for the first two 45-minute intervals of the 5 hour bulk ferment. The dough was then divided, shaped and proofed for 4 more hours. I also changed the baking from what was recommended in the book. I baked at 500 degrees F for the first 5 minutes with steam, then turned the oven down to 460F, then 425F for the last 10 minutes, for a total of 34 minutes baking time.

This is the best ear/ bloom that I have ever gotten on a loaf. It was really fun to watch it open up in the oven. 

We like the toasted wheat germ that was added to this bread. It adds a lot of nuttiness and depth of flavor along with a small amount of rye and white whole wheat. Some others on TFL have tried it with spelt with good results. I might try that. The picture above shows one that I slashed twice, and the other tried to follow the "grapevine pattern" instructions described in the book. THere is only one small off-to-the-side picture of the actual bread, so I wasn't quite sure what Glezer meant. My attempt wasn't pretty- too many scores. The below picture is of some sort of shape I made-up today to avoid a disaster. I tried shaping these batards differently than I usually do (actually, I tried GR's technique shown here) and the batard ended up too long for my baking stone. (Not to discount this shaping method, just my learning curve error to blame) So I made a coronne/ ciabatta shape to fit. Worked pretty well, and I kind of like the look :-)

Wonderful flavor and texture, I love this bread.

meadmaker's picture

Hello and welcome to my Blog!

After deciding to make some bread today, I discovered this site while googling recipes for yeast/starters.

As my baby, Tyler, and I are both coming down with a cold, I planned to stay at home today and what better thing to do than make bread! Well, two more reasons for this; first, I'm making some Ethiopian Doro'Wat for dinner so am making some 'authentic' Injera Bread to go with it.. from Teff flour and water. Second, I wanted to make some bread for myself as the cost of the [bad] bread in my area is now too high for our small household budget. So, hazzah!... Challah bread it is. :-)  I just remembered how nice the Challah bread from Wholefoods in La Jolla, CA, is; they sell some organic baked-same-day bread from a baker out there and woooh! Yummy! How hard could it be?


Challah bread came out looking beautiful! However, the taste was bland. :-P  The only place I skimped was using old bread flour. Will try again. Meanwhile, the Injera dough is still sitting, waiting for the Doro'Wat to be done which will be in about 40 minutes. At that time, I'll add salt to the dough to stop the yeast, then make them on the griddle. Stay tuned!..


trailrunner's picture

I have had a busy but very productive day . I made the decision to do a large bake of the Nury so that I could really study the wet dough and make adjustments as the day went by rather than having to wait 1-2 weeks to bake again. We have a large party coming up so the bread will be perfect for that. Gotta watch my Saints win the Super Bowl !

I took a lot of pics in sequence so that you can have an idea of how the dough should look at different stages. I know this has helped me a lot in dealing with the artisinal breads . I hope it will help others too. I didn't get picks of the levain or the dough during folding...sorry..I will get the amazing windowpane next time I promise.

I made enough levain so that I could make 3 double batches. I then made 3 large loaves from each double batch so the loaves came out really nicely sized for sandwiches etc.  You will also see that I used rice flour on the counter when cutting the wet dough. The first batch this was an experiment since I don't like the way flour works at all on a counter under wet doughs. After seeing how splendidly this worked I will use it always. Almost none of the rice flour sticks to the dough but the dough , in turn ,doesn't stick to the counter at all so transfer to the parchment is simple . I sprayed the dough cutter with water and wet my finger tips. This prevented anything from sticking to anything else. I had semolina on the parchment because we like the taste so much with the rye bread. I also learned that the dough cutter makes an ugly straight sided loaf so after the 1st one of those I took my wet fingertips and reshaped the cut sides/ends of the loaves after transfer.

Here are the pics...starting with the dough as it came out of the fridge. You will note there are 3 buckets. I took one out waited 45 min and took another out and waited again 45 min and then took out the last. You will see the difference in the dough as it bubbled up while attaining room temp. The 45 min wait between each batch gave time for the 30 min bake and then upping the temp in the oven to 500 again and allowed time to cut and transfer the dough. The formula says to bake at 350 but if you preheat to 500 and then immediately turn back to 460 it allows for misting the bread w/o cooling the oven too much.

just out of fridge after 24 hr. retarding: Photobucket after 1 hr: Photobucket all three buckets--45 min. lag between them starting from left to right : Photobucket dough poured out onto rice flour : Photobucket cut with wet dough cutter--note straight sides of dough...didn't make this mistake again :) Photobucket into the 500 degree oven and quick spritzt with water several times and turn back temp to 460: Photobucket great oven spring ! Photobucket first 3 finished loaves: Photobucket gorgeous open crumb: Photobucket my reward: Photobucket

turosdolci's picture

A carrot cake with an Italian twist, this is a light moist cake that is an old recipe of my family. Sorry folks I forgot to add the bolg address.


Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries