The Fresh Loaf

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a_warming_trend's blog

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Yet again, it's been way too long since I last posted. I won't dwell on the reasons, because we all have them...the important part is that I've still been baking, even in these crazy North Carolina summer temperatures!

I'll focus on posting some photos of bakes from the last few months, but I also wanted to share a few thoughts I've been mulling recently 

1) Bulk fermentation:

-I've been transfixed by the question of "ideal % rise during bulk fermentation" for standard flour SD loaves. I've actually settled at more rise/development than many sources suggest. Rather than 20% or 30% rise, I like 50%-80% rise. That is the amount of development that gives me confidence that my dough "has life." Actually, my weird metric has come to be this: The ideal bulk fermented dough is voluminous and vibrant, but doesn't form multiple bubbles when poured from the container for shaping; the ideal bulk fermentation develops the dough JUST BEFORE the big bubbles form, but doesn't cause them to bulge and pop during shaping. 

-I've had to comet to terms with the fact that I prefer redarding during bulk fermentation to retarding during the final proof. With my hectic work schedule, i just feel more able to control my baking when I retard during bulk. And to that end..

-I have to again reiterate my "freezer trick." When I realized that I would be doing most of my final proofing at room temperature, I started wracking my brain for ways to create a "mock cold proof" environment. My solution is to place loaves proofed at room temperature in the freezer for 15-20 minutes at the end of proofing. I have done amateur controlled experiments and found those that spent a bit of time in the freezer to have better ovenspring -- and to be easier to score. And on that note...

2) Scoring -

- I have been experimenting with proofing about 10 minutes less than I would normally in hopes of achieving better ears (especially since most of my loaves are quite high-hydration) and I have had good results. 

-I have been thinking a lot about my perspective on the scoring of bread. I know that the focus among serious bakers is on the flavor of the loaf, and I absolutely agree that flavor should be paramount. But as a home baker who sees bread-baking as a whole process...from initial mix, to final mix, through scoring and baking...I can't let go of the idea of making a loaf beautiful via scoring pattern. I've seen so many friends thrilled by receiving loaves with creative patterns...and I myself have experienced the thrill of seeing the way a new scoring pattern bloomed in the oven. So I guess....I absolutely think that the appearance of bread should never be the ultimate focus...but I think it's relevant. And fun. And lovely. 

My next challenge will be controlling better for ambient temperature at various stages!

Before I share my photos, I'll share one formula I've developed in the last few months. 

Sourdough with Super-Sharp Cheddar and Cayenne

(Or, Cheese Straw Sourdough!)

This formula was inspired by a delicacy that everyone from the Southern U.S. has had at least once: The Cheese Straw. I wanted to create a loaf with a flavor reminiscent of that extreme tang and mellow heat on the back end of the flavor. I think I got there with my most recent attempt, so I'd like to share the formula. Perfect for lovers of spice, cheese, and serious tang...

NOTE: To make the final dough a bit easier to handle, you can reduce the amount of levain/starter to 100 g. Simply increase the initial flour to 450 g and the initial water to 325 g, keeping the hydration at 75%, but allowing more of the flour and water to develop gluten during the autolyse. I find that I can get to 80% hydration easily if I reduce the levain % enough. Remember that you will have to increase bulk fermentation time if you reduce levain %.


425 g bread flour (or all-purpose; substituting in 75 g of whole wheat is also an option)

300 g cool water

150 g mature 100% hydration starter

10-11 g salt (to taste)

5 g non-diastatic malt powder (can substitute honey) 1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp paprika (smoked, if you have it!)

1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I recommend trying it once with 1/4 tsp and seeing if you want more heat; I prefer the mellow kick that 1/4 tsp imparts!)

120-140 g extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into very small cubes


1) Feed your starter or create a separate levain; however you want to do this is fine; just make sure to have 150 g of 100% hydration starter by time you're ready to mix the final dough.

2) Combine the flour and cool water in a large food-safe container with a lid, and mix very well with a fork or dough whisk. Don't be afraid to pick the mass up and punch it down to well-incorporate all of the flour. (Make sure to mix this until every last bit of flour is well-hydrated, or it will be difficult to add the levain and other ingredients to mix the final dough!) Allow the flour and water to autolyse at room temperature for 2-10 hours. In my experience, the long autolyse contributes to both a more open crumb and a darker, more complex crust.

3) Add your levain and all of the other ingredients, and squish between your fingers until all of the spices, salt, honey, and cheese cubes seem to be well-incorporated, and you don't have any obvious lumps (other than cheese). You do not need to develop any gluten at this stage.

4) Stretch-and-fold the dough every 30 minutes for 2 hours (4 times total). Your first two folding sessions should be longer and more vigorous. Don't be afraid to really slap the dough against the

container during your first fold -- just be sure not to allow the dough to tear. Stretching -- even really far -- strengthens the gluten. Tearing will weaken the structure you've been building.

5) Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, or until it has increased in volume about 40%. You will want your ultimate bulk fermented dough to have increased about 60-70%, but no more. The rest of bulk fermentation will take place in the refrigerator.

6) Place the container in the refrigerator for at least 6 and up to 24 hours. If you know you are going to retard for 24 hours, you can give it less time at room temperature before retarding.

7) Remove the container from the refrigerator. Shape the loaf or loaves however you desire; you can see that I shaped two small batards, which is my all-time favorite in terms of crust-to-crumb ratio and crumb texture, but the sky is the limit here!

8) Allow to proof at room temperature. The timing will vary widely; my apartment is quite warm in the summer, so I allow for 2 hours for one large loaf, 40 minutes for small batards, 30 minutes for baguettes. Allow the loaf to rise 40-50% in the final proof.

9) OPTIONAL: Place proofed loaf/loaves in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before scoring. This helps greatly with smoothness of scoring and ovenspring with high-hydration doughs, I find!

10) Bake at 475 f for 15 minutes with steam, then 20-25 minutes without steam. I baked my loaves directly on the stone, using a turkey roaster lid to create steam in that first 15 minutes. If you are baking on a stone, I suggest laying parchment paper under the loaves, because the melted cheese will make its way (rather seductively!) onto your baking surface.


I realized that I didn't include pictures of my cheese straw sourdough in the original post, so here they are:

And here are some of my loaves from the last few months...



a_warming_trend's picture

Hello, Fresh Loafers! I haven't posted a formula in awhile, and I think that this one for 76% hydration batards with rosemary and cream cheese is nice and reliable. 

550 g all-purpose or bread flour (substitute in 70 g whole wheat if you're going for country-style)
410 g cool water
100 g 100% hydration active white starter
12 g salt
6 g non-diastatic malt powder (sub brown sugar or honey if necessary)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of fresh, very finely chopped rosemary (I used 1.5)
40 g cream cheese
40 g pate fermentee (optional)

1) Feed your starter/mix your levain such that you have 100 g of active starter by the time you want to mix your final dough.
2) Mix flour and water in a food safe container with a lid, and autolyse for 1-10 hours (I like a very long autolyse when I'm able to plan for it; it often works out that I allow my starter to ferment while autolysis is happening!)
3) Add starter, rosemary, cream cheese, pepper, salt, malt, and pate fermentee to the flour + water mixture. Pinch and squeeze until combined, and then stretch or slap-and-fold for 3-4 minutes.
4) Stretch-and-fold every 30 minutes for 2 hours.
5) Allow the dough to rest at room temperature until increased about 20% in size, between 30 minutes and 2 hours, then transfer the container to the refrigerator.
6) Retard in a refrigerator no warmer than 45 degrees F for 8-24 hours (the longer you retard, the more open your crumb will ultimately be, and the tangier the loaf; I was only able to retard for 8 for the batards below).
7) Remove the container from the refrigerator. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough and spread over the top, then gently loosen the dough from the sides of the container, allowing flour to fall around the dough. Flip it onto a work surface so that the floured side forms the bottom of the loaves.
8) Carefully cut into two equal pieces. Gently pull each piece into a long oval.
9) Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. (I am not big on pre-shaping, so these ovals are quite loosely formed.)
10) Shape into batards using whatever method you are most comfortable with. One day soon, I will share pictures of my method of batard shaping -- it's the one I'm most consistently successful with as a novice home baker!
11) Allow the loaves to proof in a couche seam-side up for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until increased roughly 40-50% in size. Watch carefully at this stage!
12) Optional: Transfer the couche to the freezer for 10 minutes. This step is not absolutely necessary, but I find that the "freezer trick" helps with both oven-spring and ease of scoring.
13) Score and bake the loaves at 475 degrees F for 15 minutes with steam, then 20-25 minutes without steam. For small batards such as these, I love to bake on the stone, with a turkey roaster lid creating the steam. For some reason, the crust I achieve this way is thinner and crispier than the crust I achieve using a dutch oven.

Rosemary is a slightly divisive herb, but I find that those who like it really, really like it. This bread is great as a side for a hearty meal, eaten straight with olive oil, or, my personal favorite: A smear of apricot jam.


And some bonus photos of loaves created since the last time I posted: 


a_warming_trend's picture

I haven't made a post in awhile, but I have been practicing, practicing, practicing. I hit one year of baking last weekend, and six months since I fell in love with sourdough. I actually haven't baked with commercial yeast since I baked that first fateful SD loaf on November 4, 2014. 

Over these last weeks, I've been experimenting with a range of ways to bake sourdough in the midst of a busy work week. This is the quest of a home baker who can't seem to limit herself to weekend baking, despite a pretty demanding full-time job. 

I've been working with a range of ways to extend fermentation: long autolyse, long cold bulk, long cold proof, BOTH long bulk and long proof, young levain, super-long-fermented levain, stiff levain, high-hydration levain, 5% levain, 30% levain, and dozens of variations in between. 

Many more specific discussions of methods and results to come in the coming weeks!

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These were commissions! 20% whole wheat, long cold bulk fermentation (24 hours) and long cold proof (18 hours). 300 g levain for 800 g flour, so about 38% levain by baker's percentage. Produced two medium-sized loaves. I can't stop experimenting with levain percentage!

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A Southern Twist: Pimento Cheese Sourdough!

This might be my favorite sourdough variation ever. Okay, maybe second to my Dark Chocolate Chunk endeavors. Anyhow, the red pepper and cheddar cheese compliment the tang of the sourdough so perfectly...and the slight sweetness of the white flour and's good, y'all. It's really good. The following is the formula I developed for one loaf.

Note: I don't have crumb pictures for the boule/batard...only from a ciabatta version I baked. The crumb for the boule/batard looked similar, but rose more with the 76% hydration given below.


400 g all-purpose flour (could, alternatively, replace 50-100 g with whole wheat!)
280 g cool water
200 g 100% hydration white starter
11 g salt
10 g malt powder (optional)
3 g ground black pepper
60 g roasted red peppers, finely diced and drained of liquid
60 g finely chopped cubes of sharp cheddar cheese
15 g cream cheese


1) Prepare your starter/levain however you like, such that it will be ready in 8-12 hours.

2) Mix flour and water in a large plastic bowl and autolyse for 8-12 hours (if you're unable to do the super-long autolyse, you'll be just develops the gluten and sweetness of the flour in such a nice way).

3) Add the levain, salt, malt, black pepper, red pepper, cheddar, and cream cheese, and squish through your fingers until incorporated (the technical term is the "pincer method," but I have to be honest. I just squish!). Stretch and fold the dough over itself for an additional 3 to 4 minutes after mixing.

4) Stretch and fold the dough 4-16 times (1-4 full turns) at 30 minute intervals over the next 1.5 to 2 hours. Watch the dough to determine whether it needs three or four folding sessions.

5) Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 2-4 hours after the last fold, or until increase roughly 80%.

6) At this point, you can either put the container in the refrigerator for 4-72 hours before shaping and proofing, or shape and proof immediately.

7) Shape into a boule or batard and proof in a brotform/banneton for between 2 and 3.5 hours at room temperature, or 30 minutes at room temperature and between 8 and 18 hours in the refrigerator. In any case, try to proof until 45-55% increased in size.

8) If you've shaped and proofed at room temperature, pop the loaf in the freezer for 20 minutes before releasing from the brotform.

9) Bake at 475 F for 18 minutes with steam, 20-25 minutes without.




a_warming_trend's picture

One of the most intriguing questions in my (admittedly short!) sourdough adventure thus far has been: How do I create a loaf that I can consistently proof in the refrigerator and bake straight from that cold environment, without it under or over-proofing? While the length of bulk fermentation is important in this calculus, it’s not the only part.

The following is the formula I've developed for one large loaf that is created specifically for a long proof in the refrigerator. The instructions are for a boule, but it could easily be shaped as a batard. Roughly 20% levain (by total weight, 40% by baker's percentage) seems to be my sweet spot for a long, cold-proofed loaf that can be baked straight from the fridge (i.e., proofs fully in the fridge at about 45 degrees F, but doesn’t over-proof!).  I’ve baked this formula five times with great can be modified to include more mix-ins, and even a significant percentage of whole grains.

The 78% hydration, long autolyse, chill during bulk fermentation, and long, cold proof yield a custardy, open crumb! The long autolyse also contributes to gluten formation, which make the final dough much easier to handle.


200 g active 100% hydration white starter (however you want to create that levain)
400 g all-purpose flour (I love King Arthur)
290 g cool water
11 g (sea) salt
15 g sugar
5 g malt powder


1) Mix together flour and cool water, and set aside to autolyse at room temperature for anywhere from 6-12 hours. Make sure to mix the water and flour very well before this long autolyse; don't be afraid to really mash the dough down with a wet hand. You don't want any dry bits lingering, because they will be difficult to incorporate later. If you mix it well, it will be such smooth sailing when you mix in the levain, I promise!

2) Combine autolysed flour and water with the starter, salt, sugar, and malt powder. Squeeze the dough through your fingers to fully combine for the first two minutes or so, then stretch and fold for 2-3 minutes more. 

3) Fold the dough every 30 minutes for the next 2 hours. When I stretch-and-fold, I like to give it as many turns as I feel the dough “needs.” To perform a fold, I reach under the dough and pull it over itself, rotating 90 degrees every time. At every 30-minute interval, I stop when the whole mass of dough begins to pull up out of the container. This is anywhere between 4 and 20 folds (that is, between 1 and 5 full stretch-and-fold turns). 

4) Allow the dough to rest at room temperature between 2 and 4 hours, or until 70-80% increased in size. I realize that this is a bit more increase than is called for in some formulas, but it is my preference in this case!

5) Place the container of dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour, and up to 6 hours.* 

6) Remove the container from the refrigerator. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough and spread it. Loosen the dough from the sides of the container, allowing the flour to fall around the edges of the dough. This will create a nice floured gluten cloak at the bottom of your dough. 

7) Pour the dough onto a work surface so that the floured surface is on the bottom. Pull the edges of the dough towards the middle to form a very loose boule -- this is the pre-shape. Rest for ten minutes. 

8) After ten minutes, pull the edges towards the center and pick the ball up, twisting in your hand to create tension. Form a tight boule, however you’re most comfortable doing that. 

9) Place the boule seam-side up in a floured banneton or brotform of some kind, and cover in plastic. 

10) Allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

11) Place in the refrigerator to proof for at least 8 hours, and up to 22 hours. The longer it proofs in the refrigerator, the more open and gelated the crumb will become. 

12) Remove the banneton/brotform and release it onto a piece of parchment paper. 

13) Score the boule, and bake at 475 F for 20 minutes with steam, then 20-25 minutes without steam.

*Alternatively, you could place the dough in the refrigerator directly after the two hours of stretch-and-fold, and then remove it later to sit at room temperature until increased 70-80%. Either way works great; I do stand by having a chill on the dough at some point during bulk fermentation.

Some loaves for which I've used this formula:

The Basic Formula (As Torpedoes and Boules):


80% Whole Wheat with Toasted Seeds and Cranberries:


Brown Ale and Spent Grain Torpedoes:

Everything Bagel Seasoning-Topped (Crowd Favorite!):

Thanks to all for your wonderful photos, formulas, and advice. TFL has just been the greatest resource as I navigate my first year of baking!


a_warming_trend's picture

It's been a busy few weeks, both with baking and with other areas of life! As always, baking grounds me. The's one of the best things about it.

These first few loaves were my first semi-official "commissions" from a coworker. I've baked dozens and dozens of loaves for my workplace, and dozens more as gifts, but this particular coworker insisted on compensating me; she wanted me to do the work of calculating my labor, my ingredients, and consideration of the prices of competition in the area. I still actually haven't settled on a price! This is the kind of thing that's really hard for me. Anyway, I ended up baking four loaves for her, all sourdough:

1) Everything Bagel-Style SD

2) Parmesan-Encrusted SD

3) Chocolate Chunk SD

4) Simple SF-Style SD

Then, I did a couple of 20% rye, 40% whole wheat torpedos with toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds

And finally, SD with browned butter and brown sugar, which tasted like a cross between brioche and a croissant! I wrote out the formula I developed and included it below. The hydration is slightly lower than it was on the pictured bake, but I think this will improve the ovenspring without hurting the quality of the crumb. Happy Friday to all. 

Sourdough with Browned Butter and Brown Sugar


200 g 100% hydration mature white sourdough starter (however you want to create that levain)

280 g cool water

400 g all-purpose flour 
80 g light brown sugar
80 g browned butter
11 g (sea) salt


1) Mix flour and water until combined, and autolyse for 2-8 hours at room temperature.

2) In a saucepan, bring the butter to a slow boil over medium heat. Watch very carefully--this will only take 2-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner right when you see it start to brown. You don't want sediment to start forming at the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool.

3) While the butter is cooling, mix your starter/levain, brown sugar, and salt in with the autolysed flour and water. I do all of my breads by hand, but I'm sure this would work beautifully in a mixer as well.

4) Add the browned butter, and mix for 2-4 minutes, slapping the dough against the side of the bowl as it starts to come together.

5) When all ingredients have combined and the dough is at low-to-medium gluten development, allow it to rest.

6) Perform stretch-and-folds every 30 minutes for the next two hours of bulk fermentation.

7) After the 2 hours of intermittant stretch-and-fold, allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it has increased between 60% and 80% in size. This should take 1-3 hours.

8) If you plan to bake that day, allow 1-3 more hours of bulk fermentation to allow the dough to fully double. I like to retard dough during bulk fermentation; in that case, it can go straight in the refrigerator for between 8 and 72 hours. The tang will increase over that time!

9) When you are ready to bake, shape and proof at room temperature. This final proofing time will vary widely based on ambient temperature! For a large batard or boule, my proofing time for this dough is usually 2-2.5 hours.

10) When the loaf has fully proofed, place it in the freezer for 20-25 minutes. This will help with scoring and ovenspring.

11) For one large loaf: Score and bake at 450 with steam for 18 minutes, without for 22-25 minutes, until very dark brown with blackened blisters.

Happy, happy baking to all, and to all a good week!


a_warming_trend's picture

These are 76% hydration, 20% levain, 30% whole wheat, with a smidge of pate fermentee for that little added umph. 

No crumb shots, because they were gifts. 

Abe, thanks for inspiring me with your scoring pattern! The boule is exactly your pattern, with a few extra very shallow swirls

Here's to making it through Monday, TFL!

a_warming_trend's picture

For whatever reason, these last few weeks have forced me to challenge my preconceptions about sourdough baking. My previous challenge: Could I bake nice loaves from dough retarded in the back of a Ford Fiesta during an ice storm?

And then there I was, with every intention of baking my first sourdough hearth loaf with a lot of seeds and multiple grains. I crafted such a promising recipe: 20% whole wheat levain, 85% hydration, 20% whole wheat, 20% whole rye, 7% pumpkin seeds, 7% sunflower seeds, 3% flax seeds, 3% sesame seeds, 5% honey, 2.2% salt. 7-hour autolyse of flour and water. 

I mixed and slap/folded for 5 minutes. I performed my standard stretch-and-folds at 30-minute intervals for 2 hours. I let the dough rest for 3 hours. 

It rose what I judged to be 40 to 50% -- just the right amount for shaping for a long, cold proof in the refrigerator. So I thought. 

When I went to check the dough after 8 hours in the fridge it had not risen visibly at all. I knew I wanted to bake it that morning, but I knew I couldn't in good conscience bake such an obviously under-proofed loaf. 

So, I decided to leave it at room temperature while I was at work. I was fairly sure I could be home early -- within 6 hours. 

As it turned out, I wasn't able to walk through the door until 11 hours later. The dough was brimming over the banneton in the most disheartening way. It was terribly over-proofed. 

But I wanted to rescue it! I had to rescue it!

Shaping it into a hearth loaf was out of the question. It was just too goopy and unwieldy. So, I got out my loaf pan for the first time in years, and I sort of shaped/poured the dough into it. 

I let it sit for 1.5 hours. The weird, unorthodox "third rise." Third rise!

It rose beautifully, so I baked it at 475, with foil over the top for the first 20 minutes, and no foil for 25 minutes. 

The result was a delicious loaf of bread from a bread pan. A bread pan! I think that I need to open my mind to the notion of the bread pan. Because this triple-risen accidental bread tasted very good -- nutty, tangy, slightly sweet. so custardy that it begs to be toasted. 

Yet again, the lesson is: Never give up on your sourdough. Find a way to bake the bread. Even if it's gotta rise three times. At least a significant percentage of the time, you will be rewarded!


a_warming_trend's picture

It's been a weird few weeks in central North Carolina. We're not used to seeing this much snow here -- especially not this close to March!

This week in particular has been particularly rough. Long story short, I had planned a few different bakes for mid-week, only to be hit with two consecutive snow storms, the second of which led to an extended power outage. 

Now, I'm pretty tough. Normally losing my refrigerator for a few days wouldn't bother me that much. Problem is...this time I had two massive tubs of dough going, both of them experiments with 80% hydration, 20% whole wheat loaves leavened purely with pate fermentee equal to 30% of the total weight of the loaves.

To his credit, my husband only teased me twice as I insisted on carrying the two large dough tubs to place in the car for the duration of the outage. They were both already slightly over-fermented, but I am a firm believer in dough-adaptability, so I was determined to salvage them! 

We finally gained power this morning, and I baked off one batch of pate fermentee batards. The crumb was not quite as custardy and open as that which I'm used to at 80% hydration, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly because of that over-long cold bulk in the back of my Ford Fiesta. The taste was still really excellent -- simultaneously malty and tangy. 

It's always good to remember that with the possibilities presented by long-retarding (even in the back seat of a car), flatbreads, pizza, and pate fermentee...we really almost never need to waste a dough! 





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