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Summer News.   My path in becoming a baker... (part II)

... goes through Kalispell Montana USA

 (A true story about chance, adventure and passion without boundaries)


Hello, TFL friends.

          As some of you know, there are some changes going on in my life and it all started a few months ago, when I decided I want to be a baker and open my own bakery in my town.
In the last years, I've been an amateur home baker and a TFL member and I spent hours and hours reading bread related subjects, experimenting and learning from my mistakes. I learnt a lot from books, blogs and from the greatest bakers on TFL. My love for bread grew so much, till one day I realized I'm only happy when I bake (no exaggeration here) and from that moment my final decision was taken.

I have been searching for a while some bakeries in Europe who would take interns during summer and some of you probably already read my previous post about this (link here) and so you know I'll go to Powburn at the beginning of August to meet Andy (Ananda) and to work with him for a week.

          One day I was talking with MC Farine, asking her if she can guide me to a nice bakery she visited in her travels in Europe. Her answer pointed me in a direction I would have never thought of: she suggested to talk to Mark Sinclair (mcs on TFL), the famous baker from the Back Home Bakery, Kalispell, Montana, USA. I needed three days to have the courage to write him, but I finally did and his answer to my request was affirmative.

          To make a long story short, I will spare you of the part that I had to go to the trouble of getting a tourist Visa for USA (there was some stress involved, because I was not the classic rich tourist type and there was a high risk of being rejected, but it all ended well) and I rather speak about the great joy I feel for getting the chance of traveling to USA to meet Mark, the baker who inspired me so much in the past and in the last months. My emotions are precipitating as the time for internship is approaching and I can't tell how glad I am because things arranged themselves as they did.

          I read all the posts here on TFL written by the former interns or by Mark himself, I read and re-read his internship application, I made my homeworks, I've talked to Mark a few times about the program and I know exactly where I'm heading (sleep deprivation, long hours of work, rigorous program) but I am very excited and motivated and determined to do my best and get the maximum from this amazing opportunity and challenging experience.

          TFL members who have been there before me, please feel free to advise me or to warn me, if it's the case, what are the dos and don'ts I have to be careful about.

          I think I will be the first Back Home Bakery intern who travelled from so faraway to get there. Also the first to spend more than 2 weeks in a row there. The first who's English is not the native language.

          For those of you unfamiliar with Mark's website, please visit it (link here) and watch his tutorial videos (link here) (or order the DVD's) because they are amazing and helpful whatever is your stage in baking (the ones demonstrating the shaping techniques are my favorites).

          I'll be at The Back Home Bakery in the interval between 16 August - 3 September. I will keep you updated when I'll get there, but till then I want to share wih you a drawing that Mark did specially for this blog post, which makes me smile everytime I look at it and it also makes my future to look so pretty :)

                                             "Under the spell of Kalispell" (my title)
with the note that "brutarie - deschis" means "Bakery - open"


If you have time and patience you can also read my post in my romanian blog (link here) (translation available on the upper right side), which given the fact that it was written in my native language it is a longer and more emotional version of this one presented here. Hope you'll enjoy it :)

Till we'll hear again, I'm wishing you all the best and keep on baking!



codruta's picture

I'm posting this bread hoping that it will inspire other TFL members to bake it, because it is a great bread. It took me a long time till I decided to make it and now I regret that I haven't done it sooner. Full of flavor, easy to make and friendly with rye beginners, it is light and healthy and for my taste, it's perfect.

I followed mr. Hamelman's formula from "BREAD" page 194, with few modifications:

- I didn't used commercial yeast.

- I increased hydration from 68% to almost 73%.

-Instead of white flour I used a mix of 41% Malthouse Doves Farm (which is a mix of Brown Wheat Flour, Malted Wheat Flakes 15%, Rye Flour 3.6% and Malt Flour), 41% Whole Wheat Doves Farm (but I removed the big brans) and 18% white flour austrian W 480 (mehl griffig).

For those who don't have the book, eric (ehanner) posted the formula on his blog, a few years ago (here is the link to the formula).

For the quantities and details of the method I used, please visit my romanian blog (translation available), link here.



Hope you'll make this bread as soon as you can! Happy baking to all of you!


codruta's picture

Summer News.   My path in becoming a baker...

... goes through Powburn, Northumberland, England.

Hello, TFL friends. This is a delicate post for me to write, because it concerns a personal matter and because, as you probably know, I am not a native English speaker. However, I will do my best to communicate and make my story interesting.

It has been a long time since I have been so excited about what lies ahead, and I am happy to share with you my latest news.

A while ago, I mentioned that I was nursing an ambition to become a baker; a “real baker”! I want to run my own bakery. I want to bake good bread, offer it to nice people and make a living out of it. Without any money to begin a business, in the past year, all I did was dream, and hope that one day...? Well, that day has become closer than ever before. My dreams are no longer dreams; they have started to become real plans. I have two partners for moral and financial support. We have formed a Company and we are looking for premises to rent in my hometown of Timisoara and for baking equipment to buy. There is a long way to go, but things are moving at a good pace in the right direction.

I am a self-taught home baker. I have never been inside a commercial bakery. Yes, I am passionate, talented and smart (hope time will prove that :); but at the moment I lack the confidence, experience and knowledge found in a seasoned professional baker. I believe I am filled with sufficient determination and motivation that will allow me to plug these gaps and achieve all my dreams. Even if that means leaving behind my work as an Architect in order to fulfil these baking dreams!

A few weeks ago I started to look for the right place for me to work as an intern, a place where I would be able to learn, but also, a nice bakery, run by a nice artisan baker, willing to show patience, share knowledge and train a beginner. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to look for very long or very far. Andy (Ananda) has been my mentor and friend since my first day on TFL. I  wrote him a message and he generously agreed to help me.

So, what I am really excited about, as I mentioned earlier, is that I will be flying to Newcastle upon Tyne, and spending a whole week with Andy, at the beginning of August, in Powburn, England. He scheduled a special work programme so I can gain experience of working in a bakery and gain further knowledge which will help me to set up and run my own business. I will be doing my best to help him make the breads and other goods which he is planning to bake for Powburn Show, and in return, I will have the privilege to work and learn from a great baker and teacher. How is that for good news?

As you can imagine, I am very excited and happy about this arrangement and I am counting the days until this bread baking adventure begins. Who would have thought that my first trip to England would be an amazing baking experience, rather than a relaxing holiday? On the other hand, who would have thought that I would fall so much in love with bread that I would decide to change my career completely and take the bread path without a second thought?


I will leave Andy to add to my post later, with more details about his plans for our work together and I hope you will stay close for future notes.



ps. My bread path won’t end in England, there will be a “part 2” coming soon, with other great news.

But for now, please be glad for me and wish me good luck!


codruta's picture

A while ago I made my first succesfull 100% rye bread (click to open the post). Since then I kept on baking, different sorts of bread, but never 100% rye again. Afraid of failure? NO. But I'm easily distracted and the list of must-try breads is getting longer and longer everyday and there are too many new formulas that I want to try, so I rarely decide to repeat a recipe. Or at least not very soon after I made it.

It was not the case with today's subject.

In march, Andy (Ananda) posted a formula for seigle d'auvergne. I then modified the formula and made the best 60% rye-40% einkorn ever. Time flew and I forgot about it, till I recently found the photos on my computer. Here is one photo with the crumb (you can see it was early in the spring, as I had some blue and white Hyacinth on the table):

I decided to make it again, using his formula as a starting point, but this time with a higher rye percentage. In 4 weeks, I baked it 4-5 times, with the following changes:

1'st: I replaced the white flour from his formula with einkorn flour and I added altus, rye flakes and caraway. I increased the water percent and I baked it on a tin.


2'nd: 100% rye bread, with dark rye flour instead of his white flour (also, altus, rye flakes and fennel seeds this time)


3'rd: I replaced the white flour for Malthouse Bread Flour from Doves Farm (no altus or rye flakes, but some caraway seeds cause I like the flavor)


You can see more photos on my flickr page, link HERE, or on my Romanian blog post, link HERE.

All the combinations mentioned above have as result some great breads. A friend from Bucharest who received for tasting a rye-malthouse loaf said that was the best rye bread he ever had. My sister in law from Paris got 2 loaves of rye-einkorn when she flew back home and she was very happy as long as they lasted :)

I finally can say that I'm not afraid of rye anymore. I wish I can go further and try pumpernickel or some dark russian breads, but the rye flours I find here are usually light or medium. When I'll find the proper flours, pumpernickel will be the first to try.


With this post I want to encourage everyone who, like me a while ago, is scared of rye paste to give a try to this formula. I find it to be very easy to work with and very friendly and rewarding. Andy, thank you for the inspiration and for being such a great friend and baker.


Codruta ♥


After 3 and half years of home baking, I decided that have to follow my passion and to go on on the bread path. Things are going in the right direction and I will soon share some exciting news with you.

ps. another rye bread I discovered on my computer few days ago is dated from april 2009. I'm glad to see that my skills improved :)

codruta's picture

hi everyone!

A few weeks ago I tried my first 100% rye bread. I wrote about it in a previous post (click here for link). In the meantime, I received a fantastic bread pan special for rye breads from a friend from Russia, Masha (mama lunetta) and I imediately used it. I was very happy and confident, but the bread was a semidisaster. Please check my post here to see what I mean (beware, not a pretty image, my bread). I wouldn't give up so I went to Mini Oven for help. How to season the pan, how much dough do I need for this new pan, how to set the oven, etc. A lot of new factors for me, but thanx to Mini, I'm happy and proud of my first successful 100% rye bread!

And the result... voila:

I began with Andy's formula, I used some altus I had from the previous bake, I put some rye flakes and I all the four I used was rye flour type 1150. Unfortunatelly I forgot to add the honey in the scald, and I thought I'll add it next day in the final paste, but I didn't write it down and I forgot completely :(.

Good news for me, I'll receive a jar of blackstrap molasses at the end of May! I can't wait to try the real thing!


The taste is delicious. The crust is chewy, the crumb is moist, but not sticky, the rolled rye give a nice texture and contrast, the coriander is there but not dominant (I put less than in Andy's recipe, maybe next time I'll add a bit more). I miss the sweetness of honey and I sense that I'm very close to a extraordinary bread but not quite there yet. After few days the taste was better, richer and the crumb colour was darker.

Another thing that bothers me... I remember Phil saying once (click for link) he could fold a slice in half without breaking. I can't do that :( I wonder why?


I wrote the modified formula on my romanian blog Apa.Faina.Sare. (translated: Water.Flour.Salt.) (link for post here), translation is automatic and pretty bad, but if anyone is interested in more details, please ask.


Thank you Mini Oven, thank you Masha, thank you Andy, Varda, and thank you all who helped me along the way and encouraged me in my previous attempts.



ps. please stay close, I'm dreaming, negociating and planning to open a bakery here in town and I'm scared and don't really know where to begin with. All I have are my hands and my passion... will it be enough?! ♥

codruta's picture

I think we all agree Phil's breads are awesome. When I saw his latest post, I instantly decided that I want to make the desem bread... but I didn't have a desem starter, and with 2 active starters in my house, I didn't really wanted to make another starter from scratch. But a couple of days later I saw David's post on the same topic and I followed his example. I took a small amount of my white starter and fed it with whole wheat flour at 50% hydration, kept it in the fridge all the time. After a week and 2-3 feeds, I decided to give it a try. The desem build was slighty sour (I tasted it just before using it), but the bread is not sour at all. Is not sour, is not bitter, it has a wonderful caramel aroma and is lighter than other WW breads I made before :)... but it doesn't have the famous sweet taste I hoped it would have :(. I think this might be because the desem starter still has some of the characteristic of the white starter and it will need more than 2 feeds to change completely... or is because I didn't use freshly milled flour like Phil did... or both.

I had and used a low protein (10.9g) whole wheat flour from Alnatura ( and Phil advised me to increased the prefermented flour and to reduce hydration and fermentation time. The overall hydration was 80% and fermentation time was 2h:30min (first fermenatation) and 1h:20min second fermentation at 24C. The dough was slighty underproofed, as you can see, but it had a good oven spring, nice crust colour and nice crumb (not as opened as Phil's ...but,  I'll get there one day!). I'll be making this formula again, the taste is very close to what I expected, the aroma is delicious and it was a real pleasure to eat it. Thank you Phil for the detailed formula and the help you gave me along the way!


The desem starter after 2 feeds:

The desem build just before use:

The preshaped dough, before rest and final shape (I made just one loaf from 850g of dough):

and the baked bread:

Best wishes to all of you,


codruta's picture

I didn't plan to start this year with a bread I'm not very proud of... but a lot of things happened lately (good things!) and I can't write here as often as I would like.

In February I held a workshop here in town, with 30 participants, a introduction to sourdough bread very well received.  You can see pictures here (click for link) and a video (sorry, no English subtitles) here (click for link).

Then, in March, I made breads for an event, a bread tasting event sponsored by a big local law firm in the honour of their lady employees and lady clients. I made a total of 12 breads of 6 types, 2 loafs/type, a lot of planning and work for me (a home baker with one small gas oven) but I got a huge satisfaction in the end. The breads were a hit, all of them, and I had a really good quality time talking about each formula and story behind the bread with the ladies present. I never knew lawyers can be so warm and charming people :)) I wrote about the type of breads I made in a post on my Romanian blog, link here (click) and you can see the photos in that post or on my flickr page (link here) and here is a photo with some of them.

In the meantime, I baked some very good miche (david's formula) link here, 70% rye and 30% whole spelt bread (link here) and, my family latest obsession, Kalamata olives, lemon zest and herbes de Provence Sourdough Bread, which I made 2-3 times/week in the last 3 weeks. The formula is inspired by PiPs (Phil) post, with small modifications, and the result is quite memorable.

enough with self-praise, back to today's post subject

100% rye is been on my mind since I can't remember when. I become very found of rye bread in the last year, but I never attempted more than 80% rye. After drooling at the rye breads posted here by Andy, Varda, Phil, Mini, just to name a few, I finally decided to conquer my fear and try a 100% rye bread. I have to mention that I don't have a proper pan for it  (I used a small silicone one) and my oven is moody when it comes to low temperatures. I had in mind Andy's formula for Borodinsky, but I used a little altus too in the final dough and replaced the whole-wheat with rye flour. I halved his formula and the result is shown in the photos below. Everything was fine until I put the dough in the oven. I placed the silicone pan in a bigger metal pan and I covered the second pan with aluminum foil (from the beginning), and the free form I covered it with an old pan, after 10 minutes of steam.

I couldn't resist the impulse of cutting and tasting the bread while it was still hot (I promise I don't do this on a regular basis, but this time the smell was too good to be true...) and I felt in love with the aroma. I could distinct the honey (I replaced the molasses with honey, cause I could not find molasses here) and malt (I think it was the malt that gave it such a pleasant smell and taste), and coriander. I'm sure the taste is a success, but I can't say the same thing about the "look". I don't know how it is on the inside, I only ate the ends of both breads... but what can I do in the future to improve the way it looks?

It didn't rise much in the oven, and I don't think it was over-proofed. My rye was very active and I kept an eye on it the whole time. First fermentation was 1 hour and second fermentation max 40 min.

I'll upload a picture tomorrow, with the crumb.

My guesses on what did wrong are one or more of the following:

(1) I used too little amount of dough for the pan I had (~510g for a silicone pan of 23.5 x 9.5 cm x 6.5 cm height),

(2) the fact that I put the silicone pan in a bigger pan created an buffer-zone which was not hot enough

(3) the sillicone pan was not a good choice (I didn't like working with it, I'll never use it again, I don't know why they even invented it?! :))

 I'm interested in your opinions. Don't be gentle, I want to learn and to improve my next baking.


Thank you all for helping me so far!




The crumb not how it should be, but I know I'm on the right track. The crust tastes better than the crumb (is sweeter and with more flavor), and fresh is better than toasted. The crumb it's a bit dense and gummy, but not sticky (I could slice it without the crumb sticking to the knife). I have to learn to set the oven temperature right. I don't have this problem at wheat breads, but with rye I'm not confident yet.

How do you know when the crumb is fully baked? and is wrong if I use my baking stone, preheat it and leave it in the oven under the pan?

that's about it, for now. Next week Ill give another try. I still have malt and a lot of altus (the free form loaf had a very thick crust, so I froze it and I'll use it for altus in the future bakes)

codruta's picture

Merry Christmas, dear TFL members, wherever you are!

 These are some romanian traditional sweet breads made for holidays "cozonac", usually made with a nuts or poppy seeds filling, but I made them with raisins and figs and candies orange peel.

And these two breads are San Francisco Sourdough, I'll post the formula next days. It is made in four days, from start to finish, but the result is amazing.

And last, but not least, 70% rye + 30% whole wheat, after Hansjoakim favorite.


It looks like angels are everywhere these days!

Best wishes to all of you, peace, health and happiness. Thank you all for your support and inspiration in 2011.


codruta's picture

I am trying to find the possible cause for this balloon section in a batard loaf. It did not happen to me, but to some of my romanian readers, and I find this to be an intriguing subject to debate. I think the balloon shape is not a quality, but contrary, is unatractive and not to be wanted. Am I wrong?

I tried to figure what are the possible causes for this particular shape and these are my own conclusions:

1) The upper skin on the dough is dryer and/ or thicker than the bottom part of the dough. Possible cause:

a. if the banneton is not completely wrapped in plastic, but covered only on the top (the top which will be the bottom of the bread)- the dough will dry in banneton and will create a skin,

b. excessive flour on the banneton, 

When the dough gets in the hot oven, it will swell from the part where the skin is moist and thin... in this case, the bottom.

(2) a certain technique of shaping the dough encourages this peculiar shape... can it be?!
(3) because of the characteristics of the oven / steaming method/ or because the baking stone is not hot enough ... I do not know exactly ... the dough placed in the oven forms the upper crust faster than the bottom, bottom which is still soft and wet, at which point the dough starts to rise from the bottom up. The top is rigid and will not allow the dough to swell.
(4) the scoring cuts are too small in length (not in depth) and the dough can't expand enough at the cuts, and therefore will expand from the bottom and will deform the section.
(5) a simpler cause, would be insufficient proofing

(6) if the batard is too long in lenght and too small in section, will create a tubular shape, because at the same perimeter, the circle has the biggest area.

Am I missing something? Am I right, am I wrong? Am I the only one intrigued by this subject?

I'm very curious about what you think.


codruta's picture

I want to buy a new book, and I need your opinions to help me decide which one.

1. I need weights for ingredients in metric system. And bakers percentages, if posssible.

2. I want formulas for sourdough breads. I usually don't bake sweet doughs, just plain and lean sourdough breads (but I don't mind if the book has some formulas for croissants, challah, panetone, etc)

3. I don't want a "begginners friendly" book. I want a book for advanced (home) bakers, with technical informations and professional approach.

4. I love Hamelman's book. I wish there was another book like this one.


I already have (in the order of purchasing):

a). P. Reinhart "BBA" (my first book, but I don't really use it these days)

b). Hamelman "Bread" for me, it is simply THE BEST

c). Chad Robertson: "Tartine Bread" (I liked reading it ... as a story, and I'm glad I bought it, and I loved his country bread)

c). RL Beranbaum "The Bread Bible" -

d). R. Calvel "Le gout du pain"


I was thinking to buy one of these:

- Advanced Bread & Pastry, by M. Suas

- Local Breads, by D. Leader

- Breads for the La Brea Bakery, by N. Silverton

- Bread Alone, by D. Leader

- The Bread Builders, by D Wing, A Scott

- Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective, by Dan diMuzio

- Artisan Baking, by M Glazer


I really appreciate any advice from those who already have the above mentioned books, and I'm open to other suggestions.



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