The Fresh Loaf

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This is my first loaf of Pain au Levain from Jeff Hamelman's "Bread" using the starter I created using the durum flour procedure to improve sour a couple weeks ago. The starter was a bit slow upon coming out of a 2 week sleep and refreshed. It did wake and get active so here we are.

I'll post a crumb image later along with the flavor evaluation of sour.

Added by Edit: The crumb isn't very open and there is no, zero, nada sour flavor. I would say that if there is a sour benefit to be had by using durum, it may be in elaborating with durum and not an extended procedure using it. 


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I was happy with my first attempt at 40% Rye with Caraway, until I saw SteveB's. After looking at his post on his blog I tried his method modifications minus the covered steaming. I like the steam cover I just can't bake 2 loaves this size at the same time.

I also used only 8 grams of caraway and it was ground. I just wanted a hint of spice. The sour came through very nicely. I used my rye starter and let it age for 18 hours for maximum sour flavor.

Thanks Steve, I don't know how this could be any better.





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Mark's Olive loaf
Mark's Olive loaf

Kalamata crumb
Kalamata & Cheese crumb

This is my first attempt at Mark's Olive and Pepper Jack Savory loaf and I must say it was fun.
It is basically his rustic white with some olives chopped and rinsed/dried (about 15 per loaf in my version) and the cheese was 120 grams cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Both of these amounts are more than he calls for by about 30%. The Olive oil was 40 grams for the 3.1 Lb batch warmed and mixed with 1-1/2 tsp each of dry Thyme and fresh chopped Rosemary that sat over night. The oil smelled great the next day!

The morning after mixing the Biga, I mixed the pre ferment with the water and oil to sufficiently distribute the biga and then added all the flour and dry products in the final dough. I just mixed for a few minutes until the gluten started to develop. The folding will fully develop the dough over 3 hours.  Once the flour is fully incorporated I added the olives and cheese and mixed on low just until they were combined.

3 hours of ferment with folds at 1 and 2 hours and a 1.5 hour proof after shaping per Marks video. Bake at 415 for 30-35 minutes with normal steam.

I took two of these in banettons to our friends home and baked them while we waited for the ribs to be done. They were well received and everyone was amazed at the flavor depth and after taste. This is a very nice gift bread for future consideration.

I wish I lived near Montana. I would love to see how Mark does this loaf. It's a little fussy but well worth the trouble.


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Hamelmans 3 Stage 90% Rye

Crumb and shell

This was a fun project for me. I have done the 3 stage Detmolder starter build before and I know the flavor will be incredible when I get to cut this open in 24 hours.

I followed the formula in the book closely including using Medium Rye for the final dough mix. The only place I deviated was using KA bread flour instead of a "hi gluten" flour. I'm out of first clear at the moment and that would have been my first choice. The starter build was whole rye.

I don't have a docking tool so I used my special "Docking Pencil" which has never failed me in the kitchen.

This bread was baked for 480F for 10 minutes then 1 hour at 410F. When I get to cutting and eating, I'll post a picture of the crumb.

Added by Edit:

I posted the picture of the crumb just now. OK, I cheated and it has only been 14 hours since it was baked. The crust (shell) of this loaf is very hard. If you dropped it on a bare foot, well it would hurt. The crust is inedible for me. The dog came back for seconds so maybe if you have great teeth you could eat the crust. I trimmed the hard part and ate the inside crumb and of course it was delicious. To me it looks under proofed and too dense. 

As I said above to Jane, my dough was very dry. I haven't been able to find an error in my transcription or conversion and I added a lot of extra water to get it where I thought it should have been. Maybe it was still to dry. Also, I see I did bake it to long. Hamelman says 1 hour if it scales at 2.5 Lbs. I divided a 3Lb 8 oz batch in half so it was over done by that standard.  

I put the now sliced loaf in a zip lock bag hoping it will soften some. "Archie" is hoping it doesn't! 


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Hamelman's 40% Rye with Caraway

I'm starting a string of rye breads using Jeff Hamelman's Bread. I just recently purchased this book and I can say "Bread" has had a huge impact on my baking. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is a contributor here. Forget the comments that it is written for the commercial baker and ignores the home baker. Hamelman is clear in his writing and shares detailed information to help understand the handling techniques needed to produce beautiful bread. This is a great resource on so many levels you will never be sorry for adding it to your library.

Here is the recipe I used pretty much straight from the book. The details provided in the side bars give you more depth of understanding but this will get you close.

40% Rye Bread with Caraway
From Jeff Hamelman's-Bread

Rye Sour

  • 360 g Medium Rye Flour
  • 360 g Water
  • 20 g Sourdough Starter

Final Dough

  • 545 g King Arthur All Purpose Flour
  • 260 g Water
  • 740 g (all of the above) Rye Sour
  • 1 Tsp. Instant Yeast
  • 15 g Salt
  • 15 g Caraway Seeds

The evening before the bake, prepare the rye sour by mixing together the rye flour, water and mature sourdough starter until homogeneous. Cover with a light dusting of Rye which will show you the progress of the sour. As it cracks open you will know fermentation is causing it to grow. Let stand overnight for 12-16 hours at 75-80°F.

The next day, combine the all purpose flour, water, instant yeast and rye sour, adding additional water if necessary to obtain a dough of medium consistency. Turn the dough out of the mixing bowl onto your work surface and begin hand kneading the somewhat sticky dough until it just starts to come together. Add the salt and continue hand mixing until the dough reaches medium development, about 10-15 minutes. Add the caraway seeds and hand mix just until evenly distributed within the dough. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover, and let ferment at 78-80°F for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 1 1/2 lb. pieces, lightly round and let rest under a plastic sheet for 10 minutes. Shape the pieces into batards, place the batards seam side down on a couche or in a banneton and let proof for an additional hour.

After an hour, turn the batards onto a peel or parchment, score and bake in a pre heated oven at 450F for the first 15 minutes of baking. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 420F and bake for an additional 20 minutes. A robust bake is more flavorful. Under baked is gummy. I shoot for 205F internal temp.

This bread needs to be completely cool before slicing. Enjoy!

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This is my favorite Italian bread formula so far. I have been making this for the last two years ago when ever I need a gift for a lunch or my in-laws who love it. When I started making this mix with the biga, I began to understand how much the 12-14 hour pre ferment time helps the depth of flavor.

The recipe is straight out of th BBA under yeasted breads with a Biga. I adjusted the amounts so I end up with 2 - 1-1/2 Lb loaves after baking. Mr. Reinhart's formula is for 2 - 1 Lb loaves in the book but we like the billowy sandwich size that I can bake on the stone or sheet pan. Two of these is all I can get in my oven. Yesterday I made a 7.4 Lb batch that was double the size of todays and produced 4 similar loaves. Todays mix was done by hand, no mixer needed.

I started at 9PM last evening by mixing the Biga. I have learned from reading BBA that I need to consider a few things before I start. First, do I have 14 hours before I can mix the final dough? Second, what is the ambient temperature where the Biga will ferment? Knowing those two things will tell me how much yeast to use to get the best flavor. In this case, it is a warm day, the air isn't on and I think the 14 hours will stay at around 74-76 F. I decide to use 1 teaspoon of IDY yeast in  478 grams of flour and 340 grams water at room temp. I mix and make sure the biga is well blended before covering with a plastic bag.

This morning at 11AM I mixed all the dry ingredients, biga and milk and oil in a large bowl with a plastic scraper. Once it was barely combined I covered and let it set for 30 minutes to let the liquid absorb. The dough was sticky and slack and I kneaded and folded for a few minutes and let it ferment for an additional 2 hours. During the ferment time I usually fold twice and gently reform as in Marks latest video. That's a great technique to use that helps the dough become a ball without kneading.

Anyway, It doubles in 1-1/2 to 2 hours at which time I divide and shape into a log, place in a banneton for 30-40 minutes. I turn the oven on for this bake when the dough is divided, pre heated to 450F. When the dough is poofy and looks ready, not over 45 minutes, I turn it out on a wood loading peel covered in cornmeal. Spray with water, top with sesame seeds (pat them lightly so they stick), slash and into the oven. Steam as usual and lower the heat to 400F for 25 minutes. I was starting at 500 and lowering to 440 or so as PR suggested but I like the color better at the lower temp. It takes a few minutes longer but for me it looks like Italian.

Here is the recipe sized for 2.5 Lbs of dough. There are many detailed instructions that you can find in the book but if you want to try it this will work. This is one of my favorite yeasted breads.

Sorry about the text formatting. Hope this looks OK.--Enjoy! 


Italian Bread-P. Reinhart

Makes 2.5 Pounds of dough   

Biga                             3-1/2 C            18 Oz               510g

318 g flour-226 g water 1/2 teaspoon Instant yeast.



AP Flour                       2-1/2 C           11.25 Oz      319g               

Salt                              1-2/3 t              .41            12g                 

Sugar                           1 T                   .5 Oz          14g                 

Instant Yeast               1 t                    .11Oz          3g                   

Diastatic Malt             1 t                      .17             5g                   

Olive Oil                      1 T                   .5 Oz         14g                 

Warm Milk                  ¾ C plus 2T      7-8 Oz        227g               

Cornmeal for dusting                          TOTAL       1138g  (2.5 Lb)


Mix dry ingredients together in bowl. Add biga in small pieces, olive oil and ¾ Cup warm milk, mix. Adjust water/flour as needed and rest 15 min.

Knead until starting to develop. Dough temp should be 77-81 F.  Transfer to oiled bowl, cover and ferment 2 hours or double. Fold every 45 minutes during ferment. Watch for double in volume.

Divide in 2. Shape into logs. Gentle handling. Light dusting of flour and rest 5 minutes. Finish shaping. Lightly spray oil and cover, proof for 1 hour or 1.5 increase in volume.

Preheat to 450 F. Score, Steam and lower oven temp to 400 after 2 steams. (400 and longer for crustier). 25 minutes for loaves, 15 minutes for rolls.



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Mark's Olive Loaf post got me thinking about the flavors I like and what would work well in bread. There are a few combinations that seem to be naturally delicious in other situations. Garlic/lemon/olive oil for example or swap the lemon with another acid, say basalmic vinegar or some other milder vinegar. The contrast between the elements seems to be what makes my senses perk up. Chicken wings with strong garlic and lemon is good. Mint jelly with hot pepper is a surprise treat. Each is a clear distinct flavor on it's own. Sugar on tomatoes and salt on water melon are two more that make the point.

Recently I bought a quantity of large green olives stuffed with blue cheese that were really good. I've also had stuffed with Gorgonzola that were out of this world delicious. I've used both in bread along with stuffed with garlic with good results.

The thing is, and this is a totally subjective opinion, I like to be able to identify the flavors clearly. There are times when I enjoy a hint of this or after taste of that, like with wines, but for me, good garlic bread makes a statement. 

Along the same line, most of the music written in my life time that has become popular, is clean. That is to say you can identify and clearly hear the primary artist. You get to enjoy the personality of the singer or instrumental. Think about the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Sarah Brightman, Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all share that quality of clean clear, timeless sound. I try to season my foods with the same thought in mind. No screaming allowed, strong clear flavors that add to the base.

Good bread has a certain wholesome aroma depending on the type of bread, that sets the stage. Then if we are careful there is an after taste that stays on the toung that reminds of nuts or wheat fields. Adding a complementary flavor such as olives or savory seasonings or cheeses complicates the taste and (in my humble opinion) needs to be approached with respect for the over all outcome. To many flavors end up being a muddy taste.

Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my approach to flavors. Green tea with lemon and honey, Rustic farm loaf with rosemary, Deli Rye with caraway, apple pie with cinnamon, Bruchetta with basil and feta, Pita stuffed with tomato salad and Chili powder. These are some of my favorites.

Now I'm hungry!


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I have been baking for about 2 years now. A check of my history shows that I have been on the road to enlightenment for 1 year and 23 weeks at TFL. I started with the BBA by Peter Reinhart and then his Whole Grain Breads. A few other books have caught my interest along the way and I noticed that Hamelman's "Bread" always got high marks but some thought he was really talking to the pro audience. I started to notice that many of the breads I liked had references to Jeffrey Hamelman so I thought I would take the plunge and see if I could keep up.

To my delight, I spent the afternoon browsing my new copy of Bread. This is a wonderful book. The recipes are easy to understand and well described. Yes there are larger volume recipes for a commercial bakery but in every case there is a 10% Home version for my uses. Every technique I have been curious about, every style of bread common in this part of the Artisan world is covered with clarity and detail. Many have options for enhancing the flavors or adding ingredients to change the personality.

I have already been baking some of these recipes so I know they work, not that that would be a serious question. I'm going to enjoy trying some of the more unusual breads in this collection and learning the special techniques.

We at TFL are generous with sharing our recipes and methods and that's a good thing. Being able to pick up this book and understand the author from the first page is saying something. Mr. Hamelman is an effective communicator. This is a well written book and I highly recommend anyone who desires to understand baking and the methods involved, purchase a copy or try to get your local library to get it for you. The Amazon link from the front page here will take you to a link where TFL will get credit for the sale.

I'll be posting the results of my experiments here.



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Recently I have been trying to find breads that deliver great flavor with a nutty after taste and also look good. After I found Mark Sinclair's Back Home Bakery recipe for Multi Grain bread I have come to appreciate his experience and sense for selecting grains and methods. I have made 5 or 6 batches of the Multi Grain and it is just so full of flavor I can't get over it.

I thought I would give his Rustic White Bread a try since he had recently changed the formula to include a Biga or sponge and it's a simple recipe that only requires starting the process the evening before. The link to the new recipe is here "Mark's Rustic White"

The recipe calls for a rye sour starter which I have going most of the time. I just started feeding my white 100% starter with Rye whole flour and in a day or 2 it was very active. The recipe calls for 15 grams of starter and if you don't want to convert or don't have a starter at the moment you can use 15 grams or whole rye and 1/4th tsp of yeast instead.

After about 10 hours the biga is active and has doubled at least and I think any time after that you can mix the dough. Mark has you add 50 grams of Whole Wheat in the final dough which is one of the things that helps with the flavor. It seems like a small amount but believe me this is a very good white bread.

One thing I did change the second time I made this bread was to reduce the amount of salt slightly. He calls for 25 grams in 1050 G of flour which I could taste. It wasn't salty enough that any one else has tasted it however so maybe it's just me. I lowered the salt to 2% or 21g, it's a little thing.

The dough is soft and not quite ciabatta like so you need to use flour on the counter when you do the folds and move quickly. The 2 in the picture below are 1.5 and 1 pound (on the right) which I didn't get the end tucked in.  It does seal up well when I put the bottom side up in the banneton for proofing. The crumb is slightly ope, just enough that it's a great sandwich loaf also if you use a pan to bake in.

This is a simple white bread that has a complex and delicious flavor. The biga is a natural yeast so you do get a hint of mild sourdough taste.  I retarded a loaf in the banneton overnight and got a slightly more sour flavor which was nice.

I think this would be a good base for all sorts of things. Savory or raisin come to mind. This will be my "Daily Bread" for a while. It's easy and surprisingly full of after taste flavor.  

Mark's Rustic WhiteMark's Rustic White

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I'm always excited when my coffee tastes as good as it smells. The same applies to bread. For some reason the aroma and flavor of things don't always line up to be what I expect. Recently I tried Mark Sinclair's Multi Grain Bread from the recipe he has posted on his "The Back Home Bakery" website. I have tried a few other combinations of grains and methods that were pretty good but this was on the next level for me. It has a great heady aroma and it tastes wonderful. You can see the dough is not to dense and makes a great sandwich or toast. The toaster brings out the rustic nature of the grains and it tastes as good as it smells!

Mark has some first rate instructional videos on his site also that I have found very helpful for shaping and kneading. I appreciate that he is sharing his talent with us home bakers.  

Here is the Bakery web site where you will find the recipe.


Multigrain CrumbMultigrain Crumb


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