The Fresh Loaf

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Work has been intense and crazy. So I was thrilled when the executives decided at the last minute to build in a little break in the project timeline. As luck would have it, the break was the same week as the Viennoiserie 2 class at the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI). Viennoiserie 1 is offered a few times a year, but level 2 is offered only once a year. I wasn't able to take level 2 last year since it was fully enrolled when I tried to sign up, so I was happy to attend this year. A sane person would've gone to Bora Bora or  Hawaii, but I chose to spend my vacation in a week long (40 hour) pastry class.

Here are some of pastries we made in class. These were just the tip of iceberg.  We made a whole lotta Viennoiserie during the week.  The lead photo (above) is gibassier which is an olive oil brioche with candied orange peel and anise seeds.

Hot Croissants


Panettone Cooling Upside Down 


A Single Day's Take Home (Everyday was like this!)


Chocolate Panettone (Chocolate panettone dough made with Italian levain, mini chocolate chips, cocoa nib praline, topped with a chocolate glaze and sliced almonds.)


Colomba de Pasqua (Easter dove. Topped with a hazelnut glaze and chopped hazelnuts.)


Savory Kugelhopf (Bundt form and baking cups.Asiago cheese, parsley, thyme, raisins, walnuts.)


Pithivier (Inverted puff pastry, raspberry jam, frangipane.)


Traditional Croissants


Chocolate Croissants




Brioche Tropezienne (Brioche, almond streusel, rum diplomat cream.)


Since the class was an advanced Viennoiserie class, almost everyone in the class was a professional baker. There were a few semi-professionals who sold their baked goods on the side while maintaining a full time day job, but they all hoped to open a bakery some day. I was the only non-professional in the class.When classmates asked if I planned to have a bakery or baking business some day, my answer was "No, I don't. I just bake for fun".

If they had asked me that question a year ago, my answer would have been "Yes, some day". It's a question that I have struggled with for many years. In the last year, I've done a lot of baking, as well as as lot of soul searching. Like many of the TFLers, I bake because I am passionate it about. I freely admit that it would be nice to turn my passion into a career, but I know that I will not be. My decision makes me happy. I don't have to wonder about "some day" anymore.

:) Mary

emkay's picture

It's been a while since my last post. The day job has been keeping me quite busy and I haven't had the bandwidth to bake bread as much as I would like. I'm baking every third weekend to keep the bread box full and the freezer stocked. My go-to bread has been Ken Forkish's overnight country blonde (just like I posted here: It's mostly hands off and seems to work well especially with the mild San Francisco temperatures we've been experiencing lately.

I decided to shake things up and bake something else. This weekend's bake was an olive boule made with 50% liquid levain and 60% water in the final dough. That gave me an overall hydration of 68%. Hydration-wise, 68% is pretty much as low as I go for a lean dough.

The resulting crumb was not too open which was a good way to keep in those delicious olives. The complex tangy taste of my bread was due to the age of my starter. I keep my stiff maintenance starter in the refrigerator unfed and then feed/build it using dabrownman's no fuss method whenever I want to bake.



Olive Bread

  • 80% AP flour
  • 20% whole rye flour
  • 60% water
  • 2.4 % salt
  • 50% levain (100% hydration, 20% rye)
  • 30% pitted Kalamata olives
  1. Mixed all ingredients by hand.
  2. Bulk fermented for 3 hours at room temperature (about 70F) with 4 sets of stretches and folds during the first 2 hours and untouched during the third hour.
  3. Preshaped and bench rested for 30 minutes.
  4. Shape retarded in the refrigerator (40F) for 12 hours.
  5. Baked at 450F for 35 minutes (for 600 grams dough).

:) Mary

emkay's picture

My final loaf of 2014 is the overnight country blonde from Ken Forkish's FWSY. I did everything by the book except I increased the amount of rye from 5% to 10%. I bulk fermented for 15.5 hours (at 64F) and proofed the shaped dough for 3.5 hours (at 77F). I baked at 450F for 45 minutes using my Le Creuset marmitout (aka cast iron combo cooker) with the lid on for the first 25 minutes.

The bread was moist with just the right amount of sour. It turned out as perfect as I hoped it would. 

I began 2014 as a sourdough newbie awestruck by the wonderful bread showcased on this site. I end the year a little less green, but no less amazed by the talented and wonderful bakers here. A big thank you to the TFL community for the support and wisdom shared everyday.

Happy New Year and may your 2015 be filled with family, friends and bread to share with all!

:) Mary

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Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been baking quite a bit. Other than my weekly loaves, lately it's been mostly non-bread. Like these spicy ginger molasses cookies. The cookies contained grated fresh ginger and dried ground ginger. Other spices in the cookies were green cardamon, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon.  Super spicy and gingery. Not for the faint of heart.


I had some extra egg whites and was too lazy to make macarons, so I baked meringue clouds. These are not the crunchy meringue cookies that are baked low and slow for a long time to dry them out. These were baked at 325F for about 20 minutes. They were light as air and almost collapsed in my hand as I picked them up. The insides were still soft and barely held in all the toasted hazelnuts and bits of chopped chocolate.



These pecan cookies are adapted from a King ArthurFlour recipe. I doubled the amount of pecans and I used toffee bits instead butterscotch chips. Even though I chilled the cookie dough for 24 hours, the toffee bits made the cookies spread out. I was afraid the cookies would be fragile due to the thinness, but they held together nicely. The coating was granulated sugar with fleur de sel. I loved the sweet and salty.


My super duper low maintenance starter has been in the refrigerator unfed for 17 weeks now and it still looks almost as good as new. There's a teeny bit of gray hooch but no mold or dark spots.I just take about 6-8 grams from the jar every week and build it up as necessary for baking. For an excellent reference on this no muss no fuss starter maintenance, please read dabrownman's primer at 

One of my weekly loaves is David's San Joaquin sourdough.


I haven't made focaccia in a while so I made some last week instead of my weekly levain. I used Nancy Silverton's focaccia recipe as published in the LA Times, but I increased the rye flour and added some whole wheat flour too. I didn't add toppings to my focaccia this time since I wanted the flexibility of a plain focaccia. I just used a generous sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. I followed the method outlined in the the LA Times article, but I used two 9x2-inch round cake pans because I like my focaccia taller. The original recipe calls for two 10-inch round pans. In the parentheses below I listed the baker's percentages that I used. Overall hydration was 78%.


Focaccia (adapted from Nancy Silverton's focaccia in the LA Times)


  • 88 g AP flour (100%)
  • 110 g water (125%)
  • scant 1/16 teaspoon instant dry yeast (SAF red)


  • All of the sponge
  • 400 g AP flour (80%)
  • 50 g whole rye flour (10%)
  • 50 g whole wheat flour (10%)
  • 350 g water (70%)
  • 12 g olive oil (2.4%)
  • 12 g salt (2.4%)
  • 4 g instant dry yeast (0.8%)
  • More olive oil for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling


As usual with this recipe, it was absolutely delicious. I'm sure the fact that the dough pretty much bakes in a pool of olive oil didn't hurt the cause either. The crumb wasn't as open as some batches of focaccia I've made in the past, but like some people say "You can't eat the holes".

Happy Holidays!

:) Mary

emkay's picture

I just finished reading "In Search of the Perfect Loaf" by Samuel Fromartz. As a "bread geek", I enjoyed the book very much. In one chapter he writes about his rye journey in Berlin. That chapter along with all the rye bread photos I am seeing posted by Stan's testers made me crave some rye bread. I missed the opportunity to become a recipe tester since Stan's reply to me ended up in my spam folder and I didn't see it until it was too late. I guess it was flagged as spam because it was a bulk email to all who signed up. Oh well.

I tried to buy some rugbrot from Bar Tartine when I was there for brunch, but they were running low and couldn't sell me a loaf. I just couldn't catch a break. So I whipped up a 100% rye using Andy's Rossisky formula. Of course "whipped up" is a relative term. There's not a lot hands on time at all. It was pretty much... Mix. Wait. Mix. Wait. Spread. Wait. Bake. Wait. Cut. Eat.

Overall hydration was about 84% and prefermented flour was about 37%. I scaled my ingredients for a 750 gram loaf. I didn't include bakers' percentages like I normally would because I didn't know how to calculate the percentages when so much of the flour was prefermented. But please see Andy's post ( for the percentages.


Rye SourGrams
Whole grain rye150
Rye SD starter culture22.5

I mixed all ingredients for the rye sour and let it ferment at room temp for about 18 hours. I like to wait until it has peaked and has just fallen back a bit.


100% Rye Sourdough BreadGrams
Whole grain rye252
Rye sour375
FINAL DOUGH750 grams

I mixed my final dough and bulk fermented it for about 20 minutes at room temp.


Then I spread the mixture into a loaf pan ...

and let it proof at room temp for 90 minutes.

I stage baked: 450F for 15 min, 425F for 20 min, 375 for 10 min. Total bake time was 45 minutes. I covered the loaf pan during the first 10 minutes of baking. After the loaf had cooled a bit, I wrapped it in a tea towel to let it rest for 24 hours before slicing. 


:) Mary

emkay's picture

I made 2 different sandwich loaves and used the no knead method for both. My first loaf was mostly white flour and naturally leavened using discarded sourdough starter. Baker's Percentages: 90% APF, 10% WW, 90% water, 15% discarded SD starter, 2.1% salt. I got great oven spring with this loaf and it was nice and sour.



My second loaf had 20% whole wheat flour and mashed cooked sweet potato. It was leavened with instant dry yeast (no levain). Baker's percentages: 80% APF, 20% WW, 80% water, 20% mashed cooked sweet potato, 0.18% instant dry yeast (SAF red), 2.2% salt.

I was pretty amazed that such a tiny amount of instant dry yeast could raise bread. (I used 1 gram IDyeast for 560 flour = 0.18%.). Ah, the magic of time. I mashed my sweet potato coarsely which meant there were tiny bits of orange sweet potato throughout the bread. It was little gummy which seems to be a trend for me lately, but I toast my bread anyway so it doesn't bother me. 

Even though they were no knead breads, the crumb on both loaves ended up quite fine instead of open and holey which was totally okay with me. My almond butter didn't ooze out!  

The no-knead method I used for both loaves:

  • I mixed all ingredients in a bowl with a spoon, covered the bowl and let it sit undisturbed at room temp (68-70F) for 10 hours. 
  • Then I put it in the refrigerator (40F) for 20 hours. 
  • I shaped the cold dough into a log and put it into a loaf pan.
  • Then I let it proof at room temp (68-70F) for 2 hours. 
  • I baked at 450F for 45 minutes (with steam for the first 20 min).


 I baked some chocolate cupcakes for a friend's birthday. I've been using Ina Garten's "Beatty's Chocolate Cake" recipe for years and it always turns out great whether it's a layered cake or cupcakes. It's pretty much a one bowl cake recipe that I mix by hand. The frosting is simply melted (68% cacao) chocolate, butter and powdered sugar.

:) Mary


emkay's picture

I was in a Chad kind of mood this week, so I baked an 80% whole wheat boule ala Tartine.

Tartine 80% Whole Wheat

80% whole wheat flour
20% all purpose flour
5% wheat germ
85% water
2% salt
20% levain

  • 5 hours of bulk fermentation at room temperature (about 69 F) with S&F at 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 min.
  • Preshape and bench rest for 20 minutes.
  • Shape retarded in the refrigerator (about 38F) for 16 hours.
  • Baked in an enameled cast iron combo cooker at 450F for 45 minutes (cover on during the first 20 min).

The whole wheat bread tasted great, but it was a bit dense from being overproofed. 16 hours in the refrigerator is long time for 80% whole wheat, but my schedule didn't allow for baking it sooner. No biggie.

I bought some Cup4Cup, a gluten free baking blend made by Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry). I made cornbread muffins for a GF friend who would love to have cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving. She loved the muffins and so did I. I couldn't tell that they were gluten free, but I think cornbread is something that can be made with mostly cornmeal/polenta and no wheat flour and still taste just fine.




I took a macaron class on Saturday. I have been making macarons on and off for a few years now. Sometimes they turn out perfectly, and other times not so much. I wanted more consistent results so I signed up for the macaron class at the San Francisco Baking Institute. I highly recommend the SFBI. Whether it's one of the week long courses or weekend workshops, it's a treat to learn from the talented and knowledgeable instructors in a facility with high quality equipment.


During the 8 hour class, the 24 students along with our instructor, Miyuki, made 15 different flavors of macarons. We learned the French meringue method (uncooked sugar) as well as the Italian meringue method (cooked sugar) for the shells. She exlained the differences between the two methods as well as the pros and cons. Most of the fillings were premade for us, but the students made variations on a 64% chocolate ganache. There was chocolate, chocolate orange, chocolate strawberry and chocolate cherry ganaches. The other flavors were peppermint, eggnog, chocolate praline, raspberry, pistachio, lemon, passionfruit, cassis, rose, vanilla, and mocha. Each student took home a big box of macarons.


emkay's picture

I don't have anything too exciting or interesting coming out of my oven these days. I've been baking once a week just to make sure we have enough bread to feed ourselves for the week. My storage starter is still doing great. It's been in the refrigerator for 8 weeks (unfed) and amazingly there's no sign of mold. Only a tiny bit of clear hooch is developing. Every Thursday evening, I take about 6-8 g starter and feed it once (usually about 1:3:3 or 1:3:4). I build my levain Friday morning and let it ferment while I'm at work. I mix my dough Friday night and bake on Saturday.

I've been baking my bread in loaf pans recently. My formulas for naturally leavened sandwich loafs are pretty much the same as I would employ if I were to make free-formed hearth loaves. I might increase the hydration since the loaf pan helps the dough keep its shape, but I generally like 75-80% hydration, pan or not. I haven't used any recipe for bread lately. I've just been "winging it". When I first embarked on my sourdough journey in March, I never imagined that a bread newbie like me could ever get to the point where baking bread would become second nature. I am constantly amazed by the power of this newly found knowledge.

Here are two recent loaves. Both formulas are similar except that the first uses 40% levain and 2.5% salt and the second uses 12% levain and 2% salt. The higher amount of salt in the first was to help moderate fermentation. The timelines differed slightly. Even though the beginning of the bulk fermentation to hot bread was around 22 hours for the first loaf and 21 hours for the second, the first was shape retarded and the second was bulk retarded.


This first loaf had a very complex sour flavor. It was 20% rye. I think sourness was due to the rye flour in the starter, levain and dough. The age of my storage starter and the long shape retardation probably contributed to the lovely sourness as well. It had good oven spring and was airier than it appears in the photo. I found this one absolutely delicious.



70% all-purpose flour
20% whole rye flour
10% whole wheat flour
80% water
2.5% salt
40% levain (100% hydration, 20% rye, fermented 12 hours)

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand.
  • Bulk ferment at room temp (74F) for 3.5 hours. S&F at 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 min then undisturbed for final hour.
  • Shape and put into a loaf pan.
  • Retard the shaped dough in refrigerator for 18 hours.
  • Bake cold dough at 450F for 45 minutes (20 min covered/steamed, 20 min uncovered, 5 min out of loaf pan).


The second loaf turned out less lofty than the first loaf even though I used the same amount of dough in the same loaf pan. It was still good eats and made great toast. The little bit of cornmeal added some interest and crunch.

70% all-purpose flour
10% whole rye flour
10% whole wheat flour
10% coarse cornmeal
80% water
2% salt
12% levain (100% hydration, 10% whole wheat, fermented 12 hours)

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand.
  • Bulk ferment at room temp for 5.5 hours. S&F at 30, 60, 90 min then undisturbed.
  • Bulk retard in refrigerator for 12 hours.
  • Preshape and bench rest for 45 minutes.
  • Shape and proof at room temp for 2 hours.
  • Bake at 450F for 45 minutes (20 min covered/steamed, 20 min uncovered, 5 min out of loaf pan).





emkay's picture

I started a new job about two weeks ago and, as a result, I haven't had much time to bake or surf the internet lately. I miss being able to read TFL daily, but I miss sleeping more so I chose sleep over the internet. :) My brotformen are still vacuum-sealed for safe keeping while I get settled with my new routine, so I've been baking in loaf pans.

This week I baked Syd's seed loaf (, but I omitted the bread spices. After mixing, I divided my dough into 2 portions. One was 250 g and the other was 750 g. I spread the 250 g portion into a mini loaf pan, proofed it at room temperature for 1 hour, then put the pan into the refrigerator for 2 hours. I baked it straight from the refrigerator at 375F for 30 minutes.


I bulk fermented the 750 g portion in the refrigerator for 7 hours. After the cold bulk, I shaped it, put it in a 8.5 x 4-inch loaf pan, and proofed it at room temperature for 1 hour. Then I stage baked it as follows: 450F for 10 min, 425F for 10 min, 400F for 20 min. Then I removed the loaf from the pan and baked it at 350F for 5 min. Total bake time was 45 minutes.


The large loaf was a little bit overproofed (as evidenced by the compressed crumb at the bottom), but it wasn't too noticeable as far as eating was concerned. In addition to the lovely flavor that the rye levain added, it also helped with the keeping quality. The tangzhong helped it stay soft. Overall it was a delicious sandwich loaf.


:) Mary

emkay's picture

Marcus (wassisname) mentioned in a recent post that his favorite "aromatherapy bread" of late was a 20% rye with raisins and dried coriander. I was intrigued by the flavor combination. I love cilantro (aka coriander) and grow it in my garden. It's one of the few things that seems to grow well. I tend to let it bolt and go to seed, but I think the tiny white flowers are pretty so I don't fret over it. I like adding the flowers to my salads.




With an abundance of fresh green coriander seed pods, I decided to harvest some to put in my bread. The green seed pods taste like cilantro leaves, but way more herbacious and verdant. But they also have a spicy, citrusy edge. I opted for dried tart cherries to complement the citrusy notes of the green pods, but raisins would be perfect as well. I also added a bit of ground dried coriander seeds to my dough to add a hint of earthiness.



Marcus suggested using about 1-1.5% dried coriander, but I wasn't sure how much fresh green coriander to use. I settled on 2% fresh and 0.5% dried. On day 1 the green coriander was quite overpowering (even for a coriander lover like myself). I feared that adding 2% seeds was too much, but the green coriander had mellowed considerably by day 2 and was quite nice. The dried cherries were very moist and burst with every bite.



Coriander and Dried Cherry Sourdough

80% all-purpose flour
20% whole rye flour
75% water
2.4% salt
36% levain (50% rye, 100% hydration, 12 hours)
2% fresh green coriander seeds, smashed
0.5% ground dried coriander seeds
40% dried tart cherries

  1. Combined all ingredients in a bowl and mixed by hand.
  2. Dough fermented at room temp (72F) for 3 hours with a stretch and fold at 30, 60, 90, & 120 minutes.
  3. Then bulk retarded at 40F for 12 hours. 
  4. Preshaped the cold dough and bench rested for 1 hour.
  5. Shaped 1 kg dough and placed it into a 9x4x4-inch loaf pan.
  6. Proofed at room temp for 90 minutes.
  7. Baked at 450F for 45 minutes.


:) Mary


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