The Fresh Loaf

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My wife wanted these sausage and pepper sandwiches for dinners this week, so I made a batch of "Italian bread" as sandwich rolls from Bread Baker's Apprentice. The only deviations I made from the recipe were to let the biga retard in the fridge for about 36 hours, and to retard the proof again for about 9 hours while I was at work. Both changes were due to not having time to plan the bake properly over the weekend after getting back from a work trip. Despite the changes, the rolls turned out great. I expected them to be longer, but the sausages only stuck out the ends of the rolls slightly, so it worked out fine.

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Last Christmas my wife bought me some wheat berries from Barton Springs Mill. Unfortunately, she started a major allergen elimination diet not long after that because we thought our newborn was sensitive to something she was eating. That turned out not to be the case, and we're all back to eating everything we want, so I was finally able to compare the two hard red wheats that she got me (Yecora Rojo and Rouge de Bordeaux) to the regular hard red wheat I get from the LDS Home Storage Center. My main curiosity was to find out if any differences in bread quality would be worth the drastic difference in price ($18 plus shipping for 5lb from BSM vs $17.61 local pickup for 25lb of my regular wheat).

I compared one BSM wheat against my control per bake. Every loaf had 392g freshly milled whole wheat flour, 8g vital wheat gluten, 9g salt, 1/4tsp instant yeast, and 340g water.

RDB was the first one I tried. Chad Robertson writes in one of his books that RDB is more extensible, and that matched my experience in this little test. The RDB dough was more slack than the control at the same hydration. The dough spread out more during baking and didn't spring as tall. The main difference in flavor was that it tasted more like wheat bran than the control. Since the berries are smaller, I'm sure that it did actually have more bran in it, rather than just having a higher polyphenol concentration in the bran or whatever.

The YR had the opposite effect on dough consistency, which also matched my expectations based on Robertson's writings. The dough was very strong and springy, and I wonder if it would produce a strong dough even without added VWG. The flavor of YR is very pleasant, but hard for me to describe. It definitely has a stronger flavor than my control, but not in the same way as RDB. It reminds me of when I had cracked wheat cereal as a kid. It tasted more like wheat without tasting more like bran. However, this flavor was only noticeable when I ate it by itself, not when I used it for sandwiches. I've been thinking about what I could make to best appreciate the flavor, but so far I haven't thought of anything that I would want to eat exclusively unaccompanied. I'd also be interested to see if the flavor difference remains as strong if I use sourdough instead of commercial yeast.

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For today's bake, I decided to take a page from Benito's book and make a whole wheat sourdough with 2% vital wheat gluten and a bran scald. I used freshly milled hard red wheat and sifted it with a 50 mesh sieve.


  • 141g bran (13.8%)
  • 282g boiling water (27.6%)

Main dough

  • 828g sifted flour (81.1%)
  • 19g vital wheat gluten (1.9%)
  • 20g salt (2.0%)
  • 50g stiff starter (3.3% prefermented flour)
  • 508g water (49.7%)

12 hours after making the scald, I mixed the main dough. I let the main dough rest for 30 minutes, then mixed in the scald. 30 minutes later, I added 50g more water. I performed 3 sets of stretch and folds, then let it bulk ferment over night.

I happened to wake up at 1:45am and decided to check on the dough. In my delirium, I mixed up my starting and target volumes on my Cambro container, and didn't realize it until after I preshaped, shaped, and went back to bed. So I got up and put both loaves back into the bulk container.

I'm the morning, when it had actually doubled, I redivided, preshaped, shaped, and stuck the loaves in the fridge to proof. During the mixing and stretches, the dough felt very sticky, but by the time I shaped it, it felt somewhat stiff, like it still could've used at least 5% higher hydration.

After 8 hours in the fridge, I baked one of the loaves in a dutch oven, and I'll leave the other one in the fridge until we finish this first one. Overall, I'm very pleased with the shape of this loaf, although the volume seems small. I'm going to try to give the other loaf some time at room temperature to see if that helps with volume before I bake it.

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I made three panettoni for my family Christmas, and I'm very happy with the result. There was some discrepancy between final proofing temperatures due to proximity to the oven light, so one of them was a little shorter than it could have been, but the flavor and texture was great on all of them.

 Traditional raisin and candied orange

Chocolate with candied orange (next time I would use more candied orange, this time it was only 25% of the mix-ins)

Crumb not pictured, the third and tallest one was all chocolate.

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I always have so many different types of bread I'd like to bake, but I can only eat so much in any given week. One style of bread I've been wanting to try for a few months is a miche, and now that I've gotten a handle on making my own 85% extraction flour, I decided now was the time to jump on it.

I didn't follow any one recipe for this, though I did use the BBA baking directions for reference since this mass of dough is twice what I usually bake. In the future I would preheat the oven to 450°F instead of 500°F, so that I can leave it in longer and get a darker, crispier crust.

My formula was pretty simple:

  • 1000 g 85% extraction freshly milled hard red wheat

  • 800 g water

  • 100 g stiff starter (white, 57% hydration)

  • 21 g salt

I doubled my typical leaven amount and didnt retard the proof because I wanted to get it all done yesterday.

The crust is slightly chewy. The crumb is tender and moist, with a hearty whole wheat flavor and a touch of sourdough tang. From everything I had read about miches I was honestly surprised at the height I got. The aspect ratio is obviously nowhere near what you'd get from a smaller batard, but it still impressed me.

PS: Does anyone know why I get so much extra whitespace before and after my photos on here? I'd like to just get the normal paragraph spacing.

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My wife and I took our newborn daughter home from the hospital on Saturday and we didn't have any fresh bread to eat, so I refreshed my starter and got baking Sunday. I'd seen the discussion for the community bake and wanted to participate, but my options for non-wheat were corn meal or grinding oats or rice. I chose to go with the corn meal and cooked it like a porridge. I also used soaked oats as the 10% seed portion, though in hindsight I probably should've mixed them into the "polenta" after it was done cooking to avoid adding more water, as the dough was extremely wet.

Does 85% extraction flour count as 50% white and 50% whole wheat? It does for me.

The crumb is slightly gummy, but toast it and it's great. Honestly for 99% total hydration and 40% non-wheat grains it turned out really well.

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When my wife and I went to Italy earlier this year, we had a pizza in Bergamo that became my wife's favorite combination of toppings: red onion and bacon. I was itching to make some pizza, and my wife said I could make it any time as long as it had onion and bacon.

Typically for sourdough pizza, I make a basic dough with white flour at 70% hydration. This time I decided to try a variation based on Robertson's recipe in Bread Book. The only changes I made were reducing the leaven (from 20% to 5%, for an overnight room temp bulk ferment), replacing the spelt with whole wheat flour (because I thought I had spelt but didn't), and doubling the durum scald (because his method made far more than required and it seemed a shame to waste half of it).

The dough was wonderful to work with, and the pizza tasted great. I'm looking forward to more pizza for dinner for the next two days.

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Pork shoulder was on sale last week, so my wife decided she wanted pulled pork sandwiches for dinner and it was up to me to make the buns this past Sunday. I mostly followed Maurizio's brioche hamburger bun recipe, but instead of a blend of whole wheat and white flour I used 100% freshly milled 85% extraction hard red wheat (which I'm obsessed with the past couple of weeks since I bought a new sieve).

The dough didn't rise as much in the bulk ferment as I would have expected, but I was on a strict schedule to get to church, so I put it in the fridge as directed anyway. I had to let it proof longer, but it worked out as the pork also took much longer to cook than I planned and dinner was late.

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During my experimentation on grinding durum into semola rimacinata, I found out that the 50 mesh sieve I bought got me about 85% extraction on hard red wheat (not sure if it's spring or winter) after a single pass through my stone mill, so I decided to try a bake with it.

The dough was wonderful to work with. Very sticky when I first mixed it (75% hydration), but it got much better after resting 30 minutes. It probably could've used a little more water.

The crumb isn't quite as open as I usually get with white flour, but much taller and more open than when I do whole wheat, even I sift out the largest bran pieces (about 95% extraction). The flavor is robust and wheaty, and the crumb is very soft. Overall I'm very pleased with this loaf, though I think I need to go back and see why my scores aren't as consistent as they used to be.

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Inspired by Will's Altamura and Matera bakes made with 100% semola rimacinata, I wanted to try a durum loaf again. A couple of years ago I acquired a 50lb bag of durum berries from Central Milling while I was up in Logan visiting family, so I wanted to see if I could replicate his results with freshly ground flour.

I have Komo Mio stone mill and a 40 mesh sieve from Breadtopia (I bought the combo with a 50 mesh sieve but that one got ruined trying to drain some overwatered rice last year), so I started sifting out most of the bran and the largest endosperm particles after one pass at the finest setting. I tried to do the gentle mixing Will mentioned, but my mixer is a KitchenAid, and by the time the 65% water was incorporated and I let it fermentolyse, the dough already felt pretty developed. I increased hydration to 70%, but even though the dough felt soft and extensible, by the time it finished bulk ferment the top was all split.

I don't have a picture of the first loaf I made, but it was very small and the crumb was very close, nothing like what I've seen from semola remacinata.

For my second bake I bought another 50 mesh sieve off Amazon to try to get a lower extraction of finer flour. I experimented with  starting coarse and regrinding the retentate, but the flour had less bran when I did one pass at the finest setting (one click before the stones touch) and didn't regrind anything. This time I hand mixed, starting at 75% hydration and ending up at 85% when I felt like the dough had the right consistency. Once again the dough felt very good, soft and extensible, but cracked during bulk ferment and proof. The resulting loaf was better than the first, but still nowhere near where I'd like it to be.

The extraction rate was much higher with the 50 mesh than I expected, about 87%. The old Breadtopia sieve I had would get closer to 50%, so maybe I need to get another sieve at 60 mesh to really get that fine flour.

My current baking schedule uses 3-5% prefermented flour (stiff starter) and a 12-14 hour room temperature bulk ferment, then a 8-10 hour retarded proof. My next step in the project is to see if the durum just doesn't handle long fermentation as well as hard red or white wheat, so I'll do a higher preferment and shorter bulk ferment to see if I get less breakdown. I'm also going to try tempering the durum to see if that helps grind it finer. If neither of those work I'm investing in a 60 mesh sieve and using whatever doesn't go through as semolina for peel dusting and/or fresh pasta.


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