The Fresh Loaf

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Ilya Flyamer's blog

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Ilya Flyamer

Some time ago I ordered the real (Ukrainian) red rye malt through eBay. It's been a few weeks, and I finally got to use it, and of course I started with a Borodinsky. I used the Rus Brot adaptation of the 1940 recipe: I followed it as closely as possible, with just minor time adjustments to fit my schedule, and I had to mix (extra strong) bread flour and WW flout to approximate the Russian grade II flour (I guess it's same as first clear flour maybe? or high extraction flour?)

Anyway, everything went just as expected, dough was not particularly sticky, and was surprisingly easy to shape in the end. Proofed up like a balloon. Baked on a steel, I used semolina on the peel to load the loaf instead of rye bran (need to use up that non-durum semolina I got the the Indo-Pakistani shop!). Semolina worked well, clearly toasted up during the bake, but didn't burn. I was worried the bottom of the loaf would burn on steel without the light insulation of baking paper, and it's definitely on the darker end and very chewy, it's not burnt.

The bread is delicious! Less of a coriander flavour that I am used to, but more malty. The red rye malt certainly adds great flavour and colour!

The one weird thing is that soon after applying the corns starch glaze the crust got some strange bubbles, does anyone have any ideas? Very obvious here, when the bread is still hot:

Did the liquid batter I applied before baking bake unevenly, or something like that? It's pretty clear to me it's the top layer of wheat crust peeling off...

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Ilya Flyamer

Today is the day have been waiting for: homentaschen day! I already shared my sourdough adaptation of my grandma's recipe for homentaschen (, and this time I actually shaped them properly. As usual, I had more dough than poppy seed filling, and turned the extra dough into mini cinnamon buns.


Mini cinnamon buns:

I rolled the dough out thinner than I did previously when I made them with yeast ones, and pretty sure thinner than what my grandma does - and I quite like it! On top they get crispy, almost cookie-like, but still have a bit of softness on the bottom. The buns are very soft throughout.

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Ilya Flyamer

Just wanted to quickly share a simple recipe which produced delicious bread. I think I overfermented it in bulk a little, so oven spring and crumb structure are not very impressive, but in combination with sesame seeds the flavour is amazing. The crumb is also very soft, which interestingly I used to get a lot when I just started baking, and then lost. Not sure what happened, but I'm pleased to get such a soft texture again.

Here is the formula:

Includes an overnight levain build (using refrigerated rye starter) with whole wheat. Overall it contains ~40% whole grain, mostly wheat and a little rye, with 80% hydration. I did 30 min fermentolyse, then mixed in the salt with a little remaining water, developed the gluten a bit with slap&folds, then did 3x stretch&folds every 30 min, and left to ferment at 24C. I think I misjudged the end of bulk a little and took it too far, so the dough was a little sticky to shape, but manageable, and I even managed to coat it with sesame seeds quite well. Retarded in the fridge overnight, baked on steel, steam 25 min, without steam until the right colour.

The taste is incredible, deep but not overwhelming, and goes nicely with both savory (cheese) and sweet (nutella!) toppings. Rye doesn't come through as such, but this tastes better than just 40% whole wheat bread! So I guess it adds some complexity, and the nuttiness of sesame seeds elevates the whole experience.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

A while ago I found this very unusual and interesting recipe on Rus Brot's channel on YouTube:

"Swedish" bread based on a 1912 Russian recipe (so not actually Swedish). It uses 100% light/white rye flour, flavoured with bitter orange peel, aniseed and coriander seeds. The procedure is very unusual: 2/3 of the flour is "scalded" with a small amount of boiling water (too little water to even make it into a cohesive mass), then when it's cooled down a tiny amount of rye starter is added (just from the fridge is fine), together with the flavourings (bitter orange peel is dried, and then boiled before using), and a small amount of water as needed to make it into a stiff dough. Here, and later when mixing the final dough, the stickiness level is 11 out of 10, until everything is combined into a nice cohesive dough. And it's too stiff to use a dough whisk, possible only by hand. Then it's left to ferment for 16 hrs at 28°C. In the morning it smelled like panettone!

Then next day the remaining flour is added (during fermentation the dough becomes much looser, and still takes up lots of flour), together with salt, malt extract (or honey), and a tiny bit of CY (approx. 0.1% of total flour). After incorporating everything, the dough is left to ferment 2 hrs at 30°C (I did 2.5 hrs, since it took a while to come up to that temperature for me). Then it's shaped and proofed at at least 30°C (I proofed a little longer than in the video, around 1hr 40 min). It increased in size a lot during the proof!

Another unusual part is before baking it's brushed with a beaten egg - not the more common water or liquid dough. And then baked around 1 hr at relatively low temperature: 220°C in the beginning, going down to 200°C.

As you can see, it looks like I screwed up the last fold I did during shaping, and it created a dense line in the bread - and also caused, or amplified the cracks I got along the bread on the bottom. Typically, the reason for this is starting the bake when the stone (or steel, in my case) is not hot enough. And apparently, using baking paper (like I did) can also cause this, since it slows down heat transfer. So next time I would preheat the oven at higher temperature, and then drop it to 220°C when loading the bread, so the steel is super hot.

However I am pleased that I didn't have any cracks on top of the loaf! Those can be caused by more different reasons, and getting rid of the bottom ones next time should be more straightforward.

The flavour is really nice: indeed, sweet and sour, with slight bitterness from the crust and a very nice citrus-y note. The spices are not very prominent, but I am sure they contribute a lot of depth to the overall flavour. The crust is hard and thick, but the crumb is soft. Really tasty bread with an unusual flavour.

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Ilya Flyamer

Incidentally there have been discussions here recently about using "weak" or unfed starter from the fridge, and I just baked some bread like that yesterday.

Ran out of bread, and my plan for a specific bake yesterday was not meant to be (starter was not quite there yet). Didn't even have much of my normal refrigerated rye starter that I would use in a bread without issues. But I had relatively recent discard from the last week or two, a mix of whole rye 100% hydration and white 50% hydration stiff starter. I took all discard I had and some of the relatively fresh starter, mixed with some bread and whole wheat flour, salt, and water. I was roughly weighing ingredients, but I didn't know the exact hydration of the discard, and there was quite a lot of it, so I had to adjust the hydration by adding extra flour after the dough turned out to be way more liquidy than I expected from my rough calculation.

Here is the approximate formula, take the numbers with a grain of salt:

At first it appeared that everything was going well, I did some stretch&folds and slap&folds, it seemed to develop some strength. Then I left it to ferment for a few hours with occasional stretch&folds. However in the end the dough was weak and sticky, as if overfermented - although there were barely any signs of fermentation visible. I think the discard brought too much acidity and the gluten  never formed properly, or got degraded very quickly. So I just dumped the dough into two small tins (could have put in one, but I was worried it might decide to grow), sprinkled sesame seeds on top and left in the fridge overnight. Didn't notice much growth by morning, but when baked the bread had a nice oven spring, and generally looked good!

It is on the sour side of my typical bread, the crumb is a little moist, but soft. On the picture it looks a little better than it is for most of the loaf, for some reason it's more open close to the end, and a little more closed and dense inside - but it's still actually good throughout. The crumb tears just a little when cutting, like into shreds... A bit like rye bread with not perfect crumb does. But it's a very minor issue, which doesn't really affect the eating experience.

Overall, it's a surprisingly good bread!

Just wanted to share this as an example of baking with unfed starter, it can cause challenges, but bread can also turn out well!

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Ilya Flyamer

I have been very busy with work the last week, so when I thought I found a time window where I could back I jumped on the opportunity. The idea was to build a quick levain in the morning from the refrigerated starter, go to work for a short time, and then mix the dough when I am back. As you might have guessed, I needed much more time at work than I anticipated, and basically my 1:1:1 levain spent ~9 hrs at 24°C, which is of course way too long. It was clear it had peaked a long time ago by the time I was home (although not sure how long it needed to peak exactly).

I decided not to waste the levain and made a dough anyway. Quite a simple dough, a little over 75% hydration, 40% whole wheat, and with 8% toasted black sesame seeds:

Did a short fermentolyse (around 20 min), then incorporated salt, sesame seeds and a splash of extra water to dissolve the salt. It was quite late already, so I used warm water (~35°C) and kept the dough in my "proofer" to keep it warm. Didn't do slap&folds, like I tend to recently (it was time for dinner instead), so did three folds 30 min apart, gluten was nicely developed. Then left with an aliquot jar, keeping an eye on the rise. It took its time, but I stopped bulk when saw ~30% growth in the jar.

And here is where I ran into an issue: it appeared that, despite modest growth in volume, the dough was overproofed and the gluten started degrading! I attributed it to using a very acidic overripe levain, and heating the dough from the bottom: it seemed as though the bottom part was affected much worse than the top. Regardless, I managed to coax it into a decent batard, and even coated the top with white sesame seeds. I had to stitch the dough in the benneton to restore any tension after manipulating it to coat with seeds though, it became very slack. It was near midnight then, so I just shoved it into the fridge until morning.

So in the morning it behaved OK when taken out of the banneton with almost no spreading and was fine to score - but cooling the dough of course helps a lot with these issues. Baked in a preheated pyrex dish as a DO. The loaf spread a little during baking, and the oven spring was quite small, but still it was far better than some frisbees I have produced in the past.

The crumb is really nice: not very open, but not dense anywhere. Taste is great - more sour than I usually get, and perhaps just a tad too sour for my taste when I tried a slice on its own, but the acidity is not obvious when eating with toppings. Sesame flavour is spot on. It was delicious for breakfast with avocado and goat's cheese.

So an interesting learning experience for me! I think I need to learn how to wield the ancient powers of heat - at least three times since I started using the heating setup I've had gluten start degrading on me, and that had never happened before. A very useful tool, but dangerous in untrained hands! I guess especially in combination with a sour levain and high inoculation, like in this case.

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Ilya Flyamer

Ilya's durum bake #1

Baked a bread in the style of the Hamelman formula provided in the first post. Had to deviate slightly, due to flour availabilty: I had just under 100g of semola remacinata left, and half a bag of pasta flour that is 50% durum. So combining that I could make a ~60% durum 900g loaf, but had to use the 50% durum pasta flour in the levain instead of bread flour. I included 30 g toasted sesame seeds. Here is my formula:

I almost never use hydration <70%, so it was refreshing to have a non-sticky dough which lended itself perfectly to traditional kneading. I also did some stretch&folds in the beginning of bulk, but I'd say they were more short kneads, since the dough was not at all stretchy.

I tried using the aliquot jar, and this time it worked nicely. With such low hydration dough I think it wasn't very precise because it grew much more in the center forming a meniscus. So I ended bulk somewhere after 50% increase. Then shaped into a batard and coated with sesame seeds. It went directly into the fridge for ~24 hours due to my schedule constraints. Interestingly, it didn't seem to relax in the fridge at all and retained it's shape perfectly with a perhaps very slight increase in size.

Scored with an S-like pattern (for Sesame Semolina Sourdough), and in it went into an upturned preheated pyrex casserole dish that serves as a DO. Baked in it for 20-25 min, and then without the lid for another 15-20 min - until I liked the colour. No thermometer probing :)

I am very pleased with this bake, both the crust and the crumb. Tight, but well fermented throughout, very even. Just what Murph is looking for! There is also a clear but not strong tang - either from the wet levain, the long retard - or both? And a delicious nutty taste from the durum and sesame. Crust is super crispy, like durum tends to make it, with a good coating of sesame seeds. Very successful bake all around!


Ilya's bake #2. Semolina porridge pan loaves

Having used up my semola remacinata, I thought I'd try to use regular semolina in bread. But since it's so coarse, I had an idea to use it as a porridge, which is a delicious breakfast dish in its own right. And considering semolina is just coarsely ground wheat, it's essentially tangzhong. And I decided to use a lot of Kamut flour in the loaf to get that beautiful yellow colour. Since I was imagining it as a more of a slightly enriched "sandwich" bread, I used oat milk as the liquid, and added some honey and butter. Here is my formula:

For some reason my levain seemed a bit week, didn't quite double overnight - I tried to give it more time but nothing more happened. I proceeded with the bread anyway, hoping essentially refreshing it in the dough would help with the strength. Not sure that worked like I wanted to, the dough was barely moving after a few hours, judging by the aliquot jar. There was a bit off fermentation going on with some bubbles visible on the bottom of the dough through the bowl.

I felt it was starting to break down after 5-6 hours at warm temperature, so I decided to just shape it and hope for the best. In the final proof it actually appeared to grow a little, but nothing like what it normally should. Regardless, I just baked it, since I was afraid of gluten degradation. Surprisingly, there was noticeable oven spring, and the result is not bad: quite dense, but not gummy and fermented throughout the loaf.

Tastes nice: a little sweet, a little sour, a little buttery and nutty - both from the butter, and from Kamut and semolina porridge, I guess. Despite the fermentation issues, the bread is actually pretty good!


Ilya's bake #3. Pane cafone.

Followed the recipe suggested by Abe for pane cafone ( Used fine semolina instead of semola rimacinata due to availability.

Converted my 100% hydration rye starter to a stiff wheat starter overnight, then did three quick builds during the day (the second and third are part of the recipe). Added like a 5 min saltolyse before mixing in the starter to let the semolina hydrate a bit before kneading, to avoid grittiness. I don't think my starter was quite a vigorous as in the video, so extended the time between/after the fold to 30 min. After kneading the dough was so nice, very soft and just a little tacky, but not at all sticky. Shaped into a long loaf and proofed overnight on a couche in the fridge.

Baked 25 min with steam, and around 15-20 min more without, and left it in the cooling oven with the door ajar for a bit. Got very nice oven spring and good colour. Surprisingly, the crust is a bit soft, unlike my previous breads with durum, where the crust was super hard and crispy.

Will cut and see the crumb later today.


Ilya's bake #4. Pane cafone 2.0

After the previous underproofed bake of pane cafone, I was determined to figure it out and make it work. Well, I'm definitely much closer this time!

Basically, with Abe's guidance, I strengthened the stiff starter over a few feeds, so that it properly follows the timing in the recipe (doubling within 3-4 hours for first and second dough). On top of that, after kneading I left the dough to proof at 27C in my "proofer" for 1 hr, since it certainly felt cold - despite using warm water - must be heat loss from kneading on a colder surface.

And then it also spent much longer in the cold proof in the fridge this time, around 15 hrs. From outside it looks like a twin of the first loaf (just a little smaller, since I made a slightly smaller batch of dough). However it's not underproofed!

There are some slightly larger holes in the crumb, but these I would believe that I trapped during shaping. Hope I don't discover some caverns further inside the loaf!

The flavour is the same lovely non-sour, with a hint of durum sweetness and some nice underlying aroma - as Abe says, as if it was a biga bread.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Had a craving for focaccia, realized I haven't made it since August. Just like last time, I simply followed Maurizio's recipe with minor time adjustments. I think my flour is a bit thirstier than his blend of AP and bread flour, so after some Rubaud mixing, slap&folds and stretch&folds was lovely and strong, could have made just a loaf of bread with it I think if I wanted to.

I split the dough over two heavily oiled glass trays (well, one was the lid of a pyrex casserole dish that also works instead of a dutch oven when I bake just one loaf), since I didn't want a very thick and fluffy focaccia, but rather a thinner, more traditional Italian style. After a few hours proofing until they were bubbling a lot on top, I topped them. First, I splashed some salted water and dimpled them. Then topped with sliced baby plum tomatoes and a finely sliced onion. Also chopped a little of fresh rosemary, mixed with dried thyme and oregano, mixed with olive oil and splashed it on top. And added some more olive oil, sea salt and some parmesan grated on a microplane. And more olive oil. It was a lot of olive oil! But that's the key to a good focaccia, and our Kalamata EVOO is delicious.

The round focaccia turned out a little thinner, and that's the one I cut first. It's super crispy on the outside, but soft inside. Just what I wanted. I think I cut the onion a bit too thin, so it charred a bit too much, but when eaten together with the whole slice of focaccia it doesn't taste bitter, so all good. The round one disappeared quickly tonight for dinner, between me and my girlfriend!

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Ilya Flyamer

Russian bread, not an old GOST recipe, but rus brot reverse engineered it from the ingredient list:

Original formula:

Here is the formula, using a mix of light and whole rye flour available to me, instead of medium rye:

I asked the miller about the extraction rate of the light rye, since they don't know the ash content I had to rely on that to mix whole and light rye to approximate the Russian medium rye standard. It was approximately 1 part light rye to 2 parts whole rye. And it seems that was a good ratio, I didn't need to adjust the hydration relative to the recipe, beyond just using wet hands when mixing, which is normal anyway.

It was my first attempt at free-standing mostly rye bread, so I was following the recipe as close as possible. My new heating system worked well, just set to constant heat, basically, and I had very similar rising times to what rus brot had.

So, for maximum power I refreshed the rye starter from the fridge according to rus brot's refreshment schedule for 70% hydration sour in the end over three feeds. Last feed was done yesterday morning, at the same time as the scald. Scald was kept in the oven, which was manually adjusted to approximately 65C by measuring the temperature.

Preferment contained the starter, scald and more water and flour, and was kept warm until it peaked, around 5 hours.

Final dough was mixed by adding flour to the preferment, together with salt, sugar, molasses (I used black treacle), and seeds. When the dough came together it was surprisingly not very sticky, and easy to handle with wet hands (although until it was mixed properly it was a mess). After kneading for a few minutes to distribute the seeds, the dough was fermented warm for 1.5 hrs. Then shaped using plenty of light rye flour to avoid sticking, and proofed in my bannetons, also generously dusted with rice flour. Proofed for 50 min on the heat pad.

When taken out of the bannetons, I remove excess flour as best I could with a brush, and then brushed with plenty of water. Already here I noticed the dough was cracking for some reason. I suspect the surface might have overdried with too much flour when proofing, but avoiding cracks in hearth rye bread is a challenge with a lot of factors involved.

Sprinkled with seeds (probably put too much), and baked in preheated oven on steel at 260C for 10 min, then reduced to 190C and baked for 50 min. For most of that time switched to bottom-only heat to avoid burning the top.

I am really pleased with the crumb for 80% rye bread, and didn't get too many cracks, so reasonable free-standing rye bread is possible quite easily! Seeds are of course delicious. For some reason the taste of black treacle comes through a bit more than I expected, and the bread is overall on the sweet side.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

The holidays are playing all kinds of tricks with my baking schedule and thinking, so here is another salvaged near-flop.

My girlfriend's brother has been staying with us over the holidays, and when he was leaving yesterday I wanted to gift him a loaf of bread to take with him. But of course I didn't manage to plan it properly, and only could set up the very simple sourdough dough the night before, and spend minimal amount of hands-on time on it yesterday during the day.

I mixed a dough with 25% spelt, 10% extra strong whole wheat and 5% rye (rest BF), and 73% hydration, plus probably a few more percent from wetting hands during kneading (slap&folds): So I developed the gluten to a good degree, and left to ferment overnight (11 hours). Potentially important point is that I used 100% hydration rye starter from the fridge, not a stiff starter as in the recipe (since that's what I had). And more importantly, I used my "proofer", and I think I still need to play with the setup, since it appears the heating pad was on all night - and the dough overfermented! Especially at the bottom of the mixing bowl, where the heat is coming from, it was much more sticky than usual, and a lot of it was stuck to the bowl when I inverted it to remove the dough. And I got a very big rise, and I even had a feeling maybe it had peaked and started falling by morning. I'd never had dough overproof significantly in bulk like this, so it was a goo learning experience.

I tried shaping it, and while it was not a complete disaster at first, the gluten membrane on the outside was tearing very easily, and I couldn't make a tight boule or batard. So I decided to follow the common advice, to just dump the dough into loaf pans. I managed to shape one of them into batard-y roll, but the other one was impossible to work with, and just went into the pan as an unshaped mass of dough. I sprinkled sesame seeds on top, even if the bread is not great they are guaranteed to come out delicious. I then tried to proof it for a bit, but didn't see a significant rise. But by then it was time to go out for a walk to meet a friend, so I couldn't bake it and put them in the fridge, where they stayed a few hours, and I don't think it rose more than half a centimeter overall. I then scored it and baked it from cold (again, pressed for time I didn't even preheat the oven fully), and was pleasantly surprised by pretty good oven spring.

I lost track which one was shaped relatively well, and which was a complete mess when went into the pan, but they looked very similar in the end (I thought having a "skin" on the surface was beneficial for the crust, but it doesn't appear so!). I kept one of the loafs, and tasted it this morning.

Probably unsurprisingly, this is the most sour bread I've ever made! I still like it, but would prefer less acidity.


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