The Fresh Loaf

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As Dan said, "bad babka" is a misnomer, and I also happen to think a "bad blueberry" bread is a misnomer. But I'm biased in liking fruit in my breads, and this particular combination of fresh blueberries and lemon zest in the bread is lovely.

As usual, this is a yeast water bread, this time made with apple yeast water. And, like last time, I only did a single build of the yeast water 'levain' before including it in the bake as I could tell that the fridge jar of apple yeast water was suitably fizzy and a double build didn't seem to be necessary. To 137g of apple yeast water I added two different kinds of wholemeal flour: 49g of a hard white wheat wholemeal and 50g of atta flour. To this was also added 129g of a strong bread flour, and it was combined with a danish whisk and finished off by hand kneading and then left for about 11.5 hours to overnight in the proofer at 27°C (80°F) before using in the final dough.

Once again the main recipe is the Hamelman recipe from the community bake. Other than using the single build described above the other main deviation was that I didn't use the same inclusions as in the community bake but instead used 80g of fresh unprocessed (but washed) blueberries, as well as the fresh zest of one lemon, about 3 tsp worth.

I got something right this time when preparing the final dough - did a short 20 minute autolyse of the flour and water before adding in the levain build and this made all the difference. It only needed about 3 minutes in the stand mixer before the bowl was clean, although I left it running for a total of 8 minutes before stopping the mixer; the salt was added about half way through by pouring it slowly into the running mixer.

Fermentation times were similar or faster than the fast times I've seen before with yeast water: 1h30 bulk followed by 1h10 final proof, all done in the proofer at 27°C (80°F). The aliquot was estimated at 50% at the time of shaping and reached up to 225% at the end.

Once again seam side DOWN in the banneton. Struggled to add the seed topping to it because of that. But this time around was so much better! It puffed up into a ball in the banneton during the final proofing. Loading it into the dutch oven was difficult. Even the 'heave ho' to lift in the parchment seemed to change the shape it was so jiggly. I was so worried that I'd get another ugly flat bread that 6 minutes into the bake I removed the hot dutch oven, opened it and did a small cross score just to ensure that there was some lift, and yes there was lift! I've actually already made another bread after this one, and for that I was bold enough to not do any 'panic' scoring and that one seemed to have achieved a nice lift so I'm beginning to trust the seam side down method more now.

Blueberry and lemon is amazing, never tried the combination before. Also think I've got a particularly good bag of lemons at the moment as they were also great in the parmesan bread. I should probably have extracted the juice and just used the blueberry skins, there might have been less cavitation. On the other hand the juice brought extra flavour to the loaf.


Small 'cross score' added during the bake

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Gosh. Kicking myself that I hadn't tried out parmesan in my breads before. This bread had a great combination of inclusions: 41g of parmesan cheese, grated from a frozen block. Fresh zest of one lemon, about 3 tsp worth. 2 tsp of dried origanum (marjoram). And 45g of Kalamata olives (13 ea). Incredible smell when it was out of the oven. I couldn't wait the two hours for it to cool. Was cutting into it after 40 minutes, sometimes it is the guilty pleasure of hot steamy crusty bread that is the most enjoyable.

This bread is, once again, a raisin water yeast bread, and once again using the Hamelman recipe from the community bake as the base. For this one though I didn't have time to do a double build. So there was only a single build made using 153g active and fizzy raisin yeast water straight from the fridge, with 169g strong bread flour and 57g atta, other than that (and the different inclusions) it was faithful to the community bake recipe.

The build was used 9 hours later in the final dough, which was mixed all-in-one together with the salt. Had more trouble than usual getting the stand mixer to run 'clean' which is my normal guide to good gluten development. Previously, with the same flours I've done an all-in-one mix with this recipe and had good gluten development after about 8 minutes but this bread ended up getting a whopping 27 minutes of mix time (in 10 minute intervals with some rest between) before I was satisfied. Next time I will pay closer attention as to the order of adding items to the mix, and might do an autolyse or delay the addition of the salt (which is a great tool to tighten the gluten if the dough isn't developing satisfactorily). 27 minutes of mix time is not typical for me, but it certainly built a nice enough crumb!

A lamination was done shortly after the mix and all the inclusions were added in then. There was no opportunity for a coil fold, as bulk fermentation was in a proofer set to 27°C (80°F) and fermentation proceeded quickly. The dough was final shaped 2 hours after the initial mix, and then had an additional 1.5 hours of proof time in the proofer followed by 30 minutes in the fridge whilst the oven completed heating. The final volume increase of the aliquot jar was 200% (in other words, the dough was three times the original volume). I've been pushing the volume increase of these yeast water breads to see what I can get away with lately.

I tried out "Danni's banneton method" where the shaped dough is placed into the banneton seam side down. I like how the dough grew in the banneton after the shaping. The reason why I was trying out this technique was that I've been finding it difficult to score the room temperature dough, especially when it is soft and 'jiggly' as this one was. So the attraction for me of the method is that the bread does not need to be scored with the expectation that it should open up at the seams on the top during the bake. The seams didn't really open on this one very much though. The exterior wasn't exactly ugly, but it also wasn't what I would call charming! At least the bread did not flatten out.

The interior of the bread was lovely. Could taste all of the various flavours and the parmesan and lemon flavours dominated. I might use less lemon next time as it was perhaps a little too strong. There was an interesting layering of the crust at the base of the bread and the crust had that enjoyable glassy brittleness. Not sure if that was from the seam side up method or from the long mix time the dough had.


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Am still loving the yeast water! This was a repeat of Hamelman's "Swiss Farmhouse" from the community bake - used the same formula but with some minor tweaks. Said tweaks being that I used apple yeast water (fed using Granny Smith apples, originally started as a raisin yeast water); and replaced the raisins and walnuts by cranberries and pecans; the cranberries were soaked in boiled water for 20 minutes and so were slightly more hydrated than the raisins usually are.

The interesting thing about using the apple yeast water this time is that build 1 and build 2 both had some lovely apple odours to them, but as usual with the yeast waters I can't taste it in the final bread.

The bread flour that I used ("Champagne Valley") needed fairly long in the mixer before the mixer ran clean. It ended up needing 20 minutes before I was satisfied, and perhaps next time I use this brand of flour I'll try it with an autolyse beforehand as that felt like a long time. But, the long mix gave a nicely developed gluten, and I've never had the experience of slicing into a bread and thinking the interior looked like the interior of a croissant until this one.

To be fair "work meetings" meant I was distracted, so perhaps I let the fermentation run longer than usual too, but that isn't such a bad thing now, is it? So this bread had 2 hours of bulk fermentation before shaping without any coil folds, followed by 2 hours of final proof before it was baked without a cold retard. The aliquot jar at the time of baking showed a volume increase of about 225%, think this is a first for me without over proofing!

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Our recent babka community bake gave me a hankering for what my grandmother would call 'bulkas/boolkes/bulkes' - yeasted cinnamon buns made with milk.

They are simple, soft and buttery, and not too sweet or as complex as babka. Lovely to eat when spread with butter. We also like to have them as the perfect food for breaking the Yom Kippur fast.

Orna Purkin has a great recipe which uses commercial yeast. She has an interesting YouTube channel that has a couple of variations and a clever technique for shaping the buns.

They're easy to make with commercial yeast, but I do like my yeast water lately, which also seems fairly osmotolerant and can handle the sweeter doughs. These were made with apple yeast water (pictured below) and I did a double build before using in the final dough. For the first build 50g of apple yeast water was mixed with 78g of bread flour and left for 8 hours. This was then used in the second build for which an additional 148g of bread flour and 94g of water was added, this was then left in the proofer at 27 deg C for 12 hours and used in the final dough the next morning.

Fizzy apple yeast water

The final dough formula was adjusted to take into account the yeast water levain. All of the second build yeast water levain was used (about 370g). To accomodate this, the amount of milk in the final dough was reduced down to 107g of full cream milk, when compared to Orna's recipe, and the total amount of flour was reduced to 314g. Another adjustment was that I used some cake flour which gives a softer crumb that I tend to prefer, so that 314g of flour was 206g of cake flour and 108g of bread flour. Because I was using the yeast water I didn't deliberately degas the dough prior to shaping, but since shaping involved rolling it flat with a rolling pin some degassing couldn't be avoided!

Fermentation times were 2 hours for the bulk ferment, after which the dough had risen in size by about two-thirds. The bulkas were then shaped (the dough unfortunately cooled a little in my cold kitchen). It then went back into the proofer for about another hour or so to bulk up. Had nice oven spring too.

These are lovely and quick. The crumb below is crying out to be eaten with butter whilst still a little warm!

Bulka crumb

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Have been loving the yeast water. 

I've recently made Hamelman's Swiss Farmhouse bread from the community bake. So interesting and it surprised me that my somewhat fizzy water has such great leavening power.

Since there was leftover yeast water from making the CB bread I wondered what a yeast water bread would taste like without the raisins and if it would still have as strong a raisin flavour to it. And I do like what seeds and nuts as inclusions bring to a bread, so made this loaf, replacing the walnut and raisin inclusions with 50g of a seed mix of my own (pumpkin, sunflower, brown and golden linseed, sesame) and another 50g of nuts (almonds, pecans and walnut).

Other than that most of the method followed was as per Hamelman's recipe.  The nuts and seeds were laminated in. This time around the fermentation, although lightning fast compared to sourdough was slower than with the Swiss Farmhouse, possible because of the lack of raisins. Bulk fermentation was 2.5 hours and final proof just shy of 2 hours, with the aliquot showing 120% increase at the end. With the original recipe the aliquot grew even larger - to 167% and perhaps I should have let it raise even higher, but still learning what I can get away with with the yeast water!

I did err on the side of caution and popped the banneton into the freezer while the oven was warming just in case the dough would spread when it came out. I never know how long you can get away with the freezer for, but it seems to be longer than I expected and up to an hour has been fine. For this bread it was around 50 minutes.

Taste was exceptional. The pecans really came through (most of the nuts did, actually). There wasn't a raisin taste either, although there was certainly no sour taste as you'd get with sourdough. It was especially lovely to eat with a nut butter, but we went to town and also tried it with avo, a 'Labneh' cream-cheese and Speculoos spread.

So I had two different kinds of raisins that I tried. Ended up using the jar on the left which had the larger raisins made from Hanepoort grapes. Raisins are seeded and still have stalks.

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The Tartine book has an interesting variation on the semolina bread called "Golden Raisin, Fennel Seed, and Orange Zest." I've got a friend who makes this bread, but substitutes the raisins for cranberries and calls this her "Christmas bread."

I used a 100g bag of cranberries which were presoaked in boiling water (120g after drainage).

Also, I've struggled in the past with semolina 'rinacinata' in bread, so I developed two doughs and laminated them together with the inclusions, this let me develop the gluten in the semolina dough at  lower hydration and get quite a strong dough upfront. In the pic below of the two doughs the semolina dough (70% of the flour) is the bowl on the right and the bowl on the left (30% of the flour) is strong bread flour dough. I used a little bit less water than Chad (used 330g of water in total, whereas the book had 375+25g listed), but followed what the dough felt like it could hold.

The bread had the lovely yellow semolina colour, and was my first successful high semolina bread! Think I have the double dough lamination to thank for that!

Taste wise the fennel seeds do dominate, so it isn't an everyday bread, but the combination with orange zest, coriander and cranberries was quite interesting to try out. Perhaps too, that floral linalool flavour from the toasted coriander seeds is the thing that held the flavour and made this an interesting bread.

In the light by my window it looks a little golden.

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Wheat pulp bread formula

This has to be one of the most interesting (to me) breads I've made in the last couple of months. As I was making it I kept on thinking that this was quite mad scientist and couldn't possibly work.

It all started when I read a stray comment from David (headupinclouds) about the "wet sprouted grain path"....which led me to find Wendy's interesting post here from 2018 about Reinhart's Sprouted Pulp Bread.

And from there it was a short hop skip and jump to take those first tentative steps onto the "wet sprouted grain path". At least some of these tenative steps have been self inflicted, it would have certainly been easier to read Peter Reinhart.

At the time I didn't have Reinhart's "Bread Revolution" book, so the formula that I came up with to make my own was based off some assumptions. The first thought was that maybe 150g of wheat berries to 300g of flour would be a good starting point. It was harder to guess how much water to add, so I assumed that roughly 10% of the mass of the wheat berries was water and germinated the wheat in a closed glass jar so that I could have a rough idea of the added hydration. Also, I made the assumptions that 3 days would be about right for germination of the sprouts, although my kitchen is a cold 17 deg C at this time of the year.

And, based on these assumptions, and treating the sprouted wheat as another flour I initially aimed for '70% hydration' overall, figuring that it is better to be underhydrated and have control over the dough and add in water later by bassinage if needed. It turned out to be needed too - 50g of the water listed above in the formula needed to be added in via bassinage. The wheat husk and endosperm are certainly good at doing what they do when it comes to locking in (or out) the moisture.

The food processor with the sharp metal blade was used for pulping the sprouted wheat berries, and since I didn't really want to wash multiple containers I also used it for mixing the dough. I started out with a slurry of levain and the initial amount of water (178g) and into this the sprouted wheat was added for pulping. It was necessary to run the machine for around 3 minutes until the mixture no longer showed large wheat pieces. On top of this the high protein sifted bread flour was poured, with a total mix time thereafter of around 35 (20+15) seconds to make the final dough. There was a rest between the two mixes so that the dough could fermentolyse. When it came out of the food processor the dough had strong gluten and was taut and rubbery, and it was then left in a bowl in the proofing box for about an hour before the salt and additional bassinage water was added by hand. The bassinage the excessive rubbery gluten texture.

If I was to repeat, I think it might be interesting to pulp the wheat berries first to see what the pulp looks like (and to smell it) on its own without the levain slurry, although the method of mixing used clearly turned out to be effective and there was nothing wrong with it.

From Wendy's post the raisins and nuts looked like interesting inclusions, but I didn't want to overdo the inclusions on the first attempt, so there were inclusions, but only a small amount of dry cranberries and walnuts from leftovers in the cupboard. Inclusions were laminated in, thereafter followed by a couple of coil folds about hourly, with shaping at a low volume increase of 20% and the banneton went into the fridge for a retard at a volume increase of approximately 45%. Normally I like to go a little bit bigger than that, but the levain wasn't as active as I'd have liked.

The levain is my new desem culture which I've been playing with storing semi dehydrated in the fridge, and probably it should have had an additional day growing in the warm proofer with one extra levain build step before use. It is weird to think that the desem levain was started from the same bag of wheat kernels that I used for this bread, at least there is some consistency with the yeast and bacteria species found on the seeds and what is being used in the levain culture, although the whole thing felt kind of cannibalistic!

This bread was lovely to eat. I can see why all the bakers who make pulp breads say they will do it again. The taste was more neutral than sweet, but it certainly did not have the sour taste notes that I associate with sourdough and wholewheat. It was a little denser than I like, and I suspect using emmer or kamut are worth exploring as Reinhart suggests, although even using regular wheat result in a "power" bread that is digestible and nutritious.

Today I bought an ebook version of Reinhart's book to finally see the recipe for his "sprouted emmer pulp power bread". Definitely on the path now. And, can see why his bread is less dense - the ratio of kernels to flour in his recipe has more flour, and he even added some VWG which I see could be beneficial. Plus, he also used a lot more of the good stuff, the raisins and nuts! Definitely will try his recipe too, there will certainly be a next time.


Pulped sprouts in levain slurry

Sprouted pulp bread

Slice of sprouted wheat pulp bread

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Oat porridge breads are a bit of an enigma for me really. Sometimes, I get glimmers of that fabled custard consistency and the promise of an extra special bread. And the smell of that oat topping while baking is unsurpassed. Other times, the addition of the oats just exceeds the hydration capacity of my flours. And, even worse there is that dreaded gummy layer you get at the base of the bread if you don't bake it extra long.

"Sourlotti by Abby"  has quite a clever recipe and YouTube video with an oat and flax soaker. The nice thing about the soaker is that it uses a fair amount of butter (more than I would use if I was making oat porridge for myself!) and doesn't contain a lot of water. Plus it has flax/linseed in it!

I did tweak the recipe to make it my own, reduced the hydration to 74% and gave it a longer bake than I normally do. And I used a blend of white bread flours - the ridiculously high gluten sifted hard white mixed with a lower protein supermaket flour (to give the crust and reduce that springy gluten mouth feel). Made a lovely loaf, and this is an interesting new way to make an oat bread! I think I could have given it a little longer to ferment, but I'm so nervous with oat porridge breads having experienced what can go wrong.

Cooked soaker

Method: 1 hour autolyse. Then mixed in stand mixer for 8 minutes with liquid and pourable levain (fed the night before 1:10:10 with bread flour and 11 hours old at the time). Then left uncovered in the mixer for 15 minutes. Added the salt with a 3 minute mix, removed dough from mixer, placed on counter and gave a strong counter fold. Then left covered with the upside down mixer bowl for 15 minutes. Laminated in all of the soaker. Not sure what magic I got write with the mixer, or maybe it is just that I found the appropriate hydration for the flour mix but the gluten was just incredible and I could stretch the dough super thin - see the pic! Dough then placed in the proofer set to 26°C and two sets of coil folds were given. Final shaping was performed 6 hours after adding the levain. The banneton was then placed back in the proofer for an extra hour. At the end of that time there was a volume increase of 40%. 7 hours to achieve 40% increase is long for my starter at this temp - think perhaps that my levain was a little too past the peak, or I added the salt to soon. Banneton was then placed in coldest fridge shelf for a 19 hour retard. Whilst the oven was warming the banneton was placed in the freezer for 1 hour. Bread was baked at 240°C for 25 minutes in dutch oven covered, followed by 23 minutes at 210°C for a total bake time of 48 minutes - which is longer than my normal 40 minutes.

Lamination stretch

Never managed to stretch this thin before in lamination!

Bread loaf

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My daughter, who is 19, came down with covid and had lost her sense of smell the day before this bake. She asked if this bread had olives or cranberries in it! Think she's on the mend now, and has mentioned that she is starting to taste things again.

This is my first bread with sundried olives. They're kalamata olives and needed to be hand pitted before baking. The sundried olives brought a fairly pungent olive taste to the bread, not unpleasant but tasted like a strong olive oil, and a different flavour to the breads I've made with regular pickled olives. Although only 20g was used in the loaf the flavour tended to dominated, but 20g of sundried olives was around 19 olives, so its fairly concentrated.

The sundried tomato, like the sundried olives, were used 'dry' and weren't rehydrated before using. They were fairly unusual in that they weren't fully dried - they have a nice amount of moisture in them and we keep them in the fridge. So it felt right to use them as they were and they were great in the bread, but next time I'll double the quantity.

The feta didn't seem to do much. The quantity of feta probably also needs to be doubled, and next time I won't crumble as finely.

This bread was made using the food processor to develop the dough, which together with the home made proofing box seems to be becoming my new standard way to make bread.

The water, chilled in the fridge overnight, and levain (from the proofer) were initially mixed in the food processor to form a slurry. To this all the flours were added and were given two 10 second pulses and then left to 'fertmentolyse' for 50 minutes. Then a series of about 4 additional short pulses of the food processor, were done patting down the dough between each pulse to give, in total, another 15 seconds of whizzing. So, a grand total 35 seconds of food processor mixing.

The dough was then moved into the proofer, set to 26°C. Prior to lamination the salt was mixed into the dough by hand, around 1.5 hours after the initial levain mix. The inclusions were laminated in, followed by 2 coil folds. Shaping was done 5.25 hours after adding the levain, with the aliquot just under 50% increase in volume. The banneton was placed in the proofer for an additional 15 minutes before retarding on the bottom shelf of the fridge at 5°C for 15 hours. Banneton was removed from the fridge and popped into the freezer while the oven was warming, which is probably why I did the crazy scoring since the top surface was stiff and easy to score! Bread was baked at 240°C for 25 minutes covered, then 220°C incovered for 20 minutes.

Really enjoying this bread flour which is made from a sifted winter hard white wheat flour. This is my first local flour that has a decent protein percentage, around 14% apparently and it just sucks up the moisture, as well as giving that ridiculous oven spring that I've been envying. It also gives that mouth feel of a high gluten bread, that not unpleasant chewy gluten in your mouth which I've only ever noticed before from added VWG! The hard red wholemeal is a sprouted flour, got a bit chopped off in my formula but think it brought some flavour to the bread, kind of hard to tell with all the inclusions.


Baked top view

Crumb series

Crumb detail

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Recipe in bakers guild format

Have never made a bad olive bread. And the same is also true for breads made with blueberries! And when blueberry is in the dough the bread gets a beautiful painterly effect.

Previously I've made a blueberry compote and used that in the bread, but this time around I just used defrosted frozen blueberries that were then mashed. The juice from the blueberries was also used in the bread, and because of this I roasted the walnuts so that the net effect would be that one inclusion contributed extra moisture and the other withdrew moisture from the final dough. Using whole blueberries seemed to have worked well this time, although the blueberry flavour in the final bread was a little on the weak side.

I'm still going through a phase of doing long mixes in order to develop the gluten as much as possible, being inspired by some of what Mariana said about developing gluten. The stand mixer was used on its slowest setting (which is around 80rpm) with the dough hook for a very long time until the dough was no longer puddling on the bottom of the bowl and the sides were clean. This took 24 minutes in total, but in all fairness the bread flour used was a fairly weak 11.2% protein (and actually the wholemeal and wholewheat flours were in a similar ballpark too).

After mixing the dough was laminated and coil folded, but this bread was only coil folded twice in order to not disturb the blueberry swirls.

The thing that stands out for me about this bread is that fermentation was very slow. Perhaps it was the long mixing, perhaps my levain was weak to start with, but more likely it was the change of seasons and my kitchen was around 18°C (65°F) for most of the time. When the aliquot had not moved enough after 7 hours I put the dough in the coldest part of the fridge overnight and completed the bulk the next day - when it got another 10 hours before the aliquot finally reached 50%. I'm guessing that at least for the first few hours after coming out of the fridge there wasn't much fermentation activity, and also I lose trust in the aliquot once its been in the fridge (as the smaller body of aliquot dough changes temperature more rapidly than the main body of dough).

But it all worked out in the end! I loved eating this bread and was sad to see the end of it. Just love the 'fruit breads'.

This one also motivated me to go out and buy a polystyrene box and heat mat, so that winter baking won't be so painful this year. It has already changed my baking life.

Sliced blueberry bread


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