The Fresh Loaf

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lumos's blog

lumos's picture

 When I encounter really tasty bread from a bakery or at a restaurant, my usual reaction is ‘God, I want to make this myself!,’ and start going back and forth on my palate-memory lane, playing with formula in the attempt to re-create the flavour, aroma and texture I enjoyed.  Many of my bread recipes are born like that rather than following/adjusting the recipes I found in books or on internet.

 One of those breads I’d been trying to re-create was Pain l’Ancienne by a small artisan baker with amazing array of European (mainly French & Italian) breads, Earth Crust, a very popular bread stall at the Market in Cambridge town centre. I love the slightly chewy texture and its very open crumb. And of course I like the flavour but I wanted it to be a tiny bit more rustic/deeper than their verson, so I’ d been tinkering with the formula for quite a long time, not quite sure myself what sort of flavour-profile I want to achieve…..without just ending up with exactly the same formula of other breads I already had and liked, which  often happens with me. :p

Then, in February last year we went to have a lunch with our family friends at a lovely restaurant on the Thames in the southwest of London  after watching our daughter’s boat race on the river.  As soon as we ordered the food, a waiter brought a huge basket with breads of various kinds, and among them were a few slices of bread with very open, creamy coloured crumb & quite rustic looking dark crust.  Without any delay (nor manner), my hand bee-lined to grab the slice. As soon as I chewed into it, I knew. This is IT!! This is exactly what I wanted to achieve!  I asked the waiter where they got their bread from and this was the bakerery he told me and, by judging from the photo and the description on their website, I think what I had was Ancient Loaf (Ha! :D) from their ‘Long Fermentation Speciality Bread……probably.

Anyway, whatever the name was, my quest of re-creating it by tinkering the uncompleted ‘Earth Crust’s l’Ancienne’ recipe that I’d been playing with had began….and sort of completed in the early autumn last year.

 So this is my take on Flourish Craft Bakery’s Ancient Loaf/Pain l’Ancienne, though I’m guessing theirs is much higher in hydration than mine, from the look of their very open crumb with large holes.  I lowered the hydration to just a little over 70% because 1) I’d be using the bread to make sandwich for my hubby, so too many, too large holes might not be such a good idea, 2) I didn’t want the dough to stick to my banetton during proofing.  Also, according to their product list they only use wheat and rye, but I added small amount of spelt and wheatgerm for extra flavour… a tiny bit of rapeseed oil for better keeping quality. I used rye sour as the starter to make sourdough because I know some traditional French bakers use it as their mother starter.


My take on Flourish Craft Bakery’s Ancient Loaf

    S/D   Rye sour 50g (75% hydration) fed, twice, with 140g strong white flour + 100g water during 14 – 18 hr period (or shorter or longer) before making the dough.

        Feed 1 – flour 40g + water 30g

        Feed 2 – flour 100g = water 70g

    (Note:  Only 240g is used for making the bread. Store the rest in the fridge as starter for next use.)

  Main Dough  

    Strong flour   570g

    WW  15g

    Spelt  15g

    Wheatgerm   2 tbls  

    Water   420 – 430g

    Sea salt   14g

   Very good quality rapeseed Oil (or extra virgin olive oil) 1 tbls

  1. Mix mature sourdough with all the flour, wheatgerm and most of water until no dry bits of flour is left.  Cover and leave for 30- 40 min.

  2. Sprinkle the salt over the dough with some of remaining water and S & F in the bowl until everything is thoroughly mixed and the dough becomes smooth. Adjust the hydration, if necessary, at this point using remaining water. (Don’t make it too wet because….→) Add oil and mix thoroughly, using S & F technique. Cover and leave for 40 min. (or maybe 30 min if you live in a warmer country than this freezing Britain! Brrrr….)

   3.  Two more S & Fs at 30-40 min interval.

   4.  Leave for 1 – 1 1/4 hr and let it increase in volume by about 25% at room temperature.

    5.  At the end of the above period, check the dough’s strength and, if necessary,  letter-fold once on a floured work-tup to strengthen the dough. Put it in the fridge for cold retardation for 12 – 18 hrs.

     6.  Take it out of the fridge and leave for 1 – 2 hr (depends on how cold where you live is…) to return the dough to room temperature (….and finish proofing, if necessary).

     7.  When fully fermented (you’d see a few large bubbles on the dough surface), divide into two, pre-shape, rest 15 – 20 min.

8, Shape, put in two banettons, cover (I use a shower cap) and proof.

     9.  Pre-heat the oven @240C with casserole/pot/Pyrex with lid.

    10.  When the is sufficiently proofed (finger test!), score the top and bake for 20 min with the lid.

   11.  After 20 min, remove the lid, lower the temperature to 210 – 220C and bake another 20 min.

    12. Turn the heat off but leave the loaves in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar for 5 min.





lumos's picture

  Been a long time since I blogged properly about the bread I baked. I was baking at least a couple of times a week during those absent days, as I’d always done, but haven’t got around to blogging about it, for one reason or another.  But today, I finally decided to gently and timidly ease myself back into my old bread-blogging routine, starting it with my recent (like, yesterday…:p) baguette. 

 It’s one of the most popular baguette recipes among TFL members, and I have tried it a couple of times before, but for some reason it never became my ‘regular,’ maybe because I usually prefer using only dried yeast for baguette because it produces lighter texture and also because I’d become so comfortable with ‘Hamelinet poolish baguette’ formula, I didn’t feel strong enough ‘urge’ to try out other baguette recipe. Lazy and uninspired, I know….

 But last Friday, I was preparing to make Daniel Leader’s Light Rye for the first time; scaling down the original recipe to suit our consumption and started feeding the sourdough…..and realized the recipe produced excess sourdough, about 50g more than the main dough production would need, in the scaled down amount.  Thought of adding it to the main dough anyway at first, then a light bulb came up and remembered Fromartz’s baguette used small amount of sourdough! :D  Checked the recipe, re-calculated the amount of sourdough needed (his sourdough is 100% hydration and mine is 70 – 75%) for the scaled down ingredients. (my usual batch for baguettes is 300 – 350g total flour)…… Ha! I’d need exactly 50% sourdough! So that’s what I made. :)


I more or less followed the original recipe, but, as you may well know, my ‘more or less’ can often be ‘hardly.’ :p  Following is the basic outline of the recipes with a list of changes I made.  


Samuel Fromartz’s Baguette Traditional  - original recipe (link)

My plagiarism adaptation

Ingredients (for 3 mini baguettes, about 35 – 37cm length. So technically, it’s NOT baguette, but anyway….)

  295 g Strong white flour – I used 150g Waitrose Leckford Estate Strong Flour + 145g Heritage Wholesome White Flour*

  5g  wholemeal strong flour

  50g sourdough (mine is about 75% hydration)

  0.8g (scant 1/4 tsp) dried yeast – much small amount than the original recipe, so that I can incorporate long, cold retard overnight. (Don’t kick me, Ars!!! :p) ---- ETA: Strike that. Clearly forgotten Fromarts does long retard in the fridge, too, but with larger amount of yeast.  But I did get sufficient fermentation with this amount after 16-17 hrs. (See below)

  210g water

           *Note - This is the flour I bought from Syd’s stall (Aston’s Organic Bakery) at Real Bread Festival a few months ago. It’s a blend of flour milled from traditional English heritage wheat varieties. Have no idea what varieties are used (not stated on the bag except for saying it consists of 150 varieties), but as the name suggests, it contains a little amount of bran and wheat germ.  Maybe it’s a sort of equivalent of French T65 flour. (my wild guess….)  Its protein level is scary  low at 10.1% but it seems to have good quality gluten and makes lovely dough with silky touch but with nice strength.

 Changes I made

1)   Fromartz’s method ‘autolyse’ for 5 – 10 minutes after mixing all the ingredients ⇒ I extended it to 30 minutes. (it was a very cold day. The temperature in the kitchen was about 17-18C)

2)   Instead of French-folding for 5 minutes before proceeding to 3 x letter-folding, as in the original recipe, I S & F 3 times in a bowl every 30 minutes. (I’d probably do it every 20 min if it’s warmer)

3)   After 3 x S & F, letter-fold for 1 – 2 times to strengthen the dough, if necessary.

4)   Leave at room temperature for 1 hr or so until the dough increases in the volume by 25% or so.

5)   Put it in the fridge and retard for 16 – 18 hrs.

6)   After 16, 17 hrs in the fridge, the dough looked fully fermented with a few large air bubbles on the top, so I divided it into 3, very roughly shaped and left for 20 – 30 min to return it to room temperature. (I would’ve done the other way round = returning to room temperature, then divide), if it hadn’t been so fully fermented during the cold retard)

7)   Pre-shape into rectangular, as the original recipe (but smaller, obviously) and rest for 15 min.

8)   Shape into baguette and proof for 1 hr or so.

9)   Bake on very hot baking stone with steam for 10 min at 240C, then without steam for another 10 min with fan.





...and the obligatory crumb shots.  Sorry for weird colour. Night light…. 


The rest of the crumb shots to black & white...



Verdict:  I think this turned out to be better than my earlier trials with this recipe (with similar changes) some time ago. Can I praise myself for having improved in the art of bread-making or should I just thank to the heritage flour and the dedicated farmers behind it? :p  I liked the taste, probably slightly more robust than my usual poolish baguette, and the texture was definitely chewy-er, too.  It’s a good baguette, for sure. Do I like it better than poolish baguette? Not sure, difficult to say.  Probably both have their own place, depending upon your mood and what you eat with it.  Last night we had pot-au-feu to warm ourselves up in the freezing temperature with heavy snow in England, so slightly gutsier baguette like this was, I have to say, ideal companion to the meal. :)





lumos's picture

Found an interesting article on some research and development.

In The Battle Between Health and Taste


Hope you enjoy. :)



........*sigh*...... I've got to go back to blogging properly on bread I baked rather than just copy and pasting URL on someone else's work one day..... :p

lumos's picture

Baked another batch of Multigrain sourdough using Four Grain Flour Richard (Ruralidle) kindly gave to me.   For this batch, I incread Four Grain Flour to 33% (=the proportion to main dough flour.  About 27% including levain) and used Dove's Organic Bread flour instead of Waitrose Leckford Estate strong flour.  Also I doubled the amount to make two loaves.  Dove's flour (12.5%) is lower in protein than Waitrose's Leckford Estate (13.6%),  so I did a few extra S & F to make sure gluten development is sufficient enough, but other than those changes everything else stayed the same as the first bake (link).  And this is how it turned out.

I was a bit worried if it'd become heavier but the texture was quite similar to the first batch, but with deeper flavour and slightly increased natural sweetness.   I really liked the first one but I definitely love this one better.   So naturally, the next trial is going to be 50% Four Grain flour.

Watch this space! :)


lumos's picture

Yes, I've been baking regularly still, usually twice a week at least. Just been a bit lazy in posting the result lately.  :p  

 My first trial with Four Grain Blend flour  Richard (Ruralidle) kindly got for me from Little Salkeld Watermill, Cumbria, in Lake District.

  As Richard advised, I mixed it with my regular bread flour at 25 : 75 ratio and at 67% hydration and kept the method very simple and basic to get to know this flour.  In the end, I added a bit more water because it felt a tiny bit stiffer than my regular basic sourdough, so the final hydration became about 70%, which is exactly the same as my regular dough. I think it’s probably due to the higher gluten level of the flour I used (Waitrose Leckford Estate Strong flour. 13.6% protein), compared to Richard’s regular flour, Untreated Organic White from Shipton Mills with 11.3% protein.

 I baked in the late evening and left it on a worktop overnight, and sliced it first thing in the morning for my breakfast and sandwich for my husband.  The first thing I noticed was how moist the crumb was. It reminded me of a few loaves I baked a few years ago which included some oats flakes. And the loaf kept its moistness very well for whole three days until we consumed it all. So it’s definitely a bread that keeps well.  Also it had subtle but very pleasant nutty flavour. It was lovely as it is, but even better when toasted, too.  I think I’ll increase the proportion of Four Grain flour a bit next time, probably to 30% or so.

 Thank you, Richard, for introducing this lovely flour to me (and paying for it, too! ).  You’re absolutely right. It makes a really good loaf!


Multigrain Sourdough with 25% Little Salkeld Four Grain Blend Flour


 Levain – 120g (70% hydration) = fed with 70g strong flour + 50g water

 Main Dough

   Four Grain Blend flour  75g

   Strong Flour  225g

   Salt  7g

   Water  210g 



1)      Feed the starter 8 – 16 hrs before use.  

2)      When the levain is ready, mix flour and water and leave for 30 min to autolyse.

3)      Sprinkle salt and stretch and fold in a bowl until the salt is well distributed.

4)      Rest 40 minutes.

5)      Repeat 2-3 x S&F in bowl at 40-45min intervals.

6)      Put the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and cold retard in the fridge for 16-18 hrs.

7)      Take it out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for 1 – 1 1/2 hr.

8)      Pre-shape, shape and put in a banetton.

9)      Final proof…..until it’s ready to bake. (finger-poking test!)

10)  Heat the oven at 240C with a covered casserole (I use an oval Pyrex casserole with a lid).

11)  Bake for 20 min with the lid on.

12)  Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 210C and bake for another 20 – 25 min.










lumos's picture

….that I’m still baking!

The photos of some of the breads I’ve baked since Christmas.


 These are three loaves I baked to take to my in-laws for Christmas and Boxing Day dinners. Nothing special, just a few selections from my regular loaves….to play safe.

Pain Rustique with Parmesan and Edamame (front – recipe link)  and my basic sourdough with Walnuts (back – recipe link)


My safest crowd-pleaser, cocoa flavoured sourdough with cranberry and walnut. (recipe link)



And some of the breads I've baked since January.....

Pain de ‘Suburb of Dijon’ with Mixed Levain (original recipe here, but I used mixed levain of strong flour and WW flour for this loaf for more rustic flavour)


A variation of above but with reduced WW in the main dough ingredients.

The thing I wanted to show here, almost as much as the bread, is the wooden board the bread is sitting on is my new toy.  With generous size of 56cm x 46cm, it’s large enough for most of pastry/bread making work.   Thoroughly recommend it to all UK home bakers! Period. (Note : you can get an almost identical one from John Lewis at L.60.-, if you’re desperate to over-spend money. :p)


 And lastly, a few glimpse on my current, on-going experiment; an attempt to re-create Pain L’ancienne by a small artisan bakery, Earth Crust, who has a truly great stall with various breads and other baked goodies at the farmer’s market on Market Square in Cambridge town centre. It’s quite different from Pain L’ancienne by Peter Reinhart or Daniel Leader which looks like a rustic ancestor of baguette. It’s a large loaf which, I suppose, is very similar to Pain Rustique in appearance, but with more chewy texture with good bite and lots of large holes.  It’s sourdough based and has good deep flavour.

 Have experimented a few times, and I think the flavour is getting closer but can’t get  the texture right!!!!


…….so the quest continues……





lumos's picture

….Gosh, been really busy last few weeks and haven’t been able to post or blog for at all. A few people gave me PM/email messages, concerned about my absence (Thank you! :)), so thought I’d better re-appear once before Christmas just to prove I’m still alive and baking!

 So, here’s my last blog in 2011…..Seeded sourdough bagels.


 The formula is very similar to my regular basic sourdough WW bagels that I blogged about which seems like zillion years ago, only with added seeds and reduced WW. The procedure is exactly the same, except for spread & fold method, introduced by Eric, instead of kneading, which is so easy and works like a magic, especially for seeded dough = no need to chase around escaped seeds during kneading! (Thank you, Eric!) 




★Please note that I've been making this without added yeast as in original recipe lately.  It needs longer fermentaion, obviously, and the crumb is somewhat denser, but choice is yours! :) ★


Sourdough bagels with Mixed Seeds

 Levain …. Fed twice during 24 hr period before use with 120g high-gluten flour (see below) and 80g water (1st feed = 40g flour + 25g water,  2nd feed = 80g flour + 55g water)


 Main Dough

  High-Gluten Flour   470g (I use Watirose’s Canadian Very Strong White Flour)

  WW bread flour  100g

  Mixed Seeds   110g

  Non-diastatic malt powder   12g

  Sugar   14g

  Skimmed milk powder  2~3 tbls

  Wheatgerm   1~2 tbls

  Instant active dry yeast   1/4 tsp  optional (see Note above)

  Salt   12g

  Water  320g


Mix all the ingredients, leave for 30 mins.  ‘Spread & fold’ a la Eric-style (the link above) 3 times every 30~40 minutes.  Pre-shape → shape and place them on baking sheets (six per sheet), cover and cold retard in the fridge for 12 – 18 hrs to develop flavour.


  Just FYAI,  this is how I proof and boil bagel. (Note : those pictures are of the other batch of sourdough WW bagels with reduced WW which I baked during my absence, before seeded ones, but haven’t been managed to blog due to lack of time….)

A bit difficult to see, but I place thin strips of reusable baking sheet and sprinkle semolina under bagels…..


……which makew picking up fragile, proofed dough and putting them into boiling water gently so much easier.



A large, deep roasting pan is my trusted friend for boiling bagels, six at a time, which is ideal for my routine of baking 12 bagels at a time…..boil first six, 1 min a side → fish them out to drain on a tea towel while I put next six into the boiling water → load the first six into the oven → fish the second batch out, drain and into the oven. Switch the fan on for even temperature.

 Bake for 18 – 20 minutes @ 200C. (Take the first batch out after 18 – 20 minutes, move the second batch to the higher shelf, switch off the fan and bake another 2 minutes or so.)


…..and this is how they come out. (the photos miraculously change to those of seeded bagels! :p)




 Thank you so much for all your wonderful bready info, advices, help and  friendship in 2011 and

Very best wishes for merry Christmas and happy baking in 2012, too! 

lumos's picture

  This is a bread using my most basic dough which I’d been using for a long time since I first started tempting to make sourdough-based Pain de Campagne-type bread.  It’s simple, versatile and taste quite good without too assertive or too distinctive. It is good enough to bake as plain, basic sourdough bread but also good with various fillings, like dried fruits, nuts and seeds, etc…..or it was. Actually, I hadn’t used this dough for a long while.  Not because it wasn’t good enough but because I’ve been too busy trying out many recipes I found in books, internet (mainly here!) and experimenting with various combinations of flours lately.

  A couple days ago, I was combing through my ever-fattening folder of bread recipes in the attempt to make it slimmer, getting rid of some recipes I knew (or thought I knew….) I’d never use and re-discovering some recipes I’d clearly forgotten about.  Then I found a very, very old recipe for the basic sourdough bread I used to bake a lot in my early days of ‘artisan’ baking.

  I knew I used to like its flavour a lot those days, but not too sure if I still liked it after having tried many other formulae, some of them with much more complex combinations of flours and other ingredients.  Intrigued, I decided I’d try. It just happened I wanted to bake walnuts bread with ‘a new’ dough.  It’s not quite ‘new,’ but thought it’d be interesting to use it with walnuts, like I used to do a lot years ago, to check if it’s still good for me.

  And here’s the formula and result….


 My Basic Sourdough with Walnuts



       Strong flour  50g

        Water  35g


    Main Dough

       Strong Flour  150g*

       Plain Flour  40g*

         (or AP flour 190g….I guess…:p)

       WW   30g

       Rye   30g

       Wheatgerm (optional)   1 tbls

       Salt  5g

       Levain (above)  85g

       Water   175g

       Chopped walnuts  100 – 120g



  1. Feed starter with the flour and water for levain 8 – 12 hrs before using until ripe.
  2. When the levain in matured, mix it with the water for main dough, loosen a bit and mix with all the flours and wheatgerm (if using) in a large bowl to shaggy mess.
  3. Leave for 30 – 40minutes to autolyse.
  4. Sprinkle the salt on the dough and S & F in the bowl until the salt is well distributed.
  5. Rest for 40 minutes.
  6. Do two more sets of S & F in the bowl. Incorporate chopped walnuts during the last S & F.
  7. Leave for 1 hr at room temperature and put in the fridge for cold retard for 16 – 20 hrs.
  8. Take it out of the fridge, leave at room temperature for 1 hr and pre-shape.  Rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Shape in put in a banetton to proof.
  10.  Pre-heat the oven @ 240C with Pyrex/cast iron pot with a lid.
  11. When it passed the finger-poke test for readiness, turn it out on a board and score.
  12. Bake in a covered Pyrex/cast iron pot for 20 minutes at 240C.
  13. Remove the lid/cover, lower the temperature to 200C and bake for another 20 minutes.


  (Excuse for the weird colour of those photos. Night light…..)


......and I was so glad I combed through the old files.  Still like this dough. :)





lumos's picture

Been clearing up old files on my PC and found photos of breads I baked ages ago and had comletely forgotten about….. One of them was Tartine’s Basic Country Bread.

Ever since I read Shiao-Ping’s blog about her ‘imitation of Chad Robertson’s Country Sourdough’ and all the buzz following the publication of ‘Tartine Bread’ last year, I’d been so intrigued to find out how wonderful its famous bread.  Thought of buying a book, but didn’t in the end after reading many reviews and contemplating for a long time. It was very interesting to read Eric’s view on the book he posted a while ago, because that was exactly what I’d thought the book might be like and the reason why I decided not to buy. 

 But still, my interest in the bread itself never faltered, so I searched through the internet for the formula and found this wonderfully generous site with detailed formula. It was a God sent! (Thank you, Martha! :))

 Didn’t follow its method of ‘how to start the levain’ but I just fed my starter with 50:50 = WW : Strong with hydration of 75%, as my regular starter, and increased the ratio of pre-ferment to a bit over 30%.  Here’s my formula for my take.


My Take on the famous Tartine’s Basic Country Bread



Levain.....WW 35g

                  Strong flour 35g

                   Water 50g


Main Dough ..... Strong 220g *

                                Plain  50g *

                                        * (or 270g AP flour)

                                 WW  30g

                                 Water  210g

                                  Salt 6g



  1. Mix WW and strong flour for the levain ingredient. Feed the starter with it twice during 10-12 hr period before use.  (1st feed = 20g flour + 15g water, 2nd feed = 50g flour + 35g water)
  2. Mix all of the levain with main dough flours and water until shaggy mess. Autolyse for 30 – 40 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and S & F in the bowl until the salt is evenly distribute. Rest for 40- 45 minutes.
  4. Repeat S & F in the bowl every 35 – 40 minutes over next 3 hrs until the dough increases the volume by 30% or so.
  5. Pre-shape and rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Shape and cold retard overnight.
  7. Take out of the fridge and leave until the dough returns to room temperature and fully proofed. (finger-poking test!)
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 240C with a Pyrex with lid or a cast iron/Dutch oven in it.
  9. Bake at 240C for 20 minutes in a covered Pyrex (or similar).
  10. After 20 minutes, remove the cover, lower the temperature to 200C, and bake for another 20 minutes.


Verdict :  Not too sure……:p  It was pleasant tasting bread with quite well balanced, gentle flavour, for sure.  I can see why a lot of people like this as the daily basic bread, but tbh it was too gentle and lacked complexity of flavour I’m used to from other breads I bake regularly, I thought.  It was good bread, but to be entirely honest, I didn’t find it was that sensational.  Which is actually very similar thing I’d found from Hamelman’s Pain au Levain (::gasps:: BLASPHEMY!!!!) ; another bread which is very popular,  but the one I only baked a few times.

I did not follow CR’s formula to a tee, so it’s quite possible I’m missing something here, I must admit.  

 OK….I’m open to anyone telling me off!!!

 ::braces herself::   :p

(Must admit it makes good sandwich bread, though, thanks to its mild flavour profile, probably....)



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