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My attempt at Hamelman’s Hot Cross buns from his Bread book. I made these on previous Easter’s and they were always well received. One of the reasons I like his version is because the crossing paste is extra tasty. It is made with butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, lemon zest and flour. I am not going to post his recipe so buy the book. The recipe makes enough paste for four dozen buns and since I was only making two dozen and I didn’t have a smaller tip, I piped it on thick. The other thing that made these better this time was making my own candied orange peel and using the leftover orange flavored sugar water to brush on the buns after they come out of the oven. I usually buy candied fruit at the market but could not find it in any store and after making my own I will never buy them again.  
Without further ado here are more Hot Cross Buns to throw on the pile. 

Hot Cross

Happy  Easter 

MTloaf's picture

A follow up on a sweet stiff leavain bread after the first attempt produced a decent loaf but with large mysterious cavities in the crumb. For comparison I used my usual country bread recipe and did a second control version with the normal levain minus the sugar. Both doughs got the same autolyse and coil folds and a 4 1/2 hour bulk ferment. 

  • TF 450 gr 15% spelt home milled the rest was KABF and AP 
  • 80% +or- H2O
  • The sweet levain bread was baked straight through the SD was
  • retarded overnight 

The sugar free breads. My starter has gotten quite vigorous lately and all the loaves had increased volume so much so that the fully proofed bread domed well above the basket rim. I am going to have to reduce the total flour because they no longer fit in a gallon bread bag. 

The sweet levain bread has a thinner crust. 


The sweet levain is on the left and the sugar free is on the right. In spite of popping many large bubbles when I shaped it the large holes were still prevalent. More than the photo shows because I had already cut two slices from the sweet one that had more strange holes than bread. The crust was much thinner on the sweet bread but that is probably related to not being retarded. The non sugar bread had more volume and a tighter but lighter crumb. 

I don’t know how much to conclude from this bake other than the sweet levain is a gassy unruly dough that is hard to predict. The sugar prolongs the keeping quality but there is a noticeable difference in texture between the two especially when toasted. The sweet levain bread toasted is sort of more like cotton candy. 
I have been using the sweet stiff levain for making 100% WW pan loaves and really like how it works for allowing for a longer proof. I intentionally pushed the fermentation to slightly over proofed because I like the shape and crumb better.

Happy baking



MTloaf's picture

I was intrigued by Benitos recent bakes with a levain that contains brown sugar and decided to give it a go. It seemed to be a novel approach worth looking into. With many bakers around here pursuing Alt-sourdough lately I am surprised no one else has thrown their hat into the ring. Perhaps it turns away the purist or it's an aversion to sugar in the FWSY equation at least that was my thoughts.

I followed his overnight levain formula to the letter and my first surprise was that the so called 60% stiff WW levain was not stiff at all because the brown sugar acted more like water and the levain stirred up like a 100% starter. I put it in my new makeshift proofer and in the morning it was domed but flattened out shortly afterwards. I don't normally do an overnight levain build but rather a two stage build starting in the morning that ends up being shaped in the evening for an overnight proof in the fridge. For this bake I decide to just go straight through with a total time of around 7 hours from mixing to going into the oven

.levain proofed

I am using my typical country bread formula ala Tartine with a total flour of 450gr and 15% milled WW and a mixture of half BF and AP at +75% hydration. I got a little distracted and didn't do my normal interval kneading and early folding but after 4 and a half hours the dough was domed, had a jiggle to it. It seemed ready for shaping with bubbles on the surface and a sufficient increase in volume. The dough was billowy yet strong and was still on the move during the 30 minute bench rest after the pre shape. I felt pretty good that it was going to be a nice loaf. 

My oven regime that I have settled on for the oven in our new home is 480F on bake for the first 20 minutes on a stone with a Granite ware roasting pan cover and then change to convection bake at 450 for the remainder uncovered. The oven spring was greater than my previous bakes but there was a hump at the top that I feared would reveal a large bubble under the crust.


My concern for the large hole in the crumb was confirmed when I cut into it and not only was there room for the baker to sleep but a spare room for the apprentice.


I don't think it was under-proofed but maybe I should have been a little more assertive during the pre shape. Perhaps it was from the lack of early folding but the large bubbles is something that hasn't happened to me in quite sometime.

The crust and crumb was light and soft and the flavor was not sour but I did detect a sweetness from the sugar and the toast made from it browned more than usual.

So that's it. I am going to try it again soon and I hope others will try it as well. Any technical questions should probably be directed towards Benny since it is his baby.

MTloaf's picture

I haven’t had the time or reliable internet service to do much commenting or posting here because we recently sold our house and are in the process of relocating. We are temporarily staying in a small bunkhouse on a ranch for the summer. It has a small propane gas stove and that is the focus of this tale.
I have baked bread in a few different electric ovens before some better than others and my last one which was non convection worked well and had a good seal that held steam very well. Much better than the one it replaced with a warped door. I was under the impression from others that a gas stove was not the best way to bake bread because of the venting required made it difficult to provide the steam needed at the start of the bake. I was resigned to the fact that I would have to go back to using a vessel like a Dutch oven or clay baker and all that it entails like round loaves and a blacksmiths getup for handling hot iron pans. Not to mention that baguettes would be out of the question or so I thought. The oven is small only 18 inches deep and 18 wide but that happened to be just big enough for my smaller rectangular pizza stone to go in lengthwise and my graniteware roasting pan to barely fit over it. This was promising and I thought maybe I could bake a decent loaf after all. The oven is an older type with a pilot light and I was thinking it might work for proofing but with the baking stone in it was over 100 degrees in the oven with just the pilot light, so that was a no. However with my IR thermometer I found a few spots on the stove top in the 80 degree range that were perfect for my jar of levain and bulk fermentation.
My first attempt at bread in the new place was challenging in a small kitchen with limited counter space. I have continued to use the Tartine country bread method as told by Jenifer Latham described in my last blogs. I really like the double fed levain and the shaping method of folding in half lengthwise as it goes into the basket. The only difference is that I am now using a rye starter ala Hammelman(Thanks Gavin and Benito for steering me down this path). My starter has been strong, reliable and easy to maintain. My first levain feed in the morning is at a 1-1-1 ratio that doubles by noon time and then fed again at the same ratio and is peaking or doubled 4 hours later ready to use for bread making. It has been so hot here this summer that the fermentation has been moving at such a rapid pace that I didn't feel like it would slow down enough for an overnight retard in the small fridge  which has no room and doesn’t get very cold anyway. I fired up the stove for bread baking for the first time in a panic hoping it would heat up fast enough before the loaves over proofed. It heated up really fast and the IR gun read 550 on the stone in about 20 minutes. I have since then figured out that the dial on the stove is off by about 75 degrees. This first bake was shaping up to be a disaster. The slash was ragged in the wet jiggly dough that flattened out and spread before loading and covering. Ten minutes later I peeked under the cover and saw that there was already browning but the oven spring was tremendous so I removed the roasting pan and rotated the loaf because it was even darker towards the back. So uneven that it needed to be rotated every five minutes. It browned so quickly that I was worried the inside would not be cooked enough especially with the hydration being near 85%(its very dry here) It was a full on bold bake(burnt) in a little over 25 minutes of time in the oven. The second loaf went pretty much the same even though the oven was turned down to 375. By this time it was near 11 at night so I went to bed in a too warm of a house from the heat put out by this oven with visions of burnt toast in the morning.
When I sliced it the next day the crust was still crispy and the crumb was nice and open. It turned out to be one of the tastiest loaves I have ever made with the most enjoyable crust I have ever eaten. Go figure! Yet another path to chasing thin and crispy crust.
So the oven I was dreading is now baking better bread than I ever imagined. I am trying to understand the why. Perhaps the smaller oven chamber is generating more radiant heat. I moved the stone up to the middle of the oven to keep it from getting too hot and it is still dark on the bottom and the crust is thicker overall but the flavor and texture of the crust is incredible like the ends of a good baguette, even when toasted. Maybe the water is being cooked out in an optimal amount of time in a drying oven. I baked the same recipe in an expensive double oven in another kitchen on the ranch and got okay results similar to what I was used to in my former oven but nothing like the blast furnace I am using now. I am still struggling with enriched yeast breads browning too fast and baguettes that are too short for my liking although end loading is nice and easy.
I am amazed at the bread that is coming out of this oven and how much better my bread is in a darker shade than looks palatable. I now understand why some bakeries insist on a full bake for a superior flavor but the customers reject it because it looks burnt. 
One of the things I was looking forward to in our next home was a dedicated bread oven. It’s going to look a lot different now than I imagined it!

Those who prefer golden brown should look away.

raisin bread

Raisin bread with whole wheat and a little rye

raisin bread crumb

Tartine country bread

The darker one had better flavor and contrary to what I read somewhere the keeping quality is longer on the full bake.

dark and darker


Approachables with high tech oven setup in the background. The roasting pan actually covers the two bread pans in the early phase of the bake.


Baggies are constrained by the smaller oven but still doable.

I know I am not alone in my preference for a bold bake but I would encourage others to explore the dark side and reconsider a gas oven.




MTloaf's picture

I wanted to try the updated Tartine bread again from Jennifer Latham's IG post with the double fed levin and the delayed addition of the salt. The last time was a big improvement in my sourdough bread efforts so I wanted to confirm some things and get a better feel for it.

This bread is 10% WW and the rest is Wheat Montana AP. I started with a 75% fermentolyse of 30 minutes. The bassinage is done in stages as the dough tightens up with the squishes and folds and more water is added until the dough is quite extensible before the salt is added with more water. I think the final hydration was around 85% and it is quite supple but still fairly easy to handle.

I don't have a dedicated proofer so I use the mech room with the furnace and hot water heater in it as my warm spot. I can leave an overnight feeding in the cold kitchen where it doesn't move much and then place it on top of the water heater in the morning to kick it into overdrive. I feed it 1:1:1 and it doubles in three hours and then feed it again and it has doubled again and ready to use. I normally don't use the float test but the "fermentolyse" is a good test for it. In the past my levin would bob like an iceberg with most of it below the surface but this levain definitely floats high in the water.

Float test proofed loaf

I am getting more volume with this method but the problem is they no longer fit in my bread sacks.

Baked Tartine

I think the lateral fold before it goes into the basket is compressing the crumb so I am not getting the typical wildly open Tartine crumb but more of the lacy/honeycomb which I happen to like since it makes better toast and sammiches.

Tartine crumb


What is nice about this method is the soft crumb and the crust is really tasty and not like leather or hard to bite through..

Breakfast pizza

I like to have other things to bake while the oven and stone is hot so this morning there was breakfast pizza.





MTloaf's picture

The Tartine method is how I got started in sourdough baking and is still the basis for most of my sourdough loaves in its intention of making a open crumb bread with a less sour flavor. Lately I had been playing it safe by keeping the hydration at 75% and not risking over fermenting. I have made good bread with a poorly maintained starter but I had become sloppy and careless with my starter during the winter doldrums and my bread was losing some luster. Instead of just making my usual bread this time I attempted to make The Tartine country bread with the new to me info from one of their bakers. Jennifer Lathams Intagram version with a double fed levain. I intend to get the audio only version of the book she and Chad put out recently. It no longer includes the leaven in the autolyse and salt is not added until enough water has been incorporated to make a very extensible dough. The additional water is added in stages by feel alone and is not measured. The dough ends up so loose that gentle shaping using the stitching method (which I suck at) is required. The final shaping is more like another pre shape as the dough is folded in half as it is placed in the basket. Her series of videos are worth watching for little tips I picked up along the way, like how much tension to put in the in the pre shape and flouring the top of it instead of the bench before shaping. It also helps to see just how the dough should look in general.

This loaf is 10% home milled winter wheat with the large bran bits sifted out and Wheat Montana AP. Total flour is 500 grams. The hydration ended up somewhere just above 80%. The double fed levain with timely folding did seem to goose the fermentation and increase the overall volume. I followed her advice and rather than bake straight from the fridge like I usually do, I took it out while the oven and stone heated up and it seemed to be more relaxed before baking with good oven spring.

Tartine loaf

 Once in a great while I feel certain that I hit the sweet spot on fermentation. For me that means the dough is on the verge of going past the point of no return. It has a glossy, soft crumb and a crust that is not hard but a joy to chew. On those rare occasions the flavor, texture and the crust are truly at their best and the toast it makes is next level stuff. I just wish it wasn't so elusive and diminished my other decent bakes so much so that they seem not quite right. 

Tartine Crumb 

The folded in half shaping changed the pattern of crumb from the circular method. The crumb may not be quite what I wished it to be appearance wise but it is still a very satisfying bake.

I don't like to heat up the stone and stove for just one loaf, so a rack of Boubsa baggies was prepped and baked to be eaten right away.

Bouabsa baggies

Our chickens have decided that the worst of winter may finally be over and are laying eggs again. I hope they are right. Eggs without a dash of hot sauce. I don't think so.


Happy baking and may the vaccine find you all.





MTloaf's picture

Since the baguette brigade has moved to blogging about bread I thought I should follow along. I have been making this bread for quite some time. It was one of the first videos that Trevor Wilson posted. He calls for pecans but I always use pepitas instead. I make it more often than any other bread because it is great for morning toast and is a good vehicle for Nutella. 

Other than mixing baguettes and pizza dough by hand, I have switched to my Bosch mixer for the rest of my breads. My weekly whole wheat Approachable loaves that go through the spin cycle for ten or more minutes until shiny. I am doing some machine learning to replicate hand mixing of an open crumb sourdough loaf by doing a short mix with a pause then a bassinage to get the hydration up and letting the mixer incorporate the add ins. I have switched to a stiff starter(60%) recently and am liking the results. It is a little more effort to feed and knead but it does seem to add some lift to the dough.

The recipe is 80% bread flour, 20% spelt(milled and sifted at home) 75% water 10% fermented flour. 20% Craisins and 10% sprouted pumpkin seeds 2% salt.

I put the water and the stiff starter in the mixer and use the cookie paddles to break up and mix until frothy. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour until just combined. Fermentolyse for 30 minutes then add the salt and mix at speed two while adding the last 25 grams of water. The mixer does a great job of incorporating the added water in less than two minutes after a brief pause I dump in the add ins and mix on low until barely mixed in. Sometimes I leave it in the mixing bowl for 30 minutes and then dump it out and coil fold it into shape with another coil fold or two the rest of the way.

Retard the shaped loaf overnight and bake straight from the fridge on a stone with a graniteware cover for 20 minutes and then remove the lid and finish baking until done.

spelt crannberry

Benny's Yin and Yang S slash worked well for avoiding the cranberries

cranberry crumb

You can get an open crumb with a mixer if you don't overdo it. A thorough mix will lead to a tighter softer crumb but the holes allow for maximum Nutella without leaking through. 

MTloaf's picture

It is a said that much of what we learn in fly fishing, is history we haven't read and I think that applies to baking bread as well. Lance AKA Albacore clued me into the use of fava bean flour in french baguettes and in my reading of the archives of TFL I have found mention of it's use by members of the Baguette Brigade Alfanso, KenDalm and also Abelbreadgallery.

I bought a bag of BRM garbanzo/fava flour which I understand is used for gluten free baking, which by the way I know nothing about. I added 2% to my usual Bouabsa recipe to test it's merits of providing a more open crumb with a little less elasticity. Right off the top the dough seemed silkier and more easy to handle. The rest of the bake went as normal after an overnight in the fridge the dough had grown some and woke up quickly so the rest after dividing and the final proof were shorter. The dough was a little stickier than usual but still manageable.

I wanted to bake them darker but my stone was too hot from the previous breads and the bottoms were beginning to get too dark. They were light as a feather and the crumb softer and was airer but in a different way than usual. The taste was a little different from the fava bean flour addition but enjoyable. I didn't notice anymore whiteness to the crumb as was advertised which is okay by me. I like the yellowish tint I get from Wheat Montana AP.

More fava flour to be used in future bakes because I have a whole bag of it and at 2% of the flour total it will last awhile. I am going to try adding some in my next sourdough loaf.


Baguette fava crumb



3 favas

Thanks for viewing this edition of the Alfansos' baton brigade revival to encourage others to try their hand at it. Your other breads will improve by working with the king of breads.

MTloaf's picture

Well as  I feared my sheltering in place Covid 19 baking staycation has ended because the job calls. I was enjoying the time to bake every few days unencumbered by work or much socialization. Our dogs and the cat, liked having a full-time doorman who gets the meals out on time. My wife is happy with some of the home repairs and shovel work that have that been completed and my neighbors are grateful for the bread deliveries. All this and a check in the mail. If it weren't for the fear of drawing the wrong breath of air it has been an enjoyable few weeks of semi-retirement practice.

I am consolidating my baking into a weekend which was the former way of doing it but seems slightly more hectic now. I started Friday night making the levains  for the sourdough breads and Approachable loaves. Saturday morning with snow falling heavily  in Montana,  which is a typical for Memorial Day weekend, I mixed them all including two batches of yeasted baguettes to retard overnight with the shaped sourdough loaves. The Approachable were rolled up with cinnamon and raisins and the top dusted with cinnamon al a Laurels Kitchen Bread Book. The smell coming from the oven in the afternoon is half the reward.

The sourdough loaves were baked first thing Sunday morning followed by the baguettes. I will probably throw some pizza dough together later today to use later in the work week. 

I have always loved the line from The Big Rock Candy Mountain song that goes "Where the hung the jerk that invented work"

Approachable C&R  sliced baggies


The recipe for the baguettes is the same Boubsa recipe I have used since finding it here at TFL

Baguettes up close

I may have left the baguette dough on the counter a little to long and they had grown a little too much overnight in the fridge and therefore the dough was a little delicate and sticky to handle. I shortened the proof a little too much and got maybe too much oven spring again and had some bursting along with a less open crumb. Just the little hyper critical issues that come with rolling and baking batons. Overall they came out better than expected.

MTloaf's picture

This Sourdough Seed Bread recipe is the one that follows the fabled Hammelman's 5 grain in the first edition of Bread. Two of my favorite breads on the very same wrinkled and stained page that my book naturally opens to. One of my favorite eating breads but the least fun to prep and make. The seed soakers are a bit of a mess for a sloppy baker like me and I have over roasted a few seeds, but the flavor of this bread from the toasted seeds and rye flour is a nice combination and for some reason the crust is always outstanding like the 5 grain.

The recipe is basically his Vermont Sourdough with a seed soaker. Stronger bread flour is recommended to help lift the heavy seed soaker. I reduced the amount of starter called for to allow for a longer overnight proof 12>15 hours and increased the water 10% because I like a looser dough and most of recipes from this edition work better for me with additional water.

  • 90% bread flour 10% Rye
  • 85% water 
  • 25% seed mixture 1/4 flaxseed soaked (1/4 sesame seeds 1/2 sunflower seeds toasted) soaker water 300%
  • 10% fermented flour
  • 2% salt

I like to use a mixer and his mixing times for this one because of those slimy flaxseeds that don't like to incorporate willingly but rather end up on anything I touch. If you choose to slap and fold be prepared for the worst. Before I started using a mixer, I once forgot to account for the soaker water and ended up with a too wet dough that I tried to salvage with more flour and a marathon slap and fold sling fest that let's just say was an awful mess. I sort of salvaged it and learned a valuable lesson about hydration.

Baked on a stone at 450 for 20 minutes covered with a granite ware roasting pan and 20 minutes uncovered 

Sourdough Seed Bread crumb

I heard Jeffrey Hammelman the other day on the Isolation Baking Show and he said that he is working on a 3rd edition of his book. If you like his sourdough 5 grain bread turn the page to this one.




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