The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

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Go Chiefs!

Ahem.  Well.  Yes, that needed to be said.

Tomorrow's Super Bowl festivities will feature pulled pork sandwiches because Kansas City.  A superlative sandwich requires a superlative bun.  For superlative buns, it's hard to improve on Portuguese Sweet Bread (this one compliments of Mark Sinclair.)  Although Ian, bless him, continues to experiment.

These are all suited up and ready to play:

And, since Mardi Gras is drawing near, some king cake, too:


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It's a Brod & Taylor lightweight sheeter that my wife bought for me.  Due to various commitments, like our oldest grandson graduating from Missouri State next week, it will probably be three weeks or more before I get to play with it.  That may be a temporary reprieve for my waistline but I’m concerned about the long-term risks.  

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This is what 14+ pounds of PSB dough looks like after it is turned into sandwich rolls and a loaf.  The loaf was egg-washed, the rolls were not.  The rolls are for a church picnic tomorrow. 

I used Mark Sinclair’s Back Home Bakery recipe to make a double batch.


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The trip was a gift to our oldest grandson for his high school graduation--two years after the fact.  Yup, COVID got in the way of that, too.

Since it was Josh's trip, we built it around his interests.  Much fun and lots of great memories but bakeries didn't figure into the mix.  In spite of that, my wife and I were both blown away by the bakeries/patisseries that we did notice in our perambulations.  The creativity and craftsmanship of the bakers who turn out such beautiful loaves and pastries is beyond impressive.

Since most of our dining was done in restaurants, our exposure to baked goods was limited to what was available with our meals.  Overall, quality was pretty good, some even very good.  Even the French version of a cheeseburger that I had in one bar came on a bun that was delicious in its own right.

Assuming that we get back to Paris at some future date, I definitely want to devote part of our time there to a bakery crawl, or two.


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Although my overall baking activity is less than it used to be, I have made some breads recently.

First up, cranberry-orange cream cheese braids. These were donated to a fundraising cookie walk that our local Friends of the Library held.

I also baked some small sweet vanilla challot yesterday that will be gifted to friends:



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This bread arose from a “What if…?” musing.  Specifically, what if I used oat flour in place of barley flour for the Barley/Wheat Bread I made previously?  As it turns out, it's a pretty good idea.  

The formula was:

350g whole oat flour

50g whole rye flour

400g whole wheat flour

400g bread flour (I wound up using King Arthur all purpose flour)

60g honey 

900g water

20g salt

10g active dry yeast

After milling the oat, rye, and wheat flours, I autolysed them with 850g of water and all of the honey for about 45 minutes.  The other 50g of water was used to hydrate the yeast.  At the end of the autolyse, the yeast and water were mixed into the dough, followed by the salt,  Finally, the bread flour was mixed in.  Since the resulting dough was still quite loose, an additional half cup of bread flour was mixed in.

The dough was manually kneaded for 10 minutes, then covered and allowed to rise.  Since the kitchen temperature was about 75F, the dough took about 50 minutes to double in bulk.  

The dough was portioned and shaped into two loaves, then placed in two greased 9x5 loaf pans for the final fermentation.  As with the bulk fermentation, the final fermentation also moved briskly and the loaves were ready to go into the oven in less than an hour.  They were then baked at 375F for 55 minutes.

The crumb (sorry, no pic), in spite of the loaves having expanded generously in final fermentation and while baking, is fairly tight; more so than the barley version.  It is also slightly more prone to crumbling while slicing even though the baked bread is quite moist.  

The bread has a mild, pleasant flavor.  The honey, while not enough to make the bread taste sweet, rounds out the flavors of the whole grains.  It is very enjoyable, whether eaten with a smear of butter, or in a sandwich, or toasted.   

This bread, whether made with barley or with oats, is a winner.  I could see it going off in several different directions: maybe bump up the rye percentage, maybe add some molasses, maybe add some butter or oil, maybe add an egg or two, or…  Of course, it's pretty darn good as is.


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I've been intrigued by several recent posts that feature a 100% whole-wheat Hokkaido milk bread, such as this one by Benito.  So I decided to try my hand at it.  Almost.  The "almost" being that I changed it from a sourdough bread to a yeasted bread.

Actually, there were two variations from the bread that Benito posted.  First from sourdough to yeast, as mentioned above.  Second, I had no vital wheat gluten on hand, so subbed in flour in its place so as to keep the hydration more or less in balance.  The second change was the one that concerned me more since I wasn't sure how much the bread relied on the VWG for structure.  As you can see in the lead photo, it turned out quite nicely.

Rather than repeating the formula and process here, I'll refer you to Benito's excellent post.  My adjustments were quite simple.  I moved all of the levain ingredients to the final dough ingredient list, including the flour and water that were part of the 100% hydration starter for the levain.  I added 6g of active dry yeast in the final dough ingredients, too, since it was needed in lieu of the starter for leavening the bread.  My flour was home milled from hard red wheat.  Fermentation times had to be shortened, since the ADY moves quite a bit faster than the wild yeasts in a starter. 

The dough was very wet.  I realized, too late, that I hadn't followed Benito's advice about reserving some of the milk and had simply added all of it.  After a bit of thought, I added some more flour, perhaps 20g or so.  It was enough to turn the dough into something manageable but not so much as to require additional salt or yeast.  Between the dough consistency and the extended kneading that the bread requires, I decided to let the KichenAid mixer do all of the work.  Because I had to stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the dough from the walls of the bowl, I extended the mix duration about three minutes past the recommended time.  That developed the gluten in the dough very well.  The dough was about 85F coming off the mixer.

The dough was given 30 minutes for bulk ferment; it had expanded perhaps 50%.  After that, it was set out in our screen porch for another 30 minutes to firm up.  The temperature out there was in the 25F-30F range, so it cooled down quickly.  Then I followed Benito's process for shaping and placed each of the rolls in a greased Pullman pan for the final fermentation.  When the top of the bread was about 1cm below the pan rim, I started the oven preheating and egg-washed the top of the loaf.  A second coat of egg wash was applied just before the bread went into the oven.  The bread was baked in the pan and then an additional 10 minutes out of the pan, per instructions.  While I don't think the bread required the last 10 minutes to keep the sides from caving in when it cooled, it certainly helped remove some of the moisture.  I elected to forego brushing the top of the loaf with butter at the end of the bake.

There's a lot to like about this bread.  The finished loaf is about treble the height of the just-shaped loaf, so plenty of expansion between final fermentation and oven-spring.  As expected, the crumb is very fine-grained with evenly distributed and evenly sized small bubbles throughout. In spite of its loft, this is a substantial loaf of bread.  It isn't what I would describe as airy or cottony.  Though it yields easily to chewing, the crumb is firm and moist and feels almost cool in the mouth.  You can sense the presence of the bran, even though it is finely ground.  The sugar offsets the natural bitterness of the red wheat.  It is delicious with just a bit of butter, and toasted.

For a future bake of this bread, I'd be interested in trying an autolyse to see if that might have a positive effect on dough consistency and the ultimate tenderness of the crumb.  I'd also like to see how the flavor would shift when using honey as the sweetener.  One thing is certain: I will make more of this bread.



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This is a bread from Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker.  It caught my eye as I was casting about for something to use for the current rye bread Community bake. 

It is about as simple as a rye bread can be.  There are no multi-stage levain builds, no scalds, no soakers, no seeds, and no spices.  The only components are rye flour, potato, water, and salt.  My sole departure from the formula was to use whole rye flour, rather than medium rye flour.

The initial sour build the night before the bake incorporates rye sour, riced potatoes, rye flour, water, and salt.  That last was a bit different from many levain builds in that all of the recipe's salt goes into the levain.  Once mixed, the sour is covered and allowed to ferment overnight.

The next morning, the rest of the water and flour are mixed with the sour.  The stiff dough/paste is fermented until it the volume increases about 1.5 times.  Then the paste is tipped out onto a floured countertop and shaped into a loaf.  The loaf is placed on a lined baking sheet and allowed to ferment until cracks begin to show on the surface.  For this bake, I could have allowed the final fermentation to go longer but I could see that there was some sideways expansion in the loaf even though the top was still relatively smooth.

The bread is baked without steam.  When it comes out of the oven, it is brushed with boiling water to soften the crust, then cooled.

The photo at the top of this post shows the finished loaf.  And here's a picture of the crumb:

Not surprisingly, the crumb is close and dense.  Some 40 hours after the bake, the bread cuts cleanly without leaving a film on the knife.  It is moist and pleasantly chewy.  Thanks to the boiling water application, the crust is somewhat leathery, rather than armor-plated.

Flavor-wise, it is all rye.  The potatoes don't lend a discernible flavor note.  While I had expected some sourness, it is surprisingly subdued and very much in the background.  It will make a very good foil for cured meats, pickles, mustard, and other strongly flavored foods.

Outside, it's cold although this morning's low of 4F is much better than yesterday's low of -13F.  There's an ice-fishing derby out on the lake today.  A few of the participants and their shelters are visible from the front porch:

There are many more outside the frame of the above photo.  I took a walk around and spoke to some of the contestants.  My impression is that my bread weighs more than anything they were catching.


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One of the things I enjoy about Christmas is the opportunity to bake without having to ask myself “How are we going to eat all of this?”  I can have fun baking and give the finished goods away as Christmas presents.  Yes, I know, bread can be gifted any day of the year; it somehow seems even more enjoyable this time of year.  

Whole Wheat Cranberry-Orange Country Loaf

This bread from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook went to my brother and my sister who live nearby.  It is fragrant with orange zest, orange juice, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans.  It smelled so good in the dough stage that I pinched off a small piece for a bun before shaping the loaves.  That gave my wife and I a chance to sample it, too.  

Honey Oatmeal Sandwich Bread with Cinnamon Swirl

Granted, my list of favorite breads would probably require a couple of pages, but this bread would be there.  The cinnamon swirl makes for some delightful toast.  Two of my nieces will receive these this afternoon when they arrive for a cookie baking extravaganza.  This bread is also from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook.

Frisian Black Bread

This one from The Rye Baker is for us.  I've been hankering for some rye bread lately and this one looked interesting.  It's 50/50 rye flour and bread flour.  Flavor for this bread is entirely from the flour and fermentation; there are no inclusions such as spices or seeds.  The first sponge matures overnight.  The second sponge moves faster during the morning of the next day.  The final dough (batter, really) is fermented in bulk, then again after it is poured into the bread pan.  One different feature of this bread is that the bake begins in a cold oven.  

Unfortunately, I let the final proof go 15-20 minutes longer than it should and wound up with a cavern at the top of the loaf.  Docking wasn’t called for but it might have helped.  Maybe.  Anyway, the bread tastes wonderfully of rye, which is exactly what I wanted.  


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This cake, a Jamaican Christmas tradition, came to my attention from a very strange direction.  

Back in October, my wife and I, along with my sister and her boyfriend, spent a long weekend in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.  That's the “horn” pushing up into Lake Superior at the western end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  We happened across The Jampot, a bake shop operated by the Holy Transfiguration Skete Society of St. John, a Byzantine Catholic monastery.  Seriously, where else would one go to find out about a cake that is beloved on a Caribbean island?

The Jampot's version is a large, loaf-shaped cake with a $54 price tag.  My interest was piqued, even though my pocketbook was unmoved.  After some on-line research, I settled on this recipe

If you look at it carefully, you will note that it calls for just over 5 pounds of fruits and nuts.  Add to that a pound each of butter, sugar, and eggs.  And close to a quart of booze.  Only one pound of flour is allocated to bind all of that together and just 4 teaspoons of baking powder to leaven it.  This is not a dry, light cake.  

The recipe says that the fruit should soak in the rum and wine for at least three days.  I let it soak for close to a month, thinking that it would allow for a better marriage of the flavors.  I’m happy with the results. 

On baking day, I made the caramel color, then ground the fruit and almonds in the food processor as directed.  The rest of the process was fairly straightforward but I was very glad for my 7-quart KitchenAid mixer, since the batter and fruit filled the bowl nearly to the rim.  If you have a mixer with a smaller bowl, plan to combine the batter and the fruit in a large mixing bowl by hand.  

The recipe makes three 9-inch cakes.  I used two regular cake pans and one spring form pan, which turned out well, since it would have overflowed a third regular pan.  These cakes have a long bake time.  The cakes in the regular cake pans took two hours; the thicker cake in the spring-form pan baked for 2.5 hours.  

The cake is very rich and filling.  The flavor is deep and complex, with both the fruit and the booze figuring prominently.  There's lime zest and cinnamon in the mix but those contribute undertones to the flavor, rather than being noticeable as distinct flavors.  The texture is predominantly that of the fruit.  If you will, this is a cake made of fruit rather than a cake that contains some fruit.  Not surprising, considering the ratio of fruit to flour.  

I would make this cake again but I will want to make sure that I have plenty of helpers to eat it.  It’s a lot of cake!



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