The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

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Section I: Introduction

There are few things that smell quite as good as a loaf of bread baking in the oven. But there are other benefits beyond just that lovely smell of baking your own bread. It’s cheaper, tastier, and, more often than not, healthier than buying it from the store.

Our goal with this e-book is to help amateur bakers produce the kind of bread that they would most like to pull from their ovens. We hope that it helps you.

sadkitchenkid's picture

Purple Sweet Potato Sourdough

I've been wanting to make a purple sweet potato loaf for a while now because purple sweet potato is my favorite kind of potato. In this bread, I used a TON of potato puree and a lot of cornmeal, and it gave me a really beautiful loaf. The oven spring on this loaf was amazing, but the crumb is dense and cake-like. The purple sweet potato gives off a really nice floral taste and the texture of the crumb is almost creamy. Tastes even nicer the next day.


I cut into while it was still a little hot, which disturbed the crumb pattern in this picture, but look at this color!



400g bread flour

150g blue cornmeal

50g wholewheat flour

600g water

350g mashed purple sweet potato* 

120g starter (I used 100% rye at 80% hydration)

11g salt 

*the texture of purple sweet potatoes really varies from potato to potato. Some are starchy and crumbly/dry on the inside where they're cooked, and some are soft and a bit more moist. The large sweet potato I used happened to be very dry, so when I mashed it had the texture of wet sand almost so in my baker's percentage, I counted it as a dry ingredient, which is why I have so much water listed in the recipe. My original notes called for 420g water but when I made the dough it was SO dry I had to add an extra 160g water. 

I put 200g of the sweet potato in the blender with 420g of the water, and added it to the flour during the autolyse stage. Then I added the remaining 150g in after two stretch and folds so that little lumps of potato would be running through the loaf. 

This dough was a little difficult to work with and shape because of the relatively low gluten content (lots of potato, lots of cornmeal), but I loved making this loaf because of how beautiful all the colors were. 

*Edited: Decided to add some extra steps that I think were important to this bake!

1) Mix together water, flour, half of the cornmeal, and blended potato mixture mentioned above. Set aside for about an hour.

2) Add the starter and do slap and folds for about five minutes. Because of the little amount of gluten, during the mixing stage, the dough became very loose and slimy. Usually if a dough is super wet after slap and fold, it pulls itself back together if I let it sit for a few minutes to reabsorb, but this dough didn't do that as much, however, after a few stretch and folds over the course of four hours, it became firm enough to handle. I don't have a video for this specific dough, but on my channel, there is a video for a Carrot Sourdough which was about as wet as this one (also because of the disrupted gluten formation), and in that video, i demonstrate basically how I dealt with this dough and how I shaped it.  

3) Place the dough into a clean bowl and rest for thirty minutes before mixing in the salt and the remaining cornmeal. 

4) After 45 minutes, begin with stretch and folds over the coarse of three and a half hours. Before the 2nd stretch and fold, mix in the remaining mashed sweet potato. I did 1 stretch and fold every 45 minutes. By the third fold, the dough had nearly doubled, and it was relatively cold in my kitchen, so like any dough, keep your eye on the dough and not the clock. 

5) Pre-round the dough and let sit on the counter uncovered for 20 minutes. Dust with flour (I used coarse rye) and shape tightly. Place in a banneton and let proof. This loaf only needed about an hour and a half before it was ready. Since it was proofed before I was ready, I popped the banneton in the freezer for twenty minutes to give my oven some extra time to heat up. 

6) score and bake at 500F covered/steamed for 22 minutes then bring the temperature down to 450F and bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Let cool completely, maybe even wait till the next day before cutting into it.

Good luck and enjoy!

Happy baking!

GrowingStella's picture

Hokkaido milk bread - unreal!

Hi all,


Just made this Hokkaido milk bread.

Floyd, thank you for the inspiration, your words sank into my mind "the silkiest and softest"... yes, it is!


I used a mix of these flours in the final dough: 2 parts of KA AP four and 1part of 00 Antimo Caputo flour.

I utilized the Tangzhong method with a mixture AP four, water and milk, and the final dough had milk and heavy cream. For the second rise, I divided the dough in 4 parts and rolled them this way: rolled each part into an elongated oval, using a rolling pin, then folded both sides to the center lengthwise, flattened it with the rolling pin, and then rolled it into a tube, pinching seems. Both resting stages took about 1 hour and 15 min. I baked it at 350F, for almost 40 min.

My observations: the dough is super fun to work with; the tangzhong method that I used for the first time, really impressed me; the bread is unreal, cloud-like look, the lightest, and yes, "the silkiest and softest", and my family absolutely loved it!

This bread is a must to bake, and its destined for success!

Happy baking!

RoundhayBaker's picture

Menhir Sarrasin - a Buckwheat Bread

I cannot get the recipe template to work. Never mind, I'm posting it here instead.


I love it when your own take on a bread is the latest addition to a chain that extends back into the mists of time. In this case, I was inspired by MC’s blog ( about Breton-based baker Éric Marché. In the blogpost she writes about how M.Marché roasts buckwheat flour for his menhir-shaped loaves. I’ve never been a huge fan of buckwheat bread, but this sounded worth a try. It was. It’s a great idea. Delicious.

This is my version of Éric Marché's loaf, using, as a template, Dan Leader’s Buckwheat Bâtard recipe which, apparently, he adapted, in turn, from an Éric Kayser recipe. Anyway, I hope I've done them justice.

It makes a beautiful dough, easily handled and shaped. It’s ideal for long cold retardation (Éric Marché keeps his for up to two days). I sprinkled it with black poppy seeds because their flavour complements the buckwheat. I haven’t tweaked the colours at all. Buckwheat loaves really do bake to this rich russet golden colour.

I baked test batches with both white and wholemeal flours. They're equally good. The latter needs a much longer fermentation (double-hydration is also a good idea) and gives a more open crumb (see the photo on MC's blog).

Makes 2 x 440g loaves (baked, approx).



  • 40g liquid (100% hydration) sourdough starter
  • 45g water
  • 70g buckwheat flour


  • 130g buckwheat levain
  • 300g water
  • 450g unbleached bread flour, or wholemeal/wheatmeal
  • 44g buckwheat flour
  • 22g roast buckwheat flour
  • 17g salt
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds, optional


Roast the buckwheat:

  1. Roast the buckwheat in a 160/140(fan)℃ (320/280F) oven for a total of 15 minutes (mixing it every 5 minutes to prevent it from burning.

To form the buckwheat levain:

  1. Mix the ingredients well, cover and let stand for 8-12 hours or overnight.

It makes a medium-stiff levain. Don't expect a huge amount of activity with buckwheat flour, but you should expect to see a moderate increase in volume.

Form the dough:

  1. Combine the buckwheat levain with the water. Break up the levain so it can be easily mixed with the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Add the bread/wholemeal flour, buckwheat, and roast buckwheat. Mix well.
  3. Autolyse for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the salt. and mix.
  5. Knead until the dough passes the windowpane test - about 5 minutes with a stand mixer (or 8-10 minutes by hand). You will have a smooth, creamy dough that still tears if you pull at it.
  6. Leave it in it's bowl, cover, then bulk ferment the dough for 1 hour
  7. Stretch-and-fold in the bowl, rotating one quarter between folds for one complete turn of the bowl. 
  8. Do the windowpane test. It you feel the gluten is still under-developed, do another stretch-and-fold. 
  9. Cold retard for 6-10 hours (or overnight).
  10. Then gently de-gas, divide the dough, and pre-shape into boules or blunts. No need to be fancy: do it in four quick turns per boule - you don't want to rip the skin.
  11. Rest for 20 minutes.
  12. Shape into menhirs. To do this gently de-gas each boule/blunt again. Next flatten and stretch them into the form you'd use to shape a bâtard, but with one side being shorter than the other. Now stretch and fold under tension - again, just as you'd do with a bâtard - but don't seal the final fold with the heel of your hand, leave it as it is. You should now have two loaves, each in the shape of a blunt-nosed cone (see photo below). 
  13. Set aside, make sure the seam is on the side of each loaf, cover, and prove for 1-2 hours
  14. Preheat your oven to 230/210(fan)℃ (450/410F). Prepare your steam tray too.
  15. When the loaves are ready, spray their upper surfaces with water then sprinkle with seeds.
  16. Score to enhance the shape by running your lame along the seam on the side from tip to base.
  17. Steam the oven. I just pour water onto my steam tray which has been sitting in the oven for ten minutes. A few squirts of water onto your baking stone can also be a big help.
  18. Bake - immediately turning the heat down to 220/200(fan)℃ (430/400F) - for 25-30 minutes.
  19. Remove the steam tray after 15 minutes into the bake. 
  20. Once the loaf turns a golden russet brown and the base is hollow to the tap, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Additional Notes:

The Kerloas Menhir, Plouarzel, Brittany, France. (Creative Commons, China_Crisis)

Menhirs are ancient standing stones, sometimes six or seven thousand years old. Thousands of them are found in Britain (Stonehenge), Ireland, and northern France. In particular, they dot the landscape of Brittany (the forest of them at Carnac has to be seen to be believed), hence Éric’s inspiration.

And, as those of you who read Asterix and Obelix books as a kid will know, a menhir is also the giant rock Obelix uses habitually as a weapon to flatten Roman legionaries. I was a childhood fan (still am), so I just couldn’t resist.

Great with cheese or cured meats.

cmatecun's picture

Buckwheat Cherry Levain

Inspired by one of the many killer loaves I had eaten at High Street on Market in Philadelphia, I decided to try and recreate their buckwheat cherry bread. They haven't shared their recipe, so I played around with a basic sourdough cherry bread recipe and subbed in 20% buckwheat flour. 

This version ended up with a moist crumb, a chewy crust, and a great flavor balance from the nutty buckwheat and the tart cherries. Just as good as High Street's, if you ask me. It's delicious toasted for breakfast or just devoured on its own. 

To start off I fed my starter at night to create the leaven. The next morning I mixed the final dough, mixing the leaven, water, and flour together and letting it autolyse for 30 minutes. After the autolyse period I mixed in the cherries and salt using the finger pinch technique (thank you Chad Robertson) and tossed it in the oven at 85 degrees for its bulk fermentation. Following the Tartine method, I turned the dough once every 30 minutes for the first two hours of bulk fermentation (4 turns) and then left it to sit undisturbed for one more hour. 

The dough looked ready, so I pre-shaped my boule and let it set for a 20 minute bench rest. One more shaping and off into the fridge it went for 18 hours. 

I baked it the next morning in my Lodge enamel/cast iron dutch oven. 20 minutes covered at 450 degrees and then 14 minutes uncovered with the oven on convection bake at 440 degrees. 


1 spoonful starter

30g buckwheat flour (Bob's Red Mill)

30g bread flour (King Arthur)

60g filtered water


Final Dough

120 g leaven

270g bread flour

30g buckwheat flour

210g water @ 85 degrees F

8g salt

150g dried tart cherries


-Mix dough with leaven, adding in cherries and salt after 30 minute autolyse. 

-4 hours bulk fermentation at 85 degrees with 4 turns during the first 2 hours. 

-Pre-shape followed by a 20 minute bench rest, followed by the real shaping. 

-Proof in the fridge for 18 hours. 

-Bake covered at 450 for 20 minutes

-Bake uncovered on convection at 440 for 14 minutes

Omid's picture

Iranian Barbari Bread (نان بربری سنتی ایران)

Greetings! I am a new member here, and this is my very first post. So, allow me to briefly introduce myself. My name is Omid, from Southern California. About two years ago, I brought my law career to an abrupt end after working for many years in the field of civil litigation. I just had to find a new undertaking, a new reason to seduce me to life, something "creative". So, I have been working as a pizzaiolo in a Neapolitan pizzeria for the past two years. On the side, I try to bake breads at home as much as time allows me. I find it quite riveting when one can discipline one’s own senses and hands in order to transform raw materials (such as water, flour, salt, and a fermentative agent) into a work of art, in which one can find oneself, define oneself, overcome oneself, recreate oneself. In my assessment, the psychology of baking is just as important as the act of baking itself. In other words, baking is about transforming the raw materials as much as it is about transforming oneself, cultivating oneself, building artistic character. As German philosopher Karl Marx eloquently expressed, “As man works on nature outside himself and changes it, he changes at the same time his own nature.”

Upon scanning this forum, I noticed that barbari bread has not been discussed in appreciable details here. I am by no means a professional barbari baker, but I will try to make contributions, if the members are interested, as much as time allows and as far as my knowledge can assist me in this matter. Once upon a time, I did one year of internship (six hours per week) at a traditional barbari bakery in Tehran, Iran. Unfortunately, back then I was too impatient to absorb everything.

Last Monday, I baked some mini barbari breads. Below are some pictures of the bake session.

Barbari breads in the process of baking inside the brick oven

BobS's picture

Life with Fred: maintaining a starter in pictures

There's lots of discussion and great information about starters on TFL. Everyone does things a little differently, and what works for you is best. Here's what works for me.

I typically make two sourdough loaves a week. Sometimes more, and sometimes I miss a week, sometimes two. Sometimes I make more than two loaves.

When I started baking sourdough I had a lot of questions and two constraints. First, I traveled a fair bit for work, often on short notice, so I needed a process that was not too fussy  - no twice-daily feedings, no big mason jar of goo on the kitchen counter.  Second, I hate waste; the idea of discarding half of anything bothers me. I addressed the first constraint by having Fred live in the fridge nearly all the time; and addressed the second by keeping him fairly small. Here's Fred:

That's a half-cup container, and it contains 2.5 ounces of Fred. He's a little guy. Fred is a 100% hydration starter, so he's 50/50 flour/water by weight.  Fred's hydration is not so important, but one reason 100% is nice because it makes the math simpler. Fred is too small to make bread by himself, I use him to innoculate a levain that typically ferments 12-14 hours.

I made the original Fred about 3-4 years ago using the great instructions on this site from Debra Wink. Pineapple juice rocks.

The evening before (or two evenings before if I am retarding the final proofing) I take Fred out of the fridge and build a levain. Sometimes, when I have presence of mind, I take him out an hour or two before I start to let him warm up a bit, but often I just take him right out of the fridge. This is what he looks like after being in the fridge for about 10 days:

Sometimes, after a week or so, Fred will blow his top in the fridge. Not a big deal, and if no one notices for a day or two Fred will create a dry crust on top to keep his innards moisty. Fred's a bit of a teetotaler: I very seldom see hooch, perhaps only after a couple of weeks in the fridge. If Fred looks all watery and hoochy, I might feed him once or twice, but usually I will let him warm up and he comes back to life.

I feed Fred in a 1:2:2 ratio: 1 part starter, 2 parts flour, 2 parts water. My experience  (YMMV) is that this ratio provides adequate food so that he will be in good shape to innoculate a levain in a week, and can tolerate cooling his heels for longer if necessary . I always (well, almost always) remove 2 oz (of the 2.5 total) to start the levain build:

There's just a little bit of Fred left (0.5 oz):

The 1:2:2 ratio means we need to add 1 oz of water and 1 oz of flour in order to make Fred the man he was.  So we add 1 oz  water (that's a chopstick, which works really well for mixing the remaining starter and water) and then 1 oz flour. I feed Fred with AP or Bread flour, but I always give him a little treat of rye:

The 2 oz of starter is built into the levain - in this case a stiffer levain for Pain au Levain. There's no waste; I haven't discarded any starter.

If the formula for the levain called for less than 2 oz of starter,  I decrease the amount of flour and water in the levain by the excess amount of starter. For example, if the formula called for 1 oz of starter, I would use 2 oz of Fred, but then reduce the amount of flour and water I add by 0.5 oz each (that's what I meant about the 100% making the math easier). (It could be that innoculating the levain with more than the amount of starter called for in the formula changes the flavor profile of the bread. That's okay; I'vehad no complaints yet, and I have other details of technique to work out before addressing that one. If I found that it did make a difference, I would simply scale Fred down.)

The levain I'm building often has a different hydration than Fred. Sometimes it uses a different type of flour, e.g. rye. No matter.

The chopstick doesn't work for a lot of stiff starter, so I switch to the handle of a wooden spoon.

The levain goes in the proofing box overnight. Fred goes in for an hour or so just to help get his juices flowing. (I'm writing this in New Hampshire in February - the proofing box is required equipment). Then Fred goes in the fridge and does not reappear for a week or so. It seems to take about 4-5 days for Fred to develop sufficient strength in the fridge. If I want to use him sooner I will take him out and place him on the counter or in the proofing box until he's bubbly.

The next morning the kitchen is at 63F, but the levain looks good:

Fred, flour, water, salt:

dabrownman's picture

Making Red Rye Malt

I took 60 g of rye berries and soaked them for 5 hours in water.  Then, taking a metal sheet tray, I moistened a paper towel and placed it on the tray and spread the berries over the paper towel.  I then took two paper towels, moistened them, placed them over the berries, covered the sheet pan with plastic wrap and covered the whole shebang with a kitchen towel.. Every day I would move the berries around and spray the top of the paper towels a little water to keep them moist - not wet.  After 96 hours from start to finish the berries were ready to dry and looked like this.

The tray looked like this.

I then dried the berries in my table top Cuisinart convection oven.  The berries were stirred and the pan was rotated 18o degrees every 15 minutes.  I used a drying schedule of 30 minutes each at 175 F (convection), 225 F, 275 F and then 20 minutes at 325 F and they were done. Here are pictures at the end of each time and temperature.

175 F

225 F

275 F

325 F

After grinding the original 60 g of berries, it made 32 G of Red Rye Malt Powder.  The powder looked like this.


dmsnyder's picture

Walnut Raisin Sourdough Bread from SFBI Artisan II



Most of the breads we baked in the Artisan II workshop at the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) are found in Michel Suas' “Advanced Bread & Pastry” (AB&P) textbook. A couple of the breads I and the other students enjoyed the most are not, and one of them was a delicious Walnut Raisin bread made with a firm levain and a small amount of instant yeast.

The following is my scaled down version which made two loaves of 563 gms each. (The 26 g by which the dough exceeded the ingredient weights must be due to water absorbed by the raisins.) I incorporated an autolyse in the procedure which we did not use at the SFBI.


Total Formula




Baker's %

Wt (g)

KAF AP flour



KAF Whole Wheat flour



BRM Dark Rye flour






Walnuts (toasted)



Raisins (soaked)














Baker's %

Wt (g)

KAF AP flour



BRM Dark Rye flour






Stiff Starter






  1. Mix all ingredients until well incorporated.

  2. Ferment 12 hrs at room temperature.


Final Dough




Baker's %

Wt (g)

KAF AP flour



KAF Whole Wheat flour



BRM Dark Rye flour






Yeast (dry instant)



Walnuts (toasted)



Raisins (soaked)













  1. Mix the flours and the water to a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and autolyse for 20-60 minutes.

  2. Toast the walnuts, broken into large pieces, for 15 minutes at 325ºF. (Can be done ahead of time)

  3. Soak the raisins in cold water. (Can be done ahead of time)

  4. Add the salt and the levain and mix at Speed 1 until well incorporated (about 2 minutes).

  5. Mix at Speed 2 to moderate gluten development (about 8 minutes).

  6. Add the nuts and raisins (well-drained) and mix at Speed 1 until they are well-distributed in the dough.

  7. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead/fold a few times if necessary to better distribute the nuts and raisins.

  8. Round up the dough and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly.

  9. Ferment for 2 hours at 80ºF.

  10. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Pre-shape as boules. Let the pieces relax for 20-30 minutes, covered.

  11. Shape as bâtards or boules and place, seam side up. In bannetons or en couche. Cover well.

  12. Proof for 1.5 to 2 hours.

  13. An hour before baking, pre-heat oven to 500ºF with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  14. Transfer the loaves to a peel. Score them. Transfer to the baking stone.

  15. Turn the oven down to 450ºF and bake for 15 minutes with steam, then another 15 minutes in a dry oven. (Boules may take a few more minutes to bake than bâtards.)

  16. When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves on the baking stone with the oven door ajar for another 8-10 minutes.

  17. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack.

  18. Cool completely before slicing.


Because of the water in the soaked raisins, The dough was wetter than expected from the 67% hydration given for the total dough. It felt more like a 70-72% hydration dough.

The crust was thinner and got soft faster with this bake than that done in the deck oven at SFBI. I might try baking at 460ºF and also leaving the loaves in the turned off oven for longer. Perhaps a shorter period baking with steam would help get the crunchier crust I would like with this bread.

This bread has a delicious flavor which is exceptionally well-balance between the grains, nuts and raisins. There is a very mild sourdough tang. Definitely a bread I'll be baking frequently.


Submitted to YeastSpotting


subfuscpersona's picture

Baking Bread in Cast Iron - No Preheat Method - Photos!

There has been a flurry of discussion in the past weeks on baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven. Many TFL members use this method. It produces great breads but many find it problematic to lower the risen dough into a preheated pot.

On November 9, 2010, TFL member dmsynder asked whether it was necessary to preheat a cast iron dutch oven prior to baking in order to get a good rise and crust. (His post can be found here).

Here's the collective answer ...

> preheat the oven

> do NOT preheat the cast iron dutch oven and lid

> grease the dutch oven and let your dough rise directly in it

Here's my detailed illustration of this method with photos (with thanks to everyone who went before me)



I used a two-quart capacity non enameled cast iron dutch oven. For the lid, I used a non enameled cast iron skillet, placed upside-down on the dutch oven. The diameter of my dutch oven and skillet are identical, so I get a good seal during the initial baking. The dutch oven is 3 inches high and the skillet is 1 & 1/2 inches high, so I have 4 & 1/2 inches interior height in total. Here's a photo of the assembly...




The bread recipe I use is a fairly standard sourdough. Ingredients are refreshed sourdough starter (at 100% hydration), commercial unbleached white bread flour, organic whole wheat flour, water and salt. Whole wheat flour is 20% of total flour. Dough hydration is 72% (this includes the water in the levain).

I baked two loaves. For each two-quart capacity dutch oven, I had 18 ounces (prebaking weight) of dough.



The dutch oven was lightly greased. After shaping, the dough proofed directly in the dutch oven. During proofing, each dutch oven was slipped into a food grade plastic bag. (I help myself to these bags from the produce section of my favorite supermarket  - they're just the right size).

When ready to bake, the dough had risen close to the top of the dutch oven.




The oven had been thoroughly preheated to 500F so it was ready when the dough was ready.

The dough was slashed, lightly misted, covered and loaded into the oven. The oven temperature was lowered to 475F, so it baked at somewhere between 500F to 475F for twenty minutes. At the end of this time, the dough had risen about 1 & 1/2 inches, slashes had opened and the dough was just beginning to color.




The lid was removed, temperature was lowered to 450F and the bread baked in the (uncovered) dutch oven for 20 minutes more. At the end of the bake, when removed to the cooling rack, I was delighted to hear the (greatly desired) crackling as the crust cooled. After cooling, the post-baking weight of each loaf was slightly over 16 ounces.