The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

The Fresh Loaf Handbook

Floydm's picture

The Fresh Loaf Handbook

At long last, there is a project afoot to develop a Fresh Loaf Handbook.

The idea behind the Handbook is to distill the baking wisdom of The Fresh Loaf community into a compact, well-organized, accessible document.

I've been thinking of it as "an Open Source Bread Baker's Apprentice" or "a bread baker's version of Wikipedia." Not that we want to compete with or replace either of those resources, but we can better serve new bakers searching for information on how to get started baking artisan breads if we take the time to organize our thoughts into something more accessible than the constant stream posts typically featured here (which I love and don't want to change... It just would be useful for the site to also have something more stable to compliment it).

Take a look at what is in the Handbook already. Jeff (JMonkey) combined content from The Fresh Loaf with his own research and knowledge and put together a baking book for his friends and family this Christmas.  Much of his work is already in Section II and Section III of the handbook.   You'll also see David Snyder's wonderful tutorial on scoring, which he was kind enough to let me reproduce in the handbook.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Fresh Loaf Handbook

(Well, maybe not frequently asked questions yet, but questions I anticipate people asking about the Handbook.)

How does the Handbook differ from the rest of the site?

The handbook pages can be edited by more than one community member, so each page should get cleaner and more accurate as time goes on.  There also will not be comments on the handbook pages.  The ideal is to keep things in the handbook tight and concise.   A separate forum has be created for discussion of the Handbook.

What should go into the Handbook?

The community will have to figure that out.

I suggest that we start with the basics: basic information about the process, the ingredients, and the techniques involved in artisan baking. Something like 30-50 standard recipes would also make sense.

In my mind the goal of the Handbook is not to be exhaustive. Rather it is to provide something that an enthusiastic new baker could sit down and read in one evening and, upon completion, feel excited and well-prepared to start baking artisan breads.  But, as I said, as a community-authored document, the community will have to determine what purpose the Handbook serves.

What about the tone of the Handbook?

The tone of the Handbook should be friendly, encouraging, much like the tone usually found on this site. Once we have the basics covered, I suspect we'll want to add sections or essays for advanced bakers on "Advanced Topics" or "Eye-Opening Techniques." In those I suspect we'll want to allow more leeway for individual voice and stronger opinions, but the basic sections should remain encouraging and author-neutral.  At least that is my opinion.

What kind of license is the Handbook being developed under?

The Handbook is being developed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License, which is a commonly used license on websites like Flickr.

So what does that mean?

It means that you are free to reproduce and modify any images or text included in the Handbook for non-commercial or educational use as long as you include a credit with the source listed as "The Fresh Loaf (". You may alter, transform, or build upon the Handbook to create your own work, but you must distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

So if I contribute something to the handbook, does that mean I'm giving up my exclusive ownership of that content?


If you contribute something to the handbook you are giving up exclusive ownership of it and allowing the community and others to build upon or alter it. And you are granting me or whomever else might own The Fresh Loaf in the future the right to grant permission to a newspaper, magazine, or publisher to reproduce your content in a commercial setting if they ask for permission and it seems appropriate.

(The previous clause is in here because it wouldn't be feasible for me to try to track down every person who had ever contributed to a page any time there was a request to reproduce a recipe in a local newspaper. But recall that you too will have full permission to reproduce or build upon any content from the Handbook for projects of your own, like Jeff's Bread Book.  The goal of the Creative Commons License is to encourage knowledge sharing and to allow the content to continue being adapted for years to come in ways the original author cannot begin to imagine, not to make anyone rich.)

I have a favorite recipe from Reinhart/Hamelman/Beranbaum's book. Can we put it in the Handbook?

No, we should not, since we do not have the right to release them under the Creative Commons License.

Many of us use recipes that originated  from books but which we've baked often enough that we've "made them our own" by modified them to better fit our taste, the ingredients available to us, or by combining something we learned from one source with a technique we learned from another.  These recipes, the ones that are distinctly "our own," seem to me to be the best candidates for the Handbook.  But even in these cases, we should try to give credit to the author of the original recipe.  As I said earlier, I don't imagine the Handbook replacing The Bread Baker's Apprentice or The Bread Bible, only offering an accessible entry point into the art of bread baking. Hopefully at the end of reading it, the new baker will want to continue to learn more and have a good idea of which author is likely to provide them with the type of information they seek.

This sounds great!  How do I get involved in the Handbook project?

A few long-time members-- Jeff (JMonkey), Eric (EHanner), and David (DMSnyder)-- have already been given access to the Handbook.  They can add new pages into the Handbook and edit existing Handbook pages.  I think they can add new subsections and change the order of Handbook pages too, though I'm not certain we've tested that yet.

If you'd like to get involved in working on the Handbook, Please post a comment in this thread, in the Handbook forum, send me a private message, or send an email to floydm at thefreshloaf dot com.  This is a volunteer effort and we're all new at this, so we may not approve access for everyone all at once, but as things ramp up we will continue to grant access to more and more community members.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Floyd!

Congratulations on the official launch. I think the process promises to be as interesting as the product.


SylviaH's picture

Good Morning Floyd!! 

Looking forward to "The Fresh Loaf Handbook".  "Can't wait... is more like it"!!


Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

...Nice indeed.

trailrunner's picture

As a newbie to this web site I can readily agree that a more organized initial approach would be so nice. I have scrounged and back tracked and dug around and found most of what I wanted to know. But....some great basic recipes for things are BURIED in long long threads. It would be lovely if they were in one place. dough, basic sourdough bread, basic sourdough starter 101 ( my favorite !!) basic rolls, French bread ( a couple different takes on it) sweet dough. I can hardly wait I think it is a fantastic idea. Caroline

Floydm's picture

I concur with everything you say.  In a very short stretch of time we went from having too little information on this site to too much!  I don't want to deter people from continuing to post and blog and chat with one another actively like they do now, but creating a more stable section of the site would be helpful for everyone.

mountaindog's picture

You guys did a great job, I just skimmed through it and I was esp. happy to see SourdoLady's foolproof starter insructions there, they are the best IMHO. Thanks for putting in so much time on this all of you!

Paddyscake's picture

of TFL!! Thanks to you guys for all your time and effort!


davidm's picture

This is a great notion. Especially helpful to folks starting out, count me in that category for many things, are video demos of technique, of which there are several here on TFL. Good to see David's scoring video right off  the bat, it really is very good.

Norm's video on shaping kaiser rolls gets my vote too, it blew me away. Totally real, totally nuts and bolts, without any voiceover, or any need of one. Priceless! And can we imagine trying to explain that in words alone? Or trying to follow a verbal description? It's gotta be in there. It's just gotta be!


Nice work Floyd.

TeaIV's picture

Great Idea! I think we should take the lessons (from the navigation menu) and put them in their entirety into the handbook. if we combine them, it'd be easier for new members.

LindyD's picture

I glanced at a few pages and noted this one immediately:

 Maintaning Sourdough Starter in the Refridgerator

This should be corrected to maintaining sourdough starter in the refrigerator.



gaaarp's picture

Lindy, thanks for pointing out those typos.  I saw them, too.  Maybe we can be the unofficial proofers for the Handbook!

Floydm's picture

Thank you two.  I fixed the typo.

Proofing and editing is very helpful.

JMonkey's picture

I'd like to point out, however, that since I keep a whole wheat starter, I try to keep it nicely tanned.

Thanks for finding the goofs. I'm sure there are more to be found. Much appreciated!

holds99's picture

It keeps getting better and better.


Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

...Oi Gonzalez,  Tudo ben? ;-)

ssor's picture

I would love to be a part of this effort. Since i am largely self taught from books and experience, perhaps I can add something from that perspective.

Floydm's picture

Permission granted.  PM me if you have any technical questions.


ssor's picture

I grew up on a small subsistence farm. Mother baked bread because it was a practical way to save a little money. Her bread was simple flour, water, yeast and salt. In those days yeast came in small squares of foil wrapped fresh yeast and had to be refrigerated. The oven held four 9x5 inch pans so we had big sandwiches. Mother baked twice each week and knew her recipe. Water in the bowl desolve the yeast add the salt stir in the flour. she knew if it needed more flour by the way it felt.

So when I started to make bread I didn't know it was as complex as it seems to be sometimes. The Betty Crocker recipe said 6-6 1/2 cups of flour 2 cups of water a tablespoonful of salt and a packet of yeast. So that's what i did! I desolved the yeast in the water added the salt and stirred in the flour a little at a time. It made a dough that looked familar so I kneaded it and sprinkled flour on when it got too sticky. Then I greased the dough with some bacon fat and covered it with a towel in the mixing bowl and it rose nicely just like it did when mother made bread. I didn't have any loaf pans so I made potato size rolls and baked them on a sheet. Betty told me how hot and long. it worked and I had made bread for me and my new bride. I remember that it was good. Probably today I could find a dozen things wrong with it but it was BREAD and we ate it and I made more when we ran out and I got better at the job. Now 52 years later I am still making bread but I have learned a lot in those years.

If you want to make bread start simple and plain and be proud of your efforts. Always cut some soon out of the oven and eat it with good BUTTER.

longhorn's picture

Congratulations, Floyd! Another major step for Fresh Loaf!



ssor's picture

We need to include that the method of measuring flour if you don't weigh it must be consistant.

The other day I was weighing flour and using a one cup measure for a scoop I got three cups to the pound. But if I fill the cup with a spoon it takes more cups to make to pound and if I sift first then even more.

For someone starting out we should emphasize that when they find a ratio that works for them they should stay with the method of measuring and learn to make that recipe before they jump into something more exciting.

I have to make the same recipe several times before I get to know that bread. Otherwise I can't know when it is wrong.

Also if you forget the salt it can be kneaded in almost anytime.

ssor's picture

An ancient bread making tool is/was the kneading trough. It is simply a large strong bowl dedicated to bread making. I have seen some that were made with handles for two people to lift and carry and would likely hold a hundred pounds of dough.

I use a 13 quart stainless steel bowl for mixing and kneading. My dough doesn't touch the table until the shaping. I have made as much a 7 pounds of flour into bread in one batch in this bowl.

The other tool that you can find in antique markets is the bread making pail with a lid and dough hook and a clamp to anchor the pail while you turn the crank.  The kitchen-aid mixer is the closest modern machine to the dough maker but there is no modern equivalent to a kneading trough