The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

baking from memory...

cranbo's picture

baking from memory...

When I got more serious about baking several years ago, I created my own spreadsheets (or "breadsheets" as I like to call 'em) where I kept accurate track of formula tweaks, timings, etc. Over 200 sourdoughs, ciabattas, mixed grain pan loaves, pizzas, flatbreads, etc. 

Nowadays, even though I still weigh my ingredients, I "eyeball" things much more, and I rarely write my outcomes down....probably because for the most part, the outcomes come out consistently well. I haven't been baking a ton of breads lately, but my recent go-to's are:

  • a mixed grain pan loaf with white, whole wheat, medium rye, and Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain blend. 
  • a pizza with white, a bit of whole wheat and about 25% Caputo 00. 

I usually start with 500g of flour total, hydrate at about 70% (350g), and add yeast, salt, sugar, and fat as necessary. Doing the calculations in my mind is simple and easy. A 850g dough ball is convenient because it makes a good size loaf of pan bread, and makes 2 large pizza skins (or 4 individual ones). All kneading and clean up can be done in 15 minutes or so (I knead in a KA mixer). The shaped pizza dough balls go in the fridge overnight, so even less work to do than the pan loaves. 

Having the detailed formulas are nice when I'm trying to remember how to do a bread that I don't make regularly, but for my daily bread, I don't even think about it anymore...350g of water, add yeast (and sugar if desired), add 500g of flours (whatever I feel that day), add salt and fat as desired, knead in mixer, shape for bulk ferment, etc. watching the dough and not the clock. 

How about you, what recipes do you bake from memory these days?


ccsdg's picture

Interesting! I am still what I consider new to bread, but my loaf-from-memory also has me hydrating at 70% though with 400g flour (two adults and a toddler). I use this for nearly everything so I can learn more about dough behaviour and the effects of different variables like percentage levain, time, temperature etc. Sourdough probably makes for more learning anyway.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Tartine Basic Country Loaf dough, for bread and pizza. 

Any loaf made a few times is easy to do from memory. The trouble, I imagine, is when you have multiple breads you make. 

ml's picture

1-2-3 bread is my starting place. Then I may add stuff, ie wheat germ, or a blend of flours, & lately I am increasing the hydration. Some of my best breads start here.

hanseata's picture

and Multigrain Pitas, both my variations on Peter Reinhart's formulas. I know them by heart and could make them in my sleep, since I bake them twice a week for sale.

For the breads I make for myself, I like trying out something new all the time, I'm much too curious to stick with the same bread, though I have some favorites.


clazar123's picture

If I am making a loaf for home, I start with

3-6 cups flour (depending on how many loaves I want to make or how large a batard).

Salt-1-2 tsp-(always measured in the palm of my hand),

liquid (milk,beer,water) to make a soft dough-I generally go with a bit higher hydration,

oil-at least 1 tbsp. per loaf is my personal preference,6-12 tbsp butter. for a very enriched loaf.

Honey-2-4 tbsp per loaf of whole wheat only. More only if it is a sweet, flavored loaf for breakfast toast.


Additives like seeds, fruit, spices, cheese tend to go in after the 2nd mix. Whole wheat can even be retarded overnight after the 2nd mix.

You have to know what each ingredient brings to the party but also realize that a "good" loaf of bread can have a wide range of quality standards.