The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

FWSY with LoafNest

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

FWSY with LoafNest

Having considerable success with FWSY :-)

Ken Forkish's directions on baking lengths/times and baking temperatures are slightly different from the recommendations for LoafNest (and for Challenger, for that matter).

Is there an easy answer, please, as to which I should follow when using the LoafNest and/or Challenger rather than the Dutch Oven he has written for?


Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

Hi Mark. Glad to hear FWSY is working out for you. I learned to make this style of bread using the same book. I recommend following Forkish's instructions and making whatever adjustments are necessary for your oven. For example, if your oven runs hot or cold, set your temp accordingly. You can of course experiment with higher or lower settings, but Forkish's recommendations have always worked well for me. That said, I prefer a bold bake. You can cut some time if you prefer a blonder loaf. Your Challenger pan will do just fine at Forkish's settings, although I place parchment beneath the dough. If you find the bottoms scorching even with parchment, you can place a baking stone or baking sheet beneath the pan. I can't speak for LoafNest as I've never used one. If it is oven-safe to 475°F and seems to perform well under high heat, I'd assume it's okay.  –AG

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thank you so much, -AG!

That's very encouraging :-)

The loaf I was baking while I wrote my question was one of the best I have ever made. FWSY really is excellent, isn't it.

Watching a video of his on shaping was what really made the difference for me in getting a nice tight dough… whole hand edge (rather than finger tips) rolling gently underneath without too much flour on my surface.

I'm looking forward to exploring EIB soon…

Because my one remaining 'mini-flaw' is that my loaves are still turning out just a little less 'dry' and just a tiny bit 'cakey', I think I can safely bake for a little longer?

Yesterday's recipe was 30 minutes at 475°F with lid on and 20 minutes without a lid. I'm assuming that the LoafNest (or Challenger) lids are functionally equivalent to the Lodge etc, which KF uses.

I stopped at 15 minutes no lid. The loaf really was tasty and oven-sprang nicely with a lovely bronze crust and ear. Next time I'll try 20 minutes!

Our oven is 50° slow… I have a Taylor thermometer and have confirmed this regularly. So I set the oven's dial to just under 525°F.

So I guess my question is whether to increase the baking time with or without the lid.

For the Challenger I bought a set of their 'fitted' parchment bottom liners. If worried about scorching, maybe two? Or a stone under the Challenger?

Again, your help and support much appreciated!

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

It sounds like you are managing your bake correctly, Mark, and that you are generally happy with your results. If your oven settings are resulting in an oven temp of 475℉ and your cast iron pan is thoroughly preheated, you should be able to bake as directed in the individual recipe, including when to remove the lid. These parameters will help make sure the bread the appropriately steamed, cooked, and browned. If your oven is not yielding optimal results, go ahead and experiment with other settings. If your loaves are scaled down in size by a considerable amount, you might need to adjust time & temp accordingly. I hope that helps. 

As for what you describe as "less dry" and "cakey" results, there could be various reasons such as underbaking or fermentation issues. A fully baked loaf should have nice color and should not feel weighty in hand. You could use an instant-read thermometer to gauge the bread's internal temperature. I prefer a minimum internal temp of about 207℉ and personally wouldn't bake sourdough to less than 204℉-205℉. If you continue to experience cakiness and underbaking doesn't seem to be the cause, feel free to post photos of both crust and crumb and include the details of your bake. There are many bakers on this forum who are very good at diagnosing and troubleshooting such issues. Good luck!

EDIT: I wouldn't bother with 2 sheets of parchment. You can put a baking sheet under the pan during the bake if the bottom seems to be over-browning when you remove the lid. Or you can place the pan on a stone or baking sheet for the next bake if you don't notice it in time. If the heating element isn't at the bottom of the oven, you might not need anything.

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey


Yes, I am happier than I have ever been in over ten years with the results!

You actually hit the nail on the head with quantities: I have almost always scaled FWSY down by 50% (that is, 500g flour instead of 1,000 + exact reduction to one decimal point (!) of the rest of the corresponding bakers' percentages).

I use a Thermapen and stop, actually, when I reach 207°F.

Thanks for the tips re the underside of the loaf. I haven't so far (when following KF's directions as closely as I am now doing) detected or tasted any signs of burning/scorching. But I'd hate to waste a whole bake by going even a couple of minutes over, and so doing so.

Yes, these loaves are a little on the heavy side. If I can't get it close by baking maybe just five minutes more - after all that's what KF says - I'll post images.

Thanks so much again!

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

If you're scaling down to 50%, you'll want to adjust your bake. You can experiment with different settings to see what results you prefer, but I'd probably start by reducing the overall bake time and would remove the lid after about 20 minutes. I'd then make further adjustments based on what I see when I take the lid off. Take careful notes and adjust further, if necessary, for your next bake. It might take a couple bakes to dial it in. All that said, if you have been baking half size loaves at full time and temp and are still experiencing what you perceive to be a cakey crumb, it's probably not due to under-baking. 

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey


Yes; will do. Definitely removing lid earlier is my first experiment.

Is the principle that with the lid off (earlier) more moisture is driven out?

Your help appreciated, -AG :-)

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

Hi Mark. You are correct that removing the lid sooner will drive off moisture, but that's not why I suggested it. Removing the lid sooner was mentioned as part of reducing the overall bake time to account for the fact that you are baking half-sized loaves. If you cut 25% off your bake time, you'd also want to cut 25% off the amount of time you bake with the lid on. Does that make sense?

If I understand everything correctly – please correct me if I don't – you may be thinking that increasing the bake time (or reducing the amount of time under steam) might help you solve an issue with a cakey crumb. It certainly might if the bread is under-baked or over-steamed; however, the fact that you are baking half-sized loaves at full time and temperature doesn't sound like under-baking to me. Many bakers might consider decreasing bake time for a half-size loaf, which is why I mentioned that. That's why I suspect there is some other reason for the cakey crumb. One possibility is over-fermentation, to which KF's doughs are highly susceptible. There are other possibilities, too. Hard to say without photos and more details, but I hope this helps clarify things a little. Have fun experimenting!

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks, as always AG!

Yes you surely do understand me correctly :-)

I am reducing every quantity by half. Should I decrease both bake times (lid on and lid off) by half?

But, as you so kindly say, it's time to experiment.

If my next loaf comes out cakey (and it's really much more satisfactory than I have ever achieved), then I'll take an image of the 'profile' of the loaf to show the crumb and post it here.

As I say, your help very much appreciated…

UVCat's picture

i don’t think you’d want to decrease the baking time by half… when i *increase* my loaf size by 50%, i only increase the total baking time by 10-20%. 


i don’t have fwsy, so not sure what size those loaves normally are, but i do bake smaller loaves than most people seem to, so in case a data point is useful: my loaves that are 400-500g bake for 20 min lid on and 20-25 min with the lid off, at 450F after preheating the vessel to 500+F.


hope that helps!


Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks, UVCat,

All (from what I can see, I think) of FWSY's recipes are 1,000g - presumably to make it easier to build on past successes by not asking bakers/readers to change too many variables.

I scaled down to 500g and respected Bakers Percentages to one decimal place… 21g salt became 11.5g in my smaller loaf.

Thanks for your own data: 20 with lid on then average 22.5 off :-)

FWSY asks for 475°F.

I'll experiment. Appreciated, UVCat… :-)

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

I agree with UVCat. Reducing bake time by half is probably too much. You'll have to do some experimenting to find what works best with your oven and your preferences, but I think reducing your overall bake time by 20% - 30% will end up working. Change lid time commensurately. Start at about 25% and see how that goes. Remove the lid after 20 minutes and then keep an eye on it so you'll have an idea how fast it's progressing. It should be done in approximately 35-40 minutes. If it takes more or less time, adjust accordingly at your next bake. But to be honest, it sounds like you are pretty happy with your bread already, and that's the only thing that matters, so please take or leave my suggestions as you will. Enjoy!

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks, AG!

Yes, I see.

I'll try applying a percentage reduction in baking time - the same way as we do Quantity percentages (ingredients against total flour as a percentage).

So In this case, I'll reduce overall time (FWSY recommends 30 on then actually 20 to 30 minutes off) to around 20 on then 15 off (checking after 10).

Is it the case that as soon as my Thermapen shows 205°F, the bread is definitely done? If so, then I really don't need to change baking time much, do I?

I am happy. Mainly because for the first time in years I have been able to shape my loaves well enough for them to keep their skin and not fall flat.

But I can't help feeling that I may get a still lighter, perhaps just a little crisper and drier crumb.

Here is an image of my latest effort. There is no fat or oil of any kind. But doesn't it look a little 'greasy', almost, to you? And it certainly feels heavier for its size and needs a firmer cut to slice it. Very tasty, though :-)

Much appreciated!

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

Mark, your bread looks delicious! I can see what you're saying that it looks a bit "moist," but it looks very enjoyable all the same. I think it will take a small amount of tweaking to take care of this for you, but I believe more information is needed to make sure you get the right advice. It would be helpful to which formula this is and whether you worked strictly "by the book" or how you varied the ingredients or process, if you did. For example, what flours did you use and in what percentages? What percent hydration? How long/at what temp was bulk fermentation? What was the dough condition when you ended bf? How long/at what temp was final proof? Was it refrigerated? etc. How was the dough condition at the end of final proof? All of this might seem like a lot of detail, but many bakers on this board are better at "reading the crumb" than I am, and not all of them will be familiar with FWSY. The formulas in that book are prone to over-proofing so that's the first thing that leaps to mind, but there are so many things that could play a role. All in all, you have a nice bread there and I think a little bit of the right kind of tweaking will get you right where you want to be 😃.

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks, Another Girl.

You're right: it's a truly flavourful bread :-)

I may be aiming for an improvement that isn't really necessary. But I'm so encouraged by (my success with) the way the processes have worked out - pinching, folding, shaping - that, if there is an improvement to be made, I think I'd like to try and make it.

The recipe is the Harvest White Bread with Poolish [FWSY, pages 103 - 105].


  • 250g bread flour
  • 250g filtered water at 80°F
  • 0.2g SAF instant yeast - although that's the last of a refrigerated jar a coulee of years old


  • 200g bread flour
  • 50g KAF whole wheat flour
  • 140g filtered water
  • 10.5g fine sea salt
  • 1.5g SAF instant yeast
  • 25g wheat germ
  • + the 500g poolish 
  • with 10g BRM wheat bran to coat.

I used Bob's Red Mill Bread flour after the help you kindly gave here.

In fact I was so encouraged by my success the week before with the Saturday White Bread [pp 81 to 84] that I didn't depart by a single gramme from this recipe either! If it said two folds, I stopped after the second 360° rotation etc…

Strangely enough, I was also able to fit my timescale/schedule to the one he uses as a sample guide on page 103. Again - almost to the minute. Importantly, the poolish was indeed mixed at 80°F and left from 9:30 pm to 11:30 am the next day - 14 hours almost to the minute.

No, nothing was refrigerated. Cambro 6 qt with lids; the temperature in the kitchen was even at the 65 - 70°F range he assumes.

The dough passed the finger-dent test after about two and a half hours.

The bake - as we have been saying - was 30 minutes at a calibrated 475°F with lid on; then the same temperature for just under 20 with the lid off.

More than anything, I was pleased at the steady rise of the dough and the oven spring in the LoafNest in the oven. In the past my failing has nearly always been flatness because I haven't been able to get doughs strong enough to keep their shape.

I really appreciate the time and trouble you have taken to help me here!

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

It sounds like everything went according to plan, which is great. I'm wondering what the poolish was like when you mixed the final dough. Did it seem strong or had it collapsed a little? With the poolish accounting for almost half of the final dough, it's important that it be very strong or it can weaken the final dough. If it was a bit liquidy, ferment it for a shorter time or using cooler temps. I'm also wondering about the gluten development of the final dough. You said you achieved stronger dough this time, but did it resist well when tugged and hold its shape by the time you finished the last fold? If not, you might want to work in an extra S&F or try coil folds instead of stretch & folds. Coil folds can really help strengthen a dough.

Did the dough rise well in the bulk phase? KF's directions say it should rise 250% in 2-3 hours. Achieving the full rise potential is important, not just waiting 2-3 hours. "Watch the dough, not the clock" is an oft-repeated bread bakers' mantra, so if the rise wasn't at 250% within the given timeframe, give it more time. That said, some bakers end the bulk phase a little early with FWSY formulas. I know that seems to contradict what I just said, but KF tends to push things to the limit and sometimes the dough starts breaking down during his long fermentation cycles. So if the dough feels like it's getting weaker as it expands, you can decide to end bulk at, say, 200% instead of 250%. These are judgment calls you might have to make, but it's okay to make them. If you make such a call and didn't get the hoped-for result, you'll know for next time. And don't worry, the bread will still be delicious. 

One thing that might really help is reducing the hydration. Reduce the total water in the dough by 5%-6%, but take it out of the final dough water, not the poolish. Reducing hydration can make it easier to develop a strong dough and promote a strong rise, so that one step could help a lot. You can increase the hydration in future bakes as you become more comfortable with it. Don't worry, the bread will still be awesome.

My final thought is related to the Loaf Nest. I just looked that up on Amazon and saw that it has a silicon liner that seems to closely envelop the baking bread. I wonder if that liner could trap steam and allow it to be reabsorbed by the bread.  I'm obviously not sure about that, but it seems possible...

So I have no definitive answers for you, but I hope these thoughts spark some ideas because you know your dough better than I do. If someone more knowledgeable than me chimes in, give them a listen. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of your next bake. Good luck and keep us posted!

TLDR (Too long/don't read) - Sorry about the length. I wrote the above quite late and didn't consult my editor. The point was just to give you some things to think about as you develop the dough because no specific problems were jumping out at me. My immediate suggestion is to cut the hydration and be mindful of dough strength and fermentation as you go. And bake in the Challenger if you're not already doing that 🙂.

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Another Girl - thanks so much. I've read your helpful post several times.

Before mixing the poolish (which, as you know, was with the water - at the correct temperature, 105°) it was actually (still) gently bubbling… no sign of collapse.

I'll certainly switch to coil folds. But the dough was actually very resistant, resilient when gently lifted.

For the BF phase, it could certainly have been a little higher in the Cambro. I used a green rubber band; doubt it was fully 250%, though.

I'll try closer to 132g dough water next time.

And use the Challenger - also because (as you may have seen) the LoafNest does have slightly different recommended baking times and temperatures… in fact it expects longer, not shorter, time with the lid on!

Re you EDIT, thanks; no problem. Yes, I have much to experiment with :-)

I have been thinking about the issue of changing the baking times for smaller loaves and am puzzled. KF says in step 7 on page 111 that it's OK to bake sequentially when you only have use one Dutch oven (or presumably because there may not be space for two in the oven together). But he doesn't suggest any change in times with lid on or off. Am I missing something?

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry! I'm the one who missed something! I've personally been making smaller loaves recently, so my brain automatically reduced the loaf size instead of the quantity. Duh! You can disregard my nonsense about cutting your bake time.

Regarding the reduced hydration: Reducing the final dough water by 8g will only reduce the bread's total hydration to 76.4%, which might not help much. What you want to do is look at the bread's total hydration, which is 78%, in this case 390g. I'm thinking to go all the way down to 72% total hydration, or 360g. That's a 30g reduction. You don't want to take any water from the poolish, that should remain at 250g. Instead, withhold the 30g from the final dough water, which was 140g. The adjusted amount of final dough water is 110g. Does that make sense? If it feels too stiff, add more in small increments. Keep track of how much you're adding so you'll remember for your next bake. Hope this helps!

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey


No problem! I still only think my 'reasoning' about timing may have something worth exploring: you're far more of an expert than I am :-)

In all cases I should experiment with timing (especially of lid on and off), I know. And definitely use the Challenger next time.

Your suggestions on hydration noted, thanks; I have a document which I'm compiling to guide me now. To keep faith with the Baker's Percentage for a loaf of half size I should try 110g in the dough (not the poolish).


Presumably I'd expect the dough to be just little harder/stiffer to work with as a result?

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

My numbers were based off your ingredient list, I didn't consult my copy of FWSY, so assuming the weights you reported were for a half recipe, then yes, you should reduce to 110g water in the final dough. Everything else stays the same. Thirty grams is a substantial amount (about 2 Tbsp) and the dough will definitely feel stiffer or denser. Now here comes the "but": Whole grain, bran, and germ are more absorbent than white flour, so on any given day, the dough might feel a little too stiff or dense at 72% hydration. If that's the case, add some of the withheld water. If you added half of it, you'd be at 75% hydration and I don't think I'd go higher than that for purposes of this experiment, but ultimately, that's a judgment call for you to make. The important thing is to work within your comfort zone and feel good about what you're doing. And yes, you can and should experiment with anything you have a hunch about. You might solve the problem, and even if you don't, you will learn something. Just be sure to take good notes so you have something to refer back to later. Good luck and have fun! 

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks again. I'll note down what happens and improve on it if necessary.

I guess my only (!) remaining question is why less water might be hoped to lead to a crisper, 'breadier' (= less 'cake') crumb? Is it the absence of stickiness that gets baked out?

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

It's about dough strength. Wetter doughs are stickier and more prone to tearing, and it can take longer to develop the gluten. By lowering the hydration, we hope to reduce those impacts and get a stronger dough that will hold up throughout KF's long timelines. It's a trade-off. If the  structure doesn't hold up through the entire bake, you can end up with a gummy crumb. 

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

 at this stage is experiment!

Ready to do that - and see. Thanks; now I can see why you kindly suggested lowering hydration :-)

Sugarowl's picture

Have you tried less time with the lid on? Most recipes I've seen only call for 15 minutes with the lid on. Maybe try cutting back on the lid time, especially if you are happy with the how dark the crust is.

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Thanks, Sugarowl. No I haven't tried that. You mean, take it off sooner, don't you, in the hope that to do so drives off more moisture?

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Another Girl,

Thanking you again (and others) for your help here, I’m really pleased to say that I amended Ken’s procedure in FWSY - as discussed:

  • 110g water in the final dough (instead of 140g)
  • Challenger for the bake, at 435°F
  • lid on for only 15 minutes; then a further 20 minutes only without

I also carried out both proofs (before (in, actually, the 6-quart Cambro and not the 12-quart which is implied on FWSY page 104), and after shaping in a banneton in my Brod & Taylor proofing box - at between 70° and 74°F.

It is a really wonderful loaf, I feel I can say. One of the best I have made so far :-)

Drier, lighter, crisper and actually much tastier. Thanks again - all your suggestions and guidance made a huge difference

Here are images of the results: 

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

Woohoo! That loaf looks super. Beautiful rich color and no hint of excess moisture. That's definitely a bread you can savor and enjoy. I'm glad the changes you made worked out. Good bake!  –AG

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

Yes - a real success story. I feel much more confident verbally knowing which parameters I can change, why and by how much.

Your help greatly appreciated :-)