The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

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I have been struggling with crumpets for a while. I've tried several recipes and always ended up with blind crumpets (no holes).

So I gave up for a while but not liking to be beaten, I decided to have another go. This time I tried Andy's (Ananda) TFL recipe from way back.

To my surprise I had success! Nice tasty crumpets with open holes, crispy exterior and good flavour. One thing that stands out with Andy's recipe is the large amount of yeast used - 6%! But it does seem to work.

Note that this is 6% fresh yeast. I used fresh yeast. If you ever try this recipe and use IDY, multiply the yeast quantity by your favourite factor - I use 0.4X




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Vienna Bread


While looking through my copy of "Manna" for a particular recipe, I chanced upon the chapter entitled "Vienna Bread". Vienna bread became very popular throughout most of Europe towards the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of roller milled white flour, compressed  yeast and steam injected ovens.

It is characterised by a soft, fairly tight crumb and a thin crispy crust and is usually made as rolls or small batons.

I thought it was time I tried my hand at it. Banfield usefully provides a recipe using just 1.5lbs of flour - ideal for the home baker. I did have to think for a minute about the 3 gills of water in the recipe. A gill in England was a movable feast: a gill of beer is considered to be half a pint, but a gill of spirits is a 1/4 pint. A quick reality check on dough hydrations and it was obvious that this was 3 x 1/4 pint gills or 426ml. The dough is enriched, with a small amount of powdered milk, sugar and lard or butter.



Regarding flour, Banfield disparagingly talks about London Vienna bread, made with a high proportion of very strong flour so a "giant balloonic sphere can be presented to the public". After such a comment, I thought I should keep the proportion of Manitoba flour down to 25%. I didn't want Mr. Banfield turning in his grave. For the rest, I used Matthews organic bread flour. The spec sheet says it comes from Kazakhstan and/or Ukraine, so fairly close to Vienna... and it is not particularly strong.



Fermentation temperatures are kept low, which apparently helps to produce a thin crispy crust.


I bulked for 3.5 hours at 21C, with a knockback after 2.5 hours. Final proof for 0.5 hours. Scale at 75-80g with a bench rest of 15 mins. Final proof 30 mins. Water spray prior to baking at 250C with lots of steam. Boiled potato starch glaze near end of bake.


I'm afraid I can never get the hang of Kaiser roll shaping, and the stamp is a poor substitute; I prefer the crescents and knots!












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We had some voracious bread eaters staying over Christmas (always nice to see your bread consumed enthusiastically!), so I needed to replenish supplies rapidly.

I decided upon a variation of Gavin's 100% freshly ground WW loaf, for which he kindly provided the recipe here.

  • I used an overnight 100% hydration levain at 15%
  • overall hydration 72%
  • 6% honey
  • 6% EVOO
  • 1% fresh yeast
  • baked in a big 9.5 x 5 x 4.5" tin and a smaller tapered vintage tin

Fast bulk and fast final proof - fresh yeast really makes things motor - if you're lucky enough to have it available.

Good loft and tasty eating. Of course the volume is easier to get when you are only using 50% fresh ground flour.







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Two rye mashes for upcoming Russian bread bakes. Both done together in the sous-vide bath.

First is a mash for Riga bread with homemade rye malt and T997 light rye; 2.5hrs at 66C:



Second made with Russian solod and home ground rye with the course bran sifted off; 5 hrs at 66C:



Store in the fridge. Breads to be made later in the week.




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Now that winter's here (even though they call it autumn still), the wood fired oven is all wrapped up in its waterproof coat and our pizza is made in the kitchen oven.

Lately I've been making pizza in teglia alla Romana as I think it works better than pizza Napolitana in a domestic oven.

This style of pizza is made with a high hydration dough (80%) and strong flour (W 300-380). It is shaped as a big square or rectangle of considerable thickness on a baking sheet and usually double baked - white or with tomato sauce for the first bake and then the cheese is added for the final bake.

The pizza is cut into squares for serving.

There are many recipes to try; this is one I have used a few times, quite successfully (it's in Italian BTW). I like the way it is all same day - some recipes involve 24-48 hours in the fridge, which requires a lot of planning ahead.

For the flour I used 300g Caputo Manitoba Oro + 100g Pivetti Pizza & Focaccia in the sponge and 100g Pivetti in the main dough.

The dough really is very wet and initially somewhat tricky to handle, but it does get easier as the gluten develops!

Anyway here's a few pictures of my latest effort - probably a little too thick - I might reduce the dough quantity a bit next time.

Shaped dough with tomato sauce. This proves for 40 minutes before going into the oven with some basil leaves added prior to baking:



Cooked mushrooms, chopped olives, mozarella and a little pecorino romano added to the part cooked pizza:



After the final bake:



The crumb:



A nice crispy base:





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I was reading how UK bakers, especially in Scotland and Ireland, used to bake their batch loaves in wooden frames. That's right - the wooden frame goes INTO the oven! Originally, the bakers didn't even use a frame - it was just lengths of heavy timber inserted into the oven defining a rectangle with the dough pieces inside the rectangle. Interestingly, these lengths of wood were called "upsets".

There's a Scottish baker, Wild Hearth Bakery, who does these batch loaves to perfection. Some regional German breads are also baked the same way.

The idea was so wacky, I just had to try it! Like all new things baking, the journey turned out to be a lot longer than expected....

So I made a simple frame designed for 2 loaves. Oak for 2 sides and maple for the other 2 - just what I had available. I guessed at a size of 5" tall x 9" x 6 3/4" internal. Simple butt joints screwed together:


I made white yeasted bread based on a 4 hour sponge. Baked for 1 hour at 200C Two main problems: the dough stuck badly to the wood (even though oiled well multiple times) and not enough rise.




I then read that the frames should be oiled and baked empty for 60 mins at 190C. This certainly eased the sticking problem, especially if the frame is oiled and floured before use.

The second bake was similar to the first, but with the sticking problem more or less solved. This helped the loft. It was a lot bolder, too:

Both bakes had excessively thick bottom crusts. I'd baked  with the frame sat on a thin baking sheet which was then placed on my bake stone. So for bake 3, I did away with the bake stone and used another thin steel baking sheet instead. This worked fine.

I also get fed up of nearly white bread and did a 100% sponge enriched dough with 20% freshly milled heritage wheat (Millers Choice) and SD levain along with the yeast.

This solved the rising problem, but introduced problems of its own, with the loaf sides collapsing in with a doughy strata in there as well.

Probably reducing the hydration will solve this. Another problem is that the outer wall of the loaf (in contact with the wood) never rises as high as the inside wall so the loaves are lop-sided - I think this is a known fact.


Although this loaf looks worse than the earlier ones, it's actually very tasty!

So quite a journey - and more to do!

Will I carry on? Sadly, probably not, as I don't find any advantages in the loaves or their flavour. Some say there is a woodyness or smokiness there, but if so, it's very subtle.

It's also quite a chunk of hardware to have lying in the kitchen (somewhere).

Still, it was a good learning curve!


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I was very taken with HungryShots/Denisa's recent blog post on her 40% spelt SD loaf and her excellent description of the evolution of her Mk IV version.

So when I found a bag of Doves Farm white spelt flour in a local shop, I thought it was time to give it a try.

Denisa had done all the hard work, so I changed very little:

  • 10% stiff levain
  • 35% white spelt/5% wholemeal spelt
  • hearth baked batardes insead of dutch oven boules
  • 4 folds - I skipped the lamination - too intricate for me! In fact 4 folds is 3 more than I usually do.
  • no preshape and stitch shaped

For pH watchers, pHs were once again much higher than the "norms" - 4.60 at the end of bulk (70% rise) and 4.20 at bake. Dough pH continues to be problematic for me as a determinant.

I'm happy with the end result - good rise, good ears and very tasty bread! Thank you Denisa!





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I recently saw the Nussknacker (eng: Nutcracker) on Dietmar Kappl's Instagram feed and decided straight away that I wanted to bake it.  It comprises a tasty mix of wholemeal spelt and coarse rye flours, leavened with a rye sour and packed full of roasted hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower and hemp seeds.

Very kindly, Dietmar has provided the recipe on his blog, so no need to reproduce it here. Suffice it to say that my only changes were swapping some of the sunflower seeds for hemp hearts, 15ml extra water in the main dough, 1.5g IDY in place of the fresh yeast and a topping of mixed black and white sesame seeds.

I baked it as a single loaf in a long thin Kaiser loaf tin. I'm pleased with how it turned out - quite dense, but not heavy as the high quota of nuts give it a great crunchy texture.






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I chanced upon this recipe for wholemeal rolls on Abel Sierra's wordpress blog. I liked the look of them and thought I would give them a try.

Sadly, Abel's blog no longer exists, but it can still be accessed via The Wayback Machine.

Here is a screenshot with my English translation of the ingredient list:

I decided to do a classic English 4hr sponge:


440g BF 13%

389g H2O

3.1g diastatic malt flour

2.65g IDY

DT 26C


While this was fermenting I Mockmilled 350g Millers Choice heritage wheat grain and sifted at #30. I scalded the bran with 142g boiling water.

I made the main dough as follows:




WW pass through

90BF 11%

18g sugar

45g butter

48g liquid whole milk

DT 26C


Mixed in the Kenwood to windowpane

BF 75mins with S&F at 45mins

Scaled at 90g

FP 30mins

Potato starch wash tops for seeds/oats

Baked 10mins with steam, 10mins vented.

I think these turned out pretty well - nice soft crumb and good flavour from the Millers Choice grain. I find some of the heritage grains, eg Red Lammas, too "branny".






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This is the second time I've made these buns and they really are very tasty. I was so pleased with the first batch that I used exactly the same recipe second time around.

The recipe is courtesy of chef Rick Stein. I watched him make the buns in an episode of his recent Cornwall series. I more or less followed his recipe, but, as always, did a few tweaks:

  • I upped the saffron to 0.7g (no expense spared!), to get more flavour and colour in. Also when using saffron I like to grind up the strands in a pestle and mortar with a tspn of sugar and a little of the milk

  • soak the dried fruit (I used 40g currants and 30g raisins) in the milk for an hour before using

  • I used a flour mix at 11% protein - if the flour is too strong the buns could be chewy

  • mixed in the Kenwood, 5 mins slowest and 5 mins faster - check for a good windowpane, then add fruit on slowest

  • buns scaled at 92g x 12 pieces

  • egg yolk wash and baking regime as in my hot cross bun recipe - I don't like sugar syrup glaze

  • if you like saffron, be prepared for a heavenly smell in the kitchen when you make these!




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