The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

hanseata's blog

hanseata's picture

Looking for a seasonal specialty for my customers at A&B Naturals, I came upon an Italian Christmas bread, Pinza, that, after crossing the border to Austria, switched holidays - and turned into Easter bread, Pinze.

After a solemn blessing in the church, this lovely Styrian Easter bread (often adorned by a red egg, and cut three times, to symbolize the Holy Trinity) is served with the meat on Easter Sunday.

Styria - Steiermark, home of this lovely Easter bread

There are several versions for Pinze, and it is either seasoned with vanilla or anise. The anise can be steeped in wine or cooked in milk to extract its flavor. All recipes include lots of eggs and egg yolks, so keep the Lipitor at hand, but I'm sure it is good for you, since it comes with a blessing.

I tried a Pinze version with anise, soaked in wine. Though the bread turned out quite nice, I couldn't detect much anise aroma. Therefore I decided on Petra's Easter Pinza (from her Chili und Ciabatta blog), substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat.

The bread, made in 3 steps with 2 pre-ferments, was wonderful. The only problem: its time consuming schedule would not work for my little bakery, unless I pulled off an all-nighter. So I turned to my favorite method: stretch & fold plus overnight stay in the fridge.

All egg-y goodness!

That way I could work the dough all at once, and let the folding and cold fermentation do the rest. No pre-doughs needed, very little hands-on time, and no standing around, waiting for pre-ferments and dough to rise.

In other words, the baker could hug her pillow, while the yeasties did their job!

My overnight version was just as good as the original, more involved one!

My Easter Basket

The Easter Pinze is a soft bread with a wonderful flavor. Though slightly sweet, it can be served with Easter Ham, like in Austria. Or, as we did, enjoyed simply with some good butter, or jam.

You find the recipe (plus a download for BreadStorm users) in my blog Brot & Bread.

hanseata's picture

Plötzblog is one of Germany's best bread baking blogs. When Lutz Geißler (author of "Brot backen") invited us to his blog event blog-experiment: "Wir bauen uns ein Brot" (Let's build a bread), I was intrigued.

Of course I wanted to attend the very first "Bread Olympics"


Each participant has to bake a loaf, roll or small bread with these ingredients and these amounts:

  • 450 g (90%) wheat flour Typ 550 (or bread flour)
  • 50 g (10%) whole rye flour
  • 10 g (2%) salt
  • sourdough and/or yeast
  • water

And that's it: nothing else should be added.

But there are no restrictions on how to make your bread - method, level of hydration and leaven are entirely up to you.

This challenge was hard to resist, especially since the best of all husbands was still traveling all over Vietnam, and, after sanding and re-oiling all my kitchen counter tops, I could do with some entertainment.


My husband indulging in imperial dreams - at Dalat Summer Palace


I knew at once what kind of loaf I wanted to create - a French bread, made with Forkish's minimalistic method, and baked in a Dutch oven. I'm really enthusiastic about how you can bake a fabulous bread that is "pinched instead of kneaded."

So I opened my BreadStorm program, entered the ingredients, and started to play around with hydration levels and percentages of pre-fermented flour.


I also had to take into account the amounts of flour in my refreshed levain - 5 g bread flour and 2 g whole rye flour - and deduct them from the total.


Whether my Pain au Levain de Seigle will win at the Plötziade, or not - it definitely was a winner for me. I enjoyed its aromatic taste, crackling crust and open crumb so much that it went straight into Karin's Bread Hall of Fame!

You'll find the recipe for Pain au Levain de Seigle on my blog "Brot & Bread" here.

Or, if you are a BreadStorm-User (including the free version), you can download the formula here


hanseata's picture

A while ago I needed to add another book from my Amazon wish list to qualify for free shipping. More or less randomly, I picked Ken Forkish's: "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast" - the price was right!

When I started leafing through the book, I was intrigued by his approach to kneading - or, better, not kneading the dough. From Dan Lepard's Pumpkin Whey Bread I knew that very brief kneading (30 seconds), followed by some folds, can be sufficient to process some doughs - but pinching?

Usually I don't mix my doughs by hand (my skin is very dry) so I used a large wooden spoon for stirring flour and water together. But Forkish is right, using your hands is much faster, and you have less cleanup afterwards.

My first take on Forkish's breads: Walnut Levain

During the pinching and folding process, the dough behaved exactly as it should: rising, then leveling out after each fold, calling for the next round. And getting more elastic and smoother after each turn!

Forkish's descriptions are precise, and detailed, but, nevertheless, there were stumbling blocks on the way, and it took more than one trial to finally master the whole process.

Why the waste? You are supposed to build a huge amount of levain, only to use a small percentage of it for your final dough - the rest goes in the trash. Sure, flour and water don't cost much, but this is definitely not my idea of frugality and environmental consciousness!

The rationale behind this waste? Beats me. The breads taste great, even when made without all this splurging. Does a loaf, made with just as much levain as needed, taste any different from one where the starter came out of a big bucket? Hard to believe!

Sticky wicket: if you don't flour the rising basket really, really well (whether lined, or not), this can happen:

Oh, nooooo!

Don't think you can ease the proofed bread with your usual gentle coaxing from the basket. Forget your good manners - your dough needs slapping! After the sticky wicket of breads that stubbornly clung, and then deflated in the extraction process, I finally checked YouTube.

Bread turned flounder (Overnight Brownie)

And there it was: I saw master baker Forkish slamming the banneton with gusto on the counter - brutal force did the trick! After this eye-opener I was less timid, and the breads finally let go.

Soft skin vs. hot pot. Not afraid of third degree burns, Ken Forkish places the bread smoothly into the Dutch oven. Others, with less experience, might not be so lucky. But there is an easy way out: the paper sling!

Use parchment paper for a painless transfer (Overnight White)

This worked well for other DO  breads I baked, like Aroma Bread. Therefore, save your skin - use parchment for a painless transfer.

Once these snafus were overcome, every bread I made from "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast", plus my "à la Forkish" variations, turned out great. "Bold baked" crust, holey crumb, and extraordinary taste - my random pick to fill my shopping cart at Amazon became one of my favorite baking books!

A&B Naturals, my favorite food store (they sell my breads!) just started carrying Einkorn flour, and I love hazelnuts.

Combining both in a loaf à la Forkish, this is the bread I came up with: EINKORN HAZELNUT LEVAIN: Here you can find my formula and description to make this tasty bread - pinching instead of kneading!

Einkorn Hazelnut Levain - pinched instead of kneaded!

hanseata's picture

Americans and Germans have a lot in common. One is their love for cheese cake. Though both pastries taste great, Käsekuchen is distinctly different from its US cousin.

Cheesecake crust is made with cookie crumbs, very practical, and a good recycling of even stale cookies. German Käsekuchen has a short crust, more fuss, but buttery decadence.

The real difference, though, is the filling. American filling, made of mild, more neutral cream cheese, can be varied with many different flavors (like Limoncello-Cheesecake). Käsekuchen is made with quark, a fresh cow milk cheese that is less creamy, more acidic, and contains more water.

Quark (curd cheese), the base for many different types of European pastries and desserts is unfortunately hard to find in the US, or outrageously expensive - and it doesn't taste the same.

German Käsekuchen with sour cherries - my husband's favorite

Though in desserts quark will be often paired with fruits, German cheese cake bakers tend to purism, the filling might have raisins, and sometimes other fruits, like sour cherries or apples.

Another important difference: German Käsekuchen is notably less heavy and dense than its somewhat massive American counterpart (in spite of the short crust!).

Though I do like American cheese cake with its seemingly endless variations, I love my German Käsekuchen. But how to re-create it in this sadly quark-less country?

Here is how I did it - and you can, too!

No quark needed to make this Käsekuchen, lighter and less dense than it's US cousin


hanseata's picture

When I first caught sight of these pretty rolls in a Mexican bakery, I was totally smitten. But my enthusiasm quickly deflated when I took the first bite - the cute little shells were overly sweet, but other than that: no taste whatsoever! 

Sadly, this was the case with almost all the pastries we had at the Riviera Maya: they looked very appetizing, but tasted only bland and sugary.

 Conchas in Mexican bakery: pretty but bland

But shouldn't it be possible to bake Conchas whose attractive exterior matched a delicious interior? The idea intrigued me and kept me thinking. Back from our trip, I started searching for a recipe.

A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate didn't only have a recipe for this Pan Dulce, it also had a very entertaining story about a nightly encounter with a mysterious woman and her ardent desire for revenge! 

Before we flew to Mexico this year, I finally wanted to tackle the Conchas. Remembering the "Mujer Misteriosa" and her dark desires, I dug through several pages with recipes until I finally rediscovered Clementina's blog post.

Mexico's Mayan ruins are worth a trip - here the recently discovered Ek Balam

Mexicans seem to have a real sweet tooth. All Concha recipes I had googled, contained lots of sugar. Being a gringo, I cut it down drastically, and, also, exchanged some of the flour with white whole wheat.

And how to force taste into even the lamest bread dough? Two words: overnight fermentation! I reduced the yeast, stretched and folded the dough, and put it to sleep in the fridge.

Rolling and cutting out the chocolate and cinnamon toppings evoked an early Christmas spirit, but with a little patience (and the help of a large cookie cutter) this was achieved, too (though some misshaped cookies had to be crushed, cooled and re-rolled.)

Baking brings out the pretty two-colored pattern

After their rise the Conchas looked already quite attractive, the cuts in the toppings had opened, and after baking the two-colored pattern had fully emerged.

Of course I was extremely eager to see whether my Conchas had escaped their compañeros' fate of bland and boring sweetness. We tried them, and - here they were, delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp sugar cookie: a real treat!

Delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp chocolate or cinnamon cookie


You find the recipe on my blog "Brot & Bread" here.

hanseata's picture

In September I offered this challenge to my fellow TFLers: to recreate an ancient grain bread I had enjoyed during my recent stay in Potsdam, in Cecilienhof Palace, where Churchill, Truman and Stalin met for the Potsdam Conference.

Several of you rose to the occasion, and came up with your own versions of this interesting bread.

Inspired by all this activity I sat down with my Breadstorm program to create my own formula. Except for the emmer, I had all the ingredients from the list in my pantry.

The bread turned out to be one of the best loaves I ever made, we absolutely LOVED it! Whether it was the complexity of the ingredients, or just an optimal process to develop and marry the different flavors I can't say.

Here you find my post with my formula and the links to all TFL friends' who took the challenge.

Thanks, Janet, DBM, Brian, Jürgen and Ian for your enthusiasm!



hanseata's picture

Dear fellow TFL bakers, I have a challenge for you!

During our recent trip to Germany we spent a few days in Potsdam, to visit Frederick the Great's Sanssouci. We stayed at Schlosshotel Cecilienhof, a wonderful hotel right inside another historic site, Cecilienhof Palace.

Cecilienhof Palace

Named after a crown princess, this palace was also the place where those three jolly old guys met:

Churchill, Truman and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference

To honor the history and importance of this heritage, the hotel's pastry chef came up with the idea to create a special bread for the guests' breakfast buffet:

Bread buffet at Schlosshotel Cecilienhof

An ancient grain bread, "Urbrot", a rye sourdough with a lot of different grains and seeds. To educate their guests, the hotel had placed a little brochure on the table, with informations about the bread: "Taste meets Tradition", including a list of the ingredients:

Ingredients of the Cecilienhof Ancient Grain Rye Bread

Rye meal


Sunflower seeds

Ancient wheat meal: emmer and einkorn

Wheat flour (white or medium, not whole wheat)

Rolled spelt

Chestnut flour

Rolled oats

Barley meal

Barley malt extract

Vital wheat gluten

Rolled barley


Steel cut oats

Spelt flour

Potato flakes

Sea salt

Vegetable fat (shortening)

Whole spelt sourdough

Table salt


Unfortunately they didn't supply the bakers' percentage!

We really enjoyed the bread, and I think it would be wonderful to have another bread in my repertoire, associated with an important historic event (like the wonderful Wild Rice Sourdough - The Bread That Ended The Cold War.)

A moist, very flavorful loaf - created to honor the history of Cecilienhof Palace

I couldn't stop thinking about it, and see this as a challenge worthy of my talented fellow bakers at TFL. Certainly not all ingredients will be available for us, and we have to come up with a formula, but that is the fun part of it.


Happy Baking


hanseata's picture

I'm baking a lot, but, since it's summer, mostly for sale.

And then there are other time consuming projects like painting windows (with some tireless mosquitoes for company), massaging my husband's cramped neck (after installing aforementioned windows), and hunting for those friggin' Japanese beetles that turn my raspberry leaves into lace.

  Beetle "Lace"

My list of "Equal Opportunity Breads" still waits for more items to be checked off - I did some more, but got a bit listless after a few stubborn loaves just didn't turn out the way I liked.

But in a recent weekend edition of "The Guardian", master baker Dan Lepard published an interesting bread made with whey instead of water. From my last batch of Greek yogurt I had a lot of whey left over, sitting in my fridge, while I wondered what to do with it.

Pumpkin Whey Bread was just what I was looking for!

Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds and Whey - main ingredients for this autumn loaf

Dan Lepard cooked fresh butternut squash for his puree, but here in the US good quality canned pumpkin is readily available, and preparing and draining pumpkin puree a time consuming process.

I always have a supply of pumpkin puree in my pantry (to satisfy a sudden craving for pumpkin pancakes or pumpkin chocolate chip muffins). But for those who don't (or prefer making their own), here is a link to the procedure.

The dough looks a bit dry still, but will be soft and a bit sticky after brief kneading

What I like about Lepard's loaves is his minimalistic approach to kneading. Much as I admire Richard Bertinet's breads: compare his 30-minute-complete-upper-arm-workout to Lepards 10 seconds of gentle handling.

Normally I would use a stand mixer, but this soft dough can be easily (and less fussy) made by hand.

Threatening dough overflow - next time I will reduce the yeast!

Preferring longer fermentation I mixed the dough the day before, and let it slowly rise overnight in the fridge. It rose so mightily that it almost popped the lid. A sure sign that the instant yeast can be safely reduced to 5 grams down from the 7 grams the recipe requires. 

And, (for the good conscience) I substituted some of the white flour with whole wheat.

Ready for the oven

My Pumpkin Whey Bread turned out really nice. It had a delicate crisp crust, and a rich, dark golden crumb. Very flavorful, it is a true multi-purpose bread, and can be enjoyed with ham as well as jam. It is also good for toasting.

Stored in a brown paper bag, it kept fresh for several days.

Dan Lepard's formula you find HERE.



  • Use good quality canned pumpkin (like Libby's or One-Pie) instead of fresh
  • Reduce the amount of instant yeast from 7 g to 5 g
  • Substitute 100 g of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour
  • Cold bulk fermentation in the fridge overnight (remove 2 hours before shaping)

Striking gold with this wonderful tasty loaf!

hanseata's picture

Finding American equivalents or substitutes for foreign ingredients can be quite challenging. Whether you move to Europe, or like me, come to the US from Germany, you naively expect common products like flour or milk to be the same.

Sure, my American whole wheat breads turned out just fine, I was happy that they rose so nicely. But when I tried baking everyday German rolls, Weizenbrötchen, with all-purpose flour (wasn't that for all purposes, after all?) I was in for a surprise.

From the outside they were the same, but when I cut the rolls, there was no fluffy, soft inside, but a chewy, lean crumb with irregular holes that looked distinctly like Paris, but not like Hamburg or Kiel.

Baking German breads in Maine was a challenge - not all flours are created equal

I had learned a lesson, all-purpose flour is not like all-purpose flour. Everything is bigger in the US, and so is the protein content of the wheat!

So, a while ago, I came up with an EUROPEAN/AMERICAN FLOUR "TRANSLATION", one of the most popular posts on my blog.

This summer I prepared a favorite dessert, St. Colomba Cream, for the first time in Maine, but I didn't quite know what to use instead of the sahnequark (cream quark) the recipe requires.

Well, it has cream in it, I mused, and so has mascarpone. And that's what I took.

St. Colomba Cream - with mascarpone instead of quark?

But instead of creating a smooth, velvety dessert, I ended up with a dense and uber-rich vanilla cream. With 30% more fat than it should have had, the saintly Irish gooseberry dessert weighed down our stomachs like a stone.

Some European dairy products seem to be just the same as their American namesakes. But are they, really?

If you find an interesting recipe in a German, Austrian or Swiss website or blog, don't think Google translate will be any help: Saure Sahne, Sauerrahm, Schmand: all of them are "sour cream" - but no sour cream!


It's "sour cream" - but is it sour cream? No!

The difference is often the fat content, like with saure sahne and sour cream, though in many cases you can exchange a full fat into low-fat dairy to make a leaner version of a recipe, and vice versa. And some European dairy products are more acidic as their US counterparts, like yogurt or buttermilk.

To find American equivalents for some, and workable substitutes for others, check my: CREAM OR SAHNE - DAIRY CONVERSION

hanseata's picture

Errötende Jungfrau - Blushing Maiden


During these hot and humid days - very unusual for Maine - I didn't bake much, only the breads I sell to A&B Naturals, our local organic market. But, instead of talking about breads, I'd like to share some fruity, tangy summer desserts I made.

You'll find the recipes on my blog "Brot & Bread".

My family has two favorite summer desserts, both very light and refreshing.

One is the famous ROTE GRÜTZE, made of at least three different kinds of red berries, a summer treat so popular that it slowly made its way from Denmark and Northern Germany to the South, even welcomed by Bavarians (who notoriously despise everything even remotely "Prussian").


Popular German summer dessert Rote Grütze


The other goes by the poetical name of ERRÖTENDE JUNGFRAU (= blushing maiden), referring to the delicate pink hue of the dessert. It is made with buttermilk and lemon, and we enjoy it even when the temperature goes up to 90, and we don't feel like eating anything heavy.

Blushing Maiden is, like Rote Grütze, a traditional North German specialty, not only Pommern (Pomerania) (homeland of my mother and grandmother), but Ostpreussen (East Prussia) and Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein claim it as their own.

Light, fruity and lemony, Errötende Jungfrau is the right dessert for hot summer days


BLUEBERRY HAND PIES , cute portion-sized pies from King Arthur Flour website, combine two major food groups: buttery pastry and fruit!

When I made them, our native wild Maine blueberries were not ripe yet, so I combined (less flavorful) frozen blueberries with rhubarb from the garden and fresh raspberries, a very fruity and tangy combination. They didn't earn their 5-star reviews for nothing - the were absolutely delicious!

Berry Hand Pies combine two major food groups: buttery pastry and tangy fruit


I had never visited the South of East Germany before, but in May we went on a trip to Saxony. Checking out the bakeries we found a wonderful Saxon specialty, EIERSCHECKE, a three-layered cake with sweet crust, quark filling and custard.

Of course I had to try it at home, using rhubarb in the filling, and cream cheese instead of quark. The result was everything I had hoped for! The tangy rhubarb made a pleasant contrast to the sweet custard, and the whole thing was so airy and fluffy that I'm sure it didn't have a single calorie!


Eierschecke - a traditional three-layered cake from Saxony and Thuringia.


More about these delicious summer desserts and the recipes you can find here.


Subscribe to RSS - hanseata's blog