The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Christmas 2011

Shiao-Ping's picture

Christmas 2011

Boxing Day, a gorgeous day! 

All is quiet, on this early morning, except the gentle breeze.  The air is crisp and the sky is blue over the tree hills out of my tea room.




The Poinciana in my neighbourhood is firing in red, such colour of celebration.




Hope you all had a great Christmas day yesterday!  Since my last post in May, a few times I had wanted to write and say Hello.  The last time was after my son’s graduation in November when I read his Reflections - Robert Frost: The Road not Taken, his last writing in school.  It reminded me of the piece he did almost seven years ago when he started Grammar School.  How time had flown.

My daughter and son’s God mother had asked for Olive Sourdough and Pain au Levain for Christmas lunch.  As I have not baked very much for a long while, being in Taiwan most of this year, and as my husband had just put in a new oven, I was not sure how my breads would turn out. 








 Olive Sourdough

  • 95 g liquid starter (fed 90% plain flour and 10% organic wholemeal rye flour)
  • 427g flour (90% plain and 10% organic wholemeal rye) *
  • 247g water (72% hydration)
  • 150g kalamata pitted olives (30% baker’s percentage)
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 8 g sea salt

 Pain au Levain

  • 95g liquid starter (fed 90% plain and 10% organic wholemeal rye)
  • 427 g flour (90% plain and 10% orgain wholemeal rye) *
  • 247g water (72% hydration)
  • 10g sea salt

      *      My starter was a bit soupy, not very strong, so I fed it an unusually large amount of flour.

              Fermented flour to final dough flour was a low 10%.  

     **    Dough temperature was 24 C.


These days I have adopted a very minimalist approach to the whole procedure – from mixing the ingredients in the bowl, kneading via stretching and folding, to fermentation in the bowl.  I stop stretch-and-folds the minute when I feel any resistance in the dough. 

With these two breads, the fermentation was 5 and a half hours from time of mixing to just before the shaped dough went into the fridge.  

Thanks to David’s method of the magic 21-hour cold proof (see his San Joaquin Sourdough), the breads were exceptionally moist, the crumb translucent, the texture springy, and the flavour so creamy.






Baking has never been so easy with this new oven.  It does steaming by itself.  The crust came out shining and crisp.  It is like a professional oven at home.   

We are blessed with an unusually mild summer for our Christmas this year in Brisbane.  Everything has turned so lush with the recent rain. 

Hope we all bake more delicious breads next year.  Happy New Year, everyone! 






linder's picture

I wish I had found your post earlier today - I just started a loaf of olive bread - recipe from the Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli.  Your breads look fantastic (always do) and I can just taste the olives, mmmmm.


Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Linda, Thanks for the comment.  You don't need my recipe.  I am sure your recipe from Il Fornaio Baking Book will be better than mine with clearer descriptions of the procedure.   Shiao-Ping

Janetcook's picture

Hi Shiao-Ping,

So wonderful to find 2 new breads from you.  I so love your posts as they were some of the first I read when I first joined TFL about a year ago.  Always so instructive and, one of my kids all time favorite bread, is the chocolate sourdough you posted tho' I have tweaked it a bit.

A question about the procedure you stated that the breads were very moist due to the 21 hour retarding in the refrig.  I wasn't aware that long fermenting times resulted in softer crumbs - thought it was about flavors becoming more enhanced.  Is the increased moisture due to the dough breaking down a bit more due to the longer retarding time?  (I know that I witness my refrigerated starter becoming more liquid the longer it is left unfed in my refrig. so I am thinking the same thing happens to a loaf but am not sure....)

I like reading about how your baking technique has evolved since you started baking. Confirms what has happened to me...I have baked many a loaf now and have followed other people's instructions and what has evolved is a routine that uses aspects from all I have gleaned from others that works well with my daily schedule.....

Congratulations on your son's graduation.  Quite an accomplishment for him and for you knowing you have successfully 'launched' two bright young people into today's complex world.

Take Care and thanks for the update on your life as well as the 2 new beautiful loaves :-)



Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Janet, thank you for your comment.  It's nice having you visiting my post.  Yes, I believe longer retarding in the fridge can result in more translucent, more flavour-some crumbs.  Instead of saying the crumbs are "softer", I would say the crumbs are more springy and having more body; but for this to happen, everything else has to come together too; just having one element right doesn't make a great sourdough.   Try David's 21 hour retarding and see for yourself what differece it makes to your crumb.   My experience for such long retarding time is that it's best for the dough not to have too long an overall first fermentation, but how long is not too long depends on your starter, your dough temperature, room temperature, your hydration, and the rest.  You don't know what is right for you until you experiment for yourself. 

Thanks for your good wishes too.  Shiao-Ping

arlo's picture

I have been wondering where you have been Shiao-Ping! I am glad to see you are doing well and that life is treating you nicely :)

Your breads are excellent, as I have come to expect from anything coming out of your oven! Your posts are always educational, well written and beautifully photographed - this is no exception.

Best of luck!


Shiao-Ping's picture

Arlo, thank you for your comment.  I have just been too busy to post.   I like to do different breads and if I don't have new ideas I don't tend to post.  There are still so many new combinations to try and there are so many talented bakers at TFL.   One would never get bored reading at TFL.    Thank you.  Shiao-Ping 

Mebake's picture

Welcome back, Shiao-Ping!

Lovely scenery, oven, and loaves!

Its good to see you back on TFL again.

Merry Christmas.

Shiao-Ping's picture

Mebake, thank you.   Shiao-Ping

sam's picture

Hi Shiao-Ping,

Very nice pictures and bread!    Curious -- what kind of oven do you have now that does the steaming built in?

Btw, when I was a very much a greenhorn newbie (and I still am), many of your older posts were an inspiration to me.  So thanks for that.   :)

It's a bit late for Christmas, so happy New Years!   2012 will be great.

Shiao-Ping's picture

Hello, gvz.  The oven my husband put in is Miele's H 5681 BP here.   The function that has steaming built in is called Moisture Plus.  Inside the oven, on the left hand side, there is a tube which sucks in water (about 100 ml) and injects it as steam to the oven at the biginning of the baking.  The steaning last about 5 minutes according to the manual. 

rossnroller's picture

Great to see another post in your inimitable style after such a prolonged break - and may I say, going by those pics it seems you have lost nothing in your absence! Just delectable, as always.

Thanks for drawing attention to David's 21 hour proof post. Must have a good look over that one, with the summer temperatures finally getting up into the high 30s over here. And lemme say, these two recipes of yours have shot straight to the top of my must-bake list, as has been the case with so many of your breads.

Welcome back, and very best of the season to you!

Shiao-Ping's picture

Lemme say, Ross, my organic wholemeal rye flour is Coles brand, and my plain flour is Laucke's Wallaby plain flour also from Coles supermarket.  Thanks for your visiting.   Seasons greetings to you too.  Shiao-Ping

dmsnyder's picture

It's so nice to see you posting here again. 

I'm eager to hear more about your shiney new oven ... with steam!

My newest and best toy heads in the opposite direction from the long cold retardation. It's a Brod & Taylor Proofer. I'm convinced that the doughs fermented in it have better crumb structure than when fermented on the counter. I think the dough temperature is more even throughout. But, that's another story.

Happy holidays to you and your family! 

Where's your son headed next? Abroad like big sister?


Shiao-Ping's picture

Thanks for you to visit. If my husband had told me he was going
to buy an oven with a steam function, I would have said not to bother.  The silly reason was I, the sourdough lover
and baker, who had taken the trouble every time the dough was loaded into the
oven to steam it painstakingly, were not prepared to believe that a home oven
could do the job by itself!  I had a
wrong view that it was not possible for a home baker to have the professional
gear. This new oven has now changed my view. 
Technology for home equipment has improved so much. 

The funny thing was I was used to seeing my old oven, which
couldn’t even be shut properly, full of steam at the start of the baking, and I
would hear big noises from the water hitting the lava rocks, sizzling inside
the oven.  Now, my new oven does the
steaming so quietly it almost makes me wonder if it really steams.  But the bread came out so crispy and shiny I
had to believe it did.   So far I had baked 5 sourdoughs in three
separate occasions.  Each time I stared
at the oven disbelieving.  The manual says you can program it to do one burst of steam
(100 ml of water), or two (150 ml of water) or three times (250 ml of water)
and that each burst of steam is injected for about 5 minutes.  Five minutes is long for what seems to be a
small amount of water, because when I used to steam my oven I used a whole cup
of water, 250 ml, which seemed to have evaporated in no time at all. With this new oven, the steam is released very gently (if
there is such a thing) and imperceptibly to our eyes from the outside.

I had a look at Brod & Taylor Proofer.  That looks amazing too.

My son is thinking to do medicine.  Everyone is telling him medicine is very difficult and that you would have no social life, etc. etc.  but he seems to be still hard set on the idea, so I am very proud of him.  My daughter is applying for internship in London.  She is the more adventurous one.


dmsnyder's picture

Wow! Your oven almost makes me wish the one I have now were not so reliable. I've no excuse to replace it, so I guess I'll stick to my SFBI home oven steaming method. It seems to do the trick.

Medicine is a lot of work, especially getting there. However, most non-physicians have no idea of the diversity among possible careers in medicine. (In fact, neither do most physicians!) None preclude a "social life." The biggest constraints have more to do with social class than anything else, for example time demands. But this is a long story and has little to do with bread baking, except to point out that practicing medicine does not preclude that either. :-)


Shiao-Ping's picture

David, you don’t know how happy that made me to hear you say that “most non-physicians have no idea of the diversity among possible careers in medicine.”  I know nothing about medicine or “the diversity among possible careers in medicine” that you talked about, but I know that our human population is aging, and aging very fast, and I know that what people can contribute to the human population is up to the creativity and imagination of each and every one of us.  

As for the oven, you don’t need a new one.  Your breads are all gorgeous!  You don’t need any new oven.  My husband had to replace our oven and dishwasher at the same time because they were short-circuiting (tripping) the power.

lumos's picture

So lovely to see you back, Shiao-Ping. Your posts'd  always been such an inspiration, I've really missed your absence. 

Wonderful looking loaves, as usual, and am really looking forward to admiring your great skills in breadmaking in the coming new year, too.

Happy baking 2012!



p.s. I'm so jealous of your self-steaming, new oven!!! :p

Shiao-Ping's picture

Lumos, you bake great looking breads.  It is the baker's hands that would guarantee great breads, not an oven.  I forgot to say that the first sourdough that I baked using the new oven was bad, VERY bad - a crust like leather and crumb sticky and very unpleasant to chew.  Sorry, in my reply to David I said so far I had baked 5 sourdoughs in three separate occasions, I forgot to mention this very first bad bake - the dough was way over fermented.  No amount of gadget can save a bad dough.  Shiao-Ping

SylviaH's picture

Your breads baked so beautifully in your new Miele steam oven.  Sounds like the family is doing great, especially the children 'young adults' and that's always great news!  My oldest grand daughter is going to college here now and next year will be going to college in Louisiana and doing an internship at her father's main office in New Orleans.  The next is my oldest grandson.  He's off to college next year and then there are 2 more to follow.  Time passes so quickly and they grow so's exciting and yet sad.  When I dream of my 2 grown children, they are often only small children in my dreams...I don't know the meaning of this...I guess I miss my babies.

Back to your lovely steam oven and a very handy husband.  I recently was picking up some vacum bags for my miele the way which I love, best vacum I've ever had...they had the steam ovens on display...beautiful...ovens but, I think the ones I have will hopefully last a while.

Happy Baking,


Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Sylvia, Long time no see (as the Chinese would say it). My daughter is at the beach with a girlfriend and her family and my son is also at the beach with a friend and his family. My husband asked why these children leave as soon as Christmas was over.  So, yesterday he rang up his friend; the friend and wife came over, and we had a lovely roast, and too much wine.

This morning, another gorgeous morning!  My husband is at golf, leaving me home alone. I actually enjoy some time alone. I think it’s to do with rhythm.  Periods of low activity is enjoyed more after periods of high activity. I always craze to have more time alone.  You mention “meaning.” I think meaning is to be discovered, or to be re-created.  Sometimes I find I am set in my daily routines and meaning becomes blur, or lost.

You may have already come across this (after all, it’s me who is out of touch with everyone, not you), but check this out:

My husband is indeed a very handy person.  His generation may well be the last great Australian DIY generation (but I hope not).  My son is not interested one bit in any of the handy jobs he does around the house.  When he asked me to have a look at Miele’s website, I was in in Taipei and was not interested to look, so he just went ahead and bought the oven.  Yesterday I asked him if the sales girl had said the steam function is good for making bread.  He said No.  He said he bought it because he saw me steaming the oven all the time and thought it would be good for me! It was an impulse purchase, he said, and by no means a well research one.  

I think we bakers made do with whatever we have.  We adapt to our equipment, and our situations. Even though it is a very good oven, I wouldn’t rush and recommend to everyone.



FaithHope's picture

I was looking and looking for you when I would log in.  I would go way back, but always find nothing!  Much to my GREAT SUPRISE here you are today!!  I LOVE YOUR STUFF!!  I love reading your posts and looking at your totally amazing bread!  I am so happy you have come to share with us again!  As always your bread is just unbelievable!  Just like everyone else has said, "Welcome Back, WE HAVE MISSED YOU"!! :)

Can't wait to see more!! :)


Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Faith, thank you for your comment.  It is our anniversary today.  My husband left early in the morning to have a game of golf.  I woke up to see this on my messy desk:



                                       These flowers from our yard are more beautiful than any bought ones to me.


Went for a walk and saw more flowers on the road:





                                              The only deciduous tree in my neighborhood, my barometer for seasons.

Came home and baked two breads (pain au levain):





Made a festive fruit & nuts & choc. chip sourdough:






Happy holidays!




codruta's picture

Shiao Ping, I missed your posts and stories so much! When I discovered your blog, a year ago, I stood all night reading it and since that day your blog became one of my favorites. I'm very happy to hear about you again. Your breads are impressive, as allways, and you have such a nice way of telling stories...!

Happy Anniversary! Happy Holidays!

... and please, keep on posting, sharing your breads and your stories in 2012!


Shiao-Ping's picture

Hello codruta,

Thank you for your comment.  Your breads are beautiful.  Hope we all bake more beautiful breads next year. 

Happy holidays!


PiPs's picture

So great to see you posting again Shiao-Ping,

Your breads look lovely ... I hadn't given the steaming ovens much thought .... may have to look again :)

Boxing day in Queensland is a beautiful thing ... we spent the day down at Robina with little too much time in the pool. The kids are exhausted :)

I have been a long time reader of your posts and have learnt so much through your experiences. I have to thank you for that.

Best wishes for 2012 ... Cheers, Phil

Shiao-Ping's picture

Hello Phil, I have been out of touch with what's happening at TFL. So many people are baking extraordinary breads, yourself included.  TFL is an exciting place to be.    I can’t get over how fresh, and refreshing, the colors of your photos are.  It’s the Queensland sun, I am sure.  I must be biased.

When I dropped my son at his friend's place, his friend's mum told me that this is the last year she is doing the beach thing for his son.  For my husband there will never be a last year.  Beach and holiday seasons are synonymous, something from his childhood.  But as our own kids get older now, it is us, not them, who are more in need for adjustment.

Best wishes for 2012 to you too.


breadsong's picture

Hello Shiao-Ping,
Thank you for sharing your lovely photos from your part of the world.
Your breads are always beautiful and so is your new oven.
Wishing you every happiness for the New Year!
:^) from breadsong

ananda's picture

Hi Shiao-Ping,

It is lovely to read a post from you on TFL once again; lovely breads as ever.

A very Happy New Year to you

All good wishes


Shiao-Ping's picture

Thank you all for the warmth you have shown me.  I don’t think I deserve all the lovely comments and kindness you all have shown me.  Chinese say the warmth you have received is debt you need to pay back.  I will work on how to pay back and in the meantime please allow me time to catch up.  The family is travelling in January for a month.    Thank you again.  Shiao-Ping

Shiao-Ping's picture

Hi Miele oven is great. The steam function is indeed very special and great for sourdough baking. After we got it, I thought it was the best thing since a slice of bread, but that's not right. There are still plenty of other brands around that are great.  It all depends on what kind of a cook you are. We recently downsided. The oven and attached cook top at our new place is an unkown brand to me, but Gee it bakes and cooks beautifully. I am out at the moment and don't remember the brand off hand. This oven and cooktop is a very chefy sort of appliance. I think the difference to Miele is Miele is perhaps a more home cook type of appliance but very professionally made. I think any home cooks will be very, very happy with it.  Shiao-Ping