Category Archives: Artisan Baking

Bacon and Cheddar….who doesn’t love it?

This recipe is based on Ken Forkish’s Pain au Bacon.  This time I reduced the amount of bacon and added shredded cheddar and a little mozzrella for decoration.

200 gr. shredded cheddar (shredded and chilled in the freezer while preparing the dough)
200  gr. cooked bacon, crumbled, with 2 tbsp reserved bacon fat ( I actually only had 150 gr. of bacon because somebody who shall remain nameless ate some!)
800 gr. bread flour
100 gr. ww flour
200 gr. levain
650 gr. water
20 gr. sea or kosher salt
Optional: 2 gr. dry active yeast

Mix the flours with very warm (90-100 dF) water and allow to autolyse for 30 minutes.

Add the salt, yeast and levain and mix thoroughly using wet hands, pinching and lifting and squeezing the dough to incorporate the ingredients.

Bacon and Cheddar incorporated and ready for bulk fermentationAllow the dough to rest for 10 minutes then add the 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, the crumbled bacon and the cold cheddar, and mix again till incorporated.  Pinch, stretch & fold till the dough is full of cheese and bacon and smooth.  Wet hands help.

Place in the proofing box (microwave with a cup of boiled water).  Initial dough temp was 67.5  dF probably due to the ice cold cheddar cheese being added.  After the first stretch and fold the dough temp was 74dF so definitely the cold cheddar.

Stretch & fold the dough every 30 minutes for the first two hours.  Then wait until it is almost double in bulk before dividing and preshaping.  Allow dough to rest 10 -20 minutes on the counter and final shape the dough creating into boules to place on a cookie sheet or heated stone, or in bannetons.  This dough was very malleable and less sticky than some of the others I’ve made.  Well floured hands helped.

The dough will probably be ready for baking in one hour if left at room temperature but keep your eye on it and don’t let it overproof.  You can also place in the refrigerator for 12 hours although I haven’t tried this method for this particular bread but it is pretty much a standard.

This time, I put the dough in the refrigerator for the 15 minutes it took the oven to heat up to 475 dF, then slashed it and sprinkled it with shredded mozzarella. IMG_0653 I’m still working on my slash technique…I made my own Lame by taking a razor blade and sticking a chopstick through each end.  Makes a nice curve on it…but be careful….its very sharp…I speak from experience….forefinger slashed first time.

BIMG_0654ut remember YMMV…your mileage may vary depending upon your own climate conditions so you need to use your brain a little bit.

That is something I am learning slowly with all of my experimentation.  And yes, it has provided us with bread up to our eyeballs lately but half the fun is in creating these delicious recipes and the other half is the delight of taking them out of the oven, seeing their wonderful, golden brown and properly risen results and especially, eating them!



Trying to get a search of elusive oven spring

This recipe is based on the Field Blend #2 recipes in Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. I have been concentrating on this particular recipe for consistency while I determine the best method for me to achieve the elusive oven spring. Forkish adds a tiny bit of yeast that the purists in artisan bread baking eschew.  Once consistent results are achieved, the next step is to eliminate the yeast from the formula. Meanwhile, my goal is to find the right blend of technique, I.e., levain prep, percent of water, combination of grains, length of bulk ferment and length of proofing of the final loaves without overdoing it in my quest for better height in my loaves as well as better scoring before baking.  And let’s not forget the baker’s percentage formula….gotta figure that out too because I don’t think I’ve been deducting the levain flour from the total dough flour….that’s for next time…which means this formula is a little higher percentage flour than 100%.


75 gr. Rye Sour
25 gr. Wheat Sour
100 gr. 90 dF Water
100 gr. WW Flour

Ferment for 12 hours.

650 gr Bread Flour
100 gr. rye flour
150 gr. WW flour
650 gr. 90 dF Water

Autolyse for 30 mins.  Add 21 gr. salt, 2 gr. yeast and 200 gr. prepared levain.

Pinch and squeeze it all together.  Mixed dough temp is 75 dF.  Place in proofing box.  This is my microwave with a measuring glass of water immediately boiled inside.

Stretch & fold dough every 30 minutes for the first two hours.  Bulk fermentation to almost double only took 3 hours at which time I transferred it to the lightly floured counter for dividing and preshaping.

After bench resting the dough for 30 minutes, it was final shaped and put into two bannetons and left for 1 hour at room temperature.

After scoring the loaves, always a challenge, they were baked in covered dutch ovens heated to 475 dF for 30 minutes, then 20 minutes uncovered.

Two lovely Field Grains #2 loaves compared to yesterday tasty, but less than spectacular loaf.
Ain’t that gorgeous!

And a successful bake it was!

Training Wheels – Off!

Almost double in bulk…starting point marked with a piece of tape.

Hopefully the training wheels are off. Another total sourdough dough has been put into its chilled resting place for the night. Started yesterday with a small preferment begun with Rodney and assembled into a sloppy, doughy mess to bulk ferment in the proofing box around 5 p.m. today.

The resting phase…still having a problem getting them to firm up….perhaps they’re not ready????

Four hours later and the dough had almost doubled in bulk and was ready for the baskets.

This style dough is very wet and can be a little difficult to handle but its getting a little easier each time.  There are videos out there showing how to handle it.

Tucked into bed for the evening
Plastic bagged and cold proofing

After shaping and placing in the bannetons, it was into the fridge for an overnight retardation.

IMG_0762Baking was early the next day as I had to leave the house for my monthly breakfast meeting with my former co-workers. Ron finished the final baking and the loaves came out to quote “baked to a golden perfection.”

Obligatory Crumb Shot

The loaf on the left went in a little crooked but recovered quite well.  On the right is the signature t-rex slash that when turned upside is a “W.”  Below is the recipe I developed for these loaves.

 Artisan Sourdough Rye (Makes two loaves)

 Build #1:

10 gr. Rye
10 gr. Bread Flour
5 gr. Whole Wheat Flour
20 gr. Water

Mix together and leave in a warm spot to ferment for 12 hours. It should almost double in bulk.  I already have a well developed rye sour, Rodney, so instead of creating the builds, I take 100 grams of Rodney and mix it with 100 grams each of whole wheat flour and water and let it sit till almost double.

Build #2

All of Build #1
50 gr. Bread Flour
50 gr. Whole Wheat Flour
50 gr. Warm Water

Mix together and leave in a warm spot to ferment for 12 hours. It should double in bulk.

Final Dough

All of Build #2 (or a fed levain of 200 grams)
650 gr. Bread Flour
150 gr. Rye Flour
50 gr. Whole Wheat
600 gr. Warm Water
21 gr. Kosher or Sea Salt

Mix all the flours with 600 gr. of very (about 90 dF) warm water. I use either a spatula or my new Danish Dough Whisk.

Autolyse 20-30 minutes.  Sprinkle the salt and add 50 gr. of water. Mix well with your hand like a pincer and stretch and fold also.

Put in a warm place (I used my microwave with a measuring cup of water full of boiled water to get it toasty) and perform stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours. Bulk rise 6-12 hours or at least until double in volume.  This time it only took about 4-5 hours…Rodney was very frisky.

Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface and using a dough scraper or knife, work some flour around the edges of the dough gently lifting and folding the dough,  being careful not to degas it too much.

Divide the dough and using the dough scraper or knife, pre-shape each piece into a round by gently lifting and folding the edges like an envelope and then pulling the dough toward you to form a taut skin….easier said than done but I keep practicing.

Lightly dust the top of the dough, cover with a towel and let rest for 20  to 30 minutes.

Final shape the dough and put into well floured bannetons or towel lined bowls. Place in plastic bags after lightly flouring the tops of the loaves and refrigerate for 6 – 12 hours.  You can also dust the loaves with semolina or cornmeal.

Pre-heat your oven to 500 dF with the dutch oven inside. Remove the bannetons from the refrigerator, turn over the bannetons over the pre-heated dutch oven and let gravity do its thing.   I’m still trying to get them perfectly centered over the dutch ovens.  Slash the loaves, cover and reduce the heat to 475 dF.

Bake 20 minutes at 475 dF. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes until golden brown. The loaves are done when they reach an internal temperature of 200 dF plus/minus.

If you watch any of the Ken Forkish videos, he takes the bannetons and dumps them on a floured counter and then gently picks them up and puts them in the dutch ovens.  Some folks also put the loaves into cold dutch ovens…I may try that at some point.  I could not have reached this point so quickly without the help of great folks on The Fresh Loaf forum!


True Sourdough and a Cheater Harvest Grain


Applying what I learned when I went back to basics, I mixed up a total levain based sourdough.  Of course during the rising period I had my doubts and although I have a multitude of patience being married to Mr. A.D.D., I get impatient watching the dough rise!

I had started with a very small build in the morning of 10 gr each rye and bread flour, 4 gr whole wheat and 20 gr. water.  That night I mixed with 100 gr each of my wheat sour, rye sour, WW flour and water and let it ferment and boy did it do well overnight.  Of course this made twice what I needed for the final dough but about that later.

Next morning I mixed up 200 gr of the levain with 800 gr bread flour, 150 gr rye, 50 gr whole wheat and 700 gr water folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours and then left it all day in the microwave reheating my glass of water every few hours to keep the inside nice and warm.  I’m still learning the % method and this of course contains more than the 100% with the levain but that’s ok….I’m getting it.

That night (actually last night), it had slowly doubled in volume and I dumped it out and started gently shaping.  The dough was really wet and I wasn’t sure I was doing it right but I let it bench rest and then shaped it again…still really wobbly and jello like…I really had my doubts this was going to work.  Put the shaped pieces into floured bannetons…and I mean really heavily floured.   I got rice flour and mixed it with bread flour…I don’t know about you…but my kitchen has a permanent light dusting of flour over everything these days!

Put the baskets in the fridge in plastic bags last night and hoped for the best.  They really didn’t look that much bigger this morning but reacted nicely to a poke.  Dumped them in my preheated dutch ovens and lo and behoild, I have some nice looking loaves…..signature t-Rex slash included.

Last night, affter I had stashed these loaves in the fridge, I still had the other half of the levain left over and trying to be frugal…besides hubby wouldn’t let me toss it….I decided to try another “formula.”
This time I pulled out my bag of KA Harvest Grains mixed in 100 gr of that with my levain and water mixture let it sit for a few minutes and then along with the various flours ( I won’t bore you with the details but I did calculate all of the ingredients this time…hopefully correctly….and to assure I would have success, added 3gr. of yeast.  And success it was…I had to stay up to midnight last night baking it and hubby just had to have a piece before going to bed but I ended up with 2 nice loaves…one I forgot to slash but it didn’t burst and is nicely rounded.








So the point of this post is the say…yup…I think I’m getting it….oh and….anyone need a loaf of bread!!! LOL!

And if you’ve read this far, I just want to say a few more things….equipment….its a slippery slope and I keep adding to my arsenal.  We joined Restaurant Depot and I have to say….wow….what a difference in price!  Luckily I have an upright freezer to store my extra flour.  I got bowl scrapers and these cute little 1 liter plastic containers for holding my sours.  Rodney Rye on the left is extremely vigorous…he was at the half line yesterday.


I’ve been complaining to the hubby about my minor burns and the need for a pair of oven gloves.  What sweetheart…he went to Home Depot yesterday and found me a pair of welding gloves!!!

Back to Basics: Tartine Sourdough Practice

After my less than spectacular Forkish Country Brown….good flavor, not as good oven spring as I would like, I decided to go back to basics.

I made the basic recipe out of the Tartine book but to assure success I added 3 gr of yeast to the dough.  Left on the counter for an overnight fermentation, shaped and refrigerated in the morning for an afternoon bake.  Pretty happy with the way they came out.  One boule stuck to the banneton and looked like a disaster when I covered it in the DO and one my husband missed the mark and went in crooked.  To my surprise they both recovered to make pretty nice loaves although I definitely need to practice my slashing technique.


Rodney is my sour rye starter created at the end of February 2015.   I used my wheat sourdough starter and mixed equal amounts of the wheat starter, water and rye flour. I sprinkled a layer of rye flour over the top and let that ferment overnight until the rye flour sprinkled on top started separating and forming cracks.    After 2-3 feeding cycles he was ready for baking.

IMG_0383I keep Rodney in the fridge and take him out and feed him occasionally and he is extremely frisky!

Frisky Rodney…there’s no holding him down. I press him down to the 1/2 liter line and just springs right back!

When I need a levain, I take a small amount, add equal amounts of rye flour and warm water and put it somewhere warm….usually my proofing box, aka, the microwave and let nature take its course.

Everyone has their own special way they care for their starter.  I rarely discard….I just keep feeding and take what I need when I’m ready to bake.

Challah Easter Basket or a Melding of Cultures

Not one to refuse a challenge (unless it has to do with heights) I accepted the challenge recently posed by a Facebook friend to create an Easter Basket out of bread!

IMG_0580Using Challah dough, which is a similar texture to playdough,  I calculated how many ropes I would need to make my basket and divided the dough on the scale.  Good in theory…not necessarily in practice.  After starting the weaving I realized that I didn’t need all of the dough for this basket….but about that later.

With help from Ron, we wove the ropes onto a small metal bowl sprayed with olive oil….and in retrospect, I should have followed the advice on the website to use a layer of aluminum foil instead.


When done it was looking pretty good although I’m not sure the bottom is flat enough to stand on its own.

The instructions called for making another braid to attach to the top of the bowl for a nice looking appearance so I rolled that out and laid it on a piece of parchment that had the size of the bowl traced on it.  I then made the basket handle by laying a braid over another bowl with a strip of aluminum foil sprayed with olive oil.IMG_0583

IMG_0586Covered everything with plastic wrap and let them proof at room temperature.  The house is still on the cold side so I let it proof a little longer than the recipe stated.

IMG_0588So now what to do with all that left over dough?  Create!  We made mini braids in different shapes….upper left is the squid while upper right is a ?  Ron’s shape is below

IMG_0590If I had know before I would have made little bunnies out of the dough!  A few days after making the baskets, a post on The Fresh Loaf included a link that showed how to make them.  This dough would have been perfect.

Overnight Country Brown with Rodney

Today’s bake is Overnight Country Brown, a Ken Forkish recipe.  This time instead of making the full amount of the levain as I did in the Field Blend #2, I decided to scale down his recommended ingredients for the levain for whatI actually need to make the recipe.

IMG_0579I bulked up Rodney, aka my rye sour, overnight and used him for the levain in the appropriate amount and put the rest back in the fridge.

The rest of the ingredients were the same.  After a few stretch and folds with wet hands over the next hour, the dough sat in the proofing box till 8 p.m.   Its a very wet dough and was not the easiest to divide and conquer and put it into my two highly floured bannetons for the overnight retardation.

IMG_0597The next morning the loaves had not rising significantly and were still pretty wobbly but I decided to bake them anyway as they passed the poke test.  Getting them out of the bannetons was a nightmare and used my hands to coax and then scoop some of the dough out.


They baked up reasonably nice and with a good crumb structure although not as high as the loaves that were helped by a little yeast.

And I guess since I used Rodney instead of the levain in the recipe, I can’t really call it an Overnight Country Brown but rather Overnight Rodney Brown!

Field Blend #2….Variation on a Forkish

I recently started actively posting on The Fresh Loaf, taking advantage of the friendly and knowledgeable group of bread enthusiasts more than willing to impart their vast universe of knowledge.

IMG_0565As I’ve said, I find myself on a slippery slope…Amazon Prime is my friend as I arm myself with all of the tools of the trade.  Already possessing a vast array of the necessary tools including a Kitchenaid Pro Line mixer thanks to my generous brother-in-law a few years back, I now own various other items like bannetons, a Lodge cast iron dutch oven, Danish bread whisk, various plastic proofing and bread storage containers, and am furiously borrowing books from the library, trying to decide which, if any, are worthy of my hard earned dollars when the internet gives me info for free.

Enter Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish….I like this book and am probably going to drop some bucks on it along with Baking Artisan Breads by Ciril Hitz which is the source of the Challah bread recipe given to us back in October when Knitting Club attended a bread baking class.  Ciril Hitz has a facility in Massachusetts, closer than King Arthur in Vermont, and I’m seriously thinking of signing up for one of his sessions….but that’s for another day.

Having had a great success with the Pain Au Bacon recipe from the Forkish book, I decided to take the new dutch oven for a test drive using the Field Blend #2 recipe.  So I studied the recipe trying to decide on a way to bake it the Wendy way.  One other thing that has puzzled was the Baker’s Percentage formula but I think the lightbulb finally lit and I understand it.


50 gr Wheat Sourdough
50 gr Rye Sour
400 gr KA Bread Flour
100 gr KA White Whole Wheat
400 gr Water

IMG_0566I mixed it all up in my 2 quart container and put it in my proofing box, aka the microwave.  The next morning it was all nice and puffy having more than doubled in volume.  One thing I realized is that Ken Forkish has you make huge amounts of levain and toss most of it away….next time I’m going to scale the levain for the recipe…in the meantime I did something dangerous…I used the entire amount of the levain, lowering the amount of water and slightly increase the bread flour and in my unscientific way, I ended up with a 74% hydration dough….his is 78%!

For the final dough I decided to skip the Whole Wheat and use all Rye flour since we always like a good rye bread…the final dough mix:

600 gr KA Bread Flour
250 gr Rye
600 gr Water
ALL of the levain
20 gr salt
7 gr yeast (more than he called for….cockpit error on my part…but what the heck).

I mixed the flours and water and let it autolyse for 30 minutes, then added the levain, salt and yeast.  I put it back in my proofing box and and every 20 minutes for the next hour and a half I pulled it out and stretched and folded it in the 6 quart container.

Back  into the proofing box and bulk ferment until 2.5 times its original size.  This took about 3.5 to 4 hours.  It was quite fluffy and bubbly.

IMG_0569I poured the dough out onto a well floured counter and worked it with the dough scraper lightly, splitting it into two and gently working each half into a boule.  After a five minute rest, I reshaped each boule and gently placed it into one of my new, well floured bannetons,.  Each dough filled banneton was then encased in a plastic bag and placed into the refrigerator for what I hoped would be a lengthy overnight retardation.

Checking on the refrigerated loaves at 9 p.m. I realized they were not going to make it the entire night and were overflowing their bannetons due to my mucking up the quantities in the recipe.

I baked them in their dutch ovens after gently coaxing them out.  In retrospect I should have scored them a little as the seams I had hoped would bloom had apparently sealed shut from the wetness and weight of the dough in the baskets.IMG_0570

Removing the covers after about 20 minutes they were rising and browning up nicely and one had a bit of a split.IMG_0571



And upon removing them from the oven, they had the nice circular design from the bannetons and were a rich, golden brown.

Impatient after 30 minutes to check the crumb and taste the bread, I cut into one of the loaves to reveal a nice crumb structure and a sour rye flavor which….to quote Ron….was phenomenal!  Guess its a keeper.

IMG_0572I plan to make this bread again with a slightly dryer and lesser amount of dough so it doesn’t overflow its containers!

All in all it was a successful bake even though I did my best to muck it up!

Cutting into the loaves revealed a nice crumb.

Pain Au Bacon

I’ve been taking books from the local library to see if any are worth spending money on.  Since there is a wealth of information on the internet, I hesitate to spend money until I know whether or not it will be a useful reference.  One of my recently borrowed books is Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.  The Pain Au Bacon recipe caught my eye so I decided to bake it the Wendy way…meaning take a recipe for a guide, and adapt it to my way of baking and hope for the best!

Last night I created the levain/starter as follows:

7:00 pm.
100 gr Wheat Sour Starter
100 gr. Rye Sour Starter
200 gr. Whole Wheat Flour
200 gr. Water

Mixed it all together and let it ferment and at 11:00 p.m, I added 50 gr. WW flour and a splash of water, mixed it and went to bed.

This morning it had almost doubled in volume and looked pretty lively.  I then put together 600 gr. of KA bread flour with 300 gr. warm water and let it sit for about 30 mins.  I then added the starter, 12 gr. of salt and 12 gr. of yeast, mixed it in the Kitchenaid until incorporated and let sit another 10 minutes before I added a pound of bacon, minus 3 slices that Ron ate, that had been cooked crisp and chopped up along with two tablespoons of the bacon fat.  I then mixed it again in the mixer until it started to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  You could see the strands of gluten developing though it was still quite sticky and moist.

I tipped it out onto the floured counter and kneaded it until smooth and covered it with a bowl for 15 minutes.  I then did a stretch and fold every 15 minutes for an hour before splitting the dough between two bowls that had been lined with flour dusted towels.  I let the loaves proof a little less than an hour using the finger poke test.

Today I had to make do using an aluminum Calphalon dutch oven.  I have ordered a Lodge and 2 bannetons.


I wasn’t thrilled with the smell when the DO was heated but I went ahead anyway.  And since the recipe made two small loaves, I cooked the other on a heated stone to see how the two compared.

I set the oven for 475 degrees f and  heated both DO and stone together.  I tipped the DO loaf out and put it in and covered it.  The other loaf was put on a cornmeal strewn parchment covered cookie sheet and slid onto the stone, parchment and all.

Cooking time was 30 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered.  Stone loaf was done in 30 minutes and the DO loaf was done in about 15 more minutes….doneness checked with a thermometer.  The Calphalon performed very well.

IMG_0557Meanwhile Ron is salivating and hovering over the bread with the knife.   When we finally cut into the loafs, the one done in the dutch oven was much loftier with an incredible crispy crunchy crust…and while both loaves were really excellent the loaf on the stone while extremely nice and tasty, paled in comparison.

IMG_0560This was a real successful bake and I’m very pleased with the results.