Let Me Introduce Myself

My name is Jim… or you can call me “Bear”.

Bear was my callsign when I flew F-4’s and F-15E’s in the USAF.

  • I like to cook and have recently been really focusing on my baking.
  • I’m on a quest to perfect sourdough bread, croissants and pastries.

My intent is to share my love of baking and my journey to becoming a better baker.

Someday I’m going to not have a “job” and I will be able to devote much more time and attention to my baking than I currently am able to dedicate. When that time comes I’d like to possibly start a business. Until that time you’re welcome to come along on my journey of discovery. I’ll share my ups and downs as I go; both triumphs and those “Well, THAT was a learning experience!” moments!

Feel free to connect with me. I love to connect with folks that share my love of baking, that are learning and experimenting and that don’t mind sharing their experience(s).

My hope is that in a year or so I will have made new friends, learned how to be a better baker and brought smiles to those who I’ve had the privilege to walk this journey alongside.

Sourdough Panettone II (Results)

I am so pleased with the results!!!

Panettone Classico!

My best attempt ever…we’ll, duh! The first was my first and I made numerous updates to my method and technique. It was definitely worth applying myself and learning!

Things I learned:

  • Pasta Madre development is key
  • Kneading takes MUCH more time than I thought
  • Use Castor Sugar
  • Patience and letting time work is best
  • Monitor time and temps
  • Pasta Madre development is key (THIS bears repeating)

It is airy, light, moist, sweet (but not too sweet). A really great mouth feel… pillowy! Fantastico!!

Here are some pics of the bake…

I am repertoiredefinitely putting this bake into my holiday repertoire!! These would make great holiday gifts… I just need to figure out how to do in volume!

I like learning new things. Will need a couple more practice runs for sure! Glad I’m taking copious notes. They help me a lot.

Sourdough Panettone II (2nd Dough)

2nd Dough Shaped

Today is baking day! First I have to make the 2nd Dough. The first dough rose 3X and I’m very pleased!

I then slowly started to layer in the ingredients. First the flour, then Castor Sugar, Honey/citrus zest, salt, egg yolks, butter and finally, dried fruit.

This process took MUCH longer than last time since I was following (as best I could with my KitchenAid mixer) the schedule/technique of the Milanese bakery. I did the flour alone for 15 minsters and then on 2-4 minute intervals everything else.

Here is a glimpse of that process:

After mixing I transferred the dough to a tub for 20 mins to let rest. I don’t suppose I needed to transfer since my mixer bowl fits in my proving box. However, the Milanese bakers took their dough out and put it in a huge plastic tub … so I blindly did the same. Ha!

Resting for 20 minutes

Per their technique/timing I let the 2nd Dough rest for 20 minutes before separating into two 1100g pieces. Note that the recipe makes 1100g pieces wet because of about 10% loss during the bake. Trying for a 1kg final bake weight.

I preshaped them into two rounds and waited another 20 mins to let a skin form on the surface before final shaping into boules and placing them into the cardboard ramekins to prove for 6 hours at 85°F.

I’ll show the results of the final proof & bake in my next post.

[To be continued…]

Sourdough Panettone II (1st Dough)

Going to attempt making Panettone Classico one more time. A lot of technique improvements this time.

  1. I’m starting with a REAL Pasta Madre that I started 3 days ago.
  2. I’m using timing and instructions gleaned from watching a video posted by a Milanese bakery that has specialized in Panettone for generations. You can see the video here.

One of the things I noted from the video is that they used very fine (e.g. Castor) sugar. It is absorbed more readily AND it’s crystal structure doesn’t damage the gluten net! Who knew?!

I’m also being more deliberate in my kneading. I’m going low speed with my dough hook for roughly 15 minutes. The first 8 mins or so will be with the flour, water, sugar, Pasta Madre in chunks and half of the egg yolks. The last half will incorporate the rest of the eggs and the butter.

Mixed, kneaded and into Proving Box … Will see what it looks like tomorrow morning!


Here is what the 1st dough looked like 11 hours into its prove:

Pasta Madre (Day 4)

Today is the day! One last feeding today to be ready for mixing Dough #1 for my next attempt at Panettone.

Pasta Madre bursting at seams

Tying this bundle up was interesting. It got REALLY hard until the bag popped and some of the pressure was relieved. I’m m not sure if the softer feel was due to the pressure release of it backing off the height of Bacteria activity. Probably both.

My panettone recipe calls for making the first dough and letting it prove overnight. The Italian bakery in Milan (the traditional home of Panettone Classico) says they prove for 12 hours at 27°C (80.6°F)

I’m going to mix my dough starting after 7pm tonight so it will be ready for me at 8am tomorrow morning.

Might as well do one more feeding to get my Pasta Madre all revved up.

I fed and followed my same routine as yesterday’s feeding. The only difference being it was MUCH harder to extract from the baggie.

This time I thought I’d store in water. I’d seen this done in some YouTube videos. At the beginning it sinks to the bottom and rises as it proves.

In water at 1130

Here is what it looks like at 4pm

Pasta Madre at 4pm

I’m excited about how this is turning out. My Pasta Madre should be MUCH better than my initial attempt (which is arguably NOT Pasta Madre).

I’ve loads of other technique improvements I’m going to be adjusting for in this next attempt at Panettone. I’ll add an updated picture of my final Pasta Madre before I make the dough. Hopefully I’ll have some residual that I can feed yet again and then put in fridge.

Pasta Madre (Day 3)

Day 3 of making my Pasta Madre for my next attempt at Panettone.

Pasta Madre Wrapped and Proving

I fed my Pasta Madre for a 3rd time today. I seeded the same feeding regime I’ve been using of 50g each of Starter and water, a teaspoon of honey and 100g of bread flour.

I kneaded it for 5+ minutes to get it nice and smooth feeling.

This time I decided I’d wrap my Pasta Madre prior to using it tomorrow to make my 1st dough for the Panettone. I’ve seen all sorts of YouTube videos over the last couple of days and this seems like this is THE traditional way to store.

I rolled a log, flattened with my rolling pin, rolled a log, put it into a plastic bag, rolled in a dishcloth and then bound with twine. The pics below show the process.

Evidently, keeping it in the plastic and binding like this forces it to favor the bacteria that’s sweet not sour. We’ll see…

One person said that it would control the fermentation. I’d know it was ready when it moved from being REALLY taut to having a bit of give/softness.

Time to wait for tomorrow…

Pasta Madre (Day 2)

It’s been 20 hours now since I first put the new Pasta Madre in my proving box to ferment.

It has clearly risen and fallen in that time as you can see by the photo gallery below.

I’d normally not wait but I’m going to be patient this time. I’ll wait for another 4 hours before the next feeding step.

Ok …. I lied. I made only to 23 hours. Here’s what the starter looked like.

Day 2 feeding is 50g of this starter plus 50g of water, 100g of bread flour and 1t of honey.

Day 2 Starter Fed

And now for another 24(?) hours in my proving box at 84°F…..

BTW if you’d like to find out about my Brod & Taylor proving box and other implements I use check out this previous post.

You can purchase one from the King Arthur website.

Pasta Madre (Day 1)

If you read my last post about attempting Panettone for the first time you’d have seen the quote about if your Pasta Madre wasn’t on point than it didn’t matter what recipe you used…your results would just be less than desired.

Pasta Madre Day 1

My panettone first attempt, while delicious, was anything but pretty. Actually, it wasn’t bad. Just not what I want.

Learning opportunity.

My wife just shakes her head as I scour over YouTube videos and take notes.

I’m found this Japanese baker who had a pretty straightforward (I thought) process to make Pasta Madre so I thought I’d try it out. You can find that video here: How To Make Pasta Madre


  • 20g Sourdough Starter
  • 50g Water
  • 100g Bread flour
  • 1T Honey
Adding Ingredients

I mixed this all together and then kneaded it for a bit. Afterwards I rolled it up and cut a “+” in the top.

Kneaded and cut

I then put it into a cup, placed a lid loosely on top and the into my proving box it went at 84°F. It will be here for the next 24 hours.

And now a 24 hour timer begins…

Sourdough Panettone (Part 2 of 2)

Whenever you try something new there is, by definition, a “first time”.

Desired Pannetone Results (NOT mine…yet)

For a long time I’ve wanted to make sourdough panettone but have never really had the courage to attempt. Now I have.

My very first sourdough Panettone

In my last post I’d left them in my proving box to rise for (supposedly) 18-24 hours. That didn’t happen. I made it to only 10 hours monitoring the rise

I baked them one at a time because one looked a bit higher in it’s mold. This also gave me a fallback option if the first bake didn’t go as planned (temp / time).

My baking was at 355°F for 50 minutes (regular, NOT convection).

The second picture above was my result. Frankly I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get ANY oven spring. The guess I should have expected this because:

If your pasta madre is not primed for making panettone, ALL the recipes will not work the way you expect them to work. #fact


I skewered the baked panettone and hung it upside down in my proving drawer. I was tempted to wait to bake my other loaf but then thought better and baked it too.

I left them overnight to cool and got up this morning to try some with my coffee.

My first Panettone crumb shot

It may look not the prettiest but boy does it taste great. Moist, flavorful… wow!

First Bite!

I’m m definitely going to try again! Got to do a bit of studying and learn what variables I need to address. Thinking my first improvement should be to get better at “priming my pasta madre”.

Sourdough Panettone (Part 1 of 2)

I am finally attempting to make sourdough panettone . I’ve seen these and have wanted to do them… but I’ve never been confident enough to try.

There’s something about the specialness of this bread, the technique involved and the season that draws me to desiring to make this bread.

My hesitation is the challenge of the technique…

I believe that if anything goes sideways at any point, technique-wise, the bread won’t come out.

That said, there ALWAYS has to be a first attempt and I can choose to focus on being better /learning (or not).

This is my first attempt…

First dough proving

I made my “stiff” starter (40% hydration) and proved it in my box for about 6 hours for it to more than double in size.

I mixed my first dough and it wasn’t what I am comfortable making. It’s basically a brioche where bread and egg yolks have to be incorporated. I’ve just not been confident with my technique here.

I didn’t feel like this step went as well as I wanted. The stiff starter, flour and water was stiffer than the dough I usually make (lower hydration). I probably rushed trying to do the steps of incorporating the butter … probably should have waited to allow the gluten to relax. it was all lumpy and not as well mixed as I desired.

In any case, I got it “close” and put it into my proving box at 75°F and let it sit overnight. The picture above is the dough as it looked when I got up for coffee.

I prepped my ingredients and then mixed in strong bread flour (high protein content). Afterwards I added the other ingredients slowly. Getting the butter incorporated is the hardest thing for me… my technique certainly requires an upgrade.

Once mixed I divided the dough (more like a stiff batter) into two 1100g parts, placed into 1kg Panettone molds (think really large cupcakes) and placed into my proving box at 78°F for 18-24 hours of final proving before baking. Will just need to watch and bake when “the time is right”.

And now the wait begins…

[To be continued]

Proving Results (Again)

I tried my extended proving time again to see how my interior crumb responds. I am liking the change and I intend to do two thing:

  • Use this extended proving time going forward
  • Try another experiment going to 9 hours
Better honeycomb crumb

Naturally, I had to heat this first to get the full effect. Once heated I needed to validate the “mouth feel”, taste and flakiness consistency.

Result: Passed with flying colors!!

Post testing results