The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

annie the chef's blog

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

Hi everyone!

It has been a while since my last visit to TFL.  I have been quite sick and bedridden for a few weeks. My sister has to take care of Blossom (my seed starter) until I feel better. We miss her so much! I was so happy to have her home last week, healthy and happy.

Summer is around the corner in Melbourne but the weather is still quite cold.  I decided to bake a few country loaves today. Two loaves are to give away as thank you gifts to our good friends who have helped out and sent me so much food.

When I was sitting down to work out the amount of levain for 3 loaves, I suddenly remembered what I read not long ago in Graham Prichard’s blog of This is one of Graham’s methods at the Companion Bakery in Tasmania.  A stiff starter is built at 15C for 20 hours then turn into a warm liquid starter in the second build.  The liquid starter should be kept at 28C to 33C and it is ready to use in around 2 to 4 hours.  The idea of this method is essentially to give the starter a warm and wet condition to favor the lactic acid production.  I decided to give his method a go this time to see if my country bread to taste differently from my last loaves.

If you like to read more, here is the link:



Here is my formula:


Country Bread

3 loaves (about 900g each)


Levain 17% preferment flour


1st build @ 60% hydration

 50g white starter @ 100% hydration

50g whole wheat flour

20g cold water

Mix all together and leave for 12 hours at room temperature of 18oC

2nd build @ 125% hydration

 120g stiff starter @ 60% hydration

125g whole wheat flour

230g warm water

Add water slowly to the starter ball and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add whole wheat flour and stir well together.  Make sure the starter is at around 28C to 30C and should be matured in about 2 hours to 4 hours.

When I started my second build, my liquid starter was at 30C and I couldn’t maintain this temperature as my room temperature at the time was only 16C.  It took 10 hours to mature.


Final Dough  @ 78% hydration

475g levain @ 125% hydration

75g organic whole rye flour

50g organic whole wheat flour

150g organic whole spelt flour

1025g Australia’s Laucke organic plain flour (11.5% protein)

900g cold water

15g salt


I mixed the flours and water until all well hydrated. The autolysis period was 10 hours at room temperature of 16oC.

Levain and salt were added in to the autolyse.  It was quite messy when mixing a liquid levain into the autolyse by hand. With a large dough to mix by hand this time and since I don’t use slap-and-fold method, I thought I better give it a few extra letter folds. Room temperature was 16C so bulk fermentation was 6 hours in total. There were 5 double-letter folds every 45 minutes. The dough was divided, shaped and final proof for another two hours then retarded for 18 hours.  I intended to bake those loaves off at 6am in this morning on but I slept in until 8!

The oven was preheated to 250C with the Dutch ovens. I baked straight from the fridge then immediately I turned the oven down to 230C when all loaded into the oven. It was 25 minutes with the lid on and another 20 minutes with the lid off.


Lucky there were no harm done after 18 hours in the fridge …. Phew!


Crumb of the boule


After a few hours of cooling, here is the crumb of the boule.  The crust is sweet and crunchy, the crumb is tender and moist, nutty and complex. There are definitely acidic notes in the background but it is a very soft tang. I think may be the dough had a bit long retarding period.

In all and all, I started to understand better Jeffrey Hamelman’s sourdough recipes in his Bread book after this bake.  This time I couldn’t maintain the final build of starter in a warmer environment as Graham suggested, I definitely will try this method again in summer time to see whether the bread flavour is different.  But for now, I think I should be off and do some catch-up readings here.

It is great to be able to bake again. Hope you all are well and happy baking.






annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

I have only been seriously baking sourdough bread for about six months now with my sourdough starter which I built from scratch in January this year. Although I used to cook professionally and have worked with many bakers and pastry chefs for years, I never really make time (which I don't really have much) to explore artisan bread. Until recently, I really want my family to enjoy top quality bread every day and also for my children to know how good breads are made. I named my starter Blossom. My kids are fascinated when I let them feed my “pet” for baking, and knowing it can do “tricks” such as to make holes in a loaf of bread and to make the bread tasty.  They also know that most of the time Blossom likes to “sleep” in the fridge. :)

I’ve baked many different loaves from different books and formulas from here in the past months and my favorite bread is pain de campagne.  I was so inspired by the Overnight Country Brown of FWSY book posted by David of dmsnyder that I have to bake one right away after I’ve read about it.  I don’t have FWSY book and my local library doesn’t have it either so I just made up a formula based on David’s notes.  It worked out really well.



This loaf was intended for sandwiches so I chose 75% for dough hydration with 20% preferment flour.

 Levain @ 75% hydration

50g white starter @ 100% hydration

75g rye flour

50ml water

Mix all together and leave for 12 hours at room temperature of 17oC


Final Dough


175g rye levain

75g Australia’s Four Leaf whole wheat flour

325g Australia’s Laucke organic plain flour (11.5% protein)

300g water

5g salt

Mix two types of flours together with cold water, save 50g of water for a second hydration, and leave to autolyse for 12 hours at room temperature of 17oC. 

When the levain is domed, add to the dough along with salt and the rest of the water. Mix for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and make sure levain is evenly mixed through the dough. Bulk fermentation for 5 hours at 19oC room temperature with three double letter folds at 60, 120 and 180 minutes.  Shape and leave the dough for another two hours before pop it in the fridge to retard for 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 250oC. Score and bake the dough straight from the fridge in a Dutch oven (I baked this loaf in a Schlemmertopf). Immediately turn the oven down to 230oC and bake 25 minutes with the lid on and another 20 minutes with the lid off.


Although the method seemed to take a long time from start to finish, it suits my schedule very well.  I built the levain and mixed flour with water before bed time and left to autolyse overnight. They were all ready for dough mixing at noon. The shaped dough was ready to go to the fridge for retarding overnight at 5pm. The dough then baked off the first thing in the morning at 5.30 am (I set the timer for oven to be on at 4.45 am so it is preheated and ready for baking). I sliced the loaf for breakfast at 7.30 and packed sandwiches for lunch boxes too.  The whole loaf was consumed by dinner so I have no idea what it would taste like the next day. It was a very tasty loaf. The crust was thin and crunchy, the crumb was moist and soft. It tastes creamy and sweet as if I’ve added sugar to it with no hint of sourness at all. Very delicious bread indeed!


I dedicate this loaf to all the talented bakers here at TFL for their efforts to share the knowledge and experience in artisan bread making. Also I’d like thank Floyd for creating and hosting this wonderful website.

Happy baking everyone!



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