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BXMurphy's blog

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Can somebody slap and fold me??

Ever since discovering this place, I've enjoyed reading and learning all sorts of new things and making online friends. I'd spend hours on my little phone reading article after article...

And then I stumbled onto something I never knew existed, The Fresh Loaf Handbook

I was searching about salt and one of the pages was at the top of the list. And it was a part of a larger, most excellent handbook.

I then searched "handbook" to read more about it and somebody mentioned that it was part of the top navigation menu. *i* didn't see it. Where was it?...

I turned the phone sideways... and... a whole new view opened up! Dummy! I should have thought of that before.

Isn't it funny how you think the world that you see is the only world that exists. Kind of like Plato's Allegory of the Cave (which is very cool). I have to try breaking paradigms more often.


BXMurphy's picture

Dear Diary,

As you know, it's been four years since our last sourdough bake. Long time, huh? Do you think we'll remember anything?

It was fun rocking out Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice Solution (TL;DR... go to the end of Part 2) for whipping up a new starter from scratch.

And then it was frustrating when nothing happened for what seemed like forever. Thank you for keeping me from hitting the stupid thing with a baseball bat. You knew better.

We kept at it, didn't we? Just you and me! We loved reading all the posts here from more experienced bakers. You know I've only done three dozen loaves in total so reading was better than swinging the bat.

But what started from a lifeless mass of flour and pineapple juice on October 30 came to life when I came home on the morning of November 11. That was about a week and a half of patience!

Anyway, we began the starter with some whole wheat i had kicking around on that Friday at the end of October because you know how I think... I don't.

Remember how we learned that thinking gets in our way? Its better to don't think, right? That's the Irish way. And I've had interesting "times," if you will, that kept me away from you. Some of those times were even fun! But let me keep on topic...

I shopped on Sunday, November 1, and switched the starter feed to dark rye flour and switched to bottled water on Nov. 3 because Ms. Wink said I could (man, her post is long, isn't it?)

Somewhere along the way, after following Debra Wink's instructions to the letter, she let me off the chain! I free-styled. I learned that my schedule only allowed for one feeding of the starter every day so I doubled the amount of food. Not bad! It worked!

I moved into 1:2:2 which is 1 part lifeless starter, 2 parts water, and two parts dark rye. And, we read where we should stop feeding it for 2-3 days to "let the acid build."

Whatever, don't think. Just do what they tell you to do. And, of course, it worked. It always does when I get out of my way.

But!... Weren't we overjoyed on November 11 when we saw that our starter had doubled? And didn't we like the larger feeds so the only work we did was stir every 12 hours and feed every 24? Remember when we saw the starter double in 12 hours after we stirred it down and ready for its next feed? We like our new schedule.

Playing with the starter and reading The Fresh Loaf is fun. But, we're starting to think again. Not good. Not good at all...

Dear Diary, you're always here for me as I wind down for the day. You watched me build a levain at 1:45 this morning with only 38g of the1:2:2 rye starter, 38g bottled water, and 38g bread flour. Yes, I reserved some starter to keep it going but that'll give us the 100g of a separate levain that the instructions tell us (and a little left over for jar-and-spoon-stickage).

("Levain!" Har! Har! Fancy-Schmancy name for Dead Starter Walking. It is doomed to its fate in the oven. Ain't these kids precious with their fancy words? Pshaw!)

We're going to do the 1-2-3 No Knead, Do-Nothing Bread exactly like they tell us to do sometime this weekend.

We don't know WHEN we're going to bake, but the dough and instructions will tell us. It's better to don't think. Just bake.

Yeah, the starter is 3-4 days active. What, you think it's too soon? Don't think. We either make bread, croutons, or bird food. Either way, it's a win, right? Right? What could possibly wrong?

I'm sure I'll write again. Like soon. Not like some of those other "times."

Yours, dearly,


BXMurphy's picture

Dear Diary,

Thus spake DanAyo, a goodly baker:

"The flop became a precious treasure because I learned something new."


This is my new mantra! I love this.

Here's a man staring into the jaws of defeat and sees a victory. And he's no fool.

May beginners like me take note. This... is the name of the sourdough game. NEVER get discouraged!

This is a hobby for me. This is how it's SUPPOSED to be. Else, it's no stinkin' fun.

Embrace the challenge. Remember how even today I want to hit my f*#&@ing starter with a f!%@ing  baseball bat because it won't f@&$ing bubble. I hate that starter. Bubble, you stupid starter! BUBBLE!

Remember why you took up a new hobby in Covid-ridden 2020. Look back at how far you've come and smile at the satisfaction of everything you've learned and the obstacles you've overcome. And always remember the sage wisdom of DanAyo and all the other bakers who have enjoyed the same success that you now enjoy today.

Happy baking!


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Dear blog,

Just checking in today. I just cut into dabrownman's Deli Rye having baked it last night. It was 60% bread flour, 40% rye at 75% hydration. I used 15% levain at same ratios with about 7% bread spices and 2% salt. Total dough weight was 800 g. The flour came straight out of bags of King Arthur's finest. No sprouting, milling, or sifting. His recipe is here:

The bread was SO darned good! WOW, the bread spices are amazing! I can't believe a new sourdough baker, having only started in June, could bake a bread like this!

This bread was baked in a loaf pan. The crust was soft. The crumb so delightfully likewise! It was tight with no big holes - a PERFECT sandwich loaf! Good rise, wonderful color. I can slice this as thinly as I like.

I can't stop eating it! It has a nice licorice kind of flavor with just a small crunch from the seeds. Not even a crunch, just something there to let you know that it's not just "bread." The seeds were added to the 20 minute autolyse.

What I especially like about this bread was how wonderfully it fit into my schedule! Since I only have maybe three hours at night after work and before it's lights out, all the fermenting, proofing, and baking was spread out over three days. My only wish is an easy way to share photos from my phone.

I love relaxing with my friends on TFL after work. It is the most enjoyable part of my day... out in the backyard with a cigar and a Mai Tai during the first days of autumn in New England. So beautiful, such great company on TFL. And no easy way to share a photo without going inside to sit in front of a computer and ruining a nice night out.

My bread is not perfect but it WILL win the one award most important to me: Brian Murphy's Favorite Bread Award.

I'd like to thank my parents (Hi, Mommy! Daddy looking down from above), my wife and family, the cast and crew, friends from TFL... :)

Seriously... just a nice bread that I'm proud of and happy that I can share what I can on TFL with folks who understand.


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I've been incredibly lazy for the past three weeks or so. Beats me why. I'd like to blame the unbearably hot summer we've had but I know myself too well. No excuses. Just lazy.

It's turning cooler and just in time! I'm running out of the 12 loaves I baked a few weeks back to give me the practice and confidence I need in proofing and shaping bread. I've said it before and I'll say it again: practice, Practice, PRACTICE!

That 12-loaf weekend bake taught me so much: starter and levain timing to maximize time to oven with only one loaf in at once. I learned what a proper proof looked like, what dough should look like, and how to get consistent results.

I just fed my sorely-neglected yeast water. I'm liking it very much!

I've been gearing up to try dabrownman's easy rye recipe. I think you can find it under a post entitled "Why is it always 500° F?," if you're interested. I was pleased to see he baked a rye bread this week. I wonder if he was tweaking me or if I'm just being vain. Again. :) He's a good man.

Speaking of lazy... it's been so bad that I haven't even found it in me to do the math to build a NMNF seed into a 75% hydration 60/40 rye/bread flour levain.

By coincidence, I found a reply from Elagins  (Stan Ginseng, The Rye Baker, and now author) on how to do the math with percentages. I cringe at my irreverent early posts but am grateful to everyone here who puts up with me and helps me and all us newer bakers. Thank you, everyone!

Where's that calculator...?


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I mixed up some NMNF starter on 6/25/16. I thought I'd share some at a friend's July 4th cookout so I pulled some of the NMNF out, added more rye to make a thick dough and kneaded it in. Rolled it up, and wrapped in plastic wrap, ready to share my science project. There were no takers. Silly rabbits.

These dough balls, about the size of jumbo marbles, have been sitting in the refrigerator ever since. Wrapped in plastic, placed in a plastic container, and stored in a zip-loc baggie. Today, I thought I'd take one out for a spin and start Ru007 and Dani3ll3's oat bread.

The dough ball was dark brown on the surface and kind of pink on the inside. Kind of reminded me of undercooked meatballs. I'm thinking I have some sort of anaerobic thing going on.

Using dabrownman's levain build chart, I mixed 7g of meatball starter with 14g of rye and 14g of water. I'll probably switch to whole wheat after this first build since that's really what the recipe calls for. I don't have a full 12-hour stretch to do a straight build so I'll be retarding some of the builds and picking up where I left off.

I'm baking this loaf for my kid brother's surprise 50th birthday party. I have six younger brothers and sisters. My mom will be there, too. Plus a bunch of strangers that I suppose have some sort of connection to my brother. I don't really keep up with them. I'm figuring the meatball starter won't do too much damage and even if it does, I wouldn't notice.

I'm going to have to sleep on this while the levain builds. I'm thinking that the refreshing and baking will kill Bad Things before they kill my younger siblings and given that I have so many of them, I'm willing to see how things turn out. But Mommy's there, too, and I only have one of her. Maybe I shouldn't retard some of the steps and just let the levain rise and fall until I get around to it?

If you were me, would you bake the loaf, let it cool, and test it on the dog first (knowing that you're bringing a pre-sliced and unimpressive-looking bread because you've cut into it) or would you just bring a cool-looking bread and hope they don't notice that "something" at the party just killed them?


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I've noticed that my dining room is consistently 79°F this summer with the air conditioning on. What a great time to try making yeast water following dabrownman's Yeast Water Primer.

I bought my organic raisins and apples at the local foo-foo health nut store, mashed and cubed per instructions and will worry the mess to death for the next few days with shaking and fanning, honeying it up and feeding it more oranges than I would ordinarily eat myself.

Are bread heads out of their minds? :)


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This weekend's bake was a bread with honey in it. I decided to try to get a honey swirl in my bread by flattening the dough, smearing some honey on it and rolling it up. Since honey is 17% water, I thought I'd make a paste to equal the hydration of the dough.

This recipe is based on David Snyder's Sourdough from San Francisco Baking Institute's Artisan II class. I think this recipe is PERFECT for Beginner Baker II students as it's complicated enough to stretch your brain but has enough detail that you can't get lost.

I deviated by using 350g King Arthur all-purpose flour, 100g whole wheat, 10g spelt, and 77g rye. I autolysed the flour for about an hour and when mixing in the levain, I adjusted the hydration with lemon juice by adding a tablespoon or two.

Since I was unsure how the spread would go and I was the originator of the Honey Challenge, I decided that I'd better get some honey into the dough one way or the other. I added two tablespoons or so of honey into the dough as I was mixing it.

I bulk fermented the dough for three hours and then things went south when I tried to spread on the 1/8 cup of honey. As soon as the honey hit the dough, the whole thing turned to goo! It was such a mess. Honey was oozing through the dough as soon as I tried to roll it. I then abandoned all hope and tried to form a boule but honey was squirting out all over the place.

You can't believe how crest-fallen I felt. Here I was, a new baker challenging old hands to a honey bake and failing miserably. I just wanted to chuck the whole pile of honey and dough into the trash can. Everything was so sticky - the dough made even moreso by all that honey.

With the dough and honey running all over the place, I decided that I'd at least practice doing some slap and folds since I really haven't had a high hydration dough in my sourdough journey. If nothing else, this mess would be put to good use with practicing technique. I can't even begin to tell you how slaps and folds work with a goodly amount of honey in it! I pressed on and, wouldn't you know it, that dough came together!! I was SO SURPRISED!

So, in for a penny, in for a pound... I pre-shaped, rested for 30 minutes or so, and then shaped into a very firm boule - like a meatball. Very tight. I was pretty angry at myself and didn't really care about the bread. I thought it would be trash but at least I got some technique practice and, you know, everything must bake. I pre-heated the Dutch oven to 500ºF, plopped the dough in and turned the oven down to 425ºF for 12 minutes. Removed the cover and baked for five minutes. I removed the loaf and baked on the stone for another five minutes. I then let it go 10 minutes in a turned-off oven with the door ajar.

My friends, I'm pleased to report that this is my BEST bread so far! The crust was so deep and dark; that same mahogany color that I see all the time on TFL. The crust went soft as it cooled so that it was more chewy than crunchy but the toasty-caramelization was unlike anything I've ever tasted. Kind of salty-sweet, dusty with a little charcoal tang. The crumb was soft and tender but with a little tooth to let you know that this was a special bread. It tasted so wheaty with rye highlights. I was surprised that I didn't taste more honey but it was there in the background and came out in the aftertaste. For me, THIS is what bread tastes like! I'll never go back to store-bought again.


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Let's repeat the King Arthur Flour Classic Sourdough Bread and really nail that down before I try anything more complicated. The recipe makes two loaves but let's just make one over and over again with an eye towards practicing a baking schedule to fit everything easily into my day. My prediction is that the levain will rise 75% in three hours.

The two week old 100% starter is doubling reliably in about five hours but there isn't enough. I need 113g. I only have 100g on hand.

Yanking out 50g peak starter, I added 32g water, 32g flour. The flour in my starter is 100/25/10 KAFAP/WW/WG dark rye. My build uses the same flour mix.

It's 80°F at 7:00 p.m. in the kitchen.

The question in my mind is the ratio for the build. I want a fast doubling before bedtime so I can put the first batch of dough (got to find the name for that first dough dump) in the refrigerator and continue in the morning.


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