The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

dmsnyder's blog

dmsnyder's picture


I'm rather fond of challah, but my wife isn't. Most challah is too rich and too sweet for her taste. The closer to brioche it tastes, the less she likes it. So, when I made “My Sourdough Challah” from Maggie Glezer's “A Blessing of Bread,” and both my wife and I loved it, I was delighted.

Of course, all challah was made with sourdough before the introduction of commercial yeast. Since then, according to Glezer, challah has tended to be made sweeter and richer. Sourdough challah has a “moister, creamier texture” and stays fresh longer that the yeasted variety. Glezer's version has a delightful sourdough tang which lends it an almost “sweet and sour” flavor. It is wonderful plain, as toast and as French toast.



The starter

Amount (gms)

Active firm sourdough starter


Warm water


Bread flour




The final dough

Warm water


Large Eggs

3 eggs + 1 egg for glazing the loaves.



Vegetable oil


Mild honey


Or Granulated sugar


Bread flour


Sourdough starter

All of the above+

    * I added an additional 3 tablespoons or so of flour during mixing, because the dough seemed too wet. This may have been needed due to my using more starter than Glezer specifies. See below.

    + Glezer says to use only 200 gms of starter, but I used all of it (250 gms)


  1. The night before baking, mix the starter and ferment it at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

  2. In the morning, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the starter in the water, then mix in the 3 eggs, salt, honey and oil until completely combined.

  3. Mix in all the bread flour until it forms a shaggy mass.

  4. Knead the dough on the bench or in a stand mixer until it is smooth and there is moderate gluten development. Add small amounts of water or flour to achieve the desired consistency. The dough should be quite firm.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it tightly. Ferment for about 2 hours. It may not rise much.

  6. To make two 1 pound loaves, divide the dough into two equal portions, and divide each portion into the number of pieces needed for the type of braiding you plan to do. (I did 3-strand braids.)

  7. Form each piece into a ball and allow them to rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten.

  8. Form each piece into a strand about 14” long. (I like Glezer's technique for this. On an un-floured board, flatten each piece with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to about ¼ inch thickness. Then roll up each piece into a tight tube. Using the palms of your hands, lengthen each piece by rolling each tube back and forth on the bench with light pressure. Start with your hands together in the middle of the tube and, as you roll

    it, move your hands gradually outward. Taper the ends of the tube by rotating your wrists slightly so that the thumb side of your hand is slightly elevated, as you near the ends of the tube.)

  9. Braid the loaves.

  10. Place each loaf on parchment paper in half-sheet pans (I used a quarter-sheet pan for each loaf.) Cover well with plasti-crap or place the pans in a food grade plastic bag, and proof at room temperature until the loaves have tripled in volume. (Glezer says this will take “about 5 hours.” My kitchen was rather cool. I proofed for 6 hours.)

  11. Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the upper third of the oven.

  12. Brush each loaf with an egg lightly beaten with a pinch of salt.

  13. Optionally, sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.

  14. Bake until done – 25-35 minutes for 1 pound loaves.

  15. Cool completely before slicing.


Submitted to YeastSpotting on SusanFNP's Wildyeastblog


dmsnyder's picture

Jewish Sour Rye, eh?

Hmmmm ....

Say, this isn't bad!

You did say there's more, didn't you?

Who asked why I bake?


dmsnyder's picture

We're going away for Thanksgiving for the first time in over 30 years. The good news is that we will be with both of our sons and their families for the first time in several years. And we'll be together for nearly a week, which will be wonderful.

If we were at home, I'd bake differently, but I need to take breads that travel well and keep well. I am not planning on baking there. So, here's the plan:

Polish Cottage Rye (from Daniel Leader's "Local Breads")

San Joaquin Soudough (2 lb bâtards)

San Joaquin Sourdough crumb (I cut the one that's "staying home")

And, just in case we get tired of turkey and really crave a corn beef sandwich ...

Jewish Sour Rye (from Greenstein's "Secrets of a Jewish Baker")


dmsnyder's picture

We're invited for dinner tomorrow at the home of one of my favorite high school teachers. He and his wife have become our good friends over the years. I offered to bring bread and decided to bake two different breads that I think they will enjoy: The Miche, Pointe-à-Callière from Hamelman's "Bread" and my own San Joaquin Sourdough. (This version)

My wife thought the miche would be just too much, so I divided the dough and baked two boules of 820 gms each.

Boules, Pointe-à-Callière

Rather a "bold bake" of these, but I expect the caramelized crust to be very tasty. 

Boules, Pointe-à-Callière crumb

Here's another photo of the boule that's going to dinner.


And the San Joaquin Sourdough. I think it was a bit under-proofed. The oven spring was ... exuberant. 

San Joaquin Sourdough 


Submitted to Yeast Spotting


dmsnyder's picture

Today, I baked Hamelman's "Normandy Apple Bread" for the first time. This bread is a pain au levain spiked with instant yeast. It uses a firm starter and bread flour and whole wheat in the final dough. The apple flavor comes from chopped dried apples and apple cider.

Jeff (JMonkey) posted the formula and instructions for this bread May 19, 2007, so I won't duplicate them here. For those interesting in making this bread, Jeff's entry can be found here: Hamelman's Normandy Apple Bread

I followed Hamelman's instructions pretty much to the letter. I machine mixed for about 7 or 8 minutes and did a French fold before bulk fermentation. I did one more fold after one hour of a 2 hour bulk fermentation. I had to refrigerate the formed loaves for about 3 hours to work around an afternoon outing. I then let them proof about 60-75 minutes at room temperature before baking.

The loaves smelled wonderful while baking. The crust was crunchy. The flavor was somewhat disappointing. The apples do give pleasant little bursts of sourness, but the crumb flavor was not my favorite. It was basically like a light whole wheat levain, and that is not a type of bread I particularly like.

Your taste (undoubtedly) varies, and you may enjoy it more than I.

Then again, the Vermont Sourdough had such spectacular flavor, anything else would be hard to compare. Again, that's my taste.



dmsnyder's picture

These were made with the San Francisco Sourdough starter from 

Vermont Sourdough on the left. San Francisco Sourdough on the right.

Please note the 3 distinct shades of browning of the Vermont Sourdough bloom. This is a sign that the blooming occurred gradually over a large portion of the bake. To me, this is an indication that the stars (loaf proofing, scoring, baking stone temperature, oven steaming, etc.) were all aligned propitiously. The oven gods smiled on these loaves, as you can see from their smiles' reflection on the loaves. (Eeeeew ... That's corney! Well, that 's what writing while listening to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 does. Consider yourselves fortunate I wasn't listening to the Dvorak Cello Concerto!)

Okay! Enough, already! On to crumb shots ...

San Francisco Sourdough from "Crust & Crumb" 

The crust was crunch-chewy. The crumb was a bit less open than expected. (The loaves were a somewhat over-proofed and collapsed slightly when scored.) The flavor was inoffensive but had no particular wonderfulness. It was mildly to moderately sour, which was what I'd wanted.

Vermont Sourdough from "Bread"

The crust was crunchy and nutty-sweet. The crumb was about as expected. It could have been more open, but I'm not unhappy with it. The crumb was quite chewy and the flavor was marvelous! Complex, sweet and moderately sour. It was close to my ideal for sourdough bread. 

The Vermont sourdough did have whole rye (10%) and the San Francisco Sourdough was straight white flour (except for a trace of whole wheat and rye in the starter feeding). Both of these formulas can make blow your socks off delicious bread. I credit the rye with the superior flavor in the Vermont Sourdough today. I certainly recommend a flour mix of 90% white and 10% rye to anyone who hasn't tried it. You don't taste "rye," but it does enhance the overall flavor greatly.


dmsnyder's picture


Ed Wood, who sells sourdough cultures from various parts of the world, insists that a culture will maintain its unique combination of yeast and lactobacillus species and, thus, its unique growth characteristics and flavor, forever. My experience has been otherwise. I've bought his San Francisco Sourdough culture on two previous occasions. Both times, after a couple weeks of feeding, they produced bread with the characteristic San Francisco sourdough flavor, but after six months or so the flavor changed. The eventual culture was in no way "bad," it was just different. I assume the original organisms were replaced by others, and, from what I've read, the new ones derived from the flour with which I was feeding my culture.

My understanding is that the yeast and bacteria which inhabit grains are mostly on the outer surface, that is the bran. I have fed my starters with a mixture of white flour, whole wheat and whole rye for some time. Also, I keep my starters at about 75% hydration. Dr. Wood does not address what kind of flour one should use for feeding starters, but he does recommend keeping the San Francisco culture as a liquid. I believe this favors the homofermentive (lactic acid producing) bacteria over the heterofermentive (lactic and acidic acid producing) bacteria which prefer a less liquid (and cooler) environment.

With these considerations in mind, I have purchased Dr. Wood's San Francisco Sourdough starter a third time. I am feeding it only white flour. I still use whole grains in final levain builds, but I will not feed them to my "stock" cultures.

It is now a month since I activated the SF SD culture. I've baked a few breads with it, but I made no special effort to bring out the distinctive SF SD flavor to date. The breads I baked were very tasty – among the best tasting I've made. The dough rose very well, indicating good yeast activity. The sourness has been mild.

I figure it's time to start following the procedures I understand to optimize the culture for making breads with the authentic, distinctive San Francisco Sourdough flavor.

The first goal is to generate a mature starter with good numbers of active yeast and lactobacilli. Second, to have this starter ferment at the hydration levels and temperatures that enhance the production of the “right” balance of lactic and acetic acid. Third, to mix and ferment a dough with the desired flavor balance.

Incidentally, for this bake, I also incorporated Eric's (ehanner) recently endorsed addition of a small amount of Durum flour to a white flour mix to enhance flavor.


Penultimate levain build


Ingredient weights (gms)

Baker's percentages

Stock starter (67% hydration)



KAF AP flour








Ultimate levain build


Ingredient weights (gms)

Baker's percentages

Activated levain



KAF AP flour








Final dough


Ingredient weights (gms)

Baker's percentages

Ripe levain



Fine durum flour (from KAF)



KAF European Artisan-style flour











  1. Make the penultimate levain by dissolving the firm starter in the water and mixing in the flour. Ferment at room temperature until it is actively bubbling but not foaming. (8-10 hrs) I mixed this early one morning and let it ferment while I was at work.

  2. Make the ultimate levin by dissolving the penultimate levain in the water and mixing in the flour. Ferment at room temperature for 2-3 hours, then at 78-85ºF for another 10-12 hours. I mixed this after dinner and placed it in a warmed microwave oven over night. In the morning, I refrigerated it while I was at work.

  3. Mix the final dough by dissolving the ripe levain (Feed the extra and save it for another bread.). Add the flours and mix to a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let it sit for 20-60 minutes. (Autolyse)

  4. Add the salt and mix thoroughly. Knead by french folding or in a stand mixer until the gluten is moderately developed. If using a KitchenAid mixer, this dough will not completely clean the sides of the mixer. With the flours I used, this was a moderately slack and somewhat sticky dough, even though the hydration was actually lower than what I most often use for sourdough breads these days. I assume this was because I have generally been using about 10% whole wheat or whole rye flour, which absorbs more water.

  5. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover it tightly. Note the volume of the dough.

  6. After 20 minutes, “stretch and fold in the bowl” for 30 strokes. Cover tightly.

  7. Repeat Step 6. two more times.

  8. After the third “stretch and fold in the bowl,” let the dough rest for another 20 minutes, then transfer it to a lightly floured board and do a stretch and fold (“letter fold”). Return the dough to the bowl.

  9. After 45 minutes, do a second stretch and fold on the board. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly. Continue fermenting until the dough has doubled in volume from the original volume that you noted in Step 5.

  10. Transfer the dough to the board. Divide it into two equal pieces, and pre-form each piece into a round (if making boules) or log (if making bâtards). Cover the pieces and let them rest for 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten.

  11. Form your loaves and transfer them to bannetons. Cover with plasti-crap or place each banneton in a food-grade plastic bag.

  12. Cold retard the loaves until ready to bake. (12-16 hours at 40ºF)

  13. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and allow them to warm up and continue proofing until they have expanded by 50-75%

  14. One hour before baking, preheat your oven to 500ºF with a baking stone and your steaming method of choice in place.

  15. Pre-steam the oven.

  16. Transfer the loaves to your peel. Score the loaves. Transfer the loaves to the baking stone. As anticipated, the loaves spread some when transferred to the peel and spread more when scored.

  17. Steam the oven and turn the temperature down to 460ºF.

  18. After 12 minutes, remove your steaming source. (If it is already dry, you can leave it in place, but do open the oven door for 10-20 seconds to vent the steam.

  19. Continue baking until the loaves are done – about 18-20 minutes more. (Their internal temperature is 205ºF, and thumping their bottom gives a hollow sound.)

  20. Leave the loaves in the turned off oven with the door ajar for 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  21. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack.

  22. Cool thoroughly before slicing. (At least 2 hours)


The crust is very crisp and crackly. The crumb is moist, tender and quite full of lovely holes. The flavor is sweet and "clean" with no perceptible sourness. This is a wonderfully tasting bread, but the absence of any sour flavor is a mystery.

My next experiment needs to be to bake the "San Francisco Sourdough" from Reinhart's "Crust&Crumb." If that is not sour, the lactobacilli must have missed the plane from Idaho!


Submitted to Yeast Spotting.


dmsnyder's picture


My San Francisco Sourdough starter from is now two weeks old. I made another pair of my San Joaquin Sourdough breads with it yesterday. I modified my formula somewhat. I used a 60% hydration starter fed with AP flour only. I increased the amount of starter by 50%. I used KAF AP flour for the dough. I used no added instant yeast.




Baker's Percentage

Firm starter

150 gms


KAF AP flour

450 gms


BRM Dark Rye flour

50 gms



360 gms



10 gms




  1. Mix the firm starter (1:3:5 – Starter:Water:Flour). Let it ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.

  2. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the starter and dissolve it in the water.

  3. Add the flours and mix to a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let it sit for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix thoroughly using the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

  5. Repeat the “stretch and fold in the bowl” for 30 strokes 2 more times at 30 minute intervals.

  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and do one stretch and fold.

  7. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Note the volume of the dough. Cover the bowl tightly. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

  8. Repeat the stretch and fold on the board. Reform the dough into a ball and replace it in the bowl.

  9. Allow the dough to continue fermenting until the volume has increased 50%.

  10. Cold retard the dough for about 20 hours. (The dough had more than doubled and was full of large and small bubbles.)

  11. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and immediately transfer it to a lightly floured board.

  12. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape them into logs or rounds, depending on whether you want to make boules or bâtards. Cover the pieces with plasti-crap and let them rest for 60 minutes. (Give them a shorter rest if the kitchen is very warm. You don't want them to expand very much, if any.)

  13. Pre-heat the oven to 500ºF with a baking stone and your steaming method of choice in place.

  14. Shape the pieces and place them in bannetons or on a couche. Cover the loaves and proof them until they have expanded by 50-70%. (30-45 minutes)

  15. Pre-steam the oven. Then transfer the loaves to a peel (or equivalent). Score them, and load them onto your baking stone.

  16. Turn the oven down to 460ºF.

  17. After 12 minutes, remove your steaming apparatus. Turn the loaves 180º, if necessary for even browning.

  18. Continue to bake the loaves for another 15-18 minutes or until their internal temperature is 205ºF.

  19. Turn off the oven, but leave the loaves on the stone with the oven door ajar for another 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  20. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack.

  21. Cool the loaves completely before slicing.


The loaves were already singing when I took them out of the oven. The crust developed crackles, which can be credited to the use of AP rather than higher gluten flour and the drying in the oven (Step 19., above).


The crumb was nice and open.


The crust was crisp when first cooled and crunchy/chewy the next morning. The flavor was sweet and wheaty, like a good baguette, with the barest hint of sourness. This was po

ssibly the best tasting San Joaquin Sourdough I've made. I think I'm going to stick with this version. Next time, I may use this dough to make baguettes.


Submitted to YeastSpotting



dmsnyder's picture

These breads were made with my recently activated San Francisco Sourdough starter from I used 100 gms of starter fed with a mix of AP, WW and Rye flours, 500 gms KAF Sir Lancelot flour, 360 gms water, 10 gms salt. The formed loaves were cold retarded for about 14 hours.

The flavor is very nice. It is a little more sour than yesterday's San Joaquin Sourdough, as expected, but still only mildly sour. I'm hoping the distinctive SF SD flavor will develop over a few weeks. Stay tuned.


dmsnyder's picture

I am again trying Ed Wood's "San Francisco Sourdough" starter. I began activating the dry starter just a week ago. It took about 5 days to get it up to speed. This is the first bread I've baked with this new starter. It's my "San Joaquin Sourdough" made without any added instant yeast and with KAF Bread Flour.

My San Joaquin Sourdough is based on Anis Bouabsa's method for baguettes, which utilizes a long cold retardation at the bulk fermentation stage. The flavor of the bread was what i usually get with this formula. It is very mildly sour. There was no distinctive "San Francisco Sourdough" flavor, but the starter is still very new, and the flavor should develop over the next month or so. We'll see.

I have another couple loaves shaped and cold retarding to bake tomorrow. Those were also made with this starter but with a more conventional method. I expect them to be more sour in flavor.



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