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This last weekend I did a test run of a 3-stage fermentation rye sourdough. I know a little about how rye behaves, so I thought “What could go wrong?”. I chose Hamelman’s Three Stage 70 Percent Sourdough Rye. I recalculated for a 750-gram boule.

The first issue was that the recipe called for medium rye flour. I only have home-milled whole rye. Lance advised getting a 40# mesh to get something close to medium rye. I was keen to proceed anyway and went ahead using whole rye.

The 3-stage process requires various temperatures at each stage. My homemade proofer is quite hard to change the temperature, so I finished up using a 25C fermentation for stages 1 and 2. I used the inbuilt oven proof function for stage 3, which was slightly higher than the 29C required. The final proof was completed in 25C instead of 29C. While all this was happening, I read about the Brod and Taylor proofer some of you guys use. It would have taken all the anxiety away.

I was happy with the result. The baked loaf has a few cracks (apparently good) and had a good sound when I tapped the bottom of the baked loaf. I am now waiting for 24 hours for the crumb to stabilise. I will add a crumb picture tomorrow.

Action items:

Order 40# mesh – done.

Order Brod & Taylor proofer – done.

I am looking forward to repeating this after I get my new gear.

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Pane di oliva verde – Local Breads – Daniel Leader

These are made with a biga that sits overnight in the refrigerator after one-hour bench rest. After mixing and incorporating the chopped green olive, a bulk fermentation of 2 hours at 24C.

Divided into 70-gram portions and shaped into mini baguettes of 150mm (6 inches) mini baguettes. Proofed on a covered baking tray at room temperature about 30 minutes until puffy.

Baked at 230C for 20 minutes.

These are 75% hydration with BF 11.5% protein. IDY was used for leavening. A new experience using this formula and made more interesting by adding chopped green olives. Gentle handling was essential. 



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50% stone-milled whole-wheat flour and 50% bread flour (11.5% protein). Hydration 69%. The levain was 100% hydration with whole-wheat flour.

The final dough did not have an autolyse, just mix until all incorporated and adjust hydration to medium looseness. I hand-kneaded with stretch and folds for 15 minutes, during which I had to let the dough rest occasionally to relax as it resisted the stretch. The dough did not feel very silky at that point. Bulk fermentation for 2 ½ hours with folds every 50 minutes. The change in the feel of the dough was remarkable at each fold. The dough felt noticeably light when I pre-shaped at the intermediate proof. Shaped into an oblong and final proof for 2 hours at 24°C.

Baked in a pre-steamed oven with steam for first 10 minutes. The oven spring was better than I was expecting, that gave a light crumb as promised by Jeffrey Hamelman, and had a warm colour. The crust developed a lovely russet colour.

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My starter is performing better than ever now I have a new regimen. Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough with 15% stone-ground whole wheat flour.

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Today I baked Hamelman’s Deli Rye Bread with caraway seeds. I used 15% freshly milled stone-ground rye that was pre-fermented overnight in an 80% hydration stiff sourdough starter. The overall formula is 66% hydration and includes 1.75% caraway seeds. The dough had a good feel throughout the process and was proofed in a linen couche. I baked the loaf on an oven stone in a pre-steamed oven and steam for the first 10 minutes. The oven spring was particularly good and crumb nice and soft. The flavour is wonderful, slightly tangy and the caraway seeds contributed to a complex flavour profile.

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My liquid white flour starter gets gradually weaker over time, although was created from rye flour. My regimen was to feed my culture a couple of times a week and refrigerate after the starter had ripened on the bench. The culture is 125% hydration and is fed with white bread flour.

The culture was initially strong with good rising power. After about three weeks it becomes weak and has a reduced ability to give a good rise and volume to the loaves. I have to occasionally freshen the starter with stone-ground rye to return its vitality and power.

The problem is that I did not notice the weakened state of my culture until I elaborated the starter to make the levain. The ensuing bake yielded a loaf with poor rise and volume.


I stumbled across Jeffrey Hamelman’s ISO videos. In the Vermont sourdough episode, Hamelman revealed that the culture he maintains at home is a stiff rye sourdough. He gave the formula as 10-gram stiff rye sourdough, 20-gram rye flour and 17-gram water. I calculated the baker's percent to be 50% stiff rye sourdough, 100% rye flour and 85% water. He feeds it every morning and has been doing so for 40 years, without alteration.

I was immediately interested in trying out a stiff rye starter in the hope it would solve my issue.

Furthermore, in the Deli Rye Bread episode, Hamelman again used his stiff rye sourdough to make the Deli Rye Bread. He also included some liquid starter. He does not maintain two starters, only the stiff rye sourdough. When he needs a liquid white flour levain, he first converts some stiff sourdough to a liquid starter over two feeds.

I was convinced that this would provide me with a consistently lively starter that I could rely upon.

My experience

I fired up my Excel spreadsheet and made the calculation: Liquid stater to a stiff rye sourdough to match Hamelman's.

The process is in two stages:

1.       Convert the liquid starter to a stiff starter. This is only needed to be performed once. To 56 gram of my 125% hydration liquid starter, I added 68-gram of stone-ground rye flour. Cover and leave on the bench until next morning.

2.       Commence Hamelman's regimen. Mix 10-gram stiff rye culture with 17-gram water. Mix in 20-gram stone-ground rye flour.

I repeat the feeding once a day first thing every morning.

Using the stiff rye starter

Many of the sourdough formulae I bake with requires a liquid levain of 125% hydration.

Again with my spreadsheet, I calculated that I could easily create the liquid levain over two feedings. At the time of feeding the stiff starter in the morning, I use the leftover starter to make a small amount of 125% liquid starter: 37-gram stiff rye starter, 20-gram water and 9-gram bread flour. Then leave on the bench until about 5 pm that day. I then elaborate the starter to make the levain for the next day. The levain requirements for a Vermont sourdough is to pre-ferment 15% of the overall flour. Bread flour 100%, water 125% and mature liquid starter 10%. (I put the levain in a proofing box overnight at 24C). The levain is ripe when needed at 7 am the next morning.


The elaborated levain was very bubbly and appeared lively, more so that I have ever seen.

Dough development

I noticed at the end of the bulk fermentation, that the dough had a nice feel of lightness, and had good structure.

It was easy to pre-shape and shape into an oblong. I placed the dough into a banneton to proof.  After 2 hours I checked the dough and determined it was ready for the oven, half an hour earlier than the usual proofing time.

The dough was easy to score after being inverted onto a wooden peel. It did not flatten out on the peel and held it's structure.


I baked the loaf on a stone in a pre-steamed oven, and steam for the first 10 minutes after loading. Finished in a drying oven.

The oven spring was much better than before. The ear and gringe opened up nicely.

This will now be my new sourdough starter regimen.





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I was inspired by alfanso making baguettes using Hamelman's Sourdough Seed Bread recipe. His results looked stunning with great crust colour and crumb. Today I made the same recipe into an oblong loaf. Reasonably happy, except I was expecting more volume and more open crumb. Still tasted great. 75% hydration, 25% seeds; sunflower, sesame and flax (linseed). Definitely will make this again, but will extend the final proof. I didn't retard the final proof but gave it 2 1/2 hours at 24C. Ideas welcome.

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I have never baked a ciabatta in all the years of baking. I wanted to take some nice bread to friends for late afternoon drinks that would pair nicely with cheese and selected wines. My usual bake for these events is baguettes with a poolish, but I wanted to try something. I went with Hamelman's ciabatta with biga which is a 73% hydration loaf.

The result was better than I was expecting, The crumb is not as open as some prefer, but I don't like the holes so large that the toppings fall through. I may experiment with upping the hydration a few points to test my nerve.



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My second bake of the Swiss Farmhouse Bread. This time I was able to source organic raisins and make the raisin yeast water successfully.  My first attempt at yeast water failed due to impurities on the raisins, so I resorted to making the yeast water using kumquats and honey.

This time I made the raisin yeast water using organic raisins and was successful. I also changed the container setup using an airlock lid and a cling film layer in contact with the water. I observed the development daily and on the sixth day, the bubbles were very active.

Setup day 1

Day 6 - ready for build 1

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Swiss Farmhouse Bread – “Bread. A baker’s book of techniques and recipes, 2nd Edition” by Jeffrey Hamelman.

My experiment into the world of yeast water bread was inspired by an organised community bake on the Fresh Loaf bread site. The members have such a wealth of experience and expertise.  When things do not go to plan, experts jump in with great advice. I learned a lot by participating and through others experience.

This bread contains walnuts and raisins and uses raisin yeast water for leavening. The first step is to make the yeast water and takes 5 to 6 days.

My proofer is set at 25°C.

Yeast Water – My first attempt with raisins failed due to non-organic raisins coated with oil. I was told that I could produce yeast water using any organic fruit.  I have a kumquat tree in our yard, so thought to experiment (it’s winter here and my options are limited). My second attempt was successful using kumquats and honey. The yeast water was ready for the first build on day five.

The first build took 8 hours to mature. I left the second build overnight for 14 hours which was slightly over; 12 hours would have been good.

I recalculated the ingredients for a 680-gram dough. After mixing, the dough felt quite wet but had reasonable development. Mixed in walnuts and raisins by hand. Desired dough temperature within range (24.5°C).

Bulk fermentation for 3 hours with a letter fold halfway.

Pre-shape, bench rest and shape. Final proof for 2 hours. I chose a boule banneton on this occasion.

I scored the boule with scissors just before loading into the oven and bake the loaf in a pre-steamed oven for 36 minutes; 232°C for first fifteen minutes then lower to 221°C to avoid excess darkening due to the raisins.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this experiment as I was able to meet all the timeframes in Hamelman’s recipe. Temperature control is important for success and schedule. I was sceptical about yeast water, but now I am convinced it has its place in my arsenal and was easier than first thought. No waste!

Taste – complete absence of sour, highlights of the walnuts and raisins blended well with the crumb. Not overly sweet.

Crumb – Not dense and enjoyable.

Flour – Unbleached bread flour 11.5% protein (90%) plus freshly milled whole-wheat (10%).

Further experimentation: change nuts and fruit, leave them out, increase whole wheat.


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