The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

JOHN01473's blog

JOHN01473's picture

1, I guess that when the penny finally drops and you understand something that's a good thing, the fact that its two years later makes me a slow learner. I have been struggling to make a sourdough that I am satisfied with and today I got another big step closer to that end. It was not perfect, but I know what to do better next time, so that's good for me. The two-year-old penny drop was my baking mentor showed me about testing to see if the dough is proved enough. It is this revelation that was good today. I had clearly never understood what he told me. In a recent post from "dabrownman", he explained this simple test. I think it's so vital that I wanted to pass it on.

"Jamb your index finger in the dough up to the first knuckle and see how the hole rebounds.

If it rebounds quickly it needs more time.

If it rebounds slowly - time for the oven

If it doesn't you are over proofed a lot".

Well when I did this I was taken back to what my baking mentor told me two years ago - kerching! - the penny dropped. He told me to wet my middle finger and dip it into flour then prod the loaf up to the knuckle and how does it bounce back.

Well today's loaves passed the prodding test for proofing they were baked and I got some oven spring. I have to say I in the past I would have left them a lot longer and that's how I was getting soggy crumb and no oven spring.

2, I also discovered that my oven tells lies. The internal thermometer I put inside the oven - it tells me that the 250c on the dial outside is actually 220c inside the oven. So today I baked the loaves until I got the internal temp to 96 C or 205 F in the middle of the loaf. In the past I baked at 220c, the thermometer tells me that it is really 210c). I never tested the internal temperature, but I suppose I know now.

3, I had too much dough @ 2lbs for my small pans and not really enough for my larger pans. If I had thought, what I should have done was correctly fill the smaller pans to half full. Next time I will get this right.

4, I also learned what effect starter hydration makes. I made one loaf with starter @ 66% hydration and another with starter @ 90% hydration. The 90% hydration had more oven spring, a better crust and better crumb and most importantly a better taste than the 66%.

5, the recipe I use originally calls for 100g of starter @100% hydration. In the past I have baked it at what I now know is 60% hydration starter. This 90% shows me the difference. Today I took 10g of starter @ 60% hydration and fed it 30g of flour and 30g of water. After 4 1/2 hours it doubled in size. The second feed was 45g of flour and 48g of water, this gives me 163g of starter @ 100%. When that has doubled I will make up my sponge to mature overnight to bulk up and bake tomorrow.

Sorry, I realise I have rambled on here, but I learned a lot today - gives me real heart to carry on.


Cat and Mouse

JOHN01473's picture


due to a medical emergency i was unable to attend to my finishing my bread making today.
my sponge was matured overnight and i should have completed the bulking up and baking stage today.
due to a medical emergency all day i was unable to finish those processes.

my big question is can i save my sponge and finish it tomorrow or has it had it.
it does smell quite beery and has a lot of bubbles on the surface, but it seems quite thin compared to how it normally is.
it is currently sitting at 70-80f in the airing cupboard in a bowl in a proving bag.

do i feed it and fridge it - fridge OR as is or just throw it away?





JOHN01473's picture

Today I made a granary loaf with fresh yeast and I have to say I am pleased as punch. Although not a sourdough I did use a few of the SD techniques.
This recipe was given to me by one of the "Lovely Bakers from Felixstowe" as I refer to them. Pete started me on the road with this recipe, and then introduced me to Sourdough -. He inspired and helped me and that was 2 years ago.


1, mix the flours and water together and autolyse for 20 minutes.
2, add the yeast and salt then mix.
3, add the seeds and mix.
4, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until a good gluten window can be formed.
5, bulk proof for 1 hour.
6, knock back the dough and set it aside for final proofing.
7, preheat the oven to 250c then turn down to 220c - place the baking stone in side and the pan for steaming.
8, when the dough is finally proofed remove the stone from the oven and flour the top of the dough.
9, transfer the dough to the stone and bake for 25 minutes.
10, remove the stone and bread after 25 minutes and flip the bread over and cook on the rack for a further 5 minutes.
11, remove form the oven and cool on a rack.

The same recipe can be used with wholemeal flour, just increase the water to 370ml.
I use Marriages Strong White Bread Flour and Hovis Malted Brown Granary Flour
I prefer to use live yeast.

This is at the start of the bulk fermenting stage.

After the final proofing.

On the stone prior to slashing.

Slashed and ready to bake.

The finished article.
I got some nice oven spring - Hurrah!!!

A nice crust and soft crumb and a great taste.
It springs back after squashing.
The grains in the granary flour and sunflower seeds are evenly distributed.

Cheese on toast with Italian herbs - MMMMMMMMMM

I am really pleased with this one.

JOHN01473's picture

The walnut and dried apricot loaf was made to test out some techniques. I will compare it to the same loaf I made last week.

This dough got the whole works - autolyse - mixed until I got a good gluten window - proofing prior to refrigerating. Retarding overnight in the fridge.

These pictures show the progress and slight growth that I was expecting.
The progression from "mixed post autolyse" to "bulk ferment prior to retarding over night" and then finally "post retarding".

This morning I removed the walnut and apricot dough from the fridge
It warmed up nicely and was bulk proofed in the airing cupboard at 70-80f for 2 hours. When it took it out of the proving bag it was breathing in and out - hope there is no alien inside. There were certainly bubbles in the dough as I knocked it back. It was then knocked back and shaped and it went into the baking tin inside a proving bag into the airing cupboard at 11.15am for its final proofing. This is a new larger tin; it is 12 inches long x 6 inches wide x 2 1/2 inches deep.

It got its final proofing. I checked it after 1 hour and it had started to move up the tin, after another hour it was almost level with the top of the tin.
I wanted to get a nice dome on the top. After the third hour the dome I wanted was there.

I pre-heated the oven to 330c- my oven is a fan type with a max temp of 240c.
I have a pan in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
I slashed the loaf and baked it for 15 minutes with steam - then 15 minutes without steam
At the end of 30 minutes I tapped the bottom of the loaf for the hollow sound
I turned off the oven but left the loaves in the oven with the oven door ajar for another 10 minutes.
I cooled it on a rack

Then i cut a slice.

The best slice, yep better than last weeks loaf.

I have to say that I was very sceptical about the value of additional techniques. The result was amazing and so different and much better than the loaf I made last week. This loaf is much lighter and has a definite bounce. The crust has a crunch to it and the crumb is very soft. The taste of the sourdough has developed more - Simply it is delicious.

As I did so many new things I can't tell which technique delivered what, so my extended test will hopefully show me which techniques deliver what.




JOHN01473's picture

Since getting some great advice from Janetcook and dabrownman my baking is well back on track.
I was inspired to bake some sourdough inspired variations.
The first is my sourdough trencher.
In Suffolk, England the trencher is a local bread normally made with yeast and shaped oval - I went sourdough.

Looking in my store cupboard I found some grains - kibbled wheat, cut malted rye grains and some malted wheat flakes. So I decided to go for a rye soaker - I went for the " Any grains you like..." by " PiPs". Rather than Linseed I used toasted pumpkin seeds. Just before baking I rolled it in malted wheat flakes. I baked it in a Dutch oven - rather pleased with the look - cant wait to slice and eat it.

The dried apricot and walnut sourdough was inspired by the pack of walnuts in the stock cupboard -
the dried apricots are always present - used as sweets instead of chocolate.
I used the fruit content weights from " Walnut Raisin Sourdough Bread from SFBI Artisan II" recipe from "dmsnyder".
I toasted a slice then used butter - decadence abounds - it was superb. Think this will be a bit regular on the list to make.


The final sourdough loaf was a poppy seed and pumpkin seed sourdough.
I used 50g of toasted poppy seeds and 25g toasted pumpkin seeds.

The basic recipe for my sourdough is:

Making the sponge


100g strong white bread flour

100g wholemeal flour

Two large spoonfuls of starter

200ml warm water - 70f


Bulk up


200g strong white bread flour

200g wholemeal flour

400g of sourdough sponge

12g salt

200ml warm water - 70f


Baked at 220c for 25 minutes then removed from the stone and flipped over and baked just on the rack for another 5 minutes.

The rest is history as they say - I weigh, time and monitor temperatures carefully. The maturing times for the starter and final proving times of the various loaves create good time management slots. A good day baking.

Thanks a lot to all recipe contributors and advisers.
The Baking Bear



JOHN01473's picture

After help and guidance from Janetcook and dabrownman with my starter and baking I have now adopted some procedures to follow in maintaining my starter, building the starter and baking. As a believer in not plagiarising others hard work a thought I would share what I am now doing and salute the guide behind the advice.

To maintain my starter I have adopted the following from dabrownman:

10 g               STARTER AT 60%      50 g
20 g               WATER                          6 g
20 g               FLOUR                        24 g
50 g               TOTAL                         80 g

Take 10g of 60% hydro starter add 20g of flour and 20g of water and let it double at 90% hydration AT 70f

Then add 6g of water and 24g of flour to it and then refrigerating it at 80grams total and 60% hydration.


to build the starter i use the adviece from Janetcook:
5 g                   STARTER          30 g
10 g                WATER              60 g
15 g                FLOUR               90 g
30 g                TOTAL             180 g

Take 5g of stored starter and feed it 10g of water and 15g of flour (5:10:15)

Let it ripen and note how long it takes to do so.

Next build would be 30:60:90 giving your 180g of sourdough.

i then use 2 large spoonfuls and add it to my sponge ingredients and let it sit overnight at 70°.

it takes 6 hours for both stages.


i froze some 60% starter and to bring it back to life i use the method suggested by dabrownman:

20 g              STARTER
40 g             WATER
40 g             FLOUR
100 g          TOTAL

Don't forget to freeze 20g of starter (60% hydro) just in case you kill the one you are using or use it all like I have done by mistake. You can always take it out of the freezer add 40 g each of flour and water to it an you will get your old starter back in a day no problem with another feeding at 12 hours.


all of these procedures have helped get my baking back on track to better baking. apart from careful measuring i now check storage temperatures and the results are better than ever.

so its a big thanks to Janetcook and dabrownman.

hopefully these procedures may help others

the Baking Bear


JOHN01473's picture

Help with starter please

I keep having this problem with my wheat starter.
I take a 100g of starter and add 100g AP flour and 100ml of water.
I mix up and then generally have to add more water as it is too thick.
I mix up to where it is as thick as double cream
After 12 hours there is a layer of brown liquid

I scoop it out with the discard and feed.
I am trying to maintain a 1:1:1 starter.
I have read other blogs where maybe this is due to underfeeding.
A strict 1:1:1 seems too thick or should I just accept that it is thick.
Any advice would be good.

thanks - the baking bear



JOHN01473's picture

Hi fellow bakers,

I just wanted to bat this one up for discussion / comments / advice.

I have noticed that the last two weeks my wheat sourdough starter has been very sluggish. I noticed that when it was in the fridge it had produced a layer of alcohol on top. I removed it from the fridge and I discarded this liquid and fed as normal - the starter did virtually nothing in 12 hours, even less in 24hrs.

I did however made two loaves using it and they came out fine - so why complain?



After using some of the starter I fed as normal to replenish it.

The next day I discarded and fed as normal - it still seemed sluggish in the next 12 hours.


The next day what I would have discarded I put into a separate container and fed with 100% RYE flour. The remaining Wheat starter I fed again as normal.

The results were stunning with the RYE - it climbed to the top of the container in a few hours and receded back down. the Wheat starter just produced a few bubbles on the surface.


I am feeding the RYE starter on a 4-day cycle to produce a 100% RYE starter for some baking. I am thinking that I will then convert some of the RYE starter to Wheat.


I have to say I bake very little white bread so maybe I will stick with the RYE starter.


I wondered if anyone just used a RYE starter for all types of baking.

I would be really interested in any replies / advice / discussion.


The Baking Bear


JOHN01473's picture

on Thursday we are off to see friends after a hospital appointment -
we are having curry - my contribution is to bring flat bread.
i decied on some garlic and coriander and some plain breads.
i used my Focaccia recipe thinking i would mix it and role it out thin and not prove the dough at all.
as i have said before i use my bread machine to mix and knead dough.
the recipes is:

225ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of coriander leaf (finely chopped)
400g strong white bread flour
12g of live yeast

into the bread pan load the following - first the water, then 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic, coriander, flour and finally the yeast.
i the Select Dough cycle - after 20 minutes of mixing and kneading i remove the dough from the bread machine.
Roll the dough and cut into two equal balls and flour them.

heat oven to 200 C


i rolled one ball out to a disc of 28cm - preheated the oven to 200C and baked this on the loose base of a round baking tin for 15 minutes - removed it from the oven and turned it over to bake for another 5 minutes. the other ball i divided in half and rolled each piece out to a disc of 23cm - again baked baked this on the loose base of a round baking tin. these also had 15 minutes on one side - then flipped and baked for a further 5 minutes.


the loaf on the left is a sourdough - this gives some scale.
well i have to say i was very pleased with the results - i had to try one with some soup for my supper - very nice.

 happy baking - the Baking Bear


JOHN01473's picture

The journey of bread


My friends the "lovely bakers" did impart to me the need for cleanliness in baking. This is not to say just wash your hands, in fact there are some areas that have to be absolutely scrupulously clean. Its as much about understanding how to treat various parts of baking - simplistically there are some areas to scrub and other areas to handle differently. For example my bannetons are cotton lined and I watch them carefully for fungal growths - if too stained the cotton gets a wash in boiling water without detergent then dried on the line and then placed in the airing cupboard. If after proofing a loaf the liner looks ok I just bang the excess flour off and dry in the airing cupboard. The difference is the sourdough storage vessel (a 1litre save and store container from LAKELAND) is scrubbed and squeegeed within an inch of its life. So the guide I got was the following:

Anything with dry flour is better left to dry unwashed

Anything with wet flour must be extremely clean and dry before use.

Baking tins and metallic items are best washed and rinsed then dried in the oven.

All spatulas and tools need to be exceptionally clean and dry.

Yeast is best double wrapped airtight in Clingfilm and fridged - test it before use to check for potency.

This is by no way a complete list its just what I can think of right now as I need to inform my protégé, who now has some of my starter to care for.   


Hopefully some of you may have more tips for fellow bakers.


The soup and bread supper last night was well received - they only go quiet when they are eating.


Happy baking - the baking bear.


Subscribe to RSS - JOHN01473's blog