The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

pul's blog

pul's picture

I have another experiment using minimal amount of starter. This time I have not built any levain, and mixed 1 g starter with other ingredients. I tried to adjust the process to my schedule, which is mix in the morning, bulk ferment during the day, shape in the evening, retard overnight and bake in the following morning.

The measurements were 1 g starter, 220 g flour, 165 g water, and 3 g salt. The flour was 55% bread flour and the rest a mix of dark rye, red fife and whole wheat. Mixed in the morning (dissolved starter in water first), applied two stretches and folds, and after one hour placed the dough in the fridge for bulk fermentation. Roughly 12 hours later, removed the dough from the fridge without much noticeable signs of fermentation. Let it rest on the counter at room temperature for another 5 hours with two extra stretches and folds. Finally some signs of bulk fermentation showed up, so I shaped as a boule and placed it in the fridge for another 5 hours retarding (it was time to go to bed). Baked in the morning straight from the fridge to the results below.

There has been few holes, even though not evenly distributed. Oven spring was reasonable but nothing spectacular. The crumb was quite soft and the crust baked light. Flavor showed some good nuttiness and a subtle tang, just the way sourdough should be. I have done this experiment by building a 5%-flour levain with superior results as compared to using only 1 g starter without any levain build.

Using 1 g starter without building a levain seems to work, but I need to tweak the method for my schedule and to improve the results.

The bulk fermentation is too slow in the fridge due to the small amount of starter. However, I have tried to ferment it in room temperature for the same time. The result was a failure because the temperature is being too high and the long fermentation at room temperature seems to be damaging the dough structure. The result was a pancake as shown below (with some signs of over proofing too). Additionally, the bread was too sour due to the long fermentation at high temperature. I did not like the dough structure after the long fermentation. It was almost too wet and soup-like, so the flat bread resulted.

I still want to do another final test at room temperature, which will be making a stiff dough with low hydration, fermenting at room temperature, and then provide a second hydration in the evening. I just want to slow down the fermentation in room temperature so the dough structure is not compromised to a great extension.

pul's picture

This is an update on the small amount starter experiment. I followed Dab's suggestion to drop the starter amount to 1 g and reduce the amount of fermented flour in the levain. 

The levain was built using 1g starter, 10 g bread flour and 10 g water. Left to mature on the counter at 30C for about 8 hours. The final dough was comprised of 220 g total flour (including levain's flour) and 75% hydration. I used a similar flour mix as in the first experiment: 50% bread flour and the rest a mix of white spelt, rye and ruchmehl (half-half whole wheat). 

Basic steps were used to build the dough and the bulk fermentation occurred over 4 hours. About 3 stretches and folds have been applied and not much handling of the dough was done. Shaped and proofed in the fridge for about 5 hours, and baked straight our from the fridge. 

Even though the fermented flour in the levain was a mere 5%, it got the job done without any issues. Now I am even more concerned on how to spend my starter, since I have been using pretty much nothing to build up my levain, and I have not refreshed it for at least two weeks already.

This method has worked well twice, so I think I will keep it throughout summer.




pul's picture

This is a small loaf built with a levain made with 1.5 g starter, 30 g water and 30 g bread flour. The levain was left to mature for about 12 hours on the counter at about 30 C room temperature. It was not used at its peak, since I could see that it receded way before I arrived home from work.

The final total dough was about 250 g flour from which 50% is bread flour and the rest is a mix of rye, spelt and red fife. The total hydration was about 75%. I used a standard procedure for mixing, applying 4 stretches and folds every 30 min or so. Bulk fermented for about 4.5 hours, shaped, and proofed in the fridge overnight (about 5 hours) to bake it in a cold pot / cold oven.

Great crumb and crust. The flavor is quite subtle, perhaps due to the levain, built using a small amount of starter.

pul's picture



Levain Weight (g)%
 Starter @ 100%155%
 Dark rye5016%
 Bread flour15048%
 Light spelt8326%
 Whole wheat258%
 Total water24076%
 Total flour315100%


Mixed some flours available at home and came up with the recipe above. Built a 125% hydration rye levain for about 4 hours. Autolysed the dough flour and water for about 40 minutes, and then mixed the levain except the salt. Kneaded for 2 minutes and after 30 min applied the first stretch and fold, adding salt. Applied three more stretches and folds every 30 min apart until the dough was fermented (air bubbles on the side). Shaped into a boule-batard, proofed for 15 min and shoved it into the fridge for 3 hours cold proof. Baked straight out of the fridge on a preheated pot at 230 C for 25 min with lid on + 10 min with lid off. Below is a picture of the crumb, which turned out quite airy.I observed that fermentation was a little faster than normal, since the amount of salt used was not much, and the amount of fermented flour was also higher than I normally use.



pul's picture

Fellow Bakers,

I had the opportunity to get some special flour named Ruchmehl, which is used to make a darker bread in Switzerland. It is some sort of half-half wheat flour that provides a darker color to the crumb and nutty flavor. This flour is widely used in Switzerland for their daily bread.

The process was quite standard.


10 g starter

50 g Ruchmhel

50 g water

Matured for about 18 hrs, which produced some sour notes to the bread flavor.


All levain

245 g Ruchmehl

149 g water

4 g salt

Mixed well and kneaded for about 2 minutes on the counter. Applied 1 stretch and fold within the first 30 min into the fermentation. Let ferment for 1 hour and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours, then applied another S&F. Let it in the fridge for another 3 to 4 hours (can't remember well). Removed from the fridge and let rest on the counter for about 3 hours (final fermentation had some bubbles on the sides). Shaped and proofed for 45 min, then baked on a preheated oven / pot for 25 min lid on + 10 min lid off at 230C / 450 F.

I am pleased with the final result, including color, crust and crumb. The loaf presented a great nutty flavor with some tang notes, but nothing too overwhelming. The crumb showed a lot of small holes to my surprise, and that was a first for me.

If you have any experience with this kind of flour, please share here.


pul's picture

I have been quite busy lately, but haven't stopped baking. By the way, is it my impression or the number of posts has increased significantly lately? I can't keep up with so much information anymore. 

Baked two loaves this weekend, a record batch for me. Both 75% hydration and 20% levain. Some mixed cold bulk fermentation and cold proofing. Top loaf was 25% dark rye + 5% red fife, while the lower loaf 20% dark rye. The lower loaf was given as gift, so no crumb shot. The pic below is for the crumb shot of the top loaf along with my lunch yesterday.




Subscribe to RSS - pul's blog