The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

tortie-tabby's blog

tortie-tabby's picture

I think I used to underproof my loaves (you can see my old posts somewhere). I was too afraid of overproofing and wasn't really sure what to look for in the poke test.

To be honest, all descriptions of the poke test I've read have been pretty vague, they all mention that the dent should spring back, but not fully... that you should press down hard, but not too deep... so how fast should it spring up? How much of the dent should be filled at what rate? How deep should the poke be? What it really seems like is that what you're looking for in a poke test both depends on and indicates so many things that the world's most advanced pattern recognition program (i.e. your brain) is reading in all the factors and outcomes and coming up with an intuitive answer. In other words the poke test is not a simple formula. Bakers rely on experience to build intuition and how we know what we're looking for is almost impossible to explicitly articulate.

It's like sexing baby chicks. No one actually knows how the people at factory farms do it, and they couldn't really tell you either. Apparently most of them say they look at the rear end of the chick and just 'see' it (Horsey, 2002). I'm not saying learning to use the poke test is quite as hard, but it's definitely not as deterministic and foolproof as people say it is.

That's a long rant to say that instead of doing an impatient 40 min bench rest and 40 min final proof, today I took my dough out of the fridge, left it on the counter while I went out for a walk, bought some groceries, and baked it 2? 3.5? hours later. I finally got a relaxed looking crumb.

tortie-tabby's picture

I used these buns to make kimchi-brined chicken sandwiches from seriouseats. Honestly the buns might've been better appreciated on their own, though the sandwich turned out pretty sublime.


12 g flour
60 g milk


20 g cooked sweet potato
250 g AP flour
30 g sugar
1 tbs ADY
70 g milk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
40 g softened salted butter


1. Whisk flour and milk in a saucepan until no lumps remain
2. Cook slurry over med-low heat until it turns into a thick paste, 3-5 mins
3. Mash sweet potato into the tangzhong, will help bring the temp down
4. Combine all ingredients except salt and butter, mix butter and salt together separately for easy incorporation later
5. Autolyse dough for 20-30 mins, dough will be quite sticky
6. Incorporate butter and salt into dough
7. 3 sets of S&F between 30 min intervals
8. Place dough into fridge to cold ferment for 12-72 hours
9. Remove dough from fridge and divide immediately into 4/5 equal balls, shape them and place dough into a greased pan
10. Let rise for 90-120 mins, or until doubled in size and puffy
11. Preheat oven to 350˚F
12. Brush dough with egg wash and bake for 25-30 mins

tortie-tabby's picture

"Working from home" obviously isn't panning out for me. I spent all day baking bread instead of working. I did have maybe my most successful round of baking so far though. I made three fougasse, loosely based on Maurizio's SD fougasse recipe. I found that half of his recipe could make me three decently-sized fougasse, provided you make them as thin and holey as I did. They were delicious, my flatmate said it was her favorite bread I've made yet.


At this point I've basically settled on an SD recipe that I can do without having to think or plan too far ahead. This isn't a definitive formula, my process changes every time. I like to think I've developed enough intuition to let me make adjustments on the fly and correct for minor errors in timing.


Levain build

20 g AP flour
5 g WW flour
5 g rye flour
30 g water

Main dough

240 g KAF AP flour
30 g KAF WW flour
30 g Arrowhead Rye flour
190 g water
6 g salt
60 g starter


10 g oatmeal
10 g milled flax
50 g hot water (78% total hydration)


1. Mix flours and water together for a 1-hour autolyse
2. Combine soaker ingredients with the salt (for easy incorporation into the dough)
3. Gently fold starter into the dough and wait 30 minutes, do another S&F 15 minutes in
4. Gently fold the soaker into the dough
5. Bulk ferment for 6-7 hours, with 4 rounds of S&F in 30 minute intervals
6. Cold ferment for at least 8 hours
7. Take dough out of fridge, bench rest for 40 minutes
8. Pre-shape, bench rest for 20 minutes
9. Preheat oven at 500 F
10. Shape and final proof for 40 minutes to 1 hour (I let the initial bench rest go for too long, so I put the loaves into the fridge to slow the fermentation down while I let the oven heat up for longer)
11. Score and load loaf into dutch oven with 3 ice cubes
12. Bake at 500 F for 20 minutes, covered, then bake at 420 for an additional 15 minutes at convection, uncovered (cover with foil for the last 5 minutes if necessary)

tortie-tabby's picture

Hi, for this bake I decided to completely change up my process. I did this in part to fit my schedule, since I decided to make the dough late at night on a Friday, and in part to try a longer bulk ferment and baking the loaf straight from the fridge. Oven spring wasn't as strong as in my other bakes, but it might've been due to 1. a sleepy starter, 2. an overly long bulk ferment, 3. shaping and proofing in a bowl as boule, instead of making a long batard.


240 g KAF AP flour
30 g KAF WW flour
30 g Arrowhead Rye flour
200 g water
6 g salt (1.5% salt, lowered to adjust for salinity from olives)
0.5 g IDY (roughly a pinch, to make up for the slow starter)
70 g starter (fed 8 hours prior with 3:1:4 AP:WW:water)


10 g oatmeal
10 g flax
10 g bran
26 g hot water (78% total hydration)

Levain build

50 g starter (100% hydration, fed 1:1 starter to feed 8 hours ago)
10 g WW flour
10 g Rye flour
20 g water



1. Feed starter, autolyse flour and water, autolyse for 1 hr
2. Fold in starter, salt, and soaker, rest for 15 minutes
3. 100 french folds
4. 5 sets of S&F in 30-minute intervals
5. Bulk ferment for 5 hours at 66˚F (I decided to go to sleep, this was 1am- 6am)
6. Shape then proof for another 40 minutes
7. Cold ferment for 10 hours
8. Preheat DO and oven to 500 F, line bottom of DO with foil, leaving one corner folded up
9. Score and load loaf with floured baking paper straight from the fridge
10. Slip 3 cubes of ice into DO, ideally under the folded-up corner of foil
11. Bake at 475 F, covered, for 25 mins
12. Bake at 425 F with convection, uncovered, for another 20 mins

tortie-tabby's picture

Hi, I was inspired by some recipes I saw here. I didn't end up following any in particular because of my busy schedule. At this point I sort of have a standard protocol which involves roughly autolysing and stretching and folding the dough whenever I get home in the evening, bulk fermenting up till I go to bed, then cold fermenting until I get home the next day. It's worked well for me, this loaf was soo yummy, but I do have a few questions.


1. Why do I get such a bimodal distribution of large and small bubbles, as in why do I have so many huge bubbles and many tiny ones, but few in-between?
2. Do people usually add steam to their DO? I lined the bottom with foil and slipped 3 cubes of ice down the side when I first loaded the loaf.

This is my first time using a dutch oven. Maybe the DO is why this loaf had the lightest, crispiest crumb I’ve had yet.

I know I didn’t S&F very consistently, maybe the lack of gluten development and short bulk ferment led to the inconsistent crumb. I'm guessing I shouldn't put the dough straight into the fridge after my last S&F?


250 g AP flour
50 g WW flour
226 g water (78% hydration)
5 g salt (1.5% salt, lowered to adjust for salinity from olives)
0.5 g IDY (roughly a pinch, to make up for the slow starter)
70 g starter (fed 8 hours prior with 3:1:4 AP:WW:water)


These steps are just what I ended up doing and probably aren't ideal. I recommend anyone interested to refer to these two recipes.

1. Feed starter in the morning
2. 8 hours later mix flour, water (minus 20 g), IDY, and starter and autolyse for 40 mins
3. Use remaining water to help incorporate the salt into the dough
4. Let the dough sit for 30 mins and then add the olives and herbs
5. S&F roughly every 30 minutes 6 times
6. 20-hour cold ferment (refrigerated right after the last S&F) total bulk ferment roughly 4 hrs
7. Remove dough from fridge and let sit at RT for 20 minutes
8. Pre-shape dough and rest for another 20 minutes
9. Preheat DO and oven to 500 F, line bottom of DO with foil, leaving one corner folded up
10. Shape dough and final proof on floured couche for 40 minutes
11. Score and load loaf with floured baking paper
12. Slip 3 cubes of ice into DO, ideally under the folded-up corner of foil, so the water doesn’t come in direct contact with the dough
13. Bake at 500 F, covered, for 15 mins
14. Bake at 450 F with convection uncovered, for another 30 mins
15. Rest in cracked oven for 20 minutes, cool before slicing

tortie-tabby's picture

Changes compared to round 1

1. Accidentally made the hydration way too high.
2. Add-ins were ~29% total flour weight compared to ~38% last time. Didn’t soak the nuts and dates beforehand though, and forgot to toast the walnuts
3. Baked for much longer and at a lower temperature, seems like I could have still baked for even longer
4. Let the starter grow for 3 hours instead of 1.5 hours, rise of the dough was much better this time

Things I might change

1. Bulk ferment was still relatively short at 2.5 hours, I had to go to bed. Would try 4-5 hour bulk ferment next time.
2. Was it under or over-proofed? I’m not sure anymore, see video below.
3. Would bake for even longer


Starter 150 g (100% hydration)
AP flour 300 g (total flour weight 525 g)
Whole wheat flour 150 g
Water 364 g (84% hydration)
Salt 12 g

80 g chopped walnuts (forgot to toast)
70 g dates

1. Feed starter (70g starter fed 30g AP flour, 10g whole wheat flour, 40g water)
2. Mix flour and water and autolyse for 3 hrs
3. Dimple starter into dough and gently fold to incorporate
4. Add walnuts and dates
5. 4 rounds s&f in 20 minute intervals, total 2.5 hour bulk ferment
6. 20-hour cold ferment
7. 1 last S&F to help release dough from the bowl, divide into two, tightly shape then bench rest for 1 hr
8. Shape, 30-minute final proof on floured baking paper
9. Score, spritz with water
10. Bake at 480 F covered with steam for 15 mins
11. Uncover, remove steak and bake with convection at 450 F for 20 mins, 400 F for 15 with foil, last 5 minutes with the bread upside-down


tortie-tabby's picture

Followed some recommendations from Maurizio's recipe, adjusted the rest to suit my schedule/comfort zone. Feedback always welcome, I've only come so far with help from this community.

50g quick oats soaked in water overnight then drained (used drained water for dough)
12g flax seeds, soaked with oats (4 tsp)

Whole Foods 365 Organic AP flour 450g (70%)
KAF whole wheat flour 150g (23%)
Water 438g (use water from oats, 75%, including water absorbed by oats closer to 80%)
Starter 100g (2:1 AP to whole wheat, hydrated at 100%) (17%)
Salt 10g (1.5%)

Things I learned
1. Yes, definitely cover your loaf with an inverted pot if you don’t have a dutch oven to trap steam
2. It’s not too damaging to divide your loaf and reshape again if you do it early
3. Yes, I should’ve been doing a longer bulk ferment. My previous BFs were 1-2 hrs, this time it was 6 hours
4. Starter really does make your dough more slack, I’m still trying to figure out how to work with it, not really sure I should have added it during the autolyse as Maurizio did. At least I managed to resist adding more water
5. Measure everything! Even when I’m sneakily adding more water I should at least measure what I added so I can keep track and make appropriate changes next time.

1. (7:45am) 1-hour autolyse with starter at 77-79F, add starter and 408g water first and mix, hold out 30g of water
2. (8:15am) Add 10g salt and added all hold out water
3. Bulk fermentation for 5 hours, fold oats into dough after first 30 minutes, stretch and fold every 30 minutes (forgot to weigh the soaked oats to find out how much water I was adding, calculated based on the final dough weight of 1.3kg that I probably added 40g max of water from oats)
4. (1:15am) Cold ferment in fridge 7 hours
5. (8:15) Preshaped then divided into two then pre-shaped again
6. Pre-shape, circling dough tightly, then let rest for 20 minutes
7. Preheat oven for an hour with oven-proof pot inside and cast iron pan under the baking stone
8. Shape and proof, fold dough up into package and roll on surface to create a tight skin, roll boule over oats before final proof, seam side down on couche for 40 minutes at 74F. Dough was pretty wet and a little difficult to handle.
9. Score and slide loaf in, spray generously with water
10. Cover loaf with pot with overhang so steam can get in, pour water into cast iron, place ice onto baking stone
11. Bake at 500 for 15 minutes then at 450F uncovered with convection for an additional 18 mins


Soaked oats and flax, very wet even after draining for over an hour

Soaked oats and flax

Had trouble incorporating it into the dough at first, didn't fold it into the layers as uniformly as I would've liked

Combining into dough

Dough came together well after first s&f

After first s&f

Baking covered vs uncovered

Covered loaf clearly had better oven spring.

Pretty good crumb, any feedback? Maybe a little underbaked. This is a cross-section of the uncovered loaf, I haven't cut into the other one yet but I might post updates. It's got a weird distribution of hole sizes, many really big ones, and the rest are tiny, not many in-between. Why is that?

Cross section of the covered loaf. So yummy. It's a bread I highly recommend, anyone interested should probably check out the original recipe.

tortie-tabby's picture


I'm not sure why my loaf turned out so flat and dense. I have a few suspicions but I was wondering if anyone could give me suggestions on how to improve.

Starter 150 g
AP flour 300 g
150 g bread flour
Whole wheat 55 g
Water 364 g (76%)
Salt 12 g
IDY (1/8 tsp to supplement starter)

2 tbs oatmeal (soaked then pressed dry)
120 g toasted chopped walnuts
100 g dried dates

1. Feed starter
2. At the same time, mix flour, salt and water for a 1.5 hr autolyse (I know I didn't do this for long enough)
3. Dimple starter into dough and gently fold to incorporate.
4. 3 rounds S&F between 30 min intervals (add soaked oats, walnuts and dates after first round), a total of 2.5 hour bulk ferment
5. 20-hour cold ferment
6. 1 last S&F to help release dough from the bowl, pre-round then bench rest for 1-2 hrs (dough very wet although gluten development looked good, walnut pieces might've been too large)
7. Shape
8. 40-minute hour proof in towel-lined bowl (cut short because the poke test indicated the dough was ready)
9. bake at 500 F on baking stone with steam for 15 mins
10. bake with convection at 470 F for 25
11. returned to oven, covered in foil, for 30 mins at 350, loaf had already cooled for 25 mins



Edit: added extra images



tortie-tabby's picture

Started making sourdough after reviving some starter a friend gave me.

First attempt, didn't really follow a recipe so who knows what happened. Was still really happy with it. Wasn't used to the fact that sourdough dough would be so slack and only become more slack over time as the proteolytic enzymes did their thing. Supplemented the dough with 1/4 tsp instant yeast and made the dough really high hydration, which definitely didn't help. Still came out well, best tasting bread I've ever made at that point. A little more sour than I would've liked because I was being cheap and didn't want to feed the starter too much.


Second round. Loosely followed some recipes I read, including the San Joaquin Sourdough. Turned out delicious! Best bread I've made yet.

Starter 120 g
AP Flour 410 g
Rye 30 g (5.5 %)
Yeast 1/8 tsp
Salt 10 g
Water 300 g (72% hydration)

1. Roughly 30 min autolyse
2. 100 french folds
3. 2 rounds of S&F with 30 folds per round, spaced at 30 minute interval
4. Total of 90 minute bulk ferment, dough didn't double much or grow (not sure if was is an issue)
5. 20 hour cold ferment
6. Let come to room temp for 2 hours (since it didn't grow much or develop many air pockets in the fridge)
7. Preheat oven to 500 ˚F, prepare two pans for steam
8. Shape then final proof for an hour. I didn't think the loaf would have much spring because it was so slack with few air bubbles. Dough would spring back really quickly during the poke test but stop springing back just before the hole was completely filled, decided to go ahead and bake.
9. Add 1 cup boiling water to one pan and close the oven door. Score bread and load into baking stone using parchment paper. Add second cup boiling water to the second pan. Bake at 500 ˚F for 23 minutes. Cool in oven with door cracked for 10 minutes.

tortie-tabby's picture

Hi, so this is my 6th round of baguette baking. Overall, much much better oven spring and crumb than before. I think the next big thing to work on is my scoring technique. I documented the process pretty meticulously this time, so let me know if you spot anything I can improve on. Thanks! Recipe is at the bottom of the post.



French folds number 90-100. My weighing scale turned off while I was measuring the water so the dough probably ended up around 76% hydration, I don't think this negatively impacted the outcome and I like playing with high hydration dough anyways.

Gluten development was o.k. I did 300 french folds and 4 S&Fs spaced between 20 minute intervals. Windowpane could've been better but the crumb turned out fine so maybe it doesn't matter.

Portioned out for 20 hr cold ferment. Dough isn't super smooth.

A misstep? After the cold ferment I took the dough out of their containers warmed them up for 1 hr. Initially I had just let them fall out of their boxes and rest like that (see smaller image). But I realized I was losing a lot of bubbles, so I did one gentle letter fold to each dough. The consequence of this fold is that the dough was already really elongated by the time I did the final shape, so I only did one fold during the final shaping before rolling them out. I thought this was a mistake, but it might've actually contributed to the openness of the crumb.

Only needed one fold for the final shaping. Means the skin of the loaves weren't tight enough, but that I could minimize handling which helped the openness of the crumb.

Post final 50-minute proof.

Feedback please? Post-scoring. This is probably my worse scoring yet haha. The dough was more hydrated and bubbly than in previous rounds so I really struggled. Experimented with doing just one long score (far right), which actually turned out to be my best, probably mostly because it was the deepest and most angled.

Final product. Baked these at a higher temperature for an even shorter amount of time. Oven preheated at 500 ˚F, baked with steam for 10 minutes at 470 ˚F, then steamed removed and baked for a further 10 minutes at 470 ˚F with convection.

By far my best crumb yet. This isn't even the loaf with the one long score above!

Some scores didn't open up as much.



I've basically been modifying the KAF classic baguette recipe, at this point its only vaguely like the original. I've been sticking to this recipe just because I don't have a miligram scale for yeast and repeating and modifying one recipe is a good way for me to keep track of what changes I'm making.


    113 g cool water
    1/16 tsp SAF instant yeast
    120 g KAF AP flour


    All of the starter
    1 1/2 tsp SAF instant yeast
    274 g lukewarm water (for 72% hydration, probably added more)
    418 g KAF AP flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt



  1. Mix everything to make the poolish, cover and rest at room temperature for 13 hrs.
  2. Add all the other ingredients except for salt into the starter and mixing until incorporated, then autolyse for 40 mins.
  3. Incorporate the salt and make 300 french folds with 5 minute rests between every 100.
  4. Place dough into a large bowl and S&F every 20 mins 4 times.
  5. Portion dough into 3 equal parts (roughly 300 g each), shape lightly and place seam-side down into container.
  6. Cold ferment in refrigerator for 20 hrs.
  7. Remove dough from fridge, make one gentle letter fold and let rest, covered, on counter for 60 mins.
  8. Preheat oven to 500 ˚F (regular bake) with a cast-iron pan in the bottom rack.
  9. Shape the dough with just one fold where you bring the edge of the dough to the countertop. Rolled out gently only once to prevent de-gassing.
  10. Rest, covered, on floured couche for 50 minutes.
  11. Boil 2 cups of water and transfer all three loaves to a well-floured peel, change oven temp to 470 ˚F.
  12. Score the loaves (see image) and load into oven, close oven door.
  13. Pour boiled water into cast iron pan and spray the loaves and oven walls generously with water.
  14. Close oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  15. Remove steam, set oven to 470 ˚F at convection and bake for another 10 minutes.
  16. Remove from oven immediately and let cool.



Everything bolded above is a step that I've significantly changed since last timeI basically used a higher baking temperature, an additional S&F, let the dough warm up for longer, and a different order of shaping steps. I think I will actually keep this shaping sequence- doing a letter fold immediately after cold ferment and before the 1 hr bench rest- as it helped with the crumb.

Things I need to work on include gluten development and scoring (I think).


Subscribe to RSS - tortie-tabby's blog