The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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eleutheros's picture

Hello! I'm new here, but I've been reading TFL for months as I learn how to make good (and fix not-as-good) sourdough. I've been tinkering with everyday wheat breads for a while, and have something that works reliably now. As an old Free Software hand, I know that the best way to get better from here is to give back to the community.

What I've got is a moderately "sour" (I think of it as more "rounded" in flavor), soft and chewy 11% whole wheat sandwich bread. It usually winds up between 66 and 68% hydration, depending on the weather and the feel of the dough. I keep trying to push that up toward 70, but I knead by hand, and my hands are used to the feel of a "sweet spot" closer to 65%. Which is basically fine by me, since I don't need big rustic holes in sandwich bread. On the other hand, I'm trying to avoid the overprocessed uniformity of what my wife calls "industrial pain" (pain industriel as opposed to pain au levain). With this recipe, I'm finally starting to get the shiny, gelatinized texture the mie is supposed to have, though it's hard to tell with such a dense crumb:

My mother culture is a 100% hydration white, fed on organic unbleached AP because that was what the wee beasties seemed to like best. I keep a big jar of it in the fridge, feed it a bit less than once a week, and refresh it a bit less than once a month. (I used to feed it with the leftovers of my active starter for baking, but with this recipe I now only make exactly as much as the recipe needs.) I like a fuller, rounder "sour" flavor, so I tend to keep a fair amount of what Forkish calls "spent fuel" in my big jar.

The baker's math is relatively simple, but I'm a process-intensive kind of guy, and I'm new at this, so I'm going to start with the whole recipe and break it down from there. The basic numbers are as follows:

49 AP flour
40 bread flour
11 whole wheat (I use white whole wheat to avoid the nutty flavor)
67.5 water
4 starter
2 salt

Now, that hasn't been perfectly true, because I sometimes need between 2–4% extra flour at the end, when I'm kneading. On the other hand, in the winter I would sometimes have extra flour left over, so it may just be a temperature and humidity issue. On the other other hand, this is all the flour in the entire recipe, including what goes on the kneading and shaping surfaces, and I don't see that accounted in many recipes, so I don't feel that bad about occasionally having more than 100% total flour in the recipe. Bread is a living thing, and YMMV.

There are two of us at home, so I make an 8x version of this recipe (by gram weight) about once or twice a week. It winds up being about 3 lbs when it goes into the oven, and loses about 5 oz while baking.

Step 1: activation
32 g starter + 20 g water + 20 g AP + 8 g whole wheat = 82% hydration

Step 2: first feeding (10–12 hours later)
… + 80 g water + 52 g AP + 40 g whole wheat = 85% hydration

Step 3: second feeding (10–12 hours later)
… + 200 g water + 160 g AP + 40 g whole wheat = 94% hydration

Step 4: building the dough (4 hours later)
… + 240 g water + 96 g AP + 256 g bread flour = 81% hydration

Step 5: kneading (after 30 mins autolyse)
… + 16 g salt + 64 g AP + 64 g bread flour = 68% hydration

The starter is at 100% hydration, but the recipe kind of boomerangs from stiff in the beginning back out to better than 90% hydration in the middle, to bread dough at the end. I think that this push toward biga texture in the early preferments might be why I've finally gotten a nicely gelatinized crumb, though the boost that the whole wheat flour gives to fermentation also seems to have some effect. (The whole wheat is also spread out across the preferments in order to make sure it gets metabolized into useful and more intestinally-friendly forms.)

I say "preferments," plural, because Reinhart's Crust and Crumb encouraged me to turn the activation of my starter into a building process. Since I keep my refrigerated starter reasonably active and happy, it doesn't take all day just to get it going at room temperature. So now I only spoon out a small portion, feed it, give it 10-12 hours, then feed it again and give it another 10-12 hours, keeping the flour-to-water ratio reasonably stiff and letting it peak both times. So that's day 1, steps 1 and 2. This is kind of a "Clean Plate Club" strategy; every time the culture maxes out its use of what I gave it, I give it more. The following morning it gets another feeding (step 3), much looser in texture, followed by 4 hours of what I officially call "prefermentation."

starter activation montage

Step 4 is where I shift from AP-with-a-little-whole-wheat to bread-flour-with-a-little-AP, and start building the dough. After incorporating that flour and water, I generally let the ragged mass autolyse for half an hour, sometimes more, before adding the salt and turning it out onto my floured silpat for kneading (step 5). The rest of the flour (plus maybe 2–4% extra depending on humidity) gets incorporated gradually through kneading. I do three 5-minute kneads, with 10-minute rests in between, and every time I return to the dough it's clear the rest has been beneficial.

kneading montage

Each rest is like another little autolyse, which is good since more flour keeps going in. (Besides, it also gives time to do the washing up!) At the end, the mass goes into a large oiled bowl (the biggest I have), and gets about 4 hours bulk fermentation at room temperature. I have to punch it down in this warm weather, because after 2 hours it has usually filled the bowl, so I've taken to doing stretch-and-fold in the bowl and inverting the mass each time, rather than preshaping after fermentation is done.

Since the stretch-and-fold in the bowl has given me a relatively well-shaped mass already, I just turn the mass out onto my silpat for final shaping, and pop it in my buttered 9x5 loaf pan. (It'll do a freeform loaf just fine, whether boule or batard, but for even slices the loaf pan is better—and the buttery crust is delicious!) Since I have two loaf pans, I just invert the clean one over the top to keep the moisture in and give room to rise. There's no way in this weather for me to get a properly-proofed loaf at room temperature, so this contraption goes into the fridge for a few hours before slashing and spritzing the loaf for baking.

The crust I've managed to get right basically from day 1, with my 12" cast iron pan on the bottom rack, the oven at 430 dF, and a combination of spritzing the loaf and pouring a cup of hot water into the pan for steam. It could go darker, at a higher temperature, but I'm content with the dark amber color I'm getting, and about 45 minutes bake time.

isand66's picture

Time for a nice grilling and sandwich style bread.  This one is fairly simple for my twisted mind...fresh milled Durum flour, Caputo 00 flour, AP flour in the levain and olive oil.  I also used some white sesame seeds and smoked sesame seeds for the topping.

I used some Durum flour in the levain as well with the AP flour.  I think the extra Durum really brought out the nutty flavor this style of flour brings to the party.

The end result was a wonderfully tasting bread with just the right amount of sour. This bread is great for dipping the Sunday gravy as well as with some cheese or dipped in olive oil.



Durum 00 Bread (%)

Durum 00 Bread (weights)

Download the BreadStorm File Here.


Levain Directions

Mix all the Levain ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.  I usually do this the night before.

Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

 Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flours,  and 400 grams of the water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 20-30 minutes.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces), olive oil and balance of the water, and mix on low for 6 minutes.  Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.  (If you have a proofer you can set it to 80 degrees and follow above steps but you should be finished in 1 hour to 1.5 hours).

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.   Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature.  Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.

After 1 minute lower the temperature to 500 degrees and after another 3 minutes lower it to 450 degrees.  Bake for 25-35 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 210 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.


For your viewing pleasure here are some pictures from my gardens.  Soon the cone flowers will start blooming which I always look forward to.





Skibum's picture

Satisfying to get a good result on my latest take 6. Takes 4 and 5 were over proofed with my new summer kitchen temperatures. All winter and spring my kitchen was a steady 68F Now that we have real summer it is running 73-75F and BOY does this temperature change mess with bulk rise and proofing schedules!

With take four, I took the bulk rise time down to 8 hours from the 12-14 hours Ken rec's @ 70F. WAY too long. I got up to check in at 4:00 am after 6.5 hours bulk and it was already gone.

Okay, for take five, we will try an all day country blonde: Start the levain at 6:00 am, mix at 12:00 pm, finish bulk at 7:00 pm and proof and bake at 9:30. Still WAY over proofed.

For this successful bake, I started the levain at noon and mixed at 5:00 pm. With 30 minutes after the first S&F, the dough had risen by more than 1/3, so I dropped the next rest to 20 minutes and the final 2 S&F's to 15 minutes rest. I then rested the dough for 45 minutes and did a final fold at 8:00 pm. The dough had nearly doubled by this time, so the only way to save things was into the fridge overnight.

In the morning two hours on the counter, shape and proof for 1:40 rather than the 3:30 -4:00 rec'd at 70F. This baked at 475F in a covered DO for 25 mins and a further 25 mins uncovered, turning at the half.

I really like this formula! Happy baking folks!!! Ski

KathyF's picture

Still using the SFSD recipe from Crust and Crumb. Last week we went to the farmer's market and as we were passing by a bakery stall my daughter and her husband spied the olive bread. "We want olive bread!"Not being a real fan of olives unless it's in pizza or lasagna, I hadn't really considered making it.

Anyways, a few days ago I tried my hand at olive bread using a can of sliced black olives. They complained that they couldn't really taste the olives in it. So this time I used lots of Kalamata olives. It turned the bread purple and really tastes like olives. We will see if they like it now.

I used one of my loaves of SFSD for the olive bread and the other is plain. I put the olives, a tablespoon of the brine and a tablespoon of roasted garlic olive oil in the dough. The olives really increased the hydration. I should of held back more of the water. I ended up working in a bit more flour to get it how I wanted it. It still turned out a bit wetter than the other dough. When I added the olive oil last time I made olive bread, I liked what it did to the texture of the crust. It seemed to come out a bit thinner, a little more tender, but still crispy. So this time I added a tablespoon of butter to the second loaf and I do like how crust turned out. And they did sing to me nicely afterward.

Another difference this time is that I didn't get to use my dutch oven. My daughter decided to make chili this morning and didn't realize I needed the pot for the bread. So I improvised. I used my pizza stone and an old stainless steel dutch oven over it. I used it as a lid because I don't have the lid for the pot anymore. Looks like it worked out well this way too. Except I burned my knuckle trying to maneuver that pot over the bread!

Here is a crumb shot of both loaves:

Herbalgarden's picture

With whole bunch of dark chocolate chunks, homemade orange peel and mango!

FrugalBaker's picture

Alright, so I made another sourdough and this time, the dough was well proved and I just gave the clay pot another trial run. And because everything went well today, the loaf came out as somewhat ideal, at least to my expectation. 

Clay pot is certainly a good and inexpensive tool if one doesn't own a baking stone or a piece of quarry tile but I can't speak for a Dutch Oven though as I have not tried baking with it. Humidity is running at 66 percent currently in where I live as it has not rain yet. So, the crust turned out well when it was just out of the oven but gone chewy once again after an hour or so. Tried with leaving the oven door ajar when finished baking but it ended up the same. I am really not sure at this point on whether a Dutch Oven could solve my 'problem'...can't fight those elements to be honest. 


A closer look at the crust.


Crumb Shot (good oven spring and moist)


The bottom 


Appreciate some comments and constructive suggestions.


p/s: Just an additional note. The blister effect was evident as I misted the dough prior to baking. Not much of a steam emitting when I lifted the lid. 


Best Regards,


PY's picture

Been lacking behind posting but not baking. All breads from Jeffrey Hamelman's book, "Bread"

1. Norwich sourdough with increased whole wheat (wheat only) with added oat groats and honey - very happy with oven spring

2. Norwich sourdough with increased whole wheat (mixture of rye and wheat) - not very happy with oven spring

3. Norwich sourdough with increased whole wheat (wheat only) using a dutch oven - not very happy with oven spring

4. Deli Rye - very happy with texture, great for sandwiches

alfanso's picture

Recently I began to try out a rye levain breads, and having leftover rye starter I figured I'd continue on that riff.  I cleave off a bit at a time from the remaining rye starter ball and still have a few bakes left in the slowly diminishing ball.  For the liquid levain, I used a recently refreshed stiff levain stater.

recent blog entry by David Snyder intrigued me.  I had long ago (if my under 18 months apprenticeship on TFL is long ago!) developed a pattern of being inspired by what I see on TFL and then give it a go.  So off I went to experience a few new things all at once.  Never used two starters in one dough before.  Ditto with any starter >100% hydration.  Also using Bread flour for the first time instead of AP flour (except for the substitution of bread flour for First Clear recently).  I amped the formula up to ~1500g so as to make three 500g batards.

I'd read that the starters take way longer than mine did to mature.  The 125% hydration bread flour starter took 7.5 hours instead of the anticipated 12-14 hours, and the way more viscous rye starter took 9 hours instead of 14-16 hours.  

Following the "make it your own" concept, I went with my standard 300 French Folds, and 2 sets of letter folds at 40 and 80 minutes, with another 40 minutes of bench fermentation time before retarding.  The dough remained retarding for ~3 hours prior to divide (I had things to do...), pre-shape and shape and then back into the refrigerator on their couche.  12 hours total retard time and then score and bake directly from the refrigerator.  13 min - steam, 20 min. - dry heat and 2 min. - vent.

The oven spring was wonderful, and the blisters on the surface almost make me wince in sympathetic pain (au levain!!)

Left: couched and ready for retard.  Right: scored and ready for the oven.


Steam just released and rotated:


The finished product:

The blue ribbon winner:



CAphyl's picture

Baked a lot today to take to a friend's house for Father's Day to share.  Made David'd baguettes and my old standby classic sourdough.  I really hope our friends enjoy the bread.

I do cheat and use the aluminum baguette baker, as it works quite well.

Sorry I have been off the site so much. I have been traveling like crazy and baking less.  I've got to come up with a new recipe to share.  I sure loved the cream cheese batards that is currently being featured on the front of TFL. 

As it is really getting a lot hotter, there is less incentive to turn on the oven.  I had it on all morning to bake these breads, and it still feels warm.  Look forward to catching up with everyone.  Best,  Phyllis

Skibum's picture

I always enjoy this enriched sweet bread with a cup of good strong coffee -- anytime! I only changed up one thing from my last  back and that was shoe horning it into my oval brotform to proof. Proofing in a hard sided form resulted in more vertical rise vs proofing a braided loaf on a linen couche. I liked the result:

After proofing I egg wshed, sprinkled sugar and ground almond along with a few almond slices. Time for another slice!

Happy baking folks! Ski


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