The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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alfanso's picture

The way that I’ve been doing levain builds recently has been addition by subtraction, a three stage build, started out more or less as such (for ex:):

stage 1- build 100g stiff levain using a miniscule # of grams of stiff starter.  ~6-7 hours to show any life, then doubles in the next 2-3 hours.
age 2 - discard ~50g, add 50g of new water and flour, same stiff levain.  Takes 2.5 hours to double.
3 - discard ~50g, add ~100g water and flour, same stiff levain.  Takes 2.5 hours to more than double.  And this is what I use.

The discarded build goop gets collected in a covered container and refrigerated.  Each new discard is folded into the existing discard.

The process has since morphed into a two stage build taking some of the scrapings of the discard from the previous levain and using it as if it is my output from a 1st stage build.  Then on to the 2nd and 3rd stages as described above.

dabownman “challenged” me to reuse the discard, and so I did.  This levain is 300g of refrigerated discard with a baby boost of 100g of new feed.  Mixed cold straight from the fridge 2 nights ago, turned once to distribute the ingredients, and then shoved back into cold storage for the night.  Yesterday morning I retrieved it and let it come up to room temperature by placing it in a pan of warm water.  It is still incredibly active – the top of the yellow sliver of post-it note was the level of the cold discard.  

The height in the photo is after a mere hour and change.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been trying to do something different with these bakes to “make it my own”, see my post on Semolina Batard for an explanation.  
Ingredients are the same as in FWSY Field Blend #2, with the exception of using a stiff levain instead of a liquid levain and adding mere grams of extra water.

300 French folds later:

4th Letter Fold - my baby boy’s all grown up!  Each of the 4 letter folds is 25 minutes apart.

25 more minutes of bench rest and then into the fridge for a bulk cool down.  Total post-mix & fold bench time – just over 2 hours and significantly less than FWSY outlines for a bulk bench fermentation.  After a protracted cool down, maybe 2-3 hours due to outside commitments, divide and shape.  These are ~575g each.

This morning, once the oven was on for 45 minutes and Sylvia's steaming towel was steaming, I pulled the batards out of the fridge, scored them and loaded the oven deck.  I also add another two cups of water into my lava rock pan.  Did I hear someone utter “mega steam?”

Pre and Post-retard and after loading onto the oven peel:

475dF for 10 steaming minutes, then release the steam, rotate batards and bake for another 15 –17 minutes.

Now, these batards were quite close together on the oven peel, but you can see how they almost touched side walls once our friendly yeasts decided to give one last hurrah as they double-timed it toward their final death spiral.  The proximity of the batards helps to insulate each other from the oven heat, which in the long run is not what we are aiming for.  But it sure is gratifying to see these kids bloom.

Getting steamed, and steam is released and batards are rotated.

Although I’m comparing Ganny Smith apples to Fuji apples here, it does seem evident that my scoring and loading directly from the fridge to oven beats the pants off of the Country Blonde bake, where I had let the couched batards sit in a warm kitchen for a half hour prior to scoring and loading.  These are both high hydration doughs and the scoring on that bake was hampered severely by the warmed surface of the dough, hence the oven spring also suffered.  At least this it the theory I’m sticking with until I can be convinced otherwise.

The other proof of concept here is that the accumulated discard from multiple builds over a few weeks can be mighty potent and re-employed with really fine results.


victoriamc's picture

For non-german readers spargel is white asparagus.  its in season just now here in bavaria, so I just had to bake with it.  This Spargel pizza recipe is delicious.  For full details, go to


Skibum's picture

I'm really not sure how, but sometime over the winter my venerable Henckels bread knife went missing. I bought this cheap orange knife, hoping the other would turn up, but no luck. 

Freshloafers, please do yourselves a favour and NEVER buy a knife like the cheap orange one. When I began baking Forkish style boules in the cast DO the knife would barely cut through the crust.

So I treated myself to a Global, a light, well balanced stainless steel beauty, Made in Japan. This is a beautiful kitchen tool and slices through the hardest crust with ease! Initially, I thought it too pricey, then remembered I paid $60 for my everyday chef's knife 38 years ago. Perspective. Worth every penny!!!


Happy baking, Ski

FrugalBaker's picture

It is because of the generous and sincere tips from a various individuals on this site....I finally, churned out a decent looking loaf of bread. Still have plenty to work on but I am off to a good start, I think. 


p/s : Thanks Abe, dabrownman and WendySusan.....appreciate the effort!






Crumb Shot

Skibum's picture

Well this old skibum is a very happy baker, having both a natural levain and now a working yeast water culture. I used 50g of sweet levain and 50g of YW levain, both at 100% hydration in a mix with about 450g total flour.

I am AMAZED by the oven spring the YW adds to the bake. I bake pulla often, but have been stuck baking the commercial yeasted versions. The natural leavening simply produces superior crust, crumb and flavour!

With all of this fresh starter, I am back to baking something every day and my neighbours and I are loving the results!

Happy baking folks! Ski

victoriamc's picture

I am happy to be back to baking!!  having spent 2 weeks in front of my computer overhauling my website it feels great to get back to what I like the best, baking!  

These cranberry range brioche rolls are super easy ad super tasty, made with oilve oil instead of butter and eggs, they are lighter and healthier than traditional french brioche rolls.  The tart cranberries are perfect in this type of dough.   Check out for full details.  crumb shot cranberry orange brioche rolls

dmsnyder's picture

I just returned home from my second bake in a wood fired oven. My first bake, about 3 weeks ago, is described in My first WFO bake: Lessons in time, temperature and humility. That experience demonstrated the wisdom of the advice I had received, especially the advice I disregarded.  

Last week, I got a phone call from my friend, L. , inviting me to a potluck dinner at J.'s where members of the Italian social group that meets weekly at J.'s store would be eager to sample my bread, baked in J.'s WFO. Yikes! A "command performance!" So, I called J. and told her I needed another "practice session" before baking for 20 hungry Italians. 

I re-read all the TFL responses to my request for WFO words of wisdom and, from them, distilled a protocol that I shared with J. She translated it into a concrete schedule, and we agreed on a date and time for the practice session, which was today.

I added one item to the list of suggestions: Because of the incredible oven spring with burst loaves I had from the first WFO bake, it seemed to me that I should more fully proof the loaves to reduce the oven spring to a more "normal," controlled level.

J. Fired her oven at 4 am. I arrived at her house at 2 pm. In retrospect, she had built too big a fire. The oven floor was over 750 dF, and the coals were still burning. We shoveled out the coals, and in about an hour the oven was cool enough (around 500 dF) to try baking bread. We decided to do one of the 3 loaves first, just in case ... I choose a 1 Kg boule of my San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour. We had a large cast iron skill filled with water in the back of the oven. We mopped the floor with a damp cloth. I loaded the boule, shut the door for 20 minutes. Then I peaked and rotated the loaf. It baked for 25 minutes.

After baking the other loaves - two 900g bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat -, we sliced the SFSD and tasted it with some fantastic local olive oil which I am going to have to buy next time I'm at J.'s store.

The bâtards had a slightly cooler oven. They baked in about 26 minutes and were less darkly colored.

As you can see, these loaves have a somewhat dull crust. This is because the oven could not be adequately humidified. It's big and really needed to be baking 15, 20 or more loaves at once to function optimally. However, the tasting is the critical test.

The SFSD with increase whole wheat was simply the best tasting bread I have ever baked. The crust was very crunchy. The crumb was well-aerated, very tender and light. The crust had a dark, nutty, mildly bitter flavor which was offset by the very sweet, milky flavor of the crumb. There was a subtle, late-appearing but lingering acetic acid tang, but the lactic acid flavor was much more prominent. After tasting a slice, with and without olive oil and declaring it delicious, J. said, "You know, growing up, I never liked sourdough bread, but this is wonderful." 

Before I left for home, we set a schedule for preparing the oven and baking the breads for the potluck. I'm ready to party!

I couldn't have learned what I have learned in just two bakes without the wonderful, generous wisdom shared by  TFL members mrvegemite,  yozzause, Sjadad, Arlo, etheil, BobSponge, embth, and Josh. Thanks, guys! You make me (even more) proud to be a member of this community.


a_warming_trend's picture

I haven't made a post in awhile, but I have been practicing, practicing, practicing. I hit one year of baking last weekend, and six months since I fell in love with sourdough. I actually haven't baked with commercial yeast since I baked that first fateful SD loaf on November 4, 2014. 

Over these last weeks, I've been experimenting with a range of ways to bake sourdough in the midst of a busy work week. This is the quest of a home baker who can't seem to limit herself to weekend baking, despite a pretty demanding full-time job. 

I've been working with a range of ways to extend fermentation: long autolyse, long cold bulk, long cold proof, BOTH long bulk and long proof, young levain, super-long-fermented levain, stiff levain, high-hydration levain, 5% levain, 30% levain, and dozens of variations in between. 

Many more specific discussions of methods and results to come in the coming weeks!

Flour.ish.en's picture

This is the first time I bake any Ken Forkish’s bread. This is the first time I post on the Fresh Loaf blog, although I’ve read and learnt so much from a lot of the active participants here. Rightly or wrongly, I feel I can’t be a complete bread baker, among other things, if I’ve never tried Forkish’s recipes. I started baking a lot of Chad Robertson’s breads after I read his two books, Tartine Bread and Tartine Book No.3, a year ago.

At the same time, I got a new heavy-duty dual-fuel range that is wide enough to bake full size baguettes. Most of these breads were posted on my blog ( Overnight country blonde was the first I baked from Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. I figure the best start is to bake something closest to what I am most familiar with,which is the Tartine basic country bread. I followed the overnight country blonde recipe to a T, except for the part that you are not supposed to score the dough, which I did.

There are a lot of similarities between Forkish and Tartine’s approach, but there are enough differences, e.g. in building the levain, the fermentation process and baking temperature. To keep track of what I was doing and understanding the unique approaches, I put all the steps side by side in a spreadsheet.

Here are the comparisons and my takeaway from having baked the overnight country blonde and many variations of the Tartine country bread.

  • Both Tartine basic country bread (Tartine) and Forkish country blonde (Forkish) are excellent. It'd be akin to hairsplitting if I say that one is better than the other.
  • Tartine and Forkish have similar hydration level of roughly 77-78% using 90% white flour in the total flour amount. 
  • While Tartine uses one tablespoon of starter to build 400g of levain, Forkish uses 100g to build 1000g, which results in a greater amount of levain being discarded. 
  • Salt and small amount of water are added to the Tartine dough (levain and all) after 30 minutes of resting period, at which point the dough is relaxed, cohesive and easy to work with. Meanwhile salt and all of the 216g of levain are incorporated into the autolyse mixture to make the final Forkish dough, which I find much wetter and stickier to handle.
  • Bulk fermentation is 3 to 4-hr at 80°-85°F for Tartine and 12 to 15-hr at 77°-78°F temperature for Forkish. The longer fermentation of Forkish dough necessitates baking the bread the next day, spanning a two-day process from the time you mix the dough.
  • The longer bulk fermentation of the Forkish dough imparts a much sourer note in the finished loaf.
  • The higher oven temperature in baking the Tartine dough often results in a thicker and burnished crust, especially on the bottom.

Now I need to integrate these approaches in order to make better breads in my own kitchen setting. I want to move away from baking from recipes and develop a more intuitive feel for my breads. Any suggestions from someone who has gone down this path before?

alfanso's picture

“My recent straying from baguettes to batards is a mere bagatelle, a minor distraction”, Alfanso said when recently quoted in the World Baking Journal**.
Alfanso was also quoted as stating that he was smitten by shaping of the dough the day prior to the bake, and to let them mature as already couched and shaped batards in the refrigerator overnight.  Hence, a simple bake was all that was seemingly necessary the next morning.  Fire up the oven, let the baking deck come up to temp for an hour, and toss the dough in.  Voila. Bread!  But sometimes all is not what it seems in Carb Land.  A case in point shall ensue...

I’d been wanting, but forgetting, to snap a few “in process” photos.  Until this morning.  These are three ~500g each of my version of Ken’s bakery’s Country Blonde batards.

The Good
The couched batards just out of the refrigerator.  They are camera shy in this photo.  The couche was covered by plastic bags to retain moisture.

The big reveal!  The couche is heavily floured as there is a lot of moisture that these batards contain.

High hydration somewhere north of 78%.  From couche to hand peel.

From hand peel to oven peel.  You can see in these photos the abundance of flour needed to have the batards release from the couche.  If you look closely, you can see the seam.  I set these into the couche seam side down.

The Bad
The three batards scored and ready to be baked.  
As this is new territory for me, I seem to have erred by having removed the batards from the refrigerator a half hour prior to the bake.  Rather than immediately before baking.  In that ensuing half hour, in a warm kitchen and their proximity to the oven, the surface of the batards had softened to the point whereby scoring was particularly difficult.  The blade, even with a light dip into olive oil, dragged mercilessly.

The result.  You can see the inconsistency of the score and the lack of oven spring.

The skin still blistered beautifully.  Blistering was already evident at the 10 minute mark when I opened the oven door to release the steam and rotate these babies.

The Tasty
Do I really need to bore you any more with this section?  We already know how good our breads are!

Next time, I’ll remember to remove the batards from the refrigerator just before bake time.  That is, if I can remember...
Oh well, live and learn.  Umm - live, eat and learn!  

**Sorry, but to my knowledge there is no World Baking Journal.


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