The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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darren1126's picture



I'm going to try making an olive bread recipe and it calls for a "salt starter". I have no idea what this is. I'm not sure if this is just regular salt, sea salt, or something I'm supposed to create. I tried googling it but that wasn't any help. Could anyone offer some assistance.


Thank you!



dmsnyder's picture


We baked a miche the last day of the SFBI Artisan II (sourdough baking) workshop. This was one of the breads we mixed entirely by hand. The students' miches were scaled to 1 kg, as I recall, but our instructor baked a couple larger ones, using the same dough.

These miches were among the favorites of all the students for the wonderful texture of their crust and crumb and their flavor. I gave one of mine to brother Glenn, who has stopped reminding me in the past few days that I promised him the formula.

This formula is substantially different from the miche formula in Advanced Bread and Pastry. I blogged about the background of that miche last month. This one is more similar to contemporary versions such as that of James McGuire, Hamelman's adaptation of which is found in Bread.

The formula we used at the SFBI calls for mostly white flour, with a little whole wheat in the levain refreshment and a little toasted wheat germ in the final dough. From my reading, a high-extraction flour is preferred for miches. I had some of Central Milling's “Organic Type 85” high-extraction flour on hand, so that is what I used.


Total formula




Wt (g)

Baker's %

High-extraction flour






Wheat germ (toasted)










  • The SFBI formula used 96.67% “Bread flour” and 3.33% Whole wheat flour. All the whole wheat flour is used in the levain. I used Central Milling's “Organic Type 85 Flour” for both the levain and the final dough

  • I did not use wheat germ since I was using high-extraction flour, but this ingredient did contribute to the great flavor of this bread as we made it in Artisan II.






Wt (g)

Baker's %

High-extraction flour






Liquid starter






  1. Dissolve the starter in the water and mix in the flour. Desired Dough Temperature: 78ºF.

  2. Ferment for 8-12 hours.


Final Dough




Wt (g)

Baker's %

High-extraction flour






Wheat germ (toasted)













  1. Dissolve the levain in the water. Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly by hand. DDT: 75-78ºF.

  2. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

  3. Ferment for 3-4 hours with 4 folds at 50 minute intervals. (I did this by the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique.)

  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board. Pre-shape as a tight boule.

  5. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes to relax the gluten.

  6. Shape as a tight boule and place, seam side up, in a floured banneton.

  7. Cover with plastic and retard overnight in refrigerator.

  8. Remove the boule from the refrigerator and allow to warm and complete proofing for 1-3 hours. (Watch the dough, not the clock!)

  9. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the over to 500ºF with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  10. When the loaf is proofed, transfer the boule to a peel. Slash the boule as desired, and transfer it to the baking stone. Steam the oven and reduce the temperature to 450ºF.

  11. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove any water remaining in your steaming apparatus.

  12. Continue baking for another 40-50 minutes. (If you have a convection oven, switch to “Convection Bake” and reduce the oven temperature to 430ºF at this point. But see my tasting notes.)

  13. Remove the boule to a cooling rack, and cool thoroughly before slicing.

Notes on procedure

  • Traditionally, we were told, this bread is scored in a diamond pattern, but any scoring pattern that pleases you is fine. Just be aware that the diamond pattern tends to yield a flatter profile loaf than a simple square or cross.

  • This bread benefits from a very bold bake. The crust should be quite dark. It may look almost burned, but the flavor and crunchiness that is desired requires this.

  • This type of bread often improves in flavor very substantially 24 hours after baking.



    Crumb close-up

Tasting notes

I sliced and tasted the bread about 4 hours after removing it from the oven. The crust had crackled nicely and was very thick and crunchy – the kind that results in crust flying everywhere when you slice it. The crumb was well-aerated, but without any really large holes. The crumb structure is similar to that I got with the miche from BBA made with this flour, but a bit more open. The crumb is chewy-tender.

The flavor of the crust is very dark – caramelized-sweet but with a bitter overtone where it is almost black. The crumb is sweet, wheaty, nutty and absolutely delicious. My note above notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine the flavor getting any better in another day.

I am enormously impressed with the flavor of the breads I have baked with Central Milling's “Organic Type 85” flour. I want more of it, and I want to try some of their other specialty flours, including those they mill for baguettes.

I will definitely be baking this bread again. I would like to make it as a larger miche, say 2 kg. Next time, I will lower the oven temperature to 420 or 425ºF when I switch to convection bake for the crust to be slightly less dark.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

Well, the other day when I wrote about the Queensland floods, I didn't actually get on to write about that, but that's what came out.  Thank you to those who offered encouragement and hope through your replies.

On Wednesday, after the floods, I baked my bread as I had started it the day before and it needed to be finished.  There was a lot of damage to roads and other infrastructure.  As well, lots of rescue people, emergency services, and local council doing repairs here and we were all advised to stay home if we could, so that they could do their jobs.  So baking bread it was for me.

I had decided on the Max Poilane style miche, however I struck a problem.  As we had been advised to stay home I realised that I didn't have all the ingredients for my loaf.  I didn't have enough wholewheat flour, only about a quarter of what I needed.  I had some wholewheat self-raising flour and some other unbleached bread flour.  I took the risk and used the self-raising flour in the mix, wondering if it would kill my yeast or blow my bread up too much.  Strangely it didn't seem to affect it at all.  My bread turned out so tasty, in fact I think it was the tastiest bread I've ever made to date!  Gorgeously flavoursome with a subtle, sweet wheatyness and chewy texture. 

Max Poilane style miche

It's a very big loaf!

A nice crackly crust.

With a nice crackly crust.

Crumb from Max Poilane style miche

This is a nice wheaty, chewy bread with an open(ish) crumb.  And I'm not sure if using the small amount of self-raising flour made it a little more open.  I'd love to taste the real thing!

GSnyde's picture

Saturday 1/15/11.  Today, I am musing on my bread-ucation.  Sort of a milepost marking.  I have been baking for five months.  But I am beginning to feel somewhat knowledgeable about a narrow category of breads, due in large part to (1) The Fresh Loaf and readings recommended here and advice given here, and (2) an enthusiasm for baking that has me making lots of bread as often as I can.  I learn stuff every time I handle dough and bake bread.

In that short span of baking experience, here are some things I've learned about baking simple sourdough breads:


  • To make bread the way you like it takes lots of study and gathering of general information (reading, watching videos, asking questions, and the like) and even more hands-on trial and error (the error part is very important). It's good to know some bread science--what factors have what results and why--but you can only improve your bread-baking by keeping track of what you do each time and making adjustments the next time.

  • You may like bread to be a certain way that others don't, and your tastes may change.  Some like big holes in the crumb, others don't; some like really dark crusts, others don't; some like sourer flavor than others do, etc.  Make it the way you like it and  be your own judge.

  • There are lots of variables that affect the crust, crumb and flavor: to name a few: flour choices; hydration; attributes of your starter culture; dough handling at each stage (including mixing, kneading and/or folding, dividing, pre-shaping, shaping, scoring and loading); time of each stage; temperature of ingredients; temperature of environment; type, quality and duration of steam during the bake; characteristics of the oven; attention to, understanding of, and reaction to the sensory information the dough provides; and luck, blessedness, karma, whatever you choose to call it.  All of these variables are important, but I think the last two in the list are the most important.  

  • There is no perfect loaf.  Striving for improvement can yield improvement, but can also yield higher expectations.  The Earth is round; the horizon keeps receding.

  • The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

  • Bread tastes better when it's been well photographed and shared, and your friends ooh and ahh at it.


This weekend, I am making San Francisco Sourdough from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.  This is the first time I have made something called "San Francisco Sourdough".  I have made 20 or 30 sourdough breads, mostly variations on Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough (including Brother David's San Joaquin and my own San Francisco Country).  But I love the sour flavor, the crispy crust and the moist, chewy crumb of classic San Francisco Sourdough, and I've lived in San Francisco and environs for most of my life.  So isn't it time? 

I have read the formula and all the commentary in the book, and I've looked at several TFL blog posts on this bread.  What I learned: my brother David really likes this bread (or at least he did in 2008-09 when he blogged many times about it).  I chose the formula from Crust and Crumb because (1) I have the book, (2) the formula won some whoop-de-doo award, (3) my brother David really likes this bread and he has good taste, and (4) it's a weekend when I can focus on this formula which takes several days of attention.  

In comparison with most of the other sourdoughs I've made, this formula calls for a firmer starter, considerable kneading, and a more passive fermentation approach.  There are no stretch and folds during the long (4 hour) primary ferment.  I am also--for the first time--making a sourdough with all white flour, and no rye or whole wheat.  I am using BRM enriched white flour, made--according to the bag--from high gluten hard red wheat.  

I can't say I am following Professor Reinhart's formula exactly (I rarely follow anything exactly).  I made a liquid starter from my stock starter, and let it ripen, then chill (but not as long as the formula prescribes).  I then made a firm starter from the liquid starter, and let it ripen, then chill (but not as long as the formula prescribes).  I suspect the shortened retardation time on the starters will make the bread less sour than it would have been, but I will get to finish the process in time to enjoy the bread before the end of the weekend.  Some day I will give this formula all the time it asks, and see if the result is sourer or otherwise different.

I mixed the firm starter, flour, water and salt with my fingers and a plastic scraper.  At least 90% of the dough ended up in the bowl at the end of the mixing.  I then kneaded it on my granite counter, sprinkled with flour.  What I learned. I like kneading dough (I sort of knew that from a few past kneading experiences); it gives immediate visual and tactile feedback on dough development.  Unlike stretching and folding over several hours, when you knead dough, you feel the strengthening of the gluten with every few turns.  Also, I like kneading on floured granite.  Seems like just the right amount of sticky friction.  The dough is now fermenting.  Giving me time to muse.  What I learned as I mused and watched the activity in my sunny courtyard: voles and sparrows will riotously gorge themselves on scattered birdseed, while totally ignoring each other.  The sparrows will chase each other away, but the sparrows don't even seem to acknowledge the voles, and vice versa.

Later 1/1/5/11.  I have now shaped the 1 pound dough pieces into boules.  What I learned. This dough is loose and silky though the hydration is fairly low.  Is it because the gluten develops less strength when the dough is not stretched and folded periodically?  Or because the all white flour absorbs less water than my usual dough which has 15-25% whole grain?  Or because the fermentation (and looseness) is enhanced by the high proportion of stiff levain?  I also learned that un-floured granite is an excellent surface for using the boule shaping technique that Brother David has famously video-recorded.  I strove for a really taut sheath, but the little blobs seem to think they're 75% water when they're more like 60%.  

Now the boules are in their bannetons in their plastic bags, proofing.  They will proof in the kitchen until they have once-and-a-halfled (half a doubling).  Then they will go in the refrigerator for the night.

Sunday 1/16/11.  90 minutes after being taken out of the refrigerator, the boules were gently flopped from their bannetons onto pieces of parchment, then placed on a cookie sheet and scored.  The oven, with baking stone, was pre-heated at 475 F for an hour steamed using Sylvia's magic towels and a cast iron skillet with lava rocks. In addition, contrary to my usual procedure, I misted the loaves with water when they were loaded and again after a couple minutes.  After 15 minutes, I removed the steaming apparati and reduced the temperature to 425 F on convection setting.  After 30 minutes total (and a 207 F internal loaf temperature), I turned the oven off and left the loaves on the stone with the door ajar for another 10 minutes.

The oven spring was very good, though not the mighty spring of some other sourdoughs I've baked.  The loaf scored with a star rose about 20% more than the one with the hash mark (is this a commentary on telephone keypads?). The crust is perfectly colored, deep caramel and quite even, shiny, with little crust bubbles here and there. What I learned.  Spritzing loaves seems to add to shine and crust bubbles.  The star scoring pattern seems to encourage upward spring.  Convection baking (in a good oven) seems to enhance evenness of crust color.  I love my North Coast oven.



As the loaves cool, I can take a few minutes to look off to sea, where a large group of grey whales are commuting South, presumably looking for real Wharf Bread.  They are spouting off and waving hello with their flukes.

Later 1/16/11.  The loaves are mostly cooled.  They spray crust crumbs widely as they are sliced.  The crumb is moist, airy but chewy.  Very much a classic SF sourdough.  The holes are mostly small, with a few bigger pockets, but not what you'd call an open crumb.  This is just as I like it.  The flavor is simple but good.  Mildly sour.  What I learned.  Maybe the longer retardation of the starters is key to stronger sourness.  The less open crumb may be linked to the passive bulk retardation (with no stretch-and-folds and thus less gluten strength to hold bigger bubbles). 



Update:  An hour later, the structure of the crumb has solidified and become a bit denser.  I'd say medium dense.  Good texture.  The flavor's also become a bit more sour.

All in all, this is a bread I'll make again, probably adding some stretch-and-folds and some whole grains.  And definitely trying the longer retardation of the starters that the recipe calls for. That would combine the more complex flavors, more gluten strength and the sourness I'm seeking.  I learned a lot from this bake.



geraintbakesbread's picture

I had a busy day in the kitchen yesterday: as well as the semolina w/fennel bread ( & a Christopomos for the BBA challenge I'm participating in at, I had a go at the ciabatta with biga.

I used some Italian '00' flour that I haven't used before:

Protein content is 11%. Reading through other posts at (again, after I'd baked!), it sounds like Hamelman's recipes are geared to stronger American flours. I might give this another go using Doves Farm Organic White (12.5% protein) for comparison (I realise it's not just protein levels that determine gluten quality).

I don't have a mixer so kneading higher hydration doughs can be a challenge. I often use Dan Lepard's no knead method, but wanted to get this done fairly quickly & also wanted to see how well I could manage by hand. I made use of a tip I've picked up along the way, i.e. starting off with less water until the gluten is fairly well developed, then gradually adding the rest. I began by mixing the dough at 65% hydration; this was still very wet, so I used the French method of kneading that I'm sure many of you are familiar with (if not, video here:

I did this for about 15mins before incorporating the biga, and 10mins later, the rest of the water, which took a further 10.

I performed the folds at 1 & 2hrs, & scaled at 3x500g after 3hrs and left them to proove on floured boards. I somehow missed the bit saying: cover with linen & then plastic, and just used plastic, which was a bit sticky when it came to uncovering them 2hrs later!

Then came the bit which confuses me slightly: Hamelman writes about how fragile they are & not to sneeze near them & yet you're supposed to perform a flip?! Needless to say, they degassed considerably during this operation:

I don't know why I followed this procedure with all three; I wish now I'd baked one without flipping to see how it differed.They all baked well, one after the other, with almost no discernible difference in final appearance, in spite of the fact the last one went in an hour and a half after the first.

I was really pleased with the crust, but a little disappointed with the hole size/distribution. It was good to eat though: I ate half a loaf straight away!

More images at

geraintbakesbread's picture

I made this bread as a result of having recently joined the site where members bake their way through Jeffrey Hamelman's 'Bread' book.

I love fennel seeds & really enjoyed a semolina bread I made using a Carol Field recipe (from 'The Italian Baker'), so I was looking forward to this.

I made my soaker with millet flakes, along with the wheat flakes & coarse polenta. I wasn't sure how Hamelman defines 'hot', nor how long to soak, but used water at 50oc (122F) and soaked overnight.

For the first time ever, I used the DDT formula to calculate the water temp for the dough, which again needed to be 50oc. Even so, I didn't quite reach the recipe DDT of 76F, the dough being 72F after kneading. Nevertheless, the fermentation times were fairly close to those in the recipe.

The loaves (scaled at 2x488g) came out looking great:

It has a thin chewy crust & springy chewy crumb. The flavour is intriguing - certainly not a wow - but I enjoy the little bursts of fennel & the creaminess imparted by the soaker. I will be interested to see how the flavours develop overnight & also to try it toasted.

We're having hake tonight & I think this should go quite well with it. I'm sure it would be good with a simple white bean soup.

wassisname's picture

Winter started with a bang this year and seemed like it would never let up!  After two months of slapdash, subsistence baking I finally managed to find enough time (and energy) to bake some decent sourdough.

A simple miche based on Leader's method in Local Breads seemed like just the thing so I mixed up a double batch using about 75% WW flour and 25% bolted "Turkey" flour.  With my kitchen being nice and cool the dough fermented for about 7.5 hours.  Loads of flavor.  Just what I've been craving.  I feel much better now.


Jo_Jo_'s picture

Ok, I admit, my bookshelves are literally crammed with books, and I know that I haven't finished reading the three I got for Christmas.  Bread Baker's Apprentice, King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, and Taste of Home Baking... all really nice books and this gives me TONS of recipes.  I am doing the BBA Challenge, so that has slowed me down from simply reading the book from cover to cover. Thing is, now that I have those books, what ones are next?  I was thinking the the whole grain one from Peter Reinhart, but I see so many other books that people are talking about that I am wondering what is the next step?  Which ones would be better for me to start with and then continue through?  For having baked bread as many years as I have, you would think that I would have a ton of them, but most of the ones I have are simply recipe books and don't even show weighing the ingredients. 

I am interested in grinding my wheat and am planning on getting a Nutrimill pretty soon, so I am trying to factor that into my choices.  Having ground some of my wheat in the past I know that it can change tried and true recipes into total disasters.  I prefer books that give me the science and explanations rather than something that simply gives me a recipe.  Don't get me wrong, recipes are good but when you have so much learning to do and nobody with the experience to teach you the art of breadmaking then reading books and forums is where you get 100% of your knowledge from. 

I have read through a lot of the reviews on TFL, and see a lot of enthusiasm for certain books, but I am still not certain what to buy next and why this one would be better than that one etc.  I am only allowing myself a few books a year now, sorta a book diet.


davidg618's picture

Desired DoughTemperature (DDT), at best only a gross-estimate of the temperature of a dough at the beginning of bulk fermentation (ref.: ) is too often ignored, or given only a brief word or two of non-specific, and often ambiguous explanation. (See, for example, BBA's Pain a l'Ancienne: this is the best I've found, and still, in my opinion, using ice-water is ambiguous in specificity, and lacks complete explanation, of effects and side-effects.) 

Within the usual range of factors, i.e., the newly mixed dough's temperature, Ph, hydration, and ingredients present; dough temperature, more than any other factor, controls yeast and bacteria activity. Secondly, dough temperature is hard to change, and especially hard to change in a controlled way. Thirdly--and not an issue, but a reality--the home baker has more direct control over temperature than any other factor. (Ingredients is, of course, the second, but you can't turn a brioche into a ciabatta.)

Addressing the latter issue first, having recently built a proofing box, early experiences supported my concern that a dough's initial temperature would dominate the dough's average temperature for hours. Stated differently, the heat energy in a light bulb, or heating pad--typical heat sources in homemade proofing boxes--is low. Furthermore, the transfer of heat into a dough mass (a complex function of the dough's mass, surface area, temperature differences, and its specific heat) is slow.

This is not a bad thing. If the heat source is cranked up too high, undesired side-effects will likely occur; e.g., the dough's surface will dry out, yeast cells at or near the dough's surface will produce gas at a reduced rate. The solution to avoiding both these problems is straight forward: Set the DDT to the temperature desired for bulk fermentation. If your going to proof at 76°F (the most common temperature invoked by bread book formulae), 80*F (Tartine Bread). 82.5°F (Zojurishi bread machine pre-heat, and proof temperature most favorable to yeast growth and activity), or 90°F (best temperature favoring bacterial vs. yeast growth in most sourdough cultures.) adjust the mixes' water temperature to reach a DDT as close as possible to the intended bulk fermenting temperature. Conversely, 40°F if you're going to retard the dough in the refrigerator, and finish proofing at room temperture, or 55°F if your using a wine cooler--my preferred retarding temperature. Then your proofing box (or chiller) is maintaining the dough's initial temperature: a much less energetic job.

The first issue, also stated in a different way: why? What's the reason for a specific DDT? Flavor, Scheduling, or Texture? I can't think of a fourth reason, and texture is the most tenuous.  Nonetheless, know why you've chosen a proofing temperature, and choose accordingly. And, if your writing a breadbook, fully explain why you chose a specificied initial dough temperature, including its benefits and downers.

David G


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