The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


wassisname's picture

First the old:  An 85% whole wheat sourdough.  I'm still tinkering with this formula and getting good bread, but I'm coming to realize that the way I handle the dough has more impact on the bread than my endless tinkering with the numbers (if only I could spend as much time baking as I do in front of a computer). 

Now the new:  I finally got a copy of Hamelman's Bread.  Wow.  Now I understand.  I also tried scoring with a safety razor-on-a-stick for the first time.  That was weird.  I didn't think it would be so different from scoring with a bread knife.  It will take some practice, but I think it will be an improvement.  Lastly, but no less exciting, I recently discovered that the little health food store in town will happily special order 25lb bags of Giusto's flours at rock-bottom prices.  Who would have thought?

The Little Things:  That's what this bake really threw into sharp relief.  These two loaves came from the same lump of dough and were meant to be exactly the same except for the scoring.  I don't think scoring alone accounts for this much difference.  The larger loaf isn't just larger because of a better oven spring, it actually is larger because I didn't get them divided exactly in half - there's one little difference.  But obviously the larger loaf did behave quite differently in the oven.  Shaping.  I tried a new (to me) method, first on the smaller loaf.  It seems that by the second loaf I was already better at it.  The crumbs differ significantly as well, though they don't look as different in the photos.  A good lesson for me - keep an eye on the little things!

And the garden is in full swing, so I put the bread to good use!


davidg618's picture

Some of you will remember the tale of the miner who froze to death in the Yukon, with the last BTU in his body, curled about Maude,  he saved her. Maude was his sourdough starter, named after a favorite memory. I never told you his name. It's Hurcules; friends called him Herk. As his legend grew, he became known as Sourdough Herk, Maude's savior.

With Sourdough Debra's help--oops, that's Ms. Debra Wink I mean--It appears my new starter is saved.  I'm diligently feeding it ever eight hours. I have eight days to go before, by Ms. Wink's estimate, it will be officially ready. Meanwhile, I'm biting my fingernails--a habit picked up post-puberty when I started worrying more than I'd done pre-pube--waiting to test it out.

One of the side-effects of feeding a starter every eight hour, regardless of how small a quantity you're feeding, is Discard. Discard, if you save it, piles up. I'd forgotten that over the last couple of years, before I trashed my old starter. My old starter was a Refrigerator Queen, pampered, yes, but only once a week (or so). Discard had been forgotten.

I rarely throw away anything. That's why my kitchen, home office, and wood shop are cluttered. Now don't think the TV show "Hoarders". I've enough of a mild case of OCD that I keep things orderly...well, mostly. So it was natural, when it came time to discard my first Discard, I thought of Herk. It goes without saying, Herk never discarded a gram of Maude! Why, why that would be like...well, it doesn't matter; no need to talk about kittens here.

So I started saving Discard.

It's now Day 6 or 7--I lost track, so being cautious I'm assuming its Day 6--eight days to go.

I've already got a lot of Discard.

Early days, I'd visions of sourdough pancakes, sourdough biscuits, sourdough batter fried 'round fish, or, maybe, green tomatoes.

Discard just kept growing--on it own, as well as my additions--every eight hours.

Now my fledgling starter seems to be doing wonderfully. With Marine drill precision timing it peaks every 7 hours, and with equal discipline I feed it. And I collect Discard. I've named its collection container Slop Bucket.

I'm also getting impatient--another post-puberty habit--I want, very much, to see the final results from my new starter: Bread!

So I reasoned, it's not cheating if I make bread with Discard. After all, if it wasn't for my deep respect for Herk, I'd have thrown Discard away, and, besides, if baking with Discard is even slightly successful, it will be a precursor of what's to come. Right?

I did it. Today.

I know, I know. It's not the real thing. That's eight days away. Not to worry, in eight days this wannabe will be history. Herk would understand.

David G


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

After seeing Glenn's posting of his weekend bake, I thought that I'd show a couple of pictures of my project. It's what I often call my "house loaf" lately though this particular loaf appears to look better than most I've turned out. Maybe it was good fortune but I like to think that I keep learning from all the information being shared here on TFL.

Baking bread here in Kansas in the summertime has been another learning experience in that even with air conditioning, the room temperature averages around 80F. My sourdough starter doesn't seem to be consistent in its speed this summer, but it still does a good job. Practice, pratice, practice.

It's still good, if slightly messy, fun to bake and enjoy the results. I posted barely coherent babblings on the loaf at my blog.

Comments, editing suggestions, humor, and questions are always welcome.

dmsnyder's picture

Well, I'm back from a lovely week at the beach with family. I surely enjoyed the week, including Glenn's fabulous pastrami and corn beef with his and my rye breads. Glenn's Tartine BCB and my SFBI miche were also appreciated. 

Yesterday, I thawed dough made for pizzas 4 and 6 weeks ago and frozen. I made a couple of pies, one with each of the doughs made with Maggie Glezer's and Jeff Verasano's recipes.


Pizza using Maggie Glezer's dough

Pizza made with Jeff Verasano's dough

Glezer's pizza dough retained its distinctive crispness. Verasano's dough was still more elastic than Glezer's but not as chewy as it had been before freezing. I would say that neither was quite as good, but both were better than any you could get at the chains.

Today, I baked a couple bâtards of Pain au Levain from Hamelman's Bread. This has become a favorite. Today's tweak was to shape the loaves using the method portrayed on the KAF videos but proofing the loaves in cotton-lined oval brotformen rather than on a couche.


The loaves assumed a rounder/less elongated shape during baking. I wonder if, en couche, with lateral support but no support at the ends, the loaves spread longitudinally more. Hmmmm ….


I have dough for my version of Gosselin's Baguettes Tradition in the fridge to finish tomorrow. I'll update this entry accordingly.


Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

Hello.  I'm new to the Fresh Loaf, but have been baking breads for about 4 years now (more frequently in the past two).  I've been making sourdough breads for about a year, and they're edible, but they spread everywhere.  I'm talking about regular plain sourdough---whole wheat, or all white bleached flour, or a mix of the two.  I've tried it with looser, malleable dough.  I've tried thickening the dough with more flour, which only resulted in very dense and hard to bake bread.   I've seen pictures of breads on here with serious loft, where the widest part of the free-formed loaf is towards the middle of the height (like a teardrop), not right on the bottom as mine are.  I realize that all of this is still pretty new to me.  Is there a step I'm missing?  I'd really rather not use special forms, or commercial yeast.

I have healthy starter, just the regular white flour with filtered water.  I add its equivalent in flour, and half that in water (I use cups for now).  It rises well.

I add starter to flour and water, use noniodized salt, then knead it until it is very malleable and stretches to let light in. During the kneading process I let it rest a little while washing dishes, then go knead it some more.

I let that rest in an oiled bowl about 4 hours (I am at 2200 feet elevation) to get a good taste.

Then, I knead it again, only using enough flour to keep it off my hands.  It still feels malleable.

I let it rise on a metal flat pan until doubled, then put it in an oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit with a pan of hot water indirectly underneath it, baking for about 45 minutes.  [i know I know, not a high temperature as I just read higher temperatures make better crusts....but I'm just working on baking it all the way through first!  I do NOT like doughy centers and have taken to cutting every single loaf in half to be sure it's baked through. I've found out that the thump hollow sound test does not tell the truth]

So, I'm praying that somebody has the answer out there.  I'm not doing fancy bread yet, I'm just trying to get the basics down.  I would really like some good loft. 


lumos's picture


As I’ve mentioned in a few posts , until I can find a magic and perfect solution for preventing a large stock of flours infested with flour bugs, I’ve got to make do with whatever flour I can find in local shops/supermarkets to make baguettes and other French breads instead of using proper Type 55 or Type 65 flour. So I’ve been experimenting on combinations of various flours for a while now since I experienced  the invasion and empire building by flour bugs some years ago and stopped ordering lovely flour from Shipton Mill which I still miss.  For larger loaves, like pain de campagne-type breads, I think I’ve more or less found out a reasonably good, reliable combinations of flours to achieve what I want to achieve, but for baguettes I’m still in the thick of experiments; eternal state of purgatory, between many illusions of possible heaven in sight and crashing down to hell. (Yes, I's only just flours, but my handling skill as well.....)

A couple of weeks ago, my regular Typo 00 flour for pasta making (Organic. Imported from Italy. Can’t remember the name…) was out of stock at my local Waitrose, so in desperation I bought Dove’s Farm  Organic Pasta Flour from another supermarket. The pasta I made with it wasn’t very successful. It produced much softer dough with not much ‘bite’ to speak of, compared to my regular one.  So I was left with a half-empty bag of pasta flour with which I don’t want to use for making my pasta again….. I used a part of remaining flour for focaccia one day and it turned out quite alright, got a feel of how it’d behave as ‘bread flour.’ Still really soft, but it had a nice flavour and quite appealing delicate shade of creamy colour to the crumb.  So a few days later, I mixed it with strong flour to make my regular Petit Pain Rustique with Poolish (based on Hamelman’s formula with a bit of twist…or two), replacing my usual plain flour. It worked alright; more airy and lighter than plain+strong combination, though the crumb structure was a bit too uniform to my liking; more even small holes than random large holes. But it was acceptable enough, and more importantly, it tasted good.

So yesterday I decided I’d try this on my regular baguettes recipe and see how it’d work. And this is how I made it...


Poolish Baguettes - Spiked with Pasta Flour

(makes 2 x 40cm mini-baguettes)


117g  Waitrose Organic Strong flour

8g  Becheldre Stoneground Rye flour

125g  water

0.1g  Instant yeast 

- Mix all the ingredients, cover and leave at room temperature overnight (12-16 hrs, or maybe shorter or longer, depending upon your room temperature)


Final Dough

All of above poolish. at its peak

75g  Waitrose Organic Strong flour

60g  Dove’s Farm Pasta flour

Scant 1 tbls  wheat germ

Instant yeast  0.7g

5g  good quality sea salt (Sal de Gris, if I have. If not Maldon’s)

60g  water 

  1. Mix both flours with wheat germ, yeast and salt (ground fine if coarse) in a large bowl and add water and active poolish.
  2. Mix into a shaggy mess and rest for 30 minutes.
  3. 3 sets of S & F every 20 minutes.
  4. Cover and cold retard in a fridge for 6-7 hours.
  5. Take it out from the fridge and leave for 30 minutes –1 hr until the dough almost returns to room temperature. (It’s easier to work with if it’s slightly colder and less risk of over-fermentation this way)
  6. Pre-shape and shape into baguette shape, as you’d normally do to make baguettes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven at the highest setting, with a tray of pebbles for steam and a baking stone in it.
  8. When the baguettes are properly proofed (It usually takes around 40-50 minutes or so at this time of year….inEngland. Finger-poke test is essential!), spray inside the oven very generously to make it moist before it receives the dough. (or you can place a dish of water when you start pre-heating, but I always forget to do so….)
  9. (Now, you’ve got to do these very smoothly and quickly!) Score the baguettes, spray the surface with water, load the bagettes into the oven (I usually place the dough on re-usable oven sheet and slide it onto the baking stone), pour half a cup of boiling water (yes, you’ve got to put the kettle on when your bagettes are ready to be baked) onto the pebbles, shut the door immediately, turn the oven temperature down to 240 C….and relax for 10 minutes.
  10.  After 10 minutes, remove the tray of pebble stones and, if you think the baguettes are getting too dark too quickly, turn the temperature down to 220 C and bake for another 12-15 minutes or so.


 (Hope you're all kind enough not to notice the ragged scoring on the baguette in the back ...)


A vertical shot….


From slightly different angle....



.....and lastly and more importantly....this is how the crumb looked like. 

 Hmmmmm……well, it’s not as randomly-holey-airy as I would like, and the crumb was a bit too fluffy and soft to my liking (I like my baguette moderately chewy with a slight bite), but the crust was very crisp and lovely and the taste of both crumb and crust were quite agreeable.  This is the crumb shot for the uglier looking one (wanted it to disappear from the surface of Earth quicker). I froze the other one, so I'm hoping I'll find slightly more open crumb when I slice into it in a few days time,  because it gained more in volume during baking. But there's no guarantee..... 

 I think I can explore more possibilities in using this pasta flour for bread making, but I’m pretty sure my desperate journey of the quest for a baguette with improvised flours will still continue for some time….



GSnyde's picture

After fiddling repeatedly between last October and this March with my formula for pain de campagne, which I dubbed “San Francisco Country Sourdough,” I got distracted by other things—mostly Tartine Basic Country Bread.  A couple weeks ago, we thawed and enjoyed the last of that SFCSD, a sign that it was time to return to that formula and try it again.   I was curious after all this time (four months may not seem like a long time, but its 30% of my bread-baking history), to see if the product would be better due to my experiences baking the Tartine BCB.

I can say that the product was better, but—of course—I can’t say why.

I used the same formula as last posted (…and-oven), with the following variations: (1) I got stuck on a long phone call, so the stretch and folds were at something like 30 minutes, 110 minutes and 150 minutes; (2) I shaped the dough into three 500 gram batards, and (3) I proofed the loaves on a linen couche instead of my usual brotforms.  These smaller loaves were done baking after about 30 minutes at 450 F.

What had shifted my focus to the Tartine BCB was its magnificent crumb, the perfect point for me on the chewy-tender spectrum.   This bake of the San Francisco Country Sourdough was very close to that ideal, and it has the dash of rye flavor I love in pain de campagne.  This one—which I didn’t retard—had a nice slight sourness.

In looking at the two formulas, the procedures are fairly similar.  But the SFCSD has a lower hydration and the dough is much less sticky and, therefore, easier to handle. 

I wonder now whether the improvement in this bread since my last try at it has to do with the progress of my skills in dough handling and judging fermentation, or was it just kitchen karma, or do I not remember how good this bread was in previous bakes?

In any case, fresh-baked with butter, it was an ideal accompaniment for a Summer dinner of seafood salad with homemade Louis dressing.

This bread will again be a regular in my rotation.


Winnish's picture

Pita-bread with Zaatar (middle-east spice), sesame and olive oil


















Very easy to make, and very tasty. We actually love to eat it with Tehina or Hummus (spead made of chickpeas), but it's great with everything

















For recipe and more photos, pease visit my post

My blog and my posts are in Hebrew, but translator is available (top left side-bar)


varda's picture

Sometimes you have to back up to move forward.   I have tried to make 100% whole durum bread a couple times and couldn't achieve a good density or crumb structure even if I was happy with other things.    I found myself decidedly confused by the durum - did it want a long ferment so that the dough could develop without a lot of manipulation, or did it need a short ferment because it develops much faster than regular wheat doughs?    I decided to back up in the percent of durum and then move forward stepwise to see what I could learn.   So last night and today, I made a sourdough boule with 40% whole durum flour.    Even though I was only at 40% I tried to use the gentle methods that durum seems to need, so I mixed everything by hand, stretched and folded in the bowl with my hands, and generally did whatever I could not to frighten the durum.    I also retarded overnight for convenience sake.    Hydration is 68%.   Prefermented flour is 23%.   I used my regular wheat with 5% rye starter.   Here are some pictures of the result:

Next up:  60% whole durum boule. 

davidg618's picture

Bake bread.

Debra Wink, God bless her, is helping me recover from the loss of my seed starter. In the meantime, because we're out of sourdough loaves--the freezer, at this moment, only holds two baguettes, and some hamburger size soft baps--I've baked my favorite sourdough 10/45/45 Rye/Bread Flour/AP Flour, 68% Hydration converted to a 12 hour sponge, with commercial yeast prefermenting 20% of the formula's flour. I'm not giving up on sourdough, but I have to say, "This bread is tasty!"

One's ready for the freezer.

David G


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