The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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mrosen814's picture

Here are some photos from last night's Rosh Hashana Challah bake! 

Shiao-Ping's picture


                                                                               SP's Country Sourdough







And let's slice them ...







 Now I found something ... 


And this ...


                                   Lovely crumb to me                                        but this is slightly on the dense side and gummy, why?


A wake-up call:

I recall when I was mixing my starter in the water for the final dough, I felt tiny little lumps of dough in my hands but I was unable to break them up because they were too many.  I used a trick that I learned from making custard when there were lumps - by pushing the starter through a sifter, I managed to get rid of most big lumps, but there were still many very tiny ones.  I got tired of trying to get rid of them, so I proceeded as normal.  Those lumps would most likely have been formed during the 2 hour final levain expansion (see my post here for details of Chad Robertson's sourdough timeline) - I did not mix the starter thoroughly with the flour and water.  And these lumps, however small, became the gummy part of the crumb!  (I may be wrong but that's what I think it was.)

A myth: The longer the fermentation, the better it is for the sourdough.  No, it depends on how time is spent, not how much time there has been.

With this sourdough, I learned something new.  What happened was when I was trying to get rid of the lumps, my hands were stirring the starter in the water for quite a long time (15 to 20 minutes at least).  I had never seen so many bubbles appearing in the water as if all of the wild beasties were woken up from their sleep and were doing their morning exercises.  This would not have meant anything to me, had it not been the fact later on that the fermentation seemed to have advanced in quite a fast pace even though the dough temperature was under 20C / 68F.  (I wish Debra of the Frankendough could help me out here.)

Anyway, with the fermentation kicking along, I decided I wanted to do an experiment, and that is, to really work the dough with my stretch & folds in such a way as to really build the dough strength.  I dipped both of my hands in water (to prevent sticking) and, with one hand pressing the centre of the dough, the other hand grapping a corner of the dough and folding onto itself, I stretched & folded the dough quite vigorously for at least 30 to 40 times at each set of S&F's until the dough felt elastic.  I did 3 sets of S&F's within one and a half hours and within that time the dough expanded quite a lot.  In normal circumstances I would have done a 4 hour bulk fermentation as in my post of Chad Robertson's country sourdough; but in this instance, I decided one and a half hours were enough (the dough temperature stayed under 20C).  I divided the dough into three pieces and pre-shaped them twice as they were very soft and even though I pre-shaped them to very tight balls each time they relaxed and spread out completely.  I shaped them to tight batards and only proofed for half an hour, compared to 2 hours previously when I did my Chad Robertson's.  Retardation was only 9 hours.

This morning before I baked them, the doughs were as flat as pancakes, but in the oven, they rose like hills:


What I learned in this bake is that the dough strength (built up from the vigorous stretch & folds) helped in the volume (the oven spring, the open crumb, etc).


Time for some food,



And pack up the rest,




p.s.  The minor variations I made in the formula here compared to the one in My Imitation of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough were: (1) 72% hydration; (2) 5% of total flours in rye flour; and (3) total dough weight 3 kg.

Elagins's picture

I've gotten some negative feedback on my visibility here on TFL as someone with an economic interest in bread baking, and it's been suggested that instead of flying my flag all over the place, that I focus on keeping a blog that details my hopes, expectations, worries, goals -- all the stuff that goes into turning a hobby into a business.

It's hard wearing two hats. On the one hand, I've been baking bread for a long time and have had both great loaves and doorstops come out of my oven. Engaging with flour, water, yeast (wild or commercial) and salt -- plus heat and maybe steam -- has been, and continues to be a source of great pleasure and challenge for me. In fact, it was the frustration I continually felt around getting reasonably priced bakers' flours, yeast, and other ingredients -- as well as decent equipment -- that motivated me to start my e-biz, so that I could provide a place for other hobbyist bread bakers, like myself, to find the things they need without having to go into their 401ks to do it.

I've been playing with the idea for years, decided earlier this year that 2009 would be my launch year, and then kept procrastinating out of pure anxiety.

Finally, in mid-August, I posted here saying that I had flours and baking stones for sale. I did it as a way of forcing myself to move forward, because I knew that if I didn't do it that way -- if I didn't make promises I had to keep -- it would never happen.

So the past month has been a mad game of catch-up. I had my suppliers all lined up before that first post, and that was really pretty much the only thing I had. Didn't have a website; had no idea how to put one together; took me a week or so of trying out half a dozen different web design programs and intensive browse through 4 or 5 books on web design and html to find the right tools. My website came together during the course of an 80-hour week, filled with trial and error, learning htmal (or at least enough to get things going) from scratch; learning about and contracting with a web hosting service. Finding space where I could set up shop. Getting all of the necessary licenses, permits and tax matters in place. Developing labels, catalog entries, packaging, finding an affordable shipper, legal-for-trade scale, and on and on. And, of course, paying for all of it.

Fortunately for me, I have a great spouse and some very good friends, both old and new, who have been incredibly supportive and who have offered their expertise. Even with their help, though, there's still so much to do. Now that the website is up and running and orders are starting to come in, I'm discovering additional layers of things that need to be taken care of -- stuff that I never knew existed, like search engine optimization and payment systems. The website, I've discovered is much less an end than it is a beginning of a whole set of processes I never imagined existed.

It's like having a new child, with the obvious difference that newborns come with a certain amount of immune system strength already programmed in and a ready-made support system. nybakers was born with only my hopes and aspirations to nourish it, and an ongoing commitment to myself and those who believe in me to make it happen.

It makes one feel very vulnerable ... throwing one's doors open and saying to the world, "here I am," and hoping that someone -- anyone -- else cares, and maybe comes in, looks around and buys something, as much to show that they're paying attention and that they support my larger goals as because they need it. But that kind of good will doesn't last, and the 300, 400, 500 hits a day of the early days dwindle down to 15, 20, maybe 40 or 50 on a good day.

And so there's anxiety, and maybe I let my anxiety show by waving too big a flag and talking too loudly, because I'm afraid that nobody cares. And if that's what I'm doing, and that's pushing people away, then it's clearly the wrong thing to do. I believe in what I'm doing, and believe there's a real need out in our world for the things I offer -- which are the things I use myself in my own baking.

It just feels very lonely out here, sometimes.

More to come.

cake diva's picture
cake diva

Off to my hometown for a big birthday party.  Must make sure I bring everything


1.  chocolate sourdough bread.  Check.

chocolate sd

2. Chocolate zucchini cakes.  Check.

chocolate zucchini cake

3. panetonne.  Check.


4. Portuguese filled rolls (sweet bean paste, almond paste). Check.

Filled POrtuguese rolls

5. Malasadas filled with passionfruit curd.


Uncheck!  OOOps, forgot we ate them just as they came out of the fryer.  Supposedly, these are only good fresh- so we had to eat them right away.  Don't you just hate it when they twist your arm to eat donuts?

6. Frozen bread from last week's bake-off.  Check.

sept bake

7. Tropical chiffon cake, crumb-iced.  Check.

tropical chiffon cake

8. passionfruit tart. Check.

passionfruit tart

And a stack of full-sized crepes, frozen (not pictured) + caramel sauce.

Hmmmnnn... did I forget anything?

Shiao-Ping's picture

The best Walnut Sourdough that I've ever had was from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  Imagine a rustic Country Sourdough studded with whole walnuts and no compromise on the open crumb.  To me a simple sourdough like walnut sourdough is not something that can be easily made well; in fact, I've found any sourdough with add-ins hard to make really well.  Once I find a method that works for me, I am normally eager to try the new method on doughs with add-ins.  This was what happened when I found James MacGuire's hand-mixing technique.  He permanently expelled my fear of hand mixing.  I had used his method on walnuts and mixed dried fruits and quite liked the result at the time but was wondering subsequently if it was possible to achieve a more open crumb.   I know the emphasis on an open crumb may sound pretentious at times but I am just a housewife with free time and mental space.  If there is something I still find room for improvement and I am still interested enough, I'll keep trying.

With this post I have used the method I've recently learned from The Bread Builders about Chad Robertson's sourdough timeline and applied it by hand on my own formula.  One of these days I will write to him to seek for confirmation but for now I will amuse myself with one more bake along the same line as my previous 4 posts. 





My Formula 

  • 716 g starter @ 75% hydration

  • 71 g stone ground organic medium rye flour (10% of final dough flour)

  • 645 g organic unbleached flour (90% of final dough flour)

  • 593 g water

  • 450 g walnuts (40% of total flours, including that from starter), toasted

  • 22 g salt

  • Extra medium rye flour for dusting

 Total dough weight 2.5 kg and total dough hydration 80%




  1. First break up the starter in water in a big bowl by hand

  2. Stir in all the ingredients except walnuts (record the time when this is done)

  3. Autolyse 45 minutes (longer than I normally would, to make sure the flour has a good chance to bind with the water before the disruptive walnuts come in)

  4. Spread half of walnuts on a work bench, dump the sticky dough on top of it, then spread the other half of walnuts over the dough

  5. Start mixing in the walnuts by a series of folding motions with a dough scraper from the side to the centre, then

  6. Place the sticky dough back to the big bowl, and start the first set of stretch and folds by hand or with the plastic scraper

  7. Do another 3 sets of stretch and folds in the next 3 hours or so (note: total bulk fermentation is 4 hours counting from the time ingredients except walnuts are mixed until division/pre-shaping; the ideal dough temperature for me is 18 - 21C / 65 - 70F, if your dough temperature is higher due to warmer weather, shorten fermentation time accordingly)

  8. Divide into three pieces of 830 g each and pre-shape each to a log

  9. Rest for 15 minutes and in the mean time dust linen with medium rye flour

  10. Shape into batards

  11. Proof for 45 minutes (as my room temperature had risen and the dough temperature registered 25 C / 77 F, I put the dough into the refrigerator to start retarding)

  12. Retard for 17 hours (or 8 hours minimum)

  13. Bake the next day with steam at 230 C for 20 minutes and another 20 minutes at 220 C.






With the high hydration and rye flour, the dough fermented quite well earlier on.  There was very noticeable fermentation activity even before the second set of stretch and folds.  With my room temperature rising, the dough was at a risk of being over-fermented.  On hindsight, the bulk fermentation could have been shorter.

Also, I went crazy with walnuts.  Even though it is nice to have such a "deluxe" quantity, there is really more chewing than necessary when you bite into a slice.

The 80% hydration is about right because of the added nuts.  A couple percentages more hydration would be fine too.

Other than the above, this walnut sourdough is quite alright, no where compared to Tartine's though.  What's in your memory is always the best.


The following is updated on 21st Septermber: I found these pictures of very rustic sourdoughs from Tartine Bakery in my files, including their Walnut Sourdough, and would like to share them:


      I believe the one in the front to the right is the Walnut Sourdough


                                   Walnut Sourdough

Their sourdoughs appear to be very high hydration to me.



white_poplar's picture

I recently discovered this beautiful bread and have mastered the technique! The dough is soft and remains so for a few days. This is the closest to the Asian-style bread I have re-created at home!

Recipe and step-step instructions: here.




mazzidante's picture

Please little help....this is the recipe 1kg flour with 11.5 of protein,680gr water very cold,20gr of salt,5gr dry yeast,2gr malt.I mix and pass the window test....i shape a ball and i put in the refrigerator,after 14 hours,i take out the ball has been raised a lot there is no more ball shape......This is the what i should do?Everything  i tried was no good the main problem for me is that everything is to soft even if i roll the baguette there is a lot of bobble of air inside,and when i try to score with blade,the surface is soft even if i put some flour....I would like get some advice..thank you

trailrunner's picture

This is winging its way to NYC for my best friend to use at her celebration Friday evening. I have been making Challah for well over 35 years now but only learned how to do this braid last year. Thanks to TFL for that info . Hope you enjoy and have a blessed holiday.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Shiao-Ping's picture

Have you ever used shop-bought bread pre-mixes to make sourdoughs?  I have several unfinished bread mixes at home from those days when I used bread machine to make pan breads; they are all reaching their use-by dates and I really don't want to waste them. 

The Multigrain Bread Mix I have is soy (10%) and linseed (5%), whole rye, maize polenta, in addition to unbleached wheat flour.  It has many "dough conditioners" added in: ascorbic acid, enzyme, emulsifier, etc., to assure of its performance.  And the salt (2.4%) has also been added in.  The box says its protein is 12.6%.  All that you need to add is water and yeast, and way you to.  For a home sourdough there is nothing wrong with using it (I am not concerned with my label!).

This is how my multigrain bread-mix sourdough has turned out:






My formula 

  • 700 g mature white starter @75% hydration (ie, 300 water + 400 g flour)

  • 700 g Australia's Laucke Multigrain Bread Mix

  • 8 g salt (for the flour portion of the starter)

  • 492 g water

Total dough weight 1900 g and total dough hydration 72% 


  1. Mix by hand

  2. Autolyse 30 minutes

  3. Bulk fermentation 3 hours with 5 folds every 30 minutes

  4. Proof for one hour

  5. Retard in refrigerator for 14 hours

  6. Bake with steam as usual






Using bread pre-mixes to make sourdough is quite a fool-proof way to make a nice tasting bread. 


mcs's picture

Callie (calliekoch) came from Fort Collins, Colorado to the Back Home Bakery last week (Sept 5-13) for her one week internship.  Although new to sourdoughs, Callie's been baking and cooking for a while, and it showed in her meticulous work and attention to detail.

striking a pose while sheeting puff-pastry dough


Apfelstrudel, shaping Buckwheat Flax boule, croissants, finished Buckwheat Flax loaves

I'm sure you'll agree everything looks absolutely perfect!

Thanks for all of the help Callie, hope to see you again up here.




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