The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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davidg618's picture

Last week's result

Yesterday's result

Using Daniel DiMuzio's guidance, both from his latest book "bread baking, An Artisan's Perspective", and following his posting here on TFL,  I've been working with two different sourdough starters,from different sources. One contributes flavor much to our tastes for sourness, but disappointing in proofing times, and lacking in oven spring, and a second starter that has been phenomenal in yeast activity, i.e., proofing and oven spring, but dissapointing in our preferred sourness. Both starters are maintained in the refrigerator at 100% hydration.

Last week, using Daniel DiMuzio's pain au levain formula with firm levain (480g ripe firm levain, 700g total flour, 68% hydration) I built my firm levain at room temperature (76°F) from the first sourdough starter with three builds, spaced approximately 8 hours apart, gradually increasing the mass three times each build, and, simutaneously, reducing its hydration by one-third each build. DiMuzio's formula calls for a pre-ferment 60% hydration, I chose to match the dough target hydration, 68%, because I wanted to keep the build as wet as possible during its ripening hopefully favoring yeast development. I visually checked its progress and fed it its scheduled builds based on observable peaks; nevertheless, the build interval was nearly eight hours each time.

Expect for using all white flour, I followed Dan DiMuzio's formula exactly. I mixed the dough in my stand mixer for five minutes, allowed it to rest 30 minutes, and bulk fremented it with three stretch and folds spaced at 45 minute intervals. Doubling took approximately, three hours after the final stretch and fold. I shaped two boules (one 1-1/2 lb, one 2 lb); proofing took 2 and 1/2 hour. I baked the loave at 480°F, covered, with steam, for the first ten minutes, reduced the oven temperature to 450°F, uncovered the loaves and baked for another fifteen minutes until internal temperature was 206°-208°F.

The results were very gratifying. The proof times were nominal, compared to most sourdough recipes I've read or tried, and the oven spring was adequate, attested by first photo. I didn't get a photo of the crumb; it was close but light and airy, not dense; and the flavor was delightful to our palletes.

For three days immediately prior to yesterday I've been caring for a firm levain, built from the second starter (great yeast activity, disappointing sourness). Starting with 50g of seed starter, I added sufficient flour to immediately reduce its hydration to 65%, subsequently I fed it, approximately, every eight hours, maintaining its 65% hydration, ending early yeasterday morning with 480g of ripe firm levain. My goal, of course, had been to favor bacterial growth, as Dan suggests, over the extended build period.

I made the dough, shaped and baked the loaves as identically as possible to the first starter test. Proof times were, as expected shorter: 2 hours, and 1 and 1/2 hours respectively.

The results were equally gratifying, The levain retained its previous yeast activity, and the level of sourness we hoped for was achieved. The crumb is nearly identical (perhaps a little more open) compared to the first starter's loaves. The first two loaves are history, so I couldn't do a side by side comparison.

For sourdough, I'm satisfied, for now, with the three step build (increase/decrease by thirds from seed mass and hydration) I'm using, so I don't think I'll do anything with the first starter. On the other hand, I'm considering ways to improve the second starter's bacterial contribution to flavor, but ultimately regain its maintenance hydration, and the ability to build a ripe levain in one day. I suppose the most obvious thing is repeat the three day firm levain build, and then use my twenty-four hour three-build modification back to maintenance hydration. Waiting is...

Shiao-Ping's picture

Chinese had been poor throughout history. It's customary to greet people, "Have you eaten?"  Up until recently, when I had to call someone on the phone, the first thing I said was, "Have you had lunch (or dinner)?"  This is my hello, how's it going sort of greetings.  Lately I've found that must have sounded absurd to people.  I ran into Carol, our neighbour, and two (or should I say, three) nice looking lady friends of hers saying good-bye to each other at our cul-de-sac around mid-day today.  What did I say? I said, "Have you eaten?"  Immediately I felt absurd.  Carol said, no; we've just had green tea.  I said I had dough proofing at my countertop ready to be baked; would you like to try?  Fortunately they said no; it wouldn't have been enough.  So, here it is.  The bread for today, a one-pounder.  







dmsnyder's picture

Last night, I refreshed a liquid levain with the intension of baking a batch of Pat's (proth5) baguettes today. I made a slightly higher hydration dough with Giusto's Baker's Choice flour and 10% KAF White Whole Wheat.

This morning, I mixed the dough, did the autolyse, stretched and folded, and put the dough in a bowl to bulk ferment. After the first folding, my wife and I dashed out to run a couple errands. As we drove, we discussed dinner and decided we felt like pizza.

Sooo ... Pat's baguettes turned into the best pizza crust I've yet made. It was so good! It stretched beautifully thin without tearing and baked up crisp with a chewy crumb. The bottom was cracker-thin and crisp. The slight sourdough tang in the very flavorful crust was lovely.

I finally mastered "more is not better" with the toppings: a very thin film of the sauce in Floyd's "Pizza Primer" with a little fresh mozzarella and quite a lot of mushrooms. A sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan. The photos were taken before I added some leaves from our basel plant.

I also made one pie without mushrooms. It was also yummy.

Pat's formula can be found here:


AnnieT's picture

Many times when I give a loaf as a gift it is still warm and I am reluctant to put it in a plastic bag to risk ruining the crust. I have used teatowels but then the recipient feels obliged to return the "wrapper". I am also a quilter and as anyone who quilts or is related to a quilter can tell you - we have fabric! Yards and boxes and closets full of fabric. So my latest idea is to sew bread bags. No more lost teatowels, no more huge ziploc bags to accomodate sharp "ears" which can tear a 1 gallon bag. Nothing fancy, no patchwork or hand quilting, just a plain bag with maybe a drawstring top. Has anyone else tried this? I'd love to hear about your experiences, A.

dmsnyder's picture


I baked Hamelman's Roasted Potato Bread a few months ago ( Floyd commented that he had used leftover mashed potatoes to make bread. That sounded interesting. And I had admired the sourdough roasted potato bread about which SusanFNP had written in February of this year. See:

So, today I made Sourdough Potato Bread with mashed potatoes left over from last night's dinner. (No seconds on potatoes for dmsnyder! <whine>)

Sourdough Potato Bread, shaped in the "Fendu" style.


Mashed potatoes

Boil 750 gms of yukon gold potatoes in their skins until a knife goes into them without resistance. Peel the potatoes and put them through a potato ricer. Mix with 1/3 cup of chopped shallots sautéed in 4 T good olive oil. Add salt (just a few dashes from a shaker) and fresh-ground pepper (12 twists of a mill) and mix thoroughly. Add more olive oil to taste. Reheat in a sauce pan over a low fire, turning frequently to minimize sticking. (I have also heated them in a covered enameled cast iron casserole in the oven.) Serve and enjoy, but set some aside to make bread the next day!




Bread flour

400 gms

Whole wheat flour

166 gms


215 gms


12 gms

Mashed potatoes with shallots

157 gms

Active levain (100% hydration)

200 gms


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the levain in the water.

  2. Add the mashed potatoes and mix. The potatoes can have some clumps, but they should be cherry-sized or smaller.

  3. Add the two flours and mix to a shaggy mass.

  4. Cover the bowl tightly and let the dough rest for 20-60 minutes to hydrate the flour and allow gluten to start developing.

  5. After the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix it into the dough using the method of your choice. I used the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique. See;

  6. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then repeat the “stretch and fold in the bowl.” Repeat the rest and stretch and fold twice more at 20 minute intervals.

  7. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled glass container. (I use an 8 cup glass measuring pitcher.) Cover tightly.

  8. Bulk ferment until double in volume. Stretch and fold on the counter at 50 and 100 minutes. Then allow fermentation to continue until the dough has doubled. (About another 50 minutes.)

  9. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Gently pre-shape into rounds. Cover with plasti-crap and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten.

  10. Shape the pieces into boules, batârds or, if you want to be traditional with the potato bread, into fendu shapes.

  11. Proof the loaves in bannetons or en couche, covered with plastic to prevent drying of the surface. If you shaped fendus, proof with what will be the top of the loaf down. Allow the loaves to expand to 1.5 to 1.75 times their original volume.

  12. About 45-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone in place and prepared for your oven steaming method of choice. (I currently place a metal loaf pan and a cast iron skillet, heaping full of lava rocks, on the bottom rack of the oven. About 3 minutes before loading the loaves, I dump a handful of ice cubes into the loaf pan and shut the oven door. Just after loading the loaves in the oven, I pour ¾ to 1 cup of boiling water over the lava rocks and shut the oven door fast. I remove the containers 10-12 minutes into the bake. This process also “vents” the steam, so the loaves finish baking in a dry oven.)

  13. Score the loaves as desired. (You don't score fendus, of course.) Load into the oven. Steam the oven immediately. Turn the oven down to 460F, and set a timer for 10 minutes.

  14. After 10 minutes, remove your steaming hardware.

  15. Turn down the oven to 440F. Continue baking until the loaves are done – internal temperature of 205F and the loaves give a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. This should be about 20 minutes more. Monitor the loaves frequently for the last 20 minutes. The oil in the potatoes and, maybe, the sugar in the potatoes will cause the bread to brown more than a lean bread.

  16. Cool the loaves completely before slicing.



Submitted to YeastSpotting

dmsnyder's picture

Peter Reinhart's recipe for San Francisco Sourdough Bread in "Crust&Crumb" is one I keep coming back to. I have enjoyed many French-style levains with a more subtle sourness, but I still prefer the assertively sour San Francisco-style Sourdough. Reinhart's formula in C&C is the one with which he won the James Beard Award, and it is a winner in my book too.

I generally make three 1.5 lb boules from this formula, but I had wanted to make a sourdough walnut bread again for quite a while. So, I made two of my usual boules and one batârd with walnuts. The walnuts were lightly toasted (15 minutes at 350F) and kneaded into 1.5 lbs of the mixed dough before bulk fermentation. 

I think this bread has the most beautiful crust! Can't you just hear the crunch when you imagine biting into a slice?

And for the crumb aficionados ...

The crumb is not as open as usual. Maybe the white whole wheat (10%) was thirstier than I thought.


Yundah's picture

I would like to thank everyone who weighed in when I was looking for advice for the class, "Chemistry and Culture of Bread" that I co-taught this spring.  It was an amazing experience.  We had 15 students in the class and the local Congregational Church allowed us to use their kitchen with two regular ovens and two huge convection ovens.  (I have to admit here that I think convection ovens are an arcane form of magic which I have yet to master, but at least I got enough of a sense of how they work that no bread was burned in the baking of this class.)  We started out dividing our time between a class room in the academic building across the street (for the lecture part) and the kitchen.  We ended up, as all aspiring bakers should, spending any time not requiring computer displays in the kitchen.  The class was heavily weighted towards bio and chem students with two sociology/anthropology students and one insurance major.  It was fun watching the hard-science students try to get into answering questions like "What effect do you think the development of neighborhood bread ovens would have in your community?"  On the other hand, reading the answers my non-bio/chem students gave trying to explain the chemical reactions that were occurring at different times within the bread baking process was likewise interesting.  Each set of students had to stretch to get their minds around not one, but two, new languages as they learned the language of bread and baking.  Only one of the 15 had actually baked and only 3 had bread bakers in the family.  

We used the Science of Bread by Emily Buehler and Peter Reinhart's The Bread Bakers Apprentice.  Students made no-knead bread, sourdough loaf, soda bread, pita (huge smiles as they watched them puff up), and Reinhardt's Poor Man's Brioche (we couldn't afford the butter for the richer version.)  In addition, we visited a wonderful grain mill in Argentine, MI, Westwind Milling Co. (where I spend too much money buying some boutique flours... I'm going for a Spelt bread this weekend.) We also ate at an Ethiopian restaurant, Altu's, in East Lansing, so the students could try Injera bread. 

For their final the students had a practical and a written exam.  They had to bake a bread on their own for the final.  It could be one we'd already made or, they could work with a formula we hadn't worked with.  Half the students worked with formulae we'd already made but the other half went out on their own and found family recipes or something they found in the Reinhart book.  One of the students did the Rich Man's Brioche and ended up with nothing to take home.  The students agreed that it was delicious as it disappeared quite rapidly during the tasting.  For the tasting, we invited the college community (and the church folks) to bring soup and share a bread and soup lunch with us.  We numbered the breads and asked our guests to judge them on form, crumb, color, taste, etc.  We had a big turnout, a lot of soup and a lot of bread, and a wonderful lunchtime (followed by our last faculty meeting of the semester but then you can't win them all.)  

The class was a learning experience for me as well.  I've taught friends and family how to bake bread before but never in a structured, "school room" way.  It was hard not be able to just get into the zen of bread and pay attention to what everyone, including my colleague (who had never baked a loaf of bread in her life) was doing.  I became aware of many more levels in the process and had to work out how to explain how to form a loaf, how to knead, how not to brutalize the dough!  I'm so glad I did this.  I'm not sure I'll do it again, it was sort of like running a marathon.  

I'm not sure how to attach photos to this and I have to run, but I'll try to get a couple of photos up later.  Again, thank you all for your help, all of you.  

foolishpoolish's picture


AnnieT's picture

This is a loaf of Susan's sourdough that I was sure was way overproofed. In fact it surprised me and produced a lovely set of ears. Note the stainless steel stirring spoon, perfect for whipping up my starter. Susan is going to enter the picture! A



blackbird's picture
















Nothing fancy, just basic baking.

AP flour unbleached, overnight cold fermentation in the fridge, spray and steam pan at the start of the bake, came out of the oven making cracking sounds.

Reinhart's crackers are facinating.  I made a basic variation of the whole wheat with sesame seeds.


 First try with wet dough.  Should have used more steam.


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