The Fresh Loaf

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bwraith's picture

Whole Wheat Mash Bread Crust and Crumb

Whole Wheat Mash Bread Just Baked

The Whole Wheat Mash Bread, as described in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, had a wonderful aroma as it baked. Based on the photos in the book, it came out about as it was intended. The bread was dense and slightly sweet, just as described, and the crumb texture was creamier with the mash.

I included some photos of the bread and a spreadsheet in html and xls formats that breaks out some of the details.

A preferment and a mash are mixed with some additional flour and other ingredients to form the final dough. Instant yeast is used in the final dough to speed up the rise. The idea is that the flavor is already in the preferment and the mash, so the final dough just needs to be raised, which can be done effectively and expediently with instant yeast.

I used a 50/50 mix of Wheat Montana Bronze Chief and Wheat Montana Prairie Gold. The Bronze Chief is a high protein hard red spring wheat. The prairie gold is a high protein hard white spring wheat. I may have needed more water, given my flour choice. Maybe the crumb would have been a little less dense and more tender if hydrated more, which might have suited my bread tastes a little better. However, the results look much like in the photo in Whole Grain Breads and dense was a word used in the description of the crumb in the book.


  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 1/2 tsp diastatic malt powder
  • 300 grams water

The idea is to raise the temperature to something slightly below 170F for 3 hours. I heated the water in a metal sauce pan and preheated my oven to 165F, which meant putting it at the lowest setting. The water in the sauce pan got to about 180F fairly quickly. It was taken off the burner and allowed to cool down to 165F, which only took about a minute with a bit of stirring. I then dropped in the flour and stirred it, using a wet spatula to clean the sides of the pan. The lid was placed on the pan (be careful the pan and lid is OK to put in oven, although the temperatures are fairly low) and the pan placed in the oven for 3 hours, then removed and allowed to cool for the rest of the evening. The change in flavor of the mash from when it was first mixed until put in the refrigerator was dramatic. It was much sweeter and also quite a bit darker in color. It seemed much like gravy, and I was lucky it wasn't thrown out, as my wife thought it was just some gravy that had been left out sitting in a pan. Fortunately, she decided there was enough gravy there to warrant placing it in a plastic container and putting it in the refrigerator.


  • 30g (1oz) 90% hydration white flour starter (use any starter, white, whole wheat, rye, etc.)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 150g (5 oz) water

Mix all ingredients and knead into a dough for a few minutes. Place in container large enough for at least a triple in volume. Allow to rise by double or a little more, which should take about 5-8 hours at 76F or maybe 7-10 hours at 70F. You can let it ripen more if you want stronger flavors, but the inoculation is high in this case, about 40% fermented flour in the final dough, so you may find that letting it ripen too much affects the texture adversely or makes it more sour than you'd like. I found the bread to be mild flavored, and my levain was allowed to rise to about 2.5x the original volume over about 6 hours.

Final Dough

  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1 tbsp) malt syrup (or honey, agave nectar, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, or don't use any sweeteners)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1tbsp) olive oil (or use another fat such as butter, or don't use any fat at all)
  • 9g salt (I thought this could have used a touch more salt than was specified)
  • 7g (.25 oz, 2.5 tsp) instant yeast
  • all of the levain
  • all of the mash

I have a new DLX mixer, which was used for the first time to mix the dough. It took a while to get all the ingredients to fully homogenize but was only using the roller attachment. I wonder if it would have worked better to use the dough hook. The dough seemed very stiff, and I ended up adding some water. The Wheat Montana flours are high in protein and so may need more water than the typical flour assumed in this recipe. Only about 1 ounce of water was added, as I didn't want to get too far from the recipe on the first try. However, in the future, I'll try adding more water to this recipe. It would be more difficult to work with, but I've generally preferred whole grain breads when the dough was at the higher end of the hydration spectrum.


The ingredients were mixed directly out of the refrigerator. After mixing, the dough was at about 70F. I let it rise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to a little more than double, then shaped the loaf into a batard and placed on couche fabric dusted with a mix of rice flour and whole wheat flour. The shaped loaf rose another hour, was placed on a peel and slashed, and finally baked.


The loaf was baked for 20 minutes in a steamed brick oven preheated to about 450F, then turned off and sealed with towel covered wooden door. The oven door was opened after 20 minutes and the loaf baked in the open cooling oven, dropping from 425F to about 350F (air temperature) for another 30 minutes. The aroma as this bread baked was about as good as I've experienced. I don't know what accounts for the especially good aroma, but the one big difference is the mash.


The bread is a little dense and would be great with any sort of spread. I had put some honey and tahini on it this morning, which was delicious. The flavor is mild, but the sourdough and the mash give it a slightly sweet, slightly sour flavor that is different from other whole grain breads I've made so far. The crumb is creamy and dense at the same time. I would like to try this recipe again but with a little more water, maybe in a pan, and see what happens.

bwraith's picture

NYT No-Knead Sourdough Conversion

NYT No-Knead Sourdough Conversion - Crust

I haven't tried the NYT No-Knead recipe, although I've read some of the discussions on The Fresh Loaf along the way. Based on some questions from KipperCat about the amount of starter that should go in a sourdough conversion of the recipe, I decided to give converting this recipe to sourdough a try.

I've tried to stay very close to the recipe in The New York Times, although I did a few things differently - some good, some bad, probably.

I have some photos of the process and also a spreadsheet in html or xls format.


  • 15 grams (1/2 oz, 1 tbsp) of 90% to 100% hydration white flour starter or 12 grams of firm Glezer style starter or similar.
  • 346g (12 oz, 1.5 cups) water
  • 450g (16 oz, 3.25 cups) bread flour, should be stronger flour if possible.
  • 9g Salt


Mix water and starter and stir vigorously until starter is fully dissolved. Mix flour and salt to fully distribute salt. Put flour and salt together and use a dough scraper to work the flour into the water. Continue working around the bowl scraping dough from the side toward the center and pushing it down in the center, until you have a shaggy mass. Do a few "french folds" (I still don't know what to call this technique) as in the video I took, if you want, but this step can be omitted. Place dough in covered bowl to rise at 75F for 10 hours.

At 70F it needs to rise for about 13.5 hours. Or, at 70F, use 45g of starter instead of 15g to have a rise time of about 10 hours. Similarly, at 65F try using about 130g of starter. If using larger amounts of 90% starter, remember to adjust the water down in the final dough. For example, for 45g of 90% hydration starter, reduce water by about 15g or 1/2 oz, and for 130g of 90% hydration, reduce water by 50g or almost 2oz.

As you can see, an important aspect of the sourdough conversion is knowing the temperature and how fast your starter is. The above suggestions for the various temperatures would work for my 90% hydration starter, which would double from a feeding of 10g:50g:50g (starter:water:flour by weight) in 6 hours at 75F. The firm version of my starter at 60% hydration would double in volume in 5.5 hours if you fed it (10g:50g:50g) at 75F. At 70F the respective rise times for 90% hydration and 60% hydration starters would be 8.25 hours and 7.5 hours, respectively.

The dough should roughly double in volume or a little less. It's not too important if it doesn't make it all the way to double, and it's probably better to lean toward stopping the fermentation and moving on to shaping earlier, rather than overfementing the dough.


I have a video of my attempt at this. I was not used to the gloppy dough you get after letting it rise without folding for so long, but I pressed forward. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly dusted surface. Fold it over itself letter style, turn 90 degrees and repeat. I then attempted to form a boule, but I found it sticking to me and to the surface, so I turned it upside down and made the boule by gathering the sides in toward the middle and pressing together, as you can see in the video.

Place the round loaf seam down on parchment paper dusted with some regular flour and some semolina or corn meal. Place the whole thing in a "ziploc" big bag, or find some other airtight container for the final rise. Place a bowl of water in with the loaf to create a humid environment to avoid a dry skin on the loaf.

The final rise should take about 2 hours at 75F, 2.5 hours at 70F, and 3.5 hours at 65F.

Slash and Bake

Here again, I have provided a video of my somewhat frightening slashing attempts, as well as of lowering the loaf into the dutch oven.

Preheat the dutch oven to 425F about 1/2 hour before baking.

Slashing is optional. AnnieT suggested that this loaf needs no slashing and cracks on top during baking, resulting in a rustic look. I did slash it, but it's somewhat difficult to do with a wet dough like this. Getting the lame wet helps. A very shallow cut at an angle is less likely to stick.

Be very careful to use thick, heat resistant hotpads or very heavy oven mitts. A cast iron dutch oven preheated to 425F is dangerous to move. Be warned. Be sure to have a place prepared for the dutch oven and the lid that is heat resistant when you remove them from the oven.

Drop the loaf, holding it by the parchment into the dutch oven. Place the lid on top. Place the whole dutch oven back in the oven. I baked it for 25 minutes, less than the recipe states, as I was worried about discovering a small piece of charcoal in the dutch oven if I let it bake too long. It was fine, though, and not even that brown after 25 minutes at 425F. At this point, I should have just left the lid ajar and placed the whole thing back in the oven. However, I removed the loaf from the dutch oven, removed the parchment paper, which was very easy, and placed the loaf on the oven rack. It took only a few minutes for the ears on the loaf to start burning. The internal temperature was about 207F, but as is typical with higher hydration doughs, it was somewhat underbaked. Faced with a choice between burnt ears and an underbaked loaf, I decided to just stop the bake. I like to toast or reheat my bread in the next days anyway, so underbaking it is fine for that situation. However, I would in the future keep it in the dutch oven and hope that with the lid only partially ajar, it would keep it from scorching and allow a longer bake.

Summarizing, bake for 30 minutes at 425F with the lid closed, then place lid so it is slightly ajar to let steam escape, and allow it to bake to a dark golden brown color 10-20 minutes more, probably.


The flavor was excellent. The crust was a little thin and soft, due to my poor decisions during the baking described above. However, it still tastes great and is easily rectified by reheating or toasting. The crumb is what I find typical of higher hydration loaves. The  texture is spongey and light with a moist, cool, creamy feel. This bread reminds me very much of the "Pagnotta" recipe in my blog.

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Nice to be back baking :)

 Here's some challah from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  My first try at challah, they're as tasty as they are nice to look at.  The inside is soft, sweet and light.  Exactly what I think of when I think challah.





usta's picture


Authentic Ramadan Pide (

In my country, arrival of Ramadan is easily noticed by the long lines in front of the bakeries and the tempting smell of pides wafting into the streets. It is a special type of flatbread with an incomparable aroma and flavor. This recipe will yield the delicious authentic pide made by the bakeries during Ramadan time. Enjoy!

Ramadan Pide


4½ cups bread flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups water, lukewarm

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons olive oil

For Decoration:

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon yogurt

1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon nigella seeds or sesame seeds  

3 pides (8" diameter)


1.   In a bowl, combine ¼ of the yeast and 1 cup of the flour and stir to mix. Add ½ of the water and form a a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

2.   Put the dough in a container with a lid and place it in the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Leave the dough overnight.

3.   Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 2-3 hours.

4.   If making by hand, mix the rest of the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix. Add in the fermented dough. Knead well for 10 minutes. The dough will be very soft and wet which might make it a little hard to handle.

5.   If using a mixer, fitted with the dough hook, mix the rest of the dough ingredients and add the fermented dough. Knead for 6-7 minutes. The dough will be very soft and wet which might make it a little hard to handle.

6.   Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

7.   Place the baking stone on the lowest rack of the oven; remove any other racks to ease access. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F (250 degrees C).

8.   With a spoon, carefully tip one-third of the dough at a time on to the pizza peel generously dusted with flour.  Using floured hands, roll out into a 8" (20cm) circle about 1/2" (1 cm) thick, making sure dough does not stick to the peel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Make two more pides in the same way.

9.   Using the opposite end of a wooden spoon make deep indentations on the dough as in the picture. Mix the egg yolk, water and the yogurt for the glaze and brush over the pide. Decorate with nigella seeds or sesame seeds.

10.  Place an oven-safe pan with boiling water in the oven to create steam.

11.  Place the pide carefully on the hot baking stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crusty and place in a towel as soon as it is out of the oven. If the top bakes too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

12. Serve warm.

bwraith's picture

Another Miche

Another Miche Crust and Crumb

Another Miche Crust and Oven

This miche is a lower hydration version of Miche(2) blogged a while back. I accidentally mixed in an entire levain that had been made larger than what I had intended in this recipe originally. I wanted to have an inoculation or percentage of fermented flour to total flour of 15%, similar to Hamelman's VT Sourdough, but I ended up with about 22%. I therefore had a problem with excess acid breaking down the gluten, which made the boule hard to shape and ended up making this a slightly denser miche than I've accomplished before. It's still a good chunk of bread. I baked it in my new brick oven from Woodstone. I managed to get the temperature much more reasonable, and came out with a nice crust and avoided the scorching I'd had in the first few attempts with this new oven, as I learned to manage the heat and the steam in a brick oven.

I have some photos of the process and an html spreadsheet, as well as the Excel spreadsheet that includes the recipe and a model to estimate the bulk fermentation and final proof times.

Miche(3) Recipe


  • 15g 90% hydration white flour storage starter (use any storage starter)
  • 90g Wheat Montana AP (or any other strong white flour)
  • 105g whole spelt
  • 89g Golden Buffalo from Heartland Mills (Use any high extraction wheat flour or substitute white flour here)
  • 145g water

Overnight Soak

  • 81g whole rye
  • 54g whle spelt
  • 108g Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (or other red whole wheat flour)
  • 338g Golden Buffalo from Heartland Mills (or other high extraction red wheat flour)
  • 257g Sifted White Wheat Flour from Homestead Grist Mill (or other high extraction white wheat flour)
  • 680g water
  • 12g malt syrup


  • Levain from above
  • Soak from above
  • 219g Wheat Montana AP (or other strong white flour)
  • 139g water
  • 26g salt

Mix Levain and Soak

The night before you plan to bake, mix the levain ingredients, knead minimally, and let it rise overnight, preferably until it has somewhat more than doubled but not much more, about 10 hours. You can also mix it earlier in the day, let it rise by double and refrigerate it. Also mix the soak ingredients, knead minimally just to mix the ingredients, the water, and the malt syrup. Refrigerate the soak overnight.

Mix and Knead Dough

Mix the additional white flour and water and knead minimally into a small dough. Spread the soak out like a pizza. Spread the white flour over the soak, roll up, and knead lightly to mix. Spread the dough out again and spread the levain over the dough, roll up, and knead the dough until well mixed. I have used a technique described by Glezer in Artisan Baking that works very well to mix the dough. It involves working down the dough squeezing it and extruding it through the fingers. I repeatedly dampen my hands to avoid too much sticking. Alternately, I work in some folds similar to a kneading technique in Bertinet's video and also described by Glezer in Artisan Baking.

Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Spread the dough out like a pizza and sprinkle the salt over it. Again, knead to thoroughly mix the salt and to get a soft but not wet dough that is smooth and has some initial gluten development.

Bulk Fermentation

Cover the dough and set aside to rise. Stretch and fold every 30-40 minutes. The total time from mixing the levain in with the dough would be about 3-3.5 hours using my starter. It should somewhat less than double in volume during that time.


Shape into a boule and allow it to sit on the counter upright for 10 minutes to allow the seams to seal. Be sure to shape tightly, or you will get large holes or crust separation on the sides or on top. Place upside down in a banneton or a bowl lined with a well dusted cloth. This dough can be sticky, especially if it gets too wet, so beware of sticking couche fabric. Adding about 25% rice flour to the dusting flour may help with this.

Final Proof

The final proof would normally take 2-2.5 hours with my starter. I normally place the whole thing in a ziplog "Big Bag" along with a bowl of warm water to maintain a warm and humid environment for the final proof.


Turn the loaf onto a peel dusted with semolina or corn meal. Slash as you like. I wasn't paying too much attention to this one, and ended up making a "square" pattern, which is not too attractive in retrospect. I liked a "diamond" pattern I had done previously, which is what this one was supposed to be.

Bake starting at 450F with steam, however you may accomplish that. Drop the temperature in the oven down to 400F, then down to 350F, if necessary, if the crust begins to get too dark. Bake for about 45-70 minutes, depending on your objectives. I did this one for 70 minutes to get a fairly dry crumb and a crisp crust that stays that way. However, sometimes I bake for less time, so I can freeze the bread and then reheat it later. I think it is better reheated or toasted if it hasn't been fully baked at bake time.


Allow to fully cool.


I'm still very happy with the flavor, which is very similar to miche(2). This time, the lower hydration resulted in a slightly denser crumb, but it is more practical for sandwiches or for toast in the morning. The crust stays crisp with the long bake and lower hydration, which I had trouble with in miche(2). Unfortunately, I think the crumb would have been better and the rise and density better if I had used a lower inoculation, like 15%, and a slightly less ripe levain. That will be the adjustment for next time.

bwraith's picture

I've posted a spreadsheet that summarizes what I do these days to analyze rise times and to dissect recipes or design my own variations. Below is some discussion and also some instructions for the spreadsheet. Use it as is, and modify it as you like. It may contain errors, bugs, and it is not carefully designed to work on all computers and operating systems. It uses "macros", which you have to enable, and it probably will only work with relatively recent versions of Excel that would be available in Microsoft Office 2003 or later. I notice that I can use the spreadsheet on a Macbook with Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac installed on it.

I've built some models of fermentation rates and rise times over the last few years. There is no science here, just trial and error in an attempt to engineer an admittedly crude but hopefully useful model based partly on observations and partly on what little I can gather from some scientific papers and a few baking books. You can beat me up if you want with general treatises on all the ways this doesn't make sense or can't possibly work or is theoretically completely incorrect. I already am well aware I'm skating on thin ice (or possibly am in a coma under the ice already) in any sort of rigorous intellectual or scientific sense. However, if you want to make some specific constructive suggestions or point out neat ways to get a good handle on this or that factor or places where you think the model gives wrong answers and what should be the right answer, that would be interesting.

I thought it might be worth tossing out this basic approach for how to get a handle on rise times vs. inoculation, salt, temperature, or other factors. I also did some tests on low and high hydration doughs, but I'm not describing that in the simpler approach below.

I went down some fairly lengthy testing roads and built a whole somewhat extensive spreadsheet to model rise time and fermentation time with a few more factors than indicated below in it, but a simpler, and fairly practical approach would be something like:

First make sure your starter is fully vibrant and well refreshed, and make enough to go into these test doughs.

Make up 4 small doughs using a "typical blend" of flour you might most often use. You can guess adjustments for different flours, but it's nice to do this with the flour you will tend to be using most. Make the doughs with about 200g of total flour each as follows. Use 75% hydration, which will make somewhat wet easily worked doughs. In two of the doughs, use 4% inoculation (fermented flour as a percent of total flour), one with no salt, one with 2% salt. In the other two, use 16% inoculation, one with no salt, one with 2% salt.

Try to work all the doughs exactly the same way and for the same amount of time, so the gluten development is about the same. Set them to rise in containers that allow you to determine the time it takes them to double in volume. Remember to carefully label them with the initial time and the volume level they had initially.

When they double in volume note the time, shape them into little loaves and monitor them to see when they proof. Note that time also for each dough. Bake each one when it is ready all using the same temperature if possible.

You can then use the times you get for doubling and proofing of these test doughs when you make other recipes. The total mix to bake time should be the same, whether you shape much earlier or shape closer to when the dough has doubled. Also, the fermentation times should be the same (adjusted for inoculation and salt) for other recipes, regardless of whether you deflate the dough during "folds" or do other handling techniques that may make it difficult to tell when a dough has really risen.

The difference in time to double the volume for an inoculation of 4% vs. 16% will give you an idea of how much time 2 doublings of the population of your starter takes at the temperature you used. The rise times should be roughly logarithmic with respect to inoculation, since bacterial population growth is roughly exponential during most of the bulk fermentation. An inoculation of 8% should take 1/2 of that difference in time less time to rise than the 4% inoculation and 1/2 of that difference more time to rise than the 16% inoculation. You should notice that the salted ones ferment more slowly, so you can adjust for salted vs. unsalted with the information from your test doughs. Unsalted is useful for knowing how long a levain should ripen.

Note that I don't include a 32% inoculation, which maybe should take one generation time less than the 16% inoculation. It seems to me that it doesn't work that way because 32% inoculation with a ripe levain leads to early gluten deterioration or maybe early slowing of the fermentation rate, so a dough rises more slowly than you would think, given the large inoculation. In the model I built, adjustments are made to try to account for slower rises at higher inoculations.

Adjusting for temperature is not so easy, since it gets crazy if you try to run all kinds of tests at different temperatures. I just use the models in a Ganzle paper I have that describe the growth rate as a function of temperature for L. sf and C. milleri. You can adjust the rise times to reflect the relative activity rate at a different temperature from the one you used in your tests. The time should just be inversely proportional to the growth rate.

Finally, as you start to play with more and different test doughs, you'll notice that sometimes rise times don't seem to make sense, and usually I've narrowed it down to differences in gluten quality for different doughs. For example, I've made little test doughs at very low hydration with salt. The gluten becomes incredibly stiff in a small test dough, and it just won't rise. You know the fermentation has to be ongoing, yet the volume increase is not there.

Now, what I actually did was a lot more test doughs than the ones above. I made some rough assumptions, like that the growth rate in doughs is exponential during most of the bulk fermentation, and that the dough is doubled and then proofed when the organisms reach a certain population concentration relative to the initial population concentration in a ripe starter. I'm also assuming that factors such as salt and hydration have a simple multiplicative effect on the growth rate and that the relative growth rates follow the temperature curves in a paper by Ganzle about modelling sourdough organism growth rates. The last thing I did was try to make a model of "gluten quality", which is a function of salt, inoculation percentage, and hydration. The idea is that a very stiff or very loose dough will rise less than a dough somewhere in the middle. All of this is summarized in a spreadsheet I built that tries to set all the model parameters in such a way as to minimize the difference in rise time estimates of model vs. experiment on a large number of different test doughs.

OK, it's a little crazy, I am the first to admit. However, I've found myself doing better breads and able to design my own recipes with it, since I'm not tied to just the observed condition of the dough itself, which may vary a great deal from one recipe to another and is hard for one baker to describe to another. Instead, I have a pretty good idea how long the fermentation should take for my starter, my temperatures, and the recipe inoculations, salt, and hydrations, so I can ferment and proof more according to "the clock". It doesn't mean I don't adjust according to feel and observation of the dough itself, but it seems to help a great deal to have the model's estimates of the right times in mind as I do that, in case there is something misleading about the observations or the feel of a new recipe.

The spreadsheet I'm including has blue cells that are the inputs. There are graphs of various functions used to generate the adjustments to the growth rates of the organisms in the culture. The main inputs are the inoculation, which is the percentage of flour that is coming from a preferment in the total flour in the dough. So if there is a levain with 100g of flour and 100g of water, and the total flour in the dough is 1Kg (900g of additional flour), then the inoculation would be 10%. The salt and hydration are percentages of the total flour in the dough. So, in the example above, if the levain has 100g of flour and 100g of water, and you add 900g of flour to the levain along with 600g of water and 20g of salt, the salt is 2% and the hydration of the dough is 70% (100g water in levain + 600g water added to the dough = 700g in 1Kg of total flour in the dough is 70%).

The "bread calc" tab on the spreadsheet is a general hearth bread recipe that can be changed to match many different hearth breads. You can use it to duplicate a recipe in a book to understand the rise times and see the percentages of ingredients in a consistent format. You can also use it to design your own recipes or make small changes such as scaling the recipe to a different amount, adjusting the amounts of preferment, types of flours, hydration, and so on, to suit your needs.


Here's some stuff to help figure out how to use the spreadsheet for calculating rise times and hearth bread recipes. If you read this step by step, it should help a lot. However, I admit it's long and may take a while to get through. Sorry, I don't know an easy way around it.

First of all, you have to "enable macros", so that the software I wrote will run inside excel. You do that by going to "Tools", then opening the  "Macro" dragdown menu, then "Security..." , and finally set the "security level" to "medium". You then have to close Excel and open it again. When you do open the Excel file, it will bring up a dialog box that asks you to decide whether to "enable macros" or not. You should click on the button labeled "Enable Macros".

Once that is done, the file should open for you, and you probably will see the "summary page". There are 4 pages: 1) Summary Page, 2) Bread Calc, 3) Graphs, 4) Model. To change pages you click on the tabs at the bottom of the window. The only pages that you really need to understand are the Summary Page and the Bread Calc page.

Remember that the numbers you can change are highlighted in blue, other than the labels for ingredients and flours in the bread calc page, which can be changed, too. Look for the comments that pop up when you run your mouse over the text boxes with red triangles in them. Those comments should help a lot to figure out what is going on in the spreadsheets.

The Bread Calc page has a generic bread recipe on it. You can change the amounts you see in blue. Most of the amounts you enter are bakers' percentages. If you type 31% (literally a 3, a 1, and a shift-5 for % sign), it will take that as "31%". Some of the amounts are in grams. In that case, just type in the number, like to enter 12g type 12 (literally a 1, then a 2) in the field for the weight in grams that should be highlighted in blue. An example of that is the amount of storage starter.

On the Bread Calc page, you can set up a recipe by first setting the overall numbers down below: the total flour, the overall hydration percentage, the salt percentage, and the desired inoculation percentage (percent of fermented flour coming from the levain, typical example would be 15% fermented flour for the VT Sourdough). Then, enter the amounts of storage starter you want to use. I provided both a firm starter and a 90% hydration starter, but you can change the hydrations of either starter to match the starter you are using. The amounts of storage starter are specified in grams. You also specify the hydration desired for the levain, and specify the percentages of any additional levain flours as a percentage of the total flour in the levain. After that, you specify the additional ingredients and flours in the dough as percentages of the total flour in the recipe.

Just a side note, I do the bakers' percentages based on total flour weight, since that is the best way to scale the entire recipe and understand the overall important percentages like hydration and salt, I believe. Often, in recipe books they don't include the flour coming from the preferments in the total flour used as 100% for the bakers' percentages. So, yes, you do have to play a little with the percentages to get them to match up with a recipe in a book that may not use the same system as I'm using there. However, you can still put almost any hearth bread recipe into the format in the spreadsheet. I've done this same spreadsheet for quite a few different breads, including the Thom Leonard and the Essential's Columbia, as well as various miches, ciabattas, focaccias, and so on.

Finally, you specify your "additional flours" as percentages of total flour weight. The labels on the left for the "ingredients 1-4" and for the "flours 1-5" can be changed to note the flours and ingredients you are using for the recipe. You can see I did that for the miche recipe.

Once you've entered all the items in blue to suit the recipe you want, it will tell you the amounts in each case that you need. If you change one of the inputs, the various amounts will be recalculated. For example, if you change the percentage of one of the "flours 1-5", then that flour's weights will change, and also the "main flour" will be adjusted so that the total flour is still as specified.

The other page of interest is the "summary page", which has the rise time calculations on it. Once again, the numbers that you change are highlighted in blue.

There are three sections to the "summary page". The top is for the levain rise time calculations. The middle is for the dough rise time calculations. The bottom has a "stage calculator" that will allow you to enter the fermentation of the dough in a series of steps, and it will tell you how far the fermentation has progressed in total. You will see an "average factor" that tells starts very small and grows to about 1.0 when the dough should be doubled, and grows to about 2.3 when the final proof is finished. The stage calculator is very useful once you figure it out, but you don't need it at first.

The first number you need to think about is the number labeled "starter speed factor", which sets the overall speed of your starter. Once you know how fast your starter rises by double when fed with a particular flour type or blend, you can set "starter speed factor" to match your starter's rise time. Then, you can calculate other rise times with this summary page. That number can be set in the levain section and in the dough section, since the levain and the dough may have different flours. So, you need to run a test dough or two with typical flours and note the time for them to double, preferably measuring the volume fairly carefully. I would suggest doing a hydration of about 80%, so you don't get too much of a "crown" to confuse matters. It makes sense to do one that is large enough that you aren't getting too much "small dough" effect in the rise time.

For example, you might build a test dough with about 200g of flour. You could make a test dough with 32g of firm starter, 180g of flour and 148g of water. It will be fairly wet, but if you put it in a good rising container that has vertical sides, you can measure the time it takes to rise by double the volume. You note that time, and then set "starter speed factor" on that summary page in the levain section so that a levain with an inoculation of 10% (20g flour in firm starter divided by 200g total flour in the test dough), a salt of 0% (no salt), and a hydration of 80% has a doubling time of what you observed for the test dough. Of course, set the temperature to match what the temperature was for the rise of the test dough. Once you know the "starter speed factor" setting for your test dough, it should be a good number to use elsewhere in the calculations, including in the dough section. However, I've noticed that my doughs rise faster than my white flour levains because the flour blend in the dough is just faster rising. So, you will probably find that the test dough rises a little more slowly than your typical bread does, so you can use a little bit higher "starter speed factor" for the dough, which you will begin to figure out. For me, the "starter speed factor" number for my doughs is about 15% higher than my "starter speed factor" setting for a bread flour levain.

Once you have "starter speed factor" figured out, then the rest of the numbers are just the characteristics of your dough and levain. The inoculation percentages are listed for the recipe that you did in the "bread calcs", so you can just use those inoculation settings most of the time. The other numbers are overall hydration, overall salt, also same numbers as in the spreadsheet for the bread calcs. The temperatures are for the bulk fermentation and the final proof.

The stage calculator just lets you enter times and temperatures in a series of steps. You can see how far your dough progresses in fermenting that way. If you set "starter speed factor" so that the doubling time is right, then the average factor will be about 1.0 at the point the dough has doubled, and it will be about 2.3 when the final proof is complete.

Notice that if you put your mouse over the text boxes with red triangles in them, you will see comments I have made trying to describe the uses of the various fields.

bwraith's picture

Essential's Columbia 

Essential Columbia Loaves

Essential Columbia Crust and Crumb

Essential Columbia Crumb

I've been prodded by a certain TFL friend (username starts with "Z") to do this recipe, and I finally got around to it. I have to say it's too bad this didn't happen sooner. The recipe is just excellent. I've included some photos of the process and a spreadsheet of the recipe I used.

The recipe I followed is almost exactly as specified in Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer on pages 82-83 except I doubled the recipe and made 4 loaves. I used Wheat Montana AP in place of the bread flour and KA Organic AP in place of the AP flour in the recipe. I made the firm levain using 36g of my 90% hydration starter in 321g of Wheat Montana AP and  197g of water. The inoculation is slightly lower, and I'm starting with a somewhat higher hydration storage starter, since that's what I had on hand. I made the inoculation lower than what is specified to gain a few hours in my overnight levain fermentation, since I knew the dough would not be mixed for about a full 12 hours after the levain was mixed.

I kneaded the dough by hand using the suggested Glezer technique of working up and down the dough squeezing it and extruding it through my fingers. I also did some of her folding motions The slashing was easy, since this bread is only at about 65% hydration or so. I had to add a little more water because the Wheat Montana AP seems to absorb a little more water, but it is a firm, fairly dry dough. The flavor with the toasted wheat germ, whole wheat (I used Wheat Montana Bronze Chief), and whole rye was outstanding. The firm levain was just peaked when I used it, and the smells coming out of it were very pleasant when I added it to the dough.

I had a little trouble with the shaping stage. The dough was very gassy, even though I stopped the bulk fermentation after 3 hours, before it had doubled, as specified. As I shaped the first one, it just seemed like the dough needed to be deflated or I would have gigantic holes in it, so I did aggressively pat down the loaves, form them into rough ovals and let them relax a few minutes before forming batards.

I've been experimenting with my newly installed outdoor brick oven, which has been a bit tricky to figure out. I scorched the bottoms of these loaves a little, so a couple of extra moppings of the oven floor may help to cool down the hearth just enough. The temperature of the dome and air seemed good, as all but the bottoms seemed to come out nicely baked with the firing I gave it this time, which gets the hearth up to about 530F, the air temperature to about 450F, and the dome up around 600F. Those are just the temperatures right after firing. Then, I turn off the fire, let the oven cool with the metal door in place, and mop the hearth floor before starting to bake. I have been especially pleased with the ability to steam the oven with a garden spray mister and seal it with a wet, towel covered wooden door. The crusts are coming out great this way, and the freedom to do larger amounts all at once adds some fun to the whole process. Being outdoors while baking is pleasant too, but I'm not sure what will happen in the winter.

The other bonus of the brick oven has been that the retained heat can be used to cook an entire very delicious roasted dinner. For example, after baking I've done lobsters, corn-on-the-cob, and asparagus, and roast leg-of-lamb, candied yams, and roast cabbage, and roast chickens, roasted halved potatoes, and garlic heads. So, you can enjoy a whole afternoon of baking and cooking from firing the oven one time before baking.


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