The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


4akitchenblog's picture

Hi all,

I am new here and this is my first post on The Fresh Loaf!

Today I would like to share my first attempt at baking Sourdough Boule with Japanese Clay Pot.

Japanese Clay Pot (a.k.a. Donabe) is a symbol of comfort food for Japanese people.

(Oh, by the way, I am Japanese :-))

Family members or friends come together around the table and share a meal out of one pot, so that you can build a sense of closeness, warmness...

I live in Santa Monica, California and my all family members live in Japan...Therefore, I felt all warm inside when I happened to find this Donabe.

"I want to bake BREAD with this clay pot!"

This idea just popped in my head :-)


The best part of using a clay pot (of course, a cast-iron pan, too) is you don't need to create the steam in your oven.

Because a closed clay pot trap all of the moisture from the dough, and that creates STEAM you need to get a perfect crust!

It's like a "masonry oven" inside your oven, if you will.


Ok, let's bake Donabe-bread!

This is a Sourdough Boule made with 36 hours fermentation.


Sourdough Boule

Makes 1 small loaf

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting



225 g Bread flour

162 g water

4 g Salt

67.5 g 60% Firm sourdough starter



266.3 g Bread Flour (100%)

188.3 g Water (70%)

4.8 g Salt (1.8% )



1. Making the preferment dough --- In a mixing bowl, combine Bread Flour, Water and Sourdough seed starter / culture. 

    Let it preferment at room temperature for 12 hours.

2. Meanwhile, mix flour and water, cover it with plastic and Autolyse for for 12 hours.

3. Next day, mix starter into the dough and slap & fold for 1 minute.

4. Add salt and slap & fold for 1 minute or until the dough becomes a rough ball.

5. Let it rest for  30 minutes.

6. 1 set Stretch & Fold (1 set = right over left, left over right, bottom over top, top over bottom)

7. Let it rest for  30 minutes.

8. 1 set Stretch & Fold

9. Let it rest for  30 minutes.

10. 1 set Stretch & Fold

11. At a cooler place, let it rise until the dough just starts showing the yeast activity, about a third in size.

12. Put it in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

13. Pull it out of the fridge and leave it out for 1 hour.

14. Pre-shape the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.

15. Shape into Boule and place into a mixing bowl lined with well-floured tea towel, seam-side up.

❉ Since I didn't have a round banneton, I used a mixing bowl lined with a tea towel and it just worked very well!

16. Final fermentation for 60 - 90 minutes.

17. 1 hour before you plan to bake, place your Donabe / Closed clay pot (must be completely DRY) on the middle shelf in the oven and preheat to 500°F.


18. Flip the bowl over so that the dough sits on the middle of a parchment paper.

19. Score the top of the Boule using a lame or a sharp, serrated knife.

20. Very very carefully open the lid (it's HOT!) and put the bread in the preheated Donabe, replace the lid and slip it back into the oven.

21. Turn the heat down to 480°F and bake the bread for 30 minutes with lid.

22. Turn the heat down to 450°F and bake for 10-15 minutes without lid.

23. Once the boule is nicely brown, turn the heat off and remove the boule from the Donabe and place directly on a rack in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

24. Let them cool onto a rack.

Here is my first Donabe-Bread!

It turned out super nice! I got an amazing crust and silky-fluffy-holey crumb.

To be honest, I was quite surprised by this result. 

Even though I knew this "closed clay pot (La Cloche)" method through this post on a website BREAD IN FIVE,

I was not sure if I could get the same result with this Japanese Donabe or not...

No baking stone? No steam? Really?!

Yes, it really works! Donabe-bread is a new comfort food for me!


evonlim's picture

weekend baking for friends.

baked a couple of breads for my friends. using Chad's formula for country bread. 500g brown bread flour and 250 gram AP. 150gram wholewheat starter at 75% hydration. 520gram water and 20gram of rum. 150gram raisin soaked in rum. 150gram toasted walnuts. 30gram soaked flaxseeds. 

mixed flour and water keep overnight at room temperature. next day added starter autolysed 30 mins add salt 15gram. rest 30mins, add flaxseeds raisins rum and walnuts. SF for 3 over 30mins interval. bench rest 30mins and shape. retard in fridge overnight. next day, baked at 450C covered 20mins, 425C uncovered 10mins or slightly more till inner temperature reached 210C.

did the above method to suite my working schedule.

works very well, takes 3 days of good planning. 

still learning...

Evon :)


Baked this one last night. with the same formula and method, only difference is i did not add the toasted soaked flaxseeds. as you can clearly see the difference of texture in the crumb. the one with flaxseed has a gummy chewy crunch, this one has a light chewy crunch. 



Netvet007's picture

Boule with Poolish PreFerment from Flour Water Salt Yeast

January 24, 2013 - 12:07pm -- Netvet007

I have started making bread from the book Flour Water Salt Yeast and am loving how they turn out.  Really delicious breads.  Highly recommend the book.  Bought an extra Dutch oven so I could make two loaves at once.   I've never had loaves turn out so nice.

Justkneadit's picture

Ok, I'm officially frustrated. My first boule turned out pretty good, thought maybe just the shaping needed some work. Since then my past two sourdough boules have gone haywire and here are the results of this weekend's bake. Looks decent from the outside but just wait..

Crumb...tight in places...

what the heck is this...That's definitely the bottom...

I follow the original recipe found here.

Changes I made were as follows:

  • 21h 10m in the fridge for the cold autolyse with a flip after 12 hours.
  • I let the dough sit in the brotform for 2 hours after shaping and before storing in the fridge for 24h 40m.
  • Let the dough proof for 8 hours.
  • Used a 1/2 cup of water for steam instead of 1 cup. All the temps were nearly the same.
So why in the world did the bottom of the freakin' loaf rise. Please some one help me out!Lane


Justkneadit's picture

Yeah, those are the best two words to describe this weekend's sourdough boule. I prefer to embarrass myself on accident, hence no pictures. I guess every baker is entitled to a few mishaps here and there. I'll get to the points of where I went wrong.

Same recipe as before except:

  • Instead of 4 S&F w/30 min in between, I felt bold and thought 2 S&F w/ 45 in between would be enough and it might have had I not waited 30 min to shape after final S&F, which caused a lot of bubbles at the surface, which then caused burns spots. Well almost burned.
  • Then in final proof it didnt seem like the dough was rising so I proofed for 8hr, and then 1 hour in the microwave with a cup of hot water at 90F.
  • The what would be bottom seemed to develop a thicker skin this time, so maybe that hindered proper rising.
  • To top it all of the son-of-a-wheatfield stuck to the brotform and ripped and deflated a good amount by the time I was ready for the oven. I like the flour lines but jeez, I wont spare any flour next time and just brush it off once out of the brotform. I really don't feel like wasting another 48 hours of work. Oh and 1/2 cup of steam instead of 1 cup.

So because of the brotform fiasco and the tougher bottom skin the loaf baked like a giant popover almost. Scoring needed to be deeper too. All-in-all it turned out to be a good learning what-not-to-do experience. Since the ingredients were right, and even though the bread was dense, it was soft and still tasty. 

I challenge you to yet another duel you boule!

Justkneadit's picture

So off I go... I have completed my 1st attempt at one of two recipes I will fervently try to "perfect" over the course of the next year.

Today, I baked cranbo's sourdough recipe which I shaped into a boule. I did however incorporate some different techniques that I wish to "master". (I put quotations because I can already see this will be a life long endeavor to perfect my loafs and techniques). I used the 36 hour method for this boule and will continue to do so making slight changes one at a time to see how I can improve my loaf with the conditions I am given. This might get lengthy because I want to keep accurate review of each bake so that I may improve my loafs.


Furthermore, as long as my situation allows, I will start the sourdough boule on Thursdays and the baguette a l'ancienne on Sundays and finishing the loaves on Saturday and Tuesdays, respectively.


Ok, here is the process:


  • 550g KAF Bread Flour
  • 308g water (38.2 F)
  • 110g 100% hydration starter (AP Flour)
  • 12g Pink Himalayan Salt
Simple enough...Process:
  • Mix flour and cold water into a rough mass. Dough temp was 66.2 F going into the fridge, which was at 36 F +/- .5 F. Hung out in my fridge for 14 hours.
  • Saved the flour/water mix from the depths of my fridge and kneaded in the starter first, then the salt. It was cold! Kneaded approx. 15-18 mins with a 10 min rest at 8 mins. (Was very difficult to knead at first. I'm sure the lower hydration and the temp didn't help much. Also I believe my starter was a bit past prime usage because it had become more liquidy than a dough consistency. So that also made it more difficult to knead into the dough. In the end this, in my opinion, was the best dough I had kneaded. Very supple and slightly tacky but not sticky.)
  • Once I kneaded it into submission I began 4 S&F's at 30 min intervals. After the last S&F I let the dough relax for 20 min then shaped and placed into ze brotform. Slid the brotform into a plastic bag and back into the fridge for 19 1/2 hours at 40 F.
  • After the dough's cat nap I let it proof for 6 1/4 hours at 75 F.
  • Set the temp of the oven to 525 F, for heat loss when I open the door, and placed the boule onto the baking stone and poured 1 cup of boiling water in a pan below with lav rocks, shut the door and reduced the temp to 450 F for 25 mins, rotated the boule 180 degrees, then reduced temp to 400 F for 15 more mins. The boule out of the oven was at 208.5 F internally.

Overall, very pleased. Taste was delicious with a smooth and creamy texture with a subtle tang. Open to advice or critques please.

One more thing, for aesthic reasons only I'm concerned with the major center bloom. I think I need a better choice for scoring.



Justkneadit's picture

    I only recently delved into the world of bread, and before I overwhelm myself with the plethora of recipes I am going to hone in on the basics with 2 recipes. I have been reading Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and obtaining the "feel" for the dough is my end goal. Instead of relying on timers, I want to depend on my senses.

   My hope for this year long bread baking journey is to be able to bake an excellent sourdough boule and baguette. That is not to say I wont bake a few odd recipes here and there, but my main focus will be on the basic sourdough recipe posted by cranbo which I will use for my boule and the Baguettes a l'Ancienne recipe posted by DonD for my baguettes. Gaining experience using a sourdough starter and instant yeast will be invaulable. Already, I can see the subtle and sometimes obvious differences in the way each type of yeast acts on the dough. As I gain experience hopefully it will lead to better tasting bread.

   I must be honest, I will be posting rookie questions for quite some time, but I have noticed already how helpful the TFL community is and hopefully you all can guide me through my trials and errors. Well here goes a year of enjoyment.




Justkneadit's picture

Monstrous Bloom Again...Need help

September 20, 2012 - 5:08pm -- Justkneadit

Well, I did it again. Crazy bloom that has me scratching my head. I will list the process I used to make this Lavender Hazelnut Sourdough Boule, but could this bloom be a product of my stater being young..(12 days)? I will say the taste turned out much better than I anticipated. The hazelnut gave a smooth nutty flavor and the lavender didn't creep in until close to swallowing (well it did reach the nose first). Neither ingredient was overpowering, which was pleasing. Would be fitting to slather with honey!

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

No proofing basket? No problem. Heh.


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