The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

fermented soaker

Franko's picture

 Back In early May I posted on a 40% Rye with a fermented soaker that I had to try and save because of miscalculating the hydration. The save was short lived unfortunately. After three days the crust became so tough from the extra flour added to the dough I couldn't eat it for fear of cracking a tooth. The formula has since been adjusted for hydration and two bakes of the bread have been done over the last few weeks with much better results than the original. The first loaf of the new mix worked out well, the dough consistency being what I expected, well hydrated but not to such an extent it was difficult to develop with a few stretch and folds. This time instead of baking it in a Pullman tin, the dough was shaped as a batard and placed in a brotform. The bread was to be part of a buffet table at my wife Marie's recent birthday party and I wanted it to look a little fancier than a regular tinned loaf. The loaf baked up nicely with a cracking crust, evenly open crumb, and well rounded flavour with a pleasant sour note from the soaker.

 One of our guests told me that she's usually not a fan of either rye bread or sourdoughs but that she enjoyed the flavour and texture of this bread more than any she'd had in the past. This was reassuring to hear and good to know that other people could enjoy it since to that point I'd been the only who'd tasted it. 

Last week we took a mini 3 day vacation out to the West Coast of Vancouver Island for a little R&R. On our way out to the coast we made a stop at Vancouver Island Grain and Milling, in the city of Port Alberni. VI Grain & Milling, a relatively new enterprise, came to my attention when Marie brought home one of their pamphlets from a local Farmer's Market. The proprietor, Wayne Smith runs the facility on his home and farm property located just a short drive from the main highway through town. At the moment the various organic grains he carries are kept in three, temperature and humidity controlled semi trailers situated near the front entrance of his property, with construction of a permanent storage facility getting under way this summer. One of the trailers has a small milling area equipped with four Nutrimills that he uses to produce retail size (2K) bags of flour for a number of health food stores here on the Island.

Wayne told me he doesn't anticipate installing a full size mill anytime soon as the investment cost and profit margin wouldn’t justify it at this point in the business, but that he'd be happy to mill whatever I needed on short notice. What a find! I asked him if he would mill up a slightly coarse rye flour for me while I was there, and a short time later Wayne presented me with 2 kilos of the best looking rye flour I think I've ever seen.

This is the flour I used in a second bake of the 40% rye. It preformed beautifully throughout the mixing, fermentation, shaping and baking, giving the bread an even better depth of flavour than the previous bake. The fermentation properties and flavour of fresh milled flour compared to pre-milled is so superior, I'm finally persuaded to invest in a flour mill for my home baking. Much as I'd prefer a stone mill similar to the type [Phil/Pips] uses, I've decided the size and cost of the impact type Nutrimill is a better fit for my storage and budget limitations right now. Once the existing stock of wheat and rye flour I already have has been used up I'll be looking forward to milling all my own flour with grains from Wayne Smith's VI Grain & Milling. 

The second bake of the 40% Rye was slightly different in that the soaker was all cracked rye instead of 50/50 cracked rye and wheat, but other than that the rest of the formula remained the same as per the previous mix. Since I've started using a fermented soaker in some of my sourdoughs I've discovered how much easier it is to fine tune the level of sour in the  loaf, rather than having to rely entirely on the levain to contribute the bread's sour component. Cracked or whole grains ferment quite slowly compared to flour, allowing for greater control over the strength of the sour flavour than I feel I have with a typical 12-18 hour levain. With the soaked grains adding texture to the loaf along with added flavour, it's proven to me to be an effective technique for enhancing the overall quality of the finished loaf.

After pulling the loaf from the oven, de-panning, and wrapping in linen, it was left to cool for 48 hours. This was difficult! I was tempted to take a slice the day after baking but I'm glad I gave it one more day. The crumb, after 48 hours had set completely, allowing for clean even slices to be taken, minus the usual residue left on the knife when I slice a rye bread after only 24 hours.

40% Rye with Fermented Soaker




Mix all of the flour needed for the levan with mature 100% rye starter and water and ripen at 70F/21C for 14-18 hours.

Cracked Rye and Wheat Soaker

Pour the boiling water over the two cracked grains and salt and allow to cool to ambient temperature. Add the mature 100% rye starter, mix thoroughly and ferment at 70F/21C for anywhere from 3-5 days depending on the level of sour flavour desired. Note: The amount of water needed may need to be adjusted to achieve a slightly loose consistency. The soaker is not hydration nuetral and should contribute a small amount of hydration to the final mix.

Final Mix (by hand)

Combine all the flour and water to a shaggy mass, adjusting for hydration, and autolyse for 40-60 minutes. Add the levan and incorporate thoroughly, then add the salt and honey and mix until the dough is moderately developed. Finally add the fermented soaker and continue mixing until the soaker is evenly distibuted throughout the mix. Turn the dough onto the table and use the slap and fold method until the dough is smooth and cohesive but not fully developed. DDT is 78F/25C.

Bulk ferment the dough for 60-90minutes at 78F/25C. Bulk fermentation times will vary and the dough should be monitored closley to ensure it receives adequate fermentation time.


Turn the dough onto the table and give it a stretch and fold. Cover the dough and rest it for 30 minutes. Shape as desired.

Final Proof and Bake

After shaping, give the dough it's final rise in a covered 78F/25C slightly moist environment for 45-60 minutes. Again it should be closely monitored, as times will vary. When the dough is slightly springy to the touch remove it from final proof to the counter allowing the skin to dry if necessary before slashing. Slash as desired and bake in a 500F/260 oven, vents blocked, with steaming apparatus in place, for 15 minutes. Unblock the vent, remove the steaming apparatus and lower the temperature to 465F/240C, continuing the bake for an additionl 45-55 minutes (lowering the temperature if needed to 450F/232C) until the internal temperature reaches 210F/98.8 . Cool on a rack for 24-48 hours, wrapped in linen, before slicing.  



The flavour is noticeably better than the previous bake, which I credit to the fresh milled rye flour from V.I. Grain & Milling used in the mix and certainly one the best flours I've had the pleasure of working with.




Franko's picture

The Rye & Barley Mash Bread I've posted on previously has become one of my favourite breads over the last few months for it's pronounced sour and deep flavour characteristics, much of which I credit to the fermented mash/soaker of whole barley and rye kernels included in the mix. With this latest bake I thought I'd try a lighter version by reducing the rye to 40%, and go with organic white All Purpose for the remaining 60%, eliminating the barley flour altogether, but include a fermented soaker of cracked rye and wheat.

Using the Rye Barley Mash formula as a template I deleted a few things such as the altus and barley flour and changed some percentages to come up with something I thought might work. The soaker had been fermenting away in the Brod & Taylor proofer for 3 days developing a fairly tangy sour note to it indicating it was ready to use, so late Monday afternoon I mixed up the levain in preparation for the final mix the next morning. By the time the 1 hour autolyse was complete the levain had been fermenting for almost 14 hours and looked quite healthy, strong and ready for prime time. The mix proceeded along fine until I added the rye/wheat soaker, after which the mix wasn't looking so fine anymore. I realized the dough was going to be fairly wet because of adding extra water to the soaker to loosen it up a bit, but this was quite a bit wetter than I'd anticipated. Hmm, OK, I'll just get it into bulk ferment and do some stretch and folds in 30 minute increments to build some strength and see what happens.

I like a well hydrated dough but this one was so sloppy that even after 3 stretch and folds it showed very minimal development over the course of almost 1 1/2 hours bulk fermentation. Going back over the formula to see where I'd gone wrong I realized I'd neglected to adjust the overall hydration down from the original formula to compensate for the reduced rye flour and omitted barley flour. A few choice words were muttered, all directed at myself, none of which bear repeating here, but I knew at that point I'd need to make some corrections in order to save this bowl of goo and have it result in something resembling bread. An additional 60 grams of AP were added, adjusting for salt and adding 1+ grams of instant yeast to give it a boost. That little bit of extra flour made all the difference, turning a soupy mix into a very loose but workable dough that could be molded for panning. After rounding the dough it sat on the counter for 30 minutes before molding into a log for panning in a Pullman tin and final proof. After 2 1/4 hours in the proofer at 76F it had risen 3/4's of the way up the pan and appeared to be worth putting in the oven. I decided not to press my luck by scoring the loaf, opting for baking it with the lid on, hoping at the very least it would give the loaf a uniform shape. Lo and behold after almost 70 minutes in the oven, with gradual reductions in heat, it turned out a reasonable looking loaf considering how it started out.

I took the first slice today after letting it cool overnight, wondering what I'd find. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a moist, even and open crumb, with a nice crunchy crust as a bonus.

The flavour has a lot of similarities to the Rye Barley Bread, though not near as tangy as it was, but overall a very tasty loaf of bread. The formula has since been adjusted for hydration, but rather than share it now I'll test it out a few times until I'm confident it can be reproduced reliably and post the results and full formula at a later date for anyone interested in trying it out.

Seafood Sausage en Brioche

This is something I did a couple of weeks ago that turned out nicely and is absolutely delicious! Saucisson en Brioche is normally made using a savoury meat sausage wrapped in brioche dough but I wanted to try it using the recipe for 'Shrimp & Scallop Sausage' from Michael Ruhlman's book 'Ratio'. Making a seafood  sausage is considerably quicker and easier compared to one from pork or veal since no curing is needed, and all you need is a food processor and some plastic wrap to make a casing. The sausage, very basically is a mixture of cold egg white, cream or heavy cream, seafood, and seasonings blended until it's smooth, uniform and thick enough to shape. For this sausage some of the shrimp were coarsely chopped and folded in at the last to give it some added texture.  Tightly wrapped in plastic, then poached until the internal temp reaches 155F. Let the sausage cool slightly and have a brioche dough rolled out and ready for final proof. From there it's a matter of wrapping the sausage in the dough as tightly as possible (which I need to do better next time) and proofing it for 30-40 minutes. Egg wash, and bake in a 360F oven for 20-30 minutes depending on the size. Allow it to cool slightly and firm up (10 minutes) before slicing. The sausage was plated with a cucumber salad vinaigrette, deep fried parsley and caper berries, sauced with a lemon chive beurre blanc. A little elegant compared to my typical dinner choices now days, but sometimes you need to shake things up a bit to get out the food rut many of us fall into. 




Subscribe to RSS - fermented soaker