The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough bread

dmsnyder's picture

I've been working on the requested update of the Scoring Tutorial. I was expressely asked to use "real" bread, instead of the dishtowels I used to demonstrate the use of a transfer peel. I made a batch of my San Frandisco-style Sourdough for this purpose. So, after finishing the third video for the new tutorial (one more to go), I had to dispose of my instructional materials. 

No expressions of sympathy are called for I assure you.

A nice crab salad and Anderson Valley Chardonney complemented the bread quite nicely.


dmsnyder's picture

A neighbor and I have a 15 year old tradition of exchanging baked goods at this time of year. His wife always bakes a delicious rum and nutmeg-flavored cake, and I give them a loaf of bread. This year, my gift was a 1.5 kg loaf of Hamelman's pain au levain. 

They say "fences make good neighbors," but I think exchange of fresh-baked goodies does too.

Crumb photo of the other loaf

Happy holidays to you all!


dmsnyder's picture


I had thought that, when I retired, I would tackle more complex breads and pastries. So far, my inclinations have been otherwise. I have been working on simpler recipes that can produce good breads with lesser time demands. Go figure.

This bread is an example. A baguette sur poolish is a classic bread. It can be produced in 5-6 hours (not counting the overnight fermentation of the poolish) and is at its peak of quality as soon as it has cooled. Yesterday I baked a sourdough adaptation of this classic bread, starting in the late morning to have fresh-baked baguettes with our dinner.

Liquid levain

Baker's %

Wt. (g)

Flour mix






Firm starter (50% hydration)







  • The “Flour mix” is 70% AP, 20% WW and 10% whole rye flour.

  • I used my stock starter to feed the levain. It is kept at 50% hydration. Adjusting for this, the actual levain hydration is 89%.

Mix the levain ingredients and ferment for 8-12 hours. (My levain quadrupled in 6 hours and was refrigerated overnight.)

Final Dough

Wt (g)

AP flour


Water (80-90º F, if cold levain)




Liquid levain




Note: The final dough hydration is 66%, accounting for the water and flour in the levain.


  1. Dissolve the liquid levain in the water.

  2. Add the flour, and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Autolyse for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Add the salt, and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly.

  5. Bulk ferment at 75º F for 3 hours with stretch and folds at 30, 60, 90 and 135 minutes.

  6. Divide into 3 equal pieces and pre-shape as logs.

  7. Rest for 15-30 minutes, covered.

  8. Shape as baguettes and proof on a couche for 75-90 minutes.

  9. Transfer baguettes to a peel and score.

  10. Bake at 450º F with steam for 22-25 minutes. (I baked for 12 minutes with steam at 450º F then for 10 minutes at 425º F convection bake.)

  11. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.


The crust was thin and crisp – as close to a classic baguette crust as I have produced with sourdough. The crumb was moderately open and chewy. The flavor was moderately sour – more sour than I expected. It was very nice with our dinner of soup (krupnick) and salad (lettuce with pecans, dried cranberries and Point Reyes blue cheese with a mustard vinaigrette).


Submitted to YeastSpotting

dmsnyder's picture

As those of you who have made San Joaquin Sourdough know, my procedure calls for a 21 hour cold retardation during bulk fermentation. The length of the cold retardation was taken from Anis Bouabsa via Jane Benoit (janedo on TFL). While I have often increased or decreased the 21 hours by 3 hours or so, I have been wary of a much longer time, because I feared proteolysis would result in unacceptable gluten degradation.

This week, I did (finally) retard my dough for about 36 hours, partly for scheduling convenience but also out of curiosity. To my surprise, the resulting bread was hardly different than those I had retarded for 15 hours less. There was no discernable difference in flavor, although I had expected a more pronounced sourdough tang. The crumb structure was actually better, in my opinion. The crust coloration was unchanged.

So, here are some photos of the breads made with a 36 hour cold retardation:

I would be interested in hearing about other bakers' experience with prolonged cold retardation of sourdough dough.

Our accompaniment to this bread was Chicken Paprikash.


dmsnyder's picture

I have made baguettes following many different formulas. Some of the most interesting have been various versions of “pain à l'anciènne,” including those of Reinhart in The Bread Baker's Apprentice and of Leader in Local Breads. Sometime back in 2008, I found an e-mail that Peter Reinhart had sent to a bread bakers' Usenet mailing list in 2003 which described the formula for pain à l'anciènne as he got it directly from Philippe Gosselin. The version that ended up in BBA was simplified somewhat by Reinhart, adding all the ingredients before the mixing, omitting the double hydration and delayed addition of the salt.

When I first made baguettes from Gosselin's original method, they were the best-tasting ones I had ever made. I finally got to taste Gosselin's baguettes tradition (from the rue Caumartin shop) last year. To my taste, they had a bit of a tang suggesting they might have been made with levain, so I modified the formula to use a liquid levain and found I preferred the result to that leavened with commercial yeast. In fact, I preferred what I had baked to Gosselin's own.

This is the version I used for today's bake:



Baker's %

Organic AP Flour

400 g


Ice Water

275 g



8.75 g


Liquid Levain

200 g


Instant yeast (optional)

¼ tsp



883.75 g


Notes: Accounting for the flour and water in the levain, the total flour is 500 g and the total water is 375 g, making the actual dough hydration 75%. The actual salt percentage is 1.75%.

For today's bake, I made 3/4 of the dough amount in the table above.

I mixed the levain the night before starting on these and retarded it in the fridge overnight. 


  1. The night before baking, mix the flour and levain with 225 g of ice water and immediately refrigerate.

  2. The next morning, add the salt and 50 g of ice water to the dough and mix thoroughly. (I did this by hand by squishing the dough between my fingers until the water was fully incorporated.)

  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl with a tight cover.

  4. Ferment at room temperature until the dough has about doubled in volume. (3 hours for me) Do stretch and folds in the bowl every 30 minutes for the first two hours.

  5. An hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500ºF, with baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  6. Divide the dough into 4 more or less equal pieces and stretch each into a 12-14 inch long “baguette.”

  7. Score and bake immediately at 460ºF, with steam for 10 minutes, and for about 20 minutes total.

  8. Cool on a rack before eating.

Notes: In Step 7., I specify shaping the loaves by simply stretching the dough pieces into a rough baguette shape. This is a very slack dough and a challenge to handle as one might a lower-hydration baguette dough. If you are very comfortable handling slack dough, have a firm grasp of the “iron hand in a velvet glove” principal and are feeling up to the challenge, you can shape the pieces as you would shape a baguette ordinarily. That is, in fact, what I did for this bake.

You will also note that I scored these baguettes with a single, longitudinal slash. I find the results more satisfactory than the traditional 5 or 7 cuts when scoring a very sticky dough like this. However, the difference is merely cosmetic.

These baguettes had a chewy crust, except for the ears, which were crunchy. I think they could have baked 5 minutes longer, or I could have left them in the turned off oven for another 5-7 minutes to dry the crust. The crumb was nice and open. The flavor was sweet, complex and moderately tangy. I attribute this to a combination of factors – retarding the levain overnight and fermenting the dough, after the final mixing, at 85 dF.

This baguette is still a favorite.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

dmsnyder's picture

I am gradually aclimating to retirement. I still get twinges Sunday nights in anticipation of a non-existant Monday patient schedule. But this week I broke the thought habit of baking being exclusively a weekend activity. Maybe I over-compensated, but I don't think so.

Tuesday evening, I activated my starter and I put up a bulgar soaker and a whole wheat poolish in preparation for a Wednesday bake of my favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread, the one in BBA.

100% Whole Wheat Bread 

100% Whole Wheat Bread crumb

This is probably my favorite bread for almond butter on toast, BLT's and Tuna Salad sandwiches. We had all of these this week.

Wednesday evening, I fed the starter at 100% hydration for Thursday's bake of San Joaquin Sourdoughs and started on txfarmer's 36+ hour baguettes for a Friday bake.

San Joaquin Sourdough Breads

This bread is good with everything. We had some with almond butter, more with penne with butternut squash, sage and hazelnuts and more with a salad lunch.

Thursday evening, I mixed a firm levain for Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat. Txfarmer's baguette dough was mixed, fermented and refrigerated.

We were invited to some friends' home for dinner Friday. The response to "What can we bring?" was not hard to guess. This morning, the baguettes and Pain au Levain for dinner tonight got baked.

Baguette Crust

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat crust

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Crumb

 I have the walnuts toasted for Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Bread.

To top off the week, my son, Joel, sent me a photo of the latest bagels he and 3-year old Sasha made this week, and he expressed some interest in "trying" to bake sourdough breads. I'll take him some starter when we visit in November. What fun!

It's just that I can't figure how I ever had time to "work."


kululutz's picture

Looking for a new book after Hamelman's book

September 22, 2012 - 5:05am -- kululutz


I'm new as a member though I've been here as a passive reader for a while.

After reading here long discussions and different opinions about good book for sourdough breads,  I bought Hamelman's book Bread.

This book upgraded the bread's taste by far and more importantly deepened my understanding of the chemical process of making bread.

I want to purchase a new book and asking you for advice, what is the recommended book to continue learning about the chemical process and high-quality recipes mainly used with sourdough.

dmsnyder's picture

Watching the development of baking skills and the endless creativity of TFL members gives me enormous enjoyment. When I find members using formulas or techniques I have contributed and taking them to new and exciting places, I am especially thrilled. I can think of no better example than what txfarmer has done with the Anis Bouabsa and Phillip Gosselin formulas I first explored as part of my “baguette quest” in the Spring and Summer of 2008. Her “36 hours+ sourdough baguettes” (See 36 hours+ sourdough baguette - everything I know in one bread for her original, basic formula.) have been visually stunning as well as technically intriguing. It was with great anticipation that I followed her formula and procedures this weekend to make a batch myself.

My only modification of txfarmer's procedure was that I fermented the dough prior to dividing and shaping at 85 dF for 1 hour. I generally scale baguettes to 250 g to fit my baking stone. Her formula makes about 900 g of dough. I divided this into 3 pieces of 299 g each and shaped them to (barely) fit on my stone. I baked the baguettes for 12 minutes with steam at 460 dF conventional bake then for another 12 minutes at 435 dF in a dry oven using convection bake. In hindsight, I should have baked them for about 2 minutes less. They sang when taken out to cool and smelled delicious!


The crust was very crunchy and the crumb satisfyingly open, although not as open as some of the amazing baguettes txfarmer has shown us. The flavor of the bread was complex, nutty and sweet with moderate sourdough tang.

I do believe I have a new favorite sourdough baguette.




dmsnyder's picture

Many TFL baker's have blogged on this bread, and for good reason. It is delicious. I haven't made it since last October. Today, I made three 568 g boules. I started with a liquid starter which I converted to a firm starter and fed twice before mixing the final dough. The formed loaves were cold retarded for about 16 hours then proofed at 85 dF for 2 1/2 hours before baking.

I have been making Hamelman's Pain au Levain frequently for many months and enjoying it a lot. This week, I just felt like something with more of a whole grain flavor and recalled this bread. Looking back at my earlier blog, today's bake was significantly better when tasted after a couple hours' cooling. There was none of what I had described as a "grassy" flavor. This bread was simply delicious with a sweet, nutty, crunchy crust and a  chewy crumb with a nice wheaty, mildly sour flavor. 

I'm going to stick with this one ... except I do want to try the mixed levain version again.



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