The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough bread

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dmsnyder's picture

SF Sourdough baguettes

SF Sourdough baguettes

SF Sourdough baguettes crumb

SF Sourdough baguettes crumb 

These baguettes were made with the same dough I have described in

I have been trying various formulas and techniques to make baguettes that have "classic" crust, crumb and taste. This is not them, of course, but I have also wanted to see if the pain de compagne dough, which has such a wonderful taste in a boule, would also make a good baguette. Well, the crumb structure and the taste are essentially identical to the boule. The baguette just has proportionately more crust.

The baguettes were scaled to about 10 oz. I preshaped them according to Hamelman's technique in "Bread," let them rest for 10-15 minutes, then formed the baguettes. I should have let them rest longer. The dough was very elastic. I attempted to be as gentle as possible in handling the dough. I proofed them for about 45-50 minutes only, until they were just swelled a bit, then baked with steam, starting at 500F and reducing the oven to 460F after 10 minutes. The total bake time was 25 minutes. They rested in the turned off oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes more.


The combination of the stingy proofing and the hot oven resulted in enormous oven spring. The bloom practically obliterated my cuts. For this "rustic" baguette, I'm not unhappy with the effect.

A word about how I steamed the oven: Hamelman's suggested method of oven steaming for the home baker was used. The oven was preheated with a pizza stone on the middle shelf and a loaf pan and a cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf. Just before spraying the loaves with water and scoring them, I placed about a cup of ice cubes in the loaf pan. Just after loading the loaves, I poured about a cup of boiling water into the skillet. The door was opened briefly at 10 minutes to remove the loaf pan and skillet. I did not spray water into the oven. 


dmsnyder's picture

SF SD Pain de Compagne

SF SD Pain de Compagne

SF SD Pain de Compagne crumb

SF SD Pain de Compagne crumb

This came out of the oven this evening in time to cool ... almost cool ... for our obligatory bedtime snack.

It is basically the same bread as that described in my last blog entry except that I built the dough directly from the starter rather than elaborating an "intermediate starter," and I made it with slightly higher hydration. As a result, it did not have the first clear flour, and it had proportionately more whole wheat and rye in the starter. This was a sticky dough that I avoided over-kneading. It fermented for 3.5 hours with one folding at 90 minutes. I shaped a single boule of about 830 grams. It was retarded in the refrigerator for 18 hours.

The boule was proofed in a linen-lined banneton and baked on a stone, covered with a stainless steel bowl for the first 15 minutes of a 40 minute bake. It was left in the turned off oven with the door ajar for another 10 minutes.

The crust was really crisp after 90 minutes of cooling. The crumb is tender but chewy, how I like it. The taste is medium sour with clear notes of whole wheat and rye which I expect to be more subtle by the morning.

My next project is to use the same dough at a lower hydration to make sourdough baguettes.


dmsnyder's picture

Something to do with bread: Crostini

June 1, 2008 - 12:35pm -- dmsnyder

The sourdough bread is cool enough to slice, and the oven is now free to roast the chicken for dinner. The chicken liver, heart and gizzard are sitting there, forlorn and neglected. Don't let it happen! Make crostini! 


2 T olive oil 
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 large chicken liver, chopped very fine
1 chicken gizzard chopped very fine 
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
Dash or two of salt
4-6 grindings of black pepper
3 T of Marsala  

dmsnyder's picture

San Francisco Sourdough variation Boule

San Francisco Sourdough variation Boule

SF-SD-Variations-Boule Crumb

SF-SD-Variations-Boule Crumb

San Francisco Sourdough variation Batard

San Francisco Sourdough variation Batard

San Francisco Sourdough variation Batard Crumb

San Francisco Sourdough variation Batard Crumb

San Francisco Sourdough: Variations on a theme

The formula for San Francisco Sourdough Bread in Peter Reinhart's "Crust & Crumb" has been my favorite recipe for my favorite bread for some time. I have varied the formula, using different starters and various mixes of white wheat, whole wheat and rye.

All of the breads have been good. I can say that my favorite loaves have been made with bread flour with a small amount (10-12%) of rye flour.

I have not varied the techniques for mixing or proofing in Reinhart's instructions to date, and, with a single exception, I have always baked this bread as boules. Reinhart's instructions indicate that this bread can be formed as boules, batards or even baguettes.

This time, I decided to try some new variations in ingredients, procedures and loaf shape. The dough was mixed in a Bosch Universal Plus.

Starter Feeding

1 part mother starter

3 parts water

4 parts flour (70% AP flour, 20% whole wheat and 10% rye)

Intermediate firm starter

3 oz starter (formula above)

9 oz water

13 oz First Clear Flour


All of the intermediate firm starter

2 cups of water

23.50 oz King Arthur European Artisan Flour

3.5 oz Guisto's Organic Whole Rye

0.25 oz Diastatic Malt powder

0.75 oz salt


Day 1 - Make the intermediate starter

Mix the Intermediate firm starter. Ferment tightly covered for 9 hours (overnight) at room temperature, then refrigerate for 10 hours.

Day 2 - Mix, Bulk Ferment, Divide and Scale, Shape and Retard

Take the starter out of the refrigerator 1 hour before use.

Mix the water, the diastatic malt and the flours until it forms a shaggy mass. Cover and autolyse (let the flours absorb the water and the gluten start to develop) for 20 minutes.

Add the firm starter cut into 10 pieces to the dough and mix at Speed 1, adding the salt while mixing. Continue to mix at Speed 2 until the gluten is well developed and a window pane can be formed. (7 minutes).

Empty the dough onto the bench and fold the dough into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, at least twice its size. Roll the dough ball around to coat with oil, cover the bowl tightly, and allow the dough to ferment for at least 4 hours. (If rising too quickly, do a fold to de-gas the dough, but plan on leaving the dough alone for the last two hours, at least.)

Gently transfer the dough to the bench. Scale and divide the dough as wished, according to the type and size of the loaves you want to bake. (The total weight of the dough is around 4-1/2 pounds.)

Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes, then form loaves. These can be place in bannetons or on parchment or canvas "couches." In either case, cover the loaves air tight and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3 - Proof and Bake (two methods)

Take the loaves out of the refrigerator and allow to warm up and rise for 3-4 hours until expanded to 1-1/2 times their original volume.

Baking method 1

One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven with a baking stone and cast iron skillet in it to 475F.

Slash the loaves as desired, spritz with water and transfer the loaves to the baking stone.

Immediately pour 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet and close the oven door. If desired, spritz the oven walls with water 2-3 times spaced over the first 5 minutes of the bake. After 5 minutes, carefully remove the skillet from the oven, empty any remaining water and dry it. Put it somewhere to cool. After the last spritzing, turn the oven temperature down to 450F.

Baking method 2

Alternatively, set the oven to 450F.

Slash the loaves as desired, transfer them to the stone and bake the loaves covered with a bowl or a roaster for 15-20 minutes. Then remove the cover.

Continue baking until the loaves are nicely colored and their internal temperature is at least 205F. The loaves will be done in 30-40 minutes total time, depending on their size and shape. Then, turn off the oven but leave the loaves on the stone for another 5-10 minutes to dry the crust. Allow the loaves to fully cool (1-2 hours) before slicing.


With this particular combination of flours and the procedure as described, the dough was quite sticky at the end of mixing. After a couple of foldings, it was extremely elastic, and I wondered if I had mixed it more than I should have. However, after bulk fermentation and dividing, the dough was quite relaxed and remarkably extensible. It was not at all sticky at this point. This has been characteristic of doughs made with KA European Artisan Flour, in my experience.

The batard pictured above was baked uncovered with steam from water poured into a hot skillet. The boule was baked under a stainless steel bowl without additional steam. Although the boule was baked about 45 minutes after the batard, the latter rose more quickly on parchment and acted as if over-proofed. The boule rose more slowly in a banneton. It did not seem over-proofed, and it had much better oven spring and bloom. The batard had a more open crumb. My hunch is that how I shaped the boule (too tight) was the major determinant of the differences in proofing time and crumb openness. (Other analyses would be welcome.)

Eating (Batard)

The crust is crunchy but not at all tough. The crumb is tender with a delicious complex pain de compagne-type flavor, except with more assertive sourness.


dmsnyder's picture

Nury's Light Rye

Nury's Light Rye

Nury's Light Rye Crumb

Nury's Light Rye Crumb

Mmmmmm .....


dmsnyder's picture

We have had a stimulating and instructive discussion of methods of replicating the effects of commercial oven steam injection in home ovens. (See I found it interesting that many home bakers have found coving the loaf during the first half of the bake to yield the best results - better oven spring, crisper, thinner crust, etc. So, I had to try it.


My first attempt was with a bread I have made many times - Jeff Hamelman's "Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere." I made it with King Arthur Flour's First Clear Flour. There would not have been room in the oven to bake two loaves, even if I had divided the dough, so there is no experimental control, other than my past experience. I baked this miche covered with the bottom of a large, oval enameled metal roasting pan for 30 minutes, then removed the pan and finished the baking for another 25 minutes.


The results:

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche 

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche Crumb

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche Crumb 

My conclusion is that this bread has as good a crust and crumb as any I've made but is not substantially different from the miches I've baked using hot water poured into a hot cast iron skillet after transferring the loaf to the baking stone. The crumb is a little less open than I wanted, but the dough was less slack. The weather has warmed up, and the flour was probably dryer. I should have added a bit more water.


Janedo's picture

For the last few days I have been preparing two different sourdough breads, one is the basic recipe in Nancy Silverton's Breads from La Brea Bakery and the other one is my own concoction using the old dough technique from a piece of sourdough that a friend gave to me. It dates from 1993 and has a very disctinct, delicious aroma. Many of her friends tell her that her bread smells like "pain d'épice" which is a spice cake. I'll explain what I did and then I have some questions to ask you all.

Nancy Silverton's sourdough bread

Nancy Silverton's basic

Nancy Silverton's basic crumb

For this bread I followed the recipe. Then split the dough in half, left one to rise a few hours then baked. The other half, I rose for an hour and then placed in the fridge as directed in the recipe.

Sourdough from Laurence's "old dough"

Laurence's "old dough" bread

Laurence's "old dough" bread crumb

For this bread, the original bit of "old dough" (pure sourdough - no yeast) was about the size of a small orange. It was taken from the dough, then left to rise a little bit. It was put in a glass bowl and left in the fridge a few days. I then took it out and fed it a small bowl of flour with some water so that it became a pretty thick paste. This was left out and covered overnight. The next morning it was nice and bubbly.

In a bowl I added 600 ml of cold water (I'm worried about the rising temps here even if it just one or two degrees °C). I stirred and then added 1kg of flour (500g T110 and 500G T80). I let it knead in my mixer a few minutes and then did a 20 or so minute autolyse. Added the salt (4 tsp) and then let it knead until it was nice and soft and supple (window paned and all). It rose about 3,5 hrs. Then punched down, split in two parts, mise en couche, formed and rose again for an hour. One of the doughs was risen again about 2 hrs (can't remember) and the other one was put in the fridge with the other half of the Nancy Silverton dough.

NB I still don't have any bannetons, so I do a basic natural rise on a sheet. 

My AIM here as to see what the big fuss is about leaving the dough to develop those wonderful aromas, etc ovenight in the fridge. I have done that technique a few times now and haven't enjoyed the results at all. THIS time I really concentrated and watched to make sure there were no problems, over fermenting, etc.

Now, here are my questions:

1. I see in my books that in America, the goal is a very even, proportional bread shape with a relatively thin but crunchy crust and no "bursting". I see it in pictures too. So, does that mean that over there you don't like bursted, jagged crusts and non-uniform bread? Because people here think American bread looks pretty standard and boring. Now, is this a cultural thing do you think? Because if I understand well, the way my bread explodes and has jagged edges and super crunchy crusts... that is a BAD thing. But we love it over here. I am very interested in the cultural differences.

2. The bread that stayed in the fridge had a pretty strong sour taste. Is that the developed flavor everyone is talking about? I didn't find that crumb as nice as the bread baked the evening before which has lots of irregular holes and a nice, elastic crumb. The times I've left the bread over night, the crumb isn't as nice. I'm not quite sure what I'm missing. I'd love to know your opinions. Here's a picture:

Levain two days

It stayed in the oven a few minutes too long. 

3. I read somewhere that the varieties of flour grown over there are different than over here. It's not only what is done with the grains during milling, etc. Can that change everything SO drastically concerning taste and texture? I find it amazing and I would just love to do a huge taste test and compare.

4. Am I missing something? Doing something wrong? 

I guess the reality is that I'll probably never know. I really would like to pierce the secret of the slowing of the fermentation in cold. Why is that so wonderful? I haven't had any great results. But yesterday when my friend came by just as the bread was cooling from the oven, she thought she'd died and gone to heaven after tasting the bread. So, I am more prone to thinking "to heck with the over night fridge thing".

Any comments or ideas are most welcome! The discussion is open. 


dmsnyder's picture

Janedo's Basic Bread

Janedo's Basic Bread

Janedo's Basic Bread Crumb

Janedo's Basic Bread Crumb

This is my third attempt at making the pain au levain that Jane calls her "basic bread." I think it's the best crust which is crunchier than my previous bakes. The crumb is less open than I got on my first attempt even though the dough was more slack. I think I actually over-mixed it.

Jane's recipe is posted here:

For this bake, I used a liquid levain fed with a high extraction flour mixed with 140 gms of white spelt flour and 400 gms of King Arthur Europian Artisan-style Flour.

I baked at 500F with steam for 7 minutes then 460F for a total of 30 minutes. I left the loaf in the turned off oven for an additional 7 minutes before cooling on a rack.

The taste is good with moderate sourness. It is very chewy. The crust is staying crunchy.


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