The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


breadnut's picture

Sourdough Starter and Final Proofing Question

November 14, 2006 - 1:24am -- breadnut

I have 3 Starters going. All were created using flour and water, they are all at 100% hydration, and all are maintained at the same temperature (~ 72F). However, they all behave differently. (Starters 2 and 3 were created originally from starter 1)

Starter 1:  5 hours to double

Starter 2:  2 hours 15 minutes to double. 4 hours to triple

Starter 3:  5 hours to triple. 6 hours to quadruple

fstephens's picture

Sourdough Separation

November 3, 2006 - 9:08am -- fstephens

Hi everyone!  I've finally gotten the courage to embark on my first sourdough.  I've been using the recipe/feeding schedule from the Bread Bible and it was going wonderfully.  After four days of feeding, I had a nice citrus smell going an a responsive, frothy starter.  Then day 5 happened.  I miscalculated my start date and had to leave my starter during the final feeding.  I left premeasured water and flour and detailed instructions for my boyfriend who, within 3 hours of the allotted feed time, assured me he feed, waited, and

zorra's picture

Recently I baked the following bread with chickpea flour. This recipe is my own creation. The chickpea flour gives the bread a light sweet taste.

chickpea bread

100 g chickpea flour
150 g white flour
5 g fresh yeast
~110 g water
1 TL honey
5 g salt
50 g refreshed sourdough

Dissolve yeast and honey in 20 g water. Mix the two flours and salt. Add sourdough, yeast and rest of water, mix and knead your dough (by hand or mixer) until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and leave covered for 1 hour or until double in size. 
Shape and leave to prove for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 230C. Mist inside with a spray. After 10 minutes reduce heat to 190 C and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove and cool.

Recipe in German:

JMonkey's picture

Sourdough ripening time

November 1, 2006 - 8:38am -- JMonkey

Given my failure over the weekend, I'm trying to figure out how to ensure that I use my starter when it's as close as possible to maximum ripeness. I've got to time it pretty well, because it's a busy weekend. Saturday is just out, because it's my daughter's 3rd birthday party. Sunday will work, but that means the starter needs to be ready to go by either 2pm or 10am. Church comes right in the middle.

If it's ready at 10am, I can knead it up and let it rise from 10:30am until after we get back from church, which is usually about 1pm (we walk, and always hang around for a while after church to munch on goodies and socialize). If it's ready at 2pm, that gives me time to start the autolyse at 1ish and then knead everything up when the starter's ready.

T4tigger's picture

sourdough questions

October 31, 2006 - 10:40am -- T4tigger

Greetings! I'm a sourdough newbie with some questions. I began a rye starter (named Max) several days ago and things seem to be going relatively well. It is pretty bubbly, which I keep reading is a good thing!

My question is about feeding and rising. I'm feeding by volume not by weight. I use 1/2 cup starter, 1/2 c flour and slightly less than 1/2 cup water. I've read that it should take at least 8 hours for the starter to double in size, but Max takes off and doubles in about 3.

Should I reduce the amount of water to make the doubling take longer? Does it really matter how long it takes to double? When I'm ready to bake bread, do I let the bread rise as long as it takes Max to double?

JMonkey's picture

I had ambitious goals for the weekend. I'd try a sourdough version of the whole-wheat ciabatta, try the "stretch-n'-fold, no-knead' technique with my weekly sourdough, and make a pizza, using regular yeast.

The ciabatta turned out OK. There wasn't much of a sour flavor, surprisingly, and I'm not sure why that was. Perhaps the powdered milk interfered with the bacteria's growth? I also didn't get big holes, but rather got rather uniform small holes. Still, it was a nice bread and made killer sandwiches, but I was disappointed that I didn't have the same success with sourdough as I did with the yeasted version.

The whole-wheat bread I made didn't turn out so hot. Flavor was fine, but I didn't get nearly as much rise as I usually do and the crust was abnormally pale. I think I know the culprit, though -- I let the sourdough starter over-ferment. My daughter didn't want to take her nap, which delayed me for about two hours making the bread. I'll have to try the new technique again some other time (essentially, I kneaded it for about 3-5 minutes until everything was evenly distributed, and then did a fold once every 30 to 45 minutes until I'd done six. The dough was definitely gaining strength, until near the end when it suddenly got soft. As I said, I think the starter went too long, got too acidified and weakened the gluten network).

Pizza? Fantastic! I used the whole wheat recipe from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grains Baking book, which, surprisingly enough, is almost identitcal to how I've been making my pizza for the past year -- roughly 4 ounces whole wheat bread flour, 4.25 ounces semolina flour and 4.25 ounces white bread flour, 10 oz. water with 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbs olive oil and 1 tsp yeast. Knead it gently, let it rise 45 mins to an hour, fold it and then stick it in the fridge for 8-18 hours. Make the pizza, put it in a piping hot oven on a stone, cook for about 12 minutes. Delicious.

I've tried Peter Reinhart's pizza formula, and I've decided that I like this one much better. For one, this recipe uses about 12 oz dough for a 12-inch pizza, whereas the BBA uses half that much. I like a thicker crust and also find the dough is much easier to shape. The BBA's crust gets so thin, that I'm constantly struggling not to tear it. Plus, the whole wheat and semolina flours in the KAF formula give it a wonderful buttery, rustic flavor. As for the toppings, though, I go with BBA all the way. Three cheeses (2 parts melter, one part hard cheese, one part optional -- which is always a goat cheese), mix herbs with the cheese, and a less is more approach to toppings. Just delicious.

Sorry, no photos. I was kind of demoralized by the non-holey ciabatta and the ugly (but fine tasting, so we'll eat it) whole wheat sourdough, so I didn't have the heart to take photos of that. As for the pizza, my family was hungry -- had I made them wait for a photo to eat it up, I'd have faced serious recriminations. It would not have been pretty.

Joe Fisher's picture

Pepping up a sluggish starter?

October 25, 2006 - 12:38pm -- Joe Fisher

For a while, my starters (white and rye) were very active, rising dough quickly and making light, open crumb.  Now I'm getting very sluggish rises and dense, chewy crumb (most notably the white starter) from the same recipes.  I do get a huge oven spring out of them, so *something* is alive in there!

I feed or use the starter once a week.  When feeding, I keep about 4oz and add 2-3oz of flour and 3-4oz of water to make a poolish-like mother starter.  When making plain sourdough, I make a firm starter from the mother starter, like French bread dough.

I've tried overnight proofs in the fridge, and using a pan of hot water in the oven to simulate a proofing tent.

pmccool's picture

With bread in the freezer, there wasn't much reason for baking this weekend, so I contented myself with some sourdough English Muffins.  After all, the starter was due for another feeding, right?  Now that they are cooling on the rack, I suppose that I really do need to get to work in the basement. 


Baking is so much more fun!



cognitivefun's picture

here's how I create great sourdough loaves without kneading

October 19, 2006 - 7:19pm -- cognitivefun

My recipe for sourdough wheat bread

4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup of unbleached full-flavor (dark) whole wheat flour
2 tspns fine sea salt
2 tbspns safflower or other good quality, flavorless oil
4 tbspns good local honey
2 cups wheat sourdough starter
3 - 4 cups icewater

My starter is flour and water only. It doesn't matter if you
use a firm or slack starter. Just make sure it is a good
lively starter that smells good.

In this recipe, I make my dough in a food processor in two batches
because home food processors can't handle the full amount of
dough in one batch. I have tested this with the classic Cuisinart

pmccool's picture

In case you are thinking that there is no way that particular sequence of dots can be connected, stay with me. You may want to send for the nice men in the white coats when I'm done explaining, but until then, think of it as a case study in aberrant psychology.

It began, innocently enough, with Floyd's suggestion (challenge?) to submit some ideas for harvest breads. Some of the things that I have long associated with Autumn are the late-season vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and parsnips. Squash can add moisture and texture to breads, as well as a low-key sweetness. Combine that with something savory, like sage, and you have the flavor foundation for a knock-out loaf of bread. Ah, you begin to see where this is going . . .

As I was rummaging around on the internet to see if there was a recipe that I could adapt or just plain steal, I came across a couple of interesting possibilities. Here is one of them: And here is another:

The thing that really grabbed my eye, though, was this recipe: I hadn't been aware of the site previously, but I'll definitely be back to browse some more. Sorry, sidetracked again. Anyway, I had a new recipe to try, a fresh-from-the-farmers-market butternut squash on the counter, and a note with the recipe that suggested serving the carbonara with ciabatta. Hmm, ciabatta. That's been on my list of things to try for a while now. There was a stiff starter in the refrigerator that would serve well as the biga for the ciabatta recipe in BBA . . . (Are you paying attention to the dots?)

Saturday dawned, rife with possibilities. My wife was away all day, conducting a seminar. The grass was in need of mowing and there were bare patches to reseed, now that the weather has cooled. And bread to bake. Actually, there was enough starter, after doing 3 builds, to do two batches of bread. First things first: run to the lawn and garden center for 5 pounds of grass seed. Get home, prep the squash and put it in the oven to roast. Mix the ciabatta, set it to bulk ferment. It's definitely a sticky dough, but not nearly as wet as I expected from others' descriptions. First time to follow a recipe by weights instead of volumes.

Back outside to mow the yard. Pop back in to check on progress of ciabatta and do first stretch and fold. (Yes, I washed my hands first!) Took squash out of oven. Decided to make just a plain sourdough bread from BBA. After further looking, decided that one loaf would include walnuts and blue cheese, since my wife loves blue cheese. Mixed mixed and kneaded the dough for that and set it to ferment.

Back outdoors to rake and seed the front yard patches. Headed back in for second stretch and fold with ciabatta. Sourdough rising slowly but steadily. Decided to break for lunch. After lunch, devised couche from heavily floured dish towel and shaped ciabatta loaves per Reinhart's pictures in BBA. Wound up looking like this:

Before heading back out, I put the stone and a steam pan in the oven to preheat. Oh, and separated the squash flesh from the skin and innards now that it was cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for later.

Then I went back outdoors to rake and seed the patches in the back yard. Afterwards, back in to check on breads. Oven was ready, so gave the ciabatta a final stretch, per BBA instructions and popped them onto the stone, riding on some parchment paper. Filled the steam pan and winced to see some of the spatters landing on the oven window. Somehow escaped causing any damage. Shaped sourdough loaves and placed them in the now-vacant couche.

Went back outside to make sure the seed was properly covered and then started the sprinkler. Next, started putting up new hangers for tools in the garage (that's a follow-up from last weekend's project. Checked the ciabatta when it was close to time. Internal temp read at 202F, so whisked them out of the oven. Sourdough loaves were still rising, so shut off the oven.

My wife got home about this time, so after chatting about our respective days, I ran to the store for carbonara ingredients that weren't on hand at home. (Pancetta isn't part of my standard batterie de cuisine.)

On returning home, after reading the carbonara recipe again, decided that it might take a while to pull everything together, so started working on that. A couple of notes from that process: 1. The recipe calls for 2/3 of the herbs at one point, 2/3 of the herbs at second point, and the reserved herbs in yet a third step. I suspect that the amounts should have been 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3, respectively. 2. The recipe directs you to "sizzle" some of the sage leaves in butter and olive oil as a garnish. I managed to scorch them (literally too many things in the fire at that point), but wound up not missing them in the finished dish. They are a garnish, not an integral part of ingredients, so if you want to simplify by skipping this step, go for it. Fortunately, everything else came to gether successfully. 3. Although the recipe specifically calls for butternut squash, I don't see why other winter squash (buttercup, Hubbard, acorn, etc.) or pumpkin or even sweet potatoes couldn't be substituted.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed that the sourdough was about ready for the oven, so I started the preheat. Since it hadn't cooled completely yet, it got up to temperature fairly quickly. Eventually, the carbonara came together and the bread baked as it should.

The carbonara was fantastic and, yes, pinot grigio is a very good accompaniment. This recipe is definitely in the "keeper" category. It will probably also be a once or twice a year event, because of its complexity.

The ciabatta, however, is going to require some further practice. I don't know if it was the use of the stiff starter for the biga, a too-low hydration, my inexperience with and/or mishandling of this bread, or some combination of those elements, but it wasn't a thing of beauty. Like most sub-par bread experiences, it was, at least, delicious. The crumb was, well, bready. I was looking for an open and big-eyed crumb and wound up with a relatively close-textured, soft crumb. And the shape--well, I'll keep trying.

Here's a photo:


The two ciabatta are on the right. You might be able to make out part of the crumb of the nearer loaf. Sorry that the view isn't clearer. The front loaf on the left is the plain sourdough; the rear loaf on the left is walnut/blue cheese sourdough. I was braced for a strong cheese flavor in the walnut/blue cheese loaf, since I'm not especially fond of blue cheese, but was pleasantly surprised that the cheese flavor was subtly blended with the other flavors. I haven't cut into the plain loaf yet.

A long day, lots of work done, good bread and a fantastic dinner to wrap it up. Not bad at all. And, needless to say, Sunday was a quiet day. Thanks, Floyd, for triggering my pinball progression.



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