The Fresh Loaf

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vermont sourdough

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Pmccool's picture

Most of my bread for the past couple of weeks has come from the freezer, rather than from the oven.  That's a good thing in that the freezer needs to be cleared out but not so satisfying as baking.  It also means that I've had a pretty steady diet of rye bread.  Again, that's a good thing but it was time for a change of pace and taste.

What I wanted was something wheaty, something sourdough.  I turned to Hamelman's Bread and came across the formula for his Vermont Sourdough with Wheat.  That didn't quite do it for me, since it simply swaps out the small amount of rye flour in the standard Vermont Sourdough for an equally small quantity of whole wheat flour.  After a second scan of the ingredients, it occurred to me that I could use equal quantities of bread flour and whole wheat flour, along with 1 ounce of rye flour, to make up the flour bill for the bread.  That would let me keep most of the qualities that have made Vermont Sourdough so beloved by many while satisfying my craving for a thoroughly wheaty bread.

The rest of the process was very much by the book, with two exceptions.  First, everything was mixed by hand, so as to avoid straining my KitchenAide mixer (and because I really, really like to have my hands in the dough).  Second, the whole wheat flour in the bread is from the Great River Milling Company.  It is a very fine-textured flour and it has a high protein content; a bit north of 14%, if memory serves.  I very much enjoy the Great River flour and hope that Costco continues to carry it.  As written, the formula is 65% hydration.  My first guess was that I would have to bump that up to 70% to accomodate the flour's  moisture absorption.  As it turned out, hydration had to be increased to 72% just to moisten all of the flour for the autolyze.  While kneading the final dough, still more water was added, bringing the final hydration closer to 75%.  It could have handled even more water without getting gloppy but I had enough to make a manageable dough that wasn't too stiff.

Since the temperature in my kitchen was around 65F and since I didn't want to be baking at 2 a.m., I used my Brod & Taylor proofer to keep everything at a comfy 75F for both the bulk and final ferments.  That resulted in the dough doubling in volume in just 3-4 hours, which fit very nicely around the errands that had to be run on Friday.

More for appearance than anything else, I rolled the shaped dough in bran before the final ferment.  Chef Hamelman's baking instructions produce a boldly baked loaf.  The bran made a nice highlight against the deep mahogany color of the crust.


Given the 15 minutes of kneading, and the not-massive hydration level, the crumb is fairly even and smooth but not tight.  Since the intended use is for sandwiches, it works better than a very open crumb that allows condiments to drip all over one's clothing.

The flavor is exactly what I was jonesing for: wheat!  The dark crust contributes plenty of caramel and toffee notes, with a hint of chocolate in the background.  The crumb is firm and chewy, while remaining moist and cool.  No squishy marshmallow bread, this.  It is robust and makes a substantial base for sandwiches.  

It's back to the freezer after this disappears but for now, life is very good.


Franko's picture


In the first week of October we began a complete renovation of our kitchen with the idea that should the local real estate scene ever return to a seller's market, an up to date kitchen would be necessary if we wanted to list the house and draw acceptable offers for it. The other side of the coin was that if we opted to stay put, at least we'd have a kitchen that would serve us well for the next 10 to 15 years. The reno took just a shade over 4 weeks to finish, the end result we feel was well worth the inconvenience of doing without a kitchen for what seemed a very long month.

 Before we sold the old oven I managed to get one last bake in to tide me over for at least some of the time while the renos were in progress. Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough from “Bread”, my go to loaf of late, produced two good loaves for me and I was happy to see the old oven go out on a high note of sorts. I love the classic flavour of this bread with it's subtle rye and sour notes giving it just the right flavour to enjoy as Hamelman suggests, everyday.

 That oven turned out a lot of bread, pastries and cakes over the years and had always preformed reliably for my wife and I so I was a little sorry to see it go...but only just a little. The new oven we selected is from the same Sears Kenmore line as the previous one but with a convection function and a few other whistles and bells included that the old one didn't have. Besides having convection, one of the features this oven has is a top range of 550F/287C whereas the old one topped out at 500F/260C. For pizza and some breads I like having the option of using the 500F+ temps for a short period to maximize the jump and/or for crust colouration.

 The very first item baked in the new oven was a pizza made from approx. 220-250 grams of dough that went in at 525F, lowered to 460F and baked in convection mode. The pie baked off in just under 9.5 minutes coming out with a little char around the edges but leaving the bottom crust an even coloured light brown, something I rarely managed in the old oven and never in less than 10 minutes.

This looks promising I thought, but knew I'd have to keep a close eye on things until I became familiar with this much stronger oven.

A few days and feedings later my rye starter had come back to life after it's month long hibernation and  put to work making a levain for another loaf of Vermont Sour. As with the pizza I started the bake at 525F but kept it going for the first 10 minutes (with steam) before lowering the heat to 440F with convection on and removing the steam tray. I stayed in the kitchen for the entire time monitoring the bake as it progressed and it's a good thing I did. The loaf coloured up rapidly, probably 5-10 minutes faster than what I'm used to. I found I had to lower the heat down to 400F and change it's position several times to get an even colour during the final 10 minutes while the internal temp of the loaf came up to 210F. In total the entire bake time came to 40 minutes for the 1,050 gram loaf, roughly the same time it took the old oven to do at a steady average temperature of 460-470F.


For the next bake I wanted to try something different and settled on Hamelman's Potato & Roasted Onion Bread from “Bread”, one I've been meaning to make but hadn't gotten around to yet. It seems I've been missing out on a real treat for all this time. The bread is a joy to eat, very moist for a lean bread and with great flavour from the roasted potatoes, and with roasted leeks that I substituted for the onions. I've made two of these loaves in the boule shape so far, attempting to get the Fendu style loaves shown in photo # 12 of “Bread” with no success. I've come to the conclusion that the doughs I've made are too large for the brotform I have. Next time I'll try it in my large banneton and hopefully the extra room will allow the crease to open up the way it should.

Earlier in the week I'd made some Maple and Black Pepper cured bacon that I thought would go nicely with toasted Potato Leek Bread in a BLT....

and it turns out I was right! 

The recipe below is my adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's Potato Bread with Onions -Pg- 120 of “Bread A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes 

Link to Procedure *Here* 


There is another bread that I've made recently but I think I'll save it for another post, this ones become an epic. 

Cheers to all and a very happy Thanksgiving Day to all my fellow TFL members in the US















Pmccool's picture

It was a busy baking weekend here in Pretoria.  My lease for the house is up at the end of September, which means I'll be in temporary quarters for the last two weeks of my stay here.  Since I don't know what I might have for kitchen facilities during that time, I'm trying to fit in the baking that I need/want to do while I can.

On Friday evening, I mixed the liquid levain that the Vermont Sourdough formula calls for, plus enough extra for sourdough pancakes on Saturday morning.  Never one to leave well enough alone, I also set up a soaker consisting of cracked rye at 10% on flour, with an equal amount of water, to include in the bread.  I need to use up what I can, right?  And I haven't been wrong yet about choosing which breads to grace with some cracked rye.

On Saturday morning, I assembled the final dough for the Vermont Sourdough and put it through its stretch and fold regimen.  A formula for this bread, posted by zolablue can be found here, with corrected metric weights here.  The day was a bit cool, with temperatures only getting up into the mid-60s, so both the bulk and final ferments were leisurely affairs.  It's a lovely dough to work with.  Initially, it's a bit sticky (probably accentuated by my use of the cracked rye soaker), but it transforms with each S&F into a dough that that is elastic and self-supporting.  The final proof after shaping was done on parchment on a baking sheet.  Scoring was a bit ugly (I miss my knives!) but one loaf still developed a respectable ear during baking.  The other loaf exhibited a small blow-out along the bottom edge, which would probably have been prevented if the scores had opened properly.  No pictures, I'm afraid, as the bread is already in the freezer.

After getting the sourdough to the bulk proof stage, I started a batch of Sweet Vanilla Challah.  I've blogged about it previously, so won't repeat myself here except to say that I really like this bread.  Much of my baking involves lean whole grain breads, so working with an enriched white bread is like driving a luxury sedan after driving a pickup.  Everything is so much smoother.  Again, no pictures since both loaves are in the freezer.  One will be gifted later this week and the other will be consumed at a bread class I'm conducting at a friend's house next Saturday.

After getting home from church this morning, I started a batch of the honey whole wheat bread that the class will be making next Saturday.  I wanted to give the formula a shake-down to ensure that everything worked the way I expected.  Good thing, too.  The flour was much thirstier than I expected, so hydration needs to go up.  I also wanted to show the class the effects of a couple of techniques.  Because of time constraints, we'll only use a 15-minute autolyze in class.  For this batch, I extended the autolyze to 60 minutes.  I also extended the kneading time to about 25 minutes.  All things considered, this bread should be more tender and less apt to crumble than the batch that I made a couple of weeks ago.  As the picture below shows, matching pan size to dough quantities properly results in a prettier loaf.

In considering what to do with some apples that might not be used otherwise, it occurred to me that someone had posted an apple variation to the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid that Floyd initially posted, so I went looking.  For once, my memory concided with reality.  The apple filling formula is about two pages down from the end of Floyd's post.  So, I set the sponge, peeled the apples and cooked the filling, made up the final dough and set it to proof, then went to the stoep to read the Sunday paper.  Well, part of it anyway.  When I came back in to check the dough, I found that the dough had doubled so I mixed both the egg glaze and the cream cheese filling, then rolled out and assembled the two braids.  I am not a natural-born braider but I'm really pleased with these two attempts in spite of the obvious flaws.  Dunno yet how they'll taste but they make the eye happy.  Here they are:

And a closer view:

Odd.  I'm not seeing the images that I've linked to.  Ordinarily they pop into view immediately.  Maybe it's just my slow connection here.  Hopefully they will show up once the post is submitted.

 All in all, a very satisfying baking weekend.


MadAboutB8's picture



I made both Vermont Sourdough and Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat several times in the past year but this was the first time I attempted this recipe (Vermont Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain). There were serious typos in the formula for home-bake. Mixing the dough by following the ingredient list, I ended up with a pancake batter. I have heard about the big errata sheet for the book, but this was the first time I came across the recipe error myself. Thank God that at least there was no typo in Baker’s Percentage and liquid levain built. At least, I prepared starter built correctly and I corrected the ingredient errors by using the Baker’s Percentage.


  Before and after ingredient correction

Thanks to the new baking stone (one-inch thick paving bluestone bought from Bunning), my bread came out singing loudly (really really loudly). It sang with crackling tunes for several minutes (no joke!).



As you would expect from Vermont Sourdough, the bread was lovely with pronounced tang from increased rye and percentage of levain. 

Full post and more photos are here


codruta's picture

This bread is problably a classic, everybody seems to love it. And how comes one not to? I usually try to bake and eat more whole wheat breads, but this bread is hard to resist to. I followed the recipe "by the book", with 10 hours retard in the fridge, baking them directly from the fridge, and I suspect both breads were just a little bit underproofed. Probably an hour at room temperature would have been a better thing to do. I didn't manage to score the boule as it should have been done (I'm not good with boules, in fact this is my best boule so far, usually I ended up with a round flat mass of dough), but both loafs were a pure delight to eat. I've never seen a loaf (in my home) to disappear so quickly, and the name that I gave to this bread, translated from romanian, is "The bread with taste of home"

for the boule shaping, I tried to follow teresa's instructions from this video.

here are some pictures.

for more pictures and recipe (in romanian, with (funny) english tranlation available on the sidebar) go to Apa.Faina.Sare.

cheers, Codruta

Juergen Krauss's picture

Vermont (or WhereEver) Sourdough side by side

May 11, 2011 - 1:07pm -- Juergen Krauss

Studying Hanelman's book Bread I wondered about the differences in taste of the diverse wheat levains and sourdoughs.

As a home baker I usually do one batch at a time, and by the time I bake another formula I might have forgotten the subtle characteristics.

Today I had the idea to make 2 batches - one Vermont Sourdough (p153, VS for reference), and one Vermont Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain (p156, call it IS).

Of each batch I made 2x 500g boules and 2x 250g batards, and the remaining dough I combined in a kind of double-fendu:

Sylviambt's picture

First try at the Vermont sourdough turned out lots better than anticipated. I used a soupy levain as the base for the sourdough, building it over a couple of days. My second try at the baguettes still didn't work out as well as hoped for. Will try again.

Sylvia (Bronx to Barn baker)

Vermont sourdough, baguettes

dmsnyder's picture

The boules are Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread." I made these using a San Francisco Sourdough starter from that sat, without being fed, in the way back of my refrigerator for at least 6 months. It had been a firm starter, and while looking kind of gray on the surface, came back to life after 4 feedings at 125% hydration. And by then, was really, really happy to be making bread.

The Vermont Sourdough has a crunchy crust and chewy crumb. The flavor is just about perfect - moderate sourdough tang but not so sour as to mask the complexity of the wheat flavors. 

Vermont Sourdough Crumb

The bâtards are my San Joaquin Sourdough. No crumb shots or tasting notes on these. They are being frozen to take on a family vacation next week.


jennyloh's picture

My attempt of the Vermont Sourdough.  2 loaves,  proofed at the same time,  but one was overproofed,  the other not.  Why?  The details are in my blog.



The one on the bottom left is probably over proofed.  Difficult to score,  and it just didn't look good after baking.


I'm still wondering why the difference?  One is on wicker basket,  the other in plastic basket.  Could that be the cause?



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