The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lesson Three: Time & Temperature

Lesson Three: Time & Temperature

The difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread usually has less to do with the ingredients being used than the process involved in creating it. Once you are comfortable with the basic process of mix, knead, rise, shape, and bake, your experimentation with the process can begin.

The two simplest variables in the process to modify are time and temperature. Below I will discuss how time and temperature change the character of your loaf of bread and then bake a loaf to show you how minor adjustments to the process can improve the quality of your bread significantly.


Longer, slower fermentation extracts more flavor from your flour. If you are baking a simple white sandwich bread or in a hurry and you just want the darned thing to rise, you can put two or even three teaspoons of yeast into your dough and get the loaf to rise in under an hour. But if you want to create a rustic bread with a rich, nutty flavor, reducing the yeast and allow more and longer rises is appropriate.

Temperature's Impact on Rising

The warmer the temperature, the more active your yeast will be. The more active your yeast is, the quicker the dough rises. Simple enough, but you can use this in a multitude of ways. For example:

  • if you want to speed up a rise, turn your oven on for 30 seconds, turn it off, and then place your dough into the slightly-above-room-temperature oven. It should rise noticeably quicker.
  • If you need to leave halfway through preparing to bake a loaf, you can throw it into the fridge. It'll continue to rise in there at a much slower pace.
  • You can make a large batch of pizza dough and freeze individual pieces of it in freezer bags. The yeast will survive at least a month or two in the freezer. The day before you want to make the pizza, just move it to the fridge to thaw it and then pull it out of the fridge when you want it begin its final rise.

Temperature's Impact on Baking

Temperature also has an impact on how your loaf bakes. The general rule is that crusty breads should be baked at as high a temperature as possible. Soft shelled breads should be baked at lower temperatures. When you increase the temperature of your oven your bread bakes quicker (duh).

Professional bakers of rustic breads use ovens that achieve higher temperatures than home ovens achieve. Turning the temperature of your oven up when baking rustic breads will help you get closer to professional quality loaves. Buying a pizza or baking stone is another inexpensive method of capturing more heat in your oven and improving the quality of your bread (I have shattered two of these, so I don't currently bake with one. I'll probably end up getting another one some day, but I can't say the quality of my bread has suffered that much without one).

If you get really serious about bread baking, there is even a movement of bread hobbyest who build large hearth ovens in their backyards to reproduce professional quality loaves. Pick up a copy of "The Bread Builders" if this interests you.

My wife is pleased that I have not gotten that crazy about baking good bread at home (yet).

Time and Temperature Together

As you can see, time and temperature work in opposition to one another during dough formation: increase the temperature, decrease the time that your loaf rises; decrease the temperature, increase the time it takes to get to full size.

In the rising stage, if you are striving to extract the maximum flavor from your flour, you want to slow the rise down. If you want a make a quick loaf in time for dinner, speed the rise up.

While baking, If you want a crusty bread, you'll want to increase the temperature of the oven and reduce the amount of time your loaf bakes. For soft, pillowy breads, do the opposite (more time at a lower temperature). There are times when either technique is appropriate, so don't be worried that you aren't doing things the "right" way!

One Other Tidbit: Steam and Crust

For the first five or ten minutes of baking, having steam in the oven will improve the quality of your crust. Steam does two things: first, it keeps the outside of the loaf from drying out until the dough has fully risen; second, steam coagulates the starches on the outside of the loaf, which improves the color and texture the crust.

Professional bakers have ovens that inject steam during the early baking phase. Home bakers can use a lot of different tricks to recreate this effect. The simplest method I have found has been to put an old metal brownie pan on the bottom shelf of the oven when preheating. Right after I put the loaf into the oven, I pour a cup of hot water into the pan. It immediately begins to bubble and boil, releasing a nice steam cloud that seems to improve my crust.

Don't do this with a glass pan. I did this once and it shattered as soon as I poured the water into it.

There are other ways of introducing moisture: spraying the walls of the oven with a squirt bottle, putting a pan full of water with a hole in the bottom onto the bottom shelf so that it drips onto the bottom of the oven, or rubbing the outside of the loaf with water are some of the common ways. Hot water in a pan works well enough for me.

Also be aware that some bakers have experienced malfunctions in their oven's electronics systems from the moisture caused while trying to create steam. Indeed, adding steam may void your oven's warranty. I've never had any problems doing this, but please consider these risks versus the reward of highly crusty bread before attempting to steam your oven. Let the "baker beware."

Today's Loaf

I started with the base recipe from Lesson One. I was shooting for a crusty, rustic style bread, so I decided to reduce the amount of yeast to try to slow the fermentation process down. In fact, to extend the fermentation process even longer I split the dough creation into two stages: one stage I started the night before and then refrigerated. The next day I added the dough (also known as the sponge) from stage one to more ingredients to create my final dough.

This method, typically known as the sponge or barm method, is a tried and true method for improving the flavor of your bread (and one I'll write more about in future lessons). I'm more-or-less using Peter Reinhart's approach from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: the stage one dough in this recipe is modeled on Peter's Pate Fermentee, and the final dough is something like his Pain de Campaign. But bakers have been using different variations of this technique for centuries.

Day 1
Before going to bed I mixed together:

1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1/2 cup of water

Mix these ingredients together in a bowl. Pour it out onto a flat surface and kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough back into a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour or so. It won't rise a lot in that time, but the yeast will begin to wake up.

Punch the dough down, place it back in the bowl, cover it with with plastic wrap again and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Day 2

When I got up, I pulled the bowl of dough out of the fridge and let it warm on the counter for about an hour.

In a larger bowl, I combined:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (this can be regular flour. I used whole wheat flour simply because I like it!)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup of water
day one's sponge

I mixed all of the dry ingredients together. Then I chopped the sponge up into a dozen or so little pieces with a knife and mixed them into the dry ingredients. Finally I added the water and mixed everything together, adjusting the flour or water until the dough formed a nice ball of dough that was soft and tacky but was not too sticky.

I poured the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it for approximately 10 minutes. Then I put the dough back into a greased bowl and allowed it to rise for approximately 90 minutes. I then shaped the loaf and allowed it to rise for another 90 minutes.

(A note about these rise times: they are not exact. In reality, much was going on during the day, including a trip to the store and another trip to the playground, so no one was closely monitoring the clock. It seems to the uninitiated that making bread is a long and complicated process because the overall time it takes can be a day or more, but understand that it's really only about 20 minutes of work spread out over the entire day. It is easy enough to accommodate if you are going to be near the house all day.)

I put an empty metal pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheated the oven to 500 degrees.

When the oven was hot and the bread looked risen, I put the bread into the oven on the top shelf and quickly pour a cup of hot water into the pan on the bottom shelf and closed the door. After about 3-5 minutes, I reduced the temperature from 500 to 400 degrees, figuring that the loaf was done springing and would bake more evenly at a lower temperature. I baked it for 20 minutes, then rotated the loaf and bake until done.

This loaf took about 45 minutes, but time is dependent on the shape of the loaf. I used an instant-read thermometer. When the loaf hit 200 degrees inside, I pulled it out.


Comparing this loaf (on the right) to my bread from lesson one (on the left), I definitely noticed that this one had a nicer crust - it even crackled when I took it out of the oven and set it out to cool. It seems to me that it had a richer flavor, which was in part the whole wheat flour and partially the longer, slower rises and overnight fermentation.

A criticism of both of these loaves is that, although they are decently raised, neither one has the big irregular holes that you strive for in a rustic loaf. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One likely reason is that I handle the loaves fairly roughly when shaping them: I suspect I am squeezing out too much of the air at that stage and rolling my loaves too tight. I also suspect I am underhydrating my dough. A moister, slacker dough should have an easier time forming large pockets. Underkneading or baking before my dough is fully risen could also have been contributing factors. As I have mentioned before, getting started baking is extremely easy, but mastering baking takes a lifetime. One shouldn't be intimidated by this: the majority of your experiments still end up quite edible.

The path to perfection is tasty, indeed!

Continue to Lesson 4: Glazing.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey Floyd,

You've inspired me- I'm making this lesson this weekend!

That crust looks beautiful and gives me hope that one day I can master the crust for German brotchen (one of my ultimate bread dreams).


Floydm's picture

Good luck!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey nice website! I have a big honking rock oven I built inside my house for heating purposes, but found out it works GREAT for baking bread. I am still a novice at it.

Can we get the recipe for that German Brotchen?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is the recipe I used. It didn't really turn out as I remembered them, partly because I was terrible at making crust until about 2 weeks ago and partly because there's a lot of regional variation in Brotchen..
But it's worth a shot!


2 1/2 - 3 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

1 tablespoon oil

1 cup warm water

1 egg white

Pour 2 1/2 cups flour into a large bowl and make a well. Pour yeast, sugar, and two tablespoons of warm water (the water comes from the 1 cup listed above) in the well. Mix yeast, sugar and water carefully within the well. Do not mix with the flour at this time. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set it in a warm place for 15 minutes. Add the remaining water and oil and beat until mixed.

Turn out on counter top and knead until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed. Put dough in a bowl, cover, and let it rise until double in size.

Punch down and divide the dough into 12 parts. Shape into oval rolls and place 3 inches apart on a greased and floured cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until double in size.

Beat egg white and 1 teaspoon water with a fork until frothy and brush on the rolls. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.


erin's picture

I just found this recipe that I intend to try this weekend.

It looks like the results should be closer to what I want:

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the Brotchen recipe. I'll have to try it by and by.

So far I've been baking variations of a simple French bread recipe in my rock oven. As this topic describes, it seems that technique (time and temp) is just as if not more critical than ingredients for mastering the art of baking. But as I learn the ropes I plan to try more complicated recipes. So far the simple French bread (with whole wheat and rye variations) have turned out so good that I have been quite satisfied. Reading this topic again, I think I'll add some kind of steam injection into my rock oven, altho the crust of my bread has been turning out nice and crunchy......

chitvish's picture

Keeping a pan of boiling water under the baking rack is a great tip. I did it & got very good textured Omega 3 bread - my version.

Lindsay13's picture

Just had to comment and tell you that your website is awesome! I'm definitely inspired to bake some more bread :D

chejennifer's picture

I tried out the recipe. On day 1, I made the started. But with 1cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, the starter dough is quite wet and difficult to knead as it sticks to my hands. Can I use less water?

Does the dryness/wetness of the starter dough affect the texture of the final bread?

2remember's picture

Hi..very excited reading your lesson form this site, thanks! And yesterday am tried making honey wheat bread ( recipe as below) and making 8 tubular shaped loaved 8" long 2"wide, this is my first bread. To make it soft crust am using lower temperature, 300'F for 40mnts, but little taft in the buttom.  Could you give some advise what wrong and how to make all around hv a soft crust ?

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 pkg yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses


MrVance's picture

Hi Floyd,

Thanks so much for the information and inspiration!  For my third loaf, baked last night, I wanted to try a weekday-friendly recipe, so after kneading and two risings of the basic recipe (plus some wheat flour), I shaped the dough and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.  The following evening, I baked it using your steam method and the loaf is wonderful.  Thanks!  Loaf #3

leemid's picture

Very nice, Floyd. Nice to have another lesson. I appreciate the literary value as well. It is so infrequent that I read articles that show the author has some training in writing the English language.

No offense to the rest of the posters, including me, for casual comment postings which are disctinctly different from formal writing.

Love this site.


jbo5112's picture

Alton Brown used a large, unglazed terracotta dish that would go under a potted plant, instead of spending $40-$50 on a pizza stone or something similar.  In his episode of Good Eats that he did on bread (Dr. Strangeloaf), he just turned it upside-down, left it in while pre-heating and baked a round loaf on top of it.  It seems a much cheaper solution, and he knows his way around kitchen gadgets.  He has also used clay tiles and a masonry stone.

jennifersculpts's picture

Hi jbo5112- I never thought about using a terracotta dish instead of a pizza stone. Great idea! Thank you.

A number of years ago I learned about baking bread in unglazed terracotta flower pots while reading "From A Baker's Kitchen", by Gail Sher. These make terrific bread molds. There are a few tricks to using them, though. It's very important that the terracotta used is "heat-tested" so they don't crack in the oven. They do cost a bit more, but it's worth it. There's no need to worry about the hole in the bottom of the pots; the dough will not leak through. Also, they need to be seasoned. Coat them liberally inside and out with vegetable oil and leaving them (empty) in a fairly hot oven several times. You can do this while something else is baking. Once the pots are impregnated with oil, they will need little greasing and loaves will easily slip out.

Bake your loaves upside down. When the dough has the oven-spring during the first minutes of baking, it will fill the pot, creating an even and well-formed loaf (if the pot is upright, the dough is likely to balloon over, topple, and stick to the outside). To use, fill the pots just over half full with dough, stand them upright and cover with a damp tea towel to rise. When the dough is within 1 1/2 inches (almost 4cm) from the top, invert the pots onto a baking sheet and immediately put into the oven. During the last ten or fifteen minutes of baking, remove the loaves from their pots, lower oven temperature if necessary, and let them brown on all sides (I usually put them directly on oven rack for this, but putting them back on the baking sheet is fine). I prefer cooling these across the edges of empty pots to avoid marks that often come from cooling on racks. I'll use two to four pots, depending on loaf size. Reference: Gail Sher's "From A Baker's Kitchen", 1984, 2004, Marlowe & Company, New York, NY.

towerofshelly's picture

I was stuck on lesson 2 for the longest time, because that bread was just so darn good. Now, I'm trying to challenge myself with lesson 3, and I'm not doing so hot here.

I've made this three times.

Time #1 - mixed the sponge exactly as directions state (but in my kitchenaid mixer). Boy was it sticky and goopy at first! It was easier to handle the next day, my bread rose nicely, but it spread out quite a bit and when I tried to reshape it, it just collapsed.

Time #2 - Again, any time I messed with the dough, it just collapsed. Still pretty sticky and goopy too. This time, I had added a little olive oil and sugar (1 tsp. each), and tried cooking it on a stone. The bottom is really light in color. The bread turned out okay though.  

Time #3 - Time #3 has been the weirdest. Haven't tasted this loaf yet. Kind of scared to. This time, I added lots of flour to the sponge because I tried kneading it by hand instead of with the mixer. It was pretty tough in the morning. But, when I added it to the 2nd day ingredients, it was still sticky and goopy, so I added more flour. The dough rose nicely in the bowl, I punched it down, then it was just a blobby mess. There was no way I was going to be able to just bake it on the stone; I was afraid I'd end up with a big honkin saltine cracker in the end. So, I put it in a bread pan to rise. It rose nicely, then collapsed when I put it in the oven.


I'm thinking maybe I'll go back to lesson 2 bread for a while until my self esteem returns.

fiona's picture

I made these delicious soft rolls today. Substituded the butter for extra virgin olive oil (3/4 cup of oil instead of 1 cup butter) and added less sugar too. I was delighted with the result: soft pillowy golden brown rolls, mmm. I also loved kneading the soft dough,very different to the eleasticy doughs I've been experimenting with so far. Tomorrow I'm going to try this recipe, number 3, as I have, till now, been unable to make a good crusty loaf. I started baking this christmas as my sister gave me an electric oven with a fan. No need to say Im hooked! Love your site, thanks.

snowballmouse's picture

I tried baking the rolls that you listed on the website, but did not score them prior  to baking. Do they require scoring? They came out nice and soft, but was wondering if scoring them would make them softer?

the muffin man's picture
the muffin man

Love the site, I'm learning a lot. I baked lesson two (with some whole wheat flr) and it rocked the house.

Lyne's picture

well, I made the sponge and it was fantastic.  Then I made the second dough (as directed) and it was also fantastic.  The end dough was on the tacky side, but not too much, and I was able to make a loaf out of it.  So I shaped it all nice and proper, then went shopping.  When I came back it was nice and puffy and twice as big, then I scored it, and it deflated right before my eyes, I was aghast.  I nevertheless baked it, and to my dissapointment it did not spring nor anything.  I had a few problems with the high heat in the oven and the water, and the steam, and my oven did not like the 500 degrees at all (it's an old apartment oven), so the bread came out more flat than I thought was possible, it sounded good (knocked on the bottom) and all cooked through, my stone was rendered black, and I have to stop handling this bread.  How do I transfer the bread off the cookie sheet to the stone, does someone have any ideas?  How do I score properly, if I am shy about it, the bread does not bloom the way it looks like it does for all of you, if I am courageous, it deflates like it did today. I am at a loss, can someone please help?  Also, if it happens to me again and the bread deflates when I score it, should I just gather it again, reform the loaf and have a third rise with the reformed bread, and try scoring again (or not)?

ps: I was all excited when I picked up my bowl of the first rise of the second dough, and it made all kinds of noises when it deflated, it was alive, and smelled yeasty with promise.

jembola's picture

As new as I am, I can answer your question, Lyne, from experience (very recent experience): your dough just over proofed while you were out shopping; and therefore the slash deflated it and there was no oven spring, and you had a yeasty smell. It just had nothing left to give.  (The slash itself wasn't the problem; I find I can slash a good half inch when the dough is still in good shape). It seems the process always takes longer than I expect and I end up having to leave the house at critical times. Try refrigerating the dough when you need to slow down the rise. (It still rises though, so you don't want to be gone for too many hours). I keep my camping cooler handy and dump some ice cubes in the bottom, since I don't have room in my fridge.  Tonight I did just that when I knew the kids' bedtime rituals would take me away from monitoring the progress. I was able to slash and bake at just the right time for a change and the loaves turned out great.

acuthbert's picture

I just tried the recipe from this lesson and finally achieved a loaf that tastes as light and fluffy as any bought from a bakery! Thank you so much! I don't know whether it was the sponge, or better shaping but this time I got a nice rustic crackly crust with a fantastic taste! Many thanks - keep up the great work with the site!


Scottyj's picture

Well I just did the recepie, and it came out fantastic. So between lesson 2 and lesson 3 Iwill be in bread heaven. Unfortunitly my camera battery is dead and no pictures and the loaf was gone in five minutes with my family. I think I am now, well ok in a couple of weeks I will try some sourdough. My starter had turned out wonderfull also from here.

beezneez's picture

What a great website - I just found this after searching for information about my latest bread experiment. And I'm leaving a comment to see if anyone knows what has happened so I can repeat it.

I've been baking sandwich bread exclusively for the past few months (there are certian things a recession reminds you that you love) but am only feeding two people so I've been looking for ways to bake once and freeze either bread dough or par bake a loaf. I froze my dough after the first rise once before - thawed and baked and it turned out great. This time though...using the same recipe as before I let it rise once, shaped and put one loaf in the freezer and let the other rise a second time to bake that day. After a few hours I checked on the loaf in the freezer and it had continued to rise almost double in size!!! In the freezer! Thinking this was freezing thing was not going to work I pulled it out and decided to par-bake it. The first loaf had finished baking by this time and looked completely normal, tasted fine. I turned down the oven and put this next one in. While baking it rose VERY high. Once it reached 190 deg. but still pale I took it out, let it cool and put it in the freezer. Later after we had finished the first loaf (a couple days) I pulled the second loaf out of the freezer to thaw and baked/reheated it with pretty low expectations.

Well this loaf was...... FANTASTIC! The crust was crispy/yummy, the inside was chewy and the whole thing had a great flavor almost like french bread.

I want to repeat this but it was weird! So was it the long rise time in the freezer? That was my hunch and what brought me to this post. I'm going to let one of my loaves rise in the fridge today to experiment but if anyone has any ideas I'd be really interested to know.

patman's picture

I finally came up with a resolution for the new year about 10 days into it.  "Bake a good loaf of bread like my friend Bob (RIP) used to bring back with him from Brooklyn.  Nice and crusty with a chewy moist center."

So I started on the internet looking for some direction as I have only ever baked biscuits before this.  Within a few hours I found your website and found it to be a great place to start.  So I began.  I set a goal for myself to bake every weekend(mine happens to be Tues Wed) until I found the recipe I wanted and successfully executed it.  My hope was  that in 3 to 5 months I would be close to there.  So I started with lesson 1 and it went great.  Lesson 2 went smooth as pie too.  I had bought one of Bobs Red Mills Bread kits in case I had trouble using my own ingredients.  I didn't have any trouble but I used the kit(10 grain) anyway, very good loaf. 

Now I'm at lesson 3 and my 4th weekend.I'm thinking geezum crow is this dough wet, slack I guess is the term.  But I struggled through it thinking it was part of the lesson.  I couldnt keep the loafs from flattening out when I shaped them so I used pans for the first time.  Disposable aluminum ones because I dont own any loaf pans yet.  The dough rose nicely and baked up well.  I had some larger holes and much closer the the crumb I was aspiring to. 

So week 5 came and I tried for a repeat of lesson 3 with some adjustments.  One, I doubled it as none of the bread I had made in the past lasted more than a day or 2.  Second I added a half cup of soaked Bobs Red Mill 10 grain cereal.  I did the recipe exactly the same except when I shaped the loafs I really put some flour down on my surface so they wouldnt stick.  I flattened them out a little and rolled them up and gave them a pinch.  The generous flour helped them stay up for a short rising period.  Then the mist spray and steam in the oven, bake for 30 minutes as I make a long slender loaf and voile'. 

Unfortunately I cant upload the pictures.  They exceed the size limit.  But it looks fantastic let me tell ya.

I couldnt be happier with the results.  Its the bread I wanted.  I cant believe it.  Thank you Floyd.  95 percent of my instruction came from here and I am very appreciative.  I actually made 2 batches this weekend and tried shaping some hoagie rolls as well.

Sincerely PatrickK

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia


Find the picture you want to upload in your computer. Right click and "Open With" select "Paint". ( most people have Paint) Once the Paint comes up click "Image"then "Resize"

Try knocking the Horizontal and Vertical from 100% down to 40 or 50% then save the image and upload.

Would love to see your bread!





patman's picture

I hope these came out ok.  I had to reduce them to 15 % to get them to fit.  Great job talking me through that though. ty LOL I didnt use 10 grain with the top two loaves but did with the grinder rolls(more like mini loaves actually. I could make them even smaller. I got six out of a double batch maybe next time I'll go for 8 or 10. 

 So crusty it crackled when I picked it up.


Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Wow! now that is some bread to be proud of, Thank you for sharring. I'm glad my walk through helped.


hrobinson's picture


Use Pix Resizer, I have a DroidX that I use to take pictures of my bread, then I use Pix Reszer to reize the picture down to size.  Works really well.  This is a free utility that is regularly updated.



Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Great lesson Floyd!

Im working on that leson in sourdough and I'm having some nice results.

For the rest of you ... I really love you guys and gals.  It's great that you can take your bread disappointments and write about your experience with such well writen flavor.  We all have had things go wrong in our loaf and dough only to enhance the feeling of sucess when that great loaf springs in the oven.  Keep up the great work and I will enjoy learning with you all.


Fred41's picture

Followed the instructions closely ... had some difficulty slashing ie need to obtain some razor blades or ???

Used an egg wash and Fennel seeds topping ...

Due a couple previous 'free form' failures (aka hockey pucks) courage failed me and I used casserole dishes to ensure loaf height ...

While still in the learning curve I'm happy with the lightness of the bread (used both wholewheat and white flour) and elated with its taste albeit my preference runs to bread which which you have to fight in order to consume it ... :  )

Many thanks for the guidance which enabled me to create what you see below ... 




rpiratewench's picture

I've been 'baking' since I was old enough to stand on a stool and help my mom make our bread when I was little. So, definitely not an inexperienced break maker, by any means. Anyway, I had/have been looking to improve, and happened to come across this forum a week or so. Wow, I am so glad I did! Awesome. Really. I've been having a blast reading and poking around. I decided to go through the lessons, using what I already know, and learning plenty more. The kids (7,4, and 2) just declared my version of Lesson 3 as the best bread ever. ;) Huzzah!!

bnortonjr's picture


I tried lesson 3 this weekend and didn't get the expected results.  Specific examples;

the loaf deflated just before going in the oven

extremely hard exterior crust

dense inner crust

no inner crumb

sour odor

next day the loaf was hard as a rock

What did I do wrong?




Floydm's picture

Sorry to hear that.

If it deflated just before going into the oven then perhaps it was over-risen.  Cutting back the yeast a bit more or putting it into the oven a little bit earlier would hopefully fix the issue.  

Better luck next time!


scottyscott's picture

tried to make 3 small loaves but they didn't like being apart...



I'm quite pleased with this one so far.. This is the 3rd attempt over the course of the week.  The dough has since developed a very nice flavor--slightly sour with a light, chewy, moist texture..  The crust was also quite nice.  The sesame was a last minute decision--turned out to be a good one.  It wasn't too much and added a hint of sesame smell and flavor..  I used semolina flour to dust the peel.  The first attempt I used corn flour but it imparted too much corn flavor.  On my second attempt I used bread flour which was a little better.   The semolina was very neutral and worked out perfectly.

The recipe I used was a basic master boulle dough recipe:

6 cups of all purpose flour

1 tbsp dry active yeast

1 tbsp sea salt

2 cups of water

I pulled the dough out of the fridge and hand formed the three loaves in about a minute from dough batch.  I let rest for about 20 minutes on the pizza peel dusted with semonlina flour while the oven warmed up to 450 F with the pizza stone.   

Baked for exactly 30 minutes, with 1 cup of water thrown into a bottom boiler tray at start.  I let the dough cool completely  before I cut into it. The crust became slightly softened as the moisture escaped however the 6 "corners" were still crispy. 


Dreamingofbread's picture

Hi I am new and I tried lesson 2 the other day and it was pretty good, but not as fluffy as I had hoped and it smelt like vinagar while cooking.  Now I am trying lesson 3 and it smells a little like vinagar again.  I can never seem to get it to rise as high as it should, even when putting it in a warm oven.  I just tasted it and it tastes pretty good, but the crust seems hard even though I did the steam cooking.  I have been using instant yeast, do I need a different kind? Can you tell me what might be causing these problems?

Bohemian Mama's picture
Bohemian Mama

Oh yes, I perfected the crust using the steam method, I was thrilled with the  result, the texture taste and was like nothing I have ever  baked  before.

However  my landlord was unimpressed, I managed to short out the  entire house, had to call an electrician and, well the oven had to be replaced. (admitedly there was a loose wire where the oven light was)..but the  final steam just killed it. (I was warned!!)

I now have a new oven, a cross landlord  but I am so scared to steam my loaves..... it does however have a "defrost" setting which has been handy for quickening  rises  for  emergency loaves and  for those who  have tried the sourdough waffles, can get the  pre mix perfect in an hour instead of overnight.


Floydm's picture

I'm in a rental now too, so I've stopped trying to steam the entire oven too.  Now I either use a covered pot or a baking stone + an inverted turkey pan. Either approach keeps moisture near the loaf without putting the well-being of the entire oven at risk.


Jessicajil's picture


Thank you for this interesting site.

For many years I baked 9 loaves a week for the family. I mixed the water, salt, olive oil and demerera sugar in a large bucket. I then added one third the recommend amount of yeast, stirred it in vigorously, and left the mixture for a few minutes until it went frothy. I then added one large bag white flour and whisked it in, then a large bag of whole meal flour and whisked that in, and finally added the last bag of whole meal using my hands  to mix it in. I did not make sure it was well mixed, just that there was no dry flour remaining. I covered the bucket with cling-film and left it in the shed overnight.

In the morning I kneaded it until the dough got rebellious and then divided it into 9 before kneading each piece again.

I put the tins in the electric fan oven and a tenth tin full of boiling water (same system as yours!) and left the loaves to rise.

Without removing the pan of water, I then turned on the oven and cooked the loaves from cold. The loaves were lovely and light and country looking, and very tasty! I am boasting, but bread was the only thing I ever learned to cook well, The first loaf would disappear at one sitting .....

My theory is that, if you cook the bread from cold, it has time for the cells of air/gas to swell up before the crust hardens too much, so you get a really light loaf a with a good crust. Occasionally I would baste them with milk, but they looked good anyway.

NeilSoCal's picture

I have mixed all ingredients and am allowing dough to rise for 90 minutes. Do I punch down or re knead prior to shaping? I am confused

ArizonaJay's picture

Hi, sorry to hear about breaking your pizza stones, which is common...  Solution: get a cast iron dutch oven, "Lodge" is the big brand.   Not expensive, a lifetime purchase, they can never break at highest temperatures.  The lid keeps the moisture inside, so you do not need to steam the bread or pizza.

Also, night-before ingredients ideally only flour water and yeast: skip the salt!  Salt is a preservative and inhibits the growth of micro-organisms including yeast.  For best robust yeast culture, why not just wait until the next morning to then add the salt?  Anyway good website, thx.

RohoAlaye's picture

My story wit sourdough breads started 3 months ago. Since I've moved to UK I've missed proper sourdough bread, I was tired of those sponge breads that you may get at Tesco etc. So I've decided to do some bread - here are some of my attempts. 




Onion Bread

Bob Mongiello's picture
Bob Mongiello

Well what kind of oven are you using these look great !!!

RohoAlaye's picture

HI, sorry for very long response time, have been very busy at work. I'm using normal electric oven with 2 extra addons - 1st Pizza baking stone, 2nd on the bottom of a oven I'm placing tray filled with water or ice cubes, it makes bread more moist inside and more crunchy outside


Bob Mongiello's picture
Bob Mongiello

 I have been working on making breads and pizza crust for years and you just brought it all together to help me make it perfect . thank you the high temperature and using the clay pot bottoms was a big help. I have heard of the steam before but i didn't know when to use it .We have electric ovens mostly in North Carolina and I really missed the gas oven I had in CA so the clay pot and pan for the steam really prevented the bread from cooking to fast. thank you very much evryone for there input .

AndreiI's picture

I tried the bread in this lesson last night... The result was sooo tasty

 It was kept in the oven for around 55 minutes at 180-200C (i have a gas oven and the over thermometer takes ages to some point it show 150-160 but the knob was at Gas 7 so...). In the end, the internal temperature was 95C. I'm not sure what is the best way to store it so today, after cutting it, I left it on the cutting board, cut side down. I figured that if I don't use it by tonight, I'll just freeze the rest. Next time I'll probably split the dough in 2 and freeze one loaf. This came out quite big. I have a 10" round pizza stone and it covered most of it

Any way, thank you Floyd. This really is a tasty bread !

Now I'm at day 4 with a new sourdough starter...Once it picks up (soon, hopefully, I will tried other breads)