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txfarmer's picture

Croissant with Sourdough Starter - TXFarmer VS. TX summer

In my last croissant post(see here), I said I am practicing once or twice every week to perfect my lamination skill. It's been more than a month, and my croissant fever is getting hotter -- sadly, what's heating up faster is TX temperature. If you look up "mission impossible" or "self punishment" in the dictionary, you might see the following picture (28C is about 82F):


However, making croissant in warm weather is "mission difficult", not "mission impossible", the following are some tips I learned in the past month, I hope they will be helpful to my fellow warm weather TFLers.

1) Avoid direct sunlight. My kitchen has huge windows, and the counter space that's large enough to roll out the doug is right by the window. Under direct sunlight, the temperature could shoot to 90F in no time. My husband jokingly calls me "cold blooded" since my hands are always freezing cold, however, the few times when I was rolling out dough under the sun, my hands quickly warmed up -- so did the dough. Not a good thing. Lately, I have figured out the optimal schedule: Sunday at 5pm, mix dough and put in fridge for 2 hours; make butter block during that time; at 7pm enclose the butter and do the roll out. The temperature at 7pm is uaually still 28C (hence the picture above), but since the sun is on the way down, it won't keep heating up. After that just follow the schedule and do two more folds, usually I am done by 9:30 or 10pm. Next morning I usually get up early to run, so I do the final roll out before/during/after the run. 5am is the coolest time of the day, which is still around 24C/75F, but that's the best I can get. Usually by 7:30am, after resting a few times in the fridge, I can finish shaping. I usually freeze half for later, and put the other half in fridge until after work to bake.

2) Use the right butter. Not all European style butter are created equal, even if they have the same butterfat content. I have tried 4 or 5 different brands, when it's cooler (like a month ago), most of them would work, but now, only Plugra gives me consistent results, other brands are simply too melty.

3) Use the right rolling pin. I use a heavy duty metal rolling pin to make up for the lack of arm strength. However, lately, when it's this warm, I find it's necessary to put the pin in fridge along with the dough. At first I put it in freezer, thinking "the colder the better", nope. It was too cold for the first two folds, butter simply broke between dough layers, creating uneven crumb. Now I put it in fridge for the first two folds (when butter layers are still thick), freezer for the last fold and final roll out (when butter layers are thin and easier to melty but less likely to break).

4) Only work on the dough a few minutes a time, and put it in fridge more often than you would expect. That's the most important thing. When it's this warm, time is not on your side. Several times I tried to push my luck and roll the dough for a bit too long - warm dough == melty butter, never fails. This is where practicing comes in handy - at first I can't roll out much in the 3 to 5 min time span (longer for the first two folds when butter layers are thicker, shorter time for later folds and rolling out), which means the whole process drags on forever since the dough has to be in and out of the fridge many times. However, as I practice more, 3 to 5 min is more than enough for me to roll out the dough completely. For the last fold and final roll out I still let the dough rest in fridge once during rolling just so it's relaxed and easier to roll, but for the first two folds, it's all done in one shot.

Other than dealing with the warm temperature, I am also adjusting the formula to get more flavor. I replaced the poolish in previous attempt with 100% white starter. Since there's still dry yeast in the final dough, I though it would be an easy switch - not so. Starter is more acidic than poolish, which made the dough too soft. I then mixed it longer and reduced hydration slightly. Got the even layers with no butter leakage, however, the crumb is not open enough, indicating that the dough gluten is still too weak (shown in the following picture).

So I changed the AP flour to Bread flour, KAF bread flour at that, which has very high protein level. To my surprise the rolling out was not as impossible as I expected (or maybe I have practiced enough so it seems easier?), but the crumb became a lot mroe open (shown below).

The formula I am using now is as following:

Bread flour (KAF), 362g

milk, 130g

sugar, 67g

salt, 10g

osmotolerant instant yeast (SAF gold), 3.55g, 1tsp+1/8tsp

malt, 3.55g (I used a tsp of barley malt syrup)

butter, 22g, softened

100% white starter (fed with bread flour), 320g

roll-in butter, 287g

1. Mix everything but the rolling butter, knead until gluten starts to form. In my KA mixer, 3min at first speed, 4 min at 3rd speed.

Then following the procedure illustrated here.


Other things I have noticed:

1) For the final roll out, while it needs to be as thin as 3mm to 5mm, don't go over board and roll it too thin, other than it will look like this - not bad, but not as open as possible

2) Don't squish any parts of the dough during shaping, here I must've pressed down the tip a bit too hard, look at the thick top

3. Don't roll the croissants too tight during shaping, it will explode as following, even when proofed fully (no leaking butter during baking)


 My ideal croissant has very open, but even crumb with honeycomb holes, and thin walls. Still not quite there yet, but heading in the right direction. The addition of starter in the dough adds another dimension of flavor. When I brought some to my coworkers, who has no knowledge about yeast/starter, they all much prefer the starter version.


Sometimes I would make some chocolate ones, those are always gone first.


The temperature is still rising here in TX, let's see how far into the summer I can keep up this crazy croissant project.


Sending this to Yeastspotting.

bwraith's picture

Maintaining a 100% Hydration White Flour Starter

The following is a description of how I maintain my 100% hydration (1:1 flour:water by weight) starter. The term 100% hydration refers to the baker's percentage of water in the starter, i.e. the water in the starter is 100% of the weight of the flour in the starter.

This maintenance regime assumes that your starter is already healthy, fresh, and active. This is not what I would do to "start a starter", but rather it is the maintenance regime I follow to store, revive, and use my starter over time.

The following characteristics are for a 100% hydration starter. The characteristics, signs of health, problems, and readiness for use are different for starters maintained at different hydration levels.

Characteristics of my 100% hydration white flour starter:

  • The weight of flour and water in the starter are equal.
  • The flour is either bread or AP flour with protein content around 11-13%.
  • The water is bottled (Poland Spring).
  • Normally fed at room temperature.
  • Stored in the refrigerator when not being fed.
  • The consistency can be described as a thick, stirrable paste after it is fed.

Characteristics of a recently fed, fresh, active 100% hydration starter:

  • It rises by double in about 4-5 hours at room temperature after a feeding of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight)
  • It maintains a reasonably thick, elastic consistency after rising by double.
  • It smells very pleasant. The smell could be described as flowery, tangy, and slightly sweet.
  • No liquid layers develop on top or in the middle even hours after rising by double.
  • Hooch (an alcoholic layer of liquid on top) forms eventually when it is stored in the refrigerator for a week or more or left out for a long time at room temperature after doubling.

Characteristics of a 100% hydration starter that is not yet ready or is possibly unhealthy:

  • Unpleasant odors a few hours after feeding.
  • Separated layers of liquid form a few hours after feeding.
  • Takes longer than 4-6 hours to rise by double at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding (starter:flour:water by weight).
  • Develops a runny consistency a few hours after feeding.

An Important Note on the Large Effect of Temperature on Rise Times

Before launching into the information below on maintaining starters, it is worthwhile to point out one of the largest points of confusion in sourdough starter maintenance. Temperature has a big effect on the speed of reproduction and the activity of the organisms in a sourdough culture. For example my kitchen may average 76F in the summer and only 69F in the winter. At 76F, my starter may rise by double after a 1:2:2 feeding in 4.2 hours, whereas at 69F it will double in 6.4 hours. At 64F, it would take 9.4 hours. It is not a problem to follow the procedures below in a kitchen with a temperature averaging 64F; but clearly, you need to allow for rise times of roughly double in the various discussions below. So, adjust your expectations and timing accordingly, if your temperatures don't hover fairly close to 74F or so, which is the temperature assumed for the discussions below.

Assuming a healthy, active starter, here is the maintenance regime I follow to feed, store, revive, and use my starter.


I almost always feed my starter 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight) and then allow it to rise by double at room temperature, which should take about 4.5 hours when it is fully active and recently fed. Once it has risen by double, it is placed in the refrigerator. The starter can then be used directly from the refrigerator in a recipe for the next 3 days. On the first day, it is almost the same as it was right after it rose by double. On the second day, it has a little more flavor and may be ever so slightly weaker, but it is still at an excellent point to use in a recipe. After 3 days, it can still be used, but it will have stronger, more sour flavors, and it will be noticeably weaker in terms of rising power. If you have a recipe that uses a very small percentage of starter in the dough, it won't matter much if you use old starter. I've used week old starter in recipes where the flour contributed to the dough was only 5% of the total flour weight. If you are using the starter in a recipe that has a high percentage of starter, it may be better to use the starter after 2 days or less in the refrigerator.

Although it may not make much difference, I actually maintain my starter with a 1:2:2.2 feeding ratio, i.e. at a 90% hydration. With the bread flour I use (KA Bread Flour) that results in a consistency of a thick paste that is a little difficult to stir once you mix it up well. The amounts you work with don't matter much, either, other than the amount of flour being thrown out. I typically work with a total culture size of about 80 grams. My scale will measure down to 1 gram of precision. A typical 1:2:2.2 feeding would be (16g:30g:34g) of (old starter:water:flour). Below I am doing 1:10:11 feedings, which are done by feeding (4g:40g:44g) of (old starter:water:flour).

The above method works great, but see in the variation section below for an update on how I am feeding most recently to better accomodate a 12 hour feeding cycle. Also, I now use an even thicker consistency, around 80% hydration. It seems to keep longer this way on the counter or in the refrigerator.


Once the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than three days, I consider it to be in storage. It can't be used directly in a recipe, but instead will have to be revived. If I plan to store my starter for a period of time longer than 2 weeks, I usually will thicken it up, as it keeps better at a thicker consistency. However, even at 100% hydration, I've had no problems reviving my starter after 2 months. At thicker consistencies, the starter can last for many months in the refrigerator. I believe Glezer says it can last more than a year in a very stiff consistency, like 50% hydration. However, the longest I've gone with my starter is 2 months. I use glass canisters for both feeding and storage. I usually pour the ready to refrigerate starter into a fresh container, so that the sides are clean and the starter is stirred down to take up less volume. The containers have a rubber gasket that seals them from the air in the refrigerator but allows some gas to escape if pressure and gasses build up in the container.


When the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, it must be revived first before it can be used in a recipe. I do this by simply feeding it once or twice in the manner described under "Feeding". After being stored for a week or two or more, rising by double after a 1:2:2 feeding may take something like 6-8 hours at room temperature. If it only takes 6 hours, one feeding works fine. However, if it takes more than 6 hours to rise by double at room temperature, I generally feed it one more time. The second feeding usually takes much closer to 4.5 hours, which is an indication it is fully revived. On the occasion where it had been stored for 2 months, it took a third feeding at room temperature before the starter would rise by double in 4.5 hours at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding.

One subtle aspect of all this is the question of how long after the starter has doubled should you wait to feed it again. The starter needs to ripen enough to bring the cell counts up to their maximum level. In the period after you feed the starter, the cell counts of yeast and lactobacillus will double every couple of hours or so. Once the starter is ripe enough, the yeast and lactobacillus cell counts will stop increasing. The pH and acid levels get to a point where they attenuate the cell activity, and they can no longer multiply in numbers. So, you want to let the starter mature enough to reach that maximum cell count, and then feed it again or store it. Just based on experience, it seems like my starter does well as long as I let it sit for an hour or two beyond the point it doubles. I usually "stir it down" at the point it doubles, and then let it rise some more. However, I refrigerate it right when it doubles, since it will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. Recently, I was rushing my feeding schedule and slowed my starter down by trying to feed too early, just before it had completely doubled, in fact. The result was that it was taking longer than usual to rise. The solution was to let it sit a while longer for a few feedings in a row. It didn't take long at all for it to bounce back to doubling in 4.5 hours from a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature.


You can feed at a lower or higher ratio than 1:2:2 in order to adjust the amount of starter you want to build to match a recipe or to better match the times when you can feed the starter conveniently. However, I never feed at a lower ratio than 1:1:1 to avoid any problems with acid building up or the starter becoming too ripe or underfed. Higher ratios can be used to lengthen out the rise time if you know you will not be back within 4-6 hours to store the starter in the refrigerator before it becomes too ripe. At warmer temperatures, the starter will rise by double much more quickly after a 1:2:2 feeding, taking something like 2.5 hours at about 85F, for example. At 85F the timing for rising by double will be very roughly half as long as at room temperature, and at 65F the timing will be very roughly twice as long (very, very roughly).

Recently, I've been experimenting with feeding ratios for a 12 hour room temperature maintenance schedule. I have found that feeding 1:10:11 (for a slightly thicker consistency I'm using 90% hydration), results in a 12 hour cycle. The starter will double 8 hours after the 1:10:11 feeding, and then I stir it down and let it ripen some more. If I feed every 12 hours on this cycle, the starter is at full strength from about 8 to 12 hours after being fed (all this at room temperature). When you feed a starter routinely at higher ratios, like 1:10:11, it will ferment for longer periods of time at higher pH. The result should be that the starter will have relatively more lactobacillus in it compared to a starter maintained with a 1:2:2 feeding ratio, since the lactobacillus thrive in a slightly higher pH environment (around 5 pH).  I can't say what the effect on flavor would be, but it makes sense that the aromatic compounds and acids produced by the lactobacillus would be more evident in the one maintained with the high feeding ratio. Although this is not at all scientific, I do think that the starter I've maintained with a 1:10:11 feeding ratio has a more intense aroma than the one fed with a 1:2:2 ratio.

Even more recently (added 12/14/2007), I've settled on feeding every 12-17 hours using a feeding of 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight). Using this procedure, the starter doubles in volume in about 4.75 hours at 76F or about 7.25 hours at 69F. Even at 69F, the starter has peaked in 12 hours, so it can be fed again. At 76F, it will peak and fall after 12 hours, but it is still at full strength and will rise vigorously when fed. It seems like a good compromise that can be used year-round for a 12 hour cycle. The starter can be maintained on the counter at room temperature indefinitely using this procedure. If I know I won't be baking bread for a while, I thicken up the starter by feeding it 1:4:7 to thicken it up when I feed it next, and put it in the refrigerator immediately after feeding. Then, I take it out a day or two in advance of the next bread-making session and revive by letting it rise by double and feeding 1:4:5 every 12 hours. Although I generally go through the revival procedure, I've found that the starter is at close to full strength even after 7 days in the refrigerator when stored this way. So, it's possible to take the starter out of the refrigerator, let it rise by double, and use most of it in a bread recipe, and take a tiny portion of it to revive for a couple of feeding cycles before returning it again to the refrigerator using the 1:4:7 feeding and refrigerating immediately.

When to Refrigerate

I like flavors to be less sour and more mild in sourdough breads I make. I've found that the right flavors and lower amounts of sour flavor seem to be there when I don't let the starter become overly ripe before using it in a recipe. That's why I tend to refrigerate when the starter has just doubled. You can experiment with feeding schedules that allow the starter to become more ripe before refrigerating. It will change the balance of organisms in the culture and therefore the flavor. Also, when you use a large percentage of starter, the larger amount of accumulated byproducts of fermentation in a more ripe starter will contribute directly to the flavor and texture of the dough, in addition to the contribution made by the subsequent fermentation.

An Additional Tip on Refrigerated Starter Storage

If you are using your starter fairly frequently, like once a week, then just refrigerating it when it doubles will work very well. You can use the starter directly out of the refrigerator for a period of time if stored that way. For storage it works well, as I've had no problem reviving my starter after 2 months when stored just after doubling. However, as Mike Avery commented below, and I've verified as well, feeding a well revived and healthy starter in such a way as to thicken it to a firm consistency and then refrigerating it immediately allows the starter to keep very well for longer periods of time. It can be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rise by double or a little more and used directly in a recipe, even after a week, I've found. If you use this procedure, the starter should still be "revived" with enough feedings, usually one or two more, at room temperature to verify that the starter is rising at full strength again before it is again stored in the refrigerator.

Converting Starters

I sometimes make a recipe starter for a whole grain bread by feeding some of my starter with spelt or whole wheat. I have never fed a starter with whole grain repeatedly to completely convert it, so I have to accept the flavor as is and a small amount of white flour in my whole grain recipes. I'm sure there are many subtle flavor differences if you feed repeatedly and fully convert a starter from being fed exclusively with white flour to being fed exclusively with a whole grain flour. I've found the feeding and rising process works about the same way with whole grains for a recipe starter, except that the rise times seem a little bit faster with the whole grain flours.


It's pretty hard to kill a healthy starter, but here are a few ways to possibly send yours over the edge.

  • Heat the starter to over 95F and kill the organisms - easier than you might think, for example...
    • Use actual oven heat and get up over 100F very quickly.
    • Place the starter in an oven with the light on - check carefully first - it can be much hotter than you think in there with just the oven light on and the door closed.
    • Use hot water to feed your starter
  • Put acids in the culture
    • The culture doesn't need acid if it's healthy. It generates all the acid it needs on its own.
    • Sometimes a small shot of vinegar or other acid, such as pineapple juice, may help fix a sluggish culture, but if you feed acid repeatedly, you can put too much in and kill the starter.
  • Not feeding the culture for too long at warm temperatures or repeatedly underfeeding over long periods.
    • When out of the refrigerator, the culture will be very active and must be fed to stay healthy.
    • It is especially easy to underfeed a culture when temperatures are warmer.
  • Overfeeding the culture
    • If you feed before the culture has ripened enough repeatedly you can dilute the culture and eventually kill it.
    • More likely to happen at colder temperatures, stiffer consistencies, or higher feeding ratios. Let the culture rise by double, then let it ripen for a number of hours beyond that. A dip should form in the middle when the culture is at its peak. You can let it go for a number of hours beyond the point it dips, but it should be ready to feed at the point it is dipping or collapsing on itself.
    • If you refrigerate the culture for storage, you can let it just rise by double and then refrigerate it. It will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. However, allow it to come to full ripeness at room temperature over a couple of feedings once in a while, normally done when reviving the culture for baking, to avoid any decline similar to overfeeding caused by repeatedly refrigerating when it has just doubled.

Given the above, it makes a lot of sense to keep back a small amount of old starter in the refrigerator, even if just the scrapings from the inside of the container that came out of the refrigerator, until you're sure the feeding went well. It's also not a bad idea to make a small amount of stiff starter and keep as a backup. Some dry their starter and freeze or store it for backup.

Tips on Quantities Used, Mixing Technique, and Volumes (a scale is highly recommended, but to use measuring spoons...)

As I've gained experience, the amounts of starter I work with have dropped. I haven't found any disadvantages to using smaller quantities. For example, my most recent feeding routine (mentioned in the variations section above) is 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight) is done by taking a clean jar, putting it on the scale and adding 5 grams of starter and 20 grams of water. I stir vigorously with a tiny whisk to aerate and thoroughly mix the starter into the water. Then, I add 25g of flour and use a fork to thoroughly mix the flour into water, forming a fairly thick paste - not quite a dough, but very thick. I then take a small spatula and scrape down the sides, put the lid on the jar, and place the jar in a nice unobtrusive spot on my counter where hopefully no one will disturb it.

If you don't have a scale, my first advice is to get one. It makes baking much more reliable, especially when you are trying to reproduce another baker's recipe. A good digital scale costs about $25 and is very much worth the trouble. Still, the procedure in the previous paragraph is easy to do by taking 1 teaspoon of starter, adding 2 tablespoons of water, and stirring vigorously to aerate and completely mix the starter into the water. Then, add 3 tablespoons and possibly another teaspoon or so of flour, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Scrape down the sides of the jar, cover, and place on the counter.

If you are planning to store the starter for a long time in the refrigerator, it helps to carefully drop the recently fed and thickened starter into a clean jar, so that there is no film of flour or paste stuck to the sides at all. Over a longer period, it is possible for mold to grow on a residue of flour paste left on the sides of the jar.


What I describe above is just one way to do it. I'm sure there are many other ways, but I find this method convenient and robust. It's hard to kill a healthy freshly fed and risen starter that is stored in the refrigerator. It is convenient that the starter remains in a good usable state for several days. Very small amounts can be used when storing it for long periods to avoid large amounts of flour waste. I store something like 100 grams when I'm planning to store the starter for more than a few days, so my revival can be used in a recipe without wasting much if any flour. Maintaining only one starter and converting it for recipes each time is easy and convenient, although by not fully converting the starter to a whole grain flour some flavor or other characteristics may be missed with this approach.

Kaiser Rolls

Kaiser rolls are great for picnics, sandwiches, and other summertime meals. The hardest part about making them is shaping them. If you want them to be perfect, order yourself a kaiser roll stamp. Or you can roll out the dough out and knot it the way Peter Reinhart suggests in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Below I'll show you the technique I've found easiest.

The recipe I'm using is a cross between Bernard Clayton's recipe and Peter Reinhart's recipe. Peter's recipe uses a pre-ferment, the one I've listed below does not. You can adjust this recipe to use a pre-ferment quite easily: simply throw in some old dough if you want to use a pate fermentee. Or pull out a cup of the flour and 1/2 a cup of the water and 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast, mix them together, and let them sit out in a covered bowl overnight to create a poolish. Either technique will result in a more flavorful roll, but if you are going to be making sandwiches slathered in mustard or a sharp cheese, something likely to overwhelm the flavor of the bread, the extra work is probably not warranted.

Kaiser Rolls
Makes 8-12 rolls, depending on how large you like them
3 1/2-4 cups (1 lb.) bread or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon malt powder
1 tablespoon shortening, butter, or oil
1 egg
1 egg white
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water

Combine 3 cups of the flour and the other dry ingredients in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the water, eggs, and shortening. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes or 5-7 minutes in a mixer, adding more flour by the handful as necessary. The dough should still be tacky but not terribly wet. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour. Allow it to rise a second time for an hour before shaping. To shape the rolls, divide the dough into smaller pieces (if you are particular, use a scale to get them the same size). Roll the pieces of dough into balls and cover them with a damp kitchen towel so they can relax for 5 minutes.

To shape them, first I press them out into flat disks on a well floured surface (Clayton suggests using rye flour, though any type of flour will do). I let them rest, covered, another 5 minutes. Then I stretch the dough a bit thinner again and fold pieces up into the center.

Finally I press down in the center to seal it up tight.

I place them face down on a sheet pan covered with poppy seeds while they are rising for the final hour.

One could just as well let them rise face up and then spritz them with water and sprinkle the poppy seeds on, but doing it this way prevents the seals from splitting while they rise.

Preheat the oven to 450 during the final rise. Just before placing them in the oven, flip the rolls upright. You want to have steam in the oven when you bake them, so use whatever technique you prefer: squirting them with water, squirting the oven sides with water, pouring boiling water in a preheated cast-iron pan or a cookie sheet. These rolls take around 20 to 25 minutes to bake. I suggest rotating the pan once 10 minutes into it so they'll brown evenly.

Related Recipe: Potato Rosemary Rolls.

nicodvb's picture

Very liquid sourdough

I read that most of you use a sourdough with 100% hydratation, just like me.
Recently I came across a more liquid sourdough (130% hydratation) that doesn't actually rise (a lot). It has the consistence of yogurth but it thickens during refreshments. It's supposed to develop exclusively lactic acid (none of acetic acid), and to grow the yeasts better

Did anyone ever use it? Can you share your experiences? Can you explain the differences?


dmsnyder's picture

San Joaquin Sourdough: Update

While I enjoy a variety of breads, the San Joaquin Sourdough remains my “go to” bread. It's easy to fit into a busy schedule. It uses few ingredients. It always tastes delicious. It's wonderful freshly baked but also makes great toast, French toast, garlic bread and croutons for salads or onion soup. It is almost as good after being frozen as fresh. What's not to like?


I first developed this formula about 3 years ago. Since then, I've tweaked the formula and methods in many ways. I know many TFL members have made this bread and enjoyed it. So, I thought an update on my current recipe might be of interest.

To summarize the changes I've made in the past 6 months:

  1. I substituted 25 g of whole wheat flour for an equal amount of the rye flour in the original formula. The difference in flavor is subtle, but I like it better.

  2. I adopted the oven steaming method for home ovens we were taught in the SFBI Artisan I and II workshops. 

    SFBI Steaming method

  3. I switched from using a parchment paper couche to a baker's linen couche. (Highly recommended! Here is my source for linen: San Francisco Baking Institute)

  4. Most recently, after trying several different methods, I've settled on the method of pre-shaping and shaping bâtards taught in the King Arthur Flour instructional video. (See: Hamelman technique videos  The relevant instructions are in the fourth video, starting at about 7:00 minutes.) The SJSD dough is very extensible. This method forms a tighter loaf which is shorter and thicker than that produced with the method I had been using.



Active starter (100% hydration)

150 g

All Purpose flour (11.7% protein)

450 g

BRM Dark Rye flour

25 g

Whole Wheat flour

25 g


360 g

Sea Salt

10 g



In a large bowl, mix the active starter with the water to dissolve it. Add the flours and stir to form a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let rest (autolyse) for 20-60 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Using a plastic scraper or silicon spatula, stretch and fold the dough 30 times, rotating the bowl 1/5 turn between each stroke. Cover tightly. Repeat this stretch and fold procedure 3 times more at 30 minute intervals.


After the last series of stretches and folds, scape the dough into a lightly oiled 2 quart/2 liter container and cover tightly. (I use a 2 quart glass measuring pitcher with a tightly fitting plastic lid manufactured by Anchor Glass.) Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes with a stretch and fold after 45 and 90 minutes, then return the dough to the container and place it in the refrigerator and leave it there for 21 hours. 

Dividing and Shaping

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and scrape it gently onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat it into a rectangle. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

To pre-shape for a bâtard, I now form a ball rather than a log. Place each piece of dough smooth side down. Pat into a rough circle, degassing the dough gently in the process. Bring the far edge to the middle and seal the seam. Then go around the dough, bringing about 1/5 of the dough to the middle and sealing it. Repeat until you have brought the entire circumference of the piece to the middle. Turn the piece over, and shape as a boule. Turn each ball seam side up onto a lightly floured part of your board.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 60 minutes. (The time will depend on ambient temperature and how active your starter is. The dough should have risen slightly, but not much.)

To shape a bâtard, I now favor the method portrayed in the King Arthur Flour instructional video. I encourage you to watch the video, but here is a verbal description of the method:

  1. For each piece of dough, place it in front of you on an un-floured board.

  2. Hold down the near side and stretch the far side of the piece into a rough rectangle about 8 inches front to back.

  3. Now, fold the far end two thirds of the way to the near end and seal the seam with the heel of your hand.

  4. Take each of the far corners of the piece and fold them to the middle of the near side of your first fold. Seal the seams.

  5. Now, the far end of the dough piece should be roughly triangular with the apex pointing away from you. Grasp the apex of the triangle and bring it all the way to the near edge of the dough piece. Seal the resulting seam along the entire width of the loaf.

  6. Turn the loaf seam side up and pinch the seam closed, if there are any gaps.

  7. Turn the loaf seam side down. Then, with the palms of both hands resting softly on the loaf, roll it back and forth to shape a bâtard. Start with both hands in the middle of the loaf and move them outward as you roll the loaf, slightly increasing the pressure as you move outward, so the bâtard ends up with the middle highest and the ends pointed .

Preheating the oven

One hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack and put your steaming apparatus of choice in place. (I currently use a 7 inch cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks.) Heat the oven to 500F.


After shaping the loaves, transfer them to a linen couche, seam side up. Cover the loaves with a fold of the linen. Proof until the loaves have expanded to about 1-1/2 times their original size. (30-45 minutes) Test readiness for baking using “the poke test.” Do not over-proof, if you want good oven-spring and bloom!


Pre-steam the oven, if desired.

Transfer the loaves to a peel. (Remember you proofed them seam side up. If using a transfer peel, turn the loaves over on the couch before rolling them onto the transfer peel. That way, the loaves will be seam side down on the peel.) Score the loaves. (For a bâtard, hold the blade at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf. Make one swift end-to-end cut, about 1/2 inch deep.)

Transfer the loaves to the baking stone. Steam the oven. (I place a perforated pie tin with about 12 ice cubes in it on top of the pre-heated lava rocks.) Turn the oven down to 460F.

After 12-15 minutes, remove your steaming apparatus from the oven. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees, if it is browning unevenly. Close the oven door. (If you have a convection oven, switch to convection bake, and turn the temperature down to 435ºF.)

Bake for another 12-15 minutes, then remove the loaf and place on a cooling rack. Check for doneness. (Nice crust color. Internal temperature of at least 205F. Hollow sound when you thump the bottom of the loaf.) If necessary, return to loaf to the oven to bake longer.

When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves on the baking stone with the oven door ajar for another 7 minutes to dry the crust.


Cool on a rack for two hours before slicing.



Submitted to YeastSpotting

ehanner's picture

Eye opening techniques

I know when I first started baking I nodded dutifully when I was told to knead until the dough will pass the window pain test. If you can't stretch a piece until it is translucent and you can see light through it, knead some more. This advice is found through out the industry help and how to books and is considered to be a core understanding by many. Far be it for me who is a lowly novice in terms of time in the flour bin to question the conventional wisdom, however. There are a few misconceptions that have become accepted as gospel that I believe hinder the new baker and for that matter any baker who wants to truly understand what their potential is in the kitchen. The techniques I address here are not my ideas or content. These things were presented to me by others here on the forum in pieces over the last few years and together represent the basis of my capability today.

The first bit of advice I have is to stop what ever you are doing and watch this video. If you're like me it will take a few times to get the hang of what the poster is doing. This is Richard Bertinet doing a demo for Gourmet magazine. He is making a sweet dough but it doesn't matter. The technique is key. When I learned this move and method of handling dough, my results instantly went from unpredictable to reliable. 10 or maybe 15 seconds with your hands in the dough and that's it, you're done. No more kneading is required. You might do a couple folds every 20-30 minutes during the primary ferment. This will work with sourdough or yeasted recipes and white or whole wheat with the caveat that WW will need a fold or two during the ferment. Once I learned to do the French Fold, I have rarely used my mixer. When you understand how the dough is supposed to feel with your own fingers it is much easier to produce a dough that will perform to your expectations.

Further EDIT: A regular contributor to this forum has produced some really terrific video training aids that can be seen HERE. Mark Sinclair is the owner of The Back Home Bakery in Kalispell Montana. He is remarkably clear in the message he sends about how to handle several dough types and shaping.
Mark demonstrates how easily you can mix, stretch and fold and shape dough. His style is easy to follow and well done. I highly recommend you take a look at these instructional videos. He just posted a new video on shaping a high hydration baguette that is excellent. Many of his recipes are search-able here or if you email him he will probably send them to you. His bakery products are beautiful and the photography is inspirational.

Mark now has 2 DVD's for sale that take you from end to end with 3 different breads and another on technique. There are lots of places to get information on how bake good breads. Marks Video's are reasonable and very helpful to the new baker.

There is another video that should be included is the Julia Child/Daniel Forester baguette demonstration. This is a 2 part video that shows how to put together french bread dough by hand and uses the frisage method. Frisage is something that once seen, always understood. You can read about it repeatedly but it won't make sense until you see it in action. See it here.

Added by Edit: A great video is now available that I think is the essence of dough handling and shows how easy it is to mix dough without a mixer. If you can chew gum you can make great bread using Richard Bertinet's video HERE.

Secondly, Da Crumb Bum posted a concept that goes against all the common wisdom concerning pre heating your oven and using a stone for a thermal battery. Who hasn't thought that to get good rustic bread one must bake on a pizza stone or a tile surface? There are some instances where a stone and preheat is required like pizza and bread sticks but for the greatest majority of your baking, no stone or preheat is required. A link to the original post is . Most are skeptical this will work at first but trust me on this, you won't believe it until you see it with your own eyes. It is expensive to maintain 450F in a steel box both in terms of wasting money and by wasting the energy and resources of our planet. The minimal effect that preheating has on the crust is absolutely not worth the additional energy.

I share these thoughts and techniques as a way of thanking the many posters who have helped me to become at least a competent home artisan baker. The host of The Fresh Loaf (floydm) is top on the list with his lessons and frequent examples of solid baking. Hundreds of community members, posters, are here to answer your question or help with an issue. This is a great site because of the members. Don't be afraid to jump in, we are just like family.

It's been a while since I made this post and I wanted to come back and add a few things now that I have some experience under my belt.
1.) I still almost never use the mixer. A brief hand mix to break up the dry clumps of flour followed by a 30-60 minute rest and stretch and fold or French folding as per the top video will develop the gluten just fine. Stretch and fold every 30-60 minutes for the duration of the bulk ferments. Time will be your friend here. Be patient. If you use a very small amount of starter for inoculation or yeast, you slow down the bulk ferment. If you increase the hydration slightly, you will find you can fold every 40-60 minutes for about 4 hours. The dough will be perfectly satin smooth and will easily windowpane.

2.) Instead of starting from a cold oven, I now am starting the oven when the dough looks ready and the proof is about done. The dough is proofing on parchment, covered with a floured towel or a moist tea towel. When it looks like the proof is done, turn on the oven. My electric will go to 450 in 7 minutes. Slide the dough in, steam for a great crust. I rotate after 20 minutes.

3.) I think many people over ferment and over proof. Try fermenting for 60 minutes at 78F, shape and proofing for 45-60 minutes. Remember, the warmer it is where your dough ferments, the faster the dough will rise. Temperature matters.

4.) Make your slashes deeper than a 1/4 inch. You might be better to go back and retrace your initial slashes to make them just a little deeper. Be modest in the pattern. Remember what the purpose is of slashing.

5.) Not so much a technique but a suggestion. Adopt a basic formula that you can make in your sleep. Nothing fancy, a basic yeast or sourdough bread your family likes and work from that. You will be surprised at how many different types of bread you can make using your basic master formula by adding one or two ingredients or changing the handling slightly.
Have fun and learn at your own pace. The collective knowledge at The Fresh Loaf is being plugged into your own private baking school.


"It's not you he wags his tail for, but, your bread".

mountaindog's picture

Thom Leonard Country French Boule recipe


I've been asked how I get the big holes, and how I fold. Whether you are working with a bread dough that uses commercial yeast, or with sourdough, the same principles seem to apply from what I've experienced. Obviously, there are others here more experienced in sourdough who may have different techniques. It depends on what works for you.

What gives me the big holes is to use a very wet, soft dough, fold it 2-3 times for the first 60-90 minutes of fermenting to strengthen the gluten, and when you're ready to shape, VERY GENTLY pour it out onto your counter, VERY GENTLY fold the sides into the center to gather it up into a boule without degassing it in the least, flip upside down in your hand and tighten it into a boule by pinching the seam underneath closed. Then place it smooth-side down (seam-side up) into a floured banneton or proofing basket. Do not skimp on the rising time - if it needs 5 or 6 hours rather than the 3 stated in the recipe, let it rise all the way, and make sure your starter is very active.

I really like this bread, I just made it again this past weekend and it came out equally well as it did in the photo at top. It had more of a sour bite to it this time from the wet rye starter.

Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread (from "Artisan Baking" by Maggie Glezer)

Makes one 4 lb. (1.8 kilo) loaf

Time: about 18 hrs. with 30 minutes of active work


The evening before baking make the Levain as follows:

45 g ( 1 oz) fermented rye sourdough starter refreshed 8-12 hrs before (I use a batter-like starter made with equal weights water to rye flour, not a firm starter. If you only have a white flour starter, use that and just substitute 30 g of the white flour in the final dough with rye flour)

120 g (3.3 oz) lukewarm water

140 g (5.3 oz) unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (see my note below on flour)

Dissolve starter in the water in a small bowl, then add flour and beat this batter-like dough until very smooth. Place in covered container and ferment at room temp (@70F) until doubled, 8-12 hrs.

NOTE: I use only King Arthur All-Purpose flour rather than bread flour as it has a high enough protein content and a high ash content compared to other all-purpose flour. The high amount of protein found in most “bread flours” makes the crumb too tough for my taste.

Next day make the final dough as follows:

100 g (3.5 oz) Whole Wheat Flour (if you like your bread a little darker add up to 350 g whole wheat here and use 250 g less white flour below)

1030 g (36 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur has best protein and ash content. If using a white flour starter in the levain rather than rye, substitute 30 g of the white flour here with 30 g rye flour)

660 g (24 oz) warm water

all the fermented levain you made the night before (305 g or 10.6 oz)

23 g (0.8 oz) sea salt (preferably grey Celtic sea salt if you can find it, often sold in health food stores)

Mix By hand: combine all flours in large bowl. Add the warm water to the fermented levain to loosen it from container. Pour the watered levain into the flours and mix with spoon, dough whisk, or hands until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest (autolyse) for 20-30 minutes. Turn dough out onto work surface, knead for 10 minutes, then add salt, and knead for another 5 minutes until salt has dissolved and dough is very smooth and shiny.

Mix By stand mixer: same as by hand except leave in mixer bowl after autolyse, then mix with dough hook on lowest speed for 5 minutes. Add salt and knead in mixer at low speed for another 4-5 minutes until very smooth and almost cleans the bottom of the mixing bowl.

The dough should feel soft, sticky, and extensible at end of kneading. If it is too stiff and dry, add a few more drops of water until dough just barely clears bottom of mixing bowl at end of kneading if using a stand mixer, or until dough feels soft and stretchy, and slightly sticky, if hand kneading. Softer, wetter doughs give you larger air holes in the baked loaf, which also gives the bread more flavor.

Fermenting: Place dough in lightly-oiled bowl at least 3 times its size and cover with plastic wrap. Let ferment for 3 hours at room temp (@70F) until well-expanded but not yet doubled in bulk. Turn dough 3 times at 30 minute intervals by gently folding like a business letter and flipping upside-down, (that is, turn once at 30, 60, and 90 minutes into fermenting time), then leave the dough undisturbed for remainder of time. OR: for even more flavor, ferment at room temperature for one hour (turning 2 times, once at after 30 and once after 60 minutes), then retard overnight in fridge, warming up again next day at room temp. for 2-3 hours before shaping.


Rounding and resting: Turn dough out onto floured work surface, and very gently round it into a tight boule. Cover with plastic and let rest for 10-15 min. to relax the gluten. While resting, prepare your basket or banneton by dusting with flour. If you’d rather make 2 smaller boules than one large one, divide the dough in half with a dough cutter, and gently form each piece into a tight boule.

Shaping and proofing: Shape the dough into an even and tight round loaf (or leaves if making 2 smaller boules) without deflating it. Place dough topside down into the floured basket or banneton. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, cover with plastic wrap and proof for 4 to 4.5 hours at room temperature (@70F) until at least doubled in volume and a slight dent remains when pressed with finger.

Preheating oven: At least 45 minutes before dough is fully-proofed, preheat oven with baking stone on middle rack to 500F.

Bake: Gently flip the dough upside down to release it from the banneton/basket onto semolina-dusted parchment on an over-turned baking sheet or wooden peel, or directly onto a semolina-dusted peel if not using parchment. Slash the boule with a razor in a pound sign (#) design, or in a spiral, cross, or any other desired pattern, as long as the slashes go completely across the top to allow for even expansion during baking. Slide parchment onto hot baking stone in oven, or onto semolina dusted baking stone if not using parchment, and quickly mist side walls of oven with water in a mister (do not spray near the oven light!) and quickly shut the oven door to prevent heat and steam from escaping. The steam helps the dough rise very quickly in the hot oven (called “oven spring”) and also makes the crust more brown and crisp. Turn oven down from 500F to 400F and set oven timer for 30 minutes (20 minutes if making 2 smaller boules). Continue misting every 30 seconds just 3 or 4 times for first 2 or 3 minutes of baking, then leave to bake. When first 30 minutes are up, open oven and rotate loaves around to even out browning. Set timer for another 30 minutes (20 minutes for 2 smaller boules) and check the loaf when that time is up. If it is still a light color brown, leave in for another 5-10 minutes until it is a deeper brown but not burnt, then probe center of loaf with instant-read thermometer, loaves are done when thermometer reads at least 205F in center. If they are getting burnt but center is not done, your oven is too hot, turn it down another 25 degrees or so next time. Let cool thoroughly on rack before cutting as the centers are still cooking, at least 2 hours.

Better Banana Bread

Well, maybe not a better banana bread, but different banana bread: cakier, creamier, moister. I, personally, think I prefer this loaf to the previous banana bread recipe I posted, but my wife makes the point that this recipe produces a much more delicate bread than the previous one does. For a quiet cup of tea on a lazy summer afternoon, this is the one. For a picnic at the zoo with a rambunctious three year old, the previous one is the way to go: it'll survive the transport in the car and backpack much better.

Recipe below.

This is, in fact, the same recipe as before with a cup of vanilla yogurt added. The yogurt made the dough moister, so in response I needed to add more flour. Since I was adding more flour, I decided to try using some whole wheat flour. It turned out well.

So if there is a lesson to be learned here, it isn't that this is the greatest banana bread in the world. It is to make each recipe your own. Bake often and do not be afraid to experiment. If you don't screw up a recipe from time-to-time you probably aren't baking enough!

Better Banana Bread
Makes 1 huge loaf or 3 small loaves

Preheat the oven to 350.

In one bowl, combine:

1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 or 3 very ripe bananas
1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
2/3 cup sugar

Use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to squish the banana and mix the ingredients together. It is alright for there to be small (1 centimeter) chunks of banana in the batter, but you want most of the banana to be reduced to mush.

In another bowl, combine:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are blended together.

If you like, stir in additional ingredients here, such as chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or apricots, or chocolate chips. A handful (about a half a cup) is about right.

Pour the dough into greased baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Small loaves take around 30 minutes, a normal-sized loaf takes around 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven. This bread is great warm, but it is excellent cold too.

After they have cooled for 5 or 10 minutes the loaves can be removed from the pan to cool. Once they are cool they can be individually wrapped and frozen.


Related Recipe: 10 Minute Banana Bread.


pretzel shapingThe other day I was reading Jeffrey Hamelman's recent book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes when I came across his pretzel recipe. His recipe requires a pate fermente overnight, a long fermentation, and a bath in a solution of water and lye, which means rubber gloves and goggles are required.

"Rubber gloves and goggles and caustic fluids to make a batch of pretzels?!? You've got to be kidding me," I thought.

The next day I found myself flipping through another baking book when I stumbled across another pretzel recipe. No caustic bath. No preferment. Not even an initial fermentation: simply mix everything together, shape the pretzels, and bake them; beginning to end, under an hour.

So which is it? Is it necessary to make the preferment and use lye to make decent pretzels at home? Do you even need to ferment the dough to make passable pretzels, or can you just jam them into the oven?

Find out below.

By the way, the other baking book I was looking at was Breaking Bread with Father Dominic 2. Not a bad little book. I gather that it is out of print, but if you see a cheap used copy at the local bookstore it might be worth picking up.

I didn't follow his recipe exactly, but it provided a nice balance to Hamelman's recipe.

The Experiment

There was no way I was going to try the lye bath at home. Maybe to make world class, authentic German pretzels that is necessary, but for a half dozen pretzels at home? Forget about it.

I decided to try make pretzels with an initial fermentation and without. I also tried boiling them briefly in water, egg washing them, and just baking them dry. If any of those methods could produce something reasonably like the soft pretzels I've had before I'd be happy.

The Recipe

I buy my yeast in a jar so that I can measure out as much or as little as I want (well, that and it is cheaper when you bake as often as I do). If you are using yeast from a packet, you can either use half a packet or double the recipe and use an entire packet (at least the packets they sell in the grocery stores in the US... international bakers will have to do their own conversion).

If you are using instant (AKA Rapid Rise or Bread Machine) yeast, you can just mix the yeast in with the rest of the dry ingredients before adding the warm milk and it'll activate fine. If you are using active dry yeast, mix it into the warm milk along with the malt powder (or brown sugar) and give it 5 to 10 minutes to activate before incorporating it into the dry ingredients.


Makes 6 large pretzels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. I start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it'll form a nice ball that I can knead by hand.

Either use an electric mixer to mix the dough for 5 minutes or remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough begins to get smooth and satiny.

If you are going to ferment the dough (more information on whether this set is necessary below), return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.

If you fermented it, degas the dough gently before moving on to the next step.

Before shaping, start preheating the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.

pretzel logs

After taking this photo, I let them relax again and then gave each a third roll and stretch session before they were as long and thin as I wanted (about 15 inches long and about as big around as my index finger). They'll nearly double in width while baking, so it is ok to roll them out quite thin.

pretzel shaping

Shaping pretzels is simple, once you get a hang of it. Place a rope of dough on the work surface in front of you. Take each end in a hand, loop the dough away from you, and bring the ends back toward your stomach, crossing them about an inch above the rope. Apply a little bit of pressure to make the loops stick together, but not too much because you don't want then to flatten out.

Pretzels don't appear to need to rise again before baking, so you just need to figure out how you want to prep them for the oven. Here are the options I tried:

To boil them: If you want to boil them, bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk each of the pretzels into the boiling water for 5 seconds, then place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt (I use the kosher stuff that is easy to find at the grocery store) or other toppings.

pretzel shaping

I used a pair of spatulas to hold the pretzel in place while holding it under water.

To eggwash them: Simply place them on a baking sheet, brush them gently with an egg that has been whisked, then sprinkle with coarse salt or other toppings.

To bake them (mostly) dry: Sprinkle or spritz them with a little bit of water so that the toppings will stick, then sprinkle with coarse salt or other toppings.

Place the baking sheets into the oven. It took around 15 minutes for my pretzels to get golden and brown. Remove from the oven and eat immediately.


pretzels done

We definitely thought the boiled pretzels (on the left) were better than the pretzels that had just been spritzed with water (on the right). The spritzed ones were dry and had a slightly french bread like crust. Crust like that is good on french bread but not so good on soft pretzels.

I liked the boiled pretzels more than the eggwashed pretzels, my wife preferred the eggwashed pretzels better. The eggwashed ones rose considerably more in the oven than the boiled ones, so they were quite soft and fluffy. The boiled ones were still soft, but they were a little denser and chewier.

Truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference between the batch that I let ferment for an hour and the batch I baked immediately. If I were tasting them side by side with no toppings I probably could detect a slight difference. But at least when I eat soft pretzels they are a medium for other flavors (salt and mustard), either method produces an adequate pretzel.

pretzel alone

And the lye bath? At least for the home baker I can say with confidence that you can skip it.

Defender of the lye bath? Or have any other insight into proper pretzel making? Please comment!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini's Favorite 100% Rye Ratio

I've been playing with rye loaf ratios (starter/water/flour) and I came up with one using any amount of rye starter that when refreshed is a paste (100% hydration) and as it ferments loostens to a thick batter.  I was looking for basic numbers (like 1/2/3) and I found them they're  1/ 3.5/ 4.16.   It makes Rye so much easier!  The starter should be generously refreshed 8-12 hours before and mixed into the dough just before peaking and in a 22°c room (72°F) the dough ferments 7-8 hours before baking.   Dough should not be folded or shaped 4 hours before going into the oven.

Basic Ratio> 1 part starter: 3.5 parts cold water: 4.16 parts rye flour    

4 tablespoons bread spice for 500g flour    Salt 1.8 to 2% of flour weight

Hydration of dough aprox 84%.  Handle dough with wet hands and a wet spatula.  Combine starter and water then the flour, stir well and let rest covered.  Add salt about one hour after mixing and any other ingredients.  If room is warmer add salt earlier.  Three hours into the ferment lightly fold with wet hands and shape into a smooth ball.  Place into a well floured brotform or oiled baking pan.  Cover and let rise.  Don't let it quite Double for it will if conditions are right.  Before placing in the oven, use a wet toothpick and dock the loaf all over to release any large bubbles.  Bake in covered dark dish in cold oven Convection 200°C or 390°F (oven can reach 220°C easy with the fan on.)  Remove cover after 20 to 25 minutes and rotate loaf.  Reduce heat by simply turning off convection and use top & bottom heat at 200°C.   Remove when dough center reaches 93°C or 200° F.

All kinds of combinations are possible including addition of soaked & drained seeds and or cooked berries or moist altus and whole or cracked walnuts or a little spoon of honey.

How it works:  I have 150g rye starter at 100% hydration.  I figure for water: 150 x 3.5 gives the water amount or 525g.  I figure the flour: 150 x 4.16 gives 624 g Rye flour.  For salt:  2% of 700g (624g + aprox. 75g in the starter) makes salt 14g or one level tablespoon of table salt.

This amount of dough took 1 1/2 hours to bake and included moist rye altus.  It was baked in two non-stick cast aluminum sauce pans (20cm diameter) one inverted over the other .  The rounder of the two on the bottom.  No steam other than what was trapped inside.  Top removed after 25 minutes.  It has a beautiful dark crust with a light shine.  Aroma is heavenly.