The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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MBaadsgaard's picture

Mixing water and flour, and not getting lumps

This seems like almost a silly question, but how do you mix flour and water?

Starting a bread with taking water, and then mixing in flour for autolyse, I always end up with lumps of flour that I can't get rid of.

I usually use my hands, but I also tried a whisk, which is really a mess. Also tried the dough machine, but that kneads the dough too much.

So how do you mix the flour in to avoid lumps?

sirrith's picture

Poor oven spring diagnosis?

Hi all, first post here, and I'm looking for help :(

I've been baking for a short while now, and my breads always have the same problem: not much oven spring and no open crumb. 

This is my usual recipe:

375g flour (100g rye, 150g whole wheat/strong whole wheat - 14% protein, 125g French white - 9% protein)

280ml water

1 tsp yeast (instant)

10-12g salt

I mix it in my stand mixer for around 10 minutes on lowest speed, then let it rest 30 mins before turning it out, shaping and proofing until it doubles-ish, then either bake it straightaway or knock it down by folding and re-shaping again. 

Last night I tried a cold-proof in the fridge for ~20 hours straight after kneading, the dough approximately doubled when I took it out, then I knocked it down and shaped it, and let it proof outside the fridge for another 1h30 mins or so.  It was not overproofed, and it didn't rise much during that hour (since I always hear underproofing is better for oven spring, I didn't let it rise any more). 

I always bake in my preheated dutch oven for 20-30 mins covered on maximum heat, then uncover and bake at 230C until done. 

This was the result:

Spiral Rye Boule by noobographer, on Flickr

Not much spring (I often see loaves with double the oven spring, seemingly), and inside the crumb is perfect for a sandwich loaf: no large holes.  But that is not what I want, I'd love to have open crumb, and I can't for the life of me figure out why it is doing this!

The only time I've managed to get proper open crumb in a loaf was when I did a very high hydration ciabatta which involved letting the dough quadruple in size before shaping.  Am I not letting it rise enough?  Is there something wrong with my recipe?  I see plenty of people with similar hydration doughs getting far better crumb than I, not to mention far better oven spring. 

Last night's loaf did have a bit of a problem in the mixer: the dough hook just pushed all the dough to the sides of the bowl and didn't really knead it.  But I figured that the 20-hour proofing would build up enough gluten to overcome that issue (and when I did the finger poke test it was perfect as far as I'm aware, the dent filled back in quickly, but not completely). 

Thanks for helping a novice baker!

Breadbabe's picture

Fresh milled grains - how long are they fresh?

I'm looking for a new discussion on a very old topic here - and maybe I haven't covered all the threads to find the answer, apologies if the answer is floating in the site somewhere. I even asked a similar question a while back, but for a different purpose.

Currently I use all fresh milled grain, mostly wheat. I use it commercially and don't always have the opportunity to mill for immediate use. Its not always possible to freeze or refrigerate the flour. I've read the posts that suggest I need to age the flour if I don't use it in **this** amount of time. But **this** seems to be a relative number. Everything from 90 minutes to a few days. I must admit to accidently aging some milled flour - and didn't experience the grand difference that was promised if I had done it on purpose.

Soooo ..... what data are we drawing from for these conclusions of fresh? Is it experience? Written studies? My experience using milled flour kept at room temp for up to a week is so different than the suggestions of flat, dense, tasteless, etc. I have had NO difference at all. None. My bakery runs through 400lbs of wheat per month so I would have ample opportunity to notice differences.

Then there's the issue of lack of enzymes and nutrients after a few hours/days/whatever- are there studies for this that I can read? I am aware of those sites that promote this idea while it feeds their business model, but even those sites don't produce the kind of proof that I would expect for the claims of nutrient loss.

ok, I'm all ears.


Photogirl's picture

Newbie Help


I received 1/4 cup of sourdough starter.  I was told to feed 4 oz. of water, 4 oz. of white flour on the first and second day.  The starter really doesn't smell like sourdough...not sour at all.  It sort of smells like paint!  What did I do wrong?




Wingnut's picture

3/10/14 Bake

This weeks bake is 16% Organic Sprouted Spelt Sourdough….


Slash and Bake Before...

Slash and Bake After...

Second Batard….

Ear Shot…..

Crumb Shot...

Getting ready for a Fly Fishing trip a few hours north, my eyes are sore from all the tying

I hope I can find the correct pattern…….



ericreed's picture

Sourdough help and Tartine No. 3 Fermented Oat Bread

Ok, I'm new to sourdough breads. So far I've made 4, 2 pure levain and 2 with 0.2% instant yeast added. The latter 2 worked perfectly, of the 2 pure ones, 1 was inedible and didn't rise at all, 1 was ok but a little flat and a little too sour. (The utter failure was Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, the mostly ok one was Ken Forkish's Overnight Country Blonde, and then I made each with the added yeast.)

My starter is now 3 weeks old and reliably doubles in 4-5 hours at 70 F, which from what I understand seems pretty active. 3 days ago I switched it to 60% hydration from 100%, both the failures were at the higher hydration and while it bubbled nicey, I was worried it was too weak to rise and I thought it would be easier to see it rise with a stiffer dough. The 4-5 hour doubling is with the 60% hydration starter.

I feed it twice a day, usually discarding all but 60 g, then adding 38 g KA Bread flour and 22 g water. (Slightly less than 60%, but some more water gets in when I wet my hands to mix the starter, so I figure it about works out.)

On to the Tartine part and the question. I thought I would try the Tartine method since the others weren't working well for me. It's going right now, but not well. I notice that Forkish pre-ferments 12% of his flour in his levain build and uses 16.67% seed starter. His levain goes 7-9 hours at room temp before mixing the final dough. Hamelman ferments 15% of his flour in the levain, uses 20% seed starter in the levain, and ferments for 12-16 hours. Chad Robertson builds his leaven with merely a tablespoon of seed starter to 200 g flour, which works out to about 8% (I worked this out using Forkish's measurements; he says 216 g starter = 13 tablespoons, so about 16.6 grams per tbsp divided by 200 g flour), and Chad ferments only 7.5% of the flour for 4-6 hours at "moderate room temperature". A mere 150 g levain is meant to rise 1000 g flour, and for this bread 500 g cooked oat porridge as well.

Given that I've been having problems with rising using larger amounts of levain and longer fermentations, it seemed unlikely to work for me. But I did the levain and it took 9 hours to pass the float test, so longer than he suggests but it passed. The final dough has now been fermenting for 2 hours and 45 minutes. (3 hrs 30 min if you count the 45 minute autolyse which has the levain in it.) It has not budged at all that I can tell and I see no indication of fermentation, no bubbles, no sourdough type smells.

I've checked the dough temperature each time I do a stretch and fold and it's maintained a temp of 81-82 F. I'm not surprised that it hasn't perceptibly risen yet given the tiny amount of leaven, but clearly other people have success. So, anyone got some insight?

NewbieBaker22's picture

Very sour, expensive sourdough, causes a sensation of vomitting

I don't understand what the purpose of making sourdough is, as it's both more expensive and less "good tasting" as the commercial yeast used. Of course, that may be something other sourdough bakers might not want to hear because in their sourdough making everything turns out the way they want it, so excuse my ignorance as I am (as my name suggests) a newbie or "new" baker.

However, for me it is always the same old thing: I take a part of my sourdough starter (the REAL kind, using wild yeast), I mix in some flour and wait the 12-18 hours, I then quickly knead it and shape it and then store it in my oven for 1-2 hours for it to rise. Before turning on my oven I take out the pan where the dough has been resting for the 1-2 hours and I let my oven warm up on very high (150-200C) for a couple of minutes until hot.

Then I insert my dough (untouched since the rising phase began) on the pan into the oven with a glass of water besides it, to give it that good crust from the steam.

After it's gotten its golden-brown crust, I take it out, let it cool and eat slices with butter.

That's the same routine I've been doing for a while now, and every single time the dough is very very sour (EVEN WHEN I ADD EXTRA FLOUR AFTER THE 12-18 HOURS OF FERMENTATION!). It's almost uneatable, tasting like a wild yoghurt (meaning the sour yoghurt that hasn't been sweetened like commercial yoghurt).

Also, a while after eating it I will get a strong feeling that I need to puke, that can only be gotten rid of by either drinking excessive fluids to calm my stomach down, or by actually puking (I choose the former rather than the latter).


The whole process of making sourdough (REAL sourdough, not the fake Youtube kind everyone mistakenly takes to be the real old kind) is very expensive compared to making a normal dough from commercial yeast. Continually do I have to "throw away" a part of the sourdough (even if I store my starter in the fridge) to make room for new water and flour. Additionally, I have to add excessively much flour continually to be able to work with the dough. Even in cases where the dough has been very moist (because I thought a moist dough would turn out less sour) it's been just as bad, if not worse than when I add a lot of flour.

Also, note, I add the final part of flour ("lots of flour") in the FINAL stages of the bread making, the 1-2 hours before I actually bake the bread. This is because the fermented flour is, with the help of a microorganism, what creates the sour taste (from lactic acid if I read correctly), so adding sufficient flour AFTER the long fermentation should obviously make the dough less sour, yet this is hardly the case for me.

hamletcat's picture

Rise and then fall...

I get this with some of my breads and I am just curious as to why this happens.  It is usually my breads that have other flours added.  I get a beautiful rise, and then if I let it go a bit too long, or sometimes it happens during baking, the bread falls.  I was just wondering why this happens.  

Mr. Paiz's picture
Mr. Paiz

Can I revive a week old levain without feeding it?

Hi guys! I recently started working with my own levain, and I still have a lot of questions.


Last week I fed my levain to make a bread and then I left it over twelve hours at room temperature for it to rise. I then refrigerated it and just now I took it off the fridge. I have a lot of levain and I don't want to feed it because it will make a lot more levain (and since I just bake once per week I don't want to end up with an excess levain).


And if I have to feed it I would feed only half of it, to have the same amount of levain I have now. So can I do something with the levain I would have to throw away if I eventually feed half of it? I don't want it to go to waste.



tchism's picture

Yesterday's Bake

Baked two loaves yesterday one made with harvest grains from KA and one using a mix of fresh starter and cold unrefreshed starter. Both are 100% starters but I mixed the two to see what it would do the the flavor profile.

Here is how the two loaves looked after the first forming.

This is the harvest grain loaf just out of the oven.

The crumb about an hour later.

The second loaf just out of the oven right out of the oven.


The harvest grain loaf has a great flavor and texture.

The second loaf we are having with a pasta dinner tonight.