The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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TastefulLee's picture

Need a Child's Guide to Sourdough Starter Development and Use

Hi, all. I’m having such a great time learning and reading on this website. As a very new baker of things containing yeast, there is certainly much to learn and I’m grateful to all who have contributed in expanding the knowledge of others.

I’m currently working on my first juice/whole grain sourdough starter, and I’ve read much about the development and maintenance of one, so I think I’m off to a good start - HOWEVER - there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’m running into trouble when people are discussing things like ratios, and also how to bulk up a starter for use in a recipe. I’m also having difficulty with percentages, such as 100% hydration, for example--what does that mean, and how do you formulate a recipe based on that type of expression?

I know there is much information here, but does anyone know of a post that already exists that specifically and clearly explains these and other information about sourdough starter development and use, from the ground up for those of us who are brandy-new and terrible at mathematics? I think that despite my inexperience and deficiency with numbers, I could manage if I could grasp the concepts I could begin to figure it out. Unfortunately I’m finding that I need things explained to me as though I was in kindergarten. L

Thanks in advance for any information or referrals. Have a GREAT weekend! J

JoeVa's picture

Cottura Pizza nel Forno a Legna

Baking Wood Fired Oven Pizza.

Ecco un breve video delle mie pizzate. Buona visione!

Here a short video of my pizza baking in the wood fired oven. Have fun!

brendateese's picture

the sourdough starter-batter-breadmaking cycle

A couple of weeks ago I posted a problem I was having keeping my ADY starter going and received truly excellent and helpful advice.  I've now developed my "friends of Carl" sourdough starter and having no problems at all with it.

I'm a very smalltime home baker.  All I want is to be able to knock out a very good loaf two or three times a week for my very small family, and I want to do that without overly much thought or fuss, getting into a reliable routine and not even consulting a recipe.  I have other things to cook, and other interests than cooking.   This is the technique I developed for myself after consulting with TFL community sourdough experts.  It satisfies my small needs, and seems to be a foolproof method of keeping the starter in good shape for the next baking day.  It's one of those "just in time" delivery systems where you don't keep a lot of inventory on hand.

So I have a big mason jar in the refrigerator with anywhere from 1.75 to 2.5 cups of sourdough starter.  The mason jar never leaves the refrigerator except to be stirred and/or replenished. 

The evening before baking I remove almost all of the starter into a big mixing bowl.  I leave only 1/2 cup in the mason jar.

I add 1 cup water and 1 cup bread flour to the mixing bowl along with the starter, mix that and leave covered overnight on the counter.  That is "the sourdough batter".  It is very active by the next morning. 

I gently stir that, just to disperse the yeast, then return 1/2 cup of batter to the mason jar, mixed with 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of AP.  

So this is how I refresh the starter now, using a fresh infusion of active wild yeast plus some flour for it it be feeding on whilst in the refrigerator between baking days.  This is backwards from that part of the advice given to me by TFL experts, but so far it is working very well and goes along with my admittedly rather cavalier attitude towards the sourdough process  --  if it can't be simple I know I'm not going to persevere with it.

For the breadbaking itself with the remaining batter  --  it couldn't be simpler.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup bread flour, 1 cup wholewheat flour, 2 tsp. salt.  Start mixing this into the batter gradually, starting off with a fork and then switching to a stiff latex spatula to fold in as much flour as what you want.  I make only two kinds of bread, a sandwich loaf and a focaccia.  For the loaf I mix in more flour than for the focaccia.

I have learned so much from reading TFL.  Thanks to the teaching here I now know how to manage the sticky high hydration doughs, and I couldn't be more pleased with my new bread. 

Someone asked me on the last thread I posted if there was any difference in taste between an ADY starter and a proper sourdough starter.  The answer is no.  The "yeasted" bread tasted as good as if not better than the sourdough.   I'll run and duck for cover now :>)

 many thanks to TFL community for being here


ClimbAway's picture

Help for the Crumb of My WW Loaf

Hello bakers,

After the (mis)adventures in learning to bake 100% whole wheat sandwich breads (see, I have settled into making very tasty, soft, well-rising loaves.  Overall, learning to bake this recipe has been a great experience.  I'm trying to convince myself to branch out and try sourdough, but I like this recipe that much.  Maybe sometime in the future I'll try something new.

But I'm still not satisfied with the structure/ crumb of my loaves.  When I slice the bread, it makes a ridiculous number of teeny tiny bread crumbs.  It's just...  flakey.  And the slices aren't very sturdy.  The bread is incredibly tender, especially when it first comes out of the oven, but after it cools it feels quite fragile.  It makes AMAZING toast, though.  I consistently get a texture like this out of probably 9 out of 10 loaves.  It's fine if we want slices of bread to accompany a meal, but for sandwiches or buttering the bread, the slices just fall apart too easily.  In short, I guess I'm looking for a little more strength within the crumb.

Is the problem gluten development?  I'm using KA 100% WW flour, no added gluten.  Should I try adding a few tsp of gluten?

This is hard to explain, and I don't think photos would illustrate it well.  I hope someone understands what I'm trying to describe and has run into this phenomenon before.

Thanks for your input!

Dwayne's picture

Slovenian Potica Rolls (Nut Rolls)

A while back I saw a picture in a Christmas catalog of a very cool looking pastry/coffee cake and I asked here on TFL How did they do this?  I got the help that I was looking for from this great community.  

I've been experimenting with Cinnamon Rolls now for a while.  I am using the term Cinnamon Rolls very loosely here, I guess that a better term would be "Stuff rolled up in dough", however that just does not sound as good.

So basically what I did was to take my Cinnamon Roll Dough recipe and made it into Nut Rolls using the Potica filling.  I used JoeV's recipe for the filling (see link above).  You might want to follow JoeV's Dough recipe as well, this makes a lot so you may want to make a half batch.

I've now made this twice, once with Almonds and once with Walnuts (Pecans will be my next test and then maybe Hazel Nuts).

So I made my dough as I always do and rolled it out very thin.  I put the Potica filling on top.  I began rolling up the dough (stretching it even thinner as I roll).  I got a big surprise here.  The Potica filling was wet where as my Cinnamon Roll filling is dry and things were behaving a lot differently.  It was a bit harder working with the dough and rolling it up.  When I got all done it felt like I had a tube sock full of mush.

I was stuck with the challenge of trying to slice the rolls and to place them in the pan.  I made the cuts quickly and then using the knife blade as a spatula picked up the roll and placed it on the pan.  I usually like to make my rows all nice and straight but there was no way that I could do that.  I was just happy to be able to scoop them up and place them as best as I could in the pan.

I let them raise in the pan for a while and then baked them the way I usually do for Cinnamon Rolls.  Again another surprise, they took longer to bake because of the wet filling.  (I know, I'm a slow learner)  I left them in until they looked done.


I let them cool for 10 minutes and made a Powered Sugar/Milk frosting.  I put this in a zip lock baggie and trimmed off a corner and then just went back and forth over the rolls squeezing out the frosting.

The last surprise was the way that they tasted.  They were a lot lighter and moister than my Cinnamon Rolls.  The nut filling gave the rolls a great flavor.  Beware: these are very rich.

What I will do differently next time:
1. Hold back the milk from the filling and make it less wet.  I want to be able shape these like I do my Cinnamon rolls.
2. Bake a bit longer.
3. Make a smaller batch or I won't get any smaller.


Happy Baking, Dwayne

Gary Lam's picture
Gary Lam

Does anyone have a good low-fat cornbread recipe?

Does anyone have a good low-fat cornbread recipe they would be willing to share?  Thanks,

Gary Lam

Molokai Hawaii


ngabriel's picture

Has anyone made a SOFT 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich bread????

Hello all, seems like I have tried forever to find a whole wheat sandwich bread recipe that is SOFT, and like the sandwich bread we are used to.  Yes, I know all the benefits of crusty bread, and people love it, and all the rest..  but I am looking for a SOFT 100% wheat sandwich bread recipe that someone has had some success using for some time.  Please, if there is one out there, please let me know! 




dmsnyder's picture

Larraburu two - variations on a classic San Francisco Sourdough

A couple days ago, I blogged on my bake of a San Francisco sourdough bread based on Larraburu Bros. recipe as described in the 1978 Cereal Chemistry article by Galal, et al., as cited by Doc.Dough. (See San Francisco Sourdough Bread using Larraburu Bros. formula.) It was a delicious bread, but it lacked the sourdough tang usually associated with San Francisco sourdough. This blob describes some modifications of the recipe. I hoped to retain the good qualities of this bread while increasing the sourness somewhat.

In summary, the modifications were:

  1. Substitute some whole rye flour for some of the high-gluten flour in the sponge.

  2. Ferment the sponge at a lower (room) temperature for a longer time.

  3. Substitute some whole wheat flour for some of the AP flour in the final dough.

  4. Compare breads baked with and without an overnight cold retardation of the shaped loaves.

For three 667 g loaves:

Sponge (Stiff Levain)

Baker's %

Wt (g)

High-gluten flour



Whole rye flour






Stiff starter






Mix thoroughly and ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.

Final dough

Baker's %

Wt (g)

AP flour



WW flour









Sponge (stiff levain)







Procedure (Note: I actually mixed the dough in a Bosch Universal Plus, using the dough hook. I have left the instructions as if I had used a KitchenAid mixer. This amount of stiff dough would have challenged my KitchenAid. Also, I retarded one of the 3 loaves I made overnight in the refrigerator.)

  1. Mix the flours and water in a stand mixer with the paddle for 1-2 minutes at Speed 1.

  2. Cover the mixer bowl tightly and autolyse for 20-60 minutes. (I autolysed for 60 minutes.)

  3. Sprinkle the salt on the dough and add the sponge in chunks.

  4. Mix for 1-2 minutes with the paddle at Speed 1, then switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes at Speed 2. Adjust the dough consistency by adding small amounts of water or flour, if needed. (I did not add either.) The dough should be tacky but not sticky. It should clean both the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.

  5. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly.

  6. Ferment at 105º F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a humid environment. Stretch and fold once at 1 1/4 hours.

  7. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.

  8. Pre-shape the pieces round and cover with a towel or plasti-crap.

  9. Let the dough relax for 15-20 minutes.

  10. Shape as a boule or bâtard.

  11. Proof at 105º F in a floured banneton or en couche, covered, until the dough slowly fills a hole poked in it with a finger. (This was in 30 minutes, for me!)

  12. About 45 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480º F with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  13. Transfer the loaf to a peel and score it as desired.

  14. Transfer the loaf to the baking stone. Turn down the oven to 450º F.

  15. Bake with steam for 15 minutes. Remove your steaming apparatus, and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes until the crust is nicely colored and the internal temperature is at least 205º F.

  16. Turn off the oven, but leave the loaf on the baking stone with the oven door ajar for another 10-15 minutes.

  17. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack, and cool completely (at least 2 hours) before slicing.

This bread came out very dark for reasons that are not clear to me. Again, the “poke test” failed me. The loaves seemed ready to bake after 30 minutes in the proofer, but their oven spring and bloom seemed to indicate under-proofing. The crust was nice and crisp. The flavor was different from the first bake, partly because of the rye and whole wheat flours, but it was also very slightly sour – more so the day after baking. I would still categorize it as “very slightly sour.”

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula 

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula crust

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula Crumb

I cold retarded one loaf from this batch for about 24 hours en couche, inside a plastic bag. Because of the apparent under-proofing problem described above, it then was warmed up at room temperature for about 90 minutes and proofed at 105º F for another 75 minutes. The smooth surface of the loaf which had been face down on the couche was significantly dried out. The couche had absorbed a lot of its moisture.

Because of my experience with the previous bake, described above, I baked this loaf at 440º F for a total of 30 minutes, leaving it in the turned off oven with the door ajar for 20 minutes. The oven spring and bloom were moderated by these changes. The color was pretty much perfect, to my taste.

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula and procedure

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula and procedure: Crumb

The aroma of the sliced bread was whole-wheaty and ... slightly sour. The crust was crunchy and the flavor of the crumb was decidedly sour ... very sour. It was a very different bread from the ones that had 1) not been cold retarded and 2) had been proofed for a very much shorter time at a warmer temperature.

I'm a very happy sourdough baker!

The next step will be to return to the original formula but use the present modified procedure.


Submittted to YeastSpotting


metropical's picture

"fixing" a starter gone chessy

My starter is of local organic small white grapes and bread flour. It's a couple years old.

In the last month or so, it has gone a bit "cheesy" and is slow to "activate".

Normally I feed with bread flour and hot water 1/.75 or so.  Then I put in the oven with the light on and it would usuually activate in an hour or so.

Took 8 hours to activate this time, and it wasn't like it has been.

Can this be fixed with some rye flour for a couple feeds and/or some OJ or cider?


The resultant bread is OK, but it lacks the rise of it's former self.

Now barly a half inch over the edge of the pan, when it was 1 to 1/12 inches over the top.

breadforfun's picture

To steam or not to steam...

That is not the question.  But how to steam?  Ah, there's the rub (with apologies to the Bard).

As many  a home baker, I have struggled with getting enough steam into the oven during the initial bake period.  There are many suggestions on the topic in these TFL pages, and I think I have tried them all.  I've used lava rocks, pouring water into a hot pan, soaking towels, ice cubes, etc.  This past weekend I made two batches of Tartine bread recipe, one of which I used the lava rock method of steaming and the other I used the book's recommended method of a dutch oven.  It is pretty clear which worked better (steamwise).  The boule has much more bloom and grigne, though not as much as I have seen by other posters here.  The oval loaf is much more subdued (although not without its own charm).

The crumb of this bread is exquisite.

What steaming methods work for you?