The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Kelly1960's picture

Sourdough starter: what do the numbers mean?

It started with Michael Pollan's book "Cooked".  The concept that any old Tom, Dick, or Harry (or in this case Kelly) could create a sourdough starter which would then birth a loaf of bread was intriguing.  Somehow I ended up reading blogs about Chad Robertson's Tartine bread, the wild yeast, and numerous others.  And I'm confused.  On feeding times (I'm feeding mine every 12 hours).  Feeding proportions (I've been doing everything in grams, but now am doing a simple four ounces of warm spring water, two ounces whole wheat, two ounces unableached AP, four ounces old starter).  And, last but not least, what the heck do the numbers in everyone else's posts mean?  The 1:1:1, or 1:2:2, or 1:3:3, so on and so on.  I have no clue and am terrified there is some type of secret formula I've missed out on that will make or break my bread.  Ive baked twice with my starter, first the Pollan whole wheat loaf, then the Tartine country bread, and both times was afraid to trust my starter.  It passed the float test, but didn't seem to be an enthusiastic floater, so I added a bit of yeast, and felt guilty.  If someone can tell me what all of those numbers mean, I will feel the DaVinci code has been unlocked for me, and can cook with a bit more confidence.



yozzause's picture

ross's sourdough given a run

Following on from the visit by Ross and Janice to Challenger Institute for an evening "Introduction to Sourdough" i had asked Ross to bring me a sample of his sour dough culture  so that i might give it a run.

The dough was a 5O% Wholemeal dough that i mixed and allowed a bulk ferment in the cool room overnight and took around 24 hours after mixing,  No stretch and folds  were administered any way it felt good to  quite good to handle although a little sticky but a bit of semolina and flour took care of those problems.

i decided to make 12 baguette shapes and a couple of loaves these were quickly handled and put on couches for another night in the cool room. i came into work early the next morning to put the dough through before my normal start time of 7.45 am. So shortly before 6.00 am the ovens were fired up the dough pieces brought from the cool room  and in the time it took to make a coffeee and the cornflour wash for the dough pieces the oven had reached 220, i chose that temp because as the water is injected the temp drops  about 20 degrees.

i have a long piece of thin ply that i use to peel the dough pieces off the couch and onto the trays, the  3 trays were then washed and seeded and then slashed and into the oven. the other two loaves were then similarly treated and into the oven . the water/steam injection is kept on until the loaves have set and the first signs of any colour appearing the temp  was set to 200 for the rest of the bake. i even used the exhaust facility on these ovens to try to get a really crisp crust and it does seem to have done the job

on the couches on the boards out of the cool room


All in all  quite pleased with the sample there Ross It made some good bread and i will probably use it again soon, my one tomorrow though!

kindest regards yozza 

CeciC's picture

IS Benetton necessary?

I have been trying to shape a Boule for many times, but it come out quite flat. I have tried to left it on the counter, in mixing bowl, in dining bowl and so forth, but neither of them will have to maintain its shape. 

I did the second proof without rice flour, replaced it with a bowl lined with greased parchment paper. When I remove the dough it started to spread out. It gives me a far a bit of oven spring but still it not like a soccer ball shape. 

Photos will be uploaded later tonight, as its still cooling down. 

wassisname's picture

Pears and Barley

I guess I should begin with a disclaimer:  I’m not usually one to put chunks of fresh fruit in my breads.  Nuts, seeds, grains, even a bit of dried fruit, sure.  But something about having all those mushy bits in the bread has made me wary of the whole concept.  Plus, the sandwich possibilities can be limited.

Of course, where there is a rule there is an exception, and this is it.  The credit goes to Hanne Risgaard’s Home Baked, which includes a very tempting pear sourdough bread.  That by itself would be little temptation if not for the pear tree in my yard.  Even with the birds claiming their share I still come away with more than enough to do some experimenting. 

And so an annual bake has been born.  Last year I stuck pretty close to the recipe in the book and baked some very tasty loaves.  This year I changed almost everything and got some more very tasty loaves!  Maybe there is something to this bread-with-fruit-in-it after all…
















And so an annual bake has been born.  Last year I stuck pretty close to the recipe and baked some very tasty loaves.  This year I changed almost everything and got some more very tasty loaves!  Maybe there is something to this bread-with-fruit-in-it after all…

The original recipe features spelt, toasted semolina, and yogurt.  I kept the semolina, ditched the yogurt and spelt, and added whole barley flour and type 85 flour.  The barley flour was a craving borne of some barley flour cookies I’d had recently, and the type 85 is just what I had on hand.  Whole wheat flour would work in place of the type 85, though I might reduce the percentage to avoid adding too much of a bitter note.

For more on baking with barley check out blog posts by mebake, hanseata and sam.  Barley has its limits in bread baking and without some background info from fellow TFLers I could have found myself in trouble!  (I’m sure there are other posts but these were the first few that popped up.)

As for the result, no complaints!  The crumb is close but very soft.  The mild, slightly sweet flavor of the barley comes through and compliments the pears very nicely.  I added to the toasted semolina flavor by using it on the bottom of the loaf when loading into the oven (otherwise, I just use regular flour) and that comes through as well.  This bread doesn’t keep particularly well – moisture from the pears is my guess – so it is best enjoyed fresh.  I’m sure there a more, and probably better, ways to put this loaf together, so any suggestions are welcome! 


Meanwhile, up at the office we were enjoying the first day of... fall? 

I always love it when Old Man Winter throws out a quick teaser of snow in September!




Allenph's picture

Leathery crust, and rubbery crumb.

I know these are tow things most of you probably consider abominable. But, with my recent escapade into the world of artisan French bread, I have found much to be desired. A huge amount of work, and time, with preferments, folding, raising, kneading and the like, all to end up with a hard crust, and a slightly dry crumb. At this point, I'm willing to temporarily abandon the practice of using only the four ingredients, and opting for some more...diversity. 

If any of you have ever bought "French bread" from the supermarket, you know what I'm talking about. This leathery crust, and a rubbery crumb that you want to pull out with your hands and roll into a ball. While it's probably not the most...aristocratically oriented, I for one prefer it to what I've been baking. 

I'm looking for a recipe to produce a similar product. Probably laden with eggs, and various other fats, in addition to a relatively large mountain of sugar. 

Thank you my friends, as always, for any help given. 

Djehuty's picture

Sudden Starter Death?


It has been a while since I've done any serious baking, and a couple of years since I've experimented with wild yeast breads.  I decided to give it another go, and to try a firm starter this time, using the method described in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day.  I thought I had succeeded.  My seed culture showed good activity, and when I built the mother starter it rose well.  I then put it in the refrigerator.

Now, three days later, I'm trying to make the San Francisco Sourdough recipe from the same book.  Last night I made the starter, to the book's directions, from two ounces of the mother starter in the fridge.  It seemed to rise well enough.  I made the dough, let it sit out for a couple of hours, saw what I thought were the beginnings of a rise, then put it in the fridge overnight (all according to directions).

Today... nothing.  I took the dough out, let it warm up, divided it, shaped it, and waited.  And waited.  And I am still waiting.  It's even in a warm oven, in case the cool day is at fault for the slow rise.  But absolutely nothing is happening, except perhaps that the round things that I wanted to become rolls have become more splat-like over time.

What might I have done wrong?  I was hoping to provide the family with fresh sourdough hamburger buns, but it seems all I've done is to make some very unappetizing pancakes and a banneton full of something best not mentioned.


apierro's picture

NJ/NYC deli style rolls


I have spent my life in NJ/NYC and now am working at a restaurant in VT...we need to figure out how to make those hard rolls you can get with butter at QuickChek...WaWa...A& know the ones? They cost about 50 cents and are so light on the inside and a thin, but crusty outside (not like a traditional german hardroll). They can also be similar to a portugese roll found in the same supermarkets.


Can anyone help? I've baked Kaiser roll after Kaiser roll...tried baking bun dough....tried simple white bread in bun form...nothing is working! I've tried trays of water and high temps to steam out the oven...i just cant do it!

THanks everyone!



clazar123's picture

Interesting experience-what is good bread?

Every year I attend a Soup and Bread luncheon given at a local church. There is an accompanying bake and produce sale and all proceeds go to support programs. It is in a lovely setting in a 19th century chirch in the county. All the soups,breads and baked goods are homemade by church members-no mixes allowed. Some of these ladies have been baking bread for decades and there was a wide variety available-Grandma's Oatmeal, Honey Wheat, Rye, African Coriander, White, French, Beer, and biscuits.  2 cups of soup-2 slices of bread-drink (Rhubarb tea-was my fav) -all for $5. Truly enjoyable.

So what is the interesting part? All the different flavored breads tasted similar. The breads I sampled had good texture and seemed to be properly proofed and baked but most of them lacked much in the way of flavor, all had about the same texture and all were sweet-even the rye. This was good bread in everyone's eyes and the wonderment was in the successful making of a homemade loaf and appreciation of the effort. I think it was a great illustration of the variety of expectation of what a good bread actually is. I am saying this with full appreciation of the fact that everyone has different opinions and I hope I never become a bread snob.

Which brings me to the question:  What is bread to you? 

Since this is an international forum, I really hope to hear what bread is in your part of the world. Since we have all level of skills here-novice to pro- I hope we hear differences as a result of that, as well as differences from different ages.   

SO is your bread flat-round-salty-no salt-sweet-fermented-no leavening-spiced-baked-steamed-boiled, etc,etc,etc. There are so many.

What grain/starch is you bread made with? Is your bread always made with wheat? How is it served? Butter? Covered in liquid (like Idlys in Indian cookery?) Served with every meal? By itself?  

What tradition is especially memorable or important to you in regards to bread?

I bet we can hear some interesting stories. Attach links and images, if it is helpful.

So what is bread?

Skibum's picture

You realize you have become a baker when . . .

. . . I looked on my counter just now and had 5 different SD ome baked goods on the counter:  pulla, cinnimon buns, double fed sweet levain bread, walnut levain bread and the recent challenge seeded loaf.  Whew!!!  Oh yes, in the fridge, I have left over Forkish style pizza . . .

I guess somewhere along the line, I v=became a happy baker!

Thanks Fresh Loaf!  Brian

reden's picture

wet loaf

I have been following Ken Forkish's recipes and I get loaves that look good with nice color and crust but the crumb is moist and the bread only feels right when toasted.  They are baked to 205F.  Help, please.