The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Janetcook's picture

Intervals between Stretch and Folds

Hope someone can enlighten me here because I haven't been able to figure this one out on my own yet...

When I first used the S&F technique it was with a recipe from The Handmade Loaf.  (He uses the knead in the bowl method.)  For his Basic Leaven Loaf and his Barley Rye Loaf the S&F are timed at 10 min. intervals for the first 3.  Then it goes to 30 minutes and after a couple of those it jumps to an hour.  

I have been baking more of the loaves I have found on this site that also use S&F's.  All seem to have some variation similar to his.

I have surmised that most have a 2-3 hour bulk fermentation time that is broken up with S&Fs before they are either shaped into loaves and then proofed or put into the refrigerator for a longer fermentation time.

Via observation I have concluded that a dough is ready to be S&Fed when it has relaxed somewhat from the previous S&F session.

I am wanting to WATCH MY DOUGH rather that the clock so I would like to know if there is any significance in letting a particular dough go longer before a S&F.

Hence, my question of why is there such a variance amongst certain recipes????

Only real conclusion I have come to on my own is that each person simply has adjusted their S&F schedules to what works best for them based on time and temperature and life schedule (Life schedule = what someone does when not baking bread LOL)

Thanks for any insights!

ph_kosel's picture

A tale of two sourdoughs

I made a loaf of SF Sourdough for an Easter brunch, following Peter Reinhart's recipe in his book Artisan Bread Every Day.  In the past I've had extremely good luck with Reinhart's SF  Sourdough recipe in his other book Crust and Crumb but my supply of "mother starter" was a bit low and the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day only calls for two ounces while the one in Crust and Crumb asks for .  Besides, I've been wanting to try the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day anyway.

I mixed up the intermediate"wild yeast starter" Friday, the dough Saturday, and baked the loaf Sunday morning (keeping the starter and dough each overnight in the fridge between times). When I mixed up the dough it seemed too wet (perhaps I messed up the weights, I was working under pressure); the recipe says adjust consistency as needed so I added more flour until it seemed about right.  I fridged the dough up in a stainless bowl with a tight plastic lid.  I was a bit worried it might rise too much and pop the lid off but fridge space was limited.  In the morning the lid was, indeed, bulging a bit but it hadn't popped off.

I chose to just use all the dough to make a single big "miche" loaf because I didn't want to risk degassing the dough too much by dividing it.  It was probably the biggest loaf I've ever baked.

Here are photos of the result:



The loaf looks pretty good, and my wife and our guests seemed to like it quite a bit, but I found the taste and texture less satisfactory, less "yummy", than loaves I baked back in January using the recipe from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.


Here's a photo from back in January:

Loaves and crumb from January 2011^

The more varied and irregular holes in the crumb of the January loaves is fairly obvious.  Not visible is a difference in taste and mouth-feel.  The January loaves as I recall were a bit moister, more tender perhaps, and had better taste.

I'm a bit bemused by the difference and curious about the cause.  The recipes are very similar, and the "mother culture" is the same.  One thing different is that in January I used King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour while in the current loaf I used a less expensive generic unbleached bread flour I got at the local Food Maxx market - both have the same labeled protein content.  The loaves in January included a bit of brown sugar in the dough per the Crust and Crumb recipe while the current loaf did not.  The January loaves were made exactly by weight according to the recipe while the latest included additional flour which I "eyeballed".  I'm not sure but I think there was a tad more salt in the January loaves.  Finally, the January loaves were retarded overnight "uncontrained" under plastic wrap while the current dough was retarded in a bowl with a tight fitting lid which restrained it's expansion.

Anyway, the two sourdough bakes tasted quite different to me, although others say they found the current effort highly satisfactory.  Go figure!

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Ciabatta Quest, Week 1: Double-Double Trouble

Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.

For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.

A modest goal, I hope.  We'll see how it goes!

I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas.  If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it.  If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one.  Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.

Let the adventure begin!  For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta.  Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense).  I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc.  In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].



  • 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)

  • 380g water (76%)

  • 15g Olive Oil (3%)

  • 10g Salt (2%)

  • .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon,  .14%)


  • 190g Flour

  • 190g Water

  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour, divided

  • 190g water, divided

  • 15g Olive Oil

  • 1/8 tsp inseant yeast

  • 10g salt


  1. The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours

  2. On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.  

  3. Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.

  4. Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast.  Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.

  5. Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.

  6. Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3 [2] and mix 10 minutes.

  7. With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more.  Mix a total of 10 more minutes.

  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours

  9. [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]

  10. Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.

  11. Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]

  12. An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees

  13. Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment. 

  14. Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven.  Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.

  15. Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

And the results:




Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor.  Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.

I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc.  Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping).  But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.

Food for thought (and for dinner!).

Happy baking everyone,


RonRay's picture

Levain as Desert [redo]

Originally, this was a comment in the thread:Levain as Desert

However, I now find that I cannot find such "comments" very easily, and I just spent a too much time finding this, and another "comment", both of which should have been done as a blog, if for no other reason than to be able to reference them, when needed.

=== The original follows with no chages for the previous  entry. ===110423

On a daily basis, I have my levain discard as a Desert, and love it. As for how I made it originally, that is well explained in the Banana Saga: Link

But, since then I have discovered it is very simple to make, and maintain, Banana Levain - assuming that you have a Cuisinart SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender, and if you do not then any blender could serve, but it will mean a bit more mess and work for you to do so.
Let us start from scratch: buy at lease 5 or 6 bananas. The best ones are those you would choose to eat, the poorest are those you would put in a banana quick bread. Take a one quart plastic  round container that has a lid, and then peel and slice the bananas crosswise, making round pieces, about 3 to 4 mm thick slices. Place the slices in the container, place the lid on it, and put the container with its sliced contents in the freezer or ice compartment until frozen solid - I do it for 24 hours. Next, remove the container from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw, where they can remain until you want them. I usually let them have a couple of days, or longer to thaw slowly. They can remain thus for an extended period until you need to use them for refreshing an existing levain, or creating a new one. Freezing them does nothing to the flavor, but it weakens, or destroys most of the cell walls and fibrous parts of the banana. When I need a fresh batch to use for refreshing the levain, I first need to puree the once frozen slices. I use the Cuisinart SmartStick to puree the thawed banana slices directly in their plastic container in less than a minutes.

That puree is a great treat all by itself. If the bananas were still frozen, it makes an ice cream of pure banana, as well. Of course, I prefer it as a levain with a snappy bite to it.

To start a pure banana levain, simply take a small amount - I use 25g - of the puree and add a 1/4 tsp of ANY yeast water, or liquid sourdough starter. I have a yogurt maker that came with 7, 5oz. glasses with individual plastic caps. I use one of these, and blend the "seed" into the puree using a small battery powered hand whisk.

The powered whisk came with two tips - a normal whisk and a small tip called a drink foam-maker, or "foamer". The end of the foam-maker came with a spring coiled on its loop. The spring can be removed. If left in place it catches small fibrous parts and can be a pain to clean. I prefer it without the coiled spring.

I use this battery powered hand mixer to blend the seed with the puree banana refresh for the levain to get a more uniform rise from the levain.

Once a smooth mix is obtained, I smack the bottom of the glass once or twice to more or less level the surface. Then I add a rubber band as a visual indicator of the starting level of the levain. Then snap the lid on the glass.

From time to time I check back to see the growth progress.

I was using 5g seed and 25g refreshment, but the banana levain can become feisty, and on one occasion, it rose over 5 fold and blew the lid off - ejecting banana levain in a mild mess. So, after that, I have limited the total amount to 25g (5g seed and 20g refreshment).

Currently, with an ambient temperature around 70ºF/21ºC, I find it has tripled (or better) overnight, and once again before I am ready to retire. So, when I check and find the glass rather full, I remove the cap and place a clean glass on the digital scale. Then I transfer a 5g seed from the finish batch into the new start of the next feeding.

Of course, once the 5g seed has been "planted" for the next cycle, the remaining 20g is now discarded into my oral compactor. (+^_^+).

And thus, I have come full cycle. I go to the fridge and get the container of banana puree and feed 20g of the puree as the refresh to the levain and another snack starts to grow.


jcking's picture

Altamura Tantrum Loaf

Pane del capriccio; from Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" Made with Durum Flour. Using the Sterile Sourdough X Starter.



It is possible to sterilize flour and water to create a useable starter and bake a loaf. Tasty with a mild sour taste.





SylviaH's picture

Buttermilk Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

Buttermilk Hot Cross Buns        


If you would like the recipe I used it is referred to on my blog HERE.   I add extra homemade candied orange and lemon peel.  I also use golden raisins a little extra spice of nutmeg and cinnamon.  I like to up the hydration too, by adding a little extra buttermilk.  I glazed the buns with beaten egg yolk with about a TBspoon of milk.  I also towel steamed my buns for the first 12 minutes.  I made a Royal Icing for the baked on crosses, I've tried them before and I don't care for the flavor or texture of the baked crosses, IMHO, the baked on crosses are for the benefit of commercial baking and selling of the HCB, so the crosses don't melt or disfigure...IMHO!  I think the added little sweetness of the lemon flavored icing crosses goes great with the buns.



                                        These are very large buns.  





                                                   Very tender crumb, pulled apart still warm.



                                             These were frosted still a little warm....the Lemon Royal Icing will harden nicely and not melt away on the buns when covered for

                                    later eating.








steelchef's picture

Has anyone used or considered wine/beer yeast as a sourdough starter?


I used to make wine in the basement and had great success with natural sourdough starter. It has been six years since moving the wine making to a U-Brew. Now I can't get a natural starter happening.

So, has anyone used a wine or beer yeast to start a poolish?  Any info would be appreciated. I intend to give it a try regardless.


Elagins's picture

Wood-Fired Bagels

I just finished up a really interesting consulting engagement, helping the owner of a new bagel café in Brooklyn perfect their Montreal-style wood-fired bagels. All in all, it was a great experience that I thought I'd share with the TFL community.

First some background: The café, which is located at a great retail intersection in downtown Brooklyn, is in the process of construction and won't open for another month or so. Its centerpiece is a floor-to-ceiling wood-fired oven that the owners had built by folks who specialize in commercial WBOs. The working hearth is 5 feet wide by 6 feet deep, and the fire-bed is about 1½ feet wide and runs along the left side for the full depth of the hearth.

They knew nothing about either bagels or WBOs when I came to work on Tuesday morning. They'd had a partner who apparently knew something about baking, but for some reason left before the café was up and running, so it was my job to bring them up to speed.

To say that first day was challenging is an understatement. Because the café was still under construction, we only had electricity from one outlet. There was no hot water, no gas, no stove, no refrigeration. The ingredients they'd bought were completely wrong - AP flour when they should have had high-gluten, no yeast, no malt, no sugar and five gallons of vegetable oil (a good thing).

Worst of all, that beautiful beast of a used 140-quart Hobart floor mixer they'd bought had the wrong beater: because bagel dough is so stiff, that flat beater would have burned the motor out in no time. During the three days I was there, the owner did manage to order a dough hook and call a mechanic to give it a thorough check-up. Fortunately, they had a brand-new 20-quart mixer that turned out to be a great workhorse for the next few days of practice.

The crew was equally challenged. Their kitchen manager was mainly a cook, with some baking experience and no bagel experience, and their assistant was a 19-year-old kid who'd had some restaurant experience but no baking or cooking background. Fortunately, he turned out to be extraordinarly smart, hard-working and a fast learner, so that by the end of my three days there, he really understood the oven and could make some pretty passable bagels.

Now, the challenge of Montreal bagels is that they have very little bulk ferment time and virtually no proofing time, so the idea is to develop the gluten and strike a balance between the amount of yeast, sugar and malt in the dough so that there would be enough fermentation to develop a crumb, but not so much yeast that you could taste it.

As I said, the ingredients were all wrong, so our first order of business was to go out on a shopping trip to a local wholesale grocery outlet. The good news was that the store carried All Trumps; the bad news was that all the flour they sold was bleached and bromated: not a bag of unbleached to be had anywhere. Okay, suck it up and remember that this was only for practice. Once they're up and running, unbleached All Trumps is what it's going to be. The yeast was a nightmare: no fresh, no instant, only 2-pound bags of Red Star Active Dry. I hate active dry yeast, but again, our choices were limited. Malt, either dry or liquid? Forget it. At least they carried honey and sugar. And oh, yes, a hot plate so that we could set up a 5-gallon stock pot as a boiler (that lovely 35-gallon 200,000 BTU commercial boiler wasn't set up either).

Back to the café to get things started. The oven had been lit the night before and was chugging along at about 570 in the rear corner closest to the heat, tapering off to 450 at the far end of the hearth. The hearth itself was lovely: tightly jointed blocks of cordierite 2" thick by 18" square. Whoever built that oven knew what he was doing.

Our first mix was a challenge, but it was small, since (a) the 20-quart really can't handle more than about 10 lbs of flour at a time and (b) we were mixing just enough so I could show them how to hand-roll bagels. Needless to say, those first efforts were pretty dismal: uneven sizes, poor seals, dense crumb because of the deadly combination of that @#@^#%$ active dry yeast and cold water. Oh, and did I mention the peels were all wrong? Fortunately, the owner immediately ordered a new set of ¼" maple peels that we had the next day.

So that Tuesday was really a day of learning the oven and building some basic skills. We had an electronic thermometer that could give remote readings from a distance, and during that afternoon, Derrick, the assistant, really developed a feel for the oven - when and where to add wood, where the hot spots were and how to manage the heat in general. Iggy, the kitchen manager, showed some real promise and hand rolling and was as frustrated with the yeast as I was. Luckily, he knew a baker not far from where he lived who sold us a pound of fresh yeast the next morning.

Wednesday morning was a bit easier. Still no electricity besides that one outlet, no cooking surface except the hot plate, but the refrigerator was working and we had determined the right mixing time for the dough. Plus, we had that lovely fresh yeast to work with.

We spent the morning baking. First, I had them divide the dough into 3½ oz pieces and hand-roll those so they'd get a feel for the right size of the bagel. Derrick brought the oven up beautifully, and Iggy manned our makeshift boiler. Our first mix was a bit over fermented because I hadn't corrected for the fresh yeast, but that first batch of bagels was just gorgeous.

That morning, we had our first reality-check. The owner's wife had picked up several bagels from a place nearby that brought Montreal bagels in from St Viateur, one of the two major Montreal bagelries, and we sampled ours against theirs. The consensus was that we were pretty close in size, shape, taste, texture and color, but we wanted to do better.

Thursday was our day to shine. We increased our mix size from 5 lb of flour to 10 lb, and added malt, which the owner had picked up the day before. The guys rolled by eye and by feel, and came up with a pretty consistent-sized product. Derrick did magic with the oven. Everything was chugging along on all cylinders. Even the undersized boiler, although it was a bottleneck, really didn't bother us too much.

By the end of the day, we'd produced about 20 dozen really beautiful bagels. When I left that day, I felt as though all of us had become part of one family, and the guys, over the space of three short days, built a foundation of competence that will stand them in good stead once the café opens and business begins to build.

I have to say, it was one of the best experiences of my baking life.

Stan Ginsberg


RuthieG's picture

My Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

One of our favorite sandwich loafs is a Honey Whole Wheat that my friend Annie passed along to me and has become the regular go to bread in this household.  However I am always looking for a new loaf and wanted to try the Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf  mentioned in this thread  and compare it with my regular loaf only because I love trying new recipes and have a goal of trying as many different varities as I can. 


I followed the recipe to the letter.  My belief is that before you start adding and subtracting from a recipe you need to first make it completely as is and then experiment later.  The result was a wonderful light loaf that was an immediate hit.  I usually can resist the urge to slice a hot loaf but I honestly couldn't when my husband walked in and said, "Let's sample it.  We did and it was absolutely delish.......


The rise was so beautiful and honestly when I slashed it for the oven, I knew that I could have left it to rise longer...It was almost like a small explosion.  I ended us with a slash that was probably 1/2 inch deep instead of the 1/4 that I was looking for.  I use a very sharp single edge blade made for straight razors and it was a brand new blade and made a beautiful slash.....It blossomed as I finished the slash and the obvious rise in the oven was amazing.  One loaf, see the crumb picture below, actually ended up with a weird little top puff/crowne.  (Notice loaf on the right in picture below)  The other loaf, though. had a beautiful crown/top.   I was out of real butter and had a butter/oil combination stick that I used to glaze the top.


The recipe was easy to follow, easy to knead, no adjustments at all and came out amazingly good.  It isn't better or worse than my regular Whole Wheat loaf, just different.  I would encourage you to try the recipe. 

The crumb.


I think if you try this recipe, you will not be disappointed....I certainly felt that since I had never made a blog entry, this bread was worthy of my first blog.


PMcCool's picture

Clayton "Wake": Pain Seigle

This is the second bread from this weekend's bake that is from the late Bernard Clayton Jr.'s New Complete Book of Breads, as both an expression of gratitude and a memorial of sorts.

Mr. Clayton's Pain Seigle is one that I have not previously made.  It is an interesting bread, from the standpoint that approximately 50% of the flour is in two preferments: a "starter" made with commercial yeast and a sponge.  It also has a high rye content, with 2 cups bread flour to approximately 5 cups of rye flour.  


1 cup rye flour [I used the only rye flour available to me, a finely milled whole rye]

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105º-115º)

Mr. Clayton recommends a fermentation period in a covered bowl running from a minimum of 6 hours up to 36 hours.  I let mine ferment from Friday evening to Saturday evening, about 26 hours.


All of the starter

1-1/4 cups warm water (105º-115º)

1 cup bread or all purpose flour

1-1/2 cups rye flour

Blend the water with the starter, then blend in the flours.  Cover and allow to ferment 8 hours or more.  I let this ferment overnight, then mixed the final dough around 11:30 Sunday morning, a total of 14 hours.  The sponge ballooned, at least quadrupling its original volume.  Plan accordingly.

Final Dough

All of the sponge

1/2 cup hot water (120º-130º)

1 tablespoon salt

2-1/2 cups rye flour, approximately

1 cup bread or all purpose flour

Stir the hot water and salt into the sponge, then add 1 cup of each flour.  Mr. Clayton's instructions say to mix by hand or machine for 15 minutes, adding the remaining rye flour until the dough is a shaggy mass that can be kneaded.  Here's where I took a slightly different path.  Mr. Clayton's descriptions and directions, while acknowledging that the dough will be sticky enough to warrant kneading with a bench knife or bowl scraper, still reflect a wheat-flour-based mindset.  Kneading, if by hand, should be done on a floured surface; "it will gradually lose its stickiness and become soft and elastic."  With all due respect, no.  I found that the white flour in the sponge had developed a very strong gluten network from its overnight hydration.  Adding the last cup of bread flour increased that.  However, the more rye flour that was added, the more this became a rye dough insofar as its handling characteristics went.  Being mindful of rye's fragility, I did about 3 minutes of stretch and folds in the bowl (as opposed to 5 minutes of kneading), then turned the dough out onto a wet countertop so that I could shape it into a rough ball.  That also let me clean and oil the bowl for the next fermentation which, per instructions, was timed at 40 minutes.  No indications were given for the dough's expansion or appearance at the end of this bulk fermentation, so I watched the clock.

Mr. Clayton instructs to "punch down the dough" and "knead for a minute or two to press out the bubbles."  I didn't see a significant change in the dough at the end of 40 minutes, certainly nothing to warrant punching down or kneading.  Clayton recommends forming into 3 boules of about 1 pound each.  I elected to form 2 boules.  This was followed, per instructions, by a 30-minute final ferment on the baking sheet. 


1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon milk

The egg yolk and milk are blended together and brushed on the loaves.  Mr. Clayton recommends glazing before slashing.

The bread is baked in a 400º dry oven for about 45 minutes, until a finger thump on the bottom crust produces a hollow sound.

Here's how it looked:

Clayton's Pain Seigle

And a somewhat closer view:

Clayton's Pain Seigle

It is a handsome bread.  The glaze imparts a lovely sheen.  It is also obviously underproofed.  My kitchen temperature today was in the low 70's, perhaps not as warm as Mr. Clayton's "room temperature."

As noted in a previous post, my cup of flour probably weighs less than Mr. Clayton's cup of flour.  Therefore, it is likely that these are somewhat higher than his in hydration.  Now that I have this bake as a baseline, I would probably extend the bulk ferment and the final ferment to a point that I could see more obvious indications of inflation in the dough.  These may be somewhat dense and tight-grained when I get around to cutting into them.  That won't be until later this week, since they will go into the freezer once they have cooled thoroughly.  They don't feel like bricks, so I will keep my fingers crossed.  I can't remember whether I've made an unseeded rye before, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the rye tastes all on its own.