The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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crustic's picture

How is hydration determined?

I know this is probably a very basic question but I see a lot of people reference that they maintain 100% hydration or other percentages.  How is this determined?

Raluca's picture

White sourdough 1st try

I haven’t started with my first breads as there isn’t much to tell you, so I am starting with the breads I baked this year.

First I started by cultivating my own sourdough starter. It is now a 100% hydration starter with a mix of 90% whole wheat flour and 10% dark rye flour.

I will try to write a different post on how I made the starter soon and to explain all the terms, utensils and about the baker’s percentage.

Today let’s just talk about the bread above, which let me tell you from the start, it’s not a success (I’ll tell you why, of course).

For this recipe I used a recipe for a white sourdough bread from the Weekend Bakery.

Time schedule:

Day 1: Make the preferment leave for 12 hours at room temperature to mature

Day 2: Make the bread

  • Mix the preferment with the water and flour.
  • Leave to rest for 20mins (autolyse)
  • Add the salt and mix for 4 minutes
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Perform 1st stretch and fold
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Perform 2nd stretch and fold
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Shape the bread
  • Proof it for 150mins
  • Bake at 230C for 45mins


Recipe for 1 loaf (aprox 65% hydration)

Ingredients for the preferment

For this bread a preferment is needed.

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white wheat flour115gr100%
Sourdough culture15gr10%


Dissolve the sourdough culture with warm water (you shouldn’t feel the water when dipping your hand in) and add the flour. Mix until all the flour is wet. Cover with kitchen foil and leave at room temperature for 12 hours.

Ingredients for the bread

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour340gr100%

Final baker’s percentage (including preferment)

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour455gr100%
Sourdough culture15gr3.29%

For this bread I used an organic strong white wheat flour from a traditional British mill Shipton Mill.

Method for the bread

I dissolved the preferment in about 2/3 of the water and then added it to the flour. Mix and add the rest of the water until you have quite a weird and not smooth mass of wet flour coming together. Do NOT add the salt at this point.

I covered the bowl and left to rest for 30 minutes for the autolyse. The recipe calls for 20 minutes autolyse, but I couldn’t get around to the next stage after 20 minutes, as I was busy around the house. Anyway I don’t think it’s anything bad with a longer autolyse.

When the 20 minutes are up add the salt and mix for around 4 minutes. I use a Kitchen Aid with a hook attachment usually, but this bread in particular I kneaded by hand as the lil’ one was asleep and I didn’t want to risk waking her with the Kitchen Aid noise. I think I probably should have kneaded longer by hand, but I only did it for about 4 minutes.

Baker’s tip: use fine salt as it will be easier to incorporate it in your dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean greased bowl (I used an oil spray to grease the bowl), cover it with cling film and leave it to rest for 50 minutes.

When the 50 minutes are up you are ready for your first stretch and fold. If you are not familiar with this technique watch this video from the Weekend Bakery, that I find really useful.

I did my stretch and folds directly in the bowl, but you can either tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface or you can initially place your dough in a large rectangular container so you can do them directly in there.

Now cover the bowl again and leave to rest for another 50 minutes. Do another stretch and fold (the last one) and again leave to rest for 50 minutes.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s not really a massive amount of active work, you just need to have the time to take care of your bread. And let me tell you with this cold weather in London I had some time to bake  .

After this final rest you need to shape your bread. Now shaping and scoring are still a mystery to me.. You can find loads of clips on shaping and scoring online. I shaped my white sourdough as a boule, here is a clip from the Weekend bakery on boule shaping. You can find another clip on both shaping and scoring of a boule here.

For this particular bread I did a very bad job at shaping and therefore the bottom came out with a massive number of cracks….The scoring though was not so bad. To score the bread I use this bread scoring tool.

I use bannetons to proof my bread, so I moved my shaped boule in a floured banneton, covered it with a tea towel and left it to proof for 2 hrs and 30 minutes.

You will need your oven to reach 230C so start pre-heating sometime after the proofing period has started, depending on your oven.

To bake the bread I use a 3cm thick granite baking stone, that needs at least 1h20 minutes in a 250C oven to heat up properly. However for this first time I only pre-heated my oven and stone at 230C for about 20 minutes, which was clearly not enough, as my bread was white on the bottom when it came out of the oven, cracked and undercooked.

So, after the 2hrs and 30 minutes of proofing, I tipped my bread on a baking sheet (that I use to transfer the bread to the I don’t have a peel yet) scored it with a cross and put it in the oven.

I also keep in the oven one of the trays, while it is pre-heating, so it gets hot hot. Then, immediately after transferring the bread on the stone, I add a cup of hot water to the tray below to create some steam and shut the door quickly.

I baked this bread at 230C for 45 minutes. To get a nice crust open the oven door 5 minutes before the baking time is up, to release some of the steam.

I didn’t need to reduce the temperature of the oven this time, because the pre-heating period was short, but usually I need to do it as my oven is really small and burns the top of my loaves.

Resulting bread:

Because of the bad shaping and the short pre-heating time the bread came out with a very cracked bottom. Also, as the baking stone was not hot, it came out white on the bottom and undercooked. It was also a bit too dense (not sure exactly it could be a lot of reasons..still learning), but smelled nice, had a lovely crust on top and was very tasty.

What do you guys think? Any comments welcome!

PMcCool's picture

New and (could be) improved!

More than a little irony in that title...

Let's talk about the new, first.  That would include the second edition of Hamelman's Bread and the pain de mie formula found in it.  It would also include some new Pullman pans that I picked up recently.  The book is remarkable, as many before me have said.  I don't see this one getting shoved aside by future books, as has happened with some that I own.  Yes, there are a few nits (why weren't the home formulae in metric units instead of English units?) but they are rather trivial compared to the quantity and quality of information residing between the covers.  The Pullman pans figure as a long-delayed gratification.  When faced with that much "new", why not put all of them together?  And then, to really put it over the top, why not employ a previously unused shaping technique?

That takes us to the "could be improved" part of the tale.  Not the formula, mind you, nor the pans, either.  The dough was a real treat to work with, especially since I usually work with breads having a significant percentage of whole grains.  It was smooth, silky, satiny; embodying all of those lush descriptors that cookbook authors love to employ.  The new (to me) shaping technique even worked nicely, thanks to txfarmer and others who like assemble their loaves from smaller components.  And the finished bread tastes wonderful, too.  

Everything appeared to be going well in the early stages:

There's just one niggling little problem.  Someone (I need to get an assistant, if only to serve as whipping boy) miscued on the dough quantity calculations.  It wasn't a fat-finger mistake, either.  More like a fat head mistake.  I shouldn't be so negative.  This bread actually achieved something that many home bakers want to emulate in their breads: ears.   No, no, no, not that kind of ears, this kind:

Maybe I should call them eaves, instead of ears.

Anyway, the loaves have a beautiful fluffy core, perhaps 2.5 inches across, with an approximately .75 inch wide perimeter band that is dense and firm.  Quite firm.  Oh, okay, it requires some serious chewing!  Not your Momma's Wonder Bread by any stretch of the imagination.  The crust is lovely, though.

Just guessing, but I probably had about 15% too much dough for the pans.  Thank goodness for a non-stick lining and some generous greasing before putting the dough in the pans.  The lids were somewhat reluctant to release but came off without requiring excessive force or causing harm to anything.  

I think I want to try this bread again, albeit with the right amount of dough in the pans.  If that works as I expect it can, the next step will be to experiment with some of Hamelman's ryes, baked in the Pullman pans.  If I get really brave, I may even try the Horst Bandel pumpernickel.

Despite my frustration with myself, it was a fun experience to play with a new bread, new pans, and a new technique.  And I've only scratched the surface with this book!


lumos's picture

XXXII - Baguette Traditional a la Samuel Fromartz....-ish

  Been a long time since I blogged properly about the bread I baked. I was baking at least a couple of times a week during those absent days, as I’d always done, but haven’t got around to blogging about it, for one reason or another.  But today, I finally decided to gently and timidly ease myself back into my old bread-blogging routine, starting it with my recent (like, yesterday…:p) baguette. 

 It’s one of the most popular baguette recipes among TFL members, and I have tried it a couple of times before, but for some reason it never became my ‘regular,’ maybe because I usually prefer using only dried yeast for baguette because it produces lighter texture and also because I’d become so comfortable with ‘Hamelinet poolish baguette’ formula, I didn’t feel strong enough ‘urge’ to try out other baguette recipe. Lazy and uninspired, I know….

 But last Friday, I was preparing to make Daniel Leader’s Light Rye for the first time; scaling down the original recipe to suit our consumption and started feeding the sourdough…..and realized the recipe produced excess sourdough, about 50g more than the main dough production would need, in the scaled down amount.  Thought of adding it to the main dough anyway at first, then a light bulb came up and remembered Fromartz’s baguette used small amount of sourdough! :D  Checked the recipe, re-calculated the amount of sourdough needed (his sourdough is 100% hydration and mine is 70 – 75%) for the scaled down ingredients. (my usual batch for baguettes is 300 – 350g total flour)…… Ha! I’d need exactly 50% sourdough! So that’s what I made. :)


I more or less followed the original recipe, but, as you may well know, my ‘more or less’ can often be ‘hardly.’ :p  Following is the basic outline of the recipes with a list of changes I made.  


Samuel Fromartz’s Baguette Traditional  - original recipe (link)

My plagiarism adaptation

Ingredients (for 3 mini baguettes, about 35 – 37cm length. So technically, it’s NOT baguette, but anyway….)

  295 g Strong white flour – I used 150g Waitrose Leckford Estate Strong Flour + 145g Heritage Wholesome White Flour*

  5g  wholemeal strong flour

  50g sourdough (mine is about 75% hydration)

  0.8g (scant 1/4 tsp) dried yeast – much small amount than the original recipe, so that I can incorporate long, cold retard overnight. (Don’t kick me, Ars!!! :p) ---- ETA: Strike that. Clearly forgotten Fromarts does long retard in the fridge, too, but with larger amount of yeast.  But I did get sufficient fermentation with this amount after 16-17 hrs. (See below)

  210g water

           *Note - This is the flour I bought from Syd’s stall (Aston’s Organic Bakery) at Real Bread Festival a few months ago. It’s a blend of flour milled from traditional English heritage wheat varieties. Have no idea what varieties are used (not stated on the bag except for saying it consists of 150 varieties), but as the name suggests, it contains a little amount of bran and wheat germ.  Maybe it’s a sort of equivalent of French T65 flour. (my wild guess….)  Its protein level is scary  low at 10.1% but it seems to have good quality gluten and makes lovely dough with silky touch but with nice strength.

 Changes I made

1)   Fromartz’s method ‘autolyse’ for 5 – 10 minutes after mixing all the ingredients ⇒ I extended it to 30 minutes. (it was a very cold day. The temperature in the kitchen was about 17-18C)

2)   Instead of French-folding for 5 minutes before proceeding to 3 x letter-folding, as in the original recipe, I S & F 3 times in a bowl every 30 minutes. (I’d probably do it every 20 min if it’s warmer)

3)   After 3 x S & F, letter-fold for 1 – 2 times to strengthen the dough, if necessary.

4)   Leave at room temperature for 1 hr or so until the dough increases in the volume by 25% or so.

5)   Put it in the fridge and retard for 16 – 18 hrs.

6)   After 16, 17 hrs in the fridge, the dough looked fully fermented with a few large air bubbles on the top, so I divided it into 3, very roughly shaped and left for 20 – 30 min to return it to room temperature. (I would’ve done the other way round = returning to room temperature, then divide), if it hadn’t been so fully fermented during the cold retard)

7)   Pre-shape into rectangular, as the original recipe (but smaller, obviously) and rest for 15 min.

8)   Shape into baguette and proof for 1 hr or so.

9)   Bake on very hot baking stone with steam for 10 min at 240C, then without steam for another 10 min with fan.





...and the obligatory crumb shots.  Sorry for weird colour. Night light…. 


The rest of the crumb shots to black & white...



Verdict:  I think this turned out to be better than my earlier trials with this recipe (with similar changes) some time ago. Can I praise myself for having improved in the art of bread-making or should I just thank to the heritage flour and the dedicated farmers behind it? :p  I liked the taste, probably slightly more robust than my usual poolish baguette, and the texture was definitely chewy-er, too.  It’s a good baguette, for sure. Do I like it better than poolish baguette? Not sure, difficult to say.  Probably both have their own place, depending upon your mood and what you eat with it.  Last night we had pot-au-feu to warm ourselves up in the freezing temperature with heavy snow in England, so slightly gutsier baguette like this was, I have to say, ideal companion to the meal. :)





Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Bulk fermentation

Hi tfl'rs

I have recently started making my bread with the "old dough" method, which is pretty simple and self explanitory.... I simply make up a small peice of dough the day before, let it bulk rise for an hour, then place it in the fridge for 24 hours. Bearing in mind I am just making traditional white bread, like the english bloomer and white tinned bread, and only making one loaf at a time (small peice of dough). Anyhow, once I've mixed the dough I then let it bulk ferment for roughly 1 hour at around 26 degree's C. The bake is pretty poor, poor oven spring etc, although the dough holds well during its proof (def not over-proofing, or under proofing). May my problem be that I need more bulk prove time? say 1 and a half hours, or even 2 hours? Would that be considered to be too long, with the fact I'm using "old dough" at a ratio of 25% pre-fermented flour?

Many thanks Matt



Jezella's picture

Caraway seeds and preferment

I'm planning on a 25% preferment for a bake tomorrow and it is my intention to add Caraway seeds for flavour and maybe even some black onion seeds. I feel that if the Caraway seed were to be incorporated into the preferment, greater flavour would be released. Now I've never used these sharp seeds in bread before and wonder if it may damage the gluten structure should they be added early. I'm thinking maybe 1 tablespoon for 500g total bread flour. Are my concern valid? Also, would I experience a different flavour in the crumb if the seeds were added early compared to much later where a local flavour may be experienced, a little like poorly stirred coffee. This is my first preferment also. 

linder's picture

More SF Sourdough

In keeping with my practice and hopeful improvement, I baked some more of David Snyder's SF Sourdough(using the 4th iteration of the formula).  Today, I got some great oven spring on the batard even with my awful scoring -

Here's the bread after its bake with steam in the oven -

bigwave's picture

Baguette from Forkish poolish dough


Here are a couple of pictures of a short, stubby baguette (really a "batard" more than a baguette I realize) that I baked yesterday. I used the poolish dough from the new book by Ken Forkish (which I really like) that had been in the refrigerator since last Saturday (5 days basically). I shaped it into a dough ball straight from the fridge, covered it and let it warm for a half hour, and then shaped it for the loaf and let it proof covered for an hour while the oven was heating. The crumb was light and airy and it had pretty phenomenal oven-spring.





njbetsy's picture

Searching for a Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe


I recently read that a fellow from Cook's Illustrated, Dan Souza, developed a fool-proof whole wheat pizza dough.  Has anyone seen it?  I want to get back into doing pizzas again, but would prefer whole wheat.  Any excellent recipes out there?


mcs's picture

Sinclair's Bakery update (sort of)

Hi there everyone.  Last time I wrote to you I had just finished my last bake at The Back Home Bakery.  I was hoping to be able to post pictures of the newly opened bakery at this point, but alas delays have occured.  Rather than wait until I'm open I figured I would give you an update to show you the progress so far.  Anyway, soon after, I packed up all of my stuff and the bakery equipment and headed south to Bozeman, MT via Nampa, Idaho.  Why Nampa, Idaho you ask?  Well, that's where Sinclair's Bakery is originating.  After searching high and low, I finally found a place that would be able to help me with my project.

Let me explain.

As those of you who have been following me for the past few years know, The Back Home Bakery was located in the lower level of my home.  Most of my baking business came from a very busy summer season selling at the farmers' market, plus it was supplemented through wholesale work throughout the year.  Of course I realized this would be impossible to duplicate in a brand new area/market without a home to start with, so this is the plan.  The folks at Double R trailers in Nampa will be taking my idea and equipment and building me a concession trailer.

This is an example of a similar concession trailer, but NOT mine:

Below is the floorplan for the trailer they are building for me:

Much of the bakery equipment will be in a concession trailer.  It will be supplemented by a 20KW diesel generator which will be on the tongue of the trailer.  The overall size of the trailer wil be 8'6" x 24' and will be towed by my 3/4 ton truck.  If you are familiar with the '5 minutes at the Back Home Bakery' video then you will recognize that some of the equipment missing from the trailer are the 60qt mixer, the sheeter, and the large work bench.  This equipment among other things like the bakers racks and large 3 compartment sink will be housed in a warehouse where I am living. 

This will allow me to bake on site not just at the farmers' markets, but also at other event locations.  Fresh baguettes and croissants for everyone!  For wholesale and on off days, I can plug the trailer in and use as a small bakery, much in the way I used to at the Back Home.   Below is my design for the outside graphics of the trailer which I will paint upon arrival here in Belgrade, MT (just outside of Bozeman).

Here are some pictures of the warehouse/studio where the trailer will be housed and where I live:

The studio can be seen at the top of the stairs to the right, the rest of the bakery equipment is in the rear.


This is looking down from the top of the stairs of the studio.


Some of the rest of the bakery equipment.


The living quarters upstairs.

If you'd like to see more pictures of the area I now call home and you are the Facebook type, feel free to check out my page here.
If you would rather check out the pictures of the area I live now on Flickr, then click here.

The initial projected completion date was mid-January, but it has been pushed back to mid-February.  In the meantime, I will keep myself busy by growing more white hairs and substitute teaching at the local schools to earn a few bucks. 

There you go for now, and happy baking to all of you in the meantime.


 Edit:  mid-February update here