The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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theresasc's picture

Questions from a new bread baker

I am very new to baking bread, and I have some questions!  Bear with the strange mixing of measurements, I am still trying to get the hang of weight vs. volumn.

I am using the first recipe in Floyd's book, and am tweaking it a bit:

Poolish:  30 grams whole wheat flour, 1/8 tsp. instant yeast, 1/4 water - let sit overnight

Dough:  225 grams AP flour, 45 grams whole wheat flour, 1 tsp sugar, 3/4 + 1/8 tsp instant yeast, 3/4 cup of flour - mix and let autolyse 30 min.  Mix in the poolish and 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  I was using my KA to knead the first few loaves of bread that I made, but decided I was missing out on the fun of having my hands in there, so I have been using the french flold technique to knead.  I have found that I have to keep my hands very wet while doing the french fold and while the dough does get stretchy and sort of smooth, there are still little tears/blisters in the dough.  Is this right?  The dough does not behave like this using just AP flour, but the addition of the WW seems to really change things up.  What should the dough feel and look like?

Now onto the stretch and fold questions:  How many times do you do it?  I have read that you just do it once every 30 minutes during bult ferment, I have read that you do it 6 or 7 times every 30 minutes.  Whats up with that??  Is that the difference from making bread with commercial yeast vs. natural yeast?  The more I read, the more confusing things get.

Onto crust:  why does it blister?  The bread made with AP flour did not have surface blisters, yet the bread with some WW in does.  Is it the flour or my techniques? 

Thanks for any help that folks can give me.

Okay, I baked and here is what it looks like, ugly but tasty.

 The blisters are there on the crust again - next shot is the crumb

Shiao-Ping's picture

Sourdough from Taipei


Background:       Stormy Queensland rain, a cyclone passing through

                            Vivid greenery against thick dark clouds

                            Cozy tearoom


The world out there is wet and blowy:



Inside my tearoom the air is sweet.  A bird came to visit me and rest on the railing outside:



My baking has not stopped. Such a delight to be able to create:



This bread was my very first sourdough baked in Taiwan. My family and I spend a lovely Christmas and New Year holiday in Taipei. My oven is Bosch there. I used no steaming mechanism. Spray can did the trick for me on this bread. I did not aim to make a perfect bread, just a bread.



We thoroughly enjoyed this bread, but I had no hesitation to put my starter away. On holidays these days I prefer not to spend too much time in the kitchen. Maison Kayser and Frédèric Lalos Bakery are both in Taipei and their breads are very good.

During this last trip to Taiwan, I made an effort to go to A-Li-Shan Mountain to see the ancient red cypress trees there. The oldest alive in Taiwan is estimated to be 2,700 years old! Look at the picture and the stats below:


Age: approx. 2,700 years old

Height: 43 meters

Circumference: 20 meters

Altitude: 2,350 meters


There are about 20 of these ancient giant red cypresses in Taiwan, ages ranging from 1000 to 2700 years old.  The Japanese left them untouched at the turn of the last century because back then these trees were already hollow in the middle and were considered to have no economic values.  The Japanese ran a massive logging industry in Taiwan during their 50 years of occupation before the end of the Second World War.  The red cypresses were shipped back to Japan for use in their temples and their Emperor’s residences.  

It was not possible to take a good shot at the giant tree with my poor camera.  It was very early morning and the sky was still dark blue.  But as the morning progressed, I was able to take beautiful shots of the mountains and the sea of clouds:






The holiday is now over and everything is back in full swing.  My daughter is in San Francisco on an exchange program for the first half of the year, and my son is busy preparing for a medicine exam in March.  Christmas tree was folded away for another year; more time now to enjoy my tea:



Happy baking everyone!


Floydm's picture

Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

My fight against scurvy (not really) and the wintertime blues (really) by baking fruity things continued today.  This time I went for raspberries and made a Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid using the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid formula on the site.

 Very very good, as expected!

anitasanger's picture

A nice Oklahoma sourdough boule photo

I created my own starter 3 years back by harvesting natural Oklahoma yeast. Lately I've been on a protein diet and haven't had the chance to make bread in several months. I pulled the ol' starter out this week and got a sponge going. I made a loaf last night and oh my how good it tasted! It's hard to beat homemade bread isn't it? Nothing's better than a warm house filled with the smell of bread on a cold winter's day! I'm a sourdough student for life!

Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

Starter from fridge to build: An example.

Many questions seem to revolve around feeding a starter (how much, how long, what temp, etc.) prior to baking, that I kept track today as I got ready for a build.  Maybe this will help someone.

I removed the quart Mason jar of starter, stirred the hooch back in, three weeks untouched,  half full of whole wheat starter, from the fridge at 9:30 AM.  Added three heaping tablespoons of  KA whole wheat flour and mixed in enough water to make a thick pancake mixture.  Room temp 70 degrees.  Jar was now 2/3 full.  No mixing and by 1:30 PM the starter reached the jar rim and was a mass of bubbles.  Stirred the starter well.Enough starter goes into the build to leave the Mason jar half full, and the jar goes directly back into the fridge until the next build.  So that's a timeline of one person's method.  I build for 3-5 days for a three loaf bake, rather than an overnight mix, so the balance of yeast to bacteria is not critical as I'll develop all of that over the next few days.  Enjoy.
joyfulbaker's picture

Musings from an almost CFO in CA: So now what?

OK, so I jumped right in and applied for a permit to become a cottage food organization.  I am excited, no denying that.  I was even the first person in the county (Sonoma, that is) to apply.  The lady in the office says I should be getting my registration permit next week.  So now there's a course to take (food handler), business records to be set up, advertising to be done, pricing to be mulled over and decided upon (yeah, that's a tough one!).  Maybe even a web site.  As I said, I am eager to get started, but this is a solo operation and the details are many.  I would appreciate any bits of wisdom, suggestions, stories of your experiences doing this, etc.  (No, I don't think I'm going the farmer's market route, just individual sales--I'm a type A who applied for a type A permit, that is, direct sales).

Hoping to hear from you,


Netvet007's picture

Boule with Poolish PreFerment from Flour Water Salt Yeast

I have started making bread from the book Flour Water Salt Yeast and am loving how they turn out.  Really delicious breads.  Highly recommend the book.  Bought an extra Dutch oven so I could make two loaves at once.   I've never had loaves turn out so nice.

limmitedbaking's picture

Hamelman 5 Grain Sourdough Rye

Hi and welcome to my first blog post. Had always been a long time lurker in TFL, admiring and learning from the many delicious looking creations from all the posters. Finally, decided to start a bread blog to record the process and outcome of each bake. Started bread baking a few years bake but has only been baking about once a week due to other activities - hence limited baking. Being a bread baker in Singapore brings with it quite a different set of challenges such as the higher temperature and humidity which means that normally recipes have to be adapted slightly to suit local conditions. Maybe I will slowly address these various issues in subsequent blog post. Also fascinated by the chemistry being bread baking and am an avid reader of chemistry and cereal publications. Would be interested to find out also how bakers in tropical areas deal with all these issues too. 

But first up, Hamelman's 5 Grain Sourdough Rye. A house favourite and my personal favourite among the other multigrain formulas in the book. The use of a rye sourdough really adds a depth and added complexity that trumps the non-rye variants. For this bake I followed the seed mix as recommended - flaxseeds, cracked rye, sunflower seeds and oats. Though for the oats I substituted half with rye flakes. Made 1360g of dough and bake as 2 loaves. Used 1/2 tsp yeast and 11.5g salt (2% instead of 2.2%). Prepared starter and let it ferment for 10 hours at 30C. Mix 10 minutes. Bulk ferment 1.5 hours. Proof 45minutes. And here are the results (Hope the picture works!):

And the crumb shot, moderately open and full of seeds.

Notes: Rye makes up 25% of the total flour. Reasonably easy to handle, not too sticky. Mild sourness with a nice balance between the lactic and acetic acid. Wheaty taste with the added complexity of rye. Would normally like to bake at a higher temperature to get a browner crust but decided to go for golden brown this time round for a different look. Could still decrease yeast slightly as the final proof was going very fast already. Can't decide which variant is better, the soak sunflower seed (which is easier) or the toasted one. Both bring a different taste to the final product.


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!