The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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rolls's picture

a few questions plz :)

hi, i started my starter a few months ago following the birk st method in the book. at first i would follow the exact feeding amounts of water and flour.  but with time,  i got lazy and now i just keep it in he fridge and from time to time, refresh it, but i don't measure the flour and water.

i don't know much at all really about sourdough, but despite my neglect, it seems to bounce back nicely and looks bubbly.

i have no idea what im doing, and not sure how i can tell if its ready to go solo or not. i usually jus use a small amount with my regular yeast breads.

i'd love any insight whatsoever. is it wrong to not measure when feeding? am i stuffing up the chemistry somehow?


thanks heaps :)

BKSinAZ's picture

Storing Wheat Berries in Vacuum Sealed Food Saver Bags?

The family here has a Food Saver Machine and we were wondering if we can put wheat berries in these vacuum sealed bags for LONG term storage?

If so, do they need to be refrigerated, freezed, or can they just sit on a shelf in the pantry without going bad?

I was going to portion them out per recipe size. For example: if a particular recipe called for 3 cups of flour, I wanted to make something like 50, 3 cup bags of wheat berries.

bobku's picture

Maintaining a starter

I have been baking sourdough bread for a couple of months now almost every weekend. I don't understand why we keep more starter than we need. Constantly discarding some or finding other thing to bake with it. Why can't a small amount of starter be kept in the refrigerator than taken out a few days before baking, building to amount you need to bake with plus slightly more. Put the same small amount of fresh starter back in the refrigerator for next week. Don't know if I am missing something does anyone know why this might not be a good idea, will I be losing some flavor by not keeping a mother starter. From everything I've read your starter should be as fresh as possible.

jamesjr54's picture

Today's Completely Made-Up Bread

Knowing I'd work at home today (Wednesday) I made a preferment Tuesday morning: 

100 G KA Bread flour

100 G 100% hydration starter

60 g water

Tuesday night I made the dough:

All of the preferment

400 g KA all purpose

35 g rye

35 g oat flour

15 g salt

44o g water

30 min autolyse

Was really wet, so added flour until I could get some development. (Think I need to learn how to calculate the starter into the final %s. Was aiming for 68-70% hydration)

15 minutes kneading

1.5 hour proof, with S&F at 30 and 60

Pre-shape, rest and shape, and into the fridge overnight.

1.5 hours at room temp this morning

Baked w/preheat at 475 for 15 with steam, 30 without (for the badly-shaped batard) and in the combo cooker for the boule.

Pretty standard, delicious sourdough. My shaping skills have plateaued at a very low level, so need to work on those. 

Szanter5339's picture

Fun-shaped rolls

Dawn Nagymama blogjában találtam ezeket a zsemléket. Nagy sikere lett nálunk is!

ehanner's picture

Focaccia 3 ways with Poolish-controlled ferment

I got the bug to make Hamelmans Focaccia with Poolish a few days ago. It started with watching Frankie G's video on the subject and seeing him use 1/4 sheet pans. I liked the size and all the toppings got me drooling. So I ordered the 1/4 sheet pans from Frankie G which came with a cool trivet counter saver (thanks FG). I like the Poolish version of the Ciabatta dough which is Hamelmans dough for his Focaccia. The additional 10% fermented flour helps the flavor develop during the Poolish build up, overnight.

Every year about this time is when my baking starts to get weird. Just when I was thinking I could predict yeast activity in my preferment's, the season starts to change and everything takes longer. This year would be better I said. I no longer care that it's going to be 36F outside and a chilly 63F in the kitchen. My preferment's are happy working away in my new Folding Proofer. I set the temperature at 73F after mixing equal parts of flour and water and went to bed. I try to be mindful of Hamelmans suggestion for watching the dome of the expanding mix and waiting for it to start to fall in the center before mixing the final dough. I want the most effect from the preferment possible.

It's so nice to not to have to open the container holding the fermenting dough to check it. Peeking through the clear plastic viewing window is so easy. I'm watching for the first indication that my preferment is done. Right at 16 hours as JH said, it was done. The starter finishing  temperature was at 75F, just as it was upon mixing. That's professional style temperature control which will show up later.

I fermented the dough also at 75F for 1-1/2 hours and divided into 3 globs, shaped and transferred into my new pans. I had stewed 2 large onions for the topping on one pan. Another was going to get rosemary treated olive oil, some fresh rosemary and an assortment of seeds and garlic/onions. This one would get a final application of Mozzarella after baking, under the broiler. The third pan was a sweet offering with red grapes and sugar.

We sent a big slice of each of these to the neighbors. They turned out great. The flavor of the bread is full and complex. This is the best Ciabatta/Focaccia I have ever made. It HAS to be the watchful eye on the fermentation.  I had not made the grapes and sugar before. Next time I will use more sugar especially over each grape. This was really good. The onions were so sweet from being stewed that one was my favorite. Oh well maybe the savory pan was my favorite. Ummmm good.


Ready to bake.

The grapes found a pocket to hold the juice.

Onion and Rosemary

Great crumb on all 3 but this onion with rosemary was heavenly.

Savory just out of the oven.

Savory with melted Mozz Cheese

ejm's picture

Fougasse IS different from Focaccia

There really is a difference. And right now we’re loving fougasse. So much that we have entirely rejected the idea of making focaccia.

When I first read about fougasse, I thought it must be virtually the same as focaccia. I dismissed making fougasse because I’d made focaccia. They were the same, after all.... 

Our fougasse craze started after reading about Chad Robertson’s fougasse in “Tartine Bread”. (It’s a GREAT book!!) But because of still being certain – what with my terrific retention skills when reading – that fougasse was simply French focaccia, I used the ingredients for our focaccia recipe along with Robertson’s shaping and baking method to make our first fougasse.

Amazingly, not only is the fougasse quite different from focaccia (even using the same dough), but both of us have decreed that fougasse is superior to focaccia. At least that’s what we think right now.

Because fougasse is baked on a stone instead of on an oiled pan, there are more crispy bits. Not too crispy though… it’s juuuuust right! Of course, it can be cut with a knife but we think that fougasse tastes better torn apart.

After the first couple of times making fougasse, I noticed that in his book, Chad Robertson suggests using baguette dough for making fougasse. ie: no oil in the dough itself.

So we tried that too. And it was good. Really good.

We’re not sure if it was better than fougasse made with focaccia dough. Just different. It’s the shaping, slashing and baking that will produce the characteristic (I think) fougasse texture and flavour.

Yes. We love fougasse so much that we can’t stop making it! I’m thinking that once you start making it, you won’t be able to stop either.

I am very pleased to be the host of October 2011's Bread Baking Babes’ task. Here is what I wrote to the BBBabes:

So far I’ve made fougasse using focaccia dough or baguette dough; plain with oil drizzled on before; plain with no oil drizzled on until just after baking; with poppy seeds added to the dough; with black olives; plain drizzled afterwards with oil infused mushrooms.

All were a little different but all were equally delicious. Of course, I’m hoping that you too neeeeeeed to make fougasse and will now bake along with us.

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake fougasse in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it) before the 29 October 2011.

Please read here (this is a link) for details on how to participate.


(This is a partial mirror of a post about fougasse on blog from OUR kitchen)

PiPs's picture

Dark Rye revisited (problem solving, problem finding)


I have returned to last weeks Dark Rye formula with a test bake to determine if the rye flour I am milling is creating havoc with the 100% rye formula.

Two batches of dough were prepared using different flour in each.

For one I used organic wholegrain rye flour from Kialla Pure Foods and for the other I milled organic rye grains from the same company in my Komo Fidibus XL mill.

I didn’t mill the flour quite as finely as previous after reading about starch damage and the issues it can cause with 100% rye breads.

Two separate sours were built using the different flours and then kept at 28C for 18 hours.

The night before, a soaker (the only common ingredient between the two doughs) was prepared containing all the salt, cold water, rye flour and coarsely milled rye grains. This was kept at a 20C for 15hours.

The sours felt quite different when first mixed. The fresh milled sour felt a little drier and I would have been inclined to add water. I didn’t though.

Two sours

Bought flour on left, fresh milled sour on right

On the following day I observed that the sour built with store bought flour had risen higher and had an even distribution of bubbling while the home milled sour had not risen as high (it was certainly active) and the bubbling seemed uneven with larger bubbling.


Incorporating bought flour sour on left, fresh milled sour on right

When it came to add the sours the difference was dramatic. The store bought sour was “poured” out and was extremely runny. I had to spoon out the majority of the fresh milled sour with only a small proportion being runny.

The same temperature water was used in both to achieve common dough temperatures and then placed immediately in greased tins. I did not bother bulk fermenting the dough this time.

Again the fresh milled flour dough felt stiffer and was much easier to handle while the store bought dough proved a challenge to place in the tin in one piece.

Proofing took 1.5 hours with the fresh milled dough rising slightly higher (it may have had to do with hydration of dough)

They were docked and placed in a very hot oven (270C) for ten minutes before being baked for a further two hours at 200C and another hour at 150C. Again the oven was set to auto off and bread cooled in oven for a further two hours.

Breads were wrapped before slicing 36 hours after baking.

The first difference came as soon as I cut the breads. The fresh milled bread is a nightmare to cut. Takes a lot of muscle and the cuts are not clean, while the knife easily carves through the bread with store bought flour.

The fresh milled bread has lost its roof again. The other bread is intact, though is showing some signs of separating in some of the corners.

Fresh milled flour rye having lost its roof

The flavour is quite distinct between the two. The store bought flour bread is not as sour. They both are delicious, but the store bought flour has a nicer mouth feel.

Bought flour rye

Side by side


I have no idea if it is traditional at all, but one of my favourite ways to eat this is with marmalade. We made this marmalade a few months ago using lemons from my tree, grapefruits from my grandfather's tree, oranges from a friend of ours and mandarins from my partners sisters.

Well rye aficionados?...

Would love to get some feedback and advice on this seemingly ongoing project ... problems solved, problems found ...

Cheers, Phil



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Russian Rye and Really Simple Sourdough (from A. Whitley's Bread Matters) - now with pictures


For the harvest festival at my son's school I revisited Andrew Whitley's formula for Russian Rye, an inspired by Varda and JanetCook I used some of the surplus starter to make two variations of his "Really Simple Sourdough", both from his book"Bread Matters".

Both formulas call for baking in tins.

Here the results, from left to right: Wholegrain Spelt, Shipton's Swiss Dark Flour (high extraction), Russian Rye ...

And the crumb, in the same order:

The Starter is a 200% hydration starter wich I had going for over a year  now. I keep it in the fridge; for baking I essentially follow Andrew Whitley's instructions - I make a "production sourdough" with 100% wholegrain rye, 200% water and 25% starter from the fridge (The book recommends 100% starter). My kitchen was about 22C, and I left it ferment for ca. 16 hours. (At the end it was a bit frothy with a slightly sour taste)

I prepared the starter to bake the Russian Rye on Tuesday evening so that the bread would have time to set and develop character until Friday, the day of the festival. I put thje surplus starter into the fridge on Tuesday afternoon after mixing the Russian Rye,

The "Really Simple Sourdoughs" (RSSD) were mixed on Saturday evening (9pm) with the starter coming right out of the fridge - this formula calls for just 40g starter for a 500g loaf. They proved overnight in their tins at about 17C and were  baked on Sunday morning at 10am.

The Russian rye has been slightly underbaked and tasted watery at first, but fr Sunday's supper it was excellent with chicken liver pathe. The spelt variant of the RSSD tasted a bit bitter after the bake, with a distinct nutty note. On Sunday evening the bitter note had disappeared.

The RSSD with Swiss Dark Flour became an instant favourite of my wife - the crumb is springy, the taste is wheaty, but not nominating.

I'll keep this in my repertoire (I hadn't made RSSD since joining The Fresh Loaf, I think)

** UPDATE: The Formulas **

Both breads are shaped with wet hands right after mixing and proofed in tins.

Russian Rye for 2 hours to 8 hours at 24C or more,

Really Simple Sourdough for up to 12 hours at 20C

Russian Rye

Production Sourdough (Dough Temperature 30C)

Wholegrain Rye flour 31%

Water 62%

Yield 92%

Final Dough (DT ideally 28C)

Wholegrain Rye flour 69%

Water 42%

Salt 1%

Production Sourdough 92%

Yield 205%


Really Simple Sourdough

Rye Starter (can be taken from fridge if not too starved)

Wholegrain Rye flour 5%

Water 10%

Yield 15%

Final Dough (DT 20C)

Wholegrain flour (Wheat, Spelt) 95%

Water 66%

Salt 1.5%

Rye Starter 15%

Yield 178%

That's it.




Mebake's picture

Andy's Rye sourdough w/sunflower soaker

I've always admired Andy's (ananda)recipes, and earlier printed and baked one of his. The blog can be found HERE. He describes the bread as being one of the tastiest imaginable.

I, however, regretfully, did not remain true to the recipe, and deviated, mostly out of necessity and scheduling. Firstly, i didn't have any pumpkin seeds, so i used only sunflower seeds. Secondly i reserved no seeds for the garnish (blame it on my forgetful mind!). Thirdly, i prepared and used 20% more rye levain than called for in Andy's recipe, as i wanted a faster ferment and consequently baking the same day i mix. Fourthly, and most importantly, i ended up retarding in bulk the dough, as even the additional Levain took a while, and i couldn't afford to stay up late for baking. The last factor, did increase the tanginess/ sourness of this bread, although within tolerable limits ( in a nice way).

Baked in a deep Pullman look alike.

Soft, and Very, Very aromatic!

Speckeled with sunflower seeds.

I'am not in a position, therefore, to be able to verify the claim Andy made to the flavor of this bread, but judging from the flavor of my version, Andy's un-retarded version should be more subtle in sourness, and would allow the seeds to show presence better. The sunflower liquor has some solid presence as it permeates throughout the loaf. Pumpkin seeds were all that was missing from the combination.

Thank you andy for the wonderful recipe!