The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Wakenbake's picture

Sourdough starter!! Smelt like rotten eggs...

 I was trying to make my first sourdough starter! Here is the recipe I was using from


4 cups of white all purpose flour

3-4 potatoes

6 cups of water

2 tablespoons of honey

2 teaspoons of salt

I let it set for three days! The top of the starter kind of bubbled but looked a little BLACK on top!! Not sure if It should look that way! Steve the bread guy's didn't look close to mine! It smelt like rotting eggs!!! I still tried to use it to make my sourdough bread... But my dough did not rise at all!!! Here is the recipe for the sourdough bread!

2 cups of starter ( click here on how to make it).
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp sugar
3-4 cups of white flour
1 cup hot water
2 tbsps of vegetable oil


acoa76's picture

Why does this happen?

YankeeInExile's picture

Introducing myself

Greetings, bakers.  From a posting on my facebook wall last week:  I'm doing something I rarely do with success, but trying again at the request of [a friend]: Baking bread. I do fine with quickbreads and cornbread, and cakes and pies, but traditional yeast breads ... never been my strong suit.

I begin my introduction with "Why do I want to bake?  There's a perfectly good bakery on every block, and bread is cheap and my time is expensive."  Well, while the kerfuffle with the French in the 19th century left behind a legacy of fine baking, there are some kinds of bread that are just unobtanium here.  I want a nice sandwich rye.  I want a white bread that is more flour than guar gum (or whatever it is that goes into commercial white bread).  I want a tangy sourdough.  

I'm also about to head into the mountains for a year or two, and when 'town' is an hour away on a muddy jeep track, learning to make it at home can mean the difference between having bread and not having bread.

I've decided to start with "basic white bread", and when I feel I can consistently produce a loaf of that successfully, I will move on to some more complex pieces.

Last week, my first try, I used a recipe I got off the net that was all in "cups" and "tablespoons", and it was an unmitigated disaster.  I spent the evening searching online for a recipe that was in weight.

I had luck today with a basic white - I started with a sponge of 200g AP flour, 10g instant yeast [1], 10g sugar, 10g salt, 200g 45° water.  Let that ferment "a while" (about an hour).  Added to that another 370g of flour and 140g of whole milk.  Knead.  Rise.  Punch down.  Pan.  Rise.  Bake 35 at 200° in a pan 32 x 13cm.  Turned out okay, but more research has shown that I need to use a smaller pan (or make more dough - I weighed the dough before rising - 940g)

I welcome your ideas on what to bake next.


Skibum's picture

Baking in a cold DO???

I have read threads here in the past of people getting great results baking bread in cold DO's in hot ovens.  Getting a proofed loaf into a blazing hot DO is a chore, so I have been looking at alternatives.  One of them is the La Cloche line of clay bakers.  I found this description of the use most enlightening and wanted to share,

"When the dough has doubled in volume, place the baker in the lower part of a preheated oven. As the baker absorbs heat, the dough will continue to rise and moisture will be released. Hot steam will form inside the domed lid, helping the bread rise and creating a singularly crisp, thin and crackly crust. The loaf will look and taste as though it had been baked in an old-fashioned brick-lined oven."  quote courtesy of:

I will try this on tomorrow's bake using my enameled cast iron DO as the principles of continued rise should be the same.  I also think that I will need to under proof my dough.  Anyhow an interesting reason for using a cold DO.

Happy baking!  Brian

CJRoman's picture

Huge Fail: Baked Baking Soda

This horrifying image is a combination of failures.

To begin...this was my first attempt at sourdough. I should say that I LOVE the taste and the smoothness of the dough, even in a pretzel. The aroma is magnetic. HOWEVER, having never created a starter before I'm not sure if mine was top notch and my decision NOT to add additional yeast to the final dough was a mistake. Far too flat. Will change. may have read about my failure with lye. So I tried the baked baking soda. Baked it at 300 for an hour....then I followed the directions: dissolve 1.33 cups in 1 quart of water.

HERE WE GO....the baked baking soda hit the water and combined into a solid ROCK. It was impossible to get it all to dissolve and the water was HOT.

Then the general rule is to "soak the pretzels for 3 to 4 minutes." I should have known this would be a disaster. The pretzels come straight from the fridge and are cold....they USUALLY hold up pretty good in their standard regular baking soda BOIL for 30 SECONDS. But THREE TO FOUR MINUTES? Nope. The dough turned to mush in the warm water. After soaking...they completely lost their shape when I tried to remove them...turning to lifeless blobs of intestine on the pan.

So I'm still mystified....all this talk of the wonders of lye...and I didn't see it.

Then, the benefits of baked baking soda...nope, didn't find anything fantastic there either!

I'm going back to the basics! Boil that plain ol' baking soda and throw 'em in!! Germany can KEEP their caustic traditions!


hislastsong's picture

Help!...Lackluster Sourdough Loaf

I've baked a handful of sourdough loaves from my wild starter, but haven't been able to get them very light and golden. They come out pale or gray and a little dense. Someone please help! What am I doing wrong?

Sourdough recipe adapted from The Bread Bible:

240 grams liquid starter

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

88 grams room temp water

5.2 grams salt

*I also used .2 grams of commercial yeast as a booster after autolyse.

First proof: about 1 1/2 hours

2 business letter turns

Let rise for another hour

2 business letter turns

Let rise until doubled: just over an hour

Shaped and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours

Baked at 475-450 degrees with steam from ice cubes


I know my starter is strong enough, but it doesn't translate into a light and fluffy loaf. One other thing to note: I live near the ocean, so there's more moisture in the air. I'm not sure how this is affecting my baking, however.

Any and all feedback is much appreciated.


pmccool's picture

Hamelman's Pain au Levain

Maybe this should be called Hamelman's Pain au Levain, mostly, because there were a couple of small excursions from the formula presented in Hamelman's Bread, 2nd Edition. 

Having enjoyed several days' worth of the Rustic Pumpernickel from Inside the Jewish Bakery, I was ready for a change of pace.  My starter was in need of a good feeding, so I have it a healthy dose of rye flour and water and left it to its own devices overnight.  The next morning, it was ripe and ready for action.  Gotta love these warm summertime temperatures.  At this point, I had no real plan, just a vague notion of something not-pumpernickel.  Remembering that I hadn't baked from Hamelman's book for a while, I started leafing leafing through it and came across the Pain au Levain bread.  Just the ticket, since it has a small portion of rye flour in it.

Since I had fed my starter with rye flour, I calculated that I would have a bit more rye than the formula called for even if I didn't add any in the final dough.  No problem.  It would still be good.  And, the bread flour that I used was the Great River Milling Unbleached Wheat Bread Flour which still contains 20% of the bran.  Again, no problem; just more flavor.  The other thing about the GRM flour is its protein content: 14%.  That's much higher than any French-style flour's protein content.  I mixed the levain, covered it, and left it to ferment at room temperature.  It was ready for use about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Hamelman assumes a room temperature bulk fermentation and final fermentation.  As I looked at the clock, and at the instructions, I decided that I really didn't want to stay up late.  That led to the other deviation: a decision to retard the dough during its bulk ferment.  The rest of the process was pretty much by the book.  The flour and water were mixed by hand and allowed 60 minutes to autolyse.  Then the levain was mixed in.  That was a bit trickier, because the dough was stiffer than the levain, but the dough came together after the initial goopy phase and got even better after the salt was added.  The texture was still fairly firm, so I worked in another 3-4% of water.  The absorptive capability of the flour meant that I still didn't have a soft dough but it felt quite moist and tacky so I called it good enough.  That turned out to be a good decision.

I allowed the dough an hour of bulk fermentation at room temperature, then put it into the refrigerator until the following afternoon, almost 20 hours later.  The dough hadn't doubled in volume, so I gave it an hour or so to warm up somewhat, then shaped it into two batards.  Each was allowed to proof on a piece of parchment paper, covered with plastic.  The dough was firm enough that I did not provide side support for it.  Indeed, most of the doubling was in the upward direction, not the horizontal direction, which is pretty unusual for a sourdough.  When it had grown by perhaps 80%, I preheated the oven with a stone and a steam pan.  After the oven reached temperature, I boiled water and poured it into the steam pan.  The loaves were then slashed and placed on the stone to bake as directed.

During the bake, the loaves continued to expand upwards, but more sideways than they had during the final fermentation.  The scores opened nicely and gave a good ear.

The crumb is less open than might be expected for this style of bread and this level of hydration.  I think that the amount of kneading that was required to incorporate the levain had an effect, as did the high protein content of the bread flour.  I'm not at all unhappy, since the primary use for the bread is in sandwiches.  That means I don't have mayonnaise or mustard dripping into my lap while eating.

The crumb is very moist, probably attributable in part to the rye flour's moisture-grabbing traits, plus the additional water that I added to offset the dough's stiffness.  More would have been too much, so I am glad that I stopped when I did with the extra water.  The color is a bit darker because of the additional bran content not usually seen in a bread flour.  The crust, which was initially quite hard, has softened considerably as the moisture within the loaf has redistributed.  The flavor is excellent, combining wheat and rye notes with a gentle sourdough tang and the toasty/nutty/caramel notes from the crust.  My hat is off to Mr. Hamelman for devising such an enjoyable bread.


Foodzeit's picture

Introduction from a new member in China

Hi to all of you,

Just found this forum here and decided to join. Until now I have been mainly following German forums but I found your forum equally interesting and I found an abundance of interesting information here that I will be certainly able to include in my baking experiments.

Right now I am working on a bread calculation tool, for which reason I will try and error a few self-created bread recipes here (and on my blog) in the near future and I hope to get feed-back from all of you guys here.

Greetings from China

PS: Here a picture of my latest creation that I made with my calculator. Looks promising, right? In the aftermath I should have used my baking form because the dough was very wet.

SusanO's picture

New Member Hello and Question

Hi to everyone.  

I've been a lurker on the site for almost a year now (about the amount of time that I have been experimenting with baking breads) and have found lots of great articles, notes, ideas and recipes which I very much appreciate.  I decided it was time I joined the forums and interacted a bit.  

I consider myself a novice at this as I've kept to very simple traditional items as a beginner - italian bread, bagels, hard rolls, garlic knots, dinner rolls, pretzels, and such.  My family has been thrilled with this new-found hobby (which I find easy to fit into my work-from-home schedule) and I will admit that although not everything has turned out perfectly, nothing would have been considered bad either.

I've been looking into spicing things up a bit by adding sausage, onions, etc. and had a question.  Most recipes with meats that I find entail wrapping or rolling the meats/additions (so they end up in a pocket of the bread).  Is there any reason why this seems to be preferred over kneading the mixture into the dough itself?  Just curious  - and looking forward to another experiment!


babybirdbreads's picture

oven thoughts, my head is swirling

I'm sure this topic has been  posted before, so forgive me.  and direct me appropriately!  

I am desiring suggestions for a home oven.  Here is what we want/need?

largest capacity (baking large quantities of artisan bread for farmers market)

convection ability

propane, preferably (current oven is propane and it seems hook-up would be easiest if I could stick with propane)

i would love a double oven but our kitchen doesn't warrant the space...we need an oven with a range top for cooking.

cost...under $2000 if possible.   i

much thanks.