The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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tundrah's picture

Uncooperative leaven - cold temps & slow going


I've been getting reasonably successful with my Tartine starter and breads, but now that the temps have dropped I am facing new challenges.

I mixed my 1tbsp starter with 200g flour and 200g water last night. As of this AM, it was no where near ready, so I put it aside and hoped it would warm up. No such luck as our house is chilly and it didnt come anywhere close to being ready until I tested it about an hour ago at 6pm. There's no way I am staying up til 1am to make a few loaves of bread, so, my question is...

Can I either just stick with this batch and test it again in the morning? Or, should I throw out the leaven and start again just with a bit to regenerate the starter? I abandoned my original starter so this is what I have to work with. Would love to be able to make bread at some point tomorrow, but not sure how to reboot this time around without just reverting back to starter and hoping for warmer temps.

Thanks in advance!!!

ahuitt's picture

Hi, from NC

I'm Anne, and I've been lurking for a few months. I have just started making bread on a weekly basis for my family. I've always loved to bake cookies and goodies, but am really enjoying making some more vital parts of our diet. I bought a Nutrimill and am working whole grains into a lot of our baked goods. My family LOVES the Honey Whole Wheat bread recipe from this site. I've grown my own sourdough starter using PR's recipe from ABED, but am still tweaking the maintenance and how to mix and bake decent bread with it. I'm looking forward to baking with all of you!

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Sourdough bread rising verrrrrrrry slowly - Leader's Pain Poilane

Howdy!  I'm attempting Daniel Leader's Pain Poilane from "Local Breads."  I used my WW starter (fed 8 hrs previous - doubled and domed) to make his stiffer whole wheat levain (I used less water to compensate for my higher hydration starter).  I used the full amount of levain - 225g, kneaded in the Kitchenaid on 4 for 13 or so minutes (how do you do windowpane with such sticky dough?), put it into an oiled 2 qt plastic bin to ferment, took it out after an hour and kneaded it for a minute, then stuck it back in to double.  After 4.5 hours (2.5 at 67 degrees, 2 in microwave with a cup of warm water, reheated every 30 minutes), it's only 25% bigger.  At this point I won't be baking tonight, as even when it's finished doubling it needs a 2+ hour proofing plus an hour or so baking.  I need to be awake tomorrow.  

So my two questions are:

1) I figure I can retard the dough and bake tomorrow or even Tuesday.  But at what point should I stick it in the fridge?  Do I have to wait until it doubles to refrigerate?  Will it keep rising, slowly, the way that instant yeasted doughs continue rising in the cold?  And when I take it out, assuming it still hasn't doubled, should I let it finish doubling before putting it in the banneton?

2) I'm looking for something to blame here, and I can think of three possibilities: starter not active enough, kitchen too cold, or not enough gluten development so the starter can't rise the dough properly.  My starter was active enough to leaven a pain au levain last week, and it doubled nicely last night, so I'm guessing it's not that.  My kitchen isn't that cold, and anyway the microwave trick is barely working, so I can't imagine it's that either.  Which leaves the gluten development.  I tried flouring my fingers before doing windowpane test, but dough still stuck to me and I figured the dough was ripping because it was sticking, not because the gluten wasn't well developed.  Should I be flouring the test lump heavily before windowpaning?

jgmc101's picture

Flour - Best storage for flour and how long to keep it

I have never baked bread before until I had some awesome Rosemary Focaccia at a restaurant the other day.  So I bought all the ingredients and bought a small rosemary plant.

I have had KA Unbleached flour in my freezer for a long time because I rarely use it .  On occasions when I need it to thicken or make quick biscuits (just noticed it is expired).

My questions are:

1) Can I keep the new KA Flour in the freezer?

2) Is the old, in the freezer, flour still good after expiration date?

3) What is the best way to store flour?

4) I also read that if you want lighter bread use KA unbleached flour, but if I want more dense then buy the KA Bread Flour?

Any tips about bread making will be appropriated.

Thank you



Vicious Babushka's picture
Vicious Babushka

Why, Why Do My Loaves Always Flatten!

I made Hamelman's "Sourdough Seed Bread"

Followed the instructions except added 7gr of active dry yeast to the final build in order to bake on the same day.

Here is the schedule:

Saturday night 7:30pm built the pre-ferment
Sunday 8:00am built the final dough, left to bulk ferment
Sunday 11:00am did stretch & fold
Sunday 11:30pm did another stretch & fold, divided into 4, rested 10 minutes, did final proof in bannetons
Sunday 3:00pm removed loaves from bannetons while heating oven stone to 450.
Sunday 4:00pm OVEN TIME

ON NOES WHAT HAVE I DONE. The loaves collapsed from the time they were removed from the bannetons to being put into the preheated oven.

This happened EVERY TIME except when I bake challah, which always come out nice and high.

So what is the problem? Should the loaves be left in the banneton until exactly the moment to put into the oven? This seems to be when they flatten out. I am so careful to be delicate so that they don't collapse.

Help me please.

kensbread01's picture

Greetings from Northern Illinois

Found this web site, love the international participation, all the help I have received, and cool ideals.  The Fresh Loaf is Awesome!

I love making bread, especially the part where you put it in the oven and cross your fingers hoping that it comes out as planned.  And when it does, rejoice!   There is definitely an art and science to baking and making breads certainly embody all the trials and tribulations of baking in general.

My bread making journey when I saw a book, “Bread Winners Too!” by Mel London and bought it March 7, 1985 while on lunch break from my job as a Cobol programmer for Illinois Bell.  Baking bread became somewhat of a mental and physical diversion from the stress of commuting and programming 6 days week.  I learned how to proof the yeast, add in many types of tasty ingredients, make a few different quick breads, and learn to bake after years of being a culinary spectator all my life.  I spent a few years with just that book for a reference and probably made at least 15 different recipes for breads, even tried making croissants on two occasions, neither really amounting to much but got my curiosity going for more.

Fast forward to December 2011 and now I’ve retired from my programming work and somehow came across the Tartine Bread book by Chad Robertson.  One thing I had not learned from my early bread making days was how to get that crispy crust done right; although I had been experimenting with a baking stone and using a pan of water in the first stages of bread baking.  Out comes the dutch oven combo cooker and my breads take off in a new direction until… I crack a molar, need a root canal, and now I can’t chew… my bread making stops cold.  But I digress, my root canal caused a problem which took over a year to heal and now as of Fall 2013, I’m back in business and I want to make all kinds of breads!

Nice thing about bread making, even if you screw up and your bread does not rise as expected, you can still use the left overs to make croutons for soup.

Thanks for a great place to learn and meet other bread makers, 



CeciC's picture

Crumb doesn't open up for 50% wholewheat with biga @ 80% hydration


imageimageBiga ferment for 12 hrs

500g white bf

340g water 

0.4g yeast

Main dough

500g wholewheat dread flour

460g water 

22g salt

3G yeast

20g flaxseeds

10g sesame

20g pumpkin seeds

all seeds toasted and add at the first fold.

after mixing the final dough I give it 4 s&f within the first hour. 

total bulk ferment time was 3 hours

divide and shape proof for 45 mins which seems a bit overproof

the cumb is moist but it doesn't open up at all. would that due to lack of gluten development or overproof or is becoz of the addins? this got me thinking all night. 

Luckily my yeast water 90% English muffins gives me a good spring.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Dough Docker - 2" tines?

Hello everyone -

In my continuing efforts to acquire every arcane piece of fermentation gear possible before I leave this mortal coil (and because I just think they look really, really cool), I'm looking into a dough docker for my Detmolder trials, but I've not seen anything close to J. Hamelman's mentioned 2" tines - the closest I've seen have been about 7/8", in plastic (which appeals to me, more than the metal).  Anyone have one in the length, or otherwise have experience with a dedicated docker they like? 

Many thanks,



ichadwick's picture

What am I doing wrong?

I began a levain last week (Nov 19) and it seemed to go well at first, but then it just seemed to have stopped... or slowed to a crawl.

I started with: 

  • 250 g organic Red Fife flour
  • 250 g unbleached white flour
  • 5 g organic malted barley flour
  • 500 g warm water

It seemed to get started fine - small bubbles, a small amount of brownish liquid on top now and then (alcohol, I believe), smelled okay. But it didn't get really active, although it never showed any signs it was ill (no discoloring).

On Nov 22 I fed it with 250g unbleached flour/250g water after removing that amount of starter from the bowl. It seems to be active still - and the smell is okay. Just not really active.

I added some to a dough mixture yesterday to try and begin a bread, but it just made it mushy. It didn't really take or rise. I put the dough in the fridge after a few hours. Not sure what to do with it - toss it out? Or should I take it out of the fridge and give it another chance?

 My house is cool - could that be a problem? Is it just slow or has it failed?

Our water here is good - low chlorine and low mineralization. I boiled it first to let it shed any chlorine (and then let it cool) to just over 100F.

I didn't stir it until I fed it. Should I stir more often?

Any suggestions or comments?

arlo's picture

Heritage Grain, Ithaca

During the heat of my Thanksgiving rush in the bakery right now (so many many rolls), I received word from a wonderful lady I was interviewed by back in May, named June. She works with New York State in Agriculture and specifically was interviewing about my heavy usage (roughly 90%) of local whole grains. 

We talked and talked about baking, why I choose, and how I can choose to use locally grown and milled grains. What I face with such choices and some more wonderful bread related banter. Near the end, she informed about a handful of bakers to be organized in Ithaca, New York for trial and analysis of some varietal grains -just yesterday I received the email asking to join along to work with some wonderful, gifted bakers, including Mr. Hamelman.

Needless to say, I nearly spat out my green tea, and thought, "Damn..." I'll keep everyone informed as this progresses towards the event date in January.

It isn't just because it is 'that time of the year', but I believe it goes without say, I am truly thankful for such an opportunity at nearly 26 years of age. I hope to make the most of this opportunity and continue my education, to the fullest.



Bread in the WFO, rolls to roll, orders to fill, no need to sleep. Oh and the picture is just a sourdough baguette (one of many) from this mornings bake so far. I haven't posted much pictures lately : (