The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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infidel's picture

Stalled sourdough starter

Hello all from Ottawa,

This is my first post here.  I'm a middle aged male from Canada, attempting my first sourdough starter.  I've been doing a lot of reading and learning at this excellent site for a few weeks now, but I have hit a seemingly brick wall that I could use some advice to get through.  My new starter has stalled, and I can't figure out why.

My first attempt using equal weights of white flour and spring water turned into a smelly mess on day two, so I tossed it and found my way to this site.  Found Debra Wink's pineapple method (what a great resource and nice person she is!), and had good luck with getting the second attempt going using wheat flour and pineapple juice.  All seemed to be going as it should, and on day four after feeding at 1:1:1, it almost doubled in about 8 hours.  It smelled good, and had lots of tiny bubbles.  I was sure I was on my way.  I began feeding every 8 - 12 hours.  The next feeding I switched to white flour, and went to a 1:2:2 feeding.  I'm using bottled spring water, and I do have a gram scale, so I am going by weight, not volume.  At this point it stopped.  No rise at all, though it does get some surface bubbles and a very few tiny bubbles.  Several feedings later, and still no rise.  I thought maybe I was overfeeding it, so I let it sit for a day with no feeding.  It started smelling like nail polish remover, so I knew from some research here that it was getting hungry, and overfeeding was not the problem.  Fed it again at 1:1:1.  Nail polish remover smell went away, but still no rise.  Fed it at 1:3:3.  Nothing.  Fed it again at 1:2:2.  Zip.  Tried using tap water instead of spring water.  No difference.  It smells okay, no stink, no acetone smell, no hootch.  It's like stiff pancake batter, and very stretchy.  So my last feeding an hour ago, I switched back to the wheat flour to see if that would give it a boost.  It's been 2 hours and so far nothing.  All this time I have had it in a beaker with a graduated scale, and I set up a camera to take a pic every 5 minutes while I am at work, so I know it is not rising and falling before I come home.  I have a thermometer right beside the beaker, and it averages 74 degrees.  I would attach pics if I could, but that doesn't seem possible unless the pics are online.  Any advice much appreciated! 


superczech's picture

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood restaurant BREAD

I LOVE McCormick & Schmick's bread. Not sure if their bread varies by what state they are in... This one is in Chicago on Wacker.

This lovely bread has soft golden brown crust and is nice and fluffy. It has a sour dough/vinegar taste to it.

I have baked sourdough bread before, but the crust has turned out to be very hard.... How do I get the crust to be softer?

And does anybody have any idea what kind of bread McCormick & Schmick's in Chicago bake???

Thank you!

superczech's picture

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood restaurant BREAD

I LOVE McCormick & Schmick's bread. Not sure if their bread varies by what state they are in... This one is in Chicago on Wacker.

This lovely bread has soft golden brown crust and is nice and fluffy. It has a sour dough/vinegar taste to it.

I have baked sourdough bread before, but the crust has turned out to be very hard.... How do I get the crust to be softer?

And does anybody have any idea what kind of bread McCormick & Schmick's in Chicago bake???

Thank you!


Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Rustic French dough trough

A while ago I saw a link here to a video (in French) about a rustic French wood-fired bakery. In the video one baker worked up about 50 lbs. of dough by hand in a wooden trough in about five minutes. 

I can't find the link now. Does anyone have a link?

Jonas's picture

White sourdough bread with a little spelt

White sourdoughbread with a little spelt (hydration 71%)

500 grams of white levain 100% hydration
500 grams of organic roller mill bread flour 11% protein
150 grams of organic stone ground bread flour 10% protein
100 grams of organic stone ground whole grain spelt flour ( I like a bit of whole grain in my white bread)
465 grams of water
18 grams of organic sea salt

Mix everything but the salt by hand for a couple of minutes. Autolyse for one hour. Add salt and knead by hand for two to three minutes.
Put the dough in pastic box with a little oil. Stretch and fold and rest for 30 minutes, repeat and rest for 30 minutes,
repeat one last time and rest for one hour. Pre-shape two loaves and rest 10-15 minutes. Shape batards and place in benettons.
Rest overnight in refrigerator, about 11 hours. Take out the dough and let it rest in room temperature for about 45 minutes.
Then place in pre-heated oven with baking stone. Steam for the first 15 minutes.

Rather pleased with the crumb which came out soft and airy. Lots of holes, but not the really big ones.
I´m finding it hard to achive big holes in the crumb whith the flour I am using. Maybe the flour is too weak?
We don´t have bread flour with 13-14% protein content like you do in the USA. 11% protein is considered strong here in Sweden.

Didn´t get much oven spring with this bread. I´m gonna have to work on that. I find it harder with higher hydration dough.

The crust is rather thin, would like it a bit thicker. Wondering why I get those cracks on the outside of the crust?
I don´t normally get those with other recipes. Also getting some pockets of air between the crust and the crumb.

Any help and ideas would be much appreciated. I hope you can understand my "english".

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Still baking - now with proof box


As many others these days I mainly baked my tried and tested formulas, with not much new to blog about.

With exception of my proof box - the parts were on top of a cupboard since last summer, but now I am putting them to good use.

I think the quality of my ryes have greatly improved since.

The parts for the proof box

1. cheap picnic cooler

2. reptile thermostat

3. reptile heat mat

4. cooling rack

Here a photo:

Just a few photos from last weekend's bake, which was mainly for restocking the freezer:

1. Some ITJB Vienna Bread and Hamelman's Sunflower Seed Bread with pate fermentee

2. Some Challah (DiMuzio's sweet challah) for a school function:

3. Finally my weekly batch of 40% Rye with caraway seeds, and Russian Rye a la Andrew Whitley

Keeping myself busy ...


GSnyde's picture

Pecan-Maple Scones

I didn’t think I’d want to be tied to the kitchen for bread-baking this weekend.  I did want to use up part of a large supply of pecans.  So I started looking for Pecan Scone recipes and found what looked like a great one in The Cheese Board Collective Works, the source of the wonderful Curry-Onion-Cheese Bread I’ve blogged about before (–-one-sweet-and-one-savory).  And indeed the scones were about the best I’ve made (and some of the best I’ve eaten).

These are free-formed scones with a maple glaze.  They come out very crunchy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.  The Pecan and Maple combination is outstanding.  I think the secret to success—besides the great recipe—was keeping everything very cold and minimizing handling of the dough.

Here’s the recipe for 12-15 scones:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare two sheet pans with parchment or silicon mats.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together:

  • 3 ½ cups AP flour
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda

3.  Mix in:

  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ¾ cup Granulated sugar

4.  Cut ½ pound of cold sweet butter  into ¾ inch cubes and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives until butter bits are about pea sized.

5.  Then stir in 1 ¼ cups rough chopped toasted pecans.

6.  Make a well and pour in ¾ cup of heavy cream and ¾ cup of buttermilk.  Mix until just blended.  Form gently into 2 inch balls (don’t worry if they’re not very spherical; minimize handling).  Place the balls 2” apart on sheet pans.

7.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

8.  About 5 minutes before the scones are done baking, pour  ½ cup of real maple syrup into a medium sized bowl and gradually whisk in 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar until the consistency is a thick glaze.

9.  When  the scones are done, transfer them to a wire cooling rack on top of newspaper or something like it to protect your counter.  After about 10 minutes of cooling (so the glaze doesn’t just melt off the scones), spoon the glaze over the scones (I used about ¾ of a tablespoon for each).

10.  Let cool until the glaze sets (about 10 impatient minutes).  Enjoy with a hot beverage.

One more photo from today.  A Flicker defeating the cage around our bird feeder.  They have very long tongues.


lumos's picture

XXIX -Still baking! : Little Salkeld Multigrain Sourdough.... and HUGE thanks to Ruralidle

Yes, I've been baking regularly still, usually twice a week at least. Just been a bit lazy in posting the result lately.  :p  

 My first trial with Four Grain Blend flour  Richard (Ruralidle) kindly got for me from Little Salkeld Watermill, Cumbria, in Lake District.

  As Richard advised, I mixed it with my regular bread flour at 25 : 75 ratio and at 67% hydration and kept the method very simple and basic to get to know this flour.  In the end, I added a bit more water because it felt a tiny bit stiffer than my regular basic sourdough, so the final hydration became about 70%, which is exactly the same as my regular dough. I think it’s probably due to the higher gluten level of the flour I used (Waitrose Leckford Estate Strong flour. 13.6% protein), compared to Richard’s regular flour, Untreated Organic White from Shipton Mills with 11.3% protein.

 I baked in the late evening and left it on a worktop overnight, and sliced it first thing in the morning for my breakfast and sandwich for my husband.  The first thing I noticed was how moist the crumb was. It reminded me of a few loaves I baked a few years ago which included some oats flakes. And the loaf kept its moistness very well for whole three days until we consumed it all. So it’s definitely a bread that keeps well.  Also it had subtle but very pleasant nutty flavour. It was lovely as it is, but even better when toasted, too.  I think I’ll increase the proportion of Four Grain flour a bit next time, probably to 30% or so.

 Thank you, Richard, for introducing this lovely flour to me (and paying for it, too! ).  You’re absolutely right. It makes a really good loaf!


Multigrain Sourdough with 25% Little Salkeld Four Grain Blend Flour


 Levain – 120g (70% hydration) = fed with 70g strong flour + 50g water

 Main Dough

   Four Grain Blend flour  75g

   Strong Flour  225g

   Salt  7g

   Water  210g 



1)      Feed the starter 8 – 16 hrs before use.  

2)      When the levain is ready, mix flour and water and leave for 30 min to autolyse.

3)      Sprinkle salt and stretch and fold in a bowl until the salt is well distributed.

4)      Rest 40 minutes.

5)      Repeat 2-3 x S&F in bowl at 40-45min intervals.

6)      Put the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and cold retard in the fridge for 16-18 hrs.

7)      Take it out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for 1 – 1 1/2 hr.

8)      Pre-shape, shape and put in a banetton.

9)      Final proof…..until it’s ready to bake. (finger-poking test!)

10)  Heat the oven at 240C with a covered casserole (I use an oval Pyrex casserole with a lid).

11)  Bake for 20 min with the lid on.

12)  Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 210C and bake for another 20 – 25 min.










BoyntonStu's picture

WFO (Rocket Stoves)

If you have not seen a WFO rocket stove, here's a few videos to learn about them.

A rocket stove is essentially a tall INSULATED vertical pipe that burns any wood or biomas at 2,000 *F with NO SMOKE.

AFAIK A rocket stove uses the least amount of wood to cook than any stove made.

Rocket Bread Oven

No gas reaches the bread!

My friend's rocket stove heats his house.

I helped with this design.

Dual Plane Rocket Stove Heater

Energy Conservation with Rocket Stoves in Africa:Aprovecho Research Centre, Southern Africa, Rocket Stoves - Ashden Award winner

bobku's picture

Stretch and fold method

For standard breads, not sourdough. How can I convert my recipes to stretch and fold  method. If a recipe says to knead for about 10 minutes and then let rise about 1 1/2  hours untill double in size. Should I do several stretch an folds right after mixing the dough then let it rise and do more stretch and folds during the 1 1/2 hours of rising. Should I be increasing rising time ?