The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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ruckerz's picture

excessive hooch after a week in the fridge == bad sign?

I'm thinking that I need to refresh my levain more than once a week. This particular one had great rise for a boule a week ago, but after refreshing that batch and letting it sit for a week in the fridge, I found a layer of hooch on the top, tried to mix it in and raise another batch but it didn't raise (it was very liquidy/foamy instead of bubbly). What's happening here? Did I kill off all the good yeast in that week with excessive acid?


Also, when people say 'feed' do they mean simply add flour and water to an existing batch and then let it sit at room temperature? Or do they pinch off a bit of the existing batch and add flour/water to that (while throwing away the parent batch).



txfarmer's picture

Sourdough dog bisuits - and a dog food public announcement


This is Ruby. Whenever people ask me what kind of dog he is (yes, he's a boy, with a girl's name, what? he is man enough to be OK with it! :P), my answer is "a yellow running dog". While we have no idea what breeds are mixed in his blood (probably a lot),  it doesn't take long for anyone to notice that Ruby loves to run. He is always ready to take off running, any time, any place, any weather. I am a marathon runner, and he is my running partner - 45 to 55 miles a week, but that's merely a trotting warm-up for him, he really lives for the trips to the dog park, where he can be unleashed and just SPRINT forever. So far he's can run faster and longer than any other dogs we know, and even some slower cars. :P


There's one thing he loves ALMOST as much as running - eating. Ever since we adopted him 5 years ago, he has always INHALED his kibbles in minutes. Sometimes I don't even think the kibbles actually hit the bowl, I think he intercepts them midair and just swallow. He also eats anything that resemble, or don't resemble food - the most memorable one was half of a Gatorade bottle lid, which then scratched his inside and caused bloody diarrhea, even that didn't affect his appetite. Whenver my friends tell me about their dogs that don't eat, I simply don't undersand, what a foreign concept - until 10 days ago.

We had just picked him up from doggie daycare (I know I know, we are the worst kind of spoiling doggie parents, but he loves to run and it's a all day play kinda place...), stopped on the way to pick up a new bag of dog food (Iams minichunk in green bag, the same kind he has eaten for all 8 years of his life). Got home in time for dinner, opened the bag, poured kibbles to his bowl, he sniffed and WALKED AWAY! We were stunned, was he having a heat stroke? Sometime wrong with his teeth? Did he eat something bad in the daycare? For the next 3 days, he simply refused to eat his food during the day, before bed, he would slowly chew a few kibbles and walk away again. He would take some treats we gave him, but we don't usually give him people food, just some plain bread slices. With so little food, he was not as energetic as usual, still wanted to run in the morning, but slower and slower. During the day, he would just lay there and look weak. We were seriously concerned.

Finall got in a vet appoinment, the exam and blood test showed no problems - until we mentioned about the food. My vet said Iams had switched production facility and ingredient formula 3 months ago, ever since then there have been a lot of problems. Many of the foods are being recalled, the ones are not recalled (including the one Ruby was eating) also have some bad feedbacks. A lot of dogs would not eat the food, even though they have been eating the same brand/formula for their entire life. Some would get seriously sick after eating, a few older/smaller/weaker ones even have to be put down. We returned the Iams food immediately and got Hills Science dog food instead, Ruby immediately started eating - really immediately because we opened the bag right outside of the store and he started inhaling the kibbles on the sidewalk! Even since then, we have been feeding him part homecooked food (bland rice + chicken), part new dog food, by yesterday, he is eating all dog food, and doing very well. We ran 10 miles this morning, let's just say he's not the one that slowed us down. :P


I am beyond livid about Iams, how can they change ingredients without warning the customers? And what poisonous ingredients are they putting in the food that makes Ruby refuse to even get close?! What about those dogs that got seriously ill or even died? Who's going to take responsibility for them? So here's the PSA: if your dogs/cats are eating Iams, be very careful about feeding them food that's bought after July, if they eat less or get sick, it's very likely the food! In the mean time, check out this link: , especially the comments.


Anyway, now that the scary episide is behind us, I made these sourdough biscuits this past weekend for the poor little guy to make up for what he had to go through. They are full of human grade nutritious ingredients, as well as added benefit of sourdough. I adapted the formula from Nancy Silverton's "Breads from LA BREA Bakery", but Wild yeast has a similar adaption here. I did add one extra egg in the dough since Ruby runs a lot and needs the extra protein. The dough is very easy to handle, and the process is straightforward. It's a great way to use up extra starter!

I made sure to bake them long enough so they remain crispy for a long time. The recipe does yield a whole of cookies, so I froze a lot of them.

Ruby LOVES these, look, he's practically cross-eye-ed.


GSnyde's picture

Questions about Sourdough Shaping and Sizing

I plan to bake two batches of San Joaquin Sourdough this weekend--one for batards and one for ficelles.  I will mix both at the same time, and bulk retard one batch an hour longer for consecutive bakes.  A couple questions:  

(1) Should I mix them in one double batch and retard the double batch as one, or do them separately?  Maybe it doesn't matter. I'm inclined to do them separately because of my bowl capacity (I think the largest is 6 quart) and the effort of hand-mixing a dough ball of such size.  If I do a double batch, what stage would be optimal for dividing the ball into two ?

(2)  What weight should each ficelle be?  Will a batch of the SJ SD (1020 grams total dough weight) yield four or five? My constraint is the size of my baking stone (16" x 14").

Thanks for any advice.


ww's picture

bakeware in NY

Hi all,

I'm going to NY soon. Any must-go shops for baking equipment or bakeries? I've been mostly improvising with whatever I have at home but feel ready to splurge on some material, esp. bannetons.

Your recommendations are welcome!

proth5's picture

IBIE - Tuesday

 After a martoonie or two and an early night, Tuesday  8:30AM found a very large crowd of bakers and imposters ready to listen to Craig Ponsford and Jeffrey Yankellow talk about the science and application of sourdough based pre ferments.  Both seemed somewhat subdued and I was reminded of a quote about folks in another party town who made an early morning appointment.  When they rolled into the restaurant for breakfast they remarked to the waitress that their counterparts were late and they could have used that extra few minutes to gently recover from the previous evening's festivities.  The waitress said (to paraphrase) "You're in Las Vegas, boys, those people you are meetin' are expectin' a mess."

No, no, it was nowhere near that bad. In fact speaking about sourdough is always a little less precise than speaking about commercial yeast and I think most of us who work with sourdough know this.

What surprised me was the number of professional bakers at the lecture who had never worked with sourdough.  Here on TFL it seems that "everyone" is a sourdough baker, but maybe not so much in the commercial baking world.

Again, there was a lot to the lecture, but there were some high points worth discussing.

Mr. Yankellow made a distinction between a "culture" - which he defined as a newly formed mixture of flour, water, and organisms and a "starter" ("chef" or "mother") that is a mature culture strong enough to use for baking.  The transition, to his thinking usually takes 3 or 4 weeks (not many years) and, he emphasized, it is important to take the time to let the culture mature.  He did discuss that a type of bread (similar to salt rising bread) could be made from a young culture, but he expressed that it would have a very strong taste (from all the random bacteria) and be a very heavy bread.

Then both Mr. Yankellow and Mr. Ponsford held forth on the myth of special sourdough starters being grown from grapes or raisins or any number of odd things.  This is where I tread carefully because there is much emotional energy attached to the origins of starters.  I'm just saying that both of these distinguished bakers were convinced that the yeasts in the flour used to feed the culture and later the starter will always be the yeasts (and bacteria) in the starter.  Yeasts from grapes (for example) - and grapes are a fruit with a lot of yeasts - will not thrive in the flour and water environment and eventually be out competed by the yeasts in the flour.  Mr. Ponsford told the tale of a starter that was grown in a wine cave that gave the bread a particular flavor - until it was removed from the cave.  He also told the tale of a unique apple cider starter - but which was refreshed each day with apple cider.  I'm not taking sides.  I'm just saying.

Both similarly felt that after passing from the culture phase to the starter  phase there is no advantage (in terms of actual bread making) to the "150 year old starter carried across the Rockies."  They are both convinced that the starter will take on the characteristics of your locale and promised that if you went to their bakeries and asked for a bit of starter (now, don't everyone rush to do this!), they would gladly give you a piece because it will eventually come to reflect your locale and your level of care and itself was not the secret to their great breads.  Again, I'm just saying what I heard.

They presented some fun facts, among which were:

  • One gram of commercial yeast contains 8-10 billion yeast cells

  • One gram of regular flour contains 13,000 wild yeast cells and 320 lactic bacteria cells, and

  • One gram of whole-wheat flour contains 320,000 yeast cells and 62,000 lactic bacteria cells.

Now, that's something to think about...

Moving on the starter care, I couldn't help but think of the hard hearted way many home bakers treat their starters - leaving them to languish in refrigerator for weeks at a time and reviving them only when they are needed.  Starter care as discussed was for professional bakers, as feeding suggestions were given for feeding once, twice, or three times a day.

Well, that stirred up some hard feelings.  However I'll give you two quotes. 

Craig Ponsford "There is no shortcut to caring for your starter" and Jeffrey Yankellow "Treat your starter right."

I don't have the qualifications to argue.

They both also emphasized consistency - claiming that every time you see a problem with sourdough, the issue is consistency (feeding routine, temperature, etc.)

I am not making this up.  (Even though it is what I have been preaching on these pages for some time.)

In terms of the impact of sourdough on the final dough itself, they reminded us that the acid in the sourdough will strengthen the dough considerably and that more gentle mixing with the objective of somewhat under developing the dough would be something to consider with sourdoughs - allowing the dough to develop during the first fermentation.  Mr. Yankellow expressed that he preferred to retard sourdough doughs after shaping as the acidity and long fermentation would strengthen the dough to the point where it would be difficult to shape.

Well, that's enough controversy for today.

I then toddled off to the Bread Bakers Guild of America booth to hear a presentation from a representative of the California Wheat Board.  Apparently I've been studying about wheat a little too much, but one interesting fact is that California produces a particularly fine durum wheat called "Desert Durum" which is used in great quantities by the Barilla pasta company.

Swinging by the LeSafre cup, I was able to see yesterday's creations.  I was quite impressed by Costa Rica's colorful artistic piece.  Argentina's and Brazil's pieces were also very nice, but I did have to ponder if they would regret their bland color schemes.  We will know tomorrow.  Once again the breads were lovely.  Although I am completely unbiased, I still think Team USA rocked - but this is one tough competition.  I can't wait to find out the results.

Attracted by the sight of free dough scrapers, I spent some time at the Retail Bakers of America booth.  This organization, whose website is ,is an organization for professional bakers to aid them in connecting with other bakers and suppliers. Not an organization for most of us, but the very nice lady who chatted with me was happy to swap a mention for some plastic scrapers.  We talked a bit about my "retirement business" and she gave me some very good advice about not spending my retirement on a bakery business (which I knew, but it was nice of her anyway.)

I'm beginning to enjoy this "resting up and not pushing myself to the limit" thing and so left the show early, blowing off the Ciril Hitz book signing.  Although I like him very much because unlike "my teacher" he doesn't yell at me and doesn't give me homework assignments that take years to complete (he was also the first person to introduce me to a sheeter - and he even remarked to me about the love light in my eyes), but I just wasn't up to beating off the vast throngs that would no doubt be there.  I also don't want to lose that air of "I'm so cool I can hang with famous bakers and never even consider getting a book signed or a picture taken."  Once you give in to that, well, you lose your street cred.  Anyway, I have a lecture with him tomorrow.

And I hear those martoonies calling (Hey! It's vacation!)

Happy Baking

cgmeyer2's picture

how do i convert a 50% starter to a higher %

i currently have a sourdough starter than is doing well that i purchased from king arthur. i'd like to try breads with different hydrations. i do i convert my 50% starter to another hydration?

thanks, claudia

hanseata's picture

September Birthday Plum Cake

There's no doubt about it - Pflaumenkuchen (German Plum Cake) is my birthday cake. In the beginning of September the first prune plums show up on the market just in time for my birthday.

My birthday party was always arranged by my grandmother, my Omi, who invested all her love and imagination in coming up with games and other entertainment for me and my friends. She definitely was my role model on how to make a child's birthday party a huge success!

"Hide-and-Seek" (in the dark), "Choose-the-Right-Candy" ( with nail biting suspense) , "Say-Whom-You-Love" (good for many giggles) and "Unwrap-the-Chocolate" (with hat and mittens, fork and knife!) were some of the games that raised excitement and noise levels to heights that called for quiet intervals of soap bubble blowing, or story telling, to calm down all the boisterous little guests.

Of course my grandmother also baked my birthday cake, a large sheet brimming full of prune plums resting on a bed of sweet yeast dough, generously sprinkled with almonds and cinnamon sugar. I loved that cake, and could eat a lot of it (though not quite as much as on those memorable occasions when my cousin Thomas and I would compete at wolfing down Omi's famous yeast dumplings!).

Nowadays, if I don't have to entertain a horde of hungry cake monsters, I bake a smaller plum cake version, either with a short or a streusel crust, in a springform pan. They taste as good as the large yeasted cake - especially with Gifford's award winning vanilla ice cream...


There are hundreds of German plum cake recipes, this cake here is easy to make and tastes best slightly warm, with vanilla ice cream.

You'll find the recipe here:


breitbaker's picture

Simple Cracked Wheat Sandwich BRead

New Blog Post

The favorite pan bread of my kitchen

Cathy B.

breezebaker's picture

Graham Flour - Where to buy in UK?

Hi Everyone, 

I am based in UK finding it very hard to source 'Graham Flour', would anyone know where I can source this in the UK or alternativly source it from outside of UK? 

I have come across the 'Hodgson Mill' brand of Graham flour, but amazon will not send to UK. 

Please can you list websites etc of where I can purchase this type of flour! 

Many thanks,


BNLeuck's picture

Procrastinator's Sandwich Bread

Necessity is the mother of invention (or at least tweaking), right? It certainly is around here! I came to TFL (naturally) to find a solution to my problem: there was no more sandwich bread in my house. This is about as big a problem as no running water. My middle child is addicted to peanut butter sandwiches, and since she has a limited number of "healthy" foods she likes, we encourage her to eat them. (She's autistic; trying to get her to eat food she doesn't like/want is... well, next to impossible. Frankly, I'm just happy she eats anything but hot dogs and fruit snacks.) My usual recipe takes 4-5 hours, depending on the temp of my kitchen that day, and that just wasn't gonna cut it today. I needed something fast and simple.

I did a search for "basic white sandwich bread" and came up with a bunch of results, but near the top of the list was this post, with its GUMP Bread recipe. It had no comments, so no tried-and-true reviews or try-this adjustments, so I took it entirely on faith. The list of ingredients looked right, in proper amounts for a high-hydration sandwich loaf, so I figured how bad could it really turn out?

I made some adjustments for personal preference... butter for oil, regular milk for powdered milk and water, and flax seed for wheat germ. That last because I'd run out of wheat germ, not because I have something against it. And because I didn't have smaller loaf pans, I decided to make it all one loaf in my rockin' huge 9x5 Paula Deen stoneware loaf pan. These things are wicked deep and heat so evenly... I love them. I really do. And I thought to add vital wheat gluten because I'd heard it makes white bread do something interesting. (Very scientific, I know. LOL) So once I'd settled on all my ingredients and my loaf size, etc., I set about actually making the thing...

Procrastinator's Sandiwch Bread

  • .25c butter

  • 2c 1% milk

  • 2tbsp granulated sugar

  • 2tsp kosher salt

  • 5c bread flour

  • 4tsp instant yeast

  • 1tbsp vital wheat gluten

  • 2tbsp ground flax seed

  • more milk for brushing

  • 1tbsp 7-grain cereal

  1. Melt butter in microwave in a large measuring cup or bowl. (1 min on HIGH for me.)

  2. Add milk and heat to lukewarm. (1 more min on HIGH for me.)

  3. Add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve.

  4. Combine flour, yeast, gluten, and flax in a large bowl/the bowl of a stand mixer.

  5. Add liquid and mix to "shaggy mass" stage.

  6. Knead by hand or mixer until elastic. Dough will NOT clean bowl or form a ball; this is fine.

  7. Let rise until double, about 30 mins.

  8. Shape into a loaf, and put in greased 9x5in pan.

  9. Preheat oven to 350F; let dough rise 20-25 mins.

  10. Brush with milk and sprinkle 7-grain cereal on top, then score loaf as desired. (I always do mine diagonally, corner to corner.)

  11. Bake for 25 mins uncovered, with steam, then cover with foil and bake another 20-35 mins, until internal temp is 190F.

Now, since I really like how this turned out texture-wise, I intend to try cutting the yeast to about 1tsp, maybe 1.5tsp, and do an overnight rise in the fridge. Or somewhere else equally cold; this is Michigan, I'm sure I can find somewhere to put it this time of year! I think it'll really improve the flavor. But then it wouldn't be a procrastinator's bread, it'd just be a tasty sandwich loaf. I think I'm okay with that. ;)


Edited To Add: the pictures I completely forgot about...

Nevermind the foil. I like softer crust, so I let the loaf steam itself soft-ish for a few.

Crumb shot. It's very fine and tender, but it still has more flavor than that crappy Wonderbread. :P

Crumb close-up.