The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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C B Findlay's picture
C B Findlay

Poolish vs whole dough overnight fermenting

What is the end difference between using a poolish, or portion of the dough fermented overnight, vs. letting the whole loaf sit overnight? In an Italian bread baking class I took the teacher leaves his whole batch just sitting overnight at room temp in a bucket.

Do you just get a stronger flavor that way?

Do the two methods affect texture?

C B Findlay

BernieR's picture

Advice about using my starter for the first time.

I have been taking a pretty relaxed approach to my first attempt at starting a starter and I think it's working out ok. I got some wholemeal spelt flour and put it in a jam jar with water, then put a grape in, with bloom on the surface. When it started to show some activity I took the grape out and I have been stirring the stuff and adding spelt and then white bread flour, and pouring off liquid from the top. There was some acetone and then some blue cheese smell, but I made the mixture a bit drier and now it smells pretty good and yeasty and it's bubbling well. It's been going for about 10 days. It's on a bench that gets warm in the evenings and at lunchtime for an hour. Currently it's 25 C there.


I only have a small amount. I have taken a small quantity off to a different jar, as insurance, now I want to use some of what I have to make a loaf. Suppose I put some honey in a glass, dissolve in warm water, add a couple of tablespoons of my starter, leave somewhere warm for 10 mins, then add this to my flour? Then maybe expect a long slow rise? Is that the right sort of idea? Or am I rushing things?'s picture

Soakers & Botanical Dogma

I'm a 'returning' baker.  I did a short tour of duty at friends' Tassajara-inspired breadshop startup in the early 70's, but hadn't made a loaf since, until my son miracled me Lahey last year.  NKB broke the ice, but didn't cut the mustard for flavor & texture.  So I'm studying Reinhart, Magee, Buehler et al. to up my game.  I have a question that none has answered.  I apologize in advance for how long this post will probably be.

More preface:  I teach university-level botany, including the  physiology and enzymology of the hydrolytic reactions that release stored, polymerized substrates when a cereal seed imbibes water.  Reinhart is warmly inspring in his fascination with enzymes and his  consequent advocacy of pre-ferments.  But there's something about soakers in particular that contradicts botanical dogma.

Imbibition of water by cereal seeds (barley being the longstanding research model here) allows the stored hormone gibberellin to diffuse from the embryo ('germ' in baker-speak) through the endosperm to its outermost aleurone layer where it binds to protein receptors in aleurone cells.  That binding sets in motion a series of biochemical reactions that ultimately result in starch-degrading enzymes being made de novo in, and secreted from, aleurone cells.  Among these enzymes are the amylases familiar to anyone reading this.  Other stored polymers -- proteins, fats, nucleic acids -- are also hydrolyzed by newly syntheized and secreted aleurone enzymes.  So far so good -- Botany 101 cereal seed germination physiology.

As far as I know, these aleurone-synthesized hydrolytic enzymes do not exist in desiccated cereal grains of the sort we mill into bread flour.  They only get made (to be precise, translated de novo from messenger RNAs) in intact seeds that have imbibed water that allowed diffusion of the hormonal signal from the embryo.  This implies that there shouldn't be any amylase enzyme activity in a soaker consisting of flour and milk, soy milk, buttermilk, etc., unless the milk introduces them.  I don't recall any writers claiming that.  So where do soakers' hydrolytic activities come from?  Addition of yeast or diastatic malt changes everything of course.  But I'm talking basic liquid+flour soakers.

On the other hand, if sprouted grains are used in a soaker, and perhaps importantly, if they are gently mashed first, to release these enzymes to better expose the flour's starch to them, then the latter might indeed be acted upon by aleurone enzymes to release simpler sugars (read: flavors) from the flour. (I'm dying to try this)

So why do soakers work?  Starch-hydrolytic enzymes should not be present in them, because the cellular integrity of the seed that is required to initiate their synthesis is destroyed in milling.  Empirically of course, soakers do work.  It isn't the milk: I've used ultrapasteurized (Meijer organic -- good!) milk in my Reinhart soakers with delicious results.  Ultrapasturization oughta nuke any enzymatic activities for sure.  Is my dogmatic view of germination and amylases overly simplistic, ignoring rogue amylases conveniently present in milled grain?  Or are these writers giving enzymes more credit than they're due, ignoring some non-enzymatic, physical process?

Sorry for the verbosity.  Incorrigible.  I have more questions, but they can wait.  Thanks.

GSnyde's picture

San Francisco Country Sourdough—New Sourer Variation with Wheat Germ

My wife likes her sourdough sour.  And a happy wife is better than the alternative.  Not that I dislike sour sourdough.  Indeed, for some purposes (along side a salad, or as toast, or as an appetizer with cheese, or….), I like my sourdough sour, too.

I hadn’t changed anything up in my usual sourdough bread (which I call San Francisco Country Sourdough) for a while.  I’d been meaning to try it with some toasted wheat germ added, a variation taken from the SFBI Miche formula many of us have played with.  Also, the talk recently about the Larraburu Brothers bread, and means of achieving sournness, had me thinking I should go for the sour.

So I followed my usual formula, but I added 2% toasted wheat germ (18 grams) and an additional 20 grams of water.  To encourage sourness, I let my liquid levain ripen longer than usual (14 hours), retarded the loaf for 16 hours after a three-hour primary ferment, and baked the loaves four and a half hours after the dough came out of the fridge (90 minute warm up, 60 minutes between pre-shaping and shaping, and a two hour proof).

The bread is nicely sour.  The crust is crispy as usual.  The crumb is moist and toothsome but not tough.  The crumb is more regular (less full of irregular holes) than usual; this might be attributable to the wheat germ cutting gluten fibers.  All in all, a good variation.

My sour-loving wife liked it, and noticed the extra wheaty flavor.

Here’s the formula:

San Francisco Country Sourdough—With Wheat Germ (version 12-8-12)

Yield: Two 770g Loaves; or Three Mini-Baguettes (245g each) and one 800g Loaf; or One 1000g loaf and two 270g baguettes; 0r Three 513 gram loaves; or…   



100 grams   AP flour

24 grams  Whole Wheat flour

12 grams  Whole rye flour

170 grams   Water, cool (60 F or so)

28     Mature culture (75% hydration)

FINAL DOUGH (67% hydration, including levain)

640 grams   All-Purpose flour (83%)*

85 grams  Whole wheat flour (11%)**

45 grams   Whole rye flour (6%)

18 grams toasted Wheat Germ (2%)

455 grams   Warm water (80 F or so) (58%)

17 grams   Salt (2%)

306     Liquid levain  (48%)   


1. LIQUID LEVAIN:  Make the final build 12 to 15 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 70°F

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary.  Cover the bowl and let stand for an autolyse phase of 30 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, and finish mixing 5 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. 

3. BULK FERMENTATION WITH S&F:  3 hours. Stretch and fold the dough in the bowl twice 20-strokes at 45-minute intervals.  Place dough ball in lightly oiled bowl, and stretch and fold on lightly floured board at 45 minutes.  If the dough has not increased in size by 75% or so, let it go a bit longer.

4. RETARDED BULK FERMENTATION (optional):  After second S&F on board, form dough into ball and then place again in lightly oiled bowl.  Refrigerate 8-20 hours, depending on sourness desired and scheduling convenience.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: [Note: if bulk retarded, let dough come to room temperature for 30-90 minutes before pre-shaping.]  Divide the dough into pieces and pre-shape.  Let sit on board for 30-45 minutes, and then shape into boules or batards or baguettes.

6. PROOFING: Approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours at 72° F. Ready when poke test dictates.  Pre-heat oven to 500 with steam apparatus in place.

7. BAKING: Slash loaves.  Bake with steam, on stone.  Turn oven to 450 °F after it hits 500F after loading loaves.  Remove steaming apparatus after 12 minutes (10 for baguettes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes total (for 750g loaves; less for smaller loaves).   Rotate loaves for evenness as necessary.  When done (205 F internal temp), leave loaves on stone with oven door ajar 10 minutes.


Axel's picture

Looking for flour expertise in China

I am located in China and currently use "Lam Soon" flour from Hong Kong, such us Golden Statue.

I need your expertise in comparison of different types of bread flour from this company. I want to find an optimal flour blend for baguette.

Thank you for your time.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How Not to Make a Larrabura Sourdough

I was somewhat concerned with the long fermentation times and moderate to high temperatures in this recipe, but I had time on my hands, so I made the Larrabura Sourdough.

I didn't have a piece of old dough or stiff starter, so I made one with these quantities and let it ferment overnight at room temp.

  • 40 g bread flour
  • 20 g water
  • 20 g white mother starter

I used 45 g of this old dough to make the stiff levain (sponge) and let it ferment for (what I thought to be a ridiculous) 9 hours at 85 F. 

  • 90 g hi-gluten flour
  • 45 g water
  • 45 g stiff starter

I used all of this stiff levain to create the final dough (for 2 loaves) and let it bulk ferment for (what I thought was a really, really, really ridiculous!) 3 hours at (an unbelievable!) 105 F:

  • 1067 g hi-gluten flour
  • 640 g water
  • 21 salt
  • 180 g stiff starter (all of the above)

It was already 11 pm by the time the bulk ferment was done, so I shaped the loaves, put them in linen-lined bannetons, wrapped them tightly in plasti-crap, and (here's the error:) put them in the refrigerator for an overnight retardation at 35 F.

They were just beautiful when I took them out of the refrigerator. They had that certain feeling dough gets when you know it'll hold its shape, score beautifully, and rise perfectly–and they did: They are beautiful loaves with those gorgeous retardation bubbles and all. 

And they tasted of nothing!




I followed the Larrabura process (that Doc.Dough posted) as close as I could (until adding the retardation step) and really believed that a (1) overnight-fermented piece of dough followed by a (2) 9-hour ferment stiff levain at 85 F followed by a (3) 3-hour ferment at 105 F followed by a (4) 7 hour retardation would produce (5) really flavorful sourdough loaf; that it might even be especially sour (not something I particularly like, but it's edible if not paired with anything).

I knew the retardation was pushing things (and was a break with the Larrabura process), but I would have never expected it to result in no flavour at all. After all the fermentation, nothing? No taste?

I don't have an explantation for it either, other than perhaps my starter is Lactobacillus free (or the 105 F bulk killed the lactos). (No, I don't really believe that.)

The yeast didn't exhaust the food, because they browned nicely.

I just don't know what happened.

I do know, however, that breaking the Larrabura process by including a final retardation is a good way to produce beautiful loaves that have no taste whatsoever. Or that by adding the retardation step, I simply didn't make a Larrabura loaf. 

TastefulLee's picture

Need a Child's Guide to Sourdough Starter Development and Use

Hi, all. I’m having such a great time learning and reading on this website. As a very new baker of things containing yeast, there is certainly much to learn and I’m grateful to all who have contributed in expanding the knowledge of others.

I’m currently working on my first juice/whole grain sourdough starter, and I’ve read much about the development and maintenance of one, so I think I’m off to a good start - HOWEVER - there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’m running into trouble when people are discussing things like ratios, and also how to bulk up a starter for use in a recipe. I’m also having difficulty with percentages, such as 100% hydration, for example--what does that mean, and how do you formulate a recipe based on that type of expression?

I know there is much information here, but does anyone know of a post that already exists that specifically and clearly explains these and other information about sourdough starter development and use, from the ground up for those of us who are brandy-new and terrible at mathematics? I think that despite my inexperience and deficiency with numbers, I could manage if I could grasp the concepts I could begin to figure it out. Unfortunately I’m finding that I need things explained to me as though I was in kindergarten. L

Thanks in advance for any information or referrals. Have a GREAT weekend! J

JoeVa's picture

Cottura Pizza nel Forno a Legna

Baking Wood Fired Oven Pizza.

Ecco un breve video delle mie pizzate. Buona visione!

Here a short video of my pizza baking in the wood fired oven. Have fun!

Elagins's picture

At Last! The baguette crumb I've been looking for

Finally, I got the crumb I've been looking for, and it came about by accident.

To enlarge the crumb, I've been gradually reducing the kneading time, lowering the flour strength and increasing the hydration of my baguette doughs. Finally, I got it right on New Year's Eve, when we were having some friends over and decided that crostini would be on the menu. My wife and I were both very busy that day and I was in a rush to get the bread done, since one of our ovens went on the fritz the day before (naturally!) and so we only had one oven to work with and lots of baking.

To make a long story even longer, I mixed the dough (Giusto's Artisan Flour, 75% hydration, 2% salt, 1% IDY) in my KA and worked it under the paddle for about a minute, when the dough started coming together and the gluten clearly was forming. Without thinking, I put it onto my kneading board, and only when it was there did i realize that I'd intended to work it under the dough hook for another couple of minutes.  "Oh, well," I thought, "No time like New Year's Eve for an experiment." So I let the dough sit on the board and gave it four stretch-and-folds about 20-25 minutes apart.  The dough came up beautifully.

Handling it very gently, I scaled it to 225 g/8oz and let it rest for another 20 minutes or so before rolling it out and arranging the six loaves en couche for about 75 minutes of proofing. Oven preheated t0 500F/260C. I steamed the oven, slashed and loaded the loaves, then steamed again at 3 minutes, reducing the temp at that time to 450F/230C. Baked for about 10 minutes longer and got terrific oven spring, as the photo shows. What the  photo doesn't do justice to is the gorgeous yellow color of the crumb.

All in all, a very satisfying bake.

Next batch will be at 80% hydration, and I'll also see how other flours (i.e., Sir Galahad, Harvest King, La Parisienne) behave under these same conditions. Will keep you all posted.

Stan Ginsberg

brendateese's picture

the sourdough starter-batter-breadmaking cycle

A couple of weeks ago I posted a problem I was having keeping my ADY starter going and received truly excellent and helpful advice.  I've now developed my "friends of Carl" sourdough starter and having no problems at all with it.

I'm a very smalltime home baker.  All I want is to be able to knock out a very good loaf two or three times a week for my very small family, and I want to do that without overly much thought or fuss, getting into a reliable routine and not even consulting a recipe.  I have other things to cook, and other interests than cooking.   This is the technique I developed for myself after consulting with TFL community sourdough experts.  It satisfies my small needs, and seems to be a foolproof method of keeping the starter in good shape for the next baking day.  It's one of those "just in time" delivery systems where you don't keep a lot of inventory on hand.

So I have a big mason jar in the refrigerator with anywhere from 1.75 to 2.5 cups of sourdough starter.  The mason jar never leaves the refrigerator except to be stirred and/or replenished. 

The evening before baking I remove almost all of the starter into a big mixing bowl.  I leave only 1/2 cup in the mason jar.

I add 1 cup water and 1 cup bread flour to the mixing bowl along with the starter, mix that and leave covered overnight on the counter.  That is "the sourdough batter".  It is very active by the next morning. 

I gently stir that, just to disperse the yeast, then return 1/2 cup of batter to the mason jar, mixed with 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of AP.  

So this is how I refresh the starter now, using a fresh infusion of active wild yeast plus some flour for it it be feeding on whilst in the refrigerator between baking days.  This is backwards from that part of the advice given to me by TFL experts, but so far it is working very well and goes along with my admittedly rather cavalier attitude towards the sourdough process  --  if it can't be simple I know I'm not going to persevere with it.

For the breadbaking itself with the remaining batter  --  it couldn't be simpler.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup bread flour, 1 cup wholewheat flour, 2 tsp. salt.  Start mixing this into the batter gradually, starting off with a fork and then switching to a stiff latex spatula to fold in as much flour as what you want.  I make only two kinds of bread, a sandwich loaf and a focaccia.  For the loaf I mix in more flour than for the focaccia.

I have learned so much from reading TFL.  Thanks to the teaching here I now know how to manage the sticky high hydration doughs, and I couldn't be more pleased with my new bread. 

Someone asked me on the last thread I posted if there was any difference in taste between an ADY starter and a proper sourdough starter.  The answer is no.  The "yeasted" bread tasted as good as if not better than the sourdough.   I'll run and duck for cover now :>)

 many thanks to TFL community for being here