The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
Chode's picture

I need some help troubleshooting my spongy crumb...


I'm quite new to this, and really happy I found this site. My starter is about a month old and I'm having some problems with a dense kind of spongy crumb on the loaves I am baking. I'm hoping someone can make some suggestions so I can get a better result.

Some background:

I feed my starter about every 3-4 days (kept in the fridge), and I feed it a 1:1 ratio of BF/cold water. 

The starter shows signs of life, but doesn't double per say in the fridge. It does show bubbles on the sides of the container and on the top -- so I think it's doing OK.  About 2 weeks ago my starter looked really inactive so I gave it a boost by adding a packet of red star dry active yeast to it. I've made several loaves of bread since then -- and the ones I made immediately following the introduction of the DAY had the best rise but the worst taste (not like sourdough at all, but like white bread).

Since then I've baked at least 4-5 loaves of bread, so I think my wild yeast is starting to take back over. It has a more sour smell to than before, and the bread has plenty of rise.

My routine:

I use 500g starter, 300g bread flour, 91g of water and 16g of kosher salt when baking a loaf.  I mix this in a KA mixer with a dough hook for about 1.5--2 minutes and proof for two hours. I form a loaf without punching it down, by gathering the sides of the ball together to make a smooth round loaf and proof another hour. I'm baking it 15M at 450F, covering it with foil (my oven has a lot of hot spots) baking another 15 minutes at same temp, then basting it with clarified butter and baking at 400F for another 30M.

The crumb seems weird -- hard to explain but it is sort of dense even though there are lots of uneven sized holes in it. Spongy almost. Not entirely pleasant to eat. Not bad, but not the same thing I've experienced with loaves purchased from a bakery.

Any suggestions would be appreciated! (thanks in advance to any readers/replies)

PS: Here's a picture of the bread loaves themselves. Picture of the crumb below.


Poolish Starter

dmsnyder's picture

Hamelman's Normandy Apple Bread

Today, I baked Hamelman's "Normandy Apple Bread" for the first time. This bread is a pain au levain spiked with instant yeast. It uses a firm starter and bread flour and whole wheat in the final dough. The apple flavor comes from chopped dried apples and apple cider.

Jeff (JMonkey) posted the formula and instructions for this bread May 19, 2007, so I won't duplicate them here. For those interesting in making this bread, Jeff's entry can be found here: Hamelman's Normandy Apple Bread

I followed Hamelman's instructions pretty much to the letter. I machine mixed for about 7 or 8 minutes and did a French fold before bulk fermentation. I did one more fold after one hour of a 2 hour bulk fermentation. I had to refrigerate the formed loaves for about 3 hours to work around an afternoon outing. I then let them proof about 60-75 minutes at room temperature before baking.

The loaves smelled wonderful while baking. The crust was crunchy. The flavor was somewhat disappointing. The apples do give pleasant little bursts of sourness, but the crumb flavor was not my favorite. It was basically like a light whole wheat levain, and that is not a type of bread I particularly like.

Your taste (undoubtedly) varies, and you may enjoy it more than I.

Then again, the Vermont Sourdough had such spectacular flavor, anything else would be hard to compare. Again, that's my taste.



KenK's picture

Sourdough rolls

I derived this formula by combining from several sources and doing some rounding.


3 ounces starter (100 % hydration)

8 ounces KA AP flour

8 ounces water

Mix and let stand overnight



12 1/2 ounces flour

5 1/2 ounces water

2 t salt

1t yeast

68% hydration

Mix in bowl and let stand for 30 minutes. Knead and rest, knead and rest; for a while.  I lost track.

Let rise in bowl for an hour, fold let rise another 2 hours.  Form rolls, let rise 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 450.

I think they came out ok, I was hoping for a more open crumb.  At least I have reached the enviable beginners stage where the mistakes are edible.  The last sourdough bread went into the trash. 

After eating a test bread the rest went in the freezer. We will split one every night for our dinner next week.  I normally reheat 10-15 minutes in a 350 oven. 

I debated until the last second about adding the yeast.  The preferment was working nicely but I chickened out.

jeffbrook1's picture

Pizza Dough

Hi ALl:


I have been using American Pie by P Reinhart for dough recipes and for the most part am satisfied. I love the focaccia! For the Napolitano dough, I like it but it always seems like it lacks stiffness, it is too loose. I am a little reluctant to add too much flour and thought I would ask the forum what experiences you have all had with it. I also made the neo-Napolitano and after retarding overnight it seemed to lose its shape and be more of a blob. Any thoughts or comments?





Erzsebet Gilbert's picture
Erzsebet Gilbert

Crumpets and strumpets

Okay, I admit this post has nothing to do with strumpets, but I couldn't resist the ridiculous rhyme!  

But this has everything to do with crumpets!  I've read other users' posts about Rose Levy Berenbaum's English muffins, and I know there's been debates about what the proper boundary between the muffins vs. the crumpets.  I've tried her English muffins, but her crumpets are in my bumbling opinion by far the finest of the two.  I love the wet batter and the stove top process, and the texture is so fluffy, classic, and moist.  We enjoy them with omelets and jam...  

The batter...

The griddling...

The finished display...

And darn it, I forgot the picture of the crumb, and the little red toaster that makes it complete!  And there were no crumpets left to tell the tale...

subfuscpersona's picture

Susan's Simple Sourdough Challenge - Take One


On October 4th, ehanner's blog presented Susan's Simple Small Sourdough Challenge. Ehanner's challenge was simple - make the bread!

Susan, justly famous for her "magic bowl" baking method and photos of perfectly round, scrumptious looking boules, has posted her recipe and approach several times. Here is Susan's recipe for one small boule: 12g firm starter, 175g water, 225g high gluten flour, 25g white whole wheat flour, 5g salt. Here's the Baker's Percentage...


firm levain 4.8%
white bread flour 90.0%
whole grain flour 10.0%
water 70.0%
salt 2.0%

I scaled the recipe up to make two loaves and baked them as batards, since we prefer this shape. Susan likes chewy bread but we do not, so I used unbleached bread flour rather than the high gluten bread flour Susan prefers. Whole grain flour was (home milled) hard red wheat. My sourdough starter is 100% hydration, so minor tweaks were made to the recipe.

The dough was definitely wetter than I am used to (my weekly sourdough bread is about 68% hydration with 20% whole grain). I followed her method for minimal kneading and periodic stretch-and-folds. The dough has a long bulk fermentation (at least 8 hours) and, after shaping, an overnight proof in the refrigerator. The risen dough gets a brief warm-up period, then into a pre-heated oven it goes.

Here's the risen dough, ready to be slashed and baked...

My batard was baked on a stone in a preheated oven, covered with the bottom of a turkey roaster for the first 13 minutes, uncovered for the rest of the bake. Here's what it looked like after the bake (hmmm, what's that weird shape?!)...
...Holy Major Oven Spring !!! - it's the end product of a frustrated oven spring. The loaf rose so much during the start of the bake it hit the top of my turkey roaster cover.



My turkey roaster bottom is 4-inches high and has low ridges on the inside... my 22 ounces of baking dough hit the top and did it's best to keep on rising. Thus the flattened top and indentations, which you can see a little better in this photo (the right hand photo has blue lines added to emphasize the indentations)...


So what if the loaf resembled Quasimodo? When sliced, who can tell? The taste was great - not too sour (we don't like really sour sourdough) with a nice open crumb. Here's the obligatory crumb shot...

inlovewbread's picture

Simple Sourdoughs with Durum


I've become somewhat obsessed lately with Durum flour. It adds such a sweet, buttery flavor to the bread, which is good- because then I don't add butter when I have slice after slice of this bread!

The boule on the left is the sourdough with durum. The loaf on the right is a vermont sourdough (a la Hammelman's formula). The scoring pattern didn't quite turn out as planned...anyway, the percentage of durum flour in this particular boule came to about 15%. That's only because I am rationing out my durum flour until I can find a less expensive source :-) Otherwise I would have it at about 25%.


When I feed my firm starter, I take the "waste" and make a teeny-tiny little sourdough boule- it's so cute and fun to make because it's so small. It's also a good one because I bake it the same day I mix; skipping the overnight retardation step (forfeiting more flavor, I know, but sometimes it's nice to not have to wait). I think the formula ends up:

25g firm levain

130g bread flour

20g durum flour

103g water

3g sea salt

I baked this with the "magic bowl" method, same as for the loaves above. But for some reason, due to the size, it doesn't come out with much of a crust. It's more thin and chewy instead of thicker and well, crustier. Still good though. Perfect size for 2 people! Okay, perfect size for one person to eat- by themselves.....

The small size is also nice for experimenting with different additions/ formulas. For instance, I attempted a chocolate cherry sourdough (which turned out really yummy) and didn't want to waste the cherries and the time if it wasn't going to taste good. Now that I know it does, I will make a larger loaf.




CallmePeggy's picture

Freezing the Starter Mother

I've dried and frozen some dried starter as a back up that I have.  My question is, has anyone ever froze the whole Mother in it's container?  I'm going to be gone for close to a month and I don't have anyone here to feed my 2 starter. 



SylviaH's picture

My favorite steaming tool

I needed to be able to reach back into my oven to pour water into my lava stone filled iron pans.  A 7" small for pre steaming and the extra large 12" iron pan filled with lava rock because with this size I can add more water for extra steam if needed.  I leave them in oven the whole time.  I steam from above because my 2 stones are made to cover the complete shelf and I leave both stones because I like room it gives for baking.  I took my ladle that holds just under a '1/2' cup of hot water and bent it so the handle became even with the cup.  Now I can easily reach far back and with an oven mit and without my hand or arm going into the oven itself and I don't have to worry about breaking blubs, oven glass 'it's still covered with a towel. I tried several pouring devices..this works great for me and was simple to make..I just bent the handle.  Now I have a very long reach with just a simple twist of my wrist to pour in the water.  I grab the towel off the oven glass door with my left hand and quickly shut the oven door with my right with ladle still in hand.



rolls's picture

richard bertinet dough again

i made another batch of dough from richard bertinet's book 'dough', this time i made the olive dough. i weigh all my ingredients but still feel i need to add more water. still, love his technique and books. had a couple questions though,

in his book he speaks about keeping back some dough and refreshing it from time to time, i wasn't sure though if i immediately cut off a pce of dough and leave on the side or after i let the dough rest? also does it matter what the dough contains eg sugar, fats etc does it have to be just basic flour water salt yeast?

also, what is the point of bulk fermentation? does it make much of a difference, because it seems that resting time would be faster if you divide immediately and shape into small balls eg if making pizza etc

thanks heaps in advance for any feedback.

im very excited because i just bought some razor blades from the barber, so had to make some dough to try them out, hopefully i won't have any trouble with scoring.

if anyone's familiar with richard bertinet methods etc please share, i am currently poring over his books dough and crust.