The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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hullaf's picture

making use of bmuir1616's "guide to refreshing a sourdough starter"

I caught onto refreshing sourdough starter in bmuir's guide as one of the easier ways to understand my starter -- TFL node 6742. Now that the weather is warming up I find my starter is developing better though this guide really helped me with the numbers. 

First, since I have been wanting to convert my 100% starter to a firm one and I had just bought a used Glezer "Artisan Baking Across America" I thought I'd try her method for that. (My starter began about three years ago from freshly milled rye flour per RL Bernbaum's "Bread Bible" method.) I took 15 grams of my starter, added 15 of water and 50 of while bread flour (15-15-50), it rose 2x by 8-12 hours. Since it seemed slow to rise I then used Glezer's method to enliven my firm starter to make sure it was active enough - so I did a refreshing schedule of (15-25-45) starter-water-flour every 12 hours. That just didn't seem to go as Glezer said it would (by tripling or quadrupling!?). So, as I read in various blogs here on TFL (such as node 1807), I took Andrew's advice and used his amounts (30-30-50), and my starter started to grow well to 2-3x in 3-5 hours. So, I knew my sourdough starter was good. 

Now, I was ready for bmuir's guide and graph to direct me. I did the (25-50-50) building first, every 12 hours I added on, and by 36 hours I had the 500 Grams of starter/preferment to bake. (I didn't want the 1000 gram amount.) After the first two feedings it had doubled in 4-6 hours (the aroma was soooo goood) and with dmsnyder's and Mike Avery's advice I refrigerated it "because you want to use the starter at the peak of activity when you add it to the dough". 

I was now ready to make bread. I took out the refreshed starter/preferment from the fridge and let it warm up for 2 hours to nice and bubbly. I made half recipe of Glezer's Thom Leonard Country French by zolablue's node 3934 -- specifically with the sifted Hodgson Mill graham flour mixed with KA bread flour. I followed the recipe fairly exact; it rose according to the hours mentioned (I made sure of a 75F rising temperature by using a heating pad+rack+towel cover). I made one large boule, risen in a willow banneton, and baked it a total of 40 minutes.  


shaped Thom Leonard country french bread

shaped Thom Leonard country french bread


baked Thom Leonard country french bread

baked Thom Leonard country french bread 


sliced country french bread

sliced country french bread

 The bread rose well, had a great oven spring (though maybe not deep enough slashes?) and had a great wheaty taste. I wish I had real high extraction flour to see how that affects the taste. 

  Then since I had more fresh sourdough starter leftover, I made pizza dough per Peter Reinhart's 'transitional' whole wheat pizza in his WGB book. I quickly made up a soaker with whole wheat flour, let it sit/autolyse for an hour, added it and the remaining refreshed starter to the total dough and refrigerated it until an hour or two before I made the pizza, probably 6-8 hours. The dough turned out much more elastic and fun to work with than in the past when I had used this recipe. I did use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast - maybe this and the nicely active starter helped.  


elastic sourdough pizza dough

elastic sourdough pizza dough

I used the tomato based sauce per "a pizza primer" by Floydm's recipe and here is the result, a tasty pepperoni-onion-mushroom-basil pizza.  


'transitional' sourdough crust pizza

'transitional' sourdough crust pizza 


As you can see I used several different books, and many ideas, recipes, and recommendations from a variety of TFL bloggers. The Fresh Loaf has been so good for me! 


Yumarama's picture

Oh please, Grow for me! The saga of Audrey 2, the little starter that wouldn't

Well, I'm on attempt #3 and into month three of trying to start a starter. Almost 8 kilos of flour into it and still nothing to show for it. Ignoring the two previous attempts here's what I've been doing:

Day 1: Start with organic, stone ground rye, 60g and bottled spring water, 60g. Wait 24 hrs as it sits atop the fridge.

Day 2: Add 60g water, 60g rye, place on fridge, wait 24 hrs

Day 3: Discard all but 120g, add 60g water and rye, place on fridge, wait 12 hrs

Day 3.5: Discard all but 120g, add 60g water and 60g unbleached all purpose.

Day 4: Bubbles and slight foaminess, but I'm suspecting this is unwanted gas this early in the game. Smells like flour and water, no alcohol. Feed normal 120/60/60 ratio (half old, half new). Oh, I wash the container every time I feed it, too.

Day 4.5 and onwards: repeat cycle. Bubbling subsides, eventually begin to get alcohol smell, very minor bubbles in batter could just as easily be from mixing in air. Occasional SLIGHT growth, at most just under 1/4" on about an inch of mix. This eventually subsides and hootch shows up. Alcohol smell gets REALLY strong, little to no activity yeast wise.

I'm now on week three, as noted and thinking this is going nowhere fast. Or slow, actually.

What should my next step be to try and get this thing to grow? Does it make sense to thicken 'er up at this point (1:1:2 perhaps?) to try and stave off excess hootchiness?

And I'm calling it Audrey 2.

I've given you sunshine
I've given you rain
You've given me nuthin'
But heartache and pain
I'm begging you sweetly
I'm down on my knees
Oh please... grow for me!

(seriously botched lyrics from the musical
Little Shop of Horrors (1982))

Lisalovestobake's picture

Kind of strange?

After developing a really great starter the last 4-5 months, something sort of odd (I think) has been happening as of late.

Normally, when I want to make a loaf or two of bread, I take out my mother starter, let it come to room temp, remove one cup (I keep two cups of the mother total), split that one cup into two 1/2 cups, and refresh each of them with feedings of 1/2 cup each of bread flour and bottled water, then feed the mother, and let all sit out and ferment for 4-8 hours (sometimes more, depending on whether I go out for a while, want a more sour loaf, or whatever comes up at the time)

When the time comes to prepare the dough for my loaves, I have two cups of refreshed starter for two loaves, and the mother goes back into the fridge. 

Well, last week, I removed the usual cup of starter, fed the mother, but this time put the whole cup of 'discard or refresh for a loaf or two' all into one container and let it sit out without feeding it.  At first I was going to ditch it, as I wasn't going to make any loaves this time, but for some reason, I decided not to ditch it - and set it in a warm place, then forgot about it for about 12 hours.

When I realized it was sitting in my turned off oven, I just couldn't throw it out, even though it looked pretty inactive, so I decided to use the whole cup of non-refreshed starter in a loaf of bread, and see what happened.  Lo and behold, the dough rose like crazy, and I ended up with a big, fluffy loaf, with a decent, albeit irregular, crumb and perfectly sour, delicious, flavor.

Ever since that 'experiment', every time I take out the mother to feed, I've been doing the same (which is great, as it saves on flour), and I'm still getting fantastic loaves.  What gives?  I always thought it was of major importance to refresh the amount of starter you remove for a new loaf (??). 

I know there's a reasonable explanation, as in, once that non refreshed 'discard' gets mixed with the bread flour, water, and eventually salt, it's getting a huge feeding, hence the rise, but doesn't this go against the 'cardinal' rule that a starter must be refreshed before starting a new loaf?  I'm happy, but a little perplexed!

Non refreshed starter loaf


lisah's picture

Jewish Salt Sticks

Hi Everyone,

 I grew up in Philadelphia where the local bakeries and Kosher delis sold "Salt Sticks".  They were made from a Kaiser dough and rolled like a giant croissant, but not curved.  Then course salt was sprinkled on the outside. Does anyone have a traditional bakery recipe for these?  P.S.  I'm also looking for a recipe for a traditional Philadelphia deli cheese or rice knish.

riceandwheat's picture

flour to starter to bread (with photos)

Thanks to all the advice and tips from everyone on this site, I think I've successfully created my own sourdough starter from nothing more than flour and water! On top of that, I baked my first loaves of bread with it and they turned out pretty decently, I think!

I tried to document the whole process with photos since I thought it might be useful for others who want to start their own starters some day. So if you will pardon the blatant self-promotion, here's my sourdough journey complete with photos:

Since I'm still relatively new to bread-baking, I'd love to hear any suggestions. In particular, as you might be able to tell from some of the pictures, I had some problems slashing the bread loaves before baking. How deep should the slashes be? What's the best tool for the task?

Thanks! Happy baking!

aturco's picture

No Rise to My Sour Dough?

This website is great. I recently starting making my own bread using Mark Bitman's NY Times no-knead recipe. I've had tremendous success with it and I am using a clouche. The crust and crrumb almost perfect and I am creating some nice loaves.

I wanted to try a sourdough loaf at the request of my 10 year old daughter. I used Mark Shepard's Simple Sourdough formula/recipe for a starter and the bread.

I am able to get a pretty good starter, it bubbles has a sour smell, has hooch and looks a lot like the pictures posted on the web sites I visit. I also am able to get a pretty good sponge. Its a little too wet but again its bubbly, has a sour smell and when stirred has a pretty good body.

My problem is when I make the dough, I am not getting a good rise. I let it sit in the gas oven with the pilot on for 4-6 hours. It looks like it is rising or doubling is size but when I go to put it in the clouche or a loaf pan it just lies flat. I follow the directions and start out with a cold oven and set it to 375 and let it bake for 55 minutes.

The loaf comes out as a flat disc that is very dense. The last one I made had a an alright crumb, nice holes in it but it was very dense. The flavor was pretty good too but not nice and airy like the other bread I've made. I am using King Arthur Whole Wheat flour for the starter and for the dough.

Any suggestion to get a good rise would be greatly appreciated.

btw, i have ordered the starter from Carl Griffith's page and am thinking about ordering the starter from King Arthur.

 I have the starter in the refridge now and it looks pretty good.



PaddyL's picture

More sourdough cookies.

All these cookie recipes are from Rita Davenport's Sourdough Cookery

 Sourdough Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Canned yams or sweet potatoes are delicious pumpkin substitutes

1/4 cup shortening (I'd use butter.)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup sourdough starter

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1-1/2 tsps. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ginger

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg, sourdough starter and pumpkin.  Mix well.  Combine flour with remaining dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add raisins and nuts along with dry ingredients to starter mixture.  Mix until blended.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 deg.F. for 15 minutes or until done.  Makes 1-1/2 doz.

Sourdough Ambrosia Drops

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup sourdough starter

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. grated orange peel

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup coconut

Pecan halves

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and sourdough starter, beat well.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Add to sourdough mixture along with orange peel, chopped nuts and coconut.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and press a pecan half into the centre of each cookie.  Bake at 375 deg.F. for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned.  Makes 2 to 3 doz. cookies.


I'll post a recipe for brownies tomorrow.



Bread_Slavery's picture

Retarding = less flavor?

I've never really used the retarding technique but after reading how it can make breads more sour I wanted to try it.

I generally bake 2 2lb 100% wheat sourdough loaves once per week; ripen the seed saturday, pre-ferment the levain overnight, then bulk-ferment and bake Sunday->Sunday night. Lately i've been breaking up the routine by seeding Friday, preparing to bake Saturday, then retarding the loaves until I bake them on Sunday.


While I get amazing oven spring, taut surface tension while shaping, amazing scoring, I think the loaves lack flavor. They seem to get "creamier", less-sour, and less salty. Has anyone else noticed this? I even added more salt last time and they just still seem a little 'dull' to me.

They sure do look nice, though.




Noodlelady's picture

Blog Update

In March I demonstrated 19th century Pennsylvania German Open Hearth Cooking at a historic site near me. I mixed up a batch of my favorite sourdough the night before and brought it along to rise near the fire in my rye straw baskets. My sourdough is now over a year old and very reliable. It's always amazing to me how well the loaves come out. (Sorry no photos this time.) The site does not have oven, so I baked a loaf at a time in a pie dish inside my cast iron dutch oven. I also baked a batch of sticky buns with a sweet dough. Visitors were amazed that the baked goods came out of the dutch oven. While I was waiting for things to proof and bake, I boiled up some chicken bot boi (pot pie), fried up scrapple, and boiled eggs in water and onion skins to color them (it was an Easter event). Being able to bring history alive by baking and cooking as historically accurate as I know, gives me great satisfaction. More events to come this spring and summer. Fun!

At home I've been hungry for cinnamon raisin bread, rye bread, and oatmeal bread. So those were baked in the last few weeks. I also baked a fennel seed bread. Wow, you really have to like the anise flavor! Interesting though!

Laura1's picture

Need Bread recipe of any kind for sandwich making. No dairy, no yeast

The reason my subject says without yeast is because we have to use rice flour mixtures which won't rise well with yeast.

I was thinking maybe one of you knows of a good recipe that doesn't need yeast or dairy to work? Even if it is with wheat flour I may be able to substitute my flour for it.

I was thinking maybe if I can't find a loaf recipe that works, maybe a tortilla recipe that we can make a burrito out of?

Just anything that already works without the yeast and dairy might work with his flour for me.





P.S. I printed the Pita bread recipe and am going to try it with the yeast but I already know from experience that I am setting myself up for failure. I am still holding out a bit of hope though. The yeast will actually make the rice flour rise but it just doesn't have the chemical make up of the gluten flours to make and hold the bubbles that trap the yeast and hold the rise.