The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Second Sourdough Loaf - Great Flavor, Great Crust, But Lousy Scoring -- and Still Hooked

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rryan's picture

Second Sourdough Loaf - Great Flavor, Great Crust, But Lousy Scoring -- and Still Hooked

A few days ago, I posted about the success my first sourdough loaf, and the fact that I am now totally hooked. I baked a second loaf today, and I am both ecstatic and disappointed by the results. Ambivalent feelings aside, the bread tasted great, and the crust was that delightfully crunchy-yet-chewy texture I was looking for. The crumb was moist and delicate, but there were no large and irregular holes that I would like to have seen. The flavor was mildly sourdough (as expected), and the oven spring was amazing.

The scoring, however, didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. My knife, although extremely sharp, dragged through the dough rather than slicing smoothly as it did on the first loaf. The dragging knife deflated one side of the loaf a bit, but I baked it anyway.  It was a very pleasant surprise when the loaf turned out so well.  I believe part of the problem may have been the slightly increased "stickiness" of the surface of the second loaf, as compared to the first.

For this second loaf, I used the "Mild" San Francisco Sourdough Bread recipe from chapter 4 of Mike Avery's "An Introduction To Sourdough Baking" (free sample). The recipe is:

* 2 cups starter (mine is approximately 166% hydration - equal amounts by volume)
* .5 cup whole wheat flower
* 2.5 cups white bread flower
* 1/4 cup water
* .5 tsp salt

Because of shoulder pain, I couldn't perform the manual kneading called for in the recipe, so I mixed and kneaded the ingredients in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for about 4 - 5 minutes - just long enough to develop a minimal amount of gluten. I then put it into an olive oil coated bowl and used the "stretch and fold" method. I folded the dough at 45-minute intervals 3 times, then after a 45-minute rest I placed it in a 10-inch skillet on an oiled parchement paper to rise for 2 hours. The loaf was baked in a pre-heated cast iron dutch oven at 450 degrees with the lid on for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes. At that time, the loaf was nicely browned and the internal temperature was 204 degrees farenheit. It had raised much more than I had expected. After cooling, the weight was just under 2 pounds. The recipe was for two 1-pound loaves, but I opted to bake it as a single loaf.

Here are the pictures of the finished loaf, as well as the cast iron pot used as a cloche, and the nice red wine that kept me company while the bread was "working". Your comments are welcome, and yes, I know that many of you only use weight for measurement, but Mike's recipe looked good and was only avaiable as volumetric.




rainwater's picture

Your crumb looks great to me????  When you look closely, the small holes in your bread are irregular....not like store bought bread.....Actually, too much open crumb makes for not such a great sandwich......and olive oil dipped bread with huge open crumb will most likely drip on your trousers.  I recently achieved a very open crumb on a foccacia, but everyone's favorite bread at work that I bring is a slightly dense miche with a good portion of whole wheat flour, and not such an open crumb......Your bread and crumb looks fantastic to me and the photo makes me want to taste.......

the more important issue is your use of a cast iron pot for baking.....I'm totally intrigued with this idea......Do you just drop the dough into the hot pot that is pre -heated to the oven temperature, or is the pot just relatively warm compared to room temperature????? 

I think large open crumb is overrated.....flavor and texture is the essence. 

How do you slather huge open crumb with butter and honey after it's been toasted?  Make a good sandwich?  ......your bread makes me hungry......

rryan's picture

Thanks for the kind words.  You are right about toasting it.  It made a perfect platform for my homemade butter and ReallyRaw brand honey.  I toasted the slice that I had cut for the photo.  And I just finished eating a colby cheese sandwich on this bread, and it was a great combination.  The sourdough taste is mild, and the crumb is moist.

Regarding the cast iron pot, I learned about this method in a Cook's Illustrated magazine.  Either plain or enameled cast iron will work.  I tried my enameled pot first, but melted the darned handle on the lid so I switched to my plain iron dutch oven.  The method for baking bread in the pot is:

  • Preheat the oven to 475 or 500 degrees farenheit with the pot in the oven

  • When preheating is completed, remove the pot lid and lower the proofed loaf into the pot on a piece of lightly oiled parchment paper.  Just let the excess paper hang over the pot sides.

  • Cover the pot with the lid and lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees farenheit.  Bake for 30 minutes.

  • Remove the lid and bake uncovered at the same temperature for another 10 to 20 minutes or so.  Bake it until the crust is nicely browned and the internal temperature of the loaf is at your desired range.  I take mine to 198 to 204 degrees farenheit.

  • Remove the loaf to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour (if you can make yourself wait that long!).


I have baked other breads besides sourdough in the cast iron pot, and really love the crust it creates.  Overall, it is really, really easy to do.  Try it out.



SourdoLady's picture

Your bread looks perfet to me. It also makes me very hungry! I haven't eaten yet today and I have no fresh bread in the house (dough in the fridge retarding right now).

rryan's picture

Thanks, SourdoLady.  Looking at bread always makes me hungry, particularly the loaves I see on this site.  I don't have any bread proofing right now, but the sponge for Sourdough English Muffins is fermenting as we speak.  I got the formula from Wild Yeast's site.  I've made regular Emglish Muffins from James Beard's bread book, but have never done sourdough.  Wish me luck!


xaipete's picture

I was re-watching a video posted by Mark, , yesterday and thought I saw him mist his bread with water before scoring. So I tried that on my loaf and I thought the scoring went easier and looked better.


rryan's picture

Thanks Pamela.  I'll give it a try next loaf, probably this Sunday.  My first loaf, though, had a much drier, tighter surface when I scored it, and it was smooth and easy.  There was no whole wheat dough in that loaf, so that may have made a difference.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I can almost hear the crunch from here!  :)


rryan's picture

It's a long way from Ohio to where you live.  You must have great hearing!

Thanks for the kind words.  The crust really did come out great on this loaf.  I find that I use my cast iron pot more and more often, even though I still bake using other methods.  I'd love to find an iron pot that was shaped to handle a batard.




Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink
rryan's picture

That's a mighty big IF!  With that kind of money, I could get tires for the car.  I think maybe a pizza stone and a roaster lid will have to do for now.

Bob ;-)

Janknitz's picture

Just place your dough on a pre-heated stone and cover it with something for the first half of baking.  A heavy duty foil roasting pan ($1 -$3) works fine.  I bought an old enamel turkey roaster from the thrift store for a couple of dollars and I turn the deep bottom over on my longer loafs and it works fine.  

Just make sure that there's enough room for oven spring.

BTW,  your loaf has great "ears"!  Looks beautiful!

weavershouse's picture

Very nice to look at and I'd love to have a slice if you have any left.


rryan's picture

By tomorrow afternoon, it will all be gone!  What doesn't get eaten by the slice is going to end up as bread pudding. Thanks for the generous compliment.


Broc's picture

Bob --

I stopped bringing my dutch oven [Le Creuset] to such high temps... even though I removed the handle first.

Have some going right now [20% of the preferment is rye flour, and I use an inordinate amount of honey and 1 T butter/2 lb. loaf.

I now bring it to 450F, plop the dough in, score it, and immediately drop the temp to 420F for 20 minutes, remove the lid, drop the temp to 400F and bake for another 20 minutes.  Seems to bake through better, without hot spots...

Of course, I'm decadent to baste the hot bread with salted butter, too...

I bake 4 loaves every week... my children and g-chilren gobbe it up!

FWIW -- I now use two stoneware loaf-shaped cloches... but the Creuset works just as well.

~ Best!

~ Broc


rryan's picture

Broc --

I haven't used any butter in my bread yet, but I somehow manage to get 1 or 2 tablespoons on each slice of toasted sourdough!  I make my butter and just lightly salt it to improve its flavor and keeping quality.

I'll have to try your method of turning the oven down for the uncovered baking, although I haven't noticed any hot spots....although maybe I wouldn't know one if I saw it.

I'm glad your family enjoys your bread.  My grandson will only eat the middle of the bread and avoids the crust like the plague.  His mother only feeds him store-bought balloon bread with the crust cut off.  Ruined the poor kid.


DrPr's picture

I'm just now seeing your photos and wanted to say your loaf looks beautiful.  You were concerned about the blade dragging through the loaf, but I love imperfect looking loaves- they are rustic and hand crafted. So much better than the perfect "artisan" loaves we see in the store!