The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Q & A with Daniel T. DiMuzio

Q & A with Daniel T. DiMuzio

Daniel T. DiMuzio, Baking and Pastry instructor at Culinard, The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, is the author of Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective, a new textbook on the art of artisan bread baking.  Dan has owned his own artisan bakery, managed and consulted with numerous other bakeries, and studied and baked with master bakers such as Didier Rosada and Jeffrey Hamelman. 

Dan was kind enough to discuss his new book with long-time TFL member Eric Hanner (EHanner) and myself.

Floyd: My first reaction to your book is "Wow, a textbook on Artisan Baking written in English for a North American audience!  Artisan baking has really made it, hasn't it?!?"

Dan: Well, yes, I’d say it has made it. That’s a testament, I guess, to the growing number of sophisticated palates among Americans and others in the world. It used to be hard to find good bread, and you had to ask around to find anything approximating a good baguette. Now you can actually go to most supermarkets and get decent, par-baked breads from companies like LaBrea, Ecce Panis, or others. Heck, 20 years ago croissants were considered exotic, and now they’re as common as a cheese danish.

The thing is, even though there was a sort of renaissance in craft baking over the 90’s, the textbooks covering bread for culinary students didn’t really change to keep up with the new awareness about that. There was still a focus upon a somewhat arbitrarily chosen “12 Steps of Baking”, and “artisan breads” were seen as some kind of avant garde offshoot that could be covered completely in a separate 15-page chapter.

One of the reasons I wrote this book was to present an entirely different perspective on bread in culinary education. All bread can be “artisan” if it is prepared by an educated baker who respects the ingredients, mixing, and fermenting that are crucial to creating good flavor and texture. So that can include anything from baguettes and ciabatta to pan breads or hot dog buns. It isn’t all about brick ovens or flour-covered hearth loaves. My hope is that culinary schools will embrace the idea that artisanal bread baking is an entirely different philosophy of baking, and that its principles should be applied to almost any bread -- not just a specialized set of very old recipes.

Floyd: Do you have any idea how many culinary programs there are now teaching artisan baking in North America?  Have you noticed an upsurge in interest in artisan baking among students enrolled at Culinard in the past few years?

Dan: When Wiley sent out first drafts of the chapters for review, the people chosen for the task were baking instructors from a real cross section of the schools out there. There were larger private ones with high-profile names, medium-sized vocational schools, and fairly small community colleges as well. The one common refrain we’d hear from them was that they wanted to find a culinary textbook that covered the renewed awareness about great bread baking in depth.

I don’t know how many programs now embrace artisanal perspectives in bread baking, but it is many more than I first thought. The only schools I know about that have a “dedicated” bread curriculum now (not associated with pastry) are Johnson & Wales, the CIA, and the French Culinary Institute. There are probably a few more I don’t know about, so if anyone reading this knows of any that I missed, accept my apologies.

In my opinion, there’s a very real, practical divide between the things that appeal to a pastry chef and the things that motivate bread bakers. There are people who are passionate about both areas (Nancy Silverton comes to mind), but that’s more of an exception. Pastry chefs are usually very artistic in their outlook, and they are obsessed with aesthetics. Sugar sculptures, petit fours, gorgeous cakes – all of these come from a desire to please with the eye. And while these confections can be good to eat occasionally, their flavor or texture often takes a back seat to impressive looks. That’s possibly why most wedding cakes don’t have a taste that matches their $1000-2000 price tag.

Bread baking is more visceral than aesthetic in its appeal, and I think the conscientious practitioners are better seen as craftspeople than as artists. It’s part science and part skill, and the goal is to make something great to eat – looks are important, but only in a secondary way. So, in too many cases, pastry students often aren’t as passionate about good bread as the students from the savory end of the culinary school. Pastry people mostly want to improve their artistic skills, and while they may want to include bread baking as part of their skill set, they often don’t see it as essential. I really think there’s more of an affinity between the “savory” culinary students and a curiosity about making great bread. When I started showing students in Culinard’s garde manger program (they make pate, hors d'oeuvres, etc,) how to make their own dough for focaccia and tiny buffet sandwiches, they were usually very appreciative.

Floyd: As a (former?) bakery consultant, you must have insight into the economics of running a bakery.  I always wonder how folks make it pencil out with the low volume and high ingredient and labor costs that go into making bread.  Is it as hard to make a living baking as I imagine it is?  What are some of the tricks to making a bakery successful (besides baking great breads)?  Location?  Sell lots of coffee?

Dan: It’s very, very hard. You have to love bread baking to be a successful artisan baker, and you might even have to refashion your definition of success. During the 90’s a lot of people tried to change careers away from being office types to starting a bakery, pastry shop, or even a restaurant. Most of them had no idea how physically and financially draining the move would be. Food magazines and stylists had done a good job of making that work seem very chic, cerebral, and meditative. While you may find solace in owning an artisan bakery, it has most of the same challenges as owning any small business, with the added hurdles of starting your work day at 2 to 3am and working 12 hour days.

So, yeah, location is very essential, and if Panera Bread wants to lease the same great spot you do, guess who the landlord is going to sign? I think that independent artisan bakeries will continue to thrive in bigger cities and around many university campuses, because enough people there will go out of their way to get exceptional quality in bread and other foods. In most of America, though, there’s been a big shakeout over the last 10 years, and even in some big cities the shops that used to thrive are getting less and less traffic. Some of that is due to Panera deceiving people into thinking that they embrace artisanship, some is due to good par-baked breads being available in supermarkets, and I think the rest is about the novelty wearing off and people just wanting to do all their shopping in one trip at the grocery.

Floyd: Though your book is geared more for people seeking to make a living as a baker, I think there is quite a bit that serious home bakers would find valuable in it.  I know I particular found your chapter on designing a formula insightful.

Dan: Thanks, Floyd. I certainly hope that more bakers or baking students see that chapter and the worksheets as ways of thinking more in terms of “formulas” and less in terms of “recipes.” Ultimately, that’s how you become a baker – professional or not – and not just a recipe reader. Designing your own formula forces you to think analytically about the baking process, and how the ingredients don’t just come together in the bowl, but actually affect and change each other. Eventually, that understanding helps you to troubleshoot your problems with anyone else’s formulas, as well.

Floyd: I like that you offer many of the formulas both with preferment and without.   More often than not the version with preferment will have a better flavor, won't it?

Dan: That’s a good question, and I think my opinion about it has changed a lot over the years. Aspiring artisan bakers in the 90’s were looking for the magic bullet that would transform their bread from just OK to being extraordinary. Whenever a different ingredient, technique, or equipment choice made its way across the ocean to us, we’d embrace it as the “essential” idea of the moment, even when it might contradict or ignore earlier “artisan” perspectives we’d recently discovered.

Pre-ferments were part of that search for a magic bullet. A lot of folks got seriously into using levain (sourdough), then Professor Raymond Calvel educated people about “pate fermentee” – which is just leftover baguette dough -- , and others traveled to France and saw poolish being used extensively. Eric Kayser promoted a more liquid type of levain by the mid-90’s, and fans of Italian bread had discovered Carol Field’s excellent “The Italian Baker,” which featured biga. Any of these pre-ferments could add flavor and nice aromas to your bread, and – importantly -- they shortened the time you had to wait before the dough was ready to divide and shape. In bread competitions like the Coupe du Monde, some of the USA contestants even used two or three pre-ferments to add complexity to their flavor profile or adjust the speed of the process.

What got lost in all that excitement about different pre-ferments was that in the 1920’s there were Frenchmen who made a long-fermented straight dough (using the “Direct” method) that had no pre-ferments. James MacGuire writes extensively about it in his article in the Art of Eating, 2006, Nos. 73-74. It was still very, very good in flavor due to its long bulk fermentation time (5 hours or so), and its light texture and eggshell crust were different somehow from baguettes made with poolish or old dough. Not better or worse -- just different. Raymond Calvel (who taught Julia Child how to make bread) insisted that, despite the fact that he promoted “pate fermentee” as an ideal pre-ferment, he really thought that the “direct method” baguettes of his early career were his favorites. The big downside of the direct method was that it took 4-5 hours of bulk fermentation, and probably 7-8 hours overall. Pre-ferments used in conjunction with manufactured yeast could shave 2 hours or more off of that time.

So any or all of those methods for making bread are good, and they’ve all had their periods of favor. Preferences there are often a matter of taste. One technique might work better with certain styles of bread than others. Straight doughs are only advisable if you can dedicate a lot of time (at least 5 hours) to fermenting the dough before it reaches maturity, and you should use less yeast to achieve that. Sourdoughs (levain breads), of course, aren’t going to BE sourdough unless you use a sour pre-ferment. But any dough leavened primarily with manufactured yeast can be made as a straight dough, if you have the time.

Floyd:  Interesting.  Thank you.

Eric: First let me say I find your new book very interesting from a number of standpoints. I like the fact that it is a teaching reference book. I know much of the material in the beginning chapters because I have read it at one time or another in a variety of places but this is the first time I have been able to scan the pages and be reminded about the basics of the craft. There isn’t so much detail that it would be hard to read and focus on, just the broad strokes to spark an interest.

Dan: Thanks. Of course, the book was originally conceived as a tool for use in culinary classrooms. I tried to get into the detail that I thought was critical to understanding WHY artisan bakers do what they do without burdening the reader with so much data that it might induce a coma (!). We wanted to give the bread instructor a way of providing background (of their choosing) while they taught bread fundamentals from an artisanal perspective.

Eric: I see there is also a web component for the teacher’s side with lessons and further material. That would be interesting to see also from my perspective.

Dan: You know, you’re not the first person to ask me about that, and I’m going to TRY to get as much of that stuff as possible available to readers who aren’t in school. I doubt that the quizzes or exams would be made available, for obvious reasons, but possibly the worksheets for formulas could be made downloadable. Still, Wiley has the copyright to the book, so we’d need their cooperation and agreement.

I think this would make a good gift for a young person who is expressing an interest in cooking or baking. Sort of a leg up on further education. I have a person in mind now that might appreciate some early knowledge.

Dan: Thanks again for the kind words. I would say that the book makes the most sense as a reference or instructional work for very serious bread bakers. People who are happy with being casual in their approach – and that’s still great, by the way – might want to find it in a bookstore and check it out before getting it, since it isn’t really like a typical bread book. You can also check out parts of it at online bookstores, to get a general sense of it.

Eric: One of the things I have been trying to get my hands around this year is improving the aroma and taste of my sourdough breads. Do you have an opinion on what a good compromise would be for a feeding regimen and storage temperature to promote the esters I am trying to create? You have a nice section on the general subject on Page 66 under fermentation. I’m looking for something a little more specific for a white starter.

Dan: I have pleasant and not-so-pleasant news: The pleasant news is that if you are willing to be disciplined in your approach to creating and maintaining a sourdough starter, you can usually reproduce whatever flavor profile you discover that appeals to you. So using the exact same feeding schedule, fermentation times, mix temperatures, ambient temperatures and hydration will get you what you want when you know what that is.

Unfortunately, only you can decide what’s optimal and what isn’t. I’ll provide a framework for beginning, but you’ll need to customize it to your ingredients, your environment, and your lifestyle.

I keep a firm levain (after it has stabilized) at a 60% hydration, around 70°F using something like KA All Purpose flour. I try to stick with a twice-a-day feedings, 12 hour intervals if possible. I determine the weight of ripe starter I’m going to feed, and then I use enough fresh flour and water (combined) to create a newly-fed mass that is three times the size of the original piece of ripe starter. Again, I do that every 12 hours, so you usually need to discard some ripe starter as you go to keep from making a barrel of it.

For three-times-a-day feeding, I’d probably only double it every time instead of tripling it. For once-a-day, I’d probably quadruple or even quintuple the size of the ripe nugget of levain. All of these feeding schedules may produce usable levain, but the flavor of the differently scheduled feedings will yield some differences, with less feeding yielding more acidity (lower pH) and less yeast activity, and more frequent feeding producing less acidity and greater yeast activity.

You can change the hydration of the feedings, as well, but keep in mind that wetter starters ferment more quickly and need more frequent feedings or larger feedings, or both.

Eric: A couple of things that I think are problems for home bakers is 1.) Knowing when the proofing is done and 2.) Getting the dough in during the window of opportunity that will deliver a good result. In my own case I was distracted while writing this note and missed the chance to get my Whole Wheat into the oven on time. It’s a little over proofed and totally my fault. In a commercial kitchen, people are paying attention. In my home office there are many distractions.  Is it true that I can extend my window of opportunity for baking if I lower the dough temp by a few degrees? I know the process will slow but are there any side effects in terms of structure?

Dan: Well, at the risk of covering stuff you already know, let me just state that the classic three points of control are time, temperature, and hydration. So, yes, you could go for a slightly cooler final dough temperature (or DDT, as I think Jeff Hamelman calls it) and slow things down a bit without many other noticeable effects. I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere below 74°F for a same-day bake, or you might slow things too much. Slower fermentation rates do give you a wider window for realizing that your product is ready for baking.

Eric: I haven’t read them all yet but I really am enjoying the side comments from the noted Artisan Baker Profiles in the book. I think these are excellent resources for aspiring bakers. Knowing what the key words are ahead of time would give a candidate the confidence to know they are prepared. Also I think it is important to understand what the job is really all about and that baking is still evolving.

Dan: It never occurred to me that readers not in school would find the opening list of key concepts interesting, but that’s great. And I’m glad you like the profiles – they do help point out to aspiring artisans what some of the essentials are in making a bread business work. Another thing I wanted to do there – and I don’t know yet if I succeeded – was to portray how there are different ways of looking at what’s essential and what’s not.

Eric: I noticed on Page 182 talking about using pre ferments, you didn’t reduce the amount of yeast in the final dough when using a Poolish. I have believed that I should reduce some because of the growing activity I created in the Poolish with the small amount of yeast hours before. Am I wrong about this?  In general I try to use as little yeast as necessary for all the reasons you talk about creating acids and esters over time.

Dan: You’re right that you should use as little yeast as you think is necessary to produce a selected bulk fermentation time and a mature, easily handled dough. No matter who’s formula you’re using, you should feel free and not at all “wrong” to make minor adjustments to things like yeast quantity, hydration levels, or fermentation times to get the results you prefer. I selected yeast levels that I believe work for me when I designed those formulas, but if the parameters I selected (2 hr ferment, 3 hr ferment, whatever) don’t fit what you want to do, you should change them. Just keep a record of those changes so you don’t have to keep re-discovering them.

Thank you Daniel for making your self available to us. As it turns out your new book is a lot like this community. We tend to be oriented more toward techniques and practices rather than just a source for recipes.  “Bread Baking, An Artisan’s Perspective” is much the same.

Dan: I appreciate your positive comments about the book, and I’m happy to make myself available to answer questions whenever I may be here, now or in the future. I have been surprised to see the interest from many home bakers to this book, despite its technical, school-oriented perspective. There seems to be a thirst out there for more in-depth explanations about certain baking concepts, and I’m just very happy to play a small part in providing some of that.

Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective is available from Wiley & Sons right now.

If you have additional questions for Dan, ask them below.

May 14, 2009 update:  The question and answer period is now closed.  Thank you again for your time, Dan!


xaipete's picture

Hi Dan. First just let me thank you for your participation on TFL. Your insights are a most valuable resource! I have a couple of questions after reading the Q&A.

When you feed one of your levains, am I to understand that you refresh the entire amount and then do the discard? I usually use just refresh a portion of my levain and discard the remainder. If I am understanding you correctly, would you mind commenting on why you proceed in that fashion?

You mention that fewer feedings create a levain that has a higher acidity and lower yeast concentration. I assume that a lower yeast concentration translates into a longer fermentation and/or proof, but what is the effect of a higher acidity level on the dough?

I'm very much enjoying reading your book! You have piled a wealth of information into its 258 pages.


dghdctr's picture

Hi Pamela,

 I'm sorry about any confusion surrounding my explanation.  I have a unique ability sometimes to make straightforward procedures seem more complicated than I meant them to be.  I'm going to try and keep this one as simple as I can.

Lets use the levain schedule above (from the Q&A) hydrated at 60%, with twice-a-day feedings at 70 degrees F to provide an example.

I meant to state in the Q&A above that, in those circumstances, I want to triple the size of a ripe piece of levain every time I feed it.  You have to decide how much levain you need when you're going to make bread, and also how much you want to have left for future feedings and subsequent use.  Then you interpolate backwards to figure out the size and ingredients for your feeding.

Let's say I need 320 grams of this firm levain for a sourdough bread I'm making Saturday, and I intend to mix dough at 8:00am Sat morning.  This means that 12 hours before -- which is 8:00pm Friday night -- I have to do a feeding large enough to give me 320 grams of ripe levain for the recipe, and maybe 160 grams extra to continue feeding for future use.  I need a total of 480 grams of ripe levain, then, by 8:00am Saturday morning.

I will then need to mix at 8:00pm Friday night:

160 grams ripe starter

200 grams fresh flour

120 grams fresh water

That will triple the size of the piece of ripe starter I'm using for the feeding.  If I already had MORE than 160 grams of fresh starter on Friday night, I'd either have discard the excess that I don't need or use it right away for something else.

If I'm not baking tomorrow and I'm just doing a maintenance feeding, I might want to take 64 grams of ripe starter and feed it with 80 grams of flour and 48 grams of water.  That also triples the piece of ripe starter that I'm using, but maintains a small enough "mother" levain that I don't have to waste too much flour.  Any ripe levain besides the 64 grams I needed for the feeding would be discarded, unless you have another use for it.

And, even though you didn't ask about this, let me say that hydrating at a higher water content would require either larger or more frequent feedings since a wetter starter will ferment more quickly.

As I read over the above explanation, it seems about as clear as mud, but I hope that answers it for you.

xaipete's picture

Thanks, Dan, for your detailed response; it is quite clear and not muddy at all!



dghdctr's picture

Sorry, Pamela -- I neglected to answer the second question you had there.

I'm not a biochemist or microbiologist, so my poor-man's scientific explanations may leave out what they would think is important.  Still, it can be said that every time you refresh a culture with significant amounts of new flour and water, you are reducing the percentage of yeast and bacteria in the culture (albeit temporarily) as compared to the food source available.  You are also reducing the percentage of their by-products.  Essentially, yeast give off alcohol and CO2 as their by-products, and lactic bacteria mostly produce lactic and acetic acids.  How they can be coaxed to produce more of one acid and less of another is something I'll leave for another time.

Anyway, when you feed (refresh) a culture, the yeast (from what I've learned) will metabolize any available sugars faster than the bacteria do.  Which means that yeast multiply faster (in the presence of oxygen) and produce their CO2 and alcohol faster than the bacteria produce their acids.  The bacteria need a few hours to catch up.  So anytime you feed the culture, you keep pushing the bacterial fermentation behind the yeast fermentation in its effects.

Feeding the culture 4 times a day gives the bacteria less ability to catch up than if you fed it twice a day.  The 4-times-a-day fed culture will be less acidic, and the twice -a-day more so.  The size of the feedings also play into this of course, but, if we could stipulate that all other things are equal (not sure how we'd do that), the more feedings per 24-hour period, the less acidity and the more yeast activity within the culture.

Effects of acidity on the dough?  Well, again, at the molecular level I'm going to defer to others more qualified to know.  Wild yeasts in established sourdough cultures  are more tolerant of acids with a pH of less than 4.0 -- manufactured yeast is less so.  But even wild yeasts don't like acid much.  They can tolerate moderate acidity levels, but as the pH gets lower and lower the yeast are less and less inclined to make CO2 and alcohol.

And while moderate acid levels seem to reinforce the bonds between gluten-forming proteins, pH levels that are too low can actually be detrimental to dough strength.  I can't really explain it better than that, but too sharp of an acid level can actually cause the dough to deteriorate.  I'm not certain at what pH level that would be.

So I find that 4x a day feeding causes sourdough breads with somewhat more volume and less of an acidic taste profile.  An extreme example of this technique is Italian Pan D'oro and Pannetone, which historically used wild cultures that were fed every 4 hours at 85 degrees F.  This really reinforced the yeast activity and left the baker with a "sourdough" bread that wasn't sour at all.

Fewer feedings per day creates more acidity and less yeast activity, so less volume with sharper flavor.


xaipete's picture

So the more frequently you feed a starter, the more yeast and the fewer bacteria it will have. An established SD culture has more yeast producing CO2 and alcohol at a pH level of 4 or lower than a new SD culture, and an established SD culture is better at forming strong gluten bonds which are necessary for dough volume, than a newer culture. At least this is what I think you are saying.

So if my SD bread has too much extensibility and too little elasticity, can I attribute that in part to the quality of my culture? If so, then I might be able to fix this problem by upping the frequency of the feedings for several weeks in an attempt to get my culture more established.

I guess I could try a test too. Make a batch with a piece culture that receives frequent feeding and see if I notice a difference.

There's a lot of science going on in these cultures! I can see why bakers get discouraged and why some cultures are so prized.



dghdctr's picture

Pamela, I'll have to answer the points in your summary individually:

"So the more frequently you feed a starter, the more yeast and the fewer bacteria it will have."  I'm not certain about the comparative effect upon yeast and bacteria populations, but the observable effects on yeast activity vs. bacterial activity are as you suggest.

"An established SD culture has more yeast producing CO2 and alcohol at a pH level of 4 or lower than a new SD culture"   Well, it has more of the wild yeasts that we're trying to cultivate, and less of the ones that we aren't.  The comments I made about manipulating the activity levels of wild yeasts and bacteria were restricted to established cultures, already in balance.  When you're trying to generate a new starter, it will take anywhere from 10-14 days, in my experience, before it gets to be very acidic.

"and an established SD culture is better at forming strong gluten bonds which are necessary for dough volume"   Yes, an established, healthy culture that is in balance has a level of acidity that should reinforce gluten bonds.

"So if my SD bread has too much extensibility and too little elasticity, can I attribute that in part to the quality of my culture?"   Too many possible variables (flour type, hydration, enzyme levels) for me to say for certain that that's your problem, but, if all else is certain to be well, then I'd be looking at the culture.  I find that many cultures kept at home aren't fed frequently enough to ensure healthy yeast activity with a moderate level of acidity.  People sometimes think that in making sourdough, more sour is a better sourdough, but excess acidity can weaken gluten structure.

"If so, then I might be able to fix this problem by upping the frequency of the feedings for several weeks in an attempt to get my culture more established?"  I think you need to keep watch of the balance of yeast activity vs. bacterial activity.  I feed a refrigerated starter at least twice a week, leaving it out maybe 2 hours or so before placing it back under refrigeration, covered with a tiny vent.  I then take it out of refrigeration and begin feeding it -- at room temperature only -- at least 2 days before intended use, using the decription above in the question from Eric.

I need to know more about your individual starter and how you maintain it before I could recommend measures that might be beneficial.  You're right about the potential for getting discouraged, but there's just no way around doing your homework and then practicing with real dough, as frequently as you can.  My mantra about this has been "Be willing to fail".  There's no shame in it -- how else can you learn?

xaipete's picture

Thanks, Dan, for all the information! I think I'm in that class of people that thinks "more sour is a better sourdough". But, I probably have created excess acidity by not feeding my culture often enough.

I'm going to pull my starter out of the fridge for a few weeks and work with it some more.

The problem, which Eric already touched on, is that I am a home baker who 1) bakes frequently, 2) bakes a lot of different stuff (some SD, some not), 3) isn't on a schedule, and 4) doesn't plan the next project more than a couple of days in advance.

I'm just going to have to experiment and see what happens with my SD.


dghdctr's picture

I think it's important to ask all the questions you're asking, but for the sake of answering those questions to your own satisfaction, I'd recommend making the same dough 3, 4, or 5 (or even more) times as you tweak your starter's feeding schedule or fermentation conditions.  That way the changes that result will be more easily associated with the changes you make, and not attributable to using different flours, fats, or other stuff.  It may not seem as fun as doing a different bread every time, but I think you'll make more meaningful observations about changes in the dough associated with changes in the starter.

Then, after you've pretty much figured it out, those associations you've made can be more generally applied and you won't spend as much time going through trial and error.

--Dan DiMuzio

xaipete's picture

Good advise, Dan. I'll take it! While I'm not a fan of repeated experiments, I can stomach making the same dough 5 times in a row as I rejigger my starter. Thanks again for your input.


jj1109's picture

Effects of acidity on the dough?  Well, again, at the molecular level I'm going to defer to others more qualified to know.

at extreme pH levels, proteins will denature - so if the pH of the dough drops too far, I imagine the gluten would simply fall apart. I'll do some research :)

ehanner's picture


Thanks for your reply. I haven't had a chance to think much about it yet but I will for sure.

As the seasons change, I'm again enjoying the increased activity of the warmer kitchen. Thanks for the tips.



dghdctr's picture

Anytime, Eric.

BTW, even though the natural yeast in a culture may reproduce or metabolize glucose more rapidly in warmer conditions, I wouldn't recommend just letting them run wild (no pun intended).  My goal would be to get the starter to ferment at about the same rate from week to week and month to month.

If you have to use a larger feeding (smaller piece of ripe starter) to keep things normal, then I'd do so.  If the house gets too cool in the winter, you might do just the opposite.  That's exactly how bakers in France had to operate before they could control things with refrigeration.

Artisans bemoan the technological creep in bread baking, and much of that is justified, but just about all bakers now, artisanal or otherwise, appreciate electrical wiring and the refrigerators & mixers that it enables.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hi Dan,  First the typo, I think you ment (lower pH) when you said:

All of these feeding schedules may produce usable levain, but the flavor of the differently scheduled feedings will yield some differences, with less feeding yielding more acidity (higher pH) and less yeast activity, and more frequent feeding producing less acidity and greater yeast activity.

Second, I was looking for information on germinated flours.   There is information on line but I'm not seeing it reflected in bread books.  What is your opinion?



dghdctr's picture

Thank you Mini.  Yes, higher acidity levels actually translate to lower pH.  Sorry -- I probably furrowed some brows there.

I have to say that I have no experience working with anything precisely called "germinated flour."  I'm guessing that you mean flour milled from grains or legumes that have been allowed to sprout?  They would have to be dried after sprouting and then milled into a powder.

I checked a few abstracts on line (which you've obviously already done), and the procedures I saw there for creating a "germinated flour" were the same as that used to create barley malt or wheat malt.  I have no idea what other grains might be used or preferred for the "germinated flour" classification.

Farmers who grow bread wheat are generally going to harvest their crop before sprouting ever sets in, because when sprouting (which is "germination") approaches,  the amylase levels in the endosperm get much higher.  When the flour's amylase levels are too high, fermentation can proceed too quickly and the resulting dough can be very sticky.  So, from the farmer's perspective, sprouted bread wheat is useless wheat.  He won't be able to sell it as anything but animal feed.

Flour millers analyze flour for enzyme level and use the barley malt or wheat malt (which are malted barley flour and malted wheat flour, respectively) to "correct" the amylase level of the wheat flour that might otherwise be short of amylase.

I'm guessing that the interest in using flour derived from sprouted grains may be so new that other bakers' knowledge of it may be as poor as my own.  I know a lot of bakers, and not one of them has ever asked me about germinated flour, except in reference to using malt in bread flour at very small amounts, like 0.5%.

I'm reluctant to say anything more about it until somebody such as yourself educates me.  If you could ever forward information about it to me, I'd be appreciative.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hi Dan,  Thank you for the honor.  I don't know if I'm a qualified teacher but I'll give it a try.   I have been noticing the lucky animals who have been fed sprouting grains.  As you mention, sprouted grains have traditionally been diverted to animal feed, so was skim milk once upon a time.  It is amazing how well the animals have been fed, sometimes better balanced diets than ourselves?   Now that it is known how nutritious sprouts are, the price may go up.

I have noticed that in Japan and South Korea, many bakery products are made from germinated brown rice and other grains.  That's interesting.  Japan is always looking for economical ways of providing quality food to their island populace.  When looking up food values, sprouted grain is nutritionally more beneficial than its unsprouted counterpart.  The big draw back is the production of amylase and sped up fermentation as you mentioned and subsequent breakdown of gluten...  but don't we know how to control fermentation?

Sprouted flour was recently mentioned by one of our loafers, flourgirl51 who grows, mills and sells organic grain products including sprouted wheat flour.  When used one-to-one in replacing flour,  as she suggests (and other sites as well) I can't help but think that the sprouted flour would work better with bread recipes calling for instant yeast than recipes with sourdough considering their longer lactobacillus fermentation.   I think sprouted flours may present more problems with sourdough.  I don't really know.  I have not baked with large portions of sprouted flour but there are some here who have, some with ongoing experiments.  It seems like a worthwhile endeavor for our future.


Floydm's picture

Fixed.  Thanks for catching that, Mini Oven.

flournwater's picture

Bread recipes differ in the amount of starter they require as a ratio to the other combined ingredients.  For example, some will stipulate 500 grams of flour and 100 grams of starter while others might be written to require 500 grams of flour and 150 grams of starter.  My starters are usually 100% - 114% hydration.   When calculating ratios using bakers percentages, do I factor in the flour portion in the starter along with the other flour or just forget about that element?  Should I add more flour to my starter to balance it, in terms of bakers percentages, with the rest of the recipe?

I realize that the amount of starter I use will most assuredly affect the flavor of my bread but trying to calculate the ratio of these ingredients is driving me nuts.

Giving credit where credit is due, this question originated with Climbhi at

Thanks again .....



samsara's picture

I know that I'm new and have a lot to learn (and I'm not completely sure I'm grasping your question but I think I am) but maybe the spreadsheet that I've been working on might help.  Also, I am pretty sure you should be counting the water and flour (and anything else that you put in your starter/preferment) in the overall baker's percentage otherwise you can't tweak it, examine it, or scale it in the future.  Also, and this is completely out of my area of knowledge but I have read about it, one author (I can't remember who at this point) seemed to suggest that adding more sourdough starter (higher percentage of overall total) tends to result in a less sour bread (doesn't need to ferment as long and doesn't produce as much acid... I think) and vice versa.  I can't vouch for that last comment but like I said, I read it on the internet (or somewhere) so it must be true, right? :-)

With my spreadsheet you can find out the baker's percentage of the preferment in the final dough mix as a preferment without handling it as flour and water (although it shows you that too just as the baker's percentage for the preferment).  But there is also the total baker's percentage that will add the flour from the preferment to the flour in the final dough addition (and the same with water and other items in preferment) to give you an accurate baker's percentage and hydration number for the entire endeavor. 

Take a look at it and tinker with it if you would like.  I'm still working on making it exactly the way I want it but it is getting close.

I think that link should work.  Let me know if it doesn't.



flournwater's picture

Thanks for the input  Dave.  I've done the spreadsheet thing and it's pretty helpful in general, but my interest lies more in the "why" rather than the other "W's".

Dan indicated he would respond to the question if I posted it here so I'm hoping he'll get back to me.

dghdctr's picture

George, I think you've got that same hang-dog, "Will somebody explain this???" feeling I had when I realized that I couldn't get any sense or meaning of the baker's percentages I'd seen associated with published recipes.  Everybody seemed to agree that in a straight dough, total flour weight was expressed as 100%.  Once you started making pre-ferments, though, bakers couldn't get together on one, useful way to format baker's percentages and derive meaning from them.

There are two schools of thought I've seen -- maybe more?

One (the one I think is driving you crazy) lists flour in the formula at 100%, and then below that somewhere you'll see "poolish" or "sponge" or "levain" listed as some percentage of that flour weight -- like maybe 30%?  So you're thinking, "Wait -- isn't that levain just more flour and water?  Shouldn't that flour and water be added to the other flour and water weights and then have the formula analyzed that way?"

My answer to that question (if that is your question) is that yes, I agree with you, but not all bakers do. Presenting the math that way can be confusing or of questionable use, sometimes.  There are other bakers who, like me, choose to list relevant percentages of flour, water, salt and yeast for the straight dough before we break things down (complicate them) any further with pre-ferments and figure out how to account for them.

I'm going to consult with Floyd and see if I can post a table I use with my students to help them figure out just what you're asking about.  I just don't know how to post it here, and without the visual aid I don't think I'd be successful in explaining it.  I'll leave you here (temporarily) with the idea that yes, I do take the flour from a starter and add it to the remaining flour in the formula before providing you with "baker's percentage", and I do the same with the water or anything else measurable in the starter.

flournwater's picture

Thank you, sir.   Based on your generous information I will adopt the principal you describe and give the pre-ferment (biga, poolish, starter) flour and the water an identity in the total mix.   Looking forward to the opportunity to view your graphics.

dghdctr's picture

Hey George,

I asked at Wiley if they'd let me reprint the tables and worksheet from the book, but they won't.  That's not just directed at my book -- it's general company policy for their culinary books.

Sorry about that.  This doesn't mean you have to get my book - Jeffrey Hamelman explains this very well, if you already own it.

Check out my answers to ClimbHi below and I think you'll get a short view of how I consider the flour from pre-ferments when doing math.  I just don't have the capability here to say much more that would help you.

ClimbHi's picture

This is primarily a sourdough question, but applies to yeasted doughs using a poolish or biga as well.

I've got baker's percentage worked out. This isn't really about that, but about how much starter to use computed as a ratio of starter to final dough.

Lets say I want two pounds of dough at 75% hydration. That works out to about 18-1/4 oz. flour and 13-3/4 oz water. (Plus salt, but we can ignore that for this question.) If I use 100% hydration starter, I can use anywhere from, say, 2 oz of starter plus 17-1/4 oz of flour plus 12-3/4 oz of water, to 24 oz of starter plus 6-1/4 oz of flour and 1-3/4 oz of water. I still end up with 32 oz of dough, but the latter is composed of a much larger percentage of starter.

Assuming that the final dough is of identical weight and hydration, what effect does varying the starter component have on the final bread? Is there a rule of thumb you start with, like 1/3 of your loaf's weight should be from the starter?

Hope this question is clear - kinda hard to explain. ;-(

Pittsburgh, PA

dghdctr's picture

OK . . . as far as I can tell from your question, you're using the format for Baker's Math I described above for George -- the one that was driving him crazy.  It will be next to impossible for me to answer a lot of your question with my understanding of the way baker's percentage can be used effectively.  It is different from the one you're using now, and that means we're speaking different languages (or, at least, different dialects).

I'm not making fun of you in any way when I say that I just can't make out precisely what you're asking me in your third paragraph.  And that points out what the problem is with the methods of accounting employed by the system I think you are using (we're accounting for flour and other ingredients, instead of dollars and cents).

I'd have to see an entire formula for any dough we're discussing, and, for my sake, it would need to be formatted in a manner that's customary for me.  I don't think we can do that here.  It takes me weeks to show most students how Baker's Math can be applied to recipes to create formulas, and that's when we're at least using the same method of accounting.

Firm levain, liquid levain, firm sponge, biga, and pate fermentee are all similar in that they are pre-ferments, but the characteristics they impart to a dough individually can be very different.  Each has its own characteristic level of hydration, acidity, yeast activity, and enzyme activity, so I can't generalize too much about them as a group.  Adding more starter will probably add more flavor, but those other things will affect the dough as well, and it's a package deal -- you can't pick and choose among the effects you want and leave the others behind. 

When you add more liquid levain, for instance, you add more acid but you also add more enzyme activity, and past a certain level the dough structure can be weakened.  If you use more sponge in a baguette dough, the flavor is enhanced but the somewhat higher level of acidity as compared to poolish will make the dough less extensible.  So there is no simple answer.  It can be complicated.  I don't mean to be crass, but the book I wrote does address these questions in more detail.  I'm sure other bread books do, as well.  It's just too big a subject to cover completely here.

And there is no "rule of thumb" for how much pre-ferment to use.  You have to take into account what intended effects you're looking for together with the unintended effects that come along as uninvited guests.

I wish I could give you a simple answer to your questions.  They're good questions (as much as I can make them out), but you're compressing a lot of subject matter into a couple of paragraphs.  I just can't address all of it in this forum.

ClimbHi's picture

I think you did answer the question -- "it depends". I'll definately check out your book -- sounds like it gets into a lot of detail. But it sounds like I just need to experiment with one of my "standby" recipies, varying the ratio of starter in the dough to see what happens.

Only one problem with that, though -- I'll probably gain 10 lbs. Oh well, it's in the interest of science! ;-)

Pittsburgh, PA

dghdctr's picture

Yes, I'd encourage you to experiment.  As far as math goes, stay especially focused upon the ratio of pre-fermented flour to the TOTAL amount of flour in the formula.   And keep working with the same, simple dough formula until you get the behavioral aspects of your starter and the effects on your dough completely figured out.

For a poolish, anywhere from 15-20% in pre-fermented flour is safe.  While going higher may work fine, it carries with it the possibility of an over-active enzyme content.  For liquid levain, maybe 10% (for low acidity) to 18% (for more), but it, like poolish, provides more enzymes as you increase its percentage, so be careful.

For Firm sponge, biga, or old dough, anywhere from 25 to 40% pre-fermented flour is normal.  High levels yield more flavor, but they will also give a lot of strength to the dough.  That may or may not be what you want.

With firm levain, anything from around 25 to 35% is normal, though, with a starter that has lower acidity (warmer, more frequently fed) you might get away with 40% with no ill effects.  My general way of thinking is that if the final dough is excessively sticky after its bulk fermentation, I need to use a lower percentage of levain next time or reduce the acidity of the levain.

ClimbHi's picture

That's the info I was searching for -- all of it but especially the last sentence. Thanks so much!

Pittsburgh, PA

dghdctr's picture

I'm glad if that's what you were looking for.

Just to be safe -- you may already realize this -- my percentages refer only to:

(the weight of the flour in the preferment)   divided by   (the weight of total flour in the formula)

The percentages in your original question, which compared the weight of the entire preferment to the weight of the entire dough, or the remaining dough -- whatever -- is not being referenced here.  Because of the varying hydrations of different pre-ferments, that sort of ratio doesn't have significant meaning.

And yet . . . I still see it prominently displayed in some published formulas.

davidg618's picture


Thanks for your comments re Pamela's question. I've been wrestling with trying to understand starter pH (or acidity), the effects of hydration differences, and feeding schedules. I've been an amature baker for more than five decades, but, now retired, I have the time to "kick it up a notch" to quote a popular TV chef. I've especially focused on sourdough the last few months; your interview was timely.

And, you hooked me with your comment re "formula" vis-a-vis "recipe". I'm a retired physicist, and true to form, I've been writing spread sheets to help me formulate my own recipes; oops bread formulae. I'm going to buy your book.




dghdctr's picture

If you get the book, check out the Baker's Math in Chapter 3 and the  formula development in Chapter 10, then let me know what you think.  You can catch me here, or at my blog:

davidg618's picture

ordered from Amazon this AM. I'll comment in about a month.


baltochef's picture

Chef DiMuzio

Thanks for being willing to participate on this forum..It is very educational..

After researching the capabilities of some of the less expensive table top and under counter wine coolers, I came to the conclusion that these small thermostatically & humidity-controlled cabinets might be a good solution for the home baker to use as proofing box for sourdough cultures and bulk, long-fermented doughs..

Do you have any thoughts on this??..Even the more expensive ones cost less than a traditional mobile proofing cabinet on casters such as several restaurants that I have worked in used to proof par-baked breads..

I was thinking that the smaller cavity in these wine coolers, in conjunction with their insulation, and the fairly accurate temperature & humidity controls; might make them an ideal solution for the home baker to more accurately work with sourdough cultures..

Like most members here I have had troubles over the years keeping a sourdough culture in tip-top usable condition..It has been several years since I last had a sourdough culture that I regularly used..

My first culture was one I made at age 16, (I am 54 now), in a 1-gallon ceramic crock..The recipe came out of an Outdoor Life hunting & fishing magazine..That first culture lasted for several years, during which time it was refrigerated only for several short periods of time..As I reflect back on all of the sourdough cultures that I have maintained & used over the years, I can recall that that first culture was the longest-lived, and therefore the most successful..

I believe this to be so because our family used it each week, at least once a week to make flapjacks, waffles, biscuits, muffins, or bread..It was never refrigerated for more than two weeks before being rejuvenated back to a working condition at room temperature..

I was curious as to your thoughts for a busy working home baker using a wine cooler to try and more accurately control the temperature, humidity, and yeast activity in a sourdough culture without subjecting the culture to the lower temperatures of a standard home refrigerator..I was wondering what you might think about keeping a sourdough culture at temperatures ranging from the low 50's to the low 60's; something that most of these small wine coolers are supposed to be able to accurately accomplish..And, the effect that accurately controlling the temperature of the sourdough culture at moderate temperatures might have on its yeast to bacteria ratios, and on its longevity..

Thanks, Bruce


dghdctr's picture

"I was curious as to your thoughts for a busy working home baker using a wine cooler to try and more accurately control the temperature, humidity, and yeast activity in a sourdough culture without subjecting the culture to the lower temperatures of a standard home refrigerator."  Essentially, as far as I know, the wine cooler you speak of is a refrigerator that's adapted specifically to store wine, with temperatures exceeding 50 degrees, maybe up to 60 or 65?  I've never used one, which makes my opinion of limited value, but any refrigeration device that can hold your starter or loaf at a given temperature almost has to be a good thing.

I've used those small dormitory-type refrigerators to maintain my levain before and it worked well.  You don't have to refrigerate down to 35-40 degrees.  You can use higher settings, possibly comparable with the wine cooler you speak of.  You'd have to research those on your own, though.  I'll bet Craig's List has some used ones for sale at $50-75.  Temps lower than about 45 degrees F are reportedly bad for the microflora in a well-balanced starter, but I must say that I have been able to restore mine to a good state in just a couple of days. 

I feed a refrigerated starter at least twice a week -- I'm not saying you can't wait longer, but I found that recovery for baking purposes was faster and more predictable if I did that.  And then I plan to remove the container from the refrigerator at least 48 hrs before baking with it, feeding it twice a day at room temperature.  None of those details are written in stone, and I'm sure there are others that could work.  Just be consistent about what you do or you risk getting inconsistent results.

"I was wondering what you might think about keeping a sourdough culture at temperatures ranging from the low 50's to the low 60's; something that most of these small wine coolers are supposed to be able to accurately accomplish."  I think that's fine, if it gives you the results you want.  You would want to determine through trial-and-error (yes, there will always be errors) what temperature allows you to maintain a healthy, active  starter while providing you with the flavor profile you want.  I'd say liquid levain is kept at 70-75 degrees or so by many artisan bakers to maintain a less sour, more yeast-active starter.  Firm levain can be kept there too, but I think most French bakers would keep it cooler, at least in the summer time.  Maybe low-to-mid 60's, from what I've heard.  That would almost ensure that your starter will have a sharper acidic flavor, and that it would be at least a bit less yeast active than a well maintained liquid starter.  BTW, I use either one, depending on what I'm making.

"And, the effect that accurately controlling the temperature of the sourdough culture at moderate temperatures might have on its yeast to bacteria ratios, and on its longevity."   Warmer temperatures yield greater yeast activity but also a need to refresh the starter more often to prevent over-fermentation or spoilage.  The warmer environment is more conducive to the production of lactic acid, so the overall flavor profile should get less sharp.  Both yeast and bacteria will multiply faster at warmer temperatures, but the type of activity exhibited by the lactic bacteria can be different than when things are cooler (or so I am given to understand).

Cooler temps retard the action of yeast cells, and they encourage the bacteria to produce a greater percentage of acetic acid, making the overall flavor profile sharper than it would be at a warmer temp.

Anything you do to control the temperature (that is, keep it where you want it) should result in a consistent outcome, but you'll have to experiment some to figure out which maintenance temperature works best for you.

foolishpoolish's picture

First, let me echo the sentiments of others here by saying a huge thank you for devoting the time and effort to answering our questions. Needless to say, I'm keen to get a copy of your recently published book in the very near future.

One area I do have great difficulty in understanding is the relationship between flour and dough strength and the impact on dough mixing/handling. As a home baker, one has very little other than the 'protein per 30g or 100g' information on the side of a bag of flour to give any idea on how the flour might perform when mixed into dough. I'm sure that commercial bakeries have a much more precise idea of the properties of the flours they use (falling number, farinographs etc.) 

My lay understanding is that higher protein typically translates as 'stronger flour', the opposite of which seems to be confusingly referred to as 'softer' flour.

Since the gluten comes from both hydrated glutenin and gliadin, how can one be sure whether a high overall protein level translates to high gliadin, high glutenin or both? Will the dough be very elastic or extensible?  To be honest, I'm a little confused with some of the basic terminology.  Is dough strength measured by elasticity or how difficult it is to 'tear apart'?  Does a dough using stronger flour require less or more kneading to develop adequate strength?  When is a dough 'too' strong? When is a strong flour inappropriate for a recipe?

I know that's a barrage of questions but my general enquiry is the relationships between firstly flour and dough strength and secondly dough strength and dough handling.

Many Thanks,


dghdctr's picture

Okay, FP,

That is sort of a lot of questions, but I'll try . . .

In North America, when a farmer sells wheat to a miller, it's classified using three criteria:  It's protein content (hard or soft), its hull color (red or white), and its growing season (winter wheat or spring wheat).  I'm going to direct my comments mostly to the protein classifications.

"Hard" wheat is anywhere from moderately high to very high in protein.  "Soft" wheat is much lower.  Not all the proteins form gluten -- about 20% of them do not.  Still, by analyzing the protein content in a wheat berry, you can pretty closely ascertain its probable gluten strength.  "Hard wheat" has a kernel that is actually harder to break.  As you probably guessed, soft wheat is much easier to break.  They even mill differently, with soft wheat flour being VERY powdery and hard wheat flour being a bit more sandy in comparison.

Soft wheat is used in milling cake flour, most pastry flour, and it is blended with hard wheat in many all-purpose flours.  King Artur's AP is all hard wheat, though, and White Lily's AP is all soft wheat.  Hard wheat is milled into high-gluten flour, bread flours of different types, and, as we just mentioned, it is often blended with soft wheat to make many AP flours.

So, in general, the higher the protein in the flour, the more gluten-forming proteins you have, and the greater will be the probability of a strong bread dough.  Lower protein provides less strength.

But it isn't just gluten quantity that can vary, but also gluten quality.  Spring wheat is almost always hard wheat, and its protein levels are usually higher than for winter wheat.  That makes a stronger dough.  Still, the gluten in spring wheat is so strong that it tends to make a bread dough that is hard to stretch. 

Hard winter wheat may have somewhat less gluten than hard spring wheat, but its gluten is more extensible, and it also tolerates longer mixing and longer fermentation (in general) than most spring wheat.

So a strong flour that can still be extended easily and will tolerate long periods of fermentation without collapsing easily is maybe your best bet for baguettes or other traditional hearth loaves.  Bread flour from hard winter wheat is a good bet for satisfying those requirements.

To the best of my knowledge, King Arthur is the only miller selling to home bakers that directly tells you the protein content of the flour they sell to you.  Just visit their web site, click on the flour you want and there it is. 

Their so-called AP flour is 11.7% protein and their designated "bread flour" is specified at 12.7% protein.  The "AP" is a misnomer though, as in my experience its strength exceeds that of most supermarket "bread" flours, and artisan bakers use it to make european style hearth breads all the time (under the brand name "Sir Galahad").

The KA AP is made from all hard WINTER wheat, and their "Bread" flour from hard SPRING wheat.  Again, it's important to remember that one flour isn't necessarily better for bread than the other -- it depends on what kind of dough you want.  Hard winter wheat flour is strong but its bread isn't so chewy and it is easier to extend.  Hard spring wheat flour is stronger, gives better height, and absorbs more water, but sometimes it is very very chewy.  Not a problem with bagels, though.

Ten pounds of stronger hard wheat flour will take longer to mix out than 10 pounds of the less strong winter wheat flour, if used in the same type of dough and mixed to the same degree of development.  That means you're more likely to lose important carotene pigments from longer mixing with the spring flour.   You'll negatively impact flavor and aroma because of that loss.

KA's specifications for which wheat and what type of wheat can go into their flours are very tight as compared to most other millers.  So, again, when thinking only about flours available in a supermarket, I haven't found anybody besides KA who will tell you what the protein level is and what sort of wheat it comes from.  At the professional level, any flour sold to a baker comes with a specification sheet if you request it.  General Mills and Pillsbury don't do that for home bakers (to the best of my knowledge).

KA charges more because their tight specifications call for a more expensive selection process, and because they know they are the only miller out there supplying information to concerned bakers.  I'm not saying their prices are always justified -- sometimes I do feel like I'm getting fleeced -- but it's mostly their catalog items that are unaffordable.  I give in and pay the higher price at Publix or Krogers because the flour will do what I want it to do, every time, with very little variation in absorption, strength, or enzyme activity.

No, I don't own stock in KA and I'm not promoting their products.  I'm just saying that as a home baker, if you need more information than what's in a nutrition panel, and you want reasonable certainty that your flour will perform predictably, they are about your only option.

I think that covers what you asked about.  Let me know if any of it needs brief clarification.

--Dan DiMuzio

foolishpoolish's picture

OK that definitely made sense - difference between winter wheat and spring wheat, hard and soft. Are the KA flours you refer to (AP and Bread)  the standard KA flours available in the supermarket?  (blue bag for the bread and red bag for the AP).

Regarding dough development, I have used a whole variety of different methods from intensive mix to an almost no-knead approach (using a series of folds over 2 hours of bulk fermentation).  In general I have noticed the intensive mix creates a tighter more regular crumb while folding without mixing results in a more irregular crumb. However, those are perhaps the extremes of the mixing process, I'm not always entirely sure when it is appropriate to bring the dough to only medium rather than full development via mixing before bulk ferment and how many, if any, folds to apply during fermentation.

Thanks again for the information regarding flour qualities (apologies for yet more questions!) 




dghdctr's picture

The King Arthur AP and their Bread Flour are at least two of their most common flours available in supermarkets.  I have also commonly found their standard whole wheat flour (hard red spring wheat), a white whole wheat (hard white wheat -- I'm not sure of its season) and a couple of different organics.  Stores in upscale neighborhoods seem to have a wider selection, but, in the last 5 years, I've always found one or two supermarket chains in any sizeable city that carried the two I discussed.

I have to generalize here to answer that last set of questions there -- its a big subject.  From a standpoint of bread quality, either "short mix" or "improved mix" doughs are appropriate for use in most open-crumbed, crusty hearth breads.  A short mix isn't developed much in the mixer (1st speed only), and is meant to mimic hand mixing in its effects.  Needs 5-6 sets of folds over about 5 hours to get enough strength for handling -- maybe more if you think it needs it.

"Improved mix" dough is maybe half-developed (or less) in the mixer bowl, and needs 1 or 2 folds (3 for wet doughs) over maybe a 90-120 minute bulk ferment, but you can go 3 hours if you want.

The "intensive mix" causes a comparatively tight crumb in its breads because the longer you mix, the less open the crumb will be.  If you mix intensively, you usually don't need any folds, because the dough should be developed completely in the bowl.  Intensively mixed doughs usually ferment no longer than an hour, though I guess there are exceptions.  Intensive mixing is appropriate to almost any pan bread, to hamburger or hot dog buns, to Challah & other egg breads, and to many sweet doughs like brioche or stollen that have lots of sugar and butter to weigh them down.

Of course, there aren't just 3 ways of mixing dough.  There are many hybrid methods that could fall in-between those 3, but knowing what happens when you mix less or mix longer can help you decide how to mix your own way.

I think that covers it in a rough way -- getting any more detailed in the explanation would involve transcribing an entire chapter.  Good luck in your continued bread exploration.

--Dan DiMuzio

jacobsbrook's picture

Thank you Dan.  As always you are very generous with your extensive knowlege.  What a wonderful gift to all of us!  Bravo!