The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can I just make a recipe up?

rick.c's picture

Can I just make a recipe up?

OK I am pretty sure I can...  I do have a couple questions, (at the end)

So, I have been eyeballing the BBA Potato cheddar & chive recipe, as well as some sourdough recipes and beer & cherddar recipes from this site.  So, I am trying to combine all 3.  I got a Saranac Brown Ale, nice dark & hoppy flavor and mixed it with enough flour and inactive starter, now called "hoochie momma" to get the sourdough cultures going.  I keep Hoochie starved until I want to use her, she works harder for the food that way.  OH YEAH!!! but that's another story.

Everything is active and I plan on making the final dough/bread/rolls tomorrow.  At present, I have ....341g beer (all of my liquid),170g potatoes,250g flour.  It was nice and bubbly when I put it in the fridge tonight..

I figure I am shooting for 60-65% hydration dough, based on my ingredients(limited at 341g of beer), I will need 300-350g more flour, which is 530-575g total flour.  From the BBA formula which calls for (2.8%salt/130%flour)=3.64%salt/flour(overall) for formula.  I got 130% flour from 60% 100% hyd biga + 100% flour.  So based on ~550g flour, I need 20g salt?

So, questions are, Is 20g salt for 550g flour reasonable?  Is 60-65% hydration reasonable (BBA formula is ~63%).  Lastly, at what point should I add the cheese, tend to knead via slap & fold, then maybe a stretch and fold or two in the bowl.

Thanks in advance and pics to follow. 


rick.c's picture

2.8%/130%=2.15%/100%.  So I meant is 12gsalt for 550gflour reasonable?

flournwater's picture

I usually apply a factor of approximately 1.5 to 2.5% salt (8.25 - 14 grams for your recipe), depending on the type of bread I'm making, so if you want to use 12 grams I don't see why it would seriously affect the flavor in any adverse way.

Just remember that your cheese has salt in it and you'll need to consider that when your deciding how much salt you put into the mix.

I'd simply add the cheese, grated or chopped, to the dough near the end of the initial mixing of ingredients.

If you currently have 250g flour in your mix and you add 300 - 350g, you'll have a total of 550 - 600g, not 530 - 575.  Your 530 - 575 total works but the numbers you use to arrive at that total (when you include wha't in your starter) throw the calculations off.  Or am I reading your numbers incorrectly?  That would mean your potato quantity should be somewhere around 135 - 150g so I'm wondering if you didn't overdo it with the potatoes.

You can be as creative as you like as long as you hold true to the guidelines of baker's percentages in your approach to the model you've focused upon and as long as you understand what to look for during the building process to recognize potential problems that could develop.

rick.c's picture

yeah, I currently have ~ 230g flour in my mix.  I mistyped it somehow.  I probably might have overdone it with the potatos.  I didn't measure things as I went.  Stupid, but, I mixed the flour & beer & hoochie.  Let it get active, then today was going to make the dough, but ran out of time and added potatoes, 3 of them, and beer, but didn't have time to mix final dough.  If I weigh 3 potatos equal as I remeber them, they are 6 oz, 173g.  Based on the weight of what I have and 12 oz of beer, I used 230g of flour.  I will probably overdo the cheese as well when I make the final dough, so, based on your range I will go with like 8g of salt, not 12.  Holy cow if this works I am lucky, but not really, it should.

Thanks for your input!!!

Elagins's picture

you should remember that salt inhibits yeast, which is why some bakers wait until about two-thirds through the kneading to add it. those first few minutes give the yeast a chance to disperse throughout the dough and begin to metabolize the carbohydrates in the flour, so that the effects of the salt are somewhat diminished.

if you're interested in formulas, 60-2-2 is a very good place to start, ie, 60% water, 2% salt, 2% fresh yeast equivalent. This will give you a moderately stiff dough, but one that's easy to work with and very forgiving. Also, it's easy, then, to introduce variations of hydration, flour type, salt, enrichments, and so on. but 60-2-2 really is the benchmark.

happy baking!

Stan Ginsberg

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Professor Calvel believed that you should add the salt at the start of the kneading process.  His obsewrvation was that salt acted as an anti-oxidant and the loaf developed more flavor and wasn't as bleached as when salt was added later.


Also, salt helps develop gluten.


All in all, I haven't seen that much difference, so I add the salt at the start of the process as it's easier and I don't have to extend the mix to get the salt evenly mixed into the dough.




bassopotamus's picture

I think the salt sounds reasonable, though beware of the salt in the cheese.


I'm not sure how or if the potato might figure into your hydration

Dcn Marty's picture
Dcn Marty

Thank you so much for you questions. I would encourage you to focus on developing a formula rather than recipe. The formula uses baker's percentages, so you can adjust sizes and more importantly, you can check for errors before actually creating.

I'm interested in developing my "signature" loaf, so would love to hear how your development goes. Please keep us posted.

flournwater's picture

Thanks for making the point for referring to bread making processes as formulas rather than recipes.  I agree entirely and, even though I've used the two terms interchangeably in the past, I will make every effort to adjust my vocabulary to focus on the word "formula".

SallyBR's picture

You are very brave, I've been flirting with the idea of making a formula myself, but so far my fears and insecurities are winning the battle.


I will wait for your report... maybe you will give me that final push?


Good luck!

flournwater's picture

Hey, Sally, no fear.  Select a type of bread (boule, baguette, etc.) and read several forumulas posted on TFL.  Select one of them and try to follow it as closely as possible.  Make notes on the results.  Color, crust texture, crumb, etc..  Then, make an adjustment in hydration, fermentation period, proofing environment/time, oven temperature, amount of yeast, salt, etc.  But make only one change at a time.  Maintain copious notes for each step (using a copy of the formula you start with and writing in the changes you've made works well) and write down the results for that loaf.  After about half a dozen loaves you'll be surprised how much you've learned and even a less than perfect loaf is edible.  Those that are total failures make good bird food, dog food, etc.

If you make bread and never have a failure you're not learning anything.  Now get in the kitchen and let us know how things work out for you.

BayCook's picture

If you make bread and never have a failure you're not learning anything.


I've been learning, then :-)

Seriously,  I've had some loaves that could be classified as deadly weapons- as in, "Hey punk, you see this here loaf of bread?  You think if I threw it at you it would bust your head?  No?  -  Yes?  -  Well?  -  Do you feel LUCKY, punk?  -  DO ya?

The thing to remember is to keep careful records, and I have to say, baking with beer just kind of tends to lead, um...  not-so-careful-ness...

Regardless, good luck, and may the scientific method rule:   Everything is an experiment!


SallyBR's picture

What you describe is exactly what we tell our students in the lab as far as research goes: change one variable at a time and keep records. Very careful notes.


why is it that I am such a wimp when it comes to bread baking?  




But, I am getting there. A little more adventurous each day (year?) :-)

rick.c's picture

OK, so here is the result.  It is delicious!!!

The bigger loaf that isn't cut into probably has a more open texture, it did spring more.

So, I made it today using 8g of salt 7oz of cheddar cheese, xtra sharp, and probably around 500g additional flour.  This is a lot more flour than I had planned on, but the dough wouldn't form up at all without it.  It still acted really slack, was a pain to shape, and slashing was kinda unneccesary.  It took forever to rise, the dough was still cool after 4 hours at room temp, so I finally put it into a warm oven.  The extra time allowed me to fold it 5-6 times to get good development at least.

Here is my formula loosely based on the BBA chive & Cheddar torpedo

230g flour mixed with enough beer to make a batter consistency biga and enough dormant starter.  (I used ~ 2Tb)  leave until bubbly

add 170g potato (leftover salt potato run through a food processor) and remainder of 12 oz beer not used in first step.  put in fridge because you have to go to work.

next day, add 8g salt (I would use like 11 next time) 500g flour (I measured 330 to add based on what I had thought I would use and 50 additional if I needed it, then added 2 Tbs holding as much flour as they could additional to make it workable)  knead by slapping on counter, stretching and folding over itself for 20 min, adding 7ish ozs of shredded cheese during final kneading.  let rise until happy with sourdough culture activity, try to form, try to score, bake on stone in preheated 550* oven with steam(1 cup in cast iron pan), bake at 425 for 30 min.

As I said, it is delicious, the flavor developed from the flour is fantastic, I don't get a lot from the beer or sourdough unless it is maked in the nuttiness, etc of the flour.  I'll have to try an IPA next time, plus, I will remember the chive or scallion or something to get a bright note out of it.

In hindsight to any bread experiment, what was the worst that could have happened, I would throw away $3 worht of ingredients?


flournwater's picture

Congratulations on your success.  Those loaves look very nice and nice looking good tasting loaves are what it's all about.

One thing missing from your formula is the type of beer you're using.  Stout, Bock, Ale, Lager, Pilsner ...?  That's going to make a difference.

Following your lead idea, I gave it a try.  Results here:

SallyBR's picture

Absolutely wonderful!


Congratulations, you must be feeling on top of the world!   Was your heart beating fast as you cut the bread?   I always go in a little hyperventilation mode, knife in hand, ready to... as my husband says  "there she goes, inspecting the crumb holes!"