The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Miscellaneous questions

Tarrosion's picture

Miscellaneous questions



It's hard for me to believe, but it's been a year now that I've been lurking around TFL. I never much post - it never seems like I've much to contribute in the way of advice, and my compliments are always rendered less elegantly than those of others. Anyhow, I've learned an awful lot, but I do have a few questions. Since they vary in topic, I figured the general forum was the place to be.


1) If it seems like my slashes open as far as they can - by which I mean there is little or no ear and the surface of the loaf is essentially flat - does that mean the loaves were underproofed, the slashes too shallow, or am I doing alright?


2) I've made several loaves of sourdough which don't rise. I use a 100% starter fed about twice a week and kept in the fridge. My loaves have a pleasant - if mild - sour taste, but the dough rises very little during bulk fermentation and hardly at all during proofing. They do, however, have excellent oven spring. My default recipe is summarized as follows:

AP flour 45%
Rye flour 5%
Bread flour 50%
Water 70%
Salt 2%

(You'll notice there's no starter listed. I just feed my starter, and when I'm ready to make the bread I look around my dorm to see how many people I'll have to feed and at that point calculate how much flour and water is needed for a 70% hydration. So the amount of starter varies, but it's usually around 60% of the flour's weight.)

Mix, rest 20, knead 5, ferment 3-4, fridge overnight, shape, proof 1-2, bake at 450 on a stone with steam.

Anyways, I've heard mixed reports about keeping a cold starter. Some people seem to say that the starter will be just fine if cold; others suggest that the cold won't kill the starter but a cold starter takes a few days and a few feedings to activate. Should my starter live outside of the fridge?

3) I recently received a gift of two Chicago Metallic loaf pans - a baguette pan and an Italian loaf pan - as well as the couche sold be KAF. Links:

At home I bake in a convection oven (the convection can be turned off) on the Williams Sonoma stone; at school I bake in a non-convection oven on an old round stone (I didn't buy it, so I can't say more than that it seems to be about 3/8" thick.) My question is whether one or both of these pans will serve a purpose in either environment, or if the combination of couche + stone renders the pans unnecessary. What are the differences between baking in a perforated pan and on a stone?


Thanks for all your help, both in response to this post and for the daily advice and inspiration I've received from TFL.



Edit: I knew I was forgetting one as I wrote this.

4) When dividing and shaping after the bulk ferment, is it better to pat the dough or to stretch the dough? Both seem to have a degassing effect; but all the instructions I've seen for shaping batards and the like seem to start with some sort of flat shape, be it an oval or a rectangle.

SnDBrian's picture

If you are using your starter right from the fridge than that is probably why you get minimum rise. You need to refresh your starter a day ahead with 2-3 feedings. You want your yeasties in your starter at their peak.

For your slashes, try looking up slashing techniques, maybe you are doing something wrong. A high hydration dough like 75%+ probably will not make beautiful ears if any at all.(Try lowering your hydration for better ears)

About the  baguette pans, If you want to be original  they are not necessary you can bake right on the hot stone. You will get better oven spring, browning, and a good feeling.If your baguette dough is really wet maybe the pan is necessary.

Oh, Btw i know how you feel about posting on TFL, everyone sounds so elegant and well seasoned.

I hope i helped.



clazar123's picture

If your starter is warm (as it will be if it is on the counter), the yeasts are more active and hungrier.It may need to be fed once or twice a day.The frig slows it down a lot-still need food but a lot less.

I bake every weekend.I keep my starter in the frig and when I want to bake, I take a the starter out of the frige on Friday morning and feed it. (If I hadn't baked the last weekend, then I discard about half of it because then the little beasties have been living and dying in there for too long-kind of like cleaning their cage.) If I had baked the week before, I feed the starter and let it sit out to get warm and active. I feed it morning and evening wityhout discarding and it is usually ready the next AM and I then have the a bulk amount to bake with. If it seems sluggish, I'll feed it Saturday Am and make bread in the afternoon.

When I have taken what I need, I'll feed the remainder in the jar,wait a few hours and then put the jar back in the frig for the week. Seems to work for me.

scottsourdough's picture

1. About your slashes, you say they open as far as they can. Does that mean there is good oven spring, but you just don't get an ear? If the loaves are springing well then your problem is probably your slashing. Try cutting more vertically. Like someone else said, it's easier to get an ear with lower hydration, but at 70% it should still be possible. 

2. I've had the same problem with rising. Does your starter rise well? Try to feed it at least once after you take it out of the fridge. Also, if your starter weight is 60% of your dough weight, that's very high. It doesn't give the starter a lot of fresh food for rising. Try bringing it down to around 30 or 35%.