The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Renton Washington! First time post

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majorvox's picture

Hello from Renton Washington! First time post

Hello Everybody!

I have been bumping around trying to bake bread for several years.  My Grandmother had a recipe that used half a box of the old ban cereal that looked like twigs and sticks, but the result was a firm, excellent, basic white sandwich bread.  I remember spending what seemed like to my 7 year old mind an hour at least kneading the dough, although I'm sure it was not that long.  So far doing my own kneading by hand most of my attempts have not been very successful.  I am not sure I am kneading correctly and I should probably watch a couple of Youtube videos on the subject.  I have to admit that I have arthritis in my hands and kneading by hand is not that wonderful of an experience for me.

I love sourdough and I have managed to create a wonderful sourdough starter that I have kept alive for several months now and I call it Frank, (Yes as in Frankenstein).  I have made a sourdough cornbread that was almost more like a creamy pudding!  It was wonderful, but my breads have for the most part tasted okay but the crumb has been poor.

I am now trying to use weight measurements for my ingredients since it can be tricky determining how much flour to use, packed or fluffed?  I live in Northwest Washington State, just South of Seattle and it is usually between 45 degrees F/7.2 degrees C to 69 degrees F/20.5 degrees C.  So I have a finished, insulated shed in my back yard that I can heat up to 80 degrees F/26.6 degrees C and I have found that I can do all my rising and proofing in the shed and get decent reactions from my dough. 

Yesterday I started the 100% Calvel sourdough Pain au levian bread.  I have to admit that I was extremely surprised when I made the refreshed culture and this time I put it in a tall, 6 inch diameter juice container and marked the container where it should be at about triple the volume and after 6 hours it had actually reached that mark!  I was skeptical that it would actually rise that much!

Since I had not thought the recipe through very well I found myself up at 1:00a.m. to mix the dough, which to some extent was almost a disaster since I had also not figured out the measurements ahead of time
Where does this website hail from?  Australia?  I'm just curious since almost all of the measurements are in grams and I have to convert everything to ounces which can be difficult when the conversion is an odd number like 1.18 ounces and my scale is a physical needle with one ounce markings.  I will have to pick up a nice new digital scale.  Any suggestions?

Anyway I digress, I found out quickly that slightly over 4 cups of flour and the amount of water is more than my nice little Cuisinart 5.5 quart stand mixer can handle!  It was too late to do it all in two batches so when I was finished I had to hand kneed the dough to make sure everything was incorporated and then I had to spend a half an hour with a tooth pick and paper towels removing dough from the upper housing of my mixer! Ooof!  That was a lesson I will not forget. 

Well I am doing the mix the dough and refrigerate until tonight when I will divide, shape, proof and bake half of the dough.  According to the threads in the

100% sourdough bread from The Taste of Bread by R. Calvel

forum topic I should be able to get 3, 1.5 pound loaves from half of the dough.  I am going to also see if I can find a stainless steel bowl to cover the dough for the first 20 minutes and see how that does for helping my pathetic old gas oven bake a springier loaf.  If I can't find a bowl I do have a stainless steel pot but it is Teflon lined and I am not sure I want to get it up to the heat levels that it might inside my oven.  I also have a medium sized dutch oven that I can invert over the loaf as well but I am not sure how much room it has inside to allow the loaf to rise as far as it might.

Anyway, this is my first rambling hello message in these forums!  I will post my results after tonight!  So far at least the measuring by weight has been more successful for the first results!

David Chapman

pmccool's picture

You will find lots of ardent breadheads here who will happily pitch in with advice, praise, consolation and constructive criticism whenever you ask.  And a lot of times when you haven't asked, too.  Welcome!

TFL was started (and is still operated) by Floyd Mann, a neighbor of sorts to you since he lives in Oregon.  All the grams stuff comes from ease of use, as you are finding out while working with a scale that uses ounces.  I have an inexpensive Salton scale that I use which can go with metric or English units.  Metric is my new friend.  Other brands of scales I've seen mentioned here include Escali and MyWeigh.  Mine cost less than $30, I think.

It sounds like you are well-started in the pursuit of good bread.  Keep us posted as you go, please.


majorvox's picture

Thank you for the input about the scale.  I am now and forever a weight measurement baker. 

bnom's picture

Welcome to TFL.  I'm a Seattle home baker so I know what you're dealing with in temperatures.  

There may be those who disagree with me but I find that my breads taste and behave quite well if they do a long slow rise at whatever temperature the house is in.  So if you don't want to heat up the shed, you might play with that.  (Another option is to boil a cup of water in the microwave and then place your dough inside the microwave (turned off of course). The residual heat seems just right.

Anyway, if you find yourself in need of tips for where to source things locally, feel free to drop me a note (via the message function on TFL).

Happy baking!

highmtnpam's picture


You will love this thread.  There is so much information available.


EvaB's picture

at least I'm spared the humidity most of the time, but we are coming up to cold season here in Northern BC, and this will definitely affect my baking if I ever manage to get back to it!

Try to find a nice stainless steel bowl to use for the oven cover, although a round blue enamel roaseter might work ok too. Try the charity shops that is where I find all my best kitchen equipment. I have several bowls and they range from stainless steel to old mixer bowls in glass. Obviously the mixer had died at some time and they gave away the bowls. Its not often I find things like the mixers, but do find many things that are nice to have but not worth the storage space to keep! Which is why they wind up there too.

Dollar stores are great for measuring cups and spoons, and as long as you don't want to melt sugar or butter in amicrowave the plastic liquid measures work until the paint eventually comes off. But by then they are scratched up anyway so a new set is not that expensive to replace them with. I prefer the glass ones though, so have to add to the collection slowly and carefully!

I just invested in a My Weigh Baker's % scale, its on the way! Yay, around 100 dollars Canadian about 32 of which was actually shipping and taxes, so the scale with the ac adapter was acutally about 80 dollars. Those taxes kill me! I also found a small Starfrit brand scale at a local store, it won't weigh as much I think 5 or 6 pounds is the top for it, but it was less than $20 so can work around the lesser top limit by simply weighing in stages.

The other thing which I definitely reccomend is an oven thermometer, not a fancy digital one, although those are good, but one that actually sits in the oven and registers the temp, if you can see through your glass so much the better (mine is not visible through the window) as I discovered my gas oven was about 25 degrees below the temp on the dial, so once I started putting the temp up, the oven started baking better. That was only $6 for a US MADE ONE! Not made in China!!! With a huge dial, and the Farenheit markings were the prominent ones. I am not a fan of celcius, and am only grudgingly using grams, but they do make a difference in trying to weigh things.

jowilchek's picture

On your any suggestions about scales, I just purchased a digital scale..."EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale" I love it, it has a weight capacity of 11 lbs, measures in grams, kg, ounces, and pounds, has a "tare" which allows you to measure the container, then press tare and it goes to 0 so you can measure your ingredient. As I said I love it!!!! I find myself measuring everything just because I can.

I ordered it online at "" plus was a better price than stores $25 and I got free shipping!!

Good luck, I too am a new baker and trying to improve as I learn.


EvaB's picture

in the mail yesterday, and I think its going to be worth every penny. Math is not my strong suit, so I bought the one that has the option of Baker's percentage, a KD 8000 from My Weigh Canada, there is a My Weigh address in the US as well as an European one for returning the scale if it fails. It has a 30 year warranty, runs on 3 AA batteries, has the option of the AC adaptor (which I got) comes with a cover over the buttons, which is what I think did in my old scale (flour in the works) and had three flexible just put over the buttons and window covers. The cover is removable so you can take it off, use the flex covers for baking and put it back on for storage. The cover can interfere with the scale according to the booklet if not opened right so the plastic covers are included. It has a tare, and the % features, plus another I'm not sure of, unless its for holding for sizing particular items like hambergers etc.

I am dancing in anticipation of being free enough from other things to use the scale. It was worth the entire $118 dollars that it took to get it. The scale itself is only around $80 with the ac adapter, but the postage and of course good old sales taxes pushed it up. But if you can get one, I say do it, and its top weight is 8kg or 17.5 pounds aprox, and it will weigh very small weights as well. They also have tiny scales, and one that is shaped like a spoon, if you want to weigh small weights without dragging out the big scale.

This one is going on my counter where I can use it when I need it!

Doing hte happy dance!

ggage's picture

The only thing doesn't show is the dimensions ,I looked at that scale and the one where the control panel can extend away for large containers . I put a 14 inch diameter tub on my scales now and since they are 6 inches high can read easily . My current digital scales are 25 years old and do tare weight and all,but are only 10 grams sensitive so that is a 20 gram range .I want a bit more accuracy.  what are the KD8000's dimension ? If it's not too much trouble .


Regards Gage

EvaB's picture

its only 11 inches from back to front, and the weigh pan or platform is about 7 inches square, and the whole thing is only about 4 inches high. So don't know how it would do with a large tub on it, but do know that the grams are supposed to be quite accurate at small levels. If you are happy with the scale you have as to size and accuracy, why not invest in a small scale for the smaller bits, I had a small scale from the Source which was under 20 much like the one I bought at Can Tire (Starfrit brand) which is maybe about the entire size of the platform on the KD8000 which weighed my small amounts of salt and so forth very accurately.I know because I checked it with known weights of small items, and it was dead on! It also had the tare function so you could simply weigh small amounts and dump the salt, spices or yeast into the larger bowl and weigh another small item.

I am obsessive when it comes to measuring cups, and have 3 or more sets of them, some older ones, some new ones, and the ones I use the most are three sets of stainless steel measures, going from 1/4 to 1 cup which I got at the Dollar store for around 7 dollars a set, and which my local Safeway sells (same brand) for 24$ per set, I also buy nice little stainless steel cups (like the ones in resturaunts for chives or bacon bits or sour cream probably around 1/4 cup in size maybe even smaller) stainless steel small bowls and so forth, so I weigh out each element for my baking in a bowl sized to hold it, then simply incorporate my elements together. Of course using the bakers percentage function on the new scale will mean I shall have to revise this somewhat.

I can't try it out just now as I'm in the middle of other thigns which need to be done, but as soon as I can try it out I shall tell how it goes.

highmtnpam's picture

Now I want to see the bread:)   Pam

ggage's picture

think I'll order the kd8000 , Thanks for the dimensions.   Gage

majorvox's picture

Thank you for all the great input! Especially about the scales.

My last batch of Pain a Levian was not bad but I had a little science experiment.  Since I had to refridgerate the dough after the mixing stage and I pulled it and made it in batches.  The first three I let it proof for the 4 hour time period.  It did not spring very well. 

The second batch I pulled I shaped and immediately popped one loaf in the oven using the large Stainless Steel bowl that I bought at Fred Meyer, our local store, for only $10.99!  It sprung better but still not as well.  The second and third loaves had an hour and an hour and a half more to sit before they baked and the last one had the best spring. 

Even though they did not spring much, I think a couple of things happened.  One they all taste great even without a lot of spring.  The crumb was mixed even in one loaf, large holes and small, but not even.

I realized that I was not pre-heating the Stainless Steel bowl so I am thinking that next time, which will be tomorrow I will try pre-heating it with the baking stone.  Actually it's my pizza stone but it works well.

I also think that since my starter is pretty much 100% hydration and since I was dealing with too much dough for my equipment, that I will try cutting down just a tiny bit on the amount of water that I use.  Plus I will not use tap water since that has given me fits with my starter in the past.  I found I finally just had to use milk or if I could get it, filtered bottled water for my starter.  I say this about the water because one of the loaves in the first batch was clearly still wet.  In fact all of them seemed to have too much moisture in them even after baking. 

Oh well.  I'm stubborn and I like to keep track of the different variables for things and tweek them to see what happens.  So I'll figure this out eventually!

majorvox's picture

And by the way.  Not that this is confusing for anyone but I am not a major in anything.  The name I am using is just my screen name from several video games that I used to play.  It's an easy one that nobody else will ever have... ;o)  Yeah I know, What! A video gamer baking bread!?  No way!