The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I - My first offering - WW Sourdough Bread with some weird, unexpected attitude

lumos's picture

I - My first offering - WW Sourdough Bread with some weird, unexpected attitude

So here’s my first blog entry here at TFL. After lurking and secretly stealing and borrowing brilliant recipes and ideas from wonderful TFLers for a few years, only contributing very occasionally to the community with odd comments here and there, I decided (nudged by my fellow Essex TFLer, maxwellion) it’s ‘bout time I should pay back my long-overdue debt with some humble offerings of my recipes and  what I’ve learned from not-always-perfect bread making experiences.

Yesterday, I baked my regular WW sourdough loaves, one for my friend and the other for ourselves. This is a favourite of another friend of mine who’s kind enough to buy my breads every week, so I’ve baked this many, many times before and it always turns out quite nice. Very reliable recipe…..except for yesterday. I contemplated for a long time whether this should be my first blog entry or should I wait until I get more satisfactory (=less embarrassing) result. But, heck, if I start from a bottom, the only way is UP!

(Excuse my English. It’s not my first language….Been using this excuse for about a million years now….)


Here’s the basic recipe and method for this bread.


Ingredients (for one loaf )

200g  Wholemeal flour 

90g  White strong flour 

10g Rye flour 

1 tbls  toasted wheat germ

125g  active sourdough (75% hydration) *see the note below

210-220g Water 

1/8 tsp or less instant dried yeast (optional)

6g  Sea salt

2 tsp-1 tbls good quality olive oil  (optional, for slightly improved keeping quality) 

*Note - Apologies for unusual hydration level. Most of my bread I make are 70-75% hydration, so this is how I’ve been keeping the hydration of my sourdough to make adaptation of new recipes easy for me. I believe Shiao-ping used to keep hers at this level, too.  I always feed SD twice before I use it to make sure it’s active.



Feed the sourdough twice in 10-14 hrs before you use it.

Mix all the flour and instant dried yeast (if using) in a large bowl.

In a separate small bowl, put water and sourdough (cut in to small pieces) and mix a little to loosen the sourdough.

Pour the sourdough water mix into the bowl with flour and yeast, mix into shaggy mess until there’s no dry flour.  Autolyse for 40 minutes.

After autolyse, sprinkle sea salt and S&F in a bowl (8-10 strokes, turning the bowl gradually as you S&F).  Cover and rest for 40-45 minutes.

Do another 2-3 sets of S&F every 40-45 minutes, adding olive oil before the second S&F, if using.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cold retard in a fridge for 12-16 hrs.

When cold retard is done (I’ve been using a few, large air-bubbles on the surface of dough as the sign when it’s done), leave it at room temperature for 30 minute-1hr and pre-shape and  shape into whatever shape you desire, put it in a banneton and final-proof at room temperature for how-long-it-may-need-to-take.

Pre-heat oven to 240C with a lidded pot (Dutch oven/cast iron pot/Pyrex casserole/whatever you have) in it.

When the dough is ready (finger-poke test!), turn it out to a sheet of baking parchment (cut to a slightly larger size than your baking pot), slash the top and transfer it to the heated pot with the parchment.

Bake 20 minutes, covered, remove the lid/cover, lower the temperature to 210-220C and bake another 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat but leaving the bread inside the oven for 10 minutes with a door open ajar.


Easy enough. It works fine everytime without any drama.....except for this time.  I noticed the dough was fermenting a bit quicker than usual while the S&F sessions, the dough feeling weirdly softer and more extensible. It almost felt as if I were playing with a ball made out of old and weak elastic bands, only stickier.  I attributed it to slightly warmer and murkier weather last few days (though it wasn’t that warm yesterday) and completed S&F sessions quicker than usual and put the dough in the fridge as soon as it's done. But…..when I checked the dough in the morning, there’re so many huge bubbles on the surface of dough, much more than usual and could see the top of the dough was starting to sag in the middle a bit. Sure sign of over-fermentaion! (usually I can leave it in a fridge until around mid-day with no problem)  I quickly pre-shaped and shaped without waiting for the dough to come to room temperature, let it finish the final proof in a shoter time than usual while warming up the oven + my trusted Pyrex casserole, slashed and baked as usual.  While I was pre-shaping and shaping, I noticed the dough was much, much stickier (even more than previous evening)  than usual (hence the overly-white surfaces on the finished breads from tons of rice flour I sprinkled in the bannetons) , felt much weaker and it was very difficult (almost impossible) to achieve good enough surface tension.  So I feared for the worst, half expecting the dough would collapse while baking, but fortunately it had good enough oven spring, got reasonable ears and volume, smelled alright. I was really relieved that I din’t have to make another (better) one for the friend, froze one of them to keep until I see this friend on Friday. (Have to make 3 more loaves of different variety for her, so making a loaf or two at a time. Not enough space in my fridge to cold ferment 4 loaves!)

This is how it came out…(Sorry I just realized how bad I’m at taking  close-up photos)


A reasonably respectable ear….


An obligatory crumb shot, of course…

(the white streaks are the trace of tons of flour I had to use during pre-shaping and final shaping because of extreme stickyness of the dough)

This morning I sliced the other one to have it at breakfast and….. understood the reason for  all those weird and unusual behaviour by the dough. I forgot to double the amount of salt though I was baking two loaves…… Nothing to do with ‘slightly warmer' (which was not) weather after all. Just my usual carelessness.


I’ve just fed my sourdough to make another loaf for my friend tomorrow.…


clazar123's picture

And I bet they were quite tasty with the flour combo you used and the cold retard. I'm glad you shared!

Syd's picture

Glad that you took the plunge and posted!  They look great!  I think you have achieved a very open crumb and depsite your protestations about the dough being very sticky, you managed some very good shaping.  All the more credit to you.  I look forward to seeing your future bakes. :)


chefscook's picture

The breads look great
yum were is my slice
thanks for sharing

Mebake's picture

Beautiful Bakes, Lumos, Bake on!

lumos's picture

Good morning, and thank you very much for your kind words, clazar123 (Yeah, it could've been tasty...:p) , Syd (Thank you. I think Ican be very good at shaping old elastic bands, too.),  chefscook (Will promise I'll share a better experience next time!) and Khalid (Thanks! I'm still hoping  my results will be as consistant as yours some day!)

So relieved my first blog entry weren't left hanging around, alone. You're all very kind. Thank you.


Salilah's picture

For failures, search for my 2 "cowpat" posts!!

Only half the salt, eh? I've managed to forget the salt completely (more than once, or added it right at the end - now I try to measure it out at the beginning and leave by the bowl to remind myself!)

The loaves look great, and nice description of the method - thanks for posting!

lumos's picture

Thanks, Salilah. :)

Yeah, I vaguely remember someone did post about forgetting salt completely, though I couldn't remember who it was until you told me. :p  Ever heard of Tuscan no-salt bread? I've been quite interested to find out how it tastes, but I haven't managed to gather up my courage actually to try it, inspite of my local supermarket used to stock it. But after tasting my half-salt bread, I don't think I'd want to risk it anymore..... And I still have the other loaf sitting in my freezer which was supposed to be for the friend...

Not trying to compete with you in the race for the bottom :p, but I've  had my fair share of cow pat creation experiences.  I lost count of times I poured too much water to final flour addition to poolish-based dough, completely forgotten half the water was already in the poolish. Have you ever seen how 105% hydration dough looks like?  Another poolish...

 now I try to measure it out at the beginning and leave by the bowl to remind myself!)

That's exactly the sort of thing I do. The only difference, perhaps, is I forget the reminder is there for me to remind me....very often.

....  Maybe we can form a Careless & Forgetful Alliance.:p



ETA: I just checked your profile and realized you're almost my neighbour on a grander scale of TFL world. My daughter's starting the uni from this autumn, so maybe our paths my cross one day. ;)

Salilah's picture

"Careless and Forgetful Alliance" - yup, like it!

I've also made errors on water amounts, so I try now to work it all out in a spreadsheet - sometimes it works, other times not! 

Good luck with your daughter starting at the Uni - its a seriously pretty town!  We're in a village about 20mins to the west, so I can get to town for shopping fairly easily, but don't have to worry about the traffic (and bicycles) too much!  Keep in touch...


lumos's picture

<grins back> Not a sort of alliance we should be too proud to be part of, but still it's comforting to know I'm not alone. :p

I keep a small calculater in a kitchen drawer to calculate the amount of ingredients enever I need to. It's a bit analog  compared to spread sheet and definitely not error-free (you know me now...), but I actually love doing it, and even better, it (hopefully) keeps my aging brain ticking.  

Yeah, I really love the town, too. We've had a few others in the family who used to study there and are quite familiar with the town, feel at home every time we visit there (though the college she's going is an unkown territory for us).  Lucky you live so near! Do you got to the market in the town centre to shop sometimes?  I wish I had a market like that near me.  There used to be a marvellous baker there who sells very authentic Pain de Campaillou (my favourite) but he's retired a few years ago and sold the business unfortunately. I bought a few loaves from the new guy but they were quite disappointing.


ananda's picture

Lovely translucent and light crumb for that level of wholewheat lumos

Best wishes


lumos's picture

Thank you, Andy. Getting an approval from a professional baker like you is very assuring....or maybe you're extremely generous and kind. ;) Maybe you can tell me, please. I often make two slashes like the photo above on a batard (Got a bit tired of making single slash), but quite often the middle bit is cut during the expansion in the oven (Like the photo...). I've wondering if it's due to slight under-proofing (yeast retaining too strong activity when put into the oven? Though finger-poke test tells me it's ready...) or I should make two slashed a bit more apart. Or possibly the gluten structure is a bit too weak and can't withstand the expansion? Thanks. Kind regards, lumos

lumos's picture



wassisname's picture

Nice loaves - crumb looks about perfect.  And no apologies for the 75% hydration starter!  Mine has lived it's whole life at that hydration and it certainly does make the math easier.


lumos's picture

And no apologies for the 75% hydration starter! Mine has lived it's whole life at that hydration and it certainly does make the math easier.

Hello, comrade! :) Thanks for the kind word.


Francine's picture

Your bread looks wonderful!



lumos's picture

Thank you. Yeah, should've been 'Yum!' if I didn't forget to double the salt..... Still, now I know how the dough made with insufficient salt behaves like! :D