The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First loaf

mtkd's picture

First loaf

I've been lurking on these forums and for some time. Finally found time to get a starter going last week.

Starter is 20% org rye, 80% org white. Using spring water at 100%. It was surprisingly easy to get going, just followed all the advice - room temp, feed daily at start then 2 - 3x day after 4 days. Alcohol smell stopped after 4 days, used a clean container every 2 days.

Baked with it for first time this morning (8 days since starting).

680g org. heavy white, 90g org. rye, salt, 300g starter (100% hyd), 455g water - based on a Pain au Levain recipe on

Made the dough last night - folded 10pm, 11pm. Formed 2 loaves. Fridge overnight, then 1 hour at room temp. Cooked for 30 mins in top Aga oven with ice cubes at start (which seems to be a little shorter than others but it was clearly ready).

I'll do some work on the proofing next time. Also dough felt a little too sticky so may increase the flour a little. Will do more work on this recipe before trying any others.

Any feedback appreciated.

Thanks for all the help.

AnnaInMD's picture

Wish my first loaf would have turned out this nice :)


Ruralidle's picture

Hello mtkd

Welcome to TFL.

It is great that there is another member of the forum who bakes in an Aga!  I hardly ever need to bake more than 35 mins in the roasting oven but I do use the cold shelf for the last 15 or 20 minutes to prevent the top crust burning.  The thermal mass of the cast iron in the Aga makes it far better for baking artisan bread than modern lightweight pressed steel ovens, but I still have a baking stone so that I am not confined to putting bread on the oven floor.  Certainly your loaf looks good.  Happy baking :)

mtkd's picture

Thanks for the feedback guys. Going to do another bake tonight and will take more time/care on the proofing.

I'm still fuzzy on best practice for building the starter up. The one I'm using is at room temp all the time currently (I bake a lot so might not fridge it).

I've done a full replacement feed at 7am, will do a top up at lunch, which should give me enough and then will start dough in evening, fridge it overnight then bake very early next day.

Is there any best practice for these times or are there too many variables - temp etc.?


mtkd's picture

I tried 25 mins in hot oven this morning, followed by 10 mins in the second oven, the crust looks better, will go for 20 mins in second oven next time.

Also started scoring a lot deeper which is improving the appearance too.

The starter seems to be more active now it's 2 weeks old. Still need to do some work on the proofing - folding twice over 2 hours before fridging overnight, but crumb is a little dense in the middle/bottom and some blistering on the outside. Any thoughts on that appreciated.


mtkd's picture

The loaf on the right had the extra 10 mins in second oven, and deeper scoring.

OMyStarz's picture

Looks beautiful!

mtkd's picture

Quick update on this - after a little more R&D over last couple of months - some improvements:

- I use the starter after about 4h which is peak for my kitchen temperature

- Put the flour (20% Rye, 80% White) in to a bowl and pour water in to 75% of the flour weight

- Was happy with everything except the crumb was still a bit cakey, not rising a lot and few holes - then I saw the Slap and Fold video on Youtube - tried doing that for 10 mins very early on - difference is huge - we're close to perfection now

alpenrose's picture

How much salt did you use?    I have been struggling to get my starter ready--it is now about 2 weeks old and last night at about 10PM I fed it again. This morning at 330AM it had doubled was on it's way to 4'xs rise and now at 12:00Noon it is easily 4x's rise.  At what time do you think I should have taken some off to form my levain? 

mtkd's picture

I've found SD bread very tolerant. I've been baking with regular yeast for years and stopped measuring very early on.

When I started with SD I was measuring everything, timing everything but now I'm back to very little measurement - after a few loaves you kind of know when it's right or not.

On the starter I keep mine near a stove that's on all the time and I change it every 12h, sometimes every 24h if I forget and it's been forgotten for 3 days before and recovered fine after a couple of feeds.

If you're getting a good regular rise on it - it should be fine to use 1/2h either side of peak rise - especially after 2 weeks. If you leave it too long the loaf can be too sour I find.

I use about a tsp of salt but tip it in my hand so it's possibly 2 tsp.

The only measuring I do is on the scales - I put roughly 100g rye, 400g strong white or granary (these are stone milled locally and organic).

Then I put about 325 - 375g of spring water in (my scales aren't very accurate). Quick mix and leave that in a plastic bowl for 30 mins.

At 325g water it's dry enough for easy working by hand, at 375g it's quite a wet dough (which I prefer but can be hard to handle if you're not used to baking).

After 30 mins to 1h I add the salt and have started giving it a 10 minute slap and fold ( - this gets the big bubbles and a improves the rise.

I then let it stand for a few hours - maybe giving it a gentle fold or two.

It may get put in fridge overnight or I may bake same day - a couple of hours before baking I get some cornflower under it and shape (this is an area I still need to improve on).

To bake I use an Aga oven - the top one which is hottest, it only needs 25 mins but some people seem to bake a lot longer. I put a tray with some boiling water in at the back first - ice cubes work just as well.

Here are a couple of recent loaves:


It's only flour and water so it's no loss if everything goes wrong - but it rarely does and even a disasterous loaf can be pretty edible with some french butter.

Ruralidle's picture

Hi mtkd

I also find sourdough to be a very tolerant way to bake bread, although I do weigh ingredients quite carefully particularly salt which I keep to around 7 g per 500 g of flour.  I keep my starters in the fridge and I have two wheat leavens, one at 50% hydration another at  100% hydration.  I use the 50% hydration starter roughly once a week and and I feed it straight after use but not during the week.  It still works well but it is a little slow so I make the bread in an afternoon, give it two or three hours of its final proof in the kitchen (which is heated quite effectively by the Aga) and then place it in the fridge overnight, baking it off around midday.  Here is a picture of one of my spelt loaves made with that leaven:

I usually feed my 100% hydration starter every 3 to 4 days and if I have plenty of time I do not need to feed it prior to use.  Again, it just takes a little longer to work but I make sure that I keep the dough at a reasonable temperature either by setting the bowl onto a rack or something similar on the simmering plate lid or over the warming plate that is over the left-hand two ovens (our Aga is one of the four oven varieties).  I use a 100% hydration starter for most other sourdough bread that I bake, including adding some to my baguettes which I bake either entirely as sourdough or, sometimes, I use 15 g of defrosted "fresh" yeast as part of my experimentation to achieve an acceptable baguette recipe that suits my requirements.

I also maintain a Rye sour at 150% hydration and I keep that in the fridge, feeding it on the same cycle as the 100% wheat leaven but the Rye seems to remain far more active.  I have now started using a mixture of wheat leaven and Rye sour in some of my breads, particularly ones where I use 40% Four Grain flour from Little Salkeld Watermill.  An example is pictured below:

As for baking in the Aga, I have a 15 mm granite stone which I sit on one of the racks.  For the artisan style loaves such as the one shown above, I set the rack on the first level off the base and use a roasting tin on the floor of the oven which I pour boiling water into either just before or just after I load the loaf into the oven. I also give quite a few sprays from a garden sprayer on the walls and roof of the oven.  I turn the bread around after about 15 to 18 min and then, after another 5 min, I take out the roasting tin and lower the shelf onto the floor of the oven.  At this point I put an Aga cold shelf over the bread and bake it for another 12 min before swapping the by now hot shelf for a new cold shelf and turn the loaf around for another 8 min.  This usually results in an even crust and an internal temperature (for the lean doughs that I normally bake) of around 208°F.

Happy baking


mtkd's picture

That crumb looks really good. I've not tried baking on the shelves of the aga - I just drop dough straight on to the floor of the oven (I bake a lot on the floor - sweep it out with an over glove before I bake).

Just had some olive bread with home cured salmon in a restuarant - so I know what I'm doing next weekend now ...

Thanks for the details - I'll try being more specific about the salt.

Ruralidle's picture

The key thing is that if you want to bake at other than floor level it would be better to get a baking stone of some sort so that you can replicate the effect of the Aga oven base.  I love baking in the Aga, it seems much nicer than the electric oven we have - which we often forget to turn on so that it can warm up!

Happy Baking