The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First ever loaves. Comments and criticism welcomed

emmcee's picture

First ever loaves. Comments and criticism welcomed

My wife recently made a few attempts at a starter without too much luck. I decide to put my (limited) knowledge of yeast gained from home brewing to work on the starter. A sanatized kilner jar, some rye flour, bottled spring water and a stick of rhubarb (for acidity) was the solution. I've been lurking here for the past few weeks while I nursed my starter reading as much as I can. I almost discarded her when she started to smell like paint, but the concensus here was that she was underfed and I increased feeding until she started to smell fruity and yeasty. This weekend I popped my bread baking cherry and turned out my first couple of loaves. Here's the first:


and crumb shot:


OK, the rise wasn't fantastic, but it tasted nicely sour and the crust was fantastic. It spread out, probably due to not using a banneton for shaping. The base was very dense and seemed like it hadn't completley baked, despite the crust being very dark. I couldn't find my pizza stone (apparently it had been tossed out a while back) so it went into a large heavy pan in the oven. I shaped it on a piece of greaseproof paper and slid it on to the hot pan. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the paper stuck to the bottom of the loaf. Also, I couldn't cut proper slashes in the loaf, even with a very sharp knife. I figured I could do better so I went shopping for a stone and some rice flour and kicked off another sponge.

This dough wasn't quite as wet as the first to make it easier to handle. My makeshift banneton was a larde loaf tin lined with mulslin cloth and liberally dusted with ground rice (couldn't find rice flour, but it worked out fine). I reduced the time at gas mark 9 (240C) from 15 minutes to 10 and left it in for an extra 5 minutes at gas mark 6 (200C ?). This was the result:



Tighter crumb I assume is due to a drier dough. It got a much better rise, but the very bottom of the loaf still seems a little doughy. I used a serrated knife for the slashes and it was much better. The crust wasn't as dark as teh first loaf, but still has a nice crunch. The doughy base is disapointing - has anyone got any suggestions  as to the cause?

All things considered, I was pleasantly suprised as I expected it to be a lot more work and the results were not just edible, but very tasty. Next up - french bread!


janij's picture

Esp for sourdough.  It can be tricky.  Great job.


Juergen's picture

Great job! 

HeidiH's picture

What a way to start!  I'm impressed!  And they look great.'s picture

...smear a slice with that lethal potion in the yellow-lidded jar hiding behind the loaf in the first picture. Sure way to defile an otherwise smashing rookie bake.

You're a natural, emmcee. Keep on that trajectory of improvement and you'll be asked to give out a lot more advice than you'll need to receive here!


emmcee's picture

That yellow jar does not belong to me. It's the only yeast based product I don't consume. 

Thanks for all the kind words. Most of what I know has been picked up from the forum here so I am in your debt. 

Has anyone got any insight into why the base isn't fully baked? I thought the heat of the baking stone would prevent that. 


wassisname's picture

Your loaves look great!  Really nice crumb on both. 

Regarding the bottom of the loaf - two thing come to mind:  .

First – Make sure the stone is fully preheated, 30 minutes is about the minimum.  I usually go about 1 hour just to be sure.

Second – Place the stone lower in the oven.  I don’t know where you have it now but if it’s in the middle lowering it one position can make a big difference.

Finding the sweet spot in your particular oven just takes a little experimenting.

Good luck!



emmcee's picture

Thanks for the tips. The stone was in the oven for over an hour as I had been roasting a chicken.

I put it in the middle of the oven. I'll try lowering the oven shelves and see how that works out.