The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Quarter sponge (first take) - or the Wonder(s of )Bread

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Quarter sponge (first take) - or the Wonder(s of )Bread

I wanted to make some bread according to the Quarter Sponge Method as outlined by Elizabeth David / Walter Banfield ever since I came across it more than a year ago.

The details are intriguing: A standard metod used to make "Batch Bread" in Scotland well into the thirties, it uses a long fermentation process and a minimal amount of yeast. A sachet of yeast will make about 30Kg of bread!

The result of my first bake: As close to shop bought sandwich bread as one can get - just with flour, water, salt, yeast and a 16 hour fermentation!

Here some pictures; details follow.

The overall appearance of my 1kg loaf:

The crust in more detail:

And the crumb:

The loaf looks very appealing; the crumb is dense and regular, but fluffy. And the walls of the small bubbles have the translucency of well fermented dough.

The taste is ... neutral. Just plain neutral, but in a pleasant way. Great with cream cheese and salmon, or salami, or marmalade. 

Quite a surprise.

The formula is given by David in industrial amounts (200Kg batch size). I haven't got the proofing space, so I decided to scale it down.

Here the original formula:

Quarter Sponge Process after Elizabeth David / Walter Banfield 

Total IngredientsOriginal
g convertedBakers %
malt extract8oz224.000.179


Initial Sponge14 hours at DT 21C

Flour (strong)64lb28,672.0022.857

Second Stage Sponge1 hour at DT 27C"batter sponge"

Flour (strong)100lb44,800.0035.714
Malt extract8oz224.000.179
Initial sponge from above


Third stage sponge1 hour at DT 26C

Flour (soft)116lb51,968.0041.429
Batter sponge from above


Then ready for kneading, dividing and moulding



I adjusted overall salt to 2% and estimated the modern yeast to be a lot stronger, the formula I used was:

Quarter Sponge Process after Elizabeth David / Walter BanfieldExpected Yield1,000.0
Total IngredientsBakers %Weight
Malt Extract0.181.1
Yeast (fresh)0.080.5

Initial Sponge; ferment 14 hours at 21C
yeast (instant)0.030.2

Second Stage Sponge; ferment 1 hour at 26C, "Batter Sponge"
Malt extract0.181.1
Initial sponge from above36.65231.3

Third stage sponge; ferment 1.5 hours at 26C
Batter sponge from above113.03713.5



After the Third Stage Sponge (Final Dough) had rested, I kneaded, divided and shaped, followed by another 1.5 hours rest.

The dough was very pleasant to work with, despite the low hydration (using Bacheldre organic stoneground bakers white flour).

Baked with steam in a falling oven to 210C for 45 minutes. 

An interesting experience.

Happy Baking,




daveazar531's picture

2 questions:

you do the last 1.5 hours rest in the bread pan right? does the the loaf come out over the top of the pan before the bake?

as far as the falling oven, i thought that was a term for WoodFired Ovens. how would you translate 'falling' to a standard oven, preheat to 210c(410f) then lower to to say 200 or 190? or do you preheat to 220 and lower it to 210 when you load the bread and steam?

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Answer to Q.1: The shaped dough is quite dense, it rose sust about to the rim.

Answer to Q.2: I preheat the oven to max. (about 245C). I load the oven and pour a bit of boiling water onto the oven floor. After 10 minutes I turn the temp down to 210/220C.

daveazar531's picture

Thanks for the heads up...  I am going to try this over the weekend. My family loves sandwich bread while i really prefer a more rustic crusty lean bread. I think this will be good middle ground of a soft sandwich loaf that isnt enriched and sweetened.

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Just to give you some more of my thoughts:

The bread tasted a bit salty for my tastebuds - for the next bake I will reduce salt to 1.8%

I will also use the original percentage of yeast - 0.13 fresh yeast / 0.04% instant yeast.

The first stage will have a honeycomb structure like a biga.

Don't expect a lot of expansion during the second stage and first rest of the third stage.

British flour is fairly soft - from what I have learnt here you should be OK with AP flour, third stage even pastry flour (something else for me to try).

Happy Baking, and keep us posted,


dabrownman's picture

that is not your average 'slimy white slice' as Jennifer Paterson used to say.  What a nice sandwich loaf all the way around.  Crackly crust and fluffy shreddable crumb.

Very nice baking indeed.

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss


Highly appreciated.


PiPs's picture

Nice baking Juergen,

I find these 'old school' methods of baking fascinating ... then it gets even more complicated when the use of hops, barms  and brewers yeast is introduced. Makes my brain hurt :)


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Phil,

Thank you for your comments. 

These old school methods - this one in particular - seemed to have been used to feed the  masses. Cheap - with as little yeast as possible.

Surprisingly this bread was quite bland, and it staled rather quickly, much like a bagel. My wife's comment: Bread didn't get old in a Northern English  / Scottish working class family.

I will try if a little more yeast / a little more water or high-extraction flour will make a difference ... 

Best Wishes,


isand66's picture

Great looking experiment.  Always nice when you can take the results of your experiments and stick some cheese and meat between it and enjoy!

  I bet a nice grilled cheese with bacon and tomato could be in your future..


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thank you,


nicodvb's picture

Juergen. I really like it, even though I'm so much accustomed to 70+% hydratation doughs that I couldn't really follow the recipe:)

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

BUT it looks interesting ...

Nico, these were my first thoughts when I first saw this recipe

An interesting exercise, and I feel a bit like a cultural historian.


breadsong's picture

Hi Juergen,
I read about the quarter sponge method in Ms. David's book awhile ago. Wanting to try making it, I set up a spreadsheet to figure out  baker's percentages and be able to scale the quantities, but the project ended there and I never actually made the bread - so I really enjoyed seeing this post and your beautiful bread that resulted!

These were the percentages I came up with; I was relieved to see the ingredient weights calculated similarly to yours, validation for some of my guesswork when I was working on percentages for the formula :^)   :

Thanks, Juergen, for your lovely example of this bread and next time we are wanting a white sandwich loaf I will try this - with a further reduction in salt, as you note.

:^) breadsong

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Breadsong, I checked TFL and saw the post where you mentioned your interest in this formula.

Converting Elizabeth David's formulas is not always trivial, and I am glad you got the same results.

When you make this bread don't expect anything like Pullman bread.

It is - despite the stunning looks - more of the neutral variety. When I tasted it I couldn't make out where it wanted to go - sweet? savoury? Is there an aftertaste developing, or not? 

Very interesting. 

I used a very nice organic stoneground flour that in Baguette produces a beautiful creamy crumb with a complex flavor. Nothing of this shines through in my quarter sponge bread. Could be my technique? Maybe Andy will have something to say...

Anyway, I'll go on experimenting with this, as indicated above.

Best Wishes,