The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

BlueZebra's Baking Banter

bluezebra's picture

BlueZebra's Baking Banter

So I decided to start a baking blog for this BlueZebra to keep track of my baking progress. Hopefully, some of the pros will stop in and offer their helpful suggestions and I will then have it compiled onto my site.

I am also going to ask Bill if he minds if I copy/paste his starter information to my blog so that I will also have it at the ready.

Tomorrow I am going to ignite the sparks that will hopefully lead to my first sourdough starter. I plan on using Mike Avery's starter recipe and instructions (he's at  ) and will also keep my eye peeled on the test being conducted between Tatooedtonka and JMonkey, which started today. I will also check on Bill to see how his new starter is going too.

One thought. Last night I made pizza dough using the PR Neo-neopolitan pizza dough recipe found on Floyd's Pizza Primer thread here at This is the second time I made this dough. I am a bit confused about the instructions for dough development since I don't own the American Pie book by PR that has the recipe in it. Floyd's recipe says to rapidly stir the wet dough mass then set it aside to rest for 3-5 minutes, then to repeat this process. Then to split it up into bags and refrigerate if not using immediately.

I followed these instructions last time and although the end pizzas were really good, I ended up having to knead the dough at the last minute which threw my dinner timing off. The dough wasn't developed at all and had no extensibility or elasticity. It had no "oomph" and was very flaccid and brittle. So this time, I decided to experiment on my own. I kneaded it in the bowl (which I will discuss in a minute) after I did the brisk stirring procedures. Then I put it through 3 french folds on the counter at 30 minute intervals. Then I put it through a bulk fermentation. And then split it up into 4 pieces of dough. Put two of them in oiled bags and into the freezer and kept two pieces of dough out.

Wow the difference was incredible! The first ball of dough fought me as I was making it. It was soft and had a beautiful texture but it obviously needed a rest to get over the final fold and the splitting. This was evidenced by the fact that doughball #2 did get a 60 minute rest as I worked with dough #1 and made and cooked the first pizza to give to Brian. Brian's crust did not have near the oven spring despite the fact that I wrestled it into shape and proofed it for 30 minutes on the parchment. He did say that the bottom was very nicely crisp. But that the inside was a little gummy. I baked it longer too. It baked for about 8 minutes at 550 and was brown on top. The dough was only about 1/8" maximum in the center going into the oven.

My dough had a 60 minute rest and was beautiful to work with for final pizza formation. I did not let it proof on the pan. I formed the pizza. Topped it. Baked it at 550 for about 8 minutes and it was great! Crispy bottom but it did have some gumminess in the center. I am thinking this is a drawback in this recipe. If I blind bake the crust without toppings for a couple of minutes, I'm afraid it will be too tough and overcooked. But, I will try this next week with one of the doughs as a test. I will cook the second one next week at a lower temp (like 425) for a longer amount of time and see what happens.

Now for the breakthrough: The dough was very wet. Not as wet as the pagnotta dough but still wet none-the-less. I worked it with vigor for about 2 minutes then set it aside for 5 minutes. Came back and worked it again for 2 minutes (at this point I was already seeing good gluten development). Then I set it aside for 20 minutes. When I came back, I decided to fold in the bowl. Knowing that it's actually the stretching portion that helps to develop the gluten, I used my big rubber one-piece spatula and in a folding motion, would sweep around to the bottom of the dough and pull the dough up as far as I could before bringing the pulled section down and over onto the middle of the dough mass. Each time I did this, I gave the bowl a 1/4 turn. I worked the dough like this for about 3 minutes. I lost track of how many stretch and rotations I did. But it was uber easy and very therapeutic.

The difference in dough texture from beginning of this step to the end of it was incredible! Night and day. The elasticity of the dough was really beautiful and towards the end I could pull the dough up so much higher with the spatula than I could in the beginning (before the dough showed signs of tearing). When I touched the mass in the bowl it immediately sprang back at me. So I covered the bowl and set it to rest for 30 minutes. Then came back and began the folding steps. I started the dough late and didn't have time to do a preferment. I started at around 2:30pm. It gave me plenty of time. It was a beautiful and bubbly dough. I think I will try the ciabatta dough by working it this way. The dough definitely seemed to like it!

Another important note: I was really skeptical that 1 tsp. of idy yeast would be enough for this recipe with 5 cups of flour, but judging from the action of the yeast in my dough, 1 tsp was plenty! The flavor of the pizza was very nice. It did not brown very strongly so I think I will try adding some malt the next time I make it (which will be Friday after next...Friday being pizza night at the zebra pen).

I also made pasta dough last night. I felt like a real chef! I made it at the same time I began my pizza dough then set it to rest in the fridge until time to form it into sheet for fresh ravioli. I didn't use a recipe! Hard to believe! I just put about 1-3/4 cups AP flour in a bowl and put 2 good pinches of kosher salt in the flour. Made a well in the center of the mixed up flour/salt and cracked 2 large eggs into it. I used a fork and started beating the eggs up in the well and started pulling bits of flour into the center, still beating. When it was thick enough I turned it out onto the counter and did the Mike Avery fold and knead. Turn 90 degrees fold over once and do a strong frissage, then repeat turning the dough 90 degrees. I only worked the dough maybe 2 minutes. Then covered with a bowl and let it rest at room temp for 30 minutes. I came back and worked the dough another 2 minutes and by that time, the gluten had developed although it was still tender to the touch. I refrigerated about 3 hours. Then took it out split it into two batches and started putting it through the pasta roller. Make sheets out of it and set them aside to dry a bit. Then filled and sealed and let them dry a little longer. They were delicious and the pasta was a great flavor and so easy! It made 18 very large raviolis. So we definitely have leftovers!

My filling was fantastic. I had an empty larder so had to used creativity to come up with the filling. I made roasted garlic, gruyere, parmesan, craisin and pumpkin filling in a sherry cream sauce with bacon crumbles and fresh parmesan to finish it. Wow! it went so well with my green olive, onion and mushroom pizza!!! Add a cabernet sauvignon to that and I would serve that meal to company any night!

OK so what am I learning so far (in the last 6 weeks or so that I've been trying to become a home baker)? I've learned that the best thing a newbie baker can do is approach the bread with confidence. It isn't like a pastry. It isn't so fragile. And the recipes are fairly forgiving. I've also learned that the best way to learn about the feel of a dough is to make it a few times. Confidence is built through repitition. I don't pretend to know when every dough had been worked enough. In fact, I'm fairly sure I'm still underworking the dough, but the recent results this past week indicate that thanks to Mike Avery and many of the people here at, I've experienced a huge breakthrough in baking.

Tomorrow I start the sourdough samba. I will spend today trying to think of a brilliant name and will send my hunter and gatherer out to procure suitable jars for the incubation! It's only proper that he have some role in this creation process! ;)  I might even give him a vote on names!


bluezebra's picture

The following is a description of how I maintain my 100% hydration (1:1 flour:water by weight) starter. The term 100% hydration refers to the baker's percentage of water in the starter, i.e. the water in the starter is 100% of the weight of the flour in the starter.

This maintenance regime assumes that your starter is already healthy, fresh, and active. This is not what I would do to "start a starter", but rather it is the maintenance regime I follow to store, revive, and use my starter over time.

The following characteristics are for a 100% hydration starter. The characteristics, signs of health, problems, and readiness for use are different for starters maintained at different hydration levels.

Characteristics of my 100% hydration white flour starter:

  • The weight of flour and water in the starter are equal.
  • The flour is either bread or AP flour with protein content around 11-13%.
  • The water is bottled (Poland Spring).
  • Normally fed at room temperature.
  • Stored in the refrigerator when not being fed.
  • The consistency can be described as a thick, stirrable paste after it is fed.

Characteristics of a recently fed, fresh, active 100% hydration starter:

  • It rises by double in about 4-5 hours at room temperature after a feeding of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight)
  • It maintains a reasonably thick, elastic consistency after rising by double.
  • It smells very pleasant. The smell could be described as flowery, tangy, and slightly sweet.
  • No liquid layers develop on top or in the middle even hours after rising by double.
  • Hooch (an alcoholic layer of liquid on top) forms eventually when it is stored in the refrigerator for a week or more or left out for a long time at room temperature after doubling.

Characteristics of a 100% hydration starter that is not yet ready or is possibly unhealthy:

  • Unpleasant odors a few hours after feeding.
  • Separated layers of liquid form a few hours after feeding.
  • Takes longer than 4-6 hours to rise by double at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding (starter:flour:water by weight).
  • Develops a runny consistency a few hours after feeding.

Assuming a healthy, active starter, here is the maintenance regime I follow to feed, store, revive, and use my starter.


I almost always feed my starter 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight) and then allow it to rise by double at room temperature, which should take about 4 hours when it is fully active and recently fed. Once it has risen by double, it is placed in the refrigerator. The starter can then be used directly from the refrigerator in a recipe for the next 3 days. On the first day, it is almost the same as it was right after it rose by double. On the second day, it has a little more flavor and may be ever so slightly weaker, but it is still at an excellent point to use in a recipe. After 3 days, it can still be used, but it will have stronger, more sour flavors, and it will be noticeably weaker in terms of rising power. If you have a recipe that uses a very small percentage of starter in the dough, it won't matter much if you use old starter. I've used week old starter in recipes where the flour contributed to the dough was only 5% of the total flour weight. If you are using the starter in a recipe that has a high percentage of starter, it may be better to use the starter after 2 days or less in the refrigerator.


Once the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a three days, I consider it to be in storage. It can't be used directly in a recipe, but instead will have to be revived. If I plan to store my starter for a period of time longer than 2 weeks, I usually will thicken it up, as it keeps better at a thicker consistency. However, even at 100% hydration, I've had no problems reviving my starter after 2 months. At thicker consistencies, the starter can last for many months in the refrigerator. I believe Glezer says it can last more than a year in a very stiff consistency, like 50% hydration. However, the longest I've gone with my starter is 2 months. I use glass canisters for both feeding and storage. I usually pour the ready to refrigerate starter into a fresh container, so that the sides are clean and the starter is stirred down to take up less volume. The containers have a rubber gasket that seals them from the air in the refrigerator but allows some gas to escape if pressure and gasses build up in the container.


When the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, it must be revived first before it can be used in a recipe. I do this by simply feeding it once or twice in the manner described under "Feeding". After being stored for a week or two or more, rising by double after a 1:2:2 feeding may take something like 6-8 hours at room temperature. If it only takes 6 hours, one feeding works fine. However, if it takes more than 6 hours to rise by double at room temperature, I generally feed it one more time. The second feeding usually takes much closer to 4 hours, which is an indication it is fully revived. On the occasion where it had been stored for 2 months, it took a third feeding at room temperature before the starter would rise by double in 4 hours at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding.


You can feed at a lower or higher ratio than 1:2:2 in order to adjust the amount of starter you want to build to match a recipe. However, I never feed at a lower ratio than 1:1:1 to avoid any problems with acid building up or the starter becoming too ripe or underfed. Higher ratios can be used to lengthen out the rise time if you know you will not be back within 4-6 hours to store the starter in the refrigerator before it becomes too ripe. At warmer temperatures, the starter will rise by double much more quickly after a 1:2:2 feeding, taking something like 2.5 hours at about 85F, for example. At 85F the timing for rising by double will be very roughly half as long as at room temperature, and at 65F the timing will be very roughly twice as long (very, very roughly).

When to Refrigerate

I like flavors to be less sour and more mild in sourdough breads I make. I've found that the right flavors and lower amounts of sour flavor seem to be there when I don't let the starter become overly ripe during feedings. That's why I tend to refrigerate when the starter has just doubled. You can experiment with feeding schedules that allow the starter to become more ripe before refrigerating. It will change the balance of organisms in the culture and therefore the flavor. Also, when you use a large percentage of starter, the larger amount of accumulated byproducts of fermentation in a more ripe starter will contribute directly to the flavor and texture of the dough, in addition to the contribution made by the subsequent fermentation.

Converting Starters

I sometimes make a recipe starter for a whole grain bread by feeding some of my starter with spelt or whole wheat. I have never fed a starter with whole grain repeatedly to completely convert it, so I have to accept the flavor as is and a small amount of white flour in my whole grain recipes. I'm sure there are many subtle flavor differences if you feed repeatedly and fully convert a starter from being fed exclusively with white flour to being fed exclusively with a whole grain flour. I've found the feeding and rising process works about the same way with whole grains for a recipe starter, except that the rise times seem a little bit faster with the whole grain flours.


It's pretty hard to kill a healthy starter, but here are a few ways to possibly send yours over the edge.

  • Heat the starter to over 95F and kill the organisms - easier than you might think, for example...
    • Use actual oven heat and get up over 100F very quickly.
    • Place the starter in an oven with the light on - check carefully first - it can be much hotter than you think in there with just the oven light on and the door closed.
    • Use hot water to feed your starter
  • Put acids in the culture
    • The culture doesn't need acid if it's healthy. It generates all the acid it needs on its own.
    • Sometimes a small shot of vinegar or other acid may help fix a sluggish culture, but if you feed acid repeatedly, you can put too much in and kill the starter.
  • Not feeding the culture for too long at warm temperatures or repeatedly underfeeding over long periods.
    • When out of the refrigerator, the culture will be very active and must be fed to stay healthy.
    • It is especially easy to underfeed a culture when temperatures are warmer.

Given the above, it makes a lot of sense to keep back a small amount of old starter in the refrigerator, even if just the scrapings from the inside of the container that came out of the refrigerator, until you're sure the feeding went well. It's also not a bad idea to make a small amount of stiff starter and keep as a backup. Some dry their starter and freeze or store it for backup.


What I describe above is just one way to do it. I'm sure there are many other ways, but I find this method convenient and robust. It's hard to kill a healthy freshly fed and risen starter that is stored in the refrigerator. It is convenient that the starter remains in a good usable state for several days. Very small amounts can be used when storing it for long periods to avoid large amounts of flour waste. I store something like 100 grams when I'm planning to store the starter for more than a few days, so my revival can be used in a recipe without wasting much if any flour. Maintaining only one starter and converting it for recipes each time is easy and convenient, although by not fully converting the starter to a whole grain flour some flavor or other characteristics may be missed with this approach.

bluezebra's picture

No hands were lost to this "croc" last night but she was an angry sheila and fought like the "divil" as I whipped her into submission!

I tried making Jason's Quick Crocodillo Ciabatta bread hand! Lions and tigers and bears and Crocodiles! Oh my!!! It was a very wet dough indeed. Please see the recipe here:

Jason's Quick Crocodillo Ciabatta Bread (as posted by lildice)

Variaton 1

500g bread flour
475g (~2 cups) water
2 tsp. yeast
15g salt

Varation 2 (Semolina)

350g bread flour
150g semolina flour
475-485g (~2cups) water
2tsp. yeast
15g salt

In Kitchen Aid style mixer: Mix all ingredients roughly till combined with paddle, let it rest for 10 minutes.

  1. With dough hook or paddle, (I prefer the hook to prevent the dough from crawling into the guts of the mixer), beat the living hell out of the batter, it will start out like pancake batter but in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes it will set up and work like a very sticky dough. You'll know it's done when it separates from the side of the bowl and starts to climb up your hook/paddle and just coming off the bottom of the bowl. I mean this literally about the climbing, i once didn't pay attention and it climbed up my paddle into the greasy inner workings of the mixer. It was not pretty! Anyway, it will definately pass the windowpane test.
  2. Place into a well oiled container and let it triple! it must triple! For me this takes about 2.5 hours
  3. Empty on to a floured counter (scrape if you must, however you gotta get the gloop out), cut into 3 or 4 peices. Spray with oil and dust with lots o' flour. Let them proof for about 45 minutes, which gives you enough time to crank that oven up to 500F.
  4. After 45 minutes or so the loaves should be puffy and wobbly, now it's iron fist, velvet glove time. Pick up and stretch into your final ciabatta shape (~10" oblong rectangle) and flip them upside down (this redistributes the bubbles, so you get even bubbles throughout), and onto parchment or a heavily floured peel. Try to do it in one motion and be gentle, it might look like you've ruined them completely, but the oven spring is immense on these things.
  5. Bake at 500F until they are 205F in the cnter (about 15-20 minutes), rotating 180 degrees half way through. Some people like to turn the oven down to 450F after 10 minutes, but whatever floats your boat. I usually bake in 2 batches.

 Photo Results:

 3 Angry Croc Sheilas Poised To AttackCrocodillos Uncut: 3 Angry Croc Sheilas Poised To Attack

 After Quite a Struggle - I Won & Cut One of Their Gizzards Out!Crocodillos Cut: After Quite a Struggle - I Won & Cut One of Their Gizzards Out!


This is by far the wettest dough I've wrangled to date. If I did my math right, it's a 95% hydration dough, using flour as the 100% base. The recipe assured that it would not hurt my precious Kitchen Aid and it didn't. Mainly because I don't have one. So to be quite clear, no machines were harmed during the making of this bread...well except for the lever joint in my right arm that I fondly call "elbow". It's a little sore this morning!

I think I should have dusted the tops with flour as the writer suggested and I also think I should have been more patient in the final proof stage. I will say, these had fantastic oven spring though. Most likely because the dough was so wet. We haven't yet tasted of the beast, but the crumb seems a bit coarse. Not as creamy in consistency as the Pagnotta Bread from last week.


I used AP Walmart Store Brand Flour. Temp in the house roughly 74 degrees.

1. I brought all ingredients together until moistened, disregarding any particular order. The idy yeast was dissolved in lukewarm tap water. I didn't bother to measure the temp. I started this process at 5:30pm.

2. Once the ingredients were well combined, I stirred fairly vigorously for 2 minutes and then scraped the sides of the bowl. Covered the bowl and let rest 10 minutes.

3. I repeated stirring vigorously for 2 minutes, scraped the sides of the bowl, covered and let rest 10 minutes.

4. For 5 minutes I folded the dough in the bowl. Using a broad sweeping stroke from the bottom of the bowl, I gathered as much of the batter-type dough and lifted it as high as I could above the bowl in order to challenge the gluten strands. When the dough looked as if it might break away from the main body of the batter, I twisted my wrist once and set that scooped dough back into the center of the dough mass. Each time I performed this task, the dough gave a bit more resistence and I was able to stretch it a little more as well. I turned the bowl 90 degrees after each stretch. At the end of the cycle, I scraped the sides, covered the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.

5. Repeat step 4 with the stretch and fold in the bowl for 5 minutes. Scrape, cover and let rest 10 minutes.

6. Transferred the dough to a clean bowl that was large enough to allow the mass to triple in volume. At this point the dough had very well formed gluten strands but would not clear the sides of a bowl if stirred with a paddle or spatula. It was still wet and somewhere between very wet dough and batter.

7. Once in the large stainless steel bowl, I did a classic French fold. Using the spatula I folded the mass (stretching the dough as I folded) in thirds in one direction. Then folded the dough in thirds in the other direction. Scraped the sides of the bowl, covered and let rest 30 minutes.

8. Repeat step 7. The dough is rising at this point. Many large and medium size bubbles. I was careful not to punch down the dough, but still performed the French fold. It is a tiny bit more like a wet dough at this point. Scrape the sides of the bowl, cover and let rest 30 minutes.

9. Repeat step 8. The dough has almost doubled. Many more large bubbles. Again I was careful not to punch or deflate when doing the French fold. Much more elasticity in the bread. It is now definitely a wet dough with body but still very slack and sticky, sticky, sticky. A wet hand is your only defense! Scrape the sides of the bowl, cover and let rest 60 minutes. This was the bulk fermentation stage where I allowed the dough to triple in volume as per the original recipe

10 NOTE: This dough could have been improoved by one more French fold cycle but being pressed for time, I skipped the 4th French fold. Also, I chose to do the folds in the bowl using a spatula (or scraper) because I did not want to introduce any excess flour than what was called for in the recipe.

11. Using a spatula I turned the dough mass onto the lightly floured counter. Using a scraper and wet hand, I made a French fold in one direction only. This meant I had a long "log" of dough. Using the scraper I cut into 3 segments.

12. Making sure to have very wet hands I folded each segment separately. Each segment was folded in half. This was a straight half fold and not a French fold and was folded roughly in the opposite direction of the first French fold after it was turned out of the pan.

13. Re-wetting my hands I picked up each segment and gently teased the dough out to a "slipper" shape and placed the dough on a cornmeal covered, parchment paper. I gently continued to tease the dough into the classic ciabatta shape. There were still bubbles in the dough but it had deflated a fair amount. Each dough went on a separate sheet of cornmealed parchment.

14. I covered the dough with an inverted restaurant sheet pan or tray and set it aside for a final proof of 45 minutes. I started preheating my oven to 550 degrees.

15. NOTE: The bread could have gone another 45 minutes in the final proof. It rose only slightly during this time frame. Maybe because the kitchen was a little cooler at that point. I also omitted, spraying with olive oil and dusting with extra flour.

16. Using the back of a sheet pan I transferred the dough and parchment from the counter to the oven tiles. Each loaf cooked separately in the oven for 20 minutes at 550. Internal temp when removed was 206 for each loaf.

I would view this recipe as "do-able" by hand with very little effort.

Tasters Notes: Will not really look at making this again. Dough was just too chewy and crust too crisp and thick for pleasurable eating. Also, because of the quick method, there was very little taste in my opinion. Maybe I'm too used to using a preferment that's at least got a few hours on it before making the final dough? Hard to believe that a preferment of 6-12 hours gives that much of a flavor boost but it does or has done so for us. Prefer the Pagnotta recipe from SD-G and bwraith to this.

weavershouse's picture

Thanks for giving this a go. You did a great job and I can't wait to try it. I hope I have good luck with it, it looks so good.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             weavershouse

bluezebra's picture

take over the world.

Zebra Log 5.23.07 10:30 a.m. CST


Life begins. The melding of King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour and filtered refrigerator water has been accomplished. In a rather sexless manner the two merge to become one, each giving up part of themselves to the other in the timeless dance of the sourdough starter mating ritual familiar world round.

Using the famed techniques of Mike Avery from, I decided after much ponder to use actual weights instead of measures. Careful tracking of local climate conditions permits accurate baselines upon which to mount our impending takeover of the world.

Life BeginsLife Begins


And His Name Shall Be "General Chaos"And His Name Shall Be "General Chaos"


1/4 cup KA WW Flour by weight (0.07lb) = 1.12 oz

0.07 lb Filtered Refrigerator Water = 1.12 oz

Elevation  Right above Hell (at or below sea level)

Ambiant Temp  74.7F

Starter Temp 71.3F

Barometric Pressure 30.5mb and falling

Humidity 225% (Houston)

Using my favorite scotch highball glass, I combined earth and water to create fire. Sticking a probe up it's little bum assures me he is nice and cozy in his present locale.

With the aide of a hermetically sealed spork from neighboring Taco Hell, I stirred well to marry dry to wet. Covered tightly with a thin layer of clear, petroleum based, flexitive substrate, the newborn is protected from the dangers of germs borne from sneezes and lent. And so the wait begins.

Photos will be uploaded later as soon as the Brain returns to show me for the umpteenth time how to transfer photos from my phone to my computer. bwahahahahahahahahaha <maniacal laughter>

Zebra Log 5.24.07 10:30 a.m. CST - Day 2


Well it didn't take me too long to screw up. I was up most of the night and so I overslept then leaped out of bed (yes I leaped!) and ran to feed the beast. Only, I should have stopped to read the recipe. This is where it all goes wrong...

I didn't look to see if there were bubbles (that's not the end of the world though). But what I did forget to do is throw away 1/2 of my Day 1 before I fed it Day 2's breakfast. So instead of feeding 1:1:1 starter: flour: water - I just fed 1:1/2:1/2. Bummer.

Ok so what am I going to do? I'm going to go feed another 1.1oz of flour + 1.1 oz of water and I'm not gonna look back. I won't throw away half of the little tyke until I see signs of life. Hopefully tomorrow. Then I will actually only reserve an original 0.14lb of the starter and proceed from there.

Hopefully I haven't screwed the beast...yikes that could be deadly to me!

METHOD: (this is an effort to fix a screw up. not the original recipe.)

1/2 cup KA WW Flour by weight (0.14lb) = 2.24oz

0.14 lb Filtered Refrigerator Water = 2.24 oz

Elevation  Right above Hell (at or below sea level)

Ambiant Temp  76.7F

Starter Temp 76.4F

Barometric Pressure 31.5mb and rising

Humidity 225% (Houston)

In my faithful stainless mixing bowl, I combined the flour and water for the feeding and added the beast. I stirred using a rubber spatula and placed the beast back into a clean highball glass. Then I realized I had underfed and ended up having to repeat this procedure and it's now in my third favorite scotch highball glass.

So now I have essentially doubled the behemoth and will wait to see signs of life (air bubbles). When I do, I will then split it so that there is only a 0.07lb or 1.12oz amount of the original left before feeding it and will throw the rest away.

I also realized that the cozy nook to the left of my fridge (it's home) is too warm in the mornings due to the coffee pot being turned on. The temp rose 2 degrees from yesterday to 76.7. And the temp of the starter rose too. So I moved it a little bit aways from this area. We'll see.

The beast is covered with plastic wrap. I will upload photos from yesterday, this afternoon. bwahahahahahahahahaha <semi-uncertain maniacal laughter>

NOTES: I just got an email from Mike Avery telling me to put the razor blade down and step away from the ledge. No sourdough starters were harmed in the feeding of starter this morning. Praise God! So tomorrow I will just retain the original combined weight that I'm going for. That being said, I'm afraid I messed up from the get go. Cuz I wasn't supposed to use 1/4c by weight. I was supposed to use 1/3c by weight. Soooo I'm going to just take the starter down to 2oz. and do it by weight. 2oz starter: 2oz ww: 2oz filetered water.

Newsflash! General Chaos Threatens to Overspill His Banks. Thousands of Lives Threatened! (Film at 11!)

General Chaos aka "The Beast" Threatens 1000'sGeneral Chaos aka "The Beast" Threatens 1000's

View The Beast From Sky Cam1View The Beast From Sky Cam1

His Evilness Is RevealedHis Evilness Is Revealed

bwraith's picture

Hi Bluezebra,

Over the first 24-48 hours, you can get that big rise. Usually, it's a bit stinky or very stinky, at least that's what happens to me. If you just keep at it, it should settle down and become very inactive for a few days. After that, it should pick up speed so that some time between 5 days and 14 days, you'll probably have a working starter. I have found keeping the starter slightly cooler in the first couple of days helps to avoid way too much of that stinky rise. Similarly, you'll see recipes that add some pineapple juice in the first two days. However, I haven't figured out if it really helps that much in the end. Basically, just keep at the feeding schedule regardless, and it should work.


bluezebra's picture

very afraid to enter the kitchen. Apparently Brian has and returned alive, seeing as how I have coffee and he still has all of his limbs. So maybe theings aren't as bad as I think?

General Chaos continued to rule supreme last night. I knocked him back and did a partial lobe removal of his liver thinking that maybe the incubation in the scotch glass had something to do with his aggressive state. It did not phase him and I think I heard him laugh sneeringly at some point during a rerun of Deadliest Catch. When I checked his position at bedtime, the belly of The Beast was HUGE. It had risen 2/3 of the way up the ice tea glass.

The smell isn't so pretty. It's not exactly off. It's kinda um, grainy. But not that lovely yeasty smell I have in my yeasted preferments. I don't think I can strip paint or remove my nail polish with it, but I'm not remotely tempted to use it in a big ole loaf of pagnotta either...I tell you what!

His feeding time is at 10:30 this morning so I will be sure to report back in to News Central following the event. He did request foie gras last night and I had to tell him that foie gras was not breakfast food to which he replied, "Then bring me a pack a smokes and a Bloody Mary with my Cream o' Wheat, Beeeotch!" I just ignored him and put a minus sign next to his name on the refrigerator. (That's -1).

My plan is to perhaps conduct a frontal lobectomy this morning. I plan on leaving 2oz of the "sweetums" to ponder just who is in control of this little pleasure cruise. Maybe that will drum some sense of reality into him.

Thanks again - I appreciate your help so much!

p.s. I was theoretically using Mike Avery's technique for starter until I realized my lab mishaps. I was supposed to do 1/3c of flour by weight in the beginning and I accidentally did 1/4c by weight in the beginning. Then was doing the 1:1:1 thing per his advice and screwed up by doing the 1:1/2:1/2 and had to repeat the 1/2:1/2. So I don't know who's recipe I'm really following lol!

bwraith's picture


I was a little confused about what you meant by "1/4 cup by weight", since I think of a cup as a unit of volume. However, maybe what you mean by that is 2oz of weight? Are you using volume or weight to do your starter, and if so, when you say 1:1:1, are you feeding equal weights of flour and water or doing something else? It doesn't matter way too much, except it helps to know the exact thing your doing when you describe what's happening. We'll have a better idea of the consistency of the muck, which does have a fairly big effect eventually on how it rises.

Also, I would always use a container that is 4 times the volume of the starter you put in it. That should be enough to avoid most of the spillovers going forward after this first stinky monster phase.


bluezebra's picture

I swear each time I do something with that critter I sprout two more blonde hairs! Doh! (no offense meant to any blondes past or present).

Bill I was confused by Mike's book. His instructs were to do 1:1 by weight and then he gave measurements of 1/3c flour to 1/4c water. Which I assumed was about right on weights. So what I was trying to do was take the weight of the initial flour measure and use that as my baseline standard for weights (by a scale). Only my scale only does lbs/ounces and not grams so my apologies.

But what I did instead was got dyslexic! I did 1/4 c flour and measured that and it ended up being my baseline. I am weighing everything.

And thanks! I did put him in a larger glass. I "had" to eat about 4 pickles last night to get my pickle jar that I need! haha! And will wash that in the dishwasher today so that he can have a permanent home once he destinkifies! :D  Just a note on the glasses: they seem to work pretty well as temporary houses. LOL, very easy to clean them cuz they don't have a "lip". Necessity is the mothah of invention, right? ;)

bluezebra's picture


The news is not so good. The Beast awoke with that not so fresh feeling. And upon feeding I noticed...indeed. His scent bordered between a sharp, acidic and slightly sweet smel balanced with the somewhat deeper notes of vomit after a hard night out "with the boys". Maybe that IS the smell of pure evil? Maybe it's brimstone? I don't know but I think he's hangin with the wrong crowd for certain!

By 10:30 this morning he had morphed back into his small and seemingly unobtrusive even benign size as if to build my false sense of security. But fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice...shame on...let's not go there. For certain I will not be seduced by this evil master plotting for world domination a second time! Rest assured. We will NOT have a repeat of yesterday...Not on my watch...

I'm thinking my somewhat lax approach to maintaining a sterile field helped to birth this behemoth. So I will revert to the use of my hermetically sealed sporks from Taco Hell in future. Scraping be damned!

METHOD: (this is an effort to fix a screw up. not the original recipe.)

2 oz of The Odiferous Beast

2 oz of Filtered Refridgerator Water

Elevation  Right above Hell (at or below sea level)

Ambiant Temp  74.9F

Starter Temp 74.7F

Barometric Pressure 32.5mb and rising

Humidity 225% (Houston)

In my faithful blue and white cereal bowl I mixed the 2oz of The Beast with 1oz of water and 1oz of KA WW Flour. I mixed and incorporated and then realized I heard Brittany Spears singing her famous..."Whoops She Did It Again" song and knew that for the 3rd day in a row, I had made an unfortunate lab error. *Sigh*

At least this time I knew just what to do. I got out a second bowl and mixed up 0.06oz of filtered water and 0.06 of KA WW Flour and mixed it up and sacrificed it to the mighty beast in the second bowl. Still using my trusty spork, I swirled and stirred the innocent into the stench of the master. I then transfered it to a large ice tea glass hoping to accomodate it's wicked increase of gass-filled repugnance. No more scotch glasses for this laddy. His evilness was too intense to risk it.

So to cap it off, I finally made a 1:1:1 feeding by weight beginning with a 2oz starter specimen of General Chaos aka The Beast. I put him back in his oh so cozy nook to think about matters and to adjust his lifestlye. He asked for a boom box and some whacky tobaccy. I told him this wasn't prison and I soooooo wasn't his beootch. He said, "Not yet, anyway."

I covered him once more with a tight seal of plastic wrap and considered putting the whole thing inside a ziplock bag but at the last moment, stepped away from the ledge...bwahahahahahahahaha <nervouos maniacal laughter>

bwraith's picture

Hi BZ,

I didn't follow what you meant about fixing the feeding ratio. I understand that you used 2 oz of the beast and 1oz each of flour and water. To make that 1:1:1, wouldn't you just add one more ounce each of flour and water? I didn't follow why you would add .06 oz of water and flour. Sorry, I'm probably just not reading right here.


bluezebra's picture

Bill I swear, how hard is it to add 2+2, right? Apparently it's very difficult for some of us!

My scale only goes to the hundredths. I thought it went to the thousands but it doesn't so I had to choose this morning between saving it to .12 or to .13 (.125 is 2oz) since it measures in decimals of lbs. So I randomly chose .12 since that was an even number.

I get confused because of preferment math. It will say 1:1 of flour to what I did for the second day in a row was took the weight of my starter and instead of adding an equal weight of flour and an equal weight of water to the starter, I divided it by 2 and because the weight of the flour and the weight of the water equalled the weight of the starter! bwahahahahahahaha! I'm such a dumba88!!! Seriously, Bill!


Soooo, that meant I had added only 0.06lb of flour and 0.06lbs of water and it meant I had to add that same amount again lol. Hopefully (I think) I did it right the second time and so now I have the original 2oz of starter (.12lb) + (.06+.06flour) + (.06+.06 water). :D

Yours very truly,

The not-so-bright-baker

bwraith's picture

OK BZ, I get it now. You are using a scale w/pounds on it. I thought you were saying you added .06oz, and that was not computing.

So, as always, good luck with the continuing saga. The bad smells should go away in the next day or two, most likely.


bluezebra's picture

the way through too, so it should really keep a bunch of people bamboozled lol. Did I mention that I'm uh...."special"? :D

Novice Baker's picture
Novice Baker


Please tell me you are a writer. I'm not even paying attention to the recipe, have absolutely no plans to start a starter, don't even know what that part is about and I'm having a blast reading your account of The Beast aka Chaos. Thanks for sharing your adventures, even if it was 4 years ago, and for doing it in such an entertaining manner.

Novice Baker aka Lynett

tattooedtonka's picture

I love it Bluezebra.. From the photos, the humor, and wow, look at dem gadgets!!!

Very nice.

Tattooed Tonka


bluezebra's picture

I learned it all from you! And as for the gadgets, I am afraid I commandeered them from the DH (designated hitter) or (dear husband). He asked me for thirty minutes last night when he got home, where his clock and barometer were and I acted as if I hadn't heard him. :D Good times!

kjknits's picture

You know, I have been having a similar experience with a new starter, and I think I will just keep going at it and see what happens, thanks to the comments in this thread.  I started it on Monday morning, just 1:1 flour and Brita filtered tap water.  Stirred it and left it alone for 24 hours.  Then I fed it 1:1:1 and left for the day, and when I got home about 8 hours later, it had more than doubled, was foamy and smelled like orange juice (weird).  I was so stoked, because I thought I had a super starter on my hands!  A one-day starter, woohoo! =) But then I fed it the next day 1:2:2, and it failed to rise that day.  So I have kept feeding it 1:2:2, and it keeps failing to rise.  It does get small bubbles all over the surface and throughout, but that's it.  It might rise about 1/8 of the original volume.  So then I had no idea what I could be doing wrong.  Anyway, per bwraith's advice to you, bluezebra, I will also keep plugging away for a week or so and see if it gets happy again.

Note, I just fed it 30 minutes ago at 1:1:1 (I thought maybe I was overwhelming it with too big of a feeding) and it has risen about 1/8 of its original volume already.  So there's a question--could a double feeding be too much in the early stages?  I successfully made lots of sourdough bread about 3 years ago with a homemade starter, but it's been a long time and I need to learn the tricks and theories all over again.

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture

Hi Katie,

The big rise is not unusual at all. It's more the rule for me. I think 1:1:1 every 12-24 hours is good if there is no activity. If you start getting strong smells like nail polish remover or latex paint smells, it probably makes sense to go to a higher feeding ratio, maybe 1:2:2 every 12 hours, once you have that going on. Sometimes, I've found doing a higher ratio like 1:4:4 in the very late stages, when it is close to "taking off", and letting it sit for a day somehow makes it start up. It may help to avoid really warm temperatures in the first stinky part of the cycle, meaning stay closer to 70F than 80F. Once it's in the quiet phase at about day 3 or so, it probably helps to get it a little wamer, like closer to 80F.


kjknits's picture

I'll keep plugging along, then.  I really appreciate your advice, and bluezebra, I will be watching your progress as well!

Katie in SC 

bluezebra's picture

so even if I get the acetone thing going I should continue with the culture?

bwraith's picture

Hi BZ,

I think the acetone smell is not very unusual either. I've read some things that say the smell is a bad sign in some way, but others seem to say it's an indication of being underfed and not unusual. Since I have had that smell develop in a number of starters I've started at some point in the cycle, it doesn't seem too unusual to me. I don't really know, but I can say that cultures that had that smell have worked fine for me once I fed them for a while and they became stable and active.

After this stinky early phase, the culture usually becomes very quiet, so don't be discouraged. It always seems to eventually come around if you just keep feeding it and stick to a routine. As I said, sometimes it seems like an occasional high ratio feeding can help to get the starter to take off if it's been quiet for along time with the lower ratio feedings.


bluezebra's picture

doing too ok? Maybe we can kinda go through this together...I would think even some signs of life is a good thing so maybe the 1/8 rising is good? What day are you on?

About the double feeding, that's what I thought too is wow...I musta supercharged the little bastages with the terrible lab accident yesterday! :D

I think if you did it once, you're gonna be successful again Katie! Lord knows your other baking is beautiful!!!

kjknits's picture

I will keep you posted and keep checking on your results, too.  It's rather disappointing to know that that second day big rise was just a matter of course.  I really did think, in my innocence, that I had some real special environment here or something!  Oh, well.  I'll just keep on feeding it (mine is just water and KAF bread) every morning on schedule as advised.  Hopefully we'll be baking with our starters soon!

Katie in SC 

bluezebra's picture

Mine is King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour. Mike Avery suggests rye as the better flour to use for starters but I'm allergic to rye (my very favorite too!) and so I used whole wheat which is his second recommendation.

I know how you feel about the 2nd day rise, lol! I thought wow and actually sang this song yesterday...."Whatsamattah wit you, why you look so sad, shuttuppayorface!" LOL, thinking, hey sourdough starters are a sinch! What's so hard that people go on and on about it right? ROFL!!!! I laughed so hard at myself this morning. ROFL! I don't know if it was arrogance or ignorance! :D But I prefer to think it was shear naivete! (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

So you're on day 3 as well?

kjknits's picture

I was outside with my son and remembered you asked what day I was on.  I started it on Monday morning, so I guess that makes it day 5.  I hope it starts showing some vigor soon.  I threw out my frozen starter from three years ago for this guy.  And this is the thanks I get.  =)

 Katie in SC

(P.S.  Seems I remember that song--"shuttuppayorface"--did it come out in the 80s?) 

kjknits's picture

Hey BZ, I'm on day 8 and I finally have something to report with my white flour 100% hydration starter.  It finally doubled today.  Actually, today's the first day it has had any real significant rise of any kind.  I'm just keeping 3 oz at the start of each feeding and tossing the rest, then feeding 1:1:1.  Anyway, 12 hours after the first feeding today it was doubled.  So I fed it again, and now I'm going to hope for another, faster double overnight.  I'll let you know how it goes in the morning!

Katie in SC 

bluezebra's picture

You have yeast budding out all over!!!! :D

Can't wait for the report tomorrow!

kjknits's picture

Or, at least, that's what my husband has taken to calling "it". I decided to go to a feeding every 12 hours after reading one of Bill's comments yesterday (my mind is kind of mushy with all of the sourdough info I'm trying to process, so I can't remember which thread I read that advice in). I was feeding it just once every 24 hours up until yesterday. Anyway, so yesterday it got a 1:1:1 feeding at 8 AM and another one at 8 PM. When I woke up this morning and went to check on Dear Stanley, it was around 8-ish and he/it looked like this:


As per custom, the starting level last night was at the top of the piece of tape there. I've been keeping the jar on the counter right beside the fridge, because a good bit of warm air wafts up there. It's beside the stove/oven range, so I have also been keeping the range hood light on. I haven't taken a temp reading in that area, but my guess is high 70s.

So let's talk about Stanley. Smells clean and sour, and also a little like beer. When I stirred him down from the condition shown above, he was sort of the thickness of pancake batter, but slightly ropy, like ciabatta dough. I fed it 1:1:1 again at 8:45 or so, and now it's an hour later and already risen above the tape by about 1/3 of the beginning level. Wooooooo! I think I'm gonna be ready to bake in a few days!

I don't know why I enjoy this so much, but it has been tremendously fun to watch and tend to this starter. Is it geeky to get so excited about yeast? (Just kidding, and even if it were geeky, I wouldn't care!)

ETA:  It is now 10:30 AM and I checked on Stanley.  It's been 2 hours since his last feeding, and he has doubled! I think this dog might hunt!

bluezebra's picture

definitely looks like it hunts! That's outstanding and he looks so much more vigorous than General Chaos!

It sounds like there are good numbers of yeasty beasties in Thick Stanley! :D I know just the consistency you are referring to. LOL, remember, I "wrangle snot" here... (high hydration doughs).

General's home is right beside the fridge too! It's the darkest and somewhat coolest place in the house. I suppose though that with the fridge running that it is actually a "warm" spot rather than a cool spot. But man I'm clueless to find another spot as dark and set away from commotion!

I know what you mean about fun. My next starter will be done using SoDo Ladies method. I want to see which one takes less angst! :D I will call that one Ch-ch-ch-chia! Cuz I always wanted to name a pet that! These guys are better than pet rocks, don't ya know! And don't sweat being a geek. Geeks have more fun! ;) I married a geek and have since become one myself. We will take over the world, don't you know?! ;)

Yeast on Katie! :D

kjknits's picture

LOL!  You're hilarious!  I forgot to mention in my comment before that this is day 9, or at least I think I forgot to mention it.  Since this thing is rising so much in a short time frame, maybe I need to feed it at 1:2:2 tonight when it's time for its next feeding.  I'd really love to bake with it tomorrow.  I wonder if that is too soon?  And I just can't wait to see what happens with Gen. Chaos in the next few days.  Because you know I'm a few days ahead of you.  I predict Great Things for him! (And, Great Bread for you!)

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture

Hi kjknits,

It certainly does look vigorous enough to bake with. Are you feeding 1:1:1 by weight, i.e. is it more of a paste than a batter right after feeding?

It has more the look of a slightly higher hydration starter, but maybe it's just that I don't normally use a 1:1:1 ratio, and that's what it ends up looking like after 12 hours.

If you want a benchmark, try taking some of it about 5 hours after feeding and give it a 1:2:2 feeding. If it rises by double in something like 4.5 hours at room temperature, then it's working like mine and should be good for making bread.

Just for what it's worth, I think you get a different character of starter if you feed it at a high ratio. If you want to play with maintaining more than one, just to check the difference, try feeding some of your starter at 1:10:11. It should rise by double in about 8 hours and be nice and ripe at 12 hours - ready for another feeding. If you do that for a few days, you should notice that your starter maintained at 1:1:1 will smell different from the one maintained at 1:10:11. I've been playing with that recently. The idea is that when you maintain a starter with higher feeding ratios, you get relatively higher amounts of lactobacillus, which prefer the higher pH they get to enjoy with the higher feeding ratio. One is not necessarily better than the other, but you may notice qualitative differences in flavor between them when you make bread the same way with one or the other.


kjknits's picture

I have been weighing the starter I begin with (usually I start with 3 oz and toss the rest) and then feeding 1:1:1 by weight.  I learned that from reading your advice (and that of others) right here! =)  Otherwise I would be doing the "remove a cup of starter, then add a cup of flour and a cup of water" thing that they recommend in the KAF anniversary book, which takes no consideration of how much starter you had to begin with.  It is rather frustrating that it's hard to find real worthy sourdough advice out there.  Thank goodness for the Fresh Loaf, and for people like you who are willing to help the newbies!

At 11:30 this AM (three hours after its morning 1:1:1 feeding), it had more than doubled again. It smelled great, yeasty and a little bit sour, with somewhat of a beery scent as well.  I went back and read some of your comments on the sourdough forum and decided I should give it a 1:2:2 feeding at this point, even though I have just started feeding every 12 hours.  It seems it might need more resources.  Anyway, I used 3 oz starter and 6 oz each white flour and Brita-filtered water (again, by weight).  To answer your other question, immediately after feeding, it's a thick paste.  It thins to the pancake batter texture after it has risen.  So right now, it's thick and kind of lumpy.  I'm going to see how long it takes to double now.  If it doubled in 3 hours this morning with a 1:1:1 feeding, perhaps it's logical to assume it will double in 6 hours at 1:2:2?  Although, I'm starting to think that sourdough defies logic. =)

I appreciate your advice and I hope bluezebra doesn't mind this conversation on her blog!

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture

Hi kjknits,

BZ, if you'd rather kjknits can create a blog entry and I'll go continue this part of the discussion there. Meanwhile...

As far as how long to rise, mine rises by double in 4.5 hours at 72F after a feeding of 1:2:2.2 (I say 2.2, because I thicken it slightly more than 100% hydration).

There is a relationship between the feeding ratio and the time it takes to double. Very roughly speaking, when you halve the dilution ratio, you increase the time to rise by double by about 2 hours. A feeding of 1:2:2 has a dilution of 5 times (5 parts of new starter after feeding divided by 1 part of old starter), whereas a 1:1:1 feeding has a dilution of 3 times (3 parts new starter to one part old starter). 5/3 is not quite double, so you will add less than 2 hours to the rise time going from 1:1:1 to 1:2:2.


bluezebra's picture

then it's here in my notes! ;) (selfish aren't I?!).

And that math now makes sense to me too. So that is an awesome formula to have on hand!

kjknits's picture

But as I said earlier, I fed my starter at 1:2:2 at noon today. This was just less than 4 hours after the last feeding, which was 1:1:1.  Left to go pick up my son and do some shopping and got home at 3:30. The starter (Stanley) TRIPLED. It was about to come out of the top of its jar. What the heck? I'm going to call this guy ready and start a poolish tonight for some baking tomorrow. I want to make these boules that Floyd posted a while back.  I'm so excited!  Can you see me jumping up and down???

Katie in SC

bluezebra's picture

when it triples??? Bill you gotta lotta 'splainin to do here! :D

I'm thinking your gonna be a baking fool soon, Katie!!!

kjknits's picture

Well, BZ, for one thing, when it triples it means it's about to 'splode. =)

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture

Hi BZ, kjknits,

Well, I've never had mine rise that fast. What temperature more or less? It'll be interesting to see if it stays that way for longer periods of time or settles into a more sedate routine after a while.


kjknits's picture

Bill, I'd say it's high 70s in the spot I have been keeping it.  Our AC is on and the thermostat is set to about 74, but then the spot Stanley lives in is right next to the fridge, where warmer air comes up from the back of it.  And the kitchen is always warmer than the rest of the house, anyway.

I plan to start a 2x a day, 1:2:2 feeding with it so I can see if it settles into a routine, as you say. And, I am going to bake with it tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes.  Wish me luck!

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture

Hi Katie,

The faster rise is somewhat explained by the warmer temperatures you're using. My 4.5 hour doubling after a 1:2:2 feeding is at about 72F, so you'll go quite a bit faster in the high 70s. It still seems pretty fast, even at the higher temperature, though.

If you feed it 1:2:2 repeatedly every 12 hours and keep it at the higher temperature, it may eventually have some problems. It would be getting very ripe at the end of 12 hours at the warmer temperatures. You may want to consider moving it to a cooler spot if you're going to feed 1:2:2 every 12 hours. A better ratio for feeding every 12 hours is something like 1:4:4.

If you are going to use the starter to bake some bread, I would suggest using it about 6 to 8 hours after feeding at 1:2:2, as opposed to waiting until it is 12 hours old.

I've been doing a little experiment lately and feeding mine 1:9:10 every 12 hours. The results have been very good. It has an intense aroma and made some very good bread, using it 12 hours after feeding. It doubles in 8 hours at 73F or so, and gets to a peak around 12 hours.


kjknits's picture

Oh, good advice!  Thanks.  I will start feeding it at 1:4:4 in the morning.  Phew, all of these numbers are making my head spin.  And in my quart jar, I guess I'd better keep the starter in that ratio pretty small.  Like maybe just 1 oz.  Because Stanley blew his top off over dinner!  (And I had stirred him down twice since 3:30.)

I do have a little 6 oz sponge sitting by now for tomorrow's (hopeful thinking here) baking. =) 

Katie in SC 

bwraith's picture


I imagine the baking will go very well with a nice strong starter like that.

You're right about using tiny quantities making things easier. It really helps to get a good scale and go down to amounts like 10g:40g:40g, so you keep the whole thing from growing out of control. The cleaning process is easier with less gunk and smaller containers.


kjknits's picture

Hi Bill (and bluezebra), I set out a sponge last night for a couple of hours then put it in the fridge, and now I have my simple dough (flour, water, gray sea salt and starter) doing its first rise.  I can't wait to see what it does.

As far as scaling, I have a Salter kitchen scale and it does measure grams--I rarely use that feature, unless a recipe gives me grams.  But I will start using it to weigh my starter/flour/water at feedings.  10 g is a nice amount to work with!  So, thanks again for your advice, Bill!  I don't know where I would be without this forum.  I sure wouldn't have any sourdough bread in the works today. =)

Will keep you both updated on the bread. And I am excited to read your day 7 log, BZ!

Katie in SC 

bluezebra's picture


Well I fed General Chaos at 10:30a.m. this morning and just barely got things right! It's beginning to be quite funny that I simply can't do math! The only reason I'm recounting this is because I want to prove that breads are much more forgiving than we give them credit for being. I again, had a terrible lab experiment this morning! And just barely put it right.

General Chaos aka The Beast aka Sir Stinksalot is generall challenged by my chaotic mind and all around thought processes and complete lack of scientific methodology! This morning I was actually able to add the correct amounts of new flour and water together to get his breakfast gruel right but when it came to measuring the right amount of Sir Stinksalot, I failed! I should have only added .12lb of him or roughly 2oz. to the new mixture but instead I got confused again and added .24lb or almost 4oz! What made me catch it was that the old glass was empty! :eek: The horror of it all! Again!!!

But being the rather crafty and semi-tricky person I am, I was quick on the uptake and since SS is kinda like pourable dough at the moment, I quickly poured about half of him back into his old skink hole. I carefully evened it out till the scale read .36lb instead of .48lb! LOL! Doh! Homer has nothin on this novice!

So I quickly finished the feeding (oh man is he a stinkeroony)! And put him into a new glass. I will be making Bill's Pagnotta Bread. I'm making a double recipe (one plain with whole wheat and the other whole wheat with olives). I started the preferment yesterday and put it in the fridge overnight.

METHOD: (this is an effort to fix a screw up. not the original recipe.)

2 oz of Sir Stinksalot

2oz of WW Flour

2 oz of Filtered Refridgerator Water

Elevation  Right above Hell (at or below sea level)

Ambiant Temp  74.7F

Starter Temp - too stinky to measure the temp!

Barometric Pressure 31.5mb and falling

Humidity 225% (Houston)

Using my trusty hermetically sealed spork from Taco Hell, my trusty bowls and scale, and my bandanna tied around my mouth to protect myself from the onerous stench, I completed the measure of new feed and old sourdough. OMG IDK my SSSS is gross!!! I have determined that I will give him one more day to control the odor or I'm going to add 1tsp of fresh lemon juice.

I have figured out a way to lower the temp in his immediate environment by filling two glasses with ice water. I place a glass on either side of the starter. It has lowered the temp to just above 71 degrees. I will keep this little chilly environment going through tomorrow as well.

There was no boil up or otherdrama in the zebra pen yesterday so I think he is defeated but still putting up the cursory objections with his no bathing platform.

Now on to pagnotta baking!

bwraith's picture


It sounds like you're doing an instant yeast version of the pagnotta with some whole wheat in it. If you get a chance, could you post how you're doing it?


mse1152's picture


The idea of surrounding a bowl of dough with containers of ice is so simple and perfect when you want to lower the temperature just a few degrees.  Neat!


bluezebra's picture

RECIPE PER BILL WRAITH (*items are changes per bz)

Bill’s Conversion of Sourdough-Guy’s Sourdough Pagnotta

400 grams fresh 100% hydration starter (my starter was taken
out of the refrigerator after having been refreshed 3 days earlier.
I probably should have used more recently refreshed and vigorous starter)
*Note use in place of starter:
200g of AP flour
200g water
1/8 tsp ady yeast


Body of Recipe:
650 grams water 
700 grams KA Organic AP 
50 grams KA rye blend (optional - substitute white flour,
           whole wheat, or other)
50 grams Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour (optional -
           substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)

1 tsp IDY Yeast*
18 grams salt (1.264 Tbsp)
300 grams pitted halved olives (I used calamata olives)

Mix ingredients until well integrated and there is some resistance
to stirring. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. I think there was
slightly too much water for my choice of flours and maybe because of
the olives, which made the dough harder to handle. This was very slack
dough. I would use a little less water next time, but I'm reporting
this as I actually did it.

Fold and Rest, Repeat. Every 30-60 minutes pour the dough out onto the
counter, let it spread a little, and fold it up into a ball. Put the dough
back in the bowl, cover and let rest 30-60. Repeat this process every
30-60 minutes 3-4 times.

I may not have repeated this enough, given the very wet dough I ended up with.
The dough was still too slack later when I tried to shape the loaves.

Bulk Fermentation
Place the dough in an oiled rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise by
double at room temperature. Actually, I wanted to bake by midnight, so I
let it get a little warmer, about 80F, which may have been a little bit
of a problem. I think it made the slack dough even a little more slack
to also be warm.

Pour the dough out on the table on a bed of flour and cut in two. Work
with each loaf separately. Form a ball by carefully and gently pulling
the sides toward the center repeatedly to get some surface tension on the
smooth side underneath. Do not overhandle.

Here I was a disastrous dough handler. I way overhandled it because it was
too slack and would not form a ball. It just kept spreading out quickly.
Well, I just decided after way too many times pulling at the sides to stop
trying and went for flat bread. So, I can't emphasize enough, don't
overhandle. Just make that shape and be done with it. I am doing a second
version, and I think I've discovered how to do this. Use thumbs and fingers
of one hand to pinch and hold the gathered sides over the center, holding
the gathered edges up a little to help the sides stretch and the shape to
become more round and taking a bit of weight off the loaf. Use the other
thumb and a couple of fingers to pinch a bit of the side, pull the bit out
and up and over to the center, stretching the side as you do. Gather that bit
in with the first hand along with others as you work your way around the loaf.
Try to make it round by gathering a bit from the place that sticks out the
most.Turn the dough over onto a thick bed of flour with the rough side down.

Final Proof
Allow the loaves to increase in size by double. For me, this took about 3
hours. I'm still having a hard time figuring out when these higher hydration
loaves have finished proofing. As I said there was too much water, and I
never got these loaves to stiffen up very much. They mostly spread out on
the counter.

Bake at 425F.
This took about 25 minutes, and the internal temperature went quickly to
210F, which I've experienced with these flat high hydration loaves. I didn't
get much oven spring. I think the overhandling was a serious problem

Allow the loaf to fully cool.

COMMENTARY: This is a yeasted version of Sourdough Pagnotta that Bill Wraith worked out based on Jim's recipe for Sourdough Pagnotta Bread. I made one whole recipe of regular bread and one whole recipe of olive pagnotta. I used KA WW flour and AP flour per the recipe instructions.

METHOD: I made the yeasted preferment yesterday at noon. I allowed it to sit out until 11pm last night then refrigerated it overnight. I doubled the preferment by taking the stated weights x 2.

I took the preferment out of the fridge at 9am this morning and allowed it to sit for a couple of hours to warm up. I then weighed the total and divided it by 2 to get my two batches. I used 100g of KA WW flour and the remainder was AP flour.

I added the olives to the dry mixture and the yeast I decided to add, into the water and preferment. I thinned the preferment with the rest of the water volume. I added an extra 1/4 cup of water to the olive pagnotta. For some reason it was very dry after mixing.

I've have given it 8 wet folds in the bowl all at one cycle. Then I gave it 4 counter FF and am allowing it to sit for an hour and rise a bit more. My dough has been rising throughout the folding process and I've been gentle to not totally deflate the dough as I do the stretch and folds.

I will split the dough, shape and allow each to double. Then bake per the instructions.

NOTES: Adding the WW flour made the dough drier than I'm used to working with. I am used to very high hydration doughs. So I added an extra 1/4c of water to the mixture. I also added 1 tsp of yeast to each recipe because I am in a hurry today to have it baked by 4pm. I am going to take some to my nephews graduation celebration so hope it turns out ok!

bwraith's picture


Thanks for providing the info about the conversion. It's interesting to know how that went. I used a fairly large amount of sourdough preferment in that recipe for basically the same reason you boosted up the yeast, I was in a hurry. It could be that it seemed more wet to me because of the large amount of sourdough preferment in there, which would change the texture of the dough relative to using a yeasted preferment. I don't think there's enough whole wheat flour in there to make that much difference to the hydration. The other possibility is that my olives may have been wetter than yours. Maybe that had some effect.


bluezebra's picture

Bakers Notes:

This dough is so incredibly easy to work with. I use very little flour on the counter when folding thanks to Mike Avery's video at, showing a great technique for doing the stretch and fold method of dough development. I tell you right now, for those who don't believe me, this method is so easy and works on any dough...why would anyone choose to knead if it was possible to work the dough this way?

Again, this bread was rushed through it's paces because we were taking it to a dinner for my nephews. So I made 8 lift and folds in the bowl as the first step(this is NOT the same as a FF). Then I made 4 FF on the counter at 30 minute intervals. After the last fold I allowed it to rest for an hour. It had more than doubled by that time (maybe even approaching tripled from the original dough size or not quite)?

Then I split each recipe into two loaves and stretched and folded each of the those loaves in order to try to get some surface tension but you can see from the before fotos that the dough is very slack and while it looks great just after folding, it losens up and spreads over time. I allowed each loaf to rest an additional 30 minutes (at least). The olive loaves rested longer and rose more during the final proof because of the additional time.

Then I baked each loaf at 550 for 15 minutes, transfered parchment and bread from sheet pan directly to stone and baked an additional 8 minutes at 425. The internal temp was 211 but again because of the dough hydration, the crust softened. This isn't a problem for me because I always tear off a chunk and reheat it at 400 degrees till the crust is crisp. By using this method of cooking, the crust thickness is perfect for me and the crumb is the moistest and creamiest I've ever personally tasted (and I've had some dynomite bread in my lifetime).

Well worth the effort (which is very little) to make this recipe. I can't wait to have a sourdough starter and be able to make it as a sourdough pagnotta!

 Plain, Olive and Olive052707 Yeasted Pagnotta - 3 Loaves: From left to right: Plain, Olive and Olive

I took 2 huge loaves with us last night. I wished I'd thought to weigh them after baking because they were quite heavy. I would say each loaf was maybe a 2lb loaf? It was well received by everyone! Never underestimate a gift of home baked bread!

bluezebra's picture

The first time I made it the dough seemed much more moist. I used all AP flour then so I just assumed that maybe it was the WW flour. It's raining today so it's 100% humidity here :D so it's not that the humidity is drier today.

Or maybe I just mismeasured last time! :D You know I'm challenged in that way sometimes!

The first time I made this it turned out great to us. It quickly was deemed the best bread so far. The crumb is soooooo creamy!

Any ideas?