The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

San Joaquin Sourdough

San Joaquin Sourdough

dmsnyder's picture


While I enjoy a variety of breads, the San Joaquin Sourdough remains my “go to” bread. It's easy to fit into a busy schedule. It uses few ingredients. It always tastes delicious. It's wonderful freshly baked but also makes great toast, French toast, garlic bread and croutons for salads or onion soup. It is almost as good after being frozen as fresh. What's not to like?

I first developed this formula about 3 years ago. Since then, I've tweaked the formula and methods in many ways. I know many TFL members have made this bread and enjoyed it. So, I thought an update on my current recipe might be of interest.

To summarize the changes I've made in the past 6 months:

  1. I substituted 25 g of whole wheat flour for an equal amount of the rye flour in the original formula. The difference in flavor is subtle, but I like it better.

  2. I adopted the oven steaming method for home ovens we were taught in the SFBI Artisan I and II workshops. 


556 g Bâtards
SourceMy own recipe.
Prep time6 hours
Cooking time30 minutes
Total time6 hours, 30 minutes


450 g
all-purpose unbleached flour
25 g
Medium rye flour
360 g
10 g
100 g
Liquid levain (100% hydration)




In a large bowl, mix the active starter with the water to dissolve it. Add the flours and stir to form a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let rest (autolyse) for 20-60 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Using a plastic scraper or silicon spatula, stretch and fold the dough 30 times, rotating the bowl 1/5 turn between each stroke. Cover tightly. Repeat this stretch and fold procedure 3 times more at 30 minute intervals.


After the last series of stretches and folds, scape the dough into a lightly oiled 2 quart/2 liter container and cover tightly. (I use a 2 quart glass measuring pitcher with a tightly fitting plastic lid manufactured by Anchor Glass.) Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes with a stretch and fold after 45 and 90 minutes, then return the dough to the container and place it in the refrigerator and leave it there for 21 hours. 

Dividing and Shaping

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and scrape it gently onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat it into a rectangle. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

To pre-shape for a bâtard, I now form a ball rather than a log. Place each piece of dough smooth side down. Pat into a rough circle, degassing the dough gently in the process. Bring the far edge to the middle and seal the seam. Then go around the dough, bringing about 1/5 of the dough to the middle and sealing it. Repeat until you have brought the entire circumference of the piece to the middle. Turn the piece over, and shape as a boule. Turn each ball seam side up onto a lightly floured part of your board.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 60 minutes. (The time will depend on ambient temperature and how active your starter is. The dough should have risen slightly, but not much.)

To shape a bâtard, I now favor the method portrayed in the King Arthur Flour instructional video. I encourage you to watch the video, but here is a verbal description of the method:

  1. For each piece of dough, place it in front of you on an un-floured board.

  2. Hold down the near side and stretch the far side of the piece into a rough rectangle about 8 inches front to back.

  3. Now, fold the far end two thirds of the way to the near end and seal the seam with the heel of your hand.

  4. Take each of the far corners of the piece and fold them to the middle of the near side of your first fold. Seal the seams.

  5. Now, the far end of the dough piece should be roughly triangular with the apex pointing away from you. Grasp the apex of the triangle and bring it all the way to the near edge of the dough piece. Seal the resulting seam along the entire width of the loaf.

  6. Turn the loaf seam side up and pinch the seam closed, if there are any gaps.

  7. Turn the loaf seam side down. Then, with the palms of both hands resting softly on the loaf, roll it back and forth to shape a bâtard. Start with both hands in the middle of the loaf and move them outward as you roll the loaf, slightly increasing the pressure as you move outward, so the bâtard ends up with the middle highest and the ends pointed .

Preheating the oven

One hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack and put your steaming apparatus of choice in place. (I currently use a 7 inch cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks.) Heat the oven to 500F.


After shaping the loaves, transfer them to a linen couche, seam side up. Cover the loaves with a fold of the linen. Proof until the loaves have expanded to about 1-1/2 times their original size. (30-45 minutes) Test readiness for baking using “the poke test.” Do not over-proof, if you want good oven-spring and bloom!


Pre-steam the oven, if desired.

Transfer the loaves to a peel. (Remember you proofed them seam side up. If using a transfer peel, turn the loaves over on the couch before rolling them onto the transfer peel. That way, the loaves will be seam side down on the peel.) Score the loaves. (For a bâtard, hold the blade at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf. Make one swift end-to-end cut, about 1/2 inch deep.)

Transfer the loaves to the baking stone. Steam the oven. (I place a perforated pie tin with about 12 ice cubes in it on top of the pre-heated lava rocks.) Turn the oven down to 460F.

After 12-15 minutes, remove your steaming apparatus from the oven. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees, if it is browning unevenly. Close the oven door. (If you have a convection oven, switch to convection bake, and turn the temperature down to 435ºF.)

Bake for another 12-15 minutes, then remove the loaf and place on a cooling rack. Check for doneness. (Nice crust color. Internal temperature of at least 205F. Hollow sound when you thump the bottom of the loaf.) If necessary, return to loaf to the oven to bake longer.

When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves on the baking stone with the oven door ajar for another 7 minutes to dry the crust.


Cool on a rack for two hours before slicing.



evonlim's picture

beautiful.... shiny open crumb. 


dmsnyder's picture

Why don't you bake it. I think you would like it.


chouette22's picture

...this bread looks SO perfect, and a little dangerous, I might add! :) I'd love to have that super-pointy end, it looks very crunchy.

David, I made your San Joaquin baguettes and they turned out so well, I was beyond thrilled. I need to put my post together, hopefully I'll find the time before the end of the semester. 

dmsnyder's picture

I'm so glad you enjoyed the SJSD baguettes! I'm looking forward to your post on your bake.


Mebake's picture

And boy was i impressed, the crust was crunchy, and sweet, and the crumb was soft and nutty. It very faintly sour, if at all.

Excellent all around bread, no wonder you always bake it.

Thanks for the formula , David!


dmsnyder's picture

I'm so happy you found the SJSD to your liking.

I have a batch of SJSD dough retarding myself to bake this afternoon.


daveklop's picture

my first batch of SJSD dough is resting in the fridge, to be baked some time tomorrow afternoon. A fun recipe to put together. I have one question and one observation:

My question: when you fold during the fermentation stage -- after you transfer it to the oiled container and just before it goes into the fridge -- do you do the full 30 folds or just a quick couple of folds?

My observation: making bread while doing other chores at the same time can lead to inattentiveness -- which is to say, I realized just now that I forgot to add the salt! I pulled the dough out of the fridge and kneaded it in, which will be an interesting variation on your recipe, to say the least. I'm curious to see what the effect of adding salt so late will be. And next time I'll pay closer attention to what I'm doing!

dmsnyder's picture


The number of S&F's I do each time depends on the dough. The idea is to develop strength in the gluten and avoid tearing the developing gluten strands. So, if the dough gets stiff after 10 folds, let it be for another 30 minute rest. If it needs 30 folds to get to that point, do 30. 

With some experience with this technique, you will get a feel for when enough is enough.

With procedures like the ones used in the SJSD, I depend heavily on alarms. I use the one on my oven, the one on my microwave, I have two additional digital timers, not to mention the timer function in the clock app on my iPhone. It is not that unusual for me to have 3 alarms set at once for different things I or my wife and I are making. The virtue of the digital alarms is that you can literally put them on top of the covered dough, so when it goes off you know which recipe it's for. 

Another kind of reminder, especially useful for remembering to add the salt after an autolyse, is to measure the salt for the bread into a small bowl at the same time you measure the water and flour, and put the salt bowl on top of the covered autolysing dough. So, when your alarm goes off, you don't forget the salt. (BTW, everyone has forgotten to add the salt at least once, unless they haven't baked long enough.)


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Mrs. Renard.

I'm glad you have found my tutorials helpful.

Your San Joaquin SD looks pretty good to me. You have some fine tuning questions, I think.  I have some suggestions and a question.

1. The crust is going to get chewy. This is due partly to the high hydration and is partly just a characteristic of sourdough breads. You won't get the kind of thin crackly crust like a traditional baguette. Now, you can get a crunchier crust. Just increase the baking temperature10-20dF and reduce the bake time by 1-2 minutes. I prefer a bolder bake, myself.

2. The shiny crust is from steaming early in the bake. If you want less shine, steam less.

3. The shiny crumb. That is actually to be desired. The shine is from gelatinized starch. It's a sign of a well-baked bread, to me.

4. I've left the hard one for last - The dense lower crumb and huge holes in the upper crumb. This is not a rare occurrence with this bread. I think getting a tighter gluten sheath when you shape the loaf helps. I think proofing those loaves smooth side down on baker's linen helps. My question is: How are you proofing the loaves now?

I hope this helps.

Happy baking!


pmccool's picture

I've seen loaves of my own with similar crumb structure and crust color when they fermented too long before going into yhe oven.  

Second David's emphasis on the importance of good shaping. 


roicarthy's picture

Hi David,

Couple of questions... Any downsides to:

1. Baking as a boule?

2. Baking the entire mass (or should I split)?

3. Baking in a dutch oven?

Thanks in advance!


dmsnyder's picture

Couple of questions... Any downsides to:

1. Baking as a boule? Done that. It works. A boule will need a slightly longer bake than a bâtard of equal weight. 

2. Baking the entire mass (or should I split)? Done that. It works. Lower temperature by 10-20 degrees F. Increase bake time as necessary ... maybe 10-15 min.

3. Baking in a dutch oven? Why not? Try it.

Whatever you try, let us know how it turns out for you.


seh's picture

Thank you for the detailed recipe, dmsnyder. I've followed it thus far almost exactly; the only deviation I made was to use dark rye flour, as that's what I had on hand.

I left the dough in the refrigerator for about 20 hours, hoping that it being cold would help with shaping it. However, I ran into a similar problem that I've had before: the dough is sticky and stringy, and tears too easily. Any part of it that touches the pastry board—even with a liberal amount of flour below—sticks, so that it's not possible to do any shaping maneuvers that require dragging or sliding the dough over the board. I had to plow into it repeated with my bench knife to get any of it up off the board.

I spent a long while watching the King Arthur Flour "Shaping" video beforehand, and my dough neither looks nor behaves anything like their dough. What could I be doing wrong here?

One clue I noticed yesterday was that after I had transferred the dough from my mixing bowl to a lightly oiled plastic container for the last 90 minutes of fermentation, when I went to stretch and fold it at the 45 and 90 minute marks, the dough seemed to be getting slack and thin, not pulling back against stretching so much as tearing.

It rose to an astounding volume, forcing the top off of the container and spilling over in the refrigerator (thankfully within a containing plastic bag), so I think my starter is healthy enough. What do you recommend to keep my dough from getting weak and sticky like this?

dmsnyder's picture

From your description, I believe your dough over-fermented and suffered proteolysis. I am going to guess your kitchen is very warm. The solution is to use cold water in the dough and shorten the fermentation time. As always, "watch the dough, not the clock."

Another factor may be using low-protein flour and/or not developing the gluten well-enough. But I'm going to bet the factors mentioned above are the source of your problem.

Good luck!