The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Brooklyn-by-way-of-Norwich Sourdough

mickybean's picture

Brooklyn-by-way-of-Norwich Sourdough

About two months after baking my first-ever loaf of bread, I'm posting my first blog entry here. From raising my own sourdough starter to learning to handle ever wetter and slacker doughs, it's been a fun and action-packed couple of months. I've been edified and consoled many a time by this site, and I'm finally feeling confident enough to say hello.

At the moment, I have two major challenges. The first is learning to work with my cane banneton, which only seems to want to release my loaves 50 percent of the time. (The other 50 percent of the time, I am forced to tug at the dough until the loaf comes out warped.) I've read that some people use rice flour and others use semolina, but I haven't yet found time to experiment.

My other big struggle is my sourdough starter's newfound rye addiction, which I can't get it to kick. I originally started it on whole wheat flour before converting it to white, and all was going smoothly until I refrigerated it. When I tried to bring it back to life a week later, I found it sluggish and unresponsive. Well, a friend suggested I revitalize it with some whole rye flour, which worked like a charm (instead of doubling like it used to, the starter now nearly triples in 4-5 hours), but ever since it's tasted rye paradise, it doesn't want to go back. I keep trying to gradually wean it off rye, which seems to work, but the moment I cut it off cold-turkey, it goes on strike and stays that way for multiple feedings. I'm interested in solving this problem, of course, but also in understanding--if anyone has an explanation--why rye is so much more conducive to yeastly activity.

This past month I've been exclusively practicing variations on this Norwich Sourdough. I want to get all my basic techniques down before I branch out and play around. Still, I've made a few adjustments (halving the quantities and upping the hydration), and this is my current default formula (which produced both the loaves pictured in this post, the first one being my most recent effort):

510g white flour (I use about half AP, half bread flour)
350g water at about 74F
180g mature 100% hydration whole rye sourdough starter
12g salt

Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
First fermentation: 2.5 hours, s&f every 30 minutes
Proof: 2.5 hours, retard overnight
Bake: 35 minutes at 475F on preheated baking steel

The original recipe calls for whole rye flour, which I don't add since it's already in the starter. I am quite happy with the flavor (the sourness is quite pronounced) and the crumb that I achieve with this method, but would prefer to get my starter back to an all-white state so that it's more versatile.


bbegley's picture

I also am a newbie, I have zero advice for you, but that your loaf looks awesome.

mickybean's picture


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

There's nothing wrong with keeping your starter with rye flour. Andrew Whitley, a professional baker and author of "Bread Matters", states that his preference is for a rye starter because of its versatility.The important thing is to have a vigorous, healthy starter. It may not always be 100% stylistically correct for a bread but if it works and you like the results, that's what counts.

mickybean's picture

I like the results fine for this particular recipe, but I would like to be able to make a truly white bread on occasion. I also miss the sourdough pancakes(!) I used to make with the discard, back when I maintained an all-white starter. I have a feeling all-rye pancakes would taste a little too hearty.

Ric Snapes's picture
Ric Snapes

I don't know what to do about weening your rye addicted starter off the hard stuff, but your bread looks delicious. I would keep that starter and make another one for your pure white bread and pancakes...Also, how do you make these pancakes you talk of?

mickybean's picture

I've spent so much time and flour trying and failing to get the starter back to white that I could have raised a new one by now.

The pancakes? Not so regularly, but they were a nice Sunday morning treat.

mickybean's picture

Thought you were asking how *often* I made the pancakes. I use the same recipe that David Esq. has posted below.

mickybean's picture

That's exactly the recipe I use.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

They also make excellent pancakes!

ldavis47's picture

For a noob you are way ahead of the game. For releasing from a banneton 1/2 rice fl with 1/2 AP works great. I use a liner that I sprinkle the mixture on then rub in. For bare wood I have heard you need to season by spraying with a little water before sprinkling on the mixture, but you only need to do this seasoning once.

i made my white starter from rye and have never had a problem. You didn't mention the proportions you use, but I would suggest trying 25g of the rye starter mix with 100g water and 100g bread fl, my house stays at 65deg and it takes a full 12 hours, but since you are starting with rye it may take less time also if it is warmer. this is a 1:4:4 others use 1:5:5, 1:7:7. I then put the starter in the refrig and use 50g in 175g water and 175g rye or ww with the water temp adjusted to bring the levain to 75deg. It takes 8 hrs for this to mature and then use to leaven my 1000g dough (200g comes from the levain). I refresh the starter once per week.

hope this is helpful

Lloyd D.

mickybean's picture

Maybe you're right--if I want to switch the rye starter to white, I'll have to use less of it in proportion to the white flour feed. I'll try that. I appreciate the encouragement. I'll get my hands on some rice flour and report back.