The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

An introduction with bread

McCoy's picture

An introduction with bread

I baked you a loaf!


Hello, I'm Dylan. I usually live in Brooklyn, NY, but am currently living in Cambridge in England for my research. I'm a grad student in physics at NYU and probably spend more time than my thesis advisor would like on baking and other non-physics pursuits. Of course, one of the things that makes me excited about baking (and brewing) is that it is a manifestation of physics, chemistry, and microbiology. I've learned a lot and think my bread, beer, and research has benefitted from my reading about yeast and enzymes.

So onto the loaf. I got into bread baking because I was already making pizza regularly and I thought bread would be a good way to get rid of spent grain from brewing. In my most recent move, I lost the ability to dry my spent grain and stopped baking bread, but I picked it back up again after some visits to Sullivan Street Bakery lead me to buy Jim Lahey's My Bread.

Since coming to England I picked up sourdough as a replacement for my lost pursuit of brewing, and have become a frequent visitor to this site to learn about sourdough, high-hydration, and generally artisan techniques. Thanks to all of you for making this loaf (and many yet to come) possible!

This was made with a bread flour starter that I turned into a levain that fermented for 12 hours, followed by a 3 hour ferment of a final dough with 30% rye. I baked it at my oven's max (probably ~475–500 F) on a preheat cast iron skillet with an aluminum bowl inverted over it to make a lid. I removed the bowl after about 15 minutes and let it bake for a total of about 35. It's delicious and the crumb and crust seem quite good, although there is a thin layer towards the bottom of the loaf that seems underbaked (you can see it as a slightly dark stripe). Any advice is welcome, of course!


I look forward to getting to know you all better as a participant rather than a lurker.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Someone else will tell you about the loaf question you raised. Looking forward to watching you improve your bakes through science!

dabrownman's picture

dark matter concentrated on the bottom of the boule.  So much so,  that the dark energy couldn't get to it fast enough and you were left with what you have:-)  OR make sure that bottom pan is screaming hot to get as much pop and lift as you can and get a cheap instant read thermometer, if you don't have one, to make sure that the inside is baked to 205 F - 210F or 96C - 98 F since you are in England.  I like to bake to 205 F and then let it sit there with the oven off and door ajar for another 5 minutes to really chrisp up the crust.  You might want to consider another 5 minutes under the lid too to get it to 20. .  Looks great othertwise adn has to taste fine.

It is too hard to deal with dark energy and matter in bread .  They are too much like a .....singularity

Welcome and Happy Baking

McCoy's picture

Haha, if only I could turn the dark matter into a dark rye, but alas I can only find one rye flour at my local market. I'd really like to have an instant thermometer but I haven't been able to cajole myself into buying one here when I know there's one waiting for me back in New York. Thanks for the welcome.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Did you use a rising method that inverted the proofed loaf... a banneton like rise?

What does the bottom of the loaf look?  is it as brown as the top? 

My first instinct tells me that dark line in the loaf is caused by over-proofing.  It is a settling of inside dough crumb (gas displacement released upward) before the crumb could set.  This compacts the crumb just above the bottom crust. The rye addition will speed up fermentation, a lot, and probably contributed to the difficulty in judging when the dough was ready to bake.   

When comparing to a wheat loaf made w/o rye (a substitution of rye for wheat flour)  use shorter rise times or less levain.  Don't let the final rise get as high and progressed as a wheat dough and bake a little longer due to the density change in the dough.  

Just my thoughts.  (would appreciate a better crumb shot)  :)

The loaf looks beautiful and I think the over proofing is just a little bit.  I would start by cutting back on the final proof by about an hour (if the temps stay the same) and see what that does.  

If the loaf bottom crust is lighter than the rest of the loaf, try lowering it in the oven or letting the base under the loaf heat up more before baking or leave it covered longer.  It could be that it compacted because it wasn't baked long enough.

McCoy's picture

Thanks for your thoughts, Mini!

The color on the bottom crust is the same as the top. I proofed it in a bowl with the bottom facing upwards for about 40 minutes. The house had been pretty cold the whole ferment so I thought it wouldn't be too long, but based on your recommendation to cut back by an hour it sounds like maybe this is actually rather short? I did stick it into a slightly warmed oven (you would barely notice it was warm if you put your hand inside) for the first 20 minutes of the proof. I'm still learning about shaping and proofing, as well as rye (this is my second rye), so over-proofing could definitely be a problem. I don't really have too much knowledge of how that part should go, and I neglected to check the dough for elasticity by poking it before I baked it.

It's also very possible that just the transfer from the bowl to the pan was not gentle enough and it compacted the bottom of the loaf. I'll get a better crumb shot tonight. I'm really missing my IR and instant-read thermometers about now.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"This was made with a bread flour starter that I turned into a levain that fermented for 12 hours, followed by a 3 hour ferment of a final dough with 30% rye."

Forty minutes is not long in a banneton.  Did this come after a total of 3 hrs bulk ferment?  I was thinking the 12 hrs might have been the dough bulk time.   Maybe you could tell more about the rising.   It does bother me that the oven rise and split on the top does not speak for over-proofing, more the opposite.  It's looking under baked more and more.

McCoy's picture

So I made the levain in the morning and let it ferment for about 12 hours until I came home in the evening. Then I mixed the final dough. I let this sit for an hour, then did a stretch and fold every thirty minutes. When it was time for the fourth stretch and fold, instead (because it was about 10:30 p.m.) I shaped the loaf into a boule and put it into the bowl seam side up, warmed the oven and turned on the light, and put the bowl inside. I left this for about 25 minutes, then withdrew it to begin preheating the oven and the cast iron pan for baking. After another 20 minutes I withdrew the cast iron pan and put it on a large burner on the stove, heating it until the seasoning was lightly smoking. I inverted the bowl over the pan, scored the boule, and put it into the oven with the bowl inverted over the pan. The total time from mixing the final dough to going into the pan was about three hours, I guess. The formula for the levain and final dough is below, along with a better picture of the crumb (although still with poor light).

It is very possible that it is under-proofed or over-proofed (since I have no idea what would be appropriate) and also could be underbaked. I was thinking on the next time I will reduce the temperature towards the end to extend the baking time without burning the crust, which is why I withdrew it from the oven.



  • 75g starter 100% hydration
  • 95g water
  • 125g bread flour
  • 25g rye flour

Total mass 320g with hydration ~70%. Total flour mass ~188g.

Final dough

  • 320g levain 70% hydration
  • 280g water
  • 250g bread flour
  • 150g rye flour
  • 12g salt

Total mass ~1kg, hydration ~70%. Total flour mass ~588g.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"I was thinking on the next time I will reduce the temperature towards the end to extend the baking time without burning the crust..."

& Thanks for the crumb shot.  I would say that you could have let it rise a little longer.  What about a shift to a larger levain?  That way you wouldn't have to wait so long late at night.

McCoy's picture

I made basically the same loaf again, but changed a few things:

  1. Bumped up the hydration from 70% to 72%
  2. Made the levain only from white starter and all the rye flour that would make it into the loaf
  3. Lowered the starter amount from 40% of the levain to 24%
  4. Increased the levain from 54% of the final dough to 58%
  5. Proofed in a warm oven for an hour plus another half hour outside of the oven

This time the dough noticeably rose during proofing. I'm confident I could've let it proof for another half hour, but again time pressure had me move it along. I mixed the final dough at 10:30 am, let it rest an hour, and gave it a stretch and fold every half hour after that for one and a half hours. Then I let it rest another hour before shaping and proofing for an hour and a half (as mentioned).


The crumb looks noticeably more open and there was no problem with any obviously under-baked spots. When baking it I had the oven at max (~475F) with the dough covered for the first 15 minutes and then turned it down to ~450F with the dough uncovered for another 15 minutes. By then the crust had taken enough color that I turned off the oven.

I have some ideas for future improvements, but I think your advice definitely helped, Mini!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

'Nuff said.