The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

James from Tucson

jamesf's picture

James from Tucson

Hello my name is James.  I am located in Tucson Arizona.  I came to your site in search of information on Russian rye bread recipes and was pleasantly surprised.  I am new to baking and am looking forward to an exciting learning process.  Any referrals to posts for newbies, beginners etc would be appreciated.  I'm struggling with terms like hydration and with understanding the sourdough process.  Cheers!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

James, you can just jump right in reading the Lessons and Handbook, up top. They are a good place to start if you are baking  your first loaf. Can't hurt to watch the videos too.

jamesf's picture

David,  thanks for your welcome, and for the referral to the resources.  I'm looking forward to learning a lot.

Heath's picture

to TFL, James :-)

This is the best forum on the internet for the newbie bread baker - don't be afraid to ask questions if you're struggling.


jamesf's picture

Heath, thanks for the encouragement.

dabrownman's picture

From Gilbert AZ! Hydration si just the amount of water divided by the amount of the flour.  The famous 1:2:3 Sourdough bread  is 1 part SD levain, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour.  SO, 100 g of levain would have 200 G of water and 300 g of flour for this recipe and the 200 g of water divided by the 300 g of flour gives you a hydration of 66.66% - easy as that.

The search box at the upper right will lead you to all kinds of interesting places

Happy baking

Now for the hard part.   If your levain isn't a 66.66 one then it gets a little more tricky.  If the levain is a 100% hydration one half water and half flour then the 100 of levain would have 0 g of eater and 50 g of flour.  Adding that to the flour and water in the dough gives you 250 g of water divided by 350 g of flour or 71.43% hydration.   Still divide total water by total flour and you get the percent hydration of the formula. 

jamesf's picture

Hello and thanks for the explanation.  I appreciate you taking the time to show me how to think about this - it is helpful.

jkandell's picture

James, I also live in Tucson and make Russian ryes (Borodinsky, Latvian, et al).  I also like Nordic ryes.  Desem is my favorite bread.

We should connect!


jamesf's picture

Hello Jonathan,

Sounds good - I'm looking forward to communicating with you.

richkaimd's picture

As someone who, over forty years ago, did what you're proposing to do, I suggest this:  donate a year of your time to learn the skills of bread making from an expert.  If you cannot do this at a local school or from an experienced mentor, buy a text book and work your way through it.  I would have been so much further so much sooner had I done so.  The advantages of this approach are at least these:  you'll be learning from a pro all the way and not struggling to develop a path taking advice from well-meaning folks who may or may not be at that same level; you'll have an organized course of learning that won't go hither and yon as learning without such a path will be; you'll never have to wonder whether you'll be covering all you want to cover because you'll be trusting in a professional who's thought it all through well in advance; and more quickly than you'll imagine you'll be able to make judgements about whose answers you can trust when you read answers on this website (as much as its true that TFLers are well meaning, not all of them are as knowledgeable as others).

Learn from texts, not bread cook books.  Even the best of the cook books, and there are many really good ones, aren't generally organized as a course of study.  I suggest that you look over some texts before you buy one and that you never buy one new unless you're a book lover who simply doesn't want a book any one else has touched.  Find used ones at Powell's Books or Alibris online.  

Here are two good texts:  DiMuzio's Bread Baking and Hamelman's Bread.  They're quite different.  I know that newbies such as yourself have been served well by both.  For my money, I'd start with the DiMuzio text.  It's shorter, is well illustrated, and has the advantage of having graded exercises throughout.  If you follow my advice, you'll do the exercises repeatedly starting at the beginning and working yourself through, not moving on until you get them right to your satisfaction.  Don't be in a hurry.  Your knowledge base, not merely your factual knowledge, but your hand skills, will grow perceptibly as you work your way through.

By the way, since so much of bread baking is learning the feel of moving certain kinds of dough around (for example, doughs with a higher percentage of water require a very different choreography from doughs with lower hydration), if you cannot work with a live expert, you can almost get the same skills by watching videos made by experts.  Mind you, not all videos are made by experts.  I recommend that you watch all the videos you can find right away, trying to figure out who's an expert and who's not.  The sooner you learn that, the better.  Then go back to the ones you believe you can trust when you need to.  There are lots of links to videos on this site, but you can find many more just using a video search engine like Youtube.

And, like Carnegie Hall, getting good requires lots of practice.  Amateurs do it until they get it right; pros do it until they cannot get it wrong.

I meant it when I said, "Donate a year."  What's your hurry when every step of the way is so much fun?




jamesf's picture

Rich,  thanks for the valuable information.  You are a man after my own heart, as I discovered the student-directed vs consumer-directed value of textbooks over other how-to books a while ago.  I have a carpentry and an auto mechanics textbook and have found them valuable.

I'm also a person that reveres the idea of apprenticeships and guilds - I day "idea" because I don't have the patience to do that, but I might just be able to follow your advice and try this gentler approach, to take my time and build mastery on a firm foundation.