The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Miracles do happen

L_M's picture

Miracles do happen

 3 mini SD boules3 mini SD boules

That's how I felt yesterday when finally my sourdough boules came out exactly the way I like them : Thin and delicately crisp crust, fine textured and moist crumb, light weight, and last but not least, not at all sour but still very flavourful. 

There is no doubt in my mind that it all depends on the starter. I have tried so many different feeding schedules, % of hydration, and temperatures, but I could never really be sure what was best because after a while something would always go wrong and the starter would slow down, and of course the result was always sour, dense bread. 

A few weeks ago I just didn't have time to play around anymore so I had to pack it away for storage in the fridge. This time I used the instructions from Erik Kayser's starter (100% hydration) that I started up a while ago along with Marianna :

" Refresh this liquid leaven by taking 100gm of starter, 200 gm of 27 degC water, 200gm white bread flour. Let it ferment a little and store in a cool place while still very immature. Prior to baking, take it out, let it ferment fully at room temperature, refresh, let it ferment the number of hours that you want (i.e. 6 hours at 33C; 12 hours at 30C; or 16 hours at 27C ) and bake with it."

Looking at the amount of hours at each temp, it seemed to me that no matter which one I chose, the starter would be very overripe, but I followed the instructions. Indeed it rose up to triple, stayed there for a few hours, fell, and stayed that way but it was still very bubbly when the amount of time was up. I took that, and used it to innoculate the sponge but this time I started making the dough when it had risen to just a little over double.  So... now I'm thinking that I have most likely overfed every single one of my starters (feeding just at or soon after the peak) and that is why they always slow down. I can't be sure until I try this again a few times but this bread was by far the best SD I've made so far.

Any thoughts are welcome.

Floydm's picture

Very cute. I love the blisters.

browndog's picture

Good for you, L_M, those look beautiful.


qahtan's picture



 You are so clever, Sourdough is the one thing I just have no luck what so ever....

        I have no problem with yeasted bread of all kinds , but not sourdough......

           Yours look super,,,,, qahtan

bakerb's picture

Beautiful, beautiful do you slash yours?   Thanks!   Beth

fleur-de-liz's picture

You made some magnificent looking loaves. What recipe did you use? I love the blistered crust and those gluten strands stretching across the slashes. The crust looks especially crispy, which is so hard for us to achieve in home ovens. That bread was just bursting! I would be interested in hearing about further experiments and if you think that overfeeding your starter was the culprit.



syllymom's picture

They look beautiful!

I find it interesting about your starter.  I think I have to pay more attention to what I'm doing with my starter.

L_M's picture

Thank you all for the compliments!! It was a wonderful feeling and I hope I'll be able to repeat my good luck.

As for the blisters - whenever I make a sourdough bread the blisters appear, and in order to keep the flavour mild I try to keep the fermenting time to a minimum, so in my case I think maybe it is a result of the flour available.

 For the sponge I used AP flour, and in the dough, bread flour (both have 11% protein). I was surprised to see how well they performed holding their shape even though the final proof was done free form. Each of the baked boules were 3 1/2 inches high, just over 5 inches in diameter and weighed 280 gm.

The recipe was a mixture of ideas from many of you wonderful members, so thanks to everyone...


80 gm starter (100% hydration)

160 gm water

160 gm flour


400 gm sponge from above

175 gm water

60 gm wwflour

300 gm bread flour

10 gm oil

11 gm salt

- the sponge was prepared the night before using Bill's speadsheet as a guideline for timing and temp, and that way I caught it at just over double and put it in the fridge for a few hours til I was ready to start on the dough. 

- the ingred were mixed together (except the oil and the salt) and left to autolyse for about 30 min. Then I added the oil and kneaded in my Kenwood Chef on medium speed for about 15 min altogether, adding the salt when it had already been kneaded for about 10 min.

- I think I added more water along the way getting the dough to the between tacky and sticky stage, but still making a very thin windowpane. Now that it's cold, it's easy to just knead away to my heart's content without all the trouble in the summer of the dough heating up.

- bulk fermentation was 45 min at room temp (at the time it was about 70F). Divided into 3, preshape, rest for 15 min, shape into balls, tighten, rest for 10 min, tighten again, and place on baking parchment right side up.

- final proof of 4 1/2 hrs was in the oven (turned off, no light) with the steam pan and some boiling water in it. The temp ranged between 72F -77F. It's hard to tell how much volume they gained but they sure did spread out. I'd say at least triple, felt very light and quite wobbly. 

- I took them out of the oven and started to preheat to 215C. The winter air is dry so in just a few minutes the skin quickly gets a thin tight layer making it easy to slash. Then I wet my hands and gently rubbed water all over the whole surface of the dough, and then staight away into the half preheated oven. If I remember correctly they baked for about 20 min with steam and another 10 without.

I've made this recipe several times before and I did not get the same results, and other recipes as well - usually the proofing dough just sits there forever even with the temp around 80F, it just doesn't budge. My only conclusion is that the starter is the culprit. BUT, as I said before I still have to try it again to make sure.


weavershouse's picture

Very nice, looks delicious. I'm sure it will work for you from now on.                       


L_M's picture

is on it's way - I will really be amazed if they turn out as nice again.

I started yesterday at 16:00 - I stirred up the storage pot in the fridge (there was a bit of hooch) and took out 16 gms to sit at room temp to fully ferment. There were very few bubbles to be seen, and room temp was about 65F. It sat there until midnight and nothing changed at all - it was a soupy, runny mixture. That's the part that baffles me - what does fully ferment mean in this case?

Anyhow, moving along, that 16 gm got fed 32 gm water and 32 gm AP flour and sat out at room temp overnight (I wanted to see what would happen instead of using the suggested temp)...well it was probably around 60F at night and nothing really happend - just a few bubbles that's all. I put it in a cozy spot and it came alive right away. So far it has risen to triple, stayed there, collaped a few hours ago, and now it's again midnight and time to feed it. Those 80 gm of starter will get 160 gm water and 160 gm flour, so that will be my 400 gm sponge for tomorrow's dough.

Thanks again for all the kind remarks.  I'm very curious to see whether waiting longer between feedings is actually a key factor. I know that Zolablue says it is very important with a firm starter so it'll be very interesting if it's the same for this 100 % hydration one as well.

Results tomorrow.

P.S. In the recipe above, the amount of salt should be 11 gm not 12 gm.  


KipperCat's picture

I hope this batch does as well for you.  These look great!  Btw, did you know you can edit your recipe post to change the salt grams?

L_M's picture

I forgot about that edit button - thanks for reminding me Kippercat :-)

What a relief. Everything went according to plan and the 2nd round came out just as nicely as the first. All the timings were the same and more importantly, the boules had the same taste and texture as before.

So this leads me back to my starter - now I'm convinced. It seems that waiting those extra hours after it collapses before feeding again, is a key factor in how my starter performs. There must be lots going on during that stage even though it looks like it has passed it's peak activity. Very confusing stuff...