The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Experimentation - the next step

leslieruf's picture

Experimentation - the next step

Following on from my last experimental day inspired by Mariana, today's bake built on that but also heavily influenced by Trevor's book Crumb Mastery which I am presently re-reading. 


My objectives -  1. compare 2 flours (best from last time E and another supermarket brand P) 2. compare effect of different number of folds (suggested I think by Lazy Loafer) on each type of flour (4 x 10 or 4 x 25) 3. what effect does it have adding gluten flour to bring the protein level to 12.5  Flour E protein level 11.5%Flour P protein level 11%  This was a basic 1:2:3 sourdough using the "bread flour" available here. each loaf (there were 6) weighed in at 300g wet dough.  167 g flour, 125 g water, 3.3 g salt and 48 g levain.  Flour E had 3 g gluten included in 167 g flour, flour P had 4 g gluten. This was calculated as per Pearson's square as alfanso's  showed on a recent post  My 66% starter was refreshed Sunday evening  (grams) 7:14:21 left on bench overnight.  Monday 9 am I took 10 g this starter and added 40 g water & 40 g flour and left on bench all day.  Monday 8:15 pm built 6 small levains  (in grams) 5:22:22 and left overnight on the bench.  Room temperature fluctuated during the rebuild time from 20 - 23 degrees C. TuesdayI started at 8:25 am   mixed flour and water then left for an hour to autolyse. It worked out at 5 minutes per dough so every 5 minutes mixed the next one.flour E (1) (4 x 10 folds),then flour E (2) (4 x 25 folds),flour E + gluten (3) (4 x 10 folds),flour P (4) (4 x 10 folds),flour P (5) (4 x 25 folds) andfinally flour P + gluten (6 ) (4 x 10 folds).Bowls with labels everywhere! Just as well hubby was out for the day and I could concentrate!!!  9:25 am started the process of adding salt and levain and for this I mixed it in using 30 stretch and folds.  Some were not quite mixed but I took a leaf out of Trevor's book and thought “it will mix in over S & F” which it did!.  10 am I started the stretch and folds as per plan.  Bread (1)10 S&F - I was five minutes late so it 35 minutes instead of 30 minutes rest. followed immediately afterwards by (2) with 25 S & F10:05 am 10 S & F for (3) 10:15 Bread (4) 10 S & F - I made 5 minutes late to match (1) followed by (5) with 25 S & F on schedule10:20  10 S & F on (6) 2nd set of stretch and folds after 30 minutes showed some changes. (1) 10 folds, (2) could only do 13. (3) had extra gluten so left it 40 minutes then did 10 folds, (4) 10 folds, (5) could only do 16 Folds and (6) at 40 minutes, 10 folds. This dough was smooth and extensible. 10:45 I did another 12 s & F on (2) so it had its 2511 am   did another 9 folds on (5) so it also had 25 folds in total 3rd set of S & F - times are a bit all over the place all had 1 hour rest after previous set of folds11:30 Bread (1) could only do 5 folds 11:45 Bread (2) could only do 13 S & F, Breads (3) & (4)  were both nice and extensible, 10 folds as planned.12:00 bread  (5) only 20 folds done, Bread (6) extensible, 10 folds as planned 4th set of S & F - Final round12:15 Bread (1) 10 S & Folds then leave until perhaps 50% increase in volume. appearance was also a factor12:45 Bread (2) could only do 16 folds so this only got 79 folds, not 100 as planned. leave as above.  Breads (3) & (4) were given 10 folds each at this time13:00 Bread (5) only 15 folds so total here was 85 folds instead of 100, Bread (6) final 10 folds Kept an eye on dough to try and judge when I thought dough was right.  A challenge as I normally use a straight sided container and these doughs were all in bowls. 13:45 preshaped bread (1) and left for 30 minutes14:15 final shaping and left on bench15:00 placed bread 1 in fridge to retard  The rest of the doughs were preshaped, one after each other, starting at 14:20 and each left to rest for 30 minutes 14:50 start final shaping on all remaining doughs, leave on bench until look a bit proofed 15:30 All doughs placed in refrigerator. (can you actually say "doughs" or should it be "dough"?) 16:30 preheat oven to 250 deg C along with DO 17:30 Unmould bread (1) and (2), slash and place in DO, bake 15 minutes lid on, 15 minutes lid off. Reheat DOs and repeat with bread (4) & (5) (below)  last batch, reheat DOs again and repeat with bread (3) & (6). Well, there are definitely differences showing up.  Looking at all breads post bake,  Comparing flours - breads (1) & (2) are a little smaller than breads (4) & (5)  Comparing number of folds - breads (1) and (4) are smaller than (2) & (5)Comparing with or without gluten - DEFINITELY better volume with gluten. Dough was less sticky as well. see lead photo. Side note:  Boules are such a breeze - these gave me no trouble at all with the shaping where sometimes my preferred batard is quite challenging.  Mind you, dough was in general terms really nice to work with, it may be different with more whole grain, but that challenge is for another time. Crumb shot?  well I will get crumb shot of today’s lunchtime bread - bread (5).    Decision, dependent of course on crumbshots, looks to be that I need to added gluten flour to get better bread.  Which flour to go forward with? that too will depend on the crumb shot.  Really good experiment, I learnt a lot from it.  Changing from bulk fermenting until doubled to a much lesser amount e.g 50% is something I am still getting to grips with.  I worried that this dough had not bulk fermented enough but by the time it finally shaped and then baked I was feeling more confident.  Taking the lids of the DO is always, always a "hold your breath" moment for me. I wrote this this morning, and had bread (5) at lunchtime.  Interestingly, for me anyway, is that this flour P has protein level of only 11%, and yet with 75% hydration, if I had that correct,  and 80 - 90 s&f it has produced a very nice plain white loafwith a thin crisp crust.  will interesting to see how the one with gluten added compares. The last bit of the day's bake, which slotted in nicely in the afternoon, so no pressure, was my favourite multigrain loaf.  This too has turned out well.  It was retarded overnight and baked this morning.  Happy with how it went. Leslie Sorry about formatting, it hasn’t copied over 😕


Danni3ll3's picture

I can’t wait to see the crumb shots of the other loaves. It is interesting that the loaves with less folds ended up smaller (If I read that right.)

leslieruf's picture

with the exception of the ones with extra gluten.  It surprised me as well, but maybe this is the point that Trevor makes - that building strength is not only about gluten development.  I am getting even more out of re-reading Crumb Mastery and expect I will read it again and again.  The more you learn, the more it makes sense and there are more "aha!" moments. 

It was a challenging day, just keeping track of where I was up to. I enjoyed it immensely even if I was pretty knackered at the end of the day. I made a spreadsheet and just had to fill in the times that stuff happened but then, when I couldn't do all the stretch and folds, had to squeeze notes in here and there along with the length of the rest periods as I hadn't predicted those!!  I couldn't copy and paste the table, so had to write it up.  And then the copy and paste of the text lost all formatting.  oh well ....

Interestingly, hubby is now saying "white bread doesn't make much of a statement, does it" - in the past this was his preference so his taste has changed as I make more and more whole grain loaves, especially now with my own mill.  Still, I think using white flour was the best option given my objectives, but I will need to do some more experimentation with wholegrain flours .. but not yet.  Another lot of overseas visitors are due for  a short visit so hopefully I have enough bread to last their visit.

Thanks Danni, I will post crumb photos as the breads get cut!



gillpugh's picture

Fantastic job. Really looking forward to see crumb and your evaluation of the experiment 

alfanso's picture

my aging brain is having trouble following this set-up, especially, as you say, the formatting itself.  I was getting cross-eyed trying to keep track of the activity, especially across multiple doughs - yes even if you can't say doughs v. dough, I can!  Would it be possible to place this into a spreadsheet format and post that too?  Along with standardized terms.  Please. 

Are these all the same total hydration and pre-fermented flour percentage, hydration of the levain?  

You are using some terms that I imagine are interchangeable, but I'm not sure.  For example: what do you mean when you state

  • " (4 x 25 folds)".  Are these French Folds for initial mixing?  i.e. the folds that one does prior to bulk rise whatever the term used.
  • " 30 stretch and folds".  Are these Letter Folds for gluten strengthening and redistribution of gas bubbles, etc. which are those done at intervals anywheres from 20 minutes to an hour apart? 
  • "(1) 10 folds, (2) could only do 13".
  • "Bread (1) could only do 5 folds 11:45 Bread (2) could only do 13 S & F,".  Are these the same?
  • etc.

We all know that an unfortunate thing with baking nomenclature is that there are multiple terms to express the same thing, different accommodations for language variations and that they can easily slip over from one meaning to another on occasion.  The old programmer in me thrives on standardized terminology, so I'm a sucker for same but don't have the necessary wiring otherwise.

A mighty admirable endeavor, and hats off to you for the undertaking.  And the boules look pretty darned good no matter what they were told their names were!


leslieruf's picture

I will try and do as you suggest.  

The dough for all was 75% hydration, same % pre fermented flour, same hydration of the levain. Flour mix varied only in the amount of gluten flour added.

I will come back later with my spreadsheet.

thanks Alan


alfanso's picture

Maybe I'm being thick here, but what I was asking re: % pre-fermented flour was how much pre-fermented flour was used as well as how much was used in each.  You answered the second question.  Also, was the levain at 100% hydration for one, all?

So for example: If the levain was at 100% hydration as a starting point, with 167g flour +24 g flour from the  (100%hydration levain @48g total weight.)..

= 167g + 24g = 191g total flour in each.  24/191 = 12.6 which, if I've got this correct, means that you were using ~12.6% of the flour as prefermented.  

If I'm counting this up correctly: "167 g flour, 125 g water, 3.3 g salt and 48 g levain*." = 167+125+3+48=343g per loaf, but, just for the record, you list each loaf at 300g.  *Bolded because the "and" signifies that this was in addition to...

As far as total hydration (assuming that 100% hydration levain): 125g water + 24g water from preferment = 149g total water.  167g flour + 24g flour from preferment = 191g total flour.    If so, then 149/191=78% hydration.

Do these seem right to you?  My math is always shaky, but the former programmer in me is too curious to let this pass without understanding the parts of the puzzle better.

Sorry but the synapses are disappearing with age ;-) .  Probably due to inhaling flour dust (although I don't snort lines)!


leslieruf's picture

I will start at total dough..(some figures are rounded up or down)

Flour 100% 167 g (the gluten added is part of the 100%)

water 75% 125 g

salt 2% 3 g

starter seed @ 66% approx. 5 g

Levain (subtracted from total dough)

13% prefermented calculated

starter seed 5 g

flour 22 g

water 22 g 

Final dough

flour (incl gluten) 145 g

water 103 g

salt 3 g

levain 48 g


I use my spreadsheet to calculate stuff, it is the BBGA one.

the prefermented flour is calculated as % of total flour.

will come back later, I have to run, chores to do... it is 9 am here

I chuckle at the thought of snorting a line of flour....  maybe too much gluten and the brain has become fluffy?


leslieruf's picture

I am re writing this as the formatting that was lost when I copied and pasted meant it is difficult to follow my writeup, hope this is better.

Each loaf was mixed in the same manner.  Not sure of correct name for this but I followed Trevor J Wilson's method of dimpling in levain (and the salt) and just simple stretching of the dough in the bowl from underneath over the top and repeating this 30 times. I counted so that I could do the same for each loaf.  

Loaves had flour mixes as follows (Flour identified by a letter as NZ flour brand names mean nothing to most other bakers in other countries.)

# 1 = Flour E and plan was to do 4 sets of 10 stretch and folds after the initial mixing

#2 = Flour E and plan was to do 4 sets of 25 stretch and folds after the initial mixing

#3 = Flour E + gluten (in this case of the 167 g flour, 3 g was gluten flour as protein level stated as 11.5%. Aim to approximate 12.5% protein). plan to do 4 sets of 10 stretch and folds

#4 = Flour P  - 4 sets of 10 stretch and folds as per #1

#5 = Flour P - 4 sets if 25 stretch and folds as per #2

#6 = Flour P + gluten (in this case, of the 167 g flour, 4 g was gluten flour as protein level was specified as11%. aim to approximate 12.5% protein) 4 sets of stretch and folds as per #3

After the initial mixing, dough was left to rest for 30- 40 minutes.  The same simple stretch and fold was applied to each batch of dough as per plan.  Rested and stretch and folds repeated another 3 times before preshaping etc.

More detail can be found in the link below.  There are 3 pages in the workbook.  Master = my dough calculator, gluten calculation shows how I calculated how much gluten to add (this is pretty rough and ready), Method = time frames and more.  I wanted to retard for several hours so that I could bake one after another with just reheating in between.

Hopefully this will help, thanks alfanso for stirring me up.  I was really disappointed when I lost the formatting and should have not posted until I fixed it.  However this version may be easier.  Commentary after baking I hope is not too difficult to follow so I wont go over it again unless asked to.  I would really appreciate any feedback and where to now. 

Haven't cut another loaf yet, we have been out for most of the day.


ps.. hopefully I have posted the link to dropbox correctly, I am a bit rusty as to how that link works.


alfanso's picture

Okay Leslie, now some things are more clear, for sure.  Thanks for going the extra mile, or km, to do the spreadsheets.  It helps a lot.  As an aside, I've also had the mis-pleasure of writing something up on one text-writer and then copy/pasting it into this editor only to find that it doesn't want to abide by my formatting.  My solution to that was to to copy/paste each paragraph piecemeal and click the Preview button intermittently to ensure that the text was captured as intended.

On the first spreadsheet it is clear that when you reference the levain, it is as a subset of the flour and water, not an addition to that.  As mentioned earlier, when adding your TDW, I added the extra 48g based on the word "and" in your original write-up sheet.  Therefore my totals and percentages were off by that 48g degree of ingredient inclusion.

As I don't currently adhere to Trevor's methodology - which has nothing to do with his expertise of which there is a ton, but take my own path, I was unfamiliar with how the term "stretch and fold" was applied here.  So I went back to his Lake Champlain  SD video and reviewed his technique again.  Hence a much clearer understanding of his "stretch and fold" vs. the French Fold/Slap and Fold and the subsequent Letter Fold/Stretch and Fold which I adhere to.  Not so much a nomenclature misadventure here as methodology playing word tricks in my brain.  

Okay, so got that now too. To recap his stretch and fold method, all are done in the mixing bowl, none on the bench.  And whether they are done initially to perform the mixing to incorporate ingredients, or later during bulk rise they are all performed in the same manner until the final S&F has been performed. review of your third spreadsheet, that helped tremendously to understand how you proceeded, and fairly clear that columns 2 & 5 represented the breads where the additional gluten was mixed in.

Since buying the Hamelman Bread book in 2016, I've become a believer in applying fewer bulk rise S&Fs when the hydration is lower, as his breads are wont to be.  I still believe in applying more S&Fs as the hydration rises, and therefore I do.  With the Vermont SD at 65% hydration, for example, the dough receives a mere two S&Fs at the 50 and 100 minute mark.

Trevor displays his expertise so well with his hourly S&Fs for each hour of bulk rise, and I'm certainly not here to convince anyone of abandoning his ship, just reporting my own way.

Regardless, this was a great exercise in discovery.  I'm currently in the midst of my own "investigation" over the course of three separate bakes of the same formula and weight, and will also post my results.


Bread1965's picture

Leslie -

Thank you for re-posting.. I'm only one Scotch in for the night, but reading your post made me second guess myself as I lost track quickly! Ok. Now I get it.. but I'm trying to figure out your thinking:

You have two flours with three variations each:

a) 4 sets of 10SFs;

b) 4 sets of 25SFs; and

c) 4 sets of 10SFs but more protein added.

Then you showed your flour breakdown and I think that message my have a mistake in it.. Your total flour (with or without the added protein) is 167, then with 125g water for 75% hydration and 3% salt.. and 48g of 100 hydration fed levain is added (that was seeded with a 66% hydration starter).. is that all right?

So the point of the exercise is :

i) to see the impact of more folds from 4 sets of 10SFs (loaves 1 and 4) to 4 sets of 25SFs (loaves 2 and 5) while ALSO comparing loaves with flour brand "E" (1 versus 2) and flour brand "P" (4 versus 5)   - correct? .. and THEN..

ii) to see the impact of more protein in the flour by comparing loaves 1 and 3 using flour "E" , and the same using flour "P" comparing loaves 4 and 6  - correct?

Phew..  do you think you're a type A bread baker? !! You get an "A+" for effort and resiliency!

So assuming all that is right, so can you provide a simple breakdown of what you learned? Was it about making a more open crumb, looking at rise? etc.. ?? What can I learn from this that is actionable for my next loaf? That's what I'm not sure I can figure out from all the messages..

But here's what I did learn - wow, you make a great looking multi-grain loaf! That crumb is terrific.. how did you make THAT loaf.. it looks like you've figured out Trevor's method.. me, not so much yet! Let me know! Have you posted that recipe already?

Well done.. thanks for sharing!

leslieruf's picture

maybe you’re right.  wayback in time I did do a stint as a agricultural research technician so maybe thats where it comes from,, lol, maybe another whisky will help 🙂

So what did I learn.

Just looking at the loaves, and taking into account the ease of handling, I am thinking flour P #4 gave a better result than flour E #1. 

then 4 x 10 vs 4 x 25 folds - it appears that more folds is better, regardless of flour type. but once again flour P  #5 seems bigger than flour E #2.  crumb of #5 is good, but nothing to compare it with yet.

Adding gluten definitely helped volume with both flours but again flour P #6 seems better than flour E #3.

how does this help you? the more folds you can manage the better provided that the dough allows this.  not sure how folks manage 300 slap and folds - my dough at this hydration would not take so many. so this will depend on your local flours and hydration.

I was testing the possibility that NZ flours are not strong enough. Manufacturer of flour E did tell me some time ago that our “bread flours” are fine, with this testing maybe he is right but that depends what you are after.  To get more volume and perhaps a more open crumb, it looks to me, from the outside view, that bumping the protein up to about 12.5% will give me that. 

The two flour comparison was to really to have a factual? basis for choosing one flour over the other. 

Does that make sense?

I have posted the multigrain bread before but can do so again - I have overseas visitors due any minute now so it might take a day or so before I can do it.  The recipe has always worked for me and is always popular.

Let me know if I need to explain anything else...

thanks for the feedback, happy baking


Bread1965's picture

Thanks Leslie..

Bread1965's picture

My last post was messed up..  Thanks for the reply.. but if i can take it off track, let's get back to the multi-grain loaf. That crumb is right out of Trevor's book.. can you send me that link.. I'd like to see how you achieved it.. thanks!


leslieruf's picture

this is bread #2 cut for lunch today. will be back later to read alfanso’s post as well as bread1965 🙂

leslieruf's picture

Loaf #1 4 x 10 Stretch and folds cut 22/1/18

Loaf # 3 with added gluten

cut today 24/1/18 for lunch.

Two more to go. Crumb on all so far is great, just more volume with different methods. just looking at what is left to cut, the first one shown in original post is not #5, it is in fact #6 with added gluten. 


leslieruf's picture

For anyone interested, here is a collage of all crumb shots together.  Definitely some differences between loaves, but really all were very good.  The addition of gluten did give more volume as did the number of folds.

Top row is Flour P

Bottom row flour E.  

The added gluten loaves are at the right.  Hard to create this collage and could only add text once so it is in the middle.  Where to from here?  I will routinely add some gluten I think and once used up current stock of different flours will probably go with flour P in future.  

DanAyo's picture

Boy, you are really getting the Open Crumb Mastery! I’m impressed.

You better be careful feeding your visitors bread like that. THEY MAY NEVER LEAVE {;-)