The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hamelman Vermont Sourdough (Attempt 1)

mburns87's picture

Hamelman Vermont Sourdough (Attempt 1)

Hey all - this is the traditional Vermont Sourdough from Hamelman's "Bread," using 2.5 hour bulk ferment with two folds spaced 50 minutes apart. That gave me two 1.5 pound rounds retarded in the fridge for about 8 hours and popped onto a baking stone (with a cup of boiling water into a cast iron skillet) straight from the fridge. I heated the oven to 500 for 45 minutes beforehand, and dropped the temp when the bread went in. Steam pan came out about 8 minutes into the bake.

They browned nicely, but I'm kind of disappointed in the oven spring. I noticed when I pulled the boules out of the fridge that the underside (on top pre-flipping) had darkened a bit and developed a bit of a skin. I stored them in plastic grocery bags rubber banded shut to limit air flow. Might that skin be why it didn't spring up into a nice round loaf? I've seen examples of this recipe where the boule is nearly spherical.

Sadly no crumb shot yet - taking this up to Vermont later today to share with friends and family! 

idaveindy's picture

For 1.5 pound loaves, that is excellent oven spring.

The "spherical" loaves you refer to are more likely "bun" size.

Dough does not scale proportionately in the vertical dimension because, for any given formula, the crumb can only support so many inches of height, baked hearth style, and not in a pan.  (Though you can get a little "side help" in a dutch oven, or combo cooker.)

So..., for example, just pulling numbers out of thin air, if a formula yields a max 3.5" in height, then for a 3.5" diameter boule, it looks spherical.  But if the boule is 8" in diameter, then the 3.5" height makes it look flat. 

Look at pictures of "miches" here and at a search engine.  They look flat, mainly because they are 2.5 pounds and up.

That said, there are minor tweaks that are possible to help direct expansion upwards as opposed to sideways:  A tighter/thicker skin, and scoring techniques, including, but not limited to, not scoring too close to the edges, but still  scoring enough top-side.  

Follow user DanAyo for good tips and formulas on steaming and scoring for optimum oven spring and "ears" on the score lines. He has a youtube channel at


mburns87's picture

Thanks for the supportive words! I hadn't considered that I didn't know the scale of the loaves in photos. That's a great point.

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

They look very lovely to me with lots of spring. 

DanAyo's picture

Max, you knocked that pair out of the park! They are gorgeous.

I read Dave’s reply and thought about a post from some time back. It illustrates the fact that lighter weight doughs are subject to rise proportionally higher than heavier doughs. Think about two ballon filled with water. Both balloons are identical. One contains 100 grams of water and the other has 500 grams. The skin on both balloons are identical, the same thickness. Which one will proportionally spread more outwards thus becoming relatively lower in height?

Many of the bakers on Instagram that are posting outrageously gorgeous loaves are well aware that smaller doughs are much more photogenic.

Check this out.

Now you know...  :D


mburns87's picture

I got a good laugh out of the palm-sized loaf in your link. That explains *so much* about the rounded loaves all over social media. 

DanAyo's picture

Max, we shoot photos of our bread with our phones. Many of the Instagram gang use dedicated lighting, cameras, ect.

I am in no way speaking ill of this. I love looking at photogenic bread. It is art in every sense. But just like looking at air brushed movie stars, it is consoling to know that what you see is not always what you get :-)

idaveindy's picture

Thanks Dan.  That was the post and pictures that I had in mind. ( )  I was too lazy to go look it up.

albacore's picture

Having made the Vermont SD a couple of times, I do wonder if it would benefit from upping the hydration from 65 to say 69%. 65% seems pretty low and I ended up with a rather dry and tight crumb.

Also for once, I blindly followed the 2.5 hr bulk time in the recipe (I think I was time constrained). Next time I would aim for a specific 50% bulk rise.


gerryp123's picture

Sorry for your problem.

I've baked this bread many times both as a boule and batard, with several flavor variations.  Most successful results when I use a Dutch Oven in a convection stove.  Always impressed with rise, which often exceeds 4" (see photo).  

No special advice; I'm using standard techniques.  I think the success factor here is the 12-14 hour levain.  I prepare the night before bake using freshly fed starter.  Store in proofing box at about 75F.  Early next morning I see tiny bubbles on top of levain, and about a 20% increase in volume.  The rest of the process is pretty standard.

Hope it works out for you.  Of all the bread I bake, this recipe is my go-to favorite!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

 Wow, you really did knock your first try straight out of the park! Great job!

I have made this Vermont sourdough more than that a few times when I was intent on perfecting my baguette shaping. On the advice of our friend the baguette king Alfonso, I switched to this lower hydration formula. The reasoning being, we all must crawl before we walk! 

 I call this photo montage, one out of three ain't bad.

BreadLee's picture

Those look fantastic! Nicely done! There's nothing wrong with them at all.