The Fresh Loaf

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Starter log and first loaves pictures !

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Starter log and first loaves pictures !

 

(More recent updates first : starter logs below).

  • Update 21/05/2020 - Baking ! :

Finally, some pictures of the second loaf made tuesday with this starter (more pictures in comments) :

Loaf 1/2

Loaf 2/2

It is the overnight country blonde from FWSY. Bulk fermentation lasted about 9h at 22°C. After this bulk fermentation, it seemed that the dough already passed the finger dent test, but since the starter usually fully rises in 10h, I let the dough proof for about 1,5h. I could try a longer bulk fermentation or proofing but not sure because of finger dent test ?

Update on the starter : It is now fed every 12h or 24h at 1:5:4, and reaches peak in about 9h (at 22°C).

  • Update 12/05/2020 - Starter pictures :

Some pictures taken today : starters have been refreshed 14 hours ago with 16% and 11% inoculation ratios. They probably reached their peak about 6 hours after feeding, I will measure this today.  

  •  Update 11/05/2020 - After 20 days, starter finally rose ! :

Finally, it rose ! So, 3 days after increasing feedings of my main levain from 13% (1:4:4) to 50% (2:1:1), it finally started rising. Coincidence or is it that after 20 days it finally reached that point ?  I don't know for sure*. It would certainly have rose sooner if I had switched to 50% sooner. The smell completely changed : it now smells like a mix of beer and fruits, whereas before it smelled more like something sour.

Also, note that a few days ago, I switched from tap water (that rested overnight) to bottled water.

Currently, I feed it every 12 hours. I began with a 2:1:1 feeding, and will now increase feedings, little by little. Currently, I feed at 1:1:1. It seems it is still not enough because the levain peaks only 4 hours only after feeding... Next step will be to make it rise longer, and switch from whole rye (T130) to T65 wheat flour.

*because there is no levain I kept feeding at 11% for comparison : I stopped feeding my other levain (which was fed at 11%) and switched it to 33% (1:1:1) at the same time I switched my main levain to 50%, and it rose equally well at the same time (and they behaved exactly the same before they both rose, either at 11%, 33% or 50%...).

  • First log - 08/05/2020 : Beginning of the journey (see refresh planning for details and pictures) :

So after reading two articles from Debra Wink ("The Pineapple Juice Solution") that were truly enlightening, I finally decided to not give up after the first few days of bacterial overgrowth.

Day 4 to 9 : 25-30% (1:2,5:2,5) inoculation every 24h. A fermentation smell (what I suppose to be !)

Day 10 to 13 : 10% (1:4:4) inoculation every 24h. A few little bubbles, no rise. Still a fermentation smell .

Following LittleGirlBlue's advice : it seems I overfed the starter. From now on, I will use 30% (1:1:1) to 50% (2:1:1) inoculations. And even try to let starter rest for more than 24h.

Day 14 : 30% inoculation refeed and rest for 40h. A little bubbly (but no rise) when I stirred after 24h rest.

Day 16 : No bubbles, no rise after 40h rest (but a stronger fermentation smell, I could describe as sour smell but not sure at all; same smell since day 9 but stronger this time).  50% inoculation refeed and rest for 48h. Here again, a little bubbly (but no rise) when I stirred after 24h.

Day 18 : No bubbles, no rise after 48h rest (still that fermentation smell, stronger (?) at 48h than at 24h). 50% inoculation refeed.

At that point, I'm a bit lost : I don't know if I'm starving or overfeeding the starter ? It has (a few and little) bubbles at 24h, but nothing at 48h... Today (day 18), before refeeding, I took a bit of the starter to let it rest another day (72h). We'll see.

(From day 10, I began a starter from the first one : it follows the same refresh planning but with 10% inoculation ratios. Up to now, no difference between the 2 : little bubbles and no rise, but still this fermentation smell).

 

  • Conditions (Updated 11/05/2020):

Whole grain flour (french equivalent : T150) -> I switched to whole rye (T130) from day 14.

Water always poured at 32°C (89°F) -> Reduced to 30°C (86°F) from day 14. -> From tap water to bottled water from day 16.

Levain rests at a constant 22-23°C (71,6-73,4°F) -> It raised to 25°C from day 14 to 17. Now (day 18), it is about 24°C (75°F).

 

  • Refresh planning (see below : update 11/05/2020) :
DayRefresh hourRemaining levain (g)Flour (g)Water (g)(Levain / Total weight) ratioNote on what happened before refresh
113h-5050--
213h100505050%Nothing
313h100505050%Very bubbly, volume trippled (rubber band does not show initial levain level, forgot to set it!)
Image : https://imgur.com/a/CsUDV9y
 23h0050505033%More than trippled in 4 hours, and peaked after 6 hours (here rubber band does show initial level)
Image : https://imgur.com/a/qRs38tB
413h45575728%More than trippled, very bubbly (peak probably during the night)
 23h45505131%No increase in volume, some bubbles
518h30505023%No increase in volume, even less bubbles
618h30505023%No rise, no bubbles (or very few).
719h32505024%Very rare bubbles. No rise.
822h38505127%Rare bubbles. No rise.
923h40515128%Rare bubbles. No rise.
Images : https://imgur.com/a/VYuUzYK
1020h16515113,60%Few bubbles, no rise
1121h16505013,80%Few bubbles, no rise
1222h16505013,80%Few bubbles, no rise
1321h16515113,60%Few bubbles, no rise

14

00h 50 50 50 30%Pictures of day 13 refeed and 16h after (Day 14 - 13h)* : https://postimg.cc/gallery/1qygzS1

Day 14 refeed : A few bubbles, no rise.

 * I also checked 2h, 4h and 9h after, it was about the same as the 16h picture.

DayRefresh hourRemaining levain (g)Flour (g)Water (g)(Levain / Total weight) ratioNote on what happened before refresh
1500h (24h of rest)   50%Just stirred. It was a little bubbly, but there was no rise.
1616h (40h of rest)100505050%Absolutely no bubble, no rise. Still that fermentation (?) smell. I decided to give a 50%  inoculation feed.
1716h (24h of rest)    Just stirred. It was a little bubbly, still (*sigh*) no rise.
1818h (50h of rest)100747440%Absolutely no bubble, no rise. I decided again to give a 50% inoculation feed (made a mistake, did a  40% inoculation)

 

DayRefresh hourRemaining levain (g)Flour (g)Water (g)(Levain / Total weight) ratioNote on what happened before refresh
1918h5048252549%Few little bubbles, no rise. 
2018h4092464650%Doubled !!! Lot of bubbles, smell completely changed (a mix of beer and fruits), bubbly and stringy texture.
 1h30 (night)100505050%Same, it may have raised in less than 6h.
2113h0050505033%Same, peak probably reached in 4 hours.
 TBD    Same, peak reached in 4 hours (after the 13h00 feed of day 21)

 

 Thank you for reading this and helping troubleshooting this starter !

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

If I'm reading that chart correctly, it looks like you are feeding ever increasing amounts (in relation to how much starter you use).  But your starter is not mature yet.  I'm pretty sure you are overfeeding and essentially diluting your culture with every feeding.  More importantly, you are also diluting the pH.  It seems reasonably likely you are never reaching a low enough pH for the yeast to activate and take off.

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Thank you for your answer ! That really makes sense, which inoculation ratio would you then advise until it begins raising ? When it rises, should I switch to 10% ratios ?

I'm a bit confused because I was also advised to reduce inoculation ratio to about 10% because at 25%-30% I was underfeeding the levain and it would prevent him from developping...

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

I am not at all experienced at this.  Hopefully some of the more expert people will chime in.  But I'll tell you how things went for me.

My starter got stuck in a very similar situation to yours.  Minimal bubbling.  No significant change for days & days.  I asked for advice about how to get it out of this stuck phase faster, and was told to increase the temp to somewhere around 75F (my room temp is about 70F).  After several days of this and still not significant change, I again asked for help.  I was especially frustrated because I seemed stuck in phase 3 based on Debra Wink's pineapple solution articles.  Yet she said phase 2 is where you usually get stuck.  My starter was pretty acid, based on a very sour taste.  Also altho gluten would form when I fed, it was liquifying by the time it was time to feed again.

This time I was given advice to try going back to room temperature.  Altho warmer temps will speed up the processes, there are potential negatives as well, especially if I was overshooting the temp I was aiming for.  It occurred to me that the thermometer I was using was a cheap one I'd gotten at walmart, and intended to be an oven thermometer, and altho it did give readings at room temp, who knows how accurate they were.  I was also advised to skip feeding for 1 day (making it 48 hrs between feedings instead of 24), and to switch to using straight whole wheat flour instead of the 50/50 ww/ap flour mix I had been feeding.

By this point I had 5 different cultures going.  2 that I considered my main cultures that I was feeding at 1:1:1 and at 2:1:1.  I was pretty sure I didn't want to be feeding even bigger feedings than that until the yeast was (more?) active, but I did experiment with a single 1:2:2 and a 1:4:4 just in case it would make a difference.  And I had tried a 5:4:5 to see if a stiffer mix would show a rise indicating I had more activity than I realized.  That lower hydration one had done almost nothing and had been sitting a day or 2 already to see if it would eventually do anything because I'd also read advice somewhere to just let it sit without any feeding, just giving it the occasional stir, until it shows activity.

At the end of the 48 hours when I checked on my cultures, the 5:4:5 had taken off.  So that one had not ever gotten a 100% ww feeding; the 50/50 mix was good enough.  I divided it into 3 and did 3 slightly different feedings, totally afraid if I didn't get it just right I'd lose the progress.  None of the rest of the cultures had changed, so I fed my 2 main cultures 1:1:1 and 2:1:1 as usual, and just let the 2 big feeding experiments go without anything, because I figured they were over fed anyway.

After another 24 hours, all 3 cultures from the one that had taken off, plus the 2:1:1 culture were all very bubbly.  That confused me a bit because if the long stretch without feeding was what did the trick, indicating my problem was overfeeding, shouldn't the 2:1:1 culture have also taken off during the 48 hr period with no feed?  Instead it took off as soon as it was fed again.  So maybe the change back to lower temps was what did it, but I'm really not sure.  It was my 2 lowest fed cultures that took off, so I do think I can be pretty conclusive about bigger feedings were NOT helping.

From the very first sign of significant bubbles (not counting the first few days of bubbles from the wrong bacteria), all cultures that ever reached that point have thrived.  Well.  Except for the fact that most of them have now been discarded because now that it's working, I'm back to only maintaining 1 culture.

It's only a few days from when I first saw significant bubbling and I'm feeding 1:5:5 2x/day and he's rising & falling beautifully (I haven't really measured but definitely reaching more than 2x) and altho I think it's too soon to consider it stable so far the feeding ratio is working well for him.

So, based on my limited experience and the advice I was given, I would say:

1. Feed less.  Way less.

2. Be sure your temps aren't too high.  Err on the side of a bit lower if you aren't exactly sure what temp your room is; altho that will make it take longer, it is apparently safer.  Using the water at 89F might be a bit too high.  I have no idea how quickly that will come down to room temp and how much harm it might be doing during that time.  It might be insignificant.  But from what I've been told that's too high of a temp to keep your starter at, so I'd avoid having it up that high even a short time just to be safe.

3. You said "I am running out of whole-grain wheat. Can I now refresh with whole wheat or rye."  I'm thinking there's maybe a typo in there?  But the recommendation to me was to use whole wheat or rye flour until the starter takes off.  These will have more of the microbes we are looking for.  Then, once I had good activity, I switched to AP flour as that is apparently generally easier for a beginner to bake with.

Well.  That got longer than I intended but I hope it'll be useful to you.  Good luck!

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Well thanks a lot for providing such a detailed answer. Running several starters in parallel to experiment with various parameters seems a great idea and perheaps key to establishing a levain with success.

I will run another levain at 30% to 50% feeding ratio as you advised, and perheaps move it in another room to make sure it's more on the 70F side.

3. I'm probably mistaking flour names here indeed (French !). I meant that I'm running out of T150 (ash content >1,4%) and will from now on use T130 (1,2% < ash content < 1,4%) rye or wheat flour.

Thanks again and hope to have good news soon ^^

Eliott's picture
Eliott

The first post has been updated. For the last 4 days, I increased the inoculation ratios and even let the starter rest for 40h (1st try) and more than 48h (current try) : Still no rise for the moment.

LMilne's picture
LMilne

Okay, I am new at this too, but the thing that worked for me was to only feed it when it is hungry. That may or may NOT be on a firm time schedule but on the dough's schedule. Right now I'm in a "stuck" state because I think I over-fed it the other day.  ***People who know better than I may have a different more professional opinion!****

There seem to be as many opinions and processes for this as their are people but one tip I saw was to wait until you see the "stripes" or "legs" starting to go down the jar from its peak. That means it has eaten what it can and now it's starting to get hungry and deflating. That's when I feed mine and it worked great.  Until the other day when I fed it at peak and I haven't had a good rise since then.

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Thank you for your answer.

I wish I could see those legs : it would mean the starter is rising, which is not the case at the moment.

The only hint of activity I have is this smell and the few tiny bubbles (that disappear if I ever stir it at 24h and let it rest more time).

LMilne's picture
LMilne

Okay, I am new at this too, but the thing that worked for me was to only feed it when it is hungry. That may or may NOT be on a firm time schedule but on the dough's schedule. Right now I'm in a "stuck" state because I think I over-fed it the other day.  ***People who know better than I may have a different more professional opinion!****

There seem to be as many opinions and processes for this as their are people but one tip I saw was to wait until you see the "stripes" or "legs" starting to go down the jar from its peak. That means it has eaten what it can and now it's starting to get hungry and deflating. That's when I feed mine and it worked great.  Until the other day when I fed it at peak and I haven't had a good rise since then.

Uzbek's picture
Uzbek

Try sticking to 2:1:1 feedings and observe starter (forget the clock for the time being). You are targeting (some) increase and THEN deflation and THEN sour smell. At the peak, it should smell fruity which will quickly turn sour once it deflates, but not earlier. Once this pattern develops, it will start taking less and less time to peak/deflate. This is when you (gradually) reduce inoculation, by one click at a time. I have done a little experiment the other day which I since repeated twice and it worked reliably. https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/63151/very-active-starter-three-feedings-and-5-days

But don't start over, your starter is good and you can work on it starting from 2:1:1 stage. 

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Thanks for your reply.

The sample that rested for 72h is flat : very little activity after 24h (some bubbles but no rise) then nothing... Should I wait longer than 72h before feeding it again ?

The levain that I fed yesterday at 2:1:1 seems to reach its "maximum" activity about now (so 24h after) : a few bubbles but no rise. If I just stir it and let it rest, I suppose there won't be more activity (as the previous tests I did with 48h and 72h rests).

Moreother, the levain that I fed yesterday at 1:4:4 has similar (if not more!) activity... (don't take into account the large bubbles, I think they were here after I stirred yesterday).

So in both experiments, the max activity is at +24h, if I wait longer nothing more happens. I really don't know if I should make more rests or keep feeding once a day. In both cases, not much change is hapenning.

I will feed one of my starters 2:1:1 once every 24h, avoid rests for the moment and just hope it will somehow gain more activity...

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

Both of those pictures look encouraging to my inexperienced eye.  That's more bubbles than I was getting during my several days of almost-dead phase.

Are you seeing any of the cultures develop gluten with each feeding, then having the gluten dissolve and the culture turns more liquidy by the time it's time to feed again?

Eliott's picture
Eliott

It would find it encouraging too if it was not stuck in this phase for 3 weeks ^^

I don't know much about gluten development : the culture is indeed less stiff 24h after its last feed.

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

I wish I knew more to tell you.  Having the starter turn liquidy is supposed to be a good sign.  Debra Wink said it usually takes about a day from when you see the liquidy texture until the yeasts move in.  Mine took considerably longer than a day, so that's not a guarantee it'll follow that timeline, but it's still a good sign that your starter is getting acidic enough.  Mine were turning totally liquidy, so if yours are just more liquidy but still show some evidence of the sticky stringy clumping together texture, you might try feeding a bit less or going a bit longer between feedings until you reach the totally liquidy texture.  Note I'm really not talking about liquidy like water.  Obviously it's going to be thicker than that.  I'm just referring to the absence of the gluten.

The only other thing I could say is maybe lower the temperature even more.  Mine finally took off when I stopped trying to warm them up and started keeping them at room temperature, which is about 70F.  I found this quote from Debra Wink and had a bit of an ah-ha! moment yesterday.  It finally explained why keeping a starter cool is good for getting yeasts to grow but we want to keep dough warm to get the yeasts to do their thing.  It always seemed contradictory to me.  Turns out it's not so much that the yeasts like being warm, as we like what they do when they are too warm for their comfort.  So a totally different temperature is needed to encourage growth of yeast as opposed to encouraging already existing yeasts to make dough rise.

Debra Wink:  "The kind of yeast that you are trying to coax, grows best at a temperature in the low 80's, and does very well in 70's, but its growth rate drops sharply as the temperature climbs to the mid-80's and above.  I have seen people keep yeast from getting a foothold, by exposing their starters to too much heat....  I know that the general thinking is that yeast does best at 85 degrees because it generates the most gas at that temperature, but that's only because it is metabolizing sugar the fastest at this temperature---not growing or multiplying the fastest. The reason it is burning so many calories is because it is stressed by the warmth and has to use more resources to survive. That means less energy for growth and division, which is the goal at this point."

Eliott's picture
Eliott

So 3 days of 2:1:1 feedings apparently were enough for starter to finally rise !! I updated the first post with more details.

Smell has completely changed (beer & fruits), it's full of bubbles, texture is stringy, and it reaches its peak (at least doubles) after 4 hours.

I'll now increase feedings little by little, until it reaches its peak after about 8 hours ? I will also switch from whole rye to wheat flour (T65).

Hope it keeps getting more stable !

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

Yay!  Glad you finally got your yeasts to wake up!  It's amazing how suddenly it totally changes when they do wake up, isn't it?

Eliott's picture
Eliott

I really didn't expect it to be that sudden indeed ! And also, thanks again for your help because I'd probable have given up otherwise :)

Uzbek's picture
Uzbek

I am glad that 2:1:1 advice worked. Knew it would. Once you bring feeds up to 1:5:5 and keep it there, it will first become (little bit) slower but will eventually pick up its peak under 8 hours schedule. In my case, I have experimented with feed frequencies and think that 12 hours feedings are not economic, and starter does just fine with 24 hour feedings. Once it peaks, it sits at the peak (if you dial hydration down to 90%, even better) quite long before completely deflating by 24 hours mark. May rise second time in between! Because it deflates when out of food, once deflates, yeast touches more of unspent sugar and keeps eating. Anyway, prolonging feeding intervals 24 hrs vs 12 does no harm. It is the levain that you better mix at 12 hrs mark. Work out a schedule. If you make your levain in the evening, then feed your starter in the mornings, and vice versa. Will save yourself lots of flour in the long run. 

Eliott's picture
Eliott

It's 3 days since it rose for the first time, and it keeps rising (doubling at first and tripling this morning) after each feeding. It took 2h-4h to reach peak during the first feedings (2:1:1), now it's more 6h-8h with 1:3:3. I aim at 1:5:4 with whole rye being progressively replaced with wheat flour (T65) (but it seems a little part of whole flour must remain).

Indeed : I noticed that if I forget to throw out the discard, it keeps rising each time I stir it (but I've not measured the rise each time, I suppose it's not as much as first rise). Is it usual to stir it every 12h (and feed every 24h instead of 12h) to give it a second rise ? Does it make it stronger (since yeasts are given "more" food, they can keep multiplying ?) ?

 

Uzbek's picture
Uzbek

I don't keep my discard - not worth the hassle - make 50 grams of starter each feed and wash the rest away. 

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Oh sorry I was not clear : I don't keep mine neither. I was just wondering if stirring the starter a few hours before feeding it is useful or would make it stronger (since it allows a second rise) ?

Uzbek's picture
Uzbek

I tend to think once peaked, active starter has enough in it to munch through whatever you through at it with a refeed

Uzbek's picture
Uzbek

I think that white flour is OK to feed the starter - the colony is so strong that the only thing it needs from flour is sugars - and white flour has it all. I would save rye and/or WW for bread. 

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

I can't believe you guys don't keep your discards!  You are missing out on some awesome pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and more!  I have a plastic tub I keep in the fridge and just pile discard in it until I have enough to make up a recipe.

Unbleached white flour should be good enough to feed your starter.  I've seen it recommended that people who are new to sourdough are likely to find it easier to stick with all white flour at first.  Using whole grains just adds more variables when you are trying to figure out what went wrong.  I've read that even bleached flour is good enough to keep your starter alive, but I believe that was in the context of "if you can't find anything else" and not generally recommended.

I don't think there is much concrete science (I certainly can't find the answers) on things like whether a big feeding 1x/day is just as good as a smaller feeding 2x/day.  It will affect the ratio of LAB vs yeast in your starter, and also the flavor in your bread, so it's partly a question of what you are going for.  Stirring in between feedings definitely can cause a second rise, but I've seen some debate as to why that happens.  To me, it doesn't make much sense that there would be big pockets of unconsumed food that the microbes can't reach if you were sure to thoroughly dissolve your starter in water before adding flour when you fed it.  There should be microbes in every bit of flour (unless there was some that didn't even get wet).  So I think it may just be that as the pH drops and CO2 concentration increases, the microbes become less active as their environment changes to something less ideal.  They are essentially living in a swimming pool of their own waste, after all, and that's not good for any organism.  If you stir, you release the CO2 bubbles, and since carbonating water makes it acidic, I would guess releasing the CO2 should make it less acidic.  But either way it for sure reduces the CO2 concentration, and the result is the microbes are now able to be more active again.

However, there is less food available and while the acidity from the CO2 may drop, the acetic and lactic acids don't go away.  So the living environment is less ideal than it was immediately after feeding.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it was not acidic enough then.  Who knows exactly?  I certainly don't.  I bet somewhere there is data on the pH ranges that are most ideal for these microbes, but most ideal for them (when measured in terms of things like reproductive rate) does not necessarily even mean most ideal for our purposes (which usually has more to do with how much C02 they are producing).  So it comes down to trying some experiments and see what works best for you and your starter to get the results you are looking for.  But as a starting place, I'd stick with the most common recommendations, which seems to be feeding 2x/day when keeping the starter at room temperature.  If/when you depart from that, do so with caution.  It sounds like Uzbek has already done some experimentation down this path and is having success with 1x/day feedings, and I know I've seen others say that is what they do as well.

I will say that if you are going to feed only 1x/day, it is probably better to stir at 12 hrs (or maybe even more often) rather than just letting it sit untouched for the full 24 hrs.  Doing so clearly causes an increase in activity, and I think there is pretty much universal agreement that more activity is what we want.

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Post updated with baking pictures ! ^^

Eliott's picture
Eliott
  • Update 12/05/2020 :

Some pictures taken today : starters have been refreshed 14 hours ago with 16% and 11% inoculation ratios. They probably reached their peak about 6 hours after feeding, I will measure this today.  

Eliott's picture
Eliott
  • Update 21/05/2020 - Baking ! :

Finally, some pictures of the second loaf made tuesday with this starter :

Loaf 1/2

Loaf 2/2

It is the overnight country blonde from FWSY. Bulk fermentation lasted about 9h at 22°C. After this bulk fermentation, it seemed that the dough already passed the finger dent test, but since the starter usually fully rises in 10h, I let the dough proof for about 1,5h. I could try a longer bulk fermentation or proofing but not sure because of finger dent test ?

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

Woo!  Looks like a beautiful loaf!  

Did I miss what happened with your first loaf?

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Thank you !


Here are some pictures of the first loaf too, it rose a bit less :

Loaf 1/2

Loaf 2/2

Eliott's picture
Eliott

3rdLoaf

Benito's picture
Benito

Wow Elliot, those are incredible first 3 loaves, very impressive.

Benny

Eliott's picture
Eliott

Thank you Benito !

Last year I tried to make a starter but it never really doubled and I finally gave up... I baked a "loaf" with it, but it was completely flat. But thanks to advices given here and patience, it worked better this time ^^

LittleGirlBlue's picture
LittleGirlBlue

It sure looks like you've got everything figured out this time!  Beautiful loaves.  Pretty consistent, too, which I'd say is equally important as how any one of them looks.