The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Various newby questions

PhilE's picture

Various newby questions


So, with all the recent goings-on I have found myself with time to get back to baking for the first time since my (now 5 year old) son was born.

I'm having a wild time and have no real complaints about my bread but just looking for pointers to improve it. I've been reading this forum and it often appears when I search various things so thanks for such an awesome resource.

I know from reading other posts that people generally want lots of info so I'll try to give that here:


50% hydration. Fed 1:1 every two days (maybe 3 depending when I bake). Probably three weeks old. Always in fridge. Quite lively still.


Bascially taken straight from Crust by Richard Bertinet. By my calculation 82% hydration. (400g starter, 700g flour, 90g spelt flour, 650g water, 20g salt).


I'm experimenting but generally, mix the dough, knead for about 5 minutes, add salt, knead a bit more (it's so wet I've no idea when it is done, as an experiment I once kneaded for 30 minutes to see if it came together to what I am used to on lower hydration recipes, didn't). Rest for 1 hr (room temp 19-21C depending, 45-50% humidity), form a ball, rest again 1 hr. Form loaves (just boules for now) and prove in fridge for some time (currently playing with this.

Baking in "cloche*", 20m then 5-7m open to brown.

*preheated cast iron casserole.


Varying obviously with prove times (and probably other things I don't understand) but nice enough texture etc. I attached a photo of a five-hour proved bread.


So questions:

- What are the general dynamics with timing between feeding and baking? What are you looking for to know your starter is ready to bake? What happens the longer you leave it after feeding?

- Shaping - I can get plenty of spring but I am having trouble controlling it. When I form the loaves I form a ball and push the dough quite firmly into the centre. I then use my hands to stretch the top side and pinch together underneath - this is to try and get a nice round shape. However, the shape of the loaf can be uneven (worse I think on longer prove times which I guess is due to the dough "weakening") and the spring isn't really central so much as spreading - you can see this a bit on the photo. Is there a trick to getting that loaf springing up?

- The wetness - I guess you can say the ends justify but the dough is really glossy and hard to handle after the first kneading. Is that normal? I am resisting the temptation to just throw flour onto it! When do you know it is sufficiently kneaded? Are there any tips to handling or knowing the dough?

Thanks for any assistance!