The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to artisan bread making / sourdough

ryeL's picture

New to artisan bread making / sourdough

Hy all,

firstly I need to say hello to all of you and that I'm completely new to this but also forcefully dragged by intuition that if I want to bake bread I need to do it this way...

I bought a book from Vanessa Kimbell and mostly I can say I like it, but it got me to some confusions.

After I watched several clips on youtube (mostly from Baker Bettie) the pieces fell into the place and now I think I will be ready for my first sourdough bread next weekend (as my starter is now in process of growing / establishing (at day 3).

I started with stone milled rye because the book and other sources say it is easiest to start with.

Still, I got to some dilemma when planning ahead my first attempts.

Book (Vanessa's School) advises to start the sourdough journey with baking classic 73% hydration white boule.

It also recommends opting for "ambient method" for begginers.

Still, "ambient method" suggests using "white levain" and here comes my most recent dilemma and question:

Can I use rye starter (the very first starter that I made from rye flour and water and fed with rye flour and water at 14 degC) to make white levain with simple white flour?

Basically, I would still feed and keep the rest of my starter rye, but when making levain can I use different flours? is that an option and will it lead to success?

Thank you all good ppl :*

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer



Absolutely, you can use any starter with any flour for baking any bread :)

gavinc's picture

Yes,  no problem. I maintain a rye starter 85% hydration and converting to whatever levain needed over two feeds.

I copied what Jeffrey Hamelman does for his own personal starter: 10 g rye starter, 17 g water, 20 g stone ground rye flour. 




ryeL's picture

Thank you both for clarifying this.

I think I got to the point where I have a nice starter culture but now Im confused with several instructions from the book, and finally I don get the "strong and structured" dough - it keeps being sticky and moisty and I dont know where the problem lies... I will write several things I have in mind.

1st - kimbell's book got me really confused, but now I have less and less confusions, but still:

she proposes to make active young rye starter for 7 days,
i have it now for almost 2 weeks, i keep feeding it daily because im "scared" of next step from the book:

she suggests to wake up/refresh starter with 25g of rye starter, 100 g of rye flour and 75 g of water (cold, at 14degC)
and expects to have it half doubled in 3-5 hrs
for me this seems too thick and dense and cold and almost does't rise at all after 5 hours

still, after around 5 hours I proceed to next step and that is preparing levain with 25g of that thick rye starter and 100 g of manitoba white flour (14% of protein) and 90g of water (26 degC)

in the morning, after 8 am i dont see double size (is it possible it is already going down and had its peak before 8am?!)
levain passed float test so I have proceeded to next steps

i autolysed 800g of manitoba (canadian flour) and 200g of wholewheat f. mixed with 700 g of water and waited hour and a half and then added levain and 35g of water and waited another hour and a half and then incorporated salt and 25g of water 

i than waited a bit and did little bit of SLAP and folds

then waited around 45 mins and did kind of lamination

then 45 mins and stretch and fold, and that procedure 2 more times

still i could never get dough be strong enough to make that strech and folds strongly, dough keeps being wet and sticky, almost like a puddle

it doesnt have that texture to make it round 

i dont know where could be the main problem of it

im quite sure its not "too much water" because all of this is still under 80% hydration

i had simmilar problems 2 days ago (my first attempt) when i didnt do SLAP and folds and lamination and used even less water than above (i decided today to use around 35g more water because of manitoba having 14% of proteins)




Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Interesting, I always try to use very warm water to feed the starter, unless I need to slow it down (never). A french baker told me to use 60°C water (with 1:10:10 feeding, with first diluting the starter in the water - so it's not like the water cools down with mixing that much!)! I am a bit scared of that, but I've done >50°C and it really helps the starter get going. But I have a 100% hydration rye starter.

So it's possible your starter actually isn't that active? And fermentation itself helps the dough to become nice to work with.

But let's see what more experienced bakers say.

ryeL's picture

btw i must say bread naturally came out really flat, but the flavors and "holes" inside were almost perfect

i just need to get better gluten structure and outer layer tension, i think, but dont know why stretch and folds dont hold so much... maybe it is actually overfermented, because I get decent rise in bulk size

regarding the temperature of feeding water, i think above 40C is really too much, doesnt it kill the bacteria or yeasts?

for rye and wholewheat starters she suggests 14-18 degC because of encouraging homo fermentative bacteria 

but i will try again the day after tomorrow with my "base" fresh rye starter that I'm sure is well risen


just a dumb question, if i want to experiment with same formula but with half size (instead of 2 boules) to practice with just one, shall i also put half the amount of levain?