The Fresh Loaf

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alfanso's picture

For as long as I've been an attendee at TFL University I continually see postings galore for both the Vermont SD and the Norwich SD.  Which, in an odd way, had me keep my distance from them both.  Until today.  Mr. Hamelman's Vermont SD is the first, foundational entry in his book's entire section of levain based breads, preceding even the venerable Pain au Levain entries.  I'd skipped over it before.  

But I had an urge to get back to building one of his ubiquitous 125% hydration bread flour levains after my romance, still underway, with my bastardized rye version of the same.  So now what to bake, what to bake?  Well, here I am.  As with other breads that I wish to make into baguettes, I did some diligent searching for evidence of this being made before as baguettes.  This time there were a very few instances where someone in the distant past did so (drat!).  I was on board anyway.  Stubby baguettes are my thang, if you haven't yet figured that out.

This is a 90% bread flour, 10% rye flour dough with a 125% hydration bread flour levain.  Clocking in at 65% overall hydration it leans toward the more rubbery side of things during the French Folds.  15% of the flour is in the levain.  Next time out I'll give these loaves another shade of dark before venting them.

375 x 4 baguettes.

and the crumb:

Here is the formula at 1000g, and the way that I do it:

Vermont Sourdough        
Jeffrey Hamelman        
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Prefermented15.00%   
 Total Formula   Levain  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%599.2 100.00%89.9 Final Flour509.3
 Bread Flour90.00%539.2 100.00%89.9 Bread Flour449.4
 Rye10.00%59.9 0.00%0.0 Rye59.9
 Water65.00%389.5 125%112.3 Water277.1
 Salt1.90%11.4    Salt11.4
 Starter3.00%18.0 20%18.0   
 Totals166.90%1000.0 245%220.2  1000.0
     2 stage liquid levain build 
     Stage 1    
     Bread Flour44.9   
     Stage 2    
     Bread Flour44.9   

This dough is very workable at the shaping stage.

  1. 2 stage build of the levain.  It will hardly grow and will only display frothy bubbles to indicate ripeness.  Depending on ambient temp each build can take from 6-12 hours.  I refrigerate mine if I'm not ready to start a mix.
  2. levain, flour & water to "autolyse" for ~30 minutes.
  3. Add salt and incorporate.
  4. I hand mix "everything" so: 150 French Folds, a 5 minute rest, another 150 French Folds.  Dough into oiled container and covered.  Dough will be rubbery during FFs and break apart and then come together several times.  This is normal with a drier hydration on some doughs.
  5. Approx. 2 hour bulk rise.  Letter Folds at ~minutes 50 & 100.  Cover and retard for a total of at least 12 and up to ~18 hours.
  6. At some point after 1-2 hours or more, divide, pre-shape, rest 10 minutes, final shape, onto barely floured couche.  Cover couche with plastic bags.  Back into retard.
  7. Oven set to 480dF an hour before bake time
  8. Sylvia's Steaming Towel into oven 15 minutes prior to bake.
  9. Score and load dough into oven.  2 cups near boiling water onto lava rocks in pan after loading.
  10. Oven down to 460dF.
  11. ~13 minutes with steam.  Then release, rotate loaves and continue baking until ~205dF internally.
  12. Vent loaves with oven door cracked for 2-3 minutes.

Caveats & notes:

  • My kitchen remains at ~78dF at all times, as most are cooler, then a little more bulk rise time is suggested.
  • I don't temp the water, the dough, the finished loaves.  
  • For the bulk rise I don't watch the dough, I watch the clock (gasp!).  I know how dough performs in my environment.
  • I do hand mix using French Folds (pinch and folds in the bowl for initial incorporation).
  • I do use a couche instead of banneton and it rests on a jellyroll pan.  
  • The LFs are on the wetted bench with wet hands - no raw flour is ever employed at this stage.
  • Bake directly from retard. 
  • My lava rock pan permanently resides on the lowest rack in the oven.
  • I bake on a granite slab which sits on the rack just above the steam engines.
  • Parchment paper facilitates the transfer from oven peel to baking deck. 
  • If the levain is from the refrigerator I add it to very warm water.  The levain warms up, the water cools down and a happy medium is reached.

Darth Baker

Danni3ll3's picture

This is the last bake that I am making for sale until I am back to being retired so I am super happy how it turned out in spite of a few hiccups. I am not sure how much bread I will be making for us so it might also be a while for that too. We will see. Might have to stick to one day recipes...

Anyhow, this is the recipe:

1. Soak 30 g each of cranberries, raisins & chopped dates in 100 g Earl Grey tea. Cool and add 30 g of kefir. 

2. I didn't do this but the plan was to toast 25 g each of walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds. 

3. Autolyse all above with 585 g of water and 652 g unbleached flour, 200 g freshly milled red fife, and 100 g light rye. Let sit for about one hour. 

4. Mix in 22 g salt, 266 g 80% hydration levain and 25g water. Make sure everything is well integrated. 

5. Do 3 sets of folds (usually 30 minutes apart) and let rise till double. I had to run out so gave two rushed folds and I left the dough on the counter. Four hours later, it hadn't risen at all. So I gave it another fold and put it in the oven with the light on and the door cracked as usual. That fixed it!

6. Divide into 3 loaves, do a preshape, rest 15 minutes, shape and put into bannetons. Place in fridge overnight to proof. 

7. Preheat oven to 475F with Dutch ovens inside. Place parchment paper rounds in Dutch ovens and place loaces inside. Drop temp to 450F. Bake 25 minutes, remove lids, drop temperature to 425F and bake another 20 minutes. Shut oven off and leave in oven for 5 minutes. I did the last because they seemed to be browning very quickly with convection on. Might not need to do that if you bake without the fan. 

I had a few slices when it cooled of and all I can say is: "Yum!!!"

dixongexpat's picture

It started out innocently enough. There I was, looking at my starter, and I thought, "Hey, I know. I'll just go ahead and reboot the starter into a straight NMNF batch, really dilute the last of the whole wheat out of it, get it up to 95%+ rye. That's what I'll do." And so I did. Pulled 8 grams out, washed out the jar, put the 8 grams back in and added flour and water, set the timer.

Then I took the leftovers and added it to the leftovers in the fridge. It was a lot. And then I thought, "Hey, since I'm on the NMNF plan now, I won't be creating any new leftovers. Maybe I should go ahead and just use all of this up in something!"

And that's how it began.

So I looked at the usual suspects - pancakes, waffles, etc. But I didn't really need 30 pancakes. So I kept looking and ran across an interesting recipe. 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough. This picture really caught my eye...

Doesn't that just look yummy? And what an interesting shape and scoring! OK, I'm in.

So I put the recipe into a spreadsheet and convert everything to grams. As it turns out, it's a pretty hydrated recipe. Over-hydrated until you get to the last step, which is basically "just keep adding flour until it stops sticking." Sounds like a plan. Also sounds very familiar. *ahem*

It called for a cup of starter, approximately 250g. I have 500g. But I wanted to use it all up at once, so I adjusted the recipe in my spreadsheet. And that would have fixed everything just right, but evidently I have a problem following recipes, even my own adjusted recipes in a spreadsheet. And when I got down to the liquids part, I looked at the wrong column and added the full amount of soy milk and water. *doh!* Fortunately I discovered this before I got to the end, so I knew I would need to adjust the flour back to original levels as well. Actually, above the original levels by 125g. So I did all that and mixed it and...........still too wet.

So I added flour 30g at a time, over and over, until finally I had a nice big pile of dough that I could handle. Holy crap, that's a huge blob! After the first rise I punched it down and added some blueberries in as I folded it. It is now doing its final rise in my dutch oven. It's pushing the boundaries of my parchment paper. This should be interesting!

Pics in a bit...

stu currie's picture
stu currie

these are my first attempt at making English muffins and I must admit, I'm really really pleased with them. The recipe is from tartine by chad robertson.

For those of you who don't own that book, the recipe is a baguette dough that you flatten out on a baking sheet and then let rise like that, I used a 3 inch cookie cutter to cut them out, and then fried them in a little clarified butter for a couple of minutes on each side.

Even my daughter likes them...success!!

IceDemeter's picture

Thanks to alfanso and dabrownman and isand66 and I was inspired and encouraged to take another shot at that whole grain durum, and to push a bit with playing with formulae for results that are more and more *mine*...

The durum got put through the mill a second time, then sifted, and then used in the levain and the dough.  I changed to a 100% hydrated levain, created in a 3-stage build, and it went in to the final dough as it was hitting the "return to liquid" stage about 8 hours after peaking.  I can say that the resulting dough felt totally different than the first round.  I had a feeling that it needed a wee bit of assistance in getting to where I wanted it, so I tossed in 5g of white rye malt (which is why this round is only 99.2% durum), and gradually increased the hydration as I was kneading it until it just felt "right" at just over 75%.  It truly was a joy to work this dough, and I could not believe how silky smooth and supple it was throughout the stretch-and-folds and in to bulk ferment.  Of course - it couldn't totally behave itself and freaked me out a bit while bulking:  no rise, no rise, slow slow rise over first few hours - then, within less than 15 minutes - almost doubled!  I'm so glad that I wasn't distracted and had time right then to pre-shape, rest, and final shape before dropping it in to the bag covered banneton and immediately in to the coldest part of the fridge.

It didn't rise at all in the fridge (which didn't surprise me after the slow start on the bulk), so I let it warm up at room temperature for about an hour while I was preheating the oven.  It apparently liked that timing, since was over 30% increased in volume by the time I scored it and got it in to the heat.  I did 25 minutes covered at 450, then 30 minutes uncovered at 425, then pulled it out of the roaster and on to the rack for a final 5 minutes to hit 208 degrees internal:

For my "daily" loaf, I was also trying a new-to-me grain, and milled some Red Fife.  We really like the 60% WG range, and love having some rye in there (along with the rye levain), and I wanted to play a bit with a toasted porridge, so this one ended up being:

100g fresh milled rye (all in the levain) - 13.3%

350g fresh milled red fife - 46.7%

300g all purpose - 40%

50g oat bran + 50g wheat germ, toasted then cooked in 200g water as porridge - 13.3%

60g dry milk powder + 5g white rye malt - 8.7%

12g salt - 1.6%

Water - 585g - 78% (including levain, porridge, and extra added while kneading)

The scent of this dough is truly intoxicating, and I did feel some difference in using the Red Fife instead of my more usual hard red spring wheat.  I skipped my usual red and chocolate rye malt additions, since I didn't want them to overpower the toasty wheat notes this time:



 The crumb came out a bit more dense than I expected, but it is definitely tender and tastes incredible:

I had fun with every part of this week's bake, and the best part was yesterday evening when my husband had the munchies and decided to disregard our usual "no cutting for 24 hours" rule and took the heel off of both loaves.  He then went back and took another couple of pieces of the DURUM loaf to eat with no toppings / not toasted / just "as-is" because he enjoyed the flavour and texture so much.  THAT was pretty darned near miraculous after last week's version was only saved from the trash by being  paired with bruschetta.

We've got a couple of very different, but really appealing loaves to use this week - both of them good enough for nibbling on "as-is":

It really goes to show that the experts here are very wise - and that you get way better results when you "make it *yours*" and bake happy!

dabrownman's picture

The past two Friday bakes were a 30% and 40% whole sprouted 7 grain sourdough breads.   So this wee Lucy upped the sprouted 7 grains to 50%hoping the crumb would still be open by following last weeks method. 

We used 14% pre-fermented flour for the 100% hydration bran and high extraction, sprouted 7 grain, 3 stage levain that still took 12 hours to be ready in our warm kitchen,  We did a 1 hour autolyse with the PH salt sprinkled on top.

We did 3 sets of slap and folds on 30 minute intervals  and 3 stretch and folds on 20 minute intervals before letting the dough bulk ferment in the counter for 6 hours before shaping a and placing it ina squat oval basket for a trash can liner covered final proofinng of 1 3/4 hours.

We baked it in a combo cooker at 500 F f\or 5 minute before turning it down to 450 F fir 11 more minutes.  Then we took the lid off and turned the oven down to 425 F convection this time.    6 minutes later we removed the bread from the CC bottom and let it finish baking on the bottom stone for another  minutes until it read 210 F on the inside.

We sort if squished and mangled this one coming out of the basket when It stuck but it did spring bloom and brown up nicely in the steam and heat,  I would expect the crumb to have suffered from the sticking but you never know – we will have to wait and see what it looks like later.

This bread came out open, soft, glossy and mpist,  But it best attribute it that it s just plain delicious,  Couldn't wait to get some home grown tomatoes, basil, Parm, cracked black pepper,EVOO and balsamic on it for lunch.  Yummy Yummy Yummy!  This is so much better than the 30 and 40% versions but we love our whole sprouted grains.


Levain14% pre-fermented flour 100% hydration, 3 stage bran and HE sprouted 7 grain, 12 hour levain


36% HE sprouted 7 grain

50% Albertson’s bread flour

2% Pink Himalayan sea salt

Enough water to bring the hydration up to 80%.  This bread cost less than a dollar to make including the electricity.

Lucy reminds us to never forget the salad

teketeke's picture

Hello everyone.  It has been a long time to post here again.   :)


I call this loaf " lactic sourdough bread " because this loaf has full of lactic acid. lactic food.PNG

I treat my sourdough starter as levain. You can read how I made my sourdough starter from scratch just using flour and water here.

Ingredients:   To make two loaves.

Levain   315g  ( My dough hydration is about  68-70% )

Final dough

KA AP   810g    * King Arthur All purpose flour

Freshly ground Rye berry seeds  50g

Vital gluten  8g

Water ( Spring water is the best)  526g +

Instant yeast  1-2 g  * No need to add the yeast in the summer.

Salt  19g

  1. Mixing  Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the salt.
  2. Mix until incorporated, then leave it for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and knead until the dough have a moderate gluten development.
  4. Bulk fermentation: 3-6hours until the dough rises triples.
  5. In 45 minutes,  Folding: Stretch and fold the dough on the surface once after 45 minutes of bulk fermentation.
  6.  Dividing and shaping:  Divide the dough in the half and shape.
  7. Final fermentation: Approximately 1 -2 hours at 76F.
  8. Baking : preheated at 280F,  increased the temperature to 430F as soon as you place the dough in the oven, put the metal wire underneath the bread like the picture below, continue to bake for 10 minutes at 430F. Decrease the temperature to 400F, bake another  5-10 minutes until golden browned.  *  I do this process because I have two reasons:  1. I have had a weak oven that I can't use over 430F, otherwise, the ignition will burn up again.  2. To have softer and thinner crust.  So everybody can eat whole crust, especially for a person who doesn't have strong teeth. 




Happy baking!

Skibum's picture

Well friends I haven't baked much leavened bread for the last 3 months sustaining myself on southern style corn bread and buttermilk biscuits. Well I got a taste for some soft, pull apart dinner rolls and they turned out great!

I used a recipe from P. Reinhart's ABED and adapted it to my sweet levain:

68g liquid levain

236g milk scalded and cooled to below 90F

363g strong bread flower

1/2T kosher salt

39g honey, I slopped a little more

43g melted butter, again, I slopped a little more

1/2 large egg, or 25g egg

I developed the dough normally let it bulk rise overnight in the fridge. In the morning, I let the dough warm up on the counter for a couple of hours, then divided, proofed in a pan and baked @ 400F for 8 minutes with steam and finishing with another 8 minutes, no steam.

Here are the proofed rolls:

Fresh out of the oven:

Good rise and GREAT oven spring thanks to a well fed starter. The honey, butter, egg and milk really make for a nice, soft shred able dough with a subtly sweet flavour.

Part of the reason I haven't been baking is that I am selling my home in Canmore, AB and moving to Golden, BC. It is a perfect move for me, but the stress of moving is enormous. I have actually lost 10 pounds. Today, I found house, I think I will buy and my present place is pre-sold. Cheers folks, I am celebrating tonight!

Happy baking! Ski

dixongexpat's picture

Just decided I would use this space to help document my various starter and bread experiments.

Starter: Have gone from spelt (not sure why I tried that) to whole wheat, now shifting to rye. As soon as the size of the existing batch is down a bit I will shift to the NMNF method to keep it going.

Bread: Slight shift here from must-be-done-all-right-now to spreading things out a bit. Basically, I am starting to plan ahead better. Start levain, then mix and rise overnight, fold, shape and proof and bake in the morning. 

Recipes: Whole wheat and plain sourdough is fine, but need to add more seeds and other ingredients.

Now to decide on this weekend's bread!

alfanso's picture

I've posted these before, the Hamelman sesame semolina batards alfanso-style - meaning subbing out the very liquidy bread flour levain for my very liquidy rye flour levain.  Delivering 15% rye flour (all through the levain) to boost the flavor in this bread.  The composition of flours is; semola rimacinata 60%, bread flour 25%, and rye flour 15% @67% overall hydration.

I believe that I have the consistency part down pretty well.  So instead, let's talk about steam, shall we alfanso?  Okie Doakie, let's roll...  Recently there has been some interaction on the part of a few participants including myself and Doc.Dough, with a series of private messages between myself and the good doctor. Including this top notch video and blog entry courtesy of Doc.Dough - lots of steaming discussion included in the comments.  

As with others on TFL, I employ a double dose of steaming components which have me insert one loaf pan with a Sylvia's Steaming Towel into the lower rack of the oven ~15 minutes prior to the bake.  Once the dough is loaded I add 2 cups of near boiling water to a lava rock filled casserole pan.  This creates dabrownman's so named mega-steam effect.  Historically I've been leaving the steaming going for somewhere in the neighborhood of 11-13 minutes.  And I'm sufficiently happy with the outcome.

Now along comes Doc.Dough with his micrometers, calipers and what-not trying to upset my baking pushcart.  Purveying the notion with engineered knowledge that the effect of steam is negated after somewhere around the 5 minute mark.  Anything beyond that is equivalent to window dressing.  

What is an alfanso to make of all this fact based information, when all along I've been getting the job done by nothing more than "educated" guesswork, experimentation and personal experience?  Well, if I were me, I'd be curious enough to see where the oven spring has taken my dough at that 5 minute mark.  Because as with all of us, I hope to get better and more understanding of baking over the long haul.

For these past few bakes, instead of setting my timer to the trusty 11-13 minute mark I've been setting it to the 5 minute mark so that I can peer through the oven door window and take a gander at what's what.  And ya know something?  For the most part I'm becoming a believer!  The baguettes do open up (almost) all the way at that mark.  However, I find that the batards still have not maxed out yet, and they take a few minutes more.

And so I've turned a corner here and pretty much gotten on board.  I still like keeping the steam going for close to my requisite time, but I can now see the doc's point of view.  I don't see any downside to leaving the steam going, although my experimentation has been limited to maybe 3 or 4 bakes.  So I'l continue to slog on and see how this goes with some other types of dough.  Always something new to be learned in this doughy business.  Thanks, Doc.

And now a very few words on the consistency thing:

Nov., 2016:

 and this morning:


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