The Fresh Loaf

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man_who_eats_bread's picture

I've officially retired Louis I (i.e. unceremoniously dumped him into the trash). He was smelling like a prison distillery by the end. Fortunately, one of his offspring (Louis IV) has taken over as my go-to wheat starter.

Since getting home from the holidays I've been busily baking bagels, brioche, and boules. Also pizza. 

Most recently out of the oven was the Pain Au Levain with mixed sourdough starters from Bread by Jeffry Hamelman. This one took a stiff rye starter and a wet wheat starter, for an overall mix of 84% bread flour, 8% whole wheat, and 8% rye, at 68% hydration (1.8% salt). 

Before that (by a couple hours) was the Serious Eats pan pizza.

Thursday was bagels following the recipe in Bread Baker's Apprentice with some vital wheat gluten added. Very good!

Last weekend was a Pain de Campagne from FWSY, and the Overnight Brown from FWSY.

And I started the new year with a batch of brioche (recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice) that was turned into cinnamon buns and doughnuts.

Overall the last couple weeks could be summarized as "getting comfortable with commercial yeast and ultimately returning to sourdough." 

fernerz's picture

I hate wasting food. I love making bread. I use mainly sourdough starter to do this, but I hate tossing out the "spent" starter. How can it be "spent" since it contains enough critters to get the next batch going?

So, instead of doing this when feeding my two starters (one whole rye + white and the other white + whole rye - both in 100 g + 25 g + 100 g water proportions), I mixed up a half recipe of FWSY pain de compagne using the spent starter from the two and a combo of white and whole rye flours (I'm a terrible record keeper and tend not to make notes so I don't know the precise proportions), followed Forkish's recipe, and then baked on a baking stone.

It came out just fine! I like a very sour bread, and this one has, in my opinion, a great taste. The crumb is ok, too, I think. 

I'm wondering if this would work in a loaf without any commercial yeast, as is called for in the FWSY recipe. I'll have to try. I'd love to hear about anybody else's experiments with "spent" starter. 

Danni3ll3's picture

Cranberry Feta Sourdough


Continuing my quest for a more open crumb and taking a page out of Dabrownman’s method, I sifted out the bran to use for the levain builds and changed my process a bit. Early in the week, I took 5 grams of my NFNM starter and placed it on the counter. To the 5 grams of starter, I fed it 15 g of water and 15 g of flour. This was a combo of white to wholewheat flour. The starter is quite a bit more active using all wholewheat rather than white or a combo of white and wholewheat. After peak which varied according to the type of flour it was fed, I discarded everything but 5 g and continued to feed it the above amounts. 


As to the combo of cranberry and feta, the idea came to me as I was eating a salad with those ingredients in it. I was going to just have the cranberries and the feta initially, but I felt that something was missing. So I thought that either Rosemary or sunflower seeds would go well with the cranberries and feta but I didn’t have any fresh rosemary so the sunflower seeds won out. However, I did find some dried rosemary in the spice drawer so I put a teaspoon in one batch to see how it turns out.





150 g dried cranberries

100 g crumbed feta

50 g toasted sunflower seeds

1 tsp dried rosemary (optional)



110 g freshly milled spelt

110 g freshly milled red fife wheat

110 g freshly milled einkorn

660 g unbleached flour

110 g multigrain

50 g freshly ground flax seed

700 g water 

30 g kefir

21 g salt

240 g 80% hydration levain


  1. Thursday night, milled the spelt, red fife and einkorn, and sifted out the bran. This gave me 26 g of bran. Since I needed a total of 142 g to feed my starter, I took out 116 g of the spelt, red fife and einkorn flour that was just milled and sifted, and reserved that as well as the 26 g of bran for feeding the starter. The rest of the high extraction flour was placed into the dough bucket. If you don’t wish to do this nonsense🙄, just reserve 142 g of the combined spelt, red fife and einkorn flour mix to feed to your levain. 
  2. In order to build my levain to be ready for Saturday morning, I did the following: 
    1. Thursday night, took 3 g of the starter and fed it 8 g of water and 9 g of bran. This makes for a very thick mixture.
    2. Friday morning, kept all of the starter and fed it 15 g of water and all of the remaining bran plus some of the reserved flour to equal to 19 grams. Once again, the mixture is very thick.  It was placed in the oven with the light on and the door cracked. This creates a warm spot that is about 82 F. 
    3. Friday mid afternoon, kept all the starter and fed it 31 g of water and 38 g of reserved flour. It doubled in 2 hours!! I let it rise until it was no longer domed (5 hours). 
    4. Friday night, once again, kept all of the starter and fed it 61 g of water and 76 g of reserved flour. I let it rise till doubled (2hours) and put into the fridge overnight. 
    5. Saturday morning, the Levain was taken out of the fridge to warm up on the counter. After a couple of hours, it was stirred down and left to rise again. 
  3. Saturday morning, to the mixed grain flours in the dough bucket, added 660 g unbleached flour, 110 g multigrain flour (Robin Hood Best for Bread multigrain), 50 g of ground flax seed, 150 g cranberries, 100 g crumbled feta and 50 g toasted sunflower seeds.  Added 700 g water to the dough flour and mix until no dry spots are left. Autolysed for 4 hours.
  4. Added 40 g kefir, 20 g salt, 30 g water, and 240 of levain  and integrated well. Used 75 stretches and folds until I felt that the dough was well developed. Put the dough in the oven with the light on as the dough felt quite cold. 
  5. Fermented by doing 3 sets of (5 or 6 going all around the dough) stretches and folds 30 to 45 minutes apart at the beginning and then another couple of gentle sets at least an hour apart near the end. The dough was quite cold at the beginning of fermentation so it just sat there for the first 3-4 hours. It started rising during the 5th hour. The dough rose 30 to 50%, bubbles were present around the edges, and the translucent sides showed lots of irregular air spaces when it was ready. This took a total of 5 and a half hours! Note to myself: Put the dough to autolyse in a warm spot!
  6. Divided into three equal portions, shaped gently into boules and let rest for 15 - 20 minutes. I tried to shape in such a way that I got a taut skin but did not degas the boules completely. Placed the dough seam side down into floured bannetons and cover. Put into the fridge to proof overnight (~14 hours). I reduced the preferment flour in this recipe to 12% to try and extend the time in the fridge without risking over proofing. 
  7. The next morning, 14 hours later, the loaves had risen about 50% is my guess. Preheated the oven and the dutch ovens to 475 F for at least 45 minutes. Placed parchment rounds in the bottom of the pots once well heated and carefully placed the dough on top with the seam side up. If you wish to score your loaves, proof seam side up and bake seam side up. I prefer the other way since I don’t have to deal with trying to score inside a screaming hot pot. I have scored on the counter and then put the loaves in the pot and it works some of the time, but since I prefer the look of the natural tearing, I go with that. 
  8. Placed the cover back on the dutch oven and baked at 450 F for 25 minutes and then uncovered for an additional 22 minutes at 425 F. Baked till nice and dark and internal temperature was at least 205 F. 



I am very happy with the look of these loaves. I got very good oven spring and they smell wonderful! Crumb shot coming soon!


ETA: Here is a shot of the second load. The 3 on the left have the rosemary in them.


alfanso's picture

The first time I tried Maurizio's 50-50 I added figs and pecans and had an unusual experience with: shaping as baguettes / retarding / unretarding / reshaping the three as one batard / and finally retarding again.  All documented here.  

But one must (kinda) soldier on.  This time I made only baguettes.  Without the interruptive figs and pecans.  And also a second difference.  I cut the hydration down from ~87% to 82% - super high hydration and baguettes seem to have an anti-affinity for one another, so I chopped 5% off the top.  

My limited experience with baguettes at so high a percentage of WW (50% as the title implies), close to nil, seems to also create some problems with density and loft.  Perhaps typical, or perhaps my inexperience with this blend of flours.  But shape and bake I did.


And finally, slathered up with butter for my morning toast.

That was yesterday.  Today I was meeting our old building manager for lunch.  He was a regular recipient of my oven goods, and so I also baked up a batch of Vermont SD this morning and included 1 and 1 in the goody bag.  

As usual, the oven spring on the Vermont's is pretty explosive, quite a feat for a 65% hydration bread.  And for those who think that one needs high hydration for good oven spring, I'm here to testify that it just ain't so. 

All three came out shaped a little club-like.  Can't exactly explain it.

Side by side, there are some differences I wish to point out about the two, other than the overabundance of WW in Maurizio's.  

50-50 WW:

  • 50% WW and 50% Bread flour.
  • 100% hydration levain of equal parts BF and WW.
  • 6.5% total flour in preferment.
  • 82% overall hydration.
  • minimum of 2 hour autolyse with just water and flour
  • 5 Letter Folds every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours.  Additional ~45 min. bench rest before retard.
  • Dough remains very slack throughout shaping, but did start to tighten up on 3rd Letter Fold.
  • A lot of flour on couche.

 Vermont SD:

  • ~90% AP and ~10% WW/Rye blend.
  • 125% hydration levain of predominantly Rye then equal parts AP & WW (this was built from excess Maurizio 100% levain)
  • 15% total flour in preferment.
  • 65% overall hydration.
  • 30 min. "autolyse" with flour, water and levain.
  • 2 letter folds at 50 and 100 min. Additional 20 minute bench rest before retard. 
  • Dough remains extensible but firm through shaping, having tightened up at first Letter Fold.
  • Just about no flour on couche.

And as you can see, there is no comparison as to oven spring between the two, with each starting off at ~400g apiece, and the WW shedding considerably more weight in water during the bake.  

dabrownman's picture

She was back for yesterday’s bake and all seemed well enough until the dough went completely missing at the 1 ½ hour mark into the final counter proof.  It is a short story so I will tell it and it is all Lucy’s fault if you ask me. I’m looking at her right now and she looks very guilty to me.

Everything was humming along nicely.  This bread was similar to the 2 give away breads I had made earlier in the week for my daughter’s friends.  We upped the whole grains from 7 to 8 and from 20% to 25% and upped the overall hydration from 75% to 78%.  The new grain was emmer thanks to Whole Foods

See It looks pretty good proofed the 2nd time

All the bran was in the 2 stage, 12% pre-fermented flour levian at 100% hydration.  It was cold with the kitchen at 60 F when I got up to notice the overnight counter levain had not done a thing and looked the same as when I went to bed.  So out came the heating pad, a quick stir and it quickly doubled in 3 hours after doing nothing for 12.  Amazing how getting the temperature up to 80 F makes you speed up if you are a wee beastie with nothing else to do.

Well, it will be 77 F today but the wee beasties won’t know it since they are back in the fridge where they belong.  We did an hour autolyse with the PHSS sprinkled on top the dough and the dough flour being 100% bread flour from Albertson’s shelves and Winco’s bins – so no Lafama AP in the mix this time.

We did 50 slap and folds to get everything incorporated once the levain hit the mix and then did 4 sets of stretch and folds all on 40 minute intervals with the rest periods on the heating pad under a SS mixing bowl on an ultra thin, plastic cutting sheet.

Instant Pot Beef Stew Meat Chili was totally un-effected by the bread gone missing .

We shaped it and put it in the rice floured, oval basket for final proofing and then put the basket in a plastic shopping bag from the grocery store and set my iPhone for a 1.5 hour timer for me to check the dough and get the oven fired up for baking – just like always.  When the timer went off I went into the kitchen to check the dough – and it was gone.

It wasn’t on the heating pad.  It wasn’t even on any counter at all.  Bag, basket and dough all gone ….vanished like it was a paranormal, scientific oddity.   I immediately looked to Lucy, suspecting foul play from the usual suspect, and she immediately took off to parts hidden from humans before I could even ask ….what’s up apprentice?  She may be old but there was no way a fat, old man, with a limp, was going to catch her any time soon.

Not knowing what to do exactly, I started putting the baking stuff away and when I went to put the bread flour away in Lucy’s pantry under the counter, low and behold there was the Winco plastic bag with basket inside – yea!  But the dough was not exactly in the basket anymore.  The basket was on its side and the dough was half out of it and stuck to the plastic bag.

Well doggies, another fine mess that Lucy wasn’t going to fix any time soon.   So, I sort of pulled it off the bag and kinda did a quick re-preshape on it and pushed it off to Lucy for the final re-shaping .   Back  into the basket and the bag it went for another final proof on the counter on the heating pad this time  - even though the kitchen temperature was almost 70 F by now - we were in a hurry this time.

When I dumped it out of the basket for scoring it looked pretty good and I was fairly proud of Lucy for saving the day and into the oven with Mega Steam it went for 16 minutes of steam at 450 F.  When I went to pull out the steam and turn the oven down to 425 F convection for 16 minutes if dry baking.  I noticed that there was no bloom and on one side and end, at the bottom where it met the stone, the dough was blown out.

Next time this happens, I will be more careful in watching to make sure the baking apprentice 2nd class re-shapes the loaf properly.  When I finally cut into the loaf this morning, there were some awfully big holes at the top of the loaf too …..little dog houses for the apprentice to sleep in …..also from not shaping the loaf correctly.  Thankfully, the bread tastes terrific, hardly tastes like plastic bag at all and will make fine sandwiches, toast and croutons.


Can’t wait till next week’s bake when the oven might disappear into thin air or maybe the whole kitchen might go missing… stay tuned!

trailrunner's picture

My grandmother's iron skillets make the best pizza. They are from the 1800's. They are 12" across. We have family getting in later tonight so I made these up so they will have something yum when they get here. Crust is somewhat of a guess and by golly as my Mom used to say. I had a couple levains left in containers and decided to clear them out. They were full of durum and one ww. I added them , about 1/2 c to a regular yeast dough formula. Didn't knead at all just left it on the counter for a few hours while I went to play with my 6 yr old grandson. When I came back I used olive oil and stretched and folded in the bowl a bit. Left it alone while my husband finished baking Biscotti Regina. There is 15 oz dough in each skillet. Let it rise in the well oiled skillets while I cooked onions and peppers and mushrooms. Preheated the oven to 425. Put slices of provolone on the bottom added the saute veg then fresh mozz and crumbled feta  and placed them in the oven for 20 min. Turned it up to 450 and topped each pizza with scant drizzles of spiced up tomato sauce and parmesan. Let it finish for about 10 min. Perfect !! The best pizza to date. The crust is so light and full of flavor and the bottom is nice and crunch from the hot oil and skillet. Of course can't be duplicated as I have no idea what the starters were statistically...but that is all the fun...adventure in the kitchen on a rainy night in Virginia.

sorry pics are mixed up somewhat...still trying to get the hang of the new way of uploading. Suffice to say it is all delicious.  

dabrownman's picture

Here it is the middle of the week and Lucy is nowhere to be found claiming she semi-retired and only works for the Friday bakes not Tuesday bakes.  I told her I was totally retired and would help her in a pinch and she wanted to know when was the last time I baked her any dog biscuits.


Well, I was left to my own devices for this bake that was requested by my daughter for a couple of friends at the hospital.  Nothing fancy and more on the white side of things since we don’t know what these girls would like when it comes to sourdough bread.

To keep it on the less sour side we didn’t retard the dough or the levain but the 100% hydration bran levain was 11% pre-fermented flour that included all the bran from the 7 whole grains for the first stage and then high extraction 7 grain for the 2nd stage.

We used 15 g of NMNF starter that has been retarded since near the dawn of time though.  We let the levain sit on the counter for 18 hours since it was so very cold in AZ at 68 F.  I eventually got out the heating pad to speed it along and get it to double.

The Minneolas and Navels are finally ripe enough to eat.

We did a 1 hour autolyse for the dough flours and then added the salt and levain, bringing the overall hydration to 75%, before doing 60 slap and folds for the first set and then did 3 sets of 4 stretch and folds all on 45 minute intervals.  We then let the dough rest for an hour.

Killer Instant Pot Squash Soup with butternut, Italian sausage, fresh corn and wild rice with tons of home make stock and sourdough croutons.  My daughter's favorite.

!We then divided the dough in half and did a quick pre-shape.  10 minutes later we did the final shape and placed the dough in rice floured the baskets and then onto plastic shopping bags for the final proof of 2 hours

Instant Pot really killer chili verde, roasted poblano and Hatch chilies with home made stock, chicken thighs  and 3 cheese enchiladas. My favorite and the IP makes it way better than ever!  Making Sunday gravy next in the IP and I bet it will be killer too!

The dough was slashed and slid onto the bottom stone with a parchment covered peel and we tossed 2 C of water onto the 500 F lava stones to make Mega Steam before closing the oven door and turning the oven down to 450 F.  After 16 minutes of steam it was removed and the oven reset for 425 F convection dry heat.

After another 20 minutes, the bread registered 208 F on the inside and it was taken out of the oven to cool on a raised rack. The bread had bloomed and sprang very nicely and it browned up well but not too dark since we didn’t know if a bold bake would be wanted.  The bread really smelled nice as it cooled and crackled.

 My daughter sent the girls some photos and they seemed ecstatically appreciative which put a smile on my face.  Hopefully they will like how it tastes just as much.

dabrownman's picture

I totally freaked out with the new way to upload pictures on the site!  Now it is easy as pie and I could figure it out all by myself with no help from Lucy.  Way to go Floyd!  This is the best improvement in the last 6 years by far!

leslieruf's picture

I have attempted to repeat my first bake for 2018 and do it better.  

Starter refresh Friday morning

mixed 10 g starter 20 g water 30 g flour and left on bench. Room temp was 23°c

8 pm took 7 g from this added 28 g water & 28 g flour mixed and left on bench overnight.

Saturday 9:30 am mixed up levain for

bake #1 1:2:3 with 20% freshly milled rye 10% freshly milled spelt

27 g starter 118 g water and 118 g flour. leave to mature 

 bake #2 1:2:3 with 20% new season yeast water (raspberry)

levain: 9 g starter 41 g water 41 g flour mixed and left to mature

Poolish: 65 g yeast water 65 g flour  mixed and left to mature. this was a pretty pink!

Final doughs

Bake #1 1:2:3 with yeast water

2 pm autolyse - 208 g flour and 116 g flour. This was a low hydration dough

2:50 pm add yeast water poolish and levain. Dimple in and incorporate into dough with lots of folds.leave 20 minutes.

3:20 pm 50 turns - very challenging as not very extensible

4 pm 50 turns and still a challenge

4:30 pm 50 turns incorporating 6.3 g salt

5:30 preshape leave to rest.

5:50 pm final shape into batard, retard overnight in banneton

Bake #2  Final dough 1:2:3 with spelt and rye

5:45 pm mix flours (518 g bread flour, 91 g spelt, 182 g rye), add 527 g water and autolyse. Went out for dinner so this was a little longer than planned

7:30 pm add levain and 18 g salt. I incorporated this with lots of stretch and folds. rested 30 minutes and did 30 s&f, repeated another 2 times.  rested 15 minutes, divided dough into 2 and preshaped (now 9:30 pm) rested another 30 minutes.

10 pm final shaping into 2 batards, into bannetons and into fridge for overnight retard.

Sunday morning

Oven set to preheat to 250°c by 7 am.  

Bake #2 is first up as I was trying to stick to dabrownmans suggested schedule. The 1:2:3 spelt and rye loaves were unmoulded, slashed and baked in DO s 15minutes lid on 15 minutes lid off with temperature dropped to 230 after 10 minutes. Happier this time as better oven spring

Bake #1 - oven and one DO reheated, yeast water loaf unmoulded, slashed and baked 15 minutes lid on 15 minutes lid off. lovely surprise when i took lid off half way through bake. Love the blisters, never had such big obvious blisters before.  Crust is thin and crisp!   Interesting colour to this loaf, it is a white loaf but dough was pink. after baking it is a light brown with a very slight tinge of pink, nice flavour.  The yeast water is only about 10 days old so was really just checking what impact it had on a simple white loaf.  


I found the stretch and folds for the YW loaf quite difficult and worried about getting a dense crumb.  Still not confident with less than 50% increase during bulk ferment but it seems ok.  I did less stretch and folds with spelt and rye because of this.  I am a a bit undecided on my approach - gentle gentle as per Trevor or lots of stretch and folds which ate difficult because dough is pretty firm.  would it be better to increase hydration a little?

Still lots to think about.  try different flours, add gluten flour to make flour stronger? 10 stretch and folds vs 100? 

2018 offers many challenges


Sour_Baker's picture

I've been meaning to buy a proofing box, but I figured it was too little for how much it cost. I needed a proofing box that would be able to have a normal size sheet pan fit in it so I would have enough room for proofing breads and, when needed, I can make my yogurt as well.


I've seen the older proofing box posts and they look great. I guess I'm still nervous about making one. One of the big things I'm wondering is about material for the box itself. Is there a preference between glass/plastic/wood? I wonder if condensation would be a problem. If it makes any difference, I would be in MN and that gets super cold in the winter, when I make my breads the most.


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