The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Here is a simple method for processing leftover starter into a versatile ingredient that can favorably increase the complexity of a bread's flavor profile.  It's a "toadie" in dabrownman's parlance. Perhaps a “cheat” in yours. Ok, it's not strictly altus. It had aspirations to become bread but never got the call.  Hence “Alt”. Here’s the...

What for

A few reasons. Uses for Leftover Starter is a recurrent theme at TFL.  Periodically air-drying some as a backup should be #1 on everybody’s list.  Baking it into croccantini is a favorite, especially if you accumulate large quantities of spent fuel (true, that link is not about leftover starter, but her video is a hoot.  You’ll never hear Mary Berry say, “Oh shit I forgot to add the rosemary!”).  Or you can just make another loaf with it (try mine or fernerz).  Here it gets baked, pulverized and christened “ingredient”.  Another nobler destiny for your spent fuel than an ignominious plop into the bin.

Second, I harbor a bit of an obsession with the Maillard reaction, likely owing to the relative dearth of its craveable products in our home’s vegetarian cuisine (me by choice because of my dearest’s inherited intolerance of meat).  Dry-toasted “toadies” and grano arso are short on Maillard products owing to their deficit of a key reagent required to mobilize reducing sugars and amino acids so that they can encounter each other and spontaneously react: water.

Third, I discovered a while back that fearless flavor prospectors Cortney Burns and Nick Balla included pulverized, blackened bread in Bar Tartine’s wacky cache of flavorings.  Fancy that. Right there on the rack alongside turmeric and allspice (as well as powdered dehydrated beet, kale and parsnip).

Fourth, I’ve noticed that when our oven steam apparatus shamelessly drips where it shouldn’t -- onto the loaf baking below -- the resulting bit of wet-burned crust can be surprisingly tasty.

Finally, a fellow loafer recently posted a query about preserving starter by drying it down in the oven – a strategy doomed to be about as gratifying as drying a bathed cat in the microwave.  Maybe he meant “proofer”. Regardless, that suggestion may have catalyzed the coalescence of the above sources into the process and product described below.  I have serially tinkered with the method over for the past several months. It’s very simple and forgiving. All loaves pictured here are 60% fresh-milled wheat with 1-3% Alt Altus-coated oat porridge added.  Without further ado, here’s the ...

How to

 1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  A countertop toaster oven serves well if you have a small amount of leftover starter to process.  Avoid convection as it will render your Alt Altus case-hardened (crisp outside, soft inside) or quickly blackened if you are not properly attentive.

 2. Dilute your leftover starter, if necessary, to turn it into a thick batter (*see footnote).  Don’t add too much water – just enough to make it viscously pourable. Aim for 110% hydration if your starter is less than that.  [Note: Fresh leftover starter is best, so make this soon after serially refreshing your starter for a bake.  For example, bake your Alt Altus while the dough from which the starter was left over is final-proving and the oven is pre-heating.  Ancient starter dredged from deep in the fridge yields a bitter product.]

3.  Position parchment paper on a sheet pan and pour diluted starter onto it in a tight switchback pattern of narrow bands close enough to one another to ooze together into a very shallow irregular puddle.  A baking sheet with an efficient non-stick coating can be used instead of parchment paper. Recommended: Sprinkle fine salt over the surface of the puddle now.  This can make the final product somewhat snackable, especially if you bake it more blonde than bold.  It’s always reassuring to add an ingredient to bread dough that already tastes good enough to eat by itself.  Salt does that here.

4.  Put your preparation into the oven or toaster oven.

5. After 6-8 minutes, when the surface has become dry to the touch and is beginning to tan, flip the paper over with the lightly baked product still attached, now underneath.  Return it to the oven to dry the parchment-product interface sufficiently to free the paper when you next open the oven.

6.  After another 6-8 minutes, remove it from the oven and carefully peel off and discard the paper.  Separation anxiety may necessitate gentle encouragement with a spatula.

7.  Return product to the oven and repeat flipping and rotating it every 5-7 minutes.  Begin to break off product to a countertop plate as edges acquire a shade you’re comfortable with along the blonde > chestnut > black spectrum.  Parts will brown at different rates, so keep a close eye.  Reduce the time interval between tests as the process accelerates to completion.  Reward your patience by toasting some pistachios on the baking tray ;-).

8.  Turn off the oven, open the door and put the plated product back inside until the oven is barely warm.  Convection (with no heat) helps here.

9.  Cool fully on the countertop.

10.  Like dried herbs or coffee, the product is best stored intact and pulverized just before use.  A modernist might store it under vacuum. The rest of us: a ziploc bag. When ready to use, pulverize in a mortar, food processor, coffee/spice grinder, grain mill or ziploc bag+rolling pin. 


The amount of Alt Altus to add in any application depends upon the boldness with which it was baked and, of course, personal taste.  The darker product can be quite potent and is best deployed sparingly for optimum effect. Otherwise its strident notes can overwhelm others with which it should gracefully harmonize.

•  Add granulated product equal to 1-3% of total flour to any bread formula. Our preferred method is to mix it, coarsely ground to drip coffee sized bits, at 3% into cooked, cooled, broken-up porridge that is ready to be added to dough at the second fold. This also conveniently reduces clumping of porridge additions.    

•  Fold it at 1-3% of total flour into pizza or pasta dough (al grano arso) or polenta (to give it an authentic saracena look, if not exactly the flavor).
•  Jump-start a gumbo’s roux with finely powdered product (Warning: May be a capital offense in some Louisiana parishes).
•  Add powdered product to any chili, gravy, sauce espagnole or veggie burger mix.
•  Consult Burns & Balla.


It has not escaped our notice that creatively varying the ingredients in this method could yield some novel flavors. Sourdough starter is just flour (here wheat, spelt and rye) fermented in water by sourdough microbes. One could prepare an Alt Altus batter from scratch (i.e., not from leftover starter) in which the flour was replaced or supplemented with powdered substrates prepared from other cereals, legumes or even dehydrated vegetables.  The liquid in which they are suspended (with or without fermentation) to create the batter could alternatively be apple/raisin yeast water, other populations of fermentative microbes or simply water supplemented with a suitable solute (shoyu, Marsala, Marmite, liquid aminos*). Toasting such batters and pulverizing the products to generate “spices” would subtly expand the flavor space represented by most pantries.

Happy Baking,



* Including liquid aminos (up to 10% v/v of total leftover starter - more than that becomes Weapons Grade) in the dilution liquid makes a somewhat richer Alt Altus. Reduce added salt when including this or other salty supplement.

Elsie_iu's picture

Recently, I read some comments on an old discussion topic here about the length of proofing time required for whole grain sourdough bread. Dabrownman mentioned that it is easy to over-proof whole grain bread because of the high bacterial, yeast and enzymatic activities. I wonder if I was letting my bread to proof for too long sometimes such that the oven spring was minimal at times, so I deliberately cut the proofing period by 20 minutes this time to see what its effect would be.


Simple Seeded Sourdough


Dough flour:

270g     90%      Whole wheat flour

15g       5%      Dark rye flour 

15g       5%      Whole spelt flour


For leaven:

10g       3%      Starter

10g       3%      Bran shifted out from dough flour

10g       3%      Whey


For dough:

290g     97%      Dough flour excluding bran for leaven 

290g     97%      Whey 

34g      10%      Leaven

10g       3%      Vital Wheat Gluten

5g       1.7%      Salt

3g        1%      Dark barley malt powder 



20g       7%      Toasted mixed seeds (10g white sesame seeds,7 g golden linseed and 3 g poppy seeds)


310g     100%     Whole grain

310g     100%     Total hydration


Shift out the coarse bran from the dough flour, reserve 10g for leaven. Mix the rest back into the dough flour or soak them in equal amount of whey taken from dough ingredients for a minimum of 4 hours.

Combine all leaven ingredients and let sit until doubled, about 6-10 hours.

Roughly combine all dough ingredients and let ferment overnight for 10 hours. Fold in the mixed seeds and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Construct 3 sets of stretch and fold over a 1.3 hour proofing period (20+30+30), shape the dough after the last set of stretch and fold and let rise untouched for 30 minutes (part of the 1.3 hour). At the same time, preheat the oven at 250°C/480°F and pre-steam at the last ten minutes.

Score the dough and bake at 250°C/480°F with steam for 15 minutes then at 230°C/446°F without steam for 15 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 205°F. Let cool for at least 3 hours before slicing.

I felt the dough need longer proofing time but I still decided to bake it for experimental purpose. The resulting loaf turns out to be under-proofed indeed but the oven spring was really impressive. That’s enough to convince me that most of my loafs were slightly over-proofed. I would try cutting the proofing time by 10 minutes next time to see if it would produce a loaf with both great oven spring and open crumb.


I’m very pleased with the browning achieved for this bread. I think the dark malt plays a role in it. Although the blisters are not huge like those you find on the crust of white sourdough, there are a lot of them so it’s more than acceptable to me.


This bread actually tastes quite nice despite the slight denseness of the bottom of it. I really like the addition of dark malt, it reminds me of cocoa powder but in a sweeter and more complex way.


Sometimes I forget a simple loaf like this can taste amazing, it’s not a bad idea to bake some rather plain bread from time to time. Happy baking everyone!


leslieruf's picture

The holiday is over.  It was an awesome 3 week trip to our South Island incorporating a 7 day adventure of 4WD in back country, catching up with relations and exploring parts of the country I had never seen before. 

So it is great to eat home made bread again.  Today's bake was a simple loaf of 72% bread flour, 22% rye (freshly milled) and 6% whole wheat (freshly milled) at 77% hydration.  Refreshed starter which had been languishing in the fridge since Mid March, built the levain on Saturday evening, mixed the dough early afternoon Sunday.  I did a hour long autolyse followed by hand incorporating of levain, and salt.  I did 2 sets of 10 slap and folds and 1 stretch and fold.  The dough was left to almost double.  It was nice to handle and far away from the stickiness and problems I had had with Country Style Champlain bakes.  Preshaped just before dinner, then shaped and popped dough in banneton dusted with bran into fridge overnight.  It was baked for 15 minutes at 250 deg C in DO with lid on, and fan on to keep temperature up followed by 15 minutes at 425 deg C.  

It is a great everyday bread that I haven't made for a while. 

Crumb shot, sitting on the sunny bench.

On my travels we visited an organic farm near Christchurch to buy wheat, rye and spelt berries and also some barley flakes.  So in addition to the above bake, I made 2 small loaves comparing the 2 lots of wheat berries that I now have - one from North Island (2)and one from South Island (3).  I used 25% freshly milled wheat and followed the same time lines as above.  Hydration was about 70% so I wasn't pushing it.

There seems to be a bit more volume in bread (2) on left, which was North Island grain. This surprised me as I expected it to be the other way.

Crumb shots

Nothing dramatic, just every day loaves - a good bake.




pul's picture

Fellow Bakers,

I had the opportunity to get some special flour named Ruchmehl, which is used to make a darker bread in Switzerland. It is some sort of half-half wheat flour that provides a darker color to the crumb and nutty flavor. This flour is widely used in Switzerland for their daily bread.

The process was quite standard.


10 g starter

50 g Ruchmhel

50 g water

Matured for about 18 hrs, which produced some sour notes to the bread flavor.


All levain

245 g Ruchmehl

149 g water

4 g salt

Mixed well and kneaded for about 2 minutes on the counter. Applied 1 stretch and fold within the first 30 min into the fermentation. Let ferment for 1 hour and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours, then applied another S&F. Let it in the fridge for another 3 to 4 hours (can't remember well). Removed from the fridge and let rest on the counter for about 3 hours (final fermentation had some bubbles on the sides). Shaped and proofed for 45 min, then baked on a preheated oven / pot for 25 min lid on + 10 min lid off at 230C / 450 F.

I am pleased with the final result, including color, crust and crumb. The loaf presented a great nutty flavor with some tang notes, but nothing too overwhelming. The crumb showed a lot of small holes to my surprise, and that was a first for me.

If you have any experience with this kind of flour, please share here.


the P and the C's picture
the P and the C

One of my favorite books on bread is Lionel Vatinet's A Passion for Bread. Ciabatta is a favorite of mine so it only seemed natural to try my hand at his version. I also wanted to see how well my hands would handle this wet dough.

Overall I was pleased with the results of this bread. It was great when dipped in some oil and balsamic. Although I don't think I'm ready for the big leagues at all but I'm excited to keep learning and trying new things!


trailrunner's picture

Just getting back to baking after extended Spring vacation in Hawaii. 

600g bread flour

150g Red Fife

150g Kamut

100g AYW levain built using one time feed of flour to AYW and left in warm oven a couple hours. Was VERY active

100g Rye levain- did several builds over a few hours to get my 10g of stored starter active again. Left in warm oven all night. Stirred down the next morning and fed again and left for a few hours. 

550 g total liquid - 300g AYW + 250 H2O ( additional water on counter for s&f approx 50-100 g)

50g ground flax misted to moisten before adding to dough

20 g Kosher salt

Mixed everything but salt. Left in sunny window a couple hours. Did a couple stretch and folds added salt on first set then placed in bucket. Repeat this q30 min x 3. Bulk ferment till 75% took a couple hours in warm oven. Shaped and placed in fridge for about 16 hrs. Baked in hot roaster at 475 covered 25 min with 4 small pieces of ice. Removed cover and cont to bake 20 min. Really pretty crust due to Kamut and caramelization of the AYW. Very nice oven spring. Did my usual " no shaping" shaping. Left to crack and make ears as it will. Posting crumb later. 




Bread1965's picture

All Is (not) Lost.. first let me say that I'm referring to this weekend's bake and the movie by a similar name - All is Lost with Robert Redford (100% rotten tomatoes in my book).

Last week I made a Honey Oat Loaf with all purpose, bread and a tiny amount of whole-wheat flour. This week I decided to use Canadian maple syrup as the sap is flowing in these parts and amp'd up the whole wheat flour and hydration as I always find that loaf a bit dry to handle. I also thought I should increase the hydration given the increased whole wheat flour content.

I prepared the overnight soaker using 70g flaked oats and 140g boiling water.  And fed my very active starter at the same time with 100% hydration using AP flour. I also gave the flour an overnight on the counter autolyse using 115g bread flour, 90g whole wheat and 20g AP flour (total flour 225g) with 165g of warm water (hydrated to 73%).

Including the water in the oats, the dough hydration was about 135%. I'm not sure if you calculate the hydration differently when using a soaker (anyone?).  

The next morning I combined the soaker, with 20g of maple syrup, 6g salt, 55g of levain and the hydrated flour.  It was pretty soft and sticky so I thew it into the mixer for five minutes at medium until I got a windowpane. The dough was very silky to handle. Over the next three hours I gave it about four stretch and folds. I then let it sit for about six hours until it doubled. I tried to be gentle but it mostly deflated as I poured it onto my bench. It was very tacky so my attempts at a good pre-shape were useless. I decided to pour it into a Pyrex loaf pan and threw it into the fridge.

This morning I brought it to room temp and in total it might have doubled again. I baked with the loaf pan on a pizza stone and added about a cup of hot water into a pan to steam the oven a bit. I baked at 450 for about 35 minutes or so to an internal temp of about 205 degrees. It was a bit tricky to get out of the Pyrex loaf pan and used knife to pry it out - is there a trick to getting a non-stick result in a glass loaf pan when baking a high hydration bread? I'd rather not use grease or the like on the pan. We had some for lunch today. Here she is:

Indeed, all was not lost. I'm surprised it turned out edible at all. The crumb is very soft and not too moist. The whole wheat flavor dominates and I don't get a strong sense of the oats and can't perceive the maple syrup. I would definitely dial back the hydration next time and I would probably double the maple syrup.

Dsr303's picture

fired up my wood oven yesterday for first time this season. Made my whole dinner in it even desert. Next nice day I’m ready for bread

Danni3ll3's picture


It was time to start clearing out the fridge of ends and bits of stuff, mostly dried fruit, left over from previous bakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get through all the bits but a lot of them found themselves into this bread.


Makes 3 loaves



151 g freshly milled sifted Red Fife flour (170 g Red Fife berries)

152 g freshly milled sifted Kamut flour (170 g Kamut berries)

97 g freshly milled sifted Einkorn flour (115 g Einkorn berries)

552 g unbleached flour

50 g freshly ground flax seeds

650 g water

20 pink Himalayan salt

30 g yogurt

266 g of 80% hydration levain (procedure outlined in recipe)



50 g bulgur

50 g hemp hearts

25 g sesame seeds

125 g of mixed dried fruit (thompson and golden raisins, chopped dates, mixed peel and currants)

30 g honey

200 g boiling water


Two days before:

  1. Mill all berries and sift out the bran. Reserve the bran for the levain and for topping the loaves. 
  2. Place all flours and ground flax seed in a bowl or bucket, cover and reserve.
  3. Take 5 g of your starter and feed it 15 g each of water and reserved bran. Let sit for at least 24 hours, stirring every 8 hours or so. There will be no visible rise or bubbling but you can tell it is active by smelling it.

The night before:

  1. Toast the bulgur, hemp hearts and sesame seeds in a dry frying pan. Add the mixed fruit, the honey and the boiling water. Cover and leave overnight.
  2. Before bed, feed the starter 128 g of water and 160 g bread flour. This will triple by the morning. Stir down and let rise again until you are ready for it. (This makes a bit more than you need.)


  1. Add add-ins to the reserved flax/flours and mix in the water. Make sure that all the flour is hydrated. Let sit for an hour and half to 2 hours.
  2. Mix in the salt, the yogurt and 266 g of the levain. Ensure that everything is well integrated and that you can see some gluten development. Place in a warm spot (~82F).
  3. Do 4 sets of folds each a half hour apart and let rise until 80-90%. The dough should be very aerated and you should see bubbles on the edges where it meets the walls of the container.
  4. Carefully remove the dough from its container (try to not deflate it), and divide into 3 equal portions (~816 g). Loosely shape into a boule and let rest for 20 minutes. Reshape the balls into boules and tighten the skin by spinning each ball like a top on a bare spot of the counter. 
  5. Sprinkle some of the bran into the rice/ap floured bannetons and then place the dough seam side down. Cover and place in a cold fridge (37F) for the night.


  1. Preheat the oven and the pots to 450F for an hour. Place parchment rounds in the bottom of each pot and carefully place the boules seam side up. Cover and bake for 25 minutes at 425F. Uncover and bake for a further 20 minutes at 400F. I bake these at a slightly lower temperature to prevent burning because of the fruit and the honey. Final internal temp should be at least 205F.



SylviaH's picture

Hello Freshloafers!  It's been a while.  I wanted to update a few things.  Mainly me : )   Looks like I could use some practice posting !

Always nice to check in once in a while and see so many of my favorite bakers, baking!

Here's a little helpful hint I came up with for making a fast banneton for your loaves.  Maybe other's have used this idea but I have never seen it.  SIMPLY use the top half of an egg carton...walla, instant banneton.  Just line it with parchment paper.

I baked 3 loaves today.  Using trailrunners suggested use of the roaster pan.  I wanted a fast heat up as these loaves were no particular formula.  I just wanted to use up some extra starter. The roaster pan worked great, other than the loaves burning a little on the bottom.  I sum that up to having to place the large RP in my larger bottom oven that heats from the bottom.   I particularly liked the less heating time before baking.  It's starting to warm up in San Diego. 


I love French Macarons!  This one simply has an eatable wafer I placed upon it.  Lately I've been having fun doing artfully decorated cookies.  A few can take hours of work.  But I find it relaxing and enjoyable.  They are best frozen and given away : )

Life's Good,  Keep on Baking!




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