The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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cranbo's picture

A recent TFL forum post inspired me to think about ways to keep your starter warm. 

Maintaining a warm temperature is extremely important to establishing a new starter. If you maintain your initial starter temperature at 82-86F, this will lead to the production of more lactobacillus than yeast, meaning a more sour/acid environment, which is important to establishing a healthy yeast and bacteria colony in your starter, especially at the beginning. 

Once established, maintain your starter between 72-80F; this will help improve the speed of yeast growth. Want more lactobacillus, or more yeast activity? Take a look at this handy chart of yeast and lactobacillus growth, and choose the starter temperature that will work best for what you're trying to achieve. 

I live in a part of Southern California where the weather is 75F on average about 300 days out of the year, so home warmth is generally not a problem. But what if you live where it's cold in the winter? Here are 7 ideas for how to keep your starter warm when it's cold

Sunny spot by a window. Easy and cheap, with one caveat: place your starter in a shoebox or other opaque or dark-colored box. Yeast and direct sunlight don't mix well. Of course dark colors will also help keep the box nice and warm in the sun too. 

Use a water bath. Use a hotplate, slow cooker or aquarium tank heater to maintain a water bath at the right temperature, and submerge your starter container (or ziploc bag) in the warm water bath.  

Cardboard or plastic box with a lamp. Run a low-wattage incandescent lamp/light bulb into a sealed box, turn the lamp on, and position your starter somewhat away from the lamp. A cardboard box or ubiquitous 20gallon plastic bin could be useful for this. 

Use your oven light. Simple as that: keep your starter in your oven with only the oven light turned on. It's easy to adjust the temperature by how close you place your starter container to the light. 

Next to your home heating system. Put it next to your home heating vent, wood stove, home furnace, fireplace, etc. 

Old miner style/next to your body: put your starter in a small double-bagged ziploc bag, and keep it close to your body, in a shirt or jacket pocket. Just like the "old sourdoughs" used to do when prospecting. This option is the most affectionate method, and results in the most bonding with your starter ;) 

Brod & Taylor Proofer. A lovely and functional option, if somewhat expensive. The Lexus of home proofing and warming options. 

Any other ideas I missed? I'd love to hear 'em. 



Cari amici, vi lascio ONU dolce assaggio dell'autunno della Toscana .....

A presto, Anna


PMcCool's picture

A couple of weekends ago, I was doing some test bakes to finalize recipes for a class that I will teach in December.

First up, Julekake, glossy with egg wash:

And the Julekake crumb:

And it tastes even better than it looks, what with the fruit and cardamom flavors.

And some Sweet Vanilla Challah, which I've posted about previously.  While not specifically a holiday bread, its turban shape and vanilla flavor make it a natural for any festive meal:



dmsnyder's picture

Modena Mountain Bread

Pane Montanaro


The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food


Lynn Rossetto Kasper


The Splendid Table is a wonderful book for anyone who loves to prepare and eat Italian food, as I do. Others apparently agree, as it won both the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year award and the IACP Cookbook of the Year award. The author's aim was to collect and preserve the culinary heritage of this region before it disappears due to the encroachment of modern industrial food production and the accelerated pace of modern life. The book has a chapter on breads of the region, which is very interesting. This recipe was the one that appealed to me. Most of the other breads she described have been included in other books I already have, such as Carol Field's The Italian Baker. And when she introduces the recipe by writing, “If I could make only one bread for the rest of my life, it would be this loaf.” How could I not make it, at least once?

Ms. Kasper reports that, until quite recently, most homemade breads in Emilia-Romagna were made with what we would call pâte fermentée (a piece of dough saved from the prior day's baking. The Italian term for this is pasta di riporto, or “dough that is carried over.”) However, all her bread recipes are made with a yeasted pre-ferment she calls a “sponge,” which is equivalent to a French poolish, actually.

After consideration of various approaches, I decided to make this bread with a biga naturale, figuring that would be closer to the original bread than Ms. Kasper's recipe. I kept the proportion of pre-fermented flour and the total dough hydration the same. I would assume that, in the past, a higher extraction flour or even whole wheat flour predominated. For this first bake, I kept to Ms. Kasper's formula. Pretty much. I did increase the percentage of whole wheat flour a bit. I have also modified her procedures somewhat. For example, I do an autolyse, specify a shorter mix and add a Stretch and Fold during bulk fermentation.

I converted the “English” weights Ms. Kasper provides to grams, calculated the bakers' percentages (after my slight modifications in proportions and switch in pre-ferments) and scaled the formula to make a one kilogram loaf.


Total Dough

Wt. (g)

Bakers %

All purpose flour



Whole wheat flour






Red-skinned potatoes



Wheat berries









Pre-fermented flour = 27% of total flour


Biga Naturale

Wt. (g)

Bakers %

DMS Sourdough feeding mix*



Water (100ºF)



Firm (50% hydration) starter






  1. Dissolve the firm starter in the water. Add the flours and mix thoroughly.

  2. Cover tightly and ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours.

* My sourdough feeding mix is 70% AP, 20%WW and 10% Whole or medium rye flour.


Final Dough

Wt. (g)

All purpose flour


Whole wheat flour


Red-skinned potatoes


Wheat berries




Potato water


Biga naturale





  1. Boil the unpeeled potatoes in water to cover until very tender. Cool and peel.

  2. Reserve 188g of the water in which the potatoes were boiled, cooled to room temperature, and purée the potatoes in it. (I mashed the potatoes with a fork, added the reserved water and stirred.) Reserve.

  3. Put the wheat berries in a sauce pan and cover well with water. Bring it to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain and cool. Use a blender, food processor or mortar and pestle to lightly crush the berries. Set aside at room temperature.

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the potato purée, whole wheat flour and the all purpose flour. Mix at low speed for a couple minutes to combine the ingredients well. Cover the bowl and let it stand for 20-60 minutes. (Autolyse)

  5. Switch to the dough hook. Add the salt and the biga and mix at Speed 2 to achieve good gluten development (about 6 minutes). The dough should clean the sides and the most of the bottom of the mixer bowl. It should be elastic but still soft and tacky.

  6. Add the wheat berries to the bowl and mix at Speed 1 for 1 to 2 minutes to distribute the berries evenly. If needed, transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and knead an additional minute or so to better distribute the berries.

  7. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly.

  8. Ferment at room temperature until the dough has increased to 2.5 to 3 times the original volume (2-3 hours). Do a Stretch and Fold at 1 hour. (It was 68ºF in my kitchen – a bit cool – and the fermentation was moving slowly, so, after an hour, I put the dough in my proofing box, with the temperature set at 76ºF.)

  9. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and pre-shape round. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.

  10. Shape the dough as a boule and proof at room temperature on a peel coated with polenta, on a linen couche or in a lined banneton. Cover with a towel or place in a plastic bag. Proof fully (until doubled in volume). This should take about 90 minutes. Note: Kasper calls for proofing on the peel. The other options (couche or banneton) are my suggestions.

  11. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat your oven to 480ºF with a baking stone and your steaming apparatus in place.

  12. Transfer the loaf to a peel. Turn down the oven to 400ºF. Steam the oven. Transfer the loaf to your baking stone. Note: Kasper does not mention scoring the loaf. With the very full proof, this may not be needed, as there will be less oven spring than in a less fully proofed loaf. (For this first bake, I proofed the loaf to the point that a finger poke resulted in the dough springing back very slowly. I chose to score the loaf with a simple cross, and got exuberant oven spring.)

  13. After 15 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus. Continue baking for another 45-60 minutes or until the loaf is fully baked. (The loaf sounds hollow when thumped on its bottom. The internal temperature is at least 205ºF.) Note: If you have a convection oven, after the first 15 minutes, you can switch to convection-bake and reduce the oven temperature setting 25ºF. This will result in a crisper crust and more even browning.

  14. Remove the loaf to a cooling rack and cool completely (90-120 minutes) before slicing.


Note: My wife's persimmon cookies photobombed my crumb photo!

The crust developed some nice crackles. It was very crunchy, and when you bite into a wheat berry you get a pronounced nutty flavor hit! Yum! The crumb is not as soft as expected and rather chewy. A shorter mix next time, perhaps. The wheat berries within the crumb are nice and chewy. The flavor of the crust was sweet and nutty. The crumb was wheatier than expected, given the low percentage of whole wheat. Perhaps the wheat berries contribute more flavor than expected. I think I would still increase the percentage of whole wheat the next time I bake this bread. The bread was moderately sour.

This is a delicious bread, and I expect it will be even better tomorrow. I think it's a keeper! I'll be making it again.

Happy Baking!


Submitted to yeastspotting

nmygarden's picture

And how!

50% sprouted wheat (commercial) and 50% BF, 80% hydration, 20% starter (100% hydration), 2% salt, 12% sprouted grain. 40 minute autolyse (flours and water only), slap and folds x 6, 1 and 1 minutes, then 3 sets of stretch and folds at 20-30 minutes apart. The dough was beautiful, smooth, supple, elastic.

Covered and into the refrigerator for the night, where it rose maybe 50%. Pulled it out and cranked the oven to the max (500 F+) to preheat while I preshaped, then shaped a tight boule.

An hour later, it had relaxed a bit rather than rising, so I slashed a few cuts and into the oven to steam under my Le Cloche lid for 20 minutes, then 20 more at 450 F.

It did color. It did blister. It did seem to be fully baked. I was hopeful. But the crisp crust began to soften...

Several hours later, I cut it open to find cavernous holes and dense, gummy crumb (which may not even qualify as crumb). Yuck. And into the trash it went.

Disappointed, but not giving up. Will tackle this again soon, but first will read more and revise my formula and procedure, listen to the advice and voices of experience.


kenlklaser's picture

I'm writing this well after making this loaf last week or thereabouts.  Unlike so many of you, I'm boring in my bread tastes, I don't really want to make lots of different varieties, as long as I make this particular loaf and have it on hand for egg sandwiches, I'm reasonably happy.  I do use sourdough in it, as it tastes better with mustard and egg, than when it's made only with sweet yeast.

I evidently made a weighing error early on, the first thing I noted was the dough sticking differently, more, to the bottom of the mixing bowl. I knew then something was wrong, but wasn't yet sure what.  I suppose I could have thrown in a little more flour, but that's not my way, I want every last gram of everything weighed.

When I got to division, two loaves of about 4.5 lbs each, the weight was under 2000g each, instead of slightly over.  Well, at least I knew then that I had made a weighing error, most likely too little flour.  This dough was hydrated more than normal, and sure enough, the holes are, on a few slices, big enough for mayonnaise to slip through and smear all over the fingers.  I'd rather that not happen.

Not only that, because the loaf was hydrated more, it took longer to bake, and never did reach the final temperature I usually use, I finally took it out after realizing the temperature wasn't rising and it was good enough.  It ends up this bread is somewhat dry.  Perhaps I should lower my final temperature slightly, this one was removed at 206°F, and normally I go to 208°F.

Maybe next time I'll pay a little more attention when weighing the ingredients.  This particular bread is somewhat of a hassle to make, I wish I could make it simpler, but haven't yet figured that out. Another thing I'd like to figure out, how to flip the pan dough over during proof.  It's always a little more dense on the bottom than the top.

I preslice it as I store it frozen.

AbeNW11's picture



White Four 500g, Water 300g, Salt 7g, Fresh Yeast 1-2g


Form dough then proceed onto 4x Stretch & Folds at 10min intervals. Cover and leave overnight.


Next morning wake-up to a wonderfully bubbly dough. I love going to sleep knowing my dough is hard at work.


Shape & Score.


Bake in preheated @ 210 degrees Celsius for 30 min (with steam)


Thank you ElPanadero for the recipe and guidance. 

wostryk's picture

Greetings from Czech Republic! ;)


The Sunday afternoon sourdough bread, my third own sourdough bread.. Looks good, smells awesome, tastes even better!! :)

  • 200g rye sourdough
  • 150g rye flour
  • 150g wheat flour
  • 30g buckwheat flour
  • 50g oatmeal
  • salt, honey, water
  • rye sprouts for better look :)
CeciC's picture

I have baked Pumpkin Pain De Mie and Pumpkin and Pepita Rustic bread for Halloween, and two batches of Pretzel.


Pumpkin bread Pumpkin breadPumpkin breadPumpkin bread


The ideal of Pretzel came to me when I was at Beer Garden for Octoberfest, I brought a pretzel from one of the stalls, its a total disappointment. First its crust tasted and felt like rubber, the crumb was dry almost like a softed cracker and the taste is blanded, so I decided to bake my own. My first pretzel batch is a disaster, as its a little over proof and it sticks to the paper. Then I found out its not even parchment paper @@. It is super soft so Its impossible to have it dip into Lye bath. Ummmm Baking bread is always full of challenges and disappointment. 




One on the left is my second batch the ugly one on the right is my first attempt. Its like a scary bread for halloween rather than one for o Octoberfest

After my disastrous First Attempt, I googled and watch a few video, found out that they will have their dough chilled or even frozen for easier handling. which is why the people can always carry their pretzel dough around like its an unproofed dough, Phew ~~ thats as quick and easy fix to my mess. 

< Untitled Untitled Untitled


The look of pretzels are like an evilish laugh of a bread.

I have also baked a Soy and Honey Sour Pain de Mie with 20% soy pulp (Left over from my Soy milk)


Honey and soy pain de mie Honey and soy pain de mie

davidg618's picture

Never having baked, tasted or even seen these skinny loaves before now their shape is my best guess based on Stan's instructions.

I may not have got the shape right, but I'm sure I got the recipe right. They are loaded with flavors! We're planning a small get together with friends to eat these; each guest will bring a dip or spread they think appropriate for rye. I'm making a roasted beet, yogurt, bleu cheese and bacon dip.


David G


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