The Fresh Loaf

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ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

I suppose it is rather funny to be making homemade sourdough bread and never having eaten any of it before.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be comparing it to.  I was in the San Francisco airport this time last year and saw everyone advertising their sourdough bread and wondered what was so special about it.  I didn't buy any!  What a dummy!

Anyway, my friend knows I'm in full sourdough production at the moment, so today she bought lunch over.  (Oh, she didn't come to bake, we paint together.) She bought a little sourdough bun from a local bakery that is just starting to sell sourdough bread.  I won't buy it because it's nearly $7 a loaf!  I was excited now to be trying what I thought was real sourdough.

Well, I found it to be quite flavourless and stodgy apart from the lovely olives in it.  It had a bit of a tang to it and a little bit of a crunchy crust, but it made rather a hard task to eat it! I was surprised by the density and heaviness of the bought bun.  

In fact, even though my sourdough is far from perfect in these early stages of learning, I far prefer what I'm making which seems moist, slightly chewy, less dense, nuttyish, slightly sourish, with a crust to die for.  And I'm a beginner!!! 

Soooooooooooo everyone, what should good sourdough taste like?  And is it supposed to be a bit heavier and dense than regular bread?

Katelyn's picture

Hey All,

So I tried making Sourdough Bread Bowls for the first time a few weekends ago, and it turned out a disaster! I used my own Sourdough Starter, and followed the directions...but they came out really hard and just didn't look good at all! The inside was alright, but nothing to brag about. I was wondering if anyone had any tips on what I can do different next time! 


Home Baker's picture
Home Baker



  • 700g all purpose flour

  • 700g bread flour

  • 200g rye flour

  • 150g whole wheat flour

  • 100g wheat germ

  • 100g ground whole grain cereal

  • 100g milk powder

  • 50g cracked/kibbled wheat and/or rye berries

  • 40-50g course kosher salt

  • *1/2 teaspoon citric acid powder

  • *1/2 teaspoon ginger

First, grind, weigh and measure all the dry ingredients, combining them in the mixer bowl.

Let the mixer stir the dry ingredients to an even blend. I use the paddle attachment turning on its lowest speed in the completely filled bowl of a Kitchenaid K5A mixer. Once mixed, you will divide the dry ingredients into two equal parts.

I should mention here that the portions and processes in this recipe were designed to match my own kitchen and my own equipment. The dry measures completely fill my largest mixer bowl, the four loaves are the maximum that my oven can handle in one bake. 


I start building production starter a couple of days ahead, with the aim of having about 600 grams of vigorous starter ready when I plan to start mixing and fermenting the loaves. 

Measure separately for each batch:

  • 250g production sourdough (from whole grain rye, whole grain wheat and unbleached KA all purpose -- all organic)

  • 660g water

  • *2 tablespoons honey (from a local coop)

  • *1/2 teaspoon natural soy lecithin

  • *1 tablespoon organic barley malt syrup

  • *1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Make two batches of wet ingredients. The dough will be mixed in two batches to prevent ruining the mixer by overtaxing its motor and gears. One batch of wet ingredients goes into each half of the dry ingredients mixture. 


Into each of two large mixing bowls, add one measure of the combined wet, then one measure of the combined dry ingredients. Fit dough hook onto mixer and carefully work one measure of wet ingredients into one measure of dry ingredients for only a few minutes, ending with two batches of wet dough. Cover each  bowl with plastic and let it rest for 1/2 hour.


Dump each bowl of wet dough into the same large plastic lidded tub. Stretch-and-fold dough a few times in the tub, then cover tub with lid and place into refrigerator for total of 16-24 hours.

Remove tub from refrigerator for about ten minutes of stretch-and-folds at two intervals, first after 4-6 hours and once more after 8-12 hours. Rest in refrigerator for final, uninterupted 8-12 hours.

Place at least a pint of water into a clear glass or plastic container and place the container the same spot the final rise will occur. A ball of dough will be dropped into water at the same time as the loaves are set in the rise location. By watching for the moment when the sunken ball of dough floats the the surface it will be possible to determine exactly when the dough has reached its maximum rise. The vessel of water is placed in the area where the final rise happens well ahead of time to ensure that the water achieves the same temperature as the air --and the rest of the dough-- in that space. 


Cut a small (50-75g) piece of dough off and shape into tight ball. Cover and set aside.

Divide remaining dough into:

  • 2 pieces @ 950g for smaller (8") loaf pans, and

  • two pieces @ approximately 1125g for large (9") loaf pans.

The process I use is to portion two pieces of dough at 950g, then weigh remaining dough and divide it into two equal portions. The larger amounts can vary somewhat but I find this recipe gives the best result from the standard 8" loaf pan when the loaf is formed from a 950g measure of dough. Shape and pan dough into the greased loaf pans. Place loaves into plastic bags or lidded tubs for final rise, then move to the final rise location. 

Now, retrieve the reserved ball of dough and drop it into the glass of water which had been placed hours before in the same final rise area where the shaped, covered loaves have now been placed. The ball of dough will sink to the bottom of the container of water. The ball of dough will remain submerged in the glasss of water for a long time, but start checking it periodically after about two hours. The amount of time required for the dough ball to float (which marks the end of the final proof) can vary widely, from at least two to more than four hours, depending on temperatures and the vitality of the starter. I have found that capturing the precise moment when the dough achieves its maximum rise (but not a minute more) is the key to producing a really remarkable flavor and appearance from this recipe. Excellent and repeatable results are obtainable by using this method to monitor the final rise: when dough ball floats to the surface the loaves must go immediately into the hot oven.


About an hour before you think baking will begin, place a shallow metal pan in the bottom of the oven and turn on the oven to preheat to 500°F. As soon as the dough ball floats to the surface of the water it has been submerged in, place a mug 2/3 full of hot water to boil in the microwave. Remove panned loaves from their plasic enclosures and slash each loaf once down the middle, along its longest dimension. Take mug of boiling water from microwave and pour it carefully into the metal pan in the bottom of the oven. Place the four panned loaves on one shelf, set at a height just below the center of the oven, close oven door and reset oven temperature to 460°F. After ten minutes lower temperature to 425°F. After 20 minutes rotate loaves for even browning and turn heat down to 375°F. After 40 minutes begin checking loaves for doneness. I bake the loaves to an internal temperature of 205°F - 210°F, which takes 45-55 minutes. Each of the loaves always seems to need slightly more or less time in my oven. 

Cool loaves on rack for at least two hours before slicing. Flavors don't fully develop until about 24 hours after removal from oven. 

*NOTE ON MEASUREMENTS: Measuring cups and measuring spoons handle thick liquids and small quantities of dry product more accurately and with less waste than my scale does.

Recipe submitted to YeastSpotting page at Wild Yeast.



OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I think I'll post these here, and then start a new "Ugly Loaf" thread in the General forum.  It seems I'm always posting loaves I'm proud of because they look nice (to me), so it is time to admit I'm human.  Really, really human.

I spent the day yesterday baking, and making a giant batch of Red Sauce for pasta and lasagna.  In and among all of that I also started a batch of sourdough bread to ferment overnight and bake tonight.  Tonight, my wife made us a lasagna for dinner from the red sauce out of the refrigerator, and I planned to follow that in the oven with my bread.  The sauce was cold, the cheese was not thawed out, and things took a lot longer than planned, so by the time the oven was free and up to bread temperature, my loaves were, shall we say, more than ready!

On top of that, I broke the bottom of my La Cloche baker last week (another story for another time) so I started experimenting with the inverted roasting pan for steaming.  Yesterday went okay, but I need lots of practice!  Today these over-proofed loaves bested me easily.  The first stuck to the peel, which was not big enough for it's over-proofed girth anyway.  It ended up in almost the middle of my baking shelf and I could not move it.  I pushed the second one in alongside as close as I could get it and told my wife "This is going to be ugly." in my best deadpan tone.  I was right.  Here's proof!

The two loaves were overlapping "a little bit" in the middle.  They also spread out plenty when they hit the stone, and I could not get the roaster pan "around" them, so it sat on them, kinda, at the edges.  The results are worth a picture, and it says the prescribed 1000 words easily.  Many of them unprintable!

So, there it is in all it's glory.  An edible lesson.  Ah, the joys of baking.

Thanks for stopping by, and I'll bet this never happened to you.

Franko's picture



Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread book has been getting a lot of attention on this forum of late so I decided to order a copy and see what it was all about. Mr Robertson's description of his journey to create the bread he had in his mind is a fascinating read and speaks to the dedication he has for his craft. While the book doesn't get into the same level of technical detail as Hamelman's 'Bread', it doesn't suffer for lack of clear and precise instruction, making it accessible to anyone interested in producing fine hand crafted breads, croissants, and brioche. Included is a chapter on various ways to use day old bread, which in itself is worth buying the book for, and one of the best collection of recipes I've seen for quite some time. Eric Wolfinger's excellent photography is found throughout the pages and adds significantly to the overall high quality of this book.


Chapter 1-Basic Country Bread describes in detail Mr Robertson's foundation formula and procedure for making the bread upon which all his other breads are based. Out of respect for copyright I wont share the formula here , but as Mr Robertson says, it is a simple process , and the formula is that of a basic levain style dough. It seems that this past weekend a few other TFL'rs decided to make this bread as well, notably David Snyder, who had wonderful results using Chad Robertson's technique of baking the bread in a dutch oven.

Never having used a pot for baking a loaf, I was intrigued by the photos in the book of the dark bold bake that this method can achieve, but as the recipe makes two loaves I decided to bake one in the pot and the other on the stone using Sylvia's method of steaming that's been so successful for her and other TFL members. I made the dough up by hand giving it a 45 minute autolyse and then a 3hr bulk ferment following the guidelines in the book for folding in the bowl, a technique I appreciate because of it's easy cleanup. The dough was divided into 955 gram portions, lightly rounded and rested for 20 minutes before final molding, then placed in floured bannetons for an overnight rise in the refrigerator. I would have liked to have done it all in one day but it was a 'work night' so my time was limited. After 19hrs of final cold rise the first loaf was slashed and placed in the lid of the dutch oven with a round of parchment beneath it, and the pot was placed on top of that. I thought this way would be easier than lowering the loaf into the pot with a lot of extra and unnecessary parchment paper. The oven and pot had been preheated to 500F for a good 40 minutes before the bake began, then turned down to 450F for the remainder of the 45 minute bake.

After 20 minutes the pot was lifted very carefully off the loaf and the loaf continued it's bake, finishing the crust and taking on a rich brown colour.

When the first loaf began it's bake I took the second one out of the fridge and let it warm up on top of the oven, so that by the time the first was out and my stone had heated for the second bake it was ready to go. Into the oven it went with Sylvia's towel steaming method in place and the vent blocked. I gave it as much steam as I possibly could during the first 10 minutes, spritzing regularly in 3-4 minute intervals. It didn't result in quite the jump that #1 had but it did bloom nicely along the slashes creating the type of pattern I've been trying to get on some previous bakes of other levain style breads.

Even with an 8 minute longer bake than #1 it just didn't take on the same kind of caramelization as the pot baked loaf. Still, I was happy with both results and I think both methods have their place depending on what your preferences are for a particular type of loaf. I'm not sure I'd use the pot with anything other than a very lean formula, as I think you might just get a little more colour than you were bargaining for, but for the Tartine basic Country Bread, and similar lean levain style breads it's a method I'll continue using.

Recently my wife Marie hinted that I might be getting a new mixer under the tree this year for Christmas since my KA is getting pretty long in the tooth, so to speak. Now I love new toys as much or even more than next person, so she was a little shocked when I told her that I've decided to start mixing bread by hand as often as possible from now on. It just makes sense to me that the breads that many of us are trying to emulate, are breads that have been around since long before the electric mixer appeared on the scene. I realize it's possible to mix these 'craft/artisan' breads with a mixer by controlling speed and mixing time, but for home baking it's become apparent to me that it's much more practical, and in most ways more satisfying to use the two best mixers I came equipped with. If I had any doubts about making this change they were put to rest when I cut into loaf #1.


This is the type of crumb that I want for my wheat based levain breads.... not exactly, but closer than I've come previously, which I think is due largely to the fact that this dough was worked even less intensively than I would normally do by hand. Why it took me so long to connect the dots that have been staring me in the face all this time, I believe is due to having been trained on mixers, and having used them throughout my professional career for bread mixing. Just goes to show that in baking, the learning never stops if you keep an open mind to the new ideas.. as well as the ancient tried and true methods of bread production.


Best Wishes,




lookingforrain's picture

Hi everyone my name is Jeff, I am 19 and I've been baking bread for about two years. I started on a whim after having made pastries since I was knee high to a toadstool, I enjoyed my first few adventures with bread using instant yeast but I was always a little dissappointed in the flavour. So I started a batter sourdough starter. I really liked it but as teenagers are want to do my interest shifted and I forgot about my little Ricardough, who subsequently passed away. So for a time I stopped baking bread but continually inspired by the amazing bread produced by the amazing people on this site I once more started a yeast culture, this the forerunner to a group of starters niftily named The Yeasty Boys, and I have finally returned to breadmaking. In time I hope to fill this little blog with my own delicious creations to add this wonderful compendium of breads.

txfarmer's picture

I am training for a marathon, the Dallas White Rock Marathon to be exact. It ain't my first time, I have run 4 marathons before, but it never gets any easier, or less exciting/challenging. Race day is a month from now, which means my mileage is getting up to 55 miles per week, with 2 20 miler runs already under my belt. In the mean time, I am foever hungry, especially craving carbs. At the smell, sight, or mere mention of food, my ears perk up, my nose starts twitching: FOOD?! Is there food? Can I have some? Actually can I have ALL OF IT? - in another word, I am turning into my dog.


There are in fact more crazy people like me, and we crazies get up at the butt crack of dawn on perfectly nice and lazy Sundays to run for 3 hours together. Afterwards, we hang out, chat, pick on/encourag each other, and compare injuries and accidents, all the while eating nonstop of course. For these fun (and somewhat smelly) occassions I often bring bagels. These lovely sourdough lye bagels were from this past weekend. (recipe see my previous blog).

They are different from the ones I made before in two ways: First I boiled them in lye solution rather than baking soda. The ratio I used was 2tsp of lye in 2 quarts of water. I liked how the bagels had deeper color, crispier crust, and better flavor.Second, I put yummy fillings in them so it's easier for us to grab and eat. The following are filled with sweetened cream cheese:

Don't use cream cheees directly, it will be too runny during baking, I used cream cheese filling leftover from carrot rolls:

cream cheese, 113g

corn starch, 19g

sugar, 40g

vanilla essence, 2g


Some of them prefer to eat something savory after a long run, these were filled with a mixture of pancetta, cheddar, and yellow mustard.

Bagels with fillings inside, why aren't they more popular? So easy to eat and so delicious. We met at a guy's house for the group run, so we toasted these whole (without spliting, less work, yay) in his toaster oven, perfect post run fuel. To shape them, first roll out each piece of dough into long oval

Then roll up and seal well, and connect the ends, do make sure the seam is down on the bottom, otherwise filling will ooz out during baking.


These chocolate ones are for me, and me only. Added cocoa powder and dark chocolate in the dough, this is dessert shamelessly pretending to be breadfast.


Sending this to Yeastspotting.


Daisy_A's picture

Rye Stories: Daisy_A

I love rye bread and I'm not alone. When faced with a continental buffet my dh will make a bee line for the pumpernickel. As far as rye in mixed grain breads go I always feel there's room for a little more. So it's odd that it's taken me so long to try a 100% rye. I've been working my way towards it but had heard rumours that it might be troublesome. I was worried that it might implode or explode, either crack all over like 'a wedding cake left out in the rain' (as the poet W.H. Auden so famously described his own face), or fall in on itself like the ground over a hidden stream. 

Over the last few weeks, however, I have tried 3 100% rye formulae, the Borodinsky and seeded ryes from Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters and Mini Oven's favourite 100% rye (Bread Matters pp. 168-171, pp. 167-168; Mini Oven here). In the end, given that my rye starter is much more stable and strong than my wheat starters, these ryes have probably given me less trouble than the average sourdough. 

I did not adapt the formulae substantially so what follows are a few notes on method and taste. Bakers wanting to look into the Melmerby Borodinsky outside of Whitley's text might follow up on Andy/ananda's post here about the different Village Bakery versions, including an 85% rye. Andy's post includes a formula. There is a great discussion of Mini's formula on her original thread and in other TFL posts. 

The first 100% rye I baked was the Borodinsky from Bread Matters. When I made this I was running down my stock of Dove's Farm rye to try Bacheldre Mill but could not immediately source the latter. I had to make multiple calculations in order to keep my stock rye going and put together the formula without running out of flour and was congratulating myself on stretching my pea brain maths to the limit when I blanked out and went over on the water. Well that taught me to bake at the end of a long day…

The loaf came out a lovely golden brown but I thought I would have to spend the night on the couch waiting for it to bake out. After cooling the top sagged ever so slightly, like a cotton clothesline, due to the slight overhydration,  but the taste was superb. 

The second Borodinsky was made to share at an art and bread tasting event. Happily every crumb was eaten but I was so preoccupied with getting it to the venue without a hiccup that I forgot to take shots of it. So the elegant still life below is courtesy of event photographer Julian Hughes - thanks Julian.

© Julian Hughes, 2010

The second time I made this bread and after reading up on ways to manage rye, I added 40g extra water and 40g extra rye to the sour after 12 hours.  This was in part to add sweetness to the final bread and in part to allow the high hydration (1.6.3.), sour to mature for another 12 hours without becoming too acidic.

After the first Borodinsky I was able to swap to Bacheldre Mill. This is a much stronger flour than the Dove's Farm and I've found it suits the high hydration of Whitley's formula well. Crust and crumb have baked out well in all loaves made with the Mill flour. I find the crust tends to have a grainy finish due to the high bran content but I like that look, particularly as the crust also tends to be very golden. The flour has a beautiful, nutty flavour.

The next bread I attempted was the seeded rye from Bread Matters. I did make some adjustments to this.  I used 100% sunflower seeds instead of sunflower and pumpkin. This was largely due to availability. I hope to be able to dry seeds from the autumn squashes to use in bread but had none at hand when I made this. Having struggled to keep the coriander seeds on the Borodinsky rye while turning it upside down regularly to check internal temperature I also felt creating a sunflower seed coating for the seeded rye, as Whitley suggests, was beyond my skills. I omitted it but think it would actually be a nice touch. 

I also added a teaspoon of organic blackstrap molasses because I had just bought some at the whole food coop and wanted to play with it. I though this might soften the edge of quite a sour rye but given the sour notes of blackstrap itself it probably made it taste even sourer!  I have used malt syrup or honey since.

The second time I made this bread I also included a second build of 80g of flour to the sour after 12 hours to allow it to go the full 24 hours without becoming too acidic. I then reduced the flour in the final batter by the corresponding amount. The flavour was amazing, similar to that of an aged Manchego cheese. 

My slightly adapted version of Andrew's formula was:

Rye sour

160g of rye sour at 1.6.3 (fermented 12 hours then 80g more flour added)

Final batter

All rye sour   240g

Rye flour     160g

Sea salt           5g

Molasses          5g

Sunflower seeds 100g

Water 140g

Total 650g

Mini Oven's favourite rye. What can I say? It is a super-delicious formula. When I first joined TFL I used to gaze on Mini's post in wonderment. Even though Mini describes the process extremely clearly I couldn't imagine myself attempting the bread. Having and reread read posts on rye from Mini and other TFLers, including Andy, Hans Joakim, Karin, Nico, Khalid and Larry, among others, I finally felt I could attempt it and it went fine! Thanks all for your postings - they were very helpful! Sorry if I've missed any other 'ryesperts' - you were helpful as well!

I started with a small loaf, working the formula up from 60g of starter and added 2 tablespoons (5g) of mixed seeds, with an emphasis on caraway. Based on Mini's (1:3.5:4.16), formula this gave me a nice round 210g cold water, 250g flour to the 60g starter, for a final loaf of around 570g. I also added altus for the first time in any recipe - 20g of mixed grain sourdough with I dessert spoon of warm water and I tsp of honey. I mashed this into a paste in a pestle and mortar then folded it into the final batter. This formula yielded a loaf that was beautifully golden, with a gorgeous aroma, which was sweeter than those from Bread Matters. I will definitely do a larger loaf next time. We managed to wait 24 hours to try it but it was gone in just over a day! Thanks Mini, it was gorgeous! 


© Daisy_A 2010 I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites..

davidg618's picture

I mentioned in a post about a week ago I'd been laid up for seven weeks, unable to walk more than ten steps, let alone bake bread. The last four days I've been baking sourdough--two variations of the base 45%/45%/10%:Bread Flour/AP Flour/Whole Rye Flour; 68% Hyd., and 28% prefermented Bread Flour in the sourdough starter--nothing fancy, nothing new but just being able to bake leaves me humble and grateful once again I can.

My starters had gone neglected for the same seven weeks, but last week i resusitated them (2) with a couple days of feeding every 12 hours at room temperature. They responded like long-lost friends. Friday and Sunday I built formula-ready starters, and baked two loaves on both Saturday and today.

It's good to be back!

Here's today's bake

and a crumb shot of Saturday's bake

David G

varda's picture


Some time ago, I started trying to recreate a Tzitzel (caraway) Jewish Rye that was sold in a neighborhood bakery where I grew up.   But first I had to get more skilled at baking bread period.   This site was a font of information, and at one point, David Snyder gave me a pointer to a comment hidden deep in one of his two year old blog posts from nbicomputers   After putting my Tzitzel dreams on hold for awhile, I decided to try again.   This time I went directly to Norm's comment and made a few modifications.  I did the following:

1 lb King Arthur Bread Flour (instead of First Clear flour which I can't get easily)

1 lb thick rye sour (built up from an existing rye starter with rye flour and water over the course of around 24 hours)

10 oz water

1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten (since I think First Clear is higher protein than even KABF)

.6oz kosher salt

.5oz instant yeast

caraway seeds

I mixed everything up in my kitchen aid for around 10 minutes - so long because the rye sour is very tough to blend with the rest of the ingredients.    Then I took a wooden bowl and rinsed it in water, and shook out the excess water without drying it.   This was to recreate the wooden box environment as described by Norm (see above comment).   I shaped the dough by patting it gently into a ball.   I know from having tried to make this bread before that trying to shape it after it rises is a lost cause, so I decided to shape it right after the mix.  Then I brushed water over the top with a pastry brush and then put a piece of damp linen over the the top of the bowl.   I let the dough double in size (this took around 1.5 hours).   Then I sprinkled thickly with corn meal.  Then with very wet hands, I transfered the dough to a peel covered with corn meal and then a hot stone and baked for 1.5 hours at 450 deg F.   Then waited overnight to cut.  It came out with very thick crackly crust and a fine rye flavor.   And I guess I'm starting to think that I will never recreate the bread I remember, but maybe this is even better.



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