The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recent Blog Entries

davidg618's picture

Single-acting baking powder first hit the marketplace in the mid-1850's. The Gold Rush was still rushing, and John Chisum's cattle drives were at their peak, repleat with chuck wagon and cook--always called "Cookie" regardless his origins. Sourdough was a critical supply (ref.: ) Baking powder isn't mentioned.  Double acting baking powder, began replacing single-acting in the early 1890's, just in time for the Yukon Gold Rush.

So why don't we hear stories about the buckaroo that rode three days straight to the nearest town, crossing miles of desert, evading irate Indians, or roaming banditos just to replace Cookie's Rumford Baking Powder, 'cause he forgot to pack extree? How come we don't quote Robert Service's poem about the cook who was "strung up" by his fellow miners, when he forgot to pack 10 lbs. of baking powder in their supplies? (ref.: )

We don't. But our history of rough times and places is peppered with sourdough stories. My favorite is about the frozen miner's corpse found curled around his starter. The miners that found him quickly baked up a batch of Dutch Oven biscuits to make sure his starter hadn't shared his fate. While they sipped coffee, and munched biscuits, the conversation at last got around to what to do with the body. (OK, I just made that up.)

Yesterday, I dutifully fed my starters their weekly ration. I had about 200g of discard starter. The night before, I'd watched True Grit (the real one, with John Wayne) so I was in the mood for some real sourdugh biscuits. As ever, I googled recipes.

Much to my disappointment the first half-a-million recipes I scanned all called for baking powder--from a tsp. to 2 Tbls. Sourdough starter seemed to be almost an afterthought.--1/4 cup to 2 cups. None of them required refreshing. Just stir the starter in, and rely on the baking powder to puff them up. In the second half-a-million recipes--ain't Google grand?--I found one recipe wherein baking powder was optional, but recommended it if you didn't want to wait.

Here's what I did.


356g (12.5 oz.; 2 cups) sourdough starter; 100% hydration; refreshed 12 hours earlier, and left to develop at 76°F

76g (2.7 oz.; 1/3 cup) 50/50 mixture butter and lard (yep, lard: probably Cookie's first (only?) choice). Cut in to 1/2" cubes and chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes

300g (10.6 oz; 2-1/2 cups) AP flour

14g (1 tbls) sugar

7g (1 tsp) salt

I mixed the flour, sugar, salt, and butter/lard cubes together with my hand, squeezing the fat cubes between my thumb and fingers until they were all flattened and well coated with flour. I added the sourdough starter, mixed it in, and kneaded the dough in the bowl, until it formed a ball. The dough felt a little dry, but I didn't add any additional liquid.

I rested the dough, covered and chilled in the refrigerator,  for 15 minutes.

I turned the ball out onto an unfloured dough board, and rolled it to about 1 inch thick, folded the dough in half, and rolled it out again. I repeated this about six times. Each time I rolled it out the dough got more flexible, and felt less dry. I was glad I hadn't added additonal liquid.

On the final roll-out I went to 1/2 inch thick, cut out 17, 2-1/4" biscuits, arranged them on a Silpat pad lined half-sheet pan, covered them with a dry tea towel, and returned them to the proofing box (76°F).

They proofed for 2 and 1/2 hours. They had expanded, but not doubled.

Baked in a 400°F oven for 14 minutes (light golden brown). They more than doubled with oven spring. Lifting the first one to the cooling rack I knew, from its light feel, I had a success.

The crumb is closed, but not dense; looks like most other baking powder biscuits I've made. However, flavor-wise it is definately sourdough! I ate one cold, with nothing added this AM. Firm mouthfeel, and a lovely tang in the after taste.

I think I overworked the dough a little. Next time--and there will be a next time--I'll only roll them out three or four folds. I will also up the temp to 425°F, and bake them on my baking stone.

I think this is more like what Cookie baked.

David G



breadsong's picture

Hello, This is my first attempt at making a miche, substituting a 13% spring wheat bread flour and a 75%-sifted Red Fife whole-wheat flour for the high-extraction flour called for in the formula.

Here is the result (springy! wasn't expecting that):

 mmm mmm good - we love the flavor!

Franko kindly sent me this link, which explained how to approximate high-extraction flour (thank you Franko!):
The calculation in the above link returned a 53% bread/47% whole-wheat substitution for the high-extraction flour.
This is factored into the baker's percentages I used, with the baker's percentages per the original formula listed below for comparison, in this table:

From SUAS. Advanced Bread and Pastry, 1E. © 2009 Delmar Learning, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

AB&P Miche       Final Dough weight in grams        
  Baker's Percentages Weights Baker's
  Dough 1st Levain Final Levain Dough 1st Levain Final Levain Total %
Bread flour 0.706 0.53 0.53 205 24 136 365  
Red Fife 75% whole-wheat flour 0.094 0.47 0.47 27 21 121 169  
Medium rye flour 0.2     58     58  
Water 0.1 1.2 1.2 29 54 308 391 66.0%
Salt 0.038 0.006 0.006 11.00 0.27 1.54 12.81 2.2%
Starter (stiff)   0.1     4   4  
1st Levain     0.4     103    
Final Levain 2.306     670        
 Totals 3.444 2.306 2.606 1000 103 670 1000  
Original formula:                
High-extraction flour 0.2 1.0 1.0 58 45 257 360  
Bread flour 0.6     174     174  
Medium rye flour 0.2     58     58  

The first levain fermented for 16 hours, and the final levain for 7 (instead of the recommended 8 hours), but the final levain was starting to recede at 7 hours so I proceeded with the mix. I dissolved coarse gray Brittany salt in some of the water and added at the beginning of the mix and did not let the dough autolyse.

*Added to original post: The first levain and final levain didn't double during fermentation - perhaps only a 75% rise;
I am assuming because these levains are both salted and the salt slowed them down. I am used to seeing my starter/levains doubling after feeding/refreshing.
I was worried that maybe my levain for this bread might not be active enough so I threw in 3g of diastatic malt at the last minute when mixing, hoping this would help the dough through its long process. I'm not sure how much of an impact this may have had on the outcome.*

This dough was only supposed to bulk ferment for 15 minutes - there is a high percentage of preferment - I was curious about trying this formula as it's different from others I've tried. 
After the mix, my dough was a bit cool (72F instead of 75F to 78F as recommended) so I let it bulk ferment for a bit longer, a little longer than half an hour. Preshaped, rested boule 20 minutes, shaped and retarded in fridge for 12 hours.
I proofed the boule at 80F for one hour and 15 minutes prior to baking. The oven was preheated to 500F, reduced to 460F after loading and steaming, then reduced to 440F after 10 minutes. Total bake time was 38 minutes; left boule in oven with door ajar for 10 minutes.

This is a tasty miche and I'm glad to have tried it.
Happy baking everyone! from breadsong

Sam Fromartz's picture
Sam Fromartz

There's been some discussion about the baker's percentage formula for the Tartine Loaf in Chad Robertson's book. I thought I'd create a spreadsheet that clarified the formula. As related on page 48 of his book, he gives the baker's percentage but only in terms of the final ingredients. The formula doesn't include the flour and water in the leaven. So while he states the bread has a 75% hydration, it is actually higher, 77% The formula also makes it difficult to convert the recipe into smaller loaves. So I've created a spread sheet that does that, following a method at the Bread Bakers Guild of America. The measurements are all in grams.

The spreadsheet shows the TOTAL formula in the left column and the FINAL formula which mirrors Robertson's. To use this spreadsheet, I've made it available in google docs.

The nice thing about it is that you enter the number of loaves and the size of loaves (THE FIRST TWO CELLS -- NOTHING ELSE). The spreadsheet figures out the rest -- which is highlighted in blue.

I've only given the total leaven you need (white, whole wheat and water). The seed for that leaven should be only a couple of tablespoons. One more note -- the fourth line of the spreadsheet shows the "% flour levain" -- which means the percentage of total flour that is prefermented in the leaven. Many formulas go as high as 40%. Robertson's is much lower, which means the leaven takes longer to mature and has a much milder taste. As I noted before, however, the fermentation is spurred by the presence of whole wheat flour at 50% in the leaven. 

So ultimately does it matter, getting the precise formula? I would say no. But this is it. Now you can make it your own.

arlo's picture

The past few loaves I've baked since I have moved into my new apartment at the start of the new year have been variations on the Tartine Bread whole wheat dough. Out of the five or six whole wheat loaves I have baked, I have been very, very pleased with the results. More often the crumb is remarkably open for such high percentage of whole wheat, the crumb is moist, the tang, though not assertive, lies in the background for an added depth of flavor. All in all, a lovely loaf of bread I am quite proud of and have shared with friends and family with high praise.

I thought about why this recipe makes such tasty loaves time after time for me, and then, like a good culinary student and baker, I asked myself, "What have I acquired and learned from this recipe that I can take and use in my future bakes that I haven't used before?".

I have implemented natural leavening to many doughs before and have been impressed, but I knew it wasn't just that with this recipe. It then struck me, perhaps, it wasn't the ingredients as much as the method/procedure used for the formula that helps create some excellent loaves time after time. So I went back to a book I have cherished in my baking career; Bread, by Mr. Hamelman, and attempted a loaf that has troubled me often; Miche pointe a calliere.

I feel there is no need for me to post the recipe since I am sure it can be found on this site, and if not, let this just be another great reason on why this book should be purchased. But I did alter the recipe slightly to fit my schedule, and to match the Tartine procedure, which I will go into detail now.

I developed a stiff levain before work around 2:15 a.m. using freshly milled (from my work) higher extraction flour by blending freshly ground wheat berries with Sir Galahad flour at a ratio of about 81%. After unsuccessfully having attempted to purchased Type 65 flour from King Arthur and also germ restored flour, since my supplier would have required me to order a pallet, I spoke to Mr. Robert Smith from King Arthur who pointed me toward attempting to create my own type 65 flour (for later use) and high extraction flour through my mill at work. If making this at home, just blend KAF AP and Whole wheat flour together at around 80% whole wheat to all-purpose to end up with similar flour that is needed.

After my shift ended at 11 am, I returned home where my levain was about ripened. I mixed the final dough together by hand holding back the salt at noon with my ripe levain, this does differ from Tartine since I wanted to see how much of the original recipe I could retain without changes. I performed an autolyse of around one hour. I added the salt, mixed by hand by pinching the dough and doing some stretch and folds in the bowl. 

When the salt felt like it was appropriately mixed, I transfered the dough to a 3 quart bucket (double the size of the dough) and let it sit while I set a timer for thirty minutes. Much like Tartine, I preformed four stretch and folds in two hours to the dough every thirty minutes. When 2.5 hours rounded the clock, the dough was adequately strengthened and I let it nearly double in size, taking a total of around 3.75 hours.

I shaped the loaf into two 1.5 lb loaves, saving the extra dough for a pate fermentee in the week, and refridgerated the shaped loaves to be baked when I was to awake.

I finished the loaves off like suggested in Tartine, dutch oven, or combo cooker with 20 minutes of covered time and right around 18 minutes uncovered. The final loaves looked great, though the boule was a bit flat compaired to the batard. Both loaves had a nice crumb, a bit less opened than expected, but to my liking consisted of a rather creamy, soft chew with that nice miche tang I have had with prior Hamelman miche experiences. Most likely amplified by implementing Tartine retardation procedures to the loaves.

I have been eating the boule and I happily took the other loaf to work to be ran through our slicer and shared amoung friends who thought it was rather tasty too.

Pictures can be seen here:

Though this procedure is nothing really new here at TFL, considering lots of fellow bakers have been using S&F over timed intervals to develop strength, I have not been until now. I had been following Hamelman, Reinhart, ect. recipes closely and never gave thought to take other methods into consideration for their formulas. I am thankful I did this time though since it turned out to be a tasty experience.

That's it for now really, I have some Reinhart bagels retarding, puff pastry in the fridge and my culinary program starting up again this week. So until I get time to blog for my benefit and hopefully someone elses, take care!


yy's picture

After tending to my new starter for two weeks, I finally got the courage to make some bread with it. I used the Tartine basic country loaf formula, which yielded two decently sized loaves. The leaven was made at around 10 PM the night before, the dough mixed at 11 AM the following morning, and the first loaf baked at around 7 PM. To my dismay, it came out like a dense, insipid sponge with a huge cavern in the middle. My boyfriend said "don't take this the wrong way, but it kind of tastes like my mom's bread machine boxed sourdough." Just to give a little background, he routinely insults his mother's cooking, so that didn't bolster my confidence much.

The book says that bulk fermentation should take between 3-4 hours at 78-82 degrees, and my kitchen wasn't nearly that warm.  I wasn't sure whether it was severely underproofed, or whether my starter wasn't up to snuff, so just for kicks, I left the second batch of dough out overnight at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the morning, the dough had expanded in volume noticeably and felt pretty well aerated. I shaped it, proofed it for around 3 and a half hours, and baked it at 475 underneath a large preheated stainless steel bowl for 20 minutes, followed by 30 minutes uncovered. Here are the results:

The crust got a little burnt on one side due to uneven oven heat, and I didn't quite get the kind of spring I wanted - the profile was a bit flat. However, I'm pretty happy with the crumb:

I think I would prefer to make it a little more sour next time, perhaps by increasing the proportion of starter in the leaven?  Maybe the flavor will come naturally as my starter matures over time. Overall, this bake was a good lesson in adapting to variable temperature conditions, and "listening" to the dough rather than the watching the clock. Around 15 hours passed between the failed loaf and the decent loaf.


dmsnyder's picture


A couple weeks ago, I posted my bake of the Whole Wheat Bread from Reinhart's BBA, made with fresh-milled flour. A reply by Karin (hanseata) prompted me to bake the “100% Whole Wheat Bread” from Reinhart's newer Whole Grain Baking book. I had made this bread once before leavened with sourdough starter and didn't particularly care for the combination of sourdough tang and whole wheat flavor, but I thought I really should make it again using instant yeast and with fresh-milled whole wheat.

The differences between the formulas for whole wheat bread in BBA and WGB are clearly evolutionary and illustrate where Reinhart has gone with his thinking about drawing the best possible flavor and performance from whole grain flours. In the WGB version, essentially all the flour is either in a biga or a soaker, with an optional additional small amount used to adjustment dough consistency, if needed.

I followed the recipe in WGB closely, with these choices where there were options: For the liquid in the soaker, I used about 2/3 Greek-style yoghurt and 1/3 2% milk. For the fat, I used canola oil. I added less than an ounce of additional WW flour during kneading.

After bulk fermentation, I shaped a single bâtard which was proofed on a linen couch then baked in a Le Creuset oval roaster (in which it barely fit).

I baked at 425ºF (convection bake) with the cover on the roaster. After 10 minutes, I reduced the temperature to 350ºF, and, after 10 minutes more, I removed the cover. I baked another 20 minutes with the roaster uncovered. At that point, I felt the crust should be darker and firmer, although the internal temperature of the loaf was 185ºF. I removed the loaf from the roaster, placed it on a sheet pan and baked for another 10 minutes. I left the loaf in the turned off oven with the door ajar for another 10 minutes before transferring it to a cooling rack.

The crust is thin, slightly crunchy and chewy. The texture of the crumb is moist and chewy – hard to describe but very pleasing. The chewiness is from the larger particles of grain, rather than from the gluten in the crumb. The crumb is otherwise quite soft – almost cake-like. I milled the wheat to the second finest setting. Next time, I plan to mill it at the finest setting, at least for the biga. The flavor is very similar to that of the BBA whole wheat bread but even better. There is no grassiness or bitterness from the bran, just a little sweetness from the honey and the wheat itself and good wheaty flavors. I much prefer this yeasted version to the sourdough one. 

This bread does not need any spreads or other enhancements. It is very satisfying plain. But I'm anticipating it will be equally delicious with almond butter or with eggs.

I also baked a couple boules of sourdough bread today. I used one of the formulas from the SFBI Artisan II Workshop, which calls for a liquid levain fed twice a day. These were baked in Lodge Combo Cookers.


Submitted to YeastSpotting


Jo_Jo_'s picture

Made these Kaiser rolls the other day, along with a loaf of whole wheat bread (actually about 50% whole wheat 50% bread flour).  The kaiser rolls turned out great, but the loaf I used to test the size of my new clay baker from King Arthur Flour.  I discovered that a 2 lb loaf fit's to the point of taking the shape of the baker, luckily I greased both top and bottom of it!  The rolls turned out like this and were nice a tender with a good crumb:

From WholeWheat

From WholeWheat

The bread would have came out fine I think, but it looks real funny with the shape of the clay baker....

From WholeWheat

The crumb was a little off at the top, with some larger holes and a small cave at the top.  I think I just got in a hurry and the temp in the kitchen was really cold the day I made these.  The rolls turned out really well, but I think the bread qualifies as  an "Ugly Loaf".


breadsong's picture

Hello, What a pleasure to discover farine-mc's post on her blog about Noah Elbers and his talented group of bakers, and this bread.
Thank you Farine!!! (Farine-mc's post is here: - great information on how to make this bread, and video from Mr. Elbers' bakery, too!)

This oatmeal bread is made with cooked steel-cut oats, maple syrup, levain and a poolish. I had to try it!:

These are the weights I used (to make two loaves, 680g each)
(My baker's percentages may not correspond exactly to farine-mc's percentages;
I keep my starter at 100% hydration):

Noah Elbers' Maple-Oatmeal Bread       1360 Desired Dough Weight in grams       <----      
  Baker's Percentages Weights Baker's
Ingredients Dough Levain Poolish Dough Levain Poolish Total %
Bread flour 0.75 0.2 0.9 438 23 53 514 76%
WW flour 0.25 0.05 0.1 146 6 6 158 24%
Steel-cut oats, cooked 0.2     117     117  
Water 0.54 0.25 1 316 29 58 403  
Maple Syrup 0.16     94     94 75.05%
Yeast instant     0.004     0.2 0.2 0.03%
Salt 0.0264     15.43     15.43 2.30%
Sourdough Starter   0.5     59   59  
Levain 0.2     117        
Poolish 0.2     117        
Total 2.3264 1 2.004 1360 117 117 1361  

Here's the crumb shot (this bread has a gorgeous flavor, very moist crumb, and a slight sweetness, not definable as maple but still very good):

Happy baking everyone! from breadsong
Mebake's picture

Following 4 sourdough baking disasters in a row, a planned not to throw the dough this time. I sprinkled 1tsp of yeast and baked it 2 1/2 hours later.

The crumb shot above is from a slice at one side of the loaf, while the the crumb below is from the other side.

And the culprit: My starter. The size of the bubbles show a lacto-bacterial fermentation, with very little yeast activity. I have never seen such fermentation cells since i started using sourdough.

I am tending my starter now, feeding it every 12 hours to revive my yeasts.

GSnyde's picture

I joined in the Dutch Oven craze with a Pain de Campagne bake a few weeks ago, and the outcome was fine, but I think I get my best results with Sylvia’s magic towel technique.  So, for my first try at a Tartine-like Country Bread, I baked two sloppy boules on the stone.


I used the formula Brother David posted last week (, except I used professionally-milled flours rather than home-milled (since I don’t have a hackmesser of my own, nor a KitchenAid grinder attachment [which would not be very useful in that I don’t have a KitchenAid <geez, this sentence has lots of digressions>]).  I used my favored white flour, Central Milling Co.’s Organic Artisan Baker’s Craft, along with KAF Whole Wheat flour and BRM Whole Grain Spelt flour.  (This was the first time I’d used spelt flour and now I have a hankering to fry up some of those small Pacific surf fishes so I can have smelt on spelt.)

The 77% hydration dough was silky and malleable, but it was gumby-in-a-toaster-like to shape.  With a good deal of flour on the board and on my hands, I managed to form pretty tight boules.  I proofed one in the garage (52 F) so they could be baked in succession without the second one being overproofed.

As soon as they were gently plopped from the bannetons to the peel, they spread out.  But they did rise nicely in the oven.


And there was much crust crazing.


And this is kinda what I like the inside of my bread to look like.


The texture is about ideal for me—very moist, tender and airy crumb, but with some chew to it.  The flavor is good, but not the most interesting.  Not quite sour enough and I miss the touch of rye I usually have in my Pain de Campagne.

I think the next test is to try to get the flavor of San Francisco Country Sourdough with the crumb texture of this loaf.  Maybe 70% white/20% whole wheat/10% rye with 75% hydration and a three hour primary ferment.

Of course, Tasha thinks I should forget about bread and learn to bake kitty treats.





Subscribe to Recent Blog Entries