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mse1152's picture

Oh well...

After reading so much about people's love of the Thom Leonard country French bread, I decided to try it, following the steps in mountaindog's post. Here's the breakdown:

Starter: Early Thursday, I began the rye starter with a generous teaspoon of my active white starter, 1 T. dark rye and 1 T water; fed it the same rye and water amounts almost 6 hours later - had good bubbles at that point. Just before bed, discarded half of it, and fed same amounts again. Friday at about 6:45 a.m., I fed it 50g each of rye and water, without dumping anything. It doubled in 3 hours and was very bubbly!

Rye Starter
















Levain: I mixed the levain at 7:00 p.m. Friday. The starter had not moved up or down, and I wonder if I should have feed it once more; the instructions say you can feed the starter up to 12 hours before mixing the levain, so I thought I was in the ballpark. Next morning, Saturday, the levain looked like this at about 6:40 a.m. (no such thing as sleeping in with a toddler in the house):


TL Levain
















OK, looks good! I began mixing the dough around 7:00. I added no extra flour to knead, which I did for 10 minutes, then 5 more minutes after adding the salt. The dough was pretty firm, not sticky at all. I think mountaindog said it felt like piecrust dough to her, and I agree. Rested the dough for 30 minutes, then did the 3 S&F cycles with 30 minutes between each. The dough was easy to stretch out, but it felt like nothing much was happening until the 3rd cycle, when it began to feel like there was some growth going on. Then it sat in the bowl for the remaining 90 minutes, at about 69F.


Resting and Shaping: I divided the dough into 2 balls, and rested them for 15 minutes, then further shaped into boules and set them on parchment to proof (I don't have bannetons), on a baking stone. Heard plenty of bubbles popping as I tried to gently increase the tension.


Proofing: OK, here's where I deviated a little (busted!). I wanted to make sure the bread was baked before we went to a friend's house for dinner (pizza, go figure). So I used the proofing cycle in my oven, set to 85F. Covered the dough with oiled plastic, and set timers to check once an hour. After two hours, a small tragedy began to unfold:
















The dough had outgrown the stone; it felt nice and light, though. The top one in the picture is mangled because I had started to try to rescue it, then (in true Fresh Loaf fashion) thought to grab the camera for posterity. At first, I had dough damage panic, then I started to chuckle sort of oddly, and thought "Wait, I really meant to make oblong loaves...yes, that's right! Oblong!"


TL reshaped











's over, go on about yer business, folks...back in the warm oven they went for another hour (3 hours total proof).


Bake: Since mountaindog has posted about baking this bread from a cold start, I did that too. Set the oven to 425F and made some of the ugliest slashes I've done recently...too ugly to photograph in the raw. Here's how it all turned out:


TL loaves















They rose, and they look edible, but in a sorta grocery-store-ish way. Well, let's see what's inside, shall we?




TL crumb















The holes were left on the cutting room floor! Though I think that any degassing during the reshaping didn't affect the interior of the loaves; I don't think the crumb would have been open even if the boules had proofed fully untouched. The flavor is mild and it's quite edible, with a slight tangy aftertaste, but I was disheartened at this result. Sounds pretty civilized, eh? Actually, I pouted a bit and exercised my vocabulary, if you know what I mean.

So I'd like to ask the Leonard veterans if anything I described in the procedure sounds like the culprit...other than extreme dough-handling mid-proof. Maybe that's the only problem, who knows?

Now I'm off to go check on TT and JMonkey's starter escapades...


tattooedtonka's picture

Well today has not been my day.  It started out o.k., fed the starters, took my photos, and set out to start constructing a Marbled Loaf.  The goal was to take 3 different colored doughs, (green, white, pink) and mix them into a wonderful round loaf with the colors swirling throughout.

Well I got as far as having all 3 doughs made out.  The green dough was a Spinach dough.  The white was a plain sweetened dough, and the pink was a tomato dough.  This recipe was out of Bernard Clayton's "New Complete Book of Breads". 

Now I have seen photos of this finished bread in another book at the bookstore, but it didnt post a recipe for it.  How elated I was to find it in this book.  However, soon after the three were in their seperate bowls my mutitasking began.  Unfortunately, my muti's surpassed my abilitites to task.  And my poor doughs sat waaayyy tooo looonnnggg before I was able to get back to them.  About 2 1/2 hours too long.  When I finally got back home, I did what I could to salvage my debacle.  I just did a simple braid, baked and hoped for the best.

Oh well, I will try again next weekend.

I just cut open the loaf, it tastes good, the spinach section is my favorite.  The tomato, would be my least favorite.  This however could be because of my errors.  I will try this again, just to see what it tastes like done correctly.


Floydm's picture

On Mother's Day I found myself without a prepped starter or poolish. There were some leftover mashed potatos in the fridge, so I hit the cookbooks and found a recipe that fit the bill in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads.

This made wonderfully soft, sweet rolls. They weren't as rich as brioche, but they certainly tasted much richer than what I normally bake. The crumb was even and very soft, soft enough that my 2 year old was petting it.

Soft! "Purr purr"

Sister Jennie's Potato Bread Makes 1 dozen rolls 1 cup mashed potatoes 2 eggs 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup warm water 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter 2 teaspoons instant yeast 4 - 5 cups all-purpose flour

I combined everything and then let it rise until it had approximately doubled in size (90 minutes).

I scaled the rolls to between 4 and 5 ounces, which was on the large size (almost hamburger bun sized). There is enough sugar in them that they need to baked at a fairly low temperature and on a higher shelf than usual unless you want burned bottoms. I believe I baked them for around 20 minutes at 375.

bluezebra's picture

So I decided to start a baking blog for this BlueZebra to keep track of my baking progress. Hopefully, some of the pros will stop in and offer their helpful suggestions and I will then have it compiled onto my site.

I am also going to ask Bill if he minds if I copy/paste his starter information to my blog so that I will also have it at the ready.

Tomorrow I am going to ignite the sparks that will hopefully lead to my first sourdough starter. I plan on using Mike Avery's starter recipe and instructions (he's at  ) and will also keep my eye peeled on the test being conducted between Tatooedtonka and JMonkey, which started today. I will also check on Bill to see how his new starter is going too.

One thought. Last night I made pizza dough using the PR Neo-neopolitan pizza dough recipe found on Floyd's Pizza Primer thread here at This is the second time I made this dough. I am a bit confused about the instructions for dough development since I don't own the American Pie book by PR that has the recipe in it. Floyd's recipe says to rapidly stir the wet dough mass then set it aside to rest for 3-5 minutes, then to repeat this process. Then to split it up into bags and refrigerate if not using immediately.

I followed these instructions last time and although the end pizzas were really good, I ended up having to knead the dough at the last minute which threw my dinner timing off. The dough wasn't developed at all and had no extensibility or elasticity. It had no "oomph" and was very flaccid and brittle. So this time, I decided to experiment on my own. I kneaded it in the bowl (which I will discuss in a minute) after I did the brisk stirring procedures. Then I put it through 3 french folds on the counter at 30 minute intervals. Then I put it through a bulk fermentation. And then split it up into 4 pieces of dough. Put two of them in oiled bags and into the freezer and kept two pieces of dough out.

Wow the difference was incredible! The first ball of dough fought me as I was making it. It was soft and had a beautiful texture but it obviously needed a rest to get over the final fold and the splitting. This was evidenced by the fact that doughball #2 did get a 60 minute rest as I worked with dough #1 and made and cooked the first pizza to give to Brian. Brian's crust did not have near the oven spring despite the fact that I wrestled it into shape and proofed it for 30 minutes on the parchment. He did say that the bottom was very nicely crisp. But that the inside was a little gummy. I baked it longer too. It baked for about 8 minutes at 550 and was brown on top. The dough was only about 1/8" maximum in the center going into the oven.

My dough had a 60 minute rest and was beautiful to work with for final pizza formation. I did not let it proof on the pan. I formed the pizza. Topped it. Baked it at 550 for about 8 minutes and it was great! Crispy bottom but it did have some gumminess in the center. I am thinking this is a drawback in this recipe. If I blind bake the crust without toppings for a couple of minutes, I'm afraid it will be too tough and overcooked. But, I will try this next week with one of the doughs as a test. I will cook the second one next week at a lower temp (like 425) for a longer amount of time and see what happens.

Now for the breakthrough: The dough was very wet. Not as wet as the pagnotta dough but still wet none-the-less. I worked it with vigor for about 2 minutes then set it aside for 5 minutes. Came back and worked it again for 2 minutes (at this point I was already seeing good gluten development). Then I set it aside for 20 minutes. When I came back, I decided to fold in the bowl. Knowing that it's actually the stretching portion that helps to develop the gluten, I used my big rubber one-piece spatula and in a folding motion, would sweep around to the bottom of the dough and pull the dough up as far as I could before bringing the pulled section down and over onto the middle of the dough mass. Each time I did this, I gave the bowl a 1/4 turn. I worked the dough like this for about 3 minutes. I lost track of how many stretch and rotations I did. But it was uber easy and very therapeutic.

The difference in dough texture from beginning of this step to the end of it was incredible! Night and day. The elasticity of the dough was really beautiful and towards the end I could pull the dough up so much higher with the spatula than I could in the beginning (before the dough showed signs of tearing). When I touched the mass in the bowl it immediately sprang back at me. So I covered the bowl and set it to rest for 30 minutes. Then came back and began the folding steps. I started the dough late and didn't have time to do a preferment. I started at around 2:30pm. It gave me plenty of time. It was a beautiful and bubbly dough. I think I will try the ciabatta dough by working it this way. The dough definitely seemed to like it!

Another important note: I was really skeptical that 1 tsp. of idy yeast would be enough for this recipe with 5 cups of flour, but judging from the action of the yeast in my dough, 1 tsp was plenty! The flavor of the pizza was very nice. It did not brown very strongly so I think I will try adding some malt the next time I make it (which will be Friday after next...Friday being pizza night at the zebra pen).

I also made pasta dough last night. I felt like a real chef! I made it at the same time I began my pizza dough then set it to rest in the fridge until time to form it into sheet for fresh ravioli. I didn't use a recipe! Hard to believe! I just put about 1-3/4 cups AP flour in a bowl and put 2 good pinches of kosher salt in the flour. Made a well in the center of the mixed up flour/salt and cracked 2 large eggs into it. I used a fork and started beating the eggs up in the well and started pulling bits of flour into the center, still beating. When it was thick enough I turned it out onto the counter and did the Mike Avery fold and knead. Turn 90 degrees fold over once and do a strong frissage, then repeat turning the dough 90 degrees. I only worked the dough maybe 2 minutes. Then covered with a bowl and let it rest at room temp for 30 minutes. I came back and worked the dough another 2 minutes and by that time, the gluten had developed although it was still tender to the touch. I refrigerated about 3 hours. Then took it out split it into two batches and started putting it through the pasta roller. Make sheets out of it and set them aside to dry a bit. Then filled and sealed and let them dry a little longer. They were delicious and the pasta was a great flavor and so easy! It made 18 very large raviolis. So we definitely have leftovers!

My filling was fantastic. I had an empty larder so had to used creativity to come up with the filling. I made roasted garlic, gruyere, parmesan, craisin and pumpkin filling in a sherry cream sauce with bacon crumbles and fresh parmesan to finish it. Wow! it went so well with my green olive, onion and mushroom pizza!!! Add a cabernet sauvignon to that and I would serve that meal to company any night!

OK so what am I learning so far (in the last 6 weeks or so that I've been trying to become a home baker)? I've learned that the best thing a newbie baker can do is approach the bread with confidence. It isn't like a pastry. It isn't so fragile. And the recipes are fairly forgiving. I've also learned that the best way to learn about the feel of a dough is to make it a few times. Confidence is built through repitition. I don't pretend to know when every dough had been worked enough. In fact, I'm fairly sure I'm still underworking the dough, but the recent results this past week indicate that thanks to Mike Avery and many of the people here at, I've experienced a huge breakthrough in baking.

Tomorrow I start the sourdough samba. I will spend today trying to think of a brilliant name and will send my hunter and gatherer out to procure suitable jars for the incubation! It's only proper that he have some role in this creation process! ;)  I might even give him a vote on names!

TinGull's picture

Having some friends over for a cookout tonight and made some hamburger buns and hot dog rolls....and marshmallows for our s'mores!  I hate to have to buy the garbage marshmallows at the store, so I love making my own.




Floydm's picture

I was looking at The Fresh Loaf traffic stats in the newest version of Google Analytics today and, I gotta say, I've never seen charts like these. For example, here is a visitor report for a typical website:

Weekend traffic is lower. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday have the highest traffic because most people are in the office those days and most web surfing, even if it is for pleasure, happens while people are at the office.

There is a similar curve throughout the day, with the highest traffic on most sites being between 10-2 PM Pacific Time, when people on both the east and west coasts of the US are in the office. Traffic from Europe and Asia can, obviously, impact how much off hours traffic you have, but I've never seen a US-based website whose traffic that didn't peak in the middle of the business day here.

Here is my chart for the past month.

The spike at the end is when StumbleUpon featured The Fresh Loaf. I think the dip on the 7th was when my server was acting up. Otherwise, it is almost a straight line. Traffic is higher around the holidays, but overall my traffic is extremely constant, with about 65% of traffic coming from new users and 35% from returning visitors.

What is really unusual is the visitor loyalty report:

When people return to The Fresh Loaf, they return. A lot. That almost 20 percent of my traffic has been to the site more than 9 times in the last month and that almost 5 percent has been here over 200 times is unheard of. I've never seen stats like that. This just reinforces my sense that you guys are crazy that we have a very enthusiastic community here. People come here and either decide this isn't what they were looking for and go away, or they decide this is exactly what they were looking for, so they come back again and again and again...

JMonkey's picture

Well, I said I'd make this later tonight, but I didn't exactly expect it to be this late. Ah well, it'll still be "later today" for about 20 minutes.

Anyway, here's what I propose, TT.

  1. Let's use SourdoLady's method, with just a few caveats.
  2. If you've got scales, I'd prefer to use equal weights of flour and liquid ... say 1 ounce flour and 1 ounce water instead of 2 Tbs.
  3. If you don't have scales, no biggie -- we'll just follow SourdoLady's measures.
  4. My grocery store doesn't have pineapple juice so far as I know, so would it be alright to go with orange juice?
  5. I'll use freshly ground flour, as that's all I've got. Hope you don't mind, but since I've got the grains here, I'd rather not go out an buy a bag. What brand will you be using? If you can find fresh-ground flour, that'd probably help, but it's not necessary. I didn't use fresh-ground for either of the starters I made. I've got a whole wheat starter that I began with rye for the first three days and then switched to white flour -- I converted to whole wheat a few months later. That's Arthur the Whole Wheat Starter. Rhonda Rye is a pure rye starter.
  6. How about we start Saturday morning and we'll just post our pictures and commentary here. Sound good?
  7. Would you rather start with rye, whole wheat or whole spelt? I can do any of the above, though my preference would be whole wheat.
  8. Let's stick with whole grains until we're sure we've got something going. I think we'll have an easier time of it and, once we're sure the culture is alive, we can convert to white flour.

Sound good? I'm rarin' to go!
bwraith's picture

The following is a description of how I maintain my 100% hydration (1:1 flour:water by weight) starter. The term 100% hydration refers to the baker's percentage of water in the starter, i.e. the water in the starter is 100% of the weight of the flour in the starter.

This maintenance regime assumes that your starter is already healthy, fresh, and active. This is not what I would do to "start a starter", but rather it is the maintenance regime I follow to store, revive, and use my starter over time.

The following characteristics are for a 100% hydration starter. The characteristics, signs of health, problems, and readiness for use are different for starters maintained at different hydration levels.

Characteristics of my 100% hydration white flour starter:

  • The weight of flour and water in the starter are equal.
  • The flour is either bread or AP flour with protein content around 11-13%.
  • The water is bottled (Poland Spring).
  • Normally fed at room temperature.
  • Stored in the refrigerator when not being fed.
  • The consistency can be described as a thick, stirrable paste after it is fed.

Characteristics of a recently fed, fresh, active 100% hydration starter:

  • It rises by double in about 4-5 hours at room temperature after a feeding of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight)
  • It maintains a reasonably thick, elastic consistency after rising by double.
  • It smells very pleasant. The smell could be described as flowery, tangy, and slightly sweet.
  • No liquid layers develop on top or in the middle even hours after rising by double.
  • Hooch (an alcoholic layer of liquid on top) forms eventually when it is stored in the refrigerator for a week or more or left out for a long time at room temperature after doubling.

Characteristics of a 100% hydration starter that is not yet ready or is possibly unhealthy:

  • Unpleasant odors a few hours after feeding.
  • Separated layers of liquid form a few hours after feeding.
  • Takes longer than 4-6 hours to rise by double at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding (starter:flour:water by weight).
  • Develops a runny consistency a few hours after feeding.

An Important Note on the Large Effect of Temperature on Rise Times

Before launching into the information below on maintaining starters, it is worthwhile to point out one of the largest points of confusion in sourdough starter maintenance. Temperature has a big effect on the speed of reproduction and the activity of the organisms in a sourdough culture. For example my kitchen may average 76F in the summer and only 69F in the winter. At 76F, my starter may rise by double after a 1:2:2 feeding in 4.2 hours, whereas at 69F it will double in 6.4 hours. At 64F, it would take 9.4 hours. It is not a problem to follow the procedures below in a kitchen with a temperature averaging 64F; but clearly, you need to allow for rise times of roughly double in the various discussions below. So, adjust your expectations and timing accordingly, if your temperatures don't hover fairly close to 74F or so, which is the temperature assumed for the discussions below.

Assuming a healthy, active starter, here is the maintenance regime I follow to feed, store, revive, and use my starter.


I almost always feed my starter 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight) and then allow it to rise by double at room temperature, which should take about 4.5 hours when it is fully active and recently fed. Once it has risen by double, it is placed in the refrigerator. The starter can then be used directly from the refrigerator in a recipe for the next 3 days. On the first day, it is almost the same as it was right after it rose by double. On the second day, it has a little more flavor and may be ever so slightly weaker, but it is still at an excellent point to use in a recipe. After 3 days, it can still be used, but it will have stronger, more sour flavors, and it will be noticeably weaker in terms of rising power. If you have a recipe that uses a very small percentage of starter in the dough, it won't matter much if you use old starter. I've used week old starter in recipes where the flour contributed to the dough was only 5% of the total flour weight. If you are using the starter in a recipe that has a high percentage of starter, it may be better to use the starter after 2 days or less in the refrigerator.

Although it may not make much difference, I actually maintain my starter with a 1:2:2.2 feeding ratio, i.e. at a 90% hydration. With the bread flour I use (KA Bread Flour) that results in a consistency of a thick paste that is a little difficult to stir once you mix it up well. The amounts you work with don't matter much, either, other than the amount of flour being thrown out. I typically work with a total culture size of about 80 grams. My scale will measure down to 1 gram of precision. A typical 1:2:2.2 feeding would be (16g:30g:34g) of (old starter:water:flour). Below I am doing 1:10:11 feedings, which are done by feeding (4g:40g:44g) of (old starter:water:flour).

The above method works great, but see in the variation section below for an update on how I am feeding most recently to better accomodate a 12 hour feeding cycle. Also, I now use an even thicker consistency, around 80% hydration. It seems to keep longer this way on the counter or in the refrigerator.


Once the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than three days, I consider it to be in storage. It can't be used directly in a recipe, but instead will have to be revived. If I plan to store my starter for a period of time longer than 2 weeks, I usually will thicken it up, as it keeps better at a thicker consistency. However, even at 100% hydration, I've had no problems reviving my starter after 2 months. At thicker consistencies, the starter can last for many months in the refrigerator. I believe Glezer says it can last more than a year in a very stiff consistency, like 50% hydration. However, the longest I've gone with my starter is 2 months. I use glass canisters for both feeding and storage. I usually pour the ready to refrigerate starter into a fresh container, so that the sides are clean and the starter is stirred down to take up less volume. The containers have a rubber gasket that seals them from the air in the refrigerator but allows some gas to escape if pressure and gasses build up in the container.


When the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, it must be revived first before it can be used in a recipe. I do this by simply feeding it once or twice in the manner described under "Feeding". After being stored for a week or two or more, rising by double after a 1:2:2 feeding may take something like 6-8 hours at room temperature. If it only takes 6 hours, one feeding works fine. However, if it takes more than 6 hours to rise by double at room temperature, I generally feed it one more time. The second feeding usually takes much closer to 4.5 hours, which is an indication it is fully revived. On the occasion where it had been stored for 2 months, it took a third feeding at room temperature before the starter would rise by double in 4.5 hours at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding.

One subtle aspect of all this is the question of how long after the starter has doubled should you wait to feed it again. The starter needs to ripen enough to bring the cell counts up to their maximum level. In the period after you feed the starter, the cell counts of yeast and lactobacillus will double every couple of hours or so. Once the starter is ripe enough, the yeast and lactobacillus cell counts will stop increasing. The pH and acid levels get to a point where they attenuate the cell activity, and they can no longer multiply in numbers. So, you want to let the starter mature enough to reach that maximum cell count, and then feed it again or store it. Just based on experience, it seems like my starter does well as long as I let it sit for an hour or two beyond the point it doubles. I usually "stir it down" at the point it doubles, and then let it rise some more. However, I refrigerate it right when it doubles, since it will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. Recently, I was rushing my feeding schedule and slowed my starter down by trying to feed too early, just before it had completely doubled, in fact. The result was that it was taking longer than usual to rise. The solution was to let it sit a while longer for a few feedings in a row. It didn't take long at all for it to bounce back to doubling in 4.5 hours from a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature.


You can feed at a lower or higher ratio than 1:2:2 in order to adjust the amount of starter you want to build to match a recipe or to better match the times when you can feed the starter conveniently. However, I never feed at a lower ratio than 1:1:1 to avoid any problems with acid building up or the starter becoming too ripe or underfed. Higher ratios can be used to lengthen out the rise time if you know you will not be back within 4-6 hours to store the starter in the refrigerator before it becomes too ripe. At warmer temperatures, the starter will rise by double much more quickly after a 1:2:2 feeding, taking something like 2.5 hours at about 85F, for example. At 85F the timing for rising by double will be very roughly half as long as at room temperature, and at 65F the timing will be very roughly twice as long (very, very roughly).

Recently, I've been experimenting with feeding ratios for a 12 hour room temperature maintenance schedule. I have found that feeding 1:10:11 (for a slightly thicker consistency I'm using 90% hydration), results in a 12 hour cycle. The starter will double 8 hours after the 1:10:11 feeding, and then I stir it down and let it ripen some more. If I feed every 12 hours on this cycle, the starter is at full strength from about 8 to 12 hours after being fed (all this at room temperature). When you feed a starter routinely at higher ratios, like 1:10:11, it will ferment for longer periods of time at higher pH. The result should be that the starter will have relatively more lactobacillus in it compared to a starter maintained with a 1:2:2 feeding ratio, since the lactobacillus thrive in a slightly higher pH environment (around 5 pH).  I can't say what the effect on flavor would be, but it makes sense that the aromatic compounds and acids produced by the lactobacillus would be more evident in the one maintained with the high feeding ratio. Although this is not at all scientific, I do think that the starter I've maintained with a 1:10:11 feeding ratio has a more intense aroma than the one fed with a 1:2:2 ratio.

Even more recently (added 12/14/2007), I've settled on feeding every 12-17 hours using a feeding of 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight). Using this procedure, the starter doubles in volume in about 4.75 hours at 76F or about 7.25 hours at 69F. Even at 69F, the starter has peaked in 12 hours, so it can be fed again. At 76F, it will peak and fall after 12 hours, but it is still at full strength and will rise vigorously when fed. It seems like a good compromise that can be used year-round for a 12 hour cycle. The starter can be maintained on the counter at room temperature indefinitely using this procedure. If I know I won't be baking bread for a while, I thicken up the starter by feeding it 1:4:7 to thicken it up when I feed it next, and put it in the refrigerator immediately after feeding. Then, I take it out a day or two in advance of the next bread-making session and revive by letting it rise by double and feeding 1:4:5 every 12 hours. Although I generally go through the revival procedure, I've found that the starter is at close to full strength even after 7 days in the refrigerator when stored this way. So, it's possible to take the starter out of the refrigerator, let it rise by double, and use most of it in a bread recipe, and take a tiny portion of it to revive for a couple of feeding cycles before returning it again to the refrigerator using the 1:4:7 feeding and refrigerating immediately.

When to Refrigerate

I like flavors to be less sour and more mild in sourdough breads I make. I've found that the right flavors and lower amounts of sour flavor seem to be there when I don't let the starter become overly ripe before using it in a recipe. That's why I tend to refrigerate when the starter has just doubled. You can experiment with feeding schedules that allow the starter to become more ripe before refrigerating. It will change the balance of organisms in the culture and therefore the flavor. Also, when you use a large percentage of starter, the larger amount of accumulated byproducts of fermentation in a more ripe starter will contribute directly to the flavor and texture of the dough, in addition to the contribution made by the subsequent fermentation.

An Additional Tip on Refrigerated Starter Storage

If you are using your starter fairly frequently, like once a week, then just refrigerating it when it doubles will work very well. You can use the starter directly out of the refrigerator for a period of time if stored that way. For storage it works well, as I've had no problem reviving my starter after 2 months when stored just after doubling. However, as Mike Avery commented below, and I've verified as well, feeding a well revived and healthy starter in such a way as to thicken it to a firm consistency and then refrigerating it immediately allows the starter to keep very well for longer periods of time. It can be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rise by double or a little more and used directly in a recipe, even after a week, I've found. If you use this procedure, the starter should still be "revived" with enough feedings, usually one or two more, at room temperature to verify that the starter is rising at full strength again before it is again stored in the refrigerator.

Converting Starters

I sometimes make a recipe starter for a whole grain bread by feeding some of my starter with spelt or whole wheat. I have never fed a starter with whole grain repeatedly to completely convert it, so I have to accept the flavor as is and a small amount of white flour in my whole grain recipes. I'm sure there are many subtle flavor differences if you feed repeatedly and fully convert a starter from being fed exclusively with white flour to being fed exclusively with a whole grain flour. I've found the feeding and rising process works about the same way with whole grains for a recipe starter, except that the rise times seem a little bit faster with the whole grain flours.


It's pretty hard to kill a healthy starter, but here are a few ways to possibly send yours over the edge.

  • Heat the starter to over 95F and kill the organisms - easier than you might think, for example...
    • Use actual oven heat and get up over 100F very quickly.
    • Place the starter in an oven with the light on - check carefully first - it can be much hotter than you think in there with just the oven light on and the door closed.
    • Use hot water to feed your starter
  • Put acids in the culture
    • The culture doesn't need acid if it's healthy. It generates all the acid it needs on its own.
    • Sometimes a small shot of vinegar or other acid, such as pineapple juice, may help fix a sluggish culture, but if you feed acid repeatedly, you can put too much in and kill the starter.
  • Not feeding the culture for too long at warm temperatures or repeatedly underfeeding over long periods.
    • When out of the refrigerator, the culture will be very active and must be fed to stay healthy.
    • It is especially easy to underfeed a culture when temperatures are warmer.
  • Overfeeding the culture
    • If you feed before the culture has ripened enough repeatedly you can dilute the culture and eventually kill it.
    • More likely to happen at colder temperatures, stiffer consistencies, or higher feeding ratios. Let the culture rise by double, then let it ripen for a number of hours beyond that. A dip should form in the middle when the culture is at its peak. You can let it go for a number of hours beyond the point it dips, but it should be ready to feed at the point it is dipping or collapsing on itself.
    • If you refrigerate the culture for storage, you can let it just rise by double and then refrigerate it. It will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. However, allow it to come to full ripeness at room temperature over a couple of feedings once in a while, normally done when reviving the culture for baking, to avoid any decline similar to overfeeding caused by repeatedly refrigerating when it has just doubled.

Given the above, it makes a lot of sense to keep back a small amount of old starter in the refrigerator, even if just the scrapings from the inside of the container that came out of the refrigerator, until you're sure the feeding went well. It's also not a bad idea to make a small amount of stiff starter and keep as a backup. Some dry their starter and freeze or store it for backup.

Tips on Quantities Used, Mixing Technique, and Volumes (a scale is highly recommended, but to use measuring spoons...)

As I've gained experience, the amounts of starter I work with have dropped. I haven't found any disadvantages to using smaller quantities. For example, my most recent feeding routine (mentioned in the variations section above) is 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight) is done by taking a clean jar, putting it on the scale and adding 5 grams of starter and 20 grams of water. I stir vigorously with a tiny whisk to aerate and thoroughly mix the starter into the water. Then, I add 25g of flour and use a fork to thoroughly mix the flour into water, forming a fairly thick paste - not quite a dough, but very thick. I then take a small spatula and scrape down the sides, put the lid on the jar, and place the jar in a nice unobtrusive spot on my counter where hopefully no one will disturb it.

If you don't have a scale, my first advice is to get one. It makes baking much more reliable, especially when you are trying to reproduce another baker's recipe. A good digital scale costs about $25 and is very much worth the trouble. Still, the procedure in the previous paragraph is easy to do by taking 1 teaspoon of starter, adding 2 tablespoons of water, and stirring vigorously to aerate and completely mix the starter into the water. Then, add 3 tablespoons and possibly another teaspoon or so of flour, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Scrape down the sides of the jar, cover, and place on the counter.

If you are planning to store the starter for a long time in the refrigerator, it helps to carefully drop the recently fed and thickened starter into a clean jar, so that there is no film of flour or paste stuck to the sides at all. Over a longer period, it is possible for mold to grow on a residue of flour paste left on the sides of the jar.


What I describe above is just one way to do it. I'm sure there are many other ways, but I find this method convenient and robust. It's hard to kill a healthy freshly fed and risen starter that is stored in the refrigerator. It is convenient that the starter remains in a good usable state for several days. Very small amounts can be used when storing it for long periods to avoid large amounts of flour waste. I store something like 100 grams when I'm planning to store the starter for more than a few days, so my revival can be used in a recipe without wasting much if any flour. Maintaining only one starter and converting it for recipes each time is easy and convenient, although by not fully converting the starter to a whole grain flour some flavor or other characteristics may be missed with this approach.

tattooedtonka's picture

Here is my Mocha Java bread.  The bread has the color of WW but only contains white bread flour.  It is infused with chocolate and coffee.  The crust is soft, with a very soft creamy crumb that has melted chocolate and caramel throughout.  With a nice flavor of coffee to go with the chocolate.


  • 20oz. Bread Flour
  • 20oz. Brewed Coffee; Cooled ( I used Green Mountain Coffee Roasters - Mocha Java)
  • 1oz.   Finely ground coffee  (same as above )
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Instant Yeast

Mix all together and let rest on counter for 1 hour.  This is not really done for yeast activity as much as it done to help start the extraction of the coffee oils from the grounds. This allows plenty of time for the hydration of the coffee and start blending the flavors in a wet environment)


  • 2lb. 8oz. Bread Flour
  • 16 oz. Brewed coffee; cooled (Mocha Java)
  • 8oz. Milk
  • 4oz. Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3 1/2 Teaspoons Instant Yeast
  • 10oz. Bag of Milk Chocolate/Caramel Morsels (I used Toll House)
  • All of Sponge from above recipe

Mix all items together in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let set for 1 hour. 

After hour is up, dump contents onto lightly floured counter top and spread out only lightly degassing.  Fold top towards you into the middle, then fold the side closest to you into the middle, then fold left in, then right in.  Then place back into bowl seam side down, and cover.

Do this again two more times, folding at 1 hour intervals.

After this third hours fold, cut dough in half.  Shape two loaves as you wish, I used a basic batard type of shape but a round loaf would work as well.  After dough is shaped I put them right into a cold start oven and did the slashes just before putting them in. Both loaves opened up nicely.  (basically after fold, cut-shape-score-bake, no waiting around for final resting.....daaaa)

I Baked at 375' F. for 40 minutes until  internal temp of 202'F.

Image of SpongeSponge Image

After 1st mixing all ingredients

After 1st rise before folding

After first fold

After final fold

Finished product



bwraith's picture

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaves

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

I finally decided to give a try at an (almost) whole grain sandwich loaf. Admittedly I didn't switch my starter over, but I only have a few percent of the flour contributed from the white flour starter. Many thanks to all the contributors to, including at least JMonkey, ehanner, mountaindog, browndog5, Srishti, zolablue, sourdough-guy, sourdolady, tomsbread, and breadnerd for the very useful pointers on handling of whole grain breads. I didn't quite do justice to the good information, as you can see, but the crumb is certainly open enough, light enough, and soft enough, as well as having a nice flavor. I was happy with these results for a first try. I definitely overproofed them, partly because the cooler with warm water technique for the final proof was very effective.

I've included a few additional photos, although I didn't photograph the whole process this time. I also included a spreadsheet with weights of ingredients in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.


Recipe Starter

  • 142 grams 100% hydration starter (I used a white flour starter)
  • 227 grams whole spelt flour
  • 113 grams water


  • 40 grams malt syrup
  • 4g diastatic malt powder
  • 581 grams water
  • 397 grams red whole wheat (I used KA organic WW Flour)
  • 57 grams rye (I used KA rye blend, but substitue with WW flour if you want)
  • 170 grams white whole wheat (I used KA Organic White WW Flour)
  • 17 grams salt
  • 28 grams olive oil


The night before you plan to bake, mix the starter ingredients, and knead them for about 2 minutes to make a dough out of them. Let rise in a covered container for about 4 hours at room temperature until doubled and refrigerate overnight.

Also the night before you plan to bake, mix the malt syrup, diastatic malt powder, water, and all the flours and place in a covered container. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, cut the starter into small cubes. Spread the refrigerated mass of flours, water, and other ingredients out on the counter and press the cubes into the mass. Sprinkle the salt and oil over the mass. Press the heels of your hand into the mass to force the ingredients to mix well. Roll up the mass and knead a few times to further mix the ingredients. You can then spread the mass out again and press it flat and then roll it up. After 2 or 3 repetitions of spreading out, pressing flat, and rolling up the mass, the ingredients will be well incorporated and the mass will seem more like a dough. It will be very sticky, but if you keep the counter surface, the dough surface, and your hands wet, it is not difficult to handle.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in a rising bucket. Every 30-60 minutes for the first couple of hours, turn the dough out on the counter and fold it. After a few folds, just let it rise until it has doubled. The dough should double in volume in a total of about 4 hours at room temperature. The idea is to do enough folds to get the dough feeling elastic and resilient, but not so many that it begins to feel very stiff and loses its elasticity.

Shaping and Final Proof

I shaped according to JMonkeys video. The dough should be split in two, formed more or less into batards, and placed in two loaf pans approximately 9 inches long. To form the batards, just lay one of the two halves of the dough out in a long rectangle and roll it from the short end, stretching the outside surface as you roll it. You may want to tuck some of the end of the roll in toward the center a little as you roll it up. Seal it and tuck the ends under, and place into the pans with the nice, stretched surface up. You can put a little oil on the surface of the loaf to protect it from drying out. Place the pans in a warm humid place to rise. I put them in a cooler with a bowl of warm water next to them. Allow them to rise by approximately double or a little less.

Unfortunately, the temperature was very warm in my garage, where the cooler was, probably around 85F. I let them go for 4 hours and then realized they were way overproofed. The result was no oven spring. I shouldn't have slashed them and just put them in the oven. You can see what happened in the photos. I think if I had stopped the final proof at about 2 hours at 85F, I would have had a better slash with oven spring and so on. I know I'm getting close to figuring this out, as the loaves still had a flavorful, open crumb.


I baked these starting in a cold oven for about 45 minutes at 425F.


Once the loaves have cooled for a minute or two, remove them from the pans and allow them to cool on a rack. 


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