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Hi Bill,

 The results were not great! LOL, I forgot the salt. And my mind is having trouble focusing right now due to health. I flipped the amount of flour and water so had to try to fly by the seat of my pant and increase the flour. I knew I had more than enough of the preferment and more than enough starter was added. I made batards and they eat ok enough but I prefer your true pagnotta recipe.


Will write more later.

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METHOD: The purpose of this test on the sourdough starter is to test how long he takes to rise in a 60% hydration, lean dough.

Time 3:00pm

75.7 degrees F

31.5 and rising barometric pressure

2 oz General Chaos Starter

4 oz AP Walmart Brand Flour

2.25oz Filtered Water (Pur)

3/8 tsp Iodized Salt

Mixed all ingredients together for about 2 minutes until dough formed that pulled away from sides of dough but still stuck to bottom.

Transferred to a large glass measuring cup and covered with plastic wrap and a saucer.

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Well Bill and Katie, apparently all that General Chaos aka Sir Stinksalot needed was to be threatened with the arrival of a new kid on the block, "Flat Stanley" (from Katie's parchment experiments)! I used Bill's 1:4:4 for yesterday morning and yesterday night feeds. Each time the little guy doubled in a little under 8 hours!!!! Yippee!!!

So last night I really wanted to drill down on the proper amount of feeding for him every 12 hours (for now) and I tested 3 different formulations and the temp was 75.7 degrees yesterday and last night in the kitchen, with the following results:

1. Test 1 is a 1:4:4 feed using 1oz starter: 4 oz water: 4oz flour and I got a 100% rise at 8 hours.

2. Test 2 is a 1:9:10 feed using 1 tbsp starter: 9 tbsp water: 9 tbsp flour and I got a 30% rise in 8 hours.

3. Test 3 is a 1:1:1 feed using 1/4 cup starter: 1/4 cup water: 1/4 cup flour and I got a 10% rise in 8 hours.

So I know the 1:4:4 makes a happy starter for now... Bill am I looking for a starter that will double in 4hours? Do you think that in test 2 and 3 my sample was too small? Or do you think that the starter is just still building steam? I guess I will go ahead and wait for it to completely peak before feeding again this morning, then refead the 1:4:4 with the same ratio again?

Thanks Katie for your generous offer! It might be fun once I get this guy going to "trade" starters and have a "friends" starter going and do a tasting. To see how two geographically different starters taste side by side! :D

On a side note, General Chaos is really smelling ok these days. He hasn't been stinky in quite awhile even though he did have a pretty strong vinegar smell there for awhile! ;) Now he just smells acidic towards the end of his rise time.

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COMMENTARY: I made Katie's English Muffins this morning after starting the dough last night and letting it sit out over night. I mixed up the rest of the ingredients this morning and cut them and let them rise then used my cast iron skillet (too lazy to get the cast iron griddle out). I made 3 at a time and it was pretty easy. Woulda been faster with the griddle since it straddles two burners.

I will never buy english muffins again. The flavor and crumb were beautiful. The dough was so easy to work with as well. I'm about ready to admit I need different flour because I don't think my sourdough starter is strong enough. It makes for very mild flavor. It's still not doubling in 4 hours it's still not doubling in 12 hours but it seems to be doing a pretty good job of making the dough rise and ferment so I don't really understand it. I have so much to learn with it. I'm making the Sourdough Pagnotta today to test it on hearty bread. I figured I would repeat this recipe because I know how it performs yeasted but don't know how it will turn out with sourdough. So it should be a useful test of the starter.


Katie's English Muffins

 Katie's English Muffins

Katie's English Muffins From A Different Angle

 Katie's English Muffins From A Different Angle

Katie's Sourdough English Muffins


Makes about 12 

1/2 C starter (mine is a 100% hydration white starter) 

1 C milk

2-3/4 C AP flour

1 TBSP sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Semolina or cornmeal, for dusting


Combine starter, 2 C of flour and milk in a large bowl.  Stir to combine,

cover with plastic wrap, and leave out for 8 hours or overnight.

After the overnight rest, add remaining flour (I didn't add any), sugar, salt

and baking soda and mix well.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead

for 4-5 minutes.  Roll out to 3/4" and cut with a biscuit cutter into rounds. 

You can re-roll the scraps, but you may need to let the dough rest before

cutting more muffins from them.  Place muffins on a piece of parchment

dusted with semolina and let rest for 45 minutes.

Spray griddle or skillet lightly with spray oil.  Heat griddle to medium and cook

muffins for about 6-8 minutes on each side, or until browned on the top and

bottom and cooked through.  These have great griddle spring and rise quite

a bit during the "baking".

Split with a fork and enjoy with your favorite topping!  I don't even toast them

if I want to eat them right off the griddle--they don't have that raw taste that

storebought english muffins have.



NOTES: I prefer the muffins toasted because it adds to the flavor. I missed the instruction 

that said to spray the pan with oil. I used a dry heated cast iron skillet and they cooked

just fine and that way I didn't have as much smoking as I would if I added oil. Also, I cooked

these about 5 minutes per side in the skillet and finished by baking them off at 450 degrees for 

about 4 minutes. Also I used cornmeal to dust the parchment that I set these on and it was great.

These are a winner recipe. 
bluezebra's picture

COMMENTARY: Well I bit the bullet on Day 10 and decided that doubling or no, I would use the leftover starter from General Chaos' morning feeding or die trying! I also had been having a serious case of Sourdough Envy due mainly from Tattoed Tonkas conquest of the Apple Bacon Onion Sourdough Bread and also Katie's very successful sourdough accomplishments. Unfortunately, I must apologize in advance because I find myself, when in the midst of baking, to revert back to less than stellar habits - mainly the "fly by the seat of your pants" throw in a handful of that, a pinch of this, an eye of newt, a slap in the probably get the picture? It's really a whirl wind of concocting inspired no doubt by long hours hiding in the bathroom as a little girl playing "chemistry" in the medicine chest and making "cakes" made of shampoo, old spice and shaving foam. :D Hell with a family of five the bathroom was the only semi-guaranteed place of privacy since it had a lock on the door. But I digress!

It all started happily enough with my decisicion to use the remaining starter from General Chaos' morning feeding. He'd risen by 75% and I thought, "That's close enough for government work! So I had just a smidge under 8oz (1cup by weight) of starter and using Mike Avery's general rule for starters that 1 cup is approximately equal to a package of yeast I opted to use the fairly large amount of starter for the recipe because I doubted GC's rising "oomph". I determined to use Bill's Sourdough Pagnotta recipe since it has a good all around moist crumb and nice crust and also has a good starter process laid out. So I ask in retrospect? Why couldn't I just follow the dagburn recipe as written? Dunno. I guess it started to go wrong from the beginning because I chose to add double the amount of starter it called for but didn't want to subtract out the amount of flour and water from the remaining flour and water ingredients, fearing there would be too little dough. The plan was to cut off a couple of hunks of the fermented dough and use them for pizza for dinner and the other portion for a large loaf of Tattoed Tonka's Apple-Bacon Onion Sourdough.

So I took Bill's recipe, doubled the starter and added the other ingredients to it. (I will write down the recipe "as I remember it" haha!). I did combine the starter, flour and water but left the salt out at that point and let it sit for 2 hours. I had only stirred enough to combine but not enough to begin gluten development. It was very lumpy and dry. So I added maybe an additional 1/2 cup of water. Don't know why I did that. I think it's cuz I'm used to seeing and working with a wet dough. Then I started doubting myself. I didn't know if I was supposed to let it sit undisturbed for 8 hours or if I was supposed to let it sit but start developing the dough. Remember I'm making this all by hand and I prefer the stretch and fold instead of the old kneading technique. So it sat and I folded and stretched and I could really feel and see the dough starting to develop structure even though it was still very wet. I combined, by folding in, the apple bacon onion mixture and let it sit again but obviously not long enough, judging by the pictures. Maybe that is my biggest error - and I think this is where I make most of my impatience at the end gets to me and instead of allowing it to fully proof, I rush this stage and underproof prior to baking. There was no oven spring to speak of. The bread is incredibly dense and the whole structure virtually non-existent especially toward the bottom.

So what did I learn from this? I learned that I'm too new of a baker to fly by the seat of my pants. I MUST FOLLOW A RECIPE! I learned that time is my friend. I learned that it prolly isn't in my best interest to plan on making and baking sodo the same day. I think it's a 1-1/2 to 2 day process. I learned I must learn more about sourdough methods and process from people who really "know". I learned that even though GC isn't doubling like it should, he still bubbled and danced and made the bread rise through the fermentation process. He was really quite happy! I learned that sourdough bread fermentation will NEVER SMELL LIKE A POOLISH WITH YEAST! If I want that lovely yeasty smell then I need to use a yeasted poolish or create an air spray flavored with that essence! ;) Not happenin' but a very good idea for someone!

Ok so here are some piccys and I will follow with the recipe! I just made Brain aka my hubby breakfast. He made the coffee. And I made Apple Bacon Onion Cheese Toast with Sharp Cheddar.

Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta

Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta

Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta Cut

 Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta Cut

Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta Cheese Toast

 Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Pagnotta Cheese Toast


(As derived from Bill Wraith's Sourdough Pagnotta Bread Recipe & Tattoed Tonka's Apple-Bacon-Onion Sourdough Bread Recipe)

Disclaimer: The actual measurements in this recipe have been changed to protect the innocent. Although they appear credible please do not confuse them with their actual accurate conterparts. For instance a 1/4 cup of brown sugar is masquerading because he is too embarrassed to say a couple of loose handfuls from a medium sized hand). Please do not anticipate accurately reproducing this recipe from one instance to another or across continents. It won't work. You can NEVER make it just like a Blue Zebra! Bwahahahahahahaha! The madness must continue!)

For Bread Dough:

228 g Starter [Roughly 8 oz of Starter (My starter is at a 1:2:2 ratio and is made up of 2oz starter: 4oz AP flour: 4oz filtered water)]

100 g WW Flour

700 g AP Flour

650 g Filtered Water

114 g Filtered Water *   (Additional to original recipe added by Blue Zebra)

1-1/4 Tbsp Salt  (Iodized salt)

For Filling:

2.25 oz Dried Apples (1/2 of a 4.5 oz package of Walmart Store Brand Dried Apples)

1/4 lb of Bacon (Salt Cured)

1 Yellow Onion (Purple onion is preferred by it's hard to get good help these days)

Bacon Grease (for cooking about 1/4 cup more or less, probably more...can you ever really have too much bacon grease?)

3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Tbsp Reduction Syrup from Cooked Onions

1/4 c Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter - Cold

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp Salt (or so)

1/2 tsp Black Pepper (or so)


1. Combine starter with flour and water and mix to incorporate until all ingredients are wet but lumps will still remain. Cover with plastic wrap or a plate and let rest.

2. Rest for 2 hours in an incubator (I used my oven turned off with the light on and cup of hot water sitting next to it. Temp was around 80-82 degrees).

3. Remove dough from incubator and fold dough in the pan. This is a step I do in place of beating the crap out of it with a spoon or dough whisk. I use a broad sweeping folding motion from the bottom of the bowl and raise a large section up out of the pan stretching it as much as possible without tearing the bread. When I meet absolute resistance I let the dough come back to rest in the center of the pan. After each stretch I rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process making sure to scrape down any extra dough off the sides of the pan so that I have one sticky mass of gelatinous dough. The dough is VERY WET right now. Repeat this folding 8 times or 2 complete bowl revolutions. Cover and return to incubator.

4. Rest1 for 1 hour in incubator.

5. Repeat step 3 with the folding in the pan. By this time, there is substantial gluten development. I added the salt at this point and foled it into the dough during the FF. The dough actually holds a tiny bit of shape and is a "dough mound" in the center of the bowl. The appearance of the dough when I first take it out of the incubator is bubbly and it appears to be rising. I am careful during the stretch and folds in the bowl to not "punch the dough down". I want to encourage the dough to continue to rise and bubble. Cover and return to incubator.

6. Rest2 for 1 hour in incubator.

7. Turn1 dough out onto floured counter. I used quite a liberal amount of flour on the counter because the dough was so wet. Using the Mike Avery stretch and fold technique I gave the dough 2 complete episodes of French Folds. That is: I stretch the dough out and folded in thirds one direction then folded in thirds a second direction. I repeated this process twice. Return the dough to the bowl and cover and return to incubator.

8. Rest3 for 1 hour in incubator. (Make sure to maintain approx 80 degree environment).

9 Turn2 dough out and make 1 complete revolution of FF (French Folds). That is: I stretch the dough out and folded in thirds one direction then folded in thirds the second direction. Return the dough to the bowl and cover and return to incubator.

10. Rest4 for 1 hour in incubator.

10.5  Make filling and allow to cool completely:

10.5a Cut bacon into 1" pieces and saute in pan until just starting to crisp but remaining a little pliable.

10.5b Saute roughly cut onions (you want them very large) in bacon grease til translucent but still retaining body.

10.5c Remove onions and any grease from pan using a spatula.

10.5d Deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup of water (I would use apple cider here if you have it. I obviously did not have it.

10.5e Reduce liquid to a syrup (roughly between 1 and 2 tbsp) by cooking on high heat and scraping all browned bits off the bottom.

Note: Syrup will be a very dark caramel color and will smell like onion soup.

10.5f Add dried apples and onions to the syrup.

10.5g Add a little more bacon grease to loosen the mixture up.

10.5h Add apple cider vinegar.

10.5i Add salt, pepper and cinnamon.

10.5j Add brown sugar.

10.5k Saute together using a spatula and cooking over high heat. The apples will start to rehydrate and the smell will be dark and delicious. You will see the liquid thicken and start to reduce. Reduce and concentrate over med to high heat. You want to be careful not to scorch so you may need to move the pan on and off the heat (that is why I always cook on high. I would rather control my temp by moving on and off the burner than for waiting for a cooking element to cool or heat up.).

10.5l Once the mixture is thick and bubbly, turn off heat and remove pan to a cool part of the stove.

10.5m Add 1 tbsp of cold butter to the mixture in the pan and shake to incorporate butter into the sauce. It should bind and help thicken the sauce.

10.5n Set filling aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Continue with your bread making as in step 11.

11. Turn3 - Repeat FF in step 9 as instructed.

12. Rest5 for 1 hour in incubator. (Make sure to maintain approx 80 degree environment)

13. Turn4 - Repeat FF in step 9 as instructed.

14. Cut dough into sections each section to it's own bowl. Cover and return to incubator.

15. Rest6 for 30 minutes in incubator.

16. Remove dough from pan and stretch out dough until about 1" thick. Add filling mixture as you would if making cinnamon rolls. Spread it over entire surface of dough and include adding the syrupy liquid. Work quickly and fold dough into 3rd with a FF then fold in 3rds again in the opposite direction.

17. Place folded dough into a banneton to rise or else put it into a pan for rising. You will want to bake this dough in a pan to avoid making a mess on your stone. I don't have a banneton so I use a piece of parchment paper inside a stainless steel bowl and let it rise. That way I place the dough seam side down and let it rise then pick up the parchment and transfer it directly into my baking pan or stone. Cover rising bowl with a dishtowel and place in a warm area of your kitchen.

18. Preheat your oven to 550 degrees. Place 10-1/2" cast iron chicken fryer pan into the preheating oven and preheat pan at the same time.

19. Check your dough. Dough should be rising. Pull up and stretch dough around any areas where the fillings are either escaping or weeping. Re-cover the dough and continue to let rise. (This is the step I rushed. I should have let the dough double ... however long that takes but I figured I would still be there all night and it was about 11:30 by that time so I opted for cooking the little bastage and letting the chips fly where they may!)

20. Transfer dough and parchment to the hot frying pan. Be careful! Remember things that come out of the oven are hot! Do NOT try to pick this pan up with your bare hand or you will be VERY VERY sorry you did! The dough starts cooking immediately on the bottom.

21. Place pan in oven, reduce heat to 450 and cook until the bread is done. Or thermometer registers about 210 degrees. That took about 45-50 minutes.

22. Remove parchment and bread from pan to a wrack and let cool overnight. Don't cut into it until it cools.

23. Photograph, cut, photograph, top with your addiction of choice, photograph.

24. Enjoy!

Notes and Impressions: The smell of this bread is delicious. Very sweetly cinnamonny apply with a tiny sour note. The taste of the bread has a sweet forward note with a hint of cinnamon apple. The finish (or back of the mouth) note however was overly sour so it dominated the sweeter and more delicate notes of the brown sugar-cinnamon and apple. That sourness is likened to commercial sliced raisin bread that you get. My opinion is that it was too sour. This continued to be the case when we ate it as cheese toast using sharp cheddar. My hubby gave it an 8 but then I think that's because he loves me. I gave it about a 7...maybe.

Things I could do to change it?

1. I would let it fully develop so it wasn't quite as dense.

2. I would reduce the amount of starter and contemplate using a bit of yeast as a boost.

3. I would increase the amount of sugar by adding sugar to the fermenting dough as well as increasing the sugar in the fillings slightly.

4. I would increase the amount of the apples.

5. Substitute lardons for the bacon slices. They got lost in the bread. Add more of it too.

6. Add more onion and cook with more bacon grease.

7. Add a tiny bit more cinnamon.

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!

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