The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Shiao-Ping's blog

Shiao-Ping's picture

This post is to document a technique (or the realization of the lack of it, rather) that became apparent to me while I was making the bread below (the first one).  I subsequently applied it in making the second bread below with good result and would like to share my experience.

It started because I wanted to re-do my last try at Chad Robertson's French-style Country Sourdough back in September.  This was one of my New Year bread Resolutions.  My Imitation of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough had a serious flaw:  sourdough without whole wheat flour and/or rye flour can hardly be called Country Sourdough (Pain de Campagne).  Very soon after I did that post, it was clear to me that the ratios that I used in my formula with regards to ingredients were nowhere near those used by Chad Robertson; for instance, starter as a percentage of final dough flour, starter hydration and overall dough hydration ratios, etc.  My timeline may be quite accurate as it was pieced together from "A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery" in The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott who interviewed Chad.      

I reconstructed my formula as follows:

  • 450 g ripe 75%-hydration starter (after a special 2-hour levain expansion), 100% baker's percentage
  • 70 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (10% of total flour)
  • 140 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (20% of total flour)
  • 240 g organic unbleached plain flour
  • 316 g water
  • 14 g salt

Total dough weight was 1,230 g and the overall hydration was 72%.






The bread looked gorgeous from the outside.  That was only half of the story.  The crumb revealed the other half of the story:



          London cabs?                                             


                                                                                    THAT hole was where my thumb was (see point (2) below)


While the crumb was lovely to taste, springy to bite, and not altogether dense, I did not develop the full potential of the crumb as would otherwise be manifested in the open cell structure.  I knew this because of what I was able to achieve in my last Chad Robertson bread, using similar formula.  I looked back at what I had done differently, and I think the following was what happened: 

(1) That my starter was over-ripe before I did the two-hour expansion and, despite the two-hour expansion, my starter was still "tired."  My starter was not at its most vigorous when I used it to mix the final dough.  And,

(2) That my stretch and folds could have been better executed.  (I used my left hand to hold and stabilize the dough while my right hand folded it.  As the dough was folded onto itself, my left thumb was in the way because I did the S&F's in a very quick motion as if I was in a hurry or racing to get the job done.  The big hole in the crumb shot above was the mark that my left thumb had left behind.)  The point here, however, is not about the hole so big that a mouse could sneak through.  The point here is that I was stretching and folding the dough too fast that the dough was not allowed an optimal chance for proper gluten development while the fermentation was happening concurrently

I came across the following remark in LeadDog's comment in a post, entitled "Exploring Bread" in Sourdough Companion that best exemplifies what I meant.   He said,


When I was reading "Local Bread" Leader attributed the following concept to Max Poilane:

"Max explained how slow, steady kneading gently conditions the gluten to create an extensible and elastic dough.  The modern practice of high-speed mixing while hurrying along the process, oxygenates the dough too much and bleaches it out, causing the bread to lose flavor and character."


In my formula above, there are at least two more elements that are not consistent with a French-style Country Sourdough.  And these are (a) that the levain is normally a stiff levain, and (b) that the levain normally falls within 25 to 35% of baker's percentage.

Based on the foregoing, I gave it one more try at reproducing Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough that I had when I visited his Tartine Bakery last August in San Francisco.


My formula for Bread Inspired by Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough

  • 150 g just ripe stiff levain @60% hydration (30% baker's percentage)
  • 41 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (7% of total flour)
  • 82 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (14% of total flour)
  • 377 g organic unbleached plain flour
  • 384 g water
  • 11 g salt

Total dough weight was 1040 grams and overall hydration was 74%.




Some main points of my procedure

My room temperature was 28C.  Over the three hours of bulk fermentation (from the time mixing was complete to the time I pre-shaped the dough), I did 4 sets of slow and gentle S&F's of 25 strokes each, every 45 minutes or so apart. 

At the end of each set of S&F's, instead of oiling a separate clean bowl to place the dough in, which I find really troublesome, I dab some oil at the edge of the dough where it meets the mixing bowl all round.  This works really well - the oil protects the dough from tearing through the successive S&F's.  I also oil my fingers so the dough doesn't stick to my fingers.  I have a standing plastic container on the side, in which I have oil, ready to be used.

I proved my shaped dough for about an hour and then placed it in the refrigerator for a 12 hours retarding.






I am very happy with the result and will now close my book on Chad Robertson's country sourdough.  If you are interested to try this recipe, the two-hour levain expansion is not necessary, but just make sure that your starter is very vigorous; under ripe, I think, is better than over-ripe; I would use it as soon as it domes. 

The recipe looks simple.  Its success, however, is all in the understanding of and management of the fermentation and gluten development processes simultaneously.  They are independent of each other and yet co-dependent on each other.  

This is the first time that I felt that our dough should be treated with love.  "Slow and gentle S&F's" means love. 

In closing, may I be presumptuous and say that I would like to bring your attention to a most beautifully written "Meet the baker" story by MC.  So much love came out of her description of Gérard Rubaud, the man, the baker, and his way of making his Pain au Levain.  If you can feel the love, your Pain au Levain will have come to a new level.     



Shiao-Ping's picture

Recently, I was thinking why there are more famous Master Chefs in the world than there are Master Bakers.  A Michelin-starred restaurant cannot have poor quality bread to be earning a Michelin star.  No way.  But the issue here for me is:  Can bread be a stand-alone meal, complete in all its nutrition, but more importantly, in its artistry and flair, technique, and satisfaction, such that once you have it, your body and mind do not desire other food? 

Recently, also, with my post of the apple and molasses Swedish Rye Bread here at TFL and Sourdough CompanionMaedi of Sourdough Companion and I were exchanging views regarding ying and yang of bread.  In his view, ying and yang is manifested in each loaf we made either at the bread level or at how we enjoy the bread (with a topping on it, or with a meal or soup, etc.).  When it is at the bread level, this could include building unique ingredients into the bread to create interesting flavours and textures.  I said that, however, many experienced sourdough bakers seem to go for the "pure" flavor of flour in bread and, therefore, would play with fermentation potentials in flour rather than with the combination possibilities of non-flour ingredients.  On page 145 of Bread, Master Baker Hamelman notes, "... it is my hope that every baker will learn the subtle art of fermentation - the truest skill of the baker - before exploring bread formulas whose ingredients mask the taste of fermented flour." 

I don't intend to make a bigger discussion here than I am capable of.  I can only say that, purist or not, I find both ideas attractive; ie, the idea of trying to let the true flavour of flour shine and the idea of building interesting ingredients into the bread for extra textures and flavours.  This bread is my attempt on both front (fronts?).   So, thank you, Maedi, for your thoughts and for crystalising my thoughts for me.

I wish my daughter were here to read my draft and help me out with whatever needs to be corrected with my grammar and sentences.  She is only gone for a few days but I am already missing her.  The very loud music of Van Morrison streams out of my tea room as I write.  The music energizes me.  I am in love with it and I can feel my heart throbbing, almost painful.  My daughter would enjoy this music too.  The boys are playing golf today.  When they return, they will bring me fish for dinner tonight, as they always do. 

Here is this bread:    



                                                           Pain au Levain with Herbs and Tomato  






This bread was very satisfying to make.  I was surprised at how much oven spring I got and how open the crumb was, considering that this was a 68% hydration dough.  What has helped me a lot is the understanding of at what stage I should take the starter to mix my dough.  For the pain au levain style of bread that I make, I like to take it as soon as it domes.  If it domes but when I touch it, it "shrinks" and flattens, the starter has gone too mature for me.  No doubt it can still leaven dough, but I don't think it is at its most rigorous.






The crumb was beautiful but the lighting at the time when I took the photos did not allow the creaminess in color to show through.  (It is a constant battle trying to have enough light but not too much at the same time to do justice for the color of the crumb.)   The crumb had a very delicate flavour.  The sour tang, while mild, is there.  If I were to change anything, however, I would perhaps increase the rye and whole wheat flour components of the dough from 3% and 6%, respectively, to 5% and 10%, or even higher, in which case the hydration may need to be adjusted.  


My Formula

for the dough

  • 200 g just ripe 75%-hydration starter (30% baker's percentage)
  • 25 g medium rye flour (3% of total flour)
  • 50 g whole wheat flour (6% of total flour)
  • 590 g organic unbleached plain flour
  • 444 g water (if you wish, you can substitute 3 tbsp of olive oil and 400 g water; the olive oil will make the crumb really tender)
  • 13 g salt

for the herb mixture - or any herbs combination of your choice.  Mince the following except the tomato:

  • A sprig of rosemary (about 15 cm in length, no more than 20 cm)
  • Basil from one stalk
  • One clove of garlic (no more, unless you love garlic)
  • 2 - 3 very, very thinly sliced ginger
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Rock salt
  • One slice of tomato (sliced horizontally)

Total dough weight was 1320 g and overall dough hydration was 68%.


Main points of my method 

  • (1) Mix your dough as normal.  (My bulk fermentation was 3 hours and my room temperature at the time was 25 - 26 C.  I did 4 sets of stretch and folds of 20 strokes each, no more, over the 3 hours period.  When I do my S&F, with each stroke I try to do it gently and slowly so as not to tear the dough.)
  • (2) Prepare the herb mixture and put it aside.
  • (3) When it is time to divide the dough, section off a piece of dough about 250 grams (or 300 g if you wish) and set it aside.
  • (4) Pre-shape and shape the main dough as you would normally for a boule.
  • (5) Roll out the small piece of dough to a round disc with a rolling pin or with your hands as if you are making a pizza base.



  • (far left) the herb mixture
  • (centre left) rub the herb mixture over the surface of the main dough and place the piece of tomato over the top
  • (centre right) place the small round disc over the dough
  • (far right) turn the dough over, tuck in the edges; turn it over again (right side is now up) and lightly tighten the boule (if you try to tighten it too much, the thin layer of dough may break).  Place it on a dusted couche or tea towel (right side up) as in the picture.


  • (6) Proof for 1/2 hour (no more, because by the time all this pre-shaping and shaping is done, 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour is gone by, and that  all adds to the fermentation time).  My room temperature was 25 - 26 C, so adjust your fermentation time if your temperature is different.
  • (7) Place the boule in the fridge for overnight retarding (from the time I started dividing & shaping to the time my boule was sent to the fridge, it was one hour.  I did 15 hours retarding.  Anywhere between 8 hours and 24 hours is fine.
  • (8) Bake with steam at 230C (no higher as the oil on the inner surface of the dough may burn too quickly if the temperature is too high).  I baked it for 40 minutes.  (For the last 8 - 10 minutes, I had to drop the temperature to 210C as the crust was already getting good color.)


This levain bread was fun to make, satisfying for my mind and body -






As I was finishing the draft for this post, my husband walked into my tea room with a bottle of Mt Pleasant single vineyard Lovedale 1996 Semillon, his favourite.  I decided the fish would have to wait for another night.  For now, all that I can manage is this -





A piece of today's bread with tomato, basil, olive oil, and Margaret River pink rock salt from Western Australia


A satisfying day for my mental and physical indeed.



Shiao-Ping's picture

Thiézac, a village 30 km from Aurillac (260 km north-east of Toulouse, France) has a reputation of pure rye bread.  Just the sound of it is beautiful to me.  When I read about it in Mouette Barboff's Pains d'hier et d'aujourd'hui (page 64 - 67), I felt that had to try it.  I am mesmerized by the rye bread photo and crumb shot in the book, full of soul.  The book has the most beautiful bread photos I have seen anywhere.

What struck me about the crumb of the Thiézac pure rye sourdough bread is its deep caramelized color.  A forum post by Danubian at Sourdough Companion, entitled "Dark" or "Black" colour to rye bread in June 2007 says that the dark rye bread "colour is achieved by method rather than adding an ingredient that imparts 'colour'."   

I had to consult several on-line French translators to get some sense out of the Thiézac recipe and even then I still have puzzles.  For instance, about "5 à 6 kg de levain de 3 jours," to build up the levain over 3 days to 5 - 6 kg?  I guess so; but how many feedings a day, and, more importantly, what is the flour to water ratio for refreshing the starter?  And, stand the levain at room temperature for the whole time?  

There is a knowledge bank at TFL regarding rye sour and rye flour in general, but I am really not interested enough on the subject to study.  My family and myself are not rye enthusiasts.  But anything "pure," as in the case here, I am all for it.  A pure rye bread makes me want to try it and ... dream about it.

So, here it is... the result of my dream:








Now, I have to warn you that my result is quite different from what was in Mouette Barboff's book that inspired me.  For a start, from what I can ascertain accurately from the formula figures, the overall dough hydration in the Thiézac recipe is only 53%!  I cannot work on a dough with that hydration!  I kept adding water until a medium soft consistency was obtained and reached 76% hydration.  Further, the Thiézac rye bread has diamond scoring (3 cut on one direction and another 3 cut on another direction).  My dough was too wet to attempt at any scoring.




This bread is sour, too sour for my family.  Because of the whole rye flour used, it also has a very nutty flavour.  The aroma is simply amazing when it came out of the oven.




My crumb looked similar to the one in the book.  To my way of thinking, if I had done the dough at 53% hydration, the crumb would have been much denser.  I can only surmise that the village bakers' formula is only a guide - they would add water on the spot if they think the dough needs more water irrespective of the formula.  But I don't know for sure.

Well, as nice as the bread is, my family is not the slightest interested in it.  




I have to pile up with something else that they like for them to eat it.  And here it is:



                             Smoke Salmon & Salad with a Dill Sour Cream Spread on Pure Rye Bread


For any one who is interested, my formula of this rye sourdough follows:

Day 1

  • 10 g any ripe starter at any hydration
  • 35 g medium rye flour
  • 35 water

Mix and leave it in room temperature until doubled, then move it into the refrigerator.

Day 2

  • 80 g starter (all from Day 1)
  • 80 g medium rye flour
  • 80 g water

Procedure same as Day 1.

Day 3

  • 230 g starter (all but 10 g from Day 2, reserve 10 g for future endeavour)
  • 230 g medium flour
  • 230 g water

Mix and leave in room temperature for 6 hours or until it doubles.  (Note: I cut short one day here.  The Thiézac recipe does this 6 hour feeding one day 4; ie, using "levain de 3 jours.")

Final Dough

  • 690 g starter (all from above)
  • 345 g whole rye flour
  • 345 g medium rye flour
  • 440 g water
  • 20 g salt
  • 2 g instant yeast (or 2 x 1/3 tsp)

Total dough weight was 1842 g and the overall hydration was 76%.




  1. Mix all ingredients and knead for 2 minutes by hand or by plastic scraper.
  2. Oil a clean bowl and place the dough in there.  Cover.
  3. Bulk ferment for 2 hours at a warm spot of your kitchen.  (My room temperature was 28C.)
  4. Upturn the dough onto a well-dusted surface.  Lightly gather the edge of the dough to the centre, turn the dough over, and lightly shape it into a boule.  Sprinkle some flour on the top. 
  5. Sprinke some flour on a piece of baking paper.  Place the dough on the baking paper.  Cover, preferrably with a big bowl, so the surface of the dough remains untouched.
  6. Proof for one hour (and in the mean time, pre-heat the oven).
  7. Bake with steam at 240C for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 C and bake for a further 40 to 50 minutes.  



Shiao-Ping's picture

What do you do when you bought the wrong grapes and your children and house guests don't eat them?  I don't mind the odd seeds in the grapes; I chew them and swallow them.  They are good for you.  Plenty of anti-oxidant in the grape seeds!  But do you think I can get my family to eat these beautiful grapes? 

Holiday seasons at our household seem to come with endless sessions of drinking every day.  When the sun is setting and the western sky is showing multiple rosy hues, it's time to have a dip in the pool and put on fresh clean clothes for the nightly drinks.  The housewife of this household is ever ready to put on an Hors d'œuvre or two to go with the wine. 

Grapes are the best friend to accompany cheeses.  So as the succulent juicy cherries!  How often do you get to eat them?  I don't know about you, but where I come from, cherries are decadent.  After many years of draught in Queensland (Australia), we have just had a bumper year of rain.  The draught seems to have broken.  What seemed to be expensive fruits in prior years are now very cheap.

Anyway, the long and the short was I had too much of grapes and cherries in my household.  So what did I do?  I made them into a fresh grapes and cherries sourdough:




My son had her girl friend visiting for the day.  The shape of the sourdough is for him but the taste combination is for her.  I used a brotform that I have which has a boy playing soccer engraved on the bottom of the basket to get the stencil effect on the crust.




Unfortunately, cherries and grapes sourdough is not a boy's thing.  My son didn't like it.  But both his girl friend and I loved it.  She said it is very "springy," and she is right.  




The making of this pain au levain was a bit tedious but I enjoyed it.  

(1) First, I pureed 1/2 kg of non-seedless purple grapes (skin, seeds, and all), put the pulp through a fine sieve and got 345 grams of grape juice.  I let this stand overnight along side my starter which was refreshed.  (I secretly hoped that some yeasts might develop out of the grape juice.  A long while ago I cultured a grape starter.  It was very powerful.  I had to put it to sleep by making it into dry powder.  I haven't used it since.)

(2) I took the stones out of 160 grams of cherries and got 145 grams of small diced pieces.

(3) I chopped up 160 grams of green seedless grapes.

(4) The next morning, I was ready to mix the dough.  I had a sip of the grape juice and found that it was too sweet to use all of it.  Too bad.  I had wanted to use it to color my dough.  The little beasties in my starter might drawn and die of thirst if I used all of it; who knows.  I ended up using only 200 grams.

(5) I aimed for a dough of 65% overall hydration before the fresh fruits were added.  Once the fruits were incorporated, the overall dough hydration would increase as some liquid would be squeezed out during the mixing and folding.  




Here is my list of ingredients :

  • 338 g ripe 60%-hydration starter
  • 50 g medium rye flour
  • 100 g whole wheat flour
  • 553 g bread flour
  • 267 g water
  • 18 g salt
  • 200 g purple grape juice (as above)
  • 145 g diced cherries (as above)
  • 160 g diced green seedless grapes (as above)

Total dough weight was 1830 g and the overall dough hydration felt like 72 - 73%.  (Note:  if your starter is 75% or 100% hydration, reduce water to 237 g or 198 g, respectively.)

  1. Mix all ingredients except the fruits.  Autolyse 30 minutes.
  2. First set of stretch and folds of 20 - 30 strokes.  Rest 30 - 45 minutes.
  3. Spread 1/2 of the cut fruits on a work bench, stretch the dough to cover the fruits, then top the dough with the remaining fruits.  Fold the fruits into the dough with a plastic scraper or by hand (50 - 60 strokes). 
  4. Rest 30 minutes.  As some liquid is squeezed out of the fruits, the dough is now wetter and may require two more stretch and folds of at least 30 - 40 strokes for further dough strength.
  5. The rest of the procedure is standard.  (As my room temperature was warm, total fermentation time was slightly less than 4 hours.  I retarded the shaped dough overnight in the fridge and baked it the next morning.)


I recognized something very similar in the crumb structure of this bread as in the Pain au Levain with Praline Rose that I did in mid October.   I think the presence of a relatively high level of sweetness in both cases resulted in very open interior structure.  The little yeast beasties really liked what I fed them in the final dough.  They were able to digest the foods (the sugar) and, you know what, the bread did not taste sweet at all!  In fact, this bread tastes pleasantly sour (apart from being very "springy;" i.e., chewy, as my son's girl friend said).  This sourness to me is not like the normal acidity that we get in a very sour dourdough.  It is different from when we say a Miche is sour.  To me it is halfway in between lactic acidity and fruity sourness. 

(Where has the sugar gone?)



Shiao-Ping's picture

My daughter left today for Belgium to start a six week (French speaking) holiday and visiting our family friends over there.  A couple of days ago I asked if there's anything she'd like me to make before she goes.  She said, "Something familiar."  I can take the hint.  Recently, I have been experimenting with rye flour and my family are not very impressed with the result.  One rye bread came out really dense and as I was mumbling why this bread is so dense, my husband said, "Don't throw it out."  "What made you think I would?" I asked.  He said, "History."  I have had a bad track record in littering. 

Anyway, as I said, I can take the hint from my daughter.  I made this good old House Miche, or Daily Bread, for our lunch yesterday.  "House Miche" - doesn't it sound glamorous?  It sounds really lovely, I might add.  I took the term from a post by Jeremy of Stir The Pots in the Australian Sourdough Companion, back in 2005!  Jeremy's sourdough making history certainly goes a long way back (or, put another way, Sourdough Companion goes a long way back). 

Well, here it is, our House Miche, a simple formula with a simple procedure:




My Formula

  • 230 g starter at 60% hydration * Note
  • 100 g whole wheat flour (20% of final dough flour, or 15% of total dough flour)
  • 400 g white bread flour (sometimes I do 50 g rye flour and 350 g white bread flour)
  • 378 g water * Note
  • 12 g salt

Total dough weight 1120 g; overall dough hydration 72%.

* Note: If your starter is at 75% or 100% hydration, you can reduce your water to 355 g or 328 g, respectively, and still keep the same overall dough hydration.




  1. Mix all ingredients.  Autolyse 30 to 45 minutes.  
  2. Depending on your room temperature, over the next 2 - 3 hours, stretch and folds 3 - 4 times with 20 - 30 strokes each time. 
  3. Pre-shape, rest for 15 - 20 minutes, and shape.  (If the dough does not appear to have enough dough strength, pre-shape twice with 15 - 20 minutes rest in between, but be mindful of the time elapsed as it all counts towards the total fermentation time.)
  4. Depending on your room temperature, proof for no more than 1/2 - 1 hour.  (As my room temperature was 28 C, from the time my ingredients were mixed, to the time the shaped dough was placed into the fridge, it was no more than 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  Alternatively, if you want to bake it on the day the dough was made with no overnight retardation, proofing can be up to 2 1/2 hours.) 
  5. Place the shaped dough in the fridge for a minimum of 8 -12 hours.  (Note: an 8 - 12 hours overnight retardation in the fridge is equivalent to an extra two hours of proofing in the room temperature!)  Bake with steam at 240C for the first 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 220C and bake for a further 20 minutes.




My daughter loved it.  When she returns in mid February, she will start a new phase in her life - say goodbye to school and start university.  She will be ready for more independence and responsibility. 

Until then, our son gets the full attention of both his mummy and daddy.  How good is that, he says.



                            Roast beef and salad sourdough sandwich for our boy - a mid-morning snack



Shiao-Ping's picture

I read in MC's beautiful blog,, that Miche is not her favorite bread but that she can understand how someone can go wild about it.  She said, "It is a majestic bread ... rich with the lore and fervor of the old days."    That is exactly how I feel about Miche!  "... rich with the lore and fervor of the old days." 

The word, Miche, conjures up for me images of a past full of hardship and labour, and yet, romances, at the same time.  Romances, not in the true sense of the word, but in a nostalgic way, referring to the simple, unsophisticated, and natural way of living.

One of the pseudo-Miche I made was Sourdough 50/50 nearly four months ago.  I was not happy with the bread at the time and had wanted to re-make it ever since.  But, No, I had to do something slightly different.  I could not even follow my own script.  I introduced one more element into my Sourdough 50/50 to make this Miche 50/50/50.  In addition to 50% levain, and 50% Poolish, of the final dough flour, I added 50% old dough.  The old dough was a piece of dough reserved from a previous bake a couple of days ago.  This piece of dough did not go through bulk fermentation or proofing.  It was sectioned off and placed in the refrigerator straight away.

Apart from being whimsical and having fun, I had but one purpose for doing this - to see how adding a piece of old dough would improve the flavour of the crumb, along with the levain and Poolish which I already had.  This is nothing new.  Many people have done something similar.  And here is my Miche 50/50/50:







 In order to be able to score the dough easily, I went for an overall lower hydration of 63%, compared to 68% for Sourdough 50/50.  I wanted to have some sort of Chinese tofu look  on the crust.  As a result, I gave up some openness of the crumb.






The crumb was exceptionally flavourful, which might come through the close-up shot below:




The crumb is very sour to my taste, due to the lower hydration too. 

When I prepare my Poolish, I did not put in a pinch of instant yeast, which one would normally do.  I wonder if this has anything to do with the slightly dense interior structure of the Miche.

If you are interested in trying the idea in this post, I would suggest a dough hydration of no lower than 67 - 68%, and definitely a pinch of instant yeast to go with your Poolish!




Shiao-Ping's picture

The 40-year old Swedish chef-owner, Mathias Dahlgren, has two Michelin-starred restaurants, Bon Lloc and Matsalen, the latter in Stockholm.  His style of cuisine is Swedish traditional as well as innovational (a fusion of Scandinavian, Tuscan, Californian and Oriental dishes). 

I saw a picture of his Swedish Rye Bread in Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs, page 101, and decided to give it a try.  The recipe uses a rye sourdough starter.  It also has a high percentage of instant yeast and molasses, which is 4.7% and 19%, respectively, of total flour, rye gains and seeds.  The approx. dough hydration is 84%. 

The bread is exceptionally moist and flavourful.  For a person who does not normally like a lot of rye flour in bread, I find this bread quite delicious.  The bitterness from the Black Strap Molasses that I used, together with all the grains and seeds and the fermented rye flour, formed a very interesting flavor and texture.

There is something, however, not quite how I would like it in a fully-loaded bread like this one that, if no changes were made to the recipe, I would probably not make it again.  As with the Chinese concept of ying (feminine) and yang (masculine), for something to be balanced, there has to be a ying and a yang element simultaneously.  For instance, the enjoyment of a fatty and salty pork chop (the yang) is enhanced if it is eaten with, say, apple sauce (the ying) - the sourness in the apple sauce cuts through the fat while the sweetness in the fruit compliments the saltiness in the meat.  Another example: the best chocolate lava cake would have some salt in there, or the sweetness would make you sick. 

The issue with this bread for me is: it is perhaps a tad too masculine (too much "yang") because of all the rye grains and seeds in the recipe.  I have no doubt that there are plenty of people who love this bread just the way it is.  I just have a difference taste.  To address the imbalance to my taste, I am adding apple puree as a hydration for the final dough.  Also, I have changed the formula to a sourdough version.   I find molasses an attractive ingredient to add to a bread full of rye, grains, and seeds but I cut it down in my formula (below) as too much molasses makes the bread bitter (which some people may find it an attractive taste).  Here is my Swedish Sourdough Rye Bread with apple puree:



                                            SP's Swedish Sourdough Rye Bread with apple puree


My formula for Swedish Sourdough Rye Bread with Apple

Day 1 - soaker

  • 330 g water
  • 125 g crushed rye grains
  • 43 g rye meal flour (whole rye flour)
  • 83 g sunflower seeds
  • 53 g linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 11 g salt
  • 68 g rye sourdough starter (or any ripe starter) @100% hydration

Mix all the ingredients together and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours or at least overnight. 

Also on Day 1 - rye sourdough starter (Note: Mathias Dahlgren's original recipe uses instant yeast and so there is no rye sour build.)

  • 20 g any ripe starter @ 100% hydration
  • 123 g medium rye flour
  • 70 g water

Mix the ingredients together and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours or until ripe. 

Day 2 - final dough

  • 110 g medium rye flour
  • 123 g white flour
  • 713 g all of the soaker
  • 213 g all of the rye sourdough starter
  • 70 - 100 g molasses (Note: Mathias Dahlgren's original recipe has 140 g of molasses but I find at that quantity the bread is a bit bitter.)
  • 345 g of cooked Granny Smith apple puree or shopped-bought apple sauce  (To make your own apple puree, steam 320 g of chopped Granny Smith until cooked, then puree it with 25 g of honey)

Total dough weight 1585 g; estimated dough hydration 84 - 85%.


  1. Mix half of the apple puree with molasses and the other half with the starter. 
  2. Then, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. 
  3. Grease two bread tins. Divide the dough by two and place them in the bread tins. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 3 hours (my room temperature was 28 - 30 C). 
  4. Pre-heat oven to 220C / 425F.  Bake with some steam for the first 3 - 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 185C / 365F and bake for a further 40 minutes. 
  5. Turn out the loaves immediately after baking and let cool on a wire rack (or the bottom will be soggy). 




My father-in-law and his wife came to stay for Christmas.  They are very discerning diners and both keep in good shape.  They have been told by their doctor to NOT have too much bread made of wheat flour and that if they must have bread, rye and spelt breads are the best.  Whenever they come to visit, I try to make rye and/or spelt sourdough for them.  For today's lunch I served this bread.  They loved it.






Tomorrow morning, when my father-in-law and his wife leave, they will have this little prezzie, all nicly sliced-up to go.





Shiao-Ping's picture

We started our annual beach holiday this year without much preparation, unlike previous years.  It has been a very busy year, and so when we arrived at the North Folk Island Pine Tree-lined boulevard right next to the beach front, looking for our holiday unit, we were exhausted.  There was a feel of South of France here at this little north facing beach in the south of Queensland, bordering New South Wales. 

After a quick lunch, it was time to be off to the beach ....




On the 1st full day at the beach my son didn't surface until after 11 am.  I said to his Daddy that as soon as the young man woke up, he's going to want food.  Sure enough, the first thing that he said when he emerged was, "Pretty hungers; pretty hungers."   

The wind was howling after we had our brunch, no good for the surf, so the Daddy took the opportunity and went out with the daughter to get her surf board fixed.  He asked if the boy would want to come along.   Why would he? - There was chocolate milk and Tim Tam in the fridge; plus, there was cricket on the TV (Australia vs. West Indies)!  As they say, "You can lead a horse to a drink but the pencil must be lead."

I purposely brought only my starter and a selection of old, almost expiring, flours with me, but none of my usual implements for making sourdough bread.  When I found out that the unit wasn't even equipped with measuring cups, I thought to myself that I should have at least packed my scale.  No matter.  Early evening as I was refreshing my starter, my husband was making a celery/onion sauce to go with the meat pies being warmed up in the oven, and my children helped setting up the table.  Thirty-six hours later, these were my first holiday sourdough breads:








Evidently I mixed the dough a bit dry to achieve the nice openings on the surface but somewhat dense interior.   The flour I used was Laucke's multigrain bread pre-mixes with no commercial yeast.  I promised myself that the next sourdough I made would have a lot more hydration for more open crumb, as below:




I never envy commercial bakers' job but I often wondered why making sourdough bread was such a satisfying act and I think I got the answer during this holiday.  Whether or not we are happy with our sourdough and whether or not it is a piece of crafty work of art, no one can deny that there is a creative spirit in the making of it - the bread comes out differently every time!   It is like allowing a piece of us emerging and taking shape.  It is a means for expression.  

An Aussie participant in the SFBI courses that I took back in August told me that American all-purpose flour is equivalent to Australian plain flour that is available from all supermarkets and is used in pastry baking.  He is a very accomplished baker and works with Leon Bailey, the Australian master-baker.  The protein level of plain flour is roughly the same as in French style flour.  I experimented with 1/2 wholemeal plain flour and 1/2 plain flour and was quite happy with the result:




On many a night my husband cooked dinner and my children did salads and set the table while I sipped on my Chardonnay (they must have been secretly reading my blog where I said I don't know why housewives get excited about holidays).  One night my husband asked me to try Henschke's Pinot Noir that he was drinking.  I took a sip and said it's too young for me and that it would be good for many years to come.  He said, "A bit like me-self?" 






Half into the first week of our holiday I was already getting into a good routine of morning and afternoon exercises.  I thought of a book that I once read, Running High; how true, the wonders of endorphins.

As the week progressed, left-over sourdough was piling up in the freezer.  I've always loved the Italian Panforte and I also absolutely adore Stained Glass Fruit Cake, but I did not feel like any pastry making.   Perhaps I was a bit conflicted but, anyway, I used some of the left-over sourdough bread and made a Christmas Stained Glass Panforte, the only festival baking that I made (actually no baking at all, just cooking the fruits with the left-over sourdough and letting them set with the nuts):







                                           Very morish with a cup of homemade latte


When I was little I read stories that ended with "Happily living ever after;" and when I was a bit older I knew that they were fairy tales but I wondered what it was like.  Beach holidays can hardly be a Chinese thing and no exception to me.  But this time I had one of the better beach holidays that I could remember.  I think "Happily living ever after" is entirely possible if one just lives in the moment ... like a new born baby.

And thus we finished the two weeks' beach holiday - short enough for me to take, and long enough to make a difference.  Yesterday my kids helped me with the Christmas tree.  I have missed the many little figurines that happily adorned our Christmas tree for nearly a whole year and I am very pleased to say Hello to them again: 



      Father Christmas


                                Master Jester


                                                      One of the clowns


                                                                                       One of the fairies





Wishing all of you home bakers out there a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!



Shiao-Ping's picture

Since my last post of Chocolate & Praline Almond Sourdough, I have done two posts at Sourdough Companion:

A Taste of Italy - Chilies, Sundried Tomatoes & Butternut Pumpkin Sourdough Baguette, and

Light Rye, Light Wholemeal Rustic Pain au Levain.

With this post, I am doing a Bread Salad using Five-Grain Levain.    


My local fruit and vegetable store recently has a few new varieties of pumpkins. I picked up an attractive looking pumpkin (pictured below) when I was there about a week ago and I asked Con the fruiterer where it came from.  He looked at me as if to say, why, Shiao-Ping, it's Australian-grown!  He tells me the name of it, but how am I going to remember all those foreign names?  I bought one, not knowing what to do with it.  As the week progressed, I felt like making some sort of Bread Salad with it!  What sort of sourdough bread would I make to go with roasted pumpkin?!

Pumpkin - pumpkin seeds - grains & seeds bread!!  Haha!

Here it is, Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain from his Bread, page 174.  My second try (the first try was in Polly, our dog's tummy): 




Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain is an exceptionally moist bread. Depending on how big you make it, a good long bake is normally a good idea, or the moisture retained in the seeds will make the bread dense in the bottom.  I didn't understand it whenever I read bakers commenting on how moist this bread was.   When I studied Hamelman's recipe all that I could ascertain from his formula was that the soakers take the big chunk of the overall hydration (which may initially appear high at 98%) but the hydration for the final dough flour was only 58%!  Now I know the reason why this bread is moist - it is because the moisture retained in the soakers is not easily baked off, as does the flour.  Have you ever noticed that the weights of your dough before bake and after bake are very different? At least a good 12 - 15% difference. That's what I meant, whereas the pre-soaked seeds and grains seem to be able to retain the moisture in the oven better.

Notwithstanding the above, I made the following changes to my bread: 

  • I increased the overall hydration by 5% to 103% (my final dough flour got 64% hydration instead of 58% as in Hamelman's formula).
  • My starter was 75% hydration whereas Hamelman's formula uses a very liquid starter of 125% hydration.  One purpose of the latter, I gather, is to provide some acetic balance to the sourdough as grains and seeds breads tend to be more sour (ie. acidic acid rahter than acetic acid).  
  • I mixed my final dough without the soaker.  I left it until after the final dough had a chance to autolyse before I combined the soaker with the dough.  I did all my mixing and stretch-n-folds by hand.  And,
  • I retarded my dough overnight and I didn't have to put commercial yeast in the dough.






This moist bread is perfect for a bread salad because so often the bread dries out once it's out in the open air (unless you smear it with butter or oil, which I don't want to do) but this one stays fresh for a lot longer.  It is a pleasing find for me.  


I toasted these slices, broke them into pieces with my hands, then

tossed the pieces in a balsamic/dark brown sugar/olive oil dressing. 




I made the bread salad for lunch yesterday and had to keep part of it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours for my daughter.  She said it was still very fresh and crispy when she ate it, which shows how moist the bread was. 




With this post, I would like to bid everyone a Happy Holiday Season!  We are going away on our annual beach holiday in the South Coast of Queensland tomorrow.  Much to my delight, there is no internet connection in the place we are staying.  I was looking forward to some beach sourdough baking, but then again blogging can be an all-consuming exercise, and a break can be a welcome recharge.


Best to all,


Shiao-Ping's picture

It was my son's birthday last week.  We threw him a surprise party (the ribbons in the pictures below were from his party).  When I made my daughter's 17th birthday cake, I had a feeling that the next time when a birthday comes around, I would not want to make another sponge cake.  I asked my son after his party what I could make him.  In his true color, he said Chocolate Sourdough!  Out of all my baking, this was the one that he commented "epic."  Don't you just love the boy's choice of words?  When you get a supportive family member like that, you just want to bake more.  Anyway, with this levain bread, I made two variations from my last try:

  1. I didn't use cocoa powder, so the crumb color was not the usual cocoa color.  On hindsight, it would have been better to use it; the chocolate sourdough doesn't look as decadent without it.  (If you do put cocoa powder in your chocolate sourdough, give it the same hydration as you would your flour.)  And,
  2. I added Australia-made praline almonds for crunchiness texture.






My formula

  • 330 g starter @ 75% hydration
  • 825 g bread flour (replace up to 8% of flour with cocoa powder if you wish)
  • 240 g chocolate chips (24% total flour, which is quite a high ratio)
  • 200 g praline almonds (20% total flour)
  • 570 g water
  • 30 g honey
  • 20 g salt

Total dough weight 2.2 kg; overall dough hydration 73%


                                                  dough proving on a thick face towel to absorb moisture


You will need to line your dough with baking paper when the shaped dough is loaded onto the baking stone or the chocolate will stain the stone.  Expensive chocolate or good quality chocolate chips are not necessary as they melt too easily; cheap cooking chocolate from supermarket works better.  If you are interested in my procedure, please see here.










                                                         My son reluctantly gave one away as present.



Subscribe to RSS - Shiao-Ping's blog