The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

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sadears's picture

Working wet dough

I have some dough sitting waiting for me to knead it.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but in order to get big holes, or at least bigger than I have been getting, the dough needs to be wet.  I have this issue every time.  It's really sticky.  How do I knead it without having sticky fingers?  EVERY time, it starts out wet, but I end up adding flour to stop it from sticking.  The bread turns out good....I've been posting pics, but I don't get big holes.  I've read about folding after the rise, but what about the initial knead?  Jim wrote to let the dough rest after mixing, before kneading.  Mine has been resting for an hour.  Hopefully, someone will respond soon.  If not, I'll use what I learn next time. ;-D



Wayne's picture

Proofing Box

Finally got around to building my "high dollar" proofing box.  First picture is the inside of the box w/transformer to the side.  Happened to have the transformer on hand from my day's as a research chemist.  Second picture is the outside of the box showing the temperature probe and the transformer.

mountaindog's picture


Does anyone make desem and if so, do you have any photos, especially of the crumb that you could post here? I read the version of the technique and recipe in the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and I'm intrigued, but not sure it is worth all the effort for me to try it. I would like to see what it looks like, and what those of you who have tasted it think of it - what other types of bread is it comparable to? Is it heavy and dense or light and open? Tough and chewy or tender and crispy?   Thanks...

JMonkey's picture

Good eGullet Sourdough article

I was poking around eGullet this morning when I happened upon an excellent sourdough article that really helped things click into place for me, at least mentally. I'm going to be travelling for a bit and so won't get back to the kitchen for sometime.

What Jim has been saying about time, temperature and the percentage of starter in a dough made sense to me, and has helped me improve my bread (thanks!), but I still didn't understand a few things. For instance, I know that I've had a more sour bread when I retard it in the fridge, but I've also had a more sour bread when I increased the proofing temperature to about 82 degrees. Why is that?

This graph from the article, I think, might help explain it. I realize now that it's a version of the graph that Jim posted, but at the time, I didn't realize that Candida Milleri in Jim's graph was yeast.

The key factor, if I'm reading the article and Jim right, is not necessarily the level of activity, but rather the respective levels of activity between the yeast and the bacteria. At room temperature (about 70-75 degrees F), for instance, the yeast and bacteria are roughly equal in activity. However, on the edges -- lower than 70 degrees and higher than 75, bacterial activity outpaces yeast activity.

Here's what the authors say:

The right temperature is the single most critical variable. Michael Ganzle and his co-workers did some studies on this. They found the following growth rates of L. sanfranciscensis and C.milleri as function of temperature. Growth rate is ln2/generation time, i.e. a growth rate of 0.7 is a generation (doubling time) of about 1 h.

The generation times measured in laboratory media are different from that in rye / wheat / white wheat dough. If the generation time at 20 C is 1/2 of that at 30 C in my medium, the organism will also grow 1/2 as fast at 20 C compared to 30 C in dough (we checked). So, it's not the absolute numbers that matter, but the ratio of growth rate to growth rate at optimum temperature.

There are a ton of other variables, of course -- the proportion of bacteria to yeasts in the starter, the species of yeasts and bacteria in the starter, etc -- but might this explain why both retarding the dough at a low temperaure and fermenting at a somewhat elevated temperature (~82-85 F) would produce a stronger sourdough than fermenting at room temperature -- because the bacteria are more active than the yeast?

Anyway, interersting article. I'd be interested to hear what others think. Is that your take, Jim? I think I'm finally wrapping my head around this stuff ....
Floydm's picture

Shaping a flax seed torpedo

This is the Flax Seed Wheat Bread from Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf (a great book, but one not easy to find in the US).

flax seed wheat bread

Recipe for the Flax Seed Wheat Bread here.

mountaindog's picture

Starter, technique, and recipe comparisons: this week's baking

Stayed home today to nurse my lame dog, so I have time to make some notes for myself for future reference:

For this past weekend's baking, I decided to make the Thom Leonard Country French bread (Glezer) again, but using my rye starter, and compare it to the Essential Columbia (also Glezer) my current favorite recipe. For the Columbias, however, I made two different batches for further taste comparison: one with a wet rye starter (saving the step of making a firm starter if you don't keep one) and the other with the firm white starter called for in the original recipe in Glezer's book.

Here is how the Thom Leonard bread came out:

The crumb was beautiful as was the oven spring and crust. I also used King Arthur AP flour only, rather than a mix of AP and Bread, because the protein level of KA AP is as high as other bread flours (11.7%). The last time I made this bread using KA bread flour, the crumb was way too tough and chewy, even for me who likes chewy bread. Seems like the only reason to use a very high protein bread flour like KA (12.7%) would be to strenghten mostly whole grain breads. The Thom Leonard above tasted very nice for a mostly white French bread, however, I have developed a taste for a bit more whole wheat in my bread which is why I prefer the Columbia at the moment. Of course, the original Thom Leonard recipe calls for high extraction flour, not white AP flour. If I can ever get my hands on some, I will try it again with that.

Next, I made the Columbia using a wet rye starter, and omitted the small amount of rye called for in the recipe, replacing it with additional whole wheat and white AP. To first make the levain for this recipe using the wetter rye starter rather than the stiff white starter called for, I used a bit more starter, a bit less water, and a bit more flour, until the correct consistency was achieved and the total weight of the levain as an overall ingredient in the recipe was preserved. This was a pretty slack dough, as I like to work with wetter doughs for improved crumb, so when I tried to slash it for the batard, the darn razor dragged again despite oiling and I went over the same slash too many times and compressed the dough too much in those spots, you can see the results in the crumb shot below:

Despite the spread out loaf, I still got some nice holes and the crust was gorgeous! The taste was as great as before, with a slight flavor from the rye starter that made it taste mildly like a rye bread.

The next batch of Columbias were made with the stiff white starter called for in the recipe, my stiff starter uses 75% white bread flour to 25% whole wheat flour. I fed it 3 times at 12 hr intervals before making the levain with it for this recipe. Rather than making 4 smaller loaves, I made 2 large ones using bannetons. I had trouble with slack dough sticking to bannetons before so I got over-eager with the flour on these, and I had to brush a lot of it off after baking. I also think it inhibited the crust forming nicely as in the free-form loaves above which have the nice crisp crackly bubbles. The other thing I did differently was to degas them by pressing the flat of my hand all over the dough before rounding into boules, thinking I would try to even out the crumb more, but I overdid it, and I did not get as nice holes this time - there are some big ones, but not as many as I like to have and not as even. Below are photos of the large boules made with the stiff starter, and for comparison I stacked the previous batch's smaller rye starter batard on top of the sliced boule - the pic on the right is without a flash and shows the holes in shadow a little better, while the left shows the actual color of the crumb nicely:

I also found that I prefer making the smaller batards free-form for this recipe rather than using a banneton to make larger boules. Not only does this avoid getting excess flour on the crust, but it provides a greater surface area and ratio of crust to crumb, since the crust is so good on this bread. As far as taste difference in crumb between the wet rye starter method vs. the stiff white starter, it is very hard to tell the difference, but I like the stiff starter version's flavor slightly better - it has a bit more tang and wheaty flavor and slightly less rye flavor - the rye flavor in the rye starter batch may outcompete the wheat germ and malt flavors. I would probably get the same result using my wet white starter, so I will try that next.

Lessons learned:

1) levain: using a wet starter seems to work just as well in this recipe as using a stiff one - the type of flour used will make a bigger difference in flavor than the hydration does.

2) first fermentation: do not de-gas the dough completely, just fold it 2 or 3 times for strength during fermentation 30 min. apart. I also retarded the dough overnight in the fridge after a 2 hour room temp. first fermentation.

3) shaping and proofing: handle as little as possible without de-gassing as noted above, but do gently form smaller batards rather then large boules to get more crust ratio. Without pressing out the gas, do tighten the batard into a very tight cylinder as much as possible to create enough surface tension to avoid it spreading out too much or flattening when scoring.

4) when slashing a slack dough like this, don't score over it again or it will flatten it out too much.

5) avoid over-flouring bannetons as it ruins the crust and didn't really help with the sticking anyhow, maybe a spray oil is better - I'd like to know how people avoid banneton stickiness and resulting collapse with the coiled willow baskets.

That's it for this week...


zorra's picture

Pane Biove

I like these Italian rolls. Nice shaped and great in taste!

Pane Biove

250 g flour
8 g fresh yeast
5 g salt
20 g lard
1/2 TL honey
~130 g water

How to shape them you find on my blog:

Floydm's picture

Trying the NY Times technique

So I set out today to try the new technique that we've been discussing from the New York Times article. I created a dough like what he described the night before and gave it an 18 hour rise.

This morning, I dusted off a Le Creuset pot I got as a gift a few years ago but have rarely used.


18 hours later, the dough was extremely bubbly. Personally, I thought it smelled a little overfermented. Slightly alcoholic.

bubbly dough

Around 80% hydration, folding it was a pain.






folded dough

floured bowl

Despite flouring the bowl like crazy, it stuck.

sticky mess

I baked it anyway. It came out ugly, but with pretty nice crumb.

both loaves


The pretty loaf was a sourdough I baked the same way (in the pot covered for 25 minutes, in the pot uncovered for about 20 or so at 450). It was a damp dough, but not *that* wet. More like 65-70% hydration. Much easier to handle.

sourdough loaf

I may try it again, but I'm not overwhelmed by the results. They are good and it is a little simpler, technique-wise, but I enjoy a more traditional approach too.


beanfromex's picture

Wretched sourdough in the tropics...

I used the starter than I have been carefully feeding since last thursday night. All indications were right, smell, bubbles etc..and baked somethng that looked great, and felt like a doorstop. It was a VERY dense loaf, not what I would choose to have again. So I fed the starter and popped it into the fridge...perhaps I will try again next week.

However, today I taught Ramona how to do the cottage loaf from last weekend. Again, excellent colour and crust and a reasonable crumb.  I sprinkled cornmeal onto a greased baking sheet and the bottom crust is wonderful. And used poppy seeds over the egg waah.

Ramona did not get the wash evenly around the lower loaf, so you can see where it dripped and where she missed. ...but she will see this tomorrow and learn from it...

Perhaps I should get her to have a try at the sourdough....

I am going to play with this recipe and introduce whole wheat and seeds into the loaf ..

stay tuned... 

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Pepping up a sluggish starter?

For a while, my starters (white and rye) were very active, rising dough quickly and making light, open crumb.  Now I'm getting very sluggish rises and dense, chewy crumb (most notably the white starter) from the same recipes.  I do get a huge oven spring out of them, so *something* is alive in there!

I feed or use the starter once a week.  When feeding, I keep about 4oz and add 2-3oz of flour and 3-4oz of water to make a poolish-like mother starter.  When making plain sourdough, I make a firm starter from the mother starter, like French bread dough.

I've tried overnight proofs in the fridge, and using a pan of hot water in the oven to simulate a proofing tent.

Any suggestions on making my starter more zippy are welcome :)