The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

sourdough book

Rempejek's picture

sourdough book

  • I know there's a lot out there and I got a lot of them (mainly on kindle).

What I am still looking for is  a sourdough baking book that goes into the effect of changes.

Something like taking a basic recipe, then going into the effect of amount of starter used,  Longer or shorter bulk fermentation / oven temperature / rising temperature, how one thing affects the others.

Not sure if I explain it well, so please ask if it isn't clear

Gotta be metric and preferably have baker's percentages. Preferably European or English ingredients (read flours).

I live in a hot climate, so something about hot temperature baking would be nice and kneading is by hand.



mariana's picture

Rempejek, I think that the questions that you are asking would be usually answered by an instructor in a local baking school. They all have very simple answers.

For example,

1) The amount of starter to use depends on the form of your starter. Some starters are stiff, others are liquid and some are flourless. Stiff starters bring a lot of prefermented flour into bread, but with them you can have 100% starter breads, just add salt to your starter, shape it into a loaf, proof and bake. With flourless starters, like yeast water or kvass, you can replace all liquid in the recipe with your starter, that is the limit. Overall, the proportion of starter to flour in the recipe is not that important, there is a lot of freedom, although there are optimum amounts for certain breads found from years of baking experience and testing. The bread itself (or the baker's experience) dictates it so to speak.

2) Longer or shorter bulk fermentation is similar to cooking a steak. Too short and it is undercooked, too long and it is overcooked. In bread baking bulk fermentation lasts until the dough is well done so to speak, reaches maturity, certain acidity, aroma, taste and level of gluten development. If bulk is not long enough then you have a green dough or a young dough, which is not good for bread. Too long and you have an old dough past its prime emitting unpleasant off flavors, giving acrid or bitter taste to bread, etc.. Young and overripe doughs have a certain look to them, in that sense it is better to see it once than read about it a million times. All these things instructors show and describe to students. It is also described in any textbook on yeasted or sourdough baking. So look specifically for textbooks.

You can study baking by using a comprehensive textbook accompanied by practice/exercise notebooks and manuals on bread defects, something like what Richemont Centre for baking excellence in Switzerland published. German Handbuch Sauerteig and Technologie der Backwaren-herstellung by Shunemann/Treu are also excellent.

For the sourdough baking in hot climate try reading about sourdough flatbreads baked by people living in deserts, Uzbeks, Egyptians, Afghans and many others, although there might be a language barrier, of course. They have their unique ways of creating sourdough, they knead by hand and the climate is certainly super hot while their breads are to die for, I grew up eating them.

Rempejek's picture

Thank you!

I think you are totally right in looking for text books. Do you know of any good ones? Unfortunately, my German is not good enough. Dutch or English would both be fine. I'll look into the flatbreads, good idea!

Most of the books I've seen, just go for 1 way of doing things. I just want to be able to adjust things to my climate/flour/equipment etc.It's there, but all spread out. Lots on this forum as well, but again spread out.

So what I am looking for (I didn't describe it very well in the first post) is options from start to finish.

Starter (hydration & amount),

Building levain (autolyse, no / real / standard + time)("Real" being only water/flour,  "standard" water/flour/starter)

S&F (yes/no, number, spacing)

Bulk fermentation (shaped (yes/no) duration/temperature), Proofing/Oven temperature/ "room" temperature/ effect of flours, additions/etc etc

I got Vanessa Kimbell's "sourdough school" and it seems to do at least part of this

mariana's picture

Rempejek, I indicated a couple of books for you in English, from the bakers education center in Switzerland. They are in English

the textbook, very comprehensive

the manual on bread defects and how to eliminate them

Your questions are more about bread design, as if you wanted to create a grid or a table of anything that is possible. See if you can contact Guy Frenkel  , the owner of Ceor bakery in LA. He is the only one I know who is into bread design and pushes the edge of the envelope beyond imaginable.

Modernist bread encyclopedia is also a useful text on what is possible in bread, you will spend a lifetime browsing its 6 giant tomes. 

Bakers, on the other hand, mostly think in terms of bread, not bread design. Bakers bake certain breads and adjust as necessary to the changing conditions in order to keep bread quality stable, unchanged despite changing qualities of flours, weather conditions, conditions in the bakery, skill of the workers etc. That is because good bread is rare and each successful recipe is a treasure. 

Here's an overview of what is possible

1) starter (hydration and amount)

Hydration of starters varies from about 5% water (dry powders) to completely flourless starters, so, their hydration is infinite,

Stiff starters vary from about 40-45% for Italian stiff bigas made from weak flour, to about 65-75% hydration when made from strong bread flour. 

Soft starters are about 90-11% hydration and liquid starters are about 125-180% hydration

Very liquid starters are anywhere from 300% hydration to 1000% hydration (10g flour per 100g liquid).

Amount of starter in the bread formula, i.e. how much prefermented flour comes from starter, varies from 0% if the starter is flourless, to 5% minimum if the starter is flour based to keep the bread safe, not overwhelmed by the native microbes from the flour, all the way to 100% when breads are made 'from starter', as described above. 

2) Building levain. 

Levain is never autolysed because it is not kneaded to develop gluten, it is only mixed to homogeneity.

The time it takes for the levain to mature, to be ready, depends on the target acidity of levain and on the temperature and inoculation of levain. So, it varies widely. You can take 3 days to prepare your levain at 10-15C, for example, or 2-3 hrs at 30-40C. And anything in between. 

3) S+F is used only in breads that need certain crumb structure - open, irregular crumb.

Otherwise, the punchdown/degassing is done by simply mixing it in a mixer for a minute to deflate the dough and let it rise to the max volume over and over again, as many times as necessary (or what the specific flour lets you do to it) to keep its gluten intact while the bread dough accumulates organic acids needed for bread aroma and taste. 

The number of S+Fs depends on flour, on how strong it is, their spacing - on how soon the dough is able to relax after stretching it and folding it in order to stretch and fold it again. It also depends on the dough hydration, and the final crumb structure.

So, sometimes 0 S&Fs is ok, sometimes 2-3, sometimes hundreds of them. 

4) Bulk fermentation can run from very low temperatures, literally in the fridge all the time at 4-8C for up to 5 days, to being very quick, or practically non-existent in zero time dough when sourdough is only left to relax for 15-30 min after kneading and then it is shaped and let proof before baking. Upper temperature for bulk fermentation depends, but in rye sourdough can reach 35-42C. Pretty much the same can be said about Proofing. 

5) Oven temperatures depend on the temperature of cooking the dough, denaturing its proteins and gelatinizing its starch, which can be very low in breads like pumpernickel, baked at 100C or lower, to very high in pizza or flatbreads case, reaching 300C and higher, all  the way to 500C (900F). 

I don't understand the question about the effect of flours and additions. Flours and additions are not having any effect, they demand certain processed to accommodate them, to make bread palatable and safe to eat. They are the base of the bread, its fundament.

Any study of bread baking starts with learning about flours and other ingredients (that is right after learning the safety rules in a bakery) and their properties, the range of their properties - particle size, moisture content, ash content, sugar and gluten content, gluten quality and flour strength (W, P/L), its falling number etc. Only then you will be able to understand the possibilities of different processes in baking. 

I agree with you, that if you study on your own, from the books, when there is no knowledgeable instructor nearby, then yes, you would have to sift through hundreds of books and websites and youtube videos in order to find answers to the questions that your failed loaf posed. But that is how it is for all of us who are self-taught. Welcome to the club! : ) This forum is very good, so you will find a lot of help here as well. 

best wishes, 




Rempejek's picture

Thanks for the thorough reply! Very helpful.

With effect of flour, I did indeed mean type of flour, which is what you described

I'll check the links and books. I did find a promising book on the bread code website. I downloaded it, but only glanced through it.

I do still have a lot to learn about baking. It always amazes me that you can make so.many different things with just 4 ingredients!

albacore's picture

Also have a look at YouTube - some of the more scientific bakers on there are good at doing this comparison kind of thing. Eg "The Sourdough Journey", "The Breadcode", "Foodgeek".


Rempejek's picture

Just found "the sourdough journey"

Thing is, I'm in a very poor internet reception area, so I would like a book as well. I'm also a bit old-school, I do better with written text than video's.

But yes, there's definitely some good video's out there!

Rempejek's picture

I checked out "the bread code" website and downloaded the book that's on there.

At first glance, that looks like one that I will enjoy. Thanks for the link!

idaveindy's picture

Rem,  Your mention of Dutch made me think you might be in Indonesia. 

Why don't you just tell us what country your're located in, and someone can hook you up with another TFL user from that country?  (This is one big reason people should fill in their Location info on their user account page.  Ingredients vary too much across the world!)

Or just do a site search on the country name, and start pm-ing those who have mentioned being in your current country.

I just did a search on Indonesia, but those showed comments at least 3 years old and older.

There is a more recent user from Philippines, PalwithnoovenP.  Same general area of the world, hot and humid.

Another reason to contact someone in your area is to gain knowledge of your locally available flour. SE Asian flour is not likley a good fit for North American recipes from Forkish, Robertson, and Reinhart, etc.

If you are using Australian flour, user yozzause might have good tips for you.

Good luck, amigo.


Rempejek's picture

I'll update my profile.

Not in Indonesia though, but in Zambia. Bread is terrible here, just that factory white bread. Even the brown bread looks white. With a bit of fantasy you can see some brown specks.

Flour for sale is bread flour, white flour and cake flour. And brown flour, but no whole wheat or anything.

idaveindy's picture

as they say.

So, where is your local flour from?  Do they grow wheat in Zambia?  Or where is it imported from?

User pmccool used to live and bake some bread in South Africa, so he might help with SA flour.  I think he said they grow wheat there.

I mention this because wheat flour from one part of the world is rarely ever a perfect fit for leavened formulas designed around flour from a different part of the world. And it's not a simple matter of ash content or protein percent -- there are other properties involved that us casual bakers are most often unaware of.


By the way, under the "Small World" heading, I know a lady here in Central Indiana involved in Zambia:
They distribute shoes, and have built a schoolhouse or two.

(Note there are other non-profits with similar names.)

Rempejek's picture

Zambia grows its own wheat :)

No details on the packaging, or online and only 1 major supplier (as said, everything is just marked as bread, brown, cake, self raising or household flour)


pmccool's picture

Since I have no information about the type of wheat grown in Zambia (hard? soft?), I would do the same thing if I moved there that I did when I moved to South Africa: test bakes.  I would make up a series of small doughs based on 100g of flour, using the same salt and yeast quantities in each.  The variable, from one dough to the next, would be hydration.  Starting with 50g of water in the first dough, the quantity would be stepped up by 10g for each successive dough.  In other words, 60g, 70g, 80g, 90g of water.  Working with those would give me a good idea about the flour's ability to absorb water and how strong or weak the resulting doughs are.  Once risen, the doughs can be baked to learn the traits of the finished bread.


Rempejek's picture

Thanks Paul,

The flour seems pretty similar to what I know of the standard European (Dutch) supermarket flours.

I have no idea how those compare to the American flours, but going by what I read, they don't take as well to high hydration.

Coupled with my current ancient gas oven, around 65% hydration seems pretty much on the mark.

But I like the idea of test loaves. The 50% one will be like what I use for some flatbreads, whereas the 90% sounds like my thickening slurry...


idaveindy's picture

Mariana posted a very informative comment here
about how lower-protein French flour needs handled differently than what North American formulas (Robertson, Reinhart, Forkish) expect of North American flour. Mainly more autolyse and more kneading. No-knead or S&F-only styles aren't as good.  

Maybe her comments can be beneficial to your Zambian flour.

Rempejek's picture

Thanks for the link.

Interesting thread

squattercity's picture

one of the other ugly impacts of British colonialism: bad bread. In Nigeria, it's all highly enriched and sweetened white bread. A Togolese friend smuggled some baguettes across the border -- and my Lagos friends thought they were disgusting.


Rempejek's picture

Ah, so it can be worse!

At least our bread is not sweetened.

And to be honest, there is some reasonable bread, but hard to find and only in the capital. And I saw sourdough bread there on my last visit. Only 8 U$ for a loaf (insert sarcasm).

Rempejek's picture

Thanks everyone for the help.

I'm going to read through the book I got of "the bread code" and, at least for now, focus more on European bakers. And finish reading "sourdough school"

Next loaf, I'll try more kneading instead of only stretch and folds. I'm pretty happy with my bread (tastes fine), but I'm learning all the time