The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

hello from SW France

Patf's picture

hello from SW France

I'v been baking bread for years, just plain old wholemeal, and am ready to try some new ideas. There seem to be plenty on here and I will enjoy searching.

I'm also wanting to know more about different types of wheat flour and their gluten content, and the effects this has on the bread made from them.  French flour is very low in gluten and bread made from it dries out quickly.

Looking forward to meeting you all and reading about the bread you make. Pat.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Patf.

Welcome to TFL!

Comparison of American, French, UK and Canadian flours is a continuing discussion around here and a source of frustration in sharing recipes. Janedo, who lives in France, will probably be able to help you with French flour options.

That said, if your concern is bread drying out too quickly, you will want to explore breads with higher water content, like ciabatta, and, especially, sourdough breads. Many sourdough breads (pain au levain) will stay moist for 5-7 days.

There is a lot of sourdough expertise among TFL members, so, if you are new to sourdough, you can get plenty of information and advice right here.


Janedo's picture

Hi there Pat. I see we're neighbours. I'm near Perpignan behind the Canigou.

I can give you some tips on French flours if you'd like. I, like David, recommend getting in to sourdough. You'll be making the most spectacular bread that are sold in artisan bakeries in France for around 9 euros/kg. And if you let people around you taste it, they'll say, Wow, it's the bread of my youth! (I get that often and it is very flattering).


Patf's picture

Jane - do you make your bread with french flour? If so what kind? I've tried allsorts, from the cheap and cheerful white flour, to the Francine bread flours. Plus farine complete from a mill, and with added gluten from the healthfood shop. I now use english/canadian flour from an english stall in the market.

So why is sourdough so different? Pat. ps we are in the Gers,

Janedo's picture

The best flours are from the BIOCOOP stores. Either Celnat, Moulin des Moines or their new own brand of flour (in white bags with blue writing). It's all organic and so more expensive, but quite frankly, worth every penny. There is no quality bread baking flour in the supermarket. The only other solution is mills, but once you go into non-white flour, your getting pesticides in it. You can make a kilo of sourdough for less than a euro 20.  In most biocoops you can buy bulk as well, so you fill up your sack as much as you want. Buy T65 to start with. T80 makes a wonderful bread as well. It what's called "bis" (in-between) so not white but not brown. You can use a majority of T65 and add some T110 to give a little more wheaty taste without going to whole wheat. Buy some rye as well to do pain de campagne. You can use T65 and then add about 50g or so to start and then up a bit if you want.

T110 and T150 are whole wheat flours, from light whole wheat to darker and T170 Graham is the wholest whole wheat. 

Why sourdough? Because it is healthier, better tasting, longer shelf life. It's an acquired taste, but once acquired, it becomes an addiction. Back when the French ate over a kilo of bread a day and it was their staple food stuff, it was sourdough. The body doesn't digest it the same and you can eat more of it. And if you only bake once a week, the bread will still be great. Once you get your starter going it just becomes a habit and you won't look back.

If you want some more info on baking in France and can read French, here's my bread blog:

Or you can go see Mike at

and others here have wonderful bread blogs:  Susan  Steve

From there you can find other links to to other sites.

And of course, here you are at a great place to get help. 



Soundman's picture

Hi Pat,

Greetings from Connecticut, USA. You've come to the right place. TFL = avid bakers sharing their insights and methods and helping each other bake better bread (and other things as well).

I second (and third and fourth) Jane in her praise of sourdough. Though I'm only 4 months into sourdough baking, I am, as she says, an addict. I just finished my last bite of my morning sourdough toast :-( et je suis tres triste.

Jane, it was fascinating to learn about the Txx designations of French flour. I wanted to try your mixture of T65 with a small amount of T160 and knead some dough.

Pat, you can do a great deal on TFL by simply using the search engine. Put in any topic you want to learn about into the text box (say, "baguette" or "steam" or "slashing") and press Search. The archives of past threads are amazing on TFL (thanks again, Floyd!).

Let us know what you're baking!

Soundman (David)

Patf's picture

Crumbs! (an appropriate exclamation for this forum.) I'm overwhelmed by all the advice and information. It will take some digesting.

First I intend to try making a sourdough starter.

I bake wholemeal bread, 4 loaves at a time, using the best organic flour I can get. Usually I can get Dove Farm. I use a dried yeast, levain boulangerie, occasionally fresh yeast but it's hard to find. Sometimes I add some black treacle, an idea from an aunt who baked lovely bread.

I also bake challahs, the jewish plaited loaves, sometimes from white flour, sometimes wholemeal.

Jane - I once made bread from the cheapest lowest T flour you can get , as an experiment, and it was edible. A bit like cotton wool though. Depends what you like.

Must spend some time just browsing this forum. Pat.



Soundman's picture

Hi Pat,

I would like to recommend the method by which I got my sourdough starter going, in very short order. It thrives on whole-meal and organic so it should be right up your alley, as we say. It was developed by Debra Wink, who is now more than 15-minute famous for her careful scientific development of this process. Others will undoubtedly recommend other methods. You choose.

 Here goes:

Sourdough Starter

A reliable method for creating a sourdough starter was developed by Debra Wink. There are three requirements: 1) whole grain flour, 2) acidify the flour medium, and 3) maintain the temperature around 75°F (24°C). Whole rye or wheat flour is recommended because the yeasts normally inhabit the cereal hulls. Acidification of the starter is provided by using unsweetened pineapple juice. The warm room temperature speeds up the process.

Day  1:


 Mix 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice.
Day 2: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice.
Day 3: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice.
Day 4: Keep 2 oz. (60g) of starter after stirring down. Discard the rest
  Add 1 oz. (30g) bread flour and 1 oz. (30g) spring water


By day 4 the mixture should bubble, expand, and smell yeasty. Starting from Day 4, discard some starter to keep the proportion of fresh flour high enough to support the feeding yeast while keeping the total volume manageable. At each feeding, the weight of starter must be less than or equal to the combined weight of the new flour and water. Once you have a good starter, you can keep it loosely covered in the refrigerator and feed it once per week using the procedure for Day 4. Do not use tight-fitting lids. Refresh starter 2 days, unrefrigerated, before baking bread.

Soundman (David)

josordoni's picture

I made my rye starter using this method.  It started fine, but really suffered from the low level of feeding from day 4 onwards. 

 Then I read some posts here about 1:2:2 and even 1:4:4 (one part of starter to two or even four parts of flour and water) moved up to that level of feed and it romped away.

To feed less than equal parts starter/flour/water really does seem to starve the poor wee thing.

 I weigh carefully for the actual baking, but use a tablespoon measure for replenishing the starter,  I keep it in the fridge and bake about once a week, taking out one tablespoon of the starter and building up the rest for the baking.  The one tablespoon I add to three tablespoons flour and  two of water mix put back in the jar I originally had the starter in (which I sluice out with water but not wash) and put straight back in the fridge door.  

 this has kept fine now for about 2 months and is still really nice and strong, and elaborates very easily for each baking.

Patf's picture

sorry if these are  dumb questions

1. is starter the same as sourdough?

2. Is the starter a substitute for yeast?

3. when you want to make bread, do you add all the other ingredients that you normally use to the starter?

4. If so, how much starter would you use for 1kg of flour?

5. Or is the starter the actual dough mix?

Jane - thanks for the suggestions for additives.


Soundman's picture


These are good questions, as we have all had them or some similar ones! Clear questions deserve clear answers, and some of your questions can be answered clearly and simply. Others get more complicated. (I highly recommend that you read around on TFL, where these topics get a complete workout.)

"1. is starter the same as sourdough?"

"2. Is the starter a substitute for yeast?"

"Sourdough" is American for "levain". Sourdough starter is the symbiotic culture of wild yeast and bacteria you develop for baking sourdough bread. Sourdough starter, courtesy of the wild yeast, is responsible for raising your dough, so in that sense, yes, it is a substitute for commercial yeast. But it does more: the bacteria in the culture add delicious flavor to your dough in addition to the leavening action of the wild yeast.

 "3. when you want to make bread, do you add all the other ingredients that you normally use to the starter?"

This question is more complicated to answer. One common thread is that you need to build the sourdough culture (or starter or levain), by refreshing it, with flour and water, until it is "ripe", meaning active, thriving, and robust enough to raise (or leaven) the bread. Once you have an active starter, in some recipes you add it (after saving some for your next bake) directly to the other ingredients. In others you use this culture to make a "final build" (usually a small amount of starter and a much larger amount of flour and water) which you ferment before mixing it into the other ingredients of your dough (and after saving some for your next bake).

There are lots of variables in the above processes. Some recipes call for a liquid starter or levain, which means the hydration is at least 100%, meaning at least as much water as flour. Other recipes use a firm starter or levain, which means less water than flour, say in the ratio of 100% flour to 60% water, baker's percentages.

 "4. If so, how much starter would you use for 1kg of flour?"

Ca depend. Some recipes call for a significant amount of mature culture mixed in with the flour and water of the dough. But if you are using the technique that builds the culture to make a "final build", you may use as little as 30 g, or less, with 150g of flour for the final build. After this ferments for, say, 12 hours, it is then mixed into the dough ingredients.

Finally, here's a TFL link for a recipe for Jeffrey Hamelman's "Vermont Sourdough". I make this bread as well, and it may be a good starting point for you.

Good luck, and have patience.

Soundman (David)

Patf's picture

Thanks for the replies, which have given me a much richer view of bread-making than before.

This whole idea of fermenting flour slowly with water etc reminds me of the jewish laws of making unleavened bread. It seems that in warm countries youcan't leave a mixture of flour and water for long before it starts to ferment, creating its own levain. So for passover bread/matzos it must be baked immediately after mixing.

The only thing that puts me off doing this is that it seems you can only bake one or two loaves at a time.

Still it's worth trying, I think. All you guys seem to be convinced it's "the best thing since sliced bread." (english saying.)

Janedo's picture


You can bake as many as you want! You just have to be organized and build you starter in the days before baking day.

Yes, it is "better than sliced bread", definitely! You won't regret. 


Soundman's picture

Hi Pat,

As Jane says, you can make as many sourdough loaves as you want. The beauty of the baker's percentage method is you can increase or decrease the size of the batch to suit your needs, and your oven size.

If your oven is large enough for more than two loaves, no problem, bake more. Or if your oven, like mine, will only hold a couple of good-sized loaves (rising majestically, of course) you can bake your numerous loaves serially. Using a refrigerator to retard the rise of the dough will allow you to stagger the loading of loaves pretty much all day long if you want! (Of course for that you need a pretty big refrigerator.)

How big a batch were you wanting to bake? (In loaves or kilos.)

The religious history you recall reminds me of many things, a few of which are:

1) All raised bread, for millennia, was naturally leavened;

2) Even the most ardent sourdough baker, on being released from servitude, would think twice about fermenting her bread and opt instead for mixing, baking, eating and fleeing!

3) Simple traditions can keep whole histories alive.

Thanks for the reminder!

Soundman (David)

saintdennis's picture

Hi Patf,

  1) Yes, starter is sourdough and substitute for yeast or you can use it with yeast.1 cup of starter is 1 envelope of yeast.If you are in hurry you can put 1/4 teaspoon of yeast to the starter to speed up process. Starter take longer but you will have tastier bread with yeast the bread will be fester but you lose the taste.The starter was used in 1800 for all baking and end of 1800 that yeast came to use.