Category Archives for "Sourdough Baking"

Winging it with Two Night Sourdough

Last night I started a Two Night Sourdough which is my San Francisco Style Sourdough recipe. However, when I took the sponge out this morning, I decided to wing my way into something different. I have some ground whole wheat flour that I sifted to take out the coarsest bran and I added a cup of the sifted flour. I set aside the branish flour to use for the proofing basket and the shaping. After adding the sifted flour, I also added more bread flour. Then I let the sponge proof again. In the afternoon, I added the rest of the ingredients, and let it proof again. This recipe is built up over time with more flour and ingredients added as you go along. In the end, the result is a nice sour bread with plenty of rise because the whole thing was never overproofed but built up.

This evening after the proofing was done, I took out the branish flour and poured out the dough. Then I kneaded it a little, shaped the loaves with a coating of the branny stuff and put the loaves to bed in the fridge. We will see how they come out tomorrow. With the added wheat flour, I think the bread will have a nice punch to it.

I am making two bread pan loaves and a boule. To be continued…. 

Eating Crow instead:

Well today I am eating crow…so to speak. My addition of the whole wheat in such a long fermented dough was my downfall or I should say the dough’s. After I built up the dough throughout the day, I smelled alcohol, and began to suspect that the dough was overfermenting. However, it was too late to fire up the oven and bake, so I went ahead and put the bread in the fridge overnight. I think if I would have baked that night instead of waiting until next morning, the bread may have come out better. Anyway, the dough was a pale color and had little oven spring, evidence of overfermenting during bulk fermentation, or so I have been learning. Here are the pictures of the bread:

 First loaf out of the oven:

first loaf

Notice the flat, whitish look.

Here are the second and third loaf:

second and third loaves

The third loaf was the boule and I baked it at a higher temperature longer just to get it to color up.

Here is a picture of the crumb:


This is such a great lesson for me because it drove home how overfermentation during the first proofing affects the dough. I have baked using this same recipe (except without the whole wheat) and schedule several times and never had this happen, so I am assuming the addition of the whole wheat sped up the fermentation too much. There is a plus to the whole flop, and that is the bread tastes super delicious. I had several members of my family ignore how the bread looks and say, this is so good you HAVE to make it again. It has a tangy, full bodied, wheaty flavor and wonderful smell. So…..I will make this recipe again, and still use the addition of the whole wheat, however, I will do this as a one night sourdough instead of a two night and see what happens!

Trying out Nancy’s basic

I brought out my Nancy Silverton’s book, Breads from La Brea Bakery, and decided to give her Basic White bread recipe a go. It has been a while since I first tried that recipe and one of the first sourdough recipes I had used. I have been working with higher hydration doughs than her basic recipe, so it was a stretch for me to keep adding the flour to the mix. I also had to mix longer and add a significant amount more salt.

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Sourdough Flops

I was cleaning up my files on my computer, and I came across some of my very earliest sourdough bread pictures. I had to laugh! I remembered back to being a newbie in sourdough baking, and all of the flops I had until my breakthrough loaf. I thought I would share some of the pictures with you , so that those of you who are newbies to sourdough baking, can see that we all bake those flops in the beginning. It is in persisting that we get the breakthrough loaf. Here are some of my very first sourdough trials:

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Coastal loaf in new oven setup

I started a batch of Coastal Loaf bread yesterday to try out in my new oven setup today.

However, I did some things different with the Coastal Loaf recipe. I used regular starter because I had a lot to use up or toss, and I decided to leave out the oil. I compensated for the extra liquid in the starter by adding extra flour. I did run into a problem though. It has cooled down here on the coast, as a matter of fact we got maybe two days of warm weather. So the dough took the full six hours to proof instead of only four (see you have to adjust your recipe as you go along! ).

I must not have added enough flour because the dough was sticky when proofed. It was not overproofed, I am sure about that. So I poured out the dough and just (I actually did!) kneaded it until it was smooth and resilient. I then let the dough sit in it’s covered container for one hour (because of how slow it had proofed) and put it to bed in the refrigerator. In the morning at six am I took out the dough and it was smooth on top but you could see bubbly bumps and sponginess, had spread and looked almost doubled. So it was proofing pretty good.

I let it warm up for three hours. Then I shaped and started the second proof at about 9:20 am. All of the proofing for this dough has been a bit longer than my most recent breads I have been baking. After two and one half hours, I popped the first loaf into the oven where it is baking right now. It had a wonderful oven spring in the first five minutes and I actually took a picture of it through the oven window:

through the window

Now I know this loaf was slightly underproofed, but had to do that or the next one would have been too overproofed. The third one I put in a cooler pantry so it should hold a little better.

first loaf

Here is the first loaf out of the oven. I was so busy writing up this blog, that I didn’t spray the second one as much as I needed to! I fear it will not have as good of slashes as it should have….if I were paying attention! To be continued…

I can tell by the torn slashes of the second and third loaves, that the dough was too tight, not wet enough. This last loaf was put into the oven at almost four hours after proofing started. So I don’t think it was underproofed. I will go back to my mixing method and leave the kneading to Aussie Bill ! If the dough had been a little wetter, I think these loaves would have been perfect. The color is great the smell is heavenly but you can tell by looking that they are tight. I am guessing the crumb will be tighter than I had wished for too. The great grin and look is from the oven lined with the firebrick, I have no doubt of that.

Here are the pictures of the second and third loaves:

second loaf
third loaf

Here are all three loaves together:

Three loaves

I also sliced the first one and just as I thought, it was a somewhat tighter crumb than I am used to:

coastal crumb

It’s really not too bad, I am being overly critical, but you know how it is…you just want that perfect loaf!! Overall, I am very happy with the new oven setup. I don’t believe I would have even gotten the grigne I did if it hadn’t been for the intense heat coming from all sides and a more steady heat too. I really noticed an earlier oven spring this time. I preheated my oven for almost two hours. My daughter wants to try out the Coastal loaf now that she has seen the results. So maybe I will post her bread pictures when she bakes them up.

You can have the kneading Bill !

Bread oven

When you get serious about baking bread, sooner or later you begin to think of ways to make your oven into a better baking oven for bread. First you go out and get a baking stone. Then maybe a cloche or you think of ways to line your oven more. Perhaps a stone on the top shelf as well so that it can radiate heat downward as well as hold a more intense heat. Well then you begin to wonder about what else you can do. I am at that point although I have already glimpsed beyond to my own masonry oven and/or a commercial oven (there may be one in the works). So here I am at the point where I am trying to figure out how to bake my bread even closer to a hearth oven, this is what I have done today:


Here is the set up before putting on the bottom baking stone.

And here it is with the stone:

bottom stone

I lined the sides of the oven with three firebrick on each side,which I stood upright because two wouldn’t fit horizontally. I then added brick to the floor in two layers to lift the baking stone up off the element. I then put another baking stone on top. The baking stones are from a kiln and are crescent shaped. Not the best shape, but heck, that is what I have to work with. One of the baking stones has the edge broken off which worked out great for me because it wouldn’t have fit otherwise. I also had the firebrick laying out behind the shed not doing anything they are 1.25 inches thick.

I have made up a batch of the Coastal Loaf bread using regular sourdough starter instead of motherdough starter, I thought I would see if it was more like a baguette or french style bread. So I will try out the stone setup tomorrow.

Bottom heat

I made up a new motherdough recipe yesterday and the motherdough was really vigorous. I will call this bread, Coastal Loaf. The motherdough was at 80% hydration (the motherdough not the dough).

(Forgive the use of metric mixed with imperial, I just got my digital scale, and my mind is still mixed up 🙂

Coastal Loaf

I used:

680 g of motherdough (approx. 1.5 lb)

700 g water (3 cups)

938 g bread flour (7.5 cups)

150 g whole wheat flour freshly ground (1 cup)

8 g (1 teaspoon) malt syrup

27 g  (2 Tablespoons) of oil

24 g (4 teaspoons) salt (not added during mix)

This made 2436 g of dough (5 lb 5 oz)

I divided this into three pieces of 812 g (1lb 12 oz)of dough each.

I mixed up this dough at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. I let the dough autolyse for 20 minutes, finished mixing for about 4 minutes and then let it proof until 8:00 pm. I then added the salt, stirred down the dough and put it into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning at 7:00 am I took out the dough and let it warm up for one hour. At 8:00 am I shaped the loaves. I made two batard syle loaves and one boule style loaf.

dough proofing

For this proofing setup, I rolled up three bath sized towels and draped a large cotton cloth over the whole thing, then I put a tea towel over each half that was to contain one loaf. That way, I could lift each loaf out with the tea towel.

I preheated my oven for one hour at 500 F and put a baking stone on the bottom shelf and on the second to the top shelf. I was going to see if I could bake two loaves at once, and just switch them halfway. I was worried about the top loaf being too close to the top of the oven and getting overly browned. The dough looked ready after two hours proof (our temperature is in the 90’s). So I popped the loaves into the oven and misted for the first five minutes. I also had a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven floor. After the first five minutes,I turned the oven down to about 435 F  I put the timer on for 14 minutes, switched the bread halfway and baked another 14 minutes. I was surprised after the first 14 minutes, because the bottom loaf had really done an oven spring and the slashes had already opened up beautifully. The top loaf was smaller looking and the slashes weren’t too open. The dough was exactly the same weight and was proofed exactly the same, so the only thing I could think of was that the more intense bottom heat was beneficial for oven spring. I then switched the loaves halfway and the bottom loaf which I switched to the top did get a little too browned.

Here they are:

two loaves

two again

boule too

The boule went into the oven next by itself. It had a terrific oven spring. Here it is with the other two loaves. Here is a picture of the interior crumb of the bottom heated loaf:

interior crumb

I will get pictures of the other interior crumbs as they are sliced.

Here is the picture of the interior crumb of the bread that was on the top of the oven:


I really like working with the motherdough as you get the tendency toward the larger holes, and the color and flavor are always superb. The smell is heavenly. It really seems to bring out the full pontential of the wheat.

This was really a wonderful learning day for me!


Not a Baguette or French Loaf

I took my One Night Sour Sponge Bread which has the cracked wheat meal in it, and made up some bread today. I decided to shape two of the loaves like torpedos and one as a boule. I didn’t do too well for shaping torpedos, I certainly need a lot more practice on shaping these kinds of loaves. Also the dough is a little too high in hydration and sticky for shaping a traditional Baguette or French loaf. However, I just wanted to push the limit. The oven spring was good, the shapes held up pretty well, the slashes didn’t fare too well though. Here they are:

one night   

boule too

The boule is pictured here with one of the long loaves. The other loaf has already been devoured as we grilled it up for dinner.

Here is a picture of the crumb:



I decided to tackle the Ciabatta bread. I used my motherdough starter to save on an extra day fermentation. The hydration ended up being 74% for the finished dough. I actually had it around 80% ! gooey! But I added flour to bring it to 74%. Here is what the dough looked like after being brought to 74%:

ciabatta dough

I wish I would have taken a picture when I poured it out, it was like batter. But here is one of the loaves after I folded it the first time. I then stretched it again and folded it twice:

loaf 1

folded again

Here are all four loaves finished with their forming, they weighed about 1 lb 5 oz each:

all four

Here are the first two loaves out of the oven:

baked bread

Here are three of the loaves:three loaves

I would have shown you  all four except one was devoured while still hot!

Here is the crumb of one:

crumb ciabatta

I could have gotten more oven spring, I would like the holes to be larger, but overall I am very happy with how these Ciabatta loaves turned out.

crumb ciabatta

Country Kitchen Loaves

Yesterday I decided to make up a recipe that would have these parameters:

Dark crusty exterior, finer crumb, large, lots of slashes, have a taste like the large farm kitchen loaves with the added milk.

So I started at 10:30 in the morning, and already had a nice bucket of motherdough (I had this motherdough at 100% hydation, but I am now keeping it at 80% hydration , when I refresh I add 400g water and 500g flour) going and well fermented so I decided to use it for flavor and color and skip the extra night fermentation. The loaves were successful except for the slashes did not bloom as well as I would have expected.

Here is a picture of the loaves :

kitchen loaves

Here is the crumb:

kitchen crumb

As you can see, I got what I was after. The only thing I wasn’t happy about, is that I wanted a lot of slashes, but the slashes, made the bread spread too much in the first loaf, and didn’t bloom much in the second loaf. I had the dough at 63% hydration, so I thought that was a low enough hydration loaf to support a lot of slashes. I am pretty sure it was the fact that the loaves were too large (2lb 11 oz) for my regular baskets and I had to use plastic bowls. The skin on the dough didn’t dry enough to support a lot of slashes. I wish I had at my disposal, a very large number of bannetons and baskets of different sizes and shapes!If anyone has any other ideas as to why my loaves spread too much or the slashes didn’t bloom, I would certainly like to hear it!