Finally registering!


Hi all!

I have been reading and lurking for a while, and have finally decided to register.

I bake bread at home about once a week, and while I am a better-than-decent cook, I don't consider myself great at baking.  On the other hand, I love good bread, and so I have been experimenting with sourdough starter and with cake yeast lately.

I have followed instructions on this site and on Sourdough Home and now have a happy and well-behaved starter (wheat, though I feed it rye occasionally when I want to bake with rye) retention sample in the refrigerator.  I tend to reactivate it every time I bake with it and occasionally refresh the sample in the fridge from the refreshed and newly-fed mix.

The picture is of a loaf made yesterday with a 100% hydration starter, but without real measurements - I had essentially tried to bake by hand-feel of dough.  It is all white high-gluten (12% protein) wheat flour.  I bulk-fermented the dough for about 4 hours with several folds early on, then cut it in half and pre-shaped, left to rest a while, shaped into boules and proofed them in floured-towel-lined colander and bowl.  This one has been baked after 3 hours' proving time.  My slashing is messy, and it cracked a little on the side, but the crumb was airy, the taste delicate and a little nutty, with a wonderful sour note, the loaf was light for its size, and I am generally very happy with it, so next time I will try to measure or weigh what I am putting in and try to replicate this.

In any case, I am very glad the forum is here, as it has given many helpful tips, and I'd love to hear any comments from those of you here who know what you are doing better than I (that'd be most of you, I suspect...).

All the best,


304 users have voted.


panfresca 2011 August 8

That's a very successful, good looking early loaf, well done!

Nothing too wrong with the look of the slashing either.

If the cracking bothers you, possible causes could be:

• Underproofing - this is typical from an underproofed loaf. Not a great problem, and it's better to underproof than overproof.

• Insufficient steam at beginning. The steam softens the crust, allowing the loaf to expand without cracking.

• Slashing in the wrong direction. Not saying this is necessarily the case, but as the crack is largely at right angles to your slashing, perhaps try a longitudinal slash or diagonal slashes?

Lilith 2011 August 8

Thank you both for the welcome!

It tasted as wonderful as it looked, and I am really happy with the result!

Kymh, thanks for the tip, I will try to slash more diagonally and see if that helps. 

I do not think it's a steam problem, since the loaf had really good oven spring, or at least I hope it isn't, since I've used a preheated cast-iron dutch oven to bake it in - 20 min shut, 10-15 open.  I have tried the ice cubes or dish of boiling water in oven methods before, and they appeared to work far less well.

Underproofing is a possibility, as the poke test resulted in the dough slooowly springing back up.  I can try giving it more time next time as well! (if I manage the patience...)

There's always the next time (... I feel the beginnings of an addiction!).  :)

panfresca 2011 August 9

...I too like using the Dutch Oven or something similar, and it's one of the easiest ways to ensure plenty of steam in the early stages for a healthy crust. 

So, I would say underproofing is the most likely cause. As far as I can work out, the benefit of longer proofing is primarily aesthetic - less cracking and better crumb.

Yeah, it's an addiction for sure, but a really interesting and rewarding one!


Lilith 2011 August 16

Kymh, hi!


Thank you for the advice, and after taking it, I have indeed had less cracking!


However, I have another question and I wonder if you could help - if I retard the bread overnight in the fridge, how long do I need to let it come to room temperature before baking?  My results from the fridge appear to be either overproofed, or just less oven-spring-ey, and less attractive than room-temperature proof loaves, even when they are from the same batch of bulk-ferment.


Last time I did this, I allowed the bread to proof in towel-lined colander for an hour before wrapping it in a bag and putting in refrigerator overnight - while the other bread proofed at room temp for approx. 2 hours.  The 2-hour proof turned out great, but the fridge one appears overproofed and somewhat flattened.


Any thoughts and words of wisdom?

panfresca 2011 August 17

Hi Veronika. 

I'm wondering what temperature this is all happening at, because 2 hours for your unrefrigerated dough seems quite short - the worry being that there wouldn't be much flavour development happening.

My experience, and also what I've read, is that it's quite OK to take the refrigerated dough straight from the refrigerator to the oven. It heats up so quickly that the extra step of allowing it to reach room temperature is unnecessary. 

I'm not sure why the refrigerated version would be flatter or overproofed (are you sure?). Did you compare flavours between the two loaves? I wonder if the reason it's flatter is just that it had more time to settle, and perhaps the shaping regime is different?

It's been a while since I used the refrigerator retarding method - it's winter here, and I have been mostly using the no-knead, no-refrigeration method. I mix up the ingredients, leave overnight (house temp is set at 21°C till 11pm, then 15°C overnight), then stretch and fold a couple of times in the morning before baking. Occasionally I leave to autolyse at night then do a stretch and fold also at night. The results doing it this way have been excellent, but as the weather starts warming again I will go back to using some refrigeration.


Lilith 2011 September 5

Kym, hi!


Sorry, I have entirely missed your reply to this thread, so apologies for replying so slowly.


For the second attempt, I did not go with the no-measurement method, but rather using Jan Hedh's pain au levain as a guideline, and the proofing times were taken from his book "Bröd" (in Swedish).  According to him, levain is fermented for 7-8 hours then refrigerated for up to a week to use when I see fit - at which point the bread is mixed, bulk-fermented for approximately 4 hours with folds, and then shaped and proofed 2-3 hours at room temperature.  I have proofed one at room temperature and tried to retard the other one, and the result was the same - the bread proofed at room temperature rose much better, and had far better oven spring than the one which had been in the fridge, so I am a little baffled since it is not how it should work theoretically.


My fridge is set to +2°C and room temperature varies between 17-ish at night and up to 22-23 during the day.


I am going to do another round of bread today/tomorrow and I am unsure as to whether I want to retard it now, or proof at room temperature - I have bought a proper banetton, and going to mix a half-sized batch, to result in a single large loaf rather than two.

Post Reply

Already a member? Login