Keep it simple!!


 Hello to you all.

You are probably fed up with amateurs railroading your lovely site with silly questions and I am no exception!  

I have just successfully produced my very first starter (I want to impress my partner who is German and is forever moaning that you cant get a decent loaf of bread in this country!!) Im now not sure which would be the easiest recipe to start with. Ive never hand made bread before, I dont understand some of the jargon let alone have baking stones or clay pots!!

should I refridgerate my starter until I have the right equipment or is there an easy recipe I can get started on? I have a rye starter ready to go........please help 

232 users have voted.


Muff 2011 June 23


     A couple of weeks ago my wife made a series of pictures of what I do to make a levain-process pan bread, and we put them on a Kodak storage site.  They might be useful to you.

      I don't know how to share them well; that is, I don't know how to post them here or give a direct link. But I can send an invitation to view to anybody who sends me an e-mail. I don't mind doing that -and I guess I should add that there's no ulterior motive. I'll be happy to send invitations to anybody who's interested, and I won't use their address in any way. And once anybody has them they can share them any way they care to, I don't care. I can be e-mailed at [email protected]. It may take me a day or two or three to respond.

      What I do is take leftover dough from a batch that was made with yeast, and chop it up with flour and then add water to make a poolish. You can skip this if you have a good starter of 50% or so hydration.

     So my poolish (which can be replaced by your starter) is made by taking 270 grams of whole wheat flour, 270 grams of water, and 60 grams of yeasted bread dough. I chop the dough up into little bits and smoosh it all together into a paste. I let that sit overnight, or at least several hours. You would just take 600 grams of starter preferably at its peak activity By "peak activity" I mean that your starter has been well fed , and has shown vigorous growth, and hasn't quite started to drop, or settle back, or quit being very active. The pictures show a honey whole grain 100% wheat pan bread, and since there is rolled or cracked wheat and whole wheat berries in it there is a soaker. A soaker is just where the baker takes some of the water that's designated for the mix and uses it to soak the coarse grains and meal. So for this recipe I used 227 grams of hot water, 205 grams of cracked or rolled wheat, and 20 grams of wheat berries. These grains add almost nothing to the strength of the dough, because all of the gluten in them is wrapped up in the grain. So you could easily substitute other grains without having much impact on the volume of the loaf. You could also just replace them with whole wheat flour or any other flour, keeping the water about the sam.

      So right now you have a soaker which has set for at least a couple of hours, and a poolish or vigorous starter, and so it's time to make the dough. Add 340 grams of  whole wheat flour and 150 grams/ml of water, and stir them up thoroughly. Experienced bakers will adjust the amount of water here. It's very easy to make whole wheat/whole grain doughs too stiff. Make sure that the dough at this stage is a little on the soft side. The coarse grain takes time to absorb all the water. And, you're likely to work a little flour into the dough as you handle it. But as a rule I would say that newcomers to the field are likely to make a dough that feels like clay, when they need one that feels like a wet sponge.

     This mixing only takes a minute or so. If allowed to sit for a while after mixing -at least fifteen minutes, up to an hour- the fermentation will begin and some development of the gluten will occur. While it's happening you can measure out 16 grams of salt, 21 grams of nonfat dry milk powder, if desired (variable, depending on whether the milk was dried by the high-heat process, which breaks down enzymes that interfere with fermentation or was dried by the low-heat process, which preserves the enzymes. If high-heat milk use 42 grams) and 85 grams of honey (molasses works very well also) and 42 grams of butter (my favorite) or vegetable oil. Omit milk, honey, oil-butter if desired, but they add something to the loaf, in my mind. You might also add 14 grams of dry malt powder if you can get it.

     You'll find it challenging to develop this mix by hand, but it's doable. I work it until my arm aches and then let it be. I use an extra step if mixing it by hand, to ensure adequate gluten development (see below) but if you have a mixer you can just mix it until it's smooth and cleans the bowl well. After complete mixing it needs to ferment to double in bulk, at least a couple of hours, and then be punched and allowed to recover, about thirty minutes, and then divided and allowed to rest or relax perhaps half an hour before being shaped into loaves, buns, or rolls. After shaping it needs to rise to about double in bulk (high humidity and temps up to about 100 F help this along) and then popped into the oven. Lately I've been baking at about 400 F for the first fifteen minutes and then reducing the heat to 350 F or so until the sides color up.

      If you don't have a mixer at least one more rise will be required to develop the gluten.  So after punching it once and allowing it to recover you will punch it again and allow it to recover again. And then divide the dough and rest before molding.

Hope this helps,


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 June 23

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out.........

Welcome 20glen11, we are mostly amateurs here and we all had to start somewhere.

I notice you found something that met your needs for the moment but don't hesitate to get back to us for more help or to brag about your successes.

It is hard to go past the series of tutuorials for beginners on this site by SourDom to get you off to a good start.

Keep on bakin'


panfresca 2011 June 23

 Breadmaking is not about the equipment... well apart from an oven which reaches the required temperature. 

You'll soon discover that it is an incredibly forgiving process, and that it's actually quite hard to produce something which is truly inedible!

I sometimes bake bread in a saucepan with the lid on for the first 20 minutes (steams the crust perfectly for crispness) - so no absolute need for a baking stone, though I do recommend you get one (cheap ceramic tiles can do the job). I don't have a claypot, and see no need for one for the way I do bread. 

These things are really refinements, and as you progress you will find you want to experiment to find the methods and equipment which suits your style. Good luck!


Jeff 2011 June 24

I think it's getting a feel for the dough, I measure a minimum, and know when my dough is right by things like elasticity, stickiness, and from generally bashing it around a bit, and the starter is all texture and smell, yes mainly smell, I get great results from a crummy toaster oven, and don't use my heavy ceramic dutch type oven, found I get similar results with a glass pyrex dish with a lid, which doesn't need preheating in the oven, having said that, we humans come in all shapes and sizes, breadmakers also come in different varieties, the artists and the scientists, although the division can be very misleading, (those who have read "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance"), each should enjoy his technique and enjoy eating the bread he/she makes...



Brickie Dick 2011 June 25


Why not make a simple rye/white loaf - 50:50.  Add a little finely chopped onion and some caraway with 25% starter and around 70% hydration.  Ferment overnight in a plastic bag you have sprayed with pam or some other spray oil.  The bag makes the sticky dough way easier to handle.  You can punch down in the bag and, if you don't have a cloche, dump the proofed dough into a hot dutch oven.  No need to knead with the long ferment - just mix well.



mozzie 2011 June 25

My suggestions?

Warning - heresy ahead!

  • Don't make it too hard! If you have a mixer with a dough hook ... use it! Especially for mixing. Kneading can be as simple as three or four folds and beating down So..  Keep it simple, use any tools you have.
  • clay pots and baking stones ... even a (big) terracotta flower pot base will help. Terracotta unglazed tiles are great. I use some garden edging tiles. as they're small and about $2 each. I reckon the main advantage is they hold a lot of heat, and as my home (not commercial) oven loses heat fast when I open the door, the tiles help keep the dough at a good temp (High) right from the start
  • Aim for a result. That is, something that produces passable bread without too much trouble. As you get to know what works, then get more adventurous. Commercial instant yeast is good, and will give you reliable results and good bread.

    Once you have some feeling for oven etc, then go for sourdough. Its a little more demanding and the dough can be more finicky.

    I bake weekly - 2 Kitchenmaid batches (2 dozen big rolls) of instant yeast bread, 1 x sourdough. (3 small loaves). I have an issue about 1 in 3 batches of sourdough, but the rolls are consistent.

    I use Jeff Hamelmanns Bread book for reference.

flatbread 2011 July 14

I started, and still make bread with just a couple of bread pans and a mixing bowl. It really does not take much to get started making great bread. One rule of thumb I have is that bad bread can make great crutons. There are some great resturants in my local [url=]Zionsville Dining[/url] area that make a lot of bread. Suprisingly most do not have a lot of fancy equipment to make this bread. They do it with a few bowls and an oven.

atephronesis 2011 June 27

I basically use a bowl and cheap, plastic dough scraper thing. Of course, a nice hot oven helps too! If you are serious about sourdough, the first thing you should probably get is a scale. During my barely half-year of sourdoughing, I have found that getting the proper proportions is really important and the consistency of the scale allows you to experiment with good control parameters. Just as an example...I recently noticed that two different types of flours I have make doughs of really different consistencies even though I used the same water/flour ratios. It's a good thing to know. OK, that's my two cents.

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