Newbie questions..


 Hi, I am just starting baking for the first time. I tried couple of loafs based on the "Classic Sourdough" book, with a starter from The loaves came out ok, but didn't really rise much and came out very dense. So, I now have a new starter, which I did completely with Rye. It is starting to look pretty good. I've been reading SourDom tutorials and I am thinking about doing one of the recipes from that.

- So, the first question is, can I use a Rye starter for that recipie? 

-The crusts came out very tough on both my experiments. Any advice on how to make it softer? The first time I used a small amount of water with baking. The second time, I did not. The first time it came really tough, 2nd time little less hard but still pretty tough.  Any advice on how to make the crust softer?

- Eventually, I would like to good rye bread. Any pointers to an easy rye recipe that is suitable for beginners?

Thanks in advance!   


== Update == 

I was able to create a nice Rye loaf today, using this hybrid sourdough recipe from another site, with some minor variations. I've posted a link to the recipe below, I couldn't figure out how to add pictures there, so I am adding them here. 

I think I could have cooked it for a few more minutes, it was still a little moist. But it tastes great, and I am excited to do more baking!


-- Vinod

402 users have voted.


JODoughMaker 2011 September 22

 How well your dough rises is one of the many factors that trouble us Newbie's. I've been reading many books on the subject of sour dough. So you can change the flavor of your bread by changing what you make your starter from. I did read that San Francisco sour dough has a starter made with milk.

In any case, the one thing that I think would help you is the thought to add yeast to your dough. It isn't taboo as some would have you think. 

The other thing that might help is that you might have to proof the dough for as long as 12 hours, maybe longer. This is, of course, if you don't use any yeast, and your other conditions don't change.

Another method to speed up the process is to set your loaf in the microwave, but first put a coupe of coffee mugs of water in the corners, and heat them until they boil, then shut it off and insert your dough. It will speed things up a lot.

A soft crust would be to use no water. If it is still hard,  it might be for other reasons. I use steam in my oven, and spritz the loaf several times during baking, and I get a fair crust. 


Good luck on your next attempt.    Joe

vink 2011 September 23



Thanks for your answer, especially the tip about adding yeast. In fact, I've been thinking about doing some yeast based breads (based on Artisan Bread in 5 minutes) to isolate the sourdough related issues from my general baking issues. I did let the dough rise for 12 hours and then a loaf proof for another 2 hours. . The first time I used all purpose flour, 2nd time I used some Rye as well. The dough rose both times, but I got no oven spring the 2nd time, but I got better sourdough flavor, presumably because the culture was more ready.  The crust was softer the 2nd time, but the loaf was very dense. 


Any opinions on whether I should switch to yeast based bread to master other aspects, or just tough it out with Sourdough? There are so many variables with Sourdough, I am a little bit more intimidated 


Thanks again. 

mpbusyb 2013 February 20

I know this was a while ago; you might have all your answers by now. I'm new to this site and thought I'd share what I know.

For a softer crust, use oil/butter/fat. Most sourdough lovers want that chewy, tough crust so hardly any of the recipes call for a fat. If you don't want fat in your recipe, brush the outside of the loaf with oil before baking. I recommend grapeseed or coconut oil as they have higher viscosity and will not smoke at high temperatures.

Have you mastered sourdough? Or have you decided on yeast-added breads? The difference is your preference, not only in taste but in nutrition. Using only sourdough to raise your loaf, you must give it extra time. Most loaves have an overnight proofing. One of the advantages to that is you give the sourdough enough time to break down the phytates that are in the flours. Phytates are digestive inhibitors. You can search out the Internet to learn all about them and how fermenting (like sourdough foods) and culturing improve digestibility.

Hope this helps.

JODoughMaker 2011 September 23

 The idea of yeast to help your sour dough is very common. I did a fast sour dough using yeast last week, and it was great. Today I started a different method, it uses a foam made from the starter. The foam involves a couple cups of flour, warm water, and a little sugar added to a cup of the starter. You let it cultivate at a very warm, 80 to 90 F, and stir each morning. Two days later you make the bread,  it includes the foam, more flour, yeast, salt, and baking powder. It is supposed to be a very flavorful bread.

Don't let sour dough intimidate you, hardly anyone gets it right the very first time, or every single time for that matter.  

I have two books that I like a lot. You might try to grab this first one for two reasons. The first is because it is absolutely great, and the second is that you will find it used on EBay or Amazon, and get it really cheap. Title " Secrets of a Jewish Baker" by George Greenstein. George will give you much insight into bread baking. It isn't  strictly a cookbook, even though he breaks down his recipes by types of bread, and then the method used. The recipe changes if you use a bread machine, or a food processor. He will tell you why in great detail. The second book can also be found used, titled "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads"  I have the 30th anniversary edition. It is a hard cover, and cost me $13.43 delivered. Both of these books have sections that you read to educate yourself, and recipes. They both break down the recipes by method used and give the process used when changing the method.

I have learned a lot from reading, and a lot more from trial and error.

             Good luck on your next sour dough bread. 

vink 2011 September 23

Thanks for the pointers on the books and the advice!  I will try again this weekend and give an update!



JODoughMaker 2011 September 23

 Oh, and on the topic of oven spring. I had it explained to me as something you get when you put the loaf in the hot oven to bake, just before it hits its peak rise. The idea was to let the hot oven put the rise into warp drive while the dough is still pliable.  Also, it requires well developed gluten.  I have a loaf at the proofing stage now. It is by far the best looking dough I've made yet, but I think this is too far from the finish line to really judge what the outcome will be. If I am proud, I will post a picture and give details about what I did different.



JODoughMaker 2011 September 23

 The sour dough bread I made today came out as great as it could. The one thing that I wanted to make it better was ordered today. I bought a Fibrament baking stone. It will fill my oven with a little more than 1 inch all the way around for good heat circulation. My oven is a Samsung Convection model, an I have not tried to bake bread with convection yet. I think it will brown too fast. 

The bread was bigger than my biggest pan on a diagonal. Part of the loaf hung over the side.  I would have done better to split the dough into two. Next time I will. 

I got a good sour dough taste, and pretty good crust. The crust will be much better when I get the stone to cook it on. I now cook on parchment with corn meal, and I drop it onto a dark shallow pan that I set in the oven upside down. I also heat it with the oven.  I will still use the parchment and corn meal, but the increased heat from the stone will aid in a crisp bottom crust. 

The stone is a 15" x 20" model, and cost $70 with free shipping.  I'm not positive, but I think it is 3/4" thick.

I got it here >   I did that after I shopped all over EBay, and Amazon for a stone that was as big as my oven would allow. Ever body had smaller stones, except this place. I also read that some people are using Travertine tiles, but others warn against it  The other choice was a guy selling 6x9 clay tiles that came out to 18" x 12"  They might have been ok if the price was not way off based for simple clay.  The Fibrament is a patented stone, and used in all sorts of ovens. They have some standard sizes, but It can be bought in very big sizes, bigger than most kitchen ovens can handle. 


I am going to try that Sour Banana Bread recipe, and I have the foam going for my next sour dough loaf, both on Saturday. My starter has amazing predictability, and gives great results.  I could see that I only need a small amount to get another bowl going for a friend.  

JODoughMaker 2011 September 24

 I made the first loaf of Sour Dough banana bread tonight. I have not tasted it yet, that will wait till morning, but it smells wonderful. I used some vanilla that I made myself. It takes me 5 months to get the most delicious vanilla extract you can imagine. The recipe only gets a teaspoon, but I can tell its there by the aroma. The recipe took two ripe banana's to get a cup. I also, only had pecans, so no walnuts. This has pecans in it.

I took a picture for the group. If I could only upload how it smells.

JODoughMaker 2011 September 24

 Delicious!  I'm going to make a second loaf for my friend today. This banana bread is great. First of all, flavor. It has a wonderful flavor. Second is the texture, it holds together and slices very easily without tearing. Just use a sharp knife to get through the nuts without dragging them. 

I have only one thing I will do differently. The cooking time was close, but I think I will keep away from the dark pan for the next loaf. The bottom of the bread browned more than I like.  I will run out to the store and get a glass loaf pan today. 


On another subject, I checked on the shipping of my Fibrament oven stone. They already shipped it, and gave me a tracking number. I suggested that I should have received that information in an email and should not have had to call them for it. In any case, they were very nice about giving me that information over the phone. 

Unfortunately, I will be out of town in a few days and won't be here to test the stones effect on my sour dough bread. That won't happen until sometime in the second week of October. 


I also found that you can find Fibrament stones on Ebay, but the same 15x20" stone I got for $70 with free shipping direct from the factory, was $89 on Ebay.




JODoughMaker 2011 September 26

 Go to EBay, or some other source, and buy good vanilla beans. Use a good Vodka, one with a clean taste, not cheap Vodka. My method is to add some Vodka to the bean in a food processor, and pulse it a few times to chop them open. Take that and put it into a air tight glass jar, fill it with more Vodka. How much Vodka you use it up to you, but t he quality of what you get is effected by thinning it too much. I let it sit for 4 or 5 months in the dark, and shake the jar every so often. I get a ~ quart of extract from 10 beans.  Once you like what you have, you can filter the neans from the extract.  Good luck..

I love the banana bread. Made it three times so far.

lmcfood 2011 September 27

Loaf no 5, this one with holes and good taste but spread into foccacia shape not loaf! Seemed rather wet, did the no knead method and rose well. But when tried to tip it into pot for cooking was stuck to tea towel and needed prising off so lost some volume! Tried to add photo but not able to for some reason! Any suggestions?

thanks Lynn

lmcfood 2011 September 27

This is the recipe I used, 150g starter (rye, spelt and white flour) 100g rye, 100g white spelt, 300g white bread flour, 10g salt, 320ml water. Baked in pot with lid at 240d for 15mins, lid off and 200d for 30mins.


lmcfood 2011 September 27

Not able to upload photo here, but if you click on my name there is a pic in the gallery! Comments welcomed.



Merrid 2013 February 20

You can add bakers' yeast to your dough if you like, but it WON'T be true sourdough. It will taste better than bread made by the Chorleywood process, but not as good as true sourdough or even homemade yeasted bread.

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