slow, but progress...


For my latest loaf:

170g 50% hydration starter

500g Bakers flour

320g water

13g salt

Mixed without saly and left for 30mins

Worked in salt, turned out quick kneads after 10,10, 20 mins. The dough was still quite stiff at this point and was tearing a bit after a few kneads.

Bulk ferment for 90mins

Turned out and shaped. The dough was much better at this point, elastic and with lots of air bubbles. Then into tea towel and colander for 60mins.

Turned out and into the oven. Preheated on max for an hour. Water on a tray on the bottom. Down to 230 when I put it in, then down by 10s every 10 mins. A few sprays throughout. Oven off with door open for 5 mins then out.

The loaf is cooling now. It looks pretty good. Its got a lot of flour on it. It didn't brown as much as previously, I hope its cooked through. Will report when its cooled.


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farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 30

Hello redrich,

You must have been up to your elbows in flour for the past week or so. /;-{)}

The flour coating possibly protected the crust a bit though I would have expected something a bit browner.  It will be interesting to see how your oven temp checks out when you get your thermometer.

Did you leave the water tray in the whole time?  If you did, I would consider removing it after say 15 minutes and I wouldn't worry about the water spray as the water bath should make more than enough steam.  Having steam throughout and/or opening the door on regular intervals could have also contributed to the lighter crust.

If your starter is only 50% hydration you could still be a little short on hydration in the dough at 61%.  You could add an extra 50g water and still be at only 70% hydration which is an eminently workable dough  with straight bread flour and gives a good crumb.

Keep on bakin' and keep us in the loop.


redrich2000 2011 December 30

Yes, water tray was in the whole time, but didn't have that much water in it.

See how one of the slashes has opened really wide, is that just how it goes some time?

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 30

Hi redrich,

Did you have the tray in the oven while heating and add boiling water just before putting the loaf in or did you just put cold tray and water in with the loaf?  The former is the way to go.

Splitting like that is usually down to the fact that the skin of the loaf is either too dry from the start or that the oven heat has set it before the middle of the loaf starts to expand.  The expansion forces the slash open wide and if the rise is strong enough the skin will tear as it has done on your loaf.

The role of the steam is to keep the skin soft so that the loaf can expand uniformly for most of the rise with some of the give coming from the slashes as well.  If you put in cold tray and water, it is some time before the steam is generated and the skin of the loaf could be set by the oven heat before there is enough steam to have any effect.

It is also possible that the heavy flour coating helped to harden the skin during your proving.  I'd brush most of that off before you eat it.

I'd be prepared to bet that the bread is yummo regardless of how it looks.


redrich2000 2011 December 30

The tray lives in the oven, I poured some tap water on at the start, but not much. I will try boiled water next.

I have cut it now. It's very soft inside, cooked but soft, more like good white bread than sourdough (if that makes sense). Does that indicate it might be slightly under-done?

Flavour is pretty good. Still not as sour as I'd like, the bestt sourness I got was one of the loaves I retarded over-night. So the next phase will be to perfect getting the correct rise with some retarding.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 30

HI redrich,

Cold water would drop the oven temp quite a bit and there would still be a delay in getting the steam going so using boiling water would be good.  You just have to be a bit careful about splashing and spitting and the risk of getting a nasty burn if you are not careful.  One of the bloggers a while back suggested placing a tea towel in the tray before pouring the water to reduce the risk but I found that it behaved pretty much the same.

I don' t think you are underdone. Freshly baked bread is generally soft.  You will probably find that it is good tomorrow and the day after and the day after.  There are those that say that the flavour improves with age (including sourness) and even advocate waiting three days before cutting.

I have read of various methods of increasing the 'sourness' of the bread including increasing the proportion of starter in the dough (less dilution of the acid content), using a lower hydration starter (I think) and of course using retardation to slow the yeast and to give the bacteria a chance to do their thing.

I think you are on the right track now.  I would make the standard loaf a few more times for practice to get your technique right and see if you can get the feel for the dough and what it feels and looks like.  Try the window pane test and the poke test and so forth.  Make notes so that you remember what you have done and have something to refer back to.

Look forward to you bragging about your fantastic bread.


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 31

Hi redrich,

In some of my reading, it is recommended against actually spraying onto the bread.  Any spraying should be into the oven space and onto the walls.

Just bake a few more loaves using your basic recipe (with maybe a tweak to get the hydration up a bit) and you will probably find that things will come right.

As with so many things in life - practice makes perfect - but you have to practice perfectly /;-{)}


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