Waiting for starter....practicing

rgreenberg2000's picture

Hopefully, it's ok to post this here, even though the recipes I'm baking right now aren't sourdough.  So, while I'm waiting for my starter to mature a bit more so that it can properly take its part in my bread baking (see my posts in Beginner's section), I figured that I could practice some of my techniques using commercial yeast in some recipes that I'd like to try with my starter.  I've baked a couple of loaves in the last week, focusing on proper mix, autolyze, ferment, shape, proof, bake procedures.  I've got a ways to go! :)  Of course, the good thing is that I get to eat my "mistakes", and they taste good (even without a starter.)

My first loaf was:

¼ tsp active dry yeast

150g water

450g bread flour (King Arthur)


I mixed well, let rest 10 minutes, did a light knead + stretch/fold three times over the next hour, then let ferment in the bowl overnight.  The next day, I formed it into a boule, proofed in a bowl with floured tea towel, then baked inside a dutch oven at 500 degrees, removing the lid after 20 minutes.  I forgot to slash the loaf as is evident in this picture:

The crumb was nice, I liked the holes that developed, and the flavor, though lacking due to all white flour/no starter, was pretty decent (toasted with butter was YUMMY!):

Any thoughts, comments or hints from what you see here?  I think I'll bake at a higher temp the next time to see what that does to the crust (was not quite crispy/crunchy enough for me.)



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rgreenberg2000's picture
rgreenberg2000 2012 February 1

As above, practicing some of my technique.  You might recognize this recipe as the Pane Francese (thanks, SourDom....and Carol Field!), only I substituted commercial yeast, and added the flour and water components that would have been contributed by the starter.

¼ tsp yeast

410g water

540g bread flour

50g whole wheat flour

10g salt

I followed similar procedures as on my last batch, only this time, I shaped into a baton.  I did get a better rise overnight (same temps), and I attribute that to adding the salt after autolyze and to doing a better job with knead/stretch/fold.  I have no banneton, and I didn't have a basket or bowl that was the right shape/size for proofing this loaf, so I made due by proofing after shaping on parchment and making some support for the loaf with some rolled up towels:

That seemed to work ok, though transferring to parchment on my pizza peel was a bit of a gymnastic effort! :)  I quickly transferred, slashed, and got it into the 550 degree oven.  This time, I baked the loaf directly on my stone, no dutch oven, and added some ice cubed in a tray below the stone just a bit before putting the loaf in.  After 20 minutes, I removed the tray, and baked for another 25 minutes (turning the oven down to 375.)  Other than needing to improve on my shaping and slashing technique, I was quite happy with the oven spring and can't wait to cut into this one and see what the crumb and flavor are like:

EDIT: It's cooled now, and sliced the end to see how it looks/tastes.  I like how the crumb turned out, it's chewy, moist, and very crunchy (better crust than the last loaf), and the flavor is GREAT!  I think this will be my practice bread recipe as I work on my steps.

All thoughts, comments, or ridicule are welcomed!! :)


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 1

Hello Rich,

Ridicule doesn't rate on this site.

As you rightly point out, what you need is a bit of practice in your dough development and handling and not too much more.

You might try proving your loaf seam side up on a tea towel dredged with a low gluten flour such as rye or rice.  You could drape that over a rolled up bathroom towel to give a bit more depth than you got with your tea towels.  With the seam side up, you can invert the loaf onto the baking paper relatively easily by folding one edge of the towel back under and just rolling the loaf over.  I hope you can envisage what I mean.

Your crust is probably a bit darker than I would like but that is a matter of preference.  Either slightly lower to start or reduce the temperature a bit earlier would be my suggestion.

You didn't mention how many ice cubes you added but I wonder how long the steaming effect lasted.  My method is the add (about) a couple of cups of boiling water to the tray maybe 5 minutes before the bread goes in and take it out after 12-15 minutes after the loaf goes in and there is always water left.  It spits and steams rather severely when you put it in so you need to wear oven mitts.

Keep us informed.


rgreenberg2000's picture
rgreenberg2000 2012 February 1


Thanks for the comments!  I definitely didn't think I'd get ridiculed, everyone here seems to be very encouraging, and willing to help (and even indulge) newbies.

FWIW, I did prove that loaf seam side up, it was just a bit tricky getting it onto the peel without deflating it.  I managed, but can see where bannetons (or any sort of "vessel" that has some structure to it) come in handy.

I agree with you on the temperature.  The crust is a bit dark for me, too, though does not taste burnt at all.  I'll probably pre-heat at 500 on the next one, but turn the oven down to 425 as soon as the loaf goes in.  My ovens hold heat quite well, and with the stone in there, I should get a gradual decline.

Not enough ice cubes. I only put in two, and there was still some liquid left when the loaf went in, but not much.  I'll increase that quantity, or go with boiling water next time.

Believe me, I can't wait to do my first real sourdough, in the meantime, my practice loaves will keep us well fed, and provide me with some more experience.

Will let y'all know when I get things going again!



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