Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's 'Tiny' Starter


Has anyone had any experience with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's small sourdough starter in his book "How to make Bread". He advised a tablespoon of fridge starter to 1 cup of water and flour. After this rises to full (which it did, beautifully) use what you need for the recipe. I did this and my bread was flat. Behold below how flat it was. I used Ed Wood's Basic Sourdough. 

Is a recipe specific to a starter?


Tasted great though, just no rise. Also note, I did not slice the top thinking this was going to be a total failure. 

243 users have voted, including you.


farinam's picture
farinam 2016 July 15

Hello Valdus92,

I think that you will find that a starter is a starter is a starter.  The yeast and bacteria don't mind where they come from or where they are at.  A good active starter, when given food will multiply and thrive provided that the conditions are right.

So, you had an active starter which inoculated the levain 'beautifully' but it failed to thrive when made into a dough which seems to suggest that it was something that happened in your process.  So, I think you really need to tell exactly what your recipe and process were in some detail and that might help to diagnose what could possibly have gone wrong.

Good luck with your projects.


Valdus92 2016 July 15

Here is as much as I remember, I used Ed Wood's basic sourdough recipe so...

As far as conditions of that flat one, Let me try and remember the most I can. 

I had a all purpose starter that has been starting great on a few recipes. I used a tablespoon of the starter and 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of warm water, left it overnight, and the next morning it was jumping, thing looked like a sponge dipped in peanut butter. It was so frothy. Ambient was about 74 degrees (we keep the house cold at night, house very well insulated.

I took a cup and combined it with 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, 3.5 cups of all purpose flour. I mixed it up and then kneaded it, I put it in a bowl to rise for about 8-12 hours. After 8 hours there was no rise, and since my wheat bread sourdough had gone bananas by now, I gave up hope. I pressed the dough, saw my fingerprint and that stayed for another hour. Took it out, frustrated, let it rest for 30 and then kneaded it and put it in the bread pan. Proofed it for about an hour at 78 degrees then for about 2 hours at 80 degrees. No real rise, just a crawl to the corners of the bread pan. The dough was low and I said let me just try it. I put it in the oven at 375 for 30 minutes in a Breville. The recipe recommended 375 for 70 minutes but I have never been able to go beyond 35 minutes. It looked and tasted better than expected, except for the blown side that I did not slash because by now I had given up hope.

I said before and I say it again, the taste was great, perfect bread for a sandwich (heck with that blow in the side I hardly have to slice). 

And some pics. 

farinam's picture
farinam 2016 July 18

Hello Valdus92,

Whilst a loaf might not look too flash I have rarely heard of a case where it didn't taste just fine or where it was inedible.

A 'blow' such as you have there can often result from the formation of a crust too early in the bake which resists the rising action as the gas expands when the heat penetrates the loaf.  The crust then fails at some point of weakness.  In your case, this was the sharp change in profile at the top of the side wall and the top of the loaf.  In a free-form loaf, this can often be at the bottom of the loaf where it rests on the tray or stone.  In the ideal world, the point of weakness resides in your slashes and you end up with a nice controlled 'burst' and a shapely, good looking loaf.

So, the early crust can result from drying of the surface during proving or in a 'dry' environment in the oven.  It can also occur if the temperature in the oven is too low or the heat transfer is too slow so that the gas expansion is delayed.  That is why the loaf is covered with a damp cloth or film to keep a moist environment during proving and why many methods recommend arranging for the oven to be steamy in the early stages of baking.

The loaf doesn't exactly look as if it was over-proved though you do say that your 'poke' print did not spring back at all and the crust is a bit on the pale side.  I wonder, have you checked your oven temperature with an oven thermometer?  The controllers on ovens have been known to be inaccurate.

I know that you are following a method but you do say that your levain was well risen overnight.  I feel that this time can be a good indicator of how long your loaf making process should take from mixing to baking.  This assumes, of course, that the temperature over the two time periods is not too different.  Then I would allocate about half that time for dough development and preferment and the second half of that time for proving before baking.  I use the stretch and fold method of dough development (mostly) and the dough is being 'worked' through the whole of the 'preferment' stage and I am not at all concerned about the dough 'doubling' and such.  So maybe you could look at, say, four hours for the preferment and four hours for the proving.  Not a lot to lose.  You'll most likely still end up with an edible loaf and just maybe something a bit more 'respectable'.

Good luck with your projects.


Abe 2016 July 18

There's something very odd about this recipe. That is a very lot of starter with a long bulk ferment. I think you turned the dough into one big starter. No wonder it struggled to rise.

The hydration is also very high for what is mainly AP flour.

I have never heard of this recipe and a don't work in volume but from what you're telling me and after a quick google conversion for all the ingredients some things do not add up.

Can you post the exact recipe and what you did?

farinam's picture
farinam 2016 July 20

Hi Abe,

The indication is that he used 1 cup of well risen starter so you might assume that would contain about 100g of combined flour and water (about 40g flour and 60g water out of original 150g flour and 250g water).  That was added to 250g water and 525g flour.  That comes out to a pretty low hydration dough in actual fact (55%) which, come to think of it, could also contribute to the outcome of the bake.

Good luck with your projects.


Post Reply

Already a member? Login