Author Archives: northwestsourdough

Super light Rye

I like working with Rye flour, adding a small amount to the different doughs, watching it transform an okay batch into a light springy, wonderful loaf. Rye has pentosans, which can cause gumminess in larger amounts but seem to be responsible for improving the flavor, fermentability, and quality of the dough and the ability of the dough to absorb and hold onto water. I read somewhere that bakers in Europe often add a small amount of Rye to their dough to improve the quality of the dough. I made a dough that had a cup of Rye to a batch of dough having nine cups of Bread flour, so you can see the amount was pretty small to call it even a “light Rye” maybe it should be called a “White Rye”.

Whenever I add Rye to my dough, the dough is softer and more “jellowy” feeling. It is light, bubbly and the bread resulting has a deep wonderful color and heavenly smell.

I made a sponge using part of the Rye and next day used the other 1/2 cup. The dough rose beautifully and here is the result:

White Rye



The recipe made a nice soft crumb and chewy crust. It is a very nice sandwich bread and has a terrific smell and flavor.

Sourdough Onion Poppy Seed Bagels

This morning I whipped up a batch of Onion Poppy Seed Sourdough Bagels. It is a really easy recipe, although I added three eggs to the recipe this time. I decided to make an Onion Poppy Seed version without a topping, something simple. I mixed up the dough this morning, let it bulk proof for about 4 hours and then I shaped the dough into bagels:

This was the dough after I had shaped many of the bagels already, so it isn’t the full amount. I actually made 7 lbs 7oz of dough and had to put it into a larger bowl to bulk ferment rather than my mixer bowl.


Here are some of the bagels divided and before their shaping:

bagel balls            

Here they are in the pan awaiting their final proofing:

shaped bagels           

they were 4 oz each. I proofed them about 2.5 hours and then startet dropping them in their boiling water bath which I had added a Tablespoon of salt and a Tablespoon of Malt Syrup to. After that they got an egg glaze and then into the oven for 20 minutes. Here are the finished bagels:


finished onion bagels

These really came out great! Dense, chewy, delicious! MMMmmmmmmmmm! You should try to make some up yourself!

Metric Breakthrough and NW starter

I had a metric breakthrough, no volume measuring this time, just metric. I let go and weighed my ingredients with my Metric scale. It was like being a fish out of water. Ever since I got my scale, I have been measuring volume and then converting it to metric for the benefit of my customers who mix up their dough using metric only. I have been using volume measurments all of my life, so the temptation to use cups and tablespoons and then convert to metric was strong. However, I thought I would give it a go. I have to get a feel for how much I need to use by going metric and this is my first metric only attempt:

I poured 600 g of starter at 166% into a large bowl and added 450 g of water, then I mixed in 800g of Bread flour and 50 g of Rye flour. This made a stiff sponge at 76 % which I fermented overnight in a cool pantry.Next afternoon at lunchtime, I added 300 g of water 455 g of Bread flour 15 g of oil and 20 g of salt. From my calculations that brings me to 73% hydration, which feels just right!   This is approximately the “feel” of dough I like to work with. Sometimes I like it just a little stiffer, but not much. Sourdough newbies will like to add more flour to their dough, as it is easier to work with a drier dough than one at 73 % hydration. If you add about 500 g more flour to the dough while mixing, it will bring the dough to about 55% hydration, which is pretty easy to work with. I then let it bulk ferment until about 7:00 pm and shaped the loaves and put them in the refrigerator to ferment overnight. Today I am attempting to proof and bake the dough. I am using my Northwest Sourdough starter with this batch.

The dough needed 3.5 hours proof this morning, a little bit longer than usual, however it has been pretty cool here on the coast. I ended up with 2539 g of dough which I divided between three loaves. Here is the first loaf:

first loaf

The bread has a really wonderful smell and color to the crust. The second loaf cracked the crust, it was my fault as I did not slice deeply enough and the other cracks did not want to open properly. I had decided to score it with the diamonds and changed my mind. In scoring a diamond or grid pattern you score more lightly.

 second loaf

 I slashed in one direction and then changed my mind, so I slashed too shallow of a cut. The stone I am using still gets too hot on the bottom so part of the bake time I have resorted to putting a piece of foil under the stone to deflect the direct heat coming from the element.

Here is loaf # 3:

third loaf

Here are all three loaves baked up today with my metric only measurements:

All three loaves

Here is the crumb from the first loaf:

crumb of loaf one

The bread has a great sour tang and crispy crust.

I have to admit, it was easier to weigh out the ingredients using metric, I can see changing hydration would be easier too. Adding a few extra grams instead of 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon plus 3/4 of a teaspoon, seems easier to me. I will just have to keep working on it until I am used to it. However, since most of you seem to still go by volume, I will still have to do volume first and convert to metric. Have you ever tried to come up with a metric recipe and change it to volume? Go ahead try and convert this one…I dare you!

Pane Piccante

I was too busy yesterday to post but I baked up a large batch from around 7.5 lbs of dough. I made up some Pane Piccante, meaning Sharp Bread(this recipe is part of the Special Recipes collection). If the meaning is wrong I am sure someone out there will correct me. 🙂 I was after a one night sourdough that was a good sharp sour. Well this recipe did it! I used San Francisco # 4 again and did almost the regular timing of late afternoon mixing, bulk ferment and shaping the first day and baking the second day. A combination of a good tasting starter and ingredients that promote a sour, turned out some really terrific sour bread.

Here are some pics:

The first loaf was slightly underproofed and had a whitish cast to the crust:

first loaf

one loaf

This next loaf was last to go in and I forgot to spray the loaf after the first time, so the crust dried out before it should have 🙁

another loaf

all loaves


I baked up four loaves and I noticed that the first loaf came out with a whitish cast to the crust. I have noticed before that if a loaf is underproofed, it can have the porcelain or whitish look to the crust. I know also that a dough too long fermented can have the same look. It would be nice to get some feedback about this phenomena from some of you professional bakers. It is understandable for a too long fermented dough to use up the sugars available in the dough and have the whitish cast, but why would the underproofed (sometimes if even slightly) loaf  also suffer from this fate? As you can see the loaves which followed, had a beautifully colored crust. Interesting.

Third day Lone San Francisco Loaf

I was working on a long fermented loaf at a lower hydration. I made up a stiff biga type dough for the first overnight ferment. Next afternoon I added the rest of the ingredients, bulk fermented and then just when it was an hour or so to shape loaves, it was discovered that someone had forgotten to buy hamburger buns! Rather than run out again to the store, I went ahead and used up half the dough for hamburger buns.

Hamburger buns

They were quite a success, and I was very pleased with the results. I continued with the rest of the dough by shaping a nice loaf that was over two pounds. I refrigerated the loaf overnight. Late the next morning, I baked up the lonely, all by itself loaf :

San Francisco Loaf

The proofing was a little rushed and I wish I had had another half hour, but it came out pretty good anyway:


This was a wonderful recipe using SF # 4. The dough handled really well, the flavor is exceptional and the crumb has the gelatinized open chewiness that is so good in a sourdough. I will try the recipe again, however I have a one night sourdough fermenting right now. (Low on bread because of the lonely loaf!)

One Night Sponge San Francisco # 4

Building on yesterday’s post, I made up a sponge last night and this morning I added the rest of the ingredients to make a nice dough. The first bulk ferment took only 3.5 hours. I pushed down the dough and let it raise another 1.5 hours. Then I took half the dough and put it in the refrigerator for 1/2 an hour to slow it down so all of the loaves wouldn’t be ready at the same time to be baked. The other half I shaped into loaves. I am using my nice Marine canvas couche. Gary won one of the other couches in the contest on the forum, I’ll have to see how he likes it once he starts baking up bread again this Fall. Here is the dough 3.5 hours after mixing:

dough ready

I divided the dough into four pieces at 1 lb 4 oz each. This dough is a lower hydration dough so it is not as sticky and is easy to work with. I do prefer the higher hydration dough, I have just gone in the direction of lower hydration dough to work on San Francisco Style loaves. Here are the loaves in their couche, the two on the right were shaped first and the two on the left were refrigerated for a short time to slow them down:

loaves in the couche

I slashed the dough with Bill’s handcrafted lame:


four loaves done

The loaves came out really nice. Because of the shortness of the fermentation, the crust didn’t have the blisters. The first two loaves were slightly underproofed and were a bit denser and didn’t show as pronounced a grigne as the second two. Lower hydration dough is a different beast and I am still getting used to the proofing of it.Here is the crumb which needs to be more open. Try try again!


The flavor of this starter is quite good. I am working on another batch, which will end up being a two day dough. It should be interesting.

San Francisco Starters comparison experiment

I have four different San Francisco Starters. I have finished an experiment designed to show me why they act differently when I use them for baking. SF # 1 was always a dud, bread baked using it was poor. SF # 2 has been a good starter. It has taken a bit longer to ferment, but with long soured dough that is acceptable when the flavor is good.SF # 3 has been a good starter from the start and so has SF # 4. They are both quick to respond and vigorous. The last time I experimented with the potentials of my Alaska starters, I found that one had a proofing time of 21 hours!!! The other peaked at only 3.5 hours and always peaks at that time consistantly. So I just wanted to see the potential for the four SF starters. Here is what I found:

Here are the starters at zero hour:

zero hour

The starters did not move until the third hour so there was no reason to take pics:

hour 3

At four hours:

Notice SF # 1,2 aren’t budging yet.

hour 4

Here they area at hour 5:

hour 5

Here they are at hour 6 which it the time many expect a dough to be finished bulk fermenting.Of course a dough would be at a lower hydration and the rise time would be different. Starter # 4 peaked at 6.5 hours and stayed there for awhile.

hour 6

Here they are at hour 7:

hour 7

Here they are at 8 hours. SF # 3 peaked at 8 hours and fell to the six hour position. It stayed there for a while.

hour 8

 At nine hours SF # 4 had made a recovery and was on its way up again.So was SF # 3 it was sitting between the 6 and 7 hour mark.

hour 9

A peek at SF #1 & 2 inside:

1 & 2 inside

Inside peek at SF # 3 & 4:

3 & 4 inside peek

In this picture you can see that SF# 1 is continuing to rise, SF # 2 peaked at 10 hours and 3 & 4 are still slowly rising more.

hour 10

Here they are at 11 hours:

hour 11

Here is the last picture at 12 hours.

hour 12

Within the next hour Sf # 1 peaked and fell.SF # 2 is on the rise from its fall. SF # 3 looks the most bubbly and is still on the rise. SF # 4 is about the same or falling a bit.

So thats it. My conclusions are that SF # 1 isn’t worth the effort at taking 11 hours to barely double and over 12 hours to peak. There are limits to how long bread should take! SF # 2 doubled at about 8.5 hours and peaked at 10 hours. That is still acceptable to me as long as I know I need a starter with oomph after a long ferment when I would bulk ferment maybe 6 hours and have a long retardation of the dough to develop flavor. I would keep in mind the length needed though as not all recipes or doughs would like such a long time to proof. Ryes and Wheats might get too sour.

SF # 3 & 4 had a similar rise with # 4 being the fastest with the early ferment and # 3 sustaining a longer proof. These two seem the ones to work with as they can do a bulk ferment and sustain for a long proof and have plenty of oomph left to do the job.

I have made some great bread with SF Starters 2,3 & 4. Now that I know what their strengths and weaknesses are, I can better plan which starter to use with what recipe. for instance, I would use # 4 to make a one nigh sour because it is fast in the early stages. I would also use it for a one day bread. I would use # 2 for a long Two Night Super Sour or other breads that would like a slow fermentation and long sustain. SF #3 can be used for medium and longer fermentation but not too well for the one day doughs. Experiment with your starter and see what it can do, you will make better bread!

Whole Wheat Potato Sourdough

I now have four SF starters. So far, this last starter has been very vigorous.  I made up some Whole Wheat Potato Sourdough with it and it came out great. The only problem I have with it, is holding it back. The starter is very full of bubbles and very vigorous. The bulk proofing doesn’t seem to be a problem but after shaping and during the second proof, it is a very fast riser. I am wondering if this dough would freeze successfully and then thaw and bounce back well for frozen doughs. It might be worth a try. Here is the dough at five hours bulk ferment with the salt already added:

bulk ferment

Here is the dough already to go right out of the refrigerator in the morning at 6:00 am:


All three loaves were this way. I put this one back into the refrigerator and turned on the oven, when the oven was halfway heated and needed another half hour, I took out this loaf again and let it warm up for only 1/2 hour.

Here it is baked:

first loaf

Here is the second loaf:

second loaf

Third loaf:

Third  Potato Wheat loaf

All three loaves

side view

Here it the crumb from the loaf slashed down the middle:


Those are the  Potato Wheat Loaves.

San Francisco # 3 again!

I tried doing up a basic white batch of sourdough bread with San Francisco # 3 again. I wanted to try the recipe at a higher hydration. So I made sure the dough was softer and higher hydration than the last time.The dough responded well with a six hour bulk ferment. The shaping went fine. I took the dough out of the refrigerator this morning and it was very proofed already. I have misgivings when it is ready right out of the refrigerator because I know from past experience that it is hard to get the dough to proof right when this happens. The proofing was okay for the first loaf, perfect for the second loaf and overproofed for the third loaf, which sagged and is a sorry sight. I am thinking that this starter may like less starter in the mixing and a lower hydration to be an optimum dough. So I will adjust next time to see if I can achieve a nicer loaf with those changes. The flavor is wonderful and the oven spring is okay, but the wetter dough just wasn’t right and proofed too fast and “felt” wrong for this bread. I am also having problems with my Fibrament stone being too hot still. I have moved it up in the oven, and now I have lined the bottom with aluminum foil. This means I have to heat the oven a lot longer so the stone is hot enough through the foil bottom. Once I do get it hot enough, usually by the second loaf, I seem to get a better oven spring. I will admit that the firebrick I had seemed to be a better stone for bread baking, but I needed a larger stone to fit my bread on. It may be that the size of the stone is such that the heat is directly hitting the bottom too much and not circulating enough. An oven fan would be nice especially a small one while the oven was heating. Anyway, here is the bread I baked today:

SF # 3


two loaves

Ahh… if you must see the well overproofed one:

overproofed loaf

I shall try try again…I am after that perfect loaf!

First Trial with San Francisco starter # 3

I am experimenting with San Francisco starter # 3 today. The starter is only four days old and the bacteria responsible for producing the flavor are not yet mature, however the yeast is doing well, so I started a preferment last night. In the morning the starter looked like this:

San Francisco # 3

It also smelled terrific, nice and pungent and sour, not the dirty sock syndrome!

I put it back into the mixer and did up the One Night Sponge Sour Recipe. Only I used the preferment instead of the motherdough called for in the recipe. The dough did a bulk ferment in five hours and started crawling out of the bowl! I pushed it down and waited another two hours. Then I shaped loaves.The three larger loaves were all 1 lb 12 oz the smaller loaf was 1 lb 2 oz. The loaves were proofing too quickly so I put half of the loaves in the refrigerator and took them out when I had the other two loaves in the oven baking. I miscalled the proofing though. The first two loaves were underproofed. It is funny but sometimes the whitish cast to the baked bread that you can get with overproofed dough also happens with underproofed dough. Here is the proof:

first two loaves

The second two loaves were proofed just right and came out great.

 second two loaves

The loaves are really tasty so far while still warm and I bet the sour will be more pronounced when completely cooled. Here you can see all four loaves. Guess which ones were underproofed?

All four loaves

 I know Nancy Silverton in her book on the Breads of La Brea Bakery talked about perfectly proofed loaves blooming in color and smell etc. If you can catch them at the right moment…there is nothing quite like a sourdough proofed to perfection. Just keep trying. This was a promising firs bake with this starter, I will have another go at it soon.

SF number 3 crumb