Friday, November 23, 2012

well, hello there beautiful

that's it. i've made a decision today about my city bread. i've decided that my signature slash is the 'spiral'. it think that it defines my autonomous path on this 'tartine bread experiment'. i also have mohawk and yin & yang in my repertoire, then the ubiquitous circle and square (which oddly i have yet to master. it's a square. how difficult can it be?). i have sort of used all of my patterns willy nilly, and i've decided to assign each one to a specific style of my city bread. mmmm, i'm calling spiral for my spelts.

today i made three city breads in demi-spelt. white spelt, actually, which i'm excited about because y'all know that i never make white bread. the high percentage of rye contributed by both my 100% rye starter and a rather hefty levain render it less than pure, however. and man, did they turn out swell.

65% hydration city bread in white spelt, signature swirl

 65% hydration city bread in white spelt, square

70% hydration city bread in white spelt, yin and yang

i futzed around with the hydration a bit because it's always nice to revisit the reality that a mere few grams more or less water in my bread makes a huge difference with crust and crumb, the ability to achieve les grignes, and the aesthetic. at the bottom of this post i included some pictures of a fourth boule that i baked (one whose quality does not warrant a formula here) where a hydration tweak and a mistimed levain made for a less desirable loaf in terms of crust texture, oven spring, the shape/aesthetic of the loaf, and the ability to hold les grignes.

i also extended my final fermentation time with these beautiful loaves. as you know, i prefer lengthy fermentation. in my opinion, breads with abbreviated fermentation times both bulk and final do not achieve noteworthy flavor, crust, or crumb texture. full gelatinization cannot be realized if you don't allow the sugars to be fully digested, and you will never achieve those satisfying little gas bubbles or a shattery crust. if you don't have time to bake bread properly, don't cut corners. just plan better next time so that every loaf that you make is a satisfying one. i don't know about you, but a less than stellar loaf makes me pretty cranky, and often sends me into a flurry of baking to rectify where i went wrong. today my loaves made me do the happy dance.

we are not inventing the wheel here. yes, it may seem as though the percentages of flour, water, starter, fermentation times may not be dramatically different from loaf to loaf, but you can make astoundingly different loaves of bread with small tweaks. if it ain't broke, don't overhaul it. and always use your last loaf as a foundation for a new one. for instance, i don't bake with whole white flour breads often, so, instead of forging a wheel from scratch, i referred to my previous formulae, and now that i am familiar with whole spelt, i entered this experiment with some understanding of how this flour behaves.

and here's a trick: when creating a new bread, start with less water than you think you might need. you cannot take away hydration once its been added and adding extraneous flour to compensate is just a bad move that never ends well. have your scale at the ready, and add water in small increments until the dough feels right. be sure to write all this down (yes, hard when hands are full of sticky dough, but you'll manage, you should manage. trust me, as you make your adjustments, all those little additions will get lost if you don't write them down pronto. i learned my lesson when i 'lost' a bread a long while back. it was, to that date, one of the best i had made, but because i didn't record all of my additional grams of water, i was not able to recreate it). remember, if a dough feels a little less hydrated than you would like it to be before autolyse, you always have the option of adding a little more water during the phase of adding salt.

spelt, as you may not know (i am talking whole spelt here) is decidedly NOT as thirsty as one would imagine. when working with whole wheat, you need to increase your hydration for optimal crust, crumb, texture, flavor. but with spelt, i have found that using restraint with hydration is key. lo, you will see below in my experiments with hydration that white spelt was just the same. it is not a flour that wants to be uber hydrated. repeat after me: high hydration is not necessarily better, and super high hydration does not make you a bread rockstar. using restraint of hand with hydration has voluminous rewards, like really pronounced scoring.

the first loaf i made came out smashingly. with 70% hydration (not including water percentage in the starter or levain; for the purist, the hydration, including levain and starter hydration would actually be 75%), the crust was uber shattery and glassy. it achieved gorgeous gas bubbles, and was just the right thickness/thinness. nothing worse than a loaf of bread with a thick, tough, leathery crust (more on this below and at least one reason why this happens). it also had that lovely 'quincy'/honey flavor indicative of fully digested sugars, flavor that can only be coaxed from the dough using a long, cold fermentation.

which brings me to the next bit. with these loaves, i futzed with final fermentation times. it was high time i pushed past my usual brick wall -- the 15-hour fermentation mark, and it worked like a charm. 17 hours and 10 minutes. yup. you heard it here first. while it was relaxin' in the fridge, conjuring up all kinds of fabulousness, i was biting my nails as the time inched up toward the 17 hour mark. turns out, this dough adored being in the fridge for that long. who knows. perhaps it was introspective and appreciated the time to ruminate.

spelt is a bit of a conundrum. you would think it might behave like wheat because it has a high gluten content, but the quality of the gluten is not that swell, so it's challenging to achieve impressive oven spring. in fact, spelt breads consistently produce breads with thicker crusts, and if you don't exhibit a little ingenuity, they can wind up tough or downright hard. i balanced this white spelt boule with bread flour.

certain brands of flour that we can get at the market (like king arthur) boast all purpose flours with a rather high protein percentage. you can use them for pretty much all of your artisan breads, and i do, because i appreciate that it makes for a tender crumb and a good, shattery crust. however, if i am making a bread using whole grains that lack the necessary gluten to create a less compact crumb and a crisper crust, i will use bread flour in conjunction with it. for example, given the lack of gluten in rye, i would definitely use bread flour instead of all purpose to compensate for the loss of structure and lightness. for this loaf, i chose bread flour to compensate for the weak gluten quality intrinsic of spelt (ps, so far i love king arthur for their bread and a/p flours, but i'm not a fan of their whole wheat. i also don't care for bob's red mill whole wheat. if you make whole wheat bread, community grains is the way to go. and for rye, i find to your health sprouted rye nonpareil).

finally, i experimented with my levain, in relation to type of flour and duration of fermentation.
and here's what. for the first three fabulous loaves i used rye flour for my levain, fermenting it for 6 hours. for the experimental loaf below i used spelt to ferment my levain and decreased fermentation time to 5 hours.

i have found that when i use rye for my levains it takes less time to ferment. for one thing, rye is reliable because there are lots of sugars for the yeasts to devour, you will never have a sluggish levain (or starter, or loaf of bread for that matter) if you use dark rye flour. rye flour levains are like speedracer levains, meaning, they do not take as long to come to fruition as a levain with, say, whole spelt or whole wheat flour. sometimes (ok, all the time) i'm too impatient for that. i have found that when i use spelt and whole wheat flours for my levains they will take a bit longer to fully realize.

it is of utmost importance, and this is not unlike every aspect of your bread making endeavor, that you don't follow the times you read in a book or on a blog. i get a number of emails about chad's country bread (i am by no means an expert on his bread), the biggest complaint is the lack of oven spring, or too-sour flavors. it's difficult to answer these questions because there are so many variables that affect bread in a given kitchen. chad has given us an outline, and in his book, encouraged us to find our own bread paths. he never said: THIS IS THE WAY IT IS FOLKS. it took chad years to 'get' his bread, and you shouldn't think, even with that bible in your hands, that it will take you any less time or effort. i think the aura of the book is important, for a baker like me anyway. i appreciate the omission of details that make bread baking more of a scientific effort than one intuitive. it's lovely to have access to information about baking bread, and there are so many books that will do that for you, but i think that it can hamper you, this stringent guideline. the most valuable thing i learned from the tartine bread book is how to 'read' my bread, how to experiment using chad's bread as a template. when i get questions about what temperature my water and dough are i always want to say 'throw out your thermometer, have a quick look at the ambient temperature, and from there, you will know where to go.

i watch my dough. touch it. poke it. i talk to it. i can tell by looking at my bread that it has a few grams too much water, if next time i might want to increase the amount of levain. with my levain i observe it (i never remove the lid from my levain as it is coming to fruition, which is why i always use a glass lid when fermenting it. something about this makes me feel, intuitively, that some of the yeasts will be lost. i don't know if it's true or not, but it's how i feel and it works for me. your levain is a much more fragile thing. it's like a newborn baby. you can poke your dough, but treat your levain with extreme care). as well, i don't do the float test with my levain. i know when it's ready by looking at it. if you listen to your bread, it will tell you what it needs and what it wants to be.

you have to learn to read your dough in relation to your environment. maybe your levain takes more or less time than mine does, whatever type of flour you use. maybe you can push a longer proof, maybe you can't. this is where i ask, is this a hobby or a pursuit? if it's a hobby, and one that you don't really want to put a lot of time into, i would say you might choose to bake breads that rely on commercial yeast. working with sourdough means a serious commitment, a marriage, if you will, to the yeasts that are thriving in that little jar on your counter. just like any marriage, it's complex, sometimes finicky, it gets better over time if you put the effort into making it so, and if you are going to experiment, you have to do it mindfully and openly. you cannot trick your bread, you cannot cut corners, and you cannot give a little and expect a lot. you have to be patient if you want to experience the beauty of it and to watch it unfold into its full potential. and the more love and attention you give it, the more graceful and beautiful the ensuing loaves will be.

as well, you have to honor your wild yeast's preferences. perhaps it doesn't like this, but loves that, and this may change with the weather or time of year. for example, i generally feed my 100% rye, 100% hydration starter once a day for four days a week and twice for the three days prior my bake. lately i've been so busy, so i've only been baking once every ten days, which means more once-a-day feedings than usual. i think last month i only baked once every other week. well, my starter didn't like this one bit. she was giving me attitude when i fed her, and so i started feeding her more. just because i was not baking as regularly did not mean that i could just feed her once a day and expect her to be happy. i learned my lesson there. once a day is fine about four days a week, but at least three days a week, she wants to be fed twice regardless if i bake or not. end. of. story.

above all, you can't get pissed when your starter is 'in a mood', and it sounds silly, but sometimes she is. the thing is, it's generally because of something you neglected that puts her there (as i just outlined above). it's ok. we all make mistakes, just be sure to make it up to her by giving her a little more love if at any point your attention has fallen short.

finally, i received a few emails from people who have experienced sluggish doughs and too sour bread. i do swear by my refrigerator for most of my fermenting. this is where the 'if it ain't broke' thing comes into play. during the 4-hour bulk ferment (and i have experimented with longer and shorter bulk ferments. if this is one nugget of wisdom you take from chad's book, it's that initial formula. the 4-hour bulk fermentation is pretty tried-and-true. across the board, with all my breads, this is the case), i do two hours at room temp (sometimes one, if it's particularly balmy that day), and the remainder is done in the fridge. of course, then the final fermentation is also done under refrigeration.

all of the big bakeries that produce amazing bread with stellar crust and unrivaled flavor use cool proofing chambers to ferment their dough. you will not find a bakery with bread sittin' out on the counters for 17 hours. it would be too warm and the yeasts would gobble up the sugars too rapidly. 17 hours on the counter = dead dough. you could ferment on the counter for less time, but then this produces a decidedly uninteresting loaf of bread. it is the long, cold fermentation that lends to: crisp crust, full gelatinization/incredible texture of crumb, and mind-boggling flavor. long cold fermentations do NOT produce sour breads. ill-timed, warm fermentations DO, even short ones, depending on your environment. you have a fridge. use it. there is no point in making bread if you need to rush or you don't have time. please do not proof your bread in the oven or in a warm spot. i just have no words for you if this has been your method and you are ending up with sour or uninteresting breads with tough, blonde crusts, and flabby, gassy dough. long. cold. slow. patient. and the best flour that you can afford. this is what makes amazing bread.

without further balderdash, here is this week's bread(s).


city bread, in white spelt,  65% hydration

for this city bread i used a 6-hour levain, 100% rye, using my 100% rye starter. compared to the loaf below at 70% which achieved fantastic ears, this one formed uber pronounced ears. the only difference between this 65% spelt loaf and the 70% is the hydration percentage. i am posting the formulae for both for comparison and convenience sake. for the purist, the 65% hydration loaf which includes the hydration in the levain as well as in the starter weighs in at 70.8%, and for the 70% loaf, as stated above, the hydration percentage with all water factored in from starter through dough weighs in at 75%. this formula makes 2 loaves:


make your levain:

80g starter, 160g dark rye flour (i used organic BRM), 160g h2o

mix together the above components and ferment. i began mine at 8:50 in the morning, and as anticipated, it fermented quickly. at 2:50 in the afternoon, just 6 short hours later, we were good to go.

make the dough:

400g levain
500g organic KA bread flour, 500g white spelt flour (i used organic vitaspelt)
650g h2o
22g kosher salt

mix together the components listed above for the dough until you reach a shaggy mass. autolyse for 1 hour. after autolyse, add salt and squeeze into the dough until thoroughly incorporated. from here, your bulk fermentation begins with turns for the first 2 hours begins. here is my schedule

2:50p - 3:50p - autolyse

3:50p - salt - bulk ferment begins
3:50 - 4:20, turn at 4:20
4:20 - 4:50, turn at 4:50
4:50 - 5:20, turn at 5:20
5:30 - 5:50, turn at 5:50, pop into fridge
5:50 - 7:50, refrigerated bulk fermentation

after the first half of the bulk fermentation with turns, pop in fridge and complete the remaining 2 hours of bulk fermentation in the fridge.

after the bulk fermentation, scrape the dough onto a clean workspace that has been dusted with organic brown rice flour, divide, and form into loose rounds. rest for 10 minutes, then shape into boules. pop the boules into linen-lined bowls dusted with brown rice flour, and pop in the fridge for the 17 hour final fermentation. here was my schedule:

7:50 - 8:00, bench
8:00 - 8:10, shape, pop in fridge at 8:10.


one hour before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 550, fitted with two combo cookers and a baking stone. please be sure to preheat for a full hour, it makes a dramatic difference with the crust and maximizes oven spring.

here was my schedule:

12:10, preheat oven
1:10, turn out, slash, and get the loaves into the oven
1:10 - 1:40, steam the loaves
1:40 - 2:25, bake without the lids, turning at least once during baking for even browning. total bake time was 1 hour 15 minutes

turn the dough out onto a peel with a piece of parchment. score. slide the dough into the shallow end of the combo cooker, cover with the fat end, turn the oven down to 475 and steam the loaf for 30 minutes.

after the 30 minute steam, remove the lid from the comb cooker, turn the oven down to 450 and bake till chestnut brown.


for the 70% hydration loaf, follow the same timing as the loaves above, but use these quantities for flour, water, and starter. this formula makes one loaf:

make your levain:

40g 100% hydration, 100% dark rye starter, 80g dark rye flour, 80g h2o

mix this together, follow the timing directions above.

make your dough:

all of the levain
250g organic KA bread flour
250g organic vitaspelt, white spelt flour
350g h2o
11g kosher salt

mix this together, follow the timing directions above.

i hope your loaves come out as smashingly as mine did!

to the staff of life!



what you are about to see below is frightening! but i feel that it's important to share all of my findings with my bread so that you can see my mistakes firsthand and avoid them yourself. a critical part of experimenting is never to be afraid of making mistakes. for it is from our mistakes that we learn our most valuable lessons, so, read on.

i experimented with this loaf over the weekend prior to the bread that i made above. i was noodling around with a whole grain spelt loaf that used a whole spelt levain, and i noticed that the spelt levain took longer to come to fruition than my rye levain. (i was baking a loaf of 50% spelt from one of my prior posts). i decided to experiment with the white spelt, shortening a spelt levain, and i also wanted to monkey a bit with hydration. this loaf has just 15g more water (so, 365g water to 500g flour split half white spelt and half bread flour), and i intentionally decreased the time of the levain ferment just to see what would happen, as as you can see, the loaf came out all lop-headed. i wanted to share that with you because it DOES make a difference, that little extra bit of water. in this case, just 15g more than our 70% hydration loaf, and 40g more than our 65% hydration loaf. as well, i used spelt flour to make the levain, and only fermented it for 5.5 hours, just 30 minutes shy than those above, willfully ignoring that it did not appear 'ready' for use by sight. i have worked with 5.5 hour rye levains with lovely result. 5.5 hours, as you can see, is not nearly long enough for spelt flour to ferment. the crust was not exactly wretched, but it was not shattery like i like it to be, it was not tough or leathery, but it was certainly a little harder than i care for, though the crumb was nice, oddly, as was the flavor.

the levain probably could have used another 2 hours, at least, but again, you have learn to 'read' your levain, and using it prematurely resulted in an underdeveloped loaf that was lopsided and not very appealing. the excessive hydration, though seemingly minimal, killed any chance of les grignes. this loaf was baked after a 15 hour final ferment.

when you are working with new flour, use the guidelines for a similar bread as a template to start, show restraint of hand with hydration. and learn to read your bread all the way from starter through final ferment. with these tools, you will make consistently balanced loaves.

this post was shared on wild yeast blog's yeast spotting. yay!

to the staff of life!


  1. Wow! Amazing attention to detail. Your sourdough's one lucky lady. ;)

    1. thank you shrazzi. this post wore me out! ive been wanting to do this experiment with levains and hydration for a while now. :)

  2. Ahhhhh, incredibly beautiful and tempting! Love the perfect crumbs :)

    1. thank you dewi. i must say, i think these are some of my favorite loaves of all time. i'm going to experiment with some different flours and see what comes of it.

  3. woman, it will take me my whole life to read this long post but I will eventually. The last loaf looked like it was not fermented long enough. had those odd looking holes before and I believe is lack of fermentation. thank you for sharing not only the wow loaves this time but also your experience with less satisfying ones.

    1. girl, you cracked me up. dont take your whole life! lol. it is a long post. but it has so much valuable information. i read it again to check for typos, and i think half of my head of hair went gray. yeah, that was what that part of the post was about. the fact that the levain was not fermented long enough (it was, otherwise, a long fermented loaf. alas, that will do no good if the levain is not up to snuff). and i actually did it intentionally, because i KNEW that my rye fermented faster than other flours and i wanted to compare, sure enough! spelt levains need a long time to ferment. i think they are good overnighters. like whole wheat. funny. it actually tasted really good, but yeah, weird holes, like the poor loaf was trying with all its might to become something grand. alas.

      ps, im reading your blog as we speak. you a beddy, beddy funny lady. ;) (ps, be careful in that basement, 2 floors down... sounds creepy. will your bread taste like mildew?? lol)

  4. OMG this post and the photos is/are amazing. I am speechless. =)

    1. thanks karen. i just saw that tenderloin on your site. my words upon seeing it: 'oh geez'...

      lol. i cant wait to make that!

  5. Ok so that spiral slash is awesome. Did you do it with one gesture? As soon as I get back from Never Never Land (Switzerland) where they only sell whole spelt, I am definitely going to try this formula. I'm also loving the hippie-tastic way you write about bread. I also find baking to be a meditative, mindful experience when I do it right. It also does a good job of pointing out when I'm in a bad mood and I have no patience. Which of course almost never happens :)

    1. thanks ryan. i am a product of hippies. the apple does not fall far from the tree.seriously though, i'm far too lazy to get that technical with my bread. thank you for loving the signature spiral! it's neat, no? if i ever write a bread book (haha), i suppose i would choose that for my cover ;)

    2. Found white spelt. I was gong to follow your formula exactly but circumstances intervened. I did end up with a pretty cool spiral slash though! Check out my latest post.

    3. I LOVE your latest post Ryan. What a beautiful spiral!

  6. Hi Francis,

    Fellow baker - newly professional - amazing post, as usual. Very inspiring to see what you achieve at home. Learning how to read the dough is something that is a continual and wonderful challenge.

    A quick note: your calculations for overall hydration are too high. For example, in the 65% dough: the levain is at 100% hydration, so you've got 200g of water, and 200g of flour added into the dough. That makes (200+650 water)/(200+1000 flour)=70.8% hydration, not 83.6%.
    Just wanted to share what little I could in return for what you share every time you post.

    1. hi anonymous. omg. you are totally right. when i was doing my math, i tallied up the water, but forgot to add the grams of flour in the levain/starter to the grams in my actual dough. so when i did the math... well, you do the math! thanks for pointing that out :)

  7. Amazing post! These are some of the most beautiful loaves I've ever seen. Bookmarking this for future reference. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Korena. Let me know when you have done a bread post on your blog. Thank you for taking the time to write!

  8. Wonderful looking bread, super photos and lovely story - thank you!
    Definitely one to try...

    1. thank you Salilah! the spiral is making waves around the net! i've seen a couple more since this post. how cool to know that we are all inspired by one another, right?? i love knowing that someone read my blog and followed it to the score. it's really humbling. do you have a blog? i would love to see some of your bread too!


  9. Hi,
    You inspired me to go out and buy a cast-iron pot to bake my bread in. FINALLY. I am never going back. I also got some white spelt and made your 70% city bread (it's 11g salt, right? I don't think I found that on the list).

    I was wiping sweat from my forehead when I noticed my new pot was too small for my bread which means that the loaf went all wrinkly and weird when I stuck it in there and a part of it was pinched outside of the pot... BUT as I revealed the bread after 30 min of steaming it was completely transformed, what a beauty (Not as beautiful as yours. I'll get there.)! I guess I just have to make my breads a bit smaller to fit my new pot. And bake more spelt breads! Yes!

    1. Riikka! thank you for pointing out the omission of the 11g. i rely on the keen observation of bakers like you to help me keep my blog in tip-top, reliable shape.

      don't you love it when you think that a bread is going to come out wrong, but then it comes out fantastically? thank goodness for that combo cooker. it really puffed out those wrinkles, and i am sure that your bread was every bit as beautiful. :)

      thank you for writing. and congratulations on the combo cooker. until we can afford 20k steam ovens, this is the way to go! and let's all thank chad for revealing this lovely secret that has transformed all of our bread baking.


  10. Hi,
    Great blog !

    My biggest issues is to fit the tartine bread, autolyse, bulk fermentation and final proof timings into my schedule. Maybe you (Francis) can give some ideas ? My problem is that i have only 30min in the morning and then 5pm-11pm. How can i fit the steps into this schedule ?


    1. lets see, sounds like you're a 9 - 5er. i would start my levain before work (you could even do a whole wheat levain, since whole wheat levains take longer to ferment), then come home, right, at 5, mix the dough, autolyse from 5:15-6:15, then bulk ferment from 6:15 - 10:15, bench/shape from 10:15 till 10:30, then into the fridge till you bake the next morning. you could plan it on, say, a friday, then on your day off, you can wake up, preheat the oven for an hour, then bake the bread for an hour. easy peasy!

    2. thank you for your reply, actually i am more 8-5 :). I am guessing that i should shape the bread and put in two proofing baskets then into the fridge so it's ready to be put into the dutch oven btw i have a IKEA dutch oven and it's not that great because it's to big and it's to deep so it's hard to make the cutting on the bread :( ?

      Here is a link for the dutch oven i use just in case you are curios :

      Just for the info :

      I made my first "good" attempt to make the tartine bread, here are my outcome :

      Couple of issues :
      - It's a bit too sour, i rushed a bit the second rise (idk if that's the reason)
      - It's a bit gluey
      - The crust is a bit hard (i like that but my wife wants it to be a little bit more soft)

      Some more info :
      - At the time i made the bread the starter was 11 days old
      - The levain passed the float test
      - The first rise was 8h @ 18C (it did not smell sour)

      The second rise was 2h and 15 min @ 28C-30C (i used the oven and some boiling water technique)

      I used a dutch oven for baking @ temp 260C

      I am guessing my problem has been to long bulk fermentation and the proofing time. Would that also account for the gluiness and the thick crust ?

      Here is a picture :


    3. ok, so, yeah, the combo cooker is nonpareil. you really need to get one if you can. it makes things so much easier.

      sour? hm. i would have to know all of your flour/starter/water ratios, bulk ferment and final ferment times to comment on this. chads formula does not make a sour loaf, so, perhaps you are more sensitive to the sour flavor in general? again, i would have to know what you are doing over there. when you say 8 hours first rise, are you talking about bulk ferment? if that's the case, thats likely too long for a bulk ferment. the thing is, during the bulk ferment, the gluten is just beginning to develop. we need to make the turns to organize the strands of gluten to develop, and in part to help it develop. you must stop the bulk ferment because it's sort of like a rubber band. if you go too long on your bulk ferment, then the gluten strands will break, and there is no turning back. this is why generally you can do your bulk ferment at room temp and then your final ferment which is considerably longer, at a cooler temp. the long, slow final ferment allows the gluten to develop without the yeast getting all out of hand, eating up all the sugars, and exhausting the dough quicker. all bakers do long cold fermentations. the closest thing we have to that at home is the fridge. you can, if you are willing, get a small fridge and set it at a warmer temp than a regular fridge to more closely mimic the cooling chambers in big bakeries (i will research to find out what their thermostats are set at...). i use my fridge with positive results.

      gluey... the dough? or the baked bread?

      if i am understanding you correctly, then yes, too long with the bulk ferment, and not long enough in your final. the final ferment -- long, cold, slow -- is what develops the flavor and texture of the crust and bread. ample hydration and a long fermentation makes a brittle, shattery crust, while a quick/hot fermentation will yield a thick and decidedly 'unrefined' crust. patience is a virtue with your final fermentation. as for the crumb, you need to allow ample time for the bread to fully ferment in order for the yeast/bacteria to do their thing and to get that 'gelatinized' crumb. long, cold, slow fermentation is the only way to develop a pleasantly textured crust. also, one must use a quality flour...

      here's the thing, its all about that starter. new starters are babies. the older they get, the more refined bread they make. if your sourdough starter is only 11 days old, then that's likely that the issues with your protracted bulk ferment, your short/hot final ferment, combined with a young starter are all going to amount to a bread that is out of balance.

      1) 4 hour bulk ferment. this is the tartine bread books holy grail rule of all rules. and abide by it
      2) long, cold final fermentation. if you live in a cool/cold place, where the ambient temp is like cave temp, then you can do your extended bulk at room temp, if you live in a warmer climate, employ the fridge
      3) be patient. your starter is a baby. it will, over time, produce fantastic bread. it is still developing as a living being, and as it matures, so does its qualities. in time, with patience and education about fermentation, you will achieve a proper crust and crumb.

      ps, mighty fine looking loaf. you are definitely on the right path.


    4. wow thx a bunch for the reply,

      so let me answer couple of things which i am sorry i did not make clear from the beginning. I use Chad's forumla from the book without any changes (well only change is that i use a rye/wheat flour starter).

      Yes the 8h was bulk fermentation but that was only because the temp was low (18C). I made a new one the other day where i only kept the bulk fermentation at 4h where the plastic container was close to a radiator so i could keep a temperature of roughly 27C (my kitchen has a temp of 21C-22C). You write that final ferment is longer than bulk fermentation but in Chad's book it's exactly the same 3-4h.

      The gluey part was the bread itself, the way i feel this is when i eat it, it's glueing a bit to the tees, it's not much but it's there, like it was not baked fully (but i think it is from the color, temp and the time it was in the oven).

      Yesterday i made another 2 breads with the starter (now 18days old) and the breads became a little bit better.

      I am having real hard time to form and shape the breads before they go into the proofing baskets, the dough is to sticky so without a lot of flour it's hard to handle on the tabletop (i have a hardwood table top, idk if that makes any difference). While i struggle with the dough to form and shape there is no doubt that i take some of those nice bobbles out of the dough. While the dough was in the plastic container and when i make the turns i use a little bit of water on the hand and that does wonders, also the dough does not stick to the container so i think that's a good sign.

      It looks so easy to work with a dough like in this youtube video : I wish i had that dough but mine is more sticky and hard to handle. As soon as i start to use fingers it sticks to the fingers.

      As i mentioned before i used Chad's receipe but the difference is that i feed my starter rye and wheat flour 50/50 but when i make the bread i use whole wheat flour but my whole wheat flour is "big".

      Here is a pic of the flour (left is rye flour and right is whole wheat flour).


    5. Here is a small (8 min) video of my shaping disaster :)

  11. A wonderfully wise post with great information to factor in. I simply love the spiral and yin/yang scoring.


    1. Thanks Josh. I am very proud of my spiral ;) as you can see!

  12. Hello and thanks for an ab fab read! Please advise on exactly which size dutch oven to purchase..i am looking at Lodge Logic but dearly want to invest in the right one! Thanks again, Helen

    1. Hi Helen :)

      this is the one I use:


  13. Simply fantastic! One question... Did you bake directly from the fridge or did you let the final proofed loaves warm up before baking?



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