At its minimum best, bread consists of only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt.
Since olive oil may be used to lightly coat the inside of a bowl or bucket while the bread dough ferments, then olive oil would officially be listed as an ingredient, but I don't use it within the dough recipe.
Two key variables are time and air temperature. Humidity can impact the amount of water used in the recipe.
Even though only a few ingredients and variables are required to make great bread, a wide variety of procedures can be used to ferment, proof, and bake the dough.
I like the biology and/or chemistry that occurs with producing a dough for baking. I'll leave the science out of this post.
This post contains some of the different ways that I have used to create a bread dough.
My starter was "born" in a Zingerman's bread baking class in Ann Arbor on January 30, 2010, and it has been "raised" in Toledo, Ohio since.
The starter began as 100 percent all-purpose flour, but within the first year or so, it became 100 percent white whole flour.
My recipe for refreshing my starter once a week:
- 200 g King Arthur white whole wheat flour
- 130 g of water in the summer or 140 g of water in the winter
- 110 to 120 g of last week's starter
The chilly, dry air in our house in the winter requires a bit more water when working the dough.
- add water to bowl
- tear pieces of last week's starter and add to bowl of water
- mix starter in water for 60 seconds
- mix flour into water
- dump mixture onto counter
- knead for six minutes
- place dough into lightly oiled bowl and cover
- ferment at room temp for at least 8 hours in chilly house in the winter with temps in the low 60s, and 5 to 6 hours in the summer with house temps 75 to 80 degrees or warmer
I normally make a 100 percent whole grain bread that consists of my 100 percent white whole wheat flour starter and a flour ratio of 70 percent white whole wheat and 30 percent spelt.
The first recipe below is for my "light" bread version, which still consists of my 100 percent white whole wheat flour starter, but a flour combo comprised of 50 percent white whole wheat and 50 percent all-purpose flours. This still produces a tasty bread with a bit softer crumb.
Half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.
includes baker percentages
- starter --(100% whole grain)-- - 176 g - 40%
- water --(room temp)-- - 352 g - 80%
- salt - 15 g - --(I've been using 12 g in 2014)--
- white whole wheat flour - 220 g
- all-purpose flour - 220 g
Another option is 60-40 ratio of ap flour vs www.
- all-purpose flour - 264 g
- white whole wheat - 176 g
- bowl one - mix water and starter
- bowl two - mix the two flours
- let salt sit on the sidelines for now
- add flour mix to the bowl with starter and water and mix/incorporate for 3 minutes or until a shaggy ball is produced
- dump dough onto counter and cover with bowl
- let dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes
- place dough back into bowl
- with wet hands, mix/incorporate the salt for 1 to 2 minutes, which can include some light kneading within the bowl and making a hook with one hand, placing hooked hand into dough, and turning bowl, so that dough twists around hand
- place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover.
- after 10 minutes, dump dough onto lightly oiled counter and complete a stretch and fold, which means patting out the dough a little and one at a time, grabbing each of the four sides and stretching it and folding it back onto itself.
- after the stretch and fold, place the bundled dough back into lightly oiled bowl and cover.
- after another 10 minute rest, complete the second stretch and fold like above, and then repeat this process two more times. 10 minute rest followed by a stretch and fold for a total of 4 s&fs.
- (optionally, increase the 10 minute rest between each s&f to 15 to 20 minutes.)
- after the fourth and final s&f, place dough into lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let ferment at room temp for 4 to 6 hours. (4.75 hours on August 9, 2013 with outside air and house temps in the mid to upper 70s, windows open and our two window AC units off)
- after fermenting, dump dough onto a lightly oiled counter
- Chad Robertson's instructions for folding, resting, and shaping dough after fermenting
- gently shape dough into a ball
- cover and allow dough to bench rest for 20 minutes
- pat dough out gently
- complete a stretch and fold with an additional fifth fold over being the one that tightens the dough into a bundle
- place dough seam side up into proofing basket and cover with plastic bag
- proof at room temp for 2 to 3 hours or as in my case, I proofed at room temp for 1 hour and then placed the plastic-covered basket of dough into the refrigerator where it proofed for 10 hours
- I proofed in an oval banneton basket that used a linen liner and white whole wheat flour dusted on the liner and on the dough before it was placed into basket
- place baking stone or dutch oven into oven. I place the stone near the bottom of the oven and the dutch oven in the middle of the oven.
- preheat oven at 525 F degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. This is when I removed the proofed basket of dough from the frig.
- during the final 10 to 15 minutes of preheating the oven, place large metal mixing bowl into oven if baking with the stone
- sprinkle flour onto top of dough while it is still in the basket
- dump dough onto parchment paper. Surprisingly, the dough came out easily. No sticking to the linen. The final proofed dough was about 3/4 inch from the top edge of the small oval basket.
- Since the dough proofed seam side up, and after it has been dumped onto paper, it's now seam side down, slash the dough lengthwise down the middle, approx 1/4 inch deep.
- option: load spray bottle with hot tap water
- after stove has preheated and dough is ready, remove metal lid from oven.
- place parchment paper and dough onto stone or into dutch oven if using that
- cover stone with bowl
- option: lift bowl off stone a little and spray underside of bowl with the hot water. add steam. this may not be added, but for now, I'm doing this.
- lower bowl over stone, close oven door.
- lower oven temp to 500 F degrees
- set timer for 35 minutes
- after 15 minutes (20 minutes left on the clock) remove the metal bowl or the lid from the dutch oven
- lower oven temp to 475 or leave it at 500. play with this.
- after 25 minutes (10 minutes left on the clock) rotate the bread on the parchment paper to ensure the side closest to the back of the oven does not get baked too much
- after 35 minutes is up, the internal bread temp will register at least 200 degrees, so can either remove bread from oven or bake it a bit longer to darken the crust to taste. one option is to turn off the oven after 35 minutes, but leave bread in the oven for another 5 minutes. I like a dark crust from the carmelization of the natural sugars in the flour. The white whole wheat flour will create a darker than normal crust anyway.
- when done baking, remove bread from oven, place on cooling rack, and let rest for at least four hours before cutting.
- I fed my starter during the afternoon and evening.
- When the starter was done or ready to be put away, that's when I assembled the bread dough, which occurred late that evening, so the starter was fresh and room temp when used in the recipe. no chilled nor old starter was used.
- the water was cool, fairly fresh from the faucet and then run through the filtered pitcher, so the water did not have time to warm to room temp.
- I used 12 grams of fine-grain sea salt.
- Time between the four stretch-and-folds:
- 15 min
- 15 min
- 10 min
- 10 min
- Dough got very stiff and hard to stretch.
- Fermented the dough for 7 to 7.5 hours.
- house temp was 62 to 64 degrees.
- outside temp rose during the night from 17 to 23 degrees.
- dumped the pillowy, fermented dough and and tried to shape into a ball and then allowed to bench rest for 20 min.
- after bench rest, turned dough back over onto its and did a stretch and fold and tried to create some kind of shape but it did not work well. need to figure this part out. the part between fermenting and proofing. the part of shaping and rounding before proofing.
- anyway, i proofed seam side down by mistake. I took dough out of basket and tried to correct, but dough had too much flour on it, so I placed it back into basket, seam-side down.
- proofed for 3.5 hrs. house temp around 64 degrees.
- part of the proofed dough was equal to or even slightly above the top of the proofing basket.
- I dumped dough onto parchment paper and rolled it back upright, so that it remained seam-side down. This was easy to do. The dough came out of the basket easy. I even picked the dough up a little to position it on the parchment paper.
- this dough fermented and proofed very well.
- the proofing went better than expected, especially after the way I handled or mishandled the dough after fermenting.
- I slashed top shallower this time, maybe only 1/8 inch deep, instead of the usual 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.
- Oven temps were per main instructions.
- I removed bread from the oven after 35 minutes. I did not turn off oven and leave bread in for another 5 minutes.
- outside of bread was a nice dark brown, so I didn't think it needed any more time beyond the 35 minutes.
- dimensions of bread immediately out of the oven:
- 9.0 inches long
- 4.0 inches tall
- 6.5 inches wide
- looked fabulous. maybe the nicest looking bread that I have ever made.
- the shallow slash was still enough. the dough still separated well during baking.
- good oven spring.
- the dough contained little flour on it after coming out of the basket, so maybe that's why the dark brown color and why it looked so great.
- cut into it and ate some the next morning, and this might be the best tasting bread that I have ever made too.
- thin, crispy crust.
- crumb was moist, soft, but still firm for spreads.
- amazing bread. professional quality, in my opinion. this would sell at a farmers market.
- I'm guessing the keys to producing this great bread this time were:
- fresh starter
- proof at room temp
- If I can learn how to shape and round the dough better after fermenting, that might improve the oven spring and overall shape even more.
Assembled two batches of the bread dough recipe late on a Friday night. Used 12 grams of sea salt again. During the day, created two starter feedings. I fed the starter the day before, on its 4th birthday, Jan 30. Then Jan 31, I used that starter to create two feedings.
Starters fermented for about 10 hours with house temp in the low 60s and outside temp around 28-32 degrees.
Used the fresh, room-temp starter to make the two batches of bread dough. Cool water from tap ran though the pitcher and then used, so it did not warm to room temp.
20 minute rest between all the stretch and folds for both batches.
Batch A, dough set up to ferment at 1:17 a.m. Batch B, dough set up to ferment at 2:00 a.m.
Approx 7.5 hours of fermenting time for both.
Weather overnight during the fermenting:
- outside, temps around 30 degrees with some snowfalling
- inside, in the dining room, around the top of the upright grand piano where the dough fermented, temp was 62 to 63 degrees.
Dumped Batch A at 8:45 a.m. Rolled up, tucked in the sides into a squarish package. Bench rested for 20 minutes. Then a small stretch and fold and tried to create a log shape. The dough was bubbly. I busted some bubbles. I placed dough seam-side down into the cloth-lined oval-shaped basket.
Batch A, dough set up to proof at 9:08 a.m.
Dumped Batch B at 9:30 a.m. Bench rested as for Batch A, except Batch B proofed in a round, linen-lined, wicker basket that DD brought back from a bakery in Paris.
Batch B, dough set up to proof at 9:55 a.m.
Both doughs proofing on top of the piano in the dining room. Same house temp as overnight, low 60s. Outside temp is at least 32 degrees at 10:00 a.m., and it will warm to mid to upper 30s today. The snow has changed to sleet which will change to all rain for the afternoon. So possibly a little more humidity in the house, compared to a day with single digit temps.
- will proof for 3 to 4 hrs
- will preheat oven and stone for at least 45 minutes.
- if plan to bake Batch A at 12:30 to 1:00 p.m., need to start warming oven and stone at 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
- Batch A placed into the oven at 1:45 p.m., so a longer than expected proof. The dough had proofed at least one inch above the top edge of the basket.
Batch A after baking:
- 8.25 in long
- 4.5 in tall at the highest point.
- 6.25 in wide.
Batch B placed into the oven at 2:35 p.m.
I fed my starter two days ago. I used some of that to create a quick bread dough recipe. No instant yeast used. I'm trying Lahey's method to sourdough bread.
I set up the bread dough at 2:40 p.m.
I fed my starter again earlier, and I set that up around 1:00 p.m.
For today's bread dough recipe: I used:
- 300 grams of King Arthur all-purpose flour
- 100 grams of King Arthur white whole wheat flour
- 320 grams of water
- 10 grams of fine grain sea salt
- 160 grams of my firm, sourdough starter
I let the starter soak in water for about an hour, so that the starter would be mostly dissolved.
- mixed dry ingredients in a bowl
- added the water-starter slurry
- incorporate in bowl
- dumped dough onto counter and kneaded for maybe a minute
- placed dough ball into lightly olive-oiled Pyrex bowl
It was a super sticky, sloppy dough ball. Unsure if this will work.
Fermented at room temp in the low to mid 60s for ~8.5 hours. Then I placed the dough in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I let the dough warm for about 90 minutes. Dumped, shaped, and proofed for 2 to 2.5 hours in a linen-lined, oval-shaped basket. Then baked as normal.
Stats immediately from the oven:
- length = 8.5 inches
- width = 6.75 inches
- height = 3.5 inches
I fed the starter on Mar 14. Then I fed the starter twice, side-by-side on Mar 16. Late in the evening on Mar 16, I assembled two bread dough doughs from one of the starters. I added the leftover starter to the other whole, fresh starter, and placed it in the frig.
Bread recipe for both bread doughs:
- 400 grams all-purpose flour
- 300 grams of room temp/cool water
- 10 grams of fine grain sea salt
- 160 grams of my firm, sourdough starter
- mixed starter with water
- mixed dry ingredients
- added starter and water to dry ingredients
- mixed and kneaded briefly the ingredients to assemble a shaggy dough ball
- autolyse for 30 minutes
- five to six minutes of kneading
- placed dough into lightly-oiled bowl and covered with plastic
- fermented for about eight hours with house temps in the low 60s
- dumped and lightly shaped dough
- bench rest for 15 minutes
- stretch-and-fold and rounded and shaped into oblong-shape
- placed dough seam-side down into basket
- proofed for around 2.5 hours
- preheated oven with stone on the fourth rack level from the top at 500 degrees for 40 minutes with the metal bowl in the stove for the last 10 minutes of preheating
- dumped dough and rolled over onto parchment paper, so that seam-side remained down
- slashed dough
- placed dough and paper onto stone, covered with bowl, and sprayed hot water on underside of bowl
- set timer for 35 minutes.
- after 20 minutes of baking, removed lid and lowered oven temp to 475 degrees.
- during the last 15 minutes of baking, rotated the bread a few times to ensure even baking.
- after 35 minutes of baking, turned off oven and let bread continue to warm.
- after 37-38 minutes, removed bread from oven and placed it onto cooling rack.
I used my starter to make bread that was similar to Zingerman's Farm Bread. The procedure and most of the recipe came from the Zingerman's class that I took back in 2010.
My recipe was slightly different because the flour used in my starter is 100% white whole wheat. The Farm Bread recipe calls for a small amount of whole wheat flour, but since my starter is already whole grain, I used 100% all-purpose flour in the recipe.
The recipe calls for the levain to represent 15%, according to the baker's percentage. But I used 30%.
- room temp water 281 g (60% hydration)
- levain 140 g (30%)
- all-purpose flour 467 g
- fine grain sea salt 12 g
House temp was around 65 degrees.
The amount in the recipe made one loaf. I kneaded the dough for 10 to 12 minutes even though it was a single loaf recipe.
Fermented in lightly oiled bowl for one hour.
Stretch and fold.
Fermented for another hour.
Stretch and fold.
Fermented for 1.5 hours.
Dumped and rounded with the metal scraper.
Bench rested for 15 minutes.
Flattened and stretched out the dough a little. Then rolled and tucked the dough into a log, like a sleeping bag. But I didn't get the ends tucked in well enough.
I pitched the seams closed.
Since this was a stiff dough, I removed the liner from my oval-shaped Brotform banneton basket.
I scattered flour onto the coiled wooden cane rods, and I placed the log of dough into the basket, seam-side up.
I covered basket with plastic.
Proofed for 3 hrs and 10 min.
During the last part of proofing, I preheated the baking stone at 500 degrees for 40 minutes.
Anyway, the rest of the procedure was the same as before.
Bread turned out well. Looks, feels, smells, and tastes very much like Zingerman's Farm Bread.
The dough was very stiff. Next time, I'll try 65% hydration, since I used a fair amount of my white whole wheat starter.
Used 65% hydration. 304 grams of water.
House temp only 60 degrees. Outdoor temp around 55 degrees. Chilly the past three days.
After the final stretch-and-fold, fermented for 2.5 hours, instead of 1.5 hours.
This is my sourdough bread starter after a "feeding."
In the above photo, jars of cranberry butter that my wife made and canned exist in the background. Occasionally, she also makes ricotta cheese. A nice treat is my homemade bread toasted and topped with the cranberry butter, along with dollops of the ricotta.
Using the no-knead method.
Bread proofed on a couche (linen canvas) that laid on a small, wicker-like, oblong-shaped basket that I bought at the Goodwill store.
Baked two to share elsewhere with friends.
Bread dough done proofing in cloth-lined, oval, banneton basket.
Dumped the proofed dough onto parchment paper and rolled it over to make to situate the dough in the same way that it proofed. Before placing dough into the oven, I sliced the dough, using a pattern that Zingerman's uses on its farm bread.
Flour, water, salt, and starter measured and readied to be assembled. Drank a beer while making bread.
When making a double-batch or a very large bread, I fermented the dough in a two-gallon, food-safe, plastic beer fermenting bucket.
My version of a large-ish, wheel-shaped bread.
Sometimes, I use my bread to make pizza bread. This time, I used my wife's homemade, canned pizza/pasta sauce.
Eggplant, tomato, pepper, and onions, pizza bread toppings that came from our garden. The goat cheese chevre came from Turkey Feet Creek farm, which is available for sale at the downtown Toledo farmers market, Phoenix Earth Food Co-op, The Andersons, and possibly at other Toledo area stores.
I top our pizza bread with olive oil and sea salt. If we have a fresh basil plant, then I'll add basil after the bread comes out of the oven.
It's fun to slash the bread in different ways.
Tasty winter treat: homemade bread and my wife's homemade lentil soup.