My adorable wife is very picky about her bread. It has to be 100% whole wheat, and the right shape for sandwiches. I'm kinda picky too, it has to taste good, have a light and soft crumb, be fun to make, and be able to wrap around my work schedule.
It's easy to make bread that satisfies some of those constraints, but it's been a long process to get everything just right. But get it right I have, and now I'm blogging it.
First, the recipe:
20 oz whole wheat flour 10 g salt 8 oz milk 7 oz water 2 oz sourdough culture tablespoon honey tablespoon oil or butter Mix Proof covered for an hour Stretch and fold twice Proof covered for another hour or two, until it begins to rise Retard in the fridge overnight or up to a couple days Stretch and fold, let rest 10 minutes Shape (8½"x4½" pan) and let rise about 4–8 hours (depending on temperature and culture) Bake at 375°F to an internal temperature of about 200° (adjust for altitude)
This is 75% hydration—the dough should be soft and sticky when first mixed. I could explain in detail what each of these loaded terms means (e.g. stretch and fold), but most of you are sick of hearing me prattle on about them and the rest of you can ask in the comments or search the all-knowing internet. There are helpful videos for S&F and shaping. Google for the poke test if you're not sure how to know when it's done rising.
It's sourdough, but it's not sour. It does have excellent flavor, but if you are put off by really sour bread don't worry (and if you want it, this isn't the recipe for you). It's not as light as white bread, but it is soft and not dense as whole wheat bread notoriously can be.
WARNING: Science Content!
The 8½x4½ pan size is nominally a "1 lb loaf" pan. This either means 1 lb of dough, or 1 lb of cooked bread (which means roughly 3 oz more than 1 lb of dough). Both are a far cry from the 2+ lb of dough we use here. I don't have a good explanation for this, and it makes me kind of uneasy. But this is the amount of dough it takes to get the loft my wife wants with whole wheat. Probably less would be required for white bread; the fact is whole wheat just doesn't rise as high as white bread—but don't ever let anyone tell you it must be dense or won't rise to lofty heights. Another factor is probably that my wife really likes a high mushrooming crown, and I get the impression that the professional bakers calling this pan a 1 lb loaf pan are satisfied with a squarish top loaf that crowns not far above the top of the pan. Maybe? Please enlighten me.
We grind our own flour, from white wheat. Red wheat and store bought is of course fine, it's a matter of preference. You may adjust the liquid as needed but 75% is going to be a good start for any whole wheat dough. The long life of the dough (thanks to the overnight retard and sourdough pace) gives the enzymes plenty of time to work, which gives a much more interesting and sweeter taste vs the harsh bitter whole wheat taste we all love to hate. You really will be surprised at how good it tastes.
One of the keys to whole wheat bread is to make sure it's kneaded well enough to develop the gluten. The long rise and wet dough means we don't have to do much work to achieve that (no-knead style), but if you want to throw it in your mixer and do the windowpane test, I doubt it would hurt anything.
The short initial rise (2 hours is a short time for sourdough) gets the sourdough beasties going without getting them into overdrive. It takes the dough a little while to cool to retarding temperatures once you stick it in the fridge, and so we will be well into the exponential phase. This means optimal growth after deflating and shaping (once the dough has warmed up again) which is important for good loft in sourdough. You can toy with the timing a bit, e.g. more initial proof for a shorter second proof (up to a point), or a shorter initial proof for a longer second proof (e.g. so it can proof overnight for a first-thing-in-the-morning bake). Exact timings are highly dependent on your ambient temperature and sourdough culture character.
I have a nice sourdough rhythm that I use for maintaining my start. When I use it, e.g. mix up a loaf of bread, I feed the jar 2 tablespoons of flour and water, then let it grow at room temperature about 8–12 hours. Then I feed it again and stick it in the fridge. This way it's ready to go in a few days and is live and healthy in the fridge, not old and dying. But it doesn't spend all its growing time at fridge temperatures, because every other feeding is on the counter, which is important for maintaining various desirable properties. I use the start straight out of the fridge, but you can also refresh the culture 6–8 hours before mixing your bread for extra vigor.
If you have any questions, please ask them and I'll fill in the gaps.
I've updated my bread/sourdough PDF to reflect the recipe and methods I have settled on.
The bread recipe didn't really change, though I adjusted a few minor details in wording, etc. The sourdough pancakes recipe is completely new—the one from Joe Pastry which is so much better than the one I came up with. The biscuit recipe is the old biscuit recipe from the old sourdough cards that my family got with our start. I don't know if that source has a name or author, but I do have scanned images at http://hans.fugal.net/sourdough/. The consensus of all who eat these biscuits is that they must be served at Thanksgiving dinner in Heaven.
So I recently got fed up with making the wrong amount of dough for the intended loaf pan. I did some looking and didn't really find a definitive guide for loaf pan sizes and bread recipes. But I did find an underlying mostly-unwritten consensus, which I will share with you now.
A "standard" loaf here in the states is about 1lb and baked in a 8.5x4.5 pan. At Wal-Mart yesterday here in Las Cruces, there were no metal pans of this variety, some foil pans of the right size but labeled 2lb (2 lb of what? I have no idea), and pyrex pans of this size. (I have one of those and I don't like it, although this is my preferred loaf size to make). The most constant property of a standard loaf seems to be that it uses 3 cups of flour. This of course seems ludicrous when you consider that measuring flour by volume is ridiculously variable, but I suppose it gets you in the ballpark. For the record, that's approximately 15 oz of flour, i.e. just shy of 1 lb flour alone. In my experience this is the appropriate size loaf for this pan.
An "oversized" loaf loaf is supposedly about 4 cups of flour (so about 20 oz). The pan is 10x5 or thereabouts. My jury is still out on this, but I find that a 2lb loaf actually fits better in my oversized pan. Maybe I just like lofty crests. So I'd go 5–6 cups flour (25–30 oz). Wal-Mart had several of these in metal, labeled loaf pan or meat loaf pan.
My favorite pan is longer, about 4x12, and probably a tea loaf pan. This also makes 1.5–2lb. I found, surprisingly, that it takes about the same amount of dough as the oversized pan.
(Note, I own none of the linked pans above, but my pans are similar in size. Those are more like my wishlist pans, with the exception of the last where I already have the perfect tea loaf pan)
Now how do they compare in volume? Well assuming you want similar height (all these pans are roughly the same height), we can just compare the area. Standard pan is 38 square inches, oversized is 50 square inches, and tea pan is about 48 square inches. So the oversized loaf is 1.3 times as large as the standard loaf. Why then do I find 1.5 times as much dough even lacking? I don't know, this is a true mystery. I think it has to do with aesthetics and me wanting a higher crest for a wider loaf. Even more mysterious to me is the tea loaf, which is narrow, seeming to swallow the dough. But when we look at how it is fairly close to the same size as the oversized loaf, it makes sense.
So there you go. How about a recipe for a standard loaf? Ok.
15 oz flour (abt 3 cups) 10 oz water (1.25 cup) 1 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 oz sourdough start
My family is really into sourdough biscuits and sourdough pancakes. But to be honest, the recipes they use are a bit peculiar. You've probably never seen pancakes or biscuits like these, but you end up loving them anyway. I'm going to talk about the pancakes here and ignore the biscuits which are generally regarded to be the epitome of perfection by all who consume them.
Here's the recipe they use for sourdough pancakes:
Note that last bit: "approximately 80 small pancakes.… Remember that sourdough pancakes have a very firm texture, and are entirely different from the pancakes you are used to." They're small, white, rubbery, sour, and delicious. But you see, I'm really only interested in the sour and delicious parts. I have no investment in them being small, white, and rubbery.
So when Joe Pastry (a food blogger I have immense respect for) started talking about sourdough pancakes, and showed pictures of normal brown pancakes that I'm sure were sour, delicious, and not rubbery, I had to try it out.
And so I did, this morning. I followed his recipe, except I halved it (yes, I halved an egg) and made it with whole wheat flour (as he discusses at the end of the post). The pancakes were excellent. All the requisite sourdough taste and deliciousness, and normal pancake size/color/texture. Plus it was a lot of fun to watch the batter foam up when I added the soda water.
So if you make small white rubbery sourdough pancakes (that means you, family), give his recipe a try and see if you don't like it even better.
Then I recommend you read the follow-up post on the science behind sourdough pancakes. And for extra credit, compare the two recipes and hypothesize on why the results are so different.
If I gave you a copy of my no-knead bread recipe, throw it away and download it again. I made a mistake in calculating the amount of start needed for the sourdough variation. The 3 tablespoons I told you to use is too much for a 12–18 hour ferment. You'll often end up with "raggy" dough that won't keep its skin or rise properly. Basically, the effect would be the same as using too much yeast, though I think the sourdough culture byproducts might be harsher to the gluten than just yeast.
The effect is more pronounced with whole wheat, which has a higher ash content which means it can absorb more of the sourdough byproduct (lactic acid among other things) before the ph reaches the level that inhibits sourdough growth. This is why whole wheat sourdough is generally more sour, all other things equal.
The correct amount of start for that recipe is about 1 tablespoon of start. This is roughly 2% of the whole weight.
By the same token, if your room temperature is closer to 90° than 70°, as mine is during the summer, you might find that you need to reduce the fermentation time considerably or your dough will go to rags. This is because yeast (and sourdough culture) grow much faster in the mid 80s than in the 70s. I've talked about this before, with a pretty graph.
As a bread fanatic, I've often dreamed of having my own brick oven. At first I thought it was a complicated and expensive endeavor, and that I couldn't build one because I'm renting. But then I got creative and designed a couple Brick Ovens for the Cheapskate, and I think that I can build a great oven for about $65, which is portable enough to appease the landlord.
Made some delicious pizza tonight. As much for my benefit as yours I'm posting the recipe, since I always forget how much dough to make to feed n people.
Pier 42 Pizza ------------- Serves 4 (two pies) As hot as your oven goes 340 g flour 230 g water 1.33 tsp salt 30 g active sourdough start olive oil sauce toppings Mix and let set 8-18 hours. Longer would be even better, but you'll want to do it in the fridge (take it out a couple of hours before). If you're in a hurry, add 1 tsp yeast and let set 3-4 hours. If you're really in a hurry, get Papa Murphy's. Divide dough in two and stretch one half into your favorite pizza shape. Get your toppings ready, then spread some olive oil over the crust, then spread some sauce on top of that. Add cheese and toppings (or toppings and cheese), and place in the preheated oven, preferably on a preheated pizza stone but a cookie sheet would be ok too. Bake until the crust and cheese are golden brown and delicious (5-15 minutes).
I didn't make the sauce for tonight's pizza, and frequently we just open a can
of tomato sauce and spread that on and then sprinkle oregano, basil, and salt
on top. But for completeness I'll give you the sauce recipe as it was told to
me (and as far as I remember it correctly):
Sauté some garlic in some olive oil. Add a can of (mostly) drained diced or crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Salt to taste. Cover with sprinkled basil, then add oregano and perhaps some thyme. Fresh is best of course, but you can use dried. Simmer until you declare it done. Or don't simmer it at all, someone told me that was the purist way.
If you're interested in going all Mario on us, jump on over to Jeff Varasano's
Famous New York Pizza Recipe. There's a lot to
read and ponder there, and though I don't agree with everything on the whole
it's a great starting place. You certainly can't deny that he has some
So as not to leave anyone hanging from my last post, here's what I do from
beginning to end with regards to calculations when baking sourdough bread.
First, I decide on quantity. I bake a loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread every
week or so (sometimes sourdough, sometimes no), and 800g is a good dough weight
for that. For a sourdough boule, I aim between 300g and 500g. For experiments
and baguettes, 250g or less. For big boules or loaves to fit the more normal
size loaf pan, to take to functions for example, I aim at 1kg. The beauty of it
all is that I can make whatever amount of bread fits my needs, with a few minor
Now that we have the dough weight, we need to break it down into the various
ingredients. Most ingredients in baking are relative to the flour used, so
flour is the first calculation. I divide the total weight by one plus the
hydration baker's percentage, i.e. if I want a 66% hydration dough I do
= dough / 1.66
Next we need the amount of water.
water = flour * hydration. For our 66%
hydration bread that's
water = flour * 0.66. 66% hydration is a really nice
number because not only does it make good bread, it has a good margin of
tolerance for measuring mistakes (you can go a little drier or wetter with no
worry), and it is easy to do in your head. That's right, 66% is two thirds.
300g flour and 200g water makes 500g dough and it's easy to remember/calculate
even without a calculator.
All that's left is the salt and leavening. Salt is about 2% of the flour. I
read 1.8% somewhere and it stuck so that's what I use, though I know my
measuring is nowhere near that accurate for the amount of dough I make. So
300g * 0.018 = 5.4g. Alas my scale measures 5g increments which is mostly
useless for measuring salt, so I asked units what to do:
You have: 1 g You want: tsp salt * 0.16666667 / 6
Oh, well that's easy to remember, just divide the salt weight by 6. So
salt = teaspoons.
flour * 0.018/6
With yeast you just guess. Take a similarly sized recipe and use that much.
Bread recipes all vary so much here anyway, and the different kinds of yeast do
too. Just remember, more yeast means faster rise and less desirable flavor.
Less yeast means slower rise and better flavor.
If you're doing sourdough, I hope you haven't mixed the flour and water yet
because there's going to be some adjustment. Decide how much start you want in
proportion to your dough. 10% or 20% is easy to do in your head. Now do the
same thing with flour and water as above, for your total start amount. Or, be
lazy and use 100% hydration start and divide by two (by weight). e.g. for our
500g loaf with 20% inoculation we want 100g start, so that's 50g flour and 50g
water (plus a little start from the fridge, about 10g will stick to the side of
your container anyway). Subtract the resulting flour and water amounts from the
calculated flour and water above (or do the start calculations first).
If you want to add honey, sugar, oil, butter, seeds, whatever else, just follow
what a similar-sized recipe calls for or eyeball it. Really the only things to
fret here are the flour/water ratio and the flour/salt ratio.
All that probably seems a little overwhelming, which is why my sourdough
script and sourdough calculator webpage exist. But if you're lazy/cheap and
can memorize a few unchanging equations (but can't memorize a recipe for 5
minutes to save your life), that's how you do it.
We had a little blind taste test here at the southern Fugal base. We compared two baguettes which differed only in the sourdough start used.
Brian Mailman of San Francisco graciously sent me a SF
I refreshed it twice, baked with it twice, and declared it ready for the taste
My start was created earlier this summer from some King Arthur White Whole
Wheat flour and water. This
start developed very quickly and was made a voluminous loaf after only 36
hours, and it is indistinguishable from my old start, so I think it's likely
that they are basically the same culture. Despite the fact that the last time I
had used the start was several months before and I started from scratch. So
this start is either New Mexican, King Arthurian, or Polish depending on your
point of view. (My old start came from a baker in Albuquerque who claims its
ancient origin to be Poland)
When the SF start came I boiled my tools and proceeded to refresh and bake with
it. I was careful not to contaminate it with the Polish start.
To prepare these two loaves, I refreshed 25g of each start to 60g, in different
vessels and on different counters. Then when they were nice and active I mixed
400g of dough, including salt, until the gluten development was good. It was
drier than I like because adding 100g of 100% start would soften it up, but it
was all precalculated to give a final hydration of 64%.
I divided the dough into 195 grams each (lost a few grams to the process), then
mixed in 50g of the respective starts, again being careful not to
cross-contaminate. For some reason the polish dough was a bit wetter, so I
ended up adding a tad of flour to it until the consistency felt the same.
I shaped into baguettes and let rise until they were ready to bake. I baked at
450 for 10 minutes then 400 for 5 more minutes, with a little steam (but no
cloche) at the beginning.
Both breads tasted good, but neither seemed to taste substantially different
from the other. This jives with my earlier observations that the SF start
didn't seem to taste any different, although it does smell a little bit
Just to be sure we conducted a blind taste test. My wife said the SF one tasted
ever so slightly more sour, but that they tasted mostly the same. I said that
the Polish one had a more complex almost-sour undertone, but basically the
same. Neither one was noticeably sour, which I'm sure had to do with the
technique as both of these starts have produced mildly sour bread before with
the same ingredients.
The most significant difference was in looks, as you can see at
Flickr. Look at the
but don't jump to conclusions - the difference is easily explained by the
position in the oven and my shaping (mis)technique. Look at the crumb
though. There was more rise and spring in the Polish baguette, and the
resulting crumb is more desirable. However I can't completely discount the
possibility that it remained slightly more wet than the SF dough, which could
account for it. Or perhaps it was temperature-induced, or the SF start finished
rising sooner and was slightly overproofed. There's just not enough data to
One thing is clear, there is no major difference in the two baguettes, although
there is a very slight difference in taste. Far more important to love the
start you're with than to chase after that perfect start. Nevertheless, for
your benefit I've asked for a sample of ACME start, and will get a sample of
the authentic Polish start from my dad and will repeat the experiment and see if
either of those tastes significantly different from my old standby.