Category Archives: Starters

1-2-3 Sourdough in a Nutshell

Although I do make other breads, Challah being another favorite of ours…especially for weekend breakfasts of French Toast with real maple syrup from our friend Ron in Hebron, the hubby prefers a good rye and this is his favorite…my 1-2-3 Sourdough.

Lately I’ve been making it with beer as the liquid…Guiness being the beer of choice.  One can is enough for a two decent sized loaves.

If you’ve been reading this bread blog from the beginning, you know that it was Knitting Club that started me on this journey when we all took a bread baking class one evening.  This post is dedicated to my very good friends that I love at Knitting Club!

The basic formula behind 1-2-3 sourdough was developed by a French woman, Flo Makanai that I found on the The Fresh Loaf.  And ever since, 1-2-3 Sourdough has been my go-to bread recipe for the past year.

My basic recipe for two loaves:

200 grams Starter; 400 grams liquid; 600 grams flour; 20 grams salt; 5 grams yeast   These are not hard and fast amounts so don’t stress if you go a little over and under.

The One
200 grams of fed starter…a good way to tell if your starter is ready…drop a little in a glass of water and if it floats its good.

The Two
1 can Guiness Stout (this weights about 384 grams).  Feel free to use just water if beer doesn’t appeal to you.

The Three
600 grams Flour:  200 grams of whole rye and the balance is King Arthur bread flour.  You can mix this up anyway you like but keeping the whole grain flours to no more than 1/4 to 1/3 the total mix.

Mix the starter and the beer together, add the flours and mix.  I have a Danish Whisk which I absolutely love and highly recommend, not just for bread but any hand mixing you do.

Autolyse:  let this mixture sit for anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours.  This allows the starches and gluten to start beginning their bread making journey.

Salt:  20-22 grams of salt

Yeast:  5 grams since I am impatient.  I add yeast to my bread otherwise I’ll be sitting around waiting for many more hours.  If you really want to be adventurous and have loads of time, you can omit this and wait…and wait!

Once the yeast and salt are mixed in, I turn out the dough onto the counter and with wet hands knead it.. if its firm enough, or use my favorite method (but messy) slap and fold.  Pick up the blob of dough and slap it down onto the counter while simultaneously spreading it with your hands.  Gather it it up, lift it up and slap it down again and again till you see it starting to being to stretch a little.

Stretching and folding....the fold
Stretching and folding….the fold
Stretching and folding....the stretch
Stretching and folding….the stretch

Take the dough, put it in your proofing container and set it aside for the bulk ferment phase.

I don’t have an oven with a proofing option so I  prepare my microwave as a proofing box.  I boil water in a measuring cup which makes the microwave warm and steamy and a nice 80-90 degrees.

This stretch, slap and fold/knead process is done 3-4 times during the first hour of the bulk ferment phase.  Each time I remove the dough to knead it, I reboil the water to keep the environment warm and steamy…DO NOT microwave your dough!!!

After the first hour and series of stretch/slap and fold/kneading, let the dough bulk ferment phase until it is about 3/4  of double…but it could go the full double in size. 

After sprinkling flour on the counter, I turn the dough out, move it around a little bit with the bench knife, split it and let it bench rest 20 mins or so lightly covered with a towel or plastic.  IMG_0673I’m also not afraid to use a little more flour if necessary but being careful not to fold the flour inside the bread or you will end up with some white lines inside.

After the bench rest, shape the dough using the bench knife, pushing it around on the surface gently to make it into round boules and with a taut skin but careful not to split that skin.  You do not have to seal the splits on the bottom of the boules but place them split side down in the bannetons.  This assures that when you turn them out for baking the splits are on top.

IMG_0627Place the dough into your prepared bannetons.  I use brown rice flour.  Well prepared with rice flour will prevent the dough from sticking.  Lightly flour the top of the dough and place the bannetons into plastic bags…ones from the vegetable section of the grocery store work well or large bread or ziploc bags.  The dough should be allowed to rise to about 3/4 of double…no more or you run the risk of overproofing.  I usually just let it sit long enough for my oven to heat which is about 20-30 minutes.  You can also use the Ken Forkish finger dent test.

If you haven’t done so yet, heat your oven to 500 degrees with your dutch oven or baking stone inside.

Turn the loaves out of the bannetons onto parchment paper (this makes it easy to put in your oven) and score the tops with a Lame or very sharp knife (a Bayerische Brotmesser works great!).

These loaves bake up with incredible crispy crusts when done in a dutch oven but you can also bake them on a stone or baking sheet covered with parchment, using the hot water in a pan / spray the inside of the oven  method.  But do yourself a favor a get at least one dutch oven!  You could also cover the boule on the stone with a metal bowl large enough for expansion.

After placing the loaves in the oven, turn the temperature down to 450.  Bake the loaves covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190-200 degrees.



P.S.  If you see any discrepancies, let me know and I’ll correct them.  This was a quick mind dump!


Spelt….Part Deux…New World Style

After the disastrous adventure into spelt baking, I went back to the drawing board and decided that we didn’t especially like a whole spelt loaf.  Nick liked it because it was crunchy.  It does have a nice flavor though, just not for us.

This time I decided to make a 50% spelt bread and turned to Hamelman’s Bread for inspiration.  He has a honey spelt recipe that I Wendy-ized.

250 grams Whole Spelt Flour
250 grams KA Bread Flour
100 grams Wheat Starter
300 grams water
40 grams honey
10 grams salt
7 grams SAF yeast

Hamelman mixes his in a mixer but I did mine by hand, again following my usual sourdough method.

Mixing the starter, flours, water and honey, I let the dough autolyse for 30 minutes.  After adding the yeast and salt, I did six minutes of slap and folds on the counter….and no jokes about the shape!

The dough was feeling pretty good and shaped into a nice dome.  It was elastic and supple although wet hands did help with the handling.

Into the proofing bucket for a two hour bulk fermentation.  At the one hour stage the dough had almost doubled in bulk so I took it out…per the recipe….and did a few stretch and folds.  After gently degassing and pressing down, it went back into the proofing container for only another 30 minutes this using the yeast really speeds up the fermentation.

Lots of bubbles on the dough when I dumped it on the counter for shaping.  After a 10 minute rest I pushed it around a bit till it formed a nice dome and taut skin. IMG_0872Then into the oat lined banneton that I was inspired by a post on the forum to do.  IMG_0875

The final proof in the banneton only took as long as heating the oven….and the resulting loaf was not beautiful but extremely delicious with a slight sweetness from the honey.  A much more successful bake!



Erdinger Weissbier Bread

2015-05-05_12-26-22Having seen a few beer breads being bandied about on forum and web, I decided it was time to try my hand.  And, being that I’m married to a German, it seems appropriate that I stick with beer that adheres to the German purity law as well as being the household favorite.

The levain was built as follows:

100 grams Rodney rye sour
150 grams KA Pumpernickel
250 grams Erdinger Weissbier with hefe aka yeast

After fermenting for 18 hours or so the starter was bloated and floating… was time to put together the final dough.

Needed two good size loaves for dance practice tomorrow night….who else to enjoy this bread with….I added:

600 grams Erdinger
800 grams KA bread flour

I let it autolyze for 25 minutes and then added 20 grams of salt.  After slapping and folding it for five minutes and performing two stretch and folds 15 minutes apart, I left it to bulk ferment for about 8 hours.

IMG_0790I divided and conquered and set the dough for its cold, overnight slumber.  Another thing I’m trying when the dough is very wet is to sprinkle a little flour around the edge of the dough to try and keep it from sticking.

The dough came out of the fridge, was scored and plopped into the hot dutch ovens.    What came out was pretty nice and pretty tasty.



It also had a very nice crumb and was thoroughly enjoyed at dance practice that night slathered in lots of Kerry Gold butter.


Another Sourdough Heavy on the Pumpernickel

Today in addition to the Hamelman Challah, our rye starter was floating so we needed to put together bread.

Inspired by Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough with increased whole grains today’s dough is really a 1.2.3 with an emphasis on pumpernickel…simply because I didn’t feel like working at it.

384 grams of floating starter, 768 grams of water and @1100 grams of flour split:  200 Whole Wheat, 300 Pumpernickel and 600.  I actually dropped the bread flour a little because of the increased whole grain IMG_0764pumpernickel.

Did the usual, 20 minute autolyse, added my salt and because of the added whole grains I was tempted to put in a pinch of yeast..oh the horror!  But in the end I didn’t!

Love the slap and folds….they really work the dough into a workable mass although I tend to find pieces of dough in the weirdest places…stuck to the wall, the underneath of the cabinets  I then did some stretch & folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours with a total bulk ferment of 3.5 hours because we needed to leave the house for an event.  Into the bannetons for their overnight slumber “in zee külher.

TIMG_0767his morning I heated the oven, upended the bannetons onto parchment and scored.  I was a little worried about one of the loaves…
IMG_0770it looked like it flattened out and although the scoring was sufficiently deep, halfway through baking when the covers were removed, it looked like the weren’t going to split.  I helped it along and reopened those wounds…probably not the best technique but what the heck….this is all one big experiment anyway.

IMG_0777IMG_0771The loaves that came out looked pretty good.  The crumb really nice….But the flavor!

OMG…Ron is in heaven so much so he called Wolfie in  Germany to brag.  He says it smells like the air outside the brewery in his home town of Eschwege!  There are random yummy sounds coming from the family room.


Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough

It was time to try my hand at another loaf of sourdough bread.  The freezer was stuffed but we’ve had a chance to eat a little bit and I’ve found another place to lose loaves.

Today’s bread is Vermont Sourdough from Jeff Hamelman’s book Bread.  In his book, all the recipes are written in bakery sized formulas along with a home version which is written in pounds and ounces so I needed to convert them to grams.  I also upped the rye a slight bit and added a little whole wheat but kept the formula in the same balance as he.

75 gr mature starter
125 gr. warm water
125 gr. whole wheat flour

Allow to ferment at room temperature or above (I like to warm my microwave with a boiled glass of water) for 8 to 12 hours until bubbled and risen.

600 gr bread flour
80 gr whole wheat flour
100 gr rye flour
419 gr water
17 gr salt
325 gr levain

Mix all of the ingredients together except the salt and leave to autolyse for at least 30 minutes.  You can leave it for up to an hour according to his book.

Mix in the salt well and allow to bulk ferment for 1.5 to 2.5 hours.  Again in the microwave with boiled water.  After 30 minutes I stretched and folded the dough, reheated the boiled water and put it back in the microwave.  It now being 11:00 at night….why do I get these urges so late? …I decided to perform one more stretch and fold and put it in the refrigerator for a cold overnight bulk ferment.

IMG_0672This morning it had nicely risen in its container.  IMG_0673This dough is slightly dryer than some of the breads I’ve been making recently and contributes to making it easier to split and prepare for the bannetons.


Another recommen-dation I decided to try today is taking a small bit of the dough and placing in in a shot glass to monitor its rising.   It is just about an inch deep in the glass coming to the top of the word Berlin so by my calculations it IMG_0676should be ready for the oven when it reach the yellow part of the coat of arms design.  This took about three hours.  I plan to use this technique going forward.

I’m still working on my slashing technique and am thinking my homemade lame is not upto par.

IMG_0677I took the little proofing ball of dough and threw that on foil and tossed it in the oven.  It was ready after 30 minutes and was a nice little preview of what  hopefully was contained in side those full sized loaves.

Forty minutes later out come these beauties!IMG_0679














IMG_0686And the crumb shot….nice slightly sour tang, crispy/chewy crust….definitely a winner!

And this is a shot of the wheat loaf I made yesterday.

IMG_0675I knew I was rushing to starter and the rising but I needed to do it anyway.  It takes good and everyone liked it but it was not up to the standard that I am aspiring.


Training Wheels – Off!

Almost double in bulk…starting point marked with a piece of tape.

Hopefully the training wheels are off. Another total sourdough dough has been put into its chilled resting place for the night. Started yesterday with a small preferment begun with Rodney and assembled into a sloppy, doughy mess to bulk ferment in the proofing box around 5 p.m. today.

The resting phase…still having a problem getting them to firm up….perhaps they’re not ready????

Four hours later and the dough had almost doubled in bulk and was ready for the baskets.

This style dough is very wet and can be a little difficult to handle but its getting a little easier each time.  There are videos out there showing how to handle it.

Tucked into bed for the evening
Plastic bagged and cold proofing

After shaping and placing in the bannetons, it was into the fridge for an overnight retardation.

IMG_0762Baking was early the next day as I had to leave the house for my monthly breakfast meeting with my former co-workers. Ron finished the final baking and the loaves came out to quote “baked to a golden perfection.”

Obligatory Crumb Shot

The loaf on the left went in a little crooked but recovered quite well.  On the right is the signature t-rex slash that when turned upside is a “W.”  Below is the recipe I developed for these loaves.

 Artisan Sourdough Rye (Makes two loaves)

 Build #1:

10 gr. Rye
10 gr. Bread Flour
5 gr. Whole Wheat Flour
20 gr. Water

Mix together and leave in a warm spot to ferment for 12 hours. It should almost double in bulk.  I already have a well developed rye sour, Rodney, so instead of creating the builds, I take 100 grams of Rodney and mix it with 100 grams each of whole wheat flour and water and let it sit till almost double.

Build #2

All of Build #1
50 gr. Bread Flour
50 gr. Whole Wheat Flour
50 gr. Warm Water

Mix together and leave in a warm spot to ferment for 12 hours. It should double in bulk.

Final Dough

All of Build #2 (or a fed levain of 200 grams)
650 gr. Bread Flour
150 gr. Rye Flour
50 gr. Whole Wheat
600 gr. Warm Water
21 gr. Kosher or Sea Salt

Mix all the flours with 600 gr. of very (about 90 dF) warm water. I use either a spatula or my new Danish Dough Whisk.

Autolyse 20-30 minutes.  Sprinkle the salt and add 50 gr. of water. Mix well with your hand like a pincer and stretch and fold also.

Put in a warm place (I used my microwave with a measuring cup of water full of boiled water to get it toasty) and perform stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours. Bulk rise 6-12 hours or at least until double in volume.  This time it only took about 4-5 hours…Rodney was very frisky.

Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface and using a dough scraper or knife, work some flour around the edges of the dough gently lifting and folding the dough,  being careful not to degas it too much.

Divide the dough and using the dough scraper or knife, pre-shape each piece into a round by gently lifting and folding the edges like an envelope and then pulling the dough toward you to form a taut skin….easier said than done but I keep practicing.

Lightly dust the top of the dough, cover with a towel and let rest for 20  to 30 minutes.

Final shape the dough and put into well floured bannetons or towel lined bowls. Place in plastic bags after lightly flouring the tops of the loaves and refrigerate for 6 – 12 hours.  You can also dust the loaves with semolina or cornmeal.

Pre-heat your oven to 500 dF with the dutch oven inside. Remove the bannetons from the refrigerator, turn over the bannetons over the pre-heated dutch oven and let gravity do its thing.   I’m still trying to get them perfectly centered over the dutch ovens.  Slash the loaves, cover and reduce the heat to 475 dF.

Bake 20 minutes at 475 dF. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes until golden brown. The loaves are done when they reach an internal temperature of 200 dF plus/minus.

If you watch any of the Ken Forkish videos, he takes the bannetons and dumps them on a floured counter and then gently picks them up and puts them in the dutch ovens.  Some folks also put the loaves into cold dutch ovens…I may try that at some point.  I could not have reached this point so quickly without the help of great folks on The Fresh Loaf forum!


True Sourdough and a Cheater Harvest Grain


Applying what I learned when I went back to basics, I mixed up a total levain based sourdough.  Of course during the rising period I had my doubts and although I have a multitude of patience being married to Mr. A.D.D., I get impatient watching the dough rise!

I had started with a very small build in the morning of 10 gr each rye and bread flour, 4 gr whole wheat and 20 gr. water.  That night I mixed with 100 gr each of my wheat sour, rye sour, WW flour and water and let it ferment and boy did it do well overnight.  Of course this made twice what I needed for the final dough but about that later.

Next morning I mixed up 200 gr of the levain with 800 gr bread flour, 150 gr rye, 50 gr whole wheat and 700 gr water folds every 30 minutes for the first two hours and then left it all day in the microwave reheating my glass of water every few hours to keep the inside nice and warm.  I’m still learning the % method and this of course contains more than the 100% with the levain but that’s ok….I’m getting it.

That night (actually last night), it had slowly doubled in volume and I dumped it out and started gently shaping.  The dough was really wet and I wasn’t sure I was doing it right but I let it bench rest and then shaped it again…still really wobbly and jello like…I really had my doubts this was going to work.  Put the shaped pieces into floured bannetons…and I mean really heavily floured.   I got rice flour and mixed it with bread flour…I don’t know about you…but my kitchen has a permanent light dusting of flour over everything these days!

Put the baskets in the fridge in plastic bags last night and hoped for the best.  They really didn’t look that much bigger this morning but reacted nicely to a poke.  Dumped them in my preheated dutch ovens and lo and behoild, I have some nice looking loaves…..signature t-Rex slash included.

Last night, affter I had stashed these loaves in the fridge, I still had the other half of the levain left over and trying to be frugal…besides hubby wouldn’t let me toss it….I decided to try another “formula.”
This time I pulled out my bag of KA Harvest Grains mixed in 100 gr of that with my levain and water mixture let it sit for a few minutes and then along with the various flours ( I won’t bore you with the details but I did calculate all of the ingredients this time…hopefully correctly….and to assure I would have success, added 3gr. of yeast.  And success it was…I had to stay up to midnight last night baking it and hubby just had to have a piece before going to bed but I ended up with 2 nice loaves…one I forgot to slash but it didn’t burst and is nicely rounded.








So the point of this post is the say…yup…I think I’m getting it….oh and….anyone need a loaf of bread!!! LOL!

And if you’ve read this far, I just want to say a few more things….equipment….its a slippery slope and I keep adding to my arsenal.  We joined Restaurant Depot and I have to say….wow….what a difference in price!  Luckily I have an upright freezer to store my extra flour.  I got bowl scrapers and these cute little 1 liter plastic containers for holding my sours.  Rodney Rye on the left is extremely vigorous…he was at the half line yesterday.


I’ve been complaining to the hubby about my minor burns and the need for a pair of oven gloves.  What sweetheart…he went to Home Depot yesterday and found me a pair of welding gloves!!!


Rodney is my sour rye starter created at the end of February 2015.   I used my wheat sourdough starter and mixed equal amounts of the wheat starter, water and rye flour. I sprinkled a layer of rye flour over the top and let that ferment overnight until the rye flour sprinkled on top started separating and forming cracks.    After 2-3 feeding cycles he was ready for baking.

IMG_0383I keep Rodney in the fridge and take him out and feed him occasionally and he is extremely frisky!

Frisky Rodney…there’s no holding him down. I press him down to the 1/2 liter line and just springs right back!

When I need a levain, I take a small amount, add equal amounts of rye flour and warm water and put it somewhere warm….usually my proofing box, aka, the microwave and let nature take its course.

Everyone has their own special way they care for their starter.  I rarely discard….I just keep feeding and take what I need when I’m ready to bake.

Overnight Country Brown with Rodney

Today’s bake is Overnight Country Brown, a Ken Forkish recipe.  This time instead of making the full amount of the levain as I did in the Field Blend #2, I decided to scale down his recommended ingredients for the levain for whatI actually need to make the recipe.

IMG_0579I bulked up Rodney, aka my rye sour, overnight and used him for the levain in the appropriate amount and put the rest back in the fridge.

The rest of the ingredients were the same.  After a few stretch and folds with wet hands over the next hour, the dough sat in the proofing box till 8 p.m.   Its a very wet dough and was not the easiest to divide and conquer and put it into my two highly floured bannetons for the overnight retardation.

IMG_0597The next morning the loaves had not rising significantly and were still pretty wobbly but I decided to bake them anyway as they passed the poke test.  Getting them out of the bannetons was a nightmare and used my hands to coax and then scoop some of the dough out.


They baked up reasonably nice and with a good crumb structure although not as high as the loaves that were helped by a little yeast.

And I guess since I used Rodney instead of the levain in the recipe, I can’t really call it an Overnight Country Brown but rather Overnight Rodney Brown!