A Return to Basics

Sometimes when you are trying to get good at something, and really excel, you have to start over and re-evaluate everything, a return to basics if you will. I decided to re-read the instructive sections in Tartine and bake my next loaf as if it were my first.

That said, I couldn’t completely start from scratch of course, but I’ve left out a lot of “experiments” I’ve done recently and went straight to the basic ingredients. One thing I kept from my experiments is my percentage of increased leaven: 25%. Now this is higher than Tartine’s formula, by 5%, but my excuse is my elevation is almost a mile up and I still believe a little extra leaven is required to get the bread to rise properly. The trick here is to walk that fine line of adding more leaven to increase rise, but not increase the sour flavor of the bread. Not an easy task.

Prepare the leaven – 11:30 p.m.

The night before, when your sourdough starter is at a nice and ripe stage, mix the following and set out on the counter overnight.

  1. 55g ripe starter (again, here I’ve increased the leaven by 5g over the Tartine formula)
  2. 100g all purpose flour
  3. 100g whole wheat flour
  4. 200g H2O @ 80ºF

Mix the flour and water, autolyse – 9:00 a.m.

When I wake early on the weekend to start my bake I start things properly, with a cappuccino.  I am Italian after all. The cappuccino below was made on my trusty Rancilio Silvia, which has been going strong making at least one cappuccino a day for a good 8 years. Having your own home espresso machine is an indulgence I don’t take for granted. My wife often complains that I sometimes spend more time with my espresso machine than sleeping.

A coffee to keep the bread process moving

Now, check on your leaven and see how it has done overnight. It should have visible bubbles on the top and as you pull a bit back and take a sniff, it should smell a little like vinegar. Good, we’re ready to go.

Ingredients:

  1. 250g (25%) of your new leaven
  2. 800g (80%) white bread flour
  3. 200g (20%) whole wheat bread flour
  4. 20g (2%) salt
  5. 700g H2O @ 80ºF and 50g H2O (75%) in reserve for next step

Method:

  1. Add 250g leaven to your large mixing bowl
  2. Pour in 700g H2O @ 80ºF and mix with your hands until the leaven is completely dissolved
  3. Add 800g white flour and 200g whole wheat flour and mix with your hand until all the dry bits of flour are gone
  4. Cover your bowl with a towel and let autolyse for 30 minutes
  5. After 30 minutes, add 20g salt to the dough and slowly pour the remaining 50g of 80ºF water on top. Squeeze the dough with your hand to incorporate the salt throughout
  6. Now reach your hand under the dough and pull the side up and over onto itself. Continue to do this as you spin the bowl; grab, pull, and push. Do this until the dough comes together and becomes super sticky and comes together
  7. Transfer your dough to your plastic or glass container, set a timer for 30 minutes

White and Whole Wheat Flours

Bulk Fermentation – 10:00 a.m.

During the bulk fermentation step you want to do 6 turns spaced out 30 minutes apart. The first 4 turns should be pretty vigorous, you really want to grab the dough from the bottom of the container, pull it up high, and then tuck it in on the other side.

  1. 10:00 a.m. – Turn 1
  2. 10:30 a.m. – Turn 2
  3. 11:00 a.m. – Turn 3
  4. 11:30 a.m. – Turn 4
  5. 12:00 p.m. – Turn 5
  6. 12:30 p.m. – Turn 6
  7. 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Rest on counter untouched

Step 7 above was needed as I noticed my dough was just not developing fast enough. If the temperature in your kitchen is on the lower end (low 70ºF’s) it might take a bit longer. You can tell when your dough is ready when it’s risen about 30% and you see little air bubbles throughout. Another test I do is to lift the container, tilt it to the side, and see if the dough releases easily from the sides of the container. If it does, then it indicates it’s developed enough and is strong.

This dough felt nice and strong at around 2:00 p.m., I could see it come off the sides of the container easily and it had risen to the top almost touching my plastic cover. Here you can see the pockets of yeast & bacteria activity throughout:

Bulk fermentation step

Pre-shape – 2:05 p.m.

Take the dough out of the container onto your unfloured work surface and sprinkler some flour on top before dividing. Divide the mass into two equal halves and flour the top of each half. Flip one half over using your dough knife and your hand, then gently bend the 4 sides of the dough from under to the top. Using the knife flip the mass so the new seam is on the counter and spin it a few times to create a bit of tension. Set a timer for 35 minutes and let it bench rest.

Shape – 2:40 p.m.

The resting dough should have spread out some on the counter. Flour the top of one of the boules and flip it over with your lightly floured hand and dough knife. Take the part of the dough that’s closest to you and fold it up and over in half. Take the part that’s to the right, stretch it out as far as it will stretch, and fold it up and to the left. Repeat with the left side and the side of the dough farthest from you. Then take the edge that’s closest to you, pull it up and over again towards the back. When doing this last move you will lift the entire dough up and over until the seam side is now down on your work surface.

Spin the dough using your two hands to shape into a boule. As you slightly pick up the dough and spin it, the bottom snags the unfloured work surface and creates tension. I do this several times to create a very taught surface on the top of the boule sometimes small air bubbles will be visible.

Proof – 2:55 p.m.

Place towels into small mixing bowls, or bannetons, and dust with white rice flour. These baskets will hold the dough as they proof in the fridge overnight.

For one of these boules I decided to try out a rectangular banneton I’ve had sitting in my cupboard for some time. I essentially placed the boule in the banneton like usual, but because of the shape, it ended up forming more of an elongated shape (a batard) than a pure round boule. Place both of the baskets into the fridge for an overnight proof, a chance to strengthen and build taste complexity.

Score + Bake – 7:30 a.m.

Gather your tools (see my Tools Page for links to these items):

  1. Razor blade for scoring
  2. Parchment paper
  3. Pizza peel
  4. Pizza stone
  5. Oven mit
  6. Lodge Combo Cooker

In the morning get your oven ready: place your pizza stone in your oven at the middle position and turn it on to 510ºF for a 1 hour pre-heat.

Take one of your loaves out of the fridge, cut a piece of parchment paper and place on top of the basket. I then place a the pizza peel on top of the parchment paper (and basket) and invert the whole thing quickly to get the dough out of the bowl and onto the paper and peel.

Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven. For the rectangular loaf I did a single slash down the middle starting from the very top to the bottom. You want to try to score at a very horizontal angle to the dough, I’d say around 40º.

Scoring

Place the dough into the combo cooker and turn the heat down to 440ºF, cook for 25 minutes. I made this loaf just barely small enough to fit in my combo cooker. I got worried after I took this out of the basket and saw how much it had risen. Whew.

After baking for 25 minutes, open the oven and remove the top of the combo cooker (be extremely careful here to not burn yourself) and cook for an additional 35 minutes at 435ºF. These times reflect my constant tinkering, trying to get the crust to darken but not quite burn. I’ve noticed one thing is pretty consistent with new bakers, they always start by undercooking loaves and as they continue to bake they get darker, darker, and darker still.

Oven spring

There’s just something exciting about taking the lid off your dutch oven and finding excellent oven spring underneath.

Conclusion

Crust: Super thin, shatters on every bite. The color is perfect, a bit of scorching on the top with light colors inside the fissure. You can also see below I’ve managed to obtain some blistering on the outside — excellent.

Blistery skin

Crumb: Nice and airy! Finally some great yeast activity inside and the upward movement is very welcome indeed. The bread rose up nice and high and I just love the little “hook” on top where the score ran down the center.

Nice open and airy crumb

Taste: A slight hint of sour, just enough to let you know this is a sourdough loaf. The overnight proof added some excellent complexity without overpowering the rest of the flavor of the loaf.

A return to basics was one of the most enlightening things I’ve done recently with my baking. I’ve realized that there aren’t any secret tricks to coaxing your bread into rising high with an open crumb, you simply need to trust your experience, intuition, and method.

Now that you’ve got this bake down, have a look at a newer approach where I modify the amount of levain used, tweak the autolyse time, and get some insanely amazing results! I like to call it my sourdough with less levain and longer autolyse. Still no “tricks” here, just tweaking parameters to help get that bread a little higher and a little more open.

Tartine Sourdough A Return to Basics

Buon appetito!

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.
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  • Excellent post, mate. Beautiful photographs, detailed instructions, and a lovely loaf to boot. I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog, for sure. 🙂

    Happy baking,

    Zita

  • Santiago

    You wrote 20% salt! haha a bit salty isn’t it? I guess you mean 2% 😉

    • Santiago

      By the way. Nice blog! thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and baking experiences!

    • Wow. Good catch, oops 🙂

  • Carl

    Just finished making this bread today! I might need to make smaller loaves though, even half the mixture spread out bigger than my cast iron lid so I have to trim the overflow off.

    Followed your 7 steps to a sourdough starter 12 days ago and baked it today. Was very labour intensive as this is the first time doing it but I really enjoyed it, hopefully it’ll get easier as I get to know what I’m doing.

    Extremely helpful blog and great recipes, thanks!

    • Carl,

      Wow, excellent! Yes, I’ve run into the same issue where I go to load my pan with the proofed dough and… too big. You’ll get the hang of sizing (and you can always weigh when you divide).

      It’s great to know you followed my guide from start to finish and everything worked out just fine. You’re right about the intensive amount of labor required, but it feels good right? There’s something about creating a loaf of bread from such humble ingredients.

      I’d love to hear more from you as you keep with the baking, it does get easier with experience.

      Happy baking!

  • Maurizio,

    Currently working through this process and have just finished the pre-shape. The dough is still quite sticky and hard to work. I introduced another fold to the bulk and it felt strong, and there was good signs of yeast activity.

    Is the dough generally quite hard to shape or might I have done something wrong? This is only my second time working with a high-hydration dough. Should I perhaps practice on a slightly lower hydration (68-70%) to get the hang of it?

    Would be great to hear your thoughts – I’m a really big fan of your blog!

    Hugo

    • Hugo,
      At higher hydration like this, yes, it is very challenging! It takes some time to get used to handling the dough during pre-shape and shape. I’ve noticed my best improvements by taking things slowly and increasing the hydration gradually. Each time I’d increase the hydration I would practice until comfortable and then move up.

      Thanks for the kind words about the site, glad you’re enjoying it. Good luck and bake on!

  • Sanna

    Hi! Do you bake straight from the fridge or do you let the loaf stand in room temperature for some time?

    • Straight from the fridge. I find scoring to be much easier as the dough is still quite firm and I haven’t found it to affect the final bake.

  • bryan

    love your page. i’m new to baking so it really helps. how long do you let the bread cool after being removed from the oven, if at all?

    • Thank you! It depends on the bread, if it’s a normal country white or whole wheat bread I wait at least 1-2 hours before cutting. If it’s a rye bread or porridge bread, at least 24 hours to let it “set”.

      That said, eating warm bread (white or whole wheat) is sometimes a real treat 🙂

      • bryan

        great, thank you so much!

        one more question:
        I have done my 5th turn during the bulk fermentation and it is still sticking to sides like a madman. i’m pretty sure by my 6th turn it’ll still be sticking to the sides. What did i do wrong?

        • How much water did you add to your dough? How long has your bulk gone so far? What temperature is it in your kitchen where your dough is resting?

  • bryan

    hmmm i didn’t want two loaves so i pretty much followed your exact recipe but halved everything. It is now going on the fourth hour (your #7 under bulk where you left it alone on the counter for 1.5 hrs). 30 minutes of the 1.5 hr countertop rest has gone by so i’ll check back on it in an hour. my temperature is in mid 70’s.

    btw, your site has so many recipes! love it.

    • All sounds fine — making half of the recipe should be no problem. Would love to hear how it turned out!

      Thanks, I’m glad you’re diggin’ the recipes!

      • bryan

        well for “starters”, i don’t think my starter is active enough (see what i did there? 😉 ). and i don’t think there was enough gluten developing. the inside looks just like regular loaved sandwich bread at the convenience store. smells good though? haha.

        • bryan

          and there’s definitely a rubbery texture to the bread. crust is thick.

          • Hah, nice, well played 🙂 Yes it sounds like perhaps your starter needs a bit more strength — did it pass the “float test”?

            At the end of the bulk fermentation step you really want to see a good amount of rise in your dough, bubbles throughout and around the sides, and the dough be a bit firmer, stronger even. The edges of the dough resting in your container should have rounds to them and the dough should hold it’s shape with a smoother surface.

            Give your starter regular feedings with enough flour and water so it doesn’t collapse by the next time you feed it. It shouldn’t smell like intense vinegar, if it does you need to give more flour or feed sooner.

            Let me know how it goes!

  • Jenny

    So I’m a little confused at the baking part. Do I preheat the pizza stone and then put in the combo cooker cold/room temperature on top of the pizza stone later? Wouldn’t the difference in temperatures crack the pizza stone? Or am I supposed to be preheating the cast iron as well?

    • Jenny,
      Correct, you want to preheat both the pizza stone and the combo cooker. I open the combo cooker with the shallow side on one side and the other deeper side facing down next to it. After my 1 hour preheat I’ll pull out the shallow side, slide in the dough, put back into the oven and cover with the deeper side.

      So yes, preheat both!

      • Jenny

        Thanks for the response! I have another question – I have done this recipe twice, and although the crust comes out great and the crumb looks good when it’s cut, both times the inside is still a bit “doughy” – very chewy in texture and it feels like it is not quite done. The second time after removing the top of the dutch oven and letting it cook for 35 minutes, I turned off the oven and left it inside while the oven cooled. Do you have any tips for this, or is that just how this bread turns out? It is very hard to cut with a soft inside and hard crust!

        • Absolutely, no problem! Cooking times will vary from your location to mine, you might need to adjust how long each step is cooked for. Try starting with 500ºF for 20 minutes, then turn down to 450ºF for 10 mins, then uncover and cook the remainder at 450ºF for 30 minutes or so.

          If you have a digital thermometer take your bread out when it’s done and stick it inside, it should read anywhere form 210ºF to 212ºF when it’s baked all the way through.

          That said, it can be challenging sometimes to cut high hydration bread like this, but that’s what makes the interior so tasty 🙂

  • Beth Dillman

    I’m new to the world of baking Tartine bread, but my husband and I love the bakery in San Francisco. I’ve made a few loaves, using the first Tartine Bread book, and having your blog as an extra reference has been super helpful! I have a question… What is the best way that you’ve found to store the loaves after you’ve baked them? If we wrap them in plastic, the crust gets too soft. But if we just leave it out, it gets too hard and stale. I’m curious to know how you store your loaves after baking… Thanks!!

    • Glad my site has been helpful! I was in the same boat as you several years back and needed some assistance — it’s not that easy to find! Thus my impetus for creating this site.

      I live in a very dry climate and my bread will dry out extremely fast if left out too long. I have a bread box similar to this one. Mine has little holes in the back that let some air, but not too much, in and out. I taped over a few of these holes due to my climate. If you get one like this test it out with a loaf and see how it does.

      Additionally, if you’re cutting your bread on a cutting board and are going to leave it out for a while, always place the inside down on the board to help retain moisture.

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

      • Beth Dillman

        Thank you, thank you! A bread box…. Genius. 🙂 We’re also in a very dry climate, and for the amount of labor that goes into these loaves, I hate to have them dry out so quickly!! I’ll definitely keep following your blog and using some of your tricks and techniques!

        • I can usually keep these loaves in great condition for a week, although they rarely last that long (we eat it long before then).
          Excellent, glad to have you along!

  • bryan

    my starter doesn’t smell like vinegar at all. but it does smell like alcohol. a lot.

    • How much time goes by between your feedings? How much flour, water and existing starter are you feeding with?

      • bryan

        currently about 6-8 hours or so between feeds. it nearly doubles in size in about 2-3 hours. I’m feeding it 25g AP, 25g dark rye, and just shy of 50g water. I would say there is about 50g of starter in my jar? but i’m not 100% positive because i don’t know how much the jar weighs.

        p.s thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions by the way. sorry to trouble you with all the questions.

      • bryan

        it’s been 1.5 hours since my last feed and already starts to smell a bit of alcohol

        • You’re welcome, not a problem I’m glad I can help!

          You should try to measure how much starter you are carrying over between feedings. Take measurement of your empty jar and write on some tape on top so you can easily subtract out next time you feed.

          If you carry over too much starter it will consume the food you give it in no time, making things much more acidic. I suspect this is what’s happening. You want to try to hit 50g H2O, 50g flour, and around 20-25g mature starter.

          Try that out for a few feedings and then let me know how that goes, I’m sure it’s going to help!

  • bryan

    my dough looks much better; holding its shape much better. feeding the starter more definitely helped.

    question: what kind of towel can i use to proof? any cotton towel with flour on it will suffice?

    • Great news! Starter management (fermentation) is extremely important and takes some getting used to.

      You can certainly use any cotton towel dusted with rice flour or even bran (rice flour burns at a higher temperature and thus won’t scorch so easily in the oven). I’ve used flour sack towels for a long time and they are great: thin, pliable, and easy to clean!

  • Jenny

    I have made this recipe a couple of times with great success over the winter, but when I tried it today, the dough was WAY too wet. Even after the folds and rest, it was goopy and did not want to hold any kind of shape. My starter hadn’t been fed in a while but I did the float test and it was fine. The levain also looked good. I followed the recipe as written, same as I have done previously. Should I omit the second round of water after adding the salt in warmer weather?

    • One of the most challenging things about baking is that it’s ever-changing. Each season brings with it different conditions and therefore different challenges. Here where I live, it’s very, very dry in the winter so I end up adding around 5% more water to my recipes. In the summer, I can dial things back a bit as the “monsoon” time begins.

      It sounds like your conditions have changed. I’d suggest lowering overall hydration in your recipe, perhaps 10% is a good starting point? Keep that 50g water in reserve to help dissipate the salt throughout your dough, but reduce the overall hydration to suit.

      Sometimes it takes some experimentation with what works for you each season. Another example: for me during the warmer months I need to also reduce the amount of levain I add to my recipes, from around 200g to 150g.

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions, Jenny!

  • Jenny

    I haven’t made bread using my starter in a while… this was the recipe I was using. You say to “see the image below” of a ripe starter but there is no image. I can’t remember at what point the starter is considered “ripe” after feeding it.

  • brenda

    Are you baking both loaves at the same time or is one waiting it’s turn?

  • Artem Storozhenko

    Hi, Maurizio. in your recipe you use 200g of whole wheat bread flour but at autolys method you put only 100g (typo probably). In Chad’s book bulk should be 4 hours with folding every 30 min. You leaving the dough for last 1.5 hour without folding. Could you explain why?

    • Artem — thanks for catching that typo! Can’t believe it’s gone for this long. Chad also leaves the dough at the end without touching for some time. There are 4 folds, each 30 mins apart stating from the beginning, so that is a total of 2 hours. After 2 hours have gone by, and all folds done, let rest for 1.5 – 2 hours to complete bulk fermentation.

      Happy baking!

      • Artem Storozhenko

        Thank you!

  • Artem Storozhenko

    Hi, Maurizio. One more thing to clean up my mind before weekend baking 🙂 In the book Chad usually use (for daily routine) 20% of starter and feed it with 80% of flour and water (25% of starter in your method). But when he describe the recipe he ask to “one table spoon” (it is like 22-25 g) of starter and 200 g of flour —> So it’s 10% of starter to build leaven. Do you know why? Or my table spoon is too small ? 🙂

    • I’ve always wondered why he uses “tablespoon” in his recipe. I prefer to list a specific percentage and weight instead — it’s much more clear and precise. I’m not sure why he did that!

      • Artem Storozhenko

        😉 thanks

  • Bel M

    I’m quite new to sourdough baking but had a go at this recipe, with relative success – the refrigeration seemed to make the dough stick to the proofing basket – can I do anything to help prevent this? Also, would this recipe be the same if I wanted to just use white bread flour? Thanks for your help.

    • When the dough is highly hydrated like this recipe sticking can be a issue. You could use kitchen towels in your banneton or sprinkle on a bit more rice flour to ensure no sticking. I’ll typically use towels when hydration is around 80%.

      You can use just white bread flour but the taste and texture will be slightly different. I’d suggest trying it both ways to see which you prefer! Most of bread baking is making your own modifications to suit your environment and tastes 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      • Bel M

        Thanks for replying, it’s really kind of you. Do you mean cloth kitchen towels or disposable paper ones? Also, if I try it with all white flour, should I adjust the amount of water?

        • Don’t use paper towels, they will likely degrade overnight. I like to use flour sack towels or just plain clean kitchen towels.

          If you use only white flour I’d try reducing hydration 5% from the formula above and see how it “feels”. Whole wheat flour definitely soaks up a bit more water than white, so good call!

  • Katie Wilson

    Hey, great posts! Very knowledgeable. I followed this recipe last weekend, however my bread didn’t turn out. It didn’t rise, still had nice crumb but didn’t rise. The dough looked great when I was shaping it. I’m wondering if the dough should be left out on the counter overnight rather than in the fridge. I’ve looked at some other recipes and that’s what they call for. Or when I take it out in the morning, let it sit out at room temp for a while to proof again? The only thing that was different while baking was using a Dutch oven rather than the combo cooker. I preheated it and slid the dough in. Any thoughts?

    • Thanks! It’s hard to say with the details you’ve given, but you definitely do not want to let the dough rest out on the counter overnight — it will surely over-proof. It kind of sounds like your dough did not ferment sufficiently during bulk fermentation (that’s my guess). Did your dough rise about 30% during your 4 hour bulk step? You should see a rise and bubbles around the sides and top, this let’s you know your dough is fermenting strong enough. If you don’t see this let it go longer, 30 minutes or 1 hour, until you do see these signs.

      Check out this baking post to see how my dough looks through bulk fermentation, yours should look similar.

      Good luck, I hope that helps. Let me know if you get better results!

  • J.Y.

    What do you use to store bread? Is it the pouch that the bread is laying on in the final picture?

    • I usually store my bread in a bread box on my counter, if I run out of space I’ll keep it in a paper bag wrapped up tight!

      • J.Y.

        Thanks!

  • Rob Maier

    In the recipe you mention 50g of H20 held in reserve for the next step. What do you use that for? I don’t see it in the guide.

    • Sorry about that! I just updated the post, thanks for finding that.

      The remaining 50g water should be added along with the salt, to help it dissolve and incorporate into the dough.

  • mitsuko sato

    Thank you so much for the modified tartine recipe. I’ve had my first tartine success- and I cannot even begin to thank you enough. I may have cried some happy tears after taking off the dutch ovens covers- so this is what people mean about oven spring. I produced the ugliest most beautiful loaves. Thank you again for the work and information you put on this site!

    • You are very welcome, I’m really glad I could help! Thanks for the message and happy baking!

  • Muneera

    Hello Maurizio! I am delighted to have found your website. I tried this recipe (as well as your prefect sourdough) and had smashing results for both (after many months of struggling with my crumb). Thank you!

    I used regular unbleached white four and then my durum “atta” whole wheat flour (that we usually use for our Indian flatbreads) and it worked. I know this is a more high protein/low available gluten wheat variety, but it worked well.

    I am hoping to try your “whole wheat sourdough” next and bring the whole wheat ratio upto 50%. I wonder if I can continue to use the durum flour? It is stone ground (supposedly) quite fine, so I will not be able to sift out the bran for part of it.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

    • That’s awesome! Really glad those two have worked out so well for ya. Very cool you were able to adjust and use atta, I bet the taste was great.

      I actually haven’t had much experience with durum flour, but I would expect it would turn out well. If I recall durum is pretty strong flour so you might want to do a longer autolyse and up the hydration (if the flour can handle it, use your judgement) to make the crumb and crust a little more tender.

      I say go for it! Let me know how it turns out 🙂

  • Fredy Mac Mithos

    Hi Maurizio.
    Keeping going on the Sourdough Bread road, I’ve been reading over the internet to so many blogs and websites and today I was looking for the information of when is the best time to use the starter to build a leaven and the best time to use the leaven in a dough. Let me resume my thoughts than you could help me. My last bread was nice but I thought it was a little bit too sour. I liked it but I can imagine that some people wouldn’t.
    The time that the leaven is mixed with the rest of the ingredients of the dough will define the sourness of the bread, right ? After 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 … hours of the build of the leaven will take the bread from sweetness sour to vinegar sourness, right ? But, does the starter timing makes any difference ? I meant, should I have to wait the starter to be hungry, needing to be fed or should I make the leaven with the starter also with a sweet smell, in the middle of its “developing” ?
    Greeting.

    • These are good questions. I actually wrote a post here detailing when exactly I use my starter to bake with, when is a good time to feed it, and generally how to maintain it. I like to keep my bread on the less-sour side of things, so this guide will also help you along that path. Take a look and let me know if you have more questions!

      http://www.theperfectloaf.com/sourdough-starter-maintenance-routine/

      • Fredy Mac Mithos

        Hi Maurizio.

        First of all I need to say sorry if I’m being boring with my questions. I’m trying to get advices from people that has experiences with tests accomplished on breads …lol

        I got another disaster here replicating your “A Return to Basics”. I’m sure it’s not your fault …lol. Let me explain, so you could help me if you already had any problems alike.

        Even during the “Folds” I could feel that my dough wouldn’t get structured enough tô reach to the next fase, the Pre Shape. I’m having to do the folds with the dough inside the bowl. I can see the dough rising inside the bowl, but in the moment that I take it to the workbench to do the pre-shape the dough spreads, like melting over the surface looking almost like a pancake dough. Besides of that I baked it. I would not throw 2 loaves in the trash. The crumb taste was good. Crust a little bit thick and hard but eatable. Look at the pictures if you can and also a pic of my scoring tool made from a chopstick from my old Japanese restaurant … lol.
        http://cl.ly/3e2Q2r3V1F0q
        http://cl.ly/2n0H061z3z06
        http://cl.ly/400m2Y2i050k

        As I already told you, the flours that we can find here on markets are more like All Purpose. It has 5,0g of proteins in every 50g of flour and they are all bleached and I bet it is chemically and not naturally bleached. Flours unbleached and with a higher amount of protein, only imported and it is hard to find.

        Another problem (again I believe is because of the amount of protein) is he absorption of water by the flour. As it cannot absorb water on a good way, the water stays there in the middle of the dough making it like a melted dough and impossible to get structured.

        I will try 2 things and let me know what you think. First I will try to downsize the hydration from 75% to 68% and also give a chance to the Stiff Levain. I already read a post about it on internet and I’m reading yours right now. On next 15th I will put my hands on a good (I believe it is) pack of Italian flour – branded 5 Stagione Superiore, then I will have tô do more experiences …. lol

        • Hey there! Yes, your approach sounds good. I would reduce hydration given that your flour isn’t able to absorb water readily, but also because there isn’t that much strength in your dough. Reduced hydration will help with this.

          A stiff levain will also help bring strength and structure to your dough, this is a good idea!

          Your lame looks good to me, mine was made with a coffee stirrer for a long time!

          Good luck, let me know how it goes with those two changes 🙂

  • Hugh McMillan

    Hi Maurizio,
    I’ve just discovered your fine site and am enjoying your posts very much.
    I did notice that the Bulk Fermentation steps #6 & #7 both read 12:30am when you mean 12:30pm.
    Not a major typo but I thought you might like to fix it.

    • Hugh — thanks so much for that! Can’t believe it’s been here this long with no one catching it 🙂

      Fixed!

  • Piyush Bardolia

    Hi Maurizio,
    First let me start by saying you have a great blog. The steps you provide and the timing of every step is so helpful for a first time bread baker. I am currently baking my second batch of bread and can’t wait to dig in once it is out of the oven. I have been using the dutch oven technique (not the combo cooker) and I noticed that in some of your recipes your instructions are to preheat the dutch oven at 500 degrees for an hour, while others you only instruct to preheat the oven. Is this intentional? And if so in what cases to you preheat the dutch oven and when do you not? Also in your Return to Basics recipe you heat the pizza stone in the middle rack. Do you then place the dutch oven on top of the pizza stone? Wondering if the pizza stone under the dutch oven makes that much of a difference? Thanks and keep on baking!

    • Thanks, really appreciate that! I’m sorry for the confusion: I always preheat the oven AND the Dutch oven. There might be some places where it’s not clear (I’ll have to head back and fix all those).

      I always put the Dutch oven on top of the baking stones. One thing to keep in mind here, though, if your bread does get a bit too well done on the bottom using the DO you can omit the baking stones altogether (or keep them in your oven on another rack to help retain heat when you open and close the door). Sometimes the stones with the DO is a little too much heat.

      If your loaves are a little too moist inside it could be they might be a little underbaked. Another telltale sign of this is a slightly “gummy” texture to the inside. Bake a little longer, perhaps with the temperature a little lower for the last 10 minutes or so of the bake (so you can elongate the bake without burning the exterior).

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

  • Sara Farrior

    Hi Maurizio!

    First, Thank you so much for making this site! I live in Hawaii where climate is always warm and humid. I went through 4 different starters, all of which ended in catastrophe until I found your blog. My starter is healthy and thriving now for about a month and I think I’m ready to tackle my first loaf!

    My only question is; Do you have to bake it in the combo cooker/dutch oven? I have a cast iron skillet and a baking stone, but I don’t have anything that will sufficiently cover it. Would a steam bath in the oven suffice?

    Also, that espresso machine … I’m jealous.

    Thanks again!

    • Hey, Sara! Glad to hear your starter is up and running — time to bake! You don’t have to bake this recipe in a combo cooker if you don’t want to, I just find that is the easiest way for people to get started baking bread since steaming is straight forward. If you want to create a steam bath that will work out very well. In my more recent recipes I no longer use the combo cooker (although you could just fine) but instead choose to steam using my home oven steaming method.

      Hope that helps and happy baking!