My Best Sourdough Recipe

I’ve baked this loaf, or a variant of it, so many times I’ve lost count. This bread was born when I first got my hands dirty with flour & water. Its parent, if you could call it that, was Chad Robertson’s Tartine loaf with his liquid levain and mix of whole & white wheat that is brought to life not with intensive kneading, but rather a series of folds during bulk fermentation. It’s grown since then and has developed a personality of its own as I’ve expanded my baking repertoire and investigated the many facets of baking naturally leavened sourdough. It’s taken on, and lost, traits from many of the great bakers out there, borrowing from their inspiration and giving me direction to raise this bread into something of my own. A bread that doesn’t entirely taste like anything else I’ve had, and yet, still employs many of the same processes and ingredients. That’s one of the greatest things about bread: it can taste and look dramatically different just by changing the two hands that create it. Calling this post “my best sourdough recipe” is a lofty claim, but honestly, I do believe this is the best bread I’ve made thus far.

Yes it’s excessive in some way, but there’s an excessiveness to ambition as wellJohn Mayer

I sometimes revisit a discussion I had with a few readers of this site and their comments: “bread is just bread, it’s something to be eaten and is something life-giving, isn’t that enough?” I do agree with this, but when something becomes (in my case, unexpectedly) a passion for you, it’s important to set lofty goals and get excited when breakthroughs are made. Isn’t that really the definition of a craft and the relentless honing required? I’ve taken this bread, real bread, from its most nascent form all the way to its current stage and can trace through the years each change to its formula or process — and I’m sure I’ll be changing things well into the future as it continues to evolve — a work-in-progress. Maybe the actual recipe for this bread isn’t the most important part, but rather, the lessons and insights learned along the way as I continually hone my baking proficiency.My Best Sourdough RecipeI’m not claiming this recipe will yield the perfect loaf every single time, but I dare say it comes the closest for me — and that’s exciting. This is the bread that I want to make the most often, the one my family asks for the most often and the one I share most often. I have a special place for whole wheat bread, and taste-wise it might make me want to call that my favorite one day, but the versatility of this bread cannot be beaten. I use it for breakfast with eggs, a brisket and BBQ sandwich for lunch, a bowl of soup on a cold, windy day, and simply torn and on the plate accompanying dinner (this bread also makes incredible croutons, bread crumbs and stuffing/dressing). I bake this so often that my freezer has an entire shelf lined with pre-sliced loaves wrapped and in bags labeled pane perfetto1.

While the actual formula is simply a mix of flour, water, salt and levain, there are many nuances here to pay close attention to, here are a few key things to successfully making this bread:

  1. An active starter
  2. A long-ish autolyse
  3. A high hydration
  4. Sufficient dough strength
  5. Warm bulk fermentation
  6. A long, cold proof

Before writing this I pulled out my trusty Moleskine notebook and paged through the handwritten (and flour-ridden) pages to find any scribbled “ah-ha” moments or little notes jotted down in the margin, along with a few curse words peppered throughout, and have bundled them up into this entry (sans curse words to keep it clean). A compendium of sorts containing my insights, breakthroughs and ah-ha moments.my best sourdough recipe moleskine notesThis recipe doesn’t require an exotic blend of hard-to-find flour, a complicated multi-step levain build, or the use of a mechanical mixer. It’s built around making this bread in your home kitchen, just like I do at least once every week.

With that said, the high hydration can be challenging to work with and requires practice. The pre-shape and shape phases can draw out a curse word here and there, and maybe even the desire to raise your hands in the air and sprinkle the dough with choice words like an old Italian grandmother (I have memories of this!). Feel free to adjust the hydration to suit your environment and flour, though, because as we know each bag of flour can be different. If you’re not accustom to working with high hydration dough, please start out somewhere in the middle and slowly work up. If you try to jump in the deep end you might get frustrated and give up altogether.Pane PerfettoWas that a couple paragraphs of doom & gloom or what?! Ok hopefully I didn’t discourage anyone, let’s get started.

Flour Selection

I’ve tried a lot of flour out there, certainly not everything there is but I’ve ordered enough now that the UPS guy thinks I might have a bakery in my backyard. I have baked some memorable bread with Hayden Mills grain & flour (including this wonderful white Sonora Sourdough bread), Central Milling and Giusto’s. Early on I’ve also had great success with some King Arthur varieties (specifically their bread flour when I need a bit of extra strength in my dough). But time and time again I turn to my two favorites: Central Milling Type 70 and Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour. I like CM’s T70 so much, not only because it’s organic, but also because of the performance and taste. I’ve made some of the best loaves with this flour, I love its strength, enzymatic activity and it coaxes out the most beautifully colored crust. It is a very versatile flour, I’ve used it in everything from sourdough bread to waffles to banana bread and it just tastes delicious each time.

But at the same time Giusto’s Artisan Bread flour calls to me. I have consistently made incredible loaves with their flour, I only wish it was organic. Nevertheless, I find myself ordering a box of it here and there and enjoy the results every time.Giusto's Flour - Artisan Bread Flour and Organic Whole WheatOf course, as I mentioned before, try whatever is local first (sadly my source for good quality, organic flour is no longer) and what you like. It might require a little tweaking of this formula (specifically hydration) but I know you’re up to the task. When trying new flour remember to hold back more water than you might otherwise, and then slowly add it in at the end of mixing or throughout bulk fermentation.

If you’re brand new to baking sourdough, you might want to first check out my Beginner’s Sourdough recipe, it has longer in-depth explanations on every step in the baking process!

My Best Sourdough Recipe

Vitals

Total dough weight: 1800g
Total pre-fermented flour: 6.4%
Hydration: 87%
Yield: 2 x 900g loaves

If you want to halve this recipe just take all ingredients and divide by 2 (I’d recommend keeping the levain build quantities the same, though, it’s already quite small. I’m referring to the actual build here, we will still divide the final amount of levain added to the final mix in half).

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
35g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 50%
35g Giusto’s Stoneground Whole Wheat 50%
35g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 50%
70g H2O @ room temperature 100%

Dough Formula

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78ºF. This dough loves a nice warm ambient environment. Try to keep the dough at the listed temperatures if possible, use your oven with a light on inside, your microwave with a bowl of steaming water, or a proofer. I keep my ambient thermometer near my dough and also use my instant read thermometer to check the dough temperature periodically throughout bulk.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
804g Malted Bread Flour, 11.5% Protein (Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour) 91.67%
73g Stoneground Whole Wheat, 12.5-13.5% protein (Giusto’s Organic Stoneground Whole Wheat) 8.33%
755g H2O @ 90ºF 86.11%
18g Fine sea salt 2.03%
150g Mature, liquid levain 17.09%

Method

My method below employs a few subtle changes from previous recipes here on my site. I typically try to avoid adding photos here so the recipe is clean and concise, but in this case I want to show the dough as it’s developing so you get an idea of how it should look at various points throughout.

1. Levain – 9:00 a.m.

Build the liquid levain in the morning and store somewhere warm around 77-80ºF ambient for 5-6 hours. Alternatively, you can build your levain in the evening the night before and leave out at cooler, room temperatures (around 72ºF) and it should be ready in 10-12 hours.

If you haven’t yet read through my last post on my sourdough starter maintenance routine, check it out for some helpful hints on when to use your levain.sourdough levain (leaven)

2. Autolyse – 12:30 p.m.

Mix flour and water (reserve 50g water for mix, later) very well in a bowl and cover. Ensure all dry flour is hydrated. Store near levain (we want the temperature of the dough to remain warm).

3. Mix, Step 1 – 2:00 p.m.

Note that I split the mixing phase into two steps.

For the first step scoop out the required amount of levain on top of your autolysed (is that even a word?) dough and using about 30g of the reserved water hand-mix the levain into the dough so it’s incorporated very well.

Let fermentation get a head start: incorporate the levain & wait 30m before adding salt

Wait 30 minutes before adding the salt in Step 2. Salt slows the pace of fermentation, giving your levain just 30 minutes before adding salt you will notice quite a bit more activity through bulk2.

4. Mix, Step 2 – 2:30 p.m.

30 minutes later spread the salt on top of the dough and use the remaining water to help dissolve. If your dough is already extremely wet, and you’re getting worried, you don’t have to use all the remaining water. Just spread it out and mix well with your hand, the dough is wet enough already to work the salt thoroughly.

This dough does not require intensive mechanical mixing, in fact, we want to under-develop at mix time and build strength during bulk through fermentation and several sets of stretch and folds. After the salt is incorporated perform folds for about 2-3 minutes in the bowl. Grab under one side, pull up and over to the other side, then rotate the bowl a bit and repeat. I do this probably 30 times or so (it goes fast and easy). At the end the dough should still be shaggy, but it will be a little more smooth and will slightly start to hold itself together more in the bowl.
Sourdough at Beginning of BulkIf you’re a fan of the slap & fold mixing technique I’ve described in the past, you can do this but be aware that at this hydration it is difficult. If you’re up to the challenge (I do it occasionally) dump the dough out and slap/fold for a maximum of 3 minutes until the dough starts to slightly hold its shape on the counter. You won’t get a super smooth dough, even with slap/fold.

I find that the correct strength level of the dough at this point is important. You want the dough to be just a little smooth after mixing, but not well developed. I know those are general terms, but try to remain observant of how the dough looks when you are done mixing and how it looks when you are done with bulk fermentation (take note of how my dough looks through this post). If you find that by the end of bulk you can’t get the dough smooth & strong enough, next time mix a little bit longer to develop the dough a bit more before you start bulk. Alternatively you could add another set of stretch/fold’s in bulk3.

Transfer dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.

5. Bulk Fermentation – 2:45 p.m.

At 78-82ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 4 hours. Perform 6 sets of stretch and folds during bulk. The first three are at 15 minute intervals, and the last 3 are at 30 minute intervals. After these folds (2 hours and 15 minutes have gone by) let the dough rest for the remainder of your bulk fermentation (1 hour and 45 minutes).

I stretch and fold more vigorously at the beginning of bulk than normal since the dough is extremely slack and extensible (due to the high hydration of this recipe). Pick up one side of the dough with both hands and really pull it up, just before tearing, and fold it over to the other side. Rotate your container and repeat 4 or 5 times. That is one set.Bulk fermentation after first stretch and fold

Below you can see my dough halfway through bulk, after about 2 hours. No significant rise as of yet, but  the edges are beginning to dome and the texture of the dough is smoothing out slightly. We still have several more folds to do and more strength to build.
Bulk fermentation after third stretch and foldIt is important that the dough be kept near 80ºF as much as possible (minor fluctuations up and down are ok). If temperatures dip down too far you might have to extend the duration of bulk fermentation to compensate, and vice versa. Use your judgement, the signs described below, and be flexible.

At the end of bulk your dough should look very gassy, some bubbles here and there and the edges where the dough meets the bowl should be slightly domed. You can see all these signs in the image below. When the bowl is shaken the entire mass jiggles from side to side — very alive. You’ll also notice that compared with the photo at the beginning of bulk, the dough is smoother and holds its edges, folds and creases more readily (most of the bumps and ridges you see are due to trapped gasses from fermentation).Sourdough End of Bulk

6. Divide & Preshape – 6:45 p.m.

Divide the dough into two masses, each scaled at 900 grams (essentially the dough mass in half). Lightly shape each mass into a round, cover with inverted bowl or moist towel, and let rest for 20 minutes. Act quick when dealing with this dough and rely heavily on your bench knife. I try to use my hands as little as possible when dealing with the dough at this point.

Let the dough rest 5 minutes exposed to air before shaping

After 20 minutes remove the towel or bowl and let the dough rest 5 more minutes exposed to air. That’s probably the first time you’ve heard that. I find this small step to helps dry out the dough just a bit so it’s not such a sticky mess when you perform that tricky scoop-and-flip before shaping.

7. Shape – 7:05 p.m.

Lightly flour the top of your dough rounds and flour the work surface. With this recipe use a little more flour on the surface than normal, the dough will be extremely sticky and wet. Flip each round and shape into a batard (see notes below) or boule, whatever your preference.Sourdough ShapingSourdough Shaping

I prefer to shape these as batards and my shaping method is as follows:

  1. Flip pre-shaped round
  2. Fold bottom up to about half way
  3. Fold left side over to about 3/4 to the right
  4. Fold right side over to cover left
  5. Stretch top up & away from center and fold down to about half (you’ll now have a “letter”)
  6. Grab a little of the dough at the sides near the top and stretch it over the center so the dough crosses. Imagine lacing up a shoe where you first grab your laces and cross them over
  7. Repeat 3 times from top to bottom (the result will look like a laced up shoe)
  8. Take the bottom and gently roll the dough up to the top and try to seal it slightly when done rolling

Alternatively, if the dough feels pretty strong you could shape it by “cinching” up the dough. You can see a video of how I shape a batard over at my Instagram feed.

After shaping, let rest on the bench for a few minutes and then place into a banneton that was lightly dusted with white rice flour. You’ll see below my bannetons give the dough plenty of room to relax and expand in the fridge overnight. While this dough doesn’t rise quite as much as when I use Central Milling’s T70 flour, you still want the loaf to have plenty of room. If your proofing container is on the small side, and you find your dough almost spilling over the edges, it might be time for a larger basket.Bannetons

8. Rest & Proof – 7:25 p.m.

Cover your banneton with plastic and let the dough rest on the counter for 20 minutes. Then, retard in the refrigerator at 38ºF for 15-16 hours.

9. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 9:00 a.m., Bake at 10:30 a.m.

Preheat oven for 1.5 hours at 500ºF. Bake 20 minutes at 500ºF with steam, and an additional 25-35 minutes at 450ºF, until done to your liking. I like to bake rather dark so I sometimes extend this second half of baking until I get the crust I’m looking for.

I scored this dough with a single, long slash to get that dramatic opening when baked. I keep the blade at a fairly shallow angle so the taut skin created during shaping will “peel” back as the loaf rises.Scoring SourdoughI steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking.

Conclusion

It’s hard to put into words just how much I enjoy this bread. I bake this recipe almost every week (sometimes multiple times if baking for friends & family) and yet every time I pull it from the oven I just smile. The color of the crust, the open and light interior, only the tinniest perception of sour notes and the way it crunches when toasted. I could go on and on.theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-3The photos to follow are the results of scattered recent bakes that all followed this process exactly and have a  similar-but-not-exact outcome. You’ll notice some are a bit darker, some have more or less flour on them, some expand differently in the oven and some are taller & some are shorter — that’s the nature of baking, every single bake is different no matter how consistent you try to be. It’s the same with my Dad and his Italian restaurant, and the reason I’ll sometimes get a call in the middle of the afternoon: “hey the pizza dough is incredible today, you should head over and grab some.”

Crust

As a kid I was known to take slices of bread, cut out the center and just eat the crust. It used to piss my family off because they’d reach into the bread basket only to find slices of only the soft parts. That’s how much I love the crust! Can you blame me, though?My Best Sourdough Recipe Crust

I absolutely do enjoy bread that has a chunky, chewy crust but for me this bread with its delicate and cracker-like crust takes the top spot. Even though I bake these rather dark, the crust remains thin and brittle, crackling under the slightest pressure. I love using the “heel” (the very end) of this bread as a basin for soup or simply hefty slices of cheese. It’s delicious.

Crumb

I think there’s a balance to be had with bread like this. It’s possible to let the crumb open up too much, but for me this is just right. Scattered open areas with that translucent webbing spanning from wall-to-wall, a dynamic movement to these areas that almost show you how shaping was carried out.Sourdough Crumb

Taste

This bread has an almost imperceptible hint of sour and because of this, the wheat flavors from the flour really come forward. It has an extremely tender, soft crumb that almost dissolves in your mouth. It’s one of those rare foods where upon taking that first bite your mouth begins to water.ShunI think in the end bread really is just bread, the staff of life throughout history, but it’s also the sum of what you personally put into it. It’s how it makes you feel when you give some to a friend and they grin ear-to-ear as they take a big bite. It’s the knowledge that you created this thing over the course of a few days that once was a lump on your counter and is now a shiny, incredible smelling piece of food meant to be shared. To me this is real bread and my best sourdough recipe (and with this bread you’ll even find me devouring more than just the crust!).

Buon appetito and have a wonderful holiday season!Sourdough Sliced by ShunSourdough Crumb


I’d love to see your bake with this recipe! Tag me (@maurizio on Instagram) or hashtag your photo #theperfectloaf so I can take a look!





  1. Thanks Margie for the name suggestion!

  2. A nice, wet, warm bowl of food for your levain provides the perfect conditions for rapid metabolization. There’s some more science-y stuff in there somewhere.

  3. And in the worst possible case, if your dough at the end of bulk is soupy, extremely shaggy, and just never came together this means you most likely used more water than you flour can handle. Next time reduce hydration by 20g or so and see how that affects things.

  • Susan Santos

    Wow! Thanks for taking the time to post all this great information. I’ve yet to attempt a loaf with this level of hydration, but this makes me want to try.

    • Susan — you’re very welcome, thanks so much for the comments! The hydration level here is challenging to work with, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Definitely start out a bit lower and work up as you get comfortable (also your flour will only support a hydration at a certain level, so if the dough becomes absolutely unmanageable you might have reached the limit). Have a wonderful holiday!

  • Noah

    Wonderful post and pics are beautiful! Really enjoyed reading it. Your love of bread making shines throughout the entire piece.
    I feel like I’m going back to Chad Robertsons style too. Having success with doing everything at higher temps. I’m going to try Babetteartisan’s levain build next.

    • Thanks, Noah! I get so enthusiastic when I start to really dial in on a great process & recipe, I can’t help but convey that here 🙂

      Babbette’s method is partly what inspired my experimentation with warmer conditions — it only makes sense, yeast/bacteria really get moving as it gets warmer. Looking forward to seeing your results!

  • Maree

    Oh Maurizio, you’ve done it again! I just love seeing the photos of your bread and reading your descriptions and the story behind them. You have a new shaped starter jar? I would dare not show you my journal, it is an absolute mess! I might try your recipe, my favourite is also based on a Chad one which I tend to stick to and will continue to do so until I get a real oven. Thank you for such lovely posts, wishing you and your family a safe and happy Festive season. Cheers, Maree.

    • Thanks so much Maree! I actually bought a box of these “tulip” shaped Weck jars to do preserving of vegetables, they are very nice. I didn’t have any clean jars so I had to use it! It’s a great shape, actually, as the top is even more open and the rounded bottom makes stirring even easier. Not sure if I’ll stick with them, I guess it depends on what’s clean 😉

      You’re welcome and I hope you and your family have a great holiday!

  • Lee

    Maurizo, what happened to the fresh milled flour? Not in this recipe?

    • Lee — still working quite a bit with fresh flour! None used in this recipe, there were enough variables to track and experiment let alone throwing in fresh flour. I’m back to the milling game starting this weekend! I’ll definitely try this recipe out with part fresh flour very soon.

  • margie

    Love it, love it! Best bread and best blog. Your details are enlightening, as well as stunning. I love that you are able to incorporate so many of the things we come across, and make them work for you. Hope your Dad reads your blog, and maybe spends a day with you in your “bakery”. Thanks so much.

    • Thank you so much Margie 🙂 I really appreciate the comments! I think it’s those little things we discover along the way that sometimes lead to great breakthroughs (that and our conversations and endless testing!). I just gave a loaf to my Dad just a few minutes ago, he had a big grin on his face 🙂

  • Thank you, Alma 🙂 I’m going to be experimenting more with rye here very soon, it’s especially fitting giving the really cold weather we’ve been having out here in the Southwest. Russian black bread sounds very, very hearty!

    Thanks again I appreciate it — have a happy holiday!

  • Thanks! The dough goes straight from the fridge, to my peel for scoring (as shown in the picture) and then right into the oven — I bake them from cold.

  • flour_dusted

    All I have to say…perfect loaf and beautiful write up! I always look forward to reading your posts and thank you for all your hard work you put into this blog!!

    • You’re very welcome, glad to have you along! Thanks for the kind words and have a happy holidays!

  • John Ferrari

    I will be trying this one in the AM. Hey isn’t Giusto and Central milling the same company? Also thinking about Pandoro, instead of Pannetone. Any suggestions on making 50 grams of sour starter sweet? I am going to wing it from there, using your methods, with some Carol Fields inspiration. Your the best!

    • Thanks, John! Yes, there is some connection there between Giusto and CM, I think one of them started the other, not sure which way went where. Either way, amazing flour from both! To make the starter sweet, I’d say you need to feed often, keep it liquid, and when feeding carryover as little as possible mature starter. Make sure you let it ferment enough to fully colonize the new food/water, but you want to feed before high levels of acidity build up. Pandoro, THAT is my favorite. Next year… next year. I already have too many baking “projects” for this next week 🙂 Cheers John & happy holidays to you and your family.

  • Jon (jonno_r on instagram)

    What can I say! – Fantastic as always. I will be sure to try your variations soon! Merry Christmas to you and yours – I look forward to sharing Seasonal baking endeavours! Best Regards,

    Jon

    • Thank you so much Jon, much appreciated! Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂 Ciao!

  • Sherry Buckner

    ‘Excessive”!?! That can not be! Such attention and passion is the mark of an artist…of one born to do his/her work. I came to this passion late in life, already in a wheelchair but before my arms became disabled as well. Not being able to to do these wonderful steps is definitely mediated by reading about and seeing your bread. Thank you…thank you!

    • Wow, very heartfelt words, thank you so much. I do feel a calling towards bread, I’m lucky I have the time to heed it! Thanks again for the comments and I hope you and your family have a great Christmas holiday!

  • Roberto Torelli

    Great loafs, when you score you go deep? Is better a flour not very strong?

    • I do score fairly deep, about 1/2″ or so, but the blade rather shallow to the dough. Imagine cutting under a thick piece of paper. The Giusto’s flour I used for this bake is not overly strong, probably 11-12% protein. Thanks!

  • Thank you for the comments! Yes, instead of heavy mixing I find it much easier to do stretch and folds, and the crumb will open up a bit more as a result. Taking time off for your son is a valid excuse 🙂 Thanks again for the comments and have a great holiday!

  • Jerry

    I have the two loafs in the fridge and will bake them tomorrow. I have to say it was a lot of work to get this far. I followed your directions the best I could. Hopefully I didn’t screw anything up and the bread comes out good. The high hydration was a challenge. I used the only flour I had in the house which is King Arthur bread and whole wheat. I’m hoping they can handle the hydration. I like a long overnight ferment. It adds so much flavor, Hoping for the best. Merry Christmas

    • Sounds like you’re well on your way! King Arthur flour should be able to handle it, if not just reduce some next time and see how it goes. This bread is a bit of extra work but I believe it’s worth it! Good luck, let me know how it turns out!

  • Steven Seed

    Beautiful cumb. I strive for a crumb like that. I don’t think I read in your post, do you allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking or just go straight from the refrigerator to the oven?

    • Thank you, Steven! I bake all my sourdough straight from the fridge.

      • Brendan Coen

        Right on!! Answer to my question!
        Thank you for the amazing blog Maurizio!

  • Kerry

    I love seeing your posts, am about to try my first ever sourdough loaf tomorrow. Have been having fun with my starter. May I ask- what size Bannetons do you use for your loaves? thanks for your fantastic site.

    • Thanks and good luck! Once your starter is up and running it really becomes like a part of the family. I have some listed on my baking tools page, but the ones listed here are 9″ long by 4″ wide. Hope that helps and thanks for the comments!

  • Jerry

    Just took them out of the oven and they look and smell great. I’m going to save these for Christmas dinner since I won’t have time to bake again this week. I’m surprised they came out as good as they did. I’m new to bread baking and the high hydration was a challenge. I expected the bread to be flat with little to no rise. They really didn’t look that good going into the fridge last night. I baked them in my Dutch oven for about 45 minute total bake time.
    Hopefully they taste as good as they look. I wish I could post a couple of photos. Thanks for the step by step instructions.
    Jerry

    • Excellent! Looks can definitely be deceiving with this loaf, especially before they go into the oven. Glad your bake was successful, I’m sure they are going to taste great. You’re welcome and have a great holiday!

  • Hi Leo, you do keep the dough covered during the bulk, right . . . between the 6 stretch and fold times? What do you find is the best method for covering dough? Are you aiming for a really tight cover? Last week for the first time I used the top of my Lodge baker and it was so much easier not to mention I think it helped the dough.

    • Sue — yes I keep the dough covered during the entire bulk fermentation. I use plastic bowl covers with elastic to cover my bulk container (these things are amazing) — they are kind of like shower caps, really easy to take on and off.

      Yes, those Lodge combo cookers are awesome! Happy baking 🙂

  • oops, I called you Leo, sorry . . . Maurizio!

  • Tom

    Maurizio, nice write-up. I have a couple of loaves going in tomorrow morning. Do you preheat the dutch ovens?

    • Tom, thank you! Yes preheat the Dutch ovens for the full time as your normal oven. haply baking!

  • talka

    Woo-hoo! Thank you Maurizio! I just made my best bread ever! I’ve been following your posts for at least 6 or more months as well as working with what works in my kitchen (with the fluctuating temperatures of British Columbia). So I used a 50% fresh milled flour with some of your tweeks from this post ( different times for each step and the equal levain ratios), plus a much longer preheat of my oven – and I was happy to have my best bread ever to share with my whole family for Christmas Eve! …. off now to replicate another batch for tomorrow 😉 –
    Natalka

    • Natalka – excellent! Really awesome to hear this. I’m glad you kept with it for a long while, it sounds like your practice (and some of these tips) have paid off 🙂 Fluctuating temperatures can be tricky to deal with, I’ll typically use my oven as an insulating chamber to try and keep the dough at a somewhat consistent temperature. Just keep it in there (with it off!) and maybe a light on inside, I’ll also keep my ambient temperature thermometer in there just to keep an eye on things.

      Thanks for the comments and happy holidays!

  • Karen

    Gorgeous loaf and beautiful photos.

  • Trevor

    Hey Maurizio – How much do you expect your levain to grow before it’s ready?

    • Hard to say an exact height, really. It definitely more than doubles, but I pay attention to other signs just as much: the smell, whether there are streaks on the sides indicating it’s started to fall, and if you jiggle just a bit the feedback you get when it jiggles. When fermentation is starting to go quite far you’ll notice a more acidic smell and you’ll get quite a bit more “jiggle” in the container as things begin to breakdown. Hope that helps!

  • marcelo duraes

    Hello Maurizio!! First of all, thank you for sharing this amazing post with us! I’m just started my proccess but please note that I’m sligtly confused on the step 5 – Bulk Fermentation – If we perform 6 sets of stretch and folds starting on 15 minutes the first three steps we got a total of 45 minutes. Them the final three steps on 30 minutes intervals each one is about 90 minutes total. It means that we have 45 + 90 minutes the 6 sets – total 2 hours and 25 minutes. You mention about 4 hours. Does it mean that I have to let the dough rest the remaining time? Can you please clarify? Thank you very much from Brazil!

    • Marcelo, you’re very welcome! You are correct, after your last set of stretch & fold you let the dough rest, untouched, for the remainder of bulk fermentation. You are essentially strengthening your dough in the beginning, until is is “strong enough”, and then you let it rest and build up gases inside to aerate your dough. It’s important to give the dough at least 1 full hour untouched at the end of bulk fermentation.

      Happy baking!

  • marcelo duraes

    Ola Maurizio!! Thank you so much for your reply! I just had to antecipate the dough for an hour in the refrigerator due to hot weather in Sao Paulo. It is about 30 degrees here. I really loved your recipe since the quality of flour is pour and the maximum hidratation we can get here is about 60% but on your technics I got 75%. Cheers!! Again, I’m grateful for your help. Best wishes for the coming year! Happy Baking in 2016 :))

    • You’re quite welcome Marcelo! That IS hot, whew. Glad it turned out so well and I hope to hear from you again soon — Happy New year!

  • bonnie rekers

    Well, just blew the whole day of working your perfect bread recipe….blew a blast of heat in the oven and walked off, then heard the beep that the oven reached temp….350 thank you very much. Start again tomorrow….

    • Ah darn! Well think of it as a learning exercise 😉 Let me know how it goes!

  • Ha, true words! Thanks for the comments and I’m glad the recipe has worked out so well for you. Cheers from across the globe 🙂

  • Justin Fulton

    Hi Maurizio,
    Been following your techniques for a while now, and I’m glad to see you’ve perfected your Sourdough Recipe. I’m in my bulk build right now as I write this lol. Cold proof has always been a challenge for me, perhaps because I don’t let it go long enough? I usually cold proof in an AC’d room a bit higher temp than 40 deg F. I want to make the fridge thing work today though as I need to slow the process down a bit due to schedule conflicts. My question (finally) is this, do you bring the dough out and let it come to temp on the counter while the oven warms up, or do you pull the loaves cold from the fridge and put them straight into the pre-warmed oven?

    • Justin – thanks! I’ve noticed that my fridge is a bit cold at 38ºF, and that’s why I let the dough rest out a bit before placing in there overnight. If you’re doing a little over 40ºF then it might be ok, it all really depends on how much activity you’re seeing before you place into the fridge. If it doesn’t look super active, bubbly, jiggly, then let it sit out for 20-40 minutes before you toss into the fridge. Try to push fermentation as far as you can, just before the dough looks “weak” and super bubbly. Over time you’ll be able to kind of tell when you’re going too far in the fridge or on the counter. Try to keep as many things consistent while doing this as possible! This way you can really focus on fermentation.

      I do not take the dough out to rest before baking, I bake straight from the fridge. You can take the dough out if you’d like and let it ferment a bit farther before baking, but I find it harder to score the dough when it’s warm (the dough gets softer).

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions! Cheers from the US!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Hi Maurizio, love this technique. I am currently playing with my new Mockmill stone grinder that is an attatchment to Kitchenaid/Hobart. I will try your method on my next batch of bread with freshly ground wheat. I noticed you have the wood pulp baskets for proofing..how do you like those? Also..I have the same Shun serrated knife..it is kept seperate from all my other knives and used ONLY for bread. It is one sharp mother! Thank you for this lovely informative site! Cathy

    • Awesome, thanks for the comments! Fresh milled flour… what a revelation that is, don’t you think? Just incredible.

      I really like the wood pulp bannetons, they are very nice. My dough has yet to stick to the sides of one of these, they’re magic.

      And yes, NO ONE touches my Shun knife, except me 🙂 Not only because I love it so much but also because you could easily lop a finger off without even noticing!

      Thanks again for the kind words, happy baking Cathy!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Just curious if you sift your fresh milled flour? I am playing with sifting vs non sifted…I just bought a stainless size 50/55 stainless sifter from bread topia. It produced almost white flour. I have various other sifters so I can vary how I want my flour.

    • I do, sometimes. It depends on what type of bread I’m after. I bought a set from Korin.com a while ago, #35, #50 and #65 screens — really nice set. It can be quite a bit of work to do the sifting but it’s worth it for the flavor of the fresh flour!

  • David Peyton

    Thank you, Maurizio, by following your suggestions I have finally created the sourdough loaf that reminds me of the San Francisco sourdough I grew up with. Each time I make it now I do one variation to see how the bread changes… last loaf was my rye starter and whole rye flour in place of the whole wheat. 🙂

  • jinal contractor

    Revisited this post again after rereading tartine no 3 and Now its time to test my learning ? Thanks a bunch over on Instagram for all your guidance. You have The perfect loaf and I dream for one after each bake for the next ☺️

    • Sometimes a re-read of an old book can bring insight! You’re very welcome, let me know how it goes!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Just also wanted to share that I used my mockmill to grind some rice for my own rice flour for bannetons and flouring wood peels. With the Mockmill at its finest setting, I noticed it a bit more grainy than the purchased rice flour..but still did a good job keeping things non stick…and on another topic I would like to ask you,when you use the hard white wheat that you milled for bread if you sifted that at all, or do you use the whole shabang?

    • That’s a great idea, I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do that. I use very little rice flour, but why not mill my own?

      It depends on what I’m after. If I want a proper whole wheat loaf then I won’t sift at all. If I want to have a lighter, more white loaf then I will sift using one of my screens to get the desired extraction. I’ve done both in the past, either way works really great. I like the taste of fresh milled whole wheat (no sifting, the whole thing), it’s fantastic.

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Ok…One more thing to share…I used a seedling mat under my bowl with dough or my sourdough/levain if the kitchen is cold…while it doesn’t heat it up a lot, it does offer some gentle heat to keep things going. I have also lifted the sides of the mat to envelop the bowl as well…?

    • That’s a great idea. Funny you should say that, I actually built a pretty “rugged” proof box with a Coleman cooler that has a seedling mat at the bottom, it works really well! I’ve since moved on to the Brod & Taylor proofer (highly recommended), but that cooler works pretty darn well! I should post my construction steps on that actually… Thanks for the tips!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    Hi! Im currently using a sourdough starter recipe that i got from red star yeast website. Can i use that one for the levain?

    • I’m not familiar with that website but yes, that will work just fine I’m sure! As long as it’s active (rising and falling predictably) you’re good to go.

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Thanks so much Maurizio! I will try it again today. We are having a bread overdose here at home hahah

        • This is a good problem to have 🙂 You’re welcome!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    I have another question, I made this recipe and mine turned out really sticky. Im in the Philippines and it’s a bit warmer here. Do i need to adjust something?

    • Was the crumb inside sticky? If this is the case it might be a sign that you have not fully baked the loaf. You can always test for doneness with your bread by inserting a thermometer in your bread and make sure it’s around 210ºF. The interior should not be gummy or sticky. It should be nice and tender with moistness to it. Additionally, make sure you let the loaves sit for a bit (1-2 hours is perfect) before cutting into them!

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Okay i think i should go buy a thermometer. Hmm another thing, when do I start the folding? 1st hour or anytime during the four hours?

        • Yes you can bake straight from the fridge — this is what I always do. You definitely should get a thermometer. Start thinking about temperature of the dough as an ingredient in the recipe, take note of temperatures, and see how your dough reacts. It is very, very important!

          I like to start the first fold 15 to 30 mins after mixing. You can really do it any time, but you want to leave the dough for at least 1 hour at the end to ferment untouched.

          • Kevin Smith

            I’m having the same issue with the crumb being sticky, but I get a dark brown color on the outside. I also have the issue of the bottom of the loaf having holes after it’s baked. Any thoughts?

            • At high hydrations like this your crumb will be more moist inside, for sure. Definitely make sure you do a full and complete bake to ensure all the water is baked out of your loaf (bread temperature on the inside should be around 210-212ºF when finished).

              If the exterior of your loaf is baking too fast you could lower the temperature of your oven at the second half of the bake, say to 435, and try baking it for a longer time.

              I’ve seen little holes on the bottom before, and it’s just the nature of how the dough is shaped and the gas pockets that form. For me it’s never been too excessive, though. You could try to make sure when you shape the bottom of your loaf has a nice seal to it (meaning when you fold the dough over the sides touch and form a single piece).

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Can i bake it right after taking out the fridge?

  • alan

    Awesome writeup and pictures! Desperately trying to mimic :). I’m on my second try and could use any input – first one fell flat for possibly many reasons, flavor good but I think overhydrated and just ended up with ultra dense crumb but flavor was amazing. I’m at the end of the bulk phase but my dough still doesn’t look like yours. I’m using AP flour (reduced water by 30g this time) and temperature here is probably closer to 70 than 80. The post-bulk dough has some big bubbles but still seems too wet compared to yours. Am I possibly still using too much water or do you think I might still need more time in the bulk phase due to temperature?

    • alan

      Should add that it doesn’t seem like the dough has really risen much during the bulk phase. Just shows some gas bubbles.

      • Thanks! Definitely possible you’re over-hydrating your dough. I would suggest cutting back to 75% hydration, see how the dough feels then, and work up from there. If you over-hydrate the dough will not be able to hold on to gasses and will just look like soup.

        Your dough should definitely rise during bulk, 30% at least, with lots of bubbles on top and around the sides. If this isn’t happening, even at 75% hydration, then it could be that your starter isn’t strong enough or stable enough. First try dialing back hydration and then see how it behaves. Let me know how it goes!

        • alan

          Quick update for future viewers, I worked on a few things all at the same time: stronger starter, more aggressive S&H for gluten development early in bulk, and cut hydration back to 75% (I’m using a weaker AP flour). Made one loaf that night after a ‘warm’ proof (gf wanted some that night) and baked the other after a nice cold proof. Both turned out Amazing with a great crust and soft/chewey/open crumb. Thanks for the photos and writeups!

          • Thanks for the update, really appreciate that! Sounds like you’re dialing things in just right for your flour — perfect! I’m constantly adjusting the hydration depending on what flour I source, an important step for sure.

            Happy baking, Alan!

  • Scott Schmidt

    Hi Maurizio-

    Looking at the pictures here, I can’t quite tell what type of bannetons you use. Are they cane with linen liners, or are they something else that mimics a lined cane banneton? In the photos, it appears that they are lined because the cane is not distinctly visible, yet the rim appears to be flat and uniform in appearance, which would not indicate that a liner is wrapped over it. Perhaps you could link me to the exact item you use. The reason I ask is that I have started to used unlined cane bannetons in order to achieve a “striped” loaf appearance, but even when dusting with a fine rice flour, I still sometimes get some dough sticking. When I use the liners, I don’t get any sticking, but I of course sacrifice the desired stripes.

    By the way, you might remember that I was previously living in London, but I have now moved back to the US, which means that I have been able to try the Giustos flours. They have greatly improved the quality of my loaves.

    Regards-

    Scott Schmidt
    Bainbridge Island, WA

    • Scott — The bannetons I used here, and find myself using more and more, are these wood pulp bannetons. I don’t use a liner, just a light dusting of white rice flour. I find that even my highly hydrated loaves have yet to stick to the sides of these.

      Glad you’re enjoying Giusto’s flour, and welcome back to the US! I really love their product, not only the taste but the performance is really great.

      Happy baking!

      • Paul Kunkel

        Hi Maurizio, Great stuff. Thanks! Question on these oval wood pulp bannetons. The link goes to some pretty small baskets (9″x4″). Is this what you meant? Seems to small for 900g of dough each. I want to try these, but looking to be sure to get the right size. Thanks again.

        • Paul, yup those are the bannetons! They are quite long and easily fit 800-900g of dough for me. The pictures in this post are using those bannetons with about that same amount of dough!

  • Marco Gramaccioni

    Hay man your pics and process are fantastic!
    Just 2 question…

    1) when u leave the dough rising for 4 hours, during this period u do stretch and fold? Every stretch and fold is made of 2 actions ( i mean s&f on one side then turn the dough and s&f to the other side)?

    2) When u cook the bread, do you do it from fridge directly to the oven? Or do u leave it at r.t. any minutes?

    Thx have a good day!
    Marco

    • Thanks I appreciate that!

      1) Yes, for this bread perform 6 sets of stretch and folds during bulk. The first three are at 15 minute intervals, and the last 3 are at 30 minute intervals.

      2) I bake the bread directly from the fridge. I don’t let it rest at all, just straight from fridge to oven!

      Thanks again and happy baking, Marco!

      • Marco Gramaccioni

        Hi Maurizio and thx for your kind reply!
        I’m not sure I correctly understood point n.1…

        If u do 4 hours rising how do u plan the s&f?

        (15 rest time) 1st s&f + (15 rest time) 2nd s&f + (15 rest time) 3rd s&f +(30 rest time) 4th s&f +(30 rest time) 5th s&f +(30 rest time) 6th s&f
        but the total is = 2hrs and 15min…

        Thx again.
        M.

        • Yes, that’s exactly correct! The rest of the time (about 1 hour and 45 minutes) you just let the dough rest in bulk — no more stretch and folds.

          • Danny Jauregui

            I’m in the middle of following this recipe and so far I love how this dough feels! I was confused about the bulk ferment time also…wouldn’t hurt to update the recipe and add that last 1 hr 45min rest bulk. Anyways, just discovered your blog and l really love it.

            • Great to hear! Ok, I’ll update the post with those details — thanks guys for the feedback!

              • Danny Jauregui

                My loafs are out of the oven and I have to say this recipe is a game changer for me. I’ve been struggling through the Tartine recipe for the last two years producing mediocre loafs that tasted great but didn’t have the soft texture and open crumb that I yearned for and on my first try with your recipe I finally achieved that! The crumb is open with large irregular holes and the texture is silky and almost creamy soft. Flavor is also fantastic. This has just become my go-to bread recipe! Thanks so much for posting this!

                • That’s really great to hear, glad it’s working out so well for ya! What you describe is exactly what I’m after with this recipe, perfect! Thanks for the comments and happy baking, Danny!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    I made a terrible mistake! I mixed the salt before adding the levain. Is there anything I can do?

    • Not a problem: just add the levain in at the same time and go forward with it! Hope this isn’t too late…

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Thanks so much Maurizio! You are helping me alot. Im already selling my stuff here where I live. It’s amazing they love artisan bread! I never thought it would be such a hit here. I owe you this one

        • You’re welcome — that’s really great to hear! I think once people have “real bread” they can’t ever go back!

  • Joshua

    I just prepared my leavin and I switched the flours to Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat and Heirloom Einkhorn and the consistency is identical to when I feed it (able to be piled up in the middle of the jar). the recipe calls for “liquid” leavin and I’m wondering if the more viscous consistency of mine will have an affect further down the process.

    Also resorting to baking the future boulets in a cast iron dutch oven. Any advice on that would be much appreciated as well.

    Thanks so much for the wonderfully detailed and captured information.

  • slothbear

    Getting ready to make a batch of this dough. I came across your recipe a few weeks ago, tried it out, and my family loved it. Going to try for double the recipe and hold the dough in the fridge while pulling out enough for a loaf every other day. It worked out well in my cast iron loaf pan, nice crust all around.

    • Sounds like a great idea. Glad my recipe has worked out so well for you guys! I love hearing that. Happy baking!

  • Kim

    Hi!
    I would like to know what changes there would be to the recipe if I was to bake this as one loaf instead two.
    thank you

    • Hi, Kim! Just halve the entire recipe (take all the weights in the mix and divide by 2). I would suggest, though, that you keep the “Levain Build” at the same quantities (so still make 175g total levain, but only use 150/2 = 75g in your mix). It’s useful to have a levain build that has a little extra than what you end up using, just in case you’re not able to use your levain at the right time, it’ll still have food to consume before it becomes too acidic.
      Happy baking!

  • Tania

    Any considerations for high altitudes? How would you modify this recipe for 3500 feet above sea level? Thank you

    • Tania — I live at 5280 ft above sea level so everything you see posted here on my site is baked at that altitude. I really don’t believe you’ll need to modify anything!

      • Tania

        Thank you. I was surprised at how well I could handle the wet dough. It was easier than my 72% hydration because it was really nice and airy by the end of the bulk fermentation. I see now that I never let it ferment for the 4 hours and how it makes a big difference. I experimented with 8-hour long autolyze (just flour+water) but my bread didn’t have enough oven spring. I should’ve found your blog earlier. This recipe and method is great!

        • Thanks, I really appreciate that! Sounds like you’re definitely on your way to making some awesome sourdough 🙂

  • Razing Orange

    With the exception of implementing a few techniques acquired from Ken Forkish’s book (like working the dough from start to finish in a 12qt. tub) and using locally available flours, I baked this recipe(today) as instructed. The results were Amazing. Crunchy crust, chewy crumb, great flavor, and giant, glorious air pockets. I had half a dozen people, who are accustomed to sampling my “bread experiments” say this was the best yet. Up until now I’ve only baked from a poolish. This was my first natural levain bread and I couldn’t be happier!
    One thing to note to other first time natural levain bakers… Having used instant yeast for every bake up until this point, I’m use to seeing my dough double or triple in size while proofing. This was not the case today and I was worried I had messed it up. After retarding for 16 hours at 40 degrees, my dough rose maybe 20-30%. However, after 20 minutes at 500 degrees, the dough doubled in size and when cut into later, many 1/2″-3/4″ diameter air pockets were scattered throughout the slice.
    As Iv’e said, this loaf was fun to bake, delicious to eat and I can’t wait to do it again. I only wish I could figure out how to bake it on a work day.

    • MelB

      Couldn’t agree more! This was my 2nd attempt making bread without commercial yeast and ditto to everything that you wrote! I was super nervous that the dough didn’t rise like I was used to, but just took out gorgeous, puffy loaves from the oven! Cooling now!

    • Thanks so much for the feedback, sounds like your baking some awesome bread at home! I have little experience with commercial yeast but yes, I’d expect there to be quite a number of differences. I’m glad the recipe turned out well for you, this really is the bread I go to time and time again — it’s just delicious!

      For baking on a work day I typically do most things at night. I build my levain in the morning and then mix right when I get home, bulk in the evening and then retard somewhat late. If you do this on a Friday then you can bake Saturday morning/afternoon after the dough has proofed. Just a thought!

      Thanks again for the comments and happy baking!

  • MelB

    @ThePerfectLoaf – thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge!! Absolutely LOVE your site and just took 2 beautiful loaves out of the oven after following your advice! Thank you Thank you Thank you!

    • I replied below but thank you for the kind words! You’re very welcome, glad my site and recipes have been helping you make awesome bread at home 🙂

  • Lilach Lilaz Davidoff

    Hello Mauriziu. I am very happy to have discovered your beautiful blog. Thank you for it. As I read through it, I ran to the kitchen to start the process of making yout perfect loaf. I am so very happy with the results. It is the first time i have been baking 2 loaves at a time (at home) and without covering the loaves. I would like to post the fotos of the loaves, but I dont know how..The only odd thing that happened is that one of the loaves came out unbelivably beautiful, but the other, which was made from the exact same batch, didnt come up so nice:) maybe its my cutting, my oven.. Did you ever had this kind of an experience? Thank you very much. I will keep baking your recipes one by one!!

    • Thanks Lilach, I appreciate the comments! There are definitely many factors that could lead to the difference between the two loaves: different shaping, rising baskets, and of course the score in the morning. I definitely have had that experience, each loaf seems to take on a life of its own at the end — it’s beautiful and expected 🙂 Consistency is one of the hardest things in baking, takes a lot of practice!

      Happy baking 🙂

  • Brandon Pierce

    Wow! Great pictures! Just wondering, have you experimented with a retarded bulk fermentation? I don’t have time to do a 4 hour bulk, can I do it in the fridge? Thanks!

    • Thanks, Brandon! I have done a retarded bulk with pizza dough but have yet to do it with my sourdough loaves. I do plan on experimenting with it more. You should be able to retard your bulk with no problem, just watch the dough after 10 hours or so and see how it’s developing. You can take it out of the fridge after that time, preshape and shape with a final proof in baskets. Once the dough is then ready, bake it. I hope that helps!

  • weedrea

    Do you ever do the second rise of 4 hours, not in the fridge?

    • You can certainly do that! I prefer the longer, colder proof overnight to develop complexity and the type of sourdough I’m after. A proof on the counter works really well, though!

  • Eduardo Navarro

    Hello Maurizio,
    First off all congratulations for your blog! I’m baking for a while some Tartine (Chad R. recipes) loaves with 70 to 75% Hydration, and didn’t getting too much holes or oven spring. Then I found your blog and I accepted the challenge of 86% hydration. I changed some steps to fit your recommendations like longer autolyse and mixing. Everything was doing well until the end of bulk fermentation. After mix #2 and S&F steps, as recommended, the dough was wet but I could work. After four hours by the end of bulk fermentation the dough was really soak, very wet and no strength at all. The temperature was stable at 79F and the Humidity around 50%. I am using a French Flour – Bagatelle T65 with 11,5% protein 90% and 10% with local whole wheat Flour.
    Could you help me understand what happens? Maybe the flour can not holds as much hydration? Thank you!

    • Eduardo, thanks for the comments! Yes, it sounds like your flour is not able to go quite as high with hydration. You could try this same recipe again with perhaps 10% lower hydration and see how your flour handles it, if it does well slowly increase water each bake until you get to the taste/texture you are after. Each flour has its relative hydration level it can take on and adjustments are needed not only on a flour-by-flour basis but sometimes with each sack of the same flour! Constantly adjusting 🙂

      Hope that helps — happy baking!

      • Eduardo Navarro

        Great Thanks!
        More protein more hydration? This is correct to say? Thank you!

        • You’re welcome! No that’s not necessarily true, protein isn’t an indicator for water absorption. However, higher hydration means you’ll need to strengthen your dough appropriately!

          • Eduardo Navarro

            OK Thanks again!!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    Hi again Maurizio! This has always puzzled me. How do you make starters by bulk? Like when you have a bakery or something? You have to have kilos of starter noh? But recipe for starters are maybe just 500g or less at the end. How can you make more? Let’s say 1500 g of starter?

    • I’ve never worked in a situation where I’ve needed that much levain, but it should be the same process as creating one in your home, just at a larger scale. If you needed 1500g levain for a bake you’d still use the same percentage of ingredients, just the quantity would be higher.

      If you needed something like 1500g of levain for a bake you’d only need a small portion of mature starter to make that happen, for this recipe you’d only need like 300g mature starter to build a 1500g levain (I have spreadsheets to calculate all this out). So my point is you just make it the same but all the quantities are higher (percentages are the same). If you don’t have enough mature starter to make that levain then you might have to increase the amount of flour/water you give your starter the night before to ramp it up and ensure you’ll have enough.

      I hope that makes sense!

  • Casey

    Hello! I am a pastry chef by profession. I have tried this recipe twice, and each time, I have had giant air pockets at the top,of my finished loaves. I first attributed that to not enough to gluten formation to hold the gas, however, the second batch had more gluten development, and even larger air pockets. (Like…the entire top of the loaf.). My next instinct is to decrease the water (therefore decreasing the steam),but I wanted to know what your thoughts were. ( it is almost like I have made a hybrid bread/cream puff dough when these loaves are baked) I am using King Arthur flour at the moment.

    • That’s very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like that happen. Are you performing your turns during bulk as described in the writeup above? I’m wondering if you’re dough might be sitting and developing large pockets that are never re-distributed. Another suggestion would be to try and degas your dough just a tiny, tiny bit at shape time to help squish some of those larger bubbles. Just lightly tap down on the dough from top to bottom when you’re shaping.

      Other than that I’m kind of at a loss why you’d get these holes more than once in the same area…

      • Casey

        Yes, I am doing everything according to the directions. To the point that I am setting alarms. (Obsessive, yes.) Haha. Especially the second time, because the first time did not produce the results that I was seeking. I have had success with many high hydration bulk stretch and fold doughs in the past. When I am shaping the dough, I am shaping in boules, so…I am degassing pretty much entirely, working it into a taught boule. The dough is quite slack, which was to be expected, but not unworkable. I will try again. Maybe I need to go less than the 15-16 hr. Final rest in the cooler. I will also take a look at the steam I am incorporating and perhaps use less, so that the crust sets sooner. (I have access to steam injected ovens with the push of a button.). Meh. I should take a picture, but the crust rises from the crumb on the top of the loaf like pita bread, and leaves a good two inches of crumb in the bottom. Kinda awesome for sandwiches. :). Always tastes amazing. Best tasting bread I have had, and as such will keep baking it until I find out what’s going wrong. Thank you for sharing the recipe, and thank you for responding.

        • Glad it tasted great, at least! Any chance the dough is overproofing? Were there any dense areas in the dough? I’ve seen some loaves that underproof with large pockets and other areas that are quite dense.

          • Casey

            I suppose that it is possible that they are overproofing. I never checked the temp of the cooler, perhaps it’s running a little warm. The pockets in the rest of the crumb were nice, and a lot like what are in your photos, just with big holes above. I will start the dough again tomorrow, and make a couple of adjustments. (Only regarding shortening the final cold proof and the steam in baking). I will let you know, if you’re interested! Baking troubleshooting is fun for me anyway. (I once spent 6 months perfecting macarons, 3 months with croissants, and another four working on the perfect 80% hydration baguette.). And all that after baking all day at work. I have that kind of mind (the slightly crazy kind). Thanks again!

            • Definitely interested to hear how it works out! Trust me, I know what it’s like to work like crazy on a baking endeavor 🙂 While I’m not a professional I’m either planning my next bake or baking late at night! One of my next ventures is going to be croissants… It’ll be a challenge, just as bread as been, but I’m excited. Keep me posted on the next attempt!

              • Casey

                Well, I figured out my problem. Too much steam in the oven. It allowed the crust to expand too long after the crumb inside started to set, giving all that air a big, open space to occupy. I have baked without the giant hole problem twice now. I also have been leaving out 55 grams of water, and find my current flour to be able to handle less liquid a tad better. (I have an artisan flour I plan to try, hopefully it can hold more water than King Arthur.)

                Thank you for this awesome recipe!

                -Casey

                • Wow that’s very interesting — I guess in a home oven it’s pretty hard to have too much steam, I feel like I’m constantly fighting the vents in my oven. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate that!

                  You’re welcome and happy baking, Casey!

  • Mandy

    I reccommend fooling around with sourdough brioche and whey sourdough. Pretty cool. (or sourdough whey brioche)

    • I’ve made brioche a few times but based it on the recipe found in Tartine, they use a mixture of sourdough and instant yeast. I’ve love to try a full sourdough version! Thanks for the suggestions, might be time to revisit that.

  • Christopher Kolon

    Just baked off two loaves that were based on this recipe. Second time I did this recipe and both times the results were impressive. There was one difference I can’t quite figure out. On this go round the crust was nice and thin with a slight crackle, but it was really more soft and chewy than crisp and crackly. The first time I did the recipe I had that great crackly crust. At that time I could hear the bread crust crackle as it cooled, this time not so much. I’m thinking it might be one of two things: 1) I let it steam a little too long or 2) the hydration was too high. The dough was really wet when I loafed it, but it had good gluten development and plenty of gassy holes. I think it was where it was supposed to be as to the bulk fermentation. The Bread had ok ovenspring but because of the wet dough it expanded more outward rather than upward.

    By the way, from appearance, the crust lookd identical to the first time, much like your photos. It just wasnt as crisp as I would have liked. Any ideas? Again, thanks for the fantastic blog.

    • Hey, Christopher! I would guess that the second time hydration was just a tad too high, especially if you didn’t quite get the rise you’re used to. It could also be over proofed, but if the interior was nice and open I tend to side with over-hydrated.

      You could try cracking your oven door open the last 2-4 minutes of your bake to really get that dry heat in the oven, that also helps build a little more crunch in the crust towards the end.

      That’s my two cents! Hope it helps, sounds like your bread is turning out fantastic, though!

  • Sushi Cat

    I’m really excited that I found your blog on my journey to sourdough baking! I do have a question though: after the overnight proofing, do you let your dough get to room temperature or do you bake it straight out of the fridge?

    • Glad to have you along, thanks for the comment! I like to bake the dough straight from the fridge, I don’t let it warm up unless I feel it needs more time to ferment at room temperature (not often). Hope that helps!

  • Aaron

    Hi! I know you’re measuring in grams, but–when a recipe asks for so many “cups” of starter, is it referring to stirred-down starter or un-disturbed starter? Thank you so much!

    • That’s one reason to use weights 🙂 I like to stir down my levain before using it. You’re welcome and happy baking, Aaron!

  • Christopher Kolon

    Hi, Maurizio. I have a question mainly about appearance. My loaves have turned out well: nice airy holes, brown shiny crust, decent oven spring. But when my loaves expand in the oven they don’t push the crust up at the places I scored them. So the crust doesn’t form “ears” or have a sort of 3D appearance. It’s rather flat. I thought maybe the dough was too hydrated, but this last batch definitely wasn’t. I follow your recipe pretty closely. I don’t know – could it be my fridge is too cold, the oven temp isn’t right? There are just so many possibilities. Any ideas?

    • There are quite a few things that could cause this. I’d first start with perhaps you’re not building a tight enough skin on the dough when you’re shaping. You want to make sure your loaf is shaped tight enough so that when you toss it into the oven it rises and has nowhere to expand except the area you scored, if that makes sense.

      Make sure your score is deep, but not too deep to where the loaf collapses at the score site. Try to do an angle to it, so the blade is almost parallel with the dough, this will ensure it “peels back” when you bake, and it helps to lift the loaf a little more.

      If your dough is not active enough you wont get explosive spring needed at bake time. Check the interior of these loaves, are they super dense with little aeration? If so you might not be fermenting enough OR you’re over proofing too much. Usually it’s the first case.

      Other than that, it’s what you said, it might be too highly hydrated. It sounds like you’ve eliminated that possibility though.

      I hope those suggestions help! Try one at a time and see if things improve, it can sometimes be hard to narrow things down when there are so many variables!

  • Aaron

    Quick question regarding creating my levain: if my just-unfridged-and-fed starter takes about six hours to quadruple in size, is that about how long my levain should be proofed before incorporating into my dough? Basically, until it is at the peak of its activity?

    • Aaron — yes that’s exactly what I look for, that peak. Keep in mind, though, if your levain uses more whole grains that time period will decrease (and vice versa if you use more white flour).

    • Aaron

      Awesome. After a month of waiting (created my own starter–it is strong!), I’m finally doing my 1st bake this weekend. Wish me luck. Thanks!

  • Aaron

    Hopefully last question. I am confused about something. My starter becomes fully active in only about 3 hours. If I was to create my levain the night before I plan to mix the levain with the dough, my levain would have already reached its peak and receded when it came time for mixing. It wouldn’t be fully active anymore. Why do so many people say to make your levain the night before mixing? On the other hand, if I activate my starter in the morning, then make my levain, then wait and mix, I am shaping late, at 10 pm. So, does it really matter if my levain has peaked and receded already when I mix the dough? Then I could make it the night before. Thank you!

    • You’ll need to adjust the percentage of starter you put in your levain mix to change the time it takes for it to mature. For example, if you want to let it ferment overnight, and not peak till the morning, you can do something like only 20% starter to 100% flour to 100% water. This lower percentage of starter causes fermentation to take several more hours than if you were to use 50% or even more.

      Hope that helps!

      • Aaron

        That makes sense. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth Hultman

    I’m trying this recipe for the first time; wondering if I don’t want to retard for 15 hours in frig, how long should/could this second proof take? 2 to 3 hrs like other recipes I’ve seen? Thanks in advance! -Beth

    • It depends on how you’re doing is progressing through bulk… I’d say at about 72-75ºF somewhere around 3-4 hours should work. Try the “poke test” as it’s proofing on the counter after a couple hours and see how the dough responds. Once you bake this way a few times you’ll learn how your dough responds to the ambient temperature and what looks ready to bake.

      Hope that helps!

  • Jerry

    I finished mixing up this dough at midnight and will be baking it around 3:00pm. I made this once before and it was a great tasting bread hope this one comes out great also

    I cant remember if i baked it right out of the fridge or if i let it come up to room temp while the oven was heating up. Think ill put ut in directly from the fridge

    Jerry

    • Awesome! Straight from the fridge is how I always do it 🙂

  • Jerry

    Well I just took it out of the oven. Smells great and I cant wait to cut into it. Not to happy about the lack of oven spring. It rose but not like the other I made several months ago. I think I over proofed it. My fault trying to put it together late in the day, taking the wife to dinner, and I believe the levain was to warm during its ferment time.
    It is a little hard dealing with the high hydration dough but since making my first bread 4 months ago I’ve learned a lot and this time it wasn’t really a problem.
    Thanks Maurizio for the great recipes.
    Jerry

    • Jerry, excellent! Yes, if you proofed it a bit too long it could compromise spring a bit. Easy fix though 🙂 With practice the higher hydration dough definitely gets easier and easier to handle, things slow down and you learn to move quick.

      You’re very welcome, I’m glad my recipes are working out well for ya! Happy baking 🙂

  • Clayton

    Love your site! Tons of great info. For the past 2 months I have been baking bread every weekend. The
    results have been great. A couple things I have noticed are my dough gets huge bubbles and is very gassy. The giant bubbles make it very difficult to shape. Also, I am almost getting too much spring in my loaf. They turn out massive! Lastly, I am having a hard time getting “ears” on my bread. I fill the oven with steam prior to baking but my loaves are rising so fast that the area I scored just inflates.

    • Thanks for the comments, Clayton! It sounds like perhaps you have too much fermentation going on during your bulk fermentation step. This could be because it’s warm in your area currently, you have a lot of whole grains in your dough mix, you are using a large percentage of levain or your bulk is going too long. I’d first try to reduce your bulk fermentation time, you could go down to 3 hours (from the typical 4) and that should help with shaping. Alternatively, you could use cooler water when you mix your dough as colder temperatures will slow fermentation down some.

      I hope that helps — happy baking!

  • Heidi Guttmann

    I just made this and it’s awesome! I found you because in the middle of my first Tartine loaves a few weeks ago I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if altitude makes a difference.” I’m in Taos, and I’m so glad I found you! Today’s (made with Sangre de Cristo flour and in the combo cooker) is way better than my first loaf. https://www.instagram.com/p/BEwFCWgzEuwmuBtfwDiilhrBQ0uanSv0p6tyDE0/?taken-by=h.corning

    • That’s great, nice to meet someone here in NM! I’ve used Sangre de Cristo flour in the past and loved it — where you buy it these days? I used to get it at the co-op, I need to head back there soon to see if they have any. It used to be organic flour, but I”m not sure if that’s still the case.

      Your bread looks fantastic! Glad my instruction has been helping 🙂

      • Heidi Guttmann

        I buy the Sangre de Cristo flour in the bulk section at the main health food store in town–Cid’s. I’m not sure if it says “organic” or not. I’ll check next time. I should have made 2 loaves! It’s almost all gone.

        • Ill check again at La Moñtanita co-op, they might have it back in stock! Always a problem here… good bread disappears rather fast 🙂

  • igniteyourmind

    I’m having some issues with this dough I’m not sure where I went wrong. After bulk fermentation I pre-shaped the dough into two loaves and they were very wet. After 20 minutes or so I tried shaping them but the dough took no form. I didn’t want to add to much flour but with each dusting it just got quickly absorbed and it didn’t help me out too much. I was able to get them into lined bowls and into the fridge, but the forming process failed so I’m not sure what Ill get. Maybe too much water? I used less than the recipe so I’m not sure, I know Ill try again next week. Some pointers would be appreciated. I love your site I’ve been making the 100% wheat sourdough for the last few weeks and its been a big hit, I’m hoping to eventually have the same success with this recipe.

    • Yes, it sounds like too high of a hydration for the flour you are using (and/or your environment). Try reducing hydration by 10% and then see if that helps!

      Glad the WW recipe is working so well for you (and your fans), I love that bread.

      Let me know how the hydration reduction goes — happy baking!

  • Richard P

    Hi Maurizio,

    First of all, I adore your website. The pictures are mouth-watering, and your nerdiness about bread shows through which I love.

    I am having trouble with my bread. The crust and flavor are fantastic, but for some reason I always end up with this gummy, dense structure, often with large holes, which is nowhere near the light and airy crumb you seem to achieve. I’m sure it could be several things making this happen to me, but what would you suggest I look at first?

    • Thanks Richard, I appreciate that! Bread nerd right here, through and through 🙂

      When I see those results it’s usually due to under fermentation. Make sure you’re doing a full bulk (around 4 hours at 78-80ºF if using mostly white flour) and if you’re retarding overnight around 12 hours at 38-40ºF. Another clue under fermentation is the cause is when your bread has a few large holes but other areas of your bread are dense and gummy.

      Hope that helps, let me know if that fixes the issue if not we can look at other things!

  • Corrine

    Hello there, I was wondering how long this bread lasts and the best way to store it?

    • One of the incredible things about sourdough bread is its natural keeping qualities — this bread will stay great for a week or slightly longer. If I’m going to eat it that week I’ll keep it in my bread box on my counter or in a paper bag.

      If I’m going to eat it within the next month I’ll slice the entire loaf after it cools and then place it into a freezer bag. I can then take out bread a slice at a time, defrost it in my toaster (it has a defrost function) and eat it straightaway.

      If I’m going to eat the bread after a month (long term storage) I’ll wrap the loaf after it cools several times with plastic cling film, then into a freezer bag and into the freezer. When I want to eat the bread i’ll take it out and let it defrost on the counter or the fridge.

      Hope that helps!

  • John

    Hi Maruizio, thanks for the great recipes. I was wondering if you had any suggestions about how to produce a stronger sour flavor with this loaf?

    • You’re welcome! If you want a more sour flavor you can do a few things. First you can let your dough proof longer in the fridge: instead of proofing for 12-14 hours push fermentation further, say 16 to 18 hours. There is a limit here of course, it depends on what your flour can handle so you’ll have to experiment with this.

      Another option is to add more whole grains to my recipe above. You could sub 10% white flour for dark rye flour, or whole wheat. Just keep in mind doing so will speed up fermentation rates so you will have to adjust things to suit (lower levain percentage or use colder water in final mix).

      Those two things are typically what I’ll play with when I want to try and pull out more sour notes in the final loaf. I hope that helps!

      • John

        great, thank you! i will try those thing out. and thanks again for all the amazing in-depth content on your website!

  • Jenna

    Because I’m lazy – how long exactly does the 2nd day take to make the dough, stretch & fold, etc?

    • Did you mean the first day? There are a lot of factors that go into the total time and you can increase/decrease it as needed (to a point), but I typically will start my levain in the morning around 11:00am and then finally put the loaves into the fridge at 9-10:00pm. That seems like a long time but really you only come in at several parts during the whole process to guide things in the right direction. Most of the time you can do other things 🙂

  • Leigh

    Awesome site. I live in Arizona and they sell hayden mills at our local Whole Foods and Sprouts. I’ve tried them with little success, but I will try your recipe … I’m think the ratios were off in in mine. What type of banneton is that? I have been looking for ones with the flat top piece.
    Thank you.

    • Very lucky to have flour like that at your local market! Jealous 🙂 Definitely give my recipe a shot and let me know how it goes.

      I got that banneton at Breadtopia.com, they have a number of “wood pulp” baskets like this, I really like them.

  • Andrey Gordeychuk

    Buongiorno Maurizio). Explain to me please …. You do autolysis 1.5 hours – mix only water, flour and one tablespoon Levian. After 1.5 hours – add all Levian. Wait 30 minutes … add salt and mix everything in a blender. That’s right, I realized that autolysis lasts 2 hours (1.5 and 0.5 hours) ??????????

    • A true autolyse doesn’t include the levain, it’s only water and flour. Once the levain is added fermentation begins, the 30 minute rest before adding salt let’s fermentation start without any inhibition (salt tempers fermentation). Additionally, that 30 minutes let’s the dough rest and relax so adding salt becomes a bit easier. Hope that helps!

      • Andrey Gordeychuk

        Grazie miele )

  • Bwspot

    hello, what a great loaf. I have been baking bread for last 3 years, but i use different proportions: 2 cups flour, 0.5 cup water and 1.5 cup sourdough starter which is 60% hydration. My bread has nice holes inside and looks great but i wanted to try higher hydration bread and am not sure but something is off in your recipe or i am doing something wrong or my flour does not work as yours? Should the first fermentation be done with a cover of without? The mixture is very watery and nevertheless the fact that it is stretchy after 4 hours of fermenting it still does not hold its shape after shaping and it flattens on the table. Is this normal and expected? It would be good if you would make a video to show the consistency of the mixture during each process as it is hard to imagine how sticky or how watery your bread is at each stage.

    • Thanks! I keep my dough covered at all times. During bulk it’s covered in the bowl with reusable plastic wrap (see my tools page at the top) and during my proof in the fridge I place my entire baskets in a large plastic bag tied shut.

      It sounds like the hydration of this formula is probably too much for your flour. Try reducing by 5-10% and see if your dough handles better and is more manageable.

      I agree about the videos, this is something I’m working on and will have more up soon!

      • Bwspot

        thx, I was not sure what to do so I went by a feel and I added some flour during the bulk fermentation until I reached consistency that made sense. The bread turned out to be great and had little more holes then one I make with 60% hydration. Yes, videos would be great. I do have some experience with baking bread but those who never did it might get confused when they see very watery dougt. Thx again for great tips and recipe.

        • You’re welcome! Definitely will be working on more videos 🙂

  • Kevin Smith

    I have been trying the tartine country loaf for a while now and just started with your recipe and I am finally much closer to being successful with the type of loaves I want to make. I attribute this to using a mature starter and levain (that you suggested) instead of a young one; and a higher temp. I adjusted the hydration to 82.5%, which suits my flour better, but I think I am having trouble with overproofing as I am not getting any oven spring. Do you have a ballpark for the % rise I should have at the end of bulk fermentation? I’m currently getting about 50% rise at 4 hours at 80 degrees. And how about % rise with the final rise? Thank you for your blog and all of your comments/help!!!

    • You’re welcome! I don’t typically measure a percentage rise for my dough during bulk because I find it can be misleading (eg more while grains will rise less that usual). I look more for the signs described above: dome edges between the dough sides and the bowl, the dough should jiggle a bit when shaken, if you wet a hang and tug a little it should resist your tugging a bit and finally bubbles on top and at the sides. You should see some rise of course and you can kind of see the amount in my pictures above. That’s typical for me and my flour. For me and this formula it’s usually 3.5-4.5 hours at around 80F.

      If you find its over proofing try to cut bulk a bit short (try 30m) and if you still get this you could try to reduce your proof time by a few hours as well. I don’t like to go less than 3 hours for bulk.

      As far as the final proof I actually don’t notice much rise in my baskets at all. The dough will spread out and be a little puffy but there won’t be significant rise.

      I hope that helps, let me know how it goes!

  • Gage Allen

    Hi Maurizio! Could you bake this particular recipe with the combo cooker? Similar cooking times to your other recipes perhaps?

    • Yes, definitely! Should be similar bake times the only thing I’d suggest is to preheat for less time, perhaps 1 hr max, and bake at a slightly lower temp at the beginning (475F) for the first 20 mins. I notice sometimes with the combo cooker I’ll get a much darker crust on the bottom and the lower temp and times help offset that.

  • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

    my bulk fermentation has been going on for over 4 hours. There are bubbles on top, but it doesn’t appear to have risen much and the dough looks much more wet than the photos you show

  • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

    can I add more flour at this point or is this a bust!

    • Sounds like you’re having good fermentation activity in there so that’s a good sign! It sounds like the hydration in this formula is too high for your flour, next time try everything the same but reduce water by 10% and see how it feels.

      It’s definitely too late to add flour at this point. Just preshape it tight and then shape it really tight — you might still be surprised!

      • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

        oh oh …I read someone else s post that sounded like they had a similar problem & they said they added flour during fermentation & it turned out.ok. I”ll watch it a couple hours and see what happens. Sounds like a weeks worth of work may be wasted…ugh!

        • You can definitely add flour, but the sooner you do the better. If bulk is already over then at that point I don’t like to add raw flour into the mix as it wont be properly hydrated and might not ferment fully. You’ll most likely end up with raw flour in your baked loaves.

          This is not a week wasted! Now you have a strong, viable starter and you just take what you’ve learned this time and apply it to the next bake. Nothing lost and a lot learned!

  • Rogério Moraes de Oliveira

    Thanks for great post! One quick doubt: from step 8 to 9, do you go straight from the fridge to the oven? It was not clear to me. Thanks!

    • Thanks! Yes, I’ll typically go straight from fridge to oven.

      • Rogério Moraes de Oliveira

        Great. Thanks for prompt reply. This is the first time I am baking your recipe and so far it is going very well. Have just placed the loaf in the fridge.,will let you know the results by tomorrow;)

  • Bill

    Thanks for your site and this fabulous formula “My Best Sourdough”. Wow, just great. I had just started a loaf from Tartane Book 3, when my baking friend emailed me your URL. I read your process and realized it filled in all the blanks from the book and then some. Since then I’ve baked about 6-7 loafs all of them “perfect”. I generally use a stone, but once tried a Dutch oven since I was not getting a nice gringe. I’ve gotten a nice gringe twice and the loaf in the oven now looks very good. Do you have any suggestions for improving this percentage of success? The only thing I do differently from you is I use 75% hydration as I live on the N. CA coast and it is too damp here to go with 86% as the flour has a higher moisture content. That plus I already have a little trouble handling the dough at 86%, I may try creeping up, but I am getting excellent loaves at 75% except for the gringe. I might add that this is the loaf I have been trying to achieve for the last 3-4 years of active baking.

    • Bill — thanks for the kind words, glad things are working out so well for ya! A nice gringe comes with a few things, most notably giving your dough enough tension during shape time. Creating a nice taut skin on your dough helps keep it intact during proof but more importantly when you first start baking the loaf. The skin will keep your dough together as it heats up and begins to rise, and only the area where you slash will open up.

      Speaking of scoring, make sure you have a very sharp blade and make your score deep enough so it’s right under that tight surface you’ve created during shape. I find I get a better ear if I slash at a fairly shallow angle to the dough, somewhere near 30º should work fine.

      Lastly, it’s important your loaves are not over proofed. If you let your proof go too long you won’t have enough strength in your dough and things will spread too much when you transfer to the oven. It doesn’t sound like this is your problem but I wanted to point that out.

      I hope that helps! Thanks again for the kind words, really appreciate that! Happy baking, Bill.

  • Martin

    Would the baking schedule be the same with a dutch oven?

    • Yes the schedule should the same. I’d reduce all the baking temperatures by 15-25ºF though. I notice sometimes with a Dutch oven the bottom will cook a little bit faster than the top and end up a little more cooked.

  • Kat LeSueur

    Can’t wait to try this method today. I’m curious – have you compared a long, cold bulk ferment and room temp proof as opposed to room temp bulk ferment and cold proof? I know some people swear by doing an extremely long cold bulk, up to 10 days, but I worry about over fermenting. Also, even with an overnight cold bulk ferment, it seems like the stretch and folds would be difficult, both in dealing with cold dough and a more drawn out schedule. Thoughts?

    • Kat LeSueur

      Another question just popped into my head… I’m also trying substitutes for water for the first time today. Doing a Porter Sourdough with Hazelnuts and Barley Flour. OK to autolyse with beer? Doing about half and half beer and water, beer has been left to go flat overnight.

      • Good move on letting the beer go flat, I’ve done this several times and it works much better than using it straight from the bottle 🙂

        In my stout sourdough recipe here at my site I actually perform the autolyse with the stout included. It was a relatively short auto at only 40 minutes but the resulting bread turned out really nice.

        I’d love to hear how it turns out for you! I really like using beer in bread in general but the winter time it’s a perfect addition.

    • I haven’t experimented with a cold bulk, yet. That’s something I plan to work on here very soon, especially with 100% whole wheat dough that ferments at rapid pace. 10 days seems like a really, really long time and I’d be worried about overproofing!

      With a cold bulk you’d typically perform your mix and maybe do one set of stretch and folds and then toss into the fridge. I’ve read about other bakers performing stretch and folds even with the dough in the fridge but yes, I agree I think it would be hard to do so since the dough will chill and be harder to work with.

      • Kat LeSueur

        Thanks for the feedback! I tried a long autolyse yesterday and 5 stretch and folds during room temp bulk ferment before retarding overnight. Today I’ll divide and shape straight out of the fridge and proof at room temp before baking. Fingers crossed!

        • Good luck!

          • Kat LeSueur

            So it worked out great! But here’s something that surprised me.
            I made two doughs. One with beer and barley flour, one with hard cider and millet. Otherwise, same formulas, same schedule.
            I’m still really bad at shaping, need a lot of practice. I tried shaping the beer bread first and was not happy with it, so after letting it rest about thirty minutes I tried again. I was afraid that over handling might result in a denser crumb, but went for it anyway.
            I did not do a second shape with the cider bread, just pre shape and shape.
            When I cut into the baked loaves I was really surprised to find that the beer bread (the one handled more) had a much more open crumb than the cider bread, which was very good but had a pretty closed crumb. The beer bread is definitely the best loaf I have baked thus far.
            Does that make any sense to you? The results are making me think differently about how to shape and handle the dough, but maybe it’s a fluke?

            • Great news! Sounds like some awesome variations to the recipe as well.

              Things like this happen, a lot. Finding that dough strength sweet spot can be a hard thing, it sounds like the dough you shaped twice benefitted from a little more strength (doing a second shape like that could be seen as an extra set of stretch and folds during bulk). If you make that bread again try to do another set during bulk and then a single shape and see if you end up with the same open crumb.

              I think in general it’s a good thing to handle the dough as little as possible when shaping so you preserve the open structure of the dough. However, sometimes a little more structure is needed and so extra handling during shaping is a good thing. For example, with this recipe I do a “stitch” style shaping that could be seen as quite a bit of handling but if the dough is stronger (or less hydrated) a more minimal shaping could be performed as the dough doesnt need that extra structure & support.

              In the end experimentation and intuition helps you realize when the dough has “enough strength” and can use a lighter hand during shaping.

              Either way that sounds like a really fantastic bake and you learned quite a bit, which is probably more important in the end! Sometimes these “accidents” are how I progressed the most in baking 🙂 Thanks for the update!

  • tinalbrecht

    Hi, any recommendations for someone who would like to try this recipe, but lives at sea level? I’m new to baking and not really sure what kind of conversions I should keep in mind.

    • Hi! Honestly I don’t think they would be much conversion necessary, except for a few things to keep an eye on.

      Chances are your environment is a little more humid/moist than it is here at 5,000 ft in the desert so keep an eye on the hydration of your mix when you start adding water. I’d suggest reducing the water in this recipe by 10% to start and then work it up as you get comfortable and experiment with the flour you have.

      At lower elevation your bake time and temperature might need some adjusting (also each person’s oven is different). Keep an eye on these loaves in the oven near the last 10 minutes of the bake and take them out if they start to color too fast (this might happen to you at lower elevation), or leave them in if then need longer cook time. Next time you can lower the temperature if it colors too fast, try 15ºF lower and see if that works.

      Aside from that I don’t really think it’s necessary to adjust the amount of natural levain (rising agent) in this recipe to suit your elevation. I hope that helps, let me know how it goes and happy baking!

  • Pedro Henrique Formigoni

    Hi Maurizio. Thanks from Brazil for this great website. I’ve got a new oven with a baking stone and I want to try this recipe. I’m new at baking so I’ m afraid of ruine my baking stone. I have a doubt. After a cold retard do I need to wait sometime before I toss it into the oven? Cause I suppose the dough will be cold enough for a Temperature shock and it may brake my stone. Thank you again.

    • Hi, Pedro! I personally have never broken a baking stone baking this way, but I supposed it would be possible (I feel like it would be unlikely, though). What you could do is take the dough out 30 minutes before your oven is done preheating and let it come up to room temperature so it’s not so cold.

      If you do this keep in mind your dough might be a little harder to score because it will have lost its firm shape from the cold fridge. I do this from time-to-time depending on how the dough looks when I need to bake it so it’s not a problem at all, just something to be aware of.

      Happy baking!

  • Andrea Carlini

    Hi Maurizio ,
    congratulations for your site, it’s very nice! I’m Italian, can you recommend me some flour to buy in Italy? Thank You very much!!!!

    • Ciao, Andrea! Thanks I appreciate that 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t live in Italy so I’m not too familiar with the flour available out there. I’d recommend you try to find one that has lower protein, around 11-12% and mix that with some good quality whole wheat (“stoneground” is great) for this recipe, but also in general. I like to use lower protein flour as the majority of the flour in a recipe because I find it tastes less “gummy” or “chewy”.

      Sorry I don’t have any Italian brands I can recommend, I’ll have to try them one day! Happy baking 🙂

      • Andrea Carlini

        In your opinion what is the best work table to handle very hydrated dough? Wood, marble or steel?

        • I haven’t had the opportunity to work on steel but I have worked on wood and granite (similar to marble). I prefer to work on wood, even with highly hydrated dough, because I like the feel of it and it can provide a little more friction between the surface and the dough which helps me when I shape. Granite was nice because it was easy to clean and I could use less flour.

          I would imagine metal would be just fine but it would be a lot less work to clean up than wood. You could just scrape and wash it down.

          I think in the end it’s a preference thing!

  • Muneera

    Hi Maurizio.
    I just posted a question on another recipe too. As I mentioned, I tried this recipe with tremendous success ☺️
    Thank You!

    So I had a different wetness of dough by the time I got to bulk fermentation. I guess this is from using different flours than you. It was very wet! By the time I had to shape, the dough still had little strength and I had to pretty much slip it off the counter into the proofing bowl (I had come this far and so decided to keep going). The next day, when I went to put it onto the baking pan, it stuck to the floured cloth in the proofing bowl and I had to scrape much of the dough off the cloth and so there was no shape left at all, and no continuous skin in the top of the loaf. I know this all sounds terrible but here’s the thing… It baked beautifully. The rise was prefect, the crumb was open and beautifully moist. I wish I could post a picture but I don’t know how.

    So my question is, why do we shape at all? If one can literally pour the dough into a pan and bake a scrumptious loaf, why go through all that trouble?

    Many thanks in advance.
    Muneera

    • Fantastic! If I ended up with dough like you describe I’d definitely lower hydration next time. You want it wet but not too wet, the dough still needs enough strength to rise properly in the oven. Chances are you’d be able to get a bit more rise than you did (sounds like it worked out well, though). Note that as the hydration increase you usually will see a reduction in rise, especially if the dough is not shaped tight enough.

      I think the answer is we shape mostly for aesthetic reasons, but perhaps somewhat functional as well. We want to be able to shape the dough, and have it hold its shape, into various configurations to fit the bread’s purpose. For example, I like to primarily shape into a batard because I use my bread for sandwiches and it fits the sandwich ingredients I typically use. Boules are nice for this too but I make those when I want to use the bread for soups or for tearing the bread.

      Pan loaves are nice also, and I do push hydration impossibly high when making these because the pan provides the structure needed for the dough to rise high. Without the pan these would probably just spread out on the hearth.

      Some types of bread have almost no shaping at all, they are just cut, lightly preshaped and then that’s it.

      I think in the end it’s how you want your bread to turn out: do you want a perfectly shaped batard with sharp angles and a nice defined ear on it? Or do you want a rustic boule that goes where it wants and that is part of the beauty? That’s one of the things I love about baking bread, there really is an unlimited number of choices with ingredients, shapes, bake times and so forth. It’s wonderful.

      Hope that conveys my take on your question! Ciao 🙂

  • Rob Pucci

    Hi Maurizio, I enjoy your site very much. I’m also on FB in bread Groups. I’ve been baking the no knead for about 8 yrs and recently got into sourdough, Tartine and FWSY. I bake loaves exclusively in cast iron or clay pots for steam and the heat. My question, in Chad’s video, he’s baking in a cold cast iron pot, not pre heating. I always preheat and never tried this. What are your thoughts and is the baking time extended past the 35-40 minutes?

    • Rob, thanks so much for the comments I appreciate that. I’ve also always preheated whatever baking enclosure I’m using, it’s my feeling that you really want that high heat to shock the dough into rising to its full potential. I’m wondering if in those videos of Chad online he had no choice but to use a cold pot, I’m sure he would have preheated it.

      I think baking past the 35-40 minutes is fine, and sometimes I do this depending on the hydration of my dough or if my dough is in a pan, but for me I bake until the crust is deeply colored and at that point I know the interior is finished (a little knock on the bottom always verifies this, or if in doubt an instant read thermometer). Sometimes it’s 35 minutes and sometimes it’s 25 minutes — all depends on the dough.

      I hope that conveys my thoughts! I’m glad to have you reading along, hope to hear from you again!

  • Rodney Ferris

    I just pull the loaves out of the oven. My batch went crazy! Once it started to ferment it just went steady. There was no way I was going to be able to retard this one. It rose to double in the fridge within an hour! So it was so soft and slack that I decided to use a Dutch oven and a baker and this worked beautifully. I started the bread in the Dutch Oven from cold and times it when the signal reached 425ºF. Baked for ½ hour and then for another 25 mins. I haven’t cut it yet because it is still warm, but the loaf is so “luscious!” They are both huge and will make good sandwiches and toast! The Whole wheat i used was Red Fife.. for some reason Bulk Bard has to call it Stone Ground Hard Red Whole wheat. The dough smelled exactly as the Red Fife smelled.. but it disappeared and seems to have come back as another incarnation!

    • I just replied to your email but I’ll reiterate here: awesome! Sounds like a good bake and I hope you’re enjoying those with some good butter and jam 🙂

  • Kuzmatron

    No sophomore slump for me. First Beginner’s Sourdough went very well. Now My Best Sourdough did well too, even though I accidentally put my shaped loaves in their banneton upside down! I just flipped them after they got firmed up by the cold and noticed very little ill effect.

    But I do have a problem, Maurizio. These loaves have all been so wonderfully crusty that even my very sharp Wusthof bread knife has trouble getting through the top and bottom of the crust. It’s really quite a struggle and means that anything less than a thick slice gets kind of mangled. I’m wondering if an electric knife would offer any advantages. Or do you have any other techniques to suggest?

    • That’s great news!

      To help with cutting I usually let the bread rest for several hours before cutting (the next day is even easier), if the crumb is still a little soft then the slices tend to be harder to cut. Other than that I just try to cut as straight and strong as I can without smashing the top of the bread too much.

      Since I bake very frequently for me and my family, I invested in a really nice Shun bread knife that is out of this world awesome. It’s pricey, but I cut a lot of bread 🙂 The slightly curved blade and extremely sharp steel makes cutting a whole lot easier. An investment to be sure, but worth it for me!

      • Kuzmatron

        Uh oh, now my Wusthofs aren’t looking so good. ;-( I went out and “test drove” some Shun Premieres last night at Crate and Barrel. I think I have some saving up to do.

        • Yes, they are expensive but I felt it was worth it for the amount of bread I bake!

  • mitsuko sato

    Hello Maurizio- I feel like bit of a stalker commenting on so many of your posts, so frequently. But I wanted to let you know I’ve baked this today again. It was my second attempt. It is truly exceptional bread/recipe. It was probably a personal best for me. Thank you again for the site and guides; I am very grateful to have them.

    I had one question, and hoped you could perhaps help. I seem to keep having this one issue…the issue being, as I divide and preshape, my two halves will behave/look differently. I notice one is always a little looser than the other. But I carry on, unsure of what to do or if perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me. I then go to shape- and the skin on the looser looking loaf will not become as taunt as my other loaf. I pull and spin some more. Get some gas bubbles on the surface, but still it’s always quicker to spread on bench rest. Nonetheless, I decide to press on. I proof, I, I score, I bake at the same time. One loaf comes out of the oven looking good enough to take a pic of. But before I can snap a photo for the husband to humble brag a bit, I pull out the second one and see it’s a sad little disc not even the best camera angle can deny. Any insight on what I might be doing would be so appreciated. Thank you!

    • Not a problem at all, I love the comments and questions! Really glad to hear this recipe worked out for you again.

      It’s funny you should say that because I see that anomaly from time-to-time as well. I don’t see it quite to that extent but for me sometimes one shaped loaf is tighter than the other, or just shaped better in general. The always both rise properly in the oven but sometimes on is a little odd looking compared to the other. Honestly I almost always just chock it up to a mistake in shaping on my part.

      The only other, really far-reaching theory I would have is to first think about your dough in bulk, you have what is essentially a column of dough from top to bottom. When you dump the dough out to preshape the half that’s been bulking on top might exhibit slightly different characteristics than the dough on the bottom half. There’s probably some some physics explanation going on in there I’m sure, and I can’t really say whether the top or bottom would always be better, but that is one reason we do turns in the bowl during bulk: it helps regulate temperature though the entire dough mass (in addition to build strength).

      Just an idea. A really, really good question I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to! But I will say that I notice this effect less and less as I continue to bake through the years.

      • mitsuko sato

        Thank you for the ideas on what to pay attention to moving forward. I do bulk ferment/stretch and fold in the bowl. So it is most likely my shaping then- im going to try and read up/watch some videos on technique tonight and try again the day after tomorrow. Thank you again!

        • You’re very welcome! In the near future I’ll have my own videos up of these methods, keep an eye out!

  • Wendy Shefte

    Hi Maurizio. Again, thank you so much for this website! I have a question — My first loaf of this bread, as well as the 100% whole wheat bread, turned out phenomenal. If I could show you a picture, you’d probably be proud 🙂 Anyway, ever since those two wonder loaves, I have had miserable hockey pucks come out of the oven. I threw away my starter, thinking I’d killed it (I forgot to feed it one day, and it looked terrible). I made new starter, just like the first one I made, and I’m still not having luck. My loaves (both white and wheat) taste delicious, but have very little oven spring. I’m following your recipes, just like I did with my awesome loaves, but no luck. I’m beginning to wonder if I bragged too much when those first ones came out of the oven (even dreamed of supplying local restaurants with gorgeous bread)…

    • Wendy — you’re welcome! Really glad my site has helped! Bragging is ok 🙂

      Did you change flour (even if it’s the same brand, but different bag) between the good and bad loaves? Each flour, even different bags, can display slightly different characteristics — especially water absorption. Usually it’s pretty minor, but every once in a while you’ll snag a bag that is just wildly different. You want to try and internalize how the dough feels when you mix it with water, this comes with time and experience but after a while you’ll be able to spot when your mix is “too wet” or “too dry” and you can hold back or add water as necessary.

      Aside from hydration changes make sure your starter is indeed healthy and strong. You want to see a consistent rise and fall (as I describe here in my sourdough starter maintenance post, if you haven’t had a chance to read it) and significant fermentation activity in there with lots of little bubbles. Try to feed your starter at a consistent time each day, for example, at 800am and then 800pm. Do this for a few days before a bake to help your starter get ramped up and ready to go. My maintenance post goes into detail with schedule and what to look for.

      From there I’d say really try to focus on each step of the process and try to relate it back to my post here, things should look similar (in terms of dough development, fermentation activity, etc.). If the interior has a bunch of little holes throughout then that’s a good sign fermentation is on track but perhaps the dough has been over-hydrated, or there wasn’t enough tension built in the dough through stretch and folds at bulk, and finally make sure there is a nice and tight skin formed on your loaves at the end of shaping. If it feels like the dough is too sloppy and you can’t shape them rather tight then you should consider lowering hydration to help.

      Finally, focus on changing one thing at a time at each bake! It’s hard to do, but try to keep everything else consistent so you know what pushes you in the right direction and what does not.

      If you have photos of your next bake, and it turns out the same, feel free to shoot me an email through the Contact link at the top and I’ll see if I can diagnose further. Don’t worry, we’ll get you back to bragging status soon enough! Happy baking 🙂

  • Heather Eddy

    Hi Maurizio, I’ve baked this recipe three weeks in a row now, paying ever closer attention to detail (especially since it’s actually now summer in London), taking lots of notes, and doing lots of research. I’m sure you can relate. The crumb is lovely and the taste is fantastic, but dammit I cannot get this bread to spring! Shaping is my weakest spot at the moment- could it mostly be down to a lack of strength and structure? Should I take a step back and maybe practice shaping again with a slightly lower hydration dough? By all rights I’m still a real beginner with little more than a year of sourdough baking under my belt, it’s seemed lately that I’m getting worse! Nevertheless, I’m still gonna throw my hands back into this dough again next week. Thanks for being such great inspiration.

    • Hi there! There’s a balance to be had here, and especially with a higher hydration bread like this one, where the increased hydration starts to compromise your oven spring and reduce the height of your bread. The higher the hydration the more strength required in your dough (during mixing, bulk and shape) to get it to spring up properly, but even this has a limit. Yes, I think the best approach would be to lower hydration by say 10% and work that until you get the height you’re looking for. Focus on building enough strength in the dough (you might need less now that the water has been reduced) and shape tight enough so the dough rises properly in the oven. Once you’ve got that under your belt work up the hydration until you get to the taste and look you’re after.

      As I mentioned in this post it’s all relative to the flour you’re using as well. It might be that your flour isn’t able to take on the same level of water as mine (or due to environmental changes) — and that’s ok! In the end it’s 90% about taste and 10% about aesthetic, but I know how we all strive for that “perfect” loaf 🙂

      I’m glad I could help and I hope these comments do as well! Please let me know if you have any more questions and keep me posted on how it’s going!

    • Veronika Bogumska

      Hello Heather, as I read your post i would love to ask what pan you using as I can see you from England to.
      I have iron cast tefal pan with lid, but it’s about 4.7l which results my bread to spread more. I am not seems to be lucky to find the right mesurment lodge anywhere in UK (3.6l)
      So was you lucky to find one? Thank you

  • Runnerfemme

    Woooowee! I am amazed by this recipe. I am a newcomer to sourdough — really to any bread baking of an earnest effort — but I am a fanatic already. I have read many of the books referred to often as the ultimate sources (Tartine, BBA..), and was all geared up to make Robertson’s country loaf for the first time this past weekend. And then I found this last week. I had to try it. Having made only very few (I could count them on one hand) sourdoughs and never with a 100% wild starter (the satisfaction!!), I fully expected to be disappointed simply by virtue of the fact that my hands are inexperienced with such a wet dough and my intuition has not been fully awoken to be able to read when my bread dough needs to be treated differently than the recipe instructs. But..nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I jumped in the deep end! My bulk ferment had to go a good hour longer than I planned (thank you for your excellent descriptions and photos..really helped guide me), and the shaping was, well, not my most mannerly of moments. $#@! But I did it! How fun and gratifying. My husband, best friend and I devoured an entire loaf slathering goat’s cheese and raspberry preserves on this incredible bread. Thank you for your wonderful website! I’m a fan. Hey, if you got me to veer off course from Robertson’s loaf and I’m still smiling, you must be doing something right! I wish I could post a photo — ears! open crumb!! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments! I love your recount of this first attempt and I’m really happy to hear it turns out so dang well 🙂 You hit on a good point though: sometimes “life” gets in the way of things and we have to adjust as necessary. A lot of baking has to do with that, and as our experience and intuition grows we’re able to adapt ever more.

      Thanks again and I’m really happy to hear my site has helped you make such wonderful sourdough — stoked! Happy baking 🙂

      • Runnerfemme

        Next weekend, I am going to try my hand at a spelt sourdough with a grain/seed soaker (using your spelt recipe as my northern star) and your gorgeous seeded rye recipe. I’ve got gorgeous, thriving spelt & rye starters thanks to you. Yes, it’s official. I’ve gone bread bananas. Thank you, Maurizio & happy 3rd anniversary of this fabulous site.

        • Thanks I appreciate that! Sounds like some good bread to me! I totally understand how it is to be completely taken with sourdough… it’s so satisfying 🙂

          Happy baking!

  • Oleg

    Hello, Maurizio. I admire your bread and for several months trying to bake this bread, I clearly follow your instructions, but my bread always turns sticky crumb. I ask you to help and advise what mistakes can lead to such a defect? I would be very grateful!

    • Thanks! Usually a dense interior is due to insufficient fermentation. Pay attention to the Bulk step outlined above (the times and temperatures and how your dough should look & feel by the end) and also the final proof step. Your dough needs to ferment for the times listed above and also warmer temperatures help significantly. Remember to treat temperature as just an important ingredient as anything else!

      Before this, though, make sure your starter is rising and falling predictably after you feed it. I like to feed my 2x a day the day or two before I bake with it to get it really strong and active. If you haven’t checked out my posts on starter maintenance have a look (click the recipes link at the top and then it’s under the Starter category).

      I hope that helps!

  • Casey

    Hello, Maurizio!

    I wanted to tell you that I made this recipe with dark rye in place of the whole wheat, and high-gluten in place of the bread flour. Added 2tsp. rye flavor, and caraway seeds. It was very nice. However, because of the high-gluten flour, the crumb was a little more closed. I think I will try it without the high-gluten flour, to see if I can get away with it. I am thinking that with the lack of structure in rye flour, I may need to add back some high-gluten flour to pull it off, but I would like it very much if I could just use bread flour. I want to keep the hydration the same.

    Anyway, I thought you might like to know that I looked for a good sourdough rye recipe, but I just love this recipe so much that I decided to use this recipe as a base, and experiment from there. I just couldn’t get myself to use another recipe.

    Thank you!

    -Casey

    • Hi, Casey!

      Sounds delicious to me! I’ve been meaning to try adding in some rye flour to see how the flavor profile changes, I bet the addition adds some real flavor. I almost feel like the “bread” flour should be enough, without the addition of any more high-gluten flour. Bread flour typically has protein levels around 13%, which is pretty high compared to what I usually use… Would take some experimentation.

      Thanks so much, I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying my recipe! This still is my favorite one to bake 🙂

      Happy baking!

  • Iron Dice

    Hi Maurizio-

    Over the past few weeks I’ve successfully made a starter and a few loaves of bread using the information from your site, and it’s all turned out wonderful on the first shot – so thanks for that!

    I finally got up the courage to try your “Best Sourdough” recipe. The crumb and taste were absolutely as you described – simply incredible. However, the crust was a bit tougher – not bad by any means, but not brittle or thin.

    Any idea on what I might do better? I’ll be the first to admit I’m not yet very skilled at shaping, particularly with high hydration dough. Could it have been a shaping error? Also, my starter is quite new – about 3 weeks – should I expect better results as it gets stronger over time? What else might help?

    Thanks-
    TJ

    • TJ — that’s awesome news! Really glad to hear that.

      I don’t think your starter will have much to do with it, shaping is not likely either. I’ve found I get the best crust when I fully preheat my oven (and baking stones/steel or Dutch oven) for 1-1.5 hours, bake the loaf hot at the beginning and finally have ample steam in my oven. If you’re following my post on steaming your home oven then you should have plenty of steam in there. For heat I like to preheat for 1 hour or so at at least 500ºF and I load my dough quickly and shut that door as soon as possible so not too much steam & heat escapes.

      If you’re baking in a Dutch oven I do notice even my crust is a little thicker when using that, I’m not sure what the cause for this is but that is usually the case. Perhaps the dough is at a constantly hot temperature for a long period instead of a major blast of heat at the beginning with a trickle down to lower temperatures.

      I hope that helps. Sorry I don’t have a 100% sure fire want to improve on this!

      • Iron Dice

        Thanks Maurizio! I plan to bake it again this weekend – I have been using the dutch oven, so I will try one in the oven and one with another of your steam methods and compare. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

      • Iron Dice

        Maurizio-

        The oven steam worked! Great crumb, and the crust is now nice and crackly. Thanks!

        TJ

        • Awesome!! So glad to hear that, thanks for reporting back. Bake on!

  • Marcelo

    Hi Maurizio!

    I tried yours “Best Sourdough Recipe ” and thought the process was fine until the end of fermentation. The dough´s surface did not seem to smoothe and seemed to me a little too wet. As the temperature here is around 65 F, the bulk fermentation took eight hours and still had not found conditions to shape the dough. The levain (your recipe) was very active and the dought also showed some bubbles during fermentation.

    Should I decrease the proportion of water in the recipe?

    • Hello! Yes, it sounds like you should reduce hydration and see how the dough looks and feels at the end of bulk. During bulk fermentation the dough should smooth out and become stronger as you do stretch/folds and also the process of fermentation itself will strengthen the dough.

      I’d reduce hydro next try and see if that helps!

      • Marcelo

        Hi Maurizio! Thanks, its great to have this helpfull comment’s channel.

        I’ve reduced hydro to 70% and still have not get the smooth surface on que dought at the end of the bulk fermentation, nor did it grows twice its size.

        It should be some problem with my levain, shouldn’t be strong enough. It grows twice its size in 7 hours, with usually small bubles. I’ve been feeding it a month always twice a day, discarding half, but could not managing to see intense activity in it.

  • ReneeR

    Thanks so much for all of these wonderful recipes! I’ve made this recipe a few times and I have my first ninety-five percent whole grain sourdough in the oven now. Yum! My question is about temperature. We live in the SF Bay Area, and the temperature in our home is generally around 69-70 degrees. I don’t have a warm place in my kitchen or anything like that. How should I be adjusting these recipes? Generally I do build the levain the night before to give it extra time. I can make my water hotter than you suggest in the recipes but don’t want to make it too hot. interested to hear any thoughts you have. Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome! Happy to hear my recipes are working out so well for you.

      When temps are low, near 70’s, it typically just means things will take more time. It means you’ll have to adjust each step of the process just a bit until the dough is ready. In other words, as they say: “watch the dough not the clock”. 🙂

      Using warm water for your dough mix helps significantly and I always find myself doing this. Typically I’ll use water that’s around 90ºF and that works out just fine.

      Another thing you could do is to keep your dough, in its bulking container, in the oven (turned off) with a light on inside. If you have an ambient temperature thermometer toss it in there as well so it doesn’t get too hot. I’ll just about always do this as well, the oven acts as a really nice, sealed and isolated environment for your dough.

      I hope that helps!

      • ReneeR

        Thanks for the response, very helpful! Again, really enjoying this site.

  • Kris

    I just made this recipe for the first time. I want to tell you how delicious it is, it is the best ever! Thank you Maurizio, you have no idea how much I look forward to eating this bread.

    • SO glad to hear that, Kris! Thanks for the message and I’m happy it’s worked out so well for you. Enjoy and happy baking!

  • pikofix

    I have just tried it today, my first ever sourdough bread. It is simply the best bread I had in the last few years, thank you for the great recipe and detailed description, it helped a lot!

    • You’re very welcome, glad to hear that! Now you have a never ending supply of good bread, just need to stock up on butter 🙂 Happy baking!

  • Muneera

    Hello again Maurizio, I have been baking by your recipes for some months now (about to delve into the spelt recipe with my freshly milled spelt) but can’t seem to get a loaf that isn’t a bit overdone at the bottom. Firstly, I can never do the full baking time that you recommend. It makes for burnt loaves for me. I know my oven runs a touch hot, and so I have tried turning down the temperature even lower than you recommend after the first 20 minutes, and I bake for less time in the second stage, but that doesn’t quite do it either. Any suggestions? Or am I missing something here? I should mention that I don’t have a Dutch oven. I use cast iron pans with a steam tray. I have also tried baking on a regular baking sheet, but that doesn’t help either. Would love your thoughts! Many thanks!

    • Glad you’ve been following along for a while now! I do find that when I bake with a Dutch oven the bottom of the dough can easily get overdone. I know you said you’re not using a DO, but it could be a similar issue if you are using cast iron pans — there are a few things we can try.

      First, I usually lower the preheat temperature and/or time in my oven when I use a DO. Instead of preheating at 500ºF I’ll usually drop this down to 475ºF or 450ºF. As you mentioned, each oven is different and also sometimes ovens can misread temperatures (you can grab a cheap ambient oven thermometer to help ensure you’re setting the right temp), so a little trial and error can help deduce what temperatures work for you and your oven.

      You can cover the bottom of your loaves with something to help prevent burning. Some bakers will use coarse bran or cornmeal for this purpose. Before you place your dough into the pan sprinkle a row of bran/cornmeal in the pan then place the dough on top of this.

      If you’re baking on top of baking stones with a cast iron pan as well, remove the baking stones or place the pan on a rack above them. The cast iron pan will retain plenty of stored heat and the baking stones are nice to keep ambient heat high in the oven but can release too much heat when a pan is placed on top.

      Finally, If your oven has its heating elements at the bottom try moving up your rack so it’s further away from the direct heat.

      I hope one of these suggestions helps! Let me know if any of them work out for you 🙂

  • igniteyourmind

    Hey Mario! I love this recipe and have been trying to perfect it for a few months now. Today I baked off what I believe to be my best breads yet. Once I cut them I’ll know for sure. The crust is that perfect crisp thin. I baked off two loaves. One will be eaten today, but the other will either be for tomorrow or Monday and Tuesday lunches. How Can I preserve this bread for a day or two. Everytime I make this bread the next day the crispiness is completely gone. As a chewy crust it is fine, but crispy is what makes this bread. Any storage solutions would be appreciated!

    • That’s great news, so glad to hear it! It can be hard to maintain the dry, crisp crust on bread several days after the bake. Depending on your environment your bread will either dry out or become more soggy as it’s exposed to the humidity in your air. Where I live the bread becomes incredibly dry a few days after and thus I keep my bread in a bread box or paper bag to help retain moisture. It sounds like you might live in a more humid environment and would recommend keeping your bread just out on the cutting board. If you slice it in half keep the sliced, interior face down so the only part exposed to air is the crust (a sort of natural protection to keep the crumb as it should be).

      I hope that helps!

  • Ian

    Hi Maurizio, Thanks for doing all this great experimentation that we can learn from! I’m enjoying the challenge of working with high hydration dough; the folding technique in particular works great to ‘tame’ the wet dough! I had a question about the sequence of bulk fermentation and retarding the dough that maybe you can answer. I noticed in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast that Ken Forkish follows the same sequence you describe of short bulk fermentation, shape into loaves, then retards the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge; but he uses this sequence only when he supplements his levain doughs with baker’s yeast. By contrast, in his recipes for ‘pure levain doughs’ he alters the sequence by doing bulk fermentation overnight in the fridge, then shaping/proofing the next day before baking. He doesn’t really explain why the change in technique is needed for pure levain doughs, so I’m wondering if you have any explanation. I’m sticking with your technique since it’s more straightforward, but was curious if you’d come across this in your experiments.

    • You’re very welcome! You can do the overall process either way, with a cold bulk like Ken or a warm bulk like I perform. There are pros and cons for each, and for some doughs a cold bulk is almost necessary (like for a 100% fresh milled whole wheat dough), but in the end they both need get to the same result of a fully fermented dough that is strong and active. A cold bulk can be a little easier on shaping the next day as the dough will be colder when it’s divided — this can help with extremely wet doughs that can be trouble to preshape/shape when they are warm. A warm bulk lets you preshape/shape the same day and retard the dough in shape so the next morning all that’s required is a slash and a bake (best for those early risers :)).

      I’d say go with the one that best fits your schedule and know you can employ either technique depending on the time you have and what’s most comfortable for you. I rarely do a cold bulk mostly because I prefer my schedule and the way the dough develops.

      I hope that helps!

      • Ian

        Thanks very much for clarifying, Maurizio. While I enjoy the challenge, I’m really having a lot of trouble getting the high hydration dough to sit up straight during reshaping and shaping, so maybe I’ll try a cold bulk to see if shaping the cold dough makes it a little more manageable. If that doesn’t work, I may try reducing H2O by 5-10%, though I really liking the taste and texture you can achieve with high hydration. Thanks again!

        • You’re very welcome — either approach is a good one! Happy baking, Ian 🙂

  • Douglas Amrine

    I’ve been baking sourdough loaves for around 6 months, with good results (especially since I got the Forkish book), but I have been struggling to get the open, airy crumb seen in this recipe. So I tried Maurizio’s method and the results were fantastic! I live in the south of Brazil, and I’m not sure whether it’s the flour here, or the altitude (900m), or what, but I had to adjust the balance of flour and water. The first time, the dough really was a soup, and at the folding stage I had to add 30-40g of flour even though I had used slightly less water than in the recipe. The dough turned from a soup to a wet mass and that worked fine. The second time, I decided to use 40g of whole wheat, 40g of rye and 40g of porridge oats (rather than the 73g of whole wheat in the recipe). The results were wonderful! I don’t have bannetons (impossible to get in Brazil) so my loaves aren’t shaped as beautifully as Maurizio’s, but the taste is great. Thank you so much for sharing your bread-making wisdom with us.

    • Your modifications sound great! We all have to adjust things to suit our flour and our environment — yours is very, very different than mine here (I live in the desert at 5200 ft. elevation!). I’ve read that a lot of the available flour down in South America is of lower protein so it can be a challenge to get a really open crumb, although there is definitely much more that goes into it than just protein percentage.

      As far as the shaping goes, you’ll get there! It definitely takes quite a bit of practice, especially when there’s a super high hydration.

      I’m really glad to hear your bakes have turned out well, thank so much for the update and happy baking Douglas!

      • Douglas Amrine

        You’re welcome; this weekend I made your whole wheat sandwich loaves recipe. Fantastic as well.

        • Awesome, thank you! I make that recipe every single week and just love it 🙂

  • ReneeR

    This is so good…have made it a few times. Yum!
    My 9 year old is asking for cheese in her sourdough. Any suggestion about how to add cheese to this recipe?
    Thanks!

    • Awesome! As I’ve said, it’s one of my favorites 🙂

      I’ve never added cheese to my bread before (!!) so it’s hard for me to say. I would probably recommend grating or shredding it and then adding it in during bulk, perhaps after the second or third set of stretch and folds — much like you’d add nuts or seeds.

      Just an idea, I would have to experiment more to say for sure. Hope that helps!

      • ReneeR

        Thanks, I did make cheese bread: Before putting the dough into the banneton and the fridge, I took the dough and rolled it open onto on a cutting board, poured in ~1/2-3/4 cup grated cheese, and rolled it up again (with the cheese inside) and put into the fridge to rise overnight. Baked as usual. Excellent!

        • Oooh that sounds fantastic! I will have to give this a try 🙂 Thanks for the update!

  • Arthur

    Do you put the cold dough right into the oven out of the fridge or let it warm up a bit before baking?

    • Arthur — I almost always bake my dough straight from the fridge, no warmup time is needed.

      • Arthur

        Thanks. That’s what I did. I used the full amount of water and is was a bit too hydrated — didn’t hold its shape out of the brotform. But it still rose nicely and was absolutely delicious with a beautiful crust.

        • That’s fantastic to hear! Next time drop the water a bit and see if that helps the dough hold more shape. Happy baking!

  • Rita Hennessy

    I am having fun with your recipe on a rainy weekend, and all is going well. Your bannetons look ceramic rather than reed. Can you confirm and the best sorce?

    • Glad to hear that! The bannetons I used here are actually wood pulp (kind of like paper). I picked them up at Breadtopia.com — they’re nice!

  • Matthew Wong

    Hey Maurizio!

    I tried this recipe using King Arthur bread flour and Josey Baker red wheat. When I released the bread from the banneton, it wouldn’t keep shape and ended up spreading like crazy. I wonder if this was a result of overhydration, but I did follow the recipe practically to a t. The dough didn’t feel overly sticky but it was certainly wet. Any ideas?

    • Hey Matthew! Yes, this is sometimes a sign of over hydration. The dough should be sticky but it should still feel strong by the end of bulk, it should want to stay together instead of spreading super fast. It’s also possible the dough was fine with the hydration but the proof might have been too long (or at too high of a temperature for too long), in which case the dough would spread quite a bit because the gluten in the dough has broken down under the long fermentation time.

      If you feel like the proof time and temp were ok (I list my time and temp above) then I would try to reduce the hydration by 5-10% next time and see if that helps. I do know KA bread flour can take on a lot of water, but perhaps your particular batch and/or environment was too much for it.

      Let me know how it goes (sorry for the late reply)!

  • Mauro

    Hi Maurizio,
    Many thanks for this detailed and beautiful recipe! I tried it with a little less water (~78% hydration), and it all worked out great – the gluten development, the fermentation, the oven spring and the holes in the crumb. But unfortunately the crumb came out pretty sticky. Not dense, but sticky. What could cause such stickiness? I’d really appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    • Hello, Mauro! You’re very welcome, glad to hear it worked out well for you 🙂 An overly sticky crumb is usually due to underbaking. Try to bake your loaves longer to ensure they are fully cooked on the inside. If you have an instant read thermometer, insert it into the bread when you think it’s done to ensure the internal temperature is over 210ºF.

      If you find the outside of the loaf burning too quickly you might want to try turning the temperature down a bit, perhaps 15-25ºF, so you can bake it longer without burning the exterior. Each environment and oven are different, so your bake times could be slightly different than what I list here!

      Happy baking — keep me posted!

  • Jake

    Hey Maurizio!
    I’m slowly getting into baking sourdough breads and was going to give your “best sourdough” recipe a shot. I’m curious though… I’ve recently picked up a bag of a local farm’s All-Purpose blended flour which they claim is a 50/50 blend of their Red(12.4% protein) and White(15.1% protein) wheat flours. That comes out to about 13.75% protein in the blend. Is that too high of protein flour to use for your recipe?

    • Hey there, Jake! Did you also email me? I’ll reply here as well, anyways.
      That’s great news. I don’t think that’s too high of a protein percentage. My flour used here is a lower percentage, probably around 11-12%, but yours should be just fine. If you find the dough is overly strong and it resists stretching out you can increase the autolyse time another 30 minutes or so to help increase the extensibility in your dough.

      Happy baking!

  • Michael

    Hi Maurizio, I would like to bake this in one day without the night in the refrigerator. Do you think that this could this be accomplished simply by letting the shaped dough rest in the bannetons on the counter for some time? Any tips/timings for doing a single day bake. Thanks.

    • Yes you can certainly do this. The flavor profile will be different, but not in a bad way.

      I would say instead of the overnight cold proof 3-4 hours on the counter at room temperature should work. Google “poke test” for some info on how to determine when your counter-proofed dough is ready to bake. Essentially you use your finger to poke the dough a few times and if the dough slowly springs back it’s read to bake.

      Happy baking!

  • Charles

    Gave this a try last weekend and it was a very tasty bread. I used plain wheat flour and cut down on the water to approx 80% but the dough was still very hydrated and hard to handle, I was afraid I’d end up with flatbread rather than a loaf when I put it in the oven. Fortunately it rose beautifully, although not quite as much as yours.

    Will definitely give it another try with whole wheat and slightly less water again, perhaps 76-77%.

    • Super glad to hear that, thanks for the feedback! It sounds like you might have been right on the edge with your flour, like you mentioned, try reducing and see if you get a bit more rise and openness inside. I love this bread! Thanks again and happy baking!

  • theo theodosiou

    Hi Maurizio great site. Up to now have been baking the tartine method but thought I would give this a go. Unfortunately the crumb only had smallish holes and was very dense and doughy. It was kind of uncooked but sounded hollow underneath when I tapped and crust was also dark and crispy. I baked in oven for over 60 mins at the temps you stated. I followed all your instructions and kept within all the temp ranges.
    Hope you can enlighten as to the possible problem, this is most probably the worst bake I have ever made.

    • Thank you! How did the dough feel? Was it overly wet and weak feeling? Most of the time too much water was used for the flour to handle, which requires sufficient dough strength and fermentation to ensure the loaf will rise fully in the oven the next day. I’d recommend you reduce hydration by 5-10% and see if it helps open up your crumb a little bit.

      If you have any photos of your process I’d love to see them, it might help me diagnose what’s happening. Send me over an email through the “Contact” link at the top and we can look through your numbers to see what’s happening! Sorry to hear this didn’t work out so well for you but I’m sure we’ll get you on track.

  • Karen Au

    Hi Maurizio,
    I have been reading and trying many of your recipes and just wondering why you’ve used malt in some and not others. is it because of the enzymic activity of the different flours you’re using? I’m struggling to get enough flavour in my sourdough breads. I have tried an overnight autolyse as wells as putting it in the fridge to proof. the first method seems to make the structure too weak without much flavour improvement and the retard made it very sour. any advice ?

    • Hey, Karen! I like to use a small percentage of malt in my recipes as it increases enzymatic activity, as you mentioned, which helps fermentation and also adds a nice color to the crust. I use varying amounts depending on the flour I’m using — if it’s mostly fresh milled flour I’ll add quite a bit of malt (usually 1-2%) as that flour doesnt have any. Most of the flour I do buy does have malt already and so those recipes that use mostly aged flour won’t include as much malt.

      It’s hard to answer your flavor question, that’s a very personal thing. What type of flavor are you after? Do you feel your bread is lacking that slight sour complexity from natural fermentation? If that’s the can you can try proofing for an extended period in the fridge but not quite as long as you might have — the longer it’s in there the more sour it will become. Back the time off until the sourness is where you want it.

      If you’re looking more for the flavor of the grain, which is what I’m always trying to bring out, it starts with the flour you’ve chosen. Try using some various flour sources (local is best, if possible) and see if their grains impart even more flavor into your bread. Try mixing it up, too. I know some readers here love to use high percentages of whole wheat, rye, or even buckwheat to try and add to the overall flavor in their bread.

      One thing to be aware of: as the sourness increases I find it can mask the true flavor of the wheat/grain used in the dough. Try to keep everything in good balance!

      Hope that helps 🙂

      • Karen Au

        hi Maurizio! sorry for the late reply! after a month of trying different things I have settled on a flour that unfortunately isn’t stone ground or organic, but seems to have great enzymic activity and taste. I live in the UK and have found that British wheat don’t have much gluten strength and tastes a bit bland…
        you mentioned aged flour, I was wondering if you could enlighten me on what the difference is between aged and fresh flour. I always thought fresher is better ? thanks so much for all your help. 😃

        • I find the flavor and aroma of fresh milled flour to be really incredible. It’s different in a way that’s hard to explain until you smell and taste the results. I have an entire post here dedicated to me explaining baking with fresh milled flour, I think you’ll find all your questions about it answered there: Baking Sourdough with Fresh Milled Flour.

          Hope that helps and happy baking!

          • Karen Au

            Just been reading your freshly milled flour recipies, sound very interesting, would love to try milling my own flour although I might have a job getting hold of a mill…I think in your recipes you use Hard spring red wheat, have you ever used a softer kind of wheat and what are the differences between different varieties of wheat grain? You used White Sonora wheat I think, and that sounds really awesome. I’m just trying to figure out how to maximise the performance and flavour potential of using british wheat varieties as they seem to have less gluten and with a slight bitterness to the taste. Have you ever used a mash, you mentioned Peter Reinhart’s book in one of your posts so I’m just interested to know if you’ve tried using that technique and what you think of his methods.

            • Yes, I use fresh milled white whole wheat quite often which is a softer variety that traditionally has less “bitterness” than red whole wheat. If you can get ahold of some of this type of wheat I’d highly recommend it, I think it’s exactly what you’re looking for. I actually use this white wheat when I make a 100% whole grain sandwich loaf and it’s fantastic.

              I haven’t used Reinhart’s methods for a mash but will have to look into it! I’m not too familiar with his methods although I do have one of this books (need to get back to it!) 🙂

              • Karen Au

                It is his book on whole grain breads and he also has one on sprouted grains, but I’ve only got the whole grain one, I’ve got a pdf copy, if you want to read it I can email it. His methods seem a bit ‘out there’ so I’ve not had courage to try them yet. He says the mash activates enzymes in the flour to release more sugars… Anyway let me know if you try it!

                • I have his sprouted grain book and have read about half of it, still making my way through. I’ll let you know when I try one of his methods (although I did recently bake a sprouted buckwheat loaf that will be posted here soon — I didn’t follow his book per se but the process is probably similar)!

                • Karen Au

                  oh cool! really looking forward to seeing that! by the way have you got a good pannetone recipe??

                • Unfortunately I do not… I will probably be giving that a try next year, though 🙂

  • Elias Ghitman

    Hi there Mauricio,

    I’ve made your beginner sourdough recipe a few times with great success and thought I’d give this one a try. I’ve read in many blogs that higher hydration makes for much better bread. Here is what I ran into: the dough was very wet and I had trouble shaping it because it was sticking to my wooden bread board and it was so loose that I couldn’t get surfice tension. The dough also stuck to the banneton when I was getting it out in the morning to bake. I’m gonna try less water next time I make it (and not skip the last three stretch and folds – I had a meeting). I’m also gonna get rice flour instead of AP flour for dusting the banneton. I will say that I’m happy with the crust and the crumb although I’d love a better rise/spring… which I’m hoping the adjustments I’m making will address. Do you have a suggestion on how much water to cut… I know it’s trial and error but I don’t know where to start.

    Separate question: do you have any plan to get a croissant recipe on here 🙂

    Thanks M!

    Eli

    • Eli — thanks for the message! Yes, sounds like you should back off the water percentage until things are more manageable. Adding more water and performing less stretch and folds both contribute to the same problem: overly slack dough. I would start with 10% less water than you tried and slowly move up or down based on how that goes. Make sure to try and keep as many other things consistent from bake-to-bake as possible so you can see what works and what doesn’t.

      I do have plans for a sourdough croissant recipe but haven’t gotten there yet. Croissants take quite a bit of practice!

      Hope that helps, let me know how it goes!

  • Carrolynne Hsieh

    Hi Mauricio,

    I was wondering if you have any idea what would happen if you accidentally left the dough to autolyse for too long? Thank you!

    • I sometimes do an overnight autolyse (especially with recipes containing lots of whole wheat) and it really helps add extensibility to the dough. When doing this with a mostly white flour recipe I find the dough gets so extensible that it becomes hard to give it back enough strength before baking. You’re always looking for that balance between just enough strength in the dough to hold its shape and trap gases (elasticity) and just enough extensibility so the dough can relax and stretch out when baking to optimal height and shape. Hope that makes sense!

      • Carrolynne Hsieh

        Hi Maurizio,

        Thank you so much for the detailed response! I was panicking from my last two batches because the dough was nothing like my first attempt at this sourdough (which was an amazing success, I keep showing people photos of it like a proud mother). Initially during the most recent first batch I suspected it might have been the starter (which was a tad sluggish) or the autolyse (I was called away for work and left it for almost 2 hours longer than I should have!) which resulted in not a lot of rise, and a dough that is way too soft and doesn’t hold its shape. I barely managed to get it into the tins and just baked some flat loaves with poor crumb…

        But after the second attempt I suspect it must have been the change of flour, since I refreshed the starter for an extra day and did the autolyse for 1h45 as recommended but was left with a soupy dough, which is somehow a further step back from the last attempt!

        I recently bought some T55 (they were out of T65 in the shop, which I wanted to try) and I guess I basically learned the hard way how french flour performs. I tried again with 50/50 T55 (10% protein) and all purpose flour (12% protein) and extra whole wheat + rye (but not oats) as another commenter suggested, which improved the dough slightly but it’s still not 100%, and on the softer side.

        Have you ever tried baking sourdough with T55? Do you have any experience to share?

        I guess it’s all trial and error in the end, but I just wish it wasn’t so temperamental because failing at the end process of making sourdough is such a bummer!

        Thank you!

        • I haven’t had a chance to work with T55 flour specifically so I can’t really comment on how it should perform, sorry about that! When I get a new flour to try I usually start with medium hydration, somewhere in the 70% range and work up as I feel the dough to see if it can take more or not. You can always add more water but you can’t take it out 🙂

          If the dough was super soft and doesn’t hold its shape then it’s either too much water in the mix (this is a very highly hydrated recipe!) or there’s not enough strength built up during kneading and/or stretch and folds during bulk. Try reducing hydration by 10-15% and see if things feel better next try.

          Hope that helps!

  • Paula Paige

    Hi Maurizio, I am so glad I stumbled upon your website. I have been gluten-free (yuck!) for over a year and when I found your site, I was determined to break the gf restriction with a homemade sourdough. I mean, if you’re going to go off script, you might as well go with a bang. I only wish I could attach the pictures of my first bake from the above recipe – a total success! I spent a few years baking from Chad’s book, but I really enjoyed trying some of your techniques and the results were better than I could have hoped for. Thanks for this site, it’s a revelation!

    • That’s so fantastic to hear, thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing that! Really glad to help you (in some small way) make sourdough at home. Such a healthy bread and I really think we can all do this at home. Happy baking, Paula!

  • Andy K

    Hi Maurizio,

    Thanks so much for the detailed step by step instructions and photos, very much appreciated and nicely done. After baking the beginners sourdough recipe about 10 times now I decided to give this recipe a go. The increased hydration definitely made the dough tougher to work with – so sticky and hard to form. I used King Arthur flour which I’m sure could have also made a difference (King Arthur Bread Flour, and King Arthur Organic Wheat). I wish I could figure out how to post a picture – the crust and coloring came out very nice, the crumb looks good to me, no massive holes… I think it tasted good but my wife thought it was a bit more ‘wet’ than the other loaves. I took the bread out when the internal temp was 211.5 and I cut into it after letting it sit for maybe 4 hours. When poking at the crumb, is there a way to gauge ideal ‘sponge-iness’ of the bread? i.e. should the crumb bounce back when pushed? Should I have just let it sit overnight before cutting? Or is it simply going to be a bit damper and more moist because the hydration is almost 11-12% higher than the beginner sourdough recipe? In any event, I can’t wait until tomorrow morning to eat it!! Thanks!

    • Thanks for the kind words Andy! Yes, with increased hydration the interior is going to be more wet and creamy, which I think can be a good thing depending on how you like your bread. You can always work the percentage of water back just a bit from here until you reach your preferred interior texture. It sounds like you baked the loaves out completely so that’s as “dry” as they are going to get. Letting them sit for several hours is also another good thing, if you cut too soon they will be even more damp.

      I find that this bread toasts up incredibly well — the added hydration and creamy interior crisps up so well I find myself toasting every slice when I bake this bread. Delicious.

      As far as the shaping… Yes it takes some time and practice! It’s a sticky, wet dough but after a time your hands will become more and more confident with it and it won’t be a problem (mostly). You’ll be amazing at how lower hydration dough feels after you work at this recipe for a while, you’ll find yourself thinking “something has to be wrong” 🙂

      I hope that helps and I’m really happy to hear this recipe is working well for ya, perhaps with a bit of tweaking you’ll be spot on for your taste! Happy baking Andy.

  • Katie

    I just made this this morning and wow! The crumb cracks like a cracker and it is so beautiful and smells wonderful. I’ve had trouble in the past with underproofing my dough and not testing my levian becase my kitchen sits at around 61-66, especially now that it’s so cold here in PA and I live in not a well ventilated/sealed apartment. So I kept my starter all week in the oven with the light on every time I fed it, and kept my levian, autolyse and bulk ferment in there too to help keep it at a steady, warm temperature. It rose so wonderfully. Thanks so much for the great recipe and all the pictures helped so much. I cooked it in the dutch oven and did a boule shape and turned out great.

    • Super glad to to hear this, thanks for the message Katie! I find one of the biggest challenges in baking at home, especially in the winter, are the cool temperatures. It’s very important to keep that levain and that dough warm for proper activity in the dough.

      I too love this toasted, it turns into one giant, tasty cracker! Happy baking 🙂

  • Kraig

    Hi Maurizio! Thanks for the work in putting this together, it is very detailed and I especially like how you try to teach what to look for!

    I made the dough mostly as described, but in the shape of a batard and I ended up with a rather flat loaf. I think the issues I experienced were the following: Bulk – At the end of 4 hours, my fermentation seemed incomplete, so I let it go, at about 70 degrees for another 3 hours. I think I got to where I should have, but worried that I over fermented. Then, during cold proofing, I did not get any increase in size after about 16 hours (temp in fridge is 38F). To compensate I allowed it come to room temperature and saw a good doubling in size, but when I put it on the peel, it didn’t keep it’s shape, and flattened out. So clearly I didn’t build enough strength durning bulk. The result was great flavor, the crumb seemed right on, and the crust was perfect, just flat.

    I am going to drop the % of water in my next try, and also plan to build more strength. Any other suggestions?

    Final question; Once you pull your bannetons out of cold proofing, do you allow the dough to come to room temp before baking, or do you put it in cold?

    Thanks again!

    • You’re very welcome Kraig, glad to hear you’re enjoying the recipe! Sorry for the late reply.

      It’s possible your dough was also overproofed by the time you got it into the fridge. With this recipe I do not usually see significant rise in my dough when I remove it from the fridge. It will look a little more puffy, but it usually relaxes out quite a bit.

      Good move on reducing hydration, that should help strengthen the dough quite a bit. You could also try adding in one more set of stretch and folds if the dough still feels very weak at the end of your last set during bulk. Adjusting the time of your bulk is definitely a good thing, especially if the dough is around 70ºF. I keep my dough much more warm, 78ºF to 81ºF and that’s just about right for 4 hours or so. Lengthen bulk if you have to until you get to the appropriate signs for when the dough is strong enough. If you can increase the temperature of things then that will help as well.

      I usually do not let the dough come up to room temperature for baking, I just bake them straight away.

      Hope that helps, good luck on the next go and let me know how it goes!

  • Jith Cather

    Thanks for the step by step instruction..good image presentation too..I tried this recipe using Surabhi Flour..it came out really well..your blog really helped me to make this recipe a success..thanks for sharing.

    • Glad I could help and I’m really happy to hear that! Happy baking, Jith!

  • Clay

    Hey Maurizio, very much a n00b here but I followed everything closely and noticed that during fermentation I wasn’t getting the rise in the dough. I suspect I had some overhydration issues. Decided to continue forward and coming out of the oven after the steaming step, it looks a little flat. I do have large bread baskets but wondering where else I could’ve lost the rise in my process… Thanks and love the blog!

    • Clay — sorry about the late reply! I somehow missed the notification for this message. It could have been an over hydration issue. I’d suggest trying to reduce the water called for here by 10% and see if that helps the next attempt. Additionally, make sure you keep your dough warm (close to the Final Dough Temperature listed above) as it will ensure you’re having plenty of activity in your dough.

      Thanks for the kind words and keep me posted on how it goes!

  • Aiyana

    Hi! I have CM T70 on hand and was wondering could I substitute that in Giustos ww spot in this formula? Same amount? I notice you love working with their flour so I’ve picked up a bunch and wanted your advice on when and where to use it in your formulas. Thanks so much! Happy proofing! 🙂

    • Hello! You could substitute it for sure, but know that T70 is much closer to white flour than whole wheat. Typical white flour is probably something like T60 or T65 so T70 is white flour with just a little bit more bran and germ (the “whole wheat parts”) left in. So yes, you could use it there or what might be even better is to replace a percentage, maybe 25%, of the white flour called for in this recipe for T70. That would be delicious! Have fun 🙂

  • Fred

    When I last made it the it was very good but the crust was very thick and hard to cut. How could I prevent this from happening again.

    • Fred

      I just put it in the oven. When I took it out of the shaping basket it just collapsed into a flat pancake and when I tried to score it the indentation just melted back into the dough. Why might this have happened? It wasn’t very strong but I even did an Extra stretch and fold. I think I over hydrated it. What do you think?

      • Yes, it could definitely be over hydration. Try reducing the water in this recipe by 10% and see how it goes next time, I’m sure it will help. It could also be that your dough was over proofed but I’d first reduce hydration and see if that improves!

  • OgitheYogi

    I baked my first loaf the other day and wanted to ask a few questions before trying again. Can you elaborate on what you mean by “I keep the blade at a fairly shallow angle so the taut skin created during shaping will “peel” back as the loaf rises.” I felt that my bread didn’t expand any where as much as yours in the oven, I had a boule shape. Second comment is about the oven rise, is this type of bread meaning high hydration bread get an impressive oven rise? I found that my bread was cooked perfectly but what was missing was the rise and my airpockets were on the smaller side, although there were A LOT of them, how do I address this issue to get larger air pockets, what did I do wrong to impact my internal crumb structure?

    • When you’re holding your blade for scoring the dough, keep the large, flat part of the blade close to the dough when you are cutting in. Imagine swiping your credit card at a credit card machine: if you hold the card completely parallel with the dough and then angle the card UP so it’s now about 25-30º that will be just about right. Cutting in at a shallow angle like this helps this dough rise higher by reducing the amount the dough will spread open.

      It sounds to me like you might have overproofed the dough. Usual signs for this are sluggish rise in the oven with lots and lots of small holes inside (also the taste might have been more sour than usual). Try reducing the final proof time a few hours next time (while trying to keep everything else consistent) to see if that helps!

  • OgitheYogi

    A couple of important questions, this is clearly a very high hydration dough. The hardest thing about this for me besides not overproofing it is the preshape and shape!
    Are there any videos of you preshaping this high hydration dough? I have found a number of useful videos on youtube but none of them seem to be dealing with 87% hydration.
    For some reason I simply cannot get a taut enough boule when preshaping or shaping for that matter, during the preshape of my third attempted loaf I tore the skin multiple times and the dough simply would not hold its preformed shape as a boule, I am thinking over proofing again but how!
    What are some signs of overproofing and how can it be counteracted! Do you have pictures of the shaping stages or videos would be even better! Happy New Year!

    • Here is a video of me preshaping, it’s a lower hydration than this recipe but it was still wet dough. I try to touch the dough as little as possible and mostly rely on my bench scraper and my other hand is well floured. There are a few other videos of me near that one showing mixing and preshaping.

      Watch your dough during bulk fermentation. Take note of how it looks at the beginning of the process, after an hour, after two hours. Don’t let it go so far that it loses strength and begins to look overly “soupy” in the bowl. At the end of bulk it should be stronger, gassy and it should hold it’s shape a little more in the bowl. You’ll notice a smoother surface and defined edges.

      Hope this helps — happy New Year!

  • Ozzie Gurkan

    Maurizio, this is awesome. i am going through this right now and was wondering if it is necessary to proof in the fridge if I want to bake in the evening. My proofing will be done in 78F area (oven with light on), so it should be ready in 4 hours. I will pop them in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking the first one and then keep the other in there until the second one is ready to bake. I do like having the option of baking the next day, but was wondering if you felt it necessary to do that or not. Thanks! I love your site!

    • Thank you! You do not have to proof in the fridge, just have the expectation that the bread will taste a bit different than what I intend here — and that’s totally fine! I find when I do a direct dough (no cold retard in fridge) the flavor is a little sweeter since there is less acidity in the dough, but it does lack some of the complexity of those subtle sour notes I look for. Both ways work really well it’s up to you and what you prefer. Time to experiment 🙂

      • Ozzie Gurkan

        Thanks! I do like having the sweeter taste.

        I followed your directions especially around the additional autolyse, wait before salt, and folding schedule, and achieved awesome bubbling around the crust. However, I think my addition of the Wheat Germ (70 grams), and autolysing at 77 for 12 hours ruined my outcome. I got not-so-good rise (after baking), a little on the gummy side texture (although moist), and more than usual sour taste in the bread. I think I need to stop following the Tartine book and just go with your proportions (really disappointed, I think the book is missing a lot of details). I am going to exclude the Wheat Germ and autolyse for only 3 hours.

        What else do you think might have caused this? I think the bread overproofed accidentally because of the wheat germ, I think…

        • Yes, adding wheat germ should increase fermentation rates in your dough that might have caught you off guard. However, a much bigger problem is If you had your levain in your autolyse step then yes, your dough would have been significantly over proofed. If you want to autolyse for that long make sure you do not include the levain in there (which is what a true autolyse is).

          The Tartine book is really awesome, they all are actually, they just require a few details here and there for beginners — this is actually why I started this website because I was in your shoes right when the books came out! Hope this helps 🙂

          • Ozzie Gurkan

            Thanks! I wanted to give you an update on my retry (1/19): I took out the wheat germ, used Central Milling Craft Plus (800g) and King Arthur While Whole Wheat (70g), 150g leaven, and 755g of water. I used the amazing proofer box (79F) and got some amazing bulk bubbles. I folded only four times as it felt very extensible by end of hour 1. It rose almost twice in 4 hours. It was very sticky indeed, but I managed to pre-shape it. After I shaped it, it seemed ok, but a little less of a dome than I would like. I watched the guys at Tartine Manufactory and their domes looked perfect for the boules. Then, I proofed in the amazing proof box (79F) for 3.5 hours, poked and got my finger stuck in it, but then still put it into the fridge while I waited for the pre-heat. When I flipped over the banneton, the dough turned back into the post-bulk-pre-shape pancake! 🙁 What went wrong? Too much hydration? Not enough folding? Or too much proofing? I put it into the oven and then it sprang back, but not by much and the dough is certainly more dense than I would like. The taste? Ahhmazing, of course, but a little gummy…Any advice? I can send pics if that would help, too.

            • It sounds like maybe the dough was over proofed in this case, especially if you did not see significant rise in the oven. You might want to stick an ambient thermometer in that proofer box to make sure when you set it to 79ºF it’s actually that temperature in there (even better would be to take the temp of the dough with an instant thermometer).

              Spreading like that could also be due to over hydration or not enough strength, or both, essentially. Make sure the dough is strong enough to hold its shape on the counter after you preshape and shape it — just like you’d see at the Manufactory!

  • OgitheYogi

    Suddenly it is very cold in Austin! I wanted to bake some bread this weekend. I took my starter out of the friday Thursday night. I think I might have built the levain with a not so strong starter, it def. didn’t pass the float test. Two concerns it is around 69 degrees in the house at the moment, not sure in what conditions I should keep my starter and levain. Should I keep the levain with the weak starter or try again in 4 hours, I fed my starter this morning along side building the levain. Is there any way I can get bread this weekend? I also on a different page you say “If it’s a levain, not your starter, and it’s fermented much too fast for your schedule you can always make an intermediate build (essentially discard and feed new flour & water) and use the new build to mix” can you elaborate on that, in regards to this recipe!

    I don’t have a proofer and no way of controlling temperature, this makes me feel like I will never have good bread. Austin is either crazy hot and everything overproofs or cold and nothing ferments at a speed that I can bake over the weekend.

    • It’s extremely cold here as well. 69ºF is very cold and you’ll see slow activity in your dough. You could keep your dough in the oven with the oven light on, that’s what I typically do. Another option is to buy a small dough proofing box (I have this and it’s fantastic) to keep your dough warm in the winter. I also keep my starter & levain in here when it gets super cold and I need to bake. Keep an ambient thermometer near your levain so you know appx. what temp it’s running.

      If your levain doesn’t float then it needs more time to mature. Use the oven trick for now or you can make another levain once your starter is mature, use warmer water to speed things up. When I refer to an “intermediate build” it’s what I’ve just explained: another levain build if your levain is too mature to use (smells very acidic, has fallen and looks broken down) that will take another number of hours to get ready. For example, I just did this yesterday in fact — my levain was very, very ripe but I wasn’t ready to mix my dough so I made another levain with really warm water, 90ºF, and it was ready to go in 3-4 hours.

      Unfortunately temperature is extremely critical with making bread and having your dough in the right range really helps. Search around your kitchen for warm (or cool) spots and use your oven with the light on as an incubation chamber. I also highly recommend that proof box if it’s within your budget!

      Hope that helps, let me know if this is unclear — good luck!

      • OgitheYogi

        Proofer looks amazing for not only bread but yogurt and tvorog. The main deterrent at the moment is the price tag.

        For the intermediate build how much of the overfermented levain do you keep, 35 grams? and then add 70 grams of water and 70 grams of flour mix? This has happened to me and I just tossed the levain thinking it passed its peak.

        Do you know of any more affordable proofers? The link you gave me goes to the ones that are 169 without taxes or shipping.

        The inside of my oven is 66 degrees at the moment and my oven is soooo old there is no light option.

        I will feed my starter one more time today and then use it for the levain build before I go to bed. Won’t have bread tomorrow but oh well. Can I cut the fridge fermentation to a couple of hours instead of 16? Maybe not even put it in the fridge and just bake it a couple of hours after shaping it? Is this possible?

        • For the intermediate levain it depends on how long you need before it’s ready… I do a 3 hour build that is 100% inoculation (mature starter/levain), 50g whole wheat, 50g white, 100g H2O @ 85ºF. At 3 hours its very mature and ready to go (at least here in my environment, keep an eye on it and make the call).

          I don’t know of any other proofers. You can always build one yourself using a heating mat (or a plant seedling mat), and a cooler 🙂

          Another option for you is to place your starter/lev/dough in the oven and boil a bowl of water and put it in there to keep things warm.

          You can always cut the fridge fermentation, the bread will taste a bit different (a little more sweet, less sour complexity) but it will still be delicious. Just proof the dough somewhere warm and go until it’s ready to be baked. Use the “poke test” to determine when it’s ready.

          • OgitheYogi

            Last question for the day, how do you know if your levain is ready? You described the dome and lots of bubbles on the side, I am just always worried that if I wait too long its going to drop!

            • If you’re using a liquid levain you can take a spoonful and drop it in a cup of tap water to see if it floats, that’s usually a good rule of thumb. I kind of judge by smell (sour but not overly so), how it looks and general timelines I’m used to. If it does drop it’s ok, it’ll still work as long as it’s not been too long!

  • Brett Fielder

    So I attempted this loaf a few times and have run into a couple of challenges.

    1. Whenever I finish bulk fermentation and move towards shaping, the dough seems more runny/sticky than it should be at that stage (bulk ferment just like you said, but added 30 minutes at the end because of the cool temp)

    2. It works out ok, but whenever I go to bake (turning my banneton over onto the stone, slash the loaf), it looks as if there isn’t much oven spring..until I remove the skillet with lava rocks in it, then it blows up from the bottom of the loaf within minutes. The first time this happened, I thought my seam was weak from shaping, but this time I placed my loaf seam side up on the stone, still blowing out the bottom of the loaf.

    Perhaps the two of these problems are related…any advice?

    • 1. Have you tried reducing the overall hydration in this recipe to help? It might be that your flour isn’t able to take on quite the same level of water I have here and it needs adjustment. That said, this is a high hydration dough and it’s even sticky for me! I’d suggest reducing water a bit and see if this helps.

      2. This is a strange issue! I wonder if perhaps your dough is underproofed and thus the explosion. I’ve run into issues in the past when I have underproofed dough it will forcefully erupt out the sides or the top in unexpected ways.

      I’d recommend two things: reduce water 5% or so and also try to keep your dough warmer during bulk fermentation (78ºF to 80ºF is great) so your dough is more proofed. I hope this helps, let me know how the next trial works out!

  • ZW

    Hi!

    I have made this recipe a few times, as well as other similar variations. My final dough temp is about 77 degrees, and I bulk ferment in the oven with the light on at 77-81 degrees.

    My question is about the final proof. I always retard in the fridge, and my schedule allows for a min 13 hours (rarely) but usually I can bake after about 19 hours. My fridge isn’t very cold, it ranges from 41 degrees to 46 degrees. And this is on the coldest setting. I had an issue with overproofing in a couple previous bakes (I think anyways, I’m not experienced enough to really know). Minimal oven spring, small holes, dense crumb, quite sour. My last 2 bakes have been excellent, with a overnight proof of 15 hours, but this was on the weekend. I like to bake during the work week and bake my loaves after work, which will be 19-20 hours in the fridge.

    I get antsy when my loaves are in the fridge and I’m away from the house, having visions of my hard work dying in their baskets. Am I being too paranoid? There could have been other issues with those 2 failed bakes than my fridge temp. Do you think the dough will be ok for 20 hours at 45 degrees? I had an idea of putting an ice pack beside the dough to cool that area of the fridge.

    • Hey there! Your bulk temp sounds perfect. I like to shoot for around 16 hour cold proof but of course this depends on a lot of factors (including levain percentage, fridge temp, how far you take bulk, etc.) and this can be adjusted up/down. You could try cutting your bulk short by 1/2 hour to give your dough some more time before over proofing, this might give you some extra hours in the fridge. I don’t like to cut it too short, though, 3 to 3.5 hours is the lowest I’ll go. Twenty hours at 45ºF might be too long, but again, it depends on a lot of factors — my gut says too long with your bulk temp.

      An ice pack could help but then it’s kind of hard to keep that part consistent from bake-to-bake and I hate when that happens 🙂 It’s worth a shot, though, if you think your dough is going to be in there too long!

      Another idea is you could do a cold bulk. Do like a 2 hour bulk per normal with your stretch and folds, then pop the dough in it’s bulk container right into the fridge. The next day take it out, let it warm up a bit, preshape, shape and proof on the counter until ready. I don’t have any posts here on a schedule like that but I will here in the future.

      I hope this helps!

      • ZW

        I tried the cold bulk…a bit of a fail!

        I did 2 hour autolyse, 2 hour bulk with 6 sets of stretch and fold every 15 min. 80% hydro. After 2 hours I put it in the fridge (43 degrees), was in there for 12 1/2 hours. I let it warm up in the bowl for an hour, then I preshaped, shaped and let it proof on the counter for 4 hours. I thought it would only take 2 or so, but I tried the poke test and the dough was just sticking to my fingers. After about 4 hours it was passing the poke test if I wet my fingers before touching the dough. When I turned it out onto the peel, it spread out like a pancake. It barely fit in the cloche. I thought I gave the dough some good strength and shaped it well…

        Oddly enough even though my loaf went into the oven basically flat with a sad little slash, I had somewhat acceptable oven spring. And the bread tastes really good and I have a decent open crumb. My husband said this bread was some of the best tasting I’ve made. But I used a pretty young levain, and I think he likes the less sour taste.

        I thought I would share my adventure with this new schedule. I will give it another go I think, but I think with higher hydro doughs it’s easier for me to put in the oven cold. Makes me realize even with a bread “fail”, I still end up with fresh artisan bread that is better than anything I can buy at my local grocery store.

  • Kat LeSueur

    Trying this recipe this week. It looks perfect!

    I’m wondering what’s the reasoning behind autolyse without levain as opposed to the Tartine method of including it? Seems like maybe adding levain to the autolyse shortens proofing time?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Thank you! If you’re doing a short autolyse, like 30m or so, adding the levain is fine but for a long autolyse you don’t wait to add the levain because right once you add the levain to the rest of your dough fermentation on that dough begins. When you mix just water and flour together other chemical/biological processes are taking place but fermentation won’t happen. Adding your levain to a really long autolyse could cause the dough to over proof, depending on other conditions.

      I hope that makes sense!

      • Kat LeSueur

        Thanks! It totally does. But I’m confused because I think I keep coming across conflicting info from different sources.

        I recently read the Tartine #3 book and it seems like those recipes call for autolyse of 1-4 hours but still add the levain to the initial mix? I have to go back and re-read it, but I think I remember a bit about higher whole grain doughs benefiting from extra long autolyse and I don’t remember the book specifying to add the levain later in those cases.

        Am I missing something? Thanks again 🙂

        • I think in T3 he does not add the levain to the autolyse. In the first book it was a little ambiguous but I believe he also intended for the levain to not be added, although it was never 100% clear to me. Yes, I find that a longer autolyse does help whole grains and also flour that has a high protein percentage.

          • Kat LeSueur

            Ahhhh okay. I need to be better about taking notes 🙂 Thanks for being so responsive, it’s super helpful.

            • No worries, sometimes I’m guilty myself! Happy baking, Kat!

  • joe sotham

    I have a technique question. What do you think the impact is by adding the levain at the beginning, with the water, at the start of autolyse. I hate mixing a liquid into a partially mixed dough.

    • Once you add the levain in with the final dough ingredients fermentation begins. If you do a long autolyse with this levain your dough will likely have undergone too much fermentation by the time bulk completes. During autolyse you don’t want fermentation to happen but you do want other the other processes to occur (enzymatic activity that helps strengthen gluten, the breakdown of starches, etc.). Hope that makes sense!

      • joe sotham

        Yes, thanks.

  • Nicole Boudreau

    Hi Maurizio — love your blog! I’ve made your beginner sourdough a couple of times and was pleased with the results. I’ve just made your “best sourdough” recipe as I was hoping for an even airier and more open crumb. I took your advice and used a bit less water (720g total — 82% hydration). I’m in Canada and using Robin Hood AP Unbleached flour (about 11.5% protein, similar to your artisan flour). Everything was great until I poured my dough onto the board after the bulk fermentation (very active starter and levain, dough rose more than 50% during bulk in predicted time frame and temperature, with bubbles as in the photo) — I think it might be over-hydrated. It’s still pretty rough and shaggy looking, and extremely slack, won’t hold a shape at all. Just sort of sat in a puddle on the board. (I have photos and a video, but don’t seem to be able to attach them here…) I poured it into floured bowls and it’s in the fridge now for the night, but I don’t have very high hopes for it… My question is — aside from protein content, are there other factors that influence the amount of water a flour can take? Maybe the Robin Hood flour just can’t go much beyond the 78% hydration of your beginner sourdough recipe. If that’s the case, is there another way to get a more open crumb? More slap and folds, maybe? Thanks! Nicole

    • Thank you! It sounds like your flour probably wasn’t able to take on the amount of water used — not a problem, we can lower the hydration to suit. Each flour (and each batch of flour for that matter) has a different water absorption level and we have to adjust the recipe to suit. I usually recommend starting at a lower hydration than this recipe, as you did, but then also withhold another 100-200g water from the initial mix and add it in gradually as you handmix the dough. This way you can feel how the dough is developing and whether it can take more water or not. If it starts to get too soupy and feels overly weak stop there (ideally just before there).

      I’d say go down another 10% on hydration and see how your flour responds. If the bake turns out great then you can stick to that level or slowly work up a little at a time if desired. Hydration is definitely a tricky thing and it does take experimentation, especially when working with a new flour.

      Almost all steps of the baking process are involved in attaining a more light and open loaf. You have to have strong fermentation in your starter, sufficient protein in your flour (11.5% or more is sufficient), a full and complete bulk step, gentle shaping and full proof — these are all necessary! I wish I could single out a specific thing, like adding more strength to the dough, that would help but unfortunately that is not the case. You will see as you keep baking and you really begin to read the dough and what it needs you’ll see your bread will keep improving more and more.

      I hope this helps!

      • Nicole Boudreau

        Thanks, this is very helpful! I made another batch with less water and it turned out much better! I also used the slap and fold technique for about 10 minutes to build strength. Is it still necessary to perform stretch and folds during bulk fermentation if you do the slap and folds beforehand? And, is there such a thing as too much slap and fold? Can you work the dough too much (by hand)? What happens to it? Thanks so much for your help, Maurizio!

        • Awesome, glad to hear that! There’s a balance with strengthening the dough: you want to end bulk with enough strength in the dough to trap gasses but not so much that it can’t expand in the oven. Slap/fold and stretch/fold both do the same thing but I like to do slap/fold for a bit in the beginning so I handle the dough less during bulk (to avoid knocking gasses out during interaction). You can do more slap/fold at the beginning, so much that you wouldn’t need a single stretch and fold, but I find doing at least one during bulk helps redistribute the dough and keep the temperature in there equal among the entire mass.

          It’s very hard to over mix the dough by hand, I would not worry about it at all. If you over mix (usually in a mixer) the dough will become very strong and eventually over oxidize to the point that the crumb on the resulting bread will be slightly white in color and lose flavor. I’ve never personally done this but I’ve read about this in multiple sources.

          Hope that helps!

  • Rob K

    Maurizio, your blog is the bomb! I stumbled on it nearly three weeks into nursing a rye starter, when I was searching for a good first sourdough recipe. A couple of days before Christmas I decided to make a Russian pan loaf of rye bread I’d made a number of times several years ago, but back then I’d been provided a starter along with the recipe. Lacking a starter this time, I turned to the internet to figure out how to make my own. It’s now been a little over three weeks, and I have a healthy starter with a voracious appetite! (No Brutus here; I should name mine Homer Simpson or some other food loving character.) By pure luck, it’s a rye starter because I had originally intended only to make that Russian rye loaf (which, by the way, I did when my starter was only a week old, and that turned out well!). Of course, in the process of reading about sourdough starters, I discovered the new (for me) sourdough/artisan/tartine world, and I knew I’d be trying more breads beyond the rye loaf that quite serendipitously launched me on this journey.

    Part of the reason for the delay in making my first sourdough was Maurizio’s insistence (like that of every other experienced baker I’ve read, albeit all my reading has been in just the last couple of weeks!) that baking a good loaf requires precise measurements of ingredients by weight, not volume. So I patiently awaited the arrival of my new digital scale from Amazon. I also picked up a bench knife for pre-shaping and some new utility knife blades (that I’d be able to use on other projects even if my bread making doesn’t last). Other than that, I made do with the tools I already have in my kitchen. In my case, however, that included a dutch oven and a thermapen instant read thermometer. Thermapens aren’t cheap, but I have one I use for BBQ. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, but I did use it to confirm the temperature of my turned-off-oven-with-light-on and the temperature of my water. I’m sure you could use an inexpensive thermometer to get your water around 90F.

    For the better part of this week, I debated whether to start with the beginner loaf (my better judgment) or Maurizio’s best sourdough (what I really wanted to do). I decided to go with the best, promising myself if it didn’t turn out well that I wouldn’t be discouraged, and I’d give the beginner recipe a few tries before trying this one again.

    Results? Presto! As Maurizio’s written, it’s truly like modern day alchemy. I have little doubt that it’s not the best loaf I’ll ever make, but I still can’t believe that THIS loaf came out of MY oven (I wish I could post my pictures here for you to see what success can come from when your work-in-progress doesn’t look as perfect as Maurizio’s). The crust is awesome, and I (im)patiently waited two hours to cut into it. When I did, I discovered a creamy, open crumb. My six year old devoured a heel, and even at his young age, he’s something of a snob about bread, so I had independent confirmation of success!

    I write not to brag, at least not to brag about MY efforts. I will, however, brag on MAURIZIO’s recipe and detailed instructions. I’m sure the key to my success was sticking extremely close to his instructions, especially with respect to timing, temperature and measurements. If you’re having troubles, my first question is: are you following Maurizio’s instructions to a tee? I didn’t start the process at the time his instructions do, so I wrote down revised times for the entire process based on the time I had started. A couple of times I was a little slow, so I revised my times from those points on as well.

    I made sure my starter was ready for use (per Maurizio’s starter maintenance post), and after I mixed the levain, I put it in my oven with the light on, which maintained a temperature of around 80-82F. That was itself something of a surprise when I tested it earlier in the week. Believe it or not, turning on that little oven light will very likely take your oven to the perfect temperature for your levain and autolyse, too. If you’re having troubles and NOT doing those first two steps in your oven with the light on (or some other technique that maintains a near-80F temperature), try again, and this time, DO IT.

    Not everything went perfectly, mind you. I was prepared for problems and even failure based on so many of the questions and comments I’ve read here. So I was pleasantly surprised how right the dough seemed to be by the time I started folding during the bulk fermentation phase. But by the end of my bulk fermentation, my dough was not as blistery as Maurizio’s. It looked more like the end of the bulk fermentation in Maurizio’s sourdough beginner’s recipe. I didn’t know what I could do about that, so I hoped it was close enough not to be a complete flop. When I preshaped, the dough didn’t ball up quite the way it does in Maurizio’s Instagram video, but I chalk this up to my lack of experience handling dough. And when I shaped it, the dough ball seemed flatter than Maurizio’s upright dough balls (or Chad Robertson’s). Lacking a banneton, I improvised with a bowl and tea towel, lightly dusted with rice flour — not just ANY flour, but RICE flour like Maurizio instructs. Into the fridge it went (I was making only a half recipe for one loaf), where it stayed for the next 15 hours. It had been an interesting day, but I didn’t let my hopes rise (yeah, a rimshot for a lame pun).

    When I took out my dough today, it didn’t look like it had risen much, so I was preparing myself mentally for a disappointing first try — but my fault, right? I had to try the black diamond course first, hard headed me. Then when I scored the dough, it didn’t open quite like it does in some of the videos I’ve watched online, although within just a few more seconds the slits did expand and looked a lot like those pics and videos. Then I popped the dough into my preheated dutch oven and 500 degree oven. At the twenty minute mark when the dutch oven lid came off, I knew that I wasn’t going to be completely disappointed with my efforts. Another twenty five minutes at 450F and out came a loaf of bread that despite all the time I had invested, I still couldn’t believe came out of MY oven.

    So for those of you who haven’t had success yet, I encourage you to stick with it, and most importantly, to adhere to Maurizio’s instructions just as closely as you possibly can. I was quite anal about doing things down to the minute, the gram and the degree that Maurizio prescribes (and that includes your ingredients, too). I read and reread three of his posts: maintaining your starter, beginner’s sourdough and the page you’re on right now. I made notes to outline exactly what I was doing and when, plus I had my iPad open to this page (and the beginner’s page), and reread each step one more time right before I did that step.

    Maurizio, I halfheartedly apologize for the length of this comment because I realize it’s more like a guest blog post, which I would totally turn this into (with pics), if I could — as a complement to your picture perfect pics and instructions. It’s incredibly helpful to see what things SHOULD look like throughout the process, but I think it could also be encouraging to see what less-than-perfect can turn into in your oven. Honestly, by the end of my bulk fermentation it crossed my mind to pitch the dough and start over again today. But I had invested the better part of a day making it, so I figured I might as well see it through, and I’m glad I did.

    I doubt I’ll turn into a pathological sourdough baker. And I’m definitely not self-taught; I’m internet-taught, but I’m mostly Maurizio-taught, and thank you for that, Maurizio. Of course, I’m still a fledgling student, but I’m an enthusiastic, new sourdough baker who is very appreciative of this site. You know, you could pack this all up in a book and go commercial, don’t you, dude? AWESOME site. Congratulations on your Saveur award! Richly deserved!

    • Rob — WOW what a post, thanks so much for the feedback and all the comments! I’m super glad to hear your bake has gone well. Like you said in your post, baking really comes down to making a series of small adjustments, and listening to the dough, through the entire process. These small little steps all add up to something larger and, in the end, are what help make an awesome loaf of sourdough bread.

      I agree, sometimes it would be nice to see failures and missteps along the way so you can see the contrast between what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve done this previously on my Oat Porridge Sourdough but I probably should start doing this a bit more as I experiment and develop new recipes — thanks for that suggestion!

      Yes, perhaps one day I’ll package all this up into a single, concise book but for now I’m happy to write here and just bake as much as possible. Plus, I love interacting with all the bakers who send messages and ask questions — it’s awesome!

      Thanks again and here’s to many more bakes in the future!

      • Rob K

        You flatter! You say that I said “listen to the dough, making small adjustments.” For better or worse, I say listen to Maurizio! I experiment with recipes from the internet all the time and usually my final recipe is some amalgam of two or three of the best recipes I’ve read, most likely with my own tweaks. But this is baking, man! And I suspect there are a lot of folks like me who don’t know what to “listen for” from the dough, and we don’t know what “small adjustments” to make or in what direction (although 10% less hydration seems like a consistent tweak here). I’ll get there, where I can listen and adjust. But for my first loaf, I followed your instructions to the tee like I was making my first nuclear bomb. No deviations. Like I tell my six year old, follow instructions exactly and immediately! For the failed outcomes, I’m sure it makes it easier for you to diagnose via the internet if your instructions have been adhered to closely. So at the risk of contradicting my Sourdough Master (we just saw the new Star Wars last night), I say to your readers FIRST follow Maurizio’s instructions exactly and immediately. I look forward to many more Maurizio-moderated bakes.

        • Over time that ability to listen to the dough does increase 🙂 You start to notice the small things, the finer details, and you’re also building up a compendium of past bakes from which you can draw comparisons to — a valuable tool. Sometimes these tweaks and changes are subconscious even (“that dough doesn’t look strong enough, ok one more fold”).

          Thanks again for the comments and glad to have you along — happy baking!

  • moe mathy

    Maurizio, followed your recipe pretty close but baked the loaves in a cloche and romertopf clay pot. Ended up with way too big holes and one round loaf with one big cavity. What causes these big holes? Moe Mathy

    • Usually when I see bakes that have a few scattered huge holes with other parts of the dough much more dense it’s due to underproofing. Make sure your bulk fermentation goes far enough so the dough is developed and looks similar to the photos I have in the post above. 4 hours is a good benchmark at 75ºF – 80ºF but it may take longer depending on the temperature in your kitchen. Keep an eye on the dough and its temperature and adjust the time as necessary (cooler temps will take longer). You really want that dough to look alive in the bulk container when you divide.

      Hope that helps, Moe!

  • Moe Mathy

    Thank you for the advice ! Moe Mathy

  • OgitheYogi

    Hey what size bannetons are those?

    Also if I want to do the same day bake, how many hours of proofing would you recommend? I did 3 hours and it was too much for the temperature that day, the dough was flowing out of the banneton. The temperature was no more than 75 degrees.

    • These bannetons are 14″ long.

      It’s hard to say exactly how long of a room temp ferment you need to fully proof the dough — like you said it depends on the temperature of your kitchen. At around 75-78ºF I’d say 3-4 hours, but there are a lot of factors at play. When I do room temp ferments like this I use the “poke test” (if you are unfamiliar with this there are videos on YouTube) to determine if the dough is done and ready to be baked!

  • EricMayBell

    Hi Maurizio, quick question. Does the dough go directly from the refrigerator to the oven or do you let the dough come to room temp at all?

    • Straight from fridge to oven (after scoring)!

  • jondska

    My wife saw some program on healthy bread and asked me to bake some for her. Little did I know there was so much to it! Did some research, started a starter and baked a couple of loaves from some other recipe. 2 bricks, lightly dusted. Same thing the next week. Got a new starter and found your recipe. Last week much better but not quite there. Very little oven spring so I revved the starter up this week and baked two today. Finally!! My wife just made sandwiches and the bread was perfect. Thanks for the great blog…

    The only thing I need to perfect is the scoring. The cuts seem to “heal” over before it springs. I’m not using the same flower as you and slightly less water. This is the last thing I need to solve so I can post pretty pictures too.

    • Right on, glad to hear your latest attempts have gone pretty well! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the baking process at first but I think after you do it a few times you really get the hang of it.

      The score can kind of heal back up for a few reasons: over proofed dough (reduce your proof time and see if it helps), not enough tension in the dough from shaping (make sure there’s a nice taut skin on the dough after shaping) and finally you might not be scoring deep enough with your blade (make sure the cut goes in and slightly below the tight skin created during shaping).

      Hope this helps and keep at it! Baking always gets better and better as you gain experience. Have fun 🙂

  • Lisa Jones

    It was ok, nothing great!

    • That’s totally fine! This recipe is a good springboard for you to take this dough in your own direction, wherever your bread preference may be. Happy baking, Lisa!

  • Karen Pick

    My first sourdough loaf! I followed your instructions to the letter (including making the starter), reading and rereading them (and every other page of this site), each time with greater understanding, watching the videos you recommend multiple times, again each time with greater understanding. Feeling, smelling, touching, finally tasting… The results? Fantastic texture and perfectly balanced flavour! No, my bread doesn’t have as many great air holes as yours (but then, I never got my starter looking as vigorous as yours either- I suspect because it was simply never warm enough) but it is still very decent bread. (I know of what I speak; I live in Quebec City, where top-notch bread abounds!) Thank you so much for your pursuit of excellence, your devotion to simple but thorough explanation and your generosity in sharing both (along with a whole heap of invaluable and inspiring photos)!

    • Karen — really happy to hear this! I’m glad your bread turned out well, it sure sounds like you spent the time to research and prepare, I think this is half the battle most times. With time I’m positive your bread will only improve, and as the weather warms up you’ll also notice quite a bit more activity not only in your starter but also in your dough.

      Thanks so much for the kind words, I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying my take on sourdough and my website! Happy baking 🙂

      • Karen Pick

        Ooh, second try today not so good! Yesterday the dough was a sticky, runny mess! :(( It’s not a brick and still tastes great but the results are nothing like last week. Could it be because I didn’t feed my starter properly before building my levain? I took it out of the fridge Friday morning for a Saturday build but decided to monitor it instead of feeding it. It went crazy bubbly and rose far beyond my expectations but became pretty liquid (no vinegar smell however). It seemed to make an OK levain and the dough looked great but it had no strength at all and I could barely shape it.
        Very discouraging!
        My starter’s back in the fridge and this time I’ll be taking it out Thursday morning for another Saturday build. Should I feed it as soon as it comes out of the fridge or let it warm up and ferment for a while first? Then feed it again Thursday night and maybe three times Friday? Any help would be appreciated!

        • Yes, that could definitely be the cause. Maintaining your starter and making a strong levain is incredibly important! Keep an eye on it and feed it predictably when it needs it. I let it warm up a bit after it comes out of the fridge, then feed it to get it back on schedule. You only need to feed it three times a day if it looks like it needs it. You want it to show very strong fermentation, rise up to a high level and just about when it’s going to fall back down give it a refreshment.

          • Karen Pick

            Thank you Maurizio. Food and warmth from Thursday on!

  • OgitheYogi

    Same question here, how did you get this total pre-fermented flour: 6.4%?
    What calculation are you using?

  • lily

    People are not beautiful….

    BREAD IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL

  • Scott

    Maurizio, where did you get these particular baskets? I’m interesting in many trying to make some batards and I like the size you have here…. Looks like the ones you have recommended in your “my tools” section were smaller.

    Best,

    Scott

    • I picked these up at Breadtopia.com, they are the longer wood pulp bannetons. I’ll have to add them to my tools page!

  • Brett Fielder

    So I have been using this recipe pretty regularly the past few months and have had great results

    My only consistent challenge is how sticky the dough is when pre-shaping/shaping. I can manage it OK and I know it should be somewhat sticky with the hydration level but from watching a few different videos on pre-shaping, the dough looks so much more uniform and taut when it is being shaped compared to mine at home.

    My concern is that I am not getting enough tension, so my oven spring is good but somewhat delayed, like the dough out of the fridge can’t hold its shape as it initially warms up. Like I said, I still get decent oven spring but not like I have seen on so many other loaves…any thoughts? Could those be connected?

    PS – I am using your steam technique, which I love…baking two loaves on pizza stone each week!

    • Brett Fielder

      The other thing is my plastic wrap sticks pretty significantly when waiting to shape…thanks again!

      • Glad to hear that! Yes, this dough can be very sticky and depending on the flour you’re using it can be extremely challenging. Since hydration is a very relative number (relative to flour and environment) I’d suggest you try reducing hydration a few percentage points to see if that helps. Sometimes even 1-2% makes a huge difference, resulting in bread that not only rises higher but has better structure overall.

        I’d start with 5% and see how that goes!

  • troggg

    You’re not the only one who raided the crust and left the soft inside for the rest of the family as a kid! I’m normally pretty unselfish; but when there’s great crust involved, well …

    • Ha ha, we sound like the same kid growing up! I like to say when it comes to good crust, all pleasantries are put aside 🙂

  • Jock Young

    When I make ciabatta at 80% hydration the dough is quite slack and sticks tenaciously to anything it comes in contact with; the bowl, my hands, the counter, etc. While stretching and folding I use a light coating of oil to manage the dough. Your dough is at 87% hydration and I notice in the photos of the dough in the bowls that there doesn’t seem to be any issues with it sticking to the bowl. Is there some trick to that or can I expect to struggle with it? I’m going to try this formula this weekend with a starter I have perc-ing away as we speak. Thank you for the excellent articles and helpful tutorials.

    • Hydration is ultimately always relative to the flour you’re using and your environment. It could be that your flour is not able to handle as much water as the flour I use here. This is a very wet dough though, no denying that! I don’t use anything to prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl, I have a large ceramic bowl I perform my bulk fermentation in and the dough hardly sticks to it. At times I’ll also use plastic tubs when doing larger batches of dough and do have trouble with the dough sticking but I get around that by using a little water to coat the tub.

      I would suggest starting with a hydration that might be more suited to your flour and then work up from there. If you do ciabatta at 80% I’d suggest you starter there, or even lower. You definitely want to try and avoid the “soup” scenario!

      Hope this helps, let me know how it goes!

      • Jock Young

        Thank you for the tips and advice. So, I went with the recipe as written using King Arthur bread flour. Definitely borderline soupy dough! Wet as the dough was, however, I was pleasantly surprised that it did not stick to the bowl as a did the stretch and folds.
        The shaped dough would not hold its shape, even for the few seconds between unmolding from the baneton, slashing and into the oven. The result was poor oven spring (although it did have the nice open crumb I was looking for).
        On the plus side, the flavor is good and I can quite see why you rave over the crust! The whole exercise was not a complete waste because now I know the limits of the flour. I have high hopes for the next batch.

        • Ah! Yeah sounds like over hydration. You’re right though, now you know the ceiling, back off from there on the water and you can dial it in over time 🙂

  • rahman

    Hi!
    I have been trying this recipe on my last 4 bakes. (i bake once a week) but i have been getting some problem, i have been looking around the internet for advice with no help. hope you have some 🙂

    so i have no problems until after the bulk fermantation. During bulk the dough rises very well, get elastic and just amazing every time. When i get to the shaping i have a really hard time shaping the dough, the dough is very sticky and hard to manage (may be too wet)? When i finally some sort of shape on the dough i put in in a bowl cover with a kitchen towel that has been flowerd. The next morning after retarding the dough has risen, no problems there. but when i come to turn it out the towel is always stuck on the dough. After that i manege to get the towel of the dough it just does not hod itself together that good. I use a pan in the button of the oven with about a cup of water fo steam.

    The result is a really amazing tasting pretty flat loaf of bread.

    shoud a try the recipe with less water? would be great if you had some ideas 🙂

    • Yes, I’d reduce water on the next try, perhaps 5-10%. It sounds like your dough is a little over hydrated and/or it does not have enough strength to it. Reducing water will help with both. Make sure your dough feels and looks smooth by the end of bulk and add in more stretch and folds if necessary. You want the dough to be strong enough to holds its shape in the oven but extensible enough for it to open up and rise. A balance between the two!

  • Alleged Comment

    When I saw your bread I said perfect! What you want.

    Then when I saw you used MALTED FLOUR I knew that was the real trick. Read somewhere malt is one key to getting it right. Put malt on my checklist to get on Amazon but never did.

    I just use the no-knead method now. It’s OK but not “holey” like yours. Got to get that malt or malted flour!!

    • Thanks! Well, I wouldn’t say malted flour is the key to bread like this, there’s a lot that goes into it beyond the malt. Malt does help increase enzymatic activity and add color to the crust, which is definitely welcome. I’d say pick some up if your flour is not already malted (many “bread” flours are).

      Good luck and happy baking!

  • Adam Gemma

    Thanks for this recipe. I’ve been baking Sourdough for about 4 months now but recently struggled to get a good loaf with the usual recipe. Your post renewed my passion!

  • Wesley

    Am I understanding this correctly, that you’re baking the dough cold straight out of the refrigerator, after the proof?

    • That’s correct: straight from fridge to oven.

  • Katharine Flohr

    Second attempt at a natural sourdough recipe…… no dice folks! I followed all the steps carefully, I am normally a good baker. I looked for the signs the dough was active during the bulk fermentation and it looked promising…. but I STILL ended up with the same limp dough that sags on the counter into a pancake. I have bubbles and a bit of rise but not enough structure to keep its shape. I’m just going to get a hyrgrometer now cause I am pretty sure Canadian winter has screwed any chance of me getting this right. This site shows such nice bread, too bad I can’t get it right.

    • Shawn Fields

      Hi Katharine! If I can chime in.. I’m thinking that if you’re following the method, then either of 2 things or both are happening. 1. Starter is not quite active enough or 2. Temp is too low. Seeing you’re in Canada, my guess would be the latter. If you have an ambient thermometer take a reading during bulk… it should be very close to 80F – 26C for 4 hours

      • Katharine Flohr

        Thanks for the reply. Ya I had a therma pen that I kept inserting into the dough when it wasnt sitting inside a warm oven (light on). It was reading around the 80 degree mark. Mabe the starter just isn’t active enough like you suggested. Anyway, I will keep trying, spring is coming. Thanks again,
        Katie

    • Kimi A.

      Hi Katharine! How old is your starter? Did you just make the starter culture? I tried making bread with mine and it was too weak, and I could not get a rise. After about a month it was way stronger. You should be able to see the starter grow at least, and over double its original size when you make the levain. This is easiest in a tall glass jar, and I actually tape the outside of the jar for the starting point.

      • Katharine Flohr

        My starter was around 15 days old. It had plenty of good bacteria ( nice sour smell) but not alot of rise and fall after feeding. It was definitely not doubling though.

    • Kimi A.

      Also- I find that when starting out using a lower hydration level, around 75% is much easier to manage at first! My attempts at over 75% have been good and bad.

      • Katharine Flohr

        do you mean 75% hydration in the starter? or the completed bread recipe?

    • Bummed to hear that, Katharine! @kimi_anderson:disqus has a great suggestion, lowering the hydration to around 75% is a good thing to do at first. Hydration is definitely related to the flour and the environment you’re in, I’d dial the water back and see if that helps the next go — then you can slowly work it up (if you want).

      And as @disqus_NE9wXIsmJd:disqus suggested: temperature is super, super important! It sounds like your dough was @ 80ºF so that is a good thing, that’s where I try to keep my dough most days.

      I’d focus on that starter and make sure it’s in tip top order and then give this another try with lower water, I’m confident if you have strong fermentation in the dough you’ll get a nice loaf. Keep us posted!

  • Rosa

    Hello, can you give me the link to where you have bought that big orange bowl😯

  • Shawn Fields

    Wow Maurizio! This is an awesome recipe!! Thank you so much! I love the blog, keep up the good work!

    • Thanks so much Shawn, I really appreciate that!

  • ReneeR

    I’ve been making this recipe for at least 6 months. It is so good! I like making it as cheese bread, adding around 4 ounces of finely chopped sharp cheese (cheddar or gruyere) to the dough around the second fold.

    This week my brother was over to sample a freshly baked loaf. He had eaten at a restaurant that serves Tartine bread the night before, and said (objectively!) that my bread is better! Now that was affirming! 🙂

    Thanks again for this nourishing and delicious recipe.

    • ReneeR

      PS I use King Arthur bread flour and Community Grains Red Winter Wheat, both of which are readily available in the SF Bay Area.

      • Wow that’s AWESOME! Can’t get a better compliment than that 🙂 Those are great flour choices! I’ve not tried Community Grains yet (I have had their whole wheat pasta which is amazing) but will have to get some. Thanks for the update and it sounds like you’re rockin’!

        • ReneeR

          Thank you!

  • Nicolas Ghantous

    Hello, I baked this bread today..used king arthur bread flour and king arthur white whole wheat…lots of holes i the soft crumb yet the holes are not as big..I wish I could load a picture..I mean the bread is excellent yet not sure why I did not achieve your holes…

    • Achieving an open crumb is a challenge, everything in the process has to be just right: strong fermentation from your starter, sufficient dough strength, a full and complete bulk, gentle handling and a full proof. These all play into it! Keep at it, you’ll notice over time your bread will get better and better — all the while totally delicious and incredibly healthy.

  • Lisa Siemsen

    Hi, will attempt this next. Do you put the loaf in the oven straight from the fridge? Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi! Yes, I bake these straight from the fridge. Happy baking 🙂

  • WinstonV

    After using another recipe for years, I made this one. It made amazing bread, close to the photos, and I actually skipped most of the early stretch and folds. A good starter, the right moisture and the autolyze I think made the difference. Would have liked more sourness but that’s the trade off for the higher temps which keep the yeast active. This will definitely be my new go to method. Thank you!

    • Super glad to hear that, Winston! Yes, proper fermentation with a strong starter/levain is pretty key with my recipe. You can add in some rye or more whole grains into this and perhaps lengthen the proof just a tad longer as well, to try and pull out some more sour notes.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

    • Wartface

      Keep your starter in your fridge… it will become more sour.👍

  • OgitheYogi

    Is the Central Milling Type 70 flour that you use in this recipe the malted or unmalted type? Thanks! Want to make a big order soon!

    • Hey! It’s the malted version: Organic Type 70 Malted. Happy baking!

  • Diana

    Hi! This is my favorite recipe, and I’ve made it successfully twice now! Thanks for all the advice you gave me previously, which really helped me with achieving a nice crumb!

    Any tips on how to make the bread LESS sour? Throughout the process, I’ve been using the higher temperatures in the ranges you provided (in my proofing box), I think because I’ve been afraid that the lower temperatures will cause the dough to not rise/ferment. But I’m now considering using the lower temp ranges to control the sourness of the bread. Some ideas I have are to build the leaven and autolyse at 77 degrees, use a younger leaven (so right at peak or slightly before), bulk at 78 degrees, to put shaped dough directly into the refrigerator (instead of having it rest on the counter for 20 min), and to reduce final fridge proofing to 8-12 hours.

    Any thoughts about those ideas? Would this lead to under-proofing (which has been my problem for the past 3 months!).

    Thanks again!

    • Wartface

      The sourness comes from your starter, not your dough.

      Are you storing your starter in the fridge? If so… leave it at room temperature. You will not gain muchsourness during delayed fermentation in the fridge of your dough.

    • Fantastic, really great to hear that Diana! I think all of your adjustments will help reduce the sourness. However, as @Wartface:disqus said below, you should also focus on your starter. Make sure to feed your starter in a timely fashion, when it starts to fall in your jar it needs a feeding. If you leave it to sit too long in an overly acidic situation this will eventually transfer over to your dough.

      After your starter there are a few things you can help reduce the acidity in your dough: reduce overall proof time (especially in the fridge), reduce whole grains (which contribute to increased acid production in your dough) and I’ve also noticed a slightly cooler bulk temperature (78ºF should be perfect) can help as well.

      It’s hard to say whether your suggestions would lead to an underproofed dough, it’s all very relative to how the rest of the process is going. You want to bulk and proof just to the right point but not much further. I would say try your adjustments and see how the bake tastes/looks and then adjust the bulk and proof times up or down from there.

      I hope that helps, let me know how it goes! And sorry for the late reply!

  • Irms

    I’ve made this recipe many times. The first few times were a great success, but recently when I flip the dough out of the banneton right before baking it falls flat and I end up with a very thin bread resembling a flat bread 🙁 I’ve tried reducing the water amount for a firmer dough but still end up with the same result. What could be the problem?

    • Wartface

      Your problem is your gluten was not developed properly. Google “window pane test”.

    • It could be the dough was still over hydrated, the dough didn’t have enough strength to it, or the dough was over proofed. If you’ve already reduced hydration, I’d suggest you try to add a little more strength to the dough during mixing/kneading or you could add one or two more sets of stretch and folds during bulk. Since this recipe already has quite a few stretch and fold sets I’d say a little more mixing/kneading time upfront will help quite a bit.

      Try adding more strength first and if you still have issues then pull back on your proof a bit, perhaps a couple hours during your overnight cold retard.

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Anna Pm

    Maurizio today I baked this bread for the first time, it´s awesome! now I know why you call it your best sourdough recipe. I thoroughly followed all your instructions and the result was incredible. I´m a little disappointed to read that I may have different breads every time because I´d like to have this same one, delicious

    • Thanks so much for the feedback, Anna! Really glad to hear that. Well, there will be some variability with each bake (isn’t that true with anything truly handmade, though?) but the more you do it the better the consistency. Happy baking!

  • Eric Dillon

    Hi Maurizio, I have baked this recipe or a variation of this recipe several times.. every time it yields excellent bread. What I sort of struggle with is your FDT. After the long autolyse, I mix in the levain and the salt, and my FDT is roughly 73 on average. And that is with 90 degree water for the autolyse.

    I know I can adjust things for ambient temperature, but how do you adjust your dough temp to compensate for that long autolyse?

    • That’s awesome, Eric! Glad to hear it. This is very true, the long autolyse will cool the dough over time. What I do is I keep that dough warm during the autolyse just like if I were to keep it warm during the entirety of bulk fermentation. I keep it in my dough proofer or in my oven (turned off) with the light on.

      Hope that helps!

  • Hannah

    Hi, I’ve tried this recipe twice and both times the dough does not rise at all after 15 hours of proofing in the fridge. Is it suppose to rise after that step and by how much? The last time I made it, I left it at room temperature for a few hours so it could rise and then baked and it turned out great, but just wondering what I’m doing wrong.

    • You’re not doing anything wrong at all, Hannah! The very cold temps of a normal home fridge won’t really let your dough rise a whole lot — in fact it’s pretty normal to not see much rise at all from when you first put it in. What you did is exactly correct: leave the dough out on the counter for a little extra time if you notice it could use more fermentation time at room temperature. Glad the recipe worked out for ya!

  • Rod Carlson

    Hi Maurizio, I’m quite new to sourdough baking and had some limited success, do you think it’s possible to autolyse overnight in the fridge say 12 hrs? I tend to feed my starter after work around 5pm then make the leaven overnight. Its just starting to get cooler here ( New Zealand ) so even in the kitchen the temperature drops quickly overnight. Love this site it’s inspirational & a great source of information thank you

    • Thanks Rod, appreciate that! I’ve never done a super long autolyse with a mostly-white dough like this. I would say try it out and see how the dough reacts. Keep in mind the dough will be super cold when you take it out so you’ll need to let it come up to room temp (or warmer) before proceeding otherwise your final dough temperature will be quite cold.

      My inclination would be if you’re short on time in the morning or when you need to get the dough mixed, just skip the autolyse step and see if your dough still bakes up nicely (I’m sure it will).

      Hope that helps!

  • Brian

    Maurizio- I notice that at Stage 6 (bench rest) you don’t appear to do as much pre-shaping as Chad R. does in the Tartine approach where he looks to build tension in the dough. Am I reading that wrong or is it simply that with a dough hydration of 87% compared to 70% (I think) for the basic loaf in the Tartine Book that building tension in the dough just prior to bench rest is pretty difficult? Oh, and tremendous blog, thank you.

    • Thanks, Brian! The amount of tension imparted during preshape is kind of relative to how the dough feels when dividing. If the dough feels overly slack (which is usually the case at a hydration level like this) then I will actually preshape it relatively tight — but not overly tight. The key is we’re taking that mass of dough and breaking it down into smaller more manageable pieces to prep for shaping. At the same time, though, we have an opportunity to add a little more strength to the dough if necessary, but being gentle here is key. I like to add just enough strength to the dough during preshape so that it takes between 20-30 minutes to relax out before shaping. If after 30 minutes the dough is still super tight and balled up next time you can preshape more gently, and conversely, if the dough spreads out very fast you might need to add more strength to your dough and/or preshape tighter.

      Hope that helps!

  • Janet

    Will my bread every look like this.
    I can bake Chad Robertson (looks like his photos), ken forkish (looks like his photos) and several others. Beautiful open crumb etc.
    I have tried twice now, only difference is I use Dutch ovens. Colour same, taste amazing, just doesn’t throw its crust apart. Semi open crumb, not like yours. 😐
    Anyway, will try again.
    When I master this will try your other recipes.
    Love your blog.
    Janet

    • Janet — yes it’s totally possible! If I can do it you can do it 🙂 There’s no problem at all with using a Dutch oven to bake, it will produce similar results if everything else was equal.

      Keep at it and happy baking!

  • Janet

    Another thing Maurizio, that bread makes the best toast. I will try again and not be disappointed if it doesn’t look like yours cause it is still worth it.

    • I have to agree with you, it makes amazing toast! Thank you 🙂

  • Katherine Ko

    Hi Maurizio, just wonder, what would make the crumbs into wet spongy instead of dry spongy? I have followed two recipes of yours, 50/50 & this best sourdough, but every time the crumbs is just like a wet sponge, my father even thinks they were undercooked. Would flour be a problem? Some suggested that I should lower the hydration level.. Thanks in advance.

    • I’d agree, try reducing the hydration 5-10% and see if that helps. It’s very possible your flour isn’t able to take on the same hydration levels mine is — and that’s not a bad thing, each flour and environment is different!

      It’s also possible your loaves are under-baked. If you have an instant read thermometer put it into the center of the loaf when you think they are done and make sure the interior reads at least 210ºF.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

  • Taylor Kennedy

    Hi Maurizio! Just wanted to say thank you! I’ve been trying my hand at making sourdough every week for the last couple of months – following your blog like it’s the bible. I’d been having moderate success up to this point, but today I finally took the plunge and tried this recipe. Voila! I finally achieved the oh-so-desired oven spring that’s been lacking in my previous attempts. Can’t wait to cut into it! Thanks again!

    • Ahhh really glad to hear that, Taylor! Happy to be a small part of your awesome bake 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Mina Bux

    Hello, I would like to know what is the grinding of the Malted Bread Flour? Is it a kind of white T60 flour? Thanks for your work it is really much inspiring!

    • The malted bread flour I use here is low extraction, “white flour.” So I’m guessing something like T60 would work well. Yes, I bake the loaves straight from the fridge!

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

      • Mina Bux

        Thank you for your reply! That helps, I have made a “perfect” loaf 😉

        When I touch the dough after the first fermentation and I shape it I feel like the dough miss som elasticity! Can you try to tell me why?

        Thank you in advance for your good advices!
        Romina

        • That’s great to hear! If you feel like the dough needs more elasticity (resistance to stretching) you could either reduce the hydration of the dough, add in more sets of stretch and folds during bulk or it could even be you’re dividing the dough a little early. You could try one, or a combination, of these things until the dough feels like what you’d expect 🙂

  • Diana

    Hello again Maurizio. I’ve been baking this recipe consistently (and successfully) at 80% hydration. Thanks so much for all the advice you’ve given me! Recently, I’ve been thinking about increasing the whole wheat percentage in this recipe to around 20% (just to boost the health benefits) and to use white whole wheat instead of the traditional red for a milder flavor (either 20% all white whole wheat or 10% red whole wheat + 10% white whole wheat). Any recommendations on the whole wheat blend, and any thoughts on how this might change how the bread turns out? Thank you again as always.

    • That’s great to hear, Diana! With higher percentages of whole wheat it’s possible you could increase hydration even further but I’d suggest sticking to the hydration you’re using for the first trial and then increase if it feels like the dough can handle it. I feel like any combination of red/white would work really well! Since it’s still a relatively low percentage of whole wheat you could go with all red if you want more flavor in the dough.

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

      • Diana

        Thanks Maurizio! I’ll give that a try. Best to you!

  • caesar

    Thank You, this was the first time my bread actually tasted like sourdough! This was also the first time I used a levain. I really had no issues with any of the directions. The only problem I encountered was that the bottom of the breads burnt a little. I used a baking steel and a Staub dutch oven. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent it?

    • Super glad to hear that, Caesar! If you’re using a DO (like a Staub) I’d recommend reducing the temps listed here in my post by 25ºF. Preheat around 475ºF and start your bake at 450ºF. I find a DO radiates and retains heat so well it can burn just a bit more on the bottom than you’d want.

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

      • caesar

        This past weekend I tried both methods of cooking the bread. The first was with the Staub dutch oven and second was with Lava rocks on top of Lodge grill pan. The D.O method was really simple; pre heat to 475 and cook for 20 minutes ,then take lid off and cook for 20 @ 450. Second method was to pre heat oven to 500 and put lodge grill pan with lava rocks and pour 1 cup of boiling water after putting bread in. Then after 10 minutes spay some water to get more steam. Both methods produced nice rises ,but the lava rocks method had a better crust. Thanks for the help.

        • You’re very welcome, thanks so much for the update on your results!

  • mimi

    I’ve been making sourdough for a few months now and have had pretty good success. My only issue is that I don’t have the super large and consistent crumb structure that we all want. Giving this recipe a go today. Fingers crossed I get that beautiful crumb structure in your photos.
    I use King Arthur Bread flour and wonder if you would recommend to use King Arthur all purpose flour instead? their ap is at 11.7% vs their bread flour at 12.7%. Thanks!

    • It definitely takes practice! The increased water in this recipe helps open things up some and the flour, while at a lower protein percentage, is fairly strong. I’d say give it a try with all KAF Bread Flour and see how it turns out. That flour should pair well with the hydration level in this recipe (but as always, be conservative during mixing and add in if it shows it can take it). I usually like to do a blend of AP and BF, especially since KAF’s BF is pretty strong, but try that out and let me know how it goes!

      • mimi

        OH. MY. GOD. The tallest, most beautiful boules I’ve ever made just emerged out of my oven this morning. I’ve yet to crack em open, but they’re so pretty, happy ugly crying is to be had. I’m so glad I gave your method a stab. I think this will be my main process from now on. It really helped having the times and temps listed as reference. Like being given landmarks to look out for when you’re trying to get somewhere. Sorta like; If you’re driving at 65mph, you’ll see this statue in 30 mins, thats when you make a right. There was no getting lost. I was finding with the Tartine recipe that I was either overestimating or underestimating my proofing and bulking. I’ll try a blend of KA BF and AP next time.
        Thank you so much Maurizio! Your blog is so awesome. I look forward to your new entries.

        • That’s fantastic, really great to hear this!! It’s so gratifying to pull awesome bread right from your home oven, right!? I can’t get enough.

          I hope you enjoy the bread and here’s to more awesome bakes!

  • Charles

    I followed your sourdough recipe and my bread looks and tastes wonderful. However, the crust is semi-soft and makes slicing difficult. This has been a recurring problem for me lately regardless of recipe. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • That’s great! A soft crust could be caused by too much steam in the oven, make sure you vent the steam after 20 minutes. You could also try cracking the oven door for the last 5 minutes of your bake to really crisp up the bread and remove all humidity while it finishes cooking.

      Another cause could be simply insufficient heat or overall bake time. Make sure your oven is super hot when you start the bake and keep baking until the bread really turns a nice golden color.

      Hope that helps!

  • aaron

    Hi maurizio

    I was wondering, have you got any idea about the humidity and how much it affects the dough? I live in quite a humid country here in borneo and was wondering if I were to achieve 86% hydration, how much water would i need to put in as conpared to yours (assuming its quite dry where you are)?

    regards

    • Humidity will affect the flour, and dough, significantly. I live in a very dry climate so my levels of water added to the dough will almost certainly need to be lowered for your climate. This is one of the reasons why I always say hold back some water until later in mixing, and only add it in to the dough if it looks like it can take it.

      If you’re experimenting with new flour it’s best to always be conservative with the amount of water you add to the dough. Start at a conservative percentage (for me that’s 75%) and add it in through mixing until it seems like the dough is to your desired consistency (determining this level takes practice and observation!).

      I hope this helps!

      • aaron

        Thank you for getting back Maurizio. I highly appreciate the quick response.

        Would like to ask a few more questions as I am still not able to obtain a perfect loaf like yours 🙁

        1. Just a thought, the water content in the starter adds to the overall hydration right? Maybe that is why previously I was getting a very wet dough when I was using 235g 100% starter and a 70% hydration for my dough. Is this right?

        2. When kneading the bread, how do you know when to stop? I usually use the window pane test but this takes about 25-30mins to achieve sometimes and at times its not “window paney” enough. Not sure but what the best method of kneading the dough (by hand? by a normal kitchen mixer?)

        3.Why does my bread texture inside feels gummy and it doesn’t look fluffy enough to represent bread? looks more like a dense bread? I came across someones comment where you have mentioned about overproofing (does this mean at the bulk fermentation stage or the proofing in the fridge stage?) and what does overproofing do to the bread?

        4. In terms of baking in the oven, my bread seems to brown and blacken abit too quick. I use a DO with lid for 20min at 230C then take the lid off and continue at the same temperature for 15mins and the crust looks like it cant take anymore time in the oven. Why is this because I noticed your temperatures using steam is 250C then turned down to 230C with a total time in the oven at 45-55mins whereas mine is only 35min? (NB. I am using the two line option, top and bottom heat, no fan on my oven setting)

        5. Why is it that we have to wait until the bread cools completely before being able to cut into it?

        Kind regards
        Aaron

        • Aaron:

          1. Yes, the water content in the starter should be accounted for in the final dough. If you use a 100% hydration starter in a recipe that calls for a 65% hydration starter you’ll likely have to reduce the water in the final dough mix so things line up.

          2. There are many points at which you can stop kneading, it depends on what you’re after. For example, I usually knead (using the slap and fold, or French fold, method) for about 5-6 minutes for a moderately high hydration dough. I do this until the dough is cohesive and has a smooth exterior to it. It might start catching some air in the dough and show little bubbles. After this I’m usually setup for doing 3-4 sets of stretch and folds during bulk. You can do more kneading if you want to do less sets, or less kneading if you want to do more. The end goal is a dough that’s strong enough to trap gasses and hold its shape but not overly strong, otherwise it won’t expand fully in the oven.

          3. There are many, many reasons your dough could be more dense/gummy inside. It’s possible your dough has over proofed but it’s also possible it’s underproofed! Unfortunately it’s hard to diagnose without more details and pictures.

          4. I find my dough colors faster when I use a Dutch oven as well. If you’re using a DO I’d recommend reducing the preheat temperature by 25ºF from what I list here. The DO retains and radiates heat pretty well and it gets a little too hot.

          5. You don’t have to wait to cut if you don’t want to — there’s nothing more delicious than cutting warm bread from the oven! However, if you wait it gives the crumb a little more time to “set” and firm up.

          Hope that helps!

  • monkeywrench60

    Maurizio, I followed this recipe exactly and was never able to get the dough to hold its shape. It slumped, even after plenty of folding and overnight rise, etc. It also failed to rise much at all.

    • Hey there! Hmm, it sounds like your dough might have been over hydrated. This has happened plenty of times to me, just a little too much water can sometimes push the dough/flour too far, and no matter how many folds I do I can’t ever seem to bring it back into shape. I’d suggest trying with reduced water next time, perhaps 10% from my formula above. Once you do get some structure in the dough you can slowly work the water back up (if desired).

      Also, make sure your starter is healthy and predictable. This recipe relies on strong fermentation in the dough to add strength!

      Sorry about the lack of performance that last bake, I’m sure we can get some nice bread with a few tweaks!

  • monkeywrench60

    Even worse, I left it in the oven overnight (pilot light only) with a pan of water to maintain surface hydration. This morning the two loaves have completely collapsed.

    • What was the temperature in there overnight? If you proof with the oven light on I fear the temps would be too high for that long of an overnight proof… This dough, with high hydration and well fermented dough by the time you’re done shaping, really needs a cold overnight proof in the fridge at 38-40ºF.

      • monkeywrench60

        Thank you for your generous reply. Yes, I guess I have to learn more about all those percentages and how that translates into exact proportions. I have to fess up I was using all purpose flour, not bread flour. For some reason it was stuck in my head that I should not be using bread flour. I will the next time.

        • Not a problem. Good luck on the next go and let me know how it goes! If you have any Q’s feel free to post here or shoot me an email through the Contact link at the top. Happy baking!

  • Alexandra Elder

    First of all, I have to say (in conjunction with all your other successful bakers who commented below) this recipe and procedure (in conjunction with my observations and trial-by-error findings) has created my most perfect boule to date! So, thank you, Maurizio for the very detailed posts that led me to such results!
    Question though.
    When do you pull your dough from the fridge? 15-16 hrs, yes, but when you turn the oven on?, right before the bake?, put it in the proofer?, bring it to 78F?, etc etc. ? The last successful bake I did with this recipe, I set it out while the oven was preheating. Wasn’t sure if I could get an even better bake if there was another way.
    Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Alexandra, super happy to hear that! I love hearing when things work out, and it sounds like you’ve made the necessary adjustments for your flour, environment and starter — fantastic!

      I preheat my oven for 1-1.5 hours before I place the dough in to bake. Once the oven is preaheated, I take the dough out of the fridge, score it and bake right away. I don’t usually let me dough rest on the counter before baking but it’s not bad to do so, I just find (and prefer) scoring my dough straight from the fridge to be much easier as the cold dough holds its shape as the lame (blade) slides right through. If you had good results by letting your dough come up to temp for a few mins before baking then that works just as well — it all depends on how well fermented your dough is and whether or not it could use more or less time before baking.

      I hope that makes sense and thanks so much for the update. Happy baking!

  • Taylor Tuomie

    Loving this recipe. Used it the past three weekend’s and have made some of my best loaves ever!

    Have any tips for freezing loaves and thawing them?

    • Taylor, awesome! really glad to hear that 🙂

      I freeze loaves in two ways:
      1) To freeze an entire, uncut loaf, I’ll wrap it 5-6 times in plastic wrap and then toss it into a freezer Ziplock. Bread will last frozen like this for quite a while and I do this if I don’t plan on using it relatively soon. To defrost I take the bag out and place into the fridge for a day or so, then I unwrap and keep on my counter.

      2) I’ll slice up the entire loaf. Then, I place the slices into a freezer Ziplock as-is. When I want a slice of bread, I take out a frozen slice and I use my amazing Breville toaster to defrost and toast. I do this with bread I want to freeze but plan to eat within a month.

      That toaster is one of the best things I’ve bought since making my own bread: it’s long so it can take long batard slices and the “frozen” button on the top will first defrost a slice and then toast it — comes out perfect every time.

      Hope that helps!

      • Taylor Tuomie

        Perfect. Thank you very much for the help! I will give both methods a try!

  • Sherri

    This recipe is fantastic! Do you have any tips for making a loaf with more sour? San Francisco sourdough, sour?

    • Thanks, Sherri! I’ve actually never made my bread quite as sour as some of the classic sourdough from San Francisco. To increase the sourness you could try working in a percentage of rye flour, both into your starter and your final dough mix. Additionally, a longer proof in the fridge will help add sour notes. I’d experiment with pushing both of those!

  • monkeywrench60

    Getting better with the latest round — a nice rise and crumb — but the crust is bland. Somewhat uniformly brown, very little of the spackled caramelization and air bubbles you show in yours. Maybe not enough surface tension?

    • Well, glad to hear the structure is improving! It does sound like the dough might have been over hydrated. Try pulling back some more on the water in the mix and/or adding in another set of stretch and folds (or some slap/fold, kneading during mix time) to give the dough some additional strength.

      If you’re not performing the autolyse step I’d recommend doing so. I usually find I get a much nicer crust color on the loaves that I let auto, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Additionally, if your flour doesn’t have malt added (it’ll say “malted barley flour”) you could try addind .5 – 1% of this formula. The malt helps “unlock” extra sugars in the flour and makes them available during the entire process, it’ll add some nice color to your crust as well.

      Keep at it, you’ll notice the more you bake the better things get!

  • plutek

    in the last week, my starter has finally gotten stable and strong — nice 12-hr rhythm with a strong and bubbly rise! 🙂 so now i’m back into some loaves, and wondering about moisture level. i’m sure it’ll get easier as my handling technique improves, but still, things seem wetter than your photos and descriptions indicate. i finally got higher-gluten flour, which helps somewhat. i imagine my flour carries a bit more moisture than yours (i’m in toronto, ontario, canada… on the humid side in spring/summer), but also this question just struck me:

    is the entire duration of your bulk fermentation UNcovered? i imagine that would incur some significant evaporation, which could tighten things up nicely. i’ve always covered closely during that stage….

    thoughts? thanks much….

    • That’s great to hear! It’s most likely the fact that your environment is more humid coupled with the flour you’re using. That’s not really a problem, just lower the hydration of my recipe until the dough feels right to you (you could always compare your dough to my images above), work it back up slowly if you desire.

      Good question on keeping the bulk container uncovered — no I always keep my container covered. I uncover to do folds and then cover again.

      So yea, I would reduce hydration in the dough to suit! Hope that helps, happy baking 🙂

      • plutek

        great… thanks for replying! the flavour is really great and i’m actually really happy with the bubble structure too; it just ends up more like a focaccia shape if i try to bake a loaf free-form, and handling is pretty challenging. but it’s good practise, and i’m learning lots! 🙂

        i’m gonna drop hydration to 75% and see how it looks, then work up from there.

        such a beautiful adventure… 🙂

        • It is an incredible adventure indeed! Hope the bake went well 🙂

          • plutek

            alright… this is getting really interesting! 🙂 …at 75%, the dough is still definitely too wet. handling is somewhat easier, and the stretch/fold is clearly contributing more effectively to overall structure. but, still, in bulk proofing the dough surface flattens out completely in the proofing bowl (although i had better bubbles this time), and baking free-form yields a disc-like loaf (but thicker than last time).

            i’m finally coming to the realization that hydration should be a “house rules” kind of thing. i.e. moisture content in flours and environmental humidity are so variable from place to place and season to season that we really need to experiment to find hydration levels that work in our situation and with our materials, then work from that locally-defined “normal” for a given result.

            i’d be interested in one more point of comparison, which i don’t think i have from your accounts of this recipe: if you bake this bread free-form, how well does it hold shape?

            thanks so much for all the help… cheers!

            • Yes, hydration is definitely going to be relative to your environment and your flour — essentially you need to really adjust as necessary. 75% hydration for you might very well be close to 85% for me!

              I’m not sure what you mean by “free-form” but the loaves shown here are shaped and baked like a hearth loaf, that is no tins or molds used. The tight shaping of the dough is enough to keep them in shape when baked on a deck.

              I feel like you should reduce hydration even more if the dough just doesn’t feel like it comes together. One other thing: strong fermentation in the dough and your starter/levain is very critical for this recipe (and all bread recipes, really!). Fermentation not only creates rise in the dough but it also strengthens the dough through organic acids produced as a byproduct. Make sure there’s plenty of activity in the dough (as you can see in the photos above).

              Sorry this has been such a challenge, but that is baking, after all 🙂

              • plutek

                thanks a lot, @maurizioleo:disqus! i did a batch at 65%… haha! seems really low, but at that hydration the structure and response of the dough during stretch/fold is much more like it should be. the, after bulk fermentation (6hrs at 30°C), the dough was quite slack and really spread out on the bench during and after pre-shaping. i then did a longer in-basket proof, and baked without a cold retard. the loaf “pancaked” even more in the oven than my last one.

                i’m now thinking that my tendency is to over-proof, and i should really pay more attention to dough ~structure~ along the way. i have lots of experience with dry-yeast baking, so i think my expectations about dough rise need to be “re-calibrated”! 🙂

                onwards…. i’ve re-calibrated my fridge temp to be a bit higher, so it’s more in line with your temp for the retard, and i’ll pull back to something more like your schedule for bulk and proof. woohoo!

                • Whoa! 6 hours at 30ºC is a very, very long time at that temperature. If you’re using the levain percentages I’ve listed here your dough will likely be over proofed by the end of bulk. I’d cut that down to a strict 4 hours at that temperature!

                  Yes, things will be very different between commercially yeasted dough and sourdough. It’s the same thing for me but in the opposite: when I see commercially yeasted dough i’m always in shock at how gassy and active the dough looks — it’s startling.

                  Try cutting that bulk back a few hours and see how things look!

                • plutek

                  “how gassy and active the dough looks”… yep, that’s what i mean; i think i’m still looking for that kind of action, which is really different from our goal in sourdough.

                  yep, i’ll be much more conservative on the bulk and proof — more isn’t always better! 🙂

                  thanks!

  • Bread should never have such holes in it.
    The holes in it mean there are many enhancers, artificial ingredients.
    This is not good for health.

    I suppose you’re from America?

  • Zehava Katz

    Hi! ive been making this bread for some time with pretty great results, the only complaint i get time and time again is about how thick the bottom crust is. I bake in a cast iron dutch oven keeping it covered at the beginning and uncovering half way through. Is it possible that the bottom of the pot is cooking the bottom of the bread to quickly? any ideas how to reduce the thickness on the bottom?

    • kameron

      Do you start it in a cold or hot dutch? Do you use parchment paper, I would recommend it? I find baking stones work better for these types of bread, I get a much better bottom crust. 😀

    • Hey! I agree with the comments by @disqus_uxS742IOPR:disqus below, I typically get much better results for this type of bread using baking stones or a baking steel. However, a Dutch oven still works really well! You can use parchment paper and even coarse cornmeal or bran on the bottom of the loaves to help insulate them a bit. Also, if your heating element for your oven is at the bottom, try raising your rack so the Dutch oven isn’t so close, it might be getting too hot.

      Hope that helps!

  • kameron

    I noticed you dont spray the loaves with water before putting them into the oven to bake. Is this due to the high hydration of the dough already? I find when I spray them I dont get the beautiful white lines of flower either, they turn more golden and cooked. Is this relevant? Also, should I allow the loaves to rise before putting them straight into the fridge? If I refrigerate them right after placing them in my brotform I find they dont rise much in the oven. How can I get better oven spring after the day long cold ferment, is it possible? I love your breads man thank you so much!

    • I do actually spray my loaves right after I load them, usually. I use a hand mister to do a good dousing inside the oven. Yes, spraying like this will knock off some of the flour on the crust so you will get more of a golden, shiny loaf instead of one with decorative flour marks — it’s all up to you.

      I do not let them rise at all before baking — straight from the fridge to the oven for me. The only time I’ll do this if I have a schedule constraint and the dough doesn’t look fermented enough, then I will let them sit at room temp to proof as long as possible before baking.

      If you’re getting a lack of oven spring it could be due to over proofed dough, excessive hydration for the flour you’re using, insufficient scoring (or too much), or insufficient dough strength and shaping. I know, that’s a lot of things! I’d usually start with reducing the proof time and see if that helps. There’s a continuum of proofing: at one end the under proofed state you’ll see insane oven spring but the interior will be full of huge gaping holes and dense spots, at the other end over proofed dough will have a lack of spring but a very tender interior with lots of small holes and no dense areas. Finding that perfect spot in the middle is always the challenge 🙂

      I’ve never tried their Baker’s Special flour, that’s something I’ll have to pay with! T70 is a great flour as is their T85 but it’s all up to personal preference on that one! Since you’re so close to the source I’d be very tempted to use all CM flour 🙂

      Hope that helps and thanks!

  • Jeremy

    Hey Maurizio! Great blog you have here and awesome to see your perspectives on things – so many around on the web!

    One question I have is on doing bulk fermentation in the fridge overnight. Do you think that works out well? Or does it hinder flavor and the bulk ferment should be done at warmer temperatures? I’ve tried it for the past few loaves and it’s great to shape them in the morning then do a final proof at room temperature before baking. I haven’t gotten a super open crumb like yours although it’s still really soft inside. Would love to get even better and achieve your crumb although the breads are pretty good now! More crust to bread ratio would be awesome. 🙂

    From your experience, is there an effect on flavor when bulk fermenting in the fridge? And how about the crumb?

    Thanks a lot. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jeremy! Yes, doing an overnight cold bulk can work really well, there are many bakers who take this approach. I think it will work equally well as my cold proof method, it will just take some adjustment to that style. I’ve actually been working on cold bulking lately and hope to have a post here soon about my findings, I think it’s a fantastic way to make bread (and really helps when using large percentages of fresh milled whole grain flour).

      Hope that helps and keep an eye out for my post! Happy baking 🙂

      • Jeremy

        haha that’s awesome!

        Thanks so much. 🙂

        Sorry I did not get to see your reply earlier! I’ve actually been visiting this blog almost daily for reference. 😀

        Thanks for doing what you do! It’s good to have people like you around. 🙂

        I’ve tried slowing down my bulk ferment but it seems that the dough gets more slack over time until it’s super extensible but not elastic, so it becomes REALLY flat when I’m shaping it. It’s odd considering that fermentation should strengthen the dough? It actually looked stronger near the beginning after the slap and folds and first couple of folds in the container!

        Will be keeping an eye out for your post. 🙂

        • You bet, I’m happy to help! Yes, that’s definitely strange. The dough should strengthen up through bulk and at around 3-4 hours start to show signs of that strength and more elasticity. If the dough does get more slack through bulk, and the temperatures are reasonable (76-82ºF), try preshaping and shaping it tight and see how that goes. It might just be the amount of water in the dough or it’s not strengthened enough upfront and/or through bulk.

          Do know that the dough will definitely still be sticky during preshaping! At this hydration it’s challenging even with the proper strength in the dough 🙂 You could always try dialing back the water, too, and see if that helps.

  • John Moore

    Hi Maurizio,

    First, thank you for creating this great resource! I have Bread Maker’s Apprentice, Bread, Tartine Bread, and Flour, Water, Salt & Yeast, and this site is more comprehensive and useful than them all.

    A question about storage and aging. I usually just let my loafs sit on the counter. I’ve found that my bread that is retarded overnight is more sour than the ones that undergo room-temperature proofing, but only right after they’re baked. Once the loafs are a day old, I have trouble distinguishing between the two, and both are equally (and more) sour.

    Have you experienced that naturally leavened bread get more sour as it ages? Is there a better way to keep the loafs fresh?

    Thanks,
    John

    • Wow John, thanks so much I really appreciate the kind words! Those are all awesome books, I have them all as well.

      Sometimes I do find the bread gets a little more sour as it ages, but I’m not sure what’s the cause of that. With some bread, notably whole wheat, I actually like them more 2+ days after baking, I find their flavor develops more somehow and I really enjoy that.

      I usually keep my bread on the cutting board crumb-side down after it’s cut. The crust pretty much is the perfect “bag” if you will, keeping the loaf moist on the inside for quite a while. If it’s overly dry in your area you could use a paper bag or bread box to keep the bread after a few days (that’s what I do here, it’s very dry).

      That’s the way I do it at least! I hope that answers your question. Thanks again and happy baking!

  • Alison Barr

    Hi Maurizio,

    Your blog has changed my life but in the past few days my bread is driving me crazy. I’ve had great success in the past few weeks with this bread estimating quantities but since measuring on a scale I’m struggling. I measured everything exactly and followed your recipe to the T but my boules spread out immediately on the tray and the interior was very gummy with dense patches after baking. Today, I decreased the hydration by 10% which solved the gumminess and tasted delicious but I’m struggling with an uneven rise and this loaf also burst open at the base due to this expansion (https://goo.gl/photos/gngmaVkeWpoW9dc76). I scored as deeply as I could with a blade and baked with a tray of boiling water in the oven, as well as spraying the boules before putting them in, and again after 5 and 10 minutes of baking. Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve the rise and encourage the loaves to keep their shape?

    Many thanks,
    Alison

    • Alison, wow thank you! Yes, sometimes bread can be frustrating 🙂 Your pictures look interesting, it almost looks like a shaping issue there with the dough. You really want to try and get a nice, taut surface on the dough when shaping to ensure your loaf springs up where you score it. If your loaves spread too fast and don’t hold their shape that again could be due to insufficient strength when shaping or it could be that your dough doesn’t have enough strength coming out of bulk. Make sure you do enough sets of stretch and folds so your dough is strong by the last one: it should kind of hold its shape after you do the set and slowly relax out by the end of bulk.

      Reducing the hydration was a good move as that sometimes can cause gumminess (it could also be from under proofed dough). Also, reducing hydration can strengthen the dough in a way, which probably helped.

      I’d suggest first ensuring your getting ample fermentation in the dough with a strong starter and levain, and then focus on dough strength during bulk and shaping.

      Hope this helps!

      • monkeywrench60

        I just noticed another detail in your note back to Alison. You said the loaf should spring up during scoring. Mine has not such response, even looks like it might deflate if I cut too deeply.

        • Jonathan Russell

          I think he means the loaf should spring up where you score during baking! Not immediately as you score, that would be an incredible response. I think it is normal for a dough to seem to relax after scoring, as you’ve effectively cut through the surface tension. If you struggle with pancake-breads, perhaps try baking in a form (any deep oven proof form will do) to start with? Getting a good spring has a lot to do with you oven and how you use it, which takes practice. I know mine ventilates air rapidly, so even with a water tray and steaming the breads quickly dry out and lock out further spring.

        • No, the loaf will not spring up directly after scoring but that area you cut open will be the spot the loaf opens up when baked in the oven. That cut is what directs the “energy” left in your dough to open through. Think of the dough waiting to be baked as a very tight, thick balloon. If you didn’t cut the dough it would expand, expand, expand until it ruptures somewhere undefined. However, if you cut the thick skin on the dough when the loaf expands up under heat it will open at that cut.

    • monkeywrench60

      Alison, I feel your pain.I have exactly the same issue. I’ve reduced hydration, I lost count how much I did the folds, but still my loafs do not hold shape. I don’t know how anyone shares photos here, but backing my on a stone, the final baked shape is worth a comedy skit.

      • I’m really starting to feel like your dough is over proofing overnight. If you’ve given your dough many folds and it shows plenty of strength (after your last fold the dough will have clear edges and be folded up in a tight ball) try reducing that proof time significantly and see if your dough springs up next bake.

        • monkeywrench60

          Thanks. However, if I reduce the proofing time, how does the loaf rise at all? Or is it not supposed to rise during proofing?

          • it’s hard to answer that because it depends on a lot of factors. When placing the dough in a home fridge for the proof you won’t see too much rise in the dough as the temps in there (around 38ºF) are really cold and slow things down considerably. This is ok, though! Even if the dough looks lifeless in the morning bake it anyways, it may surprise you when it springs up in the oven.

  • Christine Hansen

    Hi Maurizio,
    I discovered your website earlier this year, originally attracted to the photos as much as anything. Since then, following your great instructions I’ve grown my own starter and successfully bake bread on a regular basis – and particularly love this recipe. So thanks for the inspiration, my enthusiasm for sourdough baking has spread amongst some of my friends as well which is fun.

    Today I tried baking an experimental recipe, based on your recipe above, and it came out so well I wanted to thank you, and share with you. The additional ingredients were cocoa (for colour), toasted pumpkin and caraway seeds, freshly ground coffee, molasses and vegetable oil; and I swapped out the wholemeal flour for rye. The result is a very dark, moist and flavoursome bread with a nice crunchy crust and good open crumb, a little bit reminiscent of a dark European rye but much lighter in texture.
    I have some photos of the result, but not sure how to share those…

    • Hey, Christine! Really glad to hear your baking journey has gone so well thus far. I think you are the one who shared your photo with me on Instagram? Your loaf sounds so delicious, definitely a set of ingredients I haven’t thought of using — I love that. I also really like the fact that my recipe has proven to be a springboard for you to develop your own, and it turned out great! That’s awesome.

      Thanks so much for sharing, I might have to try this combination myself!

  • EricMayBell

    Hi Maurizio,
    For the bulk cold fermentation of the dough in the fridge the night before, do you completely wrap your banneton in plastic wrap or only the top? I’m not sure if I only wrap the top that the sides will dry out through the banneton itself or pick up flavors from my fridge.

    Thanks!

    • Hey, Eric! My baskets are completely wrapped in plastic so no air can reach the dough. If your fridge is not humid enough, which is almost always the case, plastic bags (I have links to the ones I use on my Tools page at the top) are necessary.

  • monkeywrench60

    I’m about ready to quit! No doubt you, Marurizio, know a lot about this, but something is getting lost in translation when I try to do it. The latest is the dough will not hold any shape. I’ve actually gone to a lower hydration to try to give it some structure. When I shape it, it seems fine, but then after being in the fridge overnight it comes out like — well — the same slumpy feeling a surgeon must see when he removes someones liver. No, mine is worse. I decided to cook it on a stone this time and it is now a sourdough ciabatta.

    What am I doing wrong?

    • plutek

      hey monkeywrench60 — i’m dealing with the same issue. i dropped back to 75% hydration for one batch, and then yesterday did a batch at only 65%. both pancaked, and the 65% was actually worse. but i think i know why! read on…

      is it possible you’re over-proofing? i’m pretty sure that’s what my problem is. yesterday, i decided to not do a cold retard, and did a 6-hr bulk ferment at 30°C and a 4.5-hr basket proof also at 30°C. although the dough was tightening up very nicely during the stretch/folds – getting more and more elastic, resilient, and shape-holding – by the end of the bulk ferment it was completely flattened out in the bowl (bubbles, but still flat), and when transferring out of the bowl and pre-shaping, was much more slack and lacking in structure. even then, on the counter, it just tended to flatten right out.

      i think i really need to learn to just trust that my culture is doing its thing – i know it’s strong and active. so i’ll be paying more attention to maintaining structure, while looking for just SOME decent evidence of yeast activity along the way. i do know it’s typical of sourdough that so much more of the rise happens during oven spring, not like dry-yeasted bread, in which you really need substantial pre-bake volume increase.

      don’t know if that’s any help to you… but it just seemed like some of my experience might be hitting some common points with yours…. 🙂

      cheers!

    • There are a few things that could be causing this slack dough in the morning when baking. The first is that your dough doesn’t have strong enough fermentation through bulk. Make sure your starter is strong, reliable and very active when you make your levain. From there focus on your dough temperatures, you want to hit that “final dough temp” and keep the dough there through bulk so there’s sufficient activity.

      Second, it’s good that you reduced hydration, that usually helps add strength to the dough and that’s the first thing I look at as this recipe is highly hydrated. As @plutek:disqus mentioned below, it’s very possible the opposite of what I recommended above is happening: your dough could be over proofing in the fridge overnight and this will cause a complete breakdown, causing serious spread in the oven. You could try reducing your proof time in the fridge by 2-5 hours (depending on how long you’re leaving it in there) and see if that helps. Over proofed dough will usually be visibly very active with bubbles on top and all over and it will be weak to the touch. Turning it out of your baskets will cause it to spread quickly and slashing will be slightly difficult as the blade will drag, from there you’ll usually see more spreading and no visible “ear” where you slashed, it will sort of fuse together.

      Don’t give up! We’ll get you there, it might just take a few more tries to really figure out what’s happening with your dough.

    • monkeywrench60

      I’m confused on dough strength during bulk rise. My dough is SO strong I can practically lift the whole mass out of the bowl when I lift up one corner to fold. I can also stretch it to the point where it is very thin, almost translucent when I stretch it. I can’t imagine it being most stronger. Still, even after doing a nice job forming a ball during shaping, it does not hold that shape.

      • That sounds like a very strong dough indeed. No need for more strengthening there. This further tells me you might be over proofing your dough — this is the only way you’d see a significant slackening in the morning during baking!

  • plutek

    anyone else having trouble with the top surface of the loaves drying out and getting something of a skin during the fridge reta

    rd? i’ve got the loaf in a wicker basket lined with a cotton tea-towel (which is dusted well with rice flour and also folded over top of the loaf), and then all of that in a tightly tied plastic bag. perhaps the towel is pulling too much moisture out of the surface of the loaf? is this surface drying typical? it just seems weird, and makes the scoring a bit more of a struggle than it appears to be in various videos i’ve watched.

    • Are you sure the bags are sealed completely shut? I use a rubber band and fold the opening over several times before securing it. I’m sure it is, but that’s the first thing I have to ask 🙂

      Yes, it’s possible the towel is drawing moisture out of the dough but it should not be so significant that a dry skin forms on the dough! I almost always use towels in my baskets nowadays (because they are easier to clean) and rarely see a significant skin on my dough — you can see how it looks in the pictures above where I’m scoring. Just as a test have you tried not using the towel? Just be aware it can be tricky with very wet dough in a basket that’s not sufficiently dusted with flour.

  • JP Rivas

    Hello Maurizio,

    What type of disposable banneton is the one you’re using in the pictures at step 8, Rest & Proof?

    Thanks!

    • Hi! These are not really disposable, they are meant to be reused. They are wood pulp bannetons I purchased online from Breadtopia.com.

  • Casey

    Hi Maurizio, it’s winter here (in Australia) at the moment, and I can’t get my ambient temp as high as you recommend. It ranges from about 18-20C (64-68F). Would I do a longer bulk fermentation or change the number/timing of the stretch and folds? Thanks!

    • Hey, Casey! Whew, I kind wish we had those temps out here right now… It’s been well over 95ºF! Have you tried warming the water you’ll be using for your dough mix? You can heat it up in the microwave up to 100ºF if necessary (I usually do about 90ºF in the winter) and that should help quite a bit. Then keep that dough insulated and somewhere warm through bulk to keep that temp up.

      But, yes if you aren’t able to get the temp up it means you’ll have to extend bulk until the dough is ready. At those temps it might take several more hours… It’s hard to say exactly but watch that dough and forget about the clock 🙂

      Hope this helps and happy baking!

  • lexybeast

    Hi Maurizio! Just discovered this blog, and I’m loving some of the recipes on paper, but have a question for you regarding salt. It turns out I’m very sensitive to sodium and it does bad things to my blood pressure. I managed to successfully bake some Tartine recipes with a much, much lower salt content (I did the whole wheat version by the book except for 8g of salt for two loaves vs 20g and it came out great). I tried something similar here, reducing the salt to 10g, but wound up with a soggy, shapeless mess that got some rise during the bake, but not great, and they sure don’t look very pretty.

    Any general tips you might have for reduced salt bread baking?

    • Hey there! Thanks so much, glad you’re enjoying my website 🙂 There are a couple of things that could have happened here with my recipe using less salt. First, it’s possible fermentation activity was higher than you expected and with reduced salt the dough might have over proofed on you. Second, salt also acts to tighten up the dough and with less salt.

      I’d suggest, if you’re willing, try my recipe again but drastically reduce the hydration to suit. Perhaps somewhere around 75% hydration to start and then work things up if the dough behaves better and bakes up nice for you.

      I hope this helps and sorry for the late reply!

      • lexybeast

        Thanks so much for the reply! Your suggestions are more or less what I was expecting to hear, so I actually did take another crack at it since writing. On the off chance you’re interested, I’ll let you know what I did- I upped the salt from what I tried before to about 14g, and in addition to the flour in your recipe, added about 100g of high extraction whole wheat, and maybe 80g H20, so an overall slight reduction in hydration, esp with that whole wheat. Happy to report it came out beautifully!!! Probably the best over spring I’ve ever had on a loaf. I’ll be taking a crack at your 95% whole wheat next, very interested to give that a try.

        Thanks again for this blog. Turn it into a book! 🙂

        • That’s fantastic! Sounds like your modifications were spot on there and also very interesting to know a heavy reduction in salt is totally possible. I’ll have to try this out sometime over here, I’d also be interested in the taste differences.

          A book… perhaps one day 🙂 Thanks again and happy baking!

          • Jeff Towse

            Hi Maurizio
            Sorry this is a bit off topic but I’ve been making a lot of bread using yeast, I know you mainly work with sourdough but this could be a thing with al bread.
            I use the fold method folding 4 times every 20 minutes. For an hour, I leave it to prove for about an hour, then shape it leave it for further 40/45 minutes.
            I preheat oven and cast iron pot 230 degrees. Drop bread in and cook for 40/45 minutes. Internal temp after cooking is 96/206 degrees.
            My problem is that sometimes the bread has a very slight rubbery texture.
            Would you have any ideas what is causing this
            I use 68% water and good flour
            Thank you

            • That texture could be due to several things… Most notably I see this texture when I use flour that has too high of a protein percentage and thus results in a chewy baked loaf. I’d suggest trying a different brand of flour for the white portion of this recipe and see if that helps with the texture.

              Other things could be an under baked loaf (but it sounds like your internal temps are good) or too much diastatic malt added.

              • Jeff Towse

                Many thanks for your thoughts on this I will try a different flour.
                Sorry taken so long to thank you

          • lexybeast

            Here’s something that might interest you – apparently there is a Tuscan style bread that is completely saltless! I actually tried making a saltless whole wheat bread. The taste was… interesting.

            • Yes, I’ve had this bread when traveling out in Italy! It has a very different texture and taste, for sure. In my opinion this bread is more of an accompaniment to other food rather than something to take center stage. I also recall it being rather crusty and hard! Interesting, indeed 🙂

  • kameron

    Hello again Maurizio I hope this message finds you well, Ive since produced many beautiful springy loaves, I found that it was my starter that was weak. I got it into an 8 hour feeding schedule and know it rises high as can be! Another question though if I may?

    Iam about through this 50lb bag of Bakers Special, which has the same protein content of the T70(12.5%), just isnt malted, so I was using diastatic malt powder to make up for it and help with the slow ferment. My next shipment is the straight T70 malted itself! Now when using this flour should I also add diastatic malt powder? Will it make a difference? Iam out of the powder and was wondering if when using a malted flour would it even be necessary?

    Thanks again man for all the great info, I read your blogs daily, I feel the same way haha, when iam not baking Iam thinking about baking. So true man, stay safe and happy baking!

    • That’s really great to hear Kameron! Sorry for the late reply to your message. You don’t usually need to use malted flour if your flour already has some and I would omit it on your next bake with the T70. If you add too much malt it’s possible the end baked product will be a little gummy and chewy — not desirable.

      You’re very welcome and baking awesome bread at home sure is addicting, isn’t it!? Happy baking!

  • Tom Van Hoye

    Hi Maurizio, first of all, what a beautiful website!
    I’m a home baker from Belgium. I’m having trouble with my sourdough bread. My starter is very active (no problem there) and I follow your steps meticilous. My dough never becomes smooth or bubbly after the bulk fermentation. It stays a wet mess. I even reduced the water % to 60.

    What can be the problem?

    • Thanks Tom, I appreciate that! Reducing the hydration was a good move, that’s what I would have first suggested. Are you sure your starter is strong and rising and falling predictably? You need to make sure you have sufficient fermentation in your starter before you begin baking. Additionally, you can use the “float test” with your levain to ensure it has fermented enough to leaven your bread: when you think your leaven is ready to mix into your dough, take a small amount and drop it into a glass of room temperature water. If the bit of leaven floats on top that’s a good sign things are probably ready to mix. If it sinks to the bottom, give it more time until it floats.

      You said your starter was active, so the above may not apply but I like to recommend that test to people anyways. If everything looks good at that point it may be that your dough is not strong enough. You could be working with flour that has low protein percentage and, in addition to much lower hydration, you might need to do additional kneading upfront or more sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation to give it more strength. These physical actions strengthen the dough, in concert with fermentation, and by the end of bulk the dough should be smoother and have more defined ridges to it.

      One last thing you could try if the above doesn’t work is try with a different brand or type of flour and see if that helps. As I said, if the protein percentage is very low it can be difficult to get strength in a dough.

      I hope this helps!

  • Johnny Han

    Hi Maurizio,

    I made the sourdough starter as you wrote in the article and it came out exactly the way you explained it each step of the way.

    I then followed your “best sourdough” recipe to a t and for some reason my bread is coming out super dense. The dough before going into the oven looked just like yours with all the little bubbles in it but when it went into the oven, it came our really dense and heavy like a brick of coal. Almost as if the dough had too much gluten or was too wet. I bake in a conventional oven if that matters.

    Any idea what the problem could be?

    • Hi, Johnny! Glad to hear your starter is up and working very well. There could be many reasons for that to happen, it’s hard to diagnose exactly what the issue is without more information. If it comes out very dense it could be because there either isn’t enough fermentation (under proofed) in the dough OR there’s too much (over proofed).

      First, make sure your starter is in good working order: it rises and falls predictably after you feed it and it shows signs (smell and visual) of good fermentation.

      If your dough doesn’t rise much during bulk fermentation and there are little to no signs of fermentation, give it more time in bulk or keep the dough warmer next time. You want to see bubbles form here and there, the dough should rise, and when you tug on the dough mass it should show some signs of resistance to being pulled (elasticity).

      If you’re getting good rise during bulk fermentation and the dough shows signs of strong fermentation (as in my pictures above) you could be over proofing. In that case I’d recommend reducing the final proof time by several hours and see if that helps. If it does help, but the loaf still isn’t great, reduce further until you find the right proof point for the dough.

      Take a look at my photos during the whole process above, and with other posts at my site to get a feel for how the dough should look at each step of the process.

      Also, I suggest if you haven’t already, have a look at my Beginner’s Sourdough recipe and give that one a try before this recipe. It has more pictures and illustration on how the whole process should look the entire way.

      I hope that helps!

  • Nir hirschfeld

    Hi maurizio
    Can i put the dough in the fridge after the bulk fermentation? I found out that it is more easy to me to work and preshape and fold a cold dough.

    • Hey there! yes, you can definitely put the dough in the fridge during bulk. I’d suggest placing the dough midway through bulk in the fridge, perhaps after you’ve given it your sets of stretch and folds. Then, the next day take it out and preshape the dough. Let it rest on the bench for perhaps an hour, and then shape and proof the dough on the counter until its ready to bake. Hope that works out for you! I am working on a post here about “cold bulk” and hope to have it up soon. Happy baking!

  • Charlene

    Please tell me if you take your dough right from the refrig after the retard period and put it into the oven. It seems strange to me that it doesn’t rise some. I have made one good loaf but am working on another now hoping that it is more sour. I left my starter in the refrig for a week with several feedings hoping to make it more sour.

    • I do take my dough straight from the fridge to the oven! If the dough is ready to go into the oven you can put it in at any time (straight from the fridge or not). Check the dough before you bake and see how it feels and looks — if it looks ready to bake go for it, if you think it needs more room temp fermentation time take it out and let it sit on the counter a bit of time before baking.

      Hope that helps!

    • Charlene

      Thanks, I want more sour and more holes like yours!

  • monkeywrench60

    Maurizio, Lo dispero! This was my last chance to get it right before my wife will ask that I go back to simple yeast breads. Alas, I am on my way to another disappointment with this batch.

    I simply cannot get the dough to the point you have in your pictures for late in the bulk fermentation. It looks GREAT when I have folded it, but when i come back at the 30-minute interval, it has slumped back to the appearance of your first bowl picture.

    I have followed your recipe EXACTLY, with only two exceptions: I am using King Arthur bread flour for the bulk of the dough (all i can get locally) and I have, at your recommendation, backed off on the hydration a bit.

    When I fold the dough, it is wonderful texture — I have a thin windowpane stretch when i fold it. I’m afraid I’m on the path to so many others, where it comes out from overnight proofing with little structure and just slumps when on the oven stone.

    Maybe gravity is stronger where I live.

    You have been amazingly patient, but I am at a loss at this point.

    • Have you tried reducing the hydration of the dough? Drop down even further (maybe 75%?) and see if your dough feels stronger (it will) and holds its shape more readily. This should help immensely. It’s also possible your dough just doesn’t have enough fermentation activity in there. Make sure that starter and levain are performing very well before attempting the next go.

      On another note, the dough should, and will, relax after you do a set of stretch and folds and come back after 30 minutes. This is the nature of dough, it wont sit balled up in the middle.

  • John Moore

    Hey Maurizio,

    I’ve been trying to obtain a good rise with a dough recipe similar to this (in fact, it’s just a 87% hydration dough with freshly milled 75% extraction flour). However, for the life of me, I can’t get a good oven spring when I retard the dough for proofing. When I do a 2 hour room-temperature proof, the loaf is fantastic. However, when I retard it in the fridge at 37 degrees (+- 1 degree) I don’t get the same rise.

    I’ve tried decreasing and increasing the time in the fridge (from 6 to 20 hours) as well as the time between shaping and going in to the fridge (between 15 and 90 minutes) and cannot get the same rise I get from a room temp proof. I’ve experimented with dozens of retarded loafs with no success.

    Any ideas what might be going on? One of my theories is that the cold temperature increases the viscosity (decreases extensibility) and hence the dough doesn’t rise as much. If this is the case, letting the dough warm up a bit before baking may help. Also, is it fair to assume that the oven spring is only a result of the expansion of air inside the bubbles (i.e. pV=nRT)? Or does yeast activity play a role in oven spring?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Best,
    John

    • Hey, John! Sounds like you’ve done a bit of experimentation which is great. I almost always cold proof my doughs and get great oven spring, so this is interesting. 37°F is very cold so I would say try leaving your dough out a bit before retarding it to the fridge. Even 15 minutes out on the counter after shaping will be enough time to let it get a head start before being essentially stoped in its tracks in that cold house fridge.

      Also, make sure you’re wrapping your entire dough and basket in plastic when you place it into the fridge. If the dough dries out and forms a tight skin on the outside in the fridge it definitely will not rise very well in the oven.

      Regarding your air bubble question: I’ve ready various sources that state the expansion in the oven is due to increased fermentation activity when exposed to heat, but also sources that say it’s mostly the bubble itself expanding in the oven. I feel like it’s probably a bit of both.

      I hope this helps — please let me know if any of the above works, I’m very curious!

  • Say What?

    Hi Maurizio:
    Wonderful Website, and “My Best Sourdough Recipe” is my new favorite bread, replacing Ponsford’s ciabatta. I’ve made your loaf 4 times now, and the results are great, delicious, crackly crust and very open crumb! My friends are raving. Thank you for all the research that went into refining this recipe.
    I have one issue, though, that drives me bonkers. I have new bannettons with linen covers, and no matter how heavily I flour them (tried rice flour, a.p. flour, bread flour) the dough clings to the linen like super glue. It takes me 5 minutes to slowly peel, scrape, gravity-feed and implore them out of the basket. The linen is wet-looking when the dough finally gets out, and the shape of the loaf suffers from so much messing-with. I’ve tried flouring and using the underlying cane basket without the liner: same sticking problem. It’s still a great loaf, but the part that touched the linen or bare basket is stretched. I’ve looked web-wide and see many people say “don’t oil a banneton” I don’t what to try next, unless it’s proofing them in a ceramic bowl. Any thoughts? Maybe flouring the side of the dough that will be plopped into the basket?

    • You bet, glad to hear it’s working out so well for you! Linen can actually work against you sometimes, especially when working with very wet doughs like this. I’d recommend you try out some simple cotton liners (you can find them online, or just use a clean kitchen towel) that’s lightly dusted with 50% white rice flour and 50% white flour. Dust it well if you have to, enough to ensure it removes cleanly. The cotton liners should work really well, if there is any sticking you can always easily peel off the liner when the dough is on your peel for loading — then next time just dust more liberally with flour.

      When using a bare basket, you really need to flour those with a recipe like this. I’d actually prefer to just use liners with wet dough like this, they are much easier to clean.

      Hope that helps!

      • Say What?

        Thanks! Latest bake was much, much better. Your advice was right on. I SATURATED

        • Right on, sounds like that worked well then! You could always dial back the hydration, too, if that helps. Happy baking!

  • Santiago Bonilla

    Congratulation for your Website and thanks for sharing your knowledge!
    I´m using a 11,6% protein white flour, bulk fermenting 7,5 hours aprox, at about 18 C° (just when I get to see the signs of fermentation readiness). After retarding the dough for 8 – 12 hs, when ready to bake in a dutch oven, my dough does spreads and makes it difficult to score. Loaf comes out acceptable but far from my desired result.
    I would appreciate any advice. Thanks again.

    • Thanks, Santiago! It’s hard to say what’s happening there but usually spreading like that is due to one (or more) of three things: 1) your dough might be over proofing with that long of a bulk and proof, 2) your dough might need more strength through stretch and folds or kneading, or, 3) your dough is over hydrated and thus the spreading.

      I’d first try to determine if the dough is over proofing. There are a few indicators your dough could be going over: sluggish rise in the oven, the score on top of the dough might not open with a nice “ear” and instead just kind of fuse together, the interior will have lots of small holes and perhaps one or two large ones near the top (but no dense areas of unfermented flour), and finally the loaf could be a little on the sour side. If this seems like it fits, try dialing back that proof time (or bulk) by a few hours and see if that helps.

      From there, the other two are both related to dough strength. If you reduce the hydration of the dough it’ll be stronger, or you could knead for a longer period to help build more strength in the dough. Since this recipe is very high hydration, your flour (which is slightly lower protein at 11.6%) might not support this amount of water. I’d think about reducing the hydration here, to perhaps 80%, and see if that helps the next go.

      Hope that helps!

  • oeufsmayonnaise

    Hi Maurizio, I’ve been baking this loaf for the past few weeks and really loving it. Quick question – why do you preheat your oven for 1.5 hours as opposed till when the preheat light goes off (which means it’s reached the desired temperature which might just take 30 min?)

    • Glad to hear that! I preheat my oven for longer because I want to ensure my baking stones (or Baking Steel) fully preheats. While the interior of the oven might have reached the desired temp, I still want to ensure my thick stones/steel does as well.

      Hope that helps!

  • You’re very welcome! I actually like to use King Arthur AP for most baking applications, perhaps with a small percentage of their Bread Flour if more strength is needed. I don’t have a lot of experience in using malt syrup as I always used diastatic malt powder. My feeling is you could use a little more syrup than the powder I call for as the syrup probably has some water added, but maybe try a 1-to-1 replacement and see how it goes. If your resulting loaf is overly chewy, reddish in color or gummy inside dial back the syrup next time (these are the typical symptoms I see with bread that’s made with too much malt).

    As for when to add it, I’d side with adding it in the main dough mix instead of the levain.

    Hope that helps and I hope the experiments went well!

    • Mark Frankel

      Thanks! I baked a batch following your recipe yesterday. I used Bob’s Red Mill Artisanal Bread Flour as it is malted. From reading the labels, nearly all commercial flour is malted, even if it doesn’t say so on the label. The crust and crumb were terrific, but the dough was really slack; almost a stiff batter instead of a dough. Next time I will have to work it a bit more to build the gluten and cut back a bit on the water. Again, thanks for a terrific blog.