Starter maintenance, quality, and odors

Starter maintenance, quality, and odors

Submitted by likejehu on July 25, 2016 - 3:55pm.

I'll start off with the questions, and give the background below:


Is there a way to cultivate the starter so it goes toward an odor of that nice yogurt-like quality?

Does that odor indicate how well the starter will leaven and perform?

Can you tell how a starter will behave from its odor?

Does the quality of the starter affect the crumb and density of a loaf? Or does that have more to do with temperature and time for fermentation?

I made my own starter and have been baking with it for about eight months. I usually discard about ninety percent of the starter after every feeding session. It at least doubles in volume about 10 hours after each feeding of 75g water and 75g flour (50/50 AP/Rye). It's very consistent.

The smell before it has fully doubled is usually of overripe fruit with a bit of acidity. It's normally fermenting at around 20C. If I let it collapse, then it takes on the acetic/nail polish remover odor.

When I make bread with it (I normally follow the Tartine country loaf method), the dough smells kind of warm and human (not sure how else to describe it). It's not unpleasant, but I find it weird. Also, during the bulk ferment and final proofing, the dough does not increase in volume very much (nowhere near the 30% volume growth outlined in Tartine), though I typically get a pretty good oven spring and open crumb.

I for the first time smelled someone else's starter and it was so much nicer than mine. It had the sweet milky/yogurt-like odors I hear people talk about. It was really nice. I also tasted bread made with the starter and noticed how much softer the crumb was than my bread. While I like the mild sour flavour of my bread, it is normally quite dense and chewy. It's great for toast and spreads, but way too tough for sandwiches. I'm wondering if that's because of my starter.

Thanks in advance! Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Hello from Vancouver, BC

Hello from Vancouver, BC

Submitted by likejehu on July 25, 2016 - 3:37pm.

I've been using The Fresh Loaf as a resource for the past year, and I've always enjoyed the helpful community. I am just registering now to ask a specific question.

I started baking sourdough bread last fall and have been learning a lot. I generally follow the Tartine method, but am interested in branching out and trying different techniques. Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Disappointing Final Rise

Disappointing Final Rise

Submitted by nhalpern on July 25, 2016 - 9:26am.

Have been using my Nancy Silverton starter for 15 years but since I moved into a new apartment I can't get the final rise in the oven I used to.

Not sure if it's the oven (too hot?) or my new fridge (too cold for the over night rise?) 

One clue: when I score the bread right before popping in oven it really deflates - sinks so far down. poor thing.

I tried cutting out the over night rise and baking a loaf after just two rises in one day - no that was even worse.

appreciate any advice - I miss my big beautiful boules! Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

almost a bakery visit

almost a bakery visit

Submitted by yozzause on July 25, 2016 - 7:54am.

I recently had a friend visit from Scotland , Peter originally  came from the same small Hampshire village of  LISS that i grew up in . In fact Peter and his wife Hazel both came from the same village. they moved to Scotland after graduating from Uni and have worked there ever since.

I had already moved to Australia when i was 15. Anyway Peter had been visiting his sister in Adelaide who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, Peter came and stayed with us for 2 weeks on his return trip to Scotland via Perth in Western Australia and Singapore for a couple of days then Dubai and back to Glasgow.

Peter had been here previously with Hazel and  we had toured the Southwest down to Albany and Margaret river. So this visit  being winter and all i asked if he would like to go North  and we decided upon Shark bay, Kalbarri and the monastic town ship of New Norcia

Peter didn't think the temperature in Perth was cold at all saying Glasgow was cooler and it was  supposed to be summer.


We set off in my wife's slideon camping vehicle a Toyota workmate V8  with a German Tisher slide on camper attached on the tray, i elected to also take my swag  as neither Peter or I felt like sharing the double bed together.

Our first day's travel took us along the Indian Ocean Drive which took us to some very pleasant coastal communities  rather than the busier Brand Highway that has big road trains using it. 

 We stopped at Dongarra a coastal town for a bit of a look  and then into the major town of Geraldton where we had  a nice roast chicken takeaway just on dusk. I had planned to stop at a free camp listed in an old book  but when we arrived it didnt seem to match the pictures and directed to a spot several  klm down a dirt road  So instead we pushed on a bit further to a free camping spot GalenaBridge beside the Murchison River that i had visited before.

It took just minutes to roll out my swag and have a bit of a night cap in the camper as well as re-arrange the rough plan that i had worked out. it seemed pointless to backtrack to visit Kalbarri when we could do that on the way back.  A reasonably good nights sleep was had although those road trains kept going all night long and  certainly make a bit of noise.

We were both up in time to see the sun rise and after a breakfast were on our way again, a quick stop at a remote Service station called the Billabong  Roadhouse also gave Peter the opportunity to have a drive of the beast, there had been very few roadside casualties Kangaroos and sheep and certainly no fresh ones so i felt he would be fairly safe, he was cautioned about swerving to miss any of our fury friends. We did come upon a fresh fox that was providing breakfast  for a magnificent Wedgetail Eagle where i explained  to Peter that Eagles have to take off into the wind  and if they had dined well can be quite slow and can become road victims themselves. Males weigh in at 4kgs with females over 5kgs  and wing spans of 6ft and 7ft 7in respectively. Peter did slow down and the eagle did show all the characteristics that i had predicted and with the camper being quite tall may well have  connected had he not slowed.

We drove into the town of Deneham  and had a walk along the foreshore and a nice fish lunch we then went the other side of the peninsula to Monkey Mia  world famous for the wild dolphins that come in and mingle with the visitors  we were to late for the organised feed time where there had been 4 dolphins come in that morning, but whilst

on the jetty 2 came by within a metre of the shoreline much to the delight of a young girl that ran alongside them on the beach for 100metres or more. As we were leaving to make for our overnight stay  a family of emus came by, dad with 6 of his juvenile youngsters that he had reared, the females lay a clutch of eggs and leave the males to it sometimes repeating the dose for another male. They were very friendly even sticking their heads into the cab of the camper van.

We drove back then to The Hamelin Pool Homestead for our overnight stay with hot showers and a good camp kitchen. Hamelin pool is also famous for its Stromolites  so we followed the sign that took us to the beach area and were able to walk along an elevated platform to see these strange  things.

Shark Bays’ stromatolites are significant because they represent a major stage in the Earth’s evolutionary history, one of the reasons forShark Bay's World Heritage listing. When the stromatolites were discovered by scientists in 1956, they were the first ever recorded living examples of structures previously found only as fossils in ancient rocks. Although SharkBay’s stromatolites are just 2,000 – 3,000 years old, the cyanobacteria that build them are similar to life forms found on Earth up to 3.5 billion years ago! This means the stromatolites are modern-day examples of life in Precambrian times. 


There was plenty of room at the homestead  so we picked a good spot  and the swag was rolled out onto the shells that form the parking area


Another good sleep ensued and again up in time for the sunrise a fellow camper asked if the slide on was mine as they had a similar set up i said that it was my wifes and that i was sleeping in the swag as my mate had the double bed to which she replied that i must be the snoring man! i could do little else but admit that i had been known to snore! We took advantage and visited the old shearing sheds where  there was heaps of information on the heyday of the shearing shed  and the hardships faced by those pioneers.

We were soon on the road again heading south a quick stop at the Billabong to top up a fuel  tank noting that diesel was some 20cents a litre dearer there than just before Geraldton, we were headed for Kalbarri  where i hadn't been before we elected not to drive to the gorge as Peter has been to the grand canyon so ours would seem tiny by comparison but it is on my list for a return visit with the wife during the wildflower season in a few months. i'd quite like to see the Grand Canyon too.

Kalbarri where  the Murchison river enters the Indian Ocean was very pretty indeed. apparently it can be very busy in the summer with lots of visitors and even more flies,we were spared both. Again the local fish was superb for lunch, we stopped off at many lookouts to admire the views and could see dolphins and sharks in the clear waters below



We pressed on and decided to stop at the place we had first given a miss to this was Oakabella homestead  it was find a spot in the paddock and Lorreta would be around to collect the $9.00 a head fee. We were soon set up and joined some campers that were French backpackers travelling around our big country, they spoke excellent English  and i invited them to share some

good Australian wine that i had bought along on the trip from my cousins vineyard. they thought it was delightful as they were drinking the chateau cardboard 4litr wine cask. We were soon joined by two more backpackers this time from Germany it was very interesting to hear of their travel exploits, they had worked in an onion factory to be able to have an extended visa and were travelling around Australia having a ball.


The senior contingent went to bed about 9.00 and left them to it. They were talking till about 11.30 we were sure that we had met the young man that would one day hold down the job currently occupied by Angela Merkal

 We were again up in time to see the sunrise, we were showered and  away before anyone stirred in the tents.  We called into Geraldton had a quick look around the Sunday market and found a nice place that did a real big breakfast which set us for the long drive down the midlands highway that would take us through lots of small country towns avoiding the main Brand highway with its triple road trains,  This route is supposed to be second to none when the native wildflowers come out in spring time.


We arrived at our intended destination the  Benedictine monastery town of New Norcia  Peter was keen to experience some of the monastical delights and booked in to the monastery retreat for the night and the light evening meal . i parked the camper down on the sports oval but didn't need to roll out the swag as i was going to sleep in the double bed in the camper i did break out a chair and a bottle of my home brew Ruby porter and sat back until i realised that i was being attacked by ants its amazing that they can climb half way up your body before the order is given bite now chaps and you suddenly realise that you have dozens of angry ants biting  i was able to dust them off but found the ground was alive with very busy fairly big angry ants  i decided to move the camper  just 20 metres or so where the ground was a little more moist which wasn't to their liking i finished my beer and went off to find father Peter  and was able to use the shower in the guests retreat we then went off to vespers in the church making it just in time the service was quite interesting with the monks chanting  and the congregation encouraged to participate unfortunately their are only14 monks left, there were once 170.  a simple evening meal was taken in the retreat  where 8 of us were fed  one of the monks came in from their area to have a chat with us which was very informative. Rain had set in as i made my way back to the van  and the track was awash  the field was also covered with a sheet of water i got into the van  and praised the lord that i wasn't in the swag tonight. Much rain fell and the morning found the camper in several inches of water but at least it was sunny.


 I had breakfast and started the camper up to go and collect father Peter i didn't require 4 wheel drive  but it was quite muddy. We joined the official tour of the town and all its historical buildings of particular interest to me was the bakery and flour mill.

I had known that for some time the name New Norcia bread had been sold to a Perth business  Unfortunately and a great shame is the bakery is  not part of the tour.

After looking at that link i wonder just how much is still baked at New Norcia  especially as they also claim to be using flour from the mill, that has been out of action for many years. The old flour mill was quite interesting though.

At the conclusion of the tour we availed ourselves to the comfort of the old hotel for lunch and another product that is licensed out by the monastery  Abbey Ale.

From here it was just a short 132 klm back to the city, and our country trek was over. Peter had enjoyed a brief stay at the monastery and I would have loved to have been able to get into the bakery, perhaps I will have to chase up the current operators.

regards to all Derek Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Gifting Sourdough Starter

Gifting Sourdough Starter

Submitted by Cathfm on July 25, 2016 - 2:50am.


I am going to an English friends wedding in a month and would like to give her some of my (still 3 months young, but hey) starter as a little part of our present. I'm sure I can follow directions online re how to dry it and send it etc, does anyone have any recommendations about a brief, simple but helpful book I can give her along with it? She does have a busy lifestyle so ideally something best suited for a lady in full-time work but who still enjoys little projects on the side.

Any ideas would be great, including how much to give her, any better suggestions than shoving it into an envelope/ziplock, would a small mason jar look odd (like I'm giving her an almost emptyish jar hehe)?


One caveat- the mail/online ordering in this country is slow, slow, and there are very, very few English bookshops here so preferably something I don't have to go on a crusade for. Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Wife made bread

Wife made bread

Submitted by BXMurphy on July 24, 2016 - 7:11pm.

So, here's me with my scales, test tubes, thermometers, and bubbling goo struggling to make a decent loaf. All my timing was thrown off by an overloaded schedule. Even refrigeration went a day too long.

And there's my saintly wife, standing there, smiling, after I come home from four or five hours of work with two perfectly baked loaves done old school.

I want to throw myself out the window. :)

Soft, white, warm... bread just like Mommy would have done. <sigh> If it weren't for her, I probably wouldn't have had bread this week.

I think everyone needs a good wife. Can I hear it for all the women out there!?! I love you all!

Murph Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon



Submitted by rb75453 on July 24, 2016 - 5:14pm.

I have read that wheat bran is insoluble and can damage gluten. I know there are ways to deal with this. That is not the issue.

What I want to know:  Is this also true of soluible fiber, such as that in oat bran? Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Khorasan Spelt Seeded Sourdough Bread

Khorasan Spelt Seeded Sourdough Bread

Submitted by Cedar Mountain on July 24, 2016 - 3:54pm.


Khorasan Spelt Seeded Sourdough Bread

I was not happy with my first attempt at baking a seeded nut sourdough bread so I decided to have another go at making a seeded bread. As has become my habit of late, I used the Master Recipe from Chad Robertson's Tartine 3 as the basic dough for this bread.  30% fresh milled grains (spelt, khorasan, and a bit of rye for flavour; 70% all purpose unbleached white flour.  The flours were autolysed for 4 hours at a very warm room temperature of 24 C (I got sidetracked with some other things so the autolyse was a bit longer than usual) with 750 grams of water before adding 25 grams sea salt and 220 grams levain (4 hour levain made with a very active starter). Between the first and second folding I added a 450 gram mix of a flax seed soaker (100 g), toasted pumpkin seeds (100 g), toasted sunflower seeds (100 g), toasted sesame seeds (100 g, slightly cracked in a mortar to release more flavour), toasted almond pieces (50 g) and a tsp of sesame oil. This was incorporated with the dough stretched flat on a slightly wetted bench, gently folding and pushing the mixture into the dough. The final hydration including the water in the flax soaker was approximately 85%.  I did a total of 6 folds over the first three hours of the bulk fermentation (room temperature 23 C) and let the dough rest; interestingly, the dough temperature stayed within 78-80 F for the entire bulk ferment (maybe because I started with a cooler temperature water to mix the dough?).  After 4 and 3/4 hours the dough volume had increased by about 25 % and was nice and bubbly; room temperature throughout was a consistent 23 C.

I pre-shaped and bench rested the dough for 30 minutes before final shaping and placing into proofing baskets. I retarded the loaves overnight in the fridge.  After 14 hours I baked them directly out of the fridge in a preheated 500 F oven; combo cookers on a baking stone, middle rack.  Covered at 500 F for 20 minutes; 450 F for 10 minutes then uncovered at 450 F for 18 minutes.  The bake is still dark but at least this time it was because I wanted it that way; the oven is still running hot but I am very happy with this bread.  The combination of spelt and khorasan makes for a bread with a beautiful chewy crumb and with the seeds the flavour (especially the crust!) is nutty and toasty.  I will be adding this to my list of favourites.



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Big Green Egg loaf: too much smoky flavor and aroma

Big Green Egg loaf: too much smoky flavor and aroma

Submitted by Bench on July 24, 2016 - 3:20pm.

I'm a long time bread baker and new owner of a Big Green Egg. The loaves are fine but the smoky flavor and aroma  is too strong. I'm using BGE charcoal and the BGE heat shield. I haven't used the Egg for anything else but bread. I'd welcome any suggestions. I chose the BGE because I thought a wood burning oven was too ambitious. Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon

Panasonic Bread Maker SD - 2500 WXC

Panasonic Bread Maker SD - 2500 WXC

Submitted by Bonsai2 on July 24, 2016 - 10:46am.


I have recently moved from an Anthony Warrel Thompson Breville Breadmaker to the Panasonic SD - 2500 which I picked up from e-Bay at  a cost of just over £30.00.

What a difference in the loaf quality, crust, and taste.  I have tried a few of the panasonic recipes and they are very good but the recipes from 'Brilliant Breadmaking' by 'Catherine Allison' take the biscuit!

Having taken advice from fellow contributors to 'The Fresh loaf', I have tried reducing the recipe sugar levels by 50% or completely without any loss of quality and taste.

I found that overall the crusts are softer than on bread that you would purchase from the supermarket and therefore more difficult to slice.  However, I solved the problem by using an electric carving knife.  Now the loaves are sliced equally as well as the purchased standard sliced loaf.

The finished loaf baked by the Breville was always damp at the base whether you emptied it from the baking tin once the program had finished or chose to leave it in the follow-on warm cycle.  The loaves did dry out but took up to a couple of hours.

The Panasonic cycle is on average 1 hour longer than the Breville and the loaves are dry at the base and lighter when the cycle has finished.

I was wary about purchasing a second hand breadmaker but it was reputed to be only 6 months old, very clean and in very good condition.  So a win, win, experience.

Thank you for your previous advice. Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon