por francis
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Dutch oven: don’t bake without one

Ok, the title might sound like an exaggeration, but let me tell you this: it was the single most important thing that helped me getting nice, rising and great bread.

I’ve started baking sourdough just four months ago. I had to fight to get spring oven. My dough would sometimes become a frisbee in the oven, or it would rise ridiculously low.

Then two days ago I received a dutch oven I bought online. It was a small model from Holm, but it was on sale and I didn’t want to spend so much money before I knew this would fix my baking. Holm has a good reputation for having good products, and the cast iron pan has a flat lid that I thought would be ideal to bake in. In other words, I’d put the pan upside down so that the dough could bake on the lid and be covered by the pan.

It was a coincidence that I was going to bake that day – I didn’t expect the pan to arrive so fast. Perfect timing – I washed it, warmed it in the oven and baking I went.

After twenty minutes, I removed the pan, ie., the part of the pan that was covering the bread, and I got this shock: I’ve never got bread that rose that high, and was so round and nice. It was simply amazing!

I baked another one right away, as I had two doughs since I had a friend from work who came so we could do something work related, and the second bread didn’t rise as much, but that was my fault as the oven cooled a bit and the bread also over proofed clearly. Still, the taste was amazing, the bread got very good air distribution and the crust was great.

Yesterday when I came back from work I started preparing some dough so it could go to the fridge at night. For this dough – a 75% hydrated one – I increased the amount of whole wheat and put some linseeds (which stole some of the hydration, sadly). I also put way too much starter as I wanted a faster fermentation.

I started to work on something really exciting and forgot about the bread, so it got a too long bulk fermentation. I formed it right away and to the fridge it went. This morning it went right to the oven, and, again, a wonderful, wonderful bread.

So three bread (I’m only showing the picture of the first and the third loaves), three absolutely great tasting loaves. I feel I still can go higher on the loaf’s height, but suddenly it doesn’t really matter because the bread got really nice airy, soft crumb, that was delicious.

The dutch oven was not just about the oven spring, but also about a dough that expanded uniformly, thus rendering a loaf that has more taste, was less wet when done, and remained with a fresh taste and texture over time.

I know that there are certainly lots of people that are baking amazing bread without a dutch oven. I couldn’t. Maybe it was my oven that wouldn’t retain steam? I don’t know.

So if your dough is not having a proper oven spring and you have tried every piece of advice on the book, try the dutch oven. I was about to quit baking, but now had my motivation renewed.

por francis
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It’s the proofing time, stupid!

Ok, this week I really tried to be patient with my bread making and decided to experiment a bit.

I was successful with getting a better rise for my loaf, as described here. What I did was to reduce the hydration and increase the proofing time. It worked well.

Now I tested what was the main factor for rising: a less hydrated dough or a longer proofing time. So I decided to bake a specially wet dough:


  • 150g levain: 50g starter, 50g Pivetti Tipo 1 flour, 50g water
  • 50g Pivetti Integrale 
  • 50g Tipo 00 flour
  • 120g Pivetti Tipo 1 flour
  • 30g Møllerens rye
  • 100g Regal spelt
  • 250g water

It was a 70% hydration dough, but if you look closely you will see that 90% was white dough, so it was a pretty wet dough.

I let it in the fridge for 18 hours, and to be honest I think it should have stayed a bit longer. I did the poking test, and I think. it could have waited to go to the oven, but I decided to bake it anyway. No autolyse (shame), 2h of stretch-and-folds, another 2 hour for bulk fermentation (total of 4h), pre-shaping, 30min, and then shaping+fridge proofing.

I am not happy with the height, though, but I am not sure this test was conclusive, as I got the feeling it could have proofed longer. I will try the same recipe with longer proofing to see if I get a better oven spring.

But oh boy, the taste was amongst the best I ever had…

And look at this crumb:

por francis
1 Comentário


Ok, finally I got a result I am happy with and that shows I might be learning something after all.

As I have said many times, I am trying to get a bread loaf that grows enough so that I can end up with one of those beautiful, round loaves.

Today I got one that was way taller than what I have achieved so far, and that is really exciting!


  • Levain: 50g Pivetti Tipo 1, 50g water, 50g starter
  • 50g Sammalt emmer
  • 100g Pivetti Farina Integrale Bio
  • 170g Pivetti Bio Tipo 1
  • 30g Rye
  • 233g water

It was supposed to be a 70% bread, but the water wasn’t enough to make the dough completely wet during autolyse, so I had to add a bit more water, which made me end up with a 72% bread.

Things I did different this time:

  • I really reduced the hydration of this bread to something I felt comfortable with. The dough was pretty manageable when stretching and folding, and pre-shaping wasn’t very hard. I could feel that by the consistency this dough had a good chance to stay firm. Had I skipped autolyse I could have even less hydration (as the levain ends up adding enough hydration).
  • It was on the fridge for around 17h.

I have no clue what was the biggest factor here. I will make other tests, one where I increase the hydration and leave it at the same time on the fridge, and another where I keep the same proportions and take it off the fridge sooner.

I wasn’t expecting the result to be so good, as emmer is a difficult flour to work with, and also because I didn’t feel that much gluten being developed. But hell it worked fine.

por francis
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Baguette friday!

Saturday is my fried eggs day, and I need some nice white bread to eat with them. Therefore I am trying to make some nice white bread rolls/baguettes. Far from perfect, but lately the results have improved.

I really worked a bit harder on this dough to get it strong enough, since baguettes have a tendency to flatten out when putting them on the oven tray. So I went by the book and used a towel to make small slots/trails they could rest on.


  • Pre-ferment: 150g Pivetti type 1 flour, 150g water, 50g sourdough starter
  • 100g Pivetti Bio Tipo 1 flour
  • 40g Møllerens rye
  • 90g Pivetti Tipo 00 flour
  • 120g Regal Spelt
  • 100g Pivetti Manitoba tipo 0
  • 270g water
  • 8g sea salt


I had around 30m autolyse with just flour and water, then I added the pre-ferment and salt. After that, I used the kitchen machine and wouldn’t turn it off until the dough was super smooth. Well, it never got there, but I was afraid to break the machine, so stopped after about 10 min. It got pretty smooth, and I don’t think I have ever got such a strong dough that would hold up its shape like this one.

I did two hours of stretch-and-folds, and then I let it rest for around 2h15m. It had grown considerably, so I pre-shaped them, dividing the dough in 3.

After 20m of rest, I shaped the baguettes, put them on the towel, and after 40 minutes scored them (in a very lousy way) and to the oven with around 240º C with steam. After that, lowered the temps to around 210º C for 20 more minutes.

They taste good, these baguettes… 😀

por francis
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Living and learning

I think today represents a big shift in my learning path of how to bake bread. I am still doing a lot of things wrong, which is basically the way I work: I need to experiment a lot until I find the way to do things right.

It stuck me that I was doing these things wrong:

  • I was leaving my bread for too long during both bulk fermentation and proofing
  • I was using too much sourdough starter

The taste of my bread was great, don’t get me wrong, but I was searching for good appearance as well. I am a member of a sourdough group on Facebook (in Norwegian), and also got some hints of some colleagues that I might have been using too much time on my risings.

So I halved my starter and cut lots of rising times to test if that would give me a better oven spring. And it did! It is still far from ideal, but I feel I am finally on my right path.

My goals are mainly to make good bread without waiting two/three days. I am ok if the bread doesn’t have a huge sour taste. I just want breadmaking that fits my lifestyle, and not having to quit working just to bake… 😀

Let’s see what I did:


  • Pre-ferment: 50g Pivetti tipo 1 Bio flour, 50g water, 50g starter (100% hydration)
  • 100g Pivetti Bio Farina Integrale (whole wheat flour)
  • 200g Halländsk lantvete (some sort of local and old type of wheat from Sweden that has 14g of protein!)
  • 50g Regal rye
  • 6g salt (could have used a bit more)
  • 243g water (75% hydration)


I made the pre-ferment the day before, around 4 o’clock, and let it rest on my kitchen bench for around 2.5h. Then I put it on the fridge.

On the next day, I mixed the flour and water for a quick 30m autolyse that started around 6:30, then I mixed it all together and used a kitchen machine for kneading. At 7:30 I did my first stretch-and-fold, and did around 4-5 for the next 2 hours.

At 9:30 I let the dough rest, and at 11:00 I did my pre-shaping after seing a few bubbles on the surface and a bit of rise on the dough. Thinking in retrospect I could have waited a bit more. I guess the sweet spot is around 1:30-2:00h.

After 20m I shaped it and put it on a proofing basket. My biggest mistake was using a too long basket, which resulted in a speading dough, reducing what could have been a great oven spring.

Finally I got a great rise, higher than what I was achieving lately. The only disappointing thing was the crumb, which probably could have been a bit more uniform. Next time I will wait a bit more with the proofing:

por francis
0 comentários

Baking on vacation

I was looking for my holidays so I could experiment a bit with baking. It was great on my first week when I was home and alone and trying a lot of stuff. I could finally try new flours, other hydrations, etc.

But then I travelled, and thought I could bake while away from home. Boy, how disappointing.

I have the feeling that while baking sourdough bread has room for improvisation, it still requires a delicate balance. I was really progressing when baking bread at home, but on vacation I got only bad bread despite trying to bake 4 times.

Things that went wrong:

  • using flour I wasn’t used to: this is a problem. Flour has different characteristics, so what works with some flour doesn’t necessarily work with others.
  • Lack of equipment: I realize that using the right equipment is essential for someone clumsy as I am. Not having a dough scraper, a proofing basket or a kitchen machine these days is a no-go for me. I can’t manipulate wet dough without a scraper. The dough will not shape well without the proofing basket. And I can’t – no way – knead the dough by hand. I know lots of people love doing it by hand, but I am not one of them. I use a kitchen machine, and I got pretty comfortable judging if the dough is good or not while the machine is doing its job.
  • My sourdough starter simply didn’t work that well. I took a few spoons of my starter with me, but it took days to be healthy again. It seems it didn’t tackle the long journey that well. When it finally got strong again, it was on time for my last bread, which got ruined by a sticky form that ripped the dough apart.

I was happy to get back home and try baking again, and had a wonderful loaf to start with. My sourdough starter seems to need feeding only twice a month now. I have the feeling that my dough is getting too wet during the autolyse phase, and that under 70% hydration – I wonder if I was calculating something wrong or if physics changed while I was gone! So weird! UPDATE: My dough was getting too wet, but that’s because I was using different flours than what I usually put on my dough. The Norwegian whole wheat flour doesn’t soak water that well. Besides, the use of 00 flour, as well as spelt, didn’t help.

I did this bread yesterday (70% hydration):


  • Pre-ferment: 150g Pivetti type 1 flour, 150g water, 50g sourdough starter
  • 100g Møllerens fibra (whole wheat)
  • 50g Møllerens rye
  • 100g Regal spelt
  • 50g Pivetti type 00 wheat
  • 50g Pivetti type 1 wheat
  • 200g water

Amazing texture, when shaping, but unfortunately I rushed it into the oven.

Great taste, ok crumb, nice crust, but still could be softer and more homogenous. I am trying a variation today to see how it goes.

por francis
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Test: Another go, and finally a (little) ear!

As I said, I am attempting to bake “taller” loaves, and I tried now to lower the hydration and increased a bit the amount of whole flour. I am not super happy with the results – I guess it’s no secret that higher hydration = better crumb, so my point was to see if I could get something taller and more stable.


  • Pre-ferment: 200g (100g Pivetti type 1 flour) plus 50g sourdough starter
  • 150g Pivetti Manitoba flour
  • 100g Mllerens Fibra (whole wheat flour)
  • 50g Regal rye
  • 10g salt (it became overly salt, 30% less would do)

The good part is that I got to get an ear (a little one, though), which I was trying to do for a while. So it’s true, folks: creating tension when pre-shaping really does magic.

I assume I should probably use tighter bannetons from now on, since I guess the dough ends up getting a bit too loose on those I have.

I wasn’t impressed by the crumb: I think it could have been longer in the oven. But it’s ok, living and learning.

por francis
1 Comentário

Test: trying to get a taller dough

I am far from baking bread that I am 100% happy with. I am just starting to bake bread, so there’s a lot to learn.

One of the things that annoys me the most is that I see people are getting to make round-ish loaves that are very tall. My dough doesn’t rise that high, and I don’t know the cause yet. Is it my Benetton that spreads the dough too much when it’s taken out of it?

So I asked this on a Facebook group, and following one link after another I got to watch this video and decided to try some of his tips. But what people on the group seemed to agree on was that one needs to focus on creating tension on the dough at the pre-shaping and at the shaping stages. I clearly didn’t put enough focus there.

So I decided this time to go crazy and make a test just to see if I could achieve a dough that was rounder and taller. I shot a bit high on the hydration and went for 75%, which was probably too much since the dough was 90% made of white flour.


  • 300g pre-ferment (150g of Pivetti tipo 1 farina)
  • 100g Regal spelt
  • 150g Pivetti Manitoba flour
  • 50g Møllerens rye
  • 50g whole wheat
  • 10g salt (too much)
  • 235g water

Things I did different this time:

  • I did wait the pre-ferment to peak its height.
  • I did one stretch-and-fold every 15 minutes. The dough was too hydrated, so I wasn’t going to end up with a firm, perfectly shaped ball, but it was nice.
  • I REALLY worked on pulling the edges on pre-shaping to create as much tension as possible.

It seemed it got me on the right path: while I didn’t achieve my goal just yet, it seems to be on the right way, as I never got a bread that high, specially when shaping it like a batard. But I still have to work better on this. Next steps are to reduce the hydration when making white bread and to work on the batard tension. I guess I’ve been too afraid of stretching the dough too much when shaping it.

Overall, great, amazing, best-I’ve-seen-so-far crumb:

por francis
0 comentários

Repeating my spontaneous bread

Ok, this sourdough bread is now on my list of default breads – you know, those I’ll make often and often.

The recipe is here.

Here’s how I do it: I prepare the pre-ferment around 6 hours before, then I make the dough after around 30m-1h autolyse. I mix it with the pre-ferment, do four stretch-and-fold sessions on the first two hours, leave it on bulk fermentation for around 3-4 hours more, or overnight, pre-shape it, leave it resting for 30 minutes, and proof it for one hour at room temp or for some hours on the fridge.

This time I made it grow a bit higher than usual, and I assume it was because I was extra careful with the pre-shaping, adding way more tension to the dough then usual. It surely worked, so I will really focus on getting my pre-shaping technique better. My goal now is to make a proper “ear”.

por francis
0 comentários

School bread

One of my main challenges is how to make bread my little daughter will eat. She doesn’t appreciate the crispy crusts that most bread lovers like. She loves good, soft and yummy crumb.

I haven’t perfected a technique to make good, tall sourdough bread without using a form, so today I took the time to attempt to bake nice bread she can make sandwiches to take with her on her lunchbox. I had to cheat and use a form to bake it.

I was not unhappy with the results, though the dough was too wet to score – I had to spill some flour, wait a bit, and then use a nice. It worked, though!


Pre-ferment: 150g Pivetti type 1 flour

  • 150g water
  • 50g sourdough starter (around 80% hydration)
  • Main dough: 
  • 100g Pivetti type 00 flour 
  • 200g Regal spelt flour
  • 50g Møllerens rye
  • 50g Pivetti type 1 flour
  • 255g water

It was a very wet dough, which rendered a very soft and nice bread. I think we have a winner when it comes to school bread! Only thing was that the upper crust was still a bit hard for her, but it’s easy to cut it off.

Nice, soft crumb! Yummy!