Week 59: French Sourdough

FRANCE: Pain de Campagne is a multi-grain French sourdough, made with white, whole wheat and rye flours. Back in the day, French villagers would bake very large loaves in communal ovens, which could feed the family for weeks. Some say scoring was a way to identify your loaf.

This recipe follows Maura Brickman’s method for Pain de Campagne introduced on King Arthur’s website (see video link below) whereby you can use your starter straight from the fridge. You don’t have to feed it the night before, and you don’t have to create a levain with an active starter. This removes two steps from a very long process.

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Week 58: Same Day Sourdough

Baking a sourdough loaf is a two-day affair, because there are so many stages in the prepping and proofing. I set out to find if it was possible to a.) make a loaf in one day, and b.) be 100% satisfied with the result. And, I’m here to tell you that there is! This is a method for baking a sourdough loaf with no overnight rise, and if you get started early enough, (8:00 AM) you’ll have a warm loaf to bring to the dinner table.

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Week 57: Sour Sourdough

Sourdough not sour enough? Try this shorter, less complicated method of making sourdough, that gets a sour boost from citric acid, which is what’s produced as your starter matures. It’s got a nice rise, sturdy crisp crust, and a chewy interior. It doesn’t have the extreme open crumb, but honestly, I find that annoying if I’m trying to make a sandwich, so that suits me just fine. I used all bread flour, but you can substitute some rye and/or whole wheat (see ratios below for a Pain de Campagne) without any adverse effects. My starter is made with rye flour, so there is already some whole grain mixed in.

So far, my soudough loaves have not been very sour. My starter is young, and I think that might have something to do with it. To make this have that familiar sourdough tang, I added 1/4 tsp citric acid. This resulted in a slightly tangy loaf; if you’re looking for more, bump it up to 1/2 tsp instead.

STEP 1: Activate starter (4~6 hours)

Feed your starter so you can use it when it is active/mature. Mine usually takes between 4~6 hours, depending on the temperature. Keep it close by, so you can monitor the rise, and use it when it’s mature, and not starting to fall. My starter is a 1:1:1 ratio, i.e. 100g flour + 100g starter + 100g water.

STEP 2: Prepare dough

  • 450g Bread Flour (all purpose is okay, too)*
  • 300g Water
  • 10g Salt
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • 100g active starter

* To make a Pain de Campagne, use this mixture of flours:

  • 315g white
  • 90g whole wheat
  • 45g ryre
  1. Mix everything together, so the flour is thoughly incorporated into the water and levain. I do this by hand (just one, keeping the other one clean to turn the bowl) because it’s the best way to tell that there’s no lumps of wet levain or dried dough. Alternatively, you could use the stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

STEP 3: Autolyse (1 hour)

  1. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper to get everything included.
  2. Cover and let rest for one hour, to properly hydrate the dough

STEP 4: Bulk Fermentation/Kneading (3 hours)

The dough should rest for 5~6 hours, with in-the-bowl stretch and fold kneading method occuring every 30 minutes. It helps to write down each time you complete a stretch and fold/30 minute rest period, so you don’t lose track.

  1. First stretch and fold: Wet fingers. Reach under a side of dough, lift it away from the bowl and pull it up and out to stretch, then fold it back over the top towards the opposite side. Pick up the opposite side and do the same, then repeat with the other 2 sides. Since this is the first knead, and the dough it prett tight, repeat it two times.
  2. Cover and let rest 30 minutes. (30 minute rest time total so far)
  3. Second stretch and fold: Do one rotation of the four stretch and folds (instead of the three that you did the first time around).
    • Don’t pull too hard, so as not to tear the dough.
    • Be gentle, and don’t press the dough down too much, because you don’t want to release the gasses forming.
  4. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes (60 minutes rest time so far)
  5. Third, Fourth, FIfth and Sixth stretch and fold: Repeat these stretch and folds, and 30 minute rests four more times (this will be 3 hours total rest time so far)

STEP 5: Finish bulk fermentation (2 ~ 3 hours)

  1. Cover, and rest dough for 2 hours, so that your total bulk fermantation is 5 hours. If the temperature is on the cool side, you might want to let it rest another hour. It should be just very slightly puffier, and have very slight movement if you shake the bowl. Very slight.

STEP 6: Shape dough and proof overnight

  1. Gently turn your bowl out onto a lightly floured surface.
  2. Follow the video instructions below on how to shape your dough into a batard shape, and place it in the proofing basket seam side up

Here is a video in slow motion

Step 7: Bake

  1. Next day, preheat oven and pot with a lid to 475
  2. When it’s ready, remove bread from fridge and score. This is a great scoring tutorial from Breadtopia, with four videos for visual instruction.
  3. Follow baking (and cooling) instructions below,
10:00Bake @ 45020 minutes
10:20Remove lid10 minutes
10:30Bake @ 42510-15 min
10:45Cool in oven with door open20 min

Week 56: Sourdough

If you do a Google search for sourdough recipes, you’ll get 25,600,000 results. There is a ton of information — and misinformation — to sift through. I tested five different methods and this version, from Full Proof Baking’s Kristen Dennis was the clear winner. Although it is time consuming, and a little tricky, the instructions are very detailed and the steps are demonstrated on the video, linked below. This is an all day affair — a perfect loaf for #bakingwhileworking.

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Week 55: “Sourdough” Starter

The word “Sourdough” is in quotes because the name is a total misnomer. This is a wild yeast starter, and not all breads made with this non-commerical yeast are always sour. Using this type of starter (also known as a levain) doesn’t equate to making a sourdough loaf, and it’s often used to make all sorts of baked goods, such as pancakes, brownies, etc.

When you let a mixture of flour and water sit, the wild yeast that naturally occurs in flour (it’s actually everywhere) starts to grow by eating, i.e. metabolizing, the starches/sugar, producing lactic acid. This gives it a tangy taste. Bacteria then feeds off the yeast’s waste, producing acidic acid, which is what makes it sour. While all this is happening, it’s considered live, and the mixture gets bubbley and rises. Once everything’s consumed, it falls and is dormant until the next feeding. So that you don’t end up with a massive amount of starter, you throw some away just before each feeding, and then add some fresh water and flour to the remainder, thereby keeping a consistent amount.

You can actually purchase starters on line, if you want guaranteed success. And the 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Preservation Society will send you one for free. Yes, it’s been around for that long!

I tested methods from three reliable sources, chosen because they offered different methods and different ingredients.

My conclusion? That it can be a pain in the neck to start, then tend to a starter, and the varitals above barely made a difference in the loaves that I baked.

My recommendation? Keep the process simple. (However, If you want to go all in, and have a complete understanding of the process, I highly recommend the very comprehensive Make Your Own Sourdough Starter document from Northwest Sourdough.)


To begin with, let’s all just assume we’re using a clean jar and that it’s just fine to use tap water. You don’t have to be super accurate in marking the jar to see if it rises double. You’ll know when it’s active/live because there will be lots of bubbles and it will rise a lot. Your measurements don’t have to be exact to the 10th degree, you just want the same amount of starter as water and flour. Your timing doesn’t have to be exactly to the minute, and if you forget and skip a day, it’s no big deal.

The following is how to make a liquid starter, as opposed to a stiff starter. This starter can be used directly from the jar, i.e. combined with your flours (and water/salt) to make a dough. Or, you can use it to make a hybrid starter (see #2 below).

Your starter supply kit. Some sites recommend coveirng with cheesecloth instead of plastic wrap, but I didn’t like the dried out hard bits that formed on the top. Plastic wrap can stretch up if need be. Cheesecloth allows open air, and therefor “good” bacteria contact with the flour mixture while keeping out the dust particles.

Day 1: Combine 100g whole wheat flour with 100g water. Mix well, cover, and let sit 24 hours

Day 2: Stir the starter. Let sit 24 hrs.

Day 3 and beyond: Begin the feedings. The formula is equal amounts flour/starter/water. 100g starter + 100g flour + 100g water.

  1. Stir the starter.
  2. Put 100g of the starter in a new jar.
  3. Add 100g flour + 100g water.
  4. Mix well, cover and let sit 24 hours.

You can use any type of flour you want:

  • All white (bread or all-purpose)
  • Rye and/or whole wheat mixed with white (I use 30g rye + 70g white). Whole grains provide more nutrients, and better frementation. Rye is not as glutenous as whole wheat, so easier to mix.

You should start seeing some activity now, but if not, just stick to the schedule and keep going. Some sites recommend starting to feed very 12 hours, to give it a boost, but you don’t need to do that. Just being patient, continue on with this schedule, and you will get a rise soon enough! Temperature does make a difference; it’ll work in a cooler environment, but does get active sooner in a warm enviroment. Keeping it at a consistent temperature helps.

Additional info:

  1. You usually don’t need more than 100g to create a levain for a recipe, so this 300g starter is enough.
  2. The starter needs to be “mature” when you use it, i.e. has risen but not starting to fall again. You need to know this so that you time your feedings accordingly. If your feeding schedule is the middle of the day, you can’t start baking until after dinner.
  3. Some recipes use a hybrid starter, i.e. beginning by making a new, separate levain by mixing some starter with flour and water, then adding that to the flours once it matures.

Your starter should always be in view, so you can see when it’s ready and not miss your chance to use it!

  1. Keeping your starter:
    • If you are going to use your starter on a weekly basis, you can keep it on the counter, and feed it weekly in cool weather, daily in warm weather, and twice a day if it’s very warm.
    • If you are not baking weekly, and want to avoid that daily/weekly feeding hassle, you can refrigerate it and feed it monthly. Yes, that’s all you need to do.
    • You can also freeze it if you’re going to be unavailable to feed it monthly.

*If you are trying to achieve a noticeably sour taste, check out this post: 18 Ways to Make Sourdough Bread More (or Less) Sour.

Week 54: Hot Cross Buns

(Since we’re still waiting on our starter, here’s a bread for Easter weekend!) ENGLAND: These yeasty, heavenly spiced buns are typically eaten on Good Friday, celebrating the end of Lent. There are a multitude of references to the cross representing the crucifixion of Christ, and suggestions that the spices signify those used to embalm, but as food historian Ivan Day says, “The trouble with any folk food, any traditional food, is that no-one tended to write about them in the very early period.” Which is to say, most of this is conjecture, and it is just as likely that the cross is a way to separate the bun into sections. Back in the day, folks would grate, then save the bread that was baked on Good Friday to use as a medicine in later years, and some believed that the buns would never go moldy, so they nailed up in the house as a good luck charm.

I found many versions of hot cross buns (12M results on Google!) and tested three. I am happy to report that Bake with Jack’s Hot Cross Buns is the clear winner — and he just today posted an accompanying video with tips and updates, since that recipe was originally posted on his blog in 2017.

Bake with Jack’s Hot Cross Buns Recipe

My tips:

  1. Sultanas are golden raisins
  2. Yeast measurement is 14g total (seems like a lot, I know)
  3. Caster sugar is very fine granualted sugar. Go ahead and use granualted sugar (not light brown sugar which would be too wet).
  4. I used 2 medium lemons and 1 large orange which equaled about 1 Tbsp zest for each.
  5. I got 3/4 cup juice from the lemons and orange, so added 3/4 cup granulated sugar to that for the syrup. I simmered it for 15 minutes. It gets thick as it cools.
  6. Mixed spice is very similar to our pumpkin pie spice, and that would make a fine substitute. But the mixed spice is a little more complex, so I’ve listed the ingredients below if you’d like to make your own.
    • 1 Tbsp ground allspice
    • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
    • 2 tsp ground mace
    • 1 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
  7. I had a hard time piping the flour/water paste in even thickness/straight lines. I did one strand all the way around, and then ended up using a wet table knife to cut the individual strands before moving on to the next bun.
  8. Gas mark 180°C is 400°F

Video below has tips that would be useful in making this recipe.

Links to some of his videos that would be useful for this recipe

Video 150: Incorporating Dried Fruit in Real Time – https://youtu.be/TEa-D0yoHfc
Video 149: Do You NEED to Soak Dry Fruit for Bread? – https://youtu.be/j9_KuJ0voq0
Video 131: Kneading Bread Dough in REAL TIME – https://youtu.be/BBRmfxumyh0
Video 87: FIVE signs your Bread Dough is Fully Kneaded – https://youtu.be/rHgtvDMrffc
Video 148: Make it EASY for yourself – https://youtu.be/_FTA2maeqh8

P.S. I really wanted to like Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe — link here — because they seemed like a grown-up version, and feature the no-knead method. But the special ingredients, the length of time with it’s overnight ferment, and tricky method if you’re a beginner, just didn’t seem worth it in the end. They are tasty though, and it’s a no-knead method, so have at if you’re interested!