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Sourdough – a work in progress update

June 8, 2012

Mr Potato Bread
Mr Potato Bread II

If you follow me at all on the Twitters or Instagram, you may have an inkling of my current bread baking obsession. Ever since attending the Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough baking class back in April, I’ve been baking sourdough bread pretty much every week! I’ve found that once you get the starter going, and maintain a feeding schedule – it almost seems like a waste not to bake – since so much flour and effort goes into keeping that thing alive!

Sourdough Starter
My starter, Mr Stay Puft

Sourdough does take a long time to make from start to finish. It requires a much longer proofing time than yeasted doughs – yeasted doughs typically take 1-2 hours to prove, whereas sourdough needs to sleep overnight in the fridge for 8-24 hours! It does mean that if I want a fresh loaf of sourdough for Saturday brunch for instance, I have to start planning for it on Thursday! But with the super crackly crust, chewy crumb and awesome flavour, it is so worth it. And fresh hot bread out of the oven is just amazing (my friend Zay and I have dubbed the feeling of accomplishment as “home-baked smugness”)

Here’s a photo of my very first sourdough loaf baked from Mr Stay Puft! Even after the confidence boosting Brasserie Bread class, part of me was still so sceptical that my dinky little fermented mixture of flour and water could create bread.




What I really love about baking right now, is that every loaf turns out different!

Maybe proper bakers learn proper consistency, but at the moment it’s kind of exciting waiting by the oven, seeing what results will turn out!

There’s so many variables that can affect the end result – from hydration of the dough, final proofing time, oven temperature and the amount of steam in the oven. I’ve tried a few different methods to create steam… first with a spray bottle – a bit inefficient I thought. I’ve also tried a tray full of icecubes. But the best results I’ve gotten is filling a preheated tray on the lowest rack with boiling water just before I put the dough in (and then misting on top just for luck!).

I like documenting my funny little loaves so I can see what worked and what didn’t in terms of shaping and slashing. There are so many different ways to slash bread! And there’s no real right or wrong answers. At the moment I’m trying really angled cuts, so that I can get the cool “ears” on the bread.

Here’s some photos of the different loaves I’ve baked over the past few months, in chronological order:


I like to call this one Frankenbread

You can see the first few ones I baked look a little anaemic and dry. The later loaves have much better colour and shine, plus the pretty blistering on the surface of the crust. I think this is because I’m better at leaving the loaves in the oven for a bit longer to brown (not as paranoid about burning them, like I was my first few loaves) – plus the added steam. I’ve found that steam in the oven not only improves the appearance of the crust, it helps make your dough surface more flexible… so that it can grow in the oven nice and uniformly (rather than cracking and busting out like my Frankenbread!).

A really shallow angled slash…

… creates a really cool lifted “ear”

This deep vertical slash on the other hand creates a really flat effect

Big air bubbles!

Mr Potato Bread:
Mr Potato Bread
Trying out Bourke St Bakery’s sourdough variation, Mr Potato Bread – roast potato chunks with rosemary (with poppy seeds instead of the suggested nigella seeds because that’s all I had in the cupboard) – I added the extra ingredients after mixing my dough, just before the bulk prove.

Mr Potato Bread
In a boule shape this time

Mr Potato Bread
I like the star pattern!

Mr Potato Bread

Mr Potato Bread
Another Mr Potato Bread

Mr Potato Bread
I think he’s the prettiest bread I’ve baked so far!

Mr Potato Bread
Steaming innards

Back to the batard with shallow angled slashes. I just baked this one on Tuesday!

Got a bit of lift on the “ears” but next time aiming for more!

Anyway, it’s a learning process, and I’m still beginning!! But it sure is fun (and delicious) learning!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2012 9:13 am

    OMG congratulations 😀 your bread is totally pro! Awesome job!!

    • June 26, 2012 10:18 pm

      Thanks so much! It’s been really fun learning all about it!

  2. June 8, 2012 9:44 am

    love reading your bread posts :D. I will start making bread soon

  3. June 8, 2012 9:47 am

    Love your “so many” bread photos! Nice work!

    • June 26, 2012 10:20 pm

      I have sooo many bread photos it’s a bit sad hahaha! I tried to restrain myself here.

  4. June 8, 2012 11:29 am

    Nice one! I’ve been playing with sourdough recently too and learning heaps from every experiment. Your potato ones look so nice. I should try those at some stage.

    • June 26, 2012 10:21 pm

      I love how every loaf is so different each time! I feel like I’m learning a lot every time I bake!

  5. June 8, 2012 12:25 pm

    Mr Potato Bread looks like he is straight out of the BSB book, delicious!

    • June 26, 2012 10:22 pm

      Thanks so much! That book is AMAZING isn’t it… I want to make everything in it

  6. June 8, 2012 4:11 pm

    Loving your bread adventures and my inner geek is totally loving your experimental take on the slashes on top of the bread! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next 🙂

    • June 26, 2012 10:24 pm

      Thanks Jacq! I am becoming the biggest nerd… I stand in front of the oven nervously every time I bake something. Always convinced it will go horribly wrong!

  7. June 8, 2012 9:10 pm

    I got hungry just by looking at your post! =)

  8. June 11, 2012 5:38 pm

    This is so lovely and that potato and rosemary loaf looks awesome! Really been meaning to start baking my own bread but it seems a bit daunting and I’m pretty bad with maintaining starters 😦

    • June 26, 2012 10:27 pm

      You should definitely do it! If it’s daunting, start with something a bit easier like a yeasted bread. I have an easy recipe for an italian olive oil bread you can try if you like! It was the first bread I ever baked, and it’s really nice and simple. Plus, bonus is that you can mix it and eat it within a few hours! Schiacciata con l’uva

      If you ever need help with it let me know 🙂

  9. June 11, 2012 7:01 pm

    mr stay puft!! BHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAA

  10. vodler permalink
    June 18, 2012 2:03 pm

    Love your bread making skills! Could I steal you for a private master class??
    Congratulations for your hard work that paid off! *jealous*
    Your breads look so appetizing!

    • June 26, 2012 10:33 pm

      haha funny you should say that… I actually did an impromptu “class” for some of my friends during a weekend away. Just went to the supermarket and bought some bread flour and instant yeast, too easy! It was pretty funny. we managed to bake some pretty cool breads though!

  11. June 18, 2012 4:51 pm

    they look so gooooood! i am impressed, i keep thinking i should attempt a sourdough starter but i don’t think i have enough stamina for another ‘baby’ 🙂

    • June 26, 2012 10:34 pm

      Gosh I don’t blame you! 😉 I think I will be a terrible parent… I keep neglecting my starter haha. At the moment he’s sitting in the back of the fridge in need of a feed hehe

  12. June 23, 2012 11:51 pm

    Wow Ashley, your breads look gorgeous. So wish I could try a piece!

    • June 26, 2012 10:35 pm

      Thanks Christina!! I think you’ve got me confused with Squeewubs again 😛 I’m a Mel 🙂

  13. Tina @ bitemeshowme permalink
    July 4, 2012 10:42 am

    Your bread looks fan-friggen-tastic! I’ve never made any bread before but after this I really want to try. Think I need to ask for some tips 😀


  1. Sourdough Diaries – Update 2 (plus a recipe: Half Wholemeal Sourdough) « crunchytiger

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