Limiting Mixer Use

I saw an Instagram post recently by Kristen Dennis @fullproofbaking. In her post she ran an experiment contrasting the use of her KitchenAid mixer vs hand folding. Her hypothesis was that the mixer resulted in a much tighter crumb structure and a more limited oven spring.

The crumb structure she posted for her bread kneaded with the mixture looked exactly like my bread’s crumb. I thought I might try an experiment and see for myself what differences I’d have.

I used my standard recipe. My method only changed by limiting the use of my KitchenAid spiral hook at the lowest speed for 2 minutes when I added the leaven.

I added the salt by hand and coil folded every 30-40 minutes for the first 3 hours of the bulk ferment. I judged the bulk prove using my Aliquot jar.

Bulk prove using an Aliquot jar

I divided and preshaped my loaves after the Doug had doubled in size as indicated by my Aliquot jar.

Preshaped sourdough loaves

I did notice that my dough was much more “pillowy”. After 30 minutes I shaped the dough gently so as not to degasse them and place them into bannetons to cold ferment overnight.

Shaped loaves going into bannetons

The loaves were more jiggly than I remembered from my previous loaves.

Wobbly sourdough loaves

I baked in the morning using my preheated Dutch Ovens. I’d placed them in the oven the previous night and had set the oven to come on early in the morning.

One of the loaves I tightened by stitching before turning out of the banneton and slashing. The other I turned out “as is” and slashed.

I baked them per my standard method and was quite pleased (and surprised) by the results!

The loaf that I stitched had a similar look, bloom, ear and surface texture to loaves I’ve baked before. The other spread and looked almost like it ha a double bloom.

The crumb was a bit more open than before… larger pockets.

Happy to have tried this experiment. I think I’ll do it again to see if I can get some consistency.

Sourdough Baguettes (Part 6)

Ok…. This post is why I started this string of posts in the first place.

On my journey of learning to bake sourdough I’ve come to realize it is a mixture of science, art (sometimes black art), whimsy, luck and my ever-present Sous Chef (do bakers even have these?) Murphy.

Baguettes about to be baked

I’ve gone through all the effort to get these loaves to the moment of baking. The oven has preheated, I’ve a sheet pan already in the oven to help me generate steam and water be a pot of boiling water ready to dump in so there will be lots of steam for my crust early in the bake.

I pop them in the oven, pull out the tray a bit and pour in the boiling water. Whoosh! I’ve more steam than I even imagined possible. I slam the door shut and think “success!”.

Murphy is snickering behind me unnoticed.

At about the 20 minute point I pop the door open and pull out the water tray. As expected the tray is virtually dry. The loaves have risen but not as I had hoped. There is some color so I think “First attempt…don’t over bake and burn them!”. I add another 15 minutes onto the timer and wait.

Time passes and I go to check the loaves by cracking the door and checking them. The color is virtually unchanged. I check the oven and it says 420°F Convection. I add more time.

Timer goes off. I check the loaves. No color change. They’ve been in the oven 50+ minutes at this point. The oven says 420°F Convection. I open the door further and poke the loaves with my finger. They’re squishy and they’re unbaked!!!

(Here’s where a Minion asking “Whaaat?!” Would be appropriate)

My oven is OFF!

Murphy starts slapping his knee, laughing uncontrollably and falls to the floor rolling around gleefully.


Evidently my burst of steam put out the oven flame. It indicated as on at the temperature but was just cooling down. I hadn’t noticed when I pulled the pan out initially. Come to think about it I hadn’t noticed that I had no rush of heat to my face when I had cracked the door to check the next time. Note to self!!

I reset my oven and set it to 450°F convection and left the bread. My thought was to take them out when the oven got to temp.

Baked (finally) baguettes

THAT was a learning experience!

For all my baking travails they came out OK. They tasted really good and I learned a number of things on this bake. I was actually pleased that I was able to recover and get edible baguettes despite my errors.


Sourdough Baguettes (Part 5)

At this point in the the Leaven and Poolish are ready (they each pass the “float test”) and the autolyse has been going for 90+ minutes.

Starting Bulk Ferment and Coil Folds using Aliquot Jar

I mixed them all together in my KitchenAid mixer with the spiral dough hook. After letting it all rest for about 20 minutes I added the salt, kneaded it a bit more then transferred to the tub.

I performed a coil fold to help develop strength and structure in the dough for the first 90 minutes. After that, the dough sat quietly growing until it had doubled as indicated by the Aliquot jar.

Loaves in Couche

I don’t have any good pics of my dividing or shaping the baguettes. That will need to be a different post sometime in the future. Had I done one this time it would be a “don’t do this” video.

I divided the dough into four 540g loaves. I found the dough tacky and hard to shape. Next time I’ll dust the top of the loaves with flour first then flip over to shape.

Suffice it to say I struggled to get them shaped. I felt as if I handled them too severely and degassed them. It wasn’t pretty.

I also think I made them longer than they needed to be. They were fine in the Couche; however, they hung over the edge of my rack and therefore baked unevenly.

This post is going long and I’ll continue in the next one. Writing this down is helping me remember and reflect on what to do differently next time…. #alwayslearning

Sourdough Baguettes (Part 4)

Autolyse is technique I’ve come to use when baking my sourdough bread. This is the process of mixing water and flour together before adding the rising agent. It is a process that allows the flour to absorb the moisture and start to break down the starch and sugars.

I normally mix the water and flour about 1-2 hours before I intend to add my leaven (and in this case, Poolish).

Mixing flour and water with Danish Dough Hook

I have a Danish Dough Hook that I use to mix the water and flour. Once mixed I finish with a dough scraper to clean the sides of the bowl and incorporate the dry flour as best I can that is at the bottom of the bowl.

I’ll form a ball as best I can and cover with cling wrap to let rest for an hour or so.

Covered in cling wrap

This process allows the moisture to be absorbed into the flour and begins starts making the food for the microbes to feed on readily.

Both my flour and water are at room temperature (normally 74°F in my kitchen).

The bowl is left to sit until it is time to mix in the leaven to begin its bulk ferment.

More on that in my next post…

Sourdough Baguettes (Part 3)

This post (and the next couple) will go over the method in more detail. They will be a mix of what I did, observed and concluded during that portion of the process.

Mixing the Leaven and Poolish

Leaven and Poolish

I immediately veered to follow my established path for the leaven. I fed my cold starter from the fridge the previous evening and let it develop overnight. I then mixed the amount needed (420g) by mixing 1:1:1 starter,flour and water e.g 140g each. Chad’s method was to take 20g of developed starter and add it to 200g each of flour and water.

My leaven should grow faster and have a bit more acidity due to starting with 7x his amount.

I never had quite figured out “Poolish” or “sponge”. In my mind I had it as synonymous with my leaven. In a way it is… just made with active dry yeast.

I mixed 200g each of flour and water and then added 1g of yeast. Next time I will do two things differently: a) use warmer water (85°F vs room temp and b )mix the yeast in the water first.

The Poolish did not grow at the same rate as my leaven. I think the two things I mentioned above may be what is needed. I’ll try them first before adding more yeast.

Both are ready when a small amount can pass the “float test”. The float test is where a small amount will float in water due to the gas development.

In the next post I’ll describe the Autolyse. Chad’s method didn’t call for it specifically but I chose to do it.

Always experimenting…

Sourdough Baguettes (Part 2)

Baguettes are something iconic and I’ve had a mental hurdle in front of me regarding attempting them. I find that a bit odd since I jumped right into making sourdough croissants!

I was inspired watching Chad Robertson the other week. So I bought his book, read up on his baguette journey, recipe and method.

Now is as good a time as any to start learning…

Before I continue let me share the recipe for each of the major ingredients in the overall bread recipe. Further posts will expand on the method and some of my thoughts about that portion of the process.


The following should make 4 baguettes (580g at shaping)


  • 20g Sourdough Starter
  • 200g All Purpose Flour
  • 200g Water (80°F)


  • 3g Active Dry Yeast
  • 200g All Purpose Flour
  • 200g Water (75°F)


  • 550g All Purpose Flour
  • 100g Spelt Flour
  • 350g Bread Flour
  • 500g Water (75°F)
  • 24g Sea Salt

The overall process has a mix of Levain (made with sourdough starter) and Poolish (made with active dry yeast). Both of these are the rising agents in the dough. The mixture of both sourdough levain and yeast poolish makes for a milder flavor.

In my attempt here I followed my own process and mixed my levain on a 1:1:1 ratio to get my amount. Therefore I had 140g of my freshly-activated starter, 140g each of AP Flour and Water. My levain had a higher concentration of starter than the above and therefore imparted a bit more of the sourdough flavor.

Levain an Poolish

I’d never really understand what the difference between a Levain and Poolish were until now. What I believe the difference is that the Levain is made with sourdough starter and the Poolish with yeast. Now I “know” … (until I’m corrected)

Enough for now…. I’ve family in town and the method parts will come as I’m able to find time in the following days.

Sourdough Baguettes (Part 1)

I’ve decided that I will attempt sourdough baguettes. I have attempted years ago but felt that they were beyond my skill level as a baker and I would be better off going in a different direction at the time.

I think it is now time to master this loaf.

I’d been watching a cooking series on Netflix and Chad Robertson was in one of the episodes. He’s a noted artisan baker and author of Tartine Bread.

In subsequent posts I’ll describe my attempt at following his recipe and method. Suffice it to say my loaves in no way resembled his!!

My sad baguettes…

Without going into all the gory details my actual bake was the biggest culprit. Somehow I put out my gas oven when I added water for steam! Not sure how that occurred. Anyway it indicated “on” but was actually out and cooling the whole time (roughly 35 minutes at this point). I’d check the color and add more time but nothing was changing!!! Ahhhh!

I eventually got the oven back on and these were baked as I heated it to 450°F (Convection). I removed from the oven once it hit that temperature.

Well, there has to be a first attempt anytime you’re trying to learn and master something new…

…this will be fun!

Now to find some taste-testers!

Aliquot Jar Final (for now)

I’m liking this method of using an Aliquot jar. It is making my ability to judge the bulk fermentation much more consistent

Freshly baked sourdough loaf

The use of the coil folds builds great structure. I am able to judge the gas expansion and I’m able to shape my loaves without affecting each negatively.

Consistency of results are something I strive for on each and every bake. Controlling variables and knowing what to tweak to “dial it in” are what I’m trying to understand.

Sourdough loaves cooling

I am pleased with these results!!

Good bloom, ear, surface blisters, coloring etc.

Now to try something I’ve felt was beyond me… baguettes!!

Aliquot Jar (Continued)

I’m continuing to use an Aliquot Jar to measure my bulk prove timing.

Bulk Prove has doubled

I’m getting a feel for what to expect.

Being consistent in my method throughout the process is the key.

After mixing my dough I get it into my tub and set a 30 minute timer. I cut off about 30g of the dough and stuff it into my Aliquot jar and mark where doubled will be (see pic above).

Once doubled I divide the dough. (This is made easier to do evenly because I’ve noted the gram weight of my tub in Sharpie on the bottom.) I preshape, bench rest for about 15 minutes to relax then final shape and place into my bannetons.

Sourdough Baked and cooling

What I’ve noticed so far…

  • Easier to shape …dough feels really nice
  • Slight prove (volume increase) during overnight retard in fridge
  • Slicing is easier with the dough chilled
  • Good blisters on surface
  • Overall bloom is less than some loaves I’ve done in past but it is still good
  • Ears are less pronounced
  • Crumb is nice
  • Mouthfeel is really soft/pleasant
Crumb shot (previous bake)

I’m pleased with these results and will continue experimenting song this method for the foreseeable future. My goal is to see if my overall results continue to be consistent.

Keep on practicing…

Aliquot Jar Experiment

I’ve seen some posts recently about the use of Aliquot jars in sourdough baking. They are useful to judge your starter or when your bulk ferment is at the optimal time.

“Well, why not experiment with that method?” I thought…

Aliquot jar next to my sourdough starter

Aliquot jars are narrow jars which allow you to see volume expansion readily since expansion is forced upward. I made mine from a jar that previously held cinnamon sticks after removing the label.

I practiced seeing it rise with my starter that after feeding it. Seemed to work fine.

After mixing my sourdough together I placed 25g of the dough in the jar as I let my dough bulk on my counter.

Starting my bulk ferment

I coil folded my dough 3x during the first 90 minutes of the bulk prove.

After one of my coil folds

I continued letting my dough prove until my Aliquot jar showed a 2x rise in volume.

Bulk prove to 2X volume

I split the dough into two loaves, preshaped, bench rested for about 20 minutes, shaped and then placed into fridge to cold retard overnight.

Out of the fridge the dough hadn’t appreciably risen in the bannetons. I scored (probably could have done a better job) and baked in my preheated Dutch Ovens.

Sourdough Batards cooling

Overall I was OK with the results. Too early to really tell if I like this approach. The oven bloom was moderate. The ears less pronounced than I prefer. Some blistering on the skin.

Crumb Shot

I think I’ll continue experimenting with this approach. From posts I read it seems like others feel this is a good method to be more consistent in judging their bulk prove.

Jury is still out for me…