The Bread Head Thread [with pictures!]


#1

Do any other Wayfarers like to bake and/or eat that yeasty treat we all know and love: bread? If so, this can be a place to discuss!

I’ve been keeping a sourdough starter for just under a year now and baking loaves irregularly (with similarly irregular results). However, my latest experiment turned out pretty well: I went for a 100% white bread flour loaf flavoured with a tbsp or so of honey, at about 60% hydration. (In the past I’ve done much higher hydration—mostly because I hate measuring things—but I was getting frustrated with my loaves not keeping their shape.) Here’s the result:

It’s one of the prettier loaves I’ve made, I think! (But I welcome feedback from more experienced bakers. :slight_smile: )

Anyone else have bread baking stories or pictures? Anyone tried or trying to get into bread baking but find it incredibly frustrating (believe me, not pictured are the hundred or so previous loaves I’ve made which range from “ugly, but edible” to “incredibly hard and dense pancake”)?


#2

This is so cool! What has your sourdough starter experience been like? Mine kept getting gross, so I gave up, but I’m keen to try again.


#3

I’ve had some difficulties with my starter as well! For a few months I couldn’t get it active enough to reliably proof a loaf. I worked that out by changing the feeding schedule—now I feed it every two days, but make sure to discard all but about 300mL, and give it a big meal (I would guess about half a cup of flour). It rises for about a day, then falls a bit and gets a little yellow, then I discard/feed again.

I haven’t had problems with it getting gross, though! What was the issue? I understand they can die from too much acidity if you don’t feed them enough, and I’ve also heard of bacterial infections where they grow red gunk. Sadly I don’t think there’s much more you can do in either case other than just start over. :worried: (Though you might be able to revive a dead one by discarding/feeding it, I guess it depends how far it’s gone.)

My number one tip for getting a sourdough starter going, though, is to kickstart it with a feeding or two of rye flour. I had almost no activity in my starter when I first started developing it, but once I gave it some rye it went crazy.


#4

So I’ve been trying to learn to bake after becoming obsessed with the Great British Baking show, but I have very little to show for it…

Any beginner’s tips for a basic loaf are appreciated!


#5

Well, my starting point for making sourdough was The Kitchn’s guide. That said, looking at it again I don’t follow uhhh most of the things they recommend. I don’t weigh my ingredients, I don’t make a leaven, I knead rather than fold, and I certainly don’t have fancy shaping baskets. Still, I guess it’s good to know all the “in an ideal world” steps so you know what you’re trying to approximate.

Frankly, my main approach has been trial and error. I think the dumbest thing I did was not paying attention to hydration ratios (or, you know, exact quantities of ingredients at all); second-dumbest was getting impatient for loaves to proof and putting them in the oven too early (nowadays I budget 12-16 hours total for proofing and it almost always does the trick).

If you’re using commercial yeast, you won’t have to wait nearly as long for your loaves to rise, and you can be pretty confident the yeast will do its job as long as it’s not expired. I can’t say whether the same kneading/folding techniques are appropriate, but I can’t see why not. That said, I’ve found making sourdough really rewarding despite the constant, repeated failures—it’s like the Dark Souls of baking. :slight_smile: