Friday 15 February 2013

The Next Sourdough Experiment: French Loaf

After my last lost argument with my oven, I decided to walk the straight and narrow path of using a recipe slavishly.

Well, that is until I realised that in this oppressive heat in the Western Cape region, room temperature is actually around 30ºC, not 20ºC like the recipe requires for the first part of the rise. And how does one tell the amount of water in the starter?

Well, this is life, I thought and just carried on regardless. The elevated temperature will make the dough rise faster, but I may lose on some of the leavening and perhaps have a different flavour. This was my reasoning at any rate.

I opened my copy of Classic Sourdoughs, Revised by Ed and the late Jane Wood and picked the basic French loaf. This time I would win the argument with the oven!

True to expectations, both the starter and my basic sourdough overcooked from vitality in this heat and were running all over the counter-top. They like this weather!

I used a cup full of rye flour for the starter after I washed the basic sourdough by diluting it with normal tap water and discarding half of it. The rest was split in two for the starter, then fed with a cup of rye flour.

The recipe is very basic, using salt, flour, water and the sourdough starter. The dough mix is reasonably soft. This lot rose very well overnight. I then kneaded it down after allowing a two hour rest in the open. Another half cup of flour was added because the dough sagged too much in my estimation.
The dough was then split into two to make two small loaves. Our consumption of bread is so low that a large loaf goes stale. Going this way I can freeze one loaf.

The loaves were then put into the oven, covered with a wet cloth and allowed to rise for another four hours. I switch the oven on to about 40ºC /100ºF to boost the rising a bit.

These loaves were then baked at 200ºC/400ºF for 35 minutes using the bottom element and fan, then another 15 minutes using the top element and fan. And there was the requisite cup of boiling water in the bottom of the oven. After which the loaves were promptly removed from the oven and put out on a rack to cool down. 

This time I won the argument with the oven. The loaves have decent fermentation bubbles, a soft crumb and a nice chewy crust, not too brittle. And the flavour is perfect, just a tad of sourness from the rye and the dough fermentation regime I followed.
Perhaps I should pay more attention to detail, methinks.

This post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-13


  1. Can I have two slices Please. This looks yummy, Thanks for sharing...

  2. The bread looks delicious!! You are so brave to attempt this in this heat!

  3. Thanks for the supportive feedback girls! Much appreciated.

  4. Those do look nice. How do you like the Ed Wood book? I've been thinking about buying it, but I can't decide.

  5. Thanks!
    I have a e-copy of the Ed Wood book. Very good on describing how the sourdough lives, the micro-environment and what affects it. Extensive descriptions on how to catch a wild yeast and what to do. He was a professor of microbiology, it appears. I found the book very good value.

    The recipes are quite good too, quite a variety.

    The book came to good use during my transatlantic voyages. I can recommend it.

    I am also looking to buy The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart and Ron Manville as my next library item.

  6. I am a huge fan of sourdough bread but unfortunately, don't make it often enough as the heathens at home don't like it! Love reading your posts Johan!

    1. Thank you Ma'am! And my best wishes for your struggle towards your favourite foods!