The recipes are great, but the first few chapters that cover his journey to making bread, a bit of the science behind it and talking about the less scientific components of what almost sounds like "luck" (Really, just super detailed experimentation and careful repetition once you get the variables right) in the process of getting the perfect rise.
I've got to admit, i'm not a big reader, but there is something about the way Ken put this book together that I really enjoy. Maybe it's that he worked for IBM before becoming a baker and we both think like technical individuals? Maybe it's just good writing and I need to experience more of it? Whatever it is, I'd encourage you to buy the book...i've got no skin in the game, but bread making is great and his methods are slow but fun (My first bread took 18 hours to go through the whole process).
I had a similar experience when starting. The process seemed time consuming and complicated, but now I can bake a couple loaves any day of the week with a small amount of planning and little effort/thought.
In both books he provides techniques and recipes for being able to start baking bread and pizzas with little or no upfront investment (some containers, a couple bannetons for bread and a peel + stone for pizzas). The best part of the process is experimenting with your own recipes. Here's a couple shots of some recent loaves and pizzas I've baked recently:
The thing that blew my mind is that I've tried making various bread products before, with terrible outcomes...my first attempt to make something from the book was with a Poolish and it turned out astonishing; "That is the kind of thing hipsters would pay big bucks for!" - Amanda (my partner)
It's certainly a great bread to make in terms of timing, this conversation is going to make me get one started tonight!
I did an experiment here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BhERhlnDgdQ
Basically it's like cracks in the surface. At an angle the rise can be much higher.
I've experimented with scoring with mixed results, although I'll admit I don't have the right tool for it and my technique may not have been correct.
For anyone using his book for the first time, there is an error in the amount of leaven he has you create in the leaven-only recipes. Just make the amount you need for that recipe plus some extra to keep the colony going, you don't need the huge amount it calls for.
Unfortunately, I can't come up with the dough (ha ha) for Modernist Bread...
Does this book actually have a process that makes a "fluffy" interior like the baguettes and boules I can get everywhere in France?
Normally, my bread excursions always come up what I term "artisanal"--nice flavor, but kinda "chewy". I have no idea what I need to change to fix that, and I can't seem to find anybody who does.
I would even be happy making "Ye Maligned Plain White Sandwich Bread" just to know the process as I could probably figure out what the differences are. But I can't seem to find anybody who can tell me how to do that either.
I've been following recipes from a blog called The Perfect Loaf, going to try this one next:
It makes a beautiful simple loaf with a hard crust and a very simple body, which I usually cut up to go with meals or to use as the base for some simple bruschetta snacks or garlic bread. It makes lousy sandwich bread.
One day, I may throw some olives in and make an olive loaf, but meh.
1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX_6l2bmvQI
 - https://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Bible-Traditional-Recipe...
The oft cited recipe asks for feeding it every day and also keeping something like 100% hydration. Remembering to feed it every day is a major hassle for me.
My sourdough is a piece of bread dough that is enough to use for my next batch. Basically, after first rise and before I shape my bread, I will cut something between 50-200g of dough, put it in a glass container with a small hole for air circulation and store it in the fridge. I will not feed the starter. Next time I make bread I will take it out of the fridge and mix it with measured amount of warm water that is going to be used for the bread.
- no separate feeding, you cut a piece of bread, and you use it as part of next one,
- hydration and salt level matches your bread recipe which means you can add way more or less starter and the bread will still have the same hydration and salt level,
- the hydration and salt level makes it stable in a fridge for a very long time, I have tested up to 3 weeks with no ill effects and I decided not to stretch it any more. I was only able to keep the traditional 100% hydration no-salt starter for only about a week or risk it spoiling.
I also use a spreadsheet to aid calculations (I plan to make android app but I somehow never have time to finish it): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1lSBl3kjAeitBUH75DEIR...
Yes, lots of people in India make yogurt (called curd here) at home daily in that way - just add a spoonful or so of the previous curd to the warm milk of the next batch to be made. I doubt anyone adds any separate starter culture - the old curd plays that role.
Salt-containing starters will taste fine and be healthy as the short chain fatty acids produced by the lactobacilli are what give most of the flavor and health benefits. Your rise might be a little bit weak though. The best thing you can do is take it out frequently and fold it a few times to oxygenate the dough.
This is exactly what I do when making yogurt.
There's a fascinating PBS documentary on him that you can watch on YouTube, if you're interested: 
The sourdough that comes from your kitchen is going to be unique to that place. Even moving across town can have a huge difference. It's a built-in thumbprint that makes sure that no one can ever really make grandmas pizza bottoms, or baguettes, quite the same...
I really need a good microscope to analyse the different doughs in detail.
For example, I prefer slower rise times, my doughs frequently ferment at room temperature for 24 and even up to 48 hours in extreme cases and still produce nice bread.
I do this for aroma but also for convenience. I like to be able to shape the dough in the evening and don't worry about it and put it in the oven in the morning. It grows so slowly that it can easily accommodate few hours of change in schedule or 1 or 2 digrees shift in temperature.
Wild yeast is everywhere, and very different from place to place. To my understanding a little jar of one culture stands no chance against the evolutionary pressures outside it, so within a week or two an imported starter will return to whatever yeast exist in that specific area.
Trading across villages would be a really good way to keep 'new' flavours coming in :)
Not sure if that is the same as a sourdough starter though...
My local bakery actually wouldn't give or sell me a starter because, and I quote, "I'd feel bad selling something like that, and it's too easy to start yourself".
He then gave me instructions for starting the starter myself.
It's been fun, and way less fussy than the internet likes to make it out to be. Except this page. Y'all seem to have the same abusive relationship to your starters as I do,.
The final picture in the link is absurd. The crumb is too wet to do much more than gum up a bread knife and the crust is undefined. in the first picture, the crust is underdeveloped suggesting low oven temperatures or a cold kitchen.
Id like to clarify this recipe by adding the following:
80% hydration of the loaf if you're making a rustic/boule and to promote proper gas development in the gluten structure. 65% for sandwich sourdough loaves formed in a pan (and a prayer).
450F oven temp for 45 minutes.
12 hour rest after cooking to allow gluten to properly finalize.
1.8% salt in accordance with the EU health commission recommendations for salt content of artisan breads.
remember to subtract your preferment hydration from the total fermentation. that is, if you start with a 100% hydrated 200g starter, then 100g of water must be deleted from your 80% final hydration.
if you dont have the patience for sourdough --and frankly a commercial steam proofer-- then 1-2% yeast by weight is the general recommendation for white bread. If you've never baked before, sourdough is enough to turn you off to the idea of anything but store bought. it is not as easy as this post makes it seem.
I've made bread exactly 1x, which was a week long white flour sourdough using similar techniques as described here, and it was pretty good. Not as good as a bakery, but still pretty good.
My main issue at a glance is it's too linear "Day 7 Add another round of ingredients. Day 8 You are done".
it doesn't work that predictably. You have to describe the outcome you're waiting for, it might happen on an earlier day or later. For SW engineers, it's a "while (!ready())" loop, not a "for (day in 1..8)" loop.
Maybe it worked that way once for the OP. But it will vary. For SW engineers, this is a "works on my machine" type issue.
I feel like once flour was invented sourdough was inevitable. Adding water to ground up grain is an obvious move as it binds it and makes it easier to work with. At some point a flour/water mix is going to be left standing and start bubbling, and when cooked it's going to get magically bigger. Boom, bread.
I enjoyed the post, always glad to see anything bread related. Baking bread has been a huge positive thing in my life, I'll never stop now (I was even without an oven for a year and learned to bake bread in a cast iron pot on a gas burner/hob). It's a rich sensory experience with all the smells and textures, and working dough is very grounding and 'real'. Every loaf is different and it's great fun waiting to see what's going to come out of the oven. I'd massively recommend getting into bread!
What was the results like? This post piqued my interest but I don't have an oven in my home. Only gas stove top and a tiny gas grill.
For starter feeding, though, I'm with the GP post: measuring all the time is a PIA, and totally unnecessary. The margin of error is massive, after a few measures you'll know the consistency to aim for, and if you're too stiff/wet it's dead simple to compensate when baking.
Feeding by texture lets you get to know your starter better, follow its rhythms, and makes daily feedings a very easy habit to maintain. We've been pulling this off for 5,000 years without a digital scale :)
I personally use the big measurements (flour, water, etc) as a rough guide so that I'm in the right ballpark on consistency and don't need to add too much one way or the other to get it right, and usually ignore the smaller measurements entirely (salt, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla ...) and pour what looks like an appropriate amount in my hand before dumping it in the mix. Fewer dishes to wash that way :-)
You can get lack of consistency with an accurate scale, just always experiment, e.g. vary a weight. That way you know what you did also get _repeatability_ if you like the result.
> entirely (salt, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla ...)
Sourdough bread famously has only 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast (starter). Though that's not the whole story, there is also seeds, and more than one kind of flour sometimes.
> pour what looks like an appropriate amount in my hand before dumping it in the mix. Fewer dishes to wash that way :-)
Measuring by weight is exactly the same, the mixing bowl is on the scale. pour in until the right weight is reached.
If you use the same flour every time, and are aiming for the same consistency, then you will want roughly the same amount by weight of it each time. I get that you don't need to be that precise for the starter, but I don't find the weighing process at all hard.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised it's still active given their tenacity and older audience.
I can't actually remember why I started baking bread. But when I first started the product was horrible. I would let the dough rise in a warm place and "make it big" as quickly as possible. For me the rising was just about CO_2 so it made sense. It took me a long time to realise that time is a crucial ingredient. You want the rise to take more time, not less. The difference is astonishing.
I never had much luck with sourdough but I actually prefer the taste of "fresh" bread anyway in the French style. Sourdough is in fashion right now but don't think using cultured yeast gives an inferior product!
nonsense every recipe you know of started life as some cook mixing crap until "it seemed alright" before putting it in a an oven they gauged by hand, eye, or by how long it took to cook some sacrificial dough/food. then eyeballing the bread for when it was done.
Bread is especially forgiving, but this holds true for basically all baking too. Even as goddamned finicky as filo or puff pastry can be, they still come down to "yeah thats about right" far more than they do strict anything.
Bread has this nice property of being both forgiving and playful, as well as highly optimizable with experimentation. Nice combo.
I am not sure I agree (or maybe I don't understand).
It is fairly common to mix a dough and have a recipe step like "when it's smooth and doesn't stick" or "when the consistency is of a thick goo".
Ambient humidity, what sort of surface you use for kneading, temperature of your leaving chamber or fridge, age of the yeast etc... all affect dosage and process, so you need the equivalent of "tasting" anyway, it's just that you check stuff with your hands rather than your mouth.
And the same ease applies to cooking: you can make an edible stew as easily as you can make an edible loaf of bread.
It's just when you try to make harder/better stuff that you need to stick to a recipe (think: pate a bombe for tiramisù)
You can't do that when baking. If you add too much liquid to a batter you can't just add flour to make it perfect again. You'll ruin the other ratios. You can't just bake it at any temperature in any sized pan for any amount of time. When it comes out will either be cooked or not. If you burnt the outside then it's ruined.
A good cook can consistently produce great meals without any recipes whatsoever. A baker cannot.
You can totally bake bread without a recipe, and adjust while you go. You can check breads before they're done and let them bake longer. Maintain a rough 1:2:4 ratio of starter:water:flour, adjust hydration/process for the kinds of flour you use, and you can bake 'whatever' and have it be very tasty.
Bread making goes back stupid long in human history. 5,000 years of fermented breadmaking... Until very recently breadmaking was just a skill you learned from someone else who could do it, baked entirely by estimation, and transmitted that knowledge orally. Grandmas buns call for "enough" flour. The pros tell you to reserve flour/water until things look "right".
For other kinds of baking I don't really agree either... it's more about ratios and observation, though. If your batter is too thin you absolutely add more flour -- you just can't ignore the other agents in the bake. Temp and size will affect cooking times, but you can change those while baking. You check cakes to see if they're done before taking them out. You lower temps if you see edges darkening too quickly...
I mean, if you burn the outside of veggies they tend to be ruined too, and cooks use experience and trial & error to navigate the difference in the same way bakers do.
I failed so many times. But usually there is a good explanation to why your baking failed. I love it, you really have to use your brain.
This time round I've had consistently good bread, rising well, and tasting good. It takes me 2-3 hours to make, which is a reasonable way to occupy myself on a slow afternoon while my toddler is having a nap.
My only real annoyance is that I've no idea what I'm doing differently these days that makes it work. I'll pretend that since I've moved countries the temperature/humidity is the key, but I genuinely have no idea!
Apparently they run into some sticky situations carrying dried yellowish brown powder around in aluminum foil. In Saudi Arabia they were detained at the airport for hours while authorities verified that the sketchy powder was in fact mostly harmless yeast.
Don't get me wrong, I am quite interested in fermentation (I make my own sauerkraut for probiotics), but it seems strange for it to appear at number one on the front page of HN.
>Learn how to master the art of baking the programmer way. If you love programming, you will also enjoy breaking some bread. A/B test, iterate and ultimately become a self taught baker. This repo is dedicated to becoming your bread manifesto with useful tricks and hacks. Furthermore the goal is to illustrate how easy making bread is and that you can get started today without expensive tools.
Second suggestion is to start with a smaller amount (say 15 grams) and feed double whatever you have with each feeding (equal parts by weight flour and water). Throw out some starter when the feedings get too much (remember you're doubling each time).
The water should be left to dechlorinate in an open container overnight. I have a pitcher with a cloth over it that I keep on a shelf for feedings and making bread.
White flour and lower temperatures will slow down your starter activity (useful at times). Whole grain flours and warmer temps will speed up your starter activity.
That said, if you're new to baking, I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point unless you strongly prefer sourdough to other breads. Sourdough is trickier, and this recipe is quite minimalist: lots of ingredient ratios and timings should actually vary with your ingredients, equipment and supposedly even atmospheric conditions.
I'd recommend one of two loaves for fellow newbies: a bloomer or soda bread.
The bloomer requires more effort and time, and is a fun way to try out all the basics of baking: kneading, yeast, proving, shaping. It'll give you a loaf like the kind you're probably familiar with, albeit at a higher quality than supermarket bread.
Soda bread is very easy to get good results from and very fast to bake. It doesn't require kneading, and doesn't use yeast -- instead using bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk. You can substitute buttermilk with anything milky and acidic; I use soy milk mixed with lemon juice. This is a great way to get quality bread with minimal effort, and you can make it sweet or savoury according to your preferences.
I'll post some recipes later...
Edit: recipes in my reply to this comment.
The nice thing with Hollywood's bloomer recipe is that lots of people have tried it, and share tips for debugging problems you may encounter.
Soda bread: https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/soda_bread_24837
The extra that gets taken out each night during a feeding is now used to make sourdough pancakes - Refrigerate then warm up when hungry.
I do not see baking temps mentioned, she uses cast iron dutch ovens with lids, something like 15 minutes at 500 degrees, lid on, 15 minutes at 450 degrees lid off, then another 30 or so minutes lid off at 400 degrees. Definitely scored.
She is not available right now to correct me, so be careful if using these steps. Many recipes vary, here is one that is close to what I vaguely remember:
And she will use no other flour, just King Arthur Bread Flour. Although once in a while she does mix in other types of King Arthur flour, such as Whole Wheat or Rye.
Edit: She corrected me: 20 minutes at 500 degrees lid on, 10 minutes at 450 degrees lid on, 15 minutes at 450 degrees lid off. And she said the rising will break the bread unless scored (giving the rise a semi-controlled path).
When I see the biga being made, I know the next day is folding, and the following day the house is going to smell wonderful. :)
... until you impose hell upon them in the form of an oven. That is one awkward "light-hearted" sentence.
Same with bread, Artisanal Craft Sourdough bread is a thing now.
I have tried a couple of sourdoughs but mine nearly always end up with a lot of alcohol (acetone smell, bitter liquid). As OA says, you can just scrape the liquid off the top and feed the sourdough to refresh it, but then the bread I bake has a slight acetoney taste.
Suggestion: add a description of the sourdough after each day so people have a rough idea if their sourdough is growing. The photo helps - you get a lot of bubbles after around day 3 or 4 and the volume doubles.
You're describing a starter that is too 'old'. Very 'young' starters have little flavour, and then get sweet and honey-like before getting souuuuuur. Personally I'd recommend just leaving it on the counter and going to a 24 hour or 12 hour feeding schedule.
Flavour: you can absolutely scrape the bad stuff off the top and feed the starter to keep it alive. But if you're going to bake, remember that you're blending out the original product... If you start with some 'alcohol' or 'vomit' and mix out half, bread made the next day will be 33% bad-stuff. You want to mix out for say a week or so to get back to mostly tastey happy stuff.
Also: not sure if this applies, but in general making a mature starter is a 5 week process from scratch. Bubbles in the first few days are generally bad bacteria dying in the container you're using... You can still bake with it, but keep going for a week and a half and see what kind of lovely smells start coming :)
I've always heard it called 'hooch', which I find really charming for some reason.
Must have another bash at it soon, thanks.
I think what you describe is natural. Don't worry. As you feed the mother dough from time to time that taste will diminish.
As a hobbyist sourdough baker and professional software engineer I definitely think there is some truth to this.
For me bread baking is a great complementary pursuit to programming. It is entirely manual and rooted in the physical world, which makes it a great way to "unplug" and decompress. But it also requires a similar type of analytical skills and problem solving mindset that developers tend to have.
If you are interested in getting into baking sourdough I would highly recommend this blog as a resource:
The tutorials and recipes are very beginner-friendly and have tons of hi-res photos. I own about 6 books on bread baking but would say this site is probably a better overall resource for a beginner. Interestingly, the author of the site is himself also a software engineer. It definitely shows through in the precision of his recipes :)
Wish we had something like this in TX...
I enjoy watching French Guy Cooking  (he even has a video series about making your own bread which is quite good) but never found other sources with the same format.
If you're mostly interested in bread, I found Daniel Leader's books to be excellent guides. "Local Breads" in particular goes into the many different levain and biga/sponge methods and the regional sourdoughs that use them.
Also some useful links:
Or choose from many others for sale:
When reviving, I try to use two blobs from two separate bags just in case one has died. I put them in tepid water for a bit, then add flour and mix and I'm back in business.
My starter was given to me by Dan Lepard (the end-boss of breadmaking) during a sourdough masterclass that I was given as a present. I thoroughly recommend this as a present if you have a friend or loved one who is interested in making bread btw. It's fantastic and you get payback in tasty loaves for many years.
If you start from scratch, you can get going in 3/4 days if you're willing to throw in a bit of honey or maple syrup at first (1tsp). Without it, it does seem to take a week.
Is anyone familiar with starter? Would a unique flavor or anything like that carry with the bread all those years?
You can get cultures from all over the world.
But it’s also worth trying to start your own from scratch. As a complete noob I had some great success.
We've been baking sourdough bread at home for about a year now. When the starter is done, baking bread is a lot less work than when using yeast. The work is spread over a few days but there are no laborious processes involved.
Basically, instead of putting it into bread you add it to a broth with sausages, bring it to a boil for two minutes or until it gets dense, and it's ready.
One of my favorite.
2% of the flour's weight in salt. Let's say you bake 700 grams of flour (500 grams flour, 200 grams sour dough) then you would add 14 grams of salt. Note please that this is my personal preference. It could be you prefer more or less salt.
Where bp stands for... what?
> Should probably clarify since this isn't a baking audience.
Anyone had any success with whole wheat sourdough, and is so with which flour?