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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wild Bread Revisited

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recipe: Wild Bread, based on the recipe for basic sourdough in ‘Piano Piano Pieno’ by Susan McKenna Grant

Lately, I have been having a devil of a time judging whether the dough has risen enough. And I have been allowing it to over-rise. The over-risen dough produces flat as pancake loaves that taste good but don’t look all that great.

The other day, I was moaning that the dough hadn’t risen enough to shape and I would have to put it in the fridge overnight and shape and bake it the next day. T (my hero) pointed out gently that he thought it HAD doubled and that I should go ahead and shape the bread.

wild bread Then when I was whimpering that I would have to stay up til well past midnight waiting for the shaped bread to rise to double, he again gently pointed out that it was in fact doubled. Right again….

And finally, after weeks of trying, there was oven spring and the loaves are round rather than flat. Yay!

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

Here is what I did:

Wild Bread
based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . wild yeast starter feeding . bread

wild yeast starter buildup

  • 2 Tbsp wild yeast starter
  • all purpose unbleached flour
  • water*


  1. Day before Baking – Morning Take 2 Tbsp of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour . Cover and leave in a warm draftfree spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
  2. Day before Baking Midday: The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest to add to focaccia dough, make crackers or bread discs – just don’t burn them like I did). Stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave… etc.
  3. Day before Baking Evening: Stir ⅓ c (85ml) water and ⅔ c (170ml) unbleached all-purpose flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
  4. Baking Day Morning: The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass.

    Reserve a portion for future bread making: Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest for making bread) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 2 hours on the counter. Put it into a covered glass jar and store in refrigerator. (Feeding: you should be feeding the starter every 2 days: take 2 Tbsp (30gm) of the refrigerated mixture – discard the extra – and stir in 2 Tbsp (30gm) water and 2 3 Tbsp (30gm) unbleached all-purpose flour. To use the refrigerated starter for baking, begin at step #1.)


  • 3 c (720ml)** unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ c (125ml) wholewheat flour
  • 1 ⅓ c (335ml) water
  • all of the reserved buildup from above (about ¾ c (185ml))
  • 2½ tsp seasalt


  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl that is large enough for the mixture to triple. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. It will look a bit like slightly stiff oatmeal porridge. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface.
  3. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  4. Kneading: Without adding extra flour, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky (5 to 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. One hand scrapes the dough and the other kneads. Under no circumstances should you add more flour. If you find your kneading hand is sticking to much, just scrape off the excess with the scraper and continue. Don’t worry when the dough doesn’t resemble a pillow. Use the dough scraper to squoosh the dough into the clean bowl. Cover with a clean damp tea towel (or use one of those elasticized reusable plastic covers that look like shower hats) and allow to rise in a draftfree area of the counter for 30 minutes or so.
  5. After 30 minutes has passed, very lightly dust the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the bread scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover. Let it ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes again.
  6. Repeat the above step. On this final time, the dough will look more like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in these folding maneuvres is not much more than tablespoon and probably much less (sorry, I haven’t measured). Allow to rise at room temperature until the dough has just doubled.
  7. Shaping: When the dough has doubled, sprinkle a small amount of flour on the work surface. Gently turn the dough out, disturbing it as little as possible. Cut the dough in half. Gently fold (try not to disturb the bubbles) the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Fold in half. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. (When I shape the dough, I hold it the way I would hold a wild bird – firmly enough so it won’t escape but gently so as not to harm it.) Place the shaped bread seam side down on a parchment covered peel. Balance a cookie cutter on top of the shaped bread and sprinkle generously all over with flour. Cover with a clean damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour or more – until the dough is about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  8. Baking: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, put the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and turn it to 450F.
  9. At the time of baking, gently remove the cookie cutters and spray the top of each boule liberally with water. Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake the bread for a total of 40 to 45 minutes or until it has an internal temperature of about 210F. Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven.
  10. Turn off the oven. Put the finished bread back in the oven and leave with the door ajar for 5 or 10 minutes. Then, remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!***

*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.

** Please note that a Canadian cup holds 250ml. When I measure flour, I really fluff it up in the bag before scooping out flour to roughly fill the cup.

*** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

If you have not yet captured wild yeast, please take a look at:

wild bread I like to balance cookie cutter(s) on top of the just shaped bread to etch a design in top of the loaf. For this loaf, I used 3 star shaped cutters. (Remove the cookie cutters just before baking the bread.) I really like the way it looks! It’s not quite as spectacular as the ridges that people get by proofing their bread upside down in baskets but it doesn’t require nearly the nerve. One doesn’t have to flip risen bread out onto a peel with this designing technique.

This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf: wild yeast bread
  • Jutta

    “I really like the way it looks! ” – and so do I. What a wonderful idea – it looks great.

  • dick

    I find that with the banneton (Basket) if I put a sheet of parchment paper across the top of the basket before I turn it over then I can use the parchment paper to place it on the baking stone leaving the parchment paper there. I also score it just before putting it in the oven. Works very well for me and with the banneton I get the marks from the coiled wicker as well as the marks from the scoring I do and it all comes out well. Using the parchment paper just makes it so easy to move around without burning myself.

    Good idea, Dick. I’ll have to give that a try. Although I might use our superpeel rather than parchment. Then it will be even easier to get the bread onto the stone. -Elizabeth


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