Would you like to bake bread with wild yeast, but the thought of   keeping a starter is too intimidating?  If that’s the case, I urge you to read this great post by Joanna, from Zeb Bakes. She will make you feel absolutely at ease with keeping the starter going, minimizing your work and the use of flour. She will also show you a simple schedule to bake bread on a weekly basis.  Awesome read! Sourdough baking made simple and easy, as it should be.

Now, time for some fun with it.  Remember the proofing bread box I gave myself for Christmas?   Well, I put it to the test, by making a batch of sourdough bread and dividing the dough in two.  Half went into the cozy environment of the box (78 F), half stayed outside in my kitchen kept (at this time of the year) at around 70F.  The recipe I chose for such a ground-breaking experiment comes from a great baker, who blogs at Breadcetera.  You can learn a ton of stuff from him, make sure to bookmark his site and visit often.   He developed this technique called “double flour addition,”  with the goal of maximizing the amount of air bubbles trapped in the dough from the very beginning of mixing.  These tiny air bubbles, created by whisking the very loose mixture of flour and water, later generates the pockets of air that every baker searches for in this type of rustic loaf.

(from Breadcetera)

680 g bread flour
90 g whole wheat flour
455 g water
15 g salt
300 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)

Combine the flours in a large bowl and lightly mix them with a whisk.

Add the water and the sourdough starter to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, and use the whisk attachment to work them together at the lowest speed for a minute or so.  At this point, you only need to combine them and have the starter dispersed through the water.    Add just 75g of the flour mixture, and increase the speed of the mixer to level 3. Whisk until the mixture seems quite aerated (about 3 to 4 minutes).

Remove the whisk attachment and place the dough hook in place. Add the rest of the flour, and knead for a couple of minutes, until the flour forms a shaggy mass.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and mix on speed 3 for 6 minutes.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let it ferment for 2 hours, without any folding or kneading.  Divide the dough in two equal pieces, and lightly give it a round shape.   Let it rest for 15 minutes for the gluten to relax,  and do a final shaping, creating surface tension by pulling the sides of the dough up as you gather it all in the “boule” shape.   Place the balls of dough, seam side up, in a floured round container (such as a brotform), cover with plastic, and let it ferment for 3 hours at 78 F.

Invert the dough on a peel, score, and bake at 425 F for 40 minutes, with steam during the first 15 minutes.  Let it completely cool before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

For my experiment, I divided the dough in two right before the first fermentation, and placed one half in the proofing box.   That dough stayed in the box until baking time, the other one stayed over the kitchen table, protected from drafts.  The difference in the dough itself was pretty dramatic, but I could not get a picture that was good enough to show it. However, once the bread was baked, the one from the proofing box had much better oven spring, the other one was a bit on the flattish side.   Both were delicious, and the crumb had a nice structure, but one bread looked a lot “healthier.”   Here they are…

You can see that the taller bread, with a more round shape, had better oven spring, bursting through the slashing with greater power. Sorry, no photos of the crumb, we froze that baby for later and by the time we got to enjoying it, I forgot to grab the camera.

The bread proofing box not only optimizes the temperature, but also provides the correct amount of humidity, thanks to the small dish that sits at the bottom of the box, with some water in it.  No need to worry about a skin forming on the loaf in the final proofing, no need to use plastic to cover it.  A very well designed machine, that is getting constant use in our home.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Shrimp and Fennel Casserole

TWO YEARS AGO:  Tuscan Bread

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  1. Beautiful bread, Sally, but your proofing box looks substantially different than the one you linked to — is it? Yours looks like it is made out of slats — the other looks like it is made out of plastic. My sourdough gurus have instructions for jerry-rigging a proofing chamber with a plastic sweater bag — I have not had wild success with this method…


  2. not sure why the photo turned out so different in this post, they are the same, made of sturdy plastic

    great little gadget, I am very happy with it, the dough rises like it!s in heaven! 🙂


  3. I’ve only baked easy breads lately, but I would love to get back into a good sourdough since my loves sourdough anything. Guess I” have to look around for a good starter, any suggestions? I was looking at King Arthur and then started cruising for a homemade version. It has been at least 17 years since I had a good starter.


    • King Arthur has a great starter, pretty affordable too. I ended up freezing mine and it’s been there for a year. I use the one I made from scratch, using Dan Lepard’s method – this starter will turn 4 years old in March!


      • I’ll take a look it would be great to have a starter going again. Making a relatively easy baguette (Pepin) recipe today and I have Pain a l’ Ancienne saved recipe on the agenda for tomorrow. With that said, maybe one will get photographed. Three loaves will be parbaked and stored for Sunday’s chowder. BTW, Meebo is a nice little chat widget if you can get it to work properly,LOL


  4. Ah, Sally, do you ever know how to bake a beautiful loaf of bread… and I have to say, although I don’t eat bread nearly as often as I used to, there are few things as tantalizing and desirable as a fresh baked loaf with melted butter… mmm, mmm, good (the smell is unmatched ;)). I love sourdough – fantastic, satisfying texture!


    • Hard to resist a few slices at a time, but my approach is to freeze the bread in small portions. That helps a lot to control the urge to wolf down 3/4 of a baguette BEFORE dinner 😉


  5. Now I’m craving some fresh bread. 🙂 That bread box is pretty cool. I’ve never heard of those before (until you bought one for Christmas). It looks like it worked beautifully! The flatter loaf looks more like how mine usually turn out. Is there a reason for that? They’re always good, but just flat which has been confusing (and frustrating) me.


    • The flattish shape, which drives bakers nuts sometimes, can be the result of poor gluten development, or not enough surface tension when you shape the loaf, or even a dough overproofed in the final stages. It’s kind of tricky to figure out what is going on exactly, but you should feel the dough with a lot of “muscle” as you do the kneading or folding. If you feel that (I never go for the infamous window-panning effect, never liked it), then the problem might be the shaping or the proofing. But, if the bread tastes great, I don’t mind if the shape is a little flat… 😉


      • I think shaping is often the culprit, Sally. It takes practice (I need more) to shape rounds that will stay round, especially with wet doughs like sourdough. That’s probably why sourdough starters are made to be used every week!


  6. I’m so impressed Sally. The bread looks amazing, the texture just perfect. I have to check out those links. I would have never thought to purchase a bread box but I can so see the difference. You’ve got bread baking down to an exact science!!


    • Believe me, I am NOT there at all… the “exact” science has brought me to my knees in the past two weekends. Baguettes are tricky, but I’m getting there, one step at a time


    • I am glad you are enjoying it – the store here in NOrman (Nat Grocers) has packets of culture for yogurt, the fancy kind, quite affordable. I thought maybe you would like to try that when you make yours in the box. Something to consider. Who knows, maybe someone will give you a package as a gift? 😉


      • I’ll buy the yogurt culture on my upcoming trip to Norman. I have made yogurt once using yogurt from the grocery store as my culture. It turned out great. The remaining portion of store-bought yogurt went in my freezer. I thought I read somewhere that it would still work after being frozen but am somewhat hesitant to risk a half gallon of milk by testing that theory. I am also curious about the possibility of making buttermilk.


  7. Sally, amazing looking loaf!!! I knew that the proofing box is good, but I never thought it makes so much of a a difference… I’ve been telling me “the grapes are sour” :)) Now I have to start saving money for it. 🙂
    Some questions: what was the temperature in the proofing box, and what was the room temperature? You say proof at 78F, can I assume that was the temperature inside the box? Room temperature was lower? Did you baked them in the same time?


    • Yes, they were baked at the same time, which was tricky, but I felt I had to do it that way to have a fair comparison.

      The temp inside the box was 78F, and outside probably 72F – the difference doesn’t seem that dramatic, but when you open the box to grab the dough, you can feel the air inside moist and warm – I think the little water tray makes a ton of difference. The environment is perfect for the bread dough. Can you tell I’m in love with it? 🙂


  8. Yeast, I can handle…but sourdough…makes me anxious. Not sure why. Your bread looks SO good, though (look at those holes!!!) that i need to get over this irrational fear!


  9. What a great post, Sally! I had read about Steve’s double flour addition but completely forgotten to try it. I will now, thank you! I have come to the same conclusion as you have re: temperature. Dough is really happiest when kept warm and gives better crumb and oven rise. I love my little proofer too and actually ferment my starters in it on the days I feed them before sticking them back in the fridge. They seem to enjoy it greatly!


    • Isn’t it amazing how many tips and different techniques we see out there in the net, and then forget all about them?

      I have a ton of recipes like that, in the waiting list, and many from you blog! 😉


  10. Just popped back to say I tweeted this post as lots of people are interested in the proofing box and they are saying nice things about your post on Twitter even if they don’t leave comments here 🙂 xx


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