Todays top tip: if your pan is too small for your dough, your loaves will not bake properly.
Once again, in this instance, size matters; the size of your pan makes a big difference to your baked loaf. 🌟 Let me explain why I’m posting this… Recently I’ve been contacted by a few bakers who have found that their loaves aren’t baking fully all the way through, or are soft and under baked round the sides, and sometimes also the base, of their loaves. In each case, the reason this has happened is because the pan has been too small for baking the loaves. What this means is that all the wonderful work you’ve done to create your starter and then to build a lovely strong dough, is that the dough can’t spread its wonderful wings and grow sufficiently so it get stunted and stopped in its tracks and therefore underbaked. The limited space means that the steam and heat can’t circle the dough which it needs to bake it evenly; plus the dough being inhibited by being in a small space means it gets compacted so the inside doesn’t get fully baked. 🌟 Just as the right size banneton is important, a good size pan is too. 🌟 If you feel your loaves are not baking fully, the top 5 reasons will be…
They need to be baked for longer: try adding an extra 5-10 mins to the bake. The dough was too wet: next time use 25g less water in your dough. The dough was over proved: watch the time and temp you’re proving at. The dough was under proved: give the dough more time to prove. The pan is too small: ensure your loaf isn’t hitting the sides of the pan or the underneath of the lid.
For info: I use my standard master recipe dough with a 21-22cm diameter banneton and a 26cm diameter enamel pan. You’ll find full details on my equipment page.
There’s more help about all of these issues throughout my site and in my books. 🌟 To answer the other question of ‘is my pan too big?’, the answer is no, a pan can never be too big. If you are asking that because your dough spreads in the pan, the issue is the dough, not the pan. Your dough should happily hold its shape when you turn it out into the pan, and not rely on the pan to hold it. I have a post fully explaining why your dough may spread here. 🌟 Have fun!
Spelt flour is a beautiful flour to use and produces an amazingly tasty loaf. It is not, however, a straightforward flour to use and benefits from being baked in a loaf tin to give it support. To make this loaf, I followed my master recipe process to make the dough and the process for making sandwich loaves as in my book.
50g starter (I used my spelt starter, see below)
500g wholemeal spelt flour
1 tsp salt
To make the dough, follow my usual master recipe process as written on my site or in my book, mixing everything up together mid/late afternoon. It may seem dry initially but it does not need extra water, go in with your hands and squeeze the mixture together, so that there is no dry flour left.
Then cover the bowl with your shower cap/cover, and leave it on the counter for 2 hours, this rest time will make it easier to stretch the dough later.
After 2 hours, do a set of stretches and folds on the dough. Wholemeal flour is oily and does not stick to the bowl which also means that when you try to stretch it, the whole dough will lift out of the bowl so I hold the dough in place with one hand, lift a portion with the other hand, pull it up and tuck it over the dough. Do this a few times round the bowl.
This will be a stiff, spongy mix.
Cover the bowl again, let it sit for 1 hour then repeat the stretches. It will only need a few actions.
Do this twice more then cover the dough again and leave it on the counter overnight.
In the morning the dough will have grown to double the size with a smoothish surface.
The dough will be spongy and textured and will not take many pulls to bring it together.
Once it is in the tin as per the video, cover it again, and leave it on the counter.
Let the dough prove again. Once it is level with the edge of the tin, bake.
This can be done from a cold start; place the tin with the dough in, uncovered, into the cold oven. Turn the oven up to 180C fan/200C non fan and bake for 45 mins from the time you placed it into the oven.
The loaf will not grow much more as it bakes, the growth is all in the proving, the baking merely consolidates that.
Once baked, remove from the pan, tap the base, and if it sounds hollow, remove the paper and cool on a rack for a good hour at least. If you feel it needs baking for longer, put it back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes.
These loaves tend to feel slightly moist which is normal.
To make this loaf I used a wholemeal/wholewheat starter too to make this a 100% spelt loaf…
To make your own, follow my guide for making a starter on my site or in my book, exactly as it’s written, just using wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour. Please note that you can use any type of starter made with any flour, if you want to keep the loaf fully spelt, below are some notes about making a wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour starter.
Day 1: this will be a thick first mix
Day 2: this will still be a thick mix, but not as much as day 1. There may be a slight liquid forming on surface, this is normal
Day 3: you may see bubbles forming on surface and throughout the mixture, it will have an elastic, thick, bouncy consistency
When you feed it it will be thick, maybe already showing bubbles after mixing and stirring
Over next 24 hours, you should see bubbles appearing, the texture becoming almost spongy, and the volume starting to grow, and a strong wheaty smell developing
Days 4 & 5: the mix will be thick, elastic and textured
Day 6: you will notice a strong smell when the starter is stirred, this is normal, and typical of wholegrain flours. It should also now be textured, bubbly, and thick before feeding
And lovely and thicker after feeding. Bubbles may be appearing as soon as fed and stirred
Day 7: it should be responding to its feed and growing and becoming textured with a bubbly surface.
Note that with wholegrain flours, any show of dark liquid on the surface or around the edges is normal.
I hope you enjoy creating your own wholemeal/wholewheat spelt starter and loaf, and enjoy the fabulous flavour! For more ideas about using spelt flour, and lots more wholegrain and ancient grain flours, check out my book ‘Whole Grain Sourdough at Home’.
I get many messages from people who are questioning why their loaves aren’t as they expected, and I see posts and comments in groups along the same lines, and people are very quick to blame the starter. It’s an easy conclusion to jump to, but usually unfairly. Because, your starter is rarely the actual issue.
So when people ask me: why is my loaf flat/gummy/dense/uneven, is it because of my starter? Or, is my starter too weak? Or, should I throw my starter away? Or, do I need to make a new starter?
This is always my question back:
did your dough grow?
If the answer is yes, then your starter is fine.
Because, if your dough grows, it shows your starter is working perfectly, it’s doing the job it’s meant to do. And in which case, if your loaf is not as you expected it to be, it is for another reason, not because of your starter.
If your dough was slow to grow, it could just be cold; if your dough didn’t grow at all, it could just be cold. In both cases, check what the overnight temperature was before immediately assuming your starter is the issue.
If it’s been 18C and under, just allow your dough more time to fully prove and grow to double in size. That’s all it needs.
If it’s been 18C – 20C consistently all night and your dough didn’t grow, only then might there be an issue with your starter.
Our beloved starters get so much unfair blame when a loaf doesn’t bake as expected, when usually the answer is a proving issue, or some other reason. Look back at my FAQs and posts for tips about doughs and behaviour before throwing some other flour or feeding programme at your starter. And never ever throw your starter away unless it’s mouldy and truly dead.
And if your starter really does need some help, give it a boost, or some fresh flour, or a new flour. Give it a chance to do it’s thing. There’s life in there, it might just need some encouragement to show itself. Your starter is a living beautiful thing, and as with all living beautiful things, they can have dips in energy, and that’s the time to give it some love and encouragement.
This could be ‘how long will it take for my new starter to be ready to use?’ or ‘how long will it be before I can use my starter after feeding it?’ or ‘how long will it take for my dough fully proved?’, these are the main questions that come up.
There is only one answer to all of these, or any question of ‘how long…?’ when talking about sourdough which is…
I literally cannot tell you “how long”. There is no fixed, definitive answer to any of these questions.
I cannot ever tell anyone how long any of that things will take because there are too many factors involved. And understanding that and what these factors are will enhance your sourdough exponentially. Time and patience are the bedfellows of sourdough success, hand in hand with flour, temperature and environment. Which can all sound confusing and impossible to manage, but it’s truly simpler than people think, and as soon as you grasp those elements, sourdough making becomes relaxing and more enjoyable.
If I answer those earlier questions, this will give you a guide to what the main considerations are which you can the apply to your kitchen…
Question: how long will it take for my new starter to be ready to use?
Answer: honestly, it will take as long as it takes. All starters are different. Some take 5 days, some take 5 weeks, they’re all individual. It depends on the flour you use, the temperature in your kitchen, the wild yeast activity in your flour. The key is to let it happen, because it will.
Question: how long will it be before I can use my starter after feeding it?
Answer: this will all depend on the strength of your starter, and the room temperature. If it’s chilly, it will be slower; if it’s warmer, it will be faster. Watch it and it will show you when it’s ready, it will have grown and become active and lively.
Question: how long will it take for my dough fully proved?
Answer: again, this will depend on the strength of your starter, and the room temperature. If it’s chilly, it will be slower; if it’s warmer, it will be faster. This is why all of my recipes include time and temperature hand in hand for the main prove. Read my site and my book and lots of my posts on here for more info.
And one final question, that we all ask: how long do I REALLY have to wait to slice into my freshly baked loaf?
Answer: to eat it at its absolute best, at least an hour, otherwise it will be gummy, but truly, it’s totally up to you!
Time, patience, and understanding how room temperature affects sourdough making, are the keys to success. Read my other posts and hints and tips for more information.
Take one portion of my enriched sourdough dough, add some mincemeat, roll up, cut up, plait, and bake….and create a lovely Christmas loaf! That’s what I did here…
It tastes so good!!!!! And I don’t even like mincemeat! But partnering it with this dough worked perfectly…here’s what I did…
I made a standard portion of my enriched sourdough using all white spelt flour (you can use flour/s of your choice).
This is a long slow proving dough so it wasn’t fully proved until mid morning, which was the perfect time for the next step: I turned the dough out onto the kitchen counter then stretched it out to a rectangle, matching the width to the length of my loaf pan. I then spread several tablespoons of mincemeat over the dough…
I rolled this up to a fat sausage, still matching the length of my loaf pan..
Cut the sausage length ways to make 2 long pieces…
Then plaited the two pieces and lifted the whole thing into a loaf tin liner and into the loaf tin…
I then covered this again with my shower cap and left it on the counter to prove again for a few hours…
After a few hours the dough had puffed up…
I brushed the top with egg white as per my main enriched recipe, and baked it uncovered, from a cold start, at 160C fan/convection, 180C non fan/convention, for 45-50 mins. It can be baked from a cold or hot start, bake for 5 mins less in a preheated oven.
After an agonising wait, I cut into it…
I hope you like the look of my babka…if you don’t have, or don’t like, mincemeat, try it with jam, chutney, or any filling of your choice. And if you do make a enriched sourdough babka with my recipe, please do share it and tag me, or send me a photo of your creation…happy baking!
I was very kindly gifted a copy of the wonderful Elaine’s new sourdough book, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough!
Elaine is a wealth of knowledge on all things sourdough and explains things in such a simple and straightforward way.
We both agree that sourdough is not about perfection, its about creating delicious nutritious bread using a sourdough starter, and believe me sourdough is the best bread on the planet, and learning to make your own is a skill worth acquiring!
Elaine explains everything you need to know, including how to make a sourdough starter from scratch, equipment choices, and using ancient flours.
Recipes include soft and pillowy sandwich bread, gorgeous foccacia, sourdough scones, crackers, rolls and lots of sourdough loaves using different flours.
There is way more to sourdough than white holey bread!! Its so versatile and Elaine’s book is the only book you will need so do yourself a favour and buy yourself a copy!
She shares so many great ideas and is a sourdough wizard!! I have learned so much from her, she is just the best! 💕💕💕
I’m so excited about this post, I’ve really enjoyed making and testing these loaves…I hope you like it too!
Every bread in this post has been made using my master recipe to create enriched doughs and loaves…they’re beautiful and shiny and they smell amazing; the texture of the bread is light, soft, not too rich, not too sweet, and with a hint of our joyful sourdough flavour…I’ve played with flours and shapes and pans, and have had great fun creating my ‘enriched master recipe sourdough’…
The doughs are all enriched with eggs, milk, butter and honey. This is a very very tasty sourdough creation! Its great eaten on it’s own, as well as with your choice of toppings, and smells amazing all over again when toasted. And no mixer required, even better!
I have tested this several times recently and it worked perfectly with just strong white bread flour, a mix of SWBF and white spelt flour, and with 100% white spelt flour. Each version has been a success, the white spelt flour adding a silkiness to the dough that’s lovely to work with, as well as a lightness to the crumb.
🌟 The added dairy products do not go bad during the overnight prove, the dough is protected by the starter.
🌟 The butter only needs to be softened, not fully melted. If you do melt it, ensure it is cool before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.
🌟 The softened butter does not need to be fully mixed through the dough initially, it will soften more and become fully incorporated as your work with the dough.
🌟 This is a heavy slow dough, allow it time to grow fully.
🌟 It’s also a dough that requires very little shaping.
🌟 It keeps well for a week if wrapped well.
🌟 I don’t like things very sweet; for us, chief taster included, the 50g honey in the recipe was perfect. If you prefer things sweeter, replace it with sugar, quantity of your choice.
🌟 I have made two slightly different versions of this, one a little richer than the other, and I like both. You can tone things down, or up, as you choose.
🌟 You can choose your own version, using the flour/s of your choice, and all or just one to two of the added ingredients. It works whichever options you choose.
🌟 For dietary alternatives, use no eggs or egg replacements/non dairy milk/no butter or a dairy free option.
🌟 I made the round loaf in my 20cm diameter enamel roaster (above) and the rectangular loaf in a large loaf tin (27cm x 17cm/10.5” x 6.5”). You can use a standard 2 lb loaf tin too.
🌟🌟🌟 My master recipe strikes again! 🌟🌟🌟
50g active starter
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk (save the white) + milk to make up a total of 350g (I use semi skimmed/half fat milk)
75g softened butter
50g runny honey
500g strong white bread flour OR 250g SWBF + 250g white spelt flour OR 500g white spelt flour
1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Alternative slightly lighter option:
50g active starter
1 whole egg + milk to make up a total of 350g
50g softened butter
50g runny honey
500g strong white bread flour OR 250g SWBF + 250g white spelt flour OR 500g white spelt flour
1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
As per my master recipe (for full step by step directions click on the link to the left):
Feed your starter as normal to generate the 50g needed for the recipe.
Begin mixing the dough in the evening.
Roughly mix all of the ingredients: it will be very sticky.
After an hour, perform the first set of pulls and folds on the dough. Lifting and pulling the dough across the bowl until it starts to come into a soft ball then stop. Cover the bowl again and leave it to sit.
During this first set of pulls and folds the dough will still be sticky but keep working with it.
After an hour, perform the second set.
During this set of pulls and folds, the dough will start to become smooth and silky (esp if it’s 100% white spelt flour) and will take less actions to pull it into a ball. Cover and leave to sit.
Over the next hour or so, perform the third, and fourth set if you do one, the dough should be nice to handle now. Each time stop when the dough comes into a loose ball.
Cover and leave to prove on the counter overnight as usual.
Next morning the dough will typically have grown, but not yet doubled, allow it 2-3 more hours if it needs more time.
Line a tin with baking parchment paper or a loaf tin liner.
Pull the dough together, it does not need to be handled much, it doesn’t need to be too tight, this will be a stiff heavy dough, and place it hand side down/smooth side up into your liner.
Cover again and leave to prove on the counter again until the dough is level with the edge of the pan, typically 3-4 hours.
Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush the top of the dough gently with it.
Bake, uncovered, from a cold start at 160C fan/convection, or 180C non fan/convention oven, for 45 mins, covering if the top becomes too dark.
Remove from the oven, and the tin and allow to cool.
To use the dough to create shaped doughs, refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours after the overnight prove to firm it up, then turn it out, portion it and shape it as you choose before covering it again and leaving it to prove again for 3-4 hours, then bake as above.
🌟🌟🌟 It really is true, you can use my master recipe as a base for anything you want to create! 🌟🌟🌟
You can now find this recipe in more detail and with new variations in my new book! Happy baking!
There are some key tips to scoring, but first, why do we do it at all?
Scoring dough has two main jobs, firstly, it allows and encourages growth in your loaf by enabling the dough to expand as it bakes. Because it will expand, but if it isn’t scored, it won’t expand as much as it would like to and it will inhibit the size of the baked loaf.
If you don’t score your dough there’s also every chance it will crack as it bakes anyway and possibly blow out at the sides, so why not encourage it to grow as you’d like it to instead?
Secondly, it allows you to choose how your loaf will look once baked.
By scoring your dough with a single slash, you will encourage a more dramatic opening (assuming a good strong dough).
By scoring a more intricate and involved design you allow the dough to grow evenly and protect the design.
So here’s my top tips…
*The blade needs to be thin and very sharp, ideally a razor blade. By using a bread lame this gives you a safe handle for your blade, but it’s not a necessity. Nice to have though, I love all of mine 🙂
*Your dough needs to be firm. This is achieved by having a dough made with the right amount of water for your flour choice, and proved well. You’ll find help with this on my FAQ page.
*If you want to give yourself a slightly firmer surface to score, place your banneton full of dough into the freezer for 30 minutes before turning it out, scoring and baking. (If your dough is too wet or over proved, it is likely to still spread even with this tip).
*A nice firm dough also allows you to take your time as it will hold its shape whilst you score. No need to super fast slash-and-get-it-into-the -oven as fast as possible!
*By not preheating your pan (which I never do) you also make this part of the process smoother as you’re not moving the dough around so much. I turn my dough out into my cold pan, take my time scoring, then into my cold oven and bake – a nice relaxed process.
*Score into the dough 0.5-1.0cm deep.
*Score firmly, but without pushing the dough down into itself.
*I always score from the outside towards the middle when unless I’m making a pattern, this way you don’t risk squashing the dough or dragging the blade.
*If your blade is dragging, try changing it for a new blade, or making sure your dough is firm enough to score.
*How you score can affect the final shape of your dough as hopefully my photos have shown. Sorry, I don’t have any bad examples to make the point!
*As always, there is no right or wrong here, and the best way to learn is via trial and error.
*Personally, I like the lines that the rice flour in the banneton leave, if you’re not a a fan, lightly brush is off.
I have various videos on my YouTube channel and Instagram showing scoring.
Amazing, beautiful dough…I love seeing this! This is a shot of the underneath of my bowl of dough following it’s overnight prove, the dough has risen and more than doubled in size and you can see the texture all the way through the dough. It’s a joy every time I wake up to a sight like this, it never ever gets boring!
So, here are some notes to keep in mind regarding dough…
🌟 for everyone who has asked me if their starter is strong enough: if your dough is growing and doubling, your starter is fine and working well
🌟 if your dough isn’t growing, it’s either because it’s been cold, see below, or your starter needs a boost, see my site for details
🌟 all doughs are different due to different flours, different temperatures, different environments and different handling
🌟 if it’s been cold overnight and your dough hasn’t doubled, it’s normal, temperatures under 18C/64F will slow the growth down; just give it longer in the morning to do its work
🌟 under proved dough will result in a dense loaf with large uneven holes, but it will still taste good!
🌟 if it’s been warm overnight, well over 20C/70F your dough will grow and possible double and look volcanic and fabulous, however, it risks over proving and losing all structure and integrity, it will be soft and sloppy and impossible to work with
🌟 over proved dough will result in a flat dense bake, but it will also still taste good!
🌟 to combat high temps either read the baking timetable on my site or use less starter in your dough
🌟 when you handle your dough after it’s main bulk prove, it should feel bouncy and have some nice resistance
🌟 my best tip is: learn to watch your dough and not the clock; your dough well tell you what’s happening and what you need to change, if anything, and,
🌟 get to know your starter
🌟 get to know your flours and your doughs
🌟 get to know how sourdough works in YOUR home
🌟 Make notes, jot down times and temperatures, flours and behaviours and create your own reference guide.