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What I’ve learned so far about baking bread

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

*Video walkthrough available on Instagram: how to make bake bread with a natural starter*

For the past year, I’ve been baking bread about once a week and during that time, I’ve learned a good bit about how to do it well. Here’s what I’ve learned about starter care and baking the bread… and If you want a starter, let me know :)

Starter Care

Your starter should be a pretty wet dough consistency, and if let sit in the fridge, it shouldn’t develop water on top. If it does have water on top just go through the feeding process and put it back in the fridge.

The starter is pretty simple, you can keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks or so without feeding it.

To feed it

  1. keep 50 grams of starter in the jar (right about where the lowest marking is on the ball jar)

  2. add 50 grams of warm water (around 100 degrees)

  3. Add 25 grams bread flour

  4. Add 25 grams whole wheat flour

  5. Stir till combined

  6. Seal it tightly

  7. Put back in fridge

To get it ready for baking (night before or morning before)

  1. keep 50 grams of starter in the jar

  2. Add 150 grams water (around 100 degrees)

  3. Add 75 grams bread flour

  4. Add 75 grams whole wheat flour

  5. Stir till combined

  6. Put the lid back on it but don’t seal it

  7. Leave out of fridge

After using/ adding to the bread

  1. keep 50 grams of starter in the jar

  2. add 50 grams of warm water (around 100 degrees)

  3. Add 25 grams bread flour

  4. Add 25 grams whole wheat flour

  5. Stir till combined

  6. Seal it tightly

  7. Put back in fridge

How to make bread

There are a lot of ways to make bread, and there are definitely some simpler ways you can find on youtube. (this is a good simple way) but following is the method I’ve been using and quite like. It’s slightly changed from Tartine’s recipe with some comments of things I’ve learned along the way.

Make the dough

  1. In a large bowl, combine 200 grams of leaven with 750 grams of warm water (130°) and stir to disperse.

  2. Add 900 grams of white-bread flour and 250 grams of whole-wheat flour to bowl and use your hands to mix until no traces of dry flour remains. The dough will be sticky and ragged. Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rest for 25 minutes at room temperature.

  3. Add 20 grams fine sea salt and 50 grams warm water. Use hands to integrate salt and water into dough thoroughly. The dough will begin to pull apart, but continue mixing; it will come back together.

Rising the dough

  1. Cover dough with a towel and transfer to a warm environment, 75 to 80 degrees ideally (like near a window in a sunny room, or inside a turned-off oven). Let dough rise for 30 minutes. Fold dough by dipping hand in water, taking hold of the underside of the dough at one quadrant and stretching it up over the rest of the dough. Repeat this action 3 more times, rotating bowl a quarter turn for each fold. Do this every half-hour for 2 1/2 hours more (3 hours total). The dough should be billowy and increase in volume 20 to 30 percent. If not, continue to let rise and fold for up to an hour more.

Shaping the dough

  1. Transfer dough to a work surface and dust top with flour. Use a dough scraper to cut dough into 2 equal pieces and flip them over so floured sides are face down. Fold the cut side of each piece up onto itself so the flour on the surface remains entirely on the outside of the loaf; this will become the crust. Work dough into taut rounds. Place the dough rounds on a work surface, cover with a towel, and let rest 30 minutes.

  2. Mix 100 grams whole-wheat flour and 100 grams rice flour. Line two 10- to 12-inch bread-proofing baskets or mixing bowls with towels. Use some of the flour mixture to generously flour towels (reserve remaining mixture).

  3. Dust rounds with whole-wheat flour. Use a dough scraper to flip them over onto a work surface so floured sides are facing down. Take one round, and starting at the side closest to you, pull the bottom 2 corners of the dough down toward you, then fold them up into the middle third of the dough. Repeat this action on the right and left sides, pulling the edges out and folding them in over the center. Finally, lift the top corners up and fold down over previous folds. (Imagine folding a piece of paper in on itself from all 4 sides.) Roll dough over so the folded side becomes the bottom of the loaf. Shape into a smooth, taut ball. Repeat with other round.

  4. Transfer rounds, seam-side up, to prepared baskets.

Second Rise

  1. After shaping and putting into baskets, cover with a towel and return dough to the 75- to 80-degree environment for 3 to 4 hours. (Or let dough rise for 10 to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature before baking.)

Baking the bread :)

  1. About 30 minutes before baking, place a Dutch oven or lidded cast-iron pot in the oven and heat it to 500 degrees. Dust tops of dough, still in their baskets, with whole-wheat/rice-flour mixture. Very carefully remove heated pot from oven and gently turn 1 loaf into pan seam-side down. Use a lame (a baker’s blade) or razor blade to score the top of the bread a few times to allow for expansion, cover and transfer to oven. Reduce temperature to 450 degrees and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully remove lid (steam may release) and cook for 20 more minutes or until crust is a rich, golden brown color.

  2. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, clean out pot and repeat this process with the second loaf.


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