Love learning

by | Jul 18, 2014 | Baking, In the kitchen

I am slowly working towards perfecting my bread making and baking…I have gleaned from here I have gleaned from there… Ken tells me stories, Lise and others too… there are different approaches to making bread and you choose the approach you want according to the outcomes you desire, or according to how bread making best fits into your day to day commitments. For example if you like to make bread at home but you need the process to be really easy and to slot in merrily into your day patterns then try the ‘Un passo alla volta’ method (‘one step at a time’ method), handed down to me by Lise.

Un Passo Alla Volta 


2 cups of rye organic flour

1 1/2 cups of warm water

1 tbs of honey

Place all ingredients in a very large and tall jar. Leave for 3 days in a warm room, or in an oven: turn the oven on (but NOT WITH THE STARTER IN IT) for no more than a minute to give it a little warmth, then turn off and place your starter in it. Place a dish of hot water at the bottom of the oven to create a moist warm environment. After a few days it should have bubbles and froth like foam on sea waves. Make sure the oven is clean or sterilise it by turning it on to 110C for 10mins, then when it has cooled right down so that it is only just warm, place the jar with lid semi open, or with a cloth over it.

This will make a wet starter, from this you can then make a dough.  Once you have made a dough using your wet starter you can then choose to either feed your wet starter or you can pinch off some dough from the dough you have made (with the wet starter recipe) and place it in a jar and USE IT as your future starter. And you will find people who will only ever use a dry starter ( a pinch of dough made from a wet starter ) and some people who will only use a wet starter and some people who are happy to use either…the results being I think negligible.


 is more likely to go very sour than a dry starter ( a pinch of dough) because the wet starter has more water and a higher water content in a starter, supports Lactobacillus bacterial activity. This activity produces lactic acid responsible for the sour taste in sour dough. The yeast component of flour produces Carbon dioxide which makes the bread rise, but it is the Lactobacillus that in its life cycle produces the flavour associated with wild yeast (sourdough) breads. Now you can avoid developing a really sour flavour by either composting all but 1/4 of the wet starter you have made and replenishing the wet starter with equal quantities of rye and water until you build it up to what you had (you can do this over a few days or all at once but if all at once you will need to wait about 2 days for the starter to bubble and froth as when you first made it). But as this is a very wasteful way of doing things in my opinion, you can just make sure you are baking once a week and hence replenishing the starter weekly or you can place it in the freezer (make sure the jar is only 3/4 full or it will explode as it expands into ice) then when it is time to use it take out a day before you are due to bake to get it active again. A wet starter is always likely to be more sour than a dry (pinch of dough starter). If you don’t want the bread to have any sour flavour whatsoever then always use a dough starter.


Make a wet starter as described above. Once the starter is active then make into a dough using a relevant recipe. Then pinch a hand full of the dough and place in a jar and place the jar in the fridge. Depending on the amount of bread you want to make, take the dough starter out of the fridge, place in a very large jar and top up with equal quantities of flour and water over days to make a fresh batch of wet starter, which is not going to be very sour at all.

So you can either nurse a dough starter or a wet starter.


Rye flour is said to be very active and hence people often use rye starters for all their baking; to make a white, wholemeal or spelt loaf. But if you want a pure bread loaf then make a starter using the flour that you will use to make the bread. If a spelt bread then use spelt flour to make the starter if a wholemeal then use wholemeal flour to make the starter etc…


  • 2kg of Organic flour of your choice (spelt, rye, wholemeal, white)
  • ½ kg of Rye flour
  • 1/2 kg of semolina
  • A very large bowl that has good height ( a glass bowl is great because you can see into the sides and watch the dough rise)
  • A wooden spoon
  • A plate to sit on top of the bowl
  • A large jar for the starter
  • Digital scales if you have them
  • make sure all your equipment is cleaned well

Just a few tips:  wholemeal flours absorb more water than a plain white flour or a white spelt. Use the following ingredient measures as a guide (see Weigh). Also when making bread remember the following: Bakers Percentage. The Bakers %  states that you always treat the flour component of your recipe as having a value of 100%, the starter component of your recipe should have a value of about 30% and the water component a value of about 60%. These %s are a guide. Then you vary the percentage a little either way depending on the flour you are using or the type of bread you are making.


  • 1.2kg of flour (of your choice)
  • 2tbs salt
  • 320-400g of starter
  • 760g water (more or less depending on the flour type)

To a very large and tall bowl add: flour, starter, water and salt. Make a wet dough, so it is easy to mix, but so that it forms a dough and adheres together.

Rest the dough for about 20mins, then check how moist it is, if it looks too wet add some more flour if it look too dry add a little more water.

Pour the dough onto a marble surface and knead. You can knead in the traditional way or you can use your fingers to lift the dough off the board and then let it slam back down on the board. The dough will be quite sticky to start with. Now you can choose to go down one of three paths (choose your own adventure).

Adventure One: You can either work with this sticky dough for 5 mins, by using your fingers and lifting the dough up away from the work bench and then slapping it back down until it glistens and becomes very smooth but remains sticky…or you can:

Adventure Two: work with it for five minutes but add more flour to it as you go along to get a stronger less sticky dough which is much easier to knead and shape. Or you can:

Adventure Three: go even further and knead for as long as your arms will let you and add more flour as you go until you have a dough that is absolutely no longer sticky and is really easy to work with, is smooth and glistening and when you shape it, it will hold its form really well in the oven and will allow you to cut patterns into it easily for that master baker look.

Once you have finished kneading, place the dough in a very large non metallic bowl in a warm draft free place (such as the oven). Before you place it in the oven, place a dish of boiling water on the bottom of the oven, then position your bowl in the oven overnight or for between 4-6 hours. It should rise to nearly double.

If you chose:

Adventure One: Then your dough will be sticky throughout the kneading/lifting and slamming down and after its 4-6 hour rise. Hence for the next stage spread semolina onto your work bench. Place the dough on the semolina and divide in two, for two loaves. Stretch out all sides and fold in to create a rectangle. Then roll if the dough will let you and place the ‘roll’ into the bread tin. If too sticky too shape at all then just place in the bread tin and stretch it out a little using your fingers. Wait for it to almost double in size again, by placing it in a warm environment that is moist (oven turned off but with some warmth in it that has a dish of hot water at the bottom) and then place in a preheated oven when ready (take it out of the oven, heat the oven and then put it back in the oven).

Adventure Two: A less sticky dough that is easier to handle, then you can shape the dough as described above, and you can either use the tins again or in this case you can place the shaped dough (you can make a round dough or long dough like ciabatta) on grease proof paper and then place inside a basket or plate or anything that will help it hold its shape.  Let the dough rise to almost double again, by placing it in a warm moist environment (the oven again with a hot water bath at the bottom).Then when the oven is ready lift the dough out of its basket by holding the sides of the grease proof paper and placing it on a preheated (by the oven ) tray or a preheated (by the oven ) stone.

Adventure Three: if the dough is not sticky at all because you have worked it for a long time by kneading and kneading and adding a little more flour until it became very elastic and smooth and glistening, then you can shape the dough on a non semolina floured surface. Then place the shaped dough into a shaping basket either round or long that has been well coated with semolina flour, to stop the dough sticking to the basket. Let the dough rise to almost double again, by placing it in a warm moist environment (the oven with a hot water bath at the bottom).  Then when the oven is ready tip the basket upside down to land the shaped dough on the preheated oven tray/stone and bake in a preheated oven.

  • Place in a 240 degree oven for 10mins then lower the oven temperature to 210 degree for 30 mins (fan forced)
  • Take the bread out of the tins immediately or the bread will sweat in the tins (they should pop out very easily if the bread tins are new, oil the tins if they are old and scratched).
    wet starter

    Wet starter

    Mix dry ingredients

    Mix dry ingredients

    Then add water.

    Then add water.

  • Well and truly doubled in size.
  • Well and truly doubled in size.

    Carbon dioxide bubble view.

    This bread used choose your own adventure two. I kneaded it enough to warrant shaping it into a circle but not enough to get a great pattern into it. The right side of the bread shows where the   razor was not able to do a clean cut but instead dragged the dough onto itself. To do great patterns you need to knead a lot and produce a very firm well developed dough.

    This bread was made with choose your own adventure two. I kneaded it enough to warrant shaping it into a circle but not enough to get a great pattern into it. The right side of the bread shows where the razor was not able to do a clean cut but instead dragged the dough onto itself. To do great patterns you need to knead a lot and produce a very firm, well developed dough.

    This loaf is made from a mixture of flours; Rye 30% Wholemeal 60% White 10%.

    This loaf is made from a mixture of flours; Rye  (in the starter) Wholemeal 90% White 10%.



  1. Renate

    Your instructions are fantastic and it’s a delight to read them. I must say, my last
    baking session was really adventurous ….

    • Mara

      Thank you Renate, thank you for your support, I really appreciate it, much love and kisses and hugs and Italian baci, mara


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *