Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Basic Savory Bread

I love to bake bread, in case you haven’t noticed.  However, I had gotten a little bit bored with the breads I’d been making lately.  To break out of the bread-baking box I’ve been in, I decided to try some different recipes.

I’ve had the book Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley for awhile, but hadn’t tried any of the breads recently.  I decided to remedy that by making this Basic Savory Bread

This bread utilizes a sponge and can be made into a basic loaf or used as the basis for a number of other delicious breads.  I decided to make the basic loaf and serve it with some homemade vegetable soup.

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Basic Savory Bread

Adapted from Bread Matters: The state of modern bread and a definitive guide to baking your own by Andrew Whitley

I liked this formula because it only makes one loaf.  Most of the recipes I’ve been using lately make two loaves (or more). I end up freezing the other loaf or giving it away.  Although I suppose that’s not such a bad thing.

Making the Sponge


  • 1/4 heaping tsp. (1/16 oz) active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup (5 1/4 fl oz) water
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 T. (2 2/3 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 T. (2 2/3 oz) stoneground whole-wheat or graham flour


Dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the flours and mix them together to form the sponge. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for 16 – 48 hours.

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During the fermentation period, the sponge will rise up and collapse.  This is what the sponge looked like after 48 hours.

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The Final Dough


  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) Sponge (from above)
  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoon (5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2 2/3 oz) Stoneground whole-wheat or graham flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon (1/8 oz) sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 fl oz) olive oil
  • scant 1/2 cup (3 2/3 fl oz) water


Use this formula to determine desired water temperature

If the sponge has been at room temperature in a cool place, you’ll need to use fairly warm water to bring the final dough to the desired temperature – 81 degrees F. 

To figure out how hot the water should be, use the following formula.  For the purposes of the calculation, treat the sponge as part of the flour. Add the temperatures together, then divide by two to arrive at an average.

2 x desired dough temperature minus actual flour temperature equals required water temperature.

If your desired dough temperature is 81 degrees F, the flour temperature in the Winter is probably around 43 degrees F and in the Summer it’s probably around 68 degrees F.  Mine fell somewhere in between.

Winter: 2 x 81 = 162 – 43 = 119 degrees F

Summer: 2 x 81 = 162 – 68 = 94 degrees F

Using the formula, I figured out I needed to warm the water to about 110 degrees F.


Making the final dough

Mix all of the ingredients together and knead until the dough is smooth and stretchable.

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The dough still needed a little bit more kneading at this point so I continued to knead it a little bit longer.

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Cover and allow to bulk ferment for an hour or so.

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The dough can be shaped into loaves or rolls.  I decided to bake it as a freeform loaf.  I shaped it into a round ball and let it rest on the counter seam side up for 10 minutes.

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Then I shaped it into an oval and placed it into a floured oval banneton basket.

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I let it proof in the basket for about an hour and a half.

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After the loaf had proofed sufficiently, I removed it from the banneton and scored it down the middle with a serrated knife.  The good thing about using so much flour is that it came out of the banneton basket really easily.  The bad thing is that there was way too much flour on the loaf, but I didn’t want to brush it off because I liked the rings.

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I placed it on a preheated baking stone with a steam pan underneath.  Then I spritzed the walls of the oven with a spray bottle three times at 30-second intervals during the first 15 minutes.

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Then I closed the oven door and let the loaf bake for about 25 minutes at 450 degrees. 

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I liked the look of the bread with the flour on it, but not so much the taste.  It tastes better when you brush the flour off.  The loaf is a beautiful golden brown color due to the inclusion of the whole wheat flour.  It’s a very nice basic bread.

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This bread tastes good warm with butter.  It went really well with homemade vegetable soup.  It also tastes better after a day or so.  It keeps well due to the sponge.


Happy Baking!

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