Bearded Baker MasterClass: Bread Part Four; A Slice Of Earth, Air, Water, Fire!

Blue Ox Bakery Sourdough Pan Loaf Flour

As a professional before continuing, I am required to keep you informed of our credentials that we are not licensed nutritionists and all information and subject matters are not from a certified nutritionists perspective, we are how every trained bakers and food professionals which are require regular nutrition training in order to fill educational and professional requirements, because of this, our information is from that culinary professionals view. We must also state that before making and changes to your nutritional choice’s that you consult with a licensed professional to insure you make changes that work for your needs.

By Baker/Chef Adam “The Bearded Baker” Majewski

As we continue on through the making of bread, it is important to take into mind before starting, is first your access to ingredients, and the specific ingredients themselves. The reasoning is that every ingredient you put in to your bread will greatly affect your end result, because bread is primarily made up of water, flour, yeast, and salt, each ingredient plays off one another in great effect. Also, at this time if you have decided early on to go with a starter, instead of one of the three commercial yeast types, the only thing you will really need to worry about is whether to use an already established bread that uses sourdough starter or to learn how to create one using your specific starter. As we move along I’d like you to think a bit about the title of this MasterClass, specifically Water, Earth, Air, and Fire, and how it relates to bread, and how the process of making bread represents each one of these elements through human history in many ways of our development.

Sweeteners, used in pastries and baked treats.

Also when it comes to bread you want to think about what kind of flour you want to use and whether you want to make as healthy a bread as possible or if you are wanting to just lower your grocery bills by making baked items at home instead of purchasing at the grocery store. Both are completely legit reasons to bake bread, but as we move forward I do hope you see the added benefits of both commercial and sourdough starter. I as a professional baker, who’s bread experience is using old world techniques with updated ingenuity, do have my own opinions on which is better, commercial yeast or sourdough starter. I how ever, must say that both are good and bad depending on how you look at the specific ingredients and your specific use’s or applications for those ingredients.

As we progress, we will be focusing on old world breads, which use sourdough starter’s and young starter based Leavens, and Chefs. Before we move forward I must go over a few extra bits of information in regards to sourdough starter from the last masterclass. Hopefully by now, you have chosen to go with a sourdough starter, you’ve started cultivating your yeasts for at least a week before use. If not, I would go back and use the starter recipe in part 3 of the bread series and go through the first week of its development before continuing on with this masterclass. Your starter at this time should be ready to go by the end of the first week and can go right in to the rest of this masterclass.

B.O.B The Blue Ox Bakeries Starter

When creating a Sourdough starter you’ll need to always keep in mind, what you will be using your starter for if you will be using it for one item such as a general non sour bread you really only need to develop your starter for the first week of cultivation, keeping in mind, that it would be a good idea to only make enough starter for that one use, also you will wanna keep the starter in the cooler no matter what if you will be going this route you will not need to keep to much all at one time, when your starter is established you will only need to keep enough to keep your sourdough starter going to make your bread recipe regularly. If you will be making bread on a regular bases, such as if you plan to make bread once a week you will need to fallow the original starter recipe in the last masterclass, and feed it accordingly. Also if you plan to make bread on a regular bases yet don’t want to have the sour flavor, you will wanna keep it out of your refrigerator, and you will also want to feed it more often, so that there is little to no unwanted acids produced by the fermentation process.

As we move forward, I’d like you to think about what each ingredient represents in the life cycle of the Elements, as well the bread itself, and how the basic building blocks for a lot of life on earth in terms of diet. In making bread, each item needed to create a wonderful loaf needs each element to be what it is with in its process of production, Bread. Also in itself it is life, not meaning that it is alive, but that it sustains so many different forms of life whether directly or in-directly. Thinking of bread in this way makes its creation a very spiritual activity, it only depends on your own perspective of what you are doing and how it not only effects you, but also the general environment around you, also many people right off the bat tend to think all flour is created equal, when in all honesty it’s not .

Continuing on, once you’ve developed your starter, depending on your intent moving forward, you will need to consider a few things in more depth, such as; what type of bread you want to make, how often you would like to bake bread, and even whether or not you are doing a one off baking wise, and whether you wanna develop your skills and general knowledge or not. All are fine reasons as long as you personally understand your reasons and are ok with them. Once you’ve become unwilling and unhappy with your baking I do feel it is a good idea to take a break so that you do not become overwhelmed.

Now that you are ready to actually get started on the actual bread making, you will need to have a basic understanding of what bakers percentages are, mainly because it is the main way bakers remember recipes, as well it has become the quickest way to convert the size of each recipe with in minutes. Bakers percentages are by industry definition: “is a way to quickly scale up and down recipes, a way to read a formula and immediately understand the type of bread it represents, and a way to add and remove ingredients without affecting the entire recipe” – Definition from With that said I can not stress enough that all of your percentages, in any baking that you do is in relation to the flour in any given recipe. What is meant by this is that, when you look at the recipe in your hands, the flour will always equal 100%, because it is the ingredient in most baking that is in the highest amount, by weight of product with in any given recipe, and is the most effected ingredient by any slight changes. This can be from the addition or subtraction of ingredients, changes in the mixing process, even to the temp and length of time the product is cooked at. Also when starting out on with bread from here on out you will want to start weighing out all of your ingredients when baking anything, due to most baking throughout history has been done through weight measurements, as well one of the major reasons bakers percentages work is because it is based on a weight system to find more accurate ingredient measurements.

Now its time to choose what type of bread you wish to make, I personally suggest that you start with whats called Pan Loaf bread, mainly because you only really need to focus more on the ingredients you choose and the actual recipe or process of the recipe itself. From here on everything will be in relation to pan loaves, and if you do not have a pan loaf pan don’t worry you can always roll it in to a ball and bake it on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. I would suggest buying a pizza stone for your oven if you choose to go that route, how ever if you choose this you might as well just buy a bread pan or two, cause it would cost about the same. All together you will need in total:


  • One good size bowl for mixing, I suggest a salad mixing bowl if you have one.
  • A very sharp or serrated knife.
  • Food grade Container to put your dough in for the bulk fermentation period.
  • A scale that reads grams, kilograms, pounds, and oz.
  • 2 bread loaf pans, weited for 1 LB or more.
  • Enough bowls to hold measured out ingredients.


  • Bread Flour 1000 Grams/1 Kilogram.
  • Purified Water 700 Grams/0.70 Kilograms.
  • Ripe Sourdough Starter 200 Grams/0.20 Kilograms.
  • Water 50 Grams/0.05 Kilograms.
  • Salt 20 Grams/0.02 kilograms

This is a good time to talk a little bit about Bakers percentages especially how it relates to this recipe and most other recipes. starting from the top under the ingredients you will need, the flour is and always will be 100%, and every ingredient is a percentage of the flours measurement, this means that if the flour is 1000 grams like in this recipe list, the total water used in the recipe is 750 grams, making the amount of water you need equalling 75%. how this is found out is by dividing 750 grams divided by 1000. and this would be done with all the other ingredients. Why this is important? it has to do with being able to change your recipe at a moments notice based on the ingredients you are able to procure at the last minute, of add loaves of bread on a loaf by loaf bases just prior to mixing your dough.

Once you have gathered all of your tools, for mixing and get together your ingredients, you will want to measure out all of your ingredients prior to mixing, the reasoning is that you have all you need and you can double check everything before a possibility to make a mistake. First you will want to place your salt in the bowl with your 50 grams of water, in the bowl holding the 700 grams of water mix your sourdough starter in to the water, insuring the starter fully dissolves. In your big mixing bowl place your 1000 grams of flour and add your water and starter mix, and using your hands fully mix together. Let this mixture sit for 30 minutes, this period is called the auto-lease period which allows the flour to absorb as much water as possible prior to fermentation and baking. After the 30 minutes is up this is when you mix your salt and water mixture in, the easiest way to do so is by squashing and folding the ingredients together. This may seem weird and will take a while, but just keep going until they are fully mixed together. After this point, you have two choices; either to fully need for ten minutes by hand using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter, or you use whats called a spiral turn, where you keep the dough in the bowl, take each corner one at a time, and stretch them out, folding them each in one, then turn the dough over with the corners in the center facing down. If you choose the second choice you will do this once every 30 minutes for 3 hours, covering the dough and leaving on the counter. After your 3 hours is up, or you are done kneading your bread you will want to put in to an air tight container and put in your cooler to bulk ferment over night.

Now, I bet you may be wondering what is actual bulk fermentation, and as you progress through baking you will hear bulk fermentation a lot, and not just in respect to bread. What Bulk fermentation is! Is when you allow the dough to sit covered, and let the yeast do its thing. Eating sugars naturally occurring in the flour, and other general carbohydrates in the flour. This also is in the literal sense of fermentation meaning to ferm-up, during this process the flour is allowed to absorbes much water as it can in order to hydrate, it also allows the yeasts to break down the starch gluten strands to break down to the point were it is easier for you’re digestive tracked to digest the grains in the bread which is your flour. After mentioning the digestive property of yeast i feel the need to expand on what I mean about it making it easier to digest. There are a few different toxins which naturally occur in flour during the growing process in cereal grains that can occur during plant growth in the grains are not properly tended, they are not poisonous to humans, but they can cause digestive issue if not broken down, and there are a few ways to do so naturally. The first is through a mixing process of letting your flour mixtures sit after mixing for a minimum of 12 hours and the use of a long cooking process. This process keep in mind can’t break down all possible toxins in the flour, but it does enough to reduce digestive processes that can cause indigestion. The sure fire way though is through the use of wild yeast starters, due to the fact that these toxins and high fiber content foods are able to be pre-digested by microorganisms that in many cases have a more efficient digestive system and makes it so our own have a much easier time digesting the flour.

As for bulk fermentation, you will need to bulk ferment for at least 12 hours due to the time it takes for wild yeasts to adjust to their new living environment and establish themselves with in the loaf of bread itself. Just a little pro-tip, on average most bakeries ferment between 18 and 24 hours, more artisan bakeries will at times, bulk ferment for long, however those longer bulk fermentations are specifically developed for those loaves using specific ingredients and techniques usually developed with in those bakeries them selves. If you feel though that you are wanting to try the average industry timings a goo place to start is between 18 to 24 hours, i would also suggest to try both in the refrigerator and out in order to give you an idea of the flavor and texture differences of the environmental differences. Also for your information the recipe I have provided above is intended to give you 2 individual loaves weighing out to just under a kilo each. you can scale your bread loaves to be smaller and will be able to make more loaves that way, how every they will look and be smaller. Also when making bread you will want to use bread pans that are light in color, and this may seem like a weird thing to say, but over the past few years Americans Test Kitchen’s Team of Food scientists and hundreds of years of trial and error with in kitchens and bakeries, have shown through science that the color of the pan and the materiel the pan, greatly effects the way items cook, the darker the pan the easier it is for the pan to retain heat, due to the materials the pans are made of and have a regular tendency to burn things like pan loaf bread due the the amount of excessive heat held right next to the bread for the needed time to fully cook the inside.

Now it is the final stage’s of your bread baking, proofing and baking, the time in your bread production most people either make it or break it and is normally because of over proofing or not being able to calculate you baking temps and times. For a rule of thumb, most breads will bake in commercial ovens between the temps of 460 and 560, and that is with a standard commercial gas or electric oven. with baking in a wood fire bread oven which is still done on both the east coast and west coast, and smaller midwest bakeries, these ovens average a holding temp of 700 to 800 plus degrees during baking and usually makes a much darker bread that’s not burnt but can develop very light smoke marks on the bread which gives it a very old world bread look and can be much crustier then most other breads due to the much higher baking temps. For the baking time, any bread over a half kilo or more in weight will take at least 20 plus minutes to bake at a minimum temp of 460 degrees Fahrenheit and will also change depending on if you proofed your bread enough, to much, or to little. For this recipe though your will want to weigh the bread loaves out to just under a kilo making sure both are equal in weight, and roll them in to logs that will fit in to your pan loaf pans. you will most likely wont be able to find any pan bigger than a one pound loaf pan which Honestly will work completely fine, it will however will proof higher than your pans quite a bit. you will then proof your loaves in a warm area for 2 to three ours checking them to make sure they don’t dry out, and spraying them with water every so often if needed. Once proofed your oven should be pre heated by now to 480, and you will bake you bread on a middle rack for 22 Minutes, then take out and remove from your pans and return the loaves to the oven for 2 to 3 more minutes depending how dark you want your bread to be.

After fully removing from the oven let cool completely which is to a temp below 80 degrees before cutting in to your bread to insure not losing hydration with in the bread and to keep any air pockets from smushing together.

Now I hope the final entry in to beginning bread has sparked your interest to learn more, and to email us and ask questions. I know there is a lot I have not covered everything and really have only started with truly entry level bread, but these masterclasses are meant to be inclusive and to not overwhelm newer bakers. I will be covering more in-depth subjects later. and thank you for following this bread series.


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