New World Sourdough: Toasty Seed Sour + Pumpkin Shaping

New World Sourdough is a 2020 cookbook by Bryan Ford. I will not be reproducing Ford’s recipes in my blog. Read his blog, buy his book, support his work.

High Hydration Hijinks

My hydration concerns began before I even started this recipe. My starter, Bradley, has been fed the same diet for months: 2 parts water, 1 part AP flour, 1 part whole wheat flour. When I fed him in preparation for this recipe, my liquid starter seemed more liquid than usual.

This development suspiciously coincided with my first use of a different whole wheat flour–with King Arthur out of stock, I used the kind available at my local bulk food store. Evidently this (unknown to me) brand does not absorb water as well as King Arthur brand. The NWS toasty seed sour recipe is 30% whole wheat flour, so perhaps it is to blame for my later issues as well.

Notebook paper with recipe steps listed by day and time.
Toasting and soaking the seeds lent an exciting new wrinkle to my breadule.

Another avenue I explored: what if my new oven light is hotter than my old one? Perhaps I was “overproofing” my starter. When I checked the temp, it was the optimal 72°, so I don’t believe heat is the culprit.

I have never worked with dough this wet. The recipe calls for 210g water for the seeds, 650g water for the initial dough, plus 50g water if it isn’t wet enough. This would be 91% hydration. I can’t imagine a scenario where the 50g is needed, so mine ended up being 86% hydration. That is incredibly high.

Water is pouring from a kettle into a clear container with flour on top of a kitchen scale reading 113g.
The start of a wet ‘n’ wild journey.

Perhaps there is some great benefit to having a liquid dough, and I’m sure better bakers can manipulate this level of hydration with aplomb. As for me and mine, it was mostly an anxiety inducing pain in the neck. Nevertheless, I read some high hydration dough tips online and gained confidence. I have done this many times before, it’s just been a while.

Toasty Seed Uncertainty

After soaking the seeds in water overnight, I used a strainer and a bowl to drain off the thick, syrupy liquid. When mixed into dough, this filled the kitchen with a seedy, nutty scent before any seeds were added.

Kitchen scale on the counter reading 106g. On it is a glass bowl with liquid. Above the bowl a hand holds a strainer full of wet seeds.
Seed straining system.

The recipe only calls for two folds, but the loose consistency of the dough compelled me to fold it a third time. I think it may have needed more folds; perhaps four within the first two hours.

Seedy dough in a clear plastic container.
Sourdough soup.

When the time came for shaping, I preshaped it for a 20 minute bench rest to encourage structural integrity. It didn’t totally flatten out after this rest, so I went ahead with the final shaping and put them in bannetons overnight.

Two rounds of pre-shaped dough on the counter
Post-bench rest, the edges did not completely deflate, so I went ahead with the final shaping.
Dough in a bamboo banneton.
I added a last shaping fold before the final proof for a final boost to the bread.

Like always, I used brown rice flour to prepare the bannetons for shaping. Unlike always, the dough was so wet it leached out during proofing. Instead of brushing off easily, this flour was wet goo when I removed the loaves after proofing. I was amazed (and a little grossed out).

Close up of bamboo banneton. The ridges are filled with damp flour.
Even after it dried, I couldn’t get all the rice flour out of my bannetons.

If I had this to do again, I would use only 550g in the initial dough, and I would still add the seed-soaked liquid. I would only add more water if the dough was particularly dry.

Trick or Treat

I decided to get into the spirit of the season and attempt a pumpkin-shaped loaf. The basic technique is to tie twine around the dough after it has proofed, immediately before baking. There are different schools of thought on how many lengths of twine should be used; I’ve seen anywhere from three to six. I used five for one and four for another. Each were at least 24 inches long.

More important than the number of strings is the evenness in their application. Once the dough is out and you are tying the strings, it is difficult to keep your perfect angles from becoming more or less acute. The goal is a pumpkin with equally wide segments. I would err on the side of fewer strings (especially as a beginner) simply because that is easier to keep in control.

Five lengths of twine, all crossing at the center, on a piece of parchment paper on a wooden cutting board.
It’s a mess now, and that’s before the dough is plopped down.

I greased the twine in a couple different ways. For the first loaf, I pulled each string through a clump of coconut oil. For the second, I sprayed them all down with baking spray. In both cases the twine stuck to the loaf somewhat, leaving a fuzzy residue. In the first loaf, the bread baked around he twine itself, but I was able to pull it out without much trouble.

Hand holding a spoonful of solid coconut oil. The thumb is pressing a piece of twine into the oil. The rest of the twine is on a piece of parchment paper on a wooden cutting board.
This felt rustic. It was ineffectual.
Underside of baked loaf, showing tracks where strings were. Two strings are sticking out of the bottom, as the dough baked around it.
Here you can see the fuzzies, as well as the strings baked into the bread, as a tree grows around a fence post.

I tied each string and snipped off the excess. Next time I would probably give the dough more room, so that the twine isn’t indenting the sides before it’s baked. (Of course, the dough was so wet it would probably have seeped between the strings, no matter how loose.)

Dough about to bake, tied with four strings and scored with v shapes between the strings.
This was the second loaf, when I had a little more control over the ties that bind.

I’ve seen these loaves both scored and unscored. I tried some fancy (for me) scores, but the wet dough absorbed the breaks in baking.

Baked loaf on cooling rack with strings tied around it. The segments are not of even size.
With so many strings, the spread and sizing got out of hand in the bake.

I normally bake boules in dutch ovens. Transferring them from the scoring area to the oven usually results in some wonky bottom shapes. To avoid unneccesary shaping issues for my pumpkins, I baked these on a baking stone. I remembered to preheat my cast iron skillet and added 1/2c cold water upon baking for steam.


These loaves did not have much of an oven spring. I only cut one open myself, and it had the signs of what I believe is an underproofed loaf: the crumb was tight in the center and compressed at the bottom, with big holes near the top.

Two halves of bread, showing inner crumb
Witness the spectrum of too big to too little air pockets.

I baked the two loaves in succession; the second loaf had about an hour longer to proof and appeared to rise higher. I’m convinced that the liquid weighed down the dough too much for a healthy rise.

Two loaves on a cooling rack, viewed from the side.
The right loaf is a touch taller than its older brother on the left. Note the cashews in place as stems.

Despite all imperfections, the toasty seed sour was a tasty bread. Sliced thin and eaten with butter, I enjoyed this bread for days. I am partial to toasted nuts and seeds in bread, and I expect to return to this recipe.

In the future I will use less water, do more folds, use a more basic shaping technique, and allow for the maximum proofing time. What can go wrong? I can’t wait to find out.

Two loaves on a cooling rack with three mini pumpkins
They aren’t pretty enough to brag about, but not ugly enough to make fun of. Why even put them on the internet, then?

Next week: birote.


2 thoughts on “New World Sourdough: Toasty Seed Sour + Pumpkin Shaping

  1. Pingback: New World Sourdough: Birote + Muffuletta Rolling with the Punches | Put It In Your Hat

  2. Pingback: New World Sourdough: Mallorcas + Baguettesplosion | Put It In Your Hat

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