Our Croissants Aren't French

The trouble with croissants is they're really difficult, especially when making a big batch. We could buy them in of course, there's a mass producer that supplies most of the croissants that appear in Liverpool, but they're flavourless and texture is pretty poor. We could also buy frozen unbaked croissants, throw them in the oven and claim they're our own, also not an uncommon practice. However we wouldn't be happy doing that, we always wanted to bake croissants properly, so we set out on the long, hard and extremely frustrating road to trying to perfect our own. 

So for the last 18 months we've been trying, and sometimes succeeding to bake a good croissant. I've thrown plenty straight into the bin, but of late we've been very consistent, the best we've ever made both in texture and flavour. The key to this? Our croissants aren't French.

A very Danish croissant. 

A very Danish croissant. 

Classic French croissants are made with a dough with flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast. We've tried many different versions of this dough to get the results we wanted but never got the consistency of texture that we liked and always felt the flavour was not what we wanted. Not the buttery rich aromas of the croissants I used to have when I lived in France. 

So by pure accident a few weeks ago I thought I'd try a recipe of Danish pastry dough that I stumbled across, very similar but with egg in the dough and a small amount of butter. I did the exact same process as for croissants but with the new dough and results where great, surprisingly so. It's the same recipe we've been using for a while now and will continue to do so, its available below. Most importantly the flavour for these croissants is fantastic much more of the final product we've been looking for. 

100% Croissant flour
45% Milk
12% Sugar
11% Egg
3% Butter
3% Yeast
2% Salt

We do an intensive mix until good gluten development, leave to bulk for 1 hour at ambient, then box up in 3500g blocks, the amount we laminate with 1000g butter blocks.  Refrigerate, fold after 2 hours and back in the fridge overnight. In total there is around 18 - 20 hour cold bulk rise. We then laminate and prove either warm or cold depending on the schedule we need. 

This is the straight dough with long cold bulk rise, I think the next step will be to try some preferment in the dough, as an even greater flavour boost. It may take some tinkering though. 

So after the many exasperating months, the trick was to look to Denmark, no more french croissants for us. 

Slashing Bread

I often get asked in the bakery how I get the loaves to spring, and how to get those results at home. Which is actually a really difficult topic to cover, there are so many factors involved in this; the formula, the mix, the timings, the % of preferment, the bulk rise, the folding, the shaping, the slash and finally the bake. There are so many things to get right, it takes a lot of work. Despite that we wanted to talk about slashing or scoring loaves, and give an insight to what we do at the bakery. 

Good open bloom and distinct strong ear, its how we'd like all our Baltic Wild To look. 

Good open bloom and distinct strong ear, its how we'd like all our Baltic Wild To look. 

Slashing or scoring refers to the cut or cuts you make in a loaf immediately before it goes in the oven. Lets assume you've got all the other steps previously mentioned correct, slashing a loaf properly is an important final step in achieving the lovely bloom and ear. Now everything  I'm about to say is just what we do, it's worked for us and the approach has been developed form watching lots of youtube videos, reading books and baking lots and lots of bread day in and day out. 

A shelf full of ears.

A shelf full of ears.

There are lots of points to this you can read about and watch on numerous websites or see in good baking books. Things like the correct shallow angle, quick decisive cuts, sharpe blade and not cutting too deep. This is all important and something that needs to be practiced, but there is one point that I've never seen mentioned before, something that we kind of figured out along the way. We think of it as giving the loaf nowhere to go. See this figure. 

This represents two batards/ovals that we want to spring with one long ear, like our standard Baltic Wild. Loaf A is how we do it, cutting almost all the way to the ends, and loaf B doesn't reach the ends. Loaf A works much better for us, particularly if the bread is over proved and doesn't have much oomph. We think it's because it has nowhere else to go, the length of slash is significant enough to mean that the loaf can only bloom in one place, the spot we want it to. Where as loaf B gives it more chance of blowing out the side or not ripping and just puffing up as the dough has more places to go. Do you see what we mean?

This is more evident when looking at double slashed loaves, which is a technique that took us a long time to get right. In the image above C is how we do it, a good over lap of the cuts going to the ends. Loaf D with no overlap will probably blow out at one cut only or not bloom at all. I try and view the double cut as just one slash end to end, that really helps get it right. We do the same with baguettes, a good over lap on the slashes and almost view the cuts as only long cut along the loaf. This gives the bread no where else to go. 

Two loaves, one with good overlapping and length of cut the other without. 

Two loaves, one with good overlapping and length of cut the other without. 

Slashing dough is tricky and the only way to get any good at it is practice. As well as all the tips and advice you can read there is a real feel to it, something less tangible that you get used to after doing it a lot of times. So practice practice practice and we hoped this little Baltic Bakehouse view of things helps. Give the dough nowhere else to go. 

French Bread, not what you think?

I'm about to do a terribly dangerous thing. I'm going to pass comment about French bread, in fact I'll make a very general sweeping comment that will probably enrage millions of Frenchmen into some sort of organised Jihad against me. Here I go: French bread isn't particularly good.

There, I said it, but I feel a lot better having this out in the open. OK, let me explain. I recently spent a week in the the southern french Alps, a short kayaking break with some friends. It was great, and I was hoping for some good baking along the way, but that didn't happen. I probably visited at least 10 different bakeries, all calling themselves Artisan and all producing the same mundane stuff. At times it was hard to tell the different between the bakeries, the same loaves, all looking the same and all tasting similar. It was bread that was fairly quickly mixed with not a lot of per ferment (or any for that matter) and shaped into different shapes. Nearly every loaf I tried, despite it's name, was the same basic white dough. 

One of the more interesting looking loaves we came across, a massive 2KG+ dark baked loaf, alas the inside was the same dough as everything else. It was good, however, to feed 9 hungry kayakers for lunch. 

One of the more interesting looking loaves we came across, a massive 2KG+ dark baked loaf, alas the inside was the same dough as everything else. It was good, however, to feed 9 hungry kayakers for lunch. 

It was OK bread, maybe a 5 out of 10 and much better than anything your local Tesco can produce but it wasn't anything special. It was formulaic and repetitive and standardised, perhaps a product of the strict french attitude to food. Which is something we don't have to stick to. 

If you visit my friend Paul's bakery in Macclesfield (it's called Flour Water and Salt), which you should do immediately as its excellent, you'll find a baker using the same flour suppliers as me, baking sourdough but producing wildly different bread. His bread isn't better or worse or the same as mine, its different. We're both self taught and we've developed our own style without following any strict rules, we're not hampered by the "correct way of doing things" which for both of us is great. It's this freedom that allows bakers the chance to bake interesting bread.

Now I can't say all French bread is crap, i'm certain there are many great bakeries in France producing wonderful bread, but the current trend in start up bakeries in UK, particularly of self taught bakers, is producing something wonderful, it's producing unrestricted difference. 

Changing How We Mix Our Starters

The absolute best places to learn about baking bread are twitter, instgram and The Fresh Loaf. We can not list the amount of small tips and tricks we’ve picked up from other bakers’ tweets, or all the brilliant info we’ve gleaned from instagram conversations and Fresh Loaf threads. Not only is there usefull stuff but generally the online baking comunity is very helpful, it has been invaluable in the development of our bread baking at Baltic Bakehouse.

What we’ve been doing for a last couple of weeks is experimenting with short build times, which is reducing the amount of time the sourdough starter ferments after its final mix and before it is mixed into the dough. A combination of things led me to playing around with this, all of them from one source or another online. Firstly i was reading the brilliant Farine blog, which for any bread enthusiast is a must, I came across a post (which I can not find any more, I know talking about a post and not linking to it is a no no, sorry) with a baker talking about leavans and short build time, and once a starter has gone too far the bread won’t be good enough. This also happend while stumbling across the instagram feed of Philp Agnew, a baker in Australia, he bakes some fantastic looking bread and after reading through his accompanying blog was intrigued to see that he mainly uses short build times. His starter is mixed around 3 hours before it is mixed into the dough. 

This was interesteing because its not something we do, mainly because of schedual, we refresh and mix new starter last thing on the baking shift, around 4pm. This starter then rests for around 17 hours before being used the next day, it works well with our schedual and we got good results. However, it can be tricky due to the great varience of room temp during the year, it’s hard to get consistent results. I’d been thinking about how I could get a firmer grip on the starter refreshing times and this seemed to be it. So we changed to a 3 hour short build, with the starters for the days bake getting mixed at 6am, we use 50% mature starter, a blend of flours we’re happy with and final mix temp of 26 degrees. Once mixed they rest at room temp, we are generally mixing enough for them to hold their heat well, if you were trying this at home you might want to pop them in a warm place. When we get to about 9am, most of the mornings bake is finished and it’s on with the mixing for tomorrows bread. 

When mixed the starter is in a much less developed state, there is more strength to it and a more floral and youghurty smell, with a lot less acid development. This produces dough that feels different, I can’t really expalin exactly what that difference is, it just feels different to hold and shape. But the biggest change is the final loaf, in regards to texture, shape and appearance this method is so much better. These loafs have a more open and softer crumb, giving a loaf with better spring and volume, there are also many more blisters. The short build time has really helped, we wont be going back to our other methed.

I constantly find that good bread is about tweaking things, a little change here and a little change there. The ideal spark for these little changes can be an instagrm photo, or tweet or a fresh loaf post.

Proving Baskets

Proving Baskets

It’s been a while since that last post, things have been hectic but hopefully this will be the start of some more regular posts.

This post is all about baskets or banetons or brotforms or whatever you want to call them. For many types of bread, the dough is formed into the correct shape then placed in a basket to prove anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Most commonly for us its about 18 hours cold proving in the fridge.

Original wood fibre proving basket

These specalist baskets have to have some specific properties ie shape and stickyness, obviously if you want a long oval loaf there is not point putting dough in a round basket. However, the main factor, I feel, is stickyness espeically with long cold proving, if a dough is sitting in a basket for a long time, when it comes time to take it out of the basket and get it in the oven a loaf that sticks to the basket is not a good thing. 

Since we opened we’ve been using compressed wood fibre baskets, basically wet saw dust thats been squished into the shape and dried. These baskets are great, tough wearing, fairly cheap and they don’t stick, infact if you’re a home baker they are the ones I would recomend to you. However, we’ve had issues with keeping them clean, since we have several hundred which are used day in day out there has been an issue with mold on some of them. You see the baskets absobe some moisture from the dough, the longer the dough proves in them the more it absorbes, so drying them out properly is vital. We do this every day with regular scrubbing and baking at low temp to sterilise them but this takes time, which is one thing we don’t have a lot of at the moment. 

New plastic proving baskets one with a cover and one without. 

Thus a month ago after a few experiments we made the change to plastic proving baskets with cotton basket liners. They are available in several different sizes and shapes and once a light dusting of flour is used (we use a 50/50 mix of rice and wheat flours for dusting baskets) they don’t have any sticking issues. They absobe less moisture and dry easily, but the main benefit is you can take the liners out and put them through the washing machine, its a whole lot quicker and easier. Add these benefits to the fact I can get 7 laoves to a tray in fridge now instead of 6, which mean they save us space aswell, we are very happy with them. There are afew downsides, is that they are more expensive, we get them through creeds direct, so if you need to buy 190 new baskets as we did, then it all adds up. but on the whole they are very good.  

No More Baguettes

We’re not making baguettes any more. At least not for quite a while, maybe one day we’ll bring them back perhaps for an odd special occasion. However day to day at Baltic Bakehouse there will be no more baguettes. 

What we currently make, but not for much longer

What we currently make, but not for much longer

We make pretty good baguettes, but that isn’t good enough. We have always set out to make the best bread we can, and bake products we are really happy with. This also means a small product range, do a few things well. We never wanted to be a bakery where you can walk in and get 20 different types of bread, each day we bake between 4 and 8 different loaves and thats it. We mix up what we bake and try different loaves throughout the week.

You see a baguette is a particular thing, there are rules about it and ours just aren’t good enough. Our baguettes are nice, and probably (in my highly biased opinon) the best you can get in Liverpool, they’re good bread but not great baguettes. Its not to say that we couldn’t make a great baguette, I’m confident with more work and practice they’d be very good, it would take quite a bit of time but we could get there. However this takes us to a biger product range and not something I feel we need to focus on. We just don’t need to be great at baguettes, or ciabatta or brioch buns or fougasse or rye bread or pita bread or any of the othere 1001 breads we could be good at. Yes, they all may make an occasional apperance but that’s it. 

This is a decision I’ve been playing about with for quite sometime, I finally convinced myself last week. Despite the constant worry of trying to please everyone, thoughts along the line of “the biger range we have the more people we’ll please” we have to focus. We currenlty make a few varieties of sourdough, and some yeasted white and brown bread, its hard enough being good at them. We are constantly tweeking the recipes and methods always trying to make them better, I could work just on these recipes for years tinkering with them all the time an never be happy.

The time and effort we would have to spend on developing great baguetes, for us at least, is not worth the investment (I don’t mean financially). I’m sorry if you love our baguettes, but we need to be focused. Stumbling into Alice’s rabbit hole, is a clear route to mediocracy. 

Baking a Liverpool Loaf

I was asked by a local chef about a Liverpool Loaf, something relevant to Liverpool. Now this is a hard thing to do, although in the past Liverpool would have been littered with bakeries all baking fresh real bread, the likelihood of them baking something distinct to Liverpool is quite low. Traditional British style baking? Certainly, but a loaf that is distinct to Liverpool? I’m not sure. Distinct dishes like Scouse spring to mind, but through some provisional research finding traditional Liverpool bread was hard.  

This took me down a different path, rather than working on something traditoinal, some reinvention of an old recipe, I wanted to make something relavent to present day Liverpool. This made me think about what was on offer, in Liverpool, what ingredients could I use that came from Liverpool? 

Firstly I settled on some local produce we stock in the bakery, post code honey, produced from bee hives dotted all over the city, it’s a great product, that comes entirley from within Liverpool. It changed with the seasons, and varies greatly depending on which post code the hives are located in.

Secondly, I chose a waste product of another local producer, spent grain from the brewing process. The nearby Baltic Fleet pub, brews its own real ales and regularly has spend grain available. This is the malt, after it is been heated in water to remove some of the sugars for the brewing process. As far as brewing goes, its a product that has served its purpose. 

I’ve combined these ingredeients, 5% honey and 20% spent grain (by bakers percentage) into a sourdough. With a 3 hour bulk with one fold, followed by shaping and cold proving overnight.

This produces a loaf with sweetness from the honey accopanied by the maltyness from the grains. The honey also softens the crumb slightly, giving the bread many varying uses. Depending on what honey we use or which beer is being brewed at the Baltic Fleet, this bread changes throughout the year.  

Is this a Liverpool loaf? I don’t t know, I don’t think there's any bread that could really represent our fair city, but it uses some great local produce and further extends the wast of another producer. I’m happy with it.

 *Update: I realise that this post doesn't have any pics, because I've failed to take any of the final bread or process, I'll try and rectify this sometime soon. 

The Trouble With Croissants

Croissants are hard, I mean really hard and not just because of the technical skill level needed to make good ones. You see croissants, for us british at least, are a holiday thing. Ok, perhaps not any more, you encounter them everywhere, including bland chain coffee shops and large super markets (both of which serve really crap ones). But, really good croissants are still hard to find, they’re still something special and still, to me at least, hold very happy memories. Memories of childhood holidays in France, or of the 6 months I lived in the Ardeche. Warm weather, beautiful buttery pastry and fun times, something that can be hard to replicate in Liverpool. That is the crux, not only the technicality of the baking but trying to match the nostalgic feeling of comfort that lots of us associate with a good croissant. 

First attempt, dense and soggy, worthy of the nearest bin.

First attempt, dense and soggy, worthy of the nearest bin.

With all this in mind over the last eight months I’ve managed to make batches and batches of really shit croissants. This was more an issue of skill level than nostalgia, dense, cakey, soggy, dry, rock solid, I’ve done it all. Finally however the last few months have been a whole lot better, to the point where we sell croissants and pain au chocolat every Saturday.  This was quite a relief, because constantly throwing away batches of croissants gets quite expensive, and we don’t sell anything we’re not happy with. So I thought I’d share what we do, not a full formula or process but the elements that where most important for us on our way to making something half decent. 

I think my 6th or 7th attempt, getting better but not perfect. 

I think my 6th or 7th attempt, getting better but not perfect. 

Firstly, croissants should be slow fermented, there needs to be a good use of pre-fermented flour, either poolish or sourdough starter, this is very important for the flavour profile, croissants made with straight dough taste flat to me. All the butter in a croissant needs balance, the flavour from poolish and acid from a starter are an essential balance to richness of butter. We pre-ferment 35% of the flour in the dough, 25% as an ambient temperature poolish for 24 hours and 10% as a sourdough starter for 12 hours at ambient temp. We prove the dough when mixed for 3 hours at ambient temp before chilling for at least 2 hours at 2 degrees. 

Secondly is the lamination, I certainly can’t call myself an expert on this, I do what works for me after reading lots and lots of different methods and approaches. The lamination, is a series of folds that generates lots of alternating layers of dough and butter, this causes the flakiness and lightness that is characteristic of croissants. Standard croissants have 81 layers, some bakers will increase this well up into the hundreds, although so far I’m happy with 81 or three letter folds. Actually the number isn’t that important, what we’ve found so far is the rolling process is the most important and the key to success is doing it right. This is where many methods diverge, on temperature of the butter or the dough and length of rest periods. We use cold dough from the fridge and ambient temperature butter, the butter block is encased into the dough and left to sit for 15 mins, this means the dough and butter equalise in temperature. For us hard cold butter is the death of good croissants, the butter needs to be pliable and extendable, but still cool so it doesn’t melt into the dough and getting this balance is vitally important. This warm butter and cold dough seems to get the butter to the right temp and pliability.

Our current version, much more how we want, slow fermented and made with only french butter. 

Our current version, much more how we want, slow fermented and made with only french butter. 

Rolling for us is fairly straight forward, we use a hand cranked pastry roller, so its quick and even. After the 15 minute rest we do two letter folds back to back, then after a 20 minute rest in the fridge we do the third and final roll. At this point the gluten is pretty tight, to be able to roll out into a sheet to shape we give it a minimum of 30 minutes rest in the fridge, then we roll to 5mm and cut and shape. 

This really isn’t a full method or formula, just a covering of the points that have been useful for us, things we’ve learnt over the last few months. Pre-fermentation is vital for flavour and getting the butter to the right temp (not to cold not too warm) is the one thing we’ve found most important. What I can clearly say is I’m very happy with our croissants, the flavour is good and so it the texture, we sell them at weekends and they’re going down well. Are they perfect? No, they’re still not the croissant of far-flung warm summers I remember, and in all likelihood never will be. The best food you ever eat lies only in distant memories.

More On The New Loaf

So we’ve carried on with this bread as is, and its getting better. We’ve kept the formula the same but increased the prove time when they come out of the fridge. So once they come out in the morning they are getting an hour at ambient temp to get going before they go in the oven. 

The crumb shot, a view of the internal structure of the loaf. 

The crumb shot, a view of the internal structure of the loaf. 

I’ve included a crumb shot this week, to see what we’re going for, an open soft moist crumb and light crust (plenty of steam when it goes in the the oven). Rather than a clear and open bloom and ear, which is what we want on our Baltic Wild loaf, with this we are looking for more of a puff up, no dramatic rips just a few slashes for decoration. 

This dough is easily the hardest dough we work with at over 85% hydration, although our focaccia dough is equally wet, the shaping of this loaf is more complex and we need to keep working on it. I think a few tweaks here and there and it will be exactly where we want it. 

At the moment just a Saturday loaf, buy it in wholes, halves or quarters.

Working on a New Loaf

 I'm currently working on a new loaf, which had its first outing this weekend, it was a huge 1.8kg miche/boule, that we were selling in wholes, halves and quarters. It's an evolution of the B72 that was on sale a few months ago. 

This was a loaf I wasn't too happy with back in September so stopped it for a while, so I could mull it over and work out where it was going. To be honest I wasn't sure how I'd revive it, but then along came Chad, my bread hero. By Chad, I mean Chad Robertson, the highly regarded and very well known (at least in the baking world) baker and owner at Tartine bakery in San Fran. He'd just released his third book, which I had eagerly pre-ordered, and it got me thinking, the same as his second book did when I first laid my hands on it several years ago. 


Chad evangelises stone ground flour, ancient grains and loads and loads of water, his breads have huge hydration levels for free standing loaves, in fact greater hydration than my focaccia or ciabatta formulas. So off I went with a few trials, shifting the flour blend to use more stone ground flour from the local Walk Mill, and upping the hydration levels and bulk fermenting time. We have a loaf without a name but one I'm really happy with, currently just a weekend thing this big beauty will be on sale in whole, halves and quarters. It's still got a bit of a way to go, some work on the final prove and when its ready for the oven and also try some different slashing patterns, to get one we really like. 

*Notes, its mainly stone ground white from walk mill, a bit of wholewheat and 85% hydration. 4 hour bulk with 6 folds and prove until ready, in our case over night in the fridge. 

Baking on Linen

This post is all about proving, and how we go about it. Now I think I need to qualify some of what I do, I'm self taught, everything I learnt  about baking I taught myself, through books, the internet and practice. Thus, some of what I say may be a load of nonsense, this is what works for me, it may actually be bad practice. If you're a professional baker of many years and think I'm talking crap please let me know, I may not change anything I'm doing but I love to hear of other approaches. 

Olive sourdough on the linen, using pegs on the side to hold the shape. 

Olive sourdough on the linen, using pegs on the side to hold the shape. 

Anyway on to proving, which is, in my mind at least, the rising of dough once it has been shaped to get it into the final state required for baking.  It is not the rising of the entire batch of dough before shaping, that is rising or bulk rising or bulk fermentation or whatever you want to call it except for proving. By proving you want to loaf to be ready for the oven, which will very depending  on the loaf. We could go into that now, but that's a whole other post. 

What we do most often with our sourdough is prove in baskets, which is great as it gives good shape for the dough and they are quick and easy to use, particularly with long cold proving, which we do a lot of. However, they take up a lot of space and can get expensive, we have over 200 baskets, which adds up to a lot of space and money. Primeraley for us the problem is fridge space, with our baskets we get 6 on a tray, 16 trays on a rack and two racks in the fridge. That is a total of 192 loaves in the fridge, which is good but could be better. 

So we have been trying some linen proving, using bakers linen to rest dough overnight, this way we can get 11 loaves per tray (at 950g dough) which means a total of 352 loaves in the fridge. For us space is critical, and this will aid our whole baking schedule and my free time greatly. 

Final baked olive sourdough, with pointer ends, I like it but don't feel its as good a basket proved. 

Final baked olive sourdough, with pointer ends, I like it but don't feel its as good a basket proved. 


There are a few draw backs to the linen, its stickier for a long prove, the loaves need a lot of flour to make sure they don’t stick. Also the state of the linen afterwards is quite bad, its very wet and a lot of doughy residue, it needs to be hung up for the day and dried out and once its dry a good scrape is needed. It has its draw backs, but if it means we can get more dough in the fridge its something we will continue with. 

New Flour

Dealing with flour is a tricky business, and the more you do it the more you realised how important it is to the baking process.

photo 3.JPG


When you're making 100's of the same loaf week in week out you can spot very small changes in the bread, a slight change in rising temp or proving time can have dramatic results. So when you change something as fundamental as the flour the results can by devastating or enlightening. 

We recently changed flour supplier, from Shipton Mill to Mathews flour, from one organic white untreated flour to another. There were various reasons for changing, including logistics, admin and price, but they are all a bit boring to go into now. I thought I would write a few words about how changing has effected my bread and how i've adjusted things over the last few weeks. 

The initial observation of Mathew's flour was its level of activity when making sourdough, especially at low temperatures. We cold prove overnight all our sourdough, and I was finding this flour really hard to keep under control. We had a good week of over proved loaves, basically pulling the rack out of the fridge in the morning and finding a bunch of over inflated loaves. To control this I had to drop significantly both the bulk rising time and the dough temperature. With the old flour our white sourdough would need a 2 hour bulk rise at 28 degrees dough temp, with the Matthew's we have lowered dough temp to 25 degrees and bulk rise time to 1 hour. Any longer and the loaves are over proved come morning. 

The old flour required longer bulk rising, and significant gas production in the bulk, with the dough feeling lighter and airier, with the Mathew's only a very small amount of gas production can be evident when dividing and shaping takes place otherwise, you guessed it, over proved by the morning. 

The reduced bulk time reduces some of the gluten development due to lower levels of acid and its gluten strengthening properties,  thus some additional mixer time was needed. We autolyese all our sourdough, so after a 20 minutes rest when the salt is added, I am mixing for about a minute longer. This greater gluten development in the mixer has improved the final product. 

Finally the flavour was effected, due to the lower levels of acid, whats a sourdough without a hint of sourness? (probably something crap you can buy in a supermarket) So to compensate for this I'm taking the starter further before its added to the dough, basically increasing the amount of acid in it and thus how much enters the mixer. I'm still playing around with this, with a few different techniques, either using a great proportion of old starter when mixing in the new starters for the next day or by changing the flours I use, ie more stoneground, rye or whole-wheat to speed things up. 

As with all good bread no bake is ever the same, the loaves always come out a bit different each time. I'm happy with where the sourdough is at the moment, but it has taken some time since the change in flour. Every flour is different, if you are trying something new be prepared to fail, and bake some crap bread, but also remember that every pancake like loaf or brick like sourdough gets you a step closer to something good. Experiment, experiment and experiment.