The Hand Built Finn. My Sourdough Diaries.

The other day I ran out of bread. I can’t eat ‘white death’ or spongy packet bread of any colour, dosed with preservatives to make it last forever. Neither can I eat the fake sourdough marketed to look like the real thing sold in a well-known supermarket or the stuff from hot bread places. I perused the specialty bread section of the supermarket where racks of famous city bakers display their tempting loaves,  Dench, Baker D Chirico, La Madre, Phillipa’s: there’s not much change from $10 for an ‘artisan’ loaf, rivalling the smashed avocado as the real cause of inner city hipster poverty. We went without bread that day.

Home made Finnish Rye. Just add smashed avocados.
Home made Finnish Rye. Just add smashed avocados.

I hurried home and hastened along my trusty starter, Sorella, another offspring of Celia’s Priscilla, a consistently reliable sourdough starter in any weather.  It’s important, when baking your own loaves, to seek out variety in flavours and flour combinations. I often get stuck in a groove and make the same loaf over and over again, especially when I can make it on autopilot now.

hi hi
Overnight rise High Hydration loaves. Our regular loaves. 80% baker’s white, 20% wholemeal.

Recently I returned to the Finnish Rye loaf which I have written about before. Now that I’m hand building this loaf, thanks to the demise of my stand mixer, I’m finding it far more successful than before. For sourdough bread makers out there, I urge you to give this one a go. It stays moist for three days or more thanks to the linseed. Forget about my previous method- this one makes a superior loaf. Linseed is full of omega 3, so this loaf is healthy but doesn’t taste heavy at all. It is soft, earthy and easy to digest. You could live on it.

The recipe makes two small batards

The Finnish Rye Loaf, recipe courtesy of Craig Gardiner, baker extraordinario.

The Ingredients

  • 288g white bakers flour
  • 144g wholemeal flour
  • 144g rye flour
  • 365g water ( filtered or tank water, not treated water)
  • 173g sourdough starter (100% hydration). Make sure it has been refreshed three times and is bubbly before use.
  • 60g molasses
  • 18g salt
  • 140g flaxseed ( linseed)
  • 154g water to soak flaxseed.

Mixing the Dough

  1. Begin by soaking the flaxseed in the soaking water for at least 30 minutes in the water. ( last two ingredients on list above)
  2. Put the starter, water and molasses together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the flours and bring the dough together by hand.
  4. Cover the dough and leave for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the salt, mix through the dough and let stand for 1 minute or so.
  6. Add the soaked flaxseed along with the soaking liquid and squelch through with your hands, making sure the liquid and all the seeds are distributed through the dough. The mixture will be very wet.

    The dough will look like this after the seeds and soaking water have been mixed in.
    The dough will look like this after the seeds and soaking water have been mixed in.

Resting and stretching

Let the dough stand for 30 minutes. Put a few drops of oil on your bread working surface and spread out with your fingers. ( I use a silicon mat which has been a great investment). Scrape out the wet dough using a pastry scraper, then stretch and fold the dough. Return dough to the bowl and cover.

Let the dough stand for another 20 minutes, repeat stretching and folding, returning dough to the bowl and covering.

Repeat steps one and two.

That’s four stretches in all. If you do two or three, the bread will not mind. I always have sticky hands and so have not been able to photograph this method. Where is Mr T when you need him? If you need a little visual version of this method, check Celia’s video here.

You will notice the dough tightening with each new stretch. Now cover the dough and leave in a warm spot for around 4-6 hours, depending on your room temperature. Basically it needs to double in size. Don’t overprove this bread.

Final shaping.

Scrape the contents of the bowl onto a floured surface, using a pastry scraper. It will be sticky so flour your surface well.

Now pull up one side of the dough and stretch it up as far you can and fold this long piece over the rest of the dough. Do this with the other side. Then top and bottom. All the surfaces will now be lightly dusted with flour and will not be so sticky. Cut the dough in half with a pastry scraper. Shape the loaves into round balls for another short prove. Cove the dough balls with a tea towel.

Turn oven on to 250c Fan Forced.

After 30 minutes or so, the oven should be ready and the loaves slightly risen. Now gently shape the loaves.  Do not overwork them at this point. treat them like soft babies. I like to make batard shapes. Place the loaves onto baking paper, then slash the tops well, using a serrated knife or a razor blade. Lift the paper with loaves into enamel baking tins and cover with lids.

Put the two roasters into the hot oven ( if your oven is large enough to take both) reducing the temperature to 220c. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lids, and bake for another 15-20 minutes at the same temperature. Usually the time here is 20 minutes but these loaves are a little smaller than the usual loaf size.

Cool on wire racks.

The Finn
The Finn

I am indebted to two baking mentors here- Craig for the original recipe, and Celia for the method and for the brilliant idea of using enamel bakers for a more consistent result in the home oven.

The Finn, a moist loaf.
The Finn, a moist loaf.

27 thoughts on “The Hand Built Finn. My Sourdough Diaries.”

    1. Yes, we can pump out two loaves for less than $1. And once the method has been registered in the brain, it’s an easy thing to do between TV breaks- a little mixing and stretching- while relaxing.


  1. Wonderful! Glorious! Thanks for the updated recipe and the linky love. Isn’t Craig the best? I haven’t spoken to him in ages, must give him a call. I haven’t bought supermarket bread in nearly ten years, and like you and Josephine, I can’t bring myself to fork out for an artisan loaf either. xxx


  2. I’m not acquainted with Craig but I’ll be forever indebted to Celia, long may she reign as the sourdough queen. Another time I read about your inclusion of soaked linseed so from time to time I do the same, it IS delicious and keeps the spelt loaf extra moist too. As I shaped loaves this morning I was thinking about leaving the shaped loaves in the fridge to prove for an extended period. Have you tried it?


  3. I prove the Hi Hydration loaf overnight and for as long as it wants without a problem, but for some reason, this mixture of ingredients seem to lose something if left to prove too long. Maybe its the rye or the seeds, I’m not sure. Now I just stick to something I can measure- a doubling. I do, however, if running late with things, bung it in the fridge overnight, but I am never as happy with the results.


  4. Oh, Craig was our local baker in St Andrews for a couple of years until he nicked off to Newcastle in NSW, forcing me to acquire this recipe which he so kindly shared. As it turns out, he is also a friend of Celia’s. Small world. He studied sour dough and practiced it in San Francisco for many years, hence the precision of his recipe. The original one used the mixer but I now prefer this hand mixed version. We do now have another excellent baker in St Andrews, but I now bake all my own.


  5. I am dying for a good rye bread! I must try to find some rye flour here in Athens, but it may be tricky. The addition of molasses in your recipe sold me. Pennsylvania style dark rye (which we call pumpernickel) is made with molasses and was a childhood favourite.


    1. I love the sweetness and moistness that mollasses gives to a loaf. It seems to complement the rye and linseed well. This loaf is my favourite and for some reason, is more digestible than the others I make. I love this loaf toasted with quince Jelly! Hope you do find some Rye flour in Athens. If not, just substitute wholemeal flour for the Rye which I sometimes do when out of rye. Pumpernickel is a great loaf, so dark and moist. It is still a fave of mine too.


  6. I often make my own bread, so that I know there are just four ingredients, pop over to my blog today, all about a baker who took up the profession in his 50’s and the ingredients in each loaf.


  7. Oh this looks just lovely. I’m not as experimental as you yet, but I’m ever so grateful to Celia for my starter and enough knowledge to just get in there and have a go. I must try my hand at linseed loaves now that you’ve provided such detail; I’m with everyone else who turns up their nose at artisan bread prices now too.


    1. Great to hear that you are also a Celia fan- thanks to her starter and on line lessons, we all get to turn up our noses at artisan bread. Give the linseed loaf a go. It makes a nice change.


  8. First of all, thank you. I’d forgotten to feed “Bart” (also one of Priscilla’s offspring). He was hiding in the back of the fridge, the little devil.
    The loaves you’ve baked are truly beautiful, Francesca, and you’ve described the process well enough that even I can follow it. Our temperatures are low enough now that we can start thinking about baking bread again, I hope your recipe is one that I can master this winter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d love to make this, but I’m a little unsure about the starter. I inherited a sourdough starter from a friend about half a year ago. I keep it in the fridge and I’ve been feeding it almost every week, but so far I have only used the recipe that my friend gave me to make bread. I’m not sure what 100% hydration means. In my previous recipe, I mix 20g of starter with 90g flour and 90g water and let that sit on the counter for a few hours before adding the remaining flour. Is that hydration? If not, could you explain? Thank you!


  10. Hi Tamar, If you have some live starter in your fridge, take out a cup or so, pop into a bowl or jar, and feed it with 1/4 bakers flour and 1/4 filtered water ( or water that isn’t chlorinated or treated), cover it with plastic wrap, and leave for 4- 5 hours on the bench, then repeat this once or twice until you have a very bubbly and active wet starter. It is important to use baker’s flour as this has a higher gluten content that AP or plain flour. Three small feeds over a day seem to produce a more active starter.

    Once you have a good wet bubbly starter then you are ready to follow the recipe as listed. The dough for this bread is initially very wet, but gets tighter with the stretching along the way. mLet me know how you go: it’s a good, satisfying bread.


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