Monday, July 13, 2020

Country Bread Loaf (with 50% pre-ferment)

Jeffrey Hamelman's Country Bread, with a twist. 

Baking during a pandemic has given me more time to play around with old favorites. This bread is made with a 12-16 hour pre-ferment, which for less experienced bakers is a bit less fussy than working with sourdough. Hamelman's instructions call for shaping the dough as a "boule" or "battard,"  but the book was written in 2004, before many of us had Emile Henry or other covered clay bakers. This dough makes 2 sizable loaves, so here I baked 1/2 in an Emile Henry loaf pan and the other half I formed into two smaller loaves and baked in a ciabatta pan. 

Hamelman's original recipe calls for about 900 g of bread flour, for these loaves I replaced about a quarter of the flour with einkorn flour. He also calls for 1.8% salt, which, for us, is not quite enough. I increased the salt to 2% and do not add it at all to the pre-ferment. The dough is firm, at about 68% hydration. 


  • stand mixer, flexible scraper, silicone spatula
  • scale , mixing cup, measuring spoons
  • covered ceramic baking pans (although you can use two large loaf pans)
  • surface to allow bread to cool 
  • make the pre-ferment, allow to rest 12-16 hours 
  • make dough, add pre-ferment , proof 2- 2.5 hours (with 2 stretch and folds in the bowl). You can slow this down- up to about 8 or 10 hours- if you place in the fridge, turn out, give it a few quick stretch and folds and bring back to room temperature
  • bench rest  (20-30 minutes)
  • final proof (approximately 1 hour)
  • bake 
  • enjoy! 
Ingredients : 
  • Pre-ferment (NO salt added here) 
    • 454 g bread flour
    • 272g slightly warm water
    • .5 g instant yeast (it's about 1/8 tsp)
  • Dough
    • 113 g einkorn flour
    • 340 g bread flour
    • 346 g slightly warmer than room temp water
    • 6.5-7 g kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
    • 2 g instant yeast (1/2 tsp)
    • all of the pre-ferment 

  • Make the pre-ferment 
    • In the stand-mixer bowl - disperse yeast in the water
    • Add the flour
    • On low speed, start mixing, make sure to get the dry bits incorporated into the dough
    • The mixture will be on the dry side and take a couple of minutes to come together. Add 1-2 Tbsp water if needed 
    • Increase speed and mix for another 2-3 minutes. Move the dough into a large mixing bowl
    • Cover with either plastic wrap or a wet flat weave dish towel and let stand at room temperature for 12-16 hours. The resulting starter will be puffy and bubbly 
  • Making the dough
    • Measure and pour the water into the stand mixer bowl. Hold back 20-30 g of water and pour it into a small ramekin 
    • Add the yeast to the mixing bowl 
    • Add the salt to the ramekin and mix with the water 
    • Add the flours into the bowl, start mixing on slow speed. 
    • Pour the salt water into the mixture 
    • Start adding the pre-ferment in chunks (about 5 additions). Make sure that the pre-ferment is dispersed within the dough
    • Increase the speed (speed 4 on a Kitchenaid) and work the dough for 3-4 minutes until smooth. You may find you need to add 2-3 Tbsp of water
    • The dough should be around 75 degrees, which in my kitchen is just about room temperature. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let proof for about an hour 
    • After an hour the dough will begin to look puffy. WET your hands,  stretch and fold 4x (moving the bowl 1/4 of a turn for each stretch and fold.  Cover and let proof and repeat in another hour
    • If the dough is quite puffy and stretchy, you're good. If not, wait another 20-30 minutes. Einkorn makes the dough a bit more sticky than 100% wheat flour, so keep a light dusting of flour on your hands once the dough is on a work surface.
    • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, stretch and fold quickly, divide into 2 parts for two loaves or smaller (e.g. 3 oz portions for rolls). Cover with a plastic covering and let rest 20-25 minutes. Again, the dough will be a bit sticky, but stretchy and substantial.
  • Shaping and Baking 
    • I shaped the half dough piece into a rectangle and placed into a ceramic loaf pan. You don't have to grease or line an Emile Henry ceramic pan, but I have found it easier to line with parchment. You can use a metal loaf pan, greased and floured with either rice flour or cornmeal. If you are using a metal loaf pan, bake uncovered.
    • The 2nd half I shaped into 2 smaller logs and placed in a ciabatta pan. 
    • Let rise about an hour. 
    • Start preheating the oven to 450 degrees after the dough is proofing for about 20 minutes
    • These breads were baked in a preheated oven, in a room temperature ceramic pan, that had been liberally sprinkled with rice flour or corn meal (on the pan and around the raw dough) 
    • For the ciabatta - bake, covered, for 25 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for 5-7 minutes more
    • For the loaf- bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for 5-7 minutes more 
    • If the lid sticks to the pan bottom - CAREFULLY remove the ceramic pan from the oven, place on stove-top grid and using a thin metal spatula (a frosting spatula will work well), pry into the space between the lid and base and wiggle a bit. This will loosen the lid from the bit of dough that rose into the space between the top of the pan and the lid.  After the pan is completely cool and the bread has been removed, soak the pan with warm water and the burned bit of crust will come right off. 
  • Cool the bread before removing from the pan. The breads will shrink back away from the sides of the ceramic pans and should be relatively easy to remove
  • The crust of this bread is thin and crackly and the crumb is light . 

This bread makes great sandwiches !
The stored bread can be crisped up by rewarming for a few minutes. 

Another great sandwich bread you may want to try is: Sourdough Oatmeal Loaf


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf

Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf  

This recipe make one large size loaf

(Recipe is modified loaf from Maurizio Leo , The Perfect Loaf, “Sourdough with AP flour”)

 This loaf is one of the millions of loaves made all over the world while the world is mostly shut down and we're all home baking. History books will make note #pandemic baking #bakinginthetimeofcovid #covidbaking as the moment non-celiac individuals rediscovered the wonders of gluten. 

·         You can make this loaf with all AP flour. We liked the texture and taste of this version with wheat and rye.

·          This loaf is made in a regular loaf pan with good results.  For photos showing the same bread baked in a covered Staub round Dutch oven, see the end of the posting. 

Don’t skip the steps, this is the procedure I use for almost all sour dough bread. It’s a combination of several baker’s techniques, and it almost always works (baking sourdough bread is mostly science, part art - sometimes dough it out of control).  The proofing times can be played with, you can slow down the proofing by placing in the fridge. Proofing can be sped up (but don't rush too much) by using a proofing boy or placing dough in a warm oven. Turn the oven onto 100 degrees, place dough in the oven and SHUT OFF THE OVEN.  Another way to use your oven as the proofing box is by turning on the light in the oven that is NOT turned on. The bulb will create a heat. If your oven has a proofing cycle, I would not recommend it for sour dough breads, I find the proofing to be too warm for sour dough.

In this time of flour shortages, make sure you have enough flour. 

The WHOLE RECIPE will use:

460 g flour  (I mix up the flour, you can use entirely all purpose)

340 g water

9 g Diamond Crystal kosher or sea salt (sea salt is no better than kosher salt. Don’t use Morton’s kosher  

      salt, the crystals are different size, the measurement will be wrong).

92 g sour dough starter (any starter, rye, wheat of combination works equally well)

½ tsp instant yeast

2-3 Tbsp wheat flour or corn meal or rye flour for dusting the pan (optional)



Large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer

Scale , measuring spoons

A metal loaf pan (the large size)

                This loaf can be made in a smaller size (4 qt) round covered baker.

It is too small a loaf for the Lodge cast iron combo pan.  If using a covered baking pan, preheat

the pan in the oven and transfer on parchment into the pan.


1.       .Autolyze :

Measure off and combine in a bowl a beginning amount of water and flour.   

If you are going to work by hand, a big bowl will do, if you are going to use the kitchen aid, do this in the kitchen aid bowl.

a.       200 g water

b.       100 g  bread flour

c.       100 g rye flour

Mix with a spatula or spoon. Cover bowl with a very damp flat weave (not terrycloth) dishtowel and let rest 30 -60 minutes

2.        Add Sour Dough starter (you might see this step called “Biga” ):

a.       Stir in starter, cover with wet cloth, leave at room temperature 8-12 hours (overnight)

It will be puffy and wet – but not soupy.

3.       Add to aged starter mix:

a.       100 g water (you are holding back 40g of water until later)

b.       260 g bread flour

c.       ½ tsp yeast

You can either mix this in the kitchen aid , speed 2 for 2-3 min and then speed 4 for 3-4 minutes and let rest, covered, for 2 hours OR You can mix it in the bowl with a flexible scraper and then with very wet hands do a cycle of stretch and folds 4 x over 2 hours. You can slow down this process and place the dough in the fridge for up to 8-12 hours and more or less ignore. In this case, it will work more or less like a no knead bread. 

While it’s resting, you can use saran wrap to cover, or if the bowl is big and the dough will not touch the top, a wet towel will work. Don’t let the plastic or towel touch the dough (this is different than regular yeast doughs, where it won’t matter if the saran is touching the greasy dough).

4.     After 2 hours  (or have chilled in the fridge) you will see the dough almost double, but it’s still gloopy. You’re going to add the salt now and you will see the dough “seize up” and become more bread-dough like and stretchy. Salt improves stretchability, but it also steals water from the flour and yeast, so this is a technique of adding the salt after most of the proofing is done. 


Combine (mix with a spoon or your finger, you don’t need to have it totally dissolved)

a.       40 g  warm water

b.       9 g salt


5.       Stretch and fold the dough one full time around (it’s 4 stretch folds, moving the bowl around ¼ of the way until you’ve made a circle).  You can either let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes or a better way of doing it is to: pour the dough out onto a floured surface and using your flexible scraper, slide the scrapper under one side of the dough, bring up toward the middle , continue around the bread, so that all around the bread you’ve folded it toward the center. This will increase the tension of the skin of the bread. This helps the dough to hold it's shape and will form a better crust.


6.       Using the scraper, place the dough in a metal loaf pan. Either grease/flour (you can use cornmeal or rice flour for this) OR you can line the pan with parchment paper and skip the grease /flour part.  Let rest until it gets puffy, 30-45 minutes.


7.       Seeding and Baking:

a.       While the bread is resting in the loaf pan, heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pan (best to use a cast iron frying pan if you have one) filled with water onto the bottom shelf or oven floor. Be careful when you open the oven later on, there will be steam in the oven that will rush toward your face.

b.       When you are ready to place the dough in the oven, use a lame, razor or scissors and slice a few well spaced slits along the top of the bread. This helps with oven “spring” and will increase the rise of the bread. 

c.       Spritz the top of the dough liberally with room temperature water and sprinkle any seeds or combination of seeds, dried onion, za’atar on top.


8.       Be careful opening the oven (it is steamy !!!!).

a.       Place pan in the middle of the middle shelf of the oven , close the oven door

b.       Immediately lower the heat to 425 degrees, bake 20 minutes and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

c.       Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes).  I use the color of the bread to indicate doneness, if you want to use a thermometer, the inside of the center of the loaf should read 190- 195 degrees.

 Let the bread rest for 10 minutes when you remove it from the oven, and then turn it out of the pan. Cool on a rack. This will help it remain crusty.

Pictures below, same loaf made, unseeded, in a Staub covered baker. 


 If  you are looking for other sourdough breads, you can check by search terms. If you happen to have whole wheat flour (also at a premium right now) check out : Whole Wheat & Walnut Sourdough Bread

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sourdough Wheat and Barley Rustic Loaf

I played around with barley bread recipes after visiting Orkney and Shetland (Scotland), where barley is a staple grain for eating and making Scotch (whiskey) and beer. Bere barley, an ancient barley variety, is not available outside of the UK. The dough made with bere barley is a bit "springier," off-white in color and a bit sweeter than when made with American barley. In any case, the resulting bread is very chewy, has a great crust and nice sweet yeasty smell. 
Barley, like wheat and rye contains gluten and is not safe for people who are gluten sensitive. The percentage of gluten in barley is much lower than wheat; therefore wheat flour is required in order to make a good textured bread (rather than a cracker). 
This is a slow rising bread, don't rush it, it affects the texture of the finished product. The process will take approximately 36 hours to complete once you have ripe sourdough starter. 
You can stretch it out for another 12 hours or thereabouts, modifying the process to work around your busy day. 
The ingredient list and steps look more complicated than it actually is. 
The secret is to take it slowly and build the dough. 
 I'm showing the bread baked as six smallish (~ 210g/ 7 oz.) baguettes, you can bake it as one large round sourdough loaf in a 3 qt. Lodge cast iron combo-cooker. 

  • Ripe sour dough starter (the starter should have been "fed" 8-10 hours prior to using it)
  • Mixing starter and initial amount of flour (with an 8hr- overnight proofing period)
  • Completing the wheat dough (another 3 hours, but can be "retarded" by allowing to proof in the fridge for up to 8-10 hours)
  • Adding barley flour, proofing for an hour or two
  • Adding salt and a bit of water. The salt will modify the yeast activity and the dough will become more elastic. Proof for another 30- 60 minutes or again, you can retard the dough's activity by chilling for up to 8-10 hours. 
  • Bench rest 30-60 minutes, Shaping and rest for 30-60 minutes
  • Bake 
  • Get ready for an exceptional bread eating experience !

  • scale
  • large mixing bowl
  • flexible bench scraper 
  • covered baguette baker (I use the Emile Henry 3 baguette baker)

Initial dough: 
  • 25 g ripe sourdough starter (mine is 1/2 wheat, 1/2 rye)
  • 25 g bread flour (I use King Arthur flour)
  • 25g room temperature water  
First build: 
  • 500 g water
  • 250g bread flour
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 30 g honey 
2nd build:
  • 135 g barley flour (different barley will give you different dough colors) 
Final build 
  • 10g kosher salt mixed with 30g water 
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the initial dough ingredients with a flexible spatula. Make sure to break up the globs of sour dough starter.  Cover with a very damp dish towel and let rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours. It will be puffy like melty-marshmallow when it's ready. 
  2. Add the ingredients for the first build. Again, vigorously stir with a flexible spatula. Cover a very damp towel, allow to rest at room temperature for 3-5 hours. It will begin to bubble. If it is not bubbling, place in a warmer spot (you can pre-warm the oven to 100 degrees and SHUT OFF the oven) and let it sit for an hour or so more.  Perform 2- 3 sets of stretch & folds over the 3-5 hours the dough is resting. Stretching and folding the dough in the bowl will improve the gluten structure and help the bread to bubble and rise. Your working hand must be very wet, this will keep the dough from sticking to your hand AND makes it easier to stretch and fold. The elasticity of the dough will remarkably improve after just one set of stretching and folding.
  3. Mix in the barley. This will be difficult, the barley does not hydrate easily. Start off with the spatula, but I find that mixing in by hand (with a stretch and fold motion) works well. Make sure your hand is very wet with warm water, another 1/2- 1 oz or so of water mixing in will not ruin the dough. You want to blend in all of the barley flour.  Let rest for 1-2 hours. 1-2 sets of stretch and folds during this time. You should see some largish bubbles right under the skin of the dough. 
  4.  Pour the salt water over the dough and stretch and fold, incorporating the water into the dough. Rest 30 -60 minutes OR place in fridge and retard the proofing over night.
5. The dough will be sticky, flour the work service and keep your hands wet. Stretch and fold the dough and portion out six balls, approximately 130 gms (~7 oz). Flatten out the balls into a disk that is about 3- 4 inches across, pulling the edges up toward the center of the disk. Turn so that the seam is on the work surface. Repeat for all six balls. Cover with plastic or a well floured flat weave dish towel. Let rest 30-60 minutes (this is a "bench rest")

6. Dust the wells of the baguette pan with corn meal or rice flour.

7. Shape each ball by flattening to a 6x4 rectangle. Fold long edge over to the center of the rectangle and flatten edge with finger tips. Repeat with the other long edge. Bring both edges together and pinch the seam. Roll lightly , while simultaneously stretching , forming a baguette that is approximately 16-17 inches long. Place in the pan wells. Sprinkle cornmeal or rice flour on the top of the loaves. 

There are 3 wells in the Emile Henry baguette pan. You can be extravagant and purchase 2 pans or bake the initial 3 loaves , cool the pan on the stove top for about 20 minutes and then carefully, without directly touching the hot clay pan, repeat with the remaining 3 baguettes. 

Alternately, you can use an aluminum baguette pan, although the crust will not be the same. 

Let the shaped baguettes rest for 30 minutes and then use a lame or sharp herb scissor to slash the baguette. Slashing will help the bread rise during baking and creates a beautiful design on the baked bread. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees at this time.

7. Cover and bake in your pre-heated oven.  25 minutes covered. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 7-10 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the pan.