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



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