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This is the official blog for my little micro-bakery, Dawg House Bakery that I run out of my home. As I’m not a professionally-trained baker, I originally started this blog as a diary to document things I’ve learned and recipes I’ve developed. But it kind of took on a life of its own with folks from all over the world visiting the site. So welcome!

Helpful Posts

Baguettes

Ciabatta

Sourdough

Ancient Italian Bread

Baking with a Traeger BBQ? No Way! WAY!

To be clear, this wasn’t an experiment to see if I could bake bread on my Traeger. I knew I could bake with my Traeger based on making some great pizza and flatbread with it. This was more of a let’s see how it’ll taste exercise. TLDR; If you don’t want to read any further, not only can you bake a damn nice loaf on your Traeger, it doesn’t taste smoky at all – almost as if the bread came out of a wood-fired oven!

To be completely honest, the primary reason I decided to use my Traeger to bake my latest batch of bread was simply that during the pandemic lockdown I totally over-worked my ovens and they developed a couple of small cracks on the bottom and don’t hold their temperature. I actually found a way to patch the holes and not have to buy ovens, but until the sealant has fully cured, the ovens are unusable. So… I set up my Traeger to be a wood-fired oven! See the picture below.

My baking stone fit perfectly in my Traeger! Like my makeshift steaming tray?

The results have been pretty incredible thus far! I baked four 1-kilo loaves in the Traeger over the weekend and as you can see from the pictures at the top, the results have been amazing! The oven spring was incredible; much more than what I was expecting.

As for the loaves, those were made with 40% whole grain flour (15% whole wheat (from the starter), 25% whole grain rye), and 60% high-extraction flour. Hydration was about 80% which was probably pushing it as rye doesn’t form gluten. But I was still able to develop good structure and dough strength.

Speaking of rye, wow! Those were my first-ever loaves that used rye flour. Not sure why I never baked with rye previously. The interesting thing about using rye flour was that it was similar to using Kamut flour. While Kamut does form gluten, it is not like the gluten formed with regular wheat flour. It’s a little gelatinous. I noticed a similar texture with the rye flour so I naturally worked the dough as gently as I work a dough that has Kamut.

All that said, if you’d like to try baking with your own smoker/grill, here are a few tips:

  1. You really need to use a baking stone! The heat comes up from the bottom, so using a baking sheet will only serve to burn the bottom of your loaf.
  2. Set the temperature of your smoker to its highest temp to warm up the stone, then bake at around 450°F.
  3. To generate steam, you can use a small cast iron skillet (I use that when making pizza as my pizza stone is a lot smaller than my big baking stone), or do what I did and make a boat out of foil.
  4. Do not open the smoker once you put the bread in there! I know, typically you remove the steaming container, but this is like cooking in a hearth oven. Just let the oven do its thing.
  5. Note that even with setting the controls to 450°F, your smoker will probably not come to full temp. That’s okay. Most smokers work via convection to maintain even heat throughout the chamber, so baking at a lower temp is okay – I imagine it’s almost like baking in a hearth oven that is starting to cool.
  6. With the cooler temperature, the bread will take at least an hour to finish baking. But check the internal temperature after 30 minutes with an instant-read thermometer. Your crumb should be at least 195°-200°F.

Happy Baking!

Delayed-Fermentation Technique for Yeasted Dough

Surprisingly enough, I’m not going to provide a recipe here but talk purely about a technique I’ve been using to bake the last few batches of my baguettes. The technique has totally changed my approach to baking baguettes, let alone baking straight dough with yeast. Based on the Pain a l’Ancienne technique of using ice water at mixing time to inhibit yeast activity, the technique employs temperature to affect the dough, providing yet another means to develop flavor.

Those who bake sourdough are familiar with retarding fermentation for flavor development. But that typically occurs during final fermentation after the yeast has mostly finished its job of expanding the dough. Contrast this with the Pain a l’Ancienne technique where the yeast doesn’t get a chance to metabolize all that much from the get-go, allowing the amylase enzymes to break down the starches into sugars and letting the bacteria do their thing in producing organic acids and other by-products.

With the delayed fermentation technique, we mix with ice water; that’s right. Ice water.

The end result is that lots of sugars are released into the dough – more than the yeast can metabolize – and the result is a relatively darker crust due to the sugars caramelizing and a much more rich flavor from the organic acids released by the bacteria! So here’s the technique…

I highly recommend using a mixer for this technique. This will serve two purposes:

  1. It will take a lot less time than mixing by hand and doesn’t give the dough a chance to warm up significantly.
  2. It allows you to get some good gluten development before you put the dough into the fridge.
  • First off, mix all the dry ingredients together with the paddle attachment.
  • Make ice water and make sure you make enough that will meet your recipe’s requirements.
  • Attach the dough hook, then add all the ice water needed for your recipe to the bowl.
  • Starting with the slowest speed, start bringing all the ingredients together. Once the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing until there are no dry ingredients. In some cases, you may have to scrape the bottom of the bowl and flip the dough to make sure you get everything.
  • Turn the mixer up another notch to work the dough. Let it run for at least two minutes or until the dough starts climbing up the hook. That should give you plenty of gluten development to start with.
  • Transfer the dough to a sealable container. I put my dough in a glass mixing bowl that I then place in a jumbo Ziploc bag.
  • Put the dough in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours. It will probably rise just a tiny bit, but nothing significant.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to almost double. This can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
  • Divide and preshape. Bench rest for 20-30 minutes until the dough has relaxed enough to be shaped.
  • Shape the dough into your desired shape and final ferment. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on the hydration and your ambient temp. My baguettes this morning took only 45 minutes for final fermentation. Poke test the dough for readiness.
  • Bake as normal.

Though I listed a bunch of steps, the process isn’t all that complicated. But the results are astonishing. This process is a keeper!

Making Bread More Flavorful

I recently had a conversation at a party with a friend and fellow home baker who started our conversation by saying, “Oh, I never make yeasted bread. It’s just too simple and it tastes so bland.” Then after wolfing down several pieces of baguette that I had brought to the party she remarked, “This bread has a slightly sour tang to it. What kind of sourdough starter did you use?”

Willing myself to not roll my eyes, I smiled and said, “That’s a yeasted loaf. No sourdough. In fact, I didn’t even use a poolish.” I SO wanted to be snarky. But I behaved myself, and instead took a more conciliatory stance: “On the surface, sure, a straight dough is very simple to make. But there are lots of things you can do to completely transform it.”

Of course, she asked, “How?” So I spent the next several minutes – actually, it was more like an hour in total – discussing different ways I’ve learned to affect the flavor of my bread. But while some things I’ll share below are specific to yeasted bread, there are a couple of nuggets that could be used for any bread that you make. Note that though they’re numbered, the tips aren’t any particular order.

1. Move beyond white flour

Like many, my first real bread book was “Flour Water Salt Yeast” by Ken Forkish. There was a section in the book where he talked about finding a flour to call your own. I was just starting out making no-knead bread at the time, so I didn’t pay too much attention to that section. I just wanted to learn the technique. But literally within a month, I was starting to get bored of making white bread. So I started experimenting with different blends of flour. Here are a few blends that I use:

BreadFlour BlendFlavor Notes
Sourdough 150% High-Extraction Bread Flour
25% Whole Wheat (sifted)
25% Kamut
This has the sourest flavor as I make my levain using whole wheat flour that has lots of bacteria in it.
Sourdough 260% Kamut
40% High-Protein Bread Flour
This is a difficult one to make as Kamut has a different kind of gluten. But the flavor it produces is nutty and the crumb texture is super-soft.
Sourdough 360% High-Extraction Bread Flour
40% White Whole Wheat
The crumb structure on this one is not very open, though the crumb is super-soft due to the white whole wheat flour that also imparts a subtle sweetness to the flavor.
Baguette 150% AP Flour
25% Bread Flour
25% Kamut
Kamut adds nuttiness and the bread flour provides chew.
Baguette 2,
Ciabatta
75% AP Flour
25% Kamut
This is actually the blend I use the most for baguettes and ciabatta.
Baguette 360% AP Flour
10% High-Extraction Bread Flour
30% Whole Wheat (sifted)
I use this for my sourdough baguettes. As with Sourdough #1, the levain is made from whole wheat.
NOTE: All flour I use is certified organic

While fermentation will certainly drive flavor, I’ve found that the most significant impact on bread flavor comes from the flour blend that’s used.

2. Play With Hydration

Hydration affects the texture and density of the bread. And while texture and density aren’t flavors, they can affect our perception of flavors. For instance, a heavy, dense bread concentrates flavors, while an airy, light crumb tends to have much subtler, more delicate flavors. With the bread I make, I try to strike a balance between flavor concentration and texture. The crumb of my boules and batards isn’t super-open, but it’s still light and airy – it just doesn’t have a lot of big holes. To achieve consistent results, I’ve had to play with the hydration. But as a rule of thumb, the more whole grain flour I use, the more water I’ll add. For instance, the hydration for Baguette 1 is 76%, while the hydration for Baguette 3 is about 80% (these are a challenge to shape).

3. Retard Bulk Fermentation

People who make sourdough are well-versed in long, slow fermentation and the flavors it can impart as the bacteria in the flour (and in the air) get a chance to release organic acids into the dough, and the enzymes have time to break down starches and convert them to sugar. We can do the same with yeasted dough. For instance, with my Pointage en Bac baguettes, I start bulk fermentation at room temp, then slow it down in a fridge that’s set to about 39℉ – 42℉. This doesn’t stop fermentation, but it significantly slows it down to allow the enzymes and bacteria to compete better for resources.

Lately, I’ve been really getting into the Pain a l’Ancienne technique of delaying fermentation from the get-go for my baguettes. This involves using ice water at mixing to prevent the yeast from metabolizing. I then further retard in the fridge set at 36℉ for up to 48 hours. Yeast fermentation is allowed to occur only after this long rest in the fridge. This makes for an absolutely complex-tasting bread!

4. Retard Final Fermentation

While retarding final fermentation follows the same basic principles as retarding bulk fermentation, it’s a little trickier because we’re using commercial yeast. Commercial yeast has been literally bred to be fast-acting and resilient, even in harsh environments.1 So timing when you place your dough into your fridge is critical. I’ve found that as a rule of thumb to always place my loaves in the fridge once the dough has expanded about 50%. It takes a while for the dough to equalize to the cold environment, so you have to have enough runway to account for the yeast activity while the dough cools. I’ve found that if I let it get past that point, my dough will be overproofed when it comes out of the fridge. So now, if by chance I let it get past that point, I just let it finish and bake the bread.

That caveat aside, once the dough equalizes, you mitigate the competition from the yeast and the bacteria and enzymes can do their thing. Pizzaiolo’s know this technique very well, with some letting their pizza dough undergo cold fermentation for up to five days!

5. Salt Stress Yeast

When yeast is placed into a saline environment, it undergoes what is called osmotic shock. During this period, the fungus ceases fermentation while it builds up protection against water from being leached from its cells. Once that protection has been built, the yeast then can go about its business converting sugars into gas and it also becomes impervious to later osmotic events.

I now only use salt-stressed yeast when I’m making dough for Baguettes a l’Ancienne or other bread where I want to delay bulk fermentation simply because once I remove the dough from the fridge, I don’t want the yeast to undergo osmotic shock. I want it to start producing gas bubbles ASAP. The thing about pre-stressing the yeast is that it produces glycerol. An increased presence of glycerol has been shown to increase fermentation activity and also increase the gas-retention abilities in the dough.2 Gas is flavor!

6. Be Gentle With Your Dough

As of late, I’ve been doing my best to handle my dough in a much more gentle fashion. After a couple of batches where the bread turned out a little dense, I realized that the loaves were turning out that way because of how I handled the dough. I was degassing it by being too rough. So I made a conscious decision to handle the dough in a much gentler fashion. For instance, look at the ciabatta in the picture above. With that batch, I did my best to be gentle with the dough and the results, as you can see above, pretty much speak for themselves.

When you see a professional baker manipulating dough, it looks as if they’re throwing it around. But I realized that they’re just going fast because they’ve done it thousands of times. I started picking up speed myself as I got used to the particular tasks, but I realized that I also increased the physical pressure I was placing on the dough. By being aware of how I was manipulating the dough, I’ve greatly improved the texture and density of my crumb. And as with hydration, texture and density affect flavor.

On Additives

All the techniques I shared above focused entirely on producing flavor in the dough naturally. But you can use additives such as roasted garlic, herbs, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I don’t consider doing that cheating, but additives could hide what could be rather insipid bread without it. So my advice with using additives is to not start using them until you can produce great-tasting bread that can stand on its own.

The low-hanging fruit to produce more flavorful bread is to experiment with different flour blends. For me, once I started doing that, it changed the game entirely for me. Using whole grain pretty much forced me to up my hydration. But then that got me thinking about modifications to the fermentation process. What a rabbit hole! But stuff like this gets me out of bed every morning. There’s always something to tweak!


1Money, Nicholas P., The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization Oxford University Press, 2018

2Elham Aslankoohi, Mohammad Naser Rezaei, Yannick Vervoort, Christophe M. Courtin, Kevin J. Verstrepen, Glycerol Production by Fermenting Yeast Cells Is Essential for Optimal Bread Dough Fermentation, Plos One March 2015

Recipe: Roasted Garlic Ciabatta

The other bread that I love to bake on a regular basis besides baguettes is ciabatta. This is yet another super-simple dough and like baguettes, requires a bit of finesse to get a good result. That good result is a loaf that feels light as a feather when you pick it up and whose crumb is open and airy.

With this version, I thought I’d change it up a bit and use a white flour blend but I also added a roasted garlic paste to the mix to give it a bit of a garlic kick.

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water82.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.50%
Garlic5.00%

Poolish

AP Flour200g
Water200g
Yeast0.40g

Final Dough

AP Flour369g
Bread Flour185g
Warm Water (~95°F)421g
Salt15g
Yeast4g
Garlic37g
Poolish369g
Total Yield1400g
2 X 700g loaves

Make the Poolish. The night before, make a 400g 100% hydration poolish. Cover tightly with plastic and let it sit overnight on the counter. By morning, it should be filled with bubbles and slightly domed on top. Don’t worry if it has collapsed or you see a bit of hooch around the edges.

I highly recommend using a mixer. This is a very wet dough and while you could mix it by hand, you’ll get a more uniform consistency with a mixer.

Roast the Garlic. You can do this at any time. Just have it ready for when you mix. I use peeled garlic drizzled with olive oil then loosely wrap it in foil. I roast the garlic at 375℉ for 30-35 minutes to where it’s fork-tender. After roasting, transfer to the garlic to a bowl and mash it well.

Mix. Add all the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment. While that’s mixing, loosen the poolish from its container by pouring the water around the edges of the dough mass. Stop the mixer, then add the poolish-water mixture to the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and mix at low speed until the dough (it’s more like batter) starts coming together. Stop the mixer again and add the roasted garlic mash. At this point, mix at medium-low until smooth and the dough starts climbing up the hook a bit.

At this point, you can transfer the dough to another bowl (I like to use a glass mixing bowl going forward) or just let it rest in the bowl for 45 minutes.

Bulk Fermentation. About 2 hours at 70℉ ambient temp.

First Fold. After 45 minutes, fold the dough in the bowl. Make sure you stretch the dough adequately enough to feel the tension building in the dough. After several folds, rest for 45 minutes.

Second Fold. Generously flour your work surface (and I mean generously), then pour the dough out. With closed fingers, work your hands under the dough and shape it into a rough rectangle less than an inch thick throughout the mass. To make it easier to understand, the long side should be the East-West side. Take one of the long sides, stretch it out away from the sheet, then fold it back over almost to the end. Gently pat the dough down, then repeat with the opposite end. Do the same for the North and South sides. When you do the North-South side, you may notice that the dough fights you a little. This is a good thing! It means the gluten strands are aligning and you’ve built strength in the dough. Gently roll the dough mass onto the seams and let it rest for several seconds to seal.

Transfer the dough seam-side-down to a well-oiled bowl. You can use the same mixing bowl, but this time, you need to oil it down. Cover the bowl and let the dough double in volume. At around 70℉, this will take about 30-45 minutes.

Divide and “Shape.” At this point, I personally like to scale my dough, but you can eyeball it as well. As with the second fold above, transfer the dough seam-side-up onto a generously floured surface. Work the mass into a rectangle with even thickness, then cut the dough in half. With ciabatta, there’s really no shaping. What I like to do is take a piece, gently work it into a slightly long rectangle, then transfer it to a generously-floured couche. Once on the couche, I’ll tug it into the final rectangle shape I want.

Final Fermentation. This can take as little as 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes depending on your ambient temperature and yeast activity. The purpose of this step isn’t for more expansion, but to let the dough relax before baking to ensure that the bubbles will expand in the oven.

Bake. Bake at 475℉ with steam for 12 minutes. Remove steam/steaming container, then bake for 12-15 minutes at 425℉.

Recipe: Pane di Altamura (Updated 7/1/2022)

Update 7/1/2022 I’m almost embarassed to say this, but I had the formula ALL WRONG! Though my results have been spectacular, as shown in the pictures above, my hydration has been way too low! The actual final hydration is 90%, not 78% as I originally listed. This changes things significantly – but for the better. The dough is certainly in the realm of “super-wet” but as the flour is whole-grain, it’s a thirsty flour, so it feels like a much lower-hydration flour.

Come to think of it, I always wondered how the dough in the videos I saw was so damn pliable! 🙂 Oh well, live and learn…

Ever since I got Carol Fields’ book, “The Italian Baker,” I’ve been wanting to make this bread. It is a truly ancient bread from the Puglia region of Italy and documented by Horatio as far back as the first century BC. The most notable loaf shape has a bit of a pompadour on the top (not sure about the history behind the shape). But that said, the DOP doesn’t certify the bread by shape, but rather by ingredients and structure (e.g. the crust must be 3 mm thick).

Now truth be told, this recipe is technically NOT true Pane di Altamura because it is a “protected” bread under the Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which specifies that the flour must come from the Puglia region. Plus, the high mineral content water of that area apparently contributes to the distinctive taste of the bread. But even still, I believe we can get pretty close to the original. All I know is that the two loaves I made today are gone. My family ate one loaf, and the family to whom I gave the other loaf demolished the bread! This will definitely be a regular part of my repertoire from here on out!

Durum Flour

I get my durum flour from Azure Standard (and no, this isn’t an affiliate link). This is certified organic and milled using the Unifine method, which creates a finer texture while retaining the nutrients as it uses no water that could leach off the nutrients. Note that you can’t just use any “semolina” flour. Most semolina flour is too coarse to make bread. You have to make sure the grind is extra-fine.

Overall Formula

Durum Wheat Flour100.00%
Water90.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.75%
Total Yield192.75%

Biga

Durum Wheat Flour100%
Water96%
Yeast0.2%

Make the Biga. The night before you bake, make a 72% biga. Because I make this bread often, I usually make enough biga for two bakes, using 500g of durum flour. Use room temperature water, then let it rise in a cool place for 6-24 hours. You’ll know the biga is ready when it is nicely domed at the top and is filled with bubbles. If it’s done before you’re ready to bake, just pop it in the fridge. It’ll keep for up to a week.

Final Dough

Flour492g
Water427g
Salt15g
Yeast6g
Biga500g
Total Dough Weight1440g
2 X 720g
Weights are in grams. Note that I factored in a 1% process loss, which is why it’s not a nice round number. You’ll always lose a little during processing.

Initial Mix. Measure out the necessary amount of biga that you’ll need into your mixing bowl. Add all but 50 grams of the water to the biga, then break up the biga. When the water turns milky white, start adding the flour.

Autolyse. Durum is hard wheat, so it benefits from an autolyse. Autolyse for 30-60 minutes (use the longer time in cold weather).

Final Mix. Dissolve the salt into the reserved water and dissolve. Add the yeast to the dough, then lightly incorporate. Finally, add the salt and work it into the dough well all the liquid is absorbed. If using a mixer, mix on low speed.

Knead. Lightly knead the dough in the bowl or turned out onto an unfloured work surface. This is done simply to ensure that all the ingredients are distributed evenly with moderate gluten development. Get the dough to a smooth, even consistency then stop.

Bulk Fermentation. Allow the dough to double, yes, double. This will take up to 3 hours or more with the small amount of yeast that’s used. But that’s a good thing as it helps develop the flavor!

Folding. Fold the dough two to three times at half-hour intervals in the first hour and a half of the bulk rise. Do a windowpane test after the dough relaxes after the second fold to see if you’ll need a third. If you’ve got good extensibility, then the third fold isn’t necessary.

Divide and Pre-Shape. For this recipe, divide the dough into two 720g pieces. Pre-shape into rounds, then bench rest for 45-minutes to an hour to fully relax the dough and let it puff up a little. In warmer weather, this will be shorter – maybe 30 minutes.

Final Shape and Fermentation. As I mentioned, while there is no standard for the shape, traditional Pane di Altamura is best known for its pompadour or high form. Study this video clip to shape the loaves. Of course, that baker makes it look easy. And having made this several times, I’ve finally gotten it down. But it does take practice. Here’s another approach. This is quite a bit easier. The only thing I’d do differently is to press down the fold as the baker does in the first video. This will give a more pronounced shape to the pompadour by steepening the backside of the loaf.

Bake. Bake at 485ºF/250ºC for 50-60 minutes. Use steam for the first 15 minutes to promote oven rise. I’ve never baked this bread in a Dutch oven, but it technically could be done. Start with the lid on for the first 15-20 minutes of the bake, then remove the lid and finish the bake. Note that at least with my oven, baking at full temp like that for that long will burn the bread. So once I remove my steaming containers, I turn the oven down to 425ºF/200ºC to finish the bake. The crust should be dark brown, and little to no black.

Step-By-Step Shaping of a Pane di Altamura Loaf

After updating the post, I decided to add a step-by-step shaping guide. This was just as much for my edification as it was for sharing what I’ve learned.

First, lightly flour your work surface, then gently flatten the pre-shaped dough. Pick it up, and gently toss it between your hands to elongate it into a long oval.
Next, fold one end about 20-25% over the end and gently seal the seam.
Pull the top down about 2/3 and overlap the dough. Use your fingertips to seal the seam.
Pull the bottom up about halfway, then gently rock the roll back and forth then seal the seam.

Gently flatten the log, then bring the two ends to the middle. Make a channel with one hand to seal the seams.

Place both palms together and place them in the channel, then pull the ends apart. Don’t worry if you tear the dough a little. Stretch out until the middle is about 1cm thick. This will help form the crease.
Take the smaller end and fold it over the fat end of the dough. Then press down the fold to create a bit of a crease.
The shaped loaf should have a slightly triangular shape from the side.

In the oven, the loaves will pop up with a steep side and look like the bread erupted on the top. It’s a cool effect!

You can make a much more pronounced pompadour by narrowing the top half and shaping it into a cylinder. I did this to mimic some of the pictures I had seen, but it made cutting the bread a little problematic. So my more practical side took over and I just overlap. As long as I get a triangle cross-section, it’s all good!

The Many Faces of Baguettes

Click on a picture to see its recipe. The baking method described in the recipes may differ from what I discuss here. That’s because those were the ways I baked them initially. But in the last 6 months, I’ve taken to standardizing my flour blend(s) and formulas. I vary the technique to achieve different results.

I’ve been very open that my favorite bread to make is the baguette. But as you can see, I bake several different types. But with just a few minor exceptions, I bake all my baguettes pretty much the same way: 12 minutes with steam @ 475°F, 15 minutes @ 425°F. The only difference is with sourdough baguettes that go both longer on steam (20 minutes) and a little longer – 25 minutes – at 400°F for curing. As for the other types, as you can see from the pictures of some of the batches I’ve baked just in the past few months, they show different crust colors, almost as if they were baked differently. I can guarantee you that they weren’t.

And to drive the point home further, except for the Tartine baguettes, the rest of them obeyed the same, basic formula:

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%

So what differs between all the different types of baguettes are the dough development and fermentation techniques employed for each different type. The most significant effect on crust color comes from fermentation. The darker crust baguettes are not the result of longer bake times, but rather the amount of sugar released into the dough due to the longer fermentation times of either the whole dough or preferment.

For instance, the Baguettes a l’Ancienne, Sourdough, Pointage en Bac baguettes all undergo very long and cold bulk fermentation times. This allows more sugar to be released into the dough than can be metabolized by the yeast. Those crusts caramelize nicely and hence have the darkest crusts. The Tartine-Style baguettes are a little lighter as less sugar is released as the combined preferments only account for 28% of the total flour. The Poolish baguettes are fairly close in color to the Tartine-style, but they’re just a bit lighter as the preferment accounts for only 25% of the total flour. And finally, the Baguettes de Tradition are the lightest as very little sugar is released into the dough. This stuff is SO very cool!

To be honest, seeing how dough can be affected by so many different variables never ceases to amaze me and keeps me completely obsessed with dough; pushing me to try different things to see their effect on the finished bread.

As far as baguettes are concerned, I used to think that a baguette was a baguette. And though intuitively and intellectually I knew there were differences, it wasn’t until I started baking different kinds that I really knew just how different they could be – even from the same formula! It’s stuff like this that keeps me baking!

Delayed-Fermentation Baguettes Using Pain à L’Ancienne Technique

When I first started making baguettes, I learned the pointage en bac method of making my baguette dough. To date, this is my most-used method for making baguettes. The slow rise significantly slows the yeast activity and allows the amylase enzymes to break down the starches in the flour and release more sugars into the dough than can be processed by the yeast that would otherwise be converted to alcohol and CO2. Plus it allows the lactobacillus and acetobacillus bacteria to release organic acids into the dough as well. With that method, I start with a dough temperature that is about 76℉-78℉, so when I finally put the dough into the fridge, fermentation has already started then gradually slows as the dough temp equalizes with the fridge temp.

But there is a bread called pain à l’ancienne whose fermentation is retarded at mixing using ice-cold water. Once mixed, the dough is then put into the fridge overnight. The dough is then removed from the fridge in the morning and allowed to come to room temp; thus, delaying fermentation and benefitting from the other microbes not having to compete with the yeast. But the two techniques differ in that with the pointage en bac method, the dough is immediately shaped out of the fridge as opposed to the pain à l’ancienne that is allowed to wake up for a period of time before shaping.

It actually makes a bit of sense to allow the dough to wake up because fermentation was delayed from the start. The cool thing is that when fermentation is allowed to proceed in earnest, the yeast have plenty of sugars on which to feed since the amylase enzymes had time to break down the starches overnight. Plus, the organic acids released into the dough will make it much more extensible. All good!

I did a riff on the pain à l’ancienne technique with my latest batch of baguettes and they turned out fabulous!

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast (instant)0.38%
Total %178.38%

Final Dough

Kamut Flour (sifted)190g
AP Flour569g
Water (35℉ – 40℉)577g
Salt15g
Yeast3g
1353g
4 X ~335g loaves
As you can see above, I used a blend of sifted Kamut and AP flour. This is a 25% Kamut/75% AP blend.

Mix. Thoroughly mix ALL dry ingredients together until fully combined. For the ice water, I just filled a bowl with ice water then used a strainer when adding it to the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a shaggy mass with no large lumps. Cover the mixing bowl, then place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to maintain the dough temp. After 30 minutes, take the bowl out, then stretch and fold the dough until smooth.

Retard. Return the dough to the fridge and let it sit for at least 8 hours. There will be yeast activity during this time, but it will minimal.

Bulk Fermentation. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to wake up for 1-1 1/2 hr. During this time you still won’t see much expansion of the dough mass, but that’s okay. There’s actually a lot that has happened overnight. All in all, you should see about a 50% expansion of the dough from its original size.

Divide and Preshape. Divide the dough into 335g pieces. Letterfold each piece, then roll up the piece perpendicular to the seams like a jelly roll. Alternatively, you can create rounds. After preshaping, place the piece on a well-floured couche and let the pieces rest for 30 minutes. This is an important step because the dough is still cool at this point and needs time to relax. After that time, if you pick up a piece, it should feel billowy and the dough should give.

Shape. Rather than write down the process, here’s a GREAT shaping method that Martin goes into in detail.

Final Fermentation. This last part is a little tricky in that it really require a bit of feel. But because the dough started out cold, the minimum final fermentation would probably be one hour. But when I baked these today, my kitchen was 72℉ and it took a little over two hours to finish final fermentation. Use the poke test to determine readiness. With this dough, the indentation should remain, but still eventually fill in. If your poke disappears completely, the dough isn’t ready. It’s really critical that you give final fermentation plenty of time as shaping will have degassed the dough slightly. Final fermentation will allow the holes to reform.

Bake. Bake at 475℉ with steam for 12 minutes or until the crust is set and you start seeing color. Remove steam, then finish baking at 425℉ for 15-20 minutes. This bread really benefits from a full bake.

If you’re wondering what the difference between this type of baguette is and a standard baguette, look at the pictures below:

On the left are the baguettes made using the pain à l’ancienne technique and to the right are a recent batch of Baguettes de Tradition. They were both baked in pretty much the same way, at the same temperatures. But notice how the pain à l’ancienne style baguettes are darker. This is because of the carmelization of the sugars that were released into the dough overnight. Baguettes de Tradition, on the other hand, are processed all within a few hours time; not enough time for sugars to be released.

Recipe: 25% Kamut Baguettes With Kamut Poolish

Kamut flour has become a staple in my flour blends. It adds a nuttiness to the flavor of the bread and as it has a different kind of gluten than wheat gluten, provides a softness to the crumb that is very pleasing. You don’t get a really open crumb with Kamut since it is a whole-grain flour, but as it has under 12% protein, you’ll still get some very nice oven spring and expansion.

For baguettes, my flour blend is as follows: 50% AP Flour, 25% Bread Flour, and 25% Kamut. I use half of the Kamut (unsifted) to make a poolish and I sift the other half for the final dough. Let’s get to the recipe!

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.38%
Total %177.38%

Poolish

Kamut Flour (unsifted)105g
Water105g
Yeast @ 0.3%0.31g
Note: This is more than what’s needed just to make sure there’s enough.

Final Dough

Kamut95g
Bread Flour191g
AP Flour381g
Water @ 95°-100°F477g
Salt15g
Yeast (instant)3g
Poolish @ 25% of Total Flour191g
Total Yield1353
4 X 335g loaves
Total Flour763
Total Water572

Make the Poolish. Combine the ingredients and mix well, then cover and set aside, until poolish about doubles. It’ll be ready when it passes the float test. This can take up to 6 hours on cool days. With a Kamut poolish, you won’t see a lot of bubbles on top, but you will see lots of bubbles on the sides and bottom of your container.

You can also make the poolish the day before and stick it in the fridge. This will allow the organic acids to really develop. Not only will you get lots of flavor from this, but it will also add extensibility to the dough.

Mix. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (yes, even the yeast and salt) and mix well until everything is nicely distributed. Add all but about 50g of water and make a shaggy mass that has no dry ingredients. Cover and rest for 15 minutes, add the reserved water, and work it into the mass. Once all the reserved water has been incorporated, mix until you have no large lumps in the dough.

Bulk Fermentation. About 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Look for about 50-75% expansion (not doubling)

Folding. Fold the dough twice within the first hour.

Divide and Preshape. Scale-out 335g pieces. Shape either into taut balls or roll into jelly rolls, then set aside on a well-floured couche. Rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F

Shape and Final Fermentation. Shape into baguettes and place onto a well-floured couche. Check the loaves at 45 minutes. When you poke test, the hole should fill in slowly.

Bake. Bake with steam at 460°F for 12 minutes. Remove the steaming container, and reduce oven temp to 400°F. Bake for 15-20 minutes to harden the crust and bake out most of the water from the crumb.

Recipe: Roasted Garlic Kamut Ciabatta

Ever since I learned Jeffrey Hamelman’s Roasted Garlic Levain bread, I’ve used roasted garlic in a number of recipes. But up until now, I didn’t think about using it in ciabatta. There is nothing like the smell of garlic roasting in the oven, and when incorporated into the dough and baked, the result is a luxurious and delectable bread that you’ll want to make all the time!

Since I go on long airplane trips several times a year, I’ve learned to bring my own food as opposed to buying the crappy food they now serve – and you have to purchase – on the plane. Tomorrow, my family is traveling to New York City to attend our daughter’s graduation from Fordham University this weekend, so true to form, I made sure to have sandwiches for the trip.

Normally, I make fat baguettes, but this time I wanted to make ciabatta. But to put a twist on it, I thought I’d add roasted garlic and give the bread a little kick. The formula and recipe are below:

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water81.00%
Cream0.80%
Salt2.00%
Yeast1.00%
Olive Oil4.00%
Garlic6.00%
Total Percentage194.80%

Final Dough

Flour
My blend: 30% Kamut Flour, 30% Bread Flour, 40% AP Flour
622g
Warm Water (about 100°F)504g
Cream or Half & Half5g
Salt12g
Yeast6g
Olive Oil25g
Garlic (peeled)37g
Total Yield1,212.00
2 X 600g loaves
(+1% due to process loss)

Process

Because this is such a super-wet dough, I highly recommend using a stand mixer.

Roast the garlic. Weigh out the garlic you need then place the cloves in a square of foil with a little olive oil (don’t worry if you have too much garlic – personally, I usually exceed the required amount by a few grams). Cinch up the foil, the roast at 400°F for 30 minutes. The garlic should be slightly brown and mashable. Transfer to a small bowl, and mash up the garlic with the oil. Don’t worry if there are harder bits. Just break them up.

Mix. If you’re using a flour blend, thoroughly mix the different flour types together first (the mixer paddle is perfect for this). Add the salt and yeast, then continue mixing for several seconds until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

By the way, it’s a myth that salt kills yeast. It doesn’t, at least not at this low concentration, and especially if both are dry. Besides, if salt did kill yeast, once you add salt to a yeasted dough, it shouldn’t rise!

In a separate container, combine all the liquids. Attach the dough hook, then turn on your mixer to slow, then slowly add about 75% of the liquid. Allow the dough to form. Once the dough starts climbing up the hook, slowly add the rest of the liquid until all the ingredients are combined (make sure to use a spatula to get all the oil out of the container). Once the liquid is incorporated, add the roasted garlic. Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix until the dough is smooth (it’s more like a batter at this stage).

At this stage, you can transfer the dough to a standard mixing bowl or just keep it in the mixer’s bowl.

First Fermentation. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then using a wet hand, do a series of stretches and folds. The dough at this point will still be quite wet. But using hand like a spoon, scoop under the dough and pull up. Eventually you will feel the dough strengthening a bit.

Second Fermentation. Again, let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then pour it out onto a well-floured surface. You have to be pretty generous with the flour. Letter fold the dough. Once you’ve finished the pattern, pat the dough down, then letter fold it again. Once you’re done, roll it over onto its seams, then transfer it into a well-oiled bowl.

I’d start preheating my oven at this point – my oven is slow to come to temp, so I start preheating after the first fermentation.

Third Fermentation. Finally, let the dough rest 20 minutes. You should see some expansion of the dough mass with bubbles starting to form on the surface. Pour the dough out oil-side-up onto a well-floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces. Personally, I eyeball it, but still scale out one of the pieces to 600 grams. At this point, handle the dough gently. You don’t want to degas it too much!

Final Fermentation. Gently tug the two pieces into rectangles, then transfer them to a couche or well-floured dish cloth. Let the loaves rest for 20 minutes.

Bake. Transfer the loaves to a loading board generously covered with cornmeal. Load your oven, then bake the loaves at 460°F with steam for 15 minutes. After that, expel the steam, then finish baking at 400°F for 20 minutes.

If you don’t use a baking stone, you can bake the ciabatta on a regular baking pan.

Baking with Steam

Almost all the recipes I post here say “bake with steam” for X amount of minutes. For commercial bakers that have steam-injected ovens, that’s a no-brainer. But most home ovens don’t have a steam injection function (unless you have a Miele). For those of us who don’t have that, our only alternative is to use a vessel of some sort to hold water that will evaporate in the high temperature of the oven.

I use the bottom tray of my broiler pan as my vessel. Others use a cast-iron skillet. I actually prefer the broiler pan as a cast-iron skillet requires preheating. No matter what you use, it should be able to hold at least 1-2 cups of hot water.

Here’s how I “bake with steam”:

  1. About 3-5 minutes before I place the loaves in the oven, I pour about 1-2 cups of hot water into my pan. This gives the water a bit of time to heat up and creates a steamy environment for when the bread gets loaded.
  2. Immediately after placing the loaves, I splash a few tablespoons of water near the outer rim of the pan to create a cloud of steam to make up for the steam I lost when I loaded my loves.
  3. When the time comes to vent the steam, I simply remove the pan from the oven and then finish baking dry.

Note that to avoid losing too much oven temperature. You have to be real quick because you don’t want to leave the door open too long. Also, some books, like “Flour Water Salt Yeast” will say to use just a single cup of water. That’s never enough for my oven because it has a built-in fan that will quickly evaporate the water. So I almost always use twice as much water as listed in the recipe. You’ll have to experiment with your own oven.

In the words of the great Jacques Pepin, “That’s it!” It’s not perfect. Most ovens like mine are built to naturally vent moisture. When I’m baking, I actually plug the vents using some foil and Gorilla tape. This serves to both retain the steam and helps maintain my oven temp.