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.

Recipe: Easy Ciabatta by Scott Megee of the Artisan Crust

Like many baking enthusiasts, during the pandemic lockdown, I watched A LOT of baking videos to learn different bread baking techniques. I started out watching regular YouTubers. Some are great like Sune, the Foodgeek, but as with any social media platform, the real good stuff takes some searching. So eventually, I found pros like Markus Farbinger, Jeffrey Hamelman, and Chad Robertson (I read the latter two’ book as well). But then I discovered and also followed Scott Megee, Master Baker of Australia and owner/proprietor of The Artisan Crust in Victoria, Australia. And I tried out his easy version of ciabatta.

In short, this bread rocks! Not only is it easy to make, but despite not using a preferment at all, it’s delicious! The trick is using really good olive oil – first cold-pressed is the best. Don’t make the mistake of using “first pressed” or “cold-pressed” olive oil. It has to be “first cold-pressed” as that is the real deal extra virgin olive oil. Of course, there’s lots of chicanery in the olive oil business, so it’s never entirely clear.

For me, I use California extra virgin olive oil produced by the Sciabica family. I originally became familiar with them through the Dominican Sisters. Each year, they have the olives harvested from the grounds of their convent in Mission San Jose, and the Sciabica family presses and processes their olive oil.

As for the Sciabica family olive oil, though I usually purchase 1.5-liter boxes directly from them, in California, you can also find their oil in grocery stores under the “Mission Trail” brand. This is a very nice oil made from olive trees in Northern California. It’s wonderfully fruity with a peppery finish.

Okay, let’s get to the important stuff!

Overall Formula

Flour
AP Flour: 50%
Bread Flour: 25%
Kamut Flour: 25%
100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.50%
Olive Oil3.00%
Total %181.50%

Final Dough

Flour*
AP Flour: 501g
Kamut Flour: 167g
668g
Water508g
Salt13g
Yeast3g
Olive Oil20g
Total Yield1212g
2 X 600g loaves
Optimal Dough Temp82°F (28°C)
*You can use your own blend or just use AP flour. I wouldn’t recommend 100% high-protein bread flour as it would make the crumb chewy.

Mix: Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Reserve 20% of the water and combine it with the oil. Then mix the dry ingredients together with 80% of the water. Mix until smooth and you achieve a bit of gluten development. Once the initial mix has come together, slowly add the oil and water mixture and work it into the dough (this is known as bassinage). Mix until smooth, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the container, then let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

Note: I recommend using a mixer for ciabatta (Hey! The Italians do!), but you can certainly mix the dough by hand.

Process. At this point, it’s a lot easier to learn Scott Megee’s technique by watching his video:

Note that where I started the video, Scott is measuring the temperature of the dough and it reads 23°C. But his recipe actually lists the optimal dough temp to be 28°C.

Bake. Bake with steam for 20 minutes at 450°F. Then finish baking for another 20 minutes without steam. If the crust color seems a little dark after the first 20 minutes, reduce oven temp to 400°F. Internal dough temp should be 200°F to ensure the dough is fully cooked.

Trust Your Dough: Part III of Working with High-hydration Dough

As I’ve been sharing in the past few posts, I’ve been experimenting with super-high hydration dough to test the limits of my flour blend. It has been a real learning experience. One big thing is that really wet dough doesn’t respond like lower hydration dough. Whereas a lower hydration dough will come together and it’s easy to create a nice gluten network pretty much immediately, it’s not so with dough above the 85% hydration level. In fact, right after mixing, the dough is somewhat of a gloppy mess. It looks like pancake batter and even feels like it.

For instance, the loaf shown in the picture above was about 90% hydration. I was admittedly a little skeptical about the dough when I first mixed it. And after it had fully fermented, I didn’t even know if it would even shape! But I knew that the gluten strands were forming as I folded the dough. I could feel it. And damn if it didn’t spring up in the oven! VERY COOL!

Yesterday, I decided to push it even further and made a 95% dough out of the same flour blend. Because it was so wet, I decided to do the initial mix in my mixer. I’m so glad I did because after I got all the ingredients incorporated, the dough looked even more like pancake batter! Over the course of six folds over a 3-hour period, I definitely could feel the gluten forming as I folded.

But I have to be honest. Even though I could feel the gluten developing, the dough was still like a super-thick batter. When it came time to preshape and shape the dough, it was incredibly difficult to shape, and the resulting loaves were, let’s say, a little on the flat side. I got oven spring alright, but it was way more out than up. So I think exceeded the hydration limit with that particular flour blend.

But in spite of the difficulty in working with such a wet dough, I resisted the urge to tweak, though I could tell I probably wouldn’t get the most ideal results. And even though I’m fairly experienced as a baker, I had to see it through. I won’t lie. There were a couple of times while I was folding – if you could call it that – where I was tempted to add a bit more flour to the mix. But this was an experiment to test the hydration limits of that flour blend, so I let it go.

But despite the relative flatness of the loaves, I wouldn’t call the experiment a total disaster. The loaves rose up, which meant I could expect a reasonably open crumb, which I got. And quite frankly, the taste of the bread was magnificent. I used whole wheat levain this time around and this particular flour was packed with lactobacillus bacteria, giving the bread a gorgeous tang.

That “tang” means acid, and acid breaks down gluten, which may have been a contributor to the lack of gluten strength. So it’s one thing to consider for future bakes. I will either have to add vital wheat gluten to make sure there’s extra protein and perhaps still drop the hydration level just a smidgen.

As I think about this experiment, I look at all the time I’ve spent learning these past couple of years and it makes me smile. For me at least, the beauty of baking isn’t in the end product. The beauty is in the process and understanding all the variables that go into producing a loaf of bread. Though I’ve experienced failures or setbacks, they’ve all served to teach or reveal to me some subtle nuance. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion.

Happy baking!

Easy-Peasy Zatar-Flavored Yeast Loaf

I was at a retreat this past weekend and on Saturday afternoon, I happened to pass by the cafeteria kitchen to see a big 20-quart mixing bowl almost spilling over with proofing dough! It smelled absolutely wonderful! I was drawn to the bowl and chatted it up with one of the cooks, sharing with her that baking bread is one of my life’s passions. I never got the chance to speak with the head cook, but I’m going to be contacting them to see if I could volunteer in the kitchen to bake bread for retreat attendees in the future. So cool!

In any case, the loaves they produced were straight-forward yeasted loaves, probably about 1.5 kilo each. And though they didn’t have an open crumb, the crumb was still nice and airy. Much like a quickly risen, yeasted loaf. And that got me thinking: Sometimes it’s just nice to make an uncomplicated yeasted loaf. It’s so easy to get caught up in sourdough this and sourdough that that I miss the real point of making bread and that is to feed people! So, inspired by those simple loaves, I resolved to bake a loaf like that for my family when I got home.

But instead of making a simple loaf, I thought I’d give it a little pizzazz and add a bit of that wonderful Middle Eastern herb mixture, zatar. I only added just enough to add a real subtle flavor, but just that little bit has a HUGE impact on the taste. Let’s get to the recipe!

Overall Formula

First I started out with my basic baguette formula, but instead of my normal 0.38% yeast, I went to 1% yeast…

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast1.00%
Total %178.00%

Final Dough

Flour851g
Water638g
Salt17g
Yeast9g
Zatar*1-2g
It doesn’t take much…
Yield1 X 1500g loaf
*I didn’t factor the Zatar into the overal formula because I just measured out a couple of grams (honestly 2 teaspoons) of the mixture and added it to the flour. As for the yield, if you add everything up, it’ll come to 1516g, but I always add a fudge factor to account for loss during processing.

To be completely transparent, I actually used three flours for my dough in this recipe: 50% High-extraction bread flour, 30% Kamut flour, and 20% AP Flour. They were measured as follows:

High-extraction bread flour426g
Kamut flour255g
AP flour170g

Mix. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the water and mix thoroughly until there are no dry ingredients left. Work the dough until it starts forming a smooth consistency. If you’re using a mixer (that’s what I did), mix until the dough become smooth and starts climbing up the hook (about 3 minutes at medium-low speed). If you’re mixing by hand, knead the dough in the bowl until smooth and it starts coming off the sides of the bowl (about 5-7 minutes).

Bulk Fermentation. About 1 1/2 hr.

Fold. The dough only needs to be folded once after 1/2 hour. After that, let it rise in the container until nearly doubled in size.

Preshape. After the dough has finished bulk fermentation, transfer it to an unfloured work surface and work it into a round. Allow it to bench rest for 15-20 minutes or until it has relaxed.

Shape. This is a really versatile dough, so you shape it into a round or an oval or even a long loaf. For my loaf, I did a standard batard shape, but rolled it out a little to form a longish loaf that I let rise in a 14″ banneton.

Final Fermentation. 30-45 minutes. By this time, the yeast will be really active and if it’s warm, final fermentation will happen quickly. So watch it! Use the standard poke test to determine the springiness of the dough. Your indentation should pop back a bit after poking the dough, but never fully come back.

Bake. Bake for 45 minutes at 450°F (no fan, please). During the first 15 minutes use steam to help the loaf rise. It will really spring up with this much yeast!

It’s Lent. Time for Bread Bowls on Fridays!

I’m a cradle Catholic and though I don’t consider myself to be particularly devout, I still do my best to observe the traditions on which I grew up. One of those traditions is not eating meat or poultry on Fridays during the season of Lent. For my family, that has meant eating soup. Normally, we go to our church as they have Friday soup days, but this Lent, we’ve been staying in and either preparing our own soup (which actually means me doing the cooking), or we buy freshly prepared soup from our local Safeway (the tomato bisque is the BOMB!).

Last week, I made a batch of clam chowder. When my son came home from lacrosse practice he asked me what was for dinner, and I said, “Clam chowder.” He immediately asked, “In a bread bowl?” When I gave him a negatory, I could see his heart sink. I think he figured since Dad was a baker, I’d naturally make bread bowls. So… lesson learned, and this week, though I bought the soup, I decided to make bread bowls to make up for not having them last week.

These are not sourdough bread bowls. I could easily do those, but it being a fairly full-scheduled week, I didn’t have the time to get a levain going. So I decided to keep it simple and make a straight dough and make little boules from that. Now, not wanting to fuss with a recipe, the best I could come up with was a riff on my standard baguette recipe, but use a good amount of yeast. I also wanted to make the bread in less than three hours, so using plenty of yeast would get me there. Yeah, it’s a quick bread, but I wasn’t too concerned about making a particularly flavorful bread because it would get all its flavor from the soup.

Ahhhhh! The smell of yeasty bread! As much as I love sourdough, there’s nothing quite like a nice yeasty bread. It’s pretty amazing. Here’s the recipe!

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast1.50%
Total %178.50%

Flour Blend

AP Flour (King Arthur)60.00%
High-extraction Bread Flour (Azure Standard)40.00%

For flour, a specific brand isn’t that important. But for bread flour, I’d recommend using a fairly strong flour that has more than 12% protein content as this dough is pretty high in hydration at 75%.

Final Dough

AP Flour458g
High-extraction Bread Flour306g
Water ~90°-95°F573g
Salt15g
Yeast11g
Total Yield1364g
6 X 225g loaves

Mix. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add all the salt and yeast, then mix all the dry ingredients until everything is evenly distributed. Make a crater in the middle of the dry ingredients, then pour all the water into the bowl. Using a Danish dough whisk or your hand, using a circular motion in the water, work the flour and water together, grabbing a little flour off the sides as you make circles. This is a lot like mixing pasta dough by hand. Once you’ve pulled all the flour off the sides of the bowl, use a rounded bowl scraper to scrape under the dough and turn the dry ingredients at the bottom into the dough mass. Once there are no dry ingredients left, cover your bowl with a cloth and place it in a warm place to rise.

Bulk Fermentation. 1.5 – 2 hours.

Fold. This dough only requires a single stretch and fold session after 45 minutes. There’s so much yeast, that after the first 45 minutes, the dough will be close to doubled. Using gentle motions, stretch and fold the dough until the entire mass lifts off the bottom of the bowl. Your dough will have developed all the strength it needs. After that, cover the bowl again with a towel, then let it sit in a warm place for another 45 minutes or until the mass is close to double in size.

Before dividing, preheat your oven to 475°F.

Divide and Preshape. Pour out the dough onto an unfloured work surface. Scale-out 225g pieces, then using your scraper, shape the pieces into rounds. No need to create a super-taut skin. Once preshaped, let the loaves bench rest uncovered for 15 minutes. The dough will spread out, but will still be nicely domed on top.

Shape. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the pieces with dusting flour (I use a 50/50 rice/AP flour mixture). Turn each piece onto the floured side then shape it into a boule. With dough at this hydration, I prefer to use a stitching technique similar to the Tartine shaping method to create a good internal structure, then use my bench scraper to form it into a round, making sure to tuck all the seams from stitching under the round.

Final Fermentation. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, then evenly space the rounds on the baking sheet. Once placed, you can optionally dust the tops with dusting flour, then cover the rounds with a towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes. But poke test after 30 minutes! Because it was warm in my kitchen today, I was bake-ready in just less than 30 minutes!

Bake. Bake with steam for 12 minutes at 475°F. After 12 minutes, remove the steaming container, then turn down your oven to 425°F. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the loaves are nice, golden-brown.

Serve. Let the loaves cool for 15-20 minutes (they’ll still be nice and warm), then take a loaf and cut a large circle on the top. Using either a spoon or your fingers, gently hollow out the loaf. Fill it with your soup!

An “Easy” Dough Calculator

Here’s the link to the spreadsheet. You can’t edit it, but you can copy it to your own Google Sheets.

Being a software engineer by trade, I have a penchant for using technology to aid in automating manual tasks and baking is no exception. One thing I did early on was to create spreadsheets for calculating ingredient amounts based on my desired yield and a baker’s formula. I actually created a bunch over time, but there’s one dough calculator I created in particular that I seem to use the most. It’s displayed a the top. If you’re interested, click on the link above and copy it!

The calculator is split into 5 major sections:

  1. Loaf Calculation
  2. Formula
  3. Preferment
  4. Flour Blend
  5. Final Dough

One of the reasons I started building my dough calculators was that I wanted to bake bread to a certain, specific yield like 4 loaves at 335g apiece, then calculate the ingredients I’d need based on the target yield and the baker’s formula. This is in contrast to recipes you’d normally find in books and online where the ingredients are listed out and you have no idea about the yield other than, “Divide the dough into two equal pieces.”

That has always rubbed the more exacting side of my personality the wrong way. And especially when I started baking at higher volumes, I needed to know how much I was going to bake first. Then I’d figure out ingredient amounts based on that. Thus, I started creating dough calculators.

I use this calculator when I’m experimenting with different flour blends or different kinds of preferments. It takes all the guesswork out of figuring out what I need. Note that it is specifically meant for basic loaves that have no inclusions. This accounts for about 95% of what I bake such as sourdough boules and batards and baguettes.

Let’s step through the various sections:

The first two sections of the spreadsheet deal with the yield I’m after and the base baker’s formula. Just these two elements can drive all the ingredient amount calculations as the total flour can be obtained by simply dividing the target dough weight by the Total %. The Process Loss % field is a fudge factor for the total yield. There will always be some dough weight loss in processing, so adding a 1% or 2% fudge factor ensures that you can create all the loaves based on the dough weight.

Note that Yeast is included as an entry. If you’re making naturally leavened bread, this should be set to “0.”

The next section deals specifically with the preferment. You will provide the percentage of the total flour you’d like your starter to be, then set the hydration of your starter. A typical liquid starter is 100% hydration. A biga, on the other hand, will be around 75% to 80% hydration. Once you enter those things, the flour and water you’ll need to produce the starter, along with mature starter OR yeast will be calculated. Note that these calculations will produce more starter than you actually need for the recipe, but this is something that should be done anyway to account for process loss or starter sticking to the container.

The starter amount is meant to create a 1:5 ratio starter, the starter weight being 20% of the combined weight of the flour and water. But note that this is merely a guideline. If you’d rather do a 1:3:3 or whatever, that’s entirely up to you. You’ll just have to provide the amount of starter required in the ingredients list.

If you’re creating a poolish, the yeast you’d use is listed. I personally base the amount of instant yeast I’ll use for a poolish to 0.3%. You can change this in the cell formula if you use a different amount.

The last two sections of the calculator deal with the flour blend and the ingredients which really go hand-in-hand. This provides an easy way to figure out how much of a particular flour you want contributing the flour blend as a function of percentage. The grey line labeled “Preferment” is the percentage of the total flour that is already spoken for by the preferment. All the numbers should add up to 100%. The cell will be colored red if there is any variance.

Finally, we have the Final Dough ingredient list and the amounts required. The flour blend amounts are provided. The Total Yield is provided as an accounting measure to ensure everything adds up to what we expect. Though not shown, Total Flour and Total Water are displayed below the ingredient list and yet another check.

I invite you to copy the calculator. It has proven an invaluable tool for me!

The First Rule of 90%+ Hydration Dough: Don’t Mess With It! Part II of Working with Extreme Hydration

In “Tartine-Style 50% Whole Grain Sourdough: Experimenting with Extreme Hydration, First Stop 85%,” my goal was to push the limit of the flour I use to see just how far I could take it. I postulated that 85% hydration was the outer limit for my flour, but to be completely honest, I was wrong. The loaf shown in the pictures above was hydrated to just over 90% hydration. The flour blend I used was 10% Whole Wheat (from the starter), 54% Bread Flour (Bob’s Red Mill), 36% Whole-grain Kamut Flour.

I was amazed at how the loaf maintained its structure enough to get a really great oven spring! I was a little unsure when I poured the dough out onto my loading board. It really spread out. But the important thing I noted was that despite the dough spreading out, it was still domed which meant that there was a structure to the dough. And rise up it did!

I’m going to keep pushing to find the outer limit of the hydration my flour can take, but one thing that has occurred to me in my high-hydration experiments is that the success I’ve been experiencing with the loaves I’m producing probably has a lot more to do with my technique than the flour itself. And that brings me to the crux of this post.

An important thing I’ve learned working with super-high hydration dough is to only manipulate it to accomplish what I need for a particular step and after that, leave it alone! When I’m stretching and folding the dough, I only do it enough to where I can feel the tension in the dough. And I also have learned to stretch the dough a lot slower than I normally stretch a less hydrated dough lest I degas it too much. Oh I stretch it as far it will stretch, but I don’t tug on it hard – just a slow and smooth motion.

With this batch of bread (I actually baked a few loaves with this batch of dough), I didn’t stretch and fold the Tartine method of six folds over three hours. I felt enough strength had built up after three folds. So I let the dough sit for 3 hours until it was almost doubled (my starter was a little sluggish that day).

When preshaping, I only preshape until the skin has been pulled a little taut and smooth. I don’t try to develop tight skin on the ball. And then I let it rest until it has relaxed. Depending on the weather, this could be 30 minutes or it could take an hour for the dough to relax.

With shaping, I use a stitching technique I learned from watching several videos of Chad Robertson shaping his bread at Tartine. Though it isn’t Chad Robertson, this video demonstrates the technique really well. It’s a gentle technique that creates structure but doesn’t degas the dough much and uses gravity and the natural tackiness of the dough to seal the bottom seam. Another way to get a great look at the technique is to watch John Favreau’s “The Chef Show” when he visits Chad Robertson’s Manufactory in Los Angeles.

Then finally, a long, 12-24 hour rest in the fridge for final fermentation will allow the flavors to develop and dough to perform its expanse.

Again, I want to stress that I only touched the dough when I absolutely needed to. The dough is so wet and delicate that I didn’t want to pop too many bubbles. Messing with the dough too much would undo all the hard work the yeast had done to create those wonderful gas-filled pockets!

Tartine-Style 50% Whole Grain Sourdough: Experimenting with Extreme Hydration, First Stop 85%

After re-reading Tartine No. 3 recently, I got inspired to start experimenting again with super-high hydration sourdough production. My typical hydration for sourdough is 75%, but Tartine goes even past 90% hydration! My earlier forays into 90%+ hydration were a little discouraging. I produced pretty flat loaves that, though possessed of a really open crumb, didn’t have much vertical rise. Then I saw some pictures of full loaves of Tartine and realized they had similar results!

But for me, I wanted to find a balance between extreme hydration and maintaining some oven rise. So I decided to do some tests, of which this is the first. The loaves in the pictures above were made with 85% hydration dough. I have a feeling that that is probably the limit of the type of flour I’m using, but the next bake, I’m going to push it to 90%.

These turned out a lot better than my previous forays. And part of that – I think – is due to the baskets I used. I watched some videos of both Tartine and several other bakers that were making high-hydration oval loaves and they all used what appeared to be 14″ baskets. So I got a couple. I think it makes a difference as it allows the dough to expand. But I won’t be absolutely sure until I make loaves using a standard oval basket and a long basket at the same time.

Baker’s Formula

Flour100.00%
Water85.00%
Salt2.00%
Diastatic Malt Powder (optional)**2.00%
Total Percentage189%
*Levain percentage factors the flour from the levain into the total flour
**Depending on the flour bread flour I use, I’ll add malt if there’s none added by the miller.

Final Dough

Flour
50% Bread Flour (13.8% protein), 30% Whole Wheat, 20% Kamut
935g
Water775g
Salt21g
Levain*267g
Diastatic Malt Powder21g
Total Dough Yield2020g
2 X 1000g loaves + 20g wiggle room
*Levain is calculated as 25% of the total flour which can be arrived at by taking the target dough weight and dividing it by the total percentage, so 2020 / 189%.

The Process

Make the Levain. Like Tartine, I prefer to use a young levain because I like the nutty flavor characteristics of a young levain and prefer to develop sourness during final fermenation. Even if I end up fermenting the dough enough to make it sour, it won’t be overpowering. For this particular recipe, I take about 50g of mature starter (I maintain a separate mother) and combine it with 150g flour and 150g water (warm enough to get my dough to about 80°F). Levain is ready when it passes the float test (anywhere from 2 – 5 hours depending on weather).

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Reserve about 50g of water, then mix the rest with all of the flour (if you’re using diastatic malt powder, add it now so the enzymes have a chance to break down the starches in the flour). When I use whole grain flour, I will typically autolyse for 2-4 hours, in parallel with my levain maturing.

Final Mix. Add all the levain, salt, and reserved water to the dough. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Bulk Fermentation. 4-6 hours depending on ambient temp or rate of fermentation or until the dough has expanded about 30-35% of its original size. There are a lot of variances in the timing. With the loaves shown above, they took a long time to bulk ferment, even at 80°F.

Divide and Pre-Shape. Divide the loaves into 1-kilo pieces, then work into rounds, developing a little surface tension. Bench rest uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the balls have relaxed.

Shape. Shape into rounds or ovals, then place into baskets.

Final Fermentation. 12-24 hours at 39°-42°F. The longer you go, the sourer the bread. I’ve taken loaves out to 36 hours but by that time, the acids started breaking down the gluten and I didn’t get much oven spring.

Bake. Bake at 475°F for 20 minutes with steam (if using a Dutch oven, then 20 minutes with the lid on). Remove the steaming container, then bake for 25-35 minutes dry at 425°F or until the crust has baked to a deep, golden brown.

Baking Is Like Playing Music

I was watching an excellent video on making poolish baguettes by King Arthur Baking Ambassador, Martin Philip. Though I feel I’ve really gotten the hang of baguettes, there’s always something to learn, plus I wanted to get affirmation on the techniques I’ve learned and employed to this point. While not much was new to me, it was great to get some insights into when the dough was ready for final shaping and also learn a new way to shape!

But about three and a half minutes into the video, he said something so compelling that I had to write about it. Basically, he drew an analogy between music and baking. It was one of the aptest insights about bread making I’ve ever heard. Here’s the video (I’ve queued it to where he makes it):

I love the analogy he drew between a recipe and a sheet of music, especially when he said that “a recipe is like musical notation in that it’s notes on the page and the notes on the page will get you close to the song, but they’re not the song. It takes time. It takes practice before you can interpret things before you can become a good musician… or a good baker.”

Dammit! I’m going to be using this for all sorts of lessons, not just baking bread!

I just love the analogy! The recipe’s ingredients are the notes and the directions are the notation of the notes on the page. With a piece of music, you have to learn it and play it several times before it sounds like a song. At first, because you’re unfamiliar with it, you’ll flail and stop and start, or play sections over. But as you get used to the flow of the music, it starts sounding like a song.

Such is the case with a recipe; especially if it’s brand-new. I remember the first time I tried making baguettes. I was proficient with dough development and knew what to look for and I wasn’t at all intimidated by the 75% hydration. And I’ve since learned that dough development is the easy part! But when it came to shaping the dough into loaves – eek!

I had prepared by reading and watching videos about the technique. But having no experience with shaping baguettes, let’s just say it was a helluva lot harder than all the books, articles, and videos may have indicated. Oh, I was able to elongate the loaves all right, but they were a little… misshapen to say the least. It took me about 10 bakes to start getting comfortable with shaping and probably another 40 to 50 bakes and breaking my oven before I gained a level of proficiency and consistency.

And taken holistically, it took me all that time to understand the dough development and processing as well. Though I mentioned above that dough development is the easy part, dough behaves differently in different environmental conditions. For instance, in warmer weather, I tend to stick to the base hydration of 75%. But in colder weather where the dough can be a little stiffer, I’ll add a couple to a few percentage points of water so that the dough feels like I think it should.

Repetition breeds familiarity.

30% Kamut Flour Roasted Garlic-Rosemary-Parmesan Pure Levain Bread

Last week, my daughter called me from Portland, OR, and asked if I could make her favorite bread: Garlic-Rosemary-Parmesan sourdough that she could take back home with her after her upcoming visit home. As if I need a reason to bake… So of course, I told her that I would.

But this time, I wanted to do something a little different. When I’ve made this bread in the past, I’ve fortified the natural yeast with some commercial yeast. But this time I wanted to only use a starter and develop the dough using the Tartine method that employs a relatively small amount of a young, active levain and ferments at a fairly warm temperature: 80°-82°F.

I also wanted to challenge myself and bake larger loaves than I normally bake with this recipe. My standard loaves are 700g, but I wanted to make 900g loaves with this batch. That doesn’t seem as if it’s a big difference, but my experience in the past with using olive oil in the dough is that larger loaves tend to collapse a bit as oil is a gluten formation inhibitor so I stuck with making smaller loaves that wouldn’t collapse under their own weight.

Okay… I have to admit that after thinking about it, I was just being chicken-shit. I didn’t want to alter my original process. But as I wanted to add more flavor complexity by using 30% Kamut flour which – at least in the brand that I use – is notoriously weak, I knew I had to change my approach. Really, all this entailed was to delay the addition of the olive oil until after I had developed the gluten a bit. And by doing that, I got insanely good results! Combine that with bassinage, and the results were amazing.

Let’s dive into the formula/recipe:

Overall Formula

Bread Flour70.00%
Kamut Flour (If you don’t have Kamut, use whole-wheat flour)30.00%
Water70.00%
Olive Oil5.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.00%
Garlic6.00%
Rosemary0.25%
Parmigiano Cheese*20.00%
Total Percentage203.25%
*I caution the use of Parmigiano Reggiano as it will liquify during the bake. I’ve instead learned to use Grana Padano or shredded American-style Parmesan (like Sargento). The only challenge with using this harder style of cheese is that it will really affect the structure of the dough, and you have to be extremely gentle with your stretch and folds!

Levain

Mature Starter50g
Flour50g
Water50g
Levain Required for Recipe134g*
I will detail the levain build below

Final Dough

Bread Flour579
Kamut Flour248
Water (85°-90°F)559
Olive Oil45
Salt18
Yeast0
Garlic54
Rosemary2
Cheese179
Levain134
Total Yield1,818
2 X 900g loaves
Optimal Dough Temp80°-82°F
Total Flour894
Total Water626

Build the Levain

Since I store my starter in the fridge, I invariably have to employ a two-stage levain build to ensure my levain is active. Typically, I’ll create 1:1:1 levain, usually about 30g mature starter, 30g water, then 30g AP flour. Once that peaks, I’ll feed it with more flour and water to get me to the levain weight I need. Then once it peaks again (and passes the float test), then I’ll proceed with the final dough development.

In both cases, I use very warm water – about 90°F – to ensure that the yeast is happy. And I ferment the starter in a warm environment to maintain the warmth. The idea at this stage is to emphasize yeast activity over bacterial activity.

Build the Final Dough

Roast the Garlic. Peel the garlic you need, then wrap in foil with a little olive oil, then roast at 375°F for 30-40 minutes. Or… I just cut the top off a whole garlic cluster, pour some oil over the top, then wrap it up in foil and roast it.

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Reserve 50g of the water. Add the rest to the levain and dissolve the levain completely. Add this liquid to all the flour and mix thoroughly until no dry ingredients remain. Rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Second Mix/Bassinage. Dissolve the salt in the remaining water, then pour it over the dough. By now the garlic should be cool and soft. Squeeze out what you’ll need then dump it onto the top of the dough. Sprinkle the rosemary and cheese evenly over the dough. Using a squeezing action, work the ingredients into the dough until everything is fully incorporated and the ingredients are evenly distributed. Once the bassinage water is incorporated, add the olive oil.

Bulk Fermentation. 3 1/2 to 4 hours in a warm environment to maintain an 80ºF dough temperature. If you’re going to do an overnight final proof in the fridge, bulk fermentation will be done once the dough expands 25-30%. If doing a same-day bake, allow the dough to almost double.

Folding. Fold twice at 50-minute intervals. Since there is whole-grain flour in the dough along with bits of cheese and herbs, be gentle with your folding. It is absolutely crucial that you do not stretch to the point that you tear the dough!

Note that I used to instruct to fold the dough every 30 minutes ala Tartine. Because of all the cheese and rosemary in the dough, I now only recommend performing two stretch and fold sessions.

Divide and Pre-Shape. Divide the dough into two 900g pieces. Pre-shape into rounds and bench rest them for 15 minutes, or until the balls have sufficiently relaxed for shaping.

Shaping. Shape into rounds or ovals and place into appropriate baskets.

Final Fermentation. If you’re going to do a cold ferment, place your bannetons in the fridge for up to 24 hours (the longer the ferment, the more sour the dough). You could experiment with taking final fermentation out to 36 hours, but make sure to check the dough! For my fridge, 24 hours seems to work well and give me some nice sourness. If you’re doing a same-day bake, do the final proof in a warm environment for about an hour to an hour and a half. Poke test the loaves to make sure they are ready. That last time I baked these, it took almost two hours for the loaves to finish proofing.

Bake. Bake at 400ºF with steam for 20 minutes. Remove the steaming container, then bake for 30-35 minutes at 425º or until the crust becomes a deep, burnished brown. This is a gentle bake that will not burn the cheese or brown the garlic too much.