Recipe: Roasted Garlic-Parmesan-Rosemary Bread with Rye Poolish

My daughter asked me if I could make her a garlic-parmesan-rosemary loaf for her birthday, as that is her favorite bread of mine. I normally make this as a sourdough, but because of time constraints, building a levain wasn’t an option. But I didn’t want to make just a straight dough. Not that it would be bland, but for me at least, it would just be a bit boring. Plus, a straight dough just doesn’t keep fresh for long.

But then it occurred to me that I could still use a preferment and make a poolish. While it wouldn’t have the sourness of a levain, it would contain at least some organic acids that would not only add to the flavor profile, but also add some natural preservative. Then it further occurred to me that if I made the poolish from rye flour, I’d add yet another dimension to both the flavor and textural profiles! The result was magnificent, as you can see in the picture above. Here are numbers…

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt1.50%
Yeast1.00%
Roasted Garlic6.00%

Poolish

Preferment % of total flour50%
Preferment Hydration100%
Flour301g
Water301g
Yeast @ 0.33%1g

Final Dough

Bread Flour821g
Water (90-100°F)558g
Salt16g
Yeast11g
Roasted Garlic66g
Preferment547g
Total Yield2020g
2 X 1000 loaves

Extra Ingredients

Normally, I’d include the whole garlic cloves, cheese, and rosemary in the overall formula and the final dough. But I’ve found that developing the dough first, then including the cheese and garlic when I’m shaping gives me much better results.

Raw, Whole Garlic Cloves200-250g
Parmesan Grana Padano Cheese400g
Fresh Rosemary (finely chopped)10-15g

Make the poolish. The night before you bake, make the poolish. Since it’s going to ferment overnight, there’s no need to use warm water. Just use regular tap water or room temp water. Because you’re using rye flour, you won’t get many surface bubbles, if any at all. But you will get lots of expansion by morning. And don’t worry if the poolish has peaked and subsided a bit.

Roast the garlic. Place the garlic in either an oven-safe container or some foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil to coat the cloves, then wrap them so all cloves are covered. Roast for 30-45 minutes at 375℉/250℃ until the cloves are mashable with a fork. Mash the cloves well, then set aside and allow to cool.

Mix.

  1. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients together, along with the yeast and poolish. Mix well to break up and dissolve the poolish and set aside.
  2. Thoroughly combine the flour and salt in your main mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mix, then start to slowly combine. As the dough starts forming, add the mashed garlic.
  4. Mix the dough until smooth and no dry ingredients remain.

While you can certainly hand-mix the ingredients, I like to use a mixer for this dough. It’s more efficient.

Bulk Fermentation. You want this dough to double in volume. This could take anywhere from 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Folding. Fold the dough once within the first 45 minutes. But make sure you fold it to the point where the dough no longer wants to be folded. Once you’ve finished folding, turn the dough over onto the seams.

Divide and preshape. Once the dough has fully fermented, turn it out onto a clean work surface. Divide into two 1000g pieces (yes, I scale out the portions), then form the pieces into nice rounds. Bench rest the rounds for at least 15 minutes to allow the dough to relax.

Shape.

Work a round into a rough rectangle as shown below.

Next, spread half the garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, and rosemary evenly over the surface of the dough.

Next, fold over the ends of the rectangle.

Starting at the “top” of the rectangle, start rolling the dough into a cylinder. Try to make the rolls as tight as possible without tearing the dough.

Once you’ve finished rolling up the cylinder, pinch the cylinder closed, then roll cylinder onto the seam.

Now, with a sharp knife, cut the cylinder in half length-wise, and form a “V” with the two halves.

Carefully, twist the two halves together.

Pick up the twisted mass from the ends, then place it into a well-oiled 9″ X 5″ X 3″ pan.

Bake. Drizzle olive oil over the top of each loaf, and bake at 375℉/250℃ for 45-50 minutes. It may seem that this is a low temp to bake at, but you want to roast the garlic slowly, plus you don’t want to completely liquify the cheese, which will happen at a higher temp. Bake the loaves until the internal temperature reaches 205-210℉.

Remove from the oven, turn the oven off, then separate the loaves from the pans. Put the loaves onto a baking sheet, then return them to the oven and let them cure for 15-20 minutes to help solidify the crust.

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Recipe: 25% Rye Sourdough

As much as I love baking with KamutTM, my normal supplier has been out of it for some months now. But what they have had in stock is dark rye flour. So for the past few months I’ve been experimenting with it and trying to find a good ratio. Like KamutTM, rye flour doesn’t form gluten. They’re both high in protein, but their proteins are more gelatinous in the presence of water as opposed to forming chains. Needless to say, they don’t add to the structure of the dough.

While you certainly could do a 100% rye or KamutTM loaf, you’d have to keep the hydration pretty low or bake your bread in a pan. As for myself, while I’ve made bread using 100% rye or KamutTM, I have to admit I’m not a fan. But I love what they contribute to the bread when used in a flour blend.

For this recipe, the final blend is a 75% bread flour / 25% rye flour blend. 15% of the flour comes from the rye-based starter. The other 10% blended with the bread flour for the final dough.

Here’s the recipe:

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt1.50%
Total %177.50%

Flour Blend

Rye Flour from Preferment15.00%
Bread Flour75.00%
Rye Flour10.00%
Total %100.00%

Final Dough

Bread Flour854g
Rye Flour114g
Warm Water694g
Salt17g
Levain341g
Total Yield2020g
2 X 1000g loaves
Total Flour1138g
Total Water865g
Optimal Dough Temp78°-82°F / 25° -27°C

Prepare the Levain. Make a levain that will yield about 350g or a bit more from a mature starter and equal parts of rye flour and water. The mother culture I use for this is 100% rye flour, but if yours isn’t, don’t sweat it. Once the levain passes the float test, it’s ready.

Initial Mix. In a separate bowl, mix the levain with all the water and make sure to break up the levain. The water should be very warm to increase the yeast activity. Blend the bread and rye flour together well, then add the liquid to it. You can mix by hand, but I use a mixer on the lowest setting. Mix until you achieve a shaggy mass and there are no dry ingredients. You don’t want much gluten development at this point. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm place for 30 minutes to ensure the flour is well-hydrated.

Final Mix. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough, then fold it into the dough. I do this with a wet hand, scrunching the dough together, then folding it. I do this until I can’t feel salt granules. This also serves as a bit of a stretch and fold session.

Bulk Fermentation. I’m not going to give a time for this as it varies wildly. But the telltale you’ll look for is 75-100% volume expansion – almost double. With the amount and type of starter I use (it’s from an ancient Italian culture that I got from Sourdoughs International), my bulk fermentation is about 2 1/4 hours! It’s fast. Make sure your dough temp is within the optimal range I listed above!

Folding. Fold once after the first hour of bulk fermentation. I realize this seems counterintuitive, especially if you’ve followed the dogma of 6 folds over a 3-hour period. But we’re baking with rye flour and even though it represents only 25% of the total flour, it’s still delicate. So don’t want to keep punching it down. When you fold, make sure you’re getting a really good stretch from the dough and fold it until the mass no longer wants to be folded and the whole mass comes up when you stretch. When you’re done, turn the mass onto the folds and LET IT SIT!

Divide and Shape. Gently transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface. Divide it into two equal piece weighing a kilo each. Shape into rounds and bench rest for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has relaxed. Finally, shape them into rounds or ovals, then place them in bannetons.

Final Fermentation. Pop your bannetons into your fridge and let the dough ferment for 12 – 18 hours. I went up to 24 hours with my previous batch as an experiment, and though flavorful, there wasn’t much energy left in the yeast for oven spring.

Bake. Bake at 460°F/240°C for 15 minutes with steam. After this, remove your steaming container, then turn your oven down to 425°F/220°C and bake for 25 minutes. You can go longer if you want a darker crust.

100% Sourdough Baguettes Using a Rye Starter

As I’ve mentioned many times in previous posts, the bread I love to bake the most is the baguette. The reason is that what makes a great baguette boils down to technique. Whether you use yeast or a starter to raise the dough, the dough itself is simple and straightforward. But the dough development and shaping techniques – for lack of a better word – are unforgiving. And on top of that, I’ve found that making baguettes requires using quite a bit of intuition and feel, much more than other types of bread I bake.

With more standard loaves like rounds and ovals, I tend to focus on building dough strength during fermentation. As long as I do that, shaping is pretty easy. Baguettes, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether. Dough strength is important, but timing and observing certain telltales with the dough are critical to getting a good result. And when using a sourdough starter, the process is a little slower than with commercial yeast, so the telltales are important. I’ll discuss those below.

As for these particular baguettes, the rye flour adds incredible flavors that really enhance the taste of the bread. You get the rye grain flavor as about 12-15% of the total flour comes from the rye. But I’ve also found that a rye starter creates a nice sour tang. It’s not really strong, but it’s noticeable.

And at least in the case of my mother starter, the yeast absolutely loves rye flour. In fact, if I add my mother starter cold from fridge into the rye flour and water mix, it will peak in less than 3 hours! I don’t know what that may be due to, but there must be something in the rye that makes my yeast go wild!

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%
Levain30%

Levain

Rye Flour125g
Water @ about 100℉125g
Mature Starter50g

Final Dough

Bread Flour418g
AP Flour228g
Water @ about 95-100℉ to get a 78-82℉ dough temp464g
Salt15g
Levain (30% of total flour)228g
Total Yield4 X 40cm-335g loaves

Initial Mix. Reserve 50g of the water. We’re going to do a Tartine-style autolyse by combining the flour, levain and water. Mix well and make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated with no large lumps. Personally, I do the initial mix with a mixer with the dough hook. Let rest in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes. We don’t want fermentation to really get going.

Incorporate the salt. Dissolve the salt into the reserved water, then mix it into the dough. You can use a mixer for this, but salt will tighten up the dough and it will quickly climb up the hook. So I just mix the salt in by hand. If you do it this way, wet your hand often. Transfer dough to another container to do your bulk fermentation (I use a 6L Cambro).

Bulk Fermentation. No time on this. You’re looking for a 30%-50% rise from the original dough mass. Using my active starter, this usually takes about 2 – 2 1/2 hours total with a dough temp of 80℉.

Folding. This only needs two folds within the first hour and a half. In each session, stretch and fold until you can pick up the entire mass. After the second fold, just let the dough ferment until you achieve 30-50% rise from the dough.

Telltale: Before you start folding, check the dough. You want to get good extensibility out of the dough. It should stretch very well but not tear. By the time bulk fermentation is complete. your dough should feel velvety smooth and luxurious.

Divide and Pre-Shape. Divide the dough into 335g pieces. You can refer to my baguette dough development process. Let rest for 20 minutes or until the dough as relaxed.

Shape. Roll pieces into logs, then transfer each to a well-floured couche.

Final Fermentation. Especially with sourdough baguettes, it is critical to leave them alone once you start final fermentation. You want the shaped dough to expand to almost double in volume or until the indentation of the poke test comes back very slowly. You’re taking the dough out to almost full fermentation.

Bake. Bake a 475℉ for 12 minutes with steam, then 425℉ for 12-15 minute or until the crust is the desired color. I prefer a slightly darker crust without getting too crunchy.

25% Dark Rye Poolish Baguettes

During the pandemic lockdown, I discovered just how wonderful KamutTM flour was. But now, for some reason, it has become a little scarce. So I started searching for different kinds of flour to replace the Kamut, and I discovered dark rye flour. Yeah, yeah, there are lots of folks who’ve been baking with rye for a long time, but truth be told, I kind of stayed away from it because of that traditional rye bread taste. Little did I know that that particular bitter, almost nutmeg-like taste comes from the caraway seed that’s often added to traditional rye bread dough.

Plus, up until I started baking with it, my primary experience with rye bread was that marbled rye that you get with Reuben sandwiches. But after doing a bit of research on rye flour and baking with it regularly, I was soon corrected, and I have to say that I absolutely LOVE baking with rye flour!

Part of the reason why I love it so much is that it behaves very much like Kamut flour in that doesn’t form gluten. Like Kamut, the proteins that are formed when water is added to the flour don’t at all contribute to the structure of the dough. So you either have to be super, super-gentle with the dough, or use a smaller percentage, just as I’m using with these baguettes.

But even at this lower percentage of 25% (technically 12.5% rye flour to the total flour), the flavor that the rye flour contributes is incredible. Plus, being whole-grain flour, it contributes a nice textural element that contrasts nicely with the white flour.

Overall Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.57%

Poolish

My advice is to make the poolish the night before you mix the dough, giving it at least 10-12 hours to ferment. Whole-grain flour has lots of great bacteria that will produce organic acids that will add to the overall flavor profile of the bread.

Dark Rye Flour105g
Water105g
Yeast @ 0.33%0.35g

Final Dough

Bread Flour286g
AP Flour381g
Water477g
Salt15g
Yeast4g
Poolish191g

Process

As opposed to writing it all out again, please see My Baguette Dough Development Process for processing the dough.

50% Semolina “French” Bread

Sometimes I just want some basic bread; something I don’t have to work too hard at. But by the same token, I don’t want to make just plain, white bread because that’s just boring. As I wrote in a previous article, there are lots of ways to make bread more flavorful. But my primary way of accomplishing that is to use various blends of flour.

In this case, I’m using a blend of 50% Fine-ground whole grain semolina and 50% bread flour. The bread flour I’m using is Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour. This is a wonderful flour that has a nice, high protein content of 13.7%. This is one of my favorite flours to use in conjunction with whole-grain flour as the higher protein content ensures that I can build plenty of structure in the dough. The semolina flour adds sweetness and corn-like flavor and a gorgeous, natural yellow color to the crumb that looks like an egg was added to the dough.

The best thing about this bread is that it is absolutely straightforward and easy to make! So without further ado, let’s get into the recipe.

Formula

Flour (50% Fine-Ground Semolina, 50% Bread Flour)100.00%
Water80.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast1.00%

Final Dough

The following recipe will make 2 1-kilo loaves:

Bread Flour552g
Fine-ground, Whole-grain Semolina Flour552g
Water883g
Salt22g
Yeast11g
Total Yield2020g
Note: The recipe makes 1% more than the 2 kilos to account for possible loss during processing.

If you really want to make things easy on yourself, do your mixing in a mixer, especially if you opt to use a delayed fermentation.

Mix. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well enough so there’s even distribution. Add all the water and mix until smooth with moderate gluten development.

(optional) This recipe really lends itself to delayed fermentation. If you want to do that, use ice water to mix your dough. As recommended above, use a mixer and mix at medium-low for a few minutes to get gluten development started. Once the dough starts climbing up your hook, you will have mixed and kneaded it enough. Then put the dough in the fridge for up to 24 hours. The rest of the process is the same as below once you remove the dough from the fridge.

Bulk Fermentation. How long bulk fermentation will take depends on the ambient temperature of your kitchen. But it should generally take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. However, if you delayed fermentation, count on at least a few hours to allow the yeast to wake up. The dough will have finished bulk fermenting when it has expanded almost 35-40% of its original size.

Folding. You only need to fold this dough once, 30 minutes after mixing. If you did a delayed fermentation, there’s no need to fold.

Divide and Shape. Divide the dough into two 1-kilo pieces. Shape the loaves as you would batards, but roll them out into logs. I use 14″ bannetons for proofing but you could also just proof the loaves on a well-floured couche. Alternatively, you could just place the loaves on a large baking sheet that is covered with parchment paper. You’ll both proof and bake on the sheet.

Final Fermentation. As with bulk fermentation, final fermentation will vary based on the ambient temp of your kitchen. The loaves will be ready when they pass the poke test.

Bake. Bake at 425°F with steam for 20 minutes. Remove the steaming container after 20 minutes then bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes to cure the loaves and reduce moisture in the crumb.

Because semolina is whole-grain flour, don’t expect large holes to form. But that’s okay. Your loaves will spring and have a wonderfully soft crumb!

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: 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.

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!

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.