What’s So Special about Kamut Flour and Why I Love to Bake with It So Much

Last week, I finally was able to procure a 25 lb. bag of KamutTM flour. For months, so many producers were out of it, and those that did have it, like Whole Foods, sold it in much smaller quantities than I needed and for a premium price. So, as soon as I saw that Azure Standard had it back in stock, I immediately put in an order!

Since I discovered it, KamutTM flour has been an integral component in most of my flour blends. I’ve mentioned using it several times since I started this blog, but when I baked my first loaves of it after many months of not having it, I sat down and asked myself, “Why do I love this flour so much?” I realized that there are lots of reasons, so I thought I’d share them here.

Before I go on, let me answer the obvious question for those who don’t know what it is: What is KamutTM? KamutTM isn’t a type of wheat but a trademark name for the Khorasan strain of wheat. It is an ancient grain that was discovered in an ancient Egyptian burial chamber after World War II and the grains ended up in the hands of a Montana wheat farmer who cultivated them. The trademark name is important because:

  1. It ensures that the grain comes from the original seed stock and is both unmodified and unhybridized and completely non-GMO.
  2. It is also 100% certified organic.

These are important distinctions as they provide a guarantee of origin, purity, and quality.

Nutritionally, unlike regular wheat, Kamut has a high intrinsic energy as it has a higher lipid content than regular wheat. But it is also high in both protein and fiber and contains several essential minerals and vitamins such as niacin and manganese that contribute to its overall high nutritional value.

But the science-y stuff aside, another thing I love about this flour is the romance behind its history. As I mentioned above, the grain was found in an ancient burial chamber in Egypt after World War II, and though classified as Khorasan wheat, it has also been called “King Tut’s Wheat” or Pharoah’s Wheat” based on its origin.

And baking with flour that comes from wheat that has a provenance dating back thousands of years makes me think of what it was like baking back then. Sourdough was discovered in ancient Egypt around 3000 BC, and it’s cool to me to bake with grain whose origins date back that far. I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic, dreaming of the “old days” and what it was like baking with those ancient hearth ovens with that original grain.

Plus, historians believe the discovery of sourdough was purely accidental. Accidental or not, it changed the world! Up to that point, bread was flat and dense. But the addition of yeast literally gave rise to a completely new form of bread that was then adopted by the Greeks and Romans, then spread to the rest of the world. Did it start with Khorasan wheat? Maybe. I have no idea. But who cares? It was used back then and that was all I needed to know to want bake with that ancient grain.

But other than the romantic history, I love KamutTM flour for what it brings to the loaves that I make with it. When combined with a high-extraction or whole-grain flour, it helps soften the crumb. This is because even though it forms gluten when mixed with water, its gluten is much more delicate than regular wheat.

And that delicateness was a challenge to work with at first as it introduced a trade-off with the soft crumb: The dough also became prone to tearing. It forced me to learn how to handle the dough more gently. Until then, I hadn’t realized how ham-handed I was with my dough. My stretch and fold sessions were relatively rough affairs compared to how I stretch and fold now; not that I’d completely rip the dough apart, but it certainly wasn’t with the deliberate care I take now. And that skill has carried over to other dough made with different flour blends.

Of course, as KamutTM is flour, and flour is food, what about its taste and texture? As I mentioned above, its gluten provides a smooth, almost velvety feel to the crumb. It also has a nutty flavor that contributes to the overall complexity of the flavor profile.

Working with KamutTM Flour

If you want to work with KamutTM, I recommend starting with a smaller quantity first to try it out. Whole Foods usually carries 1-pound bags from Bob’s Red Mill. That’s enough to make two 1-kg 60% Bread Flour/40% Kamut loaves @ about 85% hydration.

Other than that, here are a few things to keep in mind when working with Kamut:

  1. I’ve found that Kamut’s starches break down pretty easily. So, if you use a rye-based starter, be extremely watchful of your bulk fermentation. The loaves I made above used a 25% rye starter inoculation and bulk fermentation happened a lot faster than with normal bread flour. That amount of starter is going to speed things up anyway, but it was about twice as fast as normal with the Kamut present. I had to turn down the temperature on the fridge I use for cold final fermentation to about 39℉, where I normally have it set around 42-44℉ to favor lacto-fermentation. Of course, an alternative is to use less starter, but I really wanted a more pronounced tang.
  2. And since Kamut’s starches break down pretty easily, I do not recommend using a real high temperature for baking. The loaves I baked above were baked at 460℉ for 20 minutes with steam, then 425℉ for another 22 minutes dry. Because of all the released sugars, that bread finished with a dark crust!
  3. As I mentioned above, the type of gluten that is formed with Kamut is a lot more delicate than with the hard red wheat that’s normally used in baking. When you’re folding your dough, be very mindful of the extent to which you pull the dough. My advice is to only pull to the point where you feel some resistance, then fold the dough over. You may have to fold more times than you normally would during a session to ensure you’re building structure, but you’ll also ensure that you’re not tearing your dough.
  4. Kamut is a “thirsty” flour, so I recommend a healthy autolyse or fermento-lyse of at least 45 minutes. This will ensure that your flour is well-hydrated.
  5. As far as hydration percentage is concerned, you’ll have to experiment. The bread flour I use is particularly high in protein at around 15%, and though the Kamut from Azure Standard is about 11.7% protein, I can still my hydration way past 80%, though I typically don’t exceed 85%. Even then, it still handles like a 72% hydration dough with regular bread flour.
  6. If you make bread with 100% Kamut, best treat it like rye and bake it in a pan or a Dutch oven to prevent it from spreading out. It won’t spread out nearly as much as rye, but its gluten is not very strong.
  7. And speaking of strength, bear in mind that most Kamut flour is whole-grain flour, so don’t expect to get big holes. You’ll get plenty of spring, but just not a lot of voids in your crumb.


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

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
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



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
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.

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!

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

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

50% Bread Flour (13.8% protein), 30% Whole Wheat, 20% Kamut
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.

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%
Olive Oil5.00%
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!


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

Final Dough

Bread Flour579
Kamut Flour248
Water (85°-90°F)559
Olive Oil45
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.

The “Secret” Behind Tartine-style Bread?

As with many home bakers, I’ve studied several bread-making techniques from some very famous bakers. I’ve learned so much of the science behind bread from studying Jeffrey Hamelman; I’ve learned baguette technique from Markus Farbinger; I’ve learned sourdough bread technique from studying Chad Robertson.

Especially with respect to sourdough, Chad Robertson’s “bake-by-feel” technique has really helped me transform my own approach to making bread. After reading his first book, “Tartine Bread,” I came to believe that all the anecdotes he included in the book were included because he wanted to convey this sense of using a healthy dose of intuition when making bread. Furthermore, he puts an emphasis on engaging all the senses when baking, describing how the dough should feel or smell or look at different stages of development.

But the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from his technique is temperature. Unlike other recipes and techniques I’ve learned in the past that emphasize fermenting around 75°F, Chad ferments his dough at 80°-82°F. That’s a significant temperature difference!

But it makes a lot of sense because his recipes only call for a small amount of levain. In fact, the flour content in his levain only accounts for 7.5% of the total flour. With the lower yeast density, you can up the dough temperature and not worry about the dough fermenting too quickly. Absolute genius!

And that’s the secret I discovered: A small amount of levain and fermenting at a higher temperature; specifically, at 80°F+. Especially with respect to dough temperature, that 80°F temp is pretty warm, but I can tell it makes my yeast very happy. Experienced bakers may balk at that temperature simply because it favors yeast activity over bacteria activity. BUT final fermentation for Tartine loaves is a cold ferment for 18 to 24 hours. At that very low temperature, the yeast activity is severely slowed down and will favor bacterial activity which will develop the flavor complexity.

Even Ken Forkish talks about his 75°F dough temp as offering the best balance of yeast and bacterial activity – baker’s preference. Chad takes the approach to his bread by emphasizing yeast activity first, then flavor development after.

As for myself, I prefer the Tartine method. As I mentioned, it requires a lot of intuition and engagement of all the senses and that resonates with me.

Here’s a Little Acid Test…

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on various online bread forums and have seen many pictures of bread people bake from around the world. There’s LOTS of talent out there! And today, as I was perusing a forum, I saw a picture that someone took of a half-dozen boules they made today. They were gorgeous!

And they were perfectly round and all the exact same diameter. When I zoomed in on the picture, I noticed that the bottom sides of the loaves were just a tad bit flat, which told me one thing: The loaves expanded outward to the sides of the Dutch oven.

Look, I don’t want to take away from how beautiful the loaves were. But it made me ask the question: What if they didn’t use a Dutch oven? Chances are, those loaves would be a LOT wider in diameter and not nearly as tall.

I don’t use a Dutch oven. I bake all my bread on a baking stone with a pan of water at the bottom of my oven for steam as shown below.

That doesn’t necessarily make my bread better or make me a better baker. But baking on a stone has forced me to constantly think about the strength of my dough and really hone my shaping skills. If I mess up, I get results like this:

That was not amusing. Those loaves were made with 40% Kamut, 30% Organic Whole Wheat, and 30% Bread Flour at 88% hydration. I knew I was in trouble after final proof. Though the loaves were perfectly fermented, there just wasn’t enough dough strength and they collapsed under their own weight. The lack of strength wasn’t due to kneading – or lack thereof – either. I used too much of a fairly acidic starter, and the hydration was simply too high for the flour I used. Both the Kamut and Whole Wheat flour from this supplier just don’t develop enough strength. Combine that with a low pH and well… you see the results.

As for the title of this post, here’s an acid test: For those of you who bake with a Dutch oven, try using a metal pan or a pizza stone to bake your next loaf. Instead of covering your loaf, put a cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack of your oven and put some hot water in it to generate steam. If you’re building up good strength in your dough, your loaf should rise up nicely. But if it spreads out, chances are you’ll need to work on building up your dough strength and shaping.

When I personally moved to a baking stone from a Dutch oven, I made several flat loaves until I learned how to get great gluten development, and learned how to create a taut skin during shaping; that, and studying my flour’s capabilities. In fact, with that brand of flour, I rarely take it above 80% and usually stay around the 78% hydration mark.

And when I saw the flatbread I had created, I have to admit that it was pretty humbling because I thought I was the bee’s knees with my perfectly shaped loaves! 🙂 Little did I know that my skills needed A LOT of development.

Yet Another Baguette Recipe from “Boulangerie at Home”

As is our habit after we dine in a particular town, my wife and I ended up perusing a book store where I, of course, sought out the bread books. I ran across this nice book called, “Boulangerie at Home,” and immediately thought to myself, There’s got to be a baguette recipe in there… I wasn’t wrong.

As for the book, it was beautifully laid out with lots of pictures, but though the title implied it was written for home bakers and perhaps even beginners, it’s a bit more advanced than that. I’ve been baking a long time, so I can look at a recipe and work out the baker’s math pretty much in my head. But these aren’t recipes that a newbie could do with ease.

But despite that, I found the baguette recipe and I snapped a picture of it. Then when I got home I started working through the baker’s percentages. The basic formula is below:

Overall Formula

AP Flour (King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill) or T65* flour100.00%
Yeast – Instant**0.25%
*T65 flour is flour with a protein content of 12%-13.5%. You could use King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill bread flour for this, but I myself prefer King Arthur AP Flour at 11.7% protein content. The author calls for the use of high-gluten flour, but T65 is not THAT high. To me, high-gluten flour has protein over 15% (check out Janie’s Mill High-Protein flour – it’s expensive but wonderful).
**The recipe from the book calls for fresh yeast, and if you have some, use 0.7%. For this recipe that would be about 6-7 grams of fresh yeast


The author called this “liquid starter,” but that just means it’s a 100%+ hydration starter. In this case, it’s a 100% hydration starter.

Preferment Flour % of Total Flour4.80%
Hydration %100%
Preferment Flour Weight37g
Preferment Water37g
Preferment Required for Recipe75g

Final Dough

Water (lukewarm)519g
Total Yield4 X 335g loaves
6 X 222-225g loaves
1353g total
Optimal Dough Temp78°-80°F

For dough development, I prefer my own method. The one in the book wasn’t bad, but I’ve been making baguettes for a long time, and the method I’ve developed works for me, so that’s what I’ll share here.

Note that this employs a hybrid rising method that uses both a levain and some yeast to rise the dough. The levain adds flavor and contributes a bit to the rising, whereas the yeast does the heavy lifting. You could use the levain exclusively, but then bulk fermentation will go on for much longer, and I suggest taking a Tartine approach and fold the dough every half-hour for 3 hours. Like any sourdough, depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen, bulk fermentation at room temp could take 6-8 hours.

Make the levain. If you have a mature starter already, take 20-30 grams of it then mix it with 100g of flour and 100g of water, essentially making a 1:5:5 (1-part starter, 5-parts flour, 5-parts water) ratio levain. The levain will be ready when it passes the float test. You’re not going to do several builds with this as you want to use a relatively young starter to limit the sourness of the bread.

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Reserve 50 grams of the water, then dissolve the starter in the remaining water. Add this mixture to all of the flour and mix until no dry ingredients are left. You’ll form a shaggy mass. Let this rest (autolyse) for 30-45 minutes. This will get the natural yeasts going.

Final Mix. Sprinkle the salt and the yeast over the dough, add the reserved water, then work them into the dough until thoroughly combined. The dough will still be a little shaggy, but considerably smoother than the initial mix.

Bulk Fermentation. 2-5 hours at room temp (depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen) or cold ferment (39°F to 42°F) for 6-12 hours following folding. If you decide to do a cold bulk fermentation, use half the yeast. Bulk fermentation is finished when the dough has risen about 50% (don’t let bulk fermentation go much further than this).

Folding. In the first hour of bulk fermentation, fold the dough 3 times at 20-minute intervals. After the third fold, let your dough rest and check its expansion. As I mentioned above, you only want the dough to expand about 50%.

Divide and Preshape. Pour out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently work it into a rectangle, then divide it into 4 X 335g pieces. With each piece, letter fold the left and right sides of the piece (stretch out a side then fold it over the body of the piece, then jelly-roll the piece over the seams. Place each piece seam-side-up on a well-floured couche, the let them rest for 20-30 minutes (or just a little more) depending on how tight you rolled each piece. You want the dough to be nice and relaxed. You may see a little rise out of the pieces during this time.

Shape. Shape the rested logs into baguettes, then place the shaped loaves on the couche for final fermentation.

Final Fermenation. 1-1 1/2 hour or until the loaves have puffed up to about 75-85% – just under doubled.

Bake. Transfer the loaves to a loading board, score them, then bake at 475°F for 12 minutes with steam. Remove the steaming container, turn the oven down to 425°F, then bake for another 12-15 minutes or until the crust is deep, golden-brown. This bread really benefits from a full bake.

I read some reviews of the book online and there were lots of people who wrinkled their noses at the use of commercial yeast in the recipe. The plain fact of the matter is that there are numerous ways to leaven bread. For me, as long as you’re not using chemical additives to leaven dough, you’re golden. But to eschew a technique just because it’s not sourdough, to me at least, lends itself to elitism. There’s more to bread than sourdough, folks…

The same goes for those who won’t bake bread that has a hydration rate of less than 75%. Even Jeffrey Hamelman shakes his head at that in his book Bread, calling it a shame that people cut themselves off from learning different techniques and methods because of this. I get it, though. The thinking is that higher hydration makes it easier to form holes in the dough. And for the most part, that’s true. But a lot ALSO has to do with how you handle the dough.

For instance, look at the picture to the left of the baguettes I made from the Tartine Bread book by Chad Robertson. What a crumb! Really open with lots of holes. Guess what? The dough that came from was 64% hydration! It was my gentle handling of the dough and its thorough development that allowed that to happen, not the hydration.

I have to admit that I was a little incredulous myself when I worked out the formula. But after having made these several times now, I love the technique!

Sourdough Ciabatta

After the success I had with the baguettes based on the Tartine Bread recipe, I thought I’d apply a similar principle to making ciabatta. But this time around, roughly 30% of the flour would come solely from a young sourdough starter as opposed to the half levain/half poolish of the baguettes.

Notice that I mentioned employing a young sourdough starter. This is important in that I wanted lots of yeast activity and also to mitigate the sourness from the bacteria. This is along the lines of Chad Robertson’s approach in Tartine Bread.

Like all ciabatta, this is an extremely wet dough. When you fold this dough the first time, it’ll feel a little icky. But don’t worry. The results are fabulous! Let’s get into the formula.

Overall Formula

Water (warm – 85°F)80.00%
Olive Oil5.00%
Total Percentages187%


Preferment Flour %*30%
Hydration %100%
AP Flour194.44
Mature Starter~30
Preferment Required389
Note that the weights listed here are what is needed for the recipe. I’ll get into building the levain below.

Final Dough

Olive Oil32
Total Yield1212
2 X ~600g loaves
Optimal Dough Temp80°F-82°F
Weights are in grams

Please TRUST YOUR EYES AND YOUR HANDS with this. I list out times like 30-60 minutes, but things can happen faster or slower. As with any baking process, times are only guidelines!

Make the Levain. I do a double feeding to really crank up the yeast activity before I mix the dough. So I first take a good spoonful of mature starter and add that to 100g of AP flour and 100ml of water and mix it up well. I place my container in a fairly warm place (80°F+) and let it more than double. When it’s ready, the top is bubbly – very bubbly – and you can see the activity of the yeast. Once it gets to that point which, at least for my starter, takes about 2-3 hours, I feed it with 100g flour and water, then let that double. The activity is pretty strong at this point, so the levain is ready in under 2 hours (yesterday, my levain was ready in an hour!). The levain will be fairly bubbly and as with the initial feeding, you should see activity at the top of the mass.

Initial Mix. In a large bowl, mix the levain and all of the water and completely liquify the levain. Place the flour in another large bowl, then gradually add the water and mix until there are no dry ingredients. Rest for 30 minutes.

Final Mix. Sprinkle the salt over the dough mass, then once lightly incorporated into the dough, add the olive oil. It’s best to just squeeze it into the dough to work it in. Once all the olive oil is incorporated, do a series of light stretches and folds to fully incorporate the salt and oil. Note that this isn’t meant to build strength in the dough. Rest for 30 minutes.

Bulk Fermentation. Up to 2 hours depending on ambient temp. Ideally, your dough should ferment in an environment that’s no lower than 78°F.

Folding. After 30 minutes, stretch and fold the dough. It will be wet and will feel like a batter. Continue stretching and folding until you start feeling some tension build in the dough. You may have to do 10-12 stretches and folds. Four will not do the job. This is a critical step in building up some dough strength and gas retention properties in the dough. I love this part because I can literally feel it transform from a very liquid mass into a dough. After folding, rest for 30 minutes.

You may not see much apparent fermentation activity at this point, but that’s okay. The yeasts are working!

Lamination. This is the last step in building structure in the dough, so it’s pretty important. Liberally flour your work area. Don’t be stingy with the flour here because you do not want it to stick and tear the dough. Using your bowl scraper pour your dough out onto your work surface. Then to ensure that there’s flour underneath your dough, use your bench scraper to push flour underneath any areas that could potentially stick. To make sure your dough’s not sticking, move the whole mass around. It should move easily. Then once you know it’s not going to stick, with quick, definitive motions, slide your fingers under the sides of the dough and lightly stretch it into a square till the dough is about 3/4″ thick.

Take the top of the dough and stretch it away from you a bit and bring it to the center. Take the bottom half, pull it toward you, then completely overlap the top fold. Gently pat the rectangle down to even out the thickness, then do the same stretch on the left and right sides. Pat the dough down, then repeat the process two more times if you can. If the dough fights you, that’s a good thing. It means you’ve built some strength into the dough. Once you can no longer laminate the dough, gently roll it onto the seams and with cupped hands, work it into a round. Transfer the round seam-side-down into a lightly oiled bowl. Let the dough rest in the bowl for another 30 minutes or until you see about a 25% increase in volume. Note that this could take a little longer.

At this point, preheat your oven to 500°F and make sure you have steaming container handy – a cast iron pan or a loaf pan with water-soaked towels.

Divide and Shape. Slide the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface. As with the lamination step, gently pull the dough into a square with roughly even thickness, then cut it into two equal halves. Gently tug each half into long rectangles (forming the slippers). Then holding a rectangle at each end, bring your hands together to scoop the rectangle and place it onto a well-floured couche or towel. Once it’s on the couche, gently tug it back into shape. Once both loaves are on the couche or towel, gently dimple the tops of each piece to promote even rising.

Final Fermentation. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. What you want to watch for is that the loaves are nice and puffy with obvious bubble formation on the skin. Exercise some patience here because with natural yeast, things happen A LOT slower than with commercial yeast, and if you bake the dough too early, you will not get very good bubble formation!

Bake. Get some hot water into your steaming container to get the steam going in your oven about 10-15 minutes before baking.

You’ll really need a flip board for this so as not to degas the loaves. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to basically do the same motion as putting the loaves onto the couche to transfer the loaves to either a baking sheet covered lightly with cornmeal (if you don’t have a baking stone) or flipped onto a transfer board sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina.

Quickly place the loaves into your oven and immediately turn the heat down to 475°F. About five minutes into the bake, check to make sure there’s still water in your steaming container. If not, replenish it (see notes). Bake with steam for 12 minutes then remove your steaming container(s) (I use multiple to ensure steam is produced faster than it can be vented) and reduce your oven temp to 425°F. At this point, the loaves will have started to take on color. Bake for another 12-15 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown. You can let these cool if you want, but there’s nothing like slathering a hot slice of ciabatta with butter and honey!


  1. Some bakers I’ve encountered talk about not being able to keep steam in their ovens. I can’t either. Like almost all domestic ovens, my oven is designed to vent moisture. But if you produce more steam than the rate that the oven can vent it (I use multiple containers), you’ll be able to maintain a steamy environment. Furthermore, when you bake with steam, you need to check to see if your water has burned off during the time you need to be steaming! I always check my steaming containers 5 minutes into each bake to make sure they’ve got plenty of water to do the job.
  2. Once you add the olive oil, the dough will really feel liquidy. Don’t worry and please don’t add flour. Olive oil is like a gluten lube. It increases a dough’s extensibility immensely and in addition to adding great flavor, contributes to the production of large bubbles.
  3. Speaking of olive oil, do yourself a favor and use nothing but real extra virgin olive oil, not the cheap grocery store stuff.