The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Little T Bakery  t-shirt, Portland Oregon

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Hamelman Vermont SD with 125% rye flour levain

My first foray into the Vermont SD was back in April with the straight formula: 125% bread flour levain with bread flour, plus the 10% rye flour used in the final mix as directed.  

A week later - the same bread flour levain but I used AP flour for the final mix.  The dough was more extensible and less "rubbery" to work with.  A change for the better in my book.  2 letter folds during the bulk ferment.

For this third run I swapped the bread flour levain for a rye flour levain and eliminated any rye from the final mix.  Still using AP flour and also continued with 2 letter folds.  In essence, the rye is now at 15% of total pre-fermented flour rather than the 10% used in the original formula for final dough ingredients.

Handles and bakes beautifully.

steam just released...then getting ready for venting 15 minutes later


350g x 5 baguettes (long batards)

preparing for morning toast


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My most recent bread comeuppance has been thanks to Msr. Calvel.  Someone recently posted a page from his book which had illustrations of differing bread forms and an accompanying table listing the features of each.  Well, it turns out that my "baguettes" are not even baguettes according to the man.  They match his characteristics of a "long batard": size, weight, shape and number of scores.  Waddya know?  Well, I'll still cheat a bit and continue to call them baguettes because I haven't noticed any bread police nearby to pinch me on this.

I'd nicked this formula from a David Snyder post about a year ago, who in turn got it from SFBI, so I guess this a nick squared.  I ran out of bread yesterday with my last batch, and the dog's bread treat bowl was running on near empty as well.  Since she doesn't get "additives" in her treats I wanted to bake something pretty straightforward.  I decided on this one, which I hadn't baked in months.  However I did post as "baguettes" the first time that I baked them.

If you are looking for an almost all AP flour dough, relatively low hydration (68%) but feels & acts like a high hydration dough, and which has a delightfully crisp snap to the crust with a lovely fresh clean taste - then this is for you.  I was trying to fit in more adjectives but there must be an editing limiter on this website ;-) .  Here is David's post.


Minutes away from the morning toast...

I made these extra fat - just because!

430g x 4 "long batards" (darn it)

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My wife is off to a Dragon Boat race this weekend.  I won't describe what it is, you can look it up if you have the mind to.  The three main things they do there are 1) race, 2) spend a lot of downtime between races and 3) eat and nap during the downtime.  I thought that I'd add to the groaning table by baking a rather, um, large golden raisin-pecan WW bread for them.

Coming off the recent just-for-the-heck-of-it monster baguette, I decided that it wasn't big enough.  This beast weighs in at 1500g, a full 50% heavier than the prior beast while being a few inches shorter.  A perfect snacking bread with or without butter, soft cheese and/or jam, and makes a fine toast too.  Probably not a great bread for sandwiches.  C'est la vie.

Unfortunately, having hardly any experience with breads this size, it looks as though in the scheme of things a seam  twisted out of position and although it may look artistic is actually a burst seam.  I'll have to somehow console my sorrow and find the inner strength to recover from this tragedy ;-) . 

The little fellow is a 550g batard that will keep my tonsils company over her weekend absence.

The lone slice of the Big Boy that my wife left behind...


  1. 1500g x 1 truncheon
  2. 550g x 1 batard

 These are loosely based on the fabulous Ken's Artisan Bakery version of this bread.

Raisin Pecan Whole Wheat Levain    
    Total Flour    
Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Prefermented20.00%   
Total Formula   Levain  Final Dough 
Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
Total Flour100.00%503.3 100.00%100.7 Final Flour402.6
AP Flour70.00%352.3 60.0%60.4 AP Flour291.9
Whole Wheat25.00%125.8 20.0%20.1 Whole Wheat105.7
Rye flour5.00%25.2 20.0%20.1 Rye5.0
Water72.60%365.4 75.0%75.5 Water289.9
Salt2.10%10.6    Salt10.6
Raisins / Figs12.00%60.4    Raisins60.4
Pecans / Toasted Walnuts12.00%60.4    Pecans60.4
75% Stiff Levain2.00%10.1 10.0%10.1   
Totals198.70%1000.0 185%186.2  1000.0
    2 stage stiff levain build  
    Stage 1    
    AP Flour30.2   
    Whole Wheat10.1   
    Stage 2    
    AP Flour30.2   
    Whole Wheat10.1   


  • Day 1 – Mix Stiff Levain – 15 minutes
  • Day 2 – Mix dough, French Folds & ferment – 2-3 hours (~18-24 hour rest)
  • Day 3 – Bake – 1.5 hours 


DAY 1:

  1. Mix levain. Ferment at room temperature, covered tightly, turn once or twice during build. (can be as much as 8-12 hours - your mileage may vary)
  2. Soak fruit in water.  Reserve water for final mix.

DAY 2:

  1. Mix flours and water, include water from fruit. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes.
  2. Add levain and salt and pinch-and-fold mix to incorporate. 150 French Folds / 5 minute covered rest / 150 FFs.
  3. Transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly.
  4. Add raisins and pecans at first Letter Fold.  Stretch dough out into large rectangle on wetted surface and distribute fruit and nuts evenly.
  5. With each Letter Fold, try to fold so that the fruit and nuts stay toward the interior of the dough as much as possible.
  6. Bulk ferment 2-3 hours with 4 Letter Folds every 25 minutes, one final 25 minute rest, then refrigerate. Dough will start doming after the first fold.  Dough will remain silky and extensible throughout.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for as much as 18-24 hours.

DAY 3:

  1. Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  For baguettes, divide into SQUARE pieces.  For batards, divide into pre-shaped balls.
  2. Cover and allow to rest for 10-12 minutes.
  3. For baguettes - these work better as short & chubby baguettes/torpedoes perhaps allowing a little raw flour on surface for rustic look.
  4. Onto lightly floured couche, seam side down.  These will shed some moisture.
  5. Cover with plastic.  Back into retard.
  6. An hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500ºF, with baking stone and lava rock pan in place.
  7. Score.
  8. Bake at 470ºF 10-13 minutes steam, separate & rotate 180 front to back, then another 10-15 minutes or more after rotating.  Vent for 2-3 minutes.
  9. These should bake darker than you think.  We want the crust to be dark and thick!


  • My kitchen is almost always 78-80dF.
  • Dough can be shaped anytime during retard cycle, after ~ 2 hours in refrigerator.
  • I bake directly out of retard.
  • 1 Sylvia's Steaming towel, 1 9"x13" pan of lava rocks.  Towel goes in 15 minutes prior to bake, 2 cups of water onto lava rocks after dough is loaded.
  • Recommend the short and chubby baguettes because the fruit and nuts would wind up dominating the girth of a fully sized baguette.
  • Can also be scored with a diagonal cross hatch for the fun and look of it.


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Apologies to, and inspiration by, Carole King.


Looking down at the morning toast I used to feel so uninspired And when I knew I had to butter another slice 
Lord, it made me feel so tired 
Before the day I met you, bread was so unjust 
But your the key to my piece of crust  'Cause you bake me real, 
You bake me real, 
You bake me real like 
A natural levain  When my boule was in the lost and found 
You came along to claim it 
I didn't know just what was wrong with yeast 
Lievito Madre helped me name it 
Now I'm no longer doubtful, of what I'm mixing for 
And if French Folds make me happy I don't need to do more   'Cause you bake me real, 
You bake me real, 
You bake me real like 
A natural levain   Oh, baguettes, what you've done to me  
You score and spring so good outside  
And I just want to eat  
Loaves of you  
You make me feel so alive     'Cause you bake me real, 
You bake me real, 
You bake me real like 
A natural levain  

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Leviathan: Anything of immense size and power...

I had an urge to bake a monster "baguette".  Just for the fun of it.  Lacking any other reason, as if I needed one anyway.  Based on the Hamelman Pain au Levain w/WW & 60% hydration bread flour.  My version uses 125% hydration rye flour and eliminates the WW.

I included the full sized Fuji apple in the lead picture to provide a sense of size.  That's 22 inches or 59 cm.

 The bake allowed the flattened tip of the bread to recover nicely.

965g x 1 Leviathan. 13 minutes with steam, 10 minutes more and 3 minutes venting.


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Yesterday's bake was a dry run to see what's what.  Today corrections were made, and hopefully for the better.  This time I used a spring pan which had a slightly wider base than the Angel Food pan, and also employed a small bowl in the center in order to enlarge the hole in the crown.

Otherwise everything else was business as usual.  And although this didn't get quite the loft and open score of yesterday's bake, some of the loft issue may be related to the crown being a little wider in diameter.  I think that overall I'm more pleased with the look of this one.  

1250g x 1 corona

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But since it is "Italian bread", let's go with sesame semolina corona.  This is the Jeffrey Hamelman semolina dough with my 125% hydration rye liquid levain in lieu of his 125% bread flour liquid levain.

Neighbors due Friday afternoon for homemade torta di riso, rice cake - courtesy of my better half, home "brewed" limoncello, cheese -courtesy of various cloven-hooved beasts, and bread.  As I've made them my sesame semolina baguettes before, I decided on tackling a new shape, and have a preliminary run-through before subjecting any guests to it without a test bake.

Without a specialty banneton of any kind, it was time for some simple improvisation.  Using a 2 part Angel Food pan, I took the entire dough, already bulk risen and retarded, opened a hole in the center and dropped it into the pan.  Then back to retard it went for an overnight nap.  With a teflon-coated pan, there was no issue with the dough releasing cleanly.  A healthy swipe across the surface of the dough with a wet paper towel allowed the sesame seeds to adhere nicely.

15 minutes under steam, another 15 minutes after rotating and a final 2 minutes venting.  I've never baked anything greater than 750g , and then perhaps only twice, so this was a new adventure for me in a few ways.  Still too fresh out of the oven to cut open.  If all goes as planned, I'll prep the real thing today for a Friday afternoon bake and better form a round hole in the center.

Crumb shot added

1250g x 1 corona

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Pain Rustique as a batard and baguettes.  I've seen a few pain rustique posts come through recently.  Well maybe one, maybe more.  And it occurred to me that I hadn't made this before.  Being poolish based, it is a rare bake these days where I don't use a levain as my pre-ferment.

This is modeled on the WeekendBakery version. The poolish is a mix of AP and Whole Wheat flours and is unusual in that it uses a levain starter rather than IDY for the poolish.  Knowing that I was planning on retarding the dough, I cut the amount of IDY for the Final Dough in half and also shortened the bulk rise times.

The dough is surprisingly sticky at "shaggy mass" time considering the overall hydration of the dough is only 65.5%.  But it mixed by hand quite nicely and was quite extensible during Letter Folds.  For this particular bread I attempted to be as gentle as reasonable while shaping the dough so as to avoid disturbing any future open cell structure within.  I did over-flour the couche in an attempt to ward off any recalcitrant dough that would want to stick to the linen.  As it turned out, the dough released without a hitch from the couche and the excess flour was probably not very necessary.

The mixed flour poolish took about 11 hours to mature.  In the picture the small black mark on the container was where the just mixed poolish started.

625 x 1 batard

330 x 2 baguettes

Pain Rustique w/levain based Poolish      

Weekend Bakery, mod. by alfanso

    Total Flour    
Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Prefermented50.00%   
Total Formula   Poolish  Final Dough 
Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
Total Flour100.00%589.3 100.00%294.7 Final Flour294.7
AP Flour90.00%530.4 80.0%235.7 AP Flour294.7
Whole Wheat10.00%58.9 20.0%58.9 Whole Wheat0.0
Water65.54%386.3 100.0%294.7 Water91.6
Salt1.67%9.8    Salt9.8
IDY0.25%1.5    IDY1.5
Starter2.22%13.1 4.5%13.1   
Totals169.68%1000.0 204%602.5  1000.0
Mix  poolish and allow ~12 hours.      
Mix  poolish, flour and water.  Autolyse 30 minutes    
Add IDY & salt.        
150 French Folds, 5 minute rest, final 150 FFs.    
75 minute bulk rise. Letter Folds at 35 & 60 minutes.  Rest for 15 additional minutes.
Retard for ~8-12 hours.       
Divide & shape anytime after 2 hours.  Onto moderately floured couche seam side down.
Retard again until ready to bake.       
Preheat oven to 475dF       
Onto oven peel seam side down.  Score.      
Bake at 455dF till brown.  ~13 minutes with steam, ~12 minutes more for baguettes or 15 more for batards.  2 minutes venting.

The crumb is surprisingly tight considering the oven spring, which does not bother me.  For a long time now, I'm no longer in search of large open crumb as my "holey grail".  I believe this type of dough is not meant to be shaped, even as gently as I attempted, hence the rustique name as others have pointed out.   But more importantly the taste is mild and pleasing for an almost all AP bread.  And although it received the same amount of steaming as my other bakes, this one does not carry the same amount of sheen as others.

Still, certainly worth placing the formula in my notebook for future bakes.  Man cannot live by levain bread alone.

N.B.  If you want to bake this the same way, without retardation and with the full amount of IDY, refer to the link at the top of this entry for timings.

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On May 1st BreadBabies posted her SJSD batard twins.  And they were lovely.  But her post started off with a lament on her rye levain.  After being built and "ready" her resultant bake yielded the comment "Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough was more like a Vermont pancake". 

I suggested that her rye levain was the issue and that it was way past usefulness, having expired all of the yeast's food by the time she got around to employing it.  It was in the throes of death at that point and therefore she shouldn't throw in the towel so soon on trying to use rye levains.  

As her SJSD was so nice, I provided a bastardized version of it replacing David's 100% mixed flour liquid levain with a 125% all rye flour liquid levain.  She replied along the lines of - after you.  So be it.  I guess that was the bee in my bonnet that I needed!  And so BreadBabies - here it is:

One other point that I want to re-emphasize.  Is once you / I / we make a mod to someone else's formula, it is no longer their formula that we are making, it is our own version, a one-off.  And again, to me, a good thing.

First order of business is to know what a ripe and ready 125% rye levain should look like.  Doubled in size from when it was fed, it started out at the horizontal "gelato" line.  This took 5 1/2 hour in my 78dF kitchen:


Changes from David's SJSD formula for this run:

  • the obvious switch to the 125% rye liquid levain
  • incorporated the levain with the water and flour up front.  Otherwise it would have been a little difficult to incorporate the post-autolyse levain by hand.
  • Bulk rise with letter folds at 40, 80, 120 and 150 minutes.  Then whisked into retard for ~16-18 hours.
  • baked straight out of retard without a bench proof.

The dough was incredibly extensible throughout the letter folds.  Soft and quite pliable for final shaping.  With a  modestly floured couche they released quite easily, with no sticking although they shed a fair amount of moisture onto the couche.

Baked at 480dF.  Steamed for 13 minutes.  Rotated and baked for an additional 10 minutes.  Vented for 2 minutes more.

375g x 4 baguettes.  

Crumb shot added.  Preparing for my morning toast...


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