The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

alfanso's blog

alfanso's picture

A few months ago I posted my version of Abel Sierra’s Tritordeum baguettes, a result of which is posted in the lead photo.

Tritordeum, as stated earlier, is a new hybrid grain developed in Spain after decades of breeding and cultivation, and finally coming to market sometime around 2013 or so.  It is grown primarily in Spain, France and Italy and available across a few European countries.  After recalling the posting by Abel I came across a 500g bag in Trieste Italy and gave it a one time bake upon returning home.  My posting in Aug. 2018 is in the link above.

In Barcelona last week, I recalled that the worldwide headquarters of Agrasys, the company that promotes Tritordeum, is located there.  Unannounced, I rang the doorbell to their office on Tuesday afternoon, to see if I could register a “complaint" that I had searched a number of small and large supermarkets in the city in a vain attempt at finding the flour on a shelf.  Anton, who answered the ring, came down to discuss why, and we talked shop for a while.  A meeting was underway in their offices, and so Anton was apologetic for not inviting us up. When we returned an hour or so later, he greeted us at the downstairs front door again, this time with a bag of a few sample flours, two packs of Tritordeum crackers and a pair of IPA beers brewed with the grain.  And an offer for a return visit later in the week to come up and meet the staff.

Anton had glanced at my TFL blog and stated that he mentioned me to the others in the office.  We returned on Friday, meet the staff and discussed shop.  Still frustrated at not being able to locate the grain in any store, or the Forn Baltá bakery in the Sants neighborhood that once sold the flour over the counter, we were directed to a grain shop nearby where they had a bag of the flour in bulk.

Anton, Verónica and the entire staff, right up to the Company CEO, were warm and wonderful and interested in my personal experiment and own interest in the grain.  It was a great experience.  Verónica knew Abel from his baking days Barcelona, and so in a way, the circle was completed, with me having discovered the grain thanks to Abel.

All in all, I came home with about 4 kilos of T150 and a few smaller bags of a more refined grain, perhaps a T65.

In the interests of “science”, I’ve already converted a 100% hydration AP liquid levain into both 100% and 75% hydration Tritordeum levains.  The three stages of builds for each took place over the course of a calendar day, with the first consuming 10 hours to mature, the second 3 hours and the third a little under 3 hours to more than double.  I now feel that I have built up a strong enough pair of levains with most of the original AP flour winnowed out.  So I'll declare that it is almost a 100% pure Tritordeum levain at this point.

The dough was incredibly slack at my singular 70% hydration experience.  But with my planned 80% T150 grain as well as my decision to use 20% strong white flour, and after discussion with the staff, I feel as though I can still maintain a 70% hydration dough and get a less extensible result.  This should yield a dough that is more manageable than in my prior experience.  Time will tell and I’ll post some of my experimental results along the way.

A grateful thank you to all of the incredibly inviting people who we met at Agrasys.  

Verónica, alfanso and Anton:


 Anton's first "care package" to me:

And don't forget the Tritordeum grain IPA:

 The ~6K of grain now nestled in containers:

 Shelves at Forn Baltá bakery of "everything" but Tritordeum :-(  : 

 Barcelona is a wonderful city.  One of Antoni Gaudí's first creations:

 And "just" another doorway in a city graced with exquisite and fantastic architecture.

alfanso's picture

That's the saying.  But I was already home and wanted to go big anyway.

My wife was off to an early morning flight to Tobago for a Pan-Am Dragon Boating competition.  She asked if I'd bake a WW fig-raisin-pecan levain bread as some boarding gate breakfast for the troops traveling together.  Made two, sliced 'em, and packed them off with some butter and cream cheese.  These are designed to bake dark and craggy, the left with traditional baguette scoring, the right with a criss-cross design.

630g x 2

Getting itchy to bake up something.  This gargantuan specimen is a Rye with Caraway.  Instead of using a Rye Sour I opted for my 125% rye levain.

1000g x 1


Rye w/Caraway, 125% hydration rye levain       
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Rye15%   
 Total Formula   Liquid Levain  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%569.8 100.00%85.5 Final Flour484.3
 AP Flour75.00%427.4 0%0.0 AP Flour427.4
 WW5.00%28.5 0%0.0 WW28.5
 Rye20.00%114.0 100%85.5 Rye28.5
 Water73.50%418.8 125%106.8 Water312.0
 Salt2.00%11.4    Salt11.4
 60% Starter3.00%17.1 20%17.1   
 Totals175.50%1000.0 245%209.4  1000.0
 Caraway Seeds2.30%13.1    Caraway Seeds13.1
"Autolyse" levain, water & flours, 30 min.  2 stage liquid levain build @125% hydration
Add salt. pinch and fold.   Stage 1    
150 French Folds, 5 min rest, 150 FFs   Rye42.7   
Dough remains sticky untl first Letter Fold  Water53.4   
Bulk for 80 min, 4 LFs at 20,40,60 80 min.  Starter17.1   
Add Caraway Seeds on first LF   Stage 2    
Retard overnight, divide and shape in morning  Rye42.7   
Can roll loaf in wet towel and add more Caraway Seeds to top      
Onto couche, will require very little flour  Water53.4   
Preheat 500dF.   Total209.4   
Bake 470dF, steam for 13 min, rotate and continue baking til done     

A short time ago I decided to Ziggy-up a 5-Grain Levain.

I can't recall, but he's probably about 750g.



alfanso's picture

In December 2018 I tried to duplicate the delicious breadsticks we had at one of the Arizmendi bakeries in S.F.  I think that I came close after a few tries, eventual swapping out the somewhat invisible-tasting sharp cheddar and jalapeño for pecorino cheese and serrano chilies.  Converted in this iteration from sponge to a 100% hydr. levain with 20% preferment AP flour, it is a 50/50 semolina/AP dough at 69% hydration.  I also removed the sugar and IDY which was used in the sponge. 

Friend Mike made a short notice visit and is staying here these past few days to take care of some East Coast business that had cropped up pronto.  So I baked these baguettes for him as well as some ciabatta.  

Using the similar but converted formula as I did for the breadsticks, the baguettes came out looking fine in every way.  But...I don't believe that this formula is really designed for anything other than a breadstick.  The crumb is quite dense, likely due to the very finely grated 25% pecorino cheese in the mix, and there is "too much" cheese flavor that was better left when the crust was much more the star than the crumb.  

Something was lost in the transition from breadstick to baguette.  Much better as toast than as fresh bread.  So noted, and in the future I'll stick to just using the formula for breadsticks.

And a little ciabatta "skin"

alfanso's picture

Last time I made the Scott MeGee Ciabatta, but with a biga.  Today, I converted it to a 125% hydration AP levain.  Whereas the biga had 40% of the flour pre-fermented, I dropped this down to 20%, and also dropped the IDY by at least 2/3.  The overall hydration stays at 76%.

I kept the large bread at 750g but decided to not stretch it so far this time so it has more girth, which I like.  The taste is sweet and delicate and this ciabatta makes great morning toast.

Steam released, & rotated.

~750g x 1 beast, ~370g x 2 ordinary sized.


Ciabatta w/ 125% Levain @76% Hydration       
Scott MeGee, alfanso        
500g  will yield 3" diameter loaves - small        
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1500 Prefermented20.00%   
 Total Formula   Levain  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%827.4 100.00%  Final Flour661.9
 AP Flour100.00%827.4 100%165.5 AP Flour661.9
 Water (cold in final dough)76.00%628.8 125%206.8 Water cold337.6
 Olive Oil3.00%24.8    Olive Oil24.8
 Salt2.10%17.4    Salt17.4
 IDY0.20%1.7 0.00%0.00 IDY1.7
        Levain COLD372.3
 Totals181.30%1500 225.00%372.31  1500
KA mixer: "1",  “2” & "6" to incorporate, 2nd hydration @ "4"to add, “6” to mix, “8” to finish. 
In mixer: IDY into COLD water, COLD Levain flour.  MIX ON "1" until water is taken up, then "2" until shaggy.  Pinch and fold.
Remove dough from mixer,  ~50 FFs, 5 min rest, 50 FFs.      
Back to mixer: bassinage of COLD water, salt and olive oil ADD VERY SLOWLY - MIXER ON"4" THEN  "6" & "8" to finish.
Mix done with slapping sound, pulling off bowl onto hook, then dropping back to bowl again.  
bulk proof - 2 hr., 3 folds - 0, 40, 80        
scale at 500g, no pre-shape, couche seam side up       
40 min final proof        
Roll and stretch dough as it goes to baking peel       
Preheat @480dF        
Bake w/ steam @460dF, ~13 min, another ~15 min, then vent      

Some additional notes:

  • Shaping and placing onto oven peel copied from Scott MeGee.
  • If the flour is scaled out separately from the water and levain, the IDY can be placed into the flour and then whisked in to incorporate.
  • My KA mixer has the "smaller" bowl.  I don't like the dough hook, but that's what there is.  a pretty constant need to stop and scape the hook and bowl sides down with regularity.
  • Shift the speed in the mixer back and forth to accommodate the activity needed, like the addition of the bassinage, but end with speed of "8".
  • Even starting out with cold water and cold levain/biga, mixing friction on my mixer brings the temperature up to ~81-82dF.  Flour can also be refrigerated or placed in freezer to further delay overheating the mixed dough.
  • As with everything else, I don't do a window pane.  Rather relying on the slapping of the dough on the bowl sides and the aforementioned lifting and dropping of the dough from the hook as my indicators.
  • First letter fold is right out of the mixer and is "aggressive".  Second and third are succedingly much more gentle.
  • For obvious reasons, the couche takes a fair amount of flour, the oven peel (with parchment paper) takes none.
  • Dough is quite sticky, so flour the bench well.
  • The less handling of the dough, the better.
  • Shaping into a "barrel" and apply light pressure when tightening the skin of the dough - don't overdo or overthink
  • There is a lot of moisture in the dough so it takes a longer bake than one may think.  That is one reason why the coloration is dark.


alfanso's picture

This is a 76% hydration ciabatta modeled on that of Scott McGee.    Unusual in the low hydration and that he shapes these.

Dinner the other evening with friends for “Sunday macaroni and gravy”, which may be an Americanism for pasta with tomato sauce.  Also includes sausages, meatballs and ribs, all cooked in the “gravy”.  I hadn’t made a ciabatta in a while, so it was off to the races as part of our contribution to dinner.  

Today I’m once again seeing our visiting-the-U.S. London TFL compatriot Abe (in olden days "Lechem" and even older "A BakEr").  So I thought that I’d bake him one too.  But I wanted to bake something bigger.  Bumped up from 500g to 750g each, they are pretty easy to make, The biga was made the evening before and then warehoused in the refrigerator until mix time.  I’ve tried the Jason Molina Cocodrillo ciabatta quite a while back, and although it is a cinch to make, the flavor is lacking, so I ditched the effort and formula after two consecutive trials.

These were stretched out long enough that I had to load the baking deck sideways instead of head in.  13 minutes with steam, 16 minutes after, and 3 minutes of venting.  These could have gone a few minutes more.  

If you are a fan of the super open ciabatta crumb that mice and small children can fall through, this isn’t the formula for you.  But it is a ciabatta in every way, with modest open crumb,  thin crisp crust, and a light as a feather crumb. And makes fabulous toast.

And as toast:

Ciabatta w/Biga @76% Hydration       
Scott MeGee, alfanso        
500g  will yield 3" diameter loaves - small        
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1500 Prefermented40.00%   
 Total Formula   Biga  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%825.5 100.00%  Final Flour495.3
 Bread Flour100.00%825.5 100%330.2 Bread Flour495.3
 Water (cold in final dough)76.00%627.4 66%217.9 Water cold327.6
 Olive Oil3.00%24.8    Olive Oil24.8
 Salt2.10%17.3    Salt17.3
 IDY0.60%5.0 0.14%0.46 IDY4.5
        Biga cold548.6
 Totals181.70%1500 166.14%548.62  1500
KA mixer: "1",  “2” & "6" to incorporate, 2nd hydration @ "4"to add, “6” to mix, “8” to finish. 
In mixer: IDY into COLD water, COLD biga, flour.  MIX ON "1" until water is taken up, then "2" until shaggy.  Pinch and fold.
Remove dough from mixer,  ~50 FFs, 5 min rest, 50 FFs.      
Back to mixer: bassinage of COLD water, salt and olive oil ADD VERY SLOWLY - MIXER ON"4" THEN  "6" & "8" to finish.
Mix done with slapping sound, pulling off bowl onto hook, then dropping back to bowl again.  
bulk proof - 2 hr., 3 folds - 0, 40, 80        
scale at 500g, no pre-shape, couche seam side up       
40 min final proof        
Roll and stretch dough as it goes to baking peel       
Preheat @480dF        
Bake w/ steam @460dF, ~13 min, another ~15 min, then vent      
alfanso's picture

The purpose of this post is to reinforce that folks shouldn't just assume one levain will act like all, or even any other differing hydration or composition levain.

During the current Community Bake of the Hamelman Five-Grain Levain, Designing Woman (Carole) expressed concerns about building her 1st very liquid levain.  I’d pointed her to a post of mine from two years ago which spelled out what to expect, as results from feedings and builds will vary.  I haven’t baked anything in almost a month (freezer inventory and a bit of dieting) and was itching to get a new bake started.  So I thought that I’d document the following while building my levain.  

Just for fun, if you want to call it that, I keep a few different levains alive and happy in the depths of my refrigerator.  Among them are:

  • 100% hydration AP flour levain (last refresh Dec 30),
  • 125% hydration AP flour levain  (last refresh Jan 10),
  • 125% hydration rye flour levain  (last refresh Jan 10),

 For those who think that you can’t keep a liquid levain alive without a frequent refresh, here is proof that you can, as it was 5 weeks without a refresh for the 100%, and it is still quite alive and at my service.

Lined up for each build as: 100% AP, 125% AP and 125% rye.

1st Build:


2nd Build:


  • I was a bit inconsistent for the feedings, my starter being either 80g or 100g of each.  This wasn’t my Secondary School Science assignment and if I fudged a bit on the amount of the starter, so what.
  • All three levains were pulled from the refrigerator so they were cold and dormant for the 1st build.  
  • For both builds the 100% AP was fed with 100g water and 100g flour.  Each of the other two were fed with 125g water and 100g flour.
  • All builds were done concurrently, both at the start and end of each. 
  • Due to the runaway growth of the 125% rye levain, I terminated the 2nd build a bit early.
  • I didn't bother to wait for peak growth and maturity, since they all peak at different times, so the build durations were completely arbitrary and met my own schedule. 

The 1st build:

  • ~7 hours in my 78dF kitchen and the small black mark on the side of each vessel indicates where the mix originally came up to.  
  • 100% AP didn’t quite double, had modest alveolation from the side, and small bubbles from the top.  
  • 125% AP barely grew at all, but was quite frothy as seen from both side and top.  
  • 125% rye, just about doubled and the alveolation is obvious from the side but did not exhibit from the top.  

The 2nd build:

  • Skimmed off the excess levain to get back to approximately the 1st build's amounts before 2nd feeding.
  • ~5 hours in my overnight 75dF kitchen and the 2nd small black mark to the right of the 1st mark indicates where the mix originally came up to.
  • 100% AP came in just shy of doubling with similar side and top references.  
  • 125% AP now showed significantly more growth on this build with a less forty, but very active bubbling on top.  
  • 125% rye went bananas on this 2nd build, this time exhibiting the alveolation front the top as well.


None of this surprised me as I’ve performed these builds many times before.  Rather it demonstrates that each differing hydration and flour content will yield differing results from refreshes and builds. Now it may be out there and well documented elsewhere.  But generally I find write-ups in most formula notes to frequently be lacking, in whole or in part, in certain criteria, such as:

  • What to expect from the levain build,
  • What the dough should feel like and how it reacts as the process of mixing, bulk fermentation and folding proceeds,
  • How malleable the dough will be by the time it is ready for divide and shaping,
  • How wet/sticky the dough will be so that the appropriate amount of flour can be applied to the couch or banetton,
  • What to expect during the bake cycle.  

All of these are helpful, at least to me, and as valuable to my experience as the baker as just about any other notations in a given formula.  Well, anyway, that is my personal take.


alfanso's picture

We spent the month of November in northern California, where we lived for 15 years.  In SF for Thanksgiving with long long time friends, we stopped at one of the Arizmendi Bakeries that dot the bay area.  Among other delectables, we picked up their Sesame Semolina Jalapeño Cheese breadsticks, which we both fell for immediately.  Upon return home my wife asked if I could try to duplicate them.  So…

Looking for guidance here on TFL and the other sites, what I mostly saw was what would qualify as Grissini, those tall slender and sometimes gnarly things. I wasn’t interested in those near ubiquitous Skinny Minnies that are posted everywhere, nor those overly cheesy soft things that made a number of appearances as well.  No.  What I was after was a crisp sesame coated semolina version with some real girth to it.  The idea being to come as close to duplicating those treasured batons that we picked up in SF.

I relied on Jeffery Hamelman’s "Semolina (Durum) Bread" formula as my template, and then modified it to suit.  With the swapping out of the olive oil for more water and the addition of the two cheeses and jalapeños, this was no longer a Hamelman but an Alfanso with the nod to Mr. H.  This is a dough that uses an aggressive sponge, ready in 75 minutes in my 78-80dF kitchen.  

At 80g each, the breadsticks baked in a 460dF oven for 13 minutes with steam, 6 additional minutes and then 2 minutes more for venting.  And for a first time, I did not remove the parchment paper from under the dough.  Too delicate and messy to bother with.  

The Arizmendi breadstick, the real deal, exhibits both a pronounced cheese flavor as well as at the bite of the jalapeño in the back of the mouth.  I’m not quite there yet in either department, but the first inklings of the stronger taste are just beginning to show through.  Still have some work to do.  

Here is the formula normalized to 1000g, which is what I used for this bake.


Semolina Cheddar Jalapeño breadsticks with sponge     
Jeffrey Hamelman, mod by alfanso        
     Total Flour    
     AP Flour20.00%   
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Semolina20.00%   
 Total Formula   Sponge  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%509.7 100.00%203.9 Final Flour305.8
 AP Flour50.00%254.8 50%101.9 AP Flour152.9
 Semolina50.00%254.8 50%101.9 Semolina152.9
 Water69.00%351.7 70%142.7 Water209.0
 Salt1.80%9.2    Salt9.2
 IDY0.40%2.0 1%2.0 IDY0.0
 Sugar2.00%10.2 5%10.2 Sugar0.0
 EV Olive Oil0.00%0.0    EV Olive Oil0.0
 sharp Cheddar Cheese7.50%38.2    Cheddar Cheese38.2
 Parmesan Cheese7.50%38.2    Parmesan Cheese38.2
 finely chopped Jalapeño8.00%40.8    Jalapeño40.8
 Totals196.20%1000.0 176%358.8  1000.0
Total time: ~5.5 Hours.        

Finely grate both cheeses

Mix all sponge ingredients well.  Will ripen in 75 min. (in a 78-80dF kitchen).  CONCURRENTLY...

Autolyse final dough flours and water        
Combine the sponge and autolyse and hand mix well.  Add salt and hand  mix again.   
75 French Folds, then a 5 minute rest.         
Add cheese and jalapeno and hand mix to incorporate.  And a final 75 FFs more.And a final 75 FFs more.    
Bulk rise 90 min with one fold at 45 min..       
Divide into 80g pieces.  Rest 15-20 min. and final shape ~14-17 in. long.    
Roll in wet towel and then in sesame seeds.       
Onto couche, final rise 60 min.        
Preheat oven 480dF.        
Bake at 460dF with steam.        
13 minutes, remove steam, 6 minutes more.  Then vent for 2 minutes with oven off.   


During our absence our friend house/dog sat.  Upon our return I asked her which bread she’d like me to make for her.  She opened my looseleaf and while blindly flipping pages stopped on the Phillipe Gosselin Baguettes, levain version.  I have rarely made this in the 4 or so years since my first foray.  but as the lady asks, the dude abides.

M. Gosselin is another luminary boulanger in Paris, another who, I believe, also won the annual competition for best baguette in Paris.  The formula that I use was posted on TFL by David Snyder back in 2012.    And as you can see, these make for explosive oven spring and a quite open crumb.


alfanso's picture

Been keeping a low profile around here, minding my own business - mostly.

I finally got around to baking this bread after promising Lechem (Abe) that I would.  My grain selection was bulgur, steel cut oats and flax & sunflower seeds.  Indeed, all the crowing around TFL for this bread is well deserved and it is quite delicious.

Mixing by hand proved to be a bit of a bear, but French Fold mix it I did.  Left out the IDY.  Two letter folds at 40 & 80 and into retard.  The seam was a bit hard to ID as I was placing it onto the couche, and the two baguettes had a small amount of exposed seam which split on the side of each.  Grr, but it happens once in a while.  Twice in one bake is another thing.

Another bread where there is scant evidence of having been done in baguette form, so you know that it was destined to be mine to do so.

Being a heavy dough I wasn't disappointed in the amount of grigne on the breads, but I was hoping for a little more.  Next time I'll add some IDY and up the hydration a little.

Abe visits a friend of his in Miami Beach, maybe annually, and last year we got together for the day, driving around and exposing him to a mini-tour of some of the Latin culture there.  Argentine cafe for breakfast, Cuban sandwiches and cubano coffees for lunch and Peruvian seafood for dinner.  With a few stops elsewhere in between.

This year, in fear of what to do, I came up with a plan which met with Abe's satisfaction.  Lunch at the Granier Bakery in Sunny Isles Beach where, for no other reason to go there, it was where Abel Sierra put in time with his friend last summer.  Then the “scenic” back way drive from there to my apartment in Ft. Lauderdale where we did two bakes together.  

I had prepared both a Vermont SD, which was still retarded in bulk, and an already couched and ready for the oven semolina with raisins, pine nuts and fennel seeds.

Afterwards a short walk for a dinner of pizza and beer, and then we traveled back down to Miami.  The destination being the fairly new Miami wholesale only bakery of the Sullivan Street Bakery in NY.  If the bakery doesn’t sound familiar to you then perhaps the owner will.  Jim Lahey, he being the baker who popularized the no-knead bread.

It is a pretty large scale operation and I checked with the head baker there to ensure that our visit was welcomed.  We arrived close to 11 PM, in time to see both some shaping and some baking in their humongous ovens.  Plenty of time for conversational interaction, and they couldn’t have been more accommodating, ensuring that we each left with a bread of our choice.  All in all, an exceptional and fun outing.

How am I going to top that next year?  Hmm.

alfanso's picture

My trip to Paris in June yielded these two useful results:  I was able to meet M. Bouabsa at his bakery for a few minutes and I came home with four 1K bags of T65 flour.  I’m certain that the flour isn’t the best quality as it was the house brand bought at the local Carrefour on my last full afternoon.  Held in abeyance until this weekend.

Styled on my version of Mr. Hamelman’s Vermont SD these are created using a 125% hydration KA AP flour levain which accounted for the 15% of the pre-fermented flour.  I picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo and fava bean flour, as suggested by dabrownman and kendalm, and added 2% to the mix.  Therefore the quick formula is:

  • 83% T65 flour
  • 2% garbanzo bean flour
  • 15% KA AP flour
  • 65% hydration
  • 1.9% salt

Standard French Folds, 2 hour bulk rise, 2 Letter Folds, and retard overnight.  Baked at 460dF.  I usually get a darker bake than this, even with a pure white flour mix, but this is a new game for me.  And after the bake I looked at the ingredients and noticed that this was an unmalted flour, something unusual for me and which I didn’t take into consideration.  And I wonder if that is the reason that the baguettes came out paler than usual.  Or is this an expected coloration for this type of flour? 

3x330g baguettes

Update Oct. 01.  crumb shot added.  I had made an assumption that this bread di not have much of an open crumb.  And although it certainly is not very open it does display some characteristics of a standard baguette inside.  

I've already reworked the formula to include a pinch of diastatic malt powder, switch from an AP levain to an all rye levain and to increase the hydration to 68% for the next batch.

I hadn’t baked a rye in a while.  125% hydration rye levain comprising the 15% pre-fermented flour.  75% AP flour, 5% WW and 20% Rye @73.5% overall hydration.

 2X325g baguettes, 2x425g baguettes

alfanso's picture

A bit of a come-on, but for comparison the lead photo is my standard 84% hydration ciabatta crumb, as is this next of a full loaf.

Friends soon visiting asked if I could bake ciabatta for them.  I had to re-aquaint myself. Rather than make my old standby ciabatta at 84% hydration, I wanted to try another option.

A video by The Artisan Crust’s Scott MeGee has an interesting take on this bread.  In response to two separate comments, Mr. MeGee quotes the hydration first as 66% and later as 76%.  If you’ve ever made ciabatta yourself and then watch this video, I doubt that the huge billowy pillow of dough that he folds and then divides is anything like your own personal experience. It certainly wasn’t and isn’t like mine.  If you can duplicate his dough’s characteristics I’d surely be curious as to how.

The 76% version makes a fine ciabatta with one glaring exception - it does not produce the large hole structure that we associate with this bread.  I'm personally not too enamored by large holes.  Beyond an open crumb, I really don’t care.  This 76% version otherwise maintains that true ciabatta look, smell, feel and taste.  That’s good enough for me.

 The 66% hydration version was next.  Amazingly, at divide time, the jiggly blob of dough that tumbled out of the container could just as easily be mistaken for a dough with hydrations of 10% and even 20% higher.  Once out of the mixer it was near impossible to tell this dough from the 76% or even an 85% ciabatta dough when it came time to fold, divide and bake.  On the downside I didn’t detect the same ciabatta smell and flavor from this 66% version.  Maybe it was just playing with my head (and nostrils).

My takeaway is that with little, if any, additional work the 76% was the superior version.  And I anticipate that my shaping of these, although already pretty fair, will continue to improve over time.

I like how he shapes the dough and then refrains from stretching it until moving from the well-floured couche to the baking peel, neither of which I had ever done before in this way.  With the jelly-like quality of both versions, shaping is a task but doable.  The dough just isn’t what you see in his video.

I agree with dabrownman when he says that the holes have no flavor and you can’t eat them.  If you are in the market for a ciabatta with those giant holes, this is not the bread for you.

For both versions, I differ from Mr. MeGee’s formula in that I used an overnight 40% prefermented flour biga instead of making this a direct dough.   Prior to the double-hydration bassinage of water and olive oil, I removed the dough from the mixer and gave it ~100 French Folds, with a 5 minute rest halfway through.  The 66% dough is much stiffer as it isn’t a full 66% until the bassinage has completed, and therefore I had to add some of the second hydration to make it workable on the bench.

Then back into the mixer.  Both the timing of the mix and the speed of the mixer were far far different from what is in the video.  Mr. MeGee’s stated mixing time is with his large commercial rotating bowl spiral mixer. I have an old Kitchen-Aid planetary stand mixer where the dough hook and action of my mixer leaves a lot to be desired.  I’ve never been satisfied with its performance the few times that I use the dough hook.  The speeds of my mixer varied from “2” for incorporation of the second hydration, up to “6” and finally to “8” to thoroughly finish the mix.

The mix with this dough hook is done when the dough provide that familiar slapping sound and goes though successive phases of being pulled up off the bowl and onto the hook and then dropping back down to the bowl again.  There is an awful lot of mixing friction that raises the dough temperature, hence the use of a cold biga and cold water.

The 76% hydration ciabatta





 The 66% hydration ciabatta




My version of his 76% hydration ciabatta using a biga formula.  2x ~500g loaves:

Ciabatta w/Biga @76% Hydration       
Scott MeGee, alfanso        
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1000 Prefermented40.00%   
 Total Formula   Biga  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%550.4 100.00%  Final Flour330.2
 Bread Flour100.00%550.4 100%220.1 Bread Flour330.2
 Water,cold76.00%418.3 66%145.3 Water218.4
 Olive Oil3.00%16.5    Olive Oil16.5
 Salt2.10%11.6    Salt11.6
 IDY0.60%3.3 0.14%0.31 IDY3.0
 Totals181.70%1000 166.14%365.75  1000




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