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It's a "cheap thrill." 

I don't seem to habituate to the high from taking a beautiful loaf (or two, or four) out of the oven.

"Overnight Country Brown" loaves from FWYS

I finally remembered not to seal my seams too well and to proof the boules seam-side down in the bannetons! 

The crust is crunchy and chewy. The crumb is quite chewy. The flavor 4 hours after baking was mildly sour with a prominent whole wheat flavor. Typically, the flavor of my mixed flour breads meld and mellow by the second day. This is very nice now, but I expect it to be even better tomorrow.


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Last week, my breads had a more or less "command performance" in the Italian language class my wife and I are taking. I've been a bit uncomfortable taking food since the class meets in  a deli/cafe/wine bar. Anyway, I decided to let it be on the teacher's head. I took a large wicker basket with half slices of 3 breads - a seeded sourdough Italian bread with 20% durum flour, a walnut-dried fig bread based on my San Francisco-style sourdough and a "Overnight Country Brown" from Ken Forkish.

Everyone seemed to enjoy all the breads. I was most delighted by the reactions of a fellow student who is a professor of art at the local State University. He was munching on the Forkish bread and carrying on about how even the local "French Bakery" (which is pretty good) puts "too much air" in their breads. He was talking, I'm sure, about the fluffiness you get when you spike sourdough breads with yeast. He thought the Country Brown was a lot like the breads he had had in France. (It is very similar to some pain de compagne I've had in the Dordogne Valley.  And we had a "guest" sitting in, which we often do. Clara is a native Italian -  an older woman who was the cook/owner of an Italian Restaurant/Pizzaria that is now closed. I understand she still has her old commercial mixer at home and bakes her own bread and makes pizzas and calzones. Her compliments meant a lot to me. 

Speaking of Forkish's breads, Fresno is now in our version of "Fall." My kitchen temperature is running right around 70 dF. I've made a couple FWSY formulas in the past 2 weeks - one is fermenting now - and they are keeping to the timings in the book more closely. I'm still not able to let an "overnight" dough bulk ferment at room temperature overnight.  I'm not too unhappy about this. The cold retardation makes the breads more sour, which i don't mind.

The breads at the head of this blog entry are some San Joaquin Sourdough baguettes and San Francisco-style Sourdoughs with 20% whole wheat I baked yesterday. 

We're having Thanksgiving at our house for the first time in several years. Our sons and their families and one of my sisters and her son will be with us.  I'm looking forward to it. It's time to start planning baking for the holiday weekend. Some breads for stuffing, some for morning toast and sandwich rolls for sure. 


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 Last week, I got a nice private message from a TFL member who had just made and enjoyed the Sourdough Italian Bread about which I blogged back in 2008. That bread was Peter Reinhart's Italian bread from BBA with the biga converted to a biga naturale, AKA firm sourdough starter.

That message reminded me that in 2011 I developed another “Italian Bread” formula that I actually preferred to the 2008 version. Coincidentally, my Italian class classmates have been harassing encouraging me to bring some of my breads to class for them to sample.

So, I decided to make the 2011 Italian Bread and San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with Figs and Walnuts (San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Figs) to share with my class.

Sourdough Italian Bread

Those who have made my San Joaquin Sourdough may note the resemblance between the method outlined below and that for the SJSD. This is not coincidental. On the other hand, any resemblance between this bread and any bread actually baked in Italy …. Well, whatever, it is quite delicious.



Wt. (g)

Baker's %

AP flour



Fine durum flour












Diastatic malt powder



Active Liquid levain



Olive oil






 Note: When I blogged about this bread in 2011, Andy (ananda) pointed out that the diastatic malt was probably unnecessary, since most American flour has some malted barley already, and it's redundant with the sugar. However, I did not review those comments until after the dough was mixed. Maybe next time I'll leave out the malt.


  1. In a large bowl, disperse the levain in the water.

  2. Add the flours, sugar and malt to the liquid and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Add the salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. (Note: I squish the dough with my hands until it comes back together, then do stretch and folds in the bowl until it forms a smooth ball and the oil appears completely incorporated.)

  5. Transfer the dough to a 2 quart lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl tightly.

  6. After 30 minutes, do 20 stretch and folds in the bowl. Repeat 3 more times at 30 minute intervals.

  7. Refrigerate for 12-36 hours.

  8. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape as rounds or logs. Cover with a clean towel or plasti-crap and let rest for one hour.

  9. Shape as boules or bâtards and proof en couche or in bannetons for about 45 minutes. (Note: Optionally, if proofing en couche, roll the loaves on damp paper towels then in a tray of sesame seeds. Alternatively, you can brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. If proofing in bannetons, you would use the second method but after transferring the loaves to a peel, just before baking.)

  10. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480ºF with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  11. Transfer the loves to the baking stone. Steam the oven, and turn the temperature down to 460ºF.

  12. After 15 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus. (Note: What I actually do at this point is switch to convection bake and turn the oven down to 435ºF for the remainder of the bake.) Continue baking for another 12-15 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 205ºF.

  13. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

The crust was crisp at first but became soft and chewy after a few hours. The crumb was moist and chewy with a complex sweet, nutty, tangy flavor accented by the sesame seeds on the crust.

This bread is delicious toasted with almond butter or un-toasted dipped in olive oil, but it might be best just plain right after cooling.  

Happy baking!


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As previously advertised, I turned to the rye side this week. I baked a couple loaves of Greenstein's Jewish Sour Rye, which is still a favorite, especially toasted. The loaf in the photo is a 4 lb loaf of Hamelman's 3-stage 80% Rye Bread. It was baked this afternoon and is presently cooled and wrapped in baker's linen, "curing." I will not slice it for at least 36 hours. Crumb photos will follow.

I really like this bread, but I don't make this type of high percentage rye very often. Each time i do, I am sure it is going to be a disaster. The dough never really comes together in the mixer, and the boule is molded more than shaped. The loaf, when it's ready to bake, has the consistency (and color) of chocolate mouse. Yet, even when clots of dough stick to the brotform, you can scrape them off and slap them back on the loaf. And it always bakes up into a gorgeous, rustic, crusty on the outside moist on the inside, delicious exemplar of "real bread." 

I can wait to slice it, because I know how much better it will be in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the cream cheese and pickled herring are standing by. I'll go fishing for some smoked salmon tomorrow. (My sister, Ruth, says you can always find the best fishing spot for smoked salmon by watching for the circling bay gulls.)

I also made a batch of San Joaquin Sourdough baguettes this week. In contrast to the rye, these are delicious 20 or 30 minutes after they have come out of the oven.

These have been turning out so reliably good the past few months, they have become a staple. They make great sandwiches, good toast and the second best French Toast (after challah). 

Next week, I am teaching, but, if time allows, I need to make some sort of whole wheat or multi-grain breads. 

Happy baking!


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Brother Glenn and I so often seem synchronized. Get this: I'm still baking bread too! But, then, I am not going to Scotland any time soon. 

This week, I took a break from my adventures in Forkishland and baked some old favorites.

San Francisco-style Sourdough with diamond scoring


San Francisco-style Sourdough with "tic-tac-toe" scoring 


San Francisco-style Sourdough crumb


Pain au Levain from Hamelman's Bread


Pain au Levain from Hamelman's Bread crumb

My next baking will be back to rye breads, I think.

Happy baking!


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Continuing my explorations of Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast, yesterday I baked his "Pain de Campagne" again, but with a difference. Forkish's formula for Pain de Campagne is, basically, a white bread. It has about 10% whole wheat. However, in his introduction to this bread, Forkish encourages the reader to experiment with increased whole wheat and rye and says that his own favorite version of this bread has 70% white flour, 20% whole wheat and 10% rye. Well, that sounded pretty good to me, so I did it. 

For the 800% g of flour in the final dough, I used 100g KAF Medium Rye, 200g Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat flour and 500g of KAF AP flour. 

This dough was quite sticky, and I was concerned whether I could develop enough dough strength. But the boules shaped up pretty nicely. They didn't expand much during proofing but had satisfactory oven spring.

I had some of this bread for dinner last night when it was almost completely cooled. It tasted okay, but with a lot of grassiness. The sourdough tang was quite mild.  Today, the flavors had melded,  and the bread was really delicious, both toasted for breakfast and un-toasted for lunch.  The flavor was similar to the "Field Blend #2," not surprisingly. 

I will happily make this bread again when I want a Pain de Campagne.  I will try to remember to make it a day before I want to eat it though. It really improved a lot with an overnight rest.


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I thought about titling this entry "With failures like these, who needs success?" This morning, I baked another new-to-me bread from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. It is called "75% Whole Wheat Levain Bread," and it is a 75% whole wheat sourdough bread with a little instant yeast but otherwise just - You guessed it! - Flour, water, and salt.

This bread is supposed to bulk ferment for 5 hours and then cold retard overnight after shaping. My dough was mixed at 5 pm. At 6:15 pm, I left home for a class. When I returned at 8:40 pm, the dough had almost quadrupled in volume. It was so fluffy, I thought it was a lost cause. After a moment's consideration of tossing it, I went ahead and shaped it, placed it in a banneton which went into a plastic bag which went into the fridge. This morning, after preheating the oven, I took the loaf out of the fridge and baked it with no further proofing.

I had put the boule in the banneton smooth side up, which is what Forkish recommends. That way, it bakes with the seams created by shaping facing up and no scoring. The seams open up with oven spring and can make a pleasing, chaotic pattern, when everything works as it is supposed to.

Because the dough had over-fermented, I planned on no room-temperature proofing. The loaf coming out of the fridge showed no noticeable expansion but the poke test suggested it was only slightly under-proofed. Before baking, again, I heated the top of the combo cooker. The boule was transferred to the cool bottom, covered with the pre-heated top and placed in the oven. Bake time was 30 minutes covered, then 20 minutes uncovered.

Note: The true color of this bread's crumb is a much darker brown than it appears on my computer screen.

The loaf had great oven spring. It did not achieve the volume of the other boules I have baked from FWSY, but I attribute that to the high percentage of whole wheat flour. I really saw no evidence of damage from the over-proofing.  The crust was crunchy, and the crumb was well-aerated (for a 75% WW loaf). It was moist and tender.

The aroma was just wonderful - very whole wheaty. The flavor was good whole wheat with no bitterness or grassiness. The sourdough tang was on the high end of moderate, by my standards. A delicious bread. I'm expecting it to make outstanding sandwiches and toast.

The breads from this book continue to amaze me - on the one hand by their accelerated fermentation and on the other by how incredibly delicious they are.  I am seriously considering abandoning my planned attempts to bring their fermentation rate down in favor of just keeping an eye on the dough and enjoying the ride.


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Overnight Country Brown with modifications

September 8, 2013

My exploration of Ken Forkish's breads from Flour Water Salt Yeast continued this week. Hoping to get my timing closer to the ones he describes in the book, I needed to slow down fermentation. I made another large loaf of Forkish's “Overnight Country Brown.” I used filtered water at 63 ºF rather than at 80-90 ºF which Forkish prescribes, and I used 8% pre-fermented flour rather than the 12% called for in the published formula.

I fed my levain at 11 AM. By 5 PM, it was quite mature. I mixed the dough at 6 PM. Now, this dough is supposed to ferment at room temperature for 12-15 hours and expand by 2 to 2.5 times. My kitchen temperature was running in the high-70's. Even using the cool water and decreasing the levain by 25%, the dough had doubled by 11 PM, that is, in 5 hours. So, before going to bed, I refrigerated the dough. 

At about 8 am, I removed the dough from the refrigerator and shaped it as a boule about a half-hour later.

While the dough rests ...

I proofed it in a floured, linen-lined banneton placed in a plastic bag. To my amazement, it was fully proofed by the “poke test” criterion an hour later, but it had to wait while I baked some baguettes.

By time I could get it in the oven about 40 minutes later, it was very gassy. It deflated somewhat when scored, and I was really afraid it was so seriously over-proofed it would collapse. Because of this concern, I baked it in a cast iron combo cooker that had not been pre-heated as usual, except for the lid which got about 10 minutes at 455 ºF (convection), during the last part of the baguette bake. However, the loaf sprung like crazy and turned out pretty darn good. I just had to bake it about 5 minutes longer than last time, presumably because of the cold cooker.


Compared to the last bake, I'd say the crust and crumb are about the same. The flavor had significantly more acetic acid tang than my last bake of this bread. In other words, it is a really good bread, but I really don't know how closely it resembles, in flavor, Forkish's intention.

The San Joaquin Sourdough baguettes turned out really well, too.


 Happy Baking!


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Ken Forkish's “Pain au Levain” and “Overnight Country Brown”

September 2, 2013

I continued my test baking of the formulas in Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast last weekend. I baked two new (to me) formulas. One calls for an overnight bulk fermentation and the other for overnight cold retardation of the shaped loaves.

I have yet to bake anything from this book that works according to the prescribed schedule. This is so different from my experience with any other bread baking book, and I still haven't figured out exactly why there is this systematic difference. On the other hand, I do understand what Forkish is after and how he adjusts his formulas to achieve a long fermentation, either in bulk at room temperature or of formed loaves under refrigeration. And, on the third hand, even though it's frustrating to not be able to bake according to the author's intentions, every single bread or pizza I have baked from Forkish's formulas has been outstanding. Except, if the timings are so far off, they are really not his anymore. <sigh>

Forkish's take on pain de campagne is a 10% whole wheat pain au levain, spiked with instant yeast. 20% of the flour is pre-fermented. After an autolyse, the dough is meant to be fermented in bulk for about 5 hours, then divided, shaped and cold retarded for 12-14 hours before baking in a hot oven.

My dough had doubled in 3 1/2 hours, so I shaped it and retarded it overnight at that point.

His Overnight Country Brown contains 30% whole wheat and 12% pre-fermented flour. It is supposed to be bulk fermented at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours (overnight), then divided, shaped and proofed at room temperature for about 4 hours.

My dough had grown 2.5 times in volume and was very gassy after 5 hours. It clearly wasn't going to survive an overnight at room temperature. I shaped a boule at that point and retarded it overnight.

 In summary, both doughs fermented much faster than Forkish's procedures called for. They ended up being treated very similarly. I was not surprised, from my previous experience, but I did want to see what kind of bread the very long bulk fermentation would produce. I think the only way I am going to be able to stick with Forkish's times is to radically reduce the levain.

The breads that were produced were quite similar. I would generally expect the bread with more whole grain flour to be more sour, especially with the long bulk fermentation called for, but the much greater amount of levain in the pain de campagne made it significantly more sour than the Country Brown. I would rate the latter as mildly sour and the former as mild to moderately sour. Both breads had a crunchy crust and soft, tender-chewy crumb. The flavor was delicious, especially the boldly baked crust.


Overnight Country Brown and Pain de Campagne from FWSY 


Overnight Country Brown crumb


Pain de Campagne

I am delighted with the eating quality of both these breads. They are wonderful. But I sure would like to be able to taste them as Ken Forkish meant them to be. Maybe in Winter when my kitchen temperature runs in the mid-60's (Fahrenheit) I will.



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Pizza Bliss Redux

August 26, 2013

 My first batch of Ken Forkish's “Pizza Dough with Levain” (See Pizza Bliss) produced the best pizza crust and, after freezing, some of the worst I've had. But I did learn a tremendous amount from the comments and the information generously shared by other TFL members, and my second batch will exploit what I have learned.

One thing I've learned is that Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast has some great ideas about how to approach baking, but you shouldn't take his times and temperatures too literally. They are “sample schedules.” My experience with, I think, five or six bakes from this book book strongly supports the “Watch the Dough, Not the Clock” dictum.

So, using the same formula as last time but scaled back to half of what's in the book, here are my timelines for a second mix of this formula:


Aug 27, 2013

11:00 AM


Mix levain

04:30 PM

Levain is ripe. Refrigerate it. (Had a conference call scheduled.)

05:30 PM

Take levain out of fridge.

06:00 PM

Mix flour and water for autolyse.

06:40 PM

Mix salt and levain into final dough.

07:10 PM

Stretch and fold dough.

09:30 PM

Dough has expanded by 50% and has lots of bubbles. Divide dough into 3 balls. Freeze one. Refrigerate two.

Aug 28, 2013

06:00 PM


Remove dough balls from fridge. Allow to come to room temperature and continue fermentation.

07:00 PM

Turn on oven to pre-heat the baking stone.

08:00 PM

Bake pizze!



Pizza with wild and domestic mushrooms sautéed with garlic and parsley, deglazed with Pinot Grigio. San Marzano tomatoes. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Assembled, ready to bake

Baked and ready to enjoy

Slice of pizza

Pizza with caramelized onions and garlic. Mixed fresh herbs. San Marzano tomatoes. Shaved Parmesan cheese. Fresh basel.

Assembled, ready to bake

Baked, ready to slice and enjoy

Green salad with mustard vinaigrette.

 The dough was lovely to handle. It was a bit less elastic than the first mix. In the oven, there was dramatic oven spring (Yay!). The crust was delicious. It was significantly less sour than the first mix but had a wonderful sweet, complex flavor and was thin and crisp. The joy is back!

We will see how the third ball bakes up, after 2 or 3 days in the freezer.

I so appreciate all the great problem-solving advice I received after my disappointing post-freeze pizza dough bake.




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