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With my bread supply almost depleted and my neighbors arriving for their monthly visit to there retreat… I charged up my stiff Levain and was ready to conquer another recipe from Local Breads for my weekly bread. I thumbed through the chapter with stiff dough levain recipes and to my complete surprise, I baked them all! I did not have time to convert the waiting stiff levain to a liquid one…so I went into the pantry to inventory my baking supplies and discovered I had lots of high extraction flour, spelt and an unopened bag of quinoa (never used it before in pain).  And with that the experiment was on.  The first thing that came to mind was a giant Poilane-inspired Miche with mixed flours …. while the other side of my brain was saying “try something sure-fire, something to share with your neighbors.” Well -- throwing caution to the wind -- I went for the Miche! I wrote out the recipe and doubled it substituting some (approx. 1/3) of the whole wheat flour for the spelt and quinoa…and then adding a smidgen of rye.  After an hour of antolyse, and another 15 minutes of slapping and smearing a very slack dough into workable dough, I took a breather and wiped the sweat for my brow.

When I returned to my experiment rejuvenated by a good cup of strong French style coffee, I uncovered the dough to find the once taut boule was now, shall we say, relaxed and spread out on the counter . . . ugggh.  As I started to panic I heard a voice in my head saying “you can never over knead a dough by hand”.  So I continued the French kneading for another ten minutes, did a window pane test, and it passed the test!  I threw the still slack dough into a bowl for one hour to ferment, crossed my fingers and hung my laundry out to dry. After two series of stretch and folds in the bowl, I covered it back up and put it into the 76° proofing chamber for two hours before shaping. Shaping the slack dough into a miche was a little more artful than I had planned for…but these loaves gently made their way into the linen lined bowl and banneton for the final two hour proofing. And that was my big mistake!

When I finally looked in after two hours, it had more than doubled and looked like a pillowy, bowl of loose Jell-O full of air bubbles. Because of the size of the boules…and the size of my oven…I put the smaller one in the fridge to slow things down, and gently turned the other out onto a piece of parchment paper, slashing it swiftly with four crossing lines. The only thing that comes to mind when trying to describe the sensation of slashing the miche,  is the feeling you have when running over a nail on your bike…first you hear the pop and then you see it slowly deflate.  Sound familiar?

Feeling a bit deflated myself…I placed the miche in the awaiting, steamy oven for its trial by fire!  As I peered through the glass of the oven door, I was a bit relieved to see the loaf making a bit of a comeback.  Although it did have a little oven spring, it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  Though it wasn’t a pancake, let’s just say it had a low profile, something more similar to a Pointe-à-Callière Miche!  After baking the other loaf and letting it cool, I cut into the small loaf to see the outcome. The tan crumb was riddled with small even bubbles, the crust was crisp and brittle….and the taste was even better than I expected. It had a very moist, creamy mouth feel with a bit of a tang, but not too much for my French neighbors' pallets …they really enjoyed it.  I will be very curious to see how the flavor transforms over the next couple of days of eating. This is one I definitely will have to revisit again!

Thing to remember next time:

  • Try pre-fermenting some of the spelt and quinoa...
  • Hold back some of the water in the initial mix (I knew that), you can always add it to get the necessary consistency.
  • May be leave out the autolyse?
  • Either lower the temperature for the final proofing or cut it back to one hour.

If you want to see the recipe and MORE are just a click away...


CaptainBatard's picture

Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye or Who Stole My Bubbles

Now I think it’s time to roll up my sleeves and dive into this rustic Bougnat from Daniel Leader’s Local Breads. This is another bread from the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award winner Pierre Nury who hails from the Auvergne region of France. The only characteristics of this bread that actually resembles a French style, is the stiff levain that is used — and, of course, its award winner baker!   All the other nuances I have gotten accustomed to in making French bread, the tight shaping, timing of the rises, scoring of the loaves… have been thrown out the window.

I have to admit to being a little intimidated when reading the description of this French rustic rye, a loaf that looks quite a bit like Italian ciabatta…especially the author’s caveat that “the high proportion of water in this dough makes it difficult to knead by hand.”  But I was not going to let a little wet dough scare me off.  It actually felt good to get loose, and play with some slack dough! While things are being turned upside down with this recipe, I might as well throw something else into the mix (no pun intended) and continue my experimentation with the autolyse process.  Until now I have not been adding the levain to the initial mix of the flour and water. After reading Teresa’s second experiment in the autolyse process, I thought it could only give the dough a better structure, stronger development and maybe make it easier to incorporate the stiff levain into such wet dough. The hand mixing was a little sloppy to start…but after a short time the dough developed into a silky, smooth wet dough…and passed the window pane test with flying colors.  The rest of the process went along smoothly with no other real predicaments… so after a couple of folds and a rise, it went into the regenerator for its long, slow overnight ferment.

The next day I was eager to see what became of the dough… but I thought I’d give it the full twelve hours before I looked in.  So, the hour approached, the timer went off for the moment of truth and I opened the refrigerator; I could not believe my eyes! The once little boule…had more than quadrupled in size, had reached the top of the bowl and was filled with lots of big gas bubbles. I gently turned out the dough, divided it and slipped it into the hot steamy oven. I really thought I had hit this one on the head!  But this was not to be the case. The bread had a great creamy crumb, a subtle, slightly sour rye taste, a chewy crumb with a nice mouth feel and crackling crust … but where were those “long glossy tunnels” described by the author?  I am not really sure what happened to all the gas pocket so evident when I turned it out…was the gluten structure not developed enough?…was it over proofed?… was it the Type 130 rye flour that I used?…. or maybe the Type 65 with its gluten additive was not strong enough to hold the gas?  I have a sneaking suspicion that it was the coarse, heavy rye flour might have cut the glutens and causing the “long glossy tunnels” to collapse.  The jury is still out on this one.

If you made it through to the end of this post…congratulations and thanks for reading!  Now…seriously…Do you have any ideas on who stole my bubbles?  Please leave me a comment. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

To see more pictures and recipe come to

Thanks.....Captain Batard

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The Auvergne Crown or Couronne shaped loaf, typically made from yeasted white bread dough, can be seen in almost every boulangerie throughout France. When I go to my local boulangerie it is displayed on the rack in the typical round shape along with an epi cut. What separates this Auvergne Crown from all the others is the use of the traditional firm French sourdough, levain, and a long slow rise that gives the wheat time to develop its full potential.  Although this is a simple white dough, this thick crusted bread has an unexpected flavor and quality.  I found the best way to eat this is to just tear off a piece…it exposes a crumb that is riddled with many different sized holes....

To read the full post come and visit 

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Hello to all my friends at The First Loaf....

It has been a long time since my last post here, upon leaving for France in January of 2010!

When I first arrived, I found that the slow dial-up Internet service did not allow me to post here or work on my new blog. It was very frustrating, being out of touch with my friends and family...and especially not being able to get my blog running. After a year and a half of many unsucessful attemps to subscribe to the local WiFi service and many other providers...I finally found a company that provides satellite coverage in this remote area in the mountains.

So...I finally have my blog online and have been baking my way through Daniel Leader's Local Breads. Once I catch up with some stories about the "Life on the Mountain", I plan to start posting again here on The Fresh Loaf. Untill then, I  hope you will visit my blog and say hello...I really miss all of you here!

My most recent posts are about a trip to Corsica with alot of photos and my take on the beatiful island and a great bread from Local Breads, Pain de Campagne.

Thanks...greetings to all...



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This will probably be my last post for awhile at FreshLoaf. The days are ticking away and before I know it I will be in a little town in southern France in the foot hills of the Maritime Alps. I will be starting a blog, and those of you who are so inclined will be able to follow my adventures in search of regional breads and their bakers, the trials of a Victory Garden, the building of a wood oven (I hope!) and daily life in a small mountain town.

Now back to the Gerard's Pain Levain. For this bake I have taken MC's thorough description of  Levain "a la Gerard", Shiao Ping's and David's bake and tossed them all together and did what the dough wanted me to. The overall formula was not changed from the original posting.

  • The Levain I have developed for the last several bakes is a little work horse. I have been using it quite a bit so it has remained strong and I have found it only requires a two-build process to triple in size, even with the addition of a pinch of salt. Throughout the whole process I maintained a warm environment for the beasties to flourish.
  • I allowed one hour for a good autolyse at my ddt of 82*. A good gluten structure started to develop.
  • The mixing was with a KA on low for the entire mix. To maintain the constant temperature of 82* I went as far as to preheat the mixing bowl with warm water. The air temp of my house is a chilly 64*. After the autolyse, I mixed for one minute, added diluted starter (with a small protion of the formula water) and salt, and mixed for an additional 2 minutes, then let it rest in a nice warm environment in the proofing cabinet.
  • Two gentle folds were done an hour apart. 
  • After an hour's rest, the dough was gently turned onto a floured surface. The dough at this point still needed some gentle encouragement to maintain it shape. I used the technique that Gerard described to MC, a stretch to the North and South, wait ten minutes and then a  stretch to the East and West, etc.  The 8 extra folds did the trick (considering it was 80% hydration.)
  • The shaping was done with the mantra in mind of "GENTLE... and Deliberate" as shown on MC's great video. I was taken by something that Gerard said when shaping the batards, about moving the air in the dough around ... and that is what it felt like. The dough was filled with air pockets that you could actually redistribute. I need some more practice controlling the batard with wet dough.
  • I like to start at 500*, add steam, load loaves,add more steam turn the oven down to 460*

The crumb has a nutty,creamy and very, very mild sourdough taste was detectable. I was very surprised with the crust of this bread the last two bakes. I think by not retarding the shaped loaves, it developed a crust that was a thin as an egg shell.



                                                                                      Levain in Proofer



                                                                                              Final folds















This is being sent to Susan@Wildyeast.con for this weeks Yeastspotting....Thanks Susan


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I am totally exhausted after packing and cleaning my house for the last three weeks in anticipation of perspective renters coming to look at it on Saturday....I can see the light end of the tunnel with my fingers crossed. One more day of cleaning and then a quick trimming of my sleeping garden and I can get to the real business at hand, taxes, getting a plane ticket, studying French, once again packing and of course, the weekly bread fix!

I want to really thank all the people at FreshLoaf for making this site what it is, a place to learn and exchange ideas about the one thing that brings us all together... the passion for flour, water and salt!

This weeks bread, MC's Gerard Rubaud Miche ala Shiao-Ping is probably the tastiest bread that I have made in my limited baking experience. I used to be a by the book Loafer, but that has all changed since I became aware of the talented baker here at The FreshLoaf and out in the Blogosphere who have expanded my knowledge and comfort zone. The Gerard Rubaud Miche with a whopping 80% hydration had me second guessing myself  the whole time, talk about comfort zone! Will it come together or will it remain the blob that came from the deep lagoon? I have tried several of Shiao-Ping's recent posts, so a wet dough was nothing new and I should of realized it would come together in the end. I followed her basic methodology with a few variations. I used a KA for a quick mix to get the dough into shape for a autolyse and poured it into wood bin to develop the structure with 5 sets of stretch and folds. At this point I thought the dough would yield to a good gentle shaping...but it had other plans! At this point I just laughed...looking down into the bin and said "You want to be difficult do you?" and remained calm. I had to remember that is was 80% hydration after all and to be patient. In the back of my mind I remembered a comment that MC made to Shiao-Ping about the way Gerard treats wet I turned out the dough onto a floured surface and did several more gentle full S+Fs at 10' intervals and that was the ticket!  The rest of the process was uneventful, after an overnight rest in the frig., they went into a hot oven with plenty of steam. When they came out of the oven they began to sing and crackle...and oh.... the smells. I watched the crumb shrink as  the loaves cooled and the crackel pattern become more prominent like a crackle glaze pattern on a fine celandine porcelain vase. The taste was nutty, creamy and moist with a slight tang to the mouth. This is definitely one that will become a favorite.

Thank you Gerard, MC and Shiao-Ping for this wonderful bread.



                                                            "Heavenly....your bread put my head in the clouds..."








This is being sent to Susan@YeastSpotting



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When making Pan D'oro recently I being winter in the North East and my house hovering around 62-65*(by choice)I had to come up with a better way of keeping a constant temperature for my sweet starter. I could always fall back on the old pot holder trick (3 folded pot holders=76*) in the stove door with the light on. It works in a pinch but, I always run into this problem of proofing temperature. In the summer it is too hot (I can't bake or i have to use ice water baths) and in the winter it is too cold. I've been tooling around with many ideas on how to make a proofer work... a plug-in car refrigerator/cooler or wine vault for the summer and a heater/light bulb for the winter. The Pan D'oro made it happen. I turned again to the internet and with the help of MC@Farine  I found a design for a proofer that Steve@Bread cetera posted @Fresh Loaf, and I took it a step further. I went looking for a thermostat for reptiles.... and ended up at Craigs list with the perfect solution... a Ranco ETC microprocessor  temperature controller thermostat that plugs into the heating unit or refrigeration system. It really takes the prize and i got it for a good price from a home brewer who started making babies and his wife made him stop making suds. After fooling around with it...I have found... I can control  the internal temperature within a degree of where i want it to be......the only thing I would consider changing is the probe. I have found that i can insert it into the dough and and get spot on readings...a new tip to the probe would make it perfect! The rest of the proofer is make shift.  I got a sheet of insulation board from Home Depot and cut it to fit my in my pantry. The heat source is a 75 w light bulb. I also have an indoor outdoor thermometer i had laying around that sound an alarm if it goes past a set temperature...just as a fail safe.My original intention was to get a small refrigerator or wine vault so I could bake all summer without a problem. The project has been put on hold...I have been busy packing my house to rent for an extended trip to France in the very near future. Iam going to try to find a way to take it with me! If you have any question comment below...or drop my a note...







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I have been pretty busy since the Holidays, packing up my house to rent, in anticipation of going on an extended adventure to France in the very near future...but that doesn't mean I don't have time to make bread! I always like to have some bread in the house and these day I making experimenting with Miche, Pointe-a-Calliere ala Shiao Ping. It is funny that the three times I have tried this recipe, the process has been less than text book....but in the end were very tasty! The first two times there were hydration problems... I opened  up my new  proofing chamber (see blog above) after 1 1/2 hours into the final proofing to find a puddle of dough stuck to the parchment paper. I scrapped it off, reshaped it twice,said a prayer and it honestly turned out to be an exceptional bread.  Yesterday's bake did not go any easier! I thought I would use some of the water from the final dough and  make a slurry of the stiff it would be easier to incorporate into the doughby hand. That was a bad turned out to be a real mess tiring to add it to the clay like dough by hand. By the time I had a good smooth, silky dough after many stretch and folds I was ready for a nap! But it survived the intensive care unit better than I did. When baked and cooled over night wrapped in linen, it was honestly the best tasting bread I have ever made. The whole Miche experience reminded me of something Max Poilane said in  a book I am reading about breads and pastry shops in Paris.

"  The best bread I ever tasted was one that didn't fermented to long and it was full of holes like Gruyere. But, oh, what a taste. Bread unlike pasterine, is very forgiving. You can make mistakes and still end up with a  bread that tastes good...."






Another bread that I have really enjoyed making and eating was one that come from Susan at WildYeast. It is the Cranberry Semolina Crown which I substituted apricots and hazelnuts. I just can't get enough of it......



This is being sent to Susan @ WildYeast -Yeastspotting


CaptainBatard's picture

It takes a village to raise a Pan D'oro... the village is all the people who impart their knowledge and encouragement here at the  Fresh Loaf and out in the blogosphere.  I really want to thank Susan@ Wild Yeast for her step by step directions and formula , MC@Farine and Foolishpoolish and many more for sharing their experience and inspiring baking blogs....without them i would still be making quick breads.

Pan D'oro, or bread of gold, and it's cousin Panetonne, have a long history in Italy dating back to when ancient Romans sweetened a type of leavened bread with honey. In Italy and France, the panettone comes with an often varied history, but one that invariably states that its birthplace is in Milan (Wikipedia) Throughout the ages this "tall, leavened fruitcake" makes cameo appearances in the arts: it is shown in a sixteenth century painting. The Pan D'oro is, by any stretch of the imagination, not a quick bread. It takes time and patience, but what it really takes to raise a Pandoro is millions and millions of beasties that make up the strong sweet starter. I also found an interesting scientific explanation of the whole fermentation process here and time table that I will read when I have some time. I have seen pictures of Lievito naturale legato or bound sourdough and it still remained a mystery. I basically used a 100gr starter-50w-100f with a 4 hour refreshment cycle at 85* and it worked just fine.




Another important consideration is the temperature of the Lievito naturale during fermentation... a whopping 85*, it being winter in the North East and my house hovering around 62-65*(by choice). I would have to fall back on the old pot holder trick (3 folded pot holders=76*) in the stove door with the light on. It works in a pinch but, I always run into this problem of proofing temperature. In the summer it is too hot (I can't bake or i have to use ice water baths) and in the winter it is too cold. I've been tooling around with many ideas on how to make a proofer work... a small car refrigerator/cooler or wine vault for the summer and a heater/light bulb for the winter. The Pan D'oro made it happen. I turned again to the internet village bakers and found a design for a proofer that Steve@Bread cetera posted @Fresh Loaf, and I took it a step further. I went looking for a thermostat for reptiles.... ended up at Craigs list with the perfect solution... a Ranco ETC microprocessor =based temperature controller thermostat that plugs into the heating unit or refrigeration system. It really takes the prize and i got it for a good price from a home brewer who started making babies and his wife made him stop making suds. So I now have a proofer in my insulated pantry cabinet that i can set at any temperature and forget about. Well almost... you have to remember the basics: set your timer and remember what temperature you set it at last!




Well.. can you tell what is coming? I crawled into bed about 1 o'clock after making chocolate biscotti, a batch of sour dough challah, stollen and got the Pan D'oro tucked away for it's final rise. It took me a minute to fall asleep but I woke up startled from a dream of sugar plum fairies way too early! I lay in bed thinking I had till noon before I would have to bake them off... and then it hit me..."Oh S***t...I left the proofer set at 85*!" I ran down the stairs and opened the door to the proofer and just laughed when i saw the dough going way over the top of the mold. I quickly turned on the stove to pre-heat and made some coffee. The overflow problem was two fold. When I went on line to see how much dough my Italian mold would take, I made an incorrect assumption. The smaller Portuguese molds takes 500gr. so I thought for that for this big mold, 1000grs did not seen out of line. Wrong. But it was a mistake that could be easily fixed and no one would know  (and Sara and I got to taste what I had to cut away.) I must say.... the stollen and the Pan D'oro were the exclamation points to a delicious Christmas Day dinner at Rick and Rita's. (Folks liked the Challah and the double-dipped chocolate biscotti too. )   Hapy New Year to all.









                                                                        I am submitting this to Susan@Yeastspotting

CaptainBatard's picture

Santa....there is some kind of a mistake....when i made my list I had a 20qt mixer and not 20qts of mixer...can you swing around on your way back from the other coast and make thing right...????



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