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SusanMcKennaGrant's blog

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These delicious panini come from the town of Lecce in Puglia and are traditionally made with the excellent semolina rimacinata flour from that region which is famous all over Italy. Stuffed with minced onions and olives they delicious and addictive. Paprika is added to the mix or sometimes tomato paste is used instea). The smells that waft through the room as these bake are out of this world!. Scroll down to see my instagram reel showing how I shape them....

Perfect for a panino

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Lately I've been making my favourite winter sourdough. Shorter days and cold weather always seems to call for heartier loaves so I laminate mine with tons of crunchy whole hemp, nori flakes and house made rice or oat koji. I shape these into a boule or batard, retard outside overnight and just before baking smear them with tons of good quality EVOO and kosher salt. Then I bastardize them by turning them into smaller shapes I can freeze. This is mainly so we don't devour an entire loaf in one setting. These breads are somewhat addictive ( if I do say so myself)!  Below are links to 3 of my instagram reels that demo these techniques....I hope you enjoy!


Boule to buns


How to deal with a bastard



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Experimenting with yeast water. A marriage of my passions....wildcrafting, fermenting and ? .direct mix. 80% hydration with wild elderberry fermented water biga. 


6 hour bulk,  4 stretch and folds, 6 hour proof  


I also made focaccia with the same technique. I discovered this method in a book by the brilliant Italian bakers Carlo di Cristo, Ezio Marinato, Cristian Zaghini and Pierluigi Sapiente


"Le Fermentazioni Spontanee nei prodotti da forno"


There is also a facebook group all about fermented waters, but I am not on facebook.



 the crumb shot



Elderberry water focaccia 

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Lately I’ve been obsessing over focaccia. Its one of those deceptive breads and its not until you taste an excellent one that you understand there is so much more to focaccia than meets the eye. So much that in Italy these breads are rarely made at home, generally focaccia is left to the professionals who have not just the know how but access to the best ingredients and really hot ovens. Focaccia takes patience, the best flour and absolutely the very best EVOO you can afford. It  is an enriched dough after all, and it is the olive oil that makes all the difference. So use the good stuff and don’t be stingy!  Click on any image to begin the slide show. 

the toppingsyour slicethe crumbhard to resist!out of the oventhe dough

When it comes to Italian focaccia it is generally accepted there are two kinds worth knowing about. One from the north (Liguria), Focaccia Classica di Genova and the other from the south (Puglia), Focaccia Barese. I included a recipe for the Genovese version in my first book, Piano, Piano, Piano for any of you who might happen to have a copy of that book.

Focaccia Barese is made in and around the city of Bari in the region of Puglia. The authentic version uses lievito madre(sourdough) and is made with a combination of Tipo “0” and the semolata di grano rimacinata flour milled from sun kissed durum wheat grown in Puglia. The starter is a stiff one and should be refreshed 4 hours before being used. I used 100 grams of liquid levain,  100 grams of semolina flour and 50 grams water for that refreshment. The curious addition of boiled rice potato to the dough gives it an intriguing flavour and also enhances the shelf life. This focaccia keeps nicely for 2 or 3 days. The formula I used is the most official one I could find, from the facebook page of the Consorzio della Focaccia Barese. It makes two 32 cm (12 inch) round focacce but of course you could modify that to fit whatever baking pans you have.

  1. 200 grams stiff levain
  2. 300 grams tipo 0 Italian flour
  3. 200 grams semola di grano rimacinata
  4. 100 grams potato, boiled or steamed then riced or mashed and cooled
  5. 350 ml water
  6. 10 grams salt
  7. 50 grams EVOO
  1. cherry tomatoes
  2. olives
  3. oregano, more olive oil and salt
  1. The dough is mixed, divided in two, rounded and left to ferment at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours on a well oiled tray. Most of this oil will be absorbed by the dough during the fermentation period. Spread more oil over the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. After the dough has finished the fermentation generously oil 2-32 cm (12 inch)  round baking pans and transfer the dough to the pans. Press the dough out to the edges of the pans using the tips of the fingers of both hands. Crush the cherry tomatoes in your hands over the dough and spread them evenly, place the olives and sprinkle the oregano oven the dough before drizzling more olive oil and sprinkling more salt. The dough is not given a final proof, it goes straight into the oven once it is shaped.
  2. Bake at 270 C or 550 F for 25 minutes.
  3. When it is finished baking and still hot brush it with even more EVOO!!
  1. you can retard half the dough to bake later for up to two daysretarded and baked the next day
Adapted from  Consorzio Focaccia Barese  Susan McKenna Grant 12


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A simple sourdough boule, 65% hydration, 20% liquid levain. I used 100% buratto flour from Mulino Marino and there was no cold fermentation.  I figure I've been making some version or other of this loaf now for over 25 years. I guess that means I'm getting old. Hopefully I'm getting better. That's the thing with bread, there is always another loaf and it always has something to teach you. Funny how the simplest things are the most elusive. Happy Monday everyone....

crumb shot

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the dough


after shaping 

This is a walnut, purple cabbage, purple sweet potato (or yam?) sourdough boule. I used purple cabbage juice instead of water in the mix. I added a bit of vinegar to the juice to get the lively fuchsia. Roughly 20% rye, 30% ww and 50% AP 82% hydration. I eye-balled the yam addition…having been pressure cooked it was moist and probably weighed around 100 grams (sorry for the lack of precision). It’s a small tester loaf, just 250 grams of flour. The dough was quite slack with the high hydration, vinegar and yam addition. It was baked in a combi oven on a baking steel and using the lodge cast iron combo-cooker. The crust is quite soft (like a potato bread) so I let it sit overnight to dry out a bit before slicing. The dense crumb will make it a nice loaf to use in holiday crostini and to serve with cheese. The cabbage juice adds a really intriuging earthy flavour… I will make it again.  Happy Holidays everyone!


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the version with figswith figs

If you happen to be going to a farmer’s market this weekend you’re likely to find some fresh local grapes. Here’s a great way to enjoy them. This is my version of the delicious grape bread made every fall in Tuscany to celebrate the vendemmia (grape harvest). 

Over the years I’ve refined my process. I layer the grapes into the dough now, rather than just spreading them on top, which is the usual method. This way the delicious jammy juice produced by the combo of olive oil, grapes and sugar is preserved inside the dough rather than oozing out all over, burning the crust and ruining our baking sheets. I’ve also discovered if you turn the finished schiacciata upside-down to cool on a rack the juice gets distributed evenly. As it cools it turns into a light film of grape jelly, beautifully marbled throughout the crumb, not congealed into soggy pockets on the bottom as is usually the case.

Wine grapes are traditionally used and rosemary is the classic seasoning but sometimes I use cinnamon instead, especially if I’m serving the bread for breakfast. The seeds in the grapes give the bread a delightful crunch. When our figs are in season, just before our grapes start ripening, I get a head start with a delicious fig version. Post-harvest, I use the late-harvest viogner grapes we dry into plump raisins to enjoy a raisin-studded focaccia all year round.

I use a simple straight dough (no pre-ferment or biga). If you have a favorite pizza dough recipe you could use that. I mix the dough the day before and retard it overnight in the refrigerator. Recently I’ve discovered the semolina flour from Sicily or Puglia (semola di grano duro rimacinata) produces a sunny yellow, nutty tasting crumb that is a lovely marriage with the grapes, but all purpose flour is traditional here in Tuscany. Sometimes I make schiaccata con l’uva with egg-enriched pan brioche dough. That’s very special, especially for breakfast or to serve toasted with foie gras or a chicken liver mousse.

Making this dough is a little like making puff pastry, a series of folding and stretching, but instead of butter the filling is enriched with grapes, olive oil and sugar. I spread the dough out on an oiled parchment lined baking sheet and densely populate half of it with grapes. Then I drizzle EVOO and sprinkle sugar over that, along with finely chopped rosemary or a dusting of cinnamon. I fold the other half of the dough over the grapes and repeat the stretching and folding process using up the remaining grapes, more sugar and EVOO. Then dough gets stretched, drizzled and sprinkled again before baking.


  1. 300 grams all finely ground semolina flour (semola di grano duro rimacinata)
  2. 240 ml tepid water
  3. ⅛ tsp instant yeast
  4. 6 grams salt
  5. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. a nice big bunch of red wine grapes, or if you can't find them use black concord grapes (or fresh figs or seeded raisins as described above)
  2. olive oil
  3. sugar
  4. finely chopped rosemary or cinnamon (optional)
  1. The day before you intend to bake the focaccia mix all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl using a spatula. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and using wet hands form the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. Using your hands, remove the ball of dough and stretch it out until it is about 8 inches long then fold it over itself two or three times until you have a package the size of the original ball of dough.
  3. Repeat this process two or three more times, you should notice that the dough has become quite elastic and strong.
  4. Oil a plate lightly and place the ball of dough on the plate, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before transferring to the refrigerator.
  5. The next day, remove the dough at least an hour before you wish to bake to let it come to room temperature.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F)
  7. Brush olive oil lightly over a parchment lined baking sheet and place the dough on it. Stretch the dough to form a 15 by 8 inch rectangle.
  8. Densely populate half the dough with half the grapes, drizzle olive oil over evenly and sprinkle with sugar. Sprinkle rosemary or dust cinnamon on top if using.
  9. Fold the empty half of the dough over the grapes and repeat the stretching and folding process using the rest of the grapes, more sugar and rosemary or cinnamon.
  10. Stretch the dough out one last time, until it is the thickness of one layer of grapes. Drizzle with more oil and dust with more sugar.
  11. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 35 or 40 minutes or until the focaccia is nicely browned. Check the bottom to make sure it is cooked through.
  12. Let the dough cool upside down on a rack so that the grape juice can penetrate the focaccia. 
  13. Once cool, reverse the dough (dust with icing sugar if you wish) before slicing and serving.
  1. You can use all purpose flour, but reduce the amount of water by 30ml (1oz)  
  2. A version of this post originally appeared here, on my blog,  in September 2015.
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These past two years I haven't baked much sourdough bread. Since I left Petraia I've been working with a pretty poor oven. But recently a friend inspired me to try baking with a cast-iron combo-cooker. After testing the technique the first thing I did was to pay a visit to the Mulino Marino in Italy's Piedmont region where I have been sourcing flour for over 20 years.  I picked up a supply from their wonderful stone ground range including farro, enkir, macina di grano, burrata, and rye.

Here's a look at my first effort and a few pictures I took at the mill. The bread is my whole grain sourdough from Piano, Piano, Pieno.  It is made with a liquid levain, 72 % hydration, 70% macina (whole wheat) and 30 % burrata, retarded 17 hours. My long dormant starter was a little over-excited to be back in business so the loaves ended up slightly over-proofed. Since my banettons and lame are deep in storage it was scored with a dull blade and proofed in makeshift paper towel lined plastic bowls (the paper towel worked surprisingly well). Lots of room for improvement, but I am really excited to be producing decent loaves again. I've also included a picture of my chia "crack", the flatbread I've been making for years to use up leftover starter and some sea lettuce maltagliati.

I don't always retard but when I do its always immediately after shaping and for somewhere between 12-18 hours. I bake straight from the refrigerator. I would love to have some feedback about this because there are so many different opinions out there. For instance, after shaping, do you get the best results from retarding? If you retard, do you put the loaves straight into the refridgerator after shaping or do you let them sit at room temperature a bit first? If so, how long? How long do you usually retard?  After retarding, do you bake straight from the refrigerator or do you let the loaves sit at room temperature? If so, for how long? Thanks in advance to everyone at the Fresh Loaf for all of your inspirational posts, generosity of spirit and for any light you can shed on this subject! 


and by the way, its hazelnut harvesting time in Piedmont right now!


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This post is about the typical rye bread of the Swiss Valais where I live. This wonderful bread has its own AOP status (appellation d'origine protégée), a certification which guarantees that everything used to produce it comes from the Valais. This is the French/German-speaking Swiss canton that is home to most of the highest peaks in the Alps and the source of  the Rhone River. The AOP protection helps preserve the landscape by ensuring the continuing cultivation of rye, something that grows well in the difficult mountain terrain, high altitudes and harsh climates that make growing most other grain impossible. 

Pain de Seigle Valaisan is a rustic, round loaf with a dense crumb and is much heavier than it looks. It must contain at least 90% whole rye flour and is usually made with a sourdough starter. It keeps well for a very long time. Traditionally it was baked in village ovens, which would be fired only two or three times a year, so it was important to have bread that would last for several months. Today it is mostly made in commercial bakeries, but many mountain villages still maintain their communal ovens and hold special bread baking days to celebrate this ancient Alpine tradition.

I have worked on this bread for a while now and finally found a formula I really like. It uses a rye sourdough starter, a rye soaker and an optional 10% wheat preferment. I found it here at Bernd's Bakery blog. Bernd's formula makes two huge loaves weighing one kilogram each. I plan to keep one loaf around awhile to see how it matures. If you want to try it you will need an active rye sourdough starter.  

This bread is delicious sliced very thin and enjoyed with a platter of Valais raclette or other Swiss cheese, air dried beef, gherkins and salami. Often it is studded with walnuts or the dried apricots that are so famous here in the Valais. It takes very little effort over a couple of days to build the starter and, once that is done, things move fast. Rye ferments quickly and once the dough is shaped the final rise is just one hour at 29 degrees Celsius.

And a few pictures from the region

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