The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Our Crumb's blog

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Our Crumb

I regretted Toad.d.b since the moment it chose me (I will never confess that I chose it for my TFL username).  Having had a nano-epiphany while composing a post here a few days back, I've gone 'n done it: changed my TFL username to Our Crumb.  And I've adopted an avatar with some ancient family food history.

There.  Done.

dab, you'll have to call them crumbies now.  Or crumbles.  Or . . .

Happy Baking,


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Our Crumb

The recent flurry of chatter about SFSD, Larraburu Bros and Galal et al. highlights curious issues about the terroir of bread.  It occurs to me that bread has a staggeringly more extreme element thereof than wine, cheese or olive oil.  Forgive me if this is obvious and widely acknowledged.  These are new(ish), or at least somehow suddenly more deeply considered, ideas for me.

Whereas it almost takes a bonafide Supertaster to distinguish olive oils from adjacent Ligurian communes, or wines from neighboring Côtes de Rhone estates, almost anyone could distinguish my bread from that made from the same formula and process by my next door neighbor.  Why is this so?  Why is it that bread baking constitutes such a complex nexus of powerful intersecting and interacting factors dictating its outcome as to render each of our products as unique as our respective human genotypes?  I'd wager that even the gentlest nudges of nuture would prevent identical twins from producing indistinguishable breads in a single kitchen.  There's also the inevitable stochastic fuzziness inherent in any bread formula and process not executed by precison-tuned robots.

The utter personal uniqueness of our baked products is manifest every day in the TFL bread browser.  It fascinates me that, from the images, I can pick out a dabrownman, isand66, Danni3ll3, David Snyder, Alfanso or Elsie_Lu bread without having to click the link.  Ok, part of that arises from my conditioning vis a vis the same lighting and cameras in use.  But our breads are like our fingerprints or signatures - no two alike.  It'd be the same as my handing identical pens and paper to all the above bakers and asking them to forge Floyd's scribble of "The Fresh Loaf".  Each would be utterly distinguishable.  Add time, temperature, microbial, ingredient and equipment variation to that and reproducibility flies right out the window.   Are we hopelessly trying to "forge" Larraburu bread? :-)

Danny's community bakes are another example of 1000 flowers blooming from clonal seeds. Granted, everyone there is really encouraged to express her/his own personal take on a common formula, not to reproduce an ideal to the letter.  It's more an exercise of "lets all explore this space", which is the fun and flavorful fascination of it (thank you Danny!).  Yet it would be an interesting variation if everyone was actually encouraged, in a future community bake, NOT to stray from a strictly prescribed formula and process.  I don't have to tell you the outcome(s!) we could expect. 

One upshot of this line of thought is the utter futility of trying to accurately reproduce the character of Larraburu's legendary holey :-) grail.  Please don't get me wrong.  I'm not writing this to troll or diss the efforts eliciting the lively discussion and investigations currently @TFL.  On the contrary.  Just publicly ruminating about it.  We all bake (and braise and grill and stew) guided by a vision, often derived from an image in a cookbook or on a website or TV show.  The memory of a cherished bygone flavor is a powerful and worthy windmill for our personal tiltings.  I certainly do.  We all do.  Go for it.

But given the above musings about the utterly uniquely personal terroir of baked bread, how could any non-Larraburu bakehouse alumnus today possibly reproduce the flavor of a bread that was baked half a century ago at a particular bay area location with particular (mostly unknown, forgotten, scrapped) equipment with a long lost menagerie of microbes, an unknown or effectively extinct water, flour and salt supply, vessels, ambient temperature and humidity by sets of long retired, dead and mostly forgotten hands, eyes, noses and tongues?  How surprising is a result like, "the worst bread I've baked in a decade?" :-)  Well actually, a little.  But maybe that speaks to the immense scale of the challenge of trying to crack the code of bread terroir.  Maybe its quietly telling us You Shall Not Pass.

So why is a bread's character so exquisitely expressive of terroir?  Flour x Water x Salt x Yeasts x bacteria x time x temperature x humidity x hands x vessels x countertops ...?   Fill in some numbers (and factor in the barely knowable nonlinear interactions of those variables) and it becomes combinatorially astronomical.  And convincing.  Here's a hypothesis:  Acceleration, amplification and diversification by high heat.  Wine, cheese and olive oil don't get cooked at 500˚F during production.  Afterward in the kitchen perhaps, but not in the making.  As Michael Pollan has pointed out (highlighting research and scholarship by others), cooking over fire may have accelerated human evolution.  Maybe it's the heat of our ovens that is primarily responsible for launching our breads off in the zillion different directions represented by the endless diversity of our finished products.  But that's probably only a small part of it.

Or maybe it's just that when it comes to wines, cheeses and olive oils, there are only so many orchards, vineyards, pastures, caves, and (increasingly, worryingly, genetically uniform) plant and animal breeds on the planet.  But there are 8 billion of us, each built and driven by 20k genes represented by gazillions of alleles.  Neither us nor our kitchens are clones.  How could we expect our breads to any more uniform than we or they are?

Thanks for listening, if you've made it this far.  Over to you.  Got bread to bake.


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Our Crumb

Farina Bona is a unique flour produced in Cavigliano, a village in the Swiss canton of Ticino.  Cavigliano sits in the Valle Onsernone that runs east out of Locarno, the lakeside town from which the better known (to bread bakers) Valle Maggia runs north.

This deeply yellow flour is milled from toasted but unpopped maize kernels and smells very much like what you would expect:  It has an unmistakable and intense popcorn fragrance. Farina bona production dates back centuries, was eventually abandoned but has recently been revived by some romantic slow foodies.  History and production notes can be gleaned from the official Farina Bona website or Wikipedia.  

How to toast corn without popping all the kernels, you ask?  With legendary Swiss precision, of course. Remove the pan from the fire after exactly one third of the kernels have popped (those Swiss can count really fast.  Who knew?).  Then [optional: fire up Netflix,] eat the popped kernels and mill only the Old Maids.  Mind you, this is the ‘revived’ procedure. From the official website, it is clear that the current revivalists are making their best guesses as to the actual but unrecorded protocol followed by the late, venerated Annunziata Terribilini (no, I’m not making up that name).

As interesting as it would have been to visit Cavigliano when we were motoring in that direction this past summer, we were happy to find 250 gr bags of Farina Bona (along with a dazzling range of cheeses and chocolates, as well as fresh Pane Maggia) in the food hall of Manor, nearby Lugano’s big department store.

Hot damn.
The fragrance of the stuff is incredible.
Did I say that already?  

Now, most of the recipes provided in the online Farina Bona cookbook are for sweets.  Sounds tempting and we'll get around to some eventually.  After all, Piedmontese maize biscuits ~ pasta di meliga ~ are seriously delicious and rival biscotti/cantucci/cantuccini for the cappuccino dunkability crown (pasta di meliga are available from Eataly and some Carluccio’s (UK)).


So far we've just salted our precious Farina Bona into the weekly house miche our usual way:  At 3% of total flour, it coats and thereby de-clumps home-flaked porridge added at the second fold.  

We'd taken to using Alt Altus and/or powdered dehydrated sweet corn for that purpose this summer (in combination, an uncanny approximation of Farina bona), but popcorn is one of those smells and tastes that evokes such universally happy associations.  So why not.

Farina bona would need to be closer to 10% of total flour to take center-stage and give the miche an assertively corny character. But we’re after some light maize counterpoint here, not a Popcorn Requiem Mass.  At 3%, it's a largely subliminal hint barely peeking above the radar, but a happy hint is better than no hint at all.

There’s an outside chance that Eataly sells Farina Bona in their stores (they don’t online*).  It's just the kind of unique regional product they'd promote. I keep forgetting to forage for it there.  But then again, Italy has far too many worthy regional culinary delights competing for precious Eataly shelf space.  More importantly, Cavigliano’s being culturally but not politically Italian is almost certainly a deal-breaker. Still, if you're lucky enough to have an Eataly nearby, take a look.  And a sniff.

Happy Baking,



* If you Google(Shopping) <Farina bona>, you get a page of Farina bona fan T-shirts.  I don’t know where that’s coming from. Maybe those romantic slow foodies have hired a PR firm.

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Our Crumb

Looks like this fellow Karl de Smedt had the same idea as Alt Altus.

I like his name for it better: Fleur de Levain.

Happy Baking,


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Our Crumb

Here is a simple method for processing leftover starter into a versatile ingredient that can favorably increase the complexity of a bread's flavor profile.  It's a "toadie" in dabrownman's parlance. Perhaps a “cheat” in yours. Ok, it's not strictly altus. It had aspirations to become bread but never got the call.  Hence “Alt”. Here’s the...

What for

A few reasons. Uses for Leftover Starter is a recurrent theme at TFL.  Periodically air-drying some as a backup should be #1 on everybody’s list.  Baking it into croccantini is a favorite, especially if you accumulate large quantities of spent fuel (true, that link is not about leftover starter, but her video is a hoot.  You’ll never hear Mary Berry say, “Oh shit I forgot to add the rosemary!”).  Or you can just make another loaf with it (try mine or fernerz).  Here it gets baked, pulverized and christened “ingredient”.  Another nobler destiny for your spent fuel than an ignominious plop into the bin.

Second, I harbor a bit of an obsession with the Maillard reaction, likely owing to the relative dearth of its craveable products in our home’s vegetarian cuisine (me by choice because of my dearest’s inherited intolerance of meat).  Dry-toasted “toadies” and grano arso are short on Maillard products owing to their deficit of a key reagent required to mobilize reducing sugars and amino acids so that they can encounter each other and spontaneously react: water.

Third, I discovered a while back that fearless flavor prospectors Cortney Burns and Nick Balla included pulverized, blackened bread in Bar Tartine’s wacky cache of flavorings.  Fancy that. Right there on the rack alongside turmeric and allspice (as well as powdered dehydrated beet, kale and parsnip).

Fourth, I’ve noticed that when our oven steam apparatus shamelessly drips where it shouldn’t -- onto the loaf baking below -- the resulting bit of wet-burned crust can be surprisingly tasty.

Finally, a fellow loafer recently posted a query about preserving starter by drying it down in the oven – a strategy doomed to be about as gratifying as drying a bathed cat in the microwave.  Maybe he meant “proofer”. Regardless, that suggestion may have catalyzed the coalescence of the above sources into the process and product described below.  I have serially tinkered with the method over for the past several months. It’s very simple and forgiving. All loaves pictured here are 60% fresh-milled wheat with 1-3% Alt Altus-coated oat porridge added.  Without further ado, here’s the ...

How to

 1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  A countertop toaster oven serves well if you have a small amount of leftover starter to process.  Avoid convection as it will render your Alt Altus case-hardened (crisp outside, soft inside) or quickly blackened if you are not properly attentive.

 2. Dilute your leftover starter, if necessary, to turn it into a thick batter (*see footnote).  Don’t add too much water – just enough to make it viscously pourable. Aim for 110% hydration if your starter is less than that.  [Note: Fresh leftover starter is best, so make this soon after serially refreshing your starter for a bake.  For example, bake your Alt Altus while the dough from which the starter was left over is final-proving and the oven is pre-heating.  Ancient starter dredged from deep in the fridge yields a bitter product.]

3.  Position parchment paper on a sheet pan and pour diluted starter onto it in a tight switchback pattern of narrow bands close enough to one another to ooze together into a very shallow irregular puddle.  A baking sheet with an efficient non-stick coating can be used instead of parchment paper. Recommended: Sprinkle fine salt over the surface of the puddle now.  This can make the final product somewhat snackable, especially if you bake it more blonde than bold.  It’s always reassuring to add an ingredient to bread dough that already tastes good enough to eat by itself.  Salt does that here.

4.  Put your preparation into the oven or toaster oven.

5. After 6-8 minutes, when the surface has become dry to the touch and is beginning to tan, flip the paper over with the lightly baked product still attached, now underneath.  Return it to the oven to dry the parchment-product interface sufficiently to free the paper when you next open the oven.

6.  After another 6-8 minutes, remove it from the oven and carefully peel off and discard the paper.  Separation anxiety may necessitate gentle encouragement with a spatula.

7.  Return product to the oven and repeat flipping and rotating it every 5-7 minutes.  Begin to break off product to a countertop plate as edges acquire a shade you’re comfortable with along the blonde > chestnut > black spectrum.  Parts will brown at different rates, so keep a close eye.  Reduce the time interval between tests as the process accelerates to completion.  Reward your patience by toasting some pistachios on the baking tray ;-).

8.  Turn off the oven, open the door and put the plated product back inside until the oven is barely warm.  Convection (with no heat) helps here.

9.  Cool fully on the countertop.

10.  Like dried herbs or coffee, the product is best stored intact and pulverized just before use.  A modernist might store it under vacuum. The rest of us: a ziploc bag. When ready to use, pulverize in a mortar, food processor, coffee/spice grinder, grain mill or ziploc bag+rolling pin. 


The amount of Alt Altus to add in any application depends upon the boldness with which it was baked and, of course, personal taste.  The darker product can be quite potent and is best deployed sparingly for optimum effect. Otherwise its strident notes can overwhelm others with which it should gracefully harmonize.

•  Add granulated product equal to 1-3% of total flour to any bread formula. Our preferred method is to mix it, coarsely ground to drip coffee sized bits, at 3% into cooked, cooled, broken-up porridge that is ready to be added to dough at the second fold. This also conveniently reduces clumping of porridge additions.    

•  Fold it at 1-3% of total flour into pizza or pasta dough (al grano arso) or polenta (to give it an authentic saracena look, if not exactly the flavor).
•  Jump-start a gumbo’s roux with finely powdered product (Warning: May be a capital offense in some Louisiana parishes).
•  Add powdered product to any chili, gravy, sauce espagnole or veggie burger mix.
•  Consult Burns & Balla.


It has not escaped our notice that creatively varying the ingredients in this method could yield some novel flavors. Sourdough starter is just flour (here wheat, spelt and rye) fermented in water by sourdough microbes. One could prepare an Alt Altus batter from scratch (i.e., not from leftover starter) in which the flour was replaced or supplemented with powdered substrates prepared from other cereals, legumes or even dehydrated vegetables.  The liquid in which they are suspended (with or without fermentation) to create the batter could alternatively be apple/raisin yeast water, other populations of fermentative microbes or simply water supplemented with a suitable solute (shoyu, Marsala, Marmite, liquid aminos*). Toasting such batters and pulverizing the products to generate “spices” would subtly expand the flavor space represented by most pantries.

Happy Baking,



* Including liquid aminos (up to 10% v/v of total leftover starter - more than that becomes Weapons Grade) in the dilution liquid makes a somewhat richer Alt Altus. Reduce added salt when including this or other salty supplement.

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Buongiorno everyone.  It's been a while.

Perhaps it's our old world village roots, but my wife and I are happy to have more or less the same bread day in and day out.  As long as it's very good bread.  Sure enough, we've been enjoying bakes of this delicious bread just about every week for the past year.  It is appropriately versatile for our vegetarian table, supplying lunchtime sandwiches and the evening table's basket.  The formula and process have proven robust enough to survive our recent relocation across 2500 miles, two time zones, +2000' in elevation and a decidedly less capable oven than that in which the bake was initially developed.  Perhaps that warrants a TFL post.

An attractive feature of the formula, besides its 60% fresh milled flour, is the ca. 30% supplement of (usually oat, but at times barley or spelt) porridge, sprouted or otherwise fully hydrated grain.  A recently adopted and salutary upgrade has been to lightly toast the rolled grain before cooking it up as porridge.  This practice echoes yesteryear's Miche Maillard, infusing not only the crust but, somewhat less so, the crumb, with a toasty maillardesse.  Importantly, a >100% hydrated supplement such as porridge continuously hydrates a fermenting, predominantly wholegrain, dough, enhancing final crumb structure.  I don't recall mention of this benefit in T3.




We have settled on the above ratio of white to red wheat.  More white is too bland and more red can be too intense.  Variation in the cooked or sprouted supplement provides plenty of opportunity for subtle week-to-week diversity.

Happy New Year, Happy New Administration and Happy Baking.



[Notes added in "proof" :-) :

1. Error in Process above:  On First morning, "Weight out rolled oats equal to 15% weight of formula's total flour" (not 30%).  Sorry about that.

2. We quarter these miches when cooled, double ziploc bag each quarter and freeze two.  They keep and thaw well until the next bake.]

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Last week's 10% Einkorn, 40% Hard White Wheat was deliciously encouraging.  Egged on by Josh, I wanted to explore this mix more by "pushing" both the Einkorn and the overall wholegrain level this week.  I also wanted to add a sharper accent with some red wheat.  Easy as 1-2-3:  10% Hard Red Wheat, 20% Einkorn and 30% Hard White Wheat.  I also upped the overall hydration to 84% (again, taking a page from Josh's nice post), to accommodate the increased wholegrain proportion.  But maybe too much: Einkorn doesn't absorb water the way more branny wheat does (as noted by Mini this week) and this bread benefited from a day in the basket swaddled in Bee's Wrap.

The einkorn flavor comes through rather more assertively here than at 10% last week, despite the presence of some Hard Red Wheat in this formula.  This makes for a very pleasing balance of these grains, certainly no unpleasant bitterness from the einkorn.  I may try 20%-20%-20% next time, as that was in the running for this bake -- to give the mild einkorn and white wheat more of a run for their money by increasing the hard red, and dropping the hydration down a tick or two.

Process is exactly the same as last week's 10%/40%, with formula modifications as noted above.

Happy baking,


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Our Crumb

Long time, no post.  Busy.  But baking.  This is a simple, mild-flavored yet satisfying table bread with open crumb and assertive crust:  50% whole grain:  40% hard white wheat (Central Milling organic) + 10% einkorn (Heartland organic), all fresh-milled.  Departures from our habitual (Acer) process are retarding not in bulk but in banneton, followed by a short, warm proof:  1 hour at 95˚F.

Formula  (2x700 gr loaves)

Process (48h)

First night:  Refresh levain.  Ours is grown @ 75-80˚F @ 80% hydration; rests on countertop between daily feedings of a hi-fiber Gerard Rubaud ration.  If you feed intermittently, refresh at least once immediately prior to this one.

Next morning:  Mill grains.  Prepare levain and incubate @ 75-80˚F all day or until domed.

That evening:  Combine final flours + water (hold back 50 ml) and autolyse ~1 hour @ room temp.  Then fold, squeeze and pince in levain, water and salt.  French fold to uniformity and beginning of gluten development.  Bulk ferment @ 85˚F for 2 hours with letter folds every 10-20 min for first 1-1.5 hours.  Divide, rest, shape, tuck into floured bannetons, bag and refrigerate.  Nitey nite.

Baking (next) day afternoon (in time for cooled loaves at dinner):  Preheat oven @ 500˚F.  Proof loaves 1 h @ 95˚F.  Dough should rise noticeably, but far from final volume (almost top of bannetons).  Score and bake 20 min @ 500˚F with steam, then 5 min @ 435˚F with convection and ~10 min @ 435˚F without convection.  Interior should be just over 200˚F.

Happy Baking!


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Our Crumb

I bake 100% whole wheat pan loaves every week for my wife's lunchtime sandwiches.  The initial formula and process came from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  But the good Br. Juniper's cumbersome "epoxy" method and profligate CY habit begs for simplification.  My current alternative is soft, tasty, simple and seasonally robust enough to share with fellow Loafers.  My wife loves it.

The principal departure from PR's process is the use of a single preferment that doubles as both levain and soaker.  The entire formula's [One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat] flour is 55# sieved.  Then all of and only the retained fraction goes into a day-long RYW levain.  A pinch of CY is added to the evening's final dough.  The pass-through fraction of the sieved flour is not prefermented.  Sieving only takes a few minutes.

The active preferment may soften the crumb more than a salted soaker does. Addition of a tsp/loaf of diastatic malt darkens and enhances the flavor of the crust.  We prefer White Gold Honey from WFM or Teavana -- highly recommended if you find most honeys too strong.  RYW improves keeping quality as well.  Minimal gluten development in the branny levain makes dispersing it into the final dough's milk a snap.  Achtung: this loaf's extravagant bloom necessitates scoring, which was never needed with PR's original formula.

I now use this 55# retentate levain method for our 40% fresh-milled sourdough as well.  Nihil sub sole novum and indeed, a certain Arizona Sorcerer has been known to ferment his branny sieved fractions.  Not surprisingly, a middling/branny fraction is a very active fermentation substrate, especially when sourced from freshly milled flour.

Formula (5" x 9" pan) (click for working Google xls.):


1. ~24h before dough mix (night before), combine equal parts RYW and WW flour to build starter.  Incubate overnight @ ~27˚C (80˚F).                        
2. ~12h before dough mix (morning of) : 55# sieve all flour and use all retentate for levain.  Storebought WW flours yield 20-30+% retained 55# sieve fractions.  ODO Sprouted Wheat consistently yields 31%, hence the formula above.  Adjust accordingly for your WW flour.
3. Incubate levain @ ~27˚C (80˚F) all day.                        
4. Disperse levain into final (25˚C/77˚F) milk, then mix in oil and honey.  
5. Distribute yeast through pass-through flour (optional: add 1 tsp diastatic malt).  
6. Mix flour, salt and remaining water into levain-milk mixture.  Pince, squeeze, knead, slap and fold until gluten development begins.
7. Bulk ferment ~60 min @ ~25˚C (77˚F) with a letter fold at 30 minutes.  Should see some expansion (25-50%) by end.
8. Shape and pan (margarine-coat to prevent sticking).  
9. Proof 40-60 min @ 25˚C (77˚F) until ~3/4" above pan edge.                        
10. Score and bake 20 min with steam @ 190˚C (375˚F), then ~30 min without steam at 175˚C (350˚F) until internal temp = 90˚C (195˚F).

Happy Baking.


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I hope everyone has had a good summer, baking and otherwise.  Judging from TFL blogposts, it's been a great one for many.  My only indoor project has been the following formula and process.  I recommend it to anyone with a mill, a fine tamis and willingness to go to a little extra trouble for a nice flavor.

First, the name.  Acer is the genus name for maples.  No, there are no milled maple samaras in the flour.  Early on I found the products of this Quest's formula & process variations to be as similar to one another as cultivars within a species and decided to name them after Japanese Maple cultivars and species I know and like (e.g., Acer Crimson Queen, Acer shirasawanum, etc.).  The final formula and process posted here is now just "Acer Levain".

The overall goal was to extract maximum flavor from just flour/water/salt/levain containing 40% freshly milled whole grains, 3/4 of which is fixed at hard red spring wheat (cultivar unknown).  The remaining 1/4 of the milled grains (10% of total flour) is the sandbox: lots of variations (maple cultivars) explored here including einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, farro and rye.  I keep coming back to 4:1 einkorn:rye as satisfyingly complex, vaguely exotic but not too assertively "ancient grain".  I like the fluffy yellow flour einkorn yields (although I don't mill the different grains separately).  That sandbox has infinite potential for flavor exploration with minimal cost to crumb structure.  Another constraint of the Quest was that all steps in the process be carried out in successive mornings and evenings (no "baking days") - it had to be a Workingman's Bread.

About the milling.  This is a fitting use for the KitchenAid KGM (unhacked) given its notoriously limited capacity and coarse output.  Milling 100% of the flour for a reasonably sized bake with a KGM takes too long (for me), esp. with all the passes (see following).  But 40% is do-able and, per Ken Forkish, a pleasing percentage of whole grain for a daily table bread such as this.  Grain is first cracked at the KGM's 50% setting.  Output falls directly onto a 55# tamis (sieve) resting in a bowl, both of which are then shaken together, saving the pass-through and returning only the retained branny fraction for the next pass through the mill.  The second through fifth millings, each time of only the previous pass's 55# retained fraction, are performed on the KGM's finest setting.  These five passes-with-fractionation consistently yield what I operationally call 55% "extraction":  55% pass-through flour and 45% retained "bran fraction", all of the latter going into a 2% salted, 100% hydration soaker.  The lovely pass-through fraction goes into the levain and final dough.

The process also employs Ian Lowe's "Enzymatic Preferment" ("ePreferment") for the formula's 60% bulk-bin white flour portion (a 60:40 mix of Heartland Organic AP and bread flour to achieve 11.5% protein).  I liked this in my Spring Levain*, from which Acer Levain is evolutionarily derived.  Omitting the eP and simply adding all the white flour at the final dough stage substantially tempers the product's magic.  Caveat: The eP develops considerable gluten sitting all day, rendering it grudgingly miscible with the soaker and levain.  Effective hand mixing of the three preferments benefits from earnest pincing and squeezing, followed by a judicious rest and a brief bout of French folding.

FORMULA (click on table for PDF or here for Google sheet)

The two mini tables, below and linked to the main formula table, are for milling and levain.  There are always losses in milling so I mill more than I need, entering the percentage excess at the top of the mini table.  Total amount of retained brany fraction is entered in the main table after milling.  The separate levain mini table is necessary because I no longer keep a separate stock of levain.  The final build of a formula is just another refreshment of my stock so I build more than the formula calls for, to have some left over for future bakes.  fwiw, I stopped keeping my levain in the fridge back in June.  All room (or storm cellar) temp now.


First Evening
    Weigh out grain for milling & flour for ePreferment. 
    Mise en place mill, tamis, bowls. 
    Refresh starter.                                    
First Morning
    Mill grains (1x coarse, 4x finest), keeping 55# pass & retained separate.                                     
    Mix levain.  Incubate @ 25˚C (77˚F).  Refrigerate unused 55# pass fraction.                                    
    Mix Soaker & ePreferment.  Incubate at room temp.
Second Evening
    Combine levain + remaining water.  Mix in soaker.  Add ePreferment and remaining flour.  Pince & squeeze to mix well.
    Rest dough 10-20 min (not really an autolyse but allows dough to come together).                                      
    Fold in salt.  FF to complete mixing and attain moderate gluten development.                                    
    Bulk ferment at 4˚C (refrigerator) for 18-20h with 2 folds early.                                    
Third Evening
    Divide, pre-shape & rest dough 20 min.                                       
    Shape and proof @ 25˚C (77˚F) incompletely,  ~1.5h (watch dough).                                    
    Pre-heat oven to 260˚C (500˚F)                                    
    Refrigerate dough ~1/2h before fully proofed (stabilizes summer doughs and facilitates scoring).
    Score and bake 20 min @ 230˚C (450˚F) w/steam, then 10-20' (depending on loaf size) @ 215˚C (420˚F) on Convection Cook.

As expected, prefermenting ~90% of the flour followed by a 18-20 hour bulk incurs a gluten cost, sacrificing crumb air (Thanks go to Phil for the idea of a long 4˚C bulk.  Great for hot summer kitchens).  A baker wielding skills to which I aspire could achieve a more fashionable balance of flavor and distribution of crumb alveoli diameter.  Still, the crumb of these breads is anything but dense, being consistently and indulgently soft and spongy-cakey, collapsing under the bread knife before the crust yields.  It is dangerously snackable unaccompanied, especially given the flavor.  And hey, bigger holes would make our current seasonal favorite Brandywine tomato/Genovese pesto/mozzarella sandwiches messy :-).  Crumb airiness has varied among the bakes, probably owing to my catching the final proof better in some than others.  Still learning.

About the flavor.  Experimentation has suggested that this bread's special flavor comes from both the fresh milling and fermentations.  The day-long soaker and eP likely generate abundant and diverse substrates upon which the levain bugs indulge in an orgy of chemical transformation for 18 hours in the fridge.  English is so adjective-challenged when it comes to the nuances of flavor that it's easier to describe what this bread's flavor isn't than what it is.   It is never sour in the acetic sourdough sense.  It is markedly less "wheaty" than naturally leavened breads tend to become as the whole grain percentage rises.  The flavor has a moderately rich Maillard character that intensifies and peaks at 24-48 hours out of the oven.  Eight percent einkorn produces a subtle note of ancient grain and 2% rye is more detectable to the bugs in my starter than to my palate.  Indeed, it's there for them, not me.  When boldly baked, the crust is as intense and more-ish as any junk food.

Most of these Acer bakes have been one or two 750 gr loaves.  1750 gr Acer Miches are special for crumb texture, mostly because the crumb of larger loaves seems to retain more moisture, resulting in a more indulgent mouthfeel and better keeping quality.  Big miches have spiritual quality for me.  But that's for another thread.

Happy baking - and milling - everyone.




*Apologies here to Phil for unconsciously plagiarizing the name "Spring Levain".  I knew it sounded nice and poetic at the time.  Sure enough, I've subsequently realized that was because Phil had named one of his (down under) spring bakes the same.


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