The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Inspired by Shiao-Ping's Miche, Pointe-à-Callière from mid-January, and by the excellent efforts of other bakers here, I decided to try my own hand at this loaf.  My wife requested some loaves for her sister's birthday coming up soon, and it seemed a good opportunity to try this.  I have never had Hamelman's book in hand, and have not baked this loaf before, so I followed Shiao-Ping's excellent instructions for this bake. My only departures were to blend my own flours from home-milled hard red ww and hard white ww plus KA AP flours,  to extend the bulk fermentation to about 14 hours due to limitations of life, and to bake the dough as two smaller loaves, which resulted in much shortened baking times, so we could keep one at home to try for ourselves.  I was reassured to find my impressions of the dough development to be almost exactly in parallel with Shiao-Ping's observations from her blog post referenced above.

At the same time, in need of more gift loaves, I continued to push my exploration of higher hydrations in my own straight sourdough formula, with this bake done at 70% hydration.  The resulting loaves had amazing oven spring, and the flavor is just excellent.  The crumb is tender and creamy, and has a very distinct but subtle flavor.  This dough was also bulk fermented in the refrigerator for about 14 hours alongside the Pointe-à-Callière.  This resulted in very good flavor, but not a strong sour.  The higher hydration had me worried during the development of the dough, but after the bulk fermentation the dough had come together almost startlingly firmly.  Formation and proofing resulted in loaves with very good integrity despite being the highest hydration dough I have made thus far in this exploration.

Here are the loaves together.

and a better look at the Pointe-à-Callière

Here is the straight sourdough

I must admit I am quite pleased with the results of both of these breads.  The miches had wonderful spring in the oven compared to my previous attempts at a whole wheat loaf, and the sourdough was also a very good performer on that score.  I wish I had pictures of the miche loaves before baking because they looked almost dead to me.  I was not only pleased but quite surprised at the spring and life in them in the oven.  They taught me a great deal about judging dough for future reference.

The crumbs of both are also quite nice.  I succeeded in getting much better gelatinization in the crumb of both loaves in this bake than I have accomplished previously.  Now, if I can just zero in on the factors that led to it!  I am focusing on the high hydration levels as the primary contributors at the moment, together with the La Cloche baker.  I baked all of these loaves one-by-one en cloche.  I also extended the time under cover to 20 minutes, and left the oven at the full 500F temperature for the full 20 minutes.  I lowered the temperature to 460F just before opening the oven to uncover each loaf.

Here are crumb shots of each, beginning with the Pointe-à-Callière.

and the sourdough looks like this

While I am feeling pretty proud of these loaves, and especially of the Pointe-à-Callière, I am not sure if this is the way the loaf is "supposed to" come out.  For one thing, I wish I had floured the loaf a bit prior to baking.  As it is, it finished with that "wet sandstone" finish I find very typical of my past high hydration whole wheat efforts.  I have seen the same thing in pan loaves I have baked, and I don't find it very attractive.  Shiao Ping's presentation is much more winsome!  Also, the flavor is pretty mild, and I was expecting a much sharper sour flavor after the long cold bulk fermentation, similar to other Hamelman loaves I've tried.  Could this just be the nature of my starter?  I don't object, but it was not quite what I thought was expected here.

Thank you for reading this far!  Happy Baking

dmsnyder's picture




When I first baked bread back in the late '70's, one of my favorites was the “Pane all'Olio” or “Mantovana Bread” from Marcella Hazan's “More Classic Italian Cooking.” Even then, Hazan referred to this bread as one that “used to be common” in Northern Italy. I have no idea how common it is today. Perhaps Giovanni (JoeV on TFL) can tell us.

The Pane all'Olio is a low-hydration bread. In Hazan's recipe, half the flour is in a biga which has the same hydration as the final dough. I had some biga naturale left over from the Sourdough Italian Bread I made yesterday, so I decided to use it to make a sourdough version of Pane all'Olio. I did boost the hydration from 56% to 61%, to suit my taste. The dough is still very much drier than that of most breads I've been baking recently. Otherwise, I maintained Hazan's ingredient proportions.

The procedure for making this bread is unusual in that, after the biga is added and the dough kneaded, it is allowed to ferment until doubled, then divided and shaped and baked, without proofing. It has a long bake in a relatively cool oven, to give it a thick, crunchy crust.


Baker's %




















The biga can be made the night before the baking day and fermented for 12 hours at room temperature. It can also be made the day before, fermented for 12 hours and then refrigerated overnight. If refrigerated, you should let it warm up for an hour at room temperature before mixing the dough.


Final Dough:

Baker's %











Olive oil












Note: The original starter is backed out of the biga before mixing with the other Final Dough ingredients.

Note: Recommend reducing the salt to 1.8%.



  1. The day before baking, mix the biga ingredients and ferment.

  2. On the day of baking, disperse the biga in the Final Dough water.

  3. Add the flour, salt and Olive Oil and mix thoroughly, using the paddle blade on a stand mixer.

  4. Mix at Speed 2 until moderate gluten development.

  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and give it a couple stretch and folds.

  6. Form the dough into a ball, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly.

  7. Ferment the dough until doubled in volume. About 3 hours.

  8. About an hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 450ºF with a baking stone and your steaming apparatus in place.

  9. Transfer the dough back to the board, divide it into two equal pieces and form each into a loaf. Hazan describes the loaf as “a thick, cigar-shaped roll, plump at the middle, slightly tapered at the ends, and about 7 to 8 inches long.”

  10. Pre-steam your oven.

  11. Transfer the loaves to a peel. Make a single lengthwise slash along the top of each, about an inch deep.

  12. Transfer the loaves to the baking stone and steam the oven.

  13. Bake for 12 minutes at 450ºF.

  14. After 12 minutes, turn the oven down to 375ºF and bake for 45 minutes more, or until the loaves are done.

  15. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool completely (at least two hours) before slicing and serving.



The loaf had a nice crunchy crust. The crumb was tender. The flavor was “good,” but, besides being a bit salty to my taste, it seemed rather dull and uninteresting compared to the breads I've been making and eating of late. (My wife's comment was, “It's good … but ... not like your other bread.”)

Arrrrgh! My palate is ruined for white bread!

Oh, well. One must always have a back-up. Mine actually came out of the oven before the Pane all'Olio was baked.


The Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Bread from BBA is always a palate pleaser at our house. (My wife's comment was, “Did you leave some out for breakfast?”)




makebreadnet's picture

After reading this site (and many others) for some time, I have read and learned many tricks and tips from fantastic bakers on how to make a better loaf.  My goal is to just keep improving and making my loaves a little better each time.  I don't really make them for anyone in particular.  My wife will have a piece once in a while but I usually make bread for myself.  I think I've achieved a pretty consistent recipe that yields a fairly consistent loaf, and I would like to use this blog spot to discuss the different cooking vessels for baking the bread.  Although the cooking vessel won't necessarily improve the flavor of the loaf, it's interesting to see what kind of difference these things make while baking. 

In the next few post, I plan share with you all the results of my baking so that we can all see what an average (or sub-average) baker with readily available (and relatively inexpensive) tools and equipment can make in his home kitchen.  In particular, I will use my standard recipe as a control and will bake the loaves in: a sheet pan, on a pizza stone, in a dutch oven, on some newly-acquired fire brick, and maybe even on my grill with some of the aforementioned vessels so that we can all actually see what we get when we cook bread using these different techniques.

I hope to start in the next few days and will use the following "Plain as Jane" white bread recipe for all future loaves in this series:

4 cups AP flour (unbleached, of course)
1 1/4 cups water
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
1 packet of yeast

This has produced a somewhat bland but soft and tasty loaf for m and I will use it as a control in my upcoming "experiments".

After this series is over, I will explore different recipes in order to expand the flavor of the loaves but, as Alton Brown says, that's another show.

LindaLou's picture

I was so happy when my 1 starter white bread came out nice. Tomorrow I will share with everyone at work. My husband had some and said it was very good. I can't get my pictures to work or I would show you. I love the pictures everyone send in by the way.


jpchisari's picture


Here's a Rustic Italian Round I baked today using straight dough method with 15% levain added.

eva_stockholm's picture

Bakers share recipes on knead-to-know basis.

dmsnyder's picture

I'm fighting a nasty cold. I don't have the snowstorm excuse to stay shut in and bake bread, so ... whatever. 

I baked the San Francisco Sourdough from Michel Suas' "Advanced Bread & Pastry" again. Delicious, and not at all aggressively sour.


I also made Italian Bread with biga naturale - my sourdough version of Peter Reinhart's "Italian Bread" in BBA, which uses a yeasted biga.

I like this bread a lot (my version, not PR's). The formula has been posted in a previous blog entry, Sourdough Italian Bread and Sandwich Rolls. I'd been meaning to make it with some Durum flour after my last bake, and I finally got around to it. I substituted  25% of the total "Bread Flour" with Durum flour. Good choice.

This bread is similar to Maggie Glazer's Sourdough Challah in that it combines a slightly sweet dough with a mild sourdough tang. I definitely like this combination of flavors.

I mixed the biga last night and let it ferment over-night. I mixed the dough this morning after I got "activated' ... 10:30 am? It was baked, cooled and ready for dinner at 7:30 pm.

My formula for Sunday-morning-with-a-cold activation:

It took two this morning.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

txfarmer's picture

Ciabatta, like baguette, is one of those "basic" but "difficult" breads to get right. I make it every so often just to test out different recipes and see whether my techniques have improved. I've done Jason's ciabatta before, great open crumb, but tasted only OK since it was a stright dough. BBA's version proved to be flavorful but not hole-y, like a flat version of french bread. This recipe is from Maggie Glezer's wonderful book " Artisan Baking Across America", it uses a 24 hour biga, which lends great flavor to the final produt. It's a very wet dough, with relatively little mixing, 4 sets of folding, which results in a very open crumb.


The recipe can be found here:, but I highly recommend to buy the book. I did use some of my own techniques:

1. for the first 2 of the 4 S&F, the dough was still very loose, so I did folding in the bowl, the last two I did french folds like she instructed

2. I did NOT use any flour while handling the dough, used oil instead on my hands and counter top. Oil combined with swift movement is more effective for handling such wet dough, AND this way I dont mix in any extra flour

3. I did the dough dividing, shaping (letter fold), proofing (seam side down), final flipping (baked seam side up) all on the same big piece of parchment paper. Well oiled of course. This way all the turning upside down, and moving around can be done by flipping of the parchment paper, without over handling the sticky dough.


She instructs to dimple the dough before baking, which is opposite to the "dont' touch the dough, don't even breath on it, must preserve all the bubbles" theory. I did obey and the result is fantansic. I think it's like how baguette dough is handled - iron hands to get rid of big unsightly bubbles floating on top, which will actually encourage more holes through out the crumb.


The holes are big enough to see through!

Of course all the holes are not just for show, it's there for a good reason - for all the sandwich filling to fill in! Here's a new sandwich idea I got from food network, b

rie and chocolate panini. Look at all the cheese and chocolate melting into the holes, yum!

However, DH is complaining that with so many holes, it doesn't fill him up, haha!

cpc's picture

I've been reading this website for a while, but this is my first post.  Yesterday I baked the Miche Pointe-a-Calliere from Hamelman's Bread.  I made this for the first time last week, and loved it, so I was excited to try it again.  I halved the recipe, because I'm the only one who eats bread in my house and don't know what I'd do with an almost 4lb loaf!  I used a whole wheat as opposed to white flour culture because that's what I have.  And I extended the primary fermentation and proofing time a bit because it's about 70F in my apartment (not 76F which the recipe recommends).

Here's the loaf!

And the obligatory crumb shot.

The crumb is a bit dense and moist.  I think it was a bit underbaked.  (I was concerned that it would be overbaked because I baked it for the full hour even though I halved the recipe, but I guess that wasn't the case...)  Tastes great though!

ananda's picture

I have been working with Mary and Nigel for about 18 months now, providing Consultancy services to help them get their cherished bakery project off the ground.

I first met these dedicated Francophiles when they attended the Breadmatters Masterclass in early Summer 2007.   We discussed their project to establish a genuine local bakery in their adopted village of Wye in Kent.   The High Street has a load of potential, and, eventually they came back to me to say they had bought premises and the project was moving.   Alison, my wife, and I went to Kent over the Bank Holiday of 2008, giving me some time to experiment with Mary and Nigel using the specialist type 65 flour they had sourced from one of their many trips made to France.   We made some fantastic Pain de Campagne.

I should add that Mary had worked in Brussels, whilst Nigel had been involved in Aid and Development work in Africa, having lived in New York for sometime, based at the UN.   I put this blog together, because there are some excellent discussions to be found on the site at the moment in relation to flour combinations which people like to use.   A lot seem to centre on creating a flour mix which equates to the French ash content, aiming for somewhere near to Type 65, or, maybe 80.

On my second visit, Mary and Nigel had done the ground work and were preparing to start production in their lovely new bakery.   It had been far from plain sailing, as the project was based in the relatively modern extension built on the back of a High Street building which was an integral part of the village conservation area.   They had a new spiral mixer, and an upright mixer which was wired to continental standards, and gave me a scary electric shock early on.   They also had a sparkly new 3 deck oven and some big peels!

As you may imagine, creating a top baguette was a high priority.   The same with croissant.   Mary and Nigel had just returned from a week long intensive craft baking course with the French Baking Institute.   They were itching to turn their knowledge, and new skills to creating perfect specimens.   Well, I think we did well, and I know Mary and Nigel were very happy with the progress we made that Bank Holiday weekend.   Perfect baguettes and croissants, no!   But so much progress.   Lots of photos attached for you all to see.

These good people opened for trade very soon after.   They are now working flat out, and doing really well.   I heard about queues reaching out onto the High Street.   Committed to the cause of real bread, and dedicated to the entrenched passion and tradition of French baking, I am sure they will succeed and prosper.

Best wishes to all, especially those friends in Kent!


ps.   I originally had it in mind to try and show what was so different about dough made with real French flour.   I don't know how successful I have been.   I'm not that dedicated to the French cause, myself, and like to make a whole range of different breads from different flours, but I thought these photos do give a reasonable indication of what French flour gives, in terms of both dough, and finished product.   There were some really special qualities to what we achieved in such a small amount of time.




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