The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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davidg618's picture

My wife and I love ciabatta, especially for soaking up soup, a handle for bruschettas, or a base for cheese. It was only natural I, obsessed with improving my bread baking skills (especially sourdoughs), would try a ciabatta.

I've been running a set of experiments trying to decide two things: 1) what hydration I should keep my SD seed starter at, and 2) is it worth the effort to do multiple builds to arrive at the formula starter I choose to use? This ciabatta was constructed with 250 gm. of 73% hydrated starter built with three intermediate stages. The initial seed starter was 10 gm. at 200% hydration. The target dough weight was 1050 gm. (three 350 gm. loaves) at 73% hydration.

My tentative conclusions are: 1) the 200% Hydration favors yeast, not bacteria, development. This results in short bulk, and final proof times, and good oven spring, but nearly indiscernable sourness. (This conclusion includes the results of two previous baguette bakes.), and 2) the three build starter time is worth it. This ciabatta has a distinctive, yet still mild, sour flavor: a nice compliment to bleu cheese, or French onion soup.

The crumb, is, to our needs, also near perfect. I expected an even more (undesired) dense crumb. I folded the dough more than its feel deemed necessary. However, neither I nor my wife are fans of the "more-holes-than-bread" crumb other bakers seem to strive for in ciabatta.

I've developed two spreadsheets:  The first helps us baker's calculate the flour and liquid for a target dough weight and target hydration, using (or not using) a SD starter, poolish, or sponge while also allowing choices re which flours ahd how much of each, as well as fluids--water isn't the only choice (i sometimes use beer). The second spread sheet calculates the required seed starter needed to create a desired starter weight and hydration, achieved with three builds--the necessary flour and water for each build is calculated also.. Each build triples the starter's beginning weight, and increases (or decreases) by one-third its hydration %. If anyone is interested, send me a message with your email address and I'll send you the spread sheets. They were built with Microsoft Excel (.xls extension.)

David G.

SylviaH's picture

I thought I would try D.T. DiMuzio's recipe from his book 'bread baking' for Sicilian Semolina Bread.  Everything went according to plan and the dough tested close to the goal Temperature of 77F.  Things could not have looked better...then I realized...Oh My Gosh!...I forgot to put in the Olive Oil...I knew I should have had it measured and ready to go....because if I don't have ingredients right in front of me...this happens!  I didn't even have the bottle of oil out on the much for earlier thoughts about the oil!  Oh it would probably be great even without the oil...but no...I wanted my oil.  No matter what!!  In it went.. all of it...slooooshing all around the dough...not mixing in very well ...what now!  I picked up about a Tablespoon of flour tossed it in around the dough and things seemed to come to together pretty good.  I don't think I will ever forget my oil again...lesson learned!  Things looked pretty good...other than I had a very puffy wet dough to try and form into an I did the best I could and made 2 with a backward S and one batard.  We had several slices with dinner and we thought the flavor was great.  So good in fact I thought I would take the one S out of the frig that I was going to retard for tomorrow.  I thought I would let it proof a little longer and see if that would help the S not to get so blown away as in the first loaf.  The first two were done on a pan with added steam>my new Lava Rocks!...I would do this last loaf in my Bell Cloche and see if there was any difference.  Well, not really anything that noticable..they looked pretty much the same both even had the S pretty much blown away...I think my dough was a little on the wet side...then maybe again it was the oil being added later on made the dough slack...Any comment on this will be greatly appreciated.  This was a first forgetting to add the oil and Im sure it must affect the gluten formation some any comments and advice are very much appreciated.

2 S Scrolls - One S and Batard baked with steamed oven - One S  in a La Cloche

Goal Temperature is 77F    This is when I realized I had forgotten the Oil! :>/

Olive Oil has been added and Temperature holding at 77.7   Im thinking I need these lucky numbers!

Batard was nearly all eaten! It had a very nice buttery flavor from the duram flour...we are not crazy on the seeds..but I wanted to stick with tradition and they did add a nice toasty flavor. Things had turned out better than I thought  adding the oil so late didn't seem to do to much harm.

S on the Left was Oven Steamed                                               S on Right was baked in the Bell Cloche and retarded for about 2 hrs. in the frig.

                                                                                             longer before baking.

Crumb on Batard





Baker_Dan's picture

Hey everyone! I'm an avid reader as of a few days ago and finally decided to add some content! I"ve been baking at home for a couple years, attended Oregon Culinary Institute for Baking and Pastry, and now work in a test kitchen, baking up yummy deliciousness. I, as many others, have high hopes of someday opening my own bakery right here in Portland and focusing on artisan breads.

Last night I took one of my favorite Italian bread recipes and simply changed it from one loaf to three smaller baguettes. At the time of the picture, one had already been consumed by my girlfriend and a friend that was visiting. I've been working on getting my slashing down on baguettes and think that I finally nailed it here. Let me know what you think!

proth5's picture

 What is this?  Loaves made with commercial yeast, no pre-ferment, and all commercially ground flour?  I'm flashing back. beads.

But I promised I would try this as part of the baguette surprise and challenge.  It was like riding a bike.  How fast those commercial yeasts do their little thing! (6 hours from scaling to bread and 2 of that was my slow mixing!)  How easy!

I made my standard baguette formula (65% hydration) adapted to commercial yeast.  I feel that my % of yeast - which was .5% - was a bit high, but looking at dmsynder's formula it seemed ok.

I did not use any whole wheat flour because I wanted to go "single factor" on this try - my sourdough baguettes vs. commercial yeast.

I've written up the technique and formula before and I followed it as only I can (like a maniac) - although I did have to adjust the timings for the bulk ferments (1 hour, fold, 1 hour) and proofing (40 minutes).  Shaping went "as usual" - I did not try to be especially light in my shaping although I have been told that I have a "light but firm" hand "naturally" (yeah, after years of practice...). I got a little distracted during the scoring, but steamed and baked as usual.

Oh my goodness!  The oven spring!  I remember when bread sprang quite like that!  This commercial yeast is the bee's knees! No wonder so many people use it!  Wow!

 Here' a picture of the cooling loaves where my haste in scoring is clearly evident.  But even so, the slashes opened well and have some nice grigne.  Alas, it seems that no yeast wild or commercial will improve my photography skills, though.

Cooling Loaves


I did NOT leave them in the turned off oven for 5 minutes, as again, I wanted to go all single factor on this.  When the loaves came out of the oven the crust was crackly and fragile.  I kept poking my fingers through it as I squeezed the loaves to test doneness and it came off in flakes.  As the loaves cooled, however, they lost the crackly quality somewhat.  I really think the slower cooling has some virtues and some role to play in that "crackly crust." (I also now think that excess steam is the culprit on cuts not opening...)

Here are a couple of crumb shots.  The crumb is not as open as my normal baguette, but it is not horrific.  The slashing flaws have a role to play there.

 Crumb End


The bread had a "fluffy" feeling when I bit into it.  Very soft  and springy as compared to my normal levain baguette.

And the taste?  Well, bland.  Nice, sweet, wheaty, no hint of yeast, but bland.  This would make a lovely "carrier bread" as far as I am concerned - some really good butter and jam would go nicely and is almost required.  I'd gladly toast it up for a breakfast tartine.  Remember that I haven't eaten any breads not produced with wild yeast in at least three years now, so my perspective is somewhat skewed.  But so easy! This commercial yeast is the best things since - well, since sliced bread!

 (Seriously, you can see why bakers, pressed to get bread on the shelves for morning customers, embraced this marvelous yeast when it first appeared.  Taste?  Close enough.  People will eat it if that's all we sell and if we sell it warm, who will know?  For my personal baking I would never forgo the preferment - even using commercial yeast - because it is just so easy to do and can be done during non working hours.  But for speed from mixing to baked loaf after long centuries of baking with wild yeast, this must have been viewed with tremendous enthusiasm.)

At some point I will try the 10% whole wheat.  I mean, why not? The whole process is so fast...

David, I hope my experiences are helpful to you in some small way.

 Happy Baking!

breitbaker's picture

Pablo's picture

I'm taking another stab at that rye with onions.  I have the dough made and in the 'fridge.  I'm a little concerned that it is wetter than I'm used to and I'm not sure how much influence the onions and olive oil have on the hydration of the dough.  I added an extra 8% or so of flour to my normal 70% hydration formula, but I'm worried about the wetness.  I'm going to try baking one as a boule from a form.  I haven't done that in a long time.  I've been doing exclusively the baguette shaping technique for quite a while now.  It will be a challenge with dough this wet.  Plenty of flour available on the counter to combat stickiness.


I'm very intrigued with a couple of posts that I read on Dave's blog ( about using high extraction flour with rye.  I'm finding rye more attractive lately and I've used Giusto's 20% bran whole wheat flour for a long time.  I believe that that is a "high extraction" flour - all the germ and 20% of the bran.  Anyway, it's exciting.  And molasses!!  Why didn't I think of that?

When I first started making bread with this site I had a name come to mind "Three Mile Rye" because I live on Three Mile Road.  So this is like rev 1.0 of Three Mile Rye.

Formula at this point:

20g starter from fridge, 40g water, 40g flour mix (20%rye 80% white)

ferment to double, add:

200g water, 200g flour, 3 medium onions minced and slightly cooked in olive oil and cooled

ferment to double, add:

660g water, 1100g flour mix, 25g salt

stretch and fold, stretch and fold, refrigerate.

I plan to bake half in the morning with just onions and then add caraway seeds to the remaining half of the dough during shaping and bake them in the afternoon or the next day.



Futurebaker65's picture

In many recipes I am reading the amount of butter neeeded is measured in tablespoon , cup , half stick etc but unfortunately I have in the refrigerator a big chunk of butter that is not in easy stick ready to be divide , my question is how translate this measure in ounces or grams and do any difference in the recipe, are any specific conversion table for butter ?

        Thanks for the help , Marco

Moms's picture

I wish to keep the crumbs on my crumb cake or buns SOFT. (Like Entenmans does). How can I keep the crumbs from getting hard and crunchy? Thank you

ehanner's picture

A few weeks ago I saw a post with a reference to a Honey Lemon Whole Wheat loaf. As I recall a couple posters had commented that this bread was high on the best breads list for them. A fellow I have high regard for (PMcCool), suggested I would like it, so I decided to give it a spin.

The original recipe is from Bernard Clayton. One of the things Clayton does in this and other recipes I have made is to use very warm water for the mix along with a short primary ferment time and then an overnight chilled proof. Since the dough starts off life warm, it does rise fully while in the refrigerator. I suspect this also helps develop a better flavor. Another component of the flavor being the grated lemon rind, I suspect is enhanced by the warm water helping release the oils of the fruit.

The crumb is about what you would expect from a 40% Whole Wheat mix. The dough and later the bread has a very unusual and surprising aroma with the Lemon. This is an aromatic bread of the highest order. Paul said he liked the way the lemon plays off the WW and I think that's a good description of what I sence. So grab a copy of Claytons book and give this a try.


Marni's picture

I bake bread at least twice a week plus the cookies and quick breads that are the treats around here, but I just haven't had the time to post.  That combined with the fact that most of my bread baking is about getting sandwiches made that my kids will eat!  Panned loaves didn't seem interesting enough for me to keep track of, but hey, I'm baking like crazy and sometimes I like to look back and see the results of all the work.  Too bad I didn't get a shot of the eight loaves of challah last week.

So, I made this last week - It's called Clay's Sourdough Multigrain off the King Arthur site.  I rarely follow recipes exactly, this one called for wheat bran and I used wheat germ, also I subbed spelt for one of the flours.   I used Bob's Red Mill 8 Grain cereal for the grain mix.  It didn't  rise a lot, (the recipe said it wouldn't) but it was light and had a wonderful, developed flavor.  But- my kids won't touch it- it has "things" in it.Clay's Sourdough Multigrain

Because most of my bread baking is  sandwich bread, I try to find something different, just to make it more interesting for me.  I think my kids would eat the same bread every day.  This next bake is "Our Favorite Sandwich Bread" also from the KAF site.

Again I changed a few things.  My changes:  I doubled it, I used rice milk for the milk, I subbed Earth Balance margerine for the butter (and used a bit less) and I made it with half white whole wheat.  It needed close to 1/2c more rice milk to get the right consistency.

It rose beautifully and then took off again in the oven.  I haven't tasted it, but it smells great and made nice PB&J sandwiches this morning. I think it's a kid pleaser.  Straight bread, easy to make too.

KAF sandwich loaves


crumb shot



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