The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

2.3 Kg Miche and Zen

Shiao-Ping's picture

2.3 Kg Miche and Zen

Many years ago I became interested in Suzuki Daisetsu's (or known in the West as Daisetz T. Susuki, 1870 - 1966)'s Japanese Zen Buddhism. He was accredited in bringing interest in Zen and Buddhism to the West in the early 20th century. Before I realised it years later, the stuff I was reading was actually Zen aestheticism, rather than Zen per se.

And so a few days ago when I decided to do a giant Miche to imitate the French village bakers years gone by, that was the analogy that came to my mind. The village bakers in France with their torn and worn out proofing baskets, sun weathered and wrinkled faces are soulful to me. There was something quite fundamental and down to earth about their way of life. In our modern day of comforts, we can afford to bake almost every day if time permits and in any sizes we want. We are not constraint. And if the truth be known, small sizes are more practical for our small family units.

I am going on a journey in a few days time for three weeks and I wanted to make a special bake before I leave. Like the New York Stock Exchange closing down its bourse games on the last trading day of the year, I will be "shutting down" my oven once I've done this bake, I told myself. Talking about shutting down, in the days when I was working, I always thought when the Chinese (Taiwanese) say they are "shutting down" ("feng" in Mandarin) their stock exchange ("guan" in Mandarin), it sounded really "epic;" in Mandarin, that is. Because the Mandarin "guan" relates to the Great Wall in China and so cajoles images of the long history of China. A "guan" is a bastion in a strategic geographical location; the two most famous "guans" in Chinese history are "Chia-yu-guan," far west of China, near Tun-Huang, where the famous silk road starts, and "Shan-hai-guan" to the far east, north-east of Beijing in the eastern sea board of China, winding 6,700 Km apart. I am not comparing my oven to the Chinese "guan" or the Big Board of NYSE, but I felt the last three months of bread baking has been quite a journey to me, and I hope the next one will bring me to the next level.






My formula

  • 500 g starter @ 75% hydration (refreshed four times over 72 hours with 100 g rye meal and 100 g white whole wheat and 86 g white flour in total)
  • 1000 g KAF Sir Lancelot Flour
  • 700 g water
  • 65 g olive oil
  • 24 g salt

dough weight 2.3 kg and dough hydration 76%

  1. Bulk fermentation 3 hours
  2. Proof 4 hours
  3. Overnight cold retardation 8 hours followed by 90 min. at room temp
  4. Bake for 80 minutes (230 C for 20 min, 210 C for another 20 min, and the balance 40 min at 195 C)




My husband asked me what the character was.  I said my maiden name.  He said, Oh, Whoo made it.  Who?  Whoo.  He was doing the Abbot and Castello routine of Who's on first.   

We were having this sourdough for our lunch when his boss rang. I said to tell him that the Miche was 2.3 Kg. His boss asked, was that the weight before bake or after. Now, this sounds to me a question by a person in the know. The water shrinkage was nearly 18%! It was only 1.9 kg after bake. I cut off a quarter of the Miche:


to be wrapped in foil and put into the freezer for my husband's next business trip (but I am not confident that it will stay as fresh as today).



                                                                                     Does it look like we are big on this crust?



dmsnyder's picture

It looks delicious.

And bon voyage! I hope you don't have difficulty with bread baking withdrawal. (I usually do.)


Shiao-Ping's picture

I am staying at this place two hours north of L.A. and yesterday just when the shuttle bus was pulling into my lodge,  I noticed there was a sign that says "Bakery."  I thought to myself you beauty - my eyes always pop wide open when I see a sign like that.   This morning I was reading some write-up about this area and it says the place where I saw the bakery sign serves "award winning cuisine."  I heard nowadays good restaurants serve good bread and good bread is a sign of a good restaurant.  So I got myself all excited.  But ...  let's say I enjoyed the walk. 

I don't think I will have bread baking withdrawal though.  I can do with a break.

hullaf's picture

Your bread and blog are wonderful. I love your analogies of breads and zen and stock markets and shutting down. Thanks for all your blogging. Have a fun trip.   Anet

Shiao-Ping's picture

Sometimes I think I am mad and that I live in my little world.   Every time an imagery comes up I tell myself you've got to be kidding.  And that's why it is very hard for me to read my own stuff - just too corny.  Ha, I can't believe I said it. 


p.s. Thank you for your comment.

Reuben Morningchilde's picture
Reuben Morningchilde

Once again a lovely loaf. And there definitely is a certain fascination about preparing a huge amount of bread, I can absolutely see you there. Two questions, though:

1) Where are you travelling to? I hope it is a happy or at least interesting occasion. (Just being my nosy self here...)

2) How do you stencil the characters onto the loaf? I am amazed how clearly they come out, even though they seem to suffer somewhat in the later pictures.

Shiao-Ping's picture

... your hands are on it.  I used Word document to do a big charactor on a page, print it out, cut it, then at the last minute (just before the dough goes into the oven) place the character on the dough and dust flour on the dough.

I am going to San Francisco ... to do 200 baguettes a day for two weeks!  Joking.  I don't exactly know what they teach at the San Francisco Baking Institute but it should be relaxing for me.


pmccool's picture

One of these days I'll make it to SFBI, too.  That should be a wonderful time.

I have signed up for a week at Mark Sinclair's Back Home Bakery, which he promises will not be relaxing!  Still, I'm looking forward to working with him and learning more about baking skills.


Shiao-Ping's picture


p.s. I heard that there is a famous culinary school in New York which charges something like US$50,000 for a six month course, and you basically learn all the techniques there are to learn in the first month and a half, so the balance of 4 and a half months you are there to practice, practice and practice what you've learnt.   When I heard this, it reminded me of what Beethoven once said - one minute of up the stage performing is equivalent to 100 hours of practicing!  I just couldn't bear that!  THAT is the reason why I don't get consistent result for a lot of my cooking and baking.  Perhaps this course will fix some of that problem.