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alfanso's picture

An old west coast friend emailed me 2 days ago.  Her significant other was trying, without a lot of success, to make focaccia.  Did I have a recipe?  My last focaccia foray was probably in 2003 when I was a rank amateur home baker for a short time and  initially experimenting with Mr. Reinhart's BBA but years prior to the existence of TFL.

Feeling my oats, I replied sure, allow me a few days to give it a go.  My first successful baguette dough and to this day still both the easiest as well as one of the most reliable has been the Anis Bouabsa baguette, first baked by me in late 2013.  I figured that this dough would be just dandy for a focaccia base.  And I believe that it is.  

With a 30 minute autolyse, bassinage, 300 French Folds, and three Letter Folds at 20, 40 and 60 minutes before retarding the dough for most of a calendar day, it couldn't be simpler.  

The Bouabsa formula uses a minuscule amount of IDY 0.16%, as the leavening agent, yet after a mere 1 hour bulk rise, the dough had already grown significantly.  Here it is, having just been pulled from retard.

The dough is placed into a moderately well oiled pan stretched to conform to the pan, turned over to coat the other side with oil, and then dimpled.

My selection of toppings: fresh thyme, fresh oregano, grated, pecorino-romano cheese, kosher salt, chopped kalamata olives and chopped roasted red pepper.  A final light slathering of oil over this.

Baked at 450dF for 25 minutes, internal temp 210dF.  No need for a baking stone or steam.  A final drizzle of olive oil over the surface.

The crumb was just a little more open than this picture shows.  Soft with a good chew, but the overall flavor would have benefited from both more salt and more grated cheese.

All in all a successful venture considering the length of time since I last made this.  And now my friend has an email in her inbox with these pictures and my more detailed writeup for her beau.


Filomatic's picture

I make a lot of Hamelman 50%-whole-grain-with-a-soaker breads.  They often look quite similar but taste pretty different depending on the grains and soaker ingredients used.  This time was a pleasant surprise, as the depth of flavor is more than I hoped for.  The 28 hour cold final rise also helped with flavor development.

Grains:  6oz WW berries, 5 oz kamut, and 4 oz Øland landrace red wheat from Capay Mills, "a very rare wheat from Denmark, brought to the US by Claus Meyer, of NOMA fame," according to the owner, David Kaisel.

Soaker:  Boiling water poured over rye meal, old bread cubes, and faux red rye malt (The Rye Baker way, i.e., malted rye berries toasted and ground to a fine powder); cut with a pastry cutter the following morning to avoid large bread chunks.

The hydration is lower than I usually do, which made shaping exceedingly easy, and resulted in a pretty tight crumb.  I also didn't have time to sift the grain for a bran levain this time.  I'd love to try this again with rolls.


agres's picture

We keep real milk in the house during the winter, but during the summer, we switch to soy milk. (In the summer we like fruit smoothies, and soy milk makes a better smoothie.)

With soy milk and a little extra (peanut) oil, one can make a decent "American" whole wheat bread.  In the old days, I would have used a can of evaporated milk.  

It is not as good as real American whole wheat bread made with real milk, but it is good enough that not everyone will notice the difference, and if they are not accustomed to your good fresh breads, they will be grateful for having nice fresh home baked bread.  (Remind them that rich flavor and dense texture are virtues of the design and production - not defects.)



agres's picture

When we are making a stollen from white flour, we make the dough, develop the gluten and then, only at the end do we mix in all the extra stuff – fruits, nuts, and whatever. If we included all that extra stuff in the initial mix, the gluten would not develop properly.

Whole wheat flour has a lot of extra stuff in it – stuff that can inhibit the proper development of gluten.

If the texture of ordinary 100% whole wheat is simply not acceptable to you or your loved ones, there is an arduous path to a fluffier loaf.

Sift out all the stuff, make the dough, develop the gluten, and then fold all the stuff back into the dough. You will need to carefully, fully hydrate all the stuff. It needs to be hydrated, without holding so much water that the extra water spoils your dough. And the stuff needs some extra oil or fat. These days, I add ~2% oil (baker’s percentage) to my “bran soak”.

This is more work, but it does make 100% whole wheat bread that is somewhat more like some conspicuous consumption Artesian product. On the other hand, I like good old American whole wheat bread. I like breads made from “high extraction flours” where the bran is simply sifted out of the flour, and I like bran muffins and extra bran in my morning porridge. There are many paths to good bread.

I really have not decided if I like the slightly more open crumb structure (it does not hold jam, mustard and other juices as well.)  

agres's picture

I was never, and am not now, a big fan of commercial whole wheat flour. Over the last couple of years, have become a huge fan of the whole wheat flours that I mill fresh.

I admit that there has been a long, and sometimes steep learning curve to producing whole grain breads that I really like. Much of that I attribute to the assumptions of the authors of most books on baking. In part that is because the authors think whatever professional bakers do, must be the best way to bake. However, bakers bake for their profit – not their customer’s health and well being. 

Americans and their bakers are infatuated with breads made from white flour.  I admit that the French with their baguettes also have the disease (and may have been the source of the American infection).  It is America where supermarkets have shelves and shelves of cottony white bread, just as advertised on Saturday morning TV along with Coco Pops and Captain Crunch breakfast cereal.  White bread and sugary cereal are staples in the bottom lines of America’s food industry.  Artisan breads made from white flour at your local bakery are more expensive, but do not have much more nutrition.  

Assuredly, Artisan Bakers producing breads for conspicuous consumption are likely to add a bit of rye and a smidgen of spelt to their wares, but their bread is still mostly white flour for the convenience and profit of the baker.  The customer gets bland bread with little nutrition.  The customers accept bland bread because they have been told (by bakers) that “bland bread” is sophisticated, elegant, and high status.

Overall, we have seen the flavors of our food decline toward industrially produced insipid sweet, oily and salty.  Even where we have fresh herbs from the supermarket, they tend to be from plants that have been irrigated and fertilized until they lack the flavor of herbs gathered from dry hillsides.  

The herbs I grow, pick, and dry are full of flavor. The olives I cure are full of flavor. We go to the bother of keeping fruit trees because we like ripe fruit from cultivars selected for the flavor of their fruit rather than the fruit’s transport and keeping qualities. We like tomatoes picked full ripe so they are full of flavor, even if the fruit is too fragile transport to market.

I like breads with rich flavors and textures. The path to such delights is whole grain. It is not an easy path, but the paths to many worthwhile things are not easy.  Some paths, we follow because they lead to worth while results, and some paths we follow because they are hard. I follow the path to full flavored bread because I like the results. I wandered in a nutritional wasteland of white flour for a long time.  I produced breads that were much admired. Now, I produce better breads.

I assert that while there are many recipes for good whole wheat bread, they all assume you have good fresh flour.  Whole wheat flour can get bitter quickly. And, many commercial whole wheat flours do not have all the nutrients or more importantly all the enzymes in the original wheat.  This very much affects how fast yeast or sourdough will ferment and raise the dough.  Also, flour loses “strength” with extended storage.  That said, I see four different effective techniques for good whole wheat breads.

  1. American – This is a classic, raised with yeast; where the liquid is about 2/3 scalded whole milk and 1/3 water with honey at a baker’s percentage of 2%. The milk provides additional fat, and the honey provides acids that help keep the bran from interfering with gluten development yielding a more open crumb.  All in all, this is the right bread for a peanut butter and jam sandwich with a crumb that will keep the jam from leaking. The form factor will be different from Wonder Bread, but it will be much more satisfying – in part because it will leak less jam.
  2. Kosher – Like the American, except using olive oil /water instead of milk (olive oil Baker’s Percentage = 3%). The extra proteins in the milk make the American style, a richer and more satisfying bread.
  3. Sourdough – Flour, water, and salt. Good fresh whole wheat flour allows the sourdough process to go much faster than it can with white flour, and faster than it can with most commercial whole wheat flours. Baking book authors may grind their own flour, but they do not assume you will have similar flour – so their times for dough fermentation will not work for someone that grinds their own flour. In a 70F kitchen, and fermenting/rising on the counter, I make the dough for supper breads in the morning. Where some Parisian baker would use mostly white bread flour and some spelt, with a 24 -hour retard, I can use my fresh whole wheat instead of spelt because my whole wheat is less bitter.  And, because my flour has more nutrients and enzymes, the whole fermentation process goes much faster. Using fresh whole wheat, you need to watch the dough, not the clock. Hydration is very important. For full flavor, I bring the wheat berries up to ~15% moisture content a few days before milling. Then, I use a 66% bakers percentage hydration - the dough needs to autolyze before adjusting hydration - Initially the dough will seem very dry. These are the breads to eat with rich, full flavored foods, served with rich, full flavored beverages.  This is bread for meals that you savor.  This is the basis for the best steak sandwich you ever ate. (You can also roll the dough thin, and use a cast iron skillet to make pita bread on the grill to fill with grilled stuff .  Or, you can make a pizza. : )
  4. Sourdough with rye – Like a full-flavored cake.

A detail – hard red winter and hard red spring wheat both have plenty of protein for good bread, but they have different proteins that respond differently to mixing and kneading.  The hard red winter wheat has better “extensibility” which many artisan bakers like, while the hard red spring wheat tends to spring back and tolerate more mechanical mixing.  Milling your own fresh flour may be as difficult a path as any path in the world of baking.

I was trained to plan the menu based on what was available in the garden and market. Today, I simply add the wheat berries that I have on hand to that menu planning.  I treat the vegetables from the garden, the meats from the butcher, and the grain from the pantry with respect. I tend to buy grain in bulk via mail order because folks like Montana Flour & Grain (  or Pleasant Hill Grain tend to provide better quality than my local suppliers.   (If one has a stock of grain in the pantry, it is important to keep all bugs out of the pantry.)

Anne-Marie B's picture
Anne-Marie B

Our winter arrived very, very early and with a bang. Blizzard conditions in the alpine areas nearby and flash flooding and gale force winds at home. I packed a fire and spent the day baking. These came out of the oven first. A quick, one rise recipe. I took a few pictures immediately, because they are not going to last.

Recipe here:


SeasideJess's picture

Today I started an experiment to see if I can make a wheat-based (or mixed wheat and rye) version of Concentrated Lactic Acid Sourdough (CLAS). I wanted to see if I could get the flavor and acidification benefits of the CLAS without using as much rye flour in the mix.

My reasoning is that rye makes the dough more difficult to handle, and the 100% whole wheat breads I make are already quite challenging for me. Another way to say it is I wanted to be able to add more CLAS without adding (as much) more rye.

Also, I just thought it would be interesting to see if it works.

If anyone is interested I can post my procedure for following the method that Andrey (AKA) Rus Brot published for starting a CLAS from scratch. Or you can just take a look at his blog here:

My impression is that if you have access to organic whole-grain rye flour and a way to tightly regulate the fermentation temperature, your odds of success are very high. I found it to be straightforward.

Once you have an established CLAS ferment/starter, you can add it to bread. Like any starter it is kept alive by refreshment, that is by removing some of the ferment and adding new flour and water. Note that CLAS is maintained at 190% hydration.

The standard formula for 90% CLAS refreshment is:

  • 33g CLAS
  • 190 ml Water @ 113°F (45C) (65% of 290)
  • 100g organic whole grain rye flour (35% of 290)

This 1:9 refreshment is the smallest amount of CLAS to new feedstock that Andrey recommends.

The water, flour, and CLAS starter are mixed thoroughly, placed in a loosely lidded container, and held at lactobacillus fermentation temperature (105°F ± 35°F) for 12 hours. I use an Instant Pot on Yogt setting.

For this experiment I used a 75% (1:3)  refreshment:

  • 110 grams CLAS
  • 214 grams H2O
  • 116 grams flour

I made two batches. One with coarsely ground rye flour (the regular/control batch) and one with coarsely ground hard red winter wheat (the experimental batch.) I put them into wide-mouth 1-pint mason jars, loosely lidded, and placed them both into the Instant Pot on Yogt setting for a 12 hour ferment. tomorrow I'll check them out and see if the wheat one gets as sour as the rye, and how the flavors compare. My established rye CLAS ferment smells and tastes clean, fresh and tart. It is similar to a sour apple flavor with emphasis on the sour rather than the apple.

alfanso's picture

Earlier this week Abe sent to me a link of the just published Cinnamon Raisin Sour Dough on Maurizio Leo’s The Perfect Loaf.  In a move of unusual rapidity for me, I built a BBGA spreadsheet entry for the bread and concurrently fed my levain in preparation.

As is often the case in the alfanso household, I went rebel and turned his posted tapered batards into baguettes.  How unusual for me!  But I wasn’t finished there and made some changes to the whole process.  As follows:

  • I turned to my 75% hydration mixed flour goop rather than using his 100% hydration Bread Flour/WW levain.
  • Prefermented flour @10% vs. his 5.4%.  I’d rather rush the bulk phase a bit.  As mentioned earlier, my DNA isn’t all that accepting of a bulk rise beyond about 3 hours.
  • Added the levain to the initial flour and water autolyse step - bad dog!  Since being enamored with the 125% levains of Mr. Hamelman, I got to liking the idea of adding the levain into the initial autolyse phase.  Plus, levains below 100 Liquid Levain levels are a bit goopier and nastier to hand mix after the autolyse.
  • Lowered the overall hydration to 78.5% from the posted 81%.  From prior experience I know that baguettes perform better in my hands when the hydration is below 80% for this type of dough
  • Gave the “autolyse” 45 min. vs. 60 min due to the addition of the levain.
  • Held back the recommended 15% bassinage water until after autolyse completion
  • 100 French Folds, 5 min. rest.  Bassinage and hand mix to incorporate the 15% water.  100 FFs.  5 min. rest.  Hand mix to incorporate the cinnamon.  Final 100 FFs.
  • Added the previously hydrated golden raisins during the first Letter Fold.
  • Letter folds at 30, 60 and 120 minutes. 

And then made the rookie mistake of retarding the mix at the 2 hr. mark, when I was intending for a 3 hour bulk rise.  Realizing this hours later, I pulled the dough from the refrigerator, gave it a final Letter Fold and let it rise for 2 hours on the counter figuring the warming up of the dough after two hours would compensate sufficiently.  And I suppose that in the end I was right.  Or lucky.

Then back to retard for a few hours more before divide and shape, couche and then return to retard once more for several more hours.  Not as much grigne as I would have liked to have seen, but based on the photos posted by Maurizio, I think that I did quite okay here.  The crumb also looks to be quite nicely opened.

Certainly a tasty bread, almost dessert-like, and sure to find it’s way into my selected Wheel of Fortune down the road.  The crust is not as crisp as I would have preferred but certainly has more snap to it than a soft crust bread, say, a potato bread.

And just as a reminder to those who haven’t yet ventured beyond precisely following the trail laid out by the original poster of a formula and gone rogue - It is okay and even recommended to do so.  Once you do it, it is no longer someone else’s bread it is yours!  And you will learn something along the way that you may not have known before.  I do.  All the time.  Try it, you’ll like it!


400g x 3 baguettes/long batards

Danni3ll3's picture

I’ve been drooling over the beautiful breads that David has been producing with extended retardation and his description of “severely yummy” was very enticing. So I stayed true to his recipe and method aside from using strong bakers unbleached flour for all the white flour and adding 30 g of yogurt to tenderize the crust. The whole grain flours were freshly milled and I used Selkirk wheat berries for the whole-wheat. I did not sift out the bran as per my usual practice. The first batch was retarded 17 hours and the second batch a bit more than 18 hours. Here is the link to David’s recipe:

The loaves are super light and had really good oven spring. I can’t wait to see the crumb and taste it. 

algebread's picture

A pair of loaves from a couple of weeks ago. One was made with poolish and the other with pure sourdough.


Sourdough Loaf

Followed Maurizio, except as noted.


Make leaven at a 1:2:2 starter:flour:water ratio with half whole wheat and half white flour; ready after 4 hours

Mix 249g bread flour (KA 12.5% gluten), 99g WW (KA), 100g levain, 241g water

Rest 45 minutes, then add 9g salt and 9g water

Rest 45 minutes, then pinch in porridge

5 folds at half-hour intervals, then bulk 3.5--4 hours at 79F (estimated 50% volume increase)

Preshape, rest for 20 minutes, shape, allow to proof until ready, then bake



It was hoped that increasing the amount of leaven would lead to a faster bulk and hence a milder acidity in the final product. The bulk ws faster, but acidity reduction was very small. The crumb is depicted in the header.


Poolish Loaf


Make leaven at a 1:2:2 starter:flour:water ratio with half whole wheat and half white flour; ready after 4 hours

Make poolish with 1g active dry yeast, 25g WW, 25g water; ready after 2.5 hours

Mix 262g bread flour (KA 12.5% gluten), 87g WW (KA), 50g poolish, 50g levain, 241g water

Rest 45 minutes, then add 9g salt and 9g water

Rest 45 minutes, then pinch in porridge

2 folds at half-hour intervals, then allow to bulk around 75 more minutes at 79F (estimated 80% volume increase)

Preshape, rest for 20 minutes, shape, allow to proof until ready (about 1 hour), then bake



The yeast seemed to make the crumb slightly stiff, which was unfortunate. However, the flavor was pleasantly mild, allowing the oats to come through clearly. An image of the crumb is below.

poolish crumb


Failed yeast water

An attempt at yeast water was made by cutting up an apple, adding it to some water in a jar, and then allowing it to sit covered on the counter. After a few days, there were a few bubbles, but then everything got moldy and began smelling bad. It will be tried again sometime; any further tips are appreciated.



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