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Shiao-Ping's picture

At SFBI, we did a 100% Spelt bread using dry instant yeast.  To soften the bitterness taste of spelt flour, we did a poolish as the preferment for this bread.  The result was very pleasing.  Two things about that spelt bread I found worthy of a mention from my own perspective: 

(1) The weak gluten in spelt flour is such that its mixing technique needs a bit of attention.  Its protein may be high (14.2% according to the bag of my organic spelt wholemeal flour), but a lot of it is not gluten forming protein.  However, while it is a weak flour, its gluten will happen fast (sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it); and therefore, we need to mix faster when we are working on the spelt flour.  Towards that end, at SFBI, we used the double hydration method to try to get the gluten developed at an early stage before all recipe water is added.  (For a description of double hydration, please see my post on Chocolate Sourdough)  Also note that to mix faster does not mean that we use a vigorous mixing or kneading motion because spelt is a fragile flour. 

(2) The spelt poolish after it's been fermented shows a lot of foams on the surface.  The froth resulted from the weak flour unable to trap in gasses produced by the yeasts as seen below: 


                                                       Didier Rosada's thumb, Artisan III at SFBI, August 2009  

Theory aside, I have had no luck with the double hydration method using my bread machine.  So, with this 100% Spelt Sourdough, I used my old trusted hand method.  As well, I made another Pain le Levain with 20% Spelt flour that I posted yesterday to practice on my scoring and to see if I could get better grigne.  I suspected that the scoring in that earlier bake was difficult because I inadvertently incorporated too much water into the dough when I was stretching & folding my doughs with wet hands (the dough ended up much higher hydration than Hamelman's 68%).  I have found grigne almost not possible with wetter doughs. 

So, here are the two spelt sourdoughs:




My Formula for 100% Spelt Sourdough  

First levain build - day 1, night or early evening 

  • 3 g starter (I used my usual white starter at 75% hydration, but at this quantity, any starter you have at any hydration will do.)

  • 10 g spelt flour (I used 90% white spelt flour and 10% whole spelt flour)

  • 11 g water

Second levain build - day 2, morning

  • 24 g starter (all from the first levain build)

  • 48 g spelt flour (I used 90% white spelt flour and 10% whole spelt flour)

  • 48 g water

Final levain build - day 2, late night

  • 120 g starter (all from the second levain build)

  • 155 g spelt flour (I used 90% white spelt flour and 10% whole spelt flour)

  • 155 g water

Note: as the ratio of flour to starter is less than 1. 5 times, if your room temperature is very warm, you'll need to do this levain built as late as possible for the next day's dough mixing.

Final dough - day 3, very early morning

  • 430 g Spelt starter @ 100% hydration (all from the final levain build)

  • 224 g water

  • 387 g organic white spelt flour (90% of final dough flours)

  • 43 g organic wholemeal spelt flour (10% of final dough flours)

  • 12 g salt

  • Extra spelt flour for dusting

Total dough weight 1.1 kg and dough hydration 68%

  1. In my big mixing bowl, I first put in the starter, then poured a little of the formula water, stirred to combine, then a little more of the water, stirred to combine, then a little more of the water, and stirred, until all water was thoroughly mixed into the starter.  (I have found this way my starter works very well for me; it is as if all of the little microorganisms are woken up to do their morning aerobics.)

  2. I put in the rest of the ingredients and stirred them just until they were combined and no dry flour was visible; more work than that at this stage was not necessary.

  3. Autolyse 25 minutes

  4. First set of stretch & folds (I did 100 strokes, more than my usual, to try to build up dough strength.  I wet my hands to do the S&F's so the dough doesn't stick to my fingers.)

  5. After 30 - 40 minutes, the 2nd set of S&F's was done (I did another 100 strokes.  The dough felt silky and smooth, and quite elastic (there was good gluten development.)

  6. After another 30 - 40 minutes, I did the 3rd set of S&F's (100 strokes again).

  7. Dusted some spelt flour on the work bench.

  8. 30 minutes from the last S&F's, I pre-shaped the dough by way of a minimalist S&F's so that I could pick up the whole dough easily with one hand and dump it on the floured surface (right side was against the flour, ie, seam side was up).  Cover.

  9. Rest for 15 - 20 minutes.  In the mean time, a linen lined basket was dusted with flour.

  10. Shaped the dough first by gathering the edges of the dough to the centre, turned the dough over (so that the seam side was now down), then shaped it into a very tight ball.  Placed it in the proofing basket.  Up to this point, bulk fermentation had been about 2 and a 1/2 hours.

  11. Proof for another 2 hours (and in the mean time, I planned when the oven was to be turned on for pre-heating).

  12. Bake with steam at 230C / 450 F for 20 minutes and another 25 minutes at 220 - 210 C.






It was quite a cold morning (for a spring time) when the dough was bulk fermenting and proofing.  While I was putting on a sweater to keep myself warm, it never entered into my mind that my dough might need extra flour time because of the low temperature.  It was almost as if that I wanted to behave myself by sticking to a set formula - ie, bulk fermentation 2 and 1/2 hours and proofing 2 hours.  This is the reason why formulas don't always work because there are a lot of details that are not spelled out but which are critical.  A time-table of bulk fermentation of x number of hours and proofing of x number of hours is on the basis of a certain dough temperature and ambient temperature perimeter as well as the amount of the pre-fermented flour as a percentage of the total flours, etc.  While we may know those base temperatures and percentages very well, we may not be quick enough to adjust for our scenarios, which incidentally is never exactly the same as the last one. 

Because of the low temperature, the fermentation should have been at least 1/2 to one hour longer.  The crumb could have been more open, I believe, if the yeasts in the levain had been given a longer time to work.  The effect may be more apparent in the 20% spelt levain bread below (and I would like to come back to this point again).






Despite the above, this 100% spelt levain bread has a lovely crumb flavor.  Because of the way the levain was built up and its hydration, the acidity is very well balanced with the nutty flavour of the spelt flour.  I didn't taste the bitterness, very often associated with spelt.  The sourness is less than medium strength to me.


My formula for the 20% Spelt levain bread - please refer to my post yesterday.

To adjust for the fact that I normally dip my hands in water before I stretch & fold the dough, I did 1% less hydration in this dough.  As well, I did 100 strokes at each set of S & F's, trying to build up more dough strength for the "grigne" that I was looking for (but was unable to get in that last bake).  These two being the only adjustments, see how different the profile and the crust of this bread look compared to those posted yesterday:   



When the dough was loaded onto the baking stone, it was about 3 - 4 cm in height; it rose to about 12 - 13 cm in its oven spring.  I think the 100 strokes of S&F's were doing the trick.






For signs of good fermentation, I look at the cell structure of the crumb, especially the area where there was no visible big holes - I think the parts where there are no holes tell more story about the fermentation than the area where there are a lot of holes.  In the crumb shots above: 

(1) where there are no holes (big or small), you see that the cell structure is quite dense; and

(2) where there are holes, they are not all there to register the presence of yeast fermentation, but they could possibly be there due to the way my hand stretch and folds the dough - it is possible that I had simply folded in too much air than I should have. 

The somewhat dense cell structure (where there are no holes) tells me that the fermentation probably did not happen at the optimum temperature, given the time in which the levain had to work.  From this I learned that, even with the same formula, each bread is a new situation to be assessed independently in terms of its action plans regarding dough strength and fermentation.   

It is a flavorful bread just the same with very mild acidity.  If I could get yesterday's cell structure with today's crust and grigne, it would be a near perfect world for me.



inlovewbread's picture

In addition to the baguettes I made yesterday, I also mixed up my first batch of Susan's Sourdough. I built my firm starter last week and it was ready to go for today's bake. I converted my 80% hydration starter to both a 50% firm starter and a 100% hydration starter. Instead of the 25g white whole wheat called for in the original formula, I used 25g Medium Rye.

The "Magic Bowl" method is great. I can't believe the oven spring on this little loaf! However, I made quite a few mistakes on this loaf.

First, I started it too late in the day. 6:30pm I think it was, and my dough had not risen enough until about 11pm. I was up anyway, but for future reference I would start in the afternoon.

Second, I folded in the bowl instead of doing using the "stretch and fold" technique. I think it affected the crumb- not as open as I would have liked.

Third, I switched brotforms half way through the cold ferment. This is the first time using my brotforms. I just got a small oval and a 9"round (both from KA). I thought the dough would fit in the larger round but it was actually better suited for the smaller oval. So I switched them this morning and gave it another 2 hours in the fridge and then the 2 hours out.

Fourth, I used too much rice flour in my brotform(s).

Fifth and finally, I need to practice slashing! I did not slash deep enough, especially on the sides, and I think I did too many. I'll try a different pattern next time or modify this one. i also have a batch of AB in 5 dough going so that I can practice slashing on those loaves.

Despite all these errors, I think it still turned out pretty. It tasted great too! The loaf is gone now, so I'll have to make another :-) THis is a great formula to keep though and will probably end up being my go-to for sourdough. Also I think the firm starter really made a difference in the sourness of this bread as compared to a wetter starter. I also really liked using the bowl instead of steam. I keep burning myself with the steam and am so nervous. The bowl method was much easier.

and the crumb, not as open as I would have liked...

...still delicious!

inlovewbread's picture

Today was a good day :-) I made baguettes.

I used the Pain a' l'Ancienne formula as recorded here:à-l039ancienne-according-peter-reinhart-interpretted-dmsnyder-m

The baguettes came out great and the instructions were really easy. It's surprising how little attention this dough needs. What I was struck most with in this baguette was the taste. It was literally "cool and creamy". I was reading in Reinhart's BBA and Reinhart describes a good bread as tasting cool and creamy on the palette. I really experienced that with this bread.

So, pretty good for my first stab at a baguette. Next time I will make a few changes in method:

-The formula here has a smaller quantity of dough than that in Reinhart's book. His formula would make 6 baguettes and this formula calls for dividing into 4 pieces. I believe dmsnyder made 2 of the larger pieces into pain rustiques and the other smaller 2 into baguettes. Instead of compensating for the two larger pieces and the two smaller, I just made 4 equal-sized baguettes and they ended up being too long for both my peel and my stone. There was a bit of arranging I had to do to accomodate the size. So next time I will make probably six small baguettes or 5 medium ones.

-Next time I will also not slash them. I tried two different slashing tools on 3 of the baguettes. Because of the nature of the dough, they both just drag and tore. I also did not slash properly or deep enough. The 4th baguette I left as "rustique" and it was the best looking of the bunch. Incidentally I gave that one away and didn't get a picture. Here are the others:

This is one formula that I will keep trying again and again. I do want to also try Anis' baguettes and Nury's light rye- but I could stop at this baguette and be satisfied. Which is great, because I would choose to eat a baguette over dessert any day.

Shiao-Ping's picture

I find Hamelman's Pain au Levain formula very attractive (page 158 of "Bread").  A friend asked if I could do spelt sourdough for her.  I thought I would try 20% spelt flour to start with.  Essentially I took Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole-Wheat Flour formula (page 160 of "Bread") and substituted spelt for whole-wheat flour.  But I have no confidence in my bread machine to mix and knead the dough properly, so I made two versions to compare: one by hand, my way; and the other by machine, exactly as detailed in Hamelman's book.   


First levain build - 8 to 12 hours before final levain build 

  • 5 g starter

  • 14 g bread flour

  • 9 g water


Final levain build - 12 hours before final dough mixing 

  • 130 g bread flour

  • 9 g stone-ground organic medium rye flour

  • 85 g water

  • 28 g mature culture from above (@ approx. 60% hydration)


Total levain 252 grams.  Reserve 28 grams for future use; with the balance of 224 grams, I split it by two (ie, 112 grams each), one for the dough to be made by hand, and the other for the dough to be made by my bread machine. 


Final dough - the quantity below is to be split by two as above 

  • 549 g bread flour

  • 37 g stone-ground organic medium rye flour

  • 181 g organic spelt flour (of which 1/2 is wholemeal spelt flour)

  • 532 g water

  • 17 g salt

  • 224 g of levain from above


Total weight 1.54 kg to be split into two of 770 grams each; dough hydration 68%




Major differences in the two methods are as follows:

(1) Autolyse:  With the hand mixing version, I autolyse all ingredients, whereas with the other version, salt and levain are not mixed in until after the autolyse. 

(2) The levain: In Hamelman's machine version, the levain is cut up in chunks and spread on top of the dough to mix. With my hand version, I diluted the levain thoroughly with the formula water before adding the flours in to mix.  As a result, the levain in the hand version acts more vigorously.   This means that fermentation happens faster in the hand version (see below).

(3) Fermentation:  Temperature of both of the doughs was roughly 76F as recommended by Hamelman in his book.  Bulk fermentation was 2 and a 1/2 hours and proofing was 2 hours.  An interesting thing was that at the end of this fermentation time, I felt the two doughs with my finger - the one that was mixed and kneaded by bread machine felt just right, however, the hand version dough felt slightly over-proofed, very bubbly, gassy and fragile.

(4) Baking:  I baked the hand version dough first (and placed the other into the refrigerator to wait for its turn).  

(5) Scoring:  My scoring for the hand version dough was shocking; the other one was easier for me as it was in the refrigerator for half an hour.






It is very obvious that that the hand version pain au levain has a more open crumb.  Hamelman says of Pain au Levain with Whole-Wheat Flour that "the bread has a clean flavor and a balanced acidity" this would apply to the two Pains au levain here with 20% Spelt as well.  The flavour is really lovely.


It is very easy to over-ferment the dough.  If dough temperature is higher or lower than the recommended 76F (24.5F) due to ambient temperature, fermentation time should be adjusted.



txfarmer's picture

Hi all, I have been lurking, occasionally posting here for a while now, finally decide to bite the bullet and start my blog to make here "home". I was born in China, moved to North America after high school, now working and living in Dallas TX with my husband and our dog. About a year ago I picked up baking, at first just to recreate some of my favorite Asian style desserts, pretty quickly though I started making bread, and it's been an "obsession" ever since. My favorite baking book is Hameman's "Bread", love BBA too which is why I am a part of the BBA challenge. Until now I have been mostly following recipes, with some minor changes here and there. Recently I made several five grain breads and loved their taste. Also made Anis baguette and loved how easy that schedule fit into my busy work week - 2 to 3 hours a night is the most I have on a weekday night. I then decide to combine the two to make a "5 grain weekday bread" so we can have fresh bread for after work! Here's the formula, which is basically Anis's yeast percentage and timing, with everything else modified:

5 Grain Weekday Bread

Bread flour: 80%

Whole wheat/whole rye/or a combo of the two: 20%

5 grain mix (I used flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, wheat bran, and steel cut oats this time): 20%

salt: 2.2% (higher than Anis formula due to the grain mix)

water: 80% (since bread flour, WW flour, and grain mix all absorb more water than the AP flour in Anis formula, I increased the water. It didn't feel wet at all, I think I could've added even more water.)

First night

1.Mix everything, autolyse for 30 minutes, mix in my KA at first speed for 1 minute then 2nd speed for 2 minute for some basic gluten developement, put in bowl to fermentate.

2.fermentate for 1.5 hours total, at every 30 minutes stretch and fold. I didn't have to do the S&F in the bowl, I could S&F on the counter totally fine.

3.Put back into the bowl and put in the fridge (slightly lower than 40F) for 22 hours.

4.Soak the grain in equal amount of water from the total formula.

Second night

5.Take the dough out, it has rised a little, and full of bubbles. Cut into 2 parts, each about 1lb. Preshape and relax for 45 minutes.

6.Shape into boules and put in proofing baskets for 40 minutes.

7.Score and put into 550F oven with usual steaming method (I use a cast iron pan with lava rocks, and pour water into it). Lower the oven temperature to 460, bake for 30 minutes. At 15 minutes, take out the cast iron pan.


As you can see, there's massive oven spring. I got a bit "creative" with the scoring, which is why one of the little boule is wearing a "hat".

Pretty happy with the taste too, crunch crust with chewy crumb, I can taste the grains:

I may add some of my 100% starter to the mix next time just to get that sourdough flavor I love, but I will still keep the yeast since it's a "weekday bread" and I need it to fermentate and proof reliably on schedule.

I am pretty happy with my first attempt to create my own formula, this really opens up a lot of possibilities - I can throw in a lot of flavor combos that I like. One thing I am curious about is whether the relatively closed crumb is due to the grains, or my handling, or maybe it needs more water?


koloatree's picture

with this baguette, i made a lot of progress. i finally baked a baguette that sang a little and had a sourdough taste =)



the below baguettes were baked using a baguette pan that can bake 3 at a time. unfortuantely the baguettes i prepped were too big for the pan since they all stuck together. however, even though if they didnt stick, i dont think i like the appearance. ill try again this week.



in addition to, my attempt of susans sourdough. this boule was shaped after being refridgrated for ~12 hours. i think this helped a lot in developing flavor.





JeremyCherfas's picture

Would you believe it? France too succumbs.

"The decline of French bread over the past few decades is one of the saddest aspects of the ransom paid to progress, and much of the blame must simply go to good old greed."

Read more:
AlexL's picture

Filed under: Things that may grow to haunt me


October 7, 2009

It's been awhile since my first post. I've been working on getting french bread down since then and after about 15 batches of dough I think I've finally found the delicate balance between the science and the art of it.

Yeah I wish.

I made a giant, spongy, flat batard for a dinner party a couple nights ago that I just had a bad feeling about right from the oven. One of my friends commented that it looked like an alligator lying in wait for unsuspecting prey. Gotta love those witty food critics.


Alligator bread


My mistake was using a new recipe, using my new kitchen scale, and adhering too strictly to the measurements. It called for a 100% poolish and 66% overall hydration. Yesterday to satisfy my curiousity I carefully measured out a 60% hydration dough, which is about what I think I used to make back when I eyeballed everything and it turned out just how I like it - crisp skin and fluffy meat. I think I'm seeing a disturbing trend developing here though. This morning I weighed out my coffee grinds and recorded it in my kitchen journal with spaces saved for additional entries, then as I was weighing out my condensed milk for my coffee I had a WTF-realization moment and quickly shut off the scale and slowly backed out of the kitchen. Note to self: do not become a scale-whore.

Anyways here's my bread from yesterday:




Last night I decided that I've earned my baking yellow belt and was ready to learn the esoteric art of sour-do. I found a simple starter recipe using plain water and plain AP flour since I don't usually stock endangered fruit juices nor mill my own flour. I hope the other starters here won't look down on my modest little starter. What he may lack in sophistication I hope he'll make up for in street-smarts. Okay, I guess breads can't be street-smart so....let's just hope he doesn't taste like socks. Quick question: are starters generally male or female? I think mine's a boy but I'd like to make sure before I name him.




I'm 12 hours in and I'm nervously excited. I can't stop picking it up and looking at it. My mom used to say that that would make it fall off, so I should probably stop. It's condensing a bit on the lid and smells slightly yeasty, but hasn't risen a bit since last night. From what I've read that's still 12-24 hours away so it's all good so far. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Update: 36 hours in

The smell. Dear god, the smell. I took the lid off to feed it this morning and I just woke up, on the kitchen floor. How can something so innocent looking produce such an ungodly stench? Must separate mind from body. You can do this.

mcs's picture

...and rounding up this year's interns at the Back Home Bakery was Brendan visiting from Washington, DC.  He came prepared with two-handed-roll-making-skills and a willingness to work his hardest at everything.  Thanks a lot Brendan for all of the help;  hope to see you running your own bakery some day.


shaping rye, stretch and fold on 15# Rustic White, ready to sell on a chilly Saturday morning

Elagins's picture

I recently got a message from someone here whom I respect a great deal, both as a person and as a baker. However, one part of his message stung me: the part where he says, "I don't remember seeing any original recipes or methods from you." That got me thinking about what I bake, how I bake, and most importantly, why I and others bake, and whether "original recipes or methods" are or ought to be a measure of bona fides as a baker.

Obviously, there are as many reasons people choose bread baking as a hobby or occupation as there are bread bakers, but I think we all fall into a few broad groups, which naturally overlap.

- The first consists of knowledge- and mastery-seekers - bakers who strive to extract maximum flavor from wheat berries, using traditional methods and minimum ingredients, augmented by modern knowledge and the evolution of sustainable technologies. They are the people who are committed to unlocking the secrets of flavor and the magical interplay of flour, water, yeast and salt.

- The second group is made up of people who want to go back to an earlier time, to recreate breads and other foods that may be personally or culturally meaningful to them, or who want to experience another culture through this most basic of foods.

- The third group finds its motivation in the intimacy and personal engagement that's implicit in breadmaking, which is not only about nourishing the people one cares about, but also the simple fact of getting one's hands covered with dough, experimenting with new flavors, and personalizing the process of transforming an assortment of disparate ingredients into a single exquisite experience.

None of us, I think, is exclusively in one or the other; all of us fall to some degree into each of those groups, and all of those motivations are present in each of us. It is, perhaps, a matter of relative emphasis and where we go first to reap our satisfactions.

I'm the first to admit that I fall squarely into the second group - those who look backwards and use baking to recreate and recapture the experiences of those who came before me. My interest in, and satisfactions from, baking bread are largely about refining what's already out there and rediscovering what may have been forgotten or lost, like those onion rolls everyone's crazy about. I didn't come up with the recipe, Norm did. But I was the one who remembered them asked him for it. My satisfaction came from reliving an experience I hadn't had since my childhood in 1950s Brooklyn and making it part of my life today.

When I bake 100% rye black bread, I do so both for the pleasures and challenges of working with rye, which I love, but also as a means of experiencing for myself what my ancestors subsisted on for centuries in the villages of Russia and Poland, and in so doing, understand at least this tiny piece of their lives. Is that about "original recipes or methods?" Absolutely not. The methods and recipes are centuries-old. Does that make me any less a baker than others here or elsewhere? I think not. I hope not.

I think the one thing we all have in common is our search for authenticity in an increasingly commoditized and alienated world. All of us respect process, respect our ingredients, and, one hopes, respect each other's sincerity and commitment to whatever motivates us to bake bread. Life is tough enough in the world of Wonder Bread without carrying the battle back home.



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