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Poilane was and is correct. A sourdough miche of whole wheat is great bread. It is the "Pain de Campaign" that I was seeking.  Such bread can be baked at home, and it is not that hard for someone with some experience with sourdough.

A miche is better without yeast or white flour. Yeast speeds rising, so there is less flavor. White flour also diminishes flavor. I use fresh, (organic) stoneground hard red wheat with 10% spelt, 2% rye, and 2% chickpea flour.  That little bit of spelt does help with texture, and the rye speeds fermentation and gives more flavor. My starter (old dough) is about 20 % of final dough weight. Salt is 2.2 % added mid- way through stretch and folds.  The dough is fairly firm, so I do not bother with a banneton. (I form a good boule. Hydration was a little more than 70%, for whole wheat, that is a firm dough.) Fermentation time varies with temperature, yesterday, the kitchen was ~70F, and  it took about 16 hours from mixing the dough to taking it out of a 450F oven. 

The loaf was 1.6 kg.  Crumb is about the right density for a sandwich bread. It is good with soups and stews, and has a slightly acid, definite bread flavor. It will not over power a fried egg sandwich, but it has a clean definite flavor. 

The dough was mixed/kneaded in a 6 -liter plastic tub with a tight fitting lid. Stretch / folds and final loaf formation were done on the counter. Final rise was done on a piece of parchment paper sitting on the peel. 

Bake it big, cut it into quarters, it freezes well.  

And no, I do not bother sifting out the bran from half the flour.  I have the sieves, I have done that. I like the bread better with the bran in it.  If I was serving the bread with delicate Ille de France menus – Never mind, I do not cook bland stuff any more. I make sure my potatoes taste like potatoes and my bread tastes like bread.

Why does everyone put white flour and yeast in their recipes for Poilane style bread?  It just makes the bread, bigger, fluffier, and mediocre. I have eaten a lot of mediocre bread. I try to serve my friends better bread.

I was pointed  into this style of baking by a story of a party in St. Petersburg, just after WWII when the available food was tea and a quarter of a loaf of "dense brown bread'!  This pushed me back toward baking big loaves of dense brown bread - bread that was not made from high hydration dough produced by bakers that want to produce big bread as fast and as cheaply as possible. This was a story of bread as real food - the staff of life.

I looked at all the images I could find of miche from Poilane.  I decided (rightly or wrongly) they were not raised in banneton. That meant a firmer dough! I started working with firmer doughs. These needed longer fermentation - costly for a bakery, but no problem for me. 

Letting the dough sit before kneading (autolyze) is a extra step for a professional baker, but no problem for me, and it made "kneading" easy.  Stretch and fold is an extra step for a professional baker (more cost), but no problem for me.  Coil folds are an extra step for a professional baker (more cost), but no problem for me.

Overall, ignoring the issues faced in running a commercial bakery lets me bake better bread with almost no effort other than looking at my dough when I go into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. When I touch the dough, I adjust hydration by either using wet hands or floured hands. It is not much change to hydration, but it helps.  However,  I can pop the dough into the cooler and ignore it for 24 or 48 hours.

Long ago, I went to "Fashion Week" in Paris with my wife.  We spent the next week walking up and down the streets of Paris tasting/eating anything and everything that looked or smelled good.  Yesterday's miche is about as good as any bread we had in Paris, or anywhere in Europe for that matter. It was baked at a home, and I expect you can bake bread just as good or better. Period.

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For years, I worked with various mixes of flour (bread, AP, spelt,  whole wheat, rye) and I used one starter, and it worked on all mixes. It was slow - about the speed indicated in the books on baking.

More recently, I have moved to all whole wheat (with 2% rye & 2% bean flour), all the time, and I have seen my fermentation/final rise times go way down (considering the dough temperature.)

I wanted some white sourdough for a party, and it turns out that my current sourdough starter is much slower on white flour than my old general purpose starter, that was often fed flour mixes containing white flour.

The bottom line is that starters adapt to what they are fed, and they need time to adapt to a new diet.

Am I going to start keeping 2 starters?  No! If guests want white bread, they can bring it. This will be a challange for my wife's concept of "hostess", but she knows some of our guests do not get enough fiber . . .  (We are doing this for our guest's health, and not my convenience!! -- I will put forth that argument. My wife likes the whole wheat bread, she just does not think it is "fancy" enough for guests. I assert that my sourdough whole wheat is as good as any bread available,  )



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I have been making bread here for 22 years. We have good tap water, so I used it for bread, and never thought about it. My schedules for starter were about the same as it the books, so I was happy.

A few years ago, I started milling my own flour, and my starter with the fresh ground flour, was more active. I was happy.

Recently I was reminded that even good tap water has disinfectants in it that kill microorganisms such as those in sourdough. I moved to boiling my water to remove the . Now my sourdough rises faster. I am happy.

I use boiled and cooled water for the sourdough starter, and that works.

However, I suddenly understand the value of a 3- hour autolyze for bread flour. As the flour is hydrating, the disinfectants are dissipating. By the time you add the leaven to the hydrated flour, the disinfectants that were in the tap water are gone, and your sourdough can rise very fast.

In the spring and fall, I let the sourdough final rise on the kitchen counter at 65 - 68 F and that works. As summer approaches,  I do the bacterial fermentation at room temperature (74F) and do the final rise in refrigerator. 


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People made very good bread for a long time before they added Vitamin C to their flour.

I do think the effect of Vitamin C is detectable to a careful hand baker. However, hand bakers can easily compensate by using a slightly wetter dough or longer fermentation times.

At this point, I think Vitamin C is added for professional bakers using mechanical dough mixing and handling equipment on a tight production schedule.  

The other side of of this is that I now prefer flour without Vitamin C in it - something I would not have discovered without asking the question, "Would adding Vitamin C to my flour improve it?"  It was a fun experiment - lots of pizza for everyone.

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I like fresh stone ground flour. One issue is that the dough is not as extensible as commercial bread flours that contain citric acid. Good extensibility is important for good oven spring.  Certainly,  small amount (2%) of rye will improve extensibility, and long ferments generate acids that improve extensibility. 

However, small amounts (parts/ 10,000) of citric acid are better. With my scale and  small volume of production, dealing with pure citric acid is inconvenient.  I have taken to adding the juice from a wedge of lemon for every 500 grams of stone ground flour in the dough. I always have a bowl of lemons on the counter so this is very convenient. 

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I buy organic whole hard red winter wheat, temper it with 2% water for 2 days, and stone grind with 3 passes through my electric mill. I add 2% fresh milled rye flour and 2% fresh milled fava bean flour. (The rye and fava flours do make a difference.)

I use a 6-liter, 4" deep plastic tub with a good lid as my dough trough.

In one end, I put 2.2% (baker's percentage) of salt in one end.

In the middle, I put my flour.

In the end away from the salt, I put sourdough starter at 20%, dry active yeast at 0.01 baker's percentage, and 0.02 baker's percentage malted barley.

I add room temp. water at 69% of the weight of the dry flour,  and stir yeast, malt, starter, and some of flour together until there is a thin slurry. The rest of the dry flour forms a dam between the yeast/leaven and the salt.  Let sit 20 minutes. Mix the rest of the flour into slurry to form a dough, picking up the salt, and knead until smooth. I find just kneading by hand to be easier than using the mixer.  

At 30 minute intervals, do 3 stretch and folds. 

Bulk ferment on kitchen counter (~ 65F) for about 18 hours. Shape into loaves, put in banneton, and do a final rise on the kitchen counter (~67F). 

I bake in an electric oven with a preheated stone at 420F. There is water in the dough, the dough hits the stone and makes steam. Period. If I am baking a BIG loaf, I will bake it at 450F and turn the oven down after 20 minutes.

This dough also can be cooked on the griddle to make very nice pita. 

I think garbanzo bean flour is as good, but now I am working my way  through a bin of fava beans, so for the next few weeks the recipe is fava bean flour. Take notice, some people are allergic to fava beans.  This is a Lent recipe, in a few weeks, the kitchen will be warmer, and I will have to cool the dough in the fridge. 

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By the time I was in high school, I baked regularly - including huge challah for large Friday night gatherings at my girlfriend's house. Mixing the the dough for those huge loaves was a significant effort. Oh, I wanted a stand mixer!

My mother was a good baker.  She was cooking noon "dinner" every day for a large farm crew from the time she was a little kid (6 years old). She DID teach me the easy method to mix flour and water together without a stand mixer. (Gradually stir the water into the flour.)  However, I went off track in high school, studying recipes for breads and pastry, that my mother had never made. Many of those recipes came out of commercial kitchens or were developed by professional chefs,  and assumed a stand mixer. They added the water all at once. When you do that, an electric mixer is much easier. Chef Louis Diat and others taught me much, but they also encouraged me to abandon some smart practices.

Later,  when I worked in the kitchens, I often had to make 50  or 80 or a hundred loaves every day. We used a mixer, because at that scale, a mixer is easier. Using a mixer for bread dough became a habit, that was very hard to break. I also developed the habit of making pasta in a stand mixer and pasta roller. We always used a stand mixer, and I forgot what my mother taught me. 

Now, I have time to really think about what I am doing, and I bake bread almost every day.   I can consider the best way to make dough for the daily bread of a house.

Now, I remember what my mother taught me. I find that it really is faster and easer to mix flour and water AND DEVELOP THE GLUTEN by by gradually stirring water into the flour. I stir with one hand and pour water in with the other hand. I started doing this again  because I was working with fresh stone ground flour, for which I did not know the moisture content, so I did not know how much water to add.  So the easy thing to do was to add water until the dough had the correct consistency. I measure flour, salt, malt, oil and such, then I  gradually stir in water until I have the correct dough consistency. Such stirring is low physical effort, and it develops gluten quickly, very quickly,  The method is quicker and easier than using a stand mixer (at least for batches of dough of less than 5 kilo.)

Now, I look at commercial bakers in YouTube videos vigorously kneading their bread dough, and I think, "Hey Dude, if you just had stirred the water gradually into the flour, instead of dumping it all at once, you could have saved yourself a lot kneading." (In the videos, they are working with batches of dough no larger than what I make.)  I know the "stir the water in gradually method" works for batches of dough of less than 5 kilo of dough at a time, and 3 kilo/ hour is about what my ovens can bake. So, with 45 minutes of dough preparation the night before, I can keep my oven full all morning, and provide bread for a BIG party. I know that with this method, I can mix bread dough much faster than my ovens can bake it.  An hour of work in the morning, will produce fresh bread all afternoon.  I can mix the dough for a 600 gram loaf while our morning oatmeal cooks, and it comes out of the oven 11:30, in time for lunch at noon.  Why would I make dough any other way?

I do this for: bread, pizza, and pasta.

I have a pasta roller in the garage, but if you stir the water gradually into the flour, you can stretch the pasta dough rather like a pizza (using a rolling pin on the bench rather than tossing) to make a very thin, delicate fettuccini, or whatever.  If you want to easily make wonderful ravioli or tortellini, the path is through pasta that has been stretched, rather than rolled though a pasta machine. And, stretched pasta is the path to lasagna of wonderful delicacy.   

However, if you are making pasta, and you  just dump all the water into the flour, all at once; Oh, yes! you will want some kind of machine to mix/knead/roll your pasta, and you will have pasta with the one virtue; it is like the stuff you can buy at a good supermarket. 






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My current daily bread is fresh ground whole wheat flour, 2% malt powder, 2% salt, a hand full of yesterday's dough, and enough water to make a firm dough.

 The night before I put the flour, malt, & salt in my plastic dough trough. I mix enough water into my old dough to make a runny mess. I make a well in the flour mix, very gradually pour in the old dough mix, as I stir the liquid, pulling in flour from the edges of the well as I stir. I pour in water with my left hand as I stir with my right to make a firm dough.

I knead a couple of minutes to make a smooth dough, without expecting much elasticity.  I cover the dough trough, and leave on the counter on the cool kitchen over night.  This is a seasonal recipe. 

In the morning, I stretch and fold, and put in a warm place 20 minutes doing 3 or 4 stretch and folds in the course of an hour.  Then, I form the loaf, cover in a banneton, and set in a warm place for the final rise as I preheat the oven with a cast iron griddle in it to 375F. When the dough is risen, I turn it on to a peel covered with parchment paper,  slash, and slide it, (on the paper) onto the hot griddle in the 375F (electric)  oven. (Putting additional water into the oven for steam would just cool the oven.) After 15 minutes I turn the heat down to 360F for 10 minutes, then down to 350F for 10 minutes,  then I shut the oven off, and let the loaf sit on the griddle in the hot oven for another 5 minutes.

I admit that there are 2 or 3 kinds of white flour in the kitchen, and that sometimes I make brioche and  baguettes (from white flour).  However,  this is bread with rich flavor, and pleasant texture that goes better with more menus and is enjoyed by more different people than other bread that I make. While, it has a pleasantly open crumb, the crumb is tight enough that it can be used for sandwiches of all kinds.

And, by starting with a 400F oven/griddle, I can bake a 2- kilo loaf that will feed a table full of folk in one bake.

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I make bread almost every day. Being retired, I have  time to experiment, which I did not have when I was a chef in a commercial kitchen.  And, I do not have customers that expect consistency.  On the other hand, I have other things to do,  and seek to produce my bread expeditiously. 

There is always the yeast v. sourdough dilemma. The easy resolution is to use both! The easy path to using both is to use a bit of [yesterday's] bake as the sourdough starter for today's bake. This is a approach used by traditional European bakers. They knew what they were doing!  Reserved dough has salt it and it has lower hydration so it grows slower than most modern starters. It is good, but it is too much bother for many commercial bakers. Growing slower it will hold until tomorrow or the next day, this is a big advantage to the home baker - you do not have to bake - or feed your starter every day.  It has salt in it so you do not have to adjust the bread dough recipe for the weight of the starter.  

The old bread dough gives enough sourness to condition the dough, allow the bread the keep longer, and it makes the bread more moist without the addition of fats/oil.  it gives a rich flavor without a long bulk fermentation.  Usually, my dough save back is ~50 grams.  If I decide that my next bake will be larger, I add flour, 2% salt, and water to my reserved dough to make a dough starter of about 10% of my next bake, and I let it sit on the counter for a few hours.

I  have moved to putting 2% barley malt in my bread. It gives better crust color, faster rise,  and a nice sweetness.

These days, I add 20% strong white bread flour to some bakes.

I remain convinced that making less than 5 lb. of bread dough is faster and easier in a dough trough than with a stand mixer.

I weight the flour, yeast, and other dry ingredients into the trough, putting the salt in one corner. Yeast is usually 1% of flour weight.

I mix the old dough with most of the warm water that I think I will need.

I make a well in the flour in the trough, and slowly pour in the water mix with my left hand as I gently stir the water so it gradually pulls flour in to the pool of water in the well.  This process of stirring the water surrounded by flour seems to develop gluten easier and faster than any other method I know. The actually time is about the same as mixing in the stand mixer, but the product is better.  Ok, I know I have to stand over it, but I usually do this while breakfast is cooking.  Stirring the water into the flour is faster than breakfast,  so both can be done at the same time.

There will still be some dry flour and the salt in the corner of the dough trough. A rest allows the dough to autolyze. A few minutes later I add warm water by drips and work-in the last of the flour and the salt and knead the dough for 2 or 3 minutes.  Because the whole wheat flour has had a chance to absorb water,  I can adjust the hydration more precisely.

Then I do bulk fermentation at 90F, usually 1.5 hours; stretching / folding the dough as often as it needed or as often as I need to come to the kitchen for coffee.  Fermentation is done in the oven or in a Styrofoam "cooler" with a warm cast iron muffin pan in the bottom.

There is  pre-shape, bench rest, shape and  rise.  Bake temperature varies from 350F for loaf pans, to 375F for whole wheat French bread baked on aluminum sheet pans to  400F on a pizza stone for a 2 kilo miche of Pain de Campagne




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As a kid, I was fascinated by dough troughs, and traditional baker’s technologies. I tried making some dough troughs out of wood, but I was never satisfied with my product. In the kitchens, I made do with stand mixers. Here, at the Tulip Patch, the mixer habit carried over, but I was still on the look out for a dough trough.

We eat a lot of fresh produce, and I bought bins to store produce at the local “cash and carry” restaurant supply outlet. It turns out that they are the “dough trough” that I have been seeking for 60 years.  Somehow they are better than the generations of mixing bowls that I have tried.

They are plastic, rectangular, with good lids, ~ 4” deep, holding ~6 liters. After a couple of dozen batches of bread in them, I find them to be faster, easier, and more convenient than either of my stand mixers. 

These days, my method/technique is to put a weighed amount of fresh ground flour in one corner of the trough, make a well in the flour, put weighed amounts of starter/yeast, and (honey, oil, other) in the well, and a weighed amount of salt in the other corner.  I add warm water to the well and stir, gently mixing flour into the slurry.  The very wet mix comes together and forms gluten rapidly. I stir and add water until I have incorporated all the flour, and salt.  I knead in the trough for a couple minutes. Between the stirring of water into the flour and the little bit of kneading, the dough will pass a window-pane test.

I let rest in a warm place (usually a Styrofoam “cooler”) for an hour, do a stretch and fold in the trough, and an hour or so later it is ready to begin shaping and forming for the final rise in banneton or pans.

I find the trough(s) to be of convenient size for batches of dough ranging from 500 gm to 2- kilo. If I must bake 4 kilo (9 lb.) of bread today, I use 2 of my produce bins as dough troughs. They are inexpensive and I use them for other things such as storing produce.  They do not overload my little kitchen scale.  I do not have to clean the mixer kettle/hook.  And, stirring water into a well in the flour develops gluten and makes a dough faster than my mixers.

At my 1-hour stretch and fold, I reserve back 100 grams of dough, that I keep in the refrigerator. That “old dough” gets added to my next batch of dough. I find this old dough method to be the easy approach to sourdough. The salt in the dough and the cold storage, means the starter will remain in good condition and quite active for a few days.  In the next bake, it provides flavor, texture, and improved keeping qualities.  I find the old dough approach to be less effort than most modern recipes for “sourdough”.

My other adaption to a plastic dough trough is use of a nylon bench knife

Let’s face it, if I want really good bead, I have to go to a bakery, or bake it myself – the bread at the grocery store is not as good as the bread at the bakery.  (I live in a place where a local grocery store gets daily deliveries from 2 of the best bakeries in the SF Bay Area – and I stand by that statement.) Therefor, I try to arrange my baking so that it takes less effort than buying the same quality and kinds of bread. I can mix dough and set it to bulk ferment while I prepare my wife’s breakfast. It can be a yeast dough for lunch or a sourdough for dinner. Yesterday’s bake was whole-wheat  focaccia for lunch and whole-wheat dinner rolls.  Today’s bake is a Korean style, whole-wheat sandwich bread.

However quick and easy it is to make bread; I will always be looking for an easier method/technique to make better bread.


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