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alfanso's blog

alfanso's picture

I'm infrequently in the habit of reposting breads from the past without a change of something or other.  However I can't seem to find any prior reference of mine on TFL of having posted this one here before.

The background: My initial levain, true and trusted friend all these years, was this 75% mixed flour affair, and from that grandpa sprouted all subsequents.  These past two years I seem to always bake with the 100% hydration AP levain, and occasionally work some other levain requirement off that.  

I've been ignoring my old friend, which my notes say was criminally last refreshed in Sept. 2020, and even then only as a recurring courtesy.  I didn't wish to take the minimal risk of refreshing that ancient and waylaid levain, so I did the unconscionable and sadly relegated it to its final resting place it, making a new two stage levain from my trusty 100% AP.

Looking to get the new gal off to a start, I found this WW Levain Baguette formula quietly sitting in my ever thickening looseleaf binder bursting with those compatriots I've made in the past.

I make it my duty to always post who was the original author or inspiration for all my breads, but I could find no reference to anyone other than me, so I guess this is the rare "original" alfanso.

A third build was in store to create my levain for this bread.  As there was no method associated with the formula, I just followed rote.  

  • Autolyse all ingredients for 20 minutes,
  • 50 French Folds, 5 minute rest, 50 FFs.  
  • Oiled covered container for 2 hours with bench top Letter Folds at 40 & 80 minutes.   This dough was incredibly extensible.
  • Retard for ~12-16 hours with shaping, then onto couche sometime around the halfway point.
  • Bake in 460dF oven with steam for 13 minutes, remove steam, rotate loaves, bake 12 minutes more, 2 minutes venting at end.

The taste is hearty with 25% whole grains there is a slight tang and nose to the levain, something that infrequently comes through in my other bakes. 

310g x 4 baguettes/long batards

alfanso's picture

Two words I had never thought of stringing together before yesterday.  

But just for the fun of it I hand mixed the Bouabsa dough at its normal 75% hydration with it's quite low iDY at 0.16%.  Modifying the remainder of the method, the dough was BF'ed for ~100 minutes with "ciabatta-like" folds in the vessel at 30 60 & 90 minutes.  Then off to retard for ~20 hours.

Today the dough was pulled from retard and allowed to warm up for ~100 minutes.  Treating the dough as I would for ciabatta I emptied onto a floured surface, folded it in half alla Cyril Heitz and then shaped it as I do for the Scott MeGee version I adhere to, and couched seam side up.  A tad sloppy on the shaped ends.  45 minutes to prove and then stretched onto the baking peel.  15 minutes with steam at 480dF, then rotated for another 13 minutes and finished off with 2 minutes venting.

For a first time out of the gate I'm pretty pleased with this experiment.  The first two slices off the end yielded a tight crumb, which for even a Bouabsa baguette is unusual.  But the further into the loaf I cut, the more open the crumb became.  The crust carries the coloration that I crave.

Considering the minuscule amount of IDY I can't say anything bad about it.  My next bake will be the same but with a significant boost of IDY, but not nearly as much as a typical IDY ciabatta takes.  I should be able to better emulate a more traditional ciabatta dough with more oven spring.  At that point it will no longer be a Bouabsa ciabatta, rather a Boufanso ciabatta.

500g x 2 ciabatta loaves

alfanso's picture

"Ciabatta are like geodes, their true beauty is hidden until you slice them.".  Don, our superb baker MTloaf, provided this wise comment recently.  

Lately I've been on a ciabatta reign of baking terror, starting last month with the Kingdom Bakery version a pair of times.  Then returned to my levain version of Scott MeGee's ciabatta.  Most recently moved back to my biga version of same.  With 40% PFF at 66% hydration, I've had good results with these.

However, tinker I must and decided to double the PFF to 80% for the biga while maintaining the same 66% hydration.  Only once before had I used such a high percentage of PFF - a few years ago with Abel Sierra's 90% PFF very very stiff biga (think Piergiorgio Giorilli's ciabatta), but that was for his boule formula.  The major differences in those two bigas vs. this 66% hydration biga are the simpler initial biga mixing, shorter maturation time and ultimately a much much easier handling preferment and incorporation into the final dough.  This biga triples in about 12 hours, so the growth is easy to judge.

And I have to say that the dough felt better at every step of the way.  The first change noticed was a big one - during the mixing phase. 

Once all are incorporated I mix on high speed until I get a strong gluten development that slaps the sides of my 35 year old Kitchen Aid J-hook mixer's bowl.  This action may take somewhere about 15-17 minutes total with both the levain and biga versions, total time including the multiple stops to clear the sides of the bowl and the hook. With this 80% PFF mix, the entire phase including starts and stops, took just under 7 minutes.  Almost immediately I could see the gluten develop and when I emptied the mixer the dough strength was quite apparent.

All three folds in the tub indicated a stronger dough, as did the divide and shape.  The resultant bake showed a greater loft, few large holes, and a more delicate lighter sweeter crumb.  My taste-testing neighbor, an Italy born and raised gal, declared this version my best yet.  I might find it hard to disagree.

*With this 80% PFF version, the biga does not have to be chilled as the mixing friction is reduced greatly by the faster gluten development.

The lighting on this last picture is off, as the true color is more accurate on the previous pictures.

~500g x 3 ciabatta loaves

alfanso's picture

The Community Bake posting can be found here

Perhaps to stimulate some thoughts about what you wish to try, here are five breads I’ve recently baked and which ventured into my own no comfort zone.  Keep in mind that this is my personal version of this CB, and merely here to give examples of what took me out of my own personal comfort zone.   If it provides some ideas for you, all the better.

For each of these I provide a  "Why this is out of my Comfort Zone  to explain what makes this bake out of the ordinary for me.  Please provide your own for whatever you decide to post.

All of the “rules” and general instructions can be found in the CB.

Turkish Simits.  Found on YouTube, this bagel-like bread is seemingly perfect for accompanying a cup of coffee or tea.  My friend, who grew up in Athens wrote this to me about the simit.  
In my part of the world it is called koulouri (bread ring).  Years back when I was a kid there were salesmen of this walking the streets in Greece selling them.  They typically stack hundreds of them on a wooden platform which they will carry on their shoulder.  Amazingly skilled I had never seen or heard of one of them dropping the platform and spilling them.  Back then each cost one drahma which was the equivalent of maybe 5 - 10 cents. You handed the drahma to the guy and picked one from the stack and went your way.  Those times are gone now and only exist in memory.  They are sold now in bakeries and pastry shops each of them now a few euros.

Why this is out of my Comfort Zone: I’ve yet to bake a bagel.  This version of a simit “requires” a single strand to be doubled over and braided onto itself before sealing closed, and there is a molasses water dip for the ring before applying the sesame seeds.  

These are “fun” and easy to make, and a nice companion to place on a dessert table.  And with some practice I might even be able to get these to be rounder!


Pain Au Levain with Polenta.  Kingdom Bakery, Tampa.  As a lover of semolina and sesame seeds, this bread looked so appealing to me.  I had some trouble adjusting the formula from the video to my BBGA spreadsheet and decided to adjust the hydration down a few percent to accommodate for the moisture provided by the polenta.

Why this is out of my Comfort Zone: My experience with porridge as an ingredient is quite limited, perhaps only to include some oatmeal once or twice a few years ago.  I love polenta, be it creamy or in cake form, and so I thought I’d give this keeper of a bread a go.  And I’m so glad I did.   A search for ensuring a creamy polenta as the ingredient provided me with a simple and surefire way to cook a creamy polenta in 5 minutes rather 30.  Place a 3:1 ratio of water:coarse grain corn meal in a pot and allow it to soak for ~ 1 hour.  Bring to a boil and then back down to lively simmer, gently stirring once the pot starts to boil.  In 5 minutes the polenta will reach a creamy texture.



Potato/Semolina Levain. Niko Romito, Reale Ristorante, Italy.  Posted by another TFLer, it is another in my arsenal of semolina breads.  This is a very wet dough thanks to the addition of boiled potatoes and all the moisture they bring in.  Due to the high overall moisture, I lowered the water hydration from 72% to 64%, and it is still a difficult bread to wrangle.  The video has this bake at 400dF, but I ignored that and bumped the oven temp to 460dF.  And think that I made the right decision.

Why this is out of my Comfort Zone: As above, my experience with potato as an ingredient is also quite limited.  Potato seems to create a soft bread.  And this bread went halfway!  The crumb was amazingly soft and due to my pushing the oven temp, the outside gave me the dark and crispy snap that I much prefer to the more typical soft crust of a potato bread. I can see coming back to this again.  
Seeded Rye/Rice Flour Levain.  Iraide Lopez from the El Amasadero website, the official name for this loaf pan bread is Pan multicereales con azahar (Multi Grain Bread with Orange Blossom Water).  
Why this is out of my Comfort Zone: My first usage of rice flour, and along with the five grains there is the addition of “Orange Blossom Water” which is foreign to me but I added a few drops of orange extract and orange zest to the dough. And topped it off with a roll in bran flakes.  Including the soaker the water tops out at ~109%.
Another pan loaf that I might not visit again, and my wife was not enjoying the orange notes that the extract and zest provided.  The Hamelman 5-grain is a superior choice to my liking.    


Spiced Honey Bread.  Martin Philip, from his book Breaking Bread: A Baker's Journey Home in 75 Recipes.  I own just about no bread baking books, able to count them on the fingers of one hand.  But I like him and this book was temporarily discounted to under US $10, and so I bought myself a Christmas present.
Why this is out of my Comfort Zone: The leavening agent in this bread is baking soda, which I’ve never used before for my breads.  There is no water, but rather a combination of milk, honey and molasses to provide most of the 242% hydration.  This bread uses 5 spices and orange zest, and has no Bulk Ferment.  Mix, pour, bake! The bread is designed for baby loaf pans 3.5" x 5.5”.
Enough to pique my interest, and certainly a tasty "dessert" loaf, it is a more complicated pan loaf mix than the flavor warrants.  Not sure if I’ll travel this route again, but it was a fun adventure at least this one time.   Certainly more of a quick bread rather than an "artisan" bread.      
The Community Bake posting can be found here
alfanso's picture

Posted my first experience with the Kingdom Bakery Ciabatta the other day, and was pleased with the results, but tinker I must.

Changes this time employed a trifecta of pro baker's techniques, starting with the Kingdom mixing and BF, followed by the Ciril Hitz method of divide, and then the Scott MeGee method of shaping. 

The final three folds were performed on a watered bench-top with no flour. And I ensured that after each fold I returned the dough to the vessel seam side down.  

The dough was incredibly active at the three hour BF mark, yielding a very jiggly and unstable mass for divide and shaping, more so than with the Scott MeGee formula.  This made the dough difficult to shape in the Scott MeGee style, something that I've grown to greatly prefer.  The loaves were well floured (read as too much flour for my tastes) and therefore no issue to remove from the couche, basically merely rolling the loaf over on the couche and handling it from the ends.  The first was the shortest and most difficult to shape.

These baked several minutes less time than the last batch, and the lighter coloration and denser, heavier loaf testifies to this.  Still quite tasty.

After the last bake I was asked whether my BF had tripled.  Here is the today BF with the black dot indicating where it began. 3 hrs @78dF.

Overall I feel as though there was some technique improvements, and a better loft on the loaves, but I was expecting more from the shaping, which is usually not much of an issue with me.

1500g = 3 ciabatta loaves.


alfanso's picture

Now my second post of a bread from the Kingdom Bakery videos.  The prior was for a polenta based bread.  And his method of mixing and folding this dough had me curious enough.  Also this employs a poolish, something I hadn't done before with ciabatta, as it was always either biga or levain.  

A third curiosity for me is the low hydration.  At 73% this is certainly the lowest hydration ciabatta that I've ever made.  And it all went along smoothly. Of course with learning my way though this.  

I would have rather had shorter length loaves, but that will be corrected, along with other minor corrections, the next time.  I already like this method and formula.

A very soft crumb, and an extra-crunchy crust.  Just what I like!

Ed. The dough is actually 76% hydration with the consideration that the oil is a liquid and is to be included in the overall hydration.

500g x 3 ciabatta loaves

alfanso's picture

Came across this  YT video and thought I'd give it a whirl.  Trying to spreadsheet a formula from the video's posted percentages and amounts, and nothing really meshed, so I had to massage the spreadsheet for a while to get the amounts into percentages.  And he is off by more than a very small amount on the hydration and minor amounts elsewhere.  

Once that was saved and printed, off I went.  The formula creates a quite sticky dough which should, according to the baker, double and become soft and billowy within ~2-3 hours of BF time.  Mine barely moved.  So I threw it into the refrigerator, for "later".  

And went back to the formula, changed a few parameters and ran it again later the same day.  This time I cut down on the hydration, bumped up the WW to 20% and upped the PFF to 20%.   Less sticky, but same BF result, only with a little more volume, but nowhere near doubled.  Another into retard.

Both were shaped this morning and sent back to retard once more.  The second batch was less sticky and easier to shape.  2 consecutive bakes as these are too large to place all 4 across my oven deck.

The pair with the double score is from the first batch, the single score is the second batch.

The "original" formula:

The 20% WW version on the left has a more pronounced flavor than the "original" on the right.  Due to the higher hydration the right loaf would seem to be more open crumbed throughout, but I haven't cut beyond this yet.

725g x 4 batards

alfanso's picture

Here you will find all five breads that I’m promoting for the current CB.  All of the “rules” and general instructions can be found in the CB.

To avoid overwhelming the CB posting with too many selection of choices, I’ve included the two additional suggestions in this post.  All formulae here are my own take on the breads. 
============== the first three ===================


 Semolina "Pain au Levain".  This Jeffrey Hamelman version has a 60/40 mix of semolina/bread flour, employs a 125% hydration bread flour levain, and carries an overall hydration of 67%.

1) One of TFL’s resident Kiwis, leslieruf offers her version.

2) My own take for one of my go-to breads, on this marvelous winning delight.


Tom Cat Semolina Filone.  Maggie Glezer’s version of this on again/off again occasional TFL favorite will challenge you due to its very high hydration.  I found this bread difficult to wrangle, but it makes some of the finest toast I’ve ever had.  55.5/45.5 semolina/bread flour, 130% hydration Poolish, 89% overall hydration. 
NOTE: Due to a misunderstanding of American English/Transcription error, the original Tom Cat formula that previously was posted below carried an absurdly high overall 89% hydration.  Thanks to an email conversation with Abe, it was determined that the Poolish was incorrectly stated.  The corrected version is now in its place, with an Poolish hydration of 90% and an overall hydration of 75%.  The 45/55 % or AP/Semolina still remains.

1) semolina_man baked a delightful version of this bread.


2) As does dmsnyder, David's interpretation.

Pane di Altamura/Matera. These two neighboring towns, in the heel region of the Italian peninsula, produce rather uniquely shaped (or mis-shapen) breads. 

Altamura is 100% semolina including a 66% hydration biga, with a relatively low overall hydration of 65%.  


Matera is also 100% semolina including a 50% hydration levain / lievito madre with a 66% overall hydration.

1) Our own breadforfun’s Brad did a field trip there several years ago, and reports on his experience and bake.


2) Baker anonymous, better known as Abe, offers us his version.

EDIT.  Build 3 above should read 150g Sem., 75g Water

3) I tried my hand at this one as well.

 4) Brad (breadforfun) pointed out this Michael Wilson beauty and I thought that I'd include it here, where it seems to belong!  Michael is as serious and accomplished as it gets here on Isle TFL when it comes to Italian breads. 
============== Additional formulae ===================
Semolina Challah.  Looking quite afar, my playful merging of the enriched goodness of Maggie Glezer's popular version with my own 50/50 semolina/bread flour mix. This (heavily dosed) IDY bread carries an overall hydration of 78% when taking into account the eggs, water, neutral flavored oil and honey.  I tried variations of semolina percentages up to 100% with a levain, but personally settled on one that is a 50/50 mix with IDY.  This will also provide an opportunity to introduce you to braiding, as it did to me.  Demonstrated here by Jeffrey Hamelman with a six strand braid.
1) Early TFL star, zolablue provides a magnificent looking levain bread flour version. 
2) Recent rising star baker benito, Benny's, take on Ms. Glezer’s levain bread flour.
 Semolina with pine nuts, sultanas and fennel seeds.  For “extra credit” and for those longing to have a fruit, nut or seed to incorporate, this one has all three.  Based on a mix of both the Amy’s Bread  bakery in NYC and Susan's wildyeastblog versions.  59/41 semolina/bread flour, 100% hydration Liquid Levain, 65% overall hydration. 1) dmsnyder's version of this superb “afternoon wine and cheese” bread. 


 2) A personal favorite, it has incredible flavor and has delighted all whose tonsils have come to know it. 
============== end ===================
alfanso's picture

Here you will find the three formulae for the three NY Jewish Bakery/Deli Rye Breads from the Community Bake for rye breads. Refer to the CB for details.

Aviso! For the first two breads do not proof the loaves directly on a couche.  They will stick mercilessly, the clean-up will be significant and may ruin your couche.  I have no experience using a dutch oven type of vessel with these, so I cannot advise what you should or shouldn't do.

Eric Hanner's Rye Sponge Rye Bread



David's detailed Rye Sour walkthrough

This is what the completed 3rd stage of the rye sour should look like

David Snyder's Rye Sour Rye Bread (12/05, updated from original post)

(12/07 formula updated to reflect David's updated Rye Sour 3 stage Build)

You can use a loaf pan for proofing.  The pans are sprayed with a light coating of oil and then floured, seam side up.


I prefer the following method...Blocking the sides of the loaf to avoid the dough spreading out laterally.  This will maintain a consistent shape and provide some loft.  Used on both the Hanner as well as this dough.

The key to getting a good score was to use my serrated bread knife (which I didn't use on the above breads).  These first two doughs are hell-bent on having your scoring blade get stuck and drag.  The bread knife with a swift motion will teach that dough a lesson!




Alfanso's AP Levain Rye Bread

This dough, although basically the same percentages of rye and hydration, will provide a completely different experience.  As can be seen, it is easily formed into baguette shape.


And's your turn!






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