The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

alfanso's blog

alfanso's picture

Well, as with last time I was already home, but went big anyway.  Several years ago I posted another of this ilk but today's offering is for ciabatta.  Two days prior I had baked a trio of ciabatta to serve to our afternoon guests, and any remainder went out the door with them when they left.  

It was time for more.  And this time I decided to bake two loaves using the same 1500g mix.  But instead of being fair and equitable by dividing as close to 750g each, I went big at 1000g on one and the puny-looking bread is 500g.  This should put the larger loaf in perspective.

79% overall hydration (76% Water, 3% EVOO), 80% PFF biga at 66% hydration.

The Sunday fare...


Today's Brobdingnagian loaf.  Considering the consistency of ciabatta dough, it was a very minor challenge moving it from couche to peel, hence a bit more misshapen than my usual ciabatta barrel loaf.


We have a relatively new and quite active and quite welcomed TFLer, tpassin, who is providing fine detailed support on the site.  But one comment which I did have an exception to was the other day when "t" said that ciabatta was a flat loaf, or something to that effect.  I'm here to testify that this is not always the case.

I rest my couche case.

alfanso's picture

The past three months were non-bake months due to travel.  Coming home I had to refresh my 100% AP levain and did so from my healthy 75% hydration mixed flour levain.  3 or 4 builds within 24 hours was all it took to have a hearty levain to work with.

All posted by me before, and I pondered whether to even post these, but what the heck.  Here's what came out of my oven between Sunday and Wednesday.

 Somewhat Deli Rye w/caraway - way easier than a true deli rye and just as tasty.

750g x 2 batards.

Hamelman Vermont SD.

400g x 3 long batards

Hamelman WW SD.

330g x 3 long batards


alfanso's picture

Clearly several non-truisms here.  No corkscrew, no scissors, no actual knife.  But the reason that I labeled the post as such - I've used the Bouabsa formula to make:

Pullman loaves










 Of course Baguettes


And yesterday's beastly 80% AP, 10%WW and 10% Rye Baguettes/ Long Batards - my first deviation from the standard formula.

I'm neither implying that there aren't other formulas out there every bit as versatile.  Nor even that this dough rivals other doughs specifically created for the other types of breads. However, this easy as pie IDY dough has become a trusted partner in my kitchen crime wave.

Vito Scoreleone 

alfanso's picture

My past.  I did post this before, way back in 2016, in the wake of all the chatter on TFL about pane di Altamura.  And just in the past few days Benny and Caroline have been posting semolinas, just about my favorite subject when it comes to bread.  Benny's was his take on the Altamura bread, which, although the original Altamura bread has an odd beauty all of its own, on its best days looks like something Victor Frankenstein might have left aside in a large glass jar.

So my psyche was psyched and I felt somewhat compelled to revisit my corrupted take of David Snyder's take.  Hence the pane di Alfansomura is making a return appearance.  As I now use the Canadian Atta version of semola rimacinata, which does contain some small amount of bran, it isn't as pure as the real thing, but bakes up lovely just the same.

The stats:

  • 89% of the flour is durum,
  • 11% of the flour is dark rye introduced into the mix as a
  • 125% hydration rye levain,
  • overall hydration is 1 or 2 clicks north of 70%.  
  • total dough weight ran close to 1300g.  
  • being ~430g each, these clearly exist in the "long batard" world, and
  • baked with steam (13 min.) at 450dF.
  • ~26-28 minutes overall.


I was a tad disappointed that the crumb wasn't a little more open, which makes for a chewier bite, but tasty just the same and otherwise makes for a contented bake.

I think I'll be making them again before the month is out.

alfanso's picture

Still playing around with my new toy, the Pullman pan, I wanted to bake the Hamelman WW levain loaf.  At this point I've baked it many times before but not in the Pullman pan shape.  Post-mix, I made a slightly dopey but not costly error.  I decided to add cinnamon and golden raisins to the loaf.  Not being incorporated into the formula, the percentages were now off, but likely not by much.  

This turned a 1500g mix into a 1700g mix, my plan being to fill the loaf pan with 1000g of dough and then divide the remainder for two baguettes/long batards.  I slathered on the cinnamon and soaked raisins on the first of three letter folds.  After an overnight retard, the dough was divided and shaped, the two baguettes placed on the couche and back into retard until the loaf pan bake was completed.

The inclusions almost always makes for a slightly craggy baguette shaping experience.

alfanso's picture

The learning continues.  Thanks to receiving a cornucopia of suggestions on my previous bake of the Bouabsa Pullman I moved forth and applied some of those changes, further upgrading my nascent Pullman pan skills.

Previous improvements over the first bake were documented in the linked-to post above.  I decided to move away from the IDY Bouabsa dough to a Levain semolina dough.  Rather than be a traditionalist and use a formula ready-made for a Pullman, I selected the Weekend Bakery Semolina dough.  

I'd made these before as baguettes about two years or so ago.  They differ from my go-to semolina formula with a 37.5% semolina / 62.5% AP flour mix vs. my usual 60/40 mix.  Also comes in at higher hydration of 72% vs. ~67%.

Further changes applies this time:

  • Increase the loaf size to 900g
  • Butter the pan rather than spray canola oil.
  • Allow more time for the in-pan proofing than before.
  • Concern for a too dark top, I tented the loaf for the final 10 minutes, probably too many minutes. 
  • Steam for ~22 minutes total.  At half way through I removed the loaf from the pan and then steamed the oven again.

One suggestion I did not follow through on was to score the top of the loaf.  The surface was so delicate at bake time that I was concerned about ruining the loaf.  Next time.

The loaf baked for ~33 minutes @ 430dF but still did not come as high as the loaf pan.  One "mistake" that may have been detrimental - I took the dough out of the overnight retarded BF container to cleave off the additional 550g of dough, and then placed the 900g back into the container to warm up.  I imagine this disturbed the dough somewhat.  I should have divided the dough into two separate containers after the countertop BF.  Lesson learned.

Overall I'm pretty happy with this bake and considering that semolina exhibits a relatively tight crumb, at least in my kitchen, I think the finished product came out just fine.  Considering the lower percentage of semolina in the formula, the flavor is a little shy of what I look for in a semolina bread.

Here you can see where the dough decided to score itself.

A view from the End Zone.

These 3 little piggies went to market.

A relatively evenly distributed crumb with an evenly colored bake all around the crust.

 I think toast is almost always sexier than plain bread.




alfanso's picture

Two days ago, misinterpreting what Dan was after, I posted a Pullman loaf that baked up short and dense.  With the feedback from several folks, a few YouTube videos and a consultation with Mr. Hamelman via his book, I made a series of changes, seemingly all for the better.

For that bake I went directly from retard to Pullman with a very tight roll, baked at the normal Bouabsa temp of 480dF on a cookie sheet cooling rack  The changes I made this time:

  • 3.5 hr warmup from retard to shape until the dough grew 50% in the container - perhaps could have waited 4 hours to reach closer to ambient temp.
  • Shaped by gently docking/flattening, a letter fold, turned 90 degrees and rolled up firmly but far from tightly.  Dough reached about halfway or a little more in the tin.
  • Baked at 430dF directly on baking deck
  • Removed from Pullman tin when releasing steam at 13 minute mark.   No tenting required.

Baking time was reduced from ~38 min to ~33 min even though the oven temp was dropped 50dF.  In both instances, I shaped the dough on a wet surface with moist hands in an attempt to keep as much raw flour off the dough as possible.

For a first adjustment with a dough not designed to be a Pullman, and limited loaf pan experience, so far I'm pretty content.

The oven spring compared to the remaining portion of the previous run

You can see the Pullman pan behind the loaf.  Only the crest of the loaf came up as high as the top of the Pullman.  The dough never proofed as far as the pan top.

The crumb.  Definitely softer and more open.  I think this is a nice step up from my first attempt.



alfanso's picture

Felila posted a link to an article in the Washington Post newspaper on baking with a newly developed flour, Kernza.  During the summer I visited with a friend in Vermont who was gifted a small bag of Kernza flour, apparently promotional as the one pound bag has no markings on it other than the Land Institute logo and "Kernza Perennial Grain Flour".  Not even the weight of the contents.  And handed it over to me.  The bag was placed on the back burner, but Felila's posting had me commit to baking with it.

 Kernza is a very low gluten flour, and so requires a high protein flour to keep the final product from likely pancaking out.  I still had some King Arthur Bread Flour at 12.7% protein.  Enough to make the two levains and the first dough.  After that I relied on Gold Medal Bread Flour at a slightly lower protein, 12% for the final dough mix of the second bake.

I used the published formula, mostly, and it is a very wet 80.5% overall hydration dough.  The dough was quite "flabby", slack and unruly during the French Folds and subsequent Letter Folds due to it's hydration, and was initially sticky, the way rye flour can be, I wasn’t so pleased at handling it.  But over the course of a few hours it more or less settled down before being placed in retard for the night.  A morning divide and shape proved to be modestly less challenging, and I was pretty unsure as to how it would eventually bake up.  It turns out fine, but the flaccid nature of this dough, at least for hand mixing and then baguette shaping, is not all that pleasurable.

So I did it again today, the next day.  But this time I dropped the hydration down to 75%, which still made for a wet dough, but much more manageable.  And again, had a fine bake.

Changes I made to the published formula were to bump the pre fermented flour to 20%, and then to mostly ignore the author's steps, following my own compass instead.

Apparently the grain is quite expensive, and it tasted like nothing more than a similar profile Whole Wheat bread, maybe a tad sweeter.  So for right now I’d classify this as a boutique type of grain.  Whether it gains traction and becomes more accessible and affordable, we shall see.

The formula normalized for 1000g of flour

Both doughs were scaled out at 1200g.  All things being equal, I  don't see much difference in the final product, but I'd stay with the lower hydration version for ease of manipulation.

These are from the first, 80.5% hydration bake

And from the 75% hydration bake

alfanso's picture

and still kinda get away with it?  Answer - a lot.  

Background is rooted, but barely, in my recent enjoyment of an 80% PFF biga version.  I was refreshing the regularly neglected 75% mixed flour levain along with the workhorse 100% AP levain when I suddenly had this "brilliant" idea.  Why not change a few things at once so that I won't know what may have worked and what didn't?  

Things that changed, some not necessarily on purpose:

  • 3 hour countertop autolyse became a 6 hour countertop autolyse, became an overnight retarded autolyse.
  • 3 stage build of a 75% AP levain became an overnight retarded build on the 3rd stage. 
  • Pushed the levain percentage in the dough from 20% to 40%.  Just because.
  • Didn't allow retarded components to return to near ambient temperature. 
  • Autolyse and levain went into the mixer at refrigerator temps, therefore ciabatta dough emerged from the mixer at near retard temps.  Not a good thing!  Don't try this at home without parental supervision.
  • Prior to mixer, I did my standard 100 French Folds to the dough, with a 5 minute break halfway between.  The dough felt quite "mature" and ready for BF, but dropped it into the mixer anyway.  Probably shouldn't have and just gone straight to BF. 
  • The very low dough temp. created a much longer Bulk Ferment than typical.
  • Eliminated the olive oil and IDY from this run, 40% PFF levain be sufficient to compensate for the lack of a final IDY add.

Once the dough had BF'ed the remainder was biznez as usual, although my shaping should have been better.  I also must not have paid attention during the period in life whereby one learns to successfully eyeball a block of dough and get close to a three-way even divide.

Despite my dark thought that I had no idea what might or might not work due to myriad changes listed above, the bake came out just fine with two distinct differences.  The loaves took on a sheen that is pretty uncharacteristic for my own ciabatta bakes, but I like the look.  The other and odder difference is how closed the crumb is for a ciabatta.  

Considering how things were off during the process, I'm fine with the results however odd, and the bread is as tasty as ever.  I'd like to try this again with the obvious corrections applied.


1500g total, supposedly divided into ~500g each.  But we know that ain't the case, Sherlock.


alfanso's picture

Our building's A.M. is retiring at the end of this month and we wanted to give her something to take home in the most alfanso way.  Sesame Semolina and Ciabatta.  

My wife's contribution were her fabulous orange chocolate chunk meringue cookies.

Someone recently posted about their woes with their ciabatta having too much raw flour on them post-bake.  It doesn't have to be so, as can be seen on both the topside and underside.  I suspect that the OP is completely over-flouring them after the bulk ferment has completed.


Subscribe to RSS - alfanso's blog