The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

alfanso's blog

alfanso's picture

Posted before as big batards, so first time out of the chute as baguettes.  

We were eating grilled pork chops with polenta a few evenings ago, and that reminded me of this bread that I'd made twice in succession back in Feb. for the first time.  

This time, aside from the baguette shape I rejected using the mechanical mixer instead opting for a hand mix.  

These "require" no autolyse, incorporating the cooled creamy polenta after the initial mix of F W S Levain and a 5 min rest.  50 French Folds after polenta incorporation, another 5 min rest and then 40 more FFs.  A 2.5 hr. Bulk Ferment with letter folds at 60 & 120 min.  Retard, divide, pre-shape and shape much later, then onto floured couche where they will shed a lot of moisture back in retard again.  

Bakes at 475dF with 15 min steam up front.  Formula is in the linked posting above.

A light sprinkling of cornmeal for the look and the eventual vacuuming them up off the floor.  These are baked dark to ensure the moisture is baked off and because I like them that way.  The crust is as crunchy as the day is long.  

310g x 4 baguettes/long batards 

alfanso's picture

Yes, posted before and guilty as charged!  However, I'm here to sing the praises of this extraordinary bread.  And can't think of a better way than to put it in front of your eyes again.  After these came out of the oven and cooled, and we'd had a few slices, I said to my wife - if I had only one bread that I would be able to bake forever, I think this would be the one.

Those who know what I've posted in the past know that I have a strong leaning toward both semolina/durum breads with sesame seeds and deli-like rye breads with caraway seeds.  Those could be leading candidates for the "forever bread" for me.  But I have the feeling that this particular bread right here is the Secretariat* of them all.

If you haven't yet gotten around to this dandy bread, I suggest that you do.  Most likely you will not be sorry.

310g x 4 baguettes/long batards.

Baked 13 minutes with steam, another 13-15 minutes after releasing steam and rotating loaves, and an additional 2 minutes of venting with the oven off.

I realized as I was assembling the components that I was out of sunflower seeds, but did have just enough pumpkin seeds on hand.  They worked out just fine.

*Secretariat was the greatest horse in USA racing history winning the American Triple Crown of racing in 1973 by the still incredible distance of 31 lengths.

Edit.  Crumb shot added.  This bread, like the Hamelman 5 Grain, is very hearty and so there really isn't a lot of place for me to coax a much more open crumb.  Others may very well be better at it, but getting a good open crumb has occasionally been an elusive skill. 


alfanso's picture

While in NY last month, I noticed this irresistible Sourdough Bread Making Kit in the window of a "health foods" store.  I resisted. 

We visited with my brother and sister-in-law last week in New Mexico.  Sandra wanted to bake a few different breads than those she had made before and wanted to try her hand, and taste buds, on these two.  I brought out much of the goods and formulas for her, and off she went...

Hamelman SD Seed Bread.

My version of Amy's Bread / Susan's Wild Yeast Semolina with pine nuts, fennel and golden raisins.

She wanted to mix and bake both concurrently.

The eastern view from their house.

The sunset view from their house.

 A pleasant time was had by all.


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


Subscribe to RSS - alfanso's blog