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IgorL's blog

IgorL's picture

The other day, while looking for rye flour at my local Whole Foods, I came across spelt flour, made by the same company, Farmer Ground I used their organic rye flour before, and while I am still very new to baking a good, mostly rye loaf, I liked the taste the rye flour gave to my wheat loaves when it was added in moderation. 

I have heard about spelt and spelt flour before, and decided to give it a try.  Initially, I thought about adding just a small amount of spelt to replace all-purpose flour in my trusted go-to recipe for sourdough.  I simply wanted to see how it would taste. When it came time to bake, however, I suddenly became very "inspired", and figured "Why not just see what else I can do?"  With all of my bread-baking attempts, the loaves always come out edible, even if terribly looking, so I was not particularly afraid of a failure. As the result, I present to you a loaf baked with not just two, but four flours: all-purpose wheat, whole wheat, dark rye, and spelt.  The dough was a pleasure to work with, nice and pliable, not too dry and not too wet, albeit a bit sticky, even given the relatively low moisture amount. I suspect the "stickiness" was the result of rye flour being present, as I have experienced that before (to the point where once I had to literally scrape my loaf out of banneton where it was placed for final proofing).

I must admit I didn't start with any specific proportion in mind, and at first was planning to use much more of "other" flours, but then I became concerned that they will alter the overall behavior of the dough too much, so I reduced their amounts to some arbitrary low numbers.

Here's my final recipe:

Levain (100% hydration, white AP flour) - 150 g
Water - 290 g 
Dark rye flour - 50 g
Whole wheat flour - 50 g
Spelt flour - 100 g
King Arthur AP flour - 285 g
Salt - 11 g

Baker's math:

AP flour - 360 g (64%)
Rye flour - 50 g (9%)
WW flour - 50 g (9%)
Spelt flour - 100 g (18%)
Total flour - 560 g (100%)
Water - 365 g (65%)
Salt - 11 g (1.95%)

I built my levain in the morning, as usual, using my refrigerated starter, filtered water, and all-purpose flour. The proportion is 50 g / 50 g / 50 g, which makes 150 g of levain that I use later. I warm up the water a little, to quickly bring the mix to the room temperature, and then let it rise for approx. 6 hours, depending on the temperature in the kitchen.  Once the mixture is bubbly, smells of bread yeast, and has roughly doubled in volume, I consider it ready to go.   

For the dough, I start with warm water, so the yeasts start working fast. I mixed all of the ingredients, except for salt, in a stand mixer on low speed until everything seemed to be well integrated (about 2 min), and then let it fermentolyse for 45 min in an oven that was first warmed-up on Bread Proof setting.  For my regular loaves, I have also done it in a cold oven, and simply increased the fermentolyse time to 60 min.  Then I added salt, and mixed the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook for about 7-8 min on speed 2.  Then the dough was moved to a glass bowl and covered with plastic (here, I use a shower cap).

I let the dough sit for 30 min, then did 4 rounds of stretch-n-fold, with 30 min rest intervals in-between.  Finally, I let the dough rise undisturbed for approx. 2 hrs. The loaf was formed as usual, placed into a banneton with linen cloth insert (because I was afraid the dough with rye would stick again), and refrigerated overnight, about 12 hours.

In the morning I preheated the oven to 500F, along with my cast aluminum cover inside, placed the loaf on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat, and baked as follows: covered for 20 min @ 475F, then uncover, bake 15 min @ 460F, then 15 min @ 450F.  When done, internal temperature of the loaf was 207F, and I felt it was a bit too low, so turned off the oven and left my bread inside for 5 more min. This resulted in internal temperature going up by only 0.5F, and was perhaps a bit detrimental to the crust (although I am not completely certain about that part).

The resulting loaf, just out of the oven:


The crust was crunchy and tasty, with a distinct rye flavor, but I thought it came out just a tad bit too "tough", and slightly bitter in places, although it was definitely not burned.  Perhaps those last 5 minutes inside the cooling oven were not needed?

The crumb:

Overall, I rate this bake as a relative success, and will definitely try making it again.  As always, I appreciate all of your thoughts, comments, and questions.

Happy baking!


IgorL's picture


Having recently returned from a trip to Italy where we also visited Liguria for the first time, I feel in love with a good focaccia.  In fact, I craved it so much that I decided to try baking it at home, instead of my traditional sourdough bread.  I don’t use instant yeast, and always bake sourdough, so I figured I would try making a sourdough focaccia. It turned out that there are as many focaccia recipes out there as of anything else, so I used several ones from this site, as well what I found elsewhere on the internet to come up with my own.  The goal was to bake a decent first approximation, and then try tuning the recipe to improve it.  I am not bragging, but I must say that even the first attempt came out pretty nice, and the taste was certainly pretty close to what I remembered from the trip.

In the spirit of sharing, below is the recipe I used, as well as the steps.  I will be definitely making it again, perhaps with some minor adjustments.  I used regular unbleached all-purpose (AP) flour for this recipe, since I felt that focaccia didn’t need to rise too much, so strong gluten development was not necessary.

Levain: 150g total, made from 50g starter @ 100% hydration, 50g water and 50g AP flour.  The levain was left to develop on countertop for about 7 hrs.

Flour: 450g AP unbleached flour
Water: 280g
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil): 20g
Salt: 10g 

Total flour: 450g+75g from levain= 525g - 100%
Water: 280g+75g from levain=355g - 67.5%
EVOO: 3.8%
Salt: 1.9%

I mixed levain, warm water, and flour, and let it stand in the mixing bowl for ~1 hr to let the flour absorb water, and the yeast to start working.  Then I mixed in the salt and EVOO, and worked it in a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook for ~7 min on speed 2.  Transferred the dough in a glass bowl greased with a bit of EVOO, let it stand for 1 hr, then did 3 rounds of S&F right in the bowl with 30 min rest intervals in between.  

Since I always cold retard my sourdough breads to bake them in the morning (so we don’t wind up eating a half loaf of nice fresh bread right before bedtime :) ), I decided to cold retard this dough as well.  I retarded it in the fridge, right in the bowl overnight.

In the morning I took it out of the bowl into a 1/4 sized baking sheet greased with some EVOO, pressed down with my fingers enough to make the dough thin and spread on the sheet, brushed slightly with more EVOO, and loosely covered with plastic film. I let the dough warm up and rise on the countertop for ~1.5 hrs.

The oven was pre-heated to 450F, then I lowered the temp to 430F, sprinkled the dough with some coarse sea salt and freshly chopped rosemary and baked for 26 min, rotating the sheet once during that time.  Finally, after focaccia was removed from the oven and onto a cooling rack, it was brushed with some more EVOO! (You will notice that there’s quite a lot of olive oil being used in this recipe, as well as most other recipes I saw. For that reason, I reduced the initial amount of oil in the dough somewhat, as some recipes called for 4.5% or even more).

Final thoughts:

  1. The next time, I will probably increase the amount of ingredients slightly, so the dough completely covers the quarter-sized sheet.  Mine did, but it made the dough a bit too thin, in my opinion.
  2. I would probably let the dough rise on the countertop before baking for extra time, perhaps 2 hrs total, so it warms up and proofs more.
  3. Next time I will probably bake at 450F, reducing the time somewhat, since I think that 430F was not hot enough, and the bread began drying out on tope before it was baked through.

If I bake it again, I will report back with regards to how any adjustments helped – or didn’t. :-)


Happy baking!


IgorL's picture

So, like an Icarus who flew too high too fast, long before he learned how to build an airplane, last weekend I got too cocky thinking that I could do variations of my own, without having to research proper recipes.  The result was two utterly lifeless loaves, which, albeit still edible, definitely wished they have never been baked at all. 

Since I'm of a firm belief that we can learn just as much - if not more - from failures as we can from successes, I am posting it here as a warning to others like me: "Learn to crawl confidently before you do... well, practically anything else". 

I started with the same simple SD recipe I used a few times before, but decided to split the dough into two parts and make two battards, one with Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes, and the other with walnuts and figs. After autolyse and final mixing, I allowed the dough to BF for 1 hr. (It was supposed to be 30 min, but it took me much longer than expected to prepare the extra ingredients.)  I then did one set of stretch/fold, divided the dough, flattened each half, spread additional ingredients, and did another couple of stretch/folds. I am not sure where exactly I went wrong, other than I think I loaded waaay to many "extras" into the dough.  Each battard was about 460g of dough, and each received about 70g additional of mixed extras.  As you can see from the photos of the crumb - if you can even call it that - that was definitely too much.

I followed that by my usual stretch/fold every 30 min 3 more times, but the dough, especially one with olives and tomatoes, never became elastic as I expected. I shaped it the best I could, placed into well-floured bannetons for overnight retardation in the fridge, then warmed up for 2 hrs in the morning before attempting to bake. Both loaves stuck to the banneton badly, the one with olives and tomatoes worse than the other one, to the point that both completely ripped when I tried to extract them onto the baking sheet.  I baked with steam for the first 15 min, and they did rise in the oven just a tiny bit, but nowhere close to be called loaves of bread.

I definitely learned my lesson; now I just need to figure out what that lesson was. :-)  Happy baking everyone!


IgorL's picture

Well, Passover is over, and leavened bread is back, with the vengeance. :-) Today's creation: sourdough multi-grain bread with seeds. I wish Internet had the ability to transmit the emotion which crunchy crust elicits while one tastes a slice with good salted Irish butter. 

I started with same sourdough recipe I blogged before, which works well for me.  The only modifications were: I upped the percentage of whole wheat flour a bit, and also added about 1/2% of water because I figured that all the seeds would need it. The seeds included chia, which I understand likes absorbing water, so I could probably easily go with the whole extra 1% of water.  I'll try it next time.

For the seeds mix I used some arbitrary amounts of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax, chia, white sesame, and rolled oats.  I toasted everything lightly on a dry pan, and let them cool completely before adding into the dough after fermentolyse phase, together with salt.  The total amount of seeds weighed after toasting was 88g.

I also sprinkled some oats inside the banneton before I put the dough inside, and a bit more along the sides of the dough ball, between it and the walls of the banneton.  The advantage turned out to be dual: I got oats stuck to the surface of my bread and baking perfectly crunchy, which is what I wanted.  Those same oats also kept the dough completely from sticking to the form, so it practically fell out on its own while I was inverting the form on the cooking sheet. 

Levain (100% hydration) - 50g starter, 50g warm water, 50g  KA WW flour, mixed in the morning and put in warm place.
Water - 315g
Flour - 400g Wegmans AP unbleached (I didn't have any BF on hand) + 50g  KA WW 
Salt - 10g
Flour total 450+75 (from levain) =525g
Water total 315+75 (from levain) =390g 

Baker's math:
AP flour - 81%
WW flour - 19%
Water - 74%
Salt - 1.9%
Various seeds - 1.7%


IgorL's picture

In a never-ending quest to improve, for the next couple of loaves I decided to make some changes.  The loaf above had the water upped just a bit to 73.5%, because I wanted to try making an even more airy crumb.  I also had a mix of flours 50/50 of KA bread flour and Wegmans unbleached all-purpose, simply because I ran out of BF. :-) 

Levain (100% hydration) - 50g starter, 50g warm water, 50g  KA WW flour, mixed in the morning and put in warm place.
Water - 310g
Flour - 200g KA BF + 250g Wegmans AP
Salt - 10g
Flour total 450+75 (from levain) =525
Water total 310+75 (from levain) =385 

Baker's math:
Flour - 100%
Water - 73.3%
Salt - 1.9%

My schedule was thrown off somewhat because we had friends visited, decided to go out, and the dough sat for 2 hrs in a bowl after the first stretch and fold.  Still, I think it recovered fine in the end.

I tried to create a flower when scoring it, hoping it would bloom in the oven like a tulip, but I don't think it worked.  Will try again next time.

I also made the same recipe with some seeds, because I just love breads with "stuff" in them.  it came out perfectly:

I simply added 45g of lightly toasted mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, white sesame, flax, and chia (that's all I had at home).  Mixed it all in when I was adding salt, after the fermentolyse was done, and baked the same way. In retrospect, I probably should have toasted pumpkin seeds first, and then add the rest, since they still felt a bit raw.

The crumb looked nice, and the taste was wonderful!



IgorL's picture

So, my scale finally arrived, and I got a banneton for proofing as well. I've been experimenting a bit, and I think I finally got it. Since all the folks here were so helpful, I figured I could contribute by sharing my results. Would really love to hear your comments too!  You can see the final product in the photo above.

The recipe:

In the morning, take starter from the fridge and feed it 1:1:1, i.e. equal amounts of starter, water, and flour.  Cover and let it sit in a warm place for 6-8 hrs.

Levain (100% hydration) - 50g starter, 50g warm water, 50g  KA WW four, mixed in the morning and put in warm place.
Water - 300g
Flour - 450g KA BF 
Salt - 10g

Baker's math:
Flour - 100%
Water - 71.5%
Salt - 1.9%

Mix everything, except salt, until all flour is absorbed. Cover and let stand for 60 min, then add salt and mix for 4-5 min. I use stand mixer, but you can use anything you like.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, let rest for 30 min. Take it out on a lightly-floured surface and stretch and fold from 4 sides, then put it back in the bowl. Repeat rest and stretch and fold 3 times (4 times total, cover during rest). BF for 2 hrs. On lightly-floured surface pre-shape, let rest 10-15 min, then final shape. 

Flour the banneton, and the surface of the dough (lightly), place the dough into the banneton and cold proof overnight (10-12 hrs). Next morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let warm up on the counter for 1.5-2 hrs. (EDIT: I later found this step to be completely unnecessary; you can bake straight from the fridge, and is scores this way easier too!). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500F, then drop the temp to 475F. I baked at first under a "dome".  I have this old cast-aluminum pot, which I preheat in the oven and then invert and cover the dough with it to create hot and steamy environment, similar to a Dutch oven or Cloche. It looks like this:

I am baking right on a cookie sheet, lightly covered with corn meal to prevent dough sticking. Take the dough out of the banneton, dust off any excess flour, and score the bread.  I scored at a shallow angle, trying to create an "ear".  I think I succeeded.

Bake under the dome for 20 min at 475F, then drop temp to 460F and bake uncovered for 20 min more, rotating once in the middle.  I waited for about 2 hrs before slicing the loaf, and I must admit that was torture! :-)  (EDIT: It's actually better to wait much longer, 3-4 hrs). The crumb looks fine, although I would prefer it a bit more airy.  The taste was wonderful, and the crust was the crunchiest I ever achieved!

Hope this helps someone too!


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