The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

JoeVa's blog

JoeVa's picture

Bake, bake and bake, the time passes and you demand more, you want more, you are more exigent.

In my previous post I shared with you a good looking bread but I admitted it was not to my taste. I have to say you that even in my last trip in Paris (March 2010) I didn't find a really amazing bread. I tasted a lot of bread from famous and not so famous bakeries and a lot of bread at Europain Exhibition. Some bread was really good, most of them good, someone bad. Till now I take with me, in my memory, just two or three bread I can say - that's a perfect sourdough!

So I planned a new formula to try the flavor potential of this sourdough bread. It was based on the previous one (85% white bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% whole rye. 66% hydration. 25% pre-fermented flour (100% hydration). Short mix with S&F ...

My changes:

  • The preferment was feed (and it is feed) with 97% bread flour 3% whole rye, 100% hydration. This adds a fruity smell.
  • Tested a new white bread flour. This is a strong "type 00" flour (50% extraction rate, low ash content), I think W 340. It could be used for long fermentation. Proteins contents 14% with European measurements (11.8% USA measurements).
  • Longer cold proof. This was not planned but I didn't want to bake early morning before work. So I adjusted the process to accommodate a 20h cold proof at 5°C.
I wanted to take a few shots of the process but I was tired so I took just a photo of my super cheap mixer while waiting my water cools down 2°C.                                                     
And here the levain almost ready to go:
The Bread:

Do you think it is to my taste? ...
I'm thinking these very light (empty) bread cannot be to my taste. It seems that the aroma escape from the loaf together with the water.
Next loaf? Maybe a T80 organic miche.
JoeVa's picture

After a long break, I'm now able to return to blogging, I hope ...

I don't want to bore you all with my baking problems (although I did with some of you, my "baking friends" ... you know Shiao-Ping!?), but I have to share with you what I think I've learned.

First I'll show you my last (I should say my first) sourdough loaf after a full month of bread thrashing.

[The loaf]


[The crumb - a half]


[The crumb - the other half]


[The crust]


Here my notes:

  • Use a good oven. My oven is really "cooked" (I showed it in THIS post), now even more than ever. Can I say I HATE it? It's crazy, about 50°C hotter in the back. Then, the temperature goes up and down and when it goes up the top heating element is incandescent.
  • Steam. The first half of the baking is crucial. An efficient steaming method must be used. I switched from my pre-heated clay pot to a not pre-heated stainless boule (in my case just a big steel pot). This covered steaming method is the only one I can use and I found really important to use a not pre-heated cover - before it gets hot, it gives the bread the time to free the steam.
  • Use a reasonably good flour.
  • Take care of the levain. Try to use it at the peak or a bit before.
  • Do not be a stupid house wife. First watch the dough than watch the clock.
  • The wetter is NOT always the better. You have to master the process.
  • Check your refrigerator. Find a spot that register the right temperature for cold proofing. It's easy to put the dough in a refrigerator that you think should be around 5°C and then you find that in the night it goes down to 2°C.
... that's the home baker life. Don't you think it's too easy to bake bread in a bakery where you have perfect flour, steamed deck oven, proofing cabinet, mixer ... ?
To do list:
  • Work more on the previous notes.
  • The subtle art of fermentation. One thing I have to better understand is what there's behind leaving, fermentation and dough ripening; and how to control these things. Maybe you think the bread I showed is ok ... absolutely not, I think it's mediocre: a plain, not so complex, full flavored bread.

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain). Short mixing with S&F, 12h retarded at 5°C. I also used the "double flour addition" technique of SteveB (described HERE).

When I was shaping the loaf my sister was around in the kitchen and I asked her to touch the very puffy, smooth just shaped loaf. I loved the word she used - she said: oohh it's sooo (in Italian) bonzo.

And here, just for your fun (but do not joke about me too much!), I want to show you a loaf I thrashed ... I cannot show only good looking bread!



JoeVa's picture

Last three weeks I baked really bad bread and I know why: the flour.
Nelle ultime tre settimane ho sfornato del pane veramente brutto e so perché: la farina.

Most of the (bread) flour you can buy at the market is not so good, at least where I live (Italy). It's too strong or too weak or enhanced with ascorbic acid or made with all Canadian and US grain. So, I've seen liquified dough, super strong plastic dough, very strange dough behavior ...
La maggior parte delle farine (per pane) che si possono comprare nei negozi non sono così buone, almeno dove vivo io. O sono troppo forti o troppo deboli o migliorate con acido ascorbico o fatte totalmente con grani Canadesi e Americani. Così, ho visto impasti liquefatti, impasti molto tenaci quasi di plastica, impasti dal comportamento davvero strano ...

Last week I said - I want a decent flour. So, I asked an Italian forum (my first message) if someone could suggest me a miller or reseller of good bread flour near where I live. The first reply was from a Madam (Angela) who lives just 2 km from my home. I don't tell you all the details, but she gave me a 3 kg of Caputo Rossa flour. A flour I always wanted to try! Great!
La settimana scorsa ho detto - voglio una farina decente. Così, ho chiesto su un forum italiano (il mio primo messaggio) se qualcuno poteva suggerirmi un molino od un rivenditore di buona farina nelle mie vicinanze. La prima risposta è stata di una Signora (Angela) che vive a 2 km da casa mia. Non sto a raccontare tutti i dettagli, ma alla fine mi ha regalato 3 kg di farina Caputo Rossa. Una farina che ho sempre voluto provare! Fantastico!

Molino Caputo is a miller located in Naples, famous all over the world for pizza flour. But they mill also flour for bread, croissant, babà, sfogliate. The flour I received is the one in the red bag (00 rinforzato), a medium strength flour (W 280:300, P/L 0.5:0.6) made with a selection of high quality Italian and North American grain.
Il Molino Caputo è sito a Napoli, famoso in tutto il mondo per la sua farina per pizza. Ma macinano anche farina per pane, croissant, babà, sfogliate. La farina che ho ricevto in dono è quella nel sacco rosso (00 rinforzato), una farina di media forza (W 280:300,P/L 0.5:0.5) fatta con una selezione di grani nazionali e Nord Americani.

What should I give Angela to thank her? A million dollar question ... Bread.
Cosa avrei dovuto regalare ad Angela per ringraziarla? Domanda da un milione di dollari ... Pane.

A simple sourdough bread, with a touch of whole grain (5% rye, 5% wheat), a soft dough (65% hydration).
Un pane semplice a lievitazione naturale, con un pizzico di grano integrali (5% segale, 5% frumento) dall'impasto morbido (65% idratazione).



Yes, I cut it half, before give it to Angela, to check the quality of the crumb.
Sì, l'ho tagliato a metà, prima di darlo ad Angela, per controllare la qualità della mollica.



Bread does friend!
Il pane fa amici.

JoeVa's picture

Yesterday, I was reading about Ezio Marinato. He is a famous italian baker and teacher, one of the most representative member of the italian team at the "Couple du Monde the Boulangerie - Paris" (along with Piergiorgio Giorilli) and gold medal at the "Mondial du Pain, Goût et Nutrition - Lyon 2007".

He is also a baking consultant and I already knew him because of his work with Molino Quaglia and Farina Petra.

So, I was reading about his bread/courses/work ... and I stopped on this bread: "Pane a Lievito Naturale con Segale Integrale", that is "Sourdough Bread with Whole Rye". As I am in a "focus on process" period, or "... learn the subtle art of fermentation ..." (Shiao-Ping reminds me Hamelman's statement in the post "body and mind"), I thought this bread could be really close to the basic Pain Au Levain I'm working on.

After a receipt translation to bakers % I saw again that schema! It's a while I see that schema, maybe with some little differences in the process, and when you see the same bread made with almost the same schema by a lot of professional/inspired bakers you focus on the subtle art of fermentation.

My first thought was: this is J.Hamelman Vermont Sourdough with Increased Whole Grain but:

  • not increased prefermented flour: 15% vs 20%
  • not liquid levain: stiff 50% hydration vs liquid 125% hydration
  • more "intensive mix" vs "improved mix"

Now that I have a better knowledge of mixing techniques and requirements (thanks to Dan DiMuzio book) I understand the main timing difference in the process: 01:00 bulk + 03:00 proof @26°C vs 02:30 bulk + 02:30 proof @25°C.

Here the original receipt, I let you play with all the math!

Ingredients: 4000g bread flour (W280), 1000g whole rye flour, 1500g stiff levain, 25g malt, 50g toasted malt, 100g salt, 3500g water.

Dough temperature: 26/28 °C

Mixing: 5 minutes speed 1 + 10 minutes speed 2

Directions: autolyze the flour with 2750g water, mix 5/6 minutes in speed 1; wait 30 minutes, then add all the ingredients and the remaining water, mix 10 minutes speed 2. Bulk fermentation about 70/80 minutes at 27°C. Division (suggested piece 500g to 1000g) and preshaping with 15 minutes bench rest, then proof at 28°C for about 3 hours. Bake.

Here my attempt at the bread. I adjusted timing and ingredients according to my environment (for example I raised the final hydration from 66% to about 68%). Next try a would go for a short mix that is higher hydration (70%) longer bulk fermentation (3 hours) with 4/5 set of stretch and fold.

     [The stiff starter before and after 8/10 hours @20/22°C, inoculation 25%]

                 [Malted Barley Flour + toasted and dough before autolyse]

                  [The bread]

                  [The crumb]

This bread was prepared in my mom's kitchen and baked 3 Km far in my "new working on house" where my oven is now placed. When I will finish to build my kitchen this oven will be dismissed so this is the last opportunities to show it to you.


Here the "technical specifications": very cheap electric static oven, 20 years old, crazy temperature controller, hot in the back cool in the front, no light bulb (exploded), no door handle (broken, I use a screwdriver to open the door).

JoeVa's picture

There are a lot of possibilities with a basic sourdough loaf. When you have established an almost consistent basic "Pain au Levain" dough you can enrich it with everything you like.

As I love raisins and walnuts, yesterday I filled my dough with both. I did this even if I have not established my consistent dough yet, I mean I have an almost consistent dough but I think this is not my perfect bread. In my dream I bake a Poilane style miche but now I am sure I cannot get it without that great high extraction bread flour. One month ago I went to my favorite bakery (Princi) and I saw the bag of flour he use for his wonderful miche: farine demi-complète - muline ... he is italian, he bake great organic sourdough bread, he use a french flour, FRENCH, why?! Unfortunately, after two years of baking and tasting bread I define my bread flour a plain filler.

The basic dough:

  • a "good" bread flour with a bit of whole grain (5-15% whole rye or whole wheat)
  • a medium soft dough (60 to 65% hydration)
  • 15-20% prefermented flour at 80% hydration (neither stiff nor liquid) with a bit (5%) of whole rye

Toward the end of mixing just add raisins (25%) and walnuts (25%) and you have a high octane bread.



I think this will be one of my bread for this Christmas baking session.


JoeVa's picture

Wednesday my sister bought a rye loaf at the town market. I remember when I spoke with the guy and asked him more about this bread: this is a true rye they buy from Austria, the frozen dough is baked it in their oven.

What!?!? Frozen and from Austria! Why don't you make it here, it's bread! No comment.
Yes, I know it is not bread if you think at wheat based bread, rye is a different baking world. Here in Italy, with the exception of few small communities in the very north regions, is almost impossible to find a bakery that bake true rye bread. But this is obvious if you think 90% bakers do not have a sourdough culture! And most of the few bakers that have a sourdough got it from a friend, they never started a culture from scratch.

Going back to the market rye, that time I have to admit it was good: I think >=70% high extraction rye, sourdough and some molasse enrichment(?).

Last time it was ...uhmm, so and so. When I tasted a slice I said my sister - this is not rye, do you remember my last rye? She said something (she don't like to speak about bread but she like to eat rye bread), so yesterday I baked it again (and baked also my usual Pain Au Levain, I remember DiMuzio lesson "master one bread"). Now, I can say her - this is rye.

The formula is from J.Hamelman "80% Sourdough Rye with Rye-Flour Soaker", for me just "Pane di Segale". This is my favorite true (>70%) rye bread and the rye flour soaker is a great addition.


And this morning, after a rainy week, we finally see a ray of sun (or a rye of sun?).


Overall formula

Whole Rye Flour 80%
High Gluten Flour 20%
Water 78%
Yeast 0.5% (1.5% original)
Salt 1.8%


Preferment: 35% of the total flour (whole rye flour) is prefermented at 83% hydration. Remember to subtract the flour and water from the final dough ingredients. I usually build the sourdough with a 5:83:100 ratio and ferment about 14:00 at 21°C.

Whole Rye Flour 100%
Water 83%
Sourdough 5%


Soaker: 20% of the total flour (whole rye flour) is soaked with hot (boiling) water. Pour the water oven the flour, cover and let it at room temperature for 14:00. I keep the soaker in a warm spot for the first 02:00. Remember to subtract the flour and water from the final dough ingredients.

Whole Rye Flour 100%
Water 100%


Dough consistency: o_O ... it's rye! 


  • Mix all ingredients (desired dough temperature 28°C)
  • Bulk fermentation 00:30
  • Shape
  • Proof 00:50
  • Bake on stone with steam for the first 00:05-00:10 at 240°C, then another 00:45 at 220°C.

The dark dense crumb:                   
Next time I will try with some molasse or brown cane sugar. EDIT: next time I will try a long baking.
JoeVa's picture

It's about two or three weeks I bake the same basic bread ... I had a short discussion with Dan DiMuzio and I'm following his suggestion: "mastering bread one variety at a time, great bread baking is all about mastering the process, etc.". So I'm baking only a basic sourdough bread, that is a "Pain au Levain" with small adjustment in the process. I hear a voice in my mind - learn from the dough - and I think I'm mad.

The only thing I play with is scoring, and this is what I define "smile scoring".


and this is the final effect:




JoeVa's picture

Pizza is bread, bread crust.


I think a good pizza should have:

  • good dough: naturally leavened or proofed with indirect method like poolish or biga (that is: small amount of fresh yeast and a lot, a lot of time). I said "pizza is bread" because the actor in pizza is dough first, then the topping.
  • no more than 2 topping ingredients: mozzarella, pomodoro (tomato). I never eat and I do not agree with super topped pizza with "strange and exotic" topping. The biggest hazard I can do is mozzarella, pomodoro ciliegino and rucola (?garden rocket?) ... sorry I forgot olive oil and origano or basilico.
  • fast baking: the best pizza is baked in a wood fired oven at about 460°C in 00:01:30 / 00:02:00. In no more than 2 minutes the thin dough should cry, springing and browning.

There are a lot of pizza experts all over the world but the best pizza I ate was in Napoli. Is there a secret? I don't know! So my pizza is simple and good, not as good as true Pizza Napoletana, but I can't do better ...

Overall formula

Bread Flour 100%
Malted Flour 1.5%
Water* 65%
Salt 2.5%

*water should be adjusted with the absorption rate of **your** flour.

Preferment: 15%-20% of the total flour (bread flour) is prefermented at 100% hydration. Remember to subtract the flour and water from the final dough ingredients. I usually do a 1:2:2 feeding in the morning (08:00) so that my starter is ready after lunch (14:00) and I can mix the dough for pizza dinner.

Dough consistency: soft dough


  • Mix all ingredients except salt (desired dough temperature 26/27°C)
  • Autolyse 00:30, then add salt on top
  • Mix at medium gluten development
  • [Puntata]Rest for about 01:00.
  • [Staglio] Divide and shape small ball (220-250g)
  • [Appretto] Proof 04:00 at 25°C
  • Bake on stone at the high temperature as fast as you can.
When pizza is removed from the oven I add a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt on top.
I use a small electric pizza oven with baking stone and 400°C temperature (G3 Ferrari) - this is my baking trick. With this oven I can bake in about 5 minutes! Not fast as a wood fired oven ...                                                





Bottom (blistered crust and brown spots):



JoeVa's picture

Golosaria is a "culture and taste" exhibition. A unique event that brings to the fore the very best italian artisans. Every autumn they meet in Milano and Torino, and in spring in Monferrato to show you the most wonderful italian foods. Pasta, sauce, cheese, pastry, beer, chocolate, wine ...


I missed the date in Milano, so I went to Torino the following week (November 15, 2009)... and I went there as "breadaholic" to meet a master baker (Gianfranco Fagnola) and learn more about a famous miller (Molino Quaglia) and his top flour (Petra).

08:00 in the morning, get on the train to Torino (01:40 from Milano). Go straight to P.zza Mestieri Association Palace in "J. Durandi street, 13). Take a look around and stop at Molino Quaglia stand.



Here I spoke with the technical guy of Molino Quaglia: Giuseppe Vignato. He was really kind and he gave me a lot of information. Molino Quaglia is a big professional Italian miller located in Vighizzolo D'Esta (Padova). They build a "new concept flour": Farina Petra. In the above shots you can see Petra brochures and a loaf of Bread (Pane Bra a naturally leavened bread made with Petra by Gianfranco).

Petra is a stone milled in pureness flour made with the aid of modern technology, exalting the taste of wheat. Petra is made up of blends of selected wheat (most of them are not Italian) in order to give the taste of wheat, the protagonist, to bread, pizza and cakes. Here a few details: classified as Tipo 1 (extraction rate 80%), contains a lot of soluble fiber and the wheat germ, not malted (but checked in enzymatic activity, ie falling number), we do not have alveograph info but maybe >W300, proteins 14%, absorption 70%, milled with special stones controlled with laser technology.
They have Petra1 for bread, Petra3 for pizza, Petra5 for pastry and conTuttoIlGrano; my focus was on 1+3+conTuttoIlGrano. The last one is a whole version of Petra1 with added toasted bran (that's interesting!). Petra is perfect to be used with sourdough and indirect method (poolish and biga).

After the interview I asked Giuseppe to speak with Gianfranco, the baker. He was in the lab preparing all we would need for the afternoon (15:30) public session. So I met Giuseppe, a master and a gentleman! It was a cool experience as there were only three of us in the lab: me, Gianfranco and two baking teachers (the lab is located in the culinary school - Scuola Immaginazione e Lavoro). A lot of Q&A and hand-on tests!

Before lunch we mixed the dough for Pane Petra. (Shots: liquid levain, spiral mixer, mixed dough, Gianfranco put out the dough, Gaetano put the dough in the fermentation cell).




(12:30) Then we had a lunch break. I ordered my hand notes and ate my (Pane Fermento) sandwich with a good red handmade craft beer from the microbrewery. 13:30 back to the lab!


We pre-shaped the loaves, bench rest and final shaping. Back to the fermentation cell. (Shots: dough after bulk fermentation, pre-shaped loaves, Gianfranco shaping, fermentation cell)



In the afternoon the lab opens the doors (there were about 80 persons). Three sessions: bread, pastry and pizza.

Here some photos of the lab (small fork mixer, small spiral mixer, sourdough temperature controlled machine, pastry ingredients, Petra ciabatta poster, the lab, tools):





This was the bread session: Gianfranco showed two preferments, we tasted a biga and stiff sourdough, he showed sourdough refreshment and then scoring and baking. He answered to a question about starter activation, but I did not agree at all with him. (Shots: Gianfranco and Gaetano, the stiff mother dough, the refreshed stiff mother dough, scoring the dough, baking).




And now the information you are waiting for.

I think his "school" is the P.Giorilli's one. Gianfranco uses both stiff and liquid levain (the chef), his culture is refreshed 1:1:2 (stiff) and 1:2:2 (liquid) fermented about 04:00 at 28°C then kept stable at 12°C and used within 12:00, he feeds the culture with only white wheat strong flour (the same strong and balanced flour used for Panettone). He doesn't use (and I think he doesn't like) dough cold retardation. He says that he likes mild sourness and I don't agree with him, but after further information on the flavor I like (the French sourdough, Poilane style) he said my taste is elevated and most people in Italy do not accept this kind of flavor.

And now Pane Petra. Do not expect something unconventional, it's aligned with our processes.

Overall Formula

Petra1 100%
Diastatic Malt* 0.5%
Water 70-75%
Salt 1.8%

* this is the % for liquid malt.


15% of the total flour is prefermented at 100% hydration (1:1:2). 

Dough consistency


Desired dough temperature



  • Mix all ingredients except salt and malt, hold back 10% water.
  • Autolyse 00:20, then add salt and malt on top.
  • Mix on 2^ speed for about 00:15 and add slowly the remaining water to adjust the dough consistency.
  • Bulk fermentation 01:00 at 28°C 75% humidity.
  • Divide (800g) pre-shape and shape
  • Proof 03:00 at 28°C
  • Bake on stone at 240°C->220°C for 00:50 / 01:00.

We did not have a good steamed deck oven, so Gaetano advise the use of a big rack oven. The result was good but the absence of the stone and hot deck produced a "small defect" in one loaf, we had a "tunnel"! No one is perfect!


18:00 it's time to go home. And I bring with me a little piece of Gianfranco culture and 620g of Petra1 (this will be used for my "Petra test").


  Gianfranco Bagnola bakery is located in Viale Madonna dei Fiori, Bra (Cuneo).


JoeVa's picture

This bread is another of my "everyday sourdough" (I do not bake everyday! just ones in the weekend, and one pizza baking every week).

It's a lean dough made with 60% durum (re-milled) flour and 40% wheat flour. This is not "Pane di Altamura" which is 100% durum flour, but a variation of "Semolina Bread" from "Bread - J. Hamelman". I like durum flour but not 100%, I prefer to mix it with bread flour the get a more light bread. So the name of the bread is "Pane con Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro" (bread with re-milled durum flour).


Here you can see the durum flour I used in the dough: "Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro - Il Mugnaio di Altamura (Molino Martimucci)"


Note: this is finely milled durum flour, that is "re-milled".

The flour, and the grain from which it's extracted, is from Altamura a city in the south of Italy (in the region of Puglia). Altamura is famous for its bread: Pane di Altamura.

One thing a like of durum is the color: gold! the flour is a light yellow and gives the crumb a yellow tone, the crust has a golden shadings. I'm not so good in flavor descriptions ... the bread is medium sour (not aggressive); the crumb is soft airy but substantial; the crust is nutty (I like the contrast between crumb and crust when they are mixed in your mouth).

Durum wheat is the hardest wheat, high in protein and used for pasta and bread. It caryopsys is almost transparent (like glass) and very hard and can be milled coarsely or finely. In spite of the high protein content (12% / 16%) its gluten is not "strong" like soft/hard wheat. For this reason I suggest a gentle mixing. This is not a problem for me, I never use intensive mixing because I like hand mixing (gentle mixing with S&F) and improved mixing (by machine).

Overall Formula

Durum Flour 60%
Bread Flour 40%
Water* 60%
Salt 2%

*water should be adjusted with the absorption of **your** flour.


15% of the total flour (bread flour) is prefermented at 80% hydratation (12h / 14h at about 21/22°C - with a 20% inoculation). Remember to subtract the flour and water from the final dough ingredients. 

Dough consistency

Medium soft, not too much sticky.


  • Mix all ingredients except salt (desired dough temperature 25/26°C).
  • Autolyse 00:30, then add salt on top
  • 10 stroke (stretch and fold)
  • Repeat 3 more times at 00:10 intervals (10 stroke or until the dough starts to oppose resistance)
  • Bulk fermentation 01:45 with 1 fold
  • Divide and shape (I use a banetton or a bowl)
  • Proof 01:30 at 25°C
  • Retard 12:00 at 4°C
  • Bake on stone at 225°C 00:40, first 00:15 covered, last 00:10 with the door ajar.


Crumb shoot







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