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I was looking through the Community Bake on ciabatta, and I didn't see that anyone had tried using the original recipe of the inventor, Arnaldo Cavallari.  It's available on line as a photo of the recipe (in Italian) in his bakery, and there is a faithful translation available, too (I know because I transcribed the recipe from the photo by hand, and translated it with Google Translate). I'll post the links later.  The recipe is very different from what us home bakers typically do, and also from most ciabatta recipes I have seen.

Here's a brief summary: 10kg flour, 50g brewer's yeast, 5L water. Mix in spiral mixer 5 minutes. Ferment 16 - 22 hours at room temperature. Add 2L water, 100g sugar, 250g salt. Mix 5 minutes slow, 8 - 10 minutes medium, desired dough temperature 25 - 27 C (77 - 81 deg F). Bulk ferment 30 - 40 minutes. Scale into 300g pieces and shape onto floured boards.  Proof 1 hour uncovered. Turn loaves over onto baking sheets, bake with steam "at a high temperature" for 30 - 35 minutes, releasing steam halfway through.

Wow! 100% pre-fermented flour.  50% hydration biga. 70% final hydration (modern recipes are usually 80 - 85%). Proof uncovered. So different.

The hydration seems very low but we don't know much about his flour mix.  He said he worked it out with a selection of five local flours of different kinds, and came up with a milling method suitable for the bread - he owned his own production mill.  So we don't know anything about the ability of his flour mix to absorb water, nor what the effective extraction was.  I was not able to find a picture of an original loaf nor its crumb so we don't really know about that either.

We do know that he was trying to produce an Italian competitor to the baguette for sandwiches, and that the bread is said to have had a thin hard crust and soft open interior.

Well, I'm not about to make a batch with 10kg flour, and if I wanted to I couldn't handle nor bake it.  So it will have to be scaled down, in this case to 300g flour for experimenting.  We know that larger batches of dough can behave differently, often needing less yeast and maintaining a higher temperature better.  The oxygenation during fermentation will be different.  Also, I'm not going to try to mix a 100% hydration biga with my old KitchenAide mixer.  In fact, I planned to do the final mixing and kneading by hand too.

So this effort won't be 100% faithful to the original but I'll try to come as close as reasonably possible.  Here are my going-in decisions:

1. Sourdough instead of yeast, so I don't have to guess how much yeast will act the same.  Maybe yeast in a later bake. I used 7% of starter.  I thought this should give me a fairly long initial fermentation, maybe 12 hours.

2. Flour mix: 80% KA Bread flour, 10% sifted stone-ground whole wheat, 10% durum flour.  Maybe this will be something like the original, but who knows?  At least it should taste good.

3. After working in the last 20% (hydration) of water by hand, do several stretch-and-fold sessions to replace the machine mixing of the original.

4. Let the dough ferment long enough to double or nearly so, instead of using the one hour specified in the original.  There are just too many unknowns to justify setting a strict time limit.

Everything went pretty smoothly.  The first fermentation seemed to be done after 11 hours, a little quicker than I had in mind.  Mixing in all that extra water by hand was tedious, and I let the dough rest several times to help it absorb all the water. Then I kneaded it in the bowl until all the layers had merged together.  I did two sets of 20 coil folds 15 minutes apart. After that I thought the dough was in good shape and wouldn't need any more.  Overall the dough fermented for about 2 hours after the last S&F before it had doubled.

The dough was light and airy, and easier to handle compared with typical 80 - 85% doughs I've made in the past, but it felt rather wetter than I expected for a 70% hydration dough. The final proof took an hour.  The loaves baked with initial steam at 425 deg F for 27 minutes.

Overall I found the process fairly easy except for working in all the extra water.  Shaping and moving the loaves was easier than I expected.  The finished loaves look like respectable ciabatta bread.  The interior is soft but not as open as we have come to expect.  The crust was thin and on the hard side but not too hard to bite through in a sandwich.  The flavor is rich, with a little sourness as you would expect after the long ferment with sourdough.

As a sandwich loaf, I used it for a chicken salad sandwich for lunch today and I thought it was very nearly the perfect sandwich loaf. I was able to slice the loaf lengthwise and leave a bit of a hinge on one side.  The hinge had no tendency to break open.  This helps squishy fillings to stay in place. 

 What's next?  I want to try it again, using yeast for the biga.  I'll probably also repeat with sourdough, but less, maybe 4% instead of 7%.  I'd love to see what someone else comes up with, trying the original recipe.  This might be a very good place for a low-acid Levieto Madre starter, wouldn't you think?

Links :

The English translation:

The original recipe, in Italian -





tpassin's picture

After some discussion in recent threads, I decided that it's high time I tried out shorter bulk ferments. My guiding principle has been that the longer the flour is hydrated, and the longer it's fermented, the better the flavor. So I usually let bulk ferment go on to more than double, sometimes triple, the original size.  This usually gives me a fine, fairly uniform crumb, which may have large pores or smaller ones depending on hydration, grains, all these sorts of things.

This practice has served me well, and I like that kind of crumb, but I've been interested to see how a shorter bulk ferment could change things.  Some people only let the dough rise by 1/2 or 1/3, for example.  This bake is my first experiment.  As a bonus, I measured the pH with my new Hanna meter.

Here's the crumb shot, then the details:

 You can see that there is a wide range of pore and cavity sizes, and in the larger ones you can see some nice gelatization. The crust is gorgeous, and the height and oven spring were excellent. The crumb is well open for a 72% hydration loaf.  I'm very happy overall.

This loaf uses mostly all-purpose flour along with some malted barley and Irish-style whole wheat flours.  This made for a soft crumb.  It might be a little too soft for the crust, which is thin, flakey, and a little crunchy.

Formula (flour and water are totals including starter's flour and water) *
10% - malted stone ground barley flour
10% - KA Irish-style whole wheat flour
80% - Gold Medal All Purpose Unbleached
72% - water
20% - starter (100% hydration, made with bread flour)
2.2% - salt

* Total flour was 400g.

 8:30 AM - Rough mix of all ingredients
 9:00 - knead and stretch
 9:55 - 1st S&F, between wet hands
10:45 - 2nd S&F, between wet hands
12:05 - 3rd S&F, on bench with a little flour
1:30 PM - 4th S&F, on bench
3:30 - shape loaf, proof freestanding covered with plastic wrap**
4:55 - bake 

** Dough had risen by roughly 50%, compared with my usual 2.5X - 3X.

After the 3rd S&F the dough felt wonderfully silky, and was very extensible.  I decided to do a final S&F to reduce this extensibility.

Bake Profile
- Preheat oven with baking steel to 450 °F
- Uncover loaf last 15 minutes
- Slash, insert into oven
- Throw 12 oz tap water on steam tray, block vent for 1 minute***
- Turn temp to 300 °F for 15 minutes
- Turn temp to 425 °F
- Total bake time: 40 minutes.

*** The oven leaks steam so fast that hardly any is visibly coming out of the vent after a minute.

Here is a graph of the pH vs time.  Don't pay any attention to the first point looking lower than the second.  I just didn't write down the second digit of the reading, which I did for all the others.  I'm sure the first point was the same as the second one.

Oh, yes, the taste is rich, mellow, a bit buttery.  All in all, a successful experiment, I'd say. 

tpassin's picture

Like many others I have tried my hand at Irish soda bread from time to time.  I've never been happy with the results. The loaf has usually been flat, dry, crumbly, more scone-like.  Usually I have baked the loaves free-standing, a few times in an open skillet, and I usually have used baking powder instead of baking soda because it's more tolerant and why not?

I've read up on the history of Irish soda bread, and I even received a bag of King Arthur's Irish-style Whole Wheat flour for Christmas.

Then I found this story by Stella Parks on Serious Eats that has changed everything -

Digging deeply into how people actually made soda bread in the 19th century, she learned three things that make an enormous difference:

1. The dough should be *very* soft - as soft as can possibly be handled;

2. The dough needs to be alkaline, not acidic.  So you need enough baking soda to neutralize the buttermilk's acidity (baking powder is fairly neutral and won't do that).

3. The bread was mostly baked in an iron pot with short legs and a cover, set over coals and with coals heaped on top.  IOW, a Dutch Oven. Even when baked in a skillet, the skillet would have been covered.

Ms Parks tried it out, and she says the results were a revelation.  No more crumbly, dry bread with little taste.   To quote her,

Before digging in, I let the soda bread cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, a completely arbitrary time determined strictly by my own impatience. The sound of it was glorious, accompanied by a shower of crispy shards that flew out with every pass of the blade until my knife sank into a pillow crumb that gave way as cleanly as any sandwich loaf.

My first slice was without butter or salt, yet it tasted moist and rich, with an aroma something like that of a bakery-style pretzel—mild, but distinct. My second, third, fourth, and fifth slices were consumed in a blur of butter and honey

So I tried it and got pretty much the same result.  That was with white AP flour.  Then I made a loaf with 50% Irish-style WW, and that was wonderful too.  Both these loaves were rather flat because my dutch oven is too big across to provide any real containment.

For today's bake, I used a smaller, ceramic pot (2.5 qt) to contain the dough, and I added some baking powder to get more lift.  Wow! Look at that lift!

Here's what the loaf looked like before slicing:

 Today I'm a happy camper!


tpassin's picture

A few days ago I posted about a loaf of bread that included cooked oatmeal and graham flour (see I wanted to try it with buckwheat, and I found a box of Wolff kasha, which are toasted buckwheat groats.  Perfect!

The bread is very good in taste and texture, and the striking feature I want to highlight is how very open the crumb is. I didn't think a porridge loaf could have such an open crumb.  I used less flour for this loaf compared with the earlier oatmeal one, 300g vs 370g, yet it rose as high in the Pullman pan. Otherwise the recipe is the same: 20% (pre-cooking) kasha, 30% graham flour, 65% hydration, 30% innoculation with 100% hydration starter, 2% salt.  The starter was a little old, though, and had gotten somewhat thin.

I used the amount of water the package recommended for the weight of kasha I used.  The cooked porridge had absorbed almost all the water.  I had to hold it covered in the refrigerator over night for timing reasons, and the next day it was very dry and crumbly.  I loosened it up with a little milk, maybe an ounce/30g, and squeezed the porridge between my fingers until it turned into a thick paste.  After all the ingredients were mixed, the dough was a wet, thick paste.  I didn't worry about it since the previous loaf had the same pasty consistency.

One other change was that I bulk-fermented in my proofing box at 76 deg F/24.4C since my work counter was a little cooler, enough to slow down the development.  After I put the dough into the Pullman pan, I increased the proofing temperature to 78 deg F/25.6C.  It rose very well over the next 2 1/2 hours.

I baked with the lid for 40 minutes at 350 deg F/177C.  Then I removed the lid and baked at 400 deg F/204C for another 20 minutes.  As with the previous loaf this was enough to develop a thin but crunchy crust.  I think it would have been good to continue cooking the loaf for another 10 minutes, perhaps, to drive off more moisture since even the next morning the loaf had a very moist crumb.

With the previous oatmeal-graham loaf I found that the bread grew on me as I ate more, and this new loaf with kasha instead of oatmeal has an even richer flavor. And it toasts up so well!


tpassin's picture

I received a sack of graham flour for Christmas.  It is from Burkett's mill.  If you read up on graham flour you usually read that is whole wheat ground more coarsely than the usual WW.  If you find the right site, it will tell you that the endosperm is ground finely and the bran and germ are ground coarsely, I think the flour I have must be the latter.  It's color is lighter than the water wheel-stone ground flour I have, with larger flecks and dark bits.

For this loaf I cooked some rolled (porridge) oats in the microwave, and added them to the dough. The flour content is 70% bread flour, 30% graham flour, and the uncooked oats weighed 20% of the total flour.

A picture of the crumb, then ingredients -

70% bread flour (KA)
30% graham flour (Birkett's Mill)
20% oatmeal (rolled oats uncooked weight)
50% water (for cooking oatmeal)
60% other water
36% starter (100% hydration)
2.2% salt

370g flour (exclusive of starter)
990g Total dough weight

It is always hard to know how much of the water in cooked grains, scalds, etc. will contribute to the effective hydration.  In this case, I had trouble wetting all the flour so I added some water.  Apparently I added too much because I ended up with a thick, pasty batter.  A few sets of coil folds over the next 2 1/2 hours added some strength, but I still had to scrape the dough into the Pullman pan.

The loaf rose well in the end and has a surprisingly open crumb.  The crumb is a little delicate; the flavor is richer than the usual WW, and a little sweet, which I think is partly down to the graham flour and partly to the oatmeal.

I baked the loaf for 50 minutes at 350 deg F/177C without the lid.  The internal temperature had reached 208 F/97.7C but the loaf was pale and I knew it had a lot of moisture still to give off.  So I baked it at 400 F/204C for another 10 minutes.

Overall, a very nice loaf.

tpassin's picture

This bread uses rye and wheat flours in the same proportions as dmsyder's San Joaquin breads, but the process and levain are different, and the rye is toasted. I included a little sugar because that seems to go well with the rye.

The loaves proved to a surprisingly large size, baked up beautifully, have a wonderful crust, an open crumb, and a mild lovely flavor with cereal notes.  I don't taste any sourness.

The dough has 65% hydration (not counting the starter ingredients) and 30% starter, with no levain build stage.  The shaped loaves were proofed freestanding and retarded overnight in the refrigerator. Pictures first, then details.  The sheen on the crust is not an illusion. Actually, in person the sheen is even more pronounced. It's something I expect to get on most of my free-standing bakes.

The truncated bit on the left side of the crumb photo is where the two loaves merged, like Siamese twins joined at the hip.

Total flour 600g (not including starter)
      5% toasted rye
    10% whole wheat (93% extraction stone ground)
    85% all purpose Pillsbury Unbleached All Purpose)

30% starter (100% hydration, fresh white AP flour))

65% water
2.0% sugar
2.5% salt

This produced two loaves of about 475g each, or a little more than one pound.

- toast rye
- mix starter, all flours, salt, sugar, water
- rest 30 - 45 minutes
- knead/stretch
- 2 S&F in hands over next 1.5 hours
- finish bulk ferment (5 hours total)
- scale, form two loaves, preform, rest 10 minutes
- proof loaves 1.5 hr covered with plastic wrap
- refrigerate loaves overnight
- warm up loaves 45 minutes, uncovered last 10
- preheat oven to 450° F
- bake with steam at 425° F for 38 minutes
- cool down in vented oven for 4 minutes (turned off).

The dough rose quickly in both bulk ferment and final proof, where it took me by surprise. I have a tendency to underproof my loaves - though they seem developed by the poke test - and though I was worried these had overproofed since they had swelled so much, as you see they came out quite beautiful.

The loaves proofed side-by-side on a parchment-covered plastic cutting board.  They got so big that in the end they touched and merged together at the middle, like a tray of buns. They started to overflow the cutting board by bake time.

As usual I baked with a baking steel and steam.  My oven vents steam out of a range-top vent within a few minutes, and this time I blocked the vent for a few minutes to keep more steam in the oven longer.  The dramatic sheen and the rich color you can see in the pictures are enhanced by the steam.  I used to get them with a previous oven, but my present one vents more aggressively.

The crust is very crackly and flakes into shards when you bite it, and you can bite through it without a fight.  The crumb is very open for a 65% hydration bread. It's a little soft, which might be because I didn't wait for a complete cooldown, or could be a hint to use bread flour next time.

All in all, a big success.


tpassin's picture

I used the same formula as for my 50-50 Emmer bread -

and made rolls instead of a loaf.  The process was the same.  I portioned the dough into 4-oz (114g) pieces.  This might be a little large for a roll, and I would probably go for either 3 or 3.5 oz next time (85 - 100 g).  The dough, though a bit sticky,  was easy to shape as long as I used a little flour on my hands and the bench.  The rolls overnighted in the refrigerator on a parchment-covered cutting board, covered with a sheet of plastic wrap. There was no sign of drying out or slumping.

To get the glaze, I mixed a little water with an egg yolk and brushed on a double layer after slashing.  I have found that using an egg yolk instead of a whole egg makes for a deeper glaze, sometimes even looking like it was lacquered.

These were baked with steam on a baking steel at 450° F for 15 minutes.

The crust is softish, which is good for a roll.  The crumb and flavor are just about the same as for the linked 50% emmer loaf. 

tpassin's picture

Recently I've posted about bakes using 50% spelt and 50% einkorn:

Today's loaf used the third "ancient" grain - emmer.  I've never used it before.

As for the other two flours, this emmer was stoneground by a local restored water mill (Locke's Mill in northwestern Virginia).  The bits of bran were much smaller than with the einkorn flour, and I had to use a finer sieve to remove them.  I ended up with about a 94% extraction, made a soaker with the bran, and added the soaker to the flour during mixing.

The formula was the same as I used for the einkorn loaf, except that I expected that the water might come out a little differently since einkorn is known for being slow to absorb water.

220g sifted emmer (Locke's mill)
all the soaker
200g KA bread flour
150g white sourdough starter, refreshed earlier in the day
285g water (includes water in soaker and water added during mixing)
10g salt

During mixing I added 15g more water than originally planned to hydrate some dry flour in the bottom of the mixing bowl.  This water was absorbed well and I did not feel a need to add any more later.  By contrast, the einkorn dough didn't want to absorb added water and I actually left some liquid water in the bowl to be worked in during later S&Fs.

Other than the water and improved handling, the process was the same as I had used for the einkorn loaf. The dough rested after mixing for 35 minutes, and had two more S&F sessions over the next 1 3/4 hours.  Bulk ferment lasted 6 hours.  Shaped the loaf with no perform - the dough had become very extensible so I stretched it very far in the first stages of shaping.

The shaped loaf proofed for 55 minutes in a proofing basked, and then was refrigerated overnight for 13 hours.  After it warmed up for 15 minutes the loaf was turned out onto a parchment-covered cutting board, slashed, and slid into the preheated oven onto a baking steel.  I generated steam by pouring water onto rocks in a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven.

I baked the loaf at 400° F for 40 minutes.  The top had turned black, which was a surprise, and the internal temperature was 208° F. From the pictures below you can see that there was good expansion in the oven and the crumb came out nicely open for this kind of bread.  The flavor is outstanding, the best (to my taste) of the three kinds: spelt, einkorn, emmer.  I would say that this loaf has the ideal flavor I always look for an a whole-wheat type of loaf.

The dough was easy to handle and work with, now that I've gained experience with the spelt and einkorn variations.  I'd say the dough properties were between the spelt and einkorn loaves.  And now for the photos:

tpassin's picture

This loaf is a slightly changed version of the bread in my previous 50% einkorn post

Here's what I changed:

1. Used KA bread flour for all the white flour, as I had intended all along;
2. For the soaker, I used more water with the bran (about 30g) and heated the mixture to about 150° F;
3. During initial mixing I withheld about 50g of the planned water (see below);
4. The hydration ended slightly lower - about 20g of water less;
5. I proofed the loaf in a proofing basket;
6. I retarded the loaf in the refrigerator overnight.

Here's the formula from before:

220g sifted einkorn (Locke's mill)
all the soaker
200g KA bread flour
150g white sourdough starter
270g water (but see #3 below)
10g salt

For #3, after I mixed everything by hand and worked all the water in by repeatedly squeezing the dough, I thought the dough could handle more water.  I was mindful that in reading, it's always said that einkorn either can't absorb as much water or that it absorbs water slowly.  My plan was to get gluten development started and then work in more water.

This seemed to work - the dough was not sticky or hard to handle, so I added about 30g more.  It didn't absorb much, so I let the dough rest covered for half an hour with the unabsorbed water sitting in the bottom of the bowl.  Then I mixed by squeezing and kneading, and all that water got absorbed.  The dough felt good and easy to handle, so I didn't add any more water.  This means the total water was about 250g, not the 270g originally planned.  This makes the overall hydration including water and flour in the starter about 66%.

After this, I did a first S&F after 30 minutes - basically coil folds, though I took the dough out and stretched it in my hands for the last two turns.  A second S&F after a further 40 minutes, also between my hands.  The dough was getting extensible, but was willing to hold a shape, and was not sticky.  Altogether, the dough was much easier to handle compared with the previous einkorn loaf.

After a 5 hour bulk ferment, the dough had more than doubled and was growing rapidly.  I shaped it into a log without making a preform, and put it seam side up in the rattan proofing basket. Shaping was easier than the previous loaf because the dough was firmer and not sticky.  I covered it with a thin cotton hand towel.

After 45 minutes the loaf was rising well and possibly proofed well enough to bake, like the previous loaf after the same BF and proof times.  Instead, I put the loaf into the fridge.

The next morning I preheated the oven to 410° F for an hour. I took the loaf out of the fridge 10 minutes before bake time.  The top (while in the basket - i.e., the seam side) was pretty dry so I wiped it with water.  I inverted the loaf onto a parchment-covered cutting board, slashed it, and baked with initial steam for 37 minutes, to internal temperature 208° F.

The results were very pleasing.  The loaf was not overproofed during the overnight retardation, the crumb was a little more open than the previous loaf and was on the soft side (like the previous loaf).  The shape of the loaf was more pleasing because it had not had a chance to spread sideways much, and the overall volume was good.

Overall, I'm happy with this loaf, and the experience makes me more confident about raising the proportion of einkorn in the future.

In the pictures below, the slice may look smallish because it is the first slice off the end.


tpassin's picture

After trying my hand at a 50% spelt loaf - see

I made a similar loaf with 50% einkorn flour. The stone-ground flour comes from a local restored water mill.  I've read a lot, mainly on this site, about how einkorn flour is runny and sticky and won't hold its shape.  E.g.,

I did recently make a loaf of mostly einkorn that I had to bake in a loaf pan - it had a very fine taste -  and I wondered if I could make a 50-50 formula hold a shape better.  I have also read that you won't really taste the einkorn difference until you get to a much higher percentage of einkorn flour.

The formula and procedure were nearly the same as for the 50% spelt loaf, with one exception I'll talk about in a minute.

220g sifted einkorn (Locke's mill)
all the soaker
200g white flour
150g white sourdough starter
270g water
10g salt

I increased the salt from 9g to 10g in the hope of strengthening the gluten.  My kitchen sifter sifted out about 7% of the flour weight, the same as for the spelt flour from the other post.  I poured 150% of the weight of the bran in boiling water to make a soaker, which I added back during initial kneading.

The big difference with the spelt loaf was that I didn't use bread flour for the 50% white component  By a mental lapse, I started adding all purpose flour, and only realized when I had put in 150g of the planned 200g. The remaining 50g was King Arthur bread flour, and I added another 10g for good measure.

Otherwise, the dough and its development went almost exactly like it did with the 50% spelt loaf.  I did proof it about an hour longer (I was out on a visit to a local farm market), and the bulk ferment volume had tripled.  Nothing wrong with the rising ability!  Overall, I did two stretch-and-fold sessions as for the spelt loaf.

Now for the shaping - gulp - the dough was pretty extensible and sure enough, didn't want to hold its form.  I rolled it and re-rolled it about 4 times and finally got to a point where I thought there might be some chance for a free-standing proof.  If it didn't work out, I figured I would convert the loaf to a pan loaf.

After 45 minutes, the loaf was proofed enough but it had spread out a lot sideways.  I suppose that was to be expected.  I thought it could make a successful bake anyway, so I went ahead and slashed it and baked with steam.  It baked to an internal temperature of 208° F in 30 minutes at 410° F.

You can see from the pictures that although the loaf did end up very wide, it rose decently and the crumb is quite open for this kind of flour.  I think this bread would work well in a pain rustique form factor.

The flavor?  It was very pleasant, but I thought the distinct einkorn taste was not very prominent.  This fits in with other's remarks that a higher percentage of einkorn is needed to let its distinctive flavor come forward.


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