The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Pane Fermento

JoeVa's picture

Pane Fermento


Ok, here I am with my first post!

I am a new entry in TFL, but I have been reading your Blogs, Receipts and Q&A since about 1 year. I am italian, I live in the north of Italy and I love bread and baking.

My first blog entry is about my very basic Sourdough Loaf. I named it "Pane Fermento" and it is a "Pain au Levain" style loaf. It's a lean dough, with just good flour (white wheat and whole rye), water, salt and sourdough (translation of pasta acida but I usually say lievito madre). I prefer to retard the shaped loaf overnight. I really love this bread, the rye (and the cold proofing) contribute a particular flavour, it has a light "sweet" crumb and a great crust.


From now on remember my % are related to italian flour and ingredients; so pay attention to water %, it's about -5% the amount you need with "American AP/Bread flour".

Overall Formula

Bread Flour 90%
Whole Rye Flour 10%
Malted Flour* 1.5%
Water 59%
Gray Salt 1.9%

*I add a small amount of malted flour to get a better enzymatic activity, my flour is not malted from the miller.


15% Bread flour is prefermented at 80% hydratation (12h / 14h at about 21/22°C - with a 20% inoculation).

Dough consistency

Medium soft, a little bit sticky at the beginning (hydratation rate with my flour 59%:61%)


  • 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 02:00 with 1 fold
  • Divide and shape (I use a banetton)
  • Proof 01:30 at 25°C
  • Retard 12:00 at 4°C
  • Bake on stone at 230°C 00:40, first 00:15 covered, last 00:10 with the door ajar.


Crumb shoot


Bread slice (1cm width)



chouette22's picture

... and welcome to TFL! You are accompanying your introduction with a gorgeous loaf of bread. Just beautiful!

avatrx1's picture

I might give this a go!  it looks wonderful.  How do I tell if my flour is 'malted' or not?  I always take it out of the big bags I buy it in, put it in 2 gal ziploc bags and keep the majority of it in the freezer.

malt flour isn't malt powder is it?  I have some of that known as diastatic malt powder.  same thing?


what type of leavening did you use.  I don't think I saw yeast or starter mentioned, but then you are more 'technical' on this than I am, so I probably just missed it?

JoeVa's picture

Susie, you can check the ingredients listed on the flour bag.

For example look at this (KAF AP flour bag - image from "Farine" blog):

Malted flour is the same of malt powder or diastatic malt; it's just sprouted wheat/barley dried and grounded. It is full of alpha/beta amylase enzymes that help the break down of complex sugar (wheat is 80% starch, that is sugar) into simple one "eaten" by yeast (the one you can taste sweet!). Organic flour is usually not malted, conventional flour is malted by the miller if needed (it is calculated by a lab test ... falling number). This is a long discussion so I stop here. Just one recommendation: diastatic malt must be used with attention 0.5% -> 1.5%, too much can "destroy" your dough (very sticky, slack dough). I hope this help you.

Yes I use only "wild yeast" (I think you call it starter) I started from italian organic stone grounded flour: this is a sourdough bread.


avatrx1's picture

That answers my question but how much starter at what hydration?  Did you use an all white flour 'starter'?  I have both a 100% hydration white and another made with all rye.  I haven't used the rye one yet - I've just begun to get that one going and I have a recipe I plan to try it in, but my white starter is ready and waiting for the perfect recipe.

I have both high gluten, malted flour and some organic white. I may even have some all-purpose (10 -11.5% gluten).  I'll have to check.

Next time I take my flour out of the big bags to freeze it, I should notate what it might or might not have.  currently its just labeled as high gluten and AP or wheat  / rye etc.


JoeVa's picture

To answer you question about "how much starter at what Hydratation":

(Note: everything is expressed as a % of flour)


15% Bread flour is prefermented at 80% hydratation.

This means you use 15% of the total flour (taken from the bread flour) in the overall formula to build the started needed for the final dough. It's hydratation is 80%. Then, you inoculate the flour+water with a small amount of mature starter (the seed). We want to use this when it is at the maximum activity level. But, how much starter I use as a seed? Depending on your starter strength, room temperature, etc. you can use a variable amount of it; as a guideline I use a 20% inoculation. This can also be expressed in [starter:water:flour] ratio, ie: [1:4:5]. With this ratio and a room temperature of about 21°C (70°F) the preferment reach the peak (full of bubble and almost ready to collapse) in about 12h / 14h (one night).

There are different way to express formula with a preferment.

I like the Hamelman schema: overall formula + indication of how much flour/water subtract from the total to build the final levain.

I like this because with a quick look you understand how will be the final dough. Another way is to express the amount of starter as a % of flour  (I think you know this) ... but I can't immediately figure out the final dough hydratation, because the starter contribute water/flour at different ratio to the final dough.

To help you I give you a final example:

Overall Formula (this is the final dough composition)
[90%] 900g - Bread Flour
[10%] 100g - Whole Rye Flour
[1.5%] 15g - Malt
[59%] 590g - Water
[1.9%] 19g - Salt

Now I calculate the preferment and the final dough ingredients that I will mix together:

Preferment (15% pre-fermented flour at 80% hydratation)
150g - Bread Flour
120g - Water
30g - Starter (this won't be include in the final dough, just remove it before mixing the final dough to preserve the culture)

Final Dough
900g-150g=750g - Bread Flour
100g - Whole Rye Flour
15g - Malt
590g-120g=470g - Water
19g - Salt

A word about flour: I do not have a lot of experience with american flour (I baked with KAF AP only one time and I used 5% more water than with my flour), so I can only say that AP flour is ok for hearth bread. Pay attention to hydration because different flour needs different water to achieve the proper dough consistency; my dough is medium soft a bit sticky at the beginning (this is an indication).


avatrx1's picture

thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.  I'll have to read it over a few times to 'digest' it, but I think I get the overall scheme.

Just when I think I"m getting a handle on all of this - another term or method shows up.  That's a good thing because it gives me a better all-round view of how to do this successfully.

THank you - I think I'll try this in the week to come now that I have this information


weavershouse's picture

Your bread is beautiful.



Floydm's picture

Beautiful looking loaf.

Welcome to the site!

SylviaH's picture

Welcome to TFL. 


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Welcome to TFL :-)

nicodvb's picture

HI, nice bread indeed.

What kind of sourdough do you use? solid or liquid?

and what percentage of sourdough do you use with respect to flour?


Do you feel the flavour typical of solid sourdough in this bread? The rare times that I bake white or hard wheat breads (80% of the times I bake 100% rye bread) my liquid sourdough doesn't leave any flavour.

Thanks and ciao from Bologna.

JoeVa's picture


The answer to your first two questions is linked HERE.

I think you won't like this almost white sourdough loaf. It have subtle acidity notes, and I like it because it's light and it's a good companion for any food.

Rye sourdough bread is another not comparable wonderful world!

If you want some tips about good durum / soft wheat flour you can buy in Italy, leave me a message.


breadinquito's picture

Ciao Joe, complimenti da Quito (Equador) per il pane...bellissimo e noto che la mollica è abbastanza bianca, cosa che a me non succede quando faccio il pane in casa. Se noti errori d' ortografia, tieni semplicemente presente che qui a Quito ci vivo da 21 anni, e non sono di quelli che frequentano l' ambasciata o il centro culturale Dante Alighieri...tornando al pane: aspetto con impazienza l' avvicinarsi del Natale..non per la sua sfrenata commercializzazione ma per la soddisfazione che da produrre in casa un panettone con pasta madre e frutto di quasi 3 gg di lavoro (o meglio di passione). Ma xche nessuno pensa a chattare online (x esempio via skype) sul mondo del pane? Un salutone. Paolo

JoeVa's picture

Ciao Paolo.

I love Artisan Panettone ... I have to reveal I never baked it at home, 3 days of work + lot of expensive ingredients ... I'm not ready! Maybe when I will buy a new oven I will try this adventure.

The crumb is creamy white because it's 90% white flour (farina di grano tenero tipo 0 manitoba) and the gentle mixing technique do not over oxidizes the dough.


knit1bake1's picture

Ciao, giovanni. I usually spend at least one month working in Venice/year, and since 2 years have started to bake my own bread there. I have a different apartment there each time, so only have the most basic equipment. Basically, I have a bowl and a spoon and an oven. I bring a few tools with me from the States when I go. I haven't made a starter while in Italy, so I guess I should practice here, and then make one as soon as I get to Venice. Here in the States I only have starters that were "started" by someone else. I made one loaf last December that I took over to someone's house for dinner. There was me and my husband (both American), the English couple who were hosting us, and an Italian guest. They were all really impressed with my hearth bread, but then I had somewhat of a better oven than I will have this next time. But I have enjoyed baking in Venice until the weather gets too hot. And I now make my own challah there, also. Beth

JoeVa's picture

Venice is a beautiful place to live/work. You are lucky.

You can bring with you a small amount of your starter from US. You could dry it, or just put a little bit of it in a small stiff dough and put this into a small glass jar. It won't die for 24 and more hours.

If you go to Verona I suggest you a visit to "Antico Molino Rosso" (an organic miller) and Panificio Ceres (bakery).

I hope you can impress a lot of Italian people with you hearth sourdough bread. In Italy there are really few good bakery! 99% of the bakery use fresh yeast and direct method (lot of yeast and short fermentation)... they do not know what is a poolish, a biga or a sourdough. And with this bread all around now many person are not able to appreciate sourdough bread, they like white yeasted bread with no character that the next day are gummy or hard like an hammer ... but this is only my opinion!


PS: what do you think of italian flour?


knit1bake1's picture

I forgot! I did take a smidgen of sourdough starter last summer. I even shared it with someone who lives in Ferrara. I have found several stores in Venice where I can get flour. I think the bread flour I buy is from Canada (Manitoba). I can also find whole wheat flour at a few stores, and also can easily get semolina if I want it. In the U.S. I can't get semolina bread flour unless I order from King Arthur. I noticed there is a bakery near where my apartment will be when we return in May, the same we were in last May. This bakery, near the end of our visit, had a sign out that they had some bread made with "pane madre." So I have seen it in one or two other places in Venice, but have not tasted the bread. There is a bread store near the Rialto that has some wonderful bread that I love, but when our apartment changed "zones" I don't have time to go there anymore, since I work 6 days/week. It's great to know that more and more Italians are making bread. Last spring I was in New Haven in a program, in which there were also 3 Italian men. One of them has a wife who makes bread frequently in Ferrara, with a bread machine. I gave her some starter last June. One of the other guys I taught to make bread and he started making it every day! Giovanni, you are right about the bread. Even the bakery near where I work in Venice, the bread isn't as good as it used to be. And after one gets used to home-made bread, one doesn't like store-bought so much. So bread making is good in Venice. I have a friend who just spent a year in Ireland, and she said the flour was very different, and the whole wheat flour was quite coarse. Someone else I met, an Italian, had also lived in Ireland, said the same thing. In England, on the other hand, one can easily get good flour to bake with. Alright - basta for now.  Beth

JoeVa's picture

I think the bakery said "pasta madre" it means "mother dough".

In Italy bread flour is classified as Manitoba. Maybe they call it Manitoba because it is a blend of italian soft wheat and hard winter wheat grain from Canada (we also have hard wheat fields here in Italy but ...). I do not like this name, they use the name of a place for a product classification. In italy you can buy good durum flour, but pay attention not all durum is good for bread: I like semola rimacinata from Altamura (the place of "Pane di Altamura") from Molino Mininni and also from Molino Martimucci.


nicodvb's picture

Voiello and Divella are excellent brands, too.

As a rule of thumb hard wheat flours produced in the northern italy isn't worth the price of the envelope ;(

Hard wheat must be cultivated in  the southern part in order to be good.

JoeVa's picture

I never tried this brand (maybe because in my mind I associate them to pasta so ...).

Just one note about wheat classification: US classification of wheat by hardness is: soft, hard and durum. The one we call "grano duro" is durum although is literally translated "hard wheat". "hard wheat" is a grain with high protein contents (used in US AP/Bread flour), it is also planted in Italy (the most used varieties are Taylor, Sagittarius ...). I know there is a little bit of ambiguity. There are a lot of difference in wheat and flour classification among US, Italy, France etc.


nicodvb's picture

aaaahhhhhh, so hard wheat is what Tibiona calls "semiduri"?

JoeVa's picture

Yes, it's classified as "semi-duri" (medium-hard).


gosiam's picture

Beautiful bread, Giovanni.  Thank you for sharing the formula and extending all this knowledge.


knit1bake1's picture

In Venice I don't seem to have much choice as to which brand I can buy. Well, that's not exactly true. The store that seems best for "normal" flour has several types. I can't remember if they are the same as the Voiello and Divella. I can also go to the health food store for whole wheat. Some stores don't have much other than 00, so it really helps to find out which stores will have the flours that I will want. It's also not too easy to find oats. The store that has the good flour supply has oats; otherwise, I must go to a health food store. Giovanni, that's one beautiful loaf. Beth 

JoeVa's picture

Here a list of organic store (NaturaSì chain) near Venice. You will find all type of flour (kamut, rye, spelt, oats, rice, wheat, durum ... stone grounded or not ...). Give it a look, i'm sure you'll love it. A usually buy some of my flour there.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Joe.

Let me add my "Welcome to TFL!"

Gorgeous bread!


JoeVa's picture

Thank you, David.

You are a master and font of inspiration for me.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

For making such a beautiful loaf and making the "front page" feature!  Well deserved! 

Ciao & Servus,  


ehanner's picture

A very dramatic entrance Giovanni! You have indeed mastered the technique of using natural yeast (sourdough). I look forward to seeing what other breads you enjoy.



JoeVa's picture

Thank you, Eric.

I think everyone has always something to learn ... and I learn a lot from TFLs. Thank you all.

I hope you will enjoy future posts on my favorite breads, bakery, etc.


caraway's picture

Your loaf is gorgeous and instructions very thorough and much appreciated.  Can't wait to get my starter back up to snuff so I can give it a try. 


JoeVa's picture

You are welcome Sue. Remember the % and the process I wrote are only directions. That's all. With time and errors you'll develop a feeling with flour, hydratation, dough, temperature, ...

A short history:
I gave my colleague Paolo this formula; I gave it also the flours, malt (no water and salt), he had already my starter. He's not new to bread baking, so I spoke with him a lot about how control dough temperature, evaluate gluten development, sourdough activity and so on. He baked the bread the same day I did (on saturday morning). So I did everything I can to minimize differences between involved variables. On monday morning we carried a slice of bread at work and compared the result. They were both good, but different: there were some differences in the aspect, the taste, the crumb, etc. The point is not which differences I found, but that two men with the same ingredients and process directions will bake different bread. This is the story.

Good baking.


GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

I want to reach into my computer and grab to my refrigerator and find the butter and then run to a corner and hide while I munch, munch, munch.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. 

Farine's picture

What a gorgeous loaf, Giovanni! Bravo! I also love your excellent write-up. I find it thrilling that home baking is taking off in Italy as well as in France, the UK, etc. It is the best possible way to let the bakers know that we care deeply about the bread we eat.

JoeVa's picture

Thank you MC. I love your blog, you are a great source of learning.


sewcial's picture

This is an absolutelly beautiful bread, Giovanni,

I would like to try to make it, but I've been struggling to keep a starter alive. We went on a 2 week trip, so I put mine in the freezer and have been trying to revive it the past couple days. My stiff one is okay, but the liquid one seems sick. 

Tomorrow I will try a recipe from Local Breads and, if that proves my starter is really alive, I plan to try  yours next.

That crust and crumb and slash makes me drool!


JoeVa's picture

Remember to focus on the process (the receipt is only a guide for your baking). I hope your starter is OK. You can also use the stiff one! I keep only one starter.