The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

SFBI Artisan II Workshop - Day 5

dmsnyder's picture

SFBI Artisan II Workshop - Day 5


Today, we baked the three breads that we had shaped yesterday and retarded overnight – olive bread, raisin-walnut bread and miche. We also mixed and baked francese, French “country shapes” and baguette made with both pâte fermentée and liquid levain.

Olive breads loaded and scored

Raisin-Walnut breads, scored on loader

Miche, scored on loader

Miche, baking in the deck oven

Miche crumb

Some of the breads I baked today

Miches, Olive breads, Raisin-Walnut breads

Frank provided detailed instruction and demonstrations of shaping all the breads, but spend most time on the French Country Shapes, which are seldom baked commercially. They are intentionally innovative and decorative.

Frank demonstrating French Country Shapes

Dough pre-shaped for various French Country Shapes

Couronne Bordelais

Fleur. I have also seen this shape called "Marguerite" (Daisy)

Pain d'Aix


French Country Shapes on the loader.

I have not posted photos of all the individual shapes Frank demonstrated, for example the Tordu, the Fendu, the Viverais, the Tabatier, and the Avergnat.

Some of the French Country Shapes I made


As I'm sure you all appreciate, there is no way to share everything I've learned. I have selected a few bits of information each day that either provided me with new insights or suggestions for techniques that violate conventional wisdom.

Today's tidbits

We spent some time this afternoon reviewing all the formulas, methods and theory we had covered during the entire week. In discussing autolyse, Frank recommended holding back the levain from the autolyse, even when using a liquid levain, except when the hydration in the final dough is extremely low – say, less than 60% - when the levain really would have a very large percentage of the total water in the dough. His reason is that one chief purpose of autolyse is to develop gluten with less mixing. The acid in the liquid levain inhibits gluten formation, thus defeating the purpose of the autolyse.

Michel Suas re-joined our class for the “graduation ceremony.” He made a plea for us to do “artisan baking” and, as much as possible, avoid mechanization and the use of artificial ingredients. He also shared a “hot tip” that the coming fashion in artisan baking is the use of “ancient grains” such as kamut, teff, etc. He told us that the SFBI staff have been actively experimenting with these grains to develop formulas that use them to produce great breads. I certainly had noticed the immense quantity of flour made with ancient grains on racks and palettes in the bakery, although we did not use them in Artisan II.

This week just flew by for me. The quality of Frank Sally's instruction was just outstanding, as was his skill demonstrations. The opportunity to try new breads and learn new techniques is wonderful, as is gaining a better understanding of the baking process, especially fermentation itself.

Especially for the home baker, the chance to spend so much time with other serious bakers, whether they be other home bakers, serious professionals in training or seasoned professionals, is a rare and wonderful experience.  




Yippee's picture


Happy Holidays to you and your family.


arlo's picture

Excellent post again David. I love the pictures of the regional shaping styles, very elegant. The miche crumb is outstanding of course! Was it the recipe from AB&P by chance? Are pretty much all the recipes you use in class from AB&P?

I'd love to go to SFBI for a few classes, I think my skills in the bakery  would really benefit from Artisan series, unforunately it would end up being very expensive just for a week, finding a hotel and all. Soon though hopefully!

Guess I'll keep honing my skills with the mad Holiday rush we are facing right now :)


dmsnyder's picture

The miche we baked was not from the AB&P book. It is superior. I'll be baking it at home, for sure.

The SFBI courses are not cheap, especially when you include lodging, travel and meals. However, these workshops would be an excellent investment for your bakery to make in you. If it is serious about producing artisan breads of the highest possible quality, the SFBI workshops are a real bargain. Tell your boss I said so. :-)


noonesperfect's picture


What was different about the miche you made in class? I took the weekend version of the sourdough program, but we didn't make the miche. I'm always curious about differences between the classes and the book, so anything you can point out about differences (and any reasons you may have learned) would be appreciated.


dmsnyder's picture

The miche in AB&P was described in an earlier post - Day 3 or 4, I think. It was over 200% levain and is mainly of historical interest, I think.

The miche we baked today uses mostly bread flour (not high extraction flour) with a little toasted wheat germ. It is very different in many ways.

When I bake it at home, I'll include the formula.


GSnyde's picture


When I bake it at home, I'll include the formula.

I, too, would love to have this miche formula.  It is one of the best breads I've ever tasted.  A near perfect chewiness.

But, after trying the Raisin-Walnut Bread you made, I really want that formula...when you bake it at home...soon, please.

It is a very similar bread to the Acme Cranberry-Walnut Bread, which is one of our favorites (one of the few breads we still buy at the grocery these days).  I would be very popular at home if I could bake a bread like that.




dmsnyder's picture

SFBI had slices of a Cranberry-Walnut bread out for breakfast one morning. It was the best nut/fruit bread I've ever had. Hmmm ... I wonder if it's in AB&P. 

I've got to make some room in my freezer before I bake more bread. I'm eating as fast as I can! 


patnx2's picture

and bake. You are such a great baker and writer. You are so good to share so freely. I do believe you are ready to write a bread book and a good one it would be. Thanks David. Patrick from Modesto

hansjoakim's picture

Yet again, inspiring photos and a great write-up. Thanks for sharing, David!

I'm curious to hear more about what your thoughts are on the SFBI courses you've taken. What are the most important things you bring home with you at the end of this second course?

Apart from the experience itself and inspiration that comes with a course like this, are there things you've learned during the course that you could not have learned by working your way through ABAP at home?

dmsnyder's picture

I tried to describe the things I learned in my blog postings. I went into some detail for a few of the pearls of wisdom. Most, I mentioned in rather telegraphic form. It would truly take a book length treatise to describe everything.

The bulk of the material presented didactically is in AB&P, but the workshops go into a lot more depth, and the interaction with the instructor provides opportunities for clarifying issues.

There is also a process of metamorphosis of knowledge into understanding that occurs, at least for me, when principles learned from books and in the classroom are immediately put into practice in the bakery.

For developing dough handling skills, there is no way a book can look at how you pre-shape a bâtard and tell you what to do differently with the next piece of dough you pick up. Or look at your baked loaf and tell you "Those wrinkles on the crust mean you need to shape tighter next time." Or "You need to roll out the top piece for your couronne  bordelais thinner so it covers the center of the banneton just to this point (5 mm further than what you have now)."


Jaydot's picture

I have been eagerly awaiting each next installment of this series, and I've enjoyed reading/studying them tremendously. Thanks for writing (and illustrating!) them!

Tonight I will add my leaven after autolyse :).

ehanner's picture

I've looked forward to your daily wrap up of the Artisan class. Having a better understanding how to control the flavor will be interesting to try at home. Thanks for sharing the experience.


LindyD's picture

Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights, David.

Floydm's picture

What they all said: thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.  It looks like you had a tremendous time.

wally's picture

I bake 5 days a week for a living now, and frankly, I'm envious of your 5-day class.  What a great opportunity.  Thanks again for sharing it with all of us!

Best Holiday wishes-


GSnyde's picture

I'm always willing to fulfill my fraternal duties, so Cat and I met David and Susan at the Peet's in South SF this morning to lighten their bread load.  I think we got about 20 pounds of artisan bread in a large variety of shapes and doughs.  We brought meats, cheeses, almond butter, jam and tools, so that we could do some sampling with coffee before their drive home.  Everything we tasted was spectacular, especially the Miche.  Our freezer--already pretty full of my own breads--is overflowing now.

It is hard to believe, but David's immense baking knowledge seems to have grown this past week like a well-leavened loaf (no, there was no liquid levain leaking from his ears...perhaps an unfortunate metaphor).  It is clear to me that the educators at SFBI are enormously good at conveying both the science and the art of artisan bread baking.  I will need to find a week to experience it myself.

I'm sure David has dozens of new ideas and techniques he will be trying over the next weeks and months, and we know he will share them with us here.

Thanks, David, for sharing the adventure, and for the bread.


dmsnyder's picture


EvaB's picture

when I finally got it to load all the pictures! Can't miss a single one, as they are of course spectacular. The information in the posts about everything, is awsome, and the pictures certainly help a lot! What a wonderful week you had, and to remember to take pictures and send them to the site as well, after a full day of bread baking, is simply wonderful of you.

I would love to go for a course but doubt I will ever manage it, so take the course through your eyes is about as good as it gets for me.

Thankyou so much, and like many others here wishing you a Merry Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate and hope that you will gain benefits from these courses for months to come.

I would love to take the courses with the ancient grains, they would be totally different to deal with I am sure.

proth5's picture

about that leaving a liquid pre ferment out of the autolyse.  I did it once - by mistake.  Nothing could rescue that dough.  Really. Had to throw it out.

Sounds like a fun five days.  I go back and forth on taking the Artisan bread classes at SFBI - sometimes I think it's a good idea because I know that there is still much I need to learn.  Other times I count the cost in time and money and wonder if I can justify the expenditure for the increment in learning.  Oh well...  If you want to try and push me over to one side or the other...

Yerp - I've been seeing the ancient grains coming up on the outside - there are some claims that the ancient wheat varieties are the answer to the "gluten intolerance" epidemic.  Something to ponder.


dmsnyder's picture

Which way do you want to be pushed? ;-)

I'm in the fortunate position of being able to afford the tuition (if not too many times) and wanting to learn how to retire from my day job. I've tried to give you a flavor of the kinds of things i learned. Only you can decide their value to you.

I had never taken any formal instruction in baking before Artisan I or had face to face discussions of baking process with professionals. I experienced many "aha moments." I gather you have already had the benefit of some baking training, been involved in the Bread Baker's Guild and attended international competitions. Would you gain as much as I, a relative naif, from the SFBI workshops? I think what you would gain would be different, simply because you are starting from a different place.

Artisan II was clearly not aimed at novices. The majority of attendees were culinary professionals. Three (of the 16) were running large bakeries, supervising dozens of line bakers. I really think every single student felt he or she gained a ton of useful information and experience. I learned a lot about dough handling. The more experienced bakers started out with skill levels I never expect to achieve. But listening to those seasoned pros talk about how to tweak their fermentation processes back at the bakery, applying what they learned to improve the quality of their products, was enlightening.

And, Pat, you know they have the very coolest bakery equipment ... and you get to play with it all day long. If I'd known you were interested, I'd have taken a photo of the three sheeters lined up in the viennoiserie lab next door. 

And then there are the hundreds of fabulous restaurants and bakeries to visit in the Bay Area, the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wineries to visit on the weekends between workshops. I still need to visit Central Milling, and Frank told me about a small mill in Santa Rosa that sells a wide variety of high-extraction flours. (I'll share more about this when I've had a chance to gather more information about it.)

Hmmmm .... I seem to be having difficulty pushing in the other direction. Sorry.


proth5's picture

Time is the biggest cost for me - so I tend to be somewhat demanding about instruction.  I want to feel like every minute has been put to the best possible use.  The dollar cost - well, there I do have some good fortune.

But the bakery equipment - that's what always tempts me.  But I'd have to take a pastry class to get to spend quality time with the sheeters and after this weekend I'm thinking that my pastry skills are the ones that need the most development.

I also need some serious work on my chocolatiering skills.  Oh, I can temper the stuff and dip a few (house made) marshmallows, but I don't understand why this results in an entire kitchen covered in chocolate.  I seem to be missing something.

And the networking is always useful - and usually the best part of the class.

I've spent significant time in the SF area and love it, love it.   But the foodies always focus on Northern CA and I'm thinking it's time for the heartland to step up. (although I never refuse an opportunity to go to SF!)  People are starting to ask me (unbidden) where they can buy the output of my food labors and soon the time for transition may arrive to that little hobby business.  If I do that I want to focus on products local to the Mile High City.  Not as easy as with temperate Northern CA, but hey - we grow the good wheat here...

Well, I seem to be no further along in my decision process.  I'll just have to wait until the BBGA class schedule comes out in January.  Maybe that will tip the scales.

Thanks for all your posts.

Best wishes for good baking in the New Year!


longhorn's picture

What a wonderful synopsis! Great writing and photos to both share wisdom and inspire!

May your oven always be warm!


Franko's picture

Today was my first chance to finally sit down and catch up with your SFBI postings David, thoroughly enjoying every bit of it. I really admire the fact that you posted daily after every class when you must have been fairly bushed from a long day on your feet, so many thanks to you. I'll have to start saving up so I can take a course or two..maybe next year.

Thanks for sharing the experience and knowledge with all of us David, and best of the season to you and yours.


joyfulbaker's picture

for all the time and energy that went into these postings.  After finally learning how to post a photograph, I can barely imagine all that it took for you to post so many photos from each day of your class.  It truly was an adventure for your readers.

Safe journey back to California!


joyfulbaker's picture

Somehow I had you in Vermont at K.A. (was just reading a blog about their classes).  Although S.F. is a world of its own, it is in California.  So--hope you had a safe trip home.  The rains are upon us.


dmsnyder's picture

If you lived in LA, I would have taken your good wishes as a dig at SF. However, I understood you to have just misunderstood.

We got home ahead of the latest storm. It hit just as we were headed out to the grocery to get dinner stuff after unpacking. Rain is good. It means snowpack in the Sierras for next Summer's irrigation water around here.


rossnroller's picture

I have to echo your comments, David, about there being no substitute for tuition from a pro on some of the aspects of baking, such as shaping. I only had the merest taste of that when I met up with Yozza last year and witnessed his pro baking skills, developed over years of baking commercial quantities of bread. I can only imagine how much more you were able to learn during this marvellous course you've so diligently documented for us in your excellent series of posts.

As I watched Yozza deftly shaping boules within seconds, sometimes two at once, I realised just how basic and undeveloped my craft is, and when you think about it, how could it be any different? As home bakers, we get to practise our shaping skills every time we bake (3-4 times per week for me, and I suspect that's more often than many), on only one or two breads at a time in most cases. A pro baker would shape more loaves in a day than the average home baker shapes in a year.

Not only does the home baker have far less opporuntity to practice - for most of us, we learn on the job, so to speak, through interpreting pictorial demos or textual instruction in books, or doing our best to recall video demos we've seen on Youtube or whatever. There is obviously no substitute for a pro tutor standing by to correct the little imperfections in technique and understanding that end up making big differences in our capacity to finesse our breads to a pro standard...CONSISTENTLY. It is largely this consistency, as well as the finessing of fine details in technique, that differentiate amateur from pro bakers, IMO.

That said, I firmly believe - I know - it is possible for home bakers to turn out wonderful tasting bread that is the equal or better of the produce of the great majority of retail bakeries, even including the artisan bakeries. That's another conversation, so I won't elaborate here.

Thanks again for giving us a potted experience of the course. It's probably as close as many of us are going to get to the SFBI, particularly those resident in another hemisphere, like moi, so much appreciated.

Look forward to your miche recipe!


dmsnyder's picture

I concur entirely with your comments. In fact, they echo almost verbatim what I said to my wife on our drive home.

Don't give up on coming to California. What's a hemisphere on a small planet? In fact, in the workshop I just finished, there were two Aussies and one Kiwi. In the interest of full disclosure, one of the Aussies actually works in France.

The thing is, to make the long journey worthwhile, you need to take at least two workshops, I'd say. But, you get a 5% discount taking more than one course in a single calendar year. How can you resist such a bargain? ;-)

Happy baking!


rossnroller's picture

How can you resist such a bargain?

Too easily, unfortunately...finances dictate that I 'speak to the hand' when I so much as broach the subject!

That said, with the Aussie dollar at parity with the Greenback, or close, I can't help but to think...

Thing is, California is almost a fabled destination for me due to the association with various aspects of the 60s that were big personal influences (eg: bands like Love, The Doors and The Beach Boys), and various movies, the most recent that spring to mind being Sideways and The Kids Are Alight. If I did make it to your part of the world, I have a strong suspicion I'd want to spend the time checking the place out, rather than attending a SFBI course (much as that would be great).

I guess the only way to get the either/or out of the equation would be to spend some extended time in your choice part of the world. Then I could do a course at SFBI AND sip wine in the Napa Valley AND sit and people-watch at Venice Beach AND sample some Tartine bread AND...well, you get the idea.

Any Californian interested in discussing the possibility of a house swap? If so, pls PM me!

I'm in Perth, Western Australia, which has a similar climate to California, I believe...San Diego and Perth are sister cities.  If I was to put on my salesman hat, I'd start by claiming some of the most pristine and gorgeous metropolitan beaches in the world...but if you're interested, you won't need any sales talk from moi! I'm serious. My partner and I would love to swap West Oz for California for a while...weeks, months, whatever. So I'm putting the idea out there!

See what you've sown, David, with your bargain seed? Sorry - hijacking of your thread ends here!


ananda's picture

Hi David,

Just catching up on a few posts having had only limted access to TFL of late.

Thank you for taking the time to post of all your SFBI experiences.   Invaluable stuff to so many here, I have no doubt

All good wishes for 2011 to you


dmsnyder's picture

Happy holidays to you and your family!


tchism's picture

Hi David,

Just found and had a chance to your posting on your trip to SFBI. What great opportunity! I hope to be able to make the same trek someday! Thanks for sharing the experience here for all to see. I was happy to see that already practice some of the methods but as always learned new things as well. I'm sure I will refer back to your posts of a while! 

Thanks again!