The Fresh Loaf

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Italian-San Joaquin Sourdough

dmsnyder's picture

Italian-San Joaquin Sourdough


Yesterday, I made Chicken Cacciatore for tonight, when my sisters would be at our house for dinner. It seemed to me I should be serving some sort of Italian bread with this dinner. I didn't really feel like tackling a brand new recipe, although there are a number of Italian breads on my “to bake” list. I thought about the sourdough version of Reinhart's Italian bread from BBA which I have made many times and enjoyed. However, once the idea of formulating an “Italian version” of my San Joaquin Sourdough occurred to me, I knew that's what I was going to make.

I was delighted with the result, although I don't know that anyone more knowledgable than I regarding Italian breads would recognize it as in any way “Italian.” 


Wt. (g)

Baker's %

AP flour



Fine durum flour












Diastatic malt powder



Active Liquid levain



Olive oil








  1. In a large bowl, disperse the levain in the water.

  2. Add the flours, sugar and malt to the liquid and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Add the salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. (Note: I squish the dough with my hands until it comes back together, then do stretch and folds in the bowl until it forms a smooth ball and the oil appears completely incorporated.)

  5. Transfer the dough to a 2 quart lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl tightly.

  6. After 30 minutes, do 20 stretch and folds in the bowl. Repeat 3 more times at 30 minute intervals.

  7. Refrigerate for 12-36 hours.

  8. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to warm up for 1-2 hour.

  9. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape as rounds. Cover with a clean towel or plasti-crap and let rest for one hour.

  10. Shape as boules or bâtards and proof en couche or in bannetons for about 45 minutes. (Note: Optionally, if proofing en couche, roll the loaves on damp paper towels then in a tray of sesame seeds. Alternatively, you can brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. If proofing in bannetons, you would use the second method but after transferring the loaves to a peel, just before baking.)

  11. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480ºF with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  12. Transfer the loves to the baking stone. Steam the oven, and turn the temperature down to 460ºF.

  13. After 12 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus. (Note: What I actually do at this point is switch to convection bake and turn the oven down to 435ºF for the remainder of the bake.) Continue baking for another 12-15 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 205ºF.

  14. Turn off the oven, but leave the loaves on the baking stone and the oven door ajar for another 5-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  15. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.


The crust was chewy except for the ear and bottom crust which were nicely crunchy. The crumb was nice and chewy-tender. The crust flavor was sweet and nutty with the sesame flavor we always enjoy. The crumb was sweet and nutty. Absent the rye flour and with the addition of the oil, sugar, malt and durum flour, the flavor was delightful but very different from that of the San Joaquin Sourdough.

The four of us consumed 2/3 of a loaf with dinner. When I was going to slice some more, sister Ruth told me she would prefer to save it for breakfast toast. Her proposal prevailed.

I'm sure this will make delicious toast, even competing with the Hamelman 5-grain Levain I also baked this afternoon.



Submitted to YeastSpotting


ananda's picture

Hi David,

The Italian bread looks like an honest attempt using a flour mix reasonably close to that used in Italy; although US All-Purpose is probably a little stronger than Italian counterpart.   Very inviting bread.

Just wondering about the sugar and malt.   Most industrial flour in Europe is now treated with enzymes, particularly fungal amylase.   In theory, addition of further amylolitic enzymes is unecessary as the miller has already adjusted amylase content to ideal and consistent levels.

The well-fired loaves from the Hamelman book have huge oven spring and look fantastic.

All good wishes



dmsnyder's picture

Yes. The malt was probably unnecessary. I used it because it was in the BBA Italian bread, and I think it contributed  to the crust coloration, along with the sugar. In fact, the bread crumb was noticabley sweet. It was enjoyed by all, but I might omit the malt next time just to see the difference and bake at a slightly higher temperature to see the difference.


ehanner's picture

Great spring, beautiful bold bake.


dmsnyder's picture

Both breads were delicious, toasted for breakfast.


Franko's picture

Hi David,

You really have the best of both worlds going on here with these two different styles of bread, the open cell crumb of your Italian bread for having with dinner, and the more even crumb of the 5-grain levain that could be used for sandwiches.

Your Italian San Joaquin Sourdough reminded me somewhat of the Tom Kat Filone, but since you're using a sour levain instead of poolish my guess is the flavour is more pronounced, particularly with the sweet/sour background. The crumb looks ideal for a dinner bread and for soaking up the sauce from your chicken cacciatore. Yum!

In every respect these are wonderful looking 5-grain levains! I know we share a love for this bread but I'd like to be able to share your oven as well to be able get that bold bake you always manage. It adds so much more eye appeal to the loaf IMO, and good deal more flavour I'm sure as well.

All great loaves David!



dmsnyder's picture

Actually, you are correct about the similarity of my "Italian" bread to the Tom Cat Filone. I hadn't thought about that. The dough consistancy was similar. Mine did have a pronounced tang, no doubt augmented by the cold retardation in bulk. 

I usally divide the 5-grain levain dough into three 1.5 lb boules. This time, I made 2 bâtards weighing over 2 lbs each. I'm really happy with these larger loaves.


GSnyde's picture

Beautiful open crumb on your "San Joaquin" (according to Google Translate, that's how you say "San Joaquin" in Italian) sourdough.  Both breads look yummy. Wish I coulda been there with you and our sisters.


dmsnyder's picture

The crumb on the Italian SJSD was like a ciabatta, except more open than most. It has a delicious flavor. I think you and Cat would love it.

We've had a super-nice visit with Ruth and Norma. Looking forward to the next all-family get together.


Breuer's picture

Hey David!

Maybe you can describe the spring technique for me?. You know when the slice look like a rabbit :)



dmsnyder's picture

Now we know why they call that flap of dough an "ear." (I never though of it that way, until you pointed it out.)


Farine's picture

How I would have enjoyed that Italian dinner, especially with this bread! Love the bunny ear and also the fantastic crumb...

Freudenberg's picture

Hello, Dave,

I made your Italian-San Joaquin Sourdough yesterday--the wife and I are enjoying it!

I notice that in September of 2008 you featured an Italian sourdough with a biga, the biga has 3 oz. of active starter.

No matter where I have searched on the Internet, I cannot find the reason to use a biga/poolish with a starter.

Why a biga/poolish with a starter instead of all starter? What would be the difference?

thank you, Dave, I await your expertise.



bernterryvt's picture

Fun to see this recipe/ formula.  Thank you for sharing.  Plan to make next time we cook an Italian meal - hoping soon.