Monday, February 13, 2017


SOURDOUGH BREAD from a novice who aspires to bake the perfect loaf shape
"The process of bread baking is at once a simple endeavour, yet at the same time it can be one of enormous complexity. The merest of ingredients are required, and these few are easily procured, requiring little intricacy in their preparation. And since so few ingredients are needed or necessary to the bread baker, from one bake to the next not much seems to change. One style of mixer suffices and can mix a full range of doughs. some couche linens, a few stacks of proofing baskets, a decent scale, a durable work table, a couple of razor blades stuck on slender lames and a sturdy oven. The needs are few. And yet from the time the grain is planted until baked bread is on the table, the hands and skills of dozens of people have been engaged. Farmers in the fields plow, plant, cultivate, and harvest. Grain is transported to the mill to be tempered, ground, sifted, analysed, and bagged — brought from berry to flour. Flour in the bag is tucked and hefted to the domain of the baker. Here the final magic is performed for the flour is nothing by itself — it needs the baker to bring it to fulfillment, to coax all the flavor he or she can from the inert grain. The flour, unable to sustain life on its own, is transformed by the hands of the baker into wondrous bread, nurturing and nourishing. What we hold in our hands months later, the original planting of the seed, is the final resolution of the labor of many: a loaf of bread — ephemeral, fragrant, live". -- From the book Bread, A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman.

A few months ago I came across a beautiful picture of wild grapes on Kevin Sharp's instagram and the caption was, "I'm making a new batch of sourdough starter". Those grapes alone were intriguing but more so was the fact that Kevin was making a starter using the flour he had buried the wild grapes with. It took that picture to convince me what I had in the back of my mind for the longest time. And, I just happened to have the last grapes of the season within easy reach in my garden. I grabbed what I needed and I simply began my sourdough starter. Immediately the next day I noticed the first signs of fermentation, some bubbles, a slight presence of alcohol, a small aerated growth. All of this was astonishing to my eyes! Finally, after days of dedication and commitment, Clint Yeastwood, my starter, was born, and together we hopped on a horse and ran wild towards a new journey.

Since then, everyday, every morning and every evening, I refresh my starter. An easy portion of equal measurements - 4 oz starter, 4 oz flour, 4 oz water. Mix, cover and rest. Over and over each day. Yes, it is a commitment, you're really feeding a pet and it was the thought of this sort of commitment that held me back in the first place. Only once you begin and discover what some flour and water can do, you'll never know how fascinating this sourdough affair is. So don't take this post as an instructions manual, I'm not one to teach, as a novice I only have things to share and I'm here to intrigue you as much as I can so you can start too (do you hear me Hazel?)

You know, it does take some failing, a success, some reading, asking, watching, listening. Some more trying, a burned loaf, an under cooked one, less water, more hydration, steam, a cast iron pot, different flours and why not grains and a mill. It's an adventure of discoveries, a learning of patience, and suddenly all becomes a lifestyle. Loaf after loaf, you get better and learn more. Excitement comes from a crackling sing of a good crust, an airy crumb, unfathomable flavors. Here's the beauty of it all and why I never bought a loaf of bread ever again.

The baking of bread, of real sourdough bread. It's my obsession.
 score BQ8A4874

If you want to to begin your own starter here's a link with instructions,

Sourdough Bread, from a novice who aspires to bake the perfect loaf.

For the leaven you will need to use a strong starter, so refresh your starter at least 2/3 times before you use it. If you plan to bake your bread Sunday morning, refresh the starter Friday morning (8:00 am), Friday night (8:00 pm) Saturday morning (8:00 am) and mix your dough Saturday afternoon (4:00 pm), at this time is should be bubbly and active.

You can use a combination of bread flour. or just plain wheat flour.  I like to vary and I usually use
30 g wholewheat, 20 g rye and 50 g wheat flour.

150 g leaven
700 g bottled water
1000 g bread flour, or the mix I use: 30 g wholewheat, 20 g rye and 50 g wheat flour
20 g salt

Combine the water and leaven in a large mixing bowl.  Add the flour and mix with your hands until the flour absorbs the water. Do not add the salt at this point. Rotate the bowl with one hand and mix with the other until the gluten forms and the dough is completely hydrated. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. During the first hour of bulk fermentation, turn and fold the dough every 20 minutes. This will help strength and aerate the dough. With wet hands, from the bottom and along the edge pull a portion of the dough up and fold over, rotate the bowl with one hand and with the other hand continue the turn-fold 4 times. After one hour, add the salt and mix with your hands until the salt is totally incorporated. Repeat the turn and fold 2 more times every 20 minutes. Cover the bowl containing the dough with a plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The next morning remove the dough from the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

If you have time, you can skip the overnight bulk fermentation in the fridge. Simply allow the dough to rise for 3/4 hours in a warm corner of your kitchen.

At this time the dough is doubled in size. Remove the dough from the fridge on to a working surface. The dough will be sticky, with the help of a bench knife divide the dough in two and preshape each portion to form a circular shape. Allow the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes. At this stage you will notice that the dough will relax and spread, this needs to happen now. After 20-30 minutes give the dough its final shape, see above picture on how to do so. Place the dough in a well floured linen covered bread basket and place in the fridge to retard the final rise. Remove the dough from the fridge the next morning and when you are ready to bake.

Preheat the oven at 240°C, place a cast iron pot at least 20 minutes in the oven, on the lowest rack. Carefully remove the very hot pot from the oven. At this point you can score the bread with a very sharp knife or leave it as is. Remove the pot's lid and place the dough seam side down, score side up, in the very hot pot. A good score helps the bread grow liberally. Place the pot's lid back on and place the pot in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the pot, lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake a further 30 minutes, or an extra 10 minutes if necessary. When he bread is ready, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. With your hands tap under the loaf, if you hear a hollow sound the bread is ready.  If you like a thicker crust (I do), lower the oven temperature to 180 ºC, put the bread back in the oven, after removing it from the pot, and let it bake an extra 10 more minutes or to your preference.

This video will help you understand a few steps,


  1. Te l'ho detto quella crosta lì meriterebbe studi accademici :-) per non parlare dell'alveolatura che è veramente un capolavoro. Le foto sono poesia pura e traspare dal tuo modo di vivere la cucina una quiete e una tranquillità che mi piace tanto tanto e mi confermano di te un'immagine nitida come quella di un'amica di sempre. Brava cara mia!

    1. Una mia cara amica e nostra conoscente in comune, e tu sai bene chi, mi ha detto proprio ieri, "aspetta di conoscere Laura in persona ti piacera' da morire", ma io questo lo sapevo gia'.
      P.S. Ultimamente 'sto pane mi sta dando alla testa! :*