Master Chef Markus Farbinger’s Ciabatta Recipe

No way am I going to take credit for developing this recipe, though I have made my own tweaks to the flour. The recipe comes from master chef Markus Farbinger. I had no idea who he was until I happened to stumble on his baguette shaping video on YouTube. His technique was so incredible that ended up buying his baguette and ciabatta video series on Vimeo. This ciabatta recipe is from that series.

To be honest, even though I’m documenting the recipe, I’m really only scratching the surface. I highly recommend renting or purchasing the series. Chef Markus the former Dean of Curriculum and Instruction for Baking and Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of America, and is co-owner of the Ile de Pain bakery in South Africa where he uses a wood-fired oven to bake his artisan bread. In other words, this dude is totally legit!

Overview

Like traditional baguettes, this ciabatta uses a poolish that you make the night before you bake, then in the morning, you mix the final dough. With this particular recipe, the process is quick! I mean, real quick. Things happen much faster than with your typical artisan loaf. Once you mix the final dough, your loaves are in the oven within an hour-and-a-half!

On top of that, you only manipulate the dough three times before baking and two of those times are devoted to creating structure. So you really only have two opportunities to create structure and strength in your dough before you bake. That third time is just pushing the dough into a loaf shape and transferring it to a couche. There’s no formal shaping and scoring with a ciabatta. So you have to get the structure-building steps down!

Now don’t go thinking that this is a beginner’s bread simply because of the short prep time or the use of commercial yeast. It isn’t. What makes it difficult is the hydration rate which is a whopping 85%! At that level, it’s almost like working with a batter, and even for seasoned bread makers, that kind of hydration rate can be a little daunting. So like making baguettes, making a great ciabatta is less about the ingredients and so much more about the technique.

The Recipe

Like baguettes, the process occurs over two days. You create a poolish the night before, then mix the final dough and bake in the morning.

Poolish – Day 1

FlourWaterYeast
100 g Whole Wheat Flour
400 g Bread Flour
500 ml0.4 g
Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add water in batches until you form a smooth, thick batter batter. Set aside at room temperature for 12-16 hours. I shoot for 14 hours. As an early-riser, I make the poolish at about 4pm then mix the final dough at 6am the next day.

Final Dough – Day 2

FlourWaterSaltYeastPoolish
500 g Bread Flour350 ml20 g10 g1000 g

Before you start, I recommend using a round-bottom mixing bowl for the fermentation steps. The dough is so wet, that it will be difficult to do stretch & folds if you use a vertical-sided container. Also, a couche is very helpful to have, especially for the final proof.

  1. Mix flour, salt and yeast in a separate container until well incorporated (I use a whisk).
  2. Loosen the poolish from its container by slowly pouring around 250-350 ml of around the outer edges of the dough. Then use a scraper to further loosen the sides and get water all the way to the bottom of the container. The poolish will pour right out of the container – it’s cool.
  3. Use the remaining water to rinse poolish container of any leftover dough, then pour that into mixing bowl.
  4. Mix up the poolish so that the water fully incorporated into the dough and you have a smooth batter.
  5. Working in batches, incorporate the dry ingredients. It’s important you take your time with this because you want to avoid creating lumps, which is very easy to do.
    1. You can also do this in a stand mixer, but don’t use the dough hook! I use my KitchenAid’s nifty scraper/mixer attachment at the lowest speed. It keeps the sides of my bowl clean as well as breaking up lumps more effectively than a dough hook.
  6. Mix the dough until smooth. It may be a bit shaggy, but there shouldn’t be any lumps and no dry ingredients.
  7. Scrap down the sides of the mixing bowl and incorporate any stray ingredients into the dough.
  8. Loosely cover with plastic and let ferment for 20 minutes.
  9. At this point, it’s a good idea to preheat your oven to 480 dF. (~250 dC)
  10. After 20 minutes, working your way around the bowl, do a series of stretch and folds, picking up about a quarter of the dough, pulling it up to stretch it a bit (but not tear it), then folding it over to the other side.
    1. NOTE: Don’t just do this 4 times! While you’re stretching feel how the resistance in the dough builds. When you first do it, you’ll be able to stretch the dough easily. You’ll know when to stop when you feel resistance in the dough. At that point, you’re good!
  11. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then loosely cover and let ferment for 20 minutes.
    1. Here’s an important point. You should see some bubble production after 20 minutes. If you don’t, let the dough sit for another 20 minutes. I had to do this this morning because my kitchen was still a little cool.
  12. After 20 minutes, liberally sprinkle flour on your board and gently pour the dough onto the surface and scrape out any residual dough from the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl.
  13. Once all the dough has been transferred, try to move the dough to see if it sticks. If it does, use your scraper to lift up the dough and get flour under the dough.
  14. Using quick, but gentle motions, laminate the dough using the letter folding technique. This is a good tutorial. The chef in that video uses oil, but we’re going to use flour as Chef Markus does. Laminate the dough three times.
  15. After the last fold, roll the dough onto the seam, and cupping your hands, form the dough into a nice neat ball.
  16. Lightly brush oil around your mixing bowl, then place the dough into bowl.
  17. Loosely cover with plastic and let ferment for another 20 minutes.
    1. Again, like the previous fermentation step, if you’re not seeing many bubbles, let the dough sit for another 20 minutes.
  18. After 20 minutes, again liberally sprinkle flour on your work surface, then slide the dough ball out of the mixing bowl.
  19. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Technically you could scale the dough, but you don’t want to run the risk of popping any bubbles that have formed in the middle.
  20. “Shape” the dough by gently pushing the sides and forming a rough loaf shape.
  21. Once you’ve formed the loaves, gathering them from the long ends and cupping under the dough, transfer them to a well-floured couche.
  22. Sprinkle the loaves with a bit of flour, then cover them and let proof for 10 minutes.
  23. After 10 minutes, check the loaves for springiness using the finger dent test. You want to have some spring. If there’s a bit too much; that is, the dough immediately springs back, let it rest another 10 minutes.
  24. Transfer the loaves to a well-floured loading board. You can use a peel, but it should have a straight edge, not round. Myself, I use a thin cabinet siding that I’ve cut to size.
    1. If you don’t have a transfer board, the loaves will get a little misshapen. Just prod them back into shape.
  25. If you don’t have a baking stone, instead of putting the loaves on a loading board, you can use a flat baking sheet.
  26. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes on steam at 480 dF
  27. After 20 minutes, remove your steaming container, then turn your oven down to 400 dF (~200 dC). Finish baking for 20 minutes.
  28. Remove the oven and let cool for at least 45 minutes.
  29. Enjoy!

I Think I’ve Got It! My Master Baguette Recipe

As I mentioned previously, my favorite bread to make is a baguette. And I think the primary reason is because I love to make sandwiches out of baguettes! Take, for instance, the sandwich above. I made the baguette yesterday, and just couldn’t wait to prepare my lunch to take with me to work. To me, happiness is a great sandwich made with great bread. But I was SO excited because I think I finally found the perfect flour blend for my baguettes!

Yeah, yeah… I’m always tweaking. Well, not for my boules and batards any longer. I have the flour blend down for that. But with my baguettes, I’ve been trying to strike a good balance between texture, taste, and especially, nutritiousness. I didn’t want to do a pure white flour baguette, but I also didn’t want the bread to be as heavy as my 75-25 high-extraction/whole wheat blend. So I decided to lighten it up. But instead of using bread flour, I decided to use regular old AP flour, and the results were magnificent!

Note for all you sourdough snobs out there (just kidding), 😉 I don’t do an overnight cold bulk fermentation nor do I use a sourdough starter. The overnight poolish provides plenty of flavors and nutrition, especially if allowed to ferment for longer than 12 hours. And that will be passed on to the final dough as well.

Here’s the formula (all weights are in grams):

Flours

  • Azure Market Organics Unbleached Bread Flour, Ultra Unifine, Organic – In its place you can use a Type 85 flour or another high-extraction flour. I don’t recommend 100% whole wheat. And make sure that the flour is ground fine- to extra-fine. If you can’t find any high-extraction flour, no problem. Just make the whole thing with regular bread flour.
  • Generic, AP Flour

Poolish

FlourWaterYeast
250 g Unifine Bread Flour250 g0.4 g
100%100%0.16%
Prepare poolish the night before the bake and let ferment overnight at room temp for 12-16 hours. The longer the better.

Final Dough

FlourWaterSaltYeast
350 g Unifine Bread Flour
400 g AP Flour
450 g19 g6 g
Totals (w/Poolish)
1000 g700 g19 g6.4 g
The total yield on paper is 1725.4 g, but in reality, there will be some loss. But what we’re after is a yield of approx. 6 X 285 g loaves. My stone fits four baguettes at a time, and I have a baguette pan, so I do three on the stone and three in the pan in my second oven. If you only have a single oven, no worries. Just pop three in the fridge while the others bake, then when the first set’s done, score the second set and bake them. Easy-peasy!

Instructions

Day 1 ~ Prepare poolish at least 12 hours before you intend to mix the final dough. For me, this means making the poolish around 6-7 PM the evening before, so I can be mixing the final around 8-9 AM the next morning. I like fermenting my poolish for 14 hours to activate the lactic acid bacteria. It creates a sour aftertaste in the final bread!

Day 2

  1. Mix the bread and AP flours, 400 grams of water and salt together and let autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Pour the reserved 50 grams of water into the poolish along with the yeast and use a whisk to liquefy the poolish a bit (it makes it easier to mix).
  3. Thoroughly incorporate the poolish into the autolysed dough and mix until smooth. You can do this in a stand mixer, but don’t over-mix. Just mix until you don’t see lumps.
    1. Now some suggest mixing until the dough looks like a “brain.” But the problem with that is there will be lumps at that consistency. However, that’s a good indicator that you’re getting close to where you need to be. At this point, it would a good idea to slow down the mixer and get to a smooth consistency at a gentler speed.
  4. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes then do a stretch and fold. Rest the dough for another 30 minutes then do an S & F, for a total of two S & Fs in the first hour.
  5. Bulk ferment for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (or until you see about a 50% increase in dough size – not doubling). Depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen, this could be shorter or longer.
    1. At this point, you have a choice to make. You can go ahead and finish the fermentation at room temp or, you can pop your dough into the refrigerator after about 20-30 minutes (to give the microbes a little head start) and let it cold ferment for 6 to 12 hours. I do this if I prepare the dough really early in the morning, then I’ll do the shaping after I get home from work.
  6. Preheat your oven to 480-degrees Fahrenheit (250-degrees C)
  7. Gently turn out dough onto an unfloured surface and divide it into six equal pieces. I use a scale to measure out approximately 285 grams each.
  8. Using letter folds, gently pre-shape the pieces into rough logs.
  9. Once the pieces have been pre-shaped, lightly flour them and cover with a cloth and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Rather than try to explain how to shape the baguettes, view this video. This is the ABSOLUTE BEST shaping technique I’ve learned, and best yet, it is focused on baking in a domestic oven!
  11. Place each shaped loaf on a well-floured couche. I can’t stress how incredibly useful a couche is! If you don’t have one, you can use a towel, but a linen couche holds flour better.
  12. Let proof for 30-45 minutes. Note: You want the loaves to be slightly under-proofed, so when you do the finger dent test, you want the dough to have just a little spring. It is important you don’t take it out to full proofing because that will affect the oven spring.
  13. Transfer loaves to a loading board or square peel and make sure there’s at least 3/4″ between each loaf.
  14. Score the loaves. Here’s Chef Markus again, demonstrating how to score baguettes.
  15. Transfer the loaves onto a baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, a flat baking sheet will work as well, but I’d recommend preheating it in your oven.
    1. If you do use a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper otherwise your loaves will stick!
  16. Apply steam to the loaves for the first 12 minutes of the bake. I use a round metal cake sheet pan on the bottom rack and put a cup of boiling water into it, and I also throw a couple of small ice cubes on the bottom of my oven (I don’t have coils there, so it’s safe).
  17. After 12 minutes, remove your steaming container, and vent the steam.
  18. Turn down the oven to 400-degrees F (~200-degrees C), and set a timer for 10 minutes. But check for doneness at 8 minutes. My own oven can be a bit wonky with temperature sometimes, and on cooler days, I extend the final baking time at 400-degrees a few minutes.
  19. Remove loaves and let cool for 30 minutes!

Surgery Recovery? Here’s My Remedy: I Baked Baguettes Dammit!

I’m actually pretty amazed at how mobile I am just three days after full hip replacement surgery. And I have to admit that my relative comfort level has quite a bit to do with the pain meds I’m on. But irrespective, since I’m capable of moving around and to avoid getting bored, I decided to bake baguettes!

I just pulled those baguettes out of the oven a few minutes ago! You’ll notice the ears on one loaf and just nice openings on the others. I was experimenting with my scoring and wanted to see what a shallow score would produce. I’ll stick with the deeper score. 🙂

Now normally when I bake baguettes, I make a poolish the night before I bake. But I was pretty exhausted last night, so I decided to make a straight dough this morning. Here’s my recipe:

FlourWaterSaltYeast
500 grams365 grams (85º-90º F)12 grams7 grams
This will produce a 73% hydration dough
  1. Measure out your flour into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water and mix until no dry ingredients are present and you form a shaggy dough.
  3. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes (autolyse)
  4. Sprinkle the salt and yeast evenly over the surface of the dough.
  5. Thoroughly mix the salt and yeast into the dough.
  6. Dump the dough onto an unfloured surface
  7. Knead the dough until it just starts getting smooth (about 5-8 minutes). Do NOT overwork it! The moment you start feeling tension in the dough (it feels like you’re fighting it), stop kneading.
  8. Transfer the dough back to your mixing bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Now do a stretch a fold and form the dough into a ball, then turn it over onto the folds.
  10. Allow the dough to rise from 1-2 hours. Check after an hour – you want the dough to have expanded at least 50%. You should see some bubbles formed on top and the surface should be nicely domed. At about 50% rise, you have room for proofing/final rise which I found is critical with baguettes.
  11. If you don’t see much activity, which typically happens on cooler days, do one more gentle stretch and fold and let the dough rise for an hour. But check it at a half hour because sometimes all the little beasties needed was a nudge. 🙂 Again, you want to see some bubbles, but not a preponderance of them.
  12. Gently remove the risen dough from the bowl onto an unfloured surface.
  13. Portion out the dough into four equal pieces. By weight, the pieces should weigh about 213-215 grams apiece. Alternatively, you can portion out into three for a little beefier baguettes (I do this when I’m making baguettes for sandwiches).
  14. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the portioned dough with flour, then pre-shape each into a nice, tight ball.
  15. Flip the balls over on their folds, sprinkle a little more flour on top, then cover with a cloth and bench rest for 15 minutes.
  16. Shape the balls into baguettes. Here’s a simple, yet effective shaping technique from Markus Farbinger. But just take note: When you fold the dough, you want to make sure you’re creating good tension on the skin without tearing it! You don’t want to be lackadaisical with the folding because you won’t get any spring.
  17. If you have a couche, transfer the shaped loaves to the couch (or you can use a well-floured towel) and let them proof for an hour. This is why you don’t want to over-ferment in the bulk fermentation stage.
  18. Preheat your oven to 480 degrees.
  19. Once proofed, transfer the loaves to your peel, score with nice longitudinal cuts, then bake for 15 minutes. Provide steam for the first 15 minutes, then remove the steaming container. Then turn your oven down to 450 for 10 minutes.

You might be wondering why I’m using 7 grams of yeast. You can definitely use less, but it lengthens the timeline. I came up with this recipe specifically because I wanted to produce the bread relatively quickly with limited manipulation because I was literally three days out of total hip replacement surgery. But you know what? I like this process because it produces great results!

What About Using a Poolish?

You can absolutely use a poolish, and that’s my normal method of making baguettes. Typically I use 25% of my total flour for the flour I use for a poolish, and I make the poolish at 100% hydration. I do this the night before I bake and give it about 12-16 hours to ferment. At 12 hours, it will not be sour, but at 14-16 hours, it will get nicely sour, so if you vary the times of the poolish, you can make different flavored baguettes.

If you do use a poolish, you have the option of bumping up the fermentation activity with some yeast, or just let the poolish be the only leavening agent. If you do decide to use a bit of yeast, use no more than 2 grams of yeast because you have a lot of active microbes already in your dough, and you just want to give it a little kick.

Yet Another Word on Flour

If you read this blog with any regularity, I’m pretty obsessed with flour. Now even though I occasionally make my baguettes with white flour, you all know that my flour of choice is a 75-25 blend of high-extraction flour and white whole wheat flour (the second picture); and specifically, flours produced with the Unifine milling process. I prefer the darker crust it produces (the picture at the top) but more importantly, the nutrition those flours provide.

If you venture into high-extraction flour (Type 85 and above), do not expect to get the kind of open crumb you get with white flour. It just ain’t gonna happen. The particulates in high-extraction and whole wheat flour cut the gluten strands. And if you think working the dough to build more structure will help, it won’t. The strands you do create will be so tight, you won’t get any holes!

This is why I advocate for doing a shorter bulk and a bit longer final proof. This allows the dough to really relax so when you place the loaves in the oven, the final activity before the microbes die will allow for better gas pocket formation.

My Master “Sourdough” Recipe

I purposely put quotes around “Sourdough” because even though the bread has a slightly sour taste, it is not made from a levain, but from a pre-ferment; specifically a poolish. What? Sourdough bread from a poolish? Well, give it a bit of time and it’ll turn sour, then when added to the final dough, that will give the microbes plenty more to feed on, and it’ll produce a very pleasing, sour taste throughout the loaf.

One might argue that a bread like this will not be as complex in taste as a traditional sourdough bread. But I disagree. Just as with cooking, complexity can come from several sources. I’ve joined the school of thought that doesn’t depend solely on the microbes to provide the flavor complexity. The combination of the flours I use plays an immense role in influencing the flavor and texture of the bread.

If you read this blog, you know I’ve written another batard with poolish recipe. That one works great, and even though the proportions are exact, the fundamental difference with that recipe and this are the number of stretch and folds that are done with this recipe. The original had just four folds, this has six. The extra two folds make a HUGE difference in the structure of the dough!

Here’s the recipe:

FlourWaterSaltYeast
Poolish250*2500.40
Final Dough750**500†192.6***
Totals1000750193.00
Bakers %100.00%75.00%1.90%0.3%
* Whole Wheat Flour (fine or extra-fine ground)
** You can use regular, high-protein bread flour here, but I recommend using a high-extraction flour such as Type 85.
*** Add a bit more yeast (up to a gram) if your kitchen is around 70-degrees. The amount listed here is for 75+-degree kitchen, like mine is in the summer.

†You really want to have your dough be in the 75-80 degree range. So take the temperature of your flour with a food-grade thermometer, then use the table in this article to determine what your water temp should be.
  1. In a separate container, make the poolish mixing everything together until smooth. This is wet, and you don’t want any lumps.
  2. Allow the poolish to rest for at least 12 hours, but probably not more than 16 hours. With this long of a resting time, make the poolish at about 8-9 PM at night, and it’ll be ready in the morning.
  3. When you’re ready to make the final dough, transfer the poolish to a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer bowl. Add most the water and whisk until the poolish is dissolved. Then use the rest of the water to rinse out your poolish container so you get everything.
  4. Add the flour to the poolish mixture, and combine until there are no dry spots. It’ll be shaggy. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it autolyse for 30 – 45 minutes. It’s important not to mix to a smooth state because all we’re trying to do here is help the flour with water absorption and not start to generate gluten.
  5. Once autolyse is complete, sprinkle the salt and yeast evenly over the top of the dough and start mixing until smooth. Admittedly, I do this with a stand mixer because it does it better than I can with my hands. I used to do this step with my hands but using a stand mixer saves me a little time; especially when the bulk fermentation takes over three hours.
  6. One the mixture is smooth, transfer the dough to the container you’ll be using for fermentation. Once transferred, immediately do a stretch and fold of the dough to form it into a ball. Then turn the ball over onto its folds. I use Ken Forkish’s stretch and fold technique and stretch and fold in my fermentation container. There are lots of others but I started out with Ken’s technique and it’s what I’m used to. In any case, once you’ve done the stretch and fold, cover your container and put it a place where you can reasonably maintain the temperature of your dough.
  7. Repeat step 6 every half hour for the next 3 hours. Yup… you read that right. This one takes time, but it is SO worth it! Also, note that you want to treat the dough gently and not degas it. When you stretch and fold in the bulk fermentation stage, you want to be gentle and not tear or press down on the dough.
  8. After the last fold, let the dough rest for 45-60 minutes. You should see nice bubbles in the dough, but it shouldn’t be going crazy. Your dough should be a bit jiggly from the air pockets that have formed.
  9. Now, carefully pour the dough onto an unfloured work area. You don’t want to degas it and ruin all the work the microbes have done. Divide the dough into two reasonably equal portions, then lightly flour the tops of the pieces. These will be the tops of your dough.
  10. Take a portioned piece and flip it over onto the floured side. Try to gently move the dough. If it sticks, just lift it up and sprinkle some flour underneath the sticky area. Pre-shape the piece into a nice, tight ball then flip it over onto the seams. Repeat this with the other piece.
  11. Lightly flour the tops then cover with a floured cloth and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  12. Once the balls have rested, shape them into the type of loaf you want and place them into an appropriate proofing container, seam side up.
  13. Place the containers in separate plastic bags, then put them in a cool, dark place place to proof for up to 2 hours. Check after an hour though and if your dough passes the finger dent test, then it’s ready to bake.
  14. While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 475-degrees. If you’re using a Dutch oven, place it in the oven now. I use a baking stone and it needs a minimum of an hour to come to temp. If using a baking stone, also place a metal baking pan (I use a 9″ cake round) on the bottom rack of the oven.

Baking

Dutch Oven

Remove your preheated Dutch oven from your oven, then place a loaf directly into it. Carefully score the top of the bread, cover the pot, then put it back into the oven. Bake covered at 475-degrees for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes to harden the crust.

If you only have one Dutch oven, then pop the other container in the fridge while the first loaf is baking. Once it’s done, you can transfer the chilled dough directly to the Dutch oven.

Baking Stone

Before you transfer your loaves to your peel, put about a cup of hot water into the metal baking pan to start generating steam. If your oven doesn’t have heating coils at the bottom, you can help with the steam by pouring a little on the bottom of the oven. Immediately close the door, so your loaves will enter a humid environment.

Now, transfer your loaves to your peel, then score the loaves. Now, as quickly – and safely – as you can, place your loaves onto your baking stone and get the door shut as quickly as you can. You can do the water at the bottom of the oven to get the steaming process going again.

Bake at 475-degrees for 35 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the water pan from the oven to allow the crust to set and harden for the last 15 minutes.

Final Thoughts

The cool thing about this is that with the stretch and folds, I recently started doing this because my previous loaves kept on collapsing on my peel. You have to expect a little collapse, but these were laying out too much. It was perplexing because I knew I nailed the proofing times and I’d get a big ear and an open crumb – just not much vertical rise. So I thought I needed to work the dough a bit more to get some more structure.

It turns out that this is exactly what the famous Tartine bakery in San Francisco does! I just read several Tartine recipes by various people (yes, even the famed NY Times recipe) and each had six stretch and folds over the course of three hours! Pretty awesome!

No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

These burger buns are light, airy and fluffy, and guess what? They’re nutritious because of the whole wheat or high-extraction flour retaining the wheat’s nutrients! The dough is no-knead, but you’re still going to have to do stretch and folds for the first hour or so to help develop the gluten network and because we’re using flour with more of the bran and germ than regular flour, this dough is wet. Kneading really isn’t an option.

Tip: Though you can do the initial mix completely by hand, I’d recommend using a stand mixer if you have one.

A Note About the Flour You Use

It is critical that you use fine or extra-fine flour if you’re going to use 100% Whole Wheat. Course-ground flour has too many sharp particles in it that will literally cut the gluten strands. Myself, I use high-extraction bread flour that has about 90% of the bran and germ. It works like regular bread flour, but bakes like whole wheat flour which means it needs a really high hydration rate.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Burger BunsFlourWater*ButterHoneySaltYeast**Malt
Weight (grams)900720 (@ 105º)60 7211163
Baker’s %100.00%80.00%6.69%8.00%1.27%1.80%0.35%
*Butter should be room temp, not melted
** Diastatic Malt Powder (I use diastatic malt powder from Modernist Kitchen) It’s optional, but it really helps with the oven spring.
  1. Mix the flour, butter, salt, yeast, and diastatic malt powder until fully incorporated.
  2. Measure out the 105º water into a container, then add the honey to it and stir until the honey is completely dissolved.
  3. Slowly add the water/honey mixture to the dry ingredients, then mix until smooth with no lumps (this is why I suggest using a stand mixer as it makes it a lot easier).
  4. Check the dough. It will be too wet, so with your mixer running at Speed 2, add a couple of extra tablespoons of flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, but is still pooled at the bottom. You don’t want to make a dense ball with this dough!
  5. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl and cover it with a towel to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Stretch and fold the dough, turn the dough over onto the folds, then let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  7. Repeat the stretch and folds every 10 minutes for the next hour for a total of 6 stretch and folds. By the last stretch and fold, you should see plenty of large bubbles forming.
  8. Cover the bowl again and let the dough rest for an hour or until the ball doubles in size (don’t worry, with this amount of yeast and with the diastatic malt powder, the yeast will go crazy).
  9. Once doubled, gently pour the dough out onto an unfloured bench being careful no to tear the dough and ruin all the hard work the yeast has just done.
  10. Divide the dough into 125-gram pieces. This recipe will make about 14 buns. Only 6 will fit on a standard cookie sheet, so you can do as I did and make a baguette or mini-batard with the excess dough.
  11. Sprinkle flour over the tops of the divided pieces. These will be the tops of your buns.
  12. Now, lightly flour your work area.
  13. Take a piece of dough, flip it over, gently, press it out into a circle, then shape it just like you would shape a boule, pulling an edge and bringing it to the center. If the dough sticks, add a bit of flour underneath the piece. We’re building tension on the top, so this is important!
  14. Now, flip the ball over onto its seams, then round the ball out using a claw-like shape with your hand and rotating.
  15. Once you’ve got a reasonably nice spherical shape, gently flatten the ball until it’s about 3-3 1/2″ in diameter, being careful not to degas it.
  16. Place the shaped disc on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.
  17. Repeat steps 12 – 16. But only re-flour your bench if it needs it.
  18. Once you’ve created your discs, sprinkle flour on the top of them, then cover the cookie sheets (you’ll need 2) with a paper towel and let them proof for an hour.
  19. At this point, pre-heat your oven to 425º. If you have double oven, then heat both so you can bake the sheets at the same tie.
  20. After an hour, the buns will be ready to bake. If you only have a single oven, pop the other sheet into the fridge to retard the proof (don’t worry, you can bake them right out of the fridge).
  21. Bake for 25 minutes. Hint: To help them pop up, I put some hot water (1/2 cup) in a metal pan on the bottom rack of my oven. This develops steam and helps with the oven spring in the first 15 minutes of the bake.
  22. Once finished, immediately transfer for cooling racks! Do not let them cool on the cookie sheet as the bottoms will get all gooey!

Working with Flour That Has a Lot of Bran And Germ

I’m going to just be up front: The one thing you have to expect when you introduce 100% whole wheat flour into your dough, or like me, where you use a combination of high-extraction flour and whole wheat is that you will not get a big vertical oven spring; at least compared to a pure white flour loaf. The more bran and germ there are in the flour, the less vertical rise you’ll get and that’s a fact of life and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is something I’ve had to expect once I made the move to more nutritious flour. Especially when I moved to high-extraction flour in lieu of white bread flour, I noticed a distinct lessening of the vertical rise. The fact that my bread was making nice ears meant that I was getting great oven spring (as evidenced above) and open crumb. It just hasn’t been as vertical and you know what? I’m now okay with that! But admittedly, it has taken several adjustments to achieve the crumb that I achieved with those loaves above.

Before I go on to explain what I did, I just can’t believe the flavor and texture of the final bread that this combination of flours produces. It’s chewy but with a velvety-smooth texture. I just can’t say enough about how great these Azure Standard Unifine flours are!

Adjustment Time

Lots of changes to my process… I used to pride myself on being able to make bread in a day, but with the switch to these flours, that’s no longer possible if I want to get results like I got above.

  • The first thing I had to do was up my hydration to 82%. I started out with 75%, 78% and 80% hydration, and while the loaves turned out pretty good, they were still a little dense. Just that extra 2% between 80 and 82 made a HUGE difference. Now you might think that at 82% the dough would be difficult to work with. I won’t lie. It’s a challenge, but it’s not nearly as bad as one might think. You just have to get used to working with a wet dough.
  • The next adjustment that I made was using a poolish. But instead of doing an overnight poolish, I started it at 7 AM in the morning, let it bubble up for 12 hours. then made my final dough at 7pm.
  • After mixing the final dough, I kneaded it until smooth, let it rest for 10 minutes, then did a stretch and fold. I then did five more stretch and folds every 10 minutes over the next hour or so.
  • After I did the last stretch and fold, I moved my container to the fridge where I let it bulk ferment for 14 hours. After the bulk ferment, I divided and shaped the loaves, then proofed them for 45 minutes at room temperature, then popped my bannetons in the fridge for an hour.
  • I then baked the loaves at 500 degrees for 30 minutes on my baking stone.

Here’s the recipe:

FlourWaterSaltYeast
Poolish2502500.40
Final Dough750570193.00
Totals1000820193.40
Bakers %100.00%82.00%1.90%0.34%
  1. In a separate container, make the poolish and mix everything together until smooth. This wet, you don’t want any lumps. You can make this in the early morning then let it sit out all day (at least 12 hours) at room temperature, then make the final dough in the early evening – you’re going to refrigerate it for awhile. At the end of the 12 hours, it should be pretty bubbly.
  2. Just before the poolish is finished fermenting, in large bowl, add the remaining flour.
  3. Add the water to the remaining flour, but reserve a little bit (like 50-100 grams) to rinse out the poolish container after you’ve added the poolish.
  4. Mix the flour and water until you get a shaggy dough, then let it rest and autolyse for 30 minutes. We just want to get it started because bulk fermentation will take place in the fridge.
  5. After the final dough has rested, evenly sprinkle the salt and yeast over the dough, then add the poolish to it.
  6. Rinse out the poolish container with the water you reserved and make sure you get everything in the poolish container. Add that to the final dough.
  7. Mix well until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  8. At this point, you either dump it out on your board and knead it until it’s smooth, or if you’re using a stand mixer, mix at Speed 2 until the dough is smooth.
  9. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then do a stretch and fold.
  10. Over the next hour or so, do a stretch and fold every ten minutes until you’ve done 5 or 6 folds. You’ll know you’ve done enough when you pick up a corner of the dough and the whole ball comes will try to come with it without tearing.
  11. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap and let it ferment in your fridge for at least 14 hours or until the dough about doubles in size. It really depends on the temperature of your fridge. I have my mini fridge set to 49-degrees and 14 hours is the sweet spot. You should see some nice bubbles in the dough. If not, let it ferment some more. It could take up to 30 hours.
  12. Once the dough has doubled, remove it from the fridge and divide and shape it as you normally would, but be EXTREMELY gentle with the dough. You do not want to degas it!
  13. Once shaped, proof for 45-minutes to an hour at room temperature, then move the loaves into your fridge once again to chill for an hour.
  14. Once chilled, remove the loaves from their proofing containers, score the loaves, then bake for 30 minutes at 500 degrees.

Yes, this is at least a 2-day process. But believe me, the results are totally worth it!

Poolish In the Morning, Fresh Bread in the Afternoon

I know, I know… There’s all this craze about good artisan bread taking at least two days. I do it because the results are amazing. No doubt that using a 12-24 hour pre-ferment or a levain provides extra flavor complexity. But sometimes, I just want to make bread and have it ready the same day. But that doesn’t mean I have to completely sacrifice all flavor complexity.

From what I’ve been able to gather recently, one of the trends that seems to be occurring in artisan bread baking is that bakers seem to be leaning less on the leavening agent to provide flavor complexity and more on other factors such as flour. Myself, I now almost always have at least 25% whole wheat flour in my dough. I also started using high-extraction bread flour, where more of the wheat kernel is extracted than regular bread flour (think Type 85 flour). Just that change in flour has provided incredible flavor complexity to the 1-day loaves I bake.

This recipe is a riff on a poolish-based bread. It actually uses a poolish, but instead of fermenting from 12-24 hours with half a gram of yeast, I ferment it for 4 hours with 2 grams of yeast. We don’t get all the benefits of the microbes kicking and creating sourness (though there is some), but we do get the benefits of using a poolish which provides much better dough extensibility.

Also, it’s optional, but I add 1.5% diastatic malt powder to help the yeast along and promote great oven spring and crust color, especially if I use a 50-50 whole wheat to bread flour ratio. It really helps guarantee that the Maillard reaction occurs and we get the flavor benefits from a darkened crust.

With this recipe, if you start at around 8 AM in the morning, you should have bread by 4 PM. Here’s the basic recipe:

Create the Poolish

250 grams fine-ground whole wheat flour
250 grams bread flour
7.5 grams diastatic malt powder (optional)
500 grams 100-degree water
2 grams instant yeast (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk until well-incorporated, then add the water, making sure no there are no dry spots. Mix until there are no large lumps. The dough will be a little shaggy and super wet – it’s 100% hydration so that’s okay. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl you get everything. Finish mixing until smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 4 hours. I place my container in the oven with an open oven door to provide a warm environment for the yeast to do its thing.

Final Dough

500 grams bread flour
7.5 grams diastatic malt powder (optional)
16 grams salt
4 grams instant yeast (1 level teaspoon)
21 grams honey (optional) – that’s about a tablespoon

250 grams 100-degree water

Tip: If your kitchen is anywhere near 80-degrees like mine gets in the summer – I have horrible HVAC ducting in my home – drop the hydration down to 73% or even less (FYI, at 73%, you’ll add 238 grams of water). In really warm environments, it will be difficult for a dough to hold its shape. And even 73% is pushing it. The boule I made above was done at 73%, but it it was originally shaped as a batard, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the batard to stop laying flat, so I re-shaped the loaf into a boule where I could control the surface tension better. Another option might have been to roll out a couple of baguettes.

Mix the Poolish and Final Dough

Measure out the 250 grams of water, then if you want to use the honey, add it to the water to dissolve it. Add the water to the poolish, then mix to create a slurry.

Add all the rest of the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside. If you used small container for the poolish, you should transfer it to a larger bowl. This will be your mixing bowl.

Add dry ingredients to the poolish in batches until well-incorporated and you form a shaggy dough. At this point, if you’re using a stand mixer, mix on low to medium speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, then transfer to the container you’ll use for the bulk ferment (I don’t like to use the stand mixer bowl because of the raised bump at the bottom. If you’re mixing by hand, once everything’s incorporated, since it’s a fairly wet dough, give it several stretch folds in the bowl until you feel the gluten strands developing.

Bulk Ferment

Note that the bulk ferment comes in two phases. The first phase, which is the first hour and half to two hours involves doing gentle stretch and folds. The second phase is letting the dough rest for a couple of hours.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes then do a stretch and fold. Stretch and fold every 30 minutes two more times. After the third stretch and fold, give the dough the windowpane test to make sure you can stretch it thin without the dough tearing. If it tears, let the dough rest for another 30 minutes, then do a stretch and fold one last time. By this time, the dough should pass the test. If not (which is probably due to temperature), lather rinse and repeat the stretch and fold.

TIP: Be extremely gentle with your stretch and folds, especially an hour into the ferment. You want to avoid tearing the dough and you also want to retain as much of the gases as possible.

Let the dough rest and finish bulk fermenting in a warm place for a couple of hours, but check it after an hour. It probably won’t be done fermenting after an hour, but it’s a good thing to check its progress. By the end of two hours, you should see at least a 50% rise. At that point, you can let it go a little longer if you want or you can start shaping.

Divide and Pre-shape

The great thing about this particular dough is that you can pretty much do what you want from here. It produces about 2 kilos of dough. And since it’s a fairly high-hydration dough, you can make boules or batards or even simple baguettes if you want.

For boules and batards, you can split the dough into two or four equal pieces. For baguettes, there’s enough for eight sandwich size baguettes or 5 or 6 larger baguettes that’ll fit in a standard oven. No matter how you divide the dough, pre-shape your loaves into tight balls, lightly flour the tops, then bench rest them for 15-20 minutes.

Shape and Proof

Tip: Since this recipe produces two ~2-lb loaves, I make one that day, then pop the other shaped loaf into my fridge to proof for 24-hours. That way the family can have a loaf of fresh bread each day. Or… you can even freeze the dough after shaping. When you’re ready to bake, let it come to close to room temp and let it finish proofing. You won’t be killing the yeast by freezing it; you’ll only force it into hibernation.

Shape the loaves then proof for 45 minutes to an hour or until your dough passes the finger dent test. In warmer weather, I usually check proofing at 30 minutes. It’s usually not done by then, but there have been times where it has finished proofing in that small amount of time.

While the loaves are proofing, set your oven to 475-degrees. If you’re using a Dutch oven, pop it in the oven to pre-heat.

Bake at 475-degrees.

For boules and batards: 35 minutes

For baguettes and small, round loaves: 25 minutes