Norwich Sourdough Boule

Norwich Sourdough Boule baked in Dutch Oven

Norwich Soudough Boules

Norwich Sourdough Boule

It’s Hamelman’s Bread‘s Vermont Sourdough, a country white bread.  But I did not pay much attention to white bread recipes then until I stumbled upon Susan’s Wild Yeast Blog where the name and the recipe come from.

I did not have any oven set up to bake bread in different shapes other than the forever boule during the first year of my bread baking.   I became quite good, if I said so myself, at using the available baking tools at hand, namely my two baking pots, and also at shaping and slashing round boules.  Also the first year, I was the sole mixing machine & my elbow grease was wholly responsible for all the bread baked during the said period.

Since my discovery of Susan’s Blog about 2 years ago I’ve become its regular readers.  I love to read Susan’s posts, marvel over her beautiful creations, be inspired and to learn much more about bread baking.

I love this no-failed recipe and its tasty outcome. This recipe makes five small-size batards but here I baked in 2 large boules.

Norwich Sourdough Boules

Norwich Sourdough Boules

Follow the recipe’s instruction up until shaping.  Shape into 2 equal boules by weighing the dough or just eye balled it.  Proof in floured linen-lined baskets or couches for a good 1.5 hours at room temperature or until the loaves are light, airy and full of bubbles.

Preheat the oven with two lidded baking cast-iron pots, about 5-6 quart in size, at least 45 minutes before baking.  If your oven is not large enough to fit 2 of such pots so have to bake one loaf at a time, place the unbaked loaf in the fridge while the first loaf is in the oven.  After finishing baking the first loaf as instructed below, do allow time for the oven, the pot and its lid heated for at least 20 minutes before loading & baking the other loaf.

Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes with the lid on.  Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes or so in the pot or remove the pot to bake the loaf in the oven until its crust becomes mahogany dark.  Turn off the oven, crack the oven door open, leave the loaf in for another 5 minutes or so to completely dry out the crust.  Cool on rack before slicing into it, if you can wait.

Don’t you love the mahogany blistered crust?  Even if you don’t normally eat white bread, you would want to try this bread, at least once.   Sorry I don’t have any picture of the crumb but here another picture of the grigne:

Norwich Sourdough's "Grigne" & Crust

Norwich Sourdough's "Grigne"; & Crust

I encourage you to bake this bread, and yes, you can bake it in boules and enjoy it with a much thicker crust, if you are a crusty-type bread eater.

I would like to share this recipe at this week’s Yeast Spotting where bread enthusiasts and amateur bread bakers around the globe posting their marvelous recipes and beautiful pictures; please stop by for a baked treat.

I haven’t baked any bread at all the last few weeks but I finally got hold of my starters (white and rye) and brought them with me to the mountains where I am visiting at the moment.  I hope to be able to bake some bread, wish me luck, at 7200 feet.


simple sourdough loaf

simple sourdough loaf

I got back in the country from my Spring break trip already almost 2 weeks, but I haven’t yet baked any bread.  As soon as  I arrived  2 Saturdays ago, I only had enough time to distribute the gifts, straightened out my luggage, got a few hours of sleep and left the very next day heading up to the mountains –without forgetting to feed my two starters (white and rye)–.

I created this white starter last September and it has since risen consistently many loaves of bread.

white starter

white starter, 2 hours away before feeding time

Before I set up the oven with baking tiles & lava rocks for steam I used to bake all my bread in lidded cast-iron & lidded Pyrex pots.

baking vessels

baking vessels

In the beginning of my baking adventure and out of curiosity, I’d tried all sorts of suggested baking method,  including this fairly dangerous one but it worked quite well –I believe by Susan of San Diego posted on The Fresh Loaf –a pre-heated inverted Pyrex bowl over the loaf–.

inverted Pyrex baking method

inverted Pyrex baking method

I am visiting at 7200 feet above sea level so I won’t even attempt to bake any bread even one with commercial yeast; although I must confess  I thought about bread baking quite a bit in the past few days.  To relieve my hunger for baking I am going to post this Simple Sourdough also by Susan SD (stands for San Diego) whose recipe I’d made a number of times and liked it very much.

What appeals to me is its simplicity, from 4 simple & basic ingredients: sourdough starter, white flour, a small percentage of rye/whole wheat flour, salt and water to its flexible mixing, shaping & baking method.  And it tastes delicious.

Of course you can mix in seeds if you know what you are doing and don’t have to bake in a lidded pot.  For this particular loaf I threw in about 3 Tablespoons of ground flax seed and dried blueberry — purchased from Trader Joe’s– for some color as well as taste.

Simple Sourdough Loaf with ground flax seed and dried blueberry

Simple Sourdough Loaf with ground flax seed and dried blueberry


50 g firm starter,  I use 65%-hydration starter

204 g water

275 g strong bread flour

25 g white whole wheat flour, I use whole rye flour

6 g sea salt

3 Tablespoons blueberry ground flax seed (from Trader Joe’s), optional


Mixed all ingredients minimally by hand and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Do 1 Stretch & Fold, then 2 more S&F at 1-hour interval.

Let it rise at room temperature 70°-72° F until double.  Pre-shape, rest loaf 15-20 minutes, then shape it into tight boule.  Place the loaf in a linen-lined container about 2.5 times larger than its size.  Cover it well with quick saran wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.

Take it out the next day & warm it up for 2 hours at room temperature.  Pre-heat oven with a closed lid cast-iron pot at 475 ° F, at least 45 minutes before baking.  Score the loaf, place it in the pre-heated pot, close the lid and bake for 20 minutes at 450° F.  Remove lid and bake for another 20 minutes.  I take the loaf out of the pot and bake it in the oven for the required amount of time & turning it 180 degrees half way into baking for an even bake.  Turn the oven off, crack the oven door open and leave the loaf in for another 5-10 minutes more.  Cool it on rack for 1 plus hour or so before cutting it.  Enjoy.

Simple Sourdough Loaf: Crumb & Crust

Simple Sourdough Loaf: Crumb & Crust

I am sending this bread to this week’s Yeast Spotting.  Go visit the site, even if you don’t bake bread, it’s a feast for the eyes, and maybe you would change your mind afterward.

Pane al Cioccolato: dangling chocolate pieces

It’s a little cold this morning –already my 5th day in France being with my wonderful family– in the suburb of SE Paris, so I decide to make another batch of hot chocolate drink for myself and the kids -my niece and nephew– who are sleeping still as it’s early here just past 0700 in the morning.  As I travel with my milk frother, chocolate drink can be made just about anywhere to quickly get chocolate into my blood stream.  🙂 Anyway, this “pane al cioccolato” comes to mind as I am sipping the rich, slightly sweet, aromatic and warm chocolate milk wishing a piece of such lovely toast right this minute to dunk into this wonderful drink for a double shot of dark chocolate and yes, more caffeine, not that I need any.

I’d followed & enjoyed  Jude of Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté for a while until it has become a ghost blog since July 2009.  This recipe and method came from his blog where he posted some great photos of the bread and dough.  Browse his site  when you have a chance,  you would have a fun time as I’ve had.

This bread caught my attention because of the one single ingredient namely chocolate, secondly the natural starter used in –as with most Italian bread– its biga, an equivalence of [French/Polish?] poolish, made with a lower-than-100-percent sourdough starter resulting in a doughy biga naturale and thirdly it can be done within a day after mixing the biga the previous night.

Pane al Cioccolato /Italian Chocolate Bread

recipe from Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté , which adapted from Michel Suas’ Advanced Bread and Pastry

makes two 375 gram / 13.25 ounce loaves

For the Biga Naturale / Wild Yeast Starter:

Ingredients       Grams starter (50% hydration) 28 bread flour 32 water, at room temperature 18

Mix the biga naturale ingredients until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place the biga naturale in a bowl and cover.  Let it ferment at room temperature (70 – 75° F)  for about 8 hours before using in the final dough.

Final Dough Formula:

Ingredients       Grams all of the biga naturale, cut into small pieces bread flour 393 water 248 honey 71  cocoa powder 25/4 Tablespooninstant yeast 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 Tablespoon sea salt 10/2 teaspoon chocolate chips 78 - I used Scharffen Berger's  72% chocolate, chopped into small pieces


Mix all of the ingredients (except the chocolate chips) until evenly incorporated.  Knead 8 to 10 minutes by a mixer until it reaches medium-gluten development.  Rest 5 minutes.  Fold in the chocolate chips by hand or by machine at low-speed  for about a minute or until the chocolate chips are thoroughly incorporated.

Proof the dough for 2 hours at room temperature in a lightly oiled bowl; if your starter is not as mature to start with it might take longer.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions about 454 grams each.  Pre-shape lightly, cover with saran wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

Shape into batard or ball.  Let them proof at room temperature for about 3 hours or longer until it’s light and filled with lots of air bubbles.

About 45 minutes before the proofing is done, pre-heat the oven with baking stone/tiles to 400 °F (204° F).  Prepare steam for the bake.

Slash 2 almost-parallel cuts at 15 – 20 degree angle to create flaps over the dough.  Load the loaves onto the pre-heated stone, apply steam, close the oven door and bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate the loaves, remove steam, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

pane al cioccolato

pane al cioccolato

Pane al Cioccolato

Pane al Cioccolato open "grigne"

It tastes airily light with a soft crust, a chewy crumb and melted dark chocolate in every bite.   Serve this bread as breakfast and/or dessert with milk or your preferred drink.   Enjoy.

Italian Chocolate Bread: Crumb

Italian Chocolate Bread: Crumb

I couldn’t decide if this is rich-dough or lean-dough bread.  It started out as a lean dough with all the basic ingredients and a little bit of honey; however the [dark] chocolate has pushed it away from being lean so it’s rich bread then –Decision reached–.

I am pleased to send this bread to Yeast Spotting to share with other bread enthusiasts.  Please visit the site to enjoy this week’s wonderful bakes as well as those in the archives.  You will have a fun time there, I promise, would most likely go away with a bread or two to bake over the weekend.

pane al Cioccolato: toast

pane al Cioccolato: toast

yet another Pain de Mie Variation

yet-another Pain de Mie Variation sandwiches of smoked salmon, avocado, crème fraîche, sea salt and fresh coarsely black pepper

In just 2 days I’ll take a short Spring break vacation so I need to clean out the fridge.   Having quite some starter excess available I decide to bake my favorite Pain de Mie Variation and carry the bread with me flying across the Atlantic.  For this loaf I use different types of flours and seeds, including some nine-grain mix thrown in for good measure.

This bread turns out so well that it deserves a post by itself.  The semolina flour does make the bread seem drier; on the upshot it stays crackly crunchy for a long time.   It bakes well into a mahogany color crust and a beautiful crumb studded with seeds and pieces of coarse cornmeal.   I even record a video of its “musique du pain” within minutes it’s taken out of the oven.

I bake 2 medium-sized loaves,  keep one for my favorite sandwiches and share the other loaf with my friends, the Carsonis.  Few weeks ago I also gave a  loaf  of Pain de Mie to the same family where it was well received and quickly consumed.

Update;  I brought the rest of my bread with me on my said trip which was being canceled about 4 times due to the recent Iceland volcanic eruptionso enjoyed the slices in the four days of being an accidental tourist in San Francisco (Face Book link only).  Always bring your bread with you when you travel it comes in handy at unexpected time.

Let’s create this bread.


200 g starter excess (100 % hydration white and rye)

450 g water

400 g all-purpose flour (mine is only 9% protein)  + 1 1/2  teaspoon of wheat gluten

200 g fine semolina flour

1/8 tsp gold instant yeast **

102 g nine-grain mix + 1 TBsp toasted wheat germs + 2 TBsp quinoa grain/seed + mostly toasted sesame seed and some pepitas.

** I did not have enough starter & it did not look particularly active.  Just to be sure I add a tiny amount of yeast to give the dough a boost.


Measure the flour, the wheat gluten, yeast, and nine-grain mix in a large mixing bowl.  Use a whisk blend the mixture well.

mix of flours

mix of flours

flour mix and yeast

flour mixture, starter excess, water, yeast, salt, and seeds

Add the starter in the flour mixture; add water to the starter container to loosen the starter that clings to the container.

Measure the water, add to the mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula until hydrated; it needs not to be perfectly mixed.

mixing starter and flour mixture

mixing starter and flour mixture

Let the dough autolyse for at least 45 minutes to an hour.  Cover well with quick saran wrap.

autolyse the mixed dough

autolyse the mixed dough

Add the salt, mix the dough by hand or use a mixer to medium gluten development, about 10 – 20 minutes depends on which method you use.  I use a bread maker set at dough mixing to mix it well; it takes me 15 minutes.

mixing dough in a bread maker

mixing dough in a bread maker

well-gluten-developped dough

medium-gluten-developed dough

Fold in the seeds either by hand or at low-setting on your mixer until just well-blended, no more than 2 minutes by machine.

roasted sesame seeds & pepitas

roasted sesame seeds & pepitas

seeds mixed in with dough

seeds mixed in with the dough

Put the dough in an oiled container, 2.5 times its size.  If your dough need more structure, give it a few folds within the next hour  then proceed to cold storage overnight for a long fermentation, from 10 hours up to 24 hours.

This particular dough is quite strong so I decide not to fold it at all but leave it out on the counter for 45 minutes then put it into the fridge.

When you are ready to bake the bread, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature about 2 hours or so.  If you leave it in a warm place it might take less time.  Sprinkle some flour on the dough, take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured counter.

This particular dough is soft even with all the grains and seeds in it; it has a wonderful elasticity/extensibility profile.  I can already anticipate the slashing which would be a breeze.

dough ready after cold fermentation

dough ready after cold fermentation

Divide it into 2 equal portion (use a scale).  Roughly shape into 2 balls, sprinkle some flour on the surface, loosely cover with saran wrap and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Shape dough into 2 batards.  I proof the loaves directly on parchment paper-line baking sheet right side up.  Take care to leave room for expansion between the loaves.  I use rolled towels or this to aid support to the loaves and to encourage rising-up expansion.

Sprinkle some flour on the loaves.  Put the whole baking sheet inside a large garbage bag and leave it at a warm place 72° F – 75° F.  I turn the appliance light on and put the whole thing in the oven.

Let the loaves proof until well expanded, light and full of bubbles.

ready-to-bake shaped loaves

ready-to-bake shaped loaves

In the meantime turn on the oven with a baking stone/tiles at 450 ° F, at least 45 minutes before the bake.

Slash the loaves off center with a utility blade or sharp knife or  use a lame, at an angle about 30 degrees to create a flap over the dough to encourage ear and open “grigne” development.

Load the loaves on parchment in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 435 ° F.  Bake the loaves  with burst of steam the first 15-18 minutes.

Take the parchment off so that the loaves bake directly on the baking tiles.  Bake for another 30 minutes or so.  Turn them half way into the bake so they bake evenly.  Turn the oven of; crack the oven door open ajar;  leave the loaves inside to crisp up for another 10 minutes.  This method works really well.

Take the loaves out.  Let them cool completely on a wire rack.   Do not rush to cut into them.  Well, if you can’t stand it, cut a thin slice around the edge only; leave the center of the loaf alone until it cools down the next hour or so.  Be patient.

baked loaves

baked loaves

Loaf I

Loaf I

Loaf II

Loaf II

and the crumb with seeds, cracked corn nested in the crumb cells



I enjoy this bread very very much.  I made sandwiches twice in a row.

Sandwich I:  [wild Alaskan] Smoked salmon, avocado, sea salt, cracked pepper on Pain de Mie bread.

vocado spread on toasted slices

vocado spread on toasted slices

assembling sandwiches

assembling sandwiches

Smoked salmon avocado Pain de Mie sandwich

Smoked salmon avocado Pain de Mie sandwich

Sandwich II: [wild Alaskan] Smoked salmon, avocado, crème fraîche, sea salt, cracked pepper on Pain de Mie bread.

assembling sandwiches

assembling sandwiches

Sandwiches II

Smoked salmon avocado crème fraîchePain de Mie sandwiches

Hope you will enjoy making this bread and be creative about the different types of flours and seeds.  Enjoy baking and eating!

I am sending this bread [again, shamelessly] to share with the folks at this week’s Yeast Spotting.

barm bread

barm bread first taken out of the oven, no crack on the crust

It hasn’t a flake of snow falling since I stepped foot on the mountain terrain almost 2 weeks ago.  I am still recuperating from the recent surgery (yes, it took place here in the mountains) and am getting better everyday.  Doc said my good health has greatly contributed to the incredibly fast healing even though my sleep has been sporadic, my motions have been tortoise-ly slow, my thinking has been cloudy at times, and my weight has kept falling no matter how much high-calorie foods I’ve voraciously consumed with deliberate intention.

I had to passed up invitations from friends to go up to ski resorts even if I really needed some cool air to cheer me up, really.  What good does it do to me to just sit around reading lounging mingling with ski peoples up in the mountains’ tops; it would also be torturous seeing them cheer up to an après-ski (a drink); besides, my eyes’ condition is nowhere desirable to bright light reflected from pure white snow anyway.

Then it has been so bloody warm a weather be at 4500 feet, 5000 feet, or 6900 feet.  Wait a minute, isn’t it a fact that the higher you go up the closer you are to the sun so it ain’t going to get any cooler at above 7000 feet;  do I know of what I am talking about?  I guess not.  But I do know that I have been dreaming of a cool & sweating beer.  Soon enough though, after tomorrow’s last dosage of antibiotics and steroid drugs, I’ll be allowed to taste some alcohol.  Think I’ll grab an amber poured into a well-chilled glass,  roll it over on my cheek then savory it slowly sip by sip.

Being so drugged up for the first time in my  life, I have been drifting in and out of surreal state and reality, of blissful confusion, dreaming about B.  That is for beer, bread, oh barm and no doubt  B, my friend who just had a major –I mean really really major– surgery at the beginning of last week –yikes, to get his spine remodeled!  –if I can say something like that–.

B is in intense therapy recuperating well as I finally heard from him and his jolly laughter which by the way love like.  Get well soon B and we’ll together create some bread up in the high mountains, that much I can promise.  In light of B thinking I am going to dedicate this post of barm bread, a recipe in The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard, that I created last October, to B.

Bear with me here as I am far away from home without my bread notes nor picture of a bubbly fermented glistening golden barm or the well-inflating risen loaf to show it to you so follow me closely (my memory has served me well so far.)

Synopsis: First I create a “barm”, then mix the dough by hand, followed by a very Lepard-style folding schedule, then the second rise, and finally a bake.  It could not be simpler and you’ll have fun making this bread.

For the barm:

I recommend measuring out everything before proceeding:

250 g Chimay ale (or other condition-bottled beer)

50 g strong bread flour (I used Giusto’s)

4 tsp active white sourdough starter at 80% (I used 5 tsp levain of 100% hydration)

I pour some Chimay into a glass for a drink and measure out what left at the bottle’s bottom where most of the “live” yeast got collected, to create the barm.

Heat the beer to 165° F then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to 68° F.   Add the flour, mix vigorously with a wire whisk.  The barm seems to be firm at first but will become quite liquid after being mixed well.  Add the levain and mix again.  Cover and let it ferment at room temperature until it is bubbly.  Do this overnight so you can see its activity the next day in the day time.  It might take anywhere from 12 hours to 30 hours.  Mine was quite ready after only 14 hours but I did not know what to expect of an active barm which is so different than a wheat levain,  so I let it go for another hour to make sure.

The active barm can be stored in the fridge and it’s good to bake bread within a week.  This barm formula is good for 2 bakes which I did to use up all the barm.  If you know me, I would not let any levain goes to waste, excess or not, let alone this is a barm created with a pricey Chimay ale.

Mixing the final dough takes some time of hand-on activity; schedule it so that you have the time to enjoy the demanding folding.

Final Dough:

150 g active barm

250 g water at room temperature (70° F – 72° F)

500 g strong bread flour

10 g salt

Mix everything together and do the folding each time at the following time points:

10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 5 hours.

After 5 hours, knead it briefly and let it rest for 15 – 20 minutes, then shape it into 2 small boules, proof the shaped dough in banneton or linen-lined basket and allow for the final rise that takes anywhere between 4 to 5 hours.

I fold the dough over itself inside the bowl, using a sturdy spatula while rotating the mixing bowl, a few times.  After 3-hour period the dough develops quite a structure so for the last 2 folds I manually fold it on a counter’s surface.   I shape it into one big boule, Fendu style and proof it in a linen-ed basket, at room temperature.  Mine took a little over 4 hours to be ready.

The bread expands incredibly about 1.5 to 2 times filled with bubbles so handle the final loaf very carefully to not deflate it as my first loaf.  You can also let it rise in the fridge overnight and bake it the next day.  I think that was what I did judging from the bubble-blistered grigne in the picture but I could not recall anything as it was quite a number of months ago and right now my mind is isn’t mine to put it lightly.

Bake the loaf on pre-heated baking tiles at 425° F with burst of steam the first 18-20 minutes, then another 30 minutes without steam.  Turn the oven off and leave the door crack open with the loaf still inside for another 5 minutes or so.  Take the loaf out of the oven and let it cool completely on a cooling rack.

barm bread

barm bread, some ten seconds out of the oven

The loaf got a good oven spring, took on a reddish color crust, looked well-expanded as if swollen, and started cracking within the first minute or so.   Enjoy “musique du pain” and marvel at your creation.

cracks on barm bread

cracks on barm bread

bubbly grigne

blistered grigne

The loaf is very light, the crackly crust shattered when cut into it and the slices taste slightly sour with a subtle hint of ale, more so than bread I created using beer as liquid.  Its airiness caught me by surprise for I’d never taste any bread of such texture before.  And if I remembered it correctly, its taste gets better with time.

barm bread crumb

barm bread crumb

Did not mention but I threw in a few table spoons of TJS’ ground flax-seed and dried blueberry.  Beer/barm, blueberry, bread, aye, go well together and look so pretty.  In fact I might call my loaf blueberry barm bread. ;0)  What do ya think?

blueberry barm bread crumb

I’ll get to go home soon to a real kitchen to actually making bread instead of just dreaming about it, of touching, handling, shaping, smelling, baking and tasting it in my head all day long.  It was all wonderful but I really need to get my hands into some dough, any bread would do even GF ones.  Wait a minutes, GF won’t work since they don’t need no stinking gluten so no dough handling is required.  Is it true?  I’ll have to find out soon.

Okay, I am sending this bread to join the party at  this week’s Yeast Spotting.  Join me there, will you.


polenta sourdough

polenta-crusted Sourdough

Having made a few loaves of seeded whole wheat bread of late, I decided to make a white sourdough for a change.   Della Fattoria is a small bakery in Petaluma in northern California whose breads are of very good artisan-quality and beautifully created.  There are two recipes from the bakery listed in Artisan Baking Across America, I already made the roasted garlic sourdough one and this polenta-crusted sourdough is the other.  Although it’s categorized as advanced I don’t think it’s difficult to make.  If you have already created  a few artisan loaves and have a mixer then you are good to go.    What draws my attention is the crusted polenta spiraling on top of the loaf; that means I got to slash a spiral, which I had only done once before.  I make one boule and one batard and the boule is a gift to a friend.  Here is the recipe and how I did it.  Let’s bake some golden polenta-crusted sourdough.

Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough

Recipe in Artisan Baking Across America

Yield two 600-gram loaves

Time: It takes me 30 hours, of which about 45 minutes of hand-on work.

The Levain

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Fermented Firm Sourdough Starter 20 g 20%
Water, lukewarm 60 g 60%
Unbleached bread flour (13.3% protein) 100 g 100%
Total weight: 315 grams

The Polenta

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Coarse Polenta 35 g 100%
Cold Water 175 g 500%

The Dough

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Water, cold 390 g 65%
Unbleached Bread Flour (11.5% to 12% protein) 265 g 44%
Unbleached high–gluten Flour (13% – 14% protein) ** 335 g 56%
Fermented Levain 30%
Salt 18 g 3%
Cooled Polenta 35%
Total weight:  1,540 grams


Coarse polenta for coating the dough.

** I added 1/2 teaspoon of wheat gluten flour (72% protein) & mixed well to make called-for high gluten four


1.  Refresh your sourdough starter 2 days before baking with it, about 3 to 4 times.

2.  Mix the levain and let it ferment overnight for 8 hours until it has expanded quadruple.

3.  The next morning, cook the polenta and water in small heavy pan, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, about 3 minutes.    Spread it out on a plate to cool to room temperature.

5.  Mix the cold water and the flour into a rough dough.  Let it autolyse for 20 minutes.

6.  Mix the dough with a mixer on medium speed until the dough is very smooth.  It takes me 10 minutes.

7.  Add salt and levain and continue mixing until the dough is firm and smooth.

mix in the polenta

8.  Add the cooked polenta in bits and mix until it is fully incorporated.  The dough becomes wet but not too sticky.

wet dough after mixing in the cooked polenta

9.  Place the dough in a covered container at least 3 times its size.  Let it ferment until it is airy and well expanded, about 3.5 hours.

1o.  Turn the dough 3  times at 30 minutes interval, that is, after 30, 60, and 90 minutes of fermenting.  Give the dough another turn if you think it needs it.  Then leave it undisturbed for the remaining time.

dough after 3 turns

11.  Flour your work surface and the dough and turn it out.  Cut the dough in half, each piece weighs about 650 grams.  Lightly round the pieces and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

12.  Carefully shape the dough into even and tight round loaves without deflating them.  I shape a round loaf and a batard loaf.    Place the loaves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Spray or pain their top with water, and lightly sprinkle the coarse polenta to coat them all over.

For the round loaf I proof it in a plastic colander, right side down like this:

proofing round loaf in colander

13.  Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and proof until it is well expanded, about 2.5 to 3 hours.

airy & well-expanded batard loaf decorated with raw polenta

14.  At least 45 minutes before the dough is fully proofed, pre-heat the oven with baking stone to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).  Prepare steam.

15.  Slash a spiral on top of the round loaf begin at the bread’s center and holding the razor almost horizontally, turn the bread on its parchment while you cut the spiral.

polenta dough spiral

spiral-slashed loaf

polenta batard

slashed batard loaf

16.  Load the bread with parchment on the baking stone.  Bake the loaves with burst of steam for the first 15 minutes, and without steam for 30 – 35 minutes more, until they turn dark brown evenly.  Rotating them halfway into the bake.   Turn the oven off, leave the loaves in with the oven door crack open.

17.  Let the breads cool completely on a wire rack.

polenta sourdough

spiral-slashed round loaf

batard-shaped loaf

18.  Enjoy.

I have always wanted a picture of a slice of artisan bread held up so that light can shine through its lacy crumb, like those shown in artisan bread book.  So with this bread, the opportunity has arrived.  Can you see the polenta pieces nested inside the wall of the crumb?

crumb polenta SD

crumb laced with coarse polenta pieces

I am sending this to Yeast Spotting; see you over there.