Saturday, December 22, 2012


so, i've been wanting to push the boundaries of my final fermentation time, which is the period of time that bread develops its flavor, where the crumb structure and texture is determined, and how the crust develops. the final fermentation for this boule was 20 hours, and i have to say, the crust and crumb of this loaf was pretty, well, wow.

here's what: if you start feeding your starter twice a day starting today (saturday), you can have this bread for christmas day. that's what i'mmunna do. i'll make one for my friend jen too (yes, you can just double the formula). together we'll rip off pieces of it and dip it in our christmas soup. after our hot chocolate. and presents.

here's a snapshot of your schedule in case you do want to make it: 1) feed the starter twice on saturday, 2) then twice on sunday - like 8am and 3pm, 3) then start the levain on sunday night like 11pm or midnight, just before bed (be sure you feed the starter again after you rob it for your levain. yes, it's fine if you feed your starter 3x in a day. and yes, it's fine to feed your starter spaced apart by, oh, i don't know, 6, 7, 8 hours. if you have a good strong starter, it will be fine, i do it all the time, it makes her good and robust and ready for action) 4) start the dough on monday morning, like 7am or 8am, even 9am, but you will have to determine the best time by the health of the levain 5) and bake the bread tuesday morning, after a full 20 hours of fermentation.

oh, hey, a note on shaping. when forming your dough into a boule, be sure to get it as round as possible, because when it's resting in its hammock, it is going to retain the shape that you shaped it in. that means, if you left it knobby or misshapen, that's how the bread will bake up. when i shaped this loaf, i remember thinking that i should give it a couple more twists to round it out. there was a little 'point' on one side of it, and i used it as an opportunity to see if it would round out in the bowl. one would think, right?

alas, it will not, so, if you want a perfectly round boule, 1) make sure that you don't over-hydrate your dough 2) be sure that fermentation is complete from levain through final fermentation 3) be sure to take care when shaping the boule. it's not that i mind a little funkiness to the shape of my bread, after all, it is rustic. i just thought you might want to know. little tweaks in this experiment, yeah?

so, this just about uses up all of my BRM light spelt. i wanted to do a post about it because there it is, on the supermarket shelf, it is its own product, and perhaps you were passing it by all these long months thinking 'what is 'light' vs. white vs. whole? how will it behave? should i try it?'

light spelt is a cross between whole and white spelt. bob sifts out enough bran to lighten the flour (personally, himself, just kidding. is there even a real bob? or is he like aunt jamima? a mere mascot to make us personally connect with his flour? yeah, too much time on these here hands...) so you get to eat a 'white' bread that won't make you feel so guilty. not that i feel guilty about eating white flour. what's the point in that? guilt is overrated. just drop it and you'll be fine.

back to bob and his flour. verdict? i personally appreciate the flour. flavor: when i took my first bite, i literally said 'wow'. the crust: was earth shattering, the crumb: was perfectly gelatinized. so there's that. and here's this.

city bread, in light spelt


make your levain:

37g starter
111g dark rye flour, i used BRM
111g h2o

mix this together to make a paste and ferment. mine took 7 hours 15 minutes.


make the dough:

259g levain
367g h2o
275g BRM light spelt flour
275g KA bread flour
12g sea salt

mix together the levain, the flours and water until it reaches a shaggy mass. autolyse for 1 full hour. after autolyse, squish the salt into the dough with your hands.

begin the bulk fermentation. for the first two hours of the bulk fermentation, you will perform a series of turns every half hour at room temp. for the last two hours, pop the dough in the fridge and allow it to ferment, untouched.

after the bulk fermentation is complete, turn the dough out onto a counter dusted with brown rice flour, gather it up into a loose round and let it rest for 10 minutes. after it has rested, shape it into a boule, focusing on getting it as round as possible if you wish. But don't go too crazy. you don't want to compact the dough after it has developed such lovely gases or risk tearing the 'skin'.

pop this into a bowl lined with a linen that has been dusted with brown rice flour, pop in the fridge and ferment for 20 hours.


one hour before you bake, preheat the oven to 550 degrees. make sure your stone and both halves of the combo cooker are in there too.

after a FULL HOUR (i'm serious), unearth the dough onto a peel lined with a piece of parchment, score the dough in some lovely pattern, then slide it into the shallow half of the combo cooker.

pop on the top half and turn the oven down to 475 degrees. steam for 30 minutes.

after the steam, remove the top half of the combo cooker using an oven mitt to avoid a nasty steam burn.

turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake until the richest marron.

to the staff of life!

this post has been exhibited on Susan's wild yeast blog. thank you susan, for giving us a platform to share our bread!



  1. Hi Francis,

    If you already have a Le Creuset, is it worth it to get a combo cooker? Baked my first bread ever a few days ago after reading the first chapter of Tartine. Um, I'm obsessed now. Thank god for your bread porn site.

    P.S. May a fellow Angeleno get your notes on my first bake?

    1. Hey Aaron. Yes. Get a combo cooker. Le Creuset will not stand up well to repeated heatings to 550 degrees. It will eventually weaken the enamel. In fact, I think they are only supposed to be heated to 450? When I started this experiment, I used Le Creuset, and during my final bake with the pot, when I pulled the bread out of the pot it peeled away some enamel. Combos are straight iron. Bare bones. Also, the shallow end of the pot is indispensable. 1) it's much easier to get the dough in and out. Deep pots increase the risk of hand/forearm burns because you have to get your hands in there to deliver the dough. Also, when you remove the bread, you have to use a spatula to pry it out, so you will risk ruining your lovely crust. 2) The deeper pot forces you to PLOP your dough into the pot. No bueno. You can deflate it, and if it lands wrong (and it will), you will have to do all kinds of crazy stuff to organize it properly into the pot and wreck all your hard work in shaping/fermenting, or, if you leave it as it landed, you end up with misshapen dough. Dough should be handled as gingerly as possible. With the shallow combo cooker, you slide it in, parchment paper and all, easy peasy, gently. They're just easier to handle all around. And cheaper!

      Email me at A few suggestions about your hydration and handling the dough during shaping.

      Cheers! And thanks for loving the blog. I love it too!


  2. Hi, I'm super excited to have found your blog, as I have just started trying to make my first Tartine-style starter. I have so many questions and am starting reading your blog from the beginning in hopes of finding some guidance. I have baked perhaps 10 or 15 loaves of bread in my life so as you can imagine I almost don't even know what to ask. I think my kitchen must have a pretty active environment because my starter just thronged to the point where I had to empty some out at day 2 or risk it overflowing the bowl. I also had some rye flour that I was going throw out because it is probably something like 7 years old and has been only partially refrigerated, but I figured it would do no harm to try out your rye starter with it. Worst case, I throw it out a few days later than I would have otherwise. I will be back with specific questions when I can articulate them but in the meantime, thanks again for such a gorgeous and useful blog, and have a great holiday.

    1. hi sarvivox. yes, the blog is definitely a progression. sounds like your starter is craving to be made into bread! i LOVE my rye starter, swear by it, really. i have tried them all - white, whole wheat, rye, and different hydrations. this one i love the best (see the post 'the classic', the paragraph in red). it's small, easy to maintain, and makes fantastic bread.

      10-15 loaves is pretty impressive! i only make about 3 - 4 loaves a month myself. i dont think i'm terribly daring with my bread. i have found a method that works, and i keep at it, keep making it better. nothing makes me crankier than a loaf of bread that does not turn out well, so, when i experiment, they tend to be pretty 'safe' experiments. i.e., when starting with a new flour, i start out with a smaller percentage of that flour to see how it behaves, then make successive loaves with greater quantities of that flour

      i would love to know how your own experiments go. and im so glad you found my blog. bread baking has changed my life!


  3. From Mary

    I have followed the Tartine Recipe many times so I am curious how you keep the bread from over rising during the last rise if its 20 hours. You are saying you make the loaves and let them go 20 hours? In the refrigerator? I assume you are turning the dough in a bucket or something over two to four hours or whatever. Is that right?

    1. hi Mary. i do all of my fermenting under refrigeration, which allows you to extend it.

      my bulk fermentation is 2 hours at room temp, then 2 in the fridge, then the 20 hour final fermentation in the fridge. long, cold, slow fermentation allows the flavors to develop, and the yeasts/bacteria to successfully 'do their thing'.

      it is the bacteria in the sourdough starter that creates the flavor of the bread by excreting lactic and acetic acid (flavor). it also excretes glucose which it metabolizes from maltose (this is all activated when liquid - water - is introduced to flour). it is the glucose that the bacteria excretes that becomes 'food' for the yeast which excretes ethanol (alcohol) - which along with the lactic and acetic acid contribute to the flavor of the bread; and carbon dioxide - which is what makes the bread rise.

      when using commercial yeast, all that you achieve is loft without interesting flavors because the chemical process that happens during fermentation in sourdough does not occur in dough using commercial yeasts. the way that allows for this chemical process to fully take place is to do all of your fermentation under refrigeration. it slows the rate that these two entities behave (both the bacteria and the yeast) and the more slowly that these substances are secreted and metabolized, the more flavor you achieve. as you can see, if you rush this process, you will not attain optimal flavors or loft in your bread. all bakers have 'proofing refrigerators', and they are cool, not warm. when you read about people putting their dough in a 'warm place to rise', its bread that uses commercial yeast given the abbreviated duration of time that commercial yeasted breads are required to rise. it is warmth that accelerates rising, which is what you want with commercial yeast driven bread because commercial yeast does not live as long as the bacteria/yeast in sourdough. if you accelerate rising with sourdough yeast driven breads, it does not allow for the chemical processes to occur that i outlined above, thus, you may achieve loft (and usually not very uniform), but nothing else. you will also greatly sacrifice a good crust with a quick/abbreviated fermentation. if you allow the yeast to fully digest the sugars excreted by the bacteria, it creates a thin/brittle crust and a gelatinized crumb, a benefit to being patient with the fermentation of your bread.

      many of our mothers (at least mine) used commercial yeast when making bread. but commercial yeast and sourdough are two different yeasts and behave differently in the making of bread, thus require a different method of approach. i think that many times people lump all of the processes together because they are not aware of what happens when using either of the two yeasts for bread. thus the crossing of wires and 'warm/fast' proofing vs. 'cold/slow' fermenting. and there is a key right there. when you are using commercial yeast, you proof or rise your dough, and when you use sourdough, you ferment it.


      i dont use a bucket. i dont like corners when turning my dough or turning it out onto a board. a round vessel allows for a swift and clean turning of the dough, and turning out of the dough. i use a bowl (the blue bowl photographed in all of my posts is what I use for bulk fermentation). the final fermentation is done in a bowl that is just the right size to hold its shape. it is my stand-in for a ‘banneton’. and the dough only has 2 hours of turns during the bulk fermentation. my method is explained in all the posts and accompanied by photographs as well.

      i hope all this helps!


  4. Replies
    1. i posted an in-depth reply to your questions above. i hope they help!

  5. wonderful wonderful bread, Francis!
    I simply love to read your posts or just look at your bread photos. thank you for sharing your experiments and keep on baking!

    1. Codruta, such a compliment coming from you! Your bread is FIERCE! - Francis-Olive

  6. hey woman I am back and I promise I will make this very loaf before the end of my vacations (which basically mean, working from home, which is perfect to baby-sit a loaf). after making a sourdough panettone (not a hybrid as one usually see around, check it out) 20 h fermentation sound totally o to me :) what temp do you keep your fridge at? and... is your way of shaping a boule' described in any previous post? also... better to use oil when shaping or rice flour? kramar/Barbara

    1. girl! i thought you had deserted me.

      i checked your site a few times over the past month, and the biscuits were there forever. is it panettone now?? i must see that!

      i dont know about the temp of my fridge. its fridge temp! :) but then, i shouldnt say that to you, since i took for granted your oven temp. have you even used the combo yet? i went through great pains to get that thing to you sis. i hope you have turned out at least one boule from it so far.

      you know, i use rice flour when shaping. in the beginning, like, the first couple of months of the experiment i did use olive oil because i was terrified to get excess flour in my dough. but those days were long ago.

      1) turn the dough out onto a rice floured surface. gather up the sides and pinch them in the center. let it rest for like 10 minutes like that.
      2) now, on a CLEAN (meaning, unfloured) surface, turn the dough over, gathered side down, and with both hands cupping the sides of the dough, twist it as though you are twisting a large dial with both hands. apply slight pressure, and use your fingers to tuck the dough at the bottom edges under a bit. you want to do this on a clean surface to create friction. twist twist twist a few times. you will feel the dough tightening beneath your hands. don't twist too much, or you will press the precious gasses out. and risk tearing the skin. you know, too much tension and all.
      3) scoop up the dough in one quick movement with your bench scraper, and pop it, smooth side down, into your bowl lined with linen that has been GENEROUSLY dusted with rice flour, or your banneton.
      4) get it into the fridge.

      - susan has a video of herself shaping a boule on wild yeast that helped me loads in the beginning.
      - i don't olive oil the surface anymore, but it makes the bread more tasty!
      - what loaf should we bake from our book? i also just got the village baker and the bread builders

      girl, this loaf was fabulous! the crust and crumb were pretty... wow.

      im so glad you're back! going to check out your panettone now. that's impressive. those things take forever to make!



    2. if it wasn't for my visiting mother staring at me impatiently (same when I tried to take pictures, no chance for a decent shot with that pressure), panettone would have been like a stroll on the beach. the method I finally resolved on using (I tried two other ones before, and all the others I did not try did not convince for some baker's six sense you probably know something about) is so precise one cannot go wrong. and you can actually sleep 9 hours while your dough is rising (outside the fridge!!).
      asked you about the shaping as I was basically doing just like you wrote EXCEPT when flipping the dough for the twists I was still using a floured surface and this caused me to get flour inside the dough a few times. thank you for this important piece of information.
      I have managed to use your combo twice and make increasingly nice bread with it (getting skilled in sliding in the dough without deflating it) will try your loaf and then we can plan a new one (will check out those books).
      it's true, those biscuits have been staying there forever :)

    3. heres a tip for sliding the dough in: when you put your parchment paper over the banneton/bowl, then flip the bowl so that the dough lands on the paper and the peel, just drag a corner of the paper into the awaiting combo. conversely, if you are not using paper, though i dont know why would not be. makes your life so much easier. just be sure to use ample rice flour on the peel when jerking it into the awaiting combo....

  7. btw I can almost hear the sound of that heavenly crust... one of your best loaves. and one of the best loaves I have ever seen. truly.

    1. that formula is a keeper. i cant imagine that you get bobs red mill over there though. what flour would you use? i mean, you can push your fermentation with regular spelt too. and i have. i should try white wheat and see what comes of that. i's sure it would be fine and fabulous. thanks for the compliment. yeah, i was pretty happy with it. i think i even said 'i think this is one of my favorite loaves. ever.' yes, the spiral is cool and all, but, this one, this one was pretty bomb! and love that the scoring made little islands all over the bread.

    2. yeah the scoring of this loaf is a work of art. gosh your oven is hot 550!!! I think the main reason why our loaves will differ is the reduced oven spring I will get by having a much lower initial temperature. oh well, the bread will be pretty darn good anyway, I am sure. they have a boring mix of white spelt and AP flour here, already mixed together. it is impossible to find white spelt alone. will see how I can adapt your formula. and yeah, I'd like to spend a day or two with your oven ;) most of all, I can't wait to have a decent loaf to be able to talk about you and about how crazy and nice you are. luv

    3. Awww, my darling Barbara. I love you so. Hey, Riikka made the fruit nut bread for xmas and loved it. :) I so love her, and I want her to have a bread blog.

      Girl, we have got to come up with a loaf to try. I think though that I might make your vollkornbrot for my next loaf....

      Yeah, that AP/Spelt mix sounds like the pits. Sigh. I wish I could send you flour too...


  8. Hi Francis-Olive,

    I run across your blog through Susan's Wild Yeast and I am truly amazed by your work!
    Your bread looks fantastic...I wish I could taste it right now :-)
    Thank you for sharing your precious experience and I would definitely try your method sometime.
    I am looking forward to reading your posts!

    Warm regards,


    1. Thank you Yuko! You CAN taste it. All you have to do is feed your starter twice a day for two days, then on the third day you can start making bread :)



  9. Hi again. I made your City Bread with my tartine starter (after feeding it 3 times). I used KA bread flour for the dough and KA whole wheat for the levain. Unfortunately i had to leave it out for about 8 hours, but it was about 62 degrees in my kitchen really cold near the window. It had nice silky cords in it when I got back, and I added the salt and bit of remaining water, turned it for 3 hours every 30 mins, and shaped it. Popped it into a bowl on top of a cloth, and let it sit in the fridge for about 16 hours. I followed your parchment method, which is great, scored it and baked it.... great spring! Nice fine crumb and great crust. Bubbles. Sour and developed. Really great. I doing this from now on. Thanks!

    1. Mary! I'm so glad it came out so well. Thank you for taking the time to write. Hearing from people is what makes all of this so much fun!


  10. Hi Francis-Olive! I found you today from Wild Yeast. I am impressed! That bread looks amazing. Also I liked your musings about BRM. In fact, Bob IS real, I've seen him in the flesh :) I go to Oregon State University where he has been a donor. Anyways just wanted to a least answer that myth for you. I'm looking forward to trying this and reading more of your blog!


    1. LOL. He's REAL! And I love BRM flour. Thank you for liking the bread and calling it amazing, and thanks for dispelling the 'myth' about Bob!


  11. Am going to try the BRM dark rye next time for the levain with some spelt in the dough. I went to a big store but they had no lite spelt, only 2 brands of whole. Thanks again, Mary.

  12. the baby made following this method is in the oven. let's hope it comes out at least 10% as good looking as yours. cheers

  13. girl, this method rocks. will be posting the pictures asap on my blog. you should seriously start thinking of writing a bread book. u've got something here. hug

    1. Kewl. I love it when people tell me that one of my posts came out well for them! I struggled so much in the beginning with my bread and it made me so determined to figure it out and pass on total methods so that people were no longer left in the dark. Sometimes I feel like the methods are 'redundant' on my posts, but the other day when I was working the beer bread, I thought 'it's not redundant, people NEED to know exactly what I am doing from loaf to loaf so that they aren't left wondering 'am I doing this right?' So, thank you for letting me know that your bread came out well, because it makes me realize that I need to keep with really clear outlines from post to post even if something sounds the same. If it ain't broke...

      A bread book?! LOL. I don't know ANYTHING about bread, except for that which I do here, and that which I am learning on the way.


      (still writing to meet my deadline feverishly, will read/get back to your emails in a few day)

    2. I am not joking. A bread book would just be writing on paper all that you have learned so far. I think you have a talent for explaining plain and clear how to do things right. And right for you is excellent for most. ciao



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