Friday, January 18, 2013

city bread, in stout

so, i have to say, i am sooooo flattered and honored that so many people have lately been telling me that i should write a bread book. i think i will leave that to chad. and hopefully susan at wild yeast, because if anyone needs to write the next fabulous book, it's her. susan gave me a platform for my voice and my bread, and i am so grateful for her knowledge. she was my bread guru in the beginning of all of this, and she answered every one one of my panicked emails.

what i love most is that people write to me and tell me that when they use my formulae, that their bread comes out perfectly. this was my goal, and i love giving it all away for free. there are not enough people in the world just sharing for the sake of sharing, for the sake of helping other people to make their lives just a teeny bit more enjoyable. i love it when someone tells me that they have set up their ipad in their kitchen and used my blog like a book. what's better than a free book anyway?

city bread, in stout with toasted hazelnuts

the thing is, i am not a professional baker. i had so much trouble on the beginning of my bread path, as i think i have mentioned, and as i began to figure some things out, i thought about how lovely it would be if i could impart the information to other people who were having the same problems. i'm a perfectionist, so a bad loaf pushes me over the edge. i know how you feel when things don't come out quite right. it makes me sad when people send me pictures of their bread and it's flat or lopsided, or just plain wrong, and i hope that i'm helping in some small way.

so, no, this is no iconoclastic blog, but what you will find here are some answers to the simple questions that everyone has, and some sure-fire ways to make sure that your levain is proofing nicely, and that you are achieving good ears and a good crust and crumb. i will get around to some other flours (and methods) i promise, but i'm actually really busy.


so, went to seattle to visit a friend this past week, and i took the opportunity to see what happens when we work with refrigerated starters. this is something that i have long been wanting to try. my findings are outlined below.

also, lots of people have been asking me about my scoring. i take such pride in my scoring, and i love that i am seeing my 'SWIRL' all over the net. hooray. a blogger friend in spain just did one and emailed me sublime photos, and then the opera singer in switzerland who did a lovely post about it. if you end up scoring the swirl, please send me photos or a link to your blog so i can see it. our little connection.

the thing about scoring is that your hydration cannot be mega high if you want to get those prominent ears. if you will notice, my hydrations are pretty moderate. i get a great shattery crust, fully gelatinized crumb, excellent flavor, moist interior, and  RIDICULOUS EARS. always, it's about those ears! those ears make a tasty, caramelized crust, and they're just fun to look at, right?

so, the first key to good scoring is an appropriate hydration. not too high. have a look at some of the breads on my blog and check out the hydration levels. it's hard to resist the urge to add more water in the beginning, because everyone always talks about how mega-high hydration is what makes the irregularly-holed crumb, but when you get your first set of ridiculous ears you will never go back. and the crumb of all of my breads is always fantastic.

the second part of scoring, once you've shown restraint in hydration, is to score DEEPLY. and score TWICE. that's my secret. yes, twice. you score the pattern that you want, then you go back in and cut through the dough again, deeply.

the third rule is to hold your blade at an angle -- i use a regular razor blade from walgreens (one that fits in a man's razor). no handle. pinching the blade between your fingers allows you to have total control over the scoring. so, always hold the blade as horizontally as possible. this will lift the ears. you cannot make that swirl by holding the blade perpendicular to the dough.  you've got to hold it parallel. keep in mind that shallow scoring, with the blade held perpendicularly, makes the slashes bleed rather than lift the ears.

i try to photograph my slashes so that you can see how deeply i get into the dough. don't worry if the edges seem ragged on the bends, it will bake up just fine and they will smooth out. just follow the instructions, try to slash as smoothly as possible, and send me pictures of your loaves!

without further ado, here is your city bread in stout with toasted hazelnuts. let me know how yours turns out!

city bread, in stout with toasted hazels


if you have a refrigerated starter, you have to start an aggressive feeding schedule a few days prior to making your levain, ideally 4 days before. storing your starter in the fridge is a great way to bake if you only plan to make a loaf every other week or once a month. you can save money by not feeing your starter every day. please only refrigerate your starter once it is good and strong. if you are just beginning a starter, i would say wait several months before refrigerating. let it prove that it can produce flawless bread with every loaf first. here's how: feed your very strong, very active starter and pop it in the fridge. say you wont need it for another two weeks. it'll hang out in there just fine for the next 10 days. then,  4 FULL days before you plan to bake, pull the starter out of the fridge and feed it johnny on the spot. cold like that. and follow the instructions below to get it good and strong before baking bread. i noticed no difference in the raising of my bread after using my starter that was refrigerated. i do plan to keep mine on the counter though. i like connecting with my starter every day. so, now i know that it will keep fine for those weeks that i plan to travel. oh, please do keep a backup starter in the fridge, just in case. you always want to have at least two.

here is how my feeding went after i returned from seattle:
  • saturday: fed twice: at 2pm and midnight
  • sunday: fed twice: at 8am and 8pm
  • monday: fed twice: at 8am and 8pm
  • tuesday: fed three times: at 8am, 3pm, and midnight
  • wednesday: made the levain at 10:30 in the morning



i began mine at 10:30 in the morning, and fermented it until 5pm, so, 6 hours 30 minutes.

50g 100% hyration, 100% organic rye flour starter
100g chocolate stout beer (or guinness, perhaps)
100g organic BRM rye flour

mix the above and let ferment for 6.5 hours.


 levain, just mixed

fully fermented levain


250g of levain
170g chocolate stout beer
170g  + 25g cold filtered h2o
90g BRM organic rye flour
410g KA organic bread flour
150g toasted hazelnuts, skinned and very coarsely chopped
12g salt

mix all of the ingredients above MINUS the +25g H2O, the salt, and the hazelnuts; until you reach a shaggy mass. autolyse for one hour.


after the autolyse, add the remaining 25g of water and 12g of salt. squish the salt and water into the dough until fully amalgamated. now fold in the hazelnuts.

over the next 4 hours, your bulk fermentation takes place. for the first two hours of the bulk fermentation, perform a series of turns every half hour for a total of four series of turns. refrigerate the dough for the last two hours, unmolested.

after the bulk ferment, turn the dough out onto a workspace that has been dusted with organic brown rice flour. i use BRM. rest the dough for 15 minutes, then flip it over onto a CLEAN part of the workspace and form into a boule (the clean workspace creates friction under the dough, helping to make a nice, tight boule).

pop the dough into a linen-lined bowl that has been dusted with brown rice flour. cover, and leave to ferment at cool room temperature for an hour and 20 minutes. after 1 hour and 20 minutes, refrigerate for 15 hours and 40 minutes more for a total final fermentation time of 17 hours.


One hour before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 550 degrees outfitted with both halves of your cast iron combo cooker and a baking stone.

After the FULL hour of preheating, pull the dough out of the fridge, fit a piece of parchment over the mouth of it, place a peel on top, and flip the bowl over so that the dough lands on the parchment over the peel. Score the dough in some unique fashion, making sure to go over it twice with the razor, and deeply to boot.

Slide it, parchment and all, into the shallow end of your awaiting combo cooker. Cover with the fat end. Turn the oven down to 475 degrees and steam for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minute steam, remove the fat end of the combo cooker wearing an oven mitt to avoid a nasty steam burn. Marvel at your perfectly steamed loaf. Slide it back into the oven, turn it down to 450 degrees and bake till chestnut brown.

Wait a full hour and a half before slicing.

the verdict: another winner. i like the subtlety of the beer in this loaf. remember the last loaf? how it used ALL beer in the formula? and because of that particular beer, it made a rather stalwart bread, which i loved, but i wanted to see if i could attain a sweeter more 'beer redolent' a loaf instead of a definitively BEER loaf. this time round, i decided to go with 1/2 water and 1/2 beer to see what the result would be, and the result was a malty, fabulous crumb, fully gelatinized; it tasted a little smoky, slight sweet. of course the hazelnuts did their magical thing. what harmony, the nuts and the stout. the uber shattery crust was incredible. i do have a little stout leftover, and i think i will try my hand at a loaf using all stout and no water. that loaf will be sweeter than the arrogant bastard loaf, more malty/smoky/nutty, since, as we know, the beer translates directly unto the bread, leaving none of its nuances out. i will let you all know how it goes!

This stout loaf has been sent off to Susan's Wild Yeast Blog.

to the staff of life!


  1. Gorgeous bread Francis-Olive. As for flavor, yes, I like the Arrogant Bastard Beer as well. (Have some in the fridge as I write this.) But I think the Anchor Steam is a nice middle ground between a true stout and a lager. I'm sure a pure stout would be VERY caramel-y and malty.

    I love your instructions on scoring...I think that will help me tons.

    One issue I am having is the "knead". I know we Tartine people call them turns instead. My question to you is: how much do you pull out and press down...and with how much force? I think some of my problems with my bread caverns are due to the turns. I think I have let TOO much CO2 into the bread. always keep up the great work.

    1. Hi Sam. Yeah, I think the full stout loaf might be a mighty powerful one, but it can't be as powerful as the arrogant bastard! Could be good. We shall see. I'm making another demi-stout loaf tomorrow, since this one is almost gone, and I will probably make a full stout along with it.

      I'm glad that the scoring technique helps. Remember, shallow scoring and scoring with the blade held perpendicular to the loaf makes the slashes 'bleed' rather than lift (I think I will add this bit to the post).

      For turns, I am going to send you an email about it today... but I think that a bread newbie is going to come by and video my folding technique (and shaping) in the near future for the blog, so that will help immensely, I think.

      Thanks for checking back post-Seattle (ps, damn, never go to walrus, though that was #1 on my list, I got caught up at Sitka and Spruce and that whole cool building over on Melrose).


  2. Oh, how I wished I read your tips on scoring earlier. It's tremendously helpful. Coincidentally, last week I scored a spiral into my sourdough boule for the very first time, and only did so because I was inspired by your loaves (several times in the past, in fact). Without doing any research beforehand, I slashed my dough, stumbled a bit, and thankfully my spiral turned out alright---not great but alright.

    If you're interested, the process of my boule was documented on my blog and it's currently featured on Susan's YeastSpotting.

    Anyway, thanks again for your helpful tips and showcasing your wonderful breads. It's much appreciated. :)


    1. Zita! I saw your spiral, and I have to say, I totally disagree with your blog... you are far from 'Baking Badly', that is a BEAUTIFUL loaf of bread :) OK, so, next time you do the spiral, hold your razor seriously perpendicular to the loaf. It's hard, I know, going around the bends and keeping the razor parallel, but you can do it.

      I'm so glad to have been an inspiration, and you have been added to my blog list. I can't wait to see what you have planned next! Keep baking BEAUTIFULLY. ;)


  3. Marvelous bread, as always.

    Thank you so much for tips/how to do a perfect scoring. I can see (in that close up photo of yours) what you mean by score deeply.

    1. hey dewi! my current post has a video of my scoring. have a look!

  4. Hi Francis-Olive! First, I must say that I adore your blog. I love your writing style, and your photographs! Simply gorgeous. And as a newbie to bread-making, I really appreciate how detailed your explanations are. And regarding the noisy neighbors...I feel your pain. My husband and I live on the first floor of a condo building, and the walls and ceilings seem like they're made of paper at times.

    I just started my levain to make this bread (giving it a try as written here, and another loaf with all hard cider). I'm also interested to learn how you do your turns. Would you mind sending me your pointers, if you can? Looking forward to the videos!

  5. Hi Francis-Olive. I have enjoyed reading your blog and inspired by your wonderful bread photography.
    I happened upon your blog when I was looking for the Tartine bread book several weeks ago. Your rye starter was just what I was looking for in a no nonsense starter that was easy to maintain. I had made a starter from Reinhart's book Whole Grain Breads. I have not had much success with his starter yet(3 loaves)although I think my starter was just not active enough(all the loaves had a dense waxy-like crumb). I baked a bread today based on your city bread in stout. It has been my best sourdough yet. I used Bell's Kalamazoo Stout with no water. My rye levain was fermented for about 10 hours and my folding technique was rather spotty(I slept through two of them, so only two folds).
    I was a little worried when I took out a rather small looking ball of dough from the fridge after 16 hours. I got a pretty good oven spring which highlighted my poor slashing technique but resulted in a larger boule than I had expected. I call it my graduation loaf because the square slash rose so high it looks like it is wearing a mortar board.
    The crumb is very open(very different from the previous loaves I have made),moist and chewy. It has a good wheaty flavor with a smokey beer taste after a few moments of chewing and a slight bitter finish. I was surprised to find there was not a pronounced sour taste. I was expecting something much more sour tasting after such a long fermentation in the fridge.

    Overall I am very happy with the results.
    So thank you very much Francis-Olive! I am sure I will try more bread based on your formulas and timetables

    Best wishes.


    1. lol. i have slept through folds. yes. long fermentations do not increase sour flavor. i have read that everywhere, and i have baked hundreds of loaves of bread, and that has yet to be the case with my bread. my current post is a 25 hour ferment, and no pronounced sourness. i believe that sour bread comes from a high quantity of starter in the dough.

      i am so glad things worked out for you! please let me know of your continued success. thank you for writing!


  6. Such a beautiful loaf! I've have my eye on your City bread, and I love the sound of this one. You are a bread goddess. Thanks for the tips on getting ears - I have been trying but to no avail, and I think it's because my hydration level is too high.

    1. my oh my! i have been called many things... lol.

      yes, you know, just lowering it a bit could be the solution. you don't necessarily have to have a 'dry' dough, sometimes even 15g too much water can hamper those ears. so, try scaling back just a bit, then see what you get.

      thanks for the gracious comment!


  7. Hi Francis-Olive, first off, thank you for the blog! Enjoyable reading and great bread baking tips! Today I am making a beer bread with a bottle of double cream stout. 2 quick questions: is it a terrible idea to retard the bulk ferment AND the shaped loaf? I mixed last night, did 3 stretch and folds over 1.5 hrs. then refrigerated the dough about 8 hrs. This morning I took it out, did 2 more stretch and folds, rounded and then shaped it and put it back in the fridge. If I wait to bake til tonight, am I gonna wind up with an over-fermented mess? Also, is the poke test reliable on a cold dough? Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom! ;-)

    1. hm. i've never retarded my bulk fermentation. how did it come out? i think the only way to know is to do it. worse case scenario, you lose a little flour, best case scenario, now you KNOW if you can extend your bulk.

      yes. it is reliable. :)



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