Saturday, March 2, 2013


so, the cool thing about having a blog is that you get to meet people from all over the world. for example, my new friend joe from the UK, we have been talking bread for the last month or two, and at the end of our last e-conversation, we decided that something with caramelized onions was in order. so, we both set off to do our own thing.

when my tortano was baking, my house was perfumed with the heady aroma of cheese, onions, briny olives; and some looming, prescience swore that the result was going to be worth sharing, so i am writing this before i've even cut into the glorious ring.

i chose rye for the base of my tortano because it resonated, yeah? using some rather high hydration, the dough was easy to shape. i just bought a bag of sprouted rye from 'to your health', and i have to say, whilst i do appreciate bob's red mill, no rye compares to 'to your health' sprouted rye. the flavor, the aroma, the texture. nonpareil.

i had read through some other formulae for tortano, but they all used commercial yeast, and thus, required a very short fermentation time. i decided to just devise my own thing, et voila! this ring fermented in the fridge for 18 hours. i figured that if you're going to serve up a crown, the bread of it should be just as worthy as the filling. et, mon dieu! is it ever. as i'm writing this, i've broken into it... just had a bit of it... and lordee b. it is so good, it's ridiculous! fully gelatinized dough, a perfect marriage with the filling.

speaking of lordee b., a tortano is an italian ring usually made during easter, and usually filled with some sort of cheese and salty pork thing. it's a special occasion bread, see. and how fortuitous that this post should come a stone's throw from that hallowed holiday in celebration of redivivus.


you will start this endeavor like any other sourdough bread -- the bulk fermentation and all that. after the bench, instead of shaping into a boule, you will stretch the dough into a rectangle, fill it with goodies, then fold it up, round it into a ring and ferment it in the fridge. c'est simple. vraiment.

without further blather, here is the rhyme and reason for your tortano.

with caramelized onions, comté, kalamata olives & thyme


(three days before you plan to bake the thing, feed your starter twice a day)

the evening before you make the dough, make your levain:

45g 100% hydration, 100% rye starter
100g *TYH sprouted rye flour
100g h2o

mix the above until you reach a smooth, thick paste. ferment it overnight. mine fermented for 8 hours.

*just a note on to your health sprouted rye. it's so great, it will make you wonder why you ever used any other rye. but know that it is a serious flour, and very thirsty, so if you decide to use it for your starter and/or your levain, it will produce a rather 'hearty' end result. that is to say, if you feel so inclined, add a few more drops of water to loosen it. i don't. i like a stiff starter and levain. so, if you don't add more water, know that this stiff starter and levain will work beautifully. if you DO decide to add a few more drops of water to adjust to your new flour, make sure you make a note of it and be consistent with this addition as long as you are using this flour. you want to always know what hydration your starter and your levain is, in case something goes wrong (or right!), you want to always be able to account for that end result so that you can repeat it, or fix it as necessary. finally, to your health flour, ordered directly from their online shop, is milled to order. you can get it at whole foods now. its prohibitively expensive, so my suggestion is to always buy it online. at least that way, when you are ordering it, it is milled to order just for you. if you get it at whole foods, even though a superlative product, it will be milled in advance. just some thoughts, suggestion, ideas...

8-hour levain (notice how stiff it is...)


245g rye levian
400g KA A/P flour
100g TYH sprouted rye flour
380g h2o (TYH sprouted rye flour is rather thirsty)
439g caramelized onions (i started with 3 large yellow onions, and they cooked down to the aforementioned weight)
106g whole kalamata olives, (niçoise would be a great substitute)
155g 15 month aged comté, sliced (gruyère would be a lovely substitute)

30g olive oil
13g kosher salt
a few sprigs of thyme

mix the levain, flours and h2o until you reach a smooth amalgamation. autolyse 1 hour. after the 1 hour autolyse, squish the salt and olive oil into the dough until it is uniformly distributed. form into a smooth ball. the bulk fermentation begins.

for the first 2 hours of the bulk fermentation, perform a series of turns every half-hour. for the final 2 hours, pop into the fridge, covered, and let it ferment untouched.

after the bulk fermentation, spread a bit of organic brown rice flour onto a workspace. scrape the dough onto the flour. pull the edges in, forming a loose round. cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.

be wise. olive oil your hands. gently now, begin to stretch the dough to form a rectangle. cover with a dampened cheesecloth and let it rest for 10 minutes so the dough can rest and be manipulated further without tearing. after the 10 minute rest. finalize the rectangle. make sure that it's not stretched too thin, and that it's uniform in thickness.

spread the onions over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. sprinkle with thyme.

layer the onions with the cheese and olives.

pull the furthest long end toward you, to meet with the 1-inch lip closest to you. now fold this end over the first to create a log with the seam side up.

bend the roll so that the ends meet, pinching the ends together, so that you end up with an 'O'. flip the ring onto a baking sheet covered with parchment so that the seam side is down.

dust with rice flour. cover with a damp piece of cheesecloth, a sheet of plastic, and cover with a towel. slide the whole baking sheet into the fridge and ferment for 18 hours.


one hour before you bake, preheat the oven to 550 degrees with your baking stone installed in there. place a cheap pan that you don't mind disfiguring on the oven floor.

after a FULL HOUR, fill a 1 cup measure with ice, then fill it with water. set aside.

brush the flour off of the tortano and brush with a mixture of olive oil and a little water. slide the tortano onto the hot stone, parchment and all. now quickly pour the ice water into the cheap pan on the oven floor, close the oven, turn down to 475 degrees. bake for 15 minutes.

after the 15 minute bake, remove the cheap pan if it still has water in it. if the water has evaporated, it's fine to leave it in there. finish baking the tortano until it's golden brown. mine took about 45 minutes.

it will be hard, but wait a full hour before slicing so the filling doesn't ooze out.

(of course, as soon as it came out of the oven, i ate this bit of cheese that had escaped from the south-east corner of the ring...)

crust: FABULOSO! the olive oil made it rich and lovely beyond measure. crumb: super moist and rich, to say the least. fully gelatinized, and full flavor from the long final ferment. the combination of the rye and the filling is fantastic.

to the staff of life!

this post has been exhibited on Susan's wild yeast blog.



  1. Onions, cheese, olives and bread - that is a great combination!

    1. omg. i had to give it away to my friends because i couldn't stop eating it. ADDICTIVE!

  2. Wow! When the challenge was set i never thought you'd head in that direction. Bravo indeed. Beautiful shots as always. Keep it up.

  3. Gorgeous, perfect use for all of those end-of-winter onions calling out to be caramelized!

    1. tomato! two compliments in one day. how lovely ;)

  4. a sprouted rye sourdough tortano? to die for! working on getting sprouted flours here in Sweden too, not easy...

    1. thanks B&C! i, admittedly have been a might busy lately. but will be returning next week ;) see you then!


  5. I am so happy I bumped into your blog :-)

    1. how swell! i'm glad you found me too! it's been a minute since my last post, but will be returning toute de suite!

  6. I just found your blog. So beautiful pictures! Beautiful bread. Will be following you definitely.
    /Sandra (Gothenburg, Sweden)

    1. sandra from sweden! i'm glad you found me too! i took a little break, and back in action. i must go peruse your site soon!

    2. My site is in Swedish, but Google Translate is always there to help :) in case you find something of interest. I'm off to Italy for a few days, and hopefully the markets have some nice ingredients to inspire me with, or kitchen!



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