EXTREME Country Sourdough For World Bread Day

EXTREME Country Sourdough

__ I know, I have been evanescent from the blogsphere lately. I had so many nice dishes and breads, all nicely photographed and ready to be narrated, and yet could not resolve to write about them. Lack of time for sure but also something else… let’s call it writer’s block, if you allow a blogger to count as a writer of some sort. After all, two years have passed since I started blogging, and I guess a drop in motivation can happen after a while. So… you will have to wait until next summer for my figs with camembert, and hope to one day know about my expresso sourdough. Maybe, you will still be able to hear of my wild mushrooms risotto before the fall of the first snow (but they say they may snow any day now).

For sure, you are now going to hear about my latest loaf of bread. Yes indeed this bread was screaming to be told about and here I am, winning over my block and trying to find the words.

EXTREME Country Sourdough

Have to admit that, while I like every sort of bread, I particularly appreciate a good country sourdough with an open crumb and a light and crunchy crust. However, getting entirely there, obtaining the crunchiness and lightness I sometimes appreciate in a basic country loaf, was not the easiest of tasks. I have long been giving the blame to my bad oven, which does not reach the (already pretty low) temperature of a standard oven. I have long given up the possibility to get good “ears” (that fancy detachment of the crust along the cuts that you can see in the first picture of this post) and left it to an indeterminate time in the future and to a better oven.

It comes out that the problem was in the method AND in the flours (two aspects which can win over a bad oven sometimes). Flours. Early after I started to bake bread I got hooked on local organic stone-ground flours. This is surely healthy. But… as I only recently found out, the protein content of the so-called “bread flour” I was using is 10.5%, pretty low for a bread flour (which by definition should have high protein content). Moreover, using 100% stone-ground flour means having quite a lot of fat in your loaf, ok, good fat, but this is not the point here. The point is that fat can reduce optimal gluten development and make impossible to reach that lightness you may be after in your loaves. On top of this, for a year I have been influenced by Chad Robertson’s book Tartine, where is suggested NOT TO knead the dough but instead use a very long fermentation at warm temperature, making lots of folds. He also suggests to bake in a combo cooker (which I religiously managed to get from USA thanks to a friend’s help).

ExXTREME Country Sourdough

Again… yes, I made a lot of good loaves before and during my Tartine’s infatuation, but I never could get that extreme lightness I saw sometimes in extremely good country sourdoughs (like for instance those HE was baking). Recently, a professional baker, Adon Shifon, not as famous as Robertson (yet) but getting there thanks to his incredibly beautiful loaves and his clear intelligence of bread, gave me the idea of changing the way I was handling the dough. Differently from Robertson, he was indeed kneading his loaves for quite a long time. Just like our great grandmothers used to do, right? So, that was it. I kneaded my dough, used stronger flours and not all stone-ground. I left behind my combo cooker, because I felt it was affecting my crumb. And… I also shortened fermentation times when not using the fridge (according to Robertson you need 8 hours of total fermentation at a pretty high temperature, to me this almost always resulted in overproofed loaves and I could – and still can – only do a long fermentation if going for a cold one – i.e. in the fridge). Anyway, the story says… I finally got the loaf I have been after for a while, and I was so happy about it that when it finally came out of the oven I kept going back and forth from the kitchen for a hour, just to look at it… how crazy is that?

EXTREME Country Sourdough

EXTREME Country Sourdough

Ingredients for two large loaves: 428 g active sourdough starter with 120% hydration made ​​using organic stone-ground bread flour (protein: 10.5%), 700 g bread flour (protein: 12%), 150 g organic stone-ground all-purpose flour (protein: 8.5%), 100 g organic whole-grain spelt flour (mine was from sprouted spelt; protein: 13%), 640 g water + 50 to be added when you put salt + 100 to add when you make the folds (but look at your dough before you add it); 20 grams of sea ​​salt. In total hydration was 85%.

Method: Mix all the ingredients except the salt and the extra water. Knead for a few minutes. Let stand, covered for a while ( between 1/2 and 1 hour). Add the salt dissolved in 50 g of water and knead till you see that the dough becomes elastic. Let rise at room temperature (mine was 21-22 degrees Celsius/ca 70 degrees Fahrenheit) in a capable container, tightly closed, and make 2 folds at intervals of 40 minutes. From the moment I mixed the ingredients a total of 3 hours and 1/2 passed before I formed the loaves. Let rise for another couple of hours, covered. Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degrees Celsius/480 degrees Fahrenheit, with baking stone and initial steam. I baked it in the first 10-15 minutes at high heat, then gradually lowered the temperature and baked until the loaf felt lighter when lifted. Good luck!

EXTREME Country Sourdough

Ingredienti per 2 pagnotte: 428 g lievito naturale al 120% d’idratazione (120 g di acqua per ogni 100 g di farina) fatto usando farina di tipo 2 macinata a pietra; 700 g di farina tipo 2; 150 g farina tipo 1 macinata a pietra; 100 grammi di farina integrale di farro macinata a pietra (la mia era ottenuta da farro germinato); 640 g acqua + 50 da aggiungere quando si mette il sale + 100 in piu’ da aggiungere quando si fanno le pieghe (ma guarda il tuo impasto prima di aggiungerla!); 20 grammi di sale marino. In totale l’idratazione era all’85% (85 g di acqua per ogni 100 g di farina).

Metodo: miscelare tutti gli ingredienti tranne il sale e i 50 g di acqua extra. Impastare per qualche minuto. Lasciar riposare, coperto per un po’ (tra 1/2 e 1 ora). Aggiungere il sale dissolto nei 50 g di acqua e impastare finche’ vedete che l’impasto e’ diventato elastico. Mettere a lievitare in un contenitore capace, ben chiuso e fare 2 pieghe a intervalli di 40 minuti. Dal momento che avete miscelato gli ingredienti, fate passare in tutto 3 ore o 3 e 1/2 massimo e poi formate i pani. Mettete a lievitare per un altro paio d’ore, coperto. Cuocete in forno preriscaldato a 250 gradi, con pietra refrattaria e vapore iniziale. Io cuocio a fuoco alto i primi 10-15 minuti, poi abbasso gradualmente e sforno quando sento che i pani sono leggeri. Per far venire le “orecchie”, io uso una lametta da rasoio e faccio un taglio quasi orizzontale al pane. In bocca al lupo!

EXTREME Country Sourdough

With this loaf I participate to this year’s edition of:
World Bread Day, thank you Zorra!

The following two tabs change content below.

Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

47 replies
  1. Euan
    Euan says:

    Welcome back to blogging. I’ve missed you recently. Please don’t ever stop blogging, you do it so well. I for one have got a lot of inspiration from your beautiful posts as well as lots of useful information and links (most notably Quanti Modi).

    Your extreme sourdough loaf is so beautiful. I love those holes and that grigne.

    Interesting what you say about Chad Robertson and Tartine. Whenever I am in a “I must try sourdough again” frame of mind I get out my copy of his book. After the last time – and no, I still haven’t got my starter going! – I invested in a Dutch oven (or the equivalent, a heavy cast iron casserole) and I have been really pleased with the results. My loaves have risen spectacularly and ended up with a lovely crust. Each to his own, I suppose. But I am very interested in the alternative methods you describe.

    Don’t be jealous, but I am off to San Francisco in a month, and I shall certainly be visiting the Tartine Bakery. Did you know there is also a Sourdough Museum in San Fran? Crazy!

    Tanti abbracci

    Euan x

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      Euan, thank you so much for your nice words! I actually I have missed you too as you haven’t been very active on your blog for a while -but I see that you had a come back for the saffron bread roundup, was aiming to leave a comment but never got to do it, I have been blogging-lazy lately…

      I have been happy and frustrated with Tartine’s method. it never entirely worked out for me. results were good, but not exceptional as I expected. but I don’t want to turn you away yet, not until you have posted about these beautiful breads you are making me wonder about. and no worries, I am jealous, sure, but if you get some of their sourdough and try it out when you are back (and maybe write about it), that would be a great present. have fun and say hi to Chad! 😉


  2. Fluffles
    Fluffles says:


    This is very interesting reading as I have been in exactly the same place as you! Really inspired by the Tartine book but eventually figured that my determination to stick to locally stone-milled flour was making it impossible to reproduce the Tartine loaf. I did the same as you and introduced standard roller-milled flour, although I have kept a higher amount of stone ground flour (usually 50-50).

    I notice that you use double the amount of starter to that stated in the Tartine loaf (he uses 200g for 1kg dough)… is there any particular reason for that?


    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      hi there Matt, thank you for your comment. It feels good to see I am not alone in this experience. The reason why I used a different amount of starter compared to Tartine is that… this bread is not a Chad Robertson’s but a Barbara Elisi’s -as a friend pointed out 🙂 I thought Robertson’s method may have worked to give me the open crunm and crunchy crust I was after but it didn’t, so I left it behind. This is a totally different loaf, when it comes to the method. I use a 120% starter because my culture behaves at its best that way; and I used a lot of starter because I’d rather have a relatively short fermentation (5 and 1/2 hours at room temperature) than a long one in this type of loaf -overproofing totally inhibits the “explosion” in the oven, or oven spring. also, I don’t know about you, but I find that baking with the combo cooker was making the crumb more homogeneusly alveolated than I wished for in this loaf (i.e. a French-Italian style country sourdough). I grew up with this type of bread, so I knew what I was after, I just did not know how to get there. Now that I know I can concentrate on other loaves. Hope this helped you and please don’t hesitate to share your results here. cheers, Barbara

  3. Korena in the Kitchen
    Korena in the Kitchen says:

    Wow Barbara, that is an extremely gorgeous loaf! I would be exceptionally proud too 🙂 Interesting to hear about the things you learned that have made all the difference!

    I feel you completely on the writer’s block (blogger’s block?) – I also have lots to write about but am lacking motivation to actually write it!

  4. PolaM
    PolaM says:

    I am blogging less and less too… I think I am getting close to 3 years! Also, so much to do with my new job.. well your bread is amazing! Have to try following recipes more closely!

  5. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    I know the writers block from time to time, too (and same is true for some kind of photographers block as well) but for me it always gets better when I finally force my self to sit down and write.
    But it needs more then one post to come back in shape!
    Your bread looks great! The funny thing about all this kneading – no kneading, baking in a pot or not discussions is that they always come back in a regularly manner. In a bread forum I check from time to time everyone is very much in love with covered baking right now.
    I sometimes cover my bread on the baking stone with an old enamel pot to trap the steam, but normally I prefer baking it uncovered, so I can see what is going on – my personal bread thriller 😀

  6. Riikka
    Riikka says:

    I am pretty much stuck in the whole Tartine bread thing. The breads are awesome but always the same, made with the same routine and I want to try something different now. I want a bread with big holes like this! Hopefully I will succeed ! 😀

  7. CDO
    CDO says:

    Pictures are awesome! Inspired me to try this recipe. But the 85% hydration is rough. I ended up making two rather large pancakes. The dough was so wet it wouldn’t hold together. The loaves proofed in nice round bannetons, but they oozed when resting on the peel prior to popping in the oven. Maybe I needed to stretch, fold, knead, etc. even more.

    I will try again with 75% hydration and see what happens. I love the idea of a well-hydrated dough, but I’ve never tried to tackle one until I tried this recipe. Hopefully I can figure it out.

  8. Sissy
    Sissy says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I’m about to retry this recipe, with a couple modifications. But first I have a question. The writeup above says the ingredients yield an 85% hydration dough. But my math tells me it’s 80%. The only reason I care is so I can drop the amount of water by 10% to see if I can create an easier loaf to handle. My last attempt was a disaster. I couldn’t handle such a wet dough.

    My math:
    Starter = 182 g flour + 218 g water = 400g
    Main Recipe = 950 g flour + 690 g water + starter
    Therefore, total flour is 1,132 g and total water is 908 g
    908 / 1,132 = 80%

    Am I doing this right??


    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      hi Sissy,

      to simplify things I wrote 400 g starter, but truly it was 428 (I corrected it now). For the rest all seems correct, see this:
      water tot: 233 (from the starter)+ 690 = 947 + 50 grams water I added extra when making folds (added that to the formula now, rather than “a liitle more water as before”)
      flour tot: 195+950 = 1145
      hydration= 973/1145 = 0,849 (i.e. 85%)

      of course if your dough looks already too loose don’t add the extra 50 g water during the folds, but add less

      • Barbara
        Barbara says:

        now, let’s see what could have gone wrong for you. first, how is your starter? is it able to double within 3-4 hours when at 100%?
        second, how long have you needed the dough, at waht speed?
        how long did you do the autolysis?
        third and very important, what flours did you use?


        • Sissy
          Sissy says:

          Hi Barbara,

          Before I ask another math question I have to tell you my 2nd attempt turned out much better. The dough was slightly sticky and I think I can actually go with a bit more hydration next time. I retarded the loaves in the fridge for a few hours and they turned out great.

          Now to the math…in your starter ratios you say 257 g water + 171 g flour = 428 g starter. Isn’t this a 150% hydration (not 120%)? The water is 50% more by weight than the flour. Am I looking at this incorrectly?


          • Bread & Companatico
            Bread & Companatico says:

            UPDATE: cissy, happy for you, but I still wish to know waht flours you use, how healthy is your starter, and how well developed is the dough. if you don’t answer to these questions I cannot help you. anyway, yes, I updated the calculations regarding the starter and now they are corret (look at my previous comment). I also updated the formula, as I found a previous note where I documented exactly how much water I added during the folds. my flour, which is Swedish, absorbs a lot of water, especially when is well kneaded, like in this loaf. so, do not add all the water I used if you see that the dough looks too loose. good luck!

          • Sissy
            Sissy says:


            I didn’t see your last note until now. Thank you for offering to help. With help from your last email I was able to tweak my hydration and produce two wonderful loaves.

            But to answer your questions:
            – My starter takes about 8 hours to double in the cool months and about 6 hours in the warmer months
            – I use organic bread and spelt flours bought in bulk and King Arthur (here in the states) all purpose flour
            – My autolyse is about 45 min.
            – I only knead the dough for 2-3 minutes, and then do stretch and folds every 30 min until I reach 2.5 hrs
            – I then shape the loaves and place in well-floured bannetons for 1.5 hrs before placing in the refrigerator from 3-8 hrs (depending on whatever else I have going on that day)
            – I then pull from the fridge and put them directly onto a piece of parchment paper, score them, and gently place in a piping hot enamel lined cast iron pot. Cook with lid on for about 30 min., then about 20 min. with lid off.

            Once I got the hydration level figured out it went smoothly. I am currently trying a variation (same technique as above) with 20% wheat flour added and a corresponding amount of bread flour removed. I upped the hydration 5% to compensate for the thirsty wheat flour. So far the dough looks great. I will bake them tonight.

            I really do appreciate your blog and your time. If today’s effort turns out well (with 75% hydration) I will go up to 80% in my next try. I’m still trying to get a hole structure like yours. It’s like a chemistry experiment that I get to eat if things turn out well.


  9. Quentin
    Quentin says:

    Hi Barbara !
    Thank you for a very nice blog.
    How can I find out about the protein contents in the flours i use ? I also live in Sweden.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] alla ricetta originaria di questo pane con Pasta Madre (di Barbara Elisi del blog Pane e Companatico) io ho aggiunto più acqua ovvero 10 gr per ogni dose, per un totale di 30 gr in […]

  2. […] EXTREME Country Sourdough For World Bread Day (myitaliansmorgasbord.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *