Cliff’s formula and timeline for Fol Épi’s 50% whole wheat bread
- 2:30 PM: first build of the levain: 7% starter + 100% white flour + 100% water. The build goes into the fridge (Cliff explained that some of the oil present in the bran gets smeared on the white flour during the milling. For that reason the starter moves very fast and needs to be refrigerated for this first long fermentation)
- 6:00 AM: second build: 72% starter (the whole first build) + 100% white flour + 100% water. No fridge this time
- 11:00 AM: final dough: 50% whole wheat flour + 48% white flour + 2% whole rye flour + 11.5% starter (the whole second build) + 75% water + 2% salt. Mix on first speed. Autolyse: 20 min (no salt, no starter). Final mix: add salt and water. Mix 6 minutes (same slow speed). Dough cooled to 50°F/10°C. Rest until 12 AM
- 12 AM: dough allowed to warm up to 72°F/22°C (depending on the weather or other conditions, it might need to be retarded some more at this point)
- 5:00 AM: one fold
- 7:00 AM: divided @ 750 g – preshaped (20 minutes rest) – rolled into a batard shape – final proof: 45 minutes on couche dusted with white flour
- Bake for 35 minutes 445-465° F @ 230-240°C
I like how the bread turned out when I made it at home: the flavor of the grain shone through, there was no acidity whatsoever and the crumb was wonderfully mellow.
But, as can be seen from the two pictures (the one above and the one below), I didn’t get as good as oven spring as Cliff.
I used the formula that Cliff had so generously shared with me and did my best to follow his guidelines as to timing and temperatures but in a home environment, life (and sleep) sometimes intervene. Once again the grain is only half of the story, fermentation control is just as important. I didn’t have the means of cooling the dough to 50°F/10°C right after mixing. The best I could do was to put it in the garage when the temperature hovered around 62°F/17°C, leave it there and check it periodically to make sure it wasn’t fermenting too fast. I didn’t want to put it in the fridge which would have been too cold.
The dough behaved in unexpected ways both during mixing and during fermentation: you know how it is hammered in our heads as apprentice bakers that you can’t ever follow a recipe exactly because there are such variations in the flours from one manufacturer to the next (and even from one batch of flour to the next from the same manufacturer) that the percentage of water must be adjusted each time?
Well, I thought that I had that angle covered. I was using flours milled by Cliff, the dates of the milling were indicated on both bags, I was well within the two-three week period (actually much closer to two) and I figured I could safely go ahead and hydrate at 75% as he does. I didn’t put in all the water in one shot but still I was less cautious with it than I usually am and soon found myself in a spot.
I was mixing by hand (at the bakery, Cliff uses a very slow and gentle old mixer equipped with two “arms” that mimic the rythmic gestures of an artisan baker). The dough was gobbling up the water beautifully but almost as soon as I stopped folding it over itself, it sneakily relaxed to the point of slackness. I now wonder if it could be because I forgot to use filtered water and just used tap water (we have city water and it is chlorinated although not heavily so).
As it were, I thought it just needed more folds and I must have folded it half-a-dozen times but every time I went back to check on it, it had spread again. That being said, it later lent itself rather gracefully to being divided and shaped. I set the batards to proof on a flour-dusted couche making sure I secured the edges on both sides so that they wouldn’t morph into ciabattas behind my back. Still when I put them in the oven, they were a bit flattish and I was definitely not hopeful…
So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the breads did get get some oven rise and turned out acceptable looks-wise. Flavor-wise, they were fragrant and wonderfully evocative of sun-drenched wheat fields (although not quite as complex-tasting as Cliff’s). I don’t have any more flour to try again but Cliff also kindly gave me some Red Fife grain. I am storing it in the fridge for now. I will try milling it to see if I can reproduce the two loaves I made with his flours and this time I will remember to use filtered water!
Ingredients (for two loaves scaled at 980 g):
- 1.5 g mature white starter (at 100% hydration)
- 18 g white Red Fife flour
- 18 g water
- 38 g starter (all of the first build)
- 51 g white Red Fife flour
- 51 g water
- 600 g whole Red Fife flour
- 576 g white Red Fife flour
- 24 g organic dark rye flour
- 900 g water
- 138 g starter (all of the second build)
- 24 g salt
As indicated above, I forgot Cliff’s recommendation regarding filtered water and it may have made a big difference in the way the dough behaved. Also the second build of the levain took forever to ferment and I had to delay mixing by eight hours (a whole night) because I wanted it to be fairly bursting with singing bubbles before putting it to work.
Otherwise I did my best to follow his guidelines in trying to make this amazing bread at home and I am happy to have this opportunity to thank Cliff and all the other bakers I have met so far for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and resources. Seeing the pros at work is truly the best way to learn and I love the fact that these artisans care enough about their product to help a bread enthusiast make better bread. I know no better way to thank them than to support artisan bakeries wherever we go. Truth be told, that’s my favorite kind of shopping spree!
The 50% Whole Red Fife Wheat Bread is going to Susan for this week’s Yeastpotting.