I’ve browsed the pages of Leader’s “Local Breads” countless times over the past year, but taking part in “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” challenge prevented me from indulging in many other bread books. Once the  challenge finished, I felt excited to attack other projects, but also somewhat paralyzed.   Not anymore: last weekend I dove into my first Local Breads recipe, a three-day project that led to a couple of delicious loaves of a rustic, toothsome bread.

(from Local Breads)

Levain (sourdough starter)

45 g firm sourdough starter
50 g water
95 g bread flour
5 g whole wheat flour

Mix all the ingredients until they form a stiff dough, trying to incorporate all the flour into it. Place the dough in a container, marking its level with a tape or pen. Allow it to ferment at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, until it doubles in volume. This recipe will make more levain than used in the bread.

Bread dough

400 g water
450 g bread flour
50 g rye flour
125 g levain
10 g salt

Pour the water into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer. Add the bread and rye flours, stir with a spatula until it begins to form a dough. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Uncover the bowl, add the levain (only 125 g of it) and the salt, and start kneading with the dough hook on medium speed for 12-14 minutes, or until you have good gluten development (do a windowpane test). Transfer the dough to a slightly oiled bowl and keep it at room temperature for 1 hour. Scrape the dough into a floured surface and fold it a couple of times to induce gluten development. You can see how to fold the dough by clicking here. Repeat the folding again after 1 more hour. After the second folding cycle, let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature until doubled in volume. Transfer to the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

After 14 hours, my dough looked like this….

“Shaping” and baking
Remove the dough from the fridge 3 hours before baking. Heat the oven to 450F and place a baking stone (or tiles) on the middle rack.

Heavily dust the counter with flour, scrape the dough onto the counter, and open it gently into a 10 inch square shape, trying not to deflate it too much. I like to mark the dimensions on the flour, to have an idea of how much to open the dough.

Transfer each piece to a rimless baking sheet covered with parchment paper, stretching the dough to about 12 inches long. Let it fall naturally, without worrying about a precise shape. If baking both loaves at the same time, separate them by at least 2 inches.

Bake with initial steam for 20 to 30 minutes, until a dark walnut color develops on the crust. Let the loaves cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

for a detailed discussion on this particular bread, visit this link

Comments: The recipe was quite involved and challenging, but the gods of Bread were on my side and things went smoothly.  A dough with this much water (in baker’s terms it’s called a high hydration ratio) is tricky to deal with, but extra flour on the work surface helps. As some of the bakers in The Fresh Loaf put it “it feels like you’re making pancakes” when transferring the “bread” to the baking sheet. It’s impossible to shape it, so don’t even try. Lift it, gently stretch it  (it will almost stretch itself as it’s lifted), place it on the baking sheet and transfer it to the oven.   It’s a delight to witness its impressive oven spring (yet another fancy term to indicate that the dough rises a lot during baking).

The crumb almost made me shed a few tears… I know, I know… it’s pathetic, but bread make’s me emotional!  (In a good way.)  😉

I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting….

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  1. You need a super peel – then you could move that dough really easily – I have one. But that apart, what a great bread, what a crumb! What a baker you are! I never bake from Local Breads, every recipe I have tried is full of publishers mistakes so I gave up a long time ago, which is a shame as I know he is a highly rated baker!


  2. @Ilva and Elra: I edited the post to include a specific link to The Fresh Loaf, that shows in greater detail how to proceed and the possible problems

    Since you both seem interested in making it, I thought it would be good to include that link

    thanks for stopping by!


  3. @Joanna & ap: I was also a bit uncertain about baking from it, due to the many mistakes I heard about. But a quick visit to The Fresh Loaf solves this issue, as many bakers already went through specific problems.

    I don’t think I would pick a recipe without checking with those folks first. Amazing source of info they are!


  4. Looks beautiful, Sally! I love the idea of drawing the dimensions of the bread in the flour – brilliant – I will definitely be stealing that idea!


  5. @Celia – I knew some people would understand…. the awe of the crumb!

    @Anne Marie – I’ve had my share of disasters in the bread department, but slowly things are getting better.


  6. Pingback: YeastSpotting May 14, 2010 | Wild Yeast

  7. Look at the open crumb! You did this recipe proud! Now I am itching to bake something from that book again.
    Even with a lot of errors and flaws, I still think it’s a great book. Most of the erros are glaringly obvious, or at least fix-able if you use metric system and adjust according to how the dough feels. Good job.


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  9. Hello ! I do not know how to make bread, I want to try since a long time, but recipes seem too complicated for me and time consuming. Making bread requires time…We promised however ourselves to start one day. But when ? That’s the problem….have a nice evening…


  10. I think I saw somewhere a list of errata from that book online. Will have to look it up. I am about to start on that one soon and would love to have the errata fixed when I dol


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