New formula and a new schedule


I have been playing around with two different things - Peter Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne, and some of the techniques discussed in the Jim Lahey recipe in the New York Times.

This is the result 'Pain au levain a l'ancienne', a sourdough version of the Reinhart recipe at 80% hydration with almost no kneading.

Day 1 evening
Starter 10g (22%)
Water 25g (56%)
Flour 45g (100%)

Day 2 morning
Starter 60g (60%) (a little less than all of the above, so you can put some aside)
Water 60g (60%)
Flour 100g (100%)

Day 2 evening
Starter 200g (40%)
Water 425g (85%)
Flour 500g (100%)
Salt 10g (2%)

Squidge the dough roughly into the water. Add flour and salt and mix in the bowl roughly. That is all you need to do.

NB in warm temperatures with an active starter the 'starter' will be reasonably soft. If it is more firm, it may need a little kneading in to distribute it.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge immediately.

Day 3 morning
Get the dough out of the fridge. Pour a little oil over your hands, and gently knead the dough in the bowl for no more than 10 seconds. Put it back in the fridge.

Day 3 evening
Get the dough out of the fridge.
Flour a worksurface.
Put a bit of olive oil on your hands, and scoop out the dough from the bowl. It will be sticky, but the oil will help to get it out in one piece. Plonk it on the floured bench, and give it a fold
(Dimple it out with your fingers into a rough rectangle. Fold the far end in towards you, then the near side over the top (in a letter fold). Stretch out the right side of the folded dough out towards the right then fold in halfway. Stretch out the left free end of the dough, and fold again back over in a letter fold. Turn the dough over.)
Place the dough back in the bowl, and leave out at warm room temperature for an hour

Repeat folds at hourly intervals until the dough is bubbly and light. (Slashing the dough to see if there are bubbles below the surface is possible but a little tricky with this very soft dough).
My last couple of tries (Melbourne is quite warm this week - temps in the mid 20s in my kitchen) have been ready after 3 hours.

Divide if desired (this quantity will make 2 small baguettes and a mini batard, or a large single loaf)
Shape the dough into a boule. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
Shape into a batard. Slip it (seam side up) onto a well-floured couche, or proving basin or banneton. Cover with a tea towel, then put the whole thing inside a plastic bag. Put it in the fridge overnight.

Day 4 morning
When you get up put a large heavy duty casserole (with lid) in the oven, and turn it on. Leave it to warm up for ~45 minutes.

Once the oven has warmed up, you can just slip the dough directly into the pot (from proving basin). However the safest way (and most effective is to use a peel). For transfering to the pot I use a thin flexible plastic cutting board, over which I sprinkle semolina.
Turn the dough onto the peel. Slash (you may need to dip the blade in water because the dough is very moist). Slide the dough into the hot pot (careful!). (The flexible board means that you can fold up the edges beside the dough and direct its slide into the pot). Put the lid on, and put into the oven.

Bake covered for ~25 mins, then take lid off and bake uncovered for ~another 25 minutes.

Will add pictures soon


218 users have voted.


SourDom 2006 November 23

here you go TP

100% white


10% wholemeal


(probably needed longer ~30 mins

The advantage of this technique is its flexibility. The periods in the fridge can be shortened/stretched depending on your life.
Baking in the casserole gives enormous oven spring - but without the bulges/crazy shapes that I have often created. It also gives a great crust, though the moist dough needs a good long bake for the crumb to bake fully.

The high hydration makes the most of the baking in a pot, as it generates plenty of steam. The dough is much easier to handle after the folding - so don't miss this step. Without the folds it is pretty difficult to shape/slash.

Although the schedule seems long it works well for me baking a couple of times a week. I start to refresh a new batch of starter when baking the dough, so by the time that we have finished one loaf I am ready to make another one.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2006 November 23

Not bad at all! I've taken the recipe down. Just need that push before I take the plunge.

The half-bags were done in the pot as well?

SourDom 2006 November 23

No, the baguettes were done on the stone.

Don't have a suitable pot for doing baguettes, though I suspect that would be the only way to get close to an authentic crust for baguettes in a home oven.


coelecanth 2006 November 23


Great looking loaves- they made me want to go home (from work) and start baking.

Two things I was wondering about: Do you think that this dough is resilient enough to prove in tea towels? (I don't have proving baskets, although Santa might come with brotformen this year), and how the internal structure and flavour of the bread is compared with the same dough not cooked inside a pot?

They really look good. Yum.

Kind regards,


PS I have been reading Elizabeth David's "English Bread and Yeast Cookery" and she talks about cooking under cover, which makes me wonder how old this technique is. I certainly remember cooking (usually indedible) damper this way, in a sealed camp oven.

SourDom 2006 November 24

the baguettes that I have made with this dough are proved on a tea towel, but make sure that it has a good amount of (preferably) rye flour rubbed in to prevent sticking.

I don't have enough experience of this technique to be sure of the effect on flavour or crumb. My impression is that it consistently gives a nice open texture, but I don't know that it is more than you would get using normal techniques.


SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 November 24

((I've been very good this year, Santa! Will you please, please pretty please bring me some bannetons, too?!?!?!?))


matthew 2006 November 24

Very nice looking bread Dom. I also admire your ability to raise a family and make so much bread! I'm always ready to just go to bed by the time the kids are down and the kitchen is tidied!


SourDom 2006 November 24

I'm always ready to just go to bed by the time the kids are down and the kitchen is tidied!

my feelings entirely.

the above schedule requires max of 2 minutes on night 1 (mix starter), 2 minutes on night 2 (mix dough - usually just before going to bed).
Get dough out of fridge when come home from work. Fold every hour (max 15 seconds) in between bath/stories/bedtime/my food/toothbrushing. Shape just before going to bed. Bake before going to work (don't get to eat until evening, which can be a problem. The loaf top right above somehow vanished before I could get back...)


SourDom 2006 November 25

This weekend:

[url=]Ciabatta a l'ancienne[/url] (there's a nice muddle of languages)



I have posted the recipe that I used and the two different proving regimens used on my (neglected) [url=]blog[/url]


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