Better Bread at Home

When I started this website I intended, and still do, for it to be a resource for serious bakers. There are several techniques, components, and equipment that I mention throughout this site that only a seasoned baker would be familiar with. With that said, this article is specifically for the home baker who is just starting their journey in artisan baking.

The first, and most important thing is you need to have all ingredients scaled individually and your tools readily available for a more efficient and clean baking environment. Let’s go over the ingredients first:

Flour, Water, Salt, Levain

When it comes to flour I recommend King Arthur Bread Flour. I personally use it both at home and at Café Ficelle. King Arthur Flour is an exceptional company from Norwich,Vermont. They employ some amazing bakers and have a great reputation in the baking community. Their products are very consistent and reliable.

Water also plays a key role in baking. City water varies from region to region. Some have very hard water, some regions have soft water. I use purified water when feeding starters, building levains, and mixing doughs.

There are dozens of different salts to choose from but I find that Maldon Sea Salt has the best flavor and most easily dissolves into the dough without cutting through the developing gluten structure during the mix.

Now for Levain. Levain (French for “leaven) is the natural yeast culture that is created from mixing flour and water, letting the mixture sit for 24 hours, discarding all but 20% of the mixture, and adding more water and flour to repeat the process. Read more on Levain HERE.


Digital Scale, Dough Bucket, Dough Knife, Banneton, Dutch Oven, Lame, Thermometer

Digital Scale: Measure all ingredients in grams (g) using a digital scale . I find it best to measure in grams because there is very little room for error, whereas volume measurements have a really high probability for weight errors. You want consistent results every time you bake and no matter how many loaves you bake. Measuring by weight is the most fool proof way to scale your doughs.

Dough Bucket: I recommend using a clear Cambro 6qt bucket for bulk fermentation. I prefer the clear buckets because I can see the fermentation via air bubbles in the dough.

Dough Scraper/Bench Knife: The dough knife is used to divide the dough and handle the dough. It allows you to manipulate the dough without making a mess of your hands.

Banneton Basket: The Banneton is a wood cane proofing basket. This is used in the final proof. The basket easily holds and the dough’s final desired shape. It is easily cleaned and is traditionally used in artisan bread making.

Dutch Oven: This is the key to home baking. Most ovens lose heat easily and dry out the dough too quickly. When the dough dries out to soon the crust forms and doesn’t allow for a proper oven spring. This results in “blow outs” in the bread. If you bake in a dutch oven it retains heat and moisture encouraging a properly baked and desirable loaf.

Lame: The lame (pronounced lahm), is a double sided razor used to score the dough. A score refers to a series of cuts that create weaknesses on the dough surface to influence the doughs final baked shape. The best way to score is with a lame. The razor sharp edges keep the blade from dragging through the dough, and allow it to slice smoothly through the dough surface.

Thermometer: Often times a bread may look cooked on the outside but the inside is still gummy and raw. The proper internal dough temperature should read 205°F to ensure that the crumb is completely cooked.


Levain (250g)*

Flour: 100g

Levain Starter: 87g

Water: 54g

Rye Flour: 9g

*You need to always make more levain than what is needed in the dough so that there is enough to refresh and build a new levain for your next bake.


Pain au Levain (1000g)

Flour: 495g

Water: 371g

Salt: 11g

Mature Ripe Levain: 173g

First, mix your water and flour until fully incorporated and let rest covered for 1 hour. This helps the dough become more extensible, this process is called autolyse. After the autolyse add your levain and mix until completely incorporated, then add the salt and mix until a medium dough development. This refers to the window pane test in which you can stretch an opaque window in the dough without it ripping.

img_5570Up next is the bulk fermentation. This is the longest rest that the dough gets. During this time the dough will just about double in size and become very bubbly with yeast activity.  Over the course of 1 hour give the dough a series of stretch and folds every 20-30 minutes. A stretch and fold is when you fold the left edge of the dough to the right, the right edge of the dough to the left, top edge to bottom, and bottom edge to top. This encourages even fermentation and proper internal dough temperature. Next, allow the dough to rest for 1 1/2 -2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

After bulk fermentation comes division. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface. with your dough knife and scale, weigh out 1000g of dough and gently shape round, being careful not to de gas the dough. Let the dough rest covered for 15-30 minutes, or until it starts to spread out like a pancake.

img_4213Once the bench rest is completed, use the dough knife to gently scoop the dough up and place smooth side (top side) down on a floured surface. Fold the outside edges of the dough in to the middle and repeat to shape the dough round. Keep rounding the dough to create tension in the surface but be careful not to rip the surface. Place it upside down in a floured and lined Banneton basket and rest in the refrigerator for an overnight final rise.

img_4828In the morning preheat the oven to 485°F with you dutch oven in the oven for 1 hour. during this time set your banneton on the counter so it can slowly start to come up to room temperature. Once pre heated, remove the dutch oven and dump the proofed dough onto the bottom of the dutch oven.

Before placing the lid back on the dutch oven you need to score the dough.  After scoring, place the lid back on the dutch oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then, remove the dough from the dutch oven and bake for a final 10 minutes at 450°F. The crust should be a deep golden brown and the internal temperature should read 205°F.

It may take a few bakes to get used to mixing, handling, shaping, scoring, and baking the dough. The great thing about baking is that there is always room for improvement and learning.


For more detail please visit The Baking ProcessBaker’s MathResources, and my Consulting Service.

Pain au Levain

Grand Moulins de Paris

Chignon, Croissant, Kouign Amann, and Pain au Chocolat

Paris based milling company, Grand Moulins de Paris, sent me some flour samples this past week and “WOW” is all I can say. The pastries above were made with Gruau Rouge T45 flour. The dough was silky smooth, and incredibly extensible. The crumb of the pastry was very open and flaky. The flavor was incredible. Check them out at Grand Moulins de Paris



In a mixer with a dough hook, mix on 1st speed for 2 minutes, incorporate butter on 2nd speed for 7 minutes. Reserve the 3.774kg detrempe in the freezer for 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerator over night.

Lock in 1.00 kg Extra Dry Butter (82%) and preform a double fold, then a single fold. Rest in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

For the final sheeting, roll the dough down to 3.5mm, trim edges, and cut desired pastries. Proof for 2 hours in 90% humidity at 75°F. Egg wash and bake at 360°F for 20 minutes.

Pain au Chocolat Revisited

To preface why I chose the bi color pain au chocolat, this is a pastry I made in 2016 at Terre Blanche Resort for Valrhona Chocolat corporate.

The pain au chocolat, much like the croissant, is a staple in French boulangeries. The pastry is made from the same dough as the croissant but it is filled with chocolate batons and rolled up like a log.

I have adopted the bi-color technique at Café Ficelle. The bi-color process involves laminating one detrempe (I preform a double fold and a single fold). Then I have a colored dough that I lay on top of the fully laminated detrempe like a blanket. I preform the final sheeting and cut the dough in to 3.5”x5.5” rectangles (12×8 cm). Then I I score the dough with a lame. This scoring technique gives the pastry a lattice appearance.

After I score the outer layer of chocolate dough, I roll the batons inside like a log. The pastry then proof for 2.5 hours at 75°F. I bake the pastry at 360°F for 20 minutes. For the final touch, I brush the baked chocolate layer with a simple syrup to make the chocolate color pop.

▫️Pain au Levain▫️

Pain au Levain, or sourdough bread, is one of my favorite breads. This bread needs a lot of time to bulk ferment, usually 5-6 hours. I start with a 1hr autolyse holding back about 8% of the water. After an hour has passed I incorporate the Levain into the dough mass. Once the Levain is worked into the dough I then add the salt along with half of the water I held back. Once the dough is developed I work the remaining water into the dough. At this point I have a great gluten development and have increased the hydration considerably. I allow the dough to bulk ferment for 1hr, give a stretch and fold, then allow it to finish bulk fermentation at room temperature. This dough is extensible and easy to shape.

To learn more about sourdough techniques, sustaining a levain, formula development, dough characteristics, or the baking process please click here

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns getting ready for the oven as we prepare for Easter weekend.

I can’t express how grateful and fortunate I am to be able to introduce a bit of normalcy in peoples lives in the form of bread and pastry during these tough times. We have had an overwhelming response in community support for restaurants, cafes, and bakeries here in Ventura. 🥖🥐✌️👊

Flourside: Unique Proofing Baskets for Craft Bread Bakers

Guys! As a baker there are certain tools that are necessary to crafting a perfect loaf, and one that is vital is a proofing basket. The basket supports the dough’s shape as it proofs, usually batard or boule. The concept is simple, shape the dough, proof it in the basket, then unload the dough, score, and bake. One problem that can occur is the dough can stick to the basket and ruin the exterior of the dough plus it makes a mess of your diligently crafted bread.

I introduce Flourside. Flourside is a company that is producing wood pulp baskets. Wood pulp is great for proofing high hydration doughs. I have personally used wood pulp baskets since 2017 and have not turned back.

Flourside bannetons:

  • Easily releases very wet and high hydration doughs 
  • Evenly wicks moisture from dough skin, resulting in a beautiful and consistent crust
  • Thick-walls help keep dough a consistent temperature, making it ideal for fermenting craft bread
  • Proven durable and will be a favored tool for years to come

They come in the traditional lined pattern and the ever popular waffle pattern. The impression from these patterns become evident in the crust to give your bread a distinctive look that people will love.

Finally, proofing baskets that are as unique as your bread. These bannetons are made of 100% sustainable spruce pulp. Made in Germany, they’ve been used throughout Europe for over a century to create superior crust and crumb.

You can purchase Flourside proofing baskets here

Ciabatta • Baguette • Olive Rosemary Levain

Three different breads that showcase variety of daily offerings. The ciabatta is made with a poolish as the starter, the baguette de tradition which contains no starter of any kind, and the olive Rosemary Levain that contains a rye based stiff levain.

Café Ficelle Viennoiserie

There are so many complex, creative boundaries to redefine in viennoiserie. The first hurdle is to master a smooth, unbroken lamination. The butter and the dough need to be rolled out and layered without the butter smearing into the dough, the butter hardening too much and then breaking, or the dough itself tearing. It’s a delicate process but the most basic technique in viennoiserie baking.