About

the perfect loaf aboutCiao! My name is Maurizio and welcome to my site the perfect loaf.

I think it all started when I was a kid. We took naps in the back room of my Dad’s Italian restaurant on top of waist-high flour sacks to the faint sounds of a mixer mixing dough, a hot pizza oven opening and closing, vegetables being chopped and the monstrous espresso machine heaving and steaming. My brother and I would spend every summer recess there in that small building, it was these summers that most likely etched in cooking & baking. We would watch him pour flour, water, salt and yeast in the large dough mixer to prepare tomorrow’s pizza — “Don’t ever reach your hand in here when the machine is on, we had someone lose an arm here a few years ago,” I can remember my Dad preaching to us (to this day I’m still not sure if that ever really happened).

Experiment, play, realize that failure isn’t really failure, it’s an edible part of your evolution as a bakerJeffrey Hamelman

That transformation escaped me as a young kid: how did that goopy, wet stuff in the mixer turn into such amazing pizza with a light and airy crust? My Dad seemed the alchemist and while I wouldn’t truly understand the processes happening there until later, my brother and I did make the discovery one summer: if we stole a little bit of that pizza dough, hid it somewhere sneaky, in a day or two it would transform into a large ball with massive caverns and a thin crackly crust. You can imagine how much fun it would be hiding dough in every nook and cranny only for my Dad’s later discovery. Well fun for us at least.

Growing up Italian, and especially in a restaurant household, our lives revolved around good food made by hand. Whether it was the pizza and pasta my Dad cooked at his restaurant, or the gnocchi and risotto my Mom & Grandmother prepared at home, I was imbued with this appreciation for homemade food that takes time to prepare—slow food. Long trips to visit relatives in Italy were filled with wood fired family meals, countless mornings wandering the cobblestone streets to our favorite bakeries in search of fresh croissants and bread, and last but not least, slabs of focaccia topped with ripe tomatoes packed for a long day at the beach (yes, I was the kid at the beach always fighting for that corner slice with extra crust).

And so I developed this sense of value in preparing good food, food that doesn’t have to be complicated or exquisite in nature, but I don’t think there are any shortcuts. To me sourdough bread is the very definition of this: it’s something that tastes exceptional when the baker takes their time to prepare it, to let the yeast & bacteria work with the flour and water to create something transcendent. My obsession with sourdough came unexpectedly, starting with The Book and shortly thereafter firmly taking hold as an almost-daily exercise.

So here at the perfect loaf, the intersection of my obsessive personality and entrenched value for good food,  I focus on baking naturally leavened sourdough by hand using my wild yeast starter. I sometimes mill my own fresh flour with my manual hand-cranked mill, and added nutrition benefits aside, the taste of fresh flour is something extraordinary. Like I mention elsewhere, if I’m not baking sourdough I’m probably thinking about it — always searching for that perfect loaf.

Maurizio

the perfect loaf about


Awards

Saveur Magazine / 2016 Editors’ Choice and Readers’ Choice Winner, The Food Obsessive

Contributions

King Arthur Flour / Flourish Blog / Regular Contributor

Bread Baker’s Guild of America, Bread Lines Magazine / Multigrain Spelt Sourdough / Volume 25, Issue 1 – Spring 2017
Bread Magazine / Sprouted Buckwheat Sourdough / Issue 20, December 2016
Baking Steel Blog / Whole Wheat Sourdough for the Home Baker / August 3, 2016
Bread Magazine / Baking Sourdough With Fresh Milled Flour / Issue 17, October 2015

Mentions

Bake from Scratch Magazine / 9 Baking Bloggers You Should Know / 2017

8 Mesmerizing Artisan Bread Accounts You Should Follow / Food & Wine Magazine / August, 2017
Influence Digest / Top 20 Young Bloggers / May, 2017
Inspired Top 100 / THE PERFECT LOAF / February, 2017

Feed Feed / Sprouted Buckwheat Sourdough – Buckwheat Feed / January, 2017
Feed Feed / Multigrain Spelt Sourdough – Baking Steel Feed / November 10, 2016
Feed Feed / Sourdough Loaf (fresh milled spelt) – Freshly Baked Bread Feed / April 15, 2016
Feed Feed / Sourdough Bread (with spelt) – Freshly Baked Bread Feed / March 31, 2016
Feed Feed / Sourdough Bread From Scratch – Freshly Baked Bread Feed / January 21, 2016
Feed Feed / White Sonora Wheat Sourdough Bread – Freshly Baked Bread Feed / January 03, 2016


Reading Recommendations

Looking for more reading, inspiration or instruction? This reading list has my most cherished books on baking, and in more ways than one, have changed my life for the better.


Maurizio Leo is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

  • Vanessa Kimbell

    I absolutely love your sit. Your passion for Sourdough is wonderful. I spent a lovely hour reading your posts and looking at your photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • Vanessa, thank you much, I really appreciate that! I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, I only wish I lived closer to attend one of your workshops!

      Thanks again!

      • Vanessa Kimbell

        I’m not sure you would need to attend one!! Your sourdoughs are beautiful.

        • Thank you! I still think it’d be fun to swap stories, experience, and just have a great time baking 🙂

  • Kevin Willden

    Enjoyed your web site. I’ve been doing sourdough for years. Here’s my basic sourdough bread recipe:
    2 cups bread flour
    2 cups liquid (water, milk, vegetable & potato water, beer, (and coffee if I’m making dark rye or pumpernickle))
    2 tsp salt
    2 TBLS oil or butter
    2-3 TBLS sugar, honey, (sorgahm, or molasses if Im making dark rye or pumpernickle)
    2 eggs
    1 cup starter
    bread flour

    1. The night before (right before going to bed) mix 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups liquid, and 1 cup starter
    2. Next morning stir batter and take out 1 cup batter and put it back into my starter jar & mix well
    3. Add salt, sugar, eggs, oil or butter
    4. Gradually add bread flour untill you get a kneadable dough ball
    5. Knead well
    6. Let rise untill double
    7. Punch down – devide in half – knead will and pleace into loaf pans
    8. bake @ 350 degrees for about an hour (bread is done when you tap on the top a couple of
    times and it sounds hollow
    9. brush butter on top of bread loaves
    10. Take bread out of pans to cool on cooling raks

    I’ve made white, whole wheat, rye, and pumpernickle breads just by substituting different flours with this basic recipe. I even made rolls, and cinnaman rolls with tis recipe.

  • Hello, Maurizio! I came by your blog via the lovely Maree (Around The Mulberry Tree)’s recent sourdough baking adventures — an offshoot of Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial (aka “The Bread Whisper’s 😉 willingness to share her starter with me from thousands of miles away. (Australia to Oklahoma is a far piece.) Both ladies have been instrumental and very special in my life this past year. Nice to meet YOU, too! “Experiment, play, and realize that failure isn’t failure”… yessir! Here’s to “The Perfect Loaf” — and still-enjoyed ones through trial, error, and efforts — in 2016. Best wishes to you!

    • Kim, very nice to meet you! That sounds like quite the baking circle you have there, what a treasure. I’m glad to have you along and look forward to hearing from you again in 2016! And yes, you’re right those baking “errors” always taste good 🙂

      Happy New Year to you and your family!

      • Maurizio, I’m attempting to resurrect my “starter” as we speak (looking BUBBLY, lookin’ promising) as a “gift loaf” to someone tomorrow. Here’s to evolution. 🙂 (Failure is not an option, LOL — only “trial and error” — which most of my cooking/baking experience has been based on over the years.) Again, thanks for your insights and experience with sourdough and Happy New Year!

        • P.S. My “baking circle” friends are a treasure indeed — including you now! 🙂

          • Here’s to the revival! You’re very welcome 🙂

  • fatpastard

    Hi Maurizio – thanks again for all your pointers on IG. I came over onto your blog today and I’m hooked! At the moment I’m following another recipe from a local bakers, and want to see it through, but as I experiment more I’ll be looking here for inspiration. The challenge I was having with overly sticky dough post bulk – think I’ve solved it (I’m between folds now as I type and seems to be in better shape) by using a more recently refreshed starter. Fingers crossed. By the way, can’t agree more with your talk of slow-food and how as Italians it’s what we’re brought up to appreciate. Nonna starting cooking at 8am for lunch; smells of soffritto already wafting through the house by mid morning. Food as it should be prepared. Un-rushed and cooked with the same amount of pleasure as the 800 minestrones made before it 🙂 Ciao! Cristiano

    • Cristiano — not a problem, glad to help. Glad you’re liking my site! Let me know how it goes baking from here, I’m sure you’ll crank out some really nice bread.

      It’s true… I remember as a kid waking up and wandering into the kitchen to the sight of my nonna rolling out pasta dough while a nice bolognese is on the stove — great memories! I hope one day to pass the same things down to my son 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, hope to hear from you again soon! Ciao ciao.

  • Brendan

    Hi Maurizio I’ve been following you for quite a while now and have a few general questions…
    When you bake a loaf, how long do you let it sit before you cut into it?
    How do you store your bread once you have cut into it? I’ve read somewhere you keep some in the freezer, do you keep any out of the freezer?
    And finally….are you going to post your recent pizza dough recipe!? I’ve been experimenting with extra levain to make my own recipe, your 10% levain tip was very helpful thus far! Thank you for everything, you have really helped build my baking skills!

    • Awesome, glad to have you along! With regard to cutting into fresh bread: the time I wait to slice depends on the bread I make. If it’s 100% whole wheat, for example, it’s best to way at least 4-6 hours (preferably the next day to let it “set”). The same goes for rye. My typical white sourdough you could slice into it right after removing from the oven, but it’s best to let that cool at least an hour. Of course these are general times, but they are what I find to be the best.

      I have a bread box that I store my bread in — it keeps the moisture in the bread in my dry climate. If I have extra bread I tend to keep it in the freezer until I can get to eating it. If I plan to eat it sooner I’ll fully slice the loaf, place it in a freezer Ziplock bag and put it into the freezer. My toaster has a “defrost” function that I use to toast the individual frozen slices. If I plan to keep it long term in the freezer I will wrap the bread several times with plastic wrap and then put it into a freezer bag.

      I will definitely post that pizza recipe! Still working on it (and the method) and have a few kinks to work out.

      Glad to hear my tips have been helping and it’s great to hear from you, Brendan!

  • Michael Pedersen

    Hello there. I’ve been using a couple of your guides in my own quest to make a great sourdough, and the results have been amazing. I’ve cultured my own starter from scratch, I’ve baked 3 batches (mostly successfully, the last batch pancaked a lot), and the flavor on all of these has been amazing. I have a feeling that I need to read every post of yours in detail to figure out more of what’s going on inside my loaves.

    I do have some questions though, that I’m not finding solid answers for anywhere yet. Right now, I’m working with http://www.theperfectloaf.com/tartine-sourdough-country-loaf-bread-recipe/ and making some progress, but I have a feeling I’m missing some pieces.

    In particular: When it comes time to retard the dough (placing the boules into the fridge overnight), how cold is the fridge expected to be, roughly? I’m worried ours might be too cold for this use. I’m not averse to buying a mini-fridge for this purpose, but I’d rather know what I need to look for when buying it as opposed to guessing.

    Also, my bread is coming out without very much sour. I get hints of it, but the amounts I actually get are much lower than I would like and expect. Do you have any suggestions on how I can control the level of sour in the end result?

    I’m considering making a box specifically to develop a micro-climate for maintaining my starter (to track temp, humidity, and have a camera taking pictures at regular intervals to allow me to observe the rise and fall of the starter). Do you know of any such box already in existence?

    I’m probably asking way too much, but you’ve helped spark my curiousity. I hope you don’t mind. And thank you for any help you can give.

    • Michael — really great to hear! Sounds like you’re off to an awesome start already. I retard my loaves in my fridge overnight, which is set to 39ºF. Different bakers have their preference there (some around 45ºF) but this temp is what my main fridge is set to, so I work with it. If yours is around this temp, and you feel like your dough isn’t fermenting enough by bake-time, let your dough sit out on the counter after shaping for 20 minutes or so and see if that helps.

      There are a few things you can do to increase the sourness: use more levain in your mix. I typically use anywhere between 12-20%, shoot for the 20% mark. This will increase the acidity of your loaf. You can also increase the percentage of whole grains in the mix (whole grains also increase acid production). Finally, you could increase the length of your cold proof, start with 5 more hours and go up from there. Of course there is a limit.

      A proof box is a great idea, and I noticed my bread quality increased dramatically after getting one. I almost built my own, but then I found one I really like, and for the price it wasn’t really worth me building anything. I highly recommend this proof box by Bröd & Taylor.

      I definitely do not mind the questions. If you have any more feel free! Happy baking, Michael!

      • Michael Pedersen

        Apologies for taking so long to reply. It’s been busy for me, including more baking. I finally picked up the Tartine Bread book, and am loving it (got it last night, and 1/4 of the way through my first reading).

        I’ve decided to build my own proofing box, since that’s *also* the box I use for my starter (very drafty old home, so I need that microclimate). Being a computer geek, I’m also getting video inside, along with temperature/humidity/atmospheric pressure monitoring so I can learn more about what my starter likes and doesn’t like. I figure that, once I’ve gone to that extreme, making a box out of wood isn’t too much extra effort 🙂

        As a weirdness for my bread, I’ve been using a cloche the past few weekends, and after I started using it, I started getting pancaked loaves. When I used nothing, I got great oven spring. Have you ever heard of behavior like that? BTW, I’m getting the combo cooker for this weekend’s baking. I have a feeling I’m going to get results that I’m much happier with.

        • No worries! I definitely know what it’s like to get busy.

          Sounds like your proof box is the way I would have wanted mine to turn out! Sounds awesome actually, I’d love to take snapshots of the starter at intervals and see how it progresses throughout the day. Will make gathering data on its strength much easier.

          I’m not familiar with using a cloche, but I’d be curious to see if you get the same results with the DO. I’m not sure why that would cause pancake’d loaves, though. Are you sure it wasn’t something else (over-proof, or too high hydration)? It might be something else unrelated that just happened to show itself.

          Let me know how it works out with the DO!

          • Michael Pedersen

            The combo cooker was nearly perfect. We made four loaves yesterday, and of those four one did any pancaking. What was the most interesting observation about it, though, was that I thought pancaking meant going wider. It didn’t. It just didn’t have the edges raise up as much as the center. I actually measured the results, too, so it’s not just a random guess about it like it was before.

            We had one loaf that didn’t take to the preshaping well, and we’re pretty sure it was that one. Basically, it looks like we didn’t get enough structural gluten in place to keep the shape we wanted.

            The other loaves, though, were amazing. Crackly crust that we didn’t get before, Now it’s time to focus on adding some sour into the flavor. Next week, much longer fermentation times (and a nearby thermometer to help me get a better idea of where it should be).

            • Yes it could definitely be lack of sufficient tension during shaping, that would cause a weak rise and no ears when scored. I try to keep track of the dough I preshape and shape all the way through bake so I can keep notes on which was shaped well and which weren’t.

              Sounds like you’re on your way, though!

  • Jessica

    Hello!

    I am so glad I found your site! I love it. I am hoping to make sourdough as beautiful as yours soon!

    -Jessica

    • Thanks for the note, Jessica and glad to have you along! Let me know if you have any questions, I know you’ll be making some really great bread soon 🙂 Happy baking!

  • Brooke Parler

    I just recently began a sourdough starter and am so excited that I have found your site to help me out along the way to beautiful bread. I absolutely love the wonder of slow-cooking myself! Glad to have crossed paths with you (in the internet world!)

    • Awesome! Really glad to have you along, Brooke. You’ll be baking amazing bread in no time 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions: feel free to post on any page or send me an email through the Contact button up top. Happy baking!

  • maryam

    Hello Maurizio, I have been entertained by reading your blog…. it is absolutely wonderful read and contains so much useful tips and information to absorb for a beginner like me to learn from… really fascinating and appreciate the time and effort you put in your site explaining everything so thoroughly! I am a big fan of sourdough baking and recently acquired a small portion of starter from my Italian friend who also got it from another Italian friend who happened to be coming from a sourdough bakers family and her starter has been passed down the generations… so I do have a very active and very old starter…. and I am totally in love with it!! It is my new found pet! I have transformed it into several different types of started since and now I have a full collection of different dough made from different flours! I am going to make your oat porridge bread shortly and will definitely give you my feedback! I also have Tartine Bread & the book No.3 from Chat Robertson… they are great book to refer to when baking but your blog is by far easier to follow… so again thanks for that! Maryam

    • Maryam — thanks so much for all the comments, I really appreciate that! I’m glad you’ve got a strong starter and are ready to get baking sourdough, very cool. Let me know how the oat porridge bread goes, it’s definitely one of my favorites! Happy baking Maryam, talk to you soon!

  • Lukas

    Hi there,

    Getting through all these valuable post here will take me a while but it’s worthwhile. It’s great reading and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the work you put here.

    I wonder whether you have ever tried wood fired brick oven?

    Thanks
    Lukas

    • Lukas, thanks I appreciate that! I’m glad my site is helping 🙂

      I actually have not had the opportunity to bake in a wood fired oven but I dream about that. One day perhaps… I’d especially love it for pizza.

      Happy baking!

      • Markos

        I do have a perfect stone oven for you Master Leo,its ready to go to a new home email me for details

  • Ciao ,Maurizio! I came across your site by chance — I was voting for a blogger I know and then I saw your site and decided to drop in and introduce myself. I am passionate about cooking, baking, and sourdough. We purchase KA flour at 100 lbs at a time. 50# Sir Lancelot and #50 all-purpose. I do have an Italian bread dough starter I have yet to start – it’s dry and I have one in the fridge that needs to be resuscitated. It looks pretty sad. I thought I’d do a blog just on reviving an old starter 🙂 I’m certainly glad I discovered your blog – I’ll be following along on your bread journey. Alla prossima, Marisa

    • Marisa — glad you stopped by and thanks for the comments! I’m a fan of KA flour, a very consistent and high quality set of flour choices (not to mention a myriad of other fun things to bake with). It sounds like your starter needs some TLC, get him/her up and running! 🙂

      I’m happy to have you along on my journey and I’m looking forward to chatting with you again! Let me know if you ever have any questions on how I do things here, or anything else. Ciao!

  • Sandy Troy

    Great article. Reading all the comments – so many ways to add steam –
    very creative. I use a 500 F pre-heated Lodge cast iron Dutch oven (DO)
    – with parchment paper and add ice cubes between the paper and the
    walls of the DO. I have to add the ice and get the lid on fast ’cause it
    melts fast. (not my invention, saw this somewhere on line on several
    sites) All the best in your tweaking… to all of you home bakers out
    there!

    • That’s a very interesting technique! Sounds like it’d work very well, just a little worried about steam burns! The need for elbow-high gloves is a must 🙂 I’ll have to give that a try next time.

      Glad I could help — happy baking!

  • Duda Setti

    Hi Maurizio! First I want to congrats you for your impeccable blog! I thought I knew somethings about breads but I end up learning A LOT here. Thanks (:
    So, I have a problem… All loafs I did so far was very heavy and almost did not have air bubles inside at all… I use organic flour, but here in Brasil is difficult to find a lot of different kinds of flour (only one type of white – all purpose; whole wheat; rye..) I made your “begginer’s sourdough recipe” but end up the same: a heavy bread with no airpockets. I tried used less flour but the dough was too wet and runny and I could not handle it properly. Maybe it is bacause of my stiff starter? It is very health and I feed it every day at the same time… In your waffle recipe it worked amazing – really light and aerated, but not with my loafs ):
    Can you help me?
    Lot of success for you!

    • Thanks so much and I’m really glad to hear that!
      It sounds like your dough is probably over hydrated. Even my Beginners Sourdough recipe might be too much hydration for the flour you’re using in Brazil — and you need to also take your environment into account! It’s probably much more humid there than it is here which means you’ll likely have to reduce hydration even further.

      I’d try reducing the water in my recipe by 10% and see how it performs. If the dough is overly dry during mixing you can always add more but be cautious. Subsequent bakes slowly increment back up so you know your flour can handle it.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

  • jinal contractor

    Visited your site and found pleasant surprise, many compliments on beautiful logo design. Love clean lines. Really speak for itself.

    • Thanks so much Jinal! I really like it as well, clean and simple but representative of what I do here 🙂

  • Paul Gardner

    You make my life so difficult!! I follow a low carb lifestyle, but your site has me ready to “modify” the way I eat. My aunt taught me to make bread over 50 years ago, and I’ve baked hundreds of loaves, but never a sourdough. You have a wonderful site and you’ve inspired me to learn a new loaf. Thank you.

    • Paul, thanks so much for the kind words and I’m really happy to hear that! Sounds like you have plenty of baking experience, that’s great. I’m confident once you taste your sourdough loaves you’ll happily stick with sourdough from here on out! Happy baking 🙂

  • Alistair MacKenzie

    Just had my first slice of avocado on homemade sourdough toast. Delicious, and definitely worth the extra patience! Thanks for the recipes and tips. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some new flavours!

    • Mmm, that sounds perfect! You’re very welcome and here’s to many more loaves!

  • Heather Argenti

    The beginner’s recipe was a great success! Thanks for sharing, we love your site at probake.com!

  • Wayne Hausburg

    Love all your recipes, I was wondering if you have thought about coming up with a sourdough pretzel recipe?

    • Thanks, Wayne! I was actually just at a class where we made pretzels. I’m absolutely motivated to develop a recipe and post it here! Hopefully I’ll get to this soon. Thanks for the message!

      • Wayne Hausburg

        will be looking forward to it!