This hefty einkorn miche epitomizes community. It’s substantial and baked with the intention to share, to break with others, to enjoy its hearty flavor and nourishing quality gathered at the dinner table. A loaf so heavy it practically requires two hands to lift — and oh what a statement it makes.
Traditionally, miche are large, round country-style loaves meant to sustain a family for the days between their turn at baking in the communal oven (and with natural leavening, and all the subtle acidity built up through lengthy fermentation, it certainly will1). If you think about it, a massive round loaf is probably the most efficient way to bake large quantities of dough: It takes up less space in the oven, has plenty of crust, it can be divided and wrapped up, and finally if meant to go to a single destination, a single loaf makes sense. A true daily bread.
Over time as the central community oven became more and more scarce, these large loaves began to fall out of favor, replaced by more ephemeral bread meant to be consumed entirely on the day of baking. But there’s still a place for this beautiful, and enticing, loaf.
While the nature of this bread is rustic, it doesn’t mean the miche is devoid of sophistication. The footprint of the spacious round is an invitation to the baker, a chance to gussy up the exterior with intricate scoring, or as I show below, symmetrical patterns littering the surface. With a beautiful score2 it never fails to rouse awe, and even elicit a little snide grin, when you hand this over to the dinner host proclaiming: “here’s just a little something for the table.”
I’ve been milling around for far too long trying to decide where to first use einkorn. I’ve read about its wonderful flavor, texture, and color but also that it can be challenging at 100% extraction (whole grain). This is primarily due to the nature of the grain’s protein: while it’s high for wheat (which is great, nutritionally) the delicate nature of it makes baking high hydration hearth-style loaves more challenging. Therefore, in this recipe I pair einkorn with a smaller percentage of stronger bread flour to achieve the balanced texture I’m after. But with a miche we’re not looking for a dramatically open crumb or explosive oven spring; a miche is more about taste and texture — two things einkorn unmistakably has in tow.
Right out of my grain mill fresh einkorn has a silken feel with a buttery yellow complexion. The flour floats down in sheets and clumps readily when squeezed in the hand — a good sign natural oils are preserved in the flour. These characteristics, coupled with the remarkable aroma when the flour first touches water, make it all the way through to the end result to produce a strikingly flavorful bread.
Jovial einkorn is entirely organic (sourced from Italy!) and whole einkorn berries are available on their website. If you’re not able to mill einkorn at home, Jovial does have whole grain einkorn flour, all-purpose, and even sprouted flour available. Any of these options would be first-class substitutions for the freshly milled einkorn listed in my formula below. Know that choosing the all-purpose option will yield a milder flavored result and potentially a more open interior.
If you don’t have access to einkorn, I’d experiment with fresh milled, or aged, whole red wheat in its place — the typical pronounced flavor from red wheat will carry through to the end and add depth of flavor. In this case, I would also add a small percentage of whole grain rye flour (even just 5% will be noticeable) to really round everything out3.
For the high extraction portion of my formula, I chose to use Central Milling’s Type 85 malted. If you don’t have high extraction flour on hand you can approximate this flour by blending about 50% bread flour with 50% whole wheat flour. Another option would be to bolt (sift) your own fresh milled flour.
Using the levain at the correct stage in its development is critical for this bread. If used too late, fermentation will be accelerated and the end result might lean more towards a sour loaf. See the levain section below for my notes on properly timing the stiff levain.
Do be cautious with the hydration of this dough by holding back a portion (100-200g) of the water through mixing to ensure your dough can handle the percentages listed in the formula. When you’ve successfully baked this bread, increase or decrease the hydration to suit your preference.
One last note: if strong-arming a whopping 1.5 kg lump of dough into shape doesn’t rest easy with you, know that you can split this mass up in half and make two 750g rounds or batards.
|Total Dough Weight||1500 grams|
|Yield||1 x 1,500 gram miche|
Levain Build (Stiff)
|24g||Mature liquid starter (100% hydration)||50%|
|48g||High Extraction Flour (Central Milling Type 85 Malted)||100%|
|24g||H2O @ 76-80°F||50%|
Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78°F.
Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.
|350g||High Extraction Flour, Malted (Central Milling Type 85 Malted)||46.81%|
|239g||Fresh Milled Einkorn at 100% Extraction (Jovial Organic Einkorn)||31.91%|
|159g||High Gluten Bread Flour, ~13.5% Protein (Central Milling High Mountain)||21.28%|
|2.0g||Diastatic Malt Powder (optional)||0.27%|
|637g||H2O @ 80°F||85.11%|
|96g||Mature, stiff levain (see build instructions, above)||12.77%|
1. Levain – 12:00 p.m.
Build the stiff levain (everything listed in the Levain Build section, above) and store somewhere near 80°F until ripe — about 5 hours.
The photo above shows my levain fully ripe (mature). Note the slight dome at the top. When the levain is first created it will initially undergo rapid expansion at warm temperatures. From there, the dome will stay rounded until it reaches maximum ripeness, at which point it will start to recede slightly at the top — this is the perfect time to mix the levain to the dough. The aroma will be quite pungent but not overly sour.
2. Autolyse – 4:00 p.m.
Mix flour and water (reserve 100g water for the mix, later) in a bowl until all dry bits are hydrated. Cover the bowl and store somewhere warm, near the levain, for 1 hour.
3. Mix – 5:00 p.m.
Breakup the levain on top of the resting dough in the mixing bowl. Add the salt and the reserved mixing water. Mix until well combined.
Dump the dough onto the counter and slap and fold the dough (French fold) for about 5-6 minutes, just until the dough starts to show signs of a smooth surface4. The einkorn flour in this recipe will make the dough feel slightly more sticky than you might be used to. Use wet hands to slap and fold and rely on a bench knife to clean the counter.
Let the dough rest 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, dump the dough out again to the counter and mix (slap/fold) for an additional 2-5 minutes until the dough starts showing signs it’s catching air and has tightened up. We’re not looking for full gluten development, but enough development so the dough only needs 2-3 sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation.
Transfer the dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.
4. Bulk Fermentation – 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
At 78-82°F ambient temperature, the dough should be ready to divide after 3 hours. The large-ish percentage of freshly milled einkorn speeds things along so keep an eye on the dough and make the call to divide when it looks ready.
Perform a total of 3 sets of stretch and folds during bulk, spaced out by 30 minutes. After the last set, let the dough rest for the remaining bulk time.
5. Divide & Preshape – 8:30 p.m.
Dump the dough from the bulk container onto an un-floured work surface. The dough will look slightly wet and be sticky to the touch. Because this recipe only makes a single, large loaf there is no need to divide the dough; simply turn it on the bench with your hand and a bench knife to coerce it into a rough round.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, uncovered. Keep an eye on the dough, if it starts to spread quickly into a thin pancake, skip the remaining resting time and proceed directly to shaping.
6. Shape – 9:00 p.m.
Prepare a proofing basket by thoroughly dusting it with a mixture of 50% white rice flour and 50% white flour. Pay attention to any areas the dough might stick and lay down a little extra flour.
The basket I am using for this dough is an 8 3/4” diameter wicker basket constructed to fit 1.2 kg of dough. Even though we’re making a 1.5 kg loaf, these baskets still fit the dough perfectly (see the image in the Bake section, below).
Lightly flour the top of your rested, and relaxed, round on the bench. Using a bench knife and your hand flip the round over and fold the bottom up to the middle. Then fold each side, left and right, over to the other to form what looks like an open envelope in front of you. Then, grab the top and fold it up and over to the bottom. Next, flip the entire “package” over and gently round it using both hands by twisting until a tight surface has formed on the outside of the dough.
Scoop the dough up and gently place it into the prepared proofing basket.
7. Proof – 8:50 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. (the next day)
Cover the basket in plastic wrap (or not if using your own dough retarder) and place into the fridge overnight.
8. Bake – Preheat oven at 6:30 a.m., Bake at 7:30 a.m.
Preheat your oven for one hour at 500°F.
Prepare a pizza peel and a large piece of parchment paper. Turn out the dough from the proofing basket onto the parchment that is resting on the pizza peel. Score the dough as desired and load into your preheated oven. Steam the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 500°F. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 450°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes with steam. After this initial 30 minutes, remove the steaming pans from the oven, vent the steam, and bake for 30 minutes further. The total bake time for this dough should be near 1 hour or more, as needed.
Because this dough is so large it takes a full hour to bake through — and don’t cut this short. To completely bake the interior this bread needs additional time in the oven. If needed, adjust the temperature in the last 20 minutes of your bake to avoid burning the exterior (interior temp should still be above 208°F).
Due to the massive size of this loaf, it will take upwards of one hour to bake.
I steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking.
Cool the loaf on a wire rack and wait at least 2 hours before slicing. I find this bread tastes even better 1-2 days after baking.
The high percentage of freshly milled einkorn and high extraction flour mean this is wholesome bread. Each bite just feels good, it makes your body feel good, you know it’s healthy food. Real bread. I find the flavors in this loaf continue to develop and intensify one to two days after baking, and it’s the second day after baking where I find the flavor of einkorn at its paramount: nutty, sweet, and dare I say buttery.
This bread is a strong candidate for a loaf I could eat every week; a weekly routine of baking one of these big guys to hold the family over till the next baking session. Our daily bread.
The texture of the crust in this miche is phenomenal. It’s crisp and substantial but not overly husky or overbearing, it’s the perfect match to the supple interior. It carries a wide range of colors from light tans to dark hazel, and each slice has its own character. This is the type of crust that I want on all my bread.
I found myself tearing off the ends of this loaf and just dipping them straight into extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic — perfection.
The interior is a beautiful brown/yellow color that is so tender it literally melts in your mouth. Thanks to the balance of flours used in the formula, the texture is light but not excessively so — perfect for a miche. Pushing the percentage of einkorn even higher would most likely yield a more tight interior, but it would be a worthwhile tradeoff for the increase in flavor. An experiment for next week’s bake, perhaps.
As I mentioned previously, this is wholesome bread with subtle acidity and deep, nutty flavors from the einkorn. Further, the red wheat in the mix is appreciable but plays the second stage to these prominent einkorn flavors. A perfect harmony between the two.
If you find this bread is overly sour, pay close attention to your sourdough starter and levain. Build your levain from a starter that’s ripe but not overly acidic, and use the levain right when it reaches maturity. This bread should not taste like an acid bomb; it should have just enough acidity to let you know it’s there, but not so much it masks the wheat notes.
Slicing into this beautiful bread causes everyone at the table to stop and pay attention. It’s like when the bride and groom first cut into their pristine wedding cake: everyone has to watch. A moment to celebrate healthy, nourishing food — and most importantly, community.
I know what I’ll be baking for our Thanksgiving table this year: just a little something.
Thanks so much to Jovial for sponsoring this post. Buon appetito!
If you try this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag @maurizio on Instagram and hashtag your photo #theperfectloaf so I can take a look!