Saturday, January 18, 2014


Einkorn Hazelnut Levain à la Forkish
Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

A while ago I needed to add another book from my Amazon wish list to qualify for free shipping. More or less randomly, I picked Ken Forkish's: "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast" - the price was right!

When I started leafing through the book, I was intrigued by his approach to kneading - or, better, not kneading the dough. From Dan Lepard's Pumpkin Whey Bread I knew that very brief kneading (30 seconds), followed by some folds, can be sufficient to process some doughs - but pinching?

Walnut Levain - my first take at Forkish's breads.
Usually I don't mix my doughs by hand (my skin is very dry) so I used a large wooden spoon for stirring flour and water together.

But Forkish is right, using your hands is much faster, and you have less cleanup afterwards.

During the pinching and folding process, the dough behaved exactly as it should: rising, then leveling out after each fold, calling for the next round.

And getting more elastic and smoother after each turn!

Forkish's descriptions are precise, and detailed, but, nevertheless, there were stumbling blocks on the way, and it took more than one trial to finally master the whole process.

Why the waste? You are supposed to build a huge amount of levain, only to use a small percentage of it for your final dough - the rest goes in the trash. Sure, flour and water don't cost much, but this is definitely not my idea of frugality and environmental consciousness!

The rationale behind this waste? Beats me. The breads taste great, even when made without all this splurging. Does a loaf, made with just as much levain as needed, taste any different from one where the starter came out of a big bucket? Hard to believe!

Sticky wicket: if you don't flour the rising basket really, really well (whether lined, or not), this can happen:

Oh, nooooo!!!

Don't think you can ease the proofed bread with your usual gentle coaxing from the basket. Forget your good manners - your dough needs slapping! After the sticky wicket of breads that stubbornly clung, and then deflated in the extraction process, I finally checked YouTube.

A bread that turned into a flounder (Overnight Brownie)

And there it was: I saw master baker Forkish slamming the banneton with gusto on the counter - brutal force did the trick! After this eye-opener I was less timid, and the breads finally let go.

Soft skin vs. hot pot. Not afraid of third degree burns, Ken Forkish places the bread smoothly into the Dutch oven. Others, with less experience, might not be so lucky. But there is an easy way out: the paper sling!

Use parchment paper for a painless transfer (Overnight White)
This worked well for other DO  breads I baked, like Aroma Bread. Therefore, save your skin - use parchment for a painless transfer.

Once these snafus were overcome, every bread I made from "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast", plus my "à la Forkish" variations, turned out great.

"Bold baked" crust, holey crumb, and extraordinary taste - my random pick to fill my shopping cart at Amazon became one of my favorite baking books!

A&B Naturals, my favorite food store (they sell my breads!) just started carrying Einkorn flour, and I love hazelnuts. This is the formula I came up with, combining both in a loaf à la Forkish.

I include the first step - refreshing your starter to make a Forkish levain - and a time schedule.


1. Step: Forkish's basic levain
12 g mature levain (your default)
48 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
48 g bread or AP flour
12 g whole wheat

 2. Step: Levain  (24 hours later)
12 g of the Forkish levain
48 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
48 g bread flour
12 g Einkorn flour

Final dough
302 g bread flour
138 g Einkorn flour
342 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
113 g hazelnuts, toasted, halved, or very coarsely chopped
11 g salt
120 g levain (all)*)

*) Following Forkish's recommendation I use a little more levain because my kitchen is usually cooler than 70ºF/21ºC (120 g instead of 108 g)

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. Feed your default starter to turn it into a Forkish Levain. (With this small amount the hydration of your starter doesn't matter too much, if it's between 75 and 100%.)

Lively levain

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. (24 hours after feeding your mature starter à la Forkish)
Refresh levain. Cover, and leave at room temperature for 7 - 9 hours.

Hydrating flours

2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
In large bowl, mix flours and water by hand, until all flour is hydrated. Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Adding levain and salt

Pinching the dough...

...then folding it

Sprinkle salt over flour mixture and add levain. Prepare a bowl with water (for dipping your hands.) With (wet) hands, fold dough from sides over to the center, then, working like a pincer, pinch dough several times, alternating with folding, until dough is smooth, about 5 - 6 times. (DDT: 77º-78ºF/25º-26ºC.)

Let dough rest for 10 minutes, then incorporate nuts the same way.

Incorporating nuts (Forkish's Walnut Levain)

Fold dough three times more, twice at 20 minute intervals, the last time before going to bed. Leave, well covered, at room temperature overnight.

Dough should have tripled overnight (Forkish's Field Blend #2)
After 12-15 hours the dough should have tripled. Prepare a very generously floured rising basket.

Flour gives the sticky dough a "skin" underneath, so that you can fold it

Transfer dough to a floured area on an (otherwise unfloured) work surface. With floured hands, gently fold sides towards the middle to make a round. (The flour "skin" on the underside prevents sticking.)

Folding sides over to make a round

Then flip the round gently over, seam side down, onto the unfloured area. With floured hands, pull dough ball towards you, until you have a medium-tight boule.
Flip package over and shape into a ball (Overnight Blondie)

Place dough round, seam side down, in proofing basket, sprinkle generously with flour, cover well, and proof for about 3 - 4 hours.

Bubbly ball in banneton

3/4 hours before baking, place Dutch oven (with lid) on the middle rack, and preheat oven to 475ºF/245ºC.

Nice rise: the dough should at least double in size (Overnight Brownie)

Dimple should remain visible (Einkorn Hazelnut Levain)
The dough should at least double in size, use the finger poke test to decide whether it is ready to be baked.

Finger poke test:
Gently press a dimple with your finger in the dough - it should still be a bit elastic, but not fill up again, and stay visible. 

Place parchment paper on counter and place bread on it, smacking the banneton energetically on the counter! Cut off the 4 corners of the paper to make a sling.

Proofed bread on a parchment paper sling

Remove hot DO from oven, and put bread (with the paper) into it. Replace the lid.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid, and bake it for 20 - 25 minutes more, or until bread is medium to dark brown (internal temperature 210ºF/99ºC).

Forkish likes the "bold bake" - me too! (Overnight Blondie)

Tilt Dutch oven to slide bread out (the paper is now too brittle to serve as sling), and let loaf cool on wire rack. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Einkorn Hazelnut Levain

(To illustrate the process I used photos of different Forkish breads I made, therefore colors and structure differ a bit.)

Here you can see my baker's percentage (BreadStorm users (including the free version) can download the formula here):

Great fun to read: Kiseger's (The Fresh Loaf) hilarious post about her take on this bread: Einkorn & Kamut.

Submitted at Yeast Spotting

Submitted at Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                                        Indovina chi viene a cena                                             



  1. Don't you love the pinching method? I love all of your photos and stories of your experiences!

    1. Thanks, Karen, I'm fascinated that this technique works. I wouldn't try to use it for heavier, less hydrated dough, though.

  2. Wow that actually sounds very interesting ! Haven´t tryed this method yet but i´m shure I´ll give it a try soon ;) Thank you for that recipe.

    Best whishes Chrissi

  3. I've got Forkish pain the campagne proofing in the fridge right now. If they turn out looking only a little like your loafs I'll be more than happy! Thanks for doing the calculations on the levain!

    1. Isn't that strange that you are supposed to make such large amounts of levain, that you don't use?
      Thanks, Claire, and good luck!

  4. You're a grest professional, thanks for your valuable suggestions!

  5. Very nice bread! I I love it when the bread is porous!

    1. Yes, it has a nice open crumb. Thanks for visiting!

  6. Thank you so much for this post.
    I'd never heard of the pinching technique and I love the fact that you pointed out some common mistakes, very instructional.
    And the loaf looks a stunner!
    Saved in my bread folder, hope to be able to bake this sooner or later.
    Have a lovely Sunday :)

    1. And it really works for these highly hydrated doughs. It's worth trying it, Lou!

  7. Sieht wieder mal klasse aus, den Brot- aber meine Hände würden das glaub ich nicht so mögen, die waren schon mit dem Strudeln sehr überfordert. Na, mal schauen- weil reizen täts mich schon... wenn da so was Tolles bei rauskommt.

    1. Ninive, du brauchst den armen Teig nicht wirklich hart kneifen, ein sanftes Drücken reicht auch schon. Versuch's mal!

  8. Lovely loaves! I have this book, and have made bread from it a few times with success. I love the taste and the crust resulting from using his method BUT like you I really object to wasting so much of the starter. I cut down on the amount of flour I use but still I have more levain than I need for the recipe I am using. Next time I use the book I will cut down even more on the amount of flour I use to see if I can have the same success as I have had using his recipe just as he writes it.

    1. I know that the repeated refreshing before baking is necessary to optimize the activity of the levain, and maintain the desired level of acidity. But why starting out with such huge amount? I sometimes wonder whether that comes from a professional baker's approach (he will be able to use it all), and doesn't have to think about waste.
      Since I am a semi-professional, selling my breads once or twice a week to a natural food store, I go through more starter than most hobby bakers do, but, I keep my (4 starters and one old dough) at a sustainable level, and hardly ever have to discard anything.
      Thanks for visiting - do you have a blog, too?

    2. No I don't have a blog but I am a keen baker after having a family of three children with hearty appetites. I must say I got interested in your blog partly because I like to make sourdough bread but also because we visited Bar Harbour about !5 years ago while on holiday in New England. What a lovely area!

    3. Yes, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island is beautiful. Great that you bake your own bread, tastes so much better, is healthier, and fun to boot.

  9. Great Post Karin. Thanks for sharing your misfires..I usually don't have the courage to do that :). I have the book but have yet to actually read it. I tried Dave Snyder's version of the pizza dough and it was great so I'm sure I will enjoy his other recipes like this one.

    1. I have to admit that I usually don't read all the theory, I look at the photos and what is new to me, and then go straight to the recipe part. I haven't tried the pizzas, yet.
      As annoying as the occasional "flounders" are, after some time went by, and I look at the funny photos, I see the humorous aspect of it.
      Just finished the second (frozen) half of your Orange Shandy Bread, I wonder how it would taste with a touch of lemon, instead of the orange.
      Have a nice weekend, Ian,

  10. I bought the Forkish book on someone's rec and read it through and put in on the shelf. Can you really see a difference between this method and others you have tried? MC says that one can bake from cold in a pot and it works well, have you tried that. I personally find it extremely difficult with weak wrists to lug a big heavy hot pot in and out of the oven, though I do like the results, so my few experiments with dutch oven baking have been very limited. I guess I am getting lazy about baking these days but sometimes I think all these methods are really variations on the same theme, allowing flour to hydrate well, adding salt later and so on. The methods that one uses on a small amount of dough must differ from commercial quantities, where presumably the folding and so on is done to equalise temperature throughout a larger mass? I read a tip about deskinning hazelnuts the other day, it said treat them like almonds and blanch them and the skins would come off more easily than the traditional toast and rub in teacloth method. I am going to try that next!

    1. Joanna, what I like about this method is the minimal physical work that goes into it, it has kind of a fun appeal to me. Other than that, you are right, this is a variation of the same. Farine's Barley bread, one of my favorites, is baked in a cold DO, put into a cold oven. It would be interesting to try this on one of the Forkish formulas, to see whether there is any difference.
      I think you can bake these breads without a DO on a baking stone, too, they will probably spread a little and be flatter, but all those commercial bakers who make French type of bread will not use DOs to bake them in.
      A real difference I saw, when I did several trials with the Aroma bread (see my post), a highly hydrated multigrain rye, that baked into a flounder without the DO, and really need the pot as confinement. But probably a pie pan would work, too, for that purpose.
      I used a Pyrex pie pan successfully before to bake breads.
      Rubbing off the skins of the hazelnuts is a bit tedious, but I think there will be a difference in taste, if you blanch and not roast them. Also, it is not really necessary to remove the skins, in Germany you can get hazelnut meal everywhere, and it is ground with the skins on, same as almond meal.
      Have a nice sunday!

    2. Joanna, I'm intrigued because of the simplicity of the technique, it also has this fun aspect for me. Other than that, it IS a variation. I often bake Farine's Barley Bread, placed in a cold DO into non-preheated oven, I was thinking of trying one of Forkish's formula with that approach, probably there will be no difference. I'm also sure, that you can bake these breads without a DO, they might spread a bit, and you would have to steam.
      With very wet rye or multigrain breads, like the Aroma Bread (see post), I tried all the different possibilities, and the DO (or loaf pan) worked best, because without this containment it spread like a flounder.
      I don't think you need a cast iron pot for this, a heavy stew pot will do, too.
      There is certainly a difference in taste, whether you toast or blanch the hazelnuts. You don't even have to remove the skins, in Germany a lot hazelnut meal is used, you can buy it in every supermarket, and the nuts are not skinned, the little bitterness of the skin adds to the taste of the baked goods. Same with almonds, I make a flourless Swiss sour cherry cake, with almond meal, ground with the skin, they are essential for the taste.
      Have a nice sunday!

  11. This is certainly a great Einkorn-variation of Ken Forkish's bread. Thank you! I found his wonderful book 3 years after you got it in the Hamburg "Bücherhallen", and bought it a few weeks later. Since I like to really "work" the dough, kneading I mean, I tried different methods, all worked well with some variations. I bought a dutch oven (Gusseisentopf, not the flat cover yours over there in Maine have?) for those Forkish breads. My girlfriend prefers the crust when the bread is baked on a pizza stone or a simple baking tray (which works remarkably well too, even if all nearly blogs disagree^^). But the DO gives those big breads :). And the crust gives a nice taste to the crumb, so we often use the DO as well.

    First I had problems with his doughs. I am accustomed to bake breads with lots of water just like he advises. Strangely enough Forkish's levain-only breads in the book seemed to get more "fluent" at the 2nd "rising" (Gare). Something I did not know from french or german italian recipes before. Maybe because the first rising is so long, 12-15 hours with some levain-no-yeast-recipes? Then in an attic flat even in Hamburg we had 25° in our kitchen (77-79 F) and a lot of humidity (horrible, and thanks to climate changes, each degree C adds 5-6% humidity). So the first tries were very tasty, but I got somewhat flatter breads^^.

    But the recipes are simply wonderful, and I use them all the time now, switching to darker bread sometimes in autumn winter, and it works with pincer method or kneading, autolyse or whatever. Sometimes I replace 1/10 or less of the flour with old (good) bread, and the result is the bread lasts even one or two days longer 'like new'. Will try your Einkorn recipe soon, 3 years after you posted it.

    (I might remember your name from some german blog where you gave good advice and some germans started to snap at you, but maybe wrong - anyway - people in too bad mood should not bake good bread :D - and all the very best to you from Hamburg! There are even some good-humoured people here, but those who might have shouted at you are definitely here also^^)

  12. Thanks - Danke! I, also, use a regular cast iron pot ( "Dutch oven" is used as generic term for any kind of heavy, oven-proof pot with lid).
    I like the way you can vary the Forkish loaves with different flours and add-ins. My favorite one of the original recipes is the Overnight Blondie.
    Old bread is a great "secret ingredient", I always save stale ends, process them into crumbs and toast those a bit in a dry skillet. Last time I was in Hamburg, I bought Jochen Gaues "Brot" - he uses old bread in many of his recipes.
    It sounds as if the dough for your earlier breads over-proofed at bit in the very warm kitchen? That would also account for the flatter breads.
    I remember some snarky comments in a facebook group where somebody had thoroughly misunderstood my kind of humor. Well...
    Liebe Grüsse nach Hamburg, und hoffentlich habt ihr einen schöneren Herbst nach dem verregneten Sommer!