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Report on Dan Lepard's Baking Day

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Report on Dan Lepard's Baking Day

Authors: Dan Lepard, Andy Lynes and Jack Lang.

Jack took the photographs and Brendel Lang kindly provided the sketches.

On Sunday August 31st, 10 fanatical, bread-loving eGulleteers gathered outrageously early (actually 10am) in the kitchens of Locanda Locatelli in London, eager to experience at first hand the bread making magic of Dan Lepard, Master Baker extraordinaire. Andy Lynes persuaded Dan to conduct a masterclass in baking and Giorgio Locatelli generously provided the use of the kitchens at Locanda Locatelli. The day was organized as a hands-on bakers' workshop, where questions were encouraged and happily answered. A selection of flours was available, and attendees made several different styles of dough concurrently so that there was an opportunity to compare crumb textures and crust types. Dan encouraged and guided each participant to craft their own recipe that would produce a loaf with those specific characteristics they look for in bread and that would be specific to their home ovens and choice of ingredients.


This report consists of two sections:

Jack Lang’s memories of the day.

The course notes provided by Dan.

Jack Lang's memories of the day

After introductions, and a very welcome cup of coffee, Dan showed us some photos of his wonderful breads, and we discussed what we would like to do. Dan provided notes and recipes from his forthcoming book that will be published next year. Dan also gave the obligatory safety lecture – a professional kitchen has hot and had sharp things in it, and powerful mixers. We all washed our hands.

Dan had already made up some sourdough, and he demonstrated how to fold the dough sides to middle, and top to bottom. This gently stretches the dough, and gives better texture. He does this roughly every hour during the bulk fermentation phase.


Dan putting the dough back to continue bulk fermentation.


Next we made up the dough for the focaccia. Dan measured everything, and demonstrated how to use Bakers' percentage formulas in practice. Andy Lynes watching.





Dan demonstrating the "windowpane test". A well-kneaded dough can be stretched until it is transparent.

Of course, having good Italian "OO" flour helps. Surprisingly, Dan explained he preferred softer flours as very strong flour, with a high gluten content, does not always have the best flavour.



The dough then fements in a pool of olive oil, which is slowly absorbed. The dough is dimpled to help absorption of the oil.




Next we individually made pugliese, with Dan supervising and advising. A chance to get the hands messy.

The dough has a small amount of chickpea flour for flavour and to add enzymes to help the development.


Andy staring pensively at the dough.


Messy hands


Annie Baxter getting to grips

Back to the focaccia dough, plumped and adsorbed the oil.


Portioned out.


The pugliese resting in the warmth on top of the oven.


Dan demonstrating how to stretch the focaccia.


adding olive oil and salt




Then we all took turns.




Into the oven.


A short time later...





Time for lunch...we went to a local kebab house.

When we came back we shaped the pugliese.




They proved in bannetons (cloth lined baskets).


Just to be different, I had made sourdough for Baguettes au levain.

Dan showed how you could see the developing texture by cutting a small slit in the dough.


Shaping into baguettes and sealing the seam .




Time to bake.

Following Dan's instructions, we inverted the bannetons onto the large wooden peel, slashed the top of the loaf, and put it in the oven.



Some had made baton shapes.



Dan adding the finishing touches.



In the oven..


My baguettes.



Finished bread cooling..



We all took home samples of what we had baked, although most of my focaccia got eaten on the way..



A fantastic day, and it is impossible to thank Dan enough, and also Giorgio for letting us loose in his kitchen. I think we all learnt a lot with some real insights. It is such a privilege to be able to learn from such a master.

Dan Lepard's Course Notes

On starting a leaven

A leaven is simply a fermented mixture of cereal flour (e.g. wheat, barley or rye) with water. Before the growth of modern science, the occurrence of fermentation was thought to be spontaneous, or dependent on luck or the faithful repetition of long-established methods. For example, the American food writer John Thorne describes one traditional practice, of moistening the flour with rainwater, shaping it into a ball, then burying it for several nights under pine needles in a forest of fir trees. Earlier writers talk of the disaster that would befall a leaven if a bewitched woman were to touch or even gaze upon it. And still we hear talk from bakers, chefs, and passionate food lovers about the magical way wild and ‘untamed’ yeasts awaken the flour.

Though I find the process remarkable, a little knowledge of botany and biology tells me that it is wrong to describe it as magical. Before humankind interfered, yeasts, bacteria, grains and animals were interacting to initiate the process of fermentation.

I’d like to briefly go through the high-school science bit, as it is important in helping us understand what happens when we put together the ingredients for our ‘starter’ (the initial fermenting mixture of flour and water). It was a lesson I missed at school, so if you’re like me, read on. But if you’re already up on your studies, skip it and move on to the recipes.

The life we see around us can be divided into 5 distinct types, or Kingdoms.

The first is called Monera, and denotes single-celled organisms that do not have a nucleus, e.g. bacteria. Bacteria are often useful to man, in fixing nitrogen in the roots of legumes, in creating some foods such as yoghurt or cheese, and in the production of some antibiotics used in modern medicine. Lactic acid produced by some bacteria can create that distinctive sour and acidic taste. However, the flipside is that bacteria can also cause disease and food spoilage. Bacteria are commonly found in or on animals, water, plants, and the soil

The second is called Protoctista, and denotes multicellular organisms that have a nucleus, but which do not fall into the other categories of Fungi, Plantae or Animalia. Generally, this kingdom describes algae, seaweed and kelp, along with microscopic organisms e.g. plankton. Water collected naturally from rain and underground springs, if unfiltered, will contain many organisms from this kingdom.

The third is called Fungi, and denotes an organism that has a nucleus, but is incapable of movement, and which develops from a spore. Fungi break down dead organic material, recycling nutrients through the ecosystem, and many plants could not grow without the symbiotic fungi inhabiting their root systems. Other useful fungi include penicillin, yeasts and mushrooms, though fungi can also cause plant and animal diseases such as ringworm, athlete’s foot and leaf, root and stem rot. Fungal spores are commonly found in or on animals, fruits and vegetables, plants and the soil.

The fourth is called Plantae, and denotes organisms that manufacture their own food using chlorophyll, e.g. mosses, ferns and seed plants. In order to do this, they need sunlight. Wheat, rye, barley and corn are members of this kingdom.

Finally, the fifth is called Animalia, and that includes the worms, the sheep and you and me.

The order of the kingdoms suggests a rough evolution from single-celled life through to multi-celled organisms. However, the relationship between the life in each kingdom is very complicated and symbiotic - that is, dependent on each other.

So if we simply mix together, say rainwater and wheat-flour, then at once this action will involve members of at least one, and probably all five, of the kingdoms. The action of collecting the ingredients involves us. What happens next depends on whatever species from each kingdom is present.

This is something we cannot strictly control but can encourage by placing together the ingredients that may contain the life forms we are looking for. The analogy I think of is that of the gardener and the garden. We ‘husband’ rather than control. The recipe below adds both sour milk and a fruit, which are not strictly necessary. My thinking behind the sour milk is that it adds lactic acids to the mixture, and sets the stage (though I’m not suggesting there is science behind this, only successful results). Despite some suggestions to the contrary, grapes and currants do not add yeast to the ferment, but simply release sugars and nitrogen as they decompose. However, I find that both these ingredients and method works for me.

Making the leaven

Here we are trying to encourage the growth of yeasts and lactic bacteria in a mixture of flour and water.

0.130 kg buttermilk

0.130 kg warm water

0.150 kg white flour

0.040 kg rye flour

0.040 kg whole-wheat flour

0.040 kg currants

Day 1

Pour the water and buttermilk into a small bowl and mix together. Next stir in the flours, until you have a thick batter. Finally stir in the currants, then cover the container and leave in a warm place for 24 hours, stirring once after 12 hours.

Note, at the very beginning, and up until the fermentation takes hold, it is best to keep the water, dry ingredients and ambient temperature warm, at least above 24C but below 32C. This is because a warmer environment is preferable to encourage the growth of microscopic yeasts. However, different types of yeasts will be present initially and only a few are useful or preferable in baking. Some yeasts are putratitive, and will create a disagreeable flavor and aroma. The initial addition of acidity, with the lactic acids present in the buttermilk, will go a little way towards preventing unwanted yeasts taking hold. These acids will multiply best though at a lower temperature, ideally 14C - 18C, so as soon as fermentation takes place, it is important to keep the mixture cool.

Day 2

Nothing will have visibly changed, other than the mixture being thinner than on the previous day. The changes that are taking place are at a microscopic level so be patient.


0.260 kg water

and stir until the mixture has thinned evenly. Next stir in

0.150 kg white flour

0.040 kg rye flour

0.040 kg whole-wheat flour

and stir until you have a thick batter again. Cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours, stirring once after 12 hours

Day 3

You should start seeing small bubbles forming, perhaps a slightly alcoholic smell


0.450 kg starter

Stir in

0.260 kg warm water

then pour through a strainer and remove the currants

Next, stir in

0.200 kg white flour

0.050 kg rye flour

0.050 kg whole-wheat flour

Mix until you have a stiff batter, then cover the container and leave in a warm place for 24 hours, stirring once after 12 hours.

Day 4

By today, the mixture should be fermenting - that is, there should be bubbles forming and the smell should start to appear slightly wine like, though there may not be much acidity


0.450 kg starter

Stir in

0.200 kg water

This time you are adding slightly less water, which will make the batter slightly thicker,

Next, stir in

0.200 kg white flour

0.050 kg rye flour

0.050 kg whole-meal flour

Mix until you have a stiff batter, then cover the container and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. It is not necessary to stir the mixture again once the fermentation has begun

Day 5

By now you should notice that the aroma has become sharper and more acidic. This signals the development of lactic bacteria. From now on the mixture will be mixed and kept cooler, to encourage the optimum development of these bacteria.

Now it is time to start adapting the leaven, by the choice of flours and grains, which reflect your own taste in bread, and requirements for your final recipe. For example, if you want the final loaf to be white, then you might add:

0.500 kg cold water (here we begin to keep the mixture cooler)

0.500 kg white flour

Then each day I will remove 1 kg of starter, and refresh the leaven with the ingredients and quantities above - equal amounts of flour and water

The next step is to take this leaven and use it to create a loaf of bread.

A naturally leavened loaf

Makes 2 x 650g loaves (a strange weight, I know, but it makes the measurements easier to convey)

0.600 kg strong white flour

0.100 kg strong wholemeal

0.375 kg white sour starter

0.500 kg water

0.020 kg salt (3 level teaspoons)

8.30 am In a large bowl mix together the flours, water and leaven. Stir together with your hands until the mixture has been roughly and evenly combined.


Cover the bowl, either with a plate, cling film, or a dampened cloth, and leave for 20 minutes.

9.00 am Add salt, and knead gently on a flour-dusted work surface for 1 – 2 minutes. Cover and leave for 1 hour.

10.00 am Repeat above

11.00 am Repeat above

12.45 pm Divide into 2 x 800g pieces, give initial shape


1.00 pm Round dough once more, and place seam side up in rye flour-dusted linen baskets. Leave at room temperature

5.30 pm Check breads have risen, turn oven on and heat to 220C

6.30 pm Bake at 220C for 40 minutes covered with foil (see note), then reduce the heat to 190C and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the loaf feels light in weight and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.



On simple ingredients

The characteristics of the breads typical to each region around the world owe as much to the ingredients used as to the hands and skills that shape and construct them. If we assume that the basic ingredients used to make bread are flour and a liquid (usually water) often accompanied by salt and a leavening, then the qualities of those basic ingredients help define and create the characteristics of the final loaf.

Perhaps we take this for granted when we think of the other compound foods, wines, and cheeses produced in a region. We might speak sweetly about a wine as we describe each nuance from the grape to the cask. But there is a complexity to the structure and chemistry of wheat and flour that is often overlooked. Often bakers talk mindlessly of gluten and protein content, laugh when questioned on the quality of the water, yet will happily weave a web of myth around their secret leavening, or keep guarded the source of their mineral rich salt.

On flour.

When a baker looks for quality in flour, assuming there is a variety to choose from, they often look at the flour’s protein content. This first step is taken because there is a relationship between the levels of protein a flour contains, and its ability to produce gluten when mixed with water.

Gluten is a complex, sticky, elastic substance, which traps the carbon dioxide released by the yeast cells as they multiply inside the dough, and for many breads it is vital to help create a bold, well-risen loaf. However, not all the protein in flour will potentially become gluten, nor is gluten a simple part of protein. Up to 1% of the protein in wheat-flour is soluble, only thickening with the application of salt or heat, much like the white of an egg, and once dissolved will eventually add to the texture of the finished baked loaf. But the remainder of the proteins, insoluble in water, forms a complex substance called gluten, bound together with very small quantities of carbohydrates, fats, and minerals present in the flour.

The gluten itself has no flavour or aroma, though some may be trapped in its form. It is like the skeleton to the loaf. Starches and lipids (oils) in the flour carry the flavours and aromas from the wheat. Host bacteria and enzymes found naturally in the flour, or introduced by the yeast or ferment, add to the final characteristics of the flavour. So, as these elements add to the taste of the loaf, surely they are important criteria when determining the quality of the flour.

The two main constituents of gluten are gliadin, a sticky substance that helps to bind the gluten into a cohesive compound; and glutenin, which gives the compound gluten strength and elasticity. But these constituent parts of gluten will vary widely in different flours, both in quality and quantity. So, though two flours might have similar protein levels, and might be termed as ‘high gluten flours’ by millers and bakers, these flours might produce quite different types of doughs. For example, some proteins might absorb water more slowly than others. As 19th century writer John Edmund Driver notes, “the gluten from one flour may be extremely tough and tenacious; that from another may be soft and springy. In this connexion, it will be recalled that gluten is a complex mixture, and not a single chemical compound.” It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Have gluten flour, have good bread. But in order to mix the perfect dough for the bread you want to bake, then achieving to right match of flour to a recipe becomes more complex. To answer this, we must first look at what happens when wheat flour is mixed with water.

Gluten is created when the gliadin and glutenin are hydrated with water and mixed together. What kneading does, in this respect, is to make the moisture evenly available to all the protein in the flour, and potentially hydrates all of the insoluble protein (the gliadin and the glutenin). For each turn, stretch and fold the dough takes while it is kneaded, moisture and protein combine to create the compound gluten. Once the gliadin and glutenin are fully saturated, they bind to form the gluten that gives the dough its strength and elasticity. Now, in newly-milled flour there is one obstacle. There is a naturally occurring chemical called glutathione dehydrogenase (GSH), that can inhibit the bonding of the gliadin and glutenin. As this chemical naturally oxidises over time, aged flour often produces a better result. But time is money, and it is expensive to store flour. If Vitamin C is added, this potential problem can be overcome. What happens, during a series of chemical reactions, is that ascorbic acid (Vit C) oxidises during fast mixing, becoming another compound (ascorbate oxidase), which then removes any excess GSH.

As all of the ingredients in the dough are evenly combined, with minerals and nutrients dissolved, the temperature of the dough rises both through the action of the yeast and the speed of the mixing. As the ferment is spread evenly throughout the dough, it is in contact with nitrogen, maltose, and dextrose present in the flour. These are the foods yeast thrives on and uses to reproduce.

But we will never know the sort of gluten flour contains, though we may have a rough idea from the label. If a flour is termed ‘strong bakers' flour’, we can assume it has a high level of protein with a combination of gliadin and glutenin that will produce a good balance of elasticity and strength in the dough. Scientists and biochemists are constantly searching, creating hybrid wheat strains, and testing new varieties in order to discover their bread-making potential and, in that search, analysing the gluten produced from the flour. But since it is very difficult for anyone outside the science of cereal production to know and understand the qualities of the gliadin and glutenin present in the protein of any given flour, why the emphasis and concern?

Do we want a flour that produces a specific loaf we have in mind, or do we want to work with a flour to determine what bread it will best produce? Are we willing to change our techniques and recipes to enhance the qualities present in the flour we buy? For the industrial baker supplying the strict specifications of the supermarket and wholesaler, flour that is predictable, consistent, and reliable is desired; a quality many demand from the food they buy. For some bakers, ingredients that can be mixed into a dough and then extruded and positioned for the factory production line, is the aim.

Ingredients change with the seasons, and to my mind that is part of their quality, their beauty perhaps. We have become demanding customers, looking for consistency, regularity, and ‘perfection’ in the food we buy. But like the wines we prize for the excellence of a particular year, the qualities produced and enhanced by the grape-vines’ adaptation to the prevailing weather conditions are a dominant part of the final wine. Winemakers could look at all changes to the year’s crop of grapes as faults. Very few do, and in the name of consistency, some rogues will taint the fermented juice with chemicals to enhance characteristics. But most don’t, or need to.

There are two ways of analysing the flour used to create different breads. Firstly, look at the typical traditional breads produced in a region by bakers using locally grown and milled wheat. Look at the crumb structure, the baked height of the bread, and the texture of the crust. It is probable that the particular qualities inherent in the local flour have helped create these breads, in addition to local custom, equipment, and technique.

Secondly, think about the type of bread you want to make and ask yourself: "What are the qualities I need this flour to have"? If you are proving the dough in flour-dusted baskets, cloth-lined or not, then these contain the dough and stop it from spreading. Why would there be a need to do this? It could be that the dough and ferment used need protection from the atmosphere and warmth during their final prove. It could be that the water content of the dough was so high that the basket would help keep the shape of the loaf, allowing it to rise upwards rather than outwards. Perhaps it could be that the type of gluten available traditionally in the flour used was low in elasticity and strength and needed support during the final hours of its fermentation. By looking in detail at the recipe and technique, we can either include or discount the first two reasons. But in the third might be the evidence of the particular qualities of the local flour.

Potato & porcini focaccia

350g leaven (refreshed 24 hours earlier)

150g warm bottled sparkling water

1 tsp easy blend yeast

1 tsp malt extract

1 tsp runny honey

350g '00' flour

2 tsp fine sea salt

10 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

for the topping:

1 large potato, unpeeled, washed and finely sliced

1 small onion, finely sliced

2 fresh porcini mushrooms, or a handful of sliced dried

2 tsp Maldon sea salt

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

In a large, warm bowl mix together leaven with the water, yeast, honey and malt extract and whisk together until the leaven has combined with the water. Next add the flour, and salt, and squidge the mixture together with your hand (I try and do this with one hand, keeping the other hand clean and dry – helps keep things neat!)

The mixture will be very soft, slightly lumpy and very sticky. This is good. Scrape the dough down from around the sides of the bowl, then give your hands a good wash to remove any excess dough. Return to the bowl and tip a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on to the palms of your hands. Pick the dough up out of the bowl, and rub the oil all over the surface. Place the oiled dough on the worksurface and knead 5 times (about 10 seconds). Cover the dough with cling film and leave for 10 minutes. Rub an additional tablespoon of oil on the dough’s surface and knead 12 times (20 sec). Cover again and leave for a further 10 minutes. Knead the dough for a further 12 times (20 sec). Cover and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Then knead the dough a further 12 times (20 sec). Cover and leave the dough a further 30 minutes.

The dough should, after kneading, be elastic.

Prepare the tray and the topping:

Preheat the oven to 220C. Take 2 x (30cm x 40cm) trays and rub the inside surface liberally with olive oil.

In a small bowl mix together the thinly sliced potatoes, onions and mushrooms, together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good large pinch of salt. Stir the lot together until the potato slices are well coated with the oil. Put to one side while you finish the dough.

Divide the dough in two, and knead each piece into a ball. Place each ball of dough on a tray, and with a rolling pin lightly flatten the dough out. Don’t worry at this point if the dough springs back. Just cover the tray with cling film and leave in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. After this time, pick up the corners of the dough and stretch them out until they reach the corners of the tray. The idea at every stage is to keep the dough as aerated as possible.

Next tip the potato mixture evenly on top of each sheet of dough. Cover the dough with cling film and leave for a further 15 minutes. Remove the cling film and dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers.

Sprinkle with a little additional Maldon sea salt.

Bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until the surface is golden brown and the potatoes tender.

Remove from the oven, and slide the focaccia off onto a cooling wire.


Pane Pugliese

350g leaven (refreshed 24 hours before)

½ teaspoon easy-blend yeast

100g water, sparkling

350g ‘00’ flour

2 tbs farina di ceci (chickpea flour) optional

2 tsps fine salt

extra virgin olive oil

In a large, warm bowl mix together leaven with the water and yeast, and whisk together until the leaven has combined with the water. Next add the flour, (chickpea flour, if you are using it) and salt, and squidge the mixture together with your hand until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Tip an extra teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil on to the palms of your hands, and knead the dough 12 times (about 20 seconds). Cover the dough with cling film and leave for 10 minutes. Next knead the dough 12 times (20 sec) once more, cover again and leave for a further 10 minutes. Finally knead the dough for a further 12 times (20 sec). Cover and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

Next take a small bowl measuring 15cm – 18cm in diameter (and roughly the same depth) and line it with a small tea towel (or old cloth napkin). Dust it lightly with flour, then knead the dough into a ball and place that ball seam side upward in the cloth-lined bowl. Lightly fold the corners of the cloth loosely over the top of the dough, and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Lightly dust a metal tray with semolina or polenta. Gently peel back the cloth from the top of the dough, then quickly and carefully upturn the dough on to the palm of your hand. Next peel off the cloth from the base of the dough, and then finally place the dough seam side up into the centre of the tray. Place the tray in the centre rack in the oven and bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the loaf is a good dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.


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