Epic Bread Baking: The Miche

I know the phrase “Epic” is totally played out and is tossed around way too easily, but seriously how else do you describe a 4 pound loaf of bread that is over a foot and a half across. If a loaf that large is not considered Epic, what would be? The name for this large style of bread is “miche”. According to the Internet it is French slang for “butt check”, which is why I don’t trust the Internet. It is generally a rustic style, round, rather flat loaf… that is extremely large.

The first version I tried was from Bread Baker’s Apprentice, it is the bread featured on the cover that is larger than the baker’s head. It is based on the famous loaf from the Poilane bakery in France. The recipe calls for high extraction flour, which is somewhere between whole wheat and white flour. It is also not easy to come by, so of course I just used whole wheat instead… and that of course just produced a dense hard loaf; a 2 foot hockey puck. I think a couple things contributed to this. I tried kneading it by hand and I also didn’t increase the amount of water since I was using whole wheat.

A stronger man would have had another go at it, but I decide to wave off and try a different recipe. For the second attempt I went with recipe from Artisan Baking, which is a really great book that does not get enough love. It not only covers how to bake bread, but also the people that are drawn to making bread. The recipes are truly stellar too.

The miche in Artisan Baking stills uses only sourdough to rise, but it has a mix of flours; whole wheat, white and rye. This makes it easier to build up gluten. It could have been just luck, or all the fact that I used my mixer to knead, but this loaf was amazing. I wouldn’t try using any old mixer for this large a loaf with such dense dough. I have a Kitchen Aid Pro 600 and it seemed to handle it fine. A smaller mixer, like the Kitchen Aid Artisan, may not have done so well. While it produce a tons of bread (roughly 4 pounds), the bread stayed fresh for 3 weeks and tasted great with just a light toast. For most of the time we stored the bread with the cut side facing down on the cutting board. It could be that most bread will last this long, it just isn’t usually large enough to last 3 weeks. I would like to that the sourdough goodness helps keep it fresh longer.

One of the things I love about the Artisan Baking book is that she profiles the different bakers & bakeries she gets the recipes from. The recipe for the French country miche comes from Thom Leonard in Lawrence, Kansas. There are some great videos of him explaining how to make naturally leavin bread here.

Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread

Ingredients:

    Levain

    • 25 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons or 0.8 oz) fermented firm sourdough starter refreshed 8 hrs before (17%)
    • 140 grams (2/3 cup or 4.9 oz) water, lukewarm (100%)
    • 140 grams (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon or 4.9 oz) unbleached bread flour (100%)

    Dough

    • 350 grams (about 12 oz or about 2 1/2 cups) Coarsely ground whole-wheat flour, preferably milled from an organic, hard winter wheat (eventually 25%)
    • 750 grams (26.5 oz or 5 cups) unbleached bread flour, preferably organic (75%)
    • 30 grams (1 oz or 1/4 cup) organic whole-rye flour (3%)
    • 660 grams (24 oz or 3 cups) water (66%)
    • Fermented levain (30%)
    • 23 grams (0.8 oz or 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) salt (2.3%)

    7 thoughts on “Epic Bread Baking: The Miche

    1. Oui, yes indeed, miche is used as a slang for “butt cheek” as in “Je me cailles les miches” meaning “im cold” but in a hoo so funny and rustic way, just like the bread

    2. After your dough is fully risen and just before baking, Empty risen dough out onto a cookie sheet. Paint with beaten egg, bake.

      • Sounds tricky. How to do that without deflating the final fully-proofed ready-to-bake loaf? I’ve been doing my final proofing on a large peel with parchment underneath to avoid accidentally deflating it. Then I **carefully** slide it all off onto the stone. I have had very, very bad luck with cookie sheets. Strike that. I have had DISASTERS using cookie sheets. First, the miche is too big for a standard cookie sheet. You must have a trick.

    3. 2 c rye flour, i c starter, 1 c white flour, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tspn citric acid. Knead well, place into rising (baking) dish. Let stand 1-1/2 days or until dough is fully risen.Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes. Take out, slash with longitudinal slashes in manner of choosing. Put back in oven, bake additional five minutes at 500 degrees, lower heat to 350 bake additional 25-30 minutes. Take out, cool on grill. Enjoy.

    4. a very tasty bread but when shaping and proofing it seems very wet, clinging to my floured teatowel and causing a terrible mess. Gonn try cutting a bit of water out. Thanks for the recipe.

      sb

    5. For substituting for “high extraction” flour, try mixing 25% Whole Wheat flour with 75% Bread (i.e. high-gluten white) flour.

      100% Whole Wheat is a whole different beast. Using all Whole Wheat flour in a regular bread recipe is pretty much guaranteed to fail.

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