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Federica Russo Colomba (classico)
egg yolks14.3%53050
egg yolks14.3%53050
candied orange72.8%2700255


Still issues with acidity / pH. But it was easy enough to make!


2 ½ Days later I made the cut.

Colomba and coffee.

Tastes good! Really good!!! 👍


Happy Easter!

mwilson's picture

So, it has been several years since I was baking ‘Grandi lievitati’ regularly. Getting back into the swing of things, and to some degree relearning what I once had figured out, or was at the very least working with more successfully…

Mastering Lievito Madre is no joke and is perhaps the most difficult accomplishment for any sourdough baker that wishes to really understand and control the many intricate nuances of fermentation and manipulate the biological and chemical processes which can ultimately make or break one’s endeavours.

While re-treading this old ground I have been faced with seemingly unruly souring and not even a high dose of sugar could stand in its way.

Many leavened primo impastos were abandoned, the last one was so sour it plagued the kitchen with a mildly sweet but also pungently acetic aroma. Evilness!

In the last few days, I am sure I have made progress in my understanding… In fact, through mulling over and mentally digesting recent occurrences I have come up with a rule based solution that really has shown promise in establishing what I’m looking for in a perfectly mature LM.

During the process of attaining that outcome I did manage to successfully bake a panettone. Despite suffering from a persistently overt acidity problem which then in turn leads to other problems such as dough handling and leavening issues.

The remaining ingredients (butter, aromatic mix (honey, orange zest and vanilla), egg yolks and fruit) to be added to the mix so far which consisted of the leavened primo, flour and sugar.

Last step adding the fruit..



Rheology issues. Dough was too keen to to tear while shaping indicating an excess of acetic acid which makes gluten tight / tenacious.

This panettone was on the right track but made before I had fully fixed the fermentation issue. Consequently it needed more time to proof, time that I didn't have, so I baked it early while only half way up the mould.


Natural Yeast115063.25
Egg Yolks90049.5
Egg Yolks160088
Candied Orange100055
Candied Citron50027.5
mwilson's picture

It has been a considerable blot of time since my regularly featured Italian enriched doughs were frequently demonstrated. I am out of practice, and in need to validate my reputation, even if to myself but not only that but to exceed where I recognised the faults. Now armed with a new bit of kit, the Hanna “Bread and Dough” pH meter, I wanted to go deeper where such tracking was once a novel endeavour, the time had come to up my game as it were.

Most of the Grande lievitata I have produced to date have always suffered from a lack of exceptional fermentation control. The end product didn’t quite reach the excellence I craved. Flavour and softness – a sign of mastery, was just a little lacking. Still, in technical terms I have enough knowledge to know how and where in my processing can I tweak things to bring about those much desired improvements.

A story from several years ago… The best Panettone I ever tasted was crafted by the masterful hand of one “Rocco” of Wimbledon, London. I was given his contact by chef Theo Randall (Intercontinental, Park Lane, London) where I proudly presented him (Rocco) with the Pandoro I made. His commanding presence was not shy just like most Italians as he swiftly instructed his colleague to slice open the Pandoro. From one half of it he put his nose to the cross section and inhaled deeply, examining the aromas carefully. “You used cocoa butter?” he asked, to which I confirmed. He took a slice and ate a piece. He was not blown away, not much reaction really came forth, quite frankly. My memory fades in the intermediary of events but I’ll never forget his considerate but very truthful remarks. He said as far as “The Pandoro” goes I’d give yours a 3 out of ten but for a home baker to make this I’d give it an 8 out of ten. He offered me some of his Panettone to try and it was a revelation to say the least! The flavour was abundant and so expressive, and the softness was like dream of decadent delights. Amazing! After our talk and a potential job offer to work for him, I left his shop with my tail between my legs and a loaf of Durum bread under my arm. Although as I am my own strongest critic, Rocco made it clear what deep down I already knew. I knew then I could do better.

Now where was I…

So, between work I have been maintaining and feeding my Lievito Madre starter with great frequency and measuring the pH persistently. The data I have recorded, see: Impromptu LM pH data (Temp) | The Fresh Loaf

From feed cycle 15a I attempted my third run at an enriched dough. The primo impasto of the first didn’t rise at all in allotted 12 hours, the second rose well but was way too acidic and the third, again it rose well and was still too acidic but not quite as bad as last time. I decided to see it through anyhow.

The formula I had been working on was The Colomba di Pasqua formulated by “Panettone god” Iginio Massari.


 Massari Colomba1x1Kg 
flour (W300-330)2700194194
flour (W360)7005070
orange paste10070
orange cubes3000215110
total flour3882.76278.59298.48
sugar + honey52%52%47%

Some deviations from the intended but still very faithful to the original recipe. I used stronger flour than specified but cut it with some weaker flour also.

LM maintenance, W410.
Primo impasto, 80/20 split of W410 + W210.
Secondo impasto, W410.

All Tipo 00 (0.55% max. ash) as specified.

However, because things were not where they needed to be in terms of the chemical properties, namely the pH the dough handled not quite as it should. The dough was a little slack and a wanting of that vibrantly elasticity consequently led to the slightly dodgy shaping.

The oven spring was almightily substantial rising more than double its fully leavened height.

And finally, the inversion as required was a fraught with difficulty. Within seconds of removing this from the oven I could see it sinking like a deflating balloon as I tried to figure out how to skewer it in the most optimal support giving way. It had pretty much flattened in those few seconds as I tried to single handily flip this thing upside down, it was so very tricky… Like trying to upturn a bag filled with water.

In the end, it looks the part, but it was a “wrong 'un” from the start.

Don’t expect a glorious crumb shot. Just an erroneous one…

The journey continues…



mwilson's picture

In recent times I have been baking exclusively with durum wheat and the results have got progressively better with each bake. I wanted to explore the typical traditional process whereby an old-dough technique is employed although in real terms I applied the method in my own way.

Continuous old-dough process:

Old-dough (sourdough) (60% hydration and 2% salt).
refreshed 1:1 (old-dough:flour) + enough water to make a firm dough.

Make bread using refreshed old dough at 20%, reserve a piece.

In all cases the reserved old-dough and its refreshed version were stored in water to help speed up fermentation and reduce acid development, this being a common approach with lievito madre storage.



The following durum loaf was made at 80% hydration. A two-hour autolyse at 60% hydration was employed and the final mix was worked to full development. 


Old dough in water:


The loaf made following this one, despite all quantities being the same was much softer, something I was aiming for as the process continued. However, adding the last of the water broke the dough - in split, like curdling, thankfully I managed to work it back together with slap and folds. The lesson being that over-hydration with durum wheat is perhaps more of an issue when the gluten is highly resistant.

Semola rimacinata can be difficult to work with because its gluten is overly tenacious (high P/L values) which means it requires much energy input to work it into a plastic and elastic dough. Using a starter that is on the reductive spectrum really helps to improve the properties whereas acidity makes the situation worse. Durum wheat works best where acid content is very low and the salt in the process positively helps to bring about that condition, improving dough properties.


Numerical representation of the method.

mwilson's picture

Super-massive oven spring!

Based on a formula by Iginio Massari.

I was able to add extra water to the dough because the strength was so good.

Marriage's flour is excellent!


1st dough (12hrs @ 26C)




lievito madre (50% hydration)






egg yolk





2nd dough (bulk 1hr, 7hrs @ 26C)




vanilla flavour








egg yolk







sultanas and candied orange




mwilson's picture

The aroma is unbelievable!

Made with Stoates (Whole Spelt) and Marriage's (Superfines) Flour, tap water (pH 7.8) and sea salt. 

Refresh (aka levain) 4 hrs @ 30C
50g LM (from bath)
50g Stoates Whole SPelt
15g water
= very firm 45% est. hydration.

400g flour (50% Spelt, 50% white)
111g LM as above
280g water
9.5g salt
10g olive oil

Bulk 2hrs @ 28C

Shaped, not moulded/freestanding and proved until triple (proper triple!) 5hrs@ 27C.


A few more pictures including crumb.

mwilson's picture

Massari Dissapore    
Natural Yeast20.0%1004260
Egg Yolks24.0%12050.472
Egg Yolks26.0%13054.678
Orange Zest0.5%
Lemon Zest0.5%
Candied Orange30.0%1506390
Candied Citron10.0%502130


Woke up Christmas day to find a very active primo impasto.

Illustrated recipe:

Merry Christmas everyone


mwilson's picture

Starter Preparation

Starter dough which was conserved in water for 16 hours at a regulated 20 degrees C was removed from storage and cleaned to obtain the "heart". This involved the removal of a dry crust formed on top and a wet under-layer which were then discarded. The remaining dough was pressed gently before being sliced into strips which were then allowed to soak in a bath made from sweetened water (2g sugar per litre of water). After 20 minutes the dough pieces were removed from the bath and squeezed to remove excess water before being scaled to the required weight. An equal quantity of flour, 1 part starter to 1 part flour (1:1) and 35% water were added to form a dough. This was then left to rise for 2 hours at 28-30 degrees C.


An autolyse process was prepared at 50% hydration using Leckford Estate bread flour (100%) and 1 percent diastatic barley malt flour. The flours were initially mixed with only part of the water to first form a breadcrumb-like texture. The remaining water was then added to allow for the formation of a dough which was allowed to rest covered with cloth until the starter was ready.

Main Dough

The remaining ingredients; salt and water were scaled and mixed. The starter dough and autolyse dough were divided into 8 roughly equal pieces and mixed together individually by hand kneading before being combined into one dough. This was again re-cut into numerous pieces which were added one by one to the prepared salt water solution with the mixer operating at speed 1. A paddle attachment was used to mix the ingredients until a dough formed that cleaned the bowl. This took approximately 5 minutes. The attachment was then changed to a dough hook before being mixed at speed 2 for a further 5 minutes.


The completed dough was allowed to ferment for 90 minutes at 28-30 degrees Celsius before being shaped and allowed to proof for further 5 hours at room temperature (approximately 25C).


After the proof period the dough was scored three times and transferred to a pre-heated cast iron stone before being placed into an oven at 230C. Steam was used during the first ten minutes.


"The finished loaf rose well although it is a little wide for its height. This can be contributed to a number of factors. The original formulation is designed to produce baguettes which require little strength. The flour although marketed as bread flour isn't particularly strong. The method could have been adjusted to allow for a longer bulk fermentation which would have developed more strength before being shaped."

Visual assessment and organoleptic characteristics

Golden hue and many blisters cover the crust. Creamy-white crumb. Wheaty aroma. Slight sweetness on the palate. Soft and light textured with a very subtle hint of mild acetic acidity that finishes through the nose.



14% pre-fermented flour.
68% hydration.
2% salt


mwilson's picture

Since my post regarding dough rheology and the difficulties with durum wheat I have been tinkering...

I purchased 10 kilos of semola rimacinata from Italy and created a new starter spawned from my regular white lievito madre.


DAY1. 2200 - Refreshed and fermented for 8 hours at 28C
DAY2. 0600 - Transferred the now slightly sticky dough, wrapped and tied in cloth and left to ferment for 27 hours at 12C
DAY3. 0900 - Removed dough needed to make a loaf and reserved a piece for refreshment.


2% sea salt
20% starter
70% water
100% flour

From mixed dough to bake was 5 hours. 

The crumb is very soft and fluffy as it should be, see video below. Crust cracked. The texture is there, I just need to work on the flavour.. 


mwilson's picture

Piergiorgio Giorilli is a baker in a league of his own. His years of experience and effortless skills speak volumes. He is a true master! I have known of Giorilli for sometime now, yet I haven’t until now made a panettone in accordance with his methods and formula.

Processing of the mother dough is a skill that requires tuition and above all else, experience. Giorilli opts to maintain his madre in water during the standard 12 hour period. While as typical, before proceeding to the first dough three refreshments are made lasting 4 hours each time.

From I sourced his recipe. I adapted his formula to make two 500 gram panettoni, flavoured with the traditional sultanas, orange and citron.

Primo impasto

69g lievito madre mature
75g sugar
120g water
54g egg yolks
72g butter
240g flour

Secondo impasto

60g flour
66g sugar
4g salt
96g egg yolks
129g butter
2g malt
120g sultanas
60g candied orange peel
30g candied citron

aromatic mix x2

30g acacia honey
vanilla pod seeds
orange zest
lemon zest


For those wishing to make panettone this Christmas, this one should be your choice, it's a forgiving formula...


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