Overnight Country Blonde Levain Bread – Ken Forkish

I make bread on a regular basis at home. My breakthrough breadmaking came when I baked along with Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread. But that’s the start; I want to get better at it. I want to master the nuance and complexity that a quality loaf of crusty, earthy, supple bread entails. Meanwhile, I am still using store-bought flours and experimenting with and expanding on different bread recipes. Marveled at the crackling crust and the open crumb of some of my loaves and, at times, stumped and humbled by some sticky dough. That’s where I’m at!

Then I started reading Ken Forkisk’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. This gave me remarkable insights on how I can improve my bread-making skills. “Think of time and temperature as ingredients.” “Use more water than conventional recipes allow.” “Push the fermentation to just shy of the limits to get the best flavors.” These are the guidelines I need to internalize. Forkish’s clear and succinct writing and couching style is reassuring. Now it’s time for some baking, starting with overnight country blonde, a basic natural levain bread that resembles Tartine’s basic country loaf.

Forkish methodology is a little different from Tartine’s that I’ve grown accustomed to. I have to put them side-by-side on a spreadsheet to better appreciate the similarities and differences in their individual approach. The comparisons inform how I could improve on my own working procedures and schedules. Keeping track of the details of what I did also help to fine-tune the breadmaking process. Fine-tuning while finding my own style is perhaps the hardest part of the journey!

Here is my takeaway comparing Tartine vs Forkish country bread, as shown below:


  • Both Tartine basic country bread (Tartine) and Forkish country blonde (Forkish) are excellent. It’d be akin to hairsplitting if I say that one is better than the other.
  • Tartine and Forkish have similar hydration level of roughly 77-78% using 90% white flour in the total flour amount.
  • While Tartine uses one tablespoon of starter to build 400g of levain, Forkish uses 100g to build 1000g, which results in a greater amount of levain being discarded.
  • Salt and small amount of water are added to the Tartine dough (levain and all) after 30 minutes of resting period, at which point the dough is relaxed, cohesive and easy to work with. Meanwhile salt and all of the 216g of levain are incorporated into the autolyse mixture to make the final Forkish dough, which I find much wetter and stickier to handle.
  • Bulk fermentation is 3 to 4-hr at 80°-85°F for Tartine and 12 to 15-hr at 77°-78°F temperature for Forkish. The longer fermentation of Forkish dough necessitates baking the bread the next day, spanning a two-day process from the time you mix the dough.
  • The longer bulk fermentation of the Forkish dough imparts a much sourer note in the finished loaf.
  • The higher oven temperature in baking the Tartine dough often results in a thicker and burnished crust, especially on the bottom.

I submitted this post to The Fresh Loaf.

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  • Reply
    Karen Kerr
    December 12, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Nice comparison. I do love both Forkish and Robertson, but I find Forkish much easier to follow. Beautiful loaf!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Thanks for stopping by. I like baking both of their breads.

  • Reply
    Todd Mitchell
    May 5, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Are you willing to share your spreadsheets? I'm having a problem calculating the amount of flour Ken says is coming from the leaving. My email address is tmitchell71@gmail.com

  • Reply
    May 6, 2016 at 4:15 am

    No problem in sharing the spreadsheets. It makes scaling the recipe a cinch.

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