A miche is a large, rustic loaf of bread that, in days past, was meant to keep a family well-fed for an entire week before their next opportunity to bake in the town’s communal oven. Nowadays, we have greater access to ovens, but the appeal of a big, nourishing loaf of bread is certainly not lost. There’s an undeniable charm when working with a burly, single piece of dough: the way it moves on the work surface, the way it ebbs and flows in response to your hands guiding it into its final form. There's a tactile joy that comes from knowing this dough is alive and nourishing, made from nothing but flour, water, and some of your sourdough starter.
Typically, a miche would be made from “high-extraction” flour—flour that lands somewhere between whole wheat and white flour. The term refers to flour that retains a high percentage of the bran and germ left in the flour after milling. In this recipe, I approximate this high-extraction flour by blending whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but I also add a touch of dark rye for added flavor and increased crust color.
This is a wholesome loaf, with a thicker crust and a tighter interior that’s perfect for soups, stews, and sandwiches. I love baking these loaves to a deep mahogany color, further eliciting that rustic charm. The large round shape is wide enough where a slice in the middle means a piece of bread that’s a little too large, and so it’s custom to cut this bread in half and then into quarters, carved like a giant wheel of Parmigiano cheese.
You can find a miche weigh anywhere from 1kg to 2kg or more. For my home baker’s adaptation, I keep the weight at a still-hearty 1.2kg, which snugly fits into a typical 8-inch round proofing basket and makes for easier dough handling. Because of this loaf’s large size, you will need to bake it directly on a baking surface in your oven, unless you have a covered pot large enough to hold the dough. Alternatively, if you’re worried the dough won’t fit in your proofing basket or covered pot, you can divide the dough into two smaller 600-gram loaves during pre-shape time. —Maurizio Leo
Test Kitchen Notes
The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer-turned-bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker), Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather on a lot of butter. Today, a guide to making a large-and-in-charge, nutty and wholesome miche. —The Editors
- Prep time 19 hours
- Cook time 1 hour
- makes one large (1.2kg) loaf or two small (600g) loaves
whole wheat flour
ripe sourdough starter
- Miche dough
all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
whole wheat flour
dark (whole grain) rye flour
fine sea salt
Make a levain (the night before baking, 9:00 p.m.)
The night before you want to bake the miche, make a levain. In a small-sized jar or mixing bowl, mix 32g all-purpose flour, 32g whole wheat flour, 35g room temperature water, and 6g of your ripe sourdough starter (the point at which you would typically give it a refreshment). This levain is stiff-textured and will need to be mixed and kneaded briefly by hand. When finished, ball up the levain and press down into the bottom of a small jar. Cover and let ferment for 12 hours overnight.
Autolyse the dough (next day, 8:30 a.m)
Because this dough is highly hydrated, an autolyse will help strengthen the dough in advance of mixing.
This dough benefits from being on the warm side, around 77 to 78°F (25 to 26°C). Warm the mixing water in the microwave for a few seconds before adding it to the autolyse.
Add the 404g all-purpose flour, 169g whole wheat flour, 34g whole rye flour, and 425g warm water (50g of water is reserved until mixing) to a wide mixing bowl. Mix everything by hand until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover the bowl with an airtight reusable cover and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes.
Mix the dough (9:30 a.m.)
After the 30-minute autolyse, uncover your mixing bowl, add the ripe levain, sprinkle on the 12g salt, and pour on the reserved 50g of water. With wet hands, pinch and fold the dough over itself repeatedly to incorporate the levain, salt, and water. The dough will break apart as you’re mixing, which is ok; keep mixing and folding until it comes back together.
Then, stretch one side of the dough up, fold it over to the other, rotate the bowl some, and perform another fold. Continue to perform these strengthening folds for 5 minutes by turning the bowl a little after each set to help work every dough angle. The dough should be cohesive and a little smoother at the end of mixing, but still shaggy. You will continue to strengthen the dough through sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. Transfer the dough to another bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
Bulk ferment the dough (9:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.)
Cover the dough and let it rise at warm room temperature (76°F or 24°C) for a total of 3 ½ hours. You’ll give the dough four sets of “stretch and folds” to give it additional strength during this time. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let the dough rest, covered. After 30 minutes, give the dough its first set of stretch and folds.
Use slightly wet hands to grab the dough farthest from you in the container for each set, stretch it up and over to the side nearest you. Then, grab the dough on the side closest to you and stretch it back up and over to the farthest side of the container. Repeat two more folds, one at the right side of the container and one at the left—you’ll now have a folded up square in the container. Let the dough rest, again covered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes, stretching and folding again. Repeat this process three more times for a total of four sets. After the fourth set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remaining time in bulk fermentation.
Pre-shape the dough (1:15 p.m.)
After the full rising time, your dough should have risen in the bulk fermentation container, smoothed out, and have a few bubbles on the top and at the sides. Even though this dough doesn’t need to be divided (we’re baking one large miche!), a preshape is necessary with this dough given the high hydration and soft nature. Pre-shaping will add a little more strength to the dough coming out of bulk fermentation and set the stage for a cleaner final shape.
Gently scrape out your dough to a clean, unfloured work surface. Using a bench scraper and your other hand (floured or, my preference, wet with water), preshape the large dough into a loose round. Let the round rest, uncovered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
Shape the dough (1:45 p.m.)
After 30 minutes, lightly flour your work surface and the top of the dough. Using a bench scraper and a floured hand, flip the rested round over to the floured work surface and shape it into a boule shape.
To shape as a boule, fold the bottom one-third of the dough up to the middle. Then, fold the left side up and over to the center and repeat for the right side. Finally, fold the top up and over to the bottom of the dough, forming a dough shape that resembles a folded-up mailing envelope. Flip the whole thing over, so the seam is on the bottom, and use two hands to drag the dough toward your body as your pinky fingers create tension in the dough against the work surface. If the dough needs further tightening, rotate the round as you push it away from you, and drag again. In the end, the dough should have a consistently smooth and taut surface.
Transfer the shaped round, seam-side up, to an 8” proofing basket or clean kitchen bowl lined with a towel and dusted with all-purpose flour.
Proof the shaped dough (2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., temperature depending)
Cover the basket with a reusable bag and let the dough proof at room temperature for 1 ½ to 2 hours, depending on your kitchen’s temperature. If it’s cooler, the dough may take longer until ready. Bake when the dough is very well-risen, puffy, and if you gently poke the dough, it will spring back very slowly.
Bake the loaves (4:00 p.m.)
Heat your oven to 450°F (230°C). Place an oven rack in the bottom third with a baking surface on top and a roasting pan at the very bottom. When you slide in your dough, you’ll also throw in a cup of ice into the preheated roasting pan to generate steam in your oven.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel or large cutting board. Gently tip your dough out of the basket to the center of the paper. Using a lame (baker’s razor blade), score the top of the dough very lightly. I like to use a crosshatch pattern for my miche, but get creative—any design will work! Just be sure not to score in too deeply; this dough is fragile, and scoring in too deeply may reduce oven spring. Then, slide the piece of parchment paper with dough into the oven on your baking surface. Finally, carefully pour a cup of ice cubes into the preheated roasting pan and quickly close the oven door.
Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with steam. Then, remove the pan used for steaming. Continue to bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes until the loaf is well colored, and the internal temperature is around 206°F (96°C).
Remove the loaf from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Because of the large size of this miche, it’s best to let it cool for several hours—or, even better, overnight—for the best flavor and texture. The miche will stay good for at least one week, perhaps several days longer.