Maili Saba.

As some of you may know, Ben has flown the bakehouse for a couple of weeks to help with an exciting project in Kenya.  He’s helping to train a team of bakers for a brand new bakehouse in Maili Saba, a lodge around 20 miles from Nakuru, Kenya’s 4th largest city.  The bakery will operate as an extension of the valuable work of two charities; UJIMA and PEEK. Offering a real environment for young people within their programme to receive practical training as well as a viable means of earning revenue for the charities.


In this post Ben reports back after the first week to let us know how he’s getting on. Photos to follow….


Today was the final day of a 2 day baking workshop for a group of potential bakers.  They have been selected via the Ujima and PEEK charities and principally Madeleine Bastawrous, the driving force behind UJIMA bakehouse.

Madeleine spent several years in Nakuru with her husband as he established the PEEK eye care programme which is now gaining momentum as a revolutionary means of using technology to restore eyesight to the many in rural areas who do not have access to diagnosis.


During their time here in Kenya they noticed how limited bread and bakeries are (there’s basically a white or brown tin loaf).  Little consideration is given to improving quality, variety or nutritional value.  The breads contain sugars, oils and other additives and are undoubtedly not a healthy option, but there are a considerable number of people, ex-pat and local who are crying out for a change.  Madeleine and Andrew spotted this opportunity and began to dream.


They contacted e5 back in summer 2013 and we invited them to join us for a bread class.  During the class Mads shared her vision for a Maili Saba bakehouse and I offered my services, which is how, 18 months down the line, I come to be here.  On my first day I headed into town on the hunt for flour accompanied by the director of the new bakehouse, Redempta; she’s amazing with people and great at organising, which is just as well.  

Happily, serendipity had struck the evening before when Shanti Shah came over to my table and wished us a good evening, it transpired he owns two bakeries in town.  I’m not sure what he really thought about our project, I was quick to assure him it was a small bakery!  Next day, Redempta and I rock up to his place and have a look around.  Tobias, the baker tips us off about Pembe Mill, and later that day we find the depot in town.  90kg is the only size they offer so we load up the truck with the  flour as well as picking up 20kg of wholemeal flour from supermarkets. 


The training took place at Maili Saba.  The bakehouse itself has been kitted out with fuse switches for oven and mixer, and tiled from floor to ceiling.  The equipment should arrive next week, so for now we used the lodges kitchen.


To begin with I tried to put the group at ease, if a hapless fool like me can get a bakery going they have to be in with a good chance!  However it was in the kitchen that we really started to relax.  


The starter I had brought from London had been refreshed the day before to make a 100% hydration leaven.  The next day it looked fantastic, bubbly and elastic.  An overnight kitchen temp of 14C allowing for a long, slow ferment.


We made a range of breads, 73% hydration white, 83% hydration wholemeal, and bit of a wild card, an 87% hydration with white and wholemeal at 50:50 ratio. As well as a yeasted ciabatta dough using a biga prepped the evening before following a browse of Hammelman’s book with the kitchen team.


We were using a charcoal oven which we hadn’t quite cranked up enough so breads didn’t get the oven spring I would have wished and sealed quickly in a dry heat.  However they did work, and there were favourable comments from the guests and trainees we served it to at dinner that evening.


Day 2 has been more upbeat! We worked on bagels, a Maili Saba white at 75% hydration and the Mailia Saba Wild at 87% hydration.  As well as using up leftover leaven to make some delicious crackers, seasoned with rosemary, sea salt and black pepper and finished off with some awesome multigrain loaves as well.


This time we fired the oven hard and got some great tanned crusts and big spring.  Everyone went home feeling they’d learnt about the history of our bread culture, the biology of grains and science of sourdough, and with a big bag of bread to share with friends and family.


Next week we’re back to it! Hopefully with a commercial bread oven and a pitch at a local school where we hope to offer samples and drum up interest.


Stay tuned for pictures and the next installment…In the mean time you can find out more about PEEK at this link; 

Fellowes Farm

We’ve always been focused on making sustainable and local produce the heart of our operation at e5.  So we’re excited to share some news about a project we’ve been working on for the past year…


e5 have taken a step back along the supply chain and this Spring we sowed buckwheat and oats at Fellowes Farm in Suffolk where they were grown organically without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

These are photos of their harvest in August.  Globe artichokes and rhubarb have been planted out this autumn, and we are planning to sow a Danish variety of spelt in the Spring.  


Keep an eye out for further updates!




Hopefully those of you who have joined us for our bread making class are enjoying perfecting the techniques you learned with our bakers in your own kitchen.


We’ve noticed that there were a few home-baking questions that crop up on a regular basis, so we compiled   a list of FAQs and asked e5’s head baker, Eyal, to share his answers with you…


Q. My dough is too flexible to shape, it is sticking to the proving basket, it has come out of the oven more like a pancake than a loaf of bread! Why?


A. Most likely the leaven is too sour and without enough wild yeast activity. This will cause a sticky dough, without a lot of life. Before making your next loaf, try refreshing your leaven a couple of times, with 12 hour intervals. That should lower the acidity, increase the yeast production and bring your leaven back to form.


Q. Help! My starter is in bad shape – I forgot about it, I think I might have killed it! What should I do?


A. Don’t panic! Try refreshing it a few days in a row and see if it comes back to life. Next time, if you’re not going to be able to use your starter for a while, freeze it. Then when you’re ready to bake again thaw it out and do a couple of refreshments to get it going again.


Q. I’m having difficulty with the Hackney Wild recipe unsupervised, can you recommend a basic sourdough recipe I could follow to begin with?


A. There are many basic sourdough recipes to choose from, the best thing is to try a few and figure out which one works for you. We found that for a basic loaf, a 70% hydration dough works quite well. You can use any kind of leaven for such a loaf. I would start with a flour combination that has at least 80% white wheat for your first loaf.  


Q. When using the fridge to “pause” after proving the bread can the bread then be baked direct from the fridge or should it be allowed to return to room temperature first?


A. When using the fridge to retard the dough, we tend to take it out and let it warm up a bit before baking. If you find that your bread is coming out very flat, it could be that it over proved, so next time, maybe try baking it straight from the fridge



Q. My dough felt really good and strong, but the bread came out flat. What went wrong?


A. It could be that your dough over proved, which means that it rose to the maximum and collapsed. If that is the case, try shortening your final proving times.


Q. Everything felt ok but when baking the loaf, it sealed where I scored it but burst from the side/bottom of the loaf. Why?


A. It sounds like there wasn’t enough steam in your oven, so the crust formed straight away and the loaf burst in the attempt to rise in volume. Try creating lots more steam, or bake the loaf in a cast iron pot.


Q. Does leaven equal starter or can it become one given time?


A. Our recipes are designed so that you will have a surplus of leaven, which can be used as a new starter. Any old starter that you have should be discarded. This leftover leaven can be used immediately as a starter in any of the recipes.


Q. Is there an upper limit to how long I can prove in the fridge? For example if I want to make the dough the night before and bake it in the morning.


A. There is no definitive time limit to how long you can prove bread in the fridge. Even in the fridge the dough continues to prove; just much slower. So, in theory, you could prove the dough in the fridge as long as it doesn’t over-prove. The longest we retard the dough, after shaping, in the fridge is 24 hours.


Q. I want to make a bigger batch of bread do all recipe ratios remain the same?


A. Yes, all ratios remain the same as you increase the total amount of dough you are making.


Q. Where can I buy malt powder?


A. Follow this link to an online shop where you can find Light malt extract.


Q. When using dried yeast what ratio do I use to determine the amount if using a fresh yeast recipe?


A. If using dry yeast, you want to use half the amount of fresh yeast in the recipe. In terms of a particular brand to use, they’re all fine to get the job done and of much the same quality.


If you’ve got a burning question we haven’t answered or if you’ve baked a loaf – outstandingly good or outstandingly bad – that you have just got to share, please send us email.

Bra gjort Stockholm!

Kate is a proud member of the e5 baking team and a shameless scandophile. She recently went on an expedition to Stockholm, to get behind the scenes at a couple of the city’s best-loved bakeries. Below she gives us the ins and outs of what she learned!…


I’ve visited my family in Stockholm every year since I was a child, so have slowly become accustomed to those flavours which at first seemed so foreign; menthol cardamom, sour rye, bitter orange peel, blackened crusts. I’ve grown to love the bread there more than anywhere else, and I’m sure that these early encounters heavily influenced my choice of career. This month I finally got around to visiting the city in a working capacity, to get a feel for bageri life.  


Wanting to learn more about sweet dough I headed to NK, the most famous department store in the capital. My uncle tells me that for him as a child, ‘going to town’ was synonymous with a trip to NK. It is a majestic building, containing an impressive food court in the basement.  I was to join the on-site baking team, hidden away behind children’s wear on the fourth floor. It’s is a massive operation, with freezers twice the size of my bedroom and more ovens than I’d ever seen in one place. They have equipment I never knew existed, and yet everything is still shaped by hand on the vast wooden table. There’s a balance struck here between lightening-paced efficiency and professionalism, and the charm and dignity of the artisanal. 


Over the course of the week I attempted to get to grips with their trademark bun-shaping technique; a complex procedure which involves looping a strip of laminated dough around itself in such a way as to resemble a neat ball of wool. Keeping your left thumb still and using two fingers to rotate whilst winding with the other hand, you must aim for a solid construction that weighs precisely eighty five grams. If I make this process sound involved and fiddly, that’s because it is. Or at least for a beginner like myself: timing one of their bakers revealed she raced through at a rate of 3 seconds per bun. To preserve any professional credibility, I will not disclose exactly how many of my buns burst/ unravelled/ withered before they came out of the oven. Luckily the head baker Oskar was a die-hard Arsenal fan, so I just casually divulged that I went to school with Theo Walcott. As it turns out, Oskar had named his first son after him. Standing at that wooden table, shaping cardamom buns whilst Abba all too regularly flitted across the radio, I felt like I was in a living parody of Swedishness. And this was before we started talking gender equality and childcare.


The second bakery I went to was Valhalla, a compact, neighbourhood bageri, piled to the roof with stacked up sheets of hard bread, rye and raisin rolls, and huge, dark levain. The owner Mattias apparently aims for a ‘Pippi Longstocking’ style of presentation, which means no surface left bare. They’ve applied some serious analysis to every aspect of their output, not least the art of bun-baking, and are one of the only places in Stockholm to bake them fresh throughout the day. I spent a couple of dough sifts here shaping croissant and twisting baguettes, and an entire afternoon rolling a thousand chocolate balls (a mixture of raw oats, cocoa powder, butter and sugar) in desiccated coconut. These are ubiquitous in Swedish cafes but their appeal holds some mystery for me. “Do you have these in England?” the head baker Stefan asked, about seven hundred balls in. Waining slightly, and starting to resent these enigmas as my back began to ache, I replied in the negative. “Woah…that’s crazy.” he said, shaking his head uncomprehendingly.


The highlight of my fortnight began at quarter past midnight the following morning (if you can call it that).  I baked through the early hours with Alex, a wide-eyed young Swede with a strong antipodean accent thanks to working in Australia, and a friend of his from the south, Tobias, who’d been baking in a wood-fired oven since the age of 11. Serious credentials then. We mixed and shaped, baked and packed til daylight came and customers began queuing up at 7am. The bread that stays with me was their signature levain, made with white sourdough and a little yeast, and cut into two kilo strips(no shaping involved), before being baked super hot and dark for a loaf which has the organic beauty of a gnarled old tree trunk. The crust is thin and chewy, the crumb soft and aerated. 


The tradition that the Stockholm bakers are working within is so strong, it’s hard not to feel a little in awe, perhaps even envious. They are able to draw inspiration from a vast variety of regional and seasonal breads; from 100% rye sourdough to heavily-yeasted white, brittle knäckebröd to soft bullar. Dense kavring, spiced vörtbröd, black-domed Gotlands limpa, scalded bread from Skåne, fruited St Erik’s loaf: these are breads familiar to every Swedish household. Even the most basic supermarket hard bread comes in two shades, for those who prefer a darker bake. The word ‘integrity’ came to mind as I contemplated the display at Valhalla, and this I’m in no doubt this is the product of a pervasive baking tradition. It could be considered conservative, for sure, but there is so much to recommend it. Everything is imbued with a level of coherence and focus, not to mention confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you’re about, and executing it exceptionally. The customer buys into this tradition as well, demanding certain things whilst not expecting unlimited choice. This relationship ensures the preservation of a baking culture central to Swedish identity. Bra gjort Stockholm!



Sourdough in Spain

With a handfull of Hackney Wild sourdough culture safely tucked into his carry on e5 Bakehouse owner, Ben, made his way earlier this week accross to Spain to teach a special bread class at Las Chimeneas a restuarant owned and run by British a couple, David and Emma Illsley. 

An (ad)venture made only possible through ‘Driving Over Lemons‘ author Chris Stewart. Chris stumbled across E5 Bakehouse and was so taken with the Bakehouse’s values of organic and sustainable food growth and production…and of course sourdough that he was desperate to get a spot on one of our breadmaking classes to learn more about the ins and outs of how we produce our loaves. Unfortunetly, a combination of the popularity of our courses and Chris being based in Alpujarras ment that a suitable date was hard to come by. Thus, an invitation was extended to Ben – why not just bring the class and sourdough starter to him!

The chance to spread the word about the importance of good quality bread on sunnier shores was too good to miss and on Wednesday 12 people (mostly expats living in the area) shared great views, delicious food and a passion for sourdough under blue skies. 

A great experience all round and we look forward to the amazing possibility of teaching classes that combine bread making with wine making, foraging and even yoga(!) in the near future.

Many thanks to David and Emma Illsley for hosting in such a welcoming enviroment and to Chris’ enthusiam to get the ball rolling!

Check out his latest book ‘Last Days of the Bus Club’ for a read as carefully crafted as our bread! 


The Cheese Cave

We realised it would be great to better understand the cheeses we serve with our breads.  Neal’s Yard, a stone’s throw away, were only too happy to accommodate us.  One wintery afternoon we headed south and over the river to their HQ.  Greeted by Katy we spent the afternoon learning how they tease the very best from these cheeses and finally we sat around with a pile of bread and tried many cheeses.


Read on for our chef Will’s take of the strange world of cheese:


The  maturation  arches  looked  wild,  like  a  


In the soft cheese room, the second of three arches, big white boxes control the atmosphere around little pale shapes slowly growing mould in the dark, which are similar I guess to what you imagine a dark wet stomach to look like. Move away from the big white boxes and you meet a conveyer belt where the little pale shapes are packed, labled and shipped to more stomachs. COnnecting together, in a wider network, the cheese is produced in a small dairy in Cumbia with affluent workers from Japan, Amereica or parts of Europe, with everything moving along tubes of movement.


Walk around Neal’s Yard Dairy maturation arches and you are remindered of how the whole business runs along these tubes.  The dairy itself grew out the cheap rent of the warehouses around Neal’s Yard and Covent Garden. Once the market went south, the dairy moved in, reappropriating the old space. Travelling along tubes the dairy spread out along old lines of trade and movement.


It is no coincidence that the factory itself looks like a submarine where past and present, country and city, real and artificial enter into the same shpere. You can see this in the dairy where a brick room, wrapped in a huge plastic bag and mysteriously named ‘room O’ is used to mimic the atmosphere of a cave.


From here the leap can be made to the bakery, located under the railway arch in Hackney, the bakery like the dairy re-appropriated the old unused spaces of the city into new community lead spaces. 




Outdoor winter BBQ? Why not!

On a wintery weekend at the end of January, we came together with the talented chefs of Burnt Endz to host a three-night food and music festival, in the courtyard at the back of the bakery. This was the second pop up festival we’ve run, following on from the success of last summer’s event back in the blazing sunshine of July.


Luckily the cold didn’t put off the crowds, or dampen spirits or appetites as umbrella-wielding people formed an orderly queue to purchase the delights of Burnt Endz’ finest offerings, cooked by restaurant owner Dave Pynt and his crew on a hand-built wood fired oven. And what fine offerings they were; succulent slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches on freshly made burger buns; whole cider-braised suckling pig; juicy smoked beef and fire-roasted leeks accompanied by crispy hazelnut and sweet burnt butter. 


We set up long, candlelit trestle tables to provide warmth and atmospheric seating inside the railway arch, whilst outside crowds gathered round fire pits to toast handmade marshmallows, and to listen to a range of live music over the three nights. From Hackney’s very own post grunge outfit, H Grimace and progressive funk band Mimika heading up Friday night, to the rich sounds of Senegalese Aboulaye Samb and the foot-stomping delights of gypsy folk Barbarella’s Bang Bang on Saturday, to the final rousing close on Sunday by swing jazz and bluegrass Ed Hicks & the Night Caps.


We transformed a disused shipping container into a spot-lit and fully stocked bar, with Five Points Indian Pale Ale on tap, Kernel bottled beers, warm mulled Burrow Hill cider, hot spiced rum and Sicilian wines. And we knocked up some hibiscus and ginger infused cocktails, to top it all off. 


If you missed out this time, don’t worry. We’re already concocting plans for another event this Summer…watch this space!

Copenhagen – Dough exchange

We are going to Copenhagen.  There are 6 of us.  Eyal (head baker), Pete (stalwart), Will (philosopher), Franzi (pastry chef) and BenG (taster) and me (chaparone).


Why Denmark? Why Copenhagen?  Asides from being a nice city by all accounts, the Scandi’s are bread connoisseurs.  They have held onto a tradition of slow fermented sordough breads, principally using rye flours.  They also have a small, but established, group of farmers and millers specialising in old varieties of grain (wheat/spelt/rye) which we are less au-fait with in the UK.


We are in the fortunate position of having some good contacts, including one Per Grupe a farmer some 40 minutes outside Copenhagen and the famous Meyers bakeries have invited us for a trip.


Denmark, lets face it seems to do things well.  So we’re going for a break, and to soak up ideas and inspiration so that we can enter 2014 firing on all cylinders.


Day 1


Following the impressive metro train journey (shiny) we quickly checked into the Generator hostel and despite the impending snow were keen to begin exploring, and so set off find Meyers bakery and meet with Jens the production manager.


On route we spotted a nice looking bakery, with a similar name, it was called Emmerys.  We bought a chocolate rye bread, along with a seeded wheat bread and another rye bun.  The nicest was a the slightly seeded sourdough which had a lovely thin crust, but all of the breads seemed quite salty. The guys working in the shop were friendly though and happily told us about the breads.


Meyers looked good as we walked in, and soon Jens had us down in the bakery space, which was set down from the shop area and visible through a window.  He was incredibly generous with his time, talked us through all of their different breads, how they are made, why they do certain things and their sourcing of grains.  Interestingly they use their rye sourdough leaven primarily for flavour.  The high acidity reducing the activity of yeast, so that fresh yeast is added to the rye after the dough is mixed.  The cinnamon buns were very popular amongst us, as was the offer to join their bakers early the next morning.


Day 2

And so the next morning the e5 bakers joined the Meyers bake shift observing how the bulk fermentated wet doughs were simply cut and shaped before being put directly into the oven.  These wheat breads were made using spring sown wheats and had soft crumb and crust and a great mouth feel.  Very delicious!


Next it was back to the hostel to meet Sofie Romme, chef and guide for our trip.  She arrived in a battered minibus and suddenly we felt like a band on tour as we made our way to Nordisk bakehouse.  Lennart, the owner and main baker had been warned of our arrival.  We settled into the cosy cafe, eyes fixed on the burning logs in the wood fired bread oven.

We were brought plates of delicious cheeses, smoked ham and chutney, chocolate cake and cinnamon buns.  All freshly pulled from the oven only hours before.  Lennart is developing along similar lines as e5, in that he is building his bakery up step by step, and is a true ‘giver’ loving the simple act of handing over something his hands have made.  However, we couldn’t dally as we had to head out of Copenhagen to Per Grupe’s Farm.  


The minibus was soon driving through large expanses of arable land with next years crops poking their heads up and then our map said we had arrived.  We were actually at a neighbour’s house, but instinctively Per had come looking for us and we heard him hollering before meeting the man.  So it was we found ourselves in a tremendous barn.    A long table was set with a spread of cheeses, sausages and lashings of biodynamic apple juice from a neighbouring farm.  Per held the table as we crammed in yet more food.  


He explained how yesterday himself, Fintan and Paul had milled 6 different varieties of grain.  These flours were now bagged, and lined up for us.  Our task was to devise a method for assessing the merits of each flour once baked off as a loaf of bread.  Which meant we first had to come up with a recipe.  Per had prepared us his sourdough the day before, so we had a litre of nice, active leaven bubbling away.  We plumped for a 75% hydration dough, with 5% of the water being added with salt after a 30 minutes autolyse.  We made all of the doughs with commercial yeast, and the 3 extra doughs with just the sourdough and no added yeast.

We folded the dough at 1/2 hour intevals and they were put in a fridge after 3 hours.  We now left Per, Finton and Paul in peace for the night, eager to bake our loaves the following morning.


Day  3:


All of the doughs were nice and active when taken form the fridge the following morning, some as much as doubling in size, others slightly less.  We tipped them onto a floured surface, divided, gave a little tuck and fold, and popped on a tray into the oven.  We were quite happy with the results.  Probably our dough should have had a higher hydration, but asides from that we had consistent bread with which to do a taste test.



It seems we went a bit low hydration wise overall, and in hindsight should have headed for around 90%.  This meant all of the breads had a slightly tight crumb.  Flavour wise, there were clear favourites, number 2 and 5, whilst number 4 although a beautiful colour had a kind of weird taste which none of us fancied much. 

Before we left Per gave us a a tour of his fields, autumn planted spelt, test plots, and then the milling equipment and various types of farm equipment.  I think we were all surprised at how much work goes into sorting and cleaning the grain, let alone all the tools needed to grow, plant and harvest it.


We left beaming, amazed at the farms warm welcome to us Englaenders.


As we hit Copenhagen Sofie tracked down a boutique cake shop, it was very stylish and again we were invited into the kitchen for a look and the baker gave a quick speech.  The macaroons were delicious.  Next we went to BROD, here the loaves were reminiscent of the breads made by ourselves.  

Gilchester’s Farm: Heritage Wholemeal Wheat

With reverence to our new website, we will intend to offer up more regular blog postings, and what better way to start, than reporting on a new flour which we are using.


Flour is obviously THE ingredient in bread, and yet it’s quality, integrity and essence are often overlooked.


Initially, we sought out organic, locally milled flour.  It turned out that whilst milled locally, the grains themselves were mostly from very far away.  


British wheat strains are understood to deliver weedy, weak wheat of around 8% protein, more suitable for making biscuits than bread.  To meet demand for fashionable, plump, white loaves, wheat has been imported from around the world, typically Kazakstan, Australia or Canada.  Imported wheat is nothing new, as early as the 9th century wheat was arriving by ship up the Thames from the Baltic to be milled and blended with our own.  


Since the 1950‘s, when American wheat breeders created a high yielding dwarf wheat, the genetic diversity in wheat has been dramatically homogenised.  One style of wheat now dominates, and is popular for no other reason than yield.  


Grown under a highly controlled environment of pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides to deliver a maximum output.  Flavour, mineral content, and the ability to grown without chemical support, are rarely selected for.  Which is why we welcomed Andrew from Gilchesters Farm when he visited us recently to explain about the heritage wheat he is growing and milling at his farm in Northumberland.  Having studied wheat breeding at Newcastle University, Andrew set about converting his farm to organic farming in the 1990’s and has bred a unique variety of heritage wheat strains which are suitable for the soil and climatic conditions of his farm.  Thrusting their roots deep into the soil these plants absorb minerals their commercial brethren would miss out on.


Andrew has taken the step of investing in excellent quality mill stones, and trained millers and is therefore able to deliver fresh, single origin, wholemeal wheat. 


We found that just mixing water with this wheat created a sourdough starter in just a few hours, whereas it can take up to 3 days with strong white wheat flour, testament to the rich microbiological populations present in this fresh flour.  The other advantage of freshly milled stone ground flour is that all of the essential oils are still present making for a more flavoursome and more nutritional bread.  Whilst the resulting loaf may be less plump than more cultivated alternatives, it’s far more exciting for us to work with this flour.

Flying Crust

We sometimes hear back from students on the bread making class with questions from where to buy Malt Powder to a detailed description of the state of their sourdough starter, and the question, is it still alive?

Bill got in touch to ask why there was such a split in his loaf, the top, full of large open holes, the bottom a dense loaf.  I have heard quite a few hypotheses for this result, which is often called a ‘flying crust’.

It is most likely caused by an overdeveloped dough.  I recommended that Bill keep his dough at around 23oC during the 3 hours of bench time, whilst the dough is intermittently stretched and folded, with the shaped dough proving for no more than 18 hours in the fridge, where a lot of flavour and structure is building up in the dough.

We also noticed that the crust sealed too quickly, and the coloration suggested that the top element was probably too hot.  The crust’s formation can be delayed by introducing more steam into the oven; using a tray of boiling water at the bottom or, by cooking the bread in a pre heated cast iron pot.  In this case, leave the lid on for the first 20 minutes so trapping all of the moisture from the baking dough into the cooking chamber.

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