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baking American
Eli’s Bread Recipe-9599

Photo by: Joseph DeLeo
Comments: 1


It takes two days to make the sourdough starter for Eli Zabar’s bread, but once it is made, it can be renewed again and again. Which is a good thing because once you’ve tried this bread, you may not be able to settle for less.

Yield: Makes 12 ficelles, which will serve 6 who have had a chance to smell the bread baking


Sourdough Starter

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 1½ teaspoons malt syrup, or 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups warm (104° to 110°F) water


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt


1. Prepare the starter: In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the all-purpose flour with the rye flour, malt syrup or brown sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the warm water. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 24 hours.

2. Discard half of the day-old starter. Place the remaining starter in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 cups of all-purpose flour and the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Knead to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 24 hours more. This makes the “chef.”

3. Prepare the bread: In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, water, and salt. Add half of the chef and mix (see Note). If using a mixer with a dough hook, beat for 8 minutes on low speed to combine well. If using your hands, knead for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, 8 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

5. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Flatten (don’t punch) each piece of dough into a long stick about 12 inches long. Place 6 of the sticks on each of 2 baking sheets and dust lightly with all-purpose flour. Using a sharp knife, cut 4 diagonal slashes on each stick

6. Place the loaves in the hot oven. Using a plant mister, spray the inside of the oven every 5 minutes, and bake until the loaves are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Eat these ficelles while they are still warm.


Note: To reserve the starter for future use, add to the remaining “chef” 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup rye flour, ½ teaspoon brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and ¾ cup warm (105° to 110°F) water. Mix well. Store in a clean container in the refrigerator, where it will keep indefinitely. Be sure to refresh it as above after each use. The starter may be frozen; just be sure to let it come back to room temperature before proceeding.

© 1992 Molly O'Neill

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 6 servings.

592kcal (30%)
30mg (3%)
0mg (0%)
0mcg RAE (0%)
0mg (0%)
2380mg (99%)
0g (1%)
2g (3%)
7mg (40%)

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  • garyg

    08.12.14 Flag comment

    There is somthing wrong with this recipe, the starter doesn't rise or become spongy. I ended up adding half a teaspoon of yeast after 24 hrs and then feed it after another 24 hrs. Then I followed the recipe. The yeal for this much flour is about half what my normal recipe yields. And there is entirely too much salt.


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