snowy mountain

Sesame Ficelle

Last night I took my starter out of the fridge (it was actually weeks-old biga that had become sourdough) and fed it. I left it out overnight thinking I’d make a Simple Loaf in the morning. But when I woke up, I had a different calling. Luckily, I had time to make a spur-of-the-moment decision and embark on the ficelle journey. I have great memories of crusty sesame ficelle with melted cheese for lunch after Sunday swim practices in middle school, and I suddenly craved that delicate yet strong, sweet yet flavorful loaf. This was the amazing result that I’m still stunned by. Just look at those holes and that crust!

If you want to speed up the rising process, I’d suggest adding a half packet of yeast (~3.5 grams) to the dough at the beginning. I’ve never done this but believe it will work. The rising time will likely decrease to around 2 hours total (depending on the temperature of the room too).

If you’re looking to only use yeast, you can replace the sourdough with biga by weight (prepped the night before, similar to making baguettes) — but I really highly recommend using sourdough if you can because the taste is just 2000% better! See my sourdough starter recipe for that.

Use a scale.

This is the dough before rising. It’s soft and sticky but holds its shape. It will come together better after stretch-and-folds and during the rise.
You can choose to score the dough down the center before brushing with water and applying seeds (right), or you can omit scoring altogether (left)!
Sliced ficelle shows off the amazing holes with an awesome thin crunchy crust.


  • Materials: mixing bowl, measuring cups and/or scale, baking sheet or stone, bench scraper or offset spatula (optional but recommended)
  • 200g (~1 cup) active sourdough starter
  • 240g (~1 cup) warm water
  • 200g (~1 ⅔ cups) bread flour
  • 180g (~1 ⅓ cup) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or diastatic malt powder)
  • 7g (~1 tsp) salt
  • Optional, for quicker baking: 3.5g dry active yeast
  • Toppings: sesame seeds, any other seeds


Night before: Get your starter to at least 1 cup active. If you don’t have a starter, you can make a biga (flour, water, and yeast) the night before instead, but I really recommend making some starter! It’s super easy–check out my Sourdough Starter recipe. I always save a small bit of starter in the fridge to re-activate (add some flour and warm water and bring to room temperature) the day or two before I make any sourdough bread. You can test if your starter is ready to use by the float test (see if it floats on water).

7am: In a large bowl, add 200 grams (~1 cup) of your starter or biga. Add 240 grams (~1 cup) of warm water, 200 grams (~1 ⅔ cups) of bread flour, 180 grams (~1 ⅓ cups) of all purpose flour, 1 tsp brown sugar, optional yeast, and 7 grams (~1 tsp) of salt. Mix these together to form a shaggy, somewhat sticky, dough (see photo above). Let sit to activate and rise for about 6-8 hours at room temperature, until risen about double and somewhat bubbly. (Seal it well to prevent the dough drying out.) (If you add yeast, this rise time will be closer to 2-3 hours.) During the first hour of rising, you can do some stretch-and-fold every 20 minutes to help gluten development.

Note: if you want to prepare the dough the night before, do this first rise in the fridge for 12-16 hours.

4pm: Preheat the oven to 450˚F. The dough should have about doubled in size and have a lot of air bubbles. When you and the dough are ready, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly pat the dough with flour, then split it into 4 parts. Shape each part into a rectangle using the letter fold technique (fold the top third over, seal it, then fold the bottom third over and seal it, as one would a letter). Let rest 10 minutes, then shape into a long skinny loaf, as you would for a baguette. (See my baguette videos here for shaping guidance.) Give it an extra few twists so that it looks like a twisted log. Transfer to parchment baking sheet and let rest 10 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with water, (optional to score down the center), and sprinkle seeds on top. Transfer to baking pan and bake at 450˚F for ~20 minutes, until golden brown. These cool quickly 🙂

What a great reward! (Sound on…)

Greetings from our kitchen!

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