Monday, October 10, 2011

Reinhart's Pain Au Levain

UPDATE: I've had some amazing feedback on the "freshloaf" forum!

  • "Wow! I think it's beautiful and amazing!!  Great job!!"
  • "This really look good! Nice baking!"
  • "Is this your FIRST pain au levain?  Gosh....  Must say it's really impressive!
  • Look forward to seeing your second and third and many, many more. :)"
  • "That is an amazing start. I would be happy with that any day"

I have to admit that, while my results to date haven't been necessarily "bad", I was feeling a little discouraged...  This was definitely a boost :)

    My try at a Pain Au Levain (sourdough) actually came out well. No commercial yeast was used.  It is most definitely not a quick process though...

    Day One:

    ⅓ cup (2.5 oz / 71 g) mother starter, cold or at room temperature
    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz / 142 g) unbleached bread flour
    ⅔ cup (3 oz / 85 g) whole wheat flour
    ⅔ cup (5.35 oz / 151.5 g) water, at room temperature

    The starter is not difficult to put together; you just have to "watch" it.  It needs to sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.  After that, it goes (covered) into the refrigerator overnight.

    Day Two:
    All of the sourdough starter (16 oz / 458 g)
    1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (11 oz / 312 g) lukewarm water (about
    95°F or 35°C)
    2¼ teaspoons (0.25 oz / 7 g) instant yeast (optional)
    3½ cups (16 oz / 454 g) unbleached bread flour
    2⅜ teaspoons (0.6 oz / 17 g) salt, or 3½ teaspoons coarse kosher

    This is a fairly high hydration dough; around 75%, but (somehow) I managed to handle it well and didn't end up a sticky mess.  There were two stages of stretch and folds that dramatically improved the handling.  I didn't use any flour; just a lightly oiled surface (and hands).  When completed, the dough sat covered at room temperature for 2 hours followed by refrigeration overnight.

    This morning, I let it sit at room temp for about 4 hours before forming it into a boule to proof.  Proofing was another two hours.  When I transferred to proofed dough to my peel, it immediately flattened out and I think this might due to a combination of possible over proofing and the higher hydration.  I scored the top and transferred the dough to a baking stone in an oven pre-heated to 500F.  Once the dough went in, I lowered the temp to 450F.  Steaming took place within the first five minutes.  While it looked like I was going to end up with a inedible pancake, there was actually some oven spring.   

    The crust is good and the crumb is much better than any of my previous attempts at artisan bread.  It's fairly open and chewy but melts in your mouth.  The flavor is also a lot better than I thought it would be (I was afraid it would be too sour).  All in all, not too bad.

    As you can see from the pics, the dough more than doubled in size.  Looks like my starter is pretty good after all.

    It's a bit flatter than what I think it should be but I still like the way it turned out.


    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    100% Whole Wheat Results...

    This recipe is a keeper!  Even though it's 100% whole wheat, the bread has a moist, soft crumb and the flavor is fantastic (especially toasted with some butter on it :) ).  I would have liked to have seen a little more height but, all in all, I'm very happy with the results. I think the next batch will come out even better...   I'm also going to try one loaf using my sourdough starter in place of the biga and compare loaves.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Let's Try a 100% Whole Wheat (Updated 10/4)

    While I've made breads with 25% whole wheat, this will be my first enriched bread using 100% whole wheat flour.  For the record, I'm using King Arthur red whole wheat flour which is "milled from 100% of the hard red spring wheat berry grown in the norther Great Plains.  Nothing is added, nothing is taken away."  :)

    I've just finished putting together the first two parts of the dough (which will be baked tomorrow)

    • Soaker:  The Soaker is made up of 227 grams of WW flour, 198g of scalded milk (cooled) and 4g of salt.  The soaker is used to soften the coarse grains and also allows some enzyme action to take place that is beneficial to the flavor of the final product.
    • Biga: (or pre-ferment) The Biga is also made up of 227g WW flour except it has 170g of water (75% hydration) and 1g of yeast (no salt).   Pre-ferments are also used to bring out additional flavor and (I believe) improve gluten structure. 
    I'm using a Biga for this one however, if I want, I can substitue the biga with my sourdough starter (same total weight).  I think I'll give that a try next time.

    Both of these are extremely easy to put together.  All that's needed are two small bowls and a heavy wooden spoon.   The little kneading that's done is actually done in the bowls.  The 5 minutes of rest after the initial mix of the soaker and the biga (ensuring all the flour is hydrated) is all that's needed to make them very easy to handle.

    The soaker will stay out at room temperature overnight.  The biga will go into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (this will retard the fermentation).  Tomorrow, I'll cut both the soaker and the biga into small pieces (so they'll be easier to mix together) and pop them into the mixer along with 42g of honey, 14g of unsalted (melted) butter, 7g of yeast, and 5g of salt.   An additional 56.5g of WW flour will be on hand should the dough need any adjusting (so it's smooth and just slightly sticky)

    Update:  I left the "biga" out two hours prior to the final mixing (to warm up).   I flattened out the biga and the soaker, placed one on top of the other and cut the lamination into 12 pieces.  I put the cut pieces into the KA mixer along with the other ingredients (less the salt  as I wanted the yeast to hydrate first) and mixed.  I then added the salt, mixed on "2" for approximately 7 minutes while adding 1 additional tablespoon of WW flour in the process because the dough was a bit "sticky".  The recipe does allow for 56.5g WW flour (7 tablespoons) in reserve for adjustments.  

    The dough was turned onto a floured surface and hand kneaded.  I'd say that I added approximately 3 to 4 more tbs of flour in order to get the right consistency (just slightly sticky / tacky but somewhat firm).   Now that I know what it should feel like,  I'll just check the dough in the mixer while making any adjustments.  I rested the dough for 5 minutes, kneaded it for another 2 minutes or so, formed it into a ball and put it into a (covered) greased bowl (I use Pam).

    The dough took about an hour to almost double in size.  I then flattened the dough out to about a 5" X 8" rectangle, rolled it up and sealed the bottom edge (not the sides).  This was placed (seam down) in a grease loaf pan to proof for about 45 minutes, until it rose above the sides of the loaf pan.  I may give it a little longer next time...

    The oven was pre-heated to 425F and immediately lowered to 350F once the pan was put in the oven.  It baked for 20 minutes, was turned 180 degrees (something that's really unnecessary for my oven since it bakes so evenly) and baked another 20 or so.   When done, the internal temperature should be 195F and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.   Always leave the bread on a cooling rack for an hour before tasting so the baking process can continue.  Not an easy thing to do :)

    I'll triple this batch next time :)

    See you tomorrow!