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.