Friday, April 5, 2013

Pain au Levain (2nd batch with new starter)

This is the Pain au Levain recipe off the "Fresh Loaf" website.  Same as the previous bake but this time I'm doubling it:

White flour 106 grams
Rye Flour       8 grams
Water            62 grams
Culture         28 grams

Note: I actually added a little more water to this.  When I mixed all of the above together, it was a bit too dry.  I think this is because my sourdough culture was a lower hydration.  

Day One:  Mix all the ingredients and place in a bowl (tightly covered and unrefrigerated) for 8 to 12 hours. 

After 13 hours it was basically doubled in size and bubbly.   

Final Dough
Pre-ferment              204 grams
White Bread Flour  666 grams (King Arthur)
Rye Flour                   34 grams
Water                       480 grams
Salt                             16 grams

Day Two:
Blend the rye flour and the white flour in a large bowl.  In another bowl, dissolve all of the pre-ferment into the warm water.  Add the water / pre-ferment to the flour and mix until the flour is well hydrated.  Cover and autolyse [awe-toh-lees] for 45-50 minutes. 

During this process, enzymes (amylase and protease) begin to break down the starch and protein in the flour.  The starch gets converted to sugar, and proteins (glutenin and gliadin) get reformed as gluten.  So, in a short period of time, you can get great gluten development without a lot of work.  This also prevents oxidation (from over-mixing) which can result in loss of bread flavor and color.  

After the autolyse, add the salt (slowly in a mixer for 2 to 4 minutes or by hand 5 to 10), cover dough and let rest for 50 minutes.

After the 50 minutes, perform a stretch and fold.  Here's a good video that shows the technique:
Cover dough, let rest for another 50 minutes and then perform another stretch and fold.
After the 2nd stretch and fold, allow the dough to rest, once again, for another 50 minutes.

After the last rest, divide the dough in half (I do this by weight), form them into boules and place them in well-floured bannetons.  Flour the tops and place the baskets into plastic bags and proof them for 2.5 hours.  Here is the "before" pic:

At the two hour mark, pre-heat the baking stone to 480F.  

Here's the "after" pic when the 2.5 hour proofing was done.  Not a tremendous amount of growth, but the a "proof check" indicated it was ready.  

Now, into the oven.  I emptied a very large cup of ice cubes into a tray on the bottom rack for steaming.  For the first 5 minutes, I spayed the walls of the oven with water, every minute.  After the 5 minutes, I lowered the oven temp to 430F.

I was a little worried because there wasn't much oven spring in the first 5 minutes. However, after 25 minutes (halfway through the bake), they looked pretty good.  I rotated the loaves.

 Here's the final bread.  Nice :)

Here's the crumb.  Not great distribution, but it came out fine.  Chewy crust and creamy / chewy crumb with nice flavor.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pain au Levain

I'm a lazy blogger and more apt to simply post pics to Facebook...  However, my Pain au Levain (sourdough) last month was my best to date.  I'll double this batch and bake some more this weekend.  I'll give details then...  For now, here are the pics of the last one:


Final dough at the start of the rise

After final shaping (I floured this textured towel 
to get some great looking markings on the bread :) )

This dough is a lower hydration and much easier to form and score properly.  
Definitely my best looking bread ever... :)  Got an awesome amount of oven spring on this.

This was a dinner party "gift" so there's no pics of the crumb.  However, it had a slightly open crumb that was creamy and delicious.  More to come!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Italian Bread

Updated 3/24:  Oops... forgot to put down how much yeast is needed for the dough :)

For all those who wanted the recipe :)

This recipe is from "The Fresh Loaf" website and based on a recipe from Bernard Clayton's: New Complete Book of Breads.  While the original recipe called for a same day bake, I retard the fermentation of the final dough overnight and bake the next morning.  I don't know how much of a difference this makes to the final flavor of the bread, but it resulted in a very flavorful bread, crunchy crust with a chewy and creamy crumb.

Is a "sponge" known in Italian as a Biga and French as a Poolish (just to name two) made with flour, water and a small amount of baker's yeast.  The pre-ferment itself is just a portion of the final dough that is fermented longer in order to conjure up additional flavors as yeast and beneficial bacteria work their magic over time.  The only difference between a Biga / Poolish is the amount of hydration i.e., flour to water ratio.    The amount of yeast  used in the pre-ferment depends on the length of time (and temperature) the sponge will ferment.  Letting a preferment go too long will "break" it as enzymes eventually break down the gluten strands that give a bread its structure.


1 cup of flour  (127.5 grams)
1 cup of water (236 grams)     Baker's %= 185%
1/2 tsp of yeast (1.4 grams)    Baker's % = 1.1%

Combine ingredients and place in a covered bowl for 4 to 16 hours.  

Almost 8 hours later, it's nice and bubbly...

...and fragrant :)


All of the preferment
5 cups of flour (637.5 grams)
1/2 cup low fat dry milk (dry)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp yeast
2 cups water (472 grams)

Mise en place: Get your "stuff" together before you cook or bake :) 

Disclaimer: I'm still experimenting, so this recipe and instructions may change for future posts.  I think this needed more flour but I decided to try to deal with the stickiness of this dough just to see how it turned out.

I first dissolved  the yeast and brown sugar in the 2 cups of warm water.  Using the KA paddle attachment, I mixed in all of the preferment and the low fat dry milk powder.  I then added about 1/2 of the flour, the oil and salt before switching to the dough hook. The rest of the flour was added a little at a time.  Total knead time was about 13 minutes (on 4).  I probably added about 2 to 3 tbs of flour because this dough was way too slack and very sticky.  Even so, when all was said and done, the dough was still pretty "fluid" and sticky.  However, as you'll see in this video below, after a couple of "stretch and folds" in the bowl, the dough starts to come together as the gluten strands develops.  They use this technique in high hydration doughs like a ciabatta and baguettes (where you want nice, big, uneven holes in your crumb)

After the stretch and folds, I formed a ball with 
the dough, covered it with saran wrap and placed it in the fridge overnight

 By morning (about 8 hours later), it had at least doubled in volume

I divided the dough into two equal parts, formed the parts into balls and let them warm up (covered) for around an hour

To shape the bread, I started start off with a rectangle

Folded the top down around 2/3's of the way and "sealed" it.

Folded the top right and left corners in and sealed them

I then took the top part, folded it down to the bottom and sealed it.  I'm still trying to get a handle on how to properly do this.  This is actually the way to form a batard (which should be thick in the middle and pointy on both ends; football shaped in a way). I rolled it out with my hands to shape it the best I could, keeping the seam at the bottom.  (check out the video instructions on this blog).  

Again, this is going to take some time for me to do correctly. 

The formed loaf needs to have good "structure"; properly sealed with a taunt surface (but not too tight where it rips or tears). 

I didn't do TOO badly with these.  Unfortunately, I ALMOST dropped one while transferring it to the peel.  (very close) :)  I let these proof covered for 45 minutes.  I may do an hour next time...

The top surface then needs to be scored with a "lame" (a razor blade on a handle).  I can do this properly on stiffer doughs but still have issues with those that are a bit sticky.  The scoring allows for proper expansion in the oven.  I popped these into an oven pre-heated to 480F (with my baking stone).  A cup of ice cubes are place into a pan at the very bottom of the oven (to create steam)  In addition, I spray water onto the walls of the oven for the first 5 minutes.  The steam keeps the surface of the dough moist so it expands properly in what's called the "oven spring".  FYI don't get any water on the glass of your oven door.  It will shatter.  After the steaming, I lowered the oven temp to 430F.  Note:  I start off 50 degrees hotter to make up for all the opening and closing of the oven door within the first 5 minutes of baking.

These actually turned out fairly well considering.

Took them to the choir rehearsal / luncheon today.  I was happy with the results :)