Pain au Levain a la Vanille
Pain au Levain a la Vanille ( sourdough bread with vanilla )
I recently was gifted some beautiful organic vanilla beans. They have been calling to me from my pantry for a few weeks now. I wanted to incorporate them into some sort of bread but couldn't think of something that would pair well with the vanilla bean and still be good in a bread. I decided to let the smell and taste of vanilla to shine through and just use it on its own.
I found it most interesting that vanilla beans come from a type of orchid. The vanilla pod is the fruit. Vanilla beans are the second most expensive spice behind saffron; mostly because of what the cultivation entails. For centuries, only a certain type of bee was able to pollinate the vanilla orchid and the vanilla beans could not be grown outside of Mexico and parts of Central America. Until in 1841, a 12-year old french-owned slave developed a method of hand pollination with a bamboo stick. Vanilla was then able to be grown commercially. Although, the process is still painstaking as the vanilla flower only remains open for one day, the vines of the orchid must be inspected daily and the flower pollinated immediately. Harvesting the vanilla pods is labor intensive as well. After reading such a history, I was so appreciative of these beautiful "fruits" to use in my bread.
The most wonderful smell was emanating from my oven as these loaves baked.
The taste is very nice. Almost like cake batter but without the sweetness. The vanilla flavor was complimented by the subtle acidity of the french-style sourdough I keep. All-Purpose flour was a good choice with this bread because of the "fluffiness" it lent to the crumb- more of that cake-like quality :-)
This would make a great Valentine's Day bread. I served a slice of it today with fresh strawberries :-)
45 g Firm Starter
95 g King Arthur Organic All-Purpose Flour
5 g Whole White Wheat
50 g Water
350 g KA Organic All-Purpose Flour
125 g White Whole Wheat Flour (I used Prairie Gold from Wheat Montana, freshly ground)
25 g Rye Flour (I used finely ground whole rye)
350 g Water (I used warm water for a desired dough temp. of 76F)
All of Levain Build
10 g salt
Contents of two long vanilla bean pods
Elaborate your starter the night before you plan to bake. Leave at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
The next day, mix flours and water. Rest for 30 minutes, covered.
Add levain in pieces on top of dough and sprinkle on the salt. Mix until incorporated and then add scrapings from two vanilla bean pods.
Knead for about 8 minutes or until medium gluten development is achieved.
Ferment at room temp for I hour, then fold.
Continue fermenting for 2-3 more hours. (Mine took 2 1/2 hours at 71 degrees F)
Divide and shape into two batards.
Ferment en couche (or on flour dusted parchment which is what I did) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (mine took 1 hour).
Pre-heat oven to 475F with steam pan in place.
Score as desired and load onto baking stone and bake with steam*. Immediately turn down oven to 450F. Remove source of steam and turn down oven to 400F after 15 minutes of baking. Bake 20-25 minutes more. I left my loaves in a turned-off oven w/ the door cracked for an additional 5 minutes.
*Steam by your method of choice. I used a loaf pan with river rocks in it, and poured 1/2 cup water on top.
Cool completely. Or, cut into one a bit warm if you want to! Warm and vanilla go very well together.