Hamelman's 5-Grain Levain
In my opinion, the formula for 5-Grain Levain by itself fully justifies the price of Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread. This is just one of several formulas for multigrain breads in the book. I believe I have made all the levain-based ones, and I haven't found one that wasn't scrumptious. I think my very favorite is actually the one that uses a rye sour for leavening.
I looked it up. I first blogged on this bread December 21, 2007. I was inspired to make it by a couple things. First, it was highly recommended by Fleur-de-Liz, a very active TFL member in those days who was an adventuresome and accomplished baker and a great photographer. When I was first learning to bake, I wanted to be her when I grew up. Unfortunately, she disappeared from TFL not long after that. The second thing was that Jeff Hamelman described this bread as "the most delectable tasting bread" he'd ever had. Considering the source, how could you not make it?
The first two times I baked the 5-Grain Levain, I found that this is a bread one really should cold retard after the loaves are formed. It makes an enormous difference in the flavor. I baked it the first time without retardation and thought it was good but nothing special. The second bake, with overnight retardation, I discovered what the fuss was about. It really is incredibly delicious.
This formula calls for a liquid (125% hydration) levain and a multi-grain soaker. The soaker is supposed to include cracked rye, but I've never had any. This time, I substituted a very coarsely milled rye flour. Otherwise, I followed Hamelman's instructions, including omitting the instant yeast. I did let the loaves warm at room temperature for about 90 minutes before baking. I've found that baking this bread right out of the fridge results in explosive oven spring and bursting cuts. I prefer it a bit more controlled.
Every time I've made this bread, the flavor surprises me. It is so good. This time, the first flavor hit was sweetness, although the bread has no sweetener, other than what is generated by amylase. The crunchy, nutty, caramel crust is fabulous.
Okay. That's enough. Time to heat the soup, dress the salad and slice more bread!