The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain Angst

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Levain Angst

I don't know if this is the right place, but I just baked my first loaf with a new levain.  I made it according to Dan Lepard's instructions in "The Handmade Loaf".  It looks exactly like the pictures in his book, and did rise.  However, my bread did not.  Well, it rose a little bit over four hours (not doubled in height, that's for sure, but I put it in because I needed to go to bed!) and it rose and spread out a bit more in the oven.  Certainly those babies are active.  But perhaps not active enough?

On the other hand, this is my first bread from The Handmade Loaf and it felt way, way too sticky.  I should mention that I can usually get an open crumb, or at least, I have achieved this in the past until I started with my new oven.  And I did get a perfect open crumb even with a 66% whole wheat bread recently (Hamelman's Rustic Loaf as posted here).  And I have been improving with that.  However, this dough was so sticky I couldn't even really shape it.  And I have shaped many a loaf.  Perhaps my hydration was off in the levain, leading to an over-hydrated dough?

Which do you think is the culprit?  Or both?

Edited to Add:  Holy smokes.  Just tasted it.  It is amazing.  Open crumb, with holes up to 1 cm... the crust is rather over-crusty, probably because I kept it in the 70 minutes because it was such a moist loaf.  But the taste, the taste... it's like sourdough!  Like something else.  Like a really amazing bread I had somewhere once.  Gosh I hope I get replies here so I can make a properly shaped bread because that is just amazing.  My husband will go nuts.  But it is literally as flat as two pancakes.  (So the holes in the crumb take up like, 1/4th of the height of the crumb on average... heh.)

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi MmeZeeZee, 

Which recipe did  you use from The Handmade Loaf?

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Okay, the first few "proofs" were actually stretch-and-rest times. Then there was one 30-min ferment, two one-hour proofs, and one four-hour proof. This was the Mill Loaf. I timed each proof / rest exactly as it was my first time making this loaf.

Perhaps it was my use of 1150 white flour?

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

but looking at the recipe I'd describe it as 3 hours bulk ferment and then 4 hours proving the loaves. I'm due to bake tomorrow, and I'd try this, except that I ran out of rye flour.

That old saw about "watch the dough, not the clock" might apply, but just eyeballing the recipe it looks OK. The leaven is 80% and the final dough about 60%, so I really don't think it was very wet.And rthe recipe just says white flour, not strong white flour, so although I don't know what 1150 is, I doubt that was the problem.

What was the temperature in your kitchen?

Jeremy

Sedlmaierin's picture
Sedlmaierin

Did you check out Dan Lepard's website? http://www.danlepard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2746&sid=a52081a60d1159ca58b38f4e4b201d5b

I only saw one post about this bread on the main page, but there might be others.

Good luck with your next bake of this bread!

C

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

To answer all the comments, thanks so much for all your help.

Re: Flour: Look up German flour. It comes in many types. 1150 doesn't have an English equivalent.

Re: Temp: I don't have a thermometer in my kitchen :ducks: but I'd say it was about 65 at that time. Though, in retrospect, it was getting late so perhaps it had cooled way down.

Re: time of rise: It really is a four-hour rise (he talks about this in the recipe) and there was an oven spring. Just very little pre-oven spring.

Re: Sourdough: It's not supposed to be a sourdough, per se. It's supposed to be a dough made with levain which I think is different to a sourdough starter, non?

Re: Link: My internet is crazy tonight (I can't believe I opened this page) but I will check it out. Thanks so much for the link!

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Well, perhaps the scale is off because I'm making this loaf again and the dough is TOTALLY different in consistency.  I am even wondering if I mixed the wheat and white flours.  It is so much less sticky, though the color is similar.  It's crazy.  We'll see how it turns out.  On the other hand the levain is much older and it's got lots more bounce.  Thanks again.

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Wow, thank you, Dan.  I will make these loaves, which I proofed overnight in the fridge, and which feel to me like I have mixed up the whole wheat flour with the white, and which are now proofing at room temperature, and see how they turn out, and then try your suggestion with the next loaves.  I would like to keep using my T1150 not least because I have 20 kilos of it from a local mill bought wholesale, so the adaptation is much appreciated.

Edited to add: Apparently I used 100% whole wheat for these loaves.  The bread looks like the 100% rye bread.  The crumb is chewy but certainly not what I'd get with white flour.  On the other hand, I never get the floury crust like Dan has in his photos.  The flour disappears when I spray the loaves.

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Well... that didn't work.  I would photograph what I have in the oven but frankly, it's not worth it.  It will be edible and tasty but it is a flatbread.  Quite simply does.  Not.  Rise.  It only expands.  The last step, in which I must move the risen dough from the towels to the baking sheets, is not helping one little bit and I think I will try this recipe one more time rising on the sheets themselves, with even less water.  It is such a disappointment but it really must be the flour as I even bought a new scale.

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Okay.  So, we are slowly working our way up to an open crumb.  The last loaf was perfectly shaped, rose by half and then more in the oven, had a much more dense crumb than the Mill Ciabatta (if there were a breadwrecks site like cakewrecks, I'd totally submit a picture).  On the other but, it was nice and chewy, the flavor was good and the crust was crunchy (almost too thick, but that will improve with the proportions).  That was with 500 g water and 250 g leaven.  Now I'm up to 300 g leaven but it still feels too dry--it stopped sticking to my fingers after the first rest.  Perhaps my levain is thickening up over time as the original levain gets refreshed at 80:100 hydration each time (since we are still only 3 wks old with this levain, and the original was more hydrated), so that is affecting it?  I'm thinking that 400 g leaven will probably be what I need but it's too late for that at this point.  Thanks again for all the help.

Forgot to add that I took an hour off the final rise to prevent over-rising however that may have proved unnecessary.  This time will rise for 4 hrs.

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Great, I will do that with the temperature.  I think we are already there, at least until I start pre-heating my furnace, er, oven.

Actually, I have achieved a fairly respectable crumb with this flour.  I even managed an open crumb with this recipe--I would say up to 1/2 inch holes in places, with an average of about 1/4 inch.  Nothing amazing but similar enough to the picture in the book.  But the bread is always pretty flat, making sandwich time with a pre-schooler fun.  I will try the higher heat.

For some reason, when I use Hamelman's pre-ferments, I find it a LOT easier to get an open crumb and good rises.  It is probably just the unique qualities of this flour, though odd because your recipes seem better attuned to the home-baker's oven.  My oven doesn't even have a top coil (I know, I know! It was MADE that way!).

Yesterday I did the white loaf but substituted 1/2 whole-wheat flour on a whim.  It actually worked and would have been a lovely loaf, still a little flat but not ridiculously so, were it not for the fact that I was putting the kids to bed when it was done and I nearly burned it.  I put it in a cloth right away to soften the crust but it will still be too hard.

Thanks again.