My favourite pain au levain
It's a rainy Sunday afternoon where I am - good time to tap out a post. Besides, it's 10-10-10...gotta commemorate that somehow!
Like many here, I suspect, I love trying new breads, and have a never-diminishing must-bake list of breads I want to try - never-diminishing because no matter how many I try, I keep adding more! Thanks to Shiao-Ping's current posting hiatus, I've managed to get through most of hers now (any newcomers looking for a great source of new breads, put her name in the search window and just take your pick from any of her amazing bakes). But then along comes TXFarmer!!! Sigh...
Much as I enjoy trying new breads, I have identified 5 or 6 of the 50 or so different breads I've baked in the last couple of years that I keep coming back to as my favourites. These now comprise my core repertoire, all 100% SDs: pain de campagne (my version), Gerard Rubaud's formula (thanks to Shiao-Ping), Norwich Rye (Wild Yeast Susan's adaptation of Hamelman's Vermont SD, which I also tweak in various ways), San Joaquin SD (DM Snyder), and my version of pain au levain.
It's the last that I want to share today, because of all my favourites, if I had to pick a number 1 this would be it. Why?
- the flavour profile - the rye component comes from the starter, which seems to add a different quality of flavour from rye that is added to a dough at mixing stage, and the small amount of wholewheat flour sweetens it up a little, while the white flour component keeps it light
- the hydration level ensures it is a relatively easy dough to work with
- versatile - compatible with both savoury and sweet accompaniments, toasts well
- the crust - nice rustic look when done as a batard (my favourite shape), but not as thick as, say, the San Joaquin, or as thin as my pain de campagne...so Goldilocks would like it!
- the crumb - the combination of bakers' flour and AP flour keeps the structure strong, but open and slightly spongy
This pain au levain developed out of various breads that I tweaked until I ended up with the formula that follows. There's nothing remarkable about the formula: pretty typical SD bread. Actually, if I recall correctly, the formula I initially based this bread on was a camp oven SD bread that someone posted on the Sourdough Companion site. Not sure how much I've ended up deviating from the prototype, but after a lot of experimenting and tweaking, the formula that follows is the one I have found myself returning to again and again. It just seems 'right' to me. Of course, feel free to try your own tweaks. My taste may not equate exactly with yours.
So, to the recipe. Be aware that this is scaled to the weight I prefer. I like to bake batards that my partner and I can finish in 2 days, so I can then move on to another bread, and it is always fresh. If you have a larger household, you might like to scale this up accordingly.
- Ripe starter (100% hydration: 30% whole grain organic rye/70% organic unbleached AP flour): 150gm
- Filtered water: 300gm
- Wholegrain organic flour: 25gm
- Premium organic bakers' flour: 200gm
- Organic unbleached AP flour: 275gm
- Pure sea salt: heaped teaspoon (or 2% if you want a standard measure of salt...I slightly undersalt my doughs)
Note: This recipe assumes an ambient temp of 22C/72F (adjust proofing times up or down, depending on your own ambient temp)
- Mix all ingredients other than salt, autolyse 30-40mins.
- Mix salt into dough
- Bulk proof 3 hours, with 2 stretch-and-folds 30 mins apart initially, then S&F once per hour thereafter
- After BP, preshape and rest 10 mins
- Final Proof: 30 mins (dough covered in plastic), then retard in fridge overnight
- Bake straight out of fridge next day
- Heat oven to 250C/480F with pizza stone or baking tile, and with metal tray in bottom for ice. Bake in lower-middle of oven.
- When 250C has been reached, drop 3 ice cubes into heated tray in bottom of oven just prior to loading slashed dough. Immediately after loading dough, spray surface of loaf and around oven with water, and shut door. Wait 2 minutes and spray again around oven. Shut door and drop oven temp to 225C/435F.
- Bake 15 mins starting from time you loaded dough, then drop oven to 215C/420F
- Bake 12 mins @ 215C, then drop oven temp to 200C/390F
- Bake 14 mins @ 200C, then take bread out of oven and rest for minimum 2 hours on cake rack or similar.
I'll leave you with a couple of pics of a pain au levain I baked this morning.