The Fresh Loaf

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Help Interpreting Calvel's Taste of Bread Recipes

radiomike's picture
radiomike

Help Interpreting Calvel's Taste of Bread Recipes

Hey y'all,


 


I just joined but i have been lurking here for ideas since i started baking regularly a little over two months ago with my own home grown levain.  My question is this.  I have a few books and I have been experimenting with a few recipes attempting to convert them roughly to take a levain rather than store-bought yeast.  The latest attempt was with The Taste Of Bread.  I poured over it for several hours last night to convert it to a two loaf recipe, the Pain de Campagne, and I think i did an ok job until I got down to a few ingredients including the percentage of yeast in one column and the percentage of yeast in another column.  Granted, I am converting to levain, but still, I am very uncertain if the ingredients in the dough column are cumulative with the preferment column or in addition to.  So I faked it as best i could which is what i have been doing with most recipes since I don't have a mixer and have been using my digits for all of these recipes. 


Anyone out there understand how to "read" his recipes?


 


All help will be greatly appreciated.  And, though, I have dug and dug and have a ballpark idea of how much levain to use depending on the recipe, I am still learning and experimenting which seems to be the most fun, but if anyone has any insight to how much levain is needed depending on the type of recipe, time of year, elevation, etc, I would greatly appreciate that as well. 


 


Thanks again,


Mike

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Mike, pre-ferments are known by a number of different names and one baker's levain is another bakers poolish or sponge.  I will assume that, by the term "levain", you are describing a wet pre-ferment to which some small amount of yeast has been introduced.


At the outset, allow me to admit that I have not read "The Taste Of Bread"; nor do I have it in my library.  However, I have made Pain de Champagne using this method.


Once the pre-ferment (sponge/levain) has matured for a period of several days (I create a Pate Fermentee prepared using bread flour, salt, about 1/2% instant yeast and 65% +/_ of water) I assemble the final dough using 150 - 170% of the pre-ferment, 2% salt 1 1/4 - 1 1/2% instant yeast and 63 - 64% water.  The variables depend on prevailing temperatures, humidity and the "feel" of the dough.  Because the environmental variables are always, well, "variable", I probably never make the dough precisely the same.


The pre-ferment is a part of the final structure, to be sure, but it's role is more about flavor than anything else.  Don't know if any of that helps you but I hope some portion of it proves useful.

radiomike's picture
radiomike

I had the Breadbaker's apprentice at one point, but I dumped it at the local bookstore.  It's got lots of pretty pictures, but his ideas about his version of poolish and biga and levain et al and his overly complicated recipe for any and all of the above and his insistence on store-bought yeast, turned me off and the discussions I saw online.  so after all of that, I managed to leard some of the differences of each and that depending on the country no difference. 


How 150 to 170% of the preferment?  What puzzles me is there is the same exact amount of preferment exists in the preferment column and in the final dough column.  If each column requires a different addition and not a sum total of the parts, that means there is 200% preferment required and that doesn't make any logical sense, for instance, if I break the recipe down to 1000 grams, the total weight of flour and water in the preferment clocks in at 800 plus grams.  It seems illogical to double that to add *both* to the final dough.


 


You have helped a little and I thank you for your generosity, but i am still confused.  My take on the percentage of leavain et al depends on the weather and temperature.  I am just going to have to learn this and I am.  I am just impatient sometimes. 


 


Thanks, Mike

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I've had a look at what I hope is a relevant page of this book thanks to Amazon (I wish I had the dollars for my own copy).


There are three main columns of numbers, headed "Weight" (its percentages may be offset into what at first looks like another semi-separate column), "Preferment Dough", and "Final Dough" (i.e. the non-preferment dough). The "Weight" column tells you how much in total of each ingredient you'll need; for home bakers it might more meaningfully be titled "Overall".


The numbers in the "Preferment" column and the "Final" column add up to the numbers in the "Weight" column. They're separate; neither column includes the other.


If you want to know how much overall ingredient you need to have on hand, or how much the hydration level will be when you're all done, look in the "Weight" column. If you want to know how much of an ingredient to add to a particular dough at a particular step, look in either the "Preferment" or "Final" column. You shouldn't need to do any math (other than scaling the size of the recipe up or down) no matter what . (It may help interpret things to think of the author measuring and mixing in a bakery - if you find you need to imagine Professor Calvel working a calculator with sticky hands, back up:-)


 

radiomike's picture
radiomike

Thank you.  The overall weight doesn't include the preferment or the total dough weight.  Those are carried over into the other columns.  However, the prefermented dough indicates a total weight of 17.25 kg.  That same number exists in the prefermented rdough row in the dough column right above the total dough weight.  This is why I think it's just a carryover from one column to another and not an addition.  But here is where i complicate things.  I have attempted to "convert" the recipe to no store-bought yeast and preferment/levain et al.  There is yeast listed in the preferment column and there is additonal yeast listed in the total dough column and figuring lout a conversion of any sort for that, almost made my brain haywire. 


Other than that, it is a matter of by guess and by golly with the prep times below, because i am still insisting on being as pure as possible doing this by hand and not machine.  Plus, I discovered that I like getting my hands gooey as needed. That may be a residual little boy thing. But i like it.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I find it helps me to think of the numbers as what I need in approximately the order I need them when I'm actually in the kitchen.


When I'm mixing up the preferment, I need to look at only the numbers in the preferment column. Then later when I'm mixing up the final dough, I need to look at only the numbers in the dough column.


The weight of the preferment appearing a second time in the dough column means "mix all of the preferment into the final dough now". (If you made just one preferment for two batches of dough, the number in the dough column might be "half" number in the preferment column, rather than what appears to be a simple carryover.)


The "yeast" number in the preferment column is how much yeast to measure into the preferment, while the "yeast" number in the dough column is how much yeast to measure into the final dough. The ingredient numbers (but obviously not the Total Weight number) in the dough column are the actual amounts to measure out; they are not pre-adjusted in any way to account for ingredients in the preferment.


(BTW, this is standard practice in virtually all bread recipe books I've ever seen, it's not just something specific to Calvel's book.)


(My understanding is levain is so different that it often changes not just the recipe but the whole procedure. I believe somebody expressed a similar sentiment here in a post titled "Sourdough isn't a drop-in". So I'm very interested in hearing and seeing your results.)

radiomike's picture
radiomike

Been a little busy around here and haven't had a chance to reply.  That makes perfect sense once i wrap my head around it and I also wrapped my head around another way to interpret the formula for a preferment et al.  i also need to read the Taste of Bread all the way through like a good student.  I will also start posting photos so I can get some critiques on all of this outside of the isolation of my own eyes.


Thanks again to both of you.


 


Mike