Levain with 2 starters redux
Just baked my "regular" sourdough yesterday and decided it truly is the best bread ever. It's Hamelman's 'Levain with 2 starters,"on pp. 162, 163 of Bread. It makes keeping that second, rye starter worth every minute it takes (not very many at that). We just cut into it last night after it had cooled about 3 hours, and hubby and I (just two bread-loving retired folks) went through at least a third of a loaf that weighed 2 pounds! I shaped it as a chubby batard. I didn't photograph the second loaf (which was a little under 1 1/2 lbs., more of a baguette-like shape but a little chunkier) because it went into the freezer right after it cooled. I slashed both loaves with a single center cut.
I hesitate to reproduce the recipe because of copyright restrictions. (If anyone has knowledge of getting around that, let me know and I'll see if I can comply.) I pretty much bake it as Hamelman directs (there are no errata listed for this recipe). My only tweak is the sprinkling of seeds on top, which I often do. I combine sunflower, sesame (black and white), fennel, flax and poppy, along with freshly ground sea salt (not too much), which I keep in a small plastic container in the fridge. I use that as a bagel topping as well.
This is our regular table bread, and I often retard it overnight (up to 18 hours at 42 deg. F., Hamelman advises), which makes it a 3-day affair, with the starters being mixed the night before mixing the dough. We had visiting relatives from Israel in October who said this is the best bread they ever ate (my sentiments exactly)! This time I felt like baking it the same day as mixing, and it was at its best! So delicious! I think it may be because the flour was very fresh (K.A. bread flour and B.R.M. whole rye, both just opened yesterday). My autolyse time was short (15 minute), as I had a dr. appt. in the middle of it all. I did two S & F's (somewhat sticky dough, manageable with wet dough scraper and wet hands), and I baked it on a stone (preheated in 500 deg. oven 45 minutes before loading) with the usual steam (pan of steaming hot water beneath and spritzing 4 or 5 times the first 10 minutes). After 15 minutes, I turned the oven to convection (my K/A electric oven automatically converts Hamelman's 460 F. to 435 F.) after removing the steaming pan--carefully. I actually lowered the oven 10 degrees for the final 10 minutes, as it sometimes gets a little too dark. Total baking time is 40-45 minutes. So, if you have Hamelman's book (or a copy from the library) and if you're willing to whip up two starters (he has directions in the book for both white and rye starters), it's worth it! The flavor is unbelievably delicious, and it keeps in a paper bread bag for the better part of a week (I bought 500 of them from a local supplier recommended by a local bakery) and then makes great croutons. I'm saving the second loaf for a dinner party hosted by a member of my book group (an amazing cook and former caterer).