Pain Au Levain | What's the secret?
I'm on the verge of throwing in the towel.
After too many attempts to count, I do not seem to be getting any closer to a great loaf of bread. Some have bascially good flavor but do not rise up in the oven into beautiful loaves of bread.
I've tried multiple formulas and it seems that the only remotely acceptable results is when I use a high gluten flour like KA Bread or Wheat Montana Natural White.
That said, my latest attempts have been with Giusto's Artisan Bread flour which I believe is around 11.5.
If I were to follow a recipe that called for 68% water, the dough is entirely too wet—regardless of how many french folds I do. I say regardless, but the most I have done is 4.
I set up a calculator in excel to get the amount of dough I need to fill two bannetons and came up with the following:
Stiff Levain 25.00% 190.4
Water 65.00% 495.1
Flour 100.00% 761.7
Salt 2.00% 15.2
TOTAL % 192.00%
TOTAL DECIMAL 1.92
TOTAL DOUGH 1462.5
25 minute autolyse.
5 minute mixer knead on speed 1
5 minute mixer knead on speed 2.
I added a bit of flour at the end of the knead during the last minute or so because the dough was sticking to the bottom of the mixer bowl.
The above I used with today's dough and had cut the water from 68% to 65% and still ended up with a pretty floppy dough.
I guess my question is: What's the secret? Should I do stretch and folds til the cows come home? Until the dough is stiff and muscular? Should I add more flour—less water? Today I did 1 stretch and fold—but it was about a minute or less of folding and turning folding and turning etc, until is felt like a springy mass
I used wet surface and hands with the stretch and folds.
I know today's batch will not be very good. The dough, even though doubled in the bulk fermentation, was simply droopy, and began to oooze off my work surface. I'm thinking that when the dough is dumped out is should more or less hold it's form in the shap of a big mound. My dough starts out as a mound and then oozes into a large flat shape. I would essentially say that it has no gluten at all.