The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

No competitions for me

alfanso's picture

No competitions for me

SFBI style pain au levain at 80% hydration.

Not my style, and too lazy, I guess.  Earlier this week SteveB posted his magnificent 80% hydration pain au levain, which disappeared all too quickly from the current Bread Browser images.  I'd been making a few different versions, including my take on David Snyder's take on an SFBI pain au levain.

We are leaving for vacation tomorrow and on any flight day involving more than a few hours of travel I'll pack my usual favorite travel sandwich of PB&J.  We ran out of bread, oh the horror, and I was on the cusp of buying a bread when Steve posted his delight.  

I was intrigued by the usage of a drywall blade which he employed, in maintaining a mostly hands off approach while shaping and applying surface tension to the batard.  I had a shorter version of that type of blade in my tool kit, needed comestibles for the flights, and a bit of an urge to give it a go.  

I upped the hydration on the SFBI pain au levain from the formulated 68% to 80%, quite a leap.  And so I employed the drywall blade...

  • Gold Medal Bread Flour
  • my stock 75% mixed flour levain
  • Held back ~40 or so grams of water during the autolyse, then double hydrated when I added the salt.
  • 300 French Folds with a 5m rest between
  • Letter Folds at 40, 80 and 120 minutes.
  • Retarded overnight, shaped at 7 AM, baked at 1 PM
  • Couche rather than a banneton (I was worried about the dough sticking, but this time sprinkled rice flour on the linen rather than nothing or AP flour.  Did not stick.)
  • ~750g x 1 batard
  • 460dF, 15m steam, another 20 m bake, 2m venting

And now - I don't have to go down to the market for a bread!




dabrownman's picture

crumb better not look look a bagel when you slice into it but I'm guessing the J of P&J will fall, even possibly jump, right through the slice onto yoiu lap on the plane - keep that tray table down for sure:-)

Not quite as blistery as those batards retarded after shaping though - but a few still poking through.  Have a great trip- even if a messy one!

Well done and happy baking Alan

alfanso's picture

Ya know, I never thought about the potential mine fields of having a lump of J fall through a mouse hole in the bread and land on my lap.  A better choice would have been something with  "tighter weave".  We shall see, as I'll have sufficient time in the morning to cut into the loaf and look to triage any problem.

It was interesting shaping the batard using that technique rather than my normal shaping process.  A never-ending learning experience.

thanks, alan

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Well done despite being out of your comfort zone. Enjoy your trip!

alfanso's picture

Actually batards are easier than baguettes, and I've been doing them for long enough now where it is a fairy easy chore.  The singular difference is the shaping.  Every other step is the same.


Ru007's picture

PB & J is one of my favorites too!

I'm sure you'll keep busy trying to catch all the J while its falling through what i'm sure will be a wonderfully open crumb :) LOL!! 

Enjoy your vacation! 


Isand66's picture

Great crust on this one!

Hope you are going some place exciting for your vacation.

I've been practicing my baguettes.  Long way to go to come close to you.  Last batch I made a batard as well which I will post soon.  The crumb on the baguettes was perfect but the scoring and color needs some work.  Doesn't help that when I was moving the partially baked goods around in the oven, one of the baguettes fell off the back end of the baking stone since I didn't have it pushed all the way against the wall of the oven.  Fun fun fun ;).

Have a great vacation.


DanAyo's picture

Alan, I’m working to get the hang of 80% hydration. How would you describe the dough when it hit the oven deck to be baked?

Did it look something like this?

alfanso's picture

so hitting my memory banks here. 

I’d say no, that there was more height. As I always use a couche and “never” a banetton,  the sides are supported “better” and I shape them for that football look. 

As I bake straight out of retard, on a baking deck rather than a DO, there is little chance that the batard deflates. 

dmsnyder's picture

Safe travels!


alfanso's picture

Sooner or later I'll likely try a high hydration AP again, but am not in any rush to do so.  It was only because Steve B posted his with his technique using a drywall blade.  As also seen on an SFBI video.  I recall that it was pretty effective, but maybe for me, it's like riding a moped.  Fun to do on a rare occasion, but not a first choice as transportation.

Looking forward to next week's trip back to ABQ where I can introduce my sister-in-law to a few new formulae.  She's a fast learner.


Hope all is safe in your neck of the woods re: the annual burn season.  This year, as with last November's Paradise burn seems particularly nasty.  And that power hasn't been cut off.

DanAyo's picture

I used your oven venting time. Past thermal data indicates that turning an oven down without venting the oven does practically nothing to reduce the temperature over short time. Most bakers reduce the heat by ~50F, hurriedly open the oven, maybe rotate the loaf then continue the bake. The short venting time does little to reduce the temp.

But using your timing of 2 minutes is beneficial according to this recent test. 

  • baked 15 min @ 500F - stone temp 507F
  • reduce heat to 450F and vented oven for 2 minutes - stone temp dropped to 467F

Since my goal lately has been a softer loaf, I would ultimately prefer to keep what little steam may remain and never vent at all, but reducing the temp after the ear and expansion has taken place makes for a thinner crust and more moisture in the bread. For now, your method appears to be my best option.


alfanso's picture

After the loaves have reached fully baked internal temps I usually vent for 2-3 minutes, oven off, door ajar.  This will help to dry out the loaves faster by introducing cooler outside temperatures into the oven while the stone retains full heat.  Some believe that the bottoms of the loaves will burn or turn significantly browner than the remaining loaf, but I've never found that to be true.  At least in my oven.

A way to achieve softer loaves is to find the right % of potato to add to the mix.  Either as potato starch or dried potato flakes (never used either so can't really comment on it further), or to use real potatoes that have been roasted or boiled and then mashed or riced, cooled and then added to the final dough mix.  There may be other dough "softeners" available but this is the only one I have used.

Isand66's picture

Greek Yogurt will also help to soften the dough and you're right potatoes definitely will as well.  I use mashed potatoes with the skins intact which works perfectly.  Also prevents staling quickly.