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Unusual Technique in Brod & Taylor Country Sourdough

louiscohen's picture

Unusual Technique in Brod & Taylor Country Sourdough

I got the Brod & Taylor proofer, which so far seems to work well.  No more checking temps and flipping the over light on and off, or opening and closing the oven door.

 There is an usual technique in the Country Sourdough recipe that comes with the machine B & T Proofer Instructions/Recipes.  After mixing the levain and letting it ferment for ~12 hrs, they say to mix the flours and water for the final dough and then:

Make a well in the dough and add all the sourdough leaven from above. Without mixing the leaven into the dough, draw the sides of the dough up and over the top of the leaven to encase it. Let sit for about 30 minutes in the Proofer. 

I don't think I've ever seen this before.  Usually the instruction is either mix everything, or mix the flour and water, autolyse, and then add the levain (and usually the salt).  

Why bury the levain inside the final dough without mixing?


StevenSensei's picture

That does seem quite unusual. By not fully incorporating the starter with the dough you are actually minimizing the amount of food that comes in contact with the yeast and bacteria. Also only doing this for 30 min and then mixing it all together after?


Appears to go against all prevailing wisdom...but for what reason I have not a clue. Maybe the thought is that the leaven at 100% hydration will slowly leech into the dough at 75% hydration to equalize over 30 min and then it will be easier to mix after the 30 min rest?

mariana's picture

They make a portion of a very stiff mature levain (60% hydration, whole grain blend) then they mix very soft bread dough w/o salt (73%hydration) and let it autolyse with the levain inside it. Then they sprinkle salt on the surface of the dough and begin kneading.

This way the stiff levain is relaxed, moistened by the Iiquid from the soft bread dough, layered inside the bread dough and has no direct contact with salt during kneading.

This method is taught to young French bakers in school. It is normal for their pain au levain. When prof. Calvel came to the US to show Americans how to bake French bread, he showed them exactly this method: make a  batch of fresly mixed dough, place a piece of stiff levain inside it, then knead.

louiscohen's picture

Thanks for the explanation.  A quick scan of various formulas in "Bread" and in the CIA baking text show that they don't do this.  In the CIA book, it's always the final dough flour, water, and the levain, hold the salt until after mixing and a 15 minute rest.  Hamelman uses one of 3 methods:

  • final dough flour and water, autolyse, then add levain and salt
  • final dough flour, water, and levain, incorporate and autolyse; salt afterwards
  • mix the whole final dough and go right to bulk fermentation

There must be a pattern, but I haven't figured it out.   

I am sure you are right that the Calvel method starts hydrating the levain and keeps the salt away until the final mixing.  

I sent the same question to B & T; if they answer, I'll post their response.

mariana's picture

It is up to you which method to use. For hand mixing stiff starter with soft bread dough there is one method, whereas for mixing in a professional mixer (CIA, Hamelman) - a variety of other methods.

The first method that you listed is the one that B&T use. They incorporate (evenly distribute) the levain and the salt after autolysis. Although the second one is close to it as well, the levain is inside the dough, incorporated, but not evenly mixed right away.

I simply indicated that it is not unusual but very common because I learned it myself very early on from the BBGA training videos (The Bread Bakers Guild of America).

Softening the levain is B&T's trick, it is helpful when you hand mix, and adding the salt after autolysis is common as well.

louiscohen's picture

I don't know if you get notifications of other comments in the thread, but here is what B & T said:

 As far as that particular step goes, it's not really necessary. The recipe author uses that method to help ensure that the levain and dough temps are the same before mixing the two

If there is an autolyse, the salt always goes in later so that it does not affect the gluten network (the main reason for doing the autolyse).  Even without an autolyse, it's not unusual for formulas (especially sourdough but I might have seen it for yeasted bread as well) to recommend leaving out the salt until the end of mixing to give the gluten more chance to form 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Regarding the unusual technique, my favorite New York baker Ms. Rose Levy Beranbaum, uses a similar process in her formula for N.Y. Deli rye bread. 

louiscohen's picture

Here is what Brod & Taylor say about wrapping the levain inside the main dough during the autolyse:

 As far as that particular step goes, it's not really necessary. The recipe author uses that method to help ensure that the levain and dough temps are the same before mixing the two.