Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mon pain a moi

The bread baking has been continuing here. I've been really excited about the pain au levain, which I've played with a little bit to make it my own. It's a very dense loaf, maybe because my starter is not quite mature enough, but it has a crispy, hard, caramelized crust that I love and a chewy interior.

Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini has a great recipe that I have mostly followed, but changed a few things.
I have just slightly adapted this method.

Rustic Pain au Levain

The night before you want to bake:
Feed your starter, scoop out 1/2 cup starter and put in a clean glass bowl, stir in 1/2 cup plain flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Remember to stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and let sit overnight.
If you don't have a starter, have a look at Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. There are fairly clear instructions on starting your own from scratch.

The next morning:
In a stand mixer with the paddle or dough hook, mix together:
600g flour (I use 300g whole wheat, 100g rye, 100g spelt and 100g white, all organic)
400g pure water
200g starter
1 Tbsp gluten flour

Mix until a rough dough is formed. This dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Add 2 tsp sea salt and allow the mixer to mix the salt in. Then transfer the dough to a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is less sticky. This might take about 10 minutes. Put dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm, draft free area and allow to rise. After about an hour, fold the dough over, cover it up and allow it to continue it's slow rise. The bread should just about double in size after about 8 hours.

Oil and flour a cast iron or glass pot with a lid that is safe for the oven. Place the dough in the pot, make a few slits in the top and sprinkle with flour. Put the lid on and place the pot in the oven. Turn the oven on to 450F and set the timer for 1 hour. At that point, take the bread out and check it. Mine is usually not baked yet, so I uncover it and place it back in the oven for at least 15 and up to 25 minutes. If you stick a knife in the middle of the loaf it should come out pretty clean. This extra, uncovered time in the oven will allow for deeper caramelization of the crust. When the bread is baked, take out of the oven and carefully (don't burn yourself!) remove from the pot onto a wire rack. You really should wait for this bread to be cool before you cut into it, otherwise the middle can be gummy.

Enjoy and revel in the fact that you made a loaf of bread that is so rustic and beautiful! It is amazing what flour, water and salt can make when we treat them right.

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