Pain au Levain – The Journey

Pain au Levain – The Journey

Submitted by NathanO on October 9, 2015 – 7:35am.

I know lot’s of people post their Pain au Levain results, but I thought I’d share mine anyway and hopefully encourage some people to give it a go!

I’ve been baking for some time now, but I’ve been shying away from a straight 100% Sourdough recipes. The main reason was because I lacked the proper knowledge in maintaining a Sourdough Culture. I knew the basics of feeding, but lacked the understanding of when it was properly ripened for use. For example, most bread books ask for a “mature” or “ripe” sourdough, but don’t tell you what that looks like or how long it takes because feeding ratios are very diverse and a starter may be over active or under-active depending on a wide variety of factors.

However, thanks to this forum, I read extensively many different opinions and recipes and finally seemed to gain the knowledge and confidence I needed to bake this recipe (Hammelman’s Pain au Levain with a Rye SD starter).

My first attempt was half-decent, but lacked bloom and rise. I believe the main reason was that my starter hadn’t ripened enough and my shaping wasn’t tight enough. I’ve now come to see that creating good surface tension is critical in final shaping and even pre-shaping to an extent.

My second attempt was much better. I let my Rye starter mature until it had about doubled in size and had lots of tiny bubbles throughout, and larger bubbles on the surface (~ 12 hours). I then mixed my levain build. I left it for around 10 hours making sure I watched it until it was matured (Large bubbles + domed on the edges).

I then mixed my flour and water and left for a 45 min autolyse.

Thereafter, I mixed my final dough and did 2 S&F’s at 50 minute intervals and let rest for a further 50 minutes. I ignored hammelmans advice and put the dough in the fridge overnight. In the morning I let my dough come to room temperature, and then divided and preshaped into rounds with a fairly tight pre-shape. After 30 mins I shaped the rounds into tight batards and let them proof on the linen couche. After about 2 hours, my poke test seemed good and I gave them a good 30 deg angle slash down the center with my razor blade. I then loaded them into the pre-heated oven. I poured in a cup of boiling water into a bottom tray for steam and gave a few squirts of vapour over the top of the loaves. Baked for about 35 minutes.

Overall, I was pretty chuffed with the outcome. Great ears, great color, and good flavor. Even got a few blisters. I was happy with the crumb, but I’m striving for a more open crumb in the future… Enjoy.

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