Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pure Levain Country Bread

Pure levain country bread

While cooking and baking are serious hobbies for me, bread baking has become kind of an obsession. When I bake a bread like this one with success, I get a little over the top giddy. In this case, I kept going back into the kitchen just to admire these loaves. I will not admit to sticking my face into the bread and enjoying its fresh baked aroma with each visit to the kitchen.


Pure levain country bread

The formula for this bread comes from Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.The actual name Ken Forkish gave this bread is Overnight Country Blonde. For some reason, not sure why, that makes me laugh.

Pure levain country bread

I love this book. It sat in my house for several months until I finally decided I better justify having purchased it by trying one of the formulas (Tartine is still taunting me from my bookshelf... ).

Pure levain country bread

When I finally picked up the book, I jumped ahead to chapter 10 to make one of the pure levain loaves. What I love about this book is that Ken provides a timeline for baking that makes it really easy for the home baker to figure out how he/she will bake one of these loaves. The book is also full of photographs demonstrating the mixing and shaping techniques that he uses. I am still enjoying reading his story about how he quit a job he hated and how he got started in the world of bread.

Pure levain country bread

The levain for this bread is 80 percent hydration with a mix of whole wheat and all purpose unbleached white flour. To create the levain/sourdough starter, I took 100 grams of my 100 per cent hydration white flour starter and fed it three times with 400 grams of white flour, 100 grams of whole wheat flour, and 400 grams of water with the final feeding on the morning of the day before baking day. With each new feeding, I started with 100 grams of starter. The book has instructions for creating your own levain if you don't already have a starter.




Pure levain country bread
The dough before shaping.

The dough is mixed completely by hand, mostly in dough rising buckets. Note: the book recommend much larger buckets than the ones I have because the author says it makes it easier to work with the dough.  I need to hit my local restaurant supply place for a couple of new buckets. =)

Equipment recommended:

  1. Food grade buckets with the measurements on the outside. 
  2. Large rubberband or tape to mark where the dough started.
  3. A kitchen scale. Essential.
  4. Dutch ovens for baking the bread. I used this Combo cooker and a 4 quart cast iron Dutch oven and I baked both loaves at the same time. 
  5. Bannetons or proofing baskets that are about 9 inches across. 
  6. Parchment paper.


So let's do this!

Pure levain country bread

Pure Levain Country Bread

Ingredients

804 grams unbleached all purpose flour
26 grams whole wheat flour
50 grams rye flour (I used pumpernickel)
684 grams (by weight) filtered water at 90 to 95 degrees F
22 grams salt
216 to 275 grams active levain (the amount depends on your kitchen's temperature, more if your kitchen is cool. I used the minimum even though my kitchen was fairly cool.)

Instructions

  1. About 8 hours after feeding the levain, and about 12 to 15 hours before baking the loaves, mix the flours in a large round (the author recommends 12 quarts, mine was 8 quarts) food grade bucket. 
  2. Add the water and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Evenly sprinkle the salt over the dough. Place your bucket on your scale and add the levain. 
  4. Mix the dough with your wet hands both by pinching it throughout and folding it. Once the dough is fully mixed, do a stretch and fold inside the bucket, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 20 minutes. 
  5. Fold three more times, every 20 minutes. Fold one more time prior to going to bed and cover with plastic wrap. 
  6. The dough should nearly triple in size by 12 to 15 hours later. 
  7. Generously flour 2 proofing baskets. I used a mix of all purpose and brown rice flour. You can also use a mixing bowl lined with a lint free kitchen towel that has been sprayed with oil and heavily floured. 
  8. With a wet dough scraper or wet hands, loosen the dough from the sides of the bucket and gently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces. 
  9. Shape the dough into boules, creating a taut skin over the top. Place the shaped dough into each basket, seam side down. 
  10. Spray the top of the dough with spray oil, and cover with plastic wrap. 
  11. Allow the loaves to rise about 3 to 4 hours, until they are puffy. How to know if the loaves are ready? Here is Ken Forkish, the author, demonstrating the "finger dent test."
  12. About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with two empty covered Dutch ovens placed on the middle rack. 
  13. When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces. 
  14. Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf. 
  15. Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then uncover it and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown. My loaves were ready sooner, so check early. 
  16. Lift the loaves out of the Dutch ovens with the parchment and let them cool fully on a wire rack (remove the parchment from the bottom of the loaves). 
  17. Visit them often to admire while they are cooling. 
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37 comments:

  1. That bread looks so good! I can wait to try it!

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    1. I almost had to retire after making it =)

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  2. If I baked a loaf that looked this good, I would be giddy too. Wonderful!

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  3. I'm so glad you liked the book, Karen! His story is very inspiring, and the loaf turned out great. Nice and dark crust. I think Ken would be quite proud :-D

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    1. Thank you Tommy! I am ready to tackle the rest of the book.

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  4. This is an absolutely beautiful loaf. Definitely something to be proud of. I like the idea that the recipes are more of formulas. Makes me think there's room for some experimenting with them ;)

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  5. This is a lovely loaf! I've been pondering making my own starter for a loooong time but I've yet to do it! This post is totally inspiring!

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    1. Oh thank you Kari! Once you get a starter going, they are really resilient.

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  6. Your loaf looks fantastic! Makes me greedy, I do need that book ... (Tartine to me was good fun reading, holding, looking at and just HAVING, but haven't tried any recipe yet ...)

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    1. I've been that way with Tartine and then this one too, Claire. Go for it. Give it a try.

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  7. Very nice bread. Your crumb and crust look perfect. Nice photography as well.
    I have his book but have yet to try a recipe. It may be time soon enough.

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    1. Thanks! Kind of my approach to Tartine. Read it but haven't tried it. Somehow, this one called my name.

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  8. There is nothing like a bread baked at home. The holes are perfect in your bread, and the country style look is perfect. I might try this one out.

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  9. This was the fourth bread I made from the book, and my favorite.
    I used a parchment paper sling, too. Did you see Ken Forkish's YouTube video? I was amazed to see how he slaps the banneton on the counter (whereas I gingerly tried to ease the risen loaf out of it), and really drops the bread into the hot DO without any qualms about possible deflating.
    What a wonderful bread!

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    1. This was actually my first and I did watch the videos. I'm like you, I didn't want to lose any air at all! I've watched all of his videos. Of course, because of this book, I am now maintaining another starter!

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  10. Haha, Karen, I can't complain about my husband's condiment collection anymore - I have now 4 starters and an "old dough". The one thing I don't understand is why you are supposed to feed Forkish's starter with large amounts of flour, only to discard most of it. What does it matter whether you keep a small starter that you almost use up or a large, that you mostly throw out. Yeast cells are yeast cells. Do you have an explanation?

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    1. I don't have an explanation. I'm sure there's one but I'm with you. I did not follow his starter instructions as far as making a huge amount and throwing it out and it worked out fine.

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    2. Here is what I copied from the King Arthur site because I've wondered the same thing: Well, it’s necessary for three reasons. First, unless you discard, eventually you’ll end up with The Sourdough That Ate Milwaukee – too much starter. Second, keeping the starter volume the same helps balance the pH. And third, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat.

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    3. definitely about pH, too much old starter will get too acidic and your doughs will start to disolve before they can proof, its all about ratios. it helps maintain the starters health and vigor..

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    4. Hello, just wanted to add my two cents. But first, @Karen, this is a beautiful blog. I haven't read Ken Forkish's book yet, but have plowed through Tartine, BBA, Bread, etc. It's always bewildering to think about how much "waste" one would create by following such feeding instructions. (You can always easily turn excess starter into delicious sourdough pancakes, however!) There was a steep learning curve for me in maintaining my starter, but after three years, I've settled into keeping no more than 1 cup of starter in my fridge, and most of the time it's even less. (The longest period I would keep it unfed is about three weeks.) If you're familiar with baker's percentages, then using 5-10% of old starter to 100% of flour & 100% of water and letting rise for 12-16 hours is plenty sufficient. The less starter you use, the less acidity that is carried over into your levain. So, for example, if I was intending to make a Tartine formula that needed 200 grams of levain, and my starter was on the old side (meaning, I would want to use less of it as a seed), I would mix 10g of starter to 150g of water and 150g of flour. When it has successfully risen, the excess "new" levain becomes my starter, and I can safely throw away my old starter. Point being, I will throw away only a thimble full compared to another method.

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  11. Maybe it's just a guy thing - the thrifty housewife in me hates the idea of all that waste... I usually recalculate the amounts to make just one bread, with no ill effect.

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    1. Exactly. Even King Arthur Flour has you throw out starter. I've had to toss some, but I've been able to create robust starter without tossing too much.

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  12. Beautiful! I usually use the Tartine recipe so when trying this it's amazing to see how much it grows. Like your other commenters, I usually make a small amount of starter to minimize waste--maybe once you have a robust starter it's OK? Though the leftover amount is perfect for making sourdough pancakes or waffles. Nancy Silverton's uses 9 ounces which I think is about what I had leftover--and if not, one can plan to tweak accordingly.

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  13. I usually bake with a 100% hydration starter. How did you figure out to feed your 100 grams of starter with 500 grams of flour and 400 grams water? What I mean is, why did you feed so much at once? I usually build my starter up for baking and do not throw out any starter, but just keep feeding it until I have enough for the recipe, am I doing it wrong?

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    1. Hi Elizabeth. I did it because he uses an 80% starter that also uses whole wheat. My starter is 100% and is all white flour. By using my white starter, I didn't have to start from scratch. Does that make sense? Next time I think I will not throw so much away, but this was my first time making his bread. You are not doing anything wrong. Usually I don't have to throw any away either.

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    2. I probably should read up on feeding a sourdough starter. I've been making bread for years, but am not accurate in the way I feed. I just take my jar of starter out of the fridge and start feeding it every day, equal amounts, by weight of flour and water. If I've fed my starter 100 grams, then I feed it 200 grams or so at the next feeding until I have enough for my recipe. I understand that for an 80% hydration, I should feed at a 5:4 ratio, but I guess I'm not sure why you feed your 100 gram starter with 500 g flour and 400 gram water to start off?
      I haven't made bread in my dutch oven recently as I tend to get a very dark bottom crust, but am craving a good crispy crust loaf and can't wait to try this recipe and the Nine Hour Crusty White recipe, Thanks!

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    3. If you have been doing sourdoughs for years, I'm sure you know more than I do =) Regarding the Dutch oven, I move it to a baking sheet right when I remove the lid. Prevents that burnt bottom! Hope you enjoy the book!

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    4. Thank you for the tip on moving it to a baking sheet, I will try it! Is it a cold baking sheet or one that has been in the oven?

      Lately I've swtiched to baking on a stone, spraying and using a stainless bowl over the loaf. I've been getting some good breads, that store well, but they don't have the super crispy crust. A trade-off because I find the crispy crust breads don't keep as well for me. I also live at 6000 ft, which is sometimes challenging for baking.

      Which brotform do you like better, the orange or natural colored one? I haven't gotten around to buying a brotform and have just been using well seasoned cotton towels and colanders.

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    5. The baking sheet was cold. I've used the stone with an upside down bowl method too with great results, but the cast iron is screaming hot, which I think helps with oven spring. 6000 feet sounds like such a challenge!

      I like both brotforms, but the orange ones are washable, and I can put them in the dishwasher, which is always nice. The natural ones produce a much prettier pattern though.

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  14. I just ordered the book, looking forward to learning and baking more soon!

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  15. This bread was delicious, chewy and good sour taste. I finally got some proofing baskets and am making this recips again now. Did your loaf turn out sour? How does the taste of this loaf compare to the one you just made with spelt flour?

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    1. I'm so glad you liked it. Compared to the spelt, the crumb is a little more like what you'd expect of an artisan bread, while the spelt bread was softer. This bread was mildly sour, not like the sourdough you buy in a store. More of an aroma than a strong taste.

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  16. Lovely crumb!! I would love to know how warm/cool your kitchen is as I've tried this method before but my loaves were badly over proofed..
    Thanks.
    Dina

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    1. I would say my kitchen is cool but not cold. If it were warmer, the times would be shorter.

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