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.
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.
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... ).
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.
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.
|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. =)
- Food grade buckets with the measurements on the outside.
- Large rubberband or tape to mark where the dough started.
- A kitchen scale. Essential.
- 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.
- Bannetons or proofing baskets that are about 9 inches across.
- Parchment paper.
So let's do this!
Pure Levain Country Bread
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Evenly sprinkle the salt over the dough. Place your bucket on your scale and add the levain.
- 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.
- Fold three more times, every 20 minutes. Fold one more time prior to going to bed and cover with plastic wrap.
- The dough should nearly triple in size by 12 to 15 hours later.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shape the dough into boules, creating a taut skin over the top. Place the shaped dough into each basket, seam side down.
- Spray the top of the dough with spray oil, and cover with plastic wrap.
- 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."
- About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with two empty covered Dutch ovens placed on the middle rack.
- When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Visit them often to admire while they are cooling.
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