Bread. Bacon. Sourdough. This Pain au Bacon has been calling my name ever since I made this Pure Levain Country Bread from Ken Forkish's amazing book Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.
How do you feel about a half of a pound of bacon (prior to frying) in a loaf of sourdough bread?
Yeah, me too. I had to try making this bread.
One of the techniques used in making this bread is baking the loaves with the "seam" side up instead of down. Rather than slashing the dough to allow for expansion, the bread is allowed to "burst open" in the oven. It's always a mystery until I remove the top of the Dutch oven in which it is baking.
Once you have a mature, active levain, this bread takes a couple of days to make, mostly inactive time. The basic steps are:
- Feed the levain in the morning and let it sit.
- Cook the bacon, crumble it, and try not to eat it. Seriously. Leave it alone.
- In the evening, mix the dough and then do three "stretch and folds" over a couple of hours.
- Go to bed.
- Get up the next morning.
- Shape the loaves.
- Bake the loaves about 3 to 5 hours later.
- Eat bacon bread.
This recipe mentions "stretch and fold" a few times. How do you do this, you ask? You take the dough from all four "sides," and stretch it up and over the middle of the dough, one "side" at a time. It's an amazing method for developing gluten in wet dough.
Imagine a slice of the bread toasted, buttered, and topped with a fried egg. What about using this bread for a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich? How about spreading it with avocado, adding tomato, turkey, and sprouts...? It's practically health food. You could also use this to make a "reconstructed" club sandwich.
What would you make with this bread?
Pain au Bacon Recipe
100 g mature active levain/sourdough starter
400 g unbleached all purpose flour
100 g whole wheat flour
400 g lukewarm water
864 g unbleached all purpose flour
16 g whole wheat flour
686 g water at about 90 degrees F
20 g fine sea salt
1 pound of bacon, cooked to crispy, and then crumbled**
2 T reserved bacon drippings
216 g of the levain
**(note: regular bacon reduces down to about 6 ounces, so if you use a low fat or turkey bacon, weight the bacon after cooking to add 6 ounces to the dough)
- Mix the levain ingredients in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 10 hours, until bubbly.
- In a large bowl or dough rising bucket, mix the flours and water by hand until just incorporated. Cover and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
- Add the salt and he levain. If your kitchen is a cold, a bit more levain might be helpful.
- Using a wet hand, mix the dough by alternatively pinching it to distribute the salt, and folding it to begin to develop the gluten. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
- Spread the bacon drippings over the dough and add the crumbled bacon. Using the pincer method alternating with stretching and folding, mix all of the ingredients in the bucket.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- In the next 90 minutes, stretch and fold the dough 3 times, every 30 minutes.
- Cover and let rest for about 10 to 12 hours, until about tripled in volume.
- With wet hands, gently scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half with a dough scraper.
- Gently shape each half into a loose boule.
- Flour two bannetons or bowls with a mixture of wheat and rice flour.
- Shape the dough halves into medium tight boules and place them seam side down into the baskets. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.
- Let the loaves proof for about 3 1/2 to 6 hours, depending on the room temperature. Poke the dough with your finger to about 1/2 inch into the dough. If it grows back slowly, the dough is ready. With this dough, you will get a lot of oven spring, so don't over proof it. You will have a lot of leeway, especially, if it's not too hot in your kitchen.
- 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 15 to 20 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown.
- 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).
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