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Friday, April 2, 2010

Everyday Breads: Boule and Olive Levain





Here are the breads I make regularly.   All of them are based on sourdough starter, which I keep on the kitchen counter at all times.  Following a basic two-step approach of levain build and final build, it's easy to create boules, levains and whole wheat bread, fresh from the oven. 

 

Don't worry about exact hydration, and measurements down to the gram.  I've been making bread for a long time, and in my opinion, unless you're opening a bakery, it's better to relax and enjoy the process.  Be observant.  If your bread is too dense, let it rise longer next time.  If it won't hold its shape, put in a little more flour next time.  Take notes.

Equipment:
For boules, I use reed banettons, which are coiled baskets for proofing bread; these produce the distinctive circular pattern on the bread surface, and help promote a good crust.  I also have a large, transparent plastic bowl for mixing dough.  This bowl is somewhat squared off, which makes it easy to scrape down with a plastic dough scraper. 

Also have on hand:  
A baker's couche, or piece of heavy linen
A pizza stone or other thick ceramic baking stone
A large metal peel, putting the bread onto the baking stone. 
Parchment paper, which you can put on the peel to ensure the bread won't stick.
Plastic and metal dough scrapers
Silicone pastry brush for applying toppings if necessary
Lame, for slashing






Here's a better picture of the lame, which is just a steel strip which holds a double-edged razor blade.



It's not that much stuff.  And, it's a one-time investment.  You can make the same bread without any of these things, but it will be a little more difficult.  Perhaps try before you buy?

You will of course need sourdough starter, which should be bubbly and active from regular feedings:




If your starter doesn't look like this, feed it more often.  I like to feed twice a day, half a cup morning and night.  Sounds like I'm talking about my dogs, when I leave them at the kennel.  Don't give the sourdough a toy.


Boule

To keep this simple, which it should be, I am going to explain this in terms of a ratio of Parts, with the Starter being the basis.
Then you can use different size proofing baskets, to make different size boules.
The dough temperature should be in the mid-70s (F).

In Preparation:
Make the Levain:
Mix equal volumes starter and flour (2 cups each for an average batch).  If this is too dry to mix, add a bit of water.  It should be quite firm.  Place in covered bowl.  Leave this for about 4 to 6 hours before use.

Boule ingredients (by weight):
1 part active Levain
2.5 parts water
4 parts flour
1/10 part salt (or 1.8% of the final weight of all - careful with the salt amount)

1.  Mix the flour and water together briefly (the autolyze) and leave for 30 minutes.

2.  Add the levain and salt, mix in machine with dough hook until moderately developed.  The dough should be supple but sturdy.  Do not overmix, which will damage the dough.  Test the dough with the windowpane test.

3. Let rise at 76 - 78F for 2.5 hours.  During this period, fold twice at 45-minute intervals.
Folding means to take the dough out of the bowl, onto a lightly floured counter, stretch it to one side, fold toward the center.  Then stretch the other side and fold it toward the center, Do the same with the top and bottom sides.  Put it back into the bowl.

4.  Divide the dough into desired sizes (4 lb for a large miche, 1.5 lbs for a smaller boule) and pre-shape into a ball.  Wait 30 minutes, then give the final shaping.

5. Place in heavily-floured proofing basket or floured linen-lined bowl for 2 - 2.5 hours.  Turn on the oven an hour before you are ready to bake, so that the stone has time to get hot.

6. Invert the basket onto a floured peel.  Slash the top of the loaf if you desire, with the lame.

7.  Bake 45 minutes at 460F with steam at the start (throw in a half cup water right after loading the oven).

Here are some slashing patterns you might try:


Overall Analysis:
Flour  100%
Water 68%
Salt  1.8%


Variations:
Replace 15 to 60% of the flour with whole wheat, to make a miche.
You can add Kalamata pitted olives to make olive levain:



Additional Reading:   To know more about these techniques, read The Taste of Bread, by Raymond Calvel, and Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman



4 comments:

  1. Hi Sue, this is a great posting. So much better than much of what I've found before. My starter has started to form a bit of a "skin" on top over the last couple of days? Do you know why this is? Is it not active enough? Should I be feeding it more? Or is it to dense and do I need to add a little water?

    your help is very much appreciated! I've also added you to my new and quite small following list! I hope that's ok.
    Katie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Kate! Read my post on starter http://www.knowwhey.com/2011/01/making-sourdough-starter.html . Is this a new starter or an established one? It's important to feed it twice daily, cover it, keep it on the kitchen counter (not refrigerated), and maintain the right consistency (equal weights flour and water). If you do these things, it's pretty much foolproof in my experience! Regards, Sue

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Sue, I have the starter ready to use. This will be my first time baking with a starter. Your recipe call for

    Boule ingredients (by weight):
    1 part active Levain
    2.5 parts water
    4 parts flour
    1/10 part sal

    Can you please translate these ingredients to grams for me?

    Thanks! Tina

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Sue, I have the starter ready to use. This will be my first time baking with a starter. Your recipe call for

    Boule ingredients (by weight):
    1 part active Levain
    2.5 parts water
    4 parts flour
    1/10 part sal

    Can you please translate these ingredients to grams for me?

    Thanks! Tina

    ReplyDelete

Your feedback matters! So please leave a comment. I will do my best to answer all comments! Cheers, Sue