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Pain au Levain: Sourdough Bread

In September I took on the task of making my own sourdough starter, and ever since I've been obsessed with the act of making bread. Something about the process has been rather meditative. Plus, there's something about the smell and taste of fresh baked bread that just doesn't compare to store-bought. Here are a few things to know as you get started:

  • Be sure to use your eyes. If it has been the allotted rising time, but the dough hasn't risen, let it sit longer.
  • Invest in a kitchen scale. Flours change in moisture levels as they sit on shelves, which can mess with their cup measurement. A scale will provide more accurate measurements.
  • Practice makes perfect. Starters die, dough doesn't always rise, the crust is too hard or not crusty enough. Don't let mishaps get you down. Bread baking is an art, and with time you'll get better at the crafting of it.

Pain au Levain adapted from Makanai

¾ cup (210 g) sourdough starter (80% hydration)

1 ¾ cups (420 ml) water

3 1/3 cups (500 g) whole wheat bread/pastry flour

1 ¼ cups (130 g) rye flour

2 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt

 

Mix together the sourdough starter, water and flours in a glass mixing bowl. Let it stand covered at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Using a stand mixer or by hand, add salt and mix until dough starts to become smooth and uniform in texture. Fold the dough four times and let rest. Repeat this folding and resting every 15 minutes for one hour.

Place the dough in a bread bowl or mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise one hour in a warm place. Push the dough down in the center, remove dough and fold four sides into the center. Turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. Form into one or two loaves, either oval or round. You could also divide dough between bread pans, if desired, filling 2/3 full. Place on dough baking sheet or on paddle. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until dough is doubled.

Preheat the oven to 435º F. Slash the dough lengthwise just off center and dust with a bit of flour. Place dough in oven on baking stone with a pie plate filled with ¾ cup of water just beneath it. Closing immediately. Bake for 45 minutes. Dough should be 200º F when finished cooking. Allow to cool before eating.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson


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