Hot and crusty from the oven: homemade levain
My recent success in bread-baking has me churning out multiple loaves a week now, more bread than my husband and I can eat before the crisp crust begins to languish, and the crumb starts to dry out. (Still, day-old bread is perfectly lovely for toast, or savory bread puddings–more on that soon!)
Today I forayed into the world of levain, with a recipe that calls for a minimal number of ingredients. The most important ingredient is a sourdough starter, biga, or poolish. True levain is often made without the assistance of commercial yeast, though I must confess I did use a little yeast just to ensure proper rising. You can leave out the yeast if you’d like. I did not use any sugar in this recipe, though I’ve seen a number of recipes that include sugar for flavor.
this mildly sour levain is perfect for sandwiches
This levain is the perfect, all-purpose loaf for sandwiches or grilled cheese. All you need now is a bowl of tomato soup!
yields 1 large loaf1 cup starter (see above link for recipe, or use your favorite) 3/4 cups water 1 tsp fresh yeast 1 tsp sugar (optional) 2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil for greasing the bowlIn a large mixing bowl, stir together the starter, water, yeast, sugar (if using), and bread flour. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat the dough for 7-8 minutes until elastic. Beat in the salt. At this point, the dough should clear the sides and bottom of the bowl, and climb up the hook. It should not be too sticky when you press it with your finger, and should pass the windowpane test when stretched.
Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly oiled with 1 tbsp olive oil. Rub the olive oil over the entire surface. Cover the bowl with a towel, and allow it to proof until doubled. (This will take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on how warm your house is.)
When your dough has doubled, punch it down. Lift the dough, and stretch lightly with your fingers–you can hold it up on one side in the air and just let gravity stretch the dough for you. Fold the dough in half. Flatten and shape the dough into a rough rectangular shape, then roll it up like a cinnamon roll. Tuck the ends of the dough neatly underneath and use your fingers to pinch the seam close. Your dough should now resemble a fat baguette.
Generously flour a baking sheet with 1/4 cup of flour. Transfer the log of dough on top of the flour, then sprinkle some of the flour over the entire surface of the dough.
Cover with a towel, and allow the dough to rise for 2-3 hours. At this point, the dough should be nicely puffed but not quite doubled in size. Spritz the top lightly with water.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack. (If using baking stone, let it warm up in the oven.)
Bake the bread directly on the baking sheet for about 50 minutes, (Or if using, transfer the dough to a baking stone.) After 50 minutes, the crust should be browned and crisp. When you pick up the loaf, give it a light thump on the bottom. It should should hollow.Allow the bread to cool before slicing.
Posted: March 31st, 2010 under Uncategorized.