Pain au Levain

Sourdough Bread

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Dough Yield: About

    22

    loaves at 1.5 lb each

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

This Bread is so Emphatically French that it retains its French name here. A stiff-textured levain is used to generate the fermentation. When baked the same day it is mixed, the bread has a delicate flavor, an open cell structure, and a beautiful russet crust. Retarding overnight is not recommended, as many of the more graceful and delicate characteristics of the bread will be lost during the long cold time in refrigeration.

Pre-Fermented Flour: 15.5%

Ingredients

Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Bread Flour 19 lb 9.5 kg 1 lb, 14.4 oz 95 %
Medium Rye Flour 1 lb .5 kg 1.6 oz 5 %
Water 13 lb 6.5 kg 1 lb, 4.8 oz 65 %
Salt .36 lb .18 kg .6 oz 1.8 %
Total Yield 33.36 lb 16.68 kg 3 lb, 5.4 oz 166.8 %

Levain Build

Bread Flour 2.9 lb 1.45 kg 4.6 oz (1 cup) 93.5 %
Medium Rye Flour .2 lb .1 kg .3 oz ( cup) 6.5 %
Water 1.86 lb .93 kg 3 oz ( cup) 60 %
Mature Culture (Stiff) .62 lb .31 kg 1 oz (2 T) 20 %
Total 5.58 lb 2.79 kg 8.9 oz

Final Dough

Bread Flour 16.1 lb 8.05 kg 1 lb, 9.8 oz (5⅞ cups)
Medium Rye Flour .8 lb .4 kg 1.3 oz ( cup)
Water 11.14 lb 5.57 kg 1 lb, 1.8 oz ( cups)
Salt .36 lb .18 kg .6 oz (1 T)
Levain 4.96 lb 2.48 kg 7.9 oz (all less 2 T)
Total 33.36 lb 16.68 kg 3 lb, 5.4 oz

Method

  1. Stiff-Textured Levain: Make the final build approximately 12 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 70°F. During hot weather, or if the levain will ripen for longer than 12 hours, the flour in the levain build can be salted at 1.8 percent to slow its activity.
  2. Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the salt and the levain. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for an autolyse phase of 20 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, cut the levain into fist-sized chunks and place on top of the dough, and finish mixing on second speed for 1½ to 2 minutes. The dough should be supple, with a medium consistency. Desired dough temperature: 76°F.
  3. Bulk Fermentation: 2½ hours.
  4. Folding: Fold the dough twice, at 50-minute intervals.
  5. Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into 1.5-pound pieces; shape round or oblong.
  6. Final Fermentation: Approximately 2 to 2½ hours at 76°F.
  7. Baking: With normal steam, 440°F for 40 to 45 minutes.