Pain au levain complet

Since I've been making this bread every week since the dark days started, I figured I'd add the recipe here.

Pain au levain complet, from Daniel Leaders Local Breads

stiff starter

Levain Starter:
Sourdough starter:     1.8 ounces (50 grams)
Water, room temperature:  2.6 ounces (75 grams)
Stone-ground whole wheat flour:  3.5 ounces (100 grams)

Slightly over-developed levain, ready to go.

Mix your and let develop for about 8 to 12 hours.  I keep my starter in the fridge, and have been pulling it out and refreshing it the night or morning before making this levain, which assures a happy, active culture.   I usually make this the night before making dough, and have left it much longer than 12 hours in a cool spot.

Final dough:

Water, room temperature:  13.2 ounces (375 grams)
"Type 55-style flour" or unbleached AP flour:  3.5 ounces (100 grams)
Whole Wheat Flour:  14.1 ounces (400 grams)
Levain:  7.9 ounces (though in the instructions, he says to use only a 4 ounce piece, and save the rest for your culture).  I've done both and it works fine.
Sea Salt:  .4 ounces (10 grams).

Mix water and flours briefly, and then let stand to hydrate for 20 minutes or so.
Add levain and salt, and knead.  Leader's instructions call for 10 to 12 minutes.  I'm kind of a notorious under-kneader:  I do about 5 minutes by machine, let it rest a few minutes, and then give it another couple of minutes. I try to aim for a pretty wet dough here--WW flour will absorb a lot of water, and the dough has an long rise with an intermediate turn/knead, which means you can get away with a very slack dough. It will develop a lot of body over that time so it's okay if the initial dough is a little loose.

Let rise for an hour, then give it a turn and knead a few times, then reshape into a ball and let it continue to rise for another couple of hours, or more if you have time.

Rising loaf.  Here's a tip:  these elastic food covers are PERFECT for proofing. 
Shape your loaf into a tight ball and let rise, smooth side down, in a banneton, or a colander lined with a smooth towel.  Proof for up to 2 or 3 hours.  45 minutes to an hour before baking, preheat your oven to 450-475 degrees with a baking stone.  This is a long process, to multitask a bit and save energy I often "preheat" by making dinner in the oven first, and bake this bread afterward!

fully proofed, ready to bake.

Tip your loaves out onto a peel or parchment lined sheet, and score.  I cut pretty deeply for this loaf, which gives me some nice oven spring.

Bake on a stone for 40-50 minutes.  Leader's technique calls for ice cubes in a cast-iron skillet for steam; I just use spray bottle and give lots of good mists at the beginning, then again in 3 or 4 minutes (if I remember!). 

As you can see, this doesn't rise a ton in the oven. Be patient and get it as high as you can before baking.

Misc. notes:  This formula makes a 2 pound loaf.  I've been making 1.5 times the original recipe, use the entire levain, and then making two loaves ~ 24 ounces or so.  One week I divided right after kneading and added toasted walnuts to one loaf, which was very, very good.

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  1. Yum, looks so delicious! I might have to invest in a banneton... it really makes a gorgeous loaf.

  2. Thanks. I finally broke down and got a banneton a few years ago. After years of towels in bowls and colanders. It's holding up well, and esp. nice for gifting loaves!


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