- A stiff levain starter of 50% hydration is used, which has 5% whole wheat flour (LeadDog however used all whole wheat flour, except a small pinch of rye flour);
- The levain starter as a percentage of final dough flour is 25%;
- Final dough flours compose of 10% rye and 90% white bread flour;
- Overall dough hydration is 75.8%%;
- Bulk fermentation is 3 – 4 hours at room temperature (until dough doubles in volume); then
- Retard the bulk dough in the refrigerator for 12 – 24 hours;
- Two to three hours before baking, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature; and
- Just before baking, shape the dough as you would a Ciabatta and immediately bake it.
There is nothing so out of the ordinary in this formula; however, the bread that is produced is full of flavors according to LeadDog. Daniel Leader says in his book that this bread is Pierre Nury’s signature bread! I get the feeling that perhaps the 76% hydration is considered very high for Parisians whose standard baguette hydration is 67% and that that is the reason why this bread is shaped “rustic” – no shape at all! So often you get a bread that has open cell structure but lacks flavors. The flavor profile of this rustic light rye is attractive to me and so I decided to embark on an experiment – my own version of a light rye, light wholemeal rustic pain au levain! I wanted to see - (a) how difficult it is to shape this thing and(b) how little mixing/kneading/stretch-n-folds that I can get away with and still produce a loaf with reasonable dough strength. A synopsis of my formula follows:
- My dough has 10% rye, 20% wholemeal, and 70% white bread flour on an overall formula basis (this combination of flours, incidentally, is quite popular among The Fresh Loaf home bakers);.
- My overall dough hydration is 76%;
- I do not like to use stiff levain, I use my usual 75% hydration levain, and therefore I use a higher ratio of levain to final dough flours of 35% (instead of Leader’s 25%);
- Very minimalist approach to mixing, no kneading, and only one set of stretch & folds (30 strokes);
- One hour bulk fermentation and six hour proving.
starter @ 75% hydration
Place your starter in a big mixing bowl, pour just a small amount of the recipe water into the starter, say, 50 g first and thoroughly combine them before adding another small amount of water until all of the recipe water is mixed in with the starter (do not pour all of the water into the bowl in one go, it is harder to break up the starter that way, especially if you use a stiff starter).Mix in the flours and salt, use a wooden spoon or a dinner knife or even two chopsticks, for about 30 seconds to a minute just until all flours are hydrated. Take down the time when this is completed then follow the time-line below:
- 00:00 dough mixing complete, transfer the dough to a clean and oiled bowl, start autolyse for 30 minutes
- 00:30 with one hand holding the bowl, the other hand grabs a corner of the dough and stretches it as far as it can go without tearing and folds the dough onto itself. Turn the bowl as you go round the dough and do about 30 strokes of this stretch and folds in total. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- 01:00 sprinkle a lot of flour on your work bench, dump the dough on the surface; divide the dough in half, cover with a tea towel.
- 01:15 pre-shape the dough to a cylinder with minimum handling possible, place the pre-shaped dough seam side down and sprinkle some flour on the top of the dough, cover with a tea towel to rest; in the mean time, prepare a tray lined with several tea towels and dust the top with flour
- 01:30 turn the dough over and shape it to a tight cylinder with minimum handling possible, place the shaped dough, seam side down, on the tray; sprinkle some flour on the top of the dough, cover with several tea towels (to absorb moisture that might come out during proofing) and place the whole tray inside a big plastic bag. (The dough will not have risen much at this stage.)
- 06:30 one hour before baking, turn the oven on to pre-heat to 250C
- (It was an unusually cool summer day; my temperature was only around 20 – 23C. Depending on your room temperature, your proving time may be a lot shorter, so you will need to watch your dough. My dough was about 2 + 1/2 times the original volume when proofing was done.)
- 07:30 load the dough onto the baking stone and steam the oven with one cup of hot water, immediately turn the oven down to 230 C. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the dough so it gets even browning, turn the oven down to 220 – 210C if need be and bake for a further 25 – 30 minutes. (There was a very good oven spring. Total volume was about 3+1/2 to 4 times the original volume. I did not score my dough because it was full of bubbles and seemed to be very delicate to touch, but if I make it again, I will.)
I am very pleased with the result. Even without overnight retarding, the crumb is packed full of flavors. It is chewy and moist with almost medium strength sourness. (If you like your sourdough more sour, you can try using stiff levain or simply retard the dough overnight.) The dough was not hard to shape, and certainly if I had given it more stretch and folds, it would have been even easier to shape. And yes, very little kneading, or no kneading at all, is required for making good bread. There seems to be a blind faith in kneading and in stretch and folds. Excessive stretch and folds are the same as over-mixing and over-kneading. Levain breads have a natural advantage over yeasted breads in that the acid in starter helps build dough strength. My method here would probably not work for yeasted bread. As I was writing, I suddenly realize how close this bread is to Chad Robertson’s Country Sourdough that I tasted in San Francisco back in August. The crumb structures are similar; his volume is less than mine, more flat (most likely because the French style of flour he uses has less protein than the one I use); but our flavors are so similar!! And the crumb color is so close too! I am very excited about this finding. Well, LeadDog, thank you for letting me know Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye is your favourite bread to pair with your wine! [b]Grilled pancetta wrapped feta/ricotta cheese with[/b][b]Toasted Light Rye & Light Wholemeal Rustic Pain au Levain[/b] Shiao-Ping