Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pain au Levain with Flaxseed

This was my first formula taken from Local Breads by Daniel Leader. Although my post on Rye with Onions expresses some hostility and annoyance I can happily state that this book is an upgrade. I am not saying the formulas from Bread Alone are lacking, (although some give rise to question) but I can happily say that the breads in Local Breads are written in volumes, weights and percents, which makes the seasoned bread baker much happier. 

This is one of the many variations Leader provides for his Quintessential French Sourdough: Pain au Levain. There are many more which I plan on posting, including: Sunflower Seed Levain, Sesame Seed Levain, Spelt Sourdough (Pain au Levain à lepautre), Kamut Levain (Pain au levain au camut) and Soy Levain (Pain au Levain au soja). So there are more posts to come. I have many ongoing projects and I have decided to call this project the Levain Project.  I am really excited about it.

It is important to note that since I did not have a stiff wheat starter at the time, I was forced to use liquid levain.  That may have impacted the flavor and the texture of the final product. I tend to like liquid levain because of its flavor contributions.  Jeffrey Hamelman tends to include more liquid starters in his breads than stiff starters.  Being a big fan of his work, I lean more toward formulas that use levains of higher hydrations.

I have to admit that one of the greatest differences of baking a bread with a very high hydration is the crust it develops. This is why ciabatta and french country breads are so good.  Because of the high amount of water and the relatively long bake, they form a wonderful crust, that is crunchy and if baked long enough will last for several days.  I baked a flax seed loaf on Friday afternoon and did not eat any of the loaf for three days. Monday evening, when I finally had some of it, it still had an amazing crunch and the crumb was still wonderful.

I can not remember if I actually measured out the water that I used in the soaker.  I suspect that I did not and it came back to haunt me.  This was a really really wet dough and I had to keep adding flour. Instead of just adding bread flour, I decided to add whole rye flour in an attempt to increase the health of this loaf.   (Speaking of health, flax seeds are jam-packed with Omega-3 fatty acids.  However, the body can not utilize them unless they are freshly ground.  If you are buying already ground seeds, it is likely that the seeds were ground months ago, and the Omega-3 availability is very low. If seeds are not ground, your teeth can not crack the seeds and they will pass through your entire digestive system  without releasing any of the Omega-3 fatty acids. So use freshly ground flax seeds if you want the benefit of the Omega-3 fatty acids.)

Back to the bread.   Due to the wetness of the dough, I tried to add as much flour as I could to the dough during folding and I floured the board well before pre-shaping.  After all of this, the bread still stuck to the peel so I shaped in into a a fendu loaf.  I felt that I had no other choice if I wanted to get the loaf off the peel and onto my baking stone in the oven. 

This is a good bread.  I am not sure if it is because I messed up the soaker, or if it is because I compensated the wetness by adding additional rye flour. The bottom line is that I am please with the results and I am excited that I will be making all of the other varieties that Leader suggests..... especially with the interesting grains. The next levain that I plan on baking is the sesame seed levain.  I happen to have a lot of sesame seeds on hand and I think it might be a really good bread.

Keep on Baking!

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