I have made different versions of Pain au Levain in the past with moderate success so I wanted to change-up the flour a little and also add some barley flakes to hopefully add another layer of flavor.
I used a high percentage of KAF French style flour which I love baking these hearth style breads with and one of my favorite whole wheat flours called Turkey Whole Wheat. I also added some white rye to make it interesting.
The final bread turned out just as I was hoping for with a nice thick chewy crust and an open crumb. The taste was just enough sour tang along with the whole wheat nutty flavor profile. My wife who tends to be very picky about my breads, ate more than half the loaf herself over the last few days, some even with no butter or cheese which is a major compliment to yours truly.
This is also a great bread to eat with a nice hearty soup or use to make a grilled cheese sandwich for the snowy cold days that have already arrived. My apprentice Max gave it 2 paws up and was eager to taste another slice after his first romp in the snow.
Mix all the Levain ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled. I usually do this the night before.
Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.
Main Dough Procedure
Mix the flours, and 275 grams of the water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute. Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 20-30 minutes. Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces) and mix on low for a minute. Add the rest of the water unless the dough is way too wet. Mix on low-speed for another 5 minutes. Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds. Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold. Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold. After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.
When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours. Remove the dough and shape as desired. I made 1 large boule shape. Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature. Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.
Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees F. and prepare it for steam. I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf. I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.
Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.
After 1 minute lower the temperature to 500 degrees and after another 3 minutes lower it to 450 degrees. Bake for 35-50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 210 degrees.
Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.
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