I made a “Pain au Levain Moderne” at the weekend for the first time. I got the recipe in Daniel Leader’s baking book, “Living Bread” and it turned out fantastic.
It is a rustic loaf made with a levain, white flour, rye flour, a pinch of instant yeast, salt and water.
The levain I had prepared, made with a small amount of sourdough starter, flour and water had not risen sufficiently to raise the bread so I used my Neven Maguire sourdough starter. This one consists of rye flour, wholemeal flour, strong white flour and water.
You use the gentler “business envelope fold” method of handling and kneading this dough rather than the more vigorous traditional kneading involving pulling and stretching and being aggressive with a drier dough.
I think this is called “laminating” and involves the use of gently folding the dough onto itself from one side, then the other, and leaving it to rest for ninety minutes, or thereabouts, in a plastic tub or dish with a lid.
You do this folding twice or three times at ninety minute intervals and it allows the air to remain in the dough eventually resulting in a light, open crumb when baked.
You need a rectangular or square pyrex dish or plastic tub in which to place the dough after each fold whilst fermenting and proofing. You will also need to put the dough in your fridge for 8 to 12 hours to allow it to cold ferment and proof.
This is a nice bread to make because it does not require much work, time being the principal factor.
When you take it out of the fridge you let it warm up for a while and then shape it for a final proof in a banneton basket. The dough had risen up impressively and was soft and pillowy-so soft that it felt I could have punctured it whilst handling.
Once it hit the preheated oven in its Le Creuset Dutch Oven it sprang up impressively to produce a fine big boule of bread.
And the taste was most agreeable with a soft, springy crumb and a noticeable taste of sourdough flavour.
This loaf is one I will definitely return to again.