Back to bread

30 Jul

A month of truly awful July weather in Paris became a prime opportunity to kick the bread baking into high gear.  Since the parks were waterlogged, the temperatures downright chilly, and the sun completely obstructed from view, Amy and I spent most of the month indoors, working and baking to our heart’s content.  I experimented with a few different flours, ingredients, and techniques to produce varying types of bread.  Although some trials were unsuccessful, the majority were very much edible.  Here are a few photos.

Whole-wheat sesame batard

Simple baguette

Lastly, during my time here in Paris, I’ve become enamored with pain au levain, or naturally leavened bread, simply made of flour, water, and salt.  I’ve been cultivating wild yeast for two months now in a little container that sits on our kitchen table.  To some it may smell a bit funky, but I’ve grown to enjoy it, a bit like French cheese.  In reality, it smells like overripe fruit.  Anyway, leaven is a fermented mixture of water, flour, and microscope yeasts that, when mixed with more flour and water, incorporates gas bubbles in bread dough and makes it rise naturally.  Leaven is also used to make sourdough, but my goal was a mild tasting bread, not the commonly known acidic San Francisco sourdough we Americans are used to.  Using leaven instead of commercial yeast imparts a more complex flavor and allows your bread to last 3-4 days, a sharp contrast to the twelve hour baguettes often found in Paris.  After too many failed attempts, I was ready to pack it in, but I finally realized the perfect loaf.  Truly outstanding!

Sesame seed Pain au Levain

and the crumb shot, irregular and moist


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