Pain au Levain

April’s breads for MellowBakers.com include three variations on Pain au Levain from Jeffery Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Today’s entry is for the first of the three, simple Pain au Levain. This translates to Sourdough Bread.

One thing that Hamelman makes a point of noting is that this bread is not given a long, slow retardation overnight. The subtle flavours for this loaf and it’s two companions, Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour and Pain au Levain with Mixed Sourdough Starters, are all achieved with relatively short builds, even though the starters themselves do need to be made up the day before.

Once those levain builds are made up, it’s a pretty quick bread, for a sourdough.

If you’d like to give this bread a try, you can find the recipe in Jeffrey Hamelman’s book BREAD on page 158. You can also find an adapted recipe from Wally at TheFreshLoaf.

As always, I set out all the ingredients ahead of time…

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Normandy Apple Bread

Trying to catch up on the breads I missed over the last few months while moving across the country, I chose to do the Normandy Apple Bread from our February list over at MellowBakers.com.

Again, this bread took a bit of pre-set up preparation although not as convoluted as yesterday’s Aloo Paratha. The ‘unusual’ aspects of this bread was the need for apple cider and dried apple slices.

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to find apple cider around here, although I’ll use the fact I’m not familiar with all the stores in this area yet as a plausible excuse. Maybe I passed by it several times without noticing. So instead, I found some natural apple juice, the kind that hasn’t been filtered and is slightly cloudy with a little bit of apple sediment at the bottom. It’s pretty tasty as juice so I hoped it would work well as cider substitute.

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Pane Al Fromaggio

… or more simply Cheese Bread, as it’s actually called in Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes This is bread #21 in the Mellow Baker’s Challenge to get through all 84 recipes in the First Edition book. Yes, we’re now at about the 1/4 mark. If you have the book and want to give it a go, it can be found on page 180 from the Levain section (page 190 of the 2nd Edition).

Those of you following along here and on MellowBakers.com will notice that this is in fact a September bread and I’m posting it in mid-October. The reason for the tardiness is that there’s been a refocus in our household of late that’s been taking all our attention; more on that later.

I chose a good Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as the bread’s final flavour can only improve with the quality of cheese you use. The dry Kraft pre-grated stuff would not be a good choice here. An alternative, to save a bit of money, would be to mix the Parmigiano with some Asiago or whatever grateable “dry” cheese you prefer.

Let’s get started…

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Soft Butter Rolls

Easy, simple dinner rolls. Quick to make and lovely to bite into. This is what I was looking forward to when I started into the Soft Butter Rolls, one of the September Breads from the Mellow Bakers challenge. You can find this recipe on page 326 of Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

(Yes, this post is late seeing as I’m finishing it up in October. But then, we’re MELLOW bakers for a reason!)

Looking over the recipe, it seemed to be the case. However, looking over the posts other bakers had put up as they were pumping these guys out, it seemed there were a few steps one needed to be wary of. I took these into consideration and went ahead; I’ll point out where one needs to divert from the recipe a little. Nothing major, however.

Let’s start with our Mis en Place. Or actually, let’s not and cover what that is and why you would want to do it first.

What is a “Mis en Place” anyway?

Mis en Place (pronounced “meez awn plass”) is a french term meaning “Put in its place” and refers to the setting out of your required ingredients, all measured and ready, before you start building your bread (or whatever you’re baking or cooking). So you’d go through your recipe, measure and weigh out your flour, water, butter, salt yeast and so forth ahead of time, making sure you aren’t short of anything and everything is right there for you. You’ve seen this on a million cooking shows, the host always has everything ready and pre-measured.

Why do it? To avoid surprises mid-baking and the potential of missing an ingredient if you are in the habit of scooping or spooning out as you go along. Did you add those three teaspoons of butter already? Did you forget to put in your salt? If the salt is still on the counter then it’s easy to see you did not. If the little salt bowl is empty, it’s easy to see you did. If you normally pour it into the bowl from the container, you may not recall.

And yes, that does happen. I’ve had it happen, other big-time bread folks mention it’s happened to them… No one is immune from the “did I or didn’t I?” slip up. A momentary distraction, you lose your flow and now you miss an important ingredient. It may not be until you server your fresh loaf that you suddenly realize that bread with no salt can be incredibly odd tasting.

It also lets you confirm you do in fact have that cup of buttermilk on hand so you don’t go to the fridge and suddenly realize you need to rush to the store when you’re halfway into mixing the dough. All in all, it’s a simple way to be prepared so you can focus on simply putting your dough together.

And here’s the Mis en Place for our rolls:

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Rye with Caraway: Learning when to say when.

I’ve noted here and elsewhere that I will include recipes even when they go wrong so as not to give the impression that I am some expert (so not true) and never have a failed bread.

This would be one of those times when something goes wrong.

MellowBakers.comOh, this is MellowBakers.com’ 19th bread from Hamelman’s book “Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes“. For those who didn’t know, we’re a bunch of crazy breadheads who decided to do all 84 recipes in the book but in a casual, relaxed, dare I say “mellow” fashion. If you’re a bit bread crazy too, join us, jump in at any point and play along. Or just read up on our adventures, lots of talk, lots of photos and links to members’ great blogs too.

Now I’ve done this bread or at least a couple of recipes very close to this bread before and they came out very nicely. The very similar 40% Rye with Caraway based on the Back Home Bakery recipe, for example. This came out so nicely, I’m using photos of that bake as the main graphic for the site.

That looks like I know what I’m doing, doesn’t it?

Let’s put that theory to the test, shall we?

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