Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Pearl's Walnut Levain

Sunday, November 18, 2007
Novel or no, I felt the need to bake bread this weekend, so I tried another bread from Maggie Glezer's beautifully photographed book, Artisan Baking. This bread is labeled "advanced," but it's not difficult, although it does require a sourdough starter which you use to make the levain.

My friend Bridget told me that she had this book, but she had never used it because making a levain or poolish the night before always seemed kind of scary; she also said that when she wants bread, she wants it now--not 48 hours later.
I pooh-poohed her levain fear, and told her that it couldn't be easier.
When I looked at this recipe, I had to admit that it didn't exactly fit in the "want it now" category. A levain has to be stirred up the night before, and for the levain, you need about a tablespoon of sourdough starter, which, of course, had to be refreshed at least twelve hours before you put it in the levain. And if you don't happen to have sourdough starter in your refrigerator, you're not going to bake this bread. Or at least not this version of it.
I ended up adding a minute amount (about 1/8 teaspoon) of yeast to the dough when I mixed it up because the levain was supposed to have quadrupled overnight. Maybe it doubled, but it certainly didn't quadruple. I was afraid it just didn't have enough oomph to make two loaves of hearty bread. Maybe I should have had more faith, but it turned out very well with the addition of a small amount of yeast.
I like the mixture of flours for this bread--all-purpose unbleached, bread, rye, and whole wheat--much better than I like the straight whole-wheat that I made last weekend. And the addition of lightly toasted walnuts gives this bread a terrific, earthy flavor.

Jim made bacon, onion, and blue cheese omelets for dinner. Although the bread and the omelets weren't planned to go together, it was a match made in heaven.


Doughadear said...

Your bread is just beautiful! About a month ago I included Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking on my Christmas Wish list. Now that I seen this lovely bread I know I've made a good choice.

Melinda said...

I think it looks beautiful too! Walnuts...delightful!

evil cake lady said...

i third that--your bread is beautiful, and your crust looks so yummy, and all of it is grand!

hmm. so much forethought and planning to good bread. maybe this is part of the reason i don't bake bread?

how wonderful too that breads labeled "advanced" have now become for you "not that difficult!' how far you've come!!

breadbasketcase said...

I hope that Santa brings you Artisan Baking. Next to The Bread Bible, it's been my favorite.

Yes, it would have been a very good bread on its own, but the walnuts really made it unique.

Now that's an interesting theory--there's a bread-baking personality (organized and maybe a little stodgy) and a cake-baking personality (impulsive and devil-may-care)? I'll have to think about that (which I guess I wouldn't need to do if I were a cake baker).

BreadDivine said...

Lovely bread, i wished i had a bigger kitchen. Love the breads and all your post about your adventure. I've turned into a fan of yours.

jini said...

i hope your thanksgiving wish has come true and the book is finished! enjoy the holiday!

jpsam said...

Have you seen the article in the New York Times, "Soon the Bread Will be Making Itself,"
about Jeffrey Hertzberg's easier than No-Knead Bread?
I will check out the Glazer book. Thanks.

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks--it's always nice to have new readers. I'm actually astonished that people read my meanderings, but it's very gratifying, especially when they come from places like Singapore! Good luck in your baking.

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm up to 46,000 words--so not quite finished, but I still managed to find quite a few things to be thankful for.

I did see that article--thanks. I see that you're a big fan of no-knead bread. I like it myself, but there are so many different kinds of bread to bake that it's hard for me to repeat myself.

Jeannette said...

I really enjoy your blog , so much so that I have started making hand-made bread as opposed to bread made in a machine! After reading about all your different loaves I started last week with the infamous No-Knead bread, I got yhe recipe off the web. Then this weekend we had a very good baking booklet given away with a national newspaper, The Guardian, written by Dan Lepard, which tempted me with a loaf called The Easiest Loaf in the World! I couldn't resist that and it really was easy and turned out very good. Now I am thinking of expanding my repetoire, I might even buy Rose's Bread Bible!

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks so much. I love it when people get hooked on bread baking. I'm going to have to try The Easiest Loaf in the World!