POILANE-STYLE BREAD, A SIMPLIFIED VERSION

Pain Poilane might very well be one of the most famous breads made in France. The process to make it is convoluted and slow. The bread has a crumb that is not very open, with deep, complex flavor. All in all, a super hearty bread. I’ve made a few versions since I started playing with sourdough 15 years ago, but today I share one of the simplest ways, in which time does most of the work for you. Handling the dough is reduced to a bare minimum. If you are searching for a light tasting bread with very open crumb, this is not it. It is a superb bread to make Croque Monsieur or to enjoy with toppings such as smoked salmon or the very best ham you can find. 

POILANE-STYLE BREAD
(adapted from several sources)

for the fermented sourdough component:
200g water
120g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
240g whole-wheat flour

for the dough:
275g water
85g light rye flour
170g spelt flour
250g bread flour
12g salt

If you have a chance to turn your regular sourdough into a rye-based, you can do that by feeding it for about 3 days with rye flour instead of regular white flour. If you don’t have any, just use your regular sourdough.

In the evening, mix all the ingredients for the fermented component in a medium-size bowl. Leave it at room temperature for 12 hours. It won’t rise much, but you should notice fermentation next day.

On the morning of the next day add the water to your starter and mix well. Add all the flours and salt, and knead with the KitchenAid for about 3 minutes. Remove from the KitchenAid, place in a large bowl, and leave at room temperature for 90 minutes. Knead by hand for a couple of minutes at the 30 minute and 90 minute mark. Cover and place the dough in the fridge overnight.

Remove the cold dough from the fridge, form into a ball, and place in a lightly floured banneton, with the seam side up. Leave at room temperature for 5 to 6 hours. Heat the oven to 450F, invert the dough on parchment paper, score the surface and place in a Dutch oven, with the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for further 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing, preferably overnight.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Contrary to regular sourdough, this version that contains so much whole-wheat and rye flour, is not appropriate to fold and stretch. It is – if I am to be honest – not very nice to handle. There is a harshness associated with the coarser nature of the whole-wheat component, which in this case is a pretty substantial part of the formula. So, instead of folding, I opted for minimal kneading, a technique Dan Lepard is quite fond of. It is actually the basis for all his breads in The Handmade Loaf, which was my personal introduction to sourdough baking. This bread turned out super flavorful! It was a huge hit with the husband, who already requested that slices of “Poilane” be found in the freezer at all times…

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FOR THE LOVE OF SOURDOUGH


Playing with different scoring styles for sourdough… The only new recipe is Pecan Flour Sourdough (top left). I had a bag of pecan flour hanging around, and did a little sourdough experiment with it. Pecan flour brings flavor and some fat to the party, but no gluten, so it’s not a good idea to add too much to your basic bread formula. We loved the texture of the crumb, the delicate flavor, and the slight purple tone it contributed. The bread lasts longer at room temperature without drying. And of course, it freezes beautifully, like any sourdough does.


PECAN FLOUR SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

480g bread flour
20g spelt flour
20g pecan flour
10g salt
370g water
80g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, and the salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.

Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, sprinkle tapioca flour over it for a very light coverage. Next, use a brand new razor blade to score the design.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: The picture did not really show the color too well. In real life, there was a very very light hint of purple. The bread is delicious, with a complex flavor, not clearly associated with pecans. I wanted to keep just the flour in this version, but adding pieces of toasted pecan to the formula will be happening in the future.


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EMBOSSED CHOCOLATE-CHERRY SOURDOUGH LOAF

This bread is simply amazing. If you are not too sure about mixing chocolate with sourdough bread, let me tell you, it works! As the husband put it, this is dangerously good. He also said that “we” absolutely must make it again and have slices of this bread in the freezer at all times. I cannot take any credit for the basic formula, but I completely changed the method, and will explain my reasons in the comments. With this loaf, I tried a new way to decorate the surface, using paper towel to emboss a pattern. I definitely intend to explore this method further in the near future.

EMBOSSED CHOCOLATE-CHERRY SOURDOUGH LOAF
(modified from The Perfect Loaf)

260g water
80g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
320g bread flour
40g spelt flour
12g cocoa powder 
12g canola oil 
60g dark chocolate chips
60g dried sour cherries
8g sugar
7g salt
additional flour for embossing effect (optional)

Bloom the cocoa. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the cocoa and heat, stirring until it thickens slightly. Allow it to completely cool.

Place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the two types of flour, and all other ingredients, except the chocolate chips and cherries.

Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom. Add the chocolate chips and cherries, knead in the machine for 2 and a half minutes more.

Remove the dough from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. If you intend to do the decorative embossing, rub all-purpose or bread flour all over the paper towel. Reserve.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough in any shape you like, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. If embossing, the bread lays on top of the paper saturated with flour. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, slash the surface with a sharp razor blade. Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The technique to do the embossing is explained very well in this video from youtube. I was hoping for more staying power and contrast after baking, so on a loaf made a few days later I tried tapioca flour and rice flour, but they did not work. The tapioca behaved very oddly when rubbed in the paper, so I did not use it, and the rice flour never formed a pattern after overnight in the fridge. So, as far as my limited experience goes, it might be better to use regular white flour.

The bread had great oven-spring, and the smell was amazing as it baked. My modification of the method involved super-simplifying it. As I like to say, your kitchen, your rules. If you prefer to go along the path of autolyse, and adding water in different stages, go for it. I’ve been baking sourdough for 15 years pretty much non-stop, and I stick with the simplest way to do it. It works well for me. Would it be better if I did the autolyse and all the other convoluted tricks? Maybe, but honestly, I don’t really care. Some bakers go to the extent of measuring the temperature of the room, the water, the flour, adjust the number of revolutions per minute in the KitchenAid to get to the perfect increase in temperature by friction etc etc. I have zero interest in this type of precision. My default method works fine for all bread formulas I’ve tried so far. Quoting my dear friend Elaine (author of two bread cookbooks): “Keep It Simple.”

The flavor of this bread is hard to describe, but Maurizio really hit the jackpot with this one. It is not a sweet bread. Biting into the pieces of cherry around the crumb? Added bliss. Make it, and you might find yourself with a new favorite loaf of bread to keep around the house.

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DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF

Of all the nuts out there, the peanut is the ugly duckling. Simple, humble, affordable, available everywhere. It does not have that majestic feel of a macadamia, or the sexy aura of a hazelnut. Most sourdough breads include walnuts or pecans, leaving them once again neglected. Not in my kitchen, though. This bread gets a double load of peanuts. Peanut butter, and roasted peanuts joined together with flour, salt and a wild bunch of yeast and bacteria aka sourdough starter.

DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

370g water
70g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10 g rye flour
30g peanut butter (smooth)
30g roasted peanuts, unsalted
10g salt

  • Place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, the peanut butter and the salt.
  • Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.
  • Add the peanuts and continue kneading in low-speed for 2 and a half minutes more.
  • Remove the dough from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so.
  • After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.
  • Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, rub gently white flour on the surface. Score with any pattern you like.
  • Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you follow my blog, you know that my default method for sourdough involves the Kitchen Aid initial kneading and never heating the Dutch oven before dropping the bread inside, over parchment paper. Those two details make life a lot easier in terms of clean up of bowls, hands, and lack of burning marks in forearms and fingers…

I add the peanuts after 2 minutes kneading with the KA, and run the machine for one additional couple of minutes or so. That is enough to incorporate the nuts in the dough, which will continue to happen during the subsequent foldings. You can slash the dough in patterns or just do a simple slash. Below I show you another type of pattern, a kind of geometric flower.

We loved the subtle peanut flavor of this bread, and biting into a little peanut here and there was also very nice. The peanuts will end up softer than other nuts normally used in breads.

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PECAN-CRANBERRY BREAD

Absolutely perfect for this time of the year, this is a bread that does not require a sourdough starter, but uses a sponge instead, so you will need two days to make it happen in your kitchen. The recipe comes from a cookbook I am quite fond of, Pastry Love, by Joanne Chang. It is available online, so I will share that link and give you just a brief overview of the recipe.

CRANBERRY-PECAN BREAD
(from Joanne Chang’s Pastry Love, published in The Modern Farmer)

For the sponge, you will need to mix 140g flour with 1 cup water + 1/8 tsp yeast, leave 2 hours at room temperature then refrigerate overnight. Use that to make the dough as described in the site (it is the third recipe shared, scroll down to find it).

I made only half of the recipe, but the bread turned out so delicious, I regretted not going for the two loaves that it makes. It freezes super well also, so I strongly advise you to go for the full amount as published in the site I shared.

I don’t think the bread is particularly beautiful to look at, because all the goodies make for a rough, rustic look, but it compensates by far in the taste department. Absolutely wonderful with a little blue cheese.

I intend to make a sourdough version with the same flavors very soon, but for those who don’t keep a starter around, this bread has a very similar complexity of flavor, thanks to the sponge made the day before. Give it a try before the holiday season is over…

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