Sunday 8 March 2009

Light rye sourdough bread

The traditional French 'Pain au Levain' has always been one of my favourites - a fantastic blend of the lightness and crustiness of a French baguette with a hint of sourness and a background rye roundness of flavour. I also love the caraway flavour that is often associated with rye bread, particularly in North American variations.

This is my homage to both these styles. Like a Pain au Levain it is a wheat-based bread leavened and coloured with a sourdough starter. Unlike traditional pain de levain I've used a rye starter. My rye starter seems to be particuarly vigorous - I believe this is typical of rye starters because there's more readily available sugars in dark rye flour. I was quite pleased with the result - it goes great with cold meats, particularly the eastern european variety - salamis, mettwurst, landjaeger etc.

300g dark rye sourdough starter
200g water
350g all-purpose flour/strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt

Whisk the starter with the water. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a dough. Leave for 10 minutes to rest.

Knead for 15 seconds, return to bowl, cover and leave. After 15 minutes, repeat the kneading and put it back in the bowl again. Repeat after 30 minutes and then again after 1 hour. Leave the dough for 1 - 2 hours until doubled in size.

Knead the dough quickly into a ball, flatten then fold into a baton shape. Roll it to smooth the shape and put it seam-up on a floured cloth. To keep the rough shape of the baton, I put the cloth into a large loaf tin - the dough shouldn't fill it, but it helps stop the dough from spreading out. Of course, if you've got nice baskets to put it in, use them.

Leave for another couple of hours until it doubles in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 450F. Turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet, slash the top a couple of times, spray it with water to let the crust expand and then sling it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

I was pretty pleased with the result - it's really tasty and it doesn't take as long to get results as many other sourdough recipes. I'm not sure if that's because of the high proportion of starter to new flour, or because of the vigour of this starter, but I'm happy. I might try it again with more flour - try to make two loaves with the same amount of starter.

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