Recipe: Loaf Classic™

aka the four-fold pain au levain

Recipe: Loaf Classic™ (NOT FINAL)

aka the four-fold pain au levain

Makes one 900g loaf


PDF

Notes:

  • While this recipe is faster than the overnight no-knead approach, it still takes at least 6-1/2 hours from initial mix to putting the loaf into the fridge, so you’ll still want to start the dough early in the day. And unless you make the levain the night before, proofing that will take at least another 3 hours, so that’s best started first thing in the morning.

  • You’ll notice that there are 6 different formulas below (sorry; see this post for more details on why).

  • Here’s how to choose among them: Start with the overall hydration, which will determine how wet the dough will be. Beginners should start with 75% hydration. Once you are comfortable working with that formula, you can move up to the next one, and then the next. Keep in mind that 85% is very wet, requiring a deft hand and a proofing basket that can resist wet doughs. (I’m serious here: It’s so wet that I hesitated including it. The loaf cannot be shaped without the skilled use of a bench knife, as it is too sticky to manipulate by hand. But it is doable, so it’s here if you want to try.)

  • Then decide how much levain to include, based upon ambient temperatures. For “normal” temps (70˚ to 80˚F), use 25% levain. For winter/colder temps, use 35%. (For very warm temperatures, use 12.5% by dividing the called-for 25% amount of levain in half. The final numbers won't be dead on, but they will be close enough, and doing so will make the dough slightly drier, something that is not likely to cause trouble.)

  • As for the levain build, there are a few options:

    1. You can build the levain the “usual” way using a 2:2:1 ratio until it is at least doubled, 4 to 6h. This generally means starting early in the morning.

    1. You can mix the levain using a 2:2:1 ratio the day before, let it double, and then store it in the fridge for no more than 12 hours before use.

    2. Or you can mix it the night before using 5% starter (20:20:1) and let it proof at room temperature until it has about doubled, 12 to 14 hours.

Timeline:

Note: Timeline outlines the minimum duration between stages. Parenthetical times listed at the end of each stage indicate the amount of time until the next stage, or a range, if it is variable.

0:00 - Feed levain (4 to 6h, until doubled; can be refrigerated for up to 12 hours if needed)

3:00 - mix flours and water (autolyse) (1h)

4:00 - add levain and salt (45m)

4:45 - coil fold (45m)

5:30 - coil fold (45m)

6:15  - coil fold (45m)

7:00 - coil fold (30 to 90m, until about doubled)

8:30 - preshape (30m)

9:00 - final shape (30m)

9:30 - transfer to fridge (8 to 16h)

16:30 - bake

Formulas:

Overall Formula

95.0% high protein all-purpose or bread flour

5.0% rye flour

75 to 85% water (less for beginners, more once you are ready)

2.2% salt

12.5 to 35% levain (25% for “normal” ambient temps, 35% if it’s cold in your kitchen, 12.5% when it is very warm)

Levain Build (Quick, 50% starter)

100g high protein all-purpose flour or bread flour

100g water

50g 100% hydration starter

Levain Build (Overnight, 5% starter)

100g high protein all-purpose flour or bread flour

100g water

5g 100% hydration starter

Final Formula (75% hydration; 25% levain)

315g water

420g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

130g levain

11g salt


Final Formula (75% hydration; 35% levain)

290g water

395g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

180g levain

11g salt

Final Formula (80% hydration; 25% levain)

330g water

405g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

125g levain

11g salt

Final Formula (80% hydration; 35% levain)

310g water

380g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

175g levain

11g salt

Final Formula (85% hydration; 25% levain)

345g water

395g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

125g levain

11g salt

Final Formula (85% hydration; 35% levain)

325g water

370g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

170g levain

11g salt

Method: 

  1. LEVAIN BUILD: Combine flour, water, and starter in container and proof until at least doubled in volume (4 to 6 hours for quick build, 12 to 14 hours for overnight build).

  2. FINAL DOUGH: Set aside 20g water in a small bowl. Place remaining water in a large bowl. Add flours and stir with a dough whisk or knead in bowl until no dry flour remains. Cover and let rest 1h.

  3. Add levain, reserved water, and salt and knead until uniform. Transfer to a straight-sided container, if desired, cover, and let rest 45m.

  4. Do one set of coil folds. Cover and let rest 45m.

  5. Repeat coil folds, followed by 45m rest 3 more times (for a total of 4 sets of folds over the course of 3 hours).

  6. Allow to proof until domed and about doubled in volume, 30m to 2h longer.

  7. Preshape into a round. Cover and let rest 30m.

  8. Shape, transfer to a proofing basket, cover, and let rest 30m.

  9. Transfer to fridge for 8 to 16h. 

  10. Bake (as usual, in a preheated 475˚F Dutch oven, covered for 20m, uncovered or on bare oven rack until well-browned, 15 to 25m more.)