Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunflower Seed Levain

I am not an accomplished photographer. This probably doesn't come as news to anyone reading this blog. I am working on improving my game, but recently experienced a major setback. Shame shame shame. I broke the lens on Libby's camera, which she so generously allows me to use to record my baking. I did it, appropriately enough, with the handle of a spoon and a wildly overenthusiastic gesture. Luckily, the lens is replaceable and the camera is unharmed. Still, I felt very shamefaced, and was struck with that merciless incredulity that breaking things often inspires (see earlier post on Mr. Coffee's demise).
However, even if I can't take fancy pics, I really can bake, and I warmed up my stiff dough levain and got back on my bread stick the other day. For this sunflower seed levain, I followed the variation on the classic pain au levain from Local Breads. The sunflowers are soaked overnight for eight hours as the levain is refreshed, and then are added directly to the dough.

Everything went smoothly here, although I did need to add more water to the dough. This is a trick that bread books avoid, and in fact it's pretty complicated, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, and can really feel when the dough is too heavy and needs loosening. The fact that I have this much finesse at 8 am just makes me more impressed with myself. This must be why I bake bread. I get so impressed with myself.

This dough was plenty loose, slightly sticky, and did its first rise in the refrigerator. My faithful assistant and Celtics-loving house husband, Jill, pulled it out, and by the time I got home from work, the dough was ready to shape and proof.

It's still warm in Brooklyn, and so it proofed quickly and easily, went into the oven, and came out perfect. King Arthur Bread Flour, you are expensive, but you make a real difference. The crust and texture are perfect, I think it is a little undersalted, though. Sure is good-looking.

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