Loaves: Marlais and Dulais

The Marlais and the Dulais are the two rivers nearest the house, and so I’m borrowing their names for my first loaves. Both use the same pain au levain dough, which means that I build a stiff levain at only 60% hydration around 12 hours before I want to mix the dough. At the same time I make a soaker for the Dulais, which means soaking linseeds in about 4 times their weight of cold water.

For the dough itself, I use white wheat flour and 5% whole rye flour, and add water at a ratio of 70% to flour weight. The flours and water have about half an hour to get to know one another before I add the levain and salt. For the Dulais, I toast sunflower and sesame seeds and add them at this point, along with the linseed soaker. This takes the hydration up to 80%, which makes it notably different to work with.

Over the next 2.5 hours, the dough gets stretched and folded twice before I scale it, leave it rest on the worktop for about 20 minutes, and then shape it into bâtards (it’s a kind of short, fat baguette – don’t be childish).

The loaves, for that’s what they’ve become by this point, then get anything from 2 to 3 hours to prove, depending on the room temperature. The aim is to keep the dough at about 24°C throughout the whole process but I rarely achieve that so I have to adapt my proving times.

Then I scatter semolina on a makeshift peel (a baking tray without any lips), tip the loaves out of their bannetons and score them with a sharp, serated knife. I slide them onto pre-heated makeshift baking stones (kiln shelves) and they bake for about 40 minutes at 220°C fan-assisted. I don’t bother with trying to steam the oven because I don’t think domestic ovens, or at least those as old as mine, will retain any of it.

From mixing the levain to pulling the loaves from the oven is about 20 hours but I get to sleep in the middle of it so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

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