What I love the most in baking is to witness how fluffy the dough became, after certain time of proofing or right in the oven. I do remember when still in the baking class at Le Cordon Bleu, our favorite time was to stand by the proofing chamber or next to a huge oven just in order to wow when seeing how big our dough became. Our chef didn’t like it, when we were there, next to the oven!
But to get that fluffy we need a good yeast. So far we always use either fresh yeast or dry yeast, but to be honest I don’t like the yeast’s smell, it’s too strong. It happened that we were asked to take a bite of the fresh yeast in the class, no one liked it.
Today I’d like to share the “magic” that I probably will always use in the future for baking: the natural leaven (in French – levain naturel). We didn’t do it at LCB class but I got that from the book “Le pain – l’envers du décor” by Chef Frédéric Lalos and really love to try. To my surprise, it was a success right from the first time. The leaven is quite delicate to handle so I’m happy to get that right a way!
First time I made a natural leaven from the dried golden raisins by soaking them in the mineral water for few days, then use that juice to mix with flour to get the first yeast ( in French we call “la mère”), then the next day we mix “la mère” with bread flour and water again to get the second yeast (in French we call it “le chef“) and after that we use “le chef” to create a dough by some recipe, we have “levain naturel”.
Step 1 How to make “levain naturel”
- Dried golden raisin 125 gr. (please use raisin right from the box, don’t wash)
- Mineral water 250 ml. (it should be non-chlored water)
Put raisin in mineral water in the jar for at least 5 days or a week at room temperature (25°C), when we see small bubbles in the jar, use the juice from the soaked raisins and mix with bread flour. This’s named “la mère”. Usually I use only half of the below quantity as I don’t want to have the leftover.
- Juice from soaked raisin 250 ml.
- Bread flour 375 gr.
I leave “la mère” at the room temperature for almost 10 hours then keep it in the fridge for next day use. Now time to create “le chef” by using “la mère”. Again, I need only half of the below quantity to made “le chef”.
- La mère 625 gr.
- Bread flour 375 gr.
- Water 250 ml.
Next day we can use “le chef” to make natural leaven, it could be baguettes or some other breads, I did baguettes before but today I’ll made pesto bread by using this natural yeast as I want to test how strong the natural leaven when many other ingredients in the dough, so next time I may try to made brioche – heavy dough with a lot of butter, eggs…with this natural leaven.
Step 2 Pesto bread with natural leaven
- Bread flour 500 gr
- Natural leaven 250-280 gr.
- Pesto 100 gr. ( I used mix herbs with basil, pine nut, garlic…)
- Salt 10 gr.
- Water 315 ml.
- Olive oil 50-60 ml.
- Bunch of fresh basil
Kneading all together except olive oil. 6′-7′ at the first speed, 10′ at the second speed or until the dough stops sticking to the side of the mixer bowl. At the end do add the oil gradually and fresh basil.
Step 3 Shaping, final proofing and baking
I let the dough to rest for 1 hour before I put it in the fridge as I need to bake only by next day afternoon. Next day, right from the fridge I divide the dough into 4 balls (310 gr./ each), then a quick rest for 20′, after 20′ I shaped the dough into small ball. Now time for final proofing. I let the dough resting from 7:00 am until 10:45 am, longer time as I didn’t use any dry yeast then bake at 200°C for more than 20′.
You better keep in the box, or even in the fridge, and next morning toast it, it should be very very good! I love it!