Generally speaking the loaves all ended up proofing a bit too fast. Maybe for that reason, I didn’t get all the holes I was hoping for in the crumb. It could also be because I used more whole grain than indicated, both in the poolish and in the levain. Anyway like the Olympic torch, the burning desire for the perfect Abbey loaf has now passed on to me and this summer I plan to forge ahead in my own quest for the holey crumb. I also plan to tweak the recipe a bit by adding no commercial yeast at all in the final dough.
William Alexander has kindly allowed me to post the original recipe (which is in the book but not on his website). The recipe you’ll find below is my adaptation. I used all organic flours and grains.
400 g all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur’s)
- I pretty much followed the indications given by Alexander in the original recipe, except that I did the autolyse before adding the salt (salt tightens the gluten networks, slowing down their development, which is the opposite of what the autolyse is supposed to achieve. See Hamelman’s Bread, page 9). Alexander may have the monks add it earlier so that they don’t forget it later (as happened to him once).
- I also did one fold after one hour and another one 30 minutes later. I also baked at 475 F instead of 500 as my oven gets really hot and at 500 F, the bread turns dark before it is fully baked.
Thanks for posting your Pain de l'Abbaye Saint-Wandrille bake. I am curious as to how a bread with both poolish and levain preferment tastes like. The breads do look wonderful.
Hi Don, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did. Your question is a difficult one to answer: I could taste the levain in the bread but it wasn't too assertive. The poolish was more elusive but still added a delicate note. What I don't much care for is the addition of yeast in the final dough. I will definitely skip that next time, which should help slow down the fermentation a bit. Otherwise since I tasted JT's winning combination of three different preferments, I am all for trying different variations on the theme. I would have to check but I seem to remember that the baguette which won the US 1st place at Europain a few years back combined different preferments, didn't it?
These loaves are tremendous! I love the designs you put on them!
Thanks, Joanne! I had a lot of fun.
Outstanding! I really wish I could master the stencil technique, my attempts have been pathetic – to put it mildly… 🙁
Now you make me want to have the book…. (sigh)
Hi, Sally and thank you! If you drop me a line and explain what happens when you try stenciling, maybe we can figure out why it isn't turning out the way you want…
Your beautiful stenciled breads caught my eye over at Yeastspotting~ I'm with Sally; we would love to see a bread stenciling tutorial on your blog!
Those loaves are absolutely beautiful and I bet they taste fantastic!
What a great story (both his and yours)
Thanks, Frieda! Good idea. I'll try to put something together this July.
Thank you, Heather. Yes, they are quite tasty! I'll definitely make them again.
Thank you, Mimi! Glad you liked the stories. Alexander's is truly amazing. Talk about a dedicated home baker!
52 Loaves has been on my list for a while, I guess you've just moved it to first place now.
All this makes for such wonderful bread story! Always makes my heart sing.
Je suis contente que tu sois de retour, ton pain est merveilleux.
J'aimerais bien a y gouter.
What gorgeous looking loaves! I just finished reading 52 Loaves as well..it is a deightful book. Now I must follow in your footsteps and bake the Pain de l'Abbaye Saint-Wandrille.
Beautiful bread and wonderful stencilling. I too would love to know how to do it properly. Thank you for a lovely post, I look forward to reading the book as well 🙂
The stencilling is stunningly beautiful! And the crumb looks wonderful too. What loft you achieved. Bravissima.
christian music says
looks like baking is really fun. love your blog! 🙂
Thank you all for your kind comments. Yes, baking is fun (most of the time) and stenciling super rewarding. I just find it hard sometimes to remember to do it before dusting the loaf with flour all over and putting it in the oven. 🙂
What a wonderful post – thanks for sharing the story and the photos.
The loaves are all so beautiful, and the stencilled one is *gorgeous*.
I'd like to try and find that stencil – I was wondering if you know who made it, or remember where you bought it?
Thanks so much! I do so enjoy your site and your baking, writing and photography.
Thank you for your kind words, Anonymous. I believe I got the stencil from Michael's, the arts and crafts store. It was a while ago but they might still carry it or another one like it. Good luck finding it!
MC, Thank you for your reply. You sure do have an eye for beauty – this really shows in the breads you create!
What stunning bread — and such an interesting story about its origin. I'd not heard of this book before, so need to add it to my list which never seems to end. I don't bake bread often, but I'm slowly learning…You've got a great website and clearly, a talent for making bread.
Thank you so much for your kind words, kellypea! I hope you enjoy the book when you get to it. I sure did!