Maybe because it is summer and I bake constantly to feed my family, I find I have become a minimalist when it comes to bread: I like doughs that require minimum intervention on my part (an autolyse and a few folds and they are on their way) and yield loaves that bring smiles to everyone’s face while providing good nutrition (the more whole grains the better). These pavés (pavé is French for cobblestone) satisfy on all counts.
The inspiration came from a facebook post by French SHB Thierry Delabre who created a half-kamut and half-spelt bread he called a “fanette”. Thierry used a firm levain, hydrated the dough at 75% and retarded it for 16 hours at 43° F/6° C. The result (which I wish I could show you but the pictures are on facebook, not on the web) was a beautifully golden rustic loaf.
I had freshly stoneground whole kamut flour which I had bought across the river in Ontario the day before and I had a bag of Quebec spelt grains I could mill but I was all out of mature firm levain and I couldn’t go beyond eight hours’ total fermentation time as we needed bread for dinner: there have been six of us here at camp in upstate New York for the past ten days and I don’t believe I have ever seen such bread eaters as these three little kids – one seven-year old and five-year old twins. I bake and bake and barely keep up. Whenever they are hungry, bread is the first thing they ask for, quite often with no adornment, not even butter, like true bread purists! It keeps me pretty busy but I love knowing that the taste of bread is being passed down to their generation.
Plus they see me mix dough everyday, usually when they are having breakfast. Maybe one day when they are all grown-up and crave honest bread, they’ll remember that all it takes is a big bowl and two hands and they’ll want to learn how to make their own. One can only hope, right?
I didn’t have a working firm levain but I had plenty of the liquid variety and it smelled so good I had to bake with it or I would be tempted to eat it with a spoon (just kidding!). To come back to the kids (and I promise I won’t mention them again in this post), another thing that goes straight to my baker’s heart is that they all three love the fragrance of levain and breathe it in with relish whenever they have a chance (they say it smells like bread!). Ok, so enough with the grand-kids and on to the dough.
I decided to borrow Thierry’s idea and go for a 100% whole-grain loaf that would be 50% spelt and 50% kamut but I would use liquid levain and I would up the hydration a bit. Like him, I would do one post-fermentation fold in lieu of pre-shaping and cut the folded dough into rectangles without further shaping (hence the pavé shape). Unlike Thierry – whose dough had a different consistency – I wouldn’t score.
The bread came out seductively “moëlleux” (a French word I always have trouble translating: it means “mellow”, “tender”, “cushy” and “smooth” at the same time -it can also mean “sweet” when applied to wine- and I don’t think there is an exact equivalent in English) and yet it is the word that comes irresistibly to my mind when I think about kamut. Spelt tends to be a bit drier in the mouth but it is sweet and fragrant in its own right and combined, the two grains conjure up the scent and taste of summer itself, sun-baked fields and all. These pavés may not be much to look at: I lack couches here at camp, so they spread a bit as they proofed, especially because both kamut and spelt are low in gluten, but they do pack a wallop in the mouth.
- 493 g whole kamut flour
- 493 g freshly-milled whole spelt flour
- 749 g water
- 295 g mature wheat levain at 100% hydration
- 18 g salt
- Mix both flours with all the water until no dry flour remains and let rest, covered, 20 to 40 minutes
- Add the levain and mix until incorporated
- Add the salt
- Cover the dough and let it rest, doing as many folds as necessary to obtain medium soft consistency
- When the dough is ready (it took about seven hours at my house with folds every thirty minutes for the first two hours but then the outside temperature was otherworldly hot and we had the A/C on all day), transfer it out of the bowl on a floured surface and fold it once over itself length-wise forming a long rectangle (no overlapping)
- Pre-heat the oven to 470°
- Using a wet dough scraper, cut the dough into four even pieces
- Transfer the pieces to baking sheets lined with parchment paper (heavily dusted with semolina) (as mentioned before, I have no couches here, hence the paper, but if you can, it would be better to proof the pavés upside down on heavily floured couches, turning them right side up prior to baking)
- Cover and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes
- Bake with steam in pre-heated oven (470°F/243°C for 10 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 450°F/232°C and continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, turning the loaves half-way through to ensure even baking (again these temperatures are given solely as an indication. Here at camp, the oven is small, very old and rather weak and I have to crank it up to the max. I actually set it on 500°F+ for the initial 10 minutes and on 470°F for the remaining 20 minutes or so but, from past experience with my regular home oven, I would say 470° F and 450°F should do the trick. If your oven is very efficient however, these temperatures might need to be adjusted down)
- Cool on a rack