Bread in May

A while ago, I bragged somewhat about knowing how to make a chef–levain. The first (and only) time I made it turned out a delicious loaf, if I recall. That was years ago and my memory may have softened the reality. I decided to try again.

A chef-levain is a mix of flour and water—at least in this particular one—that sits for a long time so it can ferment.  Levain means yeast or leavening, according to my French/English dictionary and chef translates to “main” so I surmise the chef refers to it being the primary leavening. It’s simply a starter for making bread without commercial yeast. The levain or starter attracts the wild yeast in the air.

These photos show the process to some degree and the results. I fed the levain 11 days and made the bread on the 12th.

Well worth the labor, but there is a lot of waste. The levain has to be added to daily for several days, and as more flour and water are added to “feed” it, a good part of the original is thrown out. During a yeast and flour shortage, it was probably not the most conscientious thing I’ve done, but I tweaked what I could to reduce the waste.

In spite of that, it was fun to do.

The bread turned out surprisingly tender. It made great sandwiches, and the best toast ever!

Happy baking!