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RECIPES: bake a French baguette or sweet potato bread like a master

Award-winning French baker, Eric Kayser, shares his love of baking in ‘The Bread Book’. We share three recipes here 

French master baker, Eric Kayser, shares classic recipes alongside unexpected flavours like sweet potato flour bread with pumpkin seeds Pic: Massimo Pessina

Le Larousse du Pain, later released in English as The Larousse Book of Bread, was published in French in 2013. 

The purpose of the book and its recipes was to lead the way for ‘real bread’, made using traditional leavening techniques so dear to our predecessors. 

As consumers become more savvy and conscientious, there’s a thriving movement for people to reclaim their food, control ingredients that go into them and take responsibility for what they eat. Inspired by the notion that food is medicine, Le Larousse du Pain came about as a response to the growing demands.

Read more: Patissiers watch out? Normandy start-up creates 3D-printed patisserie

Master baker Eric Kayser rose to the challenge, sharing the classic recipes that have brought Maison Kayser great success since its inception in 1996 and enabling baking novices to make his breads at home. 

Translated into eight languages and with nearly 200,000 copies, the book has helped many home cooks to develop new skills, expand their repertoire and further the cause! 

By using simple and readily available ingredients, a new generation learned to make starters, to knead dough and to become fully fledged bakers. 

Read more: French baker’s coloured ‘art’ croissants draw queues round the block

The Bread Book continues the journey of discovery began in The Larousse Book of Bread

This exciting new collection proudly builds on the principles that made a success of his first book. 

While the bread-making techniques remain the same, the (re)discovery of ancient and heritage flours has opened up an entirely new field of opportunities and extraordinary flavours to be explored. 

This book features new loaves of breads with unexpected flavour profiles to suit all tastes and dietary requirements. 

Here, readers will find more than sixty classic recipes made with a range of flours, from high-protein lentil flour and chickpea flour to low-gluten varieties made with einkorn, spelt or rye. 

Beautifully photographed by Massimo Pessina, all recipes can be re-created with ease in home kitchens, using a handful of quality ingredients and basic tools.

For Eric Kayser, taste is the quintessence of good baking. Whether it’s Kamut® bread, hemp bread or babka, readers can expect to find goodness, flavour and integrity at the heart of every Maison Kayser loaf.

Read more: Baguette, petits pains: Seven French expressions to do with bread

LEVAIN (STARTER) LIQUID

I have always used liquid levain (or liquid sourdough starter) for my breads and pastries. 

This natural leavener, made of flour and water and regularly refreshed, is inherently tied to our history of breadmaking and fundamental to the earliest practices. 

Sadly, baking with natural leaveners such as liquid levain was largely eschewed by modern bakers in the twentieth century who preferred to use yeast, which was ‘easier’ to control and enabled them to produce leavened breads in a very short amount of time. 

However, these breads have less flavour and a shorter shelf life than those made with levain. 

If you want to replace a liquid levain with a dehydrated sourdough starter, you will need about 75g dehydrated starter for every 150g liquid levain.

Makes about 700g

DAY 1: In a bowl, whisk 50g warm water with 50g organic stoneground wholemeal (whole wheat) flour (T150). 

Cover with a cloth and leave to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature (20–25°C/68–77°F).

DAY 2: In a bowl, whisk together 100g warm water with 100g organic white bread flour (T65) and 20g honey. Mix this into the previous day’s mixture. Cover with a cloth and leave to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature. 

DAY 3: In a bowl, whisk 200g organic white bread flour (T65) with 200g warm water. Mix this into day 2’s preparation. Cover with a cloth and leave to ferment for 12 hours at room temperature. The liquid levain is ready to be used.

Generally, the levain will remain active for two days after it’s been refreshed or fed. 

You will have to feed it every two days by adding 50 per cent of its weight in water and flour. For example, if you have 300g levain, add 75g flour and 75g water. 

Levain can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to eight days. It must be fed a day before use.

YEAST

At the right amount, fresh yeast can complement the levain in most of the recipes in this book.

It enhances the fermentation process and sometimes offsets the marked sourness of certain levains. 

Read more: ‘A nice sheen’, ‘a honeycombed crumb’: France’s best baguette revealed

BAGUETTE

Makes 3 baguettes 

Preparation time: 15 Min 

Resting time: 4 h 40 Min 

Baking time: 20 Min 

Equipment: baker’s cloth 

Ingredients

500g all-purpose (plain) flour (T55) 

325g water at 20°C (68°F) 

100g Liquid Levain (recipe above)

3g fresh yeast, crumbled 

10g Guérande sea salt 

Method

1. Put the flour and water into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix for 4 minutes on low speed. Cover the mixer bowl with a damp cloth and rest for 1 hour, then add the levain, yeast and salt. Knead for 4 minutes on low speed, then for 7 minutes on high speed. The dough should be smooth and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Gather the dough into a ball, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest for 1.5 hours at room temperature. The dough will have increased in volume by the end of the resting time.

2. On a floured work counter, divide the dough into three equal pieces. Fold each piece over on itself, pulling gently to stretch into a longish log. Cover with a damp cloth and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

3. Working with one piece of dough at a time, use the palm of your hand to flatten it gently. With the long side facing you, fold in a third towards the middle and press along the edge with your fingertips. Swivel the dough 180 degrees. Fold in the other long edge so that it overlaps in the centre and press with the heel of your hand. Fold one half on top of the other and seal the edges together with the heel of your hand. 

4. With lightly floured hands, roll the baguette out to 55 cm (21 inches) long, then pinch each end into a point. Repeat with the other 2 baguettes. 

5. Carefully lift the baguettes onto a lightly floured baker’s cloth, seams underneath. Separate them by making folds in the cloth. Cover with a damp cloth and prove (proof) for 1 hour 40 minutes at room temperature, by which time the baguettes will have increased in volume. 

6. Place a baking pan on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Gently place the baguettes, seam down, on a baking sheet lined with baking (parchment) paper. Dust with flour and make 4 evenly spaced oblique slashes along the length of each baguette. Once the oven is hot, pour 50ml water into the hot baking pan. Put the baguettes and pan of water into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

7. Remove the loaves from the oven, then cool on a wire rack. 

SWEET POTATO FLOUR BREAD

Makes 3 loaves

Preparation time: 20 min 

Resting time: 3 h 30 min–4 h 40 min 

Baking time: 35 min 

 

Ingredients

150g sweet potato flour 

500 g white bread flour (T65) + extra for finishing 

300g water at 16°C (60°F) 

32g Liquid Levain (see above) 

23g olive oil + extra for brushing 

22g honey

10g Guérande sea salt

3g fresh yeast, crumbled

80g pumpkin seeds

 

Shaping the dough into a pavé loaf

1. Carefully flatten the dough piece.

2. Fold over a third of the dough and press with your fingers. Turn the dough piece 180 degrees, then fold over another third, like a letter, and press.

3. Fold it in half lengthways and seal the seam with the heel of your hand.

4. Roll the ends lightly with your hands to seal.

 

Method

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the pumpkin seeds and olive oil, in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix and knead for 5 minutes on low speed and then on high speed until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add the pumpkin seeds (set aside a handful for decoration) and knead for 1 minute on low speed. Cover the mixer bowl with a cloth and leave the dough to rise for 11⁄2 hours at room temperature, folding after 1 hour.

2. On a floured work counter, divide the dough into three pieces of equal weight (about 370 g/13 oz each) and loosely shape into balls. Cover with a cloth and rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. 

3. Shape the dough pieces into pavé loaves.

4. Brush the tops of the loaves with a little water to moisten and sprinkle with the reserved pumpkin seeds. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking (parchment) paper. Cover with a cloth and prove (proof) for 1.5 to 2 hours at room temperature. The dough should double in volume. 

5. Place a baking pan on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 240°C (465°F). Once the oven is hot, pour 50ml water into the hot baking pan. Put the loaves and pan of water into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. 

6. Remove the loaves from the oven, brush with olive oil and cool on a wire rack.

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