Roast Garlic Levain by Jeffrey Hamelman

You can see the stiff levain just after it has been mixed in the righthand bowl, this is mixed using more flour than water to form a dough like consistency, as opposed to a liquid levain which uses more water than flour. The liquid ones ripen faster and tend to be more acidic in taste in my experience, the stiff levains are milder in flavour. It is easier to mix the liquid ones into the final dough. If you are mixing by hand the stiff levains can be tricky to mix in so that you don't get a patchy crumb, something that happened to me a lot before I got a stand mixer.

stiff levain Jeffrey Hamelman Bread

Less than twelve hours later that little ball of dough was bursting out of the bowl and looked like this. You can see the gluten strands clearly in this picture. Maybe I should have used it a little sooner? I tasted it and it had very little sour taste, indicating that the yeasts had the upper hand.

Here I am mashing up well roasted and softened garlic into a paste to mix into the dough, you can't see the garlic in the final dough, but you can smell it and taste it.

I made three loaves all different sizes using a full 'home' recipe's worth of this dough, for a change I tried using ordinary wheat flour to line the bannetons, I probably used a bit too much, but they didn't stick. The dough was at the point of almost being over proved so the slashes didn't open up as well as they might have done had I baked it half an hour earlier.

I treated myself to this very functional long bread knife from Bakery Bits with birthday vouchers from my Dad. A new knife always cuts like a dream! I like this knife.

I dragged some slices outside to find some light to take a photo for you, it's been very dark lately. As you can see it is a light coloured crumb with a medium aeration and a nice crust.

It kept very well for several days. I griddled the end of one of the loaves with a light brushing of EVOO to go with some vegetable soup I made with celery, potato. leek and pancetta.

Celery, Leek, Potato and Pancetta in chicken stock broth

Embracing the Garlic: not only did I find the soup in the freezer but I also found a bunch of little tubs of wild garlic pesto from last April. I believe this is called layering flavours.... oh garlic joy!

So how was it for me?

It was a fun dough to mix up, easy to work and shape. I might do it again one day.

We tried eating it for breakfast and I managed but I think on reflection garlic bread early in the morning is asking a lot of me.  We had loads of whiffy roast garlic cloves left over. I had to get it under control somehow. I asked on Twitter and I have mushed some up with some soft butter and made little flat packets of it and frozen them on Carl Legge’s advice. Easier to use that way, you can just cut little pieces off when you need them. Misk of Misk Cooks suggested freezing the mixture in an icecube tray and Carla Tomasi suggested using it to stuff a leg of lamb and making some amazing sauce with it to be used with just about everything.  Thanks everyone for your advice, much appreciated.

I made the wild garlic pesto with olive oil, sunflower seeds, wild garlic, maybe some basil,  pecorino and pepper, or something like that, it survived brilliantly for nine months in the freezer, coming out pungent and sweet and still as green as it went in back in last April.

25 thoughts on “Roast Garlic Levain by Jeffrey Hamelman

  1. Abby

    Love love love the step-by-step photos! Seems silly after all this time, but I actually thought, “What a great way to check for gluten strands in your stiff levain; I should do that!” :) That soup sounds amazing, too. We really enjoyed the flavor of this one; hubby especially liked it for breakfast with eggs. Next time, I’ll follow your lead and pull out some freezer pesto…that looks like a winning combination.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Abby! One final effort on my part, I might try and do the others, but no promises here. The pic of the gluten strands came about because the starter had stuck to the cling film on the top of the bowl so the whole lot rose up when I took it off :D We had a big celery thing going on here in the autumn as we really like the old style celery grown in soil not hydroponically like most of it is, and that is a seasonal crop. We buy lots and make soups and use it in stews, and as one of the base flavours in many things we cook. The freezer pesto was naughty but very nice !

  2. ceciliag

    Absolutely everything on this page looks divine to me.. I would have had trouble not cramming that garlic straight into my mouth though! c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Celi! Do you get wild onion and/or garlic growing on your land? There must be wild plants you can forage, mushrooms too?

  3. Misk Cooks

    I have the same knife. It’s brilliant, and best of all it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t know that a more liquidy sponge gives a more sour flavour. I must remember that because I’ve now discovered that I can take any recipe and turn 1/2 of it into a sponge to increase flavour. It’s made my bread so much more yummy. And I also didn’t realise that an over-proved loaf won’t have open slashes. Now I think I know why I’m always so unhappy with mine. Next time I’m adjusting the timing on its second rise. Good post. Thanks.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s a good knife isn’t it? The handle is a bit plastic, well totally plastic! But it does the job, B says be careful not to bend or kink them, (has some funny stories about doing Health & Safety with them in his old job, he says, bossy, don’t force the knife but let it travel through the bread, like using a handsaw, bet you know all that!)

      On the proof thing, it’s hard, it’s hit and miss sometimes, maybe try making your slashes a little bit deeper too, slashes don’t open sometimes because they are too shallow and the angle isn’t angled enough, and sometimes they just don’t anyway. If too under proved then you will get the blow outs on the sides that you dislike. You will need to experiment and just keep practising :)

      1. Misk Cooks

        Thanks to B, as my P pushes on knives and I just sat him down in front of my laptop to read that comment. I’m tempted to restrict him to only using my Global bread knife in light of this info.

        I had some good practise on proving with those baps today and yesterday. I knew what to watch for today, and that certainly helped. As you say, it’s all down to experience and experimenting. :D By the way, my second attempt at the baps today was a total success. What a difference just waiting until the right moment during proving makes, eh?

  4. North19

    I have just come back to your blog after more than a week away, and you’ve been so busy! It is lovely to see all another few posts.

    Anything with garlic is a joy, and this looks and sounds delicious (was hoping you’d post it after mentioning it on twitter!). Plus the photo with the wild garlic is so evocative of spring last year that I am rumbling at the thought. Started reading Hamelman: thought it so good and well written that I promised myself to read all the intro before diving in to actually baking, and then things cropped up… Vowing to continue with him at the weekend!

    Helpful food for thought re. sponges from you and Misk. Hopefully filed in brain until I can scribble down somewhere findable :-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Wow, a vote for Hamelman, how nice to read that. I wrote a post a while back about ‘deciphering’ his book for those who found him heavy going. I don’t know which edition you have Nicola, have you clocked the errata pdf for the formulae? I have put links to it in various places and can mail it to you if you like. They may have all been corrected in newer editions by now of course. I am not 100% sure about the acidity thing, I need to check that. Certainly Hamelman favours the less acidic American style sourdoughs and the way he builds his starters (proportions of old material to new is also part of that).

      1. North19

        Haven’t got any of the errata, as bought it after seeing him through you (I think?) or Azelia, Carl, or someone similarly well read. My version is the most recent edition, so maybe ok. Would be great if you could email me. Will DM you my email.

        Finding him excellent rather than hard-going, though haven’t baked from it yet. Will hunt for your deciphering guide, as am sure it’ll be of use. Acidity-thing? Is that from a conversation we had a while back vs Amish starter? After your comments, spent some time looking into it, and think I came to a pretty good understanding. Will try to rack brains (searched for your thoughts across a few forums, and found something on thefreshloaf, I think).

        1. Joanna Post author

          The posts are here and here. If you are enjoying the book then I would skip them. Here is the errata sheet as a .pdf file for you to download.

          The acidity thing’ refers to my theory (in this post) that the stiff levain is less acidic than a liquid one, but I may be barking up the wrong tree on that.

          1. North19

            Thanks for these. Read them, and am sure will find them useful. Ah, yes, of course. I was being exceedingly scatty – hence why I needed to note it down on first read ;-)

  5. teawithhazel

    i’ve made garlic bread a lot’s so much easier than your version..i get a french stick and slice it up and know the rest.. :) :)

    i love the sound of this bread so i have filed the recipe away for future use..and it looks perfect with your squirrelled soup and pesto..i think my mantra from now on when i see real food with heart is ‘now, that’s what i call good food’..x

    1. Joanna Post author

      I haven’t made french stick garlic bread for a long time and I simply adore it! Do you wrap the bread in foil once you have filled it with garlic butter and rebake it? It is quite wonderful isn’t it?

      We eat mostly real food, but sometimes I buy something pre prepared. I have a particular weakness for crispy duck and pancakes :)

      1. teawithhazel

        hi joanna..i actually don’t make garlic bread often even though i like it too….they are like obesity sticks..but when i do i wrap it in foil..but i was really being silly with that garlic bread comment..x :)

  6. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Gorgeous photos, Jo! After reading about the this earlier on your blog, I tried working some roasted garlic into our sourdough ciabattas and they were absolutely delicious. They didn’t end up looking nearly as pretty as yours though! :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Celia – It’s always interesting playing around with flavouring the doughs isn’t it? I reckon you could work this paste into a lot of different styles of bread. :)

  7. cityhippyfarmgirl

    I need to make something like this. Australian garlic is in season now and if I don’t get cracking the season will be gone and I will be garlic-less… and I think not making this bread (type thing- obviously a hack baked version ;-)) would be a crying shame.
    Love the gluten strands photo. Bread making is seriously so much fun.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Brydie! You are so not a hack baker :) you have a very strong sense of how to structure a dough and where to push the boundaries of convention that seems to pay off. If you have a little freezer space maybe process some of your beautiful Australian garlic for later use?

  8. Melanie

    I really love that bar at the top of your post, with the 2 bread pics & Zeb. So cool! Wonderful pictures for this blog post. Really can’t wait to make this one now. I wish I had some frozen pesto stashed away. That would really make the garlic bread sing! Store bought pesto is just never the same nor very good so I’ll have to do without. Sounds like a wonderful soup. I’d love to sample some of that special celery you get!!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Melanie! Paul Aboud made that banner for me back when we started Mellow Bakers and it used to be on the top of my Mellow Bakers Pages only I changed themes and the size of the header changed and I couldn’t make it fit properly.

      It’s a good bread. It might work as one of your fab soup bread bowls (hey that’s a thought!) I am sure someone grows proper earthed up celery in your part of the world. I think it’s just more labour intensive. As the celery grows it has earth piled up around it, so the light doesn’t get to it and it stays paler and sweeter. Hope all’s good with you x Joanna

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