Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leidenheimer po-boy bread

Listened to a podcast with Sandy Whann, a descendent (and now owner) of Leidenheimer bakery in New Orleans, which provides french bread loaves for po-boys.

Based on my recent trip to NOLA, my recollections of the po-boy bread, and some research online, here's what I've gleaned about the Leidenheimer recipe:

  1. Uses a sponge process, which is incorporated into the straight dough
  2. Use a proprietary time/temperature/humidity proof
  3. Produces a light, flaky, crisp crust, "one that crinkles as it cools into a distinctive 'alligator skin' pattern". Should shatter into small dust or flakes when bitten into.
  4. Crumb is cotton-candy like, spongy but dry, fluffy but small-holed (not wispy), very mild, neutral flavor.
  5. Crust color is very light golden, if not whitish.

Ingredients from their nutritional info:
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Yeast (2% or less)
  • Soybean oil (2% or less)
  • Salt (2% or less)
  • Sugar (2% or less)
  • Wheat Gluten (2% or less)
  • Dough conditioners and yeast foods (which I won't include in my finished product) (2% or less)
Based on the texture of the crumb, I think it's safe to say it's not a high-hydration dough, I'm guessing no higher than about 65%, but probably closer to 60%. It's also likely a pretty lean dough.

Here's some info on the dough conditioners & yeast foods that Leidenheimer is using in their French bread (with approximate figures I gathered from the very helpful Lallemand web site):
  • Calcium propionate - preservative/mold inhibitor, use level 0.2%, probably added to finished dough (not sponge)
  • Ammonium sulfate - yeast nutrient, nitrogen source, use level 0.04%
  • Calcium sulfate - pH regulator, raises pH, use level 0.1 - 0.6%
If they are boosting pH, it may mean the water they use is too soft, which suggests (not surprisingly) that water quality is key to consistent product.

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