The Wood-Fired Oven:
Just by looking at our breads, you can see they have been baked in a wood-fired oven by their wonderful brown hue. Why wood fired? It’s in the taste and it is environmentally the soundest way to bake; we see little point in producing such a high quality product and putting it through an unnatural cooking process like an electric oven.
We deliver 7 days a week tocentral & Greater London. Our minimum order is£12.00 per day. Orders can be placed or amended no later than 48 hours before delivery and orders for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday must be in by noon Friday. Credit accounts are available upon request.
The Next Step:
If you would like a sample of any of our breads, please call us on 07824993810 (office hours 9am – 2pm Monday – Friday). If you are ready to sign up, please fill in a credit account application, give us 48 hours notice and we will deliver to your door!
Why is our bread different?
Our stone milled flour
Because the flour we use to make our bread has been stone milled rather than commercially processed, our bread has a low GI (glycaemic index) value which means sugar is released more slowly into the blood from this type of carbohydrate than from shop-bought loaves. This provides the body with a steady supply of energy and leaves us feeling satisfied for longer and less likely to snack. Not only are low GI carbohydrates the key to sustainable weight loss but they are also the secret to long-term health by reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
We do not use any pure white flour in our breads, which gives them this rustic, traditional look and taste. French flours are “T graded”, which indicates how much has been extracted of the wheat kernel. The higher the T grade, (T45 is the lightest flour, followed by T55, T65, T85, T110 and T150 – wholemeal flour) the more germ and bran the flour contains.
We do not use anything under T65 because we think the “pure white” flours are over extracted and do not fit with our traditional way of baking.
Most of our bread contains a mixture of T65 and T85, meaning they all contain a small percentage of whole wheat, creating a good balance between volume and taste; and making it a healthier loaf.
Our sourdough starter
A sourdough starter is the most natural raising agent that can be used to bake bread. It is made simply from water and rye flour which over time combine to create a culture of bacteria (lactobacilli) and fungus (wild yeast) found naturally in the flour.
At Levain Bakery to speed up the action of the wild yeast, we added fruits purchased from local farmers in Kent. The resulting product is known as the mother starter. In order to produce a natural starter on a daily basis, we keep back a small amount from the mother starter each time we use it. We then refresh it with rye flour and water, to nourish the natural yeasts, and the whole process starts again.
This synergistic interaction creates by-products of lactic acid, acetic acid and ethanol alcohol. Lactic acid contributes to better digestibility of the bread, and gives it a unique flavour. Acetic acid acts as a flavouring agent and natural preservative, lowering the Ph level of the bread product and retarding mould growth. Ethanol creates that wonderful smell of freshly baked bread that is so enticing.
Our traditional baking methods
When the starter is added to the dough (made from flour, water and sea salt), the interaction of all of the ingredients releases tiny bubbles which result in the dough expanding and rising, producing the leavening of the bread.
The bread dough is then left to ferment in mixing bowl or in boxes. It is a very important stage as it improves the bread’s aroma and texture, also helping the bread to keep longer and making it more easily digestible.
The dough is then hand shaped and placed in proving baskets while our Kentish flute is hand rolled and wrapped in a linen cloth. Once the loaves have been left to prove naturally (there is no pause in our fermentation process unlike with most ‘fresh’ bread found on shop shelves), they are placed on the revolving sole of our wood fired oven. We like to bake our bread as late as we possibly can to bring wonderful fresh bread to our customers.
Our wood-fired oven
Our oven was originally designed in 1947 by Sinor Llopis, a draftsman from Barcelona.
Inspired by the Roman ovens of Pompeii, he created the first oven with a mechanical revolving base (the sole) which allows bakers to achieve consistency of finished product while producing large volumes of bread.
The oven is 15 metres in circumference and weighs 20 tonnes. It was delivered from Spain on 14 separate pallets and took a total of three weeks to build. The inner chamber is made from a special reflective material and is encased in an outer wall of steel. The cavity in between is filled with Diatomea, a powdered fossilised seaweed which is mined in Albacete, a small coastal town 500km from Barcelona.
After the initial build, the oven was allowed to dry out and was then fired for the first time. The warming up process took a total of two weeks; gradually increasing the temperature to 250 degrees. After this tempering, only a small amount of wood is needed to maintain temperature. The oven is so well insulated that if it is not given fuel for a month it will still burn at 60 degrees.
The smoke that it produces is clean, and the wood fuel comes from sustainable managed forests, making it one of the most environmentally sound ways to bake.