Have you ever wondered how the bread you enjoy at Le Pain Quotidien comes to life? Our bakers use an artisanal baking process to create our breads, which means all of our breads are made by hand and without the use of any additives, preservatives, or improvers. Though our approach is labor and time-intensive, it results in bread with an enticing aroma, a strong crust, a firm slice and well-developed flavor.

This is our method:

  • Making the levain:  Many of our breads are made with levain, a natural starter. A starter is a culture of wild yeast cells, bacteria and acid. In order to make the starter, flour is mixed with warm water and a pinch of salt, covered with a damp towel, and kept at an ambient temperature. The starter is fed flour, water and salt daily, and after a few days a bubbly froth starts to form. When this happens, yeast have developed. 

Once the starter reaches maturity—the correct balance of yeast, bacteria and acid—it is used to prepare the “levain,” an ingredient that acts as natural leavener, and provides taste and texture.

  • Preparation of dough: Once the levain is prepared, the ingredients of the bread—flour, water, salt and a certain percentage of levain—are kneaded together to form dough.
  • Proofing: Proofing is the process of fermentation, when the naturally occurring yeast of the levain enables the dough to rise. After the dough is sufficiently proofed, it is divided into pieces of the proper size and shaped. We shape our dough by hand. The shaped loaves are sometimes placed in cane proofing baskets, known as banneton, or on baker’s linen. The basket and the linen serve two purposes: to provide the loaves with shape and to help wick excess moisture away from the crust of the loaves. After the dough is shaped, it will continue to rise, sometimes for several hours, before baking.
  • Baking: Once the shaped loaves have properly risen, they are ready to bake. The loaves are first scored with a lame, (a specialty razor blade) to allow them to expand fully in the oven and then placed into a stone-lined oven that has been injected with steam. Some of our breads are baked for as long as an hour, or until a thick, dark crust has formed and the crumb of the bread is properly set.
  • Cooling and Ripening: Once baked, the bread must be allowed to cool and ripen before it is fit to serve.  Some breads, like the baguette, are ready to eat within an hour. Others, like our whole wheat sourdough, are better enjoyed on the second day, when the flavor and texture of the bread have fully developed.

Interested in baking bread the Le Pain Quotidien way? We’re offering various bread baking classes at our Bleecker Street, NY and at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA locations. Check out our bakery classes here.