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inlovewbread's picture

Pain au Levain a la Vanille ( sourdough bread with vanilla )

I recently was gifted some beautiful organic vanilla beans. They have been calling to me from my pantry for a few weeks now. I wanted to incorporate them into some sort of bread but couldn't think of something that would pair well with the vanilla bean and still be good in a bread. I decided to let the smell and taste of vanilla to shine through and just use it on its own. 

I found it most interesting that vanilla beans come from a type of orchid. The vanilla pod is the fruit. Vanilla beans are the second most expensive spice behind saffron; mostly because of what the cultivation entails. For centuries, only a certain type of bee was able to pollinate the vanilla orchid and the vanilla beans could not be grown outside of Mexico and parts of Central America. Until in 1841, a 12-year old french-owned slave developed a method of hand pollination with a bamboo stick. Vanilla was then able to be grown commercially. Although, the process is still painstaking as the vanilla flower only remains open for one day, the vines of the orchid must be inspected daily and the flower pollinated immediately. Harvesting the vanilla pods is labor intensive as well. After reading such a history, I was so appreciative of these beautiful "fruits" to use in my bread. 


The most wonderful smell was emanating from my oven as these loaves baked. 

The taste is very nice. Almost like cake batter but without the sweetness. The vanilla flavor was complimented by the subtle acidity of the french-style sourdough I keep. All-Purpose flour was a good choice with this bread because of the "fluffiness" it lent to the crumb- more of that cake-like quality :-)

This would make a great Valentine's Day bread. I served a slice of it today with fresh strawberries :-) 


Levain Build:

45 g Firm Starter

95 g King Arthur Organic All-Purpose Flour

5 g Whole White Wheat 

50 g Water


Final Dough:

350 g KA Organic All-Purpose Flour

125 g White Whole Wheat Flour (I used Prairie Gold from Wheat Montana, freshly ground)

25 g Rye Flour (I used finely ground whole rye)

350 g Water (I used warm water for a desired dough temp. of 76F)

All of Levain Build

10 g salt

Contents of two long vanilla bean pods



Elaborate your starter the night before you plan to bake. Leave at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

The next day, mix flours and water. Rest for 30 minutes, covered. 

Add levain in pieces on top of dough and sprinkle on the salt. Mix until incorporated and then add scrapings from two vanilla bean pods. 

Knead for about 8 minutes or until medium gluten development is achieved. 

Ferment at room temp for I hour, then fold.

Continue fermenting for 2-3 more hours. (Mine took 2 1/2 hours at 71 degrees F)

Divide and shape into two batards. 

Ferment en couche (or on flour dusted parchment which is what I did) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (mine took 1 hour).

Pre-heat oven to 475F with steam pan in place.

Score as desired and load onto baking stone and bake with steam*. Immediately turn down oven to 450F. Remove source of steam and turn down oven to 400F after 15 minutes of baking. Bake 20-25 minutes more. I left my loaves in a turned-off oven w/ the door cracked for an additional 5 minutes.

*Steam by your method of choice. I used a loaf pan with river rocks in it, and poured 1/2 cup water on top.

Cool completely. Or, cut into one a bit warm if you want to! Warm and vanilla go very well together.


This post is being submitted to Susan at Wild Yeast Blog for YeastSpotting. Be sure to check it out for an amazing array of beautiful breads!


ehanner's picture

Shiao-Ping's excellent post on Mr. Nippon's Baguette formula and the images of her crumb and those in the book inspired me. From what I can tell, the 12 hour cool autolyse as a significant effect on the dough. The dough is sticky as Shiao-Ping cautioned and acted differently from any other 75% hydration dough I have worked with. It was trying to wind it's way up the shaft of the dough hook on my DLX mixer for one thing. It was window paining BEFORE kneading. After an initial mixing with the hook, I let it set for 15 minutes to allow the salt time to melt and the pinch of IDY time to incorporate before kneading for 1 minute on first speed and only 2 minutes on speed 2. The dough was smooth and silky from the first seconds of kneading. Quite beautiful really, if you know what I mean. I had pulled a small amount of dough after the initial 15 minute pause since it looked so smooth and was surprised to see how transparent the film was. After 2 minutes on speed level 2, I stopped and placed the dough in a lightly oiled plastic container and proceeded with the stretch and fold procedure that SP laid out. The total bulk ferment time was 3 hours with 5 S&F's.

One issue I had was that the 12 hour autolyse is supposed to be done at 60F. I looked around the kitchen for a drafty garage door that would serve as a place to maintain the cool temperature I had established with cool water. It worked out perfectly. The outside temp was a balmy 5F this morning and my bowl of autolyse flour and water measured at 61F. However, after adding the starter, salt and IDY together the DDT is 22C or about 72F. The friction factor isn't any where near that spread so I floated the dough bowl in warm water during the first 20 minutes in preparation for the first S& F. It worked out fine but it's a little clumsy having to make that adjustment. I wanted to follow the protocol as closely as I could and being wildly off the DDT would be a big error.

Shaping and proofing was as normal. I wanted to try the scoring pattern of SP's second set of images where the chef is trying to suggest wind in his slashing pattern. To me it looks like a series of slashes that wrap the long loaf with one following the last and the gaps bridged by another set of cuts. I won't pretend to suggest that it turned out anywhere near the chefs pattern. It took me a few years to be just moderately proficient at the traditional pattern. This is way harder but I will continue to practice. I think the effect of so many cuts will be to allow the crumb to expand more giving room for that airy open crumb structure. We will see. As I write this, I have just removed the three baguettes from the oven. I spritzed 2 of the loaves and left one with the surface flour on it. I can see I should of cut deeper already.

I will cut one open and we shall see if we are going out for dinner or not.


bakinbuff's picture

Well, here it is!  My first ever blog post.  I have been thinking of starting a blog for awhile, if only to keep a catalog of the progress I've made in my bread making over the last year or so.  It is difficult to quantify progress without something down on paper, as it were, so I hope this will be useful for myself and others, being able to look back through recipes and pictures for future reference.  Anyway, I should give some background on my interest in bread baking.  I am an American living in Britain, and was visiting home for a family wedding over a year ago.  My mother had been experimenting in bread making, as she was trying to re-create my parents' favourite loaf from the local bakery.  My mother has baked bread on and off for years, and I dimly recall some relatively dense and fairly dry bread-maker bread from my childhood (her hand baking is much better!).  Anyway, she had recently gotten into the habit of making all the bread they ate (except for the occasional bakery purchase), and my husband I were really impressed with her bread.  One morning we were there, she asked me to put the loaf in the oven for her after it had finished rising, and then because of my interest, she wrote down the recipe she used for her everyday bread.  As soon as I got home, I got some baker's yeast, strong white and wholemeal flour, and I was busy baking.  It took a number of attempts to get the rise right, figure out how to remove the clingfilm without deflating the loaf, etc, etc, but all in all every loaf I made tasted delicious.  Over time, I really got the daily bread down pat, and started braiding loaves for fun, and adjusting different ingredients to get different textures. 

(Sesame, Pumpkin and sunflower seed braided loaf)


Then, in the fall of last year, I came across info about creating your own starter at home, and eliminating the need for commercial yeast.  Ever in search of the healthiest nutrition for my family, I decided to have a go at making sourdough.  Although it seemed impossibly easy, I stirred up equal amounts of white and wholewheat flour and water, covered loosely, and left overnight.  The next day, I discarded half and fed it again, re-covered and waited another day.  By the third discard and feed, there was clear activity, and I was excited!  I baked my first loaf from my brand new starter in a loaf tin, with great anticipation.  I was thrilled to produce a nicely risen loaf with a few big bubbles on top and lots of lovely little bubbles on the crust!


Now, although this bread was delicious and a real triumph, I felt the need to make a yeasted bread for my husband who is less adventurous, and only likes icky cotton wool white bread for toast.  *Sigh* It really does discourage one after all the effort put in.  Nonetheless, our favourite winter lunch is soup and bread, so I was confident that a round loaf for soup dipping would be a hit, and a good way to slip in some wholesome nutrition.  =)  After much research, I started baking round loaves in a covered glass casserole dish and here was my first result:


Not the most amazing loaf, I know, but not bad considering it was a first attempt, and I had no clue about scoring, overnight retarding, stretching and folding, etc.  With each loaf (despite the lop-sidedness due to dumping the proofed loaf into the hot bowl) I saw improvements...


I was even brave enough to attempt a freeform boule, and was very pleased with the result!


Next I tried a sourdough baguette and tin loaf, which were both excellent:



With the discovery of stretching and folding, overnight retarding and a firmer (lower hydration) dough, I managed my best loaf yet, a freeform poppyseed (can't remember the name of the shape):


Everything about this last loaf was an utter triumph for me.  The fantastic opening of the slash, the shiny crackly crust, the soft and moist crumb, and the deliciously smooth and subtle sour taste.  I cannot describe my joy in being able to create such a beautiful and delectable loaf, from nothing more than the usual baking drawer ingredients.  What a joy and a privilege!  Here's to many more loaves to come, and thank you to everyone on the Fresh Loaf from whom I've gotten tons of information which is helping me to continually improve and hone my baking skills!

alexp's picture

This is a recipe that is one of my favourites at the moment. It's a sourdough that is mainly strong white flour, with rye, kamut and a non-white starter providing some background complexity. It's loosely based on a Dan Lepard recipe for a barley bread, although it has no barley in it. This time I used a used a whole wheat stater, but I have also had success with a rye sour. It's quite a simple recipe but I'm pleased with the results.

The ingredients are:

250g whole wheat or rye starter (approx 100% hydration)

300g strong white flour

100g light rye

100g kamut

300g water

3tsp salt

I refresh the starter about 12 to 18 hours before baking (1:1:1 ratio). I mix the starter with the water, then mix in all the other ingredients. I leave it for ten minutes, knead lightly for 30 seconds, then repeat this kneading two or three times in the next 50 minutes. Then after another hour I fold the dough, wait another hour and fold again. Then into the proving colander (!) for two to three hours.

After that I bake it for 15 minutes at 220C, then another 30-40 at 190C.

I think my scoring/shaping could still use some work as invariably one slash seems to open much more than the other, it has a great taste and texture though.

My first blog post so any comments or suggestions gratefully received!


Shiao-Ping's picture

It was raining outside my tea room.  Polly my dog was happy in her house.  I was in heaven painstakingly (not contradictory in terms) typing the French letters (the annoying à and é and ç) into my on-line translator.  The music was vibrating the thin rice-paper calligraphies on my mahogany-colored wall.

I consulted a couple of translations for Lionel Poilâne's Pain Rustique recipe in his Le Pain par Poilâne, page 143.  The 390-page book contains a dozen recipes.  I studied the translations.  I read the recipe very carefully.  And in the end, I said to myself, disbelieving, "Is that it, so simple?"  "Is this the recipe that makes the famous Miche Poilâne?"  (No.)

One of my sisters told me there is a single product hawker's stand in Taipei which sells red bean pancakes.  Any time of the day you go there, there is a long queue waiting to buy the man's red bean pancakes.  He has a dedicated pot to cook his red bean paste at home; the pot is never used for anything else.  He has several other dedicated utensils for the job.  My sister gave me his recipe.  It sounded so simple, I said, "Is that all? You are not leaving any steps out?"  She said, "No."  She gave me the man's list of ingredients: red beans, sugar, flour, and water.  I said, "You are not leaving any secret ingredients out?"  She said, "No."

Still disbelieving from reading the Poilâne formula, I got up from my chair and walked past a neglected pile of books left there since I came back from Taipei last October.  At the rate I buy books there is no way I can finish reading all my books in my lifetime, but I keep on buying.  The postman, the DHL man, and the Fedex man, as well as the occasional sub-contractor for Australia Post, all know there is somebody whose name sounds like (to pronounce slowly) "shopping" that lives behind that gate (and what an annoyance having to ring the bell for the gate to open!).

Anyway, I retrieved from that pile a book which is, on the surface, dedicated to baguettes, a Mandarin translation of the best Japanese baguette formulas.  And, boy, can you get any more perfectly shaped baguettes than those any where else in the world?  My oh my, the formulas are so detailed!  And, interesting!



                                  Baguette no Gijutsu (Baguette Techniques), published by Asahiya Shuppan, Japan    


   right: Totszen Baker's Kitchen, Yokohama (page 28)    

   middle: Fournier Bakery, Osaka (page 8)

   left:  Lobros Bakery, Tokyo (page 124)

The way I see it, this book is about methods of pure fermentation of flour.  Baguette is only the form in which the result is show-cased; the bread could be in any shape or form.  There are 35 very detailed baguette formulas by today's top Japanese bakers in a very easy to follow format.  The bakers play with fermentation possibilities in a wide ranging ways and dough hydrations of between 57 and 83%.  The book reads to me like 35 flour fermentation love stories.  The baguettes are solid works of fine craft and done in tightly controlled environment (the Japanese way!).  Using the simplest ingredients, their objectives are all the same: to bring out the best flavour in flour through their individual fermentation methods.  Only a third of recipes use levains, and not even at high baker's percentages, for a more clean taste of flour.  Some use other pre-ferments; but pre-ferments are nothing new.  What I find interesting is pre-fermenting the main dough flour. 

Have you ever heard of autolysing flour and water for 12 hours?  Maybe you have, but I haven't.  With this post, I am making baguettes using Fournier Bakery's formula on which the gorgeous looking crumb pictured in the middle above is based.  The book says Fournier won the 2006 French Baguette Competition organized by Torigoe, the oldest Japanese miller of French style of flours. 

Fournier Bakery's baguette formula

Ingredients in baker's percentages

  • 100% bread flour (I used 650 grams of Australia's Kialla Organic unbleached plain flour)

  • 70% water (I had 455 grams)

  • 15% liquid starter (I had 98 grams. See note * below)

  • 0.1% instant dry yeast (I used two-thirds of a 1/3 tsp)

  • 1.9% salt (I had 12 grams)

Overall dough hydration is 72.1%.  My dough weighed about 1200 grams.  I did three times the formula in three days, totaling 18 baby baguettes of 200 grams each (see below).

Note *: As most of us are weekend bakers, it is best that our starter undergo at least two refreshes (ie, refreshment build and levain build) before being incorporated into the final dough.  I did three builds for my levain, each time discarding all but 20 grams for the next build.  I timed the last build to coincide with the 12 hour autolyse of flour and water (see step 2 below). 

  1. Place only flour and water in the mixer, turn on first speed for two minutes.

  2. Autolyse for 12 hours at 16 ºC.  (I did about 9 hours.  As it is summer here in Australia, my temperature averages around 25 - 27 ºC.) 

  3. Add liquid starter and instant dry yeast and mix in first speed for one minute.  (The book says the levain is ready for use when its pH is 3.7.  I had no way of knowing the exact pH of my levain but because it had just gone through 3 builds, I would guess that the pH value might be a lot higher than 3.7.)

  4. Add salt and mix in first speed for 2 more minutes, and second speed for 1 minute and 30 seconds.  When kneading is complete, the dough temperature should be 22 ºC.  (Note: I did all my mixing and kneading by hand.  It was very messy, especially trying to get the liquid starter mixed into the dough.  I did not use ice water to try to get my dough temperature exactly as per the formula.  I figured that I would just watch the fermentation carefully.)

  5. Bulk fermentation is 3 hours in total at 22 ºC as follows: three times 2 letter-folds in a plastic container at 20 minutes intervals, then twice more 2 letter-folds at 60 minutes interval, totaling 5 times.  (As my room temperature and dough temperature was about 25 - 27 ºC, I did only 2 hours bulk.)

  6. Divide the dough into 350 grams pieces and pre-shape them (I divided my dough into 6 pieces of 200 grams each because my baking stone is small, 34 cm x 34 cm.)

  7. Shape into baguette, 60 cm long. (I shaped mine into 32 - 34 cm long).

  8. (Note that it should only be 30 minutes from Divide to Shape, including the rest in between, during which time the dough pieces should be placed in temperature controlled room at 22 ºC.)

  9. Proofing is 60 minutes at 22 ºC and 70 degree humidity.  (The book says when the dough completes its fermentation, its pH should be 5.2.)  (For the last 30 minutes of proofing, I moved my dough into the refrigerator as I was afraid that it might over-prove.)

  10. Pre-heat oven to 250 ºC.  Score the dough with 7 slashes.  Steam the oven before loading the dough.  Once the dough is in the oven, turn the oven down to 240 ºC.  After 3 minutes of baking, steam the oven again.  Bake for a total of 30 - 32 minutes.  (My dough only needed 23 minutes of baking at the highest temperature my oven could go.  I could only manage 4 slashes on my dough.)




To recap: Fournier's fermentation is 4 1/2 hours all-up at 22 ºC.  I did 3 1/2 hours at 25 - 27 ºC, including 30 minutes in the refrigerator, which had an added advantage of chilling the surface of the dough for easier slashing.





The challenge of baguettes to me is how to shape them uniformly.  There is no better way than repetitive practice.  It was only towards my last 3 baguettes (those pictured above) that I worked out how to do them with same length and thickness.  The key for me is, after pre-shaping and rest, pat the dough out to very flat (not to worry, I was not squeezing the gas out by patting).  Then, use minimal movements possible to shape the dough.  I find that excessive handling serves no purpose.   Out of the 18 baguettes that I made, the three next best ones are below:




I find slightly under-proof works better than slightly over-proof.  As my dough pieces were small, just 15 minutes more than necessary could make it over-proved.   Once the dough is done fermenting and ready to go, no amount of chilling in the refrigerator can arrest it because of the internal dough temperature.  The flavour will still be good but oven spring would suffer.





It would be interesting to try out more formulas in the book to learn more ways of pure fermentation.  There is nothing wrong of using other type of flours (for instance, various whole grains flours) on these baguette formulas, paying attention to temperature and time issues etc., and see how they affect fermentation outcomes.  I learn in this book that there are infinite possibilities.

Just as I was cleaning up from today's mess, it's almost time to go and pick up my son from his tennis.  I tied up two baby baguettes to give to Andrew's coach.  Don't people just envy us because we possess these presents to give away?


I was late collecting my son.  When he saw me, he said, "Soft effort, Mum, soft effort."   Gee.

It has stopped raining now.  It is lush and green outside the window.  Polly would not be allowed to go out for a while yet, not until the grass is dry.





breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hi All,

Just want to start out by thanking both MC, and Shiao-Ping for their detailed postings and directions on making the Gérard Rubaud Miche.

Also, since so many people have tried out this method, I figured that I'd try it out too...  And my hand crank grain mill arrived a few days ago, and today was a snow day, so no work...

So here is my attempt that came out of the oven earlier today.  I have to say that it is the most amazing bread that I have made so far...  I probably should have let the loaf age for 1 day before cutting, but I was impatient and cut into it when the internal temp almost hit 80F.  I was not disappointed.

Please find the pictures and recipe below.  Also, I didn't really follow MC's or Shiao-Ping's instructions on building the levain, or on mixing, etc...  Lemme know what you think.  Thanks.



Special tools:

Small Iron Grain Mill from Lehman's as described on MC's blog about Gérard Rubaud

2 - 8" linen lined bannetons or brotforms

2 baking stones

Steam tray or method to create steam.


600g AP Flour (60%)

100g Bread Flour (10%)

150g Organic Winter Hard Wheat Berries (15%)

100g Organic Spelt Berries (10%)

50g Organic Rye Berries (5%)

250g Firm Sourdough Starter @ 60-65% hydration (25%) See notes below.

750g Water (75%)

20g Kosher Salt (2%)

Total Dough Weight: Approx 2000g

Yield: 2 x 800g loaves after baking

Evening of Day 1 - Preparing the Firm Sourdough Starter


Ingredients below not included in above recipe.)

- Grind 25g wheat berries, 15g spelt berries, 10g rye berries with a grain mill.

- Take 100g of your firm storage starter from the refrigerator, mix with 150g AP flour, and 50g of the freshly ground wheat/spelt/rye berries, and 130g water.  Cover and let rest on counter for 2-4 hours.  Starter should double...


- Measure out all ingredients.

- Grind the wheat/spelt/rye berries.

Day 2 - Mixing Final Dough and Baking

12:00am (Midnight)

- Put water, and 250g of firm sourdough starter in large mixing bowl, place dry ingredients on top, mix with wooden spoon until all combined into shaggy dough.  Knead dough in bowl using wet hands using the french fold method for 1 minute making sure to squish out any dry bits or lumps.  Do not add any extra flour.  Dough should be pretty smooth.  Put dough into oiled plastic container, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.


- Turn dough in plastic container using wet hands, cover, let rest 25 minutes.


- Turn dough in plastic container using wet hands, cover, let rest 20 minutes.


- Turn dough in plastic container using wet hands, cover, let rise overnight on counter.  Go to bed.


- Check dough to see if it has doubled in size.  Also press dough with we fingertip.  If impression remains, dough is ready to be divided and preshaped into 2 boules approx 1000g each.  Cover with towel and let rest for 15 minutes.


- Final shape into tight boule, then place into lightly floured banneton/brotform seam side up and place into large plastic bag so they don't dry out, and proof for 2 1/2 to 3 hrs.


- Arrange 2 baking stones on racks in oven, one should be the 1st space from the bottom, and the next should be 2nd from the top.  Arrange steam pan.  Preheat 550F with convection.


- Remove proofing baskets from plastic bag, and cover with dish towel.


- Lightly flour the boules before turning them out onto a peel, slash as desired, place directly on baking stone.  Repeat for 2nd loaf.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water to your steam pan, close oven door.  Turn oven down to 450F with covection and bake for 25 minutes.  After the 1st 25 minutes, rotate the loaves between the stones and bake for another 25 minutes with convection at 425F.  Loaves are done when the internal temp reaches 205F to 210F.

11:45am - Take loaves out of oven and cool for 3-4 hours or until internal temp is 80F.  Loaves should weigh approx 800g after baking.

Notes: for the AP flour, I mixed Whole Foods 365 AP, and Gold Medal Unbleached AP.  The bread flour is King Arthur.  The organic whole grains are from Fairway Market in NYC.  The grinder is really cool!  Hard wheat is hard to grind.  Spelt is easy, and rye is about as hard as hard wheat...

 Submitted to Yeastspotting on 2/11/10

DonD's picture

Because of the snowstorm, I have been housebound since last Friday so what's  better than playing with flour. I have made Pain de Campagne au Levain in many incarnations using different kind of flour mixes, different types of levain, different dough hydrations, so this time I decided to try another variation using basically all high extraction wheat flour.

Having some T80 high extraction flour from La Milanaise on hand, I mixed it with 5% Dark Rye from Bob's Red Mill and used it for both my Levain build and final dough. I wanted to try using a semi-stiff Levain at approximately the same hydration as the final dough for ease of incorporation after autolyse so I did a 2-step Levain build at 70% hydration. I decided to go with 1/3 proportion of levain to flour.


1st Levain Build:

- 15 gms White Liquid Levain (100% hydration)

- 30 gms Flour Mix

- 20 gms Water

This build took 12 hours

2nd Levain Build:

- 50 gms 1st Build Levain

- 80 gms Flour Mix

- 56 gms Water

This build took 4 hours

Final Dough:

- 500 gms Flour Mix

- 167 gms 2nd Build Levain

- 375 gms Water

- 13 gms Grey Sea Salt

I mixed the flour and water and autolysed for 30 minutes. I set out to use 70% hydration but during mixing, I added more water to get the right dough consistency and upped it to 75%. I performed S&F in the bowl 5 times at 45 minutes interval. Total bulk fermentation was 5 hours. I refrigerated the dough overnight. Next morning, I divided the dough in two, preshaped, rested for 60 minutes, shaped in 2 batards, proofed 45 minutes and baked at 450 degrees with steam for 12 minutes, then without steam on convection at 420 degrees for 20 minutes.


The oven spring was good and the crust came out crunchy with nice dark color. There was an enticing nutty fragrance when it came out of the oven.


The crumb was fairly soft with irregular holes. It has the gelatinous quality that I always look for.

The crumb had good mouthfeel, soft and slightly chewy. The toasted wheat flavor came through mixed with sweetness and a pronounced tang, a little more than I wanted.

This is the first time that I have made a Pain de Campagne using all Levain. I normally use around 20% levain and added 1/4 tsp of instant yeast to boost the leavening power. I tend to prefer a less tangy and less dense Levain bread so the lower levain percentage and the addition of Instant Yeast made the bread taste creamier and sweeter than an all levain bread. Otherwise, I did not detect a lot of difference in terms of oven spring, appearance and fragrance.

Happy Baking!


korish's picture

This was originally posted on my blog Healthy living, you can see more images there but here is the run down of my day baking.

Bake n Blog February 9 2010 finish
As my bake day came to the close it was more of a disappointment than success this time. There were happy moments that shun through on small occasions but over all it was a bust. My spelt sourdough that I like to make did not turn out, the substitution of white flour with wheat made the dough wet and hard to work with, and when I free formed the bread it decided to run all over and became more of a large flat bread. The only good part of this bread story is that I got a proof cabinet and made wooden shelf for the proffer so non of my bread stuck to the shelves. When the bread baked the flavor was more sour than I would like, reading few blogs about baking I learned that the small amount of salt does not add much to the flavor so this time I skipped the salt on my breads, big no no, the small pinch of salt that we add to the dough actually makes a big difference in taste. The Pain au Levain turned out great except that I also held the salt back so it's not as flavorful but over all it is a good bread.

To Success.

This bake I decided to try and convert my beer pizza dough from using dry yeast to sourdough and it was a success. I hope to share about this in my next blog, I baked 4 pizzas including 1 with bananas and cinnamon, and we loved it.

Things I learned from the bake.

One main thing I have learned from this bake is that when you are trying a new bread or a changing your current recipe, do it to a single loaf of bread, not your whole mix.

Stick to what works, and what you know that you will like.

Use salt, although it's a small amount but does enhance the flavor tremendously.

Most of all don't get disappointed, you can always try again.

Till our next bake.


davidg618's picture

I've been reading a lot lately about Spelt flour. My interest was sparked by a seemingly Spelt flour interest-spike among TFLer's, and that I've never baked with Spelt. I've also been wanting to create a 40% Whole Wheat sandwich sourdough bread. We routinely bake a pan-shaped 40% whole wheat straight dough, we're very happy with; however, I wanted a similar, but free-form baked sourdough primarily for grilled sandwiches. I thought it would be fun to do a side-by-side comparison, substituting Spelt flour for the Bread Flour, leaving everything else unchanged, and keeping my dough techniques as nearly identical as possible.

Here's my formula:


11 g seed starter (refrigerated, feed every two weeks or more frequently) fed 1:1:1 three time over twenty-four hours yielding 300 g ripe levain. Whole wheat flour used for all builds (represents 16% of total dough flour); levain hydration 100%.

Final doughs:

140 g ripe levain (from above)       16% of total flour contributed

105 g Whole Wheat flour               24%

265 g Bread or Spelt flour             60%

305 g Water                                 70% (includes 70g from levain)

 9 g Salt                                        2%

11 g Olive oil (1 Tbs)                      2.5% 

Procedures: (for both doughs)

Hand-mixed all ingredients to bowl side-cleaning ball; 30 minute rest; French-fold until dough passed window-pane test; retarded bulk proof for five hours @ 55°F with one Stretch and Fold at 45 mins. (The retardation was done only to accomadate my schedule.) Removed from chiller, preshaped, and further bulk proofed at 76°F for two hours. Shaped two batards, and final proofed for one and one-half hours. Scored, and loaded into pre-steamed oven, at 500°F. Immediately lowered oven temperature to 450°F. Baked first ten minutes with steam, removed steam source and vented oven, finished baking: spelt flour loaf 15 more minutes, bread flour loaf 17 more minutes. Cooled completely.

Although these doughs are relatively high hydration, because of the high protein flours the doughs formed soft balls. From the beginning these doughs were different to the touch. Both exhibited comparitive extensibility, but the Bread flour's gluten developed noticeably stronger than the Spelt flour's.  The Bread flour dough shaped more tightly than the spelt flour, proofed more firmly, and exhibited more oven spring.

Obviously, the Bread flour loaf is in the foreground.

The crumb. The bread flour loaf's crumb, while closed (as desired) is lighter, and softer than the spelt flour crumb which borders on the edge of 'dense".

My wife and I taste-tested both breads. The bread flour loaf exhibited the familiar whole-wheat flavor we both like, and the crumb was soft, again as we like in a sandwich bread. The spelt flour loaf had an agreeable flavor--I presume "it" is the flavor of spelt flour--but the whole wheat flour flavor seemed entirely masked.  We shared a second slice of each, but our impressions didn't change. We like them both, but the bread flour formula will stay in our repetoire; spelt flour will have to wait for another formula, another day.

David G

Following the advice of a couple of you, today I baked a 40% whole spelt flour version. Its dough was considerably more slack than the 40% whole wheat flour, everything being the same except for the spelt flour. Consequently, I wasn't able to shape it as tightly, and it spread more during final proofing. Nonetheless, it had comparable oven spring--the crumb appears more open than the whole wheat version.

We like the flavor; it's more subtle than the whole-wheat presence in the alternative loaf. I think for now, we'll keep this formula in our book, and look for a local source for white spelt flour.

The loaf:

and the crumb.

Thank you all for sharing your expertise and advice.

David G.


ehanner's picture

The other day, as I was in the process of purchasing a book on Amazon when I noticed the "Other people also bought this" feature that was pointing out a book I have wanted to look at for a long time. Brother Juniper's Bread Book by Peter Reinhart is a classic and I think his first published book.

Paging through it today, I am taken by the variety of good looking bread recipes. There isn't a single photo in the book so when I say good looking I mean the recipes look interesting.Reinhart's writing style is clear and easy to follow as is the case in all of his later works.

The currently available version has been revised in some interesting ways. In the section on Sweet French Breads, Peter says he changed the formula slightly, now calling for bread flour and less yeast and salt. This allows for a slower rise and better flavor. I'm glad to see that he re-visited the basic concept of how to produce good bread. We have all learned that the path to full flavored bread winds down a path of slow fermentation. All of the recipes reflect this emphasis on time.

Finally, there are some great muffin recipes and a chapter on The World's Greatest Brownies. How could you not like that?

This would be a good starter book for a person who is baking impaired like I was. All of Peter's later books have a considerable amount of space dedicated to natural yeast or Sour Dough. In this book he is focused on getting great flavor with dry yeast products. This is a well written classic that has been updated and has many wonderful breads and other baked goods. I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes.



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