The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


jombay's picture

Been working on my own sourdough formula named after where I live and from where the culture was grown. It's not finished so I won't be releasing the formula just yet.

Turned out very well this time although I think I need to increase the hydration a tiny bit as I want a more holey crumb. Maybe make the levain a bit more stiff for increased sourness too.

On another note, I'm moving to Toronto in 5 or so weeks for my 2 year Baking and Pastry course. My new apartment only has a small gas oven. I hear those don't work too well for bread baking. Oh well I guess the huge steam injection ovens at school will have to suffice haha.

SylviaH's picture

My first attempt at these loaves from Daniel T. DiMuzio's book 'bread baking An Artisan's Perspective'.  An excellent book and one of my favorites.  I used the formula for Baguettes with Liquid Levain.  I made one small baguette for dinner before bulk fermenting the rest of the dough for 24hrs.  My husband had crunched it in half and was eating it before I had finished putting dinner on the table and said yumm this is delicious.  I made 2 french breads also 'called parisiennes in the book when scaled into 500g (18oz).  The french 2 loaves weighed 16.3 oz. each after being baked.  The flavor is delicious, sweet, buttery and no sourness with a creamy mouth feel and nice chew to the crust.







             After searching I found the photo taken of the crunched baguette.  So I added it for reference.  In MHO it is very similar to the Baguette Monge I did with the same 69% hydration level.  There is no added organic white wheat in this baguette.  I will add it next bake because the taste is so delicious and closely resembles in appearance and flavor that of the E.K.B.M. I baked.








txfarmer's picture

I made Poliane Miche from BBA last year, tried Hamelman's version this weekend. A lot more water, still used Golden Buffalo flour, came out of the oven yesterday morning.

Crumb is more open than BBA version, which is reasonable since it has a lot more water, but not as open as the picture in the book or on some of the posts here on TFL. Might be my handling, maybe my flour is thirsty, or maybe the final proof is a tad too long (the book suggested 2 to 2.5 hours, I did 2 in my 73F house)

But, oh my goodness, I love the flavor. Came out of the oven yesterday, cut and tried a few slices this morning. Comparing to BBA version, this one is less "meaty", more "delicate" (if one can call a 3lb+ dark loaf of bread "delicate"). Only slightly sour, with a very complex flavor profile, I am looking forward to see how the taste would change in the next few days. Now I want to try the miche formula with mixed flour in the same book.

Oh yeah, "H" stands for "Hamelman" of couse, I want to try  a variety of miche recipes, then modify them to come up with my own "txfarmer house miche" formula.


Made another batch of Gosselin baguette with cold retarding (as I blogged here), I like the retardation methods, which makes it easy to have it ready for Friday dinner. It was perfect with some soup. Used KA AP flour this time, 76% hydration, and reduced yeast amount to 1/2 tsp (adjusted fermentation time accordingly).

Used the "New" shaping/preshaping techniques I learned from SFBI, very nice. Scoring is still insanely difficult with this 76% hydration dough. We like this bread so much, I am sure I will get enough practice, hopefully I will get big ears on them one day!

dmsnyder's picture

We're back from Portland after a relaxing week in the city and at the beach. 

It's really hard to decide where to have breakfast - at Stumptown Downtown for the best espresso (and good bagels or decent pastries) or the Pearl Bakery for the best bread and pastries (and decent espresso). We opted for the Pearl Bakery.

Gibassier and Cappuccino at Pearl Bakery

We then visited the Clear Creek Distillery and had a guided tour by the proprietor, Steve McCarthy, with whom I had gone to college. We tasted the most extraordinary pear liqueur and pear brandy and cassis liqueur and grappa and ... I can't remember what else, for some reason.

The pot stills are imported from Germany and are the same as have been used for hundreds of years to distill eau de vie, except for the modern electronics, of course.

Barrel aging room with Steve, my wife (on the left) and DIL (in the middle). Steve's the one with the beard.

We had lunch after this at the St. Honoré bakery-café. Yummy bread and a smoked duck breast salade. Bakery in action for entertainment.

Scoring boules at the St. Honoré Bakery

My grandson had just finished a week at "Rock and Roll University." We attended the final concert.

Theo's the vocalist.

Then, off to Neskowin for 4th of July fireworks (viewed from our terrace).

We did some wonderful day hikes.

Cascade Head

I got in a bit of baking. An unfamiliar oven is always a challenge. This Italian Bread was baked using Susan's Magic Bowl technique.

We had a wonderful time. It was hard to leave. It always is.

Mt. Hood from PDX

Now to try to catch up with the NYBaker recipe tests.


jstreed1476's picture

Baked my second sourdough ever yesterday, and I couldn't be happier with the results.

I used the 1-2-3 Method described by Shiao-Ping at Sourdough Companion. I was persuaded by its simplicity--no traditional recipe to follow, just a ratio.

The starter was a 50% hydration that had sat in the back of my fridge totally untouched for at least 5 months. It was based on Reinhart's starter formula in BBA; after a single failure of a loaf, I pushed it behind the mayo and forgot about it while pursuing other projects.

Then, last week, I read 52 Loaves and was inspired to give sourdough another shot. I poured off the hooch, scraped off the grey stuff, and spent four days nursing it back to vitality. Needless to say, I had my doubts.

Here's how the loaf turned out:


Here's the formula:

100 g 50% hydration levain

200 g water

35 g whole wheat flour

15 g rye

250 g bread flour

7 g salt

Mixed the starter and water, then added the whole wheat and rye, then the bread flour, approximately 50 grams at a time.

After all flours were mixed and hydrated, I let it rest 20 minutes, then added the salt, kneaded about 1 minute on lightly oiled counter, then proceed with a resting-kneading sequence in Dan Lepard fashion: rested 10 minutes, kneaded 10 secs, rested 10 minutes, kneaded 10 secs, rested 30 minutes, kneaded 10 secs, rested 1 hour, kneaded 10 secs).

After that sequence was over, I let it rise about 90 minutes, then preshaped, rested, and shaped it before placing it in a long basket with a towel. It proofed about 3.5 hours at 75F, at which point it passed the spring-back poke test. Loaded it onto my long, skinny homemade peel (not with out major sticking issues with the towel, unfortunately--hence, no scoring), then onto the bakin stone. 500F for 5 minutes (no steam, and I forgot to cover it with my roasting pan), then 450F for another 15. Internal temp was about 210F. Cooled, cut, and took pics.

I think it tastes great--especially with butter--but unfortunately no one else in my household likes sourdough. I think maybe they'll go for sourdough rye or a dark pumpernickel, so perhaps that'll be next. Also, the dough was pretty slack before the final shaping, so I think it could make a good pizza crust.

Overall, I can credit the 1-2-3 Method as the key here--it seems a very "village bakery" type of thing to do, especially when combined with the incredibly effective, non-labor-intensive kneading protocol advocated by Lepard. The more I bake, the more I appreciate simplicity.

hmcinorganic's picture

I have been focusing on sourdough to the exclusion of all other breadmaking since May.  I finally decided to make Kaiser Rolls from "bread baker's apprentice." by Reinhart.  This is the first recipe I made when I started trying to become a better "artisan" baker.  We spent a month in Austria in 2006 and loved the bread over there so much that I got this cookbook.  I picked it because of the many good shaping pictures.  I knew I could make good tasting bread but I wanted to move on in my technique to well-shaped bread too.

no real issues today.  I started the pate fermente yesterday, and made the bread in the late morning.  I did a few stretch and folds but then had to leave for a few hours.  It blew the plate off my large  mixing bowl.  Degassed it and shaped it by tying knots as Reinhart shows.  Baked at 450 for 2-3 minutes and then 400 for about 30 more. No steam (but did spray the bread with water before baking) and no baking stone. Nice golden brown color.  I tried to get some sesame seeds to stick but they are really falling off.  I haven't really made much seeded bread;  any tips?  Egg-wash is too fussy for me.  But if thats what it takes, I can do that.

here's a picture.  We just ate one.  mmmmmmmmmmmmm.  very good.  Crisp crust and soft fluffy interior.  smells great.

SydneyGirl's picture

I did it: finally found a way of resolving a couple of oven problems and made a nice loaf of whole wheat bread from Leader's book. 

I have been so frustrated with the unpredictability of the gas oven that I'm stuck with: it burns everything, while leaving bottoms of cakes and other dishes uncooked and there is no way to steam because that fan is just supercharged and vents everything immediately. I've not been successful in getting any sort of oven spring and although my breads turn out OK, it is disappointing that after hours of preparation the final result is brought down by these technical difficulties. 

I've decided to forgo hearth baking and stick to loaf tins. I've also devised a way of solving both the burning and steaming issues: I now construct a loose cover, domed quite high over the bread tin out of aluminium foil. I scrunch the foil over three of the four sides of the tin (leaving one long side open - a bit like those shell stages they use for summer concerts in the park).  When I'm ready to put the bread in the oven, I spray liberal amounts of water into my shell, and the top of the bread. I then place the bread in the oven (with the open side facing the oven door) and do some more spraying aimed at the top of the oven before closing the oven door. (I did also have a pan of water under the shelf, but I don't think it would have contributed much in the way of steam, as it never has before). 

I've tried this twice now, and it's worked really well. 

I made DanD's version of the Erick Kayser Pain aux Cereales last week and this week tried Daniel Leader's Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche from Local Breads for the first time. I used freshly milled biodynamic whole wheat and a little plain flour. The recipe uses only levain - no yeast. I'm very happy with the result - both the taste and the look.  The crumb is moist and chewy, not at all dry. 

Attached are pics of the WW Sourdough - I actually followed the recipe very closely, for once. Except for the fermentation time: he suggests 1 hour final fermentation while I fermented 1 hour on the bench and then overnight. The final result is very tasty (though I think it could have done with just a touch more salt). The seeds on top of the bread were left-overs from last week's Pain aux Cereales, but there are no seeds inside the bread. 

Leader's WW MicheLeader's WW Miche - Sliced


For comparison, have a look at the Hazelnut & Prune Bread (fromHamelman) I made a few weeks ago - no oven spring and I managed to burn the top in the last 10 minutes of baking. The bread was still nice.  

I love Prunes. From memory, I did stick to the recipe but doubled the amount of fruit and nuts as there wasn't enough in it for my taste. I also thought that the hazelnuts didn't work as well as I thought they might. As hazelnuts aren't widely grown in Australia, they're not always as fresh as they would be if I bought them in Germany, for example - that may have affected the taste. I thought this is one bread I would try with walnuts and prunes next time. 


JuHamelman's Hazelnut & Prune BreadHamelman's Hazelnut Prune Bread slice

Lisakemr's picture

This 4th of July the party at my house was my kid's party! As I looked out across my yard at these adults that I watched grow I thought about how independent they are! My son a C.P.A. and my daughter graduating next year from college and already doing her internship. Frank, my son's friend since playschool, working in accounting, living in Philadelphia. He has a really sweet girlfriend and I must say I am proud of him! Ray is on his way to Law School already has a degree in accounting. He also is living in Philadelphia! I am proud of him! Andy working towards becoming a doctor, Wey working in computers! I am proud of all of them!
I am so thankful that after growing up and becoming" Independent " my children still like to hang out with Karl and I! They like to bring their friends over and hang out with my friends! This is a great time for Karl and I, we do not have as much responsibility towards our kids. They have become are friends and we really do enjoy them! I like how "Independent" they are! I like having them around! The day after the Party I noticed someone wrote on my blackboard "Karl and his family Rock". I laughed and thought no! You kids rock and you can come here anytime and hang out!
You are probably wondering what this has to do with a Brick Oven? The party of course was around the oven. We served 20 Pizzas and the oven was the main attraction! We had Lillian, Franks mom, baking pies! George had a shift at the oven! Joe, of course always eager to help me with the pizza!
The Fireworks were awesome thanks to Frankie and K.C.
 I want to thank Craftmetal for making a pizza prep counter for me! I really like the insulated well for my toppings! I love being able to make pizza in the barn next to the oven!

Thanks Craftmetal!

Lisakemr's picture

  Calzone "Wood Fired" of course! Mmmm...

Finally some summer weather! Friday night and a new wood fired recipe book from K.C. for my birthday last month will make a great night along with the weather. The book is by Andrea Mugnaini and is called The Art Of Wood Fired Cooking. Tonight we are using her dough recipe and a recipe for sausage vegetable calzone. The book gives some good tips on how to manage your fire when making different foods. There are different methods for grilling, baking bread or baking pizza. For the calzone we placed the fire to one side and put the calzone opposite to the fire and towards the front of the oven. We kept the temperature high at around 700*F. As the floor gets hotter the flames get larger. The dome should be void of any black spots and the flame should be rolling to mid point of the dome. This is explained in more detail in the book and you are given details for cooking all the recipes in the book. This worked very well for us and the calzone was done in about five minutes! Cooking with wood is so fast!
The dough recipe was a little different from doughs I have made. It uses active dry yeast you mixed with warm water (110* to 115*F) for 5 minutes to activate. I usually use instant or bread machine yeast. The recipe can be altered to make in 3 hours,24hours or 48 hours. I used 24 hour dough as I like the flavor of cold fermentation dough. It was more bread like then the thin crust we are used to and had a great flavor. I wish I could find a store that sells 00 flour as the recipe calls for it has a 10.5 percent protein and is ground very fine. I used bread flour and it was good.
The sausage and vegetable calzone was easier then making pizza and I liked that everything was prepared on Thursday to bake on Friday night after work!
I will share the vegetable sausage calzone recipe with you and you can try it with your own dough.

Sausage and Vegetable Calzone from The Art Of Wood Fired Cooking

1/4 c chopped roasted sweet red bell pepper
1/4 c sauteed spinach, drained well
1/4 pound spicy Italian sausage sauteed and cooled to room temperature
1/3 c fresh ricotta
1/2 c diced fresh mozzarella
1/4 c shredded fontina
1 T grated pecorino
1 teas fresh oregano leaves
1 8 to 10 oz. pizza dough

Combine all ingredients except dough in a bowl and mix well. Mound mixture onto one half of stretched dough. Fold other half over and pinch to seal. Place in oven towards the front and bake about 5 min until puffed and stiffened. Pull forward and pierce with a sharp knife to release steam and brush with olive oil. Return to oven and bake 2 to 3 minutes more. Enjoy!

There are so many tips in this book. I learned why it is best to hand press the dough and not use a rolling pin. The rolling pin presses out the air and makes the crust dense. Hand rolled dough is light and tender and also cooks faster. The recipes are for everything from seafood to peach crisp. I can't wait to make a Thanksgiving turkey and I am going to follow the suggestion to try it out this summer before the holiday! Karl liked the chapter on making the right fire for the food you are making. I will share more as I make the recipes.
If you have a Round Boy Oven I suggest you try this book and learn more delicious ways to enjoy cooking with fire!

Posted by kemr at 3:39 PM 0 comments


ananda's picture


Bread Adventures in July [finally edited to include a few pictures, and remove the original apologetic whingeing!]

This academic year seems to have gone on longer than any I can previously remember.   I still have a few assignments to mark for late submitting Hospitality students...maybe I should be getting that out of the way this weekend?   However I thought it would be more fun to write up the detail of the breads I've been making this month instead!

Apologies in advance: unusually for me, there are very few photographs.   I've had 2 excellent baking sessions, but a camera has been hard to lay hands on, on both occasions.   I'm actually just baking off the last of the breads from the last 2 day's hard work crafting an interesting range of doughs.

Some of these are part of my contribution to the "Hamelman Challenge".   I haven't checked up to see how folks are progressing with this recently, but here's a summary of where I reckon I've got to:

TOTAL is apparently 85 different breads.   Some of these I have decided there is little point me making.   These are the likes of Chollah, Hot Cross Buns etc., which I've made so many times, and incorporate into my regular teaching every year, and have tried and tested methods which I don't intend to change [eg. use of a ferment etc.].   Then there are breads I've made before such as ciabatta, baguette etc.

Add these to the one's I've done recently and the total completed reads 29, and therefore, still 48 to complete.   Many of these are Rye-based, so that continues to excite.   Most of the others either use soakers, or liquid levain [I tend to use a stiff wheat levain], so there is much to look forward to.

Anyway, I've had 2 baking sessions; one on Thursday 1st July, the other largely yesterday and today.   The first session was in College, when I played host to my Baking and Teaching mentor from Leeds together with one of his recent student graduates who is a bread fanatic working at an artisan outlet in Leeds.   Joe actually retired just a year ago; a fount of knowledge, it would be difficult for me to quantify my debt to Joe; he was the inspiration driving me to work so hard whilst studying.   Joe had told me a little about how passionate Laura was about bread, and had asked me to make some breads on the day, which would give her some new ideas to work with.   These are the formulae and methods I came up with; many, actually being work in progress, or brand new recipes to me.

•1.    "Bermaline"

This experiment was inspired by a post on TFL from qahtan, which has clearly been a long term project for the original poster.   See:    As will be noted, original interest goes way back to an old thread on the Dan Lepard forum in 2004!

I used the traditional recipe supplied by duncang, on the Dan Lepard thread, in 2008.   I couldn't resist using this formula, as it specifically references semolina.   Given I have been using the coarse semolina provided by my local miller, the by-product from the accompanying bag of lovely fine pizza/ciabatta flour, this was the recipe for me.   Just a bit about the bread itself: it is a companion to the traditional "Hovis" tinned loaf, therefore using a prescribed amount of germ and fibre, both as a bread improver, and, to add to the somewhat worrying lack of fibre creeping in to the British diet at the time.   So, not much has changed there then!!!   Additionally the loaf used a given quantity of malt extract, which was actually manufactured by "Bermaline", so the bread made under this brand, would have to use this type of malt, together with the specified meal.   Hovis and Granary are really the only mass-produced bread categories in England still made along the same lines; I don't want to count "Soreen" as a bread, if that's alright?

The bread is baked with the tin over the loaf, so the attractive logo on the side of the bread appears the right way round.   There is a hole in the middle of the pan base.   Put a skewer inside this during proof as a means to monitor proof levels prior to baking....good tip from the master [Joe]!   Well, I used Bermaline pans at Leeds to make tinned bread as they are really attractive finished loaves.   But, I don't have these at Newcastle College.   I do have a similar tin, oval-shaped, but with straight rather than sloping sides.   It does have the crucial hole in the base too!

Here's the formula and recipe.   Neither Bermaline Malt Extract nor Meal exists anymore, but this is a semolina take on it.


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

Gilchesters Organic Coarse Semolina



Organic Barley Malt Syrup [Meridian]









Vegetable Shortening



Fresh Yeast






Original Source  is Bennion, E. B. [1954] Breadmaking: its principles and practice. London: Oxford University Press

nb. This is not the original edition of this book; first print was January 1929!


  • Soak the semolina in the water for one hour before mixing
  • Add the remaining ingredients, attach a dough hook and mix on slow speed to form a soft and developed dough. A gluten network will form so long as gentle mixing is employed. DDT is 30°C
  • Ferment in bulk for 2½ hours, knocking back after 1 and 2 hours
  • Scale and mould loaves at 500g, and prove on trays covered by the oval loaf pans. Proof at 35°C, 85%rH, for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Bake at 225°C top heat 6, bottom heat 8 for 35 minutes.
  • Remove covering pans, and bake out a further 5 minutes if necessary.
  • Cool on wires



Following changes needed:

A] not enough salt; increase to 1.8%

B] not enough yeast; increase to 1.8%

C] to increase the strength of the dough, use strong white flour at 20% and reduce the semolina to 80%; this may not be necessary with changes A and B implemented.   Another alternative may be to reduce hydration by 1-2%, but keep formula as 100% semolina

D] consider a small increase in malt syrup


•2.    Gilchesters "Pain au Levain"

I started a natural leaven with the Gilchesters flour back in October 2009.   I buy 2 grades of flour from Gilchesters; one is the very fine pizza/ciabatta flour, and the other is branded as "Farmhouse" flour.   Andrew Wilkinson, who runs the business, came to College back in November to give a lecture to my Foundation Degree students.   He explained this flour has approximately an 85% extraction, and it really is wonderfully finely ground.   This is the base for the leaven I have since maintained.   Here is the formula for the second bread we made:


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Levain



Gilchesters Organic Farmhouse Flour












  • 2. Final Dough



Levain [from above]



Gilchesters Organic White Pizza/Ciabatta Flour












Pre-fermented flour: 25%.   Overall dough hydration 66.5%


We made this as a true sourdough.   I did the final elaboration for the leaven about 18 hours ahead of schedule - longer than ideal, but I don't sleep at College, thankfully!   Still I made the leaven cold, and chilled it down for the final 2 hours in the fridge as soon as I arrived that morning.   I mixed the dough gently on a low speed to enable long mixing time and full development.   The Gilchesters flour is high in protein, but the quality of the gluten is not great.   The Farmhouse flour always needs every drop of the 70% hydration used; the 66.5% in the final formula was just right for the bread we could produce in a relatively limited time schedule.   After mixing, the dough had 1½  hours in bulk with one S&F at the mid-point.   After that, we scaled just less than 1kg to give 5 large loaves.   These were moulded round and proofed in bannetons.   We used a prover, with humidity due to time pressure.   The result was the loaves stuck, just a little in the bannetons; but this was not fatal, just distorted the loaf shape a little.

Finished breads were great, although a little sour for some people's tastes, I suspect.   This leaven actually needs quite a lot of looking after to maintain it well.   The high ash content means it gets pretty hungry, and ferments through quite rapidly.   However, I don't get to work with it as often as would be ideal.   I think this leaven would be a total winner in a commercial bakery, where it was in use all the time, and subject to a constant refreshment cycle....a dream, per chance?

•3.    Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel

I think we've been here before a couple of times now; see blog entries below.   BUT, finally I had the opportunity to cook this bread as I've wanted to all along.   I made the bread in my Pullman Pan.

We cooked it in the Combi Oven I have installed in the bakery kitchen.   This is a Steaming Oven and a Convection Oven in one; you can use steam, fan-powered dry heat, or a combination.   Ordinarily I detest this sort of oven for baking, being a dedicated worshipper of conduction or radiation systems.   However, 9 hours in the steamer for a 2.4kg loaf in the Pullman Pan?   Extraordinary result, I have to say.   The only difficulty is that the finished loaf had to sit in the oven overnight with the lid still on the bread pan.   The oven was programmed, so it switched off automatically, but I was long gone home by then, and the building was devoid of anyone to decant the finished bread.   I actually have photos of this loaf, and will attach below.   Colour is just sublime; soo dark, and it got darker too.    BUT, not the burnt dark you get from baking in the oven.   I don't like that.   Dark from all the sugar caramelisation over such an extended cooking period.   The slight sag on the top of the loaf is entirely due to the loaf sitting in the cold oven overnight with the lid on.   Condensation as the loaf cooled has run onto the top of the loaf, causing it to collapse just a TINY bit.   Well, I eventually dared to cut into this on Monday evening, having made it the previous Thursday.   Moist may not be even enough of a description.   It's Saturday today, and I've just eaten the last slice for breakfast...still almost as moist as when the loaf was first cut.   Way to go in the future, methinks for sure!


•4.    Jeffrey Hamelman's Flaxseed Bread

I was almost totally faithful to the author's formula, and refer you to pp.211-2 of his book "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes".   I did adopt the small element of fresh yeast, purely on account of available time, given I had set up so many breads for Laura to have some kind of hands-on experience in making.   Actually, now I look over the formula, I realise that I decided to use wholwheat flour in the final dough, rather than medium rye flour.   Given I'd chosen the HB to perfect, I decided to make this slightly less of a "high rye" than originally intended by the author.

We made just over 4kg of dough and shaped it up into 4 large loaves proved in bannetons.   These loaves were so bold; they baked beautifully in the steam of the deck oven, on the sole.   The keeping qualities were absolutely amazing, thanks to the flaxseed [cold] soaker.   Laura e-mailed through to me on Thursday, a week later.   She said she was still eating up this loaf, and how fresh it had kept!


And so, on to Session 2.   I've made the following breads over the weekend, and they are all inspired by Hamelman's "Bread" book.

•5.    Garlic Levain

The formula is almost exactly to the one in the book.   I had some very tasty flavoured oil which I used to roast the garlic.   I actually peeled the garlic and chopped it into chunks which I then roasted in the oil.   See pp. 183-4 for the recipe/formula.   My main deviation is that I used an overnight cold bulk fermentation for the dough.   As recommended I used a 2 hour ambient bulk proof [I added in one S&F half way through].   After that I chilled the dough right down overnight in the fridge....good excuse to get up early and bake!   I baked this as one oblong loaf, with arrowhead cutting on the top.   The smell in the house has been quite outrageous for some time now!

•6.    Pain au Levain with Mixed Starters

I know this is a favourite with Larry.   I actually had to do a little adapting of the formula, as my rye and wheat leavens were not running in synchronicity.   The wheat leaven is older, and has been used to the point where it is becoming a kicking culture.   It had been sitting unused in the fridge for about 3 weeks.   I did one elaboration on Thursday evening, making it into a liquid levain.   From there, yesterday afternoon I refreshed this to a full stiff levain.   It was ready to use within 3 hours, and I knew I would have to motor.   Of course, the rye was very active by this stage, but had nowhere near soured through, as I prefer when working with rye.   So I will publish this recipe to clarify how the balance of the formula has been change.   Additionally, my rye sour was the usual batter [100flour:167water], and the wheat leaven, a stiff dough [100flour: 60water]


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Rye Sourdough



Dark Rye












  • 2. Wheat Levain



Strong White Flour












  • 3. Final Dough



Rye Sour [from above]



Wheat Levain [from above]



Strong White Flour



Strong Wholemeal Flour












Pre-fermented flour: 24%.   Overall hydration: 68%

Hamelman's formula uses just 16% pre-fermented flour; my higher alternative was to counter the youth of the rye sour!

I used exactly the same method as described above for the garlic leaven.

Any photos posted of these products are done on my mobile phone...apologies for any lack of quality!   My wife, Alison, is off to Manchester this weekend with her 3 girl superstar students, bidding to win a national poetry competition.   She, quite rightly, has priority in terms of access to the camera.   Still the bread in the freezer will be replenished on her return.   Oh, nearly forgot: one more!

•7.    Volkornbrot with Flaxseeds

This has been a total delight to make.   Having perfected the steaming technique for HB, I decided I would bake this loaf, just as we used to bake the Rossisky-style loaves at Village Bakery.   However, my Pullman Pan contained only just short of 2kg of paste, so clearly getting a bake on the product was going to be a small challenge.

Essentially the formula is exactly to Hamelman's, see pp. 219-20, but for the following small amendments: I have only cracked rye to use as a substitute for the rye chops in the first cold soaker.   I am very happy to say I had no need whatsoever for any baker's yeast in this formula.   In fact I actually had to hold it in the fridge for 2 hours waiting whilst I baked off the 2 breads described above.

Once on the final leg of baking the last mixed levain, I put the Pullman Pan in the oven, with the temperature reading 220°C, and turned the thermostat down to 200°C.   20 minutes later, I propped open the oven door for 5 minutes, and turned the heat down to 180°C.   After that, I removed the baked Pain au Levain with mixed starter.   I re-filled my makeshift "larva pan" [old cast iron roasting pot containing several stones] with boiling water, shut the oven door and left the loaf to bake a further 1¾ hours at 175°C.   My oven is an electric fan oven; nothing fancy at all.   The finished bread looks as I would have expected.   It's not quite as dark as the HB [no molasses for a start, and it has golden flax], but I reckon it will darken in the days to come.   I wonder how long I can wait before cutting into it?!

Top left: Pain au Levain with Mixed Starters.   Top right: Garlic Levain

Bottom: Volkornbrot with Flaxseeds


Best wishes to all




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