The Fresh Loaf

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Pain au levain with mixed sourdough starters - play with shape and flavor

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txfarmer's picture

Pain au levain with mixed sourdough starters - play with shape and flavor


This is a formula from “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman, a lot of people have made it with good results. I won't duplicate the formula here, see this link for a scaled down version, or better yet, get the book. A few notes:

1 I made the full recipe, got 2 huge 1.5lb breads;

2. I tried out a fun new shape, see shaping video here;

3. Kept the dough at 68% as specified in the formula, it was a dream to dough to handle

4. Did overnight cold proof, then about 80min of warming up at room temp (78F, that's TX spring for ya)


One dough shaped and scored as a batard, the other one with the fun shape, both came out very pretty


Give it a bold bake, look at the crackling singing crust! It was messy to cut.


Crumb for batard


I thought the extra rolling and shaping would make the crumb tighter, but not really, the following is crumb shot for the fun shape loaf:


Both have crumb that's very open for a 68% dough. My white starter is very not sour, my rye starter is a bit more sour but with a deep rye flavor, I think using both does adds complexity to the flavor.


Submitting to Yeastspotting.


wally's picture

Both are beautiful looking loaves, with a really rich, deep coloration.  I'm always amazed at how it's possible to achieve that kind of lovely open crumb with a relatively moderate hydration dough.  Just goes to show how important good handling, shaping and proofing are to the crumb structure.

Nice bake!


txfarmer's picture

Thanks Larry! Even though I like high hydration doughs for ciabatta and baguettes, for country loaves like these, I really like a moderate hydration level. I think 65% to 68% is enough to get an open crumb.

RachelJ's picture

WOW! that's really nice looking bread!

txfarmer's picture


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Those loaves also look like they're begging for some thin sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard.

txfarmer's picture

Good idea! I believe we did eat them with ham and cheese!

ananda's picture

Hi txfarmer,

that's exactly the hydration figure I have come up with for this type of bread.   It is so good to combine these 2 tpes of leaven.

Lovely result


txfarmer's picture

Thanks Andy! 68% is wet enough to get an open crumb, yet low enough to keep good shape.

SylviaH's picture

Beautiful loaves, they look delicious and have lovely color and crumb, with your artistic handling and shaping they are real beauties!


txfarmer's picture

Thanks Sylvia, I really like this shape. That video site is like a gold mine, lots of shaping ideas.

Mebake's picture

Your work should be featured in Bread Books, and set as model for how bread in recipes will look like!

Totally fantastic, txfarmer!

txfarmer's picture

<Blushing...> Thank you so much! Truthfully, "Bread" is a book needs no picture proof, everything I bake from it turned out great.