The Fresh Loaf

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Pain au Levain with Farro

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hanseata's picture

Pain au Levain with Farro

Farro, or emmer, an ancient kind of wheat, is popular in some parts of Italy, and, ever since I purchased Maria Speck's wonderful book "Ancient Grains in Modern Meals", also in our family. Creamy farro with honey roasted grapes became our new breakfast favorite that even my picky, normally no-breakfast-type son wolfed eagerly down:

With this delicious experience in mind, I felt inspired to come up with a recipe for a bread with farro. I wanted a straightforward bread, with sourdough, but not too tangy, to showcase the farro. I used whole farro kernels that I ground in my little hand cranked mill (with the additional "benefit" of a good arm muscle workout).


MOTHER (levain 1. build)
20 g wheat or rye mother starter (100% hydration), OR 16 g of apple or raisin yeast water
8 g water, lukewarm
20 g bread flour

CHEF (levain 2. build)
42 g mother (all)
16 g water, lukewarm
42 g bread flour
100 g chef (all)
100 g water, lukewarm
200 g bread flour
314 g farro flour
236 g water
6 g salt
all soaker
all levain
314 g bread flour
6 g salt
202 g water

rolled wheat or other flakes for topping

DAY 1:

1. Mix soaker ingredients, let sit at room temperature.
For the 3-step levain: mix ingredients for mother, and proof in a warm place (like oven with light on) for ca. 6 hours. Repeat procedure with next two steps (chef and levain). Refrigerate overnight.

DAY 2:

2. Remove levain from refrigerator 2 hours before using.
3. Cut levain in small pieces (to make mixing easier). Place all ingredients in mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until dough comes together, 1 - 2 minutes. Knead on medium low speed for 4 minutes (dough should be very tacky, bordering on sticky). Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 1 minute more (dough should be still very tacky, if not sticky).
4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place for 90 minutes. Transfer to lightly floured work surface, and, (with your hands from from the middle of the dough to the sides), push out air, then stretch and fold. Place folded dough with seam down back in bowl. Let rest for another 80 minutes.
5. Push out air again, let dough relax for 10 minutes more.
6. Divide into 2 equal pieces, shape into boules, place seam-side down on parchment lined baking sheet, mist with water and sprinkle with rolled wheat. Mist breads with oil spray, cover, and proof for 75 - 90 minutes in warm place, until grown to 1 1/2 times their original size. (Preheat oven after 30 minutes.)
7. Preheat oven to 250ºC/485ºF, including steam pan.
8. Place breads in oven, steaming with 1 cup of boiling water, and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 200ºC/400ºF and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate breads 180 degrees, remove steam pan and continue baking for another 20 minutes (internal temperature 98ºC/209ºF). Leave for 10 minutes in switched-off oven with door slightly ajar. Then cool on wire rack.

Pain au Levain with Farro

I am very happy with the result, a pleasantly mild, nutty tasting bread. 


lumos's picture

Beautiful bread, Hanseata.  It's amazing how open the crumb is considering the relatively high proportion of farro flour. Do you think soaking the flour before mixing helped it?  Love the colour, too.

I wonder your 'Farro' is same as our 'spelt' in UK.  There seems to be some disputes about what 'farro' really is, because Italians call several grains 'Farro.' (Wiki article)

ananda's picture

Hi Karin,

Lovely bread.   I'm pretty sure Emmer is something different to Spelt, although probably of similar origins.   Have you used Einkorn, or Kammut (R)?   I suspect all 4 have similarities but yet are slightly different types of grain.   Wondering what your experience is here?

All good wishes


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Karin, such a juicy crumb (can one say that?)

I have come to like Emmer recently, very flavorful.

And it kind-of locks in with rye (I use it in single-stage detmolders, 40% rye, 50% wheat, 10% Emmer)


hanseata's picture

Thanks you, Lumos, I also checked at Wikipedia, because I wanted to know whether Farro goes by other names, too. The information was interesting, but also confusing with the different possibilities. On my bag of Farro kernels, made by Roland, it said nothing but "Semi-pearled Farro from Italy". So I looked at the official Roland website, and it said this Farro was Emmer.

For the formula I did a mix of Peter Reinhart (the soaker and the autolyse), and Jan Hedh (the levain). Since I bake a lot with spelt and found that it's basically interchangeable with whole wheat (though it seems to ferment faster), I thought I could use a 50/50 ratio and still have a fairly open crumb. (Only afterwards I saw that Jan Hedh even had a formula for a 100% Emmer bread).

I like the idea of soaking whole grains with a little bit of salt, instead of adding all the whole grain to the final dough, it really makes a difference in taste, especially for whole wheat, so I usually work with soakers. I don't know whether it helped here, but it definitely didn't hurt.



hanseata's picture

I have never before used Emmer, or Einkorn, but smaller percentages of Kamut in one of Jan Hedh's formulas.

We have two bargain stores here in Maine, Reny's and Ocean State Job Lot, that always carry strongly reduced Bob's Red Mill products - rarer grains and seeds, also gluten free ones, that are usually quite expensive. So I'm always on the lookout for a bargain on these goods that I can't get from my organic whole grocer.

The Farro/Emmer kernels look exactly like spelt, the taste is slightly different from spelt, also a bit nutty, and distinctly different from whole wheat. The Kamut amount I used so far was in a mix with other grains, so I can't really tell the difference.



hanseata's picture

We definitely liked it a lot, probably I would add a hint of coriander next time.

It's really interesting that all these ancient grains are being rediscovered. I always preferred the taste of spelt to that of whole wheat, anyway.

For my rye sourdoughs I always use a variation of the 3-stage Detmolder procedure (from Martin Stöt Poldt), it makes really a difference.

Liebe Grüsse


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Karin,

I only briefly had a look at Poldt's verson of the 3-stage process, in a book shop. I can't remember the details. Would you mind reminding me?

I used the 3-stage detmolder process only once, with great success. Very tasty bread.

But temperature control is quite difficult. The single step process works well for me, my kitchen seems to have just the right temperature.

Do you know the Technikarbeit by Roetz? An interesting read with respect to rye sourdoughs.

Liebe Gruesse,





hanseata's picture

Pöt Stoldt wanted to achieve a starter fermentation method that is simpler than the Detmold one, but nevertheless able to produce sufficient acid and yeasts:

1. Stage (Anfrischsauer): 50 - 100 g mother starter + 100 g rye flour + 100 g lukewarm water, 6 - 8 hours at 26-28 C (79-82 F).

2. Stage (Grundsauer): all 1. stage starter + 100 g rye flour + 100 g lukewarm water, 6 - 8 hours at 22-26 C (72-79 F).

3. Stage (Vollsauer): all 2. stage starter + 100 g rye flour + 100 g lukewarm water, 3 - 4 hours at 18-22 C  (64-72 F).

Pöt says his method functions even with lower temperatures, as long as you have falling temperatures for each stage, for every 2 degrees C less it will take an hour longer to ferment.

I do the first stage in my oven with the light on (or, if I'm baking, near the oven), the second stage in the kitchen, the third just overnight, when the house is colder.

There is really a difference in taste and performance of this 3-stage rye starter, and one that's made in one step. I tested two rye breads, one with Pöt's starter, the other with a one step rye starter, everything absolutely the same, except for the making of the starter. The 3-step starter was livelier, smelled very pleasant fruity-sour, and the bread rose and tasted better:

Hamelman's Walnut Rye, the upper slice from a 1-step starter, the lower with Pöt's 3-stage starter.

With a whole wheat or white starter the difference is not that noticeable, they are milder, anyway.

Thanks for the link, I will look into it, I never heard about it.

Liebe Grüsse,



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Karin, thank you for explaining in such a detail. The photos are very interesting.

There's another project...

Liebe Gruesse,