The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

pain au levain

dmsnyder's picture

Today's bake was the Pain au Levain from Hamelman's Bread. It is the "whitest" bread I bake - the opposite end of a spectrum from the 80% rye I recently posted - yet I also characterize it as a "real bread." 

For some reason, this 3-cut scoring of a bâtard is more challenging to me than the 5 to 7-cut scoring of a baguette. This is my best attempt yet.

These loaves sang long and loudly during cooling. The crust had some nice crackles.

A nice, open crumb, too.

The 1-cut loaf was gifted to friends, along with a big hunk of the 80% rye. We enjoyed the other pain au levain with our dinner of chicken fricasee and Swiss chard. The crust was crunchy, and the crumb was chewy. The flavor was nice, sweet, wheaty pain au levain with no perceptible sourness.


Raluca's picture

I am back today, to tell you all about one of our favourite breads these days: Pain au Levain. I’ve baked this bread using one of Codruta‘s recipes and we loved it!

Time schedule:

Day 1: Make the preferment, leave for 8-12 hours at room temperature to mature. I don’t know exactly what the temperature in my kitchen is over night…I guess not above 21C.  I usually leave my preferment for around 12 hours until it’s nice and bubbly and has not sunk. You can test if it’s ready by putting a spoon of it in a bowl of water, if it floats it’s ready, otherwise it needs more time. This time I only left it for 11 hours.

Day 2: Make the bread

      • Mix the preferment with the water and flour.
      • Leave to rest for 45mins (autolyse) – The initial recipe calls for only 30mins, but I just couldn’t attend to it due to having some other stuff to do, so I’ve left it for 45minutes.
      • Add the salt and mix for 1 minute on speed 1 and another 3 minutes on speed 3.
      • Leave to rest for 50mins
      • Perform 1st stretch and fold
      • Leave to rest for 50mins
      • Perform 2nd stretch and fold
      • At this point we had to leave the house so I’ve put the dough in the fridge for 3 hours. The recipe called for another 50mins rest  and then the shaping, but I couldn’t do that. If you are at home, by all means don’t put it in the fridge just give it another 50mins rest after the 2nd stretch and fold and then pre-shape it.
      • I took the dough out of the fridge after the 3 hours, performed another stretch-fold and left it for another hour to come to room temperature. Skip this if you have done this the proper way with 3 – 50 mins rest sessions and 2 stretch and folds.
      • I shaped my bread in a batard shape and left it to proof in a floured banneton closed in a plastic bag for 2 hours 30 minutes.
      • Bake at 250C for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 220C for another 35 minutes then bake for another 5 minutes with the oven door ajar. If you have a bigger oven you can try to bake it the proper way: 45 minutes in total at 230C with the last 5 minutes with the oven door open. 

Sourdough culture: I use a 100% hydration sourdough culture: 90% whole wheat, 10% dark rye.

Recipe for 1 loaf (aprox. 69% hydration)

Flour: For this loaf I used very strong Canadian white flour (that has 15% protein) and organic dark rye flour from Shipton Mill.

Ingredients for the preferment

Make it 12 hours before you want to start on your bread. The overall hydration of your preferment (including the water and flour in the sourdough culture is aprox. 60%). 

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour53gr93%
Organic dark rye flour4gr7%
Sourdough culture14gr


Method for the preferment

Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the flour and mix until well combined. Cover tightly with cling film and leave it to rest at room temperature for about 8-12 hours or as I said above: until it’s bubbly and floats. As I said I’ve left mine for 11 hours for this particular bread.

Ingredients for the bread

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour333gr95%
Organic dark rye flour17gr5%

Final baker’s percentage (including preferment)

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Sourdough culture14gr3.47%

Method for the bread

I dissolved the preferment in about 2/3 of the water and then added it to the flour. Mix and add the rest of the water until you have quite a weird and not smooth mass of wet flour coming together. Do NOT add the salt at this point.

I covered the bowl and left to rest for 45 minutes for the autolyse. As I said the original recipe calls for only 30minutes of autolyse..but I couldn’t get to it until after 45minutes. Still works.

When the 45 minutes were up I added the salt. I used the Kitchen Aid with the hook attachment this time: 1 minute on speed 1 and another 3 on speed 2. If you want to knead it by hand do it for about 10 minutes or so.

Transfer the dough to a clean greased bowl (I used an oil spray to grease the bowl), cover it with cling film and leave it to rest for 50 minutes. 

When the 50 minutes are up you are ready for your first stretch and fold.

I did my stretch and folds directly in the bowl, but you can either tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface or you can initially place your dough in a large rectangular container so you can do them directly in there.

Now cover the bowl again and leave to rest for another 50 minutes. Do another stretch and fold (the last one) and again leave to rest for 50 minutes. I couldn’t do that, as we had to go out so I’ve put my dough in the fridge for 3 hours. When we returned I took it out, performed another stretch and fold and left it to come to room temperature for another hour.

After this final rest you need to shape your bread. I shaped this one as a batard, not a great one, but getting there. I moved my shaped loaf in a floured banneton, placed it in a plastic bag that I closed tightly and left it to proof for 2 hrs and 30 minutes.

You will need your oven to reach 230C so start pre-heating sometime after the proofing period has started, depending on your oven.

To bake the bread I use a 3cm thick granite baking stone, that needs at least 1h20 minutes in a 250C oven to heat up properly.

So, after the 2hrs and 30 minutes of proofing, I tipped my bread on a baking sheet scored it with one good score and another 3 rubbish ones, but hey I am learning and put it in the oven. 

I also keep in the oven one of the trays, while it is pre-heating, so it gets hot hot. Then, immediately after transferring the bread on the stone, I add a cup of hot water to the tray below to create some steam and shut the door quickly.

You will need to bake this bread for 45 minutes at 230C. To get a nice crust open the oven door 5 minutes before the baking time is up, to release some of the steam. In my case as the oven is very small I baked it for 5 minutes at 250C then reduced the temperature to 220C for the next 35 minutes and kept it with the oven door opened for another 5 minutes.

Resulting bread:

This is now one of our favourite breads. It had a nice crust with a bit of crunch and the crumb was sweet and with a very nice chewy texture.

isand66's picture

   Every once in a while I feel the need to make a more simple bread; one that will make a great sandwich.  With that in mind I decided to make a version of a Pain Au Levain using some French style flour from KAF, whole wheat and some dark rye flour and toasted wheat germ in the final dough.

I used my normal over-night retardation procedure for the bulk rise and decided to use one of my new baskets I purchased at Good Will over the summer.  Unfortunately I added so much rice flour to the basket to prevent the dough from sticking that some of it got onto the bread itself and when I went to shape it I de-gassed the dough too much.  I was trying to get a nice tight skin on the dough and the rice flour was preventing this.  Lesson learned, but in the end while the crumb ended up a little tighter than it should have been, the flavor was nice and deep with a good crust.


Levain Ingredients & Directions

200 grams French Style Flour (KAF, or use AP Flour)

100 grams Whole Wheat Flour (KAF)

105 grams Seed Starter at 65% hydration (If you use a 100% hydration starter you need to adjust the water amount and flour amount to compensate)

178 grams Water at room temperature

Mix all the above ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.  I usually do this the night before.

Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

Main Dough Ingredients

458 grams  Starter from above

350 grams French Style Flour (KAF)

50 grams Dark Rye (Pumpernickel Flour, KAF)

54 grams Toasted Wheat Germ (KAF)

17 grams Seas Salt or Table Salt (I used Hickory Smoked Sea Salt)

312 grams Water at room temperature


Mix the flours, and 275 grams of the water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 20-30 minutes.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces) and mix on low for a minute.  Add the rest of the water unless the dough is way too wet.   Mix on low-speed for another 3 minutes.  Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.  I made 1 large batard shape but you can make boules or other shapes.  Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature.  Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.

After 1 minute lower the temperature to 450 degrees.  Bake for 35-50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 205 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.


varda's picture

I didn't do much holiday baking this year mostly because I have had my focus firmly on bread and flour, and the infinite variety that flour, water, salt, and yeast can create.   For my last post of the year, back to my learning bread - the bread that I made over and over and over again for a year before I went on to other things.   Of course what's the fun without variation.   This one is made with a mix of KA AP flour, White Rye, and High Extraction flour.  

The White Rye for reasons I don't understand gives oven spring a boost.  

The High Extraction flour, while containing a fair amount of bran, does nothing to reduce the lightness of the crumb.  

The crust is crisp and crackly.

I thank all of you out there for helping me to learn how to bake, and also for sharing all your wonderful creations.   Here's to a happy new year of baking in 2013!






1st feed

2nd feed









Whole Rye



























Whole Rye






High Ex





White Rye























Starter factor



Mix all but salt and starter by hand


Autolyse 30 minutes


Add starter and salt


Mix various speeds in mixer for around half hour


note that 16g of KAAP were added during the mix


S&F on counter immediately after mix


Rest 10 minutes


S&F on counter  


Rest 10 minutes


S&F on counter


BF 1.5 hours


Cut and preshape


Rest 15 minutes


Shape into batards and place in couche


Proof for 3 hours


Slash and bake at 450 for 20 minutes with steam


20 minutes without



dmsnyder's picture

A neighbor and I have a 15 year old tradition of exchanging baked goods at this time of year. His wife always bakes a delicious rum and nutmeg-flavored cake, and I give them a loaf of bread. This year, my gift was a 1.5 kg loaf of Hamelman's pain au levain. 

They say "fences make good neighbors," but I think exchange of fresh-baked goodies does too.

Crumb photo of the other loaf

Happy holidays to you all!


isand66's picture

Following up on the success I had with the 36 hour Durum Semolina SD bread I made last week I wanted to try a Pain au Levain version and see if I could get similar results.

I have been waiting for the right bread to use my new square-shaped cake pan with a middle column.  Unfortunately this didn't really work the way I hoped and instead of a square loaf with a hole in the middle I ended up with a horseshoe-shaped loaf and a pretty big one at that!

Using this time intensive 36 hours plus technique I learned from TxFarmer's blog posts I have to say I was very happy with the final result. The dough was again nice and silky to work.  The crumb was nice and open with a nice crisp and dark crust.  The taste from the sprouted whole wheat in the levain along with the spelt in the final dough provided a nice earthy and nutty flavor to this bread.


Starter Build 1

30 grams Seed Starter (Mine is a 65% White AP starter)

22 grams Spouted Whole Wheat or Regular Whole Wheat Flour

38 grams French Style Flour (KAF or AP Flour)

60 grams Water at Room Temperature (80-90 degrees F.)

Mix ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for around 8 hours.  The starter should almost double when ready to proceed.    If your kitchen is warmer than mine which is usually about 70-72 degrees with my air-conditioning you can proceed sooner.

Starter Build 2

All Starter from Build #1:

100 grams French Style Flour

37 grams Sprouted Whole Wheat

100 grams Water at Room Temperature (80-90 degrees F.)

Mix ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for around  4 - 6 hours.  The starter should almost double when ready to proceed.    If your kitchen is warmer than mine which is usually about 70-72 degrees with my air-conditioning you can proceed sooner.

Main Dough Ingredients

300 grams  Starter  from above (note: you should have a small amount left over)

150 grams Whole Spelt Flour

700 grams French Style Flour (KAF)

20 grams Seas Salt or Table Salt

590 Ice Water


Mix the flour and the ice water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Put the dough in a slightly covered oiled bowl and put in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

The next day add your starter and salt to the dough and mix by hand until it is thoroughly mixed and evenly distributed.  Due to the high water content in the 100% hydration starter this dough is very easy to mix by hand and is very silky and smooth.

Bulk rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours until it grows around 1/3 in volume doing stretch and folds every half hour until it has developed the correct amount of strength.

Put the dough back into the refrigerator for around 20-24 hours.  I took it out about 20 hours later.

When you take the dough out of the refrigerator you want it to have almost doubled in volume.  Mine only rose about 1/3 in volume.  Let it rise at room temperature for around 2 hours or until the dough has doubled from the night before.

Next, divide the dough and shape as desired.  I made a battard and placed it in my square pan.

Cover the dough with a moist towel and let sit at room temperature for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Score as desired and prepare your oven for baking with steam.

Set your oven for 500 degrees F. at least 45 minutes before ready to bake.  When ready to bake place the loaves into your on  your oven stone with steam and lower the temperature immediately to 450 degrees.    When both loaves are golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 205 degrees F. you can remove them from the oven.

Let the loaves cool down for at least an 3 hours or so before eating as desired.

Be sure to visit my other blog at for all of my recipes.

Felila's picture

I am so embarrassed

August 28, 2012 - 10:45am -- Felila

I usually try to eat healthy food. Brown rice, tofu, beans, no processed foods, etc. BUT I find that I greatly prefer sourdough bread made with white flour to whole wheat sourdoughs.

I've been baking Peter Reinhart's pain au levain (from Artisan Baking Every Day) with Oregon Trail starter, using white bread flour, and that bread is so #@$!@#$!@ good. Love it with butter and jam. Love it with peanut butter. Love it as cinnamon toast. Love it, period. This is not good for me. The bread could be healthier, and adding fats and sugar makes it worse. 

Mebake's picture

I don’t know why I sometimes push myself to the extremes, but I can’t resist having excess ripe sourdough, without putting it to good use. I have adopted a lazy method of feeding my starters prior to my weekend baking, and building it to a leaven similar to the ones used in Hamelman’s Bread. No planning involved as to which bread I’ll bake, and I often end up with an excess leaven when I decide to change my recipe at the last moment.

As a result, I had a 2.48 times more Rye Sourdough than my recipe called for, and the final dough mass was 4.22 KG! Why did I fail to notice that I’m actually doubling the recipe? Again, the thought of an excess ripe Sourdough distracted me.

The recipe is a 17% Whole Rye flour, and 8% Whole wheat, taken from TFL member Hansjoakim. The recipe has become quite popular with my wife, and makes a very versatile bread.

Mixing is a nightmare here, as i had to manually mix the ingredients to a 75% hydration wet dough. My back didn't thank me for that :) However, once the dough rested for 1/2 hour autolyze, and subsequent stretch and fold regime, i was content to the fruits of my labor. I have never mixed or baked such amount of dough before, and the size did pose challenges, although i did eventually manage it.

I preheated the oven for 1.5 hours with two stones on two different racks, and loaded two loaves on each rack. During the oven spring, the loaves were cramped in space, and were seen edging beyond the stone surface towards the oven window. All was well, in the end.

I will not bake such dough quantity at once, nor would i recommend it to anyone.

The Ripe Sourdough:

1 Kg loaf, each:


Next day, three loaves were sliced and frozen, and the third was given away.

The flavor, crust, chewiness, all were consistent with what i'm used to. A very good daily bread that is good with almost everything.







Subscribe to RSS - pain au levain