The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat

dmsnyder's picture

I am gradually aclimating to retirement. I still get twinges Sunday nights in anticipation of a non-existant Monday patient schedule. But this week I broke the thought habit of baking being exclusively a weekend activity. Maybe I over-compensated, but I don't think so.

Tuesday evening, I activated my starter and I put up a bulgar soaker and a whole wheat poolish in preparation for a Wednesday bake of my favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread, the one in BBA.

100% Whole Wheat Bread 

100% Whole Wheat Bread crumb

This is probably my favorite bread for almond butter on toast, BLT's and Tuna Salad sandwiches. We had all of these this week.

Wednesday evening, I fed the starter at 100% hydration for Thursday's bake of San Joaquin Sourdoughs and started on txfarmer's 36+ hour baguettes for a Friday bake.

San Joaquin Sourdough Breads

This bread is good with everything. We had some with almond butter, more with penne with butternut squash, sage and hazelnuts and more with a salad lunch.

Thursday evening, I mixed a firm levain for Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat. Txfarmer's baguette dough was mixed, fermented and refrigerated.

We were invited to some friends' home for dinner Friday. The response to "What can we bring?" was not hard to guess. This morning, the baguettes and Pain au Levain for dinner tonight got baked.

Baguette Crust

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat crust

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Crumb

 I have the walnuts toasted for Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Bread.

To top off the week, my son, Joel, sent me a photo of the latest bagels he and 3-year old Sasha made this week, and he expressed some interest in "trying" to bake sourdough breads. I'll take him some starter when we visit in November. What fun!

It's just that I can't figure how I ever had time to "work."


dmsnyder's picture

Many TFL baker's have blogged on this bread, and for good reason. It is delicious. I haven't made it since last October. Today, I made three 568 g boules. I started with a liquid starter which I converted to a firm starter and fed twice before mixing the final dough. The formed loaves were cold retarded for about 16 hours then proofed at 85 dF for 2 1/2 hours before baking.

I have been making Hamelman's Pain au Levain frequently for many months and enjoying it a lot. This week, I just felt like something with more of a whole grain flavor and recalled this bread. Looking back at my earlier blog, today's bake was significantly better when tasted after a couple hours' cooling. There was none of what I had described as a "grassy" flavor. This bread was simply delicious with a sweet, nutty, crunchy crust and a  chewy crumb with a nice wheaty, mildly sour flavor. 

I'm going to stick with this one ... except I do want to try the mixed levain version again.


pmccool's picture

Although my posting has been erratic, baking has continued at a fairly steady pace.

The Saturday of the Easter weekend, I baked Beth Hensperger's Sweet Vanilla Challah from her Bread Bible.  It is a favorite of my older grandson and we took a loaf with us for dinner with he and his parents.  I've blogged about it previously.  By the way, if any lasts long enough, it makes some of the best french toast, ever!  The turban shape is still a favorite of mine for its elegance and simplicity:

I also baked some honey whole wheat bread that same day for sandwiches:

This weekend, I managed to squeeze in a pain au levain with whole wheat, from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book.  One loaf was served at dinner with friends today and one went home with them (along with a bunch of hostas that were getting too big for their growing area.  Loaf:


I had elected to do some kneading for the dough, followed by a single stretch and fold about 45 minutes into the bulk ferment.  My rationale was that I wanted a finer, rather than more open, crumb.  It worked.  Other tweaks included bumping up the quantities by about 40% to achieve slightly larger loaves and using an autolyse of nearly an hour, which is longer than mentioned in the formula.  Otherwise, I hewed to the directions and was rewarded with some bread that is pleasing to the eye and the tongue.  


Mebake's picture

This is another one of Hamelman's Pain Au Levain With whole wheat from His book "BREAD".

I'am testing out my new flour's performance with naturally leavened breads.

I mixed my dough ever so lightly, and did two stretched and folds (letter fold on the bench) @ 60 minutes intead of one at 50min. So, the fermentation time was 3 hours intead of 2.5.

I retarded the shaped loaves right after shaping for 8 hours, and left them to proof at room temp. for 1 hour while the oven was preheating to 510F.

I Also increased the prefermented flour by 7%.(as recommended by Andy - ananda) I found that this particular recipe works more predictably if i increased the amount of stiff levain. and it did!

Crackly Crust!

Cool, soft, and translucent crumb, with a faint sour flavor.

Mebake's picture

This is yesterday's bake: Hamelman's Pain Au levain With Wholewheat. I adhered to the recipe, save for the levain which was pre-maturely mixed, Ripe but not sufficiently so. This lead to extended final fermentation. Dough was mixed at 7:00 p.m. and the dough was in the oven at 2:00 a.m!! I feel you, Tim (breadbakingbassplayer). i've also increased the hydration to 75% from 68%.

The flavor is nothing much to talk about, just an ordinary pain au levain, with a wholewheat twist to it, certainly not worth all the time spent in preparation and baking.

I stretched and folded in the bowl (a la Shiao-Ping) in hope of obtaining the open crumb i desire in this type of bread, but this dough was dertermined to defeat me all the way to the end.

I wonder whether (20% baker's)Wholewheat addition to the diet of a Rye-bread flour - fed starter and levain, caused a stagnation in the fermentation speed of the dough! Any ideas?

The Wholewheat is from freshly milled Pakistani (Chapati Type) flour. Rye was doverfarm's and rest is a mixture of bread flour, and AP.

One final thing, though, this is the recipe for two large Loaves. I decided to bake one boule out of it, so the resultant weight of the dough was 1.8 Kg, Technically a Miche.



MadAboutB8's picture

Plain sourdough is not something I make often, though I intended to  but I seems to easily get distracted by multigrain and/or fruit breads. Somehow, I feel like one last weekend and I picked the Pain au Levain with whole wheat from jeffrey Hamelman's Bread cookbook.

The recipe uses stiff levain build which is also a good timing that I can convert my liquid starter (100% hydration) to stiff starter (60% hydration) before I am going away in the next two weeks for a month and won't have chances to feed my lovely pet starter, Jerry. I was afraid that he would be starving (for flour and water) and pass away while I'm away.

Thanks to a post on The Fresh Loaf about the sourdough starter feeding. Apparently, stiff starter is more resilient than liquid one. It is more likely that it will survive after not being fed for a while. I only need to feed Jerry a few times when I'm back from holiday to wake him up and come back to his cheerful and active self.

This bread has a pronounced sour flavour, which I believe is the result of stiff levain build with mixed flour in it (mixed of rye and bread flour). The crumb is soft, open and chewy. It's a good complement to olive oil with a bit of dukkah.  

For more details, you can visit ;


MmeZeeZee's picture

Adding more whole wheat to Hamelman's Pain au Levain w/ Whole Wheat

June 19, 2010 - 4:34am -- MmeZeeZee

Has anyone had success with this?  I love his PaL but I am want a 50% (at least) sourdough.  Does anyone have a formula that would help me work this in?  I've had great success with the white and whole wheat PaL, I just want to get a better whole wheat version.  I know that will change the consistency a bit, but hopefully it will still retain some of its lovely chewiness.

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