The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

pmccool's picture

Hamelman's Pain au Levain

Maybe this should be called Hamelman's Pain au Levain, mostly, because there were a couple of small excursions from the formula presented in Hamelman's Bread, 2nd Edition. 

Having enjoyed several days' worth of the Rustic Pumpernickel from Inside the Jewish Bakery, I was ready for a change of pace.  My starter was in need of a good feeding, so I have it a healthy dose of rye flour and water and left it to its own devices overnight.  The next morning, it was ripe and ready for action.  Gotta love these warm summertime temperatures.  At this point, I had no real plan, just a vague notion of something not-pumpernickel.  Remembering that I hadn't baked from Hamelman's book for a while, I started leafing leafing through it and came across the Pain au Levain bread.  Just the ticket, since it has a small portion of rye flour in it.

Since I had fed my starter with rye flour, I calculated that I would have a bit more rye than the formula called for even if I didn't add any in the final dough.  No problem.  It would still be good.  And, the bread flour that I used was the Great River Milling Unbleached Wheat Bread Flour which still contains 20% of the bran.  Again, no problem; just more flavor.  The other thing about the GRM flour is its protein content: 14%.  That's much higher than any French-style flour's protein content.  I mixed the levain, covered it, and left it to ferment at room temperature.  It was ready for use about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Hamelman assumes a room temperature bulk fermentation and final fermentation.  As I looked at the clock, and at the instructions, I decided that I really didn't want to stay up late.  That led to the other deviation: a decision to retard the dough during its bulk ferment.  The rest of the process was pretty much by the book.  The flour and water were mixed by hand and allowed 60 minutes to autolyse.  Then the levain was mixed in.  That was a bit trickier, because the dough was stiffer than the levain, but the dough came together after the initial goopy phase and got even better after the salt was added.  The texture was still fairly firm, so I worked in another 3-4% of water.  The absorptive capability of the flour meant that I still didn't have a soft dough but it felt quite moist and tacky so I called it good enough.  That turned out to be a good decision.

I allowed the dough an hour of bulk fermentation at room temperature, then put it into the refrigerator until the following afternoon, almost 20 hours later.  The dough hadn't doubled in volume, so I gave it an hour or so to warm up somewhat, then shaped it into two batards.  Each was allowed to proof on a piece of parchment paper, covered with plastic.  The dough was firm enough that I did not provide side support for it.  Indeed, most of the doubling was in the upward direction, not the horizontal direction, which is pretty unusual for a sourdough.  When it had grown by perhaps 80%, I preheated the oven with a stone and a steam pan.  After the oven reached temperature, I boiled water and poured it into the steam pan.  The loaves were then slashed and placed on the stone to bake as directed.

During the bake, the loaves continued to expand upwards, but more sideways than they had during the final fermentation.  The scores opened nicely and gave a good ear.

The crumb is less open than might be expected for this style of bread and this level of hydration.  I think that the amount of kneading that was required to incorporate the levain had an effect, as did the high protein content of the bread flour.  I'm not at all unhappy, since the primary use for the bread is in sandwiches.  That means I don't have mayonnaise or mustard dripping into my lap while eating.

The crumb is very moist, probably attributable in part to the rye flour's moisture-grabbing traits, plus the additional water that I added to offset the dough's stiffness.  More would have been too much, so I am glad that I stopped when I did with the extra water.  The color is a bit darker because of the additional bran content not usually seen in a bread flour.  The crust, which was initially quite hard, has softened considerably as the moisture within the loaf has redistributed.  The flavor is excellent, combining wheat and rye notes with a gentle sourdough tang and the toasty/nutty/caramel notes from the crust.  My hat is off to Mr. Hamelman for devising such an enjoyable bread.


saradippity's picture

To mill, or not to mill?

Okay, let's start with the fact that I am a college student living on financial aid. Dirt poor. However, I am about to enter my final semester of school, and I thought I may have earned a gift for myself. I am dedicated to trying to make the most nutritious bread possible, but obviously my budget is limited at this time. I've been doing a lot of research on bread, and found out how quickly the nutrients deplete as well as how some studies have supported the extra nutritional availability of wheat when using sourdoughs. I have three options for my "go me" gift.

1) Get an electric grain mill. This one seems about right (current price $179). I'm concerned about the heat damaging nutrients and increasing the speed at which the bread's nutrients will decay after milling. However, it seems like I will get a finer grind than with a hand cranked model and with more free time as well.

2) Get a hand cranked mill. Lehman's mill may be more expensive than the electric I found ($250 seems like the best in my small price range, couldn't really swing anything more pricey), but I'm okay with physical labor (I have no car, you should see me walk a couple of miles in the heat with groceries - enjoying myself in an odd way), I like being as self-sufficient and low environmental impact as possible, and I like that the flour won't get as hot. However, I can't be sure that I'll have as much time on my hands once I start working to actually use the mill on bread-making days - sure I'll probably bake on my days off, but I'll also be gardening, doing laundry, and probably running errands as well. Perhaps I can grind the day's flour the evening before and put it in a soaker.

3) Use my existing mortar and pestule (rough textured and fits about 2 cups) to crush wheat berries to use as an additive for a nutritional boost to my bread that won't be as much as freshly ground flour, but could still be more nutrition than I currently have (will the enzyme process in sourdough work on coarser grain in an overnight fermentation?) Then I could take the money and get a cast iron griddle that could not only be used to cook with but could also be stored in the oven for a source of radiant heat similar to placing ceramic tiles on the rack below the bread when baking. I could also get a Mr. Beer because even though it would be the brewing equivalent of Kool-aid (I'm interested in brewing, but only after I've settled in to a larger budget), I've long thought the little plastic keg looked cute and when I'm done with school I've earned the right to a hangover with no social guilt, mommy status aside.

I also have a food processor, I suppose I can use that as an option for busier grinding days if I go with #3. So, what would you do?

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

ABED why so much starter when so little is used?

Howdy! Long time lurker first time poster. I'm a teacher and bake a lot in the summer but not so much during the school year.  So during the summer I'm up for ridiculousness and during the school year I switch to Leahy.  Anyway, I've got my first sourdough starter in the fridge, a pain au levain in the oven and sourdough pizza in the fridge, all from Reinhart's ABED.  It's been 5 days since I made my starter and I guess it needs to be refreshed.  Reinhart's recipe is for 25 oz of starter, but i gather I can keep a much smaller starter if I keep the ratios the same.  So I'm curious, if all his sourdough recipes call for a very small amount of starter to create a 6-8 hr sponge, why does he have us keep 25 oz on hand?

yozzause's picture

2 doughs in 2 days

So whilst i was waiting for the 50% Wholemeal feta and olive to bake i thought i could easily make another dough so i decided to try something different i would make this dough and do a bulk ferment with no stretch and folds  and see what we ended up with.

 3 kgs of Flour,  2 litres of Water , 1 Kg of SD/Culture  and to this i added 60g of Salt, i also decided to take a wetter step forward and added an additional 100g of water. i mixed the dough in the big Hobart mixer and stopped  and gave the dough a spell for 5 minutes  twice during the mix.

The dough went into a big plastic bucket with a lid similar to those Nappy buckets (do they still have them) at 7.00AM and came back to my office after i had distributed the bake, all before most of the other staff  had even turned up for work.

i checked on the dough's progress through the morning and not long after lunch determined it was ready,it had visually almost trebled insize,and the poke test showed that it was holding the shape of the indent of my index finger. it was also perfect timing that the lunch service at the training restaurant was almost finished  so i would be able to scale off the dough and shape it onto the boards.

I decide to make my very first Miche so weighed off a 1 Kg dough piece followed by   most other pieces at 750gms and two smaller pieces that i was going to try in some wicker baskets that i had picked up but never used before. The miche was destined to be tried in a fine plastic colander that was sprayed with oil and then dredged with Rye Flour.

Following  a quick hand up and short recovery the loaves were shaped those that had their makeshift bannetons were then placed inside plastic bags and put into the cool room, the others were placed onto linen tablecloths that i had saved from the mornings bake and previous night in the coolroom for another  shot all tucked up an put to bed.

Same old story get to work early  hit the buttons fire the oven   bring out the dough pieces transfer to the baking trays 

In the wash up the wicker baskets let go of their cargo readily the colindar had to have some persuasion not a lot but didnt drop out. when first asked The bulk fermentation period was 6 hours and no stretch and folds cold  proof was 16.5 hours. 

Unfortunately i didnt get any cut open shots. Happy with the result though

kind regards Yozza



yozzause's picture


Last week it was time to bake again time to use the culture that i look after at work, to be in readiness for an evening class "Introduction to Sour Dough"

The dough itself was the simple 3:2:1 Flour : Water :Culture the only difference was to step up the water by a further 100ml the salt was 2% other additions were Butter 2%,Turmeric powder @ 0.25% i decided on the Turmeric to possibly contrast the Feta cheese @ 4%  and black olives @ 2% 

The Feta and the olives were folded in in the last couple of fold and stretches. The dough was made first thing in the morning as it would be done for my class, i went back religiously every hour to do the stretch and folds  three repetitions in all  the last one incorporating the cheese and olives , i had prepared more chess but found that there seemed to be plenty. on my lunch break i went and shaped the dough pieces and got them onto the couches and into the cool room.

The following morning i got into work early in order to bake off the bread. Our  new ovens  heat up very quickly    

 so that after you have programmed in the time, temp, fan speed with moisture to go once the temp is up  

and then place your loaves out onto trays for any further preparation  it is almost time to get them in. on this occasion i was not washing them with a cornflour starch wash a is my usual practice especially if i am adding seeds. So it was just a matter of the slashes. 

In my evening class this is one of the things that the students will be doing. i have a sequence of pics now that were taken every 5 minutes  and you should be able to see the changes that take place when the dough pieces are subjected to the heat of the oven, theses Unox ovens allow you to witness this wonderful event that is so often out of site for many of us.

 The dough pieces are out from the cool room  after  some 17 hours  fortunate to have the luxury of laundered linen

table clothes for my couches

 all in the oven with the water injection happening

So there we have it, i also made another dough while i was waiting for this one to come out of the oven but will post that one later 2 doughs in 2 days

kind regards Yozza 

Abelbreadgallery's picture

Tomato bread. Recipe by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

One of the books I have enjoyed more in terms of baking is Pains et Viennoiseries Maison Pas à Pas, by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Since I bought it, a year ago, I wanted to prepare this tomato bread. I don’t know why I haven’t done it before.

It’s a low hydration bread dough, with a big avarage of sourdough, and a short fermentation. You shouldn’t let the dough rest a lot of time because concentrated tomato paste contains a lot of sugar, and you could cause a mess.


 - 400 gr bread flour

- 300 gr liquid sourdough (50% water 50% flour)

- 100 ml water

- 40 gr concentrated tomato paste

- 2 tsp rosemary

- 2 tbsp olive oil

- 10 gr salt

In the book recipe, the master suggests to mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another one, and then mix them. Let it rest 10 minutes, and then knead. It is a very dry dough, so you can add a little bit of water. When the dough is ready, let it rest 1 hour.

Shape a batard, put it into a banetton or a proofing basket, and let it rest between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the room temperature, the power of your sourdough, the amount of sugar your concentrated paste contains.

Preheat your oven at 240C (465F). Put the bread into the oven, 35-45 minutes at 220C (428F). Create some steam at the begin of the baking process.

This recipe calls to make some changes: increase hydration, use poolish instead of sourdough, make buns instead of a big batard, add another ingredients like black olives… It’s your choice!

More info:

qahtan's picture

round loaves

 baked in round a toast loaf.. qahtan

qahtan's picture


davidg618's picture

Pretzel Buns

The recipes for both the Pretzel Sandwich Buns and Maple Mustard Chicken Salad appear in the August 2013 King Arthur catalog. The easy to make buns are soft and taste like soft pretzels; the chicken salad is delicious. I roasted one chicken breast and two thighs (both boneless) at 325°F for the meat.

David G

clazar123's picture

Good to test old pieces for lead

I was so excited when I found an old chinois that had very tiny holes to strain out raspberry seeds and such. I had been looking for one for a while.  The piece was  very heavy tin/metal with its wooden pestle but missing the stand. It looked like it might be either a turn of the century piece or early 1900's. For $2, I couldn't go wrong-or so I thought. I tested it for lead with a home testing kit and the test was reactive for a high amount of lead-the brighter the purple color on the indicator, the more lead! The indicator was a bright purple!  Into the trash it went.  I didn't need my gooseberry jam to be lead lined. I am so disappointed.

Antique pieces can be sturdy and well used but can be lead-laden. Home test kits are available at most hardware stores and are very easy to use. Lesson learned.