The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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

MmeZeeZee's picture

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

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.

davidg618's picture


I started to respond to your question Friday, with some suggestions. Instead, Saturday morning I started building an all Whole Wheat levain (500g) to make a couple of 40% Whole Wheat loaves of sourdough (pain au levain). I build the levain with three feedings, over approximately twenty-four hours. I keep a close watch on each build's development, and do  each feeding as the prior build peaks, which is usually about every eight hours at room temperature.

This morning mixed up our weekly sourdough substituting the all Whole-Wheat levain, for the usual, and adding additional WW flour to account for 40% of the total flour.

Here are the bakers percentages, and scaling for 1500g of 68% hydrated dough


seed starter, 100% Hydration, (all-clear flour) 20g

Whole wheat flour   240g

Water                    240g

Total Flour in levain 250g                                       28%

Final Dough

All the levain         500g

Whole wheat flour 105g                                          12%

Bread Flour           527g                                           60%

Total Flour            882g                                         100%

Water from levain 250g

Water                    350g

Total Water          600g                                           68%

Salt                         18g                                              2%

1. Mix the dough, on low speed until fully incorporated

2. Autolyse, 30 mins.

3. Knead, with dough hook, 4 mins. on 2nd speed (KitchenAid planetary mixer)

4. Bulk ferment for 2 hours, with 3 Stretch and Fold at 30 minutes intervals.

5. Turn out and divide into two equal portions. Preshape (boules, or batards) Rest. 15 mins.

6 Final shape.

7. Final proof (1 to 2 hours, or until loaves pass the poke test)

8. Bake in preheated oven (500°F), with steam for first 15 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 450°F immediately after loading.

9. Remove steam source, and vent oven. Bake until done (internal temperature 205°F), or by feel and sound, approximately, 15 mins.

I kept this dough mix at 40% Whole-wheat because that's what we like, but it could readily handle 50%; a fourth S&F might be needed, and remember all bread flours aren't the same. I use King Arthur Bread Flour which has about 12% protein.

Here's the results. Prefermenting all but 12% if the Whole-wheat flour gives this bread plenty of wheaty flavor.

Living in, argueably, the lightning-strike capital of the USA we frequentlly loose power. This morning, fifteen minutes into the bake, we lost power (wasn't restored for four hours). I left the oven door closed, and the vent covered for an additional 30 minutes, checking the bread's color through the glass door with a flashlight. I took out the larger batard quickly reclosing the oven door, and checked the internal temperature: 206°F! I pulled the smaller boule, and breathed a sigh of relief. These loave's light color is likely due to the power failure. They taste great! Crumb is light, but chewy.

This formula, usually made with 10% whole rye, 45% AP, and 45% Bread Flour evolved from Hamelman's Pain au levain.

David G

MmeZeeZee's picture

That looks pretty good.  I'm looking for a 50% or more recipe but I may start there.  All my bread is that light because my (military-issue) oven doesn't run the top coil on "bake" settings.  If I want to brown stuff I have to broil it afterwards, LOL.

It also bugs out when I go up to 500, so I might have to pre-heat at lower than that. 

One question, since it seems you pay quite a bit of attention to detail--my  mother in law always lets her dough rest for ten minutes before the pre-shape, and I read about this in other books, too.  Do you let it rest before or after the pre-shape?

davidg618's picture

However, from the moment I turn the dough out, to divide it, I treat the dough gently. I divide it with a bench knife by cutting firmly straight down, like a guillotine. When I preshape I degas only large bubbles that have formed, patting the rest of the dough lightly to redistribute the captured gas.

When I shape, I again handle the dough gently but firmly. I tighten the surface by drawing (or pushing) the dough across the nearly bare board, stretching the surface while keeping as much of the gas captured as possible. I degas only large bubbles that formed during the rest period.

Both these shapes were proofed in bannetons: 1 oval, 1 round. Supporting the loave's during final proof is recommended. A 50% percent dough will be softer than this was. You could also pan the dough to make sandwich loaves. It's still going to taste good, regardless its shape.

To scale this formula to 50% Whole-wheat simply change the added flours to:

Whole Wheat flour  192g    22%

Bread flour              440g    50%

Remember my cautions: Use high protein bread flour, and S&F (3 or 4) the dough during bulk fermentation, each thirty minutes, until you feel the dough's resistance (strength).

Happy baking!

David G

MmeZeeZee's picture

Thanks so much.  I'm Googling S&F... I am in Germany so don't have access to all the flours you all do.

RobynNZ's picture


I wonder if you thought S&F referred to flour.....

Take a look at these videos showing how to stretch & fold, it is done during the bulk fermentation (first rise) to help develop gluten, strengthen the dough, and to re-distribute dough temperature:

You can find more if you type "fold video"  into the search box top left. Use the search function to find some more ideas for using whole wheat too. There is lots of information in the archives. 

Cheers, Robyn


MmeZeeZee's picture

I thought it might, but Googling produced slightly worrisome results, so I was planning on asking here today.  :)  I definitely stretch and fold for my breads.  I will watch those, thanks!

hansjoakim's picture

Hi MmeZeeZee,

Why not try Hamelman's whole-wheat levain? That's a formula with 50% WW flour. It's not made with a stiff starter (rather a liquid whole-wheat levain), but you could easily tweak the original recipe to whatever starter you're using. I do think, however, that Hamelman's point about using a liquid rather than stiff starter favours this bread.

Made according to the original formulation, the bread is chewy and has a slightly bitter taste. Definitely a great bread if you want more WW.


MmeZeeZee's picture

Hi!  I have, but there's something different with the PaL w/WW.  Thanks!

jkandell's picture

If you're doing a whole-wheat pain au levain then you're basically talking about desem.  Desem is--simply put--pain au levain adapted for whole wheat-- which means firm starter, more starter, and coolish temperatures in order to minimize sourness with whole wheat flour.



MmeZeeZee's picture

Amazing summary.  Thank you!