The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

9/7/10 - 5 Hour Pain Au Levain Batards

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breadbakingbassplayer's picture

9/7/10 - 5 Hour Pain Au Levain Batards

Hi All,

I seem to be baking a lot these days...  It's still hot though here in NYC so things are rising fast around here...  Last night I was reading Local Breads by Dan Leader, page 105 which talks about the Poilane bakery loading their breads into the oven every 2 hours...  I wanted to see how quickly I could make a pain au levain, assuming the levain was ripe and ready...  Also, a have recently converted my storage sourdough starter from liquid to very stiff (50% hydration).  Here's what happened:

Stiff Levain Recipe:

400g Stone Ground White Whole Wheat Flour (King Arthur)

200g Water

80g Stiff Sourdough Starter (50% hydration)

680g Total Stiff Levain


Final Dough Recipe:

1374g AP (King Arthur)

926g Water

32g Kosher Salt

680g Stiff White Whole Wheat Levain (approx 50% hydration)

3012g Total Dough Yield


Method of Madness:


5:30pm - Mix stiff levain, knead into ball, cover and let rest.

5:45pm - Knead stiff a few times until smooth, lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil, place in covered plastic tub, refrigerate at 40F 23-36 hrs.  If you are going to make the dough within 12-16 hours, and it's not too hot, then you can probably leave it out on the kitchen counter...


6:35pm - Come home from work, get settled, take stiff levain out of fridge, measure out all ingredients using a digital scale.

6:55pm - In a large mixing bowl, pour in exact amount of water, then cut up the stiff levain into small golf ball sized pieces and place it into the bowl in the water.  Then add all the flour on top, then the salt.  Start mixing with a large rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms.  Then using wet hands, squish the dough until the levain is well combined, knead for about 10 minutes.  Do all kneading in the bowl without adding any extra flour.  If your hands get sticky, use a plastic scraper to scrape the dough off your hands, then dip your hands in water and continue kneading.

7:10pm to 7:30pm - cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

7:30pm - Turn dough in bowl, and knead for about 15-20 seconds, cover and let rest.

8:00pm - Turn dough in bowl, and knead for about 15-20 seconds, cover and let rest.

8:30pm - Turn dough, cover and let rest.

9:00pm to 9:10pm - Divide dough into 4 pieces, preshape into boules, place them seam side down on a proofing board with no extra flour.  Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

9:30pm - Final shape into batards, place them seam side up in a very lighty floured couche, cover with tea towels and plastic bag, proof for approx 1 hr and 30 minutes.

10:20pm - Place 2 baking stones in oven on 2 different levels along with steam pan, preheat to 550F with convection.

11:10pm - Turn off convection.  Turn out loaves onto peel/flipping board, slash as desired, place into oven directly on stone.  When all the loaves are in, place 1 1/2 cups water into steam pan, close door, turn oven down to 450F, bake for 45 minutes rotating batards halfway through the bake between stones.  After 45 minutes, check weight and internal temp.  They should be about 15% lighter than their pre-baked weight, and the internal temp should be between 205F to 210F.  I prefer 210F.  Turn oven off, and place batards back into oven for 5 minutes.  After this, let batards cool completely before cutting...

12:00am - Done...  Time for sleep...  Pics up tomorrow sometime...

8:50am - Upload pics...










Peasant Baker's picture
Peasant Baker

Looks amazing. Perfect color. 

LeeYong's picture

Love the crust!

Excellent breads!

LindyD's picture

Hi Tim, you did better than Poilane - James MacGuire wrote that the Poilane process takes six hours, from mixing through baking.  Amazing, but I understand they use a huge amount of levain for each miche.

Yours look wonderful.  Do you sell your breads?

breadbakingbassplayer's picture



I had read somewhere about the six  hours it takes to make the Poilane breads.  I was shooting for that time, and was happy to beat it...  So based on my reading in Local Breads, here's what I came up with...

They load into the oven 90-2kg loaves every 2 hours or so...  They also reserve 20kg of the dough for the starter for the next batch...  So this is 200kg of dough they are mixing at any one time...  Then I thought OK with the 20kg they reserve for the starter, they are probably mixing it with 40kg of flour, and another 24kg or so of water, so that gives you 84kg of levain.  So the final dough comprises about 42% or more of levain...  Something like that.  I'm not sure if this works, but that was my reasoning...

So I basically used 50% levain at around 51% hydration in relation to the total flour...

I give the loaves to my friends, and they give me donations to cover materials and time...


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Here are some crumbshots from my friend Fernando's wife...  Nice photos...  Not as airy as my last pain au levain with 3 starters, but not bad for 5 hours...  Next time, I'll probably up the hydration a little, and let it bulk ferment for a little longer...


LindyD's picture

And lucky Fermando!