The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Quintessential French Sourdough - Pain Au Levain [Leader]

TerryTB's picture

Quintessential French Sourdough - Pain Au Levain [Leader]

[First Post!]

When I first attempt a new bread, I don't know what to expect.  Much like a piece of art, I have an end goal in mind, but by the time I am to the "perfecting" stage, it could be mistaken for a completely different project from which it began.

Pain au levain.  Universal, complex, subtle.

This bread was going to be a hearty boule that would always be around, yet never the center of attention.  Now it is the bread that I most likely reach for.  Ripped off heel? holding a tandem of goat cheese and bartlett pear?  Squeezing a scoop of tuna salad?  Gripping a banana dolloped with peanut butter?

Yes.  Every time.  All the time.



My proportions are taken from Daniel Leader's "Quintessential French Sourdough" and the method is partially borrowed from pain l'ancienne.


Stiff Dough Starter Refresh:  

  • 45g Old starter
  • 50g Water
  • 95g All purpose flour
  • 5g whole wheat


  • 62.5g stiff dough levain
  • 175 all purpose flour
  • 60g whole wheat flour
  • 15g rye flour
  • 175g water
  • 5g salt



  • Autolyse 20-30 minutes
  • Knead for 20 minutes, in three intervals, with 5 minutes in between to let the dough relax
  • Primary ferment for 2.5 hrs at 70F, with stretch & folds at 15 min, 30 min, 45 min and 60 min
  • Dust a piece of plastic wrap, place in banneton
  • Shape dough, place in banneton, and wrap plastic over the dough
  • Place in fridge for 24 hrs
  • Proof for 45 minutes out of fridge
  • Score
  • Bake, covered (ceramic dutch oven) for 20 minutes at 500F
  • Oncover, lower oven temp to 425F, bake until tapped hollow
Here are a couple of attempts:




Floydm's picture

Looking really good, Terry, and welcome to the site!

lionofdharma's picture

Beautiful loaves!  


Do you generally only proof for 45 out of the fridge?  I thought that the dough needed to get to room temp before baking.

How long do you bake uncovered?


TerryTB's picture

You definitely don't have to wait for the dough to get to room temperature. You do have to play with the method a little bit and find out what yields your best results. I found with this method, baking 20 minutes after the fridge yields a darker crumb vs 40 minutes. When I wait more than an hour, the crumb gets significantly lighter. Remember that as the dough is warming up, the yeast are feeding more and more on the available sugar, so you have to be careful not to let it go too long.

Short answer to the question of how long to wait after pulling it out: it depends. I am guessing it depends mostly on how long you bulk ferment before putting the dough in the fridge.

TerryTB's picture

I tried this method again, this time substituting the Whole Wheat Flour with Whole rye flour for a total of 75g rye.

The taste was sweeter, the crumb was softer and the oven spring was better.  




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