The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Five-Grain Levain with Burghul (or Bulghur?)

MadAboutB8's picture

Five-Grain Levain with Burghul (or Bulghur?)

I came across burghul (also known as bulghur) at the grocery section of Oasis Bakery. The name was really familiar and I remembered vaguely from the bread-making book that it was grain. So, I bought a one small tub hoping to try using it with the grain-bread, and the Jeffrey Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain is on my agenda. 

I did some research on Google about burghul in bread as well as flipping through my bread making cookbook (Reinhart's and Hamelman's). I didn't find much of useful information (must I say, it's almost ZERO information).

As it turned out, burghul is widely known more as bulghur than burghul. When I did searches on bulghur, it now returned a large amount of relevant and useful information. However, I only did this after I finished with my bake and was very curious about this grain.  Which, I will now refer to this grain as "bulghur". So, I baked with bulghur without having enough information on how to handle it correctly.  In fact, there are useful discussions about bulghur in The Fresh Loaf specifically for Hamelman's Five Grain Levain bread, the bread I was working on. Had I searched The Fresh Loaf about the bulghur (not burghul, sorry if this sounds confusing), I would have had enough valuable information to work with. Why didn't I do that, I will never know.

I substituted cracked rye in the recipe with bulghur and keep it as hot soaker (i.e. soaking grains and seeds by hot water for 12-16 hours) as I figured that I should treat bulghur as cracked wheat.  In fact, if you want to keep its slight crunchy texture, you should soak it in the cold water instead. And it's what I should have done. 

However, hot soaker also worked fine. But I just prefer the bulghur not to be mushy and blend into the bread like it was with the hot soaker.

Given that a lot of water was absorbed into bulghur (with hot soaker), the dough felt stiff, yet sticky. I had to add about 2 tablespoons more water to adjust the dough consistency. Again, I believe the stickiness might have come from mushy bulghur. If I am going to make bread with bulghur again, I would definitely soak it in cold water as I believe it will give a nicer texture and easier when it comes to dough handling.

The bread is very moist and a little dense. I found the crumb is also tighter than my previous  five-grain levain bake. I think that the cooked and mushy burghul played the part in the tighter crumbs. The grain flavour seems to be dominated by sunflower seeds in the grain mix. Its aroma came through every time I bit into the bread, which is really nice.  The bread also has nice texture from the flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. I couldn't taste the bulghur but it definitely added texture, moisture and chewiness to the bread.

All in all, this bread is my all-time favourite. It never disappoints. It is full of flavour an texture, not to mention its goodness from the wholegrain. Highly recommend for the multi-grain bread lover.


For more details and recipe you can follow the below link:




dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Sue.

This is, indeed, a marvelous bread, and it looks like you did a great job baking it.

I've never used bulgar in this bread, but it sounds good. I have used it as a cold soaker in Reinhart's 100% WW Bread from BBA, and I think it adds a chewy texture I like.

Your point regarding cold vs hot soaking is a good one, depending on the texture you desire. Another point is that bulgar can be found in different degrees of coarseness. If you want it to keep its integrity in the bread, use the coarsest grade. Bulgar for tabouli is usually the finer grade, I think.


hansjoakim's picture

Hi Sue,

Great looking bread! I've never used bulghur in bread before either, but it sure sounds interesting.

If you can find it, try to get hold of whole bulghur, a great substitute for rice. Moist and very flavourful. Brilliant in salads and with fish or poultry. If using whole bulghur in bread, definitely try it in a hot soaker or cook al dente and chill first.

MadAboutB8's picture

Thank you for your comments and input.

It is interesting to know that there are different kinds of them as well. It was my first time coming across bulghur (but well, it was my first time in Middle-eastern grocer as well). Next time when we're in the shop again, I'll keep the whole bulghur in mind and look out for it.

@ Hansjoakim, I love your suggestion on their uses as an accompaniment.

@ David, I also found your discussions about bulghur between you and Eric on TFL, back about few years ago, is very useful too. Unfortunately, I only read it after I finished this baking. But it's a good learning curve for me, so I'm not complaining. Next time I bake with bulghur again, I'll try it in cold soaker.

Thanks guys.



Sylviambt's picture

Terrific looking bread. I've just joined a Hamelman challenge and will bring some of your ideas into my kitchen.


Bronx-to-Barn Baker blog (right here on The Fresh Loaf).

MadAboutB8's picture

Thanks Sylvia.

Have fun with Hamelman challenge. I'm sure you will love it. The books are fully loaded with terrific recipes and techniques.