The Fresh Loaf

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Question for UK bakers about flour for five grain levain recipe by Hamelmann

bluesaturn's picture

Question for UK bakers about flour for five grain levain recipe by Hamelmann

Dear all,

I would like to bake a proper version of the five-grain levain recipe by Hamelmann. 

I am aware that whole-wheat equals wholemeal flour, but I am stuck with the rest. 

1. Which flour would you recommend in the UK that corresponds to a high-gluten flour? I found today at Waitrose a version made from Canadian wheat in "white" and "wholemeal". The white version has 15g Protein in 100g flour. This seems to be "high" for me in case high gluten=high protein.

2. What does Hamelmann mean with "bread" flour, please? What flour are UK-based people using for this type of flour, please? As far as I am aware, there are many "bread flour" versions. It comes in white as strong, very strong, and as wholemeal as very strong (see for example Allison flour). 

Once I have sorted this out, I hope my versions of this recipe become better. Last weekend I tried to bake it with Wholemeal very strong bread flour from Allison mainly and "strong white flour". The result was a glueing dough I was not able to touch or form. Having seen pictures of this recipe, the dough always looks very stiff and non-sticky. How could I achieve this, please?

Thank you for reading. Kind regards,


plevee's picture

I make the version of this bread with the rye starter at least every fortnight. I use bread flour with 12% protein and the dough is very soft and tacky, but manageable with a couple of S&F's. I should think any English strong flour would do the job. Holding back 50-100 ml water and adjusting the hydration as needed might solve the problem.  Patsy

ananda's picture

Hi bluesaturn,

For high gluten flour, the Waitrose Canadian is a good choice.   Marriage's do something very similar, if not the same [I believe Marriages mill for Waitrose].   Also available are Hovis and Allinson Very Strong flours which would work well, although not so high in gluten, but the protein quality is excellent.

Personally, I would do as Patsy suggests and use a good strong white flour for the whole formula.   You may have to hold back just a bit of water, of course.   My regular strong flour is milled by Carrs, and is called "Breadmaker Flour" in the supermarkets.   Commercially, I buy it as Carrs Special CC.

Allinson should be fine as a wholemeal choice.

From your description, I wonder if it is not your process thast is wrong, rather than flour?   Hamelman's formulae are usually spot-on; I haven't made this particular formula, however.   The next recipe in his book, the Sourdough Seed Bread is fantastic; you could try that one to get more confidence, then go back to trying the 5 grain levain in the near future?   Just a thought.

Best wishes


bluesaturn's picture

Good morning, everybody.

Thank you already for the quick and detailed replies. As I have to leave soon the house,  I would like to ask what Hamelman means with bread flour, please? I am still confused as there is white very strong bread flour, strong white bread flour, and very strong wholemeal bread flour. Is bread flour white or wholemeal, please? Or is it up to me to decide?

Dear Patsy, thank you. I am glad your experience the dough as soft and tacky as well as it is not what I have seen on pictures. What is S&F, please? Sorry, I am a newbie. 

Next question would be in that case, how do I decide when the hydration level is okay, please? To avoid the tackiness of a dough, I once add so much flour to my first bread (I was used that a good yeast dough does not stick to the bowl :-)), that I created a bread similar to rusk :-)

I wish you all a good day.

Kind regards, Blue


ananda's picture

Hi Blue,

It isn't as straightforward as you want it to be, given that Hamelman is American, and the flour available in the US is different to UK.

However, the simplest answer to your question is that the nearest UK equivalent to what he calls Bread Flour is Strong White Flour.



lumos's picture

Hi, again, Blue,

I use Waitrose 'Very Strong Canadian' flour regularly, but mostly for bagels, because it is, as the label says, very strong.

For other types of bread my basic flour is 'strong flour', usually from Waitrose, either their Leckford Estate or Organic ranges. They are both quite good and have been milled by Marriage last few years since the new exclusive contract was established between them a few years ago.  I rang Marriage a while ago to inquire about the difference between the flours they mill for Waitrose and the ones they sell in their own name, and they said the specifications for both are almost identical, which means it is quite reliable in quality-wise.

Another brand of flour which is easily availabe and of reasonable quality is Dove's Farm flours.

Most of my breads I bake these days are sort of French-ish style ones, so I need softer (=lower in protein/gluten) than regular UK strong flour.  So I just replace a part of flour to plain flour to lower the protein, which, I think, would make it nearer to All Purpose flour which a lot of US based TFLers and some of Hamelman's formula use. As far as I know, their 'bread flour' is quite similar to our 'strong flour,' they are quite safely inter-changeable, I think.

Just as yourself, my bread-journey involves  trying to make breads, following a formula written by bakers in other countries by  improvising UK flours.

Here's the list of protein level of UK flours I regularly use, if this could help you in any way.


Leckford – Strong  13.6% (Leckford wheat + Canadian)

                       Plain  11.8%

Organic – Strong  12.9%

                      Plain  11.3%

                      Wholemeal (strong) 13.6%

Canadian Very Strong  - 15% (Canadian Red Spring Wheat)

Italian 00 (Organic)  – 11%


Dove’s Farm (stone millstone or slow running steel rollermill)

  Malt House – 12.3% (brown wheat flour, malted wheat flakes 15%, Rye 3.6%,

                    Malted flour, ascorbic acid)

  Strong – 12.5%

  Plain – 10%

  Wholemeal (strong) – 12.6%


If you're after any good rye or spelt flour that are easily available in South East, Bechaldre Mill's rye and spelt are available in Waitrose or John Lewis's Food Hall. (though the rye could be only available from selected branches of Waitrose)

best wishes,



bluesaturn's picture

Hi Andy. Thank you very much. I was looking for such a simple answer actually :-) I will play around with very strong white and strong white "bread" flour in that case.  :-) At least, I have now a direction / a hint, I could hang on. 

Dear Lumos, I have read some of your contributions already in the forum. :-) I checked yesterday Waitrose's website and a bigger store of them. Yes, Marriage is still producing for Waitrose under the organic label. I am looking forward to use it because the prices are still reasonable in comparison to other English flours. Shall I mention that the mentioned rye flour is on offer at Waitrose for just 1.50GBP? :-) I intend to pick three backs if I can get hold of them. 

Do you see a difference between this very strong Canadian Waitrose flour and a strong flour? The first has a protein content of 15g (I am impressed) and the Leckford has "only" 13.6g as you write. Is this a really noticeable difference?

Again, thank you all for your help. The funny thing is I got so confused with the flour that I became the hurdle myself, I assume. 

Best wishes and a good day,



lumos's picture

Hi, there!

Yes, Waitrose's Canadian Very Strong and other strong flours is quite different.  That's why I usually only use the former for bagels or when I need very strong flour in rye rich bread to compensate for the lack of gluten in rye flour. 

The problem with labeling is that it only tells you protein level, and even it can be a sort of give you a vague idea about what the gluten content is, it doesn't necessarily give you an accurate picture of how the flour would behave. And as you probably know, it's not only the quantity of gluten that matters but the quality of gluten, too, which makes a big difference. 

It's quite difficult to describe how much difference is there between them in writing, but I think probably the best way is to bake a very basic white breads with both flours and compare the feels and the resultant loaves yourself.  I think experiencing it with your own hands (and your palate) will be the best guidance as to which one you need and when and how. 

Flavour-wise, I think their Leckford Estate ranges (also milled by Marriage's, though the wheat is exclusively from their own farm in Hampshire) is quite good.  I'd been using their range ever since Richard Bertinet recommended it in his books (the second choice after Shipton's) . It has lovely nutty aroma, too.   I switched recently to their Organic only because my starter seems to prefer Organic flours, but I'd be happy to go back to Leckford's anytime if I need to.

Really lovely to have you on board, Blue.  We can exchange a lot of info and chat about our own 'trial & error' experiences with UK flours.  Let's have a fun!  ;)