The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A pair of pairs of Hamelman's Pains au Levain

dmsnyder's picture

A pair of pairs of Hamelman's Pains au Levain

I finally got around to making Hamelman's "Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour." For comparison, I also baked his Pain au Levain. The former was cold retarded overnight. The latter was not. However, I did retard the firm sourdough starter used for both breads overnight, and I believe this resulted in a tangier pain au levain than my previous bakes. 

On to some photos:

Pain au Levain boules

Pain au Levain crumb

Pain au Levain crust

If I were nit picky, I'd say this dough was slightly over-fermented, and I think the loaves were slightly over-proofed. However, it had a thin, crisp crackly crust that I wish I could reproduce at will, and the flavor was delicious, with more of a tang than usual, as mentioned.

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour crumb

This bread had a more complex flavor that the "regular" pain au levain when tasted 2 hours out of the oven. There was a slight WW grassiness, which I do not enjoy, and a lingering sourdough flavor, which I do enjoy. This type of bread usually tastes better to me on the day after it was baked, and I trust this bread will follow the pattern.

It's hard for me to say which of the three version of pain au levain in "Bread" is my favorite. Experience suggests it's whichever one I'm eating at the moment. I really, really like all three.



rossnroller's picture

As usual!

I'm kinda with you on the WW "grassiness", David, although that term doesn't quite describe the WW flavour half-note I'm not so keen on. My poetic muse isn't answering today, so can't come up with a decent descriptor...maybe we're not even referring to the same thing. Regardless, I do prefer a little rye in there. That said, the friend I recently made Hamelman's WW for left a phone message waxing extravagantly lyrical over the flavour (this was one with a little added toasted wheat germ).

As per your parting sentence, it comes down to nit-picking: these are all lovely breads.


dmsnyder's picture

I'm going to have a slice of each toasted for breakfast tomorrow with my usual topping of fresh ground almond butter and jam made by the farmer who grows the fruit. I expect the P au L with WW to have mellowed considerably.


GSnyde's picture


I love both of those breads.  I've baked each one once only.  I prefer the one with whole wheat.  I don't get "grassy".  I get a flavor I think of as nutty.

Did you use the Central Milling whole wheat?

All of thems is beauts!


dmsnyder's picture

Yes. I used the CM WW, of which I'm running out, by the way.

I often get off flavors from breads with whole grains when I taste them too soon. I really do expect to enjoy the bread more in the morning. I get nutty too ... quite often, but not from the flavor of this bread.


Mebake's picture

Lovely Pain au levains, David, All three!

You'll love Pain au levain with wholewheat leavened with Rye Sour instead of white Stiff biga.  Do try it, and you'll notice that the grassiness has disappeared!

Thaichef's picture

Good Morning David: 

  As usual your Breads took my breath away!  Another masterpiece, I say. I just bought Hamelman's book "Bread" and have a question about your sourdough. When you said "firm starter", what is the hydration? I kept my sourdough in the refrigerator, took a portion out, feed it several times in two days and usualy use it at 100% hydration. (I think that my  main sourdough in the refrigerator is about 75% hydration and I feed it weekly.)

If I want to turn my sourdough into "firm sourdough" to make the same bread as yours, what hydration should it be?.

Thank you.