The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain Au Levain

Sheblom's picture

Pain Au Levain

After my go at the San Francisco Sourdough[Link], I though I would have another go with my sourdough but go in a more European recipe. I decided to go French and bake the Pain Au Levain, but the purist version, no commercial yeast used at all.

One thing I did fine with the san Fran loaf that it was not as sour as I would liked it to have been. So with this recipe, I decided to do the whole process over 4 day, the fourth day being the baking day. 

So here is my process, Day 01

On day one I mix the starter as started in the recipe

Day 02

Take the starter out of the fridge and allow to warm up

Get all my equipment ready

Add starter to the bowl and add the warm water and allow 5 minutes to soften the starter.

Just a quick shot of my new toy for the kitchen. Don't know how accurate it is, but least it will be handy

One the started has softened. I add the rest of the flour and salt and Mix until I get a rough dough ball. I then knead the dough for a short time. I then leave the dough for 5 min to rest.

I then use the stretch and fold technique as the dough is quite wet and sticky

Then let the dough rest for 10 min

I do this another three times, stretch and fold, rest, stretch and fold and rest, etc

I then shape it into a boule and leave it overnight to proof.

Day 03

This is the easiest day, just punch the dough down, stretch and fold and leave over night.

Day 04

Baking day! Now to see the result of all this work! 

I punch down the dough, shape into a tight boule and then leave to rise in my banneton

After 4 hours I pre-heat my oven and pizza stone to 230c, with a old roasting dish at the bottom as well.

One the oven has come up to tempresure. I transfer the dough to may baking stone and place in the oven. I also place half a cup pf hot water in the pan to create steam.

After 10 min, I remove the tray and turn the loaf.

After about 20min you really get a decent sourdough smell wafting through the house.

After about 35- 40 min for baking from intially instertion into the oven. The loaf has changed to a nice dark brown colour.

I take the loaf out of the oven and leave to cool for an hour.

I was very happy with how the loaf came out. It has a beautiful texture and chewy crust.

I do think I have to work on my proofing with a banneton and the transfer from the banneton to the baking stone. 

Please let me know waht you think!

Also here is a shot of some fresh ricotta cheese that me made last week as well!



Syd's picture

Beautiful pics and such great attention to detail in the mise en place shots.  A neat and tidy kitchen just looks so much better and I would be far more inclined to eat the end product of someone who really cares about cleanliness and ordiliness than someone who doesn't.  You have an admirer.

If you are a beginner baker, you are a fast learner and you are doing very well.

P.S. Would love the recipe for your ricotta cheese if you wouldn't mind. 



FlourChild's picture

Gorgeous boule!  Love the detail pictures of the crumb and the cross hatching created by your banneton.  Congrats on your new toy :)  I Like how thoroughly you documented the steps with pictures, made the process so easy to follow.

rossnroller's picture

Just one observation - your bread is overproofed, as is evidenced by the tunnelling under the crust and the compression of the crumb at the base.

Are you doing your bulk proof at room temperature? If so, you might like to try doing the bulk proof in the fridge if you are going to extend the proofing over days. I'd also try omitting the punching down step prior to shaping - a gentle 'de-gassing' (ie: patting the dough gently to even it out and pinching out any obvious bubbles) is all that is required. It also might be worth trying reducing the final proof to a couple of hours, or better still, test the dough using the poke test.

Nice-looking ricotta, by the way!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was wondering about the long rise in the form before scoring and baking.  I think if you gently degas as Ross suggests  you don't have to wait for the dough to recover from "punching."   I think that final rise was also too long.  

dabrownman's picture

Did you proof it in the pictured bowl to get that unusual texture? Or did the texture come from a cloth of some kind? I just made a bread that had few holes the first 1/2" from the bottom of the loaf.  I don't know why - I don't think it was over proofed but, what would I know, I'm the one who proofed it and thought it was right to bake when I did:-)

I think your bread is 'professionally rustic'.  I just love the way it looks.  Very nice job. 

rossnroller's picture


My comments to Sheblom were intended as a contribution, not a criticism. Tunnelling under the crust and compression of the crumb at the base of the loaf are clear indications of overproofing. I know - I've made that error many a time! Not everyone is aware of these things, and I see it as a contribution to point them out. Once the symptoms are evident, so is the diagnosis, and remedial action can then be taken next bake.

Large holes within the crumb as you describe can be due to other factors, such as shaping.

dabrownman's picture

I was glad to find out why mine looked like just like that - on teh bottom.  I mentioned it in my blog and wondered why it happened but I don't remember have any large holes or tunnels near the top of the crumb either.   Maybe I just slightly overproofed ?  I would like to know so that I can avoid the too small holes in the first 1/2'" from the bottom.  I just though I somehow mis-handled the dough somehow.  I am not a good enough baker to know.  My bread is always an adventure and surprise :-)

Sheblom's crust is amazing and I would like to know how she did that.

Sheblom's picture

Bro I am a dude!

The pattern came from the banneton and I baked the loaf for about 45min. Any more than that I ma not too sure. 

There is a pretty good chance that I over proofed the loaf, I am not too sure if that is tunneling per say. as it is only in some places. It might have just been a big bubble..

Baking with sourdough, is still an unknown entity for me. As i do not know for sure how long it takes my levain to rise. I am working on it to get it more down to times etc.

But thanks every one of the comments and critisms. I am very grateful and will strive to make a better loaf.

dabrownman's picture

The She before blom sent me in teh wron direction ....was my fault.  You must have some kind of burlap or rough cloth in that banneton to get that cool texture?  I think it is great.

Sheblom's picture

Hahahah no problem man! Sheblom is my surname, just easier to remeber with multiple logins. THe texture actually comes from the banneton, which is a wood fibre one instead of cane or plastic.

They are the new and cheaper option when compared to the cane versions. I am going to try it with a normal basic loaf this weekend so see what other effects it does to a normal loaf.