The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flax Country Pain au Levain

nadira2100's picture

Flax Country Pain au Levain

I decided to attempt Pain au Levain again, but this time with a few changes. 

1.) I added Flax meal, Corn meal, and Rye to make my own "Country" Pain au Levain. 

2.) I baked it as 1 huge boule instead of 2 smaller ones. 

3.) I proofed for 4 hrs BEFORE retarding in the fridge this time. 

4.) I had to significantly increase the baking time due to the size of the boule.

5.) I used the starter I had stored in the freezer because I managed to screw up the one I had going in the fridge. I refreshed it 2 times before using in this recipe. 

Ok, so now that I've stated the changes, let me say that this is the first time I've ever experimented with a loaf....and by that I mean alter the flour composition and types of flours used. I think this turned out better than my first loaves in that it's definitely prettier....but I'm not overly pleased with the crumb yet. The crust is also significantly better than my first attempt. 

The day before I mixed the dough, I cut my starter into 6 equal pieces (weighing a total of about 7oz). I kneaded in 1/3 c water with 4.5oz unbleached bread flour and let that develop for 4 hrs before refrigerating it overnight. 

The next day I made the final dough by cutting the starter into 6 equal pieces (about 11.5 - 12oz) with the flours, water and salt. Here are the percentages I used....

100% UnBleached Bread Flour (18 oz)

89% Water (16oz)

64% Starter (11.5 oz)

11% Rye (2oz)

11% Flax Meal (2oz)

11% Corn Meal (2oz)

1.7% Salt (0.3oz)

I hope I did my calculations right...please tell me if I didn't. The decimal demon still gives me problems every once in awhile. Ok...maybe all the time. 

I kneaded the dough and let it rise in a lightly oiled bowl for 3 hrs. It seemed to swell a little but I couldn't tell if it was a "flattening out" compared to a swelling. Before....


But either way I continued on to shaping. Before I made my boule, though, I did do a few stretch and folds to help with structure because the dough was soft and a little wetter than my first attempt. I was nervous and decided it wouldn't hurt. So then I made my boule and put it back in my clean glass bowl to proof. I let this go for 4 hrs....I had made this at night so when I went to bed at 10pm I set my alarm for 2am to stick it in the fridge. 

The next night, I turned my loaf onto a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal and scored it, topped it with a little Flax meal and popped it in the oven.

I baked it at 475 degrees with a pan of hot water for 2 min., spritzed the oven and loaf with water and then lowered the temp to 450 for 30 min. At this point I could already tell I was a step closer to getting the loaf I want because of the oven spring (even if it wasn't as much as I would have liked to see it was still there). I kept increasing the baking time by 10 min. until the loaf registered 195 degrees. This took about 1hr 35 min.

I left it to cool until the next morning.

The crust was "crustier" and more crackly than last time (MUCH BETTER!) and the taste was great....I was able to get the mild flavor of sourdough with the nutty flax.

However, this bread is still pretty dense and I noticed it was more moist than the first loaves I made. A little more than I'd like. I'm guessing I should cut back on the hydration? As far as getting a softer/lighter crumb....should I let it proof longer? Add some instant yeast for added boost? Knead it longer? Make a better/more active starter even though when I was refreshing it, it tripled in volume within 8 hrs each time? I'm not sure what to do or what to try next so any suggestions would be very helpful!


fancy4baking's picture

I have to say that this is a nice loaf of bread that you hae made. Nonetheless, i think that you have a problem in Baker's Percentage!!!

If we compared 16oz of water added to the 18oz of flour that makes your dough's hydration approx. 89%. If we add the rest of the dry ingredients to the flour your hydration comes down to 80% --- excluding the hydration of the starter --- initially your shaped boule doesn't look to me like it 89% hydration. I'm not sure, but there seem to be something not right in your calculations!!! But also i have to admit that i am total ignorant in this oz weighing thing since i use the Metric standard wight.

However, your bread looks nice and delectable. Well done Nadira :))


nadira2100's picture

Thank you Izzat! I was thinking the same thing when I was figuring out percentages. I'm used to doing everything in ounces which is what I use for cakes and other pastries so I'm still fumbling through the percentages with breads. But at least the weight measurements are correct and I also didn't specificy that I used a liquid measuring cup for the water (probably an important thing to mention?). If you figure out what I did wrong please let me know! :)

nadira2100's picture

Ok. I'm an idiot. I was calculating my percentages based on the weight in ounces...not in lbs which is how it's explained in the Bread Bakers Apprentice! I hate math sometimes.....

dabrownman's picture

let's take a look at this recipe.  You have 23 oz dry (assumling the flax seed is 50% ) and 16 oz wet for a hydration of 69.6 % .  You also have 2 dry components that don't provide gluten in the corn and flax.  I would suggest cutting the rye and flax meal in half to 1 oz each and replace the corn with 1 0z Whole or preferably White Whole wheat instead so that you keep more of the rustic country flavor.  If you still want the corn reduce it tp 1 oz.  Reduce the water to 14 oz. which will keep the hydration at 70%.  Get your levain to 70% hydration too when building it for the bread.

Autolyse the dry (including the salt) with wet without the starter for 1 hour so the dry absorbs the wet then add the starter and knead for 5 minutes.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes in an oiled bowl covered with plastic.  Do 5 sets of S & F's every 15 minutes each one until the dough stiffens.  It will probably be around 12 (1/4 turns then stretch) the first time going down about 2 turns every set of S&F's.  I do the first 3 sets on a lightly oiled work surface and the last two on a lightly floured one.  Let it rest in the oiled, covered bowl in between sets. When finished with the S & F's Let the dough rest and develop / ferment for an additional hour or 1 1/2 hours in the covered bowl on the counter .  Then refrigerate it overnight or longer to fit your schedule.

When it comes out of the fridge let it warm for about an hour on the counter then pre shape into boule, let rest for 10 minutes, do final boule shaping and place into a floured cloth lined basket or floured benetton seam side up (make sure the seam is pinched tightly closed) what ever you are using and let it final proof in a closed plastic trash bag.   Check it after 1 hour for poke test and then every half hour after that till it passes.   Bake when it passes.  I usually start the 45 minute preheat of the oven at 1 and a half hours after the bread goes in the bag hoping that in 45 minutes the bread  will pass the poke test.

Preheat at 500 F with steam and stone in place.  I use Sylvia's steaming method of putting 2 loaf tins, with a rolled up kitchen towel in each one, and filling the tin up 75% full of water -placing them on the bottom grate on the left and right side of the oven.   When the loaf is placed into the oven, you can spritz it and oven, wait 2 minutes before turning the oven down to 450 F and then let steam for another 13 minutes.  At the 15 minute mark, remove the steaming tins and turn the oven down to 425 F (or 400 F convection if you have it).  Turn the boule on the stone every 10 minutes 180 degrees.  In about 20-30 minutes the loaf should be done with an internal temperature of  205 F.  Then turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and the loaf resting on the stone for 12 minutes more before moving it to a cooling rack.

Make sure your oven is recording the temperature you bake at appropriately - your bake times seem long and you may have a low oven temp and not know it.

This should give you the nice open crumb and taste you desire.  Your last loaf proves you are getting there!

Hope this helps.

nadira2100's picture

Thank you thank you thank you for the tips! I'll try this again once I have some time. 

dabrownman's picture

also nice.  Wish I could do it !

nadira2100's picture

You're so kind! I found this one was easier to score after taking it out of the fridge while I was waiting for the oven to heat up. 

dabrownman's picture

and same open crumb, you can skip the 18 hour dough retard.  This only helps the SD tang.  After the 1 1/2 hour bulk ferment you can go right to the basket for final proof if you want and save yourself a day.