The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain Au Levain

isand66's picture

Pain Au Levain

   Every once in a while I feel the need to make a more simple bread; one that will make a great sandwich.  With that in mind I decided to make a version of a Pain Au Levain using some French style flour from KAF, whole wheat and some dark rye flour and toasted wheat germ in the final dough.

I used my normal over-night retardation procedure for the bulk rise and decided to use one of my new baskets I purchased at Good Will over the summer.  Unfortunately I added so much rice flour to the basket to prevent the dough from sticking that some of it got onto the bread itself and when I went to shape it I de-gassed the dough too much.  I was trying to get a nice tight skin on the dough and the rice flour was preventing this.  Lesson learned, but in the end while the crumb ended up a little tighter than it should have been, the flavor was nice and deep with a good crust.


Levain Ingredients & Directions

200 grams French Style Flour (KAF, or use AP Flour)

100 grams Whole Wheat Flour (KAF)

105 grams Seed Starter at 65% hydration (If you use a 100% hydration starter you need to adjust the water amount and flour amount to compensate)

178 grams Water at room temperature

Mix all the above ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.  I usually do this the night before.

Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

Main Dough Ingredients

458 grams  Starter from above

350 grams French Style Flour (KAF)

50 grams Dark Rye (Pumpernickel Flour, KAF)

54 grams Toasted Wheat Germ (KAF)

17 grams Seas Salt or Table Salt (I used Hickory Smoked Sea Salt)

312 grams Water at room temperature


Mix the flours, and 275 grams of the water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 20-30 minutes.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces) and mix on low for a minute.  Add the rest of the water unless the dough is way too wet.   Mix on low-speed for another 3 minutes.  Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.  I made 1 large batard shape but you can make boules or other shapes.  Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature.  Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.

After 1 minute lower the temperature to 450 degrees.  Bake for 35-50 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 205 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.



bakingbadly's picture

Superb bake, Ian! As long as the flavour is deep and complex, as a sourdough should, I wouldn't mind a less open or closed crumb. Additionally, you'll have less worry about condiments falling onto your lap while eating your sandwich.

And the basket is a real beauty. It's rather slender and elegant, so I can't help adore it. Seriously. :)


isand66's picture

Thanks Zita, appreciate your kind words.  It actually had a handle but I cut it off to make it easier to use for baking.  Always on the lookout for interestig baking stuff.


varda's picture

and no cheese.   Lovely scoring as always.  -Varda

isand66's picture

Thanks Varda.. The cheese is in my other post :)

dabrownman's picture

Ian.  A unique shape.  Your bead sure bloomed nicely showing off the unique scoring too.  The WW and rye with some toasted WG had to make  the bread be tasty too.  Nice baking,

We a mltigrain (about a dozen of them) with a big multigrain scald (at least half a dozen different seeds) and soak bulk fermenting in the fridge for more than 18 hours when we got home from Tucson tonight.  It had more than doubled in the fridge  and blew itself nearly out ofhe bowl.  This one will have a 30 hr retard before e can get around to baking it off tomorrow.   By them it will be likely be oveflowing so I put the bowl in a bigger SS one in case it decided to explode.  We built a really stiff levain at 58% then, when it had risen 50% after 12 hours,  we thinned it out and put it in the autolyse.  Very vigorous I guess :-)

This one is going to be a beaast to contain.  I think it's going in the Romertopf clay baker.

isand66's picture

Thanks DA.

Your next bake sounds very exciting or should I say it sounds like it can't wait to get baked :).

I'm working on one of my rye breads with Ale that I've made before to bring to my office in PA this week, nothing too exciting until I get back later.

Look forward to reading about your next bake.

Mebake's picture

Very handsome loaf, Ian... Yum!

isand66's picture

Thank you Khalid.  It came out very tasty.