The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Durum Levain and Mystery Boule

varda's picture

Durum Levain and Mystery Boule

Lately I've been baking a lot, as I decided my family's appetites did not quite coincide with either the type or amount of bread that I wanted to bake.   This has led to a conundrum, as I have occasionally made a great many loaves and then ended the day with no bread in the house.   Suddenly my barely tolerated bread has become a must have, so I have to make up the difference with a few more loaves after the big bake is over.   Yesterday I made these loaves which all went to good homes by the end of the day.  

Today, to make up for the lack of bread in the house,  I made a couple more durum loaves, and then a somewhat of a mystery boule.   The mystery wasn't what was in it, but how much, as my scale bit the dust before I could weigh the ingredients.   So basically some white starter, rye sour, KAAP, water and salt.   The water must have been quite a bit, as the dough turned out to be quite wet.  

These durum loaves were the first I've made with King Midas Extra Fancy Durum.   I was pleased to taste them and find that I couldn't tell any difference between that and King Arthur, and as you can see below, the crumb color didn't suffer.  

The mystery boule dwarfs the durum one. 

It has a nice light sourdough texture and flavor.   Of course I will never be able to recreate it.   I suppose the point is just to eat it.  

Durum Levain


































Total flour



Total dough



Mix mostly at speed 2 - 2 minutes at speed 3

Intense enough for some cohesion


BF 1 hour 30 minutes


Shape and proof in basket


Bake at 450 with steam, 40 minutes




Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Nice loaved Varda.  I have not yet baked more than 2 loaves in one day.  I can only imagine the effort it takes to get that many pumped out.  Your family and friends should be so lucky!

Happy baking.

P.S.  What is with the medieval theme behind flour brands??  Robin Hood, King Midas, King Arthur...I think Phil should market a new one with his fresh milled flour....Prince PiPs Extra Photogenic Organic Flour.


varda's picture

Hi John,  It is fun baking in a bit greater quantity, but it does take a lot of work, and most important focus.   I write up a schedule in advance so I don't accidentally forget some key step.   And yes, I was wondering about the king thing too.   Although I would say that King Midas was from something like ancient Crete and not medieval, but I'm sure the ancient historian bakers out there will set me straight.   Yes Prince PiP.  That's the ticket.   Thanks for commenting. -Varda  

ananda's picture

Hi Varda,

Midas ruled in Phrygia in the 2nd Century BC.   That's NW Turkey today, so pretty close to Crete!

Of course, the gold analogy must be the most important aspect of using the name Midas in connection with Durum flour.   And the crumb on your fancy durum bread is beautifully yellow.

Some really nice breads here Varda.

John's comments got me thinking.   I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the last week of May baking crazy here for the Alnwick Farmers' Market on the Friday.   On the Wednesday, somehow, I baked 43 loaves using the wood-fired oven on my patio.   I was exhausted by the end of the day.   And baking in a domestic electric oven is more challenging still.

Very best wishes


varda's picture

I knew an ancient historian baker would step up.  :-)  

I think that 43 loaves in one day would just about kill me, although I will say that I cranked out these 10 loaves without breaking a sweat.   Scratch that.   As much as I love my little Bosch it will not handle 3.5 Kg of dough.    So I mixed two of the three breads at least partly by hand, and that is strenuous.   The Assistent that I ordered came a day too late, but it will be good for next week.   And then of course the oven is the next bottleneck.  The WFO increases capacity, but you have to load and burn and that's a job in itself.  

But who's complaining?   It's wonderful to get good bread into people's hands.   Right now they are very grateful, but with time I'm sure they'll come to see it as their right to eat good bread and really what could be better than that.

Thanks for your generous comments. 


dabrownman's picture

that disappear out the door so baking them as an add on sure makes sense.   I really liked the Desert Durum but couldn't get much of it.  So what this KM brand extra fancy ?  It sure has a beautiful yellow color.  The White Bread turned out well too and goes to prove that scales aren't necessary.  I'm going to bake one without a scale, like i did for 30 years, just prove that I need one now :-)

Nice balking Varda

varda's picture

Hey DA,  You are right.   No white breads in that lot - 2 Durum, 5 cherry almond whole wheat, 3 Tzitzel rye.    The cherry almond whole wheat was 86% whole grain.       

King Midas is General Mills Conagra.   I think it is very good quality.   These loaves are 90% durum and the dough handled beautifully.  

It was scary baking without a scale.   Now I am remembering the advantages of volume measures.   You don't destroy them by just doing a quick rinse in the sink.   (DOH!)   The scariest part was the salt.  I just put in what I thought was a reasonable amount, and it seems to have come out ok.   The hydration was pretty random, but it reminded me that high hydrations for these type of loaves can be very nice.

Thanks for commenting DA.  -Varda



isand66's picture

I love the look of your crumb.  It's nice and moist and open and must taste great.  It looks like you have been baking up a storm as your collection of breads all look beautiful.

It's nice to wing it once in a while and live on the wild side!


varda's picture

Hi Ian,  Thanks so much for your comments..  It has been really fun to increase production, and really helps to develop skills.   But that made winging it all the more satisfying.   That said, I'm off to buy a new scale today.   Impossible to achieve consistency without it.   -Varda

SylviaH's picture

Nicely done, Varda!  The cherry almond ww sound very delicious and lovely crumbs on your loaves.  I've thought about buying another scale..for a backup 'lol'.  The one I have was cheap enough and works why not have 2 :)


varda's picture

That's high praise coming from a champion multitasker.   The cherry almond whole wheat is incredibly delicious.   My husband who wouldn't eat anything but white bread when I started baking eats it up.   He doesn't know that it is a super whole grain bread - just that it is good.   I just bought a new scale.   I'm feeling more secure already.  -Varda

PiPs's picture

Hi Varda,

You have been busy! 

I have had my scales die a couple of times ... after initially breaking out in a cold sweat, I learned to trust my instincts ... and it looks like you did too ... beautiful looking bread!


varda's picture

Hi Phil,   This is a sideline to my other activities/responsibilities -  but what a sideline it is.   Yes, cold sweat.   It seems at first that one just can't bake without a scale.   And then you find that you can.   Of course I wouldn't try making ten loaves of three different types of bread that way.   But a loaf here and there.   Why not?   Thanks so much for commenting.   I hope you are embarking on your next baking adventure.  -Varda

Mebake's picture

Wow inspiring, varda! i never turned out this much loaves from my oven. What are those breads? and in how many batches?

The golden durum is very attractive, YUM. The mystery loaf looks gorgeous.


varda's picture

Hi Khalid,  The two in front are the same durum loaves as crumb shown.  The 5 behind that are cherry almond whole wheat.   This is mostly a whole wheat loaf, with both rye and white levain.   The three behind that are tzitzel ryes - medium ryes flavored with caraway and wrapped in cornmeal.   Making a lot of loaves doesn't turn out to be that much of a step up from making a few short of kitchen restrictions.   But three is definitely my limit of types of loaves in one day.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

evonlim's picture

Hi Varda
Lots of bread! I wonder how many loaves can you bake in your oven at the same time? They all are beautiful!
By the way, love those blue plates..


varda's picture

Hi Evon,   The most I've made in my oven at one time is 5 loaves - two on one shelf, three on the other.   The first time I did it I burned the loaves on the bottom shelf, because of the radiant heat from the bottom of the top sheet.   This time, I rotated top to bottom and rotated front to back halfway through, and that worked fine.   I learned from Karin that if you want to bake this many loaves at once, they all have to be on sheets for quick moving, so that's what I did here.   So that little simplification - no peel directly to stone, place on sheets and then slide sheets into the oven - makes a huge difference in being able to do it.   Good baking sheets also help a lot, and all that is much cheaper than buying a new oven.   

The bottom blue plate is a massive hand made piece of pottery.   The top one is mass produced factory made that must have had a good graphic designer behind it.  Coexisting happily.  Thanks so much for your comments.