The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Gérard Rubaud's 3 stage levain sourdough

bsandusky's picture

Gérard Rubaud's 3 stage levain sourdough


So, I decided to go for it and try the 30hr+ process to Rubaud's 3-stage levain loaf. I followed the recipe(s) from Shiao-Ping and David Snyder (via MC's interview with the master).

I will say that I am entirely satisfied with this bread. It's dreamy. The crust is nice and crisp. The crumb is airy, soft, has a creamy aftertaste, and nice whole grain notes to it. The process, however, is a bit excessive and not entirely sustainable on a regular basis.

I started my first build at 6am on Saturday, went for ~10 hours, started the second at 4pm, then the third at midnight. Was up again at 7am Sunday to prep and autolyse the flour and had the levain integrated by 8am for bulk fermentation. I did 5 rounds of s&f in the bowl every 30 mins, then did two rounds of s&f (letter style) every 45 minutes, ending with a 45 minute rest before pre-shaping.

Since the dough has such a high hydration level (~80%), I did not knead it at all. Only s&f's in the bowl or on the table and I was very pleased at the end with the texture of the dough. It was so soft and light, bubbly even.

Afterwards, I pre-shaped into boules, did a bench rest for 15 mins, then final shaping. Finally, both boules went into 450F oven on a stone with steam (via towel method) for 40 minutes.

I would absolutely make this again, but probably follow David's second attempt with one stage levain. That way, levain build is night before and bake.

All said and done, I started at 6am Saturday, and these loaves came out of the oven at 1:25p Sunday. But, that is certainly not a complaint. The process was exhausting but stimulating at the same time. I feel like this bake has stepped up my game. Can't wait for the next.


pmccool's picture

And it appears that you have followed him faithfully, with some very impressive bread to show for your efforts.  The oven spring must have been massive, gauging by the extension of the slashes (the first photo is all that displays for me).  Well baked!


bsandusky's picture

Thanks so much, Paul. Master Rubaud's exacting methods certainly do pay off.

As for the oven spring, the loaves did indeed really expand a ton during the bake. I was really happy with the movement and rise. There is really nothing I would change about the bake here.

dmsnyder's picture

Rubaud's method makes no compromises. If you can accept anything short of his notion of perfection, you definitely can have an easier time of it and still have very good bread.

I do think it is worthwhile to make the effort and see what you might be missing before switching to a less demanding approach.

Your breads look great!


bsandusky's picture

Thanks, David. I have been following your posts for a while now, and I have often been inspired.

I definitely am of the same opinion as you as to trying out the full method before going with the less demanding approach. I am really curious to try out the one stage build, but I also now have a benchmark against which to gauge. While certainly a demanding routine for bread, it is also that sort of effort which pays off the most, it seems. 

There was a part of MC's interview with Rubaud where she mentions that he cut back, after a stroke, to only baking 5 times a week. I cannot imagine maintaining such amazing high standards and exacting methods over time. But, such is why he's one of the greats, I suppose.

Can't wait to try out your second take on this bread. :)