The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain au Levain

SteveB's picture
January 5, 2006 - 5:12pm -- SteveB

10% whole wheat and 10% rye, 70% hydration.


qahtan's picture
Submitted by qahtan on

Steve would you please tell me how you get the marks on your loaf from the brotform. I have tried with my Brotform and all I get is flour marks that come off as soon as it is touched..... thanks, qahtan

SteveB's picture
Submitted by SteveB on

I rub white rice flour into the channels of the brotform prior to adding the shaped dough in order to prevent the dough from sticking during its final fermentation. Regular white flour will also work. When the brotform is inverted onto a peel to prepare the dough for baking, faint rings of flour adhere to the dough. For my taste, heavy rings of flour are NOT desired as they tend to give a less fully flavored crust.

wendyshum's picture
Submitted by wendyshum on

Your bread looks so nice and what I'm trying to make this result.but it doesn't rise too much in the oven. Could you share the recipe?

SteveB's picture
Submitted by SteveB on

I used a pretty standard formula (baker's percent):

White flour - 85%

Medium rye flour - 7.5%

Whole wheat flour - 7.5%

Total flour - 100%

Water - 68%

Levain - 33%

Salt - 2%

JMonkey's picture
Submitted by JMonkey on


How deeply did you slash into the shaped loaf to get that fantastic ear? It's HUGE. Looks fantastic.

SteveB's picture
Submitted by SteveB on

Don't know exactly, but if I had to guess, I would say around 1/4". The grigne opens up nicely during the oven spring.

JMonkey's picture
Submitted by JMonkey on

I think the reason I'm not getting a nice grigne on my breads is:

1) I tend to use 100% whole wheat.
2) I let the loaf proof too long.

What's about right for proofing? 50%? 70%? With a high-hydration loaf of around 70%, it seems that letting the loaf double in size reduces the amount of oven spring and the size off the grigne.

Is that right?

SteveB's picture
Submitted by SteveB on

As I rarely bake 100% whole wheat bread, I can't respond to your first point from experience. As is often mentioned, though, the bran from whole wheat tends to 'cut' the gluten strands. This may affect oven spring and grigne formation.

Regarding proofing, I rarely judge the progress of the proof by volume increase. Rather, I tend to judge by feel. With the breads that I bake, when the proofing is complete, a gentle poke of the dough should yield a slight indentation which pops back in 2-3 seconds.

andrew_l's picture
Submitted by andrew_l on

J Monkey,

I tend to bake with about 60% wholewheat, 40 wholewheat. I don't let the dough double in volume; if it does there's a lot less oven spring and the grigne doesn't open up so well. If it increases by about 50 - 60% that seems fine.
However, for plaits and elaborate braids I like it to more than double. Less, and it distorts in the oven as it still has too much potential oven spring, which I don't want then. With whole wheat I don't knead at all vigorously; just a couple of light, quick (10 second) kneads at ten minute intervals (Dan Lepard's method), then a couple of gentle non-deflating folds a couple of times before shaping and proofing.


pizzameister's picture
Submitted by pizzameister on


That is some huge oven spring. I think a lot of first time bread bakers do not slash their loaves deep enough. Your slash was nice and deep allowing that spring. It is intersting that the initial slash opened up to almost 2/3 the width of the finished loaf. Cool pic!


SteveB's picture
Submitted by SteveB on

Hi Gary,

I think the turning point for me was learning how to get a nice tight shaping and knowing when to get the loaf into the oven. My oven spring is typically large enough so that I have to score the loaf significantly off-center for the grigne to appear centered.

You might be interested to know that I've started on a quest for the perfect (for me) pizza. I've been using my sourdough starter to give me a really flavorful crust (see the Gallery for a photo).

katrina's picture
Submitted by katrina on

Hi Steve

I'm so new here I don't even know where to find the recipes. This is just beautiful. and I'd love to find the recipe..............

elwoodhaley's picture
Submitted by elwoodhaley on

Good info!!