The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bran Levain Sesame Whole Wheat

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Bran Levain Sesame Whole Wheat

Another one of my not-so-successful bakes aesthetically but the flavor is so good.

I was intrigued by uncle Dab's bran levain when I first read it a couple of years ago and I wanted to try it because he says it softens the bran and makes the bread more sour but I could not find whole grains in my area. Finally I found some whole wheat (It's been years since I have laid my hands on some WW and made a bread out of it) in my local baking supply store so I immediately tried it out. I made it two weeks ago but I did not have time to post it even though I have plans despite it not being 100% successful. More and more TFLers are trying it too with good results. Sesame and whole wheat are a pretty classic combination I decided to go with that and here is my interpretation of it.

This was a 50/50 WW/BF blend so I gathered the required amount of WW and sifted the hard bits out. I got quite a huge amount that is almost enough for my 2 levain builds which surprised me.

Here is the high extraction flour that I got (Am I using the right terms?). I autolysed it in the fridge until the next day for almost 24 hours to ensure that any hard bit that went through the sieve can soften adequately. I just added water until it formed a dough. I then took 1 tsp. out of my stock starter and fed it with the bran until I got a thick paste. I was not used to the coarser bran so I just made a paste because it did not incorporate as flour used to. I was wondering how will I monitor any activity with every piece of bran just sitting atop each other.

Just after feeding for the 2nd build.

The next day the levain rose a bit and was full of bubbles; its aroma has also changed, nutty and sour. For the second build the bran was not enough anymore so I added a bit of bread flour. It looked like nothing was happening but I was about to see the fastest activity of my starter that day. Just past 1 hour and it already doubled. I didn't really expect that it will be much more active with the bran perhaps because of added nutrients; normally it will take 2.5-3 hours for it to double. I refrigerated it for a bit because I need to go outside at that time.

I mixed the autolyse, levain, bread flour, salt and just a little more water. These were mixed just until I got a soft dough.

I gave the dough 3 sets of S&F's each one hour apart.

I incorporated plenty of toasted sesame seeds after the first set of S&F. Bulk rise took a total of 4 hours.

Here is where it got tangled. :) The dough was very active, doubling every S&F. I do not know why I let it hang out at room temperature at 34°C for 30 minutes. Sometimes, I put my shaped white doughs in the fridge immediately when I know its activity is super; this WW dough was more active! 


It was already fully proofed by the time I put it in the fridge. The next morning, I knew immediately that it was overproofed because the volume was much much lower that when I put it in. Still had no idea why I forgot, I think it will still overproof even if I put it directly in the fridge after shaping. Perhaps, I should have put it the fridge after the last S&F so the core temperature will cool down and it won't overproof in the fridge. I think the best course for breads with whole grains or high activity is to just shape and proof the next day since the final proof is so quick! That's what I will do next time.

Here is the pancake that I've got. I was a bit sad because the dough was already looking so good, I even managed to score it. I just baked it until golden on both sides and it looked very different from the dough.

The dough was a little sticky with poor support on its structure so it was difficult to maneuver into the clay pot and it stuck to the pebbles which was difficult to pry hence it was ripped on one side.

Crust was not as crispy and shiny as I would have liked. Volume was very poor and spreading was serious. Crumb was a little dense but still soft. BUT...

The flavor! It was so good. Nice whole wheat flavor which goes great with the toasted sesame. The aroma was heavenly when it came out of the pot. No bitterness, a little sweet perhaps from the long autolyse. It was clearly very tangy because of the added whole grain, several notches tangier than normal, almost as tangy as my super sour white SD. No roughness! All of the bran was softened than when I just used WW directly as I did before. It just feels like eating a white bread with a bit more character. The rough bran is one of the reasons why I'm not a big fan of WW breads before. Bran levain works like magic!

It looks like a slice of pie here. :)

If you look at the slices, though not so desirable, they look perfect for bruschetta; albeit bigger more filling ones.

I just discovered the magic of avocado in a savory application. Never knew it would be so good. It was one of the combinations that I was hesitant to try because we only have avocados in sweets. It was like pumpkin which is used for sweets in the west and only in savory here. Thankfully, I was courageous enough and knew what I was missing for years.

It's avocado season here now so we have some good ones in the house. Of course, most went to our usual treat, chilled with condensed milk. For me, I took half an avocado, mashed it a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper and calamansi which is a local lime. I spread it on a toasted slice and topped it with fresh tomatoes. I'm salivating again as I type this. So delicious!

Avocado Toast as a part of my dinner.

This side is burnt, let's view it from the good side.


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And a tasty bread is a successful bake. Good visual of every step and seemed perfect till the very end.

You needn't have scored it. Might have fared better. And perhaps you could have re-shaped and done a quick(er) second final proof? Or even a more gentle reshaping then baking it straight away.

But that looks like one very delicious snack.

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I wish I have thought of those at that time. I learnt so much in this bake and I'm excited to try more whole grains and savory avocado. Thanks!

Elsie_iu's picture

I started using it since a few months ago and it has never let me down. It's impossible to bite into dry tough bran with bran leaven. The bran kind of dissolves into the bread and disappears like magic!

Your dough looks pretty good to me. It's a shame it didn't come out as good as it could have. However, the taste is obviously not harmed and you're getting some delicious bread. I'm confident it'd turn out perfect next time!

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I've been wanting to for the longest time because I hear many good things about. Now, I've proven it myself that they were true! Can't wait to try this genius technique again! Thanks!

dabrownman's picture

You  have the same heat I do.  Just get the gluten developed over 2 hours and bulk ferment on the counter for 15-20 minutes get it into a ball with the big bubbles  out of it and then bulk ferment in the fridge overnight in an oiled bowl.  Then let it sit for an hour in the morning, shape it and let it proof to 85% and n0 more - whole grain breads are not like white ones when it comes to proofing,  Then get it in the pot and on the fire.  I wold proof it seam side down so that when you out it in the pot it is seam side up and no need to score.  Still it was edible so not a total loss but we learned from it for sure.  Next time is the charm!  You will love the taste of a 50% WW bread that is light fluffy, moist and open!  Next time for the non bran flour in the levain build, use the high extraction flour instead of white flour.

Happy Bran Levain Baking Job

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Straight from the expert. I really need guidance with this and it's extra helpful because we have the same room temperatures. I will keep those in mind next time. Can't wait to try it again wishing to succeed next time. Thank you!

leslieruf's picture

it is like a superfood for them and the levain is always very active.  I now routinely do this too.

a shame that it turned out that way, but I think we learn a lot when things go wrong!  Savoury avocado is absolutely delicious, The way you made your toast with is how I love it too!

next bake will be perfect I am sure,


PalwithnoovenP's picture

This is the pancake that I told you last time. Wishing for the best next time. I see more avocado toasts as long as avocado is in season. Thanks!

Yippee's picture


If you dice the tomatoes, add diced onion and cilantro, you will have what we call "guac".  Eat it as is, paired with tortilla chips, or spread it on bread, my son loves it. We've never tried the sweet version though.

Give your bread one more try, I'm sure you'll nail it next time. You're already so close!  Don't give up! 

Good luck!




PalwithnoovenP's picture

I love the idea of guacamole! Try the sweet version too with condensed milk, you just might like it too. I'm bringing all of the lessons I learnt for my next WW adventure. Thank you!

isand66's picture

Glad yiu gave this technique a try.  I'm sure next time you will get the timing down and it will taste even better.  I started adding rye or whole wheat bran to my mother starter and it's so much better 😎.  Love the avocado toast.  I love them so much I usually just smash it up and salt it and eat it as a side dish for breakfast. 

Happy Baking!


PalwithnoovenP's picture

Love this technique! Thanks Ian!

not.a.crumb.left's picture

this inspired me to look into this...I have tried a while before and must give it a go again!  Don't give up and the avocado snack looks sooo good! Kat

PalwithnoovenP's picture

Thank you Kat!