The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Eric: Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain

fleur-de-liz's picture

Eric: Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain

At Eric's request, here is Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain.

As an introduction, Hamelman describes this recipe as "one of the most delectable table breads I have ever eaten."

Pre-ferment flour: 25%

Dough Yield (home): 3 medium loaves

Five-Grain Levain

Liquid Levain build:

8 oz bread flour (all purpose flour in the mid 11% protein range)

10 oz water

1.6 oz mature culture liquid (Hamelman uses a liquid culture of 125% hydration)


2.9 oz cracked rye (I have also substituted cracked wheat)

2.9 oz flaxseeds

2.5 oz sunflower seeds

2.5 oz oats

13 oz boiling water

.2 oz salt

Final Dough:

1 lb high-gluten flour

8 oz whole wheat flour

8.4 oz water

.6 oz salt

.1 oz (1 tsp) instant yeast (I omit this when retarding dough overnight)

1 lb, 8 oz soaker (all of above)

1 lb, 2 oz liquid levain (all less 3T)

TOTAL FINAL DOUGH: 4 lb., 11.1 oz

1. Liquid levain: Make the final build 12 to 16 hrs before the final mix and let stand in covered container at about 70 degrees.

2. Soaker: Pour boiling water over the grain blend and salt, mix thoroughly, and cover with plastic to prevent evaporation. Make the soaker as the same time as the final build of the levain and let stand at room temperature. If grains that don't require a hot soaker are used (eg, rye chops in lieu of cracked rye) a cold soaker can be made. In that case, the grains in the soaker will absorb less water, and it's likely that slightly less water will be needed in the final dough.

3. Mixing: All add the ingredients to the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes, adjusting the hydration as necessary. Mix on second speed for 3 to 3-1/2 minutes. The dough should have a moderate gluten development. Desired dough temperature: 76 degrees. [NOTE: It's been a while since I made this recipe, so I can't recall exactly how long I kneaded the dough. Generally, I have to knead longer than Hamelman suggests to get to the desired level of gluten devleopment. Since dsnyder made this bread so successfully recently, perhaps he can suggest some mixing times.]

4. Bulk Fermentation: 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. [I do 2 hrs with 1 fold and omit the yeast (see final fermentation below)

5. Folding: If the bulk fermentation will last 1-1/2 hrs, fold after 45 minutes. [I always fold]

6. Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into 1.5 lb pieces; shape round or oblong. Can also be made into rolls.

7. Final fermentation: Approximately 1 hour at 76 degrees. [The dough can be retarded for several hours or overnight, which case the bulk fermentation should be 2 hrs with 1 fold, and the yeast left out of the mix.]

8. Baking: With normal steam, 460 for 40 to 45 minutes. There is a great deal of water retention in this bread, so be sure to bake thoroughly.

An overnight retardation in the refrigeration greatly enhances the flavors of this bread.

Hope you enjoy,


ehanner's picture

Thanks Liz,
I have this in the process and the grains look and smell great. I wonder if you or anyone with experience using multi-grains would comment on grain combinations that make a difference. I made a trip to the health food depart at the store and looked at all the various things I could choose from. I found cracked wheat but not the cracked rye. I also picked up some millet and steel cut something and course corn meal. Are there combinations other than the one in the formula that lend themselves to a full nutty flavor?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Eric.

Personally, I find the predominant seed flavors are the flax seeds and the sunflower seeds in this bread. I have also failed to find cracked rye. I have used bulgher (cracked, pre-cooked wheat), pumpernickle flour, and rolled oats. The pumpernickle flour certainly impacts flavor, although it's subtle. My impression is the bulgher and oats have more impact on texture. I have routinely added bulghar to Reinharts whole wheat bread in BBS. It adds bits of chewiness to the crumb. 
I have not tried polenta, millet, steel cut oats, barley or other possibilities. If you do so, please let us know how you think they work out. 
Hamelman also has a formula for a multi-seed levain which includes soaked flax seeds and toasted sunflower and seseme seeds. I did a blog entry on this bread. It's really good too.


ehanner's picture

Thanks David,
I have heard from a number of people and read where flax seeds are nutritionally insignificant if you don't grind them first. Apparently they don't digest very well. I had intended to use half ground and half whole but then I poured the entire amount into the mix before I caught myself and it was the last item in the soaker so I moved on. Have you heard this also or is this an isolated myth?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Eric.

I've heard that about flax seeds too. However, I believe I have also read that soaking them makes their nutritional benefits available. I really like the flavor they add to breads.


ehanner's picture

I take the flax oil every day and that's a nice flavor also. My previous question about seed combinations comes from the realization that simple foods are the best. A couple spices or flavors that can be identified that will stand out I think is preferable to a lot of pallet confusion. I enjoy simply sunflower seeds in a white/rye loaf. The toasted SF seeds are hearty and nutty all by them selves.


tananaBrian's picture

Old topic, I know, but I'll respond anyway ...I'm probably going to bake this bread this weekend as part of The Bread Challenge, but I'm wondering if anyone ever found out if soaked flax seed becomes 'nutritionally available' similar to ground flax seed or not?  I suspect the hard shell is the only issue.  And I'll be a roller mill such as those used for cracking barley (to remove the hulls/husks) for beer brewing might be the ticket too... rather than actually grind the flax seed, just crack its outer shell so your digestive juices can get to the sumptious interior...