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Shiao-Ping's picture

There is a bread style in Hamelman's Bread (page 129, A Resting Loaf) that I've been trying to emulate:



This is at least the third time that I've tried to make it but still couldn't get it right.  The piece that is supposed to somehow separate from the main body of bread during baking always get stuck back to it.  Next time I will let the dough proof right side up to see if it makes any difference.  Anyway, for the record, this is my Guinness Multigrain Loaf.    







               With homemade strawberry jam and strawberries pre-soaked in champagne and caster sugar  


My formula  

  • 260 g Guinness soupy starter @328% hydration

  • 120 g multigrain bread flour by Laucke

  • 300 g white bread flour

  • 25 g olive oil

  • 142 g water

  • 1/2 tsp instand dry yeast

  • 9 g salt  

dough hydration 76%  and dough weight 850 g  



hansjoakim's picture

Hi all,

This is a brief follow-up to my last post about Hamelman's whole-wheat pain au levain. I was very pleased with the creamy, light crumb of the loaf and wondered how an increase in whole-wheat flour would affect it. To gauge things, I decided to bake the whole-wheat levain from the same book, thereby doubling the whole-grain flour content.

Some initial remarks: The pain au levain with whole-wheat contains 25% whole-grain flour, is made with a stiff white starter, an autolyse and a very brief initial mixing (1 - 2 mins.). Click here for the more complete write-up. The whole-wheat levain contains 50% whole-wheat flour, is made with a liquid whole-wheat starter, and does not call for any autolyse, but slightly longer initial mixing. Despite these differences, I figured that Hamelman probably have "optimized" the procedure for each loaf, so I closed my eyes to the slightly different dough preparations, and went with his formulas as they are in the book.

Considering the pain au levain is well consumed by now, we'll have to settle for a photo comparison. I tried to snap photos of the whole-wheat levain from the same angles as I did for the pain au levain (again, click here for those).

Here's the just baked whole-wheat levain:

Whole-wheat levain

It turned out pretty much identical to the pain au levain, with perhaps slightly darker crust colour and slightly less open grigne. That could be blamed on incompetent and different slashing, though. Again, notice that flourless "rim" along the bottom side of the grigne - once again I experienced a two-stage oven spring, like Steve noticed on the previous pain au levain.

Here's a crumb shot of the whole-wheat levain:

Whole-wheat levain crumb

...and a straight comparison between pain au levain with whole wheat (left) and whole-wheat levain (right) below:

Crumb comparison

The crumb is slightly more open in the pain au levain, as you can see. From the top crust, you can also see how the pain au levain opened up a bit more during oven spring than the whole-wheat levain. Apart from that, they're like pretty identical twins to me ;) The flavour of the whole-wheat levain is a bit more intense, and the mouthfeel of the loaf is not as creamy as for the pain au levain. Given a blind test, it would be difficult to spot the difference!


lindyc's picture

After being fustrasted with my last few loaves I was reading over this site trying to find answers. I've been baking bread for a couple of years now with some really good results and some not so good!

I think basically I haven't been paying enough attention! I love it but maybe i'm just a bit sloppy, or not enough of a perfectionist...I needed to consolodate in my head the effect that ingredients and ratios / techniques had on my loaves. After reading about the benefits of having a good basic loaf recipe - a control recipe - that you are happy with I have decided this is what I need to do, and also to record the results so I can really understand what is going on a bit better.

Thought I'd may as well record it on here - at least that way I can get some feedback from the enourmous collective knowledge that exists in this online community, and maybe help anyone else with similar problems. (providing of course that I actually do help myself!)

So here goes...

My biggest problem I believe (and my husband has been trying to tell me this) is that my doughs aren't wet enough. I'm not exactly sure how those 'hydration' percentages are worked out but I've basically been doing 4 cups flour to 1 1/4 cups water.

So for my first two loaves I changed this to 3 cups to 1 1/4 and another loaf at 3 cups to 1 1/2 cups water.

Loaf 1

2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs oil
1¼ cups water
3 cups flour

Mix the yeast salt sugar and oil with the water, allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour this into a bowl with the flour in it. Mix in kitchenaid for about 5 minutes then knead by hand for a few minutes on floured surface. Put into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in warmed spot till doubled in size.

Kneed by hand for 3-5 minutes

This bread spread an awful lot on the final rise. I had pre-heated the oven and baked at 200 C.

Loaf 2

Second loaf exactly the same except I used 1 ½ cups water instead of 1¼. This was a much wetter dough. I probably used an extra quarter cup of flour when kneading just so it wouldn't stick to the bench!

I had watched the video of the guy doing the 'french fold' so was keen to try this out (it is linked to in this site but definately worth another link! - watch it here) and thought this would be a good dough to try it with. I tried it a bit with loaf 1 but it was a bit too ‘bally' to flop over my hands so I ended up just kneading it the other way (lift up, push down, quarter turn).

Loaf 1 is on the right and Loaf 2 (the wetter one) is on the left. I'm definately a convert to the french fold because as you can see the wetter loaf (which I tried the french fold on) actuall held is shape more with less spread and more oven spring.

It also had larger more irregular holes than the loaf with 1 and 1/4 cup water. Great! Next time i'm going to try some different flour and after that I want to see how I go baking in a sandwhich tin.

I would still like the free form loaves to hold their shape a lot more though. Maybe I haven't got the hang of the french fold well enough. I should also try slashing the bread before I bake it.


foolishpoolish's picture


Shiao-Ping's picture

Have you ever had the experience of searching for some one or something high and low?  We are in the dead of winter, but I am already thinking of spring.  A few years ago we were on our way to the jacaranda capital of Australia, Grafton, in the state of New South Wales, 300 km south of Brisbane.  Every October Grafton is as beautiful as April in Japan with its cherry blossoms.                


                  Spring in Grafton                                                           Spring in Brisbane  

Just before we reached the city I saw a quaint little antique store with a book store attached to it.  We went in and I found a cook book there, "A Chef in Provence" by Edouard Loubet, who, I learnt later on, owns a two Michelin starred restaurant in Lourmarin, south of France, 60 km north of Marseille.    Ever since then I have been searching on regularly to see if there is any new book by him.   Then, recently with my new interest in bread, I've been buying a few books in  Just last week it dawned on me that I should check on instead for Loubet's book.   I couldn't believe my luck.  He published his second book last month! "6 Saisons en Lubéron."  So, after nearly three years of waiting, I've got another book by him.  

Every so often some bloggers at TFL will contribute some ideas to how best to utilise leftover starters or leftover dough.  Now, here is another idea for leftover dough.  It is one that I have used time and again.  I first got this idea from Loubet's A Chef in Provence.  I adapted his "parcel of baby leeks" (page 52) with the addition of prosciutto and gruyere (or bacon and cheddar as in the example below).   Or, instead of spring onions that I used below, asparagus and brococcini will work very well too.     






My version looks like a far cry from Loubet's original.



Leah Vetter's picture
Leah Vetter

I have learned so much watching the entries from members of this community.  Now I feel emboldened  to join in.

Yesterday I baked my first challah, using the formula in TBBA.  I got a lovely to look at loaf, with a nice crumb, but I don't think much of the flavor.  Have other people using this recipe been pleased with the flavor?  Perhaps I did something wrong. 

I would love to post a picture of the challah.  How do I do that?

Does anyone have a yummy challah reccipe t share?


Shiao-Ping's picture

My son had put in his order for Indian food this weekend.  We have Indian food at home every now and then.  My kids' favourite combo is Tandoori chicken (marinated in yogurt, lemon and the usual tandoori spices the night before), Indian-style fried rice with cashew nuts and sultanas, poppadom, and mango chutney.  As it's only my son and myself for supper I didn't feel like cooking a big pot of rice - why not putting all the ingredients for the Indian rice into a bread?  A curry bread?  This is not a new idea.  I used James MacGuire's baguette formula and added a few more ingredients.   

My alternate Indian dinner menu looks like this:  

  • Warm green salad with Tandoori chicken;

  • Baguette with mild curry spices, cashew nuts, and mixed dried fruits; and

  • mango chutney.  

When the dough is done fermenting, I simply divided it into three pieces without shaping.  

My formula  

  • 400 g white bread flour

  • 10 g  Hoyts mild curry powder

  • 60 g cashew nuts

  • 60 g mixed dried fruits

  • 275 g water

  • 25 g olive oil

  • 20 g honey (to counter balance the bitterness from curry powder)

  • 8 g salt

  • 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast  



   The supper    


                                                  curry rustic bread                                       



   My grilled tandoori chicken turned out to be more like just simple curried chicken.                                            


                                                         open sanger            


                  curry bread with butter and mango chutney    




SylviaH's picture

Today I was baking a couple of loaves and thought since I was going to be in the kitchen all day I may as well go ahead and do the first James J. MacGuire's Pain de Tradition loaf that was posted by Shiao-Ping.  The last one tasted so delicious.  This time I thought I would bake it the same as the last JJMG Tradition sourdough I made puting it in the Bell La Cloche..only this time I pre-heated my stones for 45 min. as they were not completely cool from the earlier bakes.  I only wanted to use the lid of the la cloche this time.  I followed the instructions as directed in the recipe.  When I removed the dough from my round broth spread out very wide and was a little flat looking..I had already heated my lid on the stone...not using the bottom of the la cloche this time.  I slid the boule onto the stone and covered it with my bell had spread so much the lid caught a little of the loaf on part of the had spread a little bit to much...I removed the lid 15 minutes later.  The boule had sprang to the top of the bell and sides...I had a bell shaped loaf!  I think if I would have removed the lid..maybe at ten minutes..the loaf could have sprang more and the slashes would have 'eared' opened more..

I'm thinking maybe because the boule was touching and therefore supported somewhat by the bell lid..this is what made it rise up so high..but the last loaf I did..didn't touch the sides of the bell and it sprang up. 

I baked this loaf for 15 minutes in a 450 oven.  Removed the bell lid and reduced the oven to 350.  The boule baked a total of 60 minutes.

It's to hot to slice and show the crumb..but when it cools..tomorrow or late tonight..I'll post a crumb shot.

After 15 minutes

I think next time I will make this into two loaves!  I hope it's not one big hollow ball when I slice it!

Crumb is here!

Crunchy, Crispy Crust and nice crumb! Lovely flavor!




hansjoakim's picture

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris.

I consider myself a mostly whole grain kind of person, but occasionally I get this insatiable hunger for lighter loaves. Perhaps it's a seasonable thing - fish, salads, shrimps, cold wine and white loaves in July; Sauerkraut, Bratwurst, aquavit and Roggenbrot in January. Anyways, I've baked mostly rye-centric things the last few weeks, so I wanted to mix it up a little. The thought of a very simple, clean loaf appealed to me - allow the flour and sourdough to take center stage. I browsed the chapter on levain breads in Hamelman's book, and was immediately tempted by the formula for pain au levain with whole wheat. I made it once before, but it never struck me as mindblowing at the time. Hmm. What could I've been thinking? Must've been busy with other stuff. Less important stuff than taking in the intoxicating aroma of this loaf, obviously.

Since Hamelman's formulas are bulletproof, I tried the best I could to follow this one to the letter. The only thing I did differently, was to mix the levain at 50% hydration instead of 60%. I keep my firm starter at 50%, a level that my little trooper finds comfy, so I added the remaining water to the final dough instead to get the overall figure right. The formula really is an excellent exercise in how to develop the dough with a minimal amount of mixing - the effects of autolyse and folds are very clearly illuminated.

I've read comments around here about difficulties incorporating firm levains in the final dough. I've never had any issues with this, as my levain is soft and sticky (like you wouldn't believe) when it's fully ripe. After a 30 min. autolyse, salt is sprinkled over the dough, and then I slather spoon-sized bits of ripe levain on top. It doesn't take more than a few seconds of first speed mixing to get everything completely incorporated afterwards. I mixed the dough on 2nd speed for about 90 seconds, and by that time it was coming away from the sides of the bowl and it looked all set. Miracles of autolyse and insights of Prof. Calvel. Then, two folds spaced by 50 mins. each (performed while watching a movie last night), before shaping and retarding overnight.

I pulled the loaf from the fridge this morning as the baking stone was heating up. I'm not sure why, but as long as the dough is not bordering on overproofing, I like to give it some time to warm up. Probably just me being superstitious, but I like the idea of waking up the yeast gradually before *pouff* - ***hot stone***. Here's the loaf in the oven, just after the cut started to open up and the crust started to colour:

Baking pain au levain

And here's the loaf after a 45 min bake:

Pain au levain

Here's a shot of the crumb:

Pain au levain crumb

And a close-up for the crumb-obsessed:

Pain au levain crumb

This loaf really blew my mind, I was so excited when I saw how nicely it rose in the oven and how the slash opened up. Also, keep in mind that this dough isn't sticky at all. The overall hydration is only 68%, and considering that there's 25% whole flour in there, it's very comfortable to work with. I think it goes to show that it's possible to achieve an aerated crumb without going all overboard with the water. I also think that the firmness of the levain contributed a lot to the profile of the loaf. As Dan and others have pointed out, a liquid starter or a poolish makes the dough more extensible. With European flours probably being weaker than American ones (I can't really be sure before I've tried, though...), I'm definitely going to keep my starter on the firm side. That way I can get a nicely developed dough just by autolyse and two folds, as in this formula.

I bet most of you Hamelman fans have tried this one already, but if you haven't, I'm recommending it from the bottom of  my whole-grain heart. The crust is just crazy, and the flavour of flour and sourdough is exhilarating. Even though my memory is a bit hazy, I believe this is the closest I've been to the loaves I wolfed down while I was in France last year. All I need now is a plane ticket, some €€€ to spare, a slab of French butter and a bottle of cheap wine.

mneidich's picture

This is my first post, so before I get into the details, here's a little bit about me. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I took up breadbaking a few years ago when I moved here from the Southeast. The first breads I made were Challahs, and I got pretty good at making them. I'd make pizza, too, but that doesn't really count. After a while, I decided to start my own sourdough starter earlier this year, and after baking every week (except during Passover when I wasn't supposed to), I was starting to get a little annoyed that my breads wouldn't turn out how I wanted them.

Yesterday afternoon, i decided to do some calculations and create a bread that is about 65% hydration. I also knew that I needed to adjust my flour. I like using Bob's Red Mill because it's local, but it only has about an 11.7% gluten content. I adjusted my flour by adding vital wheat gluten to the the flour I used.

So, here are the results: The holes are just right, the crumb is nice and open, and the crust is nice and crusty (duh - it's a crust, right?!). Here are some pictures, and below the pictures are the instructions.

Evening before bake:


  • 300g Bread flour (13% gluten content)

  • 225 grams lukewarm water

  • 50g highly active firm starter

  1. In a medium-sized ceramic bowl, mix the starter into the water, then add the flour.

  2. Mix until even consistency is achieved (a couple minutes)

  3. Leave mixture in bowl and cover with plastice wrap.

  4. Let sit in kitchen for ~10 hours (overnight)


The Day of the Bake:


  • 450g Bread flour (13% gluten content)

  • 262g water

  • Starter mixture from previous evening.

  • 20g kosher salt

  • 30g olive oil

  1. Mix flour and water in a large bowl.

  2. Separate 50g of starter mixture and store in a jar for a future bake. Add all of the rest of it to the flour and water mixture.

  3. Mix just a little bit, then add oil and salt. Mix again until fairly incorperated.

  4. Turn out onto a clean surface (no flour or oil)

  5. Knead for 10 minutes, until gluten is well-formed.

  6. Form the dough into a ball and roll it in a little flour (to prevent it from sticking to the bowl while fermenting).

  7. Put the dough in a large ceramic bowl and cover with a damp cloth.]

  8. After ~2 hours of fermentation, take the dough out and form it into loaves, The dough probably has not changed much in size at this point.

  9. Put semolina flour into two bannetons to prevent loaves from sticking.

  10. Place formed loaves in bannetons and let proof for 5 hours (until dough doesn't spring back when poked)

  11. While dough is proofing, put baking stone on the second-to-top shelf in oven and heat oven to 550 degrees. Put a metal cookie sheet on the bottom shelf in the oven for steam-creation.

  12. Just before baking, lower temperature to 425 degrees.

  13. Turn loaves out onto a peel, slash them, and put on bread stone.

  14. Pour ~1 cup boiling water into the cake pan to create steam.

  15. Bake for 45 minutes, turning loaves at the half-way mark.

  16. Cool loaves uncovered on wire racks.

Okay, so that's it. If you try the recipe out, let me know how it goes :-)



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