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Pain au Levain- two different formulas from "BREAD"

codruta's picture

Pain au Levain- two different formulas from "BREAD"

I baked Pain au Levain (page 158 from Hamelman's book) a while ago, and I wrote about it here.

Soon after that, I made another pain au levain, this time the formula with mixed sourdough starters (page 162). I didn't achieve the big-holes-in-the-crumb I was looking for, but the bread was good, it had a good oven spring, and the crust was delicious. I used whole-spelt flour instead of whole-wheat flour and I mixed the dough by hand. I kept the hydration at 68% and retard the dough overnight in the fridge. This bread was a guest post, and the formula is given here. Here are some pictures:

After that, I made another pain au levain, this time a combination of Whole-Wheat Multigrain and Whole-Wheat Levain. I used 31% whole wheat flour and a soaker of roasted black sesame seeds (for colour and texture), oat bran and (old fashioned) rolled oats. The hydration was 79.8%, but a lot of water is absorbed by oats. I liked working with this dough: is so pretty, smells so nice and I could shape it without problem.

My boyfriend's sister, who lives in Paris, and her husband, who has an italian origin, they were visiting us the next day I baked this bread. They both eat a couple of slices with evident pleasure, and they comment that my breads are getting better and better (we only get to meet each other twice, maybe three times a year, so they don't taste my breads very often. Their comments were welcomed and appreciated). Here are the pictures from the beggining

and the final product:

I have the complete formula on my romanian blog Apa.Faina.Sare. The automatic translation is very bad, but if anyone is interested, I can translate it for you.


Overall  formula:
- Bread Flour: 310 g ………………………………....... 69.4%
- Whole-Wheat Flour: 17 g …………………………… 30.6%
- Water: 357 g …………………………………………….. 79.8%
- Rolled oats: 45 g ……………………………………… 10%
- Oat bran: 22 g …………………………………………… 5%
- (black) Sesame Seeds, roasted: 13 g ……………. 3%
- Salt: 9 g ……………………………………………………. 2%
dough: 893 g ………………………………………………. 199.8%Liquid levain build:
- Whole-Wheat Flour: 64 g
- Water: 81 g
- Sourdough starter (100%): 6 g
  = 151 g liquid levain 125%For soaker
- Rolled oats: 45 g
- Oat Bran: 22 g
- (black) Sesame Seeds: 13 g – roasted
- Water: 100 g
  = 180 g soakerFor the final dough:
- Bread Flour: 307 g
- Whole-Wheat Flour: 73 g
- Water: 173 g
- Liquid Levain: 151 g (all of the above)
- Soaker: 180 g (all of the above)
- Salt: 9 g

I followed Hamelman instructions (from page 168), but I let the dough autolyse for 40 min (all the ingredients except salt). After the final shaping, I retarded the dough overnight, and I baked it next morning, directly fom the fridge.



Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Those are fine looking loaves.Every week you post something that I admire.

arlo's picture

It certainly does your loaves justice with such nice photography skills to portray them. The crumb and crust look delicious on all the loaves, and I must say, the whole wheat multi-grain is a great recipe and one of my favorites from Bread. I have yet to try it with sesame seeds but could certainly understand them being a great addition.


Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

You are wonderfully gifted in -both- the abilties to create artistic bread and artistic photography! Well done!

- Keith

ananda's picture

Hi codruta,

well, I suppose the great photography helps...

but, as a baker, I have to say it's your bread that's doing all the talking for me.

What a talent you have!

Best wishes


Syd's picture

Nice baking, Codruta.  I especially like the dark sesame seeds.  Very pretty!



lumos's picture

Really beautiful loaf, as usual, Codruta!  

I just happened to have a large stock of black sesame seeds and rolled oats.  I might try this myself soon. (I might need your help with the translation, if you don't mind.)

Thank you for sharing.


best wishes,


breadsong's picture

Hello codruta,
More beautiful loaves! ... and love the black sesame seeds!
:^) from breadsong

Mebake's picture

Wonderful Breads. Corduta! All of them. I love the crumb shot on the multigrain wholewheat... you've done such a good job. I believe you're using a fine bran - wholewheat.. am i right..? it shows from the crumb.

Have you tried the batard shaping i illustrated about lately..? your multigrain is a boule or a batard? looks like both :)

You display your breads nicely too :)

sam's picture

Those are excellent.

Very nice.


codruta's picture

thank you, you are all so kind, like always.

Lumos, I'll update the post with the list of ingredients, if you need help with the method, let me know.

Khalid, I don't have another brand of whole-wheat flour to compare the brans with this one. If you look at the levain maybe you can tell how fine it is. I remember in the past, I had a much finer milled whole wheat, but I can't find that brand anymore.

About the shaping... since you posted those useful ilustrations, I only bake one boule, but I intend to follow your instructions this weekend. I'll surely let you know how it worked for me. For the multigrain (and for the other one too) I used on oval deep plastic dish lined with a thin fabric. I shaped the dough as a boule, and then I rolled the boule a little (left-right, on an unfloured surface) to give it an oval shape. I slashed it on the long axis, and after I baked it, it was an almost perfect round. I have to adapt to what I have on hands, and sometimes, that's quite a challenge. :))


copyu's picture

I followed the same Hamelman formula (p 158 0f "Bread") at about the same time...I was also aiming for a 'batard' shape; it was twice as long as it was wide when it was loaded into the oven, but it expanded into almost a boule as well. Delicious taste! Yours is much prettier than mine, however. I will try this one with spelt whole-meal next time...I have only 1 kg of whole spelt flour and nowhere to buy replacement stock. This is a great formula to work with, though.

I seem to remember reading that Hamelman recommends NOT retarding the dough for 'flavor' reasons. Did you notice that there's any difference between the two methods? Just curious!



codruta's picture

Adam, If I remember corectly, Hamelman's recommendations "to bake the bread the same day it is mixed" are ONLY for pain au levain, page 158. For the others pain au levain (whole wheat, mixed sourdough starters etc) he says you can retard the dough 8-18 hours.


copyu's picture

Thanks for the clarification.

I have Hamelman's book, but was following someone else's directions from the internet (because his weights were in grams) and I was only making a 'half-batch' (ie, one loaf) and it was easier to halve the recipe than mess around with pounds and ounces and baker's percentages. One interesting thing I tried was the internet author's suggestion to do the "Bertinet" method of kneading. Now, this dough was NOTHING like the sweet, eggy dough that Bertinet used in his video, but it did work very well! 

Thank you, Codruta, and happy baking!