The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread, and Banana Pain au Levain

breadsong's picture

Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread, and Banana Pain au Levain

These are two breads I've wanted to bake, for quite awhile. Really glad now that I have, as both of these breads are so delicious, each in their own way! With thanks to Shiao-Ping and Mr. Leader for their lovely recipes :^)

Shiao-Ping's Banana Pain au Levain <------>Mr. Leader's Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread

I so enjoyed reading about Pane casareccio di Genzano in Mr. Leader’s book, Local Breads.
This was a really nice post, too, with great photos of that beautiful and dark crust:

This is a try of the whole wheat variation, Pane lariano, with some variations; I reduced the instant yeast to 1 gram, mixed by hand, divided the recipe amount into two loaves (instead of one large loaf),  and retarded the dough overnight (for convenience)…so this is not the bread Mr. Leader intended…but I am very pleased with the resulting flavor (it’s a delicious, delicious crust!).

The loaves were baked in a hot oven, preheated to 500F; then 475F for 15 minutes, 465F convection for 15 minutes, 450F convection for 7 minutes, then left in the oven (turned off/door ajar) for 10 minutes.
The loaves sang and crackled :^)

                                      The bran-flecked crust

  After cutting the end off of one loaf, 
                                                                                                                  I was nervous about the crumb, 
                                                                                                                  but really happy with the crust!

          The crumb, a little further into the loaf

The crust could be darker yet! (yearning for my own WFO :^)  )

The second bake today, Shiao-Ping's Banana Pain au Levain, makes a beautifully moist and fragrant loaf; I used a combination of fresh and frozen (defrosted) banana, ripe and sweet. The sweetness and flavor of the banana really carried through to the baked bread - great flavor!

I tried to score a 'banana' on the top of the loaf; here is the crumb (the gorgeous aroma of banana bread filling the kitchen at the moment this photo was taken!):

What wonderful discoveries these two breads were, today.

Happy baking everyone!
:^) from breadsong


PiPs's picture

Beautiful ... the Pane lariano is just beautiful. Lovely crust ... Oh how I love a dark crust!

The banana bread sounds great too. Lovely bake breadsong.


breadsong's picture

Hi Phil,
The description of the crust in Mr. Leader’s book, and actually seeing the ‘real thing’ thanks to Jay’s post, were so helpful in terms of a goal to shoot for when baking the Pane lariano.
Thank you very much for your kind words!
:^) from breadsong

ananda's picture

Hi Breadsong,

It's one of the breads I've always wanted to have a go at, and never yet done.

Terrific job you have made, and the crust is lovely, in spite of you not having a brick oven.   One day?!

Do you think the overnight retard may have contributed to the big holes in the crumb at the edges of the loaf?

Very best wishes



breadsong's picture

Hi Andy,
I think I’d like to have a go at every bread in Mr. Leader’s book, having so enjoyed the two I’ve made so far :^)
A WFO is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time…seeing the gorgeous results you and so many others get from your brick ovens...making me wish I had a WFO here!
Yes, I think it was the overnight retard causing those bubbles…when I took the loaves out of the fridge the next day, they had puffed up quite a bit, and felt full of air, like a balloon. Here is a picture before they were baked; you can see some of those bubbles distorting the shape of one of the loaves; this is the first part of the loaf I cut off, for that crumb shot:

Thank you for the compliments on the bread, and the crust, and please do give the Whole Wheat Genzano a try.
It had such an amazing flavor!
:^) from breadsong

Syd's picture

Great baking breadsong!  I can see the resemblance to a banana.  I really can!  I was trying to work out what you were trying to score on that loaf before I read your comments.  Although I didn't know what it was at first, I knew it wasn't just random scoring.  If it was breadsong, there had to be a plan behind it!  I can see how you double scored the top of the banana to create the effect of the stalk where the banana joins the tree.  Perhaps the bottom end is a little too sharp, but if you work out how to score that so it is more rounded, I think you deserve some sort of a medal!  Anyway, lovely looking bread all round and I particularly like the crust on the whole wheat.



breadsong's picture

Hi Syd,
I’m looking at the scoring on that banana loaf again, and thinking it more closely resembles a fat jalapeno pepper -
now I know what scoring to try the next time I make jalapeno bread :^)
I am recalling my first post on TFL – Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Banana Feather Bread – the scoring of the ‘banana’ on that loaf turned out better, I think!:

Thanks so much Syd, and I’m happy you liked the crust on the Genzano!
:^) from breadsong

sweetbird's picture

I was excited to see your post with these gorgeous breads. The Genzano is one that I learned from Dan Leader before Local Breads came out, and I'm sure yours would make him proud! The class was at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, and in fact he mentions the class and mentions me (!!) in the last paragraph of his introduction to Local Breads. I happened to see him at his bakery in the Catskills after the book came out and he brought me over to a stack of the new books, opened it to that page and gave it to me to read. I was beyond astounded! Anyway, I love the crust you got and if I didn't have two different breads rising downstairs right now, I'd be inspired to start a Genzano.

And I agree with Syd -- good job on that banana!! This looks like a fantastic loaf; I just have to try it. Thank you, breadsong!

All the best to you,


breadsong's picture

What an honor that Mr. Leader appreciated your baking so much he made special mention in the introduction to Local Breads. When I read your comment, I went straight to the page in the book and pencilled in “That’s Janie/sweetbird from TFL!”.  It is good to remember that passage in the introduction, and to know that it was you Mr. Leader was referring to. Having seen the quality of the baking you have shared on this site, Mr. Leader’s words certainly do ring true :^)
And, how wonderful you had the opportunity to take his class!
Thank you so much for your compliments on these bakes – and, you’ve inspired me to get my own copy of Bread Alone
so I can discover more of Mr. Leader’s beautiful breads!
:^) from breadsong

varda's picture

At first glance I thought the banana PAL had a very cool score, kind of twisty shaped, and now I clearly see the banana.   This post is around the fifth (or so) reference to Local Breads I've seen lately.   The crust looks so terrific.   You are so nice for showing the shot at the end of the loaf.   How many of us would just have shown the crumb shot from the middle.   -Varda

breadsong's picture

Hi Varda,
I can honestly say, I feared I’d made a mistake retarding the dough as it really did continue to ferment, even under refrigeration. When writing about this bread, Mr. Leader noted “a quarter-inch thick charred crust”; so in the end I was grateful for those air bubbles, as it really gave me a good view of the crust that resulted from this bake.
I was hoping for a crust like Mr. Leader described, and I can only imagine the crust that might result if the loaf were baked in a WFO like yours!
Thank you so much for your comment!
:^) from breadsong

Janetcook's picture

HI Breadsong,

You did a great job on both of these loaves.  Shiao Ping's is one of the first I baked and my family loved it right off the bat. I love the texture of that dough when working with it and the aroma when it is baking.  You have described it well!  I also love the simplicity of the method.

Take Care and thanks for the post :-)


P.S.  Don't know if you are interested in baking more breads using bananas but if you are....txfarmer has a great loaf combining them with whole wheat flour.  It is a sandwich loaf and also very tasty.

breadsong's picture

Hi Janet,
Thank you, and I agree, I like the simplicity of Shiao-Ping’s method for this dough. I went for the 72% version but threw in a bit of extra banana so maybe hydration ended up somewhere north of 72%. A little bit of difficulty shaping this loaf, as it was a bit sticky, just had to be careful with keeping the hands dry and floured :^)
I appreciate your comments, and thanks for the link to txfarmer’s bread (that’s a beauty; having loved Rose’s bread, and Shiao-Ping’s, txfarmer’s seems like a perfect marriage of the two, and love that it was made with whole wheat!).
:^) from breadsong

Farine's picture

...and yes, the banana definitely comes through on the crust. What a lovely design! The crumb is to die for too... The crust on the Genzano bread is fantastic. I can almost hear it sing and crackle all the way from down south in Seattle! Bravo, breadsong!

breadsong's picture

Hi MC, and thank you so much!
It was your ‘Light as a banana’ bread that inspired me to bake Rose’s bread so long ago, and I was thinking of your bread when making Shiao-Ping’s too.
I was in awe of the beauty of that loaf of yours (still am!), of how you managed to evoke both a the shape of a banana
(in the bread’s bloom) and a banana leaf (in the loaf’s shaping and scoring).  :^)
Thank you so much for your compliments on these breads - so appreciated!
:^) breadsong

dabrownman's picture

is right, brown food tastes good!'  The crust on the Pane lariano is so amazing - it must be delicious.  Can't smell the bananas until we demand and get smell - o - vision  for TFL crowd :-)  Shiao - Ping has some fine recipes desn't she?

These are very nice loaves!

breadsong's picture

You must bake this bread of Shiao-Ping’s so you can experience the lovely aroma of the baking/baked banana loaves for yourself! I agree with you, Shiao-Ping’s baking is really, really lovely and I look forward to trying other recipes of hers.
Thank you very much for your comment and glad you liked these loaves!
:^) from breadsong

Franko's picture

You shouldn't have waited so long to make these beautiful loaves breadsong!

The Genzano CB looks sooo good with it's bold bake and cracking crust, it speaks flavour from every angle, and every bite as well, I'm sure.

Ever since reading Shiao- Ping's post on her Banana Pain au Levain I've tried to wrap my head around how the flavours of a naturally leavened bread and banana would work together, but it still eludes me. Something I'll have to try for myself at some point it seems. The loaf looks amazing, adorned with your trademark artistic scoring, and moist looking crumb, it's a pleasure just to see. Your posts are always a treat, thanks for sharing your latest bakes with us!

All the best,



breadsong's picture

It’s true – baking these was ‘bittersweet’ – happiness to have made them, but also a pang of regret for waiting so long to bake such delicious bread.
There have been so many great-tasting breads along the way, though, and hopefully many more to come - I’ve got a number of your beautiful breads on my ‘list’, too! :^)
I am so glad you liked the look of both of these; I loved the flavor of both, and was so pleased that the banana flavor shone through on Shiao-Ping’s loaf. I love the flavor of banana and am partial to sweet/fruity, so this was a really nice one to try. And Mr. Leader’s bread, well, that was nothing short of fabulous for flavor and I am really looking forward to making this one again!
Thanks so much, Franko; I so appreciate your compliments!
:^) from breadsong


dmsnyder's picture

The crust on the Genzano does look delicious! 


breadsong's picture

Hi David,
I'm so grateful for your comment and so happy these loaves have been well-received!
The Genzano was a joy to make and taste, as was Shiao-Ping's banana pain au levain.
:^) from breadsong