Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bread Baking Babes June Bread

Our Kitchen of the Month, Cathy from Bread Experience, gave us a challenge to bake Pain au Levain with at least 30% whole wheat flour and to include some citrus flavoring and some seeds or herbs or both.

I didn't have any sourdough starter, so I made an overnight poolish and added a little more yeast to the dough. It made two nice sized (large) loaves. Really delicious and with a nice crumb. My crust wasn't as thick as I had hoped, but I couldn't find my spray bottle, so the only steam was from ice cubes which apparently wasn't enough. Still, I liked the thinner crust and this is a bread recipe that I will use in the future, probably a lot.  I found the process of pinching in the salt and water after the autolyse period to be fun and different.

I used Irish wholemeal wheat flour and also lemon zest for zing and a combination of seeds because I love seedy bread.

Pain au Levain formula
Makes 1 Very Large Loaf or 2 Medium Loaves

Adapted from From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich

Levain: *
227 grams | 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
227 grams | scant 1 cup + 2 Tbsp  water
45 grams | 3 Tbsp liquid sourdough starter
499 total grams  **

* If you don't have or don't want to use a sourdough starter, you can make an overnight poolish.  In that case, you will need to add a bit of yeast (about 2%) to the final dough.

** The total weight of the levain is 499.  You are supposed to remove 45 grams of sourdough to keep as your starter for future use which would leave 454 grams of levain.  If you choose to use all of the levain, just adjust the final dough accordingly.

Final Dough:
415 grams all-purpose flour
275 grams whole wheat flour - I used Irish wholemeal whole wheat flour
375-500 grams water + 25-50 grams (to mix with salt)***
14 grams fine sea salt  (I reduced the salt from 17 to 14 grams)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
150 grams mixed seeds including poppy seed, sesame seed, flax seed and sunflower seed

*** Adjust the hydration according to the type/blend of flour used.  The addition of whole wheat flour makes the dough thirsty and the coarser the blend, the more water it soaks up.

Day 1: Evening - Mix the Levain or Poolish
Mix the water and starter together in a large bowl. Add in the flour and mix until completely hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 8 - 10 hours.

Day 2: Mix the Final Dough/Shape Loaves:
Pour the water over the levain and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or whisk to disperse.

Whisk the flours together and add on top of the water/levain mixture. Hold the salt until after the autolyse.
Mix thoroughly using a Danish dough whisk or wooden spoon to begin developing the gluten.

Add the citrus zest, seeds and/or herbs. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Cover and let rest (autolyse) for 20 - 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the top and dissolve it with the 25 grams of water. Use your fingers to pinch the dough to incorporate the salt evenly throughout.

Cover and let the dough bulk ferment for 120 minutes. Stretch twice, every 40 minutes.

Divide the dough, pre-shape, and then it rest (covered) for 20 minutes before final shaping to allow the dough structure to relax.

Shape the dough into an oval or round shape and place it seam-side up in a heavily floured, lined banneton basket or seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Proof for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  Cover the loaves and place in the refrigerator to cold ferment overnight, 8 - 10 hours.

Day 3: Bake the Loaves
Place a baking stone or steel on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. for at least 45 minutes. If you plan to use steam, place a steam pan on the top shelf.

If you shape the loaf round, you could bake this in a bread cloche, a Dutch oven or a Dutch oven combo baker instead of using a baking stone.

When the oven is sufficiently preheated, remove the loaves from the refrigerator. Carefully invert the loaves from the banneton proofing baskets (if used) onto parchment paper or a heavily dusted peel.  I've found that using a lined basket aids with this process.  You just carefully peel it off after flipping it over onto the parchment.

Score the loaves in the pattern of your choice. Slide them onto the preheated baking stone or steel and bake for 35 - 45 minutes. A larger loaf will take longer.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Be sure to visit the other Babes and to see what they baked this month.

Also, if you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, just email Cathy and let her know the url of your post and how the bake went for you. Include a photo, too. She will send you a Buddy Badge for your blog. Deadline is June 29th, so get baking!


  1. Your loaf is gorgeous! So big and round! Nice bubbles on the crust.

  2. Your seedy wholemeal loaf looks and sounds delicious. Glad to know this works well with a poolish.

  3. Brilliant with the Irish whole grain flour, I really love that! Wish I’d thought of that and had some. It is an excellent loaf.
    Lovely crumb!

  4. Love your seed mix! Looks great inside!

  5. I love seedy bread, too. Yours looks wonderful!

  6. Thanks Babes. It really is a versatile recipe. Will have to try it with sourdough starter in the fall.