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Pain au levain with mixed sourdough starters

with 6 comments

For some time I’ve had this bread from “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman on my imaginary To-Bake-List.I wanted to see if the additional effort of including an extra rye starter to a levain bread was justified in terms of flavor, texture, keeping quality or other properties. The amount of rye flour is minimal, so there is not much acidity gained, nor does the rye starter give a yeast boost, nor will it extend shelf life much. This is as good as any levain bread, so I don’t see a reason for including a handful of rye to a wheat bread via a separate sourdough. It is a good excuse for not sharing the real secrets of bread making – “Oh, we use two different kinds of starters, spring water and unwashed sea salt from France”. The real secret being, of course, using good flour, hand-shaping, a perky leaven and having a baker in charge who will not rush the dough before it is ready. This loaf sports a good aeration without having too loose a crumb, it will pass the runny-honey test easily if butter is generously slathered onto the slice beforehand. Excuse the awkward quantities in the formula, I broke the recipe down to 450g of flour.

Pain au levain with mixed sourdough starters

Levain build

  • 36g strong white flour
  • 45g water
  • 7g levain, hydration: 125%

Mix and let stand for 16 hours at room temperature.

Rye sourdough build

  • 36g whole-rye flour
  • 30g water
  • 2g mature sourdough, hydration: 100%

Mix and let stand for 18-20 hours at room temperature. The rye sourdough should start to fall in the center or even flatten out.


  • 342g strong white flour
  • 36g whole-wheat flour
  • 235g water
  • 9g salt
  • Levain build
  • Rye sourdough build

Bulk fermentation: 2.5 hours.
Final fermentation: 2.5 hours or until ready.
Bake at 240°C for 40-45 minutes, or at 240°C for 10 minutes and additional 45 minutes at 200°C to get a thicker crust. The German flour Type 550 usually gives a thin and brittle crust, that softens quickly after the bread has cooled, so I did a longer bake.

Source: Bread. Jeffrey Hamelman


Written by theinversecook

21 January 2009 at 20:41

Posted in Bao, Bread, Brot, food, pain, pane, Recipe

6 Responses

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  1. Wenn man sowieso Weizen- und Roggensauerteig im Kühlschrank hat, ist der Mehraufwand in der Herstellung mit 2 Startern minimal. Das Brot schmeckt wirklich gut, ich hab’s schon mehrfach gebacken. Aber ich gebe dir Recht: eigentlich etwas für echte Freaks ;-)

    Petra aka Cascabel

    22 January 2009 at 11:09

  2. Es schmeckt(e) auch sehr gut. Hab’ gestern abend noch den letzten Rest mit flambiertem Pilzragout nach R. Bertinets “Crust” gegessen, das sehr knusprige Brot hat sich leicht mit den flüssigen Komponenten vermengt – 10 mal besser als Toastbrot, wie man es selbst in besseren Restaurants vorgesetzt kriegt.


    22 January 2009 at 16:24

  3. Looks great, Nils :)

    Make sure you add a small poolish and some pate fermentee as well!

    By the way, I really like Bäcker Süpke’s technique of adding a poolish to the rye doughs! You recommended it, and I think it works very well for me. I’m not sure if I can taste it in the heavy rye breads, but somehow I feel the mixing stage flows better when some of the wheat comes from a poolish. For all the hardcore sourdough folks out there: Do you think it would work to seed the poolish with some rye ASG instead of a speck of commercial yeast? Or would it simply be better to make a wheat levain as you’ve done here?

    Hans Joakim

    24 January 2009 at 18:48

  4. I think it would work! (ASG=Active Sourdough … “?”) A sourdough poolish gives a firmer crust and crumb, I think. A yeasted poolish tends to bake to a tender crust. I just made a 40% rye bread with rye sourdough and a yeasted starter. The total quantity of yeast was well below 0.02%, yet the dough was ready to be baked within 1 hour.

    So, it seems to me that yeast multiplication can also occur in liquid yeasted starters, for example if mixed with about 0.1% yeast and then let it stand for about 16 hours. I haven’t tried it but it could be possible to bake a bread within less than 4 hours with a yeast quantity of the above mentioned total yeast quantity of 0.02%. In salted starters like a pâte fermentée this would not be possible because the salt sterilizes quite a few yeast cells.

    Going to post my recipe of the last loaf (a crusty rye bread).



    25 January 2009 at 15:56

  5. *flexing my German*: ASG=AnStellGut ;)

    Yes, I’ve also seen that with a typical Mischbrot (60:40, 50:50, 40:60), a poolish and a rye sour will fully proof the bread in about 1hr! Pretty remarkable, because the added yeast is such a tiny amount. Looking forward to your crusty rye bread post :)

    Hans Joakim

    26 January 2009 at 09:47

  6. ‘Anstellgut’ – my favorite word. Should’ve guessed it.

    A yeasted or leaven poolish seems to greatly enhance crust and make the crumb a bit firmer. Still haven’t figured out when it works best though.


    26 January 2009 at 23:01

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