Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pain au Levain with Whole Grains, Citrus and Herbs - BBB

I cheated on my low-carb diet with this bread.  Was it worth it?  Yep.  Not sorry.  So good.  Not much beats fresh bread with butter, especially when it has such lovely flavor.  Worth the double workouts.  It's an extended time recipe, which is what gives it such good flavor, but not too much hands on time, which makes it relatively easy.  Everyone in the house loved this bread.  Pain au Levain can be considered a "sandbox bread" I suppose, a basic (perfectly simple, yet flavorful on its own!) structure upon which to build whatever flavor you imagine.  The only rules for this loaf were that it include at least 30% whole grain flour of our choice, and some combination of citrus and herbs and/or seeds.
I chose lemon zest and lime thyme for the main components.  I originally wanted to add in some cooked millet for my seeds but am apparently out right now.  So I looked through my fridge stash and found some pine nuts and pepitas from previous recipes and decided they would do nicely.  A little rosemary to round it out and my flavoring was done.

Next time I will try the millet or just use toasted pepitas.  The pine nuts are good, but I like them even better toasted on the top of bread than within it.  They are so rich that they don't stay crunchy when baked inside the loaf.  Regardless, this was super tasty.  Very moist and chewy crumb, without being too chewy.  I chose Kamut and Spelt for my whole grains and ground them fresh with just a cursory sifting of the largest bran pieces.  I really like the flavor of the Kamut in particular, and the properties it gives to bread dough in combination with spelt.  It really is delicious straight up, but this bread would make excellent sandwiches.  I can see clubs, paninis, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, all being very happy on this bread!

We would love for you to join in as a buddy baker this month! You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Citrus Scented Pain au Levain with Herbs and Seeds
Makes 1 Very Large Loaf or 2 Medium Loaves

This bread will take 2-3 days, depending on how long you let it cold ferment, but is flexible as to timing.  Adapted from From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich

Levain: *
227 g | 1½ cups + ½ cup all-purpose flour
227 g | scant 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
45 g | 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 g. You are supposed to remove 45 g of sourdough to keep as your starter for future use which would leave 454 g of levain. If you choose to use all of the levain, just adjust the final dough accordingly.  (I added the extra back to my sourdough.)

Final Dough:
400 g all-purpose flour 
290 g whole wheat flour (baker’s choice) (I used 200g sprouted Kamut and 90g Spelt)
375-500 g water + 25-50 grams (to mix with salt) *** (I used 400g and then 30g for my flours)
14-17 g fine sea salt (I used 14 but would use 16 next time as the herb/seed mixture added  sweetness)
1-2 Tbsp Citrus zest, or as desired (I used the zest of one lemon)
20 g chopped herbs, or to taste (I used fresh lime thyme and rosemary from my garden)
150 g seeds, or to taste (I used ½ cup each toasted pepitas and pine nuts)

*** 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:  In the evening – Mix the Levain or Poolish

Mix water and starter together in a large bowl. Add in flours and mix until fully hydrated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature overnight or for 8-10 hours.

Day 2:  Mix the Final Dough/Shape Loaves:

Add the water to the levain and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or whisk to disperse.  Whisk the flours together and add to the water/levain mixture.  (Reserve 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. (I forgot to add them the first 20 minutes, so I folded them in with stretch and folds later.)  Cover and let rest (autolyse) for 20-30 minutes.  Sprinkle the salt over the top and dissolve it with the 25-50 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. (I ended up doing three stretches.)

Divide the dough, pre-shape, and then it rest (covered) for 20 minutes before final shaping to allow the gluten to relax.  Heavily dust two lined or un-lined bannetons with rice flour and place an optional sprig or two of thyme or rosemary at the bottom of the basket. (Couldn't find my rice flour, again.  Grain mill to the rescue!)  What I have found works very well for flouring proofing baskets is to spray lightly with a mist of water before flouring with the rice flour.  My dough pops right out with no sticking that way.

Shape the dough into an oval or round shape and place seam-side up in the baskets.  If you don’t have a proofing basket, place the loaf seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet to proof. Cover and proof for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  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 450ºF for at least 45 minutes.  If you plan to use steam, place a steam pan on the top shelf.  Alternately, instead of baking the loaves on a baking stone with a steam pan, you could bake them in a preheated bread cloche, Dutch oven or Dutch oven combo baker.  I used steam. 

When the oven is sufficiently preheated, remove the loaves from the refrigerator.  Carefully invert the loaves from the proofing baskets (if used) onto parchment paper or a heavily dusted peel.  Score the loaves as desired.  Slide them onto the preheated baking stone or steel (if using) and bake for 35-45 minutes.  A larger loaf will take longer.

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

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Approximate nutrition for one ¾" thick slice of bread as prepared here:


  1. Really nice crumb Kelly! Love your flavors too!

  2. Kelly that loaf is gorgeous looking. Love your holes! Beautiful color and scoring!
    I agree on pine nuts outside over inside any time I've tried.

  3. Lime thyme! Cool. Does it have the flavour of lime? Your bread is beautiful! And completely worth breaking that diet.

    I ALMOST added pepitas but then, as soon as "sunflower seeds" were mentioned, immediately swithed to them. Next time, we'll try pepitas.

  4. Kelly, your crumb looks fabulous! I love that you used Kamut and spelt. Wonderful! I'm so glad your taste buds enjoyed this one. Mine did too!

  5. Kelly your loaf looks grand and the crumb is perfect. I loved the lemon zest and rosemary as well.
    I can’t imagine why I haven’t thought to lightly spray a basket to get just a little more semolina to stick. That is brilliant.

  6. Pine nuts don't work well in bread, eh? Good to know. I'm jealous of you lime thyme. I have lemon but lime sounds divine!


Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from you! If you have any questions I will do my level best to answer them for you.