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Feb 23, 2014

Bran-Encrusted Levain Bread

Bran-Encrusted Levain Bread from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This bran-encrusted levain bread brings together the whole grain, but reconstructed. This is a hybrid leavened dough, with a combination of sourdough starter (levain) and a small amount of yeast in the final dough.

Reconstructed you ask? This is an almost white sourdough with added wheat germ and encrusted with wheat bran. The bran on the crust tastes so toasty and nutty after baking, and it keeps the crust fairly thin and crispy. You can purchase wheat bran, or you can sift it out of whole wheat flour like I did with the bread in this post.

Bran-Encrusted Levain Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

Using the wheat germ brought back memories of my dad. He had been a college football player and all around athlete stuck with four daughters in the pre Title IX days. At the time, the only opportunities for women in sports were individual events such as swimming and track and field. Rarely were these sports offered in high school.

My dad got us all involved in swimming, and at some point, we joined an AAU team, and were pretty seriously into it. I remember practicing daily, both in the morning before school, and then again for a couple of hours after school. My local hero was Sharon Stouder. I wanted to be her (this was before I wanted to be That Girl! Marlo Thomas).

While I was a decent swimmer, I was never even close to Olympics material. However, I did own the South HIlls Country Club 12 and under breast stroke record for several years (take that, Amanda Beard!), and I have great memories of racing and sensing my dad walking along the side of pool and cheering me on. I knew he was there.

So what does this have to do with this bread you ask? Wheat germ. We had to add wheat germ on a daily basis to our cereal to give us "energy for swimming." At the time it was considered a "health food," and there was always a jar of Kretschmer Wheat Germ in the refrigerator.

Bran-Encrusted Levain Bread Karen's Kitchen Stories

Guess what brand of wheat germ is sitting in my fridge right now? Love you dad, thank you for seeing your daughters as athletes, and thank you for cheering us on.  I miss you so much.

Bran Encrusted Levain Bread

To make this bread, plan on starting first thing in the morning to bake the loaves the following morning. 


100 g 80% hydration active levain that is 80% white flour and 20% whole wheat flour
400 g white flour
100 g whole wheat flour
400 g lukewarm (85 to 90 degrees F) water

Final Dough

800 g white flour
30 g wheat germ
620 g lukewarm water
21 g fine sea salt or salt
2 g/ 1/2 tsp instant yeast
360 g of the levain
20 g wheat bran for coating the crust


  1. Mix the levain ingedients by hand until just incorporated, cover, and let rest for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. In a very large bowl, large rectangular plastic storage container, or a 12 quart Cambro bucket, mix the white flour and the wheat germ. 
  3. Add the water and mix by hand until just incorporated. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
  4. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the salt and yeast. Add 360 g of the levain. 
  5. Dip your hands in water and mix the dough by alternatively pinching it with your fingers and folding it. This should not take very long. 
  6. Cover the container and let it rise for about 5 hours, until it has more than doubled, folding four times every half hour during the first 2 hours of rising. (there is a link to a demonstration video in step 8 on this post
  7. Gently remove the dough from the bucket/bowl, onto a lightly floured counter, and divide it in half with a bench knife or dough scraper. 
  8. Rub two bannetons or flour sack lined 9 inch bowls with flour, and then coat with the bran. 
  9. Shape the dough halves into boules and place them seam side down into the bowls.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap or place in large plastic bags and refrigerate immediately. 
  11. 12 to 14 hours later, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, and place two heat proof Dutch ovens in your oven. I recommend using this one. If you only have one pan, leave the other loaf in the refrigerator while the first one bakes. 
  12. When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces. 
  13. Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, remove the plastic wrap, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf. If you are using the Lodge combo cooker, use the lid on the bottom and the larger pan on top. This makes it much easier to maneuver with the parchment paper. 
  14. Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then remove the Dutch ovens from the hot oven, uncover, and place the loaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown. You don't have to move your loaves to baking sheets, but I like to do it to prevent burning on the bottom. 
This recipe has been adapted from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Gorgeous crumb structure, wonderful lift! I am pinning this, haven't baked much bread lately and probably won't be able to make any bread until mid March, but.... I am tempted to try your recipe

    1. It's actually pretty easy with the overnight chill in the fridge, Sally =)

  2. Fantastic crust Karen! An excellent loaf of bread, congratulations!

  3. Yes please. With some warm soup. I can just imagine the smell of your kitchen.

  4. What size duch oven karen , we have only a 3qurt or 6qurt

  5. Love the story, thanks for sharing that and the recipe too!


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