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Feb 19, 2015

Pain Au Levain with a Firm Starter

Pain Au Levain with a Firm Starter

This particular Pain au Levaine is a rustic bread that includes a mixture of bread, whole wheat, and pumpernickel flours. The dough is fairly wet, and produces an interior with smaller holes, yet not too dense.

Pain Au Levain with a Firm Starter

While the bread is naturally leavened, it is not very sour, and is excellent for toast, sandwiches, and simply dunked in olive oil, soup, or sauce.

Pain Au Levain with a Firm Starter

Don't be intimidated by making your own sourdough bread. Once you get your starter going, you will be hooked. It's a wonderful thing.

This recipe calls for "stretches and folds." This involves grabbing the dough from each of the four "sides" with wet hands and stretching it out and folding it over itself in order to develop the gluten. You will feel the gluten develop as you do this. I promise. It's pretty cool actually.

This bread calls for a firm starter. You can find the recipe as well as an alternative substitution using yeast >here<.

Pain au Levain with a Firm Starter


109 g firm starter
551 g (19.4 ounces) water at 80 degrees F
408 g all purpose flour
204 g whole wheat flour
68 g pumpernickel flour
16 g salt (I used fine sea salt)


  1. Place the starter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and stir with the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds. 
  2. Add the flour and mix for about 2 minutes on low. 
  3. Let the dough sit in the bowl for 20 minutes, uncovered. 
  4. Switch to the dough hook, add the salt, and mix on low for about six minutes. 
  5. Scrape the dough with a bowl scraper out into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket (I use a large Cambro bucket). Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes. 
  6. Do three "stretch and folds" at 30 minute intervals. 
  7. Cover the container with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours. There should be bubbles on top of the dough. 
  8. Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Loosely form the dough into ball, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  9. Prepare a basket, banneton, or towel lined 9 inch bowl with a mixture of wheat flour and bran to prevent sticking. Form the dough into a ball and place it, seam side up, into the basket/bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise for about 2 to 3 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  10. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. I baked my loaf on a preheated stone covered by an upside down stainless steel bowl, but you can use a parchment lined baking sheet. 
  11. When the dough is ready, place a parchment sheet on a peel, and turn the dough out onto the peel. Slash the top of the dough in a pattern that you like, and place the dough, parchment and all, on top of the stone, cover with the bowl, and close the oven door. Reduce the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  12. Bake for 25 minutes, remove the bowl, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the bread is golden and has reached an internal temperature of about 205 degrees F. 
  13. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
This recipe has been adapted from the wonderful Della Fattoria Bread: 63 Foolproof Recipes for Yeasted, Enriched & Naturally Leavened Breads.

According to the authors, this Pain au Levaine bread was inspired by the Poilane bread from Paris.

Here is another Poilane style miche using actual Poilane flour, which is sifted to partially remove part of the bran. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Hello Karen, the bread sounds great and look yummy! :-), what can I use if I don't have pumpernickel flour?

    1. Any rye flour would work, and if you can't find that, use whole wheat.

  2. What a gorgeous loaf of bread!

  3. This bread looks beautiful! The starter has a 50% hydration?


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