Monday, April 25, 2011

Hamelman's Pain au Levain with mixed starters

I was introduced to rye breads when I was very young, not sure if it was due to my Norwegian heritage or simply that my family just loves rye bread.  I love the taste of caraway seeds in my rye bread, and was a little bit disappointed when I noticed this bread didn't have them in it.  I fixed this pretty quickly though, by simply adding them to the dough!  I know it wasn't in the recipe, but I do have to eat it.  The other reason I did this was because I had just threw together a loaf of my sourdough bread, made with 75% Winter White Wheat and 25% rye flour.  This sourdough loaf did a bulk rise of 4 1/2 hours, and the same time to proof.  My husband and I both enjoyed it very much and hoped that this recipe would come out with such great flavor too.  Here's a picture of my version of sourdough rye...

I started Hamelman's recipe, from "Bread".  Pain au Levain with mixed starters the day I made the loave above.

First I will share with you my starters...

and how they are going to be used in making this bread.  Here is a picture of the different starters, all freshly fed and ready to grow.  Left to right:

"Arnold" my main starter.  Right now he is made with 80 grams of water, 60 grams White Whole Wheat, and 20 grams rye flour.  This was his second feeding, and he is pretty healthy.  The second jar is the rye starter, made with rye flour, water, and a little bit of Arnold.  The third jar is the Liquid Levain, and it is made from White Whole Wheat, water, and a small amount of Arnold.  The last jar is caraway seeds soaking in water, which I poured over after it boiled.  Simply what some call a soaker.  These are on my counter right now, because I decided to give this recipe another chance after rushing the first time through. My first batch took almost 24 hours for the starter to be really active, it was a cold day, and they would not be rushed.

Here they are after being in my cold kitchen all day, first picture taken at 1251 and the second at 1627.  That makes it roughly 4 1/2 hours.  Arnold is racing to the top of the jar, the rye starter doesn't have any noticeable bubbles, and the liquid levain has only a few.  The last time I had this same issue, even though my normal starter is active, it is like the new ones are really slow to start.  In particular the rye was pretty disappointing the last time around. My kitchen is about 60* F, 15* C, where I keep my starters.  I am used to that though, and simply have to wait longer for my dough to rise well.

Lets start with mixing the starters together.  I simply took the two jars in the middle and poured (well maybe scraped) them into my mixer bowl with the water for the final dough.  Then I measured the Winter White Wheat and the rye flour, and added it to the starter/water liquid and mixed till it was all incorporated.  I had to add extra water, probably due to the fact I used fresh ground whole wheat flour.  I autolysed for 1/2 an hour, then kneaded the dough till it formed a nice dough, and then added the salt and caraway seeds and kneaded long enough to incorporate it in.  I then formed it into a boule shape, and put it in my dough jar to ferment for 2 1/2 hours.

After the bulk rise I shaped them into small mini baguette or torpedo rolls, let them rise for another 2 1/2 hours, and then baked them to use for hot dogs and saurkraut for that nights dinner.  I normally would have allowed them to rise longer, particularly since I didn't feel like they had doubled in size.  The first picture below is right after shaping and the second is right before putting them into the oven.  They did turn out pretty good, but the extra rise time would have helped I think.  The crumb was a little bit tighter than the loaf I made above, but the flavor was awesome and the caraway was a big hit!  This time around I will make sure I give them plenty of time to rise fully, as we are of course pretty cold again here in Oregon.

I then sliced one of these up into thin slices and covered them with Salmon, mayo, onions.  The others are covered in cream cheese, and sprinkled with parsley.  Boy did they taste GREAT!

I have a really nice dehydrator that I could use to bulk ferment my doughs, and I am thinking I should bring it out again.  It just takes up a lot of room, but I think it would really help with the temps on cold days.  I will take more pictures of my starters as I remake this bread, to see if I can get a better rise out of the new loaves.  Well, I must go for today, but I will put a Link here for the next post on this bread!

I am working with a group of baker's which call themselves Mellow Baker's and we are baking from a book called, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.  Come check the forum out, it's a pretty laid back group who bakes what they can when they can with no time pressure's on them.  There are a few recipes that are suggested for each month, and we simply bake the ones that we want to.


  1. Stunning photographs! I love the layout of this post Joanne. I haven't made this particular version of the pain au levain this time round but maybe I will. Sounds like the starters are coming on. You don't say if you mix your doughs with warmish water, I am sure you do, but if not then the section on hitting the desired dough temperature in the book might be useful. I find it makes a huge difference in cold weather if I warm the mixing bowl, the flours and the water, these delicate new starters like all the fuss (wink) - I wish I was at your place for those eats though. Yum :)

  2. Thanks Joanna! The regular starters seem to be working well, but the rye one is really sluggish. It is probably because I need to give it more than a day of feedings to get it going, but I only have a very small amount of rye flour left and am having difficulty finding a local source for it. The water is room temp, which doesn't speed things up, but it isn't cold just colder than he recommends.

    Making beans soups today, cooked the ham bone till all the meat fell off and by the end of the day will have 3 different kinds! Nummy...

  3. Wonderful post Joanne!! I loved all the pictures too. I don't know how to put pictures into a collage the way you do. Good job!
    I put together a rye starter over the past week so that I could bake with it today, and I had the opposite issue. My rye starter seems more active than my plain starter. It wasn't so perky at first, so I decided to leave my rye flour on the counter (normally I refrigerate it) and use the flour room temp, to see if that helped. It did seem to. My house was warm this week though, around 74 to 76 so that helped too I'm sure.

  4. I am sure it is a temperature issue, since my house is so cold. The regular starter that I have had going since October does well, and even though I use it as the seed for my others it does seem to take forever for the rye to get going.