Whole Grain Levain for Bread Baking Day #54

For a while I’ve been searching for a “country style” rustic sourdough loaf with some whole grain in it to bake as our daily bread, and after lots of trial and error, I finally settled on this formula, based on a recipe from Chez Pim. I was already planning on sharing it when I discovered that November’s theme for Bread Baking Day #54 is overnight bread, which is perfect, because this bread, being of my favorite no-knead, long-rest variety, fits right into that category.

If I’m going to bake during the day (ie, on the weekend), then I feed my starter in the morning, mix up the dough using my bubbling happy starter in the evening, let it sit overnight, then shape and bake it the next morning. Every so often, however, we run out of bread mid-week, so I have to use an alternate schedule: feed my starter in the evening, mix up the dough the next morning before work, let it rest all day, then shape and bake before bed for fresh bread the following morning.

I use slightly less whole grain flour than the original, and use a combination of whole wheat, whole spelt, and rye flours (apparently rye flour contributes to a bread’s keeping qualities.) Feel free to come up with your own mix of whole grain flours to use – mine is based on personal preference and what I have in the cupboard – but I would keep the amount of whole grain to half of the total flour amount to keep the hydration level somewhat consistent. You can use either bread or all purpose flour to make up the rest of the flour – the latter will give you a slightly wetter dough and a lighter, airier loaf, but it will be delicious either way.

Whole Grain Levain

Adapted from Chez Pim. Makes 1 large boule.

In a large bowl, combine:

8.5 oz bread flour or all purpose flour

2 oz whole wheat flour

2 oz whole spelt flour

2 oz rye flour

(or use 14.5 oz of your own favorite mix, up to 7 oz of which can be whole grain)

2 tsp salt

In a smaller bowl, mix together:

9 oz active 100% hydration starter (fed 8 – 12 hours before)

9 oz water

1 tbsp honey

Pour the starter-water mixture into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.

Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight or about 12 hours, until well-risen and the top starts to flatten.

Gently scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface and stretch and fold the dough twice, making the second fold at 90-degrees to the first.

Cover the dough with the upturned bowl and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Gather the dough up by the edges into an upside-down boule and place it onto a well-floured cotton cloth (I use a mixture of all purpose flour and semolina to prevent it from sticking).

Gather up the edges of the cloth and place in a narrow colander or bowl (or, if you’re lucky enough to own one, use a brotform), then put the whole thing in a plastic bag (closed but loosely wrapped).

Leave it in a warm place for 1 – 2 hours, until almost doubled in size and jiggly (I put it in the oven with just the oven light on).

With about 30 minutes left of rising time, preheat the oven to 450˚F with a bread stone on the middle rack and a roasting pan on the rack below (obviously, if your bread is rising in the oven, take it out first!). Unwrap the bread and upend it, colander/bowl/brotform and all, onto the hot bread stone.

Remove the cloth/colander/bowl/brotform and slash the top of the loaf (or not – it will crack on its own and look even more rustic). Pour a mug of hot tap water into the roasting pan.

Bake the bread for about 45 – 50 minutes, until well-browned. Cool completely before slicing.

This post has been YeastSpotted.


  1. says

    beautiful just beautiful! your risen dough looks so incredibly bubbly and fluffy it’s crazy! you must have a very healthy starter. and I think this advantage of having a cold kitchen is doing great for your dough. I am actually planning of trying my apartment building basement and dare leaving the dough there to rise overnight. I also have a rustic loaf that I make every week for my family and which I am trying to improve (it is already very good, but still not perfect). one not eon your flour: it looks like if it is sifted, so that it looks still pretty light, as if part of the bran has been removed. in Sweden we cannot find that type of flour and sometimes I sift it myself, but it is not the same…

    • says

      Thanks Barbara, coming from you this is great praise. I agree, even if it means I have to wear socks and a sweater in August, the cool kitchen is doing great things for bread! The flour does look quite light, I agree, but I just checked the labels and everything (except the all purpose/bread flour) claims to be 100% whole grain. The rye in particular is BC grown – I wonder if it’s a lighter variety? Good luck with the dough in the basement.

  2. says

    Korena, I hope you are feeling better. This time of the year is just dreadful for winter colds and flu and such. I love your start of the dough with your bubbly starter the night before, from there I knew this bread was going to be a hit. I also like how you made your design in the dough before baking and looking at the crunchy crust and soft inside makes me crave some yeast! Do you spritz your oven with water periodically during the baking process. You have bread baking magic- spread some of that with the rest of us…Take care, BAM

      • says

        Great idea for the mug! Take care of your self. I am home today with a sick kid as well, just downed some “airborne” (extra vitamin C) as I so do not want what he has…. BAM

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