Hamelman's Pain au levain in a pot

Here's the crumb- must admit I was expecting it to be more open that it turned out.

This weekend tried out Hamelman's Pain au levain recipe, but with an extended proofing time and cooked in a cast iron pot.

After a litlle initial kneading (12 kneads every 10 mins for the first half hour) I left it to proof in bulk at room temperature (not in a fridge) for 14 hours, with a stretch and fold after the first hour and at the 13th hour - basically because I did it overnight and didn't want to keep getting up to do the stretching and folding! I then shaped and proofed in a banneton for a further 2 hours.

For the baking, I put the dough into a cast iron pot that had been preheated in the oven at full heat for 15-20 mins and then baked with the lid on for 30 mins and then for 15 mins with the lid off.

Here are some pics of the results:


I haven't tasted it yet, but am looking forward to having some with dinner tonight.

Would be interested in any thoughts on how to improve the crumb to make it more open. Has anyone experimented with really long proofing times?



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Muff 2010 March 30

I think your fermentation is good, judging from the crumb that's exposed where the loaf tore while kicking in the oven. But it seems to me the interior crumb was constrained from opening up fully because the crust formed too quickly and vigorously. That's a substantial cap on expansion.

I think it might help to bake at a lower temperature. I'm accustomed to baking levain at work, with lots of steam, at about 480 F, and I know a baker who used to bake on a wood fired llopis at 460-480 (at Wheatfields in Lawrence, KS.)

Good luck,



artos 2010 March 31



Thanks for your thoughts. You may be right. I have an electric fan oven and I baked these loaves at 225 C (437 F), so not sure I could turn it down much more.

Perhaps it's the use of the cast iron pots which is causing the steam to form too quickly and inhibit the expansion of the crumb?

Or perhaps I should have kneaded it more in a mixer, but my previous experience of making this type of bread is that the amount of kneading doesn't seem to make much difference. Wonder where else I might be going wrong?



Muff 2010 March 31

I don't know, Artos. The cast iron pot works well for many (my brother, in fact does that pretty successfuly) and it's hard for me to blame it. I do agree with you that kneading the dough more probably wouldn't make a lot of difference.

Have you considered a few attractive radial, curvey slashes at loading? This is easy if you can hold the loaf in one hand and turn it a little as you cut downward from the top. Viewed from above it looks like a child's pinwheel. (Especially attractive on black rye with sesame). Another alternative might be to cut a horizontal line all the way around the loaf, which needn't disturb the banneton pattern on top.

I do know that you're well on your way to making what you want, so just keep at it.

Hope this helps.


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