Five grain levain

This is a slightly altered recipe from the book Bread: a baker’s book of techniques and recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. If you don’t have it already, stop reading any further and buy the book. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s so good that I have both the 1st and the 2nd edition and thought me most of all the bread baking books I read. I like to share my experiences with the recipes from his book, some of them (the recipes) are fantastic, some not so and need some tweaking to make it into a decent bread.

It is the first time I made this bread and replaced the oats for rolled oats, the cracked rye for pumkin seeds and roasted the sunflower and pumkin seeds. Instead of soaking overnight I opted for soaking 2hr with boiling water. Finally, I went for the pure-sourdough version (thus without the yeast) and extended the bulk fermentation to a whopping 4hr (not intended but something came in between) and the final proofing for about 2.5hr.

Overall formula

Ingredient Weight Percentage
Wheat flour 510gr 75%
Whole wheat flour 155gr 22,8%
Whole grain rye flour 15gr 2,2%
Pumpkin seeds 62gr 9,2%
Sunflower seeds 62gr 9,2%
Oats 52gr 7,7%
Flaxseed 52gr 7,7%
water 666ml 98%
salt 17gr 2,5%
Total 151gr 234,3%


  • Make the following pre-ferment with 125% hydration and let it ferment for ~ 16hr at 21°C (70F)

Wheat flour pre-ferment

Ingredient Weight Percentage
Wheat flour 179gr 100%
water 224ml 125%
Mature whole-grain-rye-flour sourdough culture (100% hydration) 36gr 20%
Total 439gr 245%
  • Either make the following soaker at the same time as the pre-ferment or just 2hr before mixing the dough. Roast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, they release really a lot of taste when you do so.


Ingredient Weight Percentage
Sunflower seeds 62gr 27%
Pumpkin seeds 62gr 27%
Oats 52gr 23%
Flaxseeds 52gr 23%
water 274ml 120%
salt 5gr 2%
Total 507gr 222%
  • Add all the ingredients together and mix the final dough (please keep in mind that the prepared pre-ferment is a little more than you actually need for the recipe). If you, like me, are making the double amount of the recipe and do not own a mixer, prepare for some heavy sweating. This dough is wet. When I made this dough, it was the first time since a very very long time that I found the urge to add flour hard to resist. I did resist and am very happy about it – as always. Did I already say the dough is wet? It really is. So, mix all the ingredients and knead, knead and keep on kneading. For 3200gr expect the dough to require 20-25 mins kneading by hand, which really is an exercise and requires a certain amount of fitness and kneading experience. Without being bold, I think many of my friends would be able to do it. If you make the normal amount of dough (1600gr) the kneading time might be 5 mins less. At some point the dough will become much stronger, less sticky and actually workable – to reach that moment I kneaded already for 20 mins. Desired temp is 24.5 C.

Final dough

Ingredient Weight
Wheat flour 355gr
Whole grain wheat flour 155gr
water 183ml
Salt 12gr
Pre-ferment 379gr
Soaker 507gr
Total 1591gr
  • Bulk fermentation at room temperature (21C) for 4hrs (probably 2.5hr is enough) and give it at least two stretch and folds. You should notice a large increase in strength and decrease in stickyness in the dough during the bulk fermentation.
  • Divide into 800gr loaves or smaller for rolls. Preshape into whatever you feel like. From 3200gr of dough I made two round loaves 800gr each and 16 small French rolls and buns, 100gr each.
  • Bench rest for 15mins, depending on the strength of the pre-shape.
  • Shape and proofing. Proofing depends on size of the bread. Loaves scaled at 800gr need about 3 hr. For small rolls, 2hrs is sufficient.
  • Preheat oven very hot (I turn mine at max, 275C).
  • Bake with steam at 235C for 10 mins, and lower the temp to 225 for another 35-40 min (for loaves 800gr) or 20min for 100gr rolls.
top view of 5 grain levain 800gr loaf

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.