flax seed-whole wheat Sourdough à la “Pain à l’Ancienne”

06/01/2010

"flax seed whole wheat sourdough"

When I saw Shao-Ping’s post at The Fresh Loaf where she wrote interestingly about several techniques/procedures she jointly applied to create her beautiful whole wheat “Pain à l’Ancienne” I was immediately smitten.   Delayed fermentation and “the old way” hence “à l’Ancienne” are the two methods that she used to make her whole wheat sourdough .  Me, having twice made an adapted version of Johnny’s Ciabatta Integrale, Philippe Gosselin’s “Pain à l’Ancienne” once, and attempting one hundred percent whole wheat loaves two other times in the not-so-distant past when I barely started my baking adventure (an unsuccessful –but edible to eat– artisan- type sourdough and a favorable pan-type yeasted loaves) I knew I would have to try making this bread if anything other than for  my curiosity.

I adapted Shao-Ping’s formula adding an extra step giving the dough a cold & 24-hour long autolyse and adjusting the mixing, shaping, baking schedule to meet my needs.  I ran out of whole-wheat flour so replaced it partly with white whole wheat flour, and impromptu threw in 10 percent of golden flax seeds for good measure because I just purchased an enormous 2-lb bag of it and like seeds in my bread.

My formula for this particular loaf:

The Soaker

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Golden Flax Seed 45 g 100%
Water 25 g 55%
Total weight: 70 grams

The Dough

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Whole wheat flour 250 g 53%
White whole wheat 225 g 47%
Ice/cold Water 415 g 87% (hydration)
Salt 13 g 2.7%
75% hydration starter 185 g 39%
Soaker 70 g 15%
Total weight: 1150 grams; overall hydration: 85%

Here is how I do it:

In the morning of the first day, I refresh a mixture of  5 g of rye starter and 5 g of white starter aiming at creating 185 g starter of 75% hydration over the next 24 hours.  During this stretch of time I also mix the flours with ice water and give it a long autolyse in the fridge roughly around 24 hours.  I then soak the flax seeds in its own water.  That same evening, I fold in the soaked flax seeds, bit by bit, at best to well combine.

whole wheat sourdough

fold in flax seeds

In the next morning of the second day, I mix in the starter and salt with the seeded dough.  I place the whole thing in an oiled, well-covered container and put it back in the fridge.  That evening I give the dough one fold and put it back in the fridge.

In late afternoon of the third day, I take the dough out of the fridge and give it 5 folds once every hour.  I then shape it into one big loaf because it was a very wet dough and I don’t want to mess with it.  I let the shaped loaf proof in a well-floured couche for a good 3 hours until it feels light and airy.  I bake it on a baking tile pre-heated in the oven,  at 450 degrees F, with steam for the first 15 minutes; then I turn the oven temperature down to 410 degrees F and bake without steam for 30 minutes more.  At the end of the bake I turn off the oven and  leave the loaf in for another 10 minutes with the door ajar.

It was a huge loaf 15- inch long by 8-inch wide.  Well, the loaf spread widely and developed its own slashes which I helped to widen a little bit.

It was way past bedtime when I took it out of the oven; it smelled fabulously and I could not help but cut a small slice at one end to taste.  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw  large holes in the crumb.  I know it’s a high hydration dough but who would have thought that whole wheat could yield such hole-y crumb.

The long resting time helps soften the sharp-edge bran in whole wheat flour, strengthen the gluten, improve air bubble retention, unlock the nutrients, and break the flour down into simple sugars ready for the sleepy and hungry yeasts to gulp down when they wake up in a warm room temperature.   All this results in bread that is sweet, nutty, complex-tasting, yet so light au contraire to the denseness for which whole wheat loaf is notoriously known, and is of such a deep caramelized-colored crust.

whole wheat sourdough

No, I haven’t forgotten about those tiny flax seeds yet; its presence is subtle but there they are, in sufficient lighting, you would see them nestle in air pockets throughout the crumb and its taste although yields lightly to the nuttiness of the whole wheat is not unnoticeable.

flax seed whole wheat SD

A friend, whom I shared this loaf with, said that it must be the Pope’s favorite bread because it’s so hole-y. ;o)

whole wheat soudough

I am very pleased with this new loaf (done the old way/à l’Ancienne) to kick off the New Year!  I am also sending this to Yeast Spotting.

Mily’s Notes:

  • Increase the amount of seeds to 20% baker percentage; use variety of seeds like sunflowers, pepitas, etc.
  • Use the same amount in weight for seeds and its soaking water.
  • Experience this formula with 100% whole spelt flour, 100% white whole wheat, or a mix of different flours.
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10 Responses to “flax seed-whole wheat Sourdough à la “Pain à l’Ancienne””


  1. […] Whole Wheat Sourdough à la “Pain à l’Ancienne” […]

  2. MC Says:

    Fantastic bread! Must be delicious…

    • Mily Says:

      It’s delicious! The procedure is done entirely by hands; it could not get any easier than that. Hope you’ll try it.
      You’ve made many beautiful breads yourself!

  3. Mimi Says:

    Wow!! Great looking bread!

  4. Joanne Says:

    The bread looks great! I really love that crumb. It looks a lot like the Italian bread that my parents used to get in the Bronx, which I have definitely been missing. I’ve bookmarked it to try to make it sometime soon!

  5. Stefanie Says:

    What a gorgeous open crumb! I will try your recipe for sure!

  6. giselle Says:

    How do I make the starters?? can someone please help me?
    gelyrox@gmail.com


  7. […] flax seed-whole wheat SD à la "Pain à l'Ancienne" Image by sierravalleygirl blog and recipe at At Home In The Kitchen […]


  8. Hey! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the excellent work!


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