Just for a change, here’s a bread that’s not part of the BBA Challenge…  😉

Who doesn’t love a good bread? But, while some people prefer a hearty crust, uneven holes and an assertive taste, others like a tight, smooth crumb enveloped in a soft crust.  This  “pain de mie” joins the best of both worlds: it’s leavened with sourdough starter, but it’s moderate hydration produces a surprisingly closed crumb, especially if you bake it contained in a loaf pan. It’s a perfect sandwich bread, with more “pizzazz” than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.

I discovered this recipe in a wonderful French blog called Makanai: Bio, Bon, Simple. When a French woman (who has superb boulangeries on every corner) bakes bread at home, then I pay attention: she must be an outstanding baker! You can read Flo’s detailed description here.

(adapted from Makanai’s blog)

210 g  sourdough starter (mine was at 80% hydration)
420 g water
500 g bread flour
130 g rye flour
11.5 g fine sea salt (13 g if using unsalted seeds)
30-35 g seeds of your choice
(I used flax seeds and roasted, salted sunflower seeds)

Mix the flours, water, and sourdough starter until they form a shaggy mass.  Let it stand at room temperature, covered, for 30-45 minutes (autolyse).  Add the salt and mix it with either using a Kitchen Aid-type mixer for a few minutes, or by hand.  Add the seeds and knead with the machine for about 7 minutes at low speed.  Alternatively, mix gently by hand to incorporate the seeds and knead the dough by folding 4 times during the first hour, at 15 minute intervals.  Let the dough rise undisturbed for another full hour, in a warm place, covered.

Refrigerate the dough for 12 to 24 hours (very important step!), misting the surface lightly with olive oil, and covering with a plastic wrap.

The next morning remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plastic and cover it with a towel, to rest at room temperature for 2 hours before shaping.  Meanwhile, prepare a loaf pan by lightly coating it with olive oil and sprinkling flour, especially in the corners. You can make a single large loaf or divide it half depending on the size of your pan.  Mine was a 9×5 loaf pan, so I divided the dough in uneven pieces, placed the larger one in the loaf pan, and shaped the smaller one as a “batard“.   Ideally, the dough should fill 2/3 of the height of your pan.

Allow the shaped bread to rise 2 hours at room temperature, slash it with a blade, sprinkle some flour on top and bake it in a 435F oven for about 45 minutes, with an initial burst of steam.  Check the internal temperature: the bread will be done when it reaches at least 200F.

If you are patient enough, let the bread cool for a couple of hours before slicing it. Good luck with that… 😉


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was a fun bread recipe. If you’re a novice baker, then incorporating the seeds and folding by hand might be a little intimidating, so use a mixer instead. If you are experienced with minimal kneading and folding, then by all means use the technique here.

For the sandwich bread, I slashed the dough slightly off-center, as Flo did in her blog.

The same dough, baked in the loaf or free form, produced breads with different characteristics. The “batard” browned more, and the crumb was more open, reminiscent of a levain bread with a heartier crust.

My favorite method to create steam is to fill a large roasting pan (like this one) with hot water, and empty it before inverting it on top of the bread.  These affordable roasting pans, sold for cooking outdoors, effectively mimic a “steam oven.” Bake the bread covered in this way for the first 30 minutes, then remove the cover to promote full browning of the crust.  I used this method for both the breads in this post.

The textures and flavors of this bread were outstanding! Its slices stood out in ham and cheese sandwiches, and were hearty with a thin spread of fig jam. I normally don’t even care for bread with jam, but my husband twisted my arm and I’m glad that he did!

I am submitting this post to this week’s Yeastspotting, to join Susan’s fun on Friday….

26 thoughts on “PAIN DE MIE AU LEVAIN

  1. Thanks for this post, Sally, and I’m glad you adopted that recipe 🙂

    PS: I did not mean to slash my pain de mie dough off center, it’s just that when using Picasa to draw the line on the picture, I did not do it precisely in the middle. The important thing is to slash with a 45° angle, and not straight into the dough.
    Have a nice day!


  2. Thanks for visiting, Flo!

    Ha! Isn’t that funny how I thought you slashed it off center? Even looking at your baked bread I had the impression you did just like that! 🙂

    but the amazing thing is that I like how it turned out…

    I will be indulging in your blog to find more gems like this recipe…


  3. Hello there,

    I found your post on The Fresh Loaf. The sourdough was ready and so I decided to make the bread today. I am happy you were able to translate Flo’s recipe and look forward to more recipes from our French baker extraordinaire!

    Did you also toast your flax seeds?

    Happy baking,


    • Hi, Anne

      I did not toast the flax seeds, used them plain, straight from the bag.

      Flo is an amazing baker indeed, I’ve been browsing through her blog and longing for a weekend with 96 hours minimum….


      • Well, in the meantime I just went ahead and toasted the flax lightly to see what would happen. It was like making popcorn! The little devils starting jumping up and out of the frying pan. Not sure what it will be like as far as texture but I can never resist innovating.

        I also may find I added too many seeds for a good bite. I used 34 grams each of flax and sunflower seeds. Don’t think the sunflower seeds will be a problem but may be way too much flax.

        I will bake the loaf tomorrow and post an update.

        Thanks Sally!
        anne who is jealous of the smart Europeans and thinks we need to vote for four-day work weeks with five weeks of vacation.

        ps. You too are a baker extraordinaire!


  4. Hi Sally…somehow I hadn’t seen your lovely blog until now (linked here from a comment on Ruhlman)…very nice! I’m looking forward to browsing through your past posts…and to new ones!

    best, Stephen


  5. nice to meet you too! Your bread looks delicious, I just love my BBA book, I have made focaccia this evening but I don’t think it is going to last long enough to photography!


  6. Sally, fabulous breads! The off centre slash looks very professional 🙂 Is your starter an all white starter or a rye or some other combination of flours? I will definitely have a go at this and visit Flo Makani’s blog too, sounds very interesting 🙂 When I use flax seeds I usually soak them first in water, not sure why, it’s just that the recipes I have followed usually do that. A cold soaker, as opposed to a hot soaker. Do you have Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman? I think there is a rye and flaxseed recipe in there that I have used that soaks the flaxseed and I think Dan Lepard’s soya and linseed loaf does too. (another great sandwich loaf if you haven’t tried it yet)


    • I do have Hamelman’s book, Zeb – it ‘s one of my favorite bread books, actually

      I ‘ve made Lepard’s linseed loaf, and my husband loved it – for my taste it had a little bit too many flaxseeds, though. If I remember correctly, I shaped it as a batard – I would do a sandwich type loaf next time, and reduce the amount of seeds


  7. Sally and Flo,

    Thanks for this recipe!

    I can’t stop eating slices of the loaf I made this morning. Just the right amount of rye and sourdough to give this a subtle, complex flavor.

    And yes, the texture is soft, tight grain, with a wonderful crust.

    I lightly toasted the flax in an experiment. Don’t think it changed anything dramatically. Won’t bother next time.

    I also used 35 grams each of toasted sunflower seeds and flax. My husband took one bite and said, “It’s good! Lot of seeds, though.” I like lots of texture and the amount is fine for me but looks like I will follow instructions to the “T” next time.

    I will be making this recipe regularly!

    cheers and happy baking,


  8. Pingback: YeastSpotting February 12, 2010 | Wild Yeast

  9. Sally,

    Awesome crust colors and beautiful crumb texture on both loaves!

    Love the first picture, amazing “grigne” and ear for pan-type loaf. I’ll incorporate that “accidental” off-center slash and steaming in future pan-type baking.

    Have always wanted to make pain de mie for quite some time but now oh mine! au levain & whole rye plus seeds –right up my alley– would definitely push this bread to the front of my bread-to-bake list and I see this easily become my regular bake (as I am inclined to throw seeds in just a/b any sourdough. ;o))

    Thanks for the tips on roasting pan. I have used, in the past, various wet inverted container to create the steaming effect including a warm&wet inverted Pyrex bowl
    which was nice to see the bread being baked undercover — but it was risky and dangerous–.



    • Hi, Joanne

      indeed, pretty interesting how the internal texture changes according with the shaping. I bet the slashing also plays a role, I should pay more attention to that in the future.


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