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I could withstand the Leader’s “Alpine Baguettes” and decided to give Hamelman’s “five-grain levain” a try. I thought that there can’t be anything wrong with a bread that Hamelman himself describes as “one of the most delectable breads”.

It’s made of whole-wheat flour, bread and high gluten flour, and it includes a soaker (sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chopped rye and oats.) In my case it includes as well some sesame seeds as I was running low on sunflower seeds and had to substitute some of them trough sesame. The fermentation process is speeded up by a little addition of yeast. I can’t get high-gluten flour here in Switzerland, therefore I added 12 grams of Vital Wheat Gluten to the flour.

While I was letting the dough ferment for the first time, I was thinking about how I should shape this batch of bread. I felt a little bit bored by my “standard shape”, the round loaf baked in the iron pot. I remembered the special Couronne shaping that I discovered a long time ago on wildyeastblog.com and that I had on my to-do-list for a long time. So I gave it a try. Thank you Susan, You’re a great inspiration to me and your directions are clear and easy to follow, thanks for that!

Well, mine doesn’t exactly look as perfect as Susan’s. It’s a little bit out of shape because my “proofing banneton” was probably a little to big, so the balls didn’t form a tight unit and moved around when I slided them into the oven.

That’s the way I constructed my “banneton”, inspired by Susan’s description. I used the lid of my scouting cooking pot and a newspaper-ball. (I’m sorry for the bad image quality, all the good cameras are out today and I had to use my old camera, bought in 2002.) I covered this “banneton” with a well floured towel to prevent dough from sticking.

I had about 1.1 kg of dough alltogether, so I used 750 grams as recommended for the Couronne and made a small boule out of the rest.

To shape a couronne like the one above, divide the 750 grams of dough into six pieces of 100 and one piece of 150 grams.  Shape the pieces into balls and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Roll the 150 gram – ball into a flat disk, about 15 cm wide. Place it over the newspaper ball, then arrange the other six balls seamside up around it. Then you have to cut a “star” into the flat doughpiece in the mittle with a sharp knife (look below or read Susan’s instructions) and fold the “star-edges” over the balls.

Then let it proof as usual (cover it with a towel while proofing) and bake as you’d bake your recipe normally, maybe slightly shorter, because this shape is not as compact as a normal boule or batard.

Von Brote

There you’ve got it: the (somewhat blurry. . .) glimpse into my oven!

I just tried two slices of the small boule – I planned on giving the couronne away, but now the person who was supposed to receive it isn’t at home, therefore I put it into the freeze and I’ll have it another time when more people are around. Right now, I’m not able to eat 750 grams of bread on my ownin a reasonable time.  (as I said, everybody’s gone, like the cameras . . .)  I’m better off with 300 grams . . .

The flavor of the 5-grain levain is very good, as far as I can say right now. The bread is still somewhat warm. Nearly every bread tastes great while it’s still warm. But I’m optimistic that the bread will taste great tomorrow for breakfast, as well.

I’m planning on baking this one again. Not only because it seems to be a tasty bread, but because I’ve got the feeling that I could simply do better. It was a hot  day today, so the fermenting and proofing was difficult to get right, especially because the dough turned out to warm as well.

I’m sure that I’ll shape Couronnes again. But then I’ll probably scale the “banneton” a little bit down. The newspaperball more like 9 and the “pot lid” around 23 cm in diameter.

When I picked up baking again just about two weeks ago, I made a decision: I’ve got a lovely bread baking book, but in the past I’ve been very often tempted to not bake recipes out of Hamelman’s “bread” but to pick interesting formulas from blogs like this one. Now it’s time to finally bake a couple of Hamelman-breads! Not that I didn’t bake out of it at all before, that’s not true, but I’ve never baked that much to come to the point where you just feel “familiar” with the recipes.

My old sourdough died while I was travelling for half a year in India (I couldn’t get the dried sourdough starting again), so about two weeks ago I decided to start a new one from scratch. Because of that it is clear for me that I’ll mostly bake Sourdough-breads in the next couple weeks. I want my little baby to grow strong.

The first bread I baked was a Sourdough – No – Knead bread (you find the german recipe here) , and then I made the decision to open Hamelman’s book again and I started with the Vermont Sourdough, a simple but very tasty white sourdough bread.

Vermont Sourdough

It tasted great and I was somehow proud of my young starter. Neverthless, it wasn’t perfect. It had to much of an oven spring, so that the bread had some similarities with a Japanese garden house. And I had hoped for bigger holes in the crumb . . .

After this first Hamelman bread I decided to continue with another rather plain formula, and I found the Whole Wheat Levain very tempting. It is actually pretty much the same recipe, just with a higher hydration and 50 % whole wheat.

I let the sourdough ripe during daytime, then mixed the final dough in the evening and folded it twice during a first fermentation time of 2.5 hours. I shaped a boule, placed it in a floured bowl and let it proof over night in the fridge. When I got up, I let it rise somewhat more, slashed it, but then . . .

Whole Wheat Levain

. . . can you guess what happened? I wanted to put the loaf into an preheated iron pot, because I know that the crust turns out the best if I bake it “No Knead – style” (the Vermont Sourdough above is baked in the same way). Well, when I tried to move the dough into the pan, it fell and – kind of – landed upside down in the pot. That’s why the loaf is scored both on the bottom and on top, like you can see on the pictures . . .

It didn’t do any serious harm though. The loaf can’t exactly be called “high”, but it still didn’t loose all its air.

a decent summer dinner

As you can see, the crumb isn’t to bad this time (for my standard it’s actually honestly said very good), even though this bread experienced quite some adventure. It’s got a delicious, slightly sour taste and it was great for dinner. We had it with a tomato-mozzarella salad, a green salad, butter and olive oil.

I haven’t decided yet which bread I’ll bake next. To be honest, I’ve already got another quite tempting recipe, called Alpine baguettes, but unfortunately its not Hamelman’s but Daniel Leader’s recipe .  . . Maybe I’ll try this Hamelman Normandy Apple Bread soon.

I send this to Nick from imafoodblog.com for YeastSpotting (wildyeastblog.com).

Looking at a bread in the oven is better than any TV. Enthusiastic bakers out there - why don't you switch channel and venture a glimpse into mine?