Recipe Template: No-Knead Pain au Levain, 5% Rye

This is my most basic version of a lean sourdough formula. It’s 95% white flour, with the addition of 5% rye to give the flavor and appearance of the crumb a bit more character. And it’s an overnight no-knead recipe that gets a 20-minute autolyse and a single set of coil folds after 30 minutes just to even out the texture of the dough.

Several variations containing higher amounts of whole grain flours are included at the end of the recipe, including the 20% whole wheat one I shared in 2020 as “The Loaf.”

If you’ve already been making ‘The Loaf’, then the specifics of this recipe will be familiar to you, but in case you are new here, these are its distinguishing features:

  1. It uses a relatively small amount of levain—5%, when many recipes use somewhere between 15 and 30%. Five percent is what you use when ambient temps are in the “normal” range (between 70 and 80˚F or so). If it’s colder or warmer than that, you increase or decrease the amount of levain accordingly. (Because it has such a long bulk fermentation, you can’t control the rate of fermentation by adjusting the water temperature the way you might in other recipes.) 

  2. It can be done using either recently-refreshed levain or levain that has been in cold storage for up to 10 days. Meaning there’s no “levain build”, provided you have recently-refreshed levain in the fridge. It’ll even work with levain that’s older than 10 days, though it will likely longer to complete the bulk fermentation in that case. And because it calls for such a small amount, it really doesn’t matter what hydration you keep it at, should you use something other than 100%.

  3. Other than a single fold after 30 minutes (mostly there to even out the salt distribution), there is no kneading or additional folding involved; you simply leave the dough to ferment and develop gluten strength all on its own. To those familiar with the Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman No Knead Bread recipe and its myriad descendants, this is exactly equivalent to that, except using a natural ferment in place of yeast


No-Knead Pain au Levain, 5% Rye

(PDF download)

Dough Yield: 900g

Yield 1x 900g loaf

Notes:

  • Use all-purpose flour with a protein content of about 12%, such as King Arthur brand. If unavailable, use bread flour.

  • Any type of rye flour will work here, as will gluten-forming whole grain flours like wheat, barley, or spelt.

  • Since the initial proof takes about 12 hours, the best approach is to start the dough in the evening, shape the bread in the morning, and bake the loaf late in the day or the following morning. Or start very early in the morning and shape in the evening. 

  • In step 1, use levain that has been recently refreshed as described here; the recipe should work with older levain, but it might take longer to proof in step 5.

  • Because the recipe uses such a small amount of levain, its hydration doesn’t really matter.

  • If your kitchen is cold (below 70˚F), you should increase the amount of levain in step 1 to 10% (50g); in the heat of summer, reduce it to as little as 1% (5g).

  • Step 5 is the most important one—you want to be sure the dough has doubled in volume and is domed and bubbly before moving on to shaping, otherwise it won’t have enough activity to complete the fermentation in the fridge. You also don’t want to let it proof too much longer after that stage, or it can turn slack (especially when ambient temperatures are above 77˚F). But as a rule it is always better to err on the side of overproofed rather than underproofed. 

  • The loaf can be retarded (refrigerated) in step 7 for 8 to 24 hours, depending upon whatever timing is most convenient for your schedule (it will get more slightly more sour in flavor the longer it proofs).

Overall Formula

95.0% high protein all-purpose flour (see notes)

5.0% rye flour (see notes)

74% water

2.2% salt

5% levain

Final Formula

360g cool (75˚F) water

25g levain

475g high protein all-purpose flour

25g rye flour

11g salt

  1. Place 10 grams (~2 teaspoons) water in small bowl and set aside. Place remaining water and levain in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until levain is mostly dissolved. Add flours and stir until no dry flour remains. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

  2. Sprinkle salt over dough, add reserved water, and knead gently in bowl until incorporated. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  3. Using lightly wet hands, fold dough until tight and uniform, 6 to 8 folds.

  4. Desired dough temperature: 70-75˚F

  5. Bulk Fermentation: 11-13 hours at 75˚F, until dough is domed, bubbly, and at least doubled in volume. A peek at the underside of the dough along the edges of the bowl should also show a web of fine bubbles.

  6. Preshape into round and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  7. Shape and transfer to floured banneton, couche, or lined basket. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, then transfer to refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

  8. One hour before baking bread, adjust oven rack to middle position, set covered heavy-bottomed Dutch oven on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees.

  9. Lay 12- by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on counter. Remove loaf from fridge, dust bottom of loaf with flour, and invert onto center of parchment paper.

  10. Carefully remove Dutch oven from oven, place on stovetop, and set lid aside. Score loaf as desired. Pick up dough by lifting parchment edges and lower into Dutch oven. Carefully cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

  11. Carefully remove Dutch oven from oven, place on stovetop, and set lid aside. Remove loaf from pot and transfer to bare oven rack. Reduce oven temperature to 450˚F and continue to bake until loaf is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer.


Alternative Formulas:

10% Whole Grain

Overall Formula

90.0% high protein all-purpose flour

10% whole grain flour

74% water

2.2% salt

5% levain

Final Formula

360g cool (70-73˚F) water

25g levain

450g high protein all-purpose flour

50g whole grain flour 

11g salt

20% Whole Grain

Overall Formula

80.0% high protein all-purpose flour

20% whole grain flour

74% water

2.2% salt

5% levain

Final Formula

360g cool (70-73˚F) water

25g levain

400g high protein all-purpose flour

100g whole grain flour

11g salt

50% Whole Grain

Overall Formula

50% high protein all-purpose flour

50% whole grain flour

74% water

2.2% salt

5% levain

Final Formula

360g cool (70-73˚F) water

25g levain

250g high protein all-purpose flour

250g whole grain flour

11g salt