Pain au Levain-levure- Bread with pre-ferment dough

Today, I give you “pain au levain-levure” or bread using a pre-ferment starter dough. It’s bread that has some of yesterday’s bread dough, which would have fermented after 24 hrs to 48h, and which by magic, gives an incredible maturity and texture to the daily bread. Let’s be clear; fermented dough is not a wild sourdough starter since it has a hint of chemical yeast, but trust me, using cold overnight fermentation process takes you there: the flavour, the smell, the caramelized colour….

I hope pre-ferment starter dough is the right translation, I suppose it is! If there is any technical word you may know, please enlighten me. I just worked it out using the logic used to make the starter dough.

You'd swear it's an authentic pain de campagne

If you don’t have a dough from yesterday, this recipe will show you how to make an ad-hoc pre-ferment starter dough.

Now you might be tempted to tell me: hold on! That’s how our grandparents used to make the bread, especially if you are from the Mediterranean area. Well, since I didn’t take the recipe from my grandmother (because at almost 90, she does not do much anymore. Besides, they used to work by feeling and not weight), I have to tell you that I was largely inspired by GontranCherrier’s book “Gontran fait son pain” (Gontran makes his bread), with adaptation here and there..

Today's star: pre-ferment starter dough.
I have adapted this bread to the types of flour I have depending on the days. I also make it using a bread machine for the kneading phase.

I also keep the final dough to proof for up to 6 hours in the fridge, which adds more maturity to my bread. You may skip this long time and just proof the bread for about 1h30 min before shaping it.
This dough is perfect for pizzas as well.

I'm submitting this recipe in yeastspotting.

For 8 to 10 small breads
Prep: 20 min – Resting: 2h- Proofing: 1h 30 (room temp)
Baking: up to 30 min for a dark crust, less for a clear crust

Levain-levure- Pre-ferment starter dough (minimum 24h ahead)
  • 170 g of white bread flour (I used here ½ whole-wheat and ½ white bread flour)
  • 100 g of lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp of dry yeast
For the final bread
  • 350g of white bread flour (I used here 1/3 multi-cereal flour)
  • 22 cl of lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ to 1 tsp of dry yeast
  •  Levain-levure (or about 200g of yesterday's bread dough)


Levain-levure, 24 to 48 hours ahead

Make a well with the flour, pour in water, add the yeast and give it time to be diluted. Mix the ingredients until you get a homogenous consistency. Cover with a cling film and keep in the fridge for 24h to 48 hours.

You can alternatively use yesterday’s dough leftover that would have been kept in the fridge, covered with cling film.

The day you plan to bake the bread

Dilute the yeast in a couple of tablespoons of lukewarm water. Mix the bread ingredients without the preferment dough.

If you are using a bread machine, on program 8 “dough”, add the preferment dough after the 1st stop.

If you are using a KitchenAid-like machine, add the pre-ferment dough just before finishing the kneading process.

As mentioned before, I keep my dough in the fridge for 6 hours or so (that would be overnight for me),  which enriches the fermenting process.

But you can just shape the dough in a ball. Cover it with a cling-film and let it proof for about 1h30 min or until it doubles in volume.

I shape the dough in the easiest possible way: I degas it by rolling it gently and cutting it into a sort of pavement, with a sharp knife. I place it on a floured tea-cloth and cover it for about 1h before baking it. You might shape it into baguette if you like..

20 to 15 min before baking time:

1 - Preheat the oven at 300 degrees C.

2 - Slightly grease and dust the baking tray with flour. Place the bread and score it with a sharp tool.

3 - Create some steam in the oven before you place the bread: place a large pan underneath the baking grill. When you are ready to bake, pour in a cup to 2 cups of water and mind your face: the steam that will happen straight there might harm you. Close the oven door as fast as you can to trap this steam.

4 - Bake for 30 min at 220 degrees C.

My breakfast: white omelet with khlii

This bread is still soft and tastes good even after 48h at room temperature, just make sure to cover it with a kitchen towel and seal in a plastic bag.


  1. Hi Nada - I'm afraid I have no idea if your translation is the correct one - I've never heard that time - maybe it's just grouped as a "type of sourdough"? In any case - your bread looks wonderful... crispy, beautiful little pockets of air... you must be really pleased with these... I know I would be!

  2. Thanks Charles!
    I'm pleased with the taste and the texture indeed. What I also like about it is that there is not much to do, all the job is done by the machine and the fridge, I just have to shape it!

  3. I love homemade bread! This looks great!

  4. Hi Elpiniki!
    Nothing better than homemade bread...Prensently, I'm preparing wild yeast (in its 4th day so far)..I hope it works so I can share the recipe with all bread lovers...

  5. Prefectly baked bread, would love to have for my everyday breakfast.

  6. Looks fantastic, love the holes in it...if it tastes like it looks..mmm!

  7. Hi Nada!

    I'm baking quite some bread nowadays, from all kinds of recipes, but this is my favorite. I add some flax seed to the dough, makes it even more tasteful.
    As for the term, in most recipes I see, the French term (pate fermente, do I spell it right?) is used, or 'poolish' But poolish is generally wetter and is kept overnight at room temperature. In Dutch it's also sometimes called 'voordeeg', I would translate that with 'pre-dough'.
    How's the wild yeast coming off? I just started one yesterday, hopefully this time it'll live :-)

  8. Hi Elizabet,

    I also add flaxseeds a lot in my bread these months. A lot of goodness in them indeed.

    My wild yeast took off properly but something went wrong in the process..Not happy! But I will have to do it again. I think it's because I was not precise in the weighting...

  9. I think there are flaxseeds in this bread as well

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