Tag Archives: Jeffrey Hamelman

Jeffrey Hamelman’s Rye and Flaxseed Bread

Rye and Flaxseed Sourdough Bread copyright Zeb Bakes

Flax or linseed is a wonderful and healthy addition to a good loaf of bread. In the UK we get both golden and brown linseed, I have used golden linseed here as I like the colour. If you soak the seeds overnight before working them into the dough then they release a sticky mucilage that I believe improves the cohesive quality of a high content rye dough and for those of you who are struggling with shaping and slashing it also helps in that department. All the loaves I have ever made using a flaxseed soaker open and spring well.

linseed old bread bread dough copyright zeb bakes

This bread is made following a recipe of Jeffrey Hamelman in the updated edition of Bread. It is made with fermented whole rye flour, strong white (bread flour) linseeds and an old bread soaker. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of an old bread soaker, who are wrinkling your nose and going ewww, an old bread soaker is not made with a green and furry piece of ancient crust, not with a three day old slice of supermarket pap but with a drying piece of a good bread. In this case I used a slice of the sourdough I was currently eating which was about two days old. As I routinely eat my sourdoughs for up to a week after they have been baked, there was nothing scary about this at all.

Like most things you might choose to add to your bread, the secret is not to add too much that it alters the character of the loaf in an undesirable way.

proving loaves in cloth copyright Zeb Bakes

The recipe is given in full on Modern Baking’s website here (it looks like a legal site not one of those horrible rip off places) together with his notes on the bread and his comments on using an old bread soaker for those of you don’t have a copy of the book yet. I scale the recipe down by dividing the metric column numbers by 10 as I do with nearly all his recipes for my use at home. I followed the recipe very closely as I tend to do when I make Hamelman’s breads. I might add a little more or less liquid depending on the absorbency of my particular flours that is the only difference.

If you are trying an old bread soaker you may need to experiment with how you prepare it though. I suggest making sure the bread is a sort of porridgy slurry before you mix it into the dough, so you may need to process it a bit in some way first.

Rye and Linseed sourdough copyright Zeb Bakes

This is a strong and fully flavoured bread which reminds me vividly of German breads. I adore it. It is not one for people who don’t like rye however. I return to bake it ( and variations on this theme )  again and again. It has a lovely mouth feel and bite and a rich complex set of flavours.

I made three easily shapable loaves and put them in between folds of cloth to prove before baking in a hot oven with steam on a baking stone.

Give it a go if you fancy something different, you never know you might like it! There are lots more of Jeffrey Hamelman’s breads buried in the old posts of my blog if you want to get an idea of the range and breadth of what he offers the aspiring bread baker.  I have added a menu page which gives links to these breads  which I baked with the Mellow Bakers project for ease of reference here.   I might revisit baguettes this weekend …. what are you baking?

Related Posts :

Multi seeded bread with an old bread soaker with recipe

Five Grain Levain for Mellow Bakers

My Dreadful Memory

When I flung the book open to the right page I saw the evidence that I had made this one before. I have zero memory of doing it. But there are my pencilled in gram weights against the home column. When I first started baking from this book I weighed the home column out in ounces and then clicked over to the gram reading and wrote them down directly in the book. Later on I figured that one could far more easily divide the middle column by 10 and get pretty much the same numbers, so my inner Sherlock tells me that I must have made this bread before the blog.

Did I like it then? Again no notes. This is why it is good to write a blog. At least you can stare at the pictures a year or two later and try and trigger your memory.


There was nothing for it but to make it again. I mixed up the liquid levain, left it overnight. Mixed up a little bowl of crushed rye grain, (sourced at the Swedish Shop in London where it is sold under the name of Rågkross) rolled oats, golden linseed and sunflower seeds with boiling water and curiously a pinch of salt – and left that overnight to absorb the water.

In the morning I mixed up a dough with very strong (high gluten flour) and a bit of the old Swiss Dark. I held back on some of the water as it all looked very wet and indeed JH warns you that this is a water-full dough in the text and advises you to bake it well and long.

It’s all in the Timing

Various timing disasters happened along the way. The levain had risen and fallen in the night, leaving a tell tale tidemark in the bowl, but I used it anyway. Then the dough didn’t want to rise so I put it in a warm oven at about 30C (forgot to turn it down, wandered off and did something else for several hours) rescued it belatedly, it had tripled in size as you can see here…

So I threw it out onto a board with a large wet splat – then the phone rang – and I chatted away, while poking it with one hand to stop it sliding onto the floor. Eventually I shaped it into a large floppy boule that wouldn’t hold its shape. Then I changed my mind and tipped it out onto the bench (more flour everywhere) and finally wrangled it into six little rolls and a loaf instead. Messing around with the dough doesn’t do it any good, I know that, but that’s what happened.

The bread has good flavour and I like the combination of grains, but it is supposed to be light and airy according to Jeffrey Hamelman and you can see that the crumb is fairly close and dense. That is down to my handling. In my defence it was a very sticky, gooey sort of dough, but again that was my mistake for letting it get too warm in the ‘proving’ oven. Cooler doughs are a lot easier to handle than warm ones. You’d think maybe I would know all this?  Well I do know it, but every so often I just ignore what I know and do something fairly senseless. It’s lucky I don’t do this for a living, that’s what I say.

A Neat Trick

The good bit was making the rolls look very perky with just a single scissor snip to the top of the roll, a trick I saw Luc Martin, the supper club maestro,  do with some very interesting rye rolls he made recently which I have copied here.  [By the way if you are a pasta maker, have a look at the fantastic filled pasta tutorials on his blog.]

5 grain levain roll with scissor top Jeffrey Hamelman Bread

If you are despairing of your slashing, try using a pair of scissors instead, hold them at a shallow angle and cut little V’s into the dough and with any luck you will get a very nice hedgehog effect on your loaf.

Roast Garlic Levain by Jeffrey Hamelman

You can see the stiff levain just after it has been mixed in the righthand bowl, this is mixed using more flour than water to form a dough like consistency, as opposed to a liquid levain which uses more water than flour. The liquid ones ripen faster and tend to be more acidic in taste in my experience, the stiff levains are milder in flavour. It is easier to mix the liquid ones into the final dough. If you are mixing by hand the stiff levains can be tricky to mix in so that you don't get a patchy crumb, something that happened to me a lot before I got a stand mixer.

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