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Pain Au Belle

Shannon Peckford
Easy step-by-step directions with photos showing you how to make sourdough bread. This delicious Pain au Belle recipe is courtesy of Shannon Peckford at Sourdough School House and is perfect for beginner sourdough bakers!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 d 4 hrs
Cook Time 36 mins
Total Time 1 d 4 hrs 36 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine French
Servings 2 loaves



  • 27 grams sourdough starter
  • 135 grams water 80 – 85º F
  • 135 grams bread flour

Final Dough

  • 480 – 510 grams water 80-85ºF
  • 90 grams milk or dairy-free milk alternative I use almond milk
  • 270 grams levain
  • 900 grams bread flour 12 - 14% protein
  • 20 grams salt


Day 1 - Preparing Levain

  • 7:00 - 9:00 pm the night before - prepare the levain by mixing together 135 grams water, 27 grams sourdough starter, and 135 grams bread flour. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.

Day 2 - Mixing Dough

  • 9:00 am the next day: the mix - Bring the dough together with a “partial” autolyse. In a proofing bucket or large mixing bowl, add the water (reserving 25 grams to add later with the salt), milk (or milk alternative), and levain. The levain will float on top of the liquid if it is active. Then, add the flour and mix until there are no dry bits of flour left. * see note 1
  • 9:30 am add the brine -  After the “partial” autolyse, add the salt with the reserved 25 grams of water. Dimple it in with your fingertips and mix well. The dough should be fully hydrated, no dry bits of flour and it should have some development, meaning it is smooth, cohesive, and can stretch well without tearing.
  • 10:30 am - 1:30 pm Bulk Fermentation – this is where the rise happens and dough development is made complete! The dough is developed with a series of “turns” or “folds”. You will complete 3 to 4 Turns/Folds over 4 to 6 hours. Time is temperature-dependent.
  • 2:30 pm Divide + Par-shape – with damp fingers, gently release the dough from the proofing bucket/bowl onto a damp or lightly floured surface. Complete a light par shaping by following the steps below on how to shape a batard.
  • 2:45 pm Final shape – after the par shape, let the dough rest for 10-30 minutes (covered with a tea towel). Then, perform a final shape, gently using the bench knife to scoop under and pull in the edges of the loaf. Be careful to retain the airy dough created during the bulk, whilst creating tension on the surface of the loaf to help it hold its shape, but still have a light and airy interior crumb.
  • Transfer to Banneton – transfer to a rice flour dusted banneton or tea towel-lined bowl (also dusted in rice flour).
  • Room Temperature Final Proof – This is the last chance to ensure the dough is fully proofed for optimum rise and texture. With this recipe, the final proof will be anywhere from 45 minutes and up to 4 hours, the length of time is EXTREMELY temperature-dependent. Place the bannetons in plastic bags to retain moisture. They will remain in the bags until ready to bake.
  • 4:30 Delay Fermentation/Cool Retardation – after the room temperature final proof, transfer the dough to your refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to about 36 hours. The longer in the fridge, you will get a more sour flavour and reduced gluten due to fermentation.

Day 3 - Baking

  • Preheat oven – A hot oven is KEY. At least 45 minutes before baking, pre-heat your oven along with the Dutch Oven/Bread Cloche to 500-550°F, as hot as your oven will go.
  • Score – Remove your loaf from the refrigerator. On a piece of parchment paper, flip the banneton upside down to gently dump out your dough. Score as desired using your bread lame.
  • Bake – Immediately after scoring, load your loaf into the hot Dutch Oven/Bread Cloche (be very careful).
  • Reduce temp – reduce the temperature to 450°F and bake COVERED (with the lid on) for 18 minutes.
  • Remove the lid – remove lid and bake UNCOVERED for an additional 15-18 minutes or until the internal temperature is over 205°F check the colour of the loaf when it is baking UNCOVERED and reduce the temperature down if it is getting too dark


1 - hold the salt. The mix without salt is a “partial” autolyse. It is a rest period where the flour hydrates and the dough starts to develop without much effort. It can be as short as 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Keyword how to make sourdough bread, pain au belle, Sourdough bread, sourdough bread step by step
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