The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First time baking w/o commercial yeast and using Tartine Bread: confused about starter vs leaven

  • Pin It
PDX baker's picture
PDX baker

First time baking w/o commercial yeast and using Tartine Bread: confused about starter vs leaven

Hi,


I am new to baking without commerical yeast, and got some great results this first time out using the Tartine Bread book. My main point of confusion is this:


The book instructed me to get rid of my starter when I created the leaven, noting that this would now become my starter. Instead I kept the original starter, thinking it would be a good idea just in case I managed to kill the leaven. I'm now feeding a starter and a leaven. They have quite different properties, and I know they're not interchangable. I'm confused about the differences, when to use one vs. the other, and whether I should really maintain both . In looking at recipes from sources other than Tartine, the original starter is what I'd need to create, say, a sourdough pizza. Could I use the leaven instead and get rid of the original starter?


Thanks!

jeffy1021's picture
jeffy1021

I too am new with sourdough and have baked the country loaf from the Tartine Bread book.  What I usually do to make leaven is to discard all but 1 tbsp of starter and mix that with the 200g of water and flour mix as instructed in the book.  You only use about half of the leaven to make in the recipe so I let the leftover sit out until it is time to feed again.  This is now my starter and I proceed to discard most of it and feed with equal portions of water and 50/50 flour mix.


Hopefully that helps you.

wally's picture
wally

by the terminologies, since starter and levain are the same thing.  To uncomplicate things a bit, let's stipulate that the wild yeast and lactobacilli mixture you keep and nourish regularly is your starter.  Sourdough recipes will have you create a levain-build usually 12 - 16 hours before you mix your final dough, and this build will involve incorporating some of your starter with additional flour and water.  You'll then incorporate the levain-build into your final dough.


There are 2 ways of going about this: 1- you can use all your starter in the levain-build (assuming you don't keep a large amount of starter on hand), and then before incorporating the levain-build into your final mix, remove about 3 tbls of it, which then becomes your starter (which you'll want to feed again).  2- You can remove the portion of your starter called for in the levain-build, and then replenish your starter with additional flour and water.


Either way works.  A lot of commercial bakers will incorporate all of their starters in their levain-builds as a convenient way of feeding them without discarding any.  But if you do this, be certain to remove 3 tbls of more from your levain-build before the final dough mix, or you'll lose your starter in the dough you bake.


Larry

PDX baker's picture
PDX baker

 


 


i'm hoping there are no stupid questions, but i admit i'm feeling silly about this one:


is the leaven i created for the first loaves (now my starter) something that i have to turn into a new leaven when i bake again? in other words, when i bake from the same recipe, do i treat it like starter or leaven?

Davo's picture
Davo

Starter and levain are just terms. In the end it's flour water and your culture. Whether you keep a little of the starter (some call it "mother") or recover a bit from your levain makes no real difference. Especially if you then put it in the fridge and it goes largely dormant - or at least enough to not need feeding more than once a week or so. Any time I'm going to make sourdough, I take out this dormant "starter" whether it was recovered from the levain, or it was the not. It's a culture but not very active, and there's only about 30 or 50 grams of it.


I feed it up, twice over 24 hours. Now it's "active starter" (in my terminology - that anyone can disagree with!),  and I don't care what it's history was two weeks ago.


I build that into what I call "levain". Some call this stage "sourdough". Then I build that into "bread dough", that some call "final dough".


In the end they're all just terms for a culture at varying stages.


One thing that does vary is the the bread dough has salt in it, so you should avoid recovering starter from that (although no doubt it would still work and eventually the salt would dilute out).

PDX baker's picture
PDX baker

Thanks Davo. This is helpful. Thing is I gave away the original starter to a friend. Now I'm feeding the levain I created when I baked my first loaf like I did the original starter. But it looks different and smells much more acidic. When you talk about rescuing starter, I think you're saying that in fact I shouldn't treat the levain like the original starter? Just trying to determine whether I can bake a second round of loaves, treating this as my "active starter"? I'm thinking it's too acidic...

longhorn's picture
longhorn

I believe you are misreading the book. The word discard is used twice - once with respect to creating the levain (use 1 T of starter and discard the rest, top of page 47). And once again, further down p. 47 related to correcting an overly acid levain. 


As I read it the Tartine book has you take 1 T of starter and add 200 grams of flour and 200 grams of water - making approximately 400 grams of what will become "levain". After the fermentation, you take 200 grams to use as levain to make the bread. You save the leftover levain...not discard it to become your starter.


(Chad uses the word discard in the middle of page 47 when he refers to dealing with an over-acidic levain - not as a general practice. When it is overly acidic he suggests discarding half to reduce the acidity/vinegarness.)


Tartine distinguishes between levain and starter based on "acidity" as I read the book and the levain is fresh and low acid. The levain that is saved will accumulate a higher level of acid as it matures and that acid makes it what he calls a starter. Following the Tartine regimen you should always have about 200 grams of "starter" except during the creation of a levain when you have a "very diluted" starter. Saving the old starter until the levain is "healthy" is no problem but you will get back the "starter" when you effectively divide the starter in half and mix the final dough. At that point it would be appropriate to discard the old starter.


Hope this is useful!


Jay

PDX baker's picture
PDX baker

thanks Jay!

longhorn's picture
longhorn

I just reread my email and the next to last line should say you effectively get back your starter when you divide the levain in half and mix the final dough. Sorry for that confusion... By Chad's terminology at that point he would call the "reserved" starter-to-be levain for it is low in acid. Your observation that the saved/fed levain takes on the smell of more or less regular starter is what one would expect. Chad uses only a tiny amount in mixing his levain in order to minimize transfer of acid to the new levain and new dough.


Good Luck!


Jay

PDX baker's picture
PDX baker

thanks for the follow up. i think i FINALLY get it! it's interesting to me to see other receipes call for a cup or more of starter when i'm maintaining such a small amount. i guess i can just build the volume with more of the 50%/50% water/flour over the course of a few days if i need more?

longhorn's picture
longhorn

I maintain 200 grams of starter, I steal 100 grams to make a batch of my personal bread and refresh the remaining 100 grams. (I don't expand it all together because I only add 100 grams of water and flour (50/50) to the starter and I add 400 grams of flour and water (200/200) to make the what Chad would term the levain.) I do that after dinner and the next morning I have 500 grams of robust levain/starter ready to go. I could easily add 2000 more grams of flour and water (1000/1000) and have 2.5 kilos of robust starter about twelve hours later - so from 100 grams to 2.5 kilos in a day. (As an aside I do add 2000 grams to make my final dough but it is 1250 flour and 750 water!)


As a bigger point -and especially to sourdough newbies, there is little reason to get real excited about using an AP fed starter to replace a WW or Bread or Rye starter to begin a recipe. Using my add 4X approach, if I start with 100 grams of starter I have 50 grams of flour and I end up with 1500 grams of flour. So IF I use an AP starter to make a "100% WW bread" it is actually about 97% WW. Not a big enough factor to even be noticeable. So I personally maintain one starter at 100% hydration and use it for everything. One can obviously get slightly different results by maintaining starters at different hydrations and on different flours but...the sin of not having seperate flour starters is hardly egregious.  


Hope that helps!


Jay

thigginb's picture
thigginb

Hi, this is my first time making bread as well. I am confused about the following statement on Page 47 Tartine Bread as well.  When I add 200 grams of water (78 F) and 200 grams of the 50/50 flour blend to 1 T of starter am I supposed to mix this in someway or just add them? Thank you.