The Fresh Loaf

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Mature Culture, and when to build the Levain, as well as other questions

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Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

Mature Culture, and when to build the Levain, as well as other questions

I know to use a culture that rises and falls predictably after feedings.. I understand that much, however. When a recipe calls for the use of a "Mature Culture" to build your levain does it mean...

A)  Use the culture at the deflated unfead state to build your Levain that sits for 12-16 hrs.
or
B) Use a culture that has been fed, built up until it is at its peak height and would float on water- use that to make your levain that will then sit for 12-16 hours.

Right now I'm keeping a 100% hydration starter that I keep at about 70-72 degrees. I'm currently discarding about 80% of it and then feeding it once daily. Using 70 degree water and the temp of the starter is at 72 after the feed. Flour being 45% unbleached white 45% whole wheat and 10% whole rye.

From what I understand this should take about 2-4 hours to be at peak height "young levain" status, and then start to fall. This is not happening for me. I will feed it at 2pm and  when I wake up in the next morning at 6am it is at its peak high point and has not started to fall. Smells slightly sweet and yeasty as well as ripe fruit. Only after a few more hours it begins to fall Why is this? - I'm trying to wrap my head around the young levain concept.

 Any help/feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

  1. use it at stage B) - peak development
  2. 100% is easy re hydration, just checking to make sure you are doing it by weight, not volume
  3. peak is more like 5-8 hours depending on mix of flour.  100% rye will be on the shorter end (mine peaks at 5 hours), followed by WW, and slowest white flour.  Could go up to 8 or more if all white, type of flour, etc, so pay attention to peak develpment/float test. 
  4. discard only 50%, otherwise you are not leaving enough active critters to repopulate the new addition of flour/water.
  5. in maintanence mode leave it out for an hour or two before storing in refrigerator (assuming you are at your 72 temp, feed weekly.  in the oven with light on is a nice temp, you may need to crack the door slightly depending on your oven.  I found a $30 infrared themometer, just point and pull the trigger for an instant temp read.  Very handy device!!
  6. you only need a few tablespoons of starter while in maintanance mode.  the day before baking, give it two feeds 5/6 hours apart, then you can build up to what you need for the recipe.

hope this helps...

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

I really appreciate your time and knowledge!

Yes I do all of my measuring by weight. So if I were to do a 50% discard feed it should be ready at about 4 hours?

Is there any advantage flavor/texture/spring if it were to rise in 15-16 hours and it be at high peak point, then build the levain and let it mature 15-16 hours? Pull more flavor out of the grain?

Would this create a larger population of acetic acid? Instead the smooth desierd yougurt like lactic acid?

Thank you!

D. Commerce's picture
D. Commerce

Hello. Can you please explain the "float test"? I've been an occasional reader for several years but have missed that term. I think I know what the answer is and what is being referred to, but I'd like to verify. This is my first-ever comment. Thanks.

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

The "float test" is how you test a mature culture or levain. You simply take a small scoop and drop it in some water. If the culture or levain is ready to use it will float. You will be able to tell if it would float by how airy and light the culture or levain is after a few successful tests trials.

I think I have a picture on my phone, let me post it here, gimmy a sec

D. Commerce's picture
D. Commerce

Thank you for the float test info. Such a simple test that confirms that I've been using my levain at the right time. Just curious: will levain still float that is post-peak and way past the window for typical use? In other words, does the levain float only when the short window is open and time is right, or will it float from the ready point beyond the optimum time? Guess I can let some levain sit out for too long and do some testing.

Thanks.

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

The float test is inherently inaccurate.  It should only be used if a baker wants the inclusion of a very young leaven into her dough, as the only real thing it tests (in doughs with a low-enough viscosity) is the sufficient presence of carbon-dioxide to physically overcome the atmospheric and gravitational pressures of lifting a dead-mass of flour and water.  Most of this CO2 is also likely the result of early lactic-acid bacteria growth, and not necessarily representative of a culture in the prime of its log-phase.

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake

I've never heard it described like that, really good work.

That reminds me - Is there any advantage to using a culture to mature for 12-16 hours vs a young levain? (I'm suspecting that this would decrease the subtly of the lactic acid.

Thanks

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Yes, if that's the result you want!  It all has to do with what the baker making the bread wants, and that's ultimately up to you.  "Advantage" is the wrong word.  If it can be baked into bread, and somebody likes it, it has an "advantage."  If it cannot, this would be a "disadvantage."  The better question is what results one can effect with a young starter versus an older one.  I'm sure there are plenty of knowledgable bakers on this forum who can help explain the differences (there are many, especially when other factors come into play).

D. Commerce's picture
D. Commerce

Regarding the float test, I just completed a 24-hour period of watching and testing my levain by using the float test method. I tried floating dollops of the levain about 5 times during the stationary phase, a period that started at the 12-hour "peak" and continued until just before the 24-hour collapsed levain began to smell too sour but still had lots of little bubbles. At "peak," the levain definitely would not float because any trapped gas was expelled as I tried to yank very strong strands of it out of the jar to drop in water. However, the dollops did begin to float much later in the stationary phase at the 20-, 22- and 24-hour mark. At these later points, I was able to easily scoop-out dollops of gooey (no longer strong, elastic, stringy) levain that still had small bubbles intact. These dollops would float.

What does this mean? Should I could create dough and begin proofing using levain that is later in its stationary phase? For many months I have been starting my dough always using levain at its peak, when it is so stringy, elastic and "strong" it is sometimes difficult to easily remove from the jar using a small measuring cup -- it gets pulled back in, even why I "stir down" the levain to deplete the gas build-up. Now I believe the bread may still turn out okay using levain taken  from later in its stationary phase. I assume I'll have more rise using the "peak" levain and perhaps more taste using the post-peak levain. Does my theory seem possibly correct?

For my situation, starting dough when the active, healthy levain is at peak may not be the best time. It seems like the levain should not be that elastic -- like tough taffy -- when creating a new batch of dough for proofing.

Any thoughts are welcome. Thanks.

Born2Bake's picture
Born2Bake