The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stiff starter quantities?

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chuppy's picture

Stiff starter quantities?


I'm reading Bread by Jeffrey Hammelman; in part, the chapter on levain. I already have a very strong starter that is more stiff. My question: can I use a stiff levain in hammelman's recipes instead of a liquid?

I am anxious to get started on the sourdough recipes, but want to be sure before I begin using my stiff starter rather than Hammelman's liquid levain. I don't have a preference, but just want to apply the right principles.

Any ideas?



fsu1mikeg's picture

I've asked this before as well.  It really just comes down to how precise you care to follow a formula.  Any starter will work in any formula--rye, stiff, liquid--as long as it's active.  You can convert a bit of your stiff starter to a liquid using Hamelman's conversion chart in the back of the book, or search this site for other posters' conversion methods.  Personally, I don't have the patience to convert starters for the sake of one bread.  I'd just use the stiff levain in place of the liquid and adjust hydration levels during mixing if you find it necessary.  Besides, I've noticed a lot of Hamelman's formulas use just a tiny amount of mother starter.  I'm sure the results will be close enough to satisfy you either way.

AnnaInMD's picture

dough too "juicy" up the flour, and vice versa.  I keep thinking of our fore-mothers who didn't travel the praries with a digital scale. 



chuppy's picture

Yes they made bread with natural starters, no they didn't have digital scales

wally's picture


Since you've got Jeffrey's book, look on page 362 where he discusses converting a liquid culture to a stiff one.  You can reverse engineer his program, or, you can refer to pages 379 - 380 where he discusses how to break down pre-ferments into baker's percentages, allowing you to re-calculate your water percentage to account for your stiff levain.

Or... you can take AnnaInMd's excellent advice!


chuppy's picture


Point very well made! I think by using the stiff starter that I already have, I can practice a method that I am familiar with. Either way, I have once again had the help of great people to solve my artisan bread problem.

Thank you all for your help. It is very much appreciated!