The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

levain / baker's percentages

ericb's picture

levain / baker's percentages

From time to time, I just cannot figure out baker's percentages. Tonight is one of those times. I'm preparing a levain based on Dan Leader's instructions in Bread Alone. He doesn't list percentages, and he doesn't list the weight of the chef with each step. This is a multi-day process, and it's not as simple as what I do for sourdough (double the weight every 12 hours). Would someone be so kind as to check my math?


Day 1

Flour 4 oz 100%

Water 4 oz 100%

Pinch of yeast

TOTAL: 8 oz 200%


Day 2

Flour 4 oz 100%

Water 4 oz 100%

Chef 8 oz 200%

TOTAL: 16 oz 400%



Flour 4 oz 100%

Water 4 oz 100%

Chef 16 oz 400%

TOTAL: 24 oz 600%


Day 4 (Final Levain)

Flour 6 oz 100%

Chef 24 oz 400%

TOTAL 30 oz 500%


FINAL Levain Overall Totals

Flour 18 oz 100%

Water 12 oz 67%


For the "Final Levain," I just added up all the flour and all the water that was used over the four days.

The reason I ask is that I want to make a triple batch, which means I need to start the process by tripling the ingredients in Day 1.

Also, if anyone has a simpler method of making levain, could you let me know? I've tried searching the sites, but the query gods were not with me tonight.




hansjoakim's picture

Looks good to me, Eric.

So Leader's starting off with some yeast at day 1? I don't have "Bread Alone", but I read in his other book, "Local Breads", that he doesn't recommend that anymore.

It's probably one of the simplest ways to go about it, I think. It was this method that got me going with a rye starter a couple of months back, and it took me exactly four days. Rye is especially good to get a starter going, as whole rye naturally contains more of the micro organisms that you want. Whole rye also has a high buffer capacity, which means that yeasts can go about their business even at relatively acidic conditions (acidic compared to wheat). This makes the starter particularly robust. Once the rye is spritzy, you can convert it to a wheat starter in a day or two by feeding it wheat instead of rye.