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Another newbe question about levain or starter

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rrossi's picture
rrossi

Another newbe question about levain or starter

As the elderly grandfather in Moonstruck exclaimed "I'm so confused" pretty much sums up how I feel right now about sourdough starters and levain....


The heart of the question is, what really is levain?   I have read many comments through-out this site that claim starter and levain is the same thing. 


If that is the case, then can someone explain a recipe that calls for levain (1:3:4 - S:W:F) 100 gms or 20%????? 


Assuming "S" stands for starter (therby starter and levain are different) W = water and F = flour... the weight for each would be 12.5 gms of S, 37.5 gms of W, and 50 gms of flour.  What do I do next if my assumption is correct? Do I mix the levain and let it ferment? if so fo how long?  or do I mix it straight into the dough upon mixing?  I don't know the answer to this and I'm having a hard time finding the answer.


I love this site, lots of great info and really skilled bakers.  I hope someone can clear this up for me.


Thanks,


Richard R


 


 

Comments

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Levain is the French word for a white wheat based sourdough starter. 


Your explanation is right on. The 20% refers to the amount of starter as compared to the amount of flour in the dough.   "100g or 20%" would mean the amount of flour in the dough recipe is 400g.  The S starter is combined with W water and F flour to total 100g, this is allowed to ferment until just before it has ripened.  Then it is combined with 400g of flour and what ever else is in the recipe to make a dough.


The next question is whether you have a sourdough starter?  If you don't have one, you will have to make one or obtain one.  Making one requires about a week, maybe two. Simply put, there are recipes that use yeast and there are recipes that use already fermented dough (a sourdough culture containing natural yeast; short, starter) to raise the dough.  You do not need a sourdough starter to make bread, you can easily make good bread with store bought yeast.  But if you want to make a sourdough bread, you will need a sourdough starter. 


Does that help? 


Mini

rrossi's picture
rrossi

 


Mini, thanks for your response. You have lifted the shroud of secrecy for me. 


As for your question: Yes, I do have a starter already prepared.  It's about 2 week old.  You do raise another question for me.  "allow it to ferment until just before it is ripened" what exactly does this mean? What should I be looking for?


Thanks, again...


Richard R

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it will change in fluidity, aroma, and volume depending on the flour used.  If you observe it you will notice it will rise until it reaches its maximum height then level off and fall in on itself.   That maximum height is known as a peak.   Unless your recipe specifies otherwise, you want to use the starter as it is peaking or there abouts.  Some will use it as it levels out, others will wait until it falls and gets super sour,  I prefer the "just before it peaks" zone. Repetitiously feeding your starter has hopefully given you an idea how high and how long it takes to peak. 


Ten hours ago, I took a heaping teaspoon of my rye starter, mixed it with about 1/3 cup of water and added one rounded tablespoon of Kamut flour and enough whole rye until it was thickened.  Not a lot of starter really to the flour added.  It is now up to the top of my coffee mug, which for rye is pretty good, and looking rather fluid with lots of bubbles suspended in a foam.  As I stir it, it doesn't fall but reminds me of the milk foam atop coffee these days, only the bubbles are a little larger.  My experience tells me it is just beginning to level out.  High time I make my dough!  It is good to let the yeasts know there is plenty of food for them before it runs out so they stay in reproduction mode.


Good luck, you're on your way,


Mini


 

rrossi's picture
rrossi

Thanks Mini,


Thats what I suspected. It's just nice to hear it confirmed by someone who's been doing it a while.


You're a big help.


I hopefully will have a bake tomorrow.  I will post pics of my results.


Thanks again.


Richard