The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question on feeding sourdough

DarkNova's picture

Question on feeding sourdough

I recently received some sourdough starter from someone and so I've decided to try making my first sourdough bread. I've fed it a couple of times, and am keeping it aligned with Hamelman's 125% hydration liquid levain. At this point I have about 8 oz of mature culture. In Hamelman's recipes, for example, Vermot Sourdough, he calls for using 1 oz (2 TBsp) of mature liquid culture, adding 4.8 oz flour, 6 oz water (which comes to 11.8 oz), and letting that sit 12-16 hours, then mixing 10.8 oz of it for the final bread dough. So my question is, is there a reason for only using 1 oz of mature culture and then building that up to almost 12x the weight, or can I just take my 8 oz of culture tonight, add another 8 oz of flour/water (at proper 125% hydration) and then tomorrow just take 10.8 oz from that and be left with 5.2 oz culture that can go in the fridge? Put another way, is it important to bring 1 oz of culture up to 11.8 oz for the actual levain build, or is this just being done out of convenience so that you only have to keep 1 oz of culture normally in your fridge (in order to lessen discards)?


I think my understanding of sourdough hinges on this: is the discard suitable for using as levain or does the actual levain going into the final dough have to be built up specially for that purpose?



Glare Seethe's picture
Glare Seethe

I think my understanding of sourdough hinges on this: is the discard suitable for using as levain or does the actual levain going into the final dough have to be built up specially for that purpose?


It's suitable to leaven dough since it's just as ripe and ready as the starter you're not discarding. You're only really discarding it to keep the size of your starter manageable.

Having recently bought "Bread" myself I have also been wondering the same thing as you in regards to Hamelman's levain builds... he uses a very small amount of starter and builds it up to ~10x the amount in one go, whereas everything I've read seems to indicate that it's better to do so in smaller increments (i.e. you'd never refresh your starter with a 1:10:10 ratio twice a day, right?). Actually even he himself writes somewhere in the book that it's healthier to feed a starter in smaller amounts rather than one large meal.

Maybe his starter is just super active and can go through that much food in ~12 hours.

Feelin Crumby's picture
Feelin Crumby

Just something to keep in mind . . . If I understand the procedure correctly, Peter Reinhart instructs on doubleing the starter, by weight not volume, or even quadrupleing. However, he states that "the wild yeast ferments quicker than the bacteria produces the flavorful acids." I'm going through my first try at increasing my desem starter so I can bake more loaves than the original recipe gives me. The taste of my last bread was incredible, and I really would hate to lose it. So, after quadrupleing, I'm letting it sit, refrigerated for 2-3 days before quadrupleing again. At about 5 hours (65 deg. F.) there was significant action/rising of the starter. I tasted it, and it certainly did not have the tangyness that it did. Hopefully the long refrigeration will get it back to where it was.

Good Luck, Jim

gildee's picture

I use my discarded starter to make sourdough pizza and it is great!

I just put the discard in another jar, then refrigerate, no feeding required as it is all ready to use, I add each discard to this jar and when I get about a cup I make pizza dough.

I do this process from day 1 and so on. I have not had any problems and it gets just as sour as the starter I am feeding, wonder why? 

curvyrivergal's picture

I do not like the idea of discarding starter/levain. I just make a sponge and bake bread with a cup or so every few days, and then feed an equal amount of flour and water (or milk) to the remaining bubbling goo. I have been maintaining about 3-4 cups of starter since I became obsessed with sourdough baking a month or so ago with the gift of an "Amish" starter. Yes, I am new to this, so I may be naive, or just enthusiatic enough about my experiments to not want to waste any of the levain I have lovingly nurtured. it is a vigorous lovely thing.