The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain building method question

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Levain building method question

Looking for some scientific comparisons to building a levain in relation to what I have been doing.   I won't say that what I do is wrong,  just not how others do things.  I have great results and quite happy with my breads but I'm trying to find out other than the method, how things are fermenting in comparison to conventional levain building.  Also if this method could fail me at some point.

Instead of a conventional levain build I use the discards of my feedings to make my bread. 

I take the first group of discards and feed it appropriately then pop it in the fridge. On the next feeding I just add the discards to the fridge group and fold it into the last.  So fridge bowl gets a fresh batch of starter discards and folded twice a day.   The starter becomes very fibrous and rubber like even on a 1:1:1 ratio.  After a few days I have a bunch of discard that fermented in the fridge for a number of days.

I use a large amount of this in my bread, I tend to keep my preferment flour 50-50 to final flour amount.

I'm getting very nice sourdough flavor , better then on a conventional build and everything else is business as usual.

So for those of you that understand the scientific aspect of the dough I would appreciate your thoughts on what my method is doing different to the dough then a conventional build.  Also for a home baker will this method fail me for other bread types?  I do know it also works for Pizza dough and is the first time I have good sourdough taste to my crust.

Thanks for your thoughts, Faith    

Sorry for the first line  it won't go away even in an edit...this is a copy and paste from a word doc.

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Thanks anyway.

I'll stick my head in a few books and see if I can figure our my question.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Before I tell you what I think is going on, please tell me how you make your regular lavain? 

Mini

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I'm not sure I understand your question as far as "Regular" Levain goes.

We all know the process of taking your mature culture and building it up two or three times, remove a small part for next time then make your final dough. This build process takes 16 to 24 hours so you need to plan ahead.

1st my culture does nothing more then gets feed and never gets to become something more.

My  culture is not refridgerated so the constant feeding produces discards. I save these discards combine them to give me adiquate mass to suport a full and final dough.

In a way I see this as building my levaian but not from a single starting point.

This way when I'm ready to bake I have this prebuilt levain waiting for me in the fridge.  After a warm up time I'm ready to make my final dough.

My other thought is I notice lots of breads that suguest refridgeration after forming for better texture and taste.  50% of mine has had this maturing time prior to making my final dough.

I really like the results I'm getting as far as taste and texture goes so I'm just trying to understand the science behind this method.

charbono's picture
charbono

It seems to me that using the accumulated feeding discards for your levain would result in a levain that is quite acidic, but not very vigorous.  Doable, but not optimum.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Acidic levels,

Cool something to look at. I have pH dip sticks I tested both starters the one in the fridge and the one I feed every day.  Water from my tap is pH7 both samples came out a clean pH4.  So I feed my starter twice a day 1:1:1 is the pH4 normal or too acidic?  I now know the acidic levels for the one in the fridge have not changed from the origional starter.

Both starters are vigorous and produce a nice crumb. 

Thanks for you advice

Faith

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

from high to low.  It should be highest just after you add water and flour and lower when the 12 hours are up.  At what time during the 12 hours did you measure the pH?  I'm guessing it is pH 4 before being fed.   It maintains that pH 4 in the refrigerator.  That would mean that the acidity doesn't change when cool, it just ages, very slowly.  It would be interesting to know what the pH is just after feeding and then again 4 hours later.  And the temperature of your counter top starter.

Mini

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I will look at that tomorow. The kiddies are feed and in bed.  I have a bunch of these pH strips so this will be interesting.  Thanks for your idea!

I took this reeding about 6 hours after feeding.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Please correct me if I'm off.  I understand that you are feeding your starter 1:1:1 or bare existence feeding with equal amounts of food to starter.  Then after 12 hours it is reduced for the next feed to maintain a specific amount on the counter top.

The discard (at pH 4) goes into the refrigerator at the 12 hour feeding time and is combined with the last discards (pH 4) also in the fridge.  No flour is added to the discards.  As the discards collect, the mass of discard soon reaches the amount needed for a recipe, roughly 50% or equal in weight to the added flour in the dough.  At any time this mass is available for the next 3 days or so to work into a dough. 

...................

Did you ever feed the counter top starter more than 1:1:1 during its life?

When does it peak during a 12 hr cycle?

Is it a quick peak and decline or does it stretch over the entire 12 hours?

Does it ever get hooch with seasonal or temperature changes?

How long after mixing up your final dough, does the dough start to rise and when does it get baked in the oven?

I know, I'm just too curious.  But you would be amazed how many loafers are following this thread.  You've got a clever set up with exception to having to babysit your starter every 12 hrs.

Mini

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I tried to test the pH and temp yeaterday and found that this old house got really cold in the snow and big winds in VA.  My poor starter was cold 55 at the countertop and my rye was not it's normal self.  I brought the temp up and every thing is back to normal so I will give it some time and run the temp and pH test.

as to your questions;

No the starter has always been 1:1:1 and is about 2 months old.  After feeding it doubles very quickly then almost tripples or more in in the 12 hour time does not decline. As of yet I have not noticed any hooch

the first batch of discards into the fridge gets feed 1:1:1 then after that just keep adding. I fold the old into the new then back into the fridge.  I even get rise when in the fridge so I need to be carfule not to over fill the bowls.

My final douugh is working very quickly even in a cool house. Once the dough is made after 30 minutes I give it a stretch and fold and you can feel the fluffyness at that time.  I tend to give three stretch and folds in 30 minute intervals then form the loaf.  I tend to leave my hydration high 70% or so I have had some isue with spreding after forming  its not a big spread but it could be tighter.  So for ryes and WW I lower the hydration and it helps the spread.  For my basic sourdough...table bread I don't mind the spread so I put them in a form. I just like the end result of the highter hydration...just good eating.

If I knew how to post pictures here I would show you what things are looking like.

Faith

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I just re-read your post. Just to be clear I feed 100g starter 100g flour 100g water. The rye and WW are feed 50g water 40g starter 40g flour.

Also I have had sucess with the fridge starter working great even after the three day mark. After 6 days it is still fine with the constant feeding of discards and folding.

This is something I'm still playing with so I don't know how long it is happy in the fridge... But volume tends to ditcate when I need to use up the fridge stock.

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I'm going to try and add a picture to see if I can and how to do it.  If this worrks the picture is of my crusty rye rolls converted from and old Better Homes and Gardens "Homemade Bread Cook Book" also converted to a sourdough.

 

Ok I uploaded an image...now what?

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

 

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Here's how I see it...

I would not call your discards, discards because they continue to rise and have not yet matured to the point of being a discard with all its waste products and down sides.  By putting a 12 hr not fully matured starter in the refrigerator, you have slowed down the fermentation process and given extra food to the first discard (for want of a better word)  a feeding that guarantees no starvation of your starter as it heads toward maturity and is built up with daily additions.  It is like having a loaf always sitting in the refrigerator without salt.  It is a true retarded dough and not a discard.   At any time salt and additions can be added and it can be made into a loaf (a true 5 minutes a day sourdough) or the dough can be doubled with equal amounts of fresh flour with water or other liquids and within a reasonable short time proofed and baked.

You have developed a starter that works well at cool temperatures and by feeding 1:1:1 and not more, the faster metabolizing yeasts have not had the chance to develop in the starter.  I did not say you have less yeasts, just slow metabolizing yeasts.  I'm sure it is chock full of the little helpers.   I'm guessing that the pH (upper and lower pH) has something to do with the subdued gas production.  The yeasts are held in a slow gas producing state until the temperature rises, stresses the yeast and gas production increases.  This 1:1:1 feeding ratio maintains the ideal acid level for your starter and its mixture of symbiotic yeasts and LABS to grow and yet appear to defend themselves from invading beasties.  It sounds very balanced to me.   Up to 6 days or more!  Wow!

There is so much to learn about starters.  That's my theory, Thank you Faith!

Mini

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

That is the way I was looking at it. I like your thoughts about having a loaf waiting in the fridge and you are correct less some salt and flour it's ready to go.  Still have the final proofing  time but that happens on it's own.

So this is working well for the simple baking that I do.  I just wonder if this method would hinder other bread types that I don't currently make.  Guess I need to keep testing this.

I'm also curious about the end result and how this method differs from the conventional levan build...Perhaps this weekend I'll use both methods on the same bread and see if there is a notable difference in the final bread.

Thanks for your thoughts Mini.

Faith

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I could find a place to type.  The top two are my fed starter and the last is after 12 hours.

 

I figured out the picture thing...if I go crazy please feel free to slap me back to reality!

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

This is what I've been doing start to finish the first picture is of my collected rye starter This mass was collected over about 6 days and there is no added yeast to this.  All the other pictures are self explanatory... the only issue I had with this batch of Crusty Rye Rolls is between the water spray and the egg wash I had some egg white collect on the edge of some of the rolls

 

Big Mass

 

rye starter,white flour,milk,sugar, salt, olive oil, eggs, caraway seeds.  this set of rolls are about 50% rye 50 % white.

 

Final Dough

Formed

Before and after baking

Done

I just wanted to show the results of what I've been doing.  Once the starter warmed up my  final dough was about 45 minutes start to finish.  The big thing for me is the taste. I make these often family and friends keep asking for them.  I must say I like these much better once I switched them to sourdough.

Thanks Faith

 

 

 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Ignore the upper line I can't make it go away.

First off.   WOW...  awesome bread...that is so beautiful !!!

Yes I keep three starters  white, rye, WW.

I'll give you what I do for a Vermont Sourdough that I like.  Percentages taken  from "Bread" by Jeffery Hamelman ,page #154. If you want a regular sourdough just replace the WW with white flour.

For 801 gram dough this is what I do

Total Flour

480

 

White

 

432

90%

WW

 

48

10%

Water

 

312

65%

Salt

 

9.12

2%

   

801.12

166.9%

                               

Your starter being a 1:1:1 ='s 50% flour 50% water.  The total flour is 480g so I would use 240g of preferment flour or 480g of saved starter.

 

           

Total Flour

   

Use These  Amounts

Saved Starter

   

480

g Starter

White

 

432

-240

192

g White

WW

 

48

 

48

g WW

Water

 

312

-240

72

g Water

Salt

 

9

 

9

g Salt

       

801

g

You may need to adjust flour for feel. I add all the WW first then work in the White for the correct feel.

When I paste from Word I always get that top line, I really need my spell check.

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I don't know what else to call it.  I woke up had this thing on my mind and went forward.

Yes it's two doughs the first is 65% hydration and it forms the outer shell.  Very thin shell. The inside is salted starter.  Strange  yes but I just wanted to see what it would do.  It was a good lesson on what the hydration really does to the bread.  For me it's very spongy and moist... this bread won't leave crumbs. 

I thought if you just cooked starter it would look all bumpy and not brown well so I had to get this out of my system.

I did another one today with a mix of WW and white so this one is marbled and the extra salt was a good move.  I used the outside of a spring pan form to hold it together for the first 15min of the bake then I remove it for nice browning.

so just goofing around.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I knew we had a budding mad-scientist amoungst us!  Goofing around's the way to discover and learn!  Having a retarded dough of 100% hydration makes the math easy!  There really isn't much to loose in experimenting and all the world to be gained.  :)

Mini

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

LOL...yes the cooking with discards sounds like I'm rummaging the neighborhood trash cans for dinner.

Pre-fermented dough or fridge preferments sounds more appealing.

I did a sourdough pizza dough that I added yeast to.  I cant say that I really noticed that much of a difference...then again all the junk on the pie would have masked any minor changes.

Think I'll play with that a bit and I will look into my Bread Bakers Apprentice and see what was said.

Faith