The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hamelman's liquid levain culture question

Kroha's picture

Hamelman's liquid levain culture question

Hello everyone,

I started this culture a few days ago, and while it did well for the first couple of days (when it was mostly whole rye), once I switched to white flour, it stopped being active.  I started another one today, but was also wondering.  Hamelman's method calls for use of all whole rye flour and some honey plus water for the first 24 hours, then one day of feeding mixed ratio of whole rye and bread flour, then bread flour twice a day for a few days.   I have a very healthy 100% hydration whole rye starter -- can I just feed it white flour and change hydration to convert to liquid levain?  There is nothing magical about starting it from scratch, I would think?

Thank you!


mrfrost's picture

That would work. But just to make sure you don't end up with a nonviable starter, at the next feeding:

Divide your rye starter in half. Continue feeding half as usual, with rye.

For the other half, feed with white flour, or whatever else you might want to convert it to.

wally's picture

I'd step it down gradually.  If it's a healthy rye, start adding bread flour to your rye at feeding and gradually increase the white until there is no rye.  I think your yeast/lactobacilli colony will probably appreciate/react to gradual changes better than just jumping from an all-rye to an all-bread flour mix at once.


nicodvb's picture

it works so much better!

Kroha's picture

Thank you for the advice so far.  That was exactly my plan -- to take some of my rye starter and convert it to liquid white to use in the formulas in Mr. Hamelman's book that specify this type of starter.  I just wanted to double check my impression that it is a reasonable idea. 

I am now wondering, however, why he would speficy three different starters (rye sourdough, liquid levain, and stiff levain) in his book in the first place?  Can these be used interchangeably, or is there a compelling reason to use the exact type of starter specified in each formula?



ehanner's picture

If you want to be true to the bread as intended by the author or baker, you should use the specified starter. That said, all starters have some combination of bacteria and yeasts. These will change during the time you feed them depending on what you feed them, what environment the starter lives in, how often you feed it and finally, what the hydration is. A firm starter will require less constant watching because there is more food in the mix. If you keep your starter culture in a warm (80F) place, it will be more active and hungry than if it were kept in a cooler place, say 70F. Liquid levain allows more activity because the yeast can move around to find new food. I might have that backward, it could be it is the bacteria that move. Either way, only one moves.

Bottom line is that any of the natural levains will work in to some degree in any bread. The dough will rise and develop air holes and taste about like the original formula.