The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Liquid Levain Timing Dilemma

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Liquid Levain Timing Dilemma

Hi, fellow TFLers


Lately, I 've been having some tough time figuring out liquid levain maturity timing. I know that temperature, flour mix, ..etc all contribute, but thought to ask all of you:


How on planet earth do you manage to Bake sourdough with a liquid levain, save for getting up at midnight to check up on it is maturity, or worse, take it to office with you and endure the sneers of your colleauges (I heardthat  some do brave it!)??


I have been testing my liquid all white levain at my room temperature 26c or 78F, and it took 11 hours to mature (or double). Yesterday, i left a similar levain at 78F for 11 hours, and when i came back from work it looked mature (no receding watermarks here, but i now suspect it was overripe).


To summarize, the Bake flopped, and i am landed with two nice Brick stones.


here is a picture:



any one?


khalid

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I have never timed my levain but it doubles in a lot less than 11 hours. I would try taking a small amount and doing some intensive feeding over a week's time to increase the yeast population-then bake.


I have been known to take the jar and some flour to work during an intense feeding period  and feed it midday. I'd feed it 3-4 times a day. I don't weigh it out-I just estimate based on consistency. If I'm going to be fussy about hydration status, I'll beef it up,first, with frequent feedings and then start weighing things out. After a few days, it's back to a known hydration status-or close enough, and very active. My brother in law's culture doubles in about 2 hours but then he bakes every 2-3 days.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Clazar123, My culture is pretty active, it doubles in 3.5 hours. I bake twice a week.


I think i shoud keep the culture well fed before the levain build. Sourdough is very time and temperature contingent!!


Khalid

proth5's picture
proth5

exactly what to tell you, but I've worked exclusively with 100% hydration storage starter for a number of years and I can tell you my experiences.


First, I tend to work at a lower "room" temperature than you.  In colder months my my liquid pre ferment is left to mature at a room temperature that is 62-65F.  In warmer months I move the maturing pre ferment to the basement where the temperature is 68F.


When I make the levain based pre ferment in colder months, I will use a seed from my storage starter of about 25% (by weight) of the total weight of the 100% hydration pre ferment.  I usually mx it at about 7-8PM and it is mature by 6-7am or so when I am up to begin mixing the final dough.


In warmer months I may drop the seed down to 12% of the final weight of the pre ferment, but I maintain the same schedule.


I don't usually bake on days that I work away from home - because when I am not working from home, I have commuted by air to another city and live in a hotel.


You can delay the maturity of a pre ferment by lowering the amount of seed starter, adding a very small amount of salt, or simply finding it a cooler place to mature. The advantage to the "levain build" method described in the Hamelman "Bread..." book is that the first two methods can be easily applied to a pre ferment developed away from the storage starter.


Hope this helps.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, Pat!


I've read Hamelman's "BREAD". I'am just too scared to go through the same horror for the third time in a row. I Have to gather some nerve to start over again.


I appreciate your feedback


khalid

amolitor's picture
amolitor

You can also make your levains wetter or drier. All these things:



  • temperature

  • salt

  • wetness


will alter the time the starter/levain takes to mature, but will also alter flavors since they're all changing the ratios of organisms. That said, step one is certainly to get the timing figured out!


Are you having trouble with getting consistent maturation times? As long as I can figure out roughly how long each levain takes to mature, I can generally figure out some sort of schedule around that (usually with a couple of late nights or failures before I get it fully sorted). Obviously if the little buggers won't mature in a consistent time, I've got a problem!


A couple of other things I've been doing:



  • start with a fully activated starter (feed it however many hours before you want to use it so it's maximally rocking along). This helps consistency a LOT in later levains.

  • Use the fridge! If it's getting late and it's not looking like this damn thing is gonna mature any time soon, into the fridge it goes. It's like a time machine! This is yet another thing that changes flavors around, but it beats baking an underproofed loaf at 3am because you simply can't stay up any more.


Lastly, if I misjudge things and the loaf gets overproofed overnight (because the yeast KNOW when you're not looking, and they start to hustle!) you're not likely to make it worse by doing a stretch&fold or similar, reshape, and reproof for an hour or so. Be delicate so you don't degas too much. It's not going to make things much worse, and you might well save the loaf.


 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, Amolitor! The fridge part will help, thouh at the expense of higher acetic acid in the final dough, as you pointed out.


I'am learning. Sourdoughs sure are tricky. Iguess thats why they call Baking it "Artisan" given the challenges one faces.


khalid

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Here's my $0.02...


I feed my storage starter at least once a week with a combination of whole grain and all purpose flour and water.  I keep it at about 100% hydration these days.  I feed it 100g flour and 100g water, stir it up, and leave it on the counter for 1 hour before putting it in the fridge.


When I am ready to bake, I just take it out and build my levain.  Heres what I have learned:


My kitchen temp is anywhere from 75F to 82F.


Rye sours using the following combination will be ripe and ready in approx 20-24hrs:


100g Rye


80g Water


5g Sourdough storage starter


Liquid Levain @ 100% hydration as follows will be ready in approx 12-16 hrs:


100g AP


100g Water


20g Sourdough storage starter


Liquid Levain @ 100% hydration as follows will be ready in approx 4 hours:


150g AP


200g Water


100g Sourdough storage starter


Stiff Levain @ 68% hydration as follows will be ready in about 6 hours:


100g AP


68g Water


50g Sourdough storage starter


Also, if you want your bulk ferment to be 2 hours, and your final proof also to be 2 hours, your final stiff levain weight needs to weigh 50% of the total flour in the recipe.  So if your recipe contains 1000g of flour, your levain weight needs to be approx 500g.


Not sure if this is totally confusing or helpful in anyway, but this is what has worked for me.


Tim


 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Tim! that sure helps.. thank you very much..


Its the 12-16 hours part that i have to sort out... 11? 12? 13? i'll try something today.


Thanks again!!


khalid

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Khalid,


You may want to add more of your storage starter when building your levain to get it going faster.  Hamelman uses 20% storage starter for his liquid levains that ripen in 12-16hrs.  You may want to try 30% of 40% and see what that does...  Making your liquid starter more liquidy may get it going faster too.  125% to 200% hydration, but as it gets more liquid, you will have to watch your levain more carefully...


Tim

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks Tim! oh No, no increase in hydration of the starter, i don't want to run the risk of over fermentation while iam away at work.


All i need is consistent results inorder to bake pure SD more frequently


Thank you tim!

Brot Backer's picture
Brot Backer

Go on amazon and buy some PH strips that read from 0-6 or so and test your starter. PH is a big factor in the balance of yeast to bacteria and if it becomes to low (acidic) it can severely limit yeasts ability for anaerobic respiration (producing CO2). You're looking for a PH higher than 3.5 for the timeframe you want.

A low PH leads to leaden loaves in many ways; not only does it slow yeast activity but starts to kill them as well and at the same time it begins to denature the protein causing a loss in the doughs gas holding ability, lastly the enzymes that help break starch into simple glucose are also denatured.

arlo's picture
arlo

I noticed you said 'it doubled' in your original post Khalid. Are you using the liquid levain as soon as it reaches the double mark? Because I always have my sour double in size then let it sit for about an hour later. At this point there are lots of bubbles on top, as Hamelman states is what should be seen in a ripe liquid levain.


I don't know what is appropriate or not, but when my does have a nice bubbly top, it seems to have receded some from the double mark and have a nice smell to it. Off the point, but curious.


As far as timing goes, I typically can only bake on my days off so I do my build the night before after work and school are done. I use about 70 degree water so even if I sleep in till 5 or 6 am, I know my starter won't be over ripened.


If I do have to bake on a day I have work, I typically use a lower amount of starter in the build and a bit colder water than normal. My apartment temperature fluctuates too much to really find the DDT for the sour.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, Bror Backer.. I may give it a shot.... when iam desperate that is!

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks Arlo,


But the liquid levain iam refering to is not sour, nor Rye, its just wildyeast poolish of White flour, Ripe starter and water, which takes significantly longer to ferment than Rye based preferments.


But thanks for info, i appreciate it.


khalid

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Liquid levains then to become "sour" tasting quicker...  While stiff levains remain "sweeter"? not sure if this is the correct word...  Rye sours need to actually sour, or else they will not have the acidity to stabilize the dough...  At least in predominately rye flour doughs...

arlo's picture
arlo

I understand, and I called it sour just because that's what popped into my head. I've heard chef, levain, starter, sour....

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, Arlo. I misunderstood.


khalid

arlo's picture
arlo

Have you thought about adding a touch of salt, or very small percentage to the levain to help delay it a bit. I know Hamelman mentions this in Bread.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I've tried Salt once, and have had dissapointing results: the levain took for ever to rise (got to figure out how much salt is required).


This thing takes practice, i'll work on it. But thanks, Arlo for the info.


khalid

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Salting the levain I believe is only recommended by Hamelman for rye sours that you plan to leave out for longer than 24hrs...  Also you can salt the liquid or stiff levain if the ambient temperature is warmer than usual.  I prefer not to salt the levains and just put them in the refrigerator after mixing and leaving them out for 1 hour.  Then you can hold them there for 24-72 hrs depending on the activity...

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Nice Tip, Tim!


Thanks alot!


 

meab's picture
meab

Hello Bread Experts,

     I feed my starter once a day. It looks healthy and has around a 24 hour life span (start level, maximum level, and re-feed level.)  At what stage of the starter's daily life is the best time to make levian? Some say it does not matter , but maybe it matters a little. I am trying to keep my sourdough less "vinegary" I don't mind feeding starter 2 or 3 times a day before baking. I use bread flour and whole wheat, following the Chad Robertson recipe.  I have had some successes but I need to improve. I mail my bread USPS Priority mail to my Dad and it stays fresh a long time.

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Hi, meab

For optimal rising, prepare your lebain from a starter that has just receded (on the borderline between maximum level and re-feed level). Doing so will result in a bread that has less vinegary flavors to begin with.

Khalid

meab's picture
meab

Sorry I posted in the wrong area.