The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help adapt formula for use with levain

Scott Grocer's picture
Scott Grocer

Help adapt formula for use with levain

I've got a formula for a nice American style pizza dough that rises in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours, but I was thinking about swapping the instant dry yeast and long ferment for a levain so I could do silly stuff like make same day sub rolls or maybe even soft dinner rolls. Mostly I just wanted something to experiment with.

The problem is that I just can't seem to grasp how to adapt the formula. I was thinking about plugging say, 20% Biga (100% flour, 60% water, 0.2% yeast) into the following formula in place of the IDY:

AP Flour 100%
Water 60%
Honey 3%
Oil 2.8%
Sugar 2%
Salt 1.65%
IDY 0.40%

I've spent the afternoon playing with the Levain section of Dolf's incredible dough calculator spreadsheet from , but I'm still where I started: confused. If anybody could offer some tips about how to do it, I'd be really grateful.

I hope this isn't too obvious a question,


cranbo's picture

I'd say go for it!

20% biga will increase your hydration though, especially if it is a 100% hydrated biga. Consider dialing back your hydration. I'll get you a formula in a second.

Also, I don't know how active/regular your levain is, but of course it will change your overall rise times, possibly substantially. 

Not to mention as you know, the biga will give great elasticity to the dough, whether you like it or not. :)

Otherwise, just substitute away, 20% biga is a good substitution quantity. I've read that you typically don't want to go higher than about 25%. 

cranbo's picture

OK, let's assume these 3 things:


  1. straight dough hydration (i.e. dough without the biga) is 60%
  2. biga hydration is 100% (equal weights flour and water)
  3. 20% biga in your recipe in lieu of IDY


Then your overall hydration will be 63.6%

To calculate the overall hydration:

total water weight (biga + straight dough) / total flour weight (biga + straight dough)

EDIT: one more thing: if you want to maintain your original 60% overall hydration, reduce the hydration in your straight dough to 56% (assuming you keep your 100% hydrated biga at 20%)



Scott Grocer's picture
Scott Grocer

That helps a lot!