The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What other doughs/breads can I raise with my liquid levain?

BusterBaker's picture

What other doughs/breads can I raise with my liquid levain?

        I've been using my home-cultured liquid levain to raise some boules with good results. 

The levain is feed with white flour only.

I followed Leader's directions in Local Breads to get it going.   He mentions that this levain can be used to raise "other breads in this chapter".

Can I use it to raise any dough?   Do recipes using flour, other than white for the main component, need a starter made from different ingredients?

Maybe I can sum my question up in a nut shell:    Why is more than one type of levain/starter used by bread bakers?

pmccool's picture

I'll make some guesses, although that is all they are.

1. Baker's preference.  A particular levain, or group of levains, may provide the leavening and flavor characteristics that the baker desires for the finished bread.

2. Like levains and breads (rye/rye, white/baguette, etc.) mean that the microflora already inhabiting the levain are accustomed to the flours that are predominant in the formula.  Thus, no adjustment period for the bacteria and yeasts in the levain when they are mixed with the rest of the flour in the dough.

You can use virtually any levain for any formula calling for levain.  Using a rye levain for your baguettes will leave traces of rye in the finished baguette, which is not tres chic (but will taste very good).  It's your bread, you can build it as you please.  It will not be precisely what the formula developer envisioned but there's no way you can exactly duplicate the ingredients and conditions that s/he used, anyway.  


jcking's picture

Read a little further in your book and Leader will tell you how to convert your liquid levain into to a stiff levain that may be used in other bread formulas.


clazar123's picture

I guess I'm not a purist and actually I didn't realize until recently that a lot of people match their levain flour to the bread they make with it (rye levain for rye bread,etc).I use AP flour simply because of the cost and availability. It works great for my whole wheat breads,french breads,and sweet breads. For rye I have used my AP starter some of the time and some of the time made a rye poolish with the Ap starter and rye flour for a rye loaf.

Do what works for you!

BusterBaker's picture

     Cultivating levains and choosing what doughs to use them in, are variables I can vary to influence the final product.    Got it!  I feel more confident knowing  my choices will make my breads unique & not wrong.  

      I'm relatively new to the bread baking scene.    I think I've focused too much on immitation instead of creation.   I imagine its like many other disciplines:   A good knowledge of the fundamentals lets one think on their own and outside of conformity.  Thanks for shedding some light on this for me.   




Yumarama's picture

There are some bakers who maintain several starters meant for specific types of bread. Many - and I'd venture the vast majority of - home bakers keep to just one and build it out to suit an upcoming bread. It's just a heck of a lot simpler to keep things simple. And then some bakers have starters from different sources & places which gives different flavours and result.

It's entirely up to each one which works best for their situation. There is no "wrong" way.

I asked Jeffrey Hamelman about keeping various starters recently. He told me that he  keeps just two: a liquid white at 125% that's about 12 years old and a stiff rye that's a tad over 30 years. These are all he uses to pump out all his bakery's products; the rye for rye breads, the white for everything else. They convert the liquid to stiff or whole wheat as needed.

Jeffery says that for the home baker, there's little point of keeping more than one:

Small adjustments in flour or water will compensate at the time of the build so that levain consistency is correct. And if one maintains just a liquid or a firm white culture, he or she can easily give a couple of meals of rye flour in advance of making rye bread--that will suffice; there's no need for occasional rye bakers to perpetuate a rye culture. 

You can read the more detailed email exchange here. 

And to your first question, there are TONS of different breads that can be made with sourdough culture, some of them not in the least bit sour. Most any commercial yeast recipe can be converted to sourdough. You primarily need to adjust your times (it's a fair bit slower than the fast commercial yeast) and of course compensate for the flour and water from the starter. There's info on these boards on how to convert dried yeast recipes to sourdough.

Happy baking,



sam's picture

Nice.  :)

I could be totally wrong, but from my interpretation of Hamelman's book, it seems he prefers the 125% liquids in order to prefer the yeast/leavening potential for non-rye breads..

Then keeps the stiff rye cultures to prefer the acidity content, in order to prevent the "starch attack" of rye's...    I don't have any direct experience in that ...  but that's what I gather..

One starter to prefer the yeast potential, one starter to prefer the acidity potential, for two different reasons..

I guess?

Edited to add:  I believe Hamelman entirely about "starch attack" and acidity, no doubt at all -- I have just never made a rye bread before...  :-)