The Fresh Loaf

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looking for liquid levain pointers

freerk's picture

looking for liquid levain pointers

Hey Guys,

All of the starters I'm keeping are doing fine. I have some nice whole wheat going, some rye, and my every day sourdough starter. All of them are kept at a 100%, except for a bit in the fridge of my "daily" SD, that I keep in a more solid state for emergencies (=when i forget to feed )

My liquid levain is a different story though....

I'm using Daniel Leader's way of going about business, as described in his book Local Breads.

It's built up on 60% with 50-50 rye and AP flour and kept at 130%, fed with AP flour and spring water.

When I get it going I find it the best tasting sourdough ever with the organic flour that I am using. It works especially well in sourdough croissants.

But I'm failing more than succeeding with this high maintenance starter. And the bottle neck is in the early development of the wild yeast, or so it seems. It doesn't do any of the things all my other starters do (unless I'm lucky).

Can any one of my trusted TFL friends point me in a direction to a possible solution?

I've tried a test with both bottled water and tap water, and they both didn't come alive, so my theory that the bottled water is the culprit went down the drain.

I've tried different rye flours, found one that worked really well, or so I thought, but the same flour is now failing to produce "life".

I could do the pine apple thing in the start up phase, but I'm not sure how/if it would affect the taste. My daily SD is built with the help of the pine apple method. Would there be a significant difference in taste if i would try this approach (that is actually always working with me?)  The times I get the liquid levain going, I love the subtle, but intense and complex tang it produces. My daily SD is very nice, but doesn't have that "velvety" quality to it, that's why I haven't tried building a liquid levain with the help of the pine apple method yet. Any one have any experiences with this?

Maybe some of you have a method of developing a liquid levain that always works and that I don't know about yet! I'm constantly on the browse, also here on TFL, but I do miss some of them very useful posts. Please, feel free to point me towards my liquid levain liberation :-)

Thank you for reading and taking the time to help!



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
freerk's picture

thanks! and have a wonderful time!

RobynNZ's picture

Goodmorning Freerk

Have you tried simply adjusting the hydration of your build-up levain to see what happens?

In an email from Jeffrey Hamelman to the Mellow Bakers group he covers this topic. If you have his book 'Bread' the paragraph in blue on page 362 shows calculation for culture conversion, albiet from liquid to firm . And of course his method for preparing a liquid starter at 125%, is also in his book.

No doubt you are wanting to achieve different flora balance in your various starter cultures. I adjust hydration (and flour ratios) when I prepare the levain build, depending on the bread I'm making, and often wonder what happens, depending on that hydration level/flour mix, to the flora balance in the 12 or so hour period the levain is 'brewing', and consequently during dough fermentation, but I am happy with the outcome and so haven't experimented. I store my starter on the counter and found liquid ones to be too 'high maintenance', and so keep a 60% firm white storage starter. It isn't purist but I use it from time to time to seed a rye starter too. 

If you really want to maintain a separate starter, I'd be inclined to convert some of your regular reliable PJ storage starter, by feeding it at higher hydration for a few cycles and see what that does to the taste of the resulting bread and at the same time seeing how you get on maintaining this storage starter at higher hydration. 

It'll be interesting to hear what works best for you.

Cheers, Robyn

freerk's picture

Hey Robyn!


Aha! Here is the original post you are talking about in ur mail :-)

Sorry for the late response, but busy busy busy here :-)

Yes, I have considered, and on occasion did convert my 100% starter, but find it doesn't taste the same. My every day use starter is going for a while and is pretty stable and resistent to my lazy feeding habits.

The more liquid levains (125) are indeed always tricky to maintain, and the taste I really like I have never managed to keep for more than a week or so.

I have no scientific back up for this (I'm pretty much a "dicover and learn" baker), but I suspect that I  like the taste of the freshly developed yeast, before the chemical processes going on in there have "stabilized".  I love its subtle but intense and lingering tang, especially in croissants.

I will most certainly give the Hamelman way of going about business a try!

The bizarre thing is that 6 out of 10 times nothing is happening in the first 48 hours, even though all the other starters are huffing and puffing on the same flour and water. That I really don't understand! It must be a hydration thing. I have sometimes kept trying to get it going for up to 10 days or so, to no avail. Or maybe extreme bad luck :-)

Thank you for the pointers, and I realize what I really need to do is a little brush up on the subject of starters :-)

Thanks again!



freerk's picture

Happy to announce that with the help of a very nice whole wheat rye, my liquid levain is now happily farting and belching away like there is no tomorrow... And that after less than 48 hours! I'm putting down my money on the rye flour. In the last few failed attempts I have used a biological rye that was very hard to maintain, although very much "alive" (maybe too much so...) with quite a punch to it (smelling it was like putting your nose in a haystack, literally). This WW rye seems a bit milder and responds the way I expect a rye to respond; fast and easy! 3 more days of cultivating and then it will be time for Erik Kayser's sourdough croissants, the best around, as far as I'm concerned! Hope I keep this baby alive until the 31st!

Have a wonderful time every one

Freerk (click, if you haven't already!)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Dhull100 keeps a liquid starter
maybe get together on the subject?