The Fresh Loaf

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Help! Hamelman's Stiff Levain

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meshugaforbread's picture
meshugaforbread

Help! Hamelman's Stiff Levain

Hi Fresh Loaf Loyalist.

I'm very excited to be making my first post. I've been reading for the past year. I am new to the bread world and am currently attempting my first levain. I've made poolishe's, biga's etc... but never a levain and I'm having a lot of trouble.

I just finished the intial mix and its so dry. I know its bad to add extra water but I thought b/c i didn't weigh it perhaps there was too much flour from my rye as it could have been a heavier flour. This didn't help. Is it suppoed to be this dry?

Also, I am confused about the feed. Hamelman says to do the following:

On days 2, 3 4, & 5 do two feeds every 12 hours.

The measurements are :

1. 1/3 of the intial mix 300g

2. 1 cup of flour

3. 3/8 of a cup of water 

= the total being 10.9 oz (less than the weight of the initial mix which was 13.6 oz)

I'm confused. Do I toss the rest of the intial mix? Why am I only using 1/3 of it and do I do every feed? Keep removing and adding. It doesn't make sense. I feel like I'm reading this wrong. Please help!!!

 

Thanks

Jackie

grain.water.yeast's picture
grain.water.yeast

Hi Jackie,

I haven't read Hamelman but this sounds the usual process for a natural starter.  I usually make a thin starter (equal parts flour & water by weight) but there are uses for a stiff starter as well.  Yes, you throw out 2/3 of the starter each time you feed it.  This gives the living organism that is your starter fresh food, water and air.  


So why not keep all of the old starter and just add more water and flour?  Glad you asked.  Too many mouths to feed - you have to "thin the herd".  If you don't throw out part of the old each time soon there would be so much yeast and bacteria working that they would go through the fresh food and water before they had time to grow and develop.  If you think this is wasteful, well, maybe it is, but it is only until you get the starter going.  Then you can refrigerate or dry your starter.  Or make bread everyday, then there is no waste.
Cheers,Mike

 

meshugaforbread's picture
meshugaforbread

Hi Mike

Thanks so much. It now makes a lot more sense. Hamelman's book is amazing and so detailed but I guess he's assuming I'm more professional than I claim to be and would know that you have to toss part of the herd. I hate wasting but I see the logic.

Another question: His measurement for the initial mix was no 50/50 which I'm used to for a lot of my started. It was 1 cup of rye flour, 1 cup of strong white flour and 3/4 a cup of water which made my stiff starter very dry. maybe thats why they call it stiff...b/c this morning it's looking liek a stiff lump. I'm sure i'll see more happen once I start deviiding. Just want to make sure thats okay?

Also, it's a 6 day feed. Does that mean I keep it out on the counter for six days or once I get to the two feeds a day (every 12 hours) do I refrigerate? Also what's the best technique for refrigerating. Do I keep it in a bowl or jar or wrap it in plastic?

Thanks Mike. You're amazing!

J

grain.water.yeast's picture
grain.water.yeast

Hi Jackie,

Yes you need to keep the starter warm for the 6 day initial start (or longer).  Once your starter is a thriving yeast community, you can refridgerate it.  It will need to be in a covered jar, dish, glass, etc.  I don't like putting a tight lid on it because it is still growing, and pressure can build up.  It is growing more slowly in the fridge which is why you can feed it less often.  It is usually recommended - and I always do - bring the starter up to room temp and feed it at least one before you make your bread with it.

As for how stiff is too stiff I am sorry but I don't know.  I have only initialy made my starters thin, then when I wanted a stiff starter I convert it by adding twice as much flour as water (by weight) when I feed it.  Also, I can't speak to the cup measure, as I prefer to use a scale and weigh my ingredients.  Several years ago I moved to a new country and I was shocked to learn they used a different size cup measure then I had previously used.  Since then I have been a 100% scale person.  You can probably find a good digital kitchen scale at a local discount store for a few dollars (Yen, Euro, Peso, Pound... ;~)

Sorry I couldn't answer all your question.  Good luck with it all and happy baking.  Let me know how your bread turns out.

Mike

 

meshugaforbread's picture
meshugaforbread

Hi Mike,

The bread turned out great and lasted all week. Served it to some friends on new Years and they loved it. Only thing I found was that the crumb was pretty tight for such a wet dough. I gave it all the proper proofing and bench time but I imagine it has to do with my oven.

Since last Saturday, I refrigerated my levain. I haven't feeded it since, since I didn't read anythign about that. How do I keep my leavin or any sour dough for that matter alive over the course of it's hopefuly long life. I know that when I want to use it I take it out over two days and give it the usual feedings (is this right?) but I'm motr concerned with when I'm not using it and keeping it in my fridge. How do I keep these alive? Can I just leave them until I use it again?

 

Thanks

J