The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


PaulZ's picture


Hi all,

I regularly make sourdough for the local market.

I use Hamelman's "Bread" Vermont Sourdough formula as a basic for most of my breads. The suggested liquid levain build time is 12 - 16 hrs at 21C. This is also the suggested build and ferment time for many other sour dough formulae. What, if any, are the cons if one overshoots the build/ferment time of 16 hrs - say 20 or even 24 hrs? Does this weaken the strength or reduce the effectiveness? Can one retard a liquid levain build by placing in the fridge for a few hours and returning it to ambient room temp a few hours later? (The aforementioned assumes that one sticks to the suggested bulk ferment, scale and divide and final ferment times before the bake. Thanks to experts out there!!





longhorn's picture

A retard during the build is no problem. My personal sourdough doesn't particularly like retards and is slow to get going again but...with most levains I don't think you will have any signifcant impacts though you may have to experiment to get the same results. In general you will extend the proof time by a bit less than the retard time for the levain will develop during the period it is cool - just at a slower pace. And you may or may not get the equivalent growth in volume of the levain...

Let us know what you arrive at!

Good Luck!


wally's picture

The biggest danger of a levain that overripens is that its leavening power is spent, or at least considerably weakened, which is going to impact everything subsequent. If you suspect that because of scheduling conflicts or other issues you need your levain to go 20-24 hours you need to find a way to slow the fermentation. One method is to add a portion of the salt called for in the recipe to the starter. This will have the effect of slowing the growth of the starter. Good luck. Larry

vtsteve's picture

When the ripening levain falls, it's a sign that the protein is degrading due to protease activity. If you mix a dough with a levain that has overripened, it will be very slack relative to its hydration and will have poor fermentation tolerance - it'll be sticky, hard tension in shaping, etc.

Salting the levain when you build it inhibits protease activity, and extends the useful life. Salted or not, the sooner you get it into the fridge, the longer you can retard it - from a few hours (if it's already ripe), to days (if you fridge it earlier in the ripening process).