The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain maintaining and using in Ken Forkish's "Flour Water Salt Yeast".

NanusT's picture

Levain maintaining and using in Ken Forkish's "Flour Water Salt Yeast".

Right now I'm holding a 100% hydration and white levain, I thought maybe to change to his method, can anyone hand some impressions?

Also I'm bit confused with his methods. I'm talking about the section about sorting and restoring the levain.

First of all, after I take the levain out of the refrigerator and give it the first feed, in the first instruction he state to leave it overnight, which I understand as 8-12 hours. One page after that he gives an example of schedule where he leaves it for 24 hours. What is the right way to do it?

Secondly, he states that the portion I want to save for future use is taken from the ripe levain after the second feed which seems pretty odd to me (I'm used to put it back in the refrigerator after I have fed it and before it gets ripen). Can anyone back him up?

Thirdly, in all of his levain bread recipes he calls to use a levain which was fed 24 hours before (for feeding the levain which will be used for the final dough). Does this instruction intend only to people who feed their levain on a daily basis? If so I again don’t understand the logic behind that (from my little experience with levains after 24 hours from the last feeding the levain will be like a soup).


Thanks a lot


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Tal.

I have been baking breads and pizza from Forkish's book for the past couple months. I find his timings for fermentation of both levains and final doughs way too long. The only solution is to either change the formula, for instance by using proportionately less levain, lower the dough temperature or decrease the time. Hmmm ... You could also add salt to the levain to slow it down, I suppose.

I also agree with you regarding storing starter. What Forkish recommends (using fully fermented starter for storage) just doesn't make sense, if you are "storing" the starter for more than 1 or 2 days before feeding it again. I have kept some of his levain for a couple of days, then used it to build up a levain to make bread. That did work. 

Granted, what Forkish prescribes might work. You will probably end up after a month with a starter that can be brought back to life. But it certainly won't be as healthy as a starter fed at 50% hydration and refrigerated directly after a feeding. 


hanseata's picture

I baked my way through almost all of Forkish's breads, with wonderful results - the Overnight Blondie being my absolute favorite - and trying variations with other grains. I like his minimalistic method, but I don't like his starter maintenance procedures.

Those seem more appropriate for a large scale bakery than for a home baker. I hate the idea of making large amounts of levain, only to trash 90% of it every time you feed it. I keep my levain in the fridge, down scaled the amount I keep, and, also mix only enough fresh levain for my planned loaf.

When I plan to bake a bread (my next project is an Overnight Brown variation with einkorn) I refresh the stored levain two days ahead. Works like a charm, even if the mother levain is a week old or older.

Whether a bread made with a daily fed levain would taste better? I think the taste of my loaves is unbeatable, they are not overly acidic, and I'm so pleased with them, that I'm still at it (and only strayed to make Dan Lepard's Pumpkin Whey Bread yesterday.)



228_BREAD's picture

in the end which method did you go for? I'm currently in the middle of the same problem.

did you scale down your mother? and feed it just before putting it in the refrigerator?  

the way I'm reading it is if i refrigerate 300g of my mature levain and then refresh 100g portions at a time, my levain is going to be gone in 3 bakes? and i want to keep her going!