The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Problems with spelt and stiff levain

Blacksilk Helen's picture
Blacksilk Helen

Problems with spelt and stiff levain

For several years now I have been baking successfully with a stiff whole wheat levain that I feed twice daily.  Recently though, my doughs have lost strength toward the end of fermentation and become unmanageable.  I have tried different preferment times, temps and percentages but more often than not the doughs always end up weak, slack and soupy.

I have made some excellent slow fermented breads in the past using this same stiff levain and procedures mentioned above.  If anyone can shed light on this issue I'd appreciate it, I'm going crazy!

Additional note, two days ago I started using spelt instead of whole wheat.  The doughs are having the same problems, with one change.  I notice bubbles in the top of the dough at the end of bulk fermentation.  What could this indicate?

Thanks to all.


108 breads's picture
108 breads

Bubbles mean fermentation, which is good. Have you upped the hydration percentage in your doughs? Was the seasonal room temperature higher so that the first rise took less time than usual? That happened to me in the summer and I had to adjust the starter amounts considerably.

When I had a lackluster starter, I fed it with white all-purpose flour for a few months and it became more lively. Whole wheat did not work as well.

dabrownman's picture

of your stiff starter to 100% and feed it some rye.  Keep it in the counter until it can double it 6 hours after feeding.  Then stiffen it up again and put it in the fridge - why feed it twice a day?.  I do this now and again even if the starter is performing great.  I think starters like to be pampered now and again - now worries.

Blacksilk Helen's picture
Blacksilk Helen

Dabrownman, do you mean keep the hydration permanently at 100% or is that a temporary measure?  One other consideration is that my starter is very active - within the 12 hours between feedings, it ferments so much that it smells very acetic.  I wonder if it is actually overripe.  As far as feeding it every day, is there any reason to not do this?