The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do you know when the Levain is ready?

Bread Head's picture
Bread Head

How do you know when the Levain is ready?

I am confused of when is the optimal time to mix the levain in the dough.

I have been waiting till it doubles and starts to collapse, is that too long?

In the Tartine bread book the instructions say in the morning it will have increased by 20%, then use it, but to me that seems like its not ready and the optimum yeast numbers are not their yet?  Am I wrong?

Please share your thoughts and knowledge.........


tchism's picture

I usually go 8 to12 hours (just before a feeding)  but if its on the counter and has had a few feedings, I have found that mine will work at any point with the exception of just after feeding. I've never tried that.

wassisname's picture

There is no "wrong" way as long as the levain is working for you.  Different stages of fermentation will produce different characteristics in the finished bread, so do some experimenting.  The Tartine method uses a "young" levain because it is aiming for a bread that isn't markedly sour.  The more the levain ferments the more acidic it will be and that will transfer to the finished bread. 

My levain will very often sigh and collapse a bit before being added to the final dough, and many bakers would say that it is past it's optimum stage.  But, hey, I get to sleep in and the bread turns out great.  Happy baking!


CeciC's picture

From what Ive read, they will do a floating test to the levain, It is ready when it can float.