The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


jferrari's picture


How should levain be stored?  Refrigerated or at room temp?

I have been storing mine in the refrigerator, feeding it every day.  I've tried using it as the sole leavening agent but the bread did not rise properly in the allotted time.  I used the levain directly from the refrigerator.  Should I have allowed it to come to room temperature first? 


dabrownman's picture

starter 66% hydration in the fridge adn always take a small mout 10-2- g and do a 3 stage build over 12 hour in the winter time to gdt it to 150-200 g to be ready to rise for a loaf of bread of 1,000 t0 1,500 g.

I feed it twice its weight in flour for the first feeding with an equal amount of water. .  If using 10 g of stiff starter it has 6g of flour a 4g of water so i would feed it 12 each of flour and water and let it sit for 2 hours making 34 g of levain.  Then I double the flour amount for 2nd build using 24 g of flour and water without throwing anything away making 82g of levain.  I would then let it sit and double about 4-5 hours,  The 3rd feeding I would double the amount of flour for the 3rd feeding again and use 48 g each of flour and water, without throwing anything away and let it double about 3-4 hours,  This makes a levain ready to go at its peak that is 130 g, perfect for a loaf of bread at 1,000 g.

Hope this helps

jferrari's picture

Thanks.  I'm very new at this.  I have a new book by Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in NC.  His signature bread is the best I've ever tasted and that includes breads I've had in France.  His book only instructs to mix the levain with water before kneading into the dough.  I believe what was missing is the technique you describe.  I'll give this a try.

mrfrost's picture

I keep my stiff(50%) starter(all bread flour) in the refrigerator and only feed it when I make bread. Although that's usually 1-2 times per week, I sometimes skip a week or more between feeding/baking.

Have not used any commercial yeast or any other type of leavening for going on two years now.

I always let it come to room temp for a couple or few hours(observing the rise). Then feed and put the storage amount(1.2 oz) back in the fridge. Then I usually ultimately build the starter I am using to bake with into a bubbling 100% consistency over 1 or two more feedings. Never any discards.

Always surprised and pleased with how well it raises.

I imagine you are over feeding and never giving the stater a chance to mature adequately.

Describe your process after removing from the refrigerator. At some stage you should be able to observe the rate of activity(doubling, tripling, within a reasonable time, etc) to determine that it's ready for baking.

jferrari's picture

See my reply to the prior response to my query.  I followed the instructions in the book and used the levain directly from the refrigerator.  The bread did rise, but the texture was very dense.

I currently feed it every day, discarding the excess as per the book, and put it back into the refrigerator.  Your comments and those on the prior reply indicate that feeding and allowing it to rise before using is the way to go.  It does make sense and I will try this.  




ElPanadero's picture

Storage of sourdough starter/levain, call it what you will, really depends on how often you intend to use it.  In a domestic situation, you might only want to make a loaf once a week,  in an Artisan Bakery they are making loads of loaves every day.  Either way the simple point to note is that when you want to use your levain, it wants to be out on the kitchen counter the night BEFORE you intend to use it and having had a good feed.  So in the morning it should be nice and lively.  The idea of using the fridge I believe is to slow down / retard the growing process so your levain can survive for longer periods without being fed.   In an Artisan Bakery the various starters they use, which typically would be one white starter, one rye starter, one spelt starter and maybe a wheat starter would never see the inside of a fridge.  After a morning's bake, the starters would be fed and just left out at room temperature ready for the next day's bake.

At home it's a much more difficult thing to manage and balance IMO.  We don't always know well in advance what we are going to want to bake or when.   In the past I have sometimes found it a terrrible waste of flour to keep feeding a decent quantity of starter on a weekly basis and not actually use it very often.  You're essentially expending valuable flour just to keep the thing alive . . .just in case.   On the flip side, if you just keep a tiny amount of starter and feed it weekly then when you DO decide you want to use it you have to be planning days ahead so that you build up the quantity and liveliness ready for that time.  Thing is I just don't plan my bakng that way at home.  I don't say on Saturday "Hmmm I think I will bake a sourdough boule this coming Thursday so I better get my starter bulked up!".   My baking is more spontaneous to be honest, I tend to decide there and then that I want to bake a loaf and set to it.   Only exception is if I am baking for friends or for a particular occasion that has a set date in which case I can plan ahead and use levain.   So for myself, I find it easier at home to use proper slow action baker's yeast which I can use to bake a loaf that day or to make a dough to leave overnight for more flavour etc.  I either use Easybake DCL or L'Hirondelle both of which are used by my local Artisan Bakeries.  I appreciate this is not levain/starter but I am not myself a commercial baker so endlessly maintaining a starter has always presented a problem for me.  It's just a waste of flour if you don't use it regularly.   Using a special slow acting yeast at home (rather than dried yeast or baker's yeast bought from supermarkets) allows much more flexibility for long proving and developing flavour.  GL.