The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain or starter

gong's picture
gong

Levain or starter

Hi,

as far as I have understood levain is build by mixing starter with flour and water and leaving them for some hours.

And I have some questions:

  1. Does it add more flavor?
  2. Do you need an active starter for the levain? Can I use my starter straight from the refrigerator, so to make my levain at night, and use it next morning?
  3. What percentages do you use for making the levain? How much (%) starter, flour, water?
  4. And how much (%) levain do you need for the final recipe?

Thanks!

aroma's picture
aroma

... to take just 10g of my stiff rye culture and mix with enough flour to give a 20% preferment at 100% hydration.  I do this at night and leave it to ferment in the kitchen overnight.  In the morning, I just add the remaining flour and water, autolyse for an hour,  add salt during the stretch & folds, bulk ferment around 2 hours, shape and prove until about 85% proved.  Then bake to 90deg C internal. Simples!! And the results are superb.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in the levain and more in the winter - up to 20% sometimes.  The rest is also very familiar!

Lechem's picture
Lechem

...starter off-shoot. And the starter used in a Levain as your mother starter. This method allows one to keep a mother culture from which you take some off to build another [starter] - this is your Levain. One could just as easily feed the starter then take some off to use in the recipe.

Going down the Levain route allows one to manage a starter more effectively. It also enables one to keep the mother culture using one type of flour/s and at a specific hydration and at the same time build another starter, the Levain, with a different flour and to another hydration. Now it's easier to understand.

1. It depends on how you keep the mother culture and build the Levain.

2. Building a Levain is like feeding a starter. So you are in effect activating the starter from the fridge. 

3. It depends how much time you want, or have, for the Levain to mature. Recipes normally give these specifics. 

4. Depends how long you wish the final recipe to take and what results you're after.

So terminology like mother culture, starter, levain, pre-ferment are often interchangeable and it depends on how you keep and use your "starter". 

Weizenbrot's picture
Weizenbrot

...I have on several occasions used a mother starter straight out of the refrigerator to build an overnight levain. My mother starter is 100% whole rye at low hydration and is fed every few weeks on a haphazard timetable. 

For example, 3 evenings ago I made a levain of 30g starter right out of the fridge, 260g water, and 260g pumpernickel flour. It rose beautifully by next morning.

gong's picture
gong

I usually use 10% starter for a 12 hour fermentation. That is for 700g flour I use 70g starter at 100% hydration. If I was to make a levain could I mix 10g unfed starter from the fridge, with 30g water and 30g flour?

Or is 10g too much for the 70g levain?

Lechem's picture
Lechem

What's the difference between feeding your starter and taking off 70g to use in your bread or taking off 10g starter, feeding it 30g water + 30g flour, waiting for that to mature then using it in your bread?

A difference between a six and 2 threes.

Treat building a levain like feeding your starter. Your levain build will be 1:3:3. Just wait for it to mature then use.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

than the usual 10% prefermented flour.  70 g of starter at 100% hydration has 35 g of flour in it,  So you are really using 35/700 or 5% prefermented flour in the starter rather than the usual 10%.  I use 10% prefermented flour in the hot AZ summer when the kitchen is 86 F and twice that amount in the winter when iot is 68 F.  This small amount of starter will take along time to to ferment in a dough of that size and I can see why it would 12 hours on the counter.  Nothing wrong with that - slow is good when it comes to bread of all kinds,

Happy baking 

gong's picture
gong

If levain is like feeding a starter then yes as you said there is no difference in feeding the starter or making a levain.

I am trying to find a way (if there is any!) to reduce the discarding of the starter. I keep the starter in the fridge so when I put it out of the fridge, I wait for it to warm up and then I feed it 2 times with 12 hours interval so to become more active. So I have to discard some starter twice. I was hoping that with a levain, my starter would become more active with one feed only, but I guess it's the same.

So maybe the question should be how many feds does a 4 days unfed starter in the fridge needs to become active?

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Only keep a small amount of levain in the fridge. About 80-100g grams.

When it comes to baking take a little off and build a levain. If it's close to the original starter build then only one levain build might be necessary. If it's a been a while then do two builds if you think it needs it.

So all you'll do is take off 10g and feed it 30g water + 30g flour.

If you think it needs two builds then you can take off a bit lees and build up to 70g in two feeds. But if your original starter has only been in the fridge for 4 days since the last feed then one build should be fine.

When your starter, in the fridge, runs low then take it out and give it a feed. Allow it to bubble up by 1/3rd - 1/2 and return it to the fridge.

Find a balance of how often you bake and how much you need so that you never build up too much mother starter with a need to discard and it shouldn't be too long between feeds.

Don't go less than 1 tablespoon before feeding it again. Don't build too much that you find it takes too long to go through it and you need to incorporate a few builds to get it back up to strength.

You can also make your mother starter thicker (mine is 50% hydration with 80% bread flour + 20% whole rye) so that it can go for longer between feeds. Higher hydration starters can last for a while in the fridge but not as long as lower hydration starters.

It's all about finding what works for you.

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

before building the final levain for my dough and I don't discard anything. 

To clarify, I keep my 66% hydration starter in the fridge on a permanent basis. When I want to make bread, 24-36 hours before, I take 10 g from the jar and feed it 10 g rye and 10 g warm water. 12 hours or so later, I feed it 20 g rye and 20 g water. If there is time, I may repeat this with 40 g rye and 40 g water.

So for my final levain, I calculate how much more levain I need and divide that by 1.8 because I like working with an 80% hydration levain rather than 100%. That gives me the amount of flour I need. The water amount is the difference between the total amount and that if the flour. I also divide the flour amount by 5 to out in a fifth of rye and 4/5 of unbleached flour. 

Okay, that is fine for me but for you who is probably working with 100% hydration levain, When it comes to your final levain build, just figure out how much more levain you need and divide that by 2. That will give you the amount each of water and flour to get to your total. You could replace part of the flour with a whole grain as I find it gives the wee beasties a nice boost. 

And that is how you build a levain without throwing any flour away. Hope this helps!

gong's picture
gong

and how often do you feed the starter you have in the fridge?

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

which is probably 3-5 months. If it starts smelling too much of acetone, then I will feed it earlier than that otherwise I don't worry about it.