The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

levain? or starter? help me understand the terms

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

levain? or starter? help me understand the terms

I bake every day.  I do keep a backup of my starters in the fridge but the starter I bake with stays out in my cold kitchen (60F during the day and 50F at night usually).  Each day I take out 100g and bake with it and I feed it 50g flour and 50g water (feed it just once a day when it's this cool).   

So should I call the 100 grams I use in my 1-2-3 bread a "levain" or "starter"? (or something else?).

 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Lots of terminology and everyone has their own way of understanding it. 

I understand a starter as a seed and a Levain as an off-shoot starter made from the seed and goes into the dough. 

From what you describe I would call that a starter. 

I think what is confusing is that the levain becomes a starter in the dough. 

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

the same way that Lechem does. 

But the reason I responded was to ask how the heck can you stand living in such a cold house??? Here if it gets to 69-70F in the house, I am freezing!!!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

cold snap, It got down to 63 F in the house and we finally turned on the heat, started wearing long pants and socks.  But it was only a 2 day affair and now  it is back to 71 F today ,shorts and sandals like normal.  Only in the 60's this coming week though..... Winter 60's is not right - it should be at least 70 F or I am moving to Canada for the summer:-)

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

I wear sweaters and thick socks - and I have some large windows that face the sunny side so I can hang out in the sunny areas until late afternoon.     I keep active so I don't mind the cold - but if I were to sit down to read or watch a movie I'd wrap up in a blanket and still wear thick socks and sweaters.       If family comes to visit, then I have to turn on the furnace - but when it's just me I dress in layers.

 

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I have two duvets on the bed plus three cats to keep me warm and that is with the thermostat set at 73! You must be hot! I mean hot blooded! Hum.... this isn’t coming across right... better stop while I am ahead... I think!  ;-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and levain is what you build to make bread from a bit of starter..... and levain goes into the dough flour and starter doesn't.    Levain means Sourdough.  So Pane au Levain is sourdough bread but starter and levain are also technically also sourdough....Jeeze -  We butcher the French way worse than the Canadians do for sure and really confuse things unnecessarily.  At least the Italians call their starter 'Mother 'so we know what they are talking about.  Plus they taught the French everything they know about bread too - well maybe not all ....:-)

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

So based on your description, I'd say what I'm using is a "perpetual levain".  I just hold back a tablespoon of today's levain when I bake and build it up again for tomorrow's bake.   

I'm not sure how that is different than if I used all of the levain in todays bake and then grabbed a tablespoon from the seed in the fridge and built another levain for tomorrow.

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

It is typical to also do what you do, that is to build a levain from a starter (1, 2 or 3 stages of build).  Making more than will be used in the final dough mix.  That little overage then becomes tonight's starter for tomorrow's mix.  Mr. Hamelman's book Bread is filled with page after page of this technique. 

Yes, it was built last night and lopped off of the levain that you used today to do your final mix.  But as soon as you use it, that lopped off piece, for tonight's build of tomorrow's levain, it is no longer (un)officially a levain, it is back to being a starter again.

For the sake of a consistent nomenclature in this reply:

The starter is used to build the levain.  The levain is used as the leavening agent added to the Final Dough.  Regardless of what is left over from the leavening agent used in the final mix, if you then start the next set of builds, the active agent is a starter.  It is irrelevant as to how it came into this world.

Sufficiently corn-fused yet?

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

So my original question (back in the first post of this thread - unless I'm mis-remembering what I asked) ... was if the 100 grams of bubbling sourdough that I add to my dough should be called starter or levain.   (and the reason I am asking is if I want to share my recipe)

If I am understanding what you just told me - then the 100 grams I add to the dough is the levain and the little bit left behind that I build up for tomorrow is starter (but tomorrow it will be levain when I'm scooping out 100 grams of it for my bake).  

Or am I just completely missing the boat here?

alfanso's picture
alfanso

exacto apunto correctamente aye sí ...

if you were to take a piece of the total dough, already mixed and fermented. If you take that and use it tonight to create tomorrow’s levain, it would be the starter. Motor oil used tonight to build tomorrow‘s levain would also be the starter, although I don’t recommend it. 

Arjon's picture
Arjon

The mother is the long-term one. Production starter aka levain is the starter that I first build up from part of the mother, then mix into the dough. 

Of course, it's not quite that binary since, for example, I often mix part of my mother straight into a dough without building it up. I don't do it any more, but I've also used all of my mother to build up a bit more levain than I'm going to use, taking the extra off before the levain peaks. This is the mother for next time.