The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

quick survey of your habits

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

quick survey of your habits

Hamelman, Reinhart, Forkish, Robertson and others all have different recommendations for levain building, often these are different from recipe to recipe. When you say on this site, "Oh, I baked Forkish's Country Blond" or "I made a Tartine Country loaf" do you generally mean that you followed his recipe starting with the mix, or that you also built the levain according to the recipe's instructions?

I ask because I have my own schedule and I do tend to blur the lines between refreshed starter and levain. So when I say "I made x", I generally mean that I followed the recipe at the start of mixing and used my own personal levain construct that suits my schedule. Naturally, the care and treatment of the levain will have some effect on the final flavor (as does starter maintenance), but I wonder how particular people are about this when using labels and claiming to have made X bread.

Cause, you know, I'm not really making "X" bread. My microbes, times, temperatures and flour varies at the VERY least. For that reason, I tend to be pretty loosey goosey about my labels. I'm sure I'm not alone in this but I wonder how far afield we really are in claiming to have made a certain loaf.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Been a while! 

It depends. If I'm following a recipe I'd generally follow the levain build. If I change anything it's usually the hydration of the final dough and/or timing since it's usually at this stage one needs to watch the dough and not the clock.

When I'm following some recipe with a crazy levain build I'll build the correct amount to use in the dough but follow the same ratio. 

Sometimes if need be for reasons like scheduling I might skip the recommended levain build and as long as I have the correct amount, mature and ready to go then all's good! 

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

By the way, Abe the starter is alive and doing fine.

I tend to bake in spurts. That's the trouble with a demanding kiddo. I'm jumping back in because my husband and I are traveling to Portland next weekend. Naturally, that got me all riled up and looking at my Forkish books. We're going to try to make a trip to his bakery and pizzeria.

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

aside from using the crazy amounts Forkish called for, but now, how I get there is a work in progress. I used to do 4 builds, with small feeding amounts but the last couple of weeks, I have been doing two builds with larger amounts (the first one is all bran) and a longer rising period with stirring in between feeds. Have I noticed much of a difference? Well not in bulk proofing times. It still takes 5 hours for the dough to almost double. I got nice oven spring and crumb last week, we will see this week but then again, this is a different recipe so one can’t really compare. I just like not have to babysit the levain. 

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

When I started making sourdough I would fuss and stress about my starter's feeding schedule and treated it like a moody toddler answering every hungry urge! Now I'm much more neglectful. I have a super strong starter that more often than not gets fed on an unhealthy feeding schedule (every few weeks to feed the base jar) and yet, when i pull it out for a build it roars back to life very quickly. I'll usually start a 12 hour feed schedule Thursday morning for a saturday morning bake. But am now pushing that to Thursday night and I might next go to Friday morning (meaning feed on Friday morning, then Friday night, then use saturday morning or maybe feed one more time Saturday morning for saturday afternoon's use if I need to push back my bake). It's just so active. I'm thinking of moving it to Friday morning feeds because however small I start my builds I always end up with too much starter.  So It think all this depends on how strong your starter is. As to hydration I keep it simple at 100% and through experiment I've found it to be hyper active with regular unbleached AP flour over bread flour for some reason. Oh, and I should say that I feed it 1:4:4 given how active it is - that easily gives me a triple within 12 hours when left in a warm cupboard in my kitchen. Short of a recipe calling for a particular flour in the levain, this seems to work. Hope that helps!

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

You have said exactly what it has taken me a year to learn. I was having so much difficulty with my starter. I was so anal retentive about it and it was not giving me good results.  I mean...I had its schedule locked down to the gram and the minute. I had researched so much on exactly how to maximize volume and was following all the rules.

Eventually, and through a lot of counseling here, I just tossed it and received the gift of a tried and true starter in the mail. Holy moly. What a difference. I can be so whatever about this one and it gives great results.

You said it! It really depends on how strong your starter is. Well, my home-grown one wasn't strong. No amount of nurturing was improving it. It was a dud. It wasn't because I was a bad starter parent, it was just a dud.

I think starter creation is a worthwhile process. But there is no guarantee that it's going to work and not all starters are equal.

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

Sometimes good sourdough parents can have bad starter kids.. it's true! Charlie (not my first) was born in July of 2015 mid way through baking forkish's book... https://flourwatersaltyeast.wordpress.com/page/2/?order=asc (scroll down and you'll find the ultrasound of him in the jar).. he wasn't always as vibrant as he is now.. but he came around.. he just needed a bit of tough love.. in the end, it all works out! Glad I could help! 

gwschenk's picture
gwschenk

Another educational thread. It's informative for me to read how different people treat their different starters. It's all giving me some confidence.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

Take the starter survey and see the results.  What it taught me is there is no right way to do it and lots of people get great results with different methods.

 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScNM5bq8-geEOhlR6e2dgotwlZMpPBwM7qfsU9648JEvdCMbQ/viewform

alfanso's picture
alfanso

in the sense that I rarely follow any standard build routine.  Kinda do what I want.  I typically keep 2 / 3 standard levains:

  1. 60 - one similar to dabrownmans' at ~60% hydration.  I rarely use it, mostly just refresh it every 4-6 months, but just for fealty and old-time's sake I keep it around buried in the depths of the refrigerator.  
  2. 75 - My standard levain is a 75% mixed flour which I refresh every 5-6 weeks, kinda, and will use this with or without a single build, as the mood fits.  
  3. 125 - Since buying Mr. Hamelman's Bread book, I've started keeping his 125% hydration as a rye levain around, and refreshed every 2-3 weeks.  And same as the 75%'er, do a single build or use right out of the refrigerator depending on "freshness" and amount use with or without a build.

I find that for the most part, at least for me, it just doesn't matter.  Can't lose sleep over a levain build going south or a bake that might not be perfect.  Things always seem to work out just fine.

Now, if I had a shop and baked professionally, that would necessitate and entail a much stricter regimen.  But I'm not and so it doesn't.  I'm guessing that this somewhat answers your question.

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

good to know!