The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lievito Madre Starter Storage

albacore's picture
albacore

Lievito Madre Starter Storage

Having recently dabbled a little in making Italian style breads, I came across the stiff Italian starter called Lievito Madre.

It seems that this is correctly stored wrapped in cloth and tied with twine or submerged under water.

I'm just wondering why it is stored like this and whether there would be any advantage to store a "normal" stiff starter under water? (I don't really fancy using the bound cloth method!)

And is the water just water, or is there anything added?

Lance

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)
albacore's picture
albacore

Yes; I'm hoping he might be along soon!

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And I'm only taking an educated guess here but it's probably plain water and the purpose is to stop it from drying out. 

Hope Michael is along soon or drop him a message. 

Best of luck Lance and looking forward to seeing some Italian breads. 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Yes plain water.

Simply put these methods allow for the extending of fermentation whilst reducing the development of acidity. There is a lot to explain but I haven't time right now. Two exams tomorrow..

All the best
Michael

albacore's picture
albacore

Thanks Michael and good luck with the exams! I hope your wine SO2 analysis was fruitful!

If you ever get more time, I'd much appreciate your more in-depth explanation on the lievito storage.

Lance

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Hi Lance,

 

I now have some time to better answer your question.

 

These methods come from a time before refrigeration was commonplace. They allow the dough starter to be held or preserved for longer periods eg. overnight. The aim here is to slow fermentation and reduce the development of acidity or prevent souring.

 

The binding method is arguably the more effective of the two but personally I enjoy the simplicity of the in bath (bagno) method. Iginio Massari says the binding method is better suited to large scale production and he prefers it as it 'guarantees excellent results'.

 

It is important to note that these methods were developed independently in different areas. The in water-bath method is seen as more a north-west Italian technique and is often referred to as the "Medoto Piemontese".

 

I haven't read much on the history of the bound method but I think it has existed for a lot longer. It also has a place in the history of French baking I believe.

 

Now here's my understanding of how they work...

 

By binding the dough the CO2 that is produced is trapped within. CO2 is forced to dissolve into the water at greater concentrations with increasing pressure. This has the effect of reducing water activity (Aw) which is a fundamental parameter for microbial growth. Dissolved CO2 is carbonic acid, it is a little acidic and with additional pressure the pH also decreases. Fermentation is severely constricted as a result. Massari says that sugars are consumed more slowly. Whereas if the dough were not bound they would be consumed in half the time.

 

Additionally in this environment which being anaerobic favours a shift towards lactic acid production by LAB. This is good as lactic is the main driver of pH changes in dough fermentation and helps prevent souring in the final dough. This method really works very well and certainly lactic acid is greater versus the water-bath method. Lactic acid causes dough to have greater water absorption.

 

The in water-bath method works in a very different way but helps to achieve the same result. It is said that the acidity developed by the sourdough is lost to the water and since it is a connected effect the increase in dough strength is limited. Lactic acid production is significantly reduced with a favouring towards acetic. The dough takes much longer lower in pH and halts at 4.1 for a very long time. Whereas if not in water a lower pH will easily be achieved.

 

With both these methods the dough is preserved and is held off from souring like a typical sourdough starter would and doesn't breakdown so quickly and create off flavours.

 

Whichever method you choose each provide remarkable changes to the fermentation and are essential for the maintenance of a lievtio madre.

 

 

Regards,
Michael

albacore's picture
albacore

Thanks for the follow up Michael - interesting. I hope your exams went OK!

What hydration do you use for your submerged starter and can it be stored this way in the fridge? Also is the method only suitable for white flour starters or is it applicable for starters with some wholgrain flour content?

I also discovered mention of a third method of lievito madre storage where it is stored under olive oil, but couldn't find many details on it. Have you ever come across this method?

Lance

mwilson's picture
mwilson

The lievito madre should have the right consistency. 45-50% should be about right with strong flour. I stick with 50% during the refreshments but lower it to 45% when storing overnight in water. Yes absolutely, it can be kept in the fridge this way.

The maintenance of lievito madre is really gauged for white flour as it has little buffering capacity. However if you want to use some wholegrain in there that's no problem. Usually it would be incorporated during the refreshments.

I have heard of using oil but I don't think anyone actually does. I saw it when I first heard of Rolando Morandin. I can't see that it would offer any advantages over the water bath method.

Michael

PS. Results of the exams were better than expected. So that's good...!

 

albacore's picture
albacore

Thanks Michael - interesting. As a trial, I've got a small lump of my 56% starter stored under oil (mixed olive/rapeseed) in the fridge.

It's been there for 5 days and is certainly staying as a discrete ball rather than mixing with the oil. The only problem is that it must be less dense than the oil (probably with trapped CO2) and so is floating on top of the oil!

I'll do a taste test for acidity in a day or two, compared to my dry stored starter.

PS Well done with the exams - are these for Oenology?

Lance

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Hi Lance,

Certainly I'm interested to know your findings...

Sorry, I suspected given your wording but didn't believe you thought the starter dough was supposed to remain submerged. Yes it floats and as you figured due to the CO2 causing a lower density. Have no fear this is normal and happens with the water-bath method too.

The time it takes to float is also a good way to judge maturity. It should take 1hr at 20C.

All the best,
Michael

PS. The exams were indeed part of the degree I'm working towards in viticulture and oenology. One was for grapevine biology and the other was for wine sensory analysis at that time. Scraped a pass on the biology, perhaps my weakest of the sciences!!

albacore's picture
albacore

I didn't realise that the starter floated; I thought the whole point was for it to be submerged to stop oxygen pick up from the air.

Also I got my density logic inverted and thought that it was floating because of the oil, when of course the oil would make it less likely to float....

Anyway I've got a lump of stainless steel in the jar now, pinning it down...

Wine sensory analysis sounds more interesting than vine biology!

Lance

albacore's picture
albacore

I checked the pHs of the 2 starters after 6 days storage in the fridge and (somewhat disappointingly!) they were both about the same.

  • Dry stored starter pH 4.07
  • Under oil stored starter pH 4.05

Tastes were similar, too. So maybe not much advantage in the oil storage - but it's making good bread at the moment!

Lance

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Hi Lance,

I would expect a similar pH after 6 days. LAB are still metabolically active at fridge temperatures and the course of descending pH isn't all that limited. pH 4.1 is the common baulking point and doesn't provide the full picture of acidity as you know...

What was your feed ratio?

Lievito madre is mostly fed 1:1 (1 part starter to 1 part flour). This feed ratio is important to maintain strength. Rather than changing the ratio to extend the fermentation period the water bath and binding methods are used. Their benefits are limited to a max of 24 hours at 18-20 C.

It's possible you might not notice the difference unless you're using the madre this way.

Try the water-bath and the binding methods. See if you notice anything.

Thanks for your report. I look forward to seeing the resulting bread...


Michael

 

 

andythebaker's picture
andythebaker

so the 4 hour feedings don't need to be kept anaerobic.  he just leaves it out in a bowl, dusted with flour.  just the piece that you propogate is bound/kept underwater.

my madre's been doing great at raising panettone.  now if i can only get that thisisfromroy texture.  time to buy an artofex mixer i think... just kidding.

thanks.

~andrew

 

albacore's picture
albacore

Currently, I refresh my starter at the same time I build my levain; it's a 2 1/2 build system. Build 1 1:2 @ e5 27C, build 2 1:2 @e11 24C, build 2.5 4:1 @m8 27C. Start making dough @m10, by which time the levain is well risen. Save some as starter and refrigerate, currently under oil.

It's actually a lot simpler than it sounds!

Here's a loaf from this morning's bake:

Probably a touch o/p as it was waiting for another loaf to exit the oven - and very non-Italian, I'm afraid, with 10% rye, 10% WW and 5% spelt!

Lance

albacore's picture
albacore