The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The 1 g starter experiement - no levain build

pul's picture

The 1 g starter experiement - no levain build

I have another experiment using minimal amount of starter. This time I have not built any levain, and mixed 1 g starter with other ingredients. I tried to adjust the process to my schedule, which is mix in the morning, bulk ferment during the day, shape in the evening, retard overnight and bake in the following morning.

The measurements were 1 g starter, 220 g flour, 165 g water, and 3 g salt. The flour was 55% bread flour and the rest a mix of dark rye, red fife and whole wheat. Mixed in the morning (dissolved starter in water first), applied two stretches and folds, and after one hour placed the dough in the fridge for bulk fermentation. Roughly 12 hours later, removed the dough from the fridge without much noticeable signs of fermentation. Let it rest on the counter at room temperature for another 5 hours with two extra stretches and folds. Finally some signs of bulk fermentation showed up, so I shaped as a boule and placed it in the fridge for another 5 hours retarding (it was time to go to bed). Baked in the morning straight from the fridge to the results below.

There has been few holes, even though not evenly distributed. Oven spring was reasonable but nothing spectacular. The crumb was quite soft and the crust baked light. Flavor showed some good nuttiness and a subtle tang, just the way sourdough should be. I have done this experiment by building a 5%-flour levain with superior results as compared to using only 1 g starter without any levain build.

Using 1 g starter without building a levain seems to work, but I need to tweak the method for my schedule and to improve the results.

The bulk fermentation is too slow in the fridge due to the small amount of starter. However, I have tried to ferment it in room temperature for the same time. The result was a failure because the temperature is being too high and the long fermentation at room temperature seems to be damaging the dough structure. The result was a pancake as shown below (with some signs of over proofing too). Additionally, the bread was too sour due to the long fermentation at high temperature. I did not like the dough structure after the long fermentation. It was almost too wet and soup-like, so the flat bread resulted.

I still want to do another final test at room temperature, which will be making a stiff dough with low hydration, fermenting at room temperature, and then provide a second hydration in the evening. I just want to slow down the fermentation in room temperature so the dough structure is not compromised to a great extension.


PalwithnoovenP's picture

Interesting experiment about going no levain. I thought it was underfermented but the one fermented at room temperature was overfermented. It's hard to comprehend why. I thought 1 g of starter would be so slow even at room temperature. Perhaps a little longer at room temp before going to the fridge will do it next time. Keep us posted!

pul's picture

Yes, I think I will reverse the schedule, mixing in the evening so it can be fermented more time before going to the fridge.

SourdoughRules's picture

I do this sort of thing all the time as well :)

pul's picture

Yes, I also try this and that from time to time. Just for the sake of fun.

dabrownman's picture

used to bulk ferment on the counter for 8-10 hours would be a problem since a levain is used for a No Knead bread recipe and it sits out for 12 hours but it is a larger bread but still I have no problems doing one gram breads here in AZ but mine are a bit larger than yours.  You might try 8 hours and see what it looks like, say 25% - 30% rise and then shape and put in the fridge overnight and see what it looks like in the morning if you can bake right out of the fridge or let it warm up a bit first.

I do think you crumb on this one isn't all that bad either.  Lucy loves your experiments too.

Happy baking Pul

pul's picture

Thanks Dab, I am assuming this experiment on the long fermentation at room temperature is not conclusive yet and deserves another try. You are right about the no-knead method, so there must be something I am missing here. 


 P.S.: Say thanks to Lucy for her comments on the crumb

pmccool's picture

What if you allowed the bulk ferment to proceed 2 or 3 hours at room temperature before putting the dough in the refrigerator, instead of just 1 hour?  That would give the yeast in the levain some time to propagate before slowing it down with colder temperature.  I wouldn't expect the additional time at room temperature to put the dough at risk of over-fermenting.

It is an interesting experiment and turned out better than I would have guessed.


pul's picture

Thanks Paul, I will mix at night to allow longer fermentation time before going to fridge. Mix it in the evening, and let it rise for few hours before going to fridge. Shape in the morning and bake it next evening. It will just be retarded longer than what I am doing, but i will give it a try.



alfanso's picture

with apparent worthwhile results.  Next step is to use micrograms ;-) .

We can, thanks to you, successfully make a levain bread with such a small investment, and that is certainly noteworthy.  However, I will add that I think you are shortchanging the flavors acquired from the maturity of levain builds.  As the levain builds from stage to stage, each is adding to the complexity and flavor profile of the final product.  Even if you can bulk ferment in a similar time frame, I feel that you are essentially losing out on all of that quality time that the levain component adds to the final mix.

Not a correction on my part, but rather a personal observation.  And congrats on a fine bake and experiment!

pul's picture

Thanks for the comments Al

I totally agree with you that depth of flavor comes with time and building levain certainly helps. What I am doing now is just trying to adjust bread making to fit my schedule. Temperatures and humidity have been high, so everything happens fast. And if done in the fridge they take a lot of time.

I am actually working on a secret nanostarter technology. I will keep you posted...  :)