The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Schedule change & my levain

jackiebrown1101's picture

Schedule change & my levain

Hello - I just received a 100 year old starter that has been in my county as long.  I read a lot of stuff to prepare for this endeavor but the care and feeding of my starter is so intimidating ... it is like having your child by yourself for the first time! So...  my levain is ready, but its 5pm, and I don't have time tonight to begin the process.  What can I do with my levain so I can begin tomorrow morning? 

Thank you - First Timer!! 

barryvabeach's picture

Jackie, first while it may seem like your baby, it is not anywhere near as fragile, and in fact it is more like a zombie in a movie - pretty hard to kill. On there other hands, there are many different ways to maintain a starter, and they may impact the taste and texture of your loaf.  If your levian is ready at 5 pm, I would discard 2/3 ,  and refresh, 1/3 levian,  and equal amounts flour and water - assuming you have a 100% levian.  For example, if you had 90 grams, discard 60, and take the remaining 30 and add 30 grams water, 30 grams flour, then check in the morning.  If it turns out that it seems too spent to use the next morning, refresh again, but this time double the flour and water,  the expression is 1:2:2 ( 1 part levian, 2 parts flour , 2 parts water )  so 30 grams levian, 60 grams water ,  60 grams flour.   The ratio of the water to the flour determines the hydration of the levian - here I am assuming 100%,  and the ratio of the second number to the first number is how much food do we want to feed the levian before we want to use it.  The amount of food it needs will depend on how warm it is kept, how active the starter is, and how long till you want to use it. 

jackiebrown1101's picture

Thank you! So, by discard - do you mean throw away?  Or can I simply put the discard into the fridge for a later feeding? I am hoping to not abuse your kindness with a few curiosities here. 

I live high in the mountains in Colorado, and my kitchen is typically around 70 degrees during the day, 65 during the evening.  my Chambers stove has a thermowell that I can place things on to stay warm - 76 degrees and then I have the fridge, of course.  I am wondering if I can use the different variants to help slow or speed things down.

Is the fridge the only temperature where Hazel (the mother) is just stagnant? 

When there are some bubbles and it is really hydrated, but it sinks, sour smelling but not overwhelming - does that mean it needs a feeding?

How do you know?  I feel like I am consistently trying to decide when to feed it and when to put it in the fridge.  When do I keep it warm and when is 62-65 degrees just a good landing place?  

As I said, I am workin on my first loaf, so I don't really know how to read it yet.  I want to make english muffins but do I leave it out and feed it or put it in the fridge?  

I am following your instructions - I had 333 gram of levain, I discarded 222 and now I am going to feed my 110 gram levain 55 grams flower, 55 grams water....and place it on the happy chambers hot spot.




Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

Hi Jackie from the front range.  I would agree you should relax and not be so concerned that you will kill it. The cooler the temperature the slower things will go. But, you really don't need to feed and discard all the time. I have late my starter go for a week then stirred in some flour and water and baked beautiful loaves the next day.

Definitely don't toss the starter ( in my opinion) Toss it into your next loaf or search the web a little for tons of things you can make with it. I often add a little more flour and water and get a beautiful pizza dough.

To the basics of your question, I would toss your starter in the fridge and feed it in the morning, or better yet, just skip a day.

Abe's picture

Put it in the fridge and use it in the morning. Once your levain is mature it'll keep in the fridge for a day or two and you can use it straight in the dough.

jackiebrown1101's picture

hi Abe, thank you. Abe is my son’s name - he is 7! Not many of you out there!

colinm's picture


Welcome to the world of sourdough. There are probably more successful  procedures for handling starters than there are bakers. Professionals and cookbook authors often sound dogmatic about technique because perfect consistency is important for them. But home bakers have a lot more flexibility. 

I have about the laziest technique possible. I make 100g of starter and put it in the fridge. When I want to bake, I take 15g and mix it with 50g of water and 50g of flour to make a levain for baking the next day. When the jar of starter gets low, I take it out for one or two feeding cycles and stick it back in the fridge. 

So it seems that you are going in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you run out of time, stick it in the fridge and continue later. Or I use the proofing mode of my oven at 85 F when I’m in a hurry. And a wine fridge at 55F is ideal for an overnight proof before baking. 62-65 is pretty cool and you will probably find that things move slowly so you may want something above 70 if you want to match the times typically quoted.