The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

French Culinary Institute book

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

French Culinary Institute book

The book is called Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking.

The book's recipes use a starter (levain) at 125% hydration.  My starter is 100% hydration.  

I am assuming that I can change it to 125%. If my refresh is 4 oz starter and 4 oz of flour, then I would multiply 4 oz x 125% which would be 5 oz of water.

Am I correct that I can change the hydration to 125%?

Once I change it with 4 oz starter, 4 oz flour, and 5 oz water, I have to wait until it doubles to be able to use it? Am I right? Or can it be used as soon as I changed it to 125% which the recipe in the book calls for?


leemid51's picture

within reason. Your formulation is correct. You do want it to ferment fully before using it, but adding water or reducing water is how you change hydration, obviously.

A note: Higher hydration favors lactic acid where lower hydration increases acetic acid. Lactic is 'sweeter' so if you prefer sourer sourdough you might lower your hydration, and of course, vice versa. I prefer sour sourdough so I use a 50% hydration starter for my favorite bread. I use 100% when I want good flavor in a bread that is better without the bite. I don't much like WW with a bite, but the flavor rendered by a wet starter is delicious.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

I am just trying to follow a sourdough recipe in the book. They only use 125% hydration, and sourdough starter is confusing me. There are so many different opinions. I have been feeding and feeding my 100% hydration starter, but not baking with it. I am just spending money on flour, wasting time feeding twice a day, and throwing away starter. I need to bake with it. 

I guess I should just stick to using yeast.

Thanks for your help.

gary.turner's picture

When there are a bunch of opinions on how best to do something, there is likely no one way to do it. People do things the way they do because it works well enough and they've become comfortable with their method. Then, they rationalize why.

Unless you bake every day, or your culture is not mature, you don't need to feed it twice a day, every day. Look to your baking schedule and usage. Your refrigerator is your friend. I keep the mother in the fridge and bring it out only to elaborate* or feed it. Some folks feed with every use and some are lazy, like myself, and feed only when the mother is almost used up. Regarding my method, I feed with 50g each flour and water (usually) when I'm down to less than a tablespoon of mother. I leave it on the counter for a couple of hours then move it back to the fridge. I almost never throw any out. Those little yeasties are resilient, damned hard to kill, even.

Notice that I referred to my methods. Opinions, mine included, are like you know what, everybody has one.


* I use the term in the sense of refine. This is when I build the starter to the required amount, change grains, e.g. to rye or whole wheat, modify the hydration, etc.. 

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

I don't know enough to have a method, technique, or opinion so I am just frustrated. I read and read but just get too much information to retain.

I guess my starter is mature by now. I started with a liquid starter from King Arthur Flour about 2 weeks ago. 

Your method sounds good to me. 

Do you start out with about 100 grams in your refrigerator? (Before it gets down to a Tbsp?) 

How long does your starter usually last until you feed it at 1 Tbsp left? 1 week or 2 weeks or ???

So, you feed the 1 Tbsp of starter with 50 g flour and 50 g water, let it sit out for a couple of hours, then refrigerate it. I can do that schedule, for sure. 

Do you feed at least 24 hours before you use it in a recipe? Then let it sit out on the counter?

My starter is currently on the counter. If I change it to 125% hydration,  do I just add 4 oz flour as usual but increases the water to 5 oz? Does it have to sit for 24 hours with a 2nd feeding? Or can I use it before the 2nd feeding? I get tons of tiny bubbles, but no large bubbles. It more than doubles before 2nd feeding.

Thanks so much, Gary. 

Another question...How many posts are we allowed? I get the following message when trying to ask a question in the equipment forum...'You've reached the limit of posts a user can create at one time. Please try again later

leslieruf's picture

per day to help stop spammers! but you can comment on other posts as much as you like!

Your starter may be a little young to refrigerate.  It needs to be about a month old so it has built up a good strong population of LABs and yeasts.

I also keep about 60-80 g starter in the fridge, and I feed it about once a month. the day before i want to bake I take a small amount and build the levain to the hydration and quantity I need.  my starter is about 66% hydration. it works well.  do a search for dabrownman’s No Muss No Fuss starter maintenance post.   lots of us here use this method. 


Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Thanks, Leslie. It was a liquid starter from King Arthur Flour, and the directions said to refrigerate it if not using every day. I fed it twice a day for a couple of weeks. 

leemid51's picture

everyone's got an opinion. I refuse to throw away starter all the time. I keep mine at 50% hydration, as I said. I fetch it out of the fridge and make bread, whether it's been a day or two weeks. Longer than a month I will cycle it once, then make bread. My 100% starter isn't so forgiving. I cycle it once or twice before using it if it's been some weeks. 

I recommend you feed after it has crested, and no more than once a day. Keep it smallish to reduce the amount of waste. Sorry for not telling you what smallish means in actual measurements. And bake bread every other day. Use the same recipe. Choose one from this site if it looks simple enough to make you comfortable with it. Give away what you can't eat. If it is too embarrassing to give away, throw it away or feed the birds. Take notes on what part of your process works best or fails. Before long you will be making good bread.

My favorite mantra is that someone dumber than me does this for a living. It can't be that hard for me to learn it.

Best of luck and don't be discouraged, and don't fear. 

Oh, one catch: When you are making good bread, it's awfully hard not to eat a lot of it. ;-)

Just watch. Surely someone with have a different opinion.