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Why build a levain rather than adding starter directly to final dough?

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Why build a levain rather than adding starter directly to final dough?

Hello,

        I've been baking sourdough breads for about three months and have been having pretty good success. My starter is a stiff 65% bread flour starter I got from a local,great sourdough bakery where I live. My routine is that I build my levain at night around 9 or so. I let it ferment overnight and start my autolyse at about 9 the next morning. I take the dough thru stretch and folds/bulk ferment/preshape/shape and retard/proof overnight to bake the next morning. The BF usually takes about 4-5 hours so goes in the frig about 2-3pm.

 

     My question is this. Why is it best to build a levain and let that ferment for a fairly long time before adding it to your final dough? I've been watching a lot of videos on SD bread recently and notice that some people simply add starter directly to their final dough. Would you need to up the amount of starter amount (innoculation?) if you do it this way? Will the BF also take longer doing it this way? I have not tried this experiment but just thought I would throw it out there and see if any one can comment on the issue. It's not that I mind building a levain the night before, I'm just curious why most people make their SD breads in this way. Thanks in advance for any comments.

 

 

Best,

        Vance

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Vance, generally a levain is built for a couple of reasons.

  1. Most bakers keep small amounts of starter. By feeding the starter 1 or more times without throwing any away, the levain will become large enough to make bread and at the same time have enough left over to perpetuate the starter.
  2. If the starter is refrigerated a few good feeds at warmer temps will re-energize the inactive starter.

If your starter is large enough (for the dough and also perpetuation of the starter) and active enough it is perfectly fine to make bread from it.

The difference between a starter and a levain.

  1. The starter is the seed culture. It is refreshed and maintained in order to prepetuate culture.
  2. The levain is product of the increased amount of starter and serves 2 purposes. It is mixed into the dough to make bread and a portion is left to perpetuate the starter.

Dan

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Dan, I think yours is a very good explanation, and not just because it matches my own understanding and my practice. :) However, I wonder why you say that both the starter and the leaven perpetuate the starter. I find that confusing.

The way I operate, I keep a small amount of starter, around 60g, in the fridge. At bake time, I use about 10g of that to make my leaven through 2 builds. The remaining starter goes back in the fridge. When I am down to about 10g, I use that to make a fresh batch of starter, perpetuating the culture, as you put it. I do not use the built leaven to put back in the fridge, not least because I am pretty sure I would forget one day.

Just my way of doing things.

Jeremy

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Jeremy you are right.  Using part of your starter to build the levain is perfectly fine. I actually do exactly that because my starter is never refrigerated and fed twice a day. It is prepetually active.

In the case of refrigerated starters one of the benefits of of replacing the starter from a portion of the levain is the starter is refresh and reactivated. Most people store their starters in the frig.

In bread baking there are many ways to get most things done. 

Dan

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Dan,

        Thanks for the thorough response! I still have a few things I could use clarification about. I too leave my starter out on the counter as I am baking almost every day. Just for background my levain build is as follows: 50 grams of active 65% hydrated bread flour starter/65 grams water/100 grams flour. I let this ferment 8-10 hours. I then add all of this levain to my final dough.This is all for a loaf based on 500 grams of total flour weight. My remaining questions/points of clarification are as follows:

 

1) I can add an amount (% of inoculation) of starter directly to my final dough. If I do this should I add the same 50 grams I have been adding to the levain build listed above? If not the same amount,how much?

 

2) If I do go this route what kind of time changes should I expect with regard to BF time and final proof time, if any?

 

Lastly,and I apologize if I missed this;what is the benefit (if there is one) to building a levain overnight (or at least for several hours) versus just adding an amount of starter directly to your final dough?

 

Thanks again to all. I have a loaf baking right now and am generally pretty happy with my loaves but would like to see a more open crumb. That's another discussion. Happy baking!

 

Best,

          Vance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Before I get into your questions, how much starter do you keep on the counter? Sounds like you are using a lot of it.

Mine is only 18g total weight. But I don’t bake with it every day.

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Dan,

      I just weighed it and it's weight is a little over 150 grams.

 

Vance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

1) I can add an amount (% of inoculation) of starter directly to my final dough. If I do this should I add the same 50 grams I have been adding to the levain build listed above? If not the same amount,how much? -If you reduce the size of the levain in the dough, the BF will take longer. Which is fine if you want to go that route.

 

2) If I do go this route what kind of time changes should I expect with regard to BF time and final proof time, if any? -It will be longer, only experimentation will answer the length of time. But, the longer the fermentation time, the better tasting the bread.

 

Lastly,and I apologize if I missed this;what is the benefit (if there is one) to building a levain overnight (or at least for several hours) versus just adding an amount of starter directly to your final dough? -Since your starter remains constantly active it is fine to add the MATURED starter to your dough. I think Trevor Wilson uses this exact method. 

We’ve got a Community Bake scheduled to start this next week. I think you would enjoy it. See this link. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/59935/community-bake-upcoming-details

The following are links to Past Community Bakes

 

 Happy Easter, Vance

wvdthree's picture
wvdthree

Dan,

         Thanks so much for the clarification. As I said, my interest in trying that approach is almost academic as I am essentially retired and have plenty of time on my hands so building a levain the night before is not a burden.

 

Happy Easter to you too!!!!

 

Best,

          Vance