The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Building a levain

cappergirl's picture

Building a levain

Hi there,

I'm starting to experiment with some different sourdough recipes and I am currently making Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough Bread recipe.  It calls for using 14g of starter to build a levain, then rest on counter for 12-16 hours.  I know that I want to use the levain at its peak, right?  So my question is, does my starter also need to be at its peak in order the build the levain?  It makes the timing of making the recipe quite difficult, and it will take 3 days to make this recipe.  I made it once already, but I cut the bulk short in order to not be up at 3 am.

Thanks in advance.

phaz's picture

You don't have to, but most do as that is when there is a high concentration of our little friends.

Hint - more starter will make things go faster. You'd have to experiment to find the right amount to make things fit your schedule (you can always make things fit any schedule by adjusting starter amount and temps). Enjoy! 

dbazuin's picture

You can make the levain a bit early and put it in the fridge close before it peaks. You need to use a little warner water do. 

gavinc's picture

As long as you have fed the mother starter in the last 5-7 days you can make the levain from it. My schedule is to the mix the levain at about 5 pm the day before and put it in my proofer until 7 am the next morning. My proofer is set at 24C so I halve the seed culture to 7 grams (10%), that delays the time it takes to be fully ripen. You may note that Hamelman suggests 12-14 hours at 21C (20% seed). Just adjust the % of seed culture to the temperature of your environment.

kqa100's picture

I essentially use this method, and I use 15g of starter that's been sitting around in the fridge for days, unfed. Well past its peak. I feed it at about 1:3:3, and after 8-12 hours on the counter it usually more than doubles. So if your starter also does that, you should be good to go!