The Fresh Loaf

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Two Stage Levain Build

zachyahoo's picture

Two Stage Levain Build

I'm trying to develop a formula for building a two stage levain. This main purpose of this is to cut down on the amount of seed starter required. Dabrownman has a great post on his 3 stage levain builds.

For my schedule though, this won't work. Instead, the idea is to do the first stage at night, second stage the next morning, and have it be ready in the afternoon (it may well be a fairly young levain, but this is fine by me)

The concept is to have both of the builds be at a 1:2:2 elaboration ratio. I'll be starting with a 66.6% hydration refrigerated starter and end up with 100% hydration levain. By the end of the first stage, the hydration will be "corrected" to be 100%.

So, if you want to build 300g of levain,

Start with 12g seed + 22.8g flour +25.2g water

(60 total) + 120g flour +120 water = 300


What do you think? Sound viable?



L= desired levain amount

The seed amount (S) = L/25

1st flour amount = S*2-(L/250)

1st water amount = S*2+(L/250)

2nd flour and water amounts = simply the total of the 1st stage * 2

***I realize that measuring to the tenth of a gram isn't realistic nor necessary. More of a math exercise!***

dabrownman's picture

more than I would need for a weekly bake of 1 loaf of bread.  150 g is more like it.  So 12 g of starter plus 24 g each of flour and water would be the first feeding and the 2nd one would be 48 g each of flour and water to get to 156 g total levain;  This is plenty for a 1000 g loaf of white bread at 72-75% hydration but too much for a whole grain one.  This gives you about 13-14% pre-fermented flour which would be good for a winter white bread in Arizona but we would want to get that down to 7-9% for a summer bake.

I thin it is better to know what amount of pre-fermented flour you need for each kind of bread and time of year and be able to build the exact amount of levain you need using how ever many builds you want to use.  USing 1 part of the starter and 2 parts for the first feeding of flour (twice the starter amount) and 4 for the 2nd feeding of flour (twice the 2nd feeding ) you have 1+2+4 = 7 the rule of 7.  IF you want 300 g of levain at 100% hydration it would have 150 g of flour.  so 150/7 = 21 rounding down for the starter the first feeding of flour is 22 and 2nd feeding is 44 g of flour.  Since there is 11 g of flour in 21 g of starter you end up with 11+22+44 = 77g of flour in the levain and it is off a bit because of the rounding.  It is the rule of 7 that is important.

In AZ in the summer, I want 800 g of dough, 8% pre-fermented flour for a loaf of 50% whole grains at 85% hydration.  With the rule of 7 you know exactly how much flour and water total, how much levain to build, what size the starter is and how much each of the flour builds is.

800/1.85 = 432 g of flour required total and 800-432=368 g of water total 

432 * .08 = 35 g of pre-fermented flour in the levain

35/7 = 5 g of starter by the rule of 7 so  5*2 = 10 g of flour for the first feeding of flour and 5*2 = 20 g of flour required for the 2nd feeding  5+ 10 +20 = 35g of flour in the levain with a like amount ot water for 70 g of levain total.  In the winter, the levain would be about twice as big.  If you don't have the time then it could be twice as big in the summer too - to speed things up.  If you don't want to shape retard the dough for 18 hours you might increase the levain either time of year since you don't have to worry about it overproofing in the fridge as you sleep.

If you are doing a 3 stage levain build because you are using the Detmolder method you can switch to a rule of 15.... 1 for the starter and 2 +4+8 for the 3 builds.  It is much more important to know what you are trying to do and what rule applies when you are trying to figure your levain builds and recipe.  The rest is just simple math

This is what Lucy does every week to develop her recipes   First- what time of year, 2nd is dough size, 3rd is what flour type, 4th is what hydration is suitable for the flour and bread type, 5th is how much time do you have to fit the method you want to use.  Once these things are known then you can fit the levain to the whole process by using the specific rule required that fits the best for that bread.

Lucy has an additional problem.  Her seed rye starter may be retarded for 24 weeks when she uses it.  At 24 weeks retarded it isn't as peppy as it is at 1 week and it need more time or more starter in the levain for things to work out well and the time of year is important too.  Since she varies the seed amount depending on its age and time of year plus it is usually so tiny, she omits it from the rule calculation altogether.  So she uses a rule of 7for a 3 stage levain build..... 1 +2+4 = 7 where 1 is the amount of the 1st  flour build.   In the summer the starter usually equals the 1st flour build if the starter is 12 weeks old or less and in the winter it would be twice tht amount.  When the starter is retarded 12 weeks or longer the starter amounts could be doubled

So a 5 gram starter rule of 7 amount in the summer for a new starter might be 20 g in the winter with a 20 week retarded starter if building it a room temperature and not using a heating pad.....Knowing what is going on is what makes for better decisions when it come to the rule applied.

Happy levain building

zachyahoo's picture

300g would be too much levain for one loaf for sure- I generally make two at a time!

It's interesting that you mention building a seed of 12 by 22 and then 44. This means that your first elaboration ratio is 1:1.8:1.8

But the second stage ratio is far less. Cause you're adding 44g to 56g of "seed". So your second ratio would be like 1:0.8:0.8

Would you expect that your second feeding would go faster because of this?

dabrownman's picture

22/12 = 1.83 and 44/34 = 1.29  a third feeding would be 88/78 = 1.23.  Not all the food is used up in the first 2 stages and you can prove it to yourself.   After the 2nd stage doubles just stir it down and it will double again - only faster  There is plenty of food but things happen faster since the wee beasties have been doubling their numbers every 90 minutes or so.  I have had my third stages double 3 times by stirring them down.  You just want to make sure that each feeding doubles the amount of flour as the first one.

The real feeding is the dough where it is 1.6 ration  of new to old flour.  No problem raising the dough twice there either but for sandwich breads and sweet ones, 3 times is even better and why so many of these recipes call for 3 rises.  You get a closed crumb from all the handling but the flavor is much better.  The reason for doing stretch and folds is to develop the gluten but the 2nd reason is to redistribute the food for the wee beasties to eat.  The food isn't going to run out with the autolyse and malt contributors to this abundance of food.

zachyahoo's picture

I had no idea you just counted the flour. Thank you for this!

dabrownman's picture

 starch granules in the flour that were damaged during milling so that the two amylase enzymes, which go to work when hydrated, can break it down into the sugars that the wee beasties can metabolize.  The enzymes can only go to work on hydrated, damaged or gelatinized starch granules.

Arjon's picture

If the amount per bake is small, reducing the amount of starter you keep isn't really a matter of practicality. It's a matter of a fairly small jar vs. a somewhat smaller jar. In my case, I seldom use more than 150 gm of 100% starter, so I keep about 200 gm. It's already at 100% so I very seldom don't have to convert the hydration. If it were 67%, I'd still be using the same jar, so having it at 100% doesn't use more shelf space.  

My starter is in a 375 ml jar. If I were using 300 gm per bake, I'd need a 750 ml one, but since larger jars are mainly taller, not wider, the difference in footprint size is pretty small. 

dabrownman's picture

un-maintained in the fridge for 24 weeks and use 5-10 g of it a week to make a loaf of bread from 750-1,000 g so at the 20 week mark I might only have 20 g of starter left to pull from.  How much starter you keep and how you maintain it has more to do with how much you bake, how sour your palette and what method you like to use to make bread.

No Muss No Fuss Starter