The Fresh Loaf

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Ken Forkish why so much levain? any suggestions for leftovers?

Ogi the Yogi's picture
Ogi the Yogi

Ken Forkish why so much levain? any suggestions for leftovers?

Hey guys I just made my first Pain de Campagne, I went ahead and follow the recipe. I know have an enormous amount of leftover levain! 

Why did he ask us to make so much levain:

100g levain + 400 g white flour + 100 grams whole wheat + 400 grams of water! = 1000 grams JESUS!

The recipe did ask for a lot of levain 360 grams of levain for the final dough but I still have so much left over! 

What is his reasoning? 


dabrownman's picture

massive levain he made to make the bread and tosses the huge part in the trash calling it sent fuel.  So he makes his bread with a small bit of spent fuel:-)

People just ignore his crazy ideas about levain builds and build the exact amount they need instead.  The other he is way off on is his times for ferment and proofing.  This is why you watch the dough and not the clock.  If you use his times you will over ferment and over proof every loaf.  Other than that it is a great book.

Ogi the Yogi's picture
Ogi the Yogi

hydration rye starter converted it to 80 % hydration and then made his levain with it, I took 100g of my 80% starter + 400 grams white flour + 100 gram whole wheat + 400 grams water. 

Do you suggest a simpler method? 

Also what do you suggest I do with all the leftovers? Any ideas? Open to pancakes! 

I want to save some of it so I don't have to do the whole hassle thing again, how would I go about feeding it? His starter/levain is 80% hydration.

dabrownman's picture

do for bread.  All it takes is a bit of algebra.  IF you want to make 150g of 80% hydration levain all you have to do is divide the 150 g by 1.80 (1 for the flour that is always 100% or 1 and .8 for the 80% water )  This solves for the 1 or the flour amount needed.  150/1.8 = 83.33g of flour and 150 - 83.33 = 66.67 g of water.  66.67/83.33 = 80%.  If you start with 10 g of starter that is 100% hydration it has 5 g each of flour and water in it.  So to make the levain you need 10 g of starter plus 78.33 g of flour and 61.67 g of water to make exactly 150 g or 80% hydration starter.

I say make more bread with the left overs.  It  will be fine in the fridge for several days and you get to practice making the bread you you are trying to master.  But I have made cookies, pies, cakes, pancakes, English muffins and all sorts of other baked goods with left overs.

Happy baking 

cbenjamin's picture

Just so I understand you correctly. I have removed 100g of the levain that I am using for my Pain de Champagne.  Are you saying that I can put all that leftover levain in the fridge and use it another day?  If so, do I have to refeed it? Or can I take out a 100g of that and make another batch of Pain de Champ on another day?  Thank you.

LDQ's picture

I'm making my first loaf of Overnight Blond and have the same question. Can I put the massive amount of leftover levain in the fridge? When & what do I feed it?  Thanks!


Benito's picture

I bake once a week so keep my starter in the fridge.  When I make a levain I make sure that I will have some leftover, that leftover levain becomes my starter.  I don’t bother feeding it and I just put it into the fridge until a day before my next bake when I take it out, toss some of it and feed the rest twice over that day and then the morning after I make my levain for that weeks bake.  Again I make sure I make more levain than the recipe needs so the leftover will become my starter once again.


RedHerring's picture

This is a great idea

Aidan H's picture
Aidan H

The first time I made it, I just read the final table, accidentally skipping the 'build' and used 260g of well fed lively starter. No separate build or additional waste. Works just fine and I'm still doing it

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

massive levain he made to make the bread and tosses the huge part in the trash calling it sent fuel.  So he makes his bread with a small bit of spent fuel:-)

Haha. True! What is spent fuel anyway? I imagine if the starter/levain is left for so long the yeasts/bacteria have all died out it's spent fuel but the very fact one can make bread with it means it's "fuel".

leslieruf's picture

with some of it with any mix of flour you choose and some English muffins as well! (spiced ones with raisins are very nice as a change!)

I think almost all of us have fallen into this trap then scaled it back the next time to make just what you need.  In the meantime ... happy baking


doughooker's picture

I've seen Forkish's video and simply dismiss him as weird. That's the only polite word I can think of to describe him.

RoundhayBaker's picture
RoundhayBaker match the amount you need? I agree that the amount he specifies is nuts. A baffled customer showed me her copy of the book and I reckon in most of his recipes it's three to five times more than you actually need. To scale down, you don't have to be super-accurate, but the proportions are 1:4:1:4, so not too difficult to get to, say, 400g (or even 360g :)).

Looking at the book, I wondered originally if the recipes had originally specified larger batches of loaves but the publishers had insisted the book should be for solo loaves and it was all an editing oversight. Then I saw his video where he quite clearly says chuck away the excess. The whole thing is really odd.

Weizenbrot's picture

Use the levain as the acid part of the reaction and baking soda as the alkaline. It doesn't matter whether the levain has been freshly fed or not--you're not relying on its yeast for rising.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When the video is over, he takes the extra fermenting starter and rolls in it.   ;)  

Or spread it out thin and dry it until crispy.  Use as a flavour enhancer in a faster yeasted dough, counting it as part of the  flour weight.

dosco's picture

If you decide to continue with the large levain builds, you should consider composting the leftovers and not placing the stuff in the trash (to be hauled off to the landfill).

I've been composting and recycling as much as I can and I've reduced the amount of "garbage" hauled away to the landfill by a huge margin. The stuff in the can starts to stink well before the bag is full.

The compost works well in the garden and the front lawn (although my composters don't make nearly enough for all of my lawn!).


RedHerring's picture

Also why on earth does he assume you want to make 2 loaves at once? Thats the opposite of what I want- I want fresh bread in smaller quantities, more frequently, not huge batches that my family cant eat before they go stale. 

Aidan H's picture
Aidan H

The pain du champagne is my most frequent bake at the moment. The first time I made it, I misread the recipe and just read the final table. As a result, I totally missed the crazy levain build and put in 260g  of my lively starter (100% hydration and 2:1 wm to rye). It worked just fine. I tend to have to adjust down his hydration in my kitchen but skipping his crazy build has no ill effect; even in the pure levian doughs.


I used to bake 2 loaves a time but recently moved to 1. I found that simply using 130g of starter and halving everything else. 

Recoil Rob's picture
Recoil Rob

Just found this while Googling "Forkish Levain" after watching him through out so much on the Youtube vid. I have to thank Ken for getting me back into bread baking, his straight, poolish and biga's recipes work well but the levain procedure seems ridiculous. I made his levain with some starter sourced from a local artisan baker from Katonah, NY. The levain seemed so good it was a shame to waste it.

What I did was make a half recipe of his Pain de Campagne using 180gr of levain. I saved the rest of the levain and the today I made another loaf, this time I boosted the levain to 200gr to compensate for any loss of vitality.

The first bake is on top in the first pic, on the left in the second pic. The second day's bake is on the bottom in first pic  and on the right in the second pic, no loss of rise or taste I can discern. I will try again tomorrow with the remaining levain to see if it will stretch that far and then feed any leftover to see if it will sustain.

You may also notice I used a banneton for the first loaf and it stuck a bit after the 10 hour proof in the fridge. The second loaf was done with a linen lined basket and heavy flour. Both baked using the dutch oven method at 475˚.


Recoil Rob's picture
Recoil Rob

Here are the results of my third day's bake using Forkish's "spent fuel" (leftover levain). I again used 200gr of the leftover levain which was mixed on Sunday. The overall rise was at least as high as the first day's, may be a little higher actually. The size of the holes in the crumb might be a little more uniform, hard to tell. The smell and taste seem the same as Day 2 but a touch stronger than Day 1 which has been sitting for 48 hours now and may have lost some flavor but is still moist.

All in all still a delicious loaf of bread. I'll be doing one more bake tomorrow, same procedure as the first three, starting the mixing the dough (flour, water, levain, yeast and salt) around 6-7pm, form the loaf around 11pm and bake at noon tomorrow. Let's see if we can get 4 good bakes from that leftover levain.




Recoil Rob's picture
Recoil Rob

Using the levain on it's 4th day I tried something different, a rosemary/olive fougasse. Haven't eaten it yet but it popped nicely in the oven so I have no reason to believe the will be any issues. I took the remaining 100gr. of levain and added 50g each flour and water to see if it will keep going.

SaraSous's picture

looks good! Did you leave the leftover levain at room temp? 

Recoil Rob's picture
Recoil Rob

No, it was in the fridge and every day I would remove 200g about 1-2 hours before mixing the dough to warm up a bit.

BTW, am currently eating some Fougasse, better than the loafs!

CedyBakes's picture

Here you go

I've made the crumpets. They came out really well.