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My lievito madre (videos)

mwilson's picture

My lievito madre (videos)

Spontaneously I documented the maintenance of my starter.

Please excuse any background noise and the appearance of my unkempt face.

bread1965's picture

Thanks for this..

I've seen pictures of tied up levain and have no idea why people do that. Why? And then your washed and made a dough.. then cut into it with a cross, what's that about? Is this for a specific type of bread? Great videos.. thanks for this.. but please educate me.. Thanks!


mwilson's picture

The binding of lievito madre is technique that pre-dates refrigeration and is way to slow the fermentation. It does a few other things too; like enhancing lactic development, preventing off-flavours and therefore isn't quite equal to simple refrigeration.

This lievito is primarily fed at a 1:1 ratio [starter:flour] even during the extended periods, this is to maintain strength (high redox) and leavening ability by yeasts.

You didn't ask this but the bathing removes acetic acid (this probably works because acetic acid is volatile). The difference before and after is quite apparent if you get your nose in there..! Or give it a taste.

As seen, the resulting dough cut with the cross is effectively the "levain" and is part of a series of rebuilds to achieve a pre-ferment that is suitable to leaven dough with the optimal flavour profile.

The cross helps to distribute an even temperature but more importantly it serves to give the baker a visual indication of dough strength. The centre of the cross which starts as the lowest point should rise up and become the highest point after rising for a duration of 3-4 hours. The cross should open out like a flower which denotes the perfect balance of strength.

If the dough rises up but the cross jams and doesn't fully open out then this would be too much strength. If the cross remains and just enlarges sideways then it is too weak. Improper consistency will contribute to these factors too.

Here are some related threads where I have discussed this topic previously.

Thanks for commenting...


DanAyo's picture

Michael, you’ve captured my interest! I was hooked when you said that the lievito was predominantly lactic and not acetic acid. Super sour sourdough is good, but super lactic sour is great, IMO. I am very satisfied with my process for super lactic SD. But using a lievito in place of my typical levain may push the bread to higher heights.

In light of the fact that a lievito madre is more difficult to build, do you think it would enhance my breads if used in very small percentages? The formula I use calls for 2% pre-fermented flour. So, for a kilo of flour, 40g of levain at 100% hydration would be used. If the lievito madre with a hydration of 50% is composed of 20g flour and 10g water, in your opinion would that small amount produce a noticeable difference in the lactic flavor of the bread?

As always, I do appreciate your opinions.


mwilson's picture

Danny, I'm not sure I understand your thinking here.

At only 2% pre-fermented flour there would be no significant acid load to be noticeable.

My methods encourage low TTA and the lactic shift I was referring to was in the context of acid balance.

Maybe your question warrants a new thread...


DanAyo's picture

Michael, I’m not concerned about acid load. I am interested in developing a bread with maximized lactic acid flavor.

As I think more on this, I’m not sure that optimizing such a s small percentage of levain for lactic is of much benefit, since the  lactic acids are predominately built up during the long and warm BF.

mwilson's picture

Generally speaking, a high inoculum will favour a more lactic flavour while a small one will open the door for more acetic acetic development.


bread1965's picture

Very interesting. I'll have to study this a bit more to better understand it. Thanks for the reply. !

sojtucker's picture

Hi Michael - I've been following your comments and trying to train my lievito madre for a few weeks now. The issue I'm having is that my dough doesn't seem to rise as much as I'd expect - as you say the cross jams and doesn't fully open out. But I'm not quite sure what you mean by "too much strength"?

The routine I'm following is to feed every 4 hours at a ratio of 1:1:0.45 (starter:flour:water) at 8am, 12pm and 4pm, keeping it at 28-29°C in a glass jar in a proofing box. At 8pm I feed again and vacuum seal it and leave at room temp, and then at 8am the following morning I do a 15-20 min bagnetto with 2g/l sugar, before doing the usual morning feed. I'm not really seeing any improvement despite following this routine for the past couple of weeks. Is there any wisdom you can offer me? Thanks very much!

DanAyo's picture

Soj, I experienced the same thing as you. No matter what I tried the LM wouldn’t triple in 4 hours. Originally it did triple and even a bit higher, but shortly thereafter it ceased to rise as highly. I will be watching this post for replies.

widdersbel's picture

Thanks for sharing the vids, very interesting. I've been hankering after trying my hand at making panettone but wasn't sure if I could be bothered making a lievito madre - the recipe I was looking at didn't specify this, so I was going to use my regular wet starter. But hey, I might as well do it properly...

I'm on day 3 of developing my lievito madre. I fed it this morning and it has doubled in volume inside five hours, so it's coming along nicely. So far have only been feeding it once daily but I think I'll up that to twice daily.

One question: at what point do I bind it/put it in water? I'm probably missing something obvious but I'm a bit unclear on this part. 

widdersbel's picture

On the matter of when to put the lievito in water/bind it, I just noticed the comment in another thread about it being ready to go into maintenance mode once it triples in volume inside 4hrs, which I guess answers that question. 

However, being a bit impetuous, I jumped the gun... I gave it a second feeding yesterday at 8.30pm and when I came back to it this morning it was pushing the lid off the jar, so after giving it another feed at 8am, I put it in a jar of water.

Then I went out for a few hours and came home to discover it had doubled in volume (hard to be precise but that's a conservative estimate) and was floating. That took about 6hrs. I had filled the jar straight from the tap, so the water was quite cold, but I checked the temp this afternoon and it was up to 17.3ºC. Tempted to copy the fish tank heater method for regulating temperature (I also use this method for home brewing so already have the kit I need).

Pictures - 
lievito madre in acqua 8am today:

lievito madre in acqua 6pm today:

mwilson's picture

In fact it is not quite as you think. You don't have to wait to adopt this method and it will most likely help to speed up activity.

It is simply, that when the madre is mature it will triple in volume in 3-4 hours. At that point will it be able to fit into the standard maintenance procedure of timings and temperatures. ie. 4hrs@28C (x3) + 12hrs*@18C daily.

*Using either the bound or in water method during the 12 hours.

jayjayjayjay's picture

Hi Michael,

Will a bound method be as effective if it's not wrapped in plastic?  As I understand it, the combination of the pressure of the rope along with an environment where CO2 can't escape help create favorable conditions for the LM.  That said, I do see that some people skip the plastic...  What are your thoughts on this?  Many thanks in advance if you have the time to answer this. 

mwilson's picture

Hi Jay.

As you say the aim is to trap the CO2 and plastic does that very well. I've actually gone one step further by using a vacuum sealer and I've not seen anyone else do that!

If using only cloth then we must rely on crust formation to create a seal to contain the CO2. So perhaps not as effective.

Try wrapping the dough in fine woven cotton and then in linen. I use linen for it's strength and this will be the outer most layer when binding.

In any case make sure you remove the crusts. You'll probably notice the crust has a different aroma.

jayjayjayjay's picture

Damn, that's nuts that you're using a vacuum sealer!  Pretty awesome.

Anyhow thanks for all the info, I'll give the plastic a shot. Also, is there a pH meter that you recommend?  Without having a known good example of a LM that I could use as a reference for taste/smell, it would be a useful tool to have.






Saimmon's picture

my mother lievito is with ph 2.2

with phaco to balance with ph 4.1

dabrownman's picture

Can't wait to make one and maybe store it under water!

Happy baking the Italian way 2020

Paindeconan's picture

Hi Michael! Thanks for posting the vids, they definitely sparked my interest to delve into the world of LM more in depth. I want to learn more about LM bc I heard that it doesn’t impart the usual tang or sourness the way most levains do.  Since I’m quite a newbie in the world of sourdough, do you mind me asking some basic questions?

Can I convert my 100% hydration levains into an LM or do I have to make it from scratch? 
Is there a tutorial on the basics of how to start and maintain an LM? 

Thank you so much in advance!

mwilson's picture

Yes you can convert 100% hydration starter no problem at all. The microflora will shift with repeated feedings, but in practice you don't need to worry about that.

I have a general information page here:

A comprehensive guide from Giorilli:

mwilson's picture

LucasCamargo's picture

Hi Mwilson.

I'm from Brazil, congrats for your work, it's really Nice to follow your publications,

I have a question? Could you help me?

My room temperature it's about 32°C , whats your suggestion to maintain my lievito madre?



schan128's picture

Dear Michael:

 Thank you for your great posts and videos about the lievito madre and panettones.  I am just starting my panettone journey.  All my panettones have failed (i.e., I flipped them over and the entire panettone drops to the floor).   I have a question about your diagram on  I think I need to figure out how to store and prepare my lievito madre.

In the Storage section, it states bound/water 12-20hrs, 24 hrs max.15-18C/20C max  4C.  Does this mean:

  • bound: 12-20 hrs, 24 max at 15-18C
  • water: 12-20 hrs, 24 max at 20C

What does the 4C refer to?

Please advise.  Thank you.

Kind regards,

Sherry at

mwilson's picture

Hello Sherry,

The maintenance of a LM type starter is a little nuanced and the information on my blog is essentially an overview which broadly outlines the principle practices.

The storage phase could be done with any combination of those variables mentioned.

It is arguably more important when using the ‘in water’ method to select a lower temperature. 15-18°C is common with this technique (i.e.; Morandin), while with the bound method 18°C is more common but Iginio Massari has written 20°C is acceptable also.

4°C would be used when storing the LM for more than 1 day.

It is said that when the panettone falls from its mould, there has been an over expression of dextran during fermentation. While dextran production (the polymerisation of glucose) by LAB is very important for the softness in the final product, too much leads to a weak structure which cannot hold the weight of the inverted panettone. The cause is most likely the use of a Madre that is too strong. "too strong" in a non acidic way, where it has become too oxidative and the LAB are hindered.

The remedy is usually a single refreshment done at 1:2 for the usual 4 hours at 28°C.

Understanding LM and making panettone successfully takes a considerable amount of practice...