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wet levain, local breads

Bella's picture

wet levain, local breads

I am on day 9 of my wet levain from "Local Breads"

I am feeding every night, equal water and flour, and stirring for 30 seconds every 8 hours (approx). To hasten fermentation I have tried going with warmer water.

It has the consistancy of a thin pancake batter and when I go to stir, there is always liquid sitting on top. I am near the border in Canada and ambient temperature is 67 degrees. I keep the levain in the warmest part of the house but don't want to jack up the heat just for this. I realize that this adds time to rising etc., but don't know if my wet levain is behaving properly or not. It is usually somewhat bubbly when I go to stir, it smells like sweet beer but I can't imagine something so thin could rise. Mine certainly hasn't. How do I know it is ready? (note - there are no strings, spiderwebs, or gluten chains of any kind)

On another note, I have started the stiff dough levain in a separate bowl to compare. Any thoughts?


leemid's picture

wet starters often will not noticably rise, or only a little bit, especially if they are very wet. You say you add equal parts water and flour, the question is are they equal in volume or weight? Equal in volume is more than 100% hydration and I would not be surprised by no rise. If they are equal in weight, you should get good rise if the yeasts are viable. There are many discussions you can reference here about starting a starter. If you have no success, I recommend getting active, proven starter from someone. Google for free starter and see what you get.

Good luck,


Bella's picture

Thanks so much for responding. Although the book recommends using weight, it gives volume and percentage as well. I don't have a digital scale yet so I went by the dry and liquid measure. This is definitly wet - is it usable do you think? I have done exactly what he has said and used exactly the measurements he has given - except that my house is cooler than his recommendations and I don't have organic, stone ground flour. Although it looks benign, it smells yeasty. In a good way, not rotting or anything!



SourdoLady's picture

Try to create a warmer place for your sourdough. I have filled a large container with a flat lid with hot tap water and then sit the sourdough container on top of the lid. You can even wrap a towel around the hot water container to retain the warmth longer. Change the water after it cools off, but you will be surprised at how long it stays warm like this. Your sourdough needs more warmth to get going.

bwraith's picture

Hi Bella,

I agree with Sourdolady that it is easier to get a starter started using a temperature around 80F. Once it's started, 67F isn't a problem at all for regular feeding and maintaining. In cold temperatures it works well to use a wetter, thinner starter and feed it at a little bit lower feeding ratio, like 1:2.5:2 (starter:water:flour by weight).

Also, to figure out if it's working one thing you can do is as follows.

Take 20 grams of your starter and feed it with 40 grams of water and 45 grams of flour to make a thick but stirrable paste. This will rise instead of just foaming, like a very wet starter does. It should rise by double in volume in about 8 hours at 67F. If it is taking much longer than that to rise by double in volume, then it may not be ready yet.

Sorry I gave that all in weights. It sounded like you were going to get a digital scale soon. If not, then try something like 1 tbsp of starter, 2 tbsp water, and 3.5 tbsp flour.


Bella's picture

I think you are right. The temperature is what is letting me down. I have successfully made the biga, poolish and stiff dough levain but trying to do the wet levain as the book shows doesn't seem to be taking off. I am on day 10 now. The day he says to give up and start over if not working. I might just try one loaf with it to see if anything happens. If I end up with a rock maybe I can make panzanella soup out of it!

You guys have been great and I am so happy to have found this website. I will ask for a digital scale for mother's day.... unless I can convince hubby that Easter is a great opportunity for gift giving!

Thanks, B.