Tip - Starter vs Levain
During the Covid-19 pandemic The Fresh Loaf has rec’d many new bakers. It may be that some of the bakers are not aware of the difference between a starter and a levain.
The starter is the “seed culture” whereas the Levain is enlarged from the starter so that the amount needed for a particular bread is available.
The purpose of the starter is to perpetuate a small amount of culture for future baking. Keeping the starter small saves space in the fridge (cold storage) and it also saves a great deal of flour. Many bakers only keep 25g or less starter at any given time. Increasing the amount of culture for baking is the job of the Levain.
The Levain is “built” from the starter.
Lets say a formula calls for 100g Levain. Once the starter is fed and active we can take a small amount and use that to build the levain. A typical Levain is often built in 1 or 2 builds. The ratio of starter (seed culture) to flour vary, most often depending on the activity of the starter and more so the time necessary to mature the build.
For this example we will build the Levain in one step (single build), using a 1:2:2 (starter:water:flour) ratio. 1+2+2=5, so 100g Levain divided by 5 parts is 20g. You will need 20g starter + 40g water + 40g flour to get the required 100g Levain.
Hope this helps someone.