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Hamelman 125% liquid levain maintenance feedings questions

Lucky5's picture
Lucky5

Hamelman 125% liquid levain maintenance feedings questions

I recently got a copy of Hamelman’s Bread and I am confused about the starter maintenance feedings. It seems like he doesn’t really recommend keeping a separate starter culture fed but instead that you just save 2 T of the levain build. I can’t find anywhere where he describes a daily/weekly maintenance feeding schedule for perpetuating the culture without building it up.

Question 1: The hydration of the maintenance culture. Does Hamelman actually recommend that occasional bakers maintain a 125% hydration liquid levain? He gives instructions for building the culture and building the levain to be used in a bread on pp. 421-428, but the discussion of “Sourdough Maintenance for the Occasional Baker” on pp. 432-33 confusingly describes making a build (again, not maintenance) from a 100% hydration starter. Yet neither does he explicitly recommend that occasional bakers maintain a 100% hydration starter instead of the 125% hydration starter called for in his recipes. So, what gives? 100% or 125% for home bakers that bake once a week?

Question 2: The ratio of the feedings. In the seasonal build examples for the occasional baker on p. 433 (with a 100% hydration starter), he recommends a 1:1 starter to fresh flour ratio in winter months and a 1:2.5 ratio in summer. However, in the 125% hydration liquid levain build for the Vermont Sourdough on p. 152, the ratio between  “mature culture (liquid)” and fresh flour is 1:5. Does this mean that for a 125% hydration culture the ratio between mature culture and fresh flour should be 1:5, but for 100% hydration cultures as described on p. 433 it should be 1:1 or 1:2.5? Or is it just for the final build that such a low percentage of mature culture is used? What ratios should be used for the regular maintenance feedings for a once-a-week baker?

In short, what level of hydration and what ratio of starter to flour and water would be recommended for Hamelman’s recipes? 

AlanG's picture
AlanG

My sourdough recipe is a mixture of Hammelman and David Snyder's.  I maintain the starter at 100% in the fridge.  I will take a small portion out and feed it at a 1:2:2 ratio the morning before dough preparation.  In the evening I will prepare a 125% hydration levain for the next morning.  Once a month or two I will generate a new starter culture and just to keep the microorganisms happy.  there are only two of us at home right now and I bake every 10-12 days.

gavinc's picture
gavinc

Hamelman's regime in the formulas in his book is for a commercial setting, where the baker he seeds the levain with the leftover from the previous. The amount of ripe seed culture is removed from the levain before mixing the final dough.

Hamelman's personal starter is a stiff rye sour that is 85% hydration, 100% whole-rye and 50% mature rye sour. The amounts are 10-gram stiff rye sour, 17-gram water and 20-gram whole-rye flour; a total of 47 grams. He keeps this separate from any levain he requires. He elaborates a portion of the stiff rye culture into a white flour liquid levain over 2 to 3 feeds. He feeds his stiff rye sour every morning and it lives on his counter-top.

There are many ways to maintain a healthy starter, but I like Hamelman's personal regime as I always get a very active and vibrant levain.

Cheers,

Gavin

Lucky5's picture
Lucky5

Alan and Gavin, thanks so much for your help. I’ve been keeping both a 100% hydration liquid AP flour starter in the fridge and the mini stiff 85% rye starter on the counter. I plan to keep both going for a while to see which approach fits better with my baking routines. 

 

I used my existing 100% hydration AP countertop culture (fed daily) to make the rye starter. It’s my first time with a rye culture, and I find that it has a very different odor. I assume that’s normal, or perhaps a result of my culture adapting to a different food source and hydration level. 

 

I have a few questions about each approach.

 

Fridge liquid levain: How often do you need to take it out and feed it? How many feedings does it take to get it back to full health to make the levain build? 

 

Mini stiff rye: Gavin mentioned that Hamelman elaborates a 125% liquid levain (with white flour I assume) over a few feedings. Do you have a recommended schedule or process for that? I watched the Isolation baking Vermont sourdough episode where Hamelman talked about his personal rye culture but I don’t remember him talking about elaborating it into a liquid levain. 

 

Thanks again for your help. I think one or the other approach will make more sense than what I’m doing now, which is keeping a 100% liquid levain on the countertop, which I typically feed 50-75 g of fresh flour and water each day, along with 25-30 g of the culture. I end up throwing so much away. 

gavinc's picture
gavinc

I'm glad we could be of help. Here's how I convert my 85% hydration stiff starter to a liquid white flour levain:

I feed my rye sour culture at about 7 am each morning. I take 10 gram of culture and place into a clean bowl and feed 17 gram of water and 20-gram rye flour. That leaves 37 gram, that I use for stage one of the levain build: 37-gram stiff rye culture, 20-gram water and 9-gram white bread flour. That is just to increase the hydration to 125% and enough food for a few hours. At 5 pm that afternoon, I check how much levain I need for the next morning's bake, eg. for one 750 gram loaf of Vermont sourdough, I need 152 gram of levain, therefore stage two build is: 13-gram of stage one, 67-gram bread flour and 84-gram water. That is 20%, 100% and 125%. The 20% of stage one will be enough to fully ferment the flour in 14 hours at 21C. I have the formula below for reference. I find the cost of 20-gram of rye a day is very small and is worth it as I get a vibrantly strong levain. Edit: during summer here, the overnight temp is about 25C, so only 10% culture is needed to ripen the levain over 14 hours.

Also, for interest, I wrote about solving my starter issue in the blog: Solved my starter issue | The Fresh Loaf