The Fresh Loaf

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Tip - Levain Timing - Variables -

DanAyo's picture

Tip - Levain Timing - Variables -

For those with sourdough (SD) baking experience, no explanation is necessary. The following is posted fore those new to the game...

Most formulas and methods instruct the baker to ferment their precisely described levain for “X” amount of hours. Many even say overnight. A few will indicate the temperature. BUT this is what experienced bakers know.

The levain is mature when it’s mature. 

There are a number of variables that can have a great affect on the timing until maturity.

  1. The Biggie - Temperature. A few degrees warmer or cooler can have a huge affect on the timing.
  2. The Activity of your Starter - SD starters are unique and can vary quite a bit in characteristics.

 Also other variants, like flour(s) and whole grains.

It is best to learn your starter through experience. The hourly timing given in a particular recipe is a general starting point. But as you learn your starter/levain, you will know what if any changes are required to use your starter/levain at it’s maximum. 

Keep in mind that some breads call for a “Young Levain”. In that case it would be considered ready a little earlier.

Fermentation timing can be easily speeded or slowed.
Warmer = Faster 
Cooler = Slower
AND a few degrees (+ or - 4F) difference can alter the timing quite q bit.

Here is a timing tip that you may find very useful -
Suppose you don’t want to ferment your levain (1:5:5) overnight like instructed. You can mix (1:1:1) or another similarly low ratio of starter to flour,  ferment @ 82F and have a fully mature starter or levain in 4 hours. NOTE- the ratio, temp, and timings have to be worked out for your particular starter.

Sourdough Starters

Starters vs. Levains

Different Methods of Calculating the Levain

HeiHei29er's picture

Thanks for posting this Dan.  Have it bookmarked, and will be doing some reading this week!