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Author Topic: proportion mature starter in levain build vs. proportion in refreshment schedule  (Read 1835 times)

Offline Jacqueline

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Hello all,

I only just got my copy of 'Bread' and decided to try the Pain au Levain, which needs a stiff starter. I started one off from my 100% hydration starter, and refreshed it a couple of times to the proportions given at the back of the book- whichever bit of the Appendix deals with starter maintenance and so on. Here, the instruction is to refresh your starter every 12 hours with 100% mature starter to fresh flour, and 60% water to flour weight. E.g.: 100g starter, 100g flour, 60g water. So effectively the starter is refreshed to 1.6 times it's original weight.

Yet, I noticed that in the levain build for the pain au levain (and I think for most breads usign a stiff white starter), it's a MUCH heavier feed: 20% mature starter to fresh flour, and 60% water to flour. E.g.: 20g starter, 100g flour, 60g water. This refreshes the starter to 8 times it's original weight. But it's meant to be ready in 12 hours, as well.

I tried this a day or two ago, and at the end of 12 hours the levain build didn't look ready to me, even though I'm really inexperienced with stiff starters- it hadn't doubled, it wasn't domed and bubbly, it didn't smell 'ready'. It looked better at the end of 24 hours, but the resultant dough is still in the fridge (thanks to that pesky thing called paid employment), so I don't know how it will turn out.

Does anyone have any insight? Is there a qualitative difference in terms of the final loaf between a levain with a smaller proportion of sour, and one with a larger? Could I forget the leavain build and just use the right amount of mature levain from the refreshment schedule in the final dough?

Thanks!! Jacqueline

Offline Zeb

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The liquid levain gets through its food more quickly, so gets refreshed more often, and so will be less sour than a stiff levain and more busy in terms of yeast and enzyme activity as there will be less acid and waste products in the mix to inhibt the yeast and the enzymes.  At least that's the theory as I understand it.

 A liquid starter is supposed to have more lactic acid, a stiff starter more acetic acid, so presumably that will make a difference in some way and there are other differences in terms of enzyme activity and so on which are a bit over my head  - see the erudite discussion here http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11746/liquid-levain-vs-stiff-levain#comment-65710  on the Fresh Loaf.

However, I would have thought that if one makes a dough and then retards it in the fridge, then that will change the dough far more in terms of final taste, making it more sour, whatever the original starter was.  I think the guys on the Fresh Loaf know more about this than me!
Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

Offline Jacqueline

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Well, here's the 24-hour-retarded pain au levain. It turned out well, not sour at all and with a lovely firm, yet open, crumb. Hamelman actually doesn't recommend retarding it, he says it will compromise the 'delicate' nature of the bread, but it seemed fine to me...

Looking forward to the November breads! Jacqueline


Offline Zeb

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I think that looks just splendid, your crust looks quite delicate and it is certainly airy and springy looking. pompom I haven't made that one yet.. so many breads to bake in that book!
Joanna @ Zeb Bakes