Yippee! The levain grew a little overnight. In the photographs below, you see the levain as it was right after I fed it last night, just before bed.
In the photograph on the right, you can see that the levain grew in the last twelve hours, but did not quite double.
Behind the levain, notice the discards jar. Last night, I crumbled the excess levain into the jar, added a little water, and set it atop the fridge. Just look at all those spongy bubbles.
A clean, slightly yeasty scent wafts from both jars as I lift their lids. Carefully extracting the levain, I am pleased to feel how moist it is, although it is not the least bit spongy.
The temperature in our apartment is cool enough today that I need to wear layers on top of layers. We get no heat after ten in the morning (it’s a San Francisco thing), so I’ve decided to see how the levain will do in the oven, with the light turned on for warmth.
First I feed it, as before: 2 ounces levain + 2 ounces filtered water + 4 ounces whole wheat flour. Then I cover it loosely and set it in the oven. By bedtime, twelve hours later, the levain is disappointingly flat. The only sign of growth–a slight puffiness on top.
Despite the lack of progress, I feed the starter once more. This time, I change things up two ways.
First I use a larger jar. Second, I barely mix the levain. I don’t knead or pack it into a ball or puck shape. Instead, I break it up with the fork and mix just enough to moisten the new flour and incorporate it into the old. Then I set it all in the oven to incubate over night once more.
Nurturing the excess starter
Meanwhile, I’m still nurturing along my excess starter, which now completely fills its jar.
This morning, I experimented by crumbling the excess levain into the jar, adding a little water, but not breaking it up too much. I wanted to see whether the yeast and moisture would break down the chunks.
Now, in the evening, you can see the starter did not absorb all the water. The chunks seem to have broken down a little, but the larger ones, like the one you can just see in the bottom right of the photograph, are mainly intact.
One good thing: We have plenty of live yeast action throughout the spongy mass.
Tomorrow, I’ll use some of the starter to make a sourdough apple coffee cake we love.
Tonight, though, I’ll divide the starter into two jars. The first goes right into the refrigerator, to keep the unfed yeast from dying off too quickly.
The second jar gets tonight’s excess levain, broken up slightly with a fork. Then I’ll pour in some water, and set it, loosely covered, in the oven beside the stiff levain. I’m curious to see what happens to this excess starter overnight when I don’t mix it at all and let it incubate in a warm place.