Cultivating a stiff levain, Sourdough bread-making methods, The Sourdough Journals
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Stiff levain fail

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When I fed the levain last night, I experimented with not forming it into a puck.

This time, after mixing and aerating it with a fork, I left the mixture loose. I hoped that leaving more air spaces might induce the starter to grow a little faster. In the photo above, you can see how the levain looked just before I set it in the oven.

Twelve hours later, the levain looked exactly the same, so I left it in the oven, checking it every hour or so for action. After incubating for sixteen and a half hours, the levain had not grown, not puffed, not changed.

The levain looks exactly as it did 16-1/2 hours ago

The levain looks exactly as it did 16-1/2 hours ago

Discouraged, I refreshed the levain as usual, tearing two ounces into a clean bowl, adding two ounces filtered water and four ounces flour.

This time, though, having made it to the store at last, I replaced the gritty, coarse flour I’ve been using with my trusty old-faithful, Bob’s Red Mill Organic Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour.

Ever since Bob’s Red Mill replaced their eco-friendly all-paper bags with plastic, I’ve avoided their flour, experimenting with one organic brand after another.

Hence the super-coarse flour I’ve struggled with the past couple of weeks. When I’m in a fix, though, I revert to Bob’s Red Mill, still the best pre-ground, off-the-shelf, whole wheat flour.

Concerned that the levain was dead, or nearly so, I made an impulsive decision. I plopped in two teaspoons wet starter from my still-active discards jar and added just enough water to mix easily. This “doctoring” produced a wet levain that held its shape well, but was far from stiff.

Before setting the wet levain in the oven to incubate, I chunked the rest of the stiff levain into my discards jar and mixed it up as best I could with a little added water. Then I set both in the oven, light on, and away from drafts. Will my starter revive? I’ll find out in the morning.

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