Cultivating a stiff levain, Sourdough bread-making methods, The Sourdough Journals
Leave a Comment

The levain lives!

The Sourdough Journals feature logo

Woo hoo! The starter is alive and well. Last night, before bed, and after the levain had incubated about six hours, I peeked into the oven. The levain filled the jar! Still, midnight and all, I left it there, wondering whether I’d find an overflowing mess or a deflated blob in the morning. Five hours later, the jar was still full.

You can see around the edges that it rose enough to press against the top and attempt to escape before falling back on itself. I may have just avoided a sticky mess in my oven, but for now all is well.

Overnight, the levain bubbled over and flattened itself against the roof of the lid

Overnight, the levain bubbled over and flattened itself against the roof of the lid

This morning, I reverted to the King Arthur method I mentioned when I started making a stiff levain five or six days ago.

First I divided the starter: Two ounces in a clean jar, the rest in the discards jar. I can tell you, I am NOT using those discards up fast enough!

To the two ounces, I added two ounces water and four ounces flour.

At first, I thought the mixture too dry to assimilate all the flour. Working it with my hands for a few minutes, I managed to incorporate every last grain. Once again, I had a nice, dense-but-moist ball of dough.

After a few minutes working the moisture into the flour, I had a stiff levain

After a few minutes working the moisture into the flour, I had a stiff levain

Here’s what it looked like just before I set it in the oven, turned the light on, and walked away.

After a few minutes working the moisture into the flour, I had a stiff levain

The stiff levain, loosely capped and ready to incubate in the oven

About eight hours into the incubation period, I took a quick peek. The starter had risen to half again its original volume. Plenty of bubbles laced the sponge.

Eight hours into the incubation period, we had lots of bubbles, a puffy top and some good rising action

Eight hours into the incubation period, we had lots of bubbles, a puffy top and some good rising action

When I came back to it four hours later, it had not increased in volume, but the bubbles were larger and seemed to permeate the sponge.

Four hours later, the starter was much the same, except we saw a lot more bubbles

Four hours later, the starter was much the same, except we saw a lot more bubbles

Breaking the starter apart, I found it spongy throughout, airy and full of small and large holes.

Inside, the starter is thick, spongy and full of airy holes

Inside, the starter is thick, spongy and full of airy holes

Time for the second feeding of the day. Once again, after the King Arthur stiff-levain method, I added two ounces filtered water and four ounces stone ground whole wheat flour to two ounces of the yeasty levain.


At first, I wasn’t sure I had enough liquid to moisten the flour. Quickly dropping the fork, I pummelled the dough gently, gradually incorporating the flour.

At last, after eight minutes mixing the flour in with my hands, I had a ball of dough.

A quite stiff levain, ready to incubate overnight

A quite stiff levain, ready to incubate overnight

Shaping the ball to fit, I dropped it into a clean jar, ready to incubate in the oven, warmed slightly by the oven light.

The levain in a clean jar, about to go into the oven

The levain in a clean jar, about to go into the oven

That’s it for today. If this levain, and the one that follows tomorrow night,¬†rise okay, I may be able to think about making a loaf on Friday. Woo. Hoo. It’s about time.

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s