Secret to a Consistent and Active Levain


The single most important discovery for me as a professional baker the past year has been the double-fed sourdough.  Up until this time, both Stinky (wheat) and Sourpuss (rye) received single feedings that would ripen overnight and be incorporated in the next morning’s mixes. Of course there were many considerations and deliberations and decisions to be made: the changing temperature of the room overnight, the temperature of the water, the amount of lead time before the sourdoughs would be mixed, the mother:flour:water ratio, and so on, and so on.  Although I was generally satisfied with the product, there was more variation than desired.  And an underlying feeling of uncertainty of how loaves would turn out persisted and nagged at my conscience.  There must be a better way!

As it turns out, there is a better way.  Many of the principles outlined in my video for the Detmolder Two-Stage Feeding Method (Detmolder Zweistufenfuehrung) used for a rye sourdough culture can be applied to a wheat sourdough culture with incredible results.  There are some slight differences, so I will walk you through an example below.

TWO-STAGE LEVAIN FEEDING SCHEMA

Need:  800g of levain at 100% hydration (equal parts water and flour)

Feed #1:  20g mother + 200g flour + 200g water, Target Temp: 70-75F, Time: 12+ hours 

Feed #2: all of Feed #1 + 200g flour + 200g water, Target Temp 90F, Time: 3-4 hours

NOTES

– Amount of needed levain is divided by 4 to determine how much flour and water for each feeding

– Feed #1 is cooler and longer; Feed #2 is hotter and shorter

– Water Temp = Target Temp + (Target Temp – Ambient Temp)  

– Use mixer with whisk attachment. This incorporates oxygen, which promotes duplication of yeast

– Cover loosely, allowing sourdough to have some exposure to oxygen

– For those of you wanting a bit more open cell structure in your wheat-based loaves, you can autolyze your dough the same time as Feed #2.  See my video on autolyze

I look forward to your comments, questions, and results!

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