Image of Levain on Biancolievito

HOW TO FEED THE LEVAIN

We have finally prepared our Levain from scratch…What to do now? Once ripe, Levain can be stored in the refrigerator and used to make homemade bread and pizza.

HOW TO FEED The LEVAIN

Like any other Sourdough, Levain needs to be maintained and fed through refreshments.

Unlike stiff Sourdough, when feeding Levain, we will not do a bath. This is very important because I often receive messages from people who, confusing Levain and Sourdough, are used to soak it in the water before feed it. Result: all the Levain will dissolve in the water

Here is a recipe for feeding your Levain:

  • 100gr of Levain
  • 100gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)
  • 100gr of still water

First, pour the Levain into a bowl and add the water. Mix with a hand whisk to dissolve the starter and oxygenate it. You will notice the surface of the water will be filled with bubbles. This is very important to stimulate the reproduction of yeast cells.

At this point, add the flour and mix with a spatula until the mixture is relatively homogeneous. It is unnecessary to string the dough or mix it too much, so you can do this operation entirely by hand.

Once ready, pour the Levain into a pot and close the lid. Then place the pot in the fridge at +4°C (39°F) for at least 24 hours.

I personally recommend using a metal container for food. Unlike the glass pot, these containers will insulate the starter from light and preserve it better over time.

Depending on the amount of time you have available, you can decide to refresh the Levain every day or extend the storage time up to 5 to 7.

If you prefer to keep the Levain for more than 1 week, you will have to feed it with different proportions and decrease the amount of flour.

FOR 2 WEEKS OF STORAGE

  • 1000 gr of Levain
  • 250 gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)
  • 250 gr of water

FOR MORE THAN 4 WEEKS OF CONSERVATION

  • 1000 gr of Levain
  • 125 gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)
  • 125 gr of water

 

HOW TO USE LEVAIN IN YOUR RECIPES

Just like Sourdough, Levain needs to be fed before being used in a recipe. This operation is essential to balance its acidity.

Therefore, if you need to prepare a recipe with Levain, first feed it as described above. You can decide whether to feed only the quantity you need for the recipe or feed the whole quantity.

Keep in mind that with each refreshment, you are going to TRIPLE the amount of starter. So if you need 300 grams of ripe Levain for the recipe, you will have to divide this amount by 3 to know how much Levain to feed. In this case, you will only need to feed 100gr. 

Once fed with water and flour, you have 2 options for fermenting your Levain:

  • You can let it ferment for 3 hours of leavening at 30°C (86°F) 
  • You can place it in the fridge for 24 hours at +4°C (39°F).

If you decide to feed the whole quantity you have available, once refreshed, weigh the amount needed for the recipe and ferment it for 3 hours at 30°C (86°F) or 24 hours in the fridge. Pour the remaining part in the container well cleaned and store it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours (up to 5/7 days)

 

HOW MUCH LYCOLI FOR 1KG OF FLOUR

The average quantity of Levain that I recommend using for 1kg of flour varies from 200gr (20%) to 1kg (100%), in case you like bread with a persistent sour note. In my experience, 250gr of Levain for 1 kg of flour is a suitable quantity, which allows you to develop an excellent aromatic note and a balanced flavor.

Obviously, the leavening temperature plays an important role in choosing how much Levain to use in the recipe. In winter, you can slightly increase the quantity (+10%) and decrease it in summer.

If you want to make homemade bread or pizza, you can add Levain directly to the dough or use it to make a Biga. In this case, the amount of Biga that I recommend is about 20% of the total flour (for 1kg of flour, I will use 200gr to prepare the Biga and 800gr for the final dough)

 

HERE IS HOW TO PREPARE THE BIGA WITH LEVAIN

  • 100gr of Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)
  • 30gr of Ripe Levain (30% of flour weight)
  • 30gr of water (30% of flour weight)

To define the correct temperature of the water and have a Biga dough at 19 °C (50°F), you can use this empirical formula:

Water T = 90 – 3x Flour Temp – Levain Temp

For example, suppose the flour’s temperature is 20°C and Levain is at +4°C, the water temperature to use in the biga dough will be 90 – 60 – 4, which is 26°C (78°F).

As for the traditional Biga, fermentation time can vary from 16 – 18 hours at 19°C (66°F), but you can extend the fermentation up to 48 hours, starting the fermentation in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then at 19°C (66°F) for the next 24 hours.

 

WHAT TO DO IF THE LEVAIN IS TOO ACIDIC

The high hydration of the Levain makes it naturally more acidic than Sourdough and tends to develop a higher concentration of lactic acidity. Very often, the cause of exceeding acidity is the lack of refreshments for a long time.

It is essential to recognize the exceeding acidity of the Levain. in fact, It may compromise the final result of the recipe.

Here is how you can recognize when the Levain is too acidic:

  • Stinging scent
  • Grayish color
  • Very soft and stringy consistency 
  • Separation of the liquid part on the surface
Image of a levain too acidic
If the Levain is too acidic, you will notice a separation of the liquid part

To re-balance the starter, I recommend removing the watery part from the surface without mixing. Then take the inner part with a spoon and feed it with these proportions:

  • 100gr of Levain
  • 200gr Bread Flour (containing 14% to 16% of proteins)
  • 200gr of water

Refresh the dough as described above and, once it is ready, let it ferment at 26°C – 27°C until it doubles its volume.

After the last refreshment, you can store your Levain in the refrigerator and keep it up to 5 – 7 days as usual.

The Levain on Biancolievito

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