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Sourdough Starter and Levain

Total 5 days (includes lots of resting and proofing time)
Active 50 mins
Makes 1 starter, for up to 4 doughs
You will see in my recipes that I use the same levain build, or a slightly modified version of it, when I mix bread. Whether the final bread is enriched, sweet, or rustic, I find this levain build to work just fine. There are many, many ways to build a levain but I believe using this one build makes life at home easy.
TIP: My ambient room temperature for both of these processes is usually around 72°F to 75°F.
  • Sourdough Starter
    • 500 grams (about 4 1/2 cups) rye flour
    • 500 grams (about 4 1/2 cups) warm water
  • Levain
    • 85 grams (about 3/4 cup) mature sourdough starter
    • 150 grams (about 1 cup) bread flour
    • 50 grams (about 1/3 cup) whole wheat flour
    • 175 grams (about 3/4 cup) warm water
  1. For the sourdough starter -- Day One: Use a fork to mix 100 grams (1/2 cup) of rye flour and 100 grams (1/2 cup) of warm water in a glass mason jar or any type of container that has a lid. Cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2. Day Two: You will probably see some sort of activity depending on how warm your kitchen is. The smell may not be so pleasant. Reserve 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) of the mixture and discard the rest. Feed another 100 grams (1/2 cup) of rye flour and 100 grams (1/2 cup) of warm water to the original mixture and leave at room temperature for another 24 hours.
  3. Day Three: You may see the markings on the walls of the jar from a "rise and fall" of the new starter, along with nice bubbles and air pockets. This is good. The smell should be getting a bit more bearable. Repeat the process of Day Two.
  4. Day Four: There will definitely be a good volume increase and a consistent amount of bubbling and air pockets. There should be a somewhat sweet and sour smell that is pleasant. You're in the home stretch. Repeat Day Two one more time.
  5. Day Five: By this point, you should have a ripe and sweet-smelling sourdough starter. You should see some movement of the bubbles when you jostle the container and a structure when you stir it. You are now ready to build a levain.
  6. For the levain: Use a fork to mix the mature starter, bread flour, whole wheat flour, and warm water in a container, then let it rest at room temperature until the mixture is covered in bubbles and air pockets for 3 to 4 hours.

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