Sourdough Starter Science: DIY Levain




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Before you can make your very own sourdough bread, you need an active starter or levain. Sourdough differs from other yeast breads in both preparation and flavor. Rather than using commercially available baker's yeast, sourdough utilizes wild yeast found in the air. The mildly sour flavor of the bread is in part the result of the presence of lactic acid produced by lactobacilli. With the help of this tutorial, you too will be on your way to making delicious homemade sourdough bread.

Step 1: Day 1: Create Starter Mixture

• 1 cup whole wheat or whole rye flour
• 3/4 cup pineapple juice (at room temperature)

• Mix until all of the flour is hydrated
• Scrape mixture into clean quart-size wide mouth glass container
• Cover container with paper towel, cheesecloth, or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band
• Mark the level of the starter with tape or rubber band
• Leave at room temperature for 24 hours

Step 2: Day 2: Add Flour and Mix Well

There will likely be very little change in the appearance of your starter.

• Scrape starter mixture into a mixing bowl
• Add 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose or unbleached bread flour
• Add 1/2 cup pineapple juice (at room temperature)
• Mix well.
• Wash and dry your glass container
• Scrape starter mixture into container
• Mark and cover container just as you did on day 1
• Leave at room temperature for 24 hours

Step 3: Day 3: Divide and Conquer

By this point, your starter mixture may have risen some and there might be a few bubbles. Whether you notice any fermentation or not, discard half of the mixture (or give to a friend). Next you will:

• Pour starter mixture into mixing bowl
• Add in 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
• Add 1/2 cup filtered water (room temperature)
• Wash and dry your container
• Scrape the mixture into container
• Mark and cover as before
• Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours

Step 4: Day 4: Size Multiplication Or...

At this point, the starter mixture should have at least doubled in size. If it hasn’t doubled in size, allow it to sit at room temperature for another 12 to 24 hours. If it has indeed doubled in size, repeat instructions for Day three.

Step 5: Day 5: Feed the Yeast

Feed the your starter 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water as you did on day three, every 12 hours.

Step 6: Day 6: If You Got a Rise...

If your starter has been active and always doubles in size (or more) between feeding then your starter is ready to bake with. If you are not yet ready to bake, proceed to the next step. If your starter still seems a little sluggish or is not at least doubling in size between feedings continue with the twice daily feedings as on you began on Day 5.

Step 7: Day 7: Caring for Your New Pet

If you aren't yet ready to bake, you can refrigerate your starter and feed once per week.



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    12 Discussions


    3 years ago on Step 2

    why is my bread so dence & a bit moist?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Could I use pineapple juice instead of water?

    Thx in advance, Ian


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Well going to try it. its in the cupboard. With orange juice that's what I had.

    Now two questions?

    1: should I keep it out off the light or doesent it matter. (don't have cabinet doors :-) )

    2: how much does temperature plays a role?

    I usually bake the artisan bread and now with the winter its cold inside and I see the rise is different so I heat up my place before I put the dough out to rise.

    I know yeast is active around 80deg so im wondering if it will start. It is usually around maybe 70deg in my place

    Thx in advance

    1 reply

    As long as it's not in direct light you should be fine! I found that leaving my culture in direct sunlight tended to cause it to dry out! But if it's just in a cabinet, that should be fine. Do be careful of direct sunlight though, as UV rays can sterilize and kill your yeast.

    Temperature is important too. The ideal temperature for wild yeast is between 70 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will cause the yeast to incubate very slower, higher and it may ferment alcoholically.

    It sounds like you have ideal conditions for your yeast, so you should be just fine! :)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This sounds great and I am very keen to try it - but once you have made the starter, how do you progress to the baking of the bread?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hey! I will post a recipe and baking tutorial soon! The recipe I use is pretty simple.


    4 years ago

    its have a little difficult


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I tried twice without pineapple juice, but will have to try it now. I'll let you know how it works in a week or so


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Sourdough is my fav!! The pineapple seems very interesting! I cant wait to try this one, THX!!


    4 years ago

    Oh ok. Thanks. I've made this several times before but it never worked. The juice may be just what I was missing. Thanks!

    Wild yeast tends to do better in an environment that is a bit acidic. When you mix flour and water together, you end up with a mixture that is close to neutral in pH. Filtered water works okay, but an acidic fruit juice such as pineapple or orange juice creates a more ideal environment for the yeast.