5 Reasons Why I Build Extra Levain When I Mix

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

I want to explain my thought process behind having extra levain in my builds. This helps in case I need or want to double my batch at the last minute or if I want to practice a few different types of dough.

If you've seen any of my recipes on here, you'll notice that I pretty much do the same levain build for all of my bread and dough. Here's an example of one:

100 grams mature sourdough starter

50 grams King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour

150 grams King Arthur Organic Bread Flour

175 grams warm water

This mix will yield a total weight of about 475 grams of levain when it is ready to be mixed (in my experience it will yield a bit less). So, If I only need 200-210 grams to mix, what do I do with the rest?

Here are the 5 reasons why I build that extra levain

  1. Stuff Happens: We've all been there. A bowl drops and levain goes flying or you use the wrong flour in your mix. You get the idea - mistakes happen at home, and I'm usually thankful to have extra levain ready to be mixed after I clean up and regroup.

  2. I Want To Make More: Sometimes I'll remember that I want to make bread for friends and family instead of just testing things out. Having that extra levain will help me double my batch at the last second without any worries.

  3. I Want To Try Multiple types of Dough: Since my levain builds are essentially the same across the board, using the formula that yields 475 grams will allow you to try a couple of things at once. You could perhaps try even more if you cut the final mix recipes in half. I've tested many, many baguettes in small batches while mixing country loaves and pan de coco all from the same levain. Also, if you mix multiple things at once, you'll only have one clean up job to do.

  4. Did I forget to add the...Salt? Seeds? Extra water? If you realize you missed a step after an hour or two, don't throw that mix away. Finish the whole process with that dough, but be thankful for that extra levain you'll have to try it again the way you wanted. Of course, the maturity level will be a bit different but use it within a few hours after your first mix you'll be just fine.

  5. Your Levain Becomes a Starter: Having extra levain makes building another one super simple. If you don't ever use that extra levain, you DON'T have to discard all of it. Simply use it as the starter for your next feeding it after it has passed its maturity point and become a mature starter.

If you don't foresee the need to keep any extra levain at the time of your mix, no worries. Simply cut the build in half. This should get you right around the 200-210 amount that most of my recipes call for. However, I definitely encourage having that extra amount so that you can be flexible and make last minute decisions during your baking process.

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