What is levain?In English, levain is called sourdough. Levain is the culture of naturally occurring yeast in our environment; yeast is present on practically all surfaces, from our skin, fruits, counters, to the flour we use for baking and the air we breathe. When cultivating the yeast for bread making, water is added to flour, and this mixture is left to slowly ferment at room temperature for 5 days or so. During this time, small amounts of water and flour are added to the mix to “feed” the culture. When the levain is bubbly and has a pleasant order with a hint of acidity, the levain is ready for use.
How to use levain to make bread?
From this point on, the levain can be used directly in your bread recipe, or it can be used as a seed to start a different levain, according to your recipe. We refer to the levain your purchased from us as LfB (Le fournil Bakery) levain.
Important note: Make sure to always use a recipe scaled in grams as it is the best and most precise way of measuring ingredients, and use a digital kitchen scale (an inexpensive one will suffice). Note that one gram is a very, very small amount, so don’t be too rigid when scaling as a couple of grams won’t make a huge difference. (1 ounce = 28 grams)
To use LfB levain as a “seed” or “starter”:
- Scale out the amount of “seed” or “starter” as stated in your recipe and follow its directions.
- If you have some LfB levain left, add 25 g water and 25 g flour to it, mix by hand until the flour is absorbed, and place it in an airtight container in your refrigerator until you need it next.
- Scale out the total amount of levain in the recipe from your LfB levain and follow the recipe’s directions.
- If you have some LfB levain left, feed it, and store it as mentioned above.
- Take out the levain from the refrigerator 8 to 12 hours before using it.
- Feed it in the proportions of ½ flour and ½ warm water of the total amount of levain you will need in the recipe (either as a starter or as the total amount of levain).
You can keep your levain in your refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to one week. If you want to keep it longer, take it out after the week, feed it 25 g flour and 25 g warm water and leave it out overnight. Feed it again (same quantities) in the morning and put it back in the refrigerator. The longer the levain stays in the refrigerator, the more sour and acidic it will become; try to use your levain at least once a week.
Alternatively, use up all the levain when you receive it and purchase more the next time you want to make bread.
Levain will be ready to use 8 to 12 hours after feeding it and leaving it at room temperature. It will die off sometime after being left 18 to 24 hours at room temperature without being fed.
There is a LOT more to say about levain, but this information should get you started.