HOMEGROWN Life: Catching some Levain (aka Sourdough Starter)

| 3/16/2012 1:19:52 PM

Tags: 101, baking, bread, crust, howto, SanFrancisco, yeast, Farm Aid and Homegrown.org,




San Francisco is famous for their sourdough bread which runs wild around there. Fortunately we can all catch our own wild sourdough starter, which is also called levain. Levain is the French term for sourdough starter and has been used for centuries to make bread. Bread made with Levain may even be healthier for you than breads made with commercial yeast. Sourdough actually has a lower glycemic index than regular bread. The levain also breaks down phytic acid in grains. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Levain also shows promise for people that are intolerant of gluten because it helps degrade and deactivate the proteins that adversely affect people.

Nowadays you can purchase commercial sourdough starter, but what fun is that? Plus you can’t boast that you actually caught the wild levain that made your bread. The bonus is that it’s super easy to do and doesn’t take much, but you don’t have to tell others that. Go ahead and let them think it took you days of complicated procedures to obtain.

So are you ready to get blown away? To catch a levain all you need is some flour and an equal amount of water in a wide mouth container or bowl. Yep, that’s pretty much all you need. And all you do is mix the flour and water together and set it outside for a couple of days. Bring it in, keep it in a relatively warm spot and once it starts to form bubbles on the surface you can go ahead and store it in the fridge. The only thing you do need to do is occasionally feed it equal parts of flour and water once a day. It should have a slightly sour smell to it, which is a good thing. You can keep your levain going for as long as you’re willing to take care of it, or if something goes wrong like it gets moldy.

amelia contreras
5/5/2012 6:21:46 PM

I store my starter in a mason jar with one of the plastic screw caps. If you bake enough, you can keep it on the counter, feeding it every day or two. If you keep it in the fridge it doesn't need to be fed as often. If you make your starter with a whole grain flour it is more vulnerable to mold because of the oils in the grain. I use unbleached bread flour to feed mine. Also, I didn't put mine outside first, just on the kitchen counter. ~Amelia C

danielle maj
5/5/2012 4:52:29 AM

Oh, I meant to say that yes, whole wheat is fine for the loaf, but rye is best for the starter.

danielle maj
5/5/2012 4:51:33 AM

No honey is needed to feed the yeast. They grow more slowly than commercial strains, so don't need the super energy from purified sugars. Also, no olive oil is needed. I've made sourdough several times before, and its pretty standard to use just flour, water, and salt.

ann davis
5/2/2012 9:24:32 PM

Hi, When you store your levain in the fridge, what sort of container should it be in? What should it be covered with?

linda crawford
4/29/2012 9:26:08 PM

You mentioned people that are intolerant to gluten...Do you know if this sour dough can be started and fed with a gluten-free flour too? If so, is Brown Rice the best option, since it is actually a grain vs Almond Flour, that is not a grain? Thanks.

steven gunter
4/27/2012 12:34:44 PM

There is "only salt", added to the flour? No Olive oil, or a little Honey to feed the yeast a little when you go to make a loaf? I am asking from the position of not being a baker; not from experience. I only read recipes at this time. Also; is it OK if I used >Whole Wheat

4/27/2012 12:25:33 PM

There is "only" >saltwhole wheat

eric mcdaniel
4/26/2012 1:52:07 PM

Place a small piece of nylon screening material over the jar and secure with a rubber band. That will do the trick and keep more than mice out.

cherie winterbine
4/26/2012 12:21:37 AM

re: settting bowl outside a couple days... will this work in rainy weather (if bowl is under shelter) or is it best to wait for a couple sunny days. and. trying to think of a place to put it that the mice won't get to it. there are a lot about this year here, i can somewhat keep them out of my house but the yard is another matter. Thanks for the article I can't wait to try it!

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!