Sourdough crackers (France 2023) – “leftover sourdough starter”
Starting and building up your levain (sourdough starter) from Chef Jessice Rice
Day One: Put 500 grams of whole wheat flour and 500 grams of water (90F/32C) into a container and mix by hand until just incorporated. Leave the slurry-like mixture uncovered for 1 to 2 hours, then cover it and let the mixture rest in a warm place. 75F to 90F (24C to 32C) is ideal, but not a requirement.
Day Two: Must Be Done Anytime Before Noon: Throw away ¾’s of your initial mix. Leave the remainder in the container. Add 500 grams of whole wheat flour and 500 grams of water (90F/32C) to the mixture and mix by hand until just incorporated. Leave to sit uncovered for 1 to 2 hours, then cover and let rest in a warm place.
By the end of Day 2, the levain should have expanded to at least 1/3-1/2 up the sides of the container, with some small bubbles visible.
Day Three: Must Be Done Anytime Before Noon: The levain should be 2 times the volume it was when you mixed it the previous day. There should be bubbles throughout the mixture and a leathery, alcoholic odor.
Again – throw away about ¾ of the mixture, leaving the remainder in the container. Add 500 grams of whole wheat flour and 500 grams of water (90F/32C) and mix by hand until just incorporated. Leave the mixture uncovered for 1 to 2 hours, then cover it and let it rest in a warm place. Later in the day the levain should have a distinctly pungent, soured odor – be sure to do a smell check.
Day Four: Must Be Done Anytime Before Noon: The levain should again have volumized, with bubbles throughout. On Day 4, you will reserve a smaller amount of the levain – Toss all but 200 grams of the mixture. You will want to be accurate with the measurement, so be sure to weigh it out.
Add 250 grams of whole wheat flour and 250 grams of (90F/32C) water and mix by hand until incorporated. Cover and let rest in a warm place.
Day Five: The levain culture should now be vigorous enough to use in recipes. A nice marker of a mature levain is when, 7-8 hours after the morning mix and feed, it has a medium-ripe pungency and, if you wet your hand and pull out a piece of it, you should feel its gassiness and be able to sense its web-like internal structure. It should be very goopy, with a somewhat viscous texture.
On Day 5, you will switch from building your levain to a regular feeding schedule, using 80% hydration, a blend of white and whole wheat flour, and slightly cooler water.
Sometime Between 7 am. and 9 am.: Throw out all but 150 grams of the levain mixture. Add 400 grams of all purpose flour, 100 grams of whole wheat flour, and 400 grams of water, mixing by hand until just incorporated. Cover and rest in a warm place.
By the afternoon, the levain should be ready for use in dough.
Important Cues to Look For:
- When you open your levain in the morning, allow the initial release of gas out, and then stick your nose into the container and breathe in the odor of your culture.
- Visually inspect your levain – make note of the overall texture, the wetness or stretchiness, the color.
- You should make a record of these every day in tandem with your feeding schedule – you want to be as familiar as possible with your culture, so that spotting discrepancies or changes becomes intuitive.
Using and Feeding Your Levain:
- If you use your levain less than 1-2 times a week, then typically 1-2 feedings and a check is fine.
- If you use your levain more frequently than 3 times a week, you will feed every other day in winter and every single day in summer (or just everyday in a humid climate).
Whatever your feeding schedule, it should be regular and consistent.
- 100 grams Levain
- 100 grams Whole Wheat Flour
- 400 grams White Flour
- 400 grams Water, 85F to 90F (29C to 32C) (warmer in winter, cooler in summer)
The target temperature for levain right after feeding is between 78F and 80F (26C and 27C). Between feedings cover the levain and let it rest at room temperature.
When you are not making dough or using your levain daily, or don’t wish to feed it every single day, you need to have a consistent storage plan. The best and most expedient option is the refrigerator or walk-in.
After using it in a final dough mix, take around 300 grams of the remaining levain, coat it with a film of water, and put it in a nonperforated plastic bag, then refrigerate it for up to 1 month. When you are ready to use it again, you will have to plan ahead in order to bring it back and use it at full strength by doing the following:
- 2 Days before You Plan to Bake: Remove the levain from the fridge and put 200 grams of the mixture into a container. Discard the remainder. Let it sit out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes to warm up. Add 100 grams of whole wheat flour, 400 grams of white flour, and 400 grams of water and mix by hand until just incorporated. Cover and allow to rest in a warm spot overnight.
- Morning of the Day Before You Plan to Bake: Feed the levain again, using the same proportions you use for a daily feeding.