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  • Ola Szwabo

Liquid Leaven




Liquid leaven is one of several pre-ferments used as leavening agents in bread-making. It needs to be prepared in advance and added to the dough ingredients. Developing a vigorous starter is the first step in bread making process. Leaven is then created from the starter right before bread making (simply stated, leaven is freshly fed young starter).There are many recipes on how to make a starter. Some of them involve the use of acid-producing ingredient bacteria in yogurt or buttermilk; others use the wild yeast in apples or raisins. Finally, one might start with store-bought starters. One of the biggest aha! moments for me was the realization that the process is much simpler, cheaper, and involves only a few ingredients: flour, water, and patience! No need to overcomplicate – it is simple!


Step 1: Developing cultureMix an equal amount of flour (half white and half whole wheat) and lukewarm water with your hands until you receive a consistency of the thick batter with no lumps. Cover and place in a cool, shaded spot for three days.



On day 3, you should notice bubbles forming on the surface and around the sides. If the mix appears inactive – allow another day or two. The speed of fermentation highly depends on the temperature in your kitchen. The dark crust may form on the surface of the mixture – that’s perfectly normal for the culture mix to dry out. Dispose of 2/3 of the mixture and repeat the process from day one: mix an equal amount of flour (half white and half whole wheat) and lukewarm water until you receive consistency of the thick batter with no lumps. Cover and place in a cool, shaded spot.



Step 2: Training the culture into starterThis step aims to train the culture to be a lively and predictable starter by “feeding” it every 24 hours, preferably in the morning.To begin training the culture, dispose of 80% of the mixture and replace it with equal amount of flour (half white and half whole wheat) and lukewarm water and mix the ingredients. Repeat the process until your starter ferments predictably, rising and falling after feedings (the volume will increase for several hours after feeding and then start to collapse).


It took four days of training for my starter to be ready to prepare leaven and make bread.



Step 3: Making Leaven About eight hours before bread baking, mix about 1/4 cup of starter with 200g of flour (half white and half whole wheat) and 200g lukewarm water. Cover and let it rise. The leaven is ready when it meets the float test – drop a spoon of the starter into a bowl of lukewarm water – it is ready when it floats. If it sinks, place the starter in warm place for 30-60 minutes and repeat the test.




Happy Baking!







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