Sourdough, even a simple country loaf, is already packed with so much wonderful flavor but how do you make it taste even better? I had been reading about using a starter that is “younger” and doesn’t develop that typical tang, or sourness, but a more subtle sourdough profile that still delivers a ton of flavor.

Since I started learning to bake bread I became more interested in the San Francisco sour that has so much popularity yet most of the bread I baked was not sour, instead there was subtle tang but not overwhelmingly so. So when I heard about this young levain, or starter, that did not have the typical sourness to it, but instead a sweeter flavor, I became interested. A levain that is 12-18 hours old is what I usually use and I do like it but this young starter is supposed to be able to be used in half that time! I tested a loaf after reading some information on it. I liked the result but that first loaf could use some improving so I tried it again. This time I tested it with my usual 12 hour starter and a younger one, 9 hours.

For this test I mixed the starters 3 hours apart. Then I made both doughs at the same time, mixing both loaves by hand in the same type of mixing bowl with the same amounts of ingredients and proofed in the same atmosphere. For final proofing the aged levain was ready to bake after about 1 1/2 hours while the young spent approximately 2 hours final proofing. They were both baked the same way and at the same temperature. I really tried to make everything the same, all but the different rest periods.

The result was a noticeable difference. The young levain definitely had a sweeter flavor to it. It was very bright with little to no tang at all. This made me think about the different types of bread items that can be made such as a sweet bread or enriched bread or, of course, a simple country loaf.

So, if you want a not so tangy loaf try this; mix your starter 8-9 hours before making the dough, mix the dough as you normally would either by hand or with a mixer, allow the bulk fermentation a little more time if needed, then proof for an extra hour or so. The final proofing will most likely depend on the environment you are making the bread in. If it is warmer you may only need 1 1/2 hours where as if it is cooler it may take 2 – 2 1/2 hours for final proofing.

When you are ready to bake preheat the oven to 500 degrees with an oven proof bowl of water in it, about 2 cups, when you load the bread in the oven turn the temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing in to this delicious bread.

Below is the formula I used for this experiment.

Give this method a try. I would love to hear what you think of it.

Young And Aged Levain, A Side by Side Comparison
  • Starter
  • 1 ounce culture
  • 4 ounces water
  • 4 ounces bread flour
  • Final Dough
  • 8.5 ounces water
  • all of the starter
  • 2 ounces corn flour or fine cornmeal
  • 11.4 ounces bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Make the starter 8-9 hours before making the dough.
  2. Mix dough ingredients and starter in a stand mixer or by hand just until the ingredients come to a shaggy looking mass. Do not mix this until it is a smooth dough.
  3. Stretch and fold the dough every 30 minutes, about 6-30 minute intervals.
  4. After the bulk fermentation period of stretching and folding shape the loaf into desired shape and proof 1 1/2-2 hours before baking. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with an oven proof pan of water in it.
  5. Insert loaf then immediately turn oven temperature down to 450. Bake for 35-40 minutes.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

3 thoughts on “Young And Aged Levain, A Side by Side Comparison”

  1. Question about Instructions

    In item 2. “Mix dough ingredients and starter in a stand mixer or by hand just until the ingredients come to a shaggy looking mass. Do not mix this until it is a smooth dough.” Did you mean “mix until it is a smooth dough”? I often misunderstand instructions when I follow recipes. Thanx

    1. Hi Lorraine, Thank you so much for asking that and my apologies for taking so long to get back with you. Step 2 is correct in saying NOT to mix until smooth. You want to just incorporate the ingredients so as not to over work the dough. This will help develop a strong gluten bond without active work on your part. Hope that answers the question. 🙂

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