Bread Essentials: The levains that give rise to our bread

In a previous post, we delved into the many ingredients we use in our bread. However, we only briefly mentioned one critical ingredient for many of the loaves we bake: the levains. Also known as starters, these fresh and natural yeasts are what give many of our doughs their rise.

Unlike the many other ingredients we regularly source, our levains are ingredients that have been cultivated over many years. Starting with a small amount of wild starte (ours is Berries based), a levain is then slowly fed and maintained by adding a bit more water or a bit more flour on a regular basis. In fact, the yeast thus created feeds on sugars in the flour we add to it, fermenting and eventually helping the dough produce the gasses that will be essential for our bread. 

Depending on the initial yeast used and how it develops, every levain will end up a bit different, suitable for different loaves.

For example, our organic sourdough Little Batard is made with a levain from Paris that has been aging for 25 years. Over the years, this levain even got named “Marcel.” Everytime our seasoned bakers get started on a batch of our Little Batards, they take a bit of our levain “Marcel” and mix it with the other ingredients — flour, water, and salt. 

Then, while our bakers let the dough rest, “Marcel” gets to work as the yeast begins feeding on some of the ingredients and producing gas that forms bubbles throughout the dough. This is what gives all of our Little Batards their incredible honeycomb-like interior structure since these gas bubbles get trapped in the dough before expanding in the oven.

However, the levains don’t just contribute to the structure of our loaves. They also impart a lot of unique flavor to each loaf of bread. This is maybe most obvious in our sourdough loaves, named for the tanginess resulting from the levain used to make them. 

A general sour isn’t the only flavor a levain can contribute to a loaf of bread, however. Each levain with its own history will have different flavor notes and effects on the final loaf. A lot of this variation comes from the very nature of the fermentation a levains goes through. The type and amount of flour added to the levain or the amount of time it’s left to rest and grow can all shift how the levain behaves in a loaf of bread.

If you want to learn more about the levains we use or anything else about our bread, please get in touch with our team! We’re always happy to talk and share what we’ve learned at our bakery.


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