Lievito Madre

Meet Luigi, my lievito madre. He‘s italian, he‘s super bouncy, and he‘s the mildest of my traditional sourdoughs by far. He‘s only superceded by Princess Peach, who is basically his sugary twin.

Luigi makes the best pizza there is, and I keep him in the fridge for that purpose alone. He’s very proficient in bread baking as well.
Plus, he‘s really versatile. He can spawn the best coffee and/or chocolate sourdoughs for panettone in just a few hours. I have played with many different starters and he’s my all time favorite!

If you don‘t like the taste of sourdough, Luigi is your guy. You‘ll barely notice a difference to a yeasted bread. Well, except the lack of the icky, industrial yeast taste, and you have the advantage of prolonged freshness.

Once mature, lievito madre requires very little attention. Due to the low hydration you only need to feed it every 2-3 weeks for maintenance, about every 10 days in the beginning. All it needs is a refreshment feeding the day before you want to bake.

There are several ways to create a lievito madre. I did it in one of the traditional ways, painstakingly cultivating the wild yeasts from raw honey.
The recipe regularly discards a part of the starter. You can collect all the leftovers in a big jar in the fridge and I’ll show you how to use them up in another post.
Room temperature means 20-22°C (68-71F). Up to 30°C (86F) is good, you’ll see results much quicker.

Day 1:
200g all purpose flour
80g lukewarm water
20 g raw honey
20g olive oil
Knead everything together, form a ball, oil it and cut it crosswise at the top. Place it in a small bowl, cover it with a 2nd bowl or a piece of clingfilm so the dough’s surface doesn’t dry out, and keep it at room temperature for 2 days.

Day 3:
Your dough should be puffed up a bit, you can easily see that the cuts you made have spread open and have softer edges.
Take 100g of your dough and mix it with
100g all purpose flour
50g lukewarm water
Knead together, form a ball, oil it, cut it crosswise. Place it in a fresh bowl and use a clean cover. Leave it at room temperature for another 2 days.
Add the rest of the dough to your leftovers jar in the fridge.

Day 5:
same procedure as day 3

Day 7:
100g starter
100g all purpose flour
50g lukewarm water
Knead everything together, form a ball and stuff it into a tall jar with a lid. A pint and a half canning jar is perfect, the lievito loves to climb. Place your jar on the top shelf or in the door rack of the fridge, perfect temperature would be between 6 and 8°C (42-46F). Add the rest of the dough to the leftovers jar in the fridge. Wait 5 days.

Day 12:
You should see activity. Your starter has probably climbed up the jar a bit and there are visible bubbles. It’s time for a feeding:
same procedure as day 7, just leave the jar on the counter for an hour after feeding before you put it back into the fridge.

Day 17, Day 22, Day 27
repeat what you did on day 12

Your lievito madre should be ready about now. If it tripled in size while it was in the fridge, you’re good. If not, give it a bit more time and another feeding or two. It’ll get there!

By the time you have made your own lievito madre, I should be caught up with some of the recipes for the mature starter as well as the discards. Hope to see you again soon!

2 responses to “Lievito Madre”

  1. Consider this a belated thank you for sharing this method for cultivating a lievito madre with me a few years ago. Your method is far simpler than others I have seen and I am very happy with my bakes!

    My “Sophia” is doing well after an unexplained run-in with mold. I had not used her in about a month and when I pulled her container from the fridge yesterday, the starter still resembled a ball of dough, barely risen, and was speckled with white mold. Thinking back, maybe I forgot to give her her hour of “spa time” before sticking her in the fridge when I last made pizza.

    I was not about to throw her out without at least trying to resuscitate her, so I carefully split the ball of lievito madre open and pinched out about a teaspoon from the very center. Then I washed my hands!

    I fed that little teaspoon of lievito 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour and a dot of honey along with enough water to moisten. Put it in a clean jar and set it on the counter. A few hours later, it has risen! Whew! I fed her again and she’s in good shape. I made pikelets this morning (kind of like simplified skillet crumpets with herbs), fed her again and boom – she’s off and running!

    Liked by 1 person

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