Let’s talk about… peak activity

Welcome to a new weekly “event” here in the blog, called random tidbits. I really need to get myself into posting more regularly, so I decided to take care of technical stuff (oven setup, steaming, feeding cycles, bannetons, high hydration doughs,…) once a week. You can expect random facts about tools or ingredients as well as short videos that show shaping methods or stuff that’s difficult to explain without a moving visual.

I’ve been posting mostly lievito madre recipes here in the blog, so I guess you can tell that Luigi (my lievito madre) is my favorite of all my creatures. He’s just so versatile, changeable and easy to take care of.

Depending on what you want to bake, the recipes call for freshly fed and doubled, peak activity, or old lievito. Today, I want to show you how to distinguish between the three and pick the perfect moment for your recipes. It won’t really make much of a difference if you make a 48 hour pizza dough or a rustic bread, but once the time comes when you want to attempt a panettone, you need to catch your sourdough at that perfectly sweet spot where it’s super active but hasn’t developed any sourness yet.

You see 150g of lievito madre in a pint jar over the course of several hours after being fed. I should have used either a bit more lievito or a bigger jar, because the rise happened to stop right at the thread and it’s a bit difficult to see. I hope you can make do. Pay attention to the corners right underneath the ridge. It’s most obvious there.

Please keep in mind, that depending on your kitchen’s temperature and the overall health of your lievito, you will end up with a very different timetable. My lievito was in the fridge for about 2 weeks before the feeding, so he’s starting off a tad sluggish.

Lievito about triples in size when it rises, so you can kinda ignore the 1 hour mark. You can see activity but there’s a lot more to come.

At the 2 hour mark, there are a lot of bubbles visible and the top of the sourdough is a very pronounced dome. That dome is the one thing you have to keep an eye on. As long as it’s so high, all’s well.

At the 2 1/2 hour mark, the dome is still visible, but it has flattened a bit. It ends right at the bottom of the jar’s thread. The flattening of the dome is an indicator that peak activity has been reached. It’s risen as high as it can and it’s still super active while the rest of the dough (what’s stuck to the sides of the jar) pulls up to the dome’s level. That’s something that happens really quickly. Now is the time to make your dough, especially if you want to bake something sweet, because if you wait any longer, things are starting to get sour.

There’s only 12 minutes between the two last photos, and you can see that while the edges of the dough have pulled up a bit, the dome has completely fallen in. The lievito has still plenty of power, but it’s time you put it into a dough or the fridge so it can keep that power for the next week without needing another feeding. Whatever you bake in the next days will have a distinct sourdough flavor that’s getting stronger every day while activity and rising power slowly goes down. Your doughs will need more time to rise and after 10-14 days it’s time for another feeding.

If you knew beforehand that you wouldn’t bake the day of the feeding, somewhere between the 1 and 2 hour marks is the perfect time to send your lievito for a nap in the cold. That way the flavor stays super mild and it’s ready whenever you need it.

I hope this was of interest to you. If you haven’t already, go and spawn a lievito madre or wake yours up and bake something beautiful.

Until next time!

2 responses to “Let’s talk about… peak activity”

  1. This is such a great tidbit of information! Something I did not know. I have so much to learn, and greatly appreciate all the educational shares you are willing to put out here! Thank you!


    • Hi Nancy, thank you for your kind words. I have so many random infos in my head… you might wish you never said that šŸ˜‰ But that way I can actually concentrate on the recipes instead of spamming those posts with all the distracting stuff.


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