The Sourdough Process – Day 1: Leaven Day

by Heather

When baking sourdough, three days are required. “What?” I can hear you crying. “I thought you said this was easy?!” I promised you it is, and I stand by that. Keep reading!

Day 1 is Leaven Day, which is the topic of today’s discussion.

Day 2 is Prep Day.

Day 3 is Bake Day.     

On Leaven Day, your starter is fed in the morning, and before bed the leaven is made. Easy peasy!

Leaven sticking to jar lid

Leaven Day is the easiest of all three days. It takes almost zero time from your day. The hardest part for me is remembering to actually do it. I’ve successfully baked sourdough after forgetting to make the leaven the night before, but I don’t recommend it. I’ve learned to set myself alarms on my phone. The first alarm is set around 8:30am, when I know my son will be napping and I just have my daughter to entertain. She loves anything to do with the kitchen and likes to help me “dir” (stir), so I usually include her unless she’s off doing her own thing – and we mamas know better than to mess with a toddler who’s busying themselves!

When my alarm goes off, I pull my starter from the fridge and feed it like normal.

Unfed Starter

I put my jar of freshly fed starter on the counter, scrape out the discard into my aptly-named Discard Jar, then immediately wash the empty jar. Do this. Trust me. If you leave an empty starter jar in your sink without at the very least filling it with hot soapy water, you’ll need witchcraft to get that thing clean. Combining flour and water makes superglue, and if it dries, you might as well throw the jar out. (Just kidding, but I promise you’ll want to.) Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So now your starter is fed, your yeasts and bacteria are happily munching away on the flour proteins, and you can completely forget about it until your next alarm goes off.

This is the one I usually forget, so this alarm is super important for me.

I set my nighttime alarm for 8:00pm. My kids are both in bed by 7:30pm, and this is the time when I’m putzing around the house, tidying up after the baby-and-toddler-combo tornado. This tornado is precisely why I usually forget to make my leaven. I’m busy, I’m tired, and I basically collapse into bed at 8:30pm (yes, 8:30pm) and don’t even give tomorrow – Prep Day – a second thought. Without my cellphone alarm my life would be in shambles.

So 8:00pm rolls around and I stop whatever I’m doing to go make my leaven. This is basically like feeding your starter but on steroids. The final volume of the leaven will be much larger than the final volume of the starter, so I use a large Mason jar for this.

Shaking starter and water to incorporate

I take some starter and add it to warm water in the big jar and give it a shake to break it up. Then I add my flours, stir it like crazy, put the lid on loosely to allow gas to escape, and leave it on the counter overnight.

That smaller jar of starter? I just pop that guy in the fridge to hang out for another six days until I feed him again. You can absolutely feed more often, but I have a 1- and 2-year-old so I just don’t have time for that.

And there you have it – Leaven Day is complete, and I have a living, breathing science experiment on my counter, bubbling away overnight while I dream sweet sourdough dreams. Next up: Prep Day!

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1 comment

Six Easy Ways to Bake Sourdough for Busy Mamas With Kids — Leavenly April 28, 2020 - 8:44 pm

[…] One – Make your leaven in the early morning + mix your dough in the late evening (active time = 30ish minutes; total time = 5+ […]


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