Natural or Sourdough Pre-ferments

Appears in
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking

By French Culinary Institute

Published 2021

  • About

Although they are technically not generated by the same method, the words sourdough and levain are often used interchangeably throughout the world of commercial baking. In France, the word levain is used to describe a natural culture that is made from white flour and water, while in Germany the word sauerteig (sourdough) is used to describe a natural culture composed of rye flour and water. Both are the result of naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria that are able to flavor and leaven breads.

A natural pre-ferment is a simple combination of flour and water that has been fed consistently with additional food and water, during which it develops a family of microorganisms that multiply as they ferment. While the bulk of a natural pre-ferment is used to leaven the current dough, a small amount of this uncontaminated starter is always held back to feed a new batch of pre-ferment that can be used in subsequent batches of bread dough.