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Behind COBS Bread Sourdough

Our authentic Sourdough is one of our most popular breads. So we wanted to give you a little insight into what makes our Sourdough so special. Of course, this means starting at the beginning, with the bread and butter (sorry, we couldn’t resist!), and how we get that perfect and delicious sour taste: our levain! So we have asked Rebekah, our Product & Training Specialist otherwise known as our sourdough guru, all the questions on levain. Who’s ready for a lesson in everything levain?

What is the difference between levain and starter?

At COBS, we use a levain (a sourdough culture made up of water and flour) – some might say that “levain” is the French term for sourdough starter. We say it’s what gets us that delicious taste. As I am sure you can tell from our bread racks, we use a ton of sourdough culture everyday! That means we always need to have levain ready to go day in and day out.

Every day we divide our levain in to two portions: Portion #1 gives us our sourdough dough for the next day. Portion #2 gets reserved and fed to become the levain for the next days dough. We repeat this process each and every day so you get the consistency in sourdough you have come to know and love!

A sourdough starter is the “mother levain”. Did you dabble in the trendy 2020 sourdough making? If so, this is most likely the process you took. Most home bakers (myself included!) use a sourdough starter to achieve sourdough at home. A sourdough starter is what you use to make your levain, which you then proceed to use in your dough.

Technical? For sure, but sourdough is a science (that we think we get an A+ in!).

So can starter be used to make sourdough instead of levain?

Yes, there are some recipes where you can use your sourdough starter. You would just need to make sure that you have enough for the dough and to be able to feed it again. Other recipes require you to make a pre-ferment (like a levain), which is the process we use.

When is levain ready to bake with?

Our levain is ready to bake with when it has doubled in size. We want to ensure we get that great sour taste that our customers love, and that the levain has enough strength to help the dough rise!

How do you know if your levain is alive?

There are telltale signs that your levain is alive. You will see bubbles in your levain and visible evidence that it has risen. This is why we like to keep our levain in a clear plastic tub with a lid, so we can watch the levain in action as it grows and ferments. You can also mark your container with a line where the levain comes up to, so you can see how much it has grown. Think of it as a tracker to tell you when your levain is healthy, and ready to make bread!

How long can a levain stay alive for?

At our bakeries, we want the levain to stay alive for as long as we make sourdough (and it’s possible too)! This is because we use a bit of the levain to make the next day’s levain every single day.

For my home sourdough starter, it lives in my fridge and is ready when I need it! It just needs to be fed (with flour and water) every few weeks and if I know I am going to bake with it, I take it out of the fridge and feed it a few times until it has doubled in size and is looking nice and bubbly!

If you want to learn even more about our Sourdough head to our Facebook and Instagram pages. We have asked some of our bakers your burning Sourdough questions and sharing their answers.