Bread making traditions in Italy commonly start with a sourdough starter called “pasta madre” or “lievito madre”. This is a firm sourdough starter maintained at around 50% hydration and continuously propagated with daily refreshments. The wet style starter is almost unheard of amongst professionals but has shown some adoption in modern times, mostly by home bakers.
Maintenance of the madre and refreshments vary according to each bakers’ practices but is typically fed at a ratio of 1:1 (madre:flour) daily or twice daily.
Over the years I have started a few sourdough starters with numerous techniques.
Lievito v.1.0 – Catalysed with raisins, and strawberries from my garden.
Lievito v.2.0 – Converted from a regular 100% hydration whole wheat and rye starter
Lievito v 3.0 – Catalysed with grapes, honey and spelt.
Lievito v3.0 is my starter to date. born Oct 2013, living happily.
A symbiosis of wild yeast and heterofermentative lactobacillus bacteria. The dominant species, usually L.sanfranciscensis is capable of producing lactic and acetic acid.
Keeping it warm (28C) promotes the ideal balance of acids; 4 parts lactic to 1 part acetic for sweet levened pastries.
At cool room temperature a balance of 3:1 (lactic:acetic) is ideal for bread.
At 15-18C to keep healthy and viable feeding every 12-24 hours is best. Or once a week if refrigerated. There are two common techniques for the conservation during this period.
1. Wrapped in cloth and tied with rope.
2. In water.
In water (partly aerobic, with oxygen) the madre is less acidic than when wrapped (anaerobic, without oxygen).
Refreshments are performed in the warmth (~28C). Usually only one refreshment is needed for making bread. For highly enriched dough like panettone, at least three refreshments are made. Optimum pH; 4.5 (madre in water) and 4.1 (madre tied).
A selection of articles from Dolcesalato:Text in Italian:
- Natural yeast: from theory to practice (Part I)
- Natural yeast: from theory to practice (Part II)
- Natural yeast: from theory to practice (Part III)
- Natural yeast: from theory to practice (Part IV)
Conservation method per pastry chef / baker
|Leonardo Di Carlo||tied|
|Piergiorgio Giorilli||in water|
|Rolando Morandin||in water|
|Renato Bosco||in water|
|Francesco Elmi||in water|
|Sara Papa||in water|
|Alfonso Pepe||in water|