LM maintenance in quotes

… this time of year marks a notable uptick in my advice being sought on the subject of lievito madre (LM) and panettone. There is at this time some persisting misunderstandings about how to maintain the LM day to day. From those correspondences I have selected some of my comments, some repetitive but justifiably so, that I hope will help clarify the operation.

‘With general use it is important that one warm refresh is done per day otherwise it will slip further away from its optimum. Feeding every 12hrs only, is not fully sufficient, the LM is not getting the warm fermentation it needs, rather it is remaining in the storage phase which simply serves to prolong the fermentation…’

‘The defining moment of a mature LM is only ever achieved in that window of 3-4hrs at 28°C and it usually takes three consecutive refreshes to get there. ’

‘…specifically a “refresh” is the leavening that occurs in the warmth at approx. 28°C and does not refer to any feed done in preparation for the storage phase’

‘1:1 is the normal standard ratio and 1:2 is used when the LM becomes too strong or too sour, the skill comes in knowing when to recognise those situations when 1:2 is required.’

‘While the typical approach with starters is to adapt the ratio according to the time of fermentation that is not how it works with LM. Instead, time and temperature are adjusted and the ratio is kept stable, this is key.’

‘…indeed, the LM is continuously cycled and is not something that is maintained separately and then branched from. In an operating bakery the LM would be taken from cold storage, refreshed (3-4hrs) one or more times to build up enough mass to leaven a batch of bread etc. At the point after mixing the last refresh a piece is reserved and put into storage which becomes the new mother for the next day…’

‘Your maintenance schedule is good, but you are not performing any refreshes. A refresh occurs at approx. 28°C lasting 3-4hrs. This is where a LM will gain its correct properties, and with repetition gain strength and establish maturity. At least one refresh, limited to 3-4hrs must occur daily. Note that the LM is rebuilt multiples times a day and continuously cycled. I have now included an infographic on the LM page on my blog that may be helpful. Massari recommends the LM be refreshed 3 times a day for 3 days prior to making a panettone. But you can definitely get away with less.’

‘Importantly a mature LM when cut into will have an aroma that is alcoholic but non-sour. The taste should be a little tart / acidic, however.’