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 not so typical with 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.
A symbiosis of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria, the dominant species, usually L.sanfranciscensis is hetero-fermentative and 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.
To keep it healthy and viable, maintaing a temperature of 15-18C and feeding every 12-24 hours is best. Once a week if refrigerated to around 4C.
There are two common techniques for the conservation during this period.
- Bound. The lievito madre is wrapped in cloth and tied with rope.
- In water. The lievito madre is placed directly into a bowl of cold water.
In water (partly aerobic, with oxygen) the madre is less acidic than when wrapped (anaerobic, without oxygen).
Refreshments are performed in the warmth (25-30C). Usually only one refreshment is needed for making bread. For highly enriched dough like panettone, at least three refreshments are made. The optimum pH varies according to the recipe but is typically between 4.1-4.8.
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)
- A lesson in yeast
- The secrets of levitation
- Ingredients under the lens
- Lievito Madre in Croissants and large leavened
Conservation method per pastry chef / baker
|Iginio Massari||bound / legato|
|Achille Zoia||bound / legato|
|Carlo Pozza||bound / legato|
|Giovanni Pina||bound / legato|
|Leonardo Di Carlo||bound / legato|
|Massimo Vitali||bound / legato|
|Francesco Favorito||bound / legato|
|Piergiorgio Giorilli||in water / in acqua|
|Rolando Morandin||in water / in acqua|
|Renato Bosco||in water / in acqua|
|Francesco Elmi||in water / in acqua|
|Sara Papa||in water / in acqua|
|Alfonso Pepe||in water / in acqua|