Category Archives: Leaven


Liquorice lovers loaf

This gallery contains 3 photos.

I like alliteration. You could say I am a fanatical follower.  I could think up all kinds of wonderful words to describe this beautiful, bountiful bread, but let’s suffice with the recipe reveal. And don’t laugh at the silly mug, … Continue reading


Its a Baguette-elle

This gallery contains 5 photos.

The quintessential French bread. So many ways to make these your own – and this is mine: Makes 7 or 8 depending on how big you like them. 250g leaven 400g white flour 50g rye flour 275g water 10g salt … Continue reading


Lazy leaven

This gallery contains 2 photos.

The inspiration for this was twofold. First, Zoay recently sent me a recipe for how to make bread from leaven in a breadmaker, and second, I saw a video on the New York Times website of how to make quick … Continue reading

Give your leaven a good seeing to

Some of you (most I hope) will  be baking this weekend, and your leaven will quite happily sit in the fridge waiting for its next use.  When you received it, you’ll have immediately refreshed it following the initial instructions.  It’ll probably be quite stiff as well, but fear not.  You can quite easily keep refreshing it every 7-10 days, it’ll be fine, but it’s a bit like giving your lover flowers every week. Nice, but gets dull, so try the following: Forget the flowers, and give your lover a crotchless leather jump suit.

100g room temp water
50g strong white
50g rye flour

Or if you want to be more adventurous, a strap-on or a session with Delta the dirty dominatrix

100g room temp water
50g spelt flour
50g strong white

The flour you use for the refreshment is up to you – initially I suggested using strong white, and this gives great results, but try something else. Just remember that whatever flour you use, it needs to have gluten, or it’ll die, like a neglected mouse who starts to eat its own feet. Don’t forget to post up comments! and send images if you can be arsed


How to pass on leaven

So you have yours, and you’ve baking with it. All good. How do you pass it on? You should send 100 grams on to the next person, so when you do a refresh (a “standard” 100g water/120g flour, put it in the fridge as normal, then after 24 hours, scoop out 100grams from the jar, bung it in the (freshly washed!) small container you received when you took delivery of yours, seal it up tightly and place it in the jiffy bag it came it before toddling on down to the post office with it. Please send it first class, and if at all possible, take it later in the day too, so it can stay in the fridge as long as possible for the earlier part of the day.

Make sure that there is a note with it with the website (which redirects to the blog on wordpress) so that the recipient knows where to look for how to handle it.

Don’t worry if you’ve added different flour to strong white to your leaven, it’s all character after all, and the next person who gets yours can use it and adapt it to what they want to bake before they pass some on to the next person.

This will only work if you are prepared to pass some on to one person, and them to one person etc, so become an evangelist!

How to store your leaven

Opinion is divided on this, so I’ll just tell you what I do, and it works well.

Let’s say you baked on Sunday and you have your kilner jar sitting quite happily in the fridge. Keep in mind that what’s in the jar is actually a living thing, it’s not just an ingredient to ignore and use when you want, you’ll need to give it some love. I’ll leave it in there until the following Friday without touching it; it’s a bit like a mistress, give her a load of attention like you did the previous Saturday and Sunday and she’s quite happy for a week, but at the end of that week, she’s going to need some more loving otherwise she’s going to start misbehaving. So at the end of the week, take your leaven and add another 100 grams of water (always room temp), mix thoroughly, then add 120 grams of flour and mix again. This is the leavens equivalent of a really good seeing to, and you can then pop her back in the fridge and she’ll be quite happy for another week assuming of course you’re leaving two weeks before you next bake.

If we assume again that you’ll be baking on a Sunday, refresh it again on the Friday with your 100 g of water, and 120 g of flour, then on the saturday with 200 g of water, and 200 g of flour, but remember when you put the big lot of flour/water in to put the whole lot in a bowl and cover with cling wrap and put somewhere cool overnight, but not the fridge – its a good time to stick your jar in the dishwasher otherwise you’ll be in skanky ho territory, and you’re not a skanky ho, right?

What I’m getting at with the above is the fact that you must refresh your leaven two days prior to baking, then the day before (with the larger amounts of flour and water). In Bourdains book “Kitchen Confidential” the baker, Adam, says “gotta feed the bitch” so I’ve shamelessly stolen that line, though madam isn’t wild about it.

If you’re not going to bake for a few weeks, just do the weekly refresh with the 100g water and 120 g flour – but hold you say, if I don’t bake every couple of weeks, all this refreshment and my mistress is going to turn into a living breathing 6 foot woman and take over my fridge, my house, and my life. No, it’s not, because you’re going to treat it mean to keep it keen and throw away about 75% of it once you realise that you can’t fit your new flour and water into the jar. Don’t ask me about the chemistry behind it, I’ve no idea, nor do I give a toss, but the natural yeast in the leaven needs the gluten in the flour to survive – to eat, if you like.

Now if you really neglect your mistress, it isn’t the end of your bread world. What you’ll see is liquid floating on the top, it’ll have a slight orangey tinge to it. Just pour that off and add your refreshment as normal. If you plan to go on holiday for two weeks, just build up your leaven until the jar is nearly full the day before you go and it’ll be happy until you get back.

If you REALLY neglect it, the yeast will begin to die, and it’ll start to look a bit skanky. If you are such a slattern that you let this happen, you deserve a damn good thrashing, but all is not lost. Just gently clear away the top, and take a teaspoon or two of the putty-like substance in the bottom, start a new jar and add your flour and water – after a few days, your mistress will again be ready for some hot-oven-action.

When it’s in tip-top condition, it should smell really alcoholic, have visible bubbles and look like this