LAB - Levains and Starters: Techniques and Applications

Course Description:

This course module enables students to learn how to start and use their own natural pre-ferments (levain). They explore the differences between a stiff and a liquid levain, and how each varies in the ways it affects the final characteristics of a bread product, including taste, texture, and appearance of crumb and crust. The time-saving and organizational benefits of using different levain and starter techniques are taught and experienced (e.g., slow proofing, bulk fermentation, controlled fermentation). Students learn multiple methods for organizing work flow and schedule to optimize work time while working with different types of breads and pre-ferments. They focus on mastering advanced shaping techniques as they create the renowned Pains Français au Levain, sourdough breads, ciabatta, and rustic bread.


Students the Course is Expected to Serve:

This course is a necessary component to completing the 10-week L’Art de la Boulangerie – The Artisanal Bread Baking Program.


Pre-requisites and Co-requisites:

Pre-requisites for this course include Food Service Safety & Sanitation, Food Service Theory & Basic Skills, and Fundamentals of French Breads, or consent of the Dean for Student Affairs. Co-requisites include Pre-ferments: Poolish and Sponges; Specialty Whole Grain & Organic Breads; Breakfast Pastries & Viennoiseries; Advanced Breakfast Pastries & Viennoiseries; Specialty Breads from France & Around the World.


Training Objectives:

  • The student will learn how to make and use natural pre-ferments (levain).
  • The student will learn the differences between a stiff and a liquid levain, and how each type affects the final characteristics of a bread product, including taste, texture, and appearance of crumb and crust.
  • The student will learn time-saving and organizational benefits of using different levain and starter techniques (e.g., slow proofing, bulk fermentation, controlled fermentation).
  • The student will learn how to organize and optimize work flow and schedule while working with different types of breads and pre-ferments.
  • The student will learn advanced shaping techniques to create Pains Français au Levain, sourdough breads, ciabatta, and rustic breads.


Student Learning Outcomes:

  • The student will be able to make and use natural pre-ferments (levain) to create breads that meet saleable production standards.
  • The student will be able to explain the differences between a stiff and a liquid levain, and how each type affects the final characteristics of the product, including taste, texture, and appearance of crumb and crust.
  • The student will demonstrate proficiency in applying time-saving and organizational benefits of using different levain and starter techniques (e.g., slow proofing, bulk fermentation, controlled fermentation).
  • The student will demonstrate proficiency in organizing and optimizing work space, work flow, and schedule while creating different types of pre-ferments and breads.
  • The student will evidence advanced shaping techniques while creating Pains Français au Levain, sourdough breads, ciabatta, and rustic breads that meet saleable production standards.


Course Outline:

  • Making natural pre-ferments (levain). (3 hours lecture; 5 hours lab)
  • Characteristics and uses of stiff and liquid levains. (3 hours lecture; 5 hours lab)
  • Time-saving and organizational benefits of slow proofing methods, bulk fermentation, and controlled fermentation.(3 hours lecture; 5 hours lab)
  • Choosing and using multiple methods to optimize work time, and applying these methods toward working with different types of breads and pre-ferments. (3 hours lecture; 5 hours lab)
  • Using advanced shaping techniques to create Pains Français au Levain, sourdough breads, ciabatta, and rustic breads. (3 hours lecture; 5 hours lab)


Methods of Instruction*:

  • Lectures
  • Whole-group discussions facilitated by the chef instructor
  • Technique and recipe demonstrations by the chef instructor
  • Chef instructor-supervised production of recipes by students


Methods of Evaluation*:

  • Appropriate and accurate responses to instructor’s questions during demonstrations and class discussions
  • Chef instructor observations during recipe production