[Sca-cooks] Yeast reservoirs

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sun May 6 22:03:43 PDT 2007

I can't address the history of the term "lievito madre," but from your 
description, it refers to a continuous starter rather than a "biga" which is 
a one use starter or sponge.  The practice of the maintaining a starter is a 
long-standing tradition in much of the Mediterranean, where starters were 
more common that baker's yeast until the Modern era.  In France and Italy, 
the starter will normally be a ball of dough rather than the semi-liquid 
starter you are likely to find in the US.  The technique with which I am 
familiar is to break the dough starter apart in the liquor, so that it will 
be spread through the new batch of dough and expedite yeast production in 
the dough.  I normally use 1 cup of starter for one to two pounds of bread, 
but you can get away with half that amount if you extend the first rise. 
The size of the dough ball you reserve is dependent upon the quantity of 
bread one needs to bake.  From limited descriptions of the starters, 
commercial bakers retain five to ten pounds of dough as starter.

For large establishments, baking would more likely be done in a seperate 
bakehouse rather than the kitchens and you might be baking bread every 
second or third day rather than daily depending on the number of people in 
the household.


> Many Italian bread recipes of today that I have found refer to a "lievito 
> madre" (leavening mother), which is a bit of the leavened dough kept from 
> the previous batch of bread. In Sicily they call this a criscenti. Seems 
> logical that in a time when bread needed to be baked every day in the 
> palazzo kitchens to feed the household, the baker kept a lievito madre or 
> criscenti goimg at all times in the kneading trough or taken out and set 
> aside in a bowl for the next day's baking. And it would be such a matter 
> of course that it may not be mentioned in the recipes.
> Is "lievito madre" is a period term? Admittedly I have not done any real 
> research into period Italian bread to know, therefore I'm throwing this 
> one to the list.
> Gianotta

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