Lievito Madre – Sourdough – Mother Yeast Recipe

Learn how to make your own natural Lievito Madre. For centuries bread has been made with Mother Yeast and this can be alive forever. I remember my nonna making bread once a week using the Lievito Madre all the time. Often, she used to pass it around to her friends. The “Lavatu” (calabrese word for “starter” was borrowed and passed from house to house to provide Mother Yeast for their baking day. A sharing of Love and Lievito to allow everyone to have fresh bread and feed the family.


  • 1 1/2 cup (200 grams – 8 ounces) bread flour or all-purpose flour sifted
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams – 3.5/4 ounces) spring or filters water (50% of flour weight)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Love…give love to your dough. L’amore is the key.
  • do not use tap water because the chlorine contained in it will kill microorganisms, thus preventing yeast from being created.
  • The ideal place to let rest your Lievito Madre is the oven with the light on for a temperature of 26-31 C degrees.

Day 1-2
In a large plastic bowl mix together 200 gr all-purpose or bread flour with 100 gr of filtered water at room temperature and 1 teaspoon of honey. The sugars will kick-start the fermentation process. Cover with a lid and let it rest for 48 hours.

Day 3

You will notice your dough will have risen slightly and may have already formed small bubbles. Get rid of half of the dough and add 100 gr of flour and 50 gr of filtered water. Cover with a lid and let it rest for 24 hours.

Repeat for 8 days.

Day 4-9

Get rid of half of the dough and add 100 gr of flour and 50 gr of filtered water. Cover with a lid and let it rest for 24 hours.
Every day you will notice the starter will grow bigger and develop more bubbles. It will smell a little like a cross between lemon juice and alcohol.

Day 10 – it should be alive and tripled his volume!

This is the day your yeast will officially be born.

You need to ‘refresh’ it and give it strength and vigor for your bread to rise. In simple terms, you need to feed it.

First feed

Discard 100 g of the ferment then add 100 gr flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 4 hours or until it triples the volume.

Second feed

Feed your ferment 2/3 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 4 hours or until it triples the volume.

Last feed

Feed your ferment 2/3 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour and 90 ml water. Cover with a lid and rest for 4 hours or until it triples the volume.

After it has rested, your yeast will look healthy, airy and full of bubbles.

It will have a slightly sour, yet pleasant smell. Congratulations! You have succeeded in making a living wild yeast.

How often do you have to refresh it?

  • If you keep it at room temperature (65°/77°F-18°/25°C) you have to refresh it every 2 days
  • If you keep it in the fridge (40°/43°F-4°/6°C) you have to refresh it every 7 days

Add 100 gr all-purpose flour and 40 gr of filtered water (at room temperature) for every 100 g of dough you have left (aim to always have at least 200 gr yeast in your container). Mix with a wooden spoon, cover the container with its lid store it.

If you notice, after resting the first hours, the dough rises in the jar until tripled.

If the dough doesn’t rise until tripled, you have to revitalized it by doing the refresh 2 times consecutively (refresh, let rest 4 hours as written above and re-refresh).

How to store yeast for the holidays

For an absence of up to fifteen days, there is an empirical method that works well enough:

In anticipation of the departure, we gradually increase the mass of Lm until obtaining about 1kg. At the last refreshment, we do the usual sphere, cut and leave at t. room for ca. 2 hours (more or less until mid-ripening) then deflate and put in the fridge (this time 4th).

On the way back, we discard and throw away all the outer layers and refresh only the heart with these proportions:

100gr Lm – 150gr flour – 70gr water

We keep the sour dough at t. environment and refresh every time it reaches maturity, with the same weight of Lm and flour, until it returns to mature in 3 – 4 hours. Usually, in 3 – 4 refreshments it regains strength.

Useful and important info to know

Keep in mind that before you can use mother yeast to make recipes you have to wait at least one month to obtain some good results, in the meantime, you can mix unused mother yeast in the dough using a buy yeast to make your bread.

After 6 refreshing months your yeast will be stabilized and the final products will taste and look better.

During these 6 months, yeast could be too much acidic (you can smell it), so you can balance it by putting a very little pinch of salt and mix it.

How to use the mother dough?

My approach is based on my love affair with 1.2.3 formula, in which the bread dough is made by combining

  • 1 measure of 100% starter (= a starter that’s fed an equal weight of flour and water at every meal)
  • 2 measures of water
  • 3 measures of flour — all measures understood in weight. This means that the bread dough ends up being made of 16 starter (and 26 water and 36 flour).

Example: I make my standard loaf with 200 grams 100% starter, 400 grams water, and 600 grams flour. Once all these ingredients are combined, my bread dough weighs 1,200 grams, or 1.2 kilos plus 15 gr of salt.

Proportions of mother yeast for the dough

The quantity of Lm to be used can vary according to the characteristics and fermentative strength of your yeast and the product you want to obtain. I simply indicate the proportions that I adopt with the natural yeast in my possession, the quantities must be taken as a basis to be adapted to individual cases. We will get a good product with 10 – 12 hours of a cycle (from the dough to the oven), so we will adjust the percentages according to the fermenting capacity of our sourdough.

Savory dough

In savory products, hydration is key and dividing the doughs into 3 categories:

1 – Dry doughs, up to 60% hydration (e.g. common bread): 25% of Lm on flour (250gr of yeast per kg of flour).

2 – Medium consistency doughs, 61 – 70% hydration (e.g. baguettes): 20% of Lm on the flour (200gr of yeast per kg of flour).

3 – Soft doughs, over 70% hydration (e.g. ciabatta, some pizzas in the pan): 15% of Lm on the flour (150gr of yeast per kg of flour).

The criterion is the same as for beer yeast: the more water there is, the less yeast is needed.

Sweet dough

For sweet leavened products, many of the ingredients that make it up should be taken into account: hydration – eggs – sugars – fats – salt, so calculating the percentage of yeast would be rather complex.

Since these products almost always contain fat, we mainly take into account those, considering butter as pure fat (although it is not) and also dividing the doughs here into 3 categories:

1 – Light doughs, fat up to 15% on flour (e.g. all-purpose brioche): 25% of Lm on flour, with 1 or 2 refreshments.

2 – Medium fat doughs, fat from 16 to 30% on the flour (e.g. Italian brioche): 30% of LM on the flour, with at least 2 refreshments.

3 – Fatty dough, fat over 30% (e.g. French brioche): 35% of Lm on flour, with 3 refreshments. For large leavened products (panettone, pandoro, Colomba etc.) the percentage Lm is indicated in the recipe but is generally between 20 and 50% on the flour of the first dough.

Leave a Reply