Sunday, November 8, 2009
Years ago while I was working in Paris I went to visit the great bread maker Jean-luc Poujauran. While walking through his bakery I noticed he had all these different plastic buckets on the floor filled with dough’s, all in different stages of fermentation. At the time I didn’t quite understand what they were but I now do, he was making soft dough using a wet levain starter. Poujauran’s bread is absolutely incredible and is one of my benchmarks.
A "mother starter" is the sourdough starter culture or levain that is used to make bread without using commercial yeast. The whole idea of bread made from a sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast is appealing to me, not only because I think the flavor will be much more interesting and complex, but it seems like a more natural process. For me the alchemy of working with flour and water to create something is what this is all about.
I’ve spent the past few weeks working on several starters and its been a real learning curve. One starter is just flour and water, the other flour, water and crushed grapes. The principal is easy, first you begin with combining small amounts of flour and water, then each day you continue to add more flour and water, which is called feeding, then hopefully over a few days it begins to ferment. Once your starter is ready, you use it to make bread.Working on these starters has literally been like embarking on a new relationship. I’ve spent day and night with them, I worry is it going to work or isn’t it? I keep them in my bedroom because it’s the warmest room in my house and I think about them all day long. Finally I've completed the process and its very exciting. I think the sourdough starter worked but the grape starter is weird and I'm not into it as much. I'm throwing it out and will revisit it some other time. I took to much on and realized that I need to do one thing at a time. Meanwhile my starter is resting in the fridge until I have time to bake my first loaves.