Monday, January 24, 2011

wild yeast at work

I was thumbing through my January issue of Martha Stewart Living (after prying it out of my daughters mouth) when I came across an article about Chad Robertson and Tartine Bakery.  After my successful bread making foray last week I took a second long look at the article which includes a recipe for Country Bread.  The recipe spans a page and a half, somewhat daunting on first glance; but after reading the recipe in its entirety one discovers that it really isn't that difficult, it just takes some time- like three weeks worth.  
the lengthy recipe
Since I have nothing but time I thought I might as well give it a try.  I mean what's the worse that could happen?  If it didn't work I'd be out some flour, water, and a few hours of my time.

So the experiment began on Friday.  I carefully weighed out my wheat and bread flours, mixed them, and then measured them out again.  I added in some water (also weighed) and mixed it dutifully with my hands which left them looking like this.
dough hands

Then I put the dough into a glass container (so I could watch the wild yeast work it's magic), covered it with a pretty little cloth napkin, and put it aside for two days.
Flour and water 

 I must admit, I did peak at the mixture quite often.  I remember looking at it the morning of day two and thinking to myself "hmmm, not much is happening here, this might be a bust."  But then, inexplicably, by the end of the day it had beautifully expanded and become nice and bubbly.  It didn't smell very nice. I guess it takes awhile for it to stop smelling rancid and mellow into that nice tangy smell that is associated with sourdoughs.

I'm a little dismayed at how much of the starter you have to discard every time you feed it (which is daily).  I'm sure there is some extremely important reason, I'm just not sure what it is.  It's sort of exciting to let time and the environment influence such simple ingredients, transforming them into something sublime.  Maybe on Valentine's Day we can finally taste the fruits of all this labor.

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