Meanwhile Back at the Bread 10/15/11
Last week I made the bread and I noticed that the dough was raising quite a bit less than usual. The Bakery was cool inside and I assumed that it was just slow fermentation. I baked off the loaves and they came out of the oven looking great but they were about 2/3 the regular size. Inside the dough was wet and thick. The odd part was the sponge looked very good. I put out an email saying no bread this week and tried to figure out what went wrong.
Thinking back, I realized that my starter had died earlier in the week. So I had made new starter. The new starter was a little slow in it’s growth and activity. But I thought it would be fine…I was wrong.
So I tossed the starter and went back to the book and started over. Equal parts whole wheat and unbleached white flours, added two the same weight of the combined flours of room temperature water. I mixed it well with my hands, as the yeast is in both the air and on the baker’s hands. I scraped the mixture off my hands into a bowl and covered with a hand towel. I let this sit in the Bakery for 3 days until a skin formed over the mixture. Peeling it back the mixture smelled ripe and was bubbly. To make starter from this, discard 80% of this mixture. Add the remaining 20% to a mixture of equal parts, whole wheat, unbleached white, flour. Mix that with equal parts of room temperature water, replacing approximately the original 80% that was discard. How much starter do you need? Well that depends on how much leaven you need. I need about 3 cups of starter so I use about 1 ½ cups of my flour mixture. I’m doing my feedings every day at 5 pm. Which is also the time I start my leaven.
Last summer when the bakery was very warm I lost my starter a few times and just remade it. In a few days, I had a good strong starter. This time cost me 90 loaves and being 2 weeks without bread. Now I understand, why the old school bakers protect their starter. It can take some real time to replace and with each new crop of yeast, there is a chance of a different flavor profile. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. “Every time I bake I learn something new!”