I recently moved to a very small island in the Caribbean called Nevis. I am a professional pastry chef by trade however am only working two days a week as we really moved here for my husbands job (a chef also). I bake bread several times a week at home as well as at work. When I moved here and tried to bake bread like I was used to I was quite dismayed. There really are no alternatives to AP flour and even that I kind of weak. Sometimes we get whole wheat flour but nothing like the choices I had at my local co-op in the states where I moved from. To top that off, sometimes the flour had an off taste from sitting on the shelves too long or from the boat it came over on, also there seems to be only instant yeast here. Sounds bad for a baker huh?
I almost gave up until one day I decided to try a recipe from Julia Childs book "Baking with Julia" for a pain de campagne which directs you to make a levain without using yeast. Attempting to catch wild yeast got my excitement level going again for making bread. I made the chef in the bread area of my pastry kitchen where bread has been baked for about 20 years figuring there had to be some wild yeast there. The book says that after 2 days you might get a little rise and it will smell somewhat yeasty. When I walked into work the two days later I was shocked to see my little pint container full of bubbly yeasty wonderful stuff! Now we are talking! As I followed her recipe, my little starter became more and more healthy and robust to the point of, on the day I made the first loaf it was kind of crazy tangy. Now, I know that I only have to leave the starter out a few hours when I feed it and it is a lovely sucessful starter. I have decided that the climate here being warm and humid is just wonderful for a sourdough. I divided my start and keep some at home also for everyday baking.
A sour dough is not really a dough that the Nevisians take to all that much (they like soft and sweeter bread) however the guests at the Inn seem happy. I did give a taste of my first loaf to the morning bread baker who is from here and she tasted it and said that she had tasted something like it long ago. "The old people used to make it." she said. This made me very happy because it tells me that a starter is probably how it was once done, even here, and in a way I am bringing something back. Needless to say, I am jazzed about bread baking again even with my all purpose flour!