Insanity can be defined as...
"doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome."
Then the counterpoint must be, "Sanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and getting the same results." If so, I'm sane! Well, maybe that's going a little too far.
Nonetheless, I am delighted, so far, with my results. I repeated D. DiMuzio's pain au levain formula, and my processes, and techniques as nearly as possible on two renderings seperated by a week in time. "As nearly as possible" is the key; for example I used up all the bread flour I had on hand the first week, so the second go used a new bag, probably for a different lot, but the same brand (King Arthur).
A photo of the two bakings: The loaf in the upper left corner is week one (we ate the second, and bigger loaf). The two front loaves are this week's effort. There are slight differences in appearance--nothing significant--the biggest being the difference in crust color between the two same week loaves. After 10 minutes baking, with steam, at 480°F I turned the oven down to 450°F for the left hand loaf (the smaller one, by weight), and 440°F for the right hand loaf, which had to bake an additional 10 minutes. (I'd done the same the week before, but the crust color was more nearly the same.)
This is the crumb from the first week's loaf. We haven't cut either of this week's loaves, but by the feel of them we expect the same degree of openess. The flavor of the first week's loaves is excellent: good sour from slowly building the starter (30% of the flour weight) over 24 hours, and overnight retarded bulk proofing; the whole wheat flour lends a distinctive base note, surpirsing because it's only 10% of the flour weight; and the high initial heat, and steam, give the crust a delightful toasted nuttiness. The final test will be the taste of the second week's loaves, but we don't expect any significant difference.
We entertain a lot; additionally, we live in a community that frequently comes together for potluck dinners. It's reached the point that I'm expected to serve or contribute a loaf or two of my bread, and a bottle or two of my home vinted (if that's not a verb it should be) wine. I want to be consistent, or nearly so, that's why I'm focusing, at the moment on only two formulae: DiMuzio's pain au levain, and Hitz' baguette's.
Next week: Baguette's for the second time.