Greetings from New Zealand
One of the members I have been having a chat with through the message facility here suggested to me that I introduce myself a little more formally. I have been reluctant to do so as I am still on the steep part of learning curve, but here goes.
My bread baking quest started because the multigrain bread I had enjoyed for more than 40 years is no longer available unsliced. Amazing to think that they can't profitably manage to keep some bread away from the slicer! I don't belong in the 'best thing since sliced bread' school. I like to be able to slice bread depending on how I am using it - thicker than their slices for toast and very thin for sandwiches. Over the years I have made a variety of yeast based products, but have never made all my bread as I have done over these last few months. The fact is my father was a baker as was his father and his grandfather. Until I was around 5 he baked bread in a brick oven. I can remember being taken out in the middle of the night to see the 'fairy lights' - the soot on the bricks glowed red. That was 50 years ago and the end of an era, mechanical bakeries manufacturing at much bigger scale squeezed the small local bakers out. Dad moved towns and had a very successful cake bakery but the only yeast baking he did after that, he did at home. It's wonderful to see artisan bakeries making a go of it in recent times, even on the small island where I live there is one such bakery, though I haven't been buying any bread from them lately!
We have a supermarket, an organic food store and a couple of general stores from which I can purchase basic ingredients, but it's a trip by ferry to the city 35km away if I want to buy grains, or equipment.
I started with Peter Reinhart's WGB which I borrowed from the library, and have developed a multigrain formula which suits me based on his transitional straun. I found I preferred some white flour in the formula and much less sugar. I'm still playing with grain combinations, an infinite game.
Since I found the outstanding TFL however, thanks to everyone's generosity, I have enjoyed making quite a range of breads. I also made a sourdough starter following Debra Wink's pineapple juice method and now use white sourdough in place of the biga in the multigrain loaves. Yesterday I made the easy to make and delicious Dan Lepard Pepper Rye introduced by Jeremy and today have baked my first baguettes.
I have been fortunate enough to travel widely throughout the world and have eaten breads in all manner of circumstances, from top restaurants to the middle of the Sahara where we exchanged baguettes for water, flat bread of every description in many different countries, amazing breads baked by our camp mess crew in a metal suitcase over a fire in our Serengeti & Tarangire base camps. My best bread mouthful ever was early one morning in a tiny stand bar under the Milan Railway Station 20 years ago, I had chosen something different from my companion. He took one bite and insisted I taste his ham and cheese filled ciabatta. I've forgotten what I'd ordered, it was abandoned as I went and bought a ham & cheese ciabatta for myself. It's the mythical meal I'd like to go back for (that and some noodles eaten on a beach in Thailand!). Strange that those simple meals when no particularly delicious experience was anticipated, have proved to be such standout taste memories.
I lived in Japan for a total of 20 years, spread over three different periods (you can imagine how many wonderful meals I had there!). When I was first there bread was a white fluffy cottonwool concoction, but it wasn't long til all sorts of wonderful breads from many different countries were introduced and baked with sophistication. It was a short walk from my last apartment in Shibuya to a bakery called Levain, stunning artisan bread from 7am everyday, except for a fortnight in the summer, when they shut up shop and turned off the oven.
I posted a question in the Handbook forum; I'm hoping everybody who stores their starter in the refrigerator will drop by and tell us what maintenance and what buildup works for them. Obviously everyone will have a slightly different method but I'm hoping that we can come up with a method which will be a good base to put in the Handbook for new users of starters to commence with, before they deviate to their own preferred practice. So if you do keep your starter in the fridge please leave a note in the Handbook forum, much like taking a poll.
With kind regards and much thanks to you all,
Robyn, Waiheke Island, New Zealand