The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Near Death Experience: Long Live The Levain

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Near Death Experience: Long Live The Levain

I’ve been experimenting with bagels and pastries and I haven’t made sourdough in San Francisco for over a month, and I’d forgotten to feed my starter.  Then, we replaced our refrigerator and some things were unrefrigerated for a spell one day last week, including my starter.  This is not just any starter.  It is the starter made famous (in the bread baker section of the internet) by my brother David’s moving story (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19250/premarital-counseling-advice-my-baby-brother-aspiring-sourdough-baker).

When I opened my starter jar Friday to feed it in anticipation of this weekend’s baking, it smelled a bit nasty, and looked lax and wimpy. I feared I’d killed it.  I fed it the usual white-whole wheat-rye mix at 60% hydration, and went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t have to go through the embarrassment of explaining to David that I was an idiot who could not to be trusted with the well-being of vital microbes.  Saturday morning the starter showed life (whew!), though it had not bloomed from feeding as usual.  So I remained concerned.

I made up the levain Saturday evening for my Sunday bake, and Sunday morning it looked, felt and smelled right.  Disaster averted!

My bake this weekend was Hamelman’s Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour.  David has been encouraging me to try Hamelman’s Pain au Levain and its variations.  Reading the formulas, this one seemed like it would be resemble my favorite pain au levain (from Acme Breads in Berkeley).  And it does.

This marked the first time I’d mixed sourdough dough in my new Bosch mixer.  The mixer came in handy since the formula calls for mixing in the stiff levain after the autolyse, and that’s always tough by hand.  The BUP handled it easily and quickly.  I mixed only about 90 seconds and the dough was supple and shiny.

I’m happy with the results.  The crust is crisp and the crumb hits that wonderful sweet spot between chewy and tender.   The crumb aeration is just what I always hope for in this type of bread.

The flavor is complex, slightly sour.   I'll bake this bread again and again.

David was right…again.  Good bread.

Glenn

Comments

Syd's picture
Syd

Your starter looks none the worse for it's neglect, judging from the excellent bread it (and you, of course) produced! Beautiful crumb.
Best,
Syd

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Thanks, Syd.  I wonder if my starter's struggle made it stronger.  Perhaps it's time someone studied the social psychology of yeast cultures.

Glenn

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

'Near death experience'...I've brought back some 'flat liners' 'lol'  ;)  

Wow, that is a gorgeous bake!  Love the gringe, crumb, color, crust....looks plenty healthy..must be those strong genes!

Happy Baking,

Sylvia

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Yesterday's delicious bread makes me wonder why I'd been neglecting these wonderful lean sourdoughs.  The baking is very happy.

Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

We've compared your starter to the stray kitten that adopted you after you fed it the first time. It must have the legendary nine lives of the cat.

May all your disasters be similarly averted!

When you have made all the other breads in the pain au levain series in "Bread," I'll send you another Hamelman pain au levain recipe that is not in the book but was published in the newsletter of the Breadbakers' Guild of America. It's really delicious too.

David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

 

"When you have made all the other breads in the pain au levain series in "Bread," I'll send you another Hamelman pain au levain recipe that is not in the book"

 

I do plan to try the two levain version, but I'm not sure I'll try all of the others.  How about if I try several of my own variations...maybe one with figs, one with seeds....

Thanks, David.  I know you would have provided me with a new kitten if I'd well and truly killed this one, but I'm glad I didn't need to ask.

Glenn

lumos's picture
lumos

I know a person who managed to revive neglected sourdough which was digged out from the forgotten abyss in the fridge after more than 6 months.  They really seem to be tough beast. ;)

Lovely bread with wonderfully open crumb.  Though I hand-knead all my breads, must admit I'm a bit tempted to get a mixer after seeing many TFLers seem to be very successful in using it.......I have NO idea where I can put it in my already over crowded kitchen......

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Yes, lumos, I have witnessed how hardy these beasties are.  I've killed a couple of rye sours from neglect, but wouldn't want to lose the mother starter.

As to hand-mixing, I went a year without a mixer and made lots of good bread.  I still mix by hand often, but the BUP is very handy for stiff doughs, large batches and formulas--like this one--that require mixing two stiff portions together.

Glenn

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Glenn,

The pressures of being David Snyder's kid brother!   I'm so glad to read you rescued the starter.

Lovely wholewheat levain!

Best wishes

Andy

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I think I'd actually feel a lot more pressure if I weren't David's kid brother.

Glenn

Franko's picture
Franko

Starters can be so resilient sometimes, truly amazing what they'll put with and still deliver the goods, which is definitely the case here. What a great looking bread you've made Glenn! It's all there, the well defined flour pattern, dark crusty bake, grigne from good proofing, and lovely open crumb. I'd buy it in a heartbeat!

Franko

 

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I'm afraid my Number One Bread Fan would outbid you on these loaves.

I appreciate your comment.  I wonder how much the lovely open crumb has to do with the good mixing by my machine and how much was the good fortune to get the fermentation just right.  I hope I can replicate it regularly.

Glenn

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

An all-around delight for the eyes and, I'm sure, the mouth and stomach, too.

Paul

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

First loaf disappeared pretty quick.  Perfect for BLTs.

Glenn

wally's picture
wally

One of the nice things about yeast is that it's been around longer than we have, so a testament to its resilience.  I'm sure it appreciated the feeding, however, and the proof there would seem to lie in the loaves you baked.  Nice bloom and gorgeous crumb.

Nice bake,

Larry

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I hope to replicate the results often.  I really enjoy this bread.

Glenn