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.