Ultimate Starter from Wild Wheat
Hello! I am a long-time reader, first-time poster. But I just had to! Here is the story:
I have tried making wild starters two separate times (both BBA method), but each failed. On a recent trip to Montana, I got a crazy idea: why not get some of the tops of some wild wheat plants and see if I could culture yeast from them? Well, it was a great success!
I collected wheat from Paradise Valley, the Bridger Mountains, and the Hyalite Mountains. When I got home I put the wheat into jars and mixed in some water and pineapple juice. I let the three jars sit for about three hours, shaking vigorously every 20 minutes or so. Then I strained out the wheat plant and mixed in some bread flour. I then followed the BBA instructions. The Paradise Valley only took 2.5 days to get to a roaring state, the Bridger took four days, and it looks like the Hyalite batch may not grow.
Yesterday I cut my Paradise barm in half, fed it and put it back in the fridge. With the rest I mixed a wet dough (maybe 1/3 starter by volume) with a bit of whole-wheat flour and rye flour, and some salt of course. Autolyse (~20 minutes), knead (~5 minutes), then placed in an oiled bowl in the fridge overnight (trying to get the pain l’ancienne effect of BBA). I folded three times (30-45 minutes apart). The next morning I let it warmed up for about three hours, shaped into a boule and let rise on a whole-grain cereal cover cloth set within a colander for about 3 hours. Baked at 450o on a stone with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven for about 30 minutes.
Wow! Some of the beast bread I have ever made! Thick crust, open crumb, and great taste. Also, the crust has many different colors in it, which has never occurred before. I have frozen portions of my Paradise starter and my Bridger starter and intend to keep these lineages alive for many years to come.
Some additional thoughts:
I have really found that a small amount of yeast, high water content, and long cool proofing time are the three biggest factors for getting a big crumb. Now, these have been noted many times on the FreshLoaf, but I have also noticed that the best flavor, crust, and crumb seem to come from cool dough that has proofed for a long time and doesn’t seem to be raising very well. The batches that seem to be raising very well end up with a good moderate, but not huge, crumb (see the last photo – the bottom loaf is the Paradise boule and the top is a batard made from a separate batch I made at the same time with a bit more instant yeast than I typically use).
Lastly, sorry for the absence of exact measurements. I know that is a sin for baking, but I take an improv approach similar to my cooking (which I have been at much longer than baking).
All the best!