Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble

The last time I tried to make spontaneously leavened bread was ever so disheartening. I made a mixture of only flour and water (as per instructions from the internet) and set it in the oven to ferment. To keep the temperature in the 70-80° range that yeast seems to like, I left the oven light on. I waited. And waited. Apparently, the yeast in Atlanta's winter air was of a lazy sort, but I was in no hurry. After about five days of minimal action on my starter's part, my mother forgot about my experiment and preheated the oven. Whatever yeast had been eeking out a slow existence was rapidly exterminated as my "starter" turned to glue.

This time around will be different, I'm convinced. To begin with, there is a large sign on the oven warning would-be-bakers NOT to preheat the oven. And, encouragingly, my starter has displayed a great deal more life than its lackluster predecessor. After one day, it was bubbling away happily; after 36 hours, it had nearly overflowed its bowl. The flavor was changing too--after 24 hours it achieved a faintly cheesy flavor, though nothing terribly potent. But as it surged against the confines of the bowl, the pungent sourness of natural yeast began to develop. Frankly, this was not the yummy, beery smell that I remembered from my last (successful) bread starter. This was stronger and less sweet, and I crossed my fingers that it was merely a step along my starchy journey and not indicative of the final product.

The starter should ferment for a total of about 60 hours (aka about 2 1/2 days) before it needs refreshing. I made a miscalculation and left it to its own devices for about 72 hours, by which point it had broken down most of the gluten, lost its structure, and become rather batter-like. Luckily, this fits the description in my cookbook, so I assume that I'm still in the clear.

1 comment:

Anthony-Masterson Photography said...

Beware of chlorine in the water.