Sunday, January 18, 2009
When in September we began building our still incomplete masonry oven, Trent bought a grain mill. Suffice it to indicate that it has not seen much use since then. However, on Saturday I dragged the thing out to grind some wheat berries to mill in order to make bread starter (aka "poolish" and "biga").
I have little patience for hearth breads that are conventionally leavened with pure cultures of yeast over short periods of time (less than 24 hours). Sure, a bread that is made from good flour and is allowed to rise a couple of times over the course of a day before being baked can be very good. But to produce bread that has real character and deep flavor you need to ferment at least a portion of it for a very long time.
I like to start hearth breads three to four days before baking by fermenting a portion of the flour that will be used in the final loaf (or loaves). The basal reason for this is to produce a vigorous and diverse microflora that will breakdown the starches and proteins in the grain and leave behind a bunch of flavorful by-products. If I'm lucky, the starter ends up with enough live yeast to leaven the bread but I don't count on it, neither do I care if it doesn't work out that way. If the starter looks like it does not enough yeast to raise the bread, I just toss in come SAF yeast and move on.
Here is a slide show of a starter that I began yesterday morning (Sunday 1.18). The only yeast etc that is in there was what was present on the ingredients when they were combined and whatever rained in from the atmosphere of my kitchen.
Some photos of Trent's mill in action on Saturday (1.17)